§ (1) If a young person fails except by reason of sickness or other unavoidable cause to comply with any requirement imposed upon him under this Act for attendence at a continuation school, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five shillings, or, in the ease of a second or subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding one pound.
§ (2)If a parent of a young person, by wilful default or by neglecting to exercise due care, has conduced to the commission of an offence under the immediately preceding Sub-section, or has caused or connived at the failure on the part of the young person to attend a continuation school as required under this Act, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding two pounds, or, in the case of a second or subsequent offence, whether relating to the same or other person, to a fine not exceeding five pounds.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (1).
I move this Amendment because my strong conviction and belief is that it really involves a danger to education, and the more the subject of compulsion is studied the more it is to be feared. The right hon. Gentleman, by the Clause which has just been passed, has established the important principle that, in connection with our system of education instruction shall be continued from the age of fourteen until the age of eighteen. By this means it is hoped to make good the waste that goes on between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, when much of 2078 what has been gained in the primary school is lost, and all the time, trouble, money and care that has been expended in laying the foundations of a national system of education rendered valueless, or wasted, and lost after the child has left school at the age of fourteen. The President of the Board of Education has built up a new scheme, a wider and larger scheme of education for the young children of this country, and I admit that it is quite natural that he should not desire to leave that scheme suspended in air, with no definite means by which to achieve its object and render it useful to the country. But, in this first Subsection of Clause 11, whichever way we look at it, he introduces a principle which I am convinced will never work practically or smoothly when put into operation. How does the right hon. Gentleman propose to enforce compulsory (attendance of boys and girls at these continuation schools? Fines are proposed in this Sub-section, and it seems to me almost barbarous to say that a fine of 5s. shall be inflicted, and in case of a repetition of the offence of non-attendance, the penalty may be increased to £l. Can that, I ask, be associated with an ideal scheme? Is it likely to make education more pleasant, or to prove more grateful in the nostrils of the people? Is compulsion likely to make more acceptable to the people of this country a scheme that is to raise and to enlighten the community, to stimulate and make more active the intelligence of the people? Is it likely that this proposal will give the ideal of the right hon. Gentleman a brighter aspect in the minds of the populace or of the parents, or of the children for whose benefit this great project is intended? Again, how is this fine of 5s. or of £l to be recovered? Boys and girls have not the means of paying it, nor could you get the cash out of them, for they have no property which could be sold in order to realise the fines. Nor will these penalties have the desired effect unless they are ultimately backed by imprisonment in case of default. Does the right hon. Gentleman, if fines are not paid, propose to crowd our gaols with young prisoners? Is that the way in which it is proposed to enlighten the people and give rise to a new era of educational efficiency? In public schools they have effectual methods of ensuring attendance without resort to fines. An hon. Member below the Gangway re- 2079 marked that in connection with our public schools we were seeking to draw class distinctions, but I would point out to him that in those schools the method of enforcing attendance, where a boy plays truant, is of a drastic description, and proves a most efficacious method, though I fear that such methods as are adopted in the public schools would be considered somewhat barbarous if applied to State-aided schools, and it is to be assumed the right hon. Gentleman does not propose to use these drastic methods to enforce compulsory attendance at continuation schools between the ages of fourteen and eighteen.
I do ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he really thinks this proposal a desirable one, and whether it is not going to a lower scale to endeavour to get this scheme of continued and higher education with the aid of compulsion. We have had some experience of this question of compulsion in Scotland. Ten years ago an Act was passed by which attendance at continuation classes was made compulsory in that country, and I am quite sure that I am right in saying that not a single case has been tried before the Court since the passing of the Act in 1908, which has practically remained a dead letter, though the continuation schools have been and are now being carried on very efficiently and very satisfactorily. I am quite certain that the attempt to carry out compulsion by fines, or by ultimate resort to imprisonment, in connection with Scottist continuation schools would have led to a breakdown and to a strong protest on the part of the parents. But, as I have said, the legislation of 1908 is practically a dead letter. It may be all very well to have this brutum fulmen, but to make the statement that there is to be compulsory attendance when you are not prepared to carry it into actual effect is to create difficulties, for it makes people become accustomed to thinking that legislation does not mean all that it says, and that its bark is worse than its bite, and compulsion would fail when you came to put it into operation. The right hon. Gentleman has laid down the dictum that education is to go on until eighteen, and I urge him now to get rid of this bugbear of compulsion, which has for so long been an irksome part of our educational machinery. It has alienated a good deal of parental interest. It has stirred up a certain rebellious feeling on the part of the children, 2080 and I am convinced, after a long experience of nearly half a century of educational administration, that to force education by penalties is a great mistake. I would venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman two lines of procedure which he might take rather than the one that he proposes in this Sub-section. Instead of trying to enforce this compulsory attendance by criminal penalties, why not hold out as the first principle you lay down that the lavish expenditure and the lavish care and the great labour that are spent on these young people in their education by the State imply on their part what we have never sufficiently inculcated in them—namely, the obligation of national service, which ought to be reciprocal. Secondly, if they fail to use those lavish opportunities provided for them at enormous cost, is it not better, in order to bring home to them their responsibilities, to refuse to them some of their privileges as citizens?
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
On a point of Order. Might I ask your ruling on this question? "We have in Clause 10 laid down what is called compulsory attendance at these schools, and, under the circumstances, is it in order to raise the question whether or not there should be that compulsion? We have gone beyond the question of moral obligation, and it is a compulsory obligation which must surely be enforced in some way. It may be argued that these penalties are excessive, but surely there ought to be some kind of penalty!
