§ Order for Second Bonding- read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. W. E. Forster.)
§ MR. DIXON
, in moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice, said, he moved the Amendment with feelings of deep regret—regret that there should be occasion for an Amendment, which he admitted to be one of great importance—regret, because he was sorry even to appear to be in opposition to this Government measure, to which he had looked forward so long with hope—and further, with regret, because he would be prevented, in consequence of the necessity for confining himself mainly to the subject of his Amendment to omit noticing a considerable number of points in the Bill which to him were of the greatest interest. He should have wished to point out that if it had been possible it would have been a great improvement if the Bill had contained some provision fur the formation of a separate Department of Education, and also for increasing the number of training colleges in the country, where the masters would have been trained who would be wanted for the numerous schools that would have to be provided. He could have wished also to point out a reason why it would have been well not to give a year's grace to denominational schools, why school Boards should be appointed everywhere, that those Boards should be appointed not by Vestries, but by the occupiers in school districts voting by ballot, 1920 and why, considering how heavy existing rates are, we should have thrown one half of the cost of school Boards on the Consolidated Fund; why compulsory attendance should have been made immediate and universal, and why admission to all elementary schools ought to be free. But upon all these interesting points he must omit to dwell, in order that he might occupy the House in justifying his Amendment. In doing so, it would be necessary that he should review the whole of what was called the religious difficulty. The Amendment that he had moved did not in words refer to more than one portion of it. It stated that it was inadvisable that this religious difficulty should be relegated to the school Boards; but it did not make any reference to the manner in which the religious difficulty ought to be settled by the House. But he could not treat one portion of the subject adequately without referring to the other, and therefore he proposed to state his views on the whole subject. He called the attention of the House to the enormous change that would be brought about by this Bill in the relations of the State to education, and through education to religion. In a few years, under the operation of this Bill, we should have school Boards in almost every district of the country. He believed that the Vice President of the Council admitted that this would be the case; and it was natural that it should be so, because in those districts where the Bill did not provide for the immediate formation of these Boards, the present school managers, feeling that if the Boards were to be formed they would have preponderating influence on those Boards, they would be anxious that they should be formed, in order to throw on them the burden of maintaining the schools. Besides this, attendance would become compulsory throughout the country, and the basis of our school system would have been removed. It would no longer rest on voluntaryism, it would rest on the national purse, and instead of hundreds of thousand of pounds being voted by Parliament, we should find that millions would have to be voted out of the rates and taxes for the education of the country. These were great and important changes, and they affected this religious question to a great degree. Some thought that the religious question was scarcely felt to be 1921 a religious difficulty, that the religious difficulty scarcely existed. But that was not the case. It was true that we only voted £500,000 per annum for our schools. But, notwithstanding that, he would quote from a speech of Dr. Rigg, only a few days ago, to show that even now this difficulty was felt, and felt to a considerable extent. [The hon. Member quoted accordingly.] Now, if this religious difficulty existed, although the connection between the State and education was so slight, what might we expect to be the state of the case when there were school rates levied all over the country for the purpose of assisting education, when compulsory attendance would be also general, and when the Dissenter was called on to pay for, and send his child to a Church of England school, when the Protestant was called on to pay for and send his child to a Roman Catholic school, or a Roman Catholic to a Protestant school? This religious difficulty, under these circumstances, will assume much greater proportions. How did the Bill propose to meet it? It was said that where there was no school Board formed, the present religious teaching was to be continued, when the Boards were formed the character of the teaching was to be decided by those school Boards, and that in all cases where an objection was taken to this religious teaching a Conscience Clause was to come into operation as a protection to the religious conscience of the parent. He believed that the meaning of this was that in towns there would be in most cases, if not in all, contests for seats at the Town Councils, and contests within the Town Councils for seats at the school Boards, for it would be felt that upon these contests would depend the religious character of the education of the children of the town; in rural districts the religious teaching would take the colour of the dominant sect of the district, usually that of the squire and the parson. Now, in one-half of the country parishes at the present time—he was speaking roughly, it might be more—but in about one-half at the present moment no Government aid was granted; in the remaining half the grants amounted to about one-third of the total cost of the schools. Henceforward all these schools would receive grants out of the rates and taxes amounting to at least two-tliirds—it might be 1922 in some cases to the whole sum—and in every one of those cases in the rural districts they would find that the minority would have to pay for the religious teaching of the majority. Although it was true that the Government and the ratepayers would only pay nominally for the secular teaching, it must be borne in mind that the religious teaching of the school would have no existence but for this secular basis. It appeared that the effect of Clause 7 would be to materially strengthen denominationalism, and he thought that the object ought rather to have been to check its growth, and weaken its influence, so that it might ultimately vanish from the land. If he were correct in that opinion, that denominationalism in England would be strengthened, what would be the result in Ireland. It followed as a matter of necessity, or at any rate of justice, that it must be sanctioned there. He thought it would have been wiser to have introduced the Irish national system into England, rather than to export English denominationalism into Ireland. Had the principles of the Bill combined literary and moral instruction, with separate religious teaching, he did not think there would have been any opposition to the Bill; there certainly would not have been much on the ground of the religious difficulty. Under existing circumstances they would not reach any solid foundation short of separate religious teaching in all Government-aided denominational schools, taking care that the absentees from that religious teaching should not be liable to any disability, and that in all schools aided by rates the teaching should be entirely unsectarian or it might be secular. He would point out to the House what might perhaps be considered a warning, that there was a still lower depth than that. It might be if this agitation should be continued for a lengthened period that a party would arise in this country with a great and growing influence that might ultimately prevail, which might demand that in every school aided by the Government there should be exclusively secular education. This was not what he asked now; it was one of the possibilities of the future. He knew that the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education had stated that neither the religious nor the irreligious difficulty should be allowed to stand in the way of the educa- 1923 tion of the people. Now, this was a bold statement; but he imagined that the Vice President of the Council had misunderstood the nature and extent of the public feeling upon this question. ["No, no!"] He would give the House some of the experience which he himself had gained during the agitation of the last few months. One of the objects of the organization with which he was connected was to elicit the opinion of the country upon all the questions which were likely to arise in connection with this subject, in order to obtain a basis upon which legislators might form correct opinions. He approached the religious question without airy prejudice whatever. At least, as he was a Churchman, he approached it without any of the prejudices of the Dissenters. When, fourteen months ago, he called some friends together to consider whether the time had not arrived for some public movement in favour of education, they considered how this religious question should be treated. They were men of all creeds, and they came to the conclusion to recommend to the country that education in our national schools should be unsectarian. When the Educational League became known to the country, they were asked what they incant by unsectarian." They answered that they meant that in the schools there should be taught no creed, catechisms, or tenets that were peculiar to any sect; but no sooner had they furnished that answer than they received numberless questions as to what they meant about the Bible, and they answered that they were not prepared to ask for an Act to exclude from the schools only one book, and that book the Bible; but they added, out of respect to the