HC Deb 30 May 1870 vol 201 cc1683-7

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [3rd May], That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, humbly to express the desire of this House that in the exercise of the power conferred upon Her Majesty by the 9th, 10th, and 19th sections of the Act 31 and 32 Vic. c. 118, with respect to the five Statutes for determining and establishing the constitution of the new governing bodies of Shrewsbury, Winchester, Harrow, Charterhouse, and Rugby Schools, Her Majesty will be pleased to ascertain whether the said Statutes correspond with the provisions of the 17th and 19th sections of the Endowed Schools Act of 1869, and, if they do not correspond with the said sections, to disapprove of them, or of so much of them, accordingly."—(Mr. Thomas Hughes.)

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


moved the Amendment of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "Majesty" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "representing that the Five Statutes for determining and establishing the constitution of the new governing bodies of Shrewsbury, Winchester, Harrow, Charterhouse, and Rugby Schools, have been considered by this House, and humbly to express their desire that, as since the passing of the Public Schools Act 1868 the Endowed Schools Act 1869 has passed, Her Majesty will be pleased to refer back those Statutes to the Special Commissioners appointed under the Public Schools Act, in order that they may have the opportunity of reconsidering certain parts of the said Statutes with reference to the principles applied in the Endowed Schools Act to other Endowed Schools,"—(Mr. Russell Gurney,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


moved that the Debate be now adjourned. He was assured by competent legal authority that if this Amendment were carried into effect an action would lie against any person appointed under it for his very first official act, and he, as a trustee of Rugby School, should certainly bring an action.


Sir, I rose at the same moment as the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) in order to second the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Member for Southampton, and I hope the hon. Member will allow that Amendment to pass, for I can assure him that the delay is highly prejudicial to the interests of the public schools. In seconding the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southampton, I beg to assure my hon. Friend the Member for Frome that I am actuated by no spirit of hostility to his Motion. On the contrary, as one of the Public School Commissioners, I have, from the commencement, been strongly opposed to the clause which he wishes to cancel. Indeed, Sir, it must be obvious to every hon. Member who considers the constitution of the Commission, that it would be our wish to regard the whole question from a liberal point of view. In the opinion, however, of the highest authorities, as, for instance, of the Solicitor General, the Commission really had no option in the matter. I confess I should not myself have taken this view; but I cannot, of course, set up my opinion against that of so eminent an authority. Moreover, it must be remembered that the Commissioners are making most extensive changes, and are naturally watched from many quarters with much jealousy; and, under these circumstances I am sure the House will sympathize with the anxiety of the Commission to keep well within their powers, and not unduly to stretch the authority vested in them. Sir, as far as the interests of the Church of England are concerned, this clause in the proposed statutes seems to me to possess very little importance. Take, for instance, the case of Winchester. The Governing Body of that school will be composed as follows:—The Wardens of New College, Oxford, and Winchester, one member each elected by the Wardens and Fellows of New College, the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and London, the Royal Society, the Lord Chief Justice, and the Head and Assistant Masters; and two or four by the Governing Body for the time being, a provision which will materially strengthen the Conservative element in the Governing Body. Sir, I hope the time may come when all these bodies will elect the best man, independent of his religious opinions; but, as matters now stand, out of the 13 members of whom the Governing Body will consist, there is obviously no chance that more than one or two will be Nonconformists. Even that is doubtful, for though the Royal Society of the University of London will certainly elect those whom they consider most fit, irrespective of their religious opinions, they will certainly not elect anyone because he is a Nonconformist. I submit, therefore, that in the interests of the Church of England it is undesirable to fight this question. No doubt there are some privileges necessary to the existence of an Established Church; but this is not one of them, and it does seem to me very unwise on the part of friends of the Church to grasp at the mere shadow of a privilege, thus jeopardizing the substantial advantage of popular sympathy and support. Moreover, Sir, this privilege seems to me to be one of a very dangerous character, since it excites hostility without, on the other hand, conferring any strength. As regards the schools themselves, however, the limitation seems to me of considerable importance, since it will exclude some whose presence all would regard as most desirable. I regret, therefore, that all the public schools cannot be thrown open, and for the same reason I should, of course, like to see the 19th clause of the Endowed Schools Act reconsidered, as it seems to me contrary to public policy that anyone should be able to tie up his property, and thus offer a premium to the teaching of certain opinions—a premium, which if they are right they do not require, and if they are wrong they ought not to have. Sir, the Amendment seems to me preferable to the original Motion, because it would effect the same object in a simpler and more expeditious manner. Neither, indeed, will it effect all that I myself should wish; but the Amendment will at least strengthen the hands of the Commissioners, and enable them to throw open some of the Governing Bodies. Under these circumstances, I trust that it will be accepted by the hon. Member for Frome, and by the House.


said, he did not see the use of prolonging this discussion night after night; but would, after making his protest, yield to the overwhelming numbers of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and consent to the adoption of the Motion, for it was useless to oppose a Government that argued with legions at its back.


said, he was willing to accept the Amendment in preference to the Motion of which he had himself given Notice.


said, the House was called upon to ask Her Majesty to act under a statute from the operation of which the public schools were expressly excluded, and therefore this matter could not be carried further without special legislation. There should be legislation before Her Majesty was asked to do anything.


said, he believed the Commissioners were perfectly right in the course they had pursued. There was nothing to prevent the Commissioners from acting without special legislation.


said, he hoped the Motion for Adjournment would not be pressed.


said, he must submit that the House could only direct existing legislation to be carried out, and there was nothing in it affecting the schools mentioned. He must oppose the Address, considering it a step towards the disestablishment of the English Church, at which the artillery of destruction was now pointed on that (the Opposition) side of the House.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Newdegate.)

The House divided:—Ayes 30; Noes 55: Majority 25.

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


moved that this House do now adjourn.

Motion made, and Question, "That this House do now adjourn,"—(Mr. Charley,)—put, and negatived.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The House divided:—Ayes 54; Noes 26: Majority 28.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.