HC Deb 12 July 1855 vol 139 cc818-32

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


said, he must ask the indulgence of the House while he made one effort more to defeat a measure, the passing of which he should much deplore. The preamble of the Bill, in the first place, cast a slur upon the Church of Scotland, into whose charge the schools had been committed, which drew from its members a strenuous opposition to the Bill. It was to the efforts of the Church in Scotland that the successful education of the people was owing, and its members disapproved the mode of government by a central Board in Edinburgh, the religious qualifications of the members of which were not tested. If they could secure a certainty that the schools would be conducted upon Presbyterian principles, he might feel justified in withdrawing his opposition; but the most important powers were given to the Board—the power of examining schoolmasters, of deprivation and censure, of forcing the ratepayers to erect schools, and of taxing them for their support. Such powers ought not to be given to a Board when there was no security that it would be composed of members belonging to the Church. He should therefore move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a third time that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."

Question put, "That the word 'now stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 105; Noes 102: Majority 3.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 3°.


said, he would now propose the addition of a clause, providing that— In parishes in which schools have been established under the third recited Act it shall be lawful to the Committee of Privy Council to contribute such sum to the salary of the schoolmaster of every such school as will, in addition to the sum provided under the said Act, raise the same to a sum not less than 20l., nor more than 34l.; and the Board, on the report of the inspector, may direct that any such school shall be placed on the footing of a public school; and in that case the sum provided by the said Act shall continue to be paid as heretofore, and the remainder of the salary shall be contributed in equal proportions by the ratepayers and the Committee of Council; and the school-house, school buildings, and other accommodations shall thereafter belong to and be maintained by the same parties who would have had the property and control of the same if a public school-house had been provided under this Act, and such school shall in all other respects be thereafter conducted and maintained as a public school under this Act.


said, the clause would give a large taxing power to the Board over the people of Scotland.


said, he must again protest against proceeding with a Bill, the third reading of which had been carried by so narrow a majority as three, and to which he was justified in saying the popular feeling of Scotland was opposed. He would appeal to the good sense of the Government, whether it was wise under the circumstances and at a time when a vital question involving the fate of the Ministry was impending, to cast the firebrand of religious bigotry amongst the people of Scotland, which the Bill now before them would have the effect of doing? It was a Bill for benefiting one or two denominations at the expense of all others. Generally speaking, the people of Scotland were opposed to all State interference and State assistance in matters of religion and education, and would not accept it. The United Presbyterians would not touch the State money for such purposes, and the result would be, that one or two denominations, and those alone, would receive assistance under the Bill.


said, that the representatives of many of the largest towns in Scotland who were originally in favour of the Bill, in consequence of the change in the public mind of that country on the subject, had in the division which had just taken place reversed their previous votes, and had done so in a manner most honourable to themselves. He trusted that the Government would in like manner pay respect to that change of opinion, and not press the measure.


said, he had supported the Bill at each of its previous stages, but had felt it his duty to vote against the third reading. The Bill, as it now stood, was most objectionable in many respects. Under it the boroughs would be but little better than taxing machines in the hands of the inspector, the magistrates, who were the best judges of what was required, being practically powerless. He had been most desirous of carrying an Education Bill that should be practically useful, but with the restrictions which now incumbered it, he had no hesitation in saying that the measure now under consideration would be received with great dissatisfaction. There certainly were Amendments on the paper, which, if carried, would tend to remove some of the objections to the Bill, particularly that of the hon. and learned Member for Greenock (Mr. Dunlop), which he should support.


