- (i) For Sub section (I) of Section three the following Subsection shall be substituted:
- A child under the age of twelve shall not be employed, and a child of the age of twelve or upwards shall not be employed on any day on which he is required to attend school before the close of school hours on that day, nor on any day before six o'clock in the morning or after eight o'clock in the evening:
- The powers and duties of a local authority under this Act shall be deemed to be powers and duties under Part III. of the Education Act. 1902. and the provisions of the Education Acts for the time being in force with regard to those powers and duties and as to the manner in which the expenses of an authority under that Part of that Act shall be paid shall apply accordingly.
- The expression "local authority" means the local education authority for the purposes of Part III. of the Education Act, 1902.
- (i) In paragraph (b) of Section two, which restricts the employment of boys under the age of fourteen years and of girls under the age of sixteen years for the purpose of singing, playing, or performing, or being exhibited for profit, or offering anything for sale between nine p.m. and six a.m., "eight p.m." shall be substituted for "nine p.m." so far as relates to children under fourteen years of age:
- (ii) In paragraph (c) of Section two, which restricts the employment of children tinder eleven years for the purpose of singing, playing or performing, or being exhibited for profit, or offering anything for sale, twelve years shall be substituted for eleven years:
- (iii) In Section three, which relates to licences for the employment of children exceeding ten years of age, the age of twelve years shall be substituted for the age of tea years:
- (iv) References to the Employment of Children Act, 1903, shall be construed as references to that Act as amended by this Act.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The first Amendment to this Clause, standing on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. T. Davies), is not in the right form, and raises too many separate points iii one Amendment.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1, i), to leave out the word "twelve," and to insert instead thereof the word "fourteen."
My only object, and the object of those hon. Members with whom I have the privilege to be associated in this Amendment, is to safeguard the best educational interests of the children and to strengthen the proposals which the President makes. I am dealing now with Sub-section (1) of Clause 13, which repeals Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Employment of Children Act, 1903, which provides that they shall not be employed between the hours of nine in the evening and six in the morning, provided that local authorities can vary those hours. The proposal in the Bill is a very great advance upon existing legislation, because it provides that a child under the age of twelve shall not be employed. My Amendment is that a child under the age of fourteen shall not be employed. It is a little difficult to consider this as an 2107 isolated Amendment, because there are consequential Amendments on the Paper and there are other Amendments which are not consequential but which may be used to qualify the effect of raising the age to fourteen at this point of the Clause, and it will be for the Committee to decide, if it raises the age to fourteen now, whether they shall forbid employment under the age of fourteen or whether they shall go on to qualify the Amendment in some such way as is suggested on the Order Paper. If some of the subsequent Amendments are adopted, the Clause may read that a child under the age of fourteen shall not be employed and a child of the age of fourteen or upward shall not be employed on any day on which it is required to attend school.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I can save the hon. Member some trouble about that, because a child over the age of fourteen is not a child.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
May I call your attention to the Definition Clause, and I think you will see on this occasion, the only occasion upon which you have ever been wrong, that that is not so, because the Definition Clause states that the expression "child" means any child up to the age when his parents cease to be under an obligation to cause him to receive elementary education, and an early Clause of the Bill gives power to increase the age to fifteen up to which a child may be required to attend for elementary instruction?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That does not apply to fourteen and upwards. The hon. Member wants to bring into this Clause, by what he says, a child of forty as well as fourteen.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The only point I am making is that if a local authority raises the school-leaving age to fifteen, as it has power to do, a person up to the age of fifteen would be a child in accordance with this Definition Clause, and in that sense you may say children of fourteen and upwards. But that, after all, is a question of interpretation and is of no importance to my argument. I wish to put the case for protecting the school child up to the age of fourteen from the undue demands of industrial work. If the Bill is not modified it will be possible still for all children above the age of twelve who have to attend full-time day school to be employed in industrial work. Every day 2108 upon which a boy or girl has to go to school it may at the close of the school day be employed in various industrial occupations. Every day these children of the age of twelve and upwards go to school they may in the evening be worked in the world of industry. In addition to that, they may be worked on Saturdays and Sundays, and the only limitation that is placed upon their labour is that they must not be employed on any day before six o'clock in the morning or after eight o'clock in the evening. Whatever may be said as to interference with industry, I think, if we were considering this matter solely from the point of view of the educational and other interests of the children, we should agree that it was most undesirable for children of the age of twelve, after attending school all day, to be employed each evening up to eight o'clock.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I really must ask the hon. Member which Amendment he is moving. There are two quite distinct things in this first paragraph of Subsection (1). One deals with the child under the age of twelve, and is what may be called the clean cut. The second is where the child is over the age of twelve. The hon. Member is now taking the second proposition. Am I to pass over his first Amendment? I think we had better take them one by one.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I will deal only with one point. I am now dealing with what you have described as the clean-cut Amendment. Whereas the Sub-section prohibits the employment of children under the age of twelve, the effect of my Amendment is to prohibit the employment of children under the age of fourteen. This will prevent children who are under a statutory requirement to attend school full time from being employed in the evening of their school days, on Saturdays or on Sundays. I am moving the Amendment in the interests of the children. It is entirely in the spirit of the many recommendations which have been made from time to time in the reports of almost innumerable Royal Commissions and Departmental Committees, and if the Committee accepts the Amendment it would carry out an improvement in the law which has been pressed upon the House by every independent inquiry undertaken by experts.
It may expedite the course of business if I explain the general principles which have guided us in the 2109 construction of this Clause. I do so because we are met with Amendments coming from opposite quarters. On the one hand, we are pressed still further to restrict juvenile labour, and on the other hand, we are pressed to give additional concessions to juvenile labour. The point of view from which this Clause is framed is strictly educational. It is not the object of the Clause or of the Bill to insert general provisions restricting the employment of children on merely economic or social grounds. The object of the Clause is to secure the limited object that those children who are under statutory obligation to attend public elementary schools shall come to these schools in a condition in which they are fit to profit by their instruction. We feel that there are certain anomalies in spending £30,000,000 a year upon elementary education if, at the same time, we permit industrial conditions to survive which prevent children from deriving any profit from that education. On the other hand, although we fully recognise that there may be very good ground for, such further restrictions on child labour as the hon. Member suggests, and although we have Amendments on the Paper suggesting that there should be a further regulation of child labour on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, we feel that that is somewhat outside the purview of the Education Department. We are simply attempting to safeguard the efficiency of elementary education, and I appeal to the Committee to assist me in the prosecution of this limited object. I feel that if we were to wander into the wide field of a general demand to regulate the conditions of juvenile industry, we should never get to the end of our task. Furthermore, I am quite unable to arrive at a conclusion upon so complicated and difficult a scheme. Neither I nor the Board of Education have the information which will entitle us to recommend the proper course for the Committee to pursue.
I trust, therefore, that the Committee, having in view our very limited object, will, so far as possible, find itself able to adhere to the compromise which is suggested in the terms of the Bill. We desire in the first place to make it clear that children under twelve should not be employed at all. We hold that children of so tender an age should be allowed to spend their days and nights in play and sleep apart from the elements of learning. 2110 Between twelve and fourteen we are anxious to safeguard the school hours. We do not think a little employment on schooldays is necessarily mimical to the efficiency of the school life, but we have a very great body of evidence to the effect that employment before school hours is very injurious to the efficiency of our elementary school life. Consequently, while the Bill prohibits employment before school hours and during the dinner-hour, it does admit of a limited amount of employment between the close of the school and 8 p.m. That is the limit which we have set, and I must appeal to hon. Members, who may desire either to restrict the operation of the Clause or to enlarge it, to accommodate themselves to the general purposes of the Bill, and, as far as possible, to give me their support in carrying it.
§ Mr. KING
I do not think that the tone which the President of the Board of Education has adopted suits him very well. He says, "I am not here as a social reformer. I am here as an educationist. Hours of employment for children is a question of social reform. I am only looking at it from the educational point of view." You are dealing with one great problem, the welfare of the people, educational, social, and industrial. The whole thing hangs together. Therefore the argument that this is only an educational question cannot be made good. I do not wish to prevent this Bill going on or I should say more than I do now. I do urge upon the President not to take up this line of argument of a sort of pious educational Pharisaism, if I may use that word. It does not suit him, and he only adopts it in order to get on with the Bill, but I am not sure that it will have that effect.
§ Colonel Lord HENRY CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I cannot go as far as the hon. Member who moved this Amendment, but at the same time I cannot help feeling a certain sense of disappointment at the non-possumus attitude which the President has taken up on this question. He says very truly that his object is to see that the children who go to school are in a fit condition to profit by their education, but if he will look at the Regulations in regard to child labour he will see that it will still be possible for a child to work fifty hours a week. A child can work from 4.30 to 8 every evening and during the dinner-hour as well. 2111 [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] It will be possible to work the child fourteen hours on Saturday and also fourteen hours on Sunday. I can quote against the President the opinion of his own chief medical officer, who says that long hours of work on Saturday and Sunday are often more inimical to the child than to work thirty hours during the week. Of course it would be ridiculous to ask the President to consent to the forbidding of work for children of school age, but he might make some concession to those who feel that the hours which he allows are still, to a very large extent, prejudicial to the interests of the children.
I am quite as anxious to get the Bill on the Statute Book as the President himself. I quite recognise that it is purely an educational Bill, but you cannot segregate education from social reform. Does he think that a child who on leaving school in the afternoon is put to work and kept at work until eight o'clock in the evening is likely to be fit next morning to go to school and to receive education as efficiently as he desires? On purely educational grounds, I wish he could have listened to our appeal to make the age fourteen instead of twelve. We do not want to be bringing in another Education Bill in a few years' time. Why not make this great reform in the country now?
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
I beg to move, in Subsection (1), after the word "employed" ["shall not be employed"], to insert the words,except by the child's parents or guardians, with the written consent of the local education authority, but not for financial remuneration.Everybody would be against a child of this tender age working for wages, but I submit that there are little offices which a boy or girl under twelve could perform at the behest of their parents which would not unfit them for school life and at the same time would be of considerable value to the parents. Under this Clause, as it stands, a girl or a boy under twelve would not be able to fetch the doctor in case of illness or would not be able to fetch medicine or do any household work, such as fetching milk from the dairyman or a pound of sugar from the grocer. I cannot help thinking that that is an interferance with the liberty of the parent which is most unjustifiable.
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
Is this the right place to put in this Amendment? Should it not come on the definition Clause? This Clause alludes only to employment for profit. Would not this Amendment be more properly dealt with on the definition Clause?.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is a new point. Perhaps the hon. Member will put his Amendment in the form of a query and get an answer, and if it not satisfactory he can pursue it.>
§ Sir J. SPEAR
I base my Amendment on the wording of this Clause, which says that a child under the age of twelve cannot be employed. I want to make it clear that a child can be employed in these little domestic offices. Even in the case of a small holder, during the holidays, a child would be delighted to help a little in making the hay and in fetching the cows. If the right hon. Gentleman assures me that this Clause does not prevent a child from being so employed I shall be satisfied.
I am very glad to be able to assure the hon. Gentleman that employment under this Clause means employment for profit, and that the domestic tasks to which he alludes will still be open to boys and girls under twelve.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
Would helping to make hay during the holidays, but not for wages, be allowable under this Clause?
§ Sir J. SPEAR
Not for wages. If there is any doubt, I must press my Amendment, because what I want is that a child of that age may be able to perform those little offices, may be able to take the cows into the field on its way to school, may be able to take a can of milk to a neighbour on its way to school, by the performances of which little offices it would not be injured one iota. The child of a small holder ought to be allowed to help. When that small holder is struggling to get his 2113 position, he ought to be able to have the help of his wife and children in doing light things. I want that child to be able during the holidays to help its father in making the hay; it would be much happier in doing that than in loafing about the lanes. Unless the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to say that under this Clause these little light things can be done by a child at the request of its parents, without remuneration, I must press the Amendment. Some parents may be unreasonable, though I am bound to say that my experience, and it is a long one, shows that the average parent is more solicitous for his child than are Members of Parliament. The cases in which a child would be ill-used by having to work would be very few and far between, but I have safeguarded against that by providing that the work shall be sanctioned by the local education authority. Coming from the rural districts, I know that this Education Bill is most unpopular, and it will be made more unpopular and difficult to work if tyrannical Clauses like this interfere with the simple performances of these offices, which in a family contribute to the goodwill of the family and its prosperity. I worked on a farm long before I was twelve years of age, and was all the better for it. I tilled my father's garden for many years before I was fourteen, and I was at home working regularly on the farm at fourteen and a half. Of course, things have altered since then, but do not let education interfere more than is necessary with the liberty of the subject and the liberty of the parent. If this Bill disregards the feelings of the parent to the extent that this Clause provides there will be much opposition to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of it as an Educational Bill only, but you cannot educate people except somewhat on lines that the people think are reasonable and just, and unless this Clause is so amended I am sure it will be regarded as inflicting education by a Prussianised system. Take the case of a woman with five or six children. Is she not to be allowed to have her girl, who is eleven and three-quarters years of age, to be able to help her to lay the table or to wash out the kitchen? In the interests of education and in the interests of getting a great deal out of the Bill, I hope that it will be made quite clear that boys and girls will not be prohibited from helping their parents in the little domestic offices that devolve upon them.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I think this is a matter of some consequence, and that there are three distinct points raised by it. There is the point of the little details of domestic life in the case of a child leaving something at a house on the way to school, which is strictly incidental on the child carrying out its educational duty of going to school. There is quite a different case as to what a child under twelve should or should not be allowed to do even on a holiday. You have to be very careful on the one hand that you are not using a child of tender age to do certain things during the holidays when it ought to be resting and reinvigorating itself; but on the other hand it is perfectly obvious that a child between the ages of twelve and fourteen can do things in the holidays which it would be very absurd to try to do when children are giving their strength at school. There is a third point as to what is meant by employment for profit or other gain. I think my right hon. Friend, if he looks at the definition Clause, will possibly agree that that Clause will want some modification. It is rather difficult to define employment in such a way as to admit occupation incidental to domestic life and yet carefully to exclude temptation to employ a child for gain when his attention and strength ought to be given to education and health. Therefore I would ask my right hon. Friend if he would be prepared to consider the redrafting of a definition Clause, and, whether in connection with such possible redrafting, this matter does not arise more appropriately than it does at this point of the Bill? I quite agree that we have here a golden opportunity of protecting children from overwork and unsuitable work and of getting their faculties clear and fresh for the great duty of education. On the other hand, we are discussing this great Bill in the middle of a great war at a time when we have to proceed by the method of the greatest common measure of consent rather than by the method of carrying out ideals and principles which are matters rightly or wrongly of controversy. Therefore I am extremely anxious that this Bill should be carried in the very best form consistent with having behind it a majority of the country and the consent of all classes of the community. I would therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman whether these matters could not be more appropriately discussed in connection with the definition Clause and whether he would, in some 2115 form and in some part of the Bill, consider a definition which would deal with the three cases—the incidental use of the child on his way to school, the use of the child on holidays, and the definition of what is employment for profit?
§ Sir F. FLANNERY
I hope that my right hon. Friend will make the position much more clear than he made it a few moments ago, or that, in the alternative, he will accept this Amendment. In reference to what the right hon. Gentleman has stated, may I point out that the construction of the words in a Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament is not necessarily in conformity with the statements made by the Minister in charge of the Bill in the course of the Debate, unless those words have actually the meaning which the Minister believes that they have? I suggest that the words in the Bill have not a meaning which would enable a child to be used for the purpose of assisting in making hay or in driving in the cows, because those clearly would be employment for profit. Therefore, as far as I can understand the words, these would be excluded, although my right hon. Friend did suggest that they would be included in the possibilities of the child's occupation before and after school. If I am in right in that view, and the Bill be passed with the words as they stand, so that the children would be excluded from these occupations in country districts, then I venture very humbly and earnestly to suggest to my hon. Friend that he ought to reconsider his position. I assure him that, with the shortage of labour, and the difficulties of farming at the present time, it would be monstrous, cruel, and against the best public policy, if children who were approaching the age of twelve years should be excluded from performing such simple tasks as have been suggested simply on the ground that the hay or the milk would ultimately be sold for profit. The Amendment is a moderate Amendment. I can see no evil in it, and no abuse that could arise from it, and I hope that my right hon. Friend, if he does not accept it, will himself move some Amendment to meet the difficulty which would arise in the agricultural districts.
I quite appreciate the fact that it would be a great anomaly if little children were not allowed to help their parents in the hayfield on their holidays, and I believe that technically such help would be regarded as employ- 2116 ment for profit, and consequently that my hon. Friend is right in suggesting that if boys and girls under twelve were so helping their parents in these simple tasks an offence might be committed under the Clause as it stands. That, I think, would be unfortunate. Probably the simplest way of meeting my hon. Friend's difficulty is to devise a definition of employment, and if my hon. Friend will agree to this course I will turn that over in my mind and bring up a definition on the Report stage.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I point out that there may be some difficulty? Clause 13 says, "That the Employment of Children Act, 1903, so far as it relates to England and Wales, shall be amended as follows." Then the Definition Clause begins, "In the Education Acts the expression 'employment' means" so-and-so. It may land us in difficulty if we amend the Employment of Children Act, and then in Clause 42 put in a definition which is confined to the Education Acts. The point is one which, I think, deserves consideration.
Mr. H. SAMUEL
On this question of definition it is only necessary to amend the definition of children in the Employment of Children Act of 1903, which is in terms identical with the definition in the Bill. But we should be careful how far we go in this direction. It is all very well to have in mind the child who, while on holidays, is employed on the parent's farm for the parent's profit doing haymaking and such work, but the alteration may be so wide as to take in children employed at home in the sweated industries making match-boxes or doing other work equally for the profit of the parent, but under conditions not nearly so agreeable and far more detrimental to the child's health and prospects.
The right hon. Gentleman in referring to the Amendment of my hon. Friend says that it is proposed to reconsider the definition with a view to getting over the difficulties of the odd jobs done by children on their holidays. But that is not the case which my hon. Friend put, and it would not meet those difficulties if the President confined his attention to the point of the holidays. I do not think that he intended that, and I only wish to make clear that he did use that phrase.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reflect on one class 2117 of case which comes in between the haymaking illustration and the sweated industry illustration. Take the case of a child whose mother is a widow with a little shop, and who would be able to give the mother some relief occasionally by serving in the shop. That is a matter which might be taken into consideration. The weak point of this Bill is that whereas you are providing everything for education you are providing nothing for the supervision of the children out of school, and inasmuch as they are only about five hours in school, excluding playtime, it is far better that they should be employed in some occupation which does not injure them, or prevent them learning their lessons properly, than that they should be thrown into the streets to loaf about.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I do not think that Section 13 has been considered by the Committee. The reading of this Section has come rather as a surprise to them. I do not think the Committee know how far they agree with the Amendment of my hon. Friend or not. I have always thought this particular Clause a blot on the Bill. Children under twelve you cannot employ at all. They cannot go out to make hay. They cannot go out ferreting with the keeper. Over twelve they can do nothing on the days on which they go to school. That is the effect. How far is that meant? What does the President mean to do with those who are under twelve? Does he mean to allow them to do the haymaking of which my hon. Friend spoke? He says—yes; he will allow the parents. I suppose that will include relations with whom the boy may be living. Does he mean that the boy shall be allowed to do whatever the parent or the relation is doing? If he is living with a blacksmith, will he be allowed to help in the forge? Is he to learn his father's trade? I should have thought it reasonable that he should. As regards other matters in towns, is he to be allowed to help in the shop or relieve the father and mother, the uncle or guardian with whom he lives? As the Bill stands, the boy under twelve is to do nothing in the shop or on the farm, and over twelve he is to do nothing except during the specified time. If his father is a carrier, is he to be allowed to go into his father's cart, to hold the horse, which I know is a subject of frequent complaint? It seems to me that that is dealt with here, and I do not see how you are going to 2118 deal with it by a mere alteration of definition. Directly we know from the President what he means, then there will be no difficulty in incorporating it by way of Amendment, but I cannot imagine any definition of the word "employment" which includes the things that he wants to include and excludes the things that he wants to exclude. When we come up against a Clause of this kind we do not realise that the country will feel it when they understand it. I think that the House of Commons very often, when it gives its assent to a Bill, does not think about a difficulty like this. This is a genuine difficulty, and will certainly be felt in the country, if it is not felt in this House, and we cannot get out of it by altering the Definition Clause at the end of the Bill.
Mr. H. SAMUEL
I understand the President is in a position to say how far he proposes to go with the Bill to-night, the Eleven o'Clock Rule having been suspended? It would no doubt be for the convenience of the Committee to be informed on this point.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir N. HELME
I think for the reasons which have been so ably stated it would be wise to press upon the Government to keep an open mind on this Amendment. This is a very carefully drawn up provision against misemployment and that provision is to be secured by having the written sanction of the local authority for the employment Rather than risk the uncertainty of a new definition in regard to education, I think the President would be well advised to accept this Amendment, and if he cannot accept it at the moment perhaps he will allow it to be clearly understood that the hon. Member for Devonshire (Sir J. Spear) will be able to bring it up again for consideration later on.
I shall be very glad to consider this matter later on, if the hon. Member will bring it up again.
§ Major HILLS
The speech of the hon. Member for Cambridge has shown the real danger of this Amendment. It is quite clear it cannot be accepted as it stands, because it would mean that a child under twelve could be employed to a greater extent than a child over twelve. A child under twelve could be employed 2119 before the hour of six in the morning, and after the hour of eight at night, because the protection which is inserted in the interests of the child over twelve is not applied to the child of more tender years in this Amendment. I venture to suggest that the Amendment is based upon a false principle. It will enable a child to be employed where the child does not work for personal profit. I do not think that that is the true educational distinction. The distinction should be as to how far the work that the child does disqualifies it from receiving education. It is, therefore, not at all safe, as pointed out by the right hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Samuel), to say that all work which is not to personal profit is permissible. I do not believe it is possible to find a form of words that will admit of the employment of children for the profit of their parents or guardians without at the same time creating a very great evil. I, therefore, hope that the President of the Board will think very carefully before he accepts an Amendment which, although defended on perfectly reasonable grounds, must have a much wider bearing in practice.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I think hon. Members should bear in mind that idleness is a vice and a disgrace. It is quite important, if children are to be useful and industrious, they should be taught these qualities in their early days. In the discussion which we have had hon. Members appear to have ignored the fact that the salvation of this country has been in the action of parents in insisting on their children being useful. The sooner a boy or girl is taught to be useful, the better. Children should be taught that it is their duty to help older people, to be kind to them, and to minister to a certain extent to the wants of the family. Unless they get that idea into their heads, and unless it is instilled into them fairly early in life, no amount of teaching in mathematics will compensate for the losses of it. I am sure I am not putting forward the views of the minority of the population. I am quite confident that this Committee does not represent the feeling of outside people. We are, as has been suggested, "busying ourselves with education," and this is simply an invitation to laziness. When laziness gets into the bones of young people, it is a very hard disease to eradicate. I have heard it said in the North that you can convert a man from drunkenness and wife-beating, but not from laziness. Once a child learns 2120 to lead an idle life, no amount of book-learning will atone for the loss to the community. Surely one thing we must teach our girls to do is to help their mothers. No mother wants her children to grow up sluts, but there is a danger here of opening the door to that misfortune. While we are anxious to ensure that the child gets a good education, we ought not to prohibit it from doing anything but twiddling its thumbs, or going to picture palaces, or spending money, or becoming a disgrace at home. There is nothing more deplorable than to see an anxious mother trying to keep her house clean, and for it to be suggested that in teaching her children how to do that she is doing something which is antagonistic to education. This Section, unless it is amended, will simply result in a waste of time, and it will tend to the training of boys and girls to become members of the idle community.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
The hon. Member for Durham (Major Hills) surely need not feel the anxiety he has expressed that parents will prove so neglectful of the interests of their children as to overwork them. May I call his attention to the fact that my Amendment provides that any work done by the children shall be with the sanction of the local education authority. That body has its doctor, who will see that the children are not injured by the work they are doing. There is, therefore, no ground for the apprehension expressed by the hon. and gallant Member. I will again make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President to be a little more definite as to what will be his attitude on this question. I am very loth to divide the Committee on it, but I feel it to be a matter of supreme importance to nine families out of every ten in the country. If the Government hold that any child under twelve, by doing little light duties, will commit a breach of the law, and that the parents will become liable to a fine, then there will be such an outcry as will make it extremely difficult for this Bill to be worked at all Therefore, I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us some definite promise that if he cannot accept my Amendment, safeguarded as it is and moderate as it is in its terms, he will, at any rate, give a plain undertaking that the effect of it will be incorporated in the Bill.
§ Mr. PETO
I should like to give the Committee the view of one local education authority—that of the County of Huntingdon—in regard to this particular 2121 Clause. In the petition which that authority has submitted to the right hon. Gentleman I find these words:Your petitioners respectfully submit that it is not expedient in this sparsely populated rural district to absolutely prohibit any child being employed either before 6 or after 8 o'clock in the evening, but that such employment should be permitted by the local education authority in accordance with by-laws approved by them.That is the view of the local education authority, and it is embodied in the Amendment before the Committee. As a solution of this rather serious difficulty, may I call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to an Amendment which I have later on to this Clause, which embodies precisely what the local education authority for the county of Huntingdon proposes. I propose to invite the Committee to insert the words "except with the consent of the local education authority in accordance with by-laws approved by them." I quite agree with the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge that it is almost a hopeless task to attempt to define what employment is covered, or is intended to be covered in the definition Clause, and if the words I have suggested are put in, based as they are on the views of a local education authority for a rural district, I think they will provide a solution of the difficulty.
§ Sir W. CHEYNE
I have a great deal of sympathy with what was said by the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) about the risk of leaving a child idle. The whole question is a very difficult one, and this is a point which much be kept in mind. If a child out of school is not to be allowed to do anything on a Saturday or a Sunday or on any other day—
§ Sir W. CHEYNE
I was coming to that. I do not think the giving of a 6d. for doing a job has anything to do with the matter, but I do hold it is desirable to bear in mind that a child should be allowed to do something, while taking care, of course, that it does not interfere with the hours devoted to education. We have to consider this point from two aspects, the aspect of the child in the town and that of the child in the country. The child in the town, when out of school, will be running about the slums, acquiring bad habits of idleness. Something must be done for these children, and if you are not going to employ them you must provide games for them, make them Boy Scouts, 2122 or do something of that kind. You must not leave them to run about the slums. In the country, of course, it is quite different. A boy enjoys running about, and will willingly do anything to help. He only finds pleasure in so doing. I am thinking really of when I go for my own holiday. It is in Scotland, and I go to an island where the post-office is a mile and a-half away from my house. There are very few adults in the island. The inhabitants are mostly children, and if I want a message taken I cannot get a man. These children are playing about on the beach, and I call to one of them and ask them if they will run with this telegram to the post-office. I give them sixpence. Why should they not do that? It would not hurt them in any way; indeed, it is good for them. At the same time I am thinking more of another point. Up there the peats have to be carried down from the hill, and it is the little boys and girls who bring them home.
