§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
(Dissolution of School Board under certain circumstances.)
("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 accommodation 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, 1872,' 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.")—(Mr. Pell.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, that hon. Members had, no doubt, along with him, spent some of the time which had elapsed since the House last met in considering what was the meaning of the somewhat heated debates into which they had drifted on Thursday and Friday in last week. It was clear to him that great misapprehensions had prevailed as to the subject-matter of the clause under debate and the course taken by the Government. He was willing to take a great deal of the fault upon himself, and it was possible he did not state with sufficient clearness what was the position taken by the Government upon the new clause proposed by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell). He tried to be clear; but, after a fortnight's discussion upon education, it was possible that one's language and one's head might have become somewhat muddled. Two proposals were brought before the Committee by his hon. Friend (Mr. Pell) one was to enable every locality by a popular vote to do away with its school board, even when it had a school or school sites of its own. That was a proposal which the Government said at once they could not under any circumstances adopt. The second proposal was one of a very different character. It was this 1824 —it simply said that where the locality had ample school accommodation, and where the Department was satisfied that the school requirements were amply supplied by the locality, if the authority there which had the power of creating the school board determined by the same vote that it did not want to have that school board, the power should be given to the Department to say that the school board could exist no longer, and that it should be dissolved. The reason why the Government assented to the clause was that the whole state of the case was altered by the provisions of the Bill which had virtually received the assent of the House. Provision had been taken that in every locality hereafter a good substantial school authority should be established which might be entirely trusted to administer the law as to attendance of children at school, if not receiving efficient instruction elsewhere. The whole question, therefore, was, whether the new school attendance authority which had been created under this Bill should have what might be called the Educational police power which the Committee proposed to give it, instead of the school board when one existed already in a locality, and had no schools under its control. When the Committee considered the question calmly and after the relaxation they had enjoyed, they would, he thought, agree with him, that a great number of the speeches had been made, not perhaps altogether unnaturally, under some misapprehension. One speech after another had been based upon the supposition that the great school machinery, created by the Act of 1870, for the administration of education would be put in peril by the proposal adopted by the Government. That, however, would be found to be utterly impossible under the Amendment as proposed, if they considered it with the explanations he had now given. It was, however, absolutely essential to get rid of this supposition which had prevailed—as the Committee, however, would remember that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), who they must all regret did not now address the House so often as he used to do, delivered a speech based on that supposition, and the most important speeches against the Government proposal took the same ground. Taking for granted that the Committee would 1825 agree that he (Viscount Sandon) was right in his explanation, they had surely now reduced the matter to a comparatively small point. He did not wish to allude to what might be considered personal taunts addressed to him the other day, and which he attributed to the heat of the weather and not to any unfriendly feeling. The question was of too grave a character to allow of personalities entering into it. They were told that the Government ought to have brought forward the proposal before the Committee on their own responsibility, but he did not think that the Government was bound to introduce into their Bill, which was necessarily a very heavy one, every improvement in the Education system which appeared in itself desirable. It was a different thing, however, when a point was once raised, and when they saw many Amendments placed on the Notice Paper, bearing on the point that where school boards were unnecessary the locality ought to be able to remove them. The case was put forcibly before the Government. They knew that since the Bill had been printed, meetings were held in different parts of the country, not in agricultural districts only, but also in towns, and conclusions were arrived at that the weakness of the Bill was that where a school board was unnecessary provision ought to have been made for its removal. They had likewise had a great number of communications to the same effect, not alone from clerical quarters, of which they had heard so much, but from great local interests—Boards of Guardians, and also men of business connected with towns, asking what possible argument could be urged against the proposal that unnecessary school boards might be removed. Was it not, then, in the interest of the School Board system itself that localities, where they were not wanted, should be able to get rid of the burden of school boards? That being so, although it was not necessary for the Government to add clause to clause in their Bill, still, when this question was so pressed upon their attention, they were bound to consider it, and when they had considered it they could find no argument which would really hold water against it. But even taking the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, who was naturally very zealous on behalf of the school 1826 board system all over the country, he (Viscount Sandon) asked—Was it likely to make that system popular—and, unless in the long run it was popular and had the confidence of the country, it would not work—if they refused to make provision for throwing off what he might call without offence the slough of the system? That was to say those school boards, which had lost the confidence of a locality, which had no schools to manage, and which were not securing education for the children—these, he might truly say, only brought discredit on the whole school board system—made it unpopular—and would be unnecessary under the new Bill, as local authorities were constituted everywhere who would be obliged to see that all children were instructed. The right hon. Gentleman said he feared the Department would be constantly asked to ascertain whether particular school board districts had sufficient school accommodation, and that their attention would be constantly called to school deficiencies by the party which wished to keep up a board; but surely the Department would be only too glad to be told of any deficiencies—that was exactly what they wanted. They wished to be told by the localities where there was a deficiency of schools, and if the change stimulated communications of that kind he, for one, would hail it with pleasure. Again, it was urged over and over again that the general feeling of the country was in favour of school boards. If that argument were repeated, he would be compelled to take a different course from that he had hitherto adopted in the debate. He had cautiously avoided parading before the House what he knew to be the feeling of the country as to school boards; but if it were insisted that there was no question as to their popularity, he should be obliged to go more into the details of this matter, and to call the attention of the Committee to what, as far as he had been able to ascertain, was the real opinion of the country. As far as his official knowledge went, and he had had communications from all parts of the country on the subject, the large school boards were much appreciated, but he could not conceal from the Committee that the feeling of the country as to school boards generally was just now in a very critical position, and that not only as to the 1827 small, but as to the large ones. He would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they thought it wise, in the interest of the school board system, and of education itself to press this system too far, and whether, if school boards were rendered unpopular by being forced to be retained by districts where they were not required, the result would not be to render compulsion extremely difficult? If more were still said as to the popularity of school boards, he should have to quote at length the opinions of Her Majesty's Inspectors during the last two or three years on the subject. He very much preferred, however, not to enter into that question, but to confine himself to the cases of unnecessary school boards where there was sufficient school accommodation for the locality. He had quoted the case of a right hon. Gentleman opposite as to an unnecessary school board in a small rural district; he would now refer to the case of a borough of over 10,000 inhabitants, giving, however, no clue to its name, not to avoid contradiction, but to prevent unnecessary discussion. The borough in question had sufficient voluntary schools and a school board for the sake of compulsion only, and there were several towns in its neighbourhood which had not school boards. The borough had a very good municipality, in which all the leading people took part. Now did they suppose that there the burden of a school board would be tolerated, when it was seen that in the neighbouring districts the advantages of compulsory attendance were secured without the burden of an unnecessary school board? He could not but think that it was rather a bold thing for hon. Gentlemen opposite to protest against the destruction of any institution, simply on the ground that it existed; surely this was an argument, which if it could be held at the present day anywhere, would be more in keeping on the Conservative side of the House; and he confessed that he had heard with infinite astonishment such a high Tory sentiment from the other side as that an institution which was only six years in existence ought not to be touched, on the ground that it was an existing institution, although there would then exist other adequate machinery for doing its work. Well, Her Majesty's Government had observed with pleasure the number of 1828 Amendments on the clause under consideration, which had been placed upon the Paper, as they clearly evinced the existence of a kindly wish to help the Government. Among those Amendments was one which must have weight with the Committee as coming from a Gentleman of great experience, he meant the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester (Mr. Dodson). As, however, it stood on the Paper it could not be accepted by the Government, because it would virtually make it impossible to allow any school board to be dissolved, and thus would frustrate the object of the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire. It could only, under the Amendment, be dissolved, if it was the opinion of the Department that its maintenance was unsuited to the requirements of the education, and was of no advantage to education—and that would be a bold thing for the Department in any case to say. They considered, however, that the Amendment contained the germ of a proposal which might be accepted—to the effect that it was the duty of the Department to take all the circumstances of the case into consideration, and if they should be of opinion that the maintenance of the school board was not necessary for the purposes of education in the district, then that they should take action in the matter. That Amendment, he thought, would secure what both sides seemed to desire—namely, that if a school board was doing its work well, the Department should hold the hand of the destroyer; but that if it should be shown to be unnecessary, it might be dissolved. The proposal would tend to concentrate duties in the hands of the existing local authorities. It would enable people to choose the authorities containing the best men, and thus avoid the worry and expense of unnecessary elections. He trusted the hon. Member for South Leicestershire would agree to the proposition. If hon. Gentleman opposite would not consent to adopt the proposal, the Government would willingly assume the responsibility of the whole matter, and would have no doubt of what the opinion of the counties would be respecting it. They would only congratulate themselves if their opponents nailed their colours to the mast in opposing this reasonable proposition, and appeared before the 1829 country as the political party which was in favour of the maintenance of unnecessary school boards, and which denied to the people the right of getting rid of them when they no longer wished to have them, and refused them the privilege of choosing their own existing local authorities to do the work.