§ Sir H. CRAIK
In Clause 11 we are now discussing the means by which the obligation to attend continuation schools shall be enforced, and I think I am in order in suggesting that instead of a fine—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not think I can stop the hon. Baronet, except that I would suggest that he is rather elaborating the argument than dealing with the real point before the Committee.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
Surely it is not inopportune that I should have suggested, having found fault with the method which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to employ, in the first place, that he should go to work rather through the sense of responsibility, and, secondly, that this responsibility should be brought home, not by fines and punishments, but by depriving the parents of some of the great privileges which they possess as citizens! On these grounds I move my Amendment, 2081 with regret at the interruption of the passage of the Bill; but I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will acquit me of acting from anything but a sincere and earnest desire that the working of the Bill should be as smooth as possible.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
It seems to me that the best reason for leaving out Subsection (1) is that it is cryptic. I dislike very strongly the drafting of Acts of Parliament in a fashion to look as though they were innocuous. This Clause, penalising children who play truant to the school, introducing them to the Police Court and the police magistrate, mentions only the fines that can be imposed, in the fend hope that Members will pass the Clause without realising that if the fines are not paid the children will go to prison. Anybody who proposes compulsion had better look the facts in the face and realise that fines mean imprisonment if those fines are not paid, for otherwise they are useless, because unless they are backed by the fear of prison the fines cannot be extracted. I think, therefore, in the first place, that a Clause like this, penalising, as the hon Member who preceded me said, the victims of this Act if they do. not attend school, should be above all things clear and precise. We see now that every child who does not attend school, or who does not send in a reasonable excuse, is liable to be hailed before the bench by an over-active attendance officer, prosecuted, and if he or she fails to find the 5s. and costs, always remembering that the costs are a great deal more than the 5s., that boy or girl will be sent to prison. I suppose there will be the benefit of the First Offenders' Act, but cases of subsequent offence are not uncommon. That is my first objection, that you should state how long the period of imprisonment is as well as the fine.
My second objection is equally strong. The association of the children of this country between the ages of fourteen and eighteen with the Police Court seems to be utterly undesirable and contrary to all good legislation. The third reason I have for objecting to it is that the youth of this country are imbibing a certain amount of the new spirit which is abroad to-day, and there is good reason for supposing that the very fact that we pass an Act of Parliament to say that any boy or girl who does not go to school should go to prison is enough to put the youth of this country against it. We all 2082 know the feeling of boys and girls of public school age about school That there are a lot of elderly Gentlemen in this House who are saying to the children of the working classes, "We think you ought to go to school, and we will send you to prison if you do not," is alone quite enough to put the backs up of a great many of the young people of to-day. I remember, some years ago, that my boy was in danger of being ordered to stop at a particular school, and he said that if the order was made for him to stop there he would immediately pack up his things and run away. He was a chip of the old block. If you try your compulsion on the young people of to-day, you may get more than you look for in the way of opposition. That is what I wish to say on this general question. But I do think oven if compulsion is desirable, and even if that passion for compulsion must be expressed at any cost to the people of this country, we might have the compulsion expressed rather differently than it is in this Bill. No one has been more impressed than I have been with the damage to parental responsibility owing to the State taking over from the parent with regard to the children many of the responsibilities which used to be the parents. The whole tendency of modern legislation is to treat the parent as a person who is necessarily Lad, bound for all time to be bad, and likely to get worse in his or her treatment of the children. We pass continually Acts of Parliament to protect and shepherd off the children from their parents. Under compulsory education we take away from the parent any sort of responsibility for the education of the child, and there is no doubt that if you go about this world you will find much less parental responsibility to-day than you would have found twenty years ago.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I have just intimated that I do not see that it is to the point, and if I do not see it is to the point it is not to the point.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
That is the new spirit. The point is that if you by this Act put the penalty on the child instead of on the parent you will still further reduce 2083 the responsibility of the parent in connection with the education of the child. This Sub-section—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The earlier parts of the hon. and gallant Member's speech were perfectly in order, and he dealt properly from my point of view, the point of view of order, with the Amendment, but he must not launch himself now into general questions.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The point of this Amendment, as I understand it, is this, that Sub-clause (1) decides that compulsion is to be obtained by penalties on the child. Obviously if there is to be compulsion there must be compulsion upon somebody, and the point of my argument is that rather than put the compulsion on the child it should still be put upon the parent. Under Sub-section (2) it is put on the parent, and if we leave out Sub-section (1) the compulsion will remain on the parent alone, as it is under the Elementary Education Act, and, therefore, my argument is that it is undesirable to exercise compulsion upon the child. But I have even a better suggestion to make than that. The right hon. Gentleman and I, and I suppose most of us here, have spent amiable Sunday afternoons addressing what is known as Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Societies. We all know what wonderful attendances those meetings have. Certainly in the Midlands you get anything from 800 to 2,000 members together Sunday after Sunday to listen to rather second-rate speeches. How do they get that attendance of grown-up men and women? They get it by giving a penny a week to everybody who attends and then giving prizes at the end of the season in book form paid with the penny a week attendance. In that way they secure regular attendance by a form of bribery, if you like, but there is not really any bribery in it, but merely the fact that regularity of attendance secures a prize.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am sorry to interrupt again, but compulsion to attend continuation schools is fixed by Clause 10, which says that all young persons shall attend continuation schools, and this Clause deals solely with the method by which that compulsion shall be enforced. This question, therefore, does not arise.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
It is hopeless, therefore, to suggest a satisfactory volun- 2084 tary method now, and the pleasant Sunday afternoon method falls to the ground. But would it not be possible even at this stage to transfer the responsibility from the child to the parent? Why is it necessary to start the child with an acquaintance with the Police Court? Why put the young people of this country dead against the Government and dead against society at this early age? Is it not bad enough that we have made the respectable elements familiar with the prison and the Police Courts without extending thorn to the children of the working classes? One of the great supports of society throughout the world is the fear of the working classes of being sent to prison. Once you get them accustomed to prison find sufficiently contemptuous of all that the State can do to face prison with equanimity. you will then get a state of society which it will be very difficult to render permanent and safe.
