HL Deb 18 March 1924 vol 60 cc571-97

THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK rose to call attention to the demoralisation which results from juvenile unemployment, and to ask His Majesty's Government how they propose to deal with this problem. The right rev. Prelate said: My Lords, perhaps I need hardly say that in raising the question of juvenile unemployment I have no intention of criticising the Government. They have been in office a comparatively short time and in the gracious Speech from the Throne it was announced that special attention would be given to this subject:— The various schemes which have already been initiated for the relief of unemployment, including those relating to juvenile unemployment, will be examined with great care, and you will be asked to make provision for the continuance and extension of all such measures as are likely to alleviate the present distresses.

It is very difficult to state at all definitely the number of juveniles between the ages of fourteen and eighteen who are out of employment. According to a statement made by the Minister of Labour in another place, there are 70,000 registered at the employment exchanges, but of course this by no means covers the full number. The 70,000 are mainly those who are entitled to draw on unemployment insurance.

Among those 70,000 there are to be found very few indeed of those who are under sixteen. In all probability, in the opinion of those who have investigated the subject, that number ought to be at least doubled to give any approximate idea as to the numbers of boys and girls who are unemployed. The London figures reported to the education committee of the London County Council may perhaps give us a further help in discovering the number. Of the children who left school in 1923 there were, at the end of last year, 3,531 unemployed, and of those who left school in March of last year there are 10,472 unemployed; that is to say, in London alone, between the ages of fourteen and sixteen there are over 14,000 children who desire work and are unable to obtain it.

But this again, by itself, does not give a full idea of the gravity of the problem. Many of those who are at this moment in work have lost a great deal of time in seeking for it. They have been in various jobs and they have had to wander about from place to place seeking for posts. A very careful and important investigation has recently been carried out in the district of Bermondsey by two gentlemen who are very well qualified for this task, and in their published account of this investigation they say they inquired into the cases of 141 lads between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, and they find that in the last three years very nearly half the time of the boys concerned has been wasted—wasted in the sense that it was spent in enforced idleness, an idleness in the sense that many hours were spent in looking for work, tramping down to the employment exchange, hunting round the city, and killing time.

Nor is that all. In considering this question of unemployment it must be remembered that a large number, possibly the majority, of those who are employed between the ages of fourteen and eighteen are in occupations which are temporary and seasonal, and very frequently they are in occupations which are described as "blind alleys." For instance, immediately before Christmas nearly every boy is engaged in work, packing Christmas parcels. At the present time you would find in the unemployment centres very few girls, for they are all engaged at the present time in preparing for Easter, packing various parcels. At another time in the year several hundreds of girls who are normally unemployed are employed in the somewhat strange industry of cracking nuts for confectioners. There are a number of boys who, from morning until evening, spend their time either in cleaning bottles or fixing labels on tins or packages. In the ease of one boy, I was told that he had to spend most of the day in scrubbing rusty tins so as to make them appear as if they were new.

A very large number of boys are engaged in these employments which lead nowhere, which will come to an end probably at the age of sixteen, when they come under the Unemployment Insurance Acts, and when their employment has come to an end it has not trained them or given them any prospects of future work. It is, I think, a very real disaster that so few boys are apprenticed in these days. From various figures taken from the London Census, it appears that out of every thousand male juveniles 399 are messengers at fourteen years of age, and only 47 out of that number become carpenters and only 32 bricklayers and masons. Very few of the boys who are leaving school now will be apprenticed. The problem, then, is that there are something like 200,000 juveniles without work at the present time; that a number of those who are in work have wasted months in looking for it; and that a large proportion of those who are in work have no prospects of permanent and satisfactory employment.

There are two factors which intensify this problem that ought to be borne in mind. At first, very few of these boys and girls who are out of work have any education after they leave school at fourteen. The boys who are attending continuation, secondary and evening schools are, as a rule, either those who are in work or those whose parents have no need to send them immediately into employment. Out of the boys and girls who left school two years ago in London—I do not know what are the figures for the whole country—eighty-seven out of every hundred are receiving no further education. The other factor which should be borne in mind is the appalling overcrowding that exists. Most of those who are unemployed live in overcrowded conditions. This means that they have to spend practically the whole of the day in the streets. They are able to go home for brief meals and for the night; otherwise, from early in the morning until late at night, they are wandering about the streets, either looking for work or occupying themselves in any amusement or distraction that may be had.

Demoralisation is bound to be the result of all this. After a very short time of unemployment a boy becomes coarsened, undisciplined, unregulated and unpunctual. Any one who has had experience of club work among boys will tell you that the most dangerous influence any boy has to meet is that of unemployment. All except the best characters among boys break under the test of a prolonged period without work. After a very short time without work, boys who were the most useful and the most valuable as leaders in their clubs almost invariably become ineffectual, irregular in their attendance, listless and apathetic. The physical results also are by no means negligible, for lack of employment often means lack of sufficient food Worst of all, after some months the boy who left school full of hope and enthusiasm loses all hope and becomes prematurely an old and disillusioned man, beaten in the battle of life.

