HC Deb 30 July 1891 vol 356 cc784-843

Lords Amendments considered.

Lords Amendments agreed to as far as the Amendment in page 2, lines 23 and 24.

Page 2, lines 23 and 24, leave out "and suitable," the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Sir William Hart Dyke.)

(4.55.) MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

Sub-section 1 of Clause 4 gives power to the Department, if they are satisfied that sufficient and suitable public school accommodation without payment of fees has been provided for a school district, to approve a charge or an increase of fees in a particular school. The Lords have struck out the words "and suitable." I complain that such an Amendment as this has been inserted in the Bill after the Government have voluntarily accepted these words when the Bill was last before the Commons. The words have been struck out by the Lords without a single remonstrance or argument being raised against it by the Minister in charge of the Bill. It looks very like a pre-arrangement; and seeing that 10 or 12 Members of this House had expressed themselves strongly on this point, it does seem strange that the Amendment should have been accepted without argument of any kind against it. There are several grounds—and not merely religious ones—for disagreeing with this Amendment. When I entered the Department Catholic schools were considered necessary, because it was regarded as not suitable that Catholics should be compelled to send their children to Protestant schools; and when I consulted Mr. Forster on the point, he said I was right in holding that that was a proper view to take. What will happen in Lancashire, Cheshire, and the North of England if this Amendment is carried? There are a large number of good Roman Catholic schools in those districts, and the hon. Member for Preston will bear me out when I say that they have accommodation largely in excess of Roman Catholic needs. If hon. Members will take the trouble to look at the number of children in average attendance they will be astonished to find that in Catholic schools, and especially in the North of England, there are vacancies for something like two-fifths of the children in attendance. I take at random the towns of Wigan, Manchester, and Preston, and ascertain what is the attendance at certain schools and what is the accommodation. In four schools at Wigan the number of children in average attendance is 2,271, but there is accommodation for 4,615 children. In five schools in Manchester the number in average attendance is 1,712, and there is accommodation for 3,734. In Preston there are four" schools—I believe they are the best schools both in regard to staff and in regard to general management of any in Preston—The English Martyrs', St. Augustine's, St. Ignatius's, and St. Wilfrid's.


The largest is St. Walburge's.


I do not find that school. Is it St. Wilfrid's the hon. Member means? The average attendance is 3,188, and there is accommodation for 7,224. In all these schools, therefore, the attendance is just half the accommodation. We know that Catholic schools will be among the first to be made free. Now, suppose these schools are made free and the Church of England schools are not made free, do the Government intend to compel the Church of England and Nonconformist children to attend the Roman Catholic schools? It is no use in such a case to say that the Protestant children would be protected by the Conscience Clause, because in Roman Catholic schools the emblems of their religion are to be found everywhere, and the atmosphere of those schools is pervaded by Roman Catholic teaching. The children there are constantly being taught by members of the Religious Orders. I ask the House, is it intended not to consider the suitability of these schools for Protestant children? In my experience the Education Department has always considered that Roman Catholic schools are not the proper schools for Protestant children. When I entered the Department I found that whenever the London School Board applied for additional schools in any district the number of vacant places in Catholic schools was always subtracted from the existing accommodation. Besides religious questions there are other questions of suitability. There is the question as to the quality of the schools, and it would be most unfair to compel a bright child to leave a better class fee school in order to make it attend a lower class free school. Then there is the question of site. Can you ask that infant children shall be taken to schools other than those for children of a larger growth? It is often the custom for the infant to be taken to school by the elder brother and sister. Are you going to say that children who have fee schools in their immediate neighbourhood shall be compelled to go to the free schools at the other end of the town? It is highly necessary that the schools selected should be as near as possible to the residences of the children. That is always a consideration with the paying schools, and it should be a still greater consideration in the case of the free schools. The schools should be as convenient for the children and suitable for them from every point of view. Many of us know the sacrifices the poor make on this question of education. I know many distinguished men—some of them on the Episcopal Bench—who have owed their success in life to the sacrifices made for them by widowed mothers. It is meritorious for a poor parent to desire to send a child to a higher elementary school. The First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord G. Hamilton), when he was Vice President of the Council, went down to Sheffield and made a very good speech at a prize distribution. One boy was there who looked so clean and smart that the noble Lord said he thought he was hardly of a class to go to an elementary school. That boy turned out to be the son of a poof widow, who earned her living by turning a mangle. He won various scholarships, and is now a distinguished man at his University and the pride of his family. I should like to point out that the word "suitable" was inserted in the clause without a dissentient voice, and the Guardian newspaper has expressed regret at this Amendment, as well as another proposed by Lord Sandford, because it does not properly consider the interests of the children and their parents. If the House votes £2,000,000 for the purpose of giving free education in elementary schools, I protest against its being accompanied with a condition which will harass the children in free schools, and making their schools of a lower order and an inferior status. These cunningly-devised Amendments do not come from a friend of free education, but emanate from those who have denounced the Bill as the proposal of quacks—as a bitter pill, detested but which had to be swallowed. If the Government, after having twice shortened debate and accepted Amendments voluntarily, recognising the sense of the House, accept such an Amendment as this, they will be doing that which is equivalent to a breach of faith.


The right hon. Gentleman, having made some remarks which were exceedingly moderate, has concluded with the rather wide statement that if we retain this Amendment we shall be committing a breach of faith. I think that is rather a strong thing to say.


I said if, after twice cutting short the Debate, they accepted the Amendment, it would seem to me equivalent to a breach of faith.


The right hon. Gentleman has changed his statement into an hypothesis. I believe that ample means might be found to meet the case we have in hand. It is perfectly true that in this House the Amendment inserting the word "suitable" was accepted by the Government, and it is equally true that in another place they assented to the word being struck out. But considering the far-reaching character of the Commons' Amendment, I think it may be fairly urged that in the other House the Government treated the matter in a broad and statesmanlike spirit. The right hon. Gentleman has placed upon the word "suitable" a construction which it has never borne before; and if there had been any doubt as to the advisability or otherwise of the course now taken by the Government, I think it has been removed by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. It is obvious that a word like this must be dealt with in a reasonable and elastic manner by the Department in solving the difficulties' which it has to face every day; and if difficulties had not been so met, these Acts would long since have produced intolerable chaos and confusion. There is, however, a vast difference between construing the word in a reasonable manner and introducing into a Bill for the first time an entirely new meaning. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to free schools being possibly wide apart, and to the fact that infants are often taken to school by their brothers and sisters. These, however, are purely administrative difficulties which will have to be met by the Department. The word "suitable" occurs in two clauses of the Act of 1870. Mr. Forster said the object of the Act was to supply sufficient, efficient, and suitable education, and it is clear that by "suitable" he meant schools that were available from the absence of religious or other restrictions or the adoption of the Conscience Clause. Of course, the Department would not, as a rule, put pressure on Protestant parents to send their children to a Roman Catholic school; but there have been cases in which Protestant children have freely attended Roman Catholic schools. ["Where?" and "Give us one?"] In Herefordshire, in 1873, official requirements were satisfied by a Roman Catholic school, which for 13 years was the only school in the neighbourhood; and the Inspector reported that there was no more efficient school under inspection. Before the Royal Commision an important statement was made by Mr. Cumin with regard to the word "suitable." Mr. Cumin said that a school came under that description if it was a public elementary school adopting the Conscience Clause and open to inspection. In these circumstances, I am quite certain the Government are well-advised in asking the House to retain the Lords' Amendment.

(5.30.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)

The Government passed through this House a Bill which, though there were some points in it to which we took exception, was on the whole a satisfactory one. The House of Lords has dealt with this Bill as it is in the habit of dealing with a great many Bills. It has spoilt the measure of the House of Commons. I am sorry, for the sake of the right hon. Gentleman, that the Lords should have introduced this Amendment, because it will go very far to spoil his Bill in the estimation of the country when it is passed. Everybody will remember that there was an almost unanimous feeling in this House as to the introduction of this word. It was not a mere Party question at all, but it was a matter upon which Members on both sides of the House who were interested in education had the same opinion. It is only under the compulsion of men in the House of Lords who are the enemies of free education that this thing has now been done. It is with the express object of injuring and, I might say, hamstringing free education that this Amendment has been introduced. I think it is very hard upon the right hon. Gentleman that he should, under the pressure of this adverse Party in the House of Lords, be compelled to be an accomplice in the spoiling of his own Bill. In defence of the Amendment the right hon. Gentleman quotes a case in which Protestant children have been forced into a Roman Catholic school. The very fact that the right hon. Gentleman should be driven into such an illustration in support of the Amendment is a condemnation of the Amendment itself. It was for the very purpose of preventing these practices becoming common that these words were introduced. All we can do is to protest against this proceeding. We protest in the name of the House of Commons—on behalf of the unanimous voice of the House of Commons—against this attempt of the enemies of free education in the House of Lords to destroy this Bill in the last stage of its progress. I understand very well the strain and the pressure under which the right hon. Gentleman is placed. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman should have yielded to it; and I must protest as far as I can against these proceedings, in order that the country may understand the true character of what has taken place.

(5.36.) MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)

I greatly regret that the Government assent to this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President said, "The Education Department will not bring pressure to bear to send Protestant children in large numbers to Roman Catholic schools. That means that the Department may use pressure to send small numbers—


Sir, I must really protest against this construction being placed upon what I said. I referred to a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella).


I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has withdrawn that, but I am here to protest against any pressure being put upon Protestant parents to send their children to Roman Catholic schools. Such a thing would excite the utmost dissatisfaction in the country. Of course, we wish to main- tain the rights of Catholics, but we also maintain the rights of Protestants, and I respectfully protest against any construction of the Bill which may lead to a course of conduct that would excite great indignation in the country.

*(5.38.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord G. HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) spoke in one sense in language of moderation, but in another sense he used the language of absurd exaggeration when he said the House of Lords were determined to destroy and to hamstring this Bill. The subject is most difficult, and yet the right hon. Gentleman can only find objection to one Amendment in the Bill.


One at a time.