§ Sir W. CHEYNE
It would be very wrong. School holidays are so arranged that they will fall in the peat season, so that the children can be employed in bringing the peats home. There is nothing they enjoy so much, and I do not see how you could get the peats home without them. The only people I can get to bring them home are the children, and am not going to ask them to do it for nothing. I can get round it by asking the parent to get the peats home, and he will get his boys to do it. It does them no harm; it is a splendid holiday. When I was a boy I was delighted if I could only get permission to go to the hill and bring the peats home. I was not allowed to do it, but I liked it. You are going to stop that. I think the whole thing wants thinking over, and that these matters must be taken into consideration.
§ Major Earl WINTERTON
I should like to ask a question which has hitherto escaped the notice of the Committee in this Debate, and that is as to the position in the hop-picking season of children under twelve years of age whom, under the law as it stands at present, it is customary to employ to pick hops in school holidays. I do not think it is contemplated, if this Clause is passed as it stands, that children should not be 2123 allowed to pick hops, and I do venture to say that the right hon. Gentleman might make a concession on this point, "as it really is a very important matter in the country districts in which hops are grown that all available labour should be used for the purpose. I do not think it could be suggested by anybody that the week or ten days in which the hop picking takes place in most country districts could possibly do any harm to the children or their educational future. I must, as a member of an agricultural constituency, protest most strongly against the statement that has been made by the hon. and gallant Member for Durham (Major Hills), when he said, in the course of his remarks, that one wished to avoid doing anything which could injure the education of the child. May I point out to my hon. and gallant Friend that in the whole of this country there is no education more technical than that which teaches the child how to learn about agriculture. My hon. and gallant Friend may shake his head. It is the fact that there is no education more technical, and although I should be travelling outside the scope of this Amendment if I referred to it at any length, if we take the agricultural countries and that of our Ally France we shall find that children begin their lessons in agriculture not at twelve or fourteen, but at five and six. I can tell my hon. and gallant Friend, having just come through France, that I have seen children of five and six working in the field and helping to save the crops. This is not merely in war time, but at all times.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I do not say whether I approve or disapprove of it, but I do say that after this War, unless you are going to have such a tariff wall round this country as the. greatest protectionist has never contemplated, the smallholder in this country will be competing with the smallholder in France, who has always had, used, and will always use, child labour, and has no intention of altering that because of legislation in this country. The same applies to Belgium and to every other European country. You have to bear that in mind when my hon. and gallant Friend talks of affecting their educational facilities. I only want to ask what steps can be taken to deal with this question of the hop fields, which 2124 is very important and affects vitally the South-Eastern counties, and Kent and Sussex in particular.
§ Captain Viscount WOLMER
I should like to enforce what my hon. and gallant Friend (Earl Winterton) has said. It is not merely the necessity of getting in the hop harvest, but this particular thing is of vital importance to the Southern Counties and to a large population in London. Hop-picking is one of the most healthy things children can do. If you go in September into Hampshire or Kent you will find every house in every village shut up. The father and mother go out all day into the hop gardens and take their children, from one year upwards, with them. They spend a week or ten days in the hop gardens, and if we do anything to make that illegal we shall be creating a situation in these counties which I am sure the Government do not want to create at all.
We have listened to a very interesting Debate on this subject of the employment of children under the age of twelve. It is clearly, I think, generally desirable that such employment for profit, if permitted, should be permitted only within very narrow limits, and I am prepared to consider between now and Report whether I can, without prejudicing the general principles on which the Clause is based, offer some solution which may be acceptable to the hon. Members who have urged some concession upon this point it is possible that I may be able to meet them by some alteration of the definition of employment in the Definition Clause, although, as my right hon. Friend the Member for the Cleveland Division (Mr. H. Samuel) has reminded us, that may be a very difficult task. If I fail to find a definition which will cover the legitimate exceptions and will not carry us too far, then I will consider in what other way I may best meet the desire which has been expressed from the benches opposite.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
After the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1, i), to leave out the words "and a child of the age of twelve or upwards shall not be employed."
2125 The effect of this Amendment would be to leave the law as it stands; I am not quite sure, but I think that is so. The Amendment deals with children over twelve years of age, and the Amendment which we have just discussed dealt with children under twelve years of age. The paragraph (i) of Sub-section (1) refers first to children over twelve, and provides that they shall never be employed on any day on which they are required to attend school, nor any day before six in the morning or after eight o'clock in the evening. By omitting the words which I propose to leave out a child may be employed before the close of the school hours on any day on which there is no school, but not before six in the morning or after eight in the evening. The Amendment, therefore, leaves the law as it stands at the present time. This Clause goes a very long way, and it says that no child on any ordinary day, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday of the week, shall be employed before four o'clock in the afternoon. That is a. very long step in advance, especially when you remember how wide is the employment of children at the present time. We know that a very large number of boys before the school hour in the morning deliver newspapers or assist in the delivery of milk, going round with the milk cart. A boy may assist his father, who is a milkman, and the effect of my Amendment would be to allow that state of affairs to continue.
This Sub-section not only applies to children in the general sense of the word, but it gives an entirely new definition of the word "children," and this provision might extend to a boy of fifteen years of age. A strong boy of fourteen years of ago can take the newspapers round in the morning, or, as I have said, assist in the, milk round at any time before the school hour, or before four o'clock in the afternoon. This Sub-section seems to me an unnecessary interference with the labour of that class of children. A child that comes out of school in the afternoon cannot be employed after eight o'clock in the evening in any case, according to this Sub-section, so that in haymaking or in harvest time a boy of fourteen would not be allowed to harvest after eight o'clock in the evening or before six o'clock in the morning. In holiday times the boy of fourteen could not be in the harvest field after eight in the evening, though his parents and relatives are all employed 2126 there, nor could he do that work before six o'clock in the morning. I repeat that this is going a very long way, and my only fear is that the House does not quite appreciate it. There happens to be a war going on at the present time, and people outside the House do not know what we are doing. The Eleven o'Clock Rule is suspended, and it cannot be said that there is a very large number of Members present to deal with this question. The country is said to want the Bill, and the House of Commons wants it, but I think that the Committee should consider this Clause very much more closely before they finally deal with it. Hon. Members, before they pass the Clause in is entirety, should give it very careful consideration, and, if necessary, should allow something to be struck out, and the matter dealt with on the Report stage in a manner better calculated to meet the difficulties of the case.
§ Major HILLS
The hon. and learned Gentleman by this Amendment in effect asks the Committee to allow the law as it stands to apply to children of twelve years and over. He asks that children should be employed as they are at present The existing law, as I understand it, is that a child shall not be employed between the hours of nine in the evening and six in the morning, provided that the local authority may, by by-law, vary this pro vision. The general law is that the child shall not be employed between nine and six, and the local authority has power to change these hours in any direction. Therefore, if you strike out the words as proposed by the Amendment, the only difference that you make is that the child could not be employed for one hour in the day between the hours of eight and nine—
§ Mr. DENMAN
The hon. Gentleman has not correctly interpreted the effect of the Amendment. Its effect, so far from leaving the law as it is now, is to entirely remove the present limit on the hours of children between twelve and fourteen. At the present time they may not work between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., and the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman removes that limitation, and allows them to work all night.
§ Major HILLS
I think that is the effect of the Amendment, although I am quite 2127 sure it was not the intention of my hon. and learned Friend. But even on the narrower ground on which he moved the Amendment I hope the Committee will reject it. The great evil of the present law has been that certain local authorities have varied the hours within which it is legal to employ children, and the scale of the Bill really represents the minimum amount of freedom from employment that a child ought to have. It is impossible to think you can spend money usefully on educating a child who is employed between the hours of nine at night and six in the morning. The only effect of relaxing those hours is that a child is sent out at three or Four in the morning to sell newspapers, with the result that he goes to school too tired to do any work.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
As the Bill stands now a boy of fourteen cannot be employed between six and nine in the morning, and that takes in the case of the boy who goes round with newspapers at about eight in the morning. To prevent that is the principal effect of my Amendment.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
That is the effect of the Amendment, subject, of course, to proper safeguard, and secondly there is the definition of employment, which I think the hon. Member will find is slightly different in the old Acts from what it is in the present Bill.
§ Major HILLS
My hon. and learned Friend is rarely wrong in the form in which he moves an Amendment, but I think he would be the first to admit that the effect of his Amendment is very different from what the intention is
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
If the effect of the Amendment is what the hon. and learned Member does not intend, are we not rather wasting time in discussing it?
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
If you think that is so, Sir, and that it would be fairer to discuss the point on the Question "That the Clause stand part," I will ask leave to withdraw it, because, technically, I quite agree that the Amendment does not literally carry out what is intended.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I cannot agree to the withdrawal of the Amendment, because I 2128 wanted an opportunity to say that if any alterations are made I would rather the words were strengthened. I was hoping that something would come out of this Debate more than the withdrawal of the Amendment which would meet a growing evil. It is quite illegal for anyone to send a child to get food from the London restaurants early in the morning if the child is paid to go, but several times on leaving the House very late I have seen dozens of little mites at three, four, and five in the morning walking over Lambeth Bridge and going to the restaurants near Victoria Station with little bags, intending to get some food given them. It seems that the present law at any rate has a gap in it and that nobody can do anything under those circumstances, but if a neighbour sends a child and gives it a, copper to go and fetch food in this way, it cannot be done according to these words. If the Government are considering this, I think they should do something to prevent little children being turned out at three in the morning on a long tramp in order to get crusts at a restaurant, and if some hon. Members, instead of theorising, would take the trouble to realise what actually occurs I would give them a little more support.
§ Amendment negatived.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1, i), after the word "employed" ["shall not be employed on any day"], to insert the words "on Sunday or."
I want to raise the whole question of the employment of children on Sunday in connection with this Bill. I think the tendency of the Bill by preventing the employment of children during school hours in the week will be to concentrate a good deal of extra work on them on Saturday and Sunday. It is highly probable that, being unable to get wages from their work during the week, many parents will make up as far as they can for lost time during the week-end, and the result of that will be probably a considerable increase in the employment of children on Sundays. They can under the Bill be employed from six in the morning till eight at night. Fourteen hours' labour is now given by the boys in the streets of London in various ways, and it is quite impossible that after a long day's work boys can be fit on the Monday morning to receive the education for which we are 2129 going to pay so much. On educational grounds, therefore, solely and exclusively, I hope that some protection will be given to these boys so that they shall not be worked on Sunday and unfitted for the education of the week.
That is not the only thing. Sunday ought to be a very important element in the educational life of the child. Undoubtedly the. Sunday schools in the country are not so crowded as they ought to be, and that is especially true of London. In the North of England, I believe, they are very largely filled, and I have visited many Sunday schools there and found that nearly all the children seemed to go to them. But I am afraid the tendency of this Bill will be to keep them away from the Sunday school, and I think everything should be done to encourage them on that day to get religious instruction. Some of us do strongly object to sectarian teaching in the day schools, but none can object to the religious instruction which the children would get in the Sunday schools. If something is not put in the Bill to protect children against the liability to work long hours on Sunday, I am afraid the educational benefits they will get out of the Sunday will be greatly limited. I am not entirely alone in that opinion. I have a quotation from the "Times" educational supplement of some time ago, in which they say that the Birmingham Education Committee suggested a month ago that the law should be altered so as to provide that employment on Sundays of children under fourteen years of age be totally prohibited, that on Saturday and school holidays the employment of any child liable to attend school should not exceed five hours, and that the regulations should apply also to children doing industrial work. The Birmingham Education Committee, of course, is a very large and important education authority, and has been a pioneer in educational reform for many years past, and I do not think they would have come to a conclusion of that kind if not based on wide and long experience, and if they had not seen the great value of prohibiting industrial work for pay on Sunday, and ensuring to the children, so far as possible, Sunday as a day of rest and recuperation, with the opportunities 2130 it affords of religious instruction, which attendance at Sunday school makes possible.
§ Mr. LEWIS
I have listened with great sympathy to many of the views of my hon. Friend in support of this Amendment. I hardly think there is a Member of the House who would not be glad if Sunday labour were reduced. But my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education has stated very clearly in the House what are the special objects and what is the general purpose of the Clause under discussion. There is a great deal to be said on general social grounds for regulating employment on a Sunday. But the whole policy is to confine this Clause rigidly to employment which has a detrimental effect on education. My hon. Friend argues that in some respects Sunday labour has a detrimental effect on education, but I venture to say the question is far too large a one to enter upon in the course of an Education Bill, even though in some respects education may be affected. Sunday employment can be, and is at the present time, regulated by by-laws under the Employment of Children Act, 1903, and if any particular forms of Sunday employment are regarded as having an injurious effect on education, it is far more likely in the future that by-laws will be passed respecting them, because my hon. Friend will probably have observed that we propose in this Bill to transfer the power of making by-laws from the existing authority to the local education authority. My hon. Friend alluded to a resolution from the Birmingham Local Education Authority. If this Bill is passed in its present form the Birmingham Local Education Authority will in future have it in its own power to make by-laws dealing with Sunday labour.