Unemployment is the factory of the unemployable. Most of that class who are the despair of social reformers—the men who cannot work—come from those periods of unemployment between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. They have lost the discipline of school. They have not the help of their home. They have not the discipline of work. Out of these there come a, number who are bitter in their hearts against all government and all society. The experienced head of an unemployment centre told me that juvenile unemployment, in his opinion, was creating scores of Bolsheviks every week. When a boy is thrown out of work at the age of sixteen, often through no fault of his own, he becomes bitter against everybody. His bitterness increases as the impossibility of finding work dawns upon him, and he becomes a kind of Ishmael, with his hand against everyone and with a grievance against the world.

In addition to this, another sign of demoralisation is to be found in the connection between unemployment and crime. Here one must be rather careful in quoting statistics or statements because frequently, or at any rate occasionally, both unemployment and crime are due to the same cause—certain detects in character. But those who are most competent to know the facts of the case assure us that there is a very close connection between unemployment and crime. In the Report of the Commissioners of Prisons for last year there is a paragraph dealing with this matter. The Governors' Report says that last year unemployment was responsible for a large number of convictions, and two of them draw special attention to the conviction of youths who are unable to find regular employment after leaving school and have had their character sapped by passing several years in a state of idleness. The chief probation officer of Liverpool states that 85 per cent. of the cases he has had to deal with of juvenile offences are among those who are unemployed.

What are the methods at present adopted by the State for dealing with this problem? They are hopelessly inadequate and can be summed up very briefly. There is the juvenile exchange. Excellent work is done by many of those who are in charge of these exchanges, but only a minority of the unemployed juveniles register at these exchanges, and only a very small minority of the employers use them. Next, there are the after-care committees. But these committees are voluntary and depend upon voluntary help. They are in most cases hopelessly under-staffed. Next, there are the insurance payments. But these are limited to those between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. Then, and most important of all, there are the unemployment centres, which have done and are doing admirable work. Some time ago a considerable amount of criticism was directed against them, but I do not believe that any one who had the slightest personal experience of those centres would have indulged in such ill-informed criticism. They are maintaining the self-respect of a large number of boys. They are not only keeping them out of mischief during the time they are out of work, but they are preparing them for future work.

These unemployment centres have carried on their work under exceptional difficulties. There have been continual disagreements between the education authorities and the Ministry of Labour, with the result that service at these unemployment centres has not been counted as time qualifying for a pension. I believe that the Minister of Education has now promised to change that state of affairs. These unemployment centres are under-staffed. They are often in unsatisfactory and gloomy buildings, and only a comparatively small proportion of the unemployed attend them, although it is a condition that those who are drawing unemployment pay should spend fifteen hours a week at one of these centres.

The real root of the difficulty has been that the Government of the day, in devising these various methods, has regarded this problem simply as a temporary one which would pass away. These have been makeshift policies dealing with a problem which, I think we are realising now, will be with us for a large number of years. Moreover, these schemes have been devised often without due attention to the educational needs and capacities of the adolescent. I am afraid, in looking for remedies, in this matter as in others, we have most unfortunately to distingush between what is the ideally right policy and what is practically possible. The ideally right policy, I feel, would be to increase the age at the elementary school to fifteen, and to see that those who have left school give half their time to work in some continuation school. This is not an impracticable point. Mr. Fisher, in another place, stated the other day that in New York State there were no fewer than 120,000 juveniles between the ages of fourteen and sixteen who are engaged in industry, and who are at the same time attending regularly some of these continuation schools. I believe that is the ideal policy towards which we ought to work, but I quite recognise that at the present time it is impossible. There is not the accommodation, there are not the teachers, and even if, at this moment, there were both the buildings and the teachers, the opposition of many of the parents would be so great that it would be impossible to carry out such a policy.

But there are, I believe, various lines on which practical measures could be adopted at once. First, I would suggest —these are by no means original suggestions; they have been brought forward time after time—that all unemployed juveniles should be registered. It is impossible, unless they are registered, to know the extent of the problem. No one to-day can tell definitely how many juveniles there are who are without employment. If all juveniles were forced to register when they wore out of work, it would be possible for those who are at the heads of the exchanges to guide them in looking for work, and advising them when they are thinking of taking some work which has been offered. All engagements and discharges should also be notified to the exchanges. This, of course, is a more difficult matter, though I do not think it is at all impossible.

I notice that last year the National Federation of Employers made a statement in which it seemed as if they accepted the policy of informing the exchanges of any engagements for work. I have spoken to more than one who is practically concerned with these matters and they believe that it would be quite feasible to carry this out. But if all juveniles have to register at the exchanges, it means that the exchanges would have to be considerably improved. At present, juveniles dislike the exchanges intensely, partly because they have often to wait so long there, and partly also because there is so little privacy. It is very difficult for a sensitive boy to state the whole of his case and his feelings before a number of other boys, strangers to him, who are waiting in the same room.

Next, I would urge that all those who are unemployed juveniles, whether they are under the age of sixteen or above, should attend the unemployment centres. It is hopelessly illogical that an unemployed boy of sixteen should be compelled to attend these centres if he is to draw his insurance pay, while nothing in the way of education is done for the boy who is fourteen or fifteen and out of work. More than once those who have been engaged in teaching in these schools have told me that their work would be far easier and far more beneficial if there were not this gap in the education of the boy from the time of his leaving school and the time of his coming to the unemployment centre. The last suggestion which I would support is that these unemployment centres should be brought directly under the Board of Education, and should be made part of the educational system of the country; that the buildings should be improved; that the curriculum should be revised; and that services in teaching at these centres should qualify the teacher for his pension. I have deliberately confined myself to only one aspect of this problem. I have not touched on perhaps the larger problem, the problem of how to find employment for the juveniles who are unemployed. I have wished to bring before your Lordships the loss and the hardship due to the neglect of the large number of juveniles between fourteen and eighteen who are unemployed. I hope that His Majesty's Government will be able to assure us that they have some thought-out policy for dealing with this question. At the present time the unemployed juvenile means, in some cases, the squandering of the education he has already received. It means deterioration in character, and it means the waste of lives which, in other circumstances, should have made quite useful citizens of this country.


My Lords, I do not know if I might intervene in this debate which has been raised so ably by the right rev. Prelate. There is no more hideous sight in the world than to see a man or a child tramping the roads of the country vainly seeking employment. We all deplore the present condition of trade in our country. The depressed state of many of our industries necessitates a great number of men being thrown out of employment, and when men are out of employment it necessarily follows that a great number of boys cannot find work when they leave school. It is natural for all boys at the age of fourteen to think that their education is completed. They are permitted at that age to leave the elementary school, and parents have not got into the habit of keeping their children at school after the age up to which, under the law, they must remain at school. There are, also, local education authorities who recognise the right of parents to take away their children before they have reached the end of the term after attaining the age, of fourteen. Perhaps the most satisfactory feature at the present moment in connection with our education is that parents are taking an increasing interest in the education given in the elementary schools. In some districts weekly educational efforts are made, and parents are invited to go to the school and see the progress their children are making. Steps of that kind are all to the good and will help to give parents an increasing interest in the education of their children.

I have no panacea, no remedy, to suggest for the awful problem which must be faced by the Government of the day—namely, what to do with our children when they reach the age at which they are permitted to leave school. There are 70,000 children reaching that age in London every year, and 250,000 in the whole country, and employment should be found for them of a healthy and satisfactory character. My own suggestion at the moment is that the Government should try to induce the educational authorities of this country to do something more than they have already done to influence parents to keep their children at school until a satisfactory opening can be found for them. Under our elementary school system it is not compulsory for children to leave school at the age of fourteen. They can be retained until they are fifteen years of age, or sixteen, and there are many free places in our secondary schools. Every schoolmaster I have spoken to on the subject tells me exactly the same thing—that if only the children wore retained at school it would be to the great advantage of the children themselves. A great number of them enter the "blind alley" occupations alluded to by the right rev. Prelate because nobody encourages them to remain at school.

What we want to do is to make our schools much more attractive to those children who have reached the age of fourteen: and much more attractive to the parents. There are a number of different directions in which, under our present curriculum, it is possible to interest children. Unfortunately, the teachers of this country are not very anxious to use their brains in order to make their schools more attractive for the children after they have attained the leaving age. In rural districts a great deal could be done by teaching gardening and agriculture. In our industrial centres much more could be done in the way of manual training. And in connection with the girls, it is most important that they should be taught domestic-economy, cooking, laundry work, and such matters. Very little is done to encourage parents to retain their children at school, and very little is done to encourage more attractive education in the schools.

I do not want a system to be established under which a child, the moment an occupation is offered, can be taken away from school. It is important that they should go forward with the particular work in which they are engaged until they have reached a particular standard; otherwise, their careers and characters will be to a large extent demoralised by the feeling that they are only at school in order to mark time. I am told by the education authorities that equipment is not a matter of serious moment in connection with the establishment of such educational classes, and I feel that in this direction much more can be done for the children now out of employment than has hitherto been done. I appeal to the Government to try to arouse the interest of education authorities in order to increase the attractiveness of the schools to the children and to the parents so that the children will remain longer at school. The asset to the country would be enormous. Schoolmasters realise that every additional year a child remains at school so much greater is the advantage which the child secures as the result of the education so given. In this way we could do a great deal to prevent that demoralisation so eloquently spoken of by the right rev. Prelate.


My Lords, there is no member of your Lordships' House but will admit the great importance of the subject introduced by the right rev. Prelate this afternoon. He has sketched with personal knowledge and experience the great loss the State must suffer by the development of the demoralised and unemployable element, because in their younger years these children have been unable to find employment, occupation or education. I take exception to one sentence uttered by the right rev. Prelate. He was referring to the different methods of dealing with these children and he spoke of the after-care committees rather coldly I thought. He said they were understaffed, and also that there was a great deal of voluntary effort connected with them. The latter fact rather recommended them to my idea. I have some knowledge of the work of the after-care committees in London, and though they may be under-staffed they do an immense amount of admirable and devoted work. They take care of children when leaving school; they meet the teachers and do excellent work; they advise as to some sort of occupation and try to get children some employment when they leave school. The right rev. Prelate will allow me to say that the work they do is really to be very highly commended.

