§ Sir H. NIELD
I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, to leave out the word "thirty-two" and to insert instead thereof the word "thirty-three."
It was thought that the time stated in the Bill was wholly insufficient. We asked for a delay of five years, and pointed out that three years was an absolutely essential minimum period to enable us to make such arrangements as, at any rate, would enable the elimination of hardships. [Interruption.] Even my hon. Friends declare that they cannot hear what is being said owing to interruptions; therefore I beg to repeat what, I said in Committee, namely, that this term should be increased by five years, which I afterwards agreed, by way of attempted compromise, should be three 1398 years, as the minimum period during which the threatened hardships could be minimised. In that connection I assured the Committee, as I assured this House on the Second Reading of the Bill, of the serious proposals of the Grand Junction Canal Company to widen the canal from London to Birmingham and from Coventry to other centres so that it would accommodate 100-ton barges, and that that in itself would cause a total alteration in the class of traffic, and that the narrow barge would no longer be used, when for the purposes of commerce 100-ton barges were to be substituted. This would at once create a different state of affairs and enable the living-in on the barges to be done away with and certainly do away with the presence of women and children. Barges which at present have women and children on board are only of a 30-ton capacity. It 1399 is impossible on the earnings of a 30-ton barge to pay the wages, which would necessarily require to be paid, if a mate had to be substituted and paid for, as would be the case on the 100-ton barges. Again, the 100-ton barges would be propelled by motor, and therefore the pace of these barges would be accelerated and their journeys would be shortened in time, and the whole thing would settle itself. The promoters of the Bill declined to allow such a reasonable concession to take place.
I do not propose for a moment to say that I can answer for the other canal systems of the country. I think that there are very few in which this type of barge exists in larger numbers than upon the Grand Junction. There is the case of the Yorkshire canals, and there, I understand, although women are on board, the conditions are very different from those which prevail in this large Midland canal. I ask the House to consider whether it is not better to concede a couple of years in order that this system may have an opportunity of working itself out. My Amendment asks for the insertion of the word "thirty-three" in place of the word "thirty-two," and this is only one year. The House has heard to-day at very great length the sufferings of these people and what they will suffer if this Bill is insisted upon, and I hope that the promoters will, at least, be merciful in the sense that they can give an additional year. If the promoters of the Bill would concede that year it would, at any rate, minimise, as far as possible, the sad anticipations of the honest population on the canals of this country.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I regret that the promoters of the Bill are unable to accept the request of the right hon. and learned Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield), which he put before the Committee upstairs with great moderation. After all, the question is whether these children are going to be uneducated for an additional year. That is really the point. The matter was fully discussed. The Chamberlain Committee made a most exhaustive inquiry into this as well as into other points. They sat for 12 days and examined 20 witnesses, and this particular point also received full consideration in the Committee upstairs. I very much re- 1400 gret, wishful as I am to meet the right hon. and learned Gentleman's objection, that we are unable to accede to it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel GRANT MORDEN
I take great exception to the statement that the children are uneducated. I have in my hand letters from children of nine and 10 years of age which prove that the children are educated. I will read to the House what some of these children have written in order to show the kind of letters they can write. I have the following letter from the Boat School, Brent-ford, dated 4th December last:I am very pleased to find that a nice surprise awaited me. It is very kind of you to send such nice books for us. I thank you very much for my book. … I enjoy it every day.…It is called 'Little Women'. It is all about four girls. My mistress said she read it when she was a little girl and liked it very much, so I know I shall like it. I want to thank you very much.—ROSE WRAY.There is another letter from Ernest Palin, who says:I thank you for sending the prize books. I am lucky this morning to have a prize book. I enjoy the book very much. My mother likes it too, and so we are all very happy.A little girl, Margaret Hough, wrote in November:I think it was very kind of you to send these beautiful books. Mine is called 'Water Babies.' Teacher gave it to me today. I like it very much. Mother likes it very much too.There is another letter from Frank Ray, who writes:We are very pleased"—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member's remarks do not appear to be relevant to the Amendment, which is to postpone the date when the Act is to come into operation.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MORDEN
It has been said that these children are not being educated, and I say that if children of nine and 10 years of age can write letters of this kind, it is clear proof that they are being educated, and, what is more, they are helping to educate their fathers and mothers. These children take books home and read them to their parents. They read well, which shows that they are being educated. If anyone will take the trouble to go to the barges, meet the 1401 parents, see the children and talk with them, they will find that the children can read and write better than most children in other places. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It is a fact; I know them. These people are a splendid class. They live very much to themselves, they are good citizens, healthy citizens and their children are now being educated, and if they are allowed to go on as they have been doing, they will be perfectly happy and content. I cannot understand why people should want to interfere with good citizens. Why have they not the right to live their own lives, as they want to live them? They have the amenities of education, of which the children are taking full advantage, and they should be allowed to continue in their own way and not be made subject to a Bill which takes away the liberty of the subject.