§ MR. PELL
said, he could see no objection to the incorporation of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester with his own, and was prepared to accept it. ["Hear, hear!"] He understood those cheers, and also the ominous silence which had been observed on the other side of the House during the speech of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council. He (Mr. Pell) regretted the irreconcilable spirit which seemed to have arisen on the question; but he could assure hon. Members opposite that his clause was conceived in no hostile spirit, and sprang merely from a desire to economize the public money arising from rates, and prevent the existence in one district of different authorities having the same object in view. He had not considered other interests in framing his clause, and he could not see that in any respect the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester interfered with the object he had in view. Where school boards were not effective, either as to the education given or the cost to the ratepayers, it was but right that the power which created them should have the power to substitute other authorities better suited to the purpose.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
I observe, Sir, that the noble Lord in discussing this question never loses an opportunity—or rather, he takes advantage of many opportunities—of saying something uncivil of the school boards. ["No, no!"] It is all very well to mingle here and there compliments to great boroughs and the school boards of great populations, but last year when the question was discussed, on the Motion of my hon. Colleague, who then was—he is now no longer—in the House, the noble Lord took the same course, and I am not sure he did not do the same in the year before. I have noticed it repeatedly, and I am quite sure the House must be sensible of it. He has spoken to-day of the burden of school boards and of the necessity of throwing off the slough of their system. That is quite in accord- 1830 ance with the opinions of some hon. Members opposite, and with the opinions which I have gathered from what he has said in preceding debates. The noble Lord has never attempted to make any answer to the real objections to this clause. The hon. Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth) on Friday said the noble Lord had not answered the arguments I brought forward against it, and he would attempt to answer them. I will not say how far he succeeded, but my own opinion is, naturally, that he somewhat failed. I should like to put to the House calmly, what are the reasons which influence me at any rate to oppose this clause. It is not because I am opposed to the Bill. I have never spoken before against the Bill, and if it had not been for the introduction of new propositions of this kind I should have taken no one step to oppose its passage through Committee. The object of this clause is to allow persons in some school-board districts to suppress the school board. We know with what great contests throughout the country school boards were first established, and we know that in many districts the majority was not very large, but that generally the school boards, even in these districts, have worked with so much success that there is no longer any anticipation or any attempt that they should be put an end to. We do know also that there is a minority in many school-board districts who would be exceedingly glad to disturb the present system. There is very likely a Church clergyman who has a great hostility to school boards; in fact, to anything but a Church school, under Church management; but it is not the duty, and it is not the interest of Parliament, and it is not for the good of the country, that any Church clergyman of that description should be allowed under a clause of this kind, with perhaps half a dozen other influential persons in his neighbourhood to start a new opposition to school boards with the view of suppressing them. The noble Lord speaks as if he was making no real change, but that the school board should go out of existence, and the Guardians or corporations take its place. But that is not true. The difference between the school boards under the Act of 1870, and the corporations of Boards of Guardians under the Bill is enormous. It is not a difference even in degree; it is a difference of kind and of nature—an essential difference to 1831 the last degree. The corporations and Boards of Guardians can do nothing but stand with the lash and drive the children to school. But the school board has a power beyond that. It has the power to build a school, or to take over any school which any managers may wish to hand over to it, and therefore it has an existing and a prospective power which by this Bill you do not give either to the corporation or to the Board of Guardians. It is idle, therefore, for the noble Lord to tell us this is a matter of very small consequence, and that really parishes and boroughs are not likely to wish to have two authorities when one would do. The "one authority" which he by this Bill is creating is an authority of feebleness and do-nothingness in comparison with the authority he is allowing the districts he supplants; and it is on that ground I object to the clause. I take one of the "burdensome" school boards which is to be got rid of. At present it has built no school, and has taken no school over, and does nothing but drive the children to school. But the population may be increasing rapidly, and next year, or the year after, there may not be sufficient school accommodation, and the school board may be required to build the school. Or there may be some clergyman of the Church of England, or some committee of a British School feeling a school to be burdensome, or believing it would be better for the school board to take it over; but if this Bill passes, that school board may be suppressed, and the corporation will have no power to take over a school or to build a new school whatever the increase of the population, and the Board of Guardians will be equally incapable of adding anything to the supply of school accommodation. There is another, and to my mind more serious, point to which I ask the noble Lord's special attention, and which I ask the House in its fairness to consider. This Bill is to compel children in all parts of the country to go to school, and in some towns and parishes—I am afraid I am not extravagant in saying thousands of parishes—there is no school but a Church school. Into that school you are about to drive every child of every Dissenting family within those parishes, and they would have no chance of choosing any board or other school. Where the number of Nonconformist children at present was only half-a-dozen or a 1832 dozen, you would think it improper to go to the expense of providing a school for them alone; but supposing these children were more numerous—say 50 or 100, or 150—surely it would be proper for the school board to provide school accommodation for them if their parents were disatisfied with their being forced into Church schools. But if this clause were passed, there would be no power under a corporation to provide a new school, whatever be the number of Nonconformist children, and therefore until some future time, when Parliament may alter the law, and a new school board may be formed, or till the parish may have other contests and apply to the Education Department for a school board, all the Nonconformists will be forced to attend the Church school, having no defence when they so attend a Church school except the Conscince Clause. Hon. Gentleman opposite probably believe that clause works well enough, and that it is a sufficient protection. No doubt, it is so in their view of the case, but I can assure them that it is not so; for I saw quoted last year a portion of a speech spoken by the President of the Wesleyan Conference, in which it was stated that there were hundreds of parishes in England and Wales in which there was no social freedom whatever, and I know from abundant correspondence and my own personal knowledge that if the children of Dissenting families in many parishes of England were withdrawn from school, even under the protection of the Conscience Clause, a mark would be set on these families. ["No, no!"] Why, it is a matter of certainty. ["No, no!"] It was only the other day, not a week ago, I was in a parish not 50 miles from London, where there is no school but a Church school, and a good man there who was not a Churchman began to take a few children into a house to teach them as at a Sunday-school, and what happened? The moment there was a proposition to get up a little treat in the village for the children, the children who went to that school were omitted in the distribution, and they were shown at once by the clergyman's family, and those with whom he was associated, that it was considered a great evil, little less than a sin, perhaps entirely a sin, that the children should go to be taught by this poor Wesleyan man, instead of going to the Church school. That will happen, and does 1833 happen, in hundreds of parishes in England. ["No, no!"] Well, but I know it does. ["No, no!" and cries of "Name!"] Name, why their name is legion. I asked a lady two or three years ago—a most benevolent and excellent person, but very much limited by her Church notions—who was describing to me how they distributed charity in her parish—"Do you ever call and distribute your charity at the house of any Dissenter?" We were speaking chiefly of children. She said, "Well, no—no; we don't—we don't include them." I did not argue with her, but I put a very simple question to her—"You are a Christian woman, or endeavouring to be so, but do you think that Christ would have made such a difference as that?" And she hesitated for a moment, and she said—"No, I think—I think He would not." But that difference does exist in your agricultural parishes in many hundreds of cases, and under this Bill which the noble Lord is now passing you will find those cases. You give the Conscience Clause as a security, but the parents of Nonconformist children may wish to have their children educated in board schools or in any other school than the school in connection with the Established Church. But by the clause you are now discussing, you may allow the school board to be suppressed, and to neither of the authorities which you substitute, do you give the power to provide schools for these children. Therefore with all my disposition to help the noble Lord in anything that he may do, even in accordance with the Bill of 1870, though in that Bill I think there were great defects, it is impossible for me to give my support to a clause like this. I am certain—more certain than before the delivery to-night of the noble Lord's speech—a speech which no man in his position at the head of the Education Department ought to have made—that if this clause passes it will be widely accepted as the signal for the re-opening of a question which was settled in 1870, and it will have the effect of weakening the operation of that Act, and of weakening that which on this side we do require, and which you profess to require, and I hope do require, that our system of education should gradually become wider, broader, and deeper, and should more entirely take within its arms, as it were, the whole of the population of the 1834 United Kingdom. I think nothing could have been more unfortunate than for the noble Lord after bringing his Bill so far with a certain amount of acquiescence—for it is a great matter, in a question to which attaches prejudices and hostilities in many localities, that there should be a general acquiescence on both sides of the House—to make an attempt like that which he is now making to upset the foundations of the Bill of 1870. I believe in so doing he will stir up a degree of intolerance and hostility between parishes, and that a great deal of good he hopes to do by the Bill he will undo or poison by his unfortunate acceptance of the clause of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire.
§ MR. A. MILLS
said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, instead of addressing himself calmly to the question before the House, had spoken in a tone calculated to rouse controversial feelings. The right hon. Gentleman had a very limited experience of the action of Church people, and yet he had charged those interested in voluntary schools, and especially in Church schools, with habitually using the alms put into their hands by the Legislature for proselytizing purposes. He (Mr. Mills) denied altogether the charges made by the right hon. Gentleman against the clergy of the Established Church as to schools, and the lay members of the Church with respect to the distribution of charities. The right hon. Member might have heard such tales in idle gossip, but there was no foundation for such sweeping assertions. It was suggested that the issue raised by the clause of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire, with the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Chester incorporated in it, would imperil the Act of 1870, and was intended as an attack upon school boards. He denied the statement altogether. There was no intention whatever, nor was there anything in the statement of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council, which would warrant in the slightest degree the insinuation of the right hon. Gentleman. He would venture to say that the noble Lord had done more to promote the action of school boards than the right hon. Gentleman himself. When the noble Lord spoke of getting rid of "the slough" of the school boards, he was not alluding to the great school boards, 1835 but to those which had not yet done a single act to promote the cause of elementary education. The right hon. Gentleman talked as if this were an attack on school boards; but any one who would take the trouble to read between the lines of the Amendments of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire and the right hon. Member for Chester would see that it was no such thing. It was not an attempt at the dissolution of school boards, nor was it an attack, direct or indirect, on their action, which he, for one, was prepared to justify as most valuable in large towns. The question was, whether Parliament would enable the inhabitants to rid themselves of machinery which they had themselves created, when the Bill provided every one of the districts with the means of establishing compulsion as thoroughly as the Act of 1870. It was, therefore, intended to respect and maintain those school boards which were efficient and did their duty, while at the same time they gave back to the ratepayers the power of doing away with school boards that did nothing, and replace them by elected bodies who would meet the wants of the district. If the right hon. Gentleman and those who supported him supposed they were playing a good card, that they were raising a popular cry by insisting that absolutely useless school boards should not be discontinued, they would find themselves very much mistaken. For the last two or three years he had been a member of a school board, and he ventured to say a more unpopular office never was filled. They were told by high authority that woe waited upon them when all men spoke well of them. Then, if the converse were true, the members of the School Board of the metropolis were the most happy men alive. Parliament was not asked to deal with school boards which had done their work, but those which had done absolutely nothing, and if they would not allow the ratepayers who had called those boards into existence to dissolve them, instead of doing a popular act, they would be doing that which would meet from their constituents the reprobation which it deserved.
