§ MR. AYRTON
said, that he rose to ask the question of which he had given notice. If hon. Members were to judge from the letters, pamphlets, and other communications which had poured in upon them from all quarters, no topic had, for some time past, excited so much attention as the Revised Code of Education. He therefore wished to elicit from the Government the course which they intended to pursue on this important question. Some three years ago, to pacify the discontent then existing, a Commission on the subject of education was issued, and the Government so far acquiesced in its Report condemning the present system, as to propose a new one. That new plan had been brought forward at the close of last Session, but after six months' consideration the Government were so dissatisfied with their own former conclusions that at the beginning of the present Session they introduced another scheme. It might, therefore, be fairly admitted that the subject was one of the greatest difficulty and surrounded with the gravest doubt. The Government, however, announced that their latest proposition was intended to be a permanent arrangement, in substitution for the existing system, which they had regarded as only temporary in its character; and they also assumed an attitude towards the House which he ventured to think was most inconvenient. They did not propose, on their own part, to invite the House to consider the question itself except according to the usual and strictly formal manner of asking the House to vote the funds necessary to carry out the design. To any hon. Member who might desire to suggest any change in the existing system such a course was most unsatisfactory, because in Committee of Supply the only question which could be put from the Chair was "Aye" or "No" as to the granting of the money. It would not be competent to propose a resolution defining the exact mode in which the supply ought to be expended; the House would be asked either to endorse the proposition of the Government, or to refuse the supplies necessary to carry out their educational plan. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) had undertaken the difficult task and grave responsibility 798 of endeavouring to extricate the House from the embarrassing position in which it had been placed by the Government, and the course he had adopted was one that commended itself to the consideration and support of the House. He had not taken the personal and, he might say, selfish course of inviting the House to resolve itself into Committee to consider some plan or scheme of his own; but he had taken the more generous and more general course of inviting the House to resolve itself into Committee for the purpose of considering how the public funds ought to be appropriated in furtherance of education, leaving it open to any Member of the House to submit any resolution on the subject which might appear to him advisable. That was a course which he thought was marked by extreme fairness on the part of the right hon. Gentleman towards hon. Members. He thought, therefore, that the House was entitled to ask the Government what course they intended to pursue with reference to the proposition placed on the table by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge. It seemed to him that it was open to the Government to treat the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman either as one of form or one of substance. They might say that it was a question of form only, inasmuch as it was a proposition that the proper and legitimate course should be taken to enable the House to consider the subject to be brought under its notice—namely, that of national education. According to the forms of the House, they could not discuss the question of education except in a Committee of the whole House. They could not discuss resolutions in detail, and propose amendments in detail, except in a Committee of the whole House. The object of his remarks was to induce the Government to treat the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman as one of form, in common fairness to all the Members of the House who desired to take part in the discussion on national education. They might, if they liked, treat it as one of substance; but then on what footing must they put the question? They might say that, having revised and re revised the Minute, they were so satisfied with the document that they would stand by it as a whole; that they would have the Minute or nothing but the Minute; and that they would not allow the House to go into Committee for the purpose of altering it in 799 any way. That, he thought, would be a most unsatisfactory course, and one calculated to excite hostility to their position. Besides, it would be one totally uncalled for by anything that had occurred, and it could not be attended by any good result. It would be most unfair to the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Committee of Council, who had, on the floor of the House, gone into the question of education with detail and minuteness, and who seemed to have challenged the assent of the House, not to the Minute as a whole, but rather to the Minute in its minutest details. The right hon. Gentleman had even intimated that he would be prepared to accept amendments, and that he did not stand in the disagreeable position of demanding that the House should accept everything which the Minute contained. He would explain the reasons why he asked the course which the Government proposed to take—
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. and learned Member that to invite a discussion on the course, to be pursued with reference to a Motion for which a day has, been fixed will be exceeding the bounds of order.
