§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ Mr. BECK
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
It may be felt that in such a Session as this, crowded as it is with controversial legislation, an apology is due to the House from anyone who proposes to bring in a Bill which we trust will lead to legislation this year. I would fain hope that it will be possible to persuade the House that this Bill is not in any way of a controversial character. At any rate, as anyone who will read the names of the backers will see, it does command support from every shade of political opinion in Great Britain. During this week we have been divided upon points of acute controversy, but in this small Bill there are none of those points on which the House of Commons can hang a heated or a strenuous Debate. The people for whom this Bill pleads are not affected by the question whether physical force is the basis of political power. They cannot combine to attain any appreciable physical force. They are not combined together in any trade union and they cannot take action which would result in the stoppage of the industrial life of the country, and yet I venture to say that the people with whom the Bill deals are people for whom this House should have peculiar care. They are the young children of the nation, and we have overwhelming evidence to prove that the evil which this Bill endeavours to remedy is a very real one. It is an evil which not only affects the people engaged in street traffic, but it injuriously affects their entire after-life. It may be said, "You should remedy poverty before you prevent street trading." I think we have no difficulty in proving that that argument is not a sound or convincing one, because we have a mass of evidence to prove that the children engaged in street trading are those who in after-life recruit the ranks of wastrels and criminals, and that they again have children who engage in street trading, and so on through 760 long generations that are past. I say if you stop this street trading, as this Bill proposes to do, in a perhaps very inadequate way, you will do something to stop the manufacture of wastrels, unemployables, and criminals, who are to be found in every one of our great cities to-day.
This subject has been examined by a most influential Committee of Inquiry. The Committee was presided over by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, and had on it a considerable number of Members of this House. Their Report was in many ways unanimous. There were, of course, Majority and Minority Reports, but I think the main difference between the two Reports is as to the methods of dealing with the evil rather than as to any question of there being a real evil to be dealt with. In this Bill we have endeavoured to a certain extent to combine the findings of both parts of the Committee. We have unfortunately disappointed some of those who were anxious that we should abide entirely by the findings of the majority of the Committee. But we hope that we have introduced into this Bill a measure of elasticity which has somewhat alarmed those who have taken a very peculiar interest in this subject, but at the same time we have made it a Bill which, should it become law, will be in no sense a dead letter. The danger of passing legislation which is too materially in advance of public opinion is that you cannot get it enforced. We hope by the method we have adopted in this Bill it will be possible to ensure that such legislation as is passed does become a real and active force in the management of the children of this country.
It will be perhaps well if I recall to the House what has been done in the past as regards those children. We have had the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act, 1889, which prohibited street trading below the age of eleven—not a very great age. Then it was re-enacted with Amendments in 1894, still keeping eleven as the age below which street trading should not take place, but with a proviso that boys under fourteen and girls under sixteen should not be employed between the hours of nine at night and six in the morning. Then we have the Employment of Children Act, 1903. But it is a lamentable thing that to-day the age above which street trading is allowed is the age of eleven years. To suggest that it is right that in this great State children 761 over the age of eleven should be allowed to engage in street trading is a bitter commentary upon all the social legislation which has been passed during recent years. In our Bill we move that line of total prohibition as regards girls up to eighteen, and in all quarters of the House we have unanimous approval of that prohibition. As regards boys, we move it up to the age of seventeen, but we allow local authorities to issue by-laws down to the age of fifteen. We hope by those means to meet those hard cases which are always brought forward when any measure of legislation of this sort is proposed. One is always told that there is a widow whose sole means of support is some child who is engaged in street trading, and there is a man who has been out of work for months and months, who again is only supported by the efforts of his small child engaged in street trading. These things are commonplaces of our Debates. We all use them when it suits our purpose, and we shall doubtless continue to do so, whatever Bills we are engaged in considering, but we have, by the elasticity which we have introduced into the Bill, endeavoured to meet any genuine cases of that sort. It is perfectly open to local authorities to issue licences to children down to the age of fifteen, and we have put in a Clause particularly advocated by Sir Edward Troup when he was giving evidence before the Royal Commission, that no licence shall be refused on the ground of poverty or the general bad character of the applicant. We put that in because we are informed that there is a real danger that if you do not put in some such direction to local authorities street trading would be confined to respectable children from respectable homes, and children of bad character who come from miserable homes would be prohibited from street trading because they are a nuisance, and you would have a class of street traders who come from respectable homes, and who conduct themselves reasonably and quietly in the streets. Of course that is the last thing that those responsible for the Bill would wish to see. What we desire to see is that only those should be engaged in street trading who, because of physical or mental incapacity, or because of faults of character formed by bad homes or because of extreme poverty, are unfitted for better occupations. We hope that, as is laid down in this Committee of Inquiry, the time will come when young children will not be engaged in street trading, and 762 when such street trading as there is shall be confined to those who have failed in life—those whose sole means of livelihood is such a miserable occupation as trading in the streets.
Then, in another portion of our Bill, we have endeavoured to meet what might be called exceptional cases. We have exempted those engaged in the sale of agricultural produce when they are employed by the producer. I do not know that I am very convinced that these particular words are the best that can be devised, but they are the words which were put in last year by Lord Salisbury in another place, and they are words which did apparently satisfy another place as meeting this case of the agricultural districts. We have put in other words dealing with the sale and delivery of newspapers and books from door to door to meet the case of boys who in the course of this occupation meet people desiring to buy newspapers and sell them, but who are in no sense engaged in what is commonly called street trading. It has been pointed out, in the Minority Report particularly, that such an occupation is not harmful in the same way as ordinary street trading, which entails long hours, standing about street corners, begging petty larcenies, gambling, and all the rest of the things which are summed up in this great volume of evidence. We are also pleased to insert this Amendment because it is one upon which the newspaper proprietors laid great emphasis.
That brings me to one of the great difficulties of this legislation, the difficulty of the newspapers. I am happy to acknowledge that I have had a most courteous and kindly help from the newspaper proprietors, and there is very little controversy between us as to the need of some such Bill as this. At present children can sell above the age of eleven. As the Bill stands they will not be entitled to sell under the age of fifteen, and I believe in the northern towns there is a considerable number of boys of very tender age who sell great quantities of papers on Saturdays and Sundays, and newspaper proprietors will be affected in that way. These words which are put in at the request of the newspaper people, only deal with delivery from door to door by boys employed by newsagents. Someone going to catch a train might say "I want a 'Daily Telegraph,'" and give the boy a penny. It in no sense deals with street trading as a constant occupation for the boy.
§ Mr. BECK
My only answer is that those words were supplied to us by people interested, and, therefore, presumably they had advice upon it. To be quite candid, those of us who are backing up this Bill—of course the hon. Member speaks with peculiar authority as a Member of the Committee of Inquiry— would rather see these words out of it. But they are the words we were asked to insert by the Federated Newspapers Association, and we have therefore inserted them in our Bill.
§ Mr. BECK
Yes. I would say this about newspapers: It has been found perfectly possible for at any rate one great London newspaper, I think there are two, but certainly the "Westminster Gazette," to arrange for the selling of the paper in the streets, not by boys at all, but by elderly men who are glad of the occupation, and of whom it certainly cannot be said that their prospects in life are impaired by selling newspapers, because they are of an age when their prospects in life have somewhat gone down. Another exemption we have put into the Bill deals with the case of existing street traders. I dare say many hon. Members will regret that this exemption was put in, but we have most carefully considered the question, and we feel that however undesirable street trading may be, yet, when a child has been engaged in street trading, and is at the present moment engaged in it, it may be necessary, though regrettable, to allow that child to continue in street trading, so long as we prohibit those who come afterwards to follow a similar form of occupation. The final exemption which we have put into the Bill is in compliance with the very strong recommendation contained in the Minority Report—I refer to the exemption which deals with the children of costers. Here again, we have disappointed some of our friends who feel that it is undesirable to allow costers' children to trade in the streets. On the whole, however, we have been convinced by the evidence that the children of costers are in the charge of careful parents, and are in a very different position from that of the child engaged in street trading on his own behalf.
764 We have a considerable amount of evidence which shows that the coster class is of a very respectable if somewhat rough character. They take a considerable amount of care of, and a great deal of interest in, their children. Whatever one's views may be as to street trading by the coster child, it must be remembered that the children of coster parents are brought up to something which does provide them with a means of livelihood in the years when they are older. I imagine that they do see to the business of their parents in many cases; at any rate, they are on a distinctly different footing from those who street trade on their own behalf only. I have endeavoured very imperfectly to sum up the main features of this Bill, which are the raising of the age of total prohibition with permission, at the age of total prohibition, to local authorities to give a licence for two years more in the case of boys; the total prohibition of girls below the age of eighteen, and various exemptions which experience teaches may be necessary. I would point out to hon. Members in connection with those exemptions that in the Minority Report they express their perfect willingness to have exemptions up to the age of eighteen, if there are occupations available for the children. I think the main difficulty which presented itself to the mind of those who signed the Minority Report in regard to the prohibition of street children was that the children engaged in it might not find any other form of occupation whatever, and that it would be better for them to be street trading than doing nothing. We have endeavoured to meet, to the best of our ability, that point, and I hope we shall receive the sympathetic consideration of those hon. Members opposite who signed the Minority Report.
I would ask the House to judge of this measure not by the ability or information of the person who introduced it, because I do feel that I am not particularly well fitted for the discharge of my task, surrounded as I am by those who have given a great portion of their life to the consideration of this difficult subject. I can only say that it would have been more difficult for me to discharge the task of bringing in the Bill if it had not been for the-generous support given to me by those who have made a special study of this subject. I am not only representing colleagues who doubtless will speak for themselves, but I am speaking for the Committee of Wage Earning Children, the 765 secretary of which, Mr. Mundella, and others, take a great interest in the care of children. We are dealing with probably over 50,000 children—a class which cannot exert any political influence, which cannot speak for itself, and which, I therefore maintain, should be our peculiar province and care in this House. We do not pretend that any interference will be popular with those concerned. Street trading unfortunately exercises a peculiar fascination to the high-spirited child, who sees therein a means of independence and amusement, and who at the same time earns for him or herself amounts of money which are considerable for such young people. But this House has to remember that it is dealing with children between the ages of eleven, fourteen, and fifteen, who are in poor circumstances, and who are not in the happy conditions which remove them from the need of street trading, or in which they can receive guidance from parents and teachers in those years of their life when it is most important. We feel that we are not interfering with the liberty of the subject or any of those other things which we are always told about, by saying that, whatever else they may do, these children shall not, in certain conditions, engage in this most pernicious form of employment. There is overwhelming evidence of the hardships and temptations of this street life, which have a most mischievous effect on the children. Chief constable after chief constable gave evidence of how criminals were recruited from this class; we have evidence that the parents of respectable children engaged in street trading have gone to the local authorities asking for some such measure as this, because of the harm done to those children; and we are told that the ranks of prostitutes are largely recruited from girls engaged in street trading. I do not think it is necessary to put the case of the children any further, and I trust today that we shall get the Second Reading unanimously. Though our Bill contains, as it must, imperfections and roughnesses, we shall be most happy to consider suggestions in Committee. I thank the House for listening to me so patiently. I beg to move.
§ Mr. DENMAN
After the somewhat controversial measures which have distinguished private Members this Session, the House will, I hope, receive with a certain amount of favour and relief this exceedingly modest but at the same time very beneficial piece of legislation, for the 766 Second Reading of which my hon. Friend has asked. We do not suppose that it will please everybody in all respects, especially as regards its form, which will no doubt irritate every opponent and will even damp the ardour of the most enthusiastic reformer. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) will no doubt point out to us, with perfect truth, that it is a piece of legislation by reference in its most distressing form—
§ Mr. DENMAN
I anticipated that the hon. Baronet would do so. It is a perfectly sound criticism, but I think the hon. Baronet will be the first to admit that the position of a private Member in this respect is one of some difficulty. Anyone who has examined the question of the employment of children and young persons must, I think, have come to the conclusion that the time has nearly arrived when a Government Department ought to under-take the production of a consolidating and amending Act on a big scale. Perhaps the present Under-Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. Ellis Griffith), whom I am glad to see in charge on behalf of the Government to-day, will be mindful of the efforts of his predecessor, the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Herbert Samuel), and will produce for young persons that sort of consolidating Act which, was so valuable in the case of the children. At present there is a bewildering array of different Acts, dealing with different branches of this problem, guarding the destinies of the youthful employé from the earliest age till he reaches the age of twenty-one. Out of some Acts the youthful employé will grow, as he grows out of a suit of clothes, comparatively early. It is of interest to present the career of a child through those various Acts, and note how many different Acts affect him in the course of a few years before he is a full-grown man. I am not going to take the case of the very young children, but of those at the age at which we are dealing with them in this Bill. There is the first group of Acts, that entitles the child to be engaged in street trading after the age of eleven. At the age of twelve he is affected by another group, which enables him to enter a factory or workshop. At the age of thirteen he comes under the Acts regulating mines; at the age of fourteen he ceases to be a child 767 and acquires all the additional liberty that appertains to a young person. At the age of sixteen a quite different kind of Act grants him a peculiar privilege that enables a marine store dealer to buy old metal from him. At the age of eighteen he is enabled to work for more than seventy-four hours in one week in a shop; And, finally, when he comes to the blessed age of twenty-one, not only does he get a vote, but he may be employed in ascending and descending chimneys. I think, when the House recognises how varied are the subject matters of those different Acts in detail, they will see that it is impossible for a private Member to deal with anything like the whole field of employment of children and young persons, and that my hon. Friend is to be congratulated for choosing one definite portion, and adding, even at the expense of a Bill that is framed by reference to another Bill, to this general mass of legislation. The private Member who enters this particular field can only deal with a single plot. We look to the Government to come in in due course and to cover the whole ground.
I want to make on behalf of this Bill a singular and somewhat presumptuous claim. I venture to suggest that this, because it is a private Member's Bill, is rather a better one than than any single Government Department would have produced. No one reveres more than I do the learning and knowledge of Government Departments, but on this particular subject the diversity of legislation is reflected and emphasised by the diversity of the Departments that deal with the different aspects of it, and also by the diversity of local authorities which administer those Acts. The points of view of the different Departments are themselves different. The Home Office point of view is not that of the Board of Education, and then, again, the local authorities may differ from both. That is a very serious defect and disadvantage in dealing with this question of juveniles. I have elsewhere suggested, and I should like to take this opportunity of repeating, that there ought to be a standing Interdepartmental Committee to co-ordinate the efforts of the different Departments before which questions of administration and questions of legislation would come, and which would therefore be able to unify the aims -of the Government as a whole in dealing with this problem. A Committee of that 768 kind might have introduced this Bill, but otherwise I venture to think that only those who have troubled many Departments, but are the servants of none, could have produced it. This brings me straight to what is really the only question with which I wish to deal this morning, seeing that my hon. Friend has so clearly explained the Bill in detail, and that no doubt we shall discuss those details further in Committee.