§ Major LLEWELLIN
We have heard that those who are promoting this Bill are not prepared to accept a postponement, of a year before the first paragraph comes into operation. We should bear in mind what is likely to be the position of the parents if this part of the Bill comes into force at the appointed day. We know, or we shrewdly suspect, that the Ministry of Health are unwilling to say that at the present time there is sufficient accommodation available for these children at a cost which their parents are in a position to pay, otherwise that assurance would have been given from the Front Bench to-day. If that assurance had been given, the promoters of the Bill would willingly have accepted the proposed new Clause. The Government Department are not prepared to give that assurance, and we are thrown back therefore upon the possible action of some education authority which may be located some distance away from the parents. That authority may make application to get proper lodging for the children, but if proper lodging cannot be provided we shall find that the parents will be in danger of coming within Section 12 of the Children Act, which orders that if any person over the age of 16 years who has the custody, charge or care Of a child or young person neglects, abandons, or exposes such young person, he shall be guilty of an offence under that Act, for which he shall be liable to a fine of £100 or to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a period of 1402 two years. Under that Section it has been held in the case of the King versus White that a father was guilty of such an offence for leaving a child on a doorstep, where it remained during one night.
Into what position are we putting the parents under this Clause? We are saying to them: "If you keep these children on the barge during the school term, it shall be an offence for which on second conviction you are liable to go to prison." Under the existing law if the parents neglect or abandon the child they are liable to imprisonment. The local authority may not be in a position to say that there is a home for the children to go to, yet the promoters of the Bill will not accept a further period of one year, and these wretched parents may be put into the position not only of being separated from their children, but of having, on the one hand, to risk an offence under the Children Act, and, on the other hand, a new offence under this Act, although they may have no place to which they can take their children. It is only reasonable that they should be liven a longer period in order to make the necessary arrangements that the Bill compels them to make. Whatever the education authorities may do, the responsibility will still rest upon the parents to provide a home for the children. It may be that the education authority will be miles away from the parents and have no connection with the parents. It may decide to make application to the Board of Education, who may decide to grant the application, and if they do not we ought to have an assurance that some further time will be given to the parents to provide accommodation for their children.
The Bill is unfair to this small section of the community. I am obliged to the promoters of the Bill for having met very largely some of the remarks that I made on the Second Reading, by reducing the penalties that were then in the Bill, which were to be the same penalties as under Section 12 of the Children Act, far too high for a mere educational offence. However, there is inserted in the Bill a provision for imprisonment for a mere educational offence. I would have liked to have had as the penalty the same fine that exists in regard to other educational offences. When you 1403 are putting the parents into the position of having to face imprisonment in regard to abandoning or neglecting their children and, on the other hand, having to face imprisonment under this Bill, it is unfair. The parents, quite properly, would like to keep the children in their own homes, and a longer period ought to be allowed than is provided in the Bill for making the necessary arrangements for homes into which the children can go. These people have not the same facilities as Members of this House. Their railway fares are not paid; they may be a long way from the place where the barge is registered and may have to make a considerable journey in order to make arrangements for a home, with which they can from time to time keep in touch, where they can send their children—a proper home from home, to which they feel that they can entrust their children. I ask the House and the promoters of the Bill to look at the matter in that light.
