§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD STEWARD (Earl BEAUCHAMP)
My Lords, I am glad to say that this Bill which I ask your Lordships to read a second time this afternoon is not quite the formidable document which it appears to be at first sight. A large number of its clauses are really consolidation clauses, and it is only a comparatively small proportion of the total number which embody any new principle. Of the 133 clauses which there are in this Bill no fewer than ninety-four are consolidation clauses, and they consolidate 312 clauses in statutes which are repealed in another part of the Bill. Really this Bill is more of the character of an omnibus Bill dealing with children in different stages of their growth. It covers them while they are infants, while 210 they are children, and often follows them when they become young persons. There is only one question in their youth which is omitted, and that is the subject of education, and I venture to hope that the Bill will perhaps go through your Lordships' House with the greater case as that subject is omitted throughout the whole course of the Bill.
Your Lordships will, I am sure, agree that in the complications of modern life it is very desirable that the weakest should be protected. The weakest are obviously the children, and what this Bill does is to ask your Lordships to assent to the extension of various principles which have been approved by experience in the past in this and sometimes in other countries. The Bill is divided into six parts, and I will take each part in turn and explain to your lordships the more important and the now provisions in the various Parts. Part I. embodies the Infant Life Protection Act of 1897 with a large number of Amendments of detail which experience has shown to be necessary in order to prevent evasion of the intention of the law. The first clause raises the age of children from five to seven years; that is in accordance with the recommendation of the Select Committee. All homes are included in which even one infant is maintained. Exemptions are allowed when these one-child homes are inspected by charitable organisations, and, in other individual cases, where the local authority thinks that the interest of the child does not require the inspection. Then there is a new provision in Clause 7 by which the life of infants put out to nurse may not be insured by the foster-parents. These are really the chief matters in Part I.
In Part II. is embodied the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act of 1904, and I should like, in passing, to say one word of tribute to that excellent society, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and though the noble Earl is not present, perhaps I may add a special word of praise of the noble Earl, Lord Ancaster, who for many years has watched over the work of that society and done a great deal to advance its interests in every direction. In the same way, in Part II. there are also a certain number of changes of detail. There is a new clause—Clause 15—which penalises 211 a parent of a child who has been overlaid while that parent was under the influence of drink.
I should like to say a word or two with regard to that clause as it contains a new principle. Statistics have been taken showing the number of deaths which take place from suffocation in bed on the various days of the week, and it has been found that more than twice as many of these deaths take place in the course of Saturday night and Sunday morning. That is the time when those parents who are in the habit of indulging too freely in alcoholic liquor generally go to bed drunk. That is on Saturday nights, and it is on those nights that deaths are very much more frequent than on any other night in the week. The proportion per thousand on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings is 283, and the only night in the week which approaches that is Tuesday night, when there are 137. It is a very striking figure that the deaths of infants from overlaying should be twice as high on Saturday night as on any other, and it certainly does make out the case for the provision in this Bill. We can go further. There are figures that show that during holiday weeks, when, again, there is more drunkenness than at other times, there is also a larger number of deaths from this same cause than during non-holiday weeks. The proportion is 17.2 in holiday weeks, and 10.8 in non-holiday weeks. That is Clause 15.
I go back for a moment to Clause 14. That is a new clause, because it imposes penalties where children are burnt to death or seriously injured through unguarded fires, where no precaution has been taken. Then there are three clauses which are intended to extend the law for the protection of young girls, and Clause 25 gives the Home Secretary power to arrange for the inspection of all homes for children which are in receipt of public-subscriptions. That is a demand which has been made for a great many years, and to which I do not think there will be any objection in your Lordships' House.
With regard to Part III., that is a portion of the Bill which has, perhaps, provoked the greatest criticism outside. That part deals with the question of juvenile smoking. It is not necessary to remind all your Lordships, only some, 212 that a Select Committee of this House sat last year and dealt with the whole question of juvenile smoking. They recommended that legislation should be undertaken in order to deal with this difficulty, and in their Report they pointed out that legislation to this effect had already been passed in a large number of Colonies of the British Empire. I think I may say at once that it is the hope, or one of the hopes, of the promoters of this Bill, not that there will be a large number of convictions under any of its clauses, but that it will act as a deterrent, that it will help to form a public opinion, that will prevent children from smoking. It is not unlikely that the chief effect of the Bill will be to act as a warning, and I hope that if that really takes place there will be a comparatively small number of prosecutions under this particular part of the Bill.
I think the provisions of the Bill which deal with juvenile smoking are perfectly simple. The tobacconist is liable for a first offence to a fine not exceeding £2, and it is also made the duty of a constable and park keeper or other person having the powers of a constable and being in uniform, to seize any cigarettes or cigarette papers in the possession of any person apparently under the age of sixteen whom he finds smoking in any street or public place. Really, comparing the provisions of this Bill with the various enactments which have been before the public, it is only fair to say that this is an exceedingly moderate measure, and does not go nearly so far as other proposals which have been put forward at various times.
Then I come to Part IV., which is the most technical part. No fewer than nineteen statutes are embodied in this part of the Bill. Considerable changes are made in the law with regard to industrial schools, new categories of children are added, it is made compulsory on local authorities to contribute to the maintenance of children resident in their district who have been committed to reformatory or industrial schools, the day industrial school system is extended to Ireland, and there are a number of minor Amendments effected in this branch of the law. There is not, however, anything of great or startling originality in these proposals. Then I come to Part V. Clause 94 deals with juvenile offenders, 213 and here there is a very distinct principle which underlies the whole of this Bill, and it is that there shall be the most complete separation between the juvenile offenders and hardened criminals. That is a request which has been made by all those who have been interested in social reform for a great many years past. The object is to prevent children who are brought into the various police Courts from being contaminated by association with those who have been there before.
