§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I rise, Mr. Speaker, to a point of Order which I wish to bring to your notice, before proceeding with the Second Reading of this Bill. This is a Bill to amend the law in respect of the employment of children and their attendance at school. If you turn to Section 9 you will find it reads:The powers of the local authorities under the Employment of Children Act, 1903, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act, 1904, and the power to issue licences for the employment of children under Section 3 of that Act, shall be exercised by the local education authority as if there were powers under the Education Act of 1870 to 1911, and the provisions of those Acts shall apply accordingly.By that Section it is sought to import into this Bill the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act, 1904. I find that the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act, 1904, is entitled:An Act to amend the law relating to the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.It consists of something like thirty-five Classes, and I can only find one Clause in which it has anything to do with the employment of children, and that is Clause 2, not Clause 3. And that Clause says:If any person—(a) causes or procures any child, being a boy under the age of fourteen years, or being a girl under the age of sixteen, or having the custody, charge, or care of any such child, allows that child to be in any street, premises or place for the purpose of begging or receiving alms, or of inducing the giving of alms under the 1293 pretence of singing, playing, performing, offering anything for sale or otherwise, orAs far as I can see, that is the only place where the local authority can interfere. The local authority may extend the hours under the provisions of Section 3, that is, that a child may go into a place where intoxicating liquor is sold between the hours of nine p.m. and six a.m. I contend that the main object, and practically the whole of the object of the Act of 1904, is to prevent cruelty; that it has nothing whatever to do with the education of children or their employment. It takes out of the hands of the Home Office, who are the authority to administer the Act of 1904, and puts into the hands of the Board of Education these powers, but, so far as I can see, it has nothing to do with the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; and, in addition to that, you will find that this Bill does rot apply to Ireland and Scotland, whereas the Cruelty to Children Act, which the hon. Member seeks to embody in it, applies to Ireland and Scotland. Therefore, I maintain that the Clause I have mentioned is beyond the scope of a private Bill, and that the Bill is out of order and cannot be proceeded with.(b) causes or procures any child.… to be in any street or in any premises licensed for the sale of any intoxicating liquor other than premises licensed according to the law for public entertainments for the purpose of singing, playing or performing, or being exhibited for profit, or offering anything for sale between nine p.m. and six a.m.
§ Mr. DENMAN
On the point of Order. May I respectfully refer you, Mr. Speaker, to the terms of the Employment of Children Bill, promoted by the Home Office themselves last year? Clause 7 of that Bill gave almost identical powers to local authorities that Clause 9 of this Bill gives, and brought in the Prevention of Cruelty Act of 1904, as exercised in England and Wales by the local education authorities. I, therefore, submit the contention of the hon. Baronet must fail.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I point out that Sub-section (3) of Clause 10 of this Bill says:—All existing by-laws under the Employment of Children Act, 1903, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act, 1294 1904, shall continue in force except in so far as their provisions are inconsistent with the terms of this Act, as if they were by-laws made under this Act. Therefore this Bill overrides the provision of the previous Act unless consistent with the provisions of this Act.And as the title only relates to employment of children and school attendants, I maintain that Clause alone would render the Bill out of order. I fail to see the point made by the hon. Member opposite. Apparently his point is that because something was done wrong last year, something of this sort may be done wrong again this year. It may be that the action taken by the House last year was wrong; I do not know and I do not remember the circumstances, but that has nothing to do with the matter.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I did not quite gather why the hon. Gentleman supposed that Section 3 of the Act of 1904 mentioned in Clause 9 of this Bill was wrongly cited. Section 3 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act, 1904, deals with "Licences for the employment of children," and says:—(1) A Petty Sessional Court, or in Scotland the School Board, may, not withstanding anything in this Act, or it the Employment of Children Act, 1903, or any by-law made thereunder, grant a licence for such time and during such hours of the day, and subject to such restrictions and conditions as the Court or board think fit, for any child exceeding ten years of age—and so on. Clause 9 of this Bill says the powers which are given to the local authorities by Clause 3 of the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1904, "shall be exercised by the local education authority." That does not seem to me to be inconsistent with the title of the Bill with respect to the employment of children. One of the employments of children is "to take part in any entertainment," or "to be trained as aforesaid." That seems to me to be quite relevant. I do not see any objection there.
- (a) to take part in any entertainment or series of entertainments to take place in premises licensed according to law for public entertainments, in any circus or other place of public amusement as aforesaid; or
- (b) to be trained as aforesaid; or
- (c) for both purposes,"
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I omitted to mention Clause 3. Clause 3 is confined entirely to children who take part in entertainments and nothing else, whereas under Section 3 of Clause 10, which I quoted, if this Bill is passed, the whole of the proceedings and by-laws made under the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act, 1904, will be by-laws under this Bill only so far as they are consistent with the provisions of the Act. Therefore, I maintain that the result will be that the whole of the provisions of the Act of 1904 will be administered in the future by the school boards.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Sub-section (3) of Clause 10 provides that the existing by-laws under the Employment of Children Act, 1903, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act of 1904, shall continue in force excepting so far as their provisions are inconsistent with the terms of this Act. It seems hardly necessary to say that so far as they are consistent, because naturally they would continue in force. So far as the provisions are inconsistent, they are repealed because this Bill repeals those by-laws. It is provided that the whole of the by-laws made under the Act of 1904 still hold good unless in any way they happen to be repealed by those made under this Act. I do not see that the Bill is out of order.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The education authority will make the by-laws and if they are inconsistent with those made under the Cruelty to Children Act, 1904, the latter will be repealed and the bylaws under this Act will have force. The result will be that this Act will override the Act of 1904. That is not stated in the title, and therefore many hon. Members who might possibly have objected to it on this ground may not have come down here, rot realising that this would be the effect of the Bill.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The by-laws made under this Act must relate to employment and school attendance. Those are the only by-laws which can be made under this Act, and they come within the title. If there are any by-laws incompatible with the by-laws made under this Bill then the by-laws made under this Bill will override the by-laws made under the Act of 1904.
§ Mr. DENMAN
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
I am sorry that the attempts of the promoters of the Bill to make it clearer than 1296 the previous Bills on this question have not met with the unmixed approval of the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London. On previous occasions the hon. Baronet has objected because the object of the Bill was not stated on the face of it, and because there was in it an undue amount of legislation by reference. We have endeavoured to avoid those difficulties in this Bill, and our only reward is that the hon. Baronet attempted to prove that we are out of order. I am sorry that our efforts have not been more successful. I wish to express at once the debt the promoters of this Bill owe to hon. Members opposite for enabling it to come up at all. We all know quite well that it would have been possible to continue the Debate on the Address, and the fact that this Bill has come on is directly due to the friendLincss of certain hon. Members opposite. [An HON. MEMBER: "Question."] I maintain that my statement is quite correct, and I desire that hon. Members opposite should have all the credit they deserve for enabling this Bill to come on. I want, in the second place, to offer a definite reason why this Bill should receive a Second Reading. It is not a very large Bill, in fact it is one of extreme modesty. There are very few provisions in it that are new, and for the great mass of the provisions we are able to claim that they have in previous years received, not only the approval of the Second Reading, but also close and detailed discussion which Grand Committees are able to give. The matters to which that statement cannot apply have in the main been dealt with by the Government.
Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to endeavour to explain in a few sentences the precise effect of the important Clauses of this Bill and the changes they effect in the existing law. Clause 1 gives power to the local education authorities to require parents to send their children to school up to the age of fifteen instead of fourteen as at present. There is, of course, no compulsory obligation upon local authorities to adopt this course, but it is a power which we have reason to think seine authorities may need later en if they do not need it at the present time. The second Sub-section of Clause 1 abolishes all kinds of exemptions from school attendance below the age of thirteen, and also half-time exemptions above the age of thirteen. The chief practical effect is to abolish the half-time system. Clause 2, I 1297 am sure, is somewhat alarming to the hon. Baronet opposite. The phraseology appears to be wide and the powers it gives may seem to him to be dangerous, but I can assure him that the words are taken directly from the Act of 1903, the only change being that they can be applied to children up to sixteen years of age instead of fourteen. We have over ten years' experience of this kind of legislation, and I do not think there has been an unduly drastic application of such powers. Clause 3 prohibits street trading for boys under the age of fifteen and girls under the age of eighteen. This provision takes the place of the existing law which entitles local authorities to make by-laws up to the age of sixteen. Clause 4 authorises local education authorities to adopt a licensing system for street trading between the age of fifteen and seventeen for boys. Clause 5 is simply a matter of administration, and Clause 6 is a repetition of the existing law put in for drafting purposes. Clause 7, which is the next important one, authorises local education authorities to require attendance at continuation classes. There is no other Section of great importance, but as the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London is here, I should like to call his attention to one point in this connection. I never despair of winning the approval of the hon. Baronet for these Bills which we introduce with such regularity. By way of making it specially attractive to him this year, we have taken the precaution, knowing his dislike of street trading regulations and that sort of thing, of relieving the City of London from the onerous obligation of enforcing street trading by-laws. We have taken it from the City of London and have transferred it to the London County Council.
§ Mr. DENMAN
That is merely the definition Clause of local education authority—it follows from that. I am glad to find something that has escaped the eagle eye of the hon. Baronet. Those being the provisions of the Bill I desire to endeavour to give quite briefly the case for them. Our embarrassment in presenting this case is not that the authority for it is slender, but that there is a wealth of authority. There have been committees on one point after another connected with juvenile labour, and we can quote every one of them in favour of the provisions of 1298 this Bill. All that really has to be realised is the present position and what are the evils connected with it. Once those are realised I do not think that there are any Members of the House who will think that any of the provisions of this Bill are in the least bit drastic, and I know that there are many who think that they are inadequate and insufficient. The first subject, of course, that will occur to the House is that of the half-time system. It is really hardly necessary, after the numerous debates we have had on this subject in the House, to go over the case against the half-time system. It has been condemned on every ground by everyone who has observed its working. From the educational point of view, which is not the point from which I regard this Bill, because I regard it as an industrial Bill, we know that it is universally condemned as providing no useful education for half-timers; and, from an industrial point of view, we know that it has been given up in many districts and that no one has ever desired to return to it. We know that it is not required in any industry outside the textile trade, and in places where the textile trade does not exist no one thinks of the half-time system. That is almost true of agriculture, because half-time in agriculture has almost gone. We know that the half-time system leads to blind-alley employment. We do not even ensure that the boys will be provided with an occupation at which they will be able to earn their living. As far as I gather from the figures, about one quarter of those who at early ages are engaged in the textile trades are not found employment in that same trade at the ages of nineteen and twenty. Finally, if we wanted further evidence we know that the Trade Congress year after year pass resolutions condemning this system. I will only read to the House the last one:—The time has arrived for the abolition of the half-timers in our educational system, its continued existence being cruel and unjust to the children, and wasteful, both morally and financially.That was carried without even a Division, You have, therefore, the system condemned by teachers, by the Trade Union Congress, by many employers, and by the House itself. I think that I need not say more than that. Then there is a series of occupations all under regulations, and in respect to which, as the result of inquiries made, the conclusions come to have been unanimous. The employment of van boys is the most recent. It was shown that it led to nothing and was cruel and the 1299 cause of deterioration of the children. We have had Debates on street trading before now. I would only quote two sentences, one from the Majority Report and one from the Minority Report, which I think express the views of all who have studied the question. The Majority are certain thatthe effect of street trading upon the character of those engaged in it is only too frequently disastrous.The Minority say thatnothing can make such forms of street trading as newspaper hawking in the streets, other than undesirable occupations for a boy during the critical years of fourteen to sixteen and even later.The evidence the Committee had before it showed the number of cases in which criminals were drawn from this class, whilst it was clear that this kind of work directly induced later forms of crime.
§ Mr. DENMAN
The Street Trading Committee over which the present Attorney-General presided, which published its Report in 1910, and of which my hon. Friend (Mr. Whitehouse) was a member. Then we have had evidence in regard to work in connection with shops. Only the other day there was a statement published in London giving an account of the hours of labour involved in some 1,500 vacancies that were notified to the Exchanges. They were taken quite casually, and in each case they represented the figures given by the employers who sought to get the boy labour. Half of these vacancies required attendance for 66 hours per week, one quarter of them for 70 hours per week, and 18 per cent. of the total number for 56 hours and less. We all of us remember the humane provisions of the Shop Act, which entitled the employment of a young person up to 18 for no more than 74 hours in one week. From teachers and doctors alike you will receive information of the injury done to children who work out of school hours. They come to the school unable to benefit by the education given and the education poured out on to children of that kind is an obvious loss financially and a wasteful endeavour for the State to continue. Either you must limit the time that children may be employed out of school hours, or you must give up the system of educating the children at all. There is one branch of evidence that is new and to which I should like to call the attention of the House, and 1300 that is the evidence of the Census Returns which were published last August. I wish we had a magic lantern here. It would be so much more pleasant to let hon. Gentlemen see for themselves the statistical curve. It would make things very much easier than any attempt to remember a mass of figures. In the absence of that useful invention I would ask the indulgence of the House while I give the figures. There is a large class in the Census Returns of messengers, porters and watchmen. Between the ages of ten and thirteen there are, roughly, 6,000 persons employed in that way. After that period, we get the numbers employed for each year. The numbers between thirteen and fourteen are 19,000; between fourteen and fifteen, 53,000; between fifteen and sixteen, 40,000; between sixteen and seventeen, 23,000, and between seventeen and eighteen, 11,000. After that the figures become negligible. What is very striking about that is that you get the maximum employment between the ages of fourteen and fifteen, between fifteen and sixteen there is a slight reduction, and, after that, the numbers are reduced by about one-half every year.
If you compare that employment with any of the large trades you will see that the condition of things is completely reversed. Take, for example, the engineering industry with 670,000 persons engaged in it, or the tool and miscellaneous trades with 270,000, and a number of other big trades of the same kind, and in all these you will find that the number below fifteen is relatively negligible. In order to arrive at the number working between fifteen and sixteen, you have to add about one-half to those working between fourteen and fifteen. To put it in another way, in the class for messengers, one in every three persons working in that trade is under the age of fifteen. If you take the engineering and electrical trades, about one in every fifty or sixty is below the age of fifteen, and if you take carpenters and joiners, the figures are much smaller; in the carpenters' trade the number is one in every 115 below the age of fifteen, and amongst painters, it is one in every 146. That only proves what, in fact, everybody knows, that in the important trades of the country there is no demand—I exclude the textile—for labour below the age of fifteen. On the other hand, every year there are tens of thousands of children 1301 brought out of school at the age of fourteen—I might say hundreds of thousands—who go into this casual work—which is obviously not a trade—and that I submit is the great weakness of our existing organisation of boy labour. Our memories are short, but may I refer the House to the Report of the Royal Comsion on the Poor Law? I do not suppose that anyone will deny the validity of the conclusions that they came to, having regard to the material they had before them. The Majority made this statement:—While, in factories and workshops the position of Children and young persons is satisfactorily regulated by law, the problem of juvenile labour outside has become more serious.They then describe blind alley employment, and they thus conclude:—A boy naturally reacting from the discipline to which school accustoms him, with an abundance of spare time, not sufficiently continuous to be utilised, and without educative work is shaped during those years directly towards evil.Street selling, for example, says the Chief Constable of Sheffield, makes the boys thieve, and Mr. Cyril Jackson says, "that newsboys and street sellers are practically all gamblers." Of the 1,454 youths between fourteen and twenty-one, charged in Glasgow in 1896 with theft, 83.7 per cent. came from the class of messengers and street traders. I have here another quotation:—The great prominence given to boy labourers not only in our evidence but in the special reports of our special investigators, leads us to the opinion that this is perhaps the most serious of the phenomena which we have encountered in our study of unemployment.I have a quotation, too, from the Minority Report to this effect:—There is no subject as to which we have received so much and such conclusive evidence as upon the extent to which thousands of boys, not from lack of any sort of training for industrial occupation grow up almost inevitably so as to become chronically unemployed or under-employed, and presently recruit to the ranks of the unemployable.Surely that is conclusive evidence of the facts as they exist. I should like the House to consider the remedies recommended in the Majority Report, because they will then see they are almost precisely those which are suggested in this Bill. They recommend a boy should be kept at school until the age of fifteen instead of fourteen, and, whereas that recommendation is obviously a compulsory one, in the case of our Bill it is only optional. Secondly, they recommend that exemption below this age should only be granted for boys leaving to learn a skilled trade. Thirdly, they recommend school supervision until sixteen and re- 1302 placement in school of boys not properly employed. What are the arguments we have to face against this proposal? There is only one argument in principal, and that is the objection to grandmotherly legislation. Are hon. Members who object to that prepared to object to the existing law which regulates juvenile employment in factories? We are in this curious position now—we have selected one particular branch of juvenile labour, by no means the worst and in some ways the best, hedged it about with very strict regulations, and when we endeavour to apply much milder regulations to much more dangerous occupations, we are accused of grandmotherly legislation I put it to the hon. Member opposite, Does he object, for instance, to the necessity young persons labour under of having to produce a medical certificate before they can be employed in a factory? Does he object to the regulation that persons under the age of eighteen may not be employed in bakeries between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.? Can he show us any sort of objection that has ever been raised to these provisions in actual working? Does he object to the long list of trades which are deemed to be dangerous, and in which the employment of young persons is wholly prohibited? If he objects to all these existing regulations, then the position is clear. If he does not, then I hope he will some day be persuaded that further regulation is necessary.
