§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [20th February] [see page 774], proposed to Question [see page 128].
§ Question again proposed "That those words be there inserted."
§ Debate resumed.
§ (4.15.) MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
I do not intend to detain the House by repeating the remarks which I was making last evening when the debate was adjourned. I have only one or two remarks to add to what I have already said. It will be in the recollection of the House that last evening I mentioned the fact that the Home Secretary finds it necessary to devote his time and take under his control the management of hackney carriages in London. Whenever a grievance is felt, instead of the Local Authorities being able to look into it, it is necessary for a correspondence to be entered into with the Home Office; and if any alteration of the law is desired we have to request the Home Secretary to receive a deputation, which necessarily takes up much valuable time, which would be much more profitably devoted to matters of Imperial importance. This illustrates the absurd way in which local matters in London are conducted. If the 896 control of the hackney carriages were given to the Local Authority in London, one advantage which I am confident would result from it is, that the cost of the licences would be reduced, and be brought more into proportion with what it is in some of the large provincial towns, where, under local control, the cost was much less. In London the cost of a licence is £2, whereas in the large provincial towns it ranges from 5s. downwards. Consequently, the man in London with only one vehicle and a couple of horses is placed at a great disadvantage. There is also the great question of the control of the police, in which the Metropolis takes great interest. At present there is an amount of tension existing between the police in London and the people which it is most desirable, for every reason, to put an end to as speedily as possible, and that can only be done by intrusting the Local Authority with the control of the force. As an illustration of how we suffer in London from this circumstance, let me refer the House to the strike known as the Silvertown strike, which occurred just at the end of the year. There was a collision between some of the strikers and the police; the facts were communicated to the Home Secretary, and he was asked for an inquiry so that the whole question might be thoroughly thrashed out; but an inquiry was refused, and the men still think—I do not say whether they are right or wrong—that the police exceeded their duty. In a provincial town the matter would have been thoroughly sifted by the Watch Committee in the course of a few hours. If it were found that the police had not exceeded their duty, they would have received the renewed confidence of the people; and, on the other hand, if it were found that they had exceeded their duty, they would have been called to account. Then, again, there is the great subject of the housing of the working classes, in reference to which I am glad to see that the Government have introduced a Bill. It is a large and complicated question, and one that requires to be speedily dealt with before the problem becomes so great as to make it almost impossible for any authority to grapple with it. The same remarks apply to the question of the consolidation of the sanitary laws, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman when he introduces the Bill 897 on that subject will, at the same time, give us some consolidation of the authorities who have the management of those laws, and remedy the state of chaos which exists at present. In conclusion, I would urge the Government to give us the necessary adjunct to their Bill of 1888 by establishing the proposed system of District Councils, and so perfect the machine of local government in the Metropolis that we may be able to deal effectively with those great social questions which so deeply affect the welfare of the people.
§ MR. WHITMORE (Chelsea)
I think it is important that it should not be supposed that the desire to substitute District Councils for vestries in the Metropolis is altogether confined to one side of the House. We Conservatives are in favour of this change. But I do not think that the most eager Representative of London would contend that the creation of District Councils is of such urgent importance as the extension of land purchase in Ireland or the question of tithes throughout Great Britain. Nor can I believe that any hon. Member opposite thinks that the creation of such Councils, taking a London view of the matter, is of such importance to the people of London as the consolidation of the sanitary laws, or as a measure dealing with the housing of the working classes in the Metropolis. I would urge upon the Government, when they deal with the latter question, to give the most careful attention to the problem of re-housing the very poor, who are displaced under Acts of Parliament, or through the development of estates in Central London. Our object should be to prevent a geographical separation between the rich and the poor, and to ensure that even in rich districts the poor shall be able to find convenient and suitable homes. I deny the statement that the Conservative Members of the Metropolis are in the habit of abusing the County. Council, and I think that the worst enemy of that body is the man who seeks to give to it a particular political colour and complexion. The way in which the elections for the County Council were fought by hon. Gentlemen opposite has certainly tended to deprive that body of the confidence it ought to enjoy throughout London. In too many cases the majority 898 of the Council has sought to use it for the purpose of promoting the principles of that narrow and acid Radicalism of which the hon. Member for Shore ditch is a typical representative rather than of furthering the good administrative work it ought to do, independent of parties, for the benefit of the people of the Metropolis. A complaint has been made that Conservative Members have not spurred the Government on to legislation in these questions. If they have not done so, it is because they do not believe the Government require it. They have already given London a great central administrative body, and are quite able to judge of the necessity of reforming the local subordinate bodies. We are, therefore, quite content to trust to the good intentions of the Government in this matter; but hon. Gentlemen opposite may rest satisfied that if the Government show any indisposition to do what is necessary for the welfare of the people of London, the metropolitan Members on the Ministerial side of the House will be as anxious as other hon. Members to urge them forward.
(4.30.) MR. CALSTON (Southwark)
I congratulate 'the House on at last having heard the voice of a London Conservative Member. The hon. Member who last spoke seems to think that the Government require no stirring up. I was going to condole with the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board in the fact that his professed desire for progress in London reforms is not supported by hon. Gentlemen behind him, for out of 47 Tory Members for London the hon. Member for Chelsea is the only one who has ventured to address the House, notwithstanding that four out of the small body of 12 Liberal Members have found it necessary to urge on the Government to action. London wants—and sooner or later will have—extended powers for its County Council; it also requires District Councils. The hon. Member said just now that the question of District Councils was not an urgent one. I dissent from that. I say, on the contrary, that it is most urgent. I hope that we shall have District Councils for each Parliamentary Division. It may be difficult and heavy work to carry out such a reform, but it will have to be faced, and Ministers 899 must realise that it must be thorough and complete, and that no tinkering or repairing of the present system will be satisfactory. If we have District Councils for each Parliamentary Division great benefit will result. It will simplify our system of registration; the list of voters can be arranged to do for County Council, School Board, and Parliamentary elections. The change, too, would infuse more life and energy into local work; an efficient system of Home Rule in the different localities would encourage men of business capacity and position to come forward to assist in the work of the District Councils. With regard to such matters as the housing of the poor, we know how inefficiently that work is now looked after by the vestries. This and other matters of equal importance renders it necessary that we should have these District Councils as soon as possible. Then, again, with regard to the extended powers of the County Council, we want to have at least all the powers which any of the large municipalities in the Kingdom have. If there is one thing on which the City of London prides itself—and justly so—it is its police force. I venture to say there is no better body of police in the world. If the City of London is competent to control its police, surely the elected representatives of the rest of London are equally capable. We also desire powers in regard to the supply of gas and water and electric lighting, which we believe will be most beneficial. It will be more economical, and will get over many difficulties which now exist, especially with regard to water supply, if these matters are placed in the hands of an elected body. If the Government will bring in a Bill to give the County Council control over open spaces it might be passed almost without discussion on this side of the House, and the bad blood which exists in connection with public meetings in these places would be avoided. We want to prevent such disturbances as those which occurred in Trafalgar Square. I hope that the Government will soon bring in their Bill with regard to the housing of the poor, so that Londoners may have an opportunity of considering it, in the same way that they have been able to do the Bill introduced by the lion. Member for Hoxton and other London Liberal Members. With regard to Dis- 900 trict Councils, they have been promised and are expected, and this state of uncertainty is doing a great deal of harm in London, making the present Local Bodies rather careless in the way in which they discharge their duties. If, therefore, the Government do not really intend passing a measure on this question they ought to say so, in order that other steps might be taken to improve the present unsatisfactory state of matters. Again, I say that London is very anxious to have District Councils.
(4.38.) MR. BARTLET (Islington, N)
I should like to say one word of protest against the speech just delivered. It is rather a strong order to say that because we do not speak on them we have no interest in matters affecting London. It is because we are inundated with everlasting speeches from a small handful of Radical Members that we cannot get on with the real business of the Session, and pass the measures which Parliament has assembled to deal with. Two measures in the Queen's Speech affecting the public health of the Metropolis and the dwellings of the working classes are more important than any number of speeches such as we have heard from the other side, and I rise to protest against the course taken by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I should also like to point out with reference to the keen desire of lion. Gentlemen that the County Council should get possession of gas and water and other undertakings that 10 years ago these very Gentlemen prevented the Water Companies from being bought up at a sum immensely less than they are now prepared to pay for them. In 1880, when a measure for this purpose was brought in, it was opposed tooth and nail by the Radical Party, and on that Bill the Government were thrown out, and if now we buy up the Water Companies we shall have to pay millions more than we need then have paid. I venture to hope that hon. Members will cease speaking and let us get to the business of the Session, so that some practical good may be done for London.
(4.40.) MR. KNATCHBOLL-HU-GESSEN (Kent, Faversham)
I entirely agree with the sensible and practical speech we heard yesterday from my hon. Friend the Member for the Horsham Division of Sussex. I hold 901 with, him that these discussions are not only useless, but also mischievous, and I think the debate should be cut short and the Government allowed to proceed with the measures they have announced an intention to introduce. But I wish to say one word of—if I may use the expression—respectful remonstrance to the Government. I hope that they will not unduly strain the allegiance of their Conservative supporters. We are not all Tory democrats, and some of us feel apprehension, if not dismay, at the announcements which have been made from the Government Bench. For instance, I was not agreeably surprised when I heard the First Lord of the Treasury announce, and other right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench corroborate the statement, that it is intended to deal with the question of District Councils. I am aware that legislation respecting it is inevitable; but, in my opinion, at present it is decidedly premature. Hon. Members opposite have told us that the agricultural labourers are yearning and pining to take a share in the management of their own affairs. Now I have lived among labourers all my life, and I say that the evidence points in an exactly contrary direction. They are satisfied with the legislation brought in creating the County Councils, and wish now to be let alone, so that the Councils may have a fair opportunity of getting into good working order. I only wish to point out to the Government that they ought not to bring forward legislation which they know is opposed to the often-repeated conscientious convictions of Members of their own party.
§ (4.43.) THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE, Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax only did himself and his Amendment justice when lie spoke of it as of a comprehensive character. For my own part, I do not think that I ever heard an Amendment proposed which better deserved that description. The measures specified by the right hon. Gentleman would, if dealt with, be found quite adequate for a whole Session, and, indeed, would form no meagre programme for a whole Parliament. I was very much struck with what has often occurred to me on hearing speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite, both in the House and the country. It is their 902 extreme interest in and desire to press forward when they are in Opposition measures which they entirely neglect when they are in power. There is nothing, I think, more remarkable than the sudden importance and urgency assumed by questions which, when hon. Members opposite have the power to deal with them, they altogether neglect; and, really, to hear right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite speak on such subjects as local government and allotments, it would almost seem as if they are the party which has persistently dealt with those questions, and the supporters of Her Majesty's Government are the party who have always stood in the way. As a matter of fact, it is notorious in the House and the country at large that for the great reform of local government or the legislation on allotments, the Conservative Party, and the Conservative Party alone, are to be thanked. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had the opportunity for a very long series of years of dealing with every one of those burning questions which are now advanced by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, but somehow or other he went out of office without having dealt with any one of them.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Because we opposed them! I think I shall be able to show that though many promises were made in the Queen's Speech during the term the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was in office, the performance was very meagre, many of the Bills promised not even being introduced. I have no fault to find with the speech in which the right hon. Gentleman accompanied his Amendment. He contented himself with drawing attention to the absence of measures without going into details; but that example has not been followed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have discussed the several questions in very minute detail. The hon. Member for the Ilkeston Division is very anxious that the Government should introduce some simple Bill on local government. The Government are very anxious to introduce a simple Bill on various matters connected with local government. But what is the invariable practice when such Bills are introduced? 903 Hon. Members endeavour to attach to Bills of that kind Amendments of every conceivable character, and debate them at very considerable length. The introduction of a simple Bill by no means implies that it would be simply dealt with by the House. What simplicity means in the minds of hon. Members may be gathered from some of the suggestions made in the course of this discussion. The hon. Member for the Rugby Division, for instance, wanted the Government to introduce a Parish Councils Bill. Let us see what is his idea of a simple Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I did not accuse the hon. Member of saying anything simple at all. It was the hon. Member for Ilkeston who invited us to introduce a Bill which he said might be a simple one, but I desire to see if it is possible to deal with the suggestions of hon. Members in such a Bill. The measure suggested is a Parish Councils Bill; but, according to the hon. Member for Rugby, the Bill should deal with Charitable Trusts, Poor Law, School Boards, the liquor trade, and churchyards. No doubt if hon. Gentlemen opposite were allowed to have their way, they would deal with these questions very simply, but in all probability they would not find the supporters of the Government assenting parties to the proposals of hon. Gentlemen. With regard to London, the Government are aware their legislation is not complete; and when the opportunity arises, the Government are as anxious as hon. Gentlemen opposite to proceed with that legislation; but according to hon. Gentlemen opposite, they will have to deal in a London Bill with lodgers, charities, Poor Law, Asylums Boards, gas, water, Extra Parochial Authorities, hackney carriages, and police. No doubt the Government have had offers of assistance from hon. Gentlemen opposite if they will attempt to deal with these matters, and one hon. Gentleman has appealed to hon. Members on the Government side to give the Government the necessary amount of "steam." It is not "steam" the Government want, but time. With regard to boundaries, the hon. Member for Halifax asks why the Reports and 904 schemes provided for in the Local Government Act have not been obtained from the County Councils. Those provisions were introduced into the Act of 1888 with a view to the formation of District Councils, and in order to provide for the difficulties which would then arise from overlapping boundaries. Until District Councils are set up, no difficulty of that kind can arise. The revision of boundaries involves large questions of adjustment of property and compensation. It is far better to wait rather than to run the risk of having a second rectification, which might be necessary after the District Councils are established. It is very difficult to deal with these matters unless under the impetus of a strong and urgent necessity, and at present no such necessity exists. With regard to the question of the division of rates, to which the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire referred, the Government do not admit at all that that is a subject which finds favour only on the other side of the House. The Government entirely agree there should be a division between the owners and the occupiers, provided there is proper and adequate representation of the owners. They are anxious to deal with the subject when time and opportunity can be found; and when the Committee dealt with that subject they dealt with it in connection with the proposal that there should be an adequate representation of the owners. We are anxious to deal with that when we can, and to deal with it in a way which will promote the adequate representation of owners. I pass on to say a few words in connection with the criticisms on the general question. I do not propose to follow them into details in reference to the various matters which have been discussed. I do not think it is right to occupy the time of the House on such an occasion as this by going minutely into details. But, Sir, there have been some severe criticisms on the conduct of the Rural Sanitary Authorities which have proceeded from the hon. Gentleman opposite. He denounced all the Sanitary Authorities because he said they were inefficient. We admit that Boards of Guardians do not always do what they ought to do in matters relating to the public health, but the hon. Gentleman knows as well as we do that we sometimes have as much trouble with the 905 Municipal Authorities in boroughs in regard to the public health as we have with the Sanitary Authorities in counties. With reference to the conduct of the Sanitary Authorities on the question of allotments, it has been said that we have acknowledged that the Bill has been a failure. We do not recognise anything-of the kind whatever. To say that the Allotments Act has been a failure, or that the Sanitary Authorities, as a rule, are unfit to carry it out is, I think, a great exaggeration. I do not wish, to go into the question now; it can be more properly discusssd on another occasion; but I say that there are few Acts of Parliament which have come more fully into operation than the Allotments Act. Now, Sir, I have alluded to the comprehensiveness of the right lion. Gentleman's proposals, which include District Councils in England, Parochial Councils, parochial schools, secondary District Councils, organisation of the powers of local government in Ireland, and also the question of the sale of intoxicating liquors.
§ MR. STANSFELD
The right hon. Gentleman will allow me to interrupt him for a moment. I thought I very clearly stated that I did not wish it to be imagined that any Government, however strong and however full the time at its disposal might be, would undertake to deal with the whole programme. What I regretted was, that not one of the subjects had been referred to.
§ MR. RITCHIE
But the right hon. Gentleman thought it was essential that he should include the very vast and important measures to which I have referred in his Amendment, so that he might obtain the support of all those Members who desired to see one or other of the measures proceeded with. The first part of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman expressed regret that we have not been enabled to complete the system of local government we have set up. The Government are entirely in accord with him; we are extremely anxious to proceed on similar lines to these on which we have already proceeded, and we have derived immense satisfaction and encouragement from the manner in which the measures we have passed are being worked at the present time throughout the country. It is a matter of great gratification that on all hands it is being 906 acknowledged that the country gentlemen have come forward to perform duties which we had hoped that they would come forward to perform in a public-spirited and patriotic manner. I have no hesitation in again repeating tie pledge which has been given by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, that, if we can obtain the time which is necessary, we shall only be too pleased to produce, even in this Session, measures dealing with thy question of District Councils. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the time at our disposal is extremely limited, and, although I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman himself has no intention whatever of limiting our time, yet he will see that the mere fact of a Resolution of the comprehensive character of that which he has brought forward has unquestionably taken away from us some of the possibilities of dealing with the question which he is so desirous should be dealt with. Although, as I have said, the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman is not intended for anything of that kind, and does not have a very serious effect, yet he will readily understand that the multiplication of Amendments on the Address does very gravely hamper the power of the House to deal with subjects of importance, and takes away from the disposal of the House weeks at the beginning of the Session when all of us are most anxious to get forward to the work. I remember perfectly well last Session the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian giving to us some very good and very sound advice with reference to proposals which should be advanced in the Queen's Speech. He rather found fault with us last year for putting forward such a large programme, and he warned us that the result would be an inevitable and large sacrifice of innocents at the end of the Session. Well, Sir, I was not surprised at the right hon. Gentleman giving us that warning, because his experience must have shown him how very dangerous it is to overload the Queen's Speech with proposals to the House of Commons. Now, I have taken the trouble to go through the Queen's Speeches from 1881 to 1885. I find that a measure for London government was promised in the Queen's Speeches of 1882 and 1883, and in neither of these years was it intro- 907 duced. It was introduced in 1884, and abandoned. A measure of local government was promised in the Queen's Speeches of 1882 and 1884, but never was even introduced. So it was with reference to Welsh education; a measure for Welsh education was promised in 1882, 1883, and 1884, but never proceeded with, and so it is with the vast number of other measures which were proposed in various Queen's Speeches. Now, we prefer the right hon. Gentleman's precept to his example, and when we were settling the questions to be put forward in the Queen's Speech, which we felt with a fair amount of assistance from the House of Commons we should be able to deal with, it did not at all imply that we might not introduce other measures if the House afforded time and assistance without which, of course, it would be impossible to proceed. And it may be possible even now, in this Session of Parliament, to deal with District Councils either for the country or for London. Measures are prepared on both subjects, and nothing would give us greater pleasure than to receive the assistance of the House in passing them, but it is our duty to deal with the questions which we have to consider, in the order of their relative importance. We have given local government in one year to England, and in another year to Scotland, and we consider we are bound to endeavour to carry out some of our pledges this Session in reference to Ireland. We regard these as important questions with which we are bound to deal, and we have placed them in the Queen's Speech in the order of their importance. Looking to the immense interests of the Metropolis, and to the interests of the working classes, we shall introduce measures not only for the consolidation and amendment of the law with reference to the sanitation of the Metropolis, but also a measure with regard to the housing of the working classes. With the other measures of a social character which are now in the Queen's Speech, no one, I think, will find fault. I venture to think that hon. Members, as a whole, will agree that there is hardly anything in the Queen's Speech that they would desire to omit. Now, Sir, the hon. Member for Aberdeen drew our attention to some pledges that were made last year in connection 908 with the Allotments Question in Scotland. I repeat the pledges in precisely the same words as we then gave the House. The hon. Gentleman referred to a promise which we gave to deal with the question of? allotments in Scotland this year. I am afraid it is impossible to go beyond the promise then made, though I can assure the hon. Gentleman we are very desirous of legislating for Scotland according to the wishes of the people of Scotland so far as we consider them just and right. I find that the promise given by the Lord Advocate hardly compares with the account of it given by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman says the Lord Advocate has failed in his promise in connection with some Harbour Authorities of Scotland. The hon. Gentleman will see from the pages of Hansard that the pledge given by my right hon. Friend is not quite in the terms he thought it was. I conclude, as I began, by saying we do not at all put ourselves in opposition to hon. Gentlemen opposite in reference to the desirability of completing the work we have begun. We are anxious to go on with it; but I appeal to them, looking at all the circumstances, whether it is possible to deal with so many large and complicated subjects as those which Ave are invited to consider. While keeping our promise to hon. Gentlemen opposite, we shall enlarge our programme as we deal with the questions as to which we have measures prepared, and as to which we are extremely anxious to complete our work. Without time it is impossible for us to do what hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen ask.
