Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [3rd August] proposed (on Consideration of the Bill, as amended) to the proposed Amendment in page 6, line 17, after the word "pay," to insert the words
If the parent of any child who is resident in the district of a School Board is unable, by reason of poverty, to pay the fees of such child at a public elementary school, or any part of such fee, and if the School Board fails to make regulations, under Clauses twenty-five and seventy-four of the Elementary Education Act of 1870, for the payment of the same, it shall be the duty of the guardians, if satisfied of such inability, to pay the same in accordance with the provisions of this section,"—(Lord Robert Montagu,)—
§ And which Amendment to the proposed Amendment was, to leave out the words "who is," in line 1, in order to insert the words "not being,"—(Sir W. Vernon Harcourt,)—instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words' who is' stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, he wished to communicate to the House the result of the consideration which the Government had given to the question raised by the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Westmeath (Lord Robert Montagu)—namely, to make it the duty of Boards of Guardians everywhere—even in school board districts—to pay the school fees for the children of parents whom they considered to be incapable of paying them—since the late protracted and somewhat heated opposition to which they were subjected last night. He thought every hon. Member must feel that there had been considerable misapprehension on this subject, and it might to be well that he should recall to their recollection what was the state of the law at the present moment as to the remission and payment of fees. The state of the law was this—In Scotland, according to the Act of 1872, passed by the late Liberal Government, the school boards had nothing whatever to do with either the remission or payment of fees for 519 poor children; but it was laid down in Section 69 that—it shall be the duty of the said Parochial Board to pay out of the poor relief fund any reasonable charge for the education of any child whose parent is unable to pay the school fees.By Clause 14 of the present Bill, which had nearly passed through the various Forms of the House, and to which the House had given its assent, it was provided that the parent of any child not being resident in the district of a school board—who is unable by reason of poverty to pay the ordinary fee for such child at a public elementary school, or any part of such fee, may apply to the guardians having jurisdiction in the parish in which he resides, and it shall be the duty of such guardians, if satisfied of such inability, to pay the said fee, not exceeding threepence a week.So that for Scotland, and all towns in England not under school boards, there was one uniform law—that on account of the compulsion upon parents to send their children to school if they had not sufficient means to pay the school fees, and yet were not out-door paupers—payment for their children out of the rates by the Guardians having been already provided for by the Bill of 1873 of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford—it was the duty of the Guardians to pay a moderate school-fee. What, then, was the state of the law in regard to districts where there were school boards? In all school board districts the school board had the power of either remitting the fees in their own schools or of paying them in schools which did not belong to them. Now, with regard to the action of the Education Department, the position taken up was this. The matter was raised as early as 1871 on the Wednesbury School Board case. The Wednesbury School Board wrote to ask the assent of the Education Department to their 6th bye-law, which provided that they might remit the fees of poor children in their own board schools. They did not, however, provide that they would also pay the fees in any schools which did not belong to them. On the 6th of December, 1871, the Department of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford was then Vice President, addressed a letter to the Wednesbury School Board on the subject of these 520 bye-laws, in which the following remarks were made by the direction of the right hon. Gentleman:—With respect to Bye-law 6, in which provision is made for the remission of school fees at board schools in cases of poverty, but not for payment of fees at other schools under similar circumstances, my Lords are prepared to allow it. I am, however, directed to point out to you, that in the opinion of my Lords it would not be just to deprive a parent of his right to choose the particular public elementary school to which he will send his child because, while he is compelled by these bye-laws to send his child to school, he is unable from poverty to pay his school fee; but my Lords cannot doubt that the school board will see the justice of making use of the power they possess under Section 25 in favour of any such parent.That was the final delivery of the last Government, and the course laid down seemed to him to be a wise course to pursue. Upon this precedent the Department, under both the last and the present Government, had always acted, and had never committed themselves to acknowledging that it was right in a school only to remit fees in their own schools, and not to pay them in others which the poor parent might prefer. The Department, however, in this, as in all other cases, refuted to give an interpretation of an Act, as their interpretation could, of course, have no binding effect. He was informed that it was not quite clear whether the course pursued by the Wednesbury School Board was legal or not, but the view taken by the Education Department of the then Government was that it was contrary to the spirit of the Act that they should only undertake to remit fees and should not at the same time say they would pay them, the position being that it was fully understood that the Act of 1870 was passed distinctly on the basis of the recognition as far as possible of the parental right to the choice of the school for his child. This was obliged to be given up in certain cases where there was only one school, but the Act of 1870 was based on the principle, over and over again stated in the discussions in the House by the Ministers responsible for that measure, that, where there were two, the parent was to have the right of choice. The House would see the justice of this, and it would also feel that in cases of extreme poverty it was bound to be just as careful of parental feeling as it was in the cases of more well-to-do persons. The 521 state of the case was this—We respected the feelings of parents generally, but, owing to the action of certain school boards, if parents became very poor we subjected them to the injustice of saying—"We will oblige your children to go to school, but we will not give you the choice of a school." The acknowledgment made by the Educational Department of the then Government was a very valuable and important one, but they did not feel sufficiently clear of their legal position to refuse to pass these bye-laws; and from that time all bye-laws which contained merely a provision for the remission of fees, without any provision for the payment of fees, had been sanctioned under this protest by the Department. A correspondence ensued with the Wednesbury Board, who said they could not accept the suggestion of the Department; and the closing letter of the Department contained this paragraph—No addition to such bye-law was suggested, though my Lords thought it right to call the attention of your board to the power given them, independently of any bye-law, by Section25 of the Elementary Education Act, by which power they will be relieved from the necessity of enforcing penalties against a parent who, though unable from poverty to pay a school fee, prefers that his child attend a public elementary day school selected by himself.The Department thought strongly it would be a serious thing to enforce penalties against parents if you did not give them a choice of schools; that was the state of the case now, and it remained uncertain whether a magistrate would agree to convict a poor parent who could not afford to pay the fees at the school he preferred, and who refused, on conscientious grounds—as might likely be the case e.g. among Roman Catholics—to send his child to a secular board school where his fees would be remitted. It was a subject of considerable importance and for cool argument, and certainly the Committee would now see not of a Party character nor one of those matters which, when understood, should create excitement, or of those matters that should provoke a