§ MR. DODSON
wished, as the noble Lord had so pointedly alluded to the Amendment which he (Mr. Dodson) had put on the Paper, to say a few words. 1836 The question before the Committee was not one which called for excitement; but he could not help thinking with respect to what had just fallen from the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Mills), that he must have forgotten the nature of the Assembly he was addressing in referring to matters which in discussing such a Bill should not be brought under their consideration. He must have thought he was addressing his constituents, and not the House of Commons. It was said this was not an attack on school boards; but, if not, he most certainly failed to see what else it could be, for the speech of the noble Lord who had adopted it, the only Minister who had spoken on the subject, if not a direct and vehement attack on school boards, certainly showed no great respect or regard for them. The noble Lord had not met the point so forcibly put by his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, that in removing a school board and substituting a Town Council or Board of Guardians, as would be the result of the adoption of the clause, they were removing the body which had full power to take over schools, and do much more for education than either of the substituted authorities, and placing in lieu thereof a body which had no such powers. Look what the effect on education would be. A school board might be set up one year and pulled down another, by a majority of the Town Council or Guardians, and might be restored again in the next year. How could education be expected to flourish under such a system. It was all very well for a Ministry to have an accidental majority, but care should be taken with respect to the use made of that majority. A proper system of education never could be maintained if principles upheld by one Party were to be overturned by another as soon as they got into power. When once educational machinery was set up, they could not be too cautious in affording facilities for its removal, because it was most desirable that education should take a firm root in the soil, and not be shaken in the earlier days of its growth. It was argued that the Amendment he had placed on the Paper implied, on his part, the acceptance of the clause, but that was certainly not his intention. All he intended was, if the clause should be read a second time, that he would endeavour to amend 1837 it by inserting the words he had placed on the Paper. But the noble Lord, if he understood him correctly, by the alteration he proposed would reduce his Amendment to a nullity.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
argued that where school boards failed to carry out the object for which they were established, facilities ought to be afforded for getting rid of them. He would mention a case in point which occurred in a parish in his own neighbourhood. A school board was elected in 1871 and re-elected in 1874. During those three years and a portion of 1875, they only discussed plans for sites, and did nothing to further the education of the district. In 1875 the ratepayers, embracing all sections of the community, joined together and subscribed a certain sum, bought a site, built a school-house for 400 children. The school was efficiently conducted; everybody was satisfied, and the only question was how to get rid of the school board. That was an instance in which a school board had ceased to be of any use, and he hoped the suggestion that had been made by the noble Lord would be accepted, in order that school boards of this description might be dispensed with.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, there were only 30 or 40 school boards whose position was at all illustrated by the description just given, for of the 540 that had no schools 510 had appointed attendance officers. But, even supposing there were more, if there were 100 cases such as that quoted, he held that the school boards would have plenty to do, even where there were no schools. Under the provisions of the Bill they would have to see that wastrels and the children of poor and drunken parents were educated—a duty in itself of the utmost importance. He contended that inaccuracy ran all through the speeches of the noble Lord and the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. A. Mills). Voluntary effort was not enough, and the experience the hon. Member for Exeter had acquired ought to have informed him that if a school were erected at every corner of every street in London it would be impossible to get the children to school. Thus where there were school boards without schools, it would be the duty of the former to see that children attended the latter, so that it could hardly be said that school boards were useless. He 1838 considered that the noble Lord had been very unfortunate in his speech. What was the reason of their being engaged upon this unfortunate clause, instead of the Prisons Bill? Simply because the noble Lord had broken the promise he had made, that he would loyally stand by the spirit of the Act of 1870. So far from doing so, he had accepted an Amendment which aimed at the destruction of 540 school boards, many of which were doing good in largecentres of population, and which held a threat over every other school board whatsoever. He maintained that the acceptance of the clause would create an agitation in every parish where there was a school board, and would give rise to the exercise of narrow-mindedness, intolerance, selfishness, and ignorance, by parsimonious ratepayers, and an intolerant parson, in order to destroy the usefulness of the boards, so that the educational progress of the country might be retarded on account of sectarian motives. Those who supported the clause simply objected to school boards because they were active and aggressive. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes, aggressive against ignorance and intolerance. The friends of the clause, in fact, who had brought it forward as they had done, were—Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike.They wished to use their majority, as it were, surreptitiously; but it should be borne in mind that all power in the long run came from the people, and that the House of Commons was the depository of that power. What was made by a majority could be unmade by a majority, and, as his hon. and learned Colleague had reminded them on the previous debate on the subject, the majority to unsettle a national policy must be a majority of that House. He utterly denied that school boards were either extravagant or irreligious. They talked of themselves as being a Christian Legislature. As far as he could see—speaking from an educational point of view—the only evidence of their being so was that they had a chaplain, who read prayers every day at 10 minutes to 4 o'clock. It was remarkable that the two front benches never came to prayers. He had commented upon the fact to a friend, who said in reply that the front benches of the Government at all events did not require to attend prayers, as 1839 their prayers were already answered. It was insinuated by the supporters of the clause that the school boards were irreligious bodies. He maintained, on the contrary, that they were, in some respects, more religious than some of their denominational schools, and that under the former religious education had enormously increased throughout the country. As a proof of what he had said, he would refer to the results of the examination in religious subjects of the children taught in the board schools of Sheffield to show how efficient that religious instruction had been. There was no precedent of ratepayers being either invited or encouraged to destroy any municipal institution created by Parliament. The noble Lord the Vice President of the Council seemed to have returned to his old love, and the threats which he had used in his speech reminded one very much of the threats that he uttered when he cried—"Woe to the vanquished," in introducing his Endowed Schools Bill. If the noble Lord had that feeling still in his heart, it would have been much more courageous for him to have endeavoured to carry it out. Instead of hanging the sword of Damocles over the 540 school boards that would have come within the purview of the hon. Member for South Leicester's clause, why had not the Government and their Friends the candour and courage of placing at once a Resolution before the House for the destruction of all the school boards? The noble Lord had threatened that evening to disclose the doings of some of these school boards, if provoked by the further opposition of his political opponents. He (Mr. Mundella) challenged the noble Lord to do so. Until the hon. Member for South Leicestershire had prepared his clause, the noble Lord had over and over again declared that he would stand by the principles of the measure of 1870, and resist every Amendment that departed from the lines of that Act. But at the eleventh hour the noble Lord, forgetting that policy which he had enunciated, adopted an Amendment which was subversive of the main object of the Act of 1870; and now, by a conspiracy of silence and the force of their majority, the advocates of this re-actionary proceeding sought to force it upon an unwilling people. He would, however, tell him that, though in a minority in that House, so long as the Opposition 1840 had power to resist such a dangerous measure as that under discussion they would exercise all the resources that the Forms of the House gave them to prevent its passing.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY
said, he did not think that either the tone or language of the hon. Gentleman's speech was at all likely to benefit the cause which he seemed to have at heart, and therefore he would not follow him in his heated invective or the threat which he had thought proper to hold out. He trusted that the clause would be considered calmly and dispassionately, and would be decided according to its merits. The doctrine of "once a school board always a school board" was quite new to him, because the 24th clause of the Act of 1870 distinctly contemplated the transfer of school boards. He therefore denied that the supporters of the present clause were doing anything contrary to the Act of 1870. The hypothetical case mentioned by the right hon. Member for Chester could not possibly occur under the clause, because it applied only to districts in which there were no school-board schools or school sites; and even in the Act of 1870, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford had actually, in his 24th clause, provided for the re-transfer of schools from school boards to the managers, if two-thirds of the members of the school boards desired such transfer. Was not that provision something very like what the present clause proposed? The House had no desire to interfere with the existing school boards except where they had really no work to do. What, then, could be more reasonable, or in accordance with common sense, than to provide against their continuance in the latter case?
§ MR. W. JAMES
regretted the Government had not abandoned the clause, rather than adopt the retrogressive and reactionary policy they had at the last moment ventured upon. The result had been to introduce the element of religious bitterness into their debates, and to prolong their discussions to an unreasonable length. They would have done more wisely if, instead of giving their acquiescence to this proposal of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire, they had acted upon the good old maxim Vestigia nulla retrorsum. The Act of 1870 was framed to provide sufficient 1841 elementary education to every child throughout the Kingdom by the instrumentality of the school-board system; but the new proposal tended to wholly subvert that system. He regarded the clause of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire as indirectly striking a blow at the principle of self-government, which was the great guarantee for the diffusion of the benefits arising from the Act of 1870. It was chiefly in the rural districts that the system was required, and no centralized system could confer so much advantage on the people so far as the education principle was concerned. In addition to those objections, he feared that in many districts Church schools formed a sort of clerical hobby, and it was to be regretted that the clergy of the Established Church had not joined with the popular feeling on this most important question, but they had joined another camp. He hoped, however, that the day was not distant when the great question of education would be entirely in accordance with the wishes of the great body of the people. In conclusion, he must say the clause was decidedly of a re-actionary character, and hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House would oppose it to the bitter end. The Conservative Party had come out in their true light in this matter; and it was remarkable how unanimous they were in supporting the clause when they discovered that it was re-actionary.
§ MR. MARTEN
said, the question of the maintenance of school boards was put forward by hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House as if the abolition of useless school boards involved an attack upon the proposed improvement in the great work of elementary education; but surely in localities where there were school boards without schools, and without sites to build them on, it was not unreasonable to have a power in the Bill to remove such school boards. They had instances of localities wherein school boards were actually forced upon the people, where there was sufficient proper school accommodation for children, thus incurring expense for a school board which was perfectly useless. At the same time, he would admit that in the majority of cases there was no complaint with regard to their action. He thought that, considering the sacrifices made by the clergy in the cause of education, it was disrespectful to talk of Church 1842 schools as "a clerical hobby." Who erected the Church school-houses? The members of the Church. And if parents not being members of the Church sent their children to those schools, and had an objection to the religious teaching in them, there was the "Conscience Clause," of which they might avail themselves. As to the clause, it was carefully guarded, so that the interests of education might not suffer; and the argument of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) was easily answered, for if the population of a district increased after the dissolution of a school board, and it was found that the educational wants of the district could not be otherwise met, there was nothing to prevent the Education Department from calling a school board again into existence. He considered the clause important, and deserving of the approval of the Committee, and he maintained that to give the power of dissolving school boards was no new thing; for as late as the Public Health Act of last year, power was given to the Local Government Board to dissolve local government districts, and in other Acts similar authority was given.