§ Mr. MALCOLM
I would like to say two things to my right hon. Friend who is in charge of this Bill. The first is, I am sure he is aware that in normal 6.0 P.M. times this Bill is going to create a great deal of friction between the two sides of the House. I cannot follow the President in supporting this Sub-section, largely on the grounds that have already been given in the two interesting speeches to which we have just listened. I cannot bring myself to think it is a good plan for the children of this country to be brought. however occasionally, into the Police Court. The company they would there have to consort with is not the company for children. In the second place, I have always been a great believer in the responsibility of the parents. In the Sub-section which follows I think there is sufficient penalty put upon the parents. I would beg my right hon. Friend to leave it to parental responsibility to see that the child or young person goes to the continuation school. I can really assure him he is pushing many of us very, very far in asking us to support this Subsection. and on this occasion I shall be unable to follow him into the Lobby if he does not give us some satisfaction.
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
I also put down this Amendment. because I thought it would be distinctly injurious to the objects of the Bill that a Sub-section of this kind should remain. The question of compulsory continuation schools has been before the House for some years, and for my own 2085 part I never have believed it possible absolutely to compel young persons between fourteen and eighteen to go to these schools if they are not disposed. I always regarded the compulsion not so much to the young person as to the local authority and the employers. You can compel the employers to make such arrangements that their employés shall attend school a certain number of hours a week, as arranged in the Bill, and the employers can themselves impose some sort of penalties on these young persons if they fail to attend school. They can dismiss them from their employment, for one thing. That is a very strong remedy. You can also put an amount of compulsion upon the local authority. But I never have believed for one moment that you can compel, by a fine or any other means, young people to attend these schools. You. are going to bring them before the magistrates. I sit on a Court where young people are sometimes brought before the! magistrates. I feel certain that numbers of magistrates would refuse to impose a fine, or, if they did, it would be a fine of 6d. or 3d., or some such sum, and this would be no deterrent to these young people absenting themselves from the classes. There is nothing in this Clause as indicating what is to be done with these young people, suppose they refuse to attend these classes. It does not say they shall have three months' or three weeks imprisonment. In these circumstances, I do sincerely hope the President will omit this Sub-section altogether. What we want to do is to make this instruction in these schools so attractive to these young people that they will attend. It is an old saying that you can take a horse to the well but you cannot make him drink, and, as would be done in Germany, you could take these young people between two soldiers and put them in continuation schools, but you could not compel them to learn. You do not want to compel them to go to school, but to induce them to learn, and you can only do that by making the instruction thoroughly attractive. I do hope the President will not insist on this Subsection.
§ Mr. WILSON-FOX
I think it is a practical suggestion, and calculated to save the time of the Committee, if I ask my right hon. Friend, after the three speeches to which we have listened, if he cannot take time to consider this question. This Bill is brought forward at a 2086 time when it cannot be properly considered by the country, and it is most essential, in order to give it a chance at all, to make it as little unpopular as possible. I am sure when the people of this country wake up to the fact that their children may suffer from the stigma of being sent to prison, there will be a howl of indignation throughout the country. As my hon. Friend pointed out, the stigma may disappear, in which case it may be a very bad thing for the administration of justice. I hope my right hon. Friend the President will withdraw this Sub-section, and consider whether he cannot adopt the suggestion of my right hon. Friend, and possibly substitute some diminution of civic rights for a limited period.
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
I think the Committee has forgotten the provisions of the Children Act, and the statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for New-castle-under-Lyme would not have been made if he had had those provisions more clearly before his mind, because there are very elaborate provisions in the Children Act in Clauses 94 to 101 for dealing with the case of children and young persons who have been convicted of an offence and fined. In the first place, they arc not sent to prison, but to special places of detention—
so that they shall not, by the mere fact of being charged, associate with adult criminals.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will allow me to proceed:Where a child or young person is charged before any Court with any offence for the commission of which a fine, damages, or costs may be imposed, and the Court is of opinion that the case would be best met by the imposition of a fine, damages or costs,in that case, if they think it proper, they can make the fine or the damages or costs payable by the parent or guardian, and I should imagine that is exactly what they would do. Further, in the case of a fine payable by a child or young person, the costs can in no case exceed the amount of the fine. Further:A child shall not be sentenced to imprisonment or penal servitude for any offence, or committed to prison in default of payment of a fine, damages, or costs.2087 As regards the young person:A young person shall not be sentenced to imprisonment for an offence, or committed to prison in default of payment of a fine, damages, or costs, unless the Court certifies that the young person is of so unruly a character that he cannot be detained in a place of detention provided under this Part of this Act, or that he is of so depraved a character that he is not a fit person to be so detained.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
This is perfectly germane. Under these circumstances, the picture which has been drawn by the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme is one which is very wide of the facts, and the whole of the difficulty has been provided for under the Children Act, so that the difficulty which is apprehended appears to be worthless.
§ Sir J. D. REES
As the Committee is engaged to-day in the creation of crimes, and as the learned Attorney-General is here, would it not be far better to learn from him, than from my right hon. Friend opposite, however competent a lawyer he is, what is the state of the case? I understand the law as to these fines, which I regard as cruel and altogether deprecate, to be as my hon. and gallant Friend laid it down, but, as the learned Attorney-General has come here for the purpose of helping us, I suggest it would be convenient for the Committee if he said whether or not these fines are enforceable by imprisonment. The point is whether the young person in being convicted by a criminal Court and being fined is not subject to a penalty which, under the common law of the country, is enforceable by imprisonment if fine is not paid. That is the point. and not whether the young person comes under the very comprehensive Statute to which no one pays any attention. I was here when the Children's Act was passed; it created a crime every five minutes. I submit that if children are to suffer this stigma, and are to be convicted of an offence which, under the common law, is subject to imprisonment, my hon. Friend is perfectly right, and my hon. Friend opposite is as near wrong as he can possibly be. Besides making that suggestion, which I have been burning to make, lest the learned Attorney-General left the House before I spoke, may I ask whether upon the Motion to omit this Sub- 2088 section we can also discuss the two following Amendments standing in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend and myself, so as to save time?
