The Minister has indicated his attitude to this amendment, and I think the line he has taken is that it is not his function but the function of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to indicate the conditions of employment. Actually, however, he does here intrude into that realm, and he implies here that a child may under certain circumstances —between certain hours, at any rate— be employed at 12 years of age. If the Minister is intruding in this particular way, I do not know why he should fix 12 any more than 10. I make the point that unemployment among children above the age at which they are required to attend school is so great and so demoralising that any employment that is available might very well be preserved for children over 14 years of age. I think the contacts they make while working for a short period on the type of work that that class of child is engaged in may be much more fruitful in securing permanent employment if the child is over 14 years of age and above school age than it would be if the child was 12 or 13 years of age and liable to have to attend school for another year or two. I had not any indication that anybody in the House sympathises with my motion. I would not press it unless I saw some understanding in the House of the point I wish to make. I do wish to impress on the House that, particularly in a place like the city here, there is a considerable amount of very demoralising unemployment among children who have left school. That is a very great heartbreak to parents, and I think such employment as is available might very well be kept for children over 14 years of age.
School Attendance Bill, 1942—Com mittee (Resumed—Amendment 13).
I would appeal to the Minister very strongly to accept this amendment. I think the acceptance of it would do something to repair the very unfortunate past of the Department of Education in regard to its outlook as to the impacts which young persons are able to withstand in the viewpoint of that Department. In the 1926 Act the Minister had power to prohibit the employment of persons between six and 14 years of age, clearly indicating that the Minister at that time believed that he ought to have power to prevent persons working between the ages of six and 14. Even in 1926, which is a long time ago—many things have happened in the world since then—there was apparently some progress in the Department as indicated by the fact that the Department took the right to prohibit the employment of young persons between six and 14 years of age in the legislation that was then passed. But, of course, no action was taken by the Department to implement the relevant section in the 1926 Act and that section of the Act remained a dead letter since 1926. Now the Minister comes along with a new Bill, which ought to represent a new and progressive approach to educational control of young children, and he repeals entirely the provisions of the 1926 Act in respect of his right to restrict the employment of persons between six and 14 years of age and, instead, embodies in this new Bill Section 7, which, I think, is a particularly reactionary section, in view of the fact that we would appear to have a better approach to the educational control of children in the 1926 Act. Section 7, as drawn here, provides—and this must be taken as the Department's outlook on the matter—that children may be employed for two hours per day between October and April, or for three hours per day between May and September. Everybody with experience of children and of the difficulty of getting them to take kindly to school knows perfectly well that anything which distracts their attention in the form of manual work is calculated to have a serious effect upon their ability to absorb instruction during school hours, and to be used as an excuse by them for not doing their homework. The Bill makes this further extraordinary provision that on a non-school day, which may be a Saturday, a young child between 12 and 14 years might be expected to work for five hours even though a skilled tradesman on that day would probably work only three or four hours, it being his half-day. So that on the day the ordinary tradesman selects for his half-day his young child between 12 and 14 may be working five hours.
I think that is amendment No. 19.
We are dealing with amendment No. 13.
I am talking about the Department's outlook on this Bill. I am glad of the conversions that have taken place since it was drafted. As Deputy Mulcahy has rightly pointed out, the position of children over 14 years of age in this city, who have left school, is perfectly appalling. There are thousands of them running around the streets. They cannot get employment. The Minister and the officials in his Department should go through the poorer parts of the city and see the large number of children of 14, 15 and 16 years of age who are simply running around wild because they cannot get any type of employment. These children are not compelled to go to school after they have reached the age of 14. If any person wants to employ a child for two or three hours on a school day, or for five hours on a Saturday or a Church holiday, surely he ought to be compelled to take into his employment some of those children over 14, 15 or 16 years of age who are at present running wild through the city instead of being allowed to employ a child between 12 and 14 years of age. The only incentive to employ a child before or after school hours would seem to be that child labour can be hired at an extremely cheap rate. I think the Minister should concern himself with trying to absorb into employment children over 14 years of age before he releases on the labour market children between 12 and 14 years of age.
I must say frankly that I regard the outlook of the Department of Education on children's entry into industry and employment as a most reactionary one. A few years ago we had a committee set up by the Department, composed of unnamed folk, which made the revelation in its report that children of 14 years of age were not too immature to enter industry. In other words, the view held was that a child of that age could go into a cotton mill and work a 48-hour week. I wonder if the people responsible for that report ever saw a cotton mill or had any idea of the fatiguing operations that are performed in it by adults, much less young children under 14. That committee held the view that young children of that age were not too immature to go into a beet factory, a boot factory or any other type of factory in the city. That was the viewpoint of the Department of Education at that time and, unfortunately, it was accepted by the Government and the Minister.
Even with the amendments which it is proposed to make to it, I still regard Section 7 as a most reactionary one. I think the Minister would get the commendation of every person rightly interested in educational progress in this country if he were to take his stand on the simple principle laid down in the Conditions of Employment Act, which will not allow a child to take work if he is under 14 years of age, and in the Shops Act which prevents a child working in shops if he is under 14 years of age. There should be a like provision in this measure in respect of every other occupation not covered by the Conditions of Employment Act or the Shops Act, so that the Department of Education would not allow persons to employ children under 14 years of age for the reason that such employment is calculated to interfere with the children's education in a country that, God knows, still needs a lot of education for its young people.
In the welter of war we can see through all the fire a recognition by progressive minded people in all countries of the value of education in the post-war period. In those countries keen minds are applying themselves to the problem of trying to equip the young people of the future to meet the tasks that will confront them, as well as the impacts which the child's body and mind must meet in the post-war period. We are living in peace and ought to be taking advantage of our present opportunity to equip our people with those educational qualities which it is not possible for those in other countries, in the maelstrom of war, to give to their young people. Instead, what are we doing in this Bill? Under a section entitled "Restrictions on employment of children," we are now removing restrictions on the employment of children, and are going to permit their employment between the ages of 12 and 14. This section, in my opinion, is a most reactionary one, even if the amendments to it, other than this one, be accepted. Instead of raising the school leaving age, we are here virtually lowering it, so that young children between 12 and 14 years of age will be permitted to take work. Any form of neglect in the children's education will be shown in their mental and cultural equipment when they come to leave school at 14 years of age. I think that the greatest joke I have ever seen embodied in legislation is contained in paragraph (d) of Section 7. It provides:
"Where a justice of the District Court is satisfied on the complaint of any person that any child who has attained the age of 12 years and has not attained the age of 14 years is employed in a manner which, though not contravening any of the foregoing provisions of this sub-section or any regulation made thereunder, is such as to prevent or interfere with such child obtaining proper benefit from attendance at school, such justice may prohibit such employment or attach to it such conditions as he thinks suitable."
That, I think, is a daft section. Who is going to make the complaint? Suppose I am abhorred at seeing a child at work between the ages of 12 and 14, what have I to do in order to satisfy myself that the physical labour of that young child is interfering with his education and preventing him from getting proper benefit from attendance at school? It is daft to imagine that any ordinary citizen—one must assume that the child is being employed with the consent of its parents—will come forward and make a complaint. Is it imagined that the parents of some other child will go to the district justice and say: "Look here, sir, I bring to your notice the fact that Mary Murphy, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, is working for two or three hours a day or five hours on Saturday as the case may be, and I beg you to believe that that child is not getting the proper benefit from attendance at school"? What is the district justice to do? Is he to leave the Bench and go off and see Mary Murphy, examine her as to how she is doing at school, compare her with the other children attending school and ascertain whether Mary is abreast of the others or well in the rear? I venture to say that at the end of the next century no one will have operated this particular section. It is only in for the purpose of flap-doodle, to give the impression that someone will go to the district justice. Suppose someone does go to the district justice; suppose I am considerably interested in some particular case, and I go to the district justice; I might have considerable trouble in convincing the district justice that in fact the child was not getting the proper benefit from attendance at school following that employment. Suppose the child then goes into other employment; an entirely new set of circumstances would then arise, and I would have to go back to the district justice. The child, would, therefore, have to leave that employment and get something else.
I never read a more unworkable section in my life, and whoever is responsible for it has unconsciously a very humorous mind. I think the Minister should accept the amendment which has been proposed by Deputy Mulcahy. If he does that, he will get the support of every person who is rightly interested in imparting to our children the best possible standard of education we can give them, in order to equip them for the world in which they are now merely children but in which in a short time they will be adolescents and men and women, and that is a world in which those who are unequipped, mentally and culturally, will fall very much behind in the race for a decent existence.
A week ago I drew attention to this matter, and I made an appeal to the Minister to introduce some form of amendment which would prevent children between 12 and 14 years of age from seeking or getting employment. I agree with previous speakers that this will lead to a form of cheap labour, very cheap labour indeed, and it will be harmful to boys and girls who have left school at 14 years of age and have no opportunity of getting employment. At the present moment the difficulties in the way of getting employment for children of 14 to 16 years of age are very great indeed, and it is heartbreaking for any member of the Dáil to meet the parents of these children when he cannot help in any way to get employment for them. Now the Minister is going to make things worse for them by allowing children between the ages of 12 and 14 years to take employment. He is also making it very difficult indeed for teachers to keep up their records of attendance. We know that in some cases it is on the basis of the attendance that the teachers are able to keep their employment, and that, when the attendance drops, the last teacher in is the first out. At the moment, there is considerable unemployment amongst the teaching fraternity. It is not fair to them that this House should be silent, and allow this section to go as it stands. I think the Minister would be very well advised if he accepted this amendment, and so remedied the grievance which has been complained of.
I would appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment. I am against child labour, and I do know that, in certain districts in the County Dublin during the fruit picking season, children are employed to the exclusion of grown-ups. I agree with everything that Deputy Norton said in relation to school-going children. I was at a meeting of a school attendance committee this morning, and I can say that every member of that committee is against the principle contained in the section before the House at the moment. I again appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment; in conscience I could not vote against it.