And here it is only fair to call attention to the way in which I hope this Bill will do something to remove the effect as well as the cause of juvenile crime. Very often those juvenile offenders only become hardened criminals because of their association with those who have been in police Courts and in prisons before. If you do your utmost to prevent the juvenile offender from coming into contact with these hardened criminals, you go a long way towards removing one of the most potent causes of juvenile crime. The first clause under Part V. deals with the question of bail. It allows the police to release a juvenile offender on bail. The same idea runs through the following clauses — namely, that the juvenile offender should be kept away as much as possible from the contamination to which I have referred, and I think it is most important that this should be done because it is impossible to say that at the present moment juvenile crime in this country is decreasing. It is therefore the more important that every possible measure should be taken to prevent an increase of juvenile crime.
Clause 98 enforces the responsibility of parents for the wrong-doing of their children. This is a point on which I think a large number of your Lordships are inclined to lay a good deal of stress Under this clause the presence of the parent can be enforced in all cases where he can be found, and the clause requires the Court to impose on the parent payment of a fine where it thinks the case can be best met in that way. Imprisonment in ordinary gaols is forbidden for children and young persons up to the age of sixteen, except in special circumstances. In Clause 103 the death sentence is abolished in the case of any child or young person, and I think that is a clause which will pass through your Lordships' House without any opposition.
214 Then comes the question of the places of detention, which is an interesting point. Local authorities are required, in Clause 108, to provide places of detention for children who are apprehended and cannot be released on bail. Children or young persons can only be sentenced to confinement in places of detention for a short period where other means of dealing wish them is not possible. It is expected that, generally speaking, except in very large towns, the local authorities will be able to make arrangements with existing institutions for this purpose, and the number of children who will be confined in any place of detention, except in the very largest towns, is not likely to be very great. The Treasury will pay for the maintenance of a child or young person committed to a place of detention on remand, or by any other order of the Court. Clause 111 establishes universally the system of juvenile Courts. These juvenile Courts are already in existence in other countries, and even in a considerable number of the larger towns in this country. They have been found to work very successfully, and therefore this clause, although a new one, may be said chiefly to extend what is already the practice in several parts of the country.
Then I come to Part VI.—tho last part—of the Bill, which contains miscellaneous and other provisions. Clause 117 raises the age at which pledges may be received from children by pawnbrokers to fourteen. It is now twelve in all parts of the country except London and Liverpool, where it is sixteen. It is raised from twelve to fourteen, but the position in London and Liverpool is unaltered. In Ireland, where there is at present no restriction in this matter, the age has been fixed at thirteen. Then there is another clause which deals with vagrant children, the object being by applying the Education Acts to prevent the children being taken about the country at all. Another clause requires precautions to be taken for safety from fire and panic of children assembled in large numbers in places of entertainment, and a further clause deals with the case of verminous children and their cleansing. So that your Lordships will see that, while there is no great constitutional point of principle dealt with in this Bill, there are a large number of details. His Majesty's Government hope, therefore, that the Bill will go through 215 your Lordships' House without any difficulty, and they trust that the accumulative effect of its various provisions will go far to benefit the children of the country.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Earl Beauchamp.)
§ *LORD ALVERSTONE
My Lords, I trust your Lordships will permit me to occupy your time for a few minutes on this Bill. I wish to thank His Majesty's Government for the measure they have introduced and to congratulate them upon it, and also to thank my noble friend the Lord Steward for the very interesting statement he has made in introducing the Bill to the House. I trust I may have some small claim to speak on this measure, as I introduced and carried through the House of Commons the Act of 1894, and I also had a great deal to do in your Lordships' House with carrying the Act of 1904. Moreover, this is a subject to which for twenty years I have paid the closest attention and in which I have taken the greatest interest.
The noble Earl is perfectly justified in saying that this Bill is to a large extent the outcome of the advance of public opinion, and I may take some pardonable pride in observing that four or five of the main provisions in this Bill were inserted in the draft which I presented to the House of Commons; but public opinion was not sufficiently ripe in those days to enable me to carry them. I do not propose to occupy your Lordships' time in the discussion of matters that might be more properly raised in Committee, but there are one or two points to which I wish to direct the attention of His Majesty's Government, because I think they may require some consideration before the Bill goes into Committee, and I think it would be not inconvenient if I indicated them rather than postpone entirely until the Committee stage the observations I have to make.
I am very glad to find that the provisions in Clause 7, dealing with the avoidance of policies of life assurance of infants kept for reward, has been introduced, limited though it is to the person in charge of infants having a direct or indirect interest in the insurance of the child. At one time we proposed to go further. Probably we were wrong. At 216 any rate, nobody, I think, can object to the clause as far as it goes now, but I think it will require strengthening. It will be necessary to make provision against insurance in other names. I am aware that the word "indirect" is used, but the common way is for these people to take the insurance out in the name of the parent. That provision, as I say, will require strengthening.
The noble Earl referred to Clause 14, which deals with exposing children to the risk of burning. That, again, was one of the clauses we discussed. I think that clause, too, requires consideration. I am not quite sure that the mother who may be accidentally out of the room for a short time is sufficiently protected. The reason why I call the attention of His Majesty's Government to that clause is this—that a Bill was introduced into the House of Commons last year, supported by both parties, but largely backed by supporters of His Majesty's Government, which proposed a provision in rather a better shape. Possibly the noble Earl, the Lord Steward, would not mind considering that Bill to see before the Committee stage whether Clause 14 might not be brought in line with the Bill as then proposed. Then, with regard to the clause dealing with the suffocation of infants, I am well acquainted with the statistics to which the noble Earl referred, and with the fact that a large number of these deaths occur on the days of the week, and at the periods to which the noble Earl referred. But I wish to make this observation. This clause has created a great deal of public outcry, I think most unjustly. It has been said, "If the mother takes the child into bed for the purpose of its warmth and the child happens to be suffocated, she will be made a criminal." That really is not so. This clause only deals with cases where it is proved that the parents went to bed drunk, and I am sure no objection could really be taken to that provision.
