§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
moved the following new clause (Amendment of 33 and 34 Vic. c. 75, s. 97, as to conditions of annual Parliamentary Grant)—So much of section ninety-seven of the Elementary Education Act, 1870, as enacts that the conditions required to be fulfilled by an elementary school in order to obtain the annual Parliamentary Grant shall provide that the Grant shall not for any year exceed the income of the school for that year which was derived from voluntary contributions and from school foes, and from any sources other than the Par- 1641 liamentary Grant, shall be repealed as from the thirty-first day of March, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven. After the thirty-first day of March, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven, the conditions required to be fulfilled by an elementary school in order to obtain the annual Parliamentary Grant shall provide that, (1.) Such Grant shall not in any year be reduced by reason of its excess above the income of the school if the Grant do not exceed the amount of seventeen shillings and sixpence per child in average attendance at the school during that year, but shall not exceed that amount per child, except by the same sum by which the income of the school, derived from voluntary contributions, rates, school fees, endowments, and any source whatever other than the Parliamentary Grant exceeds the said amount per child; and (2.) Where the population of the school district in which the school is situate, or the population within two miles, measured according to the nearest road, from the school is less than three hundred, and there is no other public elementary school recognized by the Education Department as available for the children of that district, or that population (as the case may be), a special Parliamentary Grant may be made annually to that school to the amount, if the said population exceeds two hundred, of ten pounds, and, if it does not exceed two hundred, of fifteen pounds; and (3.) The said special Grant shall be in addition to the ordinary annual Parliamentary Grant, and shall not be included in the calculation of that Grant for the purpose of determining whether it does or not exceed the amount before in this section mentioned.
§ New Clause brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that while the immediate boon to the schools of this new clause would be very slight, the effect would be dangerous both in its economical and educational aspect. Nothing could exceed the liberality of the House of Commons with regard to educational grants. In 1870, £500,000 was the amount moved for the annual grant; that was now increased by the noble Lord to £1,500,000. While the House would not grudge the money to be granted for such a purpose, he thought they should not give up any check they had upon that expenditure without good reason. That check was at present found in the locality being called upon to give as much as was supplied by the State, and the result was that local management was combined with central control. If, however, the contribution were unequally divided, and if the locality gave much less than the State, the danger was lest the local 1642 management should become so careless that Parliament might be compelled to interfere. The end might be that the State would be eventually inclined to do without local management, and our schools would then pass under a central or bureaucratic control. The present system furnished a strong stimulus to subscribe, and the more money was raised the higher was the capacity of the teachers obtained, and consequently a better education even in elementary subjects was given to the children in their schools. He was willing to admit that there was, to a small extent, a balance of disadvantage, in so far as it was an unpleasant thing to earn money, and then to have a deduction made from it. The Church schools were by far the largest in number, and he found that their total income ending August, 1875, was £1,867,000, which was made up as follows:—Parliamentary grant, £679,000; school-pence, £570,000; endowments and sundry other sources, £101,000; subscriptions, £517,000. Supposing that the stimulus to keep up the subscriptions disappeard, what must they expect to happen? There was nothing unreasonable in supposing that the fees would reach 4d., which upon the average attendance of last year of 1,185,000 children, would give £790,000, being an increase of £220,000. The noble Lord took the possible grant at 17s. 6d. a child. If it reached that average the grants would increase by £358,000, and the result would be that no subscriptions at all would be necessary, and there would be £60,000 profit without them. He did not believe that the grant would reach 17s. 6d., though it would probably reach considerably beyond what it was at present. The chief effect of the clause would be upon the larger schools. He would take a school of 300 children. It was by no means unreasonable to expect that each child would get an average grant of 15s., thus realizing £225. Then, supposing that school not to get a larger fee than 3d., its total income would be £375. He had no hesitation in saying that a good school of 300 children could be liberally managed for £375, and consequently no subscriptions would be necessary for that school. Hon. Members might say, why should there be subscriptions? Simply because if they kept up subscriptions additional money would be raised, and the school would be a better school 1643 than it would be without them. What the Committee had to consider was, whether they ought to entrust the management of these schools to persons who really gave nothing but their time. Moreover, if one of these schools took advantage of all the extra subjects and tried to give a thoroughly first-rate education it would do so with a tremendous fine upon it. He thought that if no subscriptions were demanded there would be less educational interest and zeal displayed by managers, and that a great number of schools would become very little better than private adventure schools. This plan of the noble Lord if it fully succeeded and became extended throughout the country would, he believed, very much increase the religious difficulty. If it turned out that very large sums were given every year to denominational schools without any considerable amount of denominational subscriptions, persons who did not belong to the denomination would very much doubt whether that was the mode in which public elementary schools ought to be maintained. The sum represented by the deductions was small, amounting to less than £30,000 a-year, but to abolish them would be to establish a principle which, in the end, would, he believed, do much harm even to denominational schools. The noble Lord's proposition really meant that any diminution of voluntary zeal should be supplied by a State grant. Now, the Government in 1870 never supposed it to be the duty of Parliament to supplement by a State grant any want of voluntary zeal. It was in the nature of things that the existence of rate-supported schools should be a great blow to voluntary schools, because a man might fairly say—"By my subscription to voluntary schools I am really saving the pockets of my fellow-ratepayers who are as rich as I am, and who ought to pay their share." But if the result were less voluntary zeal, it was no part of the business of the State to supply the deficiency. He regretted, therefore, that a clause should be proposed which was not only not just, but which would, as he believed, be useless. The Bill with the Amendments courteously accepted by the noble Lord was a considerable progress in education, as well as a considerable boon to the voluntary schools; because the system of indirect and of direct compulsion now introduced by Clause 7 would be very 1644 nearly as strong a measure of compulsion as was contained in the bye-laws of any Board, and thus the Bill would do much to send children into the voluntary schools and to increase the school fees and grant. He wished the noble Lord had contented himself with giving this boon, a boon fairly earned, to the voluntary schools, and had not proposed a clause which could only be adopted at the expense of a very important principle.
§ MR. HEYGATE,
on the contrary, thanked the noble Lord for proposing a clause which would remove obnoxious and unreasonable deductions which had an irritating and depressing effect upon the mind of school managers far beyond their pecuniary value. The right hon. Gentleman argued that, if the clause passed, subscriptions might fall off and voluntary zeal would languish. But those persons who were best acquainted with the working of the Education Grant informed him that the result of abolishing these deductions, which only amounted to some £26,000, would be exactly the contrary of that suggested, and that subscriptions were more likely to be elicited than checked thereby. It was suggested that if the deductions were abolished, voluntary schools might live without any subscriptions, and would thus cease to be voluntary. But how could that be? In 1874 over £600,000 was contributed by voluntary subscribers, and how then could the additional £26,000 enable them to dispense with the £600,000. Then, again, as much as £14,000,000 had been spent, indeed, upon Church schools, but the hon. Member who had stated that fact omitted to mention that that sum represented only the cost of building them. That large sum represented an amount of voluntary effort, which had done an immense deal of good, and saved large sums of money to the ratepayers, and that should be favourably remembered now. The Report of the School Management Committee of the London School Board, presented on the 31st of May this year, estimated the average cost of each child at £2 15s. 2d. But in the voluntary schools the average cost was £1 17s. 1d. This 18s. difference was due to voluntary services in the voluntary schools, and was as good as so much money in annual subscriptions, so that, even without taking subscriptions into account, they were still entitled to be considered as voluntary institutions. 1645 Payments by results with drawbacks was simply taking back by the State with one hand what it gave with the other, and that was a sort of thimble-rigging which people did not understand. Another objection to the system of deduction was that it fell heaviest on those districts which were least able to bear it. Schools in rich districts like Belgravia never lost a portion of the grant by these deductions, it was in poor places like Rotherhithe that the loss was felt. He entirely disapproved of the arguments used against the Bill, and gave the clause his most hearty support.
