§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Amendment proposed to new Clause (Dissolution of School Board under certain circumstances), line 9, at end of first paragraph, to add the words—
Provided always, That no application shall be made for the dissolution of a School Board except within three months before the expiration of the period for which the School Board has been elected; and no order for the dissolution of such School Board shall take effect until after the expiration of such period."—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, that he was unable to state his views on this Amendment at the last sitting before the hour of adjournment arrived. Since that time the Government had considered the subject, and in the same spirit of conciliation with which they had all through met the Amendments proposed in this Bill, he was not only willing to accept the 1977 Amendment, but he did not hesitate to state that he thought it a great improvement. Its object was to prevent school boards from being constantly disturbed by proposals for dissolving them being made at short intervals. It was very much better that the will of the locality should be taken at certain distant intervals—that was to say, after a period of three years when the school board elections had taken place; and he thought the Amendment providing that such should be the case was a decided improvement. It was much better that a school board when once elected should know that it could not be disturbed during its three years' term of office, and had the whole responsibility of working the law during that time. He should therefore ask his hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) to adopt it in his clause. He might have to make some alteration on the Report in the proposed term of three months.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
moved, as an Amendment to Mr. Pell's proposed new clause, at end to add—In every case where a school board shall be dissolved under this Clause all the powers conferred upon it by and under 'The Elementary Education Act, 1870,' shall be transferred to and continued under the local authority of the parish or district for educational purposes created under this Act.The right hon. Gentleman said, he was glad to hear that the noble Lord was in a favourable mood for considering any reasonable Amendments that might be offered to this Bill. The Amendment he had now to propose would recommend itself very strongly to those who might wish the Bill to do as much good and as little harm as possible. It was very simple, would lead to no confusion, and all might understand it. The meaning of his Amendment was that when the Government shifted the authority in cases where this clause came into force from the school board to a committee of corporations in boroughs and a committee of the guardians in parishes, all the powers conferred by the Act of 1870 upon the authority about to be super- 1978 seded should be transferred and continued to the new school authorities. He thought he could show that the Amendment was one which ought to meet all the complaints of the hon. Member for Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) and his friends, and at the same time to a large extent it would satisfy those who had to complain of the course which the Government had taken in accepting this clause. During the course of the debate a little too much stress had, he thought, been laid on the statement that the change proposed was only a substitute about which really they ought not to complain—that the change was one which was not calculated to damage the efficacy of their educational legislation, and that it was a change rather of convenience to persons who had some ground of complaint against school boards in certain districts. The hon. Member for Leicestershire thought that the school boards in certain cases were unpopular, and that the substituted authority would be more popular, and the principal ground which he had given had been that the school boards were unnecessarily troublesome in their formation, and that they were more expensive than a corporation committee in boroughs, or a Board of Guardians committee in a parish would be. It would be seen at once that the great object of saving the trouble of elections and expenditure would be promoted just as much if his Amendment were accepted as it would be if it were rejected. He objected to the argument that had been used, that this clause did not make a real change, but made only a substitution of authority. The whole argument, so far as it was rested upon that statement, was absolutely untrue; because it was clear that it was the destruction of one authority and the substitution of another very inferior to it in force and in completeness. By the Act of 1870, where more school accommodation was required, and as it was required, and where it might be desirable to hand over an existing school to a public authority, the school board was complete for these purposes. The authorities to be established by this Bill had no force and no efficacy whatever. He ventured to say that if the state of things which this clause would produce in districts where school boards were abolished could be made general throughout the country, the whole object 1979 of Parliamentary legislation on this great question would be thwarted and entirely put an end to. If the noble Lord would accept his Amendment to the clause they would have exactly the same powers in those districts which they had at present; they would have in all degrees of efficacy a school board, but deprived of all those features of the school board of which the hon. Member for Leicestershire had so much complained. If the population increased in any of the boroughs and towns and parishes to which this clause might ever apply, the new authority could at once, if it thought proper, proceed to the affording of more school accommodation; and if the schools were feeble the new authority could take them in hand, and the efficiency of the schools might be maintained. He had stated before that under the education system as it was now conducted there had been a great want of confidence in some portions of it, on the part, he should say, of a large majority of the Nonconformists and Dissenters of England and Wales; and he should himself have very little confidence in their intellect and judgment if their confidence had not been impaired by the long experience which they had had in connection with this and other questions. He saw that some critic of their discussions the other day remarked upon the unusual vehemence with which he had addressed himself to the Committee, and another had remarked upon the acrimony with which he had spoken. He had no doubt the authors of this Bill and of the clause under discussion were very anxious that they should all speak in very moderate tones, as if really there was nothing to complain of. He found, however, that a very great dignitary—no less than one of the Bishops of the Established Church—speaking on the subject of the Government Education Bill the other day, said "he congratulated Mr. Pell on the success of his Amendment," adding that—"the bitterness that Amendment had evoked was an encouraging fact." Surely, then, they could not be blamed, having the approbation of a Bishop, for the warmth which had been evoked by a discussion of this question. He made some charges, or what had been called charges, the other day with regard to the position of Dissenters under the operation of this Bill to the effect that the children of 1980 Nonconformists and Dissenters were forced into schools the vast proportion of which belonged to the Church of England. Some of the cases which he had mentioned were said by hon. Gentlemen on the other side to be trifling, and not to be worthy of consideration. He thought differently. It would, he believed, be possible to get scores of such cases from every county in England, and three-quarters of the letters he received lately contained complaints of the same kind, showing the disadvantages to which the children of Dissenters were exposed, and that the Conscience Clause, as enforced upon paper, was no real or safe guarantee for the proper treatment of the children. He was prepared to assert that in hundreds, and he believed in thousands of instances all over the country, petty persecution of the meanest kind was offered to Dissenting families and their children in connection with this matter of education. He would give a case in a village near Malmesbury where there was a Church school which provided sufficient school accommodation for the district. There was also in the same village a Baptist chapel and Sunday school, which had been recently enlarged. On the occasion of the completion of the buildings a tea party was held, whereupon the Rev. R. Powis, the clergyman of the parish, sent out a circular which was an interesting comment on the Education Bill. It was that the Rev. R. Powis had made up his mind that those parents who could send their children to the tea party—the Baptist tea party—could not want any help; also that the children could not come to the school feast in August. He hoped there was no man in that House so depraved by his prejudice in favour of an Established Church as to approve of this miserable persecution. Here was another case. In St. Mary's parish—he supposed it was in the town of Warwick—this circular was sent out—Coal, Shoes, Bread, and Beef Charities.