HC Deb 01 July 1890 vol 346 cc552-64

I rise to move— That an humble address he presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold her consent from the Scheme of the Charity Commission now before the House for the administration of the foundation commonly called Christ's Hospital. I am aware that an hon. Member who brings forward a Motion of this kind after 12 o'clock at night is voted a great nuisance. ["Hear, hear!"] I listen to those cheers, and I confess, if I may say so without impertinence, that they do not raise my opinion of the Members who utter them. Last night we had four Divisions—caused by the tactics of hon. Gentleman on the other side—between 12 and 1 o'clock, and on other occasions the House gives hours at this period of the night to the discussion of personal matters; but when it is a case of a public charity which has been conducted for 350 years in a manner that gives satisfaction to those who receive benefit from it, and against the administration of which very little has been alleged and scarcely anything proved, and when the law says that no charity scheme shall become law until it has laid on the Table of the House for two months, so that it shall be open to any hon. Member who may wish to do so to object to it, if a Member, in the conscientious discharge of his duty, brings forward, at the only time open to him, a Motion to protect the rights of the public and of his own constituency, and asks the House to consider whether the scheme is a good one or not, he is considered conceited, and a nuisance, and a bore. The period at which I bring on this question is the only period open to me for the purpose. In as few words as I can I will explain the matter, and I hope I may be successful in showing to those who have not studied the scheme that there is a good deal to be said against it, and that it would be well to send it back to the Endowed School Commissioners for re-consideration. I do not mean to say that the scheme contains no good points. It certainly contains one good point, though that is open to argument on the other side—the proposal that the site of Christ's Hospital in Newgate Street, consisting of five acres, which is supposed to be worth half a million of money, shall be sold and the hospital removed into the country at a short distance from London. But that is not a necessary part of the scheme, and might be carried out apart from it, and without the drastic changes in the constitution of the charity which the scheme proposes. When I look for the reasons put forward for adopting the scheme I find them in two papers. One is issued by the Endowed Commissioners themselves, and, very unfairly, this paper has not been sent to Members of the House generally, but only to those who are believed to be favourable to the scheme. The other paper is put forth anonymously, and I am not surprised at this, because it contains libels upon myself and the present Governors, unjustly accusing them of jobbery. First, we are told that the scheme is the result of 12 years' work, which will be wasted if it be rejected. My reply is, that 12 years is nothing in the life of a charity born 350 years ago. Sat cito, si sat bene. If the scheme has the faults which I believe it has it would be better to send it back to the Commissioners to be amended. We are told that it is accepted by the Governors. It is true that they have accepted it, but they have only accepted it because they are told that if they do not they will get a worse one some day from a Radical Government—and this is a reason why I might appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I will not do so as I desire to see this question dealt with on its merits. Then it is also said that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has passed the scheme. No doubt they have, but they look at the matter from a legal point of view, while I and others look at the question from a broader standpoint; we viewed it as a matter affecting the whole charity, and indeed the whole country. It is further said that the President of the Council and the Government have adopted the scheme. But this is not a Government scheme. It is proposed by a body outside the Government, and the mere fact that the President of the Council had to sign it ministerially—

MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

No, no.


