HL Deb 19 June 1879 vol 247 cc137-8

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.


said, he was ready to accept the Bill so far as it went; but it fell very short of a perfect Bill. In preventing only such performances as were, in the opinion of a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, dangerous to life and limb, it failed to reach the case of children trained in what was called in the slang terms, the " back slide trick." This training commenced when the children were very young, and taught them to completely hoop their bodies. This was neither dangerous to life or limb; but yet it inflicted an immense amount of torture upon the unfortunate victims for the amusement of the people, and was a fearful detriment to their health and strength in after years. It was a disgrace to our civilization that such a thing should be allowed to go on with the sanction of the law. The whole thing might be got rid of if the age was extended from 14 to 17 years of age. This, by retarding the period at which the beginning of the public performance could take place, would render the expense of the preliminary training so great that it would put a stop to much of these painful and degrading exhibitions.


was willing to modify the prohibitory clause in the direction pointed out by the noble Earl.


pointed out that no Notice had been given of this suggestion, and as such an alteration would interfere with a large class of persons who at present obtained their livelihood by these performances, he trusted the House would not agree to it.


said, the proceedings upon this Bill had been postponed from time to time, and no bonâ fide debate had taken place upon it. He would support the Bill as it stood; but he thought that if it had been dealt with in a more business-like manner it might have been a much better one.

House in Committee.

Clause 1 (Short title) agreed to.

New clause inserted after Clause 1—

(Commencement of Act.)

(" This Act shall not come into operation until the first day of January one thousand eight hundred and eighty, which date is herein-after referred to as the commencement of this Act.")

Clause 3 (Employment of child in dangerous performances prohibited).

Amendment made, in line 10, after " any person " the words— Being the owner or manager of a circus, or exercising the profession of a gymnast, rope-dancer, or athlete, or any similar profession," struck out. Line 12, strike out "for the purposes of such profession; " line 15, strike out "be dangerous to life and limb," and insert " the life or limb of such child shall be endangered; " line 19, omit " a penalty not exceeding five pounds," and insert " a penalty not exceeding ten pounds; " at end of clause insert— ("And where by reason of such employment any accident causing actual bodily harm occurs to any such child, the employer shall be liable to he indicted as having committed an assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and to be punished in manner provided by section forty-seven of the Act passed in the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth years of the reign of Her present Majesty, chapter one hundred, intituled 'An Act to consolidate and amend the Statute Law of England and Ireland relating to offences against the person;' and, moreover, the court before whom such employer is convicted on indictment shall have the power of awarding compensation to be paid by such employer to the child for the bodily harm so occasioned; provided, that no person shall be punished twice for the same offence.") Further Amendments made: the Report thereof to be received on Tuesday next; and Bill to be printed, as amended. (No. 122.)