—Persons with families may take notice that they will receive nothing from any of these charities unless their children are sent regularly to the national or infant school on week days, and to the Church Sunday School on Sundays.And then there was a slight conviction that this was not quite the thing, and the circular went on to say— 1981This rule will be strictly carried out, except when the children go to the School of Industry, and perhaps in the cases of a few persons who have been always consistent members of some Dissenting congregations.That was the sort of thing that was going on almost everywhere. ["No, no!"] He was glad that hon. Gentlemen opposite objected to his statement, because it was clear that they would not object if they did not disapprove of that which he had read. He had a note written from Winchester on the same subject, speaking of what had taken place in a parish in Hampshire. It said there was a small Free Methodist society there, with many members of sterling worth, who were not willing to send their children to the Church Sunday school, and, consequently, the Rector intimated that only those children that should attend both day and Sunday school would be permitted to attend the annual school treat. The parents and friends retorted—for, of course, these things grew into contest and conflict—by threatening to withdraw their children from school on the day of the examination of the Government Inspector, and so injure the school financially. The Rector replied that the treat was a matter in which the parents had no concern, and concluded with a threat as to the unknown evils which would happen if they persisted in their obstinacy. The Rector, his correspondent added, was High, teaching the usual Anglo-Popish heresies, and therefore was distrusted by Protestant parents. One good man sent his children a distance of two miles, to the nearest town, rather than allow them to come under the Rector's influence; and his informant added that in this case the Conscience Clause was a delusion and a sham. A gentleman speaking not long ago at the assembly of the Congregational Union, said there were thousands and tens of thousands of children of Nonconformists who were in Church schools, and were being taught the Church Catechism. Many parents of Nonconformist children were probably anxious their children should be educated, and did not press the question of the Conscience Clause; but what were they to think of the children of Baptists being in these schools and being taught the efficacy of baptismal regeneration as held in the Established Church, and what was to be said if they were taught 1982 all the curious things that were said about godfathers and godmothers, when there were no such persons in relation to them? These things were occurring all over the country, and under this Bill such children would be forced into the Church schools all over the country without any sufficient safeguard. What he quoted the other day from the President of the Wesleyan Conference last year (Rev. Gervase Smith) was received with something like a shock of disapprobation from hon. Gentlemen on the other side. The President of that Conference held no mean office. He was a man of the highest culture and of the highest character, and he had the confidence of one of the most important religious bodies in the Kingdom, and he could now read his words. He said—"In many parts of this land the Methodist people are persecuted." What he said of the Methodist people applied equally to Independents, Baptists, and other smaller sects. He said—"And they have not the religious liberty which the laws of the country certainly suggested they ought to have." He referred to such things as those—labourers turned away from their employment because they were Methodists; shopkeepers having to close their shops because they were Methodists; farmers turned out of their farms and thrown on the world because they were Methodists; gentlemen in high position in commercial circles who were not placed on the magisterial bench because they were Methodists. [Laughter] He did not know how Gentlemen could laugh at a statement of that sort. They must be very ignorant of their own class if they did not know it was very true. He himself, conversing with a country gentleman in one of the Midland Counties not long ago, was told by him that nothing would induce him to let one of his farms to any Nonconformist; and he would undertake to say hundreds of men followed the same rule. His right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) had once, with regard to the county of Huntingdon, given an instance of how magisterial appointments were dispensed, and in all probability there was not one man out of 20 among the magistrates of England and Wales who was not, excepting it might be in the West Riding, and in South Lancashire, connected with the Established Church. ["Oh!"] It was a fact common and 1983 notorious—["No!"]—and hon. Gentlemen, instead of objecting to what he said, might take it into their serious consideration, and hope that a more liberal and just system might before long be established. The President of the Conference continued—Children have had rewards given to them, rewards carried to the school at Christmas by a lady from one of the principal houses of the village, and handed round the school to the children of parents associated with her; but on coming to one little girl she says, 'Mary, I am very sorry I cannot give you a book,' and this for nothing whatever but because her father and mother are Methodists. The little girl began to cry, nor can you be surprised at that.These were absolute facts, the more astonishing, perhaps, because the persecution descended to such small matters. The President concluded with another case similar to the one mentioned by him (Mr. Bright) the other day. A lady, attended by two servants, was distributing clothing in a parish, and after leaving one blanket at one door, she half opened the next, told the inmate what she was doing, and said—"I am sorry I cannot leave you one; you know, you are a Methodist." The good lady did not intend ill perhaps, but what could be more base than attempts to proselytise of this kind? Mr. Smith ended his remarks by mentioning instances in which sites had been refused for Methodist chapels simply because they were Methodist chapels, and said these were samples of what was going on in at least 2,000 villages in this country. They were then brought, and he (Mr. Bright), being himself a Nonconformist, of those whose ancestors suffered indignities, imprisonment, and death through the persecutions of the Established political Church of this country, not more than two centuries ago, was brought to the consideration of the effect of this Bill, and of the policy of the House in regard to it upon one-half of the population of England and Wales, so far as they were estimated by attendance at places of worship on Sundays, and, if possible, to induce the House and the Committee to guard them from further insult and from further neglect. He would ask to have a quiet talk with hon. Gentlemen opposite upon this point. Suppose there were 5,000 parishes in England, or only 500, in which there was no school but a Methodist school, or an 1984 Independent school, or a Baptist school, or Unitarian school. What would be their course with regard to this Bill? Why, they would do as the House of Commons did 200 years ago, as an insult to the other House, they would rise from their seats and kick it out of the door, and dispossess the Minister, and disestablish him before the night was over. But because this Bill was a Bill giving extra authority to the thousands of schools in connection with their own Church, they passed over the grievances, and injury it might be, and insult to the scores of hundreds of thousands of Nonconformist families throughout the country who ought to be fairly represented in that House, and had the right to claim as much indulgence and as full equity as the members of the Established Church had any right to expect from Parliament. Dissenting children all over the country were to be driven by crack of whip, as it were, into Church schools; and it was because he wished to mitigate the harshness of this Bill—and were the positions of Churchmen and Nonconformists reversed the hardship would be admitted—and to free it from parsonic and priestly partiality, that he brought forward his Amendment. The Board of Guardians might be free from that partiality, and the committee of the Town Councils in boroughs might be free from it to a certain extent; but he believed the freest and best institution probably in either boroughs or country parishes, but certainly in the latter, would be the school board as established by the Act of 1870. He wanted particularly by his Amendment to enable the noble Lord and the House to create confidence in Dissenters, and where it existed at all to increase it. The Bill as it at present stood would impair confidence, and would do great injury to that great and excellent and admirable class of the population of this country. He had said the Dissenters of England and Wales numbered one-half of the population; but in Great Britain and Ireland they were far more than one-half, and what did they see? A Government, within whose precincts no Dissenter could hope at any time ever to be found. Amongst the 350 Members opposite there were probably not half-a-dozen—he knew not whether there were more than two—who would avow themselves to be unconnected in some way, in feeling or profession, with the Estab- 1985 lished Church. He thought there was one professed Jew, and he knew there was one member of a Unitarian sect; but whether there were one of any of the other Nonconformist sects of the country he was not certain. And with a Government who could feel themselves perhaps defiled by the presence amongst them of a Nonconformist with a great Party, almost every man of whom was connected not only by religious profession but by political sympathy, which was not less strong, with the Establishment, was he not entitled and bound to ask Gentlemen opposite for a moment to throw aside the prejudices—he had almost said of their caste, the prejudices connected with their Church and their sect, and to look broadly upon this question as one of equity to the great body of the people—equity which they were as much bound to offer to the Nonconformists of this country as to the most rigid Churchman? He knew perfectly well that the tribunal before which he had to offer these observations was one most unfavourable to his claim. He knew that Gentlemen opposite had never been accustomed to look upon Nonconformists and the Dissenting population but as persons who differed from them seriously in religion, and were mostly opposed to them in politics. He had never found them on their side advocating justice to the Dissenting population of England and Wales. ["Oh, oh!"] It was no use Gentlemen saying, "Oh, oh," their own consciences must tell them he was not exaggerating in these statements he had made. Though, therefore, the Committee might be unfavourable to what he asserted, yet he believed the cause he pleaded before them was just, and though they might be strongly biassed now and determined not to yield, though the noble Lord might make no greater concession in this case than he had in some other cases, yet the time would come when the judgment of Parliament, backed by an intelligent and free people, would reverse the unfavourable judgment to which tonight they might come.
Amendment proposed, at the end of the Clause, to add the words
In every case where a School Board shall to dissolved under this Clause all the powers conferred upon it by and under 'The Elementary Education Act, 1870,' shall be transferred to and continued under the local authority of
the parish or district for educational purposes created under this Act."—(Mr. Bright.)