heated discussion of such a nature as that of last evening. He said last night, when the question was first raised, that, as his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford did not seem prepared to support it—which, of course, implied that hon. Gentlemen opposite also would not do so— 522 and as it was so late in the Session, and everybody was so anxious to close the consideration of the Bill, that he thought it better not to accept the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for Westmeath (Lord Robert Montagu), saying at the same time it was impossible not to admit it was an important one. In fact, he should have been eating the words of the Department if he had not acknowledged that. [Mr. Lowe: A blot was hit.] Yes, he said it hit a blot in the Bill, and in the Education Act of 1870. It must, however, be remembered that when identically the same proposal had been made by his hon. Friend the Member for North-East Lancashire on Clause 14 in Committee on the Bill, he had then asked his hon. Friend not to open that important question on the ground of time not allowing fresh matter to be added to the discussions on the Bill, which, even then, had been much protracted so as to endanger its progress; and as no interest was then shown by the House in the matter, the Amendment was withdrawn, on the very same grounds on which he asked the noble Lord yesterday not to press his. After he had used these words an unexpected amount of feeling was shown by hon. Members of experience on both sides of the House, which it was exceedingly difficult to answer by argument. Hon. Members representing Irish constituencies said they felt the grievance to be a very strong one in large towns in England with a considerable Irish population; and there was not a shadow of doubt that the class particularly injured was the poor in the large towns, which included a large proportion of Roman Catholics, to whom it was a serious grievance to be forced indirectly in this way to send their children to board schools, contrary, as he and the Department had always, under both Governments, held, to the principle of the Act of 1870. We must look at things as they really were, and, whether it was before an Orange meeting or any other meeting, he should be prepared to defend the position they had taken up with the most perfect confidence. The people of the country had the strongest sense of justice in these matters; and when a real and genuine case of injustice was made out, one which was not intended by the Act of 1870, as was admitted by the last Government, and the existence of 523 which was hardly known until it was urged strongly by hon. Members from Ireland, it was certain they would not allow it to remain. Of course, the position was one of some little difficulty, and they were exceedingly loth to raise unnecessarily questions which would trench on the conscientious feelings of any hon. Gentleman opposite; but he thought on consideration the Nonconformists would see that the proposal did not in any way touch their conscientious scruples, but simply did away with an injury now done to the consciences of poor people. He was sure they would bear him out when he said he had avoided as much as possible things which would be distasteful and disagreeable to them; but this question being raised, it seemed necessary to find some mode of meeting it. The Amendment of the noble Lord was, no doubt, open to considerable objection on the ground that it did seem to throw a sort of slur on school boards, which was, he was sure, not intended; it might, however, be held to imply that school boards largely were neglecting their duties in this matter. The Government had considered the subject with very great care. They were aware that some hon. Members naturally wished to take a division on the principle involved; and after calm consideration, and after the more friendly tone in which the discussion closed that morning, the Government were inclined to recommend a course which he hoped would meet with considerable assent. If the noble Lord would withdraw his clause, they would propose to take the sense of the House by an Amendment of Clause 14. That clause now only provided that the parent of any child, "not being resident in the district of a school board," who was unable from poverty to pay the fee, might apply to the Guardians, who should pay it, if satisfied of his inability to do so; they would propose to omit the words "not being resident in the district of a school board." That would make the clause applicable to the whole country, and so far as the relief of the poor for the purposes of education was concerned, school-board districts would be placed in exactly the same position as the rest of England and of Scotland. They would thus have one uniform law for the whole of England and Scotland; and where the Guar- 524 dians were satisfied that the parent was too poor to pay the fees of his child, they would be obliged to pay the necessary fees, and the parent would have the choice of sending his child to any public elementary school. This proposal prevented the idea of any slur on school boards; it raised the question plainly and simply; and he hoped and believed the House would now approach it in a calm and considerate spirit. When hon. Members remembered that the strong appeal which was addressed to the House on the subject by hon. Members from Ireland on behalf of their co-religionists was caused by the action of certain school boards, they would feel that the subject was a grave one, and that the Government were not acting rashly or wrongly in asking them calmly to consider and pass a dispassionate judgment upon it, now that the question had been brought before them.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, his position was different from that of most of his Friends, and he wished it to be understood that what he desired to say he spoke without communication with them.
§ MR. SPEAKER
called the right hon. Gentleman to Order, as he had already spoken on the Amendment before the House—that of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he was ready, if it would facilitate discussion, to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
believed that the proposal now made by the Government would effect the object which he and his Friends sitting on that (the Opposition) side of the House had in view, and if there was an understanding that upon the withdrawal of his Amendment the House would proceed to a division upon the omission of the words "not being resident in the district of a school board," he should be happy to withdraw his Amendment. He trusted, however, that some assurance would be given by hon. Gentlemen on the front Opposition Bench that they would not throw any obstruction in the way, because otherwise the withdrawal of his Amendment would place him in an unfavourable position.
§ MR. FAWCETT
pointed out that the 25th clause of the Act of 1870 gave a permissive power to school boards, while the present Amendment was obligatory. The result would be that there would be 525 a permissive clause in operation in one Act as to school boards, while in another Boards of Guardians would be compelled to pay these rates. Did not the noble Lord the Vice President think that, under these circumstances, it would be a necessary part of his proposal to repeal the 25th clause of the Act of 1870?
recommended the withdrawal of the Amendment, and that the matter should be left in the hands of the Government, in which, in this respect, he had perfect confidence.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the point raised by the hon. Member for Hackney was no doubt important, but he would suggest that it would be more conveniently discussed after the withdrawal of the Amendment, and when the proposal of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council was before the House. They were not asked to agree to the proposal, but simply to allow the withdrawal of the Amendments on the Paper, so as to be in a condition to consider and deal with it.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, that the Amendment of the Government would leave the law exactly the same as it now existed in Scotland, and he approved of it on that account.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
asked whether the effect of the Amendment and the Government proposal would not be exactly the same, except that the latter would avoid naming the school board in a derogatory manner?
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
wished to ask who would be the judge of justice in this case? The noble Lord defended his Amendment on the ground of justice; but if no discretion was left either to the school boards or the Guardians he should like to know who was to decide what was justice?