I desire to press this Amendment on the attention of the House. There is nothing more derogatory than to pass legislation which cannot be put into effect, and no Court in the country would convict a man for not sending his child to school if he said that there was no accommodation available; that he had tried to find it and had failed. The housing question for people with a low wage is most difficult. At the present moment there is a great lack of accommodation for people like these, and the whole object of the Slum Clearance Bill is to provide alternative accommodation for people who are living in slums and who cannot afford to pay a big rent. Even if that Bill is passed and is put into operation vigorously by local authorities it will be three or four or five years before any new houses are ready for these canal people at the termini of the canal routes.
The promoters of the Bill might say that they do not visualise these people living at the termini. They may say, "We do not want them to live in the slums at all, but in the country somewhere along the route of the canal; there will be accommodation in the villages and in the schools." That means that the fathers of these children will have to look for this 1404 accommodation. They have to work every day—I do not know whether they work six or seven days a week—and the only time in which they will be able to look for this alternative rural accommodation is when they may be free. The time they will have to look for this new accommodation will be very limited. Hon. Members who may have had to move know the tremendous difficulty there is in finding suitable accommodation, and it would be very much harder for these people on the barges. [An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish !"] The hon. Member who has so politely interrupted appears to have no doubt in his own mind that there is plenty of accommodation. I wish he had the temerity and the courage to tell the Ministry of Health that there was plenty of accommodation, because no one would be more pleased than the Minister of Health to be able to say that there is plenty of accommodation in this country for people who live in slums. If the hon. Member is correct, we have been living in a fog of bewilderment for some years. But the hon. Member's interjection is not true. The difficulty of these parents will be very considerable, and I suggest that another 12 months, which is all we are asking for, is not too long to give them to find alternative accommodation. We are met in the House to-day, as we were met in the Committee upstairs, with a rigid and determined opposition from the promoters of the Bill to accept nothing which we are prepared to offer.
§ Captain BOURNE
A good deal of the discussion hitherto has turned on the question of the conditions which prevail in the basin of the Grand Junction Canal. I want to put the position on the smaller canals, and particularly the canal which runs from Birmingham to Oxford, turns partly north towards Bletchley and then runs down to Reading. In that canal system the only convenient place in which it would be possible to board- these children, if they were taken off the barges, is my own constituency, where the housing problem is already very serious. Very largely owing to the expansion of the Morris motor works we are already badly overcrowded, and it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the City Council to build houses fast enough to meet any extra demand. The vast majority of the houses at Oxford already contain at least two families. I 1405 do not suggest that in Oxford we could not undertake the education of the barge children, but at the moment the housing problem in the city is so acute that even an extra year would be a God-send to those who would have the responsibility of providing extra housing accommodation.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 177; Noes, 68.1407
|Division No. 286.]||AYES.||[3.13 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Groves, Thomas E.||Phillips, Dr. Marion|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Grundy, Thomas W.||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Alpass, J. H.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Price, M. P.|
|Arnott, John||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Astor, Viscountess||Haycock, A. W.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Hayday, Arthur||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Ayles, Walter||Hayes, John Henry||Romeril, H. G.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Rowson, Guy|
|Barr, James||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Batey, Joseph||Hollins, A.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Bellamy, Albert||Horrabin, J. F.||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)|
|Bennett, Capt. E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Benson, G.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Scurr, John|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Sexton, James|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Kennedy, Thomas||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Brothers, M.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Kinley, J.||Shield, George William|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Buchanan, G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Shinwell, E.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Lawrence, Susan||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Cameron, A. G.||Leach, W.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Longbottom, A. W.||Snell, Harry|
|Chater, Daniel||Longden, F.||Sorensen, R.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lowth, Thomas||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cove, William G.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Cowan, D. M.||McElwee, A.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)|
|Daggar, George||McEntee, V. L.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Dallas, George||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Day, Harry||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Tillett, Ben|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||March, S.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dukes, C.||Marjorlbanks, E. C.||Vaughan, D. J.|
|Duncan, Charles||Marley, J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Mathers, George||Walkden, A. G.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Matters, L. W.||Walker, J.|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Maxton, James||Watkins, F. C.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Messer, Fred||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Foot, Isaac||Mills, J. E.||West, F. R.|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||Morley, Ralph||Westwood, Joseph|
