§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
MR. PEEL DAWSON
said, that last year he had opposed a similar Bill upon its second reading; but, that having received little encouragement in that opposition, he had not considered it his duty to pursue a similar course in this Session. His objections, however, remained the same, and he thought that the momentous consequences which such a measure involved were not sufficiently understood by hon. Members. The hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) had not made out a case for it. If it passed in its present form, it would immediately effect a most disastrous blow upon the system of united education in Ireland. It would add very considerably to the burdens of local taxation; and almost all the grand juries of the northern counties of Ireland had protested against it. It had been urged that the grand juries would be left to take advantage of its provisions or not, as they chose; but there was no knowing how soon, if it were passed at all, application would be made to Parliament to make it compulsory. It was beyond the functions of grand juries to have the power of establishing schools out of the county rates, and he desired to record his protest against the measure, believing that it was wholly uncalled for; that it would add greatly to the burden of local taxation; that it would destroy the principle of self reliance among the lower order of the people; and that it would give perpetual opportunities for increasing religious rancour and acerbity.
§ MR. VANCE
moved that the House should go into Committee on the Bill on this day six months. There was a certain amount of plausible argument in favour of this Bill, inasmuch as its principle was one already in operation in England. The object of the measure was to extend the operation of the Industrial Schools Act to Ireland, but the circumstances of the two countries were wholly different. There was much more vagrancy in Ireland than in England. The consequences of the measure would be that vagrant children might be seized and placed in 218 sectarian schools, and that an expense would be incurred pressing heavily on the ratepayers in Ireland. He entirely disapproved of giving such children a better education and better nurture than those of hard-working, industrious, and well-conducted occupiers. The poor law schools were quite adequate at present for the purpose of eleemosynary education. It is true the Bill is only permissive; but it would no doubt be put in force, in all places in which there are town councils and would shortly be made compulsory. Where parents are living and have not parish relief, they should educate their own children. It would increase the pressure of rates to an enormous extent, as well as add to the religious rancour by which Ireland was vexed.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "this House will, upon this day six months, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Mr. Vance,)
§ MR. REARDEN
said, he should vote; for the Motion for going into Committee; but he intended to move an Amendment to a certain clause of it in Committee. He thought it would be inexcusable not to make the schools self-supporting.
THE O'CONOR DON
expressed his? surprise at the opposition from certain hon. Members opposite, to a Bill which was simply intended to extend the provisions of the Act which had operated so effectively; in England. He had received a vast number of letters from magistrates, heads of reformatories, and other gentlemen in Ireland, all expressing their highest approval of the measure, and the necessity of such an act for the sister country. At present many children were sent into reformatories who ought to be sent to industrial schools. The judicial statistics of Ireland proved that the proportion of children of this class was far greater in Ireland than in England. In respect to the petition presented by the hon. Member opposite from Armagh, he (The O'Conor Don) had received a letter from Mr. Hancock, a member of the grand jury of Armagh, in which he stated that, after the grand jury had finished their criminal business, and whilst they were assembled together with closed doors, a gentleman proposed that they should sign the petition he produced against the Bill. Mr. Hancock objected to being 219 a party to such a proceeding, and stated that, though other members of the grand jury had signed the petition, he believed that none of them except himself and the gentleman who had made the proposal had read the Bill. If the intention was to set up the Reformatories Bill as a rival to this measure, the charge under that measure would be higher, and it would be equally defrayed out of the county cess. The children who would be sent to the industrial schools were not of a criminal class. In the absence, however, of such institutions, those children must be sent to reformatories, where they would be treated as criminals. He (The O'Conor Don) objected to the principle of branding those innocent children as criminals, and of contaminating them by associating them with criminals. The measure was one of a mere permissive character, and it lay with the grand juries to say whether it should be put in operation in any particular district. As the Reformatory Act had worked so well without being compulsory, there was no good reason for believing that this Bill would not work equally well as a voluntary measure. The head of the Gleneree Reformatory approved the measure. He (The O'Conor Don) did not believe that its enactment was at all likely to be followed by a compulsory measure, as the hon. Member for Armagh appeared to apprehend. But, even if such a consequence were likely to happen, the proper time to object to it was when the actual proposition was made.
LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, the cause of much of the opposition which had been offered to the Bill was the utter silence observed by the hon. Member for Roscommon as to the necessity of the measure and his reasons for introducing it. As a representative of a large county, he (Lord Claud Hamilton) had always felt it his duty to oppose any scheme involving taxation, the provisions of which had not been made thoroughly known to the country, and in respect to which an opportunity had not been afforded of opposing it, if disapproved, by any portion of the people. After the statement he had beard, and the explanation given in respect of its provisions, be should not feel it his duty to offer it the same opposition as before. The hon. Gentleman had omitted to state that this Bill was different from the Bill of last year. Only two individuals signed a petition against the measure. Since that time it had become a little more known, and had become the subject of eleven petitions, 220 with 231 signatures, but all of the petitions were against the Bill. It might be an excellent Bill, but be thought it should not be passed until there had been given to the cess-payers of Ireland a more ample opportunity of expressing their opinions with regard to the measure, either for or against it. The hon. Member had not stated the number of children likely to come under the operation of his measure. What with the facts of higher wages being given than heretofore, and the continuous emigration going on, he (Lord Claud Hamilton) believed that the number of vagrants under the age prescribed by the Bill was rapidly decreasing. He confessed he still shared the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Armagh that the measure was unnecessary; and, judging from experience, he did not think that those schools to be created under it were the best that could be established for teaching young people trades, or to become good agricultural servants.
said, that in reply to the observations of the hon. Member for Roscommon relative to the grand jury of Armagh, he begged to state that a copy of the Bill had been sent by request to the grand jury, and every member of it had full opportunity of reading its provisions.