said, he concurred very much in the views of his hon. Friend who had last addressed them, although he had differed from him in the course he had taken, and had voted with the majority in favour of the third reading. If, however, the Motion had been "that the Bill do pass," he should certainly have felt inclined to vote in the negative. The reason for that was, that the various Amendments on the paper, and particularly that of the hon. and learned Member for Greenock, afforded him the hope that possibly the House might reverse the decision to which the Committee had come. There was a great deal of good in the Bill, but, in his opinion, it had been very much impaired in its progress through Committee. He regretted exceedingly the change which the Government had introduced some time ago, by which, as regarded the Roman Catholics and Episcopalians, the Bill had been made a denominational Bill. The effect of such an alteration would be to confuse the system of education in Scotland, and to make it no longer thoroughly national. Now, according to his judgment, a system of education ought to be either national or denominational—not mixed; and he could not, therefore, conceive anything more prejudicial than such a continuance of denominational grants as had been promised by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. He regretted, on account of the Lord Advocate himself, that his right hon. and learned Friend had no longer a prospect of passing the Bill, for he was sure no one could have devoted himself to a thankless task with more singleness of purpose and a more earnest desire to promote the welfare of those for whom he was legislating. But, if defeated now, he hoped that in another Session, hon. Members on both sides, putting aside extreme views, would concur with his right hon. and learned Friend in a measure which would so tend to advance the best interests of the people of Scotland.


said, he had very cordially supported the Bill hitherto, in the hope that some of the clauses which he thought objectionable would be expunged. He was connected with the United Presbyterian Church, a great majority of whom had supported the measure as he had done, approving of its principle, though they objected strongly to the religious element infused into it, and held that the State, while it might beneficially legislate for the education of the people, had no right to interfere with the teaching of religion. He admired the benevolent feelings by which the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had been actuated in bringing forward the Bill; but, at the same time, he was very sorry to have come to the conclusion that night, that he had entirely failed in carrying out his object, and that if the measure passed it would be a bone of contention to the people of Scotland, and would not promote the cause of education there. He had, therefore, been obliged, though with great reluctance, to record his vote against the third reading.


said, he had felt very strongly disposed to join the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Duncan) in his opposition to the Bill, but he thought it more expedient and more just to give it the last chance, and to see what became of the Amendments upon the notice paper. He gave the Lord Advocate full credit for the motives which had induced him to bring forward the measure, but he thought some further time ought to be afforded to the people of Scotland, who were much divided in opinion on the subject, for considering its provisions. If the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Greenock, the object of which was to replace the measure on its original basis, should not be adopted, he should feel it his duty to vote against the passing of the Bill.


said, he could not avoid expressing his surprise that some of his hon. Friends who had joined him in endeavouring to improve the measure had, now that it had reached its last stage, turned their backs upon it altogether. He would ask those hon. Gentlemen whether they were prepared to oppose all progress on such an important subject because they could not obtain everything they desired? He thought the Bill contained some very beneficial provisions, and, regarding it as an instalment, he considered that it should be supported by all who were anxious to promote education. He had entertained some objection to those compulsory powers which would be conferred by the Bill; but, on consideration, he thought that, as great necessity existed for extending the means of education in Scotland, perhaps the wisest course would be, in the first instance, to give those compulsory powers. Last year there was a unanimous expression of regret in Scotland that the Bill had not passed, and there was a hope that a similar measure would be passed during the present Session; and he did not hear that any change of opinion had taken place on the subject.


said, he had very carefully considered the provisions of the Bill, and had arrived at the conclusion that it was not likely to benefit his country or to promote concord among his countrymen. He did not mean to say that the parish clergymen of Scotland had not acted well in the position in which they had been placed, but he thought one objectionable feature of the Bill was, that it would leave them the same monopoly of parochial education which they now possessed. The Bill would establish a system of education which could only be accepted by the Free Church and the Established Church, and which would be rejected by the religious body with which he was connected. He had voted against the third reading of the Bill, and if an opportunity were presented he would record his vote against its passing. He hoped that, seeing the very small majority in favour of the Bill on the third reading—105 to 102—and that there was not the least chance of its passing in another place, the right hon. and learned Lord would let the Bill share the fate of some others, and withdraw it from the House. There was, no doubt, some want of education in Scotland, but that want, he believed, was being rapidly supplied by the voluntary contributions of the people.

