HC Deb 25 June 1847 vol 93 cc919-21

rose to ask the First Lord of the Treasury the following questions:—"1. Should the supporters of an existing National school, in a parish where Nonconformists are not sufficient in numbers to form a separate school, desire, in consequence, to adopt a rule of management which shall admit the children of Nonconformists with exemption from attendance at church, and from instruction in the catechism; and should the National School Society refuse their sanction to such rule, will the Committee of Privy Council on Education consider the desire on the one part to adopt this rule, and the refusal of the National School Society to sanction or grant aid under such circumstances, as reasons sufficient to form a 'special case?' 2. And in the event of the Committee of Privy Council deeming a National school, adopting such tolerant rule and practice, to be within the class of 'special cases,' will the loss sustained by such school by reason of the refusal of assistance from the National School Society he taken into consideration in determining the proportion of aid to be granted by the Committee of Privy Council? 3. It having been intimated that additional Minutes are contemplated by Government to meet the case of Roman Catholics, will the noble Lord at the head of the Government inform the House whether Congregational Dissenters, who approve the principle of Government aid to education, will have a similar measure of liberality extended to them which is thus so justly intended towards their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, and to which they are equally entitled; to the effect that additional Minutes may also be hoped for, to enable Congregational Dissenters, upon special application, and without touching the previous Minutes as affecting Church of England schools, to accept Government aid, without being constrained to render any account to Government of the religious knowledge or duties of the monitors and pupil-teachers?"


, in reply, said: Sir, I will answer the different questions which my hon. Friend has put to me, although, of course, I cannot enter into any particular case. With regard to the general principle on which the Committee of the Council of Education are prepared to act, I think it has been stated in previous debates, that if the managers of any school should think proper, while they conform generally to the rules of the National Society, not to require the children to learn the catechism, or to attend church; and thus to admit the children of Dissenters, thereby becoming, as I believe, separated from the National Society, the Committee of the Council of Education will feel themselves at liberty to extend their aid to such schools. As to the second question, the loss to the schools owing to the refusal of the National Society to give assistance, each case must rest on its own merits, and each case will be considered on its own merits; and aid will be given to Church schools generally which admit Dissenters, in aid of local subscriptions in each district. With respect to the third question, the regulation has been introduced not only to meet the case of Roman Catholics, with respect to whom a Minute has been prepared, and the draught of which has been submitted to the Catholic Institute; but it has also been introduced to meet the objections held by Congregational Dissenters—objections which I think of an extremely refined nature—but which I still think ought not to prevent aid being given to schools which would otherwise be assisted. The Government Minutes would be satisfied without the inspector giving an account of the religious examination of the schools, if the managers of the schools should say that they were satisfied. This, I think, would amount to no interference; but many Congregational Dissenters who entertain strong religious opinions, and who are remarkable for praiseworthy conduct, think that this is some interference; and if the Privy Council are satisfied that this may be made a ground of religious objection, they will not require that the local managers shall state that they are satisfied. A Minute on the subject has been prepared; it lies by for consideration; but it will be probably adopted at an early meeting of the Privy Council. With regard to the Roman Catholics it is right to state, to prevent any misapprehension, that the regulations will relate to future grants only, and that the grants now made will be administered strictly in accordance with the declarations made in this House. We shall endeavour to extend education by Parliamentary grants as widely as possible; but with respect to grants already made, they will be distributed according to the declarations made in this House at the time they were granted.