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, he thought it would be more expedient and more in accordance with the feelings of the Committee if he declined to follow the righthon. Gentleman into the questions of supposed wrongs and insults heaped by the Church upon their Nonconformist fellow-citizens, which the right hon. Gentleman had thought fit to introduce into the discussion of this clause. The Committee would fall into very unnecessary rancour if it once entered upon a discussion of these topics. Some things stated by the right hon. Gentleman were very grievous to hon. Gentlemen on that (the Ministerial) side to hear, and they did not think the right hon. Gentleman did them justice in those questions; but they were content to leave the matter to the judgment of the people of the country. He could assure the Committee that there was no wish on his own part, or on the part of the Government, and he was sure he might speak for his hon. Friends around him also, to do any injury to the conscientious feelings of Nonconformists. Many hon. Gentlemen on that side had, as he certainly had himself, the pleasure of the acquaintance of Nonconformist gentlemen, and he did not see why he should not value their friendship and deal justly by them because they differed from them in opinion. Heated partizans on both sides might, no doubt, sometimes be inclined to act as they ought not to do in the matter of school treats. But surely no one would venture to say that the Church had a monopoly of unkindness, even if it were proved that some unkind acts were committed by some of her sons. He admitted that there might be foolish and wrong-headed people in the Church of England, who did unkind things which he strongly condemned; but hon. Gentlemen would not find unkindness confined to any one of the Christian Churches. He did not believe that his Friends belonging to other Churches always distributed their blankets or their buns among those who differed from them in religion. But with regard to the question before the Committee, the securities for the rights of conscience must be held to have made a very great advance under this Bill, because a local authority would be within the reach of every cottage in the land, charged under this 1987 Bill, in addition to its school attendance duties, with the obligation of taking cognizance of every complaint of violation of the Conscience Clause, and bound to inform the Department of such wrongs. He could not help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman was misinformed as to the number of Nonconformist children who would be affected by this measure. The Central Nonconformist Committee, in their printed circular, dated from Birmingham, issued after he had made his first speech explaining the Bill, and signed by the Chairman and leaders of that Association, of which he had spoken before, had said they believed the number of Nonconformist children who would be driven to school by Lord Sandon's Bill must be very few. The right hon. Gentleman had said he had come to the conclusion that the best thing even for country villages was a school board, and that Boards of Guardians and Town Councils could not take that care of the consciences of Nonconformists which he desired. He confessed he was a little puzzled by the right hon. Gentleman's opinions about school boards, because in a set speech which the right hon. Gentleman delivered in Birmingham in October, 1873, speaking of school boards, he said,—There is no free breeze of public opinion passing through the room, but rather an unwholesome atmosphere of what I call sectarian exclusiveness, or sometimes of bigotry, in which nothing good can thrive.This opinion was delivered on a most formal occasion, when the right hon. Member addressed his constituents on the leading topics of the day, and specially on the Education Act of 1870, and he (Viscount Sandon) was totally at a loss to reconcile the right hon. Gentleman's present zeal for school boards, and desire to impose them everywhere upon the country when it did not wish for them, with the very bitter and deliberate attack which he made upon them so recently on a great public occasion. But to come to the Amendment. The largest number of school boards which could be touched was 530 or 540, which, after certain eliminations, would be reduced probably to between 200 and 300. To meet their case the right hon. Gentleman had made a very large proposition. He was not sure that this proposal would not raise the cry to abolish school 1988 boards even in the large towns if Town Councils and Boards of Guardians were to have their power. The principle, therefore, of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal was a very large one. He would ask the Committee to look at this matter from one point of view. Under this Amendment they must give these local authorities the same power as the school boards to remit and pay fees, and that would be putting into their hands the whole question of the old 25th clause. The effect of introducing such a question in all the elections of School Attendance Committees of Town Councils and Boards of Guardians would be most mischievous. In the present Bill the Government had said that the proper thing was to leave it to the Guardians in their capacity of Guardians to deal with the question of fees; and as for the question of religion the authorities created by the Bill had nothing whatever to do with it, and were nothing in fact, you might say, but school police to look after the employer, the negligent parent, and the neglected child, as far as the provisions of this Bill were concerned. Now, was the Committee prepared to have the election of Boards of Guardians and Town Councils turn on the question whether religious instruction should be given in the schools as it frequently did in the case of the election of school boards? The country would repudiate the introduction of such an element of bitterness into the election for what may justly be called the municipal authorities of town and country. If you were not to have this element of of religious dissension introduced into these elections, Parliament must do one of two things: to eliminate it from the elections, it must either make all schools purely secular, or it must itself order religious teaching of a certain character in all schools. Were the schools to be secularized? The country would repudiate any such idea. The only other alternative was to order religious instruction in all their schools: were the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends prepared for that? If the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman were adopted, the inevitable result would be that the religious question would come up in all elections of Boards of Guardians and Town Councils. That of itself seemed a sufficient answer to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentle- 1989 man. The country would never tolerate the introduction of this new element into municipal elections. Did any one who was experienced in school matters, and who took a real interest in education for its own sake and with a simple view to the advantage of the children, ever propose that the Boards of Guardians should be made the managers of our schools? Once assent to such a principle, and they must carry it further. It was a very serious, a very large, and altogether a new issue which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman. It ought, in fact, to be discussed upon its merits as a Bill in itself. He confessed that the more he looked at the proposal the more confident he was the country would not accept it. More than that, the proposal would be received with a universal "No" from every Town Council and Board of Guardians in the country. For himself, he was quite willing to leave the matter to the judgment of the country. Of one thing he was certain, that hon. Gentlemen who supported the proposal would not meet with a very hearty reception when they went to the country in the autumn either to attend the civic feasts or to be present at agricultural dinners, where Guardians were present. Town Councils and Boards of Guardians, he felt sure, would not care to have the school board difficulties and complications imported into their elections. The duties imposed upon them by the Government Bill were simple and distinct, and introduced none of these difficulties into their elections or into their proceedings, and only tended to add new interest and dignity to their work, which, while it would lead to economy, would draw the best men to seek seats on their bodies. The more the Committee looked at the Amendment the more it would find that it was not one which should be entertained. After giving it the most careful consideration he did not think it would meet the difficulties of the case. He felt satisfied, in spite of the extraordinary arguments of the right hon. Gentleman, and the impassioned way in which he urged them, that the country would not support the proposal for a moment.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
must remind the Committee that this new issue, be it large or small, was not raised by his right hon. Friend, but by the noble Lord himself, when he accepted the Amendment 1990 of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell). The arguments used in support of the Amendment were not attempted to be answered by the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council. In his (Mr. Forster's) opinion school boards were by far the best machinery for carrying out the educational improvement of the country; but the Government wished to get rid of the school boards and substitute for them an authority which had not the authority of a school board. School boards had power to supply school accommodation where it was deficient and to take over voluntary schools; but Town Councils and Guardians would have no such power. Wherever school boards had been established there were persons elected by the district who would see that fair play was given to the children of all religions, and who were able to put up schools of such a nature that they could not be denationalized or secularized; and unless the Amendment of his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham were adopted there would be no means of removing or concealing any unfairness that might be shown to Dissenters or Nonconformists. He was astonished to hear the arguments put forward by the noble Lord on the disadvantages of school boards, as if he felt so strongly on the subject he ought to have put forward his views when Mr. Dixon, the late Member for Birmingham, brought forward his Motion with reference to the 25th clause of the Education Act. If the Amendment now before the House brought about any difficulty it was caused by the now clause, to which the Government had so unexpectedly given its support. The only positive mode of getting rid of the Amendment was to withdraw the clause, and he strongly recommended that suggestion to the favourable consideration of the Government. Very likely the noble Lord had no idea when he assented to this clause that he was re-opening the whole settlement of 1870; but it was a re-opening of it, and everyone would consider that it was unsettled, and that the arrangement that had been come to was open to the power of the strongest from year to year and from Parliament to Parliament. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his conciliatory speech in defence of the clause was obliged to bring forward arguments which re-opened the whole 1991 question, for he stated that the result would be to give time to the denominational party to supply deficiencies, and that would be a complete unsettling of the question. The local authority ought, at any rate, to be clothed with the same authority as the dissolved school board, and if that involved any difficulties the difficulties were of the Government's own seeking.
§ MR. J. G. HUBBARD
heard with extreme pain and regret the speech of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, which could in no degree tend to pacify or bring about any successful subsidence of the feelings which the debates of the last three nights must have produced throughout the country. Incidentally the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of Churchmen as not being a majority of the population, and such a conclusion rested upon unauthentic statements; while the only inference to be drawn from school attendances, burials in cemeteries, the registration of marriages, and the composition of the Army and Navy, was that the Church of England embraced between70 and 80 per cent of the population, and there were in workhouses 80,000 members of the Church of England, against 21,000 members of all Dissenting bodies. They were now concerned with a population that did not go to church, and whose condition corresponded most nearly with that of the inmates of the workhouses. Whatever were the relative proportions of Churchmen and Dissenters did not make any difference to the question before the Committee; but he must protest against deductions being made from false statistics.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
desired to explain that all he had said was that so far as the matter could be determined, the numbers attending Nonconformist places of worship were at least equal to the numbers attending Established Churches, and if, instead of taking England and Wales only, we took the Three Kingdoms, the Established Church was in an acknowledged minority. That there were more Church people in workhouses and gaols might be quite true, and he would make the right hon. Member a present of all he could extract from that argument.
