HL Deb 26 July 1881 vol 263 cc1884-9

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he would not repeat his advocacy of such a measure in a previous debate, but only argue for this stage of Bill, which embodied his proposals, that it was mainly, and in principle, a consolidation of all the many Acts which had accumulated on the subject during 30 years of experimental legislation, and that it would clear the law and settle the question on the system which had practically worked out itself. There could hardly be any doubt of the desirableness and opportuneness of such a consolidation. He would, therefore, merely point out that the Amendments of the law which the Bill proposed, though they were the obvious conclusions from our experience, and most important and necessary to complete the work, were not essential to the Bill; but if they were omitted, the Bill would only be so far less useful without them. For instance, the Bill proposed to get rid of the distinction, which only existed in name, between industrial schools and reformatory schools, and to call the two schools, which had worked into one, by the same name—industrial schools. They could really be nothing else. But the children who came into such schools at a more advanced age—say 14—were proposed to be put into separate industrial schools, to be called "Senior Industrial Schools," and not mixed up with younger children in the same schools as at present. But if Parliament should unfortunately prefer designating this most important, because most neglected, part of all our professed undertaking of national education as prolonged punishment and penal discipline, they might still continue to call their schools "reformatories," and the Bill would only lose one of its proposed improvements, and would still retain the acknowledged good of separating older children into only as few reformatories as might be specially required for them. He trusted, however, that Parliament would no longer insist upon using the penal term; for, if they did so, these children would still be deprived when they went out from industrial schools of the employment for which they were there trained, whether in the Army and Navy, or in many kinds of private employment. They would go out from school stigmatized as educated criminals in their own and in others' estimation. Such would be the consequence of retaining a name for these particular schools, which, after all, could entail no real difference of treatment from other industrial schools. The other chief Amendment proposed in the Bill was the placing industrial schools under the Education Department, leaving the penal treatment only of criminal children to the Police Department of Government, and placing their education after punishment in the hands of those intrusted with the subject. He thought that the Education Department should not be let to despise this lower class of work, in the present ambition of our public educationists to give more attention to higher education. It seemed a strange argument for separating any subject from its Department that the Department was not suited to it, and the misplacement of any public administration generally ended in the diversion of the subject itself. Houses of Correction were so turned from places intended for industrial training into prisons, and in the same way the Colonial Office was once mixed up with that of War, till it was wittily but truly called an office at war with all the Colonies. The Industrial Schools Office in Delahay Street would find itself in better connection with the Education than the Police Department, with which it should have nothing to do, if its special object was education. However, if Parliament preferred the industrial schools' part of its Educational Estimates, including even day industrial schools, to be separated, and put out of sight on the Home Office account, the Secretary of State must keep his strange impersonation of Education Minister in this consolidating Bill, which would be only so far less amending. It took some time for Parliament to admit at all that criminal children had better be punished as children; and he hoped it would not take much longer for them to take in the rest of the idea, that, after punishment, what such children wanted was not prolonged criminal treatment, but education. He moved the second reading of the Bill.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Norton.)


My Lords, the deep interest which the noble Lord opposite (Lord Norton) has taken in this important subject is well known to your Lordships, and it is also fully recognized by Her Majesty's Government. And I can assure him, on behalf of the Government, that the observations and suggestions which, on a former occasion, he made to your Lordships in reference to this matter were most carefully considered, both by the Secretary of State himself and those who assist him in the consideration of questions of this kind. And if the Resolution which the noble Lord then moved was not accepted by the Government, I am yet able distinctly to say that it by no means followed that nothing was gained by it. At that time the Government were not without hopes that they might be able to introduce a measure dealing with reformatories and industrial schools, and they were consequently not willing to accept a Resolution which might seem to pledge them to a particular method of doing so, the principle of which they did not approve. This Bill is clearly drawn on the lines of that Resolution; and it may be argued that, having refused to concur in the noble Lord's Resolution, the Government are logically bound to reject his Bill, which is based upon it. But, in the first place, it is obvious that the Government can no longer hope, as they once did, to take up the question of reformatory and industrial schools during the present Session of Parliament; and they are very anxious that the whole subject of the working of the reformatory and industrial school system should be brought prominently forward, so that public opinion may have an opportunity of expressing itself upon it. For there is no question which affects so powerfully, for good or for evil, those classes which, according as we deal with them wisely or not, will become a source of strength or a source of danger to society in the immediate future. To legislate on a wrong principle would, undoubtedly, at no distant date, produce very serious consequences; and the Government are, therefore, most anxious to proceed with caution, all the more so, because they feel that although the present system of reformatory and industrial schools may stand in need of revision, it has, nevertheless, done good work in checking an evil which, 20 years ago, had assumed alarming proportions. On that ground Her Majesty's Government think it extremely desirable that they should take every opportunity of encouraging the discussion of this question, in the hope that public attention may be drawn to it. I gather from the speech of the noble Lord, as well as from the Bill itself, that its main object is to consolidate the Acts relating to reformatory and industrial schools, and that is an object at which Her Majesty's Government desire to arrive quite as earnestly as the noble Lord himself; and they are anxious, if possible, to give him a practical assurance of their sincerity in that respect. If, as I understand, the noble Lord does not intend to advance this Bill beyond the second reading, it would be possible for the Government to do this. But if he intends to go further than the second reading, I must point out that Clauses 4 and 7, and all subsequent clauses depending on them, are entirely opposed to the views which are entertained by Her Majesty's Government on this question—and that, as these clauses form a very important part of the measure, the Government could not possibly give their assent to the second reading of the Bill, except on the understanding that it does not go beyond that stage. The Government, as I have already said, are very sensible of the importance of the whole question; and, in regard to the Bill now before your Lordships, I have to say that, understanding from the noble Lord that it is not his intention to carry this Bill beyond the second reading, and seeing that there is now no prospect of the Government being able to realize the hope in which at an earlier period of the Session they indulged, that they would themselves be able to deal with this question; seeing, also, that it is most important that this question should be kept constantly before the attention of the public and that it should be fully discussed both in the Press and by those who are chiefly and most immediately interested in the reformatory and industrial school system, the Government will not oppose the second reading of the Bill. But, in saying that, I must repeat that I do not mean to imply that the Government approve of all the provisions contained in it. And I must distinctly state that, in assenting to the second reading of the Bill, the Government merely accept and affirm the principle that it is desirable that the various Acts of Parliament which relate to reformatory and industrial schools ought to be revised and consolidated at the earliest opportunity; but that they must not be understood to stand committed to those provivisions in the Bill by which the noble Lord proposes to arrive at that result.


said, he deeply regretted that the Government had given even a qualified sanction to the measure. His noble Friend (Lord Norton) and he had long agreed to differ in opinion as to this great reformatory movement. The existing systems in use in those establishments had been eminently successful in repressing juvenile crime, and he should be extremely sorry that any censure should be thrown upon them such as might be inferred from the present action of the Government. Those two systems were essentially different in themselves, and must remain so if they were to carry out satisfactorily the objects which they had in view. He trusted, therefore, that nothing would be done which would interfere with institutions which had proved so useful in training that class of children for whose benefit they were promoted originally. If the action of the Government were intended as a compliment to his noble Friend on account of the great attention he had given to this subject, he (Lord Houghton) could not regret the course which had been taken; but he hoped it would not be interpreted as meaning anything more.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a.