HC Deb 25 March 1890 vol 342 cc1825-63
(4.15.) MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

rose to call attention to the action of the Education Department in respect of the School Supply of York and Salisbury; and to move— That this House is of opinion that the action of the Education Department in reference to the supply of public schools accommodation in the cities of York and Sahsbury is contrary to the spirit and intention of the Education Act of 1870, and injurious to the interests of education. The right hon. Gentleman said: I can assure the House that it is far from an agreeable task to me to find myself under the necessity of moving a Vote of Censure on a Department which I had the honour of representing in this House for a long period. I have always regarded the Act of 1870, notwithstanding its manifold defects, as one of the most valuable measures of our time. It was a compromise and an endeavour to reconcile conflicting views, and that compromise, when in office, I loyally endeavoured to carry out. It has, from time to time, been subjected to much criticism by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. When the Bill of 1876 was introduced, its rejection was moved by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), who was supported by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, both the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman condemning almost as unsparingly as the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) the support out of public funds of denominational education. The noble Lord said— There are many of us, and I do not scruple to say that I was one of them, who believe the principle of School Boards is the right and true principle in this matter. We believe that being the right and true principle, it will in the end prevail. We believe that when once the time has arrived for Parliament to declare that the education of the country is the business, not, as formerly, of one individual, but of the whole State itself, it will become inevitable that sooner or later State education must be in the hands, not of individuals, but of the representatives of the people. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the same occasion, said— He believed in the long run that popular feeling would declare itself against the support of denominational schools by public money. No matter what Government may have been in office the administration of the Education Act has been watched for many years with great suspicion and jealousy, and of late a dead set has been made against the permanent officials of the Education Department. I claim for myself that I gave to Mr. Forster a loyal support, and that, during the whole time I have been in this House, I have never refused, but gratefully accepted, any advance on education which has been offered to us by any Government that has been in power. And when, in 1880, I was called upon to administer the Act, I strove to the utmost of my ability to administer it impartially. I think I can say the same of my predecessor, the noble Lord who is now the First Lord of the Admiralty, and another noble Lord, who is not now in the House (Lord Sandon), and, so far as I was personally concerned, I had the cordial assistance of two Lords President —Lord Spencer and Lord Carlingford. The Vice President has had occasion recently to point out that the permanent officials are not fairly treated by some hon. Gentlemen who sit behind him. While I was connected with this Department Sir Francis Saudford and Mr. Cumin were the Secretaries, and from my experience of those gentlemen I can speak to their judicial and impartial minds and their desire not to swerve by one inch from the perfectly fair administration of the Act. But some hon. Gentlemen opposite apparently take a different view of the matter. Their opinions have been expressed very courageously and frankly by the noble Lord the Member for the Darwen Division (Lord Cranborne), who a short time ago said— We do not distrust the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President, but we have a profound distrust of the Education Department. And he went on to add the reason— Because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield has left his spirit behind him, and though my right hon. Friend does his utmost to restrain it, yet it leaks out in every direction. The charge, therefore, is that the permanent officials are not fair to the denominational schools, but against that charge I am sure the Vice President will defend them. I desire to call attention to two instances in which I have had seriously to arraign the action of the Department, but in doing so I made no attack on the permanent officials, nor on the Vice President, who has shown himself to be fair-minded and courteous, and in sympathy with education. But while I believe that it has neither been the right hon. Gentleman, nor the permanent officials, I am afraid there has been a power behind them which has taken on itself to overrule them and set new precedents which will prove disastrous to the interests of education. Following up what I said about the action of the Conservative Party, I noticed that when Mr. Cumin died in January last, a remarkable article appeared in the Standard, calling upon the Government to be careful whom they appointed in Mr. Cumin's place, and warning the Government against appointing anyone who was not "unfettered by official traditions, and competent to look at the whole educational controversy from the outside." I congratulate the Government on the appointment of the present Secretary of the Education Department: I do not believe that any appointment could have given greater satisfaction. Though a Conservative and Churchman, I am sure Mr. Kekewich is not responsible for the policy which has been adopted. The Resolution which I have put upon the Paper calls attention to the action of the Department with respect to York and Salisbury. I will take Salisbury first, because it comes first in order of time. It is not the worst case, but it is a very bad case, and one which the right hon. Gentleman will find it difficult to defend. I am sorry to say I shall have to trouble the House with considerable details. In February, 1888, the Department complained to the School Board of Salisbury that there was a lack of school accommodation in the place. There has been a School Board in Salisbury for 17 years, and during the whole of that period efforts have been made, without success, to secure a Board school for Salisbury. In 1885 and 1886 the Department sent down an Inspector, who informed the managers of the Scotslane schools that the grant would be refused unless large structural alterations were made, and the school brought into harmony with modern requirements. Now Scotslane British school was one which had been improved out of an old chapel, and was held by the managers on a short tenancy, and they found that it would be impossible to make good and useful schools there without entire re-construction, and without incurring expense which the managers would be unable to meet. Further than that, it was found that the site was not suitable. The complaints of the Inspector were continuous down to 1888, and ultimately the Department notified that the grant would be refused. Upon that, the managers resolved that the school should be closed at Christmas, 1888. On the 15th of December, 1888, the Department wrote again to the School Board inviting their attention to the deficiency of school accommodation in the place, and adding that additional accommodation in a central position was urgently necessary, even irrespective of the closing of the British school. About this time the triennial election of the School Board was pending, and before the election came on there was an informal understanding arrived at by men of influence on both sides that if the Scotslane Schools were closed a School Board school should be opened. I do not say there was a compact or a written agreement, but there was an understanding as stated by men of high honour whose word is as good as that of the Bishop himself. The Bishop, however, forced this controversy upon different lines altogether, and was entirely opposed to a School Board school on any conditions whatever. He made personal appeals to the electors both in the Press and the pulpit, and the whole parochial agency and the whole organisation of the ecclesiastical party were put into operation to prevent a School Board school from being set up in Salisbury. There were 19,000 votes which might have been cast at the election, and of these 8,600 votes only supported the ecclesiastical part, and 6,300 were polled for a School Board school. The other electors remained neutral. I point out that to show that there was a large minority in favour of a School Board school. After the election of the new Board, the Department—on the 2nd March, 1882—called attention to its previous letters, and asked the Board to take into early consideration the question of the additional school accommodation required in the district. In the same month the managers of the Fisherton School, in the outskirts of the city, announced their intention of closing it after the next inspection, for they had come to the conclusion—and I think wisely—that it was no use straggling on with an imperfect staff, and that a good Board school was required to raise the tone of education in the city. The result of that step would of course be, by the following Christmas, to cause a deficiency of school accommodation for 800 children. In April, 1889, the Department wrote again to the Board, calling attention to the deficiency of the existing school accommodation and to the increase of that deficiency by the closing of the Fisherton School, and they asked the Board in what way provision was to be made for the children. The School Board deferred the consideration of that communication for a month. That is the way in which the Board procrastinated and ignored its functions. At the next meeting of the Board on the 15th of May a letter was read from the managers of the Church Day Schools Association offering to provide additional accommodation, and a school which previously had been a free school was assigned by those managers to the Kilburn Sisters to rebuild and to maintain under their sole management. The Board resolved to accept the offer, they passed a resolution to that effect, and the resolution was communicated to the Department. Thus, nearly a year and a half had elapsed since the Department first called the attention of the Board to the necessity for additional school accommodation. On the 19th June, 1889, the Department again wrote calling the attention of the Board to the fact that they were charged with the duty of providing adequate and permanent public elementary school accommodation for the children of the city, and that before their Lordships would feel justified in withholding a requisition addressed to the Board under Section 18 of the Elementary Education Act, they must be satisfied that the schools proposed to be provided by voluntary exertions were suitable for the purpose. The Department further asked for plans of the site and proposed buildings and an undertaking to maintain the proposed school as a public elementary school. A month or two later the Department reminded the Board as follows:— If their Lordships feel it their duty to make a formal requisition on the School Board to supply further accommodation. … it must be clearly understood that any school accommodation mentioned in the requisition must be supplied by your Board and not by other persons. On the 26th June the School Board replied—not very courteously, but rather in a shuffling and evasive way—and on the 30th. July the Department again wrote— My Lords accept the accommodation proposed in the proposed plan for the Bishop's higher grade school, but they must be satisfied with respect to the subscriptions for building and carrying on the school. And so the negotiations went on until at last the Board got an extension of time to the close of October. As a, result of the negotiations Memorials, influentially signed, were sent up to the Department from Salisbury; and in November I had the honour of introducing a deputation of the ratepayers, who laid their views before the Department. I may mention that the contract was signed on the 16th August; but up to the end of the year I believe no guarantee had been given, except the personal guarantee of the Bishop, and the contract entered into was a conditional contract, providing that the schools should be completed within six months from the time when the contractor was called upon to begin. The payment of the subscriptions was spread over a period of 10 years. One school— the Bishop's school—was to be a select school, in which the fees were fixed at 9d., and was not to be recognised as supplying any part of the deficiency. The answer given by Lord Cranbrook to the deputation was that there was no legal obligation on the School Board to take up that which others would do.


