§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, it would be unnecessary for him to trespass upon the attention of the House at any length in moving the second reading of this Bill, for, as more than two-thirds of the present Members occupied seats in the late Parliament, they would be fully acquainted with the principles and details of the measure which was introduced during the last Session by his hon. Friend Sir Stafford North-cote. The principle of the Bill was then discussed at considerable length on the second reading, and met with general approval. It had gone into Committee pro formâ, and but for the dissolution of Parliament he believed the measure would have become law. The object of the Bill was to render available such private institutions, in the nature of industrial schools, in England and Wales, as might be adapted for the care and education of vagrant children, and to enforce, as far as possible, parental care. It was, indeed, intended as a supplement to those reformatory measures 182 which the late Parliament, much to its credit, had adopted. It was calculated that the number of children, in this Kingdom alone, who might be dealt with under a measure of this nature, was about 50,000. At present no means of education whatever were provided for these unfortunate children. The late Mr. Tufnell said that they were the class of children for whose education it was most important that the State should make provision, and that their redemption from idle and dissolute habits would do more to promote the true interests of the country than any number of gaols and gibbets. In fact, these children formed the basis of an hereditary class of criminals, the insuperable difficulty of disposing of whom the House had to-night been discussing for some hours. He did not think it desirable to go too far in establishing new institutions for new classes of cases, but this Bill merely sought to render available existing institutions—for instance, primary schools, workhouse schools, district schools, while reformatories would be kept distinct for criminal children alone. These would altogether make a provision of education for a great number of children, who were now totally without any means of obtaining it. He did not claim any credit on his own part for the measure, which had been brought forward, as he had said, by Sir S. Northcote, and he regretted that that gentleman was not now a Member of the House, that he might carry out his own plan. A similar system to that contemplated by this Bill had been applied to Scotland, on the proposition of the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Dunlop), and had proved most efficient. He (Mr. Adderley) hoped the same benefit would be extended to England, and he wished to call attention to the circumstance that this Bill would carry out the measure which had been introduced by Mr. Speaker three years ago and assented to by Parliament, empowering the guardians of the poor to make provision for educating the children of out-door paupers. The present measure would supplement that Act, by enabling the guardians to educate all vagrant children in industrial schools. He believed the only probable opponent of this Bill was the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer), who had opposed it last Session, on the ground that it had a proselytizing tendency, and that the establishment of these industrial schools was intended as a means of converting Roman Catholic children to Protestantism. He thought 183 the hon. and learned Gentleman did his co-religionists in this country great injustice by raising such an objection, for no one could doubt they were both rich and zealous enough to provide refuges for the vagrant children connected with their own religious community. By the Bill he proposed the Roman Catholics would be placed upon a perfect equality with other bodies. Indeed, he might have anticipated some objections from his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner), upon the ground that no distinction was made in respect to Roman Catholics, but certainly none from that body itself. He trusted the hon. Member for Dundalk would see that his objections formed no ground at least for opposing the second reading of the Bill, as, if he wished to introduce any clause to protect Roman Catholic interests, he could do so in Committee. If, however, the hon. Gentleman persisted in opposing the second reading, he and those who voted with him would place themselves in the invidious position of saying that, because they could not get provisions exactly as they wished to have them, therefore they would oppose the principle of industrial schools for the reformation of all vagrant children throughout England. The hon. Member concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. BOWYER,
while fully admitting the honourable and benevolent intentions of the promoters of the Bill, still felt it an imperative duty to oppose the second reading. He objected to the Bill upon two grounds. The first ground was, that the Bill had not been sufficiently considered, as it was only read a first time on Friday last, and had only been delivered to hon. Members on that morning. Many hon. Members had not seen the Bill at all. He might be told that the Bill was the same that had been introduced last Session; but he replied that there were very many Members of that House who were not in the last Parliament. Besides, they had all lately been engaged in transactions very interesting to themselves, and, he trusted, beneficial to the country, but which had not left them much time to think over the provisions of former Bills. If, however, the Bill had been one of small moment he would have raised no objection as to time, but upon examining it he found a measure of great—he might say—of dangerous im- 184 portance. It introduced principles totally new to our jurisprudence. It was acknowledged that our present laws as to vagrancy were the most invidious portion of our jurisprudence. Those laws were, to use a technical legal term, odious. Foreigners