HC Deb 31 January 1930 vol 234 cc1385-463

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

The Bill is supported by practically the whole of the workers on docks and wharves on the canals and by many of the men who are engaged in the actual working of these canal boats. It is also supported very strongly indeed by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Their support is influenced by the fact that, after many years of trial, they have found that there is no adequate way of providing for the education of the canal boat children and the prevention of child labour except by removing the children from the boats. There are two aspects of this question. One relates to the education of the children. If we look at the matter from the point of view of 1930 and not from the point of view of the time when the Education Act first came into existence, we realise at once that there is really no education at all for these children. It is true that a few children do attend school, but for the most part it is one long story of neglect in education since the time, 60 or 70 years ago, when this House decided that all children were to have free elementary education.

There are people who have interested themselves in this question for many years, but the difficulty is that they cannot touch the problem. It is impossible to get the children into school because they never remain long enough in one place. Under the direction of the Minister of Education and the Minister of Health the education authorities and the local authorities want to do something. At least I hope that they do. But they do not do it, and they do not do it because they cannot. They cannot afford staff enough to chase the boats about and get the children into school. Take the machinery of a county council or an education authority. The officer responsible for education has authority only within a certain zone, and he must wait until children come within that zone before he can act. He may know that there is a boat arriving, say this morning, in his zone. By the time the necessary documents have been prepared and arrangements made the officer appointed to see the children goes to the boat and finds it has unloaded and gone. It is the same with the next officer in the next zone.

There is little need for me to tell the House anything about the failure to educate these children, because hon. Members can test the matter for themselves. If a child cannot spell it cannot spell, and if it cannot read it cannot read. That is an end to that. I invite any hon. Member to go to the nearest available spot and test the children haphazard. He will soon find out whether or not there is a vestige of education in any of the children. It has been said that the members of the canal boat community are gifted in various ways to make up for the lack of education. But that does not make matters right. It is said that these people have wonderful memories, that they can keep all their accounts in their heads. If accounts that have been kept in the head were put against accounts kept properly in a book, I wonder what the result would be. I am taking it for granted that there is not a man or woman in this House who is not in favour of these children being taken in hand at once. It has been said in this House on numberless occasions that all children should have a chance of education, but education has not reached these children yet. The suggestion has been made that movable, floating schools might be used. One or two excellent little schools there are for these children—excellent in their way. I am not here to say anything unkindly about any efforts that have been made. But I do say that they have been largely futile.

One of the difficulties we are up against, to begin with, is that unless we get these children ashore and out of the boats they must go to what is a canal boat school. That means that they will be educated only among themselves. Nothing could be worse. You want to lift these children out of that environment. That is why we are so anxious to have them out of the boats altogether. Just imagine a boy of 10 or 11 years of age of this class going occasionally to school. Hon. Members will perhaps know the kind of boy I mean—rather rough and ready. Imagine a boy of that kind going into a school. He is as out of place there as a Chinaman. Nobody wants him. I do not mean that in an unkind sense, but he is in everybody's way, and in order to find proper companionship and education for him he has to sit with little tiny children. That is the standard of his education. What would any hon. Member here say if that were the case with a child of his own? What is to be expected in the case of a boy in such circumstances. The other children laugh at him; the teachers are in despair, they do the best they can in the circumstances. But it is hopeless to attempt to educate him in such conditions.

Many years ago power was given to the owners—to companies and corporations—to spend money, even though it did not come within their ordinary powers, on the provision of education and the erection of schools. They have not done it, but they have fallen over each other since this Bill was first mentioned telling the public of the kind things they are willing to do. I say: Do not believe them. What is at the bottom of all this child labour? It is not only a question of education, but of child labour. Let me say one more word about trying to provide a floating school. If it is to be a floating school on the canal, it must be about the size of a canal boat. If it is bigger it cannot float about and becomes a fixture. It is impossible that it should be otherwise than damp—more or less. Sanitary arrangements are impossible. Where is the playground? If there is a playground it must be ashore, and every time this boat, or floating school, moves from one place to another, it has to move away from its playground and seek its pupils. It is too silly. Look at another point. The very essence of canal life is keeping "on the go" and I know what is the greatest treat which a lot of these children have as far as school is concerned. I ask you to keep out of your minds what some silly fools have been writing in the "Times" and other papers about these children. They ask for it. They like going to school. They want to go to school, but one has to be careful as to how one appeals to them.

I remember when we had a very famous strike and a great number of canal boats were tied up. During that strike the children went to school more frequently than at any other time in their lives. On one occasion when I went to see a number of them at school they asked me if the strike was over. I said I was afraid not and they said, "Good job; we can keep on going to school". There are many hon. Members here who can speak on the technical side of education and I do not wish to weary the House on that point. I ask the House, however, to remember that the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children—perhaps unlike the organisation which I represent—has a charter which puts the obligation upon it not to prosecute if it can be avoided. The society avoids doing so as much as possible and devotes itself to trying to prevent cruelty. They say "While these children are in these boats we cannot prevent cruelty." The whole thing is cruelty. It is cruelty, first of all, that they are not educated. Can anything be more cruel than that they should be left uneducated simply because the employers say: 'Whatever are we going to do if you take these children out of the boats? How are we going to train our men for these boats? "

It would not do for them to tell that to me, because I am an object lesson. My father kept me at school until I was 14—or wanted to do so, but I got away when I was 13—and then apprenticed me to a lighterman and waterman. I do not want to say that canal boat navigation is not skilled, but it is the lowest form of skilled navigation on the inland waterways of the country. If a boy on the Thames has no need to go to learn his trade until he is 14, what becomes of the employers' plea? Although the law-allows a boy to be taken on at 14, the employers do not take them until they are 16 because it is not economical to do so. There is more beef on them in the next two years. If that is the case on rivers like the Tyne, the Humber, the Mersey, the Thames, and so on, it cannot be said that it is necessary to have these children in these boats from the time they are born until they are ready to take a hand. It is said that this is necessary so that the cunning of their hand shall not be lost. That used to be said in connection with the textile trade. There are some of those fellows still left, and they are saying it about these children. Now let me for a moment get to what is the real difficulty. In 1904 the Chief Inspector to the Minisry of Health said:— I fear the education clauses of the Canal Boats Act will give them (the new education authorities) little assistance. In my opinion no hardship would be inflicted if it were made an offence to keep a child on a canal boat except during holiday times. In 1905 he said: The must discussed education question appears to have affected the canal boat population not at all. In 1906 he said: True that canal boat children suffer from the want of facilities for education. They are more or less wanderers on the face of the earth. They fit in nowhere, as usually, whatever their size, they are capable mentally of instruction only in the infant class. …Unless it is made an offence to keep children on the boats, I do not see how it can be managed. In 1920 the Minister of Health appointed a Committee to inquire into the practice of living-in on canal boats and to report whether any alteration in the practice is desirable. That Committee had the good fortune to have the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Health to be their Chairman. Everybody knows his interest in this question, and he has done a great deal, so far as he could, to help us. Among the recommendations of that Committee were: Children of school age, that is, at present between the ages of 5 and 14, should in future be prohibited from living-in on canal boats during the term times of the schools which they are attending. A period of grace of 12 months from the date of the passing of any Act or the making of any regulation to enforce this prohibition should be allowed before it comes into operation. Evidently the Ministry of Health went on another errand on that occasion, because, I should say, they were more concerned with the public health than with education, but they had to confess that the only way in which these children could be relieved, so far as their education was concerned, was by prohibiting them from living-in on canal boats in term time. That is 10 years ago. Nobody wants to be in a great hurry about this, but the time is really getting on, and we have to remember that those who were children when that was decided are grown up now, and so the thing goes on. There is a gentleman of importance in the transport world, Mr. Fane de Salis, who speaks on behalf of the Canal Association, and he says this: We admit the children are not educated, that education is the weak point; they do not get it, we admit it. For a man just to say that, and then go home and go to bed, is beyond me altogether. If they do admit it, and they are people of importance, and they do represent the Canal Association, I should feel inclined, if I were not in this House, to say to them, "Why the devil do you let it go on if you admit it, if you so frankly admit it, if you say it is beyond any question?" The reason he has had to say that is because there is not a shred of a case for them. Now see what some of the local authorities say. The education committee of the county borough of Wolverhampton, in its annual report for 1927–28, states: No change has been made in the arrangements under which your Committee do what they can—under impossible conditions—to provide education for canal boat children. By constant watch, and the help of the Midland Coast Canal Carriers Co., Ltd., school attendance is secured as far as possible. During the year 16 children of school age were found living on boats calling here, and these made a total of 1,650 attendances at Wolverhampton schools. Whether they ever attended anywhere else is doubtful. Your Committee repeat the opinion—often previously expressed—that the problem can only be solved satisfactorily when it is made illegal for children of school age to be taken on board during term time. The canal boat child is probably the greatest of all reproaches against our social system. They passed the following resolution: That the Wolverhampton Education Authority once more express their strong opinion that canal boat children cannot receive anything approaching an adequate education unless it is made illegal for them to live on hoard during term time; under existing conditions they are handicapped for the whole of their lives by comparison with the ordinary child; the authority accordingly suggests the time has arrived when expressions of opinions made over many years past should be translated into action and legislation introduced with a view to affording these boys and girls such an education and training as will enable them to take a proper place in life with their fellows. The Ministry of Education report for 1928 has the following paragraph: Of the 68 local education authorities in England making returns in whose areas there are canals, 24 reported the presence of children on boats during the year 1927. The number of children found on board was 1,734. Two local education authorities in Wales made returns during 1927, but neither reported the presence of canal boat children in boats registered or found in their area. Legal proceedings were taken by two local education authorities and in two cases fines of four shillings and ten shillings respectively were imposed. Every year identical words are used in the reports; the numbers only vary slightly. No other reference is made to this problem. The Ministry of Health Canal Boats Inspector says: These schools, particularly the well-attended one at Brentford (where those interested cart see these very children for themselves as well as their boats near by) are far better attended than was once the case, although, of course, by the nature of the traffic, roughly only about one-fifth of the children on the register are able to make attendances daily. Reading and writing books, however, are served out to the children for use when on the boats. Can you not see the kind gentle mother and father with their knowledge of the advantages of education sitting down in the cabin with these little children and leading the books? It makes me want to cry. He says: "The standard is not a very high one." That is the best school that they can put forward, and I believe the canal company offer to take anyone to see these boats. If only you went with me I could show you something as well. I will tell you something that you can see for yourself. The Medical Officer of Health for Birmingham says: The one unfortunate feature inseparably associated with this section of the community is that of their lack of education. With a mobile dwelling, the boat remaining only an hour or two or a day or two at the various places en route, it is extremely difficult for the children to obtain even the rudiments of elementary schooling. Owing to their mode of living and their almost constant dissociation from life ashore this lack of education has not been noticed to hamper them in their work or enjoyment of life. Enjoying life on the mud banks of a canal! They are frequently gifted with a retentive "memory and, as a large percentage are unable to lead or write sufficiently well to record correctly entries of cargo, this special faculty of memory proves an effective safeguard to them in their dealings. I hope their memories will be good enough to remember how the Vote goes to-day. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, of which I would like to say very much more have been very careful and have taken account of each case that they have investigated. They are not a great number, because one must remember that they have only one inspector whom they can afford to employ full time on this work and for him to go round all the canals would be a colossal task. His job, after all, is to look after the cases where children have not been properly treated and try and put the matter right. He is much happier in running a little child off to hospital and getting it treated than in doing anything else. It has been found in an analysis in which 3,502 children were taken that 1,853 of them were under school age and 1,649 were of school age. Of those 1,649 the education of 79 was described as "Good," that of 301 as "Fair," that of 314 as "Poor." In the case of 703 it was described as "Practically Nil" while 252 have never attended school. Of those classed as "Good" and "Fair" practically all had at one time lived ashore and attended elementary schools. It is not so much the education of children that the bother has been made about as the losing of their earning power. A very blunt gentleman, Mr. Fane de Salis, speaking for the Association, said at the Transport Inquiry: I should like to call attention to what is a very important matter to canals. I understand that a Bill, which was introduced at the end of last session, is going to be reintroduced "— He went on— for the narrow canals, which only take the seven-foot boat, it is a very important thing. Those boats are worked almost invariably by a family. There are no flies on that. It is a confession, and you cannot agree with it unless you are in favour of child labour. Then he says: If it is made illegal for the children to be on the boats, and if the family has to set up house on shore, it means taking the women off the boats too, and it means a very great increase in the cost of transport. I do not admit that, and I am speaking with some responsibility as a transport representative. We are prepared to sit down with the owners and reconstruct the manipulation of these boats. To say that you cannot work canal boats without women and children, is too silly for words. The whole of the small craft of the inland waterways navigation of this country, apart from these canal craft, are conducted without women and children. The men on the barges which come from the Medway into the Thames, leave their homes and their families behind them; that is why they are always so glad to get back again. It is nonsense to say that canal boats cannot be economically worked unless a man has his wife and children with him. I do not want to go into the details, but I could show an economical way of working canal boats without women and children. Then this witness goes on to talk about a boarding school and that kind of thing. Of course, if the owners will build a boarding school for the children—I do not know whether they would get the children back again—but there is no reason why they should not try it.

A serious complaint has been made that the conduct of the people on these boats is not good, and that cases have been known where people have disposed of their children by selling them, and that kind of thing. A speaker who was badly advised by foolish persons said at a public meeting at Portsmouth that there were cases where children had been sold. I have been pretty closely in touch all my life with this kind of work, and I know of no such case. I do not think that any mother or father would do it, because they are all quite decent folk, who want to do better for themselves, and many of them tell us how they would like their children educated. Many of them leave their children at home, for, in spite of what is being said, there are quite a number of owners who run boats without any children in them, and I could give the names of a lot of important firms which will not allow women or children in their boats. If those men can get a living and maintain their families, how is it that others cannot do it?

Having said quite frankly what I have said about the disposal of children, I am going to say this just as deliberately. Children are passed from one boat to another when there are more on one boat than are wanted, or less on another boat than are needed. That is going on regularly, and I defy the canal companies, the owners of the boats, or the Government department, to deny it, for if they only look into the matter, they will have to admit that the children whom you see on these boats are not always the offspring of the men and women in the boats. This is what goes on. A man and his wife will work two boats, and borrow the children to make up a crew for each of them. That kind of thing must be known to the owners of these boats.

I hope that I have said enough to convince the House that this is a question, not only of education, but of child labour. After all, is a canal boat a fit home nowadays for children? Do hon. members know what a canal boat cabin is? It is smaller than the Table in this House. That Table is a foot wider than a canal boat cabin, and rather more than a foot longer. The cabin is about 5 ft. 2 in. high, and the top sides cant in for the better manipulation of the bridge hole. In that cabin, there is the sleeping accommodation, cooking accommodation, and accommodation for everything in everyday life, including illness. This is the kind of thing that goes on. A man and woman with three children, two boys and a girl, lived in a cabin, and the last baby was born without any provision whatever in the way of bedding or clothing for the baby. It was born in the boat, in the presence, more or less, of the family. There was nothing in which to bath the child; they had to get the horse's feed bucket as a bath for the child. Is it not time that we tried to bring such a state of affairs to an end? These children are under the further great disadvantage that there is no system of factory inspection for them. There are no rules; there are no limitations of the hours of work; there is nothing—because everybody thinks they do not do it! But they do it all right!

