§ (i) For Sub-section (1) of Section three the following Sub-section shall be substituted:—
§ A child under the age of twelve shall not be employed; and a child of the age of twelve or upwards shall not be employed on any day on which he is required to attend school before the 813 close of school hours on that day, nor on any day before six o'clock in the morning or after eight o'clock in the evening:
§ (ii) In Sub-section (2) of Section three, which prohibits the employment of a child under the age of eleven years in street trading, the words "under the age of eleven years" shall be repealed:
§ (iv) For the definition of the expression "local authority" there shall be substituted the following definition:—
§ (iii) In Section three, which relates to licences for the employment of children exceeding ten years of age, the age of twelve years shall be substituted for the age of ten years:
§ Colonel GRETTON
On a point of Order. I desire to ask your ruling as to whether this Clause is within the scope of the Bill? The Bill is a Bill "to make further provision with respect to education in England and Wales, and for purposes connected therewith." The first Sub-section of Clause 13 proposes to amend the Employment of Children Act so far as it affects England and Wales, and the second Sub-section proposes to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act, 1904, so far as it relates to England and Wales. The Amendments to the Employment of Children Act, 1903, were two of importance. Paragraph (1) of the Subsection deals with the employment of the child on any day in which he is required to attend school, and limits that employment, and the second Subsection proposes to deal with street trading of all children under a certain age. The second proposal clearly deals with the employment of children on days when there is no school training, such as the time of the summer holidays, for instance, as well as on the holidays given from time to time. The Clause proposes to amend the Employment of Children Act in various specified ways, and goes on to make certain Amendments relating to licences to appear on the stage, and the employment of children exceeding ten years, and suggests that the age of twelve years shall be substituted for the age of ten, and so forth.
814 All these objects may have some remote connection with education, but I would ask your ruling, Sir, as to whether an Education Act is the proper place to insert provisions dealing with the employment of children at a time when no education is given? The other Regulations regarding the employment on school days may be more arguable, but the two subjects are undoubtedly involved together, and I would submit for your decision that the proper course would be to introduce a Bill to amend the two Acts which it is desired to amend, and that these matters should be dealt with in that way. Apart from the forms of this House and technical considerations of the kind, I suggest that the practice of introducing Amendments dealing with extraneous matters into any Bill which happens to be passing in the House is very inconvenient for after interpretation, confuses the law, and makes it difficult to understand. I would suggest the advisability that the forms of the House in this and similar cases be upheld, and I would submit that the Clause dealing with the employment of children is outside the scope of the Bill.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman was good enough to inform Mr. Speaker of his intention to raise this point, and Mr. Speaker has asked me to give his views on the matter. The point was raised on the Second Reading of the Bill by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London. That was the right place and the right time to raise the matter. There is no change in the Clause now from that which appeared in the Bill at its Second Reading which would lead to a change of view on the part of Mr. Speaker. There is no suggestion by the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself that the Clause has been so extended in Committee as to make the Bill a different one from that which the House sent to Committee. Therefore, the hon. and gallant Gentleman's contention fails on that point. It might, however, be convenient if I said at ibis stage that Mr. Speaker also rules that the two Amendments on the Paper proposing to bring the question of Sunday employment into the Clause would be going beyond the scope of the Bill, and beyond the Clause, as sent to Committee. Therefore, in the view of Mr. Speaker, those proposals are not pertinent to this Bill.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have on the Order Paper an Amendment to prohibit the employment of school children on Sundays. The Government have assented to this Motion. Am I to understand from your ruling that this Amendment of mine, though agreed to by the Government, is out of order and cannot be moved? May I point out to you the fact—which I think is a pertinent fact in this connection—that Clause 13, on which you are now ruling, does interfere with the Sunday labour of children? Section (1) of Clause 13 practically enacts that there shall be no Sunday labour of children under the age of twelve. Before this Clause was drafted it was possible to employ children in certain circumstances on Sunday. The Bill does thus interfere with the Sunday labour of children up to twelve. The Amendment which I wish to move restricts the Sunday labour of children up to the age of fourteen, as against twelve, and that the Government have accepted. Therefore, if I am out of order in moving this Amendment, is the Government in order in interfering with the labour of children up to twelve? If the Government is in order in interfering with the labour of children on Sundays up to twelve, why am I not in order in proposing a further alteration which interferes up to the age of fourteen?
§ Viscount WOLMER
May I support what the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has said, and may I draw your attention, Sir, to the fact that not only does the Clause as it now stands interfere with Sunday labour of children under twelve years of age, but it also specifically interferes with the employment of children on holidays. Sunday is simply one holiday in the week, and I venture to ask you, if it is in order that other holidays, in the matter of the employment of children, should be restricted by this Clause, why should not there be the restriction on the Sundays too?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am afraid hon. Members are mixing up two separate points which I endeavoured to keep apart. The first point is as to whether Clause 13 is within the scope of the Bill as it stands. I hope I clearly stated how that matter stands as dealt with by Mr. Speaker on the Second Reading of the Bill. The further question which arises now is the question as to whether it is competent for either the Government or an hon. Member 816 to propose Amendments considerably extending the scope of the Clause. It is on that second point that I gave Mr. Speaker's decisions separately from that of the earlier point. No argument can be derived from the fact of what was in the Clause when the Bill was in the Committee stage to sustain what the Government and hon. Members now propose on the Report stage.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I do not rise to argue the question or to dispute your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, or what you further said in explanation of Mr. Speaker's ruling. I wish, however, with great respect, to put this question: I understand the Government, having accepted this Amendment, on the Paper, that it is competent for the Government to make precisely the same Motion in another place, where the same Rules of Order do not apply. I rose to ask your permission to ask the President of the Board of Education whether he will arrange for this Amendment, to which he has agreed, to be moved in another place?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am afraid I cannot allow that question to be put to the President of the Board of Education, or for suggestions to be made as to how the matter shall be dealt with in another place.
§ Viscount WOLMER
On a point of Order. Could you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, explain upon what principle Mr. Speaker has drawn the distinction between the prohibition on the employment of children under twelve on Sunday and the prohibition on the employment of children under thirteen on Sunday?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The Noble Lord does not appreciate the distinction between the Second Reading stage and the Report stage. As to the explanation asked for, the point was raised on the Second Reading as to whether this Clause of the Bill was not outside the scope of the Bill. While there may be some doubt on the point, Mr. Speaker gave his ruling according to the OFFICIAL REPORT of 13th March, that that proposal in this Clause might be said to be relevant to the question of education. On the present occasion the proposal goes a good deal further. I am not dealing with the merits or arguments of the question, but simply stating how Mr. Speaker, after consideration, viewed the matter.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
By Amendments of this kind it would be possible to go on amending the Employment of Children Act in a great many other respects not strictly relevant to education.
I understand your ruling, Mr. Chairman, is that the prohibition of the employment of children up to the age of twelve has to do with education, but the employment of children up to fourteen has nothing to do with education?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member must not read into it anything more than I have said. The first point was dealt with at the Second Reading stage. Now the proposal is, with regard to children up to the age of fourteen, to prohibit employment altogether on Sundays. Without referring again to what Mr. Speaker said in deciding this point on the Second Reading stage, we are dealing now solely with the proposed extension on the Report stage. With regard to the next Amendment, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir John Spear), I suggest that he could raise his point more conveniently on the proviso standing in the name of the President
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Yes; but the words referring to Sundays will have to come out of the Amendment.
§ Sir JOHN SPEAR
I have turned to the Amendment to which you refer, Mr. Whitley, but it is not quite clear to me that that applies to the whole Sub-section in the Bill. That Amendment clearly applies to children above twelve years of age, and my Amendment applies to those under twelve. I simply want the children to do a little light work for their parents and guardians during the summer evenings or during the holiday time, and as I read the Bill they would be unable in a country district to work in the fields, or even lend a hand in the hayfields or do a little weeding in the garden. In the case of the smallholder the wife and children do a good deal of work while he is earning wages.