To secure a supply.


But in one of their letters the Department say it is the duty of the Board to provide adequate accommodation for elementary education. Well, the Board only provide it if other people do not. Why does the Department threaten the Board with a requisition if it does not do its duty? However generous the offer of the Bishop may be, his liability does not extend beyond the building of a school, for with a fee of 9d. a week and Government Grants a school can maintain itself, and 9d. is an absurd fee for an elementary school in Salisbury. Two new schools had been provided by the Board and accepted by the Department. They were built to provide nominally for 120 children in each department. Great was the astonishment when the Department would not certify for more than 98 in each; yet in a short time the same buildings were certified as affording accommodation for 146 in each department. That is the way in which the Department have met the demands for public school accommodation in Salisbury. Now, Sir, I have a word or two to say as to the interference of the Kilburn Sisters in the educational affairs of Salisbury. It is no part of my duty to complain of the practices or doctrines of that Sisterhood. But I may explain that it is an Anglican Sisterhood, known as the Church Extension Society, and as the Kilburn Sisters, who are active propagandists of doctrines not in accordance with the Articles and formularies of the Church of England, and opposed to the views of nine-tenths of the Protestants of this country; and to force children to attend schools taught by the Kilburn Sisters is an oppression of conscience of which no Member on either side of the House will approve. The result of the action of the Department is that the Kilburn Sisters and the Bishop of Salisbury are supplying the educational wants of the city, while the School Board escapes its obligations, and now there is no school in Salisbury which is not under the control of the Church of England, except one small Roman Catholic school, and 6,000 persons who are in favour of a School Board school are compelled to send their children to these schools. Now, Sir, Clause 7 of the Act of 1870 is, that the School Board shall maintain and keep efficient every school, and shall, from time to time, provide such efficient school accommodation as is, in their opinion, necessary, and if, at any time, they do not supply that accommodation, a requisition will follow. It is quite time that there is no obligation under this section to send a requisition; but on June 19th the Department threatened to send a requisition, unless their requirements were complied with. It was not obligatory; but they have the power, though not the duty, of doing it. These conditions were not complied, with four months after the date fixed, and one of them is not fulfilled at the present day. Yet no requisition has been sent. What are the facts of the case? That if the Bishop were to die, the whole scheme would break down. There would be no supply. The schools of Salisbury have been for many years in a poor and struggling condition, and the County of Wilts stands lowest in education of any county in England. I believe its Grants are 7 per cent. less than the next lowest county. The decision of the Department has placed it in this position: that practically the school supply is left to the Bishop and the Kilburn system. On the 19th October he said— Now, as long as he was Bishop of Salisbury he would never allow a Board school to be introduced into that town, as long as he had a penny in his pocket. That is not the Act of 1870. On the same occasion the Bishop told the inhabitants of Salisbury what the great and terrible German nation had resolved with regard to religious instruction. The Bishop spoke with approval of the German system, which compels every man to make a confession of faith, and allows teachers of religion in German schools. If the Bishop had turned to Mr. Matthew Arnold's Report upon religious teaching in German schools, he would have found it stated that in the best educated and most Protestant parts of Germany two-thirds of the working classes were alienated from religion. I think anyone who knows Germany knows the mischief that has been done to religious teaching and to religion itself by compulsory religious teaching. But in dealing with this question there is something still more important—the relation of the Church to Nonconformists in Salisbury. The effect of what I have been commenting upon will be to enforce the attendance of a reluctant minority at these ultra-sectarian schools. What can come of this but heartburning and strife? Complaints are made as to the working of the Conscience Clause already. I believe there are some Liberal clergymen in Salisbury who are exceedingly anxious so to adapt their proceedings as to minimise the number of days on which the Catechism is taught. But that only applies to the few. Already I have received numbers of letters from working men, some complaining that time after time their children have been left in the cold and darkness of the outer lobbies, while the teaching has been going on inside. Others complain that the children have not been withdrawn from this teaching. The right hon. Gentleman has heard several of these complaints. A working man sent his daughter to the Fishburn School after the British School was closed. She was then received on the payment of 3d. per week. He claimed the Conscience Clause; and when they heard she was in the Seventh Standard, they said "You must pay 9d. a week to remain here." A penalty was placed on this child, either because the Conscience Clause was claimed or because she was in the Seventh Standard. How is this going to promote the education of Salisbury? What is the duty of the Department if it is not to promote education? Is it the duty of the Education Department to provide sectarian education? What will be the result of the action of the Education Department in Salisbury? The right hon. Gentleman knows that the schools of Salisbury are poor and struggling, and that many of them are, structurally, very bad. One has been condemned, I am told, since the Fishburn Schools were closed, by H.M. Inspector Green. And so encouraged are the Church Party in Salisbury by the action of the Department that they have been talking of petitioning for the removal of Mr. Green. There can be no better evidence of the poverty of the schools of Salisbury than that the free schools are obliged now to charge a fee. As a result, the School Board have to send working men to the Board of Guardians to get payment of their fees; the working-men are very unwilling to go, and the Board are very reluctant to prosecute them for not going. What would have been the result if the Department had taken a different line of action? Supposing the Department had met the thing promptly when it first arose, and established a School Board school to begin with. What would have been the result? A Board school would have raised the tone of education in Salisbury; it would have been a model and an example for the rest of the schools; it would not have been an advantage to Nonconformists; it would have been an advantage to education. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the School Board could then have remitted the fees of the working-classes. The result of better organisation of the Church schools has been that they have benefited by the increased Grant to the extent of from 2s. 6d. to 13s. per head. One good Board school would have raised the character of the whole education of Salisbury. It would have been of advantage to the Church schools if they had had the competition of one or two good Board schools, as it would not only have raised their tone, but have increased their earnings immensely. The right hon. Gentleman says that this was not the spirit of the Education Act. Let me remind him of what the late Mr. W. Forster said when that Act was passed. He said— The education of the people's children by the people's officers chosen in their local assemblies, and controlled by the people's Representatives in Parliament—that is the principle on which the Bill is based, and it is the ultimate force which lies behind every clause. But where, I ask, are the people's schools in Salisbury managed by the people's officers, and managed for the people? There are no such schools. There are no schools into which anyone would care to send a child, unless it be the Church schools. In 1876 the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer appealed to the Vice President of the Council of that day, and asked if the school supply, which was referred to, consisted of Unitarian schools, would he dare to force the attendance of children in them? Suppose the Catholics had built those schools—because it means this if it means anything—would you have regarded them as suitable and have allowed the School Board to enforce attendance in them? No; you would have ordered other schools to have been built forthwith; but as it is, you are doing what is much more objectionable. This matter has been one of great controversy, and I myself was forced into a controversy with the Bishop in regard to it. I acknowledge the thorough honesty of purpose and the good intentions which animate the Bishop; but I am afraid he is an extremely narrow ecclesiastic, and has very little toleration for those who differ from him. I have armed myself with letters respecting this question of the Salisbury schools from all parts of England, from beneficed clergymen not only in Salisbury but all over the country, and also from the laity on a much more extensive scale. I should like to read one letter I have received from a beneficed clergyman in Salisbury, as I think it will give the House a fair picture of what is going on in that city. [Cries of"Name !"] I will give names where I think it necessary, but I cannot undertake to give the names in every case I quote, because there are some men whose names it would not be fair to read, as it might interfere with their personal comfort considering that they have to look to ecclesiastics for the position they maintain. One letter is from Edmund's rectory, in which the clergyman says that, as the only beneficed clergyman in Salisbury who is conscientiously opposed to the action of the Bishop, he thought it necessary to protest that the Bishop's policy was most lamentable in its results and was doing much harm to the cause of the Church of England and of religion. This is a letter from an excellent man who does honour to the Church by his learning and ability, and of whom all who know him speak with admiration and effect. I am afraid I have detained the House too long in reference to the question of Salisbury. I will now briefly touch on the case of York, which I think the House will find is even worse than that of Salisbury, from the point of view of neglect on the part of the Education Department. In the Salisbury case, the Department were empowered to do certain statutory things, and ought to have exercised the discretion they possessed; but in the case of York, they had to perform a statutory duty, and this duty they have undoubtedly neglected. There are numerous Reports in the Education Department showing that many of the schools in York were, structurally, unsuitable, while the fees were exceptionally high. The right hon. Gentleman will not dispute this, as the Department declined to recognise All Saints' school in 1886. There was a large deficiency of school places, and, after a long correspondence, the final notice was issued in 1888. Instead of creating the necessary places the School Board accepted the offer of the Church Extension Association to create 600 places, in spite of strong protests from many denominations. I contend that it is not in the power of the School Board to allow any one else to do the work which they are bound to do. On the acceptance of the offer, protests were immediately raised from Public Bodies of many denominations, and Petitions were sent to the Department. A copy of the Board's resolution of October 4, accepting the offer, was sent to the Department, and on the 31st January, 1890, the Department replied, informing the Board that they were advised that it was not the duty of the Department to send a requisition—so that the Department gave up the requisition—and asked that the plans of the school which was proposed to be built should be forwarded to the Department without delay for their approval. Now, I am curious to hear what the right hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Hart Dyke) has to say in defence of this action, because it has ever been held as a canon in the Education Department, and indeed it was decided in the famous Willesden case by Lord Herschell, that when a School Board has been set up for the purpose of supplying a deficiency, no other Body but the School Board can afterwards supply that deficiency. I should like the right hon. Gentleman, if he has any precedent to the contrary, to show it to me. All I know is, that when I was at the Education Department I was told that there was no such precedent. It appears to me that there was less excuse in the case of the City of York for the non-supply of accommodation than in any other case that I ever knew. The state of education in York, according to the statements of the present Chairman of the School Board, is disgraceful. In the first place, 2,100 children are at the present time in private adventure and dame schools—a state of things which I do not believe is equalled anywhere else. Some of these schools are held in the ordinary living rooms of private houses and in other unsuitable premises. Another difficulty they have in York which has given much trouble is connected with the school fees. The fees are exceedingly high, averaging 14s. 7½d., and the Chairman says that even men who are in regular work, but who have small wages, cannot afford to pay these fees, and consequently they are brought into contact with the degrading machinery of pauperism. I take shame to myself that I did not find out when I was at the Department that York was in so bad a condition. Then there is the system of raising the fees as the child rises in the school, which prevents parents from sending their children regularly to school, and induces them to take them away as soon as they are old enough to earn money. This state of things is being perpetuated by the Government, and it not only reflects discredit upon the Government, but does the greatest possible harm to education. I know that nothing has been so beneficial to the voluntary schools as the competition of the School Board schools. All through Yorkshire I can find towns where the average earnings are 3s. per head higher than in York. In fact, it is a misfortune for a child to be born in the City of York, for he is worse off in the matter of education than any other child. Why is this? This is done in the name of religious education. If there is one thing more than another that was impressed upon this House by the late Mr. Forster, it was that parents should have free choice of schools. There is no free choice of schools in York, and there is not going to be any so far as the Education Department is concerned. I say that if the Education Department had taken into consideration not only that the supply should be sufficient, but that it should be efficient, such a decision as this could never have been come to. I am of opinion that the Government has neglected to use the powers conferred upon it by the Education Act, and distinctly failed in the performance of its statutory duty in respect of these schools. I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House is of opinion that the action of the Education Department in reference to the supply of public school accommodation in the Cities of York and Salisbury is contrary to the spirit and intention of the Education Act of 1870, and injurious to the interests of Education."—(Mr. Mundella.)