Another point I desire to criticise in the speech of the right rev. Prelate is the criticism he made of the inter-action of the Board of Education and the Ministry of Labour. He rather suggested that they were in a state of perpetual feud. He must be alluding to some ancient matters that have passed away. I can assure him that there is now the utmost co-operation between these two Departments, and I have seen no sign myself, nor have I heard of any of these deplorable dissensions which in his view have delayed the improvement of the position of these children.

Though no doubt we all agree as to the seriousness of the problem of youth fill demoralisation, however large or small that problem may be, the remedies that we should suggest for it would, I suppose, largely depend upon our view as to whether in these early years it is better that the child should be educated or should have a combination of education and employment. I think the first thing to try to discover is what is the scope of the problem and what are the numbers with which we are dealing. The right rev. Prelate gave us some figures, and I should like to give your Lordships a few figures, too, prefacing them with the observation that it is difficult to get accurate figures on this subject. As he rightly says, it is much easier to obtain figures of children employed between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, because, as a condition of obtaining their unemployment benefit, they have to report themselves to employment centres. There is a greater difficulty regarding children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, because in their case, paradoxical as it may sound, though they are two years younger than the others, there is no such system of registration. I can tell the right rev. Prelate at once that this question of the registration of the younger generation of children, of those between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, is at the present time under consideration, and more than that I think he will hardly expect me to say upon that point.

Now I come to the nature and scope, if I may so call them, of this problem. As I have said, children under sixteen do not come under the Unemployment Insurance Acts and have not the same inducement to register as have those between sixteen and eighteen. A proportion of them do register, but what proportion those who register bear to the total of the uninsured groups cannot be exactly stated. I am able to give the following figures, with the reservations to which I have already alluded. In March, 1925, there were 65,921 boys and gills between the ages of fourteen and eighteen registered at employment exchanges or bureaux as totally unemployed. Taking a rough estimate that the number of registered and unregistered juveniles actually unemployed would show an increase of fifty per cent. on this figure, the total number of boys and girls now unemployed would be 98,881. The last Census shows that the total of occupied boys and girls in this age group was 2,196,904 on June 19, 1921, or about 2,250,000 at the present day, allowing for an increment of about 1 per cent. per annum. The total percentage of unemployment would therefore be about 4½ per cent. The number of boys and girls employed in normal years before the war is not known, but there is general agreement that in a normal pre-war year the supply of juvenile labour was not quite enough to meet the demand, though there were, naturally, fluctuations from year to year.

If you take the figures for the years 1919 to 1924, and assume that in each year the ratio of unregistered unemployed boys and girls to the number of registered boys and girls remains constant, there appears to be a continuous decrease in unemployment since 1921, and in the last year the difference between the figures of 70,000 odd in March, 1924, and 65,000 odd in March, 1925, shows a decrease which is greater than might otherwise appear, partly because the operation of the Unemployment Insurance Acts slightly inflates the registers, and partly because, as I understand, local education authorities do not always clear their registers but retain on them a proportion of young people at school or in work.

Serious unemployment among these young people is confined to a few centres. Naturally, the different degrees of unemployment between boys and girls vary very much in different districts. In the case of boys there is very serious unemployment in Liverpool, Glasgow, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Swansea and some of the colliery districts of South Wales, and among girls in Swansea, Newcastle, Liverpool, Plymouth and Portsmouth. I understand that there is no evidence that any considerable proportion of the total number of juveniles now unemployed have been out of work for lengthy periods. Investigations made recently at juvenile unemployment centres show that such cases are comparatively infrequent and, when they exist, are often due either to the sub-normal condition of the children or to continued depression in some particular industry. These figures are undoubtedly serious, but I think that, perhaps, they are not quite so serious as some of those who dealt with this subject have been led to suppose.

So much for the figures of unemployment. May I now give parallel figures concerning education, and the number of those who are educated after the school-leaving age of fourteen? Of the 500,000 children who enter the elementary schools every year about 55,000 go to secondary schools, about 5,000 go to junior technical schools and about 25,000 to central schools, thus leaving about 400,000 who leave the elementary schools at the age of fourteen without any general system of education. The right rev. Prelate spoke, I think, of the London figures. The figures that I have show that of the 70,000 children leaving school in London at the age of fourteen, about 20,000 attend evening or part-time classes and about 7,000 join the Boy Scouts or Girl Guides, which leaves about 43,000 without further education. Again, the children who attend evening classes are very often employed children. A large proportion of those not being educated are, of course, being employed, and the question, as the right rev. Prelate has raised it, is: What is to be done with those who are not employed and are not getting education?

The right rev. Prelate went rather rapidly over the possibilities of various forms of education. I will deal with this point rather quickly, too. First of all, there is the proposal for a very largely increased number of secondary schools. I understand that plans for the replacement of, or the building of new, secondary schools, about 240 in number, representing an increase of about fifteen per cent., would cost £1,250,000 a year, and the buildings themselves would take about five years to erect. Consequently, it is clearly impossible to deal with this problem at all rapidly, and even if an attempt were made to double the number of those in secondary schools it would be impossible to deal with this problem in this way within the next few years. Then there is the question of increasing the number of central schools which give a higher elementary education up to fifteen years of age. The cost of these schools, as I understand, is half that of the secondary schools, but the cost of maintenance is very nearly as high—namely, four-fifths, of the cost in the secondary schools. The building problem in the case of these schools is, of course, very nearly as great as in the case of secondary schools. There is also a further proposal that has been suggested, I think, by Lord Gainford, who is an old Minister of Education, and that is the raising of the school age to fifteen. There are. I understand, only two authorities—East Suffolk and Carnarvon—who have sub mitted by-laws on the subject which have been approved, and very few local authorities will apply general compulsion to children up to fifteen years of age.