I should like also to appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment. In the Cork Corporation we brought in a bye-law some time ago that children under 14 years of age could not even be employed selling papers on the streets. If this section is passed, it means that little boys and girls from 12 to 14 years of age can sell the Evening Echo on the street. I am sure that messenger boys are employed in the towns and cities to-day, from 14 to 17 years of age, at 6/- or 7/6 a week, and we can imagine what will be the demand for boys from 12 to 14 years of age for employment as messengers from 8 o'clock in the morning to 7 or 9 o'clock in the evening. I think it is not necessary to elaborate the matter any further, but I must express my surprise that in 1942 a Government should bring in a Bill with a section of this kind encouraging child labour.
Of course, the statements that this section encourages child labour are absolutely preposterous. The position is that under the 1926 Act the Minister took certain powers to make regulations governing the question of the employment of children whose attendance at school might be interfered with. In fact no regulations were made. I could have entirely ignored the matter in this Bill, because the question of the control of child labour is not primarily a matter for the Department of Education. I come into it to the extent to which the attendance of the children at school might be affected, or their capacity to benefit from the instruction they receive at school might be affected, but, generally speaking, the control of child labour is a matter for the Department of Trade, or, in this country, the Department of Industry and Commerce. I have accepted the amendment which the Labour Deputies themselves put down, and have put in additional provisions whereby the type of employment and the hours of employment may be regulated in due course, and the conditions in particular types of occupation may be inquired into in that connection, and it is an extraordinary thing that it should be said that this is an inducement to employ child labour.
Apparently, any step in advance which does not directly achieve an ideal is a step backwards. If I had not dealt with the matter in the Bill at all, Deputies would probably not have raised the question. This is a very big matter, because, if the child is attending school regularly, and is profiting from the instruction, the parents were entitled up to the present to have the children in employment either with an employer or on work for themselves. It was recognised generally that it did children no harm to do light work, for example, seasonal work on the land. It was admitted by the Oireachtas here that it was a good thing, a necessary thing, and it was even suggested that from the educational point of view it might be an advantageous thing to give children special holidays from school to assist their parents. It was generally recognised that, even for school-going children, light employment might be useful, might be advantageous, not alone from the point of view of character, training and preparation for the world, but actually from the rather narrower point of view of learning something useful, learning to use one's hands, learning that work is important, that one cannot get on in this world without working, that there is no easy or royal road to comfortable positions, that, no matter what scheme of things may face us in the future, the vast majority of our children will have to carry on work with their hands, will have to carry on in manual occupations.
The trouble is that they cannot get work at the present time.
I explained last night that the powers I am seeking will enable me, in due course, to make regulations, when I am in a position to investigate the matter, as to what particular types of trade should be covered. I do not believe a blanketing amendment of this kind should be accepted; while I have a good deal of sympathy with it, I do not believe that it should be accepted without careful inquiry as to what might be involved.
Following the trend of events in this matter, let us take, for example, the charters from the International Labour Office. We have not accepted them fully. My predecessor did not accept them fully with regard to agricultural labour. When the original Act was introduced in 1926, it was recognised that, this being an agricultural country, the question of children working on the land, helping their parents at busy times, was a very important matter and it would be difficult to close down on it. If you close down on it completely it merely means that the law is not going to be obeyed; it is going to be evaded. In the same way, there is the question of children working for their parents in a shop or some other place of business, sweeping up the place or doing other work of that kind.
When the matter relates to particular industries in which children are employed by outside employers, I am quite willing, if amendments are put down covering these types of employment, to consider the matter. I am disposed to go into it carefully to see what particular types of occupation might be banned by me under the regulations. But it must be borne in mind that I am not in the same position as the Minister for Industry and Commerce. What has to be proved, so far as I am concerned, is that the child's educational welfare is being prejudiced in some way by work which he is doing outside school hours.
Deputy Norton may jeer, but, no matter what regulations you may make, there will always have to be a court to decide in the long run and it is very difficult to see how these phrases, which have been accepted over a long period of years in these international conventions—the question, for example, whether the child's normal health or normal development is interfered with, whether his education is being adversely affected, or whether he is not getting the full benefits that he should get from attendance at school—can be improved upon. It is difficult to see how you can improve upon these formulæ.
I do not think it is an easy matter to set down in black and white the considerations which one must have in mind. People may differ widely in their views in this regard. Some persons might consider that it was in the child's interest, to the child's advantage, to do a certain amount of manual work for a period every day. We know that in certain schools and certain other institutions children, and not the children of the poorest parents, are asked to do a certain amount of work. We know that in these places children are trained to do things with their hands and many people believe that, within reasonable limits, that is valuable. I am simply pointing to the fact that you will have differences of opinion among people. One must have regard to the actual conditions, the type of place where the work is being carried on, whether it is the home of the child or some factory in a back lane—these considerations will affect the question very seriously.
Deputy Norton speaks of the children working. Even if the children are working, it is not suggested they are doing the same type of work as adults, the type of work, even if they are in industrial employment, which the law here prevents in the case of children under 14 years of age. Even if they are in industrial employment, they are not likely to be doing work of the same nature as that done by adults.
I think the provisions in this Bill are a definite step forward. It would be very difficult indeed to schedule particular occupations. I think if you prevent parents from getting children to do work for themselves or for others, possibly without remuneration, outside school hours, you are going to be faced with the difficulty of making examination in every individual case. You have no general line to go upon. It is very hard to devise a general line. If the parents, on the other hand, are in very poor circumstances, if their means are slender and they are getting some small remuneration from the light type of work which the child does between these ages, they will naturally expect compensation. They will expect, if you deprive them of that remuneration, to be compensated in some way.
I do not agree with Deputy Byrne. I think it is a fairly sound belief, and there is a good deal of data available in support of it, to show that in actual fact, when the juvenile labour is restricted, it is not necessarily going to mean any increase in employment for others. It might very often mean an actual decrease in the total amount of employment given. I am not justifying the employment of juveniles. I merely say that if you view this purely as an economic matter, there is no use pretending that the remedies which have been suggested are going to help to solve the unemployment problem. It was from that point of view that the committee which examined this question some years ago said, in summing up, that they were not satisfied that there was a case for raising the school-leaving age on that ground alone.
A single phrase has been torn out of this report and has been repeated again and again without any reference to the context. Without either agreeing or disagreeing with what the report says, I would like to take the opportunity, since Deputy Norton has raised the question, to point out, not the phrase which has been torn out of the summary of conclusions of this report, but the main section of the report in which the matter is dealt with. One of the reasons, according to the committee, given for demands that the school-leaving age should be changed, was that children are not sufficiently matured to enter employment at the age of 14 years. On page 20 of the report this is what the committee said:
"It was stated that there was an increasing demand for the services of girls of 14 to 16 years of age in factories, where they are engaged on such work as packing, mechanical and monotonous operations by machinery, etc. In such work the girls were often kept standing all day and their duties in frequent instances necessitated constant stooping. It was contended that employment of this kind was unsuited to girls at the age of adolescence.
An issue of this kind, involving the physical fitness of juveniles for employment in industry, is one on which we are scarcely in a position to express a view. It is more a matter of expert medical opinion. We are aware, however, that young persons between the ages of 14 and 16 years must be certified by the certifying surgeon under the Factory and Workshops Act as medically fit before they are admitted to employment."
My amendment simply deals with the employment of children of 12 years of age, and urging that they ought not to be employable until they are 14 years of age.
I want to deal with the statement Deputy Norton made. The report goes on:—
"We presume that before any persons are certified for admission regard is had to the conditions under which they would be employed. It must be remembered that these young people are anxious to start work, to be independent, to earn a little for themselves to supplement the family income. In many cases where the conditions of employment may be unsuitable a remedy should be sought by way of improving the conditions rather than by way of raising the school-leaving age and excluding juveniles from employment."
Whether we agree with that or not, the point, I think, is perfectly clear that the question of the school-leaving age is an educational question, and if you are trying to remedy the employment of juveniles in respect of the raising of the school-leaving age, it is clearly a matter of the conditions of employment in industry being regulated by the charter which deals with that matter.
I am mesmerised by all the information we have got about so many things except the point we are really discussing, the point to which everybody who has spoken confined himself, that is—the reasons for changing "12 years" to "14 years." I do not want to go over those reasons, but the Minister indicates that he is introducing an amendment by which he can prohibit employment in particular industries under certain conditions. He indicated, however, that it would be very difficult to segregate the types of industry to be dealt with. I submit, in the first instance, that this deals with a job with which the Minister for Industry and Commerce is more qualified to deal, and, in the second place, that if it is difficult to segregate the industries with which children of tender years should be associated, it is infinitely more difficult to differentiate between the types of work attached to these industries with which children of tender years should be allowed to be associated, so that the amendment in the Minister's name, which is supposed to give him a way of avoiding a decision on this "12 years" proposal, is one which is not worth the paper it is written on. If it takes so much argument, so much trouble and so much delay to do a number of things in the educational world, it will certainly take 10 times as long to get a decision under the proposed amendment, so that I leave the amendment completely out of my consideration.
The Minister says that if his amendment was not down, we might not have raised this question at all. It is quite true that we might not have seen that we had the opportunity of discussing it, but nobody who occupies a public position or who moves about Ireland at present and comes up against family life and the problems of parents on the one hand, and of the adolescent on the other, could be ignorant of the urgency and importance of the problem presented here. We may talk about the school-leaving age and all that, and there are things which some of us would like to see done in that respect, particularly in present circumstances and bearing on the future, but that is a small matter. It is, if you like, an academic matter, compared with the really urgent moral, spiritual and physical problem that arises for the child who leaves school, and who leaves school very often because there is nothing there to grip or hold him, for institutions that offer greater development of character and personality. For the child who leaves school and has nothing to do but hang around the home, the home being like a nest from which the young birds cannot learn to fly, anybody in any way in touch with the situation should realise what is involved in the proposal to change "12 years" to "14 years."