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment, and proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
proposed to insert after the word "parent" the words "not being a pauper." The clause was not meant to apply to paupers, and he thought, therefore, that this Amendment was necessary. With regard to the clause before us, his position in the matter was different from 526 that of several of his hon. Friends. He had always defended the 25th clause, being of opinion that the right should be given to the parent of choosing whatever school he would prefer to send his child to; and he was willing to abide by the exact terms of the letter written in 1871, for which he was responsible, but in which the Marquess of Ripon also agreed. It was to the effect that the Department considered that by the Act of 1870 there was a discretion in school boards, whether they should make a bye-law or not; but that they would be acting in the spirit of the Act of 1870 if they did make a bye-law. He regretted that the noble Lord the Member for Westmeath (Lord Robert Montagu) had mooted the question, and that the Government had last night rather hastily adopted his Amendment, as it must inevitably lead to serious difficulties. He (Mr. W. E. Forster) could not, however, disown or retract his own views. It had been said that the supporters of the 25th clause were bound to push their views to a logical conclusion and to support the Amendment; but it was not always expedient in administrative and Parliamentary matters to push things to their logical conclusion. If, moreover, the Government had intended to carry out the principle to its logical conclusion, they ought to have put the proposal in the original Bill. Again, this proposal did two things; it not only took from the school board the discretion they now possessed; but it subjected the school board to the authority of the Board of Guardians. He repeated that it would have been better to let the matter alone. The 25th clause of the Act of 1870 was now exciting very little feeling or attention throughout the country, and it was unwise to renew the agitation it had excited by the Amendment of the noble Lord. He now, however, came to the suggestion of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council to omit the words "not being resident in the district of a school board," the effect of which would be to make it the duty of Guardians all over the Kingdom to pay the fees of poor children, but, at the same time, to leave to the school boards the option they now possessed, by leaving the 25th clause unrepealed. Well, having always adopted the principle of the 25th clause, he should feel it his duty to vote for the Motion of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council 527 thus putting England in the position now occupied in this respect by Scotland, on condition, however, that if this was done the present clause should be repealed. He could not help saying, al though many of his Friends would not agree with him, that the Bill was a progress in education and would tend to promote it throughout the country, and he trusted the Government would not imperil its passing by persevering in their proposal, without accepting the suggestion that the 25th clause should be repealed.
§ MR. PELL
said, that, much as he regretted all that had occurred last night, he believed that good had come out of it. If his noble Friend's suggestion were adopted, the inquiry as to the position of parents and their ability to pay school fees would be left in the hands of the Guardians, who could, though their officers, carry out that duty much better than the school boards; and if that were agreed to, he could see no objection to the repeal of the 25th clause.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
observed that he was in a different position from that which his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) occupied, as he had never been a consenting party to a great portion of the legislation of 1870. He was always an opponent of the 25th clause, and would gladly see it repealed; but that which was now proposed by the noble Lord opposite would be an aggravation for it would make universal and compulsory the principle of that clause. What had now taken place showed that hon. Members on that side of the House had not acted unjustifiably in asking for some time for discussing the matter. He felt bound to vote against the proposed Amendment of the noble Lord, which was full of the objections which he felt with respect to the 25th clause.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that the scenes of last evening had one good result, for they showed that the Irish Members, although deserted by the front Opposition bench, had found Friends at the other side of the House. For his part he, as an Irish Roman Catholic, regarded with suspicion any proposal coming from the front Opposition bench. He remembered a memorable night when the late hon. and learned Solicitor General, with elephantine power, came 528 down to supported the University Bill of the late Government, and his principal argument in its favour was that it was a Bill disapproved of equally by the Protestants and Roman Catholics. Probably his reason for now opposing the Amendment was that it was one in favour of the pauper Roman Catholic children in England. He hoped that in those places where there were many Irish electors the Division Lists upon the question would be carefully examined, and that on educational questions the front Opposition bench would be divided now and for ever from the Roman Catholic Party.
§ MR. RICHARD
said, he concurred in the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford(Sir William Harcourt). He had himself always objected to the 25th clause, and in 1874 introduced a Bill for the purpose of repealing it, and that measure was supported by the whole of the Liberal Party, except those connected with Ireland. He thought that the remarks of the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Callan) would not contribute to the peaceable discussion of the question, and hoped that no man in that House would be deterred from recording his vote by the kind of threat which he had held out. He (Mr. Richard) deeply regretted that the Government had accepted the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Westmeath, as the effect would be to promote discussions in the country full of bitterness and animosities. He concurred in thinking that the Amendment of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council was an aggravated form of the 25th clause, and he should feel bound to give it every resistance.
§ MR. SPEAKER
pointed out that the Amendment indicated by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil was not before the House. The Amendment before it was that of the right hon. Member for Bradford.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said it was very desirable that the Government should at once state what their intentions were in reference to the 25th clause.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, the Government had been struck by the very marked feeling of the House with reference to the 25th clause, and thought it their duty to give way to it. If, therefore, his Amendment were accepted, he should 529 assent to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford that the 25th clause be repealed.
§ MR. CLARE READ
said, he supported the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, because its object was that every poor child should receive religious teaching in conformity with the religion of his parents. In a rural Board of Guardians of which he was a member no question except that of the poverty of the parents ever arose when the question of educating pauper children arose. The Guardians had simply done the best they could for the education of the children, and had always sent pauper children to the schools which their parents preferred.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
pointed out that the assent which the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council promised to the proposal of his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford was, in fact, no concession at all. If the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord to be made in the 14th clause was adopted, the 25th clause of the former Act must go as a matter of course. The noble Lord proposed, as a concession, to repeal the 25th clause, which gave optional power to remit or pay fees, and to substitute for it a clause which would render the payment of school fees compulsory upon all Boards of Guardians.
§ MR. MELDON
thought there would be no necessity to repeal the 25th clause, as, in his view, that provision and the clause in the present Bill would work harmoniously together.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
considered it desirable that all impediments to children being taught in conformity with the religion of their parents ought to be removed.
§ Amendment agreed to; words inserted.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
moved, as an Amendment, in Clause 14, page 6, lines 10 and 11, the omission of the words, "not being resident in the district of a School Board."
§ Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 10, to leave out the words "not being resident in the district of a School Board."—(Viscount Sandon.)