Another curious thing is that the regulations to which I referred have almost all been in existence for about fifty years. In the time of our grandfathers, apparently, less alarm was entertained with regard to legislation by grandmothers. Had the present state of things existed half a century ago, we should not have had a mild Bill of this sort, but we should have had the House of Commons passing something much less popular and, at the same time, there would have been no suggestion of grandmotherLincss.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I ask the hon. Gentleman what would have happened to Mr. Bright if legislation such as lie foreshadows had been proposed fifty years ago? Would Mr. Bright have been in favour of it?
§ Mr. DENMAN
I am afraid the hon. Baronet is certainly more able to answer that question than I am. I cannot be responsible for the views of Mr. Bright. One change that is definitely new, to which I attach great importance, is that 1303 which transfers the administration of bylaws from the Home Office to the Board of Education. I see my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Home Office is reflecting how he likes this change. In a previous Debate I endeavoured to point out in what a very embarrassing position the whole question of the employment of boy labour is. There are several Departments interested, and no one Department can be said to have a predominant interest and authority on the subject. In the matter of employment the destinies of the children hover between the Paradisio of the Board of Education and the Purgatorio of the Labour Exchanges and the Home Office. It is high time that we definitely brought the subject to rest under the control of the President of the Board of Education. I am fortified in this idea, because clearly the Under-Secretary will regard this as a minor measure of disestablishment, and, of course, if he desires to add to it a small measure of disendowment, we might do our best to meet him in Committee.
Seriously, I do think the time has come for taking this work from the Home Office. That is not because we have any quarrel with the Home Office. All of us who have had to work in connection with that body and who have been interested in this Bill from year to year, would wish to offer our most sincere thanks for all the help we have been continually given, especially by the Secretary in charge of this Department, Mr. Delevine, who has invariably given every sort of help and has clearly administered the existing Acts with all the energy and interest that the Acts allowed him. But it is not a Home Office function. We have had this under consideration for some years and we have come definitely to that conclusion. The Home Office themselves have admitted this contention in their previous Bills as a matter of practice. At the beginning of the Debate I pointed out that in last year's Bill the authority that was to administer these Acts locally was to be the education committee, and no longer the local authority, as under the Act of 1903. It was a provision in their own Bill. Is it not quite certain that once the local education committee begins to administer the Employment of Children Acts that the authority to supervise must necessarily be the Board of Education? It is no use asking the education committee, in the ordinary conduct of its every-day work, to consult 1304 and deal with two authorities in London. One is quite enough. I am sure that all the local authorities will agree with me in that. In conclusion, I should like to read one more quotation from the Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission. They say:We regard this perpetual recruitment of the unemployable by tens of thousands of boys as perhaps the gravest of all the grave facts which this Commission has laid bare. We cannot believe that the nation can long persist in ignoring the fact that the unemployed, and particularly the under-unemployed and the unemployable, are thus being daily created under our eyes out of bright young lives capable of better things, for whose training we make no provision.That was published in 1909. We have since then, year after year, produced Bills in this House or in the House of Lords. I hope the House will feel that this is the last time, and that we may be able to have this one made law and placed on the Statute Book once for all.
§ Mr. HOARE
I beg to second the Motion. The fact that a Member on this side of the House should second the Motion shows that at the present moment there are many Members in all parts of the House who are agreed upon questions covering a wide field of the problems connected with education and employment. The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Denman) has made so lucid and conclusive a speech that I need not go into the provisions of the Bill in any great detail. The hon. Member speaks with great authority on the subject, for as the first chairman of the London Juvenile Advisory Committee, he was brought into close and direct contact with many of the questions which he has explained so lucidly to the House this morning. This Bill is founded upon three propositions which are easily intelligible and, I believe, wholly uncontroversial; in the first place, if education it to leave a permanent impression on a child's mild and character, the child must remain at school long enough for the instruction to take effect; secondly, if the child is to receive the full benefit of the instruction he must be physically fit to learn; and, thirdly, if the school training is to be of permanent benefit through life, some connection must be established between education and beneficial employment. How can education have a permanent effect if it is brought to an abrupt end at twelve or thirteen? How can a child, if he is over-tired with work outside school, get benefit from the teaching in school? Lastly, can the work of the schools be of permanent help to a child through life if at the age of twelve or thirteen he 1305 drifts from the schoolroom into some blind alley where he will forget in a few months all that it has taken him as many years to learn? With each of those questions this Bill deals, to some degree. First of all as to my first proposition that a child must remain at school long enough to give the teacher time to make an impression on his mind and character. The hon. Member for Carlisle has explained that the effect of these proposals would be that there should be no exemptions from school under the age of thirteen. That between the ages of thirteen and fourteen exemptions should only be allowed if it can be shown that the child is entering upon some kind of beneficial employment, and that local authorities should have the option of further extending the age if they have got the machinery and the means to do it. Surely it is only necessary to state the fact that many children end their education at twelve or thirteen to have the present system condemned. The hon. Member (Mr. Denman) mentions the two most conspicuous instances in which change would be brought about if his proposals became law. He mentioned the case, first of all, of the children who are exempted at present under what is known as Robson's Act; and secondly, the children who are exempted at twelve for half-time work in the mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire. The first of these exemptions I do not think will excite any controversy. I believe there is a general feeling that Robson's Act has in practice proved a failure, and I do not imagine that any hon. Members this afternoon will oppose the abolition of the exemptions, I am glad to think, diminishing in number, which now allow children of the age of eleven and twelve to leave school for half the year and to work in the fields for the other half. I must make an exception in favour of the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), but I believe with that single exception there will be no opposition to this proposal of the Bill.
With reference to the second class of exemptions, the half-time exemptions in the textile districts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, I am afraid there may be some controversy. Personally, I cannot pretend to speak with direct knowledge of the economic conditions in those districts. At the same time I cannot help, after a careful study of the mass of available information, being driven to the conclusion that that system must now come to an 1306 end. I look at it principally from two standpoints; first of all, from the standpoint of the health of the children. During the last few years a mass of information has been accumulated as the result of the reports of the medical officers of health and such like officials which shows that half-time work does have a bad effect upon the physical condition of the children who are subject to it. That can be proved by reference to any number of statistics. Secondly, the reports of Committees and of those engaged in the administration of education show also that the half-time children do not progress as well in school as the children who are not trying to do two heavy jobs at once. For that purpose it is sufficient for me to quote only one sentence from the Departmental Committee on Partial Exemptions:—There is one distinctive complaint on the physica side made to us by the teachers which seems to be wel sustained. Factory work in the morning necessitates much earlier rising than school life, most mills starting work at six, whereas the schools start at nine o'clock. The teachers find that many children who have been in the mill during the morning when they attend school in the afternoon are frequently so tired that it is useless to try and get them to exert themselves, and that sometimes they are left to sleep at their desks.What else could be expected? How can you expect children who go to work in the mills at six o'clock in the morning and work, as I understand, till luncheon time, then hurry back and change and go back to school for three or four hours in the afternoon, not to feel the strain of this great burden of work in the schools and in the factories. I hope, therefore, that the House will agree that the time has come to bring this system of half-time in the textile districts to an end. Connected with the problem of half-time there is also the problem of the child who is still attending school full time and who is employed in work outside. There, again, a mass of information has been accumulated during the last few years which tends to show that a large number of children are working much too hard outside school to be able to take advantage of the teaching inside the school. The last inquiry which was held was a Home Office inquiry, held under the Employment of Children Act, into the conditions of juvenile employment of children in the county of Devon. This was what the medical officer of health for the county of Devon (Dr. George Adkins) said:—that since his last report upon the 57,000 children in the council schools, he had gone into the different defects which might have been caused by overwork, that is physical work after school work. The first was with regard to the heart. He found that the percentage of 1307 children with heart affections were, when entering school, that is at the ages of four and five, was 4 per cent. When leaving school it is double—8 per cent.—so that during their school life something has happened to create a heart affection by doubling the heart affection among boys. Children cannot do both things, school and work. The school and the work they are doing is having a harmful effect on them. If yon are going to improve the race, you must either stop the labour they are doing or stop the school. They cannot do both. Their little bodies will not stand the strain of the education and the work.That expression of opinion could be supported by much other evidence drawn from the reports of medical officers and officials engaged in the work of local education, and I am sure that no hon. Member who has studied this information will contradict the assertion that a great many children to-day are working too many hours outside school to get full advantage from the teaching inside the school. 'The State, after all, has much at stake. The State out of the rates and taxes is spending a minimum of £50 upon every child that it educates in its elementary schools. In view of that fact surely the State has a right to demand that while it is spending this considerable sum of money, and while it is offering the child many educational advantages, the first claim upon the time of the child should be education and not employment outside.
I come now to another example of the way in which the conditions of industry outside are nullifying the work of the schools inside. I come to the case of street trading. There again I am afraid there may be some controversary over the hon. Member's proposals, but there again there is a mass of information all tending to an overwhelming degree to drive this House into more drastic legislation with reference to street trading. The hon. Member gave several examples drawn from the expressed opinions of experts of the evil effects that street trading is having upon the minds, bodies and characters of children. I will only supplement these quotations with one further. The chief constable for Manchester in a paper read before the conference of chief constables on 9th May, 1907, used these words:—Street trading is productive of a greater amount of evil, morally and physically than any other occupation followed by children.The question arises, if this be the case, How can a remedy be found? I agree that something has been done under the Employment of Children Act of 1903, but the House will remember that that was a 1308 voluntary Act. The result has been that, roughly speaking, only one in three of the authorities have made by-laws under it, and in two districts out of three no bylaws have been made at all. My strong opinion is that the time has come for the levelling up of those backward authorities, and I believe that a step will have been taken in the right direction if the hon. Member's Bill is given a Second Reading to-day. In certain respects it tightens up the provisions of the Employment of Children Act of 1903, and in one-practical way it seems to me that it will help the solution of those difficulties to a considerable extent. I agree with the hon. Member as to the advisability of taking this work out of the supervision or the Home Office and putting it under the Board of Education. When the Employment of Children Act was passed in 1903 education was much more restricted than it has been since, in the sense that it was then apt to be regarded as confined to the few hours the child spent in school. Since then a great change has come over the view people take of the scope of education. I will give a single illustration. There is the great branch of work now included in the medical departments of the Board of Education and the local authorities. The effect of this change in public opinion and of the legislation of the last few years has been to make it most advisable that the whole of the work connected with the lives of children should be accumulated in one office, and that office the Board of Education. I feel sure that the Home Office has done what it can to administer the Act of 1903. At the same time the fact remains that under the supervision of the Home Office only one authority out of three has put the Act into force. Local authorities do complain that Home Office inquiries have led to great delay, and that on several occasions proposals that have been made with great local authority behind them have been watered down by the Home Office officials in the inquiries that have taken place.
I am aware that objection is urged against the proposal which I am supporting to-day, that street trading and juvenile employment bring necessary increase to the small revenues of poor families, and that any legislation of this kind must mean great hardship to many poor parents. No doubt there will be hard cases. At the same time it is a most significant fact that in London when new 1309 regulations have been made under the Employment of Children Act the London County Council has always been warned that there would be a great outburst of complaints from poor parents that they would lose the few shillings a week on which they are so directly dependent, and that there would be great discontent stirred up everywhere. In actual practice that has not taken place. On three occasions regulations under the Employment of Children Act have been brought into operation, and those best qualified to know state that there has been no dislocation of domestic life in London as the result. Nor has there been any great body of complaints—I think that would put it too high—there has been no real complaint at all against the regulations. I hope the House will not be deterred from passing the proposed legislation because of the complaint that hard cases will arise, and that great discontent will result from the tightening up of the regulations. This Bill is not a revolutionary measure at all. It is a very moderate Bill. It works upon no new principles. Every principle that underlies it has on more than one occasion been approved by Members in all parts of this House. So far as it extends the school leaving age, it is only adding another step in the normal progress of education administration. On several occasions the school-leaving age has been raised, and it is noteworthy to remember that the rise has not been followed by any great dislocation of industry or domestic life. Secondly, so far as it deals with the regulation of juvenile employment, it is only carrying out the spirit of the 1903 Act, which I would remind the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) was carried when Members on this side of the House were in office.
§ Mr. HOARE
The hon. Baronet says they make mistakes like anybody else. I cannot help thinking that he voted for the Act when it passed through the House. The hon. Baronet, if not always infallible, is more infallible than most of the other Members on this side. I hope I have said enough to show that this is a very moderate little measure—a measure to which all sides of the House are in principle committed. I hope it will be given a Second Reading to-day, and that in Committee any Members who may have objections against its details will have an opportunity of putting their case, and, if necessary, having these details altered.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave cut the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
As the Prime Minister would say, "We are getting on." We are now discussing two Bills rolled into one. We have already had considerable discussion upon the School Attendance Bill, and also upon the Street Employment Bill. I cannot see what education has got to do with employment in the streets. The only reason, I presume, why the Bills have been joined together is that possibly it is thought there would be very little chance for their going through separately, and that there may be a chance of their passing in the joint form. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading, and who is in charge of the Bill, said that in 1912 I did object to both Bills on the ground that they were, as a matter of fact, very unintelligible, and that they both perpetrated that very great fault in legislation—that of legislating by reference. I do not know that this Bill is nearly as bad as the others, because it repeals an enormous number of Sections of various existing Acts, which I frankly admit I have not had time to look at. But, in addition to that, it is so badly drafted that, except with a great deal of trouble, you cannot find out exactly what it does do. As far as I can see, Clauses 3 and 4 are really unnecessary. Clause 2 governs the whole thing. The only effect of Clauses 3 and 4 is to deal with the ages between sixteen and eighteen in the case of girls and between sixteen and seventeen in the case of boys.