Perhaps it would be convenient for me here to explain that my 818 Clause does apply to children under twelve as well as over. It was expressly framed to meet the point raised by the hon. Member for Tavistock. The word "children" is used, and it covers children within the meaning of the Act.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I thank him moist sincerely for meeting the case. I know many parents felt very grieved at the limitation the Bill provided, and, while I object to children being overworked, my Amend nent was very carefully drawn to see that the work they were dong had the approval of the local education authorities. The right hon. Gentleman's Amendment meets the case entirely, and the subsequent Amendment I have on the Paper will not be necessary. I am sure this concession will give great satisfaction and will encourage parents to be more vigilant in sending their children to school.
§ Mr. PETO
I beg to move, in Subsection (1), paragraph (i), to leave out the word "before" ["before the close of school hours"], and to insert instead thereof the words "for more than two hours, such period of two hours being either wholly before the opening or wholly after."
It will be remembered that this question of the employment of children for a limited period, either before or after school hours, was dealt with in Committee, and I shall take up very little time now, because I put the arguments at the time, which still appear to me reasonable, before the Committee. In a word, the Bill permits the employment of children on any day in which they are obliged to attend school for any hours after school up to the hour of eight o'clock in the evening. That means for four hours on any school day. That permits the sale of evening newspapers, hawking them in the street, as now, for quite long hours after school, but it entirely forbids any distribution of the morning papers by children before school hours. It also covers a great deal besides the mere distribution of newspapers, but that alone is, I think, a form of labour which is light, and frequently assists the household expenses, and it cannot be held to be at all a demoralising occupation or one which can be called a blind-alley employment. It really ought to have some consideration apart from 819 the fact that, after all, this is an Education Bill, and I think we are entitled to consider all the educational factors, and if we do we cannot leave out from our consideration the morning newspapers. If you make it extremely difficult or practically impossible to deliver those papers to their regular customers in the way they always have been delivered, you are not contributing to the facilities for the education of the nation.
The President has had an opportunity between the Committee stage and the present stage of this Bill to think this matter over, and I hope he has come to the conclusion that it is more reasonable to prohibit the employment of children for more than two hours on any day, and leave that period to be either before or after or partly before or partly after school hours, and so deal something like even-handed justice between the proprietors of morning and evening newspapers and the public which those organs of the Press cater for. I think it will be a very unfortunate thing if, by a side wind, in an Education Bill we practically make it impossible to distribute our morning newspapers, and do nothing to curtail the distribution of the evening papers. Therefore, I hope that the President of the Board of Education will be able to tell us that, on thinking the matter over—and I know that he has given consideration to the question of Sunday employment, and employment on light agricultural work—his fears which led him to oppose this Amendment in Committee through children arriving tired at school have been eliminated, and that this very simple form of employment, not very exhausting or arduous, may be permitted so that a feature of our national life may continue as it has done in the past.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I supported this Amendment in Committee, and I think there is great weight in the arguments used by my hon. Friend. I rise now to point out that a later Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education at any rate contemplates the employment of children by their parents if a local authority makes a by-law to that effect, providing any employment before nine o'clock in the morning is limited to one hour. It appears to 820 me, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers have to a large extent got over the difficulty that was present to their minds in Committee, and that they are now prepared to consider the possibility, and even the permissibility, of a child working, at any rate, for an hour in the morning on the day on which he or she afterwards attends school. If that be the case, it removes the greatest argument used in Committee against the proposal of my hon. Friend. I do not suppose that my hon. Friend is wedded to two hours as the irreducible minimum. I understand that he desires that it should be possible, by a by-law of the local authority or by a Section in this Act of Parliament, that children should be used, if they wish it and their parents wish it, for a reasonable time in the morning on some employment which is not fatiguing and objectionable. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to agree to that general proposition, whether or not he prefers some other form of words, or whether he thinks any additional safeguards are necessary I rise to support the principle of my hon. Friend's Amendment, and I hope, as my right hon. Friend has accepted the principle in his Amendment, that he may see his way to accept it in this place, with or without further restrictions, in order to enable children to do this light work before school in places and under such conditions as the local authority think proper.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down spoke of supporting the principle enshrined in this Amendment.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The hon. Gentleman spoke supporting the principle en: bodied in the Amendment now under discussion. Let us consider what the Amendment is, and let us remember that we are dealing with school children between the ages of twelve and fourteen. The hon. Member's Amendment is that on days when these children have to attend school it shall be lawful to employ them for two continuous hours before they go to school. A child a day over twelve years of age may be sent to some form of labour at seven o'clock in the morning, or at six o'clock in the morning, and be employed on what may be very heavy work until eight o'clock, or later if the beginning hour is later than six.
§ Mr. PETO indicated dissent
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The hon. Member does not seem to realise his own Amendment, and the fact that these statements are made shows how necessary it is to examine the Amendment. It makes it lawful for children to be employed on days on which they are obliged to attend school for a period of two hours, and that period may be before the opening of school.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I certainly said "very heavy work." The labour may be very heavy indeed. You must remember that you are dealing with school children of twelve years of age. Here is an Amendment which the hon. Gentleman has spoken of as embodying a principle which he desires to support, and it says that children of twelve years of age on days on which they must attend school may be employed for two continuous hours before attending school. After these two hours of continuous employment, it may be at very heavy labour, the child has to put in a full attendance at school during the remainder of the morning and afternoon. This is an Amendment of the most reactionary kind. It is contrary to all the proved experience of past years, and it is condemned by every authority that has looked into the matter. I am indeed surprised that this reactionary Amendment should be brought forward to-day, of all days, because to-day there has been published—it was laid upon the Table of the House a week ago—the Annual Report of His Majesty's Inspector of Factories, which deals precisely with this question of employment before breakfast, and which shows in a most convincing way how harmful it has been. It cites certain examples where the system has been abolished in the case of adults, and not of children of twelve years of age. The great principle which the hon. Gentleman speaks of—
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I do not know whether my hon. Friend is alluding to me, but the principle of which I was speaking was not necessarily that of two hours' work before breakfast. It was the principle embodied in the Amendment of the President of the Board of Education. Therefore the vials of wrath which he is pouring on me with such fervour may possibly be moderated.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to speak. I have given way to him perfectly courteously, in order that he may make his interruption. Perhaps he will allow me to reply. He is supporting an Amendment making it lawful to employ children two hours before they go to school. He said he desired to support the principle embodied in the Amendment. I should like to know in what way I have misquoted him. If I have misquoted him I shall be only too glad to withdraw, but, as it is, I have nothing whatever to withdraw. I was speaking of the Report of His Majesty's Inspector of Factories. It gives certain instances where work before breakfast has been abolished in the case of adults, not only with great beneficial results to their health, but with striking economic advantages. In face of this evidence, I am indeed surprised that such an Amendment should be moved. Let me point this out further. It is not only a question of two hours' continuous employment before going to school; there is the question of the breakfast time. The evidence that has been submitted to Committees of this House and to Royal Commissions that have examined this question has always been that the result of working children before breakfast is that they not only go to school tired out by this preliminary and improper labour, but that they go to school improperly fed. They have not had time to get their breakfasts, they have gone underfed to school, they have gone physically fatigued, and in many cases, as has been demonstrated again and again, they have gone to school wet through, owing to have to make a long journey before breakfast to the place of their employment and then back again to their home or to school. That is why I offer the very strongest opposition to this Amendment and, whether or not it enshrines a great principle, I shall vote against it.