If any hon. Members here like to jump into a taxi-cab and go over to Paddington they will see the employés of the City of Westminster, the Paddington Borough Council, and one other local authority loading house refuse into these boats on which women and children are living. The row we make if the dustmen does not come round twice a week to take away the dustbin! Yet public officials, sanitary inspectors, allow house refuse to be shot into these boats where there is a woman, and perhaps a baby, lying in the cabin, who have to be associated with that stuff on a 17-mile journey to the dump. Do hon. Members mean to tell me that it is necessary for us to have women and children in a dust cart! Is it necessary for us to have women and children there to see a man safely through a journey of a few miles? Why, he would be back before they knew where they were! We might just as well say to a lorry driver going to Birmingham, "Get your kiddies together and your missus, and jump in!" The point is that these women and children are useful in the manipulation of the boat, and the owner is under no obligation towards them as he would be if they were in his employ. The only person for whom he is responsible is the man. There are other local authorities which own boats too, and no women are living in them. If their refuse can be taken to the dump without women and children, how is it that the refuse collected in Westminster must be accompanied by women and children? I apologise to the House for being so long in moving the Second Reading of this Bill.


I beg to second the Motion.

12 n.

I think I am expressing the opinion of all hon. Members present, as well as myself, when I say that we are under a deep debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend for the manner in which he has presented the wonderful human document which he has unrolled before us to-day. Every sentence of what he has said has been founded on the ripe experience of a man explaining the life of the class from which he has sprung and to which he still belongs, and I wish to congratulate him on having surmounted so wonderfully the hardships of his early lot, and on the courage and capacity which have brought him to the House of Commons and rendered him worthy to occupy the office of head of the very Department in the Government which is concerned with this system of transport. On this question his name is not only a household word on the Thames and on the Medway, but nationally and internationally. His work for the class on behalf of whom he is pleading has been done without money and without price, but out of pure love for his fellows. He has given them the unselfish devotion of a lifetime, and his words here to-day are rendered doubly eloquent by the fact that he is suffering from a physical disability and has not allowed considerations of his own health to stand in the way of his coming here to put this case before the House.

Having listened to his eloquence one would naturally suppose that there would be no opposition to the appeals he has made, and, though there perhaps may be no vicious opposition, a circular which I hold in my hand shows that there is at least serious objection. The only virtue of this circular is its categorical inconsistency. I will refer to a paragraph at the bottom of the first page in order to demonstrate what I mean. It says there that the Bill does not apply to all canal boats, but only to those known as the narrow boats, what in colloquial language we know as "fly" boats, because as it is on the narrow boats alone that the men have their wives and families living with them. Unfortunately for the composers of this document it is headed Statement on behalf of the Canal Carriers' Association and the Canal Association. It goes on to say that the Canal Carriers' Association represents all the larger companies and firms engaged in the transport of goods by the canals and inland waterways of the country. The Canal Association represents almost all the larger inland navigation undertakings in the country. On page 2 of this report it goes on to describe what they call the narrow boats as follows: A narrow boat is a boat of 7-feet beam carrying from 25 to 30 tons. The total number is over 1,000. This does not mean 7 feet over all, and the living space below is generally less. There may be something in that statement, but we are now living in an age of rationalisation and concentration in industry, and a change has come about. There are not now as many narrow boats as there used to be, because we have adopted motor power and steam, and the necessity for the narrow boats is not as great as it was. Of course, I have not the technical experience on this question of my hon. Friend the Member for White-chapel (Mr. Gosling), but I have been reared in a typical Lancashire town which I have the honour to represent in this House, and it is a town typical of most Lancashire towns where not only the narrow boats but the ordinary canal boats are running. I have had the experience of a ship's fo'castle for seven years, and I have no hesitation in saying that even that was palatial compared with the places on canal boats which have been described and in which women and children live.

Let me quote the actual facts of the case. My hon. Friend the Memher for Whitechapel has already described the case of the 7-ft. beam. Anybody who knows what is called the run of the barge, must know that the stern run makes a difference. The stern is cut away with the result that you have not more than 6 ft. Those are the conditions under which these people live. The narrowness of the quarters occupied, and the insanitary conditions under which these families live, react upon the women and children, and I would like some of those who object to this Measure—they must know it, because they are practical men, to go to Lancashire and visit Manchester, Oldham, or Rochdale, where for miles under the city of Manchester where there is no towpath and where women have to lie on their backs and push their barges through the tunnels with their feet.

Let me give one or two more instances. I know a case where a man and his wife and two children are the occupants of such quarters as have been described. I know a case of a man and his wife and five children and another of a man and his wife and four children, who are all confined in the narrow space that I have mentioned with stoves and bunks on each side, and the place is not as big as the Table of this House, and there children are born and kept until they are five years of age, and all this goes on during the most dangerous part of a child's life. All these things go on, for what? In order that profits may be made out of the labour of women and children. What reasons are given for allowing this state of things? I am not saying these things in any sense of vicious acrimony, but I ask hon. Members to mark these words: For 150 years it has been the custom for families to live in these narrow boats. The boys are brought up to it, and many girls are brought up in the same way. They form a distinct class carrying on a useful industry. Useful to whom? Not to the family, whose joint earnings are sometimes only 15s. a week. Useful for whom? Does it mean useful for the con- ditions of the people living on the canal boats who exist in a deplorable state of almost indecency? I do not accuse them of any such things, but it would be almost a miracle if any decent life could be maintained under such awful conditions. I think this state of things justifies the application of the quotation from Russell Lowell: O Lord and Master, not our's the guilt; We build but as our fathers built; Behold Thine images, how they stand, Sovereign and sole, through all our land. I have heard eloquent speeches made in this House, I have heard men grow eloquent at a particular point of the compass from which to worship God as if he did not exist in the 32 points of the compass. I have heard eloquent speeches made here on the value of family relationships, on the holiness of family life. I heard only this week both in this House and in another place, claims made that they were the custodians of the morality of the people of this country, and observations on the demoralising effect of putting them "on the dole." Where are those custodians of the morals of the people to-day? What are they going to do with regard to the conditions which have been described to the House this morning? There is no getting away from the fact that the morals, the decency, the education of these children are being butchered to make a Roman holiday for what is known as private enterprise. That is the whole secret of the matter. This circular suggests that it is necessary that the children should remain with their parents. It is said that the men will be separated from their wives, and from all the influences of family life. But, if that be the kind of family life that they have to live, the sooner it is broken up the better for the morals and the religion and the citizenship of this country.

I feel very strongly on this question. The circular goes on to suggest with regard to the protection of these children, that the Bill should only apply to children of school age. There is something in that, but there is a fly in the ointment even there, for it suggests that it should only apply to children during the school term, so that the children can spend their holidays with their parents on the canal boats. My God! What a holiday! This, they say, is a healthy form of holiday. Let me tell the House my experience of such holidays for children in the canal boats. I have seen children of five and six passing my own door when I was a lad, and their holiday consisted in working their passages by driving the horse on the tow-path and munching a piece of dry bread. The only difference between them and the poor horse was that they had not got their nose-bag on. That is the holiday suggested in this circular. All these things were said at the time when women used to work in the mines, when their children were born in the bowels of the earth, and at the time when similar conditions obtained in the textile industry. All these arguments were used then in the interests of the so-called private enterprise which has made England what she is to-day. If that be the foundation of private enterprise, if these huge human sacrifices are to be made to bolster up a rotten system like that, then God help this country. Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay. I conclude by saying that, if there be an intention on the part of the custodians of the rising generation to save them from being demoralised by such associations, there is something to be said for them, but, if not, I can only say that the reverent and eloquent sentences in the prayer which our Chaplain offers here every day Lord have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. are fully and amply justified.


I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."

I hope the House will bear with me in the difficulty of having to reply to the two speeches which have just been de livered. The first was most eloquent, and founded upon deep feeling and personal knowledge, and was one which would appeal to a House such as we have here; while as to the second I would only say that the hon. Member has endeavoured to arouse the sympathies of the House by referring to the time when child labour was unquestionably exploited in the textile and other industries, and in the mining industy—


If the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting him, I only quoted that because in this circular a point is made of the fact that this has been going on for 150 years. My attitude was that that statement would apply also to the mines and to the textile industry.


I think the hon. Gentleman might have refrained from interrupting me. I kept uncommonly quiet during the two previous speeches, notwithstanding the fact that there is a remnant of Irish blood in my veins which might have tempted me. I ask the House, therefore, to grant me the same indulgence when I endeavour to reply to those who have made their speeches in support of the Bill. It is not often that I address the House, and I should not have addressed the House this morning if I were not convinced that this Bill is an unjust Bill, because it has not taken into consideration the existing conditions in relation to this peculiar trade.

I had hoped, and I was assured, that the hon. Member for West Ham would have been in his place for the purpose of moving the rejection of the Bill, and I had hoped that my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon), who is so well acquainted with the industrial districts of the Midlands in and around Birmingham, would also have been here, but I was told last night that unavoidably he has had to go down to that district to-day. It therefore devolves upon me to start the opposition to the Bill, and I regret that I can only do so with considerable imperfection because of my want of a more intimate knowledge of the subject. I had intended to remind the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) that the conditions which he denounced so forcibly of child labour in relation to those other trades was stopped, not at the instance of the predecessors of my hon. Friends below me, but by no less personages than Benjamin Disraeli and Lord Shaftesbury, and to them the country owes the first effective steps to put an end to child labour as it was being exploited in the early years of the last century. Do not let hon. Members claim that the benefit that has been given since that time has flowed from their own supporters. There is some danger in allowing legislation to proceed upon grounds of sentiment. No doubt, there is very much to be said for the undesirability of women and young children being upon barges of this character, and, in particular, those that contain the refuse of the Metropolitan Boroughs. With some knowledge of the traffic on the canals. I was not aware that women and children were permitted on any of these barges that convey refuse. I thought that they were all excluded. If that is not the case, it ought to be stopped at once. I do not for a moment suggest that barges engaged in that kind of traffic should be manned by any except the most capable for the purpose of doing the voyage quickly and those who can best resist any disease that may come from it.


It happens at this very moment.


Then I say it should not happen. It should be stopped. Do not let the House think that any of those who are opposed to this drastic Bill desire to continue a system of that sort. Much has been said, also, with regard to education, which is really the peg on which the Bill hangs. I did not quite follow the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Gosling) in reference to his charges of selling children. I know he did not associate himself with those charges, but they have been made under the authority of the National Society. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, they have been disclaimed, but they were made by an official inspector of the Society. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am instructed that they were, and that the withering criticism of the hon. Member for West Ham brought a belated apology. There is no doubt that they have sought, unfortunately for them, a wrong method of approaching the subject, and they have fallen back upon the question of the education of the children. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill spoke about the efforts that are-being made to educate the children, and, though he gave credit to those who are engaged in it, and are doing it very largely voluntarily, he did not give altogether a fair account of what is being done. He ridiculed the idea that those interested in the purpose of the Bill outside the House should offer to take Members of Parliament down to see for themselves the condition of things that prevails. Why should they not? How very necessary it is, in the face of such speeches as we have just listened to, that that opportunity should be afforded to independent Members of the House. Can it be alleged that the persons themselves who are engaged in this traffic have ever petitioned the House or made any organised outcry about the conditions that prevail?


What about the slaves?


If the suggestion is that the conditions of these people are equivalent to slavery, the interruption will do the cause far more harm than good.


The analogy was that the slaves themselves did not start the agitation for freedom.


I challenge the hon. Members who have spoken to show me any organised movement on the part of these people asking that their conditions should be altered. It would have been very quickly assumed, I suppose, by some hon. Members. They would have taken up the case and said, "Here is an opportunity for us to distinguish ourselves in the Parliament to which we have just been elected." There has never been a murmur on the part of the people themselves. On the contrary, there have been protests again and again by those whose lives would be affected, whose family life would be broken up, the husbands obliged to continue alone, leaving the wives and children to get accommodation, if it were possible in these times of shortage, in which to live. Is not the ordinary canal boat—I am not speaking of those conveying refuse—on the whole cleaner, more respectable in its surroundings, freed from a great deal of that which we deplore that is found in slum dwellings? I think the slum dwelling, with its desolate streets and surroundings, far more open to objection than the healthy open-air life that these children lead on the barges.

Let us see what is said by those who have taken a great interest in their welfare. This is a letter from the vicar of St. Michael's, Paddington. [An HON. MEMBER: "Come to Church!"] This has nothing to do with coming to Church. It is strange how the House has degener- ated into irrelevancies and interjections which prevent speeches being made.

I desire most earnestly to endorse Lady Gwendolen Cecil's appeal for the rejection of this devastating proposal of the Canal Bill. The boat people, when the barges come to London, are parishioners of mine. I have my school, I baptise them, marry them—


Bury them!


Is there any objection to that? Then let the House give reasonable attention to a letter from someone who has voluntarily given his services for the betterment of these people. and otherwise minister to them both in Church and at our waterside mission. From the knowledge thus gained, I say unhesitatingly that life on barges is quite as healthy and quite as moral as the average life of the corresponding class on shore; moreover, the family feeling among the barge population is exceptionally strong, and it would be a cruel thing to break up the little floating households. We have had a special school for the children at the canal side— This is Paddington and not Brentford or Wolverhampton— for years, and we are now about to supplement this by a floating school, and thus the education problem is in a fair way to solution. Have the authors of this astonishing Bill considered where the unfortunate boat folk are to live when they are turned out of their barges? Their work will probably compel them to be within reach of Paddington, but as a member of the Council of that borough I know that the scarcity of accommodation—already terrible—is increasing in this part of London to the point of obliging families to live in one room under conditions as bad as those of the barges or worse. He signs himself "Paul Nichols, Vicar of St. Michael and All Angels', with All Saints', Paddington." [Interruption.]


Order. Hon. Members must allow both sides to be heard.


Is that not to have the reasonable consideration of this House? If the world outside could only follow the debates of this House it would judge and judge very severely of the conduct of those who refuse to listen to a letter from a Christian clergyman doing his duty because they think it may affect the issue which is before the House. I will now read the letter of the Rev. Everard Haynes, the Vicar of St. Mary's, Paddington, because it is of importance that these independent views should be put before this House. Sir,—As one who for the last 17 years, as vicar of this parish, bounded on three sides by canals, and in which is situated what is known as the Paddington Basin, and who in consequence comes very often into direct touch with the barge folk, especially when they wish to be married or to have their children baptised, may I put in a plea on behalf of these families, whose peace and happiness and health is threatened by the Bill which a private Member is introducing in the House of Commons this month? The question of the impossibility of the children who live on the barges obtaining any sort of education is one of the main arguments of the proposer of the Bill. That argument might have carried some weight 20 years ago, but certainly carries none to-day, at least with those who know the facts of the case. Several years ago a school for these children was established by a retired clergyman, mainly at his own expense, in the parish adjoining this. Since then this school has completely satisfied all the requirements of the education authorities, and has supplied the children while at the canal head with proper schooling. The same facilities are supplied at the other end of the canal at Brentford, and there is also a floating school being established. It would be difficult indeed to prove that the children do not to-day obtain all the education that is really necessary. On the question of accommodation for living and sleeping on the barges I can also speak from direct knowledge of the conditions. As a member for many years—part of them as Chairman—of the Public Health Committee of the Paddington Borough Council, under whose supervision the barges come from time to time, I had before me the reports of our canal-boat inspector. They were always very complete, and only very rarely unsatisfactory. The surroundings were clean and healthy and not in any way a menace to morality. My own experience of the barge people has convinced me that they are far more healthy and cheerful than very many of those living in tenement houses. It is also quite refreshing to have a glimpse into the easy and happy view of life which their surroundings on the water induce them to take. Why should this be changed? Why should the family life of these people be broken up? Why should the women and children be forced, as they would be in these days of shortage of housing accommodation to live in some narrow street in some poorly ventilated tenement house because of an altogether imaginary lack of educational facilities "— [Laughter.] It is quite the thing for a clergyman to be laughed at nowadays. It is a general disregard of anything which savours of the more serious things of life. I will read that again: Because of an altogether imaginary lack of educational facilities, and because from time to time they may delight to help their parents in managing a barge? I sincerely nope that Members of Parliament will hesitate before they allow this Bill to proceed. That is the testimony of two clergymen with regard to the conditions on the canals at Paddington, and it is testimony which should be given its full value in this House. A few days ago an inspection was made by some members of this House. I am sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hall) has had to go away. He was one of those who was expected to give his views in his characteristic fashion to this House. The hon. Member for Nottingham South (Mr. Knight) is here. They very carefully investigated both the conditions of the barges themselves and of the school, and it was the hon. Member and my hon. and gallant Friend who took occasion to examine some of the children, whose writings were produced. The House must remember that the school is staffed by teachers from the education authority and that it is under the supervision of the Missioner in that district who adds to his religious duties his work as supervisor of this school. Admittedly, there were some children there who were woefully behind the ordinary standard of a board school child. My hon. Friend will probably admit that, but one has to put into the scales as against that the fact that their lives are healthy lives, and that they are not exploited. I challenge the statement that they are exploited. It is not sufficient to state it in this House. Les it be stated before a Select Committee, where cross-examination can take place.