|Freeman, Peter||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Mort, D. L.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroks)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Oldfield, J. R.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Gillett, George M.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Glassey, A. E.||Palin, John Henry||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Gossling, A. G.||Paling, Wilfrid||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Gould, F.||Palmer, E. T.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Gray, Milner||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Pethick-Lawrence. F. W.||Mr. Ede and Brigadier-General Makins.|
|Albery, Irving James||Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)|
|Balniel, Lord||Bracken, B.||Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Butler, R. A.||Davies, Dr. Vernon|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Colman, N. C. D.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Lymington, Viscount||Simms, Major-General J.|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Macquisten, F. A.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Muirhead, A. J.||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrst'ld)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Peake, Capt. Osbert||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Ramsbotham, H.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Ross, Major Ronald D.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart||Captain Hudson and Major Llewellin.|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'thirty-two' stand part of the Bill."1408
§ The House divided: Ayes, 180; Noes, 71.1409
|Division No. 287.]||AYES.||[3.22 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Gould, F.||Oldfield, J. R.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Gray, Milner||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Palin, John Henry|
|Ammon, Charles George||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Arnott, John||Groves, Thomas E.||Palmer, E. T.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Grundy, Thomas W.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Astor, Viscountess||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Pethick-Lawrence. F. W.|
|Ayles, Walter||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Phillips, Dr. Marion|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Haycock, A. W.||Price, M. P.|
|Barr, James||Hayday, Arthur||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Batey, Joseph||Hayes, John Henry||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Bellamy, Albert||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Bennett, Capt. E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Benson, G.||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Romeril, H. G.|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Hollins, A.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hopkin, Daniel||Rowson, Guy|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Horrabin, J. F.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)|
|Brothers, M.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Scurr, John|
|Burgess, F. G.||Kennedy, Thomas||Sexton, James|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Kinley, J.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Caine, Derwent Hall-||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Cameron, A. G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Shield, George William|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Chadwick, Capt. Sir Robert Burton||Lawrence, Susan||Shinwell, E.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Leach, W.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Chater, Daniel||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Longbottom, A. W.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Cove, William G.||Lowth, Thomas||Snell, Harry|
|Cowan, D. M.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Sorensen, R.|
|Daggar, George||McElwee, A.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Dallas, George||McEntee, V. L.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Day, Harry||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)|
|Dukes, C.||March, S.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Duncan, Charles||Marjoribanks, E. C.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Marley, J.||Tillett, Ben|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Mathers, George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Matters, L. W.||Vaughan, D. J.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Maxton, James||Viant, S. P.|
|Foot, Isaac||Melville, Sir James||Walkden, A. G.|
|Freeman, Peter||Messer, Fred||Walker, J.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Mills, J. E.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Morley, Ralph||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||West, F. R.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Westwood, Joseph|
|Gillett, George M.||Mort, D. L.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Glassey, A. E.||Muggeridge, H. T.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Gossling, A. G.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)||Mr. Ede and Brigadier-General Makins.|
|Wilson, J. (Oldham)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Albery, Irving James||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Balniel, Lord||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Ross, Major Ronald D.|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Bracken, B.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Simms, Major-General J.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfast)|
|Butler, R. A.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Longden, F.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Lymington, Viscount||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Macquisten, F. A.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Joslah|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Forestler-Walker, Sir L.||Muirhead, A. J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Peake, Capt. Osbert||Captain A. Hudson and Major Llewellin.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, to leave out the word "five," and to insert instead thereof the word "seven."
