HL Deb 23 June 1868 vol 192 cc1910-3

Bill read 3a (according to Order).

THE EARL OF HARROWBY moved to add clause— Where any Parent having resident with him a Child not earning Wages, above the Age of Six years and under the Age of Twelve Years, applies for Relief, the Guardians may make it a condition of out-door Relief that the Parent of such Child shall send him to School at the expense of the Guardians, provided there is a School of the religious denomination of the parent, or to which he does not object on religious grounds, situate within two miles of his residence. His object in proposing this clause was to promote the education of the most neglected children in the country—those of paupers in the receipt of out-door relief. I He admitted that some progress had been made in this direction by Mr. Denison's Act, passed a few years ago; and although what he now proposed would be no great step in advance, yet, considering the class of persons to whom it applied, it would be well to do what they could. Paupers receiving out-door relief were supplied with the mere means of living—they bad no means of providing for the education of their children. There would be some difficulty in making it compulsory upon the Guardians to impose this condition upon giving out-door relief; for the short period during which this relief was frequently given would make such a condition illusory. The clause would, therefore, leave it optional with the Guardians to require that applicants for out-door relief should send their children to school at the expense of the parish. There would be no tampering with the religious faith of the parents; the schools would be filled; the children would be kept out of the streets as long as the relief was received; and an immense advantage would be conferred in this way on some of the poorest of the population. He believed that at Birmingham the number of children who would be sent to school by a provision of this kind was 1,500 or 1,600, while the expense to the rates would be almost no thing. By implication the clause repealed one in Mr. Denison's Act, and, being optional, it could do no harm, and might do much good.


said, that primâ facie a strong justification should be made out for accepting a clause which adopted a principle which had been distinctly negatived by the Legislature a few years since. He would say nothing about the policy of Mr. Denison's Act; but strong opinions were then expressed against the plan which the noble Earl now recommended. The whole history of Poor Law legislation, from the time of Queen Elizabeth downwards, showed that the destitution of the applicant had been the one recognized ground of justification for giving relief. It was true that able-bodied paupers were required to give certain labour; but he could nowhere find in any measure for the administration of the Poor Law the insertion of any other condition of relief except destitution. The possible operation of the clause would furnish their Lordships with additional ground for withholding their consent from it. He was not one who thought lightly of the discretion ordinarily exercised by Boards of Guardians; but he would shrink from intrusting them with the power to apply this clause. He could conceive that crotchety Guardians might, by annexing the prescribed condition to the relief, interpose, however unintentionally, various difficulties in the way of obtaining necessary relief by the really destitute. Another objection to the clause was, that Guardians might allow their wish to promote education to determine whether they should grant in-door or out-door relief. On these two grounds the operation of the clause was likely to be attended with dangerous results. If the condition was to be introduced as preliminary to the granting of out-door relief, why should not other conditions be imposed? The Guardians, for instance, might insist on an applicant for relief attending church. If once we went beyond the simple ground of destitution, well examined and ascertained, we got into difficulties we could not see the end of. To a certain extent too the clause recognized the principle of compulsory education, which involved many and various considerations, and ought not to be adopted in the shape of a small clause introduced on the third reading of a Poor Relief Bill. The Poor Relief Committee of 1864 devoted much time to the question of education, and resolved that to impose it as a condition was inconsistent with the principles on which the Poor Law was established. Therefore the objections founded on principle which he urged against the clause were supported by the authority of that Committee.


supported the clause, which he pointed out was permissive, and not compulsory, so far as the Guardians were concerned. It must be remembered that at present children admitted into workhouses received education, and why should they not when their parents applied for out-door relief? He believed that re-consideration would weaken the force of the objections that had been raised to the clause.


was understood to oppose the clause, on the ground that, in operation, it would have an unfavourable effect on the labouring part of the population, by inducing some to seek out-door relief with the object of getting their children educated at the public cost.


said, the proposition in the clause was virtually rejected by the Committee of 1864. There was, no doubt, something seductive in it; to those who wished to improve the education of the people, it seemed a very simple matter when you were relieving the poor to insist upon their children being sent to school. The objection was that the laws for the relief of the poor should be, as far as possible, carefully confined to the direct object of the relief of destitution. Everything seemed to him objectionable which tended to increase the scope and operation of the law. He could not admit that the education of children in a workhouse proved that they ought to be educated when their parents were relieved out of it. To go so far was to offer an inducement to persons to rely upon out-door relief, because by so doing they would get their children educated at the expense of the rates; and anything which tended to increase the desire for outdoor relief seemed to him objectionable. Poor men who struggled hard to maintain their families and send their children to school would not like to see worthless persons obtaining out-door relief because they would not work, and, at the same time, throwing the cost of the education of their children on the rates. He was a strong advocate for the education of the poor; but he did not wish to promote it in an indirect manner.


said, his own experience told him that the clause would act satisfactorily; and, while it would give a fair and proper amount of out-door relief, would at the same time afford education to children whose parents had positively no means of educating them. Though very loth to divide the House, he must press the adoption of his clause.

After some observations from the MARQUESS of WESTMEATH who was understood to support the clause.

Amendment negatived: Amendments made; Bill passed and sent to the Commons.