I was under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman confined his objections to one Amendment. The hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith) tried to prove that the Bill would have the result of forcing Protestant children in large numbers into Roman Catholic schools. Well, Sir, whatever has been the practice in the last 20 years will continue to be the practice under this Bill. We cannot assent to the retention of a word which would have a different meaning in the Bill from that which has always been attached to it. I can show from an administrative point of view that it is impossible to accept this word "suitable" as it now stands. It is true that we did somewhat hastily assent to the insertion of the word, but, after having had time to consider what it means as it now stands, we have been forced to the conclusion that it must come out if the Bill is to be properly administered.


The word is in the original Act.


My contention is that the word "suitable" in this Bill has a meaning entirely different from what it has in the original Act. In the original Act the word occurs in two clauses only, and those clauses relate to the supply of schools, and to the proceedings for the supply of schools, and in both refer to schools, which are not public elementary schools. I say that it has in practice never been applied to public elementary schools.


Has the Education Department never deducted vacancies in Catholic schools from the school accommodation of a district?


I assert, as a broad principle, that the Department has never applied the word suitable to public elementary schools. I assert that, as far as Roman Catholic schools are concerned, they are almost exclusively in Board school districts, and, therefore, the children have the option of going to another school. The word "suitable" has never been applied to an elementary school. All the evidence in the matter, both positive and negative, shows that the word "suitable" has never before been applied to public elementary schools, and we are now asked to give to the Act, by the insertion of the word, a meaning it never had before, and which meaning is not in the Act of 1870 or any other Act. Mr. Forster said that by "suitable" he meant schools "to which, in the absence of religious and other restrictions, parents could not reasonably object." If an Amendment moved to Clause 8 of the Education Bill of 1870 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) had been agreed to, the word suitable would have been applicable to a public elementary school, but that Amendment was negatived. It would be impossible for the Education Department to carry out the Act under the procedure of that of 1870 if in the two statutes they have to administer there is the same word having a different meaning in each. In the interests of the Bill itself, as well as of those who will have to administer it, I hope the Lords' Amendment will be agreed to.

(5.48.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

We have been placed in a somewhat difficult position owing to the course pursued by the Government in the two Houses. In this House, nearly a month ago, after full discussion and at the request of many of their own friends, as well as of hon. Members on the other side of the House, they consented to insert the word "suitable" in the Bill, and yet almost directly afterwards they consented, without controversy, without Debate, and without Division, to an Amendment in the House of Lords striking it out. They then come down to the House of Commons at the very end of the Session, when a large number of Members who are interested in the Bill have gone away, relying on the good faith of the Government, and ask hon. Members to reverse their former decision on a very important matter. The only defence the noble Lord who has just spoken could make was that the Government had not time to consider the question when they accepted the Amendment. But the Amendment was introduced in Committee, and, therefore, the Government had ample opportunity before the Report stage to take counsel upon it with those who are deeply interested in the Bill. What is the source of this Amendment in the other House? It emanates from a noble Lord who is a most determined foe of free education, and who has always been opposed to it, and it is made in the interests of those who are opposed to free education. It will be neither fair nor straightforward if the Government use their majority at such a late period of the Session to the disadvantage of the Opposition, and in order to carry an Amendment against which there is such a strong feeling as there is against this. Something has been said about the interpretation to be given to the word. I am at a loss to understand the new doctrine that inserting a word in a Bill is equivalent to inserting its interpretation. We want the word inserted; the interpretation will be worked out by the Department. The word was in the Act of 1870, and we want it in that of 1891.


The word in the Act of 1870 bears a different application from what is intended in this case.


The Department in determining the amount of public school accommodation required in a district has under the Act to take every school into consideration, and, therefore, I contend that the clause in the Act of 1870 does apply to public elementary schools. This is not a question of providing accommodation, but of conferring a benefit on the individual parent. You say to the working man: "You shall have the benefit of free education;" and immediately afterwards yon say: "If you will not send your child to occupy a vacant place in a school to which you object, you shall be deprived of the benefits of free education." My right hon. Friend put the case very strongly with regard to Protestants being forced in to Roman Catholic schools. I think the converse would be equally hard, and that it would be very wrong to force Roman Catholic children into Protestant schools—which is a thing no Government in this country dare attempt to do in face of the feeling that would certainly be aroused on the question. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted the case of a Herefordshire village, where Protestant children had to go to a Roman Catholic school. I think that was a case of great cruelty to the inhabitants of that village. I hope the House will make a strong protest against this Lords' Amendment, and I still trust that the Government will, in conformity with their pledges, see that it would be wise to reject the proposal. When a bargain has been made between the Government and the House of Commons, I do not think it right that the Government should recede from it, and impose upon us that which they could not have imposed upon us otherwise.

*(5.58.) MR. TALBOT (Oxford University)

The right hon. Gentleman a little departed from the general moderation with which he has discussed the Amendment when he referred to the noble Lord who is supposed to be responsible for it. It is only fair to Lord Sandford to say that he did not challenge a Division on the Second Reading of this Bill, and that all his Amendments were aimed at making the Bill more workable. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will look into this matter they will see that the insertion of this word, in this particular place, would be the "letting out of strife." The Department might be constantly called upon to say whether, in their judgment, these free places are suitable. The word "suitable" is mainly looked upon from the religious point of view. In other words, it would mean that in every place where there was a feeling that a school did not exactly represent all the religious convictions of the inhabitants of that district, representations might be made to the Government and the Education Department to undertake the very perilous duty of inquiring into these very difficult and delicate matters. It is hardly worthy of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to talk of Protestant children being forced into Roman Catholic schools; the idea is preposterous, and the common sense of the country would revolt against it. It would be impossible to do anything of the sort, and I do not think there need be the slightest apprehension. Of course, a number of persons in a district might represent that the religious teaching of a school was unsuitable, and would keep the community in a ferment by constant representation. But I think we may rely upon what has been the practice of the Department. The Commission on Education in their Report quote the interpretation of the Act of 1870 given by Mr. Cumin, to the effect that wherever there is an elementary school, there the accommodation is ipso facto suitable. If you put this word "suitable" into a new Act, you raise the question whether an elementary school is or is not suitable. The only way to avoid perpetual religious discussions is to adhere to the practice of the Department, and the present conditions of the law. It is true that the word "suitable" was inserted by Her Majesty's Government in their attempt to please all parties in the House, but it is not much of a reproach to them to say that they had not probably considered how this word would work. We have seen how it would work, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield and others have let the cat out of the bag. They have told us that this word was introduced in order to prevent the forcing of children into Roman Catholic schools, but it is clear that it would be worked in very different ways from that. The House of Lords acted with perfect discretion and wisdom in removing this word, and, far from introducing discord, they have done that which will facilitate the smooth working of the measure. It will introduce peace and concord in the interests of fair dealing between the different sections of the community. I appeal to the House to support the House of Lords in their Amendment.

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

I venture to say that no fair-minded man can interpret the 5th section of the Act of 1870 in the sense which the noble Lord has attempted. The deficiency to be supplied is a deficiency in suitable schools. How can it be argued, when we are supplying the deficiency, that the word does not equally apply to the schools which have to be provided? It seems to me plain that the Government have made full use of the conciliatory spirit which we on this side manifested in endeavouring to secure the progress of the Bill; but now that they have secured this Bill, they are unmasking their batteries by means of the House of Lords. Sir, the question of the suitability of schools includes the question of distance as well as that of religious teaching. These are points of great importance, and it is the duty of Members on this side of the House to do what they can to obtain justice for the people. I make a formal protest against the course adopted, and I have some right to protest, as an Amendment which stood in my name was accepted with great fairness by the First Lord of the Treasury. The issue before the House has to a certain extent been lost sight of. It is the question of the power of the Department to raise fees or to authorise the charge of fees in a district where free schools have been established. It will operate chiefly in those large of northern towns which are in the hands the Denominational Party. The removal of this word "suitable" will have this result: Where Inspectors have spoken of schools as sheds, it will leave the general managers to give free education in the worst of their schools, and to deny the use of the best of their schools to the people. I protest against the course which is being adopted, and it is perfectly clear that we are face to face with one of those frequent conspiracies which the noble Lord has instituted against the School Board system, and, from my knowledge of the constituencies, I believe Her Majesty's Government, by this breach of faith, will have firmly driven one more nail into their political coffin.


The hon. Member speaks of the feeling of the constituencies, but I can assure him that Preston does not share his view. The managers of elementary schools in Preston do not entertain the view that Protestant children will be forced into Roman Catholic schools, and I have no doubt that when this Act is passed, though it was not desired by some of us, it will be so administered that none of the risks which are feared will be experienced.

(6.12.) MR. T. ELLIS (Merionethshire)

On the question of suitability, I wish to cite the opinion of two Permanent Secretaries of the Education Department, Sir Patrick Cumin and Sir Francis Sandford, given before the Education Commission. Sir Francis Sandford questioned Sir Patrick Cumin on the question of the distance of schools. Sir Francis asked: "Then suitability covers distance, fees, and the Conscience Clause, does it not?" Sir Patrick Cumin answered: "Yes; that is so." We are not entering here so much into the operation of the Conscience Clause, although I think the claim of the three right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench is just—that Roman Catholic children shall not be driven into Protestant schools, and vice versâ. I go further, and I say that I do not see why the children of Nonconformists should be driven into Church schools. My fellow-countrymen feel that very strongly. I have quoted the opinion of two Permanent Secretaries that suitability does not depend merely upon the Conscience Clause, but upon the question of distance, and what is a much more pertinent argument in this case, it depends on the fees. In Stockport the word "suitable" has been used to break down the fees, which were so high that the Department felt they were unsuitable; and I say that it is of tenfold importance that this word, which has been so used in Stockport, should be employed with the same object all over the country, whether the parents will not have an opportunity of obtaining free public school accommodation. It seems to me that the contention of the noble Lord and of the Vice President falls completely to the ground in face of the experience of the two Vice Presidents on this side of the House and that of Sir Francis Sandford and Sir Patrick Cumin.