Roman Catholics, that the reading of it should be before or after the ordinary school hours. His own desire was that no more of religion should be excluded from the schools than was absolutely necessary; but then came the question, how much must be excluded? The difference between an unsectarian and a secular system appeared to be this—that in both you would exclude all Christian dogmas, but in an unsectarian system you would not have to exclude Christian precepts. He had never been afraid of the bugbear about those awkward questions which exceptional children might put to a master asking the authority for such precepts; 1924 but if in the answer were involved the acknowledgment of a future state of existence or of a God, he still thought that would be unsectarian teaching. The school life of the child would be entirely apart from sectarian influence, and later in life there would be more of Christian harmony and sympathy among the members of the different sects. The League was assailed on both sides by the secularists and by the Churches. The secularists told them that if the Bible were to be read in the schools the sects would immediately quarrel; and they pointed out that in Holland and in the United States there had arisen agitations to exclude the Bible from schools, and a speaker at Birmingham told them that in an Ulster school, where reading the Bible after school hours was the only religious element, the boys would in the playground divide themselves into Bible and non-Bible boys, and pelt each other with stones; and that even, the girls took part in the affray. These things went to show that an unsectarian system would, as the secularists said, be unattainable. Now, what was the opinion of the Churches upon the subject? He had attended many meetings, and read most of the speeches that had been made, and he had arrived at the conclusion, from reading the opinions of that great party, that unsectarian education was unattainable. They were told that the word unsectarian was tricky; that the thing was unmitigated nonsense; that it was impossible. The argument everywhere was that religion must pervade the whole of the school teaching, that all morality was based upon religion, that all religion was based upon religious dogmas, and therefore that these dogmas must be taught in our schools. Now, what did this mean? It meant that the dogmas of the managers of these schools, or of the majority at the Board, should be taught in the school. Let there be no mistake about this. Archdeacon Home said, on this subject, that unsectarian religion would be religion out of which all religion had been picked piece by piece. The Union felt that they could not advocate sectarian schools without coming face to face with the difficulty that if they should have such schools in this country they must have them also in Ireland. Lord Harrow by, who was President of two great Union conferences at Manchester and Binning- 1925 ham, said that if they gave assistance to denominational education generally, the system must be extended to Roman Catholics, that there was no use struggling against it. He (Mr. Dixon) found similar sentiments everywhere, that Protestants and members of the Church of Rome united upon the same platform, and Archdeacon Hamilton, at Newcastle, exultantly declared that the Church of England, the Church of Rome, and the Wesleyan body, hand in hand, would smash the League. Now, if his interpretation of the position of the Churches was correct, if the Churches held that they were fighting for religion, and meant by religion the teaching of, religious dogmas in all our schools—if, for the sake of that, they were willing to destroy the Irish system, he would ask the House to consider what would be the effect of the operation of the 7th clause of the Bill. He thought that the first result would be to fasten the teaching of religious dogmas upon every school in every district in which there was a dominant section, and this would be to devote the public funds to the maintenance of these dogmas, and if, as many believed, any Conscience Clause they could imagine would be inoperative, the children of the minority would be taught a religion to which their parents objected, and the minority would be forced to pay for the teaching of such doctrines. In all these cases there would be created sectarian strife, and there would be deferred for an indefinite period the attainment of perfect and complete religious equality. He warned the House that this was a subject of great importance. Already the tocsin had been sounded and the forces were mustering; and it would be found that the Churches were on one side, and the Nonconformist bodies on the other. Which would be likely to prevail? If they consulted history they would not be left in much doubt; and behind these armies there stood an enfranchised people, and the people had always given their votes in favour of equality. If the clause were to be passed by the House in its present shape he did not think that we should have peace in England until the Churches had laid down their arms defeated. It had been already whispered to him that if the clause should pass then, at every future election in the boroughs to be a Dissenter would 1926 be a qualification for a candidate, and to be a Churchman would be a disqualification in the eyes of the Liberal party. But they were told that, although in nearly every school there might be religious teaching based on dogmas, nevertheless efficient protection would be given by a stringent Conscience Clause. The Conscience Clause had been tried and found wanting, and had been finally rejected by the Nonconformists. It did not really give the protection it professed, and the poor were frequently unable to avail themselves of it, because the influence of their superiors in social position was too strong to be resisted. Moreover, how was it to be worked? Its inherent evil was that many parents would not dare to avail themselves of it; and it was not right in the agricultural districts to ask the people to say yes or no to this important question. In the thousands of small schools in the country districts there was but one room in the school, and where were the children to go while the religious teaching was being conducted? He thought a time-table Conscience Clause was the only one that would work. There ought to be separate religious instruction apart from the secular teaching, easy for the children to come to and stay away from, and no disabilities should attach to any children who absented themselves. It might be said that the illegitimate influence he condemned might still operate, though the religious teaching was given at a separate time; and he dared say in some cases it would be so; but then they must make that influence as small as possible, and defend the children from it as far as they could. If it were urged that after all the difference between the two different modes of working the Conscience Clause could not be great, then there would be all the less for the Government to concede in consenting to a time-table Conscience Clause. Unless given and received voluntarily, the influence of religious teaching was weakened, if not lost. It had been said that the result of the opinions advocated by the League would lead to wholly secular, and. therefore, "godless" schools. But supposing that the schools should become secular, would that really be so great an evil? He hoped that the hon. Member for Carlisle would lay before the House his experience on the subject, which would show that in the large se- 1927 cular schools with, which he was connected the religious influence was more distinctly impressed on the scholars than in other cases. He had received a letter from a very competent authority in Ireland confirmatory of the same view, and the language of the Rev. Mr. Cox, an eminent Nonconformist divine, and of the Bishop of Ely, pointed in the same direction. He would repeat his objections to the manner in which the Bill dealt with the religions difficulty. If appeared to him that wherever a school Board was formed, as it would be in nearly every district, there would be, or might be, a contest for sectarian predominance; and wherever one sect was predominant in a school district, there the colour of that sect would be necessarily given to the religious teaching of the school. Now, the object of his Amendment was to declare that that was a fatal blot in the Bill. He hoped, before they went into Committee, the Government would come to the determination that the clauses should be considerably modified, and that it should not be left to school Boards to decide this religious question—a decision that could only be arrived at after much strife, and, he feared, much religious animosity. He trusted that by leaving the question to the House to decide, it would resolve it by declaring that all rate-aided schools should be unsectarian, and that all other elementary public schools should have the religious teaching separately given. He had no doubt he should be asked, Why not leave this question to be debated in Committee. Why take the unusual and grave step of moving an Amendment to the second reading? He would have preferred to have put an Amendment of a minor character upon the Notice Paper; but he believed this was the only manner in which he could bring the subject forward now, and he was anxious to lose no time in doing so, in order that by an immediate, a pointed, and a direct reference to it, this question might gain an importance which otherwise would not be given to it. He had watched, as far as he could, the indications that the Government chose to give as to their views upon this question; but he had not yet received an impression sufficiently favourable with reference to their probable action. He was sure there would be a feeling of deep disappointment 1928 throughout the country unless this, the first, occasion was taken for expressing very decided and strong views as to the manner in which the Government had thought well to treat the religious difficulty. If the Government should not think it right to make any kind of declaration, then it would be for the country, during the short period that might intervene between the second reading and the Committee, to express its opinion in such a manner that the House might have no doubt as to the public feeling. But if the Government should think that the manifestations which had been lately made upon this most important clause had been of such a character that it was advisable some kind of declaration should be made, and if that declaration held out a hope that the evils he had pointed out would be seriously considered with a view to their removal, then he should feel that the object for which the Amendment had been placed upon the Paper had been gained. And when he took into consideration those admirable provisions of the Bill which declared that in this country efficient schools should be brought to the door of every child, and that attendance should be made compulsory—if he could only feel that the Government would deal with the religious difficulty in a manner more in accordance with the expectations of the Nonconformists, he should have the conviction that the Government would receive, as their well-merited reward, a nation's gratitude. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Resolution.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