THE EARL OF MAYO
wished to say one or two words in regard to the Bill. He did not propose, on the part of the Government, to take any action in respect of the Bill; but he wished to express his own individual opinions on the merits of the measure. He confessed he did not think that the hon. Member for Roscommon had made out a very strong case for extending the principles of the English Act to Ireland. He (the Earl of Mayo) had endeavoured during the last Recess to inform himself as to the feeling of the people of Ireland upon the subject; and, from all the inquiries he had made, it appeared to him that if this Bill were passed it was not likely it would have any extensive operation; but there was a very great difficulty in refusing to consider the provisions of a Bill which was almost precisely similar to the statute now in force 221 in England. He thought that the House would do well to assent to the Committee on this Bill with a view of adapting, as far as possible, its provisions to the circumstances of Ireland. When in Committee it was his intention to move an Amendment which would have the effect of excluding all persons from the operation of the Bill who would naturally come under the amended provisions of the Irish Reformatory Act.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 82; Noes 46: Majority 36.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clauses 1 to 10, inclusive, agreed to.
§ Clause 11 (As to Children under Fourteen Years of Age found begging, &c. 29 & 30 Vict. c. 118, s. 14).
THE EARL OF MAYO
moved the rejection of the first paragraph of the clause—namely, that which related to vagrant children—on the ground that a distinction between reformatories and industrial schools should be maintained. The industrial schools should be for those only who had committed no legal offence; and children guilty of acts of vagrancy should be sent to reformatories instead of industrial schools. By his Bill all children who were guilty of an offence punishable by law were to come under the provisions of the Reformatory Act, the effect of which would be that vagrant children in Ireland would be treated in the same way as in England, and after suffering a short period of imprisonment would be sent to reformatories. Persons in Ireland who took an interest in the subject wished to have the distinction between reformatories and industrial schools maintained.
THE O'CONOR DON
could not agree to the Amendment; because he did not think it right that such children, who might perhaps be sent out to beg by their parents, should be deprived of the advantages of these schools, and subjected to the contaminating influence of a prison.
§ MR. BAGWELL
thought it a considerable infringement of personal liberty to take up children merely for vagrancy, and 222 send them to prison for a long time, although the prison was called all industrial school. He thought that there ought to be some safeguard to prevent the children of the poor being taken up and sent to industrial schools when they had committed no crime.
§ MR. CANDLISH
pointed out that the Amendment of the noble Lord really broke down the distinction which existed between criminal and other children, because though, no doubt, some vagrant children in Ireland were criminal, it was not so in the majority of instances. He considered it was preferable to send these children into industrial schools, rather than reformatories with the probationary process to going through a gaol. He thought the clause ought to be maintained in its integrity.
§ MR. O'REILLY
believed that the Amendment of the noble Lord would bring these children into the criminal class, a class whose future life was a source of so much difficulty to the country. He trusted, therefore, that the noble Earl would withdraw his Amendment.
THE EARL OF MAYO
said, that his intentions had been misunderstood by the hon. Gentleman. His object was simply to extend the operation of the Reformatories Act in a direction in which the friends of those institutions thought it ought to be extended. As reformatories were working well, he thought the class to which he had referred ought to be sent to them. To secure the best possible results from the industrial schools it was desirable to separate those children who were properly the objects of charity from those who might more fairly be regarded as belonging to the criminal class. He had no objection to the House considering and deciding upon the question whether this particular class of children should be sent direct to a reformatory, or through the medium of a gaol.
§ MR. CANDLISH
, believing that the proposition of the noble Earl would overthrow the reformatory system, trusted that the Committee would retain the clause as it now stood.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, the question was, how to draw a line between the two classes, who ought to be sent, irrespectively, to industrial and reformatory schools. He did not see how it could be done; and he thought the clause in the Bill of his hon. Friend was best suited to meet the circumstances under which children in Ireland were placed. It would be dangerous to depart 223 so far from the system sanctioned by the English laws. He hoped the noble Earl would not press his Amendment.
§ MR. MURPHY
thought the magistrates ought to have a discretionary power of sending children direct to the reformatory without passing them through a prison; and did not see any objection to giving to magistrates the power which they possessed in the case of industrial schools.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. BAGWELL
moved, that at the end of the clause the following words should be added:—Or, in case of there being no industrial School in the district where the child is found, the workhouse may be duly certified by the authorities as fit to receive children to be trained as in Industrial schools.
THE EARL OF MAYO
said, anything that could improve the industrial training of workhouses would be most desirable; but he was afraid there was no machinery in the workhouses to carry on industrial training.
§ MR. REARDEN
If that machinery were introduced into the workhouses it would effect a most charitable revolution.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clauses 12 to 25, inclusive, agreed to.
§ Clause 26 (Penalty on Child escaping from School).
§ MR. BAGWELL
said, this was a most outrageous clause, as it provided that a child who escaped from school could, at the discretion of the magistrate, be sent to prison for a period of fourteen days with or without hard labour. He would divide the Committee on this clause.
§ Clause agreed to.224
§ Clauses 27 to 41, inclusive, agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again, upon Monday next.