*(5.42.) MR. HULSE (Salisbury)

As representing one of the two constituencies referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments whilst I endeavour to place hon. Members in possession of the real facts of the education controversy, so far as Salisbury is concerned. I cannot presume to enter into a discussion with the right hon. Gentleman as to the scope or even the merits of the Education Act of 1870, or the Department over which the right hon. Gentleman presided for so many years, but I think I can speak with some confidence and authority as to the wishes and desires of my constituents in this matter. Hon. Members are no doubt aware that Salisbury and its Bishop have been the subject of articles and leaders in the public organs of the Metropolis for some time, owing, no doubt, to the prominent part the right hon. Gentleman has taken in this controversy. The right hon. Gentleman was correct in more than one statement he has made, but, so far as the population of Salisbury is concerned, he is incorrect in saying that the population of the Salisbury school district is 19,000.


I said, I think, that the number of votes cast at the School Board election was 19,000.


The population is 18,000, and evenly balanced as have been its many political conflicts, and narrow as have been the majorities of those who have been privileged to represent it in this House, I think Salisbury is practically determined to uphold the voluntary system in its schools, and, if possible, to promote and continue the modus vivendi both for Church and Dissent. This is no mere sectarian struggle to which the right hon. Gentleman has drawn the attention of this House. Every honest effort has been made by the City of Salisbury to meet the educational wants of the population. The deficiency which the right hon. Gentleman complains of was not caused by the speedy growth of the population, but rather by what I might venture to call the very mistaken action of the members and supporters of the British and Foreign Schools Society, of which the right hon. Gentleman is President, and whose mouthpiece in this matter he has declared himself throughout his speech to be. The educational controversy in Salisbury dates back as far as 1871 and 1872, when, for a short time, there was a recognised deficiency of accommodation, which was met by the building of the free school to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the deputation which he introduced to Lord Cranbrook, I think in November last. Well, according to the statement of the working man member of the present School Board, whom the right hon. Gentleman introduced with a deputation to Lord Cranbrook, there was no contest for nine years after the establishment of this free school for the School Board. The School Board of Salisbury then, as now, had a majority in favour of the voluntary system, and against the erection of Board schools, at the expense of the ratepayers. Only 12 months ago, at the instigation of the Board school party, the question was threshed out as to whether there should be Board schools and a continuation and extension of the existing system, and the present Board was returned by a large majority in favour of the voluntary system. So far as I am able to judge, as representing Salisbury, I am confident that a majority of my constituents are in favour of the voluntary system, and I have no fear that the Bishop will, in his new technical school, only admit the sons of Churchmen, or that the Conscience Clause will be abrogated, or that the Catechism or other formularies of the Church will be inflicted on unwilling hearers. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to one or two cases of working men objecting to the teaching in these schools, but I would remind him that in two of the particular instances, although the parents took advantage of the Conscience Clause, they sent their children to the Sunday schools, and that in another case a parent who took advantage of the clause removed his child to a Roman Catholic school. Well, Sir, as a matter of fact, the Catechism is taught in the Salisbury schools only once a week, on Friday morning's. The Nonconformist parents know very well that they can either send their children to school at 9.45 on Fridays, when the Catechism is over, or, as many have done, they can send their children at 9 o'clock on the understanding that for three quarters of an hour, whilst the Catechism is being taught, their children shall be provided with secular training. The right hon. Gentleman has been unceasing in his arguments elsewhere that the object of the Act of 1870 was to give to the parent a choice of schools. I do not take that view. I have always thought, on the contrary, that the grievance of the Radical Party was that the object of Mr. Forster's Act was only to supply existing deficiences; but if the object of the Act is what the right hon. Gentleman contends there would be, or ought to be, a couple of rival schools not only in every urban but in every rural parish throughout England. So far as I in my humble way can judge this is not a working man's grievance in Salisbury, but a sectarian grievance, fostered and encouraged by certain reverend gentlemen who are anxious to make political capital out of it. The closing of the British schools was, in the opinion of many, only a piece of political strategy, and wholly unnecessary. To use the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) in his published correspondence with the Bishop of Salisbury, if the supporters of these schools wished only to rate themselves they might have done so; they might have saved them from extinction, and have prevented all this grievance. The truth is that the supporters of these British schools wish to rate Churchmen, Roman Catholics, Wesleyans, and other Nonconformists for the purpose of erecting and maintaining schools which they had not the public spirit to maintain and keep going themselves. But, even before this, the Church Day Schools' Association was started to prevent the abandonment of the existing schools, and also to supply the future educational needs of the city. Nearly 18 months ago many of the leading citizens subscribed to the British schools, as well as to the parochial schools, and, so far from the Bishop having been intolerant—he may have been on one occasion somewhat injudicious, a point the right hon. Gentleman has made the most of—at a meeting at the Palace, when the probability of closing the schools was first announced, he offered the assistance of the friends of the voluntary system to keep the British schools going, and also to satisfy the requirements of the Department respecting them. I am extremely sorry to have to weary the House with figures, but I should like to state what the school accommodation is. The population of the school district of Salisbury is 18,000, and, taking the children of school age at the very liberal estimate required by the Department of one-sixth of the population, they will number 3,000. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the school accommodation of Salisbury in February, 1888. There was then provision in the existing schools for 3,086 children. The actual number on the register was 2,534, and the actual daily average attendance was 2,264. The two British schools that were closed provided accommodation for 310 and 340 children respectively, whilst the Roman Catholics, who never neglect their children, provided accommodation for between 90 and 100. When the Bishop's Higher Grade School is open, as it shortly will be, there will be accommodation for 4,119 children, reckoned on the basis approved by the Education Department. Hon. Members will ask what is the reason for this greatly extended accommodation? It is due to the fact that on the Report of the School Inspector the Education Department required that the City of Salisbury should be divided into certain districts, in each of which the necessary school accommodation should be provided without allowing a superfluity of places in one part of the city to be set off against the deficiencies elsewhere. This has been done at the sole expense of the Church party. I would further point out that since the British schools were closed there have been 1,653 places provided to make up for the loss of the 650 places which were so unduly and wantonly sacrificed by the closing of the British schools. We have, therefore, an excess of accommodation for 1,585 children, which, I believe, is sufficient to provide for the growth of population for at least another generation. If every child of school age from three to 13 attended an elementary school in Salisbury there would still be an excess of accommodation for 1,119 children, all requirements of the Department having been fulfilled. I think the Bishop has done everything in his power to promote and foster Christian feeling between the various Religious Bodies in the city. In the higher grade school, which has been erected at the entire cost of his Lordship, I believe there will be found some of the best and cleverest boys in the city, no matter what be their creed, and whether their parents go to chapel, or, unfortunately, to no place of worship at all. There will be 20 Free Scholarships open annually to all the other elementary schools in the neighbourhood. This controversy has been fomented by appeals to the Liberation Society for resolutions of sympathy, and also by the most violent attacks on the Kilburn Sisters. Of course it does not come within my province to take up the cudgels on behalf of the Kilburn Sisters. It may be that their great zeal has somewhat outrun their discretion. I would, however, point out that they came to Salisbury by invitation, and by an arrangement with the managers of the free school. It was arranged that if, at the end of a year, the work of the Kilburn Sisters was not appreciated and satisfactory, the managers of the free school could take over the premises at a valuation. The treatment which the Education Department has meted out to the supporters of the existing schools has not been especially favourable. The educational wants of the city have been met in the promptest and most liberal manner. Out of the £14,000 required to place Salisbury on an efficient educational basis, £13,000 has already been subscribed. The contracts for building new schools were made in such a way that actions could be brought against the contracting parties if the work was not proceeded with or the money not forthcoming. I have myself inspected the new schools, in company with others who are far better able to judge. We found they were built in an admirable way, and that they met in every respect the requirements of the Department. If hon. Members will take the trouble to look at the map of Salisbury, in the Library, they will find the schools so situated that no child in Salisbury has to walk as much as one mile, or anything approaching it, to attend his or her school. I think that in the city there is a perfect choice of schools, and perfect liberty of conscience, and I would submit to the House that on no ground, either educational or sentimental, ought any censure to be passed upon the action of the Department, or upon the wishes of the citizens. In my humble opinion, the time of this House is being wasted upon a local dispute, into which a great deal of sectarian bitterness has been interposed, and where I have no hesitation in saying that the law, both in its letter and in its spirit, has been fairly and justly administered, and, so far from the Educational Department having specially favoured Salisbury, I would go so far as to say that in some of its demands it has been almost arbitrary and exacting. I cannot see any legal or moral reason why the School Board should be called upon to spend thousands of the ratepayers' money when the cost of providing for the education of the children is readily, willingly, and cheerfully supplied from private sources.

*(6.5.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)

The hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Hulse) has spoken of the debate as the airing of a local dispute in the House of Commons. I venture to say that anyone acquainted with the history of the educational controversy is aware that the debate which my right hon. Friend has started, not only raises points of importance to the two places to which it relates, but also involves the most important principles. I will not go into the details of the matter, as they have been exhaustively dealt with by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Mundella), but I would point out that one practical result of the action which has been taken at Salisbury is that the building arrangements of the new schools will be carried out on the eight feet principle of the voluntary schools instead of on the ten foot principle of the Board schools. The hon. Member (Mr. Hulse) claims to act on the principle of a bare majority on this question of religious education. That brings us exactly to the point of this debate. The result of the action of the Education Department is that in a place which actually has a School Board the state of affairs is pushed back to what it was in 1870, when Mr. Forster's first proposals were put before the House, and before the discussions which finally resulted in the adoption of the Cowper-Temple Clause. But it is even worse than that, because the principle of compulsion has now been introduced, so that the children of Nonconformists are forced to go to schools where the religious education given is contrary to their principles. The noble Lord the Member for Rossen-dale (the Marquess of Hartington), in the notable speech he delivered when Lord Sandon's Bill was before the House said— What is the position of Nonconformists under the Bill? They were forced, for the first time, to send their children to schools of the character of which they did not altogether approve. … They were called upon to submit to these disadvantages in the name of educational progress, and as the logical consequence of the legislation of 1870. Who are the persons to whom I have been thus referring/? Are they persons of whose feelings, sympathies, and prejudices the House ought to he negligent? They had done much for religion and morality. They had done much for the Constitutional liberties of this country. These are men whose feelings and prejudices cannot be safely neglected by either side of the House. I should have thought if not justice, at all events, generosity, would have led those having at their command a powerful majority to consider carefully the feelings, and even the prejudices, of these men. The hon. Member for Salisbury says there is no intolerance in Salisbury, but that the Bishop has been most anxious to foster a Christian spirit. I challenge that statement most emphatically. I say there is intolerance when you deny to the Nonconformists an opportunity of having a school where they can receive that simple Bible teaching and training which Nonconformists are accustomed to, and which they demand; and when you force the children of Nonconformists to go to a school such as that started under the auspices of the Kilburn Sisters, at which the children have either to listen to religious teaching which is based on the doctrine of transubstantiation, the doctrine of auricular confession, and in any other doctrines of that kind, or to protect themselves by putting in operation the Conscience Clause. I have not one word to say against the work of the Kilburn Sisters in general. I know something of it, and I believe these Sisters are doing noble and good work in the country amongst the poor; and, that being so, I ask why should they leave this good work and enter on this miserable battle of sectarianism and attempt to obtain a monopoly of the whole religious teaching of a city? Why should they look with such jealousy on the wishes of the Nonconformists to have a simple Bible teaching? I might quote from the books and pamphlets issued under the auspices of the Church Extension Association to show the lengths that association will go to misrepresent the action of the School Boards in regard to religion. We have always supposed that the Act of 1870 placed a great engine at the disposal of the Education Department, in order to maintain religious equality, in order to give a fair chance in these matters to every section of the community. We have a right to challenge the action of the Education Department when we see they are throwing the whole weight of their official power into carrying out this bitter spirit of sectarian propagandism. What the Nonconformists wish is excellently explained by Cardinal Newman, in the following words:— These are only denominations, parties, schools, compared with the National Religion of England in its length and breadth. 'Bible religion' is both the recognised title and the best description of English religion. It consists not in rites and creeds, but mainly in having the Bible read in Church, in the family, and in private. Now, I am far indeed from undervaluing that mere knowledge of Scripture, which is imparted thus promiscuously. At least, in England it has to a certain point made up for great and grievous losses in it Christianity. The reiteration again and again in fixed course, in the Public Service, of the words of inspired teachers under both covenants, and that in grave, majestic English, has, in matter of fact, been to our people a vast benefit. It has attuned their minds to religious thoughts and has given them a high moral standard. It has served thorn in associating religion with compositions which, even humanly considered, are among the most sublime and beautiful ever written; especially it has impressed upon them the series of Divine Providences in behalf of man from his creation to his end; and, above all, the words, deeds, and sacred offerings of Him in whom all the Providences of God centre. It has been comparatively careless of creed and catechism, and has, in consequence, shown little sense of the need of consistency. What Scripture illustrates from its first page to its last, is God's Providence, and that is nearly the only doctrine held with a real assent by the mass of religious Englishmen. Hence, the Bible is so great a solace and refuge to them in trouble. I am not speaking of particular schools and parties … but of the mass of piously-minded and well-living people in all ranks of the community. The result of the action of the Department has been, in Salisbury and York, to deprive the children of Nonconformists of just that simple Bible teaching, the value of which that distinguished English Roman Catholic, whose words I have quoted, recognises. We are asked to allow a simple majority on a School Board to decide what the religious teaching is to be. I must say in defence of the Dissenters of the country that they never have been intolerant, and they are not intolerant now. They have rather been too tolerant in their action in regard to education. They have consented to compromise after compromise. In 1870 they were satisfied with compromises which experience has amply proved had no real basis, and afforded no protection of their rights. Now, with regard to Salisbury, I am free to admit that the actual letter of the law is on the side of the Education Department. I only charge the Department with breaking the real spirit of the education proposals of 1870, the spirit of fair play and a generous interpretation of the rights of the different sects in the community. As to York, I assert that the letter which has been quoted in full by my right hon. Friend must be interpreted as a legitimate requisition sent to the York School Board. We not only have the opinion of two of the most eminent lawyers in the country that under Clause 10 of the Education Act, where a Board is constituted to supply deficiency of school accommodation, it is absolutely the duty of the Education Department to issue a requisition in due course. We not only have that contention supported by the opinion of Lord Herschell and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir H. James), but we have the letter of the Department. I challenge the Vice President of the Council to state how that letter can be explained except as giving the actual directions, which are equivalent to a requisition. It seems to me as absurd to challenge the description of that as a legitimate requisition to the York School Board as it would be for anyone to challenge the form of a notice to quit so long as the intention was manifest, and because it was not given on the usual printed form of the estate, or because it was written in a less formal manner than usual. But the cases of York and Salisbury do not stand alone. Even in the last few weeks there has been an extension of the war to Notting- ham. The people of Nottingham re turned a Church majority of one upon the School Board, and the other day the majority passed a resolution asking the Education Department to sanction the giving of grants to a school belonging to the Kilburn Sisterhood, or the Church Extension Association, which school is in a district where it is perfectly notorious there is an immense surplus of School places already. There are no less than 850 places vacant in Church schools in the immediate neighbourhood of the proposed Kilburn Sisters School. Taking into calculation a small school erected by the School Board there are 1,150 vacant places. That shows the real spirit with which we have to deal. This is a war carried on against the School Board system, against religious equality, against the rights it may be in some places, as in Salisbury, of a minority of the community. I heartily support the Motion.

(6.25.) MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)

The lion. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr.Charming) and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mun-della) who introduced the Motion, spoke of what they called a bare majority. Let me remind them that when certain Members of the House put down a Motion about a bare majority, it was said that no such thing existed.


I did not say a bare majority; I quoted the exact figures.


Now, four to three is a very large majority; indeed, it is a larger majority than that which governs the country at the present time. Moreover, the minority in the case of Salisbury is very much smaller than the right hon. Gentleman would have us believe. It is fair to suppose that when the Nonconformists of Salisbury prepared the petition which they put into the right hon Gentleman's hands, they endeavoured to get every vote they possibly could. How many did they get? They got 3,000. But how did they collect the 3,000? They went to the ministers of the Nonconformist chapels, and each minister signed for the whole of his congregation. In the same way the Dean of St. Paul's signature may be taken to represent 10,000 signatures. Such is the way in which figures are cooked in Salisbury. It must be understood that the majority is not a' casual majority, but a majority of people who have voted on this question for the last 20 years, and have always outvoted the Nonconformists. They have done that because there is ample school supply, and because they do not want additional burdens to be thrown on the ratepayers. I think the right hon. Gentleman and his friends should trust the people a little more. Surely the people of Salisbury are worthy of the confidence which is placed in them by the Education Law which declares that they shall have the responsibility of supplying the education required by them. At all events, this new idea is quite contrary to the opinion of the society over which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mundella) presides— the British and Foreign School Society— for that society protests against the notion that Local Bodies can throw on the Department responsibilities which attach to themselves. I do not propose to say much with regard to the law of this question, because the hon. Member for Northamptonshire declared that the law was against the contention of the right hon. Member for Sheffield.


Only as regards Salisbury.