The central principle, which is new in this Bill, and which is to me of extreme importance, and which, I hope, marks a fresh page in legislation relating to juvenile employment, is this, that when you have a general restriction on a dangerous employment, and you desire any form of exemption, that exemption shall be granted not according to hard and fast rules taking into consideration only such questions as age, but having regard to the individual circumstances of the boy or girl concerned. That, I need hardly say, is not the Home Office principle; it is rather a principle with which local education authorities are familiar. What has been the practice in the past in the matter of street trading? Between the ages of eleven and sixteen a boy or girl has been able to engage in street trading in accordance with by-laws laid down by local authorities. These bylaws have been practically identical in type. Some of them limit the age and say that licences shall not be granted below the ages of twelve or thirteen, or something of that kind. But whenever licences are granted they are granted to practically any applicants who choose to ask for them, unless perhaps they are physically or mentally unfit or their parents have objection. That wholesale granting of licences is not the way to deal with a problem of this kind. Take another point in regard to which the bylaws are invariably framed on the same plan. A licence is granted for a fixed period of time, say, a year, or until a fixed day in the year—31st July or 31st December. That immediately makes a boy a professional street-trader, and renders it impossible for this particular activity to be used as a temporary form of employment to fill up a gap or for any other purpose for which it might be of value. Surely there is an obvious crudity in dealing with the problem in that way. I agree that street trading as a profession is a wretched and demoralising one. It is a dangerous employment on the whole, but I deny that in all cases it is necessarily harmful. 769 What we want, therefore, is some system by which, in suitable cases the boys who apply shall receive licences, while others who apply, if they are unsuitable, shall not get them. We are told that street trading sharpens the wits. Possibly some boys are the better for the sharpening of the wits. I sometimes think that personally my education would have been far more complete if I had had a month of street trading, and possibly other Members may feel the same.
What is the new practice made possible by the Bill? It will be possible for the licensing authority to consider the character, the home circumstances, the temporary needs, and the ultimate industrial destination of the applicant, and to grant or withhold a licence accordingly. As I regard this point as of very great importance, perhaps the House will allow me to refer in some detail to the administrative machinery capable of being utilised by the Bill. Under the Bill local authorities may remain the licensing authorities, if they choose; they may refer the duty to the local education committees, if they choose; or they may—and this I hope will be the normal practice—hand over the duty to the juvenile advisory committees in connection with the Labour Exchanges, whether set up by the local education authorities or by the Board of Trade. These committees are being set up throughout the kingdom, in connection with the Labour Exchange organisation. The process was begun in 1910, and in many of the biggest towns they exist, and have existed for a year and a half. The hon. Member for East Birmingham (Mr. Steel-Maitland) will remember the scheme in which he took so prominent a part for setting up such an organisation in Birmingham, and I feel sure that he will agree as to the suitability of that organisation for judging the merits of particular applicants. These committees are set up by the local education authorities and the Board of Trade in conjunction. The reason for their being set up was this: when Labour Exchanges were first started it was recognised that it was no function of the exchanges to discriminate between different kinds of jobs, and to say to an applicant, "Here is a good job," or "Here is a bad one." They were simply centralising places where applicants could go and choose from what was there, so far as possible. That was a feature eminently unsuited for boys and girls. They need advice and direction in the choice of work. 770 Therefore these committees were established at several exchanges, so that a body having the interests of the boys and girls at heart, could scrutinise vacancies, and consider which were the most suitable for particular applicants. It is their business, either through rotas sitting from time to time, or through an officer who sits continually at the exchange, to consider the adjustment of different kinds of work to different sorts of boys and girls. That authority is much more capable of licensing in a sensible and useful way than any other that has hitherto been tried.
I have no doubt that these committees meet the desire that was at the back of the minds of the signatories of both the Majority and the Minority Reports. Both reports realise the necessity of an authority of this sort. The members who signed the Minority Report will recognise how far it meets their most valuable suggestions. It will be perfectly possible for these committees to refuse a licence, in fact they are instructed to do so, if better work is available for a particular boy. They will be able to take into consideration the temporary requirements of home life, such as the father being out of work. It is very undesirable in most cases that a child should be put to deleterious work because the father is out of work; but there may be cases where it is possibly advantageous to give the child a short licence, say for a fortnight. He will then have to go back again to get his licence renewed if he wishes to continue his street trading. It is also possible to give licences while the Exchange is on the look out for better work for that particular boy. This meets the Minority point that if you have not got other work it may be much worse for the boy to hang about street corners than to be engaged in street trading. The conditions under which the licences are granted are capable of wide variation, in accordance with the desires of the local authority or the Committee issuing the licences. They may, for instance, adopt the very valuable suggestion of the Minority Report that it should be a condition of the grant of these licences that the boys should attend a technical or other class. That I regard in itself as a provision that would make this Bill worth passing.
On these grounds I think the House will regard this Bill with very great sympathy. They will feel that this new principle does make the actual administration of street trading laws very much more useful to the general community.
771 I realise that there are persons who regard legislation of this kind as a dangerous interference with the liberty of the subject. They tell us that it adversely affects the character of the boy by interfering with his freedom of choice of occupation—above all, that it is damaging to a sense of parental responsibility. I am perfectly certain that the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London will make that point later. May I take this opportunity of acknowledging the debt that we who are promoting this Bill owe to him for having made it impossible that the Bill that came from the other House last Session should pass. The supporters of that Bill brought every kind of pressure to bear upon him to allow it to pass, but he alone stood in the way and held out, with a spirit which even those most interested in the passage of the Bill could not but admire, even if in some degree it vexed them. We are sincerely grateful to him, for this Bill is a much better one, and we trust there will be no doubt of his help in passing that which will be an exceedingly useful piece of legislation. The supporters of this Bill deny absolutely the contention that parental responsibility is damaged by this sort of restriction on juvenile employment. We claim that it strengthens rather than damages family life. Is it really seriously suggested that the liberty to earn 7s. or 10s. a week in wholly uneducative employment conduces to the good upbringing of youth? Everybody who has examined the practical side of this question knows that the evidence is all the other way—that the premature independence of street trading and similar occupations is most disadvantageous. Let me quote an interesting sentence or two from Mr. Paterson's "Across the. Bridges." He shows the effect upon family life of the independence of the youthful wage earner. The boy earns seven shillings or so weekly. He will, says Mr. Paterson—expect to receive two kippers for his tea, while his unemployed father will make the most of bread and butter.I do not know if that picture of domestic life appeals very strongly to those who object to the principle of the legislation contained in this Bill. Mr. Paterson sums up the situation:—Parental discipline is in fact, a sure sign of prosperity and respectability.Where the child is the wage-earner of the family, parental discipline is impossible.
772 It is odd that it was left to the nineteenth century to forget facts that were perfectly plain to our ancestors. One does not want to revive obsolete statutes, but when we remember that in the old times no one was allowed to follow "any craft, mystery, or occupation" until he had served at least seven years' apprenticeship, I think the House will feel how far we have travelled since those days from the root idea of juvenile employment. The nineteenth century made a discovery all its own. It elevated the juvenile worker into an independent unit, and in the name of liberty regarded the youth as a cheap man. When that cheap man lost his one peculiar quality of cheapness he was of no further value: he was placed on the industrial scrap heap, and became a burden on the whole community. It is just because we see how terrible is the economic and human waste involved in this process, and how fruitful a cause of adult misery and distress is this misuse of juvenile labour, that we ask the House to look with favour on this Bill, which is a fragment, but not, I think, an unimportant fragment, in the mosaic of social reform which we are all engaged in constructing.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
In moving the rejection of this Bill I would like to thank the hon. Member opposite, who seconded, for the very kind words he used in extolling my action last year. I am grateful to him for the manner in which he phrased his thanks because, unfortunately, I find that my actions are very often misrepresented, especially on the other side. Therefore I am glad to find one hon. Member who sees that often good comes out of what I do. If I secured that praise for having succeeded in preventing the passing of the Bill last year I shall probably secure much higher praise if I succeed this year. The hon. Member who seconded the motion said that in his opinion Private Members' Bills had advantages over Government Bills.
§ Mr. DENMAN
No, what I said was that this particular Bill was better because it was a Private Member's Bill; but I can hardly conceive any other case in which a Private Member's Bill would be better.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
This particular Bill is better, in the hon. Member's opinion, 773 than a Government Bill. In making that statement I should think the hon. Gentleman's ordinary lucid judgment has been warped by the fact that his own name is on the back of the Bill. He has been in this House only some three years. May I point out to him that a very great authority on private Bills (Mr. Caldwell) once said to me, "Private Members' Bills are all bad, and those on my side are much worse than yours." He was a Member of this House for a great many years and was a great authority on all matters connected with it. The hon. Member said he thought that probably I should allude to the drafting of the Bill. Yes, I intend to allude to that. There are not, unfortunately, a great many Members in the House just now, and with the exception of the hon. Members whose names are on the back of the Bill, I do not believe there is a single Member who could explain Section (a) of Clause 2. It runs:—
"(a) as if in paragraphs (i) and (ii) of Section 1, in Sub-sections (4), (5), and (6) of Section 3, in Sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 6 and in Sections 8, 9, and 10 of the principal Act, after the word 'child' or 'children' there were inserted the words 'young person' or 'young persons' respectively;"
Is there any hon. Member who will rise in his place and construe that Subsection?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If that is so, I shall be very glad to hear of it, and I must say that they are very exceptional people, and 'they must be in the possession of much more legal knowledge and information than that possessed by hon. Members on this side or on municipalities or corporations that would have to deal with this Bill. The next Sub-section I cannot understand either, although it is clearer, because it is in English and does not refer to a series of little dots and numbers and sections all over it. This Sub-section says, "a boy under the age of seventeen or a girl under the age of eighteen shall not be employed in or carry on street trading. And it goes on to say:—
"Provided that a boy over the age of fifteen, or a boy under the age of fifteen who before the passing of this Act was lawfully engaged in street trading may be employed in or carry on street trading if he hold a licence 774 granted in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of this Act."
And Section 3 says:—
"A local authority may grant to any boy over the age of fifteen and under the age of seventeen, or to any boy under the age of fifteen who before the passing of this Act was lawfully engaged in street trading a licence."
That seems to me to be contrary to the previous Sub-section. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite who are going to answer my queries are lawyers. Perhaps they are, and that may account for there having put things in this way, so that the local authorities may require the assistance of skilled lawyers in order to inform them what to do under this Bill. Sub-section (b) of Clause 2 says, a boy or girl shall not be employed, that is a boy under the age of seventeen or a girl under the age of eighteen, but this Sub-section (i) of Clause 3 seems to say differently.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Perhaps the next time hon. Gentlemen opposite are drafting a Bill they may ask for help, because it would be much simpler if there was one Section which simply said that a boy under the age of seventeen and a girl under the age of eighteen shall not carry on street trading unless licensed by the local authority. That would have avoided all the difficulty, shortened the Bill and made it perfectly clear to anyone who desired to understand it. May I deal with the provisions which empowers a boy under the age of seventeen who is now on the passing of this Act in receipt of a license to trade to continue to be licensed. I cannot understand the wording of that. If it is a bad thing why should a boy doing a bad thing be allowed to continue to do a bad thing? If is a good thing, well then, let it be continued. Either street trading existing under certain conditions should be prohibited or it should not. Of course, the real fact is that it is felt by the promoters of the Bill that it would be a very great hardship to say that a boy who now is licensed and is earning an honest livelihood in support perhaps of a widowed-mother should have his means of livelihood 775 taken away. These provisions show the hollowness and foolishness of these proposals.
Why do I object to the Bill altogether? On this ground. I object to all sorts of grandmotherly legislation. I do not believe we are going to make either better citizens or better traders if we prevent the instinct of a good boy or a good girl who have to endeavour to earn their own living and do the best they can for themselves, by saying they are not to be allowed to do anything unless licensed by the local authority. If you act that way I think you are putting a great deterrent upon all individual initiation of boys and girls doing what they can for themselves. Who are the local authorities? There are very excellent people amongst them. My hon. Friend beside me, the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Walter Guinness), is, I believe, or was, a member of the London County Council. Is it contended that he is to go down and see all these boys and inquire whether or not there is some better employment to be had for them, and is he to consider all the circumstances of the case? Of course not. There is to be some official appointed, at a nice salary of £500 a year, with clerks under him, to investigate all these things. That may be all very well, but look at the power and the temptation put in the way of officials who have to do that sort of thing. I do not suggest for a moment that there is any corruption or even favouritism on the part of those officials, but the danger this country is going to run if all the young people desire to earn their own living have to go before an official of this character is very great. Of course the official will have to be eulogised and we may expect to find such reports as this: "John Jones is a most energetic official, and he is doing his duty in the most praiseworthy manner, and I shall soon recommend him for promotion." What has he done? Probably he has not granted any licences at all because he finds the temptation so great, and he has been so careful that he has either granted no licences at all or only one or two to some of his friends. Everyone in any position of authority knows they are inundated with applications of this kind, and to put all these powers in the hands of the bureaucracy is to my mind extremely bad. I do not know what the experience of the Seconder of this Motion has been, but I 776 think if he had had his wits sharpened in his early days by street trading he would have been none the worse for it. Are you going to say that a boy at seventeen who has seen a great deal of life is not fitted to earn his own livelihood? Such a proposition is absurd.
With regard to the girls, there may be some little difference of opinion, but it is equally ridiculous to say that a girl ought not to be allowed to earn her own livelihood at the age of eighteen. What is the evidence about this street trading? I have here some remarks made upon the Employment of Children (1903) Amendment Bill by certain people in Ireland, and I may say that their efforts have been marked with such great success that Ireland has been excluded from the Bill. Why are Irish children of the age of seventeen and eighteen years to be treated differently from English children? If it is bad for English children at this age to earn an honest livelihood by selling newspapers or other things in the street, it is equally bad for Irish children, who at the present moment are not represented on the Irish Benches. I do not suggest that hon. Members opposite would leave out Irish children because they are afraid of the votes of the Irish Members, because I am sure that idea would not be entertained by anyone for a moment. There must be some other reason, and the only reason I can suggest is that the Irish people have convinced hon. Members opposite that it is not a bad thing for children at those ages to trade in the streets in Ireland. I see that there is the society in Belfast called "The St. Vincent de Paul" society, and the president's view on this subject are very strong. He says:—Why shouldn't they assist their parents by selling papers? They are self-supporting, and if their parents look after them there is no bad effect. As a matter of fact, street trading does them an immense amount of good. It teaches them to be thrifty and self-reliant, to be little merchants, and I know many men in affluent circumstances to-day who in their boyhood sold "Telegraphs." Of course, I know that some people argue that the Continental system of distributing newspapers would be better than the system in vogue here. No doubt our newspaper proprietors could arrange that easily enough, but think of the hardship it would inflict on the poor.Why are the newspaper proprietors to be treated exceptionally? I may say that that was one reason that induced me to stop the passage of the Bill dealing with, this question last year. I know it is not always a wise thing to act contrary to the wishes of the Press, but there are some occasions when one must do one's duty, 777 even if one does find that they come in conflict with the gentlemen who represent the Press. On that particular occasion, while I was doing everything in my power to assist the Press by allowing them to employ boys and girls in an occupation in which I think there is no risk, I did not quite see that there should be this exception on the part of the Press while it was denied to other people connected with trades equally good.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The Press were to be excepted. I am talking about the Bill of last year. The Press have a good deal of power, and pressure may be used in the same way that pressure has made the Irish Benches empty to-day. I opposed the Bill of last year, and that was one of the reasons why I did so. If we are to be guided entirely by moral considerations I do not think street trading makes people immoral, and I do not see why they should be made immoral by selling newspapers while they would not be made immoral by selling apples or pears or something of that sort. There are several other remarkable statements in the document to which I have referred. The statement I quoted a few moments ago was made by a Roman Catholic. I will now quote the statement of a Belfast missioner, who is the conductor of the Methodist Mission. Speaking of Lord Shaftesbury's Bill, he says:—I have observed that they are amongst the most civil and obliging boys that I meet, and it is really calculated to call forth one's sympathy and admiration to listen to their wit and pleasantries as they so industriously ply their trade amongst the passers by. What is more, I know that many of them would be placed in a very difficult and unfortunate position were it not for the money they earn through the medium of their papers, and if the foreshadowed legislation comes into effect it would he a crushing blow to them, to their parents, and to their homes.Then Mr. Maguire went on to detail the results of a special inquiry which he had instituted, and said:—I found in one house that three children were the mainstay of the family, being able to provide between them the sum of twenty-three shillings each week through the sale of their papers. The father is a spell-man at the harbour, the occasional character of his work not bringing in sufficient to support the home.An hon. Member opposite said, "I think it is much more shameful to have children fed at the ratepayers' expense than to allow them to go and earn money.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not know that these children were little. I presume they must have been somewhere about fifteen. They certainly must have been over fourteen under the Act of 1903, which does apply to Ireland.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then it goes on to say:—Should Earl Shaftesbury's Bill become law, it would mean those boys would be prevented from earning an honest livelihood, and the mother would have to turn out again, which in my judgment would be a most unfortunate thing in the interests of her family, in another case, one of the healthiest-looking boys that I met was earning 7s. 6d. per week. I asked him what was done with his money, and he told me it was given to his mother.There are several other cases, but I would only remark further that the "Belfast News-Letter" is headed, "Position of Newspapers; Mistaken Philanthropy." I am ready to acknowledge that great results have been obtained from philanthropy, but sometimes philanthropy goes a little too far, and philanthropy run mad is just as ruinous as any other kind of excess. The Minority Report of the Employment of Children Act Committee, signed by four gentlemen, three of them Members of this House, and the fourth gentleman, a man of considerable prominence, says:—The figures handed in by the London County Council showed 1,426 boys under the age of sixteen engaged in the sale of vegetables and fruit. Their officer who gave evidence said this would be the genuine coster trade. The case is not nearly so strong against the genuine coster trade as against the newspapers.Under the Bill of last year the genuine case would have been stopped, and the other case, which is not so good, would have been permitted. I am not sure whether, if this Bill goes to a Committee, something of that sort will not occur again. Section 2 of the Bill says:—
"but does not include the sale in a market or fair or in any rural district of agricultural or garden produce by a person in the employment of the producer, or the sale and delivery of ordered articles from door to door."
The hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill said that meant if a boy employed to deliver papers in the morning met someone in the street who wanted to buy a paper, he could take the 1d. and sell him the paper.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think they must be wrong.
"The sale and delivery of ordered articles."
I am a boy walking down the street with ten copies of the "Daily Telegraph," ordered by ten houses. I do not know why if only ten are ordered I should have eleven with me, but apparently I have eleven, and I meet someone in the street, and I give him the eleventh copy and he gives me 1d. He has not ordered the paper, and therefore it is a breach of the Act. Is there anything in this Bill which would prevent me employing an errand boy unless he was over seventeen without the license of the local authority?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then he is an errand boy. I have a newspaper shop and I have papers ordered, and I keep a boy to go round with them just as if I were a butcher or a baker and kept an errand boy. Therefore those words, so far as the newspaper people are concerned, are wholly illusory. Perhaps they will be obliged to me, as the hon. Gentleman was last year, for having drawn their attention to this fact. This Bill, so far as I understand it, and so far as the arguments which have been advanced in its favour go, would seem to be a Bill to prohibit street trading under certain conditions. It seems to me, however, to go a great deal further than that. It is such, a Bill of reference and so difficult to understand that I may be wrong and perhaps the House will forgive me if I am. I find on page 2 the expression "young person" means a person over the age of 14 and under the age of 16 years. Then I turn to the Act of 1903, Section 13, and I see the expression "child" means a person under the age of 14 years. I therefore gather that definition will now be increased to 16. Then I turn back to find what that means, and I find Section 3 of the Act of 1903 says:—
We have for the interpretation of that to find out who is a child. A child according to Section 13 means a person under the age of fourteen years. Now, this Bill says:—
- "(3) No child who is employed half time under the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901, shall be employed in any other occupation.
- "(4) A child shall not be employed to lift, carry, or move anything so heavy as to be likely to cause injury to the child.
- "(5) A child shall not be employed in any occupation likely to be injurious to his life, limb, health, or education, regard being had to his physical condition."as if in Section 13 of the principal Act there were inserted the following definition: The expression 'young person' means a person over the age of fourteen and under the age of sixteen.I therefore gather that with regard to the whole of these provisions in Section 3 of the principal Act which have nothing whatever to do with street trading the age will now be raised to 16. So far as I can see, I am not wrong. That opens a very serious question. I have drawn, I am afraid very inefficiently, the attention of the House to the defects of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading said we were now occupied with a great many serious things. I hope that for the time being he will consent to leave these wretched people alone and let them earn their livelihood in the way which seems best to themselves. Why should we be continually interfering -with the lives and occupations of the people? It almost makes me wish that the House of Commons could adjourn for five years and do nothing at all. I think we should all be much the happier.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
They could not do much without the House, and I think I would prefer to put up even with the present Government if we had the compensating advantage of this House not sitting for five years. With regard to this Bill I admit that the motives are good. But the methods are bad, and I therefore trust that the House will reject the measure. It is with that end that I have pleasure in moving that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ Mr. BOOTH
In order that I may have an opportunity to state my objections to this kind of legislation, I beg to second the Amendment of the hon. Baronet, and I propose to ask the House to follow me in a fairly brief examination of the Clauses. First, I will take the objection which was also made by the hon. Baronet to the first two Clauses, namely, that they proceed by way of reference. I honestly admit that I have not looked up the various sections referred to in them, and I decline to do it. The hon. Baronet knows where these books are on the shelves. He can put his hand on them readily, but I object to being compelled to go fingering all the dusty volumes on the shelves of this House, and I shall always take exception to any Act on any subject which deals by reference in this way. I have the authority of the present Lord Chancellor to support me in what I am now saying. On an Act somewhat similar to this—a measure interfering with the people's liberty—when it was in Grand Committee, my hon. Friend, the Member for Stockton, had taken strong exception to Clauses referring to other Acts, and when that measure came up in another place the Lord Chancellor commended the hon. Member for Stockton for his action and expressed a hope that this House would not indulge in legislation by reference. I do not think there is any necessity for it in this case, and I certainly decline to chase books from one shelf to another at the will of some amateur legislator.
There is a question of difference in age which arises in Sub-section (b) of Clause 2. No attempt has been made to justify the difference which fixes the age of seventeen for the boy and eighteen for the girl. One of the greatest champions of her sex in this country takes very strong exception to this provision, and has drawn my attention to it. I know there may be sentimental reasons, but those who have any knowledge whatever of physiology must be aware that a girl matures into a woman at an earlier age than a boy matures into a man. If it is sought to defend this difference on the ground of morality, I fail to see how by preventing a girl of seventeen from earning her living in the streets and allowing her to walk about looking as attractive as she can you are adding very greatly to the moral aspect of the question. I do not like to mention the fact, but I must confess that to my mind the effect of this alteration 782 will be to increase prostitution at the expense of honest labour. I am sorry to have to say that, but it certainly is my view.
I now come to Sub-section (d). This is quite contrary to the Factory Acts and the Bill applies a different age for young persons to that which is set out in those Acts. No justification has been attempted by either the Mover or the Seconder for this difference of age in regard to "young persons." There should be some consistency and harmony in Acts of Parliament. I mention these points in order to show how unworkable this Bill is. It is based on wrong conceptions. But I would like to say, in passing, that I have not heard any Bill moved on a Friday with more moderation or with greater fairness of opinion than this Bill has been, and my hostility to it has been, in consequence, considerably modified. My feelings have been much soothed by the manner in which the Mover and Seconder introduced this measure. But I am bound to confess at the same time that they have not attempted to justify such a Section as this. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading represents a rural constituency and he is afraid of the Act applying to his own constituency. He does not mind if it applies in all its fullness to the constituency of the hon. Baronet the member for the City of London, or to my own Constituency, but he says it must not apply to Cambridgeshire, and, therefore, he makes a distinction in favour of rural districts.
It is a most peculiar distinction. It will allow a girl to sell apples but not oranges. It will allow her to sell onions but not bananas. Surely if a girl is allowed to sell an onion she might be allowed to sell a banana, but the provision is not to apply to the sale of garden produce by anyone in the employment of the producer. Consequently the sale of home-grown fruits and vegetables is permitted, while that of oranges and bananas which come from foreign countries is prohibited. This is a species of rank Protection. It is protection for articles produced at home against foreign fruit. Then the Act goes on to permit the "sale and delivery of ordered articles from door to door." I take objection to the definition of the word "ordered," and I would like to point out that under this provision a person on the telephone will have a considerable advantage over the inhabitant of the cottage: a rich person will be able to ring up the dealer by telephone and order and secure 783 delivery of the article, whereas the working man, who has not the advantage of the telephone service, will have to wait in vain for his "Evening News" or for his supper dish of potatoes owing to the interference of hon. Members on these Liberal Benches. I should like to hear some justification for placing rural districts in this very favourable position. I do not propose to deal with Clause 3, because the hon. Baronet has already done that fully; but I come to Clause 4, which provides that no licence shall be granted to any boy to whom the Licensing authority is able to offer more beneficial employment than that of street trading. What is the good of offering beneficial employment? Surely you ought to provide it. My complaint against most of this sort of legislation is that you are stopping boys and girls from doing things. What are they to do? Are they to remain idle or lazy, or are they to go to school? I should be glad to think that they had to go to school, but there is no provision here for that purpose, and you are preventing them from doing what they are entitled to do with the consent of their parents or guardians. No licence is to be granted to any boy to whom the licensing authority is able to offer more beneficial employment. Suppose that the authority offer a boy a job which requires him to speak French, and he cannot speak French. He could not take the job. It is monstrous in a case of that kind to say that they should refuse him a licence. My main point is that this Bill does not supply anything tangible to these people whom you are depriving of work. I should be much more in favour of this Bill if it provided that the licensing authority should provide more beneficial employment. Why should it not say that a private trader should be able to offer beneficial employment? Why cannot the boys look to anyone? I claim that the State ought not to have any precedence over any private firm, and that if there is beneficial employment offered by a good firm it should rank equally with that offered by some licensing authority.
It may be said that this is a Committee point, but I must mention it in the House, because there is very little chance of my getting on to the Committee which will deal with this Bill. Grand Committees generally consist of enthusiasts. Enough of them put in an appearance to make a quorum, and the business men stay away, just as the business men stay away from 784 this House. Where are the great employers of labour, who can speak on this question? Where are the trade unionists in the cotton trade? If there are any who know something about the employment of children it is the cotton trade representatives, and they are not here. Apparently they fear that they will take a view divergent from that of some of their colleagues. As to the proceedings in Grand Committee, I was privileged for a few brief days to go on to a Committee which dealt with a measure in which I was interested, and my experience there led me to review this kind of legislation with greater interest. Sub-section (2) of Clause 4 says:—No licence shall be refused on the grounds of poverty or general bad character of the applicant.I do not know who is responsible for those words, but I consider them to be a libel upon the public authorities of this country. I cannot conceive the most retrograde borough council in a small provincial town declining to give a licence to a boy or girl simply because they were poor. As to the provision that no licence shall be refused on the ground of the general bad character of the applicant, I should have thought that that was a very good reason for refusing it.
§ Mr. BOOTH
That is where hon. Members go astray. If they can quote some other Act on some remote shelf they seem to think it is perfect legislation. I dare say that Act was passed when the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Frederick Banbury) was not so vigilant as he is now. My own view is that a boy with a generally bad character ought not to get a licence. Subsection (3) of Clause 4 provides:—Every licence shall require a street trader to wear a badge.2.0 P.M.
—a badge of slavery or submission to some authority. I suppose that in time to come we shall all have to wear badges of some kind or other, and that nobody will be allowed to work or play without being in uniform. I looked up the origin of this term "badge," and I find that it had its origin in this country as the sign or emblem of the knight, the free lance, who mounted his horse and galloped away over the hills. Now we are reducing it in this degenerate fashion to put it on the arm of some little boy of bad character who is allowed to sell a yellow newspaper in the 785 streets. I am not at all satisfied with Clause 5, and I challenge the hon. Members who are promoting this Bill to deny that it will be a useless Clause. I am not a lawyer, but I think I could drive a coach and four through it. I defy you to be able to match your wits against those people who have had their wits sharpened in street trading. I do not know whether hon. Members know the practice in large towns. Many years ago I was made painfully familiar with the conditions of street trading in London. Boys and girls were borrowed, and it was difficult to find who their parents were. These boys and girls were taken about the streets to sing and play. It was only in exceptional circumstances that some unmistakable fact came to light to show who their parents were. I do not think you have any machinery enforcing Clause 5, which allows any person over fourteen to assist his parent or guardian in street trading. There is no machinery for finding out whether they are the real children of the people who are hawking them about. I should be satisfied if this Bill would put down fraud upon open street trading. If the Bill protected a boy or girl of sixteen or seventeen who is standing in a public place in the daylight or under the electric light, I think it would be much less liable to attack than the Bill as it stands.
On my way to the House this morning I passed two youths who, if this Bill passes, would be prohibited from following, their occupation. Both were selling newspapers, and both were very healthy. One of them stopped, in going from one purchaser to another, to look over the parapet of the bridge to watch a barge floating down the Thames. I spoke to him, and he said he always liked to see barges going down the river. There he was with his papers pursuing his business in a most proper way. I daresay that arouses the ire of some of my hon. Friends, but it aroused my admiration. Why should they be stopped when you allow other things to go on which are matters of fraud and deceit? There is no machinery here to stop the people who borrow the children of others in order to hawk them about for the purpose of begging or singing. Clause 9 says that the Bill does not extend to Ireland. Nobody has given an explanation of that, and I suppose nobody can.
§ Mr. BOOTH
But the point is raised in the Bill. Why was it not explained? I say there is no reason that can be satisfactory, and I must comment on it in the absence of any explanation. Why is it that the whole of the Irish Benches are empty? I suppose they have been told that the Bill does not concern them, and therefore they are not here. When we are dealing with legislation on grounds of high morality why should there be any geographical limitation? On the general point I am astonished to hear from the Seconder this talk of varied Departments and varied authorities. As I listened to him I felt that there was a long catalogue hanging up in some central office, to which he has access and which is denied to me, containing lists of committees, separate Departments and Interdepartments, and so on, on which I have no doubt he feasts his eyes from time to time. I was unable to find this description, and I ask to what a pretty pass are we coming. What do we need with all these Departments and Committees and Interdepartmental Standing Committees? How many are there? He seemed to think there were quite a number. I was horrified to hear it. I think the fewer the better. I am only a believer in one Interdepartmental Standing Committee, and that is the Cabinet of this country. I do not see any necessity for any other. It simply revealed to me the perilous nature of legislation of this kind. I know I am liable to misrepresentation, and that some Members will follow me and treat me as if I was an enemy of children. I tell them in advance that I shall not allow them to do it without protest. I have not said a word here but what I consider is in the true interests of the child. I am not ashamed of anyone examining my own career and the time I have given to the study of this question. I have not got this knowledge from books or old Acts of Parliament, but from actual life, and I say in advance, because I have been subject to it before, that I am not prepared to allow anyone to question my attitude on this by hinting that I have no sympathy with these children. I am sure the Mover and Seconder would not do such a thing, but I may be liable to it outside.
Just in proportion as you introduce meddlesome and restrictive legislation of this kind, so do you undermine the independence of the family and the stability of family life. I have seen it repeatedly. I am in favour of progress as much is any man, but you are teaching people to rely 787 upon Acts of Parliament, and instead of doing their duty to their children because it is the proper thing, they will be doing it simply because some Act of Parliament tells them, and when it comes that our young people can only be protected by politicians on a Friday afternoon in this House, it is good-bye to the reputation of old England. That is my view. I have given it very serious consideration, and it seems to me that some of our friends are too pessimistic. They have not faith enough in human nature, in the gospel of Christianity, or in the backbone of the English race. I do not suggest that to any of my Friends here. I mean the advocates outside who provide the material with which hon. Members favour the House on Fridays. The position with regard to these matters, in my opinion, is that we should have a little more courage and more boldness to tackle these questions. I have repeatedly seen parents in town and country neglecting to do their duty to the children, and the children have suffered, and I know it is on account of that that Members have brought in this legislation. They want to produce some improvement and to do something for the good of these children, but the really courageous thing to do is to go to these parents and give them a piece of your mind. I have repeatedly seen that parents have been doing things which they knew to be wrong, and which Members would wish to prevent, but no one has the courage to say to the father and mother just exactly what they think. They find something is wrong, and they shed tears and say, "We must look to Westminster." I think some of the great Leaders—I am not one of them, I am a back-bencher, and I suppose I shall never be anything else, and I have no particular wish to muzzle myself for the price of a seat on the Front Bench—I wish some of our noble orators, those who make a name in this House by speaking, and who have advantages which have been denied to one like myself, who started work at the age of ten—I appeal to them whether we ought not to have a little nobler ring in some of their public utterances. Why have they not the courage to tell people that they are not training their children rightly, and to bring in some measure with some moral purpose, and not teach the population to look to the feeble, puny politicians to do that which their moral courage fails to supply?
§ Sir GEORGE TOULMIN
I am not going to follow the hon. Member in his opposition to the Second Reading of the Bill, but I wish to give some criticism of it from the standpoint of the newspaper Press. The Mover claimed for this Bill, the merit of elasticity, but it is precisely because it is not elastic, but rather drastic, that we consider that it can be very greatly improved in Committee. We consider that the provinces differ very greatly particularly in the small towns, from the Metropolis, and that the smaller towns differ very greatly from the great cities. I speak for the newspaper proprietors, very largely, of the provinces. I hope it is not necessary for me to say a word in defending our attitude. I do not think there is any class which desires as a whole to help and does really help forward every benevolent project more than newspaper proprietors. Many of them are benevolent men, who are able to speak in this particular matter with a knowledge of the conditions of those who have no great trade union or trade union representatives in the House to speak for them. I desire—and it is the only point, I think, on which I shall speak strongly—to repel the sweeping imputation against the character of newspaper boys. Their society is not that Alsatia of wholesale wastreldom that the Mover would seem to impute. Personally, I would much rather take as a working proposition that there are no bad boys under sixteen than I would make such an imputation against the class.
§ Mr. BECK
All I said was, and I think the evidence in this Blue Book bears it out, that the ranks of the wastrels, criminals, and unemployables were on overwhelming evidence recruited from the ranks of boys who were spoilt, by this-street trading. I made no imputation against the character of the boys.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
May it not also be put the other way—that the ranks of newspaper boys are recruited from the wastrels. As to boys, particularly under sixteen, I should like under other circumstances to uphold rather strongly that there are no bad boys. There are boys who have a claim against us; there are boys who are ill-fed, ill-treated, and ill-educated. They have a claim against society. I do not even agree with the hon. Member (Mr. Booth) about bad boys. They should not be prevented from selling newspapers. It is often the only opportunity 789 they have, when they have fallen into misfortune, of earning a little money honestly.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
I am afraid I should have to differ again with regard to girls. I do so with regard to newspaper girls, perhaps, not for quite the same reason as some do, and that is on account of the boys, because it is very bad for boys that there should be a few girls among them who perhaps would not have a very good effect upon them. I think the Mover really did paint the picture rather too highly. I think the Majority Report as a whole, does overlook some practical considerations which ought not to be overlooked. It overlooks cases of poverty where you have no right to impose penalties which are not remedies. I propose to direct my opposition mainly to the age of prohibition and not to regulation. This Bill involves prohibition, up to a certain age, and regulation. It raises the age of prohibition from eleven years to fifteen years for boys, and then till seventeen they are to obtain licences. The provincial newspaper proprietors, who are the parties chiefly concerned, are in favour of raising the age from eleven to thirteen. When this Bill was first introduced they objected to the raising of the age at all. They considered that regulations properly carried out would vastly raise the whole tone of this trade, and that, as a first step, it was sufficient. Since then there are others who have argued in a friendly manner with them, and they advanced, as a compromise, to the age of thirteen. This is the school age outside of the London area, and that is an argument which they think should have some bearing on the question. The provincial proprietors agree to the issue of licences to those boys who are engaged in street trading. I do not think that the condemnation of newspaper selling as entirely a blind alley employment is quite proved. It is very largely an interim employment and a stepping stone to the point at which a boy can take advantage of other openings. [An HON. MEMBER: "What are they?"] They go into a great many things. For instance, they become errand boys, and they go into shops. In London there are 10,486 between eleven and fourteen, and 3,387 between fourteen and sixteen, so that 7,000 have got into some situations.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
My hon. Friend suggests that newspaper boys after the age of fourteen go to gaol to the extant of 7,000.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
In England and Wales there are 15,321 below fourteen years of age, and 6,704 between fourteen and sixteen. There are nearly 9,000 who have found employment, or in some proportion are, according to my hon. Friend, in gaol. I should be glad to know what the proportion is. There are varieties of conditions in the various towns, and the mere prohibition of one form of blind alley employment may only turn the boys to another blind alley or to idleness. We are told by one witness:—There is an unsatisfied demand for juvenile labour of an unskilled type.Another witness says there aremore applicants for juvenile labour in local factories and workshops than vacancies.Some of the alternatives, as the majority of the Committee admit, are situations as van boys and errand boys "employment which could not be worse," say the majority, "than street trading." That is not saying much for the employment to which you are going to drive boys. Employment as a van boy is worse, for it is more permanent and less easy to relinquish and being a blind alley employment, you only drive the boys into another blind alley employment. A license does not force them to stay at street trading. At any moment they can take the first place that may be offered to them The difference between the conditions of the cities and the smaller towns is quite well recognised by the majority of the Committee. I do not think the case of the two kippers mentioned by the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Denman) is at all typical. I do not think that throughout Lancashire you would find a single home in which a boy would sit down to two kippers and let his father be satisfied with bread. The Majority Report says with regard to suburban work that it is "probably respectable and not unhealthy where the hours are not excessive," and that "much, of the moral risk to which the kerbstone seller is subjected is largely absent." But the majority are conscious of the weakness of their case because they say that "the urgent problem is that of the confirmed seller in the business portions of large cities." What is the reason of the difference 791 between the treatment of this subject in the great cities and the smaller towns? Will anyone bring the railing accusation against the smaller towns that they are absolutely heedless of this question? We have, as regards the county boroughs, fifty out of seventy-four, and as regards the smaller boroughs only forty-one out of 191 that have made regulations. That is not because they do not care, but because the problem is not very acute. Where there is an absence of administration there you find the evils. For instance, there are no by-laws in Leeds or Nottingham, and no regulation for the class you ask legislation for. Where there is no regulation you will find a great deal of evil.
We are told that there is a considerable amount of street trading done by children under eleven years of age. We are told that in Edinburgh children as young as seven years are on the streets. The remedy is to enforce the present Act. That condition of things would still remain if the Bill we are now asked to pass is not going to be administered. The evils can only be cured by having a living local administration. On the whole, I think it is fair to say that the evidence of the evils of street trading is taken from cities where there is no regulation. I think I can say that a case for regulation has been proved. Of course, it must be efficient, and it must be taken in hand by people who have a real interest in the matter. The criticism of the hon. Member for Carlisle in regard to regulation is really a criticism of the local administration. I do not agree that the faults are inherent in the system. Take the case of Manchester. That city shows the good results of efficient regulation. The Majority Report testifies to what can be done. They say:—The regulation of street trading is very highly organised; a special staff of selected plain-clothes officers give their whole time to the work of knowing the traders, personally visiting the homes, advising the parents, clothing the children, and apparently exerting a most beneficial influence, the various local authorities working together to that end.That is what has been done under the law which exists at the present time. The Minority Report says:—Taking Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham, we find very strong testimony to the beneficial effects which have been produced by the system of regulation, which has been in force now for a number of years; to the marked improvement in the conduct of the children, their attendance at school, and (generally) of their clothing; and we cannot, therefore, in the first place, assent to the conclusion arrived at by the Majority Committee, that the system of regulation has proved a failure, if, as we think, complete prohibition is not—at 792 I any rate immediately—practicable, regulation on lines similar to those in Manchester, etc., if made general, would be productive of much good.The Chief Constable of Manchester says:—I know of no legislation that has done more good to the children than has the supervision of street trading.Mr. C. E. B. Russell, a gentleman of unique experience on the subject, was asked by the chairman his views at to the condition of things now as compared with the conditions disclosed at the inquiry of 1901 and his experience of the working of the Manchester Act and Regulations. He replied:—I should say without hesitation that the working of the Manchester Private Act has led to an extraordinary improvement in the condition of the juvenile street traders under sixteen years of age. Previous to the Act being brought into force a large number, almost the majority of quite young street traders, would ply their calling with bare feet, without shoes and without stockings. That has been practically entirely stopped. Formerly a little lad would come on the town and sell newspapers, at any place, at any time, and nobody cared as long as he had the coppers to get a supply from the middleman. Now he cannot trade unless he has a licence, which is not issued unless the home conditions are approximately decent.We may claim that in Manchester and places where the existing powers under the 1903 Act are carefully exercised by philanthropic and other bodies working with the police and the educational authorities they work with considerable success, and where there are situations for them to go to; and that, in my opinion, ought to be a preceding condition to prohibition. Where there are no situations for them to go to the alternative is idleness, as to which I am inclined to quote Dr. Watts as an authority. Take the case of a place where there are no situations for them to go to. In Liverpool, and in a great many seaport towns, there are no openings for lads who have not been successful in obtaining openings for apprenticeship until they have arrived at physical maturity. I daresay that the hon. Member for Stoke can tell us, but I think that boys cannot go as navvies until they reach a certain stage of physical development, which they have not reached at the limit of school age.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
I presume that there is not a sufficient number of these boys to fill up the whole wastage of navvies?
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
There must be a large number of men who subsequently 793 become navvies who have to do something as boys?
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
I do not see that it does any harm in the end. The age of fifteen is beyond the school age of the provinces, which is thirteen.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
Thirteen is not the general age about the country. It is fourteen in London, and quite a number of authorities have fourteen.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
We are talking about a universal minimum, and not simply those places where the school age is high, but it applies to those places where the school age is low, and in many cases you shut them out from selling newspapers, and shut them out from the interim employment which they could take while waiting for some other and better job. Mr. Russell distinguished between street trading for children in the central streets of a city and those in the outskirts. He was asked if he would modify the views which he expressed in 1901. He said:—Not in the least. In the artisan quarter of any city a small boy selling newspapers diligently follows his occupation. He get his papers at half-past four or five o'clock. He is half a deliverer of newspapers and half a seller. He does not meet a lot of boys of 16, 17, 18 or 19 years of age, some of them selling and some not, and all probably indulging in certain habits. He finishes his round and goes back home. If he is trading in the centre of the city, he will meet a number of youths of an older age, and large numbers of them have been in prison. The bulk of them have no intention of working at all, and there is risk of being damaged by association with them.I am speaking of the small places where the conditions existing in Glasgow or London do not exist, or exist to nothing like the same extent. That was the reason for differentiating between the large and the small towns which so commended itself to the promoters of the Bill last Session that they agreed to insert it in this Bill. Boys can be employed at a younger age in the small towns than in the large towns without harm. Mr. Russell, in reply to further questions, said that, in his opinion, no definite harm results from newspaper selling in suburbs. The moment boys get regular employment they give up street trading. Therefore the interim character is proved through the lips of an independent and skilled observer like Mr. Russell. Either the Mover or Seconder spoke of these newspapers being sold on Saturday. They are sold every day. They are a regular daily employment. There is an especially hard day on Saturday because of the week-end papers, but the regular days are 794 from about ten o'clock in the morning until eight o'clock at night, and there is certainly a very fair weekly wage, if you can call it a wage, because they are not employés and cannot be employés of newspaper proprietors. They are ii the capacity of an agent.
Looking at the thing all round, I think that I am not doing wrong in supporting the claims of newspaper proprietors that the Bill should not prohibit this work unless something else is offered. The Chief Constable of Liverpool says:—The proper way to attack the evil is the provision of occupation which will remove the excuse fur street trading, and, until other occupation is available, the prohibition of street trading must mean hardship to some.The promoters of the Bill have themselves discounted the Majority Report. The Bill is not so drastic. The suggestions of the Majority Report would prevent every boy under seventeen who was out of work from selling newspapers. That is too Draconian for the promoters of the Bill. Though they are prompted by the material welfare of these poor people, it would deprive them of earnings which are absolutely essential to their existence, and it does not provide an alternative means of livelihood. The mere provision of street trading, without providing some alternative, would in the opinion of many, whose opinion, I think, is entitled to respect, result in many of these lads being driven into crime through lack of employment, and would make their conditions of life a great deal more difficult. The Majority Report leaves out of account that the earnings of these boys in nearly every instance are absolutely essential for the support of the homes to which they belong. They are not in the main the children of worthless parents, but respectable boys from poor homes. In fact, the fundamental error of the Majority Report is the treating of this form of juvenile labour as being caused by a desire for superfluous cash to spend on sweets and cigarettes. They speak of rare cases where a street trader has been assisting an impecunious home. Those cases are not rare. There may be a few who are seeking superfluous cash, but in the great majority of cases it is otherwise. The Seconder, with a great deal of whose speech I agree, put the case far too mildly when he said that there may be cases where the child's father is out of work. Not only that may be, but there are cases, and cases which ought not to be overlooked. I do not know that I need trouble 795 the House very greatly with the figures of the Report. If you look at what is sent from Glasgow you find that 75 per cent, come from the very poor home. Then Birmingham:—What are the reasons why people engage in street trading?—Poverty at home, shortness of work, and parents being out of work.Canon Pinnington of Liverpool:—What class of home do these boys and girls come from?— As a rule they come from the poorest of the poor. It is a case of poverty and necessity.I think that the exercise of prohibition without providing some other employment is quite too drastic. What are the provisions against the infliction of this hardship? The Majority Report expresses a pious hope that a way out may be found. They look forward to the development of organisation which will render assistance in providing alternative occupations. So do I look forward to it. May I refer to Clause 4? As the promoters have drafted it, it will be seen that, "No licence shall be granted to any boy to whom the licensing authority is able to offer more beneficial employment than that of street trading." Are they prepared to say that "no licence shall be refused to any boy to whom the licensing authority is unable to offer more beneficial employment than that of street trading?" If not, then we must take it from them that the Bill contemplates refusing a licence to a boy who is otherwise out of work and cannot get it. Of course the Bill does show a glimmer of a recognition of the problem, if they will not object to the phrase, in the preceding paragraph, which has in view the provision of employment. The hon. Member for Carlisle said they of course had in view the formation throughout the Kingdom of child employment committees. But would it not be reasonable that the existence of child employment committees, or some agency which could find this employment, should be an absolute and precedent condition, and not a mere promise to the ear, in refusing the licence to any boy who might apply for it? I am taking their Bill as it stands. They evidently have in view the idea of refusing licences in certain cases. I say that they ought not to be allowed, whatever age may be fixed, to refuse to licence, other conditions being equal, if they cannot provide some other employment for the boys. The Minority Report speaks very wisely, in my opinion, of the difficulty in existing circumstances, 796 of finding other employment, in some cases causing great hardship, and in others, leading to employment under conditions at least as undesirable and less subject to control, or to the very thing the proposal is intended to prevent—a life of vagrancy and crime. I myself agree absolutely with the Minority Report when they say that mere prohibition will not take these boys off the streets, which are largely the home of children in this class of life.