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he wished, in the first instance, to express his deep regret that Her Majesty's Government had re-opened a question which there was reason to hope was in a fair way of being settled by the consent of different opinions. Unfortunately, too, they had raised the question in a manner not creditable to themselves. Without consideration they had adopted an Amendment to a clause calling up the contention of last night, and by their present proposal they had shown the Amendment to be an untenable one. The course that they (the Opposition) took last night was justified by the event, and had shown that they were perfectly right in urging that there should be more consideration of the matter. They now had to consider what course should be taken in relation to the present Amendment of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council. It appeared to him (Mr. Rylands) that they were now practically brought to face a great difficulty. They had dealt with pauperism, and Parliament had met the difficulty by saying—"We will give a free education to the children of pauper parents, and we will recognize the religion of those children's parents, and allow them to choose their school; and in many districts in the country we propose to give facilities for the payment of the fees of the children of indigent parents." That was the course they had taken, and they had now to determine what should be done in the case of the large towns. Were they to say to poor parents—"Unless you pay the money you cannot afford to pay, and unless you send your children to schools to which you cannot afford to send them, you shall be subject to fine or imprisonment?" For his own part, he was not prepared to be a party to the fining or imprisoning of poor people who could not afford to pay for their children's education. If the authority of the law were brought in, they were bound to make provision in that law that a person who was not in a position to pay should not suffer punishment for his poverty, but some means must be provided by which he should be enabled to fulfil the requirements of the 531 law and have his children educated. He (Mr. Rylands) should have been glad if there were no such religious difficulty, and he felt it would have been a great blessing if the religious difficulty had been removed. What position were they now in? Parliament gave pauper children the opportunity of going to the school their parents preferred, and the same opportunity was given to people who were well off; but what was to be done in respect of those persons in that class which was just above pauperism—who were struggling against pauperism? Simply, because they were poor were they to be denied that which was given to paupers and to those who were much better off? Was it to be said to them—"We insist that you shall either send your children to school and pay their school fees out of your miserable resources," or else compel them to send their children to schools which the parents in their own consciences thought they ought not to be sent to? He had always felt as a magistrate that if he had to exercise the compulsory requirements of the Education law—if a parent were willing to send his child to a school of a particular denomination, and it was not open for him to do so—and if he knew that the parent was unable from his poverty to pay, he must say as a magistrate that under those circumstances he would not send a man to prison. He considered that Boards of Guardians were far better judges of who were paupers than a school board could be. It was most unwise in his opinion that school boards should under the 25th clause have that control of the rates. It had a tendency to promote an undue partiality for some particular schools, and there was a temptation to give relief to parents who were not the proper recipients of that relief. Everyone was perfectly well aware that a person would not go to the Board of Guardians unless from sheer necessity, and if he did go an officer would be appointed to investigate the circumstances of the applicant for relief; and he could trust the Board of Guardians so to investigate every application that came before them under this clause, that it would prevent any abuse. When means were provided for giving food to those who were starving, some means should also be found to supply intellectual food. He would not be a party to the 532 mockery of saying to people who were quite unable to pay—we insist on you sending your children to school, and yet take no means of providing the fees they could not pay. He recognized in the Amendment no case of concurrent endowment; to that he had strong objection, as indeed he had to all religious endowment. The religious difficulty was the greatest to contend with in the matter of education, but if the leading endowment of religion by the State, in the form of a Church Establishment, were removed, the difficulties in the way of education would be reduced to a minimum. He regretted that he could not go with some of his Friends, but he was only taking the line he had followed throughout these discussions. The Amendment had been suggested by way of a compromise, and he did not feel called upon to refuse it.
§ MR. MELLOR
begged to compliment the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) on the change which had come over his sentiments after last night's rest. The hon. Member had gone into the Lobby three times against the proposal submitted yesterday, but he now saw his way to accept it in another form. They on that (the Ministerial) side vindicated last night by their votes the position which hon. Gentlemen opposite now took up, and they expressed their determination to remain to an hour however late, if necessary, to do so. Various attempts at compromise had been made on the previous night, but they had all been frustrated by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Now, however, for political purposes, and in order to retain that position which some of them thought they possessed, they turned round and took the popular view, and began to plead for the pauper and the poor.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
considered that the House were about to pass a clause for the benefit of the Roman Catholic poor of large towns. The clause would make the fees to Roman Catholic schools compulsory, and the effect of that would be that the Educational Votes of this country, like the Educational Fund in Ireland, would become largely contributory to monastic and conventual schools. ["Oh, oh!"] They all knew that the influence of the priests over Roman Catholics was such that many of those parents would make themselves poor for the nonce, in order to obtain 533 the favour of their spiritual directors. ["Oh, oh! and No!"] What the House was now doing was giving a forced subsidy to those Roman Catholic schools respecting which an Inspector had lately reported that—he lamented to state that the Roman Catholic schools are now mainly under the tuition and direction of monks and nuns.The proposal, in fact, was neither more nor less than concurrent endowment in a very objectionable form. To his thinking, if the State insisted on compulsion, it ought also to provide the schools. That course had been adopted in Germany and the United States, and it was a consistent course. They were, by what they were doing, launching themselves on a course the results of which he was confident they could not see, and from which hereafter they would find it very difficult to withdraw.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, the real question was whether school boards or Boards of Guardians were the most likely to administer the local rates with the greatest economy. That point was discussed in connection with the Scotch Act, and the House had unanimously agreed to give the power now sought to the Boards of Guardians, or, in other words, to the parochial boards in Scotland.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he would vote against the Amendment. As the matter now stood, where there were school boards they had a discretion as to the payment of fees. Where there was no school board, the Board of Guardians were to pay fees; but they had no discretion in the matter except as to whether the parent of the child was able to pay or not. The school board was the higher educational authority, and they had, therefore, a wider discretion in judging in the matter. He was not in favour of withdrawing the discretion now possessed by the higher authority in order to confer a more limited discretion on the inferior authority, the Board of Guardians. He objected to alter a system which had hitherto worked well unless for the most valid reasons. The alteration now proposed had been sprung upon them suddenly, and he was not prepared to vote for it at a moment's notice.