I can prove it.


Then the hon. Member will be cross-examined, and we shall see whether cross-examination sustains the statement. Having traversed the canal from Birmingham more than once, passing repeatedly these narrow boats—my identity and that of my colleague was not known—I did not find any children working in the way that has been suggested. I found them running about, most of them very young, while some were in their mother's arms, but so far as work was concerned nothing could be proved more than the opening of a gate for the horse, or similar light service. It is not true to say that the children are being exploited in the way that has been suggested, and I ask the House to accept such statements with great caution. It is a natural place for children to be with their parents.


No, it is not.


My hon. and learned Friend says that it is not.


According to the other side of the House.


Wherever children have been separated from their parents it has been largely due to the fault of the parents, for want of proper parental protection or because the parents have offended against the law and have been sent away or, unhappily, because they have been affected by mental disease and have had to go into an institution.


What about Eton and Harrow?


What about those great public schools? I have yet to learn that those who attended those public schools, and others like them, such as Winchester, Marlborough and Rossall, which have made the great public men of England, are any the worse for being temporarily separated from their parents. [Laughter.] I have not the least doubt that hon. Member's opposite consider themselves exceedingly clever, but let me ask them this question—do they for a moment, in all common sense and in the light of facts, suggest that the absence of a boy at a public school is equivalent to the separation of a child from its father, and in many cases from its mother, in the way suggested by the promoters of this Bill? Let us get rid of all humbug. Let us recover from the Election of May last, when nothing but false statements were made. I had hoped that time had made hon. Members repentent.

There is the official aspect of this question, which was partially alluded to by the hon. Member for Whitechapel. The report of the Ministry of Health in 1928–29 contains a very interesting report by Mr. Llewellyn, the Department's Inspector under the Canal Boats Acts. He draws attention to the increasing and successful efforts that are being made to educate the children, whilst recognising that much remains to be done. He points out that the parents themselves see the advantages of better education for their children and are anxious to avail themselves of the increasing opportunities. In his detailed report he speaks of the gradual disappearance of the type of boat which is the subject of complaint. He says that The ever-increasing number of motor-boats naturally tend to long-distance traffic, while the old type of tramp owner-driven single boat or pair of boats is rapidly ceasing to exist. Thirty years ago individually owned and worked boats formed at least half the boats on our registers; to-day it is rare to come across a single specimen, save in certain out-of-the-way districts where ordinary canal traffic has almost ceased to exist. This is all to the good, for owners of large numbers of boats are more accessible and can be persuaded to carry out any repairs considered necessary by the inspectors. Certain of those owners, however, still neglect their boats until threatened with legal proceedings. Even now, in one notorious case, I am asking the inspectors to avail themselves of the ample legal powers with which the Acts provide them to bring this constant offender into line. Mr. Llewellyn proceeds to say, and I would ask hon. Members to listen to this: I have made special investigation during the year as to the treatment of children on canal boats in view of an impression which seems to prevail in some quarters that parents are indifferent to the well-being of their children and put them to tasks beyond their strength. My own experience is that canal boat people are solicitous for their children's welfare, and look after them properly, and that there has been a great improvement in conditions generally in recent years. Exceptional cases no doubt occur, as in other classes of the community, but they are rare. These are my own views, based on a long and intimate experience. In view of statements which have been made I have made special inquiries of other persons on whom I can rely, who are familiar with canal boat people and their lives, and in every case their views were in full agreement with those which I have just expressed. The schools, particularly the well-attended one at Brentford—where those interested can see these very children for themselves as well as their boats near-by—are far better attended than was once the case, although, of course, by the nature of the traffic, roughly only about one-fifth of the children on the register are able to make attendances daily. Reading and writing books, however, are served out to the children for use when on the boats, and a degree of education is now general that many years ago hardly existed at all. The standard is not a very high one, I admit, but in education it is the first step that counts. Mr. Llewellyn then refers to more general topics, and points out that infectious disease has been very rare, and that cases of the infringement of the regulations taken into Court seem to become fewer each year. It would be invidious to single out any particular districts in which inspectors have done well, but it is only fair to call attention to the good work done by the authorities on, and bordering, the Manchester Ship Canal. It is curious to note that on the 'wide boats'—roughly those working above a line drawn south-east from Manchester to Peterborough, women and children without homes other than the boats hardly exist. It is difficult to imagine the reason why boats not unsuited to the all-the-year-round habitation of boat people are comparatively unused, while on 'narrow boats'—the cabins of which are nothing like as capacious or suitable—exactly the opposite state of affairs continues. A line drawn from the Mersey to London, through Stoke-on-Trent and the Black Country, would pass through the country mainly used by inhabited boats. Severn canal boat traffic is now almost entirely mechanically towed and the boats are less used by families, while in such districts as Lincolnshire, the Fens, the Broads and the southwest of England very few persons other than males are to be found on the ever-decreasing number of canal boats in use. My attention has been directed to the fact that many persons still are anxious that children should not be allowed to dwell in canal boats. I do not agree that the time is opportune for this step, in spite of the fact that undoubtedly the education of the children to some extent suffers, My principal reasons are that the housing problem is not easier for this class of folk, that family life would be broken up (the wives would have to go with the children) and that the pay of the boatmen would not cover the extra expense to be incurred, including the cost of a mate to take the place of the wife. Family canal boat life can be a very economic one. Motors on boats are in themselves a form of education to a most important profession, both parents and children are increasingly anxious to take advantage of the opportunities afforded the children to attend such schools as exist; teachers seem keen to get hold of them, and finally the decent, kindly and healthy status of the boat people as a whole is a proof that there can be little wrong with their mode of living and that their chief desire is to be left alone. That is the evidence of an official of considerable experience and must be accepted by this House as valuable evidence as to the conditions which obtain.


Is that for 1928?


Yes. Here is an extract from the Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Birmingham, the other great centre of this traffic: The general health of canal boat people is very good; no case of illness was discovered by the inspector among the 3,522 persons who occupied the boats examined by him during the year. The one unfortunate feature inseparably associated with this section of the Community is that of their lack of education. The House will see that I am perfectly fair. I am reading those passages which are against me as well as those that are in my favour: With a mobile dwelling, the boat remaining only an hour or two a day at the various places en route, it is extremely difficult for the children to obtain even the rudiments of elementary education. Owing to their mode of living and their almost constant dissociation from life ashore, this lack of education has not been noticed to hamper them in their work or enjoyment of life. They are frequently gifted with a retentive memory, and as a large percentage are unable to read or write sufficiently well to record correctly entries of cargo, this special faculty of memory proves an effective safeguard to them in their dealings. As a class they are a well nourished, hardy and self-respecting people. 1.0 p.m

That is the testimony of another officer. For the last 25 years this House has professed to take a great interest in canal transport. One of the first things I remember on entering the House in 1906 was the setting up of a Commission by the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman for the purpose of dealing with traffic on canals. He appreciated the necessity of the canals being more used for transport. Last year we passed an amalgamating Act. It amalgamated two waterways which are already connected, that is the Grand Junction Canal, with its route from Birmingham and its branches to Oxford and Leicester, Warwick and Leamington, and its termination at Brentford on the one hand and Paddington on the other, with access to the Thames. That great undertaking has been of inestimable benefit to those who want cheap carriage of heavy goods which do not require to be rushed by rail. At the present moment an application is before the Development Commissioners and the Lord Privy Seal for a sum of £400,000 for widening the Grand Junction Canal to make it capable of taking barges of the same weight and calibre as go up the Thames. It is desired to widen the whole of the canal right through to Birmingham. That inevitably means the disappearance of the narrow barge, because its place will be taken by the larger barge of 100 tons driven by motor power. The necessity for having more than one man and an assistant will be gone and, naturally, the problem will solve itself. Is the House prepared to do a great injustice to these honest folk and say that their family life must be broken up now when, during the next five years, I think I might almost say three years, these great changes will take place and mean inevitably the disappearance of the household from the barge. It will become a purely business barge. I ask the House not to agree to the Second Reading of this Bill nor do any thing to discourage these people, who have never complained of their position, but leave the family lives of these honest, hardworking folk undisturbed, having regard to the fact that the changes which are taking place in regard to modern transport will mean that the whole question will solve itself.


Before we proceed further with the Debate may I call your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to what appears to be an error in the first Clause of the Bill. It says: This Act may be cited as the Canal Boats Act, 1929, and shall be construed as one with the Canal Boats Acts, 1877 and 1884, which Acts and this Act may be cited together as the Canal Boats Acts, 1877 to 1929. That is an obvious error. It cannot be the Canal Boats Act, 1929. It should be 1930. I want to ask, for the guidance of the House, whether it is not unusual to alter the short Title of a Bill after Second Beading, and what steps should be taken in a case of this kind where the Bill is clearly incorrectly printed?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Robert Young)

I do not know whether the Bill was printed last year or not. [HON. MEMBERS: "Last year."] In that case it will be in order to make the alteration in Committee.


In that ease, can you represent to the proper quarter that it is very important that the date should be put in properly? It is quite obvious that someone has made an error.


There was no error when the Bill was printed.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I am in a difficulty, as a very young Member of the House, because of the eloquent and moving speech of the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill. When I realise that he made that speech under grave physical disability I do not know whether regret at that fact or envy of his facility is the feeling that is uppermost in my mind. I think that the gratitude of the whole House is due to hon. Members who have brought this matter forward. Obviously, it is a matter that needed attention. But I suggest that, like so many admirable and well-meaning people, they have allowed their zeal to outrun their discretion. I want to examine a little more closely what this Bill does. It lays down—this is the whole gravamen of the thing—that no child under the age of 15 shall reside in or travel on a canal boat. Surely that is a very drastic thing to say. To put a very minor point first, it means that no child home for the holidays would be allowed to go for a few days' trip with its father on a canal boat. I do not suggest for one moment that that is the intention of hon. Members opposite, but it would be the fact under the Bill as it stands.

Let me come now to the most important thing, the question of the breaking up of the homes of the canal boat people. First of all, the Bill says that from the time it is born to the time that it leaves school a child shall not live with its father, and possibly not with its mother. You are giving the mother the hardest choice that you can give to a married woman, that of deciding whether she is to live with her husband or with the children. Above all you are causing these people, whose wages are all too small—as I am sure hon. Members opposite will agree—to keep in effect two establishments. It stands to reason that the homes they keep on shore will be amongst the cheapest and not the best. One Member opposite, in a letter to the "Times" this morning, took up that objection, and said, "What a confession as to the housing conditions in Paddington." As far as the housing conditions in the slum areas of this country are concerned I agree. But the conditions exist, and it is to these houses that you are to send the families of the canal boat people, if you pass the Bill as it stands. What exactly are the reasons that have been adduced for the Bill? First of all there is the question of health. There has not been very much stress on that subject by those who support the Bill, and with good reason. Let us see what the Chamberlain Report says about it: The majority of the witnesses have agreed that so far as health, cleanliness, morality, and feeding and clothing are concerned, the canal boat people are fully equal, if not superior to town dwellers of a similar class—certainly the health of the inmates, especially the children. But taking the evidence as a whole we cannot assert that the health of the canal boat children is worse than that of those who live in the crowded cities. Certainly the children do not appear to be nearly so liable to infectious diseases as those who live on shore. I do not think it can be claimed that the health of the children is seriously impaired. The second point is in reference to child labour. I wish to be perfectly plain on this point from the start. I am absolutely opposed to the canal boat companies getting anything out of child labour. If all that we heard from the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Gosling) with regard to that is a fact—I have no doubt that it is—I for one am prepared to support any Bill that will prevent canal companies receiving any benefit whatever from child labour. I think it is an iniquitous thing. But I am not opposed to the child doing something simply because it may happen to be useful. I have gone into this question as carefully as I can. I am not an expert on canals, but I have one or two friends on canal boats. I wish I had an opportunity of accepting the offer of the hon. Member for Stepney and of seeing things for myself very soon. Perhaps I shall be able to do so before this Bill passes further stages. Nothing has been said to prove that there is anything done by these children which in tact injures their health. The health reports that have been quoted show that the children are as healthy as or healthier than those living in the towns.

I now come to the third point—education. On that there is absolutely no question that those who support the Bill have a very good case. There are very-few people—I perhaps am the only one—who are such keen educationists that the President of the Board of Education would refer to them as educational fanatics. I have given up some portion of my life to education. I would say that it is still open to question, in the present state of education, whether the best school is superior to home life. But I am not going to take that argument to-day, because I realise that all modern thought is against me. I am going to admit the submission of the Mover of the Second Reading, that these canal boat children should be sent to school like any other children. Very well. My first thing against the Bill is that it goes very much further than that. If it went only as far as the Chamberlain Report I for one would not be opposing it. But the Bill goes very much further. It takes away the children, not only before they go to school, but during their holidays, and no one can justify that on the grounds of education, for it has nothing to do with education.

Secondly, I suggest that there are other and less drastic means of dealing with this educational question. The Education Act of 1921 has a special Section dealing with these children. In effect it provides that the authority who may prosecute in the case of non-attendance at school is the authority in whose area the barge is registered. It adds that a certificate may be given by that authority, if the parent can show that the child is being educated in any other school under any other authority. I believe if that provision were rigidly applied it would solve the whole question. If a few people who had not certificates and were not sending children regularly to school were prosecuted they would soon find methods of giving their children an effective education. That is my personal belief, but, if I am wrong, then we have the Neville Chamberlain Report, which says that these children ought not to be allowed to live on the barges in the school terms. That is very much better and less drastic than the Bill. Hon. Members do not seem to realise that in this Bill it is being laid down for the first time, as a statutory provision, that children shall not live with their parents. All sorts of examples have been given of people who do not in fact live with their children but nothing is laid down in any Statute to say that they may not do so. I say that this is a grave departure.


The Bill does not say so.


That is its effect.


Railway men have to move up and down the country, but by organising the traffic they are enabled to get backwards and forwards, and to go home. It is a matter of organising traffic.