There is a question, which I do not wish to discuss for obvious reasons, arising on Clause 17. I refer to the introduction of the word "favours." I think it is doubtful whether the law is improved by this provision, but I will communicate with the noble Earl on this point. I would ask His Majesty's Government to consider whether it would 217 not be better to delete from the Bill altogether Clause 26—the clause as to habitual drunkards. It is a little foreign to the general scope of the Bill, and my experience is that the power of dealing with inebriates under 61 and 62 Victoria, c. 60, under which they can be dealt with without their consent, is far more effective than the provision in this Bill. This Bill practically only enables an inebriate to be kept under control with his or her own consent, and the result of a conviction under the Bill would be that if they went in they could get out the next day. This is a practical question. The society to which the Lord Steward has referred has not infrequently taken proceedings under 61 and 62 Victoria, and has been met with the objection, "Why do you not go under your own Act?" I venture to think it will be found better that Clause 26 should go out of this Bill. Personally I do not think any amendment of the law is required, but, if that is thought desirable, it should be by an amendment of the Act to which I have referred, and not by the provision in this Bill.
I am afraid that I shall not, perhaps, meet with the same support from His Majesty's Government in the next appeal I am going to make. But I would earnestly ask the Government to take the clauses about smoking out of this Bill and to make them a separate measure. They have nothing to do with the main scope of the Bill. I am not going to discuss now whether those clauses are good or bad clauses. There is a great deal to be said on both sides. I do not urge their being taken out for the reason that I am a smoker, because I am not. These clauses introduce into the Bill an element which must be controversial, and, further than that, I think the clauses as they now stand are by no means sufficient. As now drafted they involve questions of difficulty, and I do not think it is wise that they should remain in the Bill. There are matters in the Bill which ought to pass your Lordships' House with the consent of the great majority, if not unanimously, and I know that those who are most anxious that the Bill should pass share my opinion that into the Bill has been introduced a controversial and difficult question, and one which certainly was not in the scope 218 of the Bill as it was introduced in the House of Commons. I ask that His Majesty's Government will be good enough to consider whether or not something might not be done to make the provisions as to juvenile smoking the subject of a separate measure instead of finding a place in this Bill.
I do not do more, with regard to Part IV. of the Bill, than add my testimony to what the noble Earl has said. I believe it to be a very valuable consolidation of the existing law, removing difficulties which we, His Majesty's Judges, have felt in executing the criminal law, and I trust that that part of the Bill will receive careful consideration. I believe it to be admirably done and to present no controversial question.
With regard to Part V., I do not think there is any amendment of the law which would be likely to produce more good than the separation of the juvenile criminal from the old offender. With the best care possible on the part of superintendents and sergeants, there still is from time to time contaminating influence, and we who go down to the assizes to try these poor young boys constantly have it brought to our notice by the very fair inspectors, who never state a case against a person unfairly, that the offence has been largely due to association with those who were steeped in crime. As to separate juvenile Courts, that, to my mind, though desirable, is a very small branch of the matter. Magistrates throughout the country do now take care that children's cases are practically heard by themselves, but it is well that the Legislature should recognise this. I think the other provisions of the Bill are more likely to conduce to the beneficial results at which we aim than the mere establishment of children's Courts, though in my judgment that provision also is an extremely good one. I am afraid I have occupied your Lordships' time longer than I should have done. I hope this measure will, as I am sure it will, receive the fairest consideration at your Lordships' hands, and my only desire is to make it a measure which will work well. It is for that reason that I have ventured to make the appeal concerning the smoking clauses.
THE EARL OF MEATH
My Lords, although at a later stage I hope to be 219 allowed to move some Amendments, I desire to associate myself with the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down in my congratulations to the Government for having introduced what I cannot help saying is a most excellent measure. At the same time there are certain parts of the Bill which I believe many of your Lordships think might be improved. As an Irishman, I thank the Government for having extended the day industrial school system to Ireland. Then there is the question of being able to punish those who are drunk in charge of children. I think that is a most important provision. Then, with regard to the question of remand, I am very glad that imprisonment is abolished, and I hope the remand will mean that the parents will be fined if they do not take some trouble to train their children properly and punish them for wrong-doing. I have seen with pleasure that some magistrates have remitted the fine for the moment on the understanding that the child should be punished. I think it is a most important thing that the responsibility of the parents should be brought home to them.
With regard to juvenile Courts, I am proud to think that Dublin was the first city in the United Kingdom to establish these Courts, and I am very glad indeed that in this Bill steps have been taken to make them universal. There is another point of very great importance. It has saddened my heart for years to see miserable children being dragged about the country from workhouse to workhouse by idle ruffians, and it is a very great satisfaction to me that these children will in future be taken out of the hands of these people and properly trained. The one thing which it seems to me we have to bear in mind above everything is lest we should in any way weaken the responsibility of parents for the bringing up of their children. It is to my mind an important thing that we should make parents understand that if a generation of virile and good men and women is to be brought up, it can only be done through them. We should force them, if we can, to take charge of their children and train them properly. Character is everything, and character can only be trained in the home.
Let us also, in our endeavour to shelter the children, take care that we do not in any way destroy their moral fibre. 220 I may be wrong, but it appears to me that the rising generation of this day have been a little pampered, and that there are signs of a lack of discipline among them. As President of the Church Army, I know that a large number of those men who call themselves unemployed would not take a job if they could help it. I saw in one of the illustrated papers the other day, a group of so-called unemployed, carrying banners containing the words "Work or riot." Most of them were lads. I want to know how many of them are going into the Territorial Force. My impression is that Mr. Haldane will get very few of them. Has not this something to do with want of discipline in the home at the present day? Has it not also something to do with the general feeling that we should make everything easy for the rising generation? I do not object to that myself, but it must be remembered that the finest characters have been formed by hardship, toil, and struggle. I hope we shall bear that in mind. The days of harshness, thank God! are gone for children. My only fear is lest we should now err in the other direction.
§ *LORD LEIGH
My Lords, I would venture to suggest to His Majesty's Government whether it would not be better, as regards Clause 1, which deals with baby farming, to reinstate the regulation as to notice being given where the period for which the infant is received is twenty-four hours or less, instead of forty-eight hours, as in the second paragraph. Also as to whether it is not inadvisable to exempt particular premises from being visited, as is proposed in Clause 2. No hardship is inflicted by such visits where the home or institution is properly conducted, and the revelations that are made from time to time as to what occurs in some institutions would seem to point to the wisdom of not relaxing periodical inspection.
