HL Deb 09 March 1927 vol 66 cc391-422

THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK, who had given Notice to call attention to the Report of the Committee on Education and Industry (first part), and to ask if His Majesty's Government is prepared to adopt its recommendations, said: My Lords, nearly two years ago I brought before your Lordships' House the problem of juvenile unemployment and I then asked His Majesty's Government what steps they were prepared to take in dealing with the demoralisation which arose from this cause. The speaker for the Government, in a very sympathetic reply, pointed out quite fairly that there were a number of matters on which further knowledge was required and which were still under consideration. During the last three months we have received a good deal of valuable and additional information on the whole subject of the juvenile, particularly through the very valuable Report of the Committee on Adolescent Education and also from the Report of the Committee on Education and Industry, which was appointed by the President of the Board of Education.

The terms of reference to this Committee were:— To inquire into and advise upon the public system of education in England and Wales in relation to the requirements of trade and industry, with particular reference to the adequacy of the arrangements for enabling young persons to enter into and retain suitable employment. The President, in appointing this Committee—a very competent Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr. Douglas Malcolm—asked that the Committee should deal firstly with the second part of the reference—namely, "the adequacy of the arrangements for enabling young persons to enter into and retain suitable employment." The Committee heard a great number of witnesses and have produced an extremely valuable Report.

I think that a large number of people have quite failed to grasp the extent and importance of this problem of juvenile employment. Every year 600,000 children leave our schools, either elementary or secondary, and are looking for employment in occupations other than in their own homes; that is to say, there are probably at the present time no fewer than 2,000,000 juveniles either in employment or seeking employment, and it is of vital importance to the State that these boys and girls should be occupied in industries which are good for their own development and which will equip them for later life. The State has, of course, recognised its responsibility in this direction. It is obvious that without some guidance a very large number of these young persons may drift into employments which are quite unsuitable. There are many parents who, with real self-sacrifice and careful foresight, place their children in suitable employment and there are a large number of young people who go into what may be called hereditary employment—that is to say, into work in which their parents and possibly their grandparents have been engaged. On the other hand, a very large number simply drift into any kind of employment—employment that may be hopelessly unsuitable, that may teach the young person nothing to equip him for later life, and that may come abruptly to an end when he reaches the age of sixteeen, so that he will then have to commence his industrial career afresh having lost a good deal of what he had originally learnt at school.

The State has tried to meet this difficulty partly by appointing or calling into existence a number of local committees which deal with the children before they leave school, advising them as to the employment that, they should enter and bringing them sometimes into touch with employers. There are often committees that are responsible for after-care work and there are also juvenile exchanges. When a boy reaches the age of sixteen he comes under the Unemployment Insurance Acts. The State has thus recognised that it has a real responsibility in this matter, but it is undeniable that a comparatively small proportion of these young persons are in any real contact with these different organisations after they have left school. Only twenty per cent. of young persons are in touch with these various exchanges and labour organisations.

The Report of this Committee recognises that a number of boys can be placed in employment in other ways that are perfectly satisfactory, but they go on to say:— .… at the same time, we wish to record our strong opinion that the average chances for the average juvenile must be better if the public organisation is widely utilised. With properly constituted committees and efficient officers the work is conducted on the basis of a knowledge much more detailed and extensive than that which can be possessed by individual parents, or even by teachers. Public bodies can offer expert advice and possess records of the child's history and educational attainments which are of prime importance in securing suitable employment; they have the experience gained from successful and unsuccessful placings in the past; and, finally, they are able to compare the abilities and aptitudes of individuals in deciding what will be suitable employment. It is, of course, impossible for any central organisation to force employers to turn to the local exchanges to find labour. The success of the exchanges must depend upon the efficiency and thoroughness with which the exchanges do their work and this Committee consequently recommend that very great care should be taken in appointing the officers who are responsible for this kind of work, that suitable Premises should be obtained, and that in these premises there should always be a room where the officer can interview the applicant privately. Boys are much too shy to speak truthfully about their circumstances when they have to appear before a large number of others. It is also suggested that there should be a much closer relationship between the various districts, but I am quite deliberately not dealing with those points because I want to draw the attention of the House to the three fundamental problems with which the Report deals.

First of all, there is the problem of what is commonly called the "gap"—the gap, that is, between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. Up to the age of fourteen the young person is compelled by the State to attend school and he is brought into touch with the various facilities that are offered by the State. At the age of sixteen, again, he comes under the Unemployment Insurance Acts and is brought into close contact with the various labour exchanges. Between those periods, however, he is left very largely to his own devices. When he has once left school, unless there is an exceptionally keen and capable after-care committee to look after him, he is left alone until he reaches the age of sixteen. He may be in quite unsatisfactory employment, he may be out of work with no one to supervise him, he may be out of work without its being known that he is out of work, he may not be following any course of education, and he may be steadily becoming demoralised. During that intervening period the State, for all practical purposes, really neglects him. It is recognised by all those interested in this subject that it is right that a bridge should be built between the ages of fourteen and sixteen and that the State should be able to intervene actively in advising the young person as to his occupation.

After all, these ages are in some ways the most critical. In many ways the age of fifteen is more critical than the age of seventeen. By the time the lad comes under the Unemployment Insurance Acts and is forced to attend an unemployed centre he has probably forgotten a great deal of what he had already learnt at school and has already become demoralised through a considerable period of unemployment. A very interesting Inquiry was undertaken a year or two ago by the Ministry of Labour into the personal circumstances of several thousands of young persons who were unemployed. It was found that out of some three thousand the great majority had obtained work immediately they left school, but had lost their first job at the age of fifteen. At the age of fourteen they were in touch with various juvenile organisations with which at the age of fifteen most of them were entirely out of touch.