I have the privilege of moving an Amendment which I hope will secure a certain amount of support from the other side as well as from this side. It is an Amendment in the interest of the children and will not kill the Bill. It involves the serious question as to whether, in the interest of the children and of the parents, action cannot be delayed from the age of five to the age of seven. My object in proposing this Amendment is to make the best of what we must realise is a bad job. We have to provide for the interests of the families on the canal boats, and it is a serious thing to break up the family life on these boats, even in the interests of the children. Those who were present at the meeting attended by the bargees and their wives on Monday recognised the strength of feeling aroused by this Bill. It may be quite right to overcome that, and it is our duty in certain directions in politics to take a strong line and overcome strong and conscientious feelings that may be roused. It will be a serious thing for us, however, if we take a strong line which is not absolutely the minimum required, when it is met with the deep-rooted objections which were voiced by the bargees and their wives last Monday. That being the case, we have to consider if it is 1410 necessary to do what is obviously an unnatural thing and take the children away from their parents at the age of five.
My position has been rendered very difficult in the matter, because I have felt a good deal of sympathy with my right hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain), who was Chairman of the Committee in 1921 which reported on the ultimate future of the child. I have felt that it is a serious question that if these children are living a life, however good we believe it to be for their present vocation on board a boat, which will confine them for all time to that kind of life, it will seriously handicap them in the future. It is quite clear that, sooner or later, the system which is at present aimed at in this Bill will come to an end, and that by degrees the position will work out by which the bargees will have their houses on shore, and they will work, just as the mercantile marine do, alone on board their boats, going backwards and forwards to their homes on shore. I think that that is the future towards which we are working.
The question is, therefore, whether we must meanwhile take these violent measures in order to fit the children for life if they are squeezed out of the canal boat world by motor traffic and have to find other employment. It is necessary for them to have a minimum education; that is where I have 1411 a great deal of sympathy with the promoters of the Bill. We have whittled down the original proposals of the Bill, which were not based on educational needs but on what, I submit, were the spurious grounds of supposed injury to the health of the children. Now we have to consider whether it is necessary for their education to remove them from life on the canal boats at the age of five. The age of five is that at which children generally begin school, and if the position of these children were the same as that of others, there would be no reason to make any exception in their case; but we must take into account the fact that here we are rending children from their parents, we are imposing special difficulties upon them.
It is a serious deprivation to the children and the parents. We are interfering with the absolute natural rights of these parents, and they will hold those of us who vote for this Measure responsible. Therefore, we have to compare the advantages of the education which a child gains between the ages of five and seven with the advantages of family life. From age-long time children in Scotland have started school at the age of seven, and I always understood that that was based on the determination of the parents to keep the children with them until that age.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
The age was seven until Scotland had to conform to the general uniformity that is so prevalent, unfortunately, in modern times. It has been the view of educationists generally that if a child is allowed to run wild, more or less, up to the age of seven, that is, with irregular teaching and training at home, and is then introduced to the uniform education of the schools, it will pick up learning all the more quickly because of having been allowed to grow up and develop on wider and more natural lines. Children are not really standing still when they are at home, any more than the seeds in the soil are standing still in this glorious month of May. The child organism is such that it is developing and growing, and sucking in experience where it can. There is a con- 1412 siderable divergence of opinion amongst educationists generally as to the age at which it is best to take a child and systematise its training. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, which hon. Members opposite will realise. They often jeer at the opportunities which are afforded to the rich in regard to the education of their children. Those of us on this side of the House are able to afford what we think is best for our children, and we recognise that we could not do anything better to start our children in life than to give them the highest and best possible education we can possibly get for them.
