HL Deb 19 June 1873 vol 216 cc1151-6

House in Committee (according to Order).

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 (Interpretation).


moved an Amendment, by which the definition of "child" was altered from a child under 13 years of age to 12 years. Under the alteration no person could employ a child between the ages of 8 and 10, unless the parent should produce a certificate declaring that the child had completed 250 school attendances within the preceding 12 months, and between the ages of 10 and 12 that the child had completed 150 attendances. As originally drawn the age was fixed at 12, but was altered to 13 by the House of Commons.

Amendment moved, line 16, to leave out ("thirteen") and insert ("twelve"). (The Lord Henniker).


opposed the Amendment. As the Bill stood agricultural children ceased to be affected by it at 13 years of age, which he did not think was too long to require attendance at school. The practical effect of the Bill was that the child was released from the necessity of school attendance a year earlier than the age stated; because as the obligation to produce the certificate as a condition for employment ceased at 13, the obligation of school attendance did not operate after the age of 12. A child might, consequently, be employed after the completion of his 12th year upon producing a certificate of 150 attendances between his 11th and 12th year. The alteration, in his opinion, would render the Bill almost useless.


questioned the accuracy of the construction placed upon the clause by the noble Marquess, and hoped his noble Friend (Lord Henniker) would adhere to his Amendment. It was necessary that in a measure restricting the employment of agricultural labour the prohibition should not be too stringent. It was essential that boys should be brought up to agricultural labour at a very early age—their earnings were of great importance to the parents, and at some periods of the year labour of this description was essential to the employers. Any prohibitions, therefore, that would materially affect these objects would be unpopular with both; and it was only by the co-operation of the farmers that a measure of this description could work.


said, that under the clause as it stood, a boy within a week of his 13th birthday would be unable to accept employment if he could not show 250 school attendances within the previous 12 months. By making the prohibition too stringent they would endanger the successful working of the measure, for its success would in a great degree depend upon the goodwill of the parties interested on both sides, and it was therefore necessary to make its provisions as little onerous as possible.


thought the change proposed unadvisable. He believed that its effect in many cases would be that which his noble Friend the Lord President had described.

After some discussion, which was imperfectly audible,

On Question, agreed to.

Amendment made.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 (Prohibition of employment of children under eight years in agricultural work) agreed to.

Clause 6 (Restriction on employment of children above eight years in agricultural work).


moved an Amendment, line 3, after ("twelve months") insert ("Such child was ill for a period exceeding thirty days, or that"); and at end of clause add— ("Provided, that if it be proved to the satisfaction of a court of summary jurisdiction in any petty sessional division that there are any special reasons which make the application of the provisions of this section to any particular child unjust or inexpedient, such court may if it thinks fit issue a license to such child's parent excepting him from the said provisions for a period not exceeding six months: Provided also, that this section shall not apply to agricultural employment connected with the hay harvest, the corn harvest, or the gathering of hops.") Their Lordships would readily conceive that there were a great number of cases in humble life which would afford reasonable cause for the detention of children from school, but which would not come under the Proviso of the clause—which was confined to the simple excuse of there being no school to which the child could be sent. The noble Marquess pointed out that a similar discretionary power was given by the Elementary Education Act to School Boards.


said, the Government had no desire to make the Bill more stringent than it need be. He thought that a Proviso making some "unavoidable cause" sufficient would meet the view of the noble Marquess.


said, he preferred "reasonable" to "unavoid- able." But he thought the clause was already too long, and would suggest that it should be divided into two, one of which could deal more fully with the question of excuses.

After some conversation,


said, he would endeavour to frame a satisfactory clause, and would bring it up on the Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 7 (Certificate of school attendances to be given on application of parent) agreed to.

Clause 8 (Power to suspend temporarily restrictive provisions of Act) struck out.