Clause agreed to.


said, he would now move the following additional clause:— If any person or persons shall wilfully refuse to perform any duty incumbent on him or them under this Act, it shall be in the power of the General Board to apply by summary petition to the Court of Session, setting forth such refusal; and it shall be in the power of the Court, on considering the same, after such intimation and service as they may think necessary, to authorise the Board to perform or to provide for the performance of such duty in such way and manner as the Court may direct; provided always, that nothing herein contained shall be construed to limit any remedy at law which any party might have in respect of such refusal.


said, the clause was very objectionable in itself, and so was the principle of bringing up so many additional clauses to a Bill at that late stage. The Bill was so vaguely worded, that it was found requisite to put the powers of Parliament into the hands of the Court of Session in Scotland. That was the object of the clause, and he should vote against it, therefore, if the clause went to a division.


said, the clause was necessary for the due enforcement of the law. It was absolutely necessary that such a power should be vested in the Court of Session in cases where a party who was bound to perform certain functions or do certain acts wilfully neglected to do so, and it was only in such cases that it was to be exercised.


said, the clause was a most objectionable and arbitrary mode of legislating on a subject on which there should be nothing but harmony. He did not see how the noble Lord at the head of the Government, after what had passed, could persist in forcing such a Bill down the throats of the Scotch public. He hoped, however—though the Bill was, in his opinion, a dead Bill—that the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate would state to the House that he should not proceed further with it.


said, any person enjoined by statute to do a particular duty could, by the law of England and Ireland, be compelled to discharge the duty if he neglected it; but by the proposed clause, the Court of Session was to provide some one else to discharge the duty. He wished to know whether the law of Scotland differed in that respect from that of other countries?


said, it was the law of Scotland, as of every other country, that, if any one neglected a statutory duty, he could be punished; but in the present case it was most material that the action of the Bill should not suffer in the event of persons refusing to obey the statute. A person, for example, might illegally decline to call a meeting, and it was right, therefore, that the Court of Session, being satisfied upon the point, should have power to authorise the Board to call such a meeting.

Clause agreed to.


said, that as the Bill would probably not pass through another place, he would appeal to the noble Lord at the head of the Government to say whether he meant to go on with the Bill.


said, he certainly intended to take the sense of the House upon the question of passing the Bill, as it had been very deliberately considered, and, in his opinion, it was a very good measure. The opinion he had expressed upon its merits had not been shaken by the sudden conversion of some of the hon. Gentlemen near him at the last stage of its progress. He knew that a pressure was sometimes put upon hon. Members, but, although that might be a sufficient reason for those hon. Members to defer to the opinions of the persons who had sent them to that House, it was no reason for others who did not happen to be exposed to the same pressure to alter the opinions they had formed.


said, he would now move to leave out the word "Perth" in Clauses 13 and 15, and to substitute the word "Aberdeen." He must deprecate the language of the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird) in opposing his proposition on a former occasion, as uncourteous and inconsiderate, and thought that hon. Member would have acted more wisely if he had not made statements on the subject without foundation. Aberdeen had always held the place next in education after Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland; and he (Mr. Thompson) thought the advice of the right hon. and learned Member for Bute (Mr. S. Wortley) to reverse the terms of the Bill, and give the Member to the county of Perth and to the city of Aberdeen, correct, and in accordance with that he had framed his Amendment. While giving credit to the Lord Advocate for good intentions, however, he was bound to say that the Bill pleased nobody; and he (Mr. Thompson) would vote against the Motion for its passing.


said, he regretted exceedingly if he had said anything disrespectful to the hon. Member, for such was not his intention. The hon. Member had told him that he was pressed by his constituents, and he (Mr. Kinnaird) had said he would oppose him. What he said he had said jocularly, and he was quite surprised the hon. Gentleman should have taken it so seriously.


