HC Deb 22 June 1855 vol 139 cc60-8

Order for Committee read; House in Committee.


said, the question was that Clause 1, as amended, stand part of the Bill.


said, he had an Amendment to move, that the clause be altogether omitted. He objected entirely to the constitution of the Board of Education as laid down in the clause. The constitution of the Board, as proposed by this Bill, he must admit, was certainly an improvement upon the Board as originally proposed. The great objection to the Board, however, still existed—that quasi popular representatives would not have any control in the Board, but that it would be controlled by the official chairman and secretary, who would have all the real power, while the other members of the Board would merely interpose between them and responsibility. He thought the proper course would be to leave the responsibility with the persons who had the real management of the affairs of the Board, and he therefore proposed that the chairman, whether he was called Chairman of the Board, or Inspector General of Education in Scotland, should alone have the whole management of the system, and should bear all the responsibility of its administration. This proposal had been objected to on the ground that it was a measure of centralisation, but he thought it would have a less centralising tendency than the Bill as it at present stood. If the Committee assented to his proposition to reject the clause, he would be prepared, at a future stage of the measure, to move another clause in lieu of it, empowering Her Majesty, upon the recommendation of the Committee of Education, to appoint a person to be Inspector General of Education in Scotland, for the purposes of this measure, at a salary to be fixed by the Commissioners of the Treasury.


said, he thought that gentlemen connected with town councils would be too much engaged with borough politics and the management of borough funds to be able to attend the Education Board as proposed by the clause, and watch carefully the working out of this system of education. He doubted also whether the Commissioners of Supply would attend; but his chief objection to the measure arose from the want of responsibility in the Board.


said he wished to know from the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate whether there were any words in the Bill to prevent the appointment of a Roman Catholic at the Board; and if not, whether he would object to the insertion of some such words on the bringing up of the Report.


said, he hoped the noble Lord, in order to be just, would also ask to have the Roman Catholics of Scotland exempted from taxation under the Bill. He regretted to say that the Members for Scotland, even the liberals amongst them, always voted for Government when not merely Roman Catholic interests but when Irish interests were involved.


said, that the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. V. Scully) could not have been in the House when the noble Lord at the head of the Government made such large promises of pecuniary assistance to the Roman Catholics in Scotland in support of their scheme of education—proposals which took the Scotch members by surprise, but to which no objections had been made by any hon. Member on his (Mr. C. Bruce's) side of the House. It appeared that these promises of the noble Lord had a wonderful effect upon the Roman Catholic Members of that House in inducing them to support the Government in this measure, which, without such assistance, would very likely heve been rejected by the House. When the Roman Catholics in Scotland obtained such pecuniary assistance from the Government, he did not think it very unreasonable that they should be asked to bear their fair share of the burden for the carrying out of this measure.


said, he had no intention to introduce any words to promote the object which the noble Lord (Lord W. Graham) had in view. He believed that the people of Scotland were under no apprehension as to this matter, and he did not think it at all necessary to make the provision suggested.


said, he was opposed to the Bill altogether. According to the preamble of the Bill, the Presbyterians of Scotland only were to enjoy the benefit of the Bill. There were three denominations of Christians in Scotland—the Established Church, the Free Church (of which the Lord Advocate was a member), and the United Secession Church. As to the first denomination, the majority of them had declared against the Bill; and the United Presbyterians were opposed to it, if any religious sentiment were contained in it. They had held a synod, at which forty-three voted against the Bill and seventy in favour of it, on the understanding that no religious sentiment should be taught at the expense of the State; so that it came to this, that the only party who would benefit by the Bill would be the Free Church party. The progress of the Bill was somewhat curious. It was in the first instance opposed by the Roman Catholic members on the ground that while Roman Catholics would be required to contribute to the education of the children of Scotland, they would themselves derive no advantage from the measure. This point was very strongly pressed upon the Government in the course of the debate on the second reading; but with no visible effect, as the noble Lord at the head of the Government did not, in his speech on that occasion, hold out any hope that the case of the Catholics would be provided for by the Bill; and the second reading of the measure was only carried by a majority of seven. It was thus evident that the Bill was condemned, and would not be able to pass through its subsequent stages. It was necessary to adopt some means by which the Bill might be saved; a little drama was therefore got up, and a noble Lord on a succeeding evening put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government whether it was intended to continue the grant that was now made to the Roman Catholics after the passing of this Bill, to which the noble Lord replied that such was the intention of the Government. Hence the adhesion of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. V. Scully) to a measure which had hitherto been opposed by almost every Roman Catholic Member in that House. It was a Bill, he felt certain, which would never be accepted in Scotland, and he called upon the Presbyterians of all denominations to repudiate it.