That does not seem to me a reason why the scheme should be adopted. This is rather like a private Member's Bill, which Her Majesty's Government regard with benevolent neutrality, but did not introduce as their own. It is the scheme of the Endowment Commissioners. Then we are told that the Royal Commission of 1877 reported against the present hospital system, and that, therefore, it is necessary to have this radical scheme. But the removal of the school could take place without the scheme. The removal of the school was brought before the Governors some years ago, and the question was lost by a majority of 14. The Royal Commission of 1877 reported that all the defects in the management complained of would disappear under an able and judicious headmaster of the school if it were removed to a spacious site in the country. But that suggestion did not carry with it all the other changes which this scheme recommends. I do not think, therefore, that there is much in that objection; because the evils, owing to the division of government out of school hours between the Headmaster and the Warden, have been cured by the action of the present body. Moreover, no general reason is shown for the scheme, and no jobbery whatever has been proved in any way. Who has ventured to say that the Governors have been guilty of jobbery in the exercise of their patronage? The School Board of London, in 1883, went into the whole question with the view of seeing who had been admitted to the school. They found that during the then last three years 515 children had been admitted, and of those 60 were the orphans of professional men and officers 132 were the children of professional men and officers, 84 the orphans of tradesmen and clerks, 209 the children of tradesmen and clerks, and 30 were children taken from a lower rank of life. They also found that the average income was very small indeed, that only one parent had an income of £400 and under £500, and this was the case of the widow of an officer with six children. I doubt very much, therefore, whether we could improve upon such nomination under the present scheme. But the present scheme introduces a totally different mode in regard to the larger proportion of children filling up the vacancies. It proposes that the 1,200 should be reduced to 1,170, that out of this number 503 should be filled up by nomination and the remainder by competitive examination. Personally, I believe that there is scarcely any worse way of filling up vacancies in a charity of this kind than by competitive examination between young boys and girls of 13. The result too often is to bring forward children who are crammed; cramming means good coaching; and that means expense, and so, as at Eton, the children gain the scholarships whose parents least want the help. I admit that clever children should have an opportunity of rising; but I know that under the present system the Governors have taken pains to send in children who will be a credit. The Governors have appointed in many cases the children of poor parents whom they know personally, and it frequently happens that children without any knowledge of a Governor at all, but simply because they make out a strong case, have obtained presentations from perfect strangers. I have done that myself as a Governor, and I know that in this way deserving children do get admission to the school under the present system, but when admission is to be by competitive examination matters will be altered. I greatly fear the result of the present scheme will be that there will be no new donation Governors, and that the school will sustain a loss of £5,000 or £6,000 a year from not getting their contributions. I ought here to explain to the House that the scheme is divided into two parts. At present there is a hospital for 1,200 boys and girls. The London School Board passed a resolution some time ago, by a majority of two to one, against the day school scheme, and proposed instead that the number of children in the hospital should be increased to 2,000. By this present scheme the number in the hospital is to be reduced gradually to 1,000, and two great day schools are to be set up—a boys' school and a girls' school. The day schools are to be entirely for the benefit of London, and unless children reside in London with their parents or near relatives, they are not to be admitted into either of them. Now, 179 of the appointments are to be competed for by children who attend public elementary schools in London. I should be the last man in the world to say a word against holding out the right hand of fellowship to the elementary schools; but I maintain that in the case of children living with their parents and near relatives in London, and whom it is desired to pass on to receive the benefits of the institutions, they ought to be sent to the day schools, and not at double cost to the hospital. At the present time the proportion of children from the lower ranks of life who are in the hospital is comparatively small, but it is proposed to increase that number to about one-third. We know perfectly well that these children have a very bad time of it. A number of them, who come from Berkshire, are called "the Newbury blackguards," and have a very bad time indeed. It seems to me to be by no means clear that professional men, officers, and men distinguished in science, will approve of the close relationship, in dormitories and otherwise, of their children in the proportion I have mentioned with children of the lower ranks of life, who have not unlearnt the habits of their class. That is a consideration which I am aware has great weight in the quarters referred to, and it constitutes a not unreasonable objection. We are now, for the first time, going to introduce a system both in the boarding school and in the day school of some of the children paying and others not paying, and that seems an objectionable feature in connection with a school of this kind, because it will produce invidious distinctions between the boys themselves, and tend to upset the good working of the school. It may affect the feelings of the masters; and it will affect the feelings of the boys towards each other. You will have not only an investigation as to whether the parents can afford to send their children to an ordinary school or not, but an investigation into the comparative means of the parents. The greater part of the income of the masters is to be derived from capitation fees, and it will, therefore, be to the interest of the masters to lay themselves out for the benefit of the paying children at the expense of the rest. Again, under the existing system, which has worked well for over 300 years, the benefits go equally to the whole of England and Wales, but under the new scheme the advantage of the day schools, and of, at least, 179 berths in the Hospital, will be confined to the Metropolis, which will also get its share of the other berths, and the result will be that London, which is only entitled to share equally with the whole country, will get two-thirds of the benefit of a charity which was meant for all. This may please the Metropolitan Members, but it ought not to please the Irish or the Scotch Members, or the Representatives of English constituencies generally. I am sorry I have taken up so much of the time of the House. I have tried not to try the patience of hon. Members; and I think I have shown that there is, at all events, something in my objections to the scheme, and that they are not based on the vested rights of the Governors, about which I have said nothing. I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold Her consent from the Scheme of the Charity Commission now before the House for the administration of the foundation commonly called Christ's Hospital."—(Mr Sydney Gedge.)