frequently asserted that poverty in England was treated as a crime. The proposed Bill provided that, whenever a child was taken into custody upon a charge of begging or vagrancy, the magistrate should have power to send such child to any certified school, where he or she would be liable to be detained until attaining the age of fifteen years. It was all very well to call such establishments schools, but really they would be prisons, in which children might be kept away from their parents until reaching the age of fifteen years. That, he contended, was an interference with the parental authority of the poor which should be regarded with extreme care, if not with jealousy. They all knew what a charge of begging or vagrancy might mean. A policeman might take up any child he found selling matches or flowers, or sweeping a crossing, or (unless he belonged to Lord Shaftesbury's favoured brigade) cleaning shoes, for in the city no one was allowed to clean shoes unless he belonged to a brigade which had a religious as well as an industrial organization. They all knew that many of the children in London who sold matches and swept crossings did so rather as a pretence for bogging, but he should be sorry to see the day when any one would advise so un-Christian a course as to put a stop to the harmless industry of those poor people, although it might be mixed up with what was called begging. He thought there had been of late too much interference with the poor, and he hoped the House would not carry that interference much further. His second objection arose, he admitted, upon more delicate grounds. The Roman Catholics in this country were in a minority, and, as a minority were liable to go to the wall unless they kept a sharp look out, they were obliged to take every means of protecting themselves, even at the risk of sometimes being placed in an invidious position. The hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) had spoken of the means of the Roman Catholics in this country, but he was greatly mistaken in supposing that those means were at all large as compared with the Protestant bodies. The Protestant Church had the benefit of all the endow- 185 ments bequeathed by munificent founders to the Roman Catholic Church; it had tithes, and, although perhaps only for a short time, church rates. He would point out to the House the working of this Bill with regard to the poorer classes of Roman Catholics. In London, Liverpool, and other large towns there was a numerous class of poor Irish children exercising the miserable employments to which he had already called the attention of the House; and if the vagrancy law were strictly enforced the greater portion of these children would be brought under its operation. When this Bill was first introduced there was in it an extraordinary provision by which the police were entitled to take up children without any offence whatever being committed, and bring them before a Magistrate. The hon. Baronet (Sir S. Northcote) who then had charge of the Bill made an alteration in this respect, and provided that the police should not be at liberty to take up children without any charge, but when they were brought upon a charge they were to be dealt with according to the provisions of the Bill. This improvement was, however, rather nominal than real. The police did not now sweep the streets of these poor children, because the magistrates would not know how to deal with them when in custody; but this Bill enabled magistrates to dispose of them. The children might be brought upon a charge of vagrancy, and then the magistrate had power to send them to a school. In the first instance all the schools would, no doubt, be Protestant—very good schools probably for purposes of education—but it should be borne in mind that Roman Catholics deemed it important that these children should keep their religion. They wished to see them educated, but in their view the most important thing was that they should keep their religion. They would, however, be sent to Protestant schools, where they would lose their religion. The Bill provided that before a child was sent to school notice was to be given to the parents or the persons with whom the child had been residing; but these poor people were in very humble circumstances, and generally speaking were so afraid of the police and of the magistrates, that they would not come forward to claim a child in such a case, so that, practically, the notice would have no effect. But supposing parents or relations did come forward, they could not remove the child, if they disapproved the school, unless they gave secu- 186 rity to pay the expense of removal. Now, considering the poverty of these people this would render the clause perfectly nugatory. He hoped the House would appreciate the motives he had urged for opposing the Bill, and, although he did not impute to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Adderley) any intention to proselytize by means of this Bill, yet the Bill would, nevertheless, have that effect, and he most oppressive to a very poor class of people. For these reasons he should oppose the second reading of the Bill.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