The hon. Member says that this is a modest Bill. It is not my conception of a modest Bill. It raises the age to which children can be compelled to remain in school to fifteen, and says that no girl under eighteen and no boy under seventeen can go to any employment without the-sanction of the local education authority. In these days a girl of eighteen is a woman and a boy of seventeen is a man. There have been many officers in the Army and Navy under the age of seventeen. Nelson himself was a post-captain at something like twenty-two. The idea that nobody up to the age of seventeen or eighteen can go to any employment unless the local education authority or any other authority likes is, to my mind, absurd The-opposition to the Bill really resolves itself into two questions. The first is, Is the Bill going to do any good, and is it trans- 1311 gressing the old principles which have made England what it is to-day? I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea as to the effect of education. I have not such an extraordinary admiration as he has for the effect of shutting a child up within the four walls of a room and teaching him something out of a book by somebody who calls himself a school teacher. In the majority of cases what they learn is of very little use to them, and I am quite certain that in nine or ten years after they learn it they have forgotten all about it. I would not like to make that observation merely on my own authority, because I do not pretend that I am a great authority on education. I wish to quote a portion of a speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir W. Anson), who, I think my hon. Friend will agree, is an authority upon education. Speaking on 26th April, 1912, the right hon. Gentleman said:—Then I protest against the theory that education is only to be got at school You do not make a boy learned or clever simply by keeping him within the four walls of a school any more than you can make a man a Christian by keeping him within the four walls of a church, or a statesman by insuring that he walks periodically through the right lobby.I agree especially with the last part of my right hon. Friend's remarks. It is by no means certain that by extending the school age to fifteen you will do any good to the children. The second question is: is it right to substitute the local education authority for the parent? What you are going to do practically is to say that no young man under seventeen—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If the hon. Member likes I will say boy; but Pitt was Prime Minister somewhere about the age of twenty-one. So that in these days they did not think that a person was very young at the age of seventeen.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
There is only four years difference between seventeen and twenty-one. What you are going to do is to say that no boy under the age of seventeen, and no girl under the age of eighteen is to take up that employment which the father and mother think good for them; but they are to go to the local education authority and say, "What employment may we take up, and how long may we 1312 work at it?" What would any of my hon. Friends sitting behind me say if, when they had determined that their sons should go into the Navy at thirteen or fourteen, as they do, the local education authority was to come to them and say, "No; we do not think that that is a beneficial employment." You might have on the local education authority some of the small navyite hon. Members on the other side who hold that armaments are wrong, and that armaments in the shape of the Navy are worse than wrong, and they might say, "No; your son is not to go into the Navy; he is not seventeen, and we are going to choose what employment he is going to have." Rich men would not stand it for a moment. Why should poor men stand it? An hon. Member of the Labour party was talking yesterday about one law for the rich and another law for the poor, yet I feel perfectly certain that that hon. Member will vote for this Bill. If ever there was an example of one law for the rich and one law for the poor, it is this Bill. How has England become great? It is because the parents and the men of England know that if they make mistakes the responsibility for the mistakes will rest on their shoulders. They have never been accustomed to suppose that if they make a mistake or do not know what they have got to do, they are to go to some local elected body who is to tell them what they have got to do. Who is the local educational authority? He is only a person elected by a number of voters who may not take the trouble of going to the poll. He is no better than the parent himself. In what way is he superior to the ordinary voter?
Therefore, I say, that at this present moment you are subversing the whole foundation and principles on which this country has become great. The hon. Member said something about what would have happened fifty years ago. Fifty years ago I was only thirteen, so that I am not quite certain what would have happened fifty years ago. But I would point out to the hon. Member that Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright—and I believe hon. Members opposite are great admirers of them—would have none of this sort of legislation, and as a matter of fact the Factory Acts were passed by a Tory Government, and they were opposed by the Liberals of that day, aided by Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The question is, what are children. I should not like to say at what age Mr. Bright considered a child was a child, and we have no means of proving it, but so far as my recollection of history goes, Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright were against all this kind of interference in days gone by. I myself am not opposed to making laws prohibiting the employment of children in an improper manner, provided they are children—that is to say, I would have supported the Factory Acts, for I think no child under thirteen should be employed in work injurious to health. But that is quite different from what is in the Bill which we have before us. Further, I object to the authority. I do not know why a schoolmaster is supposed to be a great judge of what is proper employment; I should say he is the worst judge. I do not know whether schoolmasters of our public schools are inferior to the ordinary teacher in the elementary schools, but I do not think that the teachers in great public schools have always been very wise on questions relating to the future profession or employment of their pupils. They are not in the world. They are within the limits of the schools. They do not see the world as other people do, and, consequently, they are not necessarily fitted to be the authority appointed as judges in such matters. The hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Hoare) said it was perfectly well known that the physical condition of children employed as half-timers had deteriorated in comparison with other children who were not employed as half-timers. I happened to be looking up the Debates which took place on the employment of children a short time ago, and I found that the Member for Bury (Sir George Toulmin) proved, as I think, conclusively that, as a matter of fact, half-timers had gone up in weight as compared with children who are not half-timers. The hon. Gentleman said:—Similarly testimony is given from Lancashire by Dr. Heywood, certifying surgeon at Darwen: 'The effect of general education of half-timers is that it tends to sharpen up and brighten them. Having a portion of the day at school, and the other half at work makes them take a much brighter interest in both. That, as a whole, they are well able to hold their own with whole-time scholars, is shown by their being able to carry off more than 50 per cent. of the prizes.'What does my hon. Friend say to that?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Different people have different opinions, and figures are made to prove anything. Here I have given a statement of fact. The hon. Member for Bury went on to say that he had received a communication from a manufacturer, well known for his consideration for his employés, and his correspondent said:—I think there is a great deal of foolish talk about mill life being so prejudicial to health. We have had many cases of improvement in a child's physical condition through coming to work in the mill. The modern conditions in our mills are healthy. I often thought that a way out of the difficulty would be, in order that the children might attend the night classes, to allow them to come at breakfast time until they are, say, fourteen or fifteen years of age. I do not think this would be an insurmountable difficulty.And then the communication went on to speak of the increase in the weight of the children. I have endeavoured to show that the children will not gain any advantage by this Bill, but they may gain considerable disadvantage. I have also endeavoured to show that the parents of the children will not be able to do that which parents ought to do for their children. What about the children of costermongers? I think I am right in saying that in the last Bill dealing with street-employed children the costermongers were exempted. Why has not that been done now? The children of the costermonger apparently are not allowed to be with their parents.
§ Mr. DENMAN
It only related to girls up to eighteen in the previous Bill. There was a particular Clause dealing with them.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
After all, I do not know that there is anything disgraceful in being a costermonger. Costermongers are very honourable and respectable people, who earn a rather precarious livelihood by very hard work, and why should not their children be with their parents doing the work which their parents are doing? Is not their proper place with father and mother and not with the local education authority? Yet, under this Bill the costermonger is to be deprived of the services of his children. The question of street trading was dealt with in the Report on half-timers issued in 1909. That Report does not recommend that anything like fifteen shall be made the age, but total exemption under fifteen shall be abolished is a very different thing. That Report also says, in regard to half-time:—The children themselves like it, and the working classes are in favour of the half-timer.… There seems to he no doubt at present that a large number of the working classes of Lancashire are not yet prepared 1315 voluntarily to accept any raising of the age, and are adverse to such legislative enactment, but the leaders of the operatives, the trade council, and trade union reports are very much in favour of raising the age. When, however, a vote was taken in February, 1909, of the whole of the cotton operatives, a great majority were against any change; 151,032 voted against, and 34,120 for raising the age to thirteen.Of course the leaders are against it for the very reason that they are against apprenticeships. The leaders have wrongly the idea that if boys are kept out of a trade the men in it get higher wages. But we are not discussing that now; we are discussing the advantage or disadvantage to children of the half-time system of employment generally. I venture to say that far and away the best thing for the children is to put them to learn some trade, and they will not learn a trade within the four walls of any room or any schoolroom. In order to learn a trade you really must see work actually done and go, what used to be called if you went to a business or profession, "through the mill." I am inclined to think that the effect of this Bill would be to raise strong opposition amongst the working classes. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman opposite has thought of that. I sometimes wonder if I am wise in shielding the hon. Member from the effects of his own legislation. I think if I were perhaps wiser than I am, I should rather let the Bill go through and let its effects recoil on the promoters of it. My belief is that it would do so much harm to the country that I do not think it is right that I should take that course, and, therefore, I do not propose to do so. What is going to happen to agriculture under this Bill? My hon. Friend who is going to second will probably deal with that question.
I would ask hon. Members opposite who are so anxious to have people back to the land, Do they think they are advancing that policy if, instead of allowing people to go and learn something about the land and conditions of work on the land, and healthy work, they are going to keep them within the four walls of a room? It is absolutely necessary, if you want to have skilled agricultural labourers, that he should begin early and take a fancy to it. The boy of seventeen who has been kept at school till he has reached that age is not allowed to take up employment on that land because the local education authority does not think it right. I say you must begin at the beginning. The boy in an office who wipes the pens and 1316 looks after the ink does not learn commerce by doing so, but by beginning he gradually goes on and begins to understand. In the case of agriculture you are going to prevent the boy learning that which you all are saying is one of the most healthy occupations, and one which you desire to see extended. Then there is the question of street trading; there were several opinions in the discussion of 1912 advanced in favour of street trading. I find here a society in Belfast called St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the president says this:—Why should they not 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 an immense amount of good. It teaches them to be thrifty and self-reliant.Those are, I was going to say, the first, and I think they are, the first two qualities necessary to make a man successful in life, but they seem to be the last hon. Members opposite think about. They certainly are not thrifty, or we should not have a Budget of over £2,000,000; and they do not believe in self-reliance, or they would not be bringing forward this Bill to prevent people being self-reliant. The opinion of that society goes on:—It teaches them to be thrifty and self-reliant, to be little merchants. I know many men in affluent circumstances who, in their boyhood, sold 'Telegraphs.' Of course I know that some people argue that the Continental system of distributing papers would he 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!Mr. Maguire, who is a Belfast missionary on the Methodist Mission, says:—I have observed that they are amongst the most civil and obliging boys 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 which they earn through the medium of their papers, and if the foreshadowed legislation comes into effect it would be a crushing blow to them, to their parents and homes. 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 spellman at the harbour, the occasional character of the work not bringing in sufficient to support the home.I think I have said enough to show that the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea is not supported by everybody, and that there are people who hold different views from those which he holds upon this subject. Why should the Home Office be singled out to be deprived of its functions, which, I venture to say, it has exercised very well, and the local education authority put in. The local 1317 education authority has a great deal to do, and surely it would be sufficient for it to see that the boys are taught, and the girls, without bringing in other things. An hon. Member opposite said that something of this sort has been enacted in 1903, and that the local authority had powers of this kind. I was aware of that, but the age in that case is fourteen and not sixteen, which is a considerable difference. Moreover, there is a considerable difference between the local authority and the local education authority. I know that technically they are said to be the same, and I think I am right in saying that the local education committee is a committee of the local authority. But the local authority would not like to interfere, even if they had the power, with the decisions of the education authority. The evil which I foresee is this: that naturally any person who is actively engaged in any particular walk of life is apt to give too great importance to that particular subject.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
They would be sure to give too much importance to that particular subject. I am not blaming the local education committee, but the result would be that they would use their powers to do everything they could to increase education irrespective of everything else. I think it is a great mistake, especially in the case of people who have to earn their living by the sweat of their brow, to give them too much book learning. Therefore, I think it would tend to the disadvantage of the country instead of to the advantage. I have endeavoured to put my views on the principle of the Bill, and let me refer to some of the details. Sub-section (3) of Clause 4 states:No licence for street trading shall be granted to a boy who can obtain more beneficial employment.Who is to decide that? Is the education authority to be the judge of what employment is beneficial or not? In Clause 5 there is an attempt to define beneficial employment—In considering whether any employment is beneficial to a child the local education authority shall have regard to its prospect of affording the child a useful training for permanent employment, and to it compatibility with any continued education which, in the opinion 1318 of the authority, is available and suitable to the child.Therefore, the only guide to the education authority is one which says that they must look out to see that the child will have an opportunity of continuing its education. The result will be that the education authority will sanction only such employment as will tend to give the child opportunities for further education, which, as I have said, I do not consider advisable. Why does the hon. Member put such a Clause into his Bill? Why should he say that no licence for street trading must be granted to a boy who can obtain more beneficial employment'? What is the object? It is perfectly clear that boys who go in for street trading are not capable of obtaining employment in Government offices or in some good-class trade. It is the poor boys who cannot get into these places. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Because the number of good places is limited. There must be a certain number of people who either have not the aptitude to become skilled artificers or have not the opportunity of getting into a particular office or place of that sort where they would be able to advance themselves. But they have got to do something, unless the State chooses to say that besides giving meals at school it will keep the boys when they reach the age of eighteen to twenty. As they have not the opportunity of obtaining first-class employment, is it not better that they should, by their own exertions, earn something for themselves in an honest manner than that they should hang about still burdening their parents and learning something which they are absolutely bound to forget in a very short time?
The Bill overrides a great number of other Acts, and puts the local education authority in the supreme position. I think that that is a mistake. I see no use for it. I think that the Bill goes much further than it ought to go in that direction. The hon. Member for Chelsea said that in the Standing Committee Amendments could be made. I do not think it is a good plan to send a Bill to a Standing Committee on the ground that it can there be altered. A Bill should be so drafted that when presented for Second Reading it generally commends itself to the good opinion of the House. A bad Bill ought not to be thrown on the Table with the suggestion that in Committee it may possibly be amended and made workable. I shall certainly divide against the Second Reading of this 1319 Bill to mark my opinion of it, but I am afraid that in these days of sentimentalism I shall not succeed in defeating the Bill. I trust, however, that hon. Members will think a little more before they believe that this extraordinary, and I was going to say, insane admiration for book-learning is going to do much to promote the welfare of the country. My own experience in the City of London, now extending over many years, has been that the men who have received a very good education and taken a high degree at the university have not been successful in commercial life, and that the people who have achieved success are, in many cases, those who have received no education at all, but who have a certain amount of sharpness, which, contact with the world and the necessity of earning their own living, have impressed upon them and improved. I do not for a moment question the sincerity of the hon. Member who brought in the Bill. I am sorry that he should have combined two Bills together; he ought to have given us an opportunity of discussing them separately. But though he is misguided, I feel sure that he is actuated by a sincere desire to do good to the children of England. So am I, though I happen to disagree with the hon. Member as to the best course to be taken to achieve that end.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Mr. PETO
I rise to second the Amendment. The hon. Member for Chelsea said that it was a moderate and modest Bill, containing no new principles. I find it very difficult not to deal with the Bill in detail, because so far from its containing no new principles, I find running through the different Clauses principles which appear to me to be, not only new, but I entirely mistaken. In the very first Clause the local education authority is empowered to require parents to cause their children to attend school up to fifteen years of age. That means, in plain English, that they are to compel the poorer class of parents to maintain their children at school until the age of fifteen. You immediately get a question of principle. Unless we have abandoned the principle that a parent is really responsible for the upbringing of his offspring, there must be a point at which a child ceases to be a child, and where undoubtedly the question of parental authority and parental advice as to the child's future life becomes more and more a matter of importance. Under this Bill the local education authority, not only 1320 takes charge of the child up to fifteen years of age, but really looks after a boy up to the age of seventeen and a girl up to to the age of eighteen. There, in the details of the Bill, a great principle is at stake. May I point out some of the obvious hardships involved in the enforcement of Clause 1, which is by no means the most drastic Clause of the Bill? Recently in my Constituency there was a case of a very poor agricultural labourer, living in a somewhat isolated situation, whose wife was about to be confined. Having no means of getting any other person to help to look after things in the house, he had the audacity to keep away from school a girl over thirteen years of age, whom the education authority thought ought not to be kept away. Think of the position! Of course, the education authority and the school inspector called attention to the matter, and an action was brought in the usual way. The man was heavily fined—so much so, that he had to pay the fine by weekly instalments.