I have, of course, very carefully considered all the complicated issues involved in this difficult Clause. As I pointed out when we were considering this Clause in Committee, all the educational authorities attach the greatest importance to the question of morning 823 labour on school days. That has been one of the great evils and one of the great obstacles to the friendly development of our educational system in this country. Consequently, if we were to admit any form of morning employment, it could only be with the strictest and most jealous safeguards against abuse. The Amendment which I have put down on the Paper, which does permit the morning employment of children, both under the age of twelve and over the age of twelve for one hour, is accompanied by two important safeguards, adequate, I think, to protect the educational interests of the country. The first is that the children shall be employed by their parents, and the second is that they shall be employed under bylaws which would have regard to the character and quality of the occupation and to the conditions necessary to safeguard the interests of the children. Further than that we are not prepared to go. To sanction the employment of children on school days for two hours before school would open the door to many abuses we are anxious to terminate as quickly as possible. The effect of the hon. Member's proposal would be that the two hours might be wholly before the opening or wholly after the closing of the school. That is a proposal which is very difficult, if not impossible, of actual administration. Therefore, on the grounds both of principle and of practice, I think it my duty to resist the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
I beg to move, in Subsection (1), at the end of paragraph (i) to add the words,Provided that a local authority may make a by-law permitting, with respect to such occupations as may be specified, and subject to such conditions as may be necessary to safeguard the interests of the children, the employment of children by their parents, but so that any such employment on a school day before nine in the morning shall be limited to one hour.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
On a point of Order. This is an Amendment which extends Sunday labour for these children and raises the question of Sunday labour. Are we to understand from your ruling you have given, that while we may not restrict Sunday labour we may discuss an Amendment extending Sunday labour?
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
On the point of Order. Did you not, Sir, in indicating Mr. Speaker's decision, say that it applied 824 not only to Amendments moved by private Members, but also to Amendments moved on behalf of the Government?
§ Mr. DENMAN
May I point out that the Amendment has been moved with the omission of the words relating to Sunday labour?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That is so. I had communicated with the right hon. Gentleman pointing out that the words which appear on the Paper, "the employment of children on Sundays and," would have to go out of the Amendment.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I rise to oppose this Amendment, which is not only unnecessary, but still embodies those very reactionary features which marked the Amendment I attacked a few moments ago. I invite the House to notice one objectionable point in this Amendment, and I particularly want to ask the President whether he will modify the Amendment in this respect?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The Amendment has to be put, but when the hon. Member catches my eye he can move an Amendment to the Amendment.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The Amendment the President has moved permits the employment of school children both under the age of twelve and above the age of twelve for one hour in the morning on days when the child is under a statutory obligation to attend school. The right hon. Gentleman, whose original Bill prohibited the employment of children before the hours of attending school, now weakens the Bill by allowing the employment of children even under twelve years of age and up to the age of fourteen for one hour before going to school. That is an Amendment of the most serious nature. I inquire what principle is safeguarded or accepted by this Amendment? All the objections that have been urged to child labour apply to 825 this Amendment. What will it mean in practice? That a child who may be under the age of twelve years may be sent to work before being sent to school. He may be sent to work, for instance, at the hour of six or seven in the morning.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
Yes, in the employment of the parents. He may have to go a long journey to his work, and after working for an hour—
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
By-laws will not mitigate this. After working for an hour he will have to journey back to breakfast in all kinds of weather, and then he has to go to school for a full day's schooling. I am stating the case exactly and without any exaggeration. This is precisely that form of employment which everyone has condemned in the past and of which no one has pointed out the evils more eloquently than the President himself. It is one of those points with which the President dealt in the earlier stages of the Bill. It is a point he has dealt with in the country in speeches he has made both to popular audiences and to specialised audiences. He has claimed—and justly claimed—the utmost attention to the provision in the Bill which would abolish child labour before breakfast on the days when a child goes to school. The right hon. Gentleman interrupted me just now and said that the parents would be the employers. But that does not get us out of the difficulty at all, because this will cover heavy agricultural labour, and the fact that the child's father is a farmer will not make the work any less undesirable for the child of twelve to do before going to school. Consequently, the fact that the parents are the employers is not a sufficient safeguard. In previous legislation and in great social inquiries undertaken by Committees of this House attention has been drawn to the fact that one of the evils of child labour is that of the child being allowed to sell things in the street—not street trading in the ordinary acceptation of the term, but working for its parents, who may be costers. Technically, that is a different occupation to street trading, which is deemed to be trading by the child on its own account. The President's Amendment will allow children under twelve years of age to be employed on farm labour for one hour 826 before going to school, and that labour may be heavy for a child. You run the risk of the child being improperly fed and of going to school in wet clothes through having had to work in the open in the rain. Therefore, all the evils which the President has pointed out in the past are to be revived here, although, I agree, in a modified form, inasmuch as one hour is less than two hours. Still the fact remains that the evils which the President has exposed in the past, and on the strength of which he justified the earlier form of the Bill, are now to be reintroduced.
The hon. Member, in his observations on this Amendment, has complained of me for having reintroduced evils which might otherwise have been avoided. But he should remember the line to be drawn between kinds of occupation. If a child lays a tablecloth for his parent in a hut, it is employment; but if he lays it in his father's private house, it is not employment. It is an impossible thing to prohibit children from taking part in household avocations at the bidding of their parents, and no power on earth can prevent it. At the same time, you are forced into the position of having to sanction forms of employment scarcely to be distinguished from domestic avocation, but which, nevertheless, in the eye of the law do constitute employment proper. It is for that reason, and for that reason only, that this Amendment has been introduced. I think the hon. Member did not pay sufficient regard to the numerous safeguards which have been introduced into this Clause. First, it is necessary that the local education authority should make by-laws. But then, there is no compulsion on them to do that. Then, if a by-law is made, it must have regard to the character of the occupation and to the safeguarding of the interests of the children. Finally, the employment must be by the parents only, and it is limited to one hour. I submit it would be impossible to have any Amendment which more carefully safeguards the interests of the children.
§ Sir C. BATHURST
I sympathise with a good deal of what has fallen from the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Whitehouse), in his criticism of the Amendment. I have carefully studied the reports of the medical officer of health in relation to children in elementary schools 827 in my own county for several years, and I find that the physical defects of the children are largely due to under-feeding on the one hand and to occasionally sitting in wet clothes on the other. The intellectual progress of these children as compared with that of more fortunate children is slow, and is very often accounted for by the fatigue they have undergone before going to school. For these reasons, I should have preferred to have seen the Bill in its original form, excluding all work before school. That, I feel confident, would be in the best interests of the children, and I would have been glad to have seen it made watertight in that respect. But one has, unfortunately, in this world to compromise even on Education Bills, in order to obtain progress, and one has to accept some halfway house. Therefore, though reluctantly, I am prepared to accept my right hon. Friend's Amendment, in the hope that these by-laws will not be so very numerous, and that the local education authorities will realise, as, indeed, most do, that there are physical, mental, and intellectual objections to such a provision being carried through to an extreme point. I trust, therefore, they will see fit, with due regard to local circumstances, to be slow in acting on any such provision. I am rather troubled by the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that possibly a child may be required to make hay, even for its parents, in the early morning before going to school. I cannot help thinking that if a child engages in any such strenuous occupation, it will undergo such fatigue that its educational progress will be relatively slow. Still, I am afraid we must accept the Amendment. I do not altogether trust to the discretion of parents in these matters. It is the parent who makes the money out of the child, whether the parent employs a child itself or whether the child's parent, employed by another employer, delegates the work to the child as will most likely be the case. It does seem to me that the parent does not always study the best interests of the child. However, in the hope that the local education authorities will deal with this matter in a right spirit I reluctantly give my support to the Amendment.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
I think the President said that this employment was limited to one hour; but, surely that is 828 not the language of the Amendment, and after school hours the child may be employed to an unlimited extent.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
At any rate, it may be employed a considerable number of hours in the afternoon. I think he actually said in his speech that the employment was to be limited to one hour, and if he could make the Amendment read that any such employment on a school day should be limited to one hour before nine in the morning, that would be a very much more satisfactory arrangement. I do not know if it is possible to do that, but it is rather larger than the actual words he used would lead us to expect. I quite agree that there must be some extension of the very stringent provision in the Bill, but I am rather inclined to think it is unduly extending the amount of work which may be expected of children after school hours, and if he could limit it to employment in the morning it would be far more satisfactory to the House.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I understand the position to be this. As it stands in the Bill children can be employed after school hours, not later than eight o'clock in the evening. If it be necessary, as I think it is, in view of the complicated situation, to allow children to work for their parents for an hour before school, surely in the by-law that time could be deducted from the number of hours allowed after school, and considering that the by-law has to be framed by the local education authority and then approved by the Board of Education, possibly it would meet my right hon. Friend's point and meet the view of the House if he were to give some intimation that by-laws were not likely to be sanctioned by the Board unless this user in the morning is combined with a corresponding restriction in the afternoon. I hope in view of this Amendment the hon. Member (Mr. Peto) will not move his further Amendments. It is one of those matters in which there may well be divergent opinions. Even my hon. Friend (Mr. Whitehouse) when he reflects upon it in his calmer moments may possibly imagine that there is room for difference of opinion, possibly when he has learned that the fretful repetition of his own opinion is not always equivalent to argument. However that may be, I hope the hon. Member (Mr. Peto) will support the Government Amendment as it 829 stands and not try to enlarge it. The feeling of the House is in favour of as much restriction of child labour as is practicable, and I hope we may agree, from different points of view, on the Government Amendment as it stands, hoping that the President will be able to intimate that by-laws will be looked at with a great deal of care and very great restriction of sympathy if they do not try to get some counterbalancing advantage for the child after school to make up for what many of us believe to be the inevitable use of the child for an hour before school hours, in some parts of the country and in some occupations, on behalf of the parents. I support the Government Amendment on that ground.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I appreciate very fully the right hon. Gentleman's difficulty in attempting to meet the criticism which has been made on this question of the employment of children by their parents. I feel, however, that he has drawn his Amendment much too widely, for, if I read it aright, the word "child" will be read to mean "children under twelve."