§ MR. AYRTON
, said, that he would ask the Government, Whether they were prepared to assent to the course proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge—namely, that the House should resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House to consider the best mode of distributing the Parliamentary grants for education administered by the Privy Council? If they did not wish to give an answer with reference to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, then he would ask them in more general terms what plan they intended to propose to the House? An assurance from the Government on that point would relieve hon. Members from the embarrassment in which they were at present placed. He had given notice of his intention to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, whether he would immediately lay on the table the resolutions which he intended to move in Committee; but he could not expect the right hon. Gentleman to answer that question till he knew what course the Government intended to adopt. Indeed, he should deprecate any Resolutions being laid on the table until they knew whether the House was to go into Committee. Such a course would be in the last degree unfair; for, if 800 any resolutions were laid on the table, hon. Members could not remove from the mind of the public who were not conversant with Parliamentary proceedings the impression that in voting for the Motion to go into Committee they were voting for the Resolutions themselves. The vote for going into Committee would be inseparably connected with the resolutions, though an hon. Member might be very anxious for the House to go into Committee, and yet not approve the right hon. Gentleman's propositions. Under these circumstances he hoped the Government would give the House the information for which he now asked them.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Sir, It is very inconvenient, on the order of the day for going into supply on the Navy Estimates, to enter upon a discussion as to the course to be taken with respect to a Motion of which notice has been fixed for, I think, a month hence; and I think it is manifestly inconvenient to ask the Government to state their intention as to propositions of which my right hon. Friend has not yet given notice.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
But my right hon. Friend has not laid his Resolutions on the table. In a private conversation which I had with him the other night, my right hon. Friend asked me what course the Government were likely to take with regard to his Motion. Speaking only for myself, I stated that in my opinion that would depend on the nature of his Resolutions, and that I took it for granted he would lay them I on the table in sufficient time to enable us to consider them before the Motion came on. My right hon. Friend did not give me any ' decided answer. When my right hon. Friend lays those Resolutions on the table, the Government will be in a position to state what course they intend to pursue with respect to his propositions. If he does not lay them on the table before moving that the House resolve itself into Committee, the proper time for the Government to state what course they will take in reference to his Motion will be when my right hon. Friend has stated the reasons which have induced him to bring it forward.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
Sir, I think that the confusion of which the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) complained has been created by his own mode of putting the question.
801 Before putting his question to my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council of Education, the hon. Member should have first put the question to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge; because it is quite evident that my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council of Education cannot give an answer until he knows the nature and purport of the Resolutions. I shall now, with the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Walpole's) permission, put the question of which I have given notice—namely, When the right hon. Gentleman will lay upon the table of the House the Resolutions on the Revised Minute of Education which he contemplates moving in Committee of the whole House?
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, The question put to me by the hon. Gentleman renders it necessary for me to explain the reasons which induced me to give notice of the Motion in the form in which it now stands. In the first place, I believe I have adopted the form which this House has generally, if not universally, considered to be the best in reference to questions of this kind. In the second place, I put it in that form in order that the House might see that I did not wish to go into Committee on any specific plan of my own, but in such a way that every hon. Member might have an opportunity of putting forward his views on the subject. I think that, when the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Committee of Council submitted his Revised Code, I suggested that it would he better to go at once into Committee of the whole House, in order that we might have an opportunity of considering this complicated matter in detail, and in order that such explanations might be given and such amendments adopted as the House in Committee might deem desirable. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department suggested that there were two courses open to us; the one was to submit the Motions which should be submitted on the new Code when the Estimate was moved for, and the other to move an address to the Crown on the subject, embodying in that address the alterations that I thought should be made in the code. Now, as to the first of these courses, I should have been precluded, and the House would have been precluded, from considering in detail a most complicated matter. As to the other course, 802 perhaps I feel rather strongly on it, because I succeeded in carrying an address to the Crown on the subject of national education in Ireland, and I was told as a reason why that address was attempted to be varied— although it was never rescinded—I was told by no less an authority than Earl Russell that it was very inconvenient to carry by one Motion an address to the Crown on so important a subject as that which I had submitted to them, without giving the House a second opportunity of reconsidering the matter. Now, observe, here is the question of education again. If the Government would only consider that they might go into Committee of the whole House for the purpose of discussing the question I have submitted— not the Revised Code, but the best mode of distributing the Parliamentary grant—that would enable the House to consider the question, first of all, in detail in Committee; secondly, to adopt such Resolutions as they might think advisable; and, thirdly, to have a Report on those Resolutions, with yon, Sir, in the chair, which would enable the House to confirm what the Committee had done. Those are the reasons that have induced me to take that course. The hon. Gentleman is aware that I have followed the precedents, as closely as the present stale of things have allowed me to do. Earl Russell, when he gave notice of his Resolutions on education generally, gave notice simply in this form —"Resolutions on Education, to be moved on such a day." He had to move twelve Resolutions. I do not recollect that the noble Earl gave notice of one of them. When the matter came on for discussion, what did the House do? Instead of appointing a day for considering the Resolutions with you, Sir, in the chair, the House pressed him to go into Committee of the whole House, that they might consider the Resolutions in Committee. Then on that day, the 6th of March, the noble Earl gave notice that on the 10th of April he should move to go into Committee of the whole House to consider the Resolutions in detail. What happened then? The Government were neither prejudiced by nor bound by them. The first question put was, whether the Chairman should leave the chair—in other words, whether the Resolutions should be adopted or not; and the House voted that they did not approve any of the Resolutions, and they therefore adopted the Motion that the Chairman should leave the chair. One 803 word more. If I were endeavouring to upset the Revised Code proposed by the Vice President of the Education Committee, I should have proposed, Sir, simply one Resolution for you to put from the chair—namely, that it is not expedient to adopt that Revised Code, leaving the Government to amend it as they pleased. But I am not prepared to make that Motion, nor do I desire to upset the Revised Code. If I were prepared to accept the Revised Code exactly as it now stands, I would not trouble the House with these observations; but as I sincerely believe that, without upsetting the Revised Code altogether, material and beneficial alterations and improvements may be inserted in it, all I intend to ask the House is, that on that day it will be kind enough to go into Committee for the purpose of considering the whole question of Parliamentary grants for education. That course will enable other hon. Members as well as myself to propose such alterations as they may think necessary. Under these circumstances, the hon. Member will see that, according to the established practice of this House, I shall not be able to give notice of the Resolutions until I know whether the House will agree to go into Committee. If the House agrees to go into Committee, I will give the amplest notice of the Resolutions I intend to propose, and I will take care that the House has full time to consider them before any discussion takes place.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that he thought the House would be better able to debate the question in open Committee of the whole House. He felt a deep interest in the subject of education, and he trusted that the Government would accede to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole), and take the Revised Code in detail.