§ Sir D. REES
I submit that if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln (Mr. C. Roberts) is right, and no action can be taken to enforce fine, then it will be perfectly futile to make continuation classes compulsory, because there will be no penalty and no sanction, and therefore the Clause will be a brutum fulmen, if I may borrow my hon. Friend's (Sir P. Magnus) thunder. We have decided there is to be compulsion, but it may be. permissible to state that if imprisonment is enforceable in default of payment, and if these fines are to be paid by the parent, the utmost cruelty is perpetrated by this Clause, which it is impossible to exaggerate. Even if the present high wages, which are not universal, survive the War, and are in force when the appointed day dawns, the utmost cruelty will be occasioned to children if this Clause, which I utterly abhor, becomes law. It is utterly uncharacteristic of a free State that children up to the age of eighteen, who are now old enough to go and fight for their country, should be driven to school with whips, punished with fines, and their parents' slender means drawn upon to pay these fines; or, if they do not, the children will have to go to prison, or remain under the stigma of the punishment. Besides which, in these days, greatly to our satisfaction, many of the magistrates are working men—perhaps I should say wage-earners, which is an expression I prefer. Many of the justices of the peace, I say, are wage-earners, and you are going to put them in the cruel position of being bound to fine a brother wage-earner for having failed to attend a continuation school, which I feel pretty sure, every hon. Member who hears me, thinks is no other than a venial peccadillo. It is not a criminal offence not to attend school. Why, truancy from school has been the very synonym of a trifling offence since the days of Shakespeare! There is not a man who would do more than gently chide anybody who failed to comply with this Clause. I will finish my remarks by asking the learned Attorney-General to let us know exactly what will be the position of these children if this cruel Clause becomes law.
§ Mr. RENDALL
Hon. Members who have just spoken seem to forget that this particular Sub-section is not the first Sub-section rendering children liable to a fine. They forget that children can be fined for a very large number of offences. They can be fined for stealing apples, and for breaking windows.
§ Mr. RENDALL
They can be brought before the magistrates and fined, and those fines, under the Children's Act, fall upon the parents. Are we really, in the one case where, in my opinion, a fine will do good, in the case where we compel the attendance of the child at school to its advantage, to say it is the one occasion where that fine is unjustifiable? It seems to me to be the one case where a fine is justifiable. If you take this Clause out you technically leave no power whatever to the education authority to make the child attend school. The Clause, I think, is a desirable one, and I shall be very much surprised to see any Labour Member get up and say that he wants it taken out.
§ Mr. LEWIS
Several legal questions have been addressed to the Attorney-General. Perhaps before he addresses the House by way of reply I may be permitted to lay before hon. Members one or two general considerations. I listened with the deepest interest to my hon. Friends who have suggested alternatives to the penalties which are provided in this Subsection, but, it seems to me, their suggestions fall to pieces by their own weight. The Amendment suggested by the hon. and gallant Member evidently, on his own admission, does not come within the scope of this particular Bill. May I, however, remind the Committee of the deliberate decision at which they already have arrived upon Clause 10. They have decided that "all young persons shall attend such continuation schools at such times and on such days as the local education authority of the area in which they reside may require." There must be some means of enforcing that. So far, I have heard no suggestion whatever of any means by which such attendance can be enforced except the means that have been suggested in this Bill. The hon. Baronet (Sir P. Magnus) said that young people would have no cash in hand for the purpose of paying the fines. Seeing that this provision applies to young people between the ages of fourteen and eighteen I 2090 hardly think it can be said of any considerable number of them that they have no cash in hand for the purpose of paying the fine.
§ Mr. LEWIS
It is absolutely essential to lay some obligation in this matter upon the child as well as upon the parent, because while the parent, under the laws relating to elementary education, is responsible for the attendence of the child at school, we cannot attach the same measure of responsibility to the parent of the young person between fourteen and eighteen years of age. To some extent they escape from parental control, which, in cases of the sort, is a diminishing quantity. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that the young person should be responsible. My hon. Friend has conjured up all kinds of horrifying visions of the way in which these young persons will be treated. I venture to say, in connection with matters of this kind, that the law has provided, as my right hon. Friend opposite has just shown, the most elaborate safeguards for the purpose of segregating these young persons from having any connection with adult prisoners, and from preventing them being sent to prison at all. My hon. Friend is under the impression, perhaps, that a boy might be sent to a Borstal institution? The young persons with whom this Sub-section deals cannot possibly be sent to an institution of that kind. Every possible consideration, I feel sure, will be given to them.
§ Mr. LEWIS
Nor to an industrial school either. But behind it all, behind the compulsion which is exercised under Clause 10, you must have some definite sanction. So far I have heard no suggestion whatever of any sanction that would be effective for the purpose. The right hon. Baronet behind me referred to the case of Scotland. He seemed to be under the impression that in Scotland the young person can be fined, but that the system of imposing penalties upon young persons has failed in practice. That is not the case. Under the Scottish Education Act of 1908 there is 2091 no machinery whatever for fining the young person. That is the reason of the failure to compel young persons to attend these continuation schools.