§ (5.15.) MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Mr. Speaker, there is only one part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech on which I wish to make an observation. But before doing so, I must say that I was very much disappointed at the somewhat Party tone which he contrived to infuse into his observations. Especially he accused hon. Members behind me of having attacked the Government in regard to omissions in the Queen's Speech, and of endeavouring to make some Party capital for themselves out of those omissions. He exempted my right hon. Friend near me, and of all the people in the world exempted the London Members, although the London Members were particularly found fault with by his own friends behind him. The right hon. 909 Gentleman proceeded to say, you must remember that it is the Conservative Party, and the Conservative Party only, who have given the country this great benefit of local government legislation. I was greatly disappointed to hear that from the right hon. Gentleman, because I do not hesitate to say that these measures of local government on which he prides himself so justly would not have been carried except by the active and self-denying and loyal support of Members on this side of the House.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I have not said one word to detract in any way from what I have previously uttered as to the assistance we received from him and right hon. Gentlemen opposite in passing the proposals of the Government. My remarks were addressed to the question of the introduction of those measures.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Quite so; my answer to that would be that when we were in power we must hesitate about introducing such measures because we knew they would be opposed by right hon. Gentlemen. That has been our experience, whereas he is perfectly aware that the further he goes in this matter the more strenuous will be the support on this side of the House. I will pass from that and go to my point which I said I rose to speak to, and that is the question of Scotch allotments. I thought the right hon. Gentleman did not do full justice to the actual state of the case on this subject; it was not a mere casual term, not a random word or two in the course of the debate. I do not wish in the least to pin the right hon. Gentleman to anything which he said in that way, but the state of matters was this: There was a considerable feeling among the Scotch Members in favour of a provision not only for allotments, but for ground for building, especially in the case of the fishery populations. My hon. Friend the Member for Leith put on the Paper an Instruction to the Committee which was withdrawn as being somewhat out of order, and then he put clauses on the Paper. These were also objected to, and thereupon the Government themselves put on the Paper certain clauses with a view to 910 giving to Scotland something like the same legislation in regard to allotments which had been given to England. But the Government discovered that that has not nearly all that Scotland wished: and that if they were to proceed with these clauses there would be a great loss of time, that possibly the Bill might not pass in its full shape, or might be lost altogether from want of time, and therefore the Government voluntarily proposed that these clauses should be put off to this Session in order to save the time, and to save the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said—I have the words here, and nothing could be stronger or more explicit than the promise he gave. He said the Government would endeavour to frame a measure which would be satisfactory to Scotch opinions generally, and said—We shall, of course, keep our promise, and if we can see our way to introducing such a measure next Session, we shall be extremely glad to do so. We hope we may he able to introduce that measure and carry it next Session.Of course, there is a phrase which begins with "if," but it merely represents such contingencies as are often covered by the initial letters d.v. It was only in a contingency which we cannot contemplate that they would not see their way to such a measure. I am perfectly certain the right hon. Gentleman wishes to keep any engagements he made. We have always in these matters acted in good faith, and in perfect confidence that not only any engagements would be fulfilled, but that there is a desire to do what Scotch Members wish to see done, and therefore I cannot but express the hope even now that the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues will reconsider the matter. I can assure him that, although we are not prepared to swallow wholesale any measure on account of the pressure of time, still I am perfectly certain that if there was a measure of a satisfactory kind introduced, there would be no waste of time, and no unnecessary discussion by Scotch Members.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 181; Noes 254.—(Div. List, No. 6.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ (5.40.) MR. A. ACLAND (York, West Riding, Rotherham)
I beg to 911 move as an Amendment to the Address, paragraph 16, at the end to add—And we humbly express to your Majesty the regret of this House that as free education in elementary schools has been granted in Scotland no reference is made in Your Majesty's Most Gracious Speech to legislative proposals for giving similar advantages to the rest of the United Kingdom.I think it will be admitted that there was a good deal both of surprise and regret not only in the House, but also in various parts of the country that this subject has not been mentioned in the Queen's Speech. Circumstances certainly led people to expect that it would be mentioned, and that Scotland having already obtained free education—and we are always behind Scotland in the educational race—the subject might be dealt with in this country. In his speech at Nottingham the Prime Minister said he had felt strongly on the subject of giving to England what had been given to Scotland, and he added that, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had the money, no doubt he would do it. Well, Sir, we certainly heard with regret what the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) said on the subject after the Address had been moved. I was speaking to a very strong supporter of Her Majesty's Government the other day, and he said it was a great misfortune that the subject was not to be dealt with this Session, because this year we know we have a surplus, and next year there may be none. When the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury said the subject had only been under discussion for a few months, he could hardly have thought of what he said. We are bound to remember the history of this question. Twenty years ago it was taken up in Manchester and Birmingham and in many other places, and when the late Mr. Forster passed his Bill in 1870 there were many who wished that education should then be made free. Three years later the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) wrote one of the best essays yet written on the subject, in which he paid a well-deserved tribute to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) and the hon. Member for Bordesloy (Mr. Collings) as the earnest advocates of free education. In 1885 the right hon. 912 Gentleman (Mr. J. Chamberlain) did yeoman's service in bringing the question before the working classes by speeches delivered all over Great Britain. He used, no doubt, some very strong expressions. In one speech he said he would not rest until the abominable and cruel tax of school fees was abolished, and in another he said he would cut off his right arm rather than vote for a candidate who would not pledge himself on this question; and the Rev. Mr. Diggle, the present Chairman of the London School Board, remarked that if the right hon. Member had acted on his own advice he would have been without his right arm since May, 1886. Although the phraseology of the right hon. Gentleman may have been somewhat mellowed, at any rate his earnestness on this subject has not in the least degree abated, for only a year ago he declared his conviction that "free schools were bound to come," and said the only question was by whom should they come, and who should have the credit of instituting them. When he said this there was a cry of "Chamberlain," followed by cheers. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman said at about the same time—"If we, the Unionist Party, agree upon it, there is nothing to prevent this great reform being carried out." He spoke those words before that rather interesting night last Session on which the subject was fully decided for Scotland. The analysis of the Division on that occasion made the "if" rather a big if—an "if" with a capital "I" to it. There were 245 in the majority, and 52 stalwart Conservatives in the minority. Of the 245 Members who supported the Government there were only between 80 and 90 Conservatives. Most of the large majority on the Division was made up of the Liberals who constituted the majority on the Opposition side of the House, and who numbered 130 out of the 245. It is quite clear that there were 150 Conservatives who did not vote at all, and of these the stalwarts would probably be able to capture a dozen or so, which would be quite enough to prevent the Government carrying any Bill whatever on the subject without our aid. We must not forget that the Conservative Government in 1885 sent Mr. Matthew Arnold abroad to make inquiries on this subject. In the course of his Report Mr. Arnold said— 913But we must remember, on the other hand, that there are some questions which it is peculiarly undesirable to make matters of continued public discussion; questions particularly lending themselves to the mischievous declamation and arts of demagogues, and that the question of gratuitous popular schooling is one of them. I am inclined to think, therefore, that sooner than let free popular schooling become a burning political question in a country like ours a wise statesman would do well to adopt and organise it.I suppose we shall be told that what was given to Scotland was not free education at all. A most remarkable speech was delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) on the 11th of July last. A sort of panic had evidently set in on the other side of the House, and the right hon. Gentleman was put up to set matters right. Several strong educationalists had pledged themselves against this principle. The hon. Member for the Evesham Division of Worcestershire (Sir R. Temple) a prominent member of the School Board, said—When this wedge which has been inserted on behalf of Scotland comes to be applied to England we intend to resist it. Let us register our protest now.and the brother of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the Member for Leeds (Mr. G. W Balfour) stated that—The Lord Advocate had pointed out that it was not free education, but in his opinion it came to the same thing,And the common sense of the Committee so interpreted it. The hon. Member went on to cite the well known story of the learned gentleman, who said that Homer's works were not written by Homer, but by another gentleman of the same name. Now, in answer to these rising difficulties, the Chief Secretary for Ireland got up and said—It is true we are giving £220,000 towards lessening or abolishing school fees. I maintain that the concession is not giving free education We acknowledge no right on the part of parents to get their children educated for nothing. I absolutely deny that in any sense we have committed ourselves to the principle of free education. The whole debate has turned on a total misconception of the policy of the Government … It was absolutely necessary that some members of the Government should correct that false impression.Well, it would be very much as if the right hon. Gentleman were to give a suit of clothes to some needy man who was 914 going off to work in some other part of the country, and before he went away called him in and said—It is true, my friend, I have given you a coat and vest, a pair of trowsers, boots and stockings, a hat, and excellent underclothing, but I have not given you a necktie or a clean shirt, but then I know the locality to which you are going will supply that need. Now let me entreat you, if ever you are tempted to say that I fitted you out with a new suit, bear in mind that that is the greatest misconception you could ever have.I am rather inclined to think that although the man would accept the right hon. Gentleman's metaphysical discourse, he would, when he got out of the place, feel himself round and say, "I rather think I have got that new suit on after all." The next argument may be that there is going to be no surplus this year. I think, however, we know enough on that subject to meet the argument without further discussion. Then we come to the more practical arguments. The first is, that this thing has been given to Scotland, and that it must—and the sooner the bettor—now be given to the rest of Great Britain and Ireland. One of the arguments which has been most strongly urged again and again on behalf of free education, is, that it would improve the attendance of children, and largely assist the work of the teachers. As to the question of attendance, I admit that I think sometimes too much stress has been laid on it. In England many parents are unwilling to send their children to school, and whatever is done about free education, we shall have to carry on the work of compulsion just the same. As the matter stands in our great town schools, it is the regular fee payers who are the regular attenders, and it is very often the free children who are most irregular. But I quite admit that—as is happening in Scotland at the present time—we shall have a great many more children brought into those excellent infant schools, which are one of the few points in connection with our educational work of which we should be heartily proud. As to helping the teachers, I am sure that we should all feel that the national teachers of England are a body who deserve our cordial sympathy and hearty admiration, and anything and everything which can help them in their kind feeling towards the children, and in their pity for the poorer 915 ones, many of whom are insufficiently fed and clothed—anything that can brighten the work of the teachers is a thing which we should gladly do. Then we come to the argument that has been urged by the Prime Minister himself, namely, that if we appeal to the great mass of the people to perform a duty—which some of them now perform against their will—for the common good, we shall cure a great deal of friction, and certainly lessen a great deal of discontent by enabling this compulsory duty to be performed without cost. We have admitted that in various ways already, but although I think that a strong argument, I think a stronger one is that we have got ourselves into a position which raises invidious distinctions between those who got remission of fees and those who have too much self-respect to go to ask for remission of fees, and that having got ourselves into this position—and in some schools as many as 25 or 30 per cent, of the children are getting remission, whilst the children of many respectable people deserve it, but are not getting it—it behoves us to use our best efforts to remove these invidious distinctions and throw the boon open to all without the least loss of self-respect, and in a way that will make them feel that the State is really doing something good for them which they may accept with pride and pleasure. I do not want to drag up cases, ad misericordiam, but we know that in a country like this, where there are so many poor, and so many just above the brink of poverty, there are thousands and thousands of parents who will not demean themselves by going before the School Board Attendance Committee, still less by even finding their way before the Board of Guardians, and to whom the boon of remission would be of enormous value, without in any way lessening their self-respect or feeling of independence. I do not know if any hon. Members have read the interesting Return, furnished by the Labour Department of the Board of Trade, as to the expenditure of working men—and I am sure we must all be glad to see that Mr. Giffen and Mr. Burnett are turning out such valuable work from the Department. This Return deals with the expenditure of a working man from his earliest years of wage-earning 916 through his married life to the period of his becoming the father of wage-earning children. Here is an instance of the expenditure of the working man: "Schooling, books and papers, £1 1s. 3d. "Interest on things in pledge, £1 6s. 0d."—and this man has in addition to pay £2 10s. 0d. into a Friendly Society. He does all he can to keep himself respectable, and not waste money, and yet you see these items side by side. One cannot help feeling that if he had not been obliged to pay this item in respect of schooling he might not have been compelled to pay the item for interest on things in pledge. A school inspector informed me the other day of a case which had just come under his notice. A widow with five children, who had 8s. a week to live upon, sent three children to school, the average fee being 2d. a week each, and often went without a meal so that she might be able to pay for their schooling, in which she took a pride and a pleasure. The other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer warned us against cases of this kind, and gave us what he called a receipt for demagogues. I am bound to say that in the same speech the right hon. Gentleman put forward more than once the case of a poor struggling clerk with £500 a year. It would be an excellent thing for the poor struggling clerk to get more still. But it is impossible to raise the feeling of pity for a man who is living respectably on £500 a year as it is for the people in the cases I have named, to whom this boon would be a most valuable one. Let us then get rid of these distinctions, get rid of the almost inevitable fraudulent statements which sometimes have to be made before Boards of Guardians or before School Attendance Committees. People feel they have to make out a case before these bodies, and very often they are tempted to misrepresent the facts. Let us remove all such temptations in matters of this sort, and it will be a great advantage from a, moral as well as a pecuniary point of view. But we may be told that by granting this boon we shall be doing that which will tend to pauperise the people. To that argument I attach no value whatever. It is the present system that has a tendency to pauperise parents by compelling them to appear before Boards of Guardians, by letting them come near 917 the workhouse at all. Those of us who have sat on Boards of Guardians and seen the people come to the workhouse must have been ashamed that we have a law which brings people there on behalf of such a noble tiling like education, and which perhaps accustoms them to come there again for another purpose. Is free education pauperising in other countries? Is it pauperising on the Continent, though wages are lower there than in England? Is it pauperising in America, in Canada, or in many parts of Australia? I know it is not completely carried through in all parts of Australia, but when we think of the startling sums of money which, the Australians sent the other day to help the dock strikers it does not look as if these men were much pauperised. Many of us have been to public schools or the University; have been partakers of the benefit of endowments of public money. I do not know, but at least I hope we have not been pauperised by it. The College of All Souls, Oxford, which entertained a very distinguished statesman the other day, has sent a good many men to this House, who have had assisted education. There was once a school in Salford which, in the days when fees were less often remitted than now, put up a placard on its doors on which, appeared. "Entrance for assisted children at the back." I am sure many of us who have been to public schools and universities would not care to be labelled "Assisted legislators," and told we must come in by a back door. Let us get rid of this talk of assisted education. Now, while we grant this boon we must at the same time use it as a means and a lever for improving the system of education all round. While we make this gift to the parents we must ask the parents to recognise and appreciate its advantages by helping to lift the level of education throughout the country, and by seeing that their children are benefited by it. There is, for instance, the question of the age at which children leave school. There are over the district covered by a population of 8,000,000 in the country, children who are not compelled to stay at school after passing the Fourth Standard, and we are told in the Blue Book that children ought to pass the Fourth Standard at 10 years of age. Here, then, a large portion of the work- 918 ing classes may be reasonably asked, in consideration of the boon of free education, to let their children remain at school a year or a year and a half longer, not only for the good of the child, but for the general good, for I have no confidence whatever in the existing and, I fear, growing competition of child labour. We may also be able to do much to improve our evening schools, and, indeed, to embark on many of those reforms which some of us have been waiting for for a very long time. Generally, then, it appears to me that by a free system of education we shall get a more cheerful attendance at the schools, relieve the teachers, and be able to put on compulsion without irritation. We shall grant an immense relief to the large numbers of the working classes, and at the same time in no way diminish their self-respect, and we shall, if we are wise, make the system a means of lifting the general level of the whole of our national education. Now, as to the plans by which this is to be done. It is assumed that the grant must come from the National. Exchequer. I have no doubt that a large portion of it will have so to come, but when we suggest that part of it may come from the rates, the difficulty which some hon. Members opposite feel comes in because they know, or at least they say so, that if rates are granted, even in a moderate degree, to help our schools, it would involve some measure of popular control. As to the way in which it is to be granted, it has been suggested more than once that the schools should receive the exact amount of fees they now charge. A short examination shows how utterly futile and impossible that is. It is utterly impossible to so endow the largo schools in the wealthy districts, which charge high fees, which are almost quasi-middle-class schools, and I am glad of it. What would you do in the poor schools where the managers only get a penny fee, and in many cases not even that? Their difficulties are the greatest, and yet you would give them the least. The only practical and satisfactory method is that adopted in Scotland. You must strike an average, and give to each school an average fee. I approach now the question of the conditions upon which such a boon can be granted. It has been forcing itself on the minds of many people that during 919 the 20 years that have elapsed since 1870 our system of national education has been gradually undergoing a great variety of changes, and that you cannot pour out more millions for national education without considering the position, and perhaps, if necessary, making a certain amount of re-arrangement. On this subject I may as well quote some of the strong opponents of free education. Mr. Diggle, the present chairman of the London School Board, speaking in Cardiff, said:—It is obvious that if the contribution from the State is increased from 46 per cent, to 76 per cent, that increase of contribution must be accompanied by such an increase of control as to render them practically State schools; if, on the other hand, the ratepayer is substituted for the parent I think that it is equally obvious that the ratepayer would obtain a more direct representation upon the management of the schools than the parent now enjoys. In either case the schools would cease to retain the independent character which now marks their management, and which has hitherto influenced their progress, and little except the existence of voluntary contributions would exist to distinguish them from schools under School Boards. That little would soon disappear under the circumstances which I have detailed, and practically the era of universal School Boards would be ushered in.I think Mr. Diggle is quite right in saying that both the rates and taxes bring in the same question—popular control. A great many people think you can pour out taxes, and popular control is out of the question; but in the matter of local government the Government have handed over large sums to representative bodies, and every one is satisfied because the money is in the hands of men locally responsible to the ratepayers. Before going into the difficulties of the religious question I want to point out that as we go on increasing representative management, with County Councils, the District Councils of the future, and the Parochial Councils of the future, so it is quite inevitable it must come into the minds of the people why they are not to have a reasonable measure of control over this important subject of popular education. Before I descend to what I consider some of the more lamentable things said on this subject, I want to pause a moment in the atmosphere of intermediate education, and show what people say there when their minds are not warped by what may be called the traditional diffi 920 culties which surround elementary education. Let me quote a few words