HL Deb 08 August 1889 vol 339 cc715-21

Amendments reported according to order.


I should like to call your Lordships' attention to the change which has been made in the title of this Bill at the last moment. Originally its title was "The Prevention of Cruelty to Children Bill." Afterwards Lord Kimberley proposed it should be altered to "The Protection of Children Bill." The Standing Committee were of opinion that the alteration proposed was a proper one, but, at the last moment, it has been again altered. I now propose that the shorter title should be adopted, as this lengthening of the title seems absurd. Under this title it might be supposed to be a Bill for the prevention of cruelty to children and the prevention of protection to them, which I think is hardly the meaning of the noble Earl.


No doubt an alteration was made in the title in Standing Committee in order to meet the objection that there were subjects covered by this Bill which do not come within the title of "Prevention of Cruelty," but deal rather with the protection of children. Objections were made to such matters being included in a Bill bearing that title. Representations were made which induced my hon. friend, Lord Aberdeen, to propose an Amendment to that title, to which I readily assented. It was represented that there were advantages in letting it be known that a Bill had been passed for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which might not follow if the Bill were entitled merely for the Protection of Children. There seems to me no objection to the whole of the title being giving to the Bill. I have only to add that notice of the Amendment was given on the Paper, and that it was not made in any way that would create surprise.


Is the House to understand that this is called the "short title" of the Bill?


Yes. There are degrees of shortness.


I beg to propose an Amendment to Clause 3. By sub-sections (b) and (c) it is provided that any person who (b) causes or procures any child, being a boy under the age of fourteen years, or being a girl under the age of sixteen years, to be in any street, or in any premises licensed for the sale of any intoxicating liquor, other than premises licensed according to law for public entertainments, for the purpose of singing, playing, or performing for profit, or offering anything for sale, between ten p.m. and five a.m. from the first day of April to the thirtieth day of September inclusive, or between eight p.m. and five a.m. from the first day of October to the thirty-first day of March inclusive; or (c) causes or procures any child under the age of ten years to be at any time in any street, or in any premises licensed for the sale of any intoxicating liquor, or in premises licensed according to law for public entertainments, for the purpose of singing, playing or performing for profit, or offering any thing for sale, shall on conviction thereof by a Court of summary jurisdiction in manner provided by the Summary Jurisdiction Acts, be liable, at the discretion of the Court, to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds alternatively, or in default of payment of the said fine, or in addition thereto, to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for any term not exceeding three months. I should like to call the attention of the House to the fact that the evening newspapers are sold in the streets within those prohibited hours. It really does seem a monstrous hardship in these very hard times to prevent, by the operation of such a Clause as this, poor people deriving the little, but, to them, most valuable addition to their means which is earned by the boys who sell newspapers in the streets. I cannot see why there should be any difference made between winter and summer with regard to the out-door sale of newspapers by boys. The gas-lamps are alight in the streets just the same at all seasons, and it is immaterial to these poor boys, whether it happens to be winter or summer, if they can earn a little in that way. It is hardly to be supposed that they will consult the almanack to see whether they may carry on their trade within the particular hours when papers or anything else may be sold by them in the streets, and really this seems to be a most extraordinary tyrannical piece of legislation. I would ask your Lordships whether boys should not be allowed to sell newspapers in the streets after ten o'clock in the evening? To fix the prohibited time at ten p.m. in the summer and eight p.m. in the winter seems to me to be not only cruel, but ridiculous. It is true that power is given to local authorities to vary those hours, but it seems to me that this is a matter which it would be very much better not to leave to local authorities. They might possibly choose not to vary those hours, and it would be much better for Parliament to fix the hours within which it is to become unlawful for poor boys to carry on their lawful occupations. I move, therefore, to omit the words after "eight p.m."

Moved, to omit all words after "eight p.m." in line 14, down to the word "or" in line 17.—(The Earl of Milltown.)


The provision to which the noble Earl refers does not relate to newspaper boys only. He has given a particular case, in which he says it would be unreasonable to restrict the hours and prohibition to the extent laid down in the Bill. It must be remembered that this Clause would give, even in the winter, fifteen hours during which children may be employed, and I think that will be considered by your Lordships a sufficiently long period for the employment of any child, only nine hours' rest remaining. I think, my Lords, to say that children shall not be employed for more than fifteen hours out of twenty-four, is not any extraordinary interference with either liberty or rights, and that it is saying no more than will, I am sure, be thought desirable. To meet particular cases such as that referred to, the proviso giving power to the local authorities to vary the hours, has been inserted; but I do not know that it would be advisable to enable them to extend the hours in the case of a particular employment. It seems to me that meets the whole objection.