May I interrupt? My point was not so much that there should be compulsory education up to fifteen, although I know the local authorities have power, with the sanction of the Board of Education, to insist upon compulsion, but that, while the people of the country are not prepared for compulsory education, they are prepared for voluntary education if the schools are made more attractive and the curriculum better arranged.


Then I think the noble Lord recognises that it is not practical politics to raise the age to fifteen. And, indeed, there is another difficulty, I understand, because unemployment is now worse between the ages of fourteen and fifteen than between fifteen and sixteen, and assuming that you could build all the schools and staff them, you would rather push the question of unemployment a year forward and possibly make it more difficult for children between fifteen and sixteen to get occupation before the apprenticeship age of sixteen is reached. I believe there is also another educational difficulty, and that is that you may have to retain many of these children in the same classes, and very likely under the same teachers, and they would not gain so much in that last year if so retained as they would have gained when moving up through the different classes in the school.

I should like to make this general observation: that it would be an immense advantage of course if you could persuade industry that it was to the advantage of employment and of industrial processes to take children more educated at a rather higher age. If you could do that, it would have a reflex action upon the parents themselves, because if they recognised that it was to their interest and to the interests of their children to get better employment by keeping them a year or two years longer at school, that would have an immense effect upon the feelings of the parents towards the question of raising the school age or giving longer and fuller education to their children. There is required, therefore, speaking generally and shortly, some adjustment between the views of the parents and the views of industry on the question of school education.

Now I should like to say one word about the, form of proposals now being considered by His Majesty's Government and which were alluded to, in effect, by the right rev. Prelate in his speech. He spoke about the juvenile unemployment centres. These centres were originally opened in 1919 to meet the unemployment which followed the Armistice. They were discontinued for about a year and then revived in 1923 to meet the serious condition of things which had then arisen. Since 1923 they have been administered by local education authorities who have received a grant of 100 per cent. of the total cost from the Ministry of Labour, and that grant, I understand, has been proposed for 1925–26 only. The work of these centres has been carried on under considerable difficulties. They are housed, of course, in such premises as can be obtained by the local educational authorities, and they have been hitherto to some extent handicapped by the fact that the teaching in these centres has not been pensionable and therefore it is very difficult to get consecutive work from the teachers, although I understand that this difficulty is about to be remedied in the coming Bill.

The work in these centres has mainly benefited children between the ages of sixteen and eighteen rather than between fourteen and sixteen. Of the 9,258 young people attending these centres on March 4, only 2,152 were not in receipt of benefit. Of those a certain number may be presumed to be young people between the ages of sixteen and eighteen not qualified for benefit, and therefore the conclusion is that less than 25 per cent. of those attending are between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. The question arises whether it is possible or wise to apply some measure of compulsion to those children between fourteen and sixteen; anyhow, to those in the insured trades between sixteen and eighteen who have fallen out of work. The other suggestion to be dealt with is the question of continuation schools. I put aside the proposal of the last Government to make the insurance ago fifteen, because it was defeated by the House of Commons.

The day continuation classes can be brought, of course, into operation by the machinery of the Act, but there is, I understand, a good deal of difficulty from the educational point of view. It will take a very long time to bring a general scheme into operation, because of the difficulty of teachers and buildings to which I have alluded. Then the number of hours under the Education Act works out at only eight per week for forty weeks in the year—not sufficient to keep boys or girls out of mischief—and the cost of bringing these schools into operation throughout the country is admitted to be about £4,000,000 a year.

There is another proposal which has been made, and it is that the local education authorities should retain the children in the schools until they obtain employment or reach the age of fifteen, whichever is the earlier. The objection to this is that the knowledge that these children may at any time leave on obtaining employment may have a rather slackening effect upon their work during that time, and that if boys older than fourteen left school on obtaining employment, and then lost it, it would be very difficult to bring them back into the school and into the school system; and of course that would not imply any control over boys and girls between fifteen and sixteen.

One of the suggested proposals which are being considered by the Government is that the local authority for higher education shall be given power, by bylaw or otherwise, to compel the attendance of juveniles of from fourteen to sixteen at juvenile unemployment centres in areas where the central authority is satisfied that juvenile unemployment is sufficiently severe to justify this step. The organisation of these centres is far more suitable than compulsory day continuation classes can be, because the boys or girls are free to leave on obtaining employment, and are usually not required to attend for more than fifteen hours a week—say, three hours a day for five days, either in the morning or in the afternoon. This gives plenty of time for the interviewing of employers or for the finding of work, while at the same time it provides quite an effective period of daily instruction.