§ MR. W. HOLMS
said, the clause proposed to give grants from the Imperial Exchequer entirely irrespective of the amount of the contributions of individuals or of the fees paid. Two months ago, when introducing the Bill, the noble Lord said it was not the intention of the Government to reverse the policy of1870, but the fact was that the clause in one respect—namely, with regard to the payment for elementary education—would very materially subvert the policy of that Act. The policy of the Act of 1870 was to spare the public money when it could be done without, to procure as much as possible from the parent, and to stimulate the generosity of those benevolent men who desired to assist their neighbours. Every one who read the Reports of the Council on Education would agree that that policy had been most successfully carried out. In 1871 the amount of voluntary contributions to the schools was £418,000, in 1874 it rose to £602,000, and in the first-named year the Government grants were £575,000, and in 1874 £1,050,000. The school fees also rose, showing that the parents were willing to respond to the action of Parliament. If the present clause were adopted, instead of stimulating private contributions the effect would be to diminish them, and in the course of a few years they would entirely cease. He then pointed out that if the latter part of the proposed clause, which gave a special grant of £15 per annum to a district where there were less than 200 inhabitants, in addition to the annual Parliamentary grant which might amount to 17s. 6d., a total amount of 30s. might actually be paid for each child attending school in such a district.
§ MR. RITCHIE
denied that there was any truth in the view taken by the hon. 1646 Member opposite (Mr. W. Holms), that this clause amounted to a reversal of the policy of 1870. On the contrary, he maintained that this clause was drawn precisely on the lines of that measure. He denied, too, the opinion expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) that it would increase the expenses of management, and lead to useless expenditure. On the contrary, some of the existing deductions were a distinct premium on extravagance. The grant earned was reduced if the sum spent on maintenance was not double the amount of the grant earned, and this led in many cases to money being expended really unnecessarily in order to obtain the amount of the grant without deduction. This I call a premium on extravagance. There was nothing in the principle of payment by results that was objectionable; and he maintained it as an indisputable fact that the squeezing out of voluntary schools, which was going on in many parts of the country, would lead to a considerably increased expenditure, and that the ratepayers had, from a merely pecuniary point of view, a large interest in their maintenance. At present about 8s. per year per child was paid by the friends of voluntary schools, and that amount would be withdrawn from educational means, and the ratepayers be charged with a great additional burden if these voluntary schools should be closed. As an addition to the sum subscribed voluntarily which would fall on the rates if denominational schools were transferred to boards, the cost of education in board schools, while not more efficient than in the denominational schools, was much more costly. This extra cost would also have to be borne by the ratepayers. Any clause like the present, which tended to encourage local voluntary effort, ought surely to receive the support of Parliament. With regard to what was called the religious difficulty, he could only say that he regarded the maintenance of voluntary schools as the only guarantee that the children of the country would be brought up in any knowledge of religion at all. As long as the Conscience Clause was carried out there could be no cause of complaint from any religious denomination, nor any violation of conscience; but there would be a violation of conscience if they said to a parent who was anxious that his children should receive a reli- 1647 gious education—"You must send your children to a school in which, whatever they are taught, they will receive no religious instruction." He believed that the great majority of the people of the country were in favour of the maintenance of the voluntary schools, because it enabled them to obtain for their children a religious education which was suited to their every day lives.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
said, if the clause passed, school managers and masters would soon be enabled to adapt themselves to it, and when they did there would come all the dangers the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) had pointed out. It would give the school managers a temptation to raise the fees, and the effect would be that the interests of the poorer children would be sacrificed. The clause allowed new sources of revenue to enter into account for the first time. Endowments did not count formerly as local subscriptions, but they were to do so now. Under the present Code they had been used for raising the character of the school, and for giving higher education; but under the new clause endowments would be merged in the private subscriptions, and would not have the same effect that they would formerly. They would find that as school managers and masters would adapt their schools to the conditions of the clause, voluntary subscriptions would fall off, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would consequently have to render greater help to schools. Virtually the proposal of Her Majesty's Government amounted to a reversal of the policy adopted in 1870, which, as explained by his right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich, who was then First Minister, was not intended to interfere, and in operation had not interfered, with free private contributions; and he trusted hon. Members would consider the matter very deeply before they accepted a provision which would lead to the waging of a new war with denominationalism. The House always attached great importance to experience, and he would therefore give them an experience. They were going to bring their schools into the condition of the schools of Ireland. In regard to those schools, the State paid almost all the money, the subscriptions being of a very trifling amount. The result of the State paying for the education was that school committees existed only in 1648 name, and sometimes not at all, and that, as their substitute, there was merely a denominational manager appointed as correspondent to the Commissioners of Education in Ireland. The effect of this was that the schools did not attract interest in their localities, and did not obtain subscriptions. Was this the position they were to come to in England? He denied that it was to the interest of those who now called their schools "national" to make those schools no longer national but denominational adventure schools. The raising of the war of denominationalism would, he contended, be an injury to the cause of education and a great injury to the voluntary schools. The clause would handicap the schools that gave high class education, so that it would be impossible for them to give that education. It would be far easier to the managers to raise the fees than to keep the subjects of education high. The experience of schools of this character in Scotland was that the teaching of higher subjects raised the whole level of the school. It would be very unfortunate, therefore, if a clause like that before the Committee were allowed to become law, as it would have an undoubted tendency to extinguish the higher subjects in schools. For these reasons, he trusted the clause would not be pressed.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, one of the recommendations of the new clause was its simplicity, whereas the former clause was very complicated. The new clause had now been two days before the House, and he did not think the Committee were unprepared to deal with it. The right hon. Member (Mr. Lyon Play-fair) seemed to have overlooked the fact that in Ireland the Government had imposed education upon the country instead of fostering a system which had grown up there, so that the position of the two countries was entirely different. He also seemed to have forgotten that at present many schools were supported by the fees of the children and the Government grant. What peculiar right had managers of those schools to manage them? The parent and the State were alone the contributors. What would be the effect of making any new restriction as to subscriptions? He had made a calculation with respect to certain British, Wesleyan, and Roman Catholic schools, now supported entirely by fees and the Government grant, showing the sum 1649 which would have to be raised by each if the Resolution of his noble Friend (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) as to subscriptions was adopted. His calculation was as follows:—Risca British School, £21 6s. 4d.; Liverpool Roman Catholic Practising School, £54 2s. 1d.; Pits-o'-the-Moor Wosleyan, £52 12s. 1d.; Rochdale, Clever Street British, £40 14s. 7d.; Rochdale Wesleyan, £59 13s.; Wandsworth Road, Belmont Baptist, £52 17s. 3d.; Grimsby Wesleyan, £67 6s. 4d.; Exeter Protestant Dissenting Charity British, £13 11s. 5d. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) talked about an average fee of 4d., but at present the fee was 2d. in the country and 3d. in the large towns, and even those amounts were considered high. Surely the right hon. Gentleman was too sanguine in his estimate. Objection was made to the 17s. 6d. limit, but after consultation with the Treasury he found it necessary to impose that restriction. When a school assumed a different character it would be necessary that it should get higher fees or subscriptions. At present there was an unequal pressure between the board and the voluntary schools. They must not overlook the fact that this limit had no action whatever on the board schools; but on the voluntary schools it had an immediate effect. The object of the Government was to hold the balance fairly between the two kinds of schools. He could not understand the objection that the Inspectors would no longer work these schools up to the same standard. There was such a thing as a Code passed every year, and if they found there was any decay in the intellectual character or acquirements of the schools a tremendous screw would be put on to see that proper results were obtained. It was a mere dream to suppose that the great mass of the schools would be supported by fees and by the Government grant; for the fact was that a great deal of voluntary effort would be needed. He could not understand why the proposal now made should increase the religious difficulty. Their only desire was to do what was fair and right to all existing schools, and to redress the grievances which were now felt very seriously by many voluntary schools. So far as he was able to judge of the temper of the country in all directions, they were not prepared for the sake of a 1650 very small increase of the Imperial grant to see the voluntary schools extinguished because the balance was not held fairly between them and the board schools. He believed this clause would give a large amount of freedom to teachers and encouragement to schools, breathing into many of them fresh life; and he hoped the Committee would adopt it.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said that, looking at average attendances, the fees in many cases were close upon 3d. a-week.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, it seemed to be taken for granted that only secular instruction was given in board schools. The religious instruction given in the London board schools was quite as good as that given in any voluntary schools, and there was only one place, Birmingham, where religious instruction was not given in board schools; but the special reason for that was that the Nonconformists generally had formed themselves into a society for the very purpose of giving religious instruction, and if there were any children left without religious instruction it was because the clergy of the Church of England, with one or two honourable exceptions, had refused to enter board schools. It was admitted by the Vice President that there were many places in which the fees were excessively low, and that parents ought to be encouraged to pay high fees; but in proportion as the grant was increased, a temptation was created to keep down fees. There were other objections. As a labourer in calculating the wages he ought to have, would include the school pence he had to pay, if the fees were kept down artificially by an increase of grant, that would be a direct payment in aid of wages. As, further, what was now contributed out of rates might in future be contributed out of the Government grant, there would clearly be a subsidy in aid of the rates, which explained the popularity of his proposal with hon. Members opposite. The broad objection to the clause was, however, that stated by his right hon. Friend—that it would enable a school, in many cases, to be conducted with little or no local effort at all. The religious question was raised by this clause, because in the case of a denominational school carried on by grants and fees, part of the latter being perhaps 1651 paid by Guardians, the increase of the grant would be a direct subsidy of the religious education, which would not be, in any sense, paid for by voluntary subscriptions, as all the instruction, religious and secular, would be paid for out of public money. The proposition which he had placed on the Paper, which he thought it convenient to explain at this stage, was that no public elementary school should receive any payment from the annual Parliamentary grant unless the money arising from the subscriptions or rates amounted to at least one-sixth part of the total annual income of the school; it would apply to both voluntary and board schools alike. He desired that there should be no inducement to the Government to shovel out the public money in a reckless spirit to the schools in the country districts. Let them, at least, on his side of the House, not be accused of re-opening this difficult question. The responsibility lay with hon. Members opposite, and the day might come when parties were not as parties were now, when they would repent having done so.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 185; Noes 100: Majority 85.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he protested against the sub-section of the clause, as it had been always understood that every school that fulfilled the conditions of the Code should receive the public grant; but this clause would introduce a new principle into the system under which the public elementary schools had hitherto been dealt with.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
moved at the end of the clause to add the following sub-section:—If in any public elementary school the income arising from subscriptions or rates do not amount to at least one-sixth part of the total income of such school, there shall be deducted from the annual Parliamentary grant payable to such school a sum equal in amount to the difference between the said one-sixth part of the total income of such school, and the said income arising from subscriptions or rates.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, the Act of 1870 was welcomed as an attempt to rescue the minds of children throughout the country from clerical influence. The Bill, however, introduced a new system.
§ MR. A. MILLS
called the hon. Member to Order for entering into the general question when the Committee had before it a particular Amendment.
said, the hon. Member for Peterborough appeared to be travelling rather wide of the subject under discussion.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, that denominational education was not only ignorance, but injurious ignorance, and the Bill sought to promote denominational education. Its details had been kept back till the end of the Session. The Prime Minister told him last Session that circumstances might arise when certain laws existing in this country against Jesuits—
§ MR. WHALLEY
was sorry he had not been allowed to finish his sentence. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman would find, within his own Cabinet, everything that he (Mr. Whalley) understood by what was called Jesuitism. ["Order."]
§ MR. WHALLEY
would of course withdraw it at the instance of the right hon. Gentleman, but protested against the Bill as one which, in its promotion of denominational education, was most retrogressive and a gross insult to the common sense and experience of the country.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
supported the Amendment moved by the noble Lord the Member for Calne. He was loth to put a restriction upon any special schools; but he considered that as the Bill now stood it would become necessary.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 83; Noes 130: Majority 47.