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
It means then, in practice, that any child of school age may be employed for an hour before going to school in the morning, and then after school in the afternoon may be employed up to 8 p.m. That means that a child of seven, eight, or nine may be employed for four hours per school day. Surely the President, after what he has said about the deleterious effects of the employment of children of school age, is not going to tolerate, even by parents, the employment of their children of tender years for four hours per school day.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
By-laws will not cover it. By-laws are framed with the permission which the Legislature has given, and if by-laws are drawn within the powers of the Statute there is nothing to prevent a local authority empowering parents to employ their children for the length of time I have stated, and if the Board of Education attempts to interfere with the by-laws so framed the answer of 830 the local authorities will be complete. It will be: "On this point your Act is perfectly clear. We are entitled to sanction by-laws which will give four hours' employment per day to children provided they are employed by their parents." If the school closes at four, that allows four hours employment plus one in the morning, making five. On five school days, twenty-five hours of employment for children under the age of twelve as well as over! Surely that is an intolerable position to contemplate and submit to. It is much more drastic than that which is proposed by the hon. Member (Mr. Peto).
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
That is exactly what I said. The hon. Member has misunderstood me. I said the proposition of the President is more drastic than that of the hon. Member. I hope he will consider it. I hope he will have regard to what the hon. Member has been pleading for. It has been one satisfactory feature of our discussion that the spirit of the House in the main has been entirely against the hon. Member. Now we have the President going far beyond anything which has been moved from the bench opposite. I think he has not quite estimated the extent to which his own Amendment will carry him. I think the matter is of so much importance that he ought to reconsider it. Unless I mistake the temper of the House, practically the whole of the House at present, with one or two exceptions—possibly all, because I think the hon. Member is with us on this—is opposed to the President in allowing so much as five hours per day of employment by the parents of their children, who may be six, seven, eight, up to twelve and beyond. I appeal to him not to let this Amendment represent his last word on this question of the employment of children by their parents.
§ Mr. PETO
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "by their parents," and to insert instead thereof the words "on other days."
First let me apologise to the hon. Member (Mr. Goldstone). I misheard him. 831 I am so accustomed to his disagreeing with me on this question of the employment of children that I could hardly believe my ears when I heard him say I had been asking for a limitation, but I am delighted to hear that at last some Members of the House have come to the knowledge that that is what I have been doing on the Committee stage, and now on Report, while asking at the same time that such employment, which I place at a maximum of two hours a day, should be reasonably distributed either before or after the school day. I would ask the House to consider what is the object in relation to this question of the employment of children of giving a special facility for employment by their parents, actually or nominally, and whether to have one hour's employment before nine in the morning makes any material difference to the state of the child's health or its capacity for acquiring knowledge, whether that employment be by the parent or some other person. I would like to call the attention of the House, and particularly of the Member for Mid-Lanarkshire, to the terms of Section 1 of the Employment of Children Act, 1903. Under that Section local authorities can make by-laws prohibiting absolutely or subject to conditions the employment of children in any special occupation. Already for fifteen years local authorities have had great powers to prohibit any form of employment or work of a character which was likely to be injurious to the child. On this Amendment of the President's I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Sunderland. It is essential that there should be some limiting words such as, say, that the total number of hours to be worked by any child should not exceed two or three, or whatever number this House or another place may consider reasonable, in the case of any child who may be, as I understand it, from the age of five to fourteen. Even while I am anxious to limit it, I am also anxious, as I stated on my earlier Amendment, that you should not in this Education Act make one specific form of ordinary light work absolutely impossible in future. If this one hour is limited to employment by parents, and if that is really carried out and the employment not delegated by the parents to anyone else, it will mean that not one newsagent in the country in a thousand will be able to employ a child even for an hour before nine in the morning to deliver morning 832 newspapers. Therefore, I want to move to leave out the words "by their parents," and for this main reason, that if it is reasonable that the child should be employed not exceeding one hour before the school commences, it cannot make the slightest difference to a child's power of learning or health, or anything else, whether this one hour is worked for the parent of the child or for any other purpose. Although it would not meet the case I tried to put before the House, it would, at any rate, do something to make the Bill a little more elastic exactly where it will be a real grievance, if it is handicapped as it is, if it is coupled with a strict limitation of the hours to something reasonable—not five hours a day as in the Bill now. If the President's Amendment is carried, I think it would be a distinct improvement, both from the point of view of the community and of the children themselves. In moving to leave out the words "by their parents," I desire to make it quite clear that I should not have agreed to the Amendment, as far as I am concerned, unless it was limited here or in another place by words limiting the total number of hours the child is to be employed.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment not seconded.