What is the system of education which prevails amongst the better-to-do class? I do not mean the rich, and those who can afford a public-school or a university education for their children, but the great mass of the middle classes. The ordinary system they adopt is that they keep their children at home. They may send them to a day school, but as a rule until they are seven years of age they train them at home as well they can. There is a system of university education which starts at the age of 17, 18 and 19. Then we have the public endowed schools at which education starts at 12, 13 or 14 years of age. There is also the system of the preparatory schools where education starts at the age of 8, 9, or 10 years, although we sometimes send our children to school before they are eight years of age. Why should we impose upon bargemen that divorce from family life? If it is better for the children to be torn away from their surroundings and put into boarding houses in the town away from their parents, why do the middle classes not do it when they can afford it?
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
They go to work from the very day they are able to work onwards. If the hon. Member for Claycross (Mr. Duncan) thinks that the only work is wage-earning, I think he had better go back to school and learn a little more. Work does not consist merely in earning wages. We do the work of the world in this House, and that is quite apart from wage-earning. I maintain again that even those parents who have to send their children to work in order to make ends meet and maintain 1413 and develop the home do not send their children away from home to school until they are seven, eight, or nine years of age, and that is a complete and sufficient reason for making this exception in a Bill which so interferes with the liberty of family life. Therefore, I ask the House to agree to the Amendment.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
I beg to second the Amendment.
My hon. and gallant Friend really hit the nail on the head when he said that this Bill goes outside the ordinary sphere of education and does something that is quite new. Therefore, I think that this is a proper moment at which to consider the question, which was referred to earlier by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle - under - Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), whether it is desired to mould the children of those who live on these canal barges into exactly the same shape as every other child in the country, or whether, as my hon. and gallant Friend and I would suggest, the age should be put higher because of the special circumstances of that class of the community. The world of education to-day is very much exercised as to the right and proper age at which to send children to school and as to how long they should be kept there, and this particular House of Commons has every reason to be exercised in that matter, seeing that we are, apparently, at some time, to discuss a Government Measure with regard to raising the school age. It may very well be, and many educationists take this view, that, if you raise the school age at one end, it is possibly wise to raise it at the other end as well. Opinion is fluid. On the other hand, there are people like the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), who think that nursery schools are the thing. If nursery schools are the thing, why should we put the possibility of sending their children to nursery schools outside the scope of the canal population?
We must take it by and large, and, considering that this Bill makes the great departure of compelling parents to board out their children—whether at the public charge or not is not settled—and if they do not send them to school they are going to prison—considering the ex- 1414 traordinary difference between that and the ordinary education system of the country, it seems to me to be right and proper to say that seven years is quite old enough when there is the risk of incurring penalties of this sort. I wonder was the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health boarded out at school at the age of five? I venture to doubt it; and, because the criticism that I am making on that point is not confined to her sex, I would also ask, was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster boarded out at school at the age of five? I do not suppose so for a moment. Again, taking the older generation, I wonder whether the First Commissioner of Works went off to school at the age of five, and whether his parents would have been sent to prison if he did not; while as for the Attorney-General I am quite certain that he did not. These are the sort of people on the Front Government Bench who are trying to force this unfortunate population on the canals, who earn their living in the most honest and respectable manner possible and who want to keep up their family connection with their children—these hon. and right hon. Gentlemen and Ladies, aided and assisted by the two Noble Ladies over here—
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
The only Noble man who has spoken from this side is the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), and I cannot in any circumstances accept his speech as having supported the Bill. I should think the Noble Lady who is so anxious in the cause of education would be prepared to accept the Amendment. She told us earlier on that there were only 468 families which had not got houses of their own on land. She got the information from an inspector of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. It is a most extraordinary thing that she did not quote the report of the inspector of the Ministry. I wonder how the Government like the Noble Lady's support when she gives them the evidence of a private authority, which has been so contradicted, and they do not bring out in support of her case the evidence which is available in the Government Department. If we raise the age from five to seven, we do 1415 in fact more or less what we tried to do in the last Amendment, and that is to postpone the evil day for the canal population. We thereby give the local authorities concerned time to investigate how they are going to deal with these children. Section 23 of the Education Act says the local education authorities can consider whether they are going to make "such arrangements of a temporary or permanent character." It may very well be that the authorities that are at the termini would want to put up some permanent buildings, schools and so on, and by giving them this extra time we shall be making it easier for them.