, in seconding the Amendment, said that three great measures had been laid on the table of the House by the present Government during the present Parliament — the Irish Church Bill, the Land Bill, and the Education Bill—and it was curious to observe that all these Bills were limited in their application. This Bill was limited to England, but as the two other Bills must exercise a powerful influence on another part of the Empire, he felt that the decision at which the House might arrive upon this Bill would operate powerfully not only in England, but also in Ireland and Scotland. For his part, if he thought that we should have a final settlement of the question on a religious basis, giving one religious body a preference, he would extend to the Irish a privilege which we 1929 claimed for ourselves. It was impossible that the Government in considering; this question should not take into account the existing schools, which were both, large in number and were already doing a good work. But any measure to be complete must be of another character, The denominations had been at work a great number of years, and had done as much as with the machinery at their disposal could be expected; but it was impossible to make adequate provision for the educational destitution of the country without compulsory powers, and unless the State took the matter more directly in hand, the children in our large towns— and he feared he must add in the rural districts also—were now allowed to receive out of doors an education of the most pernicious character; while the Government were bound to take care that there should be harmony between the new system and the old—the new system should not be based upon the old model. With regard to the measure of the Government, the question divided itself into two parts—first, the provisions they had a right to ask for in the shape of a Conscience Clause in the denominational schools now existing; and, secondly, the conditions under which the new schools to be constituted under the Bill should be conducted. He was not going to attempt to determine whether any, or what, religion should be taught in the new schools, but he objected strongly to Parliament abandoning its duty by refusing to determine so serious a question, and leaving the discussion to be threshed out in vestries in the smaller, or the meetings of corporations in the larger towns. They had been assured by the Government that the Conscience Clause was not to be a delusive one; but he found no guarantee of this kind in the Bill. Without separating religious and secular education, he did not see how it was to be secured. The object of the Irish system, as stated by the Commissioners of National Education, was "to afford combined literary and moral, and separate religious instruction;" and this was all that he, and those who thought with him, desired Parliament to do for English schools. He trusted that they would hear no more about the schools which they desired to see, being irreligious. One of the objections to the Government Bill was that it provided for denominational inspection, but no results 1930 were asked for in religions teaching, and the Inspectors might not belong to the sects whose schools they examined. Nothing could tend more to mar the operation of the measure than to introduce religious strife into these Boards. If the question were relegated to them, they must consider it in the best manner in their power; it would, however, be a great fault in the Bill if it were allowed to foster and increase religious animosities. He had as strong a feeling as any man in that House in favour of religious training, and he believed that no education without it was worthy of the name. But the ordinary education and the religious education could not proceed at the same time. They could not at the same moment be going through the multiplication table and be inculcating religious doctrine. The only tiling he asked was that there should be complete separation, and that religion should not be taught by a stipendiary agency. Religious teaching ought to be undertaken by the religious bodies. He had been both a Sunday-school scholar and a Sunday-school teacher, and from his experience he believed that if the street Arab had a good secular teaching the use of Sunday-school teaching would be greatly increased. He hoped the Government would see its way to meet the demands of those who were not opposed to religious training, but who sought for religious liberty, and desired to secure the rights of all parties. The position of the working classes in regard to this question, must not be forgotten. He feared that the greater part of them did not not identify themselves with any religious body; but looking at the matter from a outside point of view, those who dwelt in towns were strongly opposed to anything savouring of sectarianism; and they found themselves represented by Members from the boroughs. But persons of the same class in the counties, who no doubt shared the feeling, had no direct representation in that House. He hoped, however, that Parliament would consider the claims of both these divisions of the population, and would find out a satisfactory mode of dealing with the difficulty.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is of opinion that no measure for the elementary education of the people will afford
a satisfactory or permanent settlement which leaves the question of religious instruction in schools supported by public funds and rates to be determined by local authorities,"—(Mr. Dixon,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) at the commencement of his remarks regretted that the importance of the question involved in his Amendment would prevent him touching other very important points of the Bill in which he felt great interest. I was glad, however, to hear my hon. Friend expressing his belief that under the provisions of the Bill school Boards would quickly become universal, and compulsory attendance be generally insisted upon, because I agree with him in entertaining the hope that the effect of the Bill will be that school Boards will be established throughout the country, and that in a short time attendance at school will be rendered compulsory. One other remark of my hon. Friend I must speak a few words of comment on. He stated that he thought the Bill would result in millions of pounds sterling being raised by rates. [Mr. DIXON: And taxes.] I certainly understood my hon. Friend to say rates, and to confine himself to that mode of raising money. I refer to this, because I do not want hon. Gentlemen, who feel naturally sensitive with regard to questions of rates, to suppose that the provisions of the Bill can result in the raising of millions of money by means of rates. Practically, the Bill provides for a rate not exceeding 3d. in the pound, in order to the carrying out of the requirements of the Act. That amount of rate would very rarely be exceeded; indeed, in my opinion, a smaller levy would be quite sufficient to work the Act; but should the whole sum be required, a 3d. rate throughout England and Wales would only, according to the authority of my right hon. Friend the President of the Poor Law Board, produce a sum total of £1,250,000. Having stated this much, I will at once proceed to the important Amendment of my hon. Friend. I was very glad to gather from his closing remarks that he does not mean his Amendment to have that effect on the Bill which, on the first sight, it would appear to have if passed. 