HC Deb 14 June 1855 vol 138 cc1948-56

Order for Committee read; House in Committee.

On the question that the Preamble should be postponed,


said, he was anxious, at that early stage of the proceedings, to put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government with reference to a subject on which much misapprehension had existed in the public mind. The question he wished to put was, if the Bill passed into law, was it the intention of the Government to distribute, as heretofore, the Privy Council grants among Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians?


said, if the Bill came into effect, he apprehended that it would make provision for certain schools by rates. There were also certain schools, Episcopalian and Roman Catholic, for which no provison was made in the Bill. Their object was to diffuse education, and there was not the slightest intention to deprive any body of any assistance hitherto given by the Privy Council, which would participate in the benefits of the Bill. With respect to the Episcopalian and Roman Catholic schools, there would not only be no diminution of the grant hitherto made to these bodies, but Her Majesty's Government and the Privy Council were disposed to give the most favourable consideration to the claims of those communities to which such schools belonged. If there were any schools, whether in the towns or the country, not in so flourishing a condition as could be wished, they would rather increase than diminish the aid previously given to schools of this class.


said, he thought, in common consistency, the same assistance should be afforded to the Wesleyans and all other denominations who would be excluded from the benefis of this Bill by the clause which required that the Assembly's Shorter Catechism should be used in the schools, as was to be extended to the two sects named by the noble Lord. He also wished to know if this rule would extend not only to the two bodies mentioned by the noble Lord, but to all classes of Christians, or even without any profession of Christianity, under the secular system?


said, he thought he could satisfy the hon. Member that he would have no cause of complaint. It was proposed to deal with the Episcopalians and Catholics as exceptional cases; for, as he believed, in many instances they would not be able to take advantage of the present system. No denominational body would be excluded from any participation in the grant.


said, he would suggest that the consideration of the Preamble should be taken at once.


said, he had no objection to the Preamble being at once proceeded with.


said, he should now beg to beg to introduce the Amendment of which he had given notice. He objected to taxing persons for a system of education of which they might disapprove from conscientious scruples, and he should take the sense of the Committee on that vital point.


said, he should willingly second the Amendment, for he considered that it was contrary to the principles of justice to tax the whole community for the benefit of any one class.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 16, to leave out from the words "Holy Scriptures," to the word "And," in line 20, in order to insert the words "ought not to be conducted at the expense of any of Her Majesty's subjects who conscientiously object to the principles taught, or to compulsory Taxation for the teaching Religion, or to the reading of the Scriptures, in any Public School."


said, he believed the hon. Gentleman misunderstood the clause, in supposing that it would exclude Wesleyans; but whether or not, the Government would not, he presumed, exclude the schools of any denomination which might not come within the benefits of the Bill from assistance from the grants of the Committee of Privy Council.


said, he should give his most decided opposition to the Amendment. Its effect would be to abolish religious teaching in the schools throughout the country; and, in his opinion, the time had come when they were bound to do everything in their power to promote the spread of religious education among the community.


said, he did not concur with those who thought that taxes should be levied for the purposes of religious education; and, therefore, though he believed the opinion of the hon. Member was shared by a large number of persons, he felt bound to oppose the Amendment.


said, he thought that the denominations for whose benefit this Bill was introduced ought not to be allowed to tax the whole community for their own benefit. It was, in fact, coming before the House in forma pauperis, and was unworthy of a body of persons who had formerly declared their objections to all State endowments for the benefit of any religious sect. As it happened, he was of this particular faith, but he did not wish to force all people to help to support the education of that faith. He apprehended this was only the small end of the wedge, in order to introduce the principle generally.


said, he hoped the Amendment would be withdrawn, but, at the same time, he must express his concurrence with the view taken by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. A. Pellatt) in reference to the inconsistency of the Free Church party. His wishing that the Preamble be taken first was that he was anxious that the religious principles of the Bill should be adopted, and that having been done his purpose was attained.