Is that under the Employment of Children Act?
§ Mr. LEWIS
Yes; but as I have pointed out, the power to make by-laws will in future be exercised by the local education authority. It is likely, therefore, that far more authorities will make bylaws than is at present the case, and those by-laws will be in the interests of education. Incidentally, I think I ought 2131 to point out that it will not be possible to prohibit Sunday employment without giving consideration to the special case of Jews and to the Factories and Workshops Act. Later on an Amendment by an hon. Member proposes to exempt choir boys. His proposal shows what might happen if too great restriction were adopted in this respect. The by-laws, I am given to understand, have already been made in a very large number of instances, and Sunday employment has been restricted very largely. It is, as I pointed out, within the power of local education authorities in future in the interests of education to restrict it still further.
§ Mr. T. DAVIES
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend for his sympathy, and I should have liked him to have gone a little bit further and brought the Bill more into line with what my hon. Friend has proposed. There is, I think, as my hon. Friend has said, a real danger with regard to Sunday labour, especially in regard to children and young people. We have seen the injurious effects resulting from the employment of young people seven days a week during the last two years, and I hope my right hon. Friend may be able to see his way to strengthen the law so as to avoid as much as possible the employment, except where absolutely necessary, of children on Sunday. The employment of choir boys may be technically an employment, but it is different from selling newspapers in the street, or something of that kind. I hope that local education authorities will have the power to restrict or even prohibit Sunday labour by children up to the age of fourteen. If there is any chance of that coming about, it may gradually affect the matter, and so bring the proposed law, by regulation, to what we wish it to be to-day. I suppose there is not much use in pressing the matter. The Board of Education will give nothing but sympathy. Possibly after the Act has passed they may do something else. I am quite sure that if my right hon. Friend is in office he will, at any rate, do his best to call the attention of the education authorities to it, and press them to improve conditions so that we may have the least possible labour on Sunday.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I share the regret which has been expressed by the last speaker that the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary is not able to 2132 accept this Amendment. I acknowledge the sympathy in his speech for the object of this Amendment. I am only sorry he did not carry his sympathy further and give it practical expression. It is very desirable that the references which the right hon. Gentleman made to the Employment of Children Act, 1903, should receive some consideration, because, I am sorry to say, the right hon. Gentleman quite unintentionally, but wholly because of his very optimistic temperament, took a higher view of the possibilities of that Act than experience has shown to be warranted. Although it has been in operation fifteen years, no local authority has made any by-laws under that Act prohibiting the Sunday employment of children.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I do not think there is any difference between us as to the matter of restricting it, but the right hon. Gentleman has only to turn to the Act of 1903 itself to find that the local authorities may make by-laws restricting Sunday labour—that is to say, prescribing the hours between which it may be carried on, limiting the number of hours, and, I think, putting in certain age limits. But you will find no power in the Act enabling a local authority arbitrarily to decide that there shall be no employment of children on Sunday.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The right hon. Gentleman well knows that if one, two, or, at the maximum, three authorities have done what he says, over the greater part of the country there has been no substantial interference with the Sunday employment of children as a principle.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I am endeavouring to show the reason why there should be, and if the hon. Member for Pontefract will be so good as to listen to my arguments, I am quite sure that at the end he will be entirely satisfied, and will support the Amendment, as I am doing. The right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary 2133 Secretary must further remember in this connection that a Departmental Committee recently sat to consider the way in which the Employment of Children Act, 1903, had worked. The right hon. Gentleman has only to refer to the Report of that Committee, set up by the Home Office, to find out how wholly inadequate are the powers of that Act to control this general question of the employment of children. As I listened to those who spoke in opposition to this Amendment, I wondered whether the Committee realise what the Amendment proposes! It simply proposes that children below the age of fourteen shall not be employed in industry on Sundays after spending the week at work.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
That covers it all. I will deal with the question of church choirs in a little while, for it seems to exercise considerably my hon. Friend opposite from Wales (Mr. T. Davies). I say this Amendment is designed to prevent these young children below the age of fourteen, after having been in full-time attendance during the week, after having possibly worked during the evenings of each day, and on Saturday, on being again employed on Sunday. I sometimes think, therefore, that the very object and meaning of the Amendment is overlooked, because it is an Amendment designed to give protection to the children who are most urgently in need of it. After all, how are these children employed? Why, at this very moment, until this Bill becomes law, in these days, and before the War, school-children below the age of fourteen are employed helping shopkeepers in the morning before breakfast. [An HON. MEMBER: "Sundays!"] In the evenings of school days they are employed, and on Saturdays for a long day's work, and then again on Sundays. The Bill as it is drawn leaves it a possibility, and it will be the practice, for these school children to be employed every evening, and on Saturday, and again on Sunday. We are simply asking that, at least, after working these children on the evenings of each day, possibly on the whole of Saturday between the hours of six and eight, that they shall have holiday on Sunday. I think this is a very moderate Amendment
I want to remind the Committee how great has been the extension of the 2134 labour of these school children on Sundays. Notwithstanding the Employment of Children Act, they are increasingly used in the distribution trades on Sunday, in the Sunday newspaper trade, in the delivery of trades people's goods from door to door, in the milk trade, and so forth. Also with giving help in the transport services and in connection with certain places of amusement. There have been a steadily growing encroachment on the hours of these young children during recent years. We say that this labour should be done, at least, not by children under the age of fourteen. There is not a single member of this Committee listening to me who would tolerate the idea that his own child between the age of twelve and fourteen should be sent out to work on Sunday after having worked every evening of the week and all day on Saturday. The protection that we secure for our own children we ought to be proud to secure for the children of the poor. The hon. Member (Mr. T. Davies) said something about church choirs. Really, it is somewhat distressing to find how we stand in considering an Amendment of this far-reaching importance and urgency, with which every educationist agrees—or, to meet my hon. Friend opposite (Sir E. Jones), let me say the great majority of educationists—though I am afraid that will make little difference in the result here. I say without fear of contradiction that the great preponderance of opinion in the educational world, and amongst all social reformers who have practical knowledge of the problem and of the conditions of life amongst the poor is in favour of this, for they know that this reform is urgently necessary. My hon. Friend had a word about the boys who sing in church choirs. Surely if the Committee agrees to the Amendment to a law like this it will be a perfectly easy matter subsequently to safeguard the boys who sing in church choirs. A point like that is not really, if I may say so, relevant to the argument. That is my point—that this Amendment, if carried, will not prevent the Committee giving protection to the boys who sing in church choirs. There will be no reason, if the Amendment is accepted, why provision should not be made so that the work of church choirs should continue to be carried on. I attach great importance to this Amendment. Those with whom I have 2135 the privilege to act attach great importance to it also. For this reason, if need be, we shall divide the Committee.
§ Captain Sir C. BATHURST
I felt some little sympathy with this Amendment until I heard the speech of the hon. Member who has just addressed the House. Considering the view taken by the Mover of this Amendment, I doubt whether it is to the educational advantage of a child to disallow certain Sunday employment. I have no doubt that it is to the spiritual advantage of the child, which is quite a different matter. This is an Education Bill, and it is only from that point of view that we are entitled to insist upon the discontinuance of child labour, even on a Sunday.
Does the hon. and gallant Member think that the spiritual development of the child has nothing to do with his education?
§ Sir C. BATHURST
I never said so, and that is an entirely different subject of controversy, about which I am prepared to enter into discussion with the hon. Member. It is not necessarily for the educational advantage of a child who during weekdays will be in school that he should be deprived of such employment as he may still be able to undertake on a Sunday. For my part I deprecate the employment of children on Sunday, but I do not for the life of me see how this proposal can properly come within the scope of the Bill. Why I object in to to the attitude of the hon. Member who has just addressed us, is because he nearly always asks this House to force upon localities and local authorities powers which they can adopt if they like under existing Acts, and they are not prepared to take that course. I strongly object to these attempts to tyrannise self-governing localities. It is a fact that this Act which it is sought to extend by this Section under the employment of Children Act is already put into operation by three different localities at the present time, namely, Oldham, Chester, and Chesterfield, where they prohibit the employment on Sunday of children of school age. Surely if this can be done by those authorities it is open to other education authorities interested in the educational progress and welfare of the children to follow that example and decree that children shall not be employed at all on Sunday! Surely that is 2136 quite sufficient for this purpose, without pressing this House to adopt a course entirely contrary to the views of local self-government.
§ Sir N. HELME
Seeing that I have an Amendment on the Paper in respect of Sunday labour, I think it would be an advantage at this stage if I were permitted to refer to it. In regard to the question of Sunday labour, it is recognised that there is without a doubt a tendency throughout the country to increase the amount of the occupations in which children are from time to time employed, and it is in order to prevent that that the Amendment now before us is being pressed upon the consideration of the Committee. If, however, it is clearly understood, as the Parliamentary Secretary has informed us, that under the Employment of Children Act, 1903, certain Clauses still stand and are really governing Clauses, and, in addition to that, the education authorities will have the power to pass by-laws, there will, of course, be less reason for us to press the Amendment now before the House against the desire of the Government.
But there is a further reason. The Sunday school interests throughout the country are worthy of the greatest possible support of this House. Hundreds of thousands of children—I believe the number runs into millions—have been accustomed to attend the Sunday schools of the country, and it certainly will not be disputed that education in Biblical truth is not inimical to the general development of the mental faculties of the child, to say nothing of the moral and higher interests of life. Therefore, on the ground of these higher considerations, I think the Government would have been well advised to have adopted the Amendment before the House. However, if the Government decline to do that, we certainly cannot hope to carry our point, and we must fall back on the declaration that has been so clearly put that the local authorities, and in future the education authorities, will have greater opportunities, and there will be a stronger force of public opinion in order to suggest that course to the authorities than hitherto. In the hope that this may be the case, while supporting the Amendment very strongly, at the same time I do not look without hope to the future for support of the cause that we have at heart.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I feel that there would be a tendency in some parts of the country, 2137 if proper restrictions are not placed upon child labour, to try and extend the labour for children on Sunday. I would have been glad to have some provision in this Bill to check that tendency. If it be the case that the intention is not only to prolong education from twelve to fourteen, but to increase the quality of education, it becomes more than ever desirable that the children at school all the week should have as much rest as possible on Sunday. That does not in the least include those engaged in choir practice or things of that kind, but it is a reason for urging upon the Government to strengthen the law so that these risks may be avoided. An Amendment of this very comprehensive and universal character, without some qualification or modification, is not an Amendment that 1, for one, can support. One thoroughly appreciates the inexpensive glory which is sought by hon. Members who are in the habit of moving Amendments of the widest possible scope in the most indiscriminate manner and then accusing those who refuse to support their proposals of being opponents of real progress. That is an artifice which I am sorry to say shows no signs of wearing out. Whenever a Bill like this is before the House there is an opportunity afforded of considering Sunday labour for children, and while I cannot vote for this particular Amendment, I hope that something may be done by the Government before this Bill becomes an Act to strengthen what I venture to call the good influences of this matter, and to weaken the tendency, which I think will increase, to try and evade the provisions of the Act in order to increase child labour.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
The speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, I must confess, removes some of the objects which I have to this Clause as it stands, but the fact still remains that it will be possible to work a child of school age fourteen hours on a Sunday.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
The hon. Gentleman did not convey to the Committee how it was that a child who had worked fourteen hours on a Sunday could benefit by the education given to it on the Monday. After all, I cannot help thinking that there is a good deal of unnecessary sympathy with parents who work their children of school 2138 age, and sometimes this House loses sight of the fact that the more we give employment to children of school age the more we promote the unemployment of young people of over school age. There is undoubtedly an increasing tendency to employ children of school age, and the only reason is that they are cheaper than young people of over school age. I have here an interesting extract from the report of a juvenile advisory committee, and it says:There is a growing tendency to use this class of labour, because it is cheap. Many of these boys are in competition with those who have left school. It is a common thing at the present" time for a boy of fourteen years of age to be unable to get a place as an errand boy, because the employer profers to employ a school boy. The boys on leaving school are not having such a good time as is generally supposed. There is the growing competition of girls. They are more or less ousted from the munition factories and many other factories by the employment of girls, and their chances of obtaining employment are also restricted by the closing down of businesses. There are at present more boys between the ages of fourteen and seventeen out of work than in normal times.That confirms my opinion. It is very easy to be too tender to parents who wish to employ their children of school age, and I do think, if there is work to be done on a Sunday, that it ought to be done, not by children, but by adults.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I do not know where Members get this knowledge about children working fourteen hours on a Sunday. I do not know where these children are. One hears these things said from time to time, but when one asks for particulars they are never forthcoming. I would submit that a resolution to forbid all work by children on a Sunday is absurd, Would you not allow them to feed chicken, or milk cows, or help their mothers in housework or their fathers in his market garden or on his allotment It is all very well to talk as if this were a Sunday school subject. It pains me to hear medical Members asking for the State patronage of Sunday schools.