This Report considers various ways in which this interval may best be bridged. The first suggestion which was considered was that the age of education should be raised either to fifteen or sixteen. The Committee feel that this matter really does not come within their province, that they are dealing with industrial rather than educational problems, but they give their own personal opinion in no uncertain terms. They are in favour of extending education on the grounds that the extension of compulsory education, either whole-time or halftime, would be in the interests of the boys and girls themselves and of the country as a whole. This is the opinion also of that other Committee—the Committee on Adolescent Education—in which it is stated:— There is the proved social and intellectual deterioration resulting from the premature entering of many thousands of young persons into wage-earning employment, the grave waste of part of the effort and money applied to the early stages of child life which is inevitable when education ceases abruptly at fourteen. This, I believe, is the ideal to aim at; we shall never successfully bridge this gap until the age of education is raised to fifteen or sixteen. It is, of course, impossible to press this upon the Government at the present time. The cost would be very great, and even if the Government decided to-day that they would accept this policy, it could not be carried into effect for a large number of years. This Report, therefore, does not recommend this as a solution of the problem.

The next suggestion which the Committee considered comes from the other direction—namely, that the age under which the young person comes under the scope of the Unemployment Insurance Acts should be lowered from sixteen to fourteen. This suggestion has always met with great and vehement opposition. I have always been struck by the fact that those who have least personal contact with this problem are most vehement in their denunciation of this proposal, while those who are most in contact with the actual facts of the problem are generally most ready to consider it sympathetically. The members of the Committee certainly regard this with great sympathy and would be prepared to recommend it if their own particular recommendation is rejected. But here, again, they recognise that this proposal was rejected by Parliament in 1924 and would be opposed not only by the employers of labour but also by educationists, who feel that this would be standing in the way of the extension of the age of education.

The Committee, therefore, put forward an interesting and original suggestion. They proposed that at the age of fourteen every young person entering into employment should receive a working certificate; that no employer should engage him unless he has produced this working certificate; and that the employer should be responsible for informing the exchanges of the engagement or of the dismissal of the boy who holds this certificate. In this very simple way it would be possible for the exchange to keep in touch with the boy at every stage in his industrial career and it would be possible for the State to gain the information, which it lacks at the present time, of the extent of unemployment among those under the age of sixteen.

I turn to the next problem, that of the juvenile who is actually unemployed. In some ways the figures which are given by this Report are reassuring. They show that the number of juveniles unemployed has steadily fallen in the last few years, but of course the figures are to a certain extent quite hypothetical. They have not been able to obtain any exact figures of these juveniles who are unemployed at the ages of fourteen and fifteen, but they state that in May, 1925, there were 78,000 young persons unemployed, and in November of that year 59,000, although in May of last year, while the coal strike was on, the numbers rose to 120,000. If those figures are rather less than what many of us had anticipated, on the other hand the Report gives us a very significant warning. It tells us that these conditions of juvenile unemployment must not be looked upon as temporary but as permanent; that there is no prospect of sufficient work being found for all the juveniles who leave the elementary or secondary schools; and that for a very long time to come we shall be confronted with this problem. The Report endorses what has been said again and again—namely, that there is no experience which has a more demoralising effect upon the young person than a period of unemployment. Everyone of us who has had anything to do with boys' clubs can endorse that from his own personal experience. The strongest character gives way under a long period of unemployment, and year by year a large number of valuable characters are being wasted in our large towns through the continuance of unemployment.

The real problem before the State in dealing with the unemployed juvenile is to secure as far as is possible that the unemployed juvenile does not become a juvenile who is unemployable. For a prolonged period of unemployment does create the unemployable. The State arts therefore called into existence a number of unemployed centres, which the unemployed who is receiving insurance benefit is forced to attend, and where he receives education on certain days, and for certain hours of the week. It is impossible to praise too highly the work of these centres. Their work has been admirable. At the head of them there have been a number of men who are not only able, but, full of real enthusiasm for the work they are doing. It is now recognised, I think, in every quarter that these unemployed centres have stopped utter demoralisation from setting in among at any rate some of those who have attended.

But these centres are open to various, defects. There is not a sufficient number of them. All those who are receiving unemployed insurance benefit are expected to attend these centres, but as a matter of fact only 20 per cent. attend them. There are 80 of these unemployed centres. The number is nothing like large enough. Next, the lad of fourteen or fifteen who is unemployed very rarely attends these centres; the State does not compel him to do so. Not until sixteen is he compelled to attend. The third defect under which these unemployed centres suffer has been the lack of stability. Regulations have been changed year after year, different Regulations are repeatedly issued, and those who have been engaged in this work have never been sure whether the work they are doing is to last this year and to close next year, or whether it is to go on for two or three years. Under these conditions there has been a lack of permanency and stability in this work.

The Report therefore recommends that encouragement should be given to the establishment of these unemployed centres, that a permanent scheme should be brought forward and that unemployed centres should be placed on a permanent basis, because it is recognised that they are dealing not with a temporary problem, but with a problem which is more of less permanent. The Report also suggents that lads and girls who are unemployed at the ages of fourteen and fifteen should be compelled to attend these centres, and that the local education authorities should draw more fully on their staffs so as to secure the best teachers for the work, which is very difficult.

And now, for a moment, I turn to the third problem, the problem of administration. The problem of administration is extraordinarily complicated and difficult. Here you have the dual system flourishing luxuriantly. In the various localities the work may be undertaken either by the local education authorities or by committees and officers appointed by the Minister of Education. The committees and officers appointed by the Minister of Education are under him for all matters; but the committees appointed by the local education authorities are partly under the Board of Education and partly under the Ministry of Labour. The Report recognises that locally there is an advantage in having a great deal of variety. It is an advantage when a local authority is prepared to make itself responsible for dealing with this problem, while, on the other hand, it would be hopeless to attempt to compel a local authority to undertake work which is distasteful to it, and in which it has no real interest.

At the same time, it is felt that the dual system centrally is open to greet objections; it is an anomaly that one Minister of the Crown should reply for certain matters in one district, while another Minister of the Crown should reply for exactly the same matters in another district. This arrangement leads often to delay, and certainly in the past it has led to occasional friction. The Report therefore recommends that in future there should be one authority, and that should be the Ministry of Labour. And here I am bound to say that I am not so cordially in favour of this recommendation as I am of most of the other recommendations made by this Committee. There has always been considerable discussion as to whether the young person should be regarded mainly from the point of view of education or as one who is to be engaged in industry. And therefore there seems to be a very strong case that until the age of eighteen he should be regarded as under the Board of Education. On the other hand, the Ministry of Labour has the machinery and the statistics to enable it to deal rather more fully and capably with the industrial problem which arises in connection it.

I would urge on the Government the importance of considering as soon as possible whether they will adopt must of the recommendations put forward by this Committee. There are three points in particular. First, are they prepared to accept the recommendation of working certificates, or, if they reject that, what other proposal have they for bridging the gap? Secondly, are they prepared to place the unemployed centres on a permanent basis and to compel unemployed juveniles of the ages of fourteen and fifteen to attend these, as well as those who are older? Thirdly, can they yet express any opinion on the administrative changes proposed by this Report? The answer may be given that there has not yet been time to consider this Report. I admit that the Report has only been issued for a comparatively short time and that further delay may possibly be necessary before any definite reply can be given to these various recommendations. But I would suggest that this delay should not be unduly long. There are recommendations in many Reports which can be delayed for some considerable period without doing any particular harm. But delay in this case is real loss. It means that every year 600,000 children are seeking employment under conditions which are admittedly inadequate. I trust, therefore, that the Government will accept at any rate some of these recommendations, for they are recommendations which concern the happiness and welfare of multitudes of the children of this land.


My Lords, I think all of us must welcome wholeheartedly the discussion that the right rev. Prelate has initiated. Few of your Lordships probably feel that the Report now under discussion is the last word on this subject. The present situation of the State standing by with almost complete inaction watching the youth of this country rotting and the unemployed adolescent growing up into the unemployable adult is one that cannot be allowed to continue. The Report puts forward what we may call ameliorative measures and those measures the right rev. Prelate has dealt with so completely that I will not venture to enlarge upon them. There are really only two proposals or suggestions mentioned in the Report on which I would like to lay particular emphasis, and they have both been mentioned by the right rev. Prelate.

The first is the raising of the school age. To some of us almost the whole importance of this Report lies in the fact that the Committee appointed by the present Minister of Education in order to investigate the problems connected with education and industry should admit that the only ultimate complete solution of this problem is the final and complete abolition of what the right rev. Prelate has referred to as the gap between the ages of fourteen and sixteen by the raising of the school age. It is perfectly true the Committee do not discuss the matter at length. They say that they do not consider it comes entirely within their province and they feel that the decision to raise the school age must finally be taken on social rather than on economic and industrial grounds. They may be right. Even more significant is it that within a week or two of the appearance of this particular Report another Report was sent out by the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education. That Report specifically states that on educational grounds the Committee favour the raising of the school age to at least fifteen.

I would be inclined to join issue with the Committee which is responsible for the Report that we are now discussing. Ideally and theoretically speaking it is undoubtedly desirable that this problem should be considered primarily from the point of view of education. We have to recognise facts and it seems to me that the main fact in this situation is that the opposition to the raising of the school age is put forward on economic grounds. Therefore, until we can meet that economic case it is going to be extremely difficult to persuade the authorities to take this particular step. One has heard for so many years discussions of the unemployment problem in this country. How many of us realise that every single year we are casting yet another half-million children between the ages of fourteen and fifteen on to an already overstocked labour market? When we talk about the raising of the school age, you say: "It is quite impracticable; we cannot afford it." But think what you are doing in throwing these children on the labour market. What is happening to them? Either they are, as the right rev. Prelate says, almost rotting away to become useless for future work, or they are taking men's jobs and those men have to have recourse to the unemployment insurance benefits or to the rates to be maintained at the public expense. Again, by having these children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen standing about at street corners, are we not laying the seeds of our future prison problem? We shall have to maintain our future hospital population and the future inefficients in industry who constitute the clogs on the wheel. Surely these are economic, considerations, and when we talk about what we can afford and cannot afford they ought to be borne in mind.

There is the further point mentioned by the right rev. Prelate in regard to the insurance of children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. I admit that it is very unlikely that we shall have the school age raised by the present Government. On what ground is the placing of these children within the benefits of the insurance scheme opposed? On the ground that it is going to be an impediment to the raising of the school age. But surely it is a little hard when we ask for the raising of the school age to be refused, and then when we ask for a substitute also to be refused, but on the ground of the future raising of the school age! You cannot have it both ways. If you will not have one thing you have to take an alternative. Besides, is the insurance of these children really, going to operate against the raising of the school age in the future? I dissent altogether from that point of view. To begin with, if you read the conditions in this Report and the conditions that were in the Bill of 1924 (from which they were struck out). you will find that it was intended to use these benefits as an inducement to gel the child population by voluntary means into the schools. In so far as that is successful you would be taking a step in the direction of raising the school age and at the same time taking another very important step. Whether through an insurance scheme or through an education scheme, the State from now onwards accepts responsibility for the care and maintenance of children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. Surely that is a very important advance.

I quite realist—we all realise—that this is a very difficult problem and the regrettable fact is that, as yet, we have been given no clear lead whatsoever from the Government. I would put it to them that this wastage cannot be allowed to go on. I put to them this: If you cannot accept the suggestions contained in this Report, if you cannot accept what we consider to be our very much more complete and fundamental solution to the problem, then it is at least for you to put forward some proposition of your own and that proposition has really got to be put into force. The right rev. Prelate referred to the juvenile unemployment centres which have been talked about for a very long time and are, so far as they go, undoubtedly of a certain use. But these were put before us by the Government and talked about in this House over two years ago, and they are only actually in existence at the present day and there are very few attendances at them. It cannot be suggested that that is a solution. Finally, I would repeat my point that it is for the Government to put forward some proposition and to see that that proposition is put into force and made a reality.