said, that the hon. Member must have been deeply ignorant of the feeling of the people of Scotland if he supposed that they would take exception to the statement in the Preamble of the Bill in reference to scriptural education.


said, he wished to say a few words on behalf of the Roman Catholics of Scotland. The Roman Catholics of the country generally were as much in favour of education as any other denomination; but they objected to being taxed for the advantage of other denominations while they themselves derived no benefit from such taxation. There were 250,000 Irish Roman Catholics in Scotland, and of these 100,000 were resident in Glasgow. These had a claim to education from the State as well as the rest of the community; and if provision for that purpose was not made in the Bill, they had a right to that assistance from the grants of the Committee of Privy Council, which the noble Lord now admitted they had. That admission on the part of the noble Lord perfectly satisfied him, and he should, therefore, offer no opposition to the Bill.


, in reply, said, he was as much the friend of religious education as any one; but he would not come to the State or tax others for the purpose of extending his religion. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate might now return to his country and tell the pitiful tale that by bribing the Roman Catholic Members, the Government had succeeded in passing the Bill and taxing Dissenters for the religious education of Presbyterians.


said, that the Preamble was all they could cling to for the religious principle, and he intended to move certain words to give that principle more effect.


said, that after the explanation given by the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), which removed the ambiguity previously existing as to the intentions of Government in reference to the Roman Catholic schools in Scotland, he should give his support to the measure.

Question put, "That the words 'as heretofore in use in the parochial,' stand part of the Preamble."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 167; Noes 7: Majority 160.


said, he would now move to introduce words declaring that the Christian religion should be taught in the schools as the only sound basis of education, and as consonant with the belief of the great majority of the people of this country.

Amendment proposed, in line 17, after the word "Country," to insert the words "ought to be maintained as the basis of Education and."


said, he considered that the religious principle was sufficiently clear in the Preamble as it stood.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided:— Ayes 68; Noes 105: Majority 37.


said, he begged to move that in the paragraph declaring that the superintendence of the schools should be "altered and amended" that the word "altered" should be omitted, and the word "extended" substituted for it. He thought that as the management was admitted to be successful, no imputation of deficiency ought to be cast upon the parochial system of education in Scotland.

Amendment proposed in page 2, line 4, to leave out the word "altered" in order to insert the word "extended."

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

The Committee divided:—Ayes 115; Noes 64: Majority 51.

On Question "That the Preamble, as amended, stand part of the Bill,"

The Committee divided:—Ayes 122; Noes 63: Majority 59.

Preamble agreed to.


said, he would suggest that the consideration of the interpretation clause should be taken next.


said, he thought it more advisable to proceed in the usual order. It was clear that if they discussed all these terms they would make no progress, and it would be impossible to decide the interpretation of terms until they knew the provisions of the Bill.


said, he should support the suggestion, and would point out the case of the Poor Law Bill as an example in which the same course had been taken.


said, he would not press his suggestion to a division.

Clause 1. (Board of Education established).


said, he had an Amendment to propose for the creation of a Board which he felt assured would fully represent the different shades of religious opinion in Scotland on the subject of education.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 11, to leave out from the word "Board," to the end of the Clause, in order to add the words "four persons, one of whom shall he elected by each of the Town Councils of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, and Perth; four persons, one of whom shall be Elected by the Commissioners of Supply of each of the counties of Ross, Aberdeen, Renfrew, and Ayr; and four persons, one of whom shall be elected by the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Saint Andrew's, and one alternately by the Universities of King's College and Marischal College, Aberdeen, the former having the first election; a member to be elected by the Educational Institute of Scotland; and three persons to be nominated by Her Majesty; and the members of the Board shall hold office for three years, and shall be capable of re-election or appointment; and the first election under this Act shall take place at a meeting duly called, to take place on the thirtieth day of October one thousand eight hundred and fifty-five; and the Board shall be called 'The Board of Education in Scotland.'"

