HL Deb 15 April 1913 vol 14 cc93-9


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in asking your Lordships to-day to give this Bill a Second Heading. I do not think it is necessary for me to go into the merits or indeed into the details of the Bill, because it is but a very few weeks since your Lordships gave the Bill a Second Reading in the last session of Parliament, and it was only not proceeded with because there was not time to pass it through all its stages here and send it to the House of Commons before the conclusion of the session. This is the same Bill as the one which I introduced last session, although there have been certain alterations which I will indicate. The Bill prohibits any child being sent abroad to perform for profit, and it prohibits any young person being taken out of the United Kingdom with a view to singing, playing, performing, or being exhibited for profit except under licence. The Bill, in fact, supplements the Acts already on the Statute-book for the protection of children and young persons. A "child" is defined as a child up to the age of fourteen, and a "young person" as a person between the ages of fourteen and sixteen.

I propose, very shortly, to indicate the alterations which have been made in the Bill since it was last before your Lordships. When the Motion made on February 10 last, that the House should resolve itself into Committee on the Bill—to which Motion Lord Salisbury objected on the ground that the time allowed had been very short—was withdrawn. I undertook that the Amendments that had then been put down should be most carefully considered by the Home Office, with a view to seeing how many of them we could embody in the new Bill which I undertook on behalf of the Government to introduce during this session. I will deal first with Clause 1. The only alteration that has been made in this clause is of a verbal character, omitting the word "such" before "child" in line six of the clause. An addition has been made 'in Clause 2 the object of which, as your Lordships will see, is to provide that a copy of the contract of employment or other document showing the terms and conditions of employment, drawn up in a language understood by the young person, has been furnished to the young person. The magistrate who is asked to grant the licence has to be satisfied that the young person has seen and understands this document. That is embodying a very useful by-law of the London County Council, who, under their General Powers Act, 1910, have power to make by-laws, subject to the sanction of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, regulating the sending abroad of children under the jurisdiction of the London County Council, although that by-law does not apply to young persons.

Next there was an Amendment placed on the Paper by Lord Salisbury to turn the word "may" in Clause 2, line 39, into "the object being that the Police magistrate should be obliged to satisfy himself that the conditions upon which the young persons were going abroad were proper and right. We have met that Amendment by substituting the word "shall," but we have also added the words "unless he is satisfied that under the circumstances it is unnecessary." I think that will entirely remove the noble Marquess's objection.

There is another Amendment which we have ourselves inserted, giving the Police magistrate power to revoke a licence if he is satisfied that any of the conditions on which the licence was granted are not being complied with. That provision collies in as a new subsection at the end of Clause 2. Then, again, in Clause 4 we have inserted an entirely new subsection, which makes it an indictable offence where a person by means of any false pretence or false representation procures a child or young person to go out of the United Kingdom for any of the purposes mentioned. Finally we have added a new subsection to Clause 6 providing that the Bill shall not come into operation until the expiration of one month front its passing. This will give the necessary time for the Home Office to make the Regulations, and, of course, will afford ample time to meet the case of persons who are contemplating sending young persons abroad under licence.

I will now state the reasons why we are not prepared to accept certain of the other Amendments that were placed on the Paper. The first Amendment, which stood in the name of Lord Salisbury, which I am unable to accept had for its object the deletion from subsection (3) of Clause 1 of the words "only temporarily resident in the United Kingdom" and the substitution therefor of the words "not domiciled in the United Kingdom." As regards the question of domicile, those noble Lords who are acquainted with this subject will see that if the wording of the subsection was changed as Lord Salisbury suggested you would he entering into a very controversial subject. There are two kinds of domicile—one of origin, and the other of choice. Dicey has laid down that a person's domicile— is in general the place or country which is in fact his permanent home, but is in some cases the place or country which, whether it he in fact his home or not, is determined to be his home by a rule of law. And as regards domicile of choice, it must be shown that there was a final and deliberate intention to abandon the domicile of origin and adopt the domicile of choice. Consequently the substitution of the words proposed by Lord Salisbury would lead to all kinds of difficulties in administering the Bill, and therefore I hope your Lordships will agree that we are right in retaining the words originally in the clause.

Another Amendment was tabled by Lord Salisbury, in which he urged that a child or young person should be allowed to go abroad without a licence if he or she went in charge of his or her parents or guardians. There, again, we have been unable to accept the Amendment, because it is fairly obvious that we should thereby be opening the way to the perpetration of fraud by parents or guardians undertaking for the agent to cross the Channel with the children, thus avoiding the necessity of a licence. I now come to the Amendment which suggested the omission of Clause 3. I fully admit that there is something to be said against legislating in respect of events which have already happened, but although I admit there are difficulties I hope the House will be inclined to retain Clause 3, at any rate unless stronger arguments are used against it than were brought forward on the last occasion.

Then there was an Amendment placed on the Paper by Lord Stanhope, on behalf, I understood, of the London County Council, the object of which was to give concurrent powers to the London County Council in regard to licences and having reports made. I hope the noble Earl will be satisfied with what we have clone in regard to that. We shall provide under the rules of the Home Office that the County Council shall have notices sent them by the Commissioner of Police as regards licences applied for, and that they shall he made acquainted generally with the action taken. I have told your Lord ships shortly, and I hope clearly, what alterations have been made in the Bill, and I trust that the result will be that you will not only be able to give it a Second Reading to-day but that we may very quickly send it down to another place, because if it is not sent down to the other House in good time I am afraid it may be crowded out.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Strachie.)