Mr. H. SAMUEL
This Amendment is not free from perplexity, and I am not sure that the effect of it does not carry the President, in respect of a certain class of children, actually further than he intends to go. I refer to children under twelve. As I understand it, the present law with regard to children under twelve is that, subject to any by-laws by local authorities and excluding street trading, the only limitation is that a child under twelve is not to be employed before six in the morning or after nine in the evening. As the Bill stands it says, with regard to children under twelve, that they are hot to be employed at all by anyone at any time. My right hon. Friend's Amendment is to the effect that a by-law may be made by a local authority, and if it is sanctioned by the Home Office the parents may employ children under twelve. I do not think there is any limitation of any sort or kind except that if the child is employed before nine in the morning that employment is not to be longer than one hour. I do not think my right hon. Friend really means that. Of course, we have to bear in mind the case of children 833 employed in school holidays—hop-picking, for example—by their parents. A child under twelve may be one of a family going hop-picking, and he cannot be left at home. Being in the field, it is reasonable that he should be employed, and I see no very great injury to its health, but rather a very great advantage in that. In the summer time children may also help in gathering in hay, in leading horses, and other work of that kind, and this Amendment of my right hon. Friend will take into account all those cases. It removes the restriction altogether on parent's employment, and to some extent I think there is a great deal to be said for it. But if it also incidentally has the effect of allowing on school days employment not only for one hour before school but also for three or four hours after school For children who, but for this Amendment, would not be allowed to be employed at all, I suggest to my right hon. Friend it is really going rather further than he intends. I am quite sure that the Home Office, when it has to consider bylaws proposed by local authorities, will take these matters into account. A Government Department is obliged to be governed to some extent in a dispute with a local authority by what is understood to be the intention of Parliament. A Court of Law must interpret an Act of Parliament strictly according to its letter, but a Government Department has a discretion, and not infrequently it is called upon to be guided, even by a Debate in the House when a Bill was passing through, indicating what was the intention of the House of Commons or the House of Lords, as the case may be. Therefore, I think, unless to some extent this Amendment is limited, either here or in another place—if possible it is preferable to do it here—I think it should be made quite clear that this House attaches very great importance to the strictest possible limitation of the employment of children, particularly before school hours.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to add the words,and that if a child is so employed before nine in the morning he shall not be employed more than one hour in the afternoon.I gather that there is a general consensus of opinion in the House that this Clause, as my right hon. Friend has said, carries us a little further than we should like to 834 go. I am with him so far as the general sense of the House has been expressed, and am prepared to add, if the House thinks fit, those words to my Amendment. I will confess to the House that I had contemplated, in the first instance, adding the words which I now suggest, and I omitted them for the reason that I thought that it would be very difficult to see that the provision was carried out, but perhaps it would be better to have the provision in the Bill, and accordingly I suggest this addition to my Amendment.
§ Mr. PETO
I would ask the President now to consider, as he has limited the total employment in the day to two hours, whether there is any reason whatever why the one hour in the morning should be exclusively employment by the parent. If we have got rid of the four hours' employment contemplated by the Bill, and have one hour in the morning, surely that one hour might be worked for somebody else nominally as well as actually.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I was unaware that the Amendment of my hon. Friend was not going to be seconded, else I would have seconded it. I cannot see the difference between a child being employed by its parents and by somebody else. If it is good for the child to be employed by the parent at something useful or learning a trade, it would be good for him to be employed by somebody else at learning a trade. On the other hand, if he is not going to assist his parents, it is equally good for the parents that he should be employed by somebody else. I can see no possible objection to leaving in these words. The only result of what is being done is that there will be considerable attempts to evade the law by parents saying that they are employing the children themselves while the child would be doing work for someone else. We ought to have some explanation of the great importance which the right hon. Gentleman attaches to the words "by their parents," and I would be much obliged if he would tell us the reasons that have weighed with him.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
If the Amendment is accepted and added to the original Motion, it still leaves it possible for children under the age of twelve, those 835 between six and twelve, to work for more than two hours on Sunday—to work for a number of hours on Sunday, because, though the reference to Sunday was taken out of his Amendment, I think that the right hon. Gentleman will see, if he refers to the Bill, that he does not take the day of Sunday out of the scope of the Clause, and therefore it will be possible for children of six years and upwards to be employed on Sunday as well as to be employed in this modified form including one hour before breakfast, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will not so amend this Amendment as to prohibit the labour of children on Sunday below a certain age because in this sense he is weakening the Employment of Children Act, 1903.
Mr. H. SAMUEL
As I understand, a parent will still be able to employ any child under twelve for four hours a week. Sunday has been removed. But I do not think that that is really what the House desires. The Bill as it stands would prohibit any child being employed at all below the age of twelve, but there are certain conditions which have been made in the case of parents. I do not think that the House desires by law to permit children over twelve to be worked by their parents for four hours every school evening. That is not prevented by my hon. Friend's Amendment to his Amendment because it makes the Amendment only apply to cases in which children are employed for an hour before school. That class of child is safeguarded with regard to evening work. However, the matter is very complicated and the drafting will require careful consideration, so I throw out this suggestion. I understand that the Bill is to be recommitted in respect or one Clause. The right hon. Gentleman might consider whether it would not be desirable to recommit it in respect of this Clause also, in order to get the matter quite right, or alternatively an Amendment on this point might be accepted in another place.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made: In Subsection (1), paragraph (iv), leave out the words "except as regards the City of London."836
§ After the word "means," insert the words "in the case of the City of London, the mayor, aldermen, and commons of that city, in common council assembled, and elsewhere."—[Mr. Fisher.]
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I ask the President of the Board of Education how far he is going to-night, as we have made very good progress?
§ Mr. PETO
I beg to move, in Subsection (2), at the end of paragraph (iii), "years," to insert,(iv) A licence under Section three to take part in any entertainment or series of entertainments instead of being granted, varied, added to, or rescinded as provided by that Section snail be granted by the local education authority for the purposes of Part III. of the Education Act, 1902, of the area in which the child resides subject to such restrictions and conditions as are prescribed by rules made by the Board of Education, and may be rescinded by the authority of any area in which it takes effect or is about to take effect if the restrictions and conditions of the licence are not observed, and subject as aforesaid may be varied or added to by that authority at the request of the holder of the licence;(v) The holder of a licence shall at least seven days before a child takes part in any entertainment, or series of entertainments, furnish the local education authority of the area in which the entertainment is to take place with particulars of the licence and such other information as the Board of Education may by rules prescribe, and if he fails to furnish such particulars and information as aforesaid he shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding five pounds;(vi) Sub-sections (3) and (4) of Section three shall cease to apply with respect to licences to take part in an entertainment or series of entertainments;(vii) If the applicant for a licence or a person to whom a licence has been granted feels aggrieved by any decision of a local education authority he may appeal to the Board of Education who may thereupon exercise any of the powers conferred on a local education authority by this Section;(viii) The provisions of this Sub-section shall not apply to any licence in force on the appointed day.The Amendment appears to be a long one, but it is really very simple in character. It provides for what I may term a universal form of licence, applicable to performances in theatres, which shall be approved by the Board of Education, and which, once it has been approved and granted by the local education authority in which the child resides, will then be current, so to speak, throughout the country, unless certain things happen. The conditions are at the end of Sub-section 837 (4), where it says "it may be rescinded by the authority of any area in which it takes effect, or is about to take effect, if the restrictions and conditions of the licence are not observed, and subject as aforesaid may be varied or added to by that authority at the request of the holder of the licence." The House will see that once the form of licence has been settled by the Board of Education, the licence granted by the local education authority in the area in which the child resides will have effect wherever the child may be going to perform on the stage. The effect of that, so far as the operations of the present law is concerned, is one of some importance, and very greatly in the interests of the children. Any local education authority may object to the children performing, and may make their own conditions, and the practical result, by the law as it stands, is that it involves usually a weekly attendance by the child at the local Police Court with the person who is responsible for the child.
§ Mr. PETO
I accept the hon. Gentleman's remark, but I thought it was desirable to explain the purport of this Amendment, which, though it may look formidable, is simple in its object, and one which it is desirable to adopt, while it is very important in regard to the education of the children for the stage profession.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. PETO
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), at the end of paragraph (iv), to insert the words, "Provided that Subsections (ii) and (iii) shall not apply in the case of licences granted in respect of children to perform on the stage."
I greatly regret that I have again to occupy the time of the House owing to the unfortunate absence, through illness, of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson). This Amendment which I move is absolutely vital to the proper training of children for the theatrical profession. The Bill as it stands proposes to raise the age at which the training can commence from the age of ten to the age of twelve. Hon. Members have many of them received a copy of a document signed by Mr. H. B. Irving, President of the Actors' Association, who sets out the reasons in the clearest and most precise form why it is absolutely essential, if we are to give 838 to poor children with theatrical talent, wherever they may be found, the opportunity of being properly trained and brought out, and to make the best use of their training, it should commence at the age of ten. There are only two reasons I need allude to at all. One is that after the age of twelve, almost immediately, both boys and girls begin to change from the stage of first childhood. The boy's voice very soon after begins to break, and the children become self-conscious, and, as a rule, cease to be really little children. They are not, therefore, suitable to play the part of very little children, or, what is really much more important, they are not amenable to training in the same way as children of ten years of age.