§ MR. PELL
reminded the Committee that his clause would take effect only where there was sufficient school accom- 1992 modation. One of the most important functions of a school board was to provide school accommodation, so that if that were done the clause would not come into operation at all. It was exceeding difficult to answer accusations against Members on this side of the House generally; but, if he had been attacked personally, he could have defended himself as to what he had done for education. The debate had elicited facts from the advocates of the school boards which were not very much in favour of the latter. It was no longer a political but a caste Party which advocated the extension of school boards. That was shown by the silence with which the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham had been listened to by his own Party. He thought the more they divested themselves of these caste prejudices the better. When those who supported this clause were accused of being re-actionary and disturbing old settlements, he wished to remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that in the desire to promote education the Act of 1870 was accepted as a compromise. In the years 1874, 1875, and 1876, however, a Bill was broughtin by the late Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) for the establishment of compulsory school boards. Was that re-actionary or progressive? It appeared to him to be very much like advancing backwards. In 1875, and again in 1876, the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) voted for that disturbing Bill. The right hon. Member for Bradford, (Mr. W. E. Forster) voted for it on all three occasions. The noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) voted for it once or twice, and yet these were the Gentlemen who now talked of disturbing the Act of 1870. In 1874 a Bill was brought in by the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard) to repeal altogether the 25th clause of the Act of 1870, and also to repeal the three miles distance under which children were exempted from being brought into attendance at board schools. It was rather hard to be accused of disturbing the settlement of 1870 when hon. Gentlemen opposite, in their ardour for school boards, had neglected the so-called compact and compromise arrived at in that year. The school boards had been spoken of as depositaries of power and authority, 1993 but this did not appear to be their character at Birmingham. He went down to that town the other day to see the cattle, and he there saw something with which he was not quite so well pleased. On the platform of the London and North Western Railway were four or five urchins whose attire, if put together, would have made about one decent pair of trousers for the entire lot. They were performing the operation of turning themselves over like wheels, and he said to a friend, one of the Guardians of a neighbouring town—"Why are not these little imps at school? I should have thought the school board here would have swept them in?" His friend told him that at the first moment a policeman appeared those boys would be up a chimney shaft. But what was a "depositary of power and authority" worth if the school board of Birmingham could not catch these children and send them to school? The Committee might rely on it that the members of Boards of Guardians would be quite as good depositaries of power as the school boards and would do their duty in bringing the children to school; but God forbid that there should be school boards formed to build schools that were not wanted with all the concomitants of election turmoil and excitement. He trusted that the Committee would not accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, which appeared to be put on the Paper more with the view of giving the right hon. Gentleman the opportunity of firing his Gatling gun at the Party opposite than with any expectation that the Committee would adopt it.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Pell) had accused the Opposition of treating this question of school boards as if it were connected with caste. Now, he wished as a Churchman distinctly to state, after the challenge that had been thrown out by the hon. Member, that it was not necessary to be a Dissenter to be able to appreciate the grievances of Dissenters. No answer had been given to the question put by his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham whether, if there were 500 schools managed by Dissenters, would they as Churchmen pass a compulsory power for the children of Churchmen to be sent to these Dissenting schools. No Concience Clause in such a 1994 case would satisfy hon. Gentlemen opposite, and in the same way hon. Members on the Opposition side felt that there was an extreme difficulty in combining compulsory school attendance with denominational schools. The general principle of the Act of 1870 was the school-board compromise; but the Vice President of Education now felt himself at liberty to take a retrograde step and encourage voluntary schools. He had supported the second reading of the present Bill in the belief that it would carry out the compromise of 1870;but he should have hesitated before doing so, if he had known the course the Government intended subsequently to adopt, which had caused the debates to be so protracted and so much feeling to exist amongst the Members of the Opposition, from a belief that they had not been fairly treated in the order in which these questions had been brought before the Committee. He regretted as much as the noble Lord did that there should be religious conflict at school-board elections; but there was something just as bad, and that was a sense of religious grievance left unredressed. The question they had now to decide was a simple one—namely, whether, where a school board was suppressed, the whole of the powers which the board might have exercised should not be transferred to the public authority which was to take its place?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
observed, that in the question of education there was, and must continue to be, great diversity of opinion among Members of the House. The subject was one of so much interest, and in many respects of so exciting a character, that it was not unnatural that they should from time to time be led into discussions which took a very wide range; but if they were to make progress he hoped the Committee would be led to consider the matter in a business-like point of view. With respect to the clause of his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) the Committee had by a decisive majority accepted its principle. Certain Amendments had then been moved, and one or two of those Amendments had been agreed to with modifications, and they were now considering another Amendment. It appeared to him that it was not a business-like proceeding, on the discussion of each Amendment, to 1995 re-open the whole principle of the clause, and to wander even beyond that, and re-open the principle of the Bill itself. He would invite hon. Gentlemen on both sides, and especially those on the Government side, to refrain from discussing matters which lay beyond the scope of the Amendment—namely, that where school boards were dissolved, the whole powers of those boards should be transferred to the school attendance committees. One important power would be handed over by the operation of the clause; but, as had been already shown, the district would lose nothing by the suppression of a school board which had exercised no other power than that which would be so transferred, and where there were schools attached to the school board the clause would not apply. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham proposed to go further, and to give to the school attendance committee the same powers that were possessed by school boards. That would in some respects aggravate the difficulty that was felt with regard to school boards, and the evils of elections would be transferred to Boards of Guardians and Town Councils, and occur annually instead of every three years. He did not think the Amendment a good one, and he asked the attention of the Committee to the real issue before them.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said, the clause under discussion entirely changed the whole scope and tenour of the Bill, and it was, therefore, a little too much to say that in debating it hon. Members should not go a single inch beyond the particular Amendment they were discussing. He deeply regretted the course that had been taken by the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon). There was much in the Bill of which he cordially approved, and he had hoped, until this unfortunate clause was brought forward and adopted, that this Bill would have been a settlement of the education question for some time to come, and have brought the children into the schools without raising any religious difficulty. With respect to the instances of petty persecution to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham had referred, he must say that, as a Churchman, he much regretted them, but they should not be taken to be the acts of the Church, but of rash individuals within the Church; and it was necessary, if possible, to ob- 1996 tain security against their recurrence. In country districts, Dissenters had not the option of sending their children to any but Church schools; and he asked whether, if the case were reversed, hon. Members opposite would think that the Bill gave sufficient security to the children of Churchmen? This was the only just way of looking at the question. If, as the noble Lord said, so few school boards were affected, why not make this small concession? If, again, it turned out that there was less religious animosity in entrusting these duties to Town Councils and Boards of Guardians, why should there be any fear lest the principle should become popular and should spread? If this clause were insisted on, it would be impossible that this Bill could be accepted as a final settlement of the question.
§ MR. COWPER-TEMPLE
argued that the House ought to adhere to the position taken up in 1870—namely, that the voluntary schools, so long as they could maintain themselves, were to be allowed to do so. He sympathized in the grievances which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham had detailed, and so far as legal interference could properly go, they ought to be prevented. He should, support the Amendment of his right hon. Friend.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND
said, the question involved in the clause of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire was regarded by those who sat on the Opposition side of the House as one of immense importance, and was an emanation of the policy of the Government, as indicated by the clause of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire. He did not wish to introduce bitterness or acrimony into the discussion, attributed to his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham; but he might state that travelling with a friend of his own on the previous day, a Nonconformist, he told him that there was such an opposition on the part of the Church to Dissenters, that a clause was put into the leases of farmers that they should not, on any account, allow Dissenters' services to take place in their farmhouses; and not only that, but that there should not be any religious services in the parish but those of the Church of England. There was a prevailing impression in the country that the Dissenters could not get fair play. There was no use in denying that gen- 1997 tlemen who had got what were called "quiet parishes" were not very desirous to let in elements of discord among them. The towns were able to take care of themselves; but the question was what was to be done in the country parishes? He did not object to the clergy and members of the Church of England doing all in their power to advance their own schools and religious opinions; but did the Parliament think that the Dissenters would submit to such a system as that which it was sought to subject them to? Were the Dissenters not as much entitled as Churchmen to have their schools and security for freedom of their religious convictions? They could not, without the greatest difficulty, obtain even a small site for a school in some parts of Cornwall. He regretted the tone in which the noble Lord had spoken both of school boards and Boards of Guardians. He thought that one good effect of this Bill would be to give the Boards of Guardians a higher sense of their duty to the poor of the country. The Government were making a great mistake in what they were doing, and he was quite sure they would not be backed up by the farmers. He was ex-exceedingly anxious that the system of school boards should be made universal, and should not wish them to be abolished where they had been working well without substituting an efficient body for them. He gave credit to the noble Lord for what he had conceded in the discussion of this important question; but was it worth the noble Lord's while to adhere to the clause of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire? Much had been said by hon. Gentlemen in position of wealth about the pressure of the rate on the ratepayers for the erection of schools and school-board expenses; but, in his opinion, those who had wealth, and who affected to sympathize with the ratepayers, ought to bear half the expense of carrying out so great an object as that of educating the children throughout the country.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that he had not voted on the Bill since the introduction of the clause proposed by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire, which, he feared, would tend to render the measure, which might be otherwise beneficial, liable to the objections urged by the right hon. Member for Birmingham. School boards could not be introduced 1998 under the existing law, except where a deficiency of school accommodation had been proved, and where the accommodation was deficient; the effect of the compulsory powers under this Bill might force the children of parents, who disapproved of the religious teaching in the existing schools, to accept an education repugnant to their consciences. He agreed with the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) that school boards that were especially elected for educational purposes must be presumed to be better adapted for those purposes than Boards of Guardians or corporations, who were elected for other purposes; but he felt with the right hon. Member for Birmingham that the introduction of compulsory powers rendered some further provisions than those at present existing necessary, and he thought that the suspended power of a school board, while inexpensive, tended to afford the protection which parents needed against having their children forced into schools under the direction of persons of extreme opinions, and it was better that the appeal of these persons should be to their neighbours than to the Education Department, which might, under certain circumstances, be practically inaccessible to these poor persons. It was not enough that the House should infer by such a measure as this that it desired to establish religious education. Parliament was bound to define what it meant by religious education as consistent with religious freedom. At present what the House meant by religious education remained in nubibus. He (Mr. Newdegate) was not to be persuaded that such a definition was impossible. The late Lord Derby, in 1835, succeeded in defining a tolerant code of religious education for Ireland, in which he was fortunate enough to obtain the co-operation of the Roman Catholic Archbishop Murray, together with that of the Protestant Primate of Ireland. Such an undertaking for Ireland was far more difficult than for England; and if Her Majesty's Government chose to adopt the late Lord Derby's—then Lord Stanley—Irish scheme of 1835 of religious education as their model, he believed that they might easily arrive at a definition of religious teaching that would be acceptable to all tolerant Christians. The present difficulty was created by the determination of 1999 the hon. Member for South Leicestershire and the Local Taxation Committee to reduce the rates at any risk or at any cost. That lay at the foundation of their determination to pull down school boards. He (Mr. Newdegate) feared that the Local Taxation Committee had taken a leaf out of the late Mr. O'Connell's book, who boasted that the young Ireland of his day understood the policy of making themselves inconvenient. He feared that the clause introduced into this Bill by he hon. Member for South Leicestershire, which was founded, like some other measures of the present Session, upon an indiscriminate determination to abolish local taxation, would inflict severe inconvenience upon Her Majesty's Government, and much trouble upon the House of Commons.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
observed, that the country had by an overwhelming majority decided in favour of compulsion. This Bill extended that principle, though in an indirect manner; at all events, the Bill adopted it. He had voted for the second reading of the Bill; but if the clause moved by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire was passed, he should feel considerable doubt, in common with other hon. Members, as to what course he ought to take on the third reading. At present it appeared to him that the disadvantages of the Bill would be greater than the advantages. He hoped, even at that late stage of the debate, the Government would withdraw their support from the clause, for which, even as amended, he could not vote.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
said, that as a member of a leading school board from its first formation in 1871 he had supported the Bill because he believed that the best way to maintain the high character of school boards was to abolish all boards as soon as they became useless. No board that was doing good work need fear abolition when the decision was left to two-thirds of the ratepayers, and boards which could not command that amount of popular support had better cease to exist. If in two or three years it was found that the new bodies to be appointed did not work well, it would be in the power of the Education Department to call for the appointment of another school board.