1932 He seemed to speak with thorough heartiness his approval of the great leading principles of the measure. My hon. Friend the Member for Knares-borough (Mr. Illingworth)—whom, as one of my constituents and also as a Colleague, I may congratulate on the favourable beginning he has made in the debates of this House—in seconding the Amendment did not speak as though he intended the Motion to be hostile to the Bill; but I must assure my hon. Friends that viewed in the light of Parliamentary history and precedent theirs is, in fact, a hostile Amendment. Amendments have often before been moved to the second reading of a Bill, but I believe no single instance can be found of an Amendment of this kind having been moved, where the avowed object of those promoting it was not to throw out the Bill if not also the Government who had brought it in. I will not suppose that it is the wish of my hon. Friend to throw out this Bill, for he is too earnest in the cause of education to entertain such a wish. But we must take the Amendment as we find it, and I cannot help thinking that Gentlemen on both sides of the House will feel that the questions which have been raised to-night are not questions as to which we ought to be asked to decide upon abstract Resolutions, but which we ought to discuss and decide after the fullest deliberation in Committee. As it was to be an Amendment to the second reading, I do not know that it was easy to frame it otherwise; but the Amendment is certainly vague, and I would even add unfairly vague, though I acquit my hon. Friend of any intentional unfairness. Amendments of this kind are generally brought forward by Gentlemen influenced, no doubt, by feelings of duty, but still hostile to the Government and their measures; and, with the skill which is found among framers of hostile Resolutions, these are generally so constructed that Gentlemen with opposing views, but who all wish to get rid of the Bill, will be able for different reasons to vote for the Amendment. But friends of a Bill scarcely ever propose an Amendment with that intention. I can scarcely suppose that my hon. Friend, when he put his Amendment on the Notice Paper, was aware that the vote put by you, Sir, from the Chair would be "Aye" or "No" to the second reading; I imagine he 1933 thought it would be "Aye" or "No" to his Amendment. But let me point out that those who are prepared to vote in favour of this. Amendment may mean three distinct things. The Amendment is very explicit as to what ought not to be done—that the question of religious instruction ought not to be determined by the local authorities. But my hon. Friend does not ignore the existence throughout the country of a question of religious instruction, and he knows that if it is not to be settled by the local authorities, it must be settled somewhere. The Amendment leaves it doubtful how it is to be settled; and, as I have said, leaves it open to the advocates of three distinct views to vote for the Amendment, however much they may differ among themselves. If the religious question is not to be determined by the local authorities it may be left to the Government of the day to prescribe how it shall be dealt with; or this may be prescribed by Act of Parliament in the very measure that we are now about to pass; or if it is not to be prescribed in either of these ways, it may be proscribed, and no religion whatever may be allowed to be taught in any school supported out of local funds. As regards the first of these views, I need not dwell much upon it. I do not suppose there is such an amount of confidence felt, by the House or by the country in Earl De Grey or myself that they would be willing to entrust to us the task of prescribing what the religions instruction should be. And I hope that no such trust ever will be reposed in any central authority, enabling them to decide what the religious instruction shall be in every varying locality. My hon. Friend, I am quite aware, does not mean that. The next question is, shall we prescribe the nature of this instruction by Act of Parliament? My hon. Friend said the Amendment did not state what religious instruction should be given, and indeed, I could scarcely gather whether my hon. Friend meant that there should be any religious instruction at all, and, it any, what. I will ask hon. Members who think that Parliament should prescribe religious instruction in every locality in the kingdom, to consider what an outcry would be raised if we were to say such and such a religion shall be taught in every elementary school, whether the majority agree or not. I am sure it will be felt that Parliament never could take that course. 1934 Several Notices have been placed upon the Paper by hon. Members who, I believe, sympathize more or less with the hon. Member for Birmingham, but yet who evidently feel that these are points which can more properly be pushed to a division in Committee. There are five of these Amendments which would limit the discretion of the local authorities in the settlement of the religious question. I do not for a moment dispute that the mode we take of leaving the question to the local authorities to settle is one to which objection may be very easily raised. I never was blind to that. I have only felt that of all the alternatives open to us this was the one to which least objection could be taken. But it is a question upon which we can only fairly deliberate if we have at the same time to discuss the alternative proposals. And it is hardly fair to ask us to vote in favour of an abstract Resolution, unless you tell us exactly what you would propose by way of substitution. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) is among those by whom Amendments have been placed upon the Paper, and his Amendment limits the discretion given to the local Boards, and provides that no religious catechism or formularies in support, of or in opposition to any religious sect shall be taught in the schools, but that the reading of the Holy Scriptures shall not be excluded. I am anxious to come to the discussion of that very important Amendment for this personal reason among others — It will be recollected that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department and I have twice brought before the House, in 1867 and 1868, educational measures which originated with a Committee in Manchester, composed of men of all religious denominations, but of immense experience on educational matters. In those Bills exactly the same discretion was left to the local Boards as in this Bill. I remember well that when the Committee first submitted that provision to me, the objections which were callable of being urged to it started up in my mind—that there would be differences of opinion, and contests in boroughs; and it was not until we had long discussed the matter together that I came to the conclusion that any evils which might be attendant on the adoption of that course would be outweighed by the evils of any other course. Late last year I had 1935 the opportunity of consulting the Committee again, and ascertained that they still held the same view. This year, I believe, if we had not brought in a Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, representing that Committee, would have brought forward a Bill on. their behalf. But the Amendment shows that they have changed their minds, and I am honestly and sincerely anxious to know why they have changed their views, for I am persuaded they could not have done so without good reason. Then comes the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines), that no denominational catechism shall be taught in any school. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) has a similar clause, and the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham) has an Amendment providing that no religious instruction shall be given in rate-supported schools, but that the Holy Scriptures may be read. The hon. Member for Colchester (Dr. Brewer) desires that the school Boards shall prepare schedules in which they shall prescribe the religious instruction to be given. What I want my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, and the other hon. Members who have given Notices of Amendment in Committee, to bear in mind is that, by the very terms of their Amendments, I claim their votes in favour of the second reading. There is not one of those Notices which does not leave some discretion to the local school Board, and there is not one of them, therefore, which is not opposed to the spirit of this abstract Resolution. But I claim the vote of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham himself. The Education League, of which he is at the head, and may be regarded as the representative, though they now appear to be going rather against this measure, have done a great deal in exciting interest in educational matters all over the country. Only a few weeks ago they prepared and circulated the heads of a Bill to be introduced in 1870. Among those heads was this—No creed, catechism, or tenet peculiar to any sect shall be taught in any national-rate school, but the school Board shall have power to grant the use of the school-rooms out of school hours for the purpose of giving religious instruction, provided that no undue preference be given to one or more sects, to the exclusion of others.It may be said that by this was meant 1936 that all parties should be treated with equality. Well, I prescribe the same thing in my 22nd clause. But when you give the managers of a rate-fund a power to do something, even according to certain conditions, you are giving them a great deal of power, and, at all events, you cannot say the religious question is nowhere left to them if they have the power to prescribe the time when and the place where such instruction is to be given. But much more, the school Committee is to have power to permit the reading of the Holy Scriptures. If they have power to permit, I suppose they will also have power to disallow. I think, therefore, I may claim the vote of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham against his own Resolution. I have read these Amendments, and I now refer to resolutions passed by different meetings in which great interest was taken in this question. It has been the fate of my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government and myself to see many deputations lately on this matter, and we have obtained much valuable information from them; but we have almost always found that this difficulty, which my hon. Friend tries to sweep away at once by an abstract Resolution, was a difficulty to which they also were compelled to yield. I do not know that there is any part of the kingdom where there is more feeling on this subject than in Wales. I am not surprised at that. What has passed there within the last year or two may well make Welshmen sensitive. A most earnest, intelligent, and influential deputation came to us from Wales. It had partly emanated from a conference of Nonconformist ministers in Wales. The first resolution of this conference had said, that—That any system of national education fully meeting the requirements of Wales must be free, secular, unsectarian, and compulsory.And the second said that it was not intended to