Street trading cannot be treated as an isolated problem, and it is only desirable to prohibit street trading where other employment exists, where you know it exists, and where steps are taken to organise employment bureaux for children. These conditions in the Minority Report indicate the lines on which the Bill must be amended, and without which, in my opinion, it should not pass. Your Bill should give a low compulsory minimum, with a prolonged period of regulation, or at most, if you wish the age of prohibition to be extended in some cases, then give the local authority power to extend the minimum. But if you want a compulsory universal minimum, you must take the minimum suitable for smaller towns, giving power to the localities to raise it. Newspaper proprietors do not seek to limit competition and artificially stimulate the provision of a distributing agency for their own benefit. God forbid that newspaper owners should ever live by the degradation of child labour! They do not ask for things to be left as they are. Let the competition of regular employment be as keen as you like, let your system of organisation of juvenile labour be as perfect as you can make it, none will help more readily than the newspapers. The real path of progress is by regulation, not by a high level of universal prohibition, blindly and ruthlessly applied.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
As one of those who signed the Minority Report, I would like to offer a few observations on the present Bill. I think everyone here will admit that the criticisms which have been passed upon the measure have been very reasonable; at the same time, I feel that they do not afford any sufficient reason for rejecting the Second Reading. One of the complaints I have to make—and it is as to a matter which seemed to give great gratification to the Seconder of the Bill—is that the Bill differs from the Bill sent down by the House of Lords last year. It certainly does, in a very material way—this Bill was not printed within thirty-six hours of its 797 introduction, although the promoters a few hours before our meeting gave me a copy— and I think we were rather led to infer that it was going to be the same as that which came down from the House of Lords. The Bill, however, is drafted in a way which differs from the other Bill. I think that the memorandum on the back of it is rather misleading. It seems to suggest that the matter is merely a question of alteration of by-laws, that it merely concerns street trading. But it really introduces one or two other matters quite foreign to street trading, and neither of which was referred to very much, if at all, by the Mover and Seconder of the Bill. There is one difference from the Bill of last year to which I wish to call attention. The references in this Bill are to a very large number of Sections in the Act of 1903. In the House of Lords Bill there were no references, excepting to Section 2 and Section 3 of the Act of 1903. This Bill refers not at all to Section 2, but to Sections 1 and 3, and to other Sections which are more or less consequential. There seems to be a sort of feeling in the country that this Bill touches the question of half-timers. I have received letters upon the subject from one or two friends of mine, and I should like a little explanation from those who support this Bill as to whether it is their intention, by their reference to Section 1 of the Act of 1902, to encourage or drive the local authorities to interfere with the present regulations as to half-timers. It does not appear to me to be so, but as there is a feeling in the country that this does in some way deal with the question, I should like to have an assurance that it is not so, and that half-timers do not come in.
§ Mr. DENMAN
We do not in any way touch Section 9 of the principal Act, which says:—
"By-laws made under this Act shall not apply to any child above twelve employed in pursuance of the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901."
It certainly is not the intention of the promoters to affect half-timers in anyway.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I thought it did not, but I am very glad to get the matter cleared up. Another difference between this Bill and the House of Lords Bill is that this Bill leaves entirely out of consideration the question of the towns where the population is under 50,000. The House of Lords Bill had no effect upon 798 towns with a population of less than 50,000. That safeguard is omitted entirely from this Bill. That was one of the most important questions discussed in the House of Lords. I very much regret that the promoters of this Bill have not seen fit to insert it in the Bill, or to say that they are willing to sec it inserted at a later stage. I should like to remind them—though those who served on the Committee know it already—that we took no evidence on this subject about the small towns. Our evidence was drawn practically entirely from, as the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) said, the large cities. The conditions there are totally different from the conditions in the small towns or in the suburbs of the large towns. The real evil that was brought to our notice was the trading in the centres of large towns. This Bill goes a very long way away from the centres of the large towns, and does not by any means, confine itself to that question. It was that point which was the gravamen of the charge against street traders. With regard to the by-laws that exist now, the real difficulty, I think, has been that though they are capable of being used in such a way as practically to deal with the evil, yet the point is that only very few of the very large towns have made proper use of the by-laws which they might have employed. The hon. Member for Bury (Sir G. Toulmin) said that where they were well used, and he instanced Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham, where those evils did not exist, and that, therefore, this Bill was not necessary. I would say, in answer to that, it is not so necessary, perhaps, but it is some evidence that this Bill is required, that even in those cities where the by-laws are best worked, those who work them would prefer a little strengthening in the shape of what is given to them in this Bill.
With regard to the general question of street trading, I think that the Mover of this Bill fell into an error which is common to those to speak on this subject by not differentiating between street traders and evil-doers. He said that street trading entailed stealing, gambling, and a lot of other great evils. Street trading in itself does not entail any of those things, and a large number of street traders are very respectable children. There are many other trades which lead more to gambling, betting, and other evils which street trading does not entail any more than many other trades 799 which children of that age might be pursuing. I do not want anyone in this House to discuss the question as if street trading in itself was an evil or wicked pursuit. I do not think it is. It wants regulation, and, to my mind, it can be regulated. I think that, in a great number of cases, it would do more harm than good entirely to abolish it. What you want to do, and I am not quite sure that you get it under this Bill, is to give the local authority more power and elasticity in dealing with the question, and more power to vary the provisions of the Act in accordance with local aid. We hear a great deal about blind alley employment. There, again, the word has now come to be used as if blind alley employment was a crime in itself, which seems to me to be very absurd. I should think that there are even a very large number of the Members of this House who began life in one direction, and eventually afterwards found employment more suited perhaps to their abilities in another direction. There are a great number of trades in which there are not a sufficient number of places in the adult branch to fill up from the juvenile branch, and therefore there must be a certain number of people who have to start life in one particular profession and have to change later on. There are many instances, such as the Telegraph and Post Office employés. That in itself is not a bad thing, and therefore you do not want to abolish work for juveniles in what is called blind alley employment so long as there is some other employment which they can take up when they reach the age when they have to leave that kind of employment.
A certain amount of street trading seems to me to be a perfectly legitimate form of employment for young persons, especially in the newspaper trade. Some hon. Member has called attention to the fact that this Bill does not create employment, and if you are turning people out of one employment you must be quite sure that they are not going to engage in a worse one or in no employment at all. For that reason I say that more elasticity to the local authority is needed. There are a great many employments which I am afraid, would be followed by some of those who hitherto have been street traders, and which I think are worse, and certainly much harder to supervise. Those are cases where work would be done in houses and homes where children would not be seen, and where probably the thing could 800 not be found out without a very large army of inspectors. Those kind of employments would be probably more prejudicial to their health than any of those street employments about which we had evidence before the Committee. That evidence on the subject of health did not go to show that on the whole many of those trades on the street were prejudicial to the health of the children. The newspaper trade was one, I think we were told, which is only harmful to those who had delicate lungs and throats as a rule, and certainly was not one of the most pernicious, but quite a healthy trade for a child. I do think that this Bill does not meet the case of the newspaper trade, and the Sub-section at the end of Clause 2 does not meet the point of the boys on their regular daily round who sell a newspaper or two to the great advantage of the public on their way to or from their work. I gather that hon. Members are prepared to alter the Clause in Committee in order to meet that difficulty.
There is another point connected with this question which is very difficult to embody in a Bill. As far as I could judge, the evidence that we took went to show that much more harm was done to the children who engaged in street trading at a later age, say fourteen or fifteen, than to those who engaged in it before. Those who engaged in street trading during their school years, if their parents looked after them properly, put them to bed at the right time, and so on, did not suffer, and their earnings went to increase the comfort of poor homes. When they reached the age for leaving school, it constituted a break in their lives, which led them to give up street trading and take to some permanent employment. Those to whom most harm was done were the children who took up street trading on leaving school at fourteen or fifteen. It was found much more difficult to get them to give it up. Therefore the people whom you want to get at as much as possible are those between fourteen and fifteen, and that is very difficult to put into a Bill. I am not convinced that any harm is done by carefully regulated street trading to children below the school-leaving age. I know that school teachers will find fault with me for saying that. They are very fond of assuming that every child who, on attending school in the morning, is not as bright as he might be, is either under-fed or has been up all night selling something in the streets. It is sometimes the case, but not always. Many 801 of us here would be just as stupid in the morning if we had had a long time in bed as we are when we have had only a short night.
The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) asked why Ireland had been omitted from the Bill. I repeat the question. There is only one answer. Ireland was left out because they very strongly resisted the Bill being applied to them, on the ground that in Ireland the conditions are of such great poverty that the Bill ought not to apply. That may be a reason for not applying the Bill to one or two places, but there are many places in Ireland much better off than places in England or Scotland. I object to measures of this sort, merely for the sake of temporary party exigencies, being made to apply to one part of the kingdom and not to another. I am glad that this Bill has met the wishes of the signatories of the Minority Report in respect to children whose parents are costers or street traders of one sort or another. What I cannot understand is why the child who is over fourteen should be thought to be safe with his parents in the streets, whereas the child under fourteen is obliged to leave his parents and look after himself. Where is he to go? His parents are in the street. What is it suggested that the child under fourteen should do?
§ Mr. T. E. HARVEY
The London County Council already prohibit boys under fourteen from street trading. There is no exception for the coster. That was introduced by the hon. Member's own party. It has been in force for some time, and there has been no difficulty at all.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I do not care whose party it was, and I do not understand that that is any answer to my question. If children under fourteen are with their parents with a barrow in the street they may not sell a potato. I say that the natural place for the child under fourteen is with his parents if they are in the street, because there is no other place to which he can go. I cannot see why this Section has been put in. The hon. Member for Pontefract made one or two criticisms with which I do not sympathise. He complained that it was wrong to exclude girls from street trading altogether, because other measures for the promotion of morality were not advanced at the same time. I think it is a very bad argument to say that you must not do any single thing for the promotion of morality if you cannot do everything.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I do not wish to misrepresent the hon. Member. I was impressed on the Committee by the strength of the evidence in favour of entirely prohibiting street trading for girls. It was overwhelming. It was the only convincing evidence, to my mind, that we took. The other evidence was more or less conflicting, but this was all on one side, and of a very serious character.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
From the big towns. The fact that girls are to be excluded from street trading is sufficient reason for anybody to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, trusting to other Amendments being made at a later stage. I think the hon. Member made a mistake also in regard to the question of character. He seemed to think that girls might be given licences, and if they were of bad character they might still have them.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
There were two reasons for inserting that provision. One was that it was no good inquiring into the character of these children, and the second was that, if you made bad character a disqualification, the presentation of a certificate or badge would be regarded as certifying the holder as having a good character, when the question had not really been considered or gone into. That was, I think, the reason why that was retained. I hope that the hon. Baronet will not persist in taking a Division on the Second Reading of this Bill. I think it can be made into a good Bill in Committee. The hon. Baronet must remember, as has already been pointed out to him, that had he allowed the Bill of the House of Lords last year to be passed that we should have had on the Statute Book a much better Bill than this one.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Possibly the hon. Baronet agrees with hon. Members oppo- 803 site? If that is so, it is sufficient proof that the thing is right, and I cannot say any more. My point is this: that I told the hon. Baronet again and again last year that if he would only let the Bill go through he would avoid something which he disliked still more in another year. While I think that last year's Bill was a better one than this, we should be ill-advised not to give a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ Mr. T. E HARVEY
Those of us who are hoping that this Bill will be read a second time must be very grateful for the very friendly criticism of the hon. Gentleman opposite. We recognise that this Bill is one which in its main features, if not in some details, will get support in all quarters of the House. We are very grateful for the hon. Gentleman's advice to the hon. Baronet not to oppose the Second Reading. I think that the main objection of the hon. Baronet, and also the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract, to the Bill is their feeling that it is increasing officialism to a dangerous extent, interfering with the liberty of the subject, and taking away employment without providing any other. I think that the danger of officialism has been very gravely exaggerated. The hon. Baronet drew a picture of the London County Council official interfering and preventing children from getting employment. As a matter of fact, we have in London already at work machinery, not of officials, but of volunteers, which can be largely brought to bear in carrying out the provisions of this Act. There are something like 3,000 voluntary workers grouped together in the children's care committees of the county council, whose great skill and willingness to help can be utilised in applying the provisions of this Bill. They are men and women who are giving their time to the work because they care for it, and because they want to help the children in the schools. They are assisted by the special skill of the teachers, and they have behind them the official support of the county council. It is perfectly competent for other education authorities to set up similar machinery and call into play the voluntary forces in the same way.
We have, as my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle pointed out, the machinery of the Education (Choice of Employment.) Act, as well as the Junior Advisory Committees in connection with the Labour 804 Exchanges of the Board of Trade, which can be made use of, and for which there is special provision in the terms of the Bill. I think the hon. Member opposite perhaps under-estimated the evils which at present come from what is called "blind alley" work. I think we should all agree with him that it is possible to exaggerate the effects of "blind alley" employment, but we have the outstanding fact that both sections of the Poor Law Commission emphasise the grave character of the evil as a root cause of unemployment. Surely this Bill will remove to some extent at least a portion of that root! I would point out that it does not merely take away employment without offering an alternative. It seems to me that one of the very best and most fruitful provisions of the Bill—a permissive provision, it is true—is one which allows the local authorities to make by-laws regulating the hours of labour for young persons under sixteen years of age. At the present time we have overwhelming evidence as to the excessive hours of work of young persons in certain occupations; particularly in the great cities, where the van boys are worked regularly up to twelve hours a day, and sometimes, in times of great stress and at Christmas time, for even longer periods. If the local authority make use of this permissive power they can regulate the hours of labour for those under sixteen, fix shorter hours, and couple with it, if they choose, compulsory attendance at continuation classes. By doing so they would help to increase occupation, because employers would either have to work a double shift, and would take two boys where they now take one, or would engage an older person. We do not really destroy the opportunities of work at all by this Bill. But I have had brought to my notice the effects which such a measure as this would have in one of the great cities of the North, one in which I am especially interested, I mean Leeds. Quite recently the Leeds Education Committee established a special evening course of a very attractive character for girls. A very good start was made but gradually the attendance dwindled and the cause of that dwindling was found to be the long hours worked by these children—as they really are. Some of these girls, from thirteen to sixteen years of age, who could be dealt with under the provisions of the Bill, were working from 6 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., some from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 6.30 p.m., and others from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
§ Mr. T. E. HARVEY
A number of the girls were working in textile clothing factories. They would be covered by the Clause in the Bill allowing the local authority to make regulations for children under sixteen. I think that this Clause has been rather neglected in Debate. I think it ought to be dealt with by the House. What I have stated shows how at present local authorities trying to continue higher education classes are prevented by inability under the existing law to make by-laws dealing with cases of this kind. This evil is going on in spite of the provisions of the Factory Acts. The case in regard to van boys is even worse. Every boys' club worker in a big town could give personal instances of the terrible way in which excessive hours are worked. This takes away all opportunity of self-development from the boys. I know of one case of a boy whom I knew who was the top boy in his school, a promising lad in a London County Council school. He went out to work as a van boy. He tried at first to get to the continuation classes, but he could not do it, and finally the usual thing happened. At the age of eighteen or nineteen, after a time of unhappiness and in despair of getting a man's wage, he enlisted in the Army. He now has painfully to begin again his education, and go to the Army classes, though he was five years ago at school the head boy. The labour of himself and his good teachers has been lost, and he was not a bad boy, but the top boy of his year in the school.