§ On Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill,"
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he rose to oppose the addition of the clause to the Bill. It opened up a question of so much importance that after the attempt to amend the clause in some slight degree had been defeated, he did not think they ought to allow the clause to be added to the Bill. In point of fact, it involved a reversal of the policy of the Act of 1870. The point to which he was most anxious to draw 1653 the attention of the Committee was one in which, personally, he felt a very deep interest. The clause proposed by the noble Lord was a breach of the compromise entered into in 1870. He had the honour of a seat in the House at that time, and of taking part in the discussions and divisions which took place upon the Education Bill of 1870, and he might remind hon. Members that when they came to consider the details of that Bill they were met by two very great differences of opinion. On the one hand, there was a very large number of Members who were anxious that there should be a national system of education promoted on a basis upon which all persons could concur, and that there should be no interference with religious rights. On the other hand, there was a large number of Members who were in favour of the existing denominational schools, and who urged that it would be unreasonable to pass any measure the effect of which would be to deal harshly or unjustly with denominational schools. If in 1870 they had been in a position to deal with the education of the country as though they were dealing with a sheet of white paper, they would, no doubt, have been able to frame a system which would have been uniform in its character, and comprehensive in all its arrangements. But they had no such sheet of white paper, and they could not shut their eyes to the existence of the denominational schools which had sprung up all over the country under the grants from the Committee of Council. Most of them belonged to the Church of England. He would not attempt to deny that the Church of England was to be very much praised indeed for the large sums of money which that Church and its members had subscribed in support of its own denomination; but it ought to be remembered that although the Church had subscribed a large sum of money it had also received the lion's share of the grants of the Committee of Council, and that during every year in which the Minutes of Council had existed a large proportion of the money granted by Parliament for the purposes of education had been handed over to Church of England schools. Hon. Members opposite would say—and it was perfectly true—that if the Church had had these large contributions from the State, the Dissenters might have been in a similar position if they had voluntarily con- 1654 tributed as much. But there was a wide contrast between the circumstances of the rich and powerful Church supported by the State, and the struggling efforts of poor and detached Dissenting bodies, who had to maintain their Churches entirely out of their own resources. It would be seen at once that, although the Dissenters were as anxious to promote national education as anybody, they had not had the means of raising the funds to the same extent as the Church of England. Having been frequently in communication with the Dissenters, he knew they looked with great jealousy upon the large proportion of the funds granted for educational purposes which was enjoyed by the Church of England; and when they came to pass the Act of 1870, they had to ask from the Dissenters a still further concession. As a Legislature they could not treat denominational schools as if they were non-existing. Parliament felt that it was bound to recognize their existence and to treat them with consideration and justice. The Dissenters, although there were great differences of opinion among them, still, in the main, had much sympathy with the difficulties of Parliament, and the result of the discussions in 1870 was, that they yielded to a compromise that denominational schools should be continued. It was to all intents and purposes a compromise; and it was a compromise which was the result of considerable discussion and many divisions. It was also a compromise that was accepted in a great degree by a large number of the moderate minded men in the country, although it was looked upon with some dislike by the more extreme Dissenters. It was, however, accepted generally; and he thought it was a very grave matter for the noble Lord, by this clause, to seek to disturb it, and to propose an arrangement which, he was quite sure, would give much dissatisfaction to those who, out-of-doors, had yielded to it. Perhaps it was as well that he should tell the House why it was that a number of hon. Members with whom he acted in 1870agreed to accept the compromise proposed by the late Government. They believed that, while the arrangement was just and fair in relation to denominational schools, it did open up a prospect that the board schools would be gradually established throughout the country, and that to a great extent the board schools would absorb the denominational schools. To 1655 a considerable extent there had been an absorption of denominational schools, and what had been done in that direction had been of positive advantage to the country. He did not sympathize with the idea expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that they could not have religious instruction unless they had denominational schools. He believed that in many of the board schools religious instruction was provided, and he would be sorry indeed if it was excluded. In most of the board schools under the Conscience Clause there were the reading of the Bible, and instruction in the main truths of religion, and he thought it was possible to devise a great public school system of that kind. If they could have public schools in which the children of all denominations could commence their life by learning together the great lessons that would fit them for future struggles, such a spectacle was not only in idea an admirable one, but in its effects upon the national character would be found to be of immense advantage. If in our large schools they were to banish all sectarian feelings of rivalry or animosity, he thought they would do much to promote the spread of the best form of education. That was his opinion, and if the effect of the Act of 1870 had been gradually to absorb the denominational schools, and to cover the country over with school boards, he thought it would be of great public advantage. He therefore supported a measure which, while it did justice to the schools connected with the various denominations, did not put a barrier in the way of the adoption of a system which he considered would be better for the interests of the country. If, then, they had been willing that the terms of the Act should be such as to give certain advantages to denominational schools, those who were anxious to see the denominational schools supported ought to be content with the advantages which they obtained under the Act of 1870, and should not attempt now to disturb the compromise which was then entered into. He had refrained from voting in favour of the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) lest it should be taken to mean that denominational schools should be compulsorily withdrawn from the management of the church and denominational committees and handed over to committees of a public character. He 1656 believed that such a course would be an act of injustice to the managers of denominational schools. This clause, however, went as much in the other direction, and it seemed to him the effect of the clause would be to place denominational schools upon an equal footing with board schools, to give them additional strength and to increase their numbers. He contended that that was an arrangement entirely contrary to the compromise of 1870, and he therefore felt bound to resist it. The noble Lord said that denominational schools were handicapped in their struggles with board schools. It seemed to him (Mr. Rylands) that they ought to be so handicapped. The only excuse under which they could reasonably come to Parliament to ask for large grants of public money for denominational schools was that they were voluntarily supported. If they were relieved from voluntary support, then there was no argument at all why it should not be claimed that they should be put under public management. Just as he thought the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr was unfair in one direction, so he contended the proposal of the noble Lord was unfair towards the Dissenters. He was fully alive to the difficulties which many very excellent clergymen had experienced in raising subscriptions for their schools. In many of the country districts, good clergymen interested in education experienced the utmost difficulty in raising the necessary funds. They went to the neighbouring landlords and farmers, and had the greatest possible difficulty in screwing out of them a sum sufficient to support the schools. These gentlemen were, no doubt, in circumstances of great difficulty, and he dared say that they were constantly pressing on the Education Department the necessity of giving them relief. But he was of opinion that the only proper relief to give them was to place them under a school board, in order that the adjoining property might be rated and the owners compelled to support the schools instead of creating a charge upon national funds towards which all classes—Dissenters as well as Churchmen—were required to contribute. The proposal contained in the present clause was a gross injustice, and involved a most unfair arrangement, and the sooner these schools, which were receiving so much support, were put under 1657 public management the better. He had offered no undue opposition to the present Bill. Upon certain great principles he went with the noble Lord. He was not one of those who wished to banish religion from the schools, and he did not wish to carry out any extreme views in regard to national education; but as far as the arrangements were made in 1870, and as far as they had been fairly accepted by Dissenters, he would be no party to placing them in a worse position than they occupied under the Act of 1870. For these reasons, he was prepared to oppose the proposition that the clause should be added to the Bill.
§ MR. BIRLEY
said, it appeared to him that many points had been ignored or overlooked in this discussion. As to the compromise alleged to have been effected, the principle was actually invaded in 1872. It was found that, however excellent the intentions of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), the provisions of the Act were not hereafter workable. There might be a deficiency of subscriptions for some good schools; but if this Bill were passed into law, he believed that voluntary subscriptions would increase. In thinly-populated districts the voluntary subscriptions would be found especially necessary, and in every three or four years some unexpected emergencies must arise, such as an epidemic, or the illness of the master or mistress of the school. He trusted his hon. Friend opposite would cease to set Nonconformists and Churchmen in such constant opposition. He had hoped that the right hon. Member for Bradford and the right hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Playfair), even if they could not accept the Amendment of the Vice President of the Council, would have suggested some mode of remedying the inequalities of the present system.
§ MR. J. K. CROSS
pointed out that under that clause and other provisions of the Bill, so-called voluntary schools would receive support from the rates and also 17s. 6d. per annum for each child from the Government.