My Lords, I have read this important Report and have come to practically the same conclusion as the right rev. Prelate who initiated this discussion. Though it is reassuring that unemployment among juveniles throughout the country is intermittent and not continuous and that the number of unemployed in this class was only 4 per cent. of the total insured juveniles in 1925, yet that does not apply when you consider individual trades or districts. As you may see from the Appendices to this Report—Nos. 6 and 7—there were some very high figures of unemployed in various trades, such as shipbuilding, wool, cotton and coal. Moreover, these statistics, as the right rev. Prelate has pointed out, only apply to the ages of sixteen and seventeen. Though the Ministry of Labour, in conjunction with the local education authorities, have power to open unemployment centres in various parts of the country, at which juveniles who receive unemployment benefit are required to attend and undergo courses of physical training and practical work, yet, as has already been stated, the numbers who have taken advantage of these opportunities are not large. I see from the Report that in October, 1926, the average weekly attendance at these classes was only 7,500, and this represents only 20 per cent. of the total number of unemployed juveniles. These centres aim at maintaining the employability of the children by keeping them mentally, physically and morally as fit as possible. This, I feel sure, is a work of national importance. It is also important to industry.

Another point, which I do not think has been mentioned to-day, is that if they are successful they will save money for the Unemployment Fund. They are, as is shown in the Report, highly successful in many cases. In one centre the efforts of those who ran it were so successful that when it was reported that the centre was to be closed the children offered to subscribe a penny each per week to keep it in operation. But these centres are not available for children of fourteen and fifteen, and I think every effort should be made—and I hope the Government will make that effort—to make them available for those children. After spending so much money on the education of the children it seems a pity that the results obtained should be wasted by not providing organised supervision during periods of unemployment. Even short times of unemployment tend to demoralise children, to weaken the habits of industry which they gained while at school and to make them less amenable to discipline. I should like to point out that when depression takes place in any industry it is very often the younger children who suffer from it because the employers cease to absorb so many of the younger ones in the industry. Every effort should therefore be made to develop these unemployment centres and to bring into operation the working certificate scheme, so that it may be available for children of fourteen and fifteen and, to a greater extent, for those of sixteen and seventeen. One point which is raised in the Report is that voluntary effort should be taken advantage of. I hope this will be done to a large extent.

In the Report issued by the Board of Education reference is made to the juvenile organisation committees, which awe so largely run by voluntary assistance. It seems to me possible that the kind of people who work on these committees, and also those who give assistance in the infant welfare centres, which are doing so much good and receive grants from the Ministry of Health, could be employed more largely in this sort of work than they have been. Hopes which were held out at the General Election of improvements in education, such as smaller classes, more widely extended secondary education and development of adult education, have not been realised, and £70,000 a year has been cut off from the grant to higher education. I hope, however, that this will not prevent the Government from seriously considering these proposals since they are framed to benefit industry as well as education and the children. Their adoption would enormously increase the safeguarding of industry in general and would be economically preferable to plans which have recently been put into operation for this purpose.


My Lords, the noble Lord opposite has sugested to me a matter in which I venture to think that the Government might give very considerable assistance to certain agencies that already exist and are doing splendid work. He referred to certain voluntary agencies. There are great institutions that are working in these matters on a voluntary basis but that nevertheless do require a certain amount of support by way of compulsion. I happen to have spent the best part of this morning in the chair of the education committee of my own school. That school is one of the agencies to which I have referred. Under its scheme, which has been in operation for nearly thirty years, it is obliged every year—and it does it very gladly—to admit by competition boys and girls, some of whom are gathered from the diocese of the right rev. Prelate who has so usefully brought this subject before your Lordships this evening.

Those children come into the school and, if they are poor, as most of them are, they receive, without any cost to their parents, even for their clothing, an education on public school lines, costing the governors of the hospital about £107 for each boy and £98 for each girl. Those children come in at the age of twelve and a half or thirteen, and it constantly happens that, when a boy or girl reaches fourteen and is looked upon by the parents as a potential wage-earner, that child is withdrawn. It does not matter to the parents—poor things! I am not blaming them—that if that child makes good in the school there are exhibition funds which will send the child along to the University, and advancement funds that will apprentice the child or give any kind of preparation that is needed for a profession. All this is completely sacrificed in order that the child may immediately begin to contribute to the earnings of the household. I mention this in all sympathy, but I am certain that it is wrong. If you could only in some way give us a sanction which would enable us to exercise proper pressure in those cases, these children would be kept within the benefits of the hospital until the end of the school year in which they reached sixteen and if they showed any promise at all, if they were what the ancients would call "apt to learning," they would be retained to the age of eighteen or nineteen, until they were ready for the University.

But what can we do? It so happens that this matter was before us this morning, and we brought up a form of words which we intend in the future to ask these parents to sign—namely, an undertaking, so far as they are concerned, that the boy or girl shall remain under the care of the hospital until the end of the school year during which the child attains the age of sixteen. I am delighted that this decision was come to, but my trouble is that I fear very much that the undertaking is not worth the paper on which it is written. I believe I am right in saying that if children are similarly admitted to scholarships elsewhere under the London County Council the parents are expected to sign a similar paper, but I doubt the worth of the undertaking if the parent insists on withdrawing the child. What is obviously needed is some action higher up which would strengthen the position of such agencies and enable them in some way to say: "I beg your pardon, but you must allow your child to continue to receive the benefits of this or some other institution until such and such a time."


My Lords, the right rev. Prelate who has just sat down has made a very interesting suggestion, though I am not sure that it falls strictly within the discussion that we are initiating today. All that I can say in answer to him is that the matter will, no doubt, be carefully considered by the Departments concerned. I certainly think that your Lordships owe a debt of gratitude to the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of South-wark for bringing this matter to your notice, and I am personally grateful to, him for the speech that he made because he went so very fully into the substance of this Report that it will make my task much lighter and, I hope, the demand that shall make upon your Lordships' patience much smaller.