§ MR. ERNEST NOEL
asked whether anything could be worse or do greater harm to school boards than that the Com- 2000 mittee should pass a clause deliberately, after four days' discussion, that would create an agitation—it might be only against 400 of those boards at first—but, an agitation which, if they followed out what they had already done, would spread to other institutions of the kind. As had been pointed out over and over again, it was an illogical position to take up to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire after what they had done previously. It was contended that it was only just and equitable that the majority in a parish or a district were to have the right of putting down that which was to them useless. Very well; if they were to have that right in one place, they ought to have it in another. On the grounds of sacred liberty, justice, and equity, the Committee could not stand where they were, and it was for that reason that he thought they ought to do their utmost, even at this tenth hour, to induce the noble Lord or the Government to withdraw support to the clause which was so fatal to the interests of education in the country. Surely, if they had good cause, there was nothing at all factious in their doing their best to point out what they thought the defects of the clause. They were now, however, on the Amendment which he thought would modify the evil effects of the clause; and they had not heard any arguments against it except that it was a small one. He denied that it was a small one, and was of opinion that although it would not altogether get rid of the clause, it would at least modify it, so that it would be less objectionable. He, amongst others, thought that they were only doing their duty when they urged the Government one after another to withdraw the clause. They were more called on to do this, because they had been told from the other side that they did not sympathize with the Amendment and had no interest in it. Now, if every single Member on the Opposition side had spoken, it could only have been a fair answer to that. They did feel it, and felt it strongly. Could it be thought that they would have come down to the House again and again in the month of July to take part in these divisions if they did not feel the matter keenly? From his knowledge of hon. Members opposite, they were as much in favour of education as he and those who thought 2001 with him were, and they quite as much as he would be loth to see anything done which would injure education. He believed, therefore, they had no strong desire to see the clause passed, and many, he was sure, would hail with gratitude an announcement from the Government that, looking at the feeling of the House, they did not intend to insist upon the clause.
§ MR. WHITWELL
declared that the country would repudiate this attempt to overturn the Act of 1870. That, if anything, would be the effect of the clause of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire. He strongly advocated the adoption of the right hon. Gentleman's (Sir. Bright's) Amendment.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 63; Noes 100: Majority 37.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
moved the following Proviso:—That, if after the dissolution of a School Board in any School District the Education Department are of opinion that there is not a sufficient amount of public school accommodation in such School District, they may cause a School Board to be formed for such School District, and send a requisition to such School Board in the same manner in all respects as if they had published a final notice under 'The Elementary Education Act, 1870.'The right hon. Gentleman explained that his Amendment would not affect the question whether the formation of school boards should or should not be ordered, but would only refer to the machinery by which such boards should be called into operation if ordered by the Department.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. RYLANDS
moved the following Amendment:—That the Education Department shall in each case, where it shall assent to the dissolution of a school board, lay before both Houses of Parliament a statement of its reasons for giving such assent.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, be added to the Bill."
§ MR. A. BROWN
expressed a strong objection to the clause. Notwithstand- 2002 ing the alleged unpopularity of school boards, he believed the majority of the people of this country had more confidence in the fairness of the management of schools under those boards than in the management of the old denominational system, and he feared the result of this clause would be to transfer schools now under school boards back again to denominational management, and thereby injure the cause of education.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK
said, this Bill was the most re-actionary measure ever introduced into the House. On the other hand, the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Birmingham was in favour of progress, and replete with good sense and moderation. Those in favour of the progress of education could have no possible excuse in not accepting the Amendment. Although he feared the Bill would pass, yet it would not command the approval of the majority of the thinking people of the country.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, there was one lesson which the Irish Members had learnt in this discussion. They had been charged with favouring a policy of obstruction in Parliament; but he must say that anything the Irish Members had ever advocated was mild in comparison with what had occurred in this Elementary Education Bill. They had now been debating one clause for a whole week. He hoped the Irish Members would take courage, and in the future would be a little more bold in their action. The Roman Catholics of Ireland would not accept of any compromise in reference to their religious convictions and the teaching of their children, and the Dissenters were also against compromise in reference to religious education; but he must say that in his experience he had never heard such intolerance as was expressed in this House in the discussion on the Bill. In justice, however, it must be admitted, that under the provisions of the Bill of 1870 the school boards in their constitution had a fair representation of Roman Catholics; and as between the Church of England Protestants and the Dissenters, the former were far more Liberal in their views and actions towards the Roman Catholics than the Dissenters. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for 2003 Birmingham had lowered the subject under discussion, whilst the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) was eminently aggressive. There was more ill-feeling in that House between the members of the different religious Bodies than existed in Ireland between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Being, however, not entirely satisfied with this clause, he should abstain from voting.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he was glad to have heard his right hon. Friend's concluding remarks in reference to the Protestant feeling of the Church of England to the Roman Catholics; but when his hon. Friend spoke of the Roman Catholic religion, and of his Roman Catholic constituency, he must tell him that the Roman Catholics had no religion at all. The hon. Member was an Englishman, and was proud to represent an Irish Roman Catholic constituency, and talked about their not submitting to any compromise in matters relating to their religion; but he maintained what he had already said—that Roman Catholics had no religion.
reminded the hon. Member for Peterborough that his observations were somewhat wide of the question before the Committee.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he would endeavour to make available those quiet hours of the evening for calm discussion. He asked right hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider who they were, and whence they came. Nobody rejoiced more than he did at the last Election, when he saw the Conservative Party placed in power, because he saw that the right hon. Member for Greenwich was sacrificing his country upon the altar of expediency under the influences brought to bear upon him. ["Order, order!"]
observed that the hon. Member's remarks upon the course taken by the late Government were hardly germane to the question before the Committee. The Question before the Committee was whether the clause proposed by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire should be added to the Bill.
§ MR. WHALLEY
With regard to the compulsion now sought by this Bill, the object sought to be obtained was to 2004 drive the children of the country into the hands of the clerical party, and to deprive them even of the protection of the magistrates. That was the special object of the clause of the hon. Member. He (Mr. Whalley) had asked the noble Lord who had charge of the Bill what the special object of the clause was, and upon what grounds it was proposed, but he could not get any satisfactory explanation. It was clear, however, that it was to give a power to get the children of the country into the hands of the clergy of the Church of England—men who possessed unbounded wealth; who, in addition to the rates, had great aid from the State, and whose neglect hitherto of their duty in not educating the children led to the passing of the Education Act of 1870. They every day had evidence of the impolicy of handing over the education of the children of the country to the clergy of the Church of England, whom they had, by the passing of the Public Worship Regulation Act, declared unworthy of confidence.
rose to Order. He did not see what the Act to which the hon. Member referred had to do with the Motion that the clause stand part of the Bill.
said, that any discussion as to the operation of the Public Worship Regulation Act was entirely foreign to the question before the Committee.