§ MR. LOWE
said, if he understood aright the observations of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council in opening the debate that evening, the noble Lord treated that as a mere matter of the transfer of powers from one body to another. If that was the noble Lord's argument, some Members of the Government ought to explain a little further the real nature of the transaction. As he understood the matter, the school boards had the power of taking schools over, of building schools, and of levying rates. It was now proposed to enable the Privy Council to dissolve those school boards, and that, according to the noble Lord, acted as a transfer of their powers to the Guardians. But that was not a proper description of the nature of the transaction. He did not know that it was very important whether the powers in question should be in the school boards or the Boards of Guardians. But this was not in the real nature of a transfer at all; it was in reality an annihilation of the organizing power—a destruction of the power which Parliament deliberately provided six years ago for the purpose of creating and maintaining schools in this country. It was therefore a little hard, when Government came 1843 forward and lent its authority to such a change as that, to be told as the only excuse they had had for it, that it was a mere transfer. Why, the essential part of the proposal was that it destroyed machinery provided by Parliament for making new schools. Granting even that there were sufficient schools now, how long would that be the case? Circumstances might arise, such as a factory being established, or the opening of a now railway, which would oblige the locality, in consequence of the increase of population occurring, to call for more schools, and then, instead of having, as at present, the machinery to their hand, deputations would have to go to the Education Department, and infinite trouble would have to be taken before they could create them. Why were the Government bent upon destroying the authority which had existed from the first for creating schools, and why did they throw these obstacles in the way? They had a right to ask the Government what their policy was in the matter, and how they distinguished it from general hostility to education. He had been content to leave the question in the hands of men better competent to deal with it than he; but now that it had come to this, he must point out that, although Parliament deliberately selected the machinery, and it was the foundation of the Bill itself, yet without any reason except what he must call the excuse that it was a transfer they were to put in force machinery for the destruction of these boards. A single vote at a single election by this proposal would be able to destroy the work of many years. They must observe, too, that the noble Lord spoke in a tone very hostile to school boards, and said that, if compelled to open his lips, he had dreadful revelations to make. But the noble Lord was the person who would have to weigh dispassionately whether schools boards were to be put an end to or not, and whether new school boards were to be established. It was on the noble Lord and on his office people must rely to do justice when they got heated in these discussions; but he had given a specimen of what they had to expect in the animus with which he had spoken that evening and on other occasions. The aim of the Education Act, and of all persons pledged to education, was to direct the attention of voters to the one question of spreading education, and making it as good and efficient 1844 as possible. By the clause, however, totally new considerations would be introduced. It would not be a question of how to get the best school and the best people to manage it, but of what sort the school should be, and there might be endless elections with reference to this single question, because Parliament had chosen to throw down the apple of discord. It was turning the question of education into a question of politics, importing bitterness and heart-burning into these matters, and making the existence of every school board depend upon obtaining a majority in an election, which a little bigotry or carelessness might overthrow, and so the work of self-sacrifice and devotion might be utterly destroyed. He thought they were not asking too much when they asked for an explanation of that sudden change.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought the right hon. Gentleman perfectly justified in asking for a further explanation from the Government, and that it appeared necessary for them once more to state their opinion on the subject. The Government had been much surprised by the tone which the debates had taken on the new clause of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire; and they feared that many of the remarks which had been made on both sides of the House had given rise to erroneous impressions, which might be mischievous in their tendency, with reference to the intention of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman had said the proposal before the Committee was not so much a transfer of certain powers from one body to another as a destruction of what was called "organizing power." But if there were any intention on the part of the Government to undertake so serious a business as to propose to reverse the policy of the Act of 1870 and destroy a great and valuable organizing power, it would have been their duty to have made proper provision in the first draft of the Bill for carrying it into effect, and to have explained the proposal fully to the House on the second reading of the Bill. The conduct of the Government would have been culpable if they had refrained until the last moment from doing what had been described by some as "springing a mine" upon the House and the country. But their answer to that was that there was no such intention, and as they interpreted the 1845 clause, especially with the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester, it would have no such effect. The reason why there had been so much heat in the discussion was, that there prevailed a great deal of suspicion on the one side that there was something behind, and the very animosity with which the clause had been attacked had created some feeling on the other. But the evil to which hon. Members had referred was an imaginary evil, for the real state of the case was this—By the Act of 1870 provision was made, not for the compulsory election of school boards all over the country, but for their adoption where they were desired, and, in certain cases, for the creation of school boards where the localities did not make proper provision for education. These school boards were to have various powers: they were to have organizing powers, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich had stated, and they were also to have the power of compelling the attendance of children. In a certain number of cases the school boards had been either voluntarily adopted or ordered, but they had been adopted or ordered for the purpose of supplying defects in the educational machinery of the district which could not be supplied by mere voluntary action. But in these cases powers had been exercised by the school boards which took them entirely out of the operation of this clause. It would not affect the case in which a school board had a school, a school site, or a school under its control; it would in such a case be mere waste of paper. It would affect only a limited number of school boards, and that was the reason why the Government had not themselves introduced it into the Bill. It was necessary in some cases to have school boards, not only in order to organize the educational resources of a district, but because they were the only bodies that could exercise the power of compulsion in the attendance of children. Under this Bill another machinery was provided for the purpose of compelling the attendance of children, and it appeared, therefore, perfectly reasonable that they should say to any district which had adopted a school board for no other purpose than to compel children to go to school—"We have provided another machinery for that purpose; you may, therefore, 1846 lay aside the machinery you adopted with that view, and adopt the substitute provided in this Bill." But then it might be said that school boards might be dissolved where they were necessary to secure the proper education of the district. Now, there were two answers to that—the Government fully recognized the importance of providing against that danger. If they accepted, as they proposed to do, the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester, the danger would be avoided by placing in the hands of the Education Department the power of saying whether a dissolution of the school board would be prejudicial to the educational interests of the district. But if, in the judgment of the Education Department, it was not necessary to have a school board in a particular district, and if the locality did not wish it, how, in the name of justice, could they call on the district to continue the school board? He, therefore, thought that where they gave the local authority the power of adopting and creating a certain machinery they should also give it the power, under certain safeguards and restrictions, of dissolving it. It was said this was without precedent; but under the Highways Act power was given to the magistrates to regulate highway districts, in different parts of the country; and in the same Act a power strictly analogous to that given by this clause was given, by which boards might be altered from time to time, or dissolved by the same authority that created them. But there was another answer—in the 19th clause of the Bill, where it was satisfied, after inquiry, that any local authority had failed in its duty, the strong power was given to the Education Department to appoint other persons for a specified term to perform the duty of the local authority. The Education Department, therefore, had very strong powers to see that the educational machinery of the country was kept up to its work and did it. That was a simple exposition of the views of the Government. The matter was a small one; the clause would only operate in a few cases—to so small an extent that it did not occur to them to prepare a clause with that view; but when the proposal was made the Government could not deny its justice, nor could they see anything in it of a re-actionary character. In fact, it was in perfect harmony with the 1847 principles of the Bill. They had no right to complain of the discussion which had occurred on this subject. But he hoped that the threats which had been throw out that opposition to the clause would be carried to the utmost limits of Parliamentary propriety were not to be taken literally as indicating the position that those who objected to the clause would be obliged to take up. There might be cases in which such a course was justifiable; but, looking to the small amount of provocation and the extremely reasonable nature of the proposal, he could not think hon. Gentlemen were serious in saying they were prepared to jeopardize what they admitted to be a good Bill. He therefore trusted that hon. Members would forego that course of proceeding, and he hoped the Government would not be accused of imaginary wickednesses which they had no intention of committing, and that they might be permitted very soon to take the opinion of the Committee on the clause.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, he was surprised the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had sat down without giving an answer to the objections which had been urged. The right hon. Gentleman said that on the dissolution of a school board its powers would be transferred to the local authorities, Corporations, and Boards of Guardians. But there was, in fact, no such transfer. If it were, it could not properly be a "transfer," because the powers of a school board were so much larger than those of the attendance committees. Aparish once relieved from a school board need not come under the provisions of the Bill, or elect any new local authority for educational purposes, and place itself under the control of the Education Department. The introduction of the clause by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Pell) and its acceptance by the Government had been a cause of great disappointment to him and many hon. Members on that side of the House. They were up to that time highly satisfied with the Bill, and sincerely wished it might speedily pass; and they could not understand how, for such an admitted limited object, they should allow the Bill to block the way of so many important measures which had been introduced by the Home Secretary, the President of the Local Go- 1848 vernment Board, and other Members of the Government. Would it not, he suggested to the noble Lord, be better to see how the Bill would work, say, for one or two years, without the clause. If it was found that the new local authorities did the work well and effectively, it would be easy afterwards to give powers for extending the operation of the Act to districts in which school boards had not been efficient. He hoped the suggestion would be considered by the Government.
§ DR. WARD
asked for the indulgence of the Committee while he referred to the opinions of the Roman Catholics in this country, which could not be expected to be so well represented by English Members. Many Roman Catholics would prefer to see their children go to a Church school with a Conscience Clause rather than allow them to go to a secular school under a school board. By the clause the Committee was only asked to abolish school boards that were doing no work at all, and it was opposed by hon. Members who wanted to shove the school boards down the throats of those who did not want them. As representing to some extent the opinions of Roman Catholics, he should feel it his duty to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire. The Roman Catholics had never yet given up one of their schools to a board, and in many districts the boards which it was now sought to get rid of were practically useless and involved unnecessary expense. He regarded the opposition to the proposed clause as a part of the movement led by the Birmingham League, whose scheme of education was most objectionable in point of religion, true liberty, and parental authority.
§ MR. BRISTOWE
, whilst admitting the ingenuity of the arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, could not help saying that on the present occasion they were far from convincing. He denied that the duties of a school attendance committee under the Bill were at all on all fours with the duties imposed upon school boards. He did not agree with the statement of the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) that the proposed clause would only apply to a small number of school boards. On the contrary, he considered there was a considerable number of school boards throughout the country to which the 1849 clause would be applicable, and he altogether denied the assumption that a board was unnecessary, where there was no site for a school in their possession, and where there was sufficient school accommodation otherwise. The course proposed by the Government seemed to him a retrograde step. If this clause were agreed to there might be a party cry raised at Town Council elections for the abolition of the school board in towns where such boards existed, and thus the school boards themselves would occupy a most doubtful, uncertain, and unenviable position. He had supported the second reading of the Bill, being of opinion that it contained much that was useful, but his opinion would be much modified if the clause under consideration were adopted, believing as he did that it was directed at the very existence of school boards throughout the country.