I am speaking of Salisbury. For a long time all precedents have been against the right hon. Gentleman. Almost in every case where School Boards have desired that educational provision shall be made by Voluntary Bodies, it has been made by such Bodies, and so strongly has this been asserted in the practice of the Educational Department that in Yorkshire a Board school has been suppressed and a Voluntary school allowed to take its place. That, I believe, has been done in other places; at all events in many towns in England besides Salisbury, and where there are no School Boards whatever. Why are we to over-ride the wishes of the majority in the locality? The British and foreign schools were supported by the society, and why was the support withdrawn? Why were they disestablished in Salisbury? Other religious denominations were quite willing to supply the managers with all the money necessary to keep on the admission conditions of the British and foreign schools. I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman had anything to do with the suppression of the schools of the society of which he is President. I think it was because the British and Foreign denominationalists thought they could get the religious teaching they desired propagated at the expanse of the ratepayers and not at their own expense. This is not a question between religious and secular education, it is a question between one sort of religious education propagated at the ratepayers' expense and whether those who support this particular form of religious teaching shall pay for it themselves. The British and Foreign Society for spreading religious education is founded on a religious basis, its efforts are directed to the promotion of religious education, the children in its schools are enjoined to attend religious worship, and the religious teaching it provides is a cardinal point pressed upon its supporters. But they think now that the School Board form of religious teaching is the same as that professed by the British and Foreign Society of which the right hon. Gentleman is the High Priest. Like all new sects they are propagandists, and wish to force their religion on unwilling receivers. The right hon. Gentleman has complained that outsiders have come in and filled up deficiencies at Salisbury. He has complained of the action of the Kilburn Sisters. I should have thought that they might have been spared. These are a society of philanthropic ladies, who have done great service in schools and orphanages, and I think they might have been spared this attack. Why does the right hon. Gentleman com plain of the action of outsiders? I should like to ask him are not he and his society outsiders sometimes? Why, this society of his have taken upon themselves the responsibility of providing schools all over England, in the colonies, and abroad, and are they not outsiders? How can he, their President, come here and complain of outsiders, who, he says, have no right to supply school accommodation? Why, his society have gone as far as Armenia. I should like to know whether the public opinion of Armenia is in favour of the schools he supports? They certainly do express a doubt whether their denominationalism is satisfactory to Jews and others, but this Denominational Society think it is very hard that any other denominationalism but themselves should support schools which they think are of a religious character and deserve support. I only wish the right hon. Gentleman could see himself as others see him. He complains of the Bishop of Salisbury who has come forward and built and endowed a school. He objects to that, and it certainly is very different from his own line of action, for, when I look over the list of subscribers to the British and Foreign Bible Society, I declare I can hardly find his own name amongst them. I daresay he complains of the liberality of other men who think they ought to support their own opinions not only by voice but by purse. The example of the Bishop of Salisbury is one that deserves great commendation, and I hope it will be followed throughout England to the advantage of education, religious and secular.

*(8.35) SIR W. HART DYKE

The right hon. Gentleman who has brought this Motion under the notice of the House did, in doing so, range over a very wide field, touching incidentally on a vast number of topics, some of them, it seems to me, having little or no relation to the Motion. He referred to the compromise arrived at in the Act of 1870, and to the various criticisms to which that Act had been subjected. Well, there can be no doubt, as the right hon. gentleman argued, that a compromise such as that must meet with critics on both sides when it comes into operation; and, for myself, I am not quite sure that the adverse criticisms the Act has undergone from both sides has, during the last 20 years, been a disadvantage. The right hon. Gentleman has given us a historical survey of the Department over which I have the honour to preside, a Department which, like the Education Act, has its critics. It is right that this should be so, but when he seems to indicate in the faintest degree that the permanent officials of the Department are in any possible sense responsible or liable for any action I, or anyone in my position, may have taken, I am sure that that is not a proposition he would wish to state.


NO, I make no such suggestion. I entirely disclaim it.


