HC Deb 26 May 1936 vol 312 cc1978-9

10.49 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 5, line 27, to leave out "for such period and."

This Clause grants exemptions to children who are needed for assistance in their homes, as distinct from exemptions for children who are going out into employment. I have discussed these Amendments with the Minister and I thank him for the assistance that he has given me in drawing them up. They arise out of an anxiety which I expressed during Committee as to what was going to be the position of these children, mostly girls, who are given exemption merely because their mothers are ill or their fathers have died and they are needed at home. It is what was called upstairs the "little mother Clause." We were anxious because in the case of the children who are in employment there was a whole Clause consisting of most elaborate provisions by which they are to be protected, provisions which have been added to in this Report stage; but these particular children are not protected by any of the provisions which regulate beneficial employment.

I fully recognise that you could not in practice protect them by the same type of provision, but in their case the exemption could be given to the end of the school term and should then go on from term to term. That will ensure that the local authority has a survey of the children and that the case of the children is brought before its notice at the end of each term. The position may alter. The mother may get well, or the father may marry, and the provision may no longer be necessary. Apart from that, it is essential to make provision that children leaving school should as far as possible be under some kind of organised influence. That in thousands of cases saves them from disaster. Children going into beneficial employment can be brought under organised influence. These children would be forgotten altogether. It is to prevent that, that I am moving the two Amendments standing in my name.

10.52 p.m.


I had the benefit of discussing the wording of these Amendments with my right hon. Friend beforehand, and I must confess that when I saw the Amendments on the Paper I was struck with the reasonableness of the position laid down. It has always been the case of the Government on this Clause that it is meant to be used for a domestic emergency—the illness or death of the mother—which may not necessarily be permanent in character, or, of it is permanent in character, ought not necessarily to be met permanently by the same remedy. I, therefore, feel that these Amendments, which will not hamper the power of the local authority to grant the exemptions, will ensure that a case is reviewed and that the circumstances are looked into again. If the circumstances no longer exist exemption can be withdrawn, or if they still exist the same remedy might not be necessary. That is fully in line with the purpose of the Government in moving this Clause, and strengthens the administration of it, and for that reason I am prepared to accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 5, line 33, at the end, insert: (2) Permission shall not be given under this Section for the withdrawal of a child from school save for a period ending not later than the end of the school term then current or, if permission is given in the interval between two school terms, not later than the end of the next succeeding term: Provided that nothing in this Sub-section shall prohibit a local education authority from renewing a permission, if they think fit to do so, and the provisions of this Section shall apply to the renewal of a permission as they apply to the giving of permission in the first instance."—[Mr. Lees- Smith.]