from the Report of the Schools Inquiry Com missioners of 1868, which was signed by the Bishop of London, the present Bishop of Rochester, and the late Dean Hook, among others. The Commissioners report—If in any substantial degree it (the Local Board) represents the people, it carries a force with it which it is impossible to secure in any other way. … No skill in organisation, no careful adaptation of the means in hand to the best ends can do so much for education as the earnest co-operation of the people. The American schools appear to have no great excellence of method, nor a very well selected system of studies, nor very thorough inspection, nor very skilful gradation of the schools in relation to each other. But the schools are in the hands of the people, and from this fact they derive a force which seems to make up for all their deficiencies. The Scotch schools owe their success in a great measure to the same cause. … But the real force whereby the work is to be done must come from the people, and every arrangement which fosters the interests of the people in the schools, which teaches the people to look on the schools as their own, which encourages them to take a share in the management will do at least as much service as the wisest advice of the most skilful administration.The Government passed, and we are very glad they did, an Intermediate Education Act for Wales. We congratulate the Vice-President upon the course he took in pushing forward the measure, but when we come to consider the religious difficulty in relation to these secondary schools in Wales—a poor country where nearly all the children we shall get into the secondary schools will be 6th and 7th standard children, the very children about the great bulk of whom the religious difficulties arises—when this subject was discussed at the Church Congress, again you hear the voice of common sense. The Dean of St. Asaph, an earnest Welshman, and a very strong Churchman, said:—The 'religious difficulty' was a mere ghost of a dead past. He saw nothing in the Act to prevent Church boys being taught Church doctrine by a Church teacher, and Nonconformist boys being taught religion by a Nonconformist teacher, outside school hours.The Dean of Llandaff said:—I cannot agree with those who think that it is wicked to have day schools in which religious instructions shall form no part of the programme. I conceive it to be derogatory to two of the most vital parts of our human constitution, and certainly of our English constitution, 921 to hold language of that sort. Where is the parent and where is the Church? If you treat the day-school as the he-all and the end-all of the instruction of the child, you are leaving out of sight those two most important elements in the education of the individual. The parent, the home, and then the school or chapel, or whatever it be, surely must he trusted, and can be trusted, with at least some portion of the religious education of the child.We shall be told no doubt that the religious difficulty comes in with the religious instruction given in the Board schools. Well, there are only seven School Boards in England that do not give Scriptural instruction, and hon. Members know perfectly that the Scriptural instruction given in many of the Board Schools is admirable—is quite as good as that given in many voluntary schools and much better than that given in some of them. Lord Selborne said, with very good sense, when he was in this House, that you cannot expect to make children of 12 or 13 into controversial divines. If you give them thorough teaching in Bible history you will do all you need to do when you have the Church and the home behind. It is a very lamentable thing to find men like the Bishop of Salisbury, whom all of us who know him respect for his learning and earnestness, finding himself compelled to say, as he did the other day, that as long as he was Bishop of Salisbury he would do all he could to prevent Board schools being introduced into that city. Then Canon Gregory, one of the majority of the Royal Commission, speaking at Cardiff the other day, said—In Board school districts, in which either no religious teaching was imparted or where only nominal attention to the subject was given, they must expect at no distant day an amount of opposition and avowed infidelity greatly in excess of what they had hitherto experienced, and it would be strange indeed if such infidelity were not the precursor of a fearful amount of vice and violation of law and order.I really do not know whether hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side believe that School Board education is going to lead to all this vice. The rev. Canon was speaking in Wales, and I have no doubt he had in his eye the tithe question when he referred to the violation of law and order. I can only say, for my own part, I think it is lamentable that such language should be used, and I am quite 922 sure there are many on the opposite side who think it lamentable too, and who know that this kind of talk is often irritating and most injurious. The reason why the question of popular control must continually be brought up is that the voluntary schools have largely changed their position. When Mr. Forster brought in his Bill voluntary donors were contributing nearly a third of the whole expense, but while the fees paid by the parents have been continually going up the voluntary contributions have been of late steadily going down, and all the time the Government grant has been going up by leaps and bounds. We must remember what the position of the voluntary manager really is. Of the schools which the Royal Commission dealt with no less than 10 per cent, were receiving no voluntary subscriptions at all. Is it seriously maintained that a school in this position, and which may have been built 40 or 50 years ago, is to remain under the control of perhaps a single manager for the rest of time? Is it not a rational thing that we should say, when we are spending large sums of money on such a school, that we are entitled to ask for popular control? In the towns some of the difficulties surrounding this question may be solved by making special provision for Roman Catholics and others, but is it not reasonable in the country districts to say, as the Wesleyans and other Nonconformists have said long ago, that we ought to have within reach a school which is subject to popular control? We put forward this contention on educational grounds, and on social grounds as well. We do so on educational grounds because we cannot get the inspector to condemn these schools when he sees people struggling along, as they are struggling in many places and trying hard to keep them in existence. One of them, Mr. Johnstone, in his published report speaks of "the struggling village school" and says—The Inspector must either refuse the grant and perhaps crush the school or he must recommend the grant for work which he knows falls infinitely short of the standard laid down for him in the code. He chooses probably the more merciful part, and from that hour he perpetuates bad teaching by rewarding imperfect effort.We ought, by having representative district school authorities, for I do not 923 believe in small parish School Boards, to3 enable the Inspector to feel that be could fall back upon reasonable support from the inhabitants of the district. That was the line which the Bishop of London, to his credit, took on the Royal Commission. He moved an Amendment declaring that the Government grant ought to be met by something like an equal grant from the voluntary managers. Then Mr. Rathbone proposed that at least a fixed proportion should be contributed by voluntary managers, and this, like the Bishop's proposal, was thrown out. Our contention is also based on social grounds. Country villages are lamentably devoid of anything in the form of self-government, and we say that this question of the school is in the United States, in Australia, and in Scotland one of the most stimulating that village people could be entrusted with. The people of the villages are pouring into the towns, and what sort of training are they getting? A young man of 19 or 20 comes into the towns with no idea that he has any right as a citizen to take part in public affairs. We want to do everything we can to interest the people not only in the schools, but in a great many other things. But the schools exist, and, as the headmaster of Rugby said the other day, if the clergy and managers would only show that they had a little more confidence in the people, all those who deserved it might retain their seats on the popular Bodies, and they would be much more in sympathy with the people. I know all this will be misinterpreted, and I shall be told I am making a tilt against the clergy and against all the earnest men who have done so much for education. I am doing nothing of the kind. I recognise what they have done. I recognise that they came forward at a time when effort was most needed and did what they could for education out of their own pockets. But I say we are living in a time when we must give people more control over their own affairs, including education. If this is done, we shall, by slow degrees, be able, like Scotland and Switzerland, to follow up a good primary education with a system of secondary education. I will end by quoting a letter from a young Swiss friend of mine. He says—As to how far free education goes, I can give you my own experience. After passing 924 like everybody else through the six classes of the primary school, I frequented for six and a half years the gymnasium at Winterthen, without paying a single half-penny for instruction beyond what my father, whose income at that time was about £100, paid in the way of rates and taxes, and he would have had to pay exactly the same amount had I not frequented it. Of course there was the outlay on books, writing and drawing materials, &c., but this would certain'y be less than £12for the whole six and a half years, at the end of which I passed on to the University of Zurich. …. Foremost in all Switzerland we have the Canton of Bale (City). In pursuance of the Federal Constitution of 1874, primary education became free in Bâle in 1875, in 1879 secondary education was made free, and in 1881 the system was extended to the grammar schools. At the sane time materials were supplied free to the pupils of the lower and upper boys' schools and of the upper girls' schools. Finally, on the 11th of June, 1880, a Resolution was passed by the Council, according to which the State also takes upon itself the expense of supplying all the printed books to the whole of its schools, lower and upper, boys and girls, the University alone excepted; so that in the Canton of Bâle the child of the poorest man can not only frequent the common public school, but also the excellent middle and upper schools that lead up to the university without having to bring to school anything but what the child of the wealthiest has to bring as well, that is, the willingness and the firm intention to become by means of these beneficent institutions a useful member of the community both for his or her own sake as well as for the well-being of the whole State.We in England, with all our wealth—and we are the wealthiest country in the world—might well take a humble seat at the feet of little Switzerland on this question of education. We have looked again and again to this Government for methods that will help forward the social welfare of the working classes. They have done nothing for temperance; we fear they will do little for the villages; and now we have this question of education. Here is an opportunity which I hope the Government will take advantage of. You may solve this question in a narrow spirit, narrow educationally and narrow socially, or in a broad and liberal spirit which will give our working people the best we can give. T hope you will take the wider course, and will choose a policy which will give relief to the working classes without injuring their self respect, and which will lead to the institution of a national and progressive system of education, based on the common good sense and common good will of all classes. This you can 925 do if yon like without fear, without distrust, and without injustice.
After paragraph 16, to insert the word, "And we humbly express to Your Majesty the regret of this House that, as free education in elementary schools has been granted in Scotland, no reference is made in Your Majesty's Most Gracious Speech to legislative proposals for giving similar advantages to the rest of the United Kingdom"—(Mr. Arthur Acland.)
§ Question proposed. "That those words be there inserted."
§ (6.38.) MR. S. BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
I think the Government can hardly complain of my hon. Friend for bringing forward this Amendment. They must admit that those of us who are in favour of free education are smarting under a legitimate disappointment. We certainly understood from the Prime Minister not long ago that the question of assisted schools or free schools was simply a question of money, but the right lion. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) has since told us that it is not a question of money, but a question of time. This year there is money, but no time, and next Session we shall be told that there is time, but no money. We know quite well, however, that it is not really a question of time or a question of money which has delayed the settlement of this great reform. The fact is that the noble Lord at the head of the Government forgot to consult the noble Lord the Member for Darwen (Viscount Cranborne) before he sent up his kite, and the result was that the kite came down again very quickly. Last year the Scottish Free Schools proposal led to an incipient rebellion among the supporters of the Government, and I suppose Ministers were afraid that if they tried to introduce the system into England, there would be a general revolt. We are glad to know, however, that many of those who are interested in Church of England and other voluntary schools—the Archbishop of Canterbury at the head—are far-sighted enough to be ready to accept some system of free schools. It is a deplorable fact, generally speaking, that hon. Members who represent the voluntary system in this House are Tories of the Tories, and are most retrogressive on educational questions. In my belief 926 they are playing a fatal game. Last year they were able to destroy the Code introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, and this year they have been successful in postponing the question of free schools. But passing from that, it is at all events satisfactory to find that neither the Prime Minister nor the First Lord of the Treasury in any way meet the question as a question of principle. The first Lord of the Treasury said it was a question of money, and the Prime Minister said it was only a question of time. Progress has certainly been made when we find the leaders of the Government prepared to discuss the question apart from its principle, and only as to how the details may best be carried out. We also find that there has been a considerable step forward with regard to the free school question on this side. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) endeavoured to raise the matter in the unauthorised programme in 1885, but at that time he Was in the position of one crying in the wilderness; whereas those hon. and right lion. Gentlemen who required it on this side of the House had since found salvation on this as on another subject. I do not know that it is necessary to enter at any length on the arguments which may he advanced in favour of the principle of free schools, because the principle is practically admitted. The nation had come to the conclusion—Lord Salisbury practically admitted it—that if the Stat 3 forced parents to send their children to school, the State ought not to place any obstacle in the way of the attendance of these children. I think my hon. Friend made rather too little of the irregularity of attendance arising from the existence of the fee. Considerable experience on the London School Board, and especially on the Bye Laws Committee, has proved to me that there is no greater obstacle to regularity of attendance, or to attendance at all—in London at all events—than the existence of the fee which is charged. Au hon. Member interjected the remark that the children whose fees are now remitted by no means attended regularly. I think he forgot that the children whose fees are remitted at present belong to the class from which the most irregular children come, and, there- 927 fore, whether you remit their fees or do not, it does not really affect the question of the average child and the general attendance at school. We are often told that if you abolish the fee you take away the parent's interest in the attendance of his child. But it is forgotten that the parent has, and always will have, a very strong incentive to see that his child attends school regularly whether the fee exists or not, inasmuch as his child has to pass a certain standard before he is free to leave school and earn wages. I do not think hon. Members opposite will deny that the present system of collecting fees is most costly and vexatious—costly and vexatious to the managers, to the teachers, and to the parents themselves. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has more than once pointed out that it is the most uneconomical way of raising school revenue that could possibly be conceived. Again, the fees are not uniform, and are therefore unfair. Two men may live in the same town, earn the same wages, have the same number of children, and secured for them identically the same instruction. The one whose children attend a particular school may have to pay, say, 4d. per week, while his neighbour, whose children attend another school, will have to pay Is. per week, the education given being exactly the same. The State, therefore, for the supply of the same article, charges a different amount in different districts. My hon. Friend said something in reference to the question of the abolition of fees impairing the self-respect and independence of the parent. I deny that free education has the effect of impairing the self-respect and the independence of the parents, but I charge, on the other hand, that the present system of remission of fees, an essential matter so long as a fee is charged, is day by day impairing the independence of, and driving over the tine of pauperism, thousands of parents. The present system of the remission of fees is the most unfair, the most iniquitous, and perhaps the most pauperising agency existing in the country. I have no doubt some hon. Members opposite will argue that it is grossly unfair that the parents whose children are attending our elementary schools should be relieved of all 928 the charge. [Sir R. TEMPLE: Hear, hear.] Well, I entirely deny that he will be so relieved. And, first, we may say it is rather hard that this particular burden imposed on a parent by the State should be imposed at the moment of all others when he is least able to bear it—when, so to speak, all his children are in the cupboard. But I deny that a parent would be relieved of all cost of his children's education if fees were abolished. He would still continue to pay in two ways. He would pay as a member of the community through his rates and taxes throughout his life; and he would pay as an individual, and pay a very heavy charge by way of cost for his children's education, by the loss of earnings that the compulsory law entails upon him It is too much forgotten what an enormous tax our compulsory system has placed on parents. Before 1870 no parent need send his child to school at all, and as a matter of fact the percentage of parents who sent their children to school was very small compared with the number who are now compelled to send their children to school. There was, moreover, a smaller proportion of children of the ago of 12 to 14, or even of 10 to 11, attending school then than now; and that means that for every child attending school up to 12 or 14 the parent is mulcted to the extent of the earnings the child might otherwise have earned. In 1869 the children on the register at our public elementary schools numbered 1,570,000; 37 per cent of those children were between 9 and 14, or, in other words, 580,000. In 1885 there were 4,412,000 children on the register, of whom 45 per cent, were between 9 and 14, or over 2,000,000. Thus nearly 1½ million more of children between the ages of 9 and 14 are now annually attending school than in 1870; representing a cost to the parents which can only be reckoned by several millions a year. To take the case of a parent who, under the former system, took his child away at 9 or 10 in order to work, and is now obliged to keep it at school till the age of 12 or 13, the loss to the parent will amount to something like £25 or £30. A sum that represented to a man earning, say, 25s. a week, as great a sacrifice as did the sending of his boy to Eton represent to a man of £4,000 or £5,000 a year. 929 We want to get parents so much interested in education that they will keep their children as long as possible at school, and the fee stands greatly in the way of that consummation. The arguments in favour of free schools are overwhelming, and the only question for the House of Commons to decide is, not should free education be carried out, but when and how it ought to be carried out. I by no means, however, want to follow the precedent sot by the Act of last Session as regards Scotland. I do not desire to see the money coming from the rates, but from the taxes. The education rate is already very heavy, and there might be a fear that some of the ratepayers would grudge the additional expense that might attend the freeing of schools, and thus desire to starve them. Moreover, I think that the incidence of our present system of taxation, coming for the most part directly from property and intoxicants, is a much fairer burden than the incidence of the present system of rates. Secondly, I think that the whole of the fees ought to be abolished, if any are abolished. None of us want to copy the system in Scotland of freeing the lower and not the higher standards, than which I cannot conceive a more suicidal means of driving the children from school at the earliest possible age. The Scotch system, too, under which the School Board are allowed, while opening most of their schools free, to keep a few still charging fees, may be all very well in regard to Scotland, but will not do in England. I hope that when we institute a system of free schools we shall insist that all shall be free from top to bottom. I admit that the position of the voluntary schools forms the great difficulty in the way of the introduction of free schools. The present system of paying vast sums to irresponsible managers of sectarian schools has many evils in itself, and cannot be carried any further than it has been in the past. The principle I should be inclined to lay down is this—that in the case of every School Board school, or a school under local control, that school ought to be free; and, supplementary to this, that there ought to be a free school within the reach of every parent. There would not be much difficulty in carrying that out in the case of large towns, where School Board schools already exist, 930 and in the case of the small rural districts it is high time it was enacted that where there is only one school that school ought to be not only a free school, but an undenominational school, as far, at all events, as the time of secular instruction is concerned. Then, I do not see why, if our Board Schools are free and there is a free school within reach of every child, there need be any action taken, at all events at present, to make the acceptance of the free school system compulsory in England, as it is in Scotland. I do not see why an option should not be given to the managers of voluntary schools; subject, of course, to the provision that if they accepted the grant, they must, at all events during the hours of secular instruction, come under some system of local control; but that if they choose to go on under the old system they can do so. It is often being asked why should we alter the principle on which the voluntary system has been carried on for so long? I think the answer is simple, namely, that in 1870 there were great difficulties in the way of carrying out a system of universal school boards. A compromise was therefore come to under which, where the voluntary school could show the receipt of substantial amount of revenue other than the grant, the principle of coupling public control with public expenditure should not apply. But everything has altered profoundly since then. In 1879 the fees and subscriptions together represented five-eighths of the whole revenue of the Church schools for instance. But in 1888 the proceeds from grant was equal to the other two sources of revenue. And if the fees were abolished, and further public grants substituted, the subscriptions would then represent but one quarter of the whole revenue, the other three quarters coming from public resources. I think that that would make such a material difference in the position of the voluntary schools that it is quite time we applied the principle of local control to those voluntary schools which accepted the grant. I have to apologise to the House for having detained it at such length. I trust that we may be able to arrive at some solution which, while it may not please all parties, may be carried through without raising all those sectarian difficulties which did so much harm in 1870, and that we may be able to give the great 931 boon of free education to the people at the earliest possible moment, and with the least possible friction on the one side or the other.