could not see the force of the hon. and learned Gentleman's objection founded on the shortness of time given to peruse the Bill. It was a Bill of only seven pages and could be read in a quarter of an hour, and besides, it was exactly the same Bill that was brought forward in the last Parliament. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to wish the establishment of the Lazzaroni system of Italy in this country. He told the House that to take up vagrants who were guilty of begging and keep them in prison disgraced us in the eyes of foreigners, and that we ought to assimilate the law of England, in this respect, to that of foreign countries. [Mr. BOWYER: No, no!] He could only say that the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the opinion of foreigners on the subject, and represented them as calling our vagrancy laws a disgrace; but certainly the Lazzaroni system of the Italian States was not a wholesome system, or one that ought to be copied in this country. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had read the little book containing the Standing Orders of the House he would have seen that it was not competent for any Member of the House to call any statute of the realm "odious;" and when he used that term he ought in strictness to have been called to order. [Mr. BOWYER said he had spoken it merely in a legal sense.] It might be a legal expression, but in that House it was certainly a disrespectful one. The object of this Act was not to increase the stringency of the vagrancy laws, but to prevent children from falling under their operation. It was not true, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, that a child could be taken and kept in prison till the age of fifteen in spite of parents or relatives. If the parent or any other person could show that the child had a chance of getting an honest way of living, that moment the child would be restored. The hon. and learned 187 Gentleman wanted them to believe that in case a child were sent to a Protestant school he could not be removed to a Roman Catholic school. He said the Roman Catholic community were very poor, and perhaps they were; but the case of Alicia Race would be in the memory of the House. The Roman Catholics found funds enough to draw her from a Protestant school, and, if they could get money to do that, they would find little difficulty in procuring what was necessary to remove a child from one of these schools. What was the real case as regarded these poor children? Their parents could not support them, and they were compelled to seek a living by begging, or by worse means, so that in course of time they found their way into the gaol, or into one of our penal settlements. This Bill proposed that they should be taken from the streets, placed where they would receive a good education, and put in the way of earning an honest livelihood. But the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Bowyer) came forward and said, "No, you may wish to save them from immorality, but we wish to keep them from becoming Protestants—we prefer to see them remain vicious rather than that they should be taken to a Protestant school." He hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would find, however acutely he might argue this question, that he could not receive the support of the House of Commons.
§ MR. PALK
said, that this Bill contained so many clauses objectionable to the agricultural districts, that without taking measures to oppose its second reading he felt he should not perform the duty he owed to his constituents if he did not protest against it. The Preamble was wholly unobjectionable. At the present moment, however, through the benevolence of individuals, poor, neglected children, in danger from their situation of becoming criminals, were maintained in establishments which were supported by voluntary contributions. To that system he gave his most unqualified assent, but protested against any system which should render it compulsory upon the ratepayers of this country—which should increase those rates which year after year were more burdensome than they should be. The House would allow him to call its attention to the unconstitutional steps by which they proceeded every year to levy taxes upon this country. First of all they had the organization of our gaols, our 188 lunatic asylums, and our police establishments, the funds for those purposes being raised not by the voices of the ratepayers, but by that of magistrates appointed by the Lord Lieutenant of the county. Nothing could be more contrary to the constitutional maxim than taxation and representation should go hand-in-hand than this system; and now another rate was proposed to be laid in the same way on the agricultural ratepayer. The effect of it might be to condemn the labourer to hopeless poverty, and thus to drive him to that very crime which it was the object of this Bill to prevent. His main objection was to the 16th and 17th clauses, which enacted that when a Justice of the Peace should order any child to be sent to one of these certified industrial schools, the Guardians of the poor of the parish to which the child belonged should pay to the managers of the school a sum not exceeding 3s. a week. In the first place, where were the industrial schools, and where were the funds by which they were to be supported? At present they were not visible, and the promoters of the Bill were in the position of persons asking permission to send children to places which had, as yet, no existence. If the House would reflect on the immense addition which the 16th clause would cast on the rates of the agricultural parishes they would hesitate before passing so sweeping a measure. In all these agricultural parishes there were already schools supported by private charity or by the parishes themselves, and in them there was every facility for the honest man's child obtaining an education—if not sufficiently good, yet as good as circumstances would allow. The schools within the unions themselves appeared to have been entirely forgotten by the promoters of this Bill, and before seeking to legislate for that which did not at present exist, either some attempt ought to be made to improve the union schools, or they ought to be abolished altogether. Either a system ought to be adopted which could be worked out thoroughly and efficiently without the aid of voluntary contributions, which must always be varying and uncertain, or the union schools ought to be placed on such a footing as would enable them to meet all the difficulties of the case. He did not intend to support the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member opposite, but he felt it due to the agriculturists to resist the burden sought to be thrown on them, and, therefore, in Committee he should endea- 189 vour to introduce such Amendments as would separate the agricultural from the urban parishes.