With regard to Clause 57, may I suggest that any superannuation scheme be instituted by His Majesty's Government instead of its being left to the various committees of the reformatory schools to decide on. There is quite an epidemic of old-age pensions raging now. For good or for evil the principle has been adopted; but in the case of superannuation allowances, there is, at all events, the guarantee that they are for 221 services rendered, and it would seem rather unfair if in some cases, the reformatory officers were granted thorn and in other cases not. It is worth bearing in mind that the reformatories of the country furnish it, on an average, with a battalion of 1,000 young soldiers every three years, and excellent soldiers they are, as a rule. It should be remembered that masters of workhouses, relieving officers, clerks of boards of guardians, the police, elementary school teachers, and others, already have the benefit of superannuation allowances, and it cannot be denied that reformatory officers have responsibilities at least as great as have any of those mentioned, and it would seem to be more certain that equal justice would be meted out to all the reformatory officers, should the scheme be brought under State control. Perhaps His Majesty's Government may think the suggestions worthy of consideration.
*THE LORD BISHOP OF RIPON
My Lords, I should like, in the first instance, to associate myself with what the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, has said, that one of the great facts which will make us most welcome a measure of this sort, is the indication which it gives of an improved public opinion. If it is true that legislation can never go beyond public opinion, thon certainly we ought to be thankful that a measure of this sort has been entrusted to our care, because it does indicate that there has been an immense advance during the last fifty years.
Those whose temperament is pessimistic are often inclined to tell us of our defects, but surely it is a wise thing at a time of this kind to look back. Fifty years ago it might be said that children had no rights at all, and I think I am correct in saying that twenty-five years ago, and even loss than that, it was difficult for us to imagine that the law took any cognisance, so to speak, of cruelty to children. But during the last twenty-five years a marked advance has been made, and I conclude that we might call this measure the high water mark of public opinion. It is in that respect that I think we ought to give it the heartiest welcome, because it does mean that behind the measure there will in all probability be that active support of public opinion which will give it effectiveness in its working.
222 I am sure I am only voicing what many Members of your Lordships' House must have felt in saying that when I looked at the Bill I was a little daunted. It is bulky and contains an enormous amount of detail. In point of fact, it is so multitudinous in its provisions that it might almost frighten anyone from undertaking its consideration; but I think we may have no hesitation in dealing with so large a measure because we have good hope that it will be well supported by the public at large.
Having said that much, may I go a step further? I welcome this Bill not merely because it indicates this great advance in public opinion, but because it indicates a determination on the part of His Majesty's Government to deal with these evils. I welcome the direct advantages of this Bill. I welcome the increase of the age of protection from five to seven years, for, after all said and done, can anyone looking into the faces of children imagine that it was a wise thing to draw a line at five years, remembering the little difference there is between five and seven and the fact that in the time of our ancestors seven was regarded as the age of infancy and not five? I welcome also the step taken in dealing with the insurance of child life. Those who remember the Committee which sat on this subject some years ago will recall that it was one of the matters which exercised the gravest consideration. It was impossible at that time to secure effective legislation, and I am glad to welcome the step contained in this Bill towards protecting child life from these dangers.
Besides that, I welcome as directly valuable the facing of the question of the over-laying of children. We live in a time in which we are being constantly told, and told truly, that it is a very important thing for us to safeguard the infant life of the nation. We are not in a position to be able to afford to diminish in any way, or to leave any opportunity of diminishing, the number of children that will be effective citizens in the future. The dangers of our diminishing population are far greater than many of your Lordships are aware of, and, therefore, anything which will protect child life is of the greatest importance. As I understand it, the evidence of coroners goes to show that the number of cases 223 arising from overlaying amounts to 1,200 or 1,700 in the course of the year. Think what that means. If you can in any way protect the lives of children as numerous as those, you are preserving for the rights and the opportunities of citizenship a small army, and those who may be valuable citizens in the days to come.
As to the direct advantages of the Bill, I welcome the very matter concerning which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice feels some misgiving. I cannot help thinking that it would be a very great mistake if we were to drop out of this Bill the provisions against juvenile smoking. We are here considering what can be done to safeguard the life and the health of the children. The medical evidence as to the injury of smoking in infant years is very great. I remember being very much struck by an investigation which was made in America concerning a particular school in which the boys were allowed to smoke, and the result was that the teachers reported that the children who did not smoke were always physically, mentally, and morally in advance of those who did, and I think it is a most important thing that we should express our opinion against this injurious tendency, which is likely to disturb and destroy both the physical and moral well-being of the children of this country. I quite admit that the provisions regarding juvenile smoking may appear to some to have been somewhat artificially grafted upon this Bill; but, on the other hand, would it be wise to lose this opportunity of protecting the boys of the next generation by dropping valuable provisions which have been successfully carried through the other House? Surely it would be a mistake to lose this opportunity of dealing wisely and well with what I cannot help thinking is a real national evil.
I could have wished that other things had been added to the Bill. I could have wished, for instance, that there had been some provision to protect children after they have left school from being exposed to the over-working of their system under the pressure of modern life. Whereas the number of young people employed doing work while at the same time partially attending school—commonly known as "half-timers—"was 348,000 a year or two ago, it rose to 381,000 in the following year. I 224 suppose the pressure of circumstances in the homes of the people is responsible for these things, but surely from a national point of view it is very undesirable that the growing physique of children should be taxed by undue labour at this critical period in their existence.
I welcome perhaps more than anything else in the Bill what is proposed for the protection of the mental and moral environment of children. Something has been said by the noble Earl on the cross benches concerning the great danger of diminishing parental responsibility. I endorse every word of what is said on that subject. It would be an appalling danger to our country if we were to do anything which weakened the moral fibro and therefore brought down the strength of character of the people of these islands. But there is behind that another question which we cannot ignore. When we find that parents are not accepting their responsibility, when we find that their influence over their children is injurious rather than good, when we find that children are dragged about the country, and have, as it were, formed within their little natures almost before they are aware of it that restless habit of the tramp and vagrant, then I say it is fitting time for the Government to step in and say that all children are the natural care of the State, and that where parental responsibility is not understood and not acted upon, we must for the very sake of the preservation of the State, step in and say we cannot afford this wastage of human life. We are bound at all costs to see that the children grow up in such a fashion that they may become useful, serviceable, and profitable citizens of this great Empire. It is for that reason more than any other that I welcome this measure.