The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the late Mr. Cumin, and I join in the expression of regret for the loss the public service sustained by his death. I am quite certain no more conscientious or laborious servant ever entered the Civil Service, and it may be said truly that he "died in harness." So much for the Department. And then the right hon. Gentleman dealt with other matters, which, if not exactly foreign to the Motion, were thoroughly extraneous in their nature; and it seemed to me that the points and difficulties urged were not so much in elucidation of his Motion before the House, which is in the nature of a Motion of Censure u ion the Department, as addressed against the root and principle of the Act of 1870. He spoke of the action of the majority, and though, as he said just now, he did not mention the exact figures of that majority, at any rate he did indicate in his speech that there was something of a grievance that might fairly be urged on behalf of the minority at Salisbury. Now, I do not say that I endorse every action taken by the majority at Salisbury; it is no part of my duty to do so; it is beside the question, and forms no part of the defence I have to make; but it seems to me that in regard to the position of majority and minority, we who sit in this House should be the last to complain of the working of the system. Why, do not the right hon. Gentleman and his friends daily, almost hourly, assure us that they only require an appeal to the country to be placed in a majority, and therefore in power? What would he say if, as he—I think wrongly —predicts, that that appeal should result in his favour—suppose by any accident he should find himself in a majority? How would he receive our complaint that we were not allowed the luxury of administrative and legislative functions? It is manifestly absurd, but I do not think it is an extravagant way of illustrating the position urged on behalf of the minority in the City of Salisbury. After all what is the grievance? The relative positions of majorities and minorities are the very essence of the Act. After all, the very worst that can be made of the grievance is that the majority of the School Board in the City of Salisbury—did what? They obeyed not only their own instincts, but the wishes of those who placed them in their representative position. The right hon. Gentleman has descanted on the action of the Kilburn Sisterhood, but that is very far a field of the question before us. If he can show me any section, any line in the Act of 1870, or of succeeding Acts, which indicates that the Department shall step in, on any possible occasion, at any instant, and say that when a deficiency is supplied by voluntary agencies, that it shall not be done by the action of external agencies, then he might have something to urge in this respect. I may come somewhat near the right hon. Gentleman in regard to his opinion of the tenets held by the Kilburn Sisterhood, but that is beside the question. If there is any grievance whatever in a school that is taught by the Kilburn Sisters being unfit for the children of Dissenters, those who feel the grievance should propose the Amendment of the Act of 1870, and of the protection therein provided, which has stood the test of 20 years. The criticism, of the right hon. Gentleman is far a field altogether from his Motion of Censure upon the Department. What is the Motion before us? It is practically a Motion of Censure on the Department with which I am connected, because in two instances, in two localities in supplying accommodation demanded the Department has availed itself of accommodation offered contrary to the spirit and intention of the Act of 1870, and in a manner prejudicial to the interests of education. The right hon. Gentleman has said something pointing to the delay he said had taken place in the operation of the Department in regard to these cases. I should like for a moment to recall to the House what is the guiding principle that Mr. Forster urged, and is still applied, to the Act of 1870, that the School Board system is to supplement and not to supplant voluntary effort. If hon. Members who have followed these discussions will refer to one or two clauses of the Act, they will find that the tendency is clearly shown. For instance, when the first notice is given that accommodation is to be found what is the month's notice for? And what is the further delay of six months after the final notice for—when Mr. Forster introduced the Act the period was 12 months? What does this mean? Simply to give voluntary effort the opportunity to till up the gap. It is only after this appeal to voluntary effort has been found to be fruitless that the Department is to step in and take the necessary means for supplying the deficiency through the agency of the School Board. That is the foundation and essential part of the Act the Department is called upon to administer. The right hon. Gentleman has gone over a long history, extending over an hour, of the Salisbury case;, but through that long history I do not need to follow him, and there is little to induce me to do so in support of my point that the action which has been taken in the present case by the Department is entirely within the spirit of the Act. I join issue with the right hon. Gentleman on the point that when notice had once been given, the deficiency was to he filled up, not by means of voluntary effort, but out of the rates. There was some indication of that view in the earlier part of his speech, though the contention absolutely broke down towards the close. I can show that by the action taken by the Department the deficiencies in this case were filled up in much less time than would have been the case had the whole action been left to the School Board, and that the Department, in allowing these vacancies to be filled up by voluntary effort, acted strictly within the meaning and intention of the Act. Here I may quote from the evidence given by Mr. Cumin before the Royal Commission. He, being asked whether after a School Board is established the School Board may accept voluntary support, replied— The point has never been submitted to the Law Officers, but the practice of the Department has been to accept such voluntary provision. Therefore, so far as the Department is concerned with the case at Salisbury, I might sit down at this moment. The correspondence which has taken place on the subject shows that the steps taken prove that the Department carried out fairly and fully the provisions of the Act by seeing that the necessary accommoda- tion was supplied. The British School was closed in December, 1888, and thereupon there was an offer from the Church Day School Association in Salisbury, a most generous offer from the Church party to pay off the debts of the managers of the British Schools, to subscribe liberally towards any building that might be necessary, and subscribe annually towards their maintenance, while leaving the whole management in the hands of the Nonconformists. Anew School Board was elected, and the whole question of school efficiency was before the electors. The denominationalist party by their action in closing the schools tried to force the hands of the Church party. I do not stay to question the propriety of the proceeding, but it was done to provoke a crisis. In April, 1889, the Department required the School Board to take these matters into consideration, and after further correspondence on May 16 the School Board replied by a majority of four out of seven they had adopted the scheme of the Church Day School managers to supply the deficiency. The letter of the Department (June 19) the right hon. Gentleman has already quoted. Both the letter of the Department and the reply of the Board bear the strongest evidence of a determination that the deficiency in school accommodation should be filled up. The language in the letter of the Department has, indeed, been commented upon by some of our friends in Salisbury for its harshness, but the reply of the School Board fully indicates their sense of the