§ MR. BARROW
felt the strongest objection to the Bill as being an interference with the parental authority, which ought not to be tolerated in any free country. It was a perfectly superfluous piece of legislation. If its object was to remove children who were in the way of crime, or who had become criminals to a certain extent, that was already provided for by the reformatory schools, and the establishment of other schools would only bewilder those who were disposed to forward institutions already established. The child who was found beginning a course of crime might be taken up and sent to a reformatory school. He was quite ready to admit the necessity of having some class of schools intermediate between the ordinary schools and the gaols, and therefore it was that he was anxious that the experiment of the reformatory schools should be fairly tried, but he objected to the establishment of a second set of schools before that experiment had been tried. He had the strongest objection, too, to the manner in which the provisions of this Bill were to be carried out, and particularly to the provisions which allowed the policeman to select the Justices of the peace before whom he was to take the vagrant child whom he had apprehended, instead of taking him, as a matter of course, before the next meeting of justices in the ordinary petty sessions, and having the hearing in open court. The Bill carried the principle of the Reformatory Bill to an extraordinary length. By the law of the land an adult vagrant in full knowledge of the consequences of all his actions could only be punished with a month's imprisonment for the first offence, two months for the second, while for the third he must be tried at Sessions, and then could only be sentenced to six months' imprisonment; but under this Bill a child found begging in the streets might be subjected to an indefinite term of imprisonment from the time when he was apprehended—which might be at the age of five years—until he was fifteen years old. This was an amount of punishment so entirely inconsistent with the crime that he could not consent under any circumstances to vote for such a provision. In the Reformatory Bill a child who bad been convicted of felony even could not be detained for more than five years. He would not enter into the political inquiry whether it would be right to interfere with the labour-market by taking 190 children out of the hands of their parents for the period proposed by the Bill. In the agricultural districts it was of the utmost importance that a child should learn the use of his hands as well as of his head, and to keep a boy at school up to the age of fifteen would altogether unfit him for earning his bread at a future period of his life. He had another objection to the Bill. By the new Poor Law Act the management of the poor was placed in the hands of Boards of Guardians representing the ratepayers. Previous to the passing of that Act it was alleged that some of the Magistrates were too anxious to exceed the power assigned them by law, and to make extravagant charges upon their parishes; and there could be no doubt that the administration of the Poor Law by Boards of Guardians was generally preferred to that by Justices of the peace. Now, the present Bill reintroduced the old principle of antagonism between Justices and Boards of Guardians, and upon that ground, among others, he could not vote for the second reading. He believed, moreover, that the children in workhouse schools—at least in those with which he was acquainted—were better fed, clothed, and taught than the children of any labourer could possibly be; and there was, therefore, no justification for taxing the industrious classes to give to the children of the profligate a better education than the independent labourer could afford to his own children. His objections on the score of pecuniary expense were, however, far inferior to those he felt from other reasons, as his main objections to the Bill were that it attached an enormous punishment to a trifling offence, and provided for an unjustifiable interference between parent and child.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