I was coming to that point. The Bill does lay down a provision such as I have described, because the parents of these children live on the barges and the Bill says that the children shall not live on the barges. Therefore, as I say, it lays down for the first time a statutory provision that children shall not live with their parents and that is a dangerous precedent. I appreciate the point of the hon. Member opposite. I am not as expert as I ought to be in reference to railway conditions but the hon. Member is expert in that respect, and he will correct me if I am wrong in saying that railwaymen have much more time to spend in their homes than the canal-boat people would have under this Bill. There is a world of difference in that one simple point. I do not think the House ought to make a statutory order that children should not live with their parents. If we do so, we are then setting up a new deity—the Board of Education—and the first rite in that new religion will be the funeral service of the family life of these people. The Board of Education has given and the Board of Education has taken away. Blessed he the name of the Board of Education. That will shortly be followed, no doubt, by a commination service. I believe that those who live on barges have a singular facility of expression when they wish to show their displeasure and it is a moot point whether the Committee which has to deal with the Blasphemy Laws (Amendment) Bill, will not have to consider if some provision should not be left in those laws for dealing with those who speak disrespectfully of the Board of Education. Nothing has yet been said about the amending of the Bill. I have only a short experience of this House but I have known of certain Bills con- cerning which vague promises were made on Second Heading that Amendments would be made in Committee. When those Bills have gone upstairs they have been amended by the substitution of "and" for "or" and details of that kind, but the objections of hon. Members, who perhaps refrained from a Division on the Second Reading, on the strength of promised Amendments, have not been met. I cannot speak for those associated with me but as far as I am concerned personally, if I get from the promoters of the Bill, or from the Government, a definite undertaking that they will accept Amendments on the lines of the Chamberlain Report I will not press the matter to a Division. If I do not get that assurance I must reserve my right to oppose what I, perhaps mistakenly, but firmly believe to be a tyrannous Measure, tooth and nail, and in every way in my power, through all its stages.


The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield) brought forward a good deal of testimony from two reverend gentlemen who reside in Paddington, and, if I reply to the criticisms made on the Bill by the reverend gentlemen in question it will not be thought that I am doing so because of any antagonism to their religious views, as has been suggested. If reverend gentlemen take part in these controversies, Members of this House have a perfect right to reply to them. One of the most interesting quotations which we heard was to this effect: "Why should family life be broken up because the children suffer from an imaginary lack of education." I think the figures given in the House to-day, showing that 75 per cent. of the children examined had no education whatever, utterly disposes of the argument that the lack of education is imaginary. Seeing that 50 per cent. never go to school at all, not much imagination is required to believe that the education is practically nil.


From what is the hon. Member quoting?


I am quoting from the statement made by the reverend gentleman the Vicar of St. Mary's, Paddington.


I mean the figures as regards education.


The figures are those of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and I hope that they are not suspect. A second quotation from the reverend gentleman was to the effect that "it would be very hard to prove that the children did not obtain all the education that was 'really necessary'." The sting of that remark is in the closing words, "really necessary." I believe that a decent education is as necessary for the children of these people as for the children of any other class in the country. It is not hard to prove that these children do not get proper education when we have the admission in the reverend gentleman's letter in "The Times" that the attendance of these children at a school in his own parish is about 25 per cent. Even if children attend school full time, up to the age of 14, the education which they get is not going to be too good; but when they only attend quarter time up to 14, then their education is practically nil from every point of view.

There is another point. The vicar makes it quite clear that they have a special school for canal boat children in his parish. That is not required. We do not want special schools for the children of canal boat people. We want to get-rid of the canal boat atmosphere. We want these children of the canal boat people to go to the ordinary elementary school, to mix with the children of other classes of parents. Another writer in the "Times" said that in his opinion the children on the barges get the best-education the world offers. …a knowledge of navigation. Hon Members opposite talk about the-spirit of adventure and enterprise being destroyed by 10s. a week pension. I agree with the value of a spirit of enterprise and of adventure. They talk about the Drakes, the Nelsons, and the Columbuses going across the boundless ocean, but I know that the children on the dirt barges of Paddington, who go as far as Willesden Junction and five miles beyond, will not get much navigation knowledge from that adventurous journey. If it is true that these children actually get the best education that the world offers, I am not a betting man, but if I were, I would bet five to one that that gentleman's own children do not take advantage of this wonderful education. Another writer says: The children in the barges are more healthy and more cheerful than those living in tenement houses. I have some tenement houses in my own constituency, in the Royal Borough of Kensington, and I have not noticed much cheerfulness there, but I know what these barges are like. I have been in them, and I have seen their cargoes, the filth and garbage of the London streets. "More cheerful"! It may be true that they are more cheerful than they would be in the slums of Padding-ton, but I am told that Paddington rivals my own constituency of North Kensington for having a record in infantile death-rate figures. There are wards in Paddington where the death-rate of babies is 120 per 1,000, or 60 per cent. above that of Poplar. It may be true that child life, even on those horrible barges, is not so bad as in a tenement slum in Paddington, but I feel that, if that be the case, the remedy is not to keep the children on these barges, but to see if we cannot get better housing conditions in Paddington. Perhaps I am giving a partial and a prejudiced view, but the right hon. Gentleman opposite quoted very carefully the opinion of the Canal Boat Inspector, Mr. Llewellyn. Let me quote Mr. Llewellyn, in the Public Health Report of 1926: The cargoes of these boats in many cases, especially around London, consist of street refuse and other unpleasant substances. The conditions of such boats cannot be otherwise than undesirable, and there is no need on them of any other person than the steersman. In 1928 he said this: At Paddington the state of the boats and their inhabitants is not improving, and my constant complaint" seem to have no effect whatever on the boatowners, who allow these conditions to exist, or the local authorities whose refuse is carried on these boats. There is the testimony of the professional man on the job as against the statement of the reverend gentleman that these conditions are fine, with roses round the door, and so on. I agree with the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) when, after describing the conditions on these boats—with the living room, the drawing room, the bath room, the kitchen and the scullery all in one room, after telling us that all the ordinary conditions of working class life must take place in one tiny little room—he says that, if that is family life, the sooner that family life is destroyed the better for the women and the children of these barge people. Another case that has been quoted several times is in regard to morality, and one gentleman, in a letter to the "Times," says: If you banish the children from the barge you banish the wives, and if you banish the wives what is likely to happen? Then there is a long pause, and we think of all sorts of things. The letter goes on: The saying (no doubt as a generality quite unjust) that the sailor has a wife in every port is sufficient evidence of the danger. The fact, although a lie probably, or unjust, that sailors are immoral is sufficient proof that if these wives are taken away dark things will happen. Imagine a gentleman taking such a statement and admitting that it is probably untrue and unjust, but saying that if you take the wives away it will be bad from a moral point of view! He goes on to say: to which I need not further allude except as an ex-Mayor of Paddington to assure members of the House of Commons that it is a very real danger. Well, I do not believe it. I believe that when you have women with, in some cases, I am told, five and six children, and sometimes girls and boys of 15, 16 or 17 years of age, in that one room, there is much greater danger from a moral point of view by perpetuating these conditions than by removing the children and, I hope, the mothers too, and trying to get for them decent homes near the places where their husbands have to work.

Lieut. - Colonel FREMANTLE

The hon. Member does not propose to deal with the children of 17 and 18, but to leave them on the boats.


This Bill does not propose to deal with them at that age, but half a loaf is better than no bread, and it does propose to keep the children away to the age of 15. That is a benefit in any case.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

The hon. Member talked about 17 and 18 though.


I am talking about children altogether. If the hon. Member had seen these barges going from Paddington, Marylebone, or Kensington on the Grand Junction Canal, and had seen these conditions, if he had smelt the boats even, and if he had seen the women and children in these conditions, I am quite sure that, whatever he may be in politics, he would agree with me that the sooner those conditions are abolished the better it will be for everybody concerned. The argument about this being an invasion of family life, an interference with the liberty of the subject, is one of those platitudes that are used against every social reform brought into this House. The same argument was used against bringing women out of coal mines, against children not being allowed to go to factories at seven and eight, against raising the school leaving age from 10 to 11, from 11 to 12, and from 12 to 14; and the very same argument, I fear, will be used in this House in a few months from now when the school leaving age is raised from 14 to 15. We shall be told that it will ruin family life and that factories will not get their labour, but I am quite sure that no decent, thinking, reasoning man will for a moment allow that kind of argument to make him vote against this Bill. I support this Bill. I think it is a good Bill and that it will redress a social evil, and I am quite convinced that it is a Bill that will help to improve the conditions and the lives of the children concerned.


I can say, at once, that I am heartily in sympathy with the underlying objects of this Bill, but I deprecate the fact that it has been dealt with in an emotional way. We have to try and get down to bed-rock sense and to discuss the matter free from any undue sentiment. The case is quite a good one without the emotional sentiment, and we must consider the facts which people, who have looked into the matter with great care and free from any kind of passion, have found. The Neville Chamberlain Report, in 1921, has been quoted to this House and, if anything, the conditions will probably be better now than they were then. That Report says: So far as health, cleanliness, morality, feeding and clothing are concerned, they are fully equal, if not superior, to town dwellers of similar class. Take the health of the canal boat children: Taking the evidence as a whole, we cannot assert that the health of canal boat children is worse than that of those who live in the crowded dwellings of our large cities. I will now read what it says on the vexed question of child labour: Our general conclusion about child labour is that it is little practised except among the older and stronger boys and girls and that if the case against the employment of children on canal boats had to rest upon charges of cruelty, the evidence would be quite insufficient to warrant our recommending any drastic measures. At the same time, the statements of witnesses tend to show that the employment of young children is not necessary to the industry, and, in fact, child labour has been forbidden in more than one instance without apparent injury to the working of the boats. Let us get away from all that. The question that we have to discuss is that of education, and that question is a very serious one. It comes down to this, that there are practically 1,000 children on those boats who are not being educated at all. There are some spasmodic attempts made when they arrive at one end or the other of the canal or at some point half way. Anybody with the least knowledge of elementary education knows that to be effective it must be continuous. You cannot put a child into a school here and then next day into a school there. It takes a little time for children to get accustomed to their surroundings and for teachers to find out what they know. That idea is perfectly ridiculous. The real thing is the education of these children. I am entirely in sympathy with that, and I should be prepared to go the whole way with this Bill so far as education is concerned. The conclusion of the Neville Chamberlain Report is in my opinion very moderate and reasonable.

But, coming down to facts, what are we going to do? We have 1,000 children whom we are going, on the 1st of January next, suddenly to take away from their fathers and mothers and send to school. In practice, what is to be done? You must take them and send them to boarding schools, and you must provide the boarding schools. I should be prepared to vote for those boarding schools. Unless something of the kind is proposed and included in this Bill, it is impracticable and will not work. I understand that in Scotland in some instances there are boarding schools for elementary children. If it is possible for Scotland it ought to be possible here, and, in this particular instance, these hoarding schools ought to be provided if you are going to enforce this provision. I doubt whether the Bill can be amended. I should like to propose an Amendment to that effect, but I am afraid that under the title I could not amend it, and that at any rate it would be out of Order for any private Member to propose a benefit of that kind. I cannot vote for this Bill, because it is impracticable, unless the Government are going to bring in some proposal to deal with these children in a practical way. If they will do that, I shall vote for the Bill.


We are in an unusually disinterested position to give consideration to this Bill, because I imagine, from the nature of the case, that none of the persons concerned on these boats have any votes. The fact of their going to different parts of the country continually makes them unable to qualify, and, while, of course, we always look at these matters from the national point of view, we are able to do so to an unusual degree today. I support this Bill, but some of us on these benches feel that before it is passed it will have to be altered and amended very drastically in Committee. No doubt the promoters have pitched their case as high as possible in order to get some kind of compromise in Committee, but they may perhaps have opened their mouths too widely and frightened many people from supporting a Bill which they would otherwise have been willing to support. Quite apart from the fact that any child under 15 will not be allowed to go on a barge or oven travel on a barge for half-an-hour, the fact remains that under Clause 3 of the Bill we are making this an offence under Section 12, sub-section (1) of the Children Act, 1908. That is making it an offence comparable to gross cases of cruelty, and makes the offender liable to a fine of £100 and to two years' imprisonment with hard labour. To suggest that any person who allows a child of 14 years of age to spend a day on a barge is to be liable to two years' hard labour is not helping the case.

If this Bill passes its Second Reading, as I trust it will, I hope that the mem- of the Committee will see that it is amended in a drastic way in order to bring it much more into line with the Neville Chamberlain Committee's report some years ago. There will be a very wide measure of general agreement, because the Canal Carriers' Association itself, in the memorandum they sent round, suggest that, if the Bill passes its Second Reading, it may be amended on certain lines. That shows that they are not opposed to considerable advances being made. I represent a constituency which is very interested in canals, because, being on the verge of the Black Country, we have a number of canals passing through it. The men in those cases make their daily journey carrying coal and sand from the collieries and sand pits to the works, they go back again at night, and they live with their families, who do not live on the barges at all. The barges are worked by two men, and I do not see why it should not be possible for all barges to be worked in the same way. I myself have made trips during the last few summers with some of my children on barges on all the canals which go through my constituency. I frankly admit that we have assisted in the working of locks and that sort of thing, but I shall have to consider very seriously, if this Bill passes, before making any such trip with my children as I would be liable to a term of two years' imprisonment with hard labour.

The real case arises not on these short trips when men can get home at night, as the men do in the Black Country, but where long trips are made from one end of the country to the other. That is where the problem is undoubtedly a serious one. I am bound to say that I have never given any very close attention to the question before, but I have read the various documents that were sent round in the way of propaganda by people interested, and what converted me to support the Bill was a document sent in opposition to the Bill by the Canal Carriers' Association and the Canal Association. I thought that, if they really could not say anything more against the Bill than what was contained in that document, there is very little to be said about it. One argument is that for 150 years it has been the custom for families to live in this way. That is an argument which may appeal to a certain type of conservative mind, but I am sure not to anybody in this House. I do not think that it would carry much weight with many people. Slavery has been in existence for many thousands of years, but that is not exactly an argument for carrying it on indefinitely.

The right hon. and learned Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield) did not show his usual skill, because he quoted very fairly, but with perhaps less wisdom, arguments extracted from letters which were absolutely contradictory. He quoted first his reverend friend, who said that the idea of any lack of education was purely imaginary, and then he quoted from a document which appeared in the Canal Association's memorandum that the one unfortunate feature inseparably associated with this section of the community is that of their lack of education. With a mobile dwelling, the boat remaining only an hour or two a day at the various places en route, it is extremely difficult for the children to obtain even the rudiments of elementary schooling. Those two views are inconsistent. It has not been disputed that in the matter of education there is very real difficulty indeed. I am bound to say that I do not see how you are going to get over it, but should these children be deprived of the opportunities which other children get in life of being instructed up to the age of 14—and soon up to the age of 15—and of being able to make the best of the talents with which they have been endowed? Why should they, of all the people in the country, be deprived of it? There is no reason why we should inflict on the children of the bargemen and boatmen of this country such a serious handicap throughout their lives. I was very glad to listen to an hon. Member's quotation from the Wolverhampton Education Committee's Report, and to know that Wolverhampton are in the van of progress in this matter under its most efficient director of education and of the education committee and that they have been able to make exceptionally good arrangements for giving education to the barge children. Unfortunately, there axe not many instances where it is possible to do anything effective in that direction. No industry ought to be allowed to be carried on if it inflicts hardship or suffering or real disadvantage upon the employés and upon the employés' children. The State ought to step in and lay down the law that these things shall not be allowed. If the canal industry can only be carried on by allowing this system, which deprives children of education, to be continued, there is something very wrong with the canal system, and it requires to be altered.