exclude or to oppose the reading of the Bible. Upon asking for an explanation of the phrase secular and unsectarian, I was informed that the school should be secular in education and unsectarian in management. The hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard), however, than whom I do not believe there is a more candid man in this House, frankly confessed that there was a differ- 1937 ence of opinion among themselves, and it was thought that by using the two words they might get over the difficulty. The resolution of another deputation, from the Committee of the Congregational Union, was to the effect that there should be no dogma taught in the rate-supported schools. I asked whether the word "dogma" was intended to apply to the dogmas held by one sect of Christians as against another, or to the dogmas held by all Christians, and I found it did not mean the latter. Now, I do not quote these inconsistencies in order to obtain any paltry argumentative triumph; I do so from no motive of that kind. I only bring them forward to show that all who have endeavoured to deal with the question have discovered its difficulties, and ought from their own experience to sympathize with the Government in reference to it; and let me add that they ought not to support my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham in trying to meet it by an abstract Resolution, as to which each may feel somewhat differently, but hasten to go into Committee on the Bill, where we may fairly discuss the whole question, and deliberately consider all the Amendments, in order to determine whether there should be any limitations in the discretion given, and if so, what? That is what I say to all hon. Members who are in favour of unsectarian education. Unsectarian education is a very difficult matter to define in an Act of Parliament; but I deem it not at all difficult to reach in practice. If we cease to try this almost impossible task of finding words to put into an Act of Parliament determine that education shall be unsectarian, almost the first effect of the Bill, when passed, will be to give religious, though unsectarian, training— training in the great moral truths; for children mostly under twelve years of age are not those to whom it is easy to teach theological doctrine. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham scarcely knows his own position. He said he was in favour of unsectarian, or, it may be, even secular education; but my hon. Friend went on to say, I do not ask for secular education now. I say more, Sir; I not only do not ask for secular education now, but I trust I never shall ask for it. The hon. Member for Knaresborough said there might be secular schools that would not injure 1938 religious training. I agree with him. There are such schools, and a part of this Bill provides that when the majority wishes for a secular school, a secular school they shall have. But I ask the House to consider for a moment what would be the effect of decreeing by Act of Parliament that in elementary schools supported by the rates, whether the majority wished it or not, religion should be excluded? Our opinions in religion may be different; but I think we all of us agree, the enormous majority of the country agrees, that the standard of right and wrong is based on religion, find that when you go against religion you strike a blow against morality; and if we could solemnly by Act of Parliament tell the parents of children to be educated that religion is a subject not to be mentioned in the schools, they would suppose that we cared little about religion ourselves, and that in our opinion it were best left alone. We are told that some active intelligent artizans— men to whom we look forward with hope that they will take part in the political government of the country—we are told that they have great doubts on this subject, and that they dislike any religion being pushed on them in this way. I believe that to some extent that is the case, and there is something in their past history to explain it; but if the House wishes to perpetuate that fooling, the way to do it is to decree that religion shall be tabooed. I speak not merely having regard to the present, but as having hope for the future. Surely the time will come when we shall find out how we can agree better on these matters — when men will find out that on the main questions of religion they agree, and that they can teach them in common to their children. Shall we cut off from the future all hope of such an agreement, and say that all those questions which regulate our conduct in life, and animate our hopes for the future after death—which form for us the standard of right and wrong — shall we say that all these are wholly to be excluded from our schools? It is not merely duty to the present and hope for the future; but it is the remembrance of the past that forbids us to exclude religion from the teaching of our schools. I confess I have still in my veins the blood of my Puritan forefathers, and I wonder to hear descendants of the Puritans now talk of 1939 religion as if it were the property of any class or condition of men. I regret to find that my hon. Friend the Member for Knaresborough seems to think that religion belongs specially to the minister. It belongs to the schoolmaster; it belongs to every man; and I am sure my hon. Friend when he thinks over it will see that it is not his place to sanction the doctrine that the priest or the minister muse step in between a man and his Maker.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
explained, that he never intended to say anything of the kind. What he said was, that it belonged to religious bodies to teach religion.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I would say that it belongs to all religious men to teach religion, and the master of the school, we trust, will be a religious man. To no religious man can we say, leave religion alone. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham talked of the feeling's of the working men. I have some experience of the working men. I know their sympathies, I know their doubts and difficulties: I wish I know how to answer them; but I am sure of this, the old English Bible is still a sacred thing in their hearts. The English people cling to the Bible, and no measure will be more unpopular than that which declares by Act of Parliament that the Bible shall be excluded from the school. There are countries in which the Bible is excluded. I believe in some parts of the United States in is excluded at the present moment, I have heard a good deal about a coalition being entered into against religious teaching at schools; but I confess I did not expect to see that possible coalition reinforced by the Evangelical Nonconformists. The possibility of that coalition. however, reminds me of some words that have been put into my hands lately which were written by one for whose genius we have all a great respect, Speaking of the old English Protestant Bible the words are better than anything I can say, and therefore, if the House will allow me, I will read them. I dare say that a great number of hon. Members will at once recognize the author. The words are as follow:—Who will not say that the uncommon beauty and marvellous English of the Protestant Bible is not one of the great strongholds of heresy in this country? It lives on the car like a music that can never be forgotten—like the sound of 1940 church hells which the convert hardly knows how he can forego. Its felicities often seem to be almost things rather than mere words. It is part of the national mind, and the anchor of national seriousness. The memory of the dead passes into it. The potent traditions of childhood are stereotyped in its verses. The power of all the griefs and trials of man is hidden beneath its words. It is the representative of his best moments, and all that has been about him of soft, and gentle, and pure, and penitent, and good speaks to him for ever out of his English Bible. It is his sacred thing, which doubt has never dimmed and controversy never soiled. In the length and breadth of the land there is not a Protestant with one spark of religiousness about him whose spiritual biography is not in his Saxon Bible.And do hon. Members suppose that even if we thought it right to try to do so we could pass a Bill to enact that, regardless of the wish of the majority, this Bible was not to be used, or that if such a Bill were passed it would not encounter great opposition? Some persons have remarked that it was scarcely fair for me to say that we might only get rid of the religious difficulty to replace it by an irreligious difficulty. The religious difficulty is a great difficulty I admit; but if we were in our educational zeal to exclude this book by Act of Parliament the irreligious difficulty we should thereby create would be far greater. By retaining its use in schools some indidividuals may object to pay the school rate on account of the particular religion supposed to be favoured at the schools; but were we to say that the majority were not to have their children taught the Bible even if they desired it, we should have the school rates objected to, not by individuals, but by large multitudes. I think that the House will now expect me, after dealing with the Amendment and the grounds by which it appears to be supported, to say something with regard to that portion of the Bill against which the Amendment was directed. Now, this portion of the Bill is contained in the 14th clause. I am aware that both the hon. Mover and the hon. Seconder of the Amendment think that it is also contained in the 7th clause; but that is a mistake on their parts, because the 14th clause is the first that deals with the management and the maintenance of schools by school Boards. In the 14th clause we say—Every school provided by a school Board shall be a public elementary school, and shall be conducted as such under the control and management of such Board.1941 In the first place we say that the burden of proof lies upon the