§ Mr. LEWIS
Let me point out the measure of success to which my right hon. Friend refers. We have consulted the Scottish Education Department upon this point. They inform us it was found impossible to enforce attendance without imposing a penalty upon the young person. They proceed:In 1915 the Department made an inquiry of the school boards who had adopted compulsory by-laws under Section 10 of the Act of 1908. Several boards said that in the existing state of the law they had found it practically impossible to enforce attendance.From the Linlithgow School Board they received a letter, which says:This board attempted to have the young person punished, but failed, and the impounded element at once left the classes.
§ Mr. LEWIS
But, supposing that in England the local education authorities had attempted to carry out the provisions of this Bill and had provided continuation classes, had taken an enormous amount of pains to do all this, and then had found that at any time these schools were liable to be denuded of their pupils, what encouragement would they have to continue?
§ Mr. LEWIS
May I further say in regard to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman on Scotland, that the Education (Scotland) Bill which was introduced into the House of Commons on 17th December, and which, I believe, will be shortly reintroduced into the House, contains substantially the same provisions as this Bill.
§ Mr. LEWIS
Scotland is acting upon actual experience. Scotland has seen persistent failure and has discovered it is absolutely essential, if the system is to work at all, that there must be some definite sanction at the back of it. I, therefore, sincerely hope that the Committee will support the retention of this Clause. I am convinced that unless we 2092 have sanctions of this character it will practically mean the nullification of the work that the Committee have already done upon the Bill.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Before the Attorney-General replies may I point out to the Committee an error into which the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, has, I am sure in inadvertence, fallen. He began his speech by saying that the Clause referred to young persons between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. He then alluded to the safeguards which are in the Children Act, 1908. If he looks at the definition Clause, which I have just done, of the Children Act, 1908, ho will see that the word "child" means somebody under the age of fourteen, and that the words "young person" mean somebody under the age of sixteen. Therefore, these safeguards do not entirely apply to Clause 10.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
May it not be that in drafting this Clause it would have been better had the appeal in the first case as to the absence of the child been made answerable by the parents, and then leave the power in the hands of the education authority to enforce, as against the absentee and truant, some penalty, for in the first instance the parent should be credited with being the proper guardian of the child, and the person to whom the question should first of all be addressed as to why the child has been absent from school on this, that, or the other occasion. You have this further argument. There is many a high-spirited youngster, like the youngster mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Colonel Wedgwood), who might be prepared to defy the education authority in a fit of obduracy or whatever else you might call it, but who, when he knows that his absence may affect his father or mother and bring them before the Court, if he has got any stuff or quality whatever in him, or any right regard for his parents, will turn round and say, "All right, father; I will answer the appeal. I will go to school. If he has not that quality of dutiful respect for his parents, then I would like this Clause operative. My respectful suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education is that a great deal of our trouble in this matter may conceivably have arisen owing to the awkward drafting of the Clause. Had we put it the other way about and made the first appeal to show cause for the absence of the child to the parent it would have 2093 been better, and then obstinacy on the part of the child or lack of adequate parental control on the part of the parent would allow the application of a penalty Clause, not only in the personal interests of those concerned, but in the national interest.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I want to make quite sure what is the effect of this Subsection. As I understand the matter, it is, that if a boy or a girl, or a man or a woman, between the ages of sixteen and eighteen does not attend one of these continuation classes, whether the woman is married or single, if she fails to attend she is liable to be fined at the Police Court, and if she does not pay the fine she goes to prison. Let us go upon the next point. Supposing a boy or a girl, or a man or a woman, between the ages of fourteen and sixteen fails to go to a continuation class, they will be brought up to the Police Court and fined; and what happens supposing they do not pay the fine? They do not go directly to prison, like those between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, but they go to a place of detention. I hope the Committee understands the difference. That is, shortly, the effect of the Act which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) quoted as being the Act of 1909, but it is the Act of 1908, and it contains a Section after the one which the right hon. Baronet read which explains that, although they do not go to gaol, they have to go to a place of detention. I well remember many speeches that I made while those Clauses were under discussion, but I will not dwell upon that subject now. That is the position. Between the ages of fourteen and sixteen they are fined and sent to a place of detention, but between sixteen and eighteen they are fined and in default they go to gaol.
The House passed Clause 10, which says that there is to be compulsion upon people to go to continuation classes. My views are perfectly clear upon that matter, and compulsion has been passed. Compulsion means fining people, and going to prison. I do not know what other means are open to the Government. If you wish to enforce a thing you must enforce it by fine or imprisonment. The hon. Member opposite talks about liberty of the subject, but, in regard to what he was saying in his protest against children being sent to prison, I am certain the Committee would not have listened to him even if he had 2094 been in order, and least of all the Labour Members to whom he was appealing. The Committee has decided that they cannot possibly adopt the suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman opposite, to make continuation classes in the case of persons between the ages of fourteen and eighteen sufficiently attractive to persuade people to go to them, however much you subsidise them, without there is compulsion. Having decided that it is idle to object to the Government bringing in a Clause saying that if a person is compelled to attend, if they do not do so they must pay a penalty, and be brought up before the Court. If a Division is challenged on this point I shall support the Government. I think this Amendment is somewhat illogical and very unfair.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir F. Smith)
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson), in a very amusing speech, announced in language a little paradoxical the reasons which induced him to vote for this proposal. My hon. and learned Friend has given a statement of the law which is in every respect accurate. It is quite true that the Children's Act of 1908 only gives protection between the ages which the hon. and learned Member specified, and therefore the protection given by the Children's Act does not apply to those who have reached the age of seventeen or eighteen under this Bill. Therefore, my hon. and learned Friend is entirely right when he says that their case is the same as any person who is ordered to pay a fine for other offences. The Mover of the Amendment is in error in supposing that under that law as it now stands children who have committed a breach of this law and are fined could be sent to a reformatory or a Borstal institution. If they are below the age provided for in the Children's Act they go to a place of detention, but if they are above that age, they are in precisely the same position as any other person who fails to pay a fine.