§ (7.3.) SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
I desire, in the first place, to express my regret at finding myself opposed to the hon. Mover and Seconder—Gentlemen with whom I have so much sympathy in educational matters generally. Though I shall not attempt to follow their discursive speeches, yet as I have been pointedly alluded to by them I must at once reply. As regards Switzerland, I must say that, having recently returned from the upland parts of that country, I have failed to perceive its overwhelming superiority in the matter of education. Would the House be surprised to learn that the rural schools there are open only half the year? [Mr. MUNDELLA: In what part?] In the uplands, the higher valleys, and the mountainous regions. Surely it is much bettor to keep the schools open 10 months in the year, as we do in England. The hon. Mover has begged that the advantage which has been vouchsafed to Scotland should be extended to England. But many persons in England do not admit that it is an advantage at all. We consider chat neither Scotland nor any other country can show anything at all equal to the English voluntary system, and maintain that our voluntary system is one of the grandest features ever witnessed in the history of the national life of any country, that it is among the chief glories of our institutions, and the crown and diadem of our social system. The hon. Mover has alluded to the surplus of the coining Budget. I earnestly hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will devote that surplus to the reduction of taxation, and not trouble the Education Department with it, that is, will not use it for making modifications in the voluntary system. Allusion has also been made to what recently fell from the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the House, to the effect that this question is, at all events, to be relegated to the next Session. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that that statement afforded sincere satisfaction and relief to many of his most consistent supporters. Reference has also been made to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. I desire to speak in terms of 932 the utmost regard and respect for the right hon. Gentleman, who was one of the first, if not the very first, statesman on the Liberal side who, while advocating remission of fees, also recommended that compensation should be given to voluntary schools. I hope I have not misunderstood him. It has been said that the fees are a cruel tax; but in what does the cruelty consist? The parents make the payment of fees in. fulfilment of the first duty which devolves upon all citizens—the duty to educate their children at their own cost so far as their means may permit, and not at the cost of the community. Let me ask the House to consider how much is already contributed from public sources. In the Metropolitan area seven-eighths of the whole cost are now contributed from the rates to the parents who are admittedly able to pay for the education of their children, and to those not able to pay the education is already free. Much has been said regarding compulsion, and it has been argued that as the State compels the parent to educate his children, the State ought to pay entirely. I do not desire to enter into municipal matters, with which I am not so intimately connected as I am with educational questions; but are there not many instances when the citizen, being compelled by law to do this, that, or the other for his OWJI and his neighbours' benefit, is also compelled to pay for the same? Then, I ask, wherein consists the injustice in compelling a man to educate his children and then asking him to pay a small portion of the cost? The hon. Mover has analysed the Division of last Session on this subject. With regard to the vote which I and others on this side of the House reluctantly felt obliged to gave against the Government last Session on the Motion in favour of the principle of free education, I can only say that we are still of the same opinion. We have made similar declarations to our constituents, and shall, I hope, act up to them. The hon. Seconder spoke of us as the "retrogressive party." I entirely repudiate that charge. Many of us occupy a large portion of our public life in promoting the work of elementary education, while the same cannot be said of some of our critics opposite. With regard to the statement that the attendance is affected by the payment of the fees, I desire to say that according to 933 our experience in London the attendance is favourably affected by the enforcement of fees and unfavourably affected by any laxity in that respect. The hon. Mover said that there is friction in the collection of fees; that an invidious distinction is drawn which made remission difficult; that remission would be considered a boon; that high fees of 2d. and upwards are charged; and that fraudulent statements are made by parents to get remission of fees. I desire to traverse absolutely each and all of those statements. Within the Metropolitan area the poorer children are not charged 2d. and upwards, but are only charged Id. With respect to fraudulent statements being made by the parents for the purpose of obtaining remission of the fees as alleged, I entirely deny that that is the case, as regards the Metropolis at all events.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
What I said was that there is a temptation to parents to make fraudulent statements as to their incomes.
§ MR. A. ACLAND
I should like to say I put it in the same way as my hon. Friend. I said that there was a temptation to the parents to exaggerate and make out a better case for the remission than they otherwise would.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
I regret, then, that I caught more particularly the word "fraudulent" than I did the word "temptation." In London there is no difficulty of the kind suggested. Parents who require the remission of fees report the same to the teacher, who reports to the local manager, who reports to the Divisional Committee, gentlemen who live close at hand, and then the cases come before a Committee of the Board, over which I preside, every fortnight, and no difficulty ever occurs. Then it is said that there is inequality under the present system with regard to fees between the poorer and the wealthier classes. I admit, and I think it is so much the worse for the hon. Member's arguments, that well-to-do parents, and there are tens of thousands of such, are not permitted to obtain a first-class education for their children without paying their due share of its costs. It has been argued, both by the Mover and Seconder of the Amend- 934 ment, that the remission of fees is now carried out in a manner that tends to pauperise the parents of the children. That statement is, no doubt, based upon the fact that in certain parts of the country the remission of fees is carried out through the Guardians. Where the Guardians pay the fees the children have to attend the Guardians' meeting for that purpose. But there is nothing of the kind in the Metropolitan area, and nothing could be more: reasonable than the manner in which the remission of fees is managed here. As I have just explained, there is no reason why the good example of London in this respect should not be followed in other parts of the country, and it could be done by a stroke of the pen. This objection then amounts to nothing, for it can be easily and instantly removed. Then the Mover of the Amendment urged that if fees were remitted parents might reasonably be compelled to keep their children a year or two longer at school. If I wished to prejudice the public against the hon. Mover, I would repeat that argument to them. My experience is, that parents would prefer the continuance of the present fee system to keeping their children longer at school, with a corresponding loss of juvenile wages. The hon. Mover spoke of the change that has taken place in the voluntary system throughout the country, compared with what it was 10 years ago. Alas! that is nothing more or less than the result of the grinding competition of the Board schools. Even now the voluntary schools hold their own in spite of many disadvantages to which they are subject. The hon. Mover seems to clog the grant of compensation to voluntary schools with many unacceptable conditions of extraneous control, drew what he intended to be a moving picture of the exclusiveness of the voluntary system, and urged the advantages of a system of education dependent upon the people from whom it springs. Surely the voluntary system offers these very advantages, and is the very system that really does spring from the people. For it involves the principle of Englishmen doing everything for themselves from their own resources spontaneously and ex proprio motu, without the compulsion, the discipline, the dragooning, as it were, of a universal State system. There is one point upon 935 which I sympathise with the hon. Members opposite, and that is with regard to the Scriptural system of instruction in Board schools. It is a delicate subject to be dealt with in this House, but there is a distinction between Scriptural and religious instruction. While I claim for the Board schools credit for the way in which the Scriptural instruction is carried out, an instruction which is second to none in this Kingdom, I cannot pretend that they give that religious instruction of a higher kind which, doubtless, is given by ministers of religion in voluntary schools. I thank the House for having so kindly listened to my rejoinders to the hon. Mover and Seconder. Before I sit down, however, let me recapitulate the objections of my Parliamentary comrades and myself to the proposals set forth in the Amendment. We object to free education because it derogates from, and almost abnegates, that which is the first duty of every Independent citizen, and that is to educate his children as far as he can according to his resources. The hon. Mover said that if we compelled parents to send their children to school at an age when they might earn money we should remit the fees. But only last Session the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton told us it was wrong that parents should benefit by the wages of the children of tender age. I subscribe to the principle so justly sat forth. I hold that it is the duty of a parent not only to pay what he is able to pay towards the education of his children, but to bear all the burdens incidental thereto. Further, we maintain that there is no need among the comparatively well-to-do classes for this free education; and I believe that a majority of the people in my agricultural constituency and in the Metropolis—the two places I know best—do not desire it. We maintain, further, that the remission of fees would inflict a very heavy burden upon the Exchequer for the payment of compensation, for which payment no adequate reason has been assigned; and also that there would be a great loss in national resources, because the voluntary system all over the country would be withdrawn or materially damaged, and we think it would be a thousand pities that these fountains of benevolence, which have so long flowed in happy England, should be 936 dried up. Then we say that the system would involve the Legislature in a perfect mass of complications in respect to the voluntary system, which, despite the efforts of its opponents, is still a living and vital power in this country. For all these reasons, we earnestly deprecate the proposals laid before the House this evening. I am, of course, bound, as a loyal supporter of the Government, to vote against any Amendment to the Address; but I vote on this occasion from something more than Party loyalty—1 vote from a hearty dislike to the proposals, the principles of which I believe to be radically unsound. Several classes in my constituency view with apprehension the consequences that would accrue from the adoption of those principles. If we must lose the fees of the voluntary system, we must strive to obtain compensation from the general f revenue, but not from the rates. We shall be thankful for the boon, or concession; and should the worst come to the worst we must hope for the good offices of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), although we do not desire to put his goodness to the test by demanding any sacrifice from his justice and generosity. We would rather do without the compensation and maintain our existence, as at present, believing that it does conduce to the building up of that national character which has ever been the chief honour of the British nation.
§ (7.35.) THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Sir W. HART DYKE, Kent, Dartford)
My hon. Friend who has just sat down has addressed to this House, with his usual lucidity, a statement characterised by his customary ability. I am not prepared to follow all the arguments of my hon. Friend into the merits of the question, and still less am I disposed to follow the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Acland) through the long, though able, speech he has delivered in bringing his Amendment before the House. Many of the remarks of the hon. Gentleman were, doubtless, somewhat wide of the mark; and I may also say that he has a programme so varied that it would be impossible it could engage the attention of the House at a time like the present. I fully admit the great ability the hon. I Gentleman brought to bear in the dis- 937 cussion of the various questions with which he dealt; but I hope he will acquit me of any intentional disrespect if I do not go into them on the present occasion, involving, as they do, so vast an amount of detail. The hon. Member has brought before us the question of local control, and also the questions of religious instruction and secondary education, all of which are matters which have not only occupied the serious attention of the House in the past, but which will, no doubt, occupy our attention in the not very distant future. I must confess to having been somewhat puzzled as to the purpose of the Amendment when first put before the House. A notice of Motion on the same subject was on the Order Book of the House at so late a date as Monday last, in the name of the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Buxton), with a view of bringing the matter in a concrete and precise form before the House on some early day; and I have observed the somewhat hurried way in which, during the last day or two, that notice has been withdrawn. I have very little doubt that before long we shall see a similar notice again on the Paper, and find that the hon. Gentleman has only momentarily stood aside to oblige his hon. Friend. I was at first puzzled to divine why it was, after that notice was placed on the Paper, this Amendment was put upon the Order Book; but I assumed it must have been in order to give hon. Members opposite an opportunity of enunciating anew their unswerving loyalty to the principle of free education. It is, however, just possible that the Mover of the Amendment has merely placed it on the Notice Paper for the purpose of eliciting from Her Majesty's Government a precise scheme or declaration of policy in regard to what the Prime Minister has termed "assisted education." All I can say at starting is, that if that be his object I think he will find that the net he has spread has been spread in vain, as far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned; that its meshes are so gross and obvious that even the most short-sighted bird would refuse to walk into the toils. Now, I admit at once the importance of this question, and also that its position has considerably altered during the past year or two; while, although the attitude of the Government and their supporters has undergone some change, we are neverthe- 938 less under the obligations in regard to the matter which have been imposed upon us by the Legislature of the past. I do not wish to be hypercritical; but it is marvellous how little the speech of the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment had to do with that proposal. What is the Amendment of the hon. Member? He asks the House to declareThat, as free education in elementary schools has been granted in Scotland, no reference is made in Your Majesty's Host Gracious Speech to legislative proposals for giving similar advantages to the rest of the United Kingdom.Well, Sir, I am at a loss for information with regard to the meaning of this Amendment; for, from the speech of the Mover, I was not sure whether he was asking the House simply to express regret that the question is not touched upon, or to extend the expression of regret to the fact that no particular legislative measure will be submitted on the subject. I must detain the House for a few moments while I urge how it is, and why it is, that Her Majesty's Government might be left open to the charge of approaching so important a question in a hap-hazard and incomplete way if they were to attempt to deal with it during the present Session. The Amendment asserts that because Her Majesty's Government have conceded free education in Scotland by the great measure passed in July last, they ought, in February of the present year to be prepared to bring a practical scheme of the same kind for this country. But I would point out that this question is full of difficulties and complexities in this country from which in Scotland it is practically free. I hope, however, the House will forgive me if I refuse to deal with the merits of the question. What I desire to deal with is the position in which we find ourselves when met with the question—Why is it that we are not prepared to deal with the subject during the present Session? There is a vast difference between the circumstances of the two countries, which make it comparatively easy to deal with the question in one country, and a difficult and complex matter in the other. In Scotland we have not been met at the outset by the great difficulty caused by the voluntary system. I will give the House a comparison as between the positions of 939 England and Scotland in regard to the voluntary system. The total number of schools in England and Wales is 19,200, and of these 14,600 are voluntary schools, or 76 per cent, of the whole of the schools in the country. In Scotland the number of schools is 3,100, and of these only 500 are voluntary schools, or only 16 per cent., as against 76 per cent, in England. Therefore, the difference in this respect is very real and self-evident. I would also remind the House that the method of dealing with this question in Scotland is totally different from any method that has been suggested of dealing with the question in England. As far as Scotland is concerned, she had the offer of free education made to her owing to the unanimous demand of her Representatives that a certain sum of money allocated to her should be applied to this particular purpose. I refer, of course, to the allocation of the Probate Duty. In a certain sense, therefore, Scotland is providing the fees herself; whereas in this country the demand is that the fees should be paid from one of two sources—either from the rates or from the Imperial Exchequer. Therefore, I say, we are met at the outset with a great and noticeable distinction. I should like here further to urge that in regard to the situation in which we find ourselves to-day, Her Majesty's Government has been unable to collect anything like the amount of information which ought to be possessed before such a question as this can be grappled with in a practical manner. The question has not, I think, ever been seriously dismissed within the four walls of Parliament; and further, I say advisedly, having discussed the matter with all sections of the House, that if I were at this moment to collect together at haphazard any 20 Members, and put to them the question, how did they think this question ought to be dealt with—whether as a whole or only partially—I should find that they were divided by enormous differences of opinion. What, I ask, has happened during this very discussion? We have had an Amendment moved by an hon. Gentleman who has taken a prominent part in the Education Question. His Amendment has been seconded by another hon. Member, who has likewise made the subject of education a very special study—I allude to the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Buxton). 940 We find, however, that the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment does not agree in all respects with his hon. Friend who moved it; so that these two Gentlemen, both of whom are experts on this subject, are unable to agree as to the terms of their own proposal. The hon. Member for Poplar is totally hostile to the fees being paid out of the rates, and thinks the money should come from the Imperial Exchequer. If the House will forgive me, I will point out that the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition alluded the other night, in terms of regret, to the fact that the question of free education was not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. I will read the text of his remark on that point for the edification of the Mover of the Amendment, who seemed to think that this is a question to be disposed of by the wave of the magician's wand, or by a single stroke of the pen. The right hon. Gentleman said—I do not mean to express more than a general opinion that this is undoubtedly a large financial question, and that it involves a great number of considerations over and above the mere extension of your liberality to a point somewhat beyond that which it has hitherto reached.There is a haziness about this declaration which does not point to an immediate settlement of this question, and which does not bind the right hon. Gentleman very much. I must say that that declaration leaves an enormous margin for the imagination, and contains a very large quantity of reserve material, which might be used for any possible purpose. I venture to urge, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, that while they do not recede one iota from the position they have taken up on this question, as indicated by the speeches made by the Prime Minister or my right hon. Friend, I think I have pleaded successfully for further delay and consideration on the part of the government before they come to Parliament and announce a definite scheme and policy on this important question. Well, Sir, another point has been raised to which it is necessary that I should allude, because it was definitely raised by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment—I refer to the position of the great voluntary system of the country as it is affected by the proposal now under discussion. As far as I am concerned, looking back with 941 some knowledge of this subject, and as one who was present in the House during the many struggles of 1870, during the discussion of the measure introduced by the late Mr. Forster, I will take no part in the advocacy or administration of any scheme which, in my judgment, would hazard the position of the great voluntary system. As far as I am concerned it is a sine quâ non of any scheme, not only that it should be thoroughly safeguarded in all its details, but that it should bear, not only on the face of it, but in the working of it, ample security as regards the future of voluntary schools. I am told that the voluntary system is not in danger when this scheme is advocated of absolute freedom in the schools. I have no doubt that many hon. Members advocate this change as sincere educationists, and on the ground of simple justice to the parents; but there are other hon. Members who advocate the change because it would be destructive of the voluntary system of the country. The Mover of the Amendment gave notice last Session of a proposal which indicated a desire for the establishment of universal School Boards; and in the face of opinions like those the Government cannot be blamed if they view this question as one first and foremost with reference to the future of voluntary schools. My hon. Friend the Member for the Evesham Division of Worcestershire (Sir R. Temple) referred to what this great system has done for our schools in the past. I am old enough to remember the splendid efforts which were made, not only by the Church of England and Roman Catholic Bodies, but by the great Wesleyan Bodies, on behalf of the voluntary system. Those Bodies came forward and filled up a gap many years ago, and those who remember what they had achieved in the past for education, and the great sacrifices of time and money borne by them, will be justified in asking the House to pause before adopting any hurried scheme for dealing with this great and complex question. Some hon. Gentlemen speak lightly enough with regard to the future of voluntary schools in this country and the extinction of the system; but there are reasons why we on this side of the House should defend that system. There is certainly one large part of this system which it is important 942 the House should bear in mind, and that is the question of finance. I should like to give the House a few figures and a few facts as to what the voluntary system means, and what its abolition would mean from a financial point of view; and I do this in order to show that the Government must give the most careful consideration to any scheme which deals with the vast financial interests concerned. There are 14,600 voluntary schools in England out of a, total of 19,200(70 per cent.), as compared with 500 out of 3,100 in Scotland (10 per cent.). The total sum received in fees throughout England in the year 1887–8 was £1,862,303. Of this sum, £ 1,240,900 was received in voluntary schools, and £621,400 in Board schools, making a total of £1,862,300. During the same period £745,000 was derived from voluntary contributions; so that, roughly speaking, if free education were carried out to the injury and eventual destruction of voluntary schools, an additional sum of £2,600,000 would be required for annual maintenance alone. But this is not all. If I refer to the question of school buildings I can prove to the House the enormous cost the abolition of the voluntary system would entail. Since 1870, and up to 1882, building grants to the extent of £312,200 have been met by local contributions of £1,348,000, and beyond all this 4,806 voluntary schools were erected, enlarged, or improved without Government aid, at a cost to the promoters of at least £6,000,000. This great effort has been made to secure the liberty of religious teaching, dear to the promoters—Churchmen, Roman Catholics, and the Wesleyans alike—and if any scheme were to sweep away these schools they would have to be supplied at the cost of the rates. As far as I am concerned, I do not wish to look upon this question in any narrow or bigoted spirit. I am delighted to hear the statement from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Poplar, that the managers of Board schools admit the fact that the people of this country are demanding sound religious education. I admit that a gradual change has been going on, and for the better, in the Board schools. The average cost of erecting voluntary schools has been about £5 7s. per scholar, and the number of scholars in average attendance at voluntary schools was, in 943 1887–8, 2,255,000. According to the loans issued by the Department up to April 1889, the estimated cost per child for the erection of Board schools, including the purchase of sites, was £12 10s. If voluntary schools were generally closed, some would, no doubt, be transferred to School Boards, but many more would not; so that the financial effects of any scheme affecting the stability of voluntary schools has to be considered, not only in relation to the cost of their maintenance, but in reference to the capital sum which would have to be raised on the security of the rates in order to supply their place. If all the school places in voluntary schools had at this moment to be supplied at the cost of the rates a capital sum of £28,000,000 would at least be required. Now, Sir, I have given these facts in no spirit of contention, but simply to support the argument that this subject ought not to be lightly undertaken by the Government. It must only be undertaken after grave deliberation, and after a careful examination of all the various questions with which it was connected. It would be of value to the Government not only that there should be an exhaustive debate in the House, but that they should obtain all the information they could from educational exports outside the walls of Parliament. I think I have made out a case for not proceeding with this question of assisted education during the present Session; and, considering all the difficulties of the problem, and the absolute necessity for gaining all the information possible, I may fairly ask the House to reject the Amendment, and to proceed with the important business announced in the Speech from the Throne.