In our elementary schools we commence to teach the children at the age of five. The theatrical profession is certainly one of the most difficult, which requires the greatest amount of talent where it can be found, and the most specialised training; and surely it is not too much to ask that children who have not had the opportunities and advantages of richer children with special training under the special care of nurses and even of governesses and the like, should have the chance of developing, where they can be taken to special surroundings where their elocution, their language, their accents, and other matters can be specially attended to and where they can be trained so as to be equal to taking, when the time comes, important parts in the great drama which we hope will be performed on the stage in the future. The other argument is this: If we are to recognise that the theatre is one of the great educational factors in teaching the nation as a whole, if we are to make it possible to go back to the great traditions of the past, we must have an exhaustive training, not training in an ordinary elementary school in a class of forty other children, but under the special guidance and tuition of people competent to teach in small classes in no case exceeding twelve and very often limited to two or three, where the whole of the talent of the child is brought out in the most thorough manner possible. This is supposed to be an Education Bill, and if among its provisions it is to have one definite provision which makes it difficult to give adequate training to any child of humble parents for the theatrical profession, I think it will be doing a very bad turn to the cause of 839 education as a whole. We have not got as they have in Continental countries, such as France, great institutions, State-aided, for the development of the theatre and for the training of actors and actresses. At least I ask the President to make it possible to leave it to those actors who are still giving their attention to great performances, wherever they can get the public to take the slightest interest in them, and to the training of the youth of the present to be the actors and actresses of the future—at least I ask the President to give them a hearing and a chance to give a thorough education to those children who are worthy of selection for this great profession.
The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) has enlarged upon the necessity for the dramatic training of young children of the ages of ten and eleven, and I take very little exception to anything which he has said upon that score. I think everybody agrees that every perfect system of education ought to contain artistic training. Increasing attention is being paid to the artistic and to the dramatic side of education, and there is nothing in this Bill which will in any way prevent the artistic and dramatic education of children specially gifted for the stage. But when the hon. Member goes on further, and says that unless you allow a child to go upon the stage at the tender age of ten or eleven you will cut off the stream of dramatic talent at its source, I cannot help reflecting upon the fact that a very distinguished actor who has circularised me upon this subject, a contemporary of my own, and a man of public school and Oxford education, has not found that the absence of an early performance has in any way dimmed the lustre of his dramatic talent. The question of dramatic training is one thing. I think we all agree that children of special dramatic talent should have opportunities for specialised training in addition to their general education, but it is one thing to provide for the specialised training, and it is another thing to ask or to permit children of this tender age to perform upon the stage, and it appears to me to be very difficult for the Government to say that the employment of children under the age of twelve is not beneficial, except it be 840 employment by parents, and at the same time and in the same Bill, and by a special exception, to legalise the employment of children of the age of ten and eleven on the stage. We are not legislating for the London theatre only. We are not legislating only for children who are going to play the plays of Shakespeare or are going to act the great masterpieces of English drama. We are legislating for screaming farce, for bloodthirsty and blood-curdling melodrama, we are legislating for the circus, the pantomime, the travelling company, and the music hall, and if we survey the whole field of public entertainment—because that is what we are invited to do—and if we ask ourselves, "Is it or is it not desirable that children of this tender age should be allowed to take part in these entertainments and to stay up to a late hour at night?" I say that the answer must inevitably be in the negative. But while I am unable, for these reasons, to accept this Amendment, I am quite prepared to accept the substance of the Amendment which stands next on the Paper.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman has taken the view he has taken upon this subject. It seems to me it would not have passed the wit of the Board of Education to have devised some scheme under which it was unnecessary to confuse the higher interests of the drama with the lower interests of the circus. It does not seem to me to be necessary to confuse the issue, which is a very important one, where practically the whole of the heads of the theatrical profession in this country are prepared with elaborate schemes of education, and to put off the House of Commons with the suggestion that we are merely legislating for the whole entertainments throughout the country, good, bad, and indifferent. I do not understand why the right hon. Gentleman, who holds liberal views upon the question of education, feels it so necessary to stereotype education and to keep out of all sorts of exceptions. At one moment he says that he wants to encourage all sorts of artistic development; at another moment he puts a heavy heel upon it. The fact of the matter is, a number of intelligent people, including gentlemen who have had the advantage of public school and university education, really do not come within the scope of the argument at all, for you are not merely dealing with people who have had those advantages, but people who have not. 841 When you refuse this to the poor children until such age as their actions become stereotyped, and it is perfectly impossible to train them for leading parts at all, they do not come in the same category as people who have had the advantage of public school and university education.
I think we have a way of greatly underrating the talent and ability of people on the stage in this country. Take people like Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, Mr. Maurier, and Mr. Irving, who have a position on the stage of this country which would be unusually high in, any country of Europe. I do not think in any country of Europe the actors take such high position and command such universal respect in the matter of the education of the young as they do in this country. They are willing almost to take any scheme the Board of Education are prepared to put forward. I will not weary the President by giving cases now, because I know he has had them, but there are cases where boys and girls have derived the greatest advantage from stage training. The President talks about touring companies. He knows perfectly well in many cases that young children who get their living and help parents considerably, apart from laying up a considerable store for themselves, have been in the provinces accompanied by first-rate governesses, who have looked after them, educated them, and taken them round our great manufacturing towns, and have really been assisting in their education by their wanderings from one town to another.
It is all a question of organisation and management, and it seems to me the Board of Education at this moment is simply shying from a thing which wants a little thinking out, and saying, as the President told us in Committee, that it would be difficult to make an exception in favour of theatrical children. It has been pointed out that the exception always has been made. It is made in practically every other country. In other countries they do recognise the stage in a way we have never recognised it, and yet in this country you have a stage, certainly in London—I do not say the War has very much improved it—struggling against very considerable adversities without any State support at all, doing extraordinarily creditable work. I do speak, and all who are taking this line speak, on behalf of all the leaders of the stage in this country, and all the best of the provincial managers, and the men 842 who have spent their whole lives upon the subject, and we have interviewed them—and I believe the Press has, too—and I pressed them strongly on the question, as to whether it really meant a great difference between ten and twelve, and I am convinced they do think it makes a very great difference. They say that children are more receptive at ten; after that their accents become more stereotyped. You cannot get away from that fault in this country, or in others, and although we cannot always follow the licences, there are very great difficulties in getting the poorer children the same advantages as the public schoolboy or the university candidate, even for the stage. It is not that these people look easily upon their own profession, but they are mixed up with it, and, having seen it, approach it as a new profession. Mr. Cyril Maude is a public schoolboy. What he and others, with no prejudice in the matter, say, is that if you are going to give any chance to the poor children you have to take them very young indeed. There is also this—Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, with others, have pointed it out, that, after twelve years of age, the children develop a condition of self-conscienceness which makes it extremely difficult for them to give really first-class work. Thus you have a number of cases where the rules that the Board of Education are now making are going to render the production of really popular plays of the kind indicated extremely difficult.
There is the "Blue Bird." I do not know how many performances have been given of that, but one knows to a certain extent the history of the boy who played in it. There is "Peter Pan" and other famous plays of that character, and there is melodrama against which my right hon. Friend has raised a satirical eyebrow. There is the immortal case of "Little Willie" in the well-known melodrama, and there are many cases in which melodramatic plays have done no harm, but a great deal of good, and have delighted thousands of people in this country. You will make these perfectly impossible or ridiculous to be put on the stage. Of course, you can get some fat developed person to play a child's part. In pantomime it is sometimes done with the most comic effect, but such a proceeding would not be very good for the drama or helpful artistically. I do think, in these cases, the right hon. Gentleman 843 might consider how the children have really been affected in the past or how they are affected now. If the Board of Education really had taken this thing in hand these rules might have been more elastic. There are not very many children concerned. If the Board makes their rules stringent enough, will you keep the children out of undesirable entertainments? You will keep them out of the beautiful plays of Shakespeare and other like plays, which are a great education to them. In this case, I think, the President has been led away by the idea that if he gave way upon this he might have to give way upon matters which he has already surmounted on the Committee stage. This is a matter in which he might make the concession asked for, and let those who have given years and years to the study of children point out how it works. I quite appreciate that he is going to make some concession in giving two and a half years, I think, before the "appointed" day comes in. That only deals with the hard cases of the children who have already begun their education. Although that is better than nothing, it does not touch the point on which I am appealing. I do indeed urge upon Members of the House who feel strongly upon this matter and who realise that this concession might be made without the slightest harm, and that in doing so we might do something to redeem our artistic credit in this country—I do urge them to appeal to the President in this matter to give way to what I believe to be the real sense of the House and of the country and for once to make some concession to the artistic prejudices of the leaders of the theatrical profession.