§ Sir F. SMITH
But there is a place of detention. I have made inquiries, and I am told that there are. I assume that there are places of detention, because they had to be provided under the Childrens' Act, although that may be too sanguine a view. I cannot help thinking that the 2095 Committee would be well advised to consider this question a little more seriously, Rightly or wrongly we -are now committed to the principle of compulsion at this stage of the progress of the Bill, and the question is whether it ought to be directed to the parent or to the child, where the child is between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. I do not share the view of my hon. Friend who says that the best method of dealing with this question is to render the lessons so attractive that you cannot keep people away from the schools. I spent many years as a tutor at Oxford and it may have been individual errors on my part, or individual bad fortune, but I never met a teacher who inspired me with that idea; and I never met a pupil whom I was fortunate enough to inspire with that idea. If we arc to wait for that happy day I cannot help thinking that the cause of education in this country will be somewhat delayed.
Let me make one final observation. It we were going to impose upon young persons between sixteen and eighteen disabilities and penalties which were wholly novel, then there would be some ground for the apprehensions which have been expressed. What is the distinction between a fine upon a child who refuses to go to school, knowing that he or she is doing an illegal act, and a child of a more responsible age? Supposing a child rides a bicycle without a light and is fined; if that child is under the ago laid down in the Children Act there is a place of detention. But if it is a child between the ages of seventeen or eighteen who commits the same offence, no one will say that after refusing to pay a fine they should not be sent to prison. If those children ride bicycles without lamps, it is only carrying the thing a reasonable stage further to say that they should be fined. Why should a child who has refused to go to school, knowing there is a penalty for not going to school, be placed in a different position from a child who has broken another law less penal? Why is such a child to be placed in a different position? If my hon. and gallant Friend and those who have spoken in support of this Amendment and criticised the proposal of the Government will think out that illustration, they will see that at this period of the day it is a little ridiculous to make it appear that we are committing some great and new invasion of the liberties of these young children. This 2096 reflection will be tempered by another, and it is that if the House is serious in insisting that the proposals of this Bill shall be compulsory, the Government have adopted the only machinery which will really successfully secure the carrying out of that policy.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The Attorney-General knows very well that the case of a young person riding a bicycle without a lamp and the case of a child refusing to go to school are absolutely different. The reason for inflicting a fine for riding without a lamp is because by doing so there may be some injury done to someone else, but in this case you are proposing a fine and imprisonment for doing something that would not hurt anybody else at all. For the first time you are saying because you do not like your teacher, or you think he is half-German, or teaches badly, or uses the stick too freely, or because you do not like him, that that is no reason at all, and the law says you must go to school and we will fine you if you do not do so. That is the new departure to which we object. I do not think it is advisable even to send children to gaol for riding a bicycle without a lamp, but I am strongly opposed to sending children to gaol for doing something which affects nobody else but themselves. People are now becoming more and more aware that Acts of Parliament do not make things right or wrong, for it is your own conscience which does that. By this measure you are adding another to those Acts of Parliament which will be dead letters, because the people will not obey them.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I want to suggest that the years should be split. I can quite see that young men or women of seventeen are not entitled to disobey the law, but many children of fourteen and fifteen would be the wrong people to fine. I do not know why one system should apply to all these years. In the early years the parents have great influence over their children and they can either make them go to school or not, but at the ages of seventeen and eighteen the children will not take any notice of their parents. They will organise strikes and go their own way in a manner which will surprise the teaching profession. I suggest that if the parents were made responsible, at any rate for the first year, and they got the child accustomed to attending the school, the children would know exactly what their duties were under 2097 the continuation school system, and then they would know that they would be in fault if in later years they did not keep up their attendance. You propose the first year it comes into operation that the child shall be immediately responsible. I am sure that it will not work, because the Courts will not convict. If the parents were made responsible for the first year, and then, when the children were attending the continuation schools it were their duty to keep on and to comply with the law, it might possibly work. I am not
§ asking for an immediate answer, but I suggest that the system outlined will not work. I detest it so much that I shall vote against it, but I do think that the Government might frame a better suggestion by splitting the years.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'five' ["exceeding five shillings"], stand part of the Clause.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 196; Noes, 42.2099
|Division No. 53.]||AYES.||[6.46 p.m|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Glanvale, Harold Jams||Masen, David M. (Coventry)|
|Alnsworth, Sir John Stirling||Coldstone, Frank||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Alden, Percy||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Morgan, George Hay|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)||Morison, Meclor (Hackney, S.)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Greig, Colonel James William||Morton, Sir Alpneus Cleophas|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Gretton, John||Mount, William Arthur|
|Baker, Rt. Hon. H. T. (Accrington)||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Sir Ellis J.||Newman, Sir Robert (Exeter)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Nuttall, Harry|
|Ballcur, Sir Rooert (Lanark)||Haddock, Major George Bahr||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Barnett, Captain R. w.||Hall, Lt.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick Burghs)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Parkes, Sir Edward|
|Barran, Sir Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord C. J.||Parrott, Sir James Edward|
|Balhurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glos., E.)||Hanson, Charles Augustin||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Beach, William F. H.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Pease, Rt. Hen. Herbert Pike|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Peel, Major Hon. G. (Spalding)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Harris, Sir Henry P. (Paddington, S.)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Bellairs Commander C. W.||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Philipps, Maj.-Gen. Sir Ivor(S'hampton)|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Havelock-Akllan, Sir Henry||Phillips, Sir Owen (Chester)|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Pulley, C. T.|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Henry, Sir Charles||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Bird, Alfred||Herman-Hodge, Sir R. T.||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Rawllnson, John Frederick Peel|