Clause 9 (Persons employing children in contravention of Act to be deemed guilty of offence against Act.)


moved, after Clause 8, to insert the following clause:— The provisions of this Act with respect to the employment of children shall not apply in the case of any child who has obtained from one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, from the Diocesan Inspector of Schools, or from the Rural Dean of the rural deanery in which the parish to which such child belongs is situated, a certificate under his hand to the effect that such child has reached a standard equivalent to the fourth standard of the new code of regulations of the Education Department, made on the twenty-eighth day of February 1873. At present the standard of qualification was a perpetually varying quantity, for the Education Department were constantly raising the standard, and it was therefore necessary to specify the particular degree of proficiency which should secure exemption.


objected to the Amendment as not in conformity with the Act of 1870, which intrusted the test of proficiency to Her Majesty's Inspectors only. If they were to go upon the principle of having those certificates, it must be done through Her Majesty's Inspectors. There would be difficulties in the way of imposing that duty on the other functionaries who had been suggested. Again, if, in addition to the requirements of the Education Department, they took another and altogether distinct standard, they would involve themselves in the inconvenience of having two examinations, and would also inflict some hardship on the children.


said, that if "Her Majesty's Inspector" was to remain in the clause it would be practically a dead letter, because that officer would not have time to examine the boys who were to go to work. A boy who had not attained a certain standard on the day the Inspector went round might do so a month or two afterwards; but he would have to wait a twelvemonth until the Inspector's next examination before he would be entitled to get employment. He would not object, however, to the words "Her Majesty's Inspector," with this addition—"or, failing him, some person deputed by him."


would prefer to see that provision omitted altogether, and a certain continuous and gradual amount of instruction made compulsory up to a certain age.


observed that the duties of the Diocesan Inspectors were entirely confined to the religious inspection of the schools, and they had nothing whatever to do with the standards prepared by the Education Department.


thought it on the whole more desirable to give the children a right to be employed as soon as they had attained a certain standard of proficiency, instead of making the acquisition of knowledge a secondary point, and attendance at school a primary one.


accepted the suggestion that the words "or by some person deputed by him" be added after "Her Majesty's Inspector."


observed that the clause was nearly the same as the Amendment he had on the Paper and was taken chiefly from the bye-laws of the London School Board. The proposed standard was one which most children of 9 or 10 years of age could reach, and his object was that children under that age should not come under the operation of the clause.


said, he was altogether opposed to the stereotyping of the standard of education, and moved as an Amendment that the standard under the Bill should be that prescribed for the time being by the Minutes of the Education Department in reference to the Parliamentary grant. If the Amendment were not adopted there should be a double examination of the children, one for the Parliamentary grant and another for the purposes of the Act, if this Bill were to become law.


said, the Amendment would place in the hands of a Department of the Government the right to prescribe the conditions on which a child might earn its bread. He hoped their Lordships would not depute such a power to the Committee of Council on Education.


denied that he had made any such claim on behalf of the Education Department. He asked for nothing by the Amendment which Parliament had not sanctioned by the Act of 1870.


supported the Amendment.


thought that an examination which would qualify a child for the Parliamentary grant ought to be regarded as sufficient for the purposes of this Bill.


thought that the Amendment would give to the Government the power of making the clause entirely nugatory. It would give to the Education Department—or rather to the body of secretaries, clerks, and commissioners, of whom it was really composed—a prerogative which now belonged to Parliament alone.

Amendment agreed to.

After further short debate, Clause (by leave) withdrawn; and new Clause moved and agreed to, as follows:—

Clause 8 (Cases in which provisions of Act shall not apply.)

"The provisions of this Act with respect to the employment of children shall not apply in the case of any child who has obtained from one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, or from some person to be deputed by him for that purpose, a certificate under his hand, to the effect that such child has reached the fourth standard of education as prescribed by the Minute of the Education Department for the time being in force with respect to the Parliamentary Grant, or such other standard as may from time to time be fixed for the purpose of this Act by Minute of the Education Department."

Remaining Clauses and Schedule agreed to with Amendments.

The Report of the Amendment to be received on Tuesday next; and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 165.)