HC Deb 18 July 1856 vol 143 cc1055-60

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 1.


said, he proposed to fill up the blank left for the salary of the Vice President with the sum of £2,000. The Vice President would be a Member of the Privy Council, and by analogy with other offices it was thought that the salary ought to be £2,000 a year.


said, he thought that, under the circumstances, the salary was enormous. When the Bill was brought in the Government had an Education Bill in the other House of Parliament, and there was an extensive scheme in that House proposed by a noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell) which, if carried out, would have required constant supervision of extensive machinery at headquarters. That large scheme and the smaller scheme of the other House had equally miscarried, and he did not consider that there was any occasion to set up an expensive Minister who would only have to discharge a moderate amount of duty.


said, he must defend the proposal, on the ground of the amount of duty which the Vice President would have to perform; for the office, if it were to be properly filled, would require a person of some official experience holding the rank of a Privy Councillor, who, having a seat in that House, would be able to give any information that might he required on the subject of education. Having regard also to the amount of other salaries, he did not see how a lower amount could be proposed.


said, he wished to guard himself against expressing any opinion as to the amount of salary. He directed his observations against, any salary being paid at all. At that late period of the Session, when so many Members had left town, there was no opportunity of dicussing such an important subject in a full House. The Bill had been for many months on the paper, and there did not seen now to be so much prospect of the national system being adopted as there was eighteen months ago. As no inconvenience would result in the recess, he should prefer to have the subject stand over.


said, he would like to take the sense of the Committee upon the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman. He would, therefore, move that the Chairman report progress; and if he did not succeed in that, he should subsequently move that the salary be reduced to £1,000. The sum of £2,000 a year was enormous when they considered that a County Court Judge would only receive £1,500.


Being aware, Sir, of the sentiments entertained by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) on matters of this sort, I feel that the course which he now proposes to adopt is in perfect conformity with his opinions. The Committee, however, ought to recollect that, although this measure has been proposed by Her Majesty's Government, yet it has been pressed on them by parties on both sides of the House. Indeed, I know of nothing on which there has been a greater degree of consent than the advantages of appointing some person who would be responsible for the education of the country, and I, therefore, hope that the Committee will not by its vote sanction any attempt to defeat the Bill, as it would be entirely at variance with what has been understood to be the strong opinion of hon. Members on both sides of the House as expressed not only during the present Session, but also last year, when they urged on the Government how important it was that there should be in this House some official person responsible for the education of the country, and ready to give the House every necessary explanation in reference to it. With regard to the time, the hour was not so late but that those hon. Members who had objections to the measure might have ample opportunities of stating those objections.


said, he was aware of the enormous quantity of work which devolved upon the President of the Council and the Secretary of the Education Committee, and believed there would be ample employment for the new officer whom it was proposed to appoint. He also thought the appointment of a lay Vice President, to represent in that House the secular view, would be an advantage as tending to diminish the ecclesiastical supremacy which at present pressed upon the cause of education. The Oxford Commission would expire in a year, and it was desirable to have some authority to attend to the proceedings of that University.


said, he quite agreed in what had been said by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Henley), and should oppose the measure. He should very much dread the introduction of political bias into the management of the education of the youth of the country. He did not think that a Vice President selected, as such an officer would be, from the Government members, would have sufficient weight in the Council to prevent rash changes in the education system. There could be no greater misfortune than the introduction of political bias into the Committee of Council; it would be most detrimental to education; and, believing that the Bill would lead to such calamitous results he should vote against it.


said, that the Committee of Council of Education consisted exclusively of members of the Government for the time being; and the object of the present Bill was merely to individualise the duties, and make one person responsible to that House for the execution of those duties.


said, he could not imagine a stronger objection to the measure than that afforded by the fact that it would so individualise the responsibility. The vesting of the responsibility to one person holding particular opinions was pregnant with danger to the educational system, particularly in its connection with the Church.


said, he thought it would be much more convenient to have one recognised member of the Committee of Council in that House to act as a Minister of Education. The Secretary of State for the Home Department could not make himself sufficiently acquainted with the details of educational matters to give satisfactory answers to the questions of hon. Members on those subjects. He, however, thought that a salary of £1,500 a year would be sufficient for the Vice President.

Motion made and Question put, "That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 30; Noes 91: Majority 61.

Motion made and Question proposed,

"That the blank be filled with £2,000."


said, he should move that the salary be £1,200 only. He did not think that it ought to be greater than the salaries of such officers as County Court Judges.


said, that the Bill was an ill-judged one. The duties of the Vice President were also ill-defined, and they were taking a leap in the dark. He I thought that £1,200 was quite sufficient.


said, he would suggest that the salary should be £1,500.


said, it was very desirable that the office should be held by a person of official experience, and for that reason it had been thought requisite to name £2,000. The Bill, however, did not fix the salary at that amount, but merely laid it down as a maximum, which was not to be exceeded. The salary would come every year under the revision of Parliament.


said, he thought that as the creation of the office was an experiment £1,200 was well enough to begin with.


said, the office was one of the highest importance, and it would not, in his opinion, be judicious to name a salary which would make it unworthy of the acceptance of any person holding the rank of a Privy Councillor.


said, though he was opposed to proceeding with the Bill at so late a period of the Session, he was not willing to reduce the salary so low as to make it unlikely that it would be accepted by a person of high position and experience.


said, he thought that £2,000 a year was not a shilling too much.


said, that until they had arrived at some clear idea of what was to be the national system of education which they were to adopt, it would be unwise in his opinion to appoint an officer with so large a salary.


said, that the Government had almost pledged itself last Session that a Minister of Education should be appointed. Under all the educational schemes proposed, such a Minister was considered essential. He would point out the advantages to the country and the Committee of the appointment of a President of the Poor Law Board. At one time, all poor-law questions were answered by the Secretary of State. The salary was fixed by the case itself, as no Privy Councillor holding office had a salary of less than £2,000 a year. The case of the office of Judge of the County Courts was not applicable, as that office was a permanent one.


said, that it was accidental that the President of the Council happened not to be in that House, otherwise he would be the person to answer educational questions. As he did not know what the duties of the proposed officer would be he could not determine what the salary ought to be, and should vote against all salary. There was no complaint of the way in which the work was done at present.

Question put, "That the blank be filled with £2,000.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 78: Noes 47; Majority 31.


said, he wished to propose the following proviso— Provided always that the duties of the said Vice President shall extend to the superintendence of grants of money for educational purposes in all parts of the United Kingdom and the application thereof, and the reporting of the benefits which may from time to time result therefrom.


said, he must oppose the proviso, which, if carried, would create an unnecessary interference with the Irish educational system, admirably managed already.

Proviso negatived.

The House resumed; Bill reported as amended.