|Boscawcn, Sir Arthur S. T. Grifflth-||Higham, John Sharp||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Hinds, John||Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir G.|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Sir C. E. H.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hops, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Robertson. Rt. Hon. J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hope, Lieut -Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Hume-Williams, sir William Ellis||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Ingleby, Holcombe||Runciman, Sir Walter (Hartlepool)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Clough, William||John, Edward Thomas||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Samuels, Arthur W.|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Smallwood. Edward|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Kenyon, Barnet||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Northampton)|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||King, Joseph||Somervell, William Henry|
|Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Currie, George W.||Lambert, Richard (Cricklade)||Spier, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eiffon)||Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Stoker, R. B.|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.||Layland-Barratt, Sir F.||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Sutherland, John E.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Du Pre, W. Baring||Lindsay, William Arthur||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Lonsdale, James R.||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram Godfray||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Thomas, Sir A. G. (Monmouth, S.)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||M'Callum Sir John M.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||McCalmont, Brig-Gen. Robert C. A.||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Tootill, Robert|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham)||M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Fleming, Sir John||Mackinder, Halford J.||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||McNelll, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Foster, Philip Staveley||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Wardle, George J.|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Whiteley, Sir H. J.|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Gilbert, J. D.||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yerks, Ripon)||Yexall, sir James Henry|
|Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon(Glasgow)|
|Winfrey, Sir Richard||Young, William (Perthshire, East)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord E.|
|Wing, Thomas Edward||Younger, Sir George||Talbot and Mr. Pratt.|
|Winterton, Captain Earl|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Anderson, W. C.||Hills, John Walter||Rowlands, James|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Hogge, James Myles||Rutherford, Sir John (Lancs., Darwan)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Holt, Richard Durning||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Jowett, Frederick William||Starkey, Captain John R.|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Sutton, John E.|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Maden, Sir John Henry||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Cator, John||Magnus, Sir Philip||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Cheyne, Sir W. W.||Malcolm, Ian||Wedgwood. Lt.-Commander Josiah|
|Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||Morrell, Philip||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Colvin, Col. Richard Beale||Nield, Sir Herbert||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Cowan, Sir W. H.||O'Grady, James|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Peto, Basil Edward||TELLERS FOR THE NOES. —Sir|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||H. Craik and Mr. Wilson-Fox.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move to leave out the word "five" ["exceeding five shillings"], and to insert instead thereof the word "two."
My Amendment is to alter the fine which can be inflicted upon these victims from 5s. to 2s. for the first offence, but I only move it formally, not wanting in the least to alter the full efficiency of the Clause either as an Act of Parliament or as an argument for the platform, in order to obtain some sort of statement from the Front Bench as to the number of days' imprisonment which may be imposed as an alternative to a fine of 5s. or 2s.
§ Sir F. SMITH
My hon. and gallant Friend may take it that the imprisonment in all cases of the 5s. penalty will not exceed seven days.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The next Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member is, I am afraid, out of order in its present form—
2100 In Sub-section (1) at the end to insert the words,Provided nevertheless that young persons convicted under this Section shall not in default of paying any fine be sent to any reformatory or Borstal institution or into such parts of any prison where they will be liable to associate with adult prisoners.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Is it out of order on these grounds? Under the Bill, as I understand it, it is possible to send persons between the ages of fourteen and sixteen to places of detention. We know that over the greater part of the country there are no places of detention other than the prison. I am afraid, where there is no place of detention, that the reformatory or the Borstal institution may be taken instead. I want to know, if I can without intending to press the Amendment to a Division. whether, where there is no place of detention, there is any risk whatever of the magistrate using one of these reformatories or Borstal institutions instead?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The reason the Amendment is out of order is because there is nothing in the Bill which can possibly empower one of these young persons to be sent to a reformatory or a Borstal institution.
§ The CHAIRMAN
No. The Amendment —In Sub-section (2), after the word "person" ["if a parent of a young person"], to insert the words "or the employer of a young person"—standing in the name of the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division (Mr. Anderson) is out of place. It is a matter for Clause 16.
Amendments made: In Sub-section (2) leave out the words,
by wilful default, or by neglecting to exercise due care, has conduced to the commission of an offence under the immediately preceding Subsection, or.
§ Leave out the word "caused" ["or has caused or connived at"], and insert instead thereof the words "conduced to." — [Mr. Fisher.]
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move to leave out the words "or connived at."
I hope this Amendment will be accepted by the Government. It seems to me to be either supererogatory or much too vague. The Clause now reads:If a parent has conduced to the failure on the part of the young person to attend a continuation school.7.0 P.M.
That seems to read all right, but I do not understand why if you say "conduced to" you need to add the unnecessary words "or connived at" as well. I hope that the Government will be able to accept this Amendment and to make the Clause read simpler. The only question which induces me to go on with this Amendment is that the phrase "connived at" is a very vague term. It is almost impossible for a parent to avoid conniving at a child's truancy. It might be some silly word said some months before the truancy occurred. It would be far better to have the definite term "conduced to," which is understood by the magistrates and not to have the very doubtful word "connived" as well.