Anyone familiar with the conditions of boy life in our big towns could give not one but many instances like that of the economic waste that goes on because we do not allow our local authorities to make provisions of this kind. It is not only the machinery of the Children's Committee in London that can be brought to bear, but we have in progressive towns other committees exercising the most useful supervision. In Leicester, for instance, you have not only the education authority, but the members of the watch committee sit in rota to help to supervise cases in which juvenile labour is affected. We find often among the opponents of measures of this kind men who speak very strongly from personal experience. We have not had any appeal of that kind made this afternoon, although such an appeal was made 806 privately to me by a Member from the experience of his own life. He began, he said, as a boy of eight or nine years under these conditions, and did well. Why could not other boys do the same? That, of course, is a strong case, but the hon. Member who made it forgot that while in this industrial warfare some veterans survived the charge countless others fell and innumerable other lives are not so fortunate as to be able to stand against the stress, and it is for their sakes that we are asking this House to read this Bill a second lime.
§ Mr. WALTER GUINNESS
The very great difficulty that meets anybody proposing to deal with this matter is fully shown by the great variety of legislative remedies proposed in the short time since the Departmental Committe reported, and this, in itself, justifies the very greatest possible care and circumspection before any other measure should be added to the Statute Book dealing with this matter. The Bill introduced in another place by Lord Shaftesbury was in some respects better than that introduced in this House last year; but I think it also left a great deal of room for improvement, and I gladly recognise that this further attempt to solve the difficulty is better than any of its predecessors. The hon. Member for Lanark last year brought forward a Bill which adopted practically in its entirety the recommendations of the Majority Report that that Bill would have substituted a general prohibition of all street trading by boys under seventeen and girls under eighteen, without any provision for local regulations as advocated by the Minority Report. As one who signed the Minority Report, I put down a blocking Motion to that Bill, and I am very glad to recognise this Bill is a more or less successful attempt to adjust a combination between the views expressed in both the Minority and Majority Reports.
This Bill proposes very stringent general regulations, with a power to local authorities to relax them where necessary. It is certainly an advance upon any previous legislative effort, and if it is amended in Committee in several details I think it may certainly be of value. The real difficulty of the question arises from the fact that street trading is merely a symptom of very deep-rooted difficulty. The real difficulty is bad homes and lack of employment, and the damage to which the framers of this Bill wish to apply themselves is not really done by street trading, but by street life. The conditions of street 807 trading vary very much. There is an enormous difference between what you find in large towns and small towns, and there was one provision I prefer in Lord Shaftesbury's Bill in that he did not make these regulations applicable to towns of all sizes. There is also a very great distinction between the conditions of street trading in crowded thoroughfares and quiet suburbs. A large amount of street trading is not hawking in the ordinary sense of the word. It is merely working for a tradesman under control more or less efficient. Then, of course, there is also the case of the small country town, which might well arise in towns such as I have the honour to represent, where you have a small population, where you never find a crowd in the streets, and where on many afternoons you could walk from one end of the town to the other and not meet forty people. In cases like that there is no call for the stringent regulations in this Bill, and street trading in many instances only amounts to one evening in the week, when a few boys are sent out to sell the local weekly paper.
I do not think the case I mention is entirely due to the ideal conditions of my Constituency. I think it arises all over the country, and I think it is the great defect of this Bill that, as at present drafted, it makes no exceptions. I think there should be a population limit, below which this Bill should not operate. This Bill also seems to ignore the fact that in a large number of cases the children of most respectable parents find it necessary at the present time to go into street trading. I do not think the evidence given by the chairman of the Glasgow School Board was mentioned. I propose to read it. In answer to question 4432, he said:—The real position is this, that so far as children of school ages are concerned, between the age of twelve and fourteen we believe there are to-day in Glasgow a large proportion of the actual children of these parents selling in the streets that are supplementing the incomes of respectable but unfortunate parents. Mr. MacDonald's investigations through the school board officers have given us figures that lead us to believe that something like 75 per cent, of the young children of school age—that is to say, between twelve and fourteen—are living in quite respectable homes and bringing their wages to their parents, and that they are not misspending the money. Yon will be told that the sole object of these children is to gain money so as to go to music halls, and to buy cigarettes and sweets, and so on, and that there is no good end accomplished. As representing the school board we cannot approve that statement. We believe that, particularly at a time like this of want of employment, a great deal of suffering has been modified by the earnings of those children selling in the streets. It is an undesirable thing in many ways, but we have made actual investigations as to the homes and where the money goes.808 There is plenty of other evidence of the same description, and that evidence makes it clear, to my mind, that a great amount of distress might be caused by the stopping of these earnings. It has been mentioned in these Debates that street trading is bad for the health of the children, but, on the other hand, there is very strong evidence to the contrary, especially in London, which shows that, at least in the case of the newsboys, they are healthier than children employed in other occupations. I will read one answer from the evidence given by Dr. Charles James Thomas, who carried out investigations in connection with a special inquiry made by Mr. Chester Jones before approving the by-laws in London. Dr. Thomas states:—The only large class of boys that I came across that is large enough to base any conclusions on at all were the newsboys amongst the street traders, and I contrasted them with the others and found that there was very much less disturbance of health amongst the newsboys than amongst other boys occupied in wage-earning occupations. Those newsboys only showed deformities to the extent of 6 per cent. in contrast to 26 per cent. in the case of shop boys, and in regard to heart strain only 8 per cent, in contrast to 21 per cent. in the case of shop boys, and 10 per cent. in the case of all employed boys.After listening to the evidence given to that committee I felt that those figures gave us very much more to go upon than the vague opinions of those who had not gone into the statistics of the ordinary effect upon the children. It is important to remember that street trading is more under control than other forms of children's labour. One witness, referring to London, said:—I think a very great deal of improvement has occurred, especially amongst street traders—very much more among street traders than amongst the others. I think evasions are far commoner in ether employments than in street trading.It is important to bear in mind that street trading is under supervision, and that other forms of employment are not, and it is very dangerous to put stringent regulations in force against street trading unless you do something to level up the regulations as affecting other and less well supervised forms of juvenile employment. The street trading is caused by the economic need for earnings, and I should be far less anxious in this respect if some other means were found of industrial employment for the boys of the street trading class. If those earnings are really necessary in the homes, and a great deal of evidence convinced me that they were, such legislation as this is not dealing with the real cause, but is merely stopping one branch of the employment, and may drive 809 children into harder and less healthy work. It is impossible to supervise the conditions of employment in industrial homework, and I think it would be a very evil effect of this Bill if by only regulating one class of child labour you drove children into the less healthy forms of occupation. I think the general prohibition is likely to put this House into the position of the quack doctor prescribing drugs of which he knows little for ills of which he knows still less. If there is no elasticity there would be a great many children still in the streets, and worse occupied where they feel an absolute economic necessity for earnings owing to the condition of their families, who will be encouraged to take the first steps towards a life of crime. You can only meet the difficulty by leaving the utmost discretion to the local authority. I recognise that the Bill as drafted goes, to some extent, in that direction by giving the local authorities under Clause 3 the power to licence to a lower age than that allowed as the general provision throughout the country. This discretion is to be allowed to local authorities where they think there is a special case. I do not think the Bill goes far enough in that direction.
The evidence before the Committee and the considerations put forward by the hon. Member for Bury (Sir G. Toulmin), who dealt with newspaper boys, shows that fifteen is not low enough; and that there are cases where it would be desirable to give the local authority power to authorise street trading at an even lower age. Above the age of fifteen street trading is more open to the criticism of being a blind-alley employment than below the age of fifteen. When a boy gets to the age of fifteen it is considered time for him to learn a trade. If he goes out to work one or two days a week at the age of twelve, it is not interfering in any way with his subsequent employment when he gets to a suitable age to find it. For that reason I think there is a strong case for lowering the age in those districts where the local authorities find that there is a special case, and where they can show to the Home Office that there is no danger to the children in carrying on their work in crowded and undesirable centres. With regard to machinery, I think in this matter the Bill fails to deal with the difficulty. The real trouble is undoubtedly due to the fact that many local authorities are remiss in putting their powers into operation. Many local authorities at the present time neglect to instruct their 810 watch committees to bring prosecutions to enforce the Act, and is there any probability whatever that they will be more energetic when the matter is taken out of their hands and the law is made more stringent. The only way in which you can deal with the matter is by taking the advice of the Minority Report, and putting a definite obligation on the local authorities to appoint officers to enforce the carrying out of those Acts. If you do not do that I believe that the law in regard to street trading will become an even greater dead letter in many districts than it is at the present time. I sincerely hope the promoters will accept an Amendment in that direction in Committee. Although this Bill does not satisfy me in certain directions, I shall certainly support it on the Second Reading, hoping that in Committee its blemishes may be removed and that it may do something to deal with a very difficult question.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I have always great diffidence in speaking on matters connected with my own profession, but I can speak on this Bill with entire freedom, because I have had no connection with daily newspapers except as a writen for many years. In approaching this question I do so with personal experience which has perhaps not been open to hon. Members who have been sponsors to this Bill. I once conducted a Sunday newspaper, and it was necessary for me to have that newspaper folded on a Saturday afternoon between two and eight o'clock, and I employed a number of women to do this work. They were very sober, c[...]ean, and assiduous, and they did the work very well. I may say that I paid them exactly the same wages as I would have paid to men under similar circumstances. They did the work for some weeks, and then I received a notice that by employing them I was breaking the law, and I had to dismiss those women. Many of them were wives and mothers, and the money they were earning in this way was a considerable alleviation of distress which might otherwise have existed in those homes. I had to substitute men for them. They were certainly by no means as good workers as women, but there it was; I had to dismiss these women, and it gave me the impression that sometimes men with the best of motives pass legislation interfering with female labour and carry it to a point which is rather an injustice to the women themselves. I have to say with regard to this Bill, that I am not going to 811 oppose the Second Reading. I think the points I raise are rather for the Committee than for discussion in the Whole House. Whilst sympathising generally with all attempts to regulate child labour, I do not think the selling of newspapers is quite so damaging an occupation as some hon. Gentlemen would seem to imagine.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
And the writing for newspapers may be still worse. It depends a good deal on the newspaper, the writing, and the reading. As a matter of fact, the annals of the working million aires of America contain the names of many who began their lives as street sellers of newspapers. They were trained in that way in keen business instincts, and gained a knowledge of the public, which was of considerable use to them in their subsequent career. Personally, I should be glad to see the selling of papers in the streets by women abolished altogether, but where the boys are concerned, I would put this to the sponsors of the Bill. If this age of fourteen were to be maintained throughout the country, there might be a very prejudicial hiatus at the end of school teaching and the beginning of active industrial life. Between the ages of thirteen and fourteen a boy in the country finds it very difficult to get any occupation whatever, and I think we ought always to bear in mind in these Bills that very often even the small wage of a boy plays a useful and important part in the household budget. I knew a Member of this House, a member of my own party—unfortunately he is dead—who began life in the mines. He had only 10d. to add to the family budget, but he assured me that 10d. exercised a very considerable influence indeed on the household budget of his parents. Newspaper selling is not itself necessarily an unhealthy occupation. It may be a very healthy occupation, much more healthy than working shut up in an impure atmosphere. It is evident you must have a different age for London and the country. The school age for London is, I believe, fourteen, and in many parts of the country it is thirteen. Therefore a provision which might be useful and necessary for London would not necessarily be so for other parts of the country. I am delighted to know that, as a matter of fact, the condition of these news-sellers has been enormously improved by recent legislation. 812 The supervision under which they have been put has done a great deal to improve their condition. Therefore my position is that, while I will not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, I think some of its details require considerable scrutiny in the interests of the boys themselves, and especially as to the necessary distinction between the conditions in a great city like London and those in the smaller towns.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I think the promoters of the Bill have no reason to complain of the attitude adopted towards it in the main by Members on all sides of the House. The criticisms which have been made are, I think, easily capable of being controverted, and many of them are mutually destructive. The hon. Member for the Oswestry Division (Mr. Bridgeman) told us there was convincing evidence of the necessity for taking girls out of the area of street trading entirely on moral grounds. If that be so, the same atmosphere which is deleterious in the case of the girls is equally bad for the boys, and, if the argument is so good for the removal of girls from street trading, it appears to me, though possibly in a lesser degree I am prepared to allow, the argument for removing the boys from a similar atmosphere is strong indeed. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) spoke of grandmotherly legislation. If you follow out his argument to its logical conclusion, there is no reason why you should prevent boys going into the mines at eight years of age, if their natural instinct, as the hon. Baronet put it, was that of a good boy desiring to help to earn the living of the family. Similarly, every piece of factory legislation is grandmotherly legislation. The stopping of industries where lead poisoning is prevalent is grandmotherly legislation. The interference of the State in, say, the chain-making industry, where women make chains at 1d. a yard, is grandmotherly legislation. I wonder whether it is grandmotherly legislation if you intervene, say, in the interests of dogs?
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
Then we had the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) 813 commenting on the fact that there was no representative of the cotton trade here, intimating that they did not with to be associated with us. I have heard the cotton argument before. It is quite akin to the poor widow argument, and the argument of the health of the little boy who is looking over the parapet of the bridge to see a barge go by. I wonder what would happen if the hon. Baronet saw a lad in boots which are mere apologies for boots, and a ragged coat, selling newspapers in the street with the rain pouring down, or if he saw the boys congregating together for practices which the evidence before the Commisison conclusively prove do prevail. I have heard the same argument which the hon. Member brought forward, "I began work at ten, and now look where I am," from others. I have heard the mill owner, with an expanding chest, say, "Yes, I worked half-time."
He has come out on top. Yes, he is the survivor of the fittest, but, in the course of the battle, hundreds have gone to the wall. Put the question to a millionaire who has come out on top and ask him if, as a self-made man, he is going to allow the same beneficent process to operate in the case of his children. The answer is sure to be in the negative. A convincing case is put forward in the Report of the Departmental Committee, and it seems to those who examine the evidence and figures dispassionately that the case against street trading is unanswerable. Take the investigations conducted by the Committee on Wage Earning Children, conducted, I believe, by means of personal investigators who went into something like 1,390 cases, and found, with respect to 1,232 boys and 63 girls—968 being engaged in the newspaper selling trade—that they were working from one to seventy-two hours per week. Two hundred and fifty-nine certainly only worked under ten hours weekly; 276 worked from ten to fifteen hours; 188 from fifteen to twenty hours; 148 from twenty to twenty-five hours, and so on, the diminishing numbers showing increasing hours per week. It is true there is in existence an Act which has attempted to do something to remedy this admitted evil, but the unfortunate part about it is that very few authorities have thought it worth while to take action in the matter, and, even in cases where they have done so, there is evidence to show that where regulations have been adopted and inspections carried out infringements are very 814 numerous. In London itself, in the case of children under eleven years of age, there were no fewer than 1,196 infringements of the Act of 1903, involving the employment of children over long hours.
May I deal for a few moments with the moral aspect of the question, which impresses itself upon my mind as probably the strongest argument why this Bill should be given a Second Reading. In this respect the result of the investigations of a lady in Sheffield were placed before the Departmental Committee, and she was able to corroborate entirely the opinion expressed by the Front Bench that, so far as girls are concerned, the regulations regarding street trading cannot be too stringent nor can the age be too high. As regards the boys, this lady found, in the course of her personal investigations—and her evidence formed probably the most valuable part of that which the Departmental Committee had before it—that the effect on boys was that simply they got independent too early, they proved badly disciplined in life later on, they tended to become corner-men in our big cities, and, from being unemployed, rapidly became unemployable. She found, too, that these boys congregated in places for gambling purposes, and many resorted to picture palaces in the evening. Her evidence was corroborated by the schoolmasters. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who was she?"] The lady was Miss Olive Har-greaves, and the fact that she is unmarried does not detract from the excellence of her evidence, just in the same way as a married man's evidence is not always superior to that of a single man. Not being married she may have had opportunities of making even closer investigations. She interviewed schoolmasters, and they told her that their experience was that moral deterioration rapidly set in in the case of children engaged in street trading. There may be a sharpening of wits, but there is a ruining of character. The boy too soon becomes a man and too soon ceases to be a man. This lady's experience is corroborated by that of others of still wider experience. The Chief Constable of Sheffield stated that street selling makes boys thieves. These are not the remarks of mere faddists; they are the remarks of men who know. The chairman of the London Education Committee, in 1909, said that boy street sellers were practically all gamblers. The Chief Constable of Manchester declared, "Street trading is productive of a greater amount of evil than any other occupation followed 815 by children. The boys developed into lazy, shiftless, workless men. They become, for the most part, racecourse touts, often travelling thieves and loafers … and mere creatures of chance, and sink down till they ended their days either in the gaol or the workhouse." Similar experience was gained from Birmingham, while one of the officials of the Borstal Association declared that over 80 per cent, of their charges admitted that they had no work when they got into trouble. The evidence of the Chief Constable of Glasgow is entirely different from that quoted as having been given by the chairman of the School Board.