§ MR. STORER
thought that the opposition to the clause arose from the apprehension that the hatred which existed in the country of useless, expensive, and litigious school boards would extend to the towns. One case was within his knowledge, which he believed was one of many. A village in Nottinghamshire elected a school board, and with what result? There was no schoolmaster and no school, and the only result of the election was the imposition of a rate of 4d. in the pound—equal to an income tax of 8d. being assessed upon the rental. For that the ratepayers had the pleasure of a triennial election and the payment of the clerk of the board. They would, however, now be only too glad to get rid of the board. He believed that in many districts that harmless clause would be received with pleasure by the ratepayers, and he cordially gave it his support.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he was opposed to the Education Act of 1870, and while it was passing through the House he advised the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) to get together 20 other Members and die on the floor of the House, rather than let it pass. He believed the hon. Member regretted now that he did not act on the suggestion. The arguments used on the other side were not only unfair, but, speaking in a Parliamentary sense, they were not honest. He would admit that school boards were unpopular; but, in his opi- 1850 nion, that was an argument against the proposed clause rather than in its favour. The school boards being done away with, nothing stood between this Algerine measure of compulsion and payment out of public money towards schools supported by clerical influence. Now, clerical influence was really responsible for the ignorance and backwardness of this nation as compared with other nations in the matter of education. At Oxford and Cambridge, where the same influence was paramount, there was an utter failure to give a practical, useful education, and the result was among our country gentlemen an ignorance to which was really due the existence of our National Debt. Let them contrast it with the education given at the Scottish Universities, where it was of a quality that enabled its recipients to rise superior in intellectual power to the students of the English Universities, and become minds of mark of the present day.
asked the hon. Member, whether those observations would not be more germane to a debate upon the Universities Bills?
§ MR. WHALLEY
, with great deference, ventured to think they would not, and went on to say that allhistory proved that if you wanted to perpetuate ignorance, or, what was worse, bigotry, you must place education under the control of ministers of religion, he did not care whether they were called priests, parsons, or preachers. The question was, what was education? Reading, writing, and arithmetic, in his opinion, were most dangerous weapons to put in the hands of any child; for what would be the result of reading if children were placed under the power of the clergy? Why, simply that they would read the Lives of Saints, or some such books, instead of penny dreadfuls. There was very little difference from his view between that kind of literature and that which had been introduced into the Church of England by her clergymen. On that ground he was opposed to the whole Bill.
§ MR. HERMON
said, he thought that education might be carried to such an extent that the country would be tired of the expense of the whole affair. Why should they go on building new schools in districts where confessedly they had already ample school accommodation? Those school boards were objectionable in many respects, and he thought that 1851 even Roman Catholics would prefer sending their children to the Church of England schools rather than to schools where religion was altogether excluded from the instruction. The clause had been represented as intended for the wholesale destruction of school boards. If that were its object it would not have the support of the Government; certainly it would not have his support. It only gave the power to those who had created a school board to make a representation to the Education Department when they found a school board was unnecessary. School boards had become unpopular because they had set themselves against religious education, and school committees of the Guardians or Town Councils would be more disposed to carry out the wishes of the country in that respect. Under the present proposal the same power which called those school boards into existence would be able to dispense with them in districts where they had nothing whatever to do, and where they only increased the burdens of the ratepayers without conferring on them any proportional advantages. The Bill was sufficiently strong for the purpose of getting all children to attend schools, whilst it created safeguards against the establishment of useless school boards and unnecessary taxation.
§ MR. JACOB BRIGHT
remarked, that much had been said as to the effect of the acceptance of the clause on education. He would like to ask what would be the effect of its acceptance upon the reputation of Parliament? Whatever might be the defects of the House of Commons no one would charge it with fickleness of purpose. Whatever work it did, after much or little deliberation, it adhered to with great tenacity. There were laws on the Statute Book, and there were laws, perhaps, older than any statute, which had been condemned by Committees of that House and by Royal Commissions against which there had been much agitation, yet Parliament continued to defend them. But now they were asked to abandon an Act of Parliament passed only six years ago, without inquiry, without debate, there having been no Petitions to that House on the subject, and no agitation in the country. They were asked to give up tried, for untried, methods. The school board, so far as it had been tried, had fully an- 1852 swered the expectation of the country, yet they were asked to give it up in favour of plans of which they had no practical experience. It might be that the new local authority—namely, the Boards of Guardians and the Town Councils, would be found unfit for the duties now sought to be imposed upon them. A few weeks ago he presented an important Petition from a Lancashire Board of Guardians. The Petitioners urged that they were unfitted to deal with the question of education on the grounds of want of experience, and the onerous duties already imposed upon them. It was said there were places that had formed school boards in great haste and which now wished to be rid of them. Might they not, under the clause, abandon them in haste, and accept some other authority which had been wholly untried and with which they might be just as much dissatisfied? For the last two years Government had been forming school boards. The number that it had established was very great. Surely if it had no confidence in them, if it believed that they were a burden to the country and that some other authority would be much more acceptable and much more useful, the Bill then before the House should have been brought in at an earlier period and the school board question should have been fully dealt with in the Bill. It had been shown in the course of the debate that nearly all the school boards which might be endangered by that clause had compulsory bye-laws. That was a proof that they were seriously engaged in educational work. They were obtaining valuable experience, and they ran the risk of being dispersed by the operation of that clause, and the work of education might pass into new hands. One of the greatest difficulties in connection with that Bill was the fact that in very many places there was only one school, and that a Church school; and children were therefore to be driven into the Church school, whatever the opinions or religious views of their parents. That aspect of the Bill had been ably dealt with in a discussion on going into Committee on the Bill raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard), and supported in an earnest speech by the hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Waddy). The difficulty they all knew was not easily met, but where- 1853 ever a school board existed it was much diminished. The noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon) asked them why they cared so much to defend an institution of only six years' standing? He (Mr. Bright) should think it the duty of the Members of a Government to defend an institution of only six years' standing on the ground that it could not have had a fair trial. There might be circumstances in which he could support the clause under discussion or even a more sweeping clause. Let the school boards be tried for a sufficient number of years, let the other educational authorities to be set up by this Bill be tried, let them compete with each other for a length of time, and then let them be judged; and if it were found that education languished where school boards existed and flourished under other management, if it were found that school boards were a burden and a disadvantage and that Town Councils and Boards of Guardians were more successful in promoting instruction, then they on that side of the House should make no fight for school boards.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, the strong objections which had been made from that side of the House were not in any way met by what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer). They had been told that the clause would apply in very few instances, and only have the effect of doing away with unnecessary school boards, under the sanction of the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon). On the first blush of the thing, it seemed to him that if the clause were of such an in significant character hon. and right hon. Gentlemen would not have been prepared to make such a great sacrifice to ensure the passing of the clause. He thought that he might also say, that that remark able courtesy which had marked the conduct of the Bill by the noble Lord, would, if it had been a matter of small or trivial importance, have induced him to willingly give way to avoid the opposition which the clause had met with from that (the Liberal) side of the House. He was unable to distinguish the meaning of the clause if so described. The noble Lord was continually speaking of unnecessary school boards, and, no doubt, if they could be persuaded of their being unnecessary, they might come to view their suppression without regret. But 1854 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) had shown that there was really no such thing as an unnecessary school board. Many of the boards now constituted were called into existence by the Department over which the noble Lord presided. They were created for an object, and they had either fulfilled their object, or they had not fulfilled their object. If they had fulfilled their object, they showed that they still possessed the power of doing good work. But suppose, on the other hand, that in some districts denominational managers had raised a sufficient number of schools, then the noble Lord said a school board was unnecessary. No doubt that was and would be so as longas the district remained in the same position; that was to say, so long as the denominational schools remained the same in number, and the population remained the same in numbers and in way of thinking. But, when owing to a change in popular opinion, or any other cause, the persons having the management of those schools found that all their zeal and all their efforts failed to secure subscriptions, or to raise the necessary supplies, then it was well to have an existing education machinery like the school board to step in, and say to the managers of the denominational school which was insufficiently supported—"We (the school board) are willing to take over your school, under the school board conditions, and to levy rates upon the districts for its support, and to prevent its being extinguished." Thus, an apparently unnecessary school board became a potent influence for good, and the power which it exercised of levying rates to support its schools was of much value, and was a power for which no substitute was found in Town Councils or Boards of Guardians. To call those last authorities substitutes for school boards was to speak of what did not exist. They might exercise a compulsory power of attendance, but in no other way did they exercise the functions of a school board. The right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that school boards should not be abolished except under certain conditions; either they must have no school buildings or sites for schools, or no schools under their control, in those cases only would the clause apply. What would be the 1855 effect of the clause if passed? It would introduce an agitation to withdraw schools from, under the control of the school boards, and it would check the establishment of boards when they might exercise a great influence for good, and discourage school-board operations throughout the country. The Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester was an improvement; but even that was wide of the purpose, and would do no good. With an Education Department with a staff of permanent officials entertaining a dislike to school boards, there would be no difficulty in finding good reasons to justify the abolition of a school board. The Amendment simply provided that the Education Department might judge of the propriety of abolishing a school board, and no one could doubt of the effect under the present management of the Department. He was aware the noble Lord said that school boards were unpopular, and that he challenged them on that side to venture to defend an unpopular institution. He (Mr. Rylands) was quite willing to admit that in many districts all local bodies who levied rates were unpopular in a greater or less degree. There was a prejudice against them and an ignorant impatience of local taxation. It was that ignorant impatience which was constantly complaining of rates levied for the most useful objects and constantly asking to have local rates removed, however they might be employed for local objects, and thrown upon the central fund of the nation, proposing a policy of centralization. There would always be found many willing to rid themselves of liability and responsibility in that way. He admitted they could easily get up a cry against local rates amongst certain classes for any purpose. In the case of the Public Health Act—hewas not sure whether it was upon the introduction of the Act—but in reference to that Act a cry of the kind was raised. There were deputations from all parts of the country who represented themselves to Lord Palmerston as deputations delegated by large and influential bodies to oppose the Bill. What did Lord Palmerston say to those gentlemen who told him all this? He said—Well, gentlemen, my experience is that in every borough you may find what I may call a dirty party, and this dirty party will offer opposition to anything, however beneficial its 1856 object, for the sake of a penny or two pence in the pound.Lord Palmerston shrewdly alluded to a fact they had all found in their experience. In no large