§ MR. WHALLEY
observed, that this question was agitating Europe at the present moment, and it was owing to the dexterous management of the noble Lord that the public were not so much excited on the gravity of this question as it was in other countries. The Church of England was utterly degraded and put into 1658 an unworthy position by the policy which the Government recommended. The Church of England ought to rest in her pulpit. She ought not to descend to these poor little innocents and try to squeeze into their little brains the Athanasian Creed. There was no comparison between this country and Scotland on this question, because the national character of England was compromised, scandalized, and degraded by the conduct of her clergy—a set of Sepoys. ["Order."]
§ MR. WHALLEY
was much obliged to the Chairman for keeping him in Order, but he was about to point out that our schools to whom these grants would be made were quite equally with our pulpits most remarkable spectacles of what he understood to be Jesuitism. The clergy, sustained more or less for the purpose of promoting what we called the principles of loyalty and Protestantism, supported by an enormous revenue, established the voluntary schools he supposed to carry out their views. They were not to be relied upon to deal with our children behind the pulpit, for it was as much as we could do to manage them for their conduct in the pulpits. ["Order."]
rose to Order, and pointed out that the Question before the Committee was that this clause should be added to the Bill. If the hon. Member did not keep to the Question, he must appeal to the Committee to support his decision.
§ MR. WHALLEY
almost ventured to think it better that the Chairman should make such an appeal than that he should be restrained from uttering what he believed in his own conscience it was his duty to utter, to see if it were possible to make his voice heard even through that triple barrier, the reporters' gallery. He would not put the Chairman to the test though. He had before absented himself from the House rather than be restrained from speaking on this question in obedience to his feelings and English instincts, and did not return until he was invited back by the authorities. The passing of this clause would be a most outrageous exercise on the 1659 part of the Government of the powers and authority they had by their majority. Their conduct was the most retrogressive and the least honest—["Order"]—of those who advocated—
must point out to the hon. Member that the expression which he had just used was not customary. He hoped that it would be withdrawn.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Surely any Member of this House is perfectly justified in saying the conduct of a Ministry is dishonest. I think it is a right we have. I do not say it was wise to say this in the present instance, but we have this right, and if I thought the Government were acting dishonestly I should claim the right of asserting that they were doing so.
said, that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield might have heard such charges made in his experience in that House; but so far as his (the Chairman's) experience went, he had not heard them put with such directness of language; and he thought the practice of Parliament rather was to veil a charge of this sort in words rather less offensive.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, that he did not say "dishonest" but "least honest," but he would withdraw the words.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
thought it was quite necessary Members should be allowed to call a spade a spade, and on the present occasion he was happy, in vindication of the freedom of debate, to endorse the expressions of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
moved, after Clause 24, to insert the following clause:—(Power to authorise appointment of school attendance committee by urban sanitary authority.)On the application of the urban sanitary authority of an urban sanitary district which is not a borough, and which is co-extensive with any parish or parishes not within the jurisdiction of a School Board, containing according to the last published Census for the time being a population of not less than five thousand, the Education Department may by order authorise the sanitary authority of that district to appoint, and thereupon such authority may appoint, a school attendance committee as if they were the council of a borough, and that committee, to the exclusion of the school attendance committee appointed by the guardians, shall enforce the provisions of this Act in the sanitary district, and be in that district the local autho- 1660 rity for the purposes of this Act, and on the requisition of the parish but not otherwise shall make bye-laws as such local authority, and all the provisions of this Act shall, save as before provided with respect to the making of bye-laws, apply accordingly as if the sanitary authority were the council of a borough.Provided, That the expenses (if any) of a school attendance committee appointed by an urban sanitary authority shall be paid out of a fund to be raised out of the poor rate of the parish or parishes comprised in such district, according to the rateable value of each parish, and the urban sanitary authority shall, for the purpose of obtaining payment of such expenses, have the same power as a board of guardians have for the purpose of obtaining contributions to their common fund under the Acts relating to the relief of the poor, and the accounts of such expenses shall be audited as the accounts of other expenses of the sanitary authority.Any bye-laws in force in an urban sanitary district, or any part thereof, before the appointment of a school attendance committee by the sanitary authority of such district shall continue in force, subject nevertheless to be revoked or altered by the school attendance committee of the sanitary authority.Where an urban sanitary district is not a borough, and not wholly within the jurisdiction of a School Board, and is not within the foregoing provisions of this section, the urban sanitary authority of that district may from time to time appoint such number as the Education Department allow, not exceeding three, of their own members to be members of the school attendance committee for the union in which the district or such part thereof not within the jurisdiction of a School Board is situate, and such members, so long as they are members of the sanitary authority, and their appointment is not revoked by that authority, shall be members of the school attendance committee, and have the same powers and authorities as if they had been appointed by the guardians.Where a School Board is appointed after the commencement of this Act for any parish which forms or comprises the whole or part of an urban sanitary district in which the school attendance committee is appointed by the urban sanitary authority, such school attendance committee shall, at the expiration of two months after the election of the School Board, cease to act for the urban sanitary district, and the school attendance committee appointed by the guardians shall be the local authority for so much of the urban sanitary district as is not under the School Board.All bye-laws in force at the expiration of the said two months shall continue in force, subject to being revoked or altered by the local authority, in pursuance of section seventy-four of 'The Elementary Education Act, 1870,'as amended by this Act.The noble Lord, in explaining the object of the clause, said it was a very important one. There were a good number of towns which, though they had no municipal institutions, were still very large urban communities, having populations ranging from 40,000 to 8,000; 1661 and without some such clause as this those large urban communities would be treated merely as units on the Board of Guardians, having only single representtatives there, the effect of which would be that great urban communities would be managed virtually by their rural neighbours. The Government had to contend with considerable difficulty in dealing with this matter, because of the old difficulty of the areas for rating. They had found that they could not adopt urban sanitary districts universally, but they had been able to adopt it in certain districts. They had found that a large number of these urban communities happily coincided with civil parishes; and therefore they proposed in this clause that, where the urban district coincided with one or more civil parishes, the urban district should appoint its own school attendance committee. The limit of population was adopted in such cases—namely, where it was not less than 5,000. In those local improvement districts, which did not coincide with several parishes, it was proposed, where the population exceeded 5,000, to give the urban authorities power, with the assent of the Education Department, to appoint so many members of the Board of Guardians as would fairly represent the districts upon the school attendance committee.