§ Captain CARR-GOMM
I desire to support what has just been said by the last speaker. The more you specialise in regard to the education you are going to give to the child the more interesting it becomes. Here you have under the arrangements made by all the authorities concerned for these very young children a system which has proved itself thoroughly interesting and engrossing to the child. If these children are not allowed to take part in this enlightening profession they will be devoting all their time to mere routine subjects. Here the child is taken very young and it finds itself associated with very interesting work. The London County Council have now found that the more they specialise in certain departments of 844 education the more successful it is. I would like to refer to one of the circulars sent round by Mr. Irving. The hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Hemmerde) urged the Board of Education to devise some scheme by which these few children could have education and at the same time continue the system under which they work under existing contracts. Mr. Irving said that the theatrical profession was prepared to place itself entirely under the Board of Education with regard to the licensing of children on the condition that they gave power to instruct them in elementary education. It would not invalidate the general principle on which this Bill is founded if we were to meet the demands of this profession, which has such an educating influence for these few children.
§ Colonel GRETTON
May I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give this matter a little more consideration? It cannot be contended that an occasional entertainment in an elementary school can be considered to be dramatic training.
That is not my argument, which was that I saw nothing in the Bill to prevent specialised training. What I spoke of was performances for profit.
§ Colonel GRETTON
The theatrical profession know what they are talking about, and they are convinced that public appearances on the stage are an essential part of training for the theatre, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman should override the universal experience of those whose business it is to deal with these matters on on the stage. I was very much struck by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman did not introduce any serious reasons why this dramatic training should not take place. He says that he does not object to the training but to the appearance, but on this point his argument falls to the ground. The stage has always been an exception in these cases, and the dramatic profession has made really handsome offers to the Government to undertake that the children engaged shall not suffer in the ordinary course of their education in any way. They are prepared to submit to any kind of restrictions and limitations regarding the ordinary education of the child that the Board of Education may wish to impose. I submit that this is a case where the right hon. Gentleman might have made a concession.
845 The profession have put their case before the House in the most moderate way, and they assure us that there is all the difference in the world between the age of ten and twelve. With regard to the appearance of the child in public, and the objection to a child appearing for profit, I would point out that the parents of a poor child cannot afford an expensive training, and, if the child can earn a little by appearing in public, it ensures the continuance of its dramatic training. Dramatic talent is not confined to those who attend the public schools or universities. It is to be found elsewhere, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not shut out from the stage the children of parents who cannot afford an expensive training. It is not a form of cheap labour. Actors and managers assure us that a child who is competent and who has had sane training is adequately paid, and, owing to the restrictions that are imposed with regard to education, to all the formalities, and to the governesses which have to be provided in the case of travelling companies, it is a very expensive form of labour. It cannot be called cheap or sweated labour. On these grounds, I submit that the arguments which have been addressed to the House by the right hon. Gentleman are not sound, and I would appeal to him not to persist in the attitude that he has taken up on this question.
Mr. T. WILSON
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has not quite made up his mind that he will not give any consideration to the Amendment before the House. I do not know that I am specially interested in theatricals, but I do say that if a boy or a girl wishes to go upon the stage the right hon. Gentleman has no right to stand in the way of that boy or girl making his or her way in the world. Last week-end I had a talk with one of the oldest theatrical managers in the country, and he suggested that if a boy or girl of eleven years of age could pass an examination in Standard VI. subjects, the Board of Education should not stand in the way of that child making its way in the world upon the stage. I suggest that he might make an educational test whether a boy or girl shall be allowed to appear upon the stage. Can he prevent a boy or girl appearing in private theatricals without any pay at all? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If he cannot, what is the difference?
What is the difference between appearing in private theatricals and on the stage and being paid for it? If there is no difference, then the right hon. Gentleman ought to accept the Amendment. I am afraid that not only the right hon. Gentleman but other Members of this House are becoming obsessed with regard to educational questions. They are giving no consideration, shall I say, to the economic position of some of these children. If the right hon. Gentleman had made this a test question at an election, he would not have got hits Bill through; therefore, wherever he can make a concession without sacrificing the principle of the Bill he ought to do so. How many boys and girls are going to be affected by this concession? Very few indeed. I am not prejudiced in this matter, but I believe that if a boy or girl shows any special aptitude for any profession—I do not care what it is—the right hon. Gentleman ought to put a Clause in the Bill which will permit these boys and girls to develop their abilities. Suppose a boy or girl of eleven years of age saw a girl drowning at ten o'clock at night, and, if he or she could swim, is not that child to exercise what skill it possesses to rescue the drowning girl—it might be a baby—or has that child first to obtain the assent of the licensing authorities before it can go into the river or canal? For goodness' sake let us have a little common sense. We have not much common sense in connection with education at the present time. A concession of this kind ought to be made. There is no sacrifice of principle with regard to child labour in accepting it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman even now will recognise that he will not in any way damage the Bill, but will be meeting the views of some—they are not a great number—who are interested in the children receiving an education which will fit them to earn their living in after life.
Mr. H. SAMUEL
I have listened with close attention to the whole of this Debate, and I must admit that the arguments in favour of this Amendment have been advanced with great force, ingenuity, and skill, but, for my part, they leave me quite unconvinced. I thought that the speech of the President of the Board of Education was quite conclusive on the point. He either followed or forestalled all the arguments that could be advanced in favour of a special concession in this 847 case. The hon. Member for the Westhoughton Division (Mr. T. Wilson) said that in all these matters we should have regard to the economic position of the children.
I quoted his words. He said that wherever a concession could be made it was advisable to make it.
I said that without in any way injuring the principle of the Bill the concession ought to be made.
But are you not injuring the central principle of the Bill? I understood my hon. Friend's position was that a child was a potential wage-earner, that it is a very good thing for his parents that he should be able to earn something, that the child is better off in the long run through earning money, and so forth. If we accept that principle, then all children ought to be allowed to earn money and improve their position.
I must protest against the right hon. Gentleman misrepresenting what I said. I said that if a child showed a special aptitude for any profession.
I think the other portions of the hon. Member's speech had some other application. The last thing I wish to do is to put into my hon. Friend's mouth words which he would be the first to disavow. I quite accept the hon. Member's position as he states it. If the child has a special aptitude for a profession, let it get trained for that profession. We would all desire that, but do not let it be turned into wage-earning at the age of ten years. It is said by hon. Members there are very few children concerned, as though that is an argument in its favour. They assert the child will get great advantages in view of its future career by being allowed to perform on the stage in its tender years. Why do they adopt this apologetic attitude of saying there are very few such cases? Should they not rather express their sorrow there are so very few: should they not wish there were millions to whom this early training would be so advantageous? I rather think that argument vitiates their ease. If it be proposed to prevent children 848 going on the stage until they are sixteen years of age complaint might be made that it would not be possible to train their special aptitude for a theatrical career. But that is not proposed. The Bill does not even propose to exclude children from the stage at the age of thirteen or twelve. The sole point at issue is whether little children of the age of ten or eleven are to be allowed not merely to get theatrical training—not merely to be taught dancing, singing or voice production, but are to perform as members of a theatrical company for profit. It seems to me that the right place for such a child is school in the daytime and bed at night-time.
