HC Deb 27 May 1870 vol 201 cc1496-8

said, he wished to ask the Vice President of the Council, Whether, in addition to the Amendments of which he has given Notice for the Committee on the Elementary Education Bill, it is his intention to propose any alteration in the 14th and 22nd Clauses of the Bill as to the religious instruction which may be given in schools supported or aided out of local rates?


In reply, Sir, to my right hon. Friend I may say that it is not the intention of the Government to anticipate the discussions of the Committee on the Education Bill by proposing any Amendment of importance beyond those I put on the Table of the House last evening. Those Amendments were in fulfilment of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's promise at the close of the debate on the second reading. That debate seemed to show that the clauses of the Bill were by some hon. Members supposed not to fully carry out two important principles which we had always intended to embody in it—namely, the most complete protection of the conscientious scruples or feelings of the parent, and the utmost possible security that the Boards which have to deal with the education of the children should be freely elected by the parents. We have therefore re-placed sub-section 3 of Clause 7, which is the Conscience Clause of the Bill, by a self-working time-table clause, and we have secured that, in the election of the Vestry School Boards, there should be no plural voting and that there should be Ballot. We are well aware that there are other clauses of the Bill, by which important questions are raised; not merely that most important Question referred to by my right hon. Friend—namely, the religious instruction which may be given in schools supported or aided out of local rates, but also other important questions to which I need not now allude. We are, also, well aware that upon these questions there will be much difference of opinion, and in a constructive measure of this kind it would, indeed, be curious were this not the case; but we have thought it the best course to put these clauses of the Bill before the Committee as they now stand, in order that hon. Members may fairly judge the reasons which have actuated us in framing them. At the same time, I hardly need add, that it is also our intention most carefully to consider all the Amendments which may be advanced and all the arguments which may be used in support of those Amendments. With regard to the special Question raised by my right hon. Friend, I may remind him that though the Amendments I tabled last night are not directly upon Clauses 14 or 22, yet they affect the meaning of those clauses. The Bill contemplates three descriptions of schools—schools aided out of the taxes, but receiving no aid from the rates; schools provided by the School Boards, and under their control; and schools aided out of the rates, but not under the control of the School Boards. Clause 14 relates to the rate-provided schools, and Clause 22 to those that are simply rate-aided; but Clause 7 relates to all three descriptions of schools. I merely mention this in order that hon. Members, and especially those hon. Members who have put Amendments on the Notice Paper with regard to Clauses 14 and 22, may consider how far their views are affected by our Amendments of Clause 7. I may add that though, for these reasons, I am not empowered by the Government to put any further important Amendments on the Notice Paper, I shall probably have to give Notice, a day or two before we go into Committee, of some unimportant Amendments, chiefly formal and verbal; and I hope to take the opportunity of putting on some fresh clauses with regard to compulsory sites for schools, in accordance with the statement of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in his speech on the Bill brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan).