The first Amendment which I propose to call is that in the name of the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker)—in page 44, line 29, to leave out 1181 Sub-sections (1) and (2), and to insert certain words. I am calling it with some hesitation, but I have decided to do so. The point is quite a narrow one, and I would remind the Committee that this is an Education Bill, and not a Bill relating to the employment of children and young persons. I hope therefore that hon. Members will not go into the whole question of the employment of children and young persons except as related to education.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I hope that does not mean that a new Clause on this subject can, equally, be ruled out of Order.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
On a point of Order. I have an Amendment on the Paper, in page 44, line 29, to leave out Sub-sections (1) and (2), and to insert:() No child under the age of compulsory attendance shall be employed before or after school hours or at week ends or during school holidays.I have not intervened much on this Education Bill, because hon. Members know much more about it than I do, but I do know just a little about this particular problem of the employment of school children.
§ Mr. Peake
On a point of Order. I think it would be greatly for the convenience of the Committee if they had some indication how wide the Debate can go on this Amendment. What my hon. Friend's Amendment, of course, does is to take out the operative Sub-sections of Clause 57, which is a rather limited Clause re-enacting Section 94 of the 1921 Act, giving an authority power in regard to a particular child, to order, on the grounds of the effect on its health, that that child should not be employed; and, in place of that to insert a new Sub-section, completely prohibiting the employment of children of school age. I do not see how it is possible to discuss this Amendment except upon a wide basis because the effect of the Amendment, if carried, would be that we should have to repeal the whole of Part II of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, and all the existing law, including the functions of the Home Secretary in relation to the by-laws which we have just been discussing. All that would go by the board. The Amend- 1182 ment, it seems to me, with respect, raises issues of the widest character.
§ Mr. C. Davies
Can this possibly be within the scope of this Education Bill? As the Under-Secretary for the Home Office has pointed out, the slipping in of these words would have a tremendous effect. In the first place, it looks to me as if it would, straight away, repeal the whole of Part II of the Children and Young Persons Act without making any specific reference to that Act, which deals with employment. In circumstances like that, if such a thing ever carne before the courts, what interpretation would they put upon it? They would find these words in the Measure without any repeal of the previous Act of Parliament, and would then have to try to read these proposed words, in conjunction with that, and make a muddle of the whole thing. I suggest that it is out of Order and outside the scope of this Bill.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
Will it help if I put it this way? I am astonished at my hon. and learned Friend's argument. I am almost sure I am right in saying that, when Mr. Fisher brought the last Education Bill before the House of Commons he abolished the half-time system in Lancashire in that Measure, and that was certainly interfering with the employment of children in that county. Every time we pass an Education Bill we do affect in many ways the employment of children, even by raising the school-leaving age, and I do not think, therefore, the hon. and learned Member is right in law.
§ Mr. Lindsay
We did have a sort of understanding that we would keep quiet on this. I am all for having a new Clause, but is it going to be all right?
I have to say, quite frankly, that in my opinion the discussion would be more appropriate on a new Clause if such a Clause was otherwise in Order, but I might have some difficulty in selecting the new Clause if we have a full dress discussion on the same point now. Perhaps the hon. Member who desires to move the Amendment may think it wise not to do so. I could not bind myself on what my views may be on the new Clause before I see it.
§ Earl Winterton
May I suggest that it is a very novel procedure to accept an Amendment which has the effect of nega- 1183 tiving the whole Clause? If this Amendment is accepted, it makes nonsense of the whole Clause. On another point of Order, Major Milner, would you give consideration to the point that, when this Bill comes into operation next year, it will be in conflict with the Emergency Powers Act, which gives permission, through the Ministry of Agriculture, for the employment of children, which would be prohibited under this Bill?
This is a matter which relates either to education or to the employment of children or to both. If the Amendment relates to education, as in my opinion in this case it does although also relating to employment, then it is proper to discuss it on an Education Bill, particularly as it has been discussed and inserted in previous Education Bills. This particular Clause as drawn also deals specifically with the restriction of employment as it affects education. I therefore selected the Amendment, but indicated to the Committee that I did not propose to allow a wide Debate on the subject of the employment of children as such, and I hope that that might have enabled the Committee to discuss it on those lines. I can only leave the matter in that way, but say for the consideration of the hon. Gentleman moving the Amendment, that in my judgment it would be better discussed on a new Clause, but I cannot give any promise that such a new Clause would be in Order until I see its terms. Naturally, I should have regard to the wishes of the Committee.