The argument has been brought forward that this Bill would mean separating children from their parents, and the breaking up of family life, but there are many professions where that exists, and where it is inevitable, yet the world goes on, and families go on in a, quite satisfactory way. The case of seamen has been quoted, and another case very much to the point is that of commercial travellers. They have to travel during the whole of the week to distant parts of the country, they get home for week-ends, but sometimes they are away for longer periods. That is one of the disadvantages which cannot be got over in the industrial system as it is. [An HON. MEMBER: "Members of Parliament!"] They also are under a disadvantage in that direction. Another argument is that we should not take the children from the wonderful time they are having in these boats. To go in the middle of the summer on a barge is all right—it is ideal—but these barges are travelling throughout the year, and the occupants are confined to very small cabins. It is also asked why we should take the children from these idyllic conditions and put them into slums. The answer is: Do not have slums; get rid of them. I venture to hope that the Government will in the near future introduce legislation to deal with this question in the way in which it ought to be attacked. Do not let them attack the problem on one side alone, but along the whole front. In that way, they will avoid the risk of putting these children into slums.

It has been said that, from an economic point of view, it would be unfair to place an additional burden upon the canal industry. I had the opportunity on Tuesday night of calling attention to the very wide question of the reorganisation and rationalisation of the canal system. It is not only in respect of the children that the canal system is inadequate and behind the times; it wants reorganising in a very thorough manner, unifying and bringing up to date, and making into a national asset as it might be, and as it certainly is not at the present time. Both the Royal Commission of 1906 and the Parliamentary Committee of the Tight hon. Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) reported that, if we are to make anything of our canals, they must be unified under some kind of public authority or public control. As long as they are allowed to run in the present isolated condition, we shall make nothing of them. It may well be that, if we pass this Measure, it will be a stimulus and an impetus to getting on with that very necessary work, which is to attack our canal system all along the line, and to make it the assistance to the country which it might well be. I am anxious to see this Bill pass with suitable Amendments, because I believe that, in the interests both of humanity and of efficiency, it will be a real step forward.


I want to approach this matter on a. line which was shortly touched upon by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), because the profession to which I belong takes me quite frequently into the various criminal courts of this country. When a Bill of this sort is introduced, I look first to see what kind of penalty is being put into it. When we look at the penalty under this Bill, we find that it is the same as under Section 12 of the Children Act. That Section deals with a person who wilfully ill-treats, neglects, abandons, or exposes a child or young person in a manner likely to cause the child or young person unnecessary suffering or injury to his health. In this Bill, the promoters take out the words unnecessary suffering or injury to his health. An offence under that Section of the Children Act includes injury to or loss of eight or hearing or limb or organ of the body, or any mental derangement. For that offence there is, quite properly, a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment with hard' labour, coupled with or alternative to a fine of £100 if the person is charged on indictment or a fine of £25 or six months' imprisonment if he is charged in a court of summary jurisdiction.

Can the offences which will be set up under this Bill be compared with the offences under Section 12 of the Children Act? I submit that it is quite obvious they cannot. I am not criticising courts of law as a whole, but there are, as we know, some presiding magistrates or judges who think that when the law has been offended against there ought to be heavy penalties. Such a magistrate will say: "Here you are, taking this child on a barge when it ought not to have been there; the penalty laid down by Parliament, in its wisdom, is two years' hard labour if you are tried on indictment and six months' imprisonment if you are tried before me." The result may be imprisonment for three months or six months. Such a punishment is quite inapplicable to an offence of this sort.

Let us consider under what circumstances the offence might be committed. The Bill does not speak only of children residing on a barge, but of children who travel on or in a canal boat. That means to say that if a child went for a day's trip on the barge with his or her father, the father would have committed an offence under the Bill. Is that really the intention of the proposers of this Measure? I can hardly think that it is, and that is why I am glad that in the last three or four speeches this Measure has been considered on a rather different plane from the, perhaps, slightly-heated feeling we had in the early part of the debate. One has to look at what the results of this Measure may be. Take another case. In the Neville Chamberlain Report the question of a mother's confinement on board these barges is dealt with. It is horrible to think that a certain number of children are born in these conditions; that is a thing none of us would like to see; but a man and his wife may be travelling together on a barge and their child may be born early, be a seven months child. If it is born on the barge, a criminal offence has been committed under this Bill. The man is in the difficulty of running the risk of committing this criminal offence or of removing his wife at a time when, perhaps, she ought not to be moved.

Again, we may have the case of a badly paid man who may not be able to afford a home away from the barge where his children can be kept properly. If he does not keep them properly there he may be exposed to proceedings under Section 12 of the Children Act, and if he keeps them where he can afford to keep them, on his barge, he is by this Bill, equally exposed to a prosecution under that Section. The promoters are putting forward hasty legislation—I am quite certain in all good faith—with a certain amount of sentimental feeling for the children which, if it be not criticised in this House, may do irremediable harm to a large number of people. I can foresee Hon. Members having cases brought to their attention if this Bill becomes law in which people have been prosecuted and have suffered a penalty such as we ourselves would not have imposed, but which is at any rate within the maximum which is laid down in this Bill.

2.0 p.m.

If I may put it quite tersely this is legislation put forward without due consideration and such as brings our criminal law into disrepute. It would almost be an honour to stand in the dock if the man had been put there because he had taken his child for a trip of a day or two days on his own barge, and we ought to be very careful before we create offences of that character.

On what ground is it that the promoters of the Bill ask us to pass it into law? It is not upon the ground of danger, because I hope nobody is suggesting that the fathers and mothers on these barges take less care of their children than do other sections of the community. They are human beings, they are British men and women, and they look after their children. Probably life on a barge is less dangerous for the children than is life in our streets today. Further, I understand the Bill is not brought forward on the ground of the ill-health of the children, because the evidence on the point, so far as it has been sifted by the Neville Chamberlain Committee, is against the promoters of the Bill. The ground upon which the Bill is chiefly supported, I understand, is that under the present system there is a lack of educational facilities for the children. Here I go the whole way with those who are proposing this Measure, because it is absurd to say, although schools may be carried on, that a child who attends for a couple of days, than goes away for several weeks, and then comes back for a day or two's more schooling, gets the sort of education which we wish to see in this country.

The question is: How can we deal with this matter on less drastic lines than those set out in the Bill? We could do it on the lines of the Neville Chamberlain Report, that is, by making it an offence for a child to live upon a barge during any time when the term of his school was in progress. That seems to me to be a very sound way of arranging the problem, and I could support a Bill on those lines. Here we have a Bill imposing very heavy penalties for what amounts to the offence of neglecting to send a child to school for which the ordinary penalty is 20s. It is an educational offence which these people are committing, and we ought to put them on the same basis as other people who refuse to have their children educated. If it is on educational grounds that this Bill is put forward, there is no need to separate the children from their parents—there is no reason why the Bill should touch a child between the day of its birth and the day when it becomes five years old. We all hope the time will come when these barges are got rid of, gradually, but we have them to-day, and we have to ascertain what is the best thing to be done for the families who live on them.

The case is not quite on all fours with that of railway journeys, because the trips of these barges occupy a considerable time, and the goods have to be looked after, and therefore the man has to remain upon his barge throughout the voyage. If, indeed, the Bill is amended on educational lines, I should like to see and have some indication from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, who, I understand is going to give us the views of the Government, as to whether some sort of boarding school for these children could not be instituted in order that the women would not have to make the serious choice as to whether they would stay with their husbands or with the children.

There is another side of this question upon which I think I snail have the support of some hon. Members opposite. We had a very interesting discussion not long ago upon the question of giving an allowance to naval officers who were married. I think the people we are now considering deserve such an allowance just as much as naval officers if you are going to take them off the barges, because these people have not enough wages to be able to provide dual homes, and they are not able to place their children in such comfortable surroundings as naval officers.

I hope we shall get some indication from the promoters of this Bill, first of all, to the effect that they are prepared, in Committee very much to mitigate the heavy penalties proposed by the Bill. I lay very great stress upon that point as one who has had some experience of the passing of a Bill with very heavy penalties without really considering the cases in which the courts could inflict the full penalties. I want to see made some Amendment which will allow the children to stay with their parents on the boats during their holidays, and which will allow wives to stay with their husbands at such times as do not conflict with the school age. I should like provision made for allowing the children to spend their short holidays with their families, although for the rest of the time it is quite proper that they should be kept off the barges. If I cannot obtain some assurance on those points, I shall vote against the Second Reading of the Bill.


In the first place, I desire to cleat the question of children living on barges loaded with refuse. Unfortunately, there is no doubt whatever about that, and I was very much surprised that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield) should express the belief that such a state of affairs did not exist. There is no doubt about it at all. It was mentioned in the report of the Inspectors of the Department of the Ministry of Health for the years 1926, 1928, and 1929, and it was also the subject of a full discussion in the Report on Public Cleansing in London submitted to the Minister by one of his Inspectors some twelve months ago, and recommendations were made by the inspectors that children should not be allowed to live in barges loaded with refuse. There are in London five loading wharves on the Grand Junction Canal. There are wharves at Paddington, Marylebone, Woodford Road, near West-bourne Park, and St. Pancras. On those wharves the children habitually live on the contractors' boats. What happens at the end of the journey when they come to put the stuff on the dump is that the children get out of the canal boats and play on the dump. There is no doubt whatever about that.

We have had an interesting Debate, and I have been struck with the extraordinary amount of consent in this House that something should be done. There are really Very few root and branch opponents of the Bill. Let us examine the speeches of those who have spoken in opposition to the Measure. Several hon. Members have raised the question of education, and on this point hon. Members are generally agreed that something should be done. These children follow a life which is quite different from that of any other class. They live on the barges, and they are brought up in them. They marry each other and they are deprived of the benefits of education. It is true that there are many difficulties arising in dealing with this question, and the chief of them is the housing difficulty. In the present condition of the housing problem, it is a very difficult matter to deal with, although it is generally admitted that it is essential that there should be a speedy removal of these children from the canal boats.

The promoters of the Bill have two objects—the complete rooting out of child labour from this industry and the giving of complete educational facilities to these children. Provided that these objects are attained, I have their authority to say that they are willing to discuss the means. If that be so, I ask the House to give by a large majority a Second Reading blessing to this Bill. A Second Reading blessing to the Bill will mean that something will be done, while, if the Bill were lost, which I do not think is likely, it would throw back the whole question of reform for a very long time. Therefore, the Government will welcome the Second Beading of the Bill, and I hope, and I begin to believe now, that it will be carried by a considerable majority.


Might I ask the hon. Lady to give us something a little more specific than what she has just said in the way of guarantee? It is very vague. "Discuss the means" might mean anything.


I must point out that this is a Private Member's Bill, and I perceive that hon. Members have very strong and definite opinions upon it. I think, therefore, that at this stage I cannot say more than I have said.


I do not know that the hon. Lady who has just spoken will regard me as a "root and branch" opponent of the Bill, but I wish to point out to the House the very serious action which is being proposed, and, when I have done that, I will, perhaps, say a word on the proposal that the hon. Lady has made. This Bill proposes to deal with a very special class of workers in this country, whose conditions of work and whose conditions of life are very peculiar. What method does it adopt to deal with those peculiar conditions? In the first place, the Bill does not propose to spend one penny of public or private money on the assistance of these children about whom so much has been said. There is no provision in the Bill for any special accommodation at schools, or any special housing accommodation for these families; it confines itself to a pure prohibition of certain practices. In the second place, that prohibition is not applied to certain things which admittedly need remedying. There is nothing in the Bill that would prevent a woman in an advanced state of pregnancy from being on board one of these barges carrying refuse. In the third place, to whom is the purely indiscriminate prohibition proposed in this Bill to be applied? To whom are the penalties to be applied? Is it to those representatives of private enterprise, those profiteering gentlemen, of whom the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton), and even the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill, spoke?


Perhaps I may be allowed to say that we are very anxious to help the employers—the owners of these boats—in every way to preserve this industry. It is our bread and butter as well as theirs. But we want to do that subject to there being no child labour and to the children going to school.


The hon. Member has not quite understood what I was suggesting. It is not the employer on whom the penalties imposed by this Bill will fall; it is on: Any person over the age of 16 years who has the custody, charge or care of any child…. It is the parent or the elder brother in charge of the boat to whom these stringent penalties of which my hon. Friend has spoken are applied. It is not the employer; it is not the person who is benefiting by the child labour; it is a penalty on the parent.

On the face of it, this Bill is a Bill to regulate the family compulsorily, and to impose penalties upon the family if it refuses to be regulated. That may or may not be justifiable, but when hon. Members opposite relate this proposal to the early child labour regulations, to the early factory regulations, I think they are making a mistake. It is quite true that this country, after the industrial revolution, had to pass through that stage. It is quite true that the working classes of this country still need the protection of child labour legislation. But I think we are at the beginning of a new era, an era in which we have, in spite of the difficulties of education, as to which I am quite at one with hon. Members opposite, something approaching an educated democracy, when parents are entitled to be regarded as the responsible controllers of their children; and the State ought to concentrate itself chiefly on providing facilities to help parents to do what they admittedly want to do. Parents on these canal boats want to give their children a good education, and it is for us primarily to provide facilities. There is, I think, a growing feeling in this country, and a justifiable feeling, that Parliament, because it continues to concentrate itself on the compulsory and penal provisions of our social legislation, is failing day by day really to give the working classes the opportunities which they require, and is day by day forcing the working man, the working producer in this country, further and further into a state of inequality compared with the economically better-to-do man in this country.

As I have said, this Bill proposes to apply an absolutely sweeping prohibition not recommended by any Government Committee. The Mover of the Bill—and I hope he will allow me to pay a tribute to the way in which he introduced the Bill; there is no Member who is held in greater respect in all parts of the House than the hon. Gentleman—did not mention the Committee presided over by my right hon. Friend the Member for Egbaston (Mr. Chamberlain). That Committee did not recommend anything that would justify the statements made by the Mover of the Bill and other hon. Members as to the health conditions on canal boats. On the contrary, the Report of that Committee showed quite clearly that the health conditions on the whole were not bad, and that even the labour conditions were not bad. I know that a good deal of evidence has been accumulated since then, but nevertheless that Committee, which I think is the only Government Committee which has formally reported, proposed nothing more than that children of school age should not during term time be allowed on these barges—a proposal on which the hon. Member for St. Helens poured the vials of his righteous scorn as being the most absurd proposal in the world. What are the reasons for which it is proposed to impose this sweeping and indiscriminate measure of compulsion? I think there are two, namely, health reasons and educational reasons. As regards the health reasons, it is not urged, as I have said, that the health conditions on board these boats are seriously bad. They are probably better than the conditions in a great many places in this country.


Has the Noble Lord seen them?


Yes, of course I have, both in this country and abroad. I wish hon. members who talk about the conditions on canal barges, and are perhaps not intimately acquainted with housing conditions in London, would go to the slums at the back of the Harrow Road and at the back of Westbourne Park Station. It is not that the health or the decency and moral conditions of these children are worse. It is not that there are not prohibitions against child labour on the canals. There are. It is, surely, that those conditions are difficult to enforce, because the inspector finds it difficult to track the canal boat and to appear on it frequently enough that health conditions are difficult to control. Therefore, the proposal of the Bill is that the population, as a matter of principle, should live invariably in places where they can be properly inspected by a pub- lic authority, that there must not be any family living in a home, whether afloat or stationary, where the sanitary inspector cannot have access at any hour of the day and where the inspectors of the Home Office cannot control and prevent child labour. That is a very dangerous principle, and one which we have never yet quite adopted, that the locus of the family habitation should be determined by its immediate inspectability by a public authority, and that is what you are saying in the first place in this Bill.