It is quite true there is an economic difficulty as far as parents are concerned. We could all wish that the conditions in this country were such that no parent would find it necessary to drive his boys or girls into the streets to take on this business. But we have not yet come to the stage when every worker willing to work has the guarantee of a living wage. Probably such a condition of affairs would assist to solve the great problem of child labour. It is quite true that this Bill does not go far in the direction of suggesting constructive legislation for finding openings for boys. On one side we are accused of not going far enough. On the other side we are told that we are going too far. This is an attempt to deal with the problem in part. There should be, in my opinion, efforts made to co-ordinate school with employment, and if we could have an extension of the excellent provisions which obtain in some of the big cities where, as in one case which came to my knowledge, you have the employer of a large works encouraging his apprentices and boys to attend the continuation school, and making provision for their so doing by reducing their hours of labour, it certainly would help forward the solution of this problem. Another aid to solution would be an increase in the school age. You would then deal with the children in the most plastic state when you would be able to do most with them. You would be able to leave on them a greater impression than you can at the present time. With the increase of the school age, with the extension of the continuation school system, and with the co-ordination of the school, the home and the workshop, together with greater association between employers and teachers in the direction of this work, these things would, in the form of constructive legislation, 816 help to solve this problem, and then we should perhaps eventually arrive at the position when we shall be as careful of our children as we are of our property.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
I want to say only a few words with reference to what is really the main question before the House—namely, whether the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) and the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Booth) will allow the Bill to be read a second time without asking the House to divide upon it. I would appeal to the hon. Baronet that, like the dog of whom we have heard, his bark should be worse than his bite. Nearly all the arguments which have been adduced this afternoon, with one or two exceptions, have been Committee objections against the Bill, and hardly a single one of them has really been against the principle embodied in the Bill. With regard to smaller points, there is a considerable number of objections, some of which I feel myself. There are certainly drafting objections, and if the hon. Baronet would only join forces with those who drafted the Bill I am quite sure that if he made it a general principle he would occupy his time largely in matters of this kind, and also pro tanto, reduce his opposition. Of course, there are a good many small objections to-the Bill. There is the difficulty with regard to the enforcement of the proper observation of conditions about licences, and badges. I think, perhaps, the Bill ought to be strengthened to a certain extent with regard to the licences. It is only to common for a boy to sell his labour for the privilege of wearing a badge for an hour or two, and up to the present it has been difficult to detect it, and very often sufficient measures have not been taken with regard to it. I think some of the phraseology of the Bill might be altered with advantage.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
A certain amount of it, at any rate, especially with regard to young persons. There is a definition of "young persons" which is quite different from the definition of "young persons" in the Factory Acts, which can only cause confusion and trouble if adhered to. It is quite possible and quite easy to alter that. There are more serious objections, but they are only on Committee points, with regard to the lack of elasticity. I think there should be a great deal more elasticity with regard to small towns, and some more elasticity with 817 regard to the age at which the compulsory provisions should apply. Naturally anyone who has studied the subject is likely to think that it is better to prohibit street trading for the earlier ages and to allow it under licence, if it is to be allowed at all, after the age of fourteen. Information with regard to that has recently developed to a certain extent since the time when the Departmental Committee sat; and I know, with regard to Birmingham for example, that it has come to be recognised that it may be more harmful for a boy to be a street trader between the ages of fourteen and eighteen than it is for a boy under the age of fourteen. One reason for that has already been mentioned, which is that after the age of fourteen it is more likely to be a blind-alley occupation than it is before the age of fourteen; but there is an additional reason, which impressed itself on us at Birmingham very considerably, which is that under the age of fourteen the boy engaged in street trading has discipline exerted upon him whilst at school, so that the effects of the irregularity of the employment are not so harmful to him. For these reasons it may be well to give more elasticity with regard to the age at which compulsion or licences should apply; but I only urge, while that is an important point, that it is a Committee point. Are there any real main objections to the Bill, as a whole, which should prevent the Second Reading being allowed without a Division?
I think it can hardly be argued at this time of day, taking the general ground, that street trading of this kind is not an injurious occupation. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) appeared to dissent from what is now the generally conceived opinion. Members one after another have quoted in support of its being an injurious occupation all the evidence they have received from the various authorities. I can only appeal to the hon. Baronet on this ground, that my experience is gained to a certain extent from the Poor Law Commission, and also, with regard to special inquiries, in some of the big towns. I think there can be no doubt whatsoever as to the injurious influence of street trading generally as an occupation. What we find as a matter of personal observation has been backed up and corroborated by the statistics of others. With regard to the point of health, a certain amount of evidence has been brought to light that it is not so harmful as some indoor occupa- 818 tions. Subsequent evidence has gone to show that the ulterior effects upon many, from the point of view of physical health, more than counteract whatever advantages may be gained through being cut in the open air. But when we go on to inquire what were the causes which brought men when they were adults down to misfortune, or made them the wreckage of society, we find there are three main, causes. First, the irregularity of labour, secondly, there was the demoralising kind of housing; but concurrently with these two, and working with them, was this question of boy labour, irregular or blind-alley labour—for the average street trading is a combination of the two—which was one of the most potent causes we found throughout the whole of our inquiries. At this time of day there is no question whatever as to its harmfulness. There is the objection based upon the fact that the lack of earnings through street trading being stopped may cause great hardship to the parents. No one denies that the earnings that are made by some of the street traders eke out scanty and irregular wages. There, again, the most recent investigations go to show that far too much stress can be laid on that argument when one is confronted with the facts. Some friends of mine made a minute inquiry into quite a large number of cases. We have heard to-day of the widowed mother. Out of over 1,500 cases, those who were the children of widows numbered 150, or less than 10 per cent.; and the general conclusion, after investigating between 1,000 and 2,000 cases, was that it is quite evident that prohibition would inflict hardship upon a very limited number, and upon these for only a very short time.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
That is from the report of the special committee appointed in Birmingham to inquire into the effects of street trading since the date of the Departmental Committee. Lastly, we had the objection to grandmotherly legislation. I confess I was surprised that the hon. Baronet should have been untrue to the oldest Conservative principles. If I remember aright, the grandmotherly legislation with regard to children in particular was initiated by the first Sir Robert Peel in the year 1802, and therefore I might refer him to this, and point out that he has got the soundest of all Conservative precedents for allowing the Second Reading of a Bill of this kind.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I point out that that Act related to children of ten or eleven years of age, not to men of seventeen.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
A great deal of this Bill refers to men of fourteen or fourteen and a half years of age. When we are told by the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Ban-bury) that a good boy wants to go out and work, and it is a shame to prevent him from doing so, I am afraid it means that having concentrated on the bad drafting of the Bill, he has not paid sufficient attention to Clause 4, Sub-section (2), which says:—
"No licence shall be refused on the grounds of the poverty or general bad character of the applicant."
It is rather a strange way of expressing a condition which I think is all right probably in its effect, but at the same time it is not only the good boy with whom we are dealing under this kind of legislation. To sum up, it does mean that, whether one speaks of boys or of men at the age of seventeen, it is not really a question of circumstances or of character, and all the great battle about circumstances and character can go on really without reference to the subject now under discussion. There seems to me no question whatsoever, but that up to the age of seventeen, whether a boy has his wits sharpened faster in the streets or not, he has really not got the complete outlook upon life which enables him to form a judgment which you can expect from an adult man and, for that reason, up to that age, it is in theory as well as in practice really perfectly justifiable to regulate the conditions under which they shall be allowed to work.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
In many cases it is just the parents whose boys engage in these occupations who are least capable of taking care of them. It is not a case of parents as a whole, but of those very parents who have the least chance of being able to do so, and it is exactly what has been accepted in practically every other Department of the State. It is not a question of carrying on their life by regulation, it is not a question as it was in other cases of carrying on business by regulation, it is a question merely of enforcing a minimum standard of decency, 820 a minimum standard which is enforced in factory and sanitary legislation. It is a mere minimum standard which does not necessarily interfere with proper initiative or development of character, and it is the more necessary, I submit, just at this time. There are many causes of unrest. They may be connected with wages, but there are also other causes which are not quite so superficial or so easy to find. Anyone whose work has been connected with this type of question realises that apart from the question of wages, another cause which is certainly productive of unrest is the inability of boys in many cases to get a fair start in life whatever be their capacity. Boy after boy has come under my own observation in the matter, and it is perfectly clear to see that many of them with abilities quite up to the average find themselves perfectly unfitted at eighteen by this kind of occupation for developing a character or for continuing an existence which they would otherwise be quite capable of doing. Therefore I appeal for this Bill, subject to all Amendments in Committee, to be allowed to pass Second Reading without a Division.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Ellis Griffith)
I desire to associate myself with the substance of the hon. Member's speech, and I appeal once more to the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) and to the hon. Member (Mr. Booth) not to persist in the attitude they have taken up. As far as I can make out, they really are basing themselves upon the old grandmotherly legislation argument. So many exceptions have already been made to that old argument that we may well allow another exception in the shape of this Bill. I do not think they object to the grandmother so much, but they want to choose her for themselves. With regard to the question before the House, there can be no doubt about the supreme importance of the question of boy labour in this country. A great many matters of social reform have been touched upon in recent years, and I think we all feel, irrespective of party, that the real problem we have to deal with is the problem of child life, and unless we begin there, all our efforts will be in vain in future. For the State to abandon all interest in the child when he or she leaves school, to leave the child to take its chance in the chaos of the industrial market, is an indefensible and disastrous policy.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
Certainly; but there are parents and parents, and I am bound to say—I speak for myself, speaking from the place where I now stand for the first time—I think there are occasions and circumstances where if the parents are parents only nominally and do not safeguard the welfare of the child the State is justified in acting in loco parentis to the child. That is my own individual view. There can be no doubt that the non-direction or misdirection of a boy's energies immediately after he leaves school is one of the main causes of unemployment and crime in this country. The hon. Gentleman admits that. Supposing a parent is responsible for or cannot prevent this non-direction and mis-direction—is the State going to stand by with folded arms and do nothing? Is the State merely to call upon the parent and give him advice, or is the State to take such measures as it can to see that the evil shall be dealt with? The Poor Law Commission, which reported in 1909, called attention to the connection between haphazard boy labour and unemployment, and the majority came to the conclusion that between 70 and 80 per cent, of those leaving school entered unskilled occupations. That is a very important factor in child life. The Departmental Committee, over which my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General presided, has done great work in this particular department. I am glad to know that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Walter Guinness) and the hon. Member for the Oswestry Division of Shropshire (Mr. Bridgeman) were both members of the Committee, and I am sure it was with the greatest pleasure the House heard those hon. Members on this question. The Departmental Committee reported:—There can be no doubt that large numbers of those who were once street traders drift into vagrancy and crime.If that is the solemn judgment come to by the Committee, can anyone deny that it is high time that Parliament should do something, and do its best, to put some restrictions on the trade, when many of those who belong to it drift into crime? Besides, it is common knowledge that 822 street trading leads to a restless disposition and to dislike of restraint, and that it makes boys and girls so occupied unwilling to settle down to any regular employment. I do not think there can be any doubt that the evil must be admitted. The only question is whether Parliament can do anything to solve the problem. The Bill deals with two questions. It deals with street trading and with occupations other than street trading. In regard to occupations other than street trading it raises the age for which bylaws may be made from fourteen to sixteen. I desire to make one observation upon this point. As to this part of the Bill, there has not been the same investigation into the subject as into the subject of street trading. I believe the Departmental Committee drew special attention to the fact that their inquiry was directed to street trading, and with respect to Clause 2, paragraph (a), it may be necessary that there should be further investigation before we can come to a clear conclusion as to what should be done. With regard to the street trading portion of the Bill, the law now prohibits street trading under eleven, and allows it to be regulated by by-laws up to sixteen years of age. Under the Bill street trading would be prohibited altogether for girls until they are eighteen years old, and altogether for boys under fifteen, and between fifteen and seventeen it would be allowed for boys who are specially licensed for that purpose. The machinery set up in the Bill for effecting these objects would obviously be a subject for, consideration for the Committee stage. Whether the Bill is framed in the best conceivable way to obtain the results aimed at may be a debateable point, but I think that we are all agreed as regards the provision relating to the offer of work, that where work is offered it ought to be offered in the neighbourhood of the child concerned, and ought not to be at a distance. The Government are of opinion that the Bill represents an honest, genuine, and efficient attempt to deal with a very serious problem in our industrial life, and I hope therefore that the House will give it a Second Reading.
§ Mr. CHARLES BATHURST
I am sure that the House has listened with very great interest to the reception given by the Government to this Bill by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ellis Griffith), who has spoken for the first time in his new capacity. For myself I welcome everything that the hon. Gentleman has said, and I am certainly 823 not going to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill, this being a branch of social reform in which I myself am deeply interested, and which is worth the serious attention of this House. Having said that I want to emphasise three important facts in connection with this Bill. In the first place, it is exceedingly badly drafted. It would be very difficult for judicial interpretation to discover hereafter what exactly it means. In the second place, it relates to rural districts, as well as urban localities, without a vestige of evidence being put forward, either to-day or before the Departmental Committee, to show that these conditions prevail in rural districts, or require any special treatment there. In the third place, it seems to me to be piece-meal legislation of a character which utterly fails to recognise other Departments and the activities of other Departments in reference to other sides of the same question. For instance, this Bill proposes to prevent boys between fourteen and sixteen carrying on what is the comparatively healthy occupation of selling newspapers in the streets, and at the same time it in no way interferes with the employment of much younger children, aged twelve and upwards for half their time in stuffy textile factories, which, under the half-time system of education prevailing in Lancashire and elsewhere is still possible in this civilised country. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Goldstone) delivered, to my mind, the most interesting speech delivered this afternoon. Having been a professional teacher, he was able to speak with exceptional knowledge of the children and experience of the educational side of this very difficult problem. The promoters of this Bill have forgotten that the Government introduced last Session and propose shortly to reintroduce a Bill dealing with school attendance and continuation schools. Under that Bill—I have not the least doubt it will be passed, though I hope with some small amendments affecting the rural districts—it will in future be necessary for children to remain at school, under any circumstances, till the age of fourteen, and, if the local education authority so decide, up to the age of fifteen compulsorily. In addition the local education authority will be obliged to make by-laws requiring of the parent that every child who is under the age of sixteen, shall attend a continuation school in accordance with such by-laws. Surely it is all very well to legislate with a view to regulating the 824 employment of the children—after all they are not men, they are not even young men—aged from fourteen to fifteen, but what should be the employment of young persons such as these? Their employment should be further instruction, either in the elementary schools—the instruction being of a much more practical type than the education which is now given in those schools—or in the continuation schools which will provide to a much greater extent than in any continuation school at the present time, the rudiments and elements of the industry in which the pupil is likely to be employed in after life. If that is done, it seems to me that you will be providing, through educational channels, for the future employment of those children in a much more satisfactory way than you can by driving them for a short time off the street, when, in fact, they ought to be inside some educational establishment or other. The National Union of Teachers have sent through their branches to each Member of this House a special request that this Bill should be supported on the footing that it defers the period at which half-time employment outside the schools can begin, to an older age. I am sure the promoters of the Bill will admit it does nothing of the sort. I wish to goodness that it did, for that is a far more serious problem than the one which is dealt with in the Bill itself. If it is not out of order, may I, by comparison with the position of these little traders as presented this afternoon in this House, draw attention to the fact that these much younger children found in rural districts, from the age of eleven, are under the present Act, turning their hands to all sorts of employment which the Act did not contemplate, which is of no educational value whatever, and which I am sorry to say is advocated very largely, both by the parents of the children and by the employers for the sake of avoiding payment of a good wage to the adult labourer. To my own knowledge—I gave this evidence before the Departmental Committee on partial exemption from school attendance—there are boys even in country districts who are to-day, presumably because they are supposed to be learning the rudiments of agricultural education, blacking the farmers' boots or running errands for the farmers' family. These are cases for treatment by the House, and they concern very much younger children, while this Bill deals with older children. One Clause of the Bill 825 refers to children in rural districts, Paragraph (d), of Clause 2, provides that there shall be added to the definition of street trading, the words:
"but does not include the sale in a market, or fair, or in any rural district of agricultural, or garden produce, by a person in the employment of the producer."
I object to that paragraph from beginning to end. In the first place, I am not at all sure whether at any rate in a rural district a market, and still more a fair, is not about the worst place in which you could possibly allow any child to carry on any sort of trading. At any rate, speaking for myself, I would rather my children kept away from the country fair than any possible gathering which takes place in a country district. I want to know what the words "rural district" mean. What is a rural district? We have got no technical definition of a rural district so far as I am aware. Does it mean the district of a rural district council and, if not, what is a rural district. I live in the county of Gloucester, and except for the Cotswold Hills I cannot conceive even the agricultural parts as being properly described as a "rural district." Where you have factories and agriculture running side by side I do not quite see how you are going to restrict the operation of this Bill to the industrial portion of the rural district to the exclusion of any part of it which is not industrial. The main fault I find with this paragraph is that the definition of street trading is not to extend to a child who sells produce on the instructions of an employer, but it in no way exempts what is the far more common case of a child selling such produce on the instruction of its parents. There are many children in various villages and small country towns who are selling for their parents watercress or eggs, or even poultry sometimes, cream, butter, flowers, and such-like articles; and they are not going to be allowed as street traders, whereas if they were employed by someone for a small remuneration they would be exempted from the operation of this Bill. When I come to look at the definition Section in the principal Act the position is rendered still more extraordinary, because street trading by that includes the hawking of newspapers, matches, flowers, and other articles; playing, singing, or performing for profit, shoe-blacking, and any other like occupation (whatever that means), carried on in the streets or in a 826 public place. Reading these two together, I find that a child will be considered to be a street trader if he or she sells flowers, but not if he or she sells garden produce. I want to know whether flowers are not garden produce? I was always brought up to believe that they were, and at any rate the drafting will have to be somewhat altered unless those matters are going to be extremely difficult to interpret judicially. I would like to remind the House, and it has been emphasised this afternoon that the Departmental Committee in their Report said that this particular problem was mainly after all confined to the centres of the great cities. The hon. Member for Bury drew attention to the fact that it was not even a serious problem in the provincial towns. If that is so, surely it is not a problem at all in the country districts. I ask the promoters of the Bill whether in the Committee stage they cannot make it perfectly clear that this is not a rural problem, and remove from the Bill any words which seem to indicate that it is. By so doing they will avoid exciting a large amount of criticism from agricultural Members, who otherwise would allow the Bill a peaceful progress into an Act of Parliament. I do not want to oppose the Second Reading, as I feel sure that in principle the Bill is on right lines. But I ask hon. Members to realise, first, that it is an urban question; and, secondly, that you cannot segregate a social problem of this kind apart from other important branches of it, particularly in relation to education, and treat it as a separate entity. Unless you do what to my mind is far more important, namely, secure an adequate and proper education for the child, you may intensify rather than cure the conditions which this Bill seeks to remove.
§ Mr. BECK
I can assure the hon. Member that I entirely agree with the aspirations he has expressed. We have no desire to hurt the ordinary agricultural districts in the way he suggests. The words referred to were inserted in another place which is supposed to be peculiarly careful of agricultural districts, and therefore we did not disturb them.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The promoters of the Bill desire to express their gratitude to the Under-Secretary of State for the sympathetic manner in which, on behalf of the Government, he has received the principle of the Bill, and given it his support. 827 All those who desire to see carried out the objects for which the Bill stands have been greatly helped by the speech of the hon. Member for East Birmingham (Mr. Steel-Maitland), who speaks with knowledge derived from his own personal investigations and work. Most of the criticisms in the Debate, with the exception of those of the Mover and Seconder of the Motion for rejection, have been directed to what are properly Committee points, and they will I am sure receive most respectful attention at that stage. I could not help feeling that neither the Mover nor the Seconder of the rejection really appreciated the gravity of the evil with which this Bill deals. In preparation for the important Motion that they made they do not appear to have done the promoters of the Bill the justice of reading the Blue-book containing—
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I do not wish to labour the point; I merely observe that the hon. Member had ample notice that the Bill was coming on. I think it is true that the Bill itself was not printed until three or four days ago, possibly less; but other Bills had already been introduced into the House on this subject, and hon. Members had before them the evidence and the Report of the Departmental Committee to which so many allusions have been made. I was struck by the apparent inability of the Mover and Seconder of the rejection to realise the gravity of this problem. My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Booth) tells us that he walks from his beautiful cottage in the suburbs near the river on a sunny day and sees the sunlight falling upon the curly heads of two boys on one of the bridges. They are carrying parcels of newspapers under their arms. Impressed by their attractiveness, he questions them and finds that they are engaged in selling the newspapers, and that between the intervals in which they sell their newspapers they feast their eyes upon the beauty of the river and upon the barges that go by. On that somewhat scanty ground, and with that slender reflection, the hon. Member comes down to this House and ventures to second the Motion 828 for the rejection of a Bill dealing with a very grave problem. He should go deeper into this matter than merely that of the sun shining on the heads of two boys. He must really consider the great evil that this Bill seeks to remove.
One of the reasons that I now intervene is partly because the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Birmingham, in the course of an admirable speech, expressed a view, so I understood him, that some-modification of the Bill might be desirable in the direction of allowing children still at school to continue to trade in the streets. That was the only part of his speech to which I took exception. I do take the gravest exception to that suggestion, and I will very briefly try to put the case of this evil of street trading, as it affects both the boy of school age and the boy above school age. Take the first case. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London does not appear to be aware that we are discussing an existing law under which children of eleven years of age are allowed to trade in the streets.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
As I understand the law, if children are over eleven and under fourteen, they have to get a licence before they can trade?
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The point that the hon. Baronet makes does not in any way alter the fact which I was trying to impress upon him, namely, that it is legal for children at the age of eleven to trade as street traders. The fact that they are licensed does not in the least degree affect the point that I am making. The hon. Baronet represents in his constituency a great number of humble people.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The hon. Baronet represents a great number of charwomen, office cleaners, and a number of widows, to whom he referred.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The hon. Baronet says that these people to whom I am referring have not got votes. The people I am referring to have not got votes; it may be the hon. Baronet would not represent them if they had. I assure the hon. Baronet they are some of the worthiest of his constituents. I wonder whether the hon. Baronet has ever found time to realise the pressure of the conditions in their lives that makes very frequently for the ruin of their children. I ask the House to con- 829 sider the case of the school child of eleven years of age, and what that life is in many thousand of cases at an age when he should be in the nursery.
There is under the present law statutory prohibition that a child of that age shall not commence his daily labour before the hour of six o'clock. It does not appear to me, or I hope to the hon. Baronet, to be an unreasonable provision, but in practice it means that a child who is under that protection of the law begins his daily work before six o'clock, because, as I can toll the House from my own personal knowledge, these children make long journeys before six o'clock, which involves getting up in the small hours of the morning in order to get to the railway stations to receive the daily papers from the early train. They receive the parcel at the railway stations and take them to the agents, and then commence delivering them perhaps a little after the statutory hour. They do this work in all weathers. They go to school at nine o'clock, or thereabouts, having already done work in the early hours of the morning, frequently hungry and may be wet through. These are the conditions under which the child goes to school, and it does seem to me to be the utmost limit of folly to imagine that a child under such conditions can benefit by the educational facilities. The child remains at school during the morning, and probably at the dinner-time renews his labours. He may go errands for a shopkeeper, or he may mind the shop, and then he comes back for a further period of education; and in the evening street trading is renewed, and perhaps carried on into the night. The evils of the system are obvious. I recapitulate these facts to show that under such a system educational facilities are wasted upon the child, and that the child is frequently ruined. There is this aspect, and I was going to submit it for the consideration of the hon. Member for East Birmingham. If a child is strong enough to thrive physically under a life involving so much strain, if he gets the instinct to continue such a life at a later age, he will be equally undisciplined. It is no wonder that a child who has tasted this life at an early age, when it leaves school goes at once to pursue a similar life upon the street, although this time for the whole of the day, and the poverty and ignorance of the parents are contributing causes.
I trust that I have demonstrated to the satisfaction of the House that the evil is 830 one which applies equally to the child who is still liable to attend school as well as to the child above school age. I should be sorry to see any weakening of the provisions of the Bill which forbid children from being engaged in street trading while at school. It is hardly necessary for me to say that no child at school age should be engaged in any form of wage-earning work. I will now turn to certain of the main objections which have been put forward this afternoon which hare not been answered in the course of the speeches which have been delivered. My hon. friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) was very anxious about the exclusion of Ireland, and I believe the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) is equally anxious. I hasten to assure the House that I entirely agree that the provisions of this Bill are as neceessary in Ireland as in England. I had the advantage of sitting and receiving evidence in Ireland, and the opinion I formed was that the conditions in Ireland were much worse than in the rest of the United Kingdom, and I frankly regret that Ireland is excluded from the scope of this Bill. [submit, however, there is this justification for the exclusion of Ireland that we hope at an early date to arrive at the time when the internal affairs of Ireland will be conducted by the Irish representatives.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I think, on the eve of the granting of Home Rule, we might leave this matter to the decision of Ireland. The hon. Member for Bury delivered a long speech dealing with the question of the influence of the Bill on the newspaper trade, and I propose to refer to the general attitude which he took up. Street trading is largely a matter of newspaper selling, and I submit that it is no justification for a system which has such evil results to state that it is necessary in the interests of serving the evening and other newspapers. As a matter of fact, the problem of the newspaper does not really exist. My hon. Friend thought the newspaper proprietors had a case, but the shopkeepers who came and gave evidence before the Departmental Committee pointed out with the utmost earnestness, with great warmth, and with a considerable measure of indignation, that newsagents and shopkeepers were entirely competent to supply the public with the daily newspapers, and that 831 the presence of these small boys, frequently standing outside their shop doors, did indeed destroy their trade and tend to ruin their business. It is not a question of depriving the newspapers or the public of adequate facilities for distribution. I myself wonder very much the newspapers in this country have never adopted the system which is common in Paris, and m parts of the Continent, and have never instituted the newspaper kiosk. We must remember, however, that the evening and other newspapers, which depend upon the small boys to sell them, are competing newspapers, and they want to have the quickest and cheapest method of distribution possible. If I might sum up the general feeling expressed by many friendly but critical speakers, it was that we should reduce the age of absolute prohibition, and rather rely upon methods of regulation by the local authority under licence. The Act of 1903, which this Bill proposes to amend, proceeded by methods of regulation, and that method has failed. I have only to refer the House to the evidence given before the Committee to prove that. Therefore, prohibition is necessary. It is necessary for this greater reason. It is fitting to licence certain forms of industry which are dangerous unless carried on under proper safeguards; and here we are dealing with an industry, which, however guarded by regulation, is always dangerous, and which must from the necessity of the case be of a demoralising nature. It is because we recognise the fatal character of this work and that it leads directly—I quote the official evidence—to the filling up of our prisons, our workhouses, and our hospitals that we ask the House to pass this Bill. I would venture with all earnestness to support the Motion which has been made.
§ Mr. PETO
The hon Member who has just sat down asked the House to look beneath the curly head of the boy whom the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) saw looking over the bridge, and that is just what I want to do. I want to see what would be in the head of the boy if he pursued his present avocation, and, on the other hand, what would be in his
§ head if the principle was laid down of continuation classes and primary schools, which would be more in consonance with the trade or avocation he would have to carry on in future. I notice that the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Birmingham said that all the points of objection to this Bill were purely Committee points, and in seeking to prove that he mentioned a few minute Committee points. But then he went on to give away his own case entirely by saying there was very little doubt that street trading between the ages of fourteen and seventeen was much more detrimental to the morals of the children engaged in it than it was in the case of children under fourteen. Is that a Committee point? Does it not rather go to the root principle of the whole Bill, which proposes to interfere by legislation, and not by local regulation, and to make it compulsory by Act of Parliament that no child of any such age as fourteen shall be allowed to trade in the streets at all, and which raises the age to seventeen in the case of those who do not get specially licensed? The hon. Member for South Wilts said that in many cases children in the country were engaged in blacking the farmer's boots. But in a farmer's household the boy is not always engaged in blacking the farmer's boots: he is also learning the rudiments of agriculture. If it is argued, as it has been, that the proper course is to prohibit this street trading altogether, and that the children should be kept in primary and continuation schools, where the teaching would be more in accord with their future work, then I want to ask the House to consider whether we are really likely to turn out boys who have a real knowledge of their future work by that avenue at all. Such rudiments of business as they are likely to learn will probably prove a delusion and a snare. Undoubtedly there is a great deal to be said for the present system of allowing the certain amount of latitude which this Bill recognises.
§ Mr. BECK rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 116; Noes, 33.833
|Division No. 64.]||AYES.||[5.0 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Bryce, J. Annan|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbarton)||Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Buckmaster, Stanley O.|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Barnes, G. N.||Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Barran, Sir J. (Hawick)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Benn, W. W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Cawley, Harold T. (Heywood)|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Hudson, Walter||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Price, C. E. (Edinburgn, Central)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Illingworth, Percy H.||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Radford, George Heynes|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Crumley, Patrick||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Reddy, Michael|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts., Stepney)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Dillon, John||Jowett, F. W.||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Doris, W.||Lambert. Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Doughty, Sir George||Lansbury, George||Roch, Walter F.|
|Duffy, William J.||Lewis, John Herbert||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Rowlands, James|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (St. Geo., Han. S.)||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|France, G. A.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Goldstone, Frank||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||M[...]Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Greig, Col. J. W.||Menzies, Sir Walter||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Mond, Sir Alfred M.||Tryon, Capt. George Clement|
|Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Gulland, John W.||Mooney, J. J||Wardle, George J.|
|Hackett, J.||Morgan, George Hay||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Morrell, Phillip||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Munro, Robert||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs, N.)|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Nolan, Joseph||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)|
|Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Higham, John Sharp||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Hodge, John||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||Parker, James (Halifax)||Beck and Mr. Denman.|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Eyres-Monsell, B. M.||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Baird, J. L.||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Balcarres, Lord||Goldman, C. S.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Guinness, Hon. W.E. (Bury S. Edmunds)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Burn, Col. C. R.||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, Worth)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Cautley, H. S.||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||White, Major G. D. (Lanes., Southport)|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Mount, William Arthur|
|Croft, H. P.||Nield, Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir F.|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Banbury and Mr. Peto.|
Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at Eight minutes after Five o' clock till Monday next, 1st April.