§ Sir F. SMITH
I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that the words "conduced to or connived at" are very old partners, and this is by no means the first time they have been associated. I believe that one can, although I am not quite sure about it, draw some fine distinction of meaning between the two, but I am not quite sure that if that were done it would carry my hon. and gallant Friend in the direction he wants to go. I have not in my mind the earlier Statutes from which the words are taken—
§ Sir F. SMITH
I think not, but I am thinking rather of Acts passed in recent years. I will, however, look at these words, and if my hon. and gallant Friend thinks it worth while to raise the point on. Report, I will consider the whole question.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I am very glad to hear that statement from the Government, because this matter applies to the mother rather than to the father. When we look at these things we only think of the male parent, but there is no doubt that the mother, as a rule, has sympathy with her boy who is a truant, and perhaps desires to hide it or put the best construction on it. The phrase "connived at" will hit most mothers in most cases taken up under the Bill. I should prefer that the words were left out entirely. It is not desirable in legislation of this kind, which is so obnoxious to all the people concerned, that we should use provocative language.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I confess I do not quite know what is the meaning of the words "connived at." Almost every parent has connived at some crime of this character on the part of children, and will continue to do so as long as they have any bowels of compassion or any sympathy with youthful indiscretion. The Attorney-General says the words "connived at" and "conduced to" are old friends. Everybody knows what it is to cause the failure of a child to attend school, but if it is a case of conniving at such failure, it is a horse of a very different colour. These cases will come before Courts which are not well posted in legal decisions, and although the Attorney-General says that these words have been partners for a long time, I hope the partnership is not so close that it cannot now be dissolved.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. PETO
I do not want to bring any legal arguments before either the Committee or the Attorney-General, but to register my views and say why I object to this Clause. From a common-sense point of view one is particularly glad to have the Attorney-General here, because there is no man in this House of whose common sense I have a greater opinion than of his. What will be the real operation of this Clause? Let us consider what responsibility in respect of these young persons the Board of Education has undertaken. They have taken away, for the greater part of most of the days of the year, from their parents children from the age of five to fourteen. They now propose this continuation education.
2103 Therefore they have, to a large extent, taken the parental position, and have necessarily, by the elaborate system of compulsory education which has been in force for a long time in this country, weakened parental control. They now propose, in the first instance, to fine a child who does not go to school, and, in the second instance, to fine a parent if he connives at or does anything to cause the absence of the child from school. What will be the effect of that? Take, for instance, a young person, who, so to speak, has kicked over the traces. Perhaps he is a very troublesome boy in many directions who has disagreed with his father, and perhaps with his mother too That is exactly the sort of child who will absolutely refuse the allurements of these continuation classes, and will not want to have anything to do with them. The best chance that he can have of getting even with his father over some other grievance is to get him fined as often as possible, knowing perfectly well that the fine will ultimately fall upon the father. The hon. Member for Stafford drew a beautiful picture of the parent appeal-ling to the better sense of the child, and he told us that as soon as the child admitted that the money would come from the father he would promise to he-come a good child and would go to school. That reminded me of the pretty endings to the moral stories on which we were brought up in early youth. It will not really happen.
This is a monstrously unjust provision, because the Board of Education, first of all, places the child and the parent in such a relationship that they have essentially weakened the stout, old, sturdy discipline of the parent which was common in the old days. The parent has not got the same authority over a child up to sixteen if the Board of Education has taken him away from home from the age of five to fourteen. Now to throw this onus upon the parent of seeing that right up to the age of eighteen this young person attends a continuation class on proper clays is throwing the burden back, when they have already deprived the parent of the real effective power of being able to say that he is law so far as his own child is concerned. We have heard in the course of these Debates that this is going to apply, as soon as Clause 10 reaches its full fruition, to young women who, possibly, have been married. Surely 2104 in cases of that kind it is quite impossible to say that a parent can use any compulsion, and it will be impossible to bring the husband in at all. I do not want to stretch the point, but that is an illustration to show how far removed is the control over these young persons with regard to whose conduct you are throwing the whole onus and expense upon the parent. On Clause 10 it was appropriate to point out, as several hon. Members did, that the whole principle of continuation education was throwing a great burden upon the poorer parents. Now a greater burden, in the first place up to £2 and afterwards up to £5, is going to be imposed upon these poor parents whose inclinations and interest would be to see that the children should not attend. They have now to sec that they do attend, and are to be fined up to £5 if they have a truant boy who is determined not to attend continuation classes. When these parents understand what the Government are doing, I am quite convinced that this Bill would become more unpopular even than it is where it is getting to be understood now. The Debate which has taken place on the Amendment to omit Subsection (1) shows that a very large number of the Members of the Committee are already repentant of their consent to the rasing of the age to eighteen, and have grave misgivings when they see all that is involved in the way of penalties, Police Courts, possibly imprisonment, and the like, in order to carry out the compulsory system. I therefore oppose the Clause.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I am not very much concerned whether or not this Clause goes into the Bill in one sense. It will not be put into operation. I undertake to say that justices cannot be found to do the horrible things intended by this Clause. In a great measure it will be a dead letter. We had a Black List brought in by a right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench with regard to children. Where is it now? Yet we nearly lost an election on it. That will happen with regard to this Clause. I doubt whether Sub-section (2), as drawn, will be operative; it will be very easy to get through it. The bulk of these cases will be nauseous to all the magistrates before whom they are brought. There will be a general feeling amongst the people that this is a Bill brought up not in due season. The words in Sub- 2105 section (2) are sufficiently wide to enable the magistrates and the people concerned to give the benefit of the doubt to the parents, and I think that will be done. The words areBy wilful default or by neglecting to exercise due care.They will be interpreted by common-sense men, and the result will be that the friends of liberty in this House will secure what they want owing to the wideness of the words. I hope that on Report nothing will be done to strengthen them, and that the House will pass them as they are
§ Sir J. D. REES
The Clause also says in Sub-section (2) that if a parentby wilful default or neglecting to exercise due care … or has caused or connived at.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Then there will not be so many crimes created this fine afternoon as I thought. As the Committee has decided that continuation schools shall be compulsory, I fail to see the use of opposing this Clause.
§ Clause 12 (Administrative Provisions) ordered to stand part of the Bill.