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

Question proposed, "That the words 'four persons, one of whom shall be elected by each of the Town Councils of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, and Perth; four persons, one of whom shall be elected by the Commissioners of Supply of each of the counties of Ross, Aberdeen, Renfrew, and Ayr,' be there added."


said, he wished to move that after the word "Ayr," in the proposed Amendment, the words "two additional persons elected by the Commissioners of Supply for the counties of Lanark and Ross," should be inserted. His reason for seeking to include the county of Lanark was that it contained one-fifth of the population of the whole of Scotland.


said, he would propose to substitute in the Amendment of his hon. Friend who had just spoken, the word "Perth" for "Ross."


said, he would agree to the proposal.

Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, after the word "Ayr," to insert the words "and two additional from the counties of Lanark and Perth."

Question put, "That those words be inserted in the proposed Amendment."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 75; Noes 120: Majority 45.


said, he would now propose to add words to the clause, to the effect that the Chairman of the Board should be paid a salary not exceeding 600l. per annum, and that it should be lawful for Her Majesty to remove him or any of the three last-mentioned members of the Board, upon cause shown, and to supply the vacancies thus created.

Amendment agreed to.

Question, that the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill, having been put,


said, that he was desirous that the parochial schoolmasters should in some way have a representative at the General Board.


said, he should move that the clause be omitted. He considered that the Chairman and Secretary of the Board would engross all the management, whilst the other members would be merely cushions to save them from all responsibility. He should therefore propose to leave out the clause, and he would bring up another to the following effect:—"That it shall be lawful for Her Majesty to recommend to the Committee of Education of the Privy Council, from time to time, to appoint a person to be Inspector General of Education in Scotland, to carry out the purposes of this Act, under the direction of the Committee of Education of the Privy Council, and that there shall be paid to such Inspector General a salary not exceeding," a sum to be afterwards fixed upon in Committee.


said, that this question was one he had before considered. There might, no doubt, be considerable convenience in having under one responsible head the system of education in Scotland. There were, however, two objections to the adoption of such a course—the first objection had reference to the circumstance that the appointment of an Inspector General in London would be to encourage a system of centralisation to which the people of Scotland were opposed; the other objection was based on the fact, that the people of Scotland would never be satisfied with a superintendence of their schools which might be placed in the hands of an Episcopalian in London. The course which he had therefore adopted in the Bill would, he thought, be found to be that which was the most satisfactory to the people of Scotland.

MR. MACKIE moved that the Chairman should report progress.


said, that at such an hour (ten minutes to four) it would be useless to oppose this Motion, as there would be scarcely time to divide. He should, however, fix the Bill for the next evening, when he hoped that he should not again be met by the tactics which the opponents of the measure had employed to delay its progress on the present occasion.

House resumed; Committee report progress.


said, he trusted that the right hon. and learned Lord would reconsider his determination to bring on a Bill of this importance, after the twenty or thirty notices on the paper for to-morrow.


said, that he should let the Bill stand as an Order for that evening, and he should proceed with it, if the other notices were got through with in sufficient time to enable him to do so.


said, he must protest against the imputation of the right hon. and learned Lord, that the hon. Members who opposed the Bill were resorting to unfair tactics in their opposition to it. Since the people of Scotland had had an opportunity of considering the Bill, their opinions had greatly changed with respect to it; and he asserted that although he had not such a high opinion of the Bill as the right hon. and learned Lord had himself, he wished to see it fully discussed and made as perfect as possible. When hon. Members were carrying out what they deemed their duty, they ought not to be met with such a discourteous comment on their conduct.


said, he hoped that if this Bill were placed on the Orders for to-morrow, hon. Members would come and oppose its progress, at whatever time it might come on.


said, that he thought it must have been evident to all that, when the hon. Member (Mr. F. Scott) last addressed the Committee, he was speaking against time, and therefore he (Mr. Ellice) thought the observation as to the "tactics" of the opposing party was fully and amply justified.


said, that the hon. Member's remark was entirely misapplied. He (Mr. Scott) did not wish to delay the Bill, but felt bound to take every means in his power to insure its passing in as perfect a form as possible.

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