§ Mr. PETO
A few weeks. I cannot tell the hon. Member how many. But there was the occasion of the absence, and there was the result! Under Clause 1 of the Bill that is carried on up to the age of fifteen. Let me take a case of a boy in my own experience. I will not trouble the House with a long story. I think a simple illustration of this kind perhaps shows more clearly than anything else what will happen. It is the case of a boy, the son of a thatcher. The latter was an excellent man in every way; particularly—what is very rare—he was a very good thatcher. He was most anxious to get his boy away from school as soon as possible, as he wanted to teach him what had always made him sure of regular employment. The boy happened to be very well suited for agriculture. He was rather strong and healthy, but an extraordinary dull boy. He was kept plodding away until he was fourteen, and the only opportunity that the boy had of learning the thatching was thatching hayricks in the summer, late in the evening after he had left school. At the age of thirteen he was quite anxious to follow his father's trade. At the age of fourteen, when the school authorities let him go, this disposition had entirely gone, and I am sure I will have the sympathy and interest of hon. Members on the other side when I 1321 tell them that the only thing that this particular boy could be got to take up was to act as a keeper's boy, and help to look after the pheasants. I think that that shows that if you are going to carry on this, you may make present hardships very much greater.
We come to another question which I think is almost a more serious one. In Clause 1, Sub-section (1), paragraph (b), it states that a child may leave school at the age of thirteen and may have exemption on condition that in the opinion of the local education authority he is going to enter some employment that is beneficial to him. That same principle is carried on in other Clauses of the Bill. It is to be the local education authority that is to be the great authority to decide what employment is beneficial to the individual child. I call the particular attention of the House to this—"him," of course, meaning "him" or "her"—it is not what classes of employment are generally beneficial, but the education authority is supposed to know better than the parents. After all, when you think that it is now proposed that these children shall be kept until fifteen unless they have got special exemption, it is not surprising that the promoters of this kind of legislation think that the children, being perhaps so far away from home, and so constantly at school, are less known to their parents and more known to those who are in charge of their education. In Clause 2 of the Bill there is another principle which states that a local education authority may make by-laws relating to attendance at school. This Clause states that the local authority may make by-laws—(1) prescribing for all children under the age of sixteen years, or for boys and girls separately, and with respect to all occupations, or to any specified occupation—I want to point out to the House what would be the result of that. One local education authority may make a bye-law in one area, and another local education authority may take quite a different view. At the present time difficulties of that kind arise. I know a case of a girl who had passed out of school. She was a clever girl, and was sent by her mother to stay with a sister in the neighbourhood of London. She was sent up from the country particularly by her mother because, being a widow and 1322 poor, she was anxious as the sister had been in service at the earliest possible age, that the second girl should begin to learn something about housewifery, cooking, looking after the house and the rest of it, so as to suit herself for marriage, if she was lucky enough to get married, or, in the alternative, to suit herself for domestic service. Directly she got to her sister's home, she got into an area where there were different regulations in regard to the age of leaving school. The attendance officer got to hear of the case after a little while, and on interviewing her told her that it did not matter what standard she had passed down in Berkshire, she would have to go back to school in the neighbourhood where her sister was living. If hon. Members think still that the local education authority is the authority to make by-laws as to the age below which employment is illegal, and you find such a thing as I have stated—well, if the school age is to be extended, the thing will be worse. A boy or a girl may be seeking a trade or occupation. The girl might even be out at service, and, losing her first place, might go into another area, and, after having done excellent work as a housemaid, might be taken by the attendance officer and told she would have to go back to school and continue to learn music or part singing, or one or other of the accomplishments that the children are taught in the higher standards.(a) The age below which employment is illegal.
I want just briefly to refer to the question of street trading. Note the Clause in the Bill dealing with street trading. It is evident that the promoters of the Bill have a little misgiving. I see that they have, in defining the expression of "street trading," expressly exempted certain occupations. The expression "does not include the sale in a market or fair of agricultural or horticulture produce by a person in the employment of the producer." I recollect very well, when the Bill to which the hon. Member referred was in Committee, that there was a good deal of debate upon that question. The promoters of the present Bill have found that there is a class of street trading which might be done, which it would be such an obvious injustice to people if they were prohibited from doing, that they are forced to exempt that. I want to know by what authority any body of Members in this House can say that they have exhausted the whole subject; that they are quite sure that they are not going to 1323 commit a great injustice in prohibiting some form of street trading which may be, if not a beneficial form of employment, the only form of employment that particular children or young persons can get? I agree with the Mover of the Amendment that the age of eighteen is an age at which really it is ridiculous to place a person under the education authority. Although our education is free, this principle ought to apply only to small children. In my view, from seven years to twelve years is quite long enough to have compulsion exercised in the education of children. When you get beyond the age of twelve and make the education authority practically responsible for the future conduct of the children—when they have got to an age to earn their own living—it seems to me to be going far beyond the sphere of the education authorities. A word or two with regard to what the hon. Member for Carlisle said in moving the Bill. He gave some facts with regard to the half-time question. He said that only quarter of the half-timers in the textile trades were found employment at nineteen. I was not quite clear whether it was a quarter who were found employment at nineteen, or three quarters—
§ Mr. DENMAN
I did not say three quarters; I only said that the figures showed that at least a quarter had to leave at that age.
§ Mr. PETO
I do not think that is a very strong argument, if the hon. Member will excuse me saying so, in considering the difficulties of finding employment in the trades for children. It is not a very strong argument against half-time, against getting your foot on the bottom of the ladder, to say that at nineteen a quarter of those concerned are found not to be in that particular trade. But he told the House that in trade after trade that there was a strong feeling arising, not from legislation, but from necessity, that half-time should be abandoned. Again, I venture to say that is not a very strong argument for introducing legislation. If the principle is dying a natural death because those who are educationists find it indefensible and those in trade find it very little good to the employers or the employed, why not let it die? Why go out of the way to pass legislation at this particular moment if what is taking place shows that a complete natural alteration in the matter is taking place without any 1324 legislation at all. That large class of messengers, night porters, night watchmen, and the like, are all included in the Return referred to. It seems perfectly clear that if we are to have messengers at all they must of necessity be young persons, otherwise, the cost will be so prohibitive that other than messengers would be found, and that there would be no employment in that direction at all. That is what the hon. Gentleman desires. He desires to force wireless telegraphy or something of that kind, of a mechanical character, to do the work of messengers. I do not think we ought to proceed by legislation in such a way as to make the thing almost impossible until we provide other conditions for it.
Then there is the question of raising the school age which this question of messenger boys largely affects. If we had got to the stage when there was something like a minimum wage, not necessarily a minimum wage of a certain amount, but if we had reached such a stage of society that practically everyone who is employed in this country had, say, £2 a week, I think it would be perfectly reasonable to bring in a Bill of this character, and say the people are quite able, not necessarily to pay for the education of their children, but what is just the same thing, to allow their children to remain at school up to the age of fifteen or sixteen, which is, after all, a matter of luxury, and which costs the parents a great deal, although they do not have to pay for it out of their own pockets. I regard these proposals as, on the whole, being rather upside down. We are not in that position. We have a great many people to whom the earnings of a child from fourteen to sixteen years of age—when I maintain a boy is better employed in earning something than in learning—is vital to the comfort and almost to the existence of the family. I want to know from hon. Members opposite—and I shall listen with great interest to what is said on this point from the Labour benches—how do they justify the passing of a Bill into law that will cause many families in many cases great discomfort, because what does not come in is as bad as what goes out in the loss of 5s. or 10s., which might be earned by their children.
§ Mr. PETO
All these principles are applied by the richer classes of society. 1325 Everyone knows people have to cut their cloth according to their coat. It is a matter of luxury which involves considerable wealth to enable one to keep a boy at a private school, and then put him through a public school and university, and I say it is a monstrous thing to insist on a man with £300 a year or £400 a year sending his boy to a university.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I understood the hon. Member to say a boy is better earning money than learning. Would he send his own boy out to earn at twelve years of age? That is what I want to know.
§ Mr. PETO
I am quite sure that on the matter of getting on in the world, in the vast majority of cases, the sooner a person gets to a trade, the better, and there are many trades you never can learn unless learned in the malleable time of youth. I apply that principle not only to one class, but to every class. The hon. Member for Chelsea said that this Bill is founded on three propositions, the first that the educational period must be long enough. If there is to be free education, and compulsion is a necessary corollary of it, it should apply to as limited an extent as possible, I want exactly the opposite to what is in this Bill, I do not want to take away from the poorer classes in the country any possible advantages they possess, or that may be proposed for them, but I think it is the parents who ought to decide whether it is in their interests and in their children's interests, and they know them much better than anybody else, to avail themselves of the further educational facilities given by the State. I think in pressing that children should be kept at school longer, it is a great pity that the Mover of this Bill did not realise that he might have got less opposition to his Bill if he proposed at the same time not to make it compulsory that children should be sent to school so early as at present. I believe that that is an injustice bitterly and strongly resented by an enormous number of the poorer parents in this country. They think they are much better able to look after their tiny children between the ages of five and seven than they would be looked after in a school, which very often are long distances away; I know, of course, the distance is limited.
The second proposition, that they should be physically fit, is not dealt with in this Bill, and the third is, that there should 1326 be connection between education and beneficial employment. I do not agree with that at all. I think that if the education authority is going—and we must regard this as the thin end of the wedge—to make itself responsible for the employment of the population as well as the education of the children, we are going a long way to a condition of affairs in which there is neither initiative nor responsibility left with the individual citizen at all. The hon. Member for Chelsea said he was quite aware that there would be many hard cases involved in the loss of children's earnings by raising the school age. He mentioned that there would be hard cases, but he did not tell us anything as to how the promoters of this Bill proposed to deal with them. I conclude my opposition to this Bill by saying that it seems to me that they ought to have considered that before bringing in a Bill which the Seconder admitted would involve a great many hard cases to the poorer people. They ought to have told us how they were going to meet the cases of families where the wages of the children are of great importance, and if they had provided for that in their Bill they would have done away with a great deal of the opposition to-day. This is a measure for which I do not believe there is any real necessity at all, and in regard to which, not only the supporters but the Seconder says frankly to the House, that it will involve a great many hard cases, and yet they propose to do nothing to meet them. I think these facts are sufficient to justify us in saying that the time is not ripe for the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD OF EDUCATION (Mr. Trevelyan)
It is only necessary for me at this stage to say a few words on behalf of the Board of Education. The Bill we have before us is really a combination of two Bills which have already been before this Parliament. One is the Employment of Children Bill, which is in most respects similar to the Bill my hon. Friend brought in last year, and the other is an almost exact reproduction of the Bill brought in two years ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough, which very nearly passed through this House. I think it is hardly necessary for me to do more than to express the general approval of the Board of Education of these proposals. I might, however, refer to one or two things which have been already said in the Debate. The hon. Baronet the Member 1327 for the City of London used one of the very current arguments against British education which is generally used by him and others as a proof that children ought not to stay in school. Very often when children come into offices and outside work, they are found to have forgotten all the education they have had. This Bill is primarily for the purpose of raising the standard age, and it is exactly because in so many cases it is perfectly true that boys come into offices who cannot spell or subtract correctly soon after they have left school, that we want to raise the school age. It is not because the children in our schools have never learned writing and arithmetic, but it is because they have not become sufficiently accustomed to writing and to make calculations, and consequently they are afterwards found to be deficient in the elementary stages of education. It is because the children have only time at school to get this preliminary knowledge that we want to keep them in school much longer than at the present time.
The last speaker spoke about treating all classes alike. I wish hon. Members would always consider what their own attainments were at the age of twelve and thirteen, and try to exercise a little imagination as to what they would have been if they had stopped their education at twelve and thirteen. If they did that a little more, I think they would be less content with the lowly standard for others. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London has not got much admiration for book-learning. I do not suppose my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir W. Anson) would agree with him in that, but they seem to be more or less colleagues in the opinion which was expressed by the hon. Member for Oxford University on the last occasion we discussed this question. I believe that this point is one which affects the minds of a good many hon. Members in this House. The argument is that a great many of our schools, especially our rural schools, are not very much good to the children in the last stages in the higher standards, and that the children are too much marking time. The argument is that they would be much better out in the fields instead of in the schools. If that were true to a greater extent than it is, I think the House ought to bear in mind that children after leaving school can never be in the schools again, and they can always be in the fields. Opportunities for learning 1328 in the fields will always be with them, whereas when once they have left the school they can never go back. To say that the upper standards in the rural schools are not giving a good education to the children is quite unjustifiable as a generalisation. It is emphatically untrue that the teaching in the upper standards in our schools is generally useless and unsuccessful, though it is no doubt perfectly true in some schools, not confined to rural districts, it is not what it should be.
One of the chief efforts of the Board of Education, and a large number of local authorities, is being directed to developing these higher branches of education, and to having better teaching in the upper standards. I think it is a matter of great importance to hon. Members interested in rural education to endeavour to humanise and adapt to the surroundings and make more practical the education given in the rural schools. I do not know whether the House is aware that in the counties of England and Wales there are only two counties that do not provide instruction in gardening for those that require it, and the number of schools and centres where gardening and handicrafts are taught in the rural districts is increasing by leaps and bounds. This education is chiefly for the older scholars. Here you are having a great development of this higher kind of education and of practical education in the rural districts. What you want to do is to encourage the local authorities and the teachers by enabling them to have the best children in the school during the years when they can teach them. That is the reason why we want to have the children kept in the schools. When this Bill comes to be discussed in Committee, I hope that my hon. Friends opposite, many of whom appreciate this point, will assist us in this and other Bills in not lowering the standard in rural districts too much. I should like to say, further, that if there is anything by which they or others think that the Board of Education and local authorities can hasten the process administratively or legislatively, and make more effective the teaching we have at schools, I am perfectly certain that the President of the Board of Education and myself will only be too delighted to listen to it and hear their suggestions.
I do not want to spend any time to-day in discussing at any length the other important educational questions which 1329 arise under this Bill, such as the abolition of half-time. I spoke upon this subject at length two years ago, and I should not be justified in speaking upon it again at any length. I have always said it was the educational argument which was the most important in the matter of half-time, and T have never emphasised the argument on the ground of health. I must say that I cannot accept what the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London said, that the children do not suffer in health by having to go early to school as half-timers. It is true that in the Committee I presided over some time ago we did not emphasise this point. We did say, as far as it went, that it was injurious to the health of the children; but the statistics, such as they were, were not of a very definite kind, and therefore we gave no decisive answer with regard to the health of the children. Since that time we have got throughout the country a system of medical inspection, and we have got a great deal more general information from those who know the health of the children in the locality, and one thing is certain; we have from all the industrial parts of the country the most emphatic condemnation of a great deal of the employment of children, either out of school hours or under the half-time system. I will merely read the summarising paragraph by our medical officer in the last medical report to the Board of Education:—The evil effects, due to the insufficient control of half-time employment and of employment out of school hours of children attending school whole-time, are clearly and fully dealt with by many of the school medical officers. While on the one hand it is true that in some instances healthy scholars appear to derive no harm from following light occupation, on the other hand, there is abundant evidence to show that a large number of children are suffering by reason of the addition of excessive and unsuitable employment to their attendance at school.I have merely read the summary; there is a large quantity of more detailed evidence from the local medical officers which the House will study at its leisure. There is now this definite and scientific evidence which we had not before, that not only half-time employment but all out of school employment, against which this Bill as largely directed, is quite certainly doing some damage to the child population, and that nobody who has any serious amount of work to do among the children in a scientific way, as the doctors have, has any doubt about it at all. With regard to the industrial side of the Bill, I do not believe, taking the matter generally, that it can be seriously sustained that any industrial disaster would follow the raising of the 1330 school age, such as is proposed in this extremely moderate Bill. Here we are in a Parliament in which Scotland is represented as well as England. Scotch industrial conditions are not so different from ours. They compete with us in almost all our industries. In Scotland they once had prevalent a half-time system in a good many of their towns, and at one time they had a very large number of whole-time exemptions for children and scholars. That system has almost entirely disappeared in Scotland. I think I am right in saying, that there are no half-timers at all; there may be still a few remaining in Dundee, but it is a trivial and diminishing number.