We need not be under any pessimistic apprehension concerning the condition of the population. It seems to me to be established, almost beyond the power of being rebutted, that if you can only change the environment you can so fashion the physique and the character of the child that he shall grow up to be useful and profitable in the citizenship of the country. And hence it seems to me it would be ignoring the lessons of the past and losing the opportunities of the present, if we were to fail to give effective result 225 to a measure which dealt with the change of the environment of the child, so as to give it opportunities of the freest and fullest and West development. My Lords, I have done. I only rose to speak these few words because, having looked into this matter from various points of view, I felt that this Bill deals with one great need and pressing need of our time. I trust your Lordships' House will pass, with such modifications as may be deemed wise, this useful measure, for which we are all very grateful to His Majesty's Government.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, I should like to add a few words of congratulation and of gratitude to His Majesty's Government for the amendments of the existing law which they have introduced in this Bill. The speeches which have been made, although they indicate some points upon which criticism may be raised at a subsequent stage of the Bill, indicate, I think very clearly, that we have passed a long way from the day when a Bill of this sort could be considered a revolutionary measure.
This Bill introduces into the strife and turmoil of our usual political controversy a very gratifying and refreshing spirit of harmony and peace. It is in direct contrast to the usual proposals which we are accustomed to from the Government benches, no matter by what Party those benches may be occupied. In fact, if the Government introduce many more measures of this kind, I feel that noble Lords on this side of the House will have to join the ranks of the unemployed. It is their business to criticise Government measures, and their business will be taken from them. But, perhaps for that very reason, this Bill is likely to arouse less interest than some of its more controversial companions in the Government programme. It is an inevitable fact in politics that the acuter the policy the greater the interest. Where all are agreed, then interest wanes and enthusiasm dies down. It is probable, therefore, that in this House, perhaps, this Bill may be overshadowed, if not altogether eclipsed, by the licensing proposals, the education proposals, the land proposals of His Majesty's Government.
But, my Lords, outside the walls of Parliament there are a great many people who regard this Bill as the reward of 226 long years of labour, people who for a great many years have been toiling patiently, silently, and laboriously, amassing facts and putting together statistics collected in the workhouses, in the industrial and reformatory schools, in the criminal Courts, and in the slum homes of this country. These people will, I believe, consider this Bill to be of more value than all the other measures of the Government put together. Not only great organisations like the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society, the State Children's Association, and other similar bodies, but individual men and women have been working for the reforms which are granted in this Bill for some ten years past, and though their attempts have not reverberated upon the ordinary political platforms, though they have not been trumpeted in the Press, I am glad to think that they have at last found their way to the ears of His Majesty's present advisors.
I am glad also to acknowledge that on the whole this Bill has been strengthened and improved since its first introduction. I take as one example the very first clause of the Bill, which includes for the first time the single-child cases in foster homes. In the past lack of inspection of the children situated in these homes has led to a long chapter of crime and cruelty. In the last four years the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children investigated no fewer than 3,000 cases of cruelty to such children, yet the noble Earl on the front cross bench said we had passed away from the days of cruelty and hardship in child life. I wish it could be said that that was strictly true. Not only have these 3,000 cases of cruelty been investigated, but in a much less time than these four years four women have been executed, having encompassed the death of the single child committed to their charge. But, apart altogether from these very terrible facts, there is existing still in these homes a great deal of quite unnecessary misery and suffering duo to the carelessness or ignorance of entirely well-meaning foster-parents. I am glad to think, therefore, that these homes are being brought at last within the scope of the law.
I do not propose to follow the noble Earl who introduced this Bill in a very 227 clear and admirable speech through the various details of amendments which the Bill makes in the existing law. I would only like to express my great satisfaction at one clause in Part IV. which deals with industrial and reformatory schools. I refer to Clause 54, which now gives to managers of industrial schools a power which has long been used with great advantage by Poor Law guardians—the power of boarding-out the children under their care in homes that they may consider suitable for the purpose. The result of this provision will be that children will no longer be condemned during all the precious years of their childhood to the monotony and tedium of life in an institution. Though fate has robbed them in their early infancy of their own real home, yet they will be able, under this system, to realise some of the meanings of that word. They will be able to experience some of the tender influences of real personal affection under circumstances where their own individual character and temperament will be given opportunities of being fostered and developed.
But, though the provisions contained in the first four parts of the Bill are immensely valuable, I cannot help thinking that they are small when compared with the great merit of Part V. of the Bill—those provisions which establish Courts for the trial of juvenile offenders and seek to save young hoys and girls from the contamination of the police Courts. These are, after all, only a tardy recognition of principles which for many years past have been accepted, and been found of immense value in many of the States of America. The whole of this part of the Bill is conceived, not only in a spirit of tenderness and affection for child life, but also with real interest in the future welfare of the State. Its provisions hold out to us hopes for a marked diminution of crime in the future. This part of the Bill completes the work which was begun by the Probation of Offenders Act, and it paves the way for that other measure which the Government have in view for substituting reformatory methods for punitive ones in our police Court system. Without the clauses contained in Part V. of this Bill, that other measure would be of very little use.
The penal reformer, the man who believes it is possible to turn a criminal 228 into an honest and useful citizen, is always having the habitual criminal thrown in his teeth. Cases are brought up where a man or woman, after a long life of crime and imprisonment, is charged again with some ghastly offence or some crime of brutal violence Such a man or woman is held up, and we are asked "What are you going to do with a person like that? Do you imagine that by reformatory methods you are going to turn such a person into an honest citizen?" In such cases it is too late to do anything at all. It is impossible to do anything with the man or woman upon whom habit and circumstances have I already laid their mark beyond all control. The only answer you can return is this: "If you had brought me that person when a boy or girl, if you had kept him or her from contamination with the criminal class, then it is possible that person never would have developed into the criminal that you bring up before me now."