objectors to show us why the school Boards should not be treated precisely the same as any other managers are treated. They are bound to manage the schools, and it is only fair that, having that onerous duty imposed upon them, they should have the same power conferred upon them as is possessed by other managers. But it is said that they should not have the power of religious teaching placed in their hands, and that the Government have avoided and shirked the question by throwing1 the decision of it upon the school Boards. I will state the reason why we propose to leave the decision of the matter to them. We think that they are the persons the most concerned and the most interested in the question; we think we have amply provided in this Bill—and if we have not done so we must amend and amend it again until we have provided—that the school Board shall be elected by the persons most interested in the subject — namely, the parents, who we think are the best fitted to determine the question of religious or non-religious teaching. That was our simple reason for leaving the question of religious teaching to be settled by the school. Boards. Then it was stated that by this proposal we should be giving rise to religious quarrels, and that the elections of the members of the school Boards would be determined upon religious grounds only. I do not deny that such may sometimes be the case; but I can only say this, that as far as I have been able to study the matter it seems to me that we should cause more religious quarrels by deciding the question of religious teaching ourselves. Upon this point, of course, hon. Members will entertain their own opinion, and when we go into Committee upon the Bill we shall be most glad to consider any Amendment which may be proposed for limiting the powers of the school Boards. I think I ought, however, to say why we think that we shall cause more religious quarrels by not leaving the decision of the question to the school Boards. We think so upon this ground. That we should be stepping out of the province of Imperial legislation, and attempting, by Act of Parliament, to establish a rigid rule regardless of all the varying circumstances and wishes of different localities, and the result would 1942 be that we should meet with opposition from all quarters, and give rise to more heartburnings than if we left the matter alone. And this we assert not from a priori grounds, but from what is actually occurring in other countries at the present moment. Take the Irish system, for instance—and I am far from saying that in Committee we may not obtain great advantage from the consideration of that system — yet, whatever its merits it has not prevented religious disputes. In the United States again, the system there adopted, notwithstanding the enormous benefits it has conferred on the community, is said to be in great danger. The question of the exclusion of the Bible in that country has been raised, and men are rallying round the point in dispute on both sides. And why is that system in danger? Because it does not do what this Bill proposes to do—namely, to leave the question of religious teaching to the discretion of the school Boards. In Cincinnati I am sorry to say it has been decided by the school Board that the Bible shall be excluded; but among the last news from America it will be found that the Supreme Court has reversed that decision, and this has endangered the whole system. This danger could not have arisen under the present Bill, because it will be within the power of the school Boards to adopt secular education if they please. In Germany we find that a different course has been taken, the exact teaching being prescribed. Almost equal difficulty has occurred there. The hon. Member for Birmingham cited the case of Holland as that of a country in which the Bible is not used in schools; but I think the hon. Member is hardly aware of the position of Holland in the matter. The actual state of Holland may be seen from the following statement which I have received from a Dutch gentleman, who made inquiries at my instance. He is well known to many hon. Members, and is well acquainted with English life, and is of Liberal opinions. I wanted to know from him the feeling of the mass of the parents. He says—There is no doubt that with universal suffrage the system prevailing would hardly be kept up, and that the Bible, the Catechism, and the priest in Roman Catholic parts of the country would reappear. The great hardship of having excellent denominational schools unprovided from the Exchequer simply because they teach religion is growing on many people who themselves are 1943 opposed to denominational education. Only the other day one of the leaders of the Radical party told me he was gradually coming round to the opinion that the communes should be left free in the choice of their system, and that they should be allowed to have religion taught wherever there was a majority in its favour, with provisions to protect the minority, exactly the system I congratulate you on having proposed for England. There is no doubt that the number of schools started by Roman Catholics and Evangelicals in opposition to the Government school is steadily on the increase. It is felt that the Government school teaching no religion not only leaves a gap, but tends to make the children utterly careless or even hostile to religion, looking upon the hours spent out of school with the clergy as so much wasted time irrelevant to the practical interest of life.He says local disputes do not disappear, because disputes arise as to who should appoint the master; and, he adds—Our system leads to another dangerous consequence. At each General Election the question divides the voters; it excites and inflames all the religious passions, and prevents other questions being properly attended to.I do not say that opinion is a conclusive one; but it is the opinion of an eyewitness who deserves attention, and I mention it in justification of the Government's proposal. That proposal, I would have hon. Members believe, has been put forward, not as an arrière pensée, but as the best means at our disposal for solving a difficult problem. We must make up our minds that nothing we can do here will prevent disputes. We may declare that the school shall be secular; we cannot declare, and we do not wish to declare, that the school shall not be taught by men who have religious feelings and opinions. My honest belief is, that if quarrels occur about anything, they will occur about the appointment of the masters. People of strong religious convictions would say that as the school is secular it will have strong rationalistic tendencies, and, consequently they will do their best to secure a religious teacher, who will give a religious tone to the school which would then be in some sense religious. I do not myself look forward to quarrels in the Boards; but even if I did I should still say, pass the Bill; it is better these quarrels should occur, and that men in electing Town Councils should think about religious questions, than that ignorance should continue. But I do not believe these quarrels will happen, because I have confidence in the common sense of the country. I trust to one fact and one principle. The 1944 principle is municipal government, and the fact is the practical history of education. I do not dispute the existence of the religious difficulty, nobody who cares about education can afford to underrate it. The religious difficulty has kept the country in comparative ignorance for ten years past; but it has been a difficulty felt, not so much by those concerned with teaching as by those who wish to concern themselves with those who are concerned with the teaching. It is a difficulty felt, not so much by the parents of the children or the masters or the school managers; for wherever there has been a parent wishing to get his child taught and a teacher ready to educate him, the difficulty has, generally speaking, been got over. Therefore, I say that, if you bring this practical work home to the school Boards, and tell them it is their duty, and they must do it, and that if they fail the State will do it for them, my firm belief is that the difficulty will disappear. I will give an illustration; and will take it from a secondary school, such as many of us might send our own children to, for I want to bring this question home to ourselves, that we may deal with it as if it were our own case. I would here remind the House that these difficulties of which we make so much in the case of poor children do not arise in the case of our own children; and I doubt whether those parents have more doubt in their minds upon the subject with reference to their children than we have as regards ours. I take my illustration from a letter addressed to me by Mr. Evans, of King Edward's School, Birmingham.