§ (8.0.) MR. STUART RENDEL (Montgomeryshire)
I desire in this debate to say a word or two as to the peculiar position of the Principality of Wales. I can only regret that the voice of Wales does not find expression on this occasion through the mouth of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merionethshire (Mr. T. E. Ellis), who not only is a remarkable example of the success attained by Wales in education, but who has the confidence of all his colleagues in his treatment of educational questions in the House of Commons. The case of Wales is peculiar, in the first place, because it can be shown that the need of Wales for free education is higher 944 than that of England, and even higher than that of Scotland: and, in the next place, because it can be shown that Wales is even riper than England for a measure of this sort. In dealing with the need of Wales I do not wish to bear upon any claim that might be adduced from her physical peculiarities, though they deserve notice in this respect. The population of Wales, or of a great part of it, is much more sparse than that of any part of England. Anybody who has lived in Wales, and who knows the mountainous parts, must have observed that the construction and equipment of elementary schools there is a much more costly burden on the poor Welsh ratepayer or farmer than it is in any rural district in England, and, furthermore, the attendance of children at those scattered schools, and in an inclement climate, is a greater strain on the parent's means than is the case in England. But there is a much more important physical difficulty in Wales establishing its greater need—the bilingual difficulty. The whole of the elementary schools in Wales are English schools, and there are at the present time more people in Wales speaking the native language of the Principality than at any other period within the history of Wales. It is obvious, therefore, that the attendance of Welsh-speaking scholars at English schools involves a wholly distinctive effort on the part of both parents and children, and one that can only be maintained by the singular devotion of t the community to the cause of education. Passing from this question of the greater need of Wales and referring to the condition of the ripeness of the Principality for free education, I would point out that it is admitted on all hands that Wales has a peculiar love of learning which extends from the very bottom to the top of the social ladder. This is not at all more conspicuous in one class of the community than in another, and that love of learning must in a country as poor as Wales find its common starting-point to a very large extent in elementary schools. Last Session Her Majesty's Government concurred in giving a great boon to Wales. In the giving of it hearty good-will was manifested on both sides of the House, and Wales will not soon forget the sympathy which was shown to her from the Government Benches in regard to the Intermediate 945 Education Act. But it is notorious that the success of that Act depends on the condition of the elementary schools of Wales, because the class that needs the Act is the class that receives the groundwork of education in the elementary schools. In this respect Wales is riper. But it is riper on other grounds than its love of learning and the character of its elementary schools. Wales is riper because it has obtained a much larger power of local self-government. It has been freed to create all its religious machinery, and in so doing it has gone far ahead of England in the art and practice of local self-government. Every one must feel that free education means a very much larger local control, and that control can be entrusted to Wales with the greatest confidence—even to the smallest community. I say Wales is riper for free education than England. I say more, and that the question is about to become a very burning question in Wales. There is a wide difference between Wales and England as to educational situation, and the Conscience Clause will furnish ample evidence of that. In England the Conscience Clause is for the protection of the minority; but in Wales it acts for the protection of the majority. The Nonconformists form an overwhelming majority of the class that attend the elementary schools in Wales. A large proportion of the voluntary schools are Church schools, and thus we know that the Church is controlling the education of an enormous body of Nonconformist children in Wales. The situation is surely very unwholesome and most undesirable, and I do not believe it can last long. For these reasons, I submit that the need of Wales for free education, subject to representative control, is stronger than that of either England or Scotland, and I can promise the House that there will be no firmer supporters of the coming measure of free education than the representatives of Wales.
§ (8.40.) MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
I am called upon to address the House under circumstances not altogether favourable to the statement of my views, but the character of the debate is such that I take such opportunity as presents itself. I am unable to vote for the Amendment, nor can I agree with the arguments by which it is supported. 946 We were told last year that the proposal was not to give free elementary education to Scotland, and it is therefore impossible for me to vote for the Amendment on the ground set out therein, that we should extend free education to England because it has been granted to Scotland. I will first make reference to the speech of my hon. Friend who brought forward this Motion. He referred, in language which I regretted to hear from him, to the decay of subscriptions to voluntary schools. But he is wrong in his facts, and I think that, in justice to the friends of the voluntary system, it is right I should refer to the Report of the Education Commission to correct his mistake. In 1870 the amount of subscriptions to voluntary schools was £418,839, in 1884 the amount was £732,524, and in 1884 the figures were £745,000. I am quite, aware there was a small decline in some of the intervening years, but that decrease has been fully made up, and we are now at a higher figure than in any preceding year. I sympathise with the hon. Member in his desire to improve elementary education, and I will gladly co-operate with him towards effecting that object; but I do not see in any degree how free education will be of any assistance towards that most desirable end. I do not myself believe that it will have any effect whatever on our having a central system of teaching, and it is not my opinion that we should have any increase of attendance by the adoption of that method. I desire to see an extension of the age at which children leave school; but of one thing I am certain, and that is that a movement in this direction must be of a gradual character. We cannot advance with any rapidity, and I must confess that when I have had an opportunity of addressing an audience on educational subjects, I have been greatly disappointed by the want of sympathy on the part of parents when I have dwelt on the advantage to children of an extension of the time at school. We must not go far in advance of public opinion, but gently moving on we must press public opinion before us, rather following than driving it. Our condition in regard to the age at which children leave school is more satisfactory than is generally supposed. According to the last statement the number of children on the register was upwards of 4,000,000, 947 and out of this number 1,400,000 were above the age of 10. I should like to see that number largely increased; but at the same time we cannot look at these figures without some feeling of satisfaction, realising the fact that a very considerable advance has been made. In this debate, as on previous occasions, it has been said that when you force a parent to educate his child yon must make it easy for him to do so. But the State compels a parent to feed and clothe his child, to provide proper lodging and accommodation for the child, and therefore when the State says to the parent on the one hand you must educate your child, and on the other hand you must pay for that education, the State is only acting towards the parent in this particular precisely upon the same principle, and on the same lines, as are adopted in reference to clothing and food. In reference to what was said by my hon. Friend who introduced this Motion respecting the stigma of pauperism, I deprecate as strongly as any man any association of the kind. I desire complete separation between Poor Law administration and popular education. But I do not believe that the connection is by any means so close as some hon. Members imagine. In one of our great towns—I think it is Liverpool—the parent appears before a Committee of the School Board at the Board Office, and the Committee having examined every case put before them, submits a list to the Guardians, which is accepted by the Guardians as a matter of course; there is no communication between the parent and the Guardians from the first stage of the proceedings to the last. The difficulty is more one of administration than of law; and for my own part I would have the separation between Poor Law relief and education absolute and complete—destroy connection between the one thing and the other. Then reference has been made to old endowments, and we have been told on high authority, both in the House of Commons and outside, that as there is no degradation in receiving education from an endowment, so also there is none in receiving education at the hands of the community. But I do not think the analogy perfect. Endowments were given in old times, and those who derive advantage from the 948 bequest, are recipients of the benevolence of those who have passed away from this world. But education at the cost of the ratepayers without any charge in the shape of fee, means that a man derives a particular advantage from the physical toil and labour of his neighbours. There is a great difference between the two cases; the analogy entirely fails, and there is no support for it in the argument of compulsion. I do not desire to occupy time at length, and proceed to call attention to the inequality with which free education must necessarily work. You have in the country schools, varying very much in character, and differing greatly in the amount of fees. I believe it would be entirely impossible, and I think it has been admitted in this discussion that you cannot with accuracy and precision under a system of free education settle the compensation for loss of fees; you must strike an average. The result of awarding this average must be the loss of pecuniary resources to highly paid schools, and the effect will be that thus you will lower the higher character of elementary education. I have a circumstance to mention in support of this argument, which I confess somewhat struck me. There has been, as the House knows, a change made in the educational system in France. Some years ago the government of that country altered the system in vogue. I was somewhat surprised on a recent visit to find an official announcement or apology made to a local community that certain schools were inferior in character; the announcement was in effect—We grant you the schools are not so good as they used to be, we admit the education is inferior to that formerly given, but citizens must remember there is a common purse, and although individual schools may not be so effective other schools are more effective, and that which is your loss is gain to your neighbours and others.Now, this is a circumstance of a remarkable character, and one which ought to be a warning to us when we approach the details of this question. I believe, from information which has reached me, that if you have what may be regarded as a fair average, some schools belonging to the Wesleyan Body would lose from £200 to £500 a year. Now, we know the sacrifices made by the Wesleyans in the cause of education, but, I doubt if 949 they could bear this additional burden. Indeed I am quite sure that schools of this class would lose their high character or be entirely closed. I believe they would be entirely closed; for they are intended for members of the Wesleyan community, who desire for their children the best education of an elementary character, and when this is no longer offered the children will be withdrawn and the schools must be closed. The Vice President of the Council has alluded to the loss of fees, which he gave as £1,862,303 a year, and there would also be a sacrifice of £745,000 a year in voluntary contributions. I will not enlarge on this, because the right hon. Gentleman has made a full and complete statement from the financial point of view, and what he has said must have produced the conviction that the burden to be thrown upon the community would be of a very serious character. It is most doubtful whether the loss to education c raid be made good, whether the change would not entail a serious sacrifice to the cause of education. Much has been said of school attendance, and upon that matter we have some experience. Is the attendance in the United States, where there is free education, equal to the attendance in our schools? Now we have testimony of a most remarkable kind, which is buried in the Report of the Committee of Council, and has not received the attention it deserves. I refer to the Report upon the American Schools from Mr. Pitch. He says that the Reports of the American Commissioners of Education for 1887 shows the number of scholars on the roll in all the public schools to be 11,805,660, and the average daily attendance to be 7,571,410, or 64 per cent. In the Report of the English Committee of Council for last year. 4,635,184 children are included in the register of all elementary schools in England and Wales, with an average daily attendance of 3,527,381, or 76 per cent. Then when we come to consider the number of days of school attendance in the year, we find that our schools give 400 attendances in the year, bat Mr. Fitch says in his Report that the American schools are opened less than half that number of times, so this difference entirely changes the proportion, and 950 shows that the attendance in England is infinitely better than the attendance in the American schools. Then when we take the Reports from the Continent, I am not sure that in point of numbers the comparison is unfavourable to our attendance here. I have not had the opportunity of consulting the latest Returns from France recently, but if my recollection is at all correct school attendance there is far less satisfactory than it is in this country. I speak from recollections of the latest Returns issued within the last few days. We are told of educational progress on the Continent, and are asked to follow the example set by Continental States. No doubt in France and in Switzerland public schools are for the most part free, but if we examine the report of Mr. Matthew Arnold, to which reference has been made, and the Report of the Education Commissioners, we find that the system of free schools does not by any means universally obtain on the Continent. The Report says that in Holland there is a mixed system, some schools charging fees, others being free. In Wurtemberg, often quoted as a model State so far as education is concerned, the schools are rarely free; the fees varying from two shillings a year in the country to three and sixpence in the larger towns. These seem small fees; but the poverty of the people as compared with this country must be considered, and the principle remains the same, the schools are not free. In Saxony fees range from three-halfpence a week to one penny and three farthings a week in the country, and in towns from 12s. to 36s. a year according to the place and grade of the schools. In Dresden school fees are from 2½d. to 3¾d. a week. These figures show that, whether free education be good or bad, it is not universally adopted on the Continent even in those countries often cited to us as pioneers and models in matters of education. I might enlarge on the subject, as it affects the relations between parent and child. I believe myself that it is a good thing for family life that a child should know that his parent is making some sacrifice for his education. I believe it knits the family together, and induces that reverence on the part of the child towards the parent which every lover of good order and progress must desire. We have some 951 testimony as to the effect of free education from the present Bishop of Manchester. For many years this distinguished prelate was Bishop of Melbourne, Australia, and from his acquaintance with free education there, he alleges its disadvantages in most impressive terms. My hon. Friend made reference to Mr. Matthew Arnold; and I confess I was somewhat struck by his reticence. He read us an interesting page from Mr. Arnold's Report, and I followed his reading, but my hon. Friend omitted the concluding sentence. After Mr. Arnold says that on political grounds in opposition to educational grounds it might be desirable to adept free education, he makes this statement—Only it will be impossible to organise it with the State limiting its concern, as it does now, to the popular school only; and this can be so palpably shown to be a matter of common justice that one need not despair of bringing even the popular judgment to recognise it.Therefore the statement of Mr. Arnold quoted by the hon. Member who opened this debate, amounts to this: that we should not estimate the expense of popular education only; but investigate the whole field well, and consider the burden of bringing upon ourselves the cost of all grades of education from the top of the ladder to the bottom. This is confirmed by what happened in the Swiss Canton of St. Gall in the course of last year, when higher or continuation schools were made entirely free. Up to that time there had been a small charge for those schools, but this was entirely abandoned, and you have free schools in Switzerland from the highest to the lowest. This confirms the contention that you cannot stop with elementary schools alone; if you have a system of free schools you must apply that freedom to the whole educational system. There is one more authority I desire to cite—it has not yet been quoted in the debate—the opinion of the Royal Commission—If, as we think, the provision of the due necessaries of education as well as the necessaries of life, is part of the responsibility incumbent upon a parent, it may well be believed that public contributions and private benevolence are already doing all that can safely be required in augmentation of the payments properly exacted from the parents. We are of opinion that the balance of advantage is in favour of maintaining the present system established by the Act of 1870, whereby parents who can afford 952 it, contribute a substantial proportion of the cost of the education of their children in the form of school fees.There we have the testimony of the Education Commission, and I believe I need not adduce further testimony than the weight of their authority in support of the views which I entertain. To one other point I desire to make reference—the religious question. There is great anxiety felt among the friends of religious education on this subject, and it is my privilege to have constant communication with them and to know their views. I am sure of this, that the sacrifices made by them, not during one generation only but through many generations, the self-denial as regards labour, the supply of funds without stint, the earnestness which they have shown in the cause of education should have won the gratitude of educationalists, who too often speak of these men as hindrances and obstacles in the way of education. We have now a system of voluntary schools and Board schools side by side, and of this I am thoroughly convinced, that it is the religious teaching in our denominational schools which makes in many cases School Board schools careful of this branch of education. If you, by destroying these voluntary schools, remove this competition, if you diminish or destroy this pressure, then I am afraid that in many cases the School Board schools of this country will fall into, the same condition as that into which American schools have lapsed and will become exclusively secular schools. I am quite aware that we are informed that at Board schools in all cases there is some religious teaching; but we" must carry our investigation one step further, and inquire a little more into detail. When we discover the character of the teaching we find it often is so meagre and so imperfect that we may well doubt whether it inculcates the slightest religious sentiment, cultivates a moral tone, or is of such a character as to make any permanent impression on the child's mind. I am grateful to the House for the opportunity of making these few imperfect and cursory remarks. I am quite aware they touch but a very small part of a very large question, but I am unwilling to occupy more time. I feel deeply on the subject as one who has worked long in the cause of popular education with an earnest desire that the 953 system should be most efficient for its purpose, and that it should not lose that religious character which is at once its brightest ornament and its greatest source of strength.