It is because, by the provisions of Part V., the Government do seem to be going for once at the very root of this important matter, that I offer them my most fervent and devout gratitude for the introduction of this Bill; and when the day comes, as it must come in time, when they lose the confidence of their present friends and when they are obliged to give place to those who are now their political opponents, I hope that this Bill, at any rate, will be remembered to their credit. I hope that history will record of them that, whatever else may have been their faults, at any rate, they gave us the Children's Charter.
*THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a few moments, but I should be sorry, in view of the far-reaching character of this Bill, not to add a note to the chorus to which you have already listened, in grateful recognition of the pains which have been taken in the putting together of this Bill. It has for long been felt among those who are engaged in philanthropic work that there was an immense need for consolidation of the various Acts of Parliament dealing with the subjects of which this Bill treats. A great many of those on whom rests daily the responsibility of carrying 229 on, either individually or in connection with institutions, the sort of work I refer to are not people who are exceedingly expert in finding their way through a mass of often overlapping statutes dealing with these delicate questions, and some of those who have acted in a manner which has brought them within the law have been found afterwards to plead, I think with very great plausibility, as their excuse that it was almost impossible to ascertain on some of those subjects what exactly the existing law was. Therefore the consolidation part of this Bill is certainly not the least valuable feature.
I wish to congratulate the Government also, or whoever is responsible for the actual workmanship of this measure, upon the lucidity of its arrangements. It compares favourably with other measures in regard to the facility with which it is possible to find one's way about it. The measure is, as has boon said by more than one speaker to-night, marked by the complete absence of anything that can be twisted into political partisanship. That is curiously evidenced if we look back into the history of those clauses, from which we find that neither party can claim to have anything like A monopoly as to the sources from which the clauses are drawn which are consolidated in this measure. The gradual progress made—and here I join my expression of thankfulness to those which have been already spoken—is an evidence of the development of a quickened sense of responsibility among people at large with regard to those matters.
As one of those who took a somewhat persistent part in the inquiry about twelve years ago with regard to infant life protection which resulted in the Bill of 1897, I am exceedingly glad to see that some of the suggested provisions which we then found to be in advance of public opinion are now accepted by public opinion, and that it is even proposed to extend them. I refer to such matters as the inspection of one-child nursing homes and the extension of the age-limit from five to seven. I believe that all the changes that have been made with regard to the Bill of 1897, for which I was in part responsible, are improvements. With regard to Part II., I want to express, as one of those who have a large responsibility in regard to the management and control of philanthropic homes, my satisfaction 230 that the inspection of these homes is to be made practically universal—not because I have any fear that things will be found to be far amiss, but because the absence of inspection makes people imagine things to be amiss when they are not. I therefore welcome all the provisions for the inspection and control of homes and institutions of that kind.
As to the juvenile smoking clauses, I confess to finding myself in a difficulty. I listened attentively and with a sense of anxious curiosity to what the Lord Chief Justice said on the subject. Prima, facie my own feeling is that you are running a grave peril of making almost a joke of something that is meant to be on the verge of a legal offence. The danger is that you are thereby lowering the standard of the notion which should be implanted in boys of what is meant by breaking the law. That is where I see a difficulty. A somewhat cynical friend of mine remarked that he would support these clauses because they would add such immense zest to the boy life of London. We can understand that attitude when we learn that a policeman or park-keeper is authorised to seize cigarettes, and then read the proviso that—Such constable, park-keeper, or other person as aforesaid, shall not be authorised to search any person so found smoking.The amusement to the boy when he finds that he can defy search as soon as he has put the cigarette in his pocket seems to me to be a detail rather suggestive in its character. But when I have stated what seems to me to be the difficulty of the matter, I am confronted by the mass of evidence which was brought before the two Committees who inquired into this subject, and whose opinions cannot lightly be set aside; and I shall be exceedingly anxious, in Committee, to hear what is to be said for this part of the Bill by those who represent those Committees; certainly I do not propose to yield to my primary impulse to, so to speak, laugh those clauses out of court. I am not prepared to do that. I desire them to be carefully discussed.
With regard to reformatories, no one who is familiar with the subject can look at that part of the Bill without feeling how happily it has been dealt with and how admirable the provisions are. I was surprised to hear the noble Earl on the 231 cross benches, Lord Meath, say that this Bill might weaken the sense of parental responsibility. On the contrary, some of the provisions of the Bill throw upon parents a responsibility which was not theirs before. Part v., dealing with juvenile offenders, is also worthy of all praise, and I doubt not that we can trace there the benign influence of the work done by Sir E. Ruggles-Brise for prison reform. That no imprisonment, in the real sense of the word, should be possible for a boy or girl under sixteen is, to my mind, an unmixed gain. The question of juvenile Courts is one to which I was privileged to give a little attention some years ago in the United States, and I am very thankful that the provisions of this Bill follow closely what seemed to me to be the very best parts and to avoid what seemed to me to be the weaker parts of the laws in force in the United States with regard to the conduct of Courts for juvenile offenders. The experiment, as I think the Lord Chief Justice reminded us, has also been made in some of the large towns of England, but it has not yet been made with anything like the effectiveness or on anything like the scale which I hope will be possible when this Bill is passed. There has been forty-five years experience of the working of this provision in the United States, twenty years' experience in Canada, and some experience in South Australia. In all those cases I believe the result to have been unmixed. I can understand that some of the particular points mentioned may not have all the merit and possibility in them which some of their warmer advocates suppose; but, on the whole, the provisions are such as we can cordially welcome, and I rejoice exceedingly to think that before many weeks have passed this Bill will become part of the Statute-book of England.
*LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNG-WORTH
My Lords, I should like to associate myself with everything that has been said in favour of this Bill. At the same time, as other speakers have pointed out, there are many points in the Bill which will require serious consideration before the measure can be regarded as thoroughly satisfactory. I have particularly in mind the provisions relating to the vexed question of juvenile smoking, and it seemed to me that the great point we have to face in 232 dealing with the matter is that it will be extremely difficult to eradicate this practice by mere legislative enactment. Bad habits may be engendered in children by the neglect of parents or by defects in their system of education, which so often overlooks the moral training of the children. If by any chance we could carry into effect a system by which juvenile smoking should be made unfashionable, if through methods of education, through the schools, or through general advice, we could bring that pressure to bear on the children, I think it would be found that this evil would disappear. If, however, you simply enact penal restrictions I am afraid boys will be encouraged to defy the law. But with this, and, perhaps, some other exceptions, I am sure your Lordships will give your cordial support to this great measure, and when it has been improved, as perhaps it may be in some of its details, I trust it will become law and have the success which it deserves.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I have no idea of detaining the House for more than a moment, and I certainly would not say a word which might mar the chorus of approval with which this Bill has been received. I think the promoters of the Bill and all those who for many years past, like my noble and learned friend Lord Alverstone, have worked in the interests of the protection of children and young people in this country, are to be congratulated upon having been able to take the tide of opinion at the flood and to bring forward a measure going very much further than anything which would have had a chance of being listened to a few years ago.
The Bill, we have been told to-night, is mainly a measure of consolidation. It is a very voluminous measure, and I have no doubt that the noble Lord who introduced it is quite right in giving credit to the draftsmen for having telescoped a great number of provisions and reduced them into a comparatively manageable shape. But the Bill is still a very voluminous document, and it is not very easy to find one's way through it. We are grateful to His Majesty's Government for having published with the Bill a kind of guide book to its intricacies. That 233 was a great assistance to us before the Bill had been altered in the House of Commons, but I am afraid I must add that the references to the provisions are references to the Bill as originally introduced and are consequently extremely perplexing when one endeavours to apply them to the Bill now on the Table.
Apart from consolidation, the Bill is an attempt, I suppose I may so describe it, to tighten up generally the law as it affects children and young people in this country, and, so far as I am able to see, that has been done mainly in a reasonable manner. But at some points there are provisions which go further than that, and which appear to be of an entirely novel character. Those provisions are, however, no doubt in accordance with a widely-prevailing feeling and with a general belief that this question is very closely connected with some of those other most perplexing problems which are now engaging the attention of the public in this country—I mean the problems of pauperism and unemployment. There is, I should say, a general suspicion that poverty and unemployment are very closely connected with the deterioration, I will not say of the whole race of people inhabiting these islands, but of some sections of the people, and that if we are to have healthy and vigorous men and women: able to take their place as citizens of this country, we must see to it that the boys and girls are properly looked after, and are, as far as possible, removed from those deteriorating and contaminating influences which this Bill seeks to get rid of. I say, therefore, that I entirely applaud the general purport of this Bill.
Those of its provisions which treat of the separation of the younger from the older criminals, those which impose penalties upon parents where it is possible to punish the parent instead of the child, those which deal with what we commonly speak of as the practice of baby farming, those which deal with juvenile Courts, and those which deal with infant insurance, amongst others, all seem to mo to be most well adapted to the purpose which we have in view.
I will only utter—and I do so in no critical or uncharitable spirit—one word of warning with regard to legislation of 234 this kind. It seems to me that there is always a certain danger of arriving at a point at which excessive interference with the private life of the people may have the effect of alienating their sympathy from the legislation which is proposed. That is particularly the case when, as in this Bill, you create new criminal offences, and when you give now powers to persons and officials who are at present not clothed with those powers. I will say in the next place that I agree with my noble friend on the cross benches when he tells the House that in his view there is some danger that if you go too far in the direction of depriving the parents and the employers of children of their responsibility for the proper treatment of those children that you may diminish their feeling of responsibility, and induce them to do less than they would otherwise do. In the third place, I would point to what seems to me to be also a danger—I mean that of imposing too many new duties, and, above all, too much new expense upon the local authorities who are entrusted with carrying out the provisions of the Bill. I am certainly not going to attempt to review the different clauses of the Bill, but I would say that one illustration of my meaning is to be found in that part of it to which attention has already been called by one or more Peers tonight—that part which deals with the question of juvenile smoking.
The noble Lord who has charge of the Bill told us that it was the hope of His Majesty's Government that those clauses would have a useful effect in forming public opinion with regard to smoking by young people. I am very much afraid that the clauses as they stand may form a kind of public opinion about smoking by young people which is precisely the kind of public opinion you do not want to form. I mean that you may inspire the British youths with the idea that it is a very fine thing indeed to defy the law and to smoke under conditions which enable them to snap their fingers at the constable, or it may not even be a constable, but the person in uniform who is told off for the purpose of catching them when they indulge in a surreptitious smoke. I think it would be very unfortunate that we should encourage legislation which I am afraid 235 will be treated, and has already been to some extent treated, as something very like a huge joke. When, therefore, we arrive at the Committee stage I shall certainly consider with a not unfavourable mind the proposal made by my noble and learned friend behind me that the matter should be reconsidered.
As an example of the tendency to impose new burdens upon local authorities, I would only mention one case. I refer to the suggestion to be found in this Bill that local authorities are to be henceforth expected to provide reformatories, industrial schools, and what are spoken of as places of detention. These may be, I daresay, very useful inventions, but they seem to be rather of the nature of matters which would more properly fall to the charge of those who are responsible for the prisons of this country. I will not say more this evening, but I certainly desire, on the part of those who sit beside me, to express our general approbation of the Bill and our hope that it may pass into law.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of CREWE)
My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend behind me, the Lord Steward, and other noble Lords in the House who represent the Government, can feel nothing but deep gratification at the reception which this measure has met with at the hands of the House as a whole. There has been a unanimous and harmonious chorus of approval, all the more welcome to us because we often have occasion to listen to a different kind of music.