(6.18.) COLONEL HUGHES (Woolwich)

I cannot understand why the word "suitable" should be struck out. The proposal to take it out leads me to suppose that the word "sufficient" will mean sufficient in number, whether suitable or not. We know perfectly well that there are many schools which ought not to be counted in reckoning the accommodation for a district. Sometimes a river may divide a district, and there may be an excess of accommodation on one side of the river which is not available for children living on the other side of the river. It has always been the practice of the School Board of London and of the Education Department that they reckon the excess of accommodation in certain schools (say Roman Catholic schools) as unsuitable. Temporary schools are unsuitable, and in many cases the point turns on the question of distance. Now, this clause is really as to a fee school after sufficient free accommodation has been provided. I notice in the 4th sub-section of this clause it is proposed by a subsequent Amendment to take out the word "unsuitable." It seems to me that this desire to take out the word "suitable" and to alter the word "unsuitable" indicates a wish to charge higher fees in certain schools. If that be the object we ought to understand so. The effect is to enable the Education Department to allow fees to be charged in a larger number of schools than would be allowed if the word "suitable" is allowed to remain in. The Government themselves first allowed this word "suitable" and the word "unsuitable" to appear in the Bill, and if the proposal to take them out changes the operation of the word sufficient, it is a misfortune, for "sufficient," as I understand it, means sufficient in the ordinary sense, that is, available and proper. The Education Department have never had a difficulty in defining what is suitable, and I believe they have always come to a just decision upon it. Therefore, the word would not give any more trouble in the future than in the past. If the word suitable is only to apply to non-private schools the idea is new to me. Besides, the words in this section are "suitable public schools." What is the object of introducing the question of private schools at all. Suitable public schools, and a sufficient number of them go together. Therefore I shall have to vote for the retention of the words "suitable" and "unsuitable" wherever they occur.

(6.23.) MR. H. J. WILSON (York, W.R., Holmfirth)

When the argument was used by my hon. Friend that Roman Catholic children might be forced into Protestant schools and Protestant children into Roman Catholic schools, the Vice President interposed in a way which showed that he contemplated a few children being subjected to the injustice, but not a large number.


I repudiate the assertion altogether.


It is all very well to repudiate the assertion, but the fact remains that no other interpretation can be put upon the words he used. Let that fact remain; it is an important fact, and one which the country will take note of. As to the argument of the First Lord of the Admiralty, if all the other schools are full, what does it matter whether it is a School Board district or not, if the Department refuses to act? There may be no accommodation in one part of a district, and apart from whether a river or a mountain divides it, the question remains whether the children of that portion of the district are to be left to travel long distances to find school accommodation. I am rather astonished that the Government should yield in this way, and we shall not only make the most earnest possible protest now, but we shall take care that the country understands the nature of the transaction.

(6.28.) MR. POWELL J. WILLIAMS (Birmingham, S.)

As a Liberal Unionist Member, I regret the course which the Government have adopted in this matter. The argument of the noble Lord was that simply because this word "suitable" might not have precisely the meaning which it bears in other Acts of Parliament, therefore it ought not to be inserted. But it seems to me that if the meaning which the word would bear in this clause is the proper meaning, then it ought to be retained for the reasons which prompted the House of Commons to insert it. If you look into the case closely, there cannot be any real objection to the retaining of the word "suitable," because accommodation is not accommodation in the proper sense unless it be suitable. Accommodation in a Jewish school is not accommodation in the real sense for Christian children. Accommodation in a Roman Catholic school is not accommodation in the real sense for Protestant children; and, therefore, I venture to think that the word "suitable" as inserted by this House is most important, and that the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton is absolutely unanswerable. Unless it is retained, it is quite possible that parents in certain districts of England might find themselves deprived of free education because they declined to send their children to schools which are not suitable.

(6.32.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE,) Lincolnshire, Horncastle

There have been some very strong attacks made upon the Government in respect of this Amendment, and I think it right to state the circumstances in which we are placed. It is said we have done a very strong thing in having accepted an Amendment in this House and in afterwards supporting the alteration of that Amendment which has been made by the House of Lords. Is it really contended for a moment that because the Government have accepted an Amendment in this House that therefore the Lords are to be deprived of all power to alter it? Since the Amendment has been accepted in the Commons the Government have discovered that it makes a larger alteration in the measure than they intended. If the object of the Lords is, as alleged, to damage free education, they have gone about their work in a most extraordinary manner, because none of their Amendments will have that effect. The Government introduced the Bill with the distinct understanding that they wished to carry free education with the least possible disturbance of the existing system. Now they find the word "suitable" defended on the ground that it is the thin end of the wedge which would produce a disturbance of the religious settlement of 1870. ["No, no!"] It is perfectly clear, from the speeches that have been made by hon. Members opposite, that the retention of the word "suitable" would enable persons to raise religious difficulty in schools in which any religious teaching is given under the Conscience Clause. The Government determined, as I have said, to pass the Bill with the least possible disturbance of existing arrangements, and, therefore, they are consistent in resisting the change which they have discovered would be made by retaining the Amendment to which they assented in this House.

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

I think it would have been more satisfactory as a defence of the Lords' Amendment if the arguments now urged in its favour had been used in the other House; then there would be something to be said for the position of the Government. In this House the Amendment was made on specific grounds, supported by good arguments, which led to its acceptance. In the other House the word was omitted practically without discussion; the President of the Council did not say a word about it. At all events, he did not put forward those grounds, which I admit have some strength in them, that are now put forward by the Government. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that this Amendment, coming from Lord Sandford, and taken in conjunction with his other Amendments, is intended not to strengthen but to weaken the Bill. Coming from that noble Lord it is readily accepted by the President of the Council, who, in his Second Reading speech, did not show that he had any particular love) for free education. We are, therefore, entitled to believe that this Amendment of the Lords is introduced with some ulterior motive, and the speeches we have listened to show that it is necessary that the Amendment should not be accepted. So far from its opponents wishing to raise the religious question, they wish to prevent the religious difficulty from arising by parents being forced to send their children to schools which are not suitable to them. Does the Vice President wish that parents should be forced to send their children to unsuitable schools? If he does not, what possible objection can he have to the retention of this word? As to this being only a departmental question, it must be remembered that the Bill produces a state of things very different from that existing under the Act of 1870. The question is whether the free schools are to be inferior to the fee paying schools, and it is on that point, apart from the religious difficulty, that I desire to retain the word "suitable." In many towns where the fees are very high, and where there is no School Board, it must be greatly to the interests of the managers of the voluntary schools to keep free schools out of their towns, or, at all events, to have as few free schools as possible. Their object will be to associate a sense of inferiority with the free schools, and more especially will they do that if a great extension of the grouping system is adopted, because they will provide as free schools those which are most inferior in building and equipment, and which will not really be "suitable" as free schools. I, for one, shall very heartily vote against the omission of this word by the House of Lords. It is clear from the discussion we have had that the Vice President himself is in favour of the retention of the word; and, putting aside the extreme Voluntaryists, it has the support of the general body of the House.

(6.41.) SIR J. LUBBOCK (London University)

When this clause was in Committee I very strongly supported it, and I still believe it is very valuable; and when it is attacked I reply by pointing out the safeguards, namely, that there is to be sufficient and suitable free accommodation, and that the right to charge fees in certain cases is limited to those in which the population has shifted, or in which the charge would be for the educational advantages of the district. If the words "and suitable" had never been introduced, I suppose that the word "sufficient" would have implied suitability. But that may not be the case now. I attach no importance to the argument that the word would have a different meaning in the Act of 1870, if that be so. The meaning of any word depends to some extent on the context. I cannot agree with some of my hon. Friends who blame the Government. I cannot find fault with the Government, who had perhaps difficulty in carrying Amendments in another place. At the same time, I regret they will not agree to the retention of the word "suitable." That is the view held by the hon. Member for Woolwich, who has certainly great experience, and who is entitled to speak on the matter. I venture to express the hope that Her Majesty's Government will re-consider the matter, and will agree to the retention of the word "suitable."

*COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S.W., Ince)

I venture to think that originally it did not matter whether the word was in or out, but I think the Government would be unwise to reinsert it in the Bill now that by the Debate of to-day it has been made an ambiguous term.

(6.44.) The House divided:—Ayes 110; Noes 86.—(Div. List, No. 401.)

Subsequent Amendments, as far as the Amendment in page 2, line 31 and 32, agreed to.

Lines 31 and 32, leave out "Fee for any such child," and insert "ordinary fee for such children," the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Sir William Hart Dyke.)

(6.53.) MR. MUNDELLA

I hope the House will not agree to this Amendment. The words proposed to be left out were inserted on the Motion of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green, with the object that no child attending an elementary school should be charged more than 6d. a week, bringing it up to the limit of 9d. I want to know why these words have been taken out and others substituted, which allow an average fee?


Not average, but ordinary.


Ordinary; an ordinary fee is an average fee; and if the right hon. Gentleman considers what it means, he will find that in the higher standards higher fees can be charged. In the infant school you may have no charge, in the lower standards you may have a 3d. fee, and in the higher standards you may have a 9d. fee. It was not the right hon. Gentleman who accepted the Amendment in this House, but it was the Vice President himself, who, after a short discussion, volunteered to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green. I ask him what has occurred since that this matter should be changed? We know what has happened elsewhere. In Scotland, for the first time during the last 20 years, the higher standards have fallen in number. Why? Because high fees are charged. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we are to have the Government paying £2,000,000 a year in freeing schools and still to have a continuance of these hardships, to use no stronger term? I therefore move to reject this Amendment, and to restore the clause to its original condition.


The word "ordinary" has been inserted to be in accordance with the words of the Definition Clause in the Act of 1870, which says that the ordinary payment for instruction shall not exceed 9d. a week. Now, this is a scheme whereby we say, after the fee grant of 3d. a week, the ordinary fee shall not exceed 6d. per week—that is to say, it may be the balance of fee.

MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

The effect of the Amendment of the Lords would be to bring the Bill back to substantially the form in which it originally was in this House, and on which the right hon. Gentleman accepted my Amendment. Whether the word is "average" or "ordinary," I think it will be clear that the mischief which I pointed out would equally accrue, namely, that the managers of schools would be able to charge differential rates or fees amounting to more than 6d. to children whom, for any reason, they might be unwilling to admit to their schools. Therefore, the argument now is as strong as it was when I moved the Amendment which was accepted by the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope he will resist this alteration.

*SIR B. SAMUELSON (Oxfordshire, Banbury)

It seems to me that the argument of my right hon. Friend the Vice President is difficult to follow. In 1870 we had not this Free Education Bill, and we limited the fees. Free-education is now to be the rule and payment the exception. But if you sanction the Lords' Amendment there will be no limit whatever, and you will have fees of 9d. and 1s. imposed. I am surprised that the Government should have assented to this Amendment after having accepted in this House the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green. If I may say so, these changes are calculated, to damage the Party of the Government outside very much indeed. If we wish to treat this matter from a Party point of view, it is the very best thing that could happen to us, but I should be sorry to take that ground. This Bill is introduced with the purpose of free education, and it is our duty to see that we are not diverted from that object. I hope the Government will still their way to disagreeing with the alteration made by the Lords; their doing so certainly could not involve any question of finance that could injuriously affect the voluntary schools.

(7.0.) MR. T. ELLIS

It is much to be deplored that the Government should take this reactionary step at the bidding of the House of Lords. In the original Bill there was a valuable clause that no higher fee than 3d. should be charged, but now it seems to me that, having omitted that clause from the Bill, it would be wise for the right hon. Gentleman to adhere to the Amendment accepted readily when the Bill was last before us. By this Amendment Parliamentary sanction will be given to a most vicious system of differentiating between one child and another, differentiating in the very worst form. In previous discussions it was urged several times that we should expect school managers to give some quid pro quo for the magnificent grant Parliament was giving, and a most moderate demand was that no higher fee than 6d. should be charged for any child. The original clause plainly indicated the intention that the fee was to be brought down as low as possible, and I do hope the Government will not now acquiesce in this reactionary step taken by the House of Lords.

MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)

I have listened to the speeches made in which hon. Members have declared that this is an attack on the system of free education; but this remains a Free Education Bill, because for every child between the ages of 3 and 15 may be demanded a free place in a school; and this being conceded, if parents are willing to pay a high fee for a better form of elementary education in a higher grade school, why should they not be allowed to do so? How can this in any way affect the fact that those who desire free education can get it?

MR. PICKARD (York, W.R., Normanton)

For the Government to accept this Amendment will be equivalent to taking away with one hand what they give with the other. Too much regard is paid to the alterations made in another place. If it is intended to give free education to the country, then give it in the form we have decided it should be given after it has been thoroughly discussed.

*(7.3.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square

I doubt if the hon. Member has read the clause, for his remarks, as have been the remarks of the other hon. Members, are entirely wide of the actual proposal. The effect of the clause is that in certain cases—not frequent cases I think—where ample provision has been made in the district for free education, after that we may have a graded school.


But a fee above 6d.?


A higher grade school may be established; but as there must first be sufficient free accommodation in the district, not a single working man need send his children to the school charging fees above 6d. My right hon. Friend will see that it is only when the Department is satisfied that sufficient accommodation is provided without the payment of fees—that is, if you have given free education in every district—that a school may be established charging a fee above 6d.


Yes, but the Elementary Education Act says the fees shall not exceed 9d.; but this will be exceeded, taking into account the 10s. grant.


This is really a small point. There may be certain cases—they will be rare cases—in which ample free accommodation having been provided, then if school managers choose they may set up a school of this kind. How can it be said this is taking free education from the working classes In these circumstances, how can it be said that the Government are taking away with one hand what they have granted with the other? I protest against the insinuation. It seems to me as if hon. Members opposite, on the strength of the very small changes made in the Bill by the House of Lords, intend to start an electoral campaign in which they will indulge in even greater exaggerations than they utter in the House of Commons. We have had gross exaggeration as to the effect of the Amendment, and I must protest against the importance sought to be put upon a very small change. I do not attach very great importance to the change, but I do attach importance to these imputations of motives.

*MR. M'LAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)

The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot deny that this allows the raising of fees in what he calls graded schools from 9d. to 1s. That, as a matter of fact, is the effect of the clause, because the limit is now 9d., and the future limit will be 9d., plus the 10s. grant. What is, therefore, proposed is that where there is now a limit of 9d., there shall be in future the limit of 1s. Our objection is to the fees of high grade schools being raised after the 10s. grant has been made to reduce the 9d. fee by 3d. We strongly object to any educational authority still continuing to charge 9d. after the grant in aid has been given.

(7.10.) The House divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 71.—(Div. List, No. 402.)

Line 34, after "sanctioned," insert "or refused," the next Amendment, agreed to.

Page 3, line 6, leave out from "desired" to "and," in line 8, the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Sir W. Hart Dyke.)

(7.18.) MR. MUNDELLA

This is one of the most important Amendments made in the other House. As the Bill left this House it read thus:— If at any time after the expiration of one year from the commencement of this Act it is represented to the Education Department that there is in any school district, or in any part of a school I district, an insufficient amount of public school accommodation without payment of fees for children over the age of three years and under the age of fifteen for whom such accommodation is desired, or where such accommodation is unsuitable for the wants of the population"— the Department shall make inquiry, and so on. The Lords have struck out the words— Or where such accommodation is unsuitable for the wants of the population. I am only repeating what I have said as to other of these Amendments, that these words were inserted in this House with the assent of hon. Members on both sides, with the assent of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne—who does not back up his words by his vote. It was agreed that the words were not harmful, but necessary and desirable, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury stopped discussion after there had been four or five speeches, remarking "We do not object to the insertion of these words, as there appears to be a general desire for their insertion." Now, I do not wish to re-enter upon the argument we have had upon the word "suitable," but I do say that when it is represented to the Department that the provision is unsuitable, then the Department ought to listen to such representation, and it ought to be put into the Act that the Department shall listen to such, representation. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War has said we are raising again the religious difficulty, and the hon. Member for Oxford University said he was surprised to hear the "No Popery" cry from this side of the House. The hon. Member is not quite fair in using that language. We have said we are not in favour of forcing Catholic children into Protestant schools, or Protestant children into Catholic schools. We say it ought to be fair all round, and the question of whether a school is suitable to the public local wants ought to be fully considered. My hon. Friend has quoted Mr. Cumin's evidence to show that unsuitability might exist on religious grounds, topographical grounds, or on the ground of fees. These words were freely accepted in this House, and yet without a word of protest the Government allow them to be taken out again in the other House, and now in the last days of July, and a few days before Prorogation, when the Government are always proportionately stronger in numbers than the Opposition, they come down and force upon us, in spite of their own promise, in spite of their voluntary concession, these Lords' Amendments, against which they raised no protest in another place. What is the objection to these words, "unsuitable to the wants of the population?" It is most unreasonable to take these words out without cause shown. Accommodation may be sufficient, and yet wholly unsuitable, as the Vice President knows perfectly well. The right hon. Gentleman has not yet answered the statement I have made. There are two other ex-Vice Presidents sitting opposite, and I put the question again—Has it not been the rule during the past 21 years for the Department, in estimating the amount of accommodation, to deduct the Catholic schools as unsuitable for the general public wants? It is not reasonable that the Department should force Protestant children into these schools, and I say again, in common fairness to all parties, there should be some test applied as to whether a school is suitable or not.

*(7.24.) MR. CHANNING

As the words were inserted upon my motion, I may be allowed to add my appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, that he should allow them to remain. I think if he will consider the argument advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby and by himself on a previous Amendment, he will see that that argument affords some ground in support of my proposal. The contention from the other side was that the word "suitable" did not run on the same lines as it does in the Act of 1870. Now, I contend that striking out these words and the word "unsuitable" in the 4th sub-section is really drawing the Bill on different lines to the Act of 1870 and the governing section of that Act. There the word "suitable" is used in regard to deficiencies of school accommodation, and here the words are applied exactly on the same lines, and with the same general reasoning behind them as in the Act of 1870. I remind the right hon. Gentleman, also, that there was considerable discussion on another Amendment which pressed the Government, perhaps, rather further in this direction, and it was on the suggestion of the Government—the First Lord of the Treasury, I think—that these words were accepted. This Amendment, of course, raises a much wider question than the previous one—a question of more vital importance, a question, I might say, of local rights, of local option in educational matters—the power of the inhabitants to make representation to the Department that the school accommodation is unsuitable, as well as insufficient. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will decide to retain the words.

*(7.27.) SIR W. HART DYKE

I cannot see the force of the argument of the hon. Member and the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It appears to me we have already discussed this point fully in all its bearings, and have come to a decisive vote on the question of the word "suitable." The right hon. Gentleman has challenged me to say what has been the policy of the Department, and to give any case where the Department has forced Catholic children into Protestant schools.


No; I asked the right hon. Gentleman to say whether it had not been the custom of the Department, in considering the question of supply of accommodation in elementary schools, to deduct the Roman Catholic supply as unsuitable.


That has been the case as regards the Metropolis, but not, generally speaking, as applied to the rest of the country.


It has in large towns.


But what I want to point out is that this has been adopted as part of the policy of the Department, and why, then, in the name of common sense, not leave well alone? Why not be satisfied with the result of experience—why emphasise this? I am tempted to believe—I wish to give every consideration to my opponents—but if you are not content to let well alone and rely on the well established practice of 21 years, if you will not do that, and wish these words inserted, then I am forced to the conviction that you mean something more than you are now stating. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire says it is a much wider question than the one we have already dealt with; and if he frankly tells us that, surely it is not the right way to tempt us to come to a different decision from that we arrived at on the last Amendment after exhaustive discussion. The rejection of this Amendment will seriously affect, or may seriously affect, the future policy of the Department as regards the working of the Act. I have shown that in the past policy of the Department there is no cause shown for the insertion of these words, and we are content to base our demand for the acceptance of the Lords' Amendment on the administration of 21 years, which has worked extremely well. The words are not necessary as applied to schools receiving the Government grant and protected by the Conscience Clause.