On one point I venture to express my warmest agreement with him. I refer to his tribute to the authors of this Report and the valuable work that they have done. I confess that, in reading the Report, it seemed to me to be almost a model of what such documents should be: full of information and suggestion, and yet without any tall writing to impede the lucidity of the expressions of opinion contained in it. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, said that it was not the last word. I have no doubt that he is right and that there will be other Reports later, but I hope that he will agree with me that, if it was not the last word, it was at any rate a very good word and has made a very important contribution to this subject. On one point I do venture to express disagreement, not with the right rev. Prelate but with the noble Earl. He spoke of the Government watching youth rotting without doing anything, or something of that kind. I really think that this was a very exaggerated way of stating the case—useful, I dare say, on Labour platforms, but not perhaps quite so useful in a discussion in this House.


I carefully qualified the statement. I stopped and corrected myself, and added "almost."


I am sure that the noble Earl meant everything that was courteous, because he is always courteous, and I am merely protesting against his rather extravagant way of putting it. Certainly this subject is a very serious one, and there is nothing to be gained by exaggeration. As the noble Lord opposite pointed out, although the position is very serious in certain trades, yet on the whole the percentage of juvenile unemployment is, comparatively speaking, a low one, although we should all admit that it is much higher than we should like to see it. There is one other preliminary observation which I should like to make. The right rev. Prelate was extremely friendly to us, but he evidently regarded it as quite out of the bounds of possibility that the Government should have arrived at any decision upon the Report at present. I hope to be able to reassure him a little. He dealt with the subject in a different order from the Commission, taking working certificates first, the juvenile unemployment centres second, and the administrative question last. I will reverse that order and take the administrative question first.

Evidently this question, as he admitted, and as everyone must admit, has two aspects, educational and industrial. That, no doubt, is the reason why there has grown up in this country this curious dual system, that you have this matter being considered in different parts of the country by two different administrative bodies. In some places it is being dealt with by the local education authorities through the medium of juvenile employment committees. In other cases it is being dealt with by the Ministry of Labour through the instrumentality of the juvenile advisory committees. These two bodies are really discharging, I think you may say in all respects, identical duties. They really do two main things. They first charge themselves with advising and finding work for what are called in this Report "school-leavers," that is, children as they leave school, and keeping in touch with them after that has happened—never an easy thing to do—and in the second place they also have to administer, with regard to the labour group—ages sixteen to seventeen—all the questions of unemployment insurance. With regard to the first set, the question of finding work, they are under either the Education Department or the Ministry of Labour, according to whether they are working through the local education authorities or directly under the Ministry of Labour. With regard to the question of unemployment insurance, they are entirely, so far as they are under any body, under the Ministry of Labour.

I do not think it is necessary to elaborate an argument to show that administratively that is not a satisfactory state of things. You may, and do, have two adjoining districts—East and West Ham is the instance given in the Report—where in one district the administration is under one Department of the Government, and in the neighbouring district, where the conditions are substantially the same, the administration is under the other Department of the Government. The majority of the Commission—there was one dissentient—reports strongly two things. In the first place, they report that the local bodies, the education committees and the advisory committees under the Ministry of Labour, should be left where they are. They think that there is a great deal of advantage in having a certain amount of diversity in this respect, that to make an alteration would cause a great deal of upset, and that there is no sufficient reason for making a change with respect to those bodies.

With respect to the central Department the Commission recommends that the whole thing should be put under the Ministry of Labour, working, of course, in the closest association and co-operation with the Education Department. Evidently it is most important that they should do so and I think the Report recommends that— The Ministry should leave the Authorities as far as possible to conduct and develop the work on individual lines … and in a manner consistent with their general educational policy. That evidently is most desirable, and whether the local bodies are directly under the Ministry of Labour—or rather whether they are part of the local education authorities or directly appointed by the Ministry of Labour, it is quite evident that the educational aspect of the question must be continually borne in mind. Subject to that the Government have decided to accept the recommendation of the majority of the Commission in this respect, and to put the whole of the administration of this matter under the Ministry of Labour. They are satisfied that that Department of Government, having to deal with all the questions of unemployment and unemployment insurance, is on the whole the best body—the body having the greatest amount of information and the widest outlook on this question of unemployment, and on the question of finding employment—and it is therefore clearly better that they should be responsible to Parliament exclusively for the administration of this part of the Government's duty.

They also accept the proposal that there should be established a National Juvenile Advisory Council, on which, as the Report recommends, the local education authorities should be strongly represented. They have not, indeed, arrived at a final conclusion on that matter, because evidently it is necessary to consult the local education authorities, but they certainly are very anxious to consider that favourably, because it would make it still more certain that the educational aspects of this problem would be properly considered, since the education authorities would be represented upon this advisory body.

That is the administration part of this question, but it is not the only part or in some ways, perhaps, the most important part of this Report. The Report deals with a great number of detailed propositions and suggestions with which I do not propose to trouble your Lordships; not that I wish in any way to belittle their importance, but there is a limit to the patience that your Lordships should show. There are, however, two big divisions, which the lie% rev. Prelate has noted. There is the question of juvenile unemployment centres. That is a subject which has undoubtedly had a rather chequered history. Ever since the idea was started there have been various different propositions put forward and established, and then modified and altered. Indeed it is, in its very essence, a subject which is rather liable to lead to such results, because unemployment varies very much and consequently the demand for these centres also varies. If you look at the history, as detailed in the Report, you will see that a certain scheme is established, has at first a considerable vogue, a number of unemployment centres are created, then there is a change in the industrial conditions of the country, or some other condition arises, and they die away and a new scheme is established. I quite agree that that is not a satisfactory state of things, and the Report is well founded when it says that some permanence ought to be aimed at if you are to make a real advance in this direction. At present the situation is that the local education authorities may organise such centres for the insured juveniles, that is, juveniles from sixteen to eighteen years of age; though the others may attend the centres they, in fact, practically do not do so; and there is a grant from the Ministry of Labour of from 75 to 100 per cent. of the cost.