My Lords, in the absence of the most rev. Primate, who is prevented from being in his place by illness, I should like to say a few words in support of this Bill. I dare say your Lordships hardly realise the extent of this practice and the great need there is for this Bill, but I may tell you that one of our chaplains in Paris has connected with his church a guild of 200 English girls employed in the theatrical profession alone. That number, of course, cannot anything like represent the number of English girls who are so employed there, but it will enable you to realise how many young girls are sent abroad from England. This chaplain is doing excellent work affording these girls the moral support and protection of himself and his wife. But it is not only the Church which feels the need for this Bill. The Salvation Army is also doing excellent work, and I have heard Mrs. Bramwell Booth speak in feeling terms of the great dangers which English girls incur who are taken abroad and the great necessity for regulations; and I recently received a letter from an officer who is doing splendid work in connection with the Salvation Army pleading very earnestly the great need for some such precaution as this Bill provides. The passing of the White Slave Traffic Act, as it is called, has made this Bill all the more urgent. That Act already has been fraught with very favourable results in London. Many of the agents have fled across to the Continent, but there they are on the Continent waiting for their prey all the more eagerly because we have checked them in London. Therefore if we can by such means as this Bill enforce licences in these cases and secure better protection we shall be throwing a very necessary shield round the children of the nation.


My Lords, I do not rise to oppose this Bill. On the contrary, I hope it will become law. But I rise to call attention to a small Amendment which I hope to move in Committee, and which I trust the noble Lord in charge of the Bill will be able to accept. In every case where a licence or the renewal of a licence is applied for subsection (3) of Clause 2 puts the initial action in the hands of the Chief Officer of the Police for the district in which the voting person resides. This Bill deals with young persons who go abroad for the purpose of playing and performing, and I do not suppose the 200 girls mentioned by the right rev. Prelate would all come under that category. I do not suppose they are all performing in music halls.


They are all ballet dancers.


Then, of course, they would come under the Bill. We have had a good deal of legislation concerning the employment of young people after leaving school. At one time the Board of Trade were entrusted with the framing of regulations. Although it is not on all fours with this, the question was raised about what we call "blind-alley" employment, and it was urged that the proper authority to be consulted in the first instance about these young people was the education authority of the district. I submit that the education authority, through its attendance officers, has a much more intimate knowledge of the homes and circumstances of these people than any other organisation. It must not be assumed that the bulk of the people who will apply for licences are undesirable persons engaged in the white slave traffic. The majority of them would probably be respectable people, and I do not think it is quite fair to throw them in the first instance into contact with the Police and subject them to visits from the Police to their homes. I think that the first notice should be given to the education authority. The noble Lord in charge of the Bill did not make himself quite clear on the point, but he intimated that, in deference to an Amendment which Lord Stanhope had tabled when the Bill was last before your Lordships, he was prepared to insert a provision that notice should be given to the county council. I do not know whether he was sneaking only of the London County Council or whether notice would be given to all county con mils.


The London County Council only.


In my opinion that is quite inadequate. If there was a proposal, for instance, to take a number of young people from Liverpool to America to perform for profit somebody ought to be consulted in Liverpool, but not tire Police. I do not in the least object to the provision in the Bill that ultimately the licence should be granted by the Police magistrate. All I desire is that the preliminary information should be brought before the Police magistrate by persons who are in direct touch with the class from whom these young persons come, who know them well, and also know the whole of the circumstances surrounding their life. I believe that ninety-nine out of every hundred of these applications would be prefectly respectable and honest, and I do not think that in those cases these people should be thrown into contact with the Police. Therefore when we go into Committee on this Bill I shall move that instead of the notice being given to the Chief Officer of Police it should be given to the local education authority, who would make a report in writing upon the case or instruct someone to appear before the Police magistrate.


My-Lords, our attitude towards this Bill is entirely benevolent. Indeed, I think enough was said with regard to it by my noble friend Lord Salisbury when the Bill last came before the House to show that any criticism coming from this side would be of an entirely friendly character. I trust that the Bill will find its way on to the Statute-book. Indeed, I do not think it is too much to say that it might very well have found its way on to the Statute-book some time ago. The noble Lord when he last addressed us on this subject, told the House that the Home Office had had the matter before them, I think he said, for six and, a-half years. That is a pretty considerable period for reflection. With regard to the Amendments which the noble Lord was good enough to explain to the House, those seem to me to be matters which would probably be more conveniently dealt with on the Committee stage; and as a good many of them dealt with points raised by my noble friend Lord Salisbury, who is not able to be here to-night, there would certainly be an advantage in reserving the discussion of them until he is able to be here. With regard to one point, I rather regret that Clause 3 still remains in its original form, because, as was shown on the last occasion when we debated the matter, it is a somewhat unusual clause. It is an ex post facto clause, and the noble Lord in charge of the Bill was himself inclined to admit that it did not amount to very much more than what I think he called a pious opinion. But that is, perhaps, a question we can debate hereafter. I am sure there will be no desire in this House to delay the progress of the Bill. I would like to recall the fact that when it last came before us it did so at a date so near the end of the session that it was really impossible for us to give it the attention which it deserved. In this case there will be plenty of time, and if the Bill does encounter any quicksands they will not be encountered in your Lordships' House.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.