said, he hoped that his hon. Friend would not press his Amendment, though, if he went to a division, he (Mr. Craufurd) should feel bound to vote in favour of it. He would suggest to the right hon. and learned Lord that, as Dundee had now repudiated his measure, he might get out of the present difficulty, by inserting "Aberdeen" instead of "Dundee" in the clause.


said that, as Dundee had been mentioned, he would take that opportunity to reply to the remark made by the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), as to a "pressure" having been used to cause hon. Members to alter their opinions. He had not received one letter from his constituents on the subject, and had that morning presented a petition from the town-council of Dundee, against the Bill. Yet he had, with the exception of an Amendment proposed by the right hon. and learned Lord, supported the Bill in all its stages. It would be seen, therefore, that the "pressure" which had been brought to bear on himself had been very slight, and he hoped that the "pressure" which would shortly be brought to bear on the noble Lord would be equally as light.

Question put, "That the word 'Perth' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided:—Ayes 100; Noes 27: Majority 73.


said, he would now move to leave out in page 7, lines 23 and 24, the words "in regard to his sufficiency for the office in respect of literature." It was his hope that the Government would not give up the Bill on account of the modifications it had received in its passage through the House. He believed that, notwithstanding he and others might have preferred it in its original form, it would work well as it now stood. By the Bill at present, however, no schoolmaster could be admitted to his office without the attestation of the presbytery of the Established Church with respect to his moral and religious character. Now, that was inconsistent with those portions of the Bill which abolished all religious tests upon the appointment of schoolmasters; and the object of his Amendment was to harmonise the two discordant parts of the Bill.


said, he cordially seconded the Amendment, for he was satisfied that the Bill would be hailed by the people of Scotland as an instalment of good, and as a step in the right direction. He certainly objected to some of the details, but he was not one of those who, because they could not get all they wished, were determined to reject all the advantages that were offered.


said, he could not conceive, after the division of that night, that the Bill would be pressed further. It would be his duty still to give the measure all the opposition in his power.