§ LORD FRANCIS HERVEY
feared that the effect of the clause would be that one-half the parishes would have bye-laws, and the other half would have none—a state of things which would lead to confusion. He moved an Amendment to insert after the word "guardian," in line 9 of the clause, the words "and the urban authorities may make bye-laws, and."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the objection to the Amendment was that in making bye-laws for enforcing compulsory attendance it was important, as far as possible, to act in accordance with public feeling. Now, the urban sanitary authority were not elected ad hoc with a view to the passing of educational bye-laws, and it would be forcing things too far to give them this power without testing the feeling of the parish in some way. Moreover, a requisition from the parish was the principle adopted in a previous clause.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, the principle which, the noble Lord wished 1662 to adopt for urban sanitary authorities had been adopted for Town Councils, who would act upon their own discretion, though they were not elected ad hoc. There was no sufficient reason for making a distinction between the two bodies.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
pointed out that though urban sanitary authorities were not now elected for the purpose of passing these bye-laws, at every election after the passing of the Bill they would be elected ad hoc. The chief objection of the Chancellor of the Exchequer therefore fell to the ground.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, that all the matters of changes of area were very difficult, and the Government would consider the matter and state what course they would adopt on the Report.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
moved, after Clause 25, to insert the following clause:—(Returns by local authority (although not a School Board.)The local authority under this Act (although not a School Board) shall send to the Education Department such returns and information respecting their proceedings under this Act, and respecting matters on which School Boards can be required under 'The Elementary Education Act, 1870,'to make returns, as the Education Department from time to time require.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
(Copy of time tables, &c. to be supplied to local authority.)
The managers of each public elementary school receiving a grant of public money shall, on the first day of June in every year, supply to the clerk of the existing local authority of the school district in which it is situated, whether it be a school board or board of guardians, or the council of a burgh, a copy of the time table or tables that has or have been in use in such school during the year immediately preceding, together with a nominal roll of the children who during that period have availed themselves of the conscience clause for the purpose of being absent from religious instruction during the time such has been given in any such school.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
opposed the clause on the ground that the local authority had nothing whatever to do with the internal management of voluntary schools, and that the proposition was the first step towards giving them the management of those schools.
§ MR. WHALLEY
thought it most essential that the manner in which these schools, supported as they would be in a great measure by the rates and the Government grant, ought to be known to the local authority.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. ONSLOW
moved, after Clause 8, to insert the following clause:—(Compensation in case of reasonable non-attendance.)If the court shall consider that the parent of a child has shown reasonable excuse for non-attendance, the court may at its discretion grant to the parent such a sum of money to cover the necessary expenses and loss of day's wages as it may think fit, such moneys to be paid by the summoning authority.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
did not think it necessary that the magistrate should have such a power. The matter would be in the hands of the Guardians, and they were not likely to be too hasty in summoning parties.
§ MR. WHALLEY
also contended that there ought to be such a power, and that magistrates ought to be entrusted with it.
§ Clause negatived.
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
moved, in page 4, after Clause 10, to insert the following clause:—(Provision for blind and deaf-mute children.)The School Board, or other local school authority of any union, parish, or place, may, in its discretion, provide for the reception, maintenance, and instruction of any person being blind or deaf-mute in any hospital, school, or institution established, or to be established, for the reception of children suffering under such infirmities, and may pay the charges incurred in the conveyance of such children to and from the same, as well as those incurred in his or her maintenance, support, and instruction therein; and the said School Board or other school authority may provide for the maintenance and instruction of such child, in every case where there may be special circumstances rendering it advisable, by giving money for that purpose; Provided, nevertheless, That, in respect of any such child, during the period it shall be at school, payment of money for the 1664 purposes of this section shall not be deemed to be parochial relief given to the parent, or person in loco parent is, of any such child, nor shall such parent or other person, by reason of any money given under this section, be deprived of any franchise, right, or privilege, or be subject to any disability or disqualification.The hon. and learned Member urged the helpless condition of this unfortunate class if left without education, and their liability to become paupers if the special education they required was beyond the means of their parents and guardians, while such special education placed them in a comparatively independent position, enabled them to earn their own living, and saved them from becoming permanent paupers, and thus costing the State far more than it would cost to make them useful members of society. He also urged that the parents of these children paid rates and taxes like other people, and yet they, who most required. State aid in the education of their children, could receive no State aid at all and obtain no education for them, because no provision was made for such education. When the Act of 1870 was introduced, it was alleged that provision was intended to be made for the education of every child in England. If this were so, why should these two classes be unprovided for? Experience had shown that voluntary assistance alone was not sufficient to cope with the matter.
§ New Clause brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, he felt a strong desire to benefit these poor children, but the question was how the expense should be defrayed. He had devoted a long time to the consideration of the subject, but had not been able to see his way to the solution of the difficulty. The care and education of pauper children who were blind or deaf and mute devolved upon the Guardians, and there were admirable private institutions for others, supported by voluntary subscriptions. He hoped the Committee would not enter on these large outside subjects in discussing an Education Bill.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
expressed his disappointment with the answer of the noble Lord, and hoped that he would 1665 still consider the propriety of giving the local authority a permissive power to educate this class of children, who, of all others, had special claims upon the sympathies of the country. He believed that in Sheffield provision was being made at the present moment for the education of these children.
§ MR. A. MILLS
said, the London School Board had taken the subject up, and if it could be done under the present law, he did not see the necessity of a permissive clause in this Bill.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, Guardians could already pay for the maintenance of pauper children of this class in special institutions; but it was a very large question whether local authorities should practically take charge of all those unfortunate children, whether of the pauper, or non-pauper class.
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
replied that he wanted some provision for the education of mutes who were not paupers and whose parents contributed to rates from which they could now receive no benefit, on the ordinary principle of securing the education of all children capable of receiving it, Government itself having, as he contended, clearly conceded the principle of such education. It was very hard to be told—as he was practically now being told—that the Poor Law authorities had nothing to do with this class, whatever the Education Department had; and when in turn he appealed to the latter Department, to be then told that no provision could be made by this Bill, especially as he (Mr. Wheelhouse), as would be well recollected by the House, had already more than once endeavoured to pass a Bill which he thought then, and still continued to think, would have solved the difficulty had it been accepted.
§ MR. ERNEST NOEL
said, these children had as much right to education as any other class, and something was already being done for them in Scotland.
§ SIR ANDREW LUSK
observed, that the House was about to take a great deal of trouble and spend much money for the children who could see, and they therefore might take a little pains and go to some expense for the unfortunate children who were blind.
§ LORD FREDERICK CAVENDISH
hoped the noble Lord would not by his sympathies be led into a course which would divert the Bill from its primary object as an educational measure.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, that the Government had a keen sympathy for these poor children, but they could not do everything that was wanted in one Bill. The subject had been considered by the Department, but they did not see their way clearly to make provision for these children in the present measure.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 54; Noes 223: Majority 169.
§ MR. MUNTZ
moved, in page 4, after Clause 10, to insert the following Clause:—(Expense of providing industrial school may, with consent of Home Secretary, be spread over a term of years.)Where a School Board have incurred or require to incur any expense in providing an industrial school, they may, with the consent of Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department, spread the payment over such number of years not exceeding fifty, as may be sanctioned by the Secretary of State, and may contract a loan for such purpose in the same manner as if the said industrial school were a public elementary school; and for this purpose the provisions of section ten of 'The Elementary Education Act 1873,' shall be held to apply to such loan, and the First Schedule of 'The Public Works Loans Act, 1875,' shall be held to include such work.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, the principle of this clause was acted upon by school boards at present, only the proposal of the hon. Member made the manner of carrying it into effect clearer.
§ Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.