The Minister makes some point about children working for their parents and for people outside. I must say that I never would have thought that the sentence in sub-section (1) (a): "No person shall have in his employment any child who has not attained the age of 12 years," would refer to parents.
"Employment" has a legal meaning in the Conditions of Employment Act.
I do not know where the house is in which children under 14 years of age are asked to do any job about a shop, workshop or garden for which any remuneration is paid which would be regarded as employment by the parent. I think the Minister's introduction of that point shows either a confusion of his own mind or a tendency to confuse the situation here. I attach no other interpretation to the word "employment," but the interpretation Deputy Norton has indicated attaches to it in kindred legislation. I do not see the necessity for going over the ground the Minister has covered, but I do see the necessity of understanding the spirit in which everybody who has spoken on this matter has spoken, and the object he had in speaking. I think that "12 years" should come out, and "14 years" should be left in for the reasons I gave as clearly as I could both yesterday and to-day.
I should like to hear Deputy Breathnach giving us the benefit of his practical experience as a teacher on this section. I am sure his contribution would indicate considerable sympathy with our efforts on these benches to get the Minister to accept this very reasonable amendment. Though the Minister talked for some time in the course of his reply to the comments of Deputy Mulcahy and myself, he did not give us a shred of evidence to justify the continuance of the position which will exist under the Bill, if the Minister is empowered to allow people between the ages of 12 and 14 years to take up employment. As a matter of fact, quite clearly the Minister indicated that he was in a desperate plight to find a single argument to resist this amendment. The Minister told us that if children between 12 and 14 years of age were not permitted to work under the Bill, they could not do a single job at home. Am I to understand from that that a child of 10 years or 11 years of age will not be allowed to do a job at home when the Bill passes, because that is the only meaning of what the Minister said? The Minister said he wants to allow a child between the ages of 12 and 14 years to work.
I did not.
The inference clearly is that unless a child is allowed to work between the ages of 12 and 14 years, he will not be able to do any jobs at home between those ages. Take the child of ten or 11 years of age. Will he or she be allowed to do any jobs at home? If there is any substance in what the Minister says, no child under 12 years of age will be allowed to dirty its hands at home. That is clearly preposterous.
The Minister does not seem able to apprehend fully the language of his own Bill. Section 7 says that no person shall have in his employment any child who has not attained the age of 12 years. "Employment", under the Conditions of Employment Act, clearly means a contract of employment. In that Act, the term "employment" means a contract of employment of the master and man kind. The Minister now wants to stretch the meaning of the word "employment" to indicate that a child could not, for instance, bring in a sod of turf out of the coalhouse. He suggests that even if a father wanted his child to go out and dig some vegetables in the back garden, he could not do so, because that would be employment. That is absurd, and it is only reducing the Bill to further ridicule for the Minister to rely on arguments of that kind.
The Minister puts forward another contention—I will not say it is an argument because it does not come up to the standard of argument that one expects in a deliberative assembly. He says that if these children are not allowed to work between the ages of 12 and 14, the parents will look for compensation. The only one who has thought of that is the Minister himself. It is only since he has been urged to accept this amendment that we heard that a claim for compensation might follow in these cases. Does the Minister not know that, prior to the introduction of the Conditions of Employment Act, young children under 14 years of age were in fact working 48, 60 and 72 hours a week? Does he not know that in shops young lads under 14 years of age were employed as messengers and had to work as long as 80 hours a week from the time the shop opened at 8 o'clock in the morning until it shut at 12 o'clock at night? That happened prior to the introduction of the Conditions of Employment Act and the Shops Act. In both these Acts we inserted a provision to the effect that it would be an offence to employ a young person under the age of 14, and never at any time did we hear a suggestion that compensation would have to be paid to the parents because of that provision.
It is only now when we come to deal with a range of employment not covered by the Conditions of Employment Act or the Shops Act that the Minister discovers that there might be a claim for compensation by the parents of a child, if that child were prohibited from working between the ages of 12 and 14. Seeing that we have prohibited children from working over the wide range of occupations covered by these other Acts, I cannot see how the Minister contemplates that there will be any claim for compensation in respect of the residue of employment still available to young persons. The Minister knows well that no such demand is likely to arise. He is extremely hard up for an argument when he tries to rely on a broken reed of that kind to resist a progressive amendment of this kind.
Through an oversight, an amendment of mine, in terms similar to that put down by Deputy Mulcahy, does not appear on the Order Paper, but that does not take from the fact that I prefer Deputy Mulcahy's amendment to the other amendments that are down. We only put down these amendments to make the Bill less objectionable if we could not get the Minister to raise the age for employment from 12 to 14 years of age. So far as utterances in this House are concerned, the volume of opinion expressed by all Parties urges the Minister to accept this amendment. If the Minister does accept the amendment, he will be taking a progressive step and one that will be in tune with the aims and aspirations of the people who want to see the children of the country get a proper education, an education which they deserve, especially in a country whose standard of education is not at all as high as that desired by those who would wish to see the mental and cultural equipment of our people fully developed.
I should like to ask the Minister whether he is definitely turning down the amendment?
I think the provisions in the Bill are a step forward and that it would be a great mistake to accept the Deputy's amendment without understanding fully what the consequences are likely to be. As I have said, it is not primarily a matter for me. The particular cases to which Deputy Norton has referred came up in another connection, and the sole question at issue there was whether it was right that all these considerations about employment and their effect on children should be taken into account. The principle underlying legislation about school attendance is that the Minister for Education should interfere only where he is satisfied that the type of work children are doing interferes with opportunities for their education.
We have been following the International Conventions. We have not fully accepted them, but the principle they have laid down, that children should be allowed to work only for a certain number of hours on school days or non-school days, has been accepted by me in one of the amendments put down. Under the regulations which it is proposed to frame. I suggest that the Minister will have discretion, and that it is merely a question of whether we are now going to take a leap in the dark or wait until we have an opportunity of examining the whole matter fully. I think that reason and common sense would dictate that, while having the fullest sympathy with the ideals of Deputies—I have the same ideals myself, I hope— it would be only right that the Minister should have an opportunity of examining the whole question fully. Under my amendment he has power to make regulations, and if the amendment is accepted by the House, in due course he will have to examine the whole question. I think it is better to examine all the considerations involved before taking the step that is suggested.
I understand from what the Minister has said now that he does not propose to accept this amendment. He asks for a period of time after the Bill, as he proposes to amend it, has been in operation for some time, to size up this particular matter. If I thought that the Minister, between now and the Report Stage, would give consideration to this matter I certainly would hesitate to divide the House after the favourable expression of opinion which the amendment has received even from members of his own Party. On the other hand, if, as I understand, the position is that the Minister does not propose to consider this matter until after he has put the Bill into operation, according to his own ideas, then I think I would be lacking in my responsibility if I avoided giving the House an opportunity of dividing on this question. There is no use in thinking that we can deal with the problems with which we have to deal from the point of view of the general position of juveniles in this country or from an educational point of view, by deferring consideration of them in this way. We could look for a solution until the cows come home if we tried to solve them in that way. Deputy Hickey has shown clearly that the Cork Corporation as a responsible public body, as men who have to review every aspect of the social position in the city, have actually introduced as far as they could a regulation by which children under 14 years of age will not be employed. I think that nobody who realises the issue at stake would hesitate to take a decision. I shall have to press this to a division unless the Minister can give me, even now, a promise that he will consider this matter between now and the Report Stage.
Iarraim ar an Aire glacadh leis an rún seo. 'Sé mo thuairim nach ceart go mbéadh aon pháiste fé ceithre bliadhain déag d'aois bheith ag obair mar seirbhíseach. Aontuighim leis na teachtaí eile a labhair i bhfábhar na leasuithe seo. Tá fhios againn nach feidir leis na páistí, fén leasú seo, obair do dhéanamh so bhaile. Tuigim sin go maith, ach sin scéal eile ar fad. Iarraim arís ar an Aire gan diúltughadh an leasú do ghlacadh.
Is the Minister aware that, at the present time, children of 14 years of age are taken into factories and work until they are nearly 16, and then put off because they are reaching 16? They are off from 16 to 18, they get no compensation and their parents get no compensation. The argument made is that, if these children are not allowed to work, the parents might claim compensation. That argument cannot stand at all. While children of 14 to 16 are in employment at the moment, it is regrettable that we have any Government introducing legislation that will facilitate children of 12 to 14 being employed. I am disappointed that that should be introduced.
I would like to ask the Minister whether he has any record of the number of boys between 14 and 16 unemployed and seeking work, and whether he has any record of the number of boys between 14 and 16 who left school within the last 12 months.
It would be well to know how many children between 14 and 16 are put off because of insurance.
I cannot understand the timidity of the Minister in this matter, particularly when he indicates that he has sympathy with the object which the amendment seeks to secure. He talks about a leap in the dark and uses language of that kind, when the only leap we are taking is to say to young children between 12 and 14: "You will be compelled to pursue your studies at school. With so many over 14 years of age idle, you will not be allowed to enter into competition with those over 14, where such employment is available. In our world, in which education will mean so much in the future, you are going to concentrate on your studies and not embark on courses of activity or manual labour calculated to interfere with them." That is the leap. One would imagine that in a progressive-minded country everybody would be bursting to take that "leap in the dark". The Minister professes to sympathise with the object that this amendment seeks to secure, yet he says he is reluctant to take that "leap in the dark" lest some appalling catastrophe may engulf this country if children are not allowed to work between 12 and 14.