said, that whatever might be the future prospects of the Bill, he was convinced that a great advance had been made in the solution of the difficult question of education in Scotland, for they had done what had never been done before—read an education Bill a third time—and he was not without hope, notwithstanding the narrow division upon the Bill that evening, that it would become the law of the land. He would take that opportunity of warning hon. Members opposite of the danger which arose from the circumstance that in different parts of the kingdom generations were growing up without knowledge; that we were allowing the nurseries of crime to increase; and that, while hon. Members in that House were discussing these miserable abstract questions, the mischief was being done, day by day, and year by year. By giving such prominence to these abstract questions, hon. Members opposite were raising insurmountable barriers, not in the way of the Bill now before them, but of every educational system that could be devised. Objections had been made to continuing the Privy Council grants to Catholics. But he believed that it was impossible to have a system which would embrace Catholics and Episcopalians. What he wanted was, to see a system by which the people of Scotland might be educated. His object in framing the Bill was, in the first place, to secure that the measure should provide a school in every place where it was required. He denied that the Bill would dry up the ordinary sources of private benevolence. Already, he believed, the people of Scotland subscribed more than the people of England to the cause of education. The people of Scotland had a national system of education and a school in every parish, yet that system had only excited the General Assembly of the Established Church to do their best to overcome the deficiencies of the national system of education. The argument that they were to perpetuate ignorance in order to promote benevolence would induce them to perpetuate pauperism from the same motive, and would lead generally to the promotion of that which was evil in order that the great and good affections of our nature might be stimulated. It was said that there was no necessity for the Bill, and that voluntary efforts would do all that was wanted. But the General Assembly of the Established Church, in a Report recently presented, stated that in the Highlands there were from 20,000 to 30,000 children without the means of education. Whether the Bill should succeed or not, he should continue of opinion that no voluntary efforts could supply the necessity. Voluntary efforts could only avail in districts having wealth and riches. Where education was really wanted voluntaryism must fail, because it was in the poor districts that education was wanted. In twelve counties of Scotland there was no Roman Catholic place of worship. There were only thirty-two Roman Catholic schools in the country, and thirty-six Episcopalian schools, all the rest were Presbyterian; and yet, he must say to their disgrace, they were talking about religious differences. He warned hon. Gentlemen that if they rejected the Bill the people of Scotland would not submit to have the Established Church jurisdiction perpetuated over the whole of the schools of the country. He should be greatly mistaken if it were possible to introduce any measure with a chance of success which gave the Established Church and the heritors as much influence as they obtained under the present Bill. His doubt had, indeed, been from the communications made to him, whether he had not left rather too much power in their hands. The members of the Established Church of Scotland were only one- third in number of those who agreed in creed, and it was not likely that they could succeed in retaining the exclusive privileges which they claimed. He opposed the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Greenock, because it would put both the schoolmasters and the Presbytery in a false position. There was one topic on which he felt it incumbent to say a word. The hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. F. Scott) said that the cost of the present measure would be about 250,000l. a year, and the hon. Member for Stirlingshire (Mr. Blackburn) went further, and said the expense would amount to 450,000l. The latter hon. Member stated that there were 5,000 schools in Scotland, all which were to be paid under the Bill. But the hon. Member did not tell the House how that number was made up. It was made up of public day schools and private day schools. The Bill, however, had nothing to do with the private day schools, which amounted in number to 1,893, and deducting from the remainder, being public schools, the endowed schools, the Roman Catholic and Episcopalian schools, the ragged and other schools of that kind, there would be left an amount of 2,316 public schools to which the Bill would apply. That was really very near the number with which they would start, for he did not think that, at first at all events, they would have more than one additional school in each parish, with 500 in the different burghs. Would the cost of the system be 450,000l.? Far from it. He would show the House that it would not be even 100,000l. There were 937 parochial schools. Under the Bill they were to have 16l. each, or 14,992l. in all. The number of other schools, according to his calculation, would be 1,379, costing 25l. each—total 34,475l. Retiring allowances he estimated at 4,000l., the interest of the 150,000l. advanced as a building fund at between 7,000l. and 8,000l., and the expenses of the Board and inspectors at 12,000l. bringing the total up to about 72,000l. But of the 2,316 schools, about a half were receiving Government aid to the extent of 40,000l. Under the new system those payments would cease; but instead of deducting the whole he would take off only a half, or 20,000l., reducing the expense of the Bill, for the first year, to 52,000l. He was sure that sum could not be expended in a more beneficial or praiseworthy manner than in the education of the young. The return would be tenfold, and would be found in diminished poor-rates and expenses of crime, in the improvement of morals, and in the general amelioration of the country. He rejoiced at the progress which had been already made, and he hoped that the House, whatever might become of the Bill, would, by its vote to-night, evince its continued adherence to the great principle that it was the duty of the nation to educate the young, and that in the education of the mind—in the spread of moral and religious knowledge—dwelt the real safety and hope of the country.


said, he thought that the right hon. and learned Lord had taken a strange opportunity, upon an Amendment, to make a speech upon the whole principle of the Bill, assuming, at the same time, that those who voted against the Bill were not in favour of public education. Every one, he trusted, was in favour of education, but every one did not think that the present Bill would effect the object well. The right hon. and learned Lord said, on a former occasion, that he meant to absorb the whole of the private schools.


Not by paying them out of the public purse, but by setting up free schools under the present Bill.


