§ Notwithstanding anything provided in this or in the Education Acts, it shall be lawful for a local education authority to grant exemption from the obligation to attend school to individual children for such time, and upon such. Conditions, as the authority think fit in any case where after due inquiry the circumstances seem to justify such an exemption.—[Sir J. D. Rees.]
§ Brought up, and read the first time.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I beg to move "That this Clause be read a second time."
As I understand the Bill, children under the age of fourteen cannot be employed at all. The exemption provided by Clause 8 does not meet the case with which I wish to deal. There are many cases in which children might be quite properly employed to a small extent. One case is that of posing for films. Take, for instance, a production in which angels are required. In such a case you must have small children, who will be fitted with wings, to appear in the film. That is a very harmless process—making children even more angelic than they naturally are—to which nobody could take serious objection. It may be argued that this is not an exceedingly important matter. I think that it is. Now that American films cannot be introduced an opportunity offers for increasing and developing here an industry which has a valuable educational quality, and has also been used, as members of the Committee know, for propagandist purposes during the War both in France and here. It is admitted by everybody that it is in the propagandist feature of our war aims that we have most conspicuously failed, and the value of films for propagandist purposes has been most handsomely admitted. Unless this Clause is accepted there will be no possibility of employing such children, and the power of the educational authority to grant exemption will be limited to children between the ages of fourteen and fifteen. At the age of fourteen children are too old for this purpose. Little girls of that age may be very angelic, but my information is that they would be too old, and unless this Clause is accepted the local education authority desiring to release children for this purpose would be unable to do so. Both in regard to children younger than fourteen, and children above the age of fifteen, it is exceedingly desirable that the local education authority should have power to grant exemption from the obligation of individual children to attend 1795 schools. This power is not likely to be abused. It is not a class of children but individual children who may be exempted, and such a power does not lend itself to abuse. If my hon. Friend (Mr. Lewis) cannot accept this Clause, could not this power be given for the next seven years, and the precedent established in another part of the Act availed of to meet the washes of those who desire to have this new Clause? In the case which I have mentioned the children, I submit, would be used for an educational purpose. They would appear in the picture which would be used for the purpose of educating their fellow children as well as adults all over the country. The number of our fellow countrymen who attend these exhibitions is vast, and it would be very unfortunate if power was taken away from the local education authorities to exempt these children for this purpose and other purposes, and also to prevent the establishment in this country of so useful an industry as that of film production.
§ Mr. LEWIS
With all respect to the hon. Gentleman, I think that this particular Amendment is open to considerable objection. The illustration which he gave was that of a child who is not allowed to convert himself into an angel. But I am advised that children might be used not only as angels but for a vast number of other characters as well, and I am afraid it would be very embarrassing to the local education authorities. If my hon. Friend's new Clause were carried we might have a very large number of applications, and, in the case of some local authorities, this might lead to so considerable an amount of exemption as to amount to that extent, at any rate, to a modification of the law as to school attendance.
§ Mr. LEWIS
Yes; but at the same time these cases could be taken in vast numbers. I would remind my hon. Friend that the exemption Section of the Elementary Education Act, 1870, has not yet been repealed, and that under the existing law an authority can take into account the circumstances of the case on the question of exemption from attending at school, and if it were to go beyond that it might lead to results which should be deprecated.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Does not Sub-clause (2) of Clause 8 necessarily operate to take away the power to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred?
§ Sir J. D. REES
It says that "it shall be lawful," and so on, "between the ages of fourteen and fifteen." There is no power of exemption except between those ages, as I understand.
§ Question put, and negatived.