Further than this, the total number of exemptions in Scotland under fourteen was only 9,370 last year, less than the half-time exemptions in the West Riding of Yorkshire alone. Of those, only 3,024 were exemptions with no conditions attached; the other 6,346 exemptions from attendance below fourteen in Scotland were under condition that the children should attend continuation schools. That is an entirely different condition from ours. Practically the whole of the child population in Scotland are continuing in school till fourteen, and Scotland is not ruined industrially. Their industries, in many respects entirely similar to ours, are prospering at least as much as ours, and some of our manufacturers think more. Everything shows, as I have said before, that what we have to deal with here is a bad custom, and nothing else. Undoubtedly, a large number of the working classes dislike the idea of losing the comparatively small wages which they get by Bending their children to work at a school age, but it is a custom which they very soon cease to regret when their opportunities for carrying it on have disappeared. The working classes all through our community have accepted quite readily the previous raisings of the school age, and I do not believe that they need fear the raising of the school age further. I hope, at any rate, that the House will, as it has done previously in this present Parliament, accept the general principle of the Bill at once and send it to a Committee without any further discussion.
I am very glad that the Board of Education is prepared to give its general approval of the Second Reading of this Bill, without committing itself as to any necessary modifications in Committee. With all deference, I may 1331 perhaps be allowed to take up the same attitude myself. I should not like it to be thought that rural opinion runs entirely counter to the principles contained in this Bill. I, for my part, have no sympathy with the Whiggish laissez faire policy with which the names of Bright, Cobden, and that of the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) will ever be associated. The hon. Member for East Wilts (Mr. Peto) took exception to the fact that children or young people of the age of seventeen or eighteen are, if not under the control, at any rate under the supervision of the education authority. I should have liked to have reminded him, had he been in the House, that to my certain knowledge he was under the supervision and control of an education authority beyond that age. I am glad to see that these two Bills have been rolled into one, for this reason, if for no other: that we are to have one authority to deal with these two questions of higher elementary education and juvenile employment. There is already a serious overlapping and consequent expense in every county in England, and anything which can be done to reduce this overlapping and expense will always meet with my approval. I only wish that the Home Office would see their way at the same time to allow the reformatory and industrial schools to pass under the same authority.
I support the Second Reading of this Bill, because it proposes once and for all to abolish half-time in our elementary schools. Some five years ago I was asked by the Central Chamber of Agriculture, who perhaps, unfortunately for them, did not know what my views were, to appear as one of the witnesses before the Interdepartmental Committee on Partial Exemption from School Attendance. I am rather afraid that I answered somewhat the description of Balaam, for I was expected to curse, and, in fact, I blessed. After studying the effect of Robson's Act in its application to country districts, I was quite convinced then, and I am more convinced now, that the system of half-time as understood in rural areas is bad for the child, physically and morally, unsettling to the school, and most discouraging to the teacher. It is particularly bad for the morals of the children where half-time has been adopted in rural districts; it has added considerably to the stock of juvenile expletives as used in elementary schools. Many of these children 1332 were supposed to be taking part in beneficial employment, but their employment, in fact, has, in many cases, been anything but beneficial, and has turned out to consist of such tasks as blacking the farmer's boots or running messages for the farmer's wife. That cannot be regarded as useful instruction for the future farm labourer, small holder, or farmer. The half-time system is indefensible apart from that consideration, because it depends either upon a certain number of attendances at school—a very small number, which every child ought to be able to accomplish without difficulty—or on the other hand, obtaining a certain and none too high standard in the school itself. I think I shall have the majority of Members with me, if I use an expression which has already been made use of this afternoon, that what is law for the rich should also be law for the poor. I have always held, and still hold, that where a child proves itself to be wholly unfit for intellectual improvement, it is not fair to keep that child in the school to its own disadvantage and to the discouragement of its teacher beyond a certain period in its life, especially bearing in mind that in our own home circle, that is the last thing we should do in the case of our own child, if it were not making a proper advance at the school it was attending.
While deprecating half-time exemption, I do hope that in Committee, at any rate, whole-time exemption will be allowed at a somewhat earlier age than the Bill provides in the case of children attending rural schools, if beneficial employment can be secured under proper and most rigorous safeguards, and if, in addition, compulsory continuation classes are provided for such children, not however at night when they are overtired with work. They should have at least two days' instruction in the week, as is done in Canada, and other countries, in the rural districts, to the very great advantage of the children and their future employment. I want to remind the House once more that, although a great deal can be done to make the instruction in our elementary schools much more practical, there are certain farm processes which can never be learnt within the walls of the schools, and which, if they are to be effectively learnt at all, must be learnt at a comparatively early age in the child's life—such things as the handling of stock, the milking of cows, the processes of thatching and hedging, and, it may be, the shearing of sheep. All these matters are, as universal experience has proved, better instilled 1333 into a child at no later age than fourteen years, and they can never be learned so effectively at a later stage of the child's life.
There is one objection I have to Clause 3 of the Bill, and I hope it will be amended in Committee. In dealing with street trading it is suggested that it shall not apply to the area of rural district councils. May I remind the hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill, and the House as well, that a rural district council is no guide whatever to the character of the locality, the affairs of which it administers? There are many urban district councils to my knowledge (which are, after all, only the successors of the old Local Boards) which administer the affairs of areas more rural than those of some of the rural district councils of this country. I hope that this point will be borne in mind when the matter of exemption under this Clause comes up for consideration. I also venture to hope that those in charge of the Bill will adopt the suggestion put forward when the last measure of this character was before the House, that street trading shall not be held to include the custom carried on sometimes in rural villages by children on their way to school of selling such articles as flowers, mushrooms, and watercress, not on behalf of an employer, as is referred to in the Clause, but on behalf of the parent of the child. No harm can possibly be done if that small trading is carried on under the strict supervision of the local education authority and the managers of the school.
I want to say only one word with regard to the parents. My hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) is anxious to allow the parent due discretion in these matters. I wish most heartily that the parent could be induced, not only to display a little greater sense of that parental responsibility which is gradually disappearing in this country, but to take a far deeper interest in the educational advancement of the child at school. I think we should obtain far more parental interest in the school and a greater desire for the continuation of the child's training if reports could be from time to time, as a matter of course, sent to parents with regard to their children's progress in the school, as is done in the case of children of the more fortunate and wealthy classes. While giving my entire support to the Second Reading of this Bill, I venture to hope that both the introducer of it and the Board of Education will give all due weight to the representations of 1334 those who speak on behalf of the rural districts, because, after all, what is right in theory is sometimes exceedingly difficult to carry out in practice. I think it would be most unfortunate, at a time when there is a prospect of obtaining more sympathy from the general public, and particularly from parents, in matters educational, to set back the hands of the clock by creating an undue prejudice against Parliamentary treatment of education by putting too much pressure on the parent, contrary to his very natural inclination, especially in those cases where the remuneration of the worker is as low as it is unfortunately in many parts of rural England.
§ Sir WILLIAM ANSON
This Bill is no doubt in some senses a volume of reminiscences, because it contains matters which have been before the House of Commons in two different Bills in previous Sessions. There is some inconvenience and difficulty in dealing simultaneously with the questions of school attendance and child labour, but the promoters and the draftsmen have got over it very ingeniously by extending the powers of the Board of Education so as to oust the Home Office from the jurisdiction it previously exercised. The Bill does recognise two principles which I think are valuable, and ought to be borne in mind in dealing with education. One is that you cannot dissociate the child in the school from its employment and its environment outside school hours; and the other is that the responsibility of those concerned in the education of children does not end when the age of school attendance is concluded; but that some effort ought to be made to take care that the child obtains suitable employment, and that, at any rate, if beneficial employment cannot be found for it, education is found for it, and that it is kept out of those forms of employment which result in its becoming unemployable in the later years of its life. Those are principles I gladly recognise, and I do not propose to oppose in any way the Second Reading of this Bill. There are, however, some features of it to which I think it desirable to call attention now, because my subsequent support of the Bill must depend upon the work done upon it in Committee. The Bill is obviously one which needs careful consideration in Committee, and on the result, of that the future support of myself, and, I think, of some of my hon. Friends, must depend.
There is one matter in connection with the transfer of power from the Home 1335 Office to the Board of Education. I presume that the Board of Education will welcome this extension of its powers, and has considered the provision of machinery j for it, and that we shall not be confronted with the necessity for an army of new inspectors and an additional expense to the taxpayers such as we have had to meet and regret during the past years this Government has been in power. There is another matter which may have occurred to those concerned in the Bill. It is that you are bringing the local education authority into the control of child labour within the great autonomous boroughs, and it is probable that friction may arise between the central authority and the boroughs, who may resent having their children controlled by an external authority. Those are rather matters for consideration, and do not seriously affect the character of the Bill. Then we come to the Clause dealing with the employment of children. That falls into two classes—employment during the school age and employment after school age. As regards employment after school age, I see that the Clause with regard to street trading leaves the local authorities to make by-laws or not, as they choose. All that part is permissive. But although permissive, the Bill gives very wide discretion to the local authorities if they make by-laws. That requires careful consideration. They have to take care lest their action in this matter, whether in making by-laws as regards employment in general, or with regard to the licences and exemptions which they give from the prohibitive Clauses as regards street trading, produces any hardship in the case, say, of a father crippled or set aside by illness, or of a widowed mother struggling to maintain a family, who might be deprived by the fussy benevolence of a local authority of the benefit they might get from a vigorous boy of fifteen, fully capable, without detriment to himself or his intellectual capacity, of earning shillings enough in a week to keep the family in some moderate comfort. That is a point which needs to be very carefully considered in Committee if these large powers are given to the j local authorities concerned. There is another matter which, I think, might be considered when the Committee is dealing with the Clauses of the Bill. No licence for street trading is to be granted to a boy who can obtain more bene- 1336 ficial employment. Is it desirable to tell a local authority that in choosing employment for a child it must watch and see whether it has any permanent result, and whether it is compatible with the child's continued education? It appears to be a thing which the common sense of a local authority would bring home to it, or, if not brought home to it, might properly be called to its attention by minutes or memoranda from the Board of Education.
An Act of Parliament is to tell us what we are to do or not to do, and not to give us admirable advice which might properly be offered by private individuals interested in the matter or by the Department concerned. I venture to suggest that this is good-natured assistance afforded to local authorities in matters about which they are very well able to make up their own minds for themselves, and when the Bill comes to be considered it should be omitted from the Clause. If there is some risk that the rules for employment after school age may produce hardship through undue severity, I think the Clause which relates to employment during school age is not really drastic enough. What does that mean? It means that it will be possible for a child to be employed up to nine o'clock at night and from six o'clock in the morning. That is an extreme case, but it is permissible under the Bill as it stands. What time is there given to the child for supper, sleep, and breakfast? Putting on one side the extreme case, and assuming that the child does three hours' work between six in the morning and the school hour in the morning, what benefit is he likely to get from school teaching at all commensurate with the expense the country incurs for that teaching? I venture to think that that Clause ought to be very carefully reconsidered and made more stringent, in order to ensure not only the health and comfort of the child and its proper sleep and proper nourishment, but also to ensure that the country does get some return for the money it expends on the child's education.
There is the further matter of school attendance. I entirely agree that the case against half-time has been made good, and that the abolition of half-time has become a principle which we must adopt, and I believe that no exemption should take place, with one exception, which I will mention presently. These principles were embodied in the Bill of 1912, but there were other things. There was, to begin with, a provision which I am rather 1337 surprised to see omitted in this Bill—that is, that the exemption must be preceded by a certificate of attainment, that the child must have earned exemption by being able to show that it has reached a certain standard of attainment. I do not wish to be hard on the child, but I cannot help thinking that was a desirable condition precedent and that it ought to be embodied in the Bill. But I notice a much more important omission in the distinction, which was drawn in the Bill as it passed through the Standing Committee, between the urban and the rural child. An exception was made in the case of children who were to be employed in agriculture or horticulture, and they, on producing a certificate of attainment, were to be allowed exemption at an earlier age than thirteen. I entirely agree that the case of the rural child is wholly different from that of the town child, that there is work done in agriculture which cannot be well done unless it is begun early in life, and that we shall never settle our education question satisfactorily unless we face and realise and understand that the case of the rural child is different from the case of the urban child, and that if you wish to keep the people on the land you must give the child a practical knowledge of the work of agriculture at an earlier age than thirteen. The Secretary to the Board of Education rather made light of this distinction. I think my hon. Friend (Mr. Bathurst), who speaks with more knowledge than most of us to-day on this subject, must have brought home to the House, and will, I hope, bring it home to the Committee, that a distinction of this sort is necessary if our rural education is to take the place we wish it to assume in the education of the country.
There is another point I should like to touch upon, and that is the option of extending the school age up to fifteen. It is said that is not very likely to be brought into practice. We are told the ratepayers will object, as I dare say they will, and that the parents will object, which I think they certainly will. I object on quite other grounds than that it will be expensive. I object, because I always object to the theory, that being in a school-room is a good thing in itself apart from anything which we learn or do there. But there is another objection. If the elementary school is really to give a boy or girl something worth learning after the age of fourteen, practically it ceases to be an elementary school. How is it to be done? If the boy who has been in the school for seven years 1338 up to that time is to learn anything new there must be an extended curriculum. If there is to be an extended curriculum, there must be an addition to the staff. If there is to be an addition to the staff there must be an addition to the expense. We know that there is at present a shortage of teachers. It may be difficult to find a staff, because teachers may not be forthcoming If you have found the staff we know that the burden of education rates and Government Grants is becoming enormous, and there may be a difficulty in paying the staff when you have got it, and to keep a boy or a girl at school for some years beyond what has hitherto been contemplated, when it is merely a matter of pretence that they are learning anything now, seems to me to be sham, and a thing which we ought not to encourage even by giving permission to local authorities.
Then we are told, again and again, that the great defect in elementary education is that the children so soon forget what they have learnt at school, that they lose the habit of reading, they lose their power of writing legibly or casting up figures, and that this all shows that the time of education is too short to excite that interest in the child which would enable him to carry on the work of the school in after life. I think, when we say that, we forget that the child has begun school, certainly at the age of five, that the teacher has had exclusive possession of the child for at least seven years, and probably more, up to the time of the present termination of school life, and if during all that time it has been impossible to excite in the child that interest in reading and that capacity for writing and knowledge of figures which he can carry on even for a few years into after-life, there must be something very wrong cither with our scheme of study or with our methods of teaching. It is idle to say that if at the age of fourteen a boy, after seven years' work in school, is unable to carry on his interest and to read and write a few years after, another year in school will do him any good. I urge that, and I shall urge, if I have the opportunity, on the Standing Committee, that this extension of the work of the elementary school, unless you can really show that you are giving the boy or girl something new and something valuable in the extra year, is a sham and a pretence, and that if at the age of fourteen the child is unable to carry on his interests and has not learnt enough to excite any pleasure in reading, to enable him to retain any capacity for writing or for 1339 dealing with elementary arithmetic, there must be something thoroughly wrong in our whole system of elementary teaching which needs the most careful supervision and the most careful inquiry by the Board of Education.