§ Mr. BOOTH
No, I do not; but there is a suggestion that this House should consider the Sunday schools, and that in its legislation it should do something or other, I do not know what, to try and make them a success. They have been a success in spite of the State. I should not have expected a sentiment of that 2139 kind to have been used by Welsh disestablishers. It is beyond all question that men who want to Disestablish the Church should suggest that the State should still want to promote spiritual education and institutions. It only shows how far one can get in a very simple matter. It will not be possible, if you pass this Amendment, to carry it into effect. It has been mentioned that three towns have by-laws prohibiting all child labour on a Sunday. In two of those towns I have seen the bylaw broken repeatedly. You cannot force it. You cannot possibly say that all boys up to fourteen shall be idle on a Sunday, but that is what you propose to do. You mean that they should be idle, except that you are graciously going to make the exception that some of them may sing in the choir. I regard this Amendment as one of those obstructing Amendments. I do not mean consciously obstructing, but hon. Members know that they cannot pass it and that it is really not germane to the Bill. The hon. Member, in answer to my interjection, ignored the point on which London always fixes, namely, how we are to treat the East End. You never say what you are to do in the East End of London, and because at the critical moment up comes the opposition of the Jewish fraternity, who say that they observe the Sabbath on another day, Bill after Bill goes down. That has happened again and again, and I cannot think that any hon. Member would press this Amendment to a Division.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir D. Maclean)
I have expressed my opinion that the "Noes" have it. I now call upon the hon. Member to move his next Amendment—[In Sub-section (1), paragraph (i), to leave out the words "before the close of school hours on that day."]
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I do not propose to move that Amendment. May I ask you, on a point of Order, how a Division can be taken?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
A challenge of that kind is given time and time again, and it is in the discretion of the Chair to decide whether the agreement of the Committee as a whole is really given or whether that challenge shall be followed by a Division. That has been the continual practice of the House ever since I have known it.
§ Major HILLS
With great respect, I think the procedure in that case is to ask the Members to stand up in their places.
§ Mr. PETO
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1, i.), to leave out the word "before," and to insert instead thereof the wordsfor more than two hours, such period of two hours being either wholly before the opening or wholly after.This Amendment specifically raises the question of the hours during which children may be employed, and it is put forward as a matter of fact by those who are interested in the sale of morning newspapers. It covers, no doubt, other kinds of employment, and, in recommending it to the Committee, I would point out that it covers a good deal of the ground that has been traversed in the recent discussion on the larger Amendment with regard to the employment of children by their parents in such small agricultural matters as milking, feeding stock, making hay, and the like. I want to confine my remarks in the main to the question of newspaper delivery. It is a very curious thing, but the way that this Clause is drawn—I am sure it has not been the intention of the right hon. Gentleman—it confers a privilege, and a very great privilege, upon the proprietors and retailers of evening newspapers. It enables children to be employed in the streets for four hours after school hours, say, from four to eight o'clock, in selling evening newspapers to any passer-by, but it absolutely prohibits the much more regular employment of children by regular newsagents, working from their shops in the delivery of morning newspapers to specific customers, who are probably named on a little list or learned by rote, who are regular customers. I do not think that can be desired. This is not an Amendment asking for more employment of children, but one which specifically reduces the amount of employment on any school day permitted by the Bill, because it says they may not be 2141 employed for more than two hours, such period of two hours being either wholly before the opening or wholly after the close of school hours. The employment of young children for four hours, say, from four to eight, after a long day in school is a considerable strain upon them— probably too much of a strain. It is not a desirable kind of employment to be four hours in a wet evening selling evening newspapers in the street. My Amendment would limit that to two hours, and would place morning newspapers in a not less advantageous position than evening newspapers.
The President has often said—he said it on the Second Reading—that one of the main reasons for this part of the Bill was that children were found in considerable numbers to be so tired when they came to school that they were not capable of benefiting by the instruction. That can be brought about in various ways. It does not necessarily follow that it is not brought about by long employment after school hours, because after the employment ceases the children have to get home, and it means a pretty long day and going to bed late even under the provisions of the Bill. I do not profess to give any scientific opinion on the subject, and I should like the hon. Member for Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities (Sir W. Cheyne), who is much more capable of speaking on these medical questions, to give us his opinion. I am told, however, that moderate morning employment for children, say, for two hours, is not an unhealthy but a healthy thing. At any rate, it is much more healthy than employment till late in the evening. Certainly, as regards morals, there can be no possible comparison between working for a regular newsagent, delivering newspapers at private houses, and merely collecting a bundle of evening papers, and the children yelling themselves hoarse trying to get rid of them to passers-by in the streets. Morning delivery is not sale in the streets at all. On Saturday and Sunday and on holidays at present children can be employed for very long hours. The Act of 1903 leaves it to the local authorities to make their own regulations. In a circular issued by the President he pointed out that that was not a satisfactory check, and he quoted the case of a child under twelve years of age being employed for forty-three hours a week for a wage of 4s. If that is so, the local authorities were very much to blame, 2142 because they have power under the Children Act to make such by-laws as they think fit. The President also told us that three-fourths of the children were too tired to benefit from their lessons. If there is anything like that proportion of children who, under present conditions, are too tired to benefit from lessons at school, it cannot possibly be brought about by employment in the morning.
The general tendency of the speeches to which we have listened and the evidence brought forward is to put the boot on the wrong foot. The Corporation of Bradford, for instance, made a by-law twelve years ago, which has worked perfectly satisfactorily all this time, and which is exactly consonant with this Amendment. My main object in putting it forward is that the Clause as it stands is not only not impartial, but is grossly unfair. I am quite sure that that cannot be the intention. It cannot be meant to practically abolish or so greatly penalise the business of newsagents and terribly cripple the sale of the morning newspaper, which is a substantial paper conveying information to the country, while leaving the evening newspapers practically free. In many places the effect would be that it would be quite impossible to get a morning newspaper at all, and people would have to depend upon such information as they could get in the evening newspapers, when they could get them. The character of the readers of the morning newspapers and the question of the waste of paper are certainly matters to which the President might give his attention. It is rather an unwholesome scene the buying of evening papers, which have often nothing in them, and which are read for a minute or two and thrown away, regardless of the cost of paper or the value of the coin that is paid for them.
I would, therefore, ask the President either to accept the exact words I am moving or to give us some words that will limit the employment, as I propose, to two hours a day, and allow that two hours to be either before or after school. I notice an Amendment on the Paper in exactly the same form in the name of other hon. Members, including the hon. Member (Mr. Chancellor), who has just moved an Amendment with regard to Sunday labour, and the hon. Baronet the Member for Hammersmith (Sir W. Bull). The only difference between my Amendment and theirs is that they insert the 2143 words, "without the consent of the local education authority." In all our Debates on the employment of children hon. Members seems to have quite omitted to bear in mind Clause 15, which is a very complete protection against any employment of children which the local authority considers to be prejudicial to their health or physical development, or likely to render them unfit to obtain the proper benefit from their education at school. So long as that Clause is in the Bill when it becomes an Act, it provides an admirable safeguard and avoids the necessity of putting in the words, "without the consent of the local education authorities" all over the Bill in other Clauses. If that Clause stands, the local education authorities will have complete control, and be able to place a check on any improper employment or any employment which they think excessive or in any way prejudicial to the children. Therefore, I move with confidence this Amendment, without which the Clause will impose a great grievance and public harm, while it will not increase the employment of children, but diminish the number of hours during which they may be employed.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I think this is a reasonable Amendment which is well worth the consideration of the Government, though I do not know that as it stands it would work entirely well. It seems to me that it would be much better for the children and much fairer for the newsagents who employ children if they are still to be allowed to employ them at all, if you said that they should be allowed to employ them for one hour before school and only one hour after. The objection has been stated that there is a danger of their going to school in bad weather, none the better for their hour—
§ Sir R. ADKINS
If the Noble Lord bears in mind the further Clause that the hon. Member (Mr. Peto) referred to, I think that can be adequately guarded against. I think the possibility of children working for four hours in the afternoon far worse for them, morally and in every way, than the possibility of their working for one hour before going to school. I think there is force in the hon. Member's argument. In practice we know what this will mean. There will be large 2144 numbers of children in the streets selling evening newspapers, and the morning newspapers will have much greater difficulty. That is no reason for doing anything which is educationally harmful to children, but limited in this way, and still more limited in the way I would suggest, one hour only before school and the other hour after, it would be better for the children. There is really no valid objection to it.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I do not know what the hon. and learned Gentleman means by saying that evening work is morally more objectionable than work in the morning. I should have thought it depended entirely on what was done in the evening whether ox not it was morally objectionable. But, however that may be, I submit that morning is the best time in which children could be employed on any outdoor work. They are then fresh, having presumably slept at night as young people do, they rise in the morning, and that is the time at which they may usefully be occupied, as this Amendment means to allow them to be occupied, in delivering newspapers. At all times the delivery of newspapers is a matter of urgent importance, but at no time is it so important as now, and never was there a time when the services of these children are so much required as at present in the delivery of newspapers. There is no man or woman now, whatever he or she may do at other times, who does not want the morning newspaper at the earliest possible moment to see how we are progressing elsewhere, where our progress has an importance which does not attach to anything we are doing here. If the right hon. Gentleman should refuse this Amendment I should feel that he was laying himself open in effect to the charge that he thought the children ought to be fitted to the hours more than the hours to the children. I cannot conceive what answer there is to the argument that it is less competent to do what this Amendment allows children to do than to do that which, under the Clause as it stands, they not only may, but probably will, do. I was immensely relieved when the right hon. Gentleman was goaded, as he was bombarded with one social reform Amendment after another, to hear him say this was not a social reform Bill but an Education Bill. Bearing that in mind, I have good hope that he will accept this Amendment. I have been urged by friends to support it. I should have supported it without any 2145 urging. I believe it to be good in itself, and it required no whipping or canvassing. The right hon. Gentleman himself said that the reasonable employment of children was not detrimental. Of course, it is not. Is this or is it not reasonable? Could children be better employed? Early rising is a good thing for everybody. It prolongs youth and promotes cheerfulness and good habits of all description. I must refer to a memorandum on child labour put forward by the Education Department. That Memorandum was founded upon evidence which employers had no opportunity of rebutting, and the material in it was collected by inspectors of schools in areas in which the Employment of Children Act was not enforced. Here are two circumstances which deprive it of any value which might otherwise attach to it. I would rather proceed from that discredited Memorandum to the general evidence that early rising and occupation in the morning is good for men and women of all ages and, therefore, for children of this age. I earnestly hope the President of the Board of Education will give it his most favourable consideration.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I share in the hope which has been expressed that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to accept the Amendment. As it stands, the Bill absolutely prohibits any child doing so much as five minutes' work before he goes to school in the morning. That is a very strong even a startling restriction upon the personal liberty of the child and of the parents, unless overwhelming reasons can be shown to prove that it is in the interests of the child that those restrictions should be imposed. Can any such reason be shown? If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to tell me that he has evidence behind him of a perfectly cogent character, whether medical evidence, or that of experts, or indeed the evidence of men of common sense, which will satisfy the Committee that the child who is employed, say, for an hour or a little over in the morning in distributing newspapers is going to be prejudiced either in his physical health or in his mind and rendered incapable of learning, there is a foundation laid for a restrictive provision such as this. But I should be very much surprised if any evidence of that sort could be produced. I know that evidence can be produced to prove anything, but can the right hon. Gentleman really say that he has evidence behind him which is convincing to any 2146 man of ordinary common-sense that an hour's employment of a child before breakfast is going to prevent him from getting the benefit of his school work or is going to injure his health? Speaking from my own experience, an hour's exercise in the morning for a child or an adult is, so far from being prejudicial to health, extremely beneficial and desirable. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is aware that many of the busy men in this country, professional or otherwise, deliberately and of set purpose, take an hour's exercise in the morning, whether riding or walking, in order to prepare themselves for the labours of the day. Are we to believe that that which is desirable for an adult up to sixty or seventy years of age is so wholly undesirable for a child that a little exercise in the morning in selling papers will unfit him to benefit by his education? I cannot believe it. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider this matter in the interests of the children themselves, for that is the main interest to be considered, and in the interest of the parents, who do not desire to see their children unduly hampered by legislation which is ill-thought out. Therefore I urge him to accept this Amendment.
Whatever may be the correct solution of this question, I am convinced that it is not contained in the Amendment of the hon. Member and for this simple reason, that if you lay it down that a child is to be employed for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening, without specifying the particular hour during which employment is lawful, it will be quite impossible to administer the provision. I have, looked into this matter very carefully in connection with some by-laws, and I am assured on all hands that if you propose to limit the employment of children, either before school or after school, you must lay down the particular hours within which employment is lawful. Otherwise the executive cannot discover whether the child is being lawfully employed or not. That is a practical difficulty. My hon. Friend has asked me what harm is there in a little light employment in the morning? If he puts it in that way, a little light employment in the morning, which is limited to a short period, may not be harmful, but the Clause in the Bill which prohibits the employment of children before school hours was not drafted lightly. It was 2147 drafted in response to an overwhelming mass of evidence, coming from all quarters in the country, to the effect that a very large number of children come to school in the early morning so tired out by work, breakfast-less, and very often wet, that some relief must be given. I remember at a gathering of our leading inspectors at the Board of Education some months ago, when this Bill was being considered, I put the question, "Of all the reforms which have been promulgated in this country, at public meetings or elsewhere, which do you consider would be most beneficial?" They replied, unanimously, "The prohibition of employment during school hours." In view of that fact I submit that there is a very substantial case for the Clause in the Bill as it stands. In any case I should feel reluctant to part with it in view of the character of the Amendment before us. The question has been argued from the point of view of the distribution of newspapers. In many cases newspapers are distributed by little boys who have short rounds, and whose employment is very light, and who suffer no injury, but we have to consider not this one type of employment but all the various forms of employment which are imposed upon these little children before they come to school. Taking one thing with the other, I feel that the Committee would be well advised in adhering to the terms of the Bill.