*(7.30.) MR. H. H. FOWLER

I cannot but feel disppointed with the speech just made. This is a much wider question—a totally distinct question—to that raised before. The right hon. Gentleman said the word "suitable" has a technical meaning in the Department, and, therefore, he objected to introducing that word in a previous section of the clause. He says the Department ascertained this difficulty too late to state it to this House, and, therefore, they inserted that Amendment in the House of Lords. But this Amendment is a totally different matter, and I will endeavour to show that the right hon. Gentleman's speech just now was not applicable to this Amendment at all, although it was to the previous one. It is worth while to note that the support to the Commons Amendment came from the other side quite as strongly as from this side, and this is a question which raises much broader issues than the last Division. This is the crux of the whole situation dealing with whether you are or are not to have free education, bonâ fide, throughout the whole Kingdom. Sub-section 4 of Clause 3 says— If at any time after the expiration of one year from the commencement of this Act it is represented to the Education Department that there is in any school district, or any part of a school district, an insufficient amount of public school accommodation without payment of fees for children over three and under fifteen years of age, for whom such accommodation is desired, or that such accommodation is unsuitable for the wants of the population," &c— then, and then only, are the Education Department to interfere and compel the provision of free education. Now, what does the House of Lords propose? The words "or that such accommodation is unsuitable for the wants of the population," are to be struck out, and there is to be simply an arithmetical problem, and nothing else. There are a certain number of children in a district, there is a certain amount of accommodation, and though it may be, from distance or quantity, entirely unsuited to the district, yet these people are to be deprived of free education. If I were arguing this question from a Party point of view, I should desire nothing better than that this Amendment should remain. The Amendment of the House of Lords reverses the spirit of the whole Bill as a Bill for free education, and I congratulate the hon. Member for the Evesham Division, the hon. Member for Salford, and the noble Lord the Member for Darwen on the fact that by the acceptance of the Amendment a great part of the virtue of the measure is taken out of it as far as free education is concerned. The intention of the Amendment is to put free schools and free scholars at a disadvantage. The right hon. Gentleman opposite says that these words have a technical meaning in the Education Department. Not at all. These words never appeared in an Act of Parliament before. You say you are to provide for a certain district a certain number of free school places, and that these are to be available for all the children in that district; but now you strike out those words and say that if in a large parish there are a certain number of places free, even though the school is unsuitable for the needs of the population—even though a river may divide the parish, or a mountain, as an hon. Member pointed out—the parents are to avail themselves of it for their children. I thought there was some force in the argument of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary for War, that the Government have discovered a certain kind of technical meaning in the word "suitable" as applied to the 1st sub-section of this clause, and that, therefore, they felt in a difficulty in dealing with it; but they are now introducing an entirely new principle into the measure, which has nothing to do with suitability. This is a question of providing proper accommodation in each district. I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether this is the mode in which Public Business is to be conducted in the House of Commons—that the Government are to accept an Amendment here and strike it out in another place for no reason whatever? It is due to the House of Commons and the character of the Government that they should consent to reinstate the words.

*(7.40.) MR. GOSCHEN

The right hon. Gentleman suggests that this is a fatal stab in the back to the whole system of compulsory free education. I am not quite sure whether the right hon. Gentleman has sufficiently looked at the wording of the clause. If he will do so, he will see that the clause only deals with the case of a representation being made to the Department. Where no representation is made, the Department will act according to their traditional practice, and with that practice the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have expressed themselves satisfied. It is asked why the Government now wish to omit these words, which they accepted before. It is because a great deal of new light has been thrown on these words by the speeches we have heard. We see that it will be possible in the future that a representation will be made, "this is a denominational school, and, therefore, is unsuitable."


That is an afterthought.


I am very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman should give utterance to a misrepresentation of our motive. It has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire that these words will give an opportunity for a kind of religious local option. What does that mean? It means that, after the Bill has passed, a certain number of the ratepayers in every district will come together and say, "We will now make a representation to the Department that the public elementary schools in this district are unsuitable to the wants of the population. We do not consider them suitable, because they are denominational." In the interests of education and of peace, I think it would be most unwise that words which will give rise to such a religious difficulty should be left in the Bill. We have seen sufficient evidence of this.


Nobody else has.


Then what does local option mean? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see the force of that argument, even if he does not agree with it. This point only refers to representations to be made to the Education Department. It does not fetter their hands. They will proceed as they have done hitherto. They will not allow unsuitable schools—schools that are unsuitable in the true old sense—to take the place of schools that are suitable. The right hon. Gentleman has dealt with difficulties which do not exist, and has ignored the real difficulty, which is the religious one.

*(7.45.) MR. C. S. PARKER (Perth)

I would suggest that it would be possible so to word the clause as to remove the objection of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The "representation" might be left out, and the clause might be worded somewhat as follows:— If the Education Department are satisfied that in any school district there is insufficient accommodation, or that such accommodation is unsuitable to the wants of the population. According to my understanding of the right hon. Gentleman's argument that would meet his point.


I said that was unnecessary, because it is already the practice of the Department, and we do not wish to interfere with the practice.


If so, why not word the Amendment so as to recognise that such is the practice of the Department?


I do not know whether I may, by leave of the House, point out that the Education Department are to act under Sections 8 and 9 of the Act of 1870. It is clear, therefore, that the Department will take far more into consideration than simply to remove the mere insufficiency.

(7.47.) MR. ADDISON

I do not consider the reproach addressed to me by the right hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) to be well deserved, because while it is quite true that when the matter was under discussion I added my voice to urge the Government to accept these words, I did so on the ground that they seemed to be harmless and unobjectionable. But after reading what has been said, and after having heard the Debate to-night, it is plain to me that to some extent I was deceived by the ingenuity of hon. Gentlemen who brought forward the Amendment. Now it appears that this Bill, which is ostensibly a Bill for free education, is to be made a Bill for the establishment of universal School Boards. According to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, what is the meaning of the word "suitable"? Something was faintly said about its being suitable topographically—that is to say, suitable as to distance; but I should have thought that that would have been covered by the word "sufficient." It is absurd to say that a school is sufficient which is too far off for the children to attend it. The education authorities have themselves said that every public elementary school shall be sufficient in that respect. If there is any school in England that is not suitable in that respect it ought not to receive the grant. We are told, again, that the word "suitable" means suitable to the feelings of those people who do not like religious education. It is plain that if that argument is good, whatever dislike Protestant children may have to going to Roman Catholic schools can hardly be dispelled by the dislike of hon. Members who represent Wales to any sort of denominational schools, especially those of the Church of England. I voted with the Government that the public elementary schools supported out of the taxes should be in every case suitable for all children sent to them; and when we are told that we ought to view with suspicion all that comes from the House of Lords in the matter of education, we ought to remember that the leader of the Government is in the House of Lords, and that no responsible Party leader has taken up the matter of education as Lord Salisbury has done, and his having done that for the last five years seems to be a special annoyance to the right hon. Member for Sheffield.


The two principles on which we supported this Bill were that it adopted the principle of free schools, and that where the fees were not to be entirely abolished it admitted the right of the parent to demand free places where they had not been provided; and in regard to the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that this will lead to local difficulties and local friction, unfortunately the principle which has been adopted of retaining fees in certain schools will inevitably lead to local friction. It seems to me that the right of the parent in regard to this matter is a very strong one. He is entitled to demand not only free accommodation, but that it shall be suitable for the wants of himself and his children. That is all we ask for in this matter. We know that in a large number of towns the fees are very high, and the managers of voluntary schools will not voluntarily introduce a system of free schools. It will be necessary for the parents to demand free places, and it will be an advantage to the Department to know whether it is a question of accommodation and whether the accommodation is suitable or not. We on this side believe these words are quite as essential as the word "sufficient"; and that if the accommodation is to be supplied it must not only be sufficient, but suitable for the wants of the parents.


The Chancellor of the Exchequer has put it that these words apply only to the representations which are made by the public to the Department upon the matter of the suitability of the accommodation. At the same time, when he tells us that the Department, acting for themselves without the interference of the public, are accustomed to take into account whether the accommodation is suitable, I should have thought, if the Department of its own motion did that, it might allow the public to do it of their own motion when acting without the Department. The fact is, we are giving a very large amount of money for the purpose of education without representative control, and everything that tends to give the persons interested in it a full right to appeal upon every point by which they are affected be desirable to retain. Therefore, I am in favour of the retention of the words in the Bill which the House of Lords have omitted.

(7.58.) MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton (Mr. Addison), I pressed on the Government the insertion of these words, but, unlike him, I have not changed my opinion, and hope sincerely that the Government may yet give way and allow them to be retained. There seems to be no doubt as to what the traditions of the Department have been in this matter. It is said that cases have occurred in which Roman Catholic public-elementary schools have been held to be unsuitable, and I think it right that they should so be held according to the manner in which they are conducted. But I do not stop there. It seems to me that it is possible for a public elementary school to be unsuitable for the wants of the population. A certain number of people live in a neighbourhood; they represent to the Department that a certain public elementary school is unsuitable for the wants of the district; the Department are convinced that that is the case, and, in spite of that, according to this Amendment, they are not to have the power to alter the state of things. We are told that they say that every public elementary school must be suitable, but I am sure it is not so in the Act. I believe cases have been referred to where the education given in these schools is such that children of Nonconformists could not be sent to them with any sense of self-respect on the part of the parents. I say that such schools are unsuitable for the wants of the population. It seems to me to be of the utmost importance that where a foolish clergyman or manager acts in such a manner as to necessitate it, the Department should be enabled to come down upon him and say, "If you do not alter this mode of procedure we shall be compelled to put the Education Act of 1870 into force." I am content to leave it to the discretion of the Department to determine whether the complaints made to them are just. What I want to see done, and what I hope every Member in this House desires to see, is that the teaching provided shall be such as is suitable to the wants of the neighbourhood; and where the teaching-is found to be unsuitable, I hope it will be in the power of the Department to put a stop to it.