§ Mr. McEntee
This deals with a child outside school life and it comes under a different Department of the Government. I suggest it has no relation at all to actual education.
§ Mr. C. Davies
I submit that it has nothing to do with education. The Amendment says:No child under the age of compulsory attendance"—which is five years of age—shall be employed before or after school hours, etc.What is the meaning of that?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
On that point of Order, is it not a fact that, in this Clause, the Board of Education has concerned itself because the children's education and 1184 their physical standard may be adversely affected by employment before and after school hours? You could not very well deal with education efficiently if you allowed all children to be employed before and after school hours.
§ Earl Winterton
I think it is not an unusual request that I have made, Major Milner, and if you are not prepared to give a Ruling now, perhaps you will do so at the commencement of the next Sitting. Will you consider this point? If this Amendment were passed, it would directly nullify the provisions of the Emergency Powers Act, which gives power to the Minister to allow the employment of persons which would not otherwise be allowed. Should we not, therefore, have to amend the Emergency Powers Act? Otherwise we should have passed two Acts of Parliament, one of which contradicts the other.
§ Mr. Stokes
Might I support my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies)? Are we not talking in the air? This deals with children who do not go to school, and if they do not go to school, they do not have any holidays.
Having regard to the remarks of hon. Members and to what I have said, perhaps the hon. Member will not now wish to move his Amendment?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I propose, in the circumstances, Major Milner, to say what I have in my mind on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Ede
I thank my hon. Friend for the brevity with which he moved the Amendment. I must be a little longer in replying because this would make a very important change in the law. We have under the Bill, as the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department pointed out, stepped up the definition of "child" in accordance with the school-leaving age. Therefore, successively a child will be a person of 15 and 16 years of age. This Amendment would apply only to children in secondary schools, who were remaining beyond the compulsory school-leaving age, that is, young persons over i6 years of age. It does not appear to be right 1185 that when parents and others are considering the continuance of a child voluntarily at school, beyond the compulsory school-leaving age, they should find the child, by the mere fact of considering him at school, debarred from taking part in any employment. That would be wrong to-day, and I hope that my hon. Friend will not think it necessary to press the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I hope that I shall be forgiven if I try to deal with the importance of this Clause as it will affect employment of school children. I hope that I shall carry hon. Friends on this side of the Committee with me because this form of employment is mainly confined to the children of the working class. About 80,000 are so employed, about 70,000 boys and 10,000 girls. That was the last estimate, but I should imagine that during this war the number has increased considerably. I am in favour of the complete abolition of employment of school children; I regard this Clause as the creaking rung in the educational ladder. I have been trying to find out what the actual position is. The hon. Gentleman who spoke about the Home Office dealing with this problem, surely, knows that the model by-laws governing the employment of school children are flouted in many cases. In some schools it is quite possible that there are more children employed under 12 without the knowledge and consent of the ideal authority than there are from 12 years upwards. The regulation of the employment of school children by model by-laws has practically broken down during the war in many cases.
This Clause rather invites the point of view that I wish to put; it assumes that this form of employment is not good for the child. There may be a medical examination, but those who know something about the problem will tell you that the child is often examined when it is too late. A doctor will not know in advance whether a child delivering newspapers or milk in the mornings will ultimately be adversely affected. As I am connected with the distributive trades the problem of children dealing with the distribution 1186 of milk and newspapers is a very intimate one. I am very happy to see one of the most responsible education authorities in the country—the City of Salford Education Committee—last week decided in favour of the complete prohibition of this type of employment. I would not like to think that Parliament is lagging behind local authorities in these matters. I am told that a great deal of juvenile delinquency and truancy arises from the fact that children are employed before and after school hours. I cannot vouch for that, but there is one thing that is certain; there is no doubt that the health of the school child and his educational advancement are affected adversely by this form of employment. I was here when we passed the Employment of Children Act, 1933, and the Shops Act later. If you include the number of hours set aside for homework of a school child, his school hours and employment before and after school it will be found that it is possible for such a child to be engaged for more hours than either the Factory Act or the Shops Act provide as a maximum. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), whom I respect for his knowledge of the law, will back me, I hope, when I say that there is something wrong with two Acts of Parliament prohibiting the employment of young persons beyond a given number of hours whilst another Statute allows children to be engaged for a longer number of hours.