§ Mr. JACOBSEN
My friends and myself put our names down to the next Amendment on the Paper with a view to having the question considered by the Board of Education. I think after what we have heard from the President we shall not move our Amendment.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I should like to know whether the evils to which the right hon. Gentleman refers as resulting from over-employment of children before they go to school could not be adequately met and entirely got rid of by restriction rather than total prohibition of the employment of children before they go to school. I grant that some restriction is necessary, but would not that meet the case in the interests of the children, instead of the very drastic method of total prohibition of employment before school hours?
§ Sir R. ADKINS
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could say whether that restric- 2148 tion could not be allowed to be placed in the hands of the local education authority. I can well understand the local education authority prohibiting, and rightly prohibiting, certain forms of even the most brief employment in the morning, but other forms of employment which my right hon. Friend has said do not do harm might be permitted by the local education authority under the circumstances.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not give way one inch. It is all very well for hon. Members to make these speeches, but the fact remains that the employment of children before school hours is one of the greatest of our social injustices, and it would be a monstrous thing to give way on this question.
§ Mr. PETO
I should like to know whether the evidence which the right hon. Gentleman has before him, which makes him so unyielding in this matter, definitely lays it down that four hours' employment after school does a child no harm, and alternatively that it is less harmful than a maximum of two hours' employment which may be before or after school? It seems to me that he has not met that point at all. In my own personal case in the country I give a boy a shilling a week to bring my papers. He does not have to come more than 200 yards out of his way to come from the village he lives in to my village. That will be absolutely prohibited under this Bill, and if I give the boy a shilling to bring my newspapers I suppose I shall be guilty of an offence?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The ordinary hour for beginning school I believe is nine o'clock. Now, consider the position of children of the agricultural labourer who goes to work at seven o'clock. In all probability they are up and had their breakfast at that hour. What are they to do between seven and nine? As far as I know they have no tasks to prepare. It would be very much better for them to 2149 have some useful employment between seven and eight, which would give them ample time to go to school. That would be much better than to have them wandering about the fields doing mischief. Only last Saturday I found two boys in one of my fields throwing stones at cattle. I asked what they were doing, and they said that there was no school on Saturday. They had nothing to do, and so they were doing mischief. That is what does happen. I sometimes think that it is not realised that these children are left to a very great extent to their own devices. It is not good for them that it should be so. It takes just as much out of them to run about chasing cattle in the fields as to do some useful work. There is a great deal of sentimental nonsense talked about this question of employment of children. In many cases it would keep them out of mischief and do a great deal of good, and I will certainly support my hon. Friend if he goes to a Division.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I do not think we can consider it a satisfactory solution of this question that children are to be prohibited from doing as much as a half-hour's work before school and allowed to do four hours' work after school. I hope before we get done with this Bill that the President will consider whether some more logical solution can be arrived at. I would like him to satisfy himself as to what percentage of the children going to school are employed before school hours. I should say that it is a small percentage. I very much doubt whether anything like the whole of those who are employed are injuriously employed. I think that this whole question of the employment of children for short periods outside school hours docs need much more careful consideration than it appears to have had.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The right hon. Gen-Gentleman says that he has a very large number of reports as to children coming in an unfit state to school and without breakfast. Are those the children who have been employed before school? I have very little experience, but that has not been my experience. The children em-
§ ployed before going to school were generally sent in a very good condition, and those who come from bad homes or who have a long way to come and may get wet, or have not had proper food, are those who come in an unfit state. That makes all the difference in the world to the Amendment. I agree that it is an unsatisfactory way to leave this very difficult question, and I cannot help differing from the Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham. To suggest that a healthy boy of fourteen can do no work before 9 o'clock in the morning is to go back to a view which I might have held in my very young days. I do not think there is any particular harm in a strong healthy boy of fourteen being compelled to do some work before 9 o'clock. I certainly did a, very large amount of work, to the extent of cooking, which is one of the things I learned to do in school, before 9 o'clock in the morning. I do not think that this Clause is being sufficiently considered either by the Government or by the Committee.
§ Colonel GRETTON
We really appear to have arrived at a very extraordinary position. It is wholly illogical and quite unsatisfactory. Take one case of employment which is quite common in the country and not uncommon in the town. Old people constantly have a child going in for half an hour or an hour before going to school to tidy up the house and do various little things about the house. Old people living on old age pensions cannot afford to pay a servant of an expensive character and a child is certainly doing no harm in ministering to old age. Nor is that a case of unreasonably working the child. The matter requires further consideration. The Clause as it stands would inflict a great deal of hardship and do a very problematical amount of good, and the President should reconsider it in view of the facts of the situation.
§ Question put, "That the word 'before' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 109; Noes, 24.2151
|Division No. 54.]||AYES.||[10.4 p.m.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Cheyne, Sir W. W.|
|Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, South)||Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Clough, William|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.|
|Barran, Sir Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Bridgeman, William Clive||Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)|
|Bathurst, Capt. C. (Wilts, Wilton)||Bryce, J. Annan||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.|
|Beale, Sir William Phlpson||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Cory, James Herbert (Cardiff)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Cowan, Sir W. H.|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Kiley, James Daniel||Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||King, Joseph||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. George H. (Norwich)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-In-Furness)||Larmor, Sir J.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Levy, Sir Maurice||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Samuel, Rt Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Fisher, Rt. Han. W. Hayes (Fulham)||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Samuels, Arthur W. (Dublin U.)|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Galbralth, Samuel||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Mackinder, Halford J.||Stoker, R. B.|
|Gilbert, J. D.||Maden, Sir John Henry||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Goldstone, Frank||Maitland, Sir A. G. Steel.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Hambro, Angus valdemar||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Thomas, Sir A. G. (Monmouth, S.)|
|Hanson, Charles Augustin||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Tootill, Robert|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Middlebrook, Sir William||Watson, J. B. (Stockton)|
|Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Western, J. W.|
|Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Newman, Sir Robert (Exeter)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Higham, John Sharp||Nuttall, Harry||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (worcs., N.)|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wilson-Fox, Henry (Tamworth)|
|Hinds, John||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Pease, Rt Hon. H. Pike (Darlington)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hume-Williams, Sir William Ellls||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Jones, Sir Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.||Yoxall, sir James Henry|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Pulley, C. T.|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Randles, Sir John S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord E.|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Rendall, Athelstan||Talbot and Mr. Pratt.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Jowett, Frederick William||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Lindsay, William Arthur||Sutton, John E.|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon Sir William James||Malcolm, Ian||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Perkins, Walter F.||Winterton, Captain Earl|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Colonel|
|Jenes, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Gretton and Mr. Wing.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ The CHAIRMAN
With regard to the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for the Tavistock Division, I would ask whether the hon. Gentleman is satisfied with the discussion which took place on his previous Amendment?
§ Sir J. SPEAR
I beg to move, in Subsection (1, i), after the word "day" ["school hours on that day"], to insert the words,except in—My former Amendment alluded to children under twelve. This deals with children between twelve and fourteen, and, while the arguments were incontrovertible in the first case, they are even stronger in this case, which simply provides not for an increase of working hours for children between twelve and fourteen, 2152 but that they may be allowed, in going to school, to drive cattle to the field, to carry small quantities of milk and farm produce for delivery on their way to school, and to carry meals to any person or persons in the same way. Some of these boys and girls will be the children of labourers who go early to their morning work, and the boy or girl brings their breakfast to them on the way to school. I cannot help thinking it would be most unreasonable to prevent this sort of employment. As the right hon. Gentleman has promised to incorporate the principle of my first Amendment in the Clause on the Report stage, if he will undertake further to consider whether exception may not be made in the direction of allowing children between twelve and fourteen to do these little employments on their way to school —and no one can argue, I imagine, that such employment would interfere with their ability for taking their lessons, while at the same time it would be a considerable convenience to the parents, and not only harmless but advantageous to the children, by inducing them to take an interest in the little business of home life—if the right 2153 hon. Gentleman will promise, on Report, to try and meet this case of reasonable employment by parents of their children without financial reward, and with the sanction of the local education authority, I will not press my Amendment; otherwise I must do so.
- (1) driving cattle to or from pasture or taking horses to the farrier on the way to or from school;
- (2) carrying small quantities of milk and farm produce for delivery on the way to school;
- (3) performing domestic errands;
- (4) carrying water for domestic use;
- (5) carrying meals to any person or persons on the way to school."
Most of the occupations alluded to in this Schedule would come under the category of domestic occupations which would be permissible under the terms of the Clause. Two of the occupations, I take it, might conceivably by a court of law be held to be not permissible under the terms of the Clause, although I think it very unlikely that any action will be taken in respect of them. In any case, the Committee realises that it would be generally desirable, if possible, to provide for rural occupations of the simple and harmless character described in the Amendment of the hon. Member if it is possible to do so without opening the door to other cases where it might be difficult or dangerous to grant a concession. I will promise the hon. Member that I will keep my mind open upon this subject, and if I can find a way of meeting him on the Report stage without giving away general principles I shall be glad to do so. I am afraid I cannot give him any more solid assurance than that at this stage.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
In view of the President's statement, and reserving the right, if I think that what he has done on Report is not adequate, to move the Amendment again, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
With regard to my Amendment, in Sub-section(l, i.), after the word "day," to insert the words "nor on Sunday or school holidays for more than four hours," I see that lower down an hon. Gentleman has an Amendment to add words to the paragraph which will rather more than cover the same ground, and unless you think otherwise, Mr. Whitley, I will not now move my Amendment.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
I beg to move, in Subsection (1, i.), to leave out the words "before six o'clock in the morning or after eight o'clock in the evening," in order to insert instead thereof the words "for more than eight hours."
As the Bill stands at present a boy may be required to work on Saturday for fourteen hours. That, I think, is excessive 2154 labour and unreasonable, and I wish to avert that injustice by eliminating the possibility of employment for such a child to eight hours. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will accept that limitation. It does seem unreasonable that a child cannot do a little to help his parents during the week but must be expected to work fourteen hours on the Saturday. It is unreasonable and cannot but out rage the feelings of people who on the one hand are anxious for the welfare of their children and on the other are anxious to promote their education. I venture to press the Amendment. Certainly on Saturdays eight hours is quite enough time for a boy to work, either on a small holding or in the shop, but the Bill at present permits his being employed for fourteen hours. That is unreasonable, and I do hope the Committee will see fit to limit it to eight hours.
I think it is probably perfectly true, as the hon. Member suggests, that it would be desirable that no child bound to attend an elementary school should have to work more than eight hours on a Saturday, but the reason why I think it difficult to accept his Amendment is that I think it is an Amendment which it is practically impossible to enforce. It is perfectly easy to say that a child shall not be employed between certain definite hours, because if a child is employed outside those hours an offence has been committed. It is very difficult to make certain that a child has not been employed for more than eight hours a day, unless the child is watched through the whole period. I think, therefore, that the Amendment would be very unworkable.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
After what the right hon. Gentleman has said I would like to ask whether he would not accept the words of my hon. Friend, not in lieu of the words in the Bill, but in addition to them? It seems to me that would entirely cover the point of the right hon. Gentleman, and would also protect the children against the possibility of being worked fourteen hours. The provision would then read, "that they shall not be employed on any day before six in the morning or after eight o'clock in the evening, nor for more than eight hours."
§ Sir C. SEELY
It seems to me that eight hours' work is quite long enough for any child of twelve years of age.
As I have already pointed out, it probably would in most cases be quite reasonable, but I am not prepared to say quite reasonable in all of them. My difficulty in accepting this proposal is that I think it would be impossible to enforce it.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
It would be quite impossible to watch every child all day or every Saturday, but if by law he is not to be employed more than eight hours, then the onus would be on the parents or the persons who employed him to keep the law, and if it were broken frequently, or to a large extent, I think that the collection of evidence would not be impossible, and that this provision in the Act would have a deterrent effect. I cannot see the difficulty of accepting this Amendment.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
The right hon. Gentleman's Bill bristles with provisions for checking the infringement of the law, mornings and evenings, during six days of the week. Surely there would be no greater difficulty in detecting an infringement of the law in this instance! Besides, the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman provides for between six and eight hours, which means fourteen hours, and, therefore, he would be obliged to exercise a check on that. I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to accept this Amendment limiting the work of a child on a Saturday to eight hours, instead of leaving it open to unreasonable parents—I grant that they are in the minority, but there are some unreasonable parents—to work a child fourteen hours on the Saturday. I want to prevent that. I want to give liberty to the parents during the week, and also to restrict the number of hours on the Saturday, in order to meet the case of any parents who would take advantage of a child being away from school to make it work longer hours than he ought. I cannot help thinking that the President ought to accept the Amendment.