—This school contains nearly 1,900 pupils, of whom more than half are Nonconformists of thirteen different denominations (there were seventeen a short time ago). They all receive a considerable amount of religious instruction, and I may add that the examiners have from time to time reported very favourably on the high average attainments of the boys in divinity. Professor Lightfoot, Canon Westcott, and Dr. Benson were educated here. Any parent who either orally or in writing should express to me his wish to withdraw his son from a religious lesson, on the ground of conscientious scruples, would be at liberty to do so. Of such permission, however, no advantage has been taken except in the case of Jews, who do not attend lessons in the New Testament. The system appears to give entire satisfaction—to none more than to the Rev. C. Vince and, the Rev. R.W. Dale, who both have sons in the school. The liberty of conscience thus allowed is not secured by any legal instrument or Conscience Clause, but rests simply on custom, and an understanding between parents and the headmaster.1945 And here is the deduction Mr. Evans draws—If, however, the governors of this school—a self-elected, and, for the most part, a Conservative body—together with the headmaster, a clergyman of the Church of England, have, of their own accord, devised and carried out a scheme so liberal and so popular, have we not a right to expect an equally liberal scheme of religious instruction from the local Boards constituted as proposed in the Government Bill?That is a practical view of the case, and I really do wish my hon. Friends, taking the same view of polities and belonging to the same Radical school as myself, would have a little more confidence in what I have always supposed to be one of the chief Radical tenets, and that is trust in municipal government elected by the ratepayers. As I said before, this is not so much a difficulty felt by the parents as by the ministers of religion, some of whom wish to get the children to attend certain schools, while others wish to keep them away. This is where the difficulty mainly sowings from; but with a school Board elected by the ratepayers—that is, by the parents taking an interest in the education of their children, as they do at present, and as they will do to a greater extent in the future, we shall have those who are likely to aggravate the religious difficulty met by a cry of "Hands off; lot us get education as best we can." What we should prefer is a school where the children would get Christian though not controversial training, and in the enormous majority of cases that is what the children would get, at least in the towns. I will not deny that there are some cases in the rural parishes which require special attention. Some oases have come before me in which there has been an attempt made on the part of the clergyman, sometimes backed by the squire, to exercise an illegitimate influence upon the children of Dissenters. Generally speaking, I may say in every case that has come practically before me, that influence has been exercised either to prevent these children going to a Sunday school, or to make them go to a Sunday school. Well, Clause 7 is very strong, indeed, on this point. Sorry as I am that any such attempt should be made and anxious as I am that these attempts should be discontinued, we cannot change society. What more can we do than give the power of election to the parents? Hon. Members may say the election of Vestries is 1946 not sufficiently guarded. [An hon. MEMBER: The Ballot.] Well, that is a matter we must talk about in Committee. I am not aware what are the councils of the Cabinet on that matter but there seems to be an expectation that the Ballot is not very far in the distance, and if it should be applied in any case it might be applied in the case of these elections. We have provided that the feelings of Dissenters should be consulted and their rights protected if they care to take advantage of the means we place at their disposal; if they are careless the fault is theirs. But our Nonconformist friends tell us—This is concurrent endowment over again, and the church rate contest over again." I wish hon. Members would consider what it is they are now dealing with, and what it was they dealt with when the phrase "concurrent endowment" was invented. In the one case the matter was religion and nothing but religion; in this case it is religious accompaniments to secular instruction—the main object. Hon. Members who think we must come to secular education, and nothing but secular education, have some right to say that they will act upon the principle of opposition to all concurrent endowment. I do not gather that many hon. Members; are prepared to go so far as that; and if they are not they are at this moment sanctioning this principle of concurrent endowment, if, indeed, it applies to education at all. There is concurrent endowment of the denominational schools at the present time. There is, likewise, concurrent endowment of the Roman Catholic and Protestant schools according to the Irish system, in praise of which we have heard so much; and there would be concurrent endowment if the proposals of the hon. Member for Birmingham were carried into effect, for if you are to provide a building for religious instruction by different denominations, what is that but concurrent endowment? I think hon. Gentlemen generally will find out that they can hardly apply that principle to education. We come back, then, to that which relates more to the real matter in hand—namely, the practical object aimed at by our Nonconformist friends, and the manner in which the religious question is treated by the present Bill; and I speak now not so much of Clause 14 as of Clause 7. All I can say of Clause 7 is—"Let it go into Committee, and if it can be shown that 1947 we have not carried out the principle of that clause we must amend it until the principle is carried out." That principle was in our minds the most perfect protection of the religious opinions of the Dissenters and of the secularists — of every parent, in a word, with regard to his views of religion or even against religion. We wished to give every parent the most complete power to withdraw his child from any religious education of which he might disapprove, and, at the same time, we desired to provide that his child should not lose the secular instruction to which he has a right and for which the rates are paid. We think that principle is carried out by the clause, but, if it he proved to us that it is not, we must amend the clause until it does carry out the principle. I think the hon. Member for Birmingham must have felt, when he was objecting to that clause, that he was making a speech, which ought properly to have been delivered on the clause in Committee rather than in support of the present Resolution, which has nothing to do with the clause. My belief, and I think it is shared by many Members who, in other respects, take different views on this question, is that if we could make Clause 7 perfectly effective many objections to Clause 14, and also to the clause which gives power to aid denominational schools, will be removed. The key to the whole Bill, as far as it relates to the religious difficulty, is this—We have framed Clause 7 in the belief that it is effective, and that it will give most complete protection in regard to the religious feelings of the parents. I quite admit, however, that if the Bill were to pass into law without that clause being effective it would not carry out our wishes or the wishes of the country. I must now allude to one or two other objections which I confess I was rather sorry to hear. I have seen it stated very often in the public Press, and several gentlemen have likewise told me, that the Bill cannot be a good one, because it aids one denomination more than it aids another — or, in other words, that it gives more assistance to the Established Church than to any other denomination. Indeed. I have been sometimes told that what little I have had to do with bringing in the Bill must have been done with tire intention of specially aiding the Church. Well, I can only say that I am innocent of any such 1948 attempt, and of all belief that such a result would be produced. My object, and I may say our object in framing the Bill has been education and education alone, We determined that nothing we might do should discourage religion, and surely we should have been blamed if we had discouraged it. We were also determined that, while not discouraging religion, we would not treat one religious sect with greater indulgence than another. Now, I believe we have thoroughly carried out that principle. If not, when we go into Committee hon. Gentlemen will have opportunities of pointing out any case in which we have treated the Church of England with more indulgence than other religious bodies, and if a flaw can be detected it must, of course, be removed. It is quite true that there are throughout the country a vast number of Church schools; but it is not our fault that they are in existence; and it is allowed by all who take an interest in the subject that we must not destroy before we build up. If, by passing this measure, we destroy the present educational agencies, it will be long before we could do as much good as we should have done harm; and, therefore, as a friend of education, and of education only, I was anxious that we should help every person, whether he belonged to the Church of England or not, who was willing to spend either his time or his money in promoting education among his poorer neighbours. We wished to help them as far as they help us in our efforts, and upon one condition —namely, that the help should not be afforded if any attempt were made at persecution or illegitimate proselytizing. We must admit, after all, that this is a matter affecting the interests of the whole country. The task is a very difficult one, and we cannot afford to dispense with any social force which will aid us in accomplishing it. Well, I find in existence a powerful social force depending very much on denominational zeal and ardour; and I am not saying anything against that zeal and ardour, proceeding as they do from men who have a faith which helps thorn in this world, and fills them with hope in regard to the next. This is not a feeling which I ought to despise, especially when I find it has induced many men to spend much time and money, and to lead self-denying lives in order to promote that secular 1949 education for which, we all care so much. This, I repeat, is a social force which we cannot dispense with. We must, of course, protect parents residing in country parishes, and this is a point which will require to be carefully looked at. But with regard to the country parishes alone, if we were to drive all the clergy from the educational camp, I, for one, do not know how we should be able to replace them. We only propose to take their help for the future on what we consider fair conditions; but do not let us throw away and reject aid without which we cannot hope to promote education, especially in the rural districts. And this is not the only great social force which exists. There is another, and most glad am I to welcome