This measure has several features to which attention, I think, ought to be drawn. In the first place, it is a universal Bill dealing with England, Scotland, and Ireland. It is universal in another sense, in the sense that it endeavours to cover the whole ground, so far as it can be covered at one time in agreement with public opinion, on the subject relating to children and young persons. The most rev. Primate and other noble Lords have complimented the authors of the Bill. I think the man to whom the greatest credit of all is due is my hon. friend Mr. Samuel, the Under-Secretary for the Home Department. He has been responsible all through for the conduct of this Bill and in considerable measure for its shape, 236 and I am certain that your Lordships will agree with me that to him the highest possible credit is due.
But it is also undoubtedly the fact that various societies and public bodies have played a very considerable part in the arrival of the state of things which has made the introduction of this Bill possible. Lord Lytton mentioned two societies—the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, of which, in my opinion, it is impossible to speak too highly, and a body called the State Children's Association, over which I at one time presided in succession to my noble friends Lord Peel and Lord Grey, and with which Lord Burghclere, and, I believe, Lord Lytton, have since been connected. In the time of the late Government, and since, those societies have pressed upon the Department concerned the need of legislation such as that contained in Part V. of the Bill. This Bill, as has been said, consolidates a number of old provisions. That has been necessary, not only on the ground which I think was mentioned by the most rev. Primate, that it is most helpful to those who administer the law and also to those who have to obey the law to know exactly what the law is, but also because it has been found in practice that various means and methods are discovered by ingenious and ill-disposed people for evading the provisions of the law, and it is hoped that the Bill will meet any such evasions.
At the same time there are provisions which are new, and which I should be the last to say are otherwise than far reaching. One part of the Bill which has received something like serious criticism is Part III., which deals with the subject of juvenile smoking; and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice made the first complaint that it seemed to him that these provisions were not relevant to the Bill as a whole. I rather think that that can hardly be maintained. This Bill, as has been said, is very much in the nature of an omnibus Bill. You cannot establish any very real relation between such clauses in the Bill as those which oblige parents to take precautions against their children being set on fire, and, on the other hand, clauses dealing with the provision of industrial schools and the clause which says that children and young persons are not to be condemned to death, except the general 237 connection that they are all in different ways provisions for the protection of young children. That is exactly what may be said of Part III.
For some reason or other a somewhat facetious turn has been given in another place to the discussion of this particular part of the subject, which caused delay in the arrival of the Bill in your Lordships' House, and the most rev. Primate drew attention to one provision which he said might be treated in a jocular spirit. But, my Lords, the matter itself is not at all a jocular one. It is an exceedingly serious one. It has been regarded by that very important Committee on Physical Deterioration, and also by the Committee of your Lordships' House, which sat on the subject itself, as one of the first importance. And why not? By common agreement legislation is passed for preventing children and young persons from having access to one particular kind of drug—alcohol. The effect of these provisions is to prevent them having access to another deleterious drug, to them at any rate—nicotine; and it seems to me that the arguments which you apply to the one kind of prevention might, with equal force, be applied to the other.
I do not want to speak in support of these particular clauses now, but merely to say this. If one speaks lightly of juvenile smoking, I should like to ask what would be the opinion of those noble Lords in this House who have sons at public schools, if the rule against smoking at Eton and Harrow, for instance, were relaxed, and smoking became the custom there. I am perfectly certain that it would load to the strongest protests on the part of the parents; and some attempt, therefore, to make what is an invariable rule in the case of the children of better-to-do parents, apply in the case of children of poorer parents, seems to me at any rate worthy of the sympathy of your Lordships' House. I sincerely hope that, even though the clauses may be closely examined, and if your Lordships' please, subjected to some Amendment, there will be no attempt to strike them out of the Bill altogether. It is perfectly clear that the only result of that would be that, having already passed another place, there would be no chance of this particular legislation being there considered again at present, and the effect 238 would be that what I regard as this very useful provision would be lost, at any rate for the time being, and possibly for some considerable time.
The noble Earl on the cross benches spoke of the risk that parential responsibility might be in some way weakened. He did not, however, call attention to any clause in the Bill by which that unfortunate result might be expected to occur, and, as the most rev. Primate pointed out, there are clauses in the Bill which draw attention, and very real attention, to the responsibility of parents. Such clauses as Clauses 98 and 99, one of which renders a parent liable to be fined for his child's offence, may be right or may be wrong, but nobody can say that they tend to decrease the responsibilities of parents. On the contrary, they increase them in a way which the parent might at times find exceedingly inconvenient. Thon the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, made another caution. He drew attention to the dangers which, in his opinion, might arise from over inspection. What I feel about inspection, speaking generally, is that you cannot have it both ways. It is perfectly true that the Englishman is, speaking generally, greatly averse to being inspected. His house is his castle, and he particularly dislikes the interference of any Government or other officer with his private arrangements. We are continually told that this or that social object is very much better carried out in France and even more so in Germany than it is in this country. If you look into the details of those matters, you will find that those results abroad are almost always brought about by some close system of Government supervision and inspection, and, therefore, if you are to have the one you must be prepared to undergo the other.
The only moral, I think, that is to be drawn is—and so far I am in complete agreement with the noble Marquess—that it is possible to go too fast in these matters; it is no good going ahead of public opinion, and I do not think this measure does so. I think the particular method of inspection provided for by this Bill is one which all right-thinking parents of the classes who are likely to be affected by it will sincerely welcome, and if the wrong-thinking ones do not welcome it I do not think we need trouble ourselves greatly about that. I 239 do not know that there are any further points of the Bill to which I need draw attention. We do expect very good results indeed from the provisions relating to the trial of juvenile offenders and to the subsequent system of detention. It is true, as has been pointed out, that this is no new matter. The system of children's Courts has been carried out in some of our own Colonies and in the United States, by common consent, with unvarying success for a great number of years past, and so far as attempts have been made to introduce the system into this country the first successful effort, if I remember rightly, was at Birmingham. There an equal measure of success seems to have been attained; and in order to carry out the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act of last year it is obviously necessary that these remaining bricks, so to speak, should be put into the edifice if juvenile offenders are to be treated as we desire to have them treated. I have nothing more to say, but merely once more to thank your Lordships, on the part of the Government, for the very cordial reception and very fair criticism which this measure has received.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Wednesday next.