§ MR. A. MILLS
pointed out that it was not a question as to a higher or lower authority. Indeed, it was not an 534 educational matter at all. It was a mere question as to the degree of poverty and the ability of the parent to pay school fees, of which the Board of Guardians must be better judges than the school board.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
remarked that although Guardians might be better judges of the poverty of parents, on the other hand, he submitted that school boards would be the best judges as to the merits of the schools, and their respective worthiness to receive the fees, for they could take those things into their consideration, and that the Guardians had no power to do. It was now proposed that the latter, even in school districts, should, at the option of the parent, pay fees to any school, irrespective altogether of its character, and that was a matter which required to be looked after.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the question of whether the money raised from the rates for the purpose of education should be applied to board schools only, or to such schools as the parents approved, was neither with the school boards nor the Boards of Guardians, but with the High Court of Parliament. It was a question of high policy, which ought to be determined on general grounds by Parliament, and not left to be settled by every school board according to the views of particular localities. Accordingly, if the House were going, as he hoped they were, after passing this Amendment, to accept the proposition to repeal the 25th clause of the Act of 1870, they would be relieving the school boards of what he thought was an embarrassing task imposed upon them, and transferring once for all to Parliament the duty of deciding the general principle on which relief should be given. That being done, the House might safely leave the settlement of individual cases to the Boards of Guardians, who had the best means of forming a judgment upon them.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
agreed that the proposal involved a principle which Parliament ought to settle, and that it was an improvement on the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Westmeath (Lord Robert Montagu). Supposing it to be carried, then, as a logical consequence, it would be desirable that the 25th clause of the Act of 1870 should be repealed. At the same time he should 535 consider it his duty to vote against the Amendment for several reasons. It was said the Amendment would establish a uniform system for the whole country. The Guardians in Scotland did pay the fees; but the power in the Scotch Bill was very carefully guarded, whereas in this Bill the parent was told he could apply for parochial relief for the education of his child, and yet not be pauperized or degraded by failing to perform his duty to his child. On a former occasion the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) had wisely said—"There must be no free education except for those who are in receipt of pauper relief." Surely, if a person was not a pauper, he could find a 1d. or 2d. per week to educate his child. But if he was on such a margin of destitution that he could not do so, then the different religious Bodies who wished his children to be educated would readily find the money for him. This clause, however, would make the giving of this relief compulsory, and very largely extend the principle. He objected to it on the ground that it took the House by surprise. Such an important alteration ought to be most carefully considered by the House. At the very end of the Session, when the country had no expectation of such a proposal, the Government introduced this large change, which he believed would have a most demoralizing and pauperizing influence upon the people in our large towns. Under these circumstances, as on a previous occasion, the hon. Member for Westminster opposed the abolition of the 25th clause at the end of a Session, so he was of opinion that they ought not to decide this question without giving the country time to consider it.
§ MR. HAYTER
said, he would explain the operation of the present law in a London parish as it had been told him by a Poor Law Guardian. The fees were paid by the relieving officer direct to the school managers, and the names of recipients printed on a list corresponding with the lists of other recipients of relief. If the Amendment of the noble Lord were accepted, this plan would be acted upon throughout the country; and it would pauperize the people thus to bring them into contact with Boards of Guardians for school fees. That was a dangerous principle, and he decidedly objected to it.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
opposed the Amendment, urging that it continued the policy of hostility to school boards which the Government had already evinced, and that what they were asked to do by the clause was to pay money for parents who selected schools where their children would receive the religious education which they wished them to be instructed in. The clause would have the effect of encouraging Ultramontane doctrines—doctrines subversive of the principles upon which the House rested. He was an advocate of religious freedom, and as such he maintained that the Amendment was consistent with all that the Government had done in aid of denominationalism as against free education, but he hoped the time was not far off when the House would be able to reverse their policy.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, the Roman Catholic Members had a perfect right to their own views on education, but he and his Friends had an equal right to theirs. There was, in fact, an inseparable gulf between them, and whatever threats might be thrown out, and whatever the consequences of the next Election might be, he and those who thought with him would be firm, stanch, and consistent in the principles they advocated. The Government, in their new zeal for centralization, were about to impose this duty upon the Guardians without ascertaining whether they thought it desirable, or giving the Guardians the discretion which had been allowed to school boards. He thought their opinion might at least have been consulted before the Amendment was brought forward. The effect of the clause would be to pauperize the country. He had always objected to the 25th clause of the Education Act on social and economical, far more than religious grounds, and he maintained that it was idle to say that a person who could not afford 2d. or 3d. a-week to educate his child was not a pauper, especially as in the Bill they had declared that it was the duty of parents to educate their children as much as to feed and clothe them. If a man, in consequence of illness or injury from an accident, was unable to work for a few weeks, and obtained medical relief, he was instantaneously declared to be a pauper, and debarred from exercising his rights of citizenship for one year. But by the Bill it was proposed to allow a man to 537 obtain relief for the education of his child, and it was provided that he should not thereby become a pauper. Parliament ought at least to be consistent, and to adopt the same principle in both cases; and the reason why they did not he could only conclude was, that there was some unavowed motive at the back of it. Hon. Gentleman opposite, owing to the course they had taken, had acquired fresh allies in the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Callan) and his Friends; but if the hon. Member desired to ascertain whether his enthusiastic feeling of rejoicing at the new alliance were reciprocated, let him next Session move a Resolution to the effect that the denominational system of education which worked so well in England should be extended to Ireland. In that event, he believed the hon. Member would find out that those to whom he had allied himself, while they were in favour of denominationalism in England, would say that in Ireland that system would mean the promotion of Ultramontanism, and that they would tell him that even at the cost of losing the valuable support of the Member for Dundalk they would do as they had done since the establishment of the system of the late Lord Derby—give their support to the precious principle of undenominational education in Ireland. He regretted that the Amendment of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council was not before the House in print, in order that they might consider what Amendments ought to be introduced into it. Of course, the Government, with the aid of their new Irish allies, would overpower the Opposition and carry their Amendment, and they would not be met by any factious opposition. [Ironical Cheers.] He was glad to hear that ironical cheer, but he would remind the House that although he had moved the Adjournment of the House last night it was now acknowledged on all sides, even by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), that the course he had adopted had led to the best results. At least, it had enabled the Government to place before the House what one of their leading Friends considered to be a better proposal. If it were adopted it would still be open to him(Mr. Fawcett) to raise the question whether the power should be optional or compulsory, and, accordingly, he begged to give Notice 538 that at the proper time he would move the omission from the Amendment of the words, "it shall be the duty of the Guardians," in order to substitute the word" may" for "shall," so as to leave Boards of Guardians in the same position that school boards now occupied.