HC Deb 09 July 1855 vol 139 cc626-36

On the Motion that the Report on the Bill be considered,


said, he should move that the Bill be recommitted. He did not think that the right hon. and learned Lord was aware of the effect of his own Amendments.


said, he was perfectly aware of the nature of the Amendments in the Bill, and should oppose the recommittal.


said, that the tendency of the measure had been very much changed for the worse within the last few days. He considered that if the House agreed to it they would be taking a backward step in legislation, and therefore it would be most unwise to assent to it. His main objection to the principle of the measure was, that it vested the control of education in Scotland in an irresponsible Board, and he did not think that experience had shown that, where the State had interfered, the results of such interference had been so advantageous as to render the extension of such a principle expedient. Those establishments which existed at present under the care of the Committee of Privy Council had not been so well conducted as to lead them to hope that the system could be well applied in Scotland. If, indeed, it could be proved that the people were actually destitute of educational establishments, and that no voluntary efforts to meet the want had been made, it might be proper to institute State schools, but, until that proposition had been proved, it would be wise to abstain. It did not follow, that because Scotch Liberal Members supported the Bill the people were in its favour, for various reasons could he mentioned which would account for the support of those Members. But he denied that there was any degree of enthusiasm on the part of the people of Scotland on the subject, such as existed last year. Indeed, nothing could be more offensive to the various sects than an enactment which would compel them to support State schools, nor did he think that, on inquiry, the opponents of such a principle would be found to consist of a very small minority. For these reasons, he trusted that the House would reject the Bill.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be recommitted."

The House divided:—Ayes 82; Noes 147: Majority 65.


said, he now would propose the addition of the following clause:— If any complaint shall be made to the School Committee in regard to the religious or moral teaching of the master, it shall be lawful to the Board, on the report of the School Committee, to direct such complaint to be inquired into by the School Committee, with the assistance of the inspector and of such other persons as the Board may appoint, and who may be willing to undertake such duty.

Clause brought up and read 1°.


said, that this was the clause in which the whole security for religious teaching existed. His hon. Friends around him did not think that the clause contained any such security. Now, supposing that an inquiry was instituted as the clause authorised, he wanted to know what was to be the result. There was no power given to the Board to do anything more. There was no power given to punish the schoolmaster if he were found guilty. The clause as it stood was utterly inefficient. He would therefore vote against it.


said, he wished to know what was meant by religious teaching. Was it the religion of the Presbyterians, the Catholics, the Episcopalians, the Independents, or the Unitarians, that was meant? He considered the clause as most objectionable. The Bill tried to be religious, but it was not and could not be religious. It was, in fact, a delusion practised upon the people of Scotland.


said, that when the noble Lord at the head of the Government proposed that a grant should be given to the Roman Catholics in Scotland, there was a storm of opposition raised in the Protestant papers of Scotland, which was calculated to appal the Government. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate then made a kind of compromise upon the subject by proposing the present clause, which really meant nothing.


said, those Liberal Members who had opposed the Bill had acted in a manner perfectly consistent with their principles. There was not one single liberal principle in the Bill, to which Liberal Members could point as a justification for their support of it. It was not a liberal Bill in point of religion; it was one apparently got up by the Free Church party, and contained much evidence of the selfishness and intolerance of that sect. The whole object accomplished by the measure would be to transfer the management of the schools in Scotland which were now under the Established Church, te a management shared between the Established Church and the Free Church, under the direction and supervision of a Government Board. Why should he be called upon to support the Bill when he found that voluntary efforts were treated in it as a nullity, and when he remembered that out of 5,000 schools in Scotland 2,000 were on the voluntary system? On the whole, he said deliberately that he would rather leave education in Scotland where it was, than place it in the hands of the right hon. and learned Lord as desired by the Bill, and if the hon. Member opposite carried his Amendment to a division, he should certainly support it.


said, he should vote against the clause, on the ground that it was one intended to carry out, to its full extent, the objectionable principle of centralisation.


said, he opposed the clause, because he believed that it was entirely without an object, and accomplished nothing.