I am reminded of the history of industrial England before the passage of the Shaftesbury Factory Acts. At that time, young children of 8, 9, 10, 12 and 14 worked in the mines, where they were yoked to trucks. They were put down in the mines in the morning and their little bodies were made haul coal trucks all day, with the aid of ropes and chains. Hordes of these young children were drawing trucks. When public-minded Britain revolted against that appalling condition of affairs, efforts were made to introduce Factory Acts, so as to regulate employment. Of course, all the vested interests, who desired to exploit young children for industrial purposes, strongly opposed such legislation. The matter was debated in the British House of Commons and people, who at that time regarded themselves as very good military advisers to Britain and as very well-known economists, gave utterance to their views as to the effect on Britain if the Shaftesbury Acts were enacted. Some of them stated that, up to then, Britain held unchallenged sway on the sea, her sea power was respected all over the world; others stated that Britain's armies were something to fear in all corners of the world, and that the British Empire stood there as something which begot the envy of other countries.
These were economists, financiers and well-to-do industrialists. "Now all that is going," they said, "Britain's might on the sea will be menaced if you do not let these children work in the mines; British military power over the world will fade away unless you can get these people to work in the mines." Some of them predicted even a scarcity of goods in Britain if they were not allowed to exploit young children of eight to 14 years of age. Of course, the subsequent developments falsified all they said. The national income of Britain increased by leaps and bounds, its productivity multiplied ten-fold, and, in the subsequent eight years which followed the passage of those Acts, Britain added probably more territory to her Empire than ever before. These views are on record in the British House of Commons and can be read still. They are interesting in the light of a statement that it is not wise to take a leap in the dark, as the leap might prevent young children of 12 to 14 from getting employment.
If the Minister has any sympathy with this amendment, he should take this "leap in the dark". I do not know of one single person, whose opinion is of any value in this country, who would blame the Minister for taking it. Most of them would say that he is taking, not a leap into the dark but a leap into the sunlight of better education for young children. That is something to which the Minister for Education here should aspire.
I do not know what consolation the Minister gets by talking about international conventions. If he knows the way that international conventions are enacted and the trouble there is in enacting them, he knows perfectly well that they are not of themselves the pinnacle of perfection. Anyone who has experience of the difficulty at Geneva of trying to get a convention sanctioned, knows perfectly well the seesaw delay. One tries to get the convention through on the basis of trying to pull up the backward countries to a standard acceptable to more progressive countries. Conventions which enlightened countries would support have to be watered down, in order to please those countries which are not so progressive. International conventions represent, in the main, an effort to lift the backward up. They never indicate the goal-post which progressive nations set for themselves. How many of these conventions can be ratified the following day by the progressive nations, whereas they represent a terrific achievement in the case of others?
It is the same in matters of education. Some of the conventions are such as we could ratify very easily. Some of the ideas were enacted here a long time before they were enacted at Geneva. Every progressive nation could ratify some of them overnight, and would think nothing of them, as they are merely an effort to set minimum standards for backward nations and bring them up to that minimum standard. The Minister can get no consolation out of this, and should not, in 1942, regard it as a great achievement. He should accept this amendment, unless Deputy Mulcahy is prepared to agree to let him look into the matter between now and the Report Stage. He can talk to the best educational minds in the country, to those who have experience in regard to children of 14 to 16 running around the street. Then I bet the Minister will come back, on the Report Stage, and realise that his fears were groundless and that everybody interested in the well-being of education will support him strongly if he accepts the principle enshrined in this amendment. Would the Minister agree to examine the matter between now and the Report Stage?
Yes. I must say that I should be rather interested to learn how Deputy Norton thinks this will affect the children running around the streets. Presumably, he is thinking of the children who may be in employment. I fail entirely to see how, even if the matter is dealt with as requested, it will affect the position of children running around the streets. It might be argued that it would be much better for the children running around the streets if they had some useful occupation.
Or if they were kept at school?
They are only at school for a few hours per day, and during the rest of the day they may be getting into mischief.
There is no desire on the part of the Minister to raise the age to 16 years.
Even if the age were raised to 16 years, you would still have this problem as to whether or not parents are giving their children the type of training, which they can get only at home, which will make them useful citizens. Neither the raising of the school-leaving age nor anything else can make up for the training which children should get at home.
You are giving 100 per cent. recognition to the employment of children at 14 and the sacking of them at 16.
The point about the children running about the streets is that when anybody wants a message done he can employ a person between 14 and 16 and take them off the streets.
They are employing them at 7/6 a week.
If the Minister allows children to be employed between 12 and 14 years, a person is not likely to employ a young person of 16 who would come under the National Health Insurance Acts. What the Minister should do is to keep the school children at school and try to get employment for those away from school—even temporarily. What is happening in Cork and Dublin is a standing argument for the extension of the age to 16 years. It is a remarkable thing that the President of the British Board of Education said recently that he intended to introduce compulsory day-continuation schools so as to provide that, in Britain, children who leave the ordinary schools would be obliged to go to day-continuation schools, indicating that, so far as our next-door neighbours are concerned, they are quite alive to the importance and value of education. I venture to say that if our people had a proper system of education, and if the facilities available to children in Britain were available here, we would not have so many of our people working in Britain as under-paid navvies to-day. Many of them would be in better positions in Britain than they are. Unfortunately, we export them as untrained navvies simply because our educational system does not equip them for better positions.
I understand from the Minister that he will seriously consider this point.
I shall consider it but I do not promise to accept the amendment.
I should propose to divide the House on Report on this matter, but it is so important that I would hesitate to force the Minister into a position in which he would oppose and, by a majority, defeat this amendment now, although every word spoken has been in favour of it. If we were discussing this measure in the atmosphere in which we discuss the Intoxicating Liquor Bill, the case made is such that the Minister would be changing this figure of 12 to 16. I withdraw the amendment for the purpose of giving the Minister an opportunity to consider the matter.
As regards amendments Nos. 15 and 16, I have lost faith in amendment No. 16. As regards amendment No. 15, the national school-day owing to the break, ends at present at 4 o'clock. Therefore, I think that 4 o'clock is an unsuitable time to put down as the time from which a young person may be employed. One of the remarkable features of the introduction of the break for meals in the primary schools is that attendance in the evening is as good as attendance in the morning. It would be a pity if the fixing of the hour for beginning work at the same time as the hour for finishing school work should introduce a disturbing element into the afternoon attendance.
I move amendment No. 21:—
Before Section 8, page 6, to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) Every school attendance committee shall be an elective body within the meaning and for the purposes of the County Management Acts, 1940 and 1942, and those Acts shall apply and have effect in relation to school attendance committees accordingly, but with and subject to the following modification, that is to say, the authorisation of prosecutions for offences under the Principal Act or this Act shall be a reserved function.
(2) For the purposes of the application by the foregoing sub-section of this section of the County Management Acts, 1940 and 1942, to the school attendance committee for a school attendance area which is a county borough such county borough shall be deemed to be a county and the city manager of such county borough shall be deemed to be a county manager.
This amended section would place the county managers in the same relation to the school attendance committee and their officers as they stand, under the County Management Act, to the other committees of local authorities. The authorising of prosecutions for offences under the Act of 1926 and under this Act will be entirely a reserved function of the school attendance committee. The county manager will have the supervision, control, payment and superannuation of officers, and their appointment, subject to the provisions of the Local Appointments (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926.
Some explanations are required as regards this new section. Section 16 (1) of the County Management Act, 1940, says:
"Neither the council of a county nor any elective body shall directly exercise or perform any power (other than a power which is vested by law (including this Act) in such council or body and is by this Act expressly made exercisable by resolution of such council or body), function or duty of such council or body in relation to the officers or servants of such council or body, or the control, supervision, service, remuneration, privileges, or superannuation of such officers or servants or any of them."
If the new section is put in, the position, as I understand it, under Section 16 (1) of the County Management Act is that in relation to officers or servants of the school attendance committee, which is now an elective body under the Act, the control, supervision, conditions of service, remuneration, privileges, and superannuation of all these servants or officers or any of them will be entirely a matter for the county manager. I entirely agree with that. But the new situation, as brought about by the putting in of this section, would conflict, in my opinion, with what is being left in here in Section 8 (1) (b) and (c). Section 8, as it stands in the Bill, says:
(1) The functions of a school attendance committee in relation to the following matters shall be performed directly by the committee itself, that is to say:—
(a) the authorisation of prosecutions for offences under the Principal Act or this Act,
(b) subject to the provisions of Section 11 of the Principal Act, the appointment under that section of officers and the fixing and paying thereunder of their remuneration,
(c) subject to the provisions of sub-section (1) of Section 12 of the Principal Act, the appointment under that sub-section of school attendance officers.
It seems to me that Section 8, if it is left in as it stands, would be at variance with the intention here. I accept the intention of the Minister's new section as meaning that the school attendance committee will be responsible for policy as regards the using of the administrative machine to see that the Act is properly carried out, but that the providing of that machine and the looking after the general discipline of that machine will be a function of the county manager. Therefore, the position will be that you will have a school attendance committee charged with the administration of the Act, and particularly with taking decisions with regard to prosecutions for offences under the Act. They will have a considerable amount of work. But, so far as the machine that is put into their hands for carrying out that work is concerned, the building up of that machine and the conditions of service, pay, superannuation, etc., will be the function of the county manager.
