HC Deb 04 April 1854 vol 132 cc441-3

said, the House would not be surprised at his rising at that hour of the night to postpone the second reading of this Bill. In doing so, however, he was anxious to offer a word or two of explanation. He had been very much pressed to postpone the second reading until after the 30th of April. He had declined to do it, because he thought the interests involved were too great to be exposed to the peril of unnecessary delay. The Schoolmasters' Act expired during the present year, and the interests of the schoolmasters must be protected. The welfare of the great mass of the community must also be looked to, and he did not think he should be discharging his public duty in postponing the second reading of the Bill to a period which would endanger its passing into a law during the present Session. As long as he had charge of the Scotch business in that House, he should always object to postpone the second readings of important Bills, because he thought it highly prejudicial to business of that nature that it should be kept back during three months of the Session. He found himself, however, in this position. He did not see his way to bring on this Bill, in the few days that remained before Easter, under circumstances that would admit of its being discussed; and as it was a measure of very great importance, involving many large questions, he did not think he should be justified in running the risk of taking it up again at a late period of the evening, without the chance of carrying it through. He proposed, therefore, to postpone the second reading until the 5th of May. Before he resumed his seat there were two points connected with the Bill to which he wished to refer. He understood there was considerable difficulty about the retiring allowance to schoolmasters. As far as his own opinion went, he thought the complaint well founded; and he was perfectly willing that the amount of the retiring allowance should be reconsidered in Committee. He had found also—he must say to his surprise—that the Episcopalians thought they could not take advantage of the 36th clause, as that clause at present stood. He could only say it was intended to extend to them, and he should be happy to modify its terms so as to accomplish that object.


said, he was very glad to find that his right hon. and learned Friend had consented to postpone the second reading. He perfectly agreed with him that it was unreasonable to expect that every large measure involving great interests should be postponed until after the 30th of April county meetings; but there were most important provisions of this Bill, in which the parties attending these meeting had so deep an interest that they ought to have this opportunity of understanding and discussing them. The postponement was desirable also as a means of testing the accuracy of the opinion which the right hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to entertain that the; Bill was acceptable in Scotland. He had himself presented a great number of petitions very strongly worded against it. The question of protecting the schoolmasters from the prospective protecting of their salaries, ought not to have been mixed up with the fate of so large a measure as this. The landed proprietors would willingly have consented to maintain the present rate of payment, and any scheme of general education ought to have been separately introduced. At present, there were no data to show that the educational requirements of the country made such a measure necessary, except the speech of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate.


said, he took exception to this last statement, and must assert that there was a general concurrence of opinion that some measure with respect to Scotch education was absolutely necessary. Even the 1,800 landed proprietors who objected to the separation of the Church from the schools, would not undertake to say what measures might be necessary in cities and populous towns.


said, he would admit that there were some clauses which might need alteration in Committee; but, as to the general principle of the Bill, he was satisfied, as stated in the petition he had presented that evening, that the feeling of the country was in favour of the principle embodied in the Bill.

Second reading deferred till Friday, 5th May.

The House adjourned at a quarter after One o'clock.