§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said it related to a subject which had been much referred to in the course of the debates on education during the last and the present Session. The Government were strongly pressed last Session to alter the constitution of the Committee of Council on Education; and instead of leaving the administration of the funds, voted by Parliament for education, in the hands of a body, constituted out of the Committee of Council, consisting of several Members of the Government, but no one of them having any of that individual responsibility which ought to attach, to a Minister of the Crown, the importance was pointed out to the Government of centralising the responsibility as to administering those grants, and superintending matters of education, so far as the Government were concerned, in the hands of one Minister. It was also pressed on the Government that a representative of this department should have a seat in that House, and be ready to explain all the measures which had been taken by the Government, with the concurrence of Parliament, for the promotion of education, and should also take his share of the business which devolved upon such department. Accordingly, his noble Friend at the head of the Government announced that it was their intention to propose a Bill at the commencement of the Session for that purpose. This Bill was introduced into the House of Lords in fulfilment of that pledge, and having passed that House it now came before them for their consideration. It authorised the appointment of a Vice President, who would be enabled to have a seat in the House of Commons, and would be the responsible Minister there in all matters connected with education, so far as the Government were concerned. The Bill had been before the House a considerable time, but its passage had been delayed partly out of deference to the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield), who objected to it, and partly in consequence of pushing forward other Bills which had to go up to the House of Lords by a certain day. The only objection he had heard raised against the Bill was by that hon. Member, who was opposed to all grants whatever for education, and who thought that, by passing the Bill, Parliament would 992 give an additional sanction to the grants which it now placed at the disposal of the Government for the purpose of extending education. But not only those grants, but the Committee of Council on Education itself had been recognised by various Acts of Parliament. He trusted, therefore, that the House would pass the Bill, which he believed would effect a most beneficial change.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, that notwithstanding the statement of the right hon. Baronet he could not approve of the Bill, and should move that it be read a second time that day three months. He found, for instance, that the new Minister was to have no jurisdiction in Ireland, where a large portion of the money voted for educational purposes was expended. The Bill was of a most extraordinary and indefinite nature, with the exception of that portion which regulated the salaries. He should like to know what the duties to be performed under it were? He must also complain that of the enormous sums voted for the purpose of education, the Church obtained by far the greater part. He thought the House would be doing an injustice to the cause of education by creating an office of this kind. When such offices were created there was no getting rid of them, except by means of an enormous compensation; and if this one were created, with a salary of £2,000 or £3,000 a year, a like demand would be made. The principle of the Bill was bad, and the measure itself had been ill-considered. It was true, as had been stated by the right hon. Baronet, that it had been introduced early in the Session, but it had never been brought on for discussion. He trusted that Her Majesty's Government, which had not brought it in on its own free will, would not lend the weight of their authority in its favour, and that it would be rejected. It would be far better to withdraw it, and come next Session prepared with a well-considered measure. For a long time the voluntary principle had prevailed, and it was only when it became a means of creating political capital that the subject was taken up by the great parties in the State, who used it merely as an instrument in their hands.
§ Amendment proposed to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
§ MR. INGHAM
said, he regarded the Bill as a most satisfactory measure, and one which, if adopted by the House, would effectually tend to the promotion of education. Many schemes for the extension of education had been proposed, but had failed on account of the great diversity of opinion which prevailed throughout the country. He believed the best plan would be to continue the present liberal grants, and to keep both schoolmasters and scholars to their duties by a vigilant and intelligent inspection, at the same time allowing some degree of discretion to those who had the administration of the funds. At present the Committee of Privy Council, to avoid the imputation of partiality, was obliged to lay down certain rules and abide by them strictly; but if there was a representative of the Committee in that House who could explain and justify each grant, it would have a much wider discretion, and would be able to effect more good.
§ Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2°.