There is one other point I should like to raise in connection with that, and that is, who will fix the qualifications of the school attendance officers or any other officers who may be part of the machine? I suggest again that that would be in fact the function of the county manager; that there would in fact be the necessary consultations and the necessary recommendations; that the school attendance committee would probably advise the county manager as to the qualifications of the various officers, particularly the school attendance officers, and no doubt, in the way in which Ministerial contact and responsibility are kept up, the sanction of the Minister would be required for the various qualifications. I should like to be clear on that point, and I would be glad to be assured that sub-section (1) (b) (c) of Section 8 is not at variance with what we hope is the intention of the new section or, if it is, that the section will be amended on the Report Stage.
I shall look into the point raised by Deputy Mulcahy. Under the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act it is probably a matter for the Minister to determine the qualifications. If there is any anomaly, I will see that it is straightened out on the Report Stage. I think in the opinion of the legal advisers that, so far as bringing the scheme into harmony with the County Management Act is concerned, these amendments at any rate achieve that purpose.
As to amendment No. 24, I am not moving it, but I just want to add one thing which I think deserves to be said at this point. The question of the retiring age of school attendance officers, on the one hand, and the question of qualifications for their appointment are matters which require to be given very careful consideration. So far as the qualifications are concerned, I understand that the educational standard at present for school attendance officers is the seventh standard of the primary school. But, on a recent occasion, when a position became vacant in Dublin, there were 108 applicants; of these, 95 per cent. had a secondary education, a very large number had the leaving certificate, a number of them had matriculated, and a number had university degrees. Apart altogether from the type of material that is available for positions of that kind as shown by these applications, I think the work itself would certainly require a higher educational experience than is indicated by the 7th standard of the primary school programme.
I move amendment No. 29:—
To add at the end of the section the following words "unless his absence was due to illness or other cause deemed sufficient by the Minister but, in any event, a member of a school attendance committee, who is absent from six successive meetings of such committee shall cease to be a member of such committee immediately after the sixth of such meetings."
I think amendments Nos. 26, 27 and 28 are met by this amendment. I think it is a reasonable compromise. The suggestion was that allowance ought to be made for the illness of members of committees; that it would not be fair to terminate their membership after failure to attend three successive meetings. My amendment provides that, if the absence is due to illness or other cause deemed sufficient by the Minister, a member may be absent from six successive meetings; but, if he is absent from six, he ceases to be a member of the committee immediately after the sixth meeting. I cannot conceive how, after six months, a member might be considered to be a live member of the committee, so to speak, if he were not able to attend for such a long period of time. In order to meet the position of parish priests, who may have difficulty in attending meetings, we are enabling them to appoint deputies. This, I daresay, applies to other members of the committees, lay members, for example. I think the amendment meets the situation.
Yes, so far as the question of illness is concerned. But the Minister's amendment reads (amendment read). The Minister introduces an additional matter there. I do not know whether it is the intention to destroy the section as it is. The section says that "where a member of a school attendance committee is absent from three successive meetings of such committee, he shall cease to be a member of such committee immediately after the third of such meetings". Is that going out?
No. That remains.
Well, all I want to say, then, with regard to the question of illness, is that if we take the report of the school attendance committees in the City of Dublin for the year ended 30th June, 1941, it will be found that there were 11 ordinary meetings in No. 1 area, 11 ordinary meetings in No. 2 area, 11 ordinary meetings in No. 3 area, 11 ordinary meetings in No. 4 area, and 11 ordinary meetings in No. 5 area. That would mean that in the case of illness, extending over the whole of 12 months, one attendance in the year would be sufficient to keep a person a "live" member of the committee. I do not know whether that is the intention of the Minister or not.
His absence has to be due to illness or other cause deemed sufficient by the Minister.
Yes, other cause deemed sufficient by the Minister.
I am afraid that, when one considers the small number of people that there are on the school attendance committees, if there is to be any kind of life or vigorous sense of responsibility, the Minister is giving a very considerable amount of latitude there—that is, that one meeting in the year would be sufficient to keep a person a member, if he timed his attendances properly.
It means that it will come before the Minister if the person concerned is absent on three consecutive occasions. There may be some exceptional reason, and I would not consider anything else.
I move amendment No. 30:—
In sub-section (1), line 10, page 7, to delete the words "The Minister may require" and substitute therefor the words "It shall be the duty of".
The Minister indicates here that the Minister may require a school attendance committee to appoint at their monthly meetings rotatory sub-committees consisting of three of their members to hold weekly meetings for the purpose of dealing with cases of absences of children from school. I am moving that the words "The Minister may require" shall be deleted and that the section should read: "It shall be the duty of a school attendance committee to appoint at their monthly meetings rotatory sub-committees consisting of three of their members", and so on. When you consider that school attendance committees are only set up in places such as the Cities of Dublin and Cork and the Borough of Dun Laoghaire, obviously a monthly meeting is not sufficient if the administration of the Act is to be made a reality, and I think that the attitude should be that it would be a statutory duty of the school attendance committee to make the sub-committee attend weekly.
Well, some of the committees work remarkably well, and the reason I introduced this was to enable action to be taken more quickly, and to see that if prosecutions are being made they should be brought before the courts as quickly as possible so as to ensure that no time would be lost. I have not had an opportunity of discussing with the committee or its representative how this rotatory scheme would work, but I think it would be as well if the Minister were left with the discretion which the section, as it stands, leaves him, because it may happen that the committees may be able to show that, in fact, they cannot expedite the work by the rotatory system. I am strongly in favour of it, and will urge upon them to accept it.
But it may happen that it will not be possible.
I move amendment No. 31:—
In sub-section (1), page 7, lines 12 and 13, to delete the words "weekly meetings" and substitute the words "meetings (which shall be weekly or fortnightly as the Minister may direct)."
It is just leaving some discretion to the Minister as to whether there shall be weekly or fortnightly meetings.
I move amendment No. 32.
To delete sub-sections (1) and (2) and substitute the following sub-section:—
(1) The Minister may, whenever and so often as he thinks proper, direct that there be appointed, in addition to the then existing number of school attendance officers of a school attendance committee, such number as he may specify.
This amendment is consequential on the amended Section 8, as the school attendance committees would no longer have to do with the appointments in connection with Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926.
I move amendment No. 33.
In sub-section (3), page 7, line 50, to insert after the word "officer" the words "of a school attendance committee," and in lines 52 and 53, to delete the words "by the school attendance committee whose officer he is," and in line 56, to delete the words "by the said committee."
This is consequential on the last amendment.
I move amendment No. 34:—
In sub-section (1), page 8, lines 20 and 21, to delete the words "national school, suitable school or recognised school" and substitute the words "school at which children to whom the Principal Act applies are attending".
This amendment is proposed to secure that the provisions of the section shall apply to all children attending schools to whom the Principal Act applied.
I move amendment No. 35:—
In sub-section (1), page 8, line 40, to delete the words "or other suitable school" and substitute the words "school, a suitable school or a recognised school".
This amendment is designed to make it quite clear that this applies to a recognised school where suitable education, under the Act, would be given.
I move amendment No. 36:—
In sub-section (1), page 8, line 44, to delete the word "next" and substitute the word "third".
Deputy Linehan suggested that, perhaps, sufficient time was not being given, under the Bill as introduced, to parents to send excuses in cases of absence. To make it five days would give parents the opportunity not to send excuses after the weekly list of absences had been furnished to the enforcing authority. The Principal Act, I think, mentioned the third day, and we are simply reverting to the old practice. I think that that ought to give ample time, even under the emergency conditions. But if there were some special emergency conditions affecting school attendance generally, of course, that would have to be dealt with as an emergency matter. Ordinarily, however, I think that it should be sufficient to allow excuses to be sent in not later than the third day after the day, or the first of the days of absence.
I move amendment No. 37:—
To insert at the end of the section the following sub-section:—
(3) In any prosecution for an offence under sub-section (1) of this section a certificate purporting to be signed by the principal teacher of a school (being a national school, a suitable school or a recognised school) stating that the child to whom the prosecution relates is or is not attending that school or stating that such child did or did not attend that school on particular days shall, until the contrary is proved, be evidence of such of the matters aforesaid as are stated in such certificate.
The object of this amendment is to secure that teachers will not be taken from their schools in order to give evidence, and that a certificate will be accepted as evidence. Deputy Linehan also suggested that teachers should keep these written excuses for a certain period. That can be done administratively.
On Section 15. Provision is made here for getting a suitable explanation from a parent, of a child's absence. Is there any prescribed form of keeping a record at the school of the various explanations given in respect of absent children?
I do not think so.
Would the Minister consider the advisability of taking power to prescribe a record?
Of course, it requires a certain amount of administrative work, prescribing all these things. There is always the question, as the Deputy knows, whether they are in proper legal terms, and so on. I do not see why the school attendance committees could not deal with a great deal of the details of administration. I will look into the matter, and perhaps the Education Office could send a recommendation to the committee. I am sure when this Bill becomes law, the Department of Education, from time to time, will have to issue instructions and they might very well consider this matter in connection with them.
I move amendment No. 38:—
Before Section 16 to insert a new section as follows:—
Section 15 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the insertion in sub-section (1), line 7, after the word "who" of the words "in his opinion without a satisfactory reason".
Section 15 of the Principal Act, sub-section (1) requires that:—
"The principal teacher of every national and other suitable school at which any children to whom this Act applies are enrolled or attending shall communicate at the prescribed times and in the prescribed manner to the respective enforcing authorities of the several school attendance areas in which such children respectively reside the prescribed particulars of every such child who is absent from such school and the prescribed particulars of such absences."
If this amendment is accepted, the responsibility would be on the principal teacher for reporting to the school attendance committee only such absences as, in the opinion of the principal teacher, were without a satisfactory reason. I submit to the Minister that it probably would make the work of the school attendance committee a bit easier, and it would make the position with regard to the principal teacher a bit easier, and I am sure it would not open any door for neglect of any kind, if the onus that was on the principal teacher of submitting all absences to the school attendance committee were reduced to the onus of submitting absences that, in the opinion of the principal teacher, were without a satisfactory reason.