Another advantage is that it can be applied rapidly and at a fraction of the cost which would be entailed either by raising the school age or by instituting compulsory day continuation classes throughout the country. And, in addition, these centres are in close touch with the exchanges or the juvenile unemployment bureaux, and those who are in charge of them can make it one of their chief objects to raise the morale of these young people and assist them to obtain work in school; while, of course, the teacher would naturally be employed on his proper work of education. It is thought that a very considerable addition may be made to the numbers of those occupied in this way if these unemployment centres are established. It is further suggested, I believe, that the local educational authority should be able to distinguish between the sexes and possibly to make attendance compulsory in some areas and not in others, so as to make the system as flexible as can be.

I should like to say that these proposals are not put forward as a definite educational alternative either to raising the school age or to the establishment of day continuation classes. These centres have been in existence for several years, and the object of this proposal is to make them more effective as regards juveniles from fourteen to sixteen years of age. This is not a development of the educational system, and it is not to be so built up as to have a necessary organic relation to it. It is expressly directed to combat the demoralisation arising from unemployment, and does not pretend to be anything more. It is quite probable, however, that parents, faced with the compulsory attendance of children of the ages of fourteen to sixteen years at these juvenile unemployment centres, might prefer to keep them on for another year on a voluntary basis; or, on the other hand, the compulsory attendance of children at the centres might gradually prepare a way for compulsory day continuation classes. Then again, the question of the transfer of the centres to the Board of Education is now being considered. Whether this change is made or not, of course it is absolutely essential that the centre should remain in the closest possible touch with the juvenile exchanges, or with the choice of employment machinery which many educational authorities are now administering.

In many parts of the country this juvenile unemployment is very slight, and may almost be said to be non-existent; it can be accounted for by the short intervals that always must occur, however good employment may be, between leaving school and obtaining work, or between one job and another. In other areas it is appreciable, but not severe—certainly not more severe than before the war—while in much smaller, and in some considerable areas, there is severe juvenile unemployment, ranging from 10 per cent. up to a considerably higher figure. The Government believe that their proposals are best designed to meet the situation, because they can be brought into operation without the delays inevitable in any large modification or extension of the general system of education, since the efforts and the expenditure can be concentrated on the areas where that problem is most difficult and most urgent. It has another advantage, that it will not commit the Government hurriedly or without full consideration to any particular line of development in our educational system, because it is devised to meet a special emergency.

I should like to say that all these points and one or two other matters that were alluded to by the right rev. Prelate are going to be considered, I understand, very shortly in a conference of the local education authorities. They will avoid, I understand, going over much of the ground that has been already thrashed out, and which is known, and will address themselves in a thoroughly practical spirit to the working out of the scheme for the setting up and development of these unemployment centres which, though not a complete settlement of the whole problem, as the right rev. Prelate well knows, yet may do a great deal, I think, or at any rate act as a powerful palliative towards the diminution of the demoralisation of these young people who—whether the numbers be small or great—must suffer severely at these youthful ages through having neither employment nor education.


My Lords, I wish to begin the brief criticism which, I have to make of the speech of the noble Viscount by a reference to the Notice of the right rev. Prelate. I think the right rev. Prelate was peculiarly justified in bringing up this question. He spoke with knowledge of his own diocese, a diocese which has been deeply studied in this connection. There was a book which was widely read a few years ago, called "Across the Bridges," written by Mr. Patterson, who, I am glad to say, is now in the permanent service of the State. In that book there was brought out the appalling state of things which prevailed on the south side of the river, among just that class of boys to whom this Question refers. Education, so far as it is compulsory, stops at fourteen, and for the most part there is none after that time. I am not deprecating the use of unemployment centres, but they only touch a very small part of the problem with which we are concerned.

It is a great delusion to think that education consists of three parts, primary, secondary, and higher, and that these are separate. It is a great delusion to think that you have done a good dear when you have given a primary education to all, and left the secondary for the few who are fit to take advantage of it, and the higher to the still fewer who have the chance of going on. The future of this country depends on education. We are surrounded by competitors at every turn, and we shall not be able to hold our own as a nation or as an Empire unless we develop education in the way that is going on on the Continent and in other countries. It is essential that we should tap that vast reservoir of undeveloped talent which exists among the uneducated children of our working classes, and in which lies buried even genius to a high degree. We have never realised our possibilities in this respect. We have never taken them seriously We have never thought how much it would add to the production of this country if we only had that talent devoted to it.

But it is not merely production, it is not merely material prosperity, it is not merely the development of the nation that one has to have in view in these things; it is what education in itself means, what a change it makes for the better. We all know how vastly improved are the manners and customs of the boys and girls in this generation compared with those of fifty years ago, when they were uneducated and illiterate and had no sense of manners or anything else connected with the outlook of the better classes. That is changing. Our manufacturers are beginning to realise that they must have highly trained minds m their employment if they are to make the most of their industries. Our working classes are realising it, too. I know a navy who has had eight children and wages in the average of much less than £2 a week; yet that man has sent five out of his eight children to a secondary school, and educated them without assistance and at his own expense. That is a state of things which is far more common among the working classes than is thought.

