HL Deb 01 April 1914 vol 15 cc885-8

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the Bill to which I ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading is entitled "an Act to extend the operation of the Pauper Children (Ireland) Act, 1898." Its object really is to enlarge the powers of boards of guardians with regard to the boarding out of children. The Bill is intended to remedy a defect so far as Ireland is concerned in the statutory enactments which enable boards of guardians to board out certain children over whom they have assumed parental control. At present boards of guardians in Ireland can adopt some children but they can only board out certain classes of those adopted children. This Bill enables them to board out any child whom they have power to adopt, if they think fit to do so. The boarding out of children in Ireland has had a most excellent effect. The country people who take the children into their cottages act as foster parents, and the children are removed from the taint of the workhouse. There is nothing so bad for a child as to be brought up in a workhouse. It there leads a sort of mangy existence, with no amusements and no knowledge of family life. It does not even know how to go out to buy things at a shop, and as a rule children brought up in workhouses become tramps and often worse than tramps, and come back to the workhouse. We have found in Ireland that where boards of guardians have been able to board out children the results have been most beneficial. Committees of ladies in the various counties look after the children and visit them occasionally to see that they are kept clean and are properly fed. The adoption of children is optional for boards of guardians, and boarding out is also optional. This little Bill, which consists of only two clauses, fills up a gap in Section 1 of the Pauper Children (Ireland) Act, 1902. I have been to the Irish Office, and I believe that the Irish Government are quite willing to allow the Bill to go through. It is not very much to ask, but we want more powers for boards of guardians so as to give them every chance of boarding out these children. I hope your Lordships will grant the Bill a Second Reading. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Mayo.)


My Lords, before the noble Marquess the Leader of the House speaks on behalf of His Majesty's Government I should like to say a word in support of this Bill. Having been out of town I have not had my attention called to the Bill until this morning, and my information on the subject, I am afraid, is not as thoroughly up to date as the noble Earl's. I have not had the opportunity of consulting friends in Ireland who are familiar with the subject. But I think there can be little question about the use that this Bill would serve. As I understand the matter, it is really in hte nature of a dropped stitch. The first Act, the Act of 1889, was fundamentally amended and largely extended in the year 1898, and it was subsequent to that that what I may call the Boarding-out Act was passed, in the year 1899. The Boarding-out Act did not extend the class to which it applied as far as the amending Act of the previous year. It went on the original Act of 1889, and I think it must have been in the nature of an oversight that this class of children, who I think all Poor Law authorities in Ireland agree are eligible for boarding out—namely, the children of vicious parents and other parents who are really not fit guardians of their children—were omitted. Guardians have power to adopt them, but have no power to board them out; they can only keep them in the workhouse. I hope your Lordships will agree that that is an undesirable state of things, and will give the Bill a Second Reading.


My Lords, I certainly join in the hope which has been expressed by the noble Earl opposite and by my noble friend on the Cross Benches that your Lordships will read this Bill a second time. As has been explained, it fills a gap which ought to be filled in the provisions for what are known as State children in Ireland. Boards of guardians have power to adopt children in many different circumstances. They can adopt orphans and deserted children, and they can also adopt children of vicious or inebriate or mentally deficient parents; but it is only in the case of orphan and deserted children that they can board out. I entirely concur in what fell from the noble Earl as to the advantage of the boarding-out system. It is one of the three or four methods which those who have given the closest attention to the care, not merely of Poor Law children, but of poor children generally, have agreed can be adopted with benefit to the child. It also has, as the noble Earl pointed out, often a most admirable and humanising effect on those who adopt the children. Relations are instituted between the child and the foster parent which sometimes last agreeably all through life, and therefore the system is one which ought to be encouraged as far as possible. It is encouraged by many boards of guardians in this country, and it was also one of the methods which were favoured by Dr. Barnardo and is carried on in the great institutions which bear the name of that eminent man. The scope of the measure, as the noble Earl has admitted, is not in itself a very wide one. The number of children who would be brought under the provisions of the Bill when it becomes an Act is probably numerically not very large, but so far as it goes it is a substantial and useful reform and His Majesty's Government are glad to do what they can to encourage it.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.