HC Deb 09 July 1838 vol 44 cc42-6

On the vote being proposed, of 20,000l. for the Erection of School-houses, in aid of private subscriptions for that purpose, for the education of the children of the poorer classes in England,

Mr. Slaney

objected strongly to the present mode of distributing this vote; some efficient system of inspection was indispensable.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

hoped, that next Session, some legislative measure for establishing a system of inspection over these schools might be carried.

Mr. Sergeant Jackson

thought, that perhaps it would be felt desirable to appoint a minister of public instruction.

Mr. Goulburn

protested against the encouragement, on the part of the State, of mere secular education, without any religious instruction.

Mr. Wyse

thought the locality ought to provide for the religious instruction of the resident poor, but that the Government ought to provide the means of intellectual education. The locality ought to settle the point as to the mode of communicating religious instruction, but the Government should see, that it was communicated, and, at the same time, take care that a system of literary education was established.

Mr. Acland

wished to know what was to be done in a small parish, where there were members of three different religious communities? Would the hon. Gentleman have three schools established? He thought, that the management of railroads and public works might be very well carried on by boards of direction; but, he thought it was not consistent with our English habits, to establish boards of education, and he hoped it never would be. He did not think the Government, being a human institution, ought to have the control of the religious instruction of the people. The institutions of this country were happily bound up with the Established Church, and that constitution of things ought to be respected. He must say, that there was a very efficient inspection of the national schools carried on by the clergy in each parish, and the benefits of those schools were not confined to the children of members of the Established Church, for a very large portion of the children of the Dissenters attended them.

Mr. Villiers

said, that the whole of the argument of the hon. Member who had just sat down, was intended to prove, that there was sufficient inspection, because the schools were under the superintendence of the parochial clergy. But what was the fact? Was not the complaint general, that the country, in respect to religious instruction, was in a state of destitution, thus clearly showing, that an improved system of inspection was wanted? The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the establishment of a board as hostile to British habits; but surely that was no argument, for he believed, that England was far behind Prussia, and other continental countries, in point of education—a fact which was nowise creditable to England. He hoped the House would consider, that there had been nothing advanced against some im- proved system of superintendence; and when they voted the public money, it was surely their duty to see how that money was applied. That money at present was given to two societies, and it appeared to him, that the only rule for its distribution at present was, to give it almost exclusively to the most wealthy sect. Now, it was clear that it ought to be applied fairly to the general purposes of education, and he sincerely trusted, that a better system of inspection would be established so as to insure a fairer distribution of the grant.

Sir R. Inglis

could not consent to the doctrine, that because Parliament of late had interfered with the property of the Church, they had a right to interfere also with the religion and mode of instruction adopted and sanctioned by the Church. For himself, he should be sorry ever to see Government interfere in the instruction of the people to such an extent as some hon. Members seemed willing to sanction, as he believed, that such interference could only tend to retard rather than to promote the advance of instruction amongst the people. He objected to the mode in which the grant was disposed of at present, as he considered, that the education of the people ought to be in the hands of the national Church. He would never scruple to say so, because such was his conscientious opinion, and he believed, that there was in the country a growing feeling, that instruction ought to be under the superintendence of the Church.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that all they wanted was fair play, while the hon. Member for West Somerset seemed to wish for a dictatorship in favour of the Established Church. As the grant was the contribution of all sects in religion, they wanted that grant to be fairly divided amongst Protestants, Catholics, and Dissenters. They were all met there on equal terms, and all that those on his side of the House asked for was, equality and justice, and that the Government should superintend the distribution of the money, leaving the instruction to the care of the pastors.

Colonel Sibthorp

said, that he should afterwards, he trusted, have an opportunity of exposing the system of education commissions, when he brought the general subject of commissions under the consideration of the House. When, however, he saw, that the Irish Education Commission had cost upwards of 114,000l., and when he reflected on what the Education Commission for Scotland, which had not yet concluded its labours, had already cost the nation, and when he considered what had been the results of the investigation of those two bodies, he could not help saying that the expense attending such inquiries was a gross waste of the public money.

Vote agreed to.

House resumed. Committee to sit again.