I see the purpose the Deputy has in mind and anything that would help to speed up the administration of the Act would appeal to me, but I feel that in this matter the amendment would be rather difficult to work. In the long run, it would have to be a matter for the court to decide whether the reason was satisfactory or not. I am sure the Deputy will realise that it would be invidious if the teacher had to determine as between children who were absent, to say which children had satisfactory reasons and which children had not, when he would not have an opportunity of satisfying himself personally that the reasons given were the right reasons. I am afraid, for that reason, it would not be workable as law.
Is it necessary for the principal teacher in every school in the City of Dublin to report to the school attendance committee in his area particulars of all cases of absence through sickness? Under Section 15, it is.
I will look into the matter, but I think there would be no way out. I am afraid that while the very excellent teachers that the Deputy has in mind might be splendid in this regard, we have to think of teachers as a whole. We do not even know whether teachers would like to have this duty cast upon them, but I still feel it would be very invidious, and parents would feel there was discrimination on the teacher's part, based on their family circumstances or other things like that. When they go to the committee they feel that it is an independent body. In a way they may regard it as a court of appeal from the teacher or from the school attendance officer.
I accept the Minister's suggestion with regard to any other matter except sickness, but it does seem to me to be smothering the school attendance machine in an unnecessary way and, even if it was only from the point of view of considering the waste of paper in reporting every child that is absent in the City of Dublin, I think the Minister might consider by Report Stage whether he could usefully cut out the necessity of reporting absence through sickness.
Is it not almost certain that you would have contradiction? As this is a matter which the law leaves to the court to decide in the last resort, does it not seem very inconsistent to leave it to the teacher to determine whether the absence was with or without a satisfactory reason?
I must say that I think it is a shocking business to put any school attendance committee into the position that it is likely to report to the court a case of genuine sickness. I think they have enough to do without smothering them under such work. I wish to withdraw the amendment, but I do suggest to the Minister that there is something in it that is worth considering.
I move amendment No. 39:—
Before Section 16 to insert a new section as follows:—
The principal teacher of every national or other suitable school shall supply in the prescribed form to the proper enforcing authorities, a weekly return of the pupils who have been struck off the roll, including the names and addresses of the pupils and the reasons for their removal from the roll.
I think this amendment is a necessary safeguard so that if a child leaves the school there will be no hiatus in getting after that child to see that he does go to another school. At the present moment if a child leaves a school and does not go to another school there is danger of its being lost sight of, for some time at any rate. If a report could be sent in to the school attendance committee at stated times, perhaps weekly, or perhaps monthly, of the children who have been struck off the rolls, it would help the school attendance committee in its work.
I accept the principle of the amendment and I shall introduce a redrafted amendment on Report Stage.
In view of the way in which the Minister has met the amendment in regard to bringing in the management scheme over the school attendance staff, I do not think amendment No. 40 is necessary.
I move amendment No. 41:—
In line 1, page 9, after the word "Whenever" to insert the words "a member of the Gárda Síochána or".
The purpose of this amendment is, in those areas where you have school attendance committees and school attendance officers and where up to the present the school attendance officer alone is entitled to deal with absentees from school, to give the Guards in those areas the same powers that they have in the country districts.
Section 16 says that:
Whenever a school attendance officer for a school attendance area situate in a county borough or borough mentioned in the Schedule to this Act finds in any public place in his school attendance area a child who appears to such officer to be a child to whom the Principal Act applies and who, having regard to the day and hour at which he is so found, ought, so far as such officer is aware, to be attending in a school, such officer may detain such child and question him as to his name, age, residence, school attendance...
I think, considering the importance of the matter, and the very small number of school attendance officers we have, that if we seriously mean to get this measure administered in an efficient way, if it be only by a kind of in terrorem approach, we should give the Guards the same power that the school attendance officer has to challenge children and find out why they are not at school during school hours. I do not mean that every Guard in the place should stop every child he meets, but I think the power to challenge a child during school hours should be there. At certain periods of the year the Guards are set aside to look up our motor licences and other things. I think an odd check-up by the Guards, by giving the power I speak of, would improve things very much.
I regret I cannot accept this amendment. I have the greatest sympathy with the purpose of it. This is really not a matter over which I have control. The Gárda Síochána are not responsible for the administration of the Act in the county boroughs, with the exception of Limerick, and the authorities in the Department of Justice feel that the police force is heavily overtaxed at present. Even in normal circumstances, I think they would be disinclined to accept any new duties that we might propose to put upon them in the way of school attendance work. The matter has been gone into, and the position is that the Guards will not accept this duty. They feel that, within the areas where school attendance committees have their own officers, the existing administration will have to deal with this matter. I really have no option in the matter.
I move amendment No. 43:—
In page 9, lines 11 and 12, to delete the words and brackets "(using such (if any) force as may be necessary)".
In moving this amendment I want to make it clear that I do not object to a Guard stopping a child and questioning him as to why he is not at school. What I think is objectionable is that a Guard, or any official, should be free to use force when dealing with the child. That, I think, should be left to the parent. The section says that, if the officer is not satisfied of the truth of the replies given to his questions by a child, he may use force. I do not think it would be the Minister's desire to give such authority to any official. I object to the use of the word "force" in the section, and I hope that the Minister will agree to delete the words set out in the amendment.
This provision, I think, has not the meaning which the Deputy thinks it has. It is really only a permissive provision. It says that the officer
"may also, if he is not satisfied of the truth of the replies of such child to such questions, take such child (using such (if any) force as may be necessary) to his true place of residence and there question the parent..."
I think the Deputy will realise that the school attendance officer must be safeguarded. It might easily happen that he might be subjected to legal proceedings even though the amount of force used might not be force as the man in the street would understand it. The word "force" has a technical legal meaning like the word "assault". The purpose of this provision is really to safeguard the school attendance officers. It is not to encourage them to use force, but to safeguard them, as far as possible, in a legal way. It also safeguards them from using unnecessary force. The officers will be under the control of the committees or of their superior officers and, presumably, will only act under their direction and instruction. I cannot conceive any authority dealing with this matter permitting its officers to use anything that would ordinarily be described as force. The purpose of the provision is to provide a legal safeguard for the school attendance officers in carrying out whatever duties may be entrusted to them. It is certainly not the intention that they should use force. The school attendance officer, however, might very easily find himself in a position in which it was suggested that he had used force and in which, if he were not safeguarded in this way, he might be subject to legal proceedings and penalties.
I take it that the purpose of the section is to protect an elderly school attendance officer who, for the purpose of having a more effective interview with a young fellow that he wanted to question, caught him by the lapel of the coat so as to prevent him from slipping round the corner. If this provision were not in the Act that officer might render himself liable to prosecution for assault.
That is the position.
I am not suggesting that any of our school attendance officers have ever used force in the execution of their duties, but my fear is that, by leaving the section unamended, they would be free to use force to take a child to question him.
This is to safeguard the officer if a situation, such as Deputy Mulcahy has mentioned, arose.
I move amendment No. 44:—
Before Section 17 to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) Whenever it appears to a school attendance committee or a rotatory sub-committee from the report of a member of the Gárda. Síochána or a school attendance officer that a parent fails or neglects to cause his child, to whom the Principal Act applies, to attend school, in accordance with the Principal Act or this Act, the school attendance committee or the rotatory sub-committee may, by giving seven days' notice in writing, require the parent to appear before the school attendance committee or the rotatory sub-committee at a stated place and time to show cause why legal proceedings should not be instituted regarding the absence of the child.
(2) If any parent to whom the foregoing sub-section refers fails without reasonable cause to appear before the school attendance committee, such person shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding twenty shillings.
At the present time, as I understand it, the first contact that there might of necessity be between a school attendance committee and a parent is when the parent is brought into court. As the Minister is now making provision by which there will be rotatory sub-committees, and that, therefore, there will be more frequent meetings of the members of the school attendance committee, it struck me that an experiment at any rate might be tried, or that powers might be given to summon the parent before the school attendance committee or before the rotatory sub-committee. If the Bill contained those powers, we might get over a lot of the difficulties of enforcing the Act without many of the cases going to the courts at all. I think that, when a case goes to the courts, there is always some kind of ranking in the minds of both the parents and the child in regard to the matter. Where there is a prima facie case against a parent, if the committee were empowered to summon the parent before them, the effect on the parent might be much more beneficial, and the result of the discussions that might take place there would inevitably be more helpful and productive of good than the type of discussions that take place in the court. Therefore, I move this amendment as being a kind of stepping stone not to the courts but away from the courts.
I am prepared to accept the principle of the first portion of the amendment, but it will have to be redrafted, and the Gárda Síochána will have to be excluded. As regards the second part, I think it would rather destroy the effect of the action of the committee. If the parent does not appear before the committee, that would be evidence against him in the court should a prosecution be made.
I am quite satisfied with that, and I withdraw the amendment. I did not like the second part of the amendment myself, although it did seem logical if you were giving the committee power to require something to be done. I am glad that the Minister is able to accept the first part of the amendment without taking the second.
I move amendment No. 45:—
In page 9, after the word "and" in line 21, to add the following words: "shall be warned in accordance with Form 3, School Attendance Act, 1926, and on failure to comply therewith".
I would suggest to the Minister that, if he consults with his inspectors regarding the failure of parents to comply with the Act by sending their children to school, he will find that Form 3, which has been in operation under the 1926 Act, has been working very satisfactorily. It is a warning that is given to the parents, and on failure to comply with that warning a summons is issued against the parents. My amendment would at least give them a chance, which they will not have if the Minister leaves the section as it stands. I would ask him then to give favourable consideration to the amendment.
As regards the question of the warning notice, the Principal Act has now been in force for 16 years, and it seems inconceivable that there could be any parent in the country who does not understand that he is legally bound to send his child to school.