§ MR. WHALLEY
submitted to the ruling of the Chairman. He was there like a lamb led to the slaughter. What was the time when this measure was introduced? At the moment when the Archbishop of Canterbury was appealing to Methodists, Quakers, Baptists, and jugglers to help the Church of England to save something of the wreck of Christianity—the Government stepped in and said they would help her, but the Church could not maintain her influence over the manhood of the country, and that her only chance now was to get hold of the poor little children. In the name of the Protestantism of the country he opposed this re-actionary, retrogressive, and Algerine Bill.
§ MR. W. HOLMS
said, the clause would hasten the dissolution of school boards. Why should they do so? Had they not acted with vigour, or had they not efficiently discharged the duties committed to them? In order to answer these ques- 2005 tions he must refer to the last two Reports of the Committee of Council on Education. He had examined them, and the result of his investigation was this—he found that while in 1873 the accommodation afforded by voluntary schools amounted to 2,582,000, and in 1875 had increased to 3,146,000, or barely 25 per cent, and while the average attendance at these schools was 1,482,000 in 1873 and 1,837,000 in 1875, in the school board schools, the accommodation provided was for 125,000 in 1873 and 387,000 in 1875, or an increase of 200 per cent. Therefore, so far as vigour of action was concerned, they had a proportion of 8 to 1 in the advancement of the school board schools, compared to that of the voluntary schools. They had it also in the Report of the Committee of Council that in the voluntary schools the registers had, in several instances, been carelessly kept, if not actually tampered with; whereas the accounts of the school boards had invariably been accurately kept.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
said, he should like to take that opportunity of repeating the protest which he had before made against the passing of the clause. He should also like to ask for an explanation of the extraordinary statement made the other night by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he spoke of the policy of the Government as being continuous of the policy of his right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) in encouraging the voluntary system. When this was announced by the Government as the policy of the Bill, the House was justified in examining how far it was really a return to the voluntary system, and it was found that it was not a return to the voluntary system, but to a denominational one. He could not call this a voluntary system under which the noble Lord proposed that the State should find the whole of the expense, and the Church the whole of the management. He would rather call it a system of State patronage. Whether it was intended or not, this Bill would reverse the scheme of his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, and besides, they now had this insidious proposal of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell). It was hardly possible to have devised a measure of a more suicidal character. What would be the result? Simply this—the country would have found that the schools were 2006 being maintained solely at the expense of the State, that the schools, although called voluntary, were being managed by the denominations, whilst the whole of the money either was granted by the State or came out of the pockets of the ratepayers. There could only have been, one result of such a system, for it was always the case that when the State found the money, it assumed the control over it; and in this case it would have come to pass that the Government would have gradually assumed the control over every school. He was therefore free to admit that as that Bill stood before the clause of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire, he was willing to let it pass, and to wait contentedly until the time should come when it would be necessary for the State to take out of the hands of the sects all the schools for which it paid the whole of the expense; but this clause was so mischievous that they were obliged on the Liberal side to protest against the further progress of the Bill. The whole object was denominational. The attempt, from first to last, was as clearly one to establish a denominational system in the interests of the Established Church as any that had ever been made in that House. He did not say this as a Nonconformist—only because it was an infringement of the rights of the people. He protested against the further progress of the Bill, and he hoped that the Government would give some explanation of the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to the policy and development which he (Mr. Jenkins) had now shown to be of a most dangerous character.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 122; Noes 81: Majority 41.
§ LORD FREDERICK CAVENDISH
moved, after Clause 21, to insert the following clause:—(Power to officers to enter places of employment.)The officer or officers appointed by the local authority to act in the execution of this Act, may, when any child is employed, enter the place of such employment, and examine touching any matter within the provisions of this Act,No such power existed in the Bill. It was a hardship alike to honest employers and to parents and children that such a 2007 power should not exist to enforce the provisions of the Factories' Acts.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
could not consent to the very large powers indicated by the noble Lord being conferred upon the officers referred to. To confer such extraordinary powers of entry would be contrary to the whole practice of our law. Her Majesty's Government, however, thought that some provision of the kind, to enable with due safeguards a local authority to ascertain if the law as to the employment of children was broken was necessary, and would see what could be done before bringing up the Report.
§ Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. RATHBONE
moved, after Clause 22, to insert the following clause:—(Provision for accommodation of pupil teachers.)The powers and expenses of a School Board under this Act shall include the provision of accommodation for pupil teachers employed in other than Board Schools at any class or course of instruction provided for pupil teachers employed in Board Schools, subject to such terms and conditions (if any) as the Education Department from time to time direct or approve.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, that this opened up the consideration of a very large question which really did not come within the scope of the Bill, and though he much appreciated his hon. Friend's motives in bringing it forward, he hoped that it would not now be entered upon.
§ Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. MUNTZ
moved, in page 9, after Clause 24, to insert the following clause:—(Expense of providing offices may, with the consent of the Education Board, be spread over a term of years.)Where a School Board have incurred, or require to incur, any expense in providing offices, they may, with the consent of the Education Department, spread the payment over such number of years, not exceeding fifty, as may be sanctioned by the Education Department; and may contract a loan for such purpose in the same manner as if the said offices were a public elementary school; and for this purpose the provisions of section ten of 'The Elementary Education Act, 1873,'shall be held to apply to such loan, and the First Schedule of 'The Public Works Loans Act, 1875,' shall be held to include such work.
§ Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.2008
§ MR. HARDCASTLE
moved, in page 9, after Clause 26, to insert the following clause:—(Exemption of buildings used as school houses from rates.)From and after the commencement of this Act every building used as a school house within the meaning of 'The Elementary Education Act, 1870,'or as offices within the meaning of this Act, shall be exempt from any rate for any purpose whatever which any authority but for this Act would have power to impose or levy upon the occupier of any such school house or office as aforesaid, or of any part thereof respectively.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, that he thought the matter of rating ought to be considered as a whole, and hoped the hon. Member would not press his Amendment at the present time, as it opened up the whole of a very important subject, which ought to be dealt with, if touched at all, by a separate Bill, and should not be partially handled by a clause in this Bill, for the discussion of which it would be impossible now to find sufficient time.
§ MR. SAMPSON LLOYD
thought public elementary schools ought to be exempted from rating as well as churches and chapels.
§ Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. COWPER-TEMPLE
moved, in page 10, after Clause 28, to insert the following clause:—(The Apostles' Creed not to be deemed a formulary as in section fourteen of Act of 1870.)Whereas doubts have arisen as to whether the Apostles' Creed is a formulary within the meaning of section fourteen, sub-section two of 'The Elementary Education Act, 1870,'be it enacted, that the Apostles' Creed shall not be deemed to be a religious formulary distinctive of any particular denomination within the meaning of the said section.His object was to preserve to school boards a liberty which many of them had lost through a misunderstanding of the Act of 1870. Those catechisms only had been prohibited which might impress on the schools of a whole district an external badge of appropriation to one Church or sect, and the five school boards which were using the Apostles' Creed were justified both by the strict letter of the lawand by the intentions of its framers. That Creed could not be distinctive of any single denomination. None could presume to claim it as their own. It was the inheritance of all 2009 Christendom. It was recited before the existing separations of Christian sects had commenced; and it was universally acknowledged as an ancient summary of the leading facts of the Gospel, as received by the primitive Church. Some hon. Members would remember that he had stated in 1870 that this Creed was not included amongst the formularies that were there to be prohibited, and this view was confirmed by the right hon. Member for Greenwich, Sir Roundell Palmer, and others. This Creed would be a help to teachers, and would afford a test for examinations, and might, in conjunction with the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments, furnish a basis of teaching and examination for all schools, whether managed by boards, or by the Church, or by Nonconformists.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, that he would remind his right hon. Friend that the Bill did not touch in any way upon the question of religious teaching in our schools; the Government must therefore entirely decline to enter upon a discussion of this most important subject which was not within the four corners of the Bill—a Bill which did not pretend to deal, as he stated on introducing it, with all the various matters connected with our educational legislation on which great public interest was felt—but was confined very much to one branch of the subject. He was very glad therefore to hear that his right hon. Friend did not propose to proceed with the clause.
§ MR. COWPER-TEMPLE
said, after what fell from the noble Lord, he should withdraw the clause. He was confident that the lawfulness of the use of the Apostles' Creed if not affirmed in the Bill, would be declared by a decision of a Court of Law.
§ Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. GREGORY
moved, in page 11, after Clause 29, to insert the following clause:—(Power to divide parishes.)Wherever it shall appear to the Education Department to be expedient or convenient, for the purposes of the Elementary Education Acts 1870 and 1873, or of this Act, to divide any parish into two or more separate parts, the Education Department may, with the consent of the Local Government Board, by Order, direct that each such part of the said parish as shall be defined and specified for that purpose in the Order shall, and the same shall accordingly as from the date of the Order, or any later date specified 2010 in the Order, be for the purposes of the said Acts, or any of them, a separate parish by itself, and section seventy-seven of 'The Elementary Education Act, 1870,'shall apply thereto in like manner as if such part of a parish were part of a parish situate outside of a borough.The provisions of section fifty-six of 'The Elementary Education Act, 1870,'with respect to raising a sum from any place which is part of a parish, shall, where necessary, apply to a part of a parish which under this section is constituted a separate parish by itself.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
hoped his hon. Friend would not think it necessary to divide the Committee on this question at so late a period of the Session. He admitted the importance of the subject involved in the proposal, and would wish to be understood as giving no opinion, one way or other, on the merits of the clause; but, he could not but think that it was one which could be more appropriately raised, discussed, and settled on a Bill having reference to rating and areas of taxation. As a matter of fact, it would be utterly impossible at this period to discuss so important a matter.
§ Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. HALL
moved, in page 11, after Clause 29, to insert the following Clause:—(Instruction in Scripture.)'The Elementary Education Act, 1870,'shall be construed as if there were added to section seven of that Act a sub-section, in the following words:—In any school in which no provision is otherwise made by the School Board or Managers for Religious Instruction, it shall be required of such School Board or Managers, in order to obtain an annual Parliamentary grant, that provision shall be made for the instruction in Scripture knowledge of those children whose parents may signify their desire for the same.The hon. Member said, his sole desire in proposing this clause was to remedy what he regarded as a gross injustice inflicted upon the children of the poor by the existing law. He had given some thought to the matter, and had formulated the result of his thought in a moderate clause—some of his Friends thought the clause as he had drawn it was too moderate. There was a disposition in some quarters to treat this question of Scripture teaching lightly; but he looked upon the interest of the children who were to be instructed in the public elementary schools as being 2011 altogether too important to allow of a question of the kind being played with. It was the duty of the country loyally to accept school boards among our institutions; but it was equally their duty to make those bodies as efficient as possible for the furtherance of education in its highest as well as in its most elementary branches. A majority had agreed to the appointment of school boards, and it was for the minority now to gracefully concede an extension of what the majority had decided upon. There was a strong feeling abroad in the country in reference to this question. Many parents believed that if their children were educated in schools where no regard was paid to Christianity or to Bible teaching, it would go ill with the children; but, as a matter of fact and law, the Bible could be excluded from the schools in any district at the will of a school board which might have been elected by a small majority only of the ratepayers. The ground on which his proposal was based was one on which Roman Catholics, Nonconformists, and Churchmen could alike take their stand; because there was a cold-bloodedness about the atmosphere of a school from which the Bible was excluded which must be repulsive to all parents possessing the slightest feeling of religion. Putting the question upon broader grounds, he would go the length of saying that the effect of the present law was to work injustice as between class and class in the community, and also taking the sections who came under school-board regulations between different branches of the same class. The school boards absorbed the voluntary schools to which the artizan classes were in the habit of sending their children, and in many cases religious teaching was abolished from the schools into which the children were dragged nolens volens. The artizan parent was, therefore, left with no alternative, and he would like to know what would be said if the same principle was applied to the highest schools in the country. As an act of common justice, therefore, he asked the Committee to agree to the clause which he proposed.
§ New Clause brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."2012
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, he honoured his hon. Friend for the courageous and hearty manner in which he had brought before the House the all-important subject of the religious teaching in our schools: and, though the Government could not assent to his proposal, as he had already reminded the Committee, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hampshire brought forward his proposal respecting the Apostles Creed—that the question of religious teaching did not come within the scope of the Bill, and that therefore the Government must decline to enter upon a discussion respecting it—he hoped the Committee would not doubt that the Government, and he himself, felt as strongly the importance of such teaching in our schools, as any hon. Member of the House, or as his hon. Friend who had so eloquently and so warmly pleaded for the reading of the Bible and religious instruction as a fundamental part of the national system of education. His own sentiments could not be mistaken on this subject; as, during the Committee on the Act of 1870, when the noble Lord the late lamented Member for Suffolk (Lord Augustus Hervey), whose premature death they all deplored, proposed to make reading of the Bible compulsory, with exemption under the full Conscience Clause for those who did not desire it, in all public elementary schools, he was one of those who voted for the proposal, which he much regretted was not at that time more largely supported by the Conservative Party. As to the Amendment itself, he quite agreed that when the State compelled, in one way or another, parents to send their children to school, and virtually took possession of all the time which the children of the labouring classes had available for instruction, the responsibility of the State was enormously increased as to what the children learnt in those schools. He agreed that a very serious case of conscience might arise if a parent who desired religious teaching was compelled, there being only one school available, to send his child to, and therefore employ all its school time in, a school where there was no religious teaching: and he confessed that he did not consider that they could rely upon Sunday schools or home instruction to supply religious teaching to the mass of the 2013 people, if they had it not in the day-schools, even if there were no other objections to such a separation between religion and week-day life. Surely the cases of the children of negligent, ignorant, or vicious parents would in any case specially suffer by such a treatment. No one could doubt, after what had passed at the last General Election and at the school board elections generally, that the country as a whole, and the parents belonging to the labouring classes who were primarily concerned in the matter, were strongly in favour of having the Bible and religious teaching a prominent part of the school course. He himself, having twice contested Liverpool, and having been elected by Westminster on the London School Board, could testify as to the earnest feeling of the operatives, artizans, and labourers on this subject. Happily, however, at present, religious teaching and Bible instruction was the rule in our schools. Some 40 or 50 school boards were, it was true, purely secular, excluding all religion from the schools, and some others reduced it to a miserably small and grudging amount; but the portion of the population under this treatment was comparatively very small, and in the great majority of board schools Bible teaching and religious instruction was a real part of the daily schooling. Indeed, he felt a perfect confidence that if there should be hereafter anything approaching to a general exclusion of the Bible, the mass of the population would experience a revulsion of feeling in favour of a return to the former system, by which the State took security that there should be Scriptural or religious teaching in all State-aided schools, for all who desired it. Still, however, they could not conceal from themselves that when education was made virtually compulsory, and a precedent condition to children's labour, and when, under a system of payment by results, the State took no care for religious teaching, it became the pecuniary interest of managers, teachers, employers, and parents to reduce such teaching to a minimum—and looking forward some years, there might, no doubt, be a danger that the teachers would shirk religious instruction, when they saw that the State set no account on religion. Still, at the present moment the teachers attached the greatest 2014 importance to being able to use religious influence in their schools; and the Committee would doubtless remember that remarkable meeting of school teachers belonging to schools of very different denominations which took place in London on the subject of the Act of 1870, and which was assembled to protest against their hands being enfeebled, by religious teaching being forbidden to them in their schools. If, however, as time went on, owing to any circumstances, it was found that teachers began to put religious teaching in the background, he believed there would be such an outburst of feeling throughout the country as would make it necessary for the State to interfere, and secure by legislation this blessing to its people. He hoped this danger would not arise, but it was only right to admit that he did apprehend it might arise, and in the voluntary quite as much as in the board schools. The latter were worked under jealous and watchful public opinion, and as the English people were religious at heart, he did not believe that these schools would for any long period be able to neglect religious teaching. The danger of neglecting it appeared to him to be stronger in the voluntary schools, which necessarily did not work so much under the blaze of public opinion, and in which the temptation would be strong—he regretted much he saw evidence of it in schools already—to reduce the time set apart for religious teaching, so as to employ more time in teaching subjects which would earn the Government grant, and get the children out sooner into the labour market. What, then, was the position of the Government on this all-important subject? It must be remembered that in the Act of 1870 the great change was deliberately made by Parliament, in the face of the country, by which the former provisions of our educational system were abandoned, which made religious teaching a necessary condition of all State-aided schools, and secured such instruction by the examination in religious subjects by Her Majesty's School Inspectors; and that hereafter the State was to take cognizance only of secular teaching, though religion might be taught in all schools under a Conscience Clause. Now, in his first speech, he had stated that the Government was of opinion that they would 2015 not be justified, and that it was undesirable, in the highest interests of the country, to attempt to reverse the leading features of a policy adopted deliberately by a former Parliament, unless it was quite clear that the country generally desired such a change. No one could doubt that to make religious teaching now compulsory in all schools, when in 1870 it was made non-compulsory, would be such a reversal. Was there that marked change in the mind of the country which called for, or would justify at the present moment, legislation in reversal of what was done in 1870 on this most grave matter? The Committee must surely agree that there was not sufficient evidence of such a change to make it right for the Government to take such a step. For though he was decidedly of opinion that the country and the great mass of artizans and labourers were strongly in favour of the Bible and some simple form of religious instruction in schools, still the Government must be very much guided on these large questions as to the mind of the country by what passed in Parliament; and he must remind the Committee that no debates had arisen, and no substantive Motions had been made in either House of Parliament since 1870 on the subject, and that the matter had only once been raised at all—namely, last year, by his hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. A. Mills) in the Estimates, when not a single hon. Member on either side of the House supported him. Under these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government, while sympathizing with the object of his hon. Friend, and agreeing cordially with him as to the supreme importance of having simple religious teaching an integral part of the education of the children of the country, did not think they would be justified in re-opening what was settled by the Act of 1870 on this point, unless they saw that there was a very great change in the general opinion of the country on the subject. He felt confident, therefore, that the position of the Government would not, after this explanation, be misunderstood, when he said that they could not assent to the Amendment.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK
said, he hoped the Committee would read the clause a second time, but held that it could not be carried out in the spirit in 2016 which it was intended, and that no adequate safeguard for the rights of conscience would be afforded by it unless there were added at the end the words "in such a manner as those parents should prescribe." That Amendment he would be prepared to move.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he hoped his hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hall) would press his Amendment to a division; if so, he would be followed into the Lobby by a large section of those who sat upon that side of the House and by many hon. Members opposite. The noble Lord had stated that his hon. Friend was not correct in saying that the Bible had been banished, but only excluded from, certain schools. For his own part, he was not able to appreciate the difference. He held that it would have a most pernicious effect on the children if the Bible were excluded from the school.