I accept the abolition of half-time, and I accept the limitation as regards the exemptions; but I ask, first of all, that the exemptions should be accompanied by a certificate of attainment, and I ask that careful consideration should be given to the necessary distinction between the urban and the rural school, and the child of the country and the child of the town. It is no disparagement to our educational system; it does not show any lack of belief or interest in the value of education to say that a rural child may not go on getting benefit from the school as long as the urban child, or that his education should take a different form. My hon. Friend's suggestion may be well worth consideration: whether you may not have two days in the week for some continuation work, and that during the rest of the time the child should be allowed to learn its agricultural duties and work and acquire an interest in the things of the country. I ask the House most seriously to consider the condition of our elementary education. If at the age of fourteen a boy has not got anything that has been worth learning, I ask whether an extra year in the same school and under the same teachers is likely to do him any possible good? I shall oppose the extension of the leaving age to fifteen.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I think the House will welcome the speech of the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Anson), and certainly most cordially that part which dealt with the question of half-time employment. We find from other Members on the same side of the House that they are in agreement as to the abolition of half-time employment. That, in my view, is a notable achievement for the promoters of this Bill. But there were other points in the speech of the hon. Baronet which perhaps merit some short criticism—for example, the point he made in regard to an extended curriculum in the elementary schools. He suggests that it is no use continuing a boy at school up to fifteen unless it can be shown that it will be an advantage. How can you show it unless you provide for it? You must have an opportunity in certain areas, say, in London and elsewhere, for proving the possibility of doing good to children 1340 by an extended curriculum before extension will be adopted in the country generally. What will happen, if this Bill goes through with regard to an optional age, say, with an authority like that of London, which is probably now ready to raise the age from fourteen to fifteen, is shown by the extension of the elementary school curriculum in connection with the central schools. There is good work to be done for children who are kept at school until they are fifteen years of age.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
There is no reason why we should not have an extended curriculum in every elementary school which would make provision for children up to fifteen. I understand that London is nearly ready for adopting a system of this kind. Other authorities, as our experience shows, would probably lag behind London for a time, but if they saw London successful in their experiment, as I think they would, there would be every inducement for them to follow in the steps of London, and to give that extended curriculum which people interested in education desire to see adopted. May I say a word about the proposed differentiation of the leaving age as between the town child and the rural child? There I rather agree with the hon. Member for the Wilton Division (Mr. C. Bathurst). He suggested that the agricultural occupations, which it is so essential that a child should learn, may be quite well learned at the age of fourteen. The hon. Member for the Wilton Division stated that at that age a boy could very well turn his attention to thatching, attending to stock, sheep-shearing, and the like. He believes that that work could be profitably commenced at the age of fourteen. If we may have fourteen as the leaving age in rural areas, I venture to say that that would be generally acceptable the country round for the time being. I do not anticipate that any local authority outside London—Birmingham and Manchester possibly might—would, if the Bill were adopted, immediately suggest to their education committee that fifteen should be the leaving age. It is more likely that it would be fourteen. There would, I think, be general agreement that the age should be fourteen in the country districts. But let there be no mistake. I think it should be definitely laid down that the rural child is entitled to as much con- 1341 sideration as the town child. Rural problems will not be solved by a lower leaving age in agricultural districts. That way dullness lies, and that way ill-success in agriculture also lies.
Reference has been made to the practice in Haddingtonshire. In that county the leaving age is fourteen. The child of a Scottish agricultural labourer does not leave school below the age of fourteen, and Scottish agriculture stands at a high level. Differentiation at a lower age would not assist agriculture, but would rather be to its detriment. It has been said that we should have some differentiation in the curriculum. I agree that a curriculum which would allow of more practical work would be desirable. It has been proved by experiment that the manual type of training does tend to develop activity in what may be called the more literary centres of the brain. That could be adopted in the rural schools without differentiation of the leaving age. I think there ought to be a stand made against the differentiation of the leaving age as between the town child and the rural child. The hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) in my view presents in its most interesting and pleasant way the side for reaction, especially in matters concerned with educational reform. His first point against the Bill seemed to be that it proceeded by way of reference. Then he took exception to the fact that two Bills had been put into one. Surely these are mutually destructive arguments. Then we find in the hon. Baronet a strong advocate of juvenility for statesmanship and administration. That kind of thing is remarkable coming from a railway director. The usual thing, so far as that form of employment is concerned, is that sixty is the minimum age at which you may enter the higher offices, unless one is an ex-Civil servant. Again, it is also operative so far as politics are concerned, because most of our Cabinet Ministers are gentlemen of advanced years, who, as Under-Secretaries, wait long before they get to the higher walks of political life.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
Still, the issue for which they have fought generally comes out on top. The hon. Baronet said that no child should be employed in an industry which is detrimental to health. I was particularly pleased to hear that, because if he accepts that view he is bound to accept 1342 the proposal for the abolition of half-time in mills. I propose to endeavour to prove that it is physically deteriorating in its effects that children should be so employed. The hon. Baronet suggested that he knew enough arithmetic to meet his requirements. I have two diagrams here which will require no particular arithmetical powers for their understanding. The first one shows by curves the increasing weight according to age of certain types of schoolboys. It shows at the top the weight of the average English public schoolboy, and lower down it shows the average weight of a Rochdale boy. A most interesting inquiry into this matter of weight and height of half-timers was made in 1898. It proved that the Rochdale boy half-timer and full-timer was much below the average English boy of the same age in height and weight, and very much below the average public schoolboy also in height and weight. Subsequently other people took up the inquiry in the year 1908 with a view to making a comparison with the figures established by Archdeacon Wilson. The figures are now to hand. They show this, that the change in the age at which a half-timer might be entering the mill had gone up by one year. In 1898 children could go half-time at eleven. In 1908 the age was twelve. The result was this, that the boy who had only worked six months' half-time was 4.2 lbs. heavier than a similar boy ten years ago who had been working half-time for eighteen months. As far as height was concerned, the half-timer who had only worked six months was 1.7 inches taller than the boy ten years ago who had worked eighteen months. So, from the point of view of the physique of boys, it is quite clear that mill work does cause physical deterioration of these children. This is corroborated by medical officers all round the country. I have a statement here from Yorkshire, on the authority of a school medical officer. He says that the majority of the children examined by him in the afternoon, following a morning's work of six hours, which began at six o'clockshowed intermittent or irregular action of the heart. The heart beats three or four times, then cither misses a beat or has an imperfect pulsation, and so fails to function the body effectively.Then I have other testimony from Lancashire. A doctor at Burnley says29.9 per cent, of the deaths of cotton operatives occur between the ages of ten and twenty-five. Among labourers the percentage of deaths is 6.8 between the same ages.1343 Another doctor saysthe child of ten degenerates into a lean and sallow young person of thirteen.Dr. Lucy Pinniger, of Oldham, gives similar testimony:—In comparing the physical conditions of scholars of from twelve to thirteen who work half-time with those who attend at school all day, I find that generally the condition of the half-timer is markedly inferior to that of the full-timer He is not so bright or responsive. In appearance he is usually less clean and tidy, and his nutrition is not as good an that of the full-time scholar.Another from the same officer states:—All the children who can satisfy the attendance requirement do work half-time, and those who remain in schools on full-time are the weaker children of poor nutrition who, owing to past illness, have tailed to make the necessary attendance. Many children working in mills, in my opinion, are quite unfit for the strain and the conditions of the work.I have other authorities whom I could quote, but as there are other speakers to follow me, I prefer to leave these quotations for the present. This Bill, I am happy to say, has been considered by my colleagues, and on their behalf I may say that they will support its Second Reading. I know that Lancashire may not do so, but I am hopeful that even Lancashire in time will come round. This being a national matter, we are not concerned with Lancashire alone. We have got, in the interests of national physique, to override the custom which has prevailed in Lancashire to the physical deterioration of the children. May I remind the House that in a recent year 6,000 out of 7,000 would-be recruits at Manchester, all from Lancashire, were rejected on physical grounds alone. At the time of the Boer war 50 per cent. would-be recruits from Manchester were rejected on physical grounds alone. This all goes to show the effect there of heredity, and that the particular type of work in which the artisan is engaged in Lancashire has a deteriorating effect upon his physique. The Labour party during the last Session drafted a programme on education. This was presented at the last conference in Glasgow, and incidentally it is interesting to know that it deals with the questions raised in this Bill. With respect to raising the school age, it says:—The Reports of the Poor Law Commission, the Committee on Partial Exemption, and the consultative Committee of the Board of Education, as well as previous decisions of the conference render it unnecessary to advance arguments for raising the school age. The only question is how it can be done, with least disturbance of existing arrangements. The best course would appear to be to secure a legislative enactment for the immediate abolition of partial exemption, and at the same time to determine in advance the dates at which the age of full-time attendance are to be further raised in future. By this means due notice will he given to parents and to the local education authorities, who will have to provide additional school places. It is proposed that an 1344 Act should be passed raising the age of full-time attendance by progressive stages, beginning with fourteen years as a minimum, on the 1st January following the passing of the Act.This programme was accepted without dissent. It was presented at a conference at which the textile workers in Lancashire were represented, and there was no question raised by them as to its acceptance, notwithstanding the fact that they had a ballot some little time ago. Uniformly the Trade Union Congress has passed, by overwhelming majorities, resolutions which suggest raising the school age to sixteen. So the Labour movement, whether represented at the Trade Union Congress or the Labour Party Congress, is almost unanimous in desiring the raising of the school age to at least fourteen. This Bill suggests merely thirteen. To that extent it is below the suggestion which has been made for years by the representatives of labouring people. It is most gratifying on the present occasion to find that the Unionists Social Council and the Liberal Education Group have also produced documents suggesting a policy for their respective sides in education, and there is unanimously a suggestion that fourteen is the absolute minimum leaving age that should be tolerated. So that this Bill, as far as leaving age is concerned, is below that which is agreeable to quite a considerable number of Members in this House. Another point raised in the Bill is that of street trading. In the Labour Conference Report there are these words:—In any extension of the powers of local education authorities, in the matter of regulating the employment of children, and of street trading generally, it is recommended that local authorities should be empowered to make regulations with regard to the employment of children in any occupation, and should place the licensing of street traders in the hands of the education authorities.So that Members of the Labour party are at one with the promoters of this Bill in asking that the powers of authorities to make regulations for street trading, shall be passed on to the Board of Education, and no longer retained by the Home Office. There was some comment on the other side with regard to the mental powers of half-timers. It was suggested by the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), quoting the Member for Bury (Sir G. Toulmin), that half-timers were able to win practically 50 per cent, of the prizes. I should be glad to have the authority on which that statement was made.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I quoted from the speech of the hon. Member for Bury. It was his statement, not mine.
§ Mr GOLDSTONE
Perhaps the hon. Member for Bury will tell us his authority for that statement, and whether it has special or general application. The information which reaches me from a variety of sources is that the half-timer scarcely ever wins scholarships in secondary schools. So soon as the pupil begins half-time employment, he begins to lag behind his fellows in the class, and special means have to be provided for his instruction so that he may reach the standard already reached by the full-time scholars.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I am glad to hear that. The experience I have collected from Lancashire is generally to the effect that it is most unusual for half-timers to win prizes or scholarships.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
That may be so, but I offer this explanation, which I think is probably right, that the half-timers are told that it is a waste of their time to proceed. This afternoon we have had speeches from the Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto), from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Sir W. Anson), and also from the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury) that the danger of this Bill is that it will inflict great hardship on the poor widow. I have learned from friends of mine that in the case of a large school in Bradford for two widows whose children go half-time, there are nine who do not send them for half-time. The statistics from Lancashire confirm the fact that less than 5 per cent, of the half-timers are the children of widows. The fact is that the widow is usually a person keen to do the best for her children, realising that in education their possible success will lie. She, therefore, is prepared to make sacrifices to give an extended education to her children. She might do that in another way, and I wish she could. Rochdale loses £850 of Government Grants annually because of half-timers; Oldham, £550; Halifax, £600; Bolton, £650; Blackburn, £700; Bradford, £2,500. It has occurred to me that children might be sent full time to school and those Grants could be earned by the local authorities. I know of no legislative enactment which would prevent the local authorities from allocating those Grants to the poor widows who are now used as an argument against the 1346 changes now proposed. I await with interest the attitude of the hon. Baronet the Member for the City, to a suggestion of that kind, namely, that the children should be saved, that they should be allowed to attend school full time, and that the poor widow or the decrepit father should be assisted by grants paid from the amounts which the local authorities would gain if half-time employment in future were abolished.
A number of head-teachers have made inquiry about the incomes of families from which half-timers come. A friend of mine in a Burnley school, who made such an inquiry, found that in some instances as much as £5 a week was received by the families from which these half-timers came. It is not poverty, it is custom, and it is a custom which should be broken down, which must be broken down in the interests of the children, even though Lancashire should desire to oppose the effort. The industrial effect of this Bill would be to prevent blind-alley occupation. I happen to have a letter here from a member of the Rochdale town council, who is also a cotton manufacturer. He speaks, therefore, with some amount of personal knowledge of the facts of half-time employment, and of the further employment of these children. He says:—In the cotton trade, with which I am connected, it is the fact that of those boys who start work at twelve or thirteen years of age only about two out of three can find any chance of further employment when they reach man's estate. Others have to be turned adrift, having spent five or six years learning some technical trade, and become casual labourers or the hooligans of our streets.That is from a cotton manufacturer and a member of the town council of Rochdale. Now that the boom is passing away in Lancashire, it appears to me that this Bill comes at an opportune time to prevent this sad drifting of elder brothers, who might be placed in a better position if this Bill became law.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
There is one thing that pleases me about this Bill. It is left to the Local Authorities to raise the age of compulsory attendance at school. The Local Authorities are in more direct touch with the people and know better how such a proposal would be received. It seems to me that when we are dealing directly with matters which concern every man, woman, and child in the country, and it is just as well that those who are the object of that plausible legislation should have some voice in the matter. Most people will agree, I think, that if this Bill be passed it is not likely to become operative. If it were a matter of spending more on educa- 1347 tion, if it were a question of providing opportunities, everybody in this House would be heartily in favour of it, but this Bill, like so many others presented by the bureaucratic gang behind the Government Benches, provides increased facilities for the "lower orders" with increased compulsion upon them to do what these particular people think is good. I for one think that the people of this country have had about enough of this sort of legislation which couples a dole with more compulsion. I speak on this particular subject with a more sure position, perhaps, than any other Member, because I knew that some Bill like this would be brought forward, and I addressed my Constituents and asked them what they would think of being compelled to keep their children in school until they were fifteen years of age. The answer was emphatic and unanimous. I would ask all those other hon. Members who are bringing forward these delightful schemes "in the interests of the poor" to go down and see what "the poor" think of them, because I am convinced, however much they might welcome additional facilities for giving better education, there is nothing they would resent more than being sent to prison if they did not send their children to school until they were fifteen years of age, or to evening continuation classes until they were sixteen years of age. Nothing has been mentioned about that to-day, and anybody would imagine that this was a Bill to provide facilities and nothing else, while everybody knows that its whole purpose is compulsion, and that by it you are going to compel the parents to send their children to school until they are fifteen or sixteen, and if they do not do so you fine them, and they may have to go to prison.
I had a very interesting example given to me the other day of the operation of the present Education Act. In Glasgow—it may not be generally known—the bureaucrats have got so far that they actually regulate the number of people who are to live in a house. If you go around you will find the houses ticketed with "three adults," or "four and a half adults," according to the number of people who are allowed to live in the particular place. The corporation there are very strong indeed on enforcing those regulations. They have inspectors who go round at any hour of the day or night to see whether there are more than four and a half adults 1348 in the house. If there are more, they run the people before the magistrates the next morning. That is what is called looking after the poor. In one of those houses there lived a widow with five of a family, the eldest of whom was a boy of twelve. She adopted a girl, the latter making, unfortunately, not four and a half adults but five adults, and the woman was brought before the bench and fined, with the option of imprisonment. Those are all facts, and I can give the names and addresses. She could not find the money and went to prison, and the girl who had been adopted had to go to the workhouse, or, I think, some other institution, while the boy of twelve was left in charge of the five younger children in that house for a week. At the end of that time the woman was again summoned for not sending that boy to school.
When you think of the number of girls of fourteen years of age in this country who are of the greatest possible help to their mothers and younger children, and that you are to compel those girls to go to school to the age of fifteen, or, it may be, until sixteen in the evening, then, I can assure hon. Members that they are going to arouse a pretty stiff storm of indignation among the parents of this country. Why cannot you let the parents say what they want to do with their children without posing as being so much superior to the parents, as you do. You know that the parents, particularly among these "lower orders," have a very sincere affection for their children. They do not send them away to public schools as we do; they keep them at home and look after them, and there are usually more of them in family than there are of ours. Anybody who has seen the self-sacrifice that those poor people make in order to give their children the chance of going to better schools knows that they do not want pushing along the line of duty. Provide them with the opportunity and with the money which will give facilities for getting a decent education and you will find they will take advantage of it, and public opinion, far more than law, will compel bad parents to come into line. This passion of telling people to do what you think they ought to do puts people's backs up against you, and against what you call education. The class for whom we legislate have a very shrewd suspicion that the education you provide is purely utilitarian education, directed towards turning out people better able to earn dividends for others. They are not being taught to stand 1349 up for their rights as we are taught, or to resist oppression, whether to ourselves or to anybody else; they are to be taught and disciplined to do what they are told.
