HC Deb 15 June 1882 vol 270 cc1260-2

asked the Vice President of the Council, in reference to his statement that the present teachers of the Science Classes at "Hall of Science" were recognized by the late Government, when Mrs. Besant, Miss Alice, and Hypatia Bradlaugh became qualified to earn grants from public monies for sciences classes taught by them; whether they were returned to the Education Department in 1879 as teachers in classes in the Hall of Science; and, who was the Member of the late Government by whom their application was approved?


Sir, when the application was made in 1879 for the recognition of the science classes at the Hall of Science, the teachers returned were Dr. Aveling, Doctor of Science, London, and B.A. of Cambridge, with Annie Besant and E. Richardson as assistants. When my attention was first called to this matter by the hon. Member for Harwich (Sir Henry Tyler) Mrs. Besant and the Misses Bradlaugh were acting as assistants to Dr. Aveling. No change has taken place since that time except that the Misses Bradlaugh have passed the necessary examination for teachers, and have been recognized as such. In reply to the last Question of the hon. Member, my statement on Thursday last was that these classes "were admitted to grants by the late Government." What I wished to convey by that was that they were admitted to grants during the late Administration. I am quite prepared to assume the responsibility for the continuance of the grant, as well as for the recognition of the Misses Bradlaugh as qualified teachers. Under the conditions upon which grants are made, as laid down by the "Science Directory," no Administration would be justified in refusing to recognize these classes or their teachers.


The right hon. Gentleman is, no doubt, correct in one sense in stating that the late Government recognized these classes. As I was at that time at the Education Office, perhaps the House will allow me to state what had occurred. Certain rules are laid down as to the recognition of science classes; and if these provisions are complied with, as a matter of course the application is sanctioned. Application, I believe, was made in regard to these classes in the latter months of the last Administration. It was made by a committee, at the head of which was a clergyman of the Church of England, and as it seemed, no doubt, to the officer of the Department that the conditions had been complied with, the application was passed; but neither the Lord President, nor myself, nor any senior permanent official, was aware that any classes had been recognized in connection with the Hall of Science. I do not wish to censure the decision arrived at by the present Government; but what I want to say is this, that that decision was adopted on a full and complete knowledge of all the facts, in the ignorance of which a mere formal sanction was given by the late Government.


Sir, I have always understood that when anything is done in the Department under my control by my subordinate officers that I am responsible, and I wish distinctly to repeat that until 1881 I knew nothing about these grants until a Question was put to me by the hon. Member for Harwich. Those grants were made while the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) was Vice President of the Council, occupying my position. They were continued for two years, and I find nothing to justify me in withdrawing those grants, and I take all responsibility for their continuance.