The Commission propose four broad changes. They propose in the first place that the scheme should be made permanent; secondly, that in the large cities nucleus centres should be established, which can be expanded to meet any growth of unemployment; thirdly, that the full cost of these centres should be paid by the Government to the local education authorities; and fourthly, that new centres should be established from time to time by the Ministry wherever they think it is desirable. I can assure your Lordships that the Government do not underrate the value and importance of these centres, and they are certainly most anxious to give very sympathetic consideration to the proposals and suggestions of the Commission. But I could not at this stage, and without further consideration and discussion with other Departments, pledge the Government to adopt the full scheme suggested by the Commission. In particular, it is quite obvious that the proposal that the full cost of these juvenile centres should be thrown upon the taxes is one which would have to be very carefully looked at. All that I can say about that at this moment is that the Government are anxious to give very sympathetic consideration to this matter, and that in the meantime they will certainly continue the present system for at any rate another year until they are able to decide what steps they feel it right to recommend to Parliament as the result of this Report.

Then we come to the working certificate system. That, as the right rev. Prelate has rightly explained to your Lordships, is the proposal which the Commissioners make for dealing with these juveniles of fourteen and fifteen after they leave school and before they become subject to unemployment insurance. At the present moment it is quite evident that there is a gap in the State arrangements in this matter. From the time they leave school they are out of the control, discipline, advice and suggestion of the school authorities, and yet they are not able to demand and receive the assistance which comes from the general unemployment scheme. The result is that for these two years there is a gap, as it is called, in this part of the educational or industrial system of this country.

The noble Earl says that the proper way to meet that is by raising the school age from fourteen to sixteen, and it is quite evident that that would meet it, because, of course, they would no longer leave school until the time they came on the unemployment insurance. He referred to the passage on page 58 of the Report, in which the Commissioners, after explaining that they are unable to express as a body any opinion as to whether this is right or wrong, state their view individually that at some time or another the raising of the compulsory age would be a very desirable step to take. But the noble Earl did not, observe that at an earlier stage they explained that, however desirable it might be, it did not seem to them that it was an immediate remedy for the difficulty that we are in at this moment. They pointed out that for various reasons it, was unlikely—indeed I think they put it more strongly. They said:— .… it is not practicable for some years to raise the leaving age to fifteen and ninny more years would elapse before it could be raised to sixteen. Even for half the problem of the gap therefore the change would not afford a solution for several years at best, and for the other half there would be no solution for an indefinite time. I agree with the Commissioners that this is rather outside the topics that we are discussing this evening. Yet I do not think it is right that the authority of this Commission should be quoted for general approval of the suggestion of raising the compulsory education age without also quoting their doubt as to its practicability as a remedy for the evils from which we are now suffering.

In the same way, though they consider the other proposal which the noble Earl put forward—namely, the proposal that unemployment insurance should apply to the younger juveniles—and though I quite agree that they give reasons for thinking that a good many of the criticisms of that proposal are not well-founded, yet in the end they do discard that proposal, and put forward themselves this working certificate scheme. The right rev. Prelate described it in a few words with substantial accuracy, and I need not describe it again. The object of it is to see that some touch and contact is retained with all juveniles from the time they leave school until the time when they come under the insurance scheme. And it is undoubted that there is a great deal that is attractive about the suggestion that is put forward. It is simple, it would not impose a great burden on the employers—they would have, I think, to stamp one form, but they would not have a great deal to do—and it certainly has the advantage of keeping some kind of hold on the juveniles. That would have these particular advantages. It might well be, as the Commisisoners themselves suggest, that you should make it a condition of receiving, or at any rate of retaining, a working certificate that the juvenile undertook to attend at some centre, so that this very grave evil and danger of the unemployed juvenile becoming unemployable should be to some extent guarded against. They also point out that it would maintain some kind of control over these young people, and that it would give to the Departments of Government concerned a great amount of information as to the actual employment of these juveniles and as to what was the best path to recommend them to take in order to obtain and retain employment.

I can say that the Government regard this solution with great sympathy and with great initial favour, but they feel that before they adopt it it will be necessary for them to consult the local education authorities—that must obviously be done—and they would like also to note what those who would be principally affected, the employers and the parents and so on, would think of a scheme of this kind. It is evident that it would work far better if it could be adopted with general agreement; certainly if such general agreement could be obtained the Government would be very sympathetic indeed towards the adoption of the proposal. That is what I have to say on behalf of the Government with reference to this Report. I think that it has really facilitated the solution of the very grave and difficult questions with which it deals and I believe, once the new administrative changes have been made and the matter is under the control of one Government Department, and therefore mach more easy to deal with than it has ever been before, that there is every prospect of considerable advance being made in this direction. I feel sure that I speak on behalf of all my colleagues in saying they are extremely anxious that some solution for the very grave difficulties and dangers that have been mentioned to your Lordships should be found.


My Lords, I cannot help feeling that the right rev. Prelate has indeed done a great service in bringing this question before your Lordships' House. I think also he must have felt satisfied with the amount of support that he has received from several quarters in the House. At the same time, he and those who have considered this question must be profoundly disappointed at the entire absence of interest in such an enormously important question manifested by the almost completely empty Benches of the Government. I think also that the speech of the noble Viscount, lucid and courteous as it was, has been listened to, and will be read by people outside your Lordships' House, with the greatest disappointment.

The noble Viscount was asked three specific questions by the right rev. Prelate. To take the order in which the noble Viscount dealt with them, he was asked first as to the Government's decision upon the administrative changes. That was the one point on which the noble Viscount, speaking for the Government, was able to announce anything concrete. I think it is the one point on which most people, and certainly the right rev. Prelate, felt the gravest doubt as to whether the Committee had been right. The noble Viscount mentioned, but I cannot help thinking he did not give sufficient weight to, the fact that one member of the Committee signed the Report with a very definite reservation on this point. In his note that member said:— .… I think that more attention than my colleagues appear inclined to concede should be paid to the unanimous opinion of the representatives of local education authorities who appeared before us, that their present relations with the Board of Education and the Ministry of Labour should not be disturbed. That is the note by one member only, but he is the one member of the Committee who really speaks with some knowledge of education administration.