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, that as the House was desirous to go to a division, he would intrude briefly upon their time. For himself, he did not care whence the settlement of that difficult question originated if it only proved satisfactory; and as the hon. Member for Hackney claimed the credit of the satisfactory settlement which he hoped was about to be arrived at, he was quite willing that the hon. Gentleman should have all the credit that was due to him in the matter. The hon. Member also said that it was a strong measure to put this duty upon the Guardians without consulting them. But they had reason to know that the bulk of the Guardians would not object to the duty in question. The 14th clause already applied to about half the Boards of Guardians in the country, and not one word of remonstrance had been received from any one of them, and he thought they would be glad to have the means of putting a check on unnecessary local expenditure. Again, it had been urged by hon. Gentlemen opposite that the proposed change would demoralize and pauperize the people. But the system had been in operation since 1872 in Scotland, and its operation had been found to be satisfactory. How could it be urged, then, that that which was good for Scotland could be demoralizing and pauperizing in England? Contributions had been made from various quarters to the solution of the question, which had been thoroughly discussed with great advantage, and he trusted the House would feel that they were now in a position to come to a decision on the subject.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, that he had so recently come into the House that he felt reluctant to trespass on its time, being of opinion he should best show his respect for the Assembly he was so proud to enter by refraining from addressing it while inexperienced in its Forms and Practice. But the question under consideration was one in which he was so deeply interested, and one in which he had taken so considerable a part personally, that it seemed to him it would 539 be hardly honest if he were to remain silent and refrain from stating to the House the opinions which he had formed upon the subject. The noble Lord who had just sat down (Viscount Sandon) said that they were, he hoped, about to arrive at a satisfactory settlement of the question. He (Mr. Chamberlain) feared that the House could not be congratulated upon any such result. As far as his practical experience went, the grievance the noble Lord proposed to remedy had been considerably exaggerated, while the effect of the new agitation to be created by the Amendment which was now proposed had been altogether underestimated. Allusion in the course of the debates upon the Bill had frequently been made to the School Board of Birmingham, to which he hoped hon. Members would at least give credit for honesty of purpose and real educational zeal. The facts in connection with that board had been partially stated by the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd). The House was aware that at first the majority of the Birmingham School Board had been elected by a minority of the ratepayers by virtue of the cumulative vote, and that majority endeavoured to enforce compulsion before any board schools existed, and, consequently, before there was any choice of schools. Under the circumstances it became necessary to provide for the payment of the fees of the children of poor parents attending denominational schools, but the feeling created against that course was so strong, hundreds of people declaring that they would rather be distrained upon than pay the "new Church rate," that even the denominationalist majority of the board were unwilling to enforce it, and provision was therefore made for payment of fees in these cases by voluntary subscriptions. It was worthy of remark that the tendency of adopting the principle of paying school fees was to increase them in amount and number. It was found that, when poor parents heard of their neighbours having obtained gratuitous payment of school fees, they made application for similar advantages. When a new election of the school board took place the majority was reversed, and having pushed forward the erection of board schools they carefully considered the question, and decided in all cases to remit the payment of 540 school fees for poor children in board schools, and in no case to pay the fees of children attending voluntary schools. Since that was decided upon no single complaint of hardship had been made. His experience had led him to the conclusion that the religious difficulty was not a parent's difficulty, and that, in fact, very little would be heard of it if the priests and parsons would stand aside. But whether the difficulty arose from the parents or not, they were told that a real grievance arose from parents being compelled to accept education for their children in schools where no religious instruction was provided. The Birmingham School Board had adopted the principle of complete separation of religious and secular education—which was a very different thing from adopting a system of purely secular education. Mr. Cobden once said there were only two ways in which a national system of education could be enforced with any pretence of fairness. One was to have a religious education, and pay for the religions of all alike, and the other to adopt a secular system. Hon. Members opposite seemed inclined to adopt the former alternative, but Roman Catholics would not be content with the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire's proposal that the Protestant Bible should be read and taught in all schools. For Roman Catholics religious instruction must be given by the priest, or some one authorized by the priesthood; and special provision must also be made for other sects. They had therefore to distinguish in this matter of the rights of conscience. They had to ask themselves, while admitting that they had no right to enforce upon any man religious teaching which he disapproved, whether they were prepared to provide for him the religious teaching which he wanted. He did not think it was infringing the legitimate rights of conscience to decline such an extortionate demand as that. We made members of the Society of Friends pay war taxes, and held the Peculiar People responsible for the death of relatives to whom they had given no medical assistance. These were cases in which the State held it right to put aside the so-called rights of conscience, and they had a similar right to resist the demands of Roman Catholics and other sects that their religion should be paid for at 541 the expense of those who did not believe in it. The Birmingham School Board, in adopting a complete separation of the two systems were far from being hostile to religious education. The hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Callan) seemed to have arrived at the conclusion that a secular school was of necessity an infidel school—an opinion which had not always been held by members of the Catholic Church, for he found that at that moment the Roman Catholic ecclesiastics in the United States were contending that the schools ought to be made secular, because they considered it an injustice to them that the Protestant Bible should be taught at their expense. The Birmingham Board were only endeavouring to carry out in practice the principles which were laid down for the settlement of the Irish education difficulty; and 10 years ago the Primate of Ireland and half of his Bishops signed a Memorial in favour of secular as against denominational religious teaching in that country. It was said that the Bill was the logical outcome of the Act of 1870. He was not prepared to contest that. The scheme of separate religious instruction was also an outcome of that Act. It was laid down then that there should be a separation of the time between secular and religious education, and at Birmingham they had only carried the thing a step further than that Act by separating the teacher and the cost. The Birmingham plan had the support of the majority of the religious people in Birmingham. It was believed that by throwing religious instruction on voluntary effort they would secure much more satisfactory results. He deprecated the statements of those who said that this plan was to the eternal disgrace of Birmingham, and denied the right of any one to put forward such a charge. There was more religious instruction given to the children of Birmingham, and it was more complete, efficient, satisfactory, and universal, than at any previous period. There were in the Nonconformist Sunday schools above 36,000 children, being almost equal to the whole number in attendance at public elementary schools; and if the Church and other schools were taken into account, it might fairly be estimated that 30 or 40 per cent more children were in receipt of separate religious education than were required to be pro- 542 vided for in public elementary schools. A great deal had been said about the right of a parent to have the choice of schools. Let hon. Gentlemen opposite carry that principle to its logical conclusion and apply it to the rural districts, instead of leaving 10,000 or 12,000 country parishes with only Church schools. The right of conscience, he thought, was becoming a geographical expression. In the towns it meant the right of every one to get his religion taught at the expense of every one else, while in the country it was the right of the Church to drive the children into her schools and enforce the payment of a rate more obnoxious than the old church rate, because it was levied not merely for the maintenance of the fabric of the Church, but for the teaching of her principles and doctrines. He looked with alarm at the probable effect of the proposed Amendment. It would throw into the election of Boards of Guardians all the discord and confusion that frequently attended school board elections, and would not tend to bring about the perfection of religious instruction that was desired. As a general rule Boards of Guardians refused to appoint Roman Catholic chaplains in workhouses, and he thought it probable that they would use every legal means to avoid contributing towards the cost of educating Catholic children in the Catholic faith. In conclusion, he felt bound to say that the Amendment raised a most important principle—a principle which had agitated this country in past times, and which would agitate it again. He deeply regretted it should have been brought forward at the eleventh hour, and he considered it would justify even a factious opposition on the part of hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House. The clause would lead to future opposition, which, he believed, would be detrimental to the cause of education. He thanked the House for having listened to him so attentively.