I do not see that there is any ground for mistrust as to whether in the future the words inserted in the clause may be used in a manner contrary to the practice in the past. Of course, the ratepayers will complain if the schools are found to be unsuitable to the wants of the neighbourhood. I do not think so badly of the future Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Education Department as to suppose they will extend the construction of the word "suitable" in such a way as to declare that a Wesleyan school is not fit for a Baptist child, and so forth; and I have no doubt that if the word "suitable" is re-inserted, the Department will simply follow the practice it has observed all along.

*MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)

The question of the use of the word "suitable" has given rise to a good deal of contention as to the mode in which it may be applied. In my opinion, there would be no difficulty in using it in any sense in which it ought to be used for the purpose of carrying out the intentions of this measure, and I think the Government are pressing much too strongly the argument they have used with regard to the technical meaning of the word. A word of general meaning, such as the word "suitable," ought not to be considered a technical word except for some very strong reason; and all their argument comes to this: that hitherto they have been in the habit, in accordance with the construction of the Elementary Act, of interpreting the word in a particular sense. The Government admit that you may say the school or the accommodation is sufficient, but you must not say it is not suitable for the wants of the neighbouring population. Do they mean to say that for the future a locality is to be debarred or discouraged from addressing the Department and pointing out that a school, say in a large town like Stockport or Preston, is badly situated in point of site, or wretched in point of attendance, or insufficient in point of construction, or, generally, not adapted to the wants of the people, having regard not merely to the denominational, but to the special character of the population? The Government say, "We strike out this word 'suitable,' and will not allow the people of the locality to come to us and say they have a statutory right to object to the suitability of the school." Surely there should be no such objection to the use of this word as will prevent our securing that, when this great boon of free education is given to a district, it should not be made illusory or frittered away in the management of the school. I cannot, think that, having regard to the security of the public in this matter, and to the good reputation of the Government, that they are wise in abandoning at a late period of the Session an Amendment which they accepted some time ago. On the contrary, I think they would do well to make some concession on this question.

(8.8.) MR. J. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)

The defence of the Government for this Amendment is that it is unnecessary to re-insert the word "suitable"—because the Education Department acts on the principle of the clause as it stood, and, therefore, the word is unnecessary. The Vice President of the Council says, it is wise to let well alone, and that the word "sufficient" in the mind of the Department includes the word "suitable." If that be so, we are letting well alone, because we only emphasise a practice which the right hon. Gentleman declares to be a good one. All we propose is to give legislative force to a practice which he says is already adopted by the Department. If this be so, what objection can there be to our proposal? The opposition offered to the introduction of the word "suitable" seems almost to prove that the Government have some ulterior motive, and that they intend in future to change the previous practice. If not, they would admit the introduction of this word. I cannot understand why, at this late period of the Session when time is so valuable, the Government should insist on forcing this Amendment upon the House.

*MR. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough)

The arguments which have been used by those who have opposed the Lords Amendments appear to me to be unanswerable, and I do not intend to repeat them. I might have rested content to register yet another silent vote against these Amendments, but my duty and the trust imposed on me by my constituency bid me to protest in the most solemn manner against the other House vetoing a decision deliberately arrived at by the chosen Representatives of the people; and while, in one sense, I welcome these Amendments as helping us to educate the masses of the people as to the folly of a free people allowing any body of men by the mere accident of birth to—


The hon. Member is going beyond the question raised by the Lords Amendments, and is not entitled to make these observations.


If you had not stopped me, Sir, I should simply have said—


Order, order! The hon. Member is not entitled to continue these remarks.

(8.15.) The House divided:—Ayes 82; Noes 62.—(Div. List, No. 403.) (8.24.)

Page 3, line 9, after "case," insert— Which inquiry shall, on the request of the same persons as are entitled under section nine of "The Elementary Education Act, 1870,' to apply for a public inquiry, he a public inquiry if the district is under a school board,

the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Sir W. Hart Dyke.)

(8.54.) MR. MUNDELLA

I want to point out that this is simply a dilatory Amendment. It has no other object in the world than to prevent free education coming into operation as soon as possible. It restricts the action and freedom of the Department. If it does not do so, why did not the right hon. Gentleman, when he introduced the Bill, insert words like it? Why is a public inquiry necessary? The Education Department has to find out if there is a sufficient supply of free school accommodation. If the Amendment is accepted, a year or two will be wasted in departmental and public inquiries before the Department will be in a position to require the establishment of a sufficient number of free elementary schools, and thus free education will be prevented from coming into operation as soon as it ought. The Amendment will work in this way. First, after the lapse of one year the Department will come to the conclusion that there is good ground for holding an inquiry. After that inquiry six months must elapse before an order can be issued requiring the provision of further free accommodation, and, instead of hon. Members being justified in wooing the constituencies by saying, "Remember the 1st September and see what we have given you," they will have to say, "Wait until the 1st September, 1893 or 1894, before you benefit by our policy." I appeal to the Government to support us in disagreeing with the Lords Amendment and in making the Bill what it was when it left this House. It surely is an extraordinary thing that the Government have to be compelled to support the principle of their own Bill.

*(8.59.) SIR W. HART DYKE

I think that the right hon. Gentleman must have altogether misunderstood the scope of the Amendment. In order to allay the alarm of the right hon. Gentleman, I may say that the only object of the Amendment is to place the Board schools on the same footing with the voluntary schools as far as regards public inquiry. It will be very rarely, indeed, that such an inquiry will be required. When the right hon. Gentleman says the Amendment is a dila- tory one, and intended to prevent free education coming quickly into operation, I say it is nothing of the kind. The inquiries are to be public, but they will probably only be necessary in the rare cases of recalcitrant School Boards. The Amendment is a very small one, and I am utterly astonished at the extraordinary complexion the right hon. Gentleman has placed on it.


I do not quite understand the Vice President's argument. If the Department think fit they can order a public inquiry. How many of these public inquiries are we to have? Why make this inquiry compulsory? It will assuredly lead to delay.


I should have thought hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would have preferred that there should be a public inquiry in these matters. But my right hon. Friend does not attach an undue importance to the Amendment; and if it will facilitate matters, we will consent to a disagreement with the Lords Amendment. We shall do so with regret, because we consider a public inquiry is important. In any case, we trust it will not be imagined that the Amendment was made with any sinister object.

Question put, and negatived.

Other Lords Amendments agreed to.

Line 11, after "1870," insert "and every other section enabling them in that behalf," the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."


This is a purely drafting Amendment, and I am not going to criticise it; but I must say I prefer the original wording.


Sections 9 and 10 are most drastic in their operation, and the object of the Amendment is to call special attention to them. The Amendment meets, to a considerable extent, a good many of the arguments with regard to "suitability," because it enables the Education Department to take into consideration many of the points raised by hon. Gentlemen.

Question put, and agreed to.

Line 14, after "fees," insert— Provided that whenever, and so long as any deficiency in public school accommodation in any district is in course of being supplied with due despatch, no requisition or order shall be issued in that behalf of the Education Department, the next Amendment, read a second time.


I should like to ask you, Sir, whether this Amendment is not outside the scope of the Bill? This Bill was founded on a Resolution of this House to supply public money for the purpose of making a fee grant. The Government resisted any discussion in respect to the 17s. 6d. limit, and any other question affecting the Act of 1870, on the ground that an Amendment of the Act of 1870 was outside the purview of this Bill. This is an Amendment to settle such controversies as those which have arisen at York and Salisbury, with which this Bill has nothing to do.


On the point of order, I think these words refer exclusively to the Bill before the House. My noble Friend the Lord President took the opinion of the highest legal authority in the country as to the effect of these words, and he was assured the words do apply exclusively to this Bill, and not directly or indirectly with the Act of 1870.


In order to remove any doubt, I beg to move to insert, after "in," in line 2, the word "free."

Amendment proposed, after the word "in," in line 2, to insert the word "free."—(Mr. Mundella.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'free' be there inserted."


We are prepared to accept words which will make it perfectly clear that under no possibility should this proviso refer to the provisions of the Act of 1870. But I am not sure that the Amendment, with the proposed addition, will read well. I would suggest that we should insert after "in," in line 2, "such last mentioned."


I am quite prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's proposal.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed to the Lords Amendment, after "in," in line 2, to insert "such last mentioned."—(Sir W. Hart Dyke.)

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment as amended."—(Sir W. Hart Dyke.)


I must protest against the Amendment even as amended. It is quite obvious the Amendment is made in the spirit of some words which fell from the noble Lord the Member for Darwen (Viscount Cranborne), namely, "any delay is of value." I protest against this Bill being used to enlarge the powers of voluntary schools with regard to the provision of public school accommodation. The words accepted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield do not cover the issue. We all know that when this Bill is passed the present system will rapidly become a free school system. Ought we not to give a ready means of bringing the choice of schools within the reach of the people by the School Board system?


If the Government are sincere, the principle of the Bill is to give free education as soon as possible. We on this side are irreconcilably opposed to any obstacle being placed in the way of having, as soon as possible, free public school accommodation. I therefore hope my hon. Friend will divide the House against the Amendment.


There is no intention by this Amendment to delay the provision of free school accommodation. What is intended is that where the inhabitants of a district prefer the existing voluntary system, they should be enabled to provide free accommodation under that system.


I also object to the words "with due despatch," and if my hon. Friend goes to a Division I shall support him.


In a parish in which I am a lessee we have paid large sums of money to prevent a School Board being established, and we are prepared to pay more with that object in view. In 12 months we may not be able to complete the school accommodation. If that is so, it would be very hard on us if a School Board were set up. I think this act of grace will encourage voluntary efforts.


I do not know what the object of the Amendment is. It is already provided that a School Board is only to be formed when the school accommodation that is wanted is not being supplied with due despatch.


I quite agree with the hon. Member for Woolwich (Colonel Hughes) that if the clause was necessary to carry out his views there would be a great deal to be said in favour of it. But there is to be an expiration of 12 months; then there is to be an inquiry, and then the Education Department are to direct that the deficiency shall be supplied. This is a provision which is totally outside the Bill. I shall certainly divide against the clause.

(9.22.) The House divided:—Ayes 78; Noes 48.—(Div. List, No. 404.)

Subsequent Amendments as far as the Amendment Clause A agreed to.

Clause A—

(Grouping schools)

"(1.) Where the managers of two or more public elementary schools in the same or neighbouring school districts, not being schools provided by a school board, agree to associate, and elect a committee for the schools in accordance with a scheme to be approved by the Education Department, the schools may be treated as one school for such of the purposes of the Elementary Education Acts, 1870 to 1891, as may be mentioned in the scheme, and the committee may for such purposes be treated as the managers of the associated schools.

(2.) Where two or more public elementary schools are under the same managers, the said schools shall, if the managers so desire, be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be one school,"

the next Amendment, read a second time.

*(9.30.) MR. H. H. FOWLER

This is an entirely new clause. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will give us some explanation of it?


This was inserted in another place with the assent of the leaders of the Opposition there. The clause enables voluntary schools in any district to form themselves into groups with the approval of the Education Department for the purposes of this Act. The object is to make more operative Clause 5, which empowers managers of two or more voluntary schools to pay the fee grants into a common fund. The new clause enables the Department to deal with these as one school for financial purposes when grouped together. The principle of grouping was accepted in Committee on both sides, and on this principle the clause is based.


The 2nd subsection of the clause not only admits the principle of grouping; it provides that— Where two or more schools are under the same managers, the schools shall, if the managers so desire, he deemed for the purposes of this Act to he one school. There is, then, no consent or control of the Education Department. I should like to hear what the right hon. Gentleman means to do about that; I do not think he means altogether to abdicate the functions of the Education Department.


The earlier portion of the clause says that it "hall be in accordance with a scheme to be approved by the Education Department.


Not in the 2nd sub-section.


What we ask is the course the right hon. Gentleman means to take in reference to both subsections. I can quite understand Subsection 1 as carrying out the principle of grouping, but Sub-section 2 contains a new principle, where two or more schools are under one management they shall, at the desire of the managers, be deemed one school, so that the schools of one denomination in a town may all be put under one management and be treated as one school, though there may be degrees of fees, high and low, and the grant applied to the whole as one school. The effect would be unjust, and I think before we pass from Sub-section I we ought to know what the Government propose to do with Sub-section 2.


I do not think the two sub-sections need necessarily be taken together; they may be considered as two Amendments.


I personally was in favour of the clause as proposed by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Cranborne), for I favour the system of grouping, because, though some of my hon. Friends think it will strengthen the position of voluntary schools, I think it will be a gain educationally, putting schools under a better Board of Management than now exists. But I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the provisions of Clause 5—or, as it now is, Clause 6—as to the 17s. 6d. limit govern these two sections? If he will add a proviso to that effect at the end I have no objection to the principle of the clause, but if it is intended to group together schools and by taking the average of subscriptions to augment the grant under the 17s. 6d. limit, I do see considerable objection. But I imagine the right hon. Gentleman will not object to the addition of the proviso.

*(9.35.) MR. G. W. BALFOUR (Leeds, Central)

I understand the proviso to Clause 5 is to guard against the danger of a double claim to exceed the 17s. 6d. limit being made in respect of the same sum of money. If schools were amalgamated under one management no such danger could arise, and if this new clause were inserted the result would be that voluntary schools might group themselves together, and when so grouped they would have similar advantages to those which Board schools have under a single Board management. It is true that by the grouping of schools there might be some cases where the 17s. 6d. grant would be exceeded where it is not exceeded now, but similar facilities are already possessed by the School Board. ["No, no!"] Yes; a School Board has at its disposal a fund received from the rates, which it can distribute among the various schools according to their necessities. This power will be obtained by voluntary schools in the same way as it is now possessed by Board schools.


It seems to me that in accepting this Amendment we shall be taking a very long step. No doubt the clause will be the realisation of the fond hope of certain supporters of voluntary schools of having what is called Church School Boards, and that is a question which can be discussed on its own merits. We think that such a Board of self-elected managers is a very poor control indeed to have over vast sums of public money. But that is not the point I wish to call attention to. Here we have a great change proposed in the organisation of the educa- tion of the country by means of a scheme of the Education Department, and I should like to call attention to what Members on either side have always insisted upon in regard to re-organisation by means of these schemes. Under the Endowed Schools Act and the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, under which local bodies make schemes of re-organisation, it has always been the rule for Parliament, not satisfied with the schemes made by local bodies and the Department, to insist that the schemes shall be open to every form of governmental and public inquiry, and ultimately be submitted for the sanction of this House. Now, I consider that to give power to a certain number of self-elected managers to draw up schemes relating to such a number of schools in a town or county without Parliament having any sanction or supervision of those schemes is a new step, and one not to be taken without great consideration. Therefore, I hope, whether the clause is accepted or not, this House will insist that anything in this nature shall be coupled with the condition that it shall be subject to Parliamentary as well as departmental sanction. There is a procedure in an Act passed some two years ago, the Technical Education Act, which should be followed in such schemes as are here contemplated, dealing with a large amount of public money, that the consideration of Parliament should be invited. Whatever the House may decide in regard to the first part of this clause, I hope there will be a strong opposition to the second part of it which may induce the Government to withdraw this second part. But before we come to that, I hope the Government will say they will agree to a proposal that all these schemes shall before becoming operative be laid before Parliament.

(9.40.) MR. MUNDELLA

We want to know the effect of this clause—whether Section 19 of the Education Act is to be applied to it. If it is not applied, then this is simply a device for evading and defeating the 17s. 6d. limit. Now, the hon. Member for Leeds says that School Boards have this power of grouping—of taking the average; but he is quite mistaken. Every school stands upon its own separate account, the object being to secure that a certain amount shall be expended on education in every school, failing which a reduction is made. Surely it is not the intention of the Government that schools which do not by the maintenance of a staff keep up efficiency are to remain in a state of inefficiency. Unless the proviso is introduced this will really repeal the 19th section of the Education Act.


The right hon. Gentleman has not explained how this proposal would repeal the operation of the 17s. 6d. limit, if the schools were to be treated as under one management and as administratively and financially one school. I cannot see any objection, if you have a certain number of schools in different buildings but practically one school, to treating these as one school. That seemed to be desired by several hon. Members opposite when it was discussed in Committee, and I cannot see any objection unless the desire is to kill a school by its poverty. There is no objection to introduce words in the second part of the clause to require the approval of the Department if that is desired, but I do not understand there is any objection to the principle of grouping on its merits.

(9.45.) MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)

The object of the Bill when introduced was that no fees in any fee-paying school should charge more than 9d., 3d. being paid by the grant; but by the amalgamation of a number of schools, though in some schools the fee may exceed 6d., the average of the whole number may bring them within the 17s. 6d. limit. To prevent this, I move that Sub-section A shall be subject to the proviso at the end of Clause 6 of the new Bill:— Provided that the fee grant received by each school in the first instance shall alone count as income of such school for the purposes of this Act and of Section 19 of the Elementary Education Act, 1876. If the object of the promoters of the new clause is to secure uniformity of management and facility in management, this will be secured, but evasions of the 17s. 6d. limit will be prevented.

Amendment proposed, before the first word "Where," to insert the words "Subject to the proviso in clause five."—(Mr. Caldwell.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

(9.50.) MR. MUNDELLA

In reply to the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I ask the right hon. Gentleman does he intend, by an evasive and indirect method, to repeal Section 19 of the Act of 1876? He said a number of schools in different buildings might be regarded as one school; but does not the right hon. Gentleman sec that by taking the whole of the schools of one denomination in a town and combining their revenues, there may be a certain number of schools with a poor staff and low expenditure, which, if they stood alone, would come under the operation of the 17s. 6d. limit, but which, under the clause, could be starved in the interest of other schools. If the right hon. Gentleman will insert words requiring that each school shall receive a share of the expenditure, we shall be content. We want to secure that the grant shall not be so distributed that it goes to the benefit of the fee-paying schools, leaving the free schools inefficient.


The object of the proviso was to prevent the same money constituting a claim to exceed the 17s. 6d. limit in two schools, but this cannot arise under the new clause. The 17s. 6d. grant cannot be obtained unless it is earned, and if it is earned the school cannot be in an inefficient condition.


The hon. Member for Leeds says the proviso was put in to prevent the fee grant being given twice over, but with all respect to him, I think he is mistaken. The object is to prevent the danger that might arise from the fee grant being made a common fund. If the fee grant to school A amounts to £50, and the fee grant to school B £100, and the grant is shared, then school A may receive £75 instead of £50. I protest against this attempt of the Government to abolish indirectly the 17s. 6d. limit. The Government have declared over and over again they would allow no interference with that limit, and yet now they are proposing to group schools together for the avowed purpose of doing away with the limit.


The right hon. Gentleman is in error. There are many purposes for which it is desirable to group schools together.


In an indirect way the grant of public money will be increased to certain classes of schools, although there is no Resolution of the House on which such a grant can be made. By this combination of schools—it may be schools in quite different parts of the country—the whole purpose of the Act will be evaded.

(9.58.) VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)

If this clause passes without the proviso, even though one school receives the fee grant earned by the other school, it would not be able to count that grant as against the 17s. 6d. limit. The 17s. 6d. limit was established to prevent schools, even though they earned large grants, from getting the advantage of the grant unless they showed contributions from other sources. If they can produce income from other sources that objection falls to the ground. Under the grouping scheme you may be able to secure, not only the voluntary subscriptions and the other income, but part of the fee grant of the richer schools may be given to the poorer schools. The whole scheme of the 17s. 6d. limit rests on two considerations; in the first place, that the school earns the grant, and, secondly, that it earns it without ill-treating the children. There is no reason why these two conditions should not be fulfilled. Under the Amendment as it comes to us from the Lords they must be fulfilled. Well, if the proviso of the right hon. Gentleman were inserted, and if it were provided that the grant handed over by the richer schools to the poorer ones should not count as against the 17s. 6d. limit, the House would be taking a step not at all founded on reason. The right hon. Gentleman said the clause was far-reaching. It is true that for all purposes of the Act if a scheme is set on foot it must be treated as a single one. I see no objection to that. The principle thing to do is to give elasticity to the system, which is in the interests of free education. The system we contemplate is this, that under the grouping system, where, say, six schools agree to work together, it will be quite possible to make five of them free, the remaining school to continue a fee-paying school, It seems an ideal system that the fee-paying school which does not want the money should hand it over to those which do in order to make them free. Unless, however, the Amendment is passed in the form in which it has been sent down from the other House—that is to say, if the proviso is inserted, it will be impossible for that one school to charge adequate fees, because it will be limited as to its fees to its own excess of the fee grant.