§ Sir P. Hannon
Does the hon. Member suggest to the Committee the taking of employment outside school hours is entirely outside the operation of the Acts regarding employment?
§ Mr. Davies
We have sent certain information to the Board of Education, and they have cases in their files showing that the by-laws governing the employment of school children are being flouted in many areas. I have a letter here from a school master who knows about this. It reads:It is not uncommon in this agricultural area for employers to pick up 100 to 150 children after school hours between the ages of 8 and 14"—not 12 and 14—and convey them to work in the fields till 9.30 p.m., picking peas.What offends me most is that the managers of some of these schools are the local farmers, the employers of the school children are the same farmers and although 1187 those farmers are the magistrates as well they allow this employment in spite of the law. I am sure if the right hon. Gentleman would tell the Committee all he knows about the employment of school-children the Committee would be willing to vote against this Clause as it stands and go in the Division Lobby with me against school children being employed at all.
Who is to decide under this Clause whether the child's education is adversely affected by his employment? There is no provision for that here. I should imagine that the head teacher or the teacher actually teaching the child should be able to do that. It has been said on the best authority that some of these children are too sleepy and incapable in the classrooms to receive that education provided for them because of this form of employment. When we passed the Employment of Children and Young Persons Bill the argument then was this—and it may be trotted out to-day on behalf of the newspaper proprietors—"Why should not the children earn 2s. or 3s. a week when there is need in the home?" That argument is of no avail to-day; hardly one of these children is employed now because of the economic need at the child's home. Generally speaking, he is employed in order to get pocket money; for buying bicycles and so forth.
Finally, it is little use this House talking about a national health service and a great educational advance if at the same time we are to allow these little people to go out in the streets early in the morning delivering milk and the like. I shall be asked, Who is to do the job? I have lived long enough to see plenty of unemployed in peace times do the work. I hope now that the Under-Secretary of State to the Home Department or the President of the Board of Education will stand up at that Box and tell the Committee that on the information they have got these by-laws are not being implemented and will promise to do something to get rid of this grave anomaly.
§ Mr. Peake
I think it would be to the advantage of the Committee if I intervened now. It would be much more convenient for us all to take this discussion on another day, when another Clause in suitable form will be before the Committee. My hon. Friend will not, obviously, vote against this Clause standing 1188 part of the Bill. All that Clause 57 does is to re-enact, in slightly altered form, the existing law, Section 94 of the Education Act of 1921, which provides one of the two statutory arrangements for safeguarding children in employment. There is the general legislation, now contained in the Children and Young Persons Act of 1933. As well as that, there is this power in the local education authorities to take up the case of any individual child who appears to be suffering in his health or education through the fact of employment. This is a very valuable power, and -the Clause makes it perfectly clear. It says:If it appears to a local education authority that any child who is a registered pupil … is being employed in such manner as to be prejudicial to his health or otherwise to render him unfit to obtain the full benefit of the education provided for him, the authority may, by notice in writing … prohibit himthat is, the employer—from employing the child, or impose such restrictions. …
§ Earl Winterton
Is not the best example of that, what has happened over the employment of agricultural labour? Some local authorities have refused to allow children to work in agricultural labour and they have actually exercised their authority.
§ Mr. Peake
Certainly, it is a power which has existed for over 20 years and has been quite frequently exercised. It is a most valuable power which certainly ought to be part of this Education Bill. It is a thing with which we are all in favour and I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will allow us to leave this Clause with a view to having a further discussion on the question of juvenile employment when a suitable new Clause is before the Committee.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
I do not follow all the arguments on this, but this is a Bill to reform the law relating to education in England and Wales. There is a body of law relating to the employment of children and young persons, and it surprises me that the Home Office has introduced into this Bill something which impinges on dealing with individual cases. I submit to the Committee that, when we are in process, through the White Paper, of looking after infants below the school-leaving age, developing nursery schools and school nurseries, raising the school-leaving age, when we 1189 are trying to lengthen the school life and the social care of young people up to 15 and 16, it is absurd to permit this anomaly of children being employed before school-time and after school-time. I do not expect my right hon. Friends to handle this problem in the Bill, but I think it a terrible anomaly when we are trying to lengthen the school-leaving age, to permit this absurd situation to continue. I do not believe a new Clause is going to meet the point, but I think it might ease the situation if my right hon. Friend gave some sort of undertaking that when the new Clause comes, the Government will make some announcement of their intention to deal with this problem as an employment problem.