If it is the general wish of the Committee that something of this kind should be inserted in the Clause, I will undertake to consider it. I cannot at this moment pledge myself to accept the limitations suggested by the hon. Member, nor can I pledge myself to a limit, for the reason that this is a question which has received very careful consideration. I am making recommendations to the Committee with a view to safeguarding the interests of children in schools, 2156 and I have been acting upon evidence which has come to me in my character as President of the Board of Education. I feel, therefore, that, even if the course which I have suggested does not commend itself to every hon. Member, it is a course which I am prepared to justify on strictly educational grounds. But when you ask me to prescribe a general limitation of hours for young persons I am travelling outside my own proper domain. I feel, consequently, that I must step very cautiously; but if it is the general desire of the Committee that the question should be considered, I shall be very glad to give it my best consideration, with a view to offering the Committee some advice on the Report stage.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I did not feel that I could support this Amendment, because it has nothing to do with the Education Bill at all. It only applies to a day upon which the child is not supposed to go to school at ail, and once you begin amending the Bill on matters which do not directly touch education, and more especially if you do it at 10.30 in the evening on a day when you have suspended the Eleven o'clock Rule, I think you will be asking for trouble and affecting a large number of interests who have had no notice of what is proposed to be done. There is a difficulty in enforcing the law. Take the ordinary case of a boy going out with his father in some harvest field. Who is to say which hours he is working and which hours he is not working? Is the law-abiding father to send the child home punctually at two o'clock, say, and to tell him to sit indoors because he may otherwise be summoned for working in the fields beyond the proper time?
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
In opposition to the view which has been put forward by the hon. and learned Member, I hope the President will take rather a stronger view of his powers in connection with the children to whom reference is now made. We are dealing with children between twelve and fourteen, and clearly they come more within the province of the Board of Education than in the province of the Home Office. Their employment on the Saturday will have an effect on their general health, and the condition of their health does affect the possibility of the improvement of their education, and therefore I think the President will be well within his duty in dealing with this question. 2157 I welcomed his suggestion that he will consider this matter, and may I call his attention to the Amendment next on the Paper, 'in the name of the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. White-house), the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Duncan), and myself? There he has a way out of his difficulty by limiting the hours in the direction that his Bill already does it. It will give that kind of limitation which he desires by reducing the number of hours during which a child may be employed, and thereby, without stating exactly the maximum number of hours per day during which a child may be employed, it obviates the difficulty which we all realise of a statement of the number of hours, and offers us an alternative, an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening before which in the morning and after which in the evening the child shall be employed.
I venture to suggest to my right hon. Friend that along that line he should look for his solution when he brings up his alternative proposal on the Report stage.
§ Sir C. SEELY
As an old Cambridge man, I must enter a protest against the remark of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University that at half-past ten in the evening a man is not capable of dealing with important questions. It is many years since I was there, but I think in the old days we thought ourselves quite capable of dealing with any important question and doing a great deal of work at that time of the evening. I think the opinion of the Committee is quite clear that there should be a limitation on the amount of work done by children, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should insert this limitation, and then, if he finds it necessary to make any alteration in the hours, he should make it on the Report stage, but that we should insert now in the Bill the fact that we do not consider a child under the age of fourteen should work more than eight hours.
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
I would suggest to the Committee that we do not press the President to go further than he has at the present time. Eight hours for any child of fourteen or fifteen sounds a good deal, but take the case of a child of fourteen or fifteen in the hayfield or the harvest field during holidays. I am quite sure boys of that age do work longer than eight hours in the holidays, and I do 2158 think it is going pretty far to insist that it should be a punishable offence, because we know in a case of that kind the law would not be carried out, and it does not seem a good thing to put this in on the off-chance. To tell the truth, it seems to me, although it is a great temptation to indulge in the luxury of suggesting a number of very progressive and philanthropic proposals, that the extent to which that is being indulged in is putting the Bill in grave danger of not passing at all, and, personally, I think all friends of the Bill are getting very alarmed at the very slow progress we are making, and I should be quite content if we could get the cargo home which the President has got on board at the present time.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
In view of the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman and the promise that he will consider all these questions on Report, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1, i), to leave out the word "six" ["before six o'clock"], and to insert instead thereof the word "eight."
I move this only to invite the President to state that, in the spirit of his recent remarks, he will consider this solution with the other. I am not asking him to give any pledge whatever, but to consider the point. These children are now to begin work on Saturdays and Sundays at such an early hour as six o'clock. The Amendment suggests eight o'clock. I do not attach any particular importance to the exact hour, except that we want to reduce the hours of labour to something that is reasonable. Perhaps, therefore, the President will consider this constructive suggestion when he is dealing with the whole matter on Report?
I am afraid I am unable to accept this Amendment to this Subsection, which is intended to provide that children shall not lose the benefit of education owing to excessive employment. It cannot be suggested that the child necessarily suffers because on its holidays it has to get up at six o'clock.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I do not propose to move the Amendment standing in my name, but will await what the President has to say when he brings up his suggestion on the Report stage.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), at the end of paragraph (i), to insert the words,Provided this Sub-section shall not apply to children who are duly licensed to perform on the stage.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I should like to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether he does not think this Amendment will more properly come on Sub-section (2) of the Clause which deals with the question of licensing children for the purpose of singing, playing, or performing?
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
No, Sir, I do not think so. The reason I move this here is that I think it the better place. There has always been special legislation for children who worked upon the stage. There are many reasons for this legislation.
§ Mr. DENMAN
Is not this Amendment unnecessary at this stage? The licensing under the provisions of the Cruelty to Children Act, overrides those of the Employment of Children Act, 1903, and will probably eventually override this. It is therefore unnecessary.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Is the hon. Member addressing me, or addressing the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite?
§ Mr. DENMAN
I am addressing the Chair. I suggest it is not necessary for my hon. and learned Friend to safeguard the position under Sub-section (2), because he will find, when he comes to that point of the Bill, that it is adequately safeguarded.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I thought he rose to a point of Order? The hon. Member is discussing the thing on its merits.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
May I point out on the merits of the case that even if I am wrong no harm will be done by inserting this. I do not want to enter into a legal argument with my hon. Friend, but I do not think that it will be safe to leave the matter to the licensing Clause. There has always been different treatment of the children on the stage to other children. The school inspector will, I think, tell you that, speaking generally of the children who go on the stage, that they are well looked after, well educated, and well treated in every other way. If the Amendment is not carried in this Clause, it will leave us in the extraordinary position that children will be unable to be employed on the stage at all under the age of twelve— at holidays or any other time—in any kind 2160 of work. After the age of twelve, and possibly up to the age of fifteen, you will only be able to employ a child at that age when the school is going on until eight o'clock in the evening. This is an important matter to those connected with the theatrical profession, and they attach great weight to the Amendment. I think many hon. Members have had representations on this point, although that fact would not bear so strongly with me if I felt that any harm was likely to come to the children. Representations have been made as to the hardship upon the parents and the profession in making this fresh alteration restricting them in the way indicated after the age of twelve. I hope the Government will consider this matter, and agree that this Clause shall not apply to children engaged in the theatrical profession.
I would like to support this Amendment, in the interest of the child, the parents, and the theatrical profession. We often have children on the stage, and it is admitted that their earnings have helped to make their homes more comfortable. Under this Clause no child can appear on the stage up to fourteen years of age. As these children are nearly all employed after eight o'clock in the evening, I shall support this Amendment.
§ Mr. P. A. HARRIS
I think this Amendment is quite unnecessary, and I hope these children will not be exempted from the Clauses of the Act. Should they require it, they should have the same privileges for being educated as other children. The difficulty can be got over by special licences on similar lines to those issued by the London County Council.
I think it would be very difficult for the Committee, after having provided that children shall not be employed in general before they have reached the age of twelve, to proceed to make an exception in favour of a class of children who are employed on the stage. It would be difficult to lay down a proposition that children should not be permitted to contribute to the sterner necessities of life, whilst at the same time you give special facilities to theatrical children. What the Bill proposes to do is to place all children under twelve in the same condition, that is to prevent from being employed. We continue the existing licensing law in respect of theatrical 2161 children above the age of twelve, so that, so far as those children are concerned, no change is contemplated. I submit that there would be no great misfortune to the stage if theatrical children were over the age of twelve instead of under the age of twelve.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The right hon. Gentleman says that the Bill will leave the law as it stands as at present, so far as children over the age of twelve are concerned. I do not think this is so. Clause 13 says, "A child of the age of twelve or upwards." That means going up to fifteen, so that a child up to fifteen may not be employed on any day before six in the morning or after eight in the evening. That does not leave the law as it is at present. The licensing law, to which he refers, is that they may work up to 9 p.m. It is proposed that up to the age of fourteen 8 p.m. shall be substituted for 9 p.m. Therefore, under this Clause a child up to the age of twelve will not be able to be employed with or without a licence, and up to fourteen he will only be able to be employed up to 8 p.m. The complication arises from the use of the word "child" in two senses. Upon the main point, the hon. Member for Market Harborough (Mr. P. A. Harris) did not really do justice to the Amendment. I do not say a word against the county council schools for training these children. Excellent work is done by them, and these children are as well educated as, and probably better educated, than other children. My point is that you are for the first time prohibiting children under twelve from performing on the stage at all, which is not only a good way of earning money but is a good education in itself, and certainly does not affect their school work. I think most inspectors will tell you that. With regard to children over twelve, you have made a complicated alteration in the law which certainly does restrict the position I agree comparatively slightly—over the age of twelve and certainly between the ages of fourteen and fifteen. I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman may see his way to make an exception in this exceptional trade, which is itself educational and in which the children are well looked after owing to a complicated system of licences.
§ Mr. PETO
I have an Amendment later on dealing with the same question, and perhaps it would be convenient if I dealt 2162 with it now. I want Members, and particularly Members below the Gangway, to realise that stage employment is not in any sense half-time employment or part-time education. The children engaged on the stage are probably given the very best educational training received by any children in the country. It is necessary that they should be, because if they are children who are not born of rich parents who are able to pay large fees for special training in elocution, singing, and all the matters which naturally have to be learned thoroughly by children if they are to grow up to play great parts in tragedy and high comedy, their education must be of a good class. We want children to be trained from an age which is absolutely essential, not merely for the production of some of the most important plays on the stage but also, if we are to have great actors and actresses, for great parts in future.
I want the President to realise that there are various kinds of children. There is one large group who are always dying to do something real and to get to real work at once. There are others who are always what I might term "make-believe" children, who form the class from which actors, poets, and artists of all kinds are-produced. There are also the children who, although they are mainly catered for in this Bill, really form the minority, who are always desiring to acquire knowledge, the children who ask why everything is and how it does it. The children we want to deal with are the super-normal children of the "make-believe" type, those who are born play actors and actresses even at the age of four. May I put before the Committee what has been very ably put forward by Mr. Henry Arthur Jones and by all the leading actors in a memorial sent to hon. Members of this House. It is signed by Mr. H. B. Irving, Sir Wm. Forbes-Robertson, Mr. Ben Asche, Mr. Dion Boucicault, Mr. Henry Arthur Jones, and others. All our principal actors are convinced that we must commence training young children for the stage at ten years of age if they are going to achieve great results. One of the main reasons—I think it is unanswerable —is that at the age of twelve a boy's voice is beginning to break and a girl is also developing out of the stage of childhood, and that children of both sexes are beginning to become self-conscious. If I may give a few examples of our great actresses who have commenced their stage training at the earliest age, I would 2163 name Mrs. Siddons, Miss Ellen Terry, Mrs. Kendal, Lady Bancroft, and Sarah Bernhardt. The last-named is acting now at an age when most women have given up doing any work at all, so that it cannot be said that early training is deleterious to health.
I would add one more argument in favour of the Amendment, namely, that if we are to have a class of play that is going to elevate the stage and bring about a great improvement which will mean a return to the better conditions of the past, there must be a considerable amount of employment of children on the stage in actual theatrical performances. At least five of Shakespeare's plays cannot be acted without quite small children at all, and, of course, most of the comedies we used to have and many of the dramas had children as an absolute essential in working out the story. There are a great many children in other callings whose real career in life obviously if it is to be properly developed is the career of actors and actresses. They must, unless their parents are quite rich, be able to get a complete stage training at a very early age, they must be allowed to perform, because it is in that way that they can not only pay for their stage training, but for a great deal more.
I have been given two cases, and I will only quote one of a little boy who was taken charge of by the people who give the very best stage training at the age of ten, only about nine years ago. He had lost his father at five years of age. He was the poor child of poor parents. His mother was an imbecile and he had a grandmother without means. You would think that would be the worst start in life a boy could possibly have, but he had exceptional gifts which were recognised, and the result was that he not only had a most successful career as a child actor, mainly because he was able to take real child parts before his voice broke between the ages of ten and twelve, but was able to pay for his own Army coach when war came, and was able to get a commission in the Royal Air Force, and he has already, at the age of nineteen, gained the Military Cross; and if he gets through this War and comes back to his old career he is absolutely sure of a great career and lucrative employment. That is perfectly impossible if you carry out this Clause as it is, because it practically shuts off from a stage career all 2164 children of poor parents. I do not say for a moment that in some elementary schools recitation and things of that sort are not quite well taught, but children or poor parents have disabilities from the point of view of stage performances of a high class. If they live in London they have to get rid of their Cockney accent and to learn to speak and deliver the fine passages of our great authors, Shakespeare in particular, in a way which can only be learned by constant training and association with people who are speaking pure English and have not any accent, and it cannot possibly be learnt in the ordinary elementary school. Therefore, I press the President of the Board either to accept the Amendment now or to recognise that in the hurry of carrying the Bill through it has been impossible—we have had several meetings; we had one late last night while the House was sitting, to work out a full scheme of licensing children for theatrical performances in such a way as to satisfy the education authorities and make the acting of the finer forms of drama not only a possibility but a certainty in the future. Either the President must give us something of the French system of a conservatoire for teaching and training children, supported and aided by the State, or else make it possible for people who have the highest interests of the stage at heart to train these small children from the earliest age and allow them not only to perform but to be trained. In this matter there is no hard and fast distinction between the employment and the education. Training is incomplete if it does not allow of performances. It is contrary to the interest of the child, in all the exacting work which is to be got through, not to give him some opportunity of showing on the stage how it is getting on and what it is capable of doing.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out paragraph (ii.).