§ MR. PELL
moved, after Clause 21, to insert the following Clauses:—(Dissolution of School Board where no school house or site, and district has sufficient public school accommodation.)Where application for the dissolution of a School Board is made to the Education Department by the like persons and in the like manner as an application for the formation of a School Board, under section twelve of 'The Elementary Education Act, 1870,'and the Education Department, are satisfied that no school and no site for a school is in the possession or under the control of the School Board, and that there is a sufficient amount of public school accommoda- 1667 tion for the district of the School Board, the Education Department may, after such notice as they think sufficient, order the dissolution of the School Board.The Education Department by any such order shall make provision for the disposal of all money, furniture, books, documents, and property belonging to the School Board, and for the discharge out of the local rate of all the liabilities of the board, and such other provisions as appear to the department necessary or proper for carrying into effect the dissolution of the board.The Education Department shall publish the order in manner directed by 'The Elementary Education Act, 1873,'with respect to the publication of notices, and after the date of such publication or any later date mentioned in the order, the order shall have effect as if it were enacted by Parliament, without prejudice nevertheless to the subsequent formation of a School Board in the same school district. All bye-laws previously made by the School Board shall continue in force, subject nevertheless to be revoked or altered by the local authority under this Act.(Provision where School Board possesses any property or has incurred liabilities.)An application for the dissolution of any such School Board as aforesaid shall, if the School Board possesses any property or has incurred any liabilities, he accompanied by a draft scheme, passed by a resolution of the ratepayers in the like manner as the resolution for the application was passed, for the transfer of such property and liabilities to, and the future management of the school by, such authority or body of persons as may be willing to undertake the same on terms to be mentioned in the scheme.The Education Department shall take the application and scheme into consideration, and may make an order allowing the same, with or without modifications, and containing provisions for the dissolution of the School Board, and if necessary for the vesting of the property of the School Board and the discharge of their liabilities out of the poor rate of the parish, and for the issue of precepts for that purpose to the overseers by the board of guardians of the union within which the parish is situate, and such other provisions as may appear to the Education Department necessary or proper for carrying such scheme into effect, or they may make an order disallowing the application and scheme; but an order allowing any such application and scheme shall not come into operation until three months from the date of such order, nor shall such order come into operation at all if within such period of three months a resolution is passed by the ratepayers, in like manner as the requisition of a parish to guardians for the purposes of this Act, to the effect that it is not desirable that such order should come into operation.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
opposed the clauses on the ground that they were re-actionary. He could scarcely think that the hon. Member was in earnest in proposing them, because some of the most valuable 1668 school boards in the country were those which had no schools under them. If the Government adopted them, hon. Members on that side of the House would feel justified in using every resource in their power to resist the Bill.
§ MR. WILBRAHAM EGERTON
expressed a hope that the Committee would not allow itself to be deterred from passing the clause by the threat of obstruction which had just been held out by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella). He (Mr. Egerton) thought that hon. Members on his side of the House could not justly be charged with being re-actionary, as not only had the Act of 1870 been passed, as a compromise, in a very different form from that in which it was introduced, but the example had been set by some hon. Members opposite, who had not ceased disturbing the Settlement of 1870 by agitating for the compulsory formation of school boards. He thought they were justified, when the time came, to review the whole subject, after an experience of six years, in attempting to remedy the defects of the former Act by every means in their power.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he hoped the Government would not accept the Amendment that had been proposed. It would not be easy to make an alteration in the existing law more likely to have an ill effect on the cause of education. School boards had enormously increased the amount of education all over the land. They represented hard work as well as devotion to the cause of education, and they had regard to the old municipal principle and greatly encouraged education in the districts in which they were established. They could not have done the good which they had done without exciting some opposition, and the Amendment would subject them to an incessant agitation against their very existence, which must weaken their hands and make it difficult for them to do their work. He could not conceive a greater delusion than the idea that there was any necessary connection between school boards and secular education. The great hope for education was that it should be fastened upon the municipal action of each place, and that the inhabitants should feel that it was their business and duty to promote it, and that they ought to elect bodies for the performance of that duty.
THE O'CONOR DON
did not see the objections to the clause in the same light as his right hon. Friend. This clause would not apply to cases where sufficient provision was made for education. These school boards were called into existence when there was no other local machinery for enforcing education; but now other local bodies had powers similar to those of school boards. If the proposals contained in this clause were adopted the school boards would not be done away with, and it was only in cases where they had not been successful that the provisions of the clause would apply. He trusted the Government would not reject the clause.
§ MR. J. G. HUBBARD
said, it was right that where it was found that a school board was not wanted, power should be given to get rid of it. He believed that applications had been made to the Education Department, but the answer had been, "No, the school board is there, and it is eternal." Why should such boards be continued when they did not serve any useful purpose? In many cases school boards had been originated from merely party motives, and without reference to the professed object. There were, he believed, many school boards which did their duty well; but, on the whole, he believed there was great dissatisfaction throughout the country, and it was time to give the public power to dispense with them when they did not fulfil the objects for which they were appointed. He could not conceive what there was in this proposal to excite a feeling of alarm.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
said, he was surprised to hear an hon. Member opposite say that this proposition was not at all of a re-actionary character. He was sorry that hon. Gentlemen did not understand what they were supporting. The right hon. Gentlemen who had just spoken had told them the whole story. He condemned school boards because he thought that they were not sufficiently religious, although he admitted that in some cases they were not doing so badly in regard to religious instruction. It was quite clear that if there was any force in his argument he would want to carry it much further, and propose the dissolution of all school boards. ["No."] That was the clear tendency of his argument. Could there be anything more absolutely and completely re-actionary as 1670 regarded the Act of 1870? The Parliament of that day had municipal corporations and Boards of Guardians all over the country, and if they thought proper they could have adopted the recommendations of this Bill and have given school powers to committees of corporations and Boards of Guardians; but they thought it much wiser to have a special board for the purpose, and that special board was the School Board. The hon. Member said there were 530 school boards without schools.—[Mr. Pell: 530 where they have no schools.]—There were a great many of these school boards which had not been at work sufficient long to provide the schools which were necessary in their district. There were many other school boards who had not thought it necessary to build schools because they could take them over all ready. In Rochdale, where he lived, the school board had not had occasion to build a single school, though it had been in operation since the Act of 1870, but it had taken over several schools. These schools were under board management, and were practically board schools. If they adopted this clause they would hand over the powers of the school board to committees of corporations or committees of Guardians; but these would not have power to take over schools. It would therefore be a great misfortune to take away the boards. The right hon. Member who spoke last said there was great dissatisfaction throughout the country with the working of the school boards. [Cheers.]