§ (9.10.) MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
With a few words I desire to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Rotherham. I entirely endorse the statement made by my hon. Friend as to the widespread and general disappointment in the country that no reference has been made to this subject in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. A general expectation undoubtedly existed in the public mind prior to the assembling of Parliament with respect to this important question, an expectation not confined to one Party, but shared alike by Conservatives and Liberals. The hope undoubtedly was based upon the action of the Government last Session, the concessions made on this subject to Scotland, and also on the very important references to the subject made by Lord Salisbury in his speech at Nottingham in November last. Many of us had hoped that when we were invited to hear the Queen's Speech we should find reference to this subject, especially as it is considered on both sides of the House that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will this year—I am happy to think so—be in the possession of such a surplus as will enable him to deal very satisfactorily with the matter. Naturally, if it is to be touched at all, it must be approached at a time when there is reasonable prospect that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be in a position financially to make this great concession. I therefore endorse fully the statement made by my hon. Friend as to the universal disappointment felt in the country at the absence of all mention of this subject in the Queen's Speech. I wish also to enter my very solemn and emphatic protest against the notion that seems to have obtained credence, and has found expression in several speeches during this debate, that we who support the principle of free education and the establishment at once of universal School Boards are IJSS careful of the religious tuition of our children than the gentlemen who support the voluntary principle. I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, 954 in his excellent and temperate speech this evening, argue that supporters of free education also seek the abolition of voluntary schools. I think that very few hon. Members who remembering the services rendered to education in this country by voluntary schools will be prepared to get up and say it is a desirable thing that these schools should be abolished. We all acknowledge the useful work which voluntary schools have accomplished, and are not prepared to ask for their abolition. All that is claimed at the moment is that, if you have free education, it should combine with it a certain amount, a reasonable amount of representative control, and I venture to say that is a very reasonable request put forward by the supporters of free education. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Evesham Division (Sir R. Temple) has spoken warmly in praise of the efficiency of voluntary schools, by which I suppose he means Church of England schools, and declared, if I understood him rightly, that there was nothing like them to be found in the whole of Scotland. Well, if we are to take the amount of Government grant that is earned by the schools of Scotland and compare it with the grants earned by Church of England Schools, if we take the amount per head as a test of efficiency and of the intelligence of the children that are taught in the schools, I think the hon. Baronet has not very much to congratulate himself upon, for I find that in 1888 the amount of Government grant earned per head of children taught in the Church of England schools was something like 16s. 6d., but in the Board Schools of Scotland the amount earned per head was 18s. 2d., or practically 10 per cent, more than the Church of England schools. It seems to me that our present system is one that operates most heavily upon the working classes at the time when they can least afford to bear the strain, at the period when the parents are advancing in years, and the requirements of the family are growing heavier year by year. By our present compulsory system we entail on the head of the family a double hardship, we compel him to send his children to school—and rightly so I think—at a time when they might be put to some sort of employment and thereby help the family exchequer. I say we rightly compel 955 attendance at school, because undoubtedly the State is widely and deeply interested in the education of every member of the community, but I do not think it is just to compel the parent to forego the assistance the child's employment would afford, and to pay school fees at the same time. Furthermore, in my opinion our system of granting remissions from the payment of school fees tends to offer a bounty to inprovidence, intemperance, and wastefulness. It is not the thrifty, the honest and industrious workman who benefits by the remission. These men never ask for remission except perhaps in cases of the greatest emergency; it is the improvident, spendthrift class who are benefited, and in justice to the more prudent and economical among the working classes you ought at once, when you have the opportunity, to concede free elementary education. It is said (I do not know what truth there may be in the rumour) that the Government intend to make some remissions in taxation, but speaking as one who is in close touch and sympathy with the working classes, I can say that however greatly some may desire to have what has been called a "free breakfast table," I believe, if a plébiscite were taken among the industrial classes of the country to-morrow on the subject, that as between a free breakfast table and free education, their verdict would be in favour of the latter. I entirely disagree with the statement that has been made repeatedly during the course of this debate that if school fees were abolished the attendance at school would not be increased. I hold an entirely opposite opinion, and what is more, I believe that one effect of the abolition of fees would be that the children would be kept longer at school than they now are, and by that means we may in some degree relieve the congested districts, and help to solve many of those social questions that are staring us in the face, and which will have to be dealt with by the House in a vigorous way sooner or later. Keeping children longer at school will help towards, the solution of important social problems looming in the immediate future. I support this principle of free education also because of the economy which will be effected in the teaching time at school. I may refer for a moment to my own experience. 956 For many years I was very closely identified with teaching in my own district, and though in that particular district we were somewhat favoured, as the great bulk of school fees was deducted from the miners' wages paid at the colliery office, yet, notwithstanding that, a certain portion of the fees from children attending school had to be collected, and I can testify to the great amount of time that had to be wasted by the employment of pupil teachers in this collection during school hours. With the free system this time will be saved for educational purposes. For these and other reasons with which I do not care to trouble the House at the moment. I shall certainly have much pleasure in voting in support of the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
§ (9.25.) MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
Some apology is, I think, due to the House from anybody who takes part in this discussion, for surely it is an abuse of the forms of the House which is taking place now. I understand—and I have now had an experience of many years in the House—that the object of moving an Amendment to the Address is in order to call attention to some urgent matter not otherwise to be dealt with, and is it net an abuse of language to say that this question of the remission of school fees is one of these urgent matters? First of all, I deny that it is at all urgent—of course I know that there I differ from hon. Gentlemen on the other side, but we cannot agree upon everything—but even if it is urgent, is this the only opportunity that hon. Gentlemen could find to urge their opinions on the attention of the House? Is there no other means than by this endless protraction of debate on the Address to bring such questions before Parliament? If so, then the sooner we re-model our Parliamentary system the better. I know that the condition of affairs here has made us a laughing stock outside the House. The debates on the Address are not read, because they are regarded more or less as protracted uninteresting talk. Only the other day I heard a gentleman not connected with the House say, "Nobody cares to read the debates now, for we think they are only a device for protracting time and obstructing the ordinary business of Parliament." I think we have almost reached the 957 limit of discussion, but of course if hon. Gentlemen think it incumbent upon them to follow the line they have taken, we must say something in reply, but I will not occupy time with any lengthened remarks. If we were to follow the examples of the hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded this Amendment, we might speak for a week, travelling over the whole ground of elementary education, of intermediate education, of Welsh education, of the rival merits of voluntary and Board schools, in fact, the whole education question has been touched upon, I admit, with great ability, but as you, Mr. Speaker, would, if you were free to speak your opinion, admit in a manner entirely out of accordance with ancient Parliamentary practice. I am not going to follow that example. The Amendment expresses regret that as free education in elementary schools is granted in Scotland, no reference has been made in the Queen's Speech to legislative proposals for giving similar advantages to the rest of the United Kingdom; that is, the House is invited to accept a simple proposition in favour of the remission of school fees. Now, I have two things to say: First of all, I differ from the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken as to the feeling of the working classes on this subject. It may seem presumptuous on my part, for the hon. Member (Mr. Fenwick), of course directly represents an important section of the miners in the North of England; but I fancy I know something of the feeling among the working classes in' London and in the South of England, and I do not believe that the élite of the working classes there make this demand at all. I am certain that the better part of the working classes in London and in the South prefer to pay for the education of their own children. I challenge contradiction of that statement, and why is it my conviction? I do not believe that the working classes and we are of a different stock, or of different flesh and blood. I prefer to pay the cost of education for my children, and I believe they prefer to pay fees for the education of their children. To say that 2d. or 3d. a week is more than an ordinary working man with good wages can pay is more than hon. Gentlemen opposite will induce the House to believe. That is not the real 958 motive for this movement. The motive is not the remission of fees. The real object is to abolish all voluntary schools. I have been struck to-night by the change of tone of hon. Members opposite. Nevertheless, we all know that there has been a determined assault out of doors on the continued existence of voluntary schools. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow said recently that nothing should induce him to give one penny to schools which were not under popular control. Here the mask was thrown off. What does it mean? Can the voluntary system continue to live if put under what is called popular control? The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the two things cannot co-exist. What is asked is that in return for State assistance the ratepayers should have the right of nominating representatives on the management of the schools. What have the ratepayers got to do with assistance from the State? I do not see many Gentlemen from Ireland present; but what would they say to the ratepayers nominating managers for the Roman Catholic schools? Would they like to have the representatives of the ratepayers brought in to manage their schools? No; they would not tolerate it for a moment. It is because hon. Members and their Friends think that the Church of England is weak—and in this I believe they are mistaken—that our voluntary schools are attacked. I believe the working classes are as ready as they always have been to pay a reasonable and fair sum for the education of their children, and as I believe further that the voluntary schools are an. integral part of the education of the country, I am determined to defend them. It has been said that the upper and middle classes are not ashamed to receive assistance in the education of their children, and that therefore we ought not to grudge assistance to the children of other classes. But I traverse that directly. I have accepted in the person of my own sons the assistance of endowments at schools and colleges, but it has amounted to nothing like the cost of education. On the other hand, we do at this moment assist the education of the working classes. We do not ask them to pay anything like the whole cost of the education of their children; 959 we only give them an opportunity to do what they have done in the past—to contribute a small share of the total cost. It must not be forgotten that the great part of the education of the children of the working classes is paid out of the finances of the country. Reasonable men do not object to paying these small school fees. There must always be a residuum; there will always be certain people who, through misfortune, accident, or their own fault, are unable to pay for the education of their children, but the State provides for them. We are always met by the argument that the present system of remitting fees is pauperising and degrading in its effects. But if a man cannot maintain his family he must go to the State, and why should it be more degrading to ask for the remission of school fees than to apply for assistance to support a family? But the members of the Royal Commission say that if it is mixed up with the pauper element, they are quite ready to adopt some means to remove the taint. I do not admit that there is any degradation, but we do not wish to cast any stigma on these unfortunate people. We are always met in this matter by the remark that there is free education over the Channel in France, Germany, and Switzerland; but I have a lurking feeling that the British workman is after all a superior man to the working classes on the Continent. He prefers to manage his own affairs to having them managed for him. He prefers to look after his own children. Hon. Gentlemen seem to think that free education would improve the education of the British workman. Is there any proof of that? Where are the best working men in the world to be found? Who are the men to whom an employer of labour goes when he wants his work well done? Is it not the British workman who can turn out better work than anybody else? Cannot that be said to be the result of the education of himself and his forefathers. That argument, then, falls to the ground. It may be an old-fashioned sentiment which I entertain, but I prefer to continue on the grounds on which we and our forefathers have acted for so many years.
§ (7.10.) MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
Until the hon. Member for Oxford rose I thought we had had an excellent debate, conducted with great moderation on all 960 sides. But the hon. Gentleman has advanced the statement that this Motion is an abuse of the Rules of the House. I can hardly think the leader of the House will agree in that, inasmuch as the other night he said the Government could not deal with this question of free education, as public opinion had not sufficiently expressed itself, but we should have some discussion in the House which would tend to enlighten that public opinion. Was there ever a case before whore a Prime Minister distinctly promised that a great measure should be introduced, and where he distinctly declared that the pledge should be redeemed if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a surplus? That was the sole condition. If, said the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a surplus the thing shall be done. How can anyone complain, then, that this Amendment is moved when the subject has been suddenly dropped from the Queen's Speech, and we are told instead that public opinion has not yet made up its mind on this question? We are told the working classes have not demanded it. I believe there is no question upon which the working classes are so unanimous as this one of free education. I am afraid there are not many of the working classes in the constituency represented by the Member who has just spoken; but I can tell the hon. Gentleman this—that he represents more men who have received assisted education than any other man in this House, for although he traverses the statement that the higher and middle classes receive assisted or free education, the total amount of endowments which go almost exclusively to the middle and upper classes is two millions a year, and the greater part of this is intended for the poor. The hon. Member opposite says:—"Your real object is not the abolition of fees, but the abolition of voluntary schools." I maintain that that is an unjust accusation. We have no wish to attack voluntary schools—that is to say, really voluntary schools, for there are a good many schools that are called voluntary that are not really so. The hon. Gentleman opposite has sat on a Royal Commission; did he ask how many voluntary schools have no subscriptions? I remember that when I was at the Education Department, 12 per cent, of voluntary schools had not one 961 farthing of subscription, and I believe that a good many of thorn made money out of the grant. How can those schools be said to be voluntary schools? I recognise the noble sacrifices that have been made in past times, especially by the clergy, for education; the clergy, in fact, have been much more generous than squires and those who could better afford it. When I was at the Education Office I knew of many and many a clergyman who had plunged himself into debt and difficulties because he wanted to maintain his schools and keep out the School Hoard. Those men deserve sympathy, and I am sure that the House would wish to deal generously and reasonably with them. It is not fair to use these old arguments of the National Society, now, I believe, abandoned by it. The hon. Member told us that he was tired of the foreign argument. But are we not tired of foreign competition? Do we not see the excellence and variety of the foreign workmen, and do we not wish to put our own workmen on an equality with them? We know that the British workman is one of the best workmen in the world—if not the best—if we only trained him fairly and gave him the same chance as the foreign one has. But why do hon. Gentlemen opposite try to deprive the British workman of this chance, and why, for the last five years, have they done so little for him in point of education? What about the working men on the other side of the Tweed? Are they degraded by the measure of last year? The hon. Member says that if they were convinced that such a measure as we are advocating would do something for public education they would support it. I will give the hon. Member an argument which I think he will find it rather difficult to answer. In the Report of the Scotch Education Department for 1889–90, signed by Lord Cranbrook and Lord Lothian, it is said that—The measures proposed had been aimed, firstly to promote the efficiency of education, and secondly to confer a substantial benefit upon Scotch parents by assisting them to give their children the full advantage of the school supply so amply provided, by abolishing the necessity in the case of poor parents of resorting to the machinery of the Poor Law Authorities, which has been the cause of so much friction in the operation of the Education Act.962 Those are the motives which animated the Government in giving that great boon to Scotland. Then we are told that though it may do for Scotland it would be a very bad thing for England. But the whole question has been given up, the thing has come to an end, it does not require argument; when you have given free education to Scotland you cannot keep it from England. I would like to call the attention of the House to a speech delivered not very long ago by a very important Member of the Government. In December, 1888, when the hon. Member for Aberdeen, who gained this great victory for Scotland, moved that the share of the Probate Duties allocated to Scotland should be applied to free education, he was answered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said—I must say that it would clearly have been impossible to adopt in Scotland the principle of free education without extending it at the same time to England and Ireland. I do not think that the Government could have proposed a measure for remitting school fees in Scotland without imposing the greatest possible grievance on England and Ireland, and creating a powerful demand for a similar measure.But you have done it. The Government have remitted school fees in Scotland, and have, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, imposed the greatest possible grievance on England. What answer is there to that statement? But how long since was it that the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the House promised that English and Scotch education should be treated alike? I am almost tempted to make a quotation from another leader of the House, and say that we want to be treated with equality and similarity. It is a strange thing at this day that England should be placed in a worse position than Scotland. I think that there are very few people in this country who have realised how striking is the difference in regard to education north and south of the Tweed. My right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council said that Scotland stood in a different position to England. But he did not tell the House that out of 3,126 public schools in Scotland there are only 85 where any fees at all are paid in compulsory standards, and only 44 really fee-paying schools; and it is provided that wherever there is a fee-paying school 963 there must be free places for every child. In this respect we want to be placed on perfect equality with Scotland. The Vice President was pressed by my hon. Friend the Member for the Evesham Division to take up the old non possumus arguments of the National Society. But I believe that even the National Society has changed its methods. A friend of mine obtained from the secretary of the Society some of those pamphlets which once fell as thick as snow over the country, and the arguments contained in them seem to be pretty strong; they might have been composed by the hon. Member for Oxford himself. They say—The first peril is that if the school were free there is a danger of the education becoming: entirely secular; secondly, there is the danger that its management would be placed in the hands of a locally elected body; the third peril is that religious teaching would be squeezed out, and the children would grow up without religious teaching. There is danger to religion and royalty, danger to piety and public safety, danger to the altar and to the throne.Then reference is made to—The perils of the last proposals of a dangerous and unprincipled statesmanship"—which statesmen on the opposite Bench want to adopt,under the cover of free education, and the result of these evil devices will be seen in the growth of a godless and faithless population.So it goes on. A friend of mine who has written on free education was very anxious to get the National Society's view on free education, a number of these leaflets, which played an important part in the elections of 1885–6, being circulated by the thousands. My friend wrote to the secretary. This is the answer he received—Dear Sir, by book post I send various papers on the subject of free education. Although the society has no need to change its views on the subject, the recent declaration of the Prime Minister in Nottingham has considerably modified the situation, and the leaflets are not now being circulated.This is just one month old. They were withdrawn very recently, after the pronouncement at Nottingham. What was considered the daring unprincipled statesmanship, which my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham and so many of us supported in 1884-5-6, disappeared immediately Lord Salisbury made his declaration. 964 The hon. Member for Evesham rather startled me by his disparaging remarks about Swiss education. I think I know as much about Swiss education as I know about English education, and I entirely differ from the hon. Baronet. Let me recommend my hon. Friend to read the book of Mr. Adams, late minister at Berne. The hon. Gentleman says that the children do not go to school for six months in the year in Switzerland; but Mr. Adams says that by the Federal pact of 1877 no child can be employed in mills or on public works until he reaches the age of 15, and, in the rural districts, the holidays are fixed with due regard to harvest and the tourist season—extending to from eight to 10 weeks and not to half the year. And, in fact, Mr. Adams speaks of the Swiss schools more enthusiastically than I or any Gentleman in this House has done. I differ, too, from the hon. Baronet in his statement that Scotland has nothing to show comparable to our English voluntary schools. Education in Scotland, in my opinion, is as far superior to the education of England as Swiss education is superior to that of Scotland in many respects. I know that some voluntary schools are as good as money can make them—I wish there were more of them—but many of them are as bad as they can be. The very careful Report of the Committee of Management of the School Board of London, dated July, 1889, throws an interesting light upon the question of the condition of the children attending the London Board Schools. It states that during the year the number of children in average attendance was 341,495. Of these 43.888, or 12.8 per cent., were returned as habitually attending school in want of food. Only less than half of the 42,000 are at present provided for, leaving 24,739 children attending school who, notwithstanding the efforts made, do not obtain enough food. The Report states that 130,759 individual children, that is 32.4 per cent., or practically one-third of the total average attendance, had their fees remitted during some part of the year ending March, 1889. Imagine an inquiry into the circumstances of over 130,000 children. Imagine the inquisitorial investigation—the poor mothers obliged to attend the 965 School Board and tell their pitiable tales—and then say whether this does not require any advance in the direction of free education. I say you will have done a great deal to instil self-respect into the minds of the people when they have schools of their own to which they can send their children without these investigations. What is the condition of the voluntary schools? They cannot remit fees. I believe the Catholics pay the fees of more than 12 per cent, of the children attending their schools. Every-one must admit that the Catholics form the poorest part of our population. But their schools stand well. I am astonished how well they do stand. In some of our large towns in the north of England they stand better than our Church schools. In Preston, for instance, the Catholic schools stand better than the Church schools. I think the hon. Member will bear me out on that point.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
Then let the House look at the number of children sent to Boards of Guardians to get remission of fees. It is impossible, so far, to ascertain the exact amount paid by Guardians for fees, but this Return shows something over £60.000 a year, which at 5s. per head per annum gives 20,000 children whose parents must attend the Boards of Guardians to obtain remission of fees. If it is degrading to the Scotch to bring them in contact with the machinery of pauperism, surely you should do more for the relief of the English children. The Vice President of the Council has said that the Government is not to be drawn. The Government has not to be drawn. It has already pronounced. They have withdrawn the case, Lord Salisbury having given a distinct promise that free education shall be conceded immediately the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a surplus to enable the Government to do it, and it is due whenever the next Budget comes on. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself is as fully pledged as the Prime Minister, for on December 19, 1888, when the question of free education for Scotland was first mooted, he said:—I must say it would have been clearly impossible to adopt in Scotland the principle of free 966 education without extending it at the same time to England and Ireland. I do not think the Government could have proposed a measure for remitting school fees in Scotland without imposing the greatest possible grievance upon England and Ireland, and creating a powerful demand for a similar measure.That is from Hansard, Dec. 19th, 1889. Under these circumstances I do not see how, when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes to deal with his surplus he can fail to grant free education I do not wish to go into the question of intermediate schools, because I think we can hardly drag that subject into this debate; but I say that, if we are to have free schools—and we shall have them—we cannot have them without at the same time admitting public management. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President held up to the House the bugbear of what would be the fatal consequences of the abolition of voluntary schools. But no one has proposed such a thing. Did Lord Salisbury suggest it when he spoke of free education? The fact is that nobody has ever dreamt of such a thing. But I say it will be a had day for the voluntary schools when it is held to be necessary for their existence that the working classes should be deprived of this boon of free education. The argument that free education is possible in Scotland but not in England because of the interests in the voluntary schools would tell very severely against these voluntary schools in the mind of the English working man, and he would demand why, under such circumstances, they should be continued to his disadvantage. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that 76 per cent, of the English schools are voluntary schools. Does he not know that that statement is a little misleading? There are not 76 per cent, of the total number of children in those schools; while it should be added that the voluntary schools include the undenominational British schools. If regard is had to these things, we find there are 2,100,000 children in those schools already, which would make a considerable difference in the right hon. Gentleman's computation. Again, with regard to the maintenance of the voluntary schools, not a small portion of the voluntary subscriptions contributed to their support is, after all, raised out of the compulsory 967 rates, taken from the pockets of the working men. The right hon. Gentleman has said that at least £ 28,000,000 will be the cost of new buildings required to replace the voluntary schools; but if that be so, I ask what is to be done with the buildings already used for school purposes under the voluntary system? I am glad to know that many of the clergy are not of the same mind as hon. Members opposite on this question. Many of them have expressed their desire that the schools should come under public management, and the wise words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Percival, and many others, show that the clergy are ready to meet us half way in the matter, the Government undertaking the other half. Some of the ablest statements I have seen, in favour of free education have recently come from quarters whence they were little to be expected. I hold in my hand a series of articles published in a provincial newspaper under the mystical initials "A.S.E.O." Those articles are strongly in favour of free education, and show plainly to the clergy of the Church of England and the public that there is no danger to be apprehended from the adoption of this principle. They also assert that how free education can prejudicially interfere with religious education is difficult for anyone to imagine. It is an open secret that the author of these letters is the Assistant Secretary of the Education Commission. I should like, in conclusion, to say a word in reference to the question of public management. I say that where the school is intended for all it should be managed by the representatives of the whole community; at the same time, the schools of any section of the community, such as the Catholics or the Jews, might continue to receive support under the management of that section, as in Scotland. If we are to have free education it must not be partial; it must be free from top to bottom, and be brought within the reach of every child and every parent.