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
said, that there was one point in the able and temperate speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) which was open to misconstruction. When he said the object of the Amendment was to get districts to pay for the religion of everybody else, he forgot that in Ireland the principal portion of the population was Catholic, and that that country con- 543 tributed £3,000,000 to the Revenue in excess of what was spent in Ireland.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
opposed the Amendment. He was no party to any compromise upon the question, and he adhered to his opinion that the proposed Amendment would be a monstrous interpolation in the Bill at that late period. They were told that they should give up their opposition because a compromise had been brought about by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster);but it was really no compromise at all. He saw no practical difference between that which was refused last night, because it was a complete reversal of the settlement of 1870. He contended that their action last night was not factious. They were bound to resist, by every Form of the House, proposals that went to the very root of the existing system of treating board schools and voluntary schools. That system was accepted with the utmost professions of gratitude from hon. Gentlemen opposite to the right hon. Member for Bradford and the then Prime Minister (Mr. Gladstone) for their concession on the point. The 25th clause gave an option to the school boards to pay for poor children; and now it was proposed to substitute for them a more objectionable body, and to destroy the option which had hitherto existed. He could not approve the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford. He would treat with respect everything that came from that right hon. Gentleman except upon this matter. The present proposal had the same vices as that of last night; and the object of the Members opposite in supporting it probably was a desire to protect voluntary schools against board schools. The different religious communities could provide for the school fees of the children which belonged to them, and there would be really no difficulty in the matter. In that respect he fully coincided with what had been said by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), whose ability he thought, had been so fully shown in a speech which must have been listened to with attention and pleasure by all who heard it. In conclusion, he would warn those who thought that by the clause they had bound down Boards of Guardians hand and foot to pay these fees. They might find themselves mis- 544 taken, because the Guardians might take it into their heads to inquire whether the parents were really unable to pay, and that fact made it even more unwise to raise this great stumbling-block again. He felt he was perfectly justified in making one more appeal to the House to vote against the course proposed by the Government.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
explained that it was not he who had offered the compromise, and for his part he thought that it was a most unfortunate thing that the question should have been mooted at all. No ingenuity could have suggested anything more likely to prevent their coming to a speedy and amicable conclusion of these debates. He was sorry, therefore, the question had been mooted; but, once made, he found it impossible, with any degree of consistency with his previous action, not to admit that the proposition as now brought forward by the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon) was a just one. He thought that the change thus produced in the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Westmeath (Lord Robert Montagu) entirely justified the action of the Opposition last night. It had given the Government time to think over the matter, and he thought upon the whole that the proposition of the noble Lord was such as in consistency he could not vote against. At the same time, it must be understood he was only speaking his own view, and not for anybody else. It gave him great pain not to vote with his Friends; but his opinion had been formed with great care, and he could not act otherwise. Without going into the whole question, he would say a few words as to what would be the practical effect of the change in reference to the payment of fees by substituting Guardians for school boards. He believed that the effect would be to enormously diminish the amount of fees to be paid, and the Guardians would be better qualified than the school boards to judge of the question of poverty. Hitherto, except in two or three towns, the question had been theoretical rather than practical; but he had not the least doubt that in Manchester and Salford, at any rate, the number of parents who would be relieved by Boards of Guardians would show a diminution of from 50 to 75 per cent. Another practical 545 advantage would be that school boards would be relieved from any discussion in the matter, and after a short time the Boards of Guardians would take it as a mere matter of business. In conclusion, he begged to join in congratulating the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) on the remarkable ability with which he had realized the expectations entertained by many hon. Members of that House.
§ MR. STEVENSON
declared that he was returned at the General Election to oppose the 25th clause; but he could not have anticipated that he should have to give the opposition to an attempt by the Government to amplify the operation of that clause. It was contrary to sound principle that money derived from local rates should be given to schools not under local management. He did not object to the Amendment on account of the money that would have to be paid. He believed it would be less than was paid at present. But it was because it raised a principle of the greatest importance that he felt bound to vote against the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 77; Noes 175: Majority 98.
§ MR. FAWCETT,
in pursuance of the Notice he had already given, moved to amend the clause in relation to the payment of the fee by the Guardians by omitting the words, "it shall be the duty of," in order to insert words providing that the Guardians might pay it if they thought fit. He desired to make one more effort to minimize the evil of the course taken by the Government by making this proposal not compulsory, but permissive. He called upon the Government to give some cogent reason for a sudden change of policy. When the Bill for repealing the 25th clause of the Act of 1870 was brought forward on that—the Liberal—side of the House, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, then in Opposition and now in office, resisted the proposal, on the ground that the clause had worked admirably, and its permissive power had never been abused. He should, therefore, like to know why they now thought the power should be made compulsory. If his Amendment 546 were carried, those districts which had no school boards would be left exactly in the same position as those which had school boards.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 14, to leave out the words "it shall be the duty of."—(Mr. Fawcett.)