The composition of the Committee was referred to in high terms by the right rev. Prelate. All the members of it are certainly people of great distinction and great weight, but none of them, with the one exception of the signatory who signs with a reservation, is directly concerned with education and this is the one point which the Government have decided. The noble Viscount said—and I think it can hardly be denied by anybody—that the question of the young people of this country between the ages of fourteen and sixteen is a dual question, and to hand it over from the dual system to the control of the Ministry of Labour is to treat those young people primarily as those going into industry and not primarily as young people whose education is not finished. I certainly feel considerable misgivings at the announcement of the noble Viscount, that this is the one point upon which the Government have already taken a decision.

On the second question, with regard to the permanency of the centres, the noble Viscount detailed the four points on which the Committee had laid stress and was able to say no more than that the subject met with the sympathetic consideration of the Government and that the present system would not be changed for one year. In other words, he was not able to give any definite answer to the question of the right rev. Prelate. On the third point, the question of the working certificate, he could only say exactly the same: that the Government would view with sympathy the proposal and would take everybody concerned into consultation. The net result of the noble Viscount's speech, therefore, is only that the administration changes, removing it from the dual system at the head, and nothing more whatever.

Something has already been said in the course of the debate on the question of raising the school age. The noble Viscount rather deprecated using this Report for support of that view and he quoted from the end of Paragraph 109 some words by the Committee as to their sense of the difficulties. To select one passage of that kind is not to give a fair representation of the view of this Committee upon the question of raising the school age. I would remind your Lordships that at the conclusion of Paragraph 113—


The noble Lord should not misrepresent me. I quoted also Paragraph 113, which had already been referred to by the noble Earl.


I do not wish to misrepresent the noble Viscount in any way, but the words he quoted from Paragraph 113 are not those I was about to quote. I was going to quote the last words of the paragraph where they say:— .… we should not, have hesitated to discard any of our recommendations, however valuable they might have appeared to be in themselves, if, in our opinion, there had been any prospect of their tending to defer by even one day the future provision of some form of compulsory education beyond the present statutory age. I think it is fairly obvious from those words that, whether it came strictly speaking within the terms of their reference or not, the Committee undoubtedly look forward to a raising of the school ago as the main means by which this problem could be tackled, and they do, in fact, use very strong words in Paragraph 109, where they say:— It is perfectly clear that the problem of the gap, though not necessarily, as we have remarked, the problem of juvenile unemployment, would be completely solved by retention at a full-time day-school up to sixteen years of age, and indeed it is probable that this is the only really watertight system. The noble Viscount, replying to my noble friend Earl De La Warr, said the Committee said it was a way of dealing with the matter. Here you have the Committee saying that in their view it is the only way.

I would be prepared to agree that it was not, strictly speaking, within the province of this Committee to express a definite opinion about it, but at the same time it makes it all the stronger that they went outside the strict terms of reference in order to do so. It becomes even more remarkable when one considers the composition of the Committee, to which I have referred. The Committee were very largely representative of the industrial and economic side, so much so that when I first saw the names of the Committee published I assumed that they were the nominations of the Minister of Labour only and that they would be followed by the nominations of the President of the Board of Education. This Committee to inquire and advise upon the public system of education did not include one member of the teaching profession. At the time that was considered, and I think justly considered, by the teaching profession as a slight upon it, but it has had the advantage that without including anybody who is actually engaged in teaching, they have come to this conclusion and have expressed so strong an opinion upon the question of the raising of the school age.

But over and above the Report of this Committee, the right rev. Prelate mentioned that there had been another Committee which had reported upon the question of the education of the adolescent—namely, the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education. Now it was strictly within the terms of reference of that Committee. They went into it at great length and they went into the particular difficulties as to raising the school age with which this Committee on Education and Industry were faced in their one hundred and ninth paragraph. I cannot help thinking that the record of the Government in this matter is not a very good one. These two Reports came out at almost exactly the same time. Therefore you had a Committee composed exclusively, with the single exception of myself, of those engaged in teaching who recommended the raising of the school age to fifteen, and you had also this other Committee consisting of those who looked upon the question from the other point of view, the economic and industrial point of view, expressing their view in such strong terms. The Report of the Consultative Committee was blocked at the outset by the President of the Board of Education who had appointed it. He issued it to the public together with a letter in which, after thanking the Committee for their labours, he said that he had not had time to study the Report, but at the same time he wished to announce at once that he was not going to upset the three years' programme of local education authorities by any legislation raising the school age. In other words, he put up something to knock it down—something which had not been put up by the Consultative Committee. They had not asked for the raising of the school age within three years but asked that steps should be taken now in order that the school age might be raised when it could be done without causing disarrangement of the programmes—namely, in 1932.

The position therefore is reached that two big, important bodies have considered different aspects of this vitally important question and both of them have come to the conclusion that the real way of tackling it, though it may not be the immediate solution—the noble Viscount shakes his head, but here it is in black and white. I have quoted the actual words of the Report, they have been read also by other speakers, and the right rev. Prelate quoted the words used by the Consultative Committee. I think there is no doubt whatever that the consensus of opinion of both these bodies was that the raising of the school age was the way in which to tackle the problem, that it could not be brought into effect immediately but ought to be begun—I am now quoting the Consultative Committee—at once in order that there might be no unnecessary delay. I cannot see how, when this Committee state that they will not propose anything which might tend to defer by even one day such provision as that, it, can be said that they came to any other conclusion than that it was the way in which to overcome the difficulty. Therefore, whilst we recognise that this Government and indeed any Government must reel extremely sympathetic towards the demoralisation of unemployment which is so particularly hard upon young people of fourteen and sixteen, I cannot help thinking that we must view with grave disappointment the only answer which has been made to this Question.


My Lords, I am sorry that other engagements prevented me from listening to this debate. I merely rise to make one or two points and to emphasise somewhat those made by the noble Lord who last addressed your Lordships. I would venture to point out that having had some experience not only on a school board but on a local education authority for fifteen years, as well as having had some experience at the Board of Education, I am convinced that where this matter is taken tip by local education authorities it is better to entrust them with as much power as is possible with a view of trying to find out what is the right choice of employment for children when they leave school.