§ MR. E. J. REED
said, he thought the Government had exercised a very sound judgment in declining to adopt this clause. It would be the greatest mistake imaginable to introduce into an Educational Act a provision that children should be instructed in religious knowledge by the promiscuous teaching of school boards. If the clause was pressed he hoped a resolute opposition would be shown to it by all friends of religious freedom. He opposed the clause also on the ground that it was a serious interference with the Act of 1870.
§ VISCOUNT EMLYN
said, he hoped the clause would be pressed to a division. It merely extended to a minority the rights which a majority now enjoyed. If it was wrong to compel a parent to contribute towards religious instruction to which he objected, it was equally wrong to compel a parent, who objected to exclusive secular teaching, to send his child to a secular school and to contribute towards the cost of a system of which he disapproved. This clause would make the Conscience Clause a clause for every conscience, and he trusted it would be pressed to a division.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, the adoption of the clause would involve a return to something like the state of things which existed before 1870, and which was abandoned as unjust and untenable in obedience to a preponderance of opinion on both sides of the House. Even before 1870 the Bill of the previous 2017 Conservative Government, introduced into the Lords by the Duke of Marlborough, abandoned the requirement of the daily reading of the Scriptures. His own opinion was that nothing could be more inconsistent with the real interests of religion than to take hold of the managers and say—"You shall give religious instruction, whether you like it or not." Nothing, in his opinion, would be more destructive of the cause of religion. Although he disapproved the plan of the Birmingham School Board, he believed that if Birmingham was wrong, it would right itself in time, and he would not interfere with the action of the local majority.
§ MR. J. G. HUBBARD
supported the Amendment. The principle of religious liberty was not carried out by the Act of 1870, which imposed a restraint on religious teaching, and he could not see why the liberty which was enjoyed in Scotland should not be extended to England.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
was prepared to join the Government in opposing this clause, but not on the ground of religious freedom. It would produce a chaos of religious teaching in a school. The teaching of religion ought to be left in the hands of the parents of the children, and in a religious country like England such teaching would be safe in their hands.
§ MR. RODWELL
opposed the clause, because he considered it a considerable departure—which that of his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) was not—from the principle of the Act of 1870. The clause, too, was imperfect, and would not, he believed, carry out the intention of his hon. Friend who proposed it.
§ MR. RAMSAY
was glad to be able to support the hon. Gentleman in opposing this clause. He should like to see them adopt the principle of the Scotch Education Act, which neither prevented nor prescribed religious teaching, and yet there was not a school in Scotland where the children were not educated in Scriptural knowledge.
§ MR. HOLT
held that if school boards were to be popular throughout the country they must give religious instruction to the children. Parliament ought not to leave it in the power of the local authorities to shut out the Bible from any school. The vast majority of the 2018 school boards had decided in favour of religious teaching, and this proved that the feelings of the country were in favour of giving religious instruction in schools. By the Conscience Clause the parent who did not approve of the religious instruction could withdraw his child, and it was only fair that the parent who wished for it should have his child instructed in the Holy Scriptures. At present the only person whose conscience was not considered was the Christian parent whose poverty compelled him to send his children to a board school. He should, therefore, support the clause.
§ MR. A. M'ARTHUR
said, the Amendment was unnecessary, and would be injurious to the cause of religious instruction, instead of promoting it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was anxious that there should be no misunderstanding as to the view the Government took on this question. They did not oppose the Amendment because they were indifferent or hostile to the proposal of his hon. Friend—on the contrary, they attached the highest importance to religious education in schools; but they felt that to undertake to deal with such a question on the present occasion would lead them too far a field. It would be impossible to adopt this clause by itself as a satisfactory mode of dealing with the question. It would be necessary, for instance, to provide again for a system of inspection to ascertain that the religious instruction was satisfactory; and, on the whole, the Government found it impossible to treat a question of this kind, upon which there was such a difference of opinion, in a measure introduced for other objects, and the scope of which could not be conveniently enlarged.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
asked what would be the practical effect of this proposal, which seemed to be introduced to gratify a sentiment shared by every Member of the House. Could they compel the teaching of religion as they could compel vaccination? An Act of Parliament to compel a school board which did not desire to teach religion to teach it seemed to him one of the most chimerical things in the world. The board would be sure to evade the obligation. It would be better to rely upon the religious feeling which existed in the country. His hon. Colleague (Mr. Hall) had 2019 frequently declared that they could not make people sober by Act of Parliament; how, then, could they make them religious by Act of Parliament? He hoped that they would not be forced to a division upon this matter.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) had described the clause proposed by his Colleague the Member for the City of Oxford, as contemplating an impossibility, because his Colleague proposed to extend the Conscience Clause, now that the attendance of children in some schools or other was rendered compulsory, in the sense of giving the parents a right to demand Scriptural education for their children, if they so thought fit, as part of the teaching they were to be forced to accept; but the hon. and learned Gentleman had admitted that the present system of elementary education had superseded a rational system of religious education. How, then, could the far more moderate proposal of his Colleague contemplate or involve an impossibility? The noble Lord the Vice President of the Council had said that since 1870 the question of religious teaching in a national sense had not been stirred. He (Mr. Newdegate) thought that the noble Lord's memory had failed him, for in 1872 he remembered voting in a majority of that House with the noble Lord, whereby the House declared that the system of Scriptural education, according to "use and wont," should be retained in the elementary schools of Scotland. It was quite true that the then Government managed afterwards to rescind that vote by a small majority; still, it could scarcely be said that the House at that time did not entertain the subject of religious education, or that it had not been stirred. The noble Lord had also expressed a serious apprehension that the system now adopted would impair the earnestness of the school teachers in imparting religious instruction, and that it would even tend to shake their religious convictions. The noble Lord was perfectly right; his apprehensions were founded upon the teaching of history and experience. For some years previous to 1848 religious teaching had been discouraged in the German schools, especially in those of Prussia; the teachers either were or became irreligious, and in 1848 and 1849, it was found that 2020 these schoolmasters had become the leaders of the revolutionary movement among the people. Irreligious men were apt to be revolutionists. It had been strange to hear in that debate Member after Member rise and declare that the value which the people of this country attached to religious education was so strong that they had forced the school boards to adopt religious teaching; and yet those very Members of an Assembly which opened its proceedings each day with prayer, protested that it would be inconsistent in the House of Commons to give effect to the religious convictions of the people in elementary schools, supported fey public money. He (Mr. Newdegate), felt compelled to ask himself—"Was that House really a representative Assembly?" But the truth was that in that House, upon this subject, there was a sad want of earnestness and of moral courage. The House lacked the courage necessary to their genuinely representing the religious convictions of the people. It had been insinuated that the hon. Members near him were not sincere in their convictions. To that there could be but one answer given, and that answer would be found in the hon. Member for the City of Oxford enabling them to record their votes by pressing his clause to a division, and that he (Mr. Newdegate) hoped the hon. Member would do without delay.
§ MR. HALL
explained that his proposal was not to force religious instruction, but simply to provide that it should be given where the parents desired it; or, in other words, it would give a Conscience Clause which would cut both ways. His hon. and learned Friend wanted to know how unwilling school boards could be compelled to teach religion? Now he (Mr. Hall) in proposing his Amendment, thought more of the parents than of the school boards. No doubt, the school boards found great difficulty in dealing with the question of; religious teaching, and by way of getting rid of the difficulty they wanted to avoid the question of religious teaching altogether.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 96; Noes 190: Majority 94.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.