In the second place, coming to the consideration of education, do hon. members realise what is the new principle that they are introducing? It is a new priniciple in England, though not I admit entirely in Scotland, and I prefer our English Governmental conditions, I am afraid, to some of the governmental conditions of Scotland.

Viscountess ASTOR



Education, too, in recent years. Within the last 50 years I prefer them considerably. The old principle was that the school must be brought to the child, that you could not compel a parent under a penalty to send a child to school unless the education authorities provided a school within comparatively easy distance of the home. That is impossible with canal boats. It is impossible very generally, in England at any rate, with gypsies and, therefore, the proposal that we should bring the child to the school, that the parents should not be allowed to live anywhere which is not within reach of a proper school, is a rather dangerous principle to introduce at this moment. We are reorganising the whole of our school system. We are making the older children travel a much longer way to school. The whole reorganisation of our school system depends upon being able to get central schools within reasonable distance of the home. But that encounters very great difficulties in sparsely populated areas, and if you are going to begin to introduce this principle, that the parents may be obliged to live within reach of a school, you may have it applied far beyond the range of canal boat children and with. I think, almost equal force on educational grounds.

You may begin to force parents to send their children to central schools which cannot be reached within a journey at the beginning and end of the day. That is a very dangerous innovation. I would ask hon. Members to consider that when you come to that point you are coming to an extension of the powers of compulsion which this country ought to refuse to accept. When you adopt those two principles, that a family may not live in any dwelling which is not easily inspected by the local authority, and that a family of children growing up must live within easy reach of a school, you are opening out two principles of further State compulsion and interference with the life of the individual, and the living of the individual, for which you have no precedent yet in this country. I agree with a great deal that has been said by hon. Members opposite about the conditions on the barges. But do hon. Members opposite take this view, that the only question you have to decide in proposing legislation is whether it will partly or wholly eliminate an admitted evil irrespective of the cost at which it is eliminated—moral not financial? I consider that it is very regrettable and dangerous for a child to be brought up by an atheist, but would anyone say that, if a majority of Members of the House agreed to that idea, it would be justifiable for a public authority to say, "Because you do not believe in any religious faith, therefore we will take your children from you"? You have to prove very much more before you have a case for compulsory legislation than the fact that there is an evil.

I now come to the hon. Lady's speech. She said there was a general consensus of opinion that something ought to be done, therefore let us go upstairs and discuss it. But the hon. Lady knows as well as any of us that the very worst body to discuss a thing on a vague basis of that kind is an ordinary Standing Committee, where the whole discussion depends on the sort of Amendments which either side may be able to vamp up for the purpose. If she means anything serious, she must mean something different from that. I have had a little experience in passing the Second Reading of Bills on vague understandings and on more definite undertakings from the Government Bench that they needed amendment, and when we got upstairs we found that the Government were quite determined not to amend them at all.


In the last Government.


Perhaps it happened in the last Government, but it has certainly happened in this Government. All Governments in this matter are equally bad. The hon. Lady wants this to be amended. How is she going to amend if! Either she has to say how she proposes to amend it, or she has to say that in their opinion it ought to go to a Select Committee, one of these two things. I do not see that anything short of a Select Committee could induce me to do otherwise than oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. It is, after all, on the face of it, an absolutely frank attempt to deal with a complicated social problem by a great sweeping measure of prohibition without considering the parties concerned in any way at all. The hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) drew a lamentable word picture of the poor child on the canal bank nibbling a biscuit and following the horse.


I have seen it.


Yes, and I have done it myself, but not when I was quite as young as that. But will the hon. Gentleman draw an equally lamentable word picture of the child spending its school holidays at the back of Westbourne Park Station or the back of Harrow Road? On the face of it, it is a proposal of an entirely indiscriminate compulsion, without considering the interests of the parties. I want to say, in conclusion, as showing my fundamental objection to this kind of proposal, what would be my suggestion. There was a proposal made to the committee presided over by my right hon. Friend which that committee turned down. It was that yen should provide boarding accommodation at selected schools for these children, and that you should offer these facilities to the family who are just as well able to know as we are that their children need education and ought to have it. We were to offer that boarding accommodation and persuade the parents to send their children to it. What was the ground on which that proposal was turned down by that committee? It was turned down on the ground that it would force local authorities to go to great expense to provide accommodation for these children, with no guarantee that the children would take advantage of it, and no guarantee that their parents would be sufficiently alive to their responsibility for sending their children to it.

That is the kind of position in education into which we are getting at the present moment. We will not put up any public money unless we can compel the people to take advantage of it. We have no faith, apparently, in the good sense of the working woman and the working man. We say: "We will put up public money if you will allow us to compel you to take advantage of it." We rely upon the comparatively rich to send their children to a boarding school. [Interruption.] It is fatuous to suppose that the working-class father or mother would not do the best for a child when asked to do it, absolutely fatuous. [An HON. MEMBER: "If he has enough money."] The hon. Member who confines himself always to inarticulate interruptions would be well advised not to provoke the inevitable retort to which his interruptions lead. It is his confessed opinion that it is useless to ask working-class parents to do the best for their children unless they are compelled.


That is sheer rubbish.


I believe that if you provide accommodation which does not exist at the present moment it will allow these families to send their children, though not necessarily as early as five years. We do not, as a matter of fact, expect the rich man to send his child to school at that age. We are quite content that he should send it at an age when he can justifiably send it to a boarding school. I believe that if you conducted a campaign of advice among these parents, you would get these children to school and into that boarding accommodation. I believe that is the way along which the State in these days ought to go. I know it is expensive, and that the local authorities hate to incur that kind of expenditure.

Let me turn for a moment in quite a friendly way to the eloquent appeals which have been made from the other side. If hon. Members are serious in their views on this terrible evil, then let them put up the money which will solve it in the way most acceptable to the parents involved, and not try and get rid of extra expense by passing a sweeping Measure of compulsion which takes no account whatever of the conditions, or wishes, or the self-respect of the parents with whom we are to deal.


I have listened almost to the whole of this Debate with very great interest, and, notwithstanding the attack which the Noble Lord has made upon the Bill, I think that the feeling of the House was best represented by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health when she said that there was a remarkable measure of agreement in all parts of the House to the main proposition of this Bill. It would be foolish of anybody to ignore the great difficulties which confront the proposals of the Bill. I am sure that we should all like to express to the Mover of the Motion in a special degree our very great appreciation of the speech which he made. It was a speech which seemed to me to be unanswerable on the general case, and on the principle which he laid down.

I was surprised to find the Noble Lord the late President of the Board of Education devoting so large a part of his speech searching for a principle by which he could find, some reason for these children not being educated. The real principle is the one which has happily been accepted by all parties in this House since 1870, that all children of school age wherever they are, should be educated. I will not follow him into the fascinating subject as to the original parents of democracy, except to say that it has been for very nearly a century established in all civilised countries that no parent can do what he likes with what he calls his own, that children are citizens from the day of their birth and belong to the community into which they are born, so that, as far as practicable, they shall have an equal opportunity of discharging their citizenship and their service to the nation as a whole. That is the principle on which the nation stands to-day and on which it proposes to move, and it is distinctly applicable to this Bill.

As my name is on the back of the Bill, I have consulted the Mover of the Second Beading, but I have not had an opportunity of consulting my hon. Friend the Seconder, to see how far in Committee objections can be met. I agree that the Bill as it stands, if I may lapse into the vernacular, is a steep order. As the Bill stands, it would make it a criminal offence to keep a child on a canal boat. I agree with one of my hon. Friends who is practised in the law, that it is a strong thing to suggest that we should bring within the scope of Section 12 of the Children Act, 1908, with all its penalties, anybody responsible for any child travelling, even for a short time, on a canal boat. I can say, with the assent of the Mover, that in Committee an Amendment would be accepted limiting the provision to children of school age. There is nothing vague about that. It is quite definite.


Does that apply even to refuse boats?


We have to be very careful about that, There is general assent in the House on certain points. The right hon. Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield) was amazed that children could be housed permanently on refuse boats, and he said that he would not in any circumstances agree to that. I assume that to be the point of the Noble Lord also. The promoters of the Bill would be prepared to say that children should be taken from refuse boats and housed ashore. What is called the wisdom of Parliament, sometimes the phrase is used cynically, ought to be able in Committee to find a way out in respect to objections. The criticism with regard to penalties ought to be fully met. It would be ridiculous to send someone to prison for two years because their child may have travelled on a canal boat for a day or two. That will not do, and it ought to be fully and fairly met. If we are limiting this provision to children of school age, that at once admits the right of parents to have children under five years of age on canal boats. That would appear to be a necessary implication.


Am I to understand that the Amendment will allow children under school age, irrespective of health conditions, to remain on the boats? If not, will the hon. Member explain what provision will be put into the Bill and who is to decide that some of the children can remain on the boats, irrespective of whether the children will suffer in health or not?


So far as the health of these children is concerned, there seems to be pretty general agreement that they do not suffer as compared with the worst class of housing in the country. The main question deals with two points—child labour and education, and I admit that there will be some difficulty to be dealt with, but they will be properly considered in Committee when the Amendment is put down.


Can the hon. Member say whether the Amendments will include an Amendment that this restriction shall apply only to the school term, and not to the whole year?


That is another matter with which I will deal later. May I remind the House of the actual position with regard to the education of these children. An hon. and learned Friend of mine has stated that the total number of children who suffer from lack of education is round about 1,000. I fear that he seriously underestimated the position. An officer of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has issued an official statement, of which there has been no challenge, from which it appears that he visited 1,589 boats which had children on board. The children numbered 3,519. Of these, 1,527 were born on the boats. He states that 1,867 children were under school age when seen and that their education might be described as follows: Good 79, fair 302, poor 316, that is, would not be able to pass Standard II at the age of 14. No fewer than 703 had had no education at all; could not read or write; never been to school at all, 252. That is a very serious position. All these fancy, idyllic stories which have been in the Press in the last two or three days, backed up with those beautiful photographs of country scenes may be all very well, but the real facts are not as depicted there. The facts are shown in reports such as the one which I have just quoted and in the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of this Bill. Those are the facts with which we have to deal. In view of these facts, I do not wonder that the Chamberlain Committee was moved to make some very strong recommendations. They said: We are quite clear that there is only one satisfactory method of providing for the education of canal boat children, and that is to keep them off the boats altogether during the school term. There is not a single Member of the House who will dissent from that. The educational case is overwhelming, and is admitted in all parts of the House. There is not such general agreement on the question of child labour, but hon. Members opposite, who have trudged along the canal side, are witnesses of the actual practice. They know what they are talking about, and although it may not be large there is a substantial amount of child labour in connection with this industry which should be stopped. I do not put it higher than that. The lack of education practically ties down these children to the occupation of their fathers. In my opinion, as far as primary education is concerned, there should be equality of opportunity throughout the land. You will find as fine a quality of what the doctors call grey matter in the brain of a child on the canal as in the brain of a child in any house in the land. It is there; and it is the wealth of the nation. To say that they are to be condemned because they were born on a canal boat to follow the occupation of their fathers is not my idea of citizenship or of education. The Chamberlain Committee took the same view. They said: However useful this may be from the point of view of the industry we cannot bring ourselves to consider it as a serious argument in comparison with the prospects of the child. That is statesmanship. I ask the House to regard this matter on broad general lines,' not merely on the line of humanitarian sentiment, but on the rights of all its citizens. It is very foolish of any Government and the promoters of any Private Bill to attempt to go further in legislation than the general sense of the House will allow—and I speak with a little experience of Parliament. In Committee the promoters of this Bill will be compelled, whatever they may desire, to conform to the general wishes of the House. This is a Private Member's Bill, it is not a Government Bill, and unless it has a very large measure of general agreement it has no chance of getting on the Statute Book during this Parliament with its crowded programme. It will have to have general assent if it is to have any real chance of passing into law. The promoters of the Bill recognise that the general sense of the House does not go quite as far as the proposals in the Bill, and I have indicated those points on which they agree in the criticisms which have been put forward this afternoon. At the same time, I am sure that the general feeling of the country as well as of this House is that this Bill should have a Second Reading and be referred to a Committee, where these matters can be threshed out in no party spirit at all. The proposal to refer it to a Select Committee, of course, kills the Bill.

3.0 p.m.


The right hon. Member has met me on two points but he did not deal with the matter of school holidays; whether he will allow young children to reside on the boats and travel with their parents during school holidays.


Personally, I should not have the slightest hesitation in agreeing to that.


Those who have followed this Debate will agree that there is a strong feeling in the House that children of school age should be excluded from the barges of this country, but I think a very strong case can be made out, on the ground of health and general well-being, for the exclusion of all children from these barges. The best that has been said for the conditions of life on the canals, as far as the children are concerned, is that they are not worse, or not much worse, than the conditions in the slums. If we exclude children from the barges as well as from the slums we shall be going one step better. When I was at school I used to walk on the tow path, sometimes getting a ride on a barge, and I got to know something of the life of those who live on these canal boats. I have seen barges since. I saw a good many last summer, and as far as I can see conditions have not changed in the slightest. There is still a large number of children on the long barges which go in the narrow canals. The right hon. Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield) made his great point by reading from the Report of the Inspector of the Ministry of Health in his last year's Report. I should like him to read other reports. In 1926 the same inspector said: As far as narrow boats are concerned there is no decrease in the number of women and children, and the personal conditions on these boats leave much to be desired. I have seen boats in the Paddington Basin loaded up with the refuse of London, and I could not help feeling that the fact that in 1927 the infant death-rate of one part of Paddington was nearly six times as great as the infantile death rate of another part of the same borough has something to do with the comparatively-large number of children who are born and have to live on these barges.

Lieut. - Colonel FREMANTLE

Very healthy.


As regards the long barges, those that I know have two cabins, one in front and one behind, but for the most part the cabin in front is used for storage and is not used as a living and sleeping place. I have looked at these barges carefully, and in a good many cases it is true to say that when there is any wind blowing and it is raining at the same time, the rain is bound to fall on one or other of the beds. There can be no question, therefore, that on a wet and windy night it is practically impossible to keep these barge cabins decently ventilated.

it is very difficult to show by figures that the health of the barge children is bad. We do know that it can be shown that bargees as a class suffer very much from respiratory diseases and pneumonia, and I take it that the nature of the life and the ill-ventilated cabins in which they live have something to do with this fact. But the conditions of life are equally bad for young children who have to live in these cabins. We know that when a child gets some feverish illness like a cold or measles, the one thing of greatest importance is plenty of air space. Where children are crowded they do badly; whore there is plenty of air space, other things being equal, they do much better. There is no doubt that when a child does get ill the conditions in the cabin of a barge are not desirable. We know also that these children are subject to very considerable risks. There is the risk of drowning, which cannot be overlooked in the case of a young child. In the cabins there is a fire, and a child can easily fall against the stove and be burned. Whether with the desire of the owners or not I do not know, but it is a fact that these children do take a share in the work of managing the barges. I have seen them trying to move very heavy lock gates. One cannot feel that that is desirable for a child.