I think the Minister is expecting too much there.
The committee may still bring the parent before them. We are not interfering with that. In fact, Deputy Mulcahy's amendment will mean that the legal position in that regard will, I hope, be strengthened, but we are anxious to speed up the administration of the Act and to bring defaulters to book as quickly as possible. When the committee, for reasons that appear to themselves to be sound, prosecute the parents, I do not see why there should be any question of a warning notice. If the committee, in all the circumstances, do not consider that they should prosecute, I am not compelling them to prosecute. They always have the discretion whether to prosecute or not, but, on going into the matter carefully, I feel that the warning notice is no longer necessary, and that it should not be a bar, as it is at present, to dealing with people who simply are flouting the law. They may have their own excuses, but they are flouting the law, and I do not think we should give them extra time. I think we should go straight ahead; if the committee thinks that they ought to prosecute, then there should be no delay as there would be if the warning notice continued.
I think that the warning notice has worked very satisfactorily. An inspector would present one of those forms to the parents whose child was absent. If that warning was not observed, they were brought before the committee, and the usual procedure was then started.
The parent was warned to send the child to school, and he was given a period in which to fulfil the condition. That seems a very long time to hold up the business, and that is the reason we are eliminating that procedure. Three months is a very long time. The committee will still have the discretion to prosecute or not to prosecute.
I move amendment No. 46:—
In sub-section (2) (a), line 32, page 9, after the word "sent" to insert the words "for a period of not more than six months".
Section 17 (2) provides that where, in the case of a prosecution, a parent is either convicted of an offence under the Act, or satisfies the court that he has used all reasonable efforts to cause the child to attend school, and failed, the court may, for one thing, order the said child to be sent to a certified industrial school, in which case Part IV of the Children Act, 1908, shall apply. I want to amend that by saying that the court may "order the said child to be sent for a period of not more than six months to a certified industrial school". Where the parent fails, in a particular set of circumstances, to send the child to school, or where the parent has an intractable child and is not able to get that child to go to school, there is a danger that, as the section stands, when the case comes before the court the district justice may send that child to an industrial school for a period of three or four years. I think that should not be possible, and that, in the case of a first offence at any rate, the period of separation between the child and his family should not be longer than six months. There should be some kind of test applied to see whether a short period in a school where there is the discipline and regulation of an industrial school would be sufficient to overcome the difficulty in such a case.
I think the Deputy will find that the managers of industrial schools would not accept the children for such a short period as six months. I do not think they are legally bound to accept any child. The system that has grown up is that the children are committed for a fairly long period.
I think we may assume also that in a great many of these school attendance cases there are contributing factors, such as incapacity of the parents to maintain their children properly, and it is very often with the consent of the parents to a certain extent, or certainly having regard to all the family circumstances, that the justice makes the committal order. I do not like to enter into the legal sphere, but I presume the justice will not commit the child until he is satisfied there is no other remedy.
At the present time special attention is being given by the Department of Justice to the treatment of juveniles. I think we can assume, under the system of probation that exists and by reason of the experience of the justices who are dealing with this matter, that all the circumstances will be taken into consideration from the child's point of view. I think there is no anxiety whatever to send children to an industrial school if it can be avoided. While on the face of it the six months suggestion would seem to be a good one, I think it is out of the question for the reason that, even if we were to agree about it, the managers of industrial schools would not, I am certain, accept it.
I take it this is a complete innovation. In school attendance legislation here we are deliberately bringing into our scheme a provision whereby, if the court convicts a parent for an offence under the Act, or the parent satisfies the court that he has used all reasonable efforts to cause the child to attend school, the court may send that child to an industrial school and, as the Minister implied, may send the child there for what has become the practice, a fairly long period. In Dublin City we have had a considerable amount of experience of what happens in certain families. Children get into bad company of one kind or another, children of most upright and conscientious parents, and then they find themselves torn from their homes and sent to industrial schools. I have come across many very serious and very sad cases of that sort. Here we are adding to the possibilities that exist. As I have said, very serious and sad things have happened to quite a number of conscientious parents and decent children. We are here adding what I consider is a grave danger.
I am not satisfied that the position in relation to these dangers is sufficiently clear in the City of Dublin, and I am very much opposed to the insertion in this Bill of a provision of this sort. This is what it amounts to, that because parents are convicted of an offence under the Act, or because a child is an offender under the Act, without any consideration of previous history the child may be taken away from his home. We leave a completely open door for any case of that kind. As the Minister says, the child may be taken away for a long period from his family.
I quite appreciate the position of those in charge of industrial schools. If the Minister is adopting a new idea like this in order to foster a better school attendance, then he must have somewhere on the amendment paper from members of the Labour Party a suggestion that some special place of detention should be set up, some special kind of arrangement. At any rate, some kind of institution could be set aside for short-term cases of this kind. I think it is entirely wrong to open this new danger of an increased number of children being sent to industrial schools.
I should like to support Deputy Mulcahy. I know some people whose children were sent to industrial schools, and I must say it is very sad to hear mothers appealing for information as to when their children will be sent back to them. As recently as last Monday I was asked to get a child out of an industrial school. This child is allowed periodically to see his parents. I am satisfied that the parents are decent people. I agree with Deputy Mulcahy that six months should be quite sufficient. There is a great inclination, when children are sent to industrial schools, to keep them there for long periods. The desire is to keep the children in those schools as long as possible. Many of the parents are very decent people, and they are anxious to get their children out. In many cases children are kept in those schools for two or three years, and there is no need for that.
I think this is an extremely reasonable amendment. Reading prosecutions arising out of child delinquency, one often gets the impression that some district justices regard children as a great nuisance. I do not know whether these justices are bachelors who abhor children, but at times there seems to be a light-hearted buoyancy in the manner in which they proceed to order a child's incarceration in an industrial school for two, three, four or five years. I do not regard industrial schools as highly laudable institutions at all. I admit they are very necessary evils. It is probably necessary to have them in order to curb the refractory spirit which to some extent permeates juveniles, but I do not think we should set out as our ideal the task of populating these industrial schools with juvenile delinquents. I think there is no better place for a child's education and for the dissemination of culture, good manners and good citizenship than in its own home. It may be difficult for some children to absorb that education and that culture because they may have in them something of the truant nature, but I think an effort ought to be made to try to induce children to step back from the code of conduct which, in the opinion of the school attendance authorities, justifies the prosecution against them and their parents.
Six months is a long time for a child to be away from its parents. The shock of a child being thrown into an industrial school and having to put up with the necessarily rigid discipline of that school is, I think, sufficient to curb even the most wayward youngsters. My complaint against the amendment, if I have any, is that the period of six months is too long. At all events, the amendment has this merit, that it will stop certain district justices from lightheartedly throwing children into industrial schools for three, four and five years. Anybody who has had experience of trying to get a child out of an industrial school knows that it is an extremely difficult and extremely slow job. The European war would be fought and over before you could bring a file to any kind of termination in respect of rescuing a child from an industrial school. I had one of these cases with the Department of Education, and one would think that one had the chance of living as long as Methuselah, judging by the rate of progress made in trying to extricate a child from the clutches of an industrial school—and "clutches" is what it really means, in my opinion. I think the Minister might very well accept this amendment. I should prefer a shorter period of detention, but at any rate, there should be some maximum period set down, and I hope the Minister will see his way to accept this proposal.
Does it not cost the State something like 12/- or 14/- to keep a boy in an industrial school?
We are paying 7/6 and it is hoped that the local authorities will pay the same.
It costs about 15/- or 16/-. It has often been said to me that if some of that money were used to help the parents of some of these young fellows, there would be a very big change in their conduct. The parents of many boys at present in industrial schools were allowed only 2/6 a week by the State to feed and clothe them, but the moment they enter an industrial school, it costs the State 15/- a week to keep them.
I think the proposal is impracticable. The schools will not accept children for such a short period. Deputies will see themselves that if a child is to be sent away to an industrial school, he ought to be sent for the whole of the school session at least. They will also recognise that very often you would have this type which is constantly in trouble with the school attendance authorities being put into an industrial school by a district justice for two or three months, if that policy were accepted by the schools, then coming out and being put in again. I think the records of the courts will show that the justices give every consideration to the claims of parents.
It must be remembered that they have been before the school attendance committee, which gives them every latitude. There are more people on the school attendance committee than teachers. There are the representatives of the different religious denominations, the clergy, who are very sympathetic and humanitarian gentlemen and who give every consideration to the cases made by parents on grounds of poverty, illness, bad clothing, and so on. On the other hand, you have cases where the father is away from home and the mother is unable to exercise any control. The children are constantly getting into trouble and it is not merely a case of being absent from school, but of the police knowing that a youngster is going with evil companions who are certain to get him into mischief and so place a far worse stigma upon him, if the situation is not remedied, than the so-called stigma of being sent to an industrial school, where he is well fed and well looked after by teachers who have no other interest than to do their duty towards those who are placed under their control.
But there are no parents there.
We cannot help that. If the parents do not do their duty, what are we going to do with the children? If the calls of the school attendance officer and bringing them before the school attendance committee and eventually before the court have no effect, what are we going to do with them? Are we going to allow them to let their children grow up as young savages, very often, when there is a remedy?
The only way out of the situation at present is that the Minister, in spite of the rather damaging remarks Deputy Norton has made, is a softhearted man, and if responsible persons come to him—the local clergy or prominent Deputies, who show that they realise both sides of the case and are able to guarantee that a child will attend school—an application for release will be considered; but, as I say, when these cases come up to me, I always find that the committal of the child is only the culmination of a long series of events, that the child or the parents have very often been in conflict with the authorities for maybe years before. If it is a genuine case of, so to speak, an accident, well and good, but the probation officer does not always feel that it is an accident. He feels sometimes that the youngster gets in with some gang or other, and that the parents themselves are not fully aware of the real situation. I think Deputies know that is the position.