(10.10.) MR. J. ELLIS

I believe that in regard to large towns such as the one I live in, if you group the denominational schools, such as the national schools, you will do away with subscriptions altogether. There is great diversity in the parish schools, and each parish takes special interest in its own school, and if you group the whole of the schools in a town together in pecuniary matters you must fail. Educationalists have wondered why national schools in large towns have not grouped themselves together for educational purposes. They have asked, "Why have they not grouped themselves together for the purpose of training the teachers? Why have they not grouped themselves together for the purpose of securing the advantages that the Board schools have?" Well, they have never done it, but when money is offered they always grasp at any scheme to make use of it for their own purposes. I believe that if they accept the money under the proposed grouping system they will fail, for when you draw from the whole locality for the support of the whole of the schools, local interest will die out, and the subscriptions will no longer come in. If the Amendment is passed I believe it will be fatal both to denominational, schools and denominationalism. It seems to me that it is too great an alteration to make in a Bill which has passed this House, gone up to the House of Lords, and come back here. We do not know, nor can we know, what the effect of the clause will be, but it certainly seems to me that it will be injurious to many Church schools, and ought not to be passed.

(10.15.) MR. GOSCHEN

I would suggest that, if it will facilitate matters, the Government should propose to leave out the 2nd sub-section altogether, but we cannot accept the proviso of the right hon. Gentleman.


Leave out the 2nd sub-section, but insert the proviso.


No, we cannot accept that.


I do not see that there is much in the suggested compromise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because Sub-section 2 will have very little effect if Sub-section 1 is carried. Sub-section 1 is by far the more important of the two. A few minutes ago, when I first asked a question as to this, and when I discovered that the matter was governed by a proviso as to the 17s. 6d. limit, the right hon. Gentleman opposite gave his consent to the proviso by nodding his head. I should like now to ask him what his views as to the question are. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are mixing up two things, and are endeavouring by a side wind to obtain larger concessions than were originally intended as to the grouping of voluntary schools. We thought to strengthen the Amendment by this proviso, but it appears they meant something different. It seems to me a curious commentary on our proceedings that whilst we were precluded in this Bill from discussing the 17s. 6d. limit, we are now entitled to do so on a Lords' Amendment. I do not think that such a matter ought to be introduced into the Bill—at any rate in this form. I was not one of those who thought that the 17s. 6d. limit in itself was a satisfactory mode of obtaining subscriptions, but, at the same time, when hon. Gentlemen argue as though the 17s. 6d. limit had been introduced to injure the poorer schools, I think they forget that it was introduced—to see that subscriptions to these advanced schools would be properly maintained—by a Conservative Government. If under the clause all the voluntary schools of the Kingdom were grouped, the 17s. 6d. limit would disappear. What we desire is that while giving the fullest possible power of grouping of management to voluntary schools, each individual school shall be treated as an individual item in regard to the grant and in regard to the fee grant. I do not think the Government in a matter like this should depart from principles that have governed elementary education since 1876. If we are going to reform the 17s. 6d. limit, let us discuss it on its merits, and not have it practically abolished by a side wind in this way. I hope the proviso will be accepted, so as to enable us to support a clause with which, in principle, I cordially agree.

(10.19.) MR. LLOYD - GEORGE&c.) (Carnarvon,

I wish to ask, if the Amendment has been moved in a bonâ fide spirit, and if it is simply intended to carry out Section 5, why not insert the proviso in that section? If it is incorporated, I should have no objection to the proposed alteration. The noble Lord the Member for Darwen tells us that this is an ideal system, because it will enable groups of schools to be formed in order that while one of the schools is fee-paying it may assist the others, the whole of which may become free. But the noble Lord ignores one very important possibility and contingency—that not only is it possible by the section to make one school fee-paying, but it is also possible, by the process he proposes, to make the whole of the schools in a group fee-paying. The noble Lord has been very free in his suggestions that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House do not understand the Bill. I am sorry I must retort by a sort of tu quoque, that the noble Lord not only does not understand the Bill, but does not understand the very section he supports. I shall support the proviso which has just been moved, and shall, when the time comes, move two or three Amendments to the same section.

(10.23.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 57; Noes 97.—(Div. List, No. 405.)


I propose to omit the words "or more." It will be possible under the clause that two or more schools may be grouped together. Inasmuch as this grouping is not to be subjected to the proviso of Clause 6, it is desirable that this grouping should be restricted as much as possible. An unlimited power of grouping may permit the combination of schools in distant parts of the country where the public interests are widely distinct. There is nothing to prevent any number of schools in England and Wales combining under one scheme; there is nothing to prevent the trustees meeting in London and agreeing to associate all the national schools of the Kingdom, and then, if there is a Government in power as ready as is the present Government to meet the views of its clerical advisers, there will be no difficulty in getting the approval of the Government to any scheme, however inimical to the general public interest.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the words "or more."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'or more' stand part of the Amendment."

*(10.37.) SIR W. HART DYKE

I think the question of the number of schools to be grouped together may be fairly left to the discretion of the Education Department, by which every scheme will have to be approved.


We do not doubt the discretion of the Education Department, but we do feel very strongly that the increase of grant should not be allowed under the form of these Lords' Amendments. I shall have to appeal to the ruling of the Speaker on this point later on.


The Question now is the omission of the words "or more."


I should like to know whether it would be possible under the clause for the whole of the schools of one denomination in a county to combine under one scheme? If that is so, it should be carefully considered, for it seems to me a step outside the scope of this Free Education Bill.


The clause itself supplies a limitation, "the neighbouring district."

(10.42.) The House divided:—Ayes 99; Noes 52.—(Div. List, No. 406.)

*(10.50.) MR. ROBY

I beg to move as an Amendment to the same clause to omit in line 2 the word "neighbouring," and to substitute "district" for "districts." The words as they stand are far too wide and indefinite, and a limit ought to be imposed. "Neighbouring districts" may extend from one to the other all across England.

Amendment proposed, in line 2, to leave out the words "or neighbouring."—(Mr. Roby.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'or neighbouring' stand part of the Amendment."


The same phrase occurs in Clause 6, and the Amendment is unnecessary. When hon. Members seek thus to make the clause restrictive, I can only repeat that as to what are neighbouring districts, or as to the number of schools to be grouped, it must depend on the Department to deal in a common sense, practical way with any difficulties under this head. I hope the House will not accept the Amendment.


We have not yet heard a reply to the suggestion of my hon. Friend that these schemes should be laid before Parliament. The objection of the hon. Member (Mr. Roby) is a valid one. "Neighbouring districts" might be made to include districts extending from Cardiff to Holyhead, but the objection might be met by a proviso that the assent of the House should be required to every scheme.


There is, as we know, a great disadvantage in the custom of bringing on educational schemes after midnight when they cannot be adequately discussed. I shall be quite prepared, if the desire is that Parliament should have early information, to present it in the form of a Return.

(10.55.) MR. J. BRYN ROBERTS

That would not be sufficient, because unless the Government were to take the initiative it would be impossible for any Member to raise the question of any particular scheme with the object of getting an expression of opinion in the House. I certainly think some closer definition than "neighbouring districts" is required.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say what limit the Government propose to put on the word "neighbouring," and also whether they will admit Board schools into the grouping arrangements?

*(10.58.) MR. GOSCHEN

In point of policy there is no objection to the grouping of Board schools, but there is a departmental difficulty in regard to rating which with voluntary schools does not arise. That is the only objection. There is no idea of including groups of schools over vast areas, and I think discretion may well be entrusted to the Education Department.


I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are as anxious as he is to make progress, and I think he knows that when this Bill was going through Committee of this House we facilitated it at every stage. We are anxious to promote grouping for educational purposes, and we have no objection at all to giving power for it, provided that the grouping is not a mere cover for obtaining money which ought not to be paid.

*(11.4.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)

I have been very anxious to see this Bill passed, and I have refrained from speaking upon it, but I think it is time to protest against the spirit in which the Government are trying to shove it down our throats to-night. Here we have a new clause brought up from another place, and we are not allowed an opportunity of discussing it thoroughly. I do not object to two schools being joined together if they are in the same district. I know from experience that that would probably be an advantage. I have for 20 years been manager and hon. secretary of the Church schools in my own parish, and, therefore, I know something about the management of these institutions. But what I do object to is the grouping together of different districts, or even of several counties as might occur under this clause. The word "neighbouring," I hold with my hon. Friends from Wales, should be taken out of the clause.

(11.6.) The House divided:—Ayes 109; Noes 55.—(Div. List, No. 407.)


I beg to move to insert, after the word "district" in the second line of this clause, the words "being within the same poor law union." I think there should be some sort of limit to the word "neighbouring." I think the powers under this clause ought to be confined to the districts within a Poor Law Union, and surely that would be ample for the purposes of this Act. If the Government desire to make progress with this Bill, they will be willing to accept this Amendment. I do not think it possible they can contemplate the grouping together of two or three counties for educational purposes; and unless they do contemplate such a thing, they cannot have any objection to confining the operation of the clause in the manner I suggest.

Amendment proposed, in line 2, after the word "districts," to insert the words "if within the same poor law union."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

*(11.16.) SIR W. HART DYKE

It is impossible for Her Majesty's Government to acquiesce in the hon. Member's proposal. I have already indicated what the policy of the Department is to be in respect of this clause, but the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman would cut