It would be intolerable, indeed it would create doubts in the minds of many people if we passed my right hon. Friend's Bill and still permitted young children to work before and after school hours for a few pence. If we could have some sort of undertaking that the Government would, between now and the introduction of the new Clause, consider this and be prepared to make a statement, I think many of us in the Committee would feel somewhat relieved. I should add that this is not a party issue at all.
§ Mr. C. Davies
As my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) seemed to think I was unsympathetic towards his desires, I am grateful for the opportunity of saying that nobody feel's more sympathetic or more deeply on this matter than I do. I suffered, because of employment, in my young days perhaps more than any Member on this side, and I intervened earlier in this Debate because I thought this was a matter which ought to be brought within a much wider scope than that provided by this Clause, which is a slight improvement in order to deal with individual cases. I can well understand that it is easy, under this Clause, to deal with cases where a child is being employed by somebody other than a relative. Hon. Members referred to cases in which a child is employed by somebody other than a parent and given some remuneration for doing it, which they could add to the family exchequer. But the one who is likely to suffer the most is the one who works with the family for the family. I am particularly concerned with this matter as it 1190 affects rural areas. We used to be up about six in the morning to start work on the farm. At eight o'clock we left for school and were back by five o'clock and began work on the farm again from 5.30 until eight or nine o'clock. Then, supper over, we started on our home lessons, and many of us rarely saw our beds before midnight or one a.m. because we had to try to win scholarships. We would like to see that sort of thing stopped, and any effort the Government can make to control that will, I am sure, have the strong support of everybody in the Committee who desires that the best education should be given to our children.
§ Sir I. Albery
I want to draw attention to one small point. This Clause provides that where a child is employed in such a manner as to be prejudicial to his health, the authority may take a certain remedy. I am again obliged to draw attention to the word "may," and to ask that it should be "shall," in view of the interpretation which has recently been placed on the word "may." It is obvious that if a child is employed in circumstances detrimental to his health, it is not a question for the authorities to take no action. They must take action, and I submit that the word "may," should be changed to "shall."
§ Mr. Peake
In response to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) I would like to make quite clear precisely what is being done in this Bill as regards juvenile employment. At the present time, the minimum age for employment is 12 and the code of the law governs child employment so long as the child remains at school—that is, at present, up to the age of 14 plus. There are in that group about 1,250,000 children. As a result of the raising of the age to 15, by the Bill, the minimum age of employment will be raised from 12 to 13, so that some 600,000 will be taken right outside the possible scope of employment at a stroke of the pen. When the age goes up to 16 the minimum age for employment will automatically begin at 14 under this Bill, without any further legislation, so that the scope of juvenile employment will be greatly diminished. There has been correspondence in "The Times" in January and February, to which my hon. Friend contributed, putting both sides of the issue. Some argued in favour of 1191 some employment for children and others that all employment for children is bad.
We obviously can have an interesting Debate, which will last at least one full day, on this subject of juvenile employment. I am not sure whether that is the wish of hon. Members or whether they would prefer to get the Bill more quickly. The attitude of the Government on this point is that it would not be the right policy to embody in an Education Bill further amendments of the law relating to the employment of children. Such a course would be liable to retard the progress of the Bill and would raise various controversial issues which ought to be considered not in the light of the war-time conditions of to-day but of peace-time conditions, when closer restriction of the employment of school children will become practicable. The fact that the Government have not included more drastic amendments of the law relating to employment than those already mentioned does not mean that they have failed to recognise the importance of the subject. Their view, however, is that any further amendment of the law relating to the employment of school children should not properly be included at present in this Bill but should rather be considered separately, as soon as it is possible to review the situation by reference to normal peace-time conditions rather than the special war-time conditions of to-day. I hope that, with that assurance, hon. Members will permit us to have this Clause, because we undertake that the subject will be reviewed when normal conditions are resumed.