said, that a mark of favour had been bestowed by the Government upon their Roman Catholic supporters, which appeared to have had the effect of inducing the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. V. Scully) to change his usual seat below the gangway for one more immediately in connection with the Government. With regard to the tactics pursued by the Government upon this occasion, he felt bound to say that nothing had astonished him more than the absolute silence maintained by the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate with respect to the arguments brought forward by those who were opposed to the step which had been taken by the Government.


said, he wished to say, in answer to the remarks of the hon. Member for Berwickshire, who had just resumed his seat, that he had left his usual place below the gangway in order to discover, if possible, who were the Scotch liberal Members who last night on a measure for the benefit of the people of Ireland, had entered the House to record their votes against the opinions entertained by the Irish liberal Members. He believed the measure now before the House to be one for the benefit of the Scotch people in general, and under such circumstances, instead of following the example of the Scotch Liberal Members, he should refrain, as far as possible, from obstructing its progress.


said, he had voted against the Bill in the first instance because it did not offer fair terms to the Roman Catholics of Scotland, and because he thought they were as much entitled to the protection of the State as any other class. It was a matter of perfect indifference to him whether the Presbyterians of Scotland repudiated the Bill or not; but he thought it was the duty of the Roman Catholic Members of that House to see that, if the Roman Catholics of Scotland were to be taxed, their claim to be provided for out of the grants of the Privy Council should be properly considered.


said, he felt bound to condemn the clauses of the Bill, which, in his opinion, could only be regarded as a sort of hotch-potch, like, in fact, Scotch broth itself. Moreover, the whole Bill was quite uncalled for, there being already in Scotland, owing to the wholesome rivalry between different religious sects, more places of education than there were children to fill them. The noble Lord the Member for London had two years ago expressed the opinion that the Protestant and Roman Catholic denominations had made great efforts to diffuse education among the people, and that any scheme of improvement which should have the effect of introducing the element of discord anong those bodies was much to be deprecated. The true principle in regard to education was voluntaryism, and any attempt to set up a general State-paid system must destroy the existing machinery. He had a great objection to the institution at Knellerhall, each pupil-teacher trained in which cost the country 2171. per annum. He should conclude by expressing his determination to offer the Bill his unqualified opposition at every stage.


said, that the landlords of Scotland were willing to support the parish schools without the aid of a rate. On the bringing up of the Report he should move the insertion of words disqualifying any Roman Catholic from serving as a member of the proposed Educational Board.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 101, Noes 51: Majority 50.

Clause as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2. (That the business of the Board be transacted at Edinburgh, and the salaries and expenses paid by Parliament.)


said, that since he had had a seat in that House he had never once given a vote in opposition to the promotion of education in the United Kingdom, and it was with extreme regret he now rose to make objection to the application of public taxes in the manner proposed by the Bill. He did not so much object to the application of public money under this clause as he did to that under clause ten, where it was absolutely proposed that the sum of 161. a-year should be paid by the Government towards the salary of every parochial schoolmaster. He should like to have from the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate an estimate of what the probable expense of such a system would be. There were now three Bills before the House for improving the system of education in England and Wales, neither of which he entirely approved, conceiving, that they did not carry out the principle far enough, but for each of which he would vote, because each did something towards promoting education. Neither of those measures, however, proposed to take the public money on any other terms than according to the views of the Committee of Council on education. The number of schools in Scotland receiving aid from the Committee of Council at present was, he believed, very small, compared with the number provided for in this Bill. All that he wished was the adoption of a principle of fairness, and he was as willing as any man to give Scotland a full share of public money in proportion to its population as compared with that of the United Kingdom.


said, that no doubt the Bill proposed that the schoolmasters should be partly paid out of the public funds. But if we were to have a system of national education, the nation must pay for it in some way or other. The voluntary system had been tried and failed and had long been discontinued in Scotland, and he believed that there was a very small party indeed in that nation now in its favour. Then if the voluntary system would not do in that country, as he had already said, the money for the payment of the schoolmasters must come out of the public funds, and he did not think that it was of much consequence in what manner. The system of Privy Council grants was not adapted to Scotland, because it was only fitted to localities in which a certain amount of wealth and affluence was combined with a certain amount of poverty. But in Scotland there were many localities in which there was the poverty without the wealth.


said, he objected to the Bill on the ground that by it a disproportionate amount of public money would be allotted to Scotland as compared with England.