I mentioned the case of the newspaper boys, as that is the most glaring; but as your Lordships are aware, boys earn their living in the streets in other ways. For instance, there are the boys who sell matches. As I have said, the amounts which they earn are not great, but still to these poor boys themselves they are of considerable importance. The noble Earl speaks of there being fifteen hours' work; as though it were continuous for that period, but surely he would not say that remark applies to boys who sell evening papers. The point is that this clause prevents their being employed within the prohibited time, and therefore I ask your Lordships to accept the amendment for the omission of those words.

On question "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," their Lordships divided:—Contents, 13; Not Contents, 23.


Clause 3, subsection (c), about which there has been so much discussion, as it at present stands, prohibits the employment of children under 10 in premises licensed for public entertainments. That will not cover travelling circuses and like places of entertainment throughout the country where children may be employed for acrobatic purposes, and in ways in which their employment would be even more undesirable than in licensed theatres. It seems to me if it be considered inexpedient to permit such employment in theatres it would be unfair to the theatres to permit it in circuses and traveling shows. I would therefore suggest that after the words "licensed according to law for public entertainments," there should be inserted "or any circus or place to which the public shall be admitted by payment," so that those places may be put on the same footing in this respect as theatres, which are required to be licensed.

Moved to insert in clause 3, line 21, "or any circus or place to which the public shall be admitted by payment."—(Lord Herschell.)

Agreed to.


With reference to the next amendments I will state the course which I propose, with your Lordships' permission, to take. I will either more them now or leave them to the Third Reading. I have been unable to give notice of them, because it was not until yesterday that I obtained a copy of the Bill as it had passed through Committee, and of course it was impossible for me to propose amendments until I received it. If there is no objection to my moving them now, I will state that the first amendment which I have to propose is in. line 38, to insert the words "stipendiary magistrates or."

Amendment agreed to.


I wish to move that the words "Sheriff or Sheriff-substitute" should be deleted, and the words "School Board" inserted, in deference to a very generally expressed desire in Scotland. The employment of young children is by no means such a burning question in the North as it is in England. For the last 11 years, that is to say, since the passing of the Education (Scotland) Act of 1878, the power of permitting children under age to be employed on special occasions has been entrusted to School Boards. I have not heard any complaints of the manner in which they have performed that duty, and in Glasgow, where that Clause has been in operation, very wise and carefully-framed regulations have been issued by the School Board as to the conditions under which children shall be permitted to assist in dramatic performances. I think it would be a great pity to take that power from a tribunal which has given entire satisfaction for so many years, and to vest it in the Sheriffs arid Sheriff-substitutes. I doubt whether it is at all consistent with the duties which those gentlemen perform that they should be compelled to enquire into the circumstances under which children should be thus employed. Even if they were enabled to make inquiries, I doubt whether they could perform that duty more efficiently than the School Board.


I have no objection whatever to the Amendment. Indeed, I should like the same thing to be done in England, but I fear there would be no chance of its being adopted here. I have certainly no objection to it as regards Scotland.

Amendment agreed to.


I will now move my next Amendment. I desire to say, before doing so, in order to avoid misapprehension, that I do not like the proviso, though I am seeking to amend it any more than when it was first pro posed. My objections to it remain, but I do not attempt to compass the impossible, and, therefore, I do not propose, against your Lordships' opinion, to omit it. As the Amendment is drawn, it enables the Court to order that a child not exceeding seven may be permitted to take part in such entertainments. It strikes me that, instead of so enacting, the better form would be to enable the Court to grant a license; that the Court might be empowered to grant a license during such hours, and subject to such restrictions and conditions as it might think fit. I have been led to that opinion having observed what has been done by the Glasgow School Board. That Body grants exemptions to the children, authorising them to take part in these entertainments, stating for what time they shall be employed, and making regulations for the purpose of ensuring that they shall be properly taken care of. It seems to me that, whatever tribunal has the power of granting exemptions, should also have the power of imposing reasonable restrictions and conditions. If permitted at all, it should only be permitted under those circumstances. I will not press the Amendment now if it be thought better I should leave it to the Third Reading. The Amendment is to leave out the words "in order that," and to insert "grant a license for such time during such hours of the day, and subject to such restrictions and conditions as it may think fit, for a child to take part."


I think it is very inconvenient that Amendments should be discussed otherwise than in order as they appear in the Paper.


We had so much discussion upon this proviso in Committee that I think it would be very inconvenient now to discuss Amend- ments except as they occur in the Paper.


I will not press the Amendment. I have an Amendment at the end of this section. I made a promise that I would provide that the part of sub-section (c) which relates to children performing in premises licensed for public entertainments, should not come into operation until the 1st November next. I will put down for the Third Reading an Amendment to that effect.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Remaining Clauses agreed to, with Amendments. Bill to be read 3a Tomorrow, and to be printed as amended (No. 219).