§ (10.25.) MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
Reference has been made in the course of the debate, by speakers on both sides of the House, to the opinions which I have expressed elsewhere upon this subject. I confess 968 that I have always taken a deep interest in the matter, and have even taken a somewhat prominent part in the agitation which I hoped would lead to the establishment of the principle. At the outset I desire to congratulate the friends of education on the advance which the question has made. I remember very well on my first entry into political life, when I and some of my friends took this question up, that at that time we were in a miserable minority. My hon. Friend and Colleague the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Col lings), who certainly has done as much as any man in popularising the system of National Education, brought the question of free schools before the House of Commons at the time the late Mr. Forster introduced his Elementary Education Act, and on that occasion failed to take with him into the Lobby more than 60 Members. In 1885, coming down later, matters were not much better for us. That was the date of the unauthorised programme, of which free schools formed an important item. I do not think I am over-stating the matter when I say that if we had attempted to take any vote of the House at that time upon the question we should have had the Conservative Party almost to a man against us, and only a minority of the Liberal Party with us. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian issued his address to the electors, he referred specially to the question of free education: and I must say—though in no spirit of complaint, because the right hon. Gentleman at that time represented the opinion of the majority of the Party he led—that he gave me very poor comfort in that manifesto. He stated many objections—very forcible objections—to any system of free schools, and wound up his comment on, the proposal by saying that it was not a question of practical politics, in effect relegating it to the dim and distant future. That was the situation only four years ago. May not, then, those who have been the consistent friends of education congratulate themselves upon the change of the position? We find now that the Liberal Party are practically unanimous in favour of free education; and that the Conservative Party 969 are pledged, as far as they can be pledged by the declaration of the Ministry in this House, to establish free education at the earliest possible date. My right hon. Friend who has just sat down has amused the House by reference to some arguments that were used against free education five or ten years ago. Is it worth while now to go back upon the past? The right hon. Gentleman has stated that the National Society have withdrawn some of their circulars; but has he withdrawn some of his former statements? I do not make it a matter of accusation against my hon. Friend or against hon. Members on either side of the House that on this matter they have changed their opinions. It is a conversion—one of the most wonderful conversions that has taken place in a political matter at any time; but it is a conversion in the direction of progress, and it has been brought about not by interest, but by argument and reason. We have had an experience of educational work, which I think has brought conviction into many minds which at one time were full of suspicion of a proposal so Radical as they thought this to be. I sincerely congratulate myself and the House on the fact that we have arrived at this point—that the majority, not only of the Liberal Party, but of the Conservative Party, have accepted the principle. If that be the case, it is not really worth while to devote very much time to arguments in favour of or against the principle. I confess I was disappointed with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Evesham (Sir R. Temple). I thought that conviction must have come to his mind also. I am sorry he should have tried to hold back the Government, of which he is one of the most loyal supporters, from a course which would redound to their infinite credit; but in that effort I do not think my hon. Friend will be successful. I do not think they can be restrained. The arguments used by my hon. Friend are really now old-fashioned and out of place. Four years ago we might have expected to hear that the independence of the parent would be interfered with if we established free schools; but when my hon. Friend tells us that already in the Metropolis seven-eighths of the expenses of educa- 970 tion are now paid by the State, I do not think that he need be so careful about this miserable fraction of independence—this one-eighth of parental responsibility that is now left. According to my hon. Friend's view, if he be logically right, the voluntary schools should not retain the seven-eighths now paid by the State, but allow the whole expense of education to be borne by the parent. On the other hand, we maintain that not only is the independence of the parent not in question, but that what is really in question is the responsibility and the duty of the State. We say that education is required not in the interests of the parent. It is mainly required in the interests of the children, and though it may be the interest of the parent to secure the interests of the children his personal interest is in the opposite direction. We say that the real interest in the matter is the interest of the community that every one of its future citizens shall be educated and qualified to take his part in the government of the State. We maintain that if this be the interest of the community it is the obligation of the whole community to provide the expense. Further, we say that a parent is not relieved from, his share of responsibility, but that he takes that share, not as an individual, not as a parent, but as a member of the community. He has to pay his share, whatever it may be, in the shape of rates and taxes, by which the expenses of education are provided, as a citizen and not as a parent. My hon. Friend (Sir R. Temple) has given another reason against free education—one of the old reasons with which we are all familiar—that it would conduce to irregular attendance. All I can say is that if that is the experience of the London School Board it is contradicted by universal experience in every country in which free education has been adopted. In America, where free education was adopted, the immediate result was an enormous increase in the attendance, and the same was the case in Australia. In Birmingham, when I was Chairman of the School Board there, we were unable to establish free education, because Mr. Forster's Act prevented it; but we almost compelled the EducationDepartment—for we used something more than persuasion—to allow the 971 establishment of schools in which the fees were reduced to a minimum. This curious result followed, that in the case of every school in which the fees were reduced from 3d. to 1d., within 12 months the attendance increased three-fold, so that the receipts were almost the same as when the higher fee was in force. It may be said that this result was obtained at the expense of the voluntary schools. Well, I had a census taken within a certain area around the schools, with the result of showing that the voluntary schools in the neighbourhood had also increased their attendance, though not to the same extent as the Board schools. I may also quote the case of the Manchester Free School, which was worked side by side with the parish schools of Manchester before the passing of the Education Act of 1870, and where it was found that the average attendance was much larger than it was in the voluntary schools. What is the result of the experience of every School Board with regard to every child who comes to school at the present time without the fee? Either the child has to be admitted without fee or sent back. If it be admitted without fee, the fee is never obtained; but if sent back it will probably not make its appearance again for the rest of the week, even if it comes back to school at all until compulsion is brought to bear on the parent. I do not hesitate to say that, in my opinion, this question of free schools is more important in an educational point of view even than compulsion. If I had to choose between free schools and compulsion, I would choose free schools, because I believe that they will bring more children to school than any amount of compulsion. But, after all, what I want to impress upon the House is that, practically, the argument is concluded. Some hon. Members may still think that free schools will be attended with mischief; but I do not think there is one Member of the House who does not believe that free education is a question of the immediate future. The principle of free schools has been accepted by the country, and I believe the experience of every hon. Member in his own constituency will bear me out in that opinion. The immediate question before us is not whether free schools shall come, but by whom they shall 972 come, how they shall come, and when they shall come. These are the questions to which the practical attention of the House should now be directed. This is the chief value of the discussion which has been raised by the Amendment; and I hope it will assist the Government in what I believe to be their settled intention to carry the principle into effect. In my opinion—it is more than an opinion, for I believe it is a matter than cannot be disputed—there are only three ways in which free schools can be established. Let me first deal with a preliminary point. Funds have to be raised to meet the expense. Expressing my own opinion individually, I think they can only come from the Imperial Exchequer. If I am right, if the principle I have endeavoured to lay down—which I believe to be the principle on which free schools can alone be defended, namely, that it is a national question—can be defended, then it is the nation, and not the locality, that is bound to provide the expenses. Supposing that to be granted, there are only three methods by which the matter can be settled. Before I state what those three methods are I will point out to the House the fact that the real obstacle is our old friend—religions distinctions. Upon the point of the continued existence of the voluntary system and of denominational schools there is an issue between the Government and the Opposition. The Government have stated, in the most unmistakable terms, that they will do nothing to weaken the voluntary system. The Opposition want to destroy the voluntary system. [Opposition cheers and counter cheers.] I perceive that there is a difference of opinion among the Opposition on that point. I expected it, and I do not wish to mis-state the matter at all; but I believe that the opinion of the majority of the Opposition is that the time has come when denominational schools should be abolished, and when there should be substituted for them a general system of free Board schools. That is the really important issue between the two sides of the House. I have said that there is a difference of opinion in the Opposition on this point, and the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has stated that it is far from his intention to abolish voluntary schools. 973 Well, when we come to consider the specific proposal which the right hon. Gentleman has made, we shall see how far his desire to retain voluntary schools is assured. He proposes to take away from voluntary schools everything for which subscriptions in the voluntary schools are given, and he imagines that the subscriptions will come in when the object for which they are given is entirely destroyed. But there is another section of the Opposition whose opinion I am curious about on this particular point. The strongest supporters of denominational schools are the members of the Roman Catholic Church, to which most of the Members from Ireland belong. I am curious to see whether in the division that will take place on the question those hon. Members are going to vote with their Church or with their Party. I am sure it is a matter of perfect indifference to me what they do; but it is a matter of great curiosity. And now I will proceed to consider the different methods which might be adopted. And I believe I can show that some of them tend in the direction of the desire of the majority of the Opposition, whilst others might be accepted without interfering with the object of the majority of the supporters of the Government. We might establish a partial system of free schools by allowing every Board school to become free, and by increasing the grant to Board schools in proportion to efficiency. Under this system the voluntary schools would be left as they are, and would have no additional grant. Therefore, the adoption of this method would mean the absolute extinction of voluntary schools. What would happen? It would be ridiculous to suppose that you could stop there. You could not allow Board schools and create free schools without giving the choice to all parents of sending their children to the Board schools. You must then follow that up by establishing Board schools in every parish, and you must give to every parent the choice between the voluntary school with a fee and the Board school without a fee. Knowing what human nature is, I have no doubt that there would be an end of voluntary schools. It would be impossible, in a great proportion of cases, for the voluntary schools to 974 maintain their existence in face of the superior temptations that would be offered at the Board schools. Another proposal is that additional grants should be given to all schools, voluntary schools and Board schools alike, and that the change in the case of voluntary schools should be coupled with popular representation. That is the proposal of the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. A. Acland), which finds favour with the right hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella.) But what does it mean? What is meant by popular representation on the management of the voluntary schools? The right hon. Member for Sheffield means by it popular control, which is a very different thing from popular representation, which was all that, was referred to by the hon. Member for Rotherham. If by popular representation is meant that in the event of an increased grant being made to the voluntary schools some public authority, such as the School Board or the District Council, should be entitled to send a representative on to the School Committee, the step would be very desirable. The advantage would be that public opinion would be brought to bear upon the School Committees, while their independence would not be interfered with. Their power would remain un diminished, but abuses could be prevented. But I do not conceal from myself that this popular representation would not meet the views of my hon. Friend who moved the Resolution, or of the majority of the Opposition, those to whom I have attributed the intention of ultimately abolishing and destroying the voluntary system. What they want—what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield thinks is a very moderate proposition—is popular control, that the voluntary School Committees should accept a majority of popular representatives, that to these representatives should be given the full control of the schools, and that the voluntary subscribers to these schools should give up all power into the hands of their new colleagues. Why, this proposal is on the face of it ridiculous. I do not say it is undesirable; but I say it would be ridiculous to suppose that the supporters of voluntary schools would accept any such plan. The proposal, in short, like the first which I examined, is a proposal 975 for the extinction of the voluntary system. Very well, that is a practically intolerable proposition. I ask hon. Gentlemen if they have considered what that means? The Vice President of the Council explained his view of the new burdens which would be laid on the taxpayer if this policy were accepted. My right hon. Friend has criticised the figures of the Vice President. Well, I do not agree, I admit, with the figures of the Vice President, and I do not agree with the criticism of my right hon. Friend. I am going to attempt a calculation of my own, and submit it to the judgment of the House. Now, what is the state of the case? I prefer not to take the number of the voluntary schools, because an important question is the size of the voluntary schools. I propose to take the accommodation. The accommodation in these schools amounts to 3,659,251 places, about twice the accommodation provided by Board schools. Suppose the voluntary system were extinguished, would this accommodation still be available for purposes of education? The right hon. Member for Sheffield appeals to the patriotism of the managers of the voluntary schools, and proposes that they should hand over their schools for public uses, when the original purpose for which those schools have been erected no longer exists. For my part, I do not think that the managers would do this. It is highly unlikely that in the majority of cases these schools, which my right hon. Friend admits have been built, as to three-fourths of the cost, at private expense—it is highly improbable that these schools, built for a particular purpose, will be handed over to anybody for a different purpose. That is not to be expected, even if the terms of the trusts under which the schools were erected would admit of it. To force the managers to hand over the schools—Parliament, I suppose, can do anything—would be nothing less than confiscation. There is another point to be considered. We have had experience in Birmingham and other towns of voluntary schools handed over to the School Boards. In almost every case the buildings have been found to be inadequate for the purposes of the School Board, insufficiently equipped and provided. The result is that other premises have had ultimately to be procured. Well, if 976 we extinguish the voluntary schools of the country we shall have to provide school buildings for 3,650,000 children. ["No, No!" and "Hear, hear!"] I hear an hon. Member say that accommodation will only have to be provided for the average attendance. I should think that hon. Member had never been a member of a School Board.
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I have been a member of a School Committee in London for 10 years.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
That provision I affirm would at once be declared insufficient by the Education Department, for provision must be made for the greatest number of children that can attend. As everyone knows, the average attendance is a very different thing from the gross attendance. It is, in fact, less by 20 or 30 per cent. What would be the use of providing schools from which, on certain days when there was a full attendance, it would be necessary to turn many of the children away? Taking the accommodation that would have to be provided if the voluntary schools were done away with as the basis of my calculation, I find that the cost would be over £40,000,000. At £12 per head that would be the cost. Taking only the average attendance, which is 2,200,000, the expenditure would be £28,000,000. Take it at what you please. All I ask hon. Gentlemen to do is to recognise the consequences of the policy they recommend. That is not all. You lose the voluntary subscriptions. I do not care to enter into the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman as to whether those voluntary subscriptions are not to some extent in the nature of a voluntary tax. At all events, that source of income would be no longer forthcoming, and it amounts to £746,000. But there is another item of expense. The average cost of education in School Boards is 8s. 4d. per head of the average attendance higher than in the voluntary schools. I think that the education is better; but that does not touch the point. Now this sum of 8s. 4d. per head of the average attendance amounts to £934,000;therefore we should have to provide from the rates, if 977 we wiped out the voluntary schools tomorrow, not only a capital expenditure either of £28,000,000 as a minimum or £40,000,000 as a maximum, but an annual expenditure of £1,680,000 in addition to the present rates. Now, the present rates are £1,232,000. We should add 130 per cent, to the total amount of the present rates. I do not think I have ever posed as a friend of the denominational system. I have been regarded as one of its enemies. I do not know whether that is a fair position in which to place me; but undoubtedly if I had to deal with a new system in this country, if I had a tabula rasa, would infinitely prefer the system which prevails in America—a great national system—to this system of mixed voluntary and State-aided education. It is the duty of the State to provide for the education of the children, and I should be glad to see it undertaken by the State. But as a practical man I say I am not prepared. [Ironical Opposition cheers.] It does not much matter what my opinion is. [Renewed ironical cheers.] No; I attach much more importance to your opinion than to my own. Therefore I ask you what is your opinion? Are you prepared to go to your constituents and face this expenditure? Are you prepared, honestly and frankly, to tell your constituents what is the practical result of the policy which in theory you approve and which I approve? Are you prepared to tell them that there will be imposed upon them a capital cost of £30,000,000 sterling, and an annual expenditure of £1,680,000, in order to extinguish denominational schools? I have dealt with two methods of providing free schools; but there is a third method, not open to this objection, but open to other objections. The third method is this. You may make to all schools, voluntary as well as Board, a grant equivalent to the amount of the fees. Let us consider what are the objections to that proposal. The objection which I understand is taken by many educationists is that this would form an additional State endowment of denominational education—that it would increase the Government grant to the extent of the present fees. I maintain, however, that it is not an additional endowment. I maintain that it is the substitution of one endowment for 978 another. I say that the fees, as they are at present provided, are a compulsory tax on a particular class of the community—the parents. I say that the additional grant would only be a compulsory tax on the whole community. I admit the incidence of the tax is slightly varied; but I deny that the fees are any less a tax than the additional grant would be. If this principle of an equivalent grant were adopted we should leave the denominational question and the religious difficulty exactly where they are. We should not increase the power, the influence, the strength of the denominational system; on the other hand, we should not weaken it in the slightest degree. I wish to treat these two questions on their merits, and I say that free schools are good things in themselves; that they are desirable on grounds social and educational; and that on those grounds they ought to be conceded. I express my own personal opinion that denominational schools are a bad thing; but I say, at the same time, that I am willing to argue that question separately, altogether from the question of free schools, and that the question of free schools ought not to be prejudiced by this question of the existence of denominational schools. We ought to count on the support of lion. Gentlemen opposite for free schools, because we ought to say to them that in dealing with the question we do so without arrière pensée, and we are not endeavouring to use it as a lever to injure their denominational system. We are ready to deal with the denominational question separately, and to meet them frankly on that question when the opportunity arises; but, in the meantime, we are dealing with the great social and educational question of free schools. I admit that there are other difficulties besides the objection to which I have referred. It would be very difficult in granting the principle of an equivalent contribution from the Government to the amount of the fees to distribute all that equivalent among the different schools. It would be impossible to avoid giving some schools more than they gain from the fees, while giving to other schools less than they gain; and in that case the schools which got less would disappear, while the schools which got more would not be 979 materially stronger than at present. I admit that there is considerable difficulty in this matter; but it seems to me to be a difficulty which has been overcome in practice in connection with Scottish education; and I cannot help thinking that it is a difficulty which the Government would overcome were they to devote their minds to the question. It ought not to stand in the way; and I would impress on hon. Members who are friends of the denominational system that it would be a most unwise thing were they to act as if the fate of the denominational system were bound up with resistance ot this principle of free schools, which has been practically accepted by the majority of the nation. Of course, I have to decide what course I shall take on the Amendment. I wish that the Vice President of the Council (Sir W. Hart-Dyke) had made a little less of the difficulties in the way of free education and had made more of the advantages to the population which would follow from its adoption. But, at all events, the right hon. Gentleman said one thing which I hope will be emphasised, if necessary, or confirmed at least, by any other Member of the Government who addresses the House. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government did not go back one iota from the declarations which have been made by the Prime Minister and by the leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith). Now, what are those declarations? They are, in effect, that the Government accept the principle of free education, and will deal practically by legislation with the question of free education as soon as they have the opportunity. Is it, then, fair to say that the Government have the opportunity this Session? Is there any hon. Member who will say on his honour that he believes the Government will have time to deal with this complicated subject, as well as with the other business which is down for them to deal with? If the majority of the House believes that the Government will have time to deal with this matter, by all means let them vote for that Amendment. I do not believe they will have time. I do not believe that hon. Gentlemen will give them time. I believe the matter is entirely in the hands of my hon. Friends on this side of the House. If they give that favourable and impartial consideration to 980 the other measures of the Government which they always promise and which they sometimes perform, I believe there will be time for this question of free education. But if the experience of previous Sessions is to be repeated there will not be time during the present Session to deal with this matter, and under those circumstances I think the Government were right not to mention in the Queen's Speech a matter as a subject for legislation which they and the House know hon. Members on this side of the House will not allow them to deal with. The Amendment professes to express regret that the Government are unable to deal with the question this Session. I share in this regret, and if that were a Motion in the nature of a pious opinion expressed by hon. Members on a Tuesday or on a Friday evening on the Motion for Supply, I would be found voting with them; but hon. Members have adopted their own course, they have chosen to raise this question when it cannot be discussed upon its merits, when they have deliberately connected with it the existence of the Government. This is a vote of want of confidence, because hon. Members on this side have made it probable that the Government would be unable to deal this Session with a subject which they have pledged themselves to deal with on the earliest opportunity. I say I will not vote to displace a Government which is pledged to free education, in order to substitute for it a Government which is pledged only to postpone free education and many other important reforms to a project of constitutional change which must take two years, at least, to carry, and which may and, I believe, will take an absolutely indefinite time.