While the strongest case in favour of the Bill must be made on educational principles, yet there are other very good reasons for excluding children from the barges, and in view of the danger to their health and the general conditions of their lives I at any rate shall vote for the Bill when the time comes.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

Having listened to practically the whole of this Debate, I am glad to have the opportunity of stating the position of one who is, like many on this side of the House, sincere and genuine in his desire for social reform. Perhaps I can make a special claim to speak on this matter, because of the nature of my profession and because of my constant official work as medical officer of health in a large county through which canals pass. In connection with that work I had to report every year upon, among other matters, the health of the canal population. It will be realised that I came to this subject with an open mind. In my official work, for 12 years before the War, I should say that there was no really great question arising in this connection; but when the question was raised and when communications were sent to me from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and from various constituents, I looked into the matter. I referred to the inspectors' reports which I had not formerly received, because they dealt with an aspect of the matter which did not come within my duties. When I referred to those re ports, I did not see that there was a very strong case for these proposals. I have listened to the Debate to-day, and, from the point of view of the health of the people, even after hearing my distinguished colleague who has just spoken—and whose speciality does not lie in public health, but rather in surgery—I remain unconvinced.

I am surprised for that reason that the Parliamentary Secretary ended up her tepid support of the Bill by saying that it was a very great problem. The hon. Lady is noteworthy for her careful use of language, and, if she calls this a very great problem, Heaven help her when she comes to describe the problems of coal and of unemployment insurance. Consider the extent of it. There are 3,000 children at most of whom at present 1,000 still do not get any education at all. It is not a very great problem though I do not say that it is not an essential problem to those concerned. It may be deep in quality, but, as regards extent, as compared with the 700,000 children at school, it is a very tiny problem. I have been looking for evidence as to the extent of the problem and I wish to size up the position quite fairly. I appreciate the point that has been made about the smallness of the cabins, the closeness of the life in the cabins, and the fact that the arrangements offend against all the ordinary canons of sanitation even if properly looked after—certainly against the canons laid down for houses on shore. But surely hon. Members are mistaken in suggesting that these people live entirely in the cabins. Their life is mainly outside the cabins. It is an open-air life and they resort to the cabin only for sleep, hardly at all for food, because they mostly have their food outside, and only occasionally for shelter in rainy weather.


And it never rains.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

They do not even resort to the cabins very often in rainy weather because people living an open-air life do not find rain a serious inconvenience. From the health point of view I would say that the life of the ordinary family in a canal barge compares very favourably with life in the towns, even in small healthy country towns. That is an a priori suggestion. Look at the actual records. I have gone through the records of people who have practical experience and I find absolutely no evidence of any damage to health. The inspector's report for 1928 is definite on that point. Then there is the report of the Medical Officer of Health for Birmingham. I always read the reports of this medical officer with great interest. Both he and his predecessor were medical officers of the first order. He finds nothing to say on the subject of health, and only refers to education, which of course is not his job, and on which he can only speak as an intelligent and enlightened layman. Those who do mention the health question note that these children are not inferior in health and physique to the children in the corresponding schools in the towns. Indeed, it stands to reason, there is less infection for these children. The only infection in these close, confined cabins is from their own family, and there is less chance of their taking infection and transmitting it than there is in some dwellings. I leave aside the health question, and I am certain that there is no case, taking it broadly, to be made there.

We want to get down to the facts, because, as the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) put it, the practical question is that there are two points to be met. There is the child labour question, and there is the education question. Both these questions have been covered from both sides, but it is clear that if the proposal suggested by the right hon. Member for North Cornwall for possible acceptance in Committee were to be agreed to, you would still allow the children on the barges in their holidays and up to school age, and you would allow them there above 15. Surely, therefore, this is not a right way of dealing with the child labour question. Is this question of child labour on these barges really a serious problem? If the alternative is to put in a mate, then there is a chance of extra employment there, and those who are rigidly making a shibboleth of having no child labour at all where you can have adults employed instead would say, "Let us seize this occasion as an opportunity for working along our lines"; but I feel fairly certain that the so-called child labour performed on these barges is of a very slight order and that it cannot economically be replaced by an adult person. It is mostly small jobs of one kind or another, and I think that it is not a sufficient reason for supporting this Bill.

The fact that there is child labour on board is really misleading. It is using a phrase that rightly has a great stigma attached to it in respect to conditions of work to which it does not apply. I will put it in this way. Imagine this case against child labour being argued, say, 120 or 130 years ago, would the case have been put on the canal boat children? If they had put their case for limiting child labour in mines and in industry generally simply on the case against child labour on the barges, would there have been the least chance of getting it passed? Not the least. It would not have had any sympathy at all, and yet it was child labour in the mines and factories and mills that induced a Conservative Member of Parliament and Prime Minister to introduce the first factory legislation dealing with the abolition of child labour.

Therefore, I come to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Sir J. Withers), who made a speech that appealed to the House very much, in which he conceded the need for attaining the objects proposed in this Bill, but regretted the way in which the case had been put forward, with so much sentiment attached to it instead of argument. That is my trouble in these social reforms which I am so keen to get through. [Interruption.] The bane of them is people like hon. Members opposite who laugh at that kind of thing and think that the only way to get social reform through is to appeal to sentiment instead of to the head. Unfortunately, when we come down to business, the real bane of social reform is the appeal made to the heart instead of to the head. We must get-down to the business issue and to the business requirements in this case. When we do that we find that there is no case as regards health, and there is no ease as regards child labour and, indeed, this Bill is not the proper place to deal with the question of child labour.

We come to the educational question, and there there is a real case to be made. Many of us on this side of the House sympathise with the proposals of this Bill but at the same time one has always to beware of the shibboleths. Just as on the question of health and child labour one has to beware of them, so in education one must beware of the shibboleth. The shibboleth there is that, if a child cannot get through its examination, that is taken as being the same as a child not receiving any education. The right hon. Member for North Cornwall fell into that mistake, because he read cut the statistics showing how few of the children had had a fair education and how many have had no education at all, and he said how terrible it was. Yet, on the other hand, we get a report such as that of my friend the Medical Officer of Health for Birmingham stating that these children show remarkable intelligence, brightness, and enthusiasm.


Might I rise to a point of Order, and point out that, when the promoter and supporter of this Bill spoke, they spoke in perfect silence, while my hon. and gallant Friend is being subjected to continual interruption in which the Under-Secretary of State for Air has taken a prominent part.


The point of Order remains as it always does, that there should not be any interruptions from any part of the House.


Will you intervene if my hon. and gallant Friend is subjected to these interruptions to which he has hitherto been subjected?


Arising out of that point of Order. Is it not a fact that the Noble Lord is one of the most persistent interrupters?


Arguments as to who is responsible for interruptions never leads us anywhere.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

Those who really wish to get a practical result. do not believe in that shibboleth. The danger of social reformers of all kinds is adhering to shibboleths and hard and fast rules. We must realise that the progress of civilisation means that we take hard and fast lines and grooves into which we are gradually carving the whole of this population and shepherding them by these hard and fast regulations. For the great mass of the population, the education of the elementary schools is the education which they want, but to suggest that the fact that 2,000 children are not receiving this education is an appalling thing is to lose sight of the fact that there are exceptional cases on which we have different ideas of what education means. We all agree that for the general purposes of civilisation in this country, the "Three Rs" and the elementary school education is essential. I would go further than some of those outside who oppose this Measure in saying that, although I believe that education in open air life under certain circumstances is an education of real character and real power and ability for certain purposes, yet, unfortunately, for the hard and fast and artificial characters of life in this country as a rule, you are submitting children to a definite hardship if you are not going to chisel them into the ordinary uniform mode. If you do not do that, you are going to deprive them of that system of corresponding with the rest of the world for which the educational system is devised.

I believe that these children are getting a better education than they would be in their schools through living this life on the barges. It is said that that is only for the occupation in which they are engaged. The right hon. Member for North Cornwall exaggerated; it is not only for those purposes. There are other purposes, for, because of their open air life, manual life and practical life, these children are suited for the agricultural life. If I were going to take children to my farm, I would rather take children who had been brought up on barges than children brought up in towns. I should get better work out of them. [Interruption.] They would be happier and more contented in life because they had been brought up to the kind of life which they were going to fulfil. That is not the main object, unfortunately, of the people of this country. They have got to be chiselled into the artificial and unnatural conditions of town life. I agree, however, with my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge when he said that, taking it as a whole, we must recognise that it is a hardship on these children that they should not be educated according to the ordinary standards of education on an equality with other children.

No practical measures whatever are proposed in this Bill. The one and only thing suggested is forcibly to remove children from their families. That is the only practical proposal in the Bill. I will give the House an analogy. The danger to children who are with their families in barges is not great, but the danger to children living with tuberculous parents is very great, imminent and extreme. Will hon. Members who are supporting this Bill bring in another Bill forcibly to remove children from tuberculous families? [An HON. MEMBER: "Would you support it? "] That is not the question, but I certainly would not support it. Would any hon. Member support it? Of course they would not. There would be no backing for it, and yet they will allow that contamination to go on. There are any number of cases in which children are allowed to continue to live with their parents under conditions which are obviously bad for them physically, and probably mentally, if not even morally, but there is no suggestion that they should be forcibly removed.

If we suggested it from this side, we should be given the greatest names of opprobrium, such as Mussolini, that could be imagined. Here we have a more tyrannical proposal than has ever been suggested, and no provision whatever is made for the children. You may exaggerate the amount of overcrowding to which this would lead in the slums, but those of us who have had so much work to do to try and mitigate the conditions of the slums, view with the greatest possible disfavour any proposal to force people into the slums. We should do the opposite, and get them out of the slums and the towns and to decentralise them. Yet the only practical result of this Bill would be that these children would be crammed and crowded into already overcrowded tenements. The hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health actually supports this proposal. I say that a more insanitary proposal cannot be suggested. Of course, it is only a very small proposal, but it would crowd 3,000 children into already overcrowded houses and a more absurd proposal was never suggested. The hon. Lady actually suggests that we should give this Bill, which has no practical proposal, a Second Reading, and hope for the best in Committee upstairs. A more fatuous proposal from the Government Bench I cannot imagine. Why does she do it? Because she dare not offend her Friends on that side of the House by telling them the honest truth, that this is an impracticable proposal, that it is simply hot air all the way through.

So far as sentiment of the heart goes, I am all with those who are advocating the Bill; but I say, as regards real trouble, that there is none in the matter of health, that the child labour question, obviously, should be dealt with in another way, and that, though there is a real educational problem to be met, this Bill does not meet it. The only thing it would do would be to exaggerate existing troubles in housing. We must wait till we have a practical Measure to deal with the situation. We have been asked to give our reasons against the Bill, and I hope I have given some, but I will take the main reason. The right hon. Member for North Cornwall derided the beautiful pictures we have seen in the papers of canals and country scenes. Why has there been this outcry in the papers against the Bill? It is because those who are opposed to the Bill start from a very different standpoint from those who support it. The standpoint from which they start is certain shibboleths about education and against child labour, and so on. We start from the point of view of the family being the unit of national life. We start from the standpoint of natural life and natural conditions being the prime foundation of national life, and we want the necessity for exceptions to that rule to be proved before we allow those exceptions to be made. The family has been much neglected; it has been neglected to a large extent in the philosophy of the party opposite. We want, primarily, to maintain the sacredness of family life, and the rights and duties of the individual towards his family and his family responsibilities until a very clear alternative is provided. We stand for the family, and in this instance that stand shall hold good, and we will vote against this Bill.

Duchess of ATHOLL

The House will understand that in rising to support this Bill, in opposition to the views expressed by my right hon. Friend, the late President of the Board of Education, I find myself in rather an unusual position. I have been accustomed to giving him, I hope, loyal and. docile assistance on various occasions. This time I find myself in complete opposition to the views which he expressed, an opposition based not merely on reading the reports of the inspector of a society who has spent the last 10 years studying conditions amongst these children and who has, I believe, an unrivalled knowledge of their conditions of life, but based also on a personal investigation which I managed to make while I was at the Board of Education. I wanted, first, to satisfy myself as to the education of these children. I must say that I have been amazed to read some of the statements on this subject which have been made in the Press lately. I have known for some years of the admirable work, so far as it goes, carried on in that school at Paddington, but it really staggered me to find anybody who had seen anything of boatmen's children at school able to express the views, that apparently have been expressed, as to the problem of the education of these children being in a fair way to solution.

Anyone who goes into a school composed entirely of boatmen's children can at once secure evidence of backwardness, of great backwardness, in relation to ordinary educational standards. The right hon. Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield) referred to the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hall) as having visited one of the schools the other day. The hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich expressed himself to me afterwards as being gravely concerned at the educational standards to be found in the school. He came upon a boy of 13 who could neither read nor write; and that I venture to say is an experience that is not uncommon. Anyone visiting those schools would find that there are only a fraction of the children there who ought to be there, and that the general level of education is very far behind the normal; and when we try to visualise the life these children lead does it not stand to reason that their education must be seriously behind that of other children, inasmuch as they are only at school for a day or two at a time? The Chamberlain Committee had no difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that they were "scandalously under-educated," and expressed the belief that this applied to about 85 per cent. of them. Today, according to an estimate supplied by the inspector already referred to, that number is about 78 per cent.—a slight improvement. On the other hand, we have to remember that the problem is one which is increasing in size. When the Chamberlain Committee reported they stated that the number of children who were reported to them from the inspectors of the Board of Education was about 1,100. We find in the last Report of the Board that the number of canal boat children returned by the local education authorities, who make a return to the Board—and they form only a portion—is over 1,700. Therefore, even if there is some improvement in the general level of education the problem is one which is increasing in size. I am very thankful to find that there does seem to be a large measure of agreement in this House, even amongst those who have expressed themselves as opposed to this Bill, that the education of the children is a question which should be dealt with.

I would like to say a word or two about what my right hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) said in regard to compulsion as applied to education. I quite agree that it is much better if we can get a thing done by consent rather than by compulsion, but in this case he seems to me to be refusing to face the consequences of the steps already taken to set up a system of compulsory national education which was undertaken by the State as long ago as 1870. Reference was also made by him to the difficulties in which parents might be placed who reside at some distance from an education centre, but I think that is one of the difficulties which exist at the present time amongst many who live in our scattered rural areas. In whatever circumstances of life they may happen to be placed parents are frequently obliged to send their children to a boarding school or to board them with friends when they would much rather have them educated at home.

I also wish to say a word or two about the question of health. There, too, I was very quickly convinced as to the disadvantages of life on canal boats, and I believe that, as has been stated, the after cabin on what is known as a "wide boat" is less in area than the Table which is before us. Let hon. Members further realise that it is a cabin without any port or window, that it has only a hatch, which has to be closed down at night or in bad weather. The only other cabin on the boat is one of about half that size in the fore-part, which may be described merely as a hole. In this case again, the only ventilation is a hatch which must be closed at night. In some of the newer boats I am told that the after cabin sometimes has a door opening into the centre of the boat, and that would secure some ventilation at night in fine weather, but under normal circumstances the man and his wife and a certain number of his family are likely to sleep in a cabin of the size which I have described without any ventilation whatever.