it. It is the force of the popular feeling among the parents of the children, especially the intelligent parents, in our densely-peopled towns. I rejoice to see them taking the matter into their own hands, They feel they are doing a duty which they owe to themselves, to their children, and to their own class. But by this Bill we provide that wherever they feel an interest in the matter, they should have it in their own hands. I look forward in the hope of seeing town after town in which parents will feel so strongly on the subject that they will make such arrangements that the education of their children and the children of their fellow-artizans shall be conducted under their own management and in the manner they approve. Then I am told that hon. Gentlemen opposite support the Bill. [Ironical cheers.] I hope we shall never come to that mode mode of treating questions, which would oblige its to conclude that because Gentlemen on the other side of the House support a measure it must necessarily be a bad one. It is not only this year that some hon. Members opposite have been prepared to support a Bill like this; some of them, like my right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington), from whom I have learnt much respecting education, would have supported it long ago. Indeed, in this matter, the right hon. Gentleman has been in advance of most Members on either side of the House. However, hon. Gentlemen opposite will not deny that this Bill, although it has been most kindly received by them this year, would not have been so received by them at an 1950 earlier date; but are we to complain that hon. Gentleman opposite have found out that some measure of this kind must be passed? They have made what they regard as great concessions, for which I thank them. Last year, for instance, they would hardly have been prepared to accede to a strict Conscience Clause being imposed in schools in which much money had been voluntarily expended without any expectation that such a clause would be applied to them. Nor probably would they have been prepared to do away with denominational Inspectors, or to accept the principle of a rate for educational purposes, to which last year strong objection was expressed. I am most grateful to find they are looking at the subject in a way which gives hope that a satisfactory Bill may be at length passed. Although my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham complains of a part of this Bill, he knows that it has within it that great principle which he and I have been so long contending for —a legal provision for schools throughout the country. Conservatives generally have opposed the principle until now. It is not for us to complain that they have come round to our views, and I certainty regretted to hear the scornful cheers of the Members below the Gangway, as if they were ready to blame hon. Gentlemen opposite for lending their support to the Bill. ["No, no!"] It does, in my opinion, great credit to their hearts and heads. They have discovered that new conditions of society exist. They perceive that the measure which we passed three years ago renders it necessary that we should find new forms in which to clothe the old spirit, which I believe to be at the bottom of both Conservatism and Radicalism, and which seeks to preserve all the great institutions of the country on the one hand, while it desires to tear up the weeds which lie at the roots of those institutions on the other. It is a great credit to them, also, that they accept this Bill, although with misgivings, and with the feeling that it is opposed to many of the views which they entertain, because they wish to contribute to the promotion of the great work of popular education. I do not know that I have any right to say a word either to my Nonconformist Friends or to my fellow-Radicals. I am not a Dissenter. I wish I could see my way clearly to belong to any religious 1951 community. [Laughter.] An hon. Member laughs; but it is no laughing matter. But though I do not belong to either Church or Dissent, yet I have a feeling of attachment to both, and I would warn my Dissenting Friends against standing in the way of this Bill merely because it is supported by the Church, when every hope of making any necessary Amendments in Committee is held out to them. To my Radical Friends I would say—"Consider well before, in obedience to any passing breath of popular feeling, you give up the great principle of municipal control and election." As to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, what more can he and his friends of the Education League desire than they obtain in this Bill? With the exception of the principle of free schools, which I think does not meet with much acceptation, there is no principle adopted by the League which cannot be carried out in any locality where the majority of the population desire it; and surely my hon. Friend does not wish to push his educational dogmas down the throats of the majority. But wherever the majority of the population believe in his dogmas they can carry them out. I trust that after the explanations I have given he will not think it right to take his Amendment to a division. I ask him not to do so, mainly on the ground that I cannot bear the thought that this, which I believe to be one of the strongest Radical measures which could be proposed which, though indeed it has been called timid and tentative, will yet make legal provision for schools throughout the country—should pass the second reading in the face of Radical opposition. It is a Bill in framing which we have endeavoured to carry out two principles—the most perfect protection to the parent and the securing of the most complete fairness and impartiality in the treatment of all religious denominations. If, in order to carry out these principles, it is necessary to amend the provisions of this Bill, that must be done. I ask the House, then, not to give its assent to a mere abstract proposition. Let us join in Committee in the endeavour to find some way by which the difficulties which have been pointed out may be met, and I have not the slightest doubt that we shall succeed in the attempt, and thus bring this great work to a satisfactory conclusion.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM moved the adjournment of the debate.
No objection can be taken on the part of the Government to the Motion; but we have been placed in a peculiar and unexpected position, and I am desirous that we shall be permitted to carry forward this debate to-morrow night. In fact, unless we are allowed to do so, I cannot see how we shall be able to proceed satisfactorily, in consequence of the intervention of the Bill dealing with the state of Ireland, of which my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland has given notice to move the introduction on Thursday. On looking to the Notices for tomorrow, I find there are two with regard to which it is absolutely incumbent upon us to make some arrangement. The first relates to a Bill to relieve Lords Spiritual (hereafter consecrated) from attendance in Parliament. If the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Somerset Beaumont), in whose name that stands, will withdraw it for to-morrow, we shall undertake to consider it at a convenient period of the Session. [Laughter.] Well, I will undertake that he shall be under no disadvantage with regard to time. This is a case of great necessity, and nothing could be more unsatisfactory than that the debate on the second reading should be interrupted for an indefinite period. The second Notice is by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves), and relates to the rate of inland postage. I admit he is entitled to look for some solution of that matter with reference to the approaching Budget of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but I hope he will accept my frank assurance that, if he waives his precedence to-morrow, he shall suffer from no serious inconvenience by doing so.
§ MR. SOMERSET BEAUMONT
expressed his willingness to accede to the request made by the right hon. Gentleman on the part of the Government.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, he would consent to postpone his Motion. He could not do so, however, without a protest against the practice which seemed to be growing up of turning Tuesdays into Government nights, and thus encroaching on the privileges of private Members. In giving way, however, on the present occasion, it must be on the distinct understanding that he should have an opportunity of 1953 bringing forward his Motion before the Financial Statement was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. SCLATER- BOOTH
said, the Life Assurance Companies Bill stood on the Paper for to-morrow. It was with great reluctance his right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen Cave) had postponed it last week. It was rather hard upon private Members, in the month of March, to take from them their opportunities of bringing on Motions.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
asked what arrangements it was proposed to make for the continuance of the debate after to-morrow?
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
said, that it must not be supposed there was any understanding on the part of Members below the Gangway, that the debate would close to-morrow. There had been four nights' debate on the Irish Land Bill, and it would hardly be dealing with a great question in an adequate manner to hurry it to a close in less than two.
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR
said, he should reserve the observations which he had intended to make to-morrow in moving for leave to introduce a Bill for the abolition of the existing Game Laws until the second reading, if he had an assurance from the Government that no objection would be offered to the introduction of the measure.
said, that no objection would be offered on the part of the Government to the introduction of the Bill.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.