HC Deb 17 July 1844 vol 76 cc989-92

House in Committee on the Poor Law Amendment Bill.

Clause 38, defining the powers and duties of the District Board.

Sir J. Graham

proposed an Amendment in page 18, line 13, after "Guardians," insert "and every such board for a school district shall appoint, with the consent of the Bishop of the diocese, at least one chaplain of the Established Church, as one of the paid officers aforesaid, who shall be empowered to superintend the religious instruction of all the infant poor being under the control of such District Board," was inserted.

Sir C. Napier

wished to know what was to become of the Dissenters and Catholics?

Sir J. Graham

said, the whole of this Clause would be governed by the proviso at the end, which enacted, that at all reasonable hours of the day "any licensed minister of the religious persuasion professed by any adult inmate, or if the religious persuasion in which any child has been brought up, or in which the parents, or surviving parent, or next of kin, as the case may be, shall desire such child to be instructed, to visit the school or ayslum at the request of such adult inmate, for the purpose of affording to him religious assistance, or to visit such child for the purpose of instructing such child in the principles of his religion."

Mr. Hawes

suggested that the words "lawful minister" should be substituted for "licensed minister," which was a term of doubtful construction.

Sir J. Graham

said, he had taken the words from the Clause which regulated the admission of dissenting and Catholic clergymen into workhouses under the Poor Law Amendment Act. There was no difficulty whatever in the construction of the term "licensed minister," it was sufficiently comprehensive, and had been decided by high legal authority, and was so acted upon by the Commissioners, that licensed ministers included every minister recognised as a minister by the religious body to which he belonged, and having conformed to the law, and liable to no penalty for acting as a minister. If, however, on consideration, the hon. Gentleman did not think the words sufficiently comprehensive, he should be prepared to adopt any reasonable modification that might be suggested on bringing up the Report.

Clause amended to stand part of the Bill.

On Clause 45, "Children may be sent to district schools from parishes and unions not combined in the school district, but not distant more than twenty miles," being proposed,

Mr. S. O'Brien

moved an Amendment, pursuant to notice, that in line 12, after the words, "by virtue of this Act," these words be inserted, "provided always, and be it further enacted, that whenever it shall appear to the board of any district school that the space within such school is more than sufficient for the accommodation of poor children within the district for which such school shall have been built, it shall and may be lawful for such board to make order for the admission of so many other children residing in the said district as shall seem expedient; and the weekly provision for the maintenance and education of such children shall be fixed by the board at such rate as shall in their judgment be amply sufficient to cover every expense on account of such children."

Mr. Ferrand

opposed the Amendment, on the ground that it would give the Commissioners control over the education of the whole poor of the country.

Sir J. Graham

said, the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire was an important one, and the argument was rather in favour of its adoption. He was, however, inclined to allow the experiment to be tried, limiting it to pauper children, before they attempted to carry it a step further. It would be difficult to fix the precise charge for educating the children of the poor generally in these schools, because if a low rate of charge were fixed these schools would come into what he thought would be an unfair and injurious competition with the British and Foreign Schools and National Schools; and if it were fixed at a high rate it would be inoperative. Therefore, admitting that primâ facie there was much in its favour, still, on the whole, he did not consider it prudent to adopt the Amendment.

Mr. Wakley

did not see why, having given such extraordinary powers to the Commissioners in other things, they did not leave them some control in the matter of education. Give the children of the poor education, and he had no fears as to who had the control. He should move an Amendment in line six, after the word "board," to insert the words "subject to the approval of the Poor Law Commissioners."

Sir J. Graham

had come down to the House full of anxiety as to the discussion on those Clauses relating to education and religious instruction. He was happy to say that the lone the discussion had taken had altogether removed that anxiety. The great object of all was to give to the poor the largest amount of education. Now, he would state what was his view of the matter. It was quite clear that these schools would be established only in populous districts, and to those districts alone in the main were they applicable, and though there were not so many schools in those districts as he could desire, still generally, there were schools already established. His fears were that the attractions of these district schools—the terms of which would be liberal—would bring them into direct competition with those other schools in the neighbourhood, many of which would cease to exist. And though you would improve the district schools by the extension proposed, still, as it would have the effect of shutting up other schools, he was of opinion that the Clause, limited, as it now was, would upon the whole, ensure the largest amount of education to the poor.

Mr. Hawes

referred to the education of the pauper children at Norwood, which, he said, was of a very superior kind. He did not think that the education afforded in the schools that would be discontinued, could be put in competition with that which would be given in these district schools. He was afraid that by the pro- viso the children of paupers would have a much better education than those of independent labourers, which was not at all desirable. But as this question was one of great importance, it might, he thought, be well to postpone it until the Report.

Proviso withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses to 54 inclusive, agreed to.

House resumed. Committee to sit again.

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