said, the religious difficulty which caused so much discussion in that House, was no difficulty at all, for whether religious teaching was provided for by the Bill or not, the people of Scotland, it was well known, would take care to have religious teaching. It was only those Gentlemen who could not speak three sentences without betraying their ignorance of the people of Scotland that made any difficulty on that head. The Members for Scotland knew very well that it was so, and one of the most determined opponents of the Bill told him that such a provision was not at all necessary for the people of Scotland. He had altered the 27th clause of the Bill to meet the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but finding that they opposed it as much as ever after that alteration, his eyes were opened to the nature of their opposition. He was glad to say, that a large majority of the United Presbyterians supported the Bill, and finding that it was a hopeless attempt to conciliate the opposition, he was not willing to interfere even with the prejudices of those who were favourable to it. It was with that view he prepared the clause now under consideration. It would enable the Board to inquire whether the teaching of the schoolmaster was irreligious or immoral, to call in the assistance of a minister if necessary, and under the general clauses of the Bill the schoolmaster could be dismissed if his teaching was either irreligious or immoral. He hoped hon. Gentlemen would give up squabbling about mere theories, because all the religious difficulty would vanish the moment the Bill passed. It might be necessary to have a separate provision for the Roman Catholics in the large towns, but in all the schools the religious instruction to be given would be so framed as to enable persons of all denominations to attend them.


said, that many of his hon. Friends had given notice of Amendments upon the 15th clause, but were induced to withdraw them in consequence of a clause to be proposed by the Lord Advocate. That clause, however, was subsequently withdrawn, and the present one substituted. Those hon. Members complained of the course thus taken by the right hon. and learned Lord, as they considered that the present clause was not practical. The right hon. and learned Lord had omitted to state what would be the practical effect of it. He wished to know whether there would be power to punish or remove a schoolmaster in the event of his misconducting himself? [The LORD ADVOCATE interposed a remark.] Yes, the schoolmaster might be dismissed if the Board chose, but hon. Members on his side of the House had no confidence in the Board, which had no religious element in it.


said, it was quite clear if the schoolmaster be found guilty, under the clause now before the House, he might be dismissed under the general powers of the Bill.


said, it was feared that the separation of the religious hours from the secular hours would lead to the separation of religion from the education generally.


said, he considered the present Bill even more objectionable than the Bill of last year.


said, he must complain of the course taken by the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate in inducing him (Mr. Lockhart), as well as others, to withdraw Amendments of which they had given notice, upon the understanding of a certain clause being proposed by the right hon. and learned Lord, which clause was subsequently withdrawn, and the present one substituted.


said, he must likewise complain that the right hon. and learned Lord had taken the House by surprise by introducing the clause at a stage of the proceedings when it was expected that there would be perfect harmony amongst them, and that nothing would be brought forward to create a difference of opinion respecting the measure. He objected to the clause upon principle, as it gave no guarantee for religious teaching in the schools, and he believed the people of Scotland sympathised with him in his opposition. The clause had been ingeniously drawn, for whereas, while it affected to establish local control over the schools, it still left their management in the hands of the central Board.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the said Clause be now read a second time."

The House divided: Ayes 118; Noes 64: Majority 54.

Clause read 2°, and added.

Three other Clauses added.


said, he would beg to leave out in Clause 21 from after the word "report" to the word "burgh," and insert instead the following words, "shall address a letter to the chief magistrate of such burgh, requiring him to call a meeting of the ratepayers, for the purpose of considering such proposed measure; and the chief magistrate shall, within ten days after the receipt of such letter, call such meeting, which shall be advertised as he may think fit; and such meeting shall be attended by the inspector, who shall give any explanations which the meeting shall require in regard to such school; and such meeting shall proceed to establish such school, and to assess themselves."

Amendment agreed to.


said, he wished to know why the Lord Advocate proposed to give greater salaries in respect of borough schools than were paid for parish schools? The money was coming out of the pockets of the public generally, and hence some explanation was due to English Members. It should be remembered that these payments once fixed by Act of Parliament could not be dealt with like sums annually voted. He should also like to know when the Bill would come into operation.


said, that the reason why Scotland received so much of the public money was solely because she contributed so much for educational purposes by voluntary contributions. The sums proposed to be paid under the Bill were greater on account of borough schools than of parish schools, because in respect of the latter the heritors were subject to certain charges which went towards their support. With regard to the borough schools no such charge existed. The Bill would come into operation two years after its passing. As to the amount required for its working, as far as he could calculate, it would not exceed, and would in fact be within, the sum which had already been mentioned.