body of people—he might say in no moderate-sized village—were they without a dirty party, who would protest loudly if they only told them that it was proposed to add largely to taxation. But when in addition to that matter of the cost of education the argument of religion in danger was raised, and all the religious zeal aroused against it, there was presented a powerful combination. Something of that was seen in the General Election of 1874, and it had a serious effect on political parties. The noble Lord and many hon. Gentlemen on the other side in alluding to the unpopularity of school boards and raising the objection to their rating power, in reality covered their antagonism to the undenominational character of school boards. Denominational education really meant, in other words, Church schools. He had received, and so he supposed had other hon. Members, a copy of an article which appeared in The Church Quarterly Review for January last, on the present state of education. It was written by a gentleman of great ability; he did not know the writer, of course, but he appeared to be an authority of some respectability. The article in question was published and forwarded to hon. Members to influence public opinion. He found from the article that the Church party, as represented by The Church Quarterly Review, looked with the greatest dissatisfaction on the Elementary Education Act of 1870. All through the article hostility to school boards, and to the principle upon which the Act of 1870 was framed, was undisguised, and after a critical history of the Act, it urged upon the Church party the duty of rallying together to prevent the Act being carried to its full extent in the way it had been during the past three or four years. It was quite clear from that pamphlet that the Church party entertained the strongest dislike to local rating by the school boards, because the exercise of that power necessarily meant the establishment of undenominational schools. The writer went on to explain how it was that the Act passed the House of Commons in that year (1870), and said there was then a fever of excitement, and the 1857 effect of the Bill was then not so clearly foreseen, and that now it must be stopped, before it became too late. In another passage the writer of the article said—So far as things have gone at present, we find that up to April, 1875, Church schools to the number of 187, having accommodation for 30,900 children, have been transferred to boards. We hope the mischief may be arrested; for let our friends know what all this means. The barest money-value of the property thus surrendered cannot be under £170,000. Of course, every school surrendered by the Church is so much capital not merely sacrificed, but made over to the other side to be used against us. It is like losing a seat in the House of Commons; it counts two on a division.If those words meant anything they meant that since 1870 there had been a continued absorption of schools by the boards, and now the Church party would by every means in their power resist the action of those boards and prevent their establishment in new districts, and it showed a determination to support denominational schools without reference to the general interests of education. There was not wanting other evidence, but from the article in the Review and from communications sent by clergymen it was clear that on the part of the Church party there was a strong feeling against board schools. Knowing all this when the noble Lord introduced his Bill, he (Mr. Rylands) listened with the greatest anxiety to see if the influence of that party could be traced. They believed that pressure would be put upon the noble Lord by that party, and it was with great relief they heard the noble Lord's temperate speech, which appeared exceedingly fair and candid. There was every desire to meet him in a fair spirit, for they knew the difficulty of the case he had to deal with. Not only was a favourable opinion formed from his statement, but when the Bill was in their hands, although there were some who thought the Bill wanted improvement in many ways, yet he thought that having regard as he had said to the difficulties of the position it did form a basis upon which a few Amendments might be added to make an useful assistance to the cause of national education. Some might have wished that basis to have been broader, but all were not indisposed to make considerable allowances for the difficulties that had to be contended with. But the noble Lord had entirely departed 1858 from that fairness and moderation of tone with which he introduced the Bill. For his (Mr. Rylands's) part he was driven to the conclusion that the noble Lord was now acting under the influence of those above him, and was under the control of the Cabinet. The Cabinet had decided on taking the present step. And he would say why he thought so. He could recollect the debates of 1870, as he had the honour of a seat in the House at that time, and he heard strong speeches from right hon. Gentlemen now on the front bench opposite, who then sat on the side from which he (Mr. Rylands) was speaking, and he could well recollect the strong views they expressed. Those views were still held by some, at least, of right hon. Gentlemen forming the Cabinet. On June 19 of the present year the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Hardy) made a speech directly attacking school boards. He said—School boards were distasteful to the country on many grounds. They were unnecessarily expensive, and they often caused conflicts of opinion which led to expense, and rose bitter questions, which when once invoked, were not easily got rid of. They were distasteful because of that direct compulsion which was placed in their hands. He did not say they had not used that power with discretion, but they had exercised it in many instances to raise a great deal of public animosity against them, and whether justly or unjustly, school boards were an institution not favourably regarded….The Legislature had determined that the people should be educated, and the Government had considered that vast and most difficult question—how they could best attain that object. The school boards had not attained it. The country, indeed, would not adopt school boards with the view of attaining it."—[See ante. p. 36.]What right had anyone to say anything of the kind? How long had the Act been in operation? Why, it was but as yesterday;—and yet, schools were established all over the country; and no one was justified in saying that the Act of 1870 had not attained the object intended. It might cease to do so if the present clause were adopted, and especially when we found an influential Member of Government denouncing the school board system. There was also an allusion, in the nature of a sneer, to the Dissenters and Secularists—they were coupled together—as offering opposition to religious instruction. He thought it was extremely unfair to Dissenters, whose anxiety in the cause of 1859 religious education was not second to that of the Church of England; and Dissenters had done more, out of their poverty, for the cause of religious education, than the Church had done out of her riches. He knew perfectly well, that the charge of opposition to religion was one relied on to influence public opinion, and it was not without its effect. It had had its effect in the General Election—and he only hoped that it would be seen that this was, in fact, only a masked battery to protect the citadel of Church ascendancy. The change of front which the noble Lord had made in regard to the Bill, was, no doubt, due to the considerable pressure put upon the Government by the Church of England party. The influence of that party was not shown in loud demonstrations or large meetings; but it was a quiet pressure, and there was very little doubt that the effect of this pressure determined the Government to adopt this departure from the lines of the Education Act of 1870, and from the pledges which had been given when the present Bill was brought in. If that departure from the principles of 1870 had been made known upon the introduction of the Bill, he did not believe the Bill would have received the support of the House; and he thought there was good reason to complain that they had been unfairly dealt with. The Amendment introduced at the last moment had entirely altered the features of the Bill. The Bill was introduced upon the 18th of May, and there was then not a word to suppose the intention of Government was either to increase the grant to denominational schools, or to strike a blow at school boards. On June 16, and again on the 19th, there was not a word from the Government to indicate a change in their policy and in the nature of the Bill. It was true the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, expressed his strong opposition to school boards—but the House was often favoured with his opinions, and found they did not go altogether in the same direction as those of his Colleagues: they thought this was merely the representation of the strong Conservative element in the Cabinet, and so there appeared no reason to suppose such a change of policy as this;—and then followed the discussion in Committee for several days, and still no sign of the 1860 contemplated change. Thus, there had been a long debate on the First Reading—again, an adjourned debate on the Second Reading, and a long discussion in Committee; and, therefore, he maintained they had a right to say they had not been treated fairly, and that many hon. Members would not have supported the Second Reading, had they foreseen the interpolation of the clause. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen might not see the effect of the course adopted; but he (Mr. Rylands) could see it would induce a tendency on the part of the Liberal Party to consider that, if the Church of England was continually stretching out her hands for more money and more authority, the only course was—to separate Episcopalianism from the State; and if such a feeling were induced, it would be in consequence of the course taken by the Church party itself. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to convey the impression that they were offering a mere factious opposition; but it was not so. They wished to offer opposition by every legitimate means in their power; and, if the Bill came up for Third Reading with the disfigurement of the clause, he trusted it would again receive strenuous opposition.
THE O'CONOR DON
thought that a great deal of time had been wasted most unnecessarily during the last few days in discussing a very trifling point. The argument on the part of hon. Members opposite was that the clause was not intended to touch any school board that was doing good work, but only those which were practically useless. The view stated to be held by those near him was that the operation of the clause would be much more extensive than its proposer admitted, and that it would affect school boards which were useful. If that were the real state of opinion, and hon. Members were really in earnest, nothing could be easier than to read the clause a second time, and to limit its operation by introducing the necessary Amendments so as to make it carry into effect the views of all parties. He, however, could not regard the opposition to this clause as a bonâ fide one. The whole of Friday and the greater part of to-night had been taken up by a repetition over and over again of the same arguments, which were intended, not to convince the House or the country, but merely to retard the passing of the mea- 1861 sure. Hon. Members had placed their opinions before the House, and what was the use then in continuing to waste time by opposing the second reading of the clause? After the declaration of the Government that they intended to pass the Bill such tactics were unavailing, and their only result would be to keep hon. Members in town much longer than was necessary, for he could not believe that the Government would be so weak as to give it up, even if they were to sit until September. The hon. Members who opposed the clause were in a minority in that House, and were in a still greater minority in the country on this particular subject; for some of those who had opposed the clause had been elected by the votes of electors who certainly would not agree with them on this point.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
I tried, during the cool period between this debate and the previous one, to extract from the speeches of hon. Members opposite the real motives which have made hon. Members on the other side below the Gangway cheer so vehemently all efforts to support a clause which they profess to be so small and limited. In the speeches of the two hon. Members for Bury St. Edmunds, those motives were not in any way concealed. The noble Lord the junior Member for that borough (Lord Francis Hervey) openly attacked school boards in general, not the few which we are told come under the operations of the clause. He carefully gathered, from School Inspectors' Reports, all the passages which told against school boards, in order to prove their unpopularity. The youthful ardour of the noble Lord clearly showed that he viewed the clause as an advanced position to assail school boards as a whole. And the irrepressible truthfulness of the elder Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Greene) confirmed the re-actionary character of the clause, for he showed an eager desire to attack, root and branch, the Act of 1870, and all other obnoxious Acts which the Liberals had passed in their day of power. But I confess I found it more difficult to understand the position of the Government, for the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon) under-rated the value of the clause, describing it as a very little thing, and asked us to be calm and not excited. Formerly he 1862 cooed like a dove: to-night he has roared like a lion. He has menaced us with terrible threats, that, if we do not give up our opposition to this clause, he will repeat the exact course of the noble Lord the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lord Francis Hervey), and will read again from the Inspectors' Reports all the passages which we have heard already to prove the unpopularity of school boards. Well, this will be a formidable infliction to the House, which may well shrink from a repetition of a second dose of extract. But if he considered that that threat appals us, he must have already found out his mistake. What his menace has done is to convince us that we were quite right to consider this clause as an advanced trench against school boards in general. What other meaning can be drawn from it than that there are elements of destruction ready to be poured out from this clause against school boards in general, if we did not surrender at discretion? And after thus imprudently showing us his line of attack, the noble Lord offered to accept an Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chester (Mr. Dodson), the effect of which was to enable the Education Department to have power to consider the expediency of the proposals made to abolish a school board, but the speech and the threats of the noble Lord had made this worthless in our eyes. For we no longer saw a champion of school boards at the head of the Department, but a declared enemy who told us that they were unpopular, and threatened us with future cousequences if we did not give present submission. Still I find it difficult to understand the position of the Government. The noble Lord the Vice President of the Council has shown such knowledge, and displayed such skill in argument and exposition during the course of his management of this Bill, that when he gives us no information, and uses so few arguments in support of this clause, we must assume that he possesses no information which will justify its introduction, and that he has been unable to discover any forcible arguments by which it can be supported. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) has asked him various specific questions, but can get no specific answers. Perhaps, during the two days which have elapsed since the last debate, the noble Lord has 1863 got some of the information which we desire, so I will again put the question. Of the 541 school boards without board schools, how many of them would come under this clause, which requires that the district shall have no board school, no school site, and no deficiency of school accommodation? Surely, before adopting the clause, the Government inquired into its necessity. Out of the 541 school boards referred to, are there 6? are there 12? are there 20 in this condition? All that we now know as a fact is, that the Education Department has been forced to make 870 compulsory school boards, of which only 13 are in boroughs, and the rest in country districts. These compulsory boards are only formed where there is a deficiency of school accommodation, and few of them can yet have had time to apply a remedy. Well, the noble Lord refuses to give us any information to justify the clause, except the one case of the village of Smeeth, which turns out not to be a case at all, for the village is contented enough with its school board as a power in reserve for future action. It is clear why the noble Lord lets us grope our way in the dark in discussing this clause. If he told us that there were only half-a-dozen school boards in this position, he would cease to have justification for introducing such an important change in the machinery of the Act of 1870, in order to please a few villages like Smeeth, knowing that the clause would act equally on important towns like Stockport and Preston, and endanger their education. If, on the other hand, his intimate knowledge of the Department told him there were many school boards which would come under the three conditions of the clause, he would confirm our apprehensions of its far-reaching character, and would thus justify our resistance to powers which may destroy the most important parts of the machinery of the Act of 1870. And so the noble Lord prefers that we should discuss the clause in absence of all information as to its necessity. But is this mode of carrying an important clause worthy of a Government? As long as it was a clause of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), he might be excused for not knowing the details of the Education Department. But there is no such excuse for the Government which has adopted it, and we can come to no other conclusion than that they 1864 consented in a moment of weakness, with a view to please their supporters below the Gangway, and that they have not yet quarried out of the mass of information in the Education Department any facts to support the clause or any arguments which will justify it. The general argument of the noble Lord is—"Let us be cool and not get excited; the clause is really a small affair with few ulterior consequences: a school board, when elected by a popular vote, should surely reasonably be suppressed by the same vote, though we do not want to apply this principle to all local authorities, and the short and long of it is, the Government intend to support this clause, so why fight it?" Well, that style of argument is so entirely unlike the masterly way in which the noble Lord has supported the other clauses of his Bill, that we on this side must think that he is ashamed at having adopted this foundling, and that he desires no inquiries to be made into its history and character. The other side of the House cannot be surprised that we oppose this clause with all our might. We think it a logical but most dangerous consequence of the clause which was passed the other night for relieving denominational schools from local subscriptions. That clause, too, we were told, was but a little one, because its financial result would be limited to about £30,000. We asserted that, though now small, it would grow rapidly, and might ultimately cost the country £300,000 or £400,000 annually. Now, how does this clause follow as a logical result of that one? By it you have introduced a process of change which will in time convert the national denominational schools of this country into mere private adventure schools, with Government subventions, and this conversion will be more quickly completed when school boards have been got rid of, for the new authorities of this Act have no power to build schools of a mere national character to check the selfish operation of private adventure schools. There are many hon. Members opposite who give earnest attention to education and who do not share these apprehensions. But when you find equally earnest men on this side who do so, you should not be surprised that we opposed that clause, although you entreated us to pass it, because it was such a little one; and that we continue our re- 1865 sistance to this clause, although you also assure us it is so little. But it is like a grain of mustard seed which will grow into a large tree, and it is not difficult to see how it will do so. For though there are few school boards now in districts in which there is no deficiency of school accommodation, in the course of time there will be many in the condition of Stockport and Preston. If you had left them alone, these school boards would have passed bye-laws, and carried education into the universality, which you aim to attain by the new indirect and direct compulsory clauses of this Bill. Now you unsettle the whole of the 540school boards of the country which could have carried on such useful work. The moment there is an appearance of their reaching the position of having stimulated voluntary effort in the district to supply the difficiency of school accommodation, you let loose the powers of destruction. The cost of school boards occurs while this deficiency is being supplied; there is little cost in rural districts where it has been supplied—or, if there be, it is the fault of the ratepayers. But while the cost of stimulating the flagging zeal of denominationalism to supply new schools lasts, there is a minority of persons who are dissatisfied with the cost, and this adds to the unpopularity described by the noble Lord the Member for Bury St. Edmunds. This minority will always be a nucleus for agitation. Generally, in rural parishes, this minority consists of the rich people of the district. Until school boards are done away with there will be an annual resolution for their extinction, and often a ballot, for which the ratepayers will have to pay. You complain now of the cost of triennial elections—you are about to add to them the annual expense of a sectarian war to get rid of the school boards. And as the controversy gets embittered, you, if successful in abolishing the school boards, must be prepared, in your turn, for an organized attempt to re-establish them. By the clause we have lately passed, you will ultimately force Government on the side of those who desire universal school boards. Because they form the strongest levers possessed by the Government to secure a proper supply of schools and efficient attendance, and when Government becomes the chief paymaster, and local subscriptions fail, the Education Department 1866 will do its best to obtain a uniform and organized national system of management throughout the country. And so this clause will ultimately defeat the purposes of its framers. But, in the meantime, education will largely suffer from the agitation which will be produced throughout the country in the efforts of minorities to give a constant expression to their views at a heavy cost to the ratepayers. Hitherto this House has opposed the Permissive Bill of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) because it has feared the incessant agitations and fluctuations which it would produce—sometimes the ratepayers voting for public-houses, sometimes against them. But this clause has all the evils of the Permissive Bill in keeping up agitation, fomented and embittered by religious differences, for these, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard) admitted, lie at the root of your desire for this clause. And the melancholy outcome of this new clause is, that when we were trying, with little distinction of Party, to frame an Act to promote national education, you, at the very end of the measure, introduce clauses which awaken Party hostilities, and give to the Act, in our eyes, such a Party colour as to destroy our belief in the educational objects of the Bill. When our old animosities were dying out, you fan them again into a blaze. You have committed a great political mistake. We, on this side, never divided into two camps. Below the Gangway there were strong supporters of universal school boards, but above the Gangway there were many of us who desired to give fair play to denominational voluntary schools. We have seen you pass a clause which, in process of time, will convert voluntary schools supported by subscription into private adventure denominational schools, and you ask us now to enable you to strangle school boards, in order that the schools may be more easily kept under the influence of the Church—for that is at the bottom of the clause. Well, you have made us on this side a united party on the subject of education, which most divided us. You have compelled us all to believe that it is impossible to extend education with efficiency and economy to the nation unless there is a uniform system of national management, for 1867 you seem determined to repeat the machinery of the Act of 1870 whenever you have an opportunity, and get back to the system of separate denominational schools, as much as possible under the influence of the Church, and as little as possible under that of local authority or of national influence.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that if anything could tend to convince the Committee of the extraordinary waste of time to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lyon Playfair) had alluded, it would be the speech to which they had just listened. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that they (the Conservatives) had been guilty of apolitical mistake which had been favourable to his Party, inasmuch as it had united them and welded them as one man. He (Mr. Hardy) confessed that he should not be sorry to see a little more union amongst that Party, in spite of the disastrous effects which it might bring about to his own side of the House. It seemed to be taken for granted in all the speeches of hon. Members on the other side that there was no opposition to the Bill until these clauses were brought before the Committee. They forgot that the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), who had made himself so conspicuous in the debate, took a division on the second reading, and that division expressed hostility irrespective of the Government's new grant clause and of this new clause. But coming to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lyon Playfair), he (Mr. Hardy) must say that he had grossly misrepresented the meaning and the intention of the clause. Knowing the candour of the right hon. Gentleman, he did not suppose that he had done it on purpose, and indeed his argument was self-contradictory. He said the intention was to abolish school boards, because when the existing deficiencies had been supplied by the exertions of school boards, then the clause would come into operation, and school boards would be abolished. [Mr. Lyon Playfair: No, no; denominational schools would be introduced.] Certainly he understood the argument to be that after the school boards had stimulated the supply of ample accommodation, and made up all existing deficiencies, they would be abolished, and denominational schools would be established. But if so, and if the people 1868 supplied the deficiencies by voluntary schools, boards would have done nothing; and to come under this clause a board must be a board without a school under its control. The right hon. Gentleman suggested, though he did not seem to have meant it, that boards with schools would be got rid of; but as that was not so, his argument fell to the ground. As to the question of the right hon. Gentleman, how many of the 541 school boards would come under the operation of the clause, it was impossible for his noble Friend to tell how the feelings of the ratepayers might change as to the continuance of school boards, though if he understood the right hon. Gentleman rightly, he expected that when they had supplied all existing deficiencies the community would get tired of them and their schools, which would be replaced by denominational schools. If they did, the populations which had supplied the means had surely a right to denominational schools if they preferred them. His noble Friend the Vice President of the Council had been unjustly held up to opprobrium for maintaining the unpopularity of school boards, although some hon. Members opposite, and notably the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), had admitted the fact; and as to his (Mr. Hardy's) own remarks on the second reading, he did not disguise his opinion that, if in any place voluntary schools existed, and supplied sufficient and efficient schools, it would be deplorable that a school board should be formed there. It would harden, stiffen, and destroy that voluntary action to which we owed so much; it would be attended with the greatest disadvantage, and it would introduce a dissension where harmony had existed. In certain cases a sufficient number of schools would be set up by voluntary action, and the people, seeing that there were enough schools, and being anxious to get rid of the triennial disputes and expenses of school boards, would naturally be desirous to manage their schools in connection with the ordinary local authority. But then they were told that it would be a terrible thing that when they had createda school board, they should ever put it down. But take the other case, and suppose that the parish wished to have a school board, and were defeated at the election. So far from being obliged to be satisfied, 1869 they had the opportunity under the Bill of raising the controversy again and again. Yet if only by one vote a school board had been created, it was not to be abolished, even although it might be contrary to the wish of the influential people in the parish. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to think that no one was influential in a parish except the rich and powerful. They were very much mistaken. He agreed that when a man owned the whole of a parish he might do either a great deal of good or harm. In the majority of parishes, however, unless he was supported by the really influential people who were interested in imparting religious education, he was powerless to do good, although he might be powerful to do evil. When the people found school boards unnecessary, and became tired of the disputes and expense of elections, were they to be told they were to be debarred from asking to be relieved from that encumbrance? He could not be charged with hostility to school boards, because the only time he had lifted up his voice in Committee was when his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle took a strong view against them, and when he spoke against his hon. Friend's Amendment. The present clause was an act of justice and equity, and was in harmony with the Act of 1870, the only difference being that while that Act allowed the vote for the setting up a school board to be given freely, the Government thought it right, on the other hand, where the people thought they could get the work better done in other ways by Town Councils and the school attendance committees of Boards of Guardians, to allow them to do so. The right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), in a speech which was, he (Mr. Hardy) thought, extremely irrelevant—one of those speeches in which the right hon. Gentleman showed the animus he bore towards the Church of England—made statements so unfair and so unreasonable in connection with that Church that he did not think it necessary to reply to them. His sole argument was that by the local authorities, which would be set up where there were no school boards, schools could not be built out of the rates. Well, that was perfectly true; but the Education Department retained all its powers, and if the voluntary principle did not supply 1870 the requisite school accommodation, the Education Department would have the power to require that the deficiency should be supplied. The Department would give the voluntary principle the opportunity of supplying the deficiency, or would cause a school board to be established, if the deficiency were not supplied by the voluntary principle. It would in the latter event fix on that parish a school board for ever, as far as the present clause was concerned. It was said that the population of the country was increasing. That was no doubt true, but it did not grow to the extent suggested in a day, or a week, or a month, or even in a year. There would, therefore, be ample time for the Education Department to interfere where the voluntary principle did not meet the emergency. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh University—a great Liberal—taunted the Government with being supported on the present occasion by the most effective assistance of the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don). The right hon. Gentleman, who would never ask what a man's religion was, and who would protest against any investigation into the religious creed of any one who sat in that House, did not hesitate to say that the Government, of whom he had spoken as upholding the bulwarks of Protestantism, had begged for Roman Catholic assistance. He had seen the time when Roman Catholic assistance had been begged for by Parties in that House. It was not in his time, but he had heard of "compacts" with Roman Catholic Gentlemen years ago at Willis's Rooms, and he had known much more recently the assistance of Roman Catholic Members sought for the destruction of a Protestant Establishment. He avowed that in this case without asking it they were ready to take that assistance, because it was founded on justice. The hon. Member for Roscommon put forward no religious ground for giving them his support; and yet the right hon. Gentleman had thrown out that miserable taunt, when the proposal of the Government was founded on justice alone, and when he hoped by this means to obtain that united action so much to be desired by the Party opposite. When he was told that the Government were pursuing a re-actionary policy on the question of education, it passed 1871 by him like the idle wind which he regarded not. The question now before the House had nothing whatever to do with religion. It was whether school boards were necessary or not, and whether that, when they were not necessary, parishes should be relieved from them. In order to give effect to their taunts hon. Members opposite had assumed that the two excellent Representatives of Bury St. Edmund's were leaders of the great Conservative Party. He had great respect for the honesty of his hon. Friend (Mr. Greene), and was sure that when he made his general observations, he had regard to the question of justice alone, and did not think of re-action. The hon. Member for Burnley had quoted Lord Palmerston, and said the dirty Party and the religious Party were generally connected, but the sanitary question had nothing to do with the matter, and under the provisions of the Bill the dirty Party, or the non-education Party, would have little chance of success. In fact, the right hon. Member for Bradford admitted that the Bill contained provisions of effective compulsion for education; and although he wished for something better, he was bound to admit that as one of the clauses now stood it would make a very considerable advance in education. What, therefore, was the position? The noble Lord the Vice President of the Council had brought in a Bill for the spread of education throughout the country, and hon. Members opposite said they had supported it up to a certain point. That was not exactly the case. At all events, they had not done so as a body. They admitted that the Bill was calculated to advance education; and there was now a scheme on foot which, so far from confining school boards to places where they at present existed, took the power of extending them to every district in the country, so that in every parish the majority might call for school boards if they wished. Where, then, was the reality or justice of the taunt which said—"You are retarding education, and setting yourselves against it?" It seemed to him that the attack on that ground was wholly without foundation. Well, the hon. Member for Burnley wound up by reading an article from the The Church Quarterly Review, and endeavoured to make hon. Members at that side of the House responsible for every word of that article. 1872 For his part he must decline to be bound by what was stated in any magazine, although he had no doubt there was a great deal of truth in the article in question. The hon. Member went on to say that if the Church of England was going to stretch out her hand everywhere to exercise power or to receive money—which she could not do under the clause—the result would be to unite the great Liberal Party to procure the disestablishment of the Church and to throw her upon her own resources. Well, the time might come when the Party opposite might band together for that crusade, and for that crusade he would wait. For the present he was content to say that the Government had presented to the House an honest Bill, and they believed they were in no wise impairing the honesty or force of that Bill by tendering as they did to his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) in a sense of equity and justice, a hearty support.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he was anxious to go back to the pnrely educational aspect of the matter, and to explain why he and many others who thought with him were, upon solely educational grounds, strongly opposed to the clause. The right hon. Gentleman, in alluding to the previous history of the Bill, hardly did justice to hon. Members on that side of the House. He spoke of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) as if he had opposed the second reading. No opposition was offered to that stage, and the opposition subsequently offered was consistent with a general support of the Bill. The division which was taken on the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), also, was justified by the Amendments which were made in the Bill, as a concession to opinions expressed on both sides of the House. Then again, in Committee, the sole view of hon. Members was to secure as good a Bill as possible. Why, then, was the position so changed by this clause? He certainly thought the right hon. Gentleman would have stated the grievance which was to be met and the cases which required the operation of the clause. Some isolated cases had been mentioned, but they were not sufficient to call for such a provision, and the argument had never been answered that the clause would affect very many cases that ought to be let alone. 1873 The right hon. Gentleman said—"Wewill find you a substitute for the powers which are taken away;" but in the case of Stockport, Cambridge, and Kendal, for instance, no substitute whatever was provided. What was feared was, that in places where the school boards were doing good work, the clause would lead to agitation and a combination of all who for any reason were opposed to school boards with a view to have them dissolved. This was all the more likely from the fact—which he would admit—that school boards were not popular. That unpopularity, however, existed only to a certain degree, and might be accounted for, if they considered that school boards could not have done their duty without earning some unpopularity; bent he should never have expected the Education Minister to threaten that if they opposed the clause, he would retail every insinuation which the Inspectors had heard against the school boards. Those who opposed the clause had no particular love for school boards, but were anxious to maintain the principle that the inhabitants of a locality should elect persons to look after education, believing that upon such a principle they must rely for the success of education in this country. Parliament should be prepared to abide by the compromise of 1870; and while saying that where a district could do without a school board, it should not be interfered with, he should strongly object to a clause which would virtually upset everything that the Act of 1870 had done. With regard to the discretion to be given to the Education Department, he thought hon. Members ought not to be blamed if they declined to repose unlimited confidence in that Department. In many a rural parish where a school had been voluntarily transferred to a school board, the influence of neighbouring parishes would, in the event of this clause being passed, be exerted to procure the re-transfer of the school to its original owners. What cause, he should like to know, was there for such an agitation? Was it worth while to spend more time in discussing a clause which could not be passed? It was not too late for the Government to clothe the new authority with the necessary organizing power, and then they would hear very little more of the opposition. Dissenters in the country had much more confidence in school 1874 boards than in voluntary teaching, and where there was a considerable number of Dissenters in school board-districts they had obtained almost a vested right in school boards, and Government had no right to take from them that protection even by a vote of the majority. With reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for Roscomnon (the O'Conor Don) he must express a doubt whether the clause would be received with satisfaction by the Catholics in towns like Manchester and Birmingham, because the Catholics were there represented on the school boards, and it was very doubtful whether they would be represented for educational purposes in the Town Councils. The principle of Church and State was involved in the proposal and it was opposed by his side of the House, because they thought it would discourage the rate system as compared with the denominational system. He appealed to the Government whether it was worth their while to risk the failure of their Bill by insisting upon the retention of the clause. The Government might depend upon it that in the long run this step on their part would be found not to be a popular one, and that instead of enhancing, it would gradually diminish the usefulness of the measure.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 221; Noes 140: Majority 81.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
moved, as an Amendment, to the proposed new clause, to insert at the beginning, the words—Where a School Board has been formed under sub-section one of section twelve of The Elementary Education Act, 1870.The clause had been supported upon the ground that where there had been voluntary action in the formation of a board there ought to be voluntary action in getting rid of it, and this Amendment would confine the operation of the clause to such cases. If the limitation were not introduced, the right to dissolve school boards might be taken as applying more widely than perhaps it was meant to do.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that by far the largest number of important school boards had been voluntarily formed; but still many had been established compulsorily, and there would be great danger in allowing the clause to apply to the latter.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
declined to accept the Amendment, which he did not think would be in accordance with the vote to which the Committee had just come. Moreover, it would not meet cases where schools had been re-transferred to their original owners, and where, consequently, school boards were left with nothing to do.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that to meet some objections which he understood were entertained, he would ask leave to amend the Amendment by leaving out the words "sub-section one."
§ MR. FAWCETT
thought that they ought not to be asked to go on with the clause that night. They had all along been told that it was simply meant to give the ratepayers power to rescind their decision to create a school board; but now it was found that the new clause would go far beyond that. He did not wish to impede the progress of the Bill, but he considered it unprecedented that great principles should be imported into a Bill after it had passed its second reading, and was on the eve of becoming law.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
said, as there seemed to be considerable confusion regarding the effect of the Amendment, he thought they should have further time for its consideration, and would move that Progress be reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Osborne Morgan.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
pointed out that there would be none of the dangers which some hon. Members anticipated from the clause the House had just adopted, and considered the Amendment unnecessary.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would consent to his Amendment, as his only objection to it was that he thought the object he had in view was already provided for by the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, they had had rather a heavy evening, and therefore he would consent to the Motion.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.