All the time you come back to the fact that, if the parents do not send their children, they are liable to go to prison. The sinister aspect of the whole Bill is that there are so few people concerned. It does not matter saying you are keen educationists or anything else. I do not believe the Bill for raising the school age is going to make a criminal offence. There is no question of prison for the extra year at the other end. There is here for the children of the unfortunate canal population. I hope those in charge of the Measure will accept this very small Amendment, which is of very great importance indeed. I should say one of its advantages is that it will give the Government Department—I suppose it will come under the Board of Education in some way—an opportunity of finding out what happens in other countries where this problem must have arisen. England is not the only country in the world where there are canals and barges. It might very well be that arrangements that are in force in Belgium or in France might be translated into this country. A little more time, which is the inevitable result of the acceptance of the Amendment, would enable that to be done.
After all, the Government Bench has given us extraordinarily little guidance. We have already complained of the absence of any legal representative, or any legal advice. I say that not as a general accusation, though it is perfectly justified as a general accusation, but with regard to this Amendment. The Clause says that these children should not be allowed 1416 to reside on barges except either during the week-end or on holidays. There is a proviso that a registered medical practitioner can certify that, in the interest of his own health, he ought not to go to school. Any ordinary person would take his own health as referring to the medical practitioner and not to the child. We have had no information from the Government Bench, but I have consulted two legal Members of great eminence on this side of the House and they both bear out my lay opinion that that is what those words mean, as drafted. Really, to expect to get a Clause of this importance without any advice from the legal officers, seems to be rather too much of a good thing. I am particularly glad to be able to second the Amendment, because my constituency is one in which we have a good many people who are concerned with barges. We have a wonderful system of drainage dating back to the time of the Normans. I took the trouble—[Interruption.]. If the Noble Lady wishes to say something, I will willingly give way to her.
I wanted only to state that the hon. and gallant Member is the cleverest obstructionist in this House.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
May I have your protection, Mr. Speaker? I do not know whether I can raise the matter on a point of Order, but I think that it is improper for the Noble Lady, after I gave way to her and thought that she was going to speak about my canal constituents, to make a perfectly unfounded accusation. In asking for your protection, Mr. Speaker, may I ask whether it is your intention to ask her to withdraw that remark?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think that last Friday when an hon. Member asked me the same thing, I said that I had often heard that accusation made before in this House.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
It seems most extraordinary that the Noble Lady, who ought to know better and who has been in this House longer than I, and who is much older than I—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"]—and who, in view of the fact that she has a family and I am a bachelor, is far more fitted to deal 1417 with the subject of children than I, should not be original, but should repeat the sort of accusation which was apparently made last Friday against somebody else. We do expect originality from the Noble Lady. I think that it is most ungracious of her not to withdraw that very uncalled-for remark. I was saying that I took the trouble to ask those responsible for education in my constituency whether they thought that it, was desirable that these children should be compelled to go to school at five. They have arrangements there by which children on the barges attend school in the same sort of way as they do elsewhere. They expressed the view to me that they were perfectly satisfied with the arrangements which were now in existence.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
rose in his place and claimed to move "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
It is impossible to carry on a lucid argument with the interruptions of the Noble Lady on one side and those of the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, who was in the House long before I was born. I was going on to say—
§ It being Four of the Clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), to be further considered upon Friday next.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at One Minute after Four o'Clock until Monday next, 12th May.