*(12.30.) SIR R. FOWLER (London)

I beg to second the Motion, and I do so because I think that by agreeing to this scheme we shall kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Governors now pay £500 on their appointment, and they enjoy the privilege of a nomination every four years. The scheme will reduce that by one every six years, and the result will be that gentlemen will think twice before paying money to become Governors. The hospital will be so much the poorer, and it is already in some difficulty owing to the depreciation of its landed property. The liberality of people is likely to be materially checked by the scheme, and on that ground I second the Motion.

*(12.32.) MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)

I do not think the House will complain that this question has been brought before it. Of course, the endowment dealt with by the scheme is a very large one. The interests affected being so extensive, it is right that the House should consider a scheme for the alteration of the destination of the endowments before it is allowed to pass into law. At the same time, I think the House would have grievous cause of complaint if the Motion of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Gedge) were agreed to. This matter has occupied the attention of the Governors of the hospital and of the Endowed Schools Commissioners for some 12 years. Numerous investigations have been made into the circumstances of Christ's Hospital, and the scheme of the Commissioners now before the House embodies the chief points which have been recommended by all the Committees and Royal Commissions that have inquired into the matter. The hon. Member for Stockport has advanced two arguments which, I think, are mutually destructive. First of all, he said that no scheme was wanted, and that it was only necessary to remove the hospital into the country; and subsequently he urged the House to reject the present scheme, in order that a thoroughly good scheme might be introduced at a future time. The scheme has been accepted substantially by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, after an investigation extending over five days, and since that acceptance the Governors, as a body, have not done anything in opposition to it. Therefore, the scheme comes practically before the House as a arrangement assented to by all Parties. The hon. Member for Stockport has based his opposition to the scheme chiefly on the ground that patronage has produced very admirable results in the past. In reply to that, it will be sufficient to point to the recommendations of the Schools Inquiry Commission and the Education Commissioners against the continuance of the system of patronage. The Schools Inquiry Commission reported strongly against it in these words— We should wish to fill the school with scholars selected by competitive examination from all public schools of the 3rd Grade in England and Wales. The Education Commission reported as follows:— We have only to recommend that it, benefits should be bestowed, not by patronages but, as far as possible, by merit. I think these two Reports are a sufficient answer to the hon. Member's argument. If any further answer be required I may say this: The patronage Governors, under the existing system, give £500 each to the funds of the hospital, and are entitled to nominate children in turn. An actuarial calculation was made by the Schools Inquiry Commission, and it has been found that in return for his contribution of £500 a donation Governor receives back, in the space of 12 years, nearly £1,000 worth of patronage. I believe the actual amount is £913.


How does he get it back?