This deals with Sub-section (2) of Section 3, of the Employment of Children Act, 1903, and it is proposed to leave out the words "under the age of eleven years." The effect of that would be that no child will be able to engage in street trading so long as he or she is under the age of fifteen. In the year 1903 we had a very animated discussion upon this Clause, and the result was that we came 2165 to the conclusion that the proper age was eleven years. I do not see why, if we are making alterations in the Education Bill, we should make this alteration in regard to street trading. The argument used was that it was very necessary that widows and people who were not well-off should be allowed to employ their children to earn something for the maintenance of the home. As the hour is late I will not elaborate my point, but I will content myself by moving the Amendment, and expressing the hope that if the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept my Amendment he will give an undertaking that he will not make such a drastic change as is proposed by raising the age from eleven to fifteen.
§ Mr. LEWIS
I am unable to accept the Amendment. Section 3 of the Employment of Children Act, 1903, at present prohibits the employment of children under eleven in street trading. The Bill proposes that no child under the age of fourteen shall be employed in street trading. The object of the right hon. Baronet's Amendment is to retain the present age. I should like to give the reasons which have induced my right hon. Friend to incorporate this provision in the Bill. I need only quote from the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Employment of School Children in 1901. This is what it said:In the case of street trading very strong powers of regulation are required. These children are exposed to the worst influences. They are kept out late at night, and exposed to inclement weather, and the precarious nature of their trade disinclines them for steady work and encourages them to dissipate their earnings in gambling.One result of that Report was the Employment of Children Act, 1903, which, to a certain extent, restricted street trading. In 1909 a Home Office Committee, presided over by the right hon. Member for Walthamstow, reported on the working of the Act, and their recommendation was that street trading by boys should be wholly prohibited by Statute up to the age of seventeen, and street trading by girls up to an age not later than eighteen. These recommendations were signed by a majority of seven. The Minority Report was signed by four Members, three of them Members of this House. They concurred with the prohibition of street trading by girls under eighteen, subject to special reservations for certain girls. The Amendment now before the Committee makes no distinction between boys 2166 and girls, and would enable girls between twelve and fourteen to hawk newspapers for profit. I am sure that no hon. Member of this House would desire that liberty to be given. With regard to boys, the minority only differed from the majority in thinking that the prohibition ought to be local and not general. The minority were just as strong as the majority in regard to the undesirability of street trading. I need not quote any more from the Report of so authoritative an inquiry which gives ample reason for an advance towards the ideal laid down by the Commission.
Mr. T. WILSON
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw his Amendment. I am certain that this provision of the Bill is approved by fathers and mothers, and I am quite satisfied that none of the working classes want to see the children trading under the ages provided by the Bill and selling things out in the street.
§ Mr. BOOTH
If the parents are unanimous against the children street trading, we can leave it to them. I always understood that this legislation was wanted because this House distrusted parents. I have done my best on previous occasions to oppose certain raw and ill-conceived projects to interfere with street trading, because they were always destructive proposals. There was nothing constructive in them to take the place of the street trading. This is a constructive proposal, providing for continuation schools and an advanced education system generally in the country, and I quite agree that it is fitting that the legislation in regard to street trading should come into line with it. I do not believe all the fancy stories that I have heard as to street trading, but if you pass a Bill like this there could not be any reason for making an exception and continuing street trading to allow children to do street trading when you do not allow them to do anything else.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary 2167 has alluded to the Report of the Commission of 1901. May I point out that this House, which, after all, is a greater authority than any Commission, dealt with that Report in 1903, and enacted that no child under eleven should be allowed to trade in the street, but any child after that should be allowed to do so? The right hon. Gentleman said that there was a later Commission in 1909 which went even further than the Commission of 1901. But in the year 1909 there was an energetic and progressive Radical Government in power and it did not apparently attach much importance to the Report of the Commission, as it introduced no legislation to carry it out. On the question of age, although perhaps I was in error in saying it would be fifteen in all cases, I think I was justified in saying that the practical effect is to raise the age from eleven to fifteen. I do not agree in what has been said as to the evils that arc going to result from street trading. You are not going to keep children out of the streets. They will be there whether they trade or not, and they are less likely to imbibe bad habits while they are trading than if they are loafing about doing nothing. I cannot agree to withdraw my Amendment, but I will not divide the Committee if it chooses to negative it.
Mr. H. SAMUEL
One important point arising out of the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) and of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board should be cleared up. It is relevant to this discussion, but has a wider scope. My right hon. Friend says the age for this provision, and consequently for all provisions under this Clause may be raised to fifteen if the local education authority makes a by-law requiring school attendance up to fifteen. The Secretary to the Board admits that that may be so and that in exceptional cases the age may be fifteen for the purposes of employment. I should be obliged if some representative of the Government would give the Committee a considered opinion as to that. As I read it the Clause we are now discussing substitutes words in the Employment of Children Act, 1903, for the words of the Elementary Education Act The Employment of Children Act has its own definition of the word "child "—i.e., "a person under the age of fourteen years." Consequently, if I am right, the definition in 2168 this Bill which defines a child as a "person of the age of fourteen years or such other age as may apply in the particular locality to school attendance" does not take effect. I think it is right it should be so. It is logical if you raise the age for school attendance that you ought to raise the employment provision also to fifteen because your ground for these provisions is that they are necessary for educational reasons. On the other hand, there is this point to be taken into account. You want to persuade your local authorities to make by-laws raising the age to fifteen. If the effect of doing so is to restrict employment generally for the whole population between the ages of fourteen and fifteen then there will be much more opposition to any voluntary raising of the school age. I hope the Government, for the reasons I have given, will adhere to the situation, which I hope I have rightly described. Is that so?
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
As I read paragraph (ii.) the effect will be that nobody can employ a child in street trading under the age certainly of fourteen, and I should have thought fifteen, though I accept what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board said on that point as right. We then turn over the page, dealing with another Act of Parliament, and there the Clause says:In paragraph (c) of Section two, which restricts the employment of children under eleven years for the purpose of singing, playing, or performing, or being exhibited for profit, or offering anything for sale, twelve years shall be substituted for eleven years.Thus, the whole Clause would readAny person who causes or procures any child under the age of eleven years "—That is to be amended by this Bill to twelve years—or having the custody, charge, or care of that child, allows that child at any time to be in any street"—Then a number of words—for the purpose of offering anything for sale —shall be guilty, and so forth. As I read this Bill, and under this paragraph, you prohibit a person from employing a person in the street under the age of fourteen, and in the next Sub-clause of the same Clause you make it an offence to employ a child in the street under the age of twelve. I venture to submit that I am right in that, and if that is so I think it should be cleared 2169 up. May I deprecate very strongly this legislation by reference. I have done it so often before. It is difficult enough when dealing with one Department, but when the Education Department makes alterations in Bills introduced by other Departments it would surely be advisable to draw a fresh Clause altogether to make up our minds what we want to do, and put it into plain English without people having to look up these Sections. It is merely a matter of drafting.
§ Mr. LEWIS
May I explain that paragraph (ii.) of Sub-section (2) is purely consequential on paragraph (i.) of Sub-section (I)? No change is made in the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act, 1904, except so far as it is absolutely necessary in order to make it agree with the Employment of Children Act, 1903; and, as paragraph (i.) of Sub-section (1) provides that a child under the age of twelve shall not be employed, it was necessary in paragraph (ii.) of Sub-section (2), to make that agree with Sub-section (1). It is purely consequential.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
Really; does anybody consider that explanation satisfactory? If any hon. Member will say that he does, I will sit down at once. You have it laid down by reference to Subsection (2) that a child shall not be employed under the age of fourteen or fifteen —we do not seem to know clearly which it is—in street trading. Then on the next page you make it an offence to do it under twelve. What do you mean? Do you mean that a person employing a child of thirteen is to be convicted for street trading? Would it not be better for us all to go to bed now and later to put what we mean into plain English?
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), at the beginning of paragraph (iii.), to insert the words "As regards the City of London."
Under Section 3 it is provided that the powers under this Act shall be deemed to be powers and duties of Part III. of the Education Act, 1902. Under the Employment of Children Act, 1903, which this Clause seeks to amend, the City of London are the authority. They are not the authority under the Education Act, and the City desire that these words shall be included.
§ Amendment agreed to.2170
§ Further Amendment made: After the word "definition:—" ["definition:—The expression 'local authority,' "], insert the words "Except as regards the City of London."—[Sir F. Banbury.]
§ Mr. PETO
I beg to move, in Subsection (2), to leave out paragraph (ii.).
I want to ask the President of the Board of Education whether he will meet those who are really interested and concerned in. this question relating to the employment of children singing, playing, or performing, or being exhibited for profit at the age of twelve years. I have a further Amendment to leave out paragraph (iii.) relating to licences for the employment of children exceeding the age of twelve years of age, and I wish to ask him whether he will consider this Amendment between now and the Report stage. As the right hon. Gentleman knows licences are granted all over the country and there are endless difficulties which involve attendance at Police Courts. The effect of the Clause is to place this matter in the hands of the President in regard to the education of these children, and if the right hon. Gentleman will give his attention to the subject between now and the Report stage, possibly some satisfactory conclusion might be reached. A form of words was put before the President's Department, but it was not considered precisely satisfactory, but with certain modifications it might, from the educational point of view, be made of immense advantage.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
Here we have this Sub-clause which alters the existing law in the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act and makes it an offence now for anybody to cause or procure a child under the age of twelve years to be at any time in any street for the purpose of offering anything for sale. I asked some time ago whether it was intended under this Act to make it an offence for a child to be sent to trade in the streets at thirteen, and before this Section goes through I want an answer definitely on that point or else I shall ask leave to move to report Progress.
The hon. and learned Member asked me whether, under the provisions of the Clause as settled in Subsection (2) of Section 1 and Sub-section (2) of Section 2, a boy or a girl could engage in street trading at the age of thirteen. I think the answer is in the negative.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
Then I shall certainly ask leave to move to report Progress, because we are amending the Act in the beginning part of this Clause 13 (2), where we make it an offence for any child—that is, under fourteen or fifteen years of age—to trade in the streets, and in the very same Section we have thus produced an amendment of a Bill which makes it an offence for the same thing to be done under the age of twelve I think there should be a redrafting of this Clause in a way which people can readily understand.
§ Mr. DENMAN
I do not know if the hon. and learned Member will let a layman endeavour to throw a little light on this point, which is not really so absurd as he suggests. The two Clauses do not really deal with the same thing. The words we have passed make it an offence to employ a child in street trading under the age of fourteen, and the penalties for such employment are as laid down in the Act of 1903. The Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act is much more stringent, and, as amended by the Sub-section to which the hon. and learned Member has objected, it will run to the effect that up to the age of twelve years certain things must not be done to a child. It says, "if any person causes or procures any child under twelve" to do these various things, then that person "shall, on summary conviction, be liable, at the discretion of the Court, to a fine not exceeding £25, or," amongst other things, "to imprisonment with or without hard labour." Surely the hon. and learned Member will see the extreme difference of these two cases. Street trading, under the age of fourteen, may be a comparatively mild offence, but the procuring of a child under twelve to do these certain things is deemed to be so much worse than a far higher penalty is imposed.
§ Mr. DENMAN (reading)
He shall be liable to a fine not exceeding forty shillings, or, in the case of a second or subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding five pounds.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I am very glad that the layman sees no difficulty in the Act at all, but in the same Section the thing is 2172 prohibited twice, one under twelve and one under fourteen, without an indication in the Section as to what the penalty is in either ease, except by reference. I do not think it is the way to draw up an Act of Parliament. You have two different things in the same Clause, and I still think there is a difficulty in the Subsection. I submit it would be far better if the Clause were redrafted in such a way that people could understand perfectly well what is meant, with the penalties also put in.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again. "—[Mr. Fisher.]
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The hon. Member at an earlier stage to-day made a suggestion to the Government which would probably be convenient. There will have to be at some time a reprint of Clause 13. I hope the Government, when they fix another day for this Bill, will not suspend the Eleven o'Clock Rule. At this time of night no one has the courage to raise a point and discuss it in the way it ought to be done on a question involving the liberty of the subject. It is not a. satisfactory way to carry through a difficult and complicated measure.
§ Lord E. TALBOT (Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury)
It is not at all likely to be taken next week.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being after Half-past Eleven of the clock, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the standing order.
§ Adjourned at twenty-five minutes before Twelve o'colck