§ Mr. Greenwood
The right hon. Gentleman really has not helped very much. He has not said any more than I have said. I agree that it is inappropriate to deal with this problem in this Bill. I think myself the Government were foolish to put in Clause 57, because that is trenching on the employment of children and young persons.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument but I still say that the employment of children before and after school hours is also an educational problem. I am not asking for the inclu- 1192 sion of a solution of the problem in this Bill—I realise the difficulty about that—but I still think the Government now have been engaged on this great task of dealing with our child population, in the White Paper from the point of view of health and in this Bill, from the point of view of schooling, and they really ought to submit some parallel legislation dealing with the employment of young people of school age outside school hours. Who would pretend to defend young children working either before or after school hours? I am sure Members would regard that as an intolerable situation. No one dare defend it in public. I never write to "The Times." I do not even read all the letters in "The Times." There may be arguments for and against, but I should imagine that those people who would defend children working after or before school hours, have never done it themselves.
I have not been unreasonable. What I am asking is this. I realise the difficulty of dealing with the problem in this Bill. I regret that even on educational grounds it is dealt with in Clause 57. If there is to be a discussion on a new Clause, all I am asking is that, before that time, the Government should be prepared to come to the Committee with a considered statement and, I hope, an indication that they intend to introduce legislation dealing with this problem. I suggest that I am not asking too much. I think it is reasonable for the Committee to be given some sort of undertaking that when we come to the new Clause, which, in my view, is not appropriate to this Bill, a statement should be made on behalf of the Government as to their intention to straighten out and tidy up the problem of the care of our child population by dealing with the question of employment.
§ Mr. Butler
I am responsible for this Bill and I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, of State for the Home Department for the clear answer he gave on the subject of Government policy. I will attempt further to elucidate the crystal-clear mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). In the Education Bill, this Clause has been included, in order that the law relating to the employment of schoolchildren shall be amended, pari passu with the raising of the school age. We had to include 1193 some sort of machinery. The right hon. Gentleman wants to know whether the Government will make a general statement on clearing up the law with regard to the employment of schoolchildren. That is a matter which really concerns my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I can, at once, give the Committee an assurance that I shall, in the light of the discussions in the Committee to-day, discuss the matter with the Home Secretary. Naturally, I will report the result of our conversation to the Committee on the new Clause or on the later stages of the Bill, provided the Committee does not tie me or the Home Secretary down to views other than those expressed by the Under-Secretary just now. No one is keener than the Government that, coincident with this legislation, we should try to deal with the employment of children. The real difficulty is that we are in the middle of a war and it is difficult to clear the matter up in war-time.
Mr. Greenwood: Even in the difficulties of war-time we have managed to have an Education Bill before the House, so I dismiss that as an argument. I could not, of course, ask my right hon. Friend to commit the Home Secretary. Nobody in my absence would commit me to anything, but I understand my right hon. Friend's point of view. I gather that he will now discuss this question with the Home Secretary with a view to making a statement later. So far as I am concerned, I am prepared to leave the matter there.
§ Sir I. Albery
In view of the remarks that have been made by the Parliamentary Secretary as to the difference in meaning of the words "may" and "shall," I must ask if I may have a reply to the question which I raised just now.
§ Mr. Butler
As we are having a full-dress review of these matters, I may as well examine with a miscroscope the question of "may" and "shall." As I am apparently in a generous mood, I will undertake to look -up the word "may" in any other place where I find it in the Bill.
§ Sir I. Albery
I rather take exception to my right hon. Friend's suggestion that this is a microscopic matter and of no importance. It was his own Parliamentary Secretary who emphasised its importance.
§ Mr. Butler
I said that I would examine it with a microscope, so important is it. I did not say it was microscopic.
§ Mr. Denman
I must express profound regret at the lack of co-operative effort on the part of the Government to the suggestions made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). In 1918 we boldly tackled the problem of juvenile employment in the then Education Bill. We abolished the part-time system and we brought the whole of the by-laws into pretty well the form in which they were taken over in the Act to which my right hon. Friend has referred. We realised that it was no use raising the school-leaving age unless we also ensured that the leisure time of the child was not misused and wasted in evil employment. The way that has been left—
§ Mr. Butler
May I interrupt my hon. Friend? I did attempt to help the Committee 'by making a statement, but really, it, on every occasion the Government try to help the Committee the Debate is simply to be prolonged, we shall be here all night. I have to weigh the consideration whether this Committee wishes to make progress with the Bill or not. I am here to help them if they do, but if they do not, I cannot help them.
§ Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause 58 ordered to stand part of the Bill.