§ (11.17.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I was about to congratulate my right hon. Friend, for he and I have worked together for years in the cause of free education. [Ministerial laughter.] Right hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh, but my right hon. Friend will not deny it. My right hon. Friend knows perfectly well that when he was at the head of the Birmingham Education League outside this House I was supporting him below the Gangway on the other side of the House. That is more than 20 years ago. My right hon. Friend knows 981 also that in the campaign of 1885 I stood by his side for free education. Therefore, my right hon. Friend, at all events, will not deny what I have said. Well, I was going to congratulate my right hon. Friend upon being so early in sight of victory, but with the habit, which seems to be characteristic of him, he dashes from the lips of his friends the cup which he had previously offered. The doctrine which he has preached to-night is not the doctrine 1 learnt from him in the days of the Birmingham League. We heard then none of those passionate denunciations of popular control with which we have been favoured to-night, and which have been cheered from the opposite side of the House.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon; he entirely and absolutely misrepresents mo. I never said a word against popular control. I approve of it; but I pointed out that we could not have popular control and voluntary management in the same school.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
But I am in the recollection of the House whether the whole argument of my right hon. Friend was not directed to induce the House not to give popular control on account of the expense which might attend it. My right hon. Friend says that the Opposition are unanimous for free education, and that the great majority of hon. Gentlemen opposite are in favour of it. He says that the conversion on this side of the House is very recent. I cannot agree with that assertion. I remember a very celebrated speech made by my right hon. Friend in 1885, when he pledged himself that he would take office in no Government which would not carry out free education. Well, but he satisfied himself with reference to the Government that he joined in 1885. My right hon. Friend is not the man to break a solemn pledge of that kind, and it therefore follows, as an explanation of his having joined the Government of 1886, that the Members of that Government were pledged to, and were about to carry out, free education.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
My right hon. Friend has appealed to me and I feel bound to answer. I do not understand whether my right hon. Friend intends to infer that the Government of 1886 was 982 pledged to carry out free education; if so he is mistaken again. The Government of 1886 was pledged only to inquire into the subject.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Then what is the meaning of the melo-dramatic statement of my right hon Friend that he would join no Government not pledged to free education?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend again, but I think his memory is not serving him accurately. I beg him to quote the words of the pledge he refers to. He will find that I did not pledge myself to refuse to join a Government which in terms was not pledged to carry out free education. I deny it.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I accept the denial of my right hon. Friend. I made the statement upon the strength of my own recollection, and that of my right hon. Friend by my side (Mr. J. Morley). But it appears that both I and my right hon. Friend were entirely mistaken. However, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham being, as he says, a sincere friend of free education, and seeing that the Liberal Party is unanimous now, and was not before, in favour of free education, owing to him, and seeing that he has converted the great majority of the Conservative Party, has made a speech to-night which 1 will venture to say, by the ingenuity which is always conspicuous in the speeches of my right hon. Friend, has dealt the heaviest blow that could have been struck at the hopes of free educationists. He has exhausted the whole of his ingenuity and used his unrivalled powers to destroy that cause. Notwithstanding, he will not join a Government that is not pledged to free education.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
And why is it postponed? Not on account of want 983 of time or persistent opposition; it was a statement made to catch your cheers and to do as much mischief as possible to that unanimous opposition which was to carry free education, and if possible to injure its cause. How did my right hon. Friend set to work? He began by taunting the Irish Catholic Members, offering them a choice between Church interest and Party interest and appealing to their religious prejudices. But I hope the Irish Catholic Members will disappoint him. I hope that the ingenious manner in which he has endeavoured to secure their votes will not be successful. What is it he says on the subject of popular representation? I always thought he was a great advocate of popular representation. What is the view he desires to represent and support? That if a man, whether he be a squire or clergyman, makes a fractional contribution towards a school in a rural parish, he and he alone should have any voice in the management of that school. It was my opinion, until to-night, that my right hon. Friend attached the highest value to popular representation because it gives a voice to parents of children in the education of their children. That I understood was the Liberal principle on the subject of popular representation in school management, but that principle, which in theory my right hon. Friend still pretends to hold, he has endeavoured by every argument and figure he has used to destroy to-night. I cannot understand why he should think that popular representation would be so odious to managers of voluntary schools. I know many managers of voluntary schools who value and invite popular representation in the management. Then another blow that the right hon. Gentleman struck at the cause of free education was by declaring that the object of the Opposition, or of the greater part of it, is to destroy voluntary schools. I absolutely deny that. I always denied it when with my right hon. Friend years ago we were fighting the battle of free education. I have always maintained that we have no desire or object in destroying voluntary schools. I had intended to take no part in this debate, and I do not wish to go into the argument so well stated on both sides. It cannot be denied that the 984 Government held forth through the mouth of Lord Salisbury the expectation that free education was to be given this year. The noble Marquess said it depended on the Budget, and on the Budget alone. But that position has been abandoned. The First Lord of the Treasury, at the opening of the Session, gave as a reason why the Government did not propose to deal with the question that opinion was not ripe on the subject. So far from there being that complete conversion my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham speaks of, the First Lord of the Treasury said the Government were waiting to see if that conversion would take place. Why, everybody knows what has stopped free education this Session. We have heard it tonight from the mouth of the representative of Oxford University (Mr. Talbot). Every argument that could be used against the principle of free education was used by that hon. Member on behalf of the class and profession he represents in that University to induce his Party to put a veto on free education. I deeply regret that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, who has rendered such signal service, as I will always testify, for education and to free education, should have thought fit to-night to make a speech which, in my opinion, has done more than any speech I have ever heard to throw back that cause. My right hon. Friend says this is not a Party question, and it may not be a Party question as between himself and the Government sitting opposite, but it is a Party question as between himself and hon. Gentlemen on this side, and in my opinion he has abandoned that great cause for which we have fought, in order that he might inflict a blow upon hon. Gentlemen on this side.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE, Lincolnshire, Horncaste)
I am afraid that in the few remarks I wish to address to the House I shall not be able to follow the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down into the heated atmosphere which he appears to have entered. I must, however, say that there was a good deal in the right hon. Gentleman's remarkable speech that ought to be noted by the country. The right hon. Gentleman 985 appeared to think that the best way of forwarding the interests of free education was to attack the right hon. Member for Birmingham, who had made the best speech in favour of free education that had been made in this House for years. The right hon. Member for Derby said that the right hon. Member for Birmingham had struck the heaviest blow that had ever been levelled at the cause of free education. And why? Because the right hon. Gentleman has shown us that it is perfectly possible to admit of free education without damage to voluntary schools. I must say it seems to me that, if on no other account, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham is memorable because he has put down his foot so strongly on that subject, saying that while he strongly supports the principle of free education, he supports it conditionally on being able to continue in this country the existence of voluntary schools. Now, in the second place, I want to know what right the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has to take any credit to himself whatever in the matter of free education? What has the right hon. Gentleman ever done for free education? I doubt if any man in this House will remember a single word of any speech the right hon. Gentleman has made oh the subject. I want also to know this. The right hon. Gentleman was a leading member of the Cabinet which, he says, was pledged to free education. What did that Cabinet ever do for free education? Did that Cabinet ever put one word into the Queen's Speech pledging them to free education? Yet that Government came into office absolutely pledged to free education. I want to know upon what ground the right hon. Gentleman can justify his support of this Amendment when, having had the opportunity of bringing in a measure of free education, he did not introduce one. The fact is, if we look at the matter dispassionately, the right hon. Gentleman has never done anything for free education: the only Party and the only Government in this country which has done anything for free education is the Party and the Government that is now in power. Now, if I may pass from the right hon. Gentleman who did not 986 contribute much towards the real discussion of the matter, to other speeches, I should like to allude to one or two from this side of the House. I believe that one of the main objects in bringing forward this Amendment was to attempt to show that we on this side of the House are somewhat divided in opinion upon the subject, but I believe that attempt has lamentably failed, because I am satisfied, from the speeches that I have heard to-night from these Benches, that we are absolutely agreed as to the object we desire to attain, and that when the time comes for us to state our methods it will be found that we are in perfect accord. There are one or two points upon which I think all Members of the House are agreed. I do not think that any one will deny the truth of the proposition of my noble Friend the Prime Minister that the introduction of compulsion has given the subject of free education a tremendous impetus. Parents are compelled to send their children to school and lose the benefit they formerly derived from their children's labour, hence arises a claim for free education as assistance towards the poorer parents. That necessity has always been recognised both by Board schools and voluntary schools, which in some cases remits the fees parents, are required to pay. It has been recognised also, by that system to which allusion has been made, where parents have to apply to the Board of Guardians for payment of the fees; and all who have read the evidence taken before the Royal Commission must feel that the present system of the payment of school fees is eminently unsatisfactory, and that in the matter of the remission of school fees we must of necessity go further. Knowing this my noble Friend, the Prime Minister, spoke upon the subject of assisted education in 1885 and in 1889. He put his view before the country with that clearness that distinguishes his statements, and he made his statement with the assent and full concurrence of his Colleagues in 1885 and 1889, and to every word of the statements made we, his Colleagues, are absolutely prepared to adhere. We do not go back from a single word. We are bound. I think it is our duty when opyortunity arises to press forward and give effect to that policy, but of course 987 we intend to choose our time. We do not intend to allow the Opposition to settle the time and manner; we shall choose our own time for explaining the details of our proposal, and are not so foolish as to attempt on an occasion like this to bring forward the details of a scheme that we do not see the opportunity of carrying through. The time will come when we shall have that opportunity, and then we shall give to the House the actual details of the proposals we intend to make. Of course, we are perfectly well aware of the difficulties. No one can have heard the speeches made to-night without recognising that there are difficulties that any Government must surmount. There are difficulties not only on the one side, but also on the other, and we have taken note of them all to the fullest extent. It is our desire that we should be enabled to make our proposals to the House with due regard to two principal objects. The first of these objects is that in nothing we propose we should damage or injure the prospects of voluntary schools. We are perfectly well aware that there are many managers of voluntary schools who view any proposals on this subject with some anxiety. We are perfectly prepared to study, and we are studying, the difficulties which the problem presents in that direction, and we are determined that when we act every one of them shall be considered. The hon. Member for Evesham argued strongly against free education, but is my hon. Friend prepared to say that he would leave the question to be dealt with by those who are determined to destroy voluntary education, rather than take any step in the direction of free education with those of his friends who are equally determined to preserve voluntary schools? I am certain that if my hon. Friend will think over his position for a short time he will be satisfied that we are perfectly justified in adhering absolutely to the proposals we have made, and in stating our determination to give effect to them when the opportunity occurs. Secondly, we want to consider this question of free education in connection with the other great branches of the subject, and any one who has read the report of the Royal Commission will know that they are 988 difficult and numerous. One of these subjects is the 17s. 6d. limit, which, as hon. Gentlemen know, is condemned because it is a discouragement to the improvement of education. Some want to abolish the limit and some want to raise it; others want something in the nature of a double limit. The subject can be dealt with only by a Bill, and if we think it necessary so to deal with it we desire at the same time to deal with the question as a whole, and to present to the country the policy we think best calculated in our view to advance the education of the country. I don't think I need detain the House beyond a few more observations. The gist of the Amendment is to complain that we have not mentioned free education in the Queen's Speech; and the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) in his very rare references to the subject immediately before the House, selected, I must say, extraordinary ground for supporting the Amendment. He argued that we are bound to introduce at once proposals for free education because of what was done for free education in Scotland last year. Now, last year Parliament gave Scotland a system, not of absolutely free education, but something much nearer what the Prime Minister has called a system of assisted education. The right hon. Gentleman has argued in favour of popular control in the administration of grants to voluntary schools, although last year we did not so proceed in Scotland. Again, on the ground of simultaneity in dealing with England and Scotland he supports the Amendment. Yet the right hon. Gentleman knows very well the circumstances of last year were altogether very different from the circumstances in which we are now placed. Last year we had to distribute a fund, and we gave a part to education in Scotland because we found that the Representatives of Scotland earnestly demanded that that concession should be made. The portion allotted to England we gave to other objects, but equally with the general concurrence of the Representatives of this country. I will not go into matters that have been abundantly dealt with by my right hon. Friend (Sir W. Hart Dyke). No Government would think of inserting in the Queen's Speech reference to any 989 subject which they did not honestly think there was a reasonable chance of their being able to deal with. We are satisfied there is no chance of our being able to deal with this important subject, and therefore we did not refer to it. We all understand the object of the Amendment. It is well understood that no Government can accept an Amendment of this character to the Address. Therefore, it is moved to give an opportunity to its supporters to make speeches more or less in favour of free education, and to enable the Opposition to say, whatever speeches may be made on behalf of the Government, that the Government voted against the proposal. I am quite sure the country will see through it, as every man in this House undoubtedly does. It is without the slightest fear of our being misunderstood in the course we are taking that I ask the House to vote against the Amendment.
§ (11.50.) MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of Members of the Opposition making speeches in favour of free education more or less with a view to the country. Who set the example of that? When the Prime Minister spoke at Nottingham in favour of "assisted" education, by which I. suppose he meant free education more or less, he must have intended—speaking as the head of the Government, and therefore I may fairly assume with the assent and consent of his Colleagues—that speech to be something more than a speech for a Nottingham caucus. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham has amazed me by the attitude he took to-night. I am sure he will not deny that he and I have stood side by side for 17 years on this question, and that 17 years ago I co-operated with him. What is the effect of my right hon. Friend's speech to-night? Its effect is distinctly to throw back as far as he can I do so the very reform for which we formerly fought side by side. My right hon. Friend was apparently irritated by the reference of my right hon. Friend 990 the Member for Derby to what took place in the autumn of 1885. I was present on the occasion to which my right hon. Friend referred as when the right hon. Gentleman made that melodramatic statement. The language of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham was this—On the other hand, it would be dishonourable in me, and would be lowering the high tone which ought to be observed in public life, if, after having committed myself personally as I have done to the advocacy of these proposalsin which free education was a prominent item,I were to take my place in any Government which excluded that policy.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Then this Government of 1886 did not include or exclude it. Who are now endeavouring to carry that article of the programme? Are they the Members of the defeated Government of 1886 or the Opposition of that date? It is said that my right hon. Friend has no right to complain, because free education was not included in the Queen's Speech in 1886. That is a most futile remark, because we did not make the Queen's Speech of 1886. As far as the general question is concerned, I am not going at this time of night to enter into it. The arguments which appeared to me and to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham in 1873 to be conclusive have certainly been rather confirmed in the interval between 1873 and 1890. Our position, I think, is this—that when a school is intended for all it should be managed by the representatives of the whole community. Where, on the other hand, the school claims to be for the use of a section of the community, as, for example, the Catholics or the Jews, it may continue to receive public support as 991 long as it is under the management of that sect. That, of course, is the Scottish system; it works well there and without any friction. That appears to me to be a position which we and even the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway may consistently take up. That is the principle on which I shall vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham, and it is on that principle and upon the general advantages which have been dealt upon in this debate to be gained in the cause of education itself we support the Amendment.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I wish to say that I accept the declaration just made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, speaking on the part of the Liberal Party, that the Vote on this Amendment for the principle of free education does not close or even prejudice the rights of conscience, but allows us to maintain the principle that when a school is under the management of persons of a particular creed and attended by children of a particular creed it must still remain under that management after the system of free education has been adopted. Accepting that principle and recognising the authority of the right hon. Gentleman as the spokesman of the Liberal party, I shall have no difficulty in voting for the Amendment.
§ (12.0.) The House divided:—Ayes 163; Noes 223.—(Div. List, No. 7.)
§ Main question again proposed.
§ Debate arising.
§ And, it being after midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.