said, that by the last Census there were 5,242 schools in Scotland, which number the preamble of the Bill stated was short of that which should exist. He would take the number, then, at 6,000. Of these, 1,000 parochial and burgh schools, at 16l. each, would receive from the Consolidated Fund 16,000l.; 5,000 new, at 25l. each, 125,000l.; half the rent of school and schoolmaster's house, at 10l. would come to 50,000l.; the board and secretary would cost 3,000l.; and the pay of forty inspectors, giving to each 150 schools, at 400l. salary and 200l. for travelling expenses, would amount to 24,000l. This would make the cost of the working of the Bill 218,000l. To this add retiring allowances, which would give a total expenditure of 240,000l. a year, and the ratepayers would have to pay about the same sum in addition, beside the school fees. That was a rough estimate, but he believed it to be nearer the truth than any statement they had yet heard.


said, that there was already a very good system of education in Scotland, and he could not see that any case had been made out for the lavish profusion proposed by the Bill. He could not understand why the parochial schools now in existence were to be absorbed in the Government schools at the expense of the public.


said, he wished to call attention to the fact that the establishment at Kneller Hall had already cost the country the sum of 62,000l., which was at the rate of l,000l. for every teacher sent out from the school, and he had no wish to see a similar experiment tried in Scotland.


said, he hoped that the Government would be able on the third reading of the Bill to state the expenses likely to be incurred under the Bill, and the necessity which existed for incurring those expenses.


said, he thought the House ought to receive some clear and definite statement from the Lord Advocate as to the expenditure under the Bill.


said, that the parochial schools were about 1,200 in number, and it would be found that about 16,000l. or 17,000l. would be necessary under that part of the Bill. To that must be added a sum for retiring allowances, but which would be a very small sum in comparison, because there would be only a few persons put upon the list from year to year, and they would in the course of nature drop off. The calculation of the hon. Member for Stirlingshire as to new schools was beyond all bounds, and was, indeed, ludicrous in its exaggeration. The object was, to have one good school in a parish, and not to keep up three or four where they were not necessary. So far from bringing all those schools under the new system, they would be, if possible, merged into one. A calculation of 1,500 additional schools would be over the mark. A sum would be required for school buildings, but half of the capital sum expended in school buildings was to be repaid. The hon. Member had put down 24,000l. for his Board of Inspectors, who were to be forty in number. Now, how many inspectors were there at present for 5,000 schools? Why three, and they were found sufficient.


said, he must remind the House that the inspectors for Scotland did not inspect the parochial schools.


said, that, if 200,000l. a year were to be applied in that way, it behoved the Scotch Members to see that the Bill was withdrawn.


said, the payments for schoolhouses, &c., were to be made by the Committee of Privy Council first, but a sum of 3l. 5s. per cent per annum upon the amount expended was to be assessed upon the ratepayers for a period of twenty-two years. This amount of 3¼ per cent for twenty-two years, however, would not repay the capital, and one-half would fall to be paid by the Committee of Privy Council. The whole question, in considering the expense, resolved itself into the following—what would be the number of new schools? If there was to be any result at all from the Bill, it must show itself in an increase of schools, and the House should bear in mind that the Lord Advocate had all along held it up as a measure which was to give greatly increased means of education for the whole country. The expense must, therefore, be in proportion to the increase that took place; and they were to consider that, whatever was the amount taken from the Consolidated Fund, the rates would come to as much more. Perhaps his patriotism might not have led him to find fault with the amount to be paid from the Consolidated Fund, were it not for the large amount of rates that followed it. There would be imposed by the Bill a burden of not less than 500,000l. a year, one-half paid by the country and the other from the Consolidated Fund.


said, he felt called on to complain that the Lord Advocate had given no statement of the sum total that would be imposed on the country by the Bill. The whole system appeared to him to be one that would give a monopoly of the grants to the Free Church, while it would have the effect of keeping down the free action of the voluntaries whose principles prevented them from taking any portion of the grants. He thought the Bill would have a pauperising tendency, and that it would tend to demoralise rather than educate and elevate the people of Scotland.


said, he thought the House was entitled to demand that a clear and explicit printed statement of the expense caused by the Bill should be laid before it.