That is the sort of education you are giving them, and naturally they are becoming suspicious of that kind of education. Education, real education, means the bringing out of all that is best in a person's character, and the enabling of that character to stand by itself. I have not heard one word from any hon. Member as to education which was not purely as to a utilitarian form of education. We were told that we should turn out better labourers for the farmers, and that we should turn out boys better able to lick stamps and clean pens in the counting houses of the City, and it is always a question of turning out machines for some useful object. If that is your idea of education, I think I can assure you that you will find no enthusiasm among the "lower orders" for any such education as that. To my mind the fundamental objection to this Bill is that it is a monstrously unjust Bill, and a piece of tyranny imposed by the rich upper classes on the "lower orders," and I shall oppose it on Second Reading in Committee upstairs, and on Third Reading, unless you accept the principle that this higher education which you are going to give shall be voluntary education, not to be enforced by the use of police and magistrates and inspectors. Unless you accept that principle, you will not only have the opposition of people like me, who represent the old principles of Cobden and Bright rather than the syndicalism of which I have been accused from the benches opposite, you will have also united and very vigorous opposition from the working classes of this country.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH - BENTINCK
The Lord Chancellor, in one of his illuminating discourses on education with which he favoured us lately, said that in our educational reform we ought to begin at the top and work down to the bottom. It is a bold thing to disagree with such an eminent authority, but I cannot help thinking we ought to begin at the bottom and work up to the top. It is what the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken calls the lower orders who benefit least from our educational system, and if our educational efforts are to have any sincerity at all, we must do something to raise the masses of the people. What prevents our educational efforts, and all the money we are spending on education from being 1350 really as useful as they ought to be, is the fact that our code of regulations which govern those efforts have made so many loopholes which create a state of things which bring about ignorance and degradation amongst the people. Take, for instance, this question of street trading. If we wished to encourage the large army of loafers and cadgers and criminals which exists in this country, we could not possibly do better than to allow that system of street trading to go on. Street trading is the best recruiting agent for the large army of criminals which exists in this country. The hon. Baronet who represents the City (Sir F. Banbury) combines profound admiration for the street trader with a great distrust of education, but I would put this question to him: Is it not better that the children of this country should be within the four walls of a school than that they should be within the four walls of a prison? I would like to remind him of this extract from the Report of the prison Commissioners for 1908:—Our experience goes to show that a large proportion of juvenile-adults have found their way to prison from the first cause of having taken up the occupation of street vending (in itself an elementary school of crime) instead, on leaving school, of being put to some useful trade. Thus, at the age of eighteen or nineteen, they have contracted a rooted antipathy to any kind of regular work.It is urged by those who have a vested interest in this trade, that they are performing a philanthropic action in giving employment to children. That is an argument which was used by an hon. Member two years ago. There never was much in that argument; there is absolutely nothing in it now. The London County Council in 1911, between the months of March and August, swept 11,000 children off the streets without the slightest friction, and without the slightest hardship to the people. The places of those children are now taken by old men for whom that employment is of the greatest benefit. Everybody knows now that trade is so active, there is such a demand for children, that, if Parliament decided tomorrow to stop this species of traffic, there would not be the slightest difficulty in those children finding other and more beneficial occupation. Another great social injustice which I think this Bill will stop, is the enormously long hours which children of fourteen to sixteen are obliged to work at the present time. There has been, as the House knows, much perturbation in the public mind about the failure of our continuation schools; but it is easily understood. The 1351 hours worked by children tire them out. They cannot possibly profit by continuation schools even if they go. Lord Chelmsford, in a letter to the "Times," gives the reason why our continuation schools are a, failure. He gives the result of an investigation in regard to 1,540 boys. Nine boys worked 48 hours a week, 296 worked 58 hours a week, and no less than 1,228 worked between 60 and 70 hours a week. I have here the Report of a Committee which investigated the conditions of employment of van boys and warehouse boys. Mr. C. B. Russell, who gave evidence before the Committee, said that parcel delivery boys worked from 70 to 90 hours a week; they commenced at 7.30 a.m., and though nominally employed twelve hours a day, might not finish until 9, 10, or even 11 p.m. Mr. Ditchfield, of the Mersey Quay and Railway Carters' Union, said:—Boys are treated worse than any other class in Liverpool; they may be seen going home at twelve o'clock at night, and are on at eight o'clock next morning. This is quite common.4.0 P.M.
There is much other evidence of the same kind. It is idle to talk of the liberty of the subject, and the tyranny of bureaucracy, when the social conditions of the country permit a system under which it is absolutely impossible for children to profit by the education which we afford. I should like to refer also to Clause 8, and what I consider to be the excellent provision for transferring from the Home Office to the education authority, the supervision of the Regulations affecting child labour. I do not wish to say anything derogatory to the Home Secretary, but everybody knows that his activities are so numerous and widespread, that it is almost imperative that minor matters, such as the Regulations affecting child labour, should remain in a sort of back-water. The Mover of the Second Reading of this Bill said that the Home Office were to be congratulated on the help which they had given in these matters. I have not his experience; but I really cannot sec why we should be so grateful to the Home Office, because since the Act of 1903 was passed, hardly a single circular has been issued to local authorities urging them to greater activity in drawing up by-laws. As far as I have been able to gather, the Home Office actually act as a discouraging factor to local authorities, because when they pluck up courage to bring forward regulations dealing with child labour, the 1352 Home Office puts several obstacles in their way, insisting very often on an inquiry which is absolutely unnecessary. Local authorities are well in touch with their constituents, and if the ratepayers of a certain area permit the local authority to bring forward regulations, one may be quite sure that public opinion is thoroughly behind them. Therefore, I am delighted to think that these regulations are to be taken out of the hands of the Home Office. I only hope that the Government will not only look upon this measure with benevolence, but give it their actual support in order that it may pass into law this Session. There is an enormous amount of sympathy and good will behind the Bill outside the House, and if the House of Commons is to be a faithful reflex of the opinion of the country, it would be a disgraceful thing if this measure were not placed upon the Statute Book this Session.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
The hon. Member who introduced the Bill described it as a modest Bill. It does not appear to me to be so. I think it is rather a comprehensive Bill, and that the modesty resides in the hon. Member for Carlisle This Bill has within it the possibilities of a great social revolution, with the direction of which I have no doubt the whole House has great sympathy. But the progressive steps which have to be taken to bring that about require, in my opinion, great caution and consideration. I do not propose to refer at length on this occasion to the Half-Time Clauses. I spoke on that subject on a former occasion at what I am rather ashamed to see was somewhat excessive length, and I will not repeat what I then said. I simply suggest that if half-time is to be abolished, it should be at a moment favourable to the wage-earner, and that greater caution ought to be taken at a time of increasing prices, and when a long period of good employment appears likely to be followed by certain slackness of trade. There are concerned in this question of half-time the very poorest families, and I think that measures for providing for the poorest children should precede this deprivation of the opportunity of earning their own living. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gold-stone) says that it is not poverty, but custom, which keeps up half-time in Lancashire. I cannot agree that there are not cases of poverty, and acute poverty. The hon. Member, to a certain extent, admitted that by suggesting that there 1353 might be maintenance Grants and bursaries for selected cases. In regard to the inquiries which have been made as to the effect of half-time upon children, I may point out that there is quite an appreciable percentage of children in whose cases there has been growth and in which both weight and height have increased more quickly since they became half-timers. They have been found to come from very poor homes, and the sums they have earned have gone at once to secure their own greater well-being. They are not a majority of cases, but they are quite an appreciable number. The hon. Member for Wilton made a suggestion which was in the direction of reforming the half-time system. The great evil of the half-time system is that it is a half-day system, and in the absence of special classes of a continuation character the children go into other classes and disturb them. I cannot think that this problem will be settled until we have developed some system of the co-ordination of education and industry, when we shall have mot half-day, but half-time or short-time scholars who are three or four days a week at work and two or three days at the technical or agricultural school. With regard to the instance I gave a couple of years ago, and on which the hon. Member for Sunderland challenged me, that was a special school where these special classes did exist. Those children were found to do very well when special attention was given to them, and when they were not plunged among other scholars who were receiving whole-day tuition, where they were only receiving half-day tuition.
Turning to the Street-trading Clauses, I must express regret that my hon. Friend has found it wise to ignore the whole of the work of the previous Committee. All that was done by the Committee which examined the Bill of a similar character has been thrown over; all the most stringent provisions upon which an arrangement was arrived at have been restored, and in some cases the proposals are even more stringent than they were. I mention one or two—I do not intend to keep the House very long. In regard to age and area the provisions have been altered. The Bill of 1912 provided for licences being given to boys between the ages of fourteen and seventeen. An arrangement was arrived at that the age of fourteen should be the minimum in the area covered by the Bill. The Bill of 1912 excepted certain municipal boroughs, and the area of 1354 the rural district councils. There the age was left at eleven. Now some of these areas come under the Bill, and the age is raised from eleven to fifteen. I agree with the Seconder that some levelling up is necessary, but I suggest that that levelling up should take the form of regulation being made necessary for the whole of the area rather than the sudden increase of the age of prohibition from eleven to fifteen. There was a difference disclosed in the inquiry of the Committee betwixt moral evil in the large towns and the conditions in the smaller towns. I think that does point to some difference in the treatment of the two areas. If you include in your Bill all the small places I suggest that the minimum should be low, with power to the local authority to raise that minimum where in the great cities the conditions approach those of the Metropolis.
Another small point has been altered. The Bill of 1912 narrowed the definition of street trading so as not to include an occasional sale of newspapers by a boy engaged by an employer in delivering from door to door. It appears to me to be rather in the nature of manufacturing small offences if a boy delivering papers becomes subject to prosecution because he happens to sell one or two. There is a most important factor of the 1912 Bill which has been omitted. It was provided in that Bill that a licence should not be refused on account of poverty or general bad character. Now, I take two objections to the omission of that provision. I desire that in this Bill something should prevent the possibility of any kind of vendetta against a bad boy, and I object to the infliction of non-judicial penalties, such penalties as would be incurred by preventing a boy engaging in street trading. If he is to be punished by such a deprivation, let it be by the sentence of a Court. Then again, the certificate should not be permitted to become, in any sense, a certificate of character. If looked upon in that sense it would be bound to lead to abuses of many kinds. Errand boys, junior clerks, and such like, unfortunately have to be dismissed sometimes for causes that prevent them from getting a character from their former employers, and therefore prevent them obtaining a position of trust of any kind. I do not think even if the character of a boy is very bad that it should prevent him from having this resource. There is another Clause which was criticised by the right hon. 1355 Gentleman, the Member for Oxford, and that is Sub-section (3) of Clause 4. It reads:—No licence for street trading shall be granted to a boy who can obtain more beneficial employment.That is very indefinitely and very loosely worded, and, I think, might be open to very great abuse. In 1912 the Clause was much better worded, and read:—No licence shall be granted to a boy to whom the licensing authority is able to offer more beneficial employment.It seems to me you are depriving these boys, or you might deprive them, of the opportunity of earning a living, without being under the necessity of offering them more beneficial employment. I do not think that that deprivation could be permitted to stand without the local authorities undertaking some corresponding responsibility. That is made more striking by inserting in this Bill Clause 5, which was also criticised by the hon. Gentleman, and upon which I need not therefore enlarge. Everyone must have great sympathy with the labours of the care committees, and with every effort to provide an opportunity of removing the excuse of necessity of street trading, but the mere prohibition of street trading does not take the boys off the street. They may be on the street unemployed and therefore in a worse condition than if they were engaged in street trading. The hon. Member for Carlisle provided an argument in that direction in a list of occupations which were only good for boys after a certain age. There is no doubt that boys only become physically capable of sustained exertion, and for the work of carpenters, painters, and so on, after fifteen years of age. There is another Clause which met with a good deal of criticism, and that is Clause 8, which changes the authority for by-laws from the Home Office to the Board of Education. The educational by-laws are very properly made under the Board of Education, but there are many who hold the opinion that so soon as employment is commenced, there are many factors, economic, trade and industrial, connected with the locality with which the Home Office is more conversant. I should require stronger argument than I heard before I would be willing to consider that Clause. I think it would introduce confusion in the regulation of industrial conditions which would be worse than the present situation. 1356 I do not think that my hon. Friend impugned the records of the Home Office in regard to its actions under the Factory Acts, or in other cases where it deals with dangerous trades or other conditions affecting the well-being of labour.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
My hon. Friend does not impugn the conduct of the Home Office either for the Factory Acts or the Act of 1903. The Home Office should be at least condemned before it is executed. When this Bill gets into Committee it will require very considerable criticism, and I hope then that my hon. Friend will prove to be more reasonable than the drastic provisions of this Bill as it now stands seem to suggest.
§ Mr. MORRELL
After the chorus of praise in favour of this Bill, I should like to point out what seems to me a very grave defect in it as regards the old question of the half-time system. As I understand this Bill, it confers complete local option on local authorities in regard to almost every matter contained in this measure, but with regard to half-time the promoters are not prepared to trust the local education authorities.
§ Mr. DENMAN
In all cases the by-laws have to be approved by the central authority, whether they are for educational or industrial purposes.
§ Mr. MORRELL
If the hon. Member will read his own memorandum he will see that the principal changes are a limitation of the powers of local authorities, and an extension of their powers in regard to the abolition of the existing half-time system. The hon. Member for Sunderland said that Lancashire is very backward on this question, and therefore we must do what Lancashire will not do for itself. I appreciate the hon. Member's intention, but I think Lancashire is perfectly entitled to decide its own destiny with regard to the half-time system. If such a system is strongly embedded in the custom of a particular district like Lancashire, so far from being a reason for not giving local option, it is an additional reason for trusting those local authorities in the matter. This House should not attempt to do for itself in an off-hand way what they fear a local authority might not feel itself in a position to do. I want to see the school age raised. I think it is better for all classes that children should be kept at school as long as possible; but I am not prepared here and 1357 now and immediately to support a measure of this sort without making some provision against destroying a system which has existed so long, and which, on the whole, has been found to work well. You will find the opinion unanimous among all Lancashire Members that parents will not give way upon this matter in the manner now suggested, and, if Members choose to bring in a Bill of this sort which takes no account of local feeling and local custom, then it becomes the duty of every Member in Lancashire who wishes to represent his constituency to oppose the measure. There is no doubt that if the House would trust public opinion in a matter of this sort we should be able gradually to effect what we want, whereas by endeavouring to do it in this compulsory and wholesale manner I believe we shall be only creating a reaction and doing harm to the cause of education.
§ Mr. ALBERT SMITH
I do not suppose that I should have risen to address the House were it not that I felt under some obligation to defend the Lancashire people and their children against the half-formed information given to the House by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Goldstone). Personally, I am anxious that the age for half-timers should be raised, but it is perfectly well known that the great majority of the operatives in Lancashire are against increasing the age. I believe that if we were to increase it another year it would not do so much harm as is anticipated in some quarters; but this Bill is not altogether satisfactory even from that point of view. Instead of facing your own duty, you transfer the power to the local education authority and leave them to determine what is a suitable employment for another man's child. You also make those powers optional, and you will thus increase the difficulty of those people who try to administer the Act, because you will be having people working the Act in a town, and those outside the border leaving it alone. It will want a great deal of watching, and will cause a great amount of confusion.