responsibility of their position. The result was—and this is the reply to the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman on what he calls the inaction of the Department—that within 12 months of the election of the School Board the whole of the deficiencies were supplied. The right hon. Gentleman has said that it is the duty of the Department to— Provide such accommodation as in the opinion of the Department is necessary to supply the deficiency in school accommodation. I venture to submit that the Department fully complied with that requisition, and have discharged their duties with due desspatch. In no case where a School Board has had to supply a deficiency has it ever been supplied in less than 12 months. I hold in my hand a list of some dozen cases taken at random, the smallest interval is 14 months, and the period has sometimes extended to three years. I do not think that the Department can be blamed, because they have paid due regard to the wishes of the locality in this matter. In that, again, the Department have acted within the spirit and also within the letter of the Act of 1870. Why were School Boards made elective bodies? I apprehend that they were set up by the Act of 1870 to give the localities free expression of their opinions with regard to their educational affairs; and to say at the present time, 20 years after the Act has been in operation, that the localities are not to be allowed to express their wishes in the matter is absurd. Further, I think we have acted on what is almost an axiom of the Department that every public elementary school (i.e., whose educational efficiency is recognised by the Department, and which is protected by the Conscience Clause) is ipso facto a suitable school. We have acted entirely within the meaning and intention of the Act and the principle of legislation it contains. I think I have established my case that the Department in no way acted outside the scope of the Act, and proceeded with all despatch to supply the necessary accommodation at Salisbury. And now I should like to refer to the other case mentioned, the importance of which I admit. Now, I am prepared to deny the accuracy of some of the observations with which the right lion. Gentleman prefaced his observations with regard to the educational condition of the City of York. He said that the education and the structural state of the schools there are bad; but I can assure the House that I have no evidence from the Inspectors— and that is the only evidence I have to to go upon in all these matters—that the education there is bad nor that the structural state of the schools is unsatisfactory. The question of the need for accommodation at York was first raised by the Department in 1887. A long inquiry ensued, and the first notice was issued on January 23, 1888, in which further accommodation was declared to be necessary for 600 scholars. After a long correspondence the final notice was issued by the Department on May 22, 1888, the accommodation declared necessary now being raised from 600 to 1,000, this being on account of a threat of discontinuance held out by the managers of the Hope Street British School. Subsequently, on January 22, 1889, an order for the formation of a School Board was made. The whole of this case hinges upon the question whether it was or was not necessary that the Department should issue a requisition—that is, exercise the power by which it can compel a reluctant School Board to do its duty. If a School Board declines to do its duty then the Department can put in force a requisition and insist on the Board fulfilling its obligations. Now, at the time the final notice expired voluntary efforts had been made to fill up the deficiency; 248 places had already been supplied, but, beyond that directly the School Board was elected they set about supplying further vacancies, and later on they sent plans to the Department by which they proposed to supply places for no fewer than 659 scholars. There fore, the House will observe that at this very juncture when the right hon. Gentleman urges that the Department should have issued their requisition, all the school places except 93 had either been supplied or were in course of being supplied with due despatch, and there fore it becomes a very arguable point whether it was proper in these circum stances to issue the requisition or not. It is clear that efforts were being made to supply the deficiency by voluntary effort. The deficit of 93 places was, after all, only an apparent deficiency, because it was actually in process of being s applied at the very date when the Department had to decide whether it should issue the requisition. I am aware that Mr. Cumintook a different view from what some of us took on the point. It was decided to refer the matter to the Law Officers of the Crown, and the Law Officers held that as the deficiency mentioned in the final notice had either been fully supplied, or was in course of being supplied with due despatch, it was neither the duty nor within the power of the Department to issue a requisition. There I am content to rest this case as far as the House of Commons is concerned. The Willesden case to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred is not on all fours with the present one, because there the requisition was issued, and so the School Board were obliged to do their duty, notwithstanding that voluntary efforts were being made to fill up the deficiency. The crux of the question is, was it the duty of the Department to issue the requisition. I submit that it was not, because they were met at every turn by voluntary efforts to supply the small balance of the deficiency, which was not covered by the direct action of the Board. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that the Department was acting without precedents. From all I can discover, I believe the right hon. Gentleman, when at the Education Office, dealt fairly and justly in regard to the voluntary school system. In the early days of his residence at Whitehall, however, the right hon. Gentleman might have had a chance—I believe it was not put before him—of showing his zeal in the way of dealing with the spirit and letter of the Act of Parliament. There was a school district in Wiltshire as to which a final notice was issued requiring additional accommodation for 100 children, and an order for the formation of a School Board followed. A letter was written afterwards by the Department saying it would be necessary for the Board to supply this accommodation. This matter was considered soon after the right hon. Gentleman was at the Education Office, and a Minute was written under the express sanction of one of the principal permanent officials accepting, with the concurrence of the School Board the enlargement of the national school as meeting all requirements.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say that that Minute came before me?


I have already made the reservation in favour of the right hon. Gentleman that it did not come before him. If it had, what a splendid chance it would have been for him! Hon. Members cry "Oh, Oh," but this quotation is my reply to the right hon. Gentleman's challenge that we have no precedent for our action. I say there are ample precedents. There was a case also at Todmorden where voluntary aid was accepted in a similar way, and the Department sanctioned the step. Each of those cases, I submit, forms a precedent for the action of the Department. I am grateful to the House for the patience with which it has listened to me. I do not wish to weary hon. Members, but I do venture to submit that when the House of Commons is gravely asked to censure the Department for dereliction of duty, better evidence and sounder material ought to be presented to it than is furnished in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I contend that the Department has acted within the spirit and letter of the Act of 1870, and has done its duty not only as regards the administration of the Act, but as regards the cause of education which it represents in the House.