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, that one of the strongest arguments in favour of the proposal which was now made by the Government was the importance and convenience of having one uniform system throughout the country. As far as could be ascertained by the testimony of hon. Members from Scotland, the plan of making it necessary to prove poverty to the satisfaction of the Parochial Board, so that they might provide the fees for poor children, had worked admirably well, and it would be unwise not to take note of that success. By the change proposed the payments would be very much reduced, and the Government were most anxious to minimize them. It was a thing most undesirable in itself that the public money should be applied in these payments; but to pay the fees out of public funds in cases of extreme necessity was a necessary corollary of any plan of compulsory education, and the only question was whether the power should be allowed to school boards, or confined to Boards of Guardians. If the Government proposal were carried as it stood it would remove those dissensions which constantly arose as to whether they should pay or not fees in schools not belonging to them, which had not seldom been injurious to the working of the school boards. Parliament would now, once for all, he hoped, take the responsibility itself of settling the matter, so as to remove this fertile source of dissension from school boards. There was no religious question involved, but only the question of poverty, and the Government hoped that this change would diminish the pressure of local expense. He thought the House must feel that the Government could not consent to make it permissive to the Boards of Guardians to pay fees in cases where it was proved the parents could not pay them, as they would thus introduce into the Boards of Guardians the system already at work in the school boards with its concomitant train of dissensions, the very evil so much complained of in the school boards.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he had examined the Amendment with the hope that he could agree to it, but he had been unable to do so. He did not see why the obligation should be permissive in the one country and obligatory in the other.
§ MR. BRISTOWE
supported the Amendment. If the powers given by the clause were transferred to the Boards of Guardians, due regard ought to be paid to the interests of those who were unable to pay the rates.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 176; Noes 72: Majority 104.
§ MR. BRISTOWE
proposed the insertion of words to provide that the payment of school fees by Boards of Guardians should be subject to regulations approved from time to time by the Education Department.
In page 6, line 15, after the word "inability," to insert the words "subject to such regulations as they may make from time to time with the approval of the Education Department."—(Mr. Bristowe.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, he could not accept the proposal, as he was most anxious that the granting of relief in the form of school fees should be entirely in the hands of the local authorities, who were most competent to judge in these matters, and should have the full responsibility of their actions.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. RAMSAY
proposed in page 6, line 18, to leave out the words—The parent shall not by reason of any such payment made under this section he deprived of any franchise, right, or privilege, or be subject to any disability or disqualification,and said that the omission of those words would assimilate the provisions of the Bill in this respect to the law as it existed in Scotland. It had never been determined that the payment of school fees for a child would impose disability 548 of any kind on the parent. He did not believe it would, and the words he proposed to omit were therefore unnecessary.
In page 6, line 18, to leave out the words "The parent shall not by reason of any such payment made under this section be deprived of any franchise, right, or privilege, or be subject to any disability or disqualification."—(Mr. Ramsay.)
§ MR. E. JENKINS
supported the Amendment. Unless the words were struck out, the people of Scotland would be subject to disabilities under which the people of England did not labour. It would be a gross injustice if they did not in this respect treat the Englishman in the same way as they treated the Scotchman, and reduce him to the condition of a pauper.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
reminded the House that the Act of 1870 did not disfranchise the parent unless where he was in receipt of parochial relief.
§ MR. CHARLEY
opposed the Amendment on the ground that it would be unfair to drive members of the independent working class down to the condition of paupers, simply because they had been compelled by misfortune to seek temporary assistance for the education of their children.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, that if the working classes were to be deprived not only of the earnings of their children but also of their civil rights, they would curse the day on which the Education Bill was passed.
§ MR. RODWELL
observed that the omission of the words then would be a strange inconsistency in the clause as amended by the right hon. Member for Bradford.
§ MR. LOWE
supported the Amendment, on the ground that not to pass it would create an invidious distinction between the laws of Scotland and England. Then there was another important point. It was extremely desirable that we should have our law uniform, and our law went on the strict rule of 549 discouraging pauperism. But if we said to the poor man—"Though you do nothing for your children we will relieve you from all quasi-penal consequences," the result would be to encourage men to do as little as possible for their children.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
entered his protest against the notion that everything that was good for Scotland would be good for England. He attached very little importance to a uniformity which was something like the uniformity sought by the fox which had lost its tail.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, it should be remembered that we were only following in this respect the provisions of the Act of 1870, and his hon. Friends on both sides would recollect the point was very much discussed, at the time of passing that Act, and that there was great difference of opinion on the subject. Though a great deal might be said in favour of the omission of these words, still disfranchisement was a serious thing. When we were introducing compulsion it would be a very serious matter to introduce also the principle of disfranchisement, and he was of opinion that, notwithstanding what was asserted as to the example of Scotland, though he was very doubtful whether, as a matter of fact, disfranchisement did follow in Scotland the payment of fees by the parochial authorities, they had better leave things in this respect as they were at present.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that temporary assistance, whether in the shape of remission or otherwise, ought not to be a matter of disqualification.
§ MR. FAWCETT
wished it to be known that the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council, after persuading the House to accept his Amendment on the understanding that he was about to establish a uniform system for the whole country, had now turned round and refused to adopt those safeguards which in Scotland prevented abuse of the power to remit fees.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."550
§ The House divided:—Ayes 159; Noes 42: Majority 117.
§ And it being after ten minutes before Seven of the clock, further proceeding on Consideration of the Bill was adjourned till this day.
MR. J. COWEN
appealed to the Government for merciful consideration, as they had now got education on the brain. Instead of going on with the Bill that evening, it would be better to meet on Saturday.
§ MR. SPEAKER
pointed out that, according to the Rules of the House, the debate must stand adjourned until the evening.
§ In reply to Mr. GOSCHEN,
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it was intended to take the third reading of the Bill to-morrow, and then Supply, with the Votes for Mr. Cave's Mission to Egypt.
§ And it being now Seven of the clock, the House suspended its Sitting.
§ The House resumed its sitting at Nine of the clock.