I would emphasise the recommendation on page 22 of the Report in which the Committee say the Ministry should leave local authorities as far as possible to conduct and develop their choice of employment work on individual lines and in a manner consistent with their general educational policy. It is of vital importance that these terrible tragedies should be avoided of inducing children to go into occupations for which they are unsuited. Local education authorities, through their employment committees and in other ways, have the opportunity of ascertaining what is the disposition of the child and what is the likely occupation in which the career of an individual child may secure best realisation, not only for the individual and the family but also for the State. I had considerable experience when at, the Board of Education of the great tragedy of children who thought they might develop into schoolmasters and schoolmistresses, who even entered upon the, career, woo at great sacrifice to their parents were taught how to teach, who even secured their certificates after going through training colleges, but when they entered the schools were hopelessly unable either to maintain discipline or impart education. Teachers are born rather than made. This is the sort of tragedy which local education authorities are best able to deal with in connection with the choice of employment for the children. I use that merely as one illustration of many which I might use.

Another point that I desire to emphasise has been referred to by the noble Viscount. I do not think that he read the recommendation in the sum mary—though it may have been read to your Lordships—in which it is stated by the Committee that— While the raising of the school leaving ago to fifteen and ultimately to sixteen would remove the existing difficulties as regards unemployed juveniles of fourteen and fifteen the change, if made, should be made for educational and social rather than industrial reasons. I believe that the importance of raising the school age cannot be over-estimated. I know of the expense connected with teaching children, I know the great sacrifices that parents must make if their children are to have a fair opportunity in life, but it is the last year at school that is the most valuable in the career of every child, and if that additional year can be secured to the child the opportunity of doing good work for his country and entering good employment is greatly increased. I do trust that the Government will realise that keeping children longer at school is the very best way of meeting this great tragedy that we all deplore.


My Lords, before this debate comes to an end there are a few words that I should like to say, and they shall be very few. I agree with Lord Gainford in what he said about the importance of keeping the teaching profession and the education authorities as closely associated as possible in the guidance of children in the choice of employment. That is more important than it seems to people who look at things from the point of view of the administration of labour questions. It is of very great importance because it touches on education, and I cannot forget that in taking the line that they have taken the Government are overruling the opinion of the dissentient member of the Committee, Mr. W. B. Kenrick, who is one of the most experienced education experts in the City of Birmingham. I agree entirely with my noble friend Lord Gorell in what he said about the raising of the school age being the key to the whole of this problem. I recognise, however, that in all these matters the Government are face to face with a certain amount of difficulty. That does not put them in a better position, but it excuses them for a, certain inertia in action.

We have had one great advantage in this debate. We have had the decision of the Government stated by a distinguished and highly-responsible Cabinet Minister, who is able to tell us definitely what the Government will do about certain parts of the Report. That is a great advantage, and an advantage that we do not very often enjoy in this House. The noble Viscount told us, and it is indeed obvious, that the Government are going to go very slow. There is, of course, a reason for that—a reason with which we are all unhappily too familiar, and that is that there is not that strong and well-organised body of public opinion behind the Education Department that we should wish to see. For this there are reasons, but, if properly estimated, they should not preclude those responsible for the administration of education from making things better in this respect. If you take England and look at it as a whole, you will see that different parts of England are in very different attitude. In Yorkshire, for instance, in Lancashire and in Wales you have an educational opinion as keen as you could wish, and almost as keen, if not quite, as it is in Scotland, where great progress has been made with these questions. In Scotland there is not a boy or girl who cannot to-day get full secondary education and go on to the University. I am not saying that all of them do it, but they all have the chance and a great many of them take it. Secondary schools and secondary education have been enormously developed under the pressure of popular opinion.

When the Education Bill of 1918 was before this House I well remember moving a clause, which the Government accepted, enabling them to divide England for educational purposes into provinces which should be somewhat of the size of Scotland. Wales would be one, Yorkshire would be one and Lancashire would be one, and it would be left to the provinces to work out their own educational salvation in their own way. To me it is certain that half the questions that we have been discussing to-day would have been solved long ago in these regions if that course had been taken. A keen opinion in the North and in Wales has been directed to them for a long time and has made some progress in solving them. But, instead of this, you have one single policy for the whole of this enormous country, a policy that declares that the same Regulations must obtain in Yorkshire that obtain in Devonshire. The result is that education questions become more and more centralised in the hands of the Board in Whitehall, and I think that this is quite wrong.

Scotland is an example of a country that finds its hands full with its education problem, and it is only one-seventh of the area that the Board of Education in England has to rule over. Why should not these parts of the country develop their own policy? You do not want legislation for it. The Government accepted the clauses in 1918, but I have never even heard that they are considering taking steps under the Act to decentralise the education organisation that is at present centralised in Whitehall. You could put your inspectors at the disposition of the local authority in each province and, with a little negotiation, I think they would persuade the local education authorities to fall into line and join in the scheme. I quote that example only because that is one of the things that the Government might be considering and might enlighten us upon. The difficulty of the Government, as was said by noble Lords who have already spoken, is that they have no large policy, no definite policy in connection with education on which they are prepared to commit themselves or which they are prepared to press upon the country. But in education, above everything, the country does nothing unless it gets a lead, and what it wants now is a, lead from the Minister of Education, a lead given in a spirit that means that he intends to identify his career with it.

In these conditions we cannot hope to make very great or rapid progress. I am grateful to the noble Viscount for having spoken so far sympathetically of this Report. I am not quite sure of the things on which he definitely pledged the Government, but at any rate it is something that the Government should accept the Report in the main and should be willing to give effect to some of its recommendations. When the educational problem of this nation will be solved I do not know, but I am certain that we shall have to solve it in the interests of economy itself. The most wasteful thing is to make no preparation for what is staring us in the face. We have threatening us in the future the keenest competition that we have ever known. We can meet it only if we have an educated people to deal with the situation that is about to confront them. To leave the young men and young women between fourteen and sixteen without any adequate training for their minds is to court disaster. What I complain of in the Government is that they will not face that situation, and will not put before us a bold policy, even if it is a policy which at the moment they are not prepared to carry into full effect.

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