THE DUKE OF ST. ALBANS
, in putting a Question respecting the Agricultural Children Act, said, he trusted the importance of the subject in our agricultural districts would be a sufficient excuse for his intruding on the time and the attention of their Lordships' House. He thought it was a great advantage that his Question would be put in that House, where they had the advantage of the presence of the noble Duke, who, besides being the St. Anthony of the Government, and having the care of the animals, was 'also the Minister of Education. He need not remind their Lordships that the Agricultural Children Act was introduced by Mr. Clare Sowell Read and Mr. Pell, two Gentlemen well qualified to represent the agricultural interests. The Bill provided no machinery for putting its provisions into force; the police, however, had been brought into requisition in some counties, but in others it was not so, and conspicuous among the latter was the county of Buckingham, where it was reported that Mr. Disraeli voted against their being so used. The Prime Minister would not give a heedless vote in a leisure hour to support a state of things which rendered the Act of Parliament a dead letter. The measure, he must admit, was unpopular among the farming population and the voting classes in the counties; but the illustrious head of Her Majesty's Government was the last person to obstruct an Act of Parliament in order to secure the approbation of his constituents. He (the Duke of St. Albans) was, therefore, driven to the conclusion that the Government had some remedy to propose. It was not his 131 business to point out the evil that existed on that occasion, or what should be done; though he quite admitted that the employment of the police in the relations the Act dealt with was most objectionable, if it could be avoided. They had, however, given the Act a good trial, and he had this to observe, that the present state of things ought no longer to exist. The ancient divisions of counties were eccentric to our ideas; and how were they to justify to the farmer and labourer in one parish the justice of his obeying a law which his neighbours on the other side of a fence could avoid? He might instance the fact of two farmers who, as he was informed, had been fined 6d. and costs at Huntingdon. They refused to pay, and a distress warrant was issued. He was afraid those persons had the full sympathy of their class; and it must be confessed it was difficult to see why they should be subjected to the ignominy of a fine, while the farmer in Buckinghamshire was exempt, and the head of the Government supported his position. He begged to ask, Whether Her Majesty's Government contemplate any steps to give effect to the Agricultural Children Act and to secure uniformity of action under its provisions in the several counties?
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
said, their Lordships were aware that in Her Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne an announcement was made that a Bill would be introduced on the subject of Primary Education. It must be obvious to everybody who had looked into the question that no Bill dealing with that subject could overlook the education of children in the agricultural districts. His noble Friend (Lord Sandon) would introduce in the House of Commons a Bill on the subject of Primary Education at no distant date, and would state the intentions of the Government. Their Lordships would see, therefore, that he could not be expected on the present occasion to give any further reply to the Question of the noble Duke.
§ LORD COTTESLOE
said, there was a misapprehension as to the course taken by the Prime Minister in Buckinghamshire with reference to the question. At the Quarter Sessions it was proposed to employ the police to enforce the Act. A magistrate moved the previous question, and it was for this latter motion Mr. 132 Disraeli and the majority of the magistrates recorded their votes.