By the education of the children whom he nominates to the hospital. Another point the hon. Member made was that too much benefit is going to be given to London and too little to the country. If we remember the origin of the foundation, and bear in mind that part of the site upon which the hospital now stands was the original site given to the institution in the time of Edward VI., and recollect the close connection that has always existed between the Corporation of London and the management of the hospital, and the many endowments given to it by Londoners, I think it may very fairly be held that London has a large claim to share in the benefits of the institution. The Schools Inquiry Commission reported that the benefits of Christ's Hospital have never been confined to London, but that Londoners may fairly claim a share,' and a very substantial share, in this splendid endowment. The Educational Commissioners in like manner reported— There can be little doubt that the benefit of London was the primary object of the founder, and of a long series of civic benefactors. At present the places for London boys are limited to 49; under the scheme they will be increased to 179, and in addition there will be the day schools, accommodating 1,000 London children. I have had a calculation made, and I find that London will get the benefit of about half of the total income of the hospital. It is true that the Charity Commissioners are responsible for this scheme, but the Government are primarily responsible. As the hon. Member no doubt knows, these schemes have all to go before the Education Department. They are thoroughly sifted by the Education Department, and if the Department chooses to approve of them they become responsible for them. I think the House will hesitate long before it rejects this scheme and denies to London and to the children generally the great advantage which the schema may "fairly be said to offer.

(12.40.) MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)

I think the House generally will agree with my hon. Friend who so well represents the Charity Commissioners in this House, that there has been far too much delay already in respect to this scheme, and will not agree with the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Gedge) that further delay will be advantageous. I do not say that we on this side of the House agree with every single point in connection with the scheme, but we are obliged to recognise that this is a very large and far-reaching scheme. The hon. Member for Stockport laid great stress on the fact that nominations are to go by competition, and he said that competition would do harm, because the right class of children would not compete to enter the hospital. I think the House ought to remember that the one necessary qualification for every child entering the hospital is under the principal Act that his parents shall be in such a state of poverty that it is essential for him, in order to obtain education, to get into the hospital. Finally, I must enter one protest against the remark of the hon. Member—that this scheme will knit together the different classes in the school, and in that way be pernicious. I think that is one of the best points in the scheme. I am very glad that it recognises that this hospital is intended for the different classes of the community so long as they have the common bond of poverty, and that we shall obtain, as we have obtained in many other parts of our educational system, that which is of great value, namely, a true mixture of classes; that we shall, by means of competition, give the opportunity to the best children to obtain this valuable education, and to rise to better things. I trust the House will accept the scheme as it stands.

*(12.45.) MR. S. HOARE (Norwich)

As a member of the Governing Body of Guy's Hospital, I desire to say that the Governors, as a Body, have one great objection to this scheme. We believe that by this scheme that great hospital, in which I am sure many in the House are deeply interested, will suffer a loss of the sum of £400 a year. I am not, however, prepared to vote against this scheme. The Governors of Guy's Hospital feel that Christ's Hospital is one of the great institutions of London, and we are anxious not to do anything which may prevent the scheme being carried through. We feel that to increase the number of children who will get the benefits of that hospital to 2,200—nearly double the present number—will be such a great advantage to London that we cannot take upon ourselves the responsibility of opposing the scheme.

DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeen, W.)

Prom a hygienic point of view, I must give a most uncompromising opposition to the Motion. Every school is much better carried on in the country than in a town. There is batter accommodation, and the children are healthier. Of this, I cannot produce better evidence than that afforded by the Charter House, which a few years ago was moved to the country, which since has taken a fresh lease of life, and which now is one of the best, healthiest, and most progressive schools in England.


As this is the second occasion on which a discussion has taken place on this scheme in the House I shall be pardoned if I refrain from entering into the details of it. I can assure my hon. Friend that I take no objection whatever to the manner or matter of his speech, still less to his bringing forward a matter of this importance. No more difficult matter than this scheme has occupied the attention of the Lord President and myself. When this scheme came before the Department in 1888 some opposition was offered to it by the Governing Body, but its educational advantages weighed so heavily in the balance that the Lord President and myself expressed our approval of it. But the House is now in a different position. Since that time an appeal has been made to the Privy Council, and that body has given a decision in favour of the scheme. Therefore, the House has to-night only to decide on the educational advantages of the scheme as it stands, and I feel sure that the House will endorse this excellent scheme.

Question put, and negatived.

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