(7.15.) MR. H. H. FOWLER

I do not wish to intervene at any length between the House and the Division which hon. Members are anxious to take, but I should like to point out that this debate has thrown a very strong side-light upon the next step which we shall be called upon to take in the education question. What has happened at York, at Salisbury, and at Whitehall, will, I think, form powerful arguments when the question arises whether the system of the future is to be assisted education or free education. The right hon. Gentleman has defended his case with remarkable ability and remarkable fairness; but the point on which my right hon. Friend and myself are at issue with him is that the Department, in the case of Salisbury, had a discretion which they did not exercise in accordance with the spirit and intention of the Act or with a due regard to the rights and interests of minorities; and that, in the case of York, according to the opinion of the late Lord Chancellor and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bury, a duty was imposed on the Department which was not discharged. In both cases the effect of the non-exercise of discretion and the refusal to discharge the duty has been to hand over the entire education of the children to one religious denomination. A good deal has been said about the voluntary schools; but hon. Members seem to have ignored the fact that, after all, the country pays the main cost of carrying on these schools. I have recently been looking into the Report of the Education Department, and I find that, at Salisbury, £1,300 is paid out of the Consolidated Fund. If to that the school fees are added of the 1,500 children in average attendance, it is clear that the voluntary contributions are exceedingly small. As to York, we have the figures. There £10,000 is received from public funds, and the entire voluntary contribution is less than £800. Remember, we are now dealing with a system of education under which, if people do not send their children to school, you can imprison them. Yet in a case where the public contribute £10,000 and a denomination not much more than £700, you are vesting the sole control of the schools in that one religious denomination. These are not the figures of York and Salisbury alone. The entire educational expenditure of the country is about £7,000,000, of which the voluntary contributions—the contributions from the Church of England, the Roman Catholics, the Wesleyans—in fact from every Dissenting body—only amount to £746,000. In Salisbury and in York the Department has had really to deal with public schools—schools that are public in the sense that parents can be compelled to send their children to them, and in the sense, too, that they are supported out of public funds. But the Department has disregarded the interest of the minority, and it has evaded its own responsibilities. Why is it that discretion is vested in the Department? It is to protect the minority, which in some cases might be the Church of England, in others the Roman Catholics. It was said that Mr. Forster's idea was to supplement and not to supplant voluntary effort. That was no doubt so, but Mr. Forster's Act was passed in 1870, and we are living in 1890. I object to stereotyping Mr. Forster's opinions of 1870, and making them permanently control the policy of the Education Department, just as much as I should have objected to stereotyping the Reform Bill of 1832, and so have prevented the passing of the Reform Bills of 1867 and 1884. You will have to go a long way beyond Mr. Forster's system. What is the meaning of all these delays in concluding contracts? What is the meaning of the action of those philanthropic and highly estimable ladies—the Kilburn Sisters? What is the real reason at the bottom of the action of the Bishop of Salisbury? The Bishop has said that he intended to oppose the erection of a School Board school at Salisbury because he objected to a colourless and unsectarian ratepayers' religion. One hon. Member who spoke in this debate said that what the Dissenters wanted was a sort of religion propagated at the ratepayers' expense. He called it a School Board religion, and spoke of my right hon. Friend as the high priest of this new denomination. I think that is one of the most lamentable features in this controversy. I am as strong an advocate of religious education as the Bishop himself, and I should be sorry to see a national system of education in this country divorced from religious teaching. I think that it is a great calamity that the clergy, of the Church of England have taken up so strong an attitude against the School Board system. I remember that I supported a resolution, moved by the First Lord of the Treasury when the right hon. Gentleman was a member of the School Board, and that resolution forms the basis of the School Board religious teaching throughout the length and breadth of the land. I am sure that when the right hon. Gentleman approaches the close of his public life—and I hope that that day may be far distant— he will be able to recall no act upon which he can look back with greater satisfaction. Lord Harrow by got a Return presented to the House of Lords the other day on the question of religious teaching in Board Schools, and from it I find that out of 2,000 Board schools there are only 21 from which religion is excluded. But what Nonconformists object to is not the teaching of Church of England doctrine to Church of England children, but the propagation among Nonconformist children of the notion that Nonconformity is a wicked idolatrous sin. I have in my pocket a catechism in which that is taught.

* MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

Will the right hon. Gentleman name the Catechism?


Certainly. It is Mr. Carr's well-known book of Questions on the Church Catechism. But I am not going to trouble the House with extracts from it. I only want to make clear the Nonconformists' position; they object to that sectarian exclusiveness which censures Nonconformity as such, and I believe if that sectarian element which is carried to extremes were swept out of the way we should hear little of these disputes. But whether I am right or wrong in that, I say that the Nonconformists of Salisbury had a right to have an unsectarian school; and we assert that if the Department had exercised the discretion vested in it, with a due regard to the rights of the minority, such a school would have been provided both at Salisbury and at York. In the case of Salisbury, no doubt the Church built the school, but I have shown that it was chiefly maintained out of the public purse and the fees of the children. I admit that the right hon. Gentleman opposite has proved his case technically in the case of Salisbury; but I cannot make that admission with regard to York, as to which the right hon. Gentleman was in conflict with the late Mr. Cumin and the Law Officers of the late Government.


No, no.


I am at a disadvantage in dealing with the hon. and learned Gentleman, because he knows the rule of the House is not to lay such opinions on the Table of the House. I think that upon any principle of constructive evidence we may easily arrive at a conclusion as to what was the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown. We take our stand on that opinion, which is clearly confirmed by the evidence of Mr. Cumin before the Royal Commission, and we say that this is a case in which this House ought to interfere, not by way of censuring the right hon. Gentleman personally, but by recording its judgment that the action of the Department was strained in the interests of one section of the community to the disadvantage of another.

(7.31.) MR, PICTON (Leicester)

I am sorry to intervene between a hungry House and the pending Division. Nevertheless, I wish to say a word or two in reference to the case put forward by the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Hulse). I visited Salisbury last year at the request of a minority of the hon. Member's constituency, and I feel bound to say, that while he has stated the case with fairness and moderation, he left out some facts which ought to have been stated before the House was asked to come to any conclusion on the subject. He referred to the Liberation Society. The Liberation Society has had neither directly or indirectly any dealings with this matter. I was invited to go to Salisbury by a number of working men, who acted entirely on their own discretion, without advice, suggestion or interference on the part of anyone outside their own body. They paid all the expenses and asked me to address them. I found that those working men had organised on a good scale a Liberty of Conscience Defence Association, and this in the Nineteenth Century! The working men felt called upon to enter into this Organisation to protect themselves and their children from unfair treatment. I asked them "Why do you require to do this? Have you no votes? Did you not elect a School Board a short time ago, and allow to be put upon it a majority of those who were opposed to your views, whereas you might have carried a School Board entertaining your own views had you chosen to have done so?" They replied, "You do not know the difficulty we have in voting as we wish." [Cries of "Oh!"] Hon. Members say "Oh," hut I tell the tale as it was told to me, and they certainly proved their sincerity by the expense to which they had put themselves in organising and carrying on their Association. They said, "You cannot conceive the sort of pressure which is brought to bear upon the poor of this city." These men doubtless are poor, but they are honest, and when an honest man who is poor gives a promise he votes according to that promise, and I honour him for it. Of course they gave promises, and they voted according to them. I think their case is proved by the fact to which I will call attention. When the deputation which has been alluded to waited on the Lord President of the Council, he used these words, "The Conscience Clause is considered by the law to be an efficient guard against false doctrine." For my part, I never heard that the Conscience Clause was devised for such a purpose, but that is the statement made by a high authority. Well, Sir, the working men of Salisbury do not find it so; they do not like the catechisms taught by the Kilburn Sisters. However good those Sisters may be they have no right to affect the consciences of the poor by what they regard as false doctrine, and which I think would be so regarded by many Members of this House if I were permitted to go into the matter. Hon. Members opposite, as well as on this side of the House, ought to have some sympathy for these poor men, who declare they are obliged to organise a Liberty of Conscience Defence Association beneath the shadow of a Christian Church. If this Motion is not assented to, I, for one, shall be glad to divide the Houss upon it.

(7.40.) The House divided:—Ayes 115; Noes 167.—(Div. List, No. 35.)