§ MR. J. G. HUBBARD
I do not think I said that. On the contrary, I said that there were school boards which discharged their duties well.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
said, it was clear from the cheers which had been raised on the benches around the right hon. Gentleman that he (Mr. Bright) was not alone in his conception of what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. Bright) did not think that it was possible to prove that there was any great dissatisfaction, any general dissatisfaction, or any dissatisfaction worth while to name in connection with school boards. There might be Gentlemen who complained of the rates. Hon. Gentlemen had for the last five or six years exercised their political influence in stimulating hostility to the rates. Though there might be a feeling 1671 of that kind, there was a general admission that the institution of school boards was the right thing for Parliament to do, and was one of the best things Parliament had ever done. It might be admitted that there were many school districts which would rather like to get rid of school boards, and run their chance of whatever might happen, to save a halfpenny or three farthings on the rate, and under this clause they would have the whole question re-opened in every district where the smallest minority was dissatisfied. Was it worth while, was it necessary to try and overturn—for what was the real object of this clause—the system which Parliament deliberately adopted in 1870, which was in concurrence with all that they had done with regard to their municipal institutions, and which, he held, had worked admirably throughout the country? The enormous value of the school boards had been shown by the statements of the noble Lord, and he confessed he was astonished, considering how much hon. Members were now prepared to support public and national education, that an attempt should be made to overthrow that system which was deliberately established in 1870, and which the universal concurrence of opinion throughout the country and all the facts and figures before Parliament had shown to be so good. He would undertake to say—without desiring to state what hon. Gentlemen opposite would say was a menace or an expression of undue indignation—that he believed if the clause were to pass it would be felt throughout the country by the warmest supporters of education that a great blow had been struck against the Act of 1870, and that the noble Lord had, in obedience to influences which he ought to have resisted, consented to what he ought never for a moment to have thought of surrendering. He hoped the Government Bill might do the good which the noble Lord expected. He (Mr. Bright) was not what might be called a fanatical supporter of very strict and rigid compulsion. He sometimes was of opinion that there were persons so enthusiastically in favour of education that they worked—he did not wish to call it their hobby—because it was a great wish for the public good which actuated them—but he sometimes thought they were too strenuous in urging a compulsion 1672 which might be very unwise, and almost oppressive. He did think they had adopted a system which had produced great good, and from which the next generation would gather enormous fruits, and he hoped the noble Lord would not assist in strengthening prejudices which, in obedience to the interests of the country, he ought to the last resist.
§ SIR WALTER BARTTELOT
was rather surprised that the right hon. Gentlemen, with all that clearness of perception he generally displayed in that House, had failed to appreciate the real question before the House. It was not that school boards should be got rid of absolutely and compulsorily. He could not support a clause having that object in view. He agreed that the Act of 1870 had done a great deal of good, and the school boards in many places had proved of inestimable value; but if the majority of the ratepayers should come to be of opinion that a school board had done its work, or that it would be better for the parish that it should be dissolved, why should they not have power to get rid of it, it was simply a question for the ratepayers.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
had no doubt that school boards at present produced a good deal of agitation in the election of members. What was proposed to be substituted would increase that agitation ten-fold, for minorities in the course of time became majorities, and they would have another fight, and thus there would be an incessant agitation throughout the country for school boards or no school boards.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, he had listened to the discussion with great interest, and he did not think that was one of those occasions on which it was necessary for any one to get excited. If the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) thought they were going to abolish school boards, he could understand his feelings; but the Government never entertained any such idea, and they would not think of assenting to it. There was no reason, however, why the place which had once elected a school board should be saddled with it for all time. If they wanted to get rid of it they ought to be allowed to do so, and to act otherwise would be to go contrary to all their English ideas of reform. The result would be that if this power were not granted in the Bill that the minority 1673 would govern, the majority, and they would compel people to elect a board they did not want to elect. He held they ought to consolidate and strengthen existing local authorities, whether they were Boards of Guardians, Improvement Commissioners, or Town Councils. He might illustrate what would happen if a remedy were not applied by relating a story of what happened to him soon after he came into office. An hon. Member opposite came to him in great perturbation, and said that in his little village of about 200 or 300 people they had elected a school board and put a school under it, but they had got tired of this, taken away the school, but they could not get rid of the school board. "There it is," said the hon. Gentleman, "and they all attack me for having set it up in the village." The Act of 1870 did not give any power to deal with the case; but at last the members of the school board absented themselves for six months from the board, so that all the notabilities of the village were disqualified for all time from sitting on a school board again. When the three years expired, however, they had to go through the farce of an election, and they had to work the Act although opposed to compulsion. Having adopted the principle of popular consent in governing all these matters as the basis of the Act of 1870, he did not see how in opposition to popular feeling they could persist in upholding machinery which had been already superseded. The first part of the proposal of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) was one deserving of the greatest attention. He was not afraid of being told that this was a reactionary measure, for it was no such thing. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had alluded to the fact that he (Viscount Sandon) had defended school boards. He had done so, but it was not necessary that he should champion unnecessary school boards. Two years ago he had stood up for many school boards in the exercise of the principle of compulsion, and he had resisted the attempt to forbid a locality to have a board which desired it. What he said was this, that the popular voice that created the board should have the power to dissolve it—but only in case the board had no school of its own, and, in short, no duty to perform. The right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) seemed to 1674 think that the Motion involved a complete dissolution of school boards, but that was not the case. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the thing must be worked gradually; but was greatly surprised to hear him speak so warmly in favour of the present school boards. He was not at all surprised that the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) should have done so, because school boards were his own creation, and he (Viscount Sandon) admitted that they had done a great deal of good. He would remind the right hon. Member for Birmingham that in the year 1873 he had condemned the mode of electing school boards, and added that no free breeze of public opinion passed through them, but only the unwholesome atmosphere of sectarian exclusiveness. That was important testimony. He (Viscount Sandon) confessed that although he stood up for school boards where they had work to do, and had done it in Sheffield, in London, in Liverpool, and in several other places he could not put his hand upon then, yet if he found that there were some boards in the country which the ratepayers wished to get rid of, and where the existing local authorities would carry out the work better, he should not think the proposal of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire could be fairly objected to. The Government were prepared to accept the first part—but only that—of his hon. Friend's clause.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
explained, in reference to his speech delivered in 1873 that his objection to the mode of the election of school boards was confined to the cumulative vote. He regretted that the noble Lord had attempted no reply to the objection he (Mr. Bright) had made, that the authority which would be substituted in all places where school boards would be abolished would be an authority that could not build a school if one was wanted, and could not take over any school which the authorities connected with that school might think it desirable to hand over to a public authority. The noble Lord was proposing to substitute a partial and incompetent power for that which was competent and impartial, and on that account the Committee should not support this Amendment, which, so far, was clearly re-actionary.
§ MR. C. HOWARD
thought it would be a great misfortune if they were to impose the task of dissolving school boards upon persons appointed for a very different purpose, and who might be very fit to perform the duties connected with the vestry or country district for which they were elected, but who might not necessarily be most interested in conferring the benefits of education upon their neighbours.
§ SIB HENRY JACKSON
said, that although the Amendment had stood on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member (Mr. Pell) for some time, it had only just been accepted by the Government. It was, therefore, to some extent a surprise upon the Committee and the country, and as it was desirable that the Committee should have longer time to consider it, he moved that the Chairman report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir Henry Jackson.)
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, that at that hour he would not oppose the Motion. He wished to repeat that the Government had only accepted half the Amendment—namely, that which allowed a school board to be dissolved where they had no school. The other half of the Amendment they had refused to adopt.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.