said, no part of the empire drew so little of the public money as Scotland did. England and Ireland received large amounts for various purposes, while Scotland got comparatively nothing. He thought that when they consented to be rated more than one-half what they drew from the public funds, the people of Scotland were not likely to go too far in that direction. In the calculation of the expense made by his hon. Friend (Mr. Blackburn) he left out of sight the sums now obtained, which were—for the Free Church, 21,000l., and for the Established Church, 19,000l. a year—payments that would cease when the new system was established.


said, the statement made by the hon. Member for Stirlingshire (Mr. Blackburn) was clear and distinct, and he believed it was also correct—that under the proposed measure the cost of education in Scotland would be 240,000l. a year, and that sum being deducted from the annual grant of 380,000l. would leave but a small proportion to be applied to purposes of education in England and Wales, although they contained a population five times larger than that of Scotland. The amount now granted annually for education in Scotland was 40,000l., and English Members were, therefore, imposing a tax of 200,000l. a year upon their constituents to provide education for the people of Scotland. He would have no objection to the measure if they placed England upon an equality with Scotland, and voted 1,250,000l. a year for educational purposes in England and Wales; but, in his opinion, the present proposition involved great injustice to England and Wales as compared with Scotland. The grant, too, would be secured to Scotland by Act of Parliament, while the grant for England and Wales must depend upon an annual Vote of that House.


said, he had been astonished to hear Scotch Members charged with refusing to accept public money. He did not think Scotchmen were generally liable to such an accusation, or that much weight would be attached to it by the House. The Scotch Members were ready to accept any amount of money that was necessary for education in Scotland, but they thought the proposed measure would lead to an unnecessary expenditure, and on that ground they objected to it. He regretted that, after the statements of the hon. Member for Stirlingshire, the Lord Advocate had not thought it necessary to explain more fully what would be the operation of the measure. He (Mr. Scott) was satisfied that when English Gentlemen understood the subject they would find that this was really a Bill to extend expenditure and to contract education.


said, he regarded the measure with great suspicion, in consequence of the studied caution manifested by the Lord Advocate in indicating the expenditure which it would entail upon the country.


said, he must repudiate the imputation that the Roman Catholics had been bribed by promises of educational grants to support the measure. He had voted for it last Session, because he looked on it as an attempt to introduce a large and liberal measure in the room of the narrower one which had hitherto prevailed in Scotland. He thought that the Roman Catholic Members had good reason to complain of the conduct of the voluntarists in this matter.


said, that no persons were disposed to do more for the Roman Catholics than the voluntaries; but, with regard to the measure now before the House, he felt that it was opposed to all religious equality, and he thought that the Roman Catholic Members would have acted wisely if, instead of accepting the bargain made with them by the Government, they had stood forward as the advocates of religious equality, and had opposed the Bill.


said, that as yet the only answer that had been given to the statements which had been made with regard to the expenses of the measure had been cries of "Oh, oh!" He, for one, should certainly like to hear some explanation as to the amount of expenditure contemplated under the Bill.


said, he did not see the propriety of calling on the Lord Advocate to estimate the expenditure that would be required to work the Bill, because he did not see how such an estimate could be formed with any accuracy. He deprecated such complaints as they heard about the money going to Scotland. He thought that they ought to get rid of all such invidious distinctions. He thought, too, that a quarter of a million would be well laid out in raising the character of Scottish schools. It had been argued that the Bill was opposed to the principle of free trade in education. But the principle of free trade was not of universal application. Free trade pre-supposed the existence of a correlative supply and demand. But ignorance never demanded knowledge. Besides, the voluntarists had themselves overthrown the principle of free trade; for they had formed societies for the express purpose of crushing the efforts of individual speculators in instruction. What then, he wished, was to see that large society, the State, doing what was now being done by these smaller educational societies. Let those who complained of sending so large a sum to Scotland be consistent, and vote next year for applying an equally complete system to England and Wales.


said, he would now move to strike out the words "by the Master" from Clause 27, so as to leave the inculcation of religious instruction to the School Committee.


said, his object in introducing the clause was to put a stop to controversies on the subject in the Committee, an object which, if he assented to the Amendment, would be completely defeated.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided:—Ayes 106; Noes 11: Majority 95.