did not intend to offer any objection to the second reading of the Bill, although he confessed that, the Bill having been delivered only that day, he had not been able to read it through. He supposed, however, that it was the same measure, somewhat amended, which was read a second time before the dissolution of the last Parliament, and committed pro formâ, with a view to the introduction of certain amendments. In the discussion of the Bill, taking place as it did on the night after the debate and division on the Chinese question, he was unfortunately unable to take any part. If so, it would require the most careful consideration in Committee, and he hoped its Mover would give to the House ample opportunity for examining its provisions before the arrival of the next 191 stage. Some of the objections urged against this Bill by the last speaker were entitled to weight. The Bill was said to be founded upon the Scotch Industrial School Act passed at the instance of the hon. and learned Member for Greenock; but, on looking at its clauses, he found that they applied only to children who were already under the operation of the Reformatory Act in England—viz., those who were charged with offences against the law. The Scotch Industrial School Act, on the contrary, was distinguished from the Reformatory Act, inasmuch as it referred to children who were expressly declared not to be charged with any offence against the law. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would explain in Committee why he proposed to apply this Bill to children who were vagrants and beggars, when such children were already dealt with under the Reformatory Act, and sentenced for a less time, indeed, than they would be under this Bill, but still for a considerable period, to detention in a school. There were other provisions in the Bill connected with the working of the Poor Law, to which he knew his right hon. Friend the President of the Pool-Law Board was anxious to direct the attention of the House. When the Bill went into Committee his right hon. Friend would make some suggestions with regard to the clauses which affected the administration of the funds in the hands of the Poor-law Guardians. At the same time he was not prepared to oppose the second reading, but he hoped that the promoters of the Bill would afford the House some explanation upon the various points which had been raised, and would permit a considerable time to elapse between the second reading and the consideration of the Bill in Committee.
§ MR. BRADY
said he agreed entirely with the right hon. Gentleman, that the projector of this Bill should show cause for the Bill; he complained, moreover, that they should be called upon to debate a Bill in the evening which had only been printed in the morning; and he was perfectly convinced that nine-tenths of the Members had not read a line of it. The measure would consign children to virtual imprisonment for years without committing any crime whatever; and he considered that the hon. Member for Dundalk was quite justified in resisting the second reading of the Bill, and as for himself, he would oppose it at every stage.
§ MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he had found so many objectionable provisions 192 in the Bill, that he would oppose it to the uttermost. His objection to the Bill was also founded upon another consideration. There were grave differences existing in England in reference to education, and it was now attempted by a side wind to make use of this industrial school system to interfere with a grave principle which ought only to be brought forward on well considered grounds.
§ MR. B. STANHOPE
gave his hearty support to the second reading. They were told they were going to send the children; to gaol, but he had looked at the clauses, and only found that they were going to send the children to school. He also found in clauses 12 and 13, that they could release a child at any time, provided security was given to the State that such child could become a useful member of society. Any justice of the peace could release a child who obtained employment. If it could not obtain employment, it was better for its own sake, and for that of the community, that it should remain at school than grow up wild in the streets. He might say, further, that so far as his own county was concerned, he believed that the ratepayers were satisfied with their own control over their affairs, and did not wish, in a Bill like the present, to have general management by the Board of Guardians. For these reasons he should support the second reading, though he could not pledge himself to support all the clauses in Committee.
could not give his support to the Bill going beyond its present stage unless very great and general alterations were made in it. It was proposed to send the children, when brought before a Justice of the peace, to industrial schools; but the same objection appeared to him to apply to sending them to industrial schools as applied to sending them to workhouse schools.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 177; Noes 18: Majority 159.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed for Wednesday, 20th May.