I should like to say one thing on behalf of the operatives in the weaving branch of the cotton trade. The weaving branch requires that those who have to follow it successfully throughout their lives should get a hold of it when their fingers are supple and can be adapted to the trade. Of course, I know there are exceptions, but, generally speaking, the people who come to the trade when they are grown 1358 up are never so good and can never earn the same money as those who have been brought up in the trade under the system that we have at present, and it will naturally be more so. Let the House understand that a year will not make all that difference at any rate. It is a point which should never be lost sight of by those people who want to interfere with the cotton trade of Lancashire, which has reached such great dimensions, and has a record for quality and output not to be beaten in the whole world. When tampering with a trade of this character you want to be very careful. I have heard many hon. Members plead earnestly for technical education. I, too, have done so for years. I have long been a member of our local education committee—I have, indeed, been chairman of that body—and I have often pleaded very hard for our young men and women to go into technical schools at night rather than waste their time elsewhere. But I want this to be borne in mind, that when a boy or girl of thirteen or fourteen years of age is going to school one half of the day he or she is getting technical education during the remaining half. The only thing at fault is the early rising in the morning. I think every hon. Member of this House will agree it is inadvisable for children to have to rise and go to work at half-past five in the morning, and if we can get over that difficulty we shall effect a decided improvement.
The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Goldstone) commented on the fact that scholarships were very rarely won by half-timers, but the class whom he represents in this House—the teachers—are the very people who never give the half-timer the encouragement he deserves, and when there is a competition for a scholarship the half-timer has not a hundred-to-one chance. Lots of half-timers are children whose parents are healthy, sane, respectable people, doing the very best they can for their families, and the younger members very often benefit by the education received by their elder brothers and sisters. I could quote a score of such cases. I was speaking to a young lady who came to town only the other day to see her brother. The girls in her family had gone into the weaving shed, and thereby enabled their brothers to get a good education. What is the result? One brother holds a splendid appointment in India; another is a doctor in St. Bartholomew's Hospital. It is by this system, 1359 and by the sacrifices made by parents on behalf of their children, that the younger generation are afforded such excellent opportunities. Whether you pass an Act of Parliament or not, this half-time system will get less and less as years go by. Reference has been made to blind-alley employment. Of all trades that I know of the blind-alley employment argument applies least to the cotton trade. The hon. Member for Sunderland mentioned the Rochdale case, but that only affects one portion of the cotton trade, and whether you alter the age at which children shall go to the mill or not, the same difficulty would still remain in that case. If anyone were to tell people engaged in other branches of the trade that by sending their boy or girl into the weaving shed they were putting them to a job that leads nowhere they would be laughed at, because it is perfectly well known that when children go in as half-timers to help their fathers or mothers, their brothers or sisters, in the weaving shed, the great bulk of them are taught the trade under the eyes of their parents and relations, and, as soon as a boy or girl proves capable, he or she is given the minding of one loom or two, and is paid for that work at the same rate as the father or mother, sister or brother, and when later on sufficient ability is shown more machines are given to mind and the greater is the remuneration paid. The use, therefore, of the argument that this system is conducive to blind-alley employment is, to my mind, beyond all belief.
Let me again say what has so often been said by the men and women of Lancashire, that we are tired of hearing what we believe to be a libel, not only on the fathers and mothers in Lancashire, but on the children as well. The boys and girls of Lancashire are as sound and as healthy as those of any other county can offer. If I took the boys and girls working in the cotton-weaving sheds in the town in which I live and pitted them against the boys and girls of Sunderland, Middlesbrough, or any of the great iron towns, I believe the verdict would be in favour of Nelson, and that we should win handsomely. As for saying that the system is conducive to immorality, the people in Lancashire to-day could hold their own in every respect with the best county in the land. When we speak about those things we always forget that we are not speaking about ourselves. It would be a good thing if hon. Members, 1360 who cast reflections upon the morality and physique of a particular county, were to turn round and look at the people in their own county, and see whether they could withstand the stone that could be thrown at them. Taking the whole population of the country we have just as much right to condemn any other county as they have the right to condemn us. There is absolutely nothing in it. It is really mean and narrow-minded on the part of hon. Members to get up in this House and in the Committee rooms and declare that the stamina of the people and the conditions of morality in Lancashire are not good on account of the half-time system.
Although I am not in a position to support this Bill in face of the opinion of my Constituents, I certainly should like to see a system under which the children had a far better chance. If the hon. Member for Sunderland or any other hon. Member could arrange some other system under which the people would not suffer, we should not have long to wait before the half-time system was abolished. If it were not for certain economic disadvantages—I see the hon. Member for Carlisle smiling; I am quite sincere in this, although I know I am falling into his hands on this point—under which a large number of people suffer—it would take too long to explain them now—I believe it would have been abolished before now. The men in the cotton trade do not go into a gold mine or a big iron works and earn £3 or £4 a week; they merely get wages varying from 24s. to 44s., and their children pro rata. They are making as many sacrifices on behalf of their children as the people in any county are willing to do. I am not going to use the lonely widow argument, but there is the lonely widower argument and the bachelor argument—the case of the man who is left to look after his family. These deserve some attention from the people who are so ready to take away what they have at the present time.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Ellis Griffith)
This Bill deals with two matters. It deals with school attendance and with employment. It has an educational side and an industrial side. With regard to the educational side, I do not propose to add anything to what my hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan) has already said; but I would remind the House of what happened last year and the year before. In 1912, on 29th March, this Bill (so far as its in- 1361 dustrial side is concerned) passed Second Reading without a Division, and went upstairs, and after a considerable amount of work we arrived at a Bill, on which there was, on the whole, a good deal of give and take and substantial agreement. My hon. Friend (Mr. Denman) described this as a modest Bill. It may be the Bill of a modest man, but I do not think I should describe it as a modest Bill. I should rather describe it as the Bill of a gentleman who was about to set out on a very adventurous career, and I think he has learned this afternoon that that is so from many quarters of the House. He has thought it wise to depart from that compromise Bill, and, of course, the whole matter must now be left open, and everyone must regard the Bill from his own point of view and leave it to the Committee to arrive at what decision it thinks right on the various aspects of its educational and industrial sides. With regard to the machinery of the Bill—that is the matter with which I am more intimately connected—there is a considerable departure from the compromise arrived at in 1912. Under the Bill as it now stands it is the local education authority which will frame the by-laws, and the Board of Education which will confirm them. That is, of course, different from the precedent of 1903, and different from the compromise Bill of 1912. I think there will be considerable objection to that proposal. I do not know what the local authorities of the country will say when they find the power transferred from them to the local education authority. I have no doubt what they will say when the power of confirming the by-laws is removed from the Home Office to the Board of Education.
§ Mr. DENMAN
The transference from the local education authority to the education committee was performed by the Bill of last year.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
That was a compromise. My hon. Friend wants to make the best of both worlds. When you once depart from a compromise, you depart for better or for worse. We were perfectly content with the 1912 Bill. If this had been introduced in the 1912 form I should have said nothing about it, but having departed in one respect, my hon. Friend must not be surprised if the whole matter is now open for discussion upstairs. The Noble Lord (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) talked with some amount of bitterness about the Home Office. I notice that 1362 when he gets on to that topic he always speaks with an inaccuracy which would be remarkable if it were not characteristic. I wish he was in his place now. I understand that the Noble Lord gave the House to understand that when the Act of 1903 was passed we were hostile, or, at least, that we were neglectful, and that we did not care very much about the subject. When the Act of 1903 was passed we sent to the local authorities model by-laws, together with a circular. After the Act had been in operation for some time we in 1909 appointed a Committee to inquire into the working of the Act, and they reported in 1910. Bills were introduced in 1911 and 1912, which we supported. Last year we introduced a Bill ourselves, and, of course, we are giving a general support to the Bill now before the House. The gravemen of the charge which has been made against us is that we are always putting inquiries in the way of the confirming of by-laws proposed by local authorities. The Act of 1903 requires us to consider objections, and before he confirms by-laws the Secretary of State may order an inquiry in respect of them or of any objections to them. Where we think the objections are unimportant and frivolous we pass the by-laws without inquiry, but if there is a substantial number of objectors we are bound to hold an inquiry. Inquiries have been very few in number. I am bound to say that we are sympathetically considering the by-laws and doing our best to bring them into effect. The Noble Lord said that 11,000 children had been swept off the streets of London. That was effected by by-laws which the Home Office confirmed. We are giving general support to this Bill, and we expect that the Committee upstairs will give consideration to the proposal as to transferring the by-law making authority and the by-law confirming authority to some other Department. Subject to these points we shall support the Bill.
§ Mr. T. E. HARVEY
Before the House goes to a Division, I wish, on behalf of those who are promoting the Bill, to reply to one or two of the points which have been made. May I say how glad we are of the support which hon. Members have given to the Bill, and how fully we recognise that there must be room in Committee for the qualification of details, even it may be important details. The Undersecretary found fault with the Bill because we had not followed the Lincs of the Bills 1363 of the last two years. Without going into any detail, it is only fair to rejoin on behalf of the promoters of the Bill that the experience of the last two years showed that it was impossible to get that compromise Bill through by general agreement. Therefore, they felt it necessary to aim rather high, while we are at the same time prepared in Committee to meet reasonable objections. I hope we shall be able to meet many of the points made in the course of the Debate this afternoon. Whatever happens as to the authority controlling the working of this Bill, if it becomes an Act, I share the views of the Noble Lord opposite in earnestly hoping that the House will keep the provision which provides that the local education authority should administer the Act. That was provided for under the Government Bill of last year, and I think it would be of vital importance to the efficient administration. The previous Act failed, not so much because of the by-laws made, but because there was no adequate machinery for carrying out the by-laws. The local authorities have not got the officers for supervising the by-laws, and the police, the only people who can do it, are in many cases not the most suitable persons for doing the work. The local education authority have ready to hand the vast body of school attendance officers, who can do this work along with their other work. It will not mean any expensive additions to the staff to do this work with the other work, which is being carried on with great efficiency already. There is an overwhelming majority in favour of the education authority, being the local authority under the Bill. The hon. Member for Oxford University feared that there would be an increase of expense under the Bill. I think that on that particular point he need have no fears. No large increase will be needed to carry out these duties. In reference to his fears that Clause 6 was not sufficiently stringent, I may point out that it is really a drafting Clause, and it can be dealt with in Committee. Any fear of oppressive action by the local committee may be met by the careful provision for inquiry before the bylaws are adopted, which, of course, will be retained under the present Bill. That will prevent any by-law being carried into force which is too much in advance of local public opinion. If anyone reads the actual by-laws—which I have here— which have been adopted under the exist- 1364 ing Act he will see that the local authorities have not gone too far. It is rather sad when reading those by-laws to find the many cases of inadequate provisions being made under existing powers, so that I do not think there need be any fear that the local authority, in touch with local opinion, will go too far in advance.
One very important and valuable suggestion has been made by the hon. Member for Wilton, the case of the provision in Canada for different kinds of half-time, and a full-time part of the week for those engaged in agriculture. The suggestion of having compulsory day classes during half the week is one that ought to be very carefully considered in Committee, and I hope that it will be. The other points of criticism raised by hon. Members were small. So far as they did not strike at the principle of the Bill they can be suitably discussed in Committee with give-and-take on both sides. The hon. Member for Bury wished to see the Bill made more gradual in its operation. It is perfectly possible to provide a Clause in the Bill in Committee that a certain part shall come into force at one time and another part at another time. That would meet his objection to that extent. In any case all half-timers at work to-day, or who will be at work up to July, 1915, will be exempted from the provisions of the Bill. That leaves a considerable margin for preparing for the new conditions. The provision for street trading in the towns can well be considered in Committee. I think that the speech of the hon. Member for Burnley might have been made with equal force and eloquence many years ago against any one of the great Factory Acts. Almost all of them have been in advance of public opinion in certain places and among certain industries, and the immense improvements in child life which those Factory Acts have wrought have been achieved in spite of severe opposition even from the representatives of the classes most closely affected, who in the end were most benefited by them. I think that is a conclusive answer to my hon. Friend and to other hon. Members. We greatly respect the sterling qualities of the Lancashire operatives; we do not want to cast any slur upon them; but the overwhelming weight of educational opinion throughout the country is on our side, and we have no doubt that in a few years' time their own opinion will be with us too. There is a change coming there already, and just as no one proposes that 1365 we should go back from the Factory Acts, we feel quite sure that when this Bill has been in force a few years no one will think of going back from any of its main proposals. I think that may apply even to the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), who, I know, is hard to convince on these points; but he has advanced somewhat on this subject, for he has stated that he would abolish any employment of children under thirteen which proved deleterious to their health. These children are brought face to face with a vast and complicated industrial system with all its machinery, and I am sure that the heart of the hon. Baronet, which is touched with the sufferings of dogs, and mules, and asses, will not be steeled against these children. I hope the House will give an all but unanimous support of the Bill.
§ Colonel YATE
With all due deference to the wisdom and experience of the hon. Member for Leeds, I, for one, am absolutely opposed to any extension of the
§ powers of the education authorities, whose regard for education has become a sort of madness. There is no extravagance at which they stop, and it is necessary that they should be under some restriction. Their one and only thought is education, and they have no other object whatsoever. This House should retain control, and these bodies should not be left an uncontrolled authority. It is far safer that their actions should be subject to the approval of this House and to the regulations of the Home Office. I desire to say, on behalf of my agricultural constituents, that they object to this enlarging of the powers of the education authorities, and the giving to them of authority to take children away from doing work in the field until a later age than that which is permissible. For those reasons I shall certainly vote against the Bill.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 187; Noes, 35.1367
|Division No. 10.]||AYES.||[4.54 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Falconer, James||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Farrell, James Patrick||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert|
|Alden, Percy||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Lundon, Thomas|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Ffrench, Peter||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Field, William||Lynch, A. A.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Fitzgibbon, John||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Barnes, George N.||Glanville, H. J.||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Goldman, C. S.||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Goldstone, Frank||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Greig, Colonel J. W.||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Griffith, Ellis Jones||Meehan, Francis E. (Leltrim, N.)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Gulland, John William||Molloy, Michael|
|Boland, John Plus||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T, Griffith-||Hackett, John||Mooney, John J.|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Hancock, J. G.||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Neilson, Francis|
|Bryce, J. Annan.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Hayden, John Patrick||Nolan, Joseph|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Norton, Captain Cecil W.|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Henry, Sir Charles||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Hon., S.)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Chapple Dr. William Allen||Higham, John Sharp||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Hills, John Waller||O'Donnell, Thomas|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Hinds, John||O'Dowd, John|
|Cotton, William Francis||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Crooks, William||Hodge, John||O'Malley, William|
|Crumley, Patrick||Holmes, Daniel Turner||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)|
|Cullinan, John||Holt, Richard Durning||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||O'Shee, James John|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eiflon)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Hudson, Walter||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Dawes, J. A.||Illingworth, Percy H.||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Delany, William||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Dillon John||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Doris, William||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Pointer, Joseph|
|Duffy, William J.||Joyce, Michael||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-In-Furness)||Kilbride, Denis||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Price, Sir R. J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Lardner, James C. R.||Radford, G. H.|
|Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Stewart, Gershom||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Reddy, Michael||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Tennant, Harold John||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Thomas, James Henry||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Thorne, William (West Ham)||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Verney, Sir Harry||Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Walton, Sir Joseph||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Sheehy, David||Watson, Hon. W.|
|Sherwell, Arthur James||Webb, H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)||Denman and Mr. Hoare.|
|Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Greene, Walter Raymond||Stanier, Beville|
|Barnston, Harry||Harris, Henry Percy||Sutton, John E.|
|Brace, William||Helmsley, viscount||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hunt, Rowland||Watt, Henry Anderson|
|Bull, Sir William James||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lieut.-Colonel A. R.||Wedgwood, Josiah c.|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Malcolm, Ian||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Clough, William||Morrell, Philip||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Dairymple, Viscount||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Denison-Pender, J. C.||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir|
|Gill, A. H.||Sanders, Robert Arthur||F. Banbury and Mr. Peto.|
|Goldsmith, Frank||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.