said, he believed that the system of education which had prevailed in Scotland for the last two or three centuries, and had produced results far more satisfactory than had been attained in any other country in Europe, was essentially the voluntary system in its best form. It was so far voluntary that the statutary tax was supplemented by voluntary contributions from those who were in the first instance legally liable. And the heritors had last year distinctly declared that they were quite ready to provide any additional funds which might be requisite. He believed there was no country for which the voluntary system had done so much as for Scotland, and he, therefore, contended that it was quite unnecessary to establish a new system in that country. He believed that if this Bill were passed it would diminish voluntary efforts, and that it would be necessary, year after year, to increase the grants from the public funds. If the hon. Member for Lambeth divided the Committee on this question, he should vote with him.


said, the Bill was a measure pernicious in the highest degree, as it stopped the best feelings of the human mind and the Christian heart. Moreover it was an attempt to tax the people without any necessity for so doing; as, if he was rightly informed, there was not a child in Glasgow who had not the means of education provided for him at the present moment. He denied that the voluntary system had failed, at least in England, or in Scotland, so far as the Free Church was concerned. The Bill was a cowardly one, as it did not dare include a provision for the Roman Catholics; and the votes of the Roman Catholics in that House were obtained for it by an illegal bargain. The preamble of the Bill went to give religious education to those sects, and secular education to the others. He proposed to add, therefore, as an Amendment to the clause, that after the passing of the Bill all grants of money by the Committee of Council for the purpose of education in Scotland shall cease and determine.


said, he hoped that the hon. Gentleman would not press his Amendment, as at a future clause there would be a better opportunity afforded for the discussion of the principle which it involved.

Amendment negatived; Clause agreed to; as was also Clause 3.

Clause 4. (Powers of the Board).


said, he wished to propose, as an Amendment, to leave out the words "Religious and" in line 36, page 3, of the Bill, which gave power to the Board to provide for the examination of schoolmasters.


said, he must oppose the Amendment, as the Bill had been framed to conciliate all classes, and the opinion of the House had already been expressed upon the religious point.


said, there was a strong feeling among the people of Scotland in favour of the alteration proposed by his hon. Friend.

Question put, "That the words 'Religious and' stand part of the clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 115; Noes 77: Majority 38.

Clause agreed to: as were Clauses 5 and 6.

Clause 7. (Appointment of Inspectors).

In answer to Mr. SMOLLETT,


said, it was proposed that the inspectors, should make a complete educational survey of Scotland, and report upon it, from time to time, to Parliament, so as to keep up a continuous system of statistics on the subject of the state of education in Scotland. The maximum salary of the inspectors was fixed by the clause at 400l. a year, but it was not meant that all the inspectors should have the full amount. It was not to include their travelling and other expenses.


said, he could not avoid expressing his apprehension that the Bill would impose a much heavier burden of expense upon the country than was yet expected. The expense he suspected would be about 200,000l. a year, instead of 20,000l. as heretofore.


said, he considered that the limitation of the number of inspectors to ten would be found impracticable; he believed that some thirty would be required, There were 2,600 schools connected with the Established Church alone, to which all the borough and other schools would be added.


said, it was designed that each inspector should have from 200 to 250 schools to visit. At present, he believed, there were only three inspectors in Scotland under the Privy Council. He had no objection, however, to omit the words by which the number was fixed at ten, and to leave it to Her Majesty, with the advice of the Privy Council, to appoint such inspectors as might be required.

Clause, as amended, agreed to; as were also Clauses 5 to 9 inclusive.

Clause 10. (Salary of parochial schoolmaster should be at least 50l. per annum).


said, he wished to move an Amendment which, should discriminate between the different classes of parochial schools. In ordinary parishes, the heritors were bound to provide and maintain schools, and also assessed for the salary of the master, at a maximum of 351.; but there were other schools, in districts formed by the union of parishes under the Act 43 Geo. III. section 11, where the salary for which the heritors were assessed amounted to, 51l., divided among the several schoolmasters of the district.


said, that the clause applied generally to the parochial schools, and the object was to fix the maximum and the minimum salary of the schoolmasters, which the clause as it stood did.


said, he objected to the clause because it created a charge upon the taxes: he would take the sense of the Committee against it.


said, he hoped that the clause would be postponed, or, at any rate, that it would be rendered intelligible.


said, the clause was perfectly intelligible. There certainly were a few exceptional cases, but it was proposed to deal with them separately.

Question put, "That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 216; Noes 5: Majority 211.

Clause agreed to; as were the remaining clauses.

House resumed; Committee report progress.