As the proportion of children now educated in Scotland was one in seven, and as it was intended to bring that down to one in five, with a population of 600,000 children, and assuming that one schoolmaster could not attend to more than 100 pupils, there would necessarily be 6,000 schools. That was one way of putting it, but, taking the number of schools at present at 5,240, it was not unreasonable to suppose the number would be increased to 6,000; and thus, by another process, they arrived at the same result. It was agreed that the cost would be 35l. each, and that would give 175,000l., not reckoning the 1,000 old schools. He did not say that would be the sum which the schools would cost next year, but he had not the slightest doubt that would be the ultimate cost. At present the schools were inspected but seldom, and in a cursory way. To inspect them properly twice a year would require an inspector for every 150 schools, and upon the calculation of 6,000 schools, that would require forty inspectors, costing 600l. each, which was 24,000l. There would be 16,000l. for the original parochial schools, 175,000l. for the 5,000 new schools, and 27,000l. for the board and inspectors, making, as he had said on a former night, 242,000l., which would have to be paid out of the national exchequer by the proposed system.


said, he wished to refer to the vote he had given on a former occasion, for he thought a great mistake had been made in the Bill by so largely increasing the salary of schoolmasters, without taking measures to increase their qualifications. The system of Government certificates might have been advantageously introduced. He should have moved an Amendment to that effect, but for an intimation from the Lord Advocate that he should consider it a hostile step. He hoped the House would agree to the Amendment, and he should be then able to vote for its final stage.


said, the object of the Amendment was to reverse two former decisions of the House.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 80; Noes 117: Majority 37.

On the question that the Bill do pass,


said, he trusted that, after what had passed, there was no serious intention to proceed with the Bill, and that the admirable speech of the right hon. and learned Lord, which would have been more appropriate if delivered on a previous occasion, were the last notes of the dying swan. After the strong manifestation of the feeling of the House, he did not see how they could proceed with the measure, inasmuch as two hon. Gentlemen, the Members for Stafford and Worcester, had by accident gone into the lobby with the Government on the question of the third reading. The Bill was therefore virtually lost by a majority of one. It was a measure opposed to the wishes of the great majority of the people in Scotland, as proved by the immense majority of petitions against it, whereas, before the nature of the Bill was understood, the majority of petitions were in its favour. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had assumed, that those who were opposed to the Bill were opposed to education, but the contrary Was the fact, for it was because they were in favour of the extension of education that they voted against the measure, which would have the effect of not only increasing the expense, but of limiting education. Education, supported by the voluntary principle, had increased in Scotland at far greater rate than in England; but the proposed measure would dry up the sources of voluntary subscription, and charge upon the State that which was now willingly undertaken by the people. It had been said, that there were a large number of persons residing in the lanes and alleys of the large towns not educated under the present system, hut would they be under the one which it was proposed to substitute for it? There was nothing in the Bill to induce people to be educated who were unwilling. The Lord Advocate had referred to the Highlands, where, he said, there were from 20,000 to 30,000 persons existing in ignorance. That was to be accounted for by the circumstance that the population was so scattered, and the physical character of the country was such, that it was only by means of perambulating teachers that education could be diffused among them; but the right hon. and learned Lord's argument proved nothing in favour of his Bill. He accused the right hon. and learned Lord of inconsistency in his arguments, for, when he was arguing in favour of education, he said it was necessary that there should be an immense increase of schools; but when he took the economical side of the question, the right hon. and learned Lord said, he was going to contract the schools. Such arguments were most contradictory. He (Mr. Scott) had estimated the burden to be cast on the country at 200,000l., whereas the right hon. and learned Lord asserted it would be 75.000l. But, taking the right hon. and learned Lord's own figures, if 2,300 schools would cost 75,000l., 6,000 schools would cost 195.000l., so that he (Mr. Scott) was not so far out in his calculation. He trusted that the eyes of the people of England would now be open to the true character of the Bill. Since it was now an absolute certainty that the Bill had been virtually lost by a majority of one, he trusted that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would deal with it in the same manner as the English Education Bills had been treated.


said, he must enter his final protest against the Bill, and he also must deny that any good could ever result from legislative interference in a subject which ought to be left to the voluntary benevolence of the people.


said, the Bill was most carelessly drawn. As an instance, he would mention that the Board were to be appointed in October, and that they were to hold their first sitting in August, several months before their appointment. It would be impossible to work the Bill in its present shape.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 130; Noes 115: Majority 15.

Bill passed.