All I can do to meet the Deputy is to promise that I will go carefully into any petitions that come to me and consider whether anything can be done, but I feel that this proposal is quite impracticable because it would mean setting up a new institution. The existing institutions find it difficult to carry on and there would be the whole question of the management and financing of such an institution. It would be quite impracticable to set it up in existing circumstances, I fear, even though we might have the consent of all concerned.
I do not understand the Minister's approach to this matter. It seems to me that he would regard the going out of existence of these schools as something to be feared. His only fear appears to be that unless you can get long-term prisoners in the form of delinquent students, these schools will be in a pretty bad way from the point of view of finance and organisation.
I made no reference whatever to that, and I really feel that I ought to object to the line the Deputy is taking. I have no interest whatever in these schools. I should be just as well pleased, and so would a great many of the authorities outside, if they were all closed down, and if there was no necessity for them. There is no use in the Deputy pretending that I want to send children to them, because I do not.
I am glad to hear that from the Minister, but the Minister said that it is not practicable to send children to these schools for a short period.
The schools are not legally bound to accept them and they will refuse to take them.
Then I think you will have to control the schools, or create some other kind of detention for these boys. The Minister seemed to think, from his opening remarks, that if these boys were sent in for short periods, the schools would not take them and that boys have to be sent in for the full school session. I am not worried in the slightest about the schools. I would not care if they all fell down to-morrow morning and if a law were passed to prevent their reconstruction. I am concerned with ensuring that the child who has certain rights will have these rights respected, and that these rights will not be conditioned to the school law but rather that the school law will be conditioned to a recognition of the child's rights.
The Minister says that in these matters he is sympathetic. From personal experience, I know that to be the case, but that is not really the point at issue. What we are doing in this Bill is giving district justices power to send boys to these schools for what we know in many instances have been very long periods. I object to giving district justices power to send boys to these industrial schools for long periods, until I am satisfied that sending them for a short period does not meet the case. It may very well be that, in the case of a boy sent to an industrial school, a few weeks' or a few months' detention is sufficient to enable him to realise the error of his ways.
The Deputy has no knowledge of that either. He is just supposing it because he thinks it a nice thing to suppose. He has no foundation whatever for his belief.
Have I not this foundation? The Minister gave some statistics showing the period of detention in industrial schools. My remarks are based on cases of which I read in the newspapers, by which I noticed that young boys were sent to industrial schools for long periods. I would not allow them to be detained there much longer than is necessary to effect reformation. I think it unwise that district justices should have power to send children there for a long period without first trying the effect of a short maximum period. The amendment seeks to make it possible to send them to these schools for a maximum of six months. That is an experiment worth trying, to see what is the reaction on a child that is incarcerated for six months. If the child shows that it is prepared to reform within six months, I would then let it out. I would not be too perturbed as to what those in charge thought. I suggest that the Minister should give this proposal a trial. It is hardly good legislation to give district justices very wide powers or to give the Minister power to modify their decisions. It would be better to have a maximum period of six months. Try that as an experiment and if it does not work with certain children we can provide a remedy. One has to remember this basic fact: that the children have rights, and that district justices should not be allowed to send them to industrial schools for a period which may be longer than is necessary to effect the desired reform both in conduct and outlook. The Minister ought to accept the amendment in order to get some experience of the operation of the Act in an amended form.
The Deputy speaks of the child's rights. A child is not in a position to judge, and the Minister has a certain duty cast upon him to endeavour to see that the child is properly educated. Deputies should see the reports of the school managers when these applications are sent in, and also the educational standard of these children. He would then see that not infrequently there are boys of 12, 13 and 14 years of age in only the third standard. There may be some special reasons in particular cases, but I am quite convinced that a large section of children would be deprived of education altogether if these institutions were not there. They are not penal institutions. Deputies should go and have a look at them, when they would, perhaps, change their views.
I am convinced that the managers of these schools do a great deal for the children. If the Deputy is familiar with life in the City of Dublin he will know that the managers of these schools do everything possible to try to secure employment for them. While their drunken fathers and mothers are so often neglecting them the whole parental responsibility is very often thrown on the managers of these schools. We are dealing with a special type of defaulter whom it has been impossible to bring to book. Absence from school cannot be of such a character that six months would be sufficient as a corrective. The Deputy must know that there are children who go to school very, very irregularly, and whose standard of education is so low at the age of 14 that they are almost illiterate. In these schools they have an opportunity of getting education as good as that given to children whose parents are really interested, and who make every effort to look after their children's education The products of these schools bear witness to that. Deputies have an entirely wrong idea about this, and they should take the opportunity to visit these schools. I would be very glad to assist them in that.
That is not the point. We are not suggesting anything like that.
Deputies are suggesting that there is something peculiarly harsh about these institutions, and I want to maintain the numbers in them. Both suggestions are wrong.
After six months perhaps a child would be reformed.
The parents might be.
These cases must be brought before district justices. If I were to accept the amendment it would be impracticable and would reduce the whole procedure to nullity. There is no such institution available.
I know something about industrial schools in Cork, and I could not speak too highly of them, but I know that there are boys there belonging to decent parents. If there is a home for a child to return to, that opportunity should be given the child. I do not believe in the policy of a child being allowed out on parole and then, perhaps, having to return to industrial schools. I could not speak too highly of the Cork schools, but I am anxious to see that certain children might be sent home to their parents.
I know something about industrial schools, and I suggest that if I had thought a child could not be safely allowed into one of them for six months, I would not have put down an amendment. It came before us for the first time in connection with the administration of the School Attendance Act, where for deliberate failure a child could be put into an industrial school for three or four years. I object to a new principle being brought in without any case being made for it, apparently without any appreciation on the part of the Minister that there is some kind of go-between, either leaving the child without education, putting it into a school for three or four years, or putting the parents right. The Minister must know that there is. If this does not suit the industrial school people then the whole matter should be reconsidered. I am definitely opposed to accepting the section as it stands.
Is the Deputy pressing the amendment?
Will the Minister agree to reconsider it?
I explained that it is not a personal matter with me. I know that it is thoroughly impracticable. I do not know why Deputies are deceiving themselves into the belief that parents who shamefully neglect their duty in the eyes of the court are deserving of consideration. Let them go to the court and make their case if they are the type of parents Deputies have in mind.
I move amendment No. 47:—
In sub-section (4), line 13, page 10, after the word "conductor" to insert the words "and the principal teacher".
Sub-section (4) provides that where a school has been inspected under the section the Minister shall inform the manager or conductor of such school of the result of such inspection. I submit that where a school has undergone inspection the principal teacher should get a copy of the report as well as the manager.
In the case of national schools, the teacher gets a copy of the report of the inspection. In other cases I am sure the Deputy will recognise that it might not be appropriate that the teacher should get a copy.
Under this section the practice will be that the principal teacher will get a copy of the report?
Yes, or the teacher concerned.
I move amendment No. 48:—
In sub-section (5), page 10, line 43, to insert after the word "attendance" the words "at a national school, a suitable school or a recognised school," and in line 45, to delete the words "at a national or other suitable school".
This is to clarify the diction and to make the enumeration of the types of schools regarded as giving suitable education, complete.
With regard to amendment No. 50, it seems that amendment No. 54 would achieve the same purpose. The Deputy might not move amendment No. 50.
I am not moving it because my idea has got a knock on the head in previous amendments.
I move amendment No. 51:—
In sub-section (7), page 11, line 1, to insert before the word "in" the words "who is".
This is merely for purposes of clarity in drafting.
I move amendment No. 52:—
In sub-section (7), page 11, line 1, to delete the words "to attend school" and substitute the words "to receive suitable education".
The same remark applies to this amendment as to the previous amendment.
I move amendment No. 55:—
In sub-section (8), page 11, line 9, to insert before the word "in" the words "who is".
This is a drafting amendment.
I move amendment No. 56:—
To add as part of sub-section (9) at the end thereof the following:—
In this sub-section the expression "suitable place of detention or security" means any place declared by order of the Minister to be a suitable place of detention or security for the purposes of this sub-section.
This is to enable the Minister to make Orders declaring suitable places of detention or security. One of the difficulties in dealing with the vagrant problem will be the provision of suitable places of detention in certain areas. From time to time, the Minister will have to make Orders providing for such places.
I move amendment No. 57:—
To add at the end of the section the following sub-section:—
(12) The Minister may, whenever and so often as he thinks fit, by Order declare that any one or more of the preceding sub-sections of this section shall only apply in respect of children of any particular age, and any such Order shall have effect accordingly, and may at any time be revoked by a subsequent Order made by the Minister.
This is designed to secure that the Minister shall have power to introduce the section dealing with vagrants gradually by applying it first to cases of the greatest urgency and, by degrees, extending its application to all such children. It is a new problem. Although it could have been dealt with under the Children Act of 1908, it has not been dealt with up to the present. There is a very large number of children concerned. The circumstances are difficult and it will require a good deal of thought and preparation to carry out the necessary administrative measures.
I move amendment No. 59:—
In page 12, line 25, to insert after the figures "12" the words and figures "sub-section (3), of Section 15".
This is consequential on a previous amendment.
I move amendment No. 60:—
Before Section 24 to insert the following new section:—
This Act shall come into operation on such day as shall be fixed for that purpose by order of the Minister either generally or with reference to any particular portion, and different days may be so fixed for different portions of this Act.
This section embodies the usual formula which enables the Minister to bring the various sections of the Act into operation at dates which will suit the needs of the administration.
If there is no objection, I should like the Report Stage to be ordered for next Wednesday, although it may not be possible to take it on Wednesday.