§ MR. LOWE
I fear, Sir, that some misunderstanding prevails in the House on this subject. If we go into Committee of the whole House, I apprehend there is no distinction between an open Committee and a close Committee. When we are once there, it is competent for any hon. Member to move any Resolution he may think proper. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman gives notice of his Resolutions, any other hon. Gentleman would not be precluded from moving any other Resolutions he might think desirable. The Government have not the least wish to avoid discussion, and, for my own part, I do not 804 think the subject could be so conveniently discussed as in Committee. The Government are anxious to meet in spirit the views of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) in every respect, but they think this will be best done by the right hon. Gentleman informing the House of the nature of the Resolutions he intends to propose for the purpose of amending the measure of the Government.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I certainly think, Sir, that a misconception prevails on this point, although it appears to me exceedingly strange that it should have arisen. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken says, it would be very convenient, before we go into Committee, that we should be in possession of the Resolutions about to be moved by my right hon. Friend or any other hon. Gentleman. Well, we all agree that it would be very convenient, if we go into Committee on the general question of education, that we should be in possession of these Resolutions of my right hon. Friend. But the question that does not appear to be settled is, whether we are to go into Committee? If the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that it is not the intention of the Government to oppose the original Motion of my right hon. Friend, and that we shall have the great advantage of considering this important question in Committee of the whole House, I will undertake to say that my right hon. Friend will lay his Resolutions on the table in ample time, and we shall expect the same from any other hon. Member who may intend to bring forward a Motion on the subject. But I did not collect from the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Education Committee, nor from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that the Government are prepared to grant the Committee; and unless they are so prepared, their observations are not founded on any solid basis. It is our opinion, and it is an opinion by no means limited to this side of the House, that it is absurd to make a party question of the most convenient mode of considering the complicated question of popular education in a Committee of the whole House. I think the feeling is general that it would be highly convenient to consider the question in Committee of the whole House. If it is to be considered in Committee, all that Gentlemen who have Resolutions to propose have to do is to lay them on the table in ample time for consideration. If the Government are 805 prepared to tell us they consent to the Committee, all misapprehension will be removed, and it will be in the power of the Government themselves to understand the question.
MR. CARD WELL
Sir, I think the matter stands thus—the Motion to be made on the 25th of March is, that on a future day the House will resolve itself into Committee; before that future day arrives, the right hon. Gentleman has stated that he will lay his Resolutions on the table of the House.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Will the right hon. Gentleman permit me to explain? My Motion is, that the House should go into Committee on a future day, in order that there may be an interval between my Motion and the Committee, during which lion. Members may consider the Resolutions. If the Government will state that they do not intend to oppose the Motion for going into Committee to consider the Parliamentary grant, I will alter my Motion, and, instead of moving that the House go into Committee on a future day, I will move to go into Committee at once.
§ MR. CARDWELL
There can be no objection to the first Motion, that the House will on a future day resolve itself into Committee, because there will be an opportunity on that future day of debating the question whether the House will go into Committee or not. As I understand my right hon. Friend, he proposes that a subsequent day shall be named for the express purpose of enabling him to lay his Resolutions on the table, and giving the House and the Government an opportunity of considering them. That being so, the first Motion will be merely formal, and there will be no objection to its being made.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, I must say that the right hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat has by no means made the state of the question clearer. I cannot understand how there can be any misconception on the subject. It appears to me that there never was a plainer question before the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge has given notice that on the 25th of March he will move that the House go into Committee on a future day, to consider certain Resolutions on the Revised Code. The Government have been asked the most simple question—namely, whether they will or will not assent to that Motion. Will they give a 806 plain answer to a plain question? The course of my right hon. Friend is perfectly clear. If the Government will say that they have no objection to go into Committee to consider the Resolutions on the subject of the Revised Code of Education, then my right hon. Friend will alter his Motion, and instead of moving to go into Committee on a future day, he will move to go into Committee at once; and before he makes that Motion he will give ample notice of the Resolutions which he will be prepared to bring forward. Surely that is clear enough, as one alternative. What is the other alternative? If the Government say, "No; we have given you our Code; this is our plan, and we shall resist the Committee," then the House will not see my right hon. Friend's Resolutions until the Motion for going into Committee is first disposed of.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Sir, I understood my right hon. Friend to say, that if the first Motion were agreed to, he would then give notice of his Resolutions, and there would be a preliminary debate if necessary. If that is so, there will be no objection.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, I have no objection to either of these two alternatives. I would let my notice of Motion stand as it is, and on the 25th of March move that on a future occasion the House should go into Committee on the question. Supposing the House assent to that Motion, it would become an order of the day for the House to go into Committee on the day appointed, and in the interval I would give notice of the Resolutions which on that future day I would submit to the Committee. But, in consequence of this discussion I am prepared to say, that if the Government find it consistent with their duty to say, that, without affirming or disaffirming any of the Resolutions, they will not object to go into Committee for the purpose of considering only this question of the distribution of this Parliamentary grant for educational purposes, I will alter my Motion, and instead thereof move, on the 25th of March, that the House at once resolve itself into such Committee; and, in that case, I will give at least a fortnight's notice of the Resolutions which I intend to submit.
SIR MINTO FARQUHAR
said, the question was most important, and one in which the House took the greatest interest. He feared that the course which had been taken in the House would have 807 an unfortunate effect in the country. Hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House were anxious to approach the question in the fairest and most impartial manner, and without party feeling; but he was afraid that when the present discussion went forth to the public, it would be supposed that the Government were so deeply attached to the Revised Code that they had even hesitated about allowing it to be discussed. He hoped, however, that the difficulty was now cleared up.
§ Lord JOHN MANNERS
Sir, I wish I could agree with the hon. Baronet, that the point is cleared up. Though my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge has stated, in the most clear and distinct terms, his readiness to adopt either of the alternatives he has proposed to the House, up to this moment the Government have not replied to his offer, by stating that they will adopt either the one or the other. I hope some Member of the Government will state whether the House is to be allowed to go into Committee of the whole House on the question of education or not.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
Sir, I rose at the same time as the noble Lord to state the view of the Government upon this subject, which seems to me to have given rise to an unnecessary amount of debate. I admit the fairness of the course proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, and the fairness of spirit in which the House has met the question, and I will at once state that the Government are ready to accept the first alternative.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
Sir, I wish it to be understood whether it is the first or the second alternative that the Government propose to accept. I understand the notice is to be left as it stands. Is that so? I ask the Government to tell us, in distinct terms, what is the plan they accept, No. l or No. 2.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
Sir, I may perhaps be allowed to explain that of the two alternatives stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Government are quite ready to accept the first. If hon. Members do not understand that which appears to me to be very clear, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to repeat his proposals.
Sir, taking the variorum statements of the Treasury bench, I think they amount to this:—That my right hon. Friend has a notice to move on a given day, that the House will on some other given 808 day go into Committee on the distribution of the Education Grant, and the Government, as I understand, adopt that alternative. The Government have coupled therewith rather an ominous kind of condition, by the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who said, "When we come to that second day, then we can move that the Speaker do not leave the chair." So that, in point of fact, it will be a kind of game at cards, saying with the one hand, "We will let the House go into Committee;" that is, "We will assent pro formâ that the House go into Committee in a month or fourteen days hence; but when the time is up, we will with the other hand refuse the Committee." I do not think that is a desirable state in which to leave the question. I wish to approach the question in the most dispassionate manner. It is to the public advantage that it should be so approached, and I believe it can only be fairly discussed by going into Committee. I implore the Government not to play with the forms of the House and thus create a disturbed feeling amongst us, owing to which this subject may not be debated in the dispassionate manner which we all think so desirable. It is clear that so complicated a question can be sufficiently discussed only in Committee; and I hope the Government will, without circumlocution, say, "We will go into Committee of the whole House, and then discuss the question."
§ Motion agreed to.