§ Mr. HAROLD SMITH
The right hon. Gentleman's argument leaves me quite cold. I had hoped he would have had stronger arguments to put forward, for although I am in favour of the Amendment, I see it is open to strong criticism. Both the right hon. Gentlemen (Mr. H. Samuel) and the President have omitted to bear in mind the fact that these children before they can perform must be licensed. The President, speaking on a previous Amendment, placed great reliance on the fact that by-laws were to be made by the local authorities, and I would venture to place equal reliance on the common sense of these licensing authorities, which are similar to the bodies deputed to make the by-laws related to the previous Amendments. These children are not to be invited day in and day out to perform any class of stage play and to make it their profession entirely. The Amendment merely ensures that under special circumstances, and certainly having regard to the class of play which the child is invited to appear in, the authorities may issue a licence to the child, and I believe it would be a great mistake in the interests of the drama, as well as of the child and its parents, if we were to make it impossible for the licensing authorities to say, in a special case, that until the child reaches the age of twelve it must not take any part in the profession. If we look back among the brightest stars in the theatrical firmament for generations, and even centuries past, we shall see that they imbibed their earliest training at a very tender age indeed. When in those rare cases you find genius, I should be sorry indeed to think it has been stamped out by a Section in any Education Act which received the approval of this House. I was very much struck by the words of 849 the hon. Member below the gangway. He has a right to speak on behalf of the labouring classes, and I am sure he would be the first to realise the cogency of the argument used by my hon. and learned Friend opposite as to the difficulty of finding children born of working-class parents who can hold their own with those who have had better education in the great competition of the stage. That is probably one of the most cogent arguments which have been used, because the first thing an actor or actress has to learn is to speak the English language as it is understood by well-educated ladies and gentlemen, and you can only give that opportunity to the sons and daughters of working-class parents by training them at a very tender age. I beg the right hon. Gentleman, even at this late stage, to reconsider his decision. The stage has always been treated differently from other professions, and always must be, and I feel that by refusing the principle of this Amendment—I do not think it is too happily worded—the Department over which the right hon. Gentleman presides is stamping upon the profession and rendering it impossible for young children to acquire that knowledge and that training in the profession in which they can seldom succeed unless that training and knowledge are acquired at a tender age.
We have been told that unless children are trained for the stage at the early age of ten there is no hope of their achieving success. A very little time ago, I was in an elementary school in a very poor district of London and a little girl about the age of eleven recited one of the favourite pieces of Shakespeare with an absolutely pure accent and with the greatest possible beauty of expression and gesture. At the same time I am prepared to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member (Mr. Hemmerde), which will postpone for two years and six months the operation of this Clause and I am prepared to prolong that period to three years, during which period we shall have had some experience of the new system of licensing, but I am not prepared at this moment to concede the main principle which is embodied in the Amendment.
§ Mr. WILSON-FOX
That does not seem to me and those who take the same view on the subject to meet the case we are now considering.
§ Mr. WILSON-FOX
I am very glad that it is withdrawn. I think the effect of its being withdrawn is that this House will decide that it is not going to be overridden in the manner the President of the Board of Education is taking up in these matters. One of the most remarkable things in connection with this Bill is that the party to which I belong has been constantly compelled to intervene to endeavour to preserve the liberties of classes with which they are not usually associated. We have endeavoured throughout this Bill to preserve the liberties of the poorer classes. We are not standing up in defence of the class to which most of us belong, and in these circumstances I do beg the House to consider this question very closely indeed. What we are trying to do is to preserve the rights of the children of the poorer classes, whom the experts of the theatrical profession—and it is those men we have to consider in this matter—claim will be lost to them for ever if we are not ready to pursue the policy these experts recommend. These experts are quite prepared to adopt any safeguards necessary to ensure the proper care and proper education of these children. That is a very fair offer, and to dismiss it, as the President of the Board of Education has done, is not a proper way of meeting it. No one doubts the great authority possessed by the President of the Board of Education as an educational authority, but he is not an authority upon questions connected with the stage, and on these great questions of artistic education, I think it is playing with this House to tell us that the artistic faculties of these children are going to be developed by the ordinary teacher of the elementary schools. To put up such a case against the opinion of the great leaders of the stage—to whom quite a deserved tribute has been paid this evening—is really asking us to be persuaded by the most childish argument. I put it to this House this evening, what we are asking it to do by this Amendment, is to give these children who have special artistic gifts, which are extremely rare, which are not possessed by the thousands of children to which my right hon. Friend opposite referred, what we are asking is that opportunity should be given to those children possessing those very rare and very special gifts the chance of developing them in the manner which the experts of the theatrical 851 profession believe to be the only way. That is a very simple issue. I do not desire that the education of these children should be neglected in the least, but we do ask that the President of the Board of Education should be persuaded in this matter by those who know best what they are talking about. If it goes to a Division, I shall support the Amendment most heartily.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
In the first place, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will adhere to the attitude he has taken up. With due respect to the eloquent speeches that have been made to-night, if he makes a concession in favour of children on the stage he will cause great offence indeed to a large number of people in this country. It would be presumption for me to say much about the morality or what-not of the stage, but it is an awful place for a child of ten years to be. With great respect, I speak for a large number of Nonconformists. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] We are entitled to make our views heard, and I do say, with humility, yet with confidence, that if the right hon. Gentleman gives way on this point he will offend a very large number of people who are hearty supporters of his Bill.
I had not the advantage of hearing the earlier portion of the discussion, but I listened with great interest to the later stage. I gather that my right hon. Friend, in deference to the opinions which have been expressed outside and also in this House, did accept the long Amendment of the hon. Member which makes an exception for the children who are employed in theatres, and stated that he had no intention of withholding from such children the provisions which are provided for in that Amendment. In making that concession the right hon. Gentleman has put the stage children in a special position. But stage children are not the only children for whom a special case has been made out in the discussions in this House. A special case has been made out for children in rural areas, whose knowledge of rural life must be acquired as early as the capacity of acting on the stage. But in this matter of making special provision for stage children my right hon. Friend was prepared to go further and accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk postponing the operation of the Bill 852 practically for a period of two and a half years after the date of the passing of the Act. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he would go further than that, and make it three years, and he hoped by that means to have given the country time to make a test of the licensing system. I have no doubt that the theatrical profession would accustom itself to the new conditions in that time. In making the concession of three years I do not think that my right hon. Friend is going too far, and I regret that he appeared to withdraw the concession which he had promised. If the period of three years were given we might come to a general agreement, and avoid any sign of that friction which happily has been absent from the whole of to-day's discussion.
I am quite willing to renew my promise to the hon. Member, and to make the period three years. I think really that the House has hardly done me justice in the matter. I have been at great pains to put myself in communication with the theatrical profession and to ascertain their views, and I have gone very carefully into the question of licensing, and I have come to the conclusion that I can grant the scheme of licences to which he referred, and I have also made a special arrangement as to exempting theatrical children over the age of twelve. The only point I have differed from my theatrical friends is in respect of the children under twelve, and here I am ready to go as far as I can in the direction of developing opportunities for dramatic training. The only point on which I have differed is as to the actual age in which they are to take part in theatrical performances
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
I have an Amendment on the Paper, providing that the operation of paragraphs (ii) and (iii) shall, as regards children employed on the stage, be postponed until after the expiration of two years and six months from the date of the passing of this Act. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman proposes that it should be moved later.
I should be obliged if my hon. and learned Friend would move this a little later in the Bill, when we come to the "appointed day," and I suggest that the Amendment might be 853 moved in this form—"Shall not be earlier than three years after the passing of this Act." It would come more conveniently then, after the Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
I see no objection to that, but I would suggest that it would make it a good deal easier if he could give it another year; otherwise I shall certainly move it later.