I would like to remind my hon. and gallant Friend the hon. Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) that the reports to which he referred of the Inspectors of Canal Boats are reports by men who have very limited powers. I understand that their powers are really limited to seeing that the cubic space per person is sufficient, that the number on the boat is freshly painted so that the boat can be easily recognised, and to seeing, of course, that it is kept watertight. If the hon. Lady will forgive me for saying so, I do not think the standard of ventilation under the Ministry of Health regulations is very high. It provides for a cubic space of 60 cubic feet per adult and 40 cubic feet for every child under 12. That enables a man, his wife and two children under 12 to sleep in a cabin 9 ft. long, 6½ ft. wide, and 5 or 6 ft. high. There is a good deal of evidence, moreover, that the fore cabin is very little used, because it is often damp, and that if children are sleeping in it, they are isolated from their parents by the whole length of the boat. I am told by the inspector already referred to that for these reasons more than the allotted number of individuals will often be found in the after cabin. The Ministry's inspectors have no power, under their regulations, to enter these cabins after nine o'clock at night, so that it is not. really very easy, or even possible, for them to know how the family is dispersed, and so long as there is a sufficient total number of cubic feet in the fore and after cabins to allow for the persons residing on the boat, they have no reason for dissatisfaction.

I would further remind the House that the Chamberlain Report pointed out what a very unsuitable place a cabin of that kind would be for a woman to be confined in, and yet we have heard this afternoon that the Society's inspector has reported that 1,500 children have been born in these boats in the last nine or ten years. In his last Report he tells us that 64 children entered the world in these cabins last year, and he states that it is not always very easy to get the medical attention that the woman on shore normally expects. It is possible, therefore, to make out a very strong case from the point of view of the welfare of the mother particularly in days when we are trying to reduce maternal mortality and maternal morbidity. Then there is a further circumstance, which did not occur to me until it was mentioned to me by two girls to whom I was talking. They were big, strong-looking girls, and I asked them why they did not get well paid work on shore under better conditions. They said that they stayed on the boat because otherwise the younger children would have to do all the work of the boat; that the work was heavy enough for them, and would be still heavier for the younger ones. They went on to say that they also remained on the boat in order to prevent the younger children falling into the water. This is not surprising when it is remembered that, in order to get to the hatch of the after cabin, it is necessary to pass along a space from 6 to 9 inches wide, without any rail, and it will be understood at once how undesirable, and even dangerous a place a barge is on which to bring up young children. Another danger arises from the possibility of burning, from the fact that not only do the family sleep in the cabin, but that they also cook and eat there. The hon. Member for Knutsford (Brigadier-General Makins), who I am sorry has not been heard this afternoon, was told by a boat-woman a few days ago that she had had three children. She left them in the cabin while she went ashore for a short time, and when she came back they had all been burnt to death. The close proximity to the fire in places as narrow as the6e cabins are, seems to me to make it obvious that there is greater danger of fire for small children there than under the normal circumstances even of a small house. From the point of view of health, therefore, I think, there is reason for a great deal more examination than this question has hitherto received, and we have to realise that there are not many statistics on the subject. I have seen it stated in print in the last few days by persons who are opposed to the Bill, that the health statistics of these children are satisfactory, but we must remember that they do not come within the ambit of the child welfare service and only fitfully within that of the School Medical Service and therefore that less is known about their health than about any other class of children in the country.

Then a good deal of evidence on the subject of child labour has been accumulated since the Chamberlain Committee sat. Very little evidence on this subject was before the Committee, inasmuch as the society's inspector had then only just begun his work, and it is not surprising therefore that the Committee did not express a very definite opinion on this matter. Since then this inspector's report has been bringing forward annually cases of children under 14, under 12, and even down to five and six, doing labour on boats. More than once I have spent a day on the tow-path in different parts of the contry, in order to collect information on this point, and I have heard about child labour from various boatmen and boatwomen with whom I have talked. I have heard from them, as well as from Inspector Hackett, of children being employed on steering, on driving horses, and on winding the paddles to open and shut the lock gates. I have also heard from these people, as I have heard from Inspector Hackett, of children actually being employed to haul the boats at some of the locks. On some locks horses are not allowed and boats have to be hauled by hand and on others the locks are narrow, and again bow-hauling, as it is called, results. I heard complaints by more than one person connected with the canals as to delays caused at these locks when the boats were being hauled by children and were therefore going more slowly than would otherwise have been the case. Then I saw for myself a little girl driving a horse—without the protection that shafts and boards give in a cart—and I saw another girl, aged 12, winding a paddle to open a lock. I went and spoke to her and helped her to open another lock pate, and I can speak as to the heaviness of the beam which she had to move.

If any hon. Member doubts these incidents, there are photographs here of children doing this kind of work, and hon. Members can see from the attitudes of the children how great is the strain which the work puts upon them. A little girl winding a paddle of a lock has to do so in jerks and there is great danger of the windlass slipping, in which case she may have an arm broken or receive a knock on the head. There is also great danger that she may suffer internal strain from work of that kind. That work is still going on. If anybody doubts it, let him look at the last report of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and he will see instances of different kinds of this work. A boat woman told me that she had seen children of five and six years of age standing on a stool in order to steer with the great heavy tiller of these boats. I think that the question of child labour, though it may not assume very large proportions, is established beyond doubt, and it is of sufficiently serious a kind to cause grave concern. The society's inspector reports 124 children doing work of that kind in the year 1928. I am glad to believe that, if this Bill passes, even in an amended form, more stringent measures will be taken on the canals to deal with child labour. If the children's education is safeguarded and child labour is dealt with, it will be a very great benefit.

A question was raised as to whether families are to be found on refuse boats. I can answer that question at once, because the first boat I visited was a boat on which there were the remains of the household refuse it had carried. I shall never forget seeing a basin standing on what remained of that refuse. I asked the boat woman if that was where she had to do all her household washing, and she said that it was. I hope that the continuance of that sort of thing will be prevented. To return for a moment to education: My right hon. Friend made a proposal as to the erection of boarding houses for these children while receiving their education. I understand that that proposal was put before some 120 families and that it was not well received. The women; I believe, are anxious about the education of their children, but they do not want to be separated from them. Therefore, if the children have to go ashore to attend school, I believe that a great many of the mothers will go with them.

I should like to say a word about the economic difficulty which has formed the basis of a certain amount of the criticism of the Bill. I think that that criticism has failed to take account of the fact that the great mass of the boatmen on canals have their families on shore. The promoters of the Bill therefore are not asking for something that does not exist. They are simply asking that a minority of families who still cling to this old practice, which we have been told was established about 150 years ago, should fall into line with the others. There is considerable feeling, I believe, on this point, among men who have sent their families ashore. They think that it is rather hard on them that they have made the sacrifice of doing this, and to having engaged a mate or a lad to help them while other men who have not made that sacrifice are being helped by their children. I understand, then, that the main problem refers to less than 500 families. If we pass the Bill in the form suggested, namely, as dealing only with the education of the children, and if, as a result all the mothers go ashore with their children, houses will not have to be found for as many as 500 families, and they will not have all to be found in one place. It does not mean finding, say, 500 houses in Paddington or Birmingham, but in no less than 28 places up and down the country, so that it should be a smaller practical problem than many people fear.

I do not think, however, that the Bill, as drafted, gives long enough time for an arrangement of that kind to take place. The Chamberlain Committee wanted a clear year before their proposal in regard to children should come into effect, and I hope that my hon. Friend who moved the Second Beading of the Bill will be prepared to accept a longer period than is provided for in the Bill. I hope also that an Amendment will be made providing that the penalties should be less severe. I agree with the opinion already expressed that the suggested penalties are too great.

Finally, I would say a few words in reply to my hon. Friends behind me who have expressed fears that if this Bill means that mothers will go ashore to look after their children while they are attending school, it will mean the break up of family life. I feel quite as strongly about family life as anyone who sits on these benches or in any part of the House, and I say that if these 500 women go ashore to look after their children they will only beputting themselves in the position occupied by the wives of fishermen, of sailors, or of commercial travellers, or the wives of men who drive lorries to distant parts of the country. I am sure that in the great majority of cases the men would be able to go home every few days for a day or two, and indeed, in regard to the men working the Paddington refuse boats, I am told that the distance is so short that they would never need to sleep away from home. For all these reasons, I support the Second Reading of the Bill.

Several HON. MEMBERSrose

Mr. GOSLINGrose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 180; Noes, 64.

Division No. 133.] AYES. [3.59 p.m.
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M. Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Alpass, J. H. Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth) Perry, S. F.
Ammon, Charles George Hoffman, P. C. Pole, Major D. G.
Angell, Norman. Hopkin, Daniel Potts, John S.
Astor, Viscountess Horrabin, J. F. Price, M. P.
Atholl, Duchess of Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Ramsay, T. B. Wilson
Atkinson, C. Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R. Reynolds, Col. Sir James
Ayles, Walter Isaacs, George Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Ritson, J.
Barnes, Alfred John Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. Romeril, H. G.
Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford) Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Kelly, W. T. Rothschild, J. de
Bentham, Dr. Ethel Kennedy, Thomas Rowson, Guy
Berry, Sir George Kinley, J. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Knight, Holford Salter, Dr. Alfred
Bowen, J. W. Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton) Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Sawyer, G. F.
Broad, Francis Alfred Lathan, G. Scurr, John
Brothers, M. Law, Albert (Bolton) Sexton, James
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield) Lawrence, Susan Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West) Lawrle, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge) Sherwood, G. H.
Buchanan, G. Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Shield, George William
Burton, Colonel H. W. Leach, W. Shillaker, J. F.
Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland) Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Cameron, A. G. Lindley, Fred W. Simmons, C. J.
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.) Logan, David Gilbert Sitch, Charles H.
Charleton, H. C. Longden, F. Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)
Chater, Daniel Lowth, Thomas Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Church, Major A. G. Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Cluse, W. S. McElwee, A. Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. McEntee, V. L. Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour MacLaren, Andrew Snell, Harry
Cove, William G. Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.) Sorensen, R.
Crichton-Stuart, Lord C. MacNeill-Weir, L. Strachey, E. J. St. Loe
Daggar, George McShane, John James Strauss, G. R.
Davies, E. C. (Montgomery) Makins, Brigadier-General E. Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Mander, Geoffrey le M. Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Dudgeon, Major C. R. Mansfield, W. Thurtle, Ernest
Duncan, Charles March, S. Tillett, Ben
Edmunds, J. E. Markham, S. F. Tinker, John Joseph
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Marley, J. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.) Mathers, George Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Matters, L. W. Vaughan, D. J.
Gillett, George M. Melville, Sir James Viant, S. P.
Glassey, A. E. Messer, Fred Wallhead, Richard C.
Gosling, Harry Mills, J. E. Watkins, F. C.
Gossling, A. G. Montague, Frederick Wellock, Wilfred
Gould, F. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) West, F. R.
Gray, Milner Morqan, Dr. H. B. Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South) Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.) Mort, D. L. Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Groves, Thomas E. Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent) Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Grundy, Thomas W. Muggeridge, H. T. Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.) Nathan, Major H. L. Wise, E. F.
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland) Naylor, T. E. Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Harbison, T. J. Noel Baker, P. J. Wright, W. (Rutherglen)
Hardie, George D. Oldfield, J. R. Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
Hastings, Dr. Somerville Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)
Haycock, A. W. Palin, John Henry. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hayes, John Henry Paling, Wilfrid Mr. W. M. Adamson and Mr. Ede.
Albery, Irving James Balfour, George (Hampstead) Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.) Bellairs, Commander Carlyon Boyce, H. L.
Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W. Boothby, R. J. G. Bracken, B.
Bullock, Captain Malcolm Hurd, Percy A. Savery, S. S.
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Iveagh, Countess of Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Carver, Major W. H. King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfast)
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak) Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Courtauld, Major J. S. Lymington, Viscount Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Marjoribanks, E. C. Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Davies, Dr. Vernon Middleton, G. Todd, Capt. A. J.
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Duckworth, G. A. V. Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond) Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.
Eden, Captain Anthony Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester) Wayland, Sir William A.
Edmondson, Major A. J. Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Muirhead, A. J. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Ganzoni, Sir John Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Gower, Sir Robert Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton
Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Greene, W. P. Crawford Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennen TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Sir Herbert Nield and Mr.
Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K. Salmon, Major I. Beaumont.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart

Bill read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee."—[Commander Southby.]

The House divided: Ayes, 44; Noes, 158.

Division No. 134.] AYES. [4.11 p.m.
Albery, Irving James Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Salmon, Major I.
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.) Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K. Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Atkinson, C. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W. Hurd, Percy A. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst)
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Boyce, H. L. Llewellin, Major J. J. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Bracken, B. Lymington, Viscount Todd, Capt. A. J.
Bullock, Captain Malcolm Marjoribanks, E. C. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Carver, Major W. H. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Wayland, Sir William A.
Davies, Dr. Vernon Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Duckworth, G. A. V. Muirhead, A. J. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Edmondson, Major A. J. Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William TELLERS FOR THE AYES —
Ganzoni, Sir John Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Commander Southby and Mr.
Greene. W. P. Crawford Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Beaumont.
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M. Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Lathan, G.
Ammon, Charles George Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.) Law, Albert (Bolton)
Angell, Norman. Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Lawrence, Susan
Astor, Viscountess Gillett, George M. Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)
Atholl, Duchess of Gosling, Harry Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)
Ayles, Walter Gossling, A. G. Leach, W.
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Gould, F. Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)
Barnes, Alfred John Gray, M liner Lindley, Fred W.
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Logan, David Gilbert
Bentham, Dr. Ethel Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.) Longden, F.
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Groves, Thomas E. Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Bowen, J. W. Grundy, Thomas W. McElwee, A.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Hall, Capt. W. p. (Portsmouth, C.) McEntee, V. L.
Broad, Francis Alfred Harbison, T. J. MacLaren, Andrew
Brothers, M. Hardie, George D. Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield) Hastings, Dr. Somerville MacNeill-Weir, L.
Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West) Haycock, A. W. Makins, Brigadier-General E.
Buchanan, G. Hayes, John Henry Mansfield, W.
Cameron, A. G. Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth) March, S.
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.) Hopkin, Daniel Markham, S. F.
Charleton, H. C. Horrabin, J. F. Marley, J.
Chater, Daniel Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Mathers, George
Church, Major A. G. Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R. Matters, L. W.
Cluse, W. S. Isaacs, George Melville, Sir James
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Messer, Fred
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Middleton, G.
Cove, William G. Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. Montague, Frederick
Crichton-Stuart, Lord C. Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford) Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)
Daggar, George Kelly, W. T. Mort, D. L.
Davies, E. C. (Montgomery) Kennedy, Thomas Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Kinley, J. Nathan, Major H. L.
Dudgeor. Major C. R. Knight, Holford Noel Baker, P. J.
Duncan, Charles Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton) Oldfield, J. R.
Edmunds, J. E. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)
Palin, John Henry. Sherwood, G. H. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Paling, Wilfrid Shield, George William Vaughan, D. J.
Parkinson, John Alien (Wigan) Shillaker, J. F. Viant, S. P.
Perry, S. F. Short, Alfred (Wednesbury) Wallhead, Richard C.
Pole, Major D. G. Simmons, C. J. Watkins, F. C.
Potts, John S. Sitch, Charles H. Wellock, Wilfred
Ramsay, T. B. Wilson Smith, Alfred (Sunderland) West, F. R.
Reynolds, Col. Sir James Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe) Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees) Smith, Frank (Nuneaton) Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
Ritson, J. Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley) Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Romeril, H. G. Smith, W. R. (Norwich) Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Rosbotham, D. S. T. Snell, Harry Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Rothschild, J. de Sorensen, R. Wise, E. F.
Rowson, Guy Strachey, E. J. St. Loe Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Strauss, G. R. Wright, W. (Rutherglen)
Salter, Dr. Alfred Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.) Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West) Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Scurr, John Thurtle, Ernest TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Sexton, James Tillett, Ben Mr. W. M. Adamson and Mr. Ede.
Shepherd, Arthur Lewis Tinker, John Joseph

Bill committed to a Standing Committee.