I am always annoyed when I hear it said that the working classes will not stand their children being taken away from employment. I have seen a good deal of the working classes. I have gone about amongst them, and the best of them do not say that. The mothers, even more than the fathers, want their children to have a better chance that they have had and not to be miserably held down as they were themselves. I believe that to be not only a growing feeling among the working classes, but a very widely spread feeling, and it is for the Government and those who know to give them a lead and to develop public opinion on this side. It is not so many shillings a week more for the working class family that we have to look to primarily, though that, no doubt, is a very good thing, but far better is it for them that their children should be given a chance of being able to fend for themselves at the earliest opportunity and to be bettered, not only in manners but in mind and in spirit.

I said that it is a delusion to divide education artificially in the way we do. The problem we have before us is a serious one. It is as to how to provide such a system that everyone shall have a chance—not everybody can take advantage of it, but everybody ought to have the chance—of going through a course of education which knows no grade and comprises the three divisions of which I have spoken. Your elementary education means that you are getting all the education you are capable of having up to fourteen years of age. Then there ought to be a chance of getting the higher education which is given in what we call the secondary schools. Finally, there ought to be the chance, as I am glad to say there is to-day through the Workers' Education Association and other organisations, of getting some of the benefit of the University spirit and also a chance for the most talented to get within the walls of the University itself. That is the work which the Royal Commission has set itself to consider and which is being developed, much to their credit, by the great Universities, and not least by Oxford and Cambridge. That is the education problem—to provide a system for those of our children (and there are many who have it in them) who, with encouragement and stimulation, can make far more use of it than is possible at the present time. Throughout his speech the noble Viscount spoke as if this might be a very good thing.


As if what might be a very good thing?


To push education and to give these people a chance; but the noble Viscount did not speak as if it were a necessary thing. To me it is a necessary thing. To me it is the one thing without which our country will not have a chance in the future, and certainly will not be able to compete with other countries. Therefore, all these propositions to give something short of full opportuntities for education, to set up unemployment centres and things of that, kind, though good in themselves, do not solve the problem. My complaint of the speech of the noble Viscount is that he showed no sense of the magnitude of the problem or of its importance, either from the point of view of the right rev. Prelate who spoke of the state of affairs in his own diocese or the still more extensive point of view of the nation as a whole. We have to give the people of this country a chance of education. As I said, they cannot all take it, but at least they ought to have a chance of it.

Then comes the alternative way of dealing with things to which the noble Viscount rather leaned—the carrying of elementary education up to the age of fifteen. He spoke of the difficulties of it, the difficulties of making it compulsory, and the divided opinion of the working classes. As I have already said, I doubt whether the opinion of the working classes is really so divided as he thinks it is; but I agree very much with the opinion of my noble friend Lord Gainford, who observed that the important question was not that of making elementary education compulsory up to the age of fifteen, but of providing such facilities that the parents of the boys and girls would be encouraged to take advantage of them.

If you go to Scotland, where education is in many respects more advanced than in England, you will find that parents really value it. If you go to a railway station in the morning you will see boys and girls of fifteen, unable to get more than a good, sometimes a very good, elementary education in the village schools, going off to the local centres where there are secondary schools and there, with small bursaries and other assistance, continuing their education. There is no compulsion needed. The parents have a keen sense of the advantage of education, and they send their children in every way they can. That is the kind of spirit which we have to encourage in this country. But we shall not get that spirit if the Government pursues half-hearted means towards its attainment.

I know the difficulties and the opposition that have to be overcome in these things, but I want to insist upon this. It is not by setting up an inadequate standard and saying: "This is all that we can do", that you will mould public opinion. If you can get public opinion on your side, you will overcome the difficulties of which the noble Viscount has spoken. It is all very well to talk of the labour aspect of the question. I know the narrow views that prevail among a certain section of working men about this matter. What I am interested in pressing upon the noble Viscount is that it is a diminishing opposition. It is an opposition which will diminish still more if he takes the question up in the larger view which I have been trying imperfectly to advocate, and make education a thing about which the public in this country are moved to care because they understand what it is. That is what I am at.

All such palliative measures as unemployment centres, which are good as far as they go, and other things are quite inadequate to a solution of the problem. What is more and what is worse, I find in the speech of the noble Viscount, just as I find in the speeches that are naturally made on behalf of Governments about education, a great failure to realise what the problem really means, and how it concerns the whole ration and not merely a section of it.


The noble and learned Viscount will pardon me for interrupting him, but I should have made, no doubt, a very eloquent speech had I been able to deal with the whole range of education and the whole country. But I was dealing with a very limited point in regard to the unemployment of children, and I was considering what could be immediately and practically done, considering all the difficulties of general educational development, to deal with these children and save them from pressing and immediate demoralisation.


My comment on what the noble Viscount has said is that it is just because it lies in that point that you have to develop the larger aspect of it if you are to have even a chance of solving the problem. You cannot deal with this question of unemployment apart from the general question of education. You Cannot get rid of it by putting forward measures which, after all, are small and palliative. It is true that it is a very good thing to deal with the unemployment of children; but it is not enough, nor does it even lead to a solution of the question. You have to go further than ever was proposed in the Act of 1918. You have to go further because public opinion has advanced further and because we cannot be behind that public opinion. Sooner or later, the time will come when a generation which follows ours, will laugh at the kind of thing which we have been in the habit of saying about education.

It is because I feel that the attitude of the Government is not adequate to this subject that I have risen to speak. I appreciate the hard and excellent work which the noble Lord who presides over the Ministry of Education is doing. I think it is worthy of all praise and I am not miscalling it in the least; but I say that until Parliament rises to a larger sense of the problem with which it is concerned we shall never even be on the way to solving the problem itself.


My Lords, we have heard a great deal about education and unemployment during this debate, but I have heard no suggestion about creating employment. I represented for twenty-two years, in the House of Commons the See of the right rev. Prelate who addressed us to-night, and during my experience as that representative this question of employment came before me a great deal. It seems to me that what we want in dealing with this problem is a little more free trade in apprenticeship. We educate boys, and then when it is time for them to go to work their fathers cannot apprentice them.

I have had fathers come to me and say: "What am I to do with my boy?" My advice to them always was: "Have your boy taught a trade, and then he will always have a livelihood." But the difficulty now is that when a boy reaches working age he cannot find an opening to become an apprentice. There is a barrier in his way, and I ask that are investigation should be made to see whether it is not possible to widen the scope for apprentices. Many great industries admit apprentices, but there are many other industries in which there is no organisation for apprenticeship. We ought, therefore, to have an investigation to find out where the barrier is to apprenticeship, and see whether it cannot be removed and whether we cannot have more free trade in apprenticeship.


My Lords, the right rev. Prelate who introduced this subject said that the most serious condition for young people between the ages of fourteen and eighteen—and he might have said between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five, or any age—is to be out of work. It leads to demoralisation, and to crime and vice, and to everything which is wrong. Therefore I am heartily in agreement with the right rev. Prelate so far as that goes, but when he comes to his remedy I part company with him. I listened to the noble and learned Viscount opposite making some suggestions in a long dissertation about education, and I beg leave very humbly to differ from him. The noble and learned Viscount said that if you educate these boys—by which I presume he means to give them book education—they will immediately find employment. May I ask the noble and learned Viscount whether it is not the fact that all barristers who are called to the Bar have had a good education, and whether it is not also the fact that at the present moment a large number of barristers are complaining that it is impossible to earn a living at their profession, notwithstanding the fact that they have had an excellent education?

There is only one Lord Chancellor, and there are only a certain number of Judges—I do not remember how many, but for the sake of argument let us say fifteen or twenty. If you educate many millions of people they cannot all be Lord Chancellors, neither can they all be Judges. It is only the exceptional people, like the noble and learned Viscount himself, who come to the front, and he did not do so from the force of education but from the force of character, and probably also from a strong constitution. Therefore, I do not think that we can deal with this problem by keeping boys and girls a year or two longer at the elementary schools or at the secondary schools. My own belief is that a good deal of the unemployment arises from the bad education given in primary schools. If the boys were taught a trade—and I gather that is what the noble Lord opposite (Lord Southwark) is in favour of—and if they were allowed to leave school a little earlier in order that they might learn a trade, they would be more likely to be successful in after life and to be good citizens. Only the other day a man was brought up before the bench of magistrates on which I sit because his child had gone to work for a farmer. The boy was fourteen years of age, but the term had not finished, and the school representative demanded that the boy should go back to the school. We were obliged to order him to do so, but how much better it would have been for the boy if he had continued in the employment of the fanner instead of going back to school to be taught, very likely, socialistic doctrines !

I am glad my noble friend below me (Viscount Peel) is not going to do very much in the direction suggested by the right rev. Prelate and by the noble and learned Viscount opposite. I had always hoped that with the advent of the Conservative Government we should have retrenchment. The old motto of the Party to which the noble and learned Viscount opposite once belonged was "Retrenchment," "Fewer officials and fewer Government buildings." Now, I understand, the right rev. Prelate would like more officials and more Government buildings. I also understand that the cost of these things would be very great. There was one omission from the speech of the right rev. Prelate, and that was he did not tell us what would be the cost of these juvenile centres. I hope the Government have thought of that.


It is a little difficult to give my noble friend an exact estimate. It depends on whether you can find accommodation in existing buildings, and so on.


It is to be hoped that accommodation will not be found, and also that the Government will not build. If I may venture to say what I think would be a solution of this difficulty, it would be, first of all, an increase in trade. That is the first thing we have to do, and in order to get an increase in trade we must have a diminution of expenses and taxation. Having got that, we might then have an increase in trade, and might have more employment for these young people. Unless we do something of that sort, and unless we put down the "dole" and discourage fathers from being an object lesson to their children of how to live without doing anything—unless we do that, and compel people to work, or if they do not work ensure that they have a very unpleasant time, I am afraid that we shall not go very far in the direction that is required.

Some question was raised about unemployment among girls. May I point out to the right rev. Prelate that you cannot get a kitchen maid or a servant of that description for love or money? If these people, instead of being sent to a school, were sent into private houses and taught to become domestic servants, you would decrease to a very large extent the unemployment among women. It is the very thing that the noble and learned Viscount wants which has led to this state of things. There has been so much education that the young people think they are too grand to go to ordinary work, and they want to wear black coats and become Lord Chancellors like the noble and learned Viscount opposite.