HL Deb 22 April 1947 vol 147 cc37-40

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Morrison.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL or DROGHEDA in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Exemption of children from school attendance to assist in potato lifting.

(2) Subject to regulations under this section an education authority on whom a notice has been served under the foregoing subsection shall grant, on the application of the parent of any child residing in their area, exemption from the obligation to attend school on the days notified as aforesaid in order to enable the child to be employed in the ingathering of the potato crop:

Provided that— (i) exemption shall not be granted to any child who is more then two years below the upper limit of school age; and

LORD MORRISON moved, in subsection (2), immediately before the proviso to insert: and any child so exempted may be so employed notwithstanding anything in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of Section twenty-eight of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act, 1937.

The noble Lord said: Both the Amendments on the Paper come together, and it may be for the convenience of your Lordships if I say a few words about them before moving each separately. I will deal first with the second Amendment. It is designed to obviate any doubt as to the age at which children may be granted exemption under the Bill. Section 33 of the Education (Scotland) Act provides that the educational authorities shall fix two or more dates for commencing and terminating school attendance, and that a child shall, for the purpose of attending school, be deemed to attain a given age on a fixed date next following the day on which he actually attains that age.

In view of this provision, it appears that the wording of the first proviso in subsection (2) of Clause 1 of the Bill in its present form might have the effect of preventing the exemption of any child until after the fixed attendance date following his thirteenth birthday. The result would be that a considerable number of children who have passed their thirteenth birthday but who have not reached the next fixed attendance date would not be eligible for exemption and would not, under the Bill, be available to help with the potato harvest. It is considered that this would unduly limit the number of children who would be eligible for exemption and might make it difficult to obtain a full measure of assistance to ensure the safe ingathering of the potato harvest. In view of the vital importance of safeguarding our food supplies, it is proposed to amend the Bill so as to make quite clear that exemption may be granted to a child who has reached his thirteenth birthday. If this Amendment is accepted there ought to be no doubt as to the legality of employing children who are exempted.

That brings me to the first Amendment. The employment of the children is governed by the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act, 1937. That Act as amended by the Education (Scotland) Act, 1945, provides that no child shall be employed until he has attained an age not less than two years below that at which, under the enactments relating to education, children cease to be of school age. There may be room for argument as to whether the words I have quoted prohibit the employment of a child before his thirteenth birthday or whether the prohibition continues until the next fixed date. I do not wish to be understood as expressing any opinion on this question, but I am advised that the latter view might be taken. If it were sustained we might find ourselves in the position that some children could be exempted for employment but could not be legally employed. We feel that this is a matter in which there should be no room for uncertainty about the law, and we therefore propose to make it clear that any child exempted under the Bill may be employed without infringing the employment provisions in the Children and Young Persons Act of 1937. Your Lordships will appreciate that this Amendment relates only to employment in the ingathering of the potato crop during the limited period while the Bill will be on the Statute Book, and that the Act of 1937 will remain in force as regards all other forms of employment. I beg to move the first Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 20, at end insert ("and any child so exempted may be so employed notwithstanding anything in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of Section twenty-eight of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937").—(Lord Morrison.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 22, leave out from ("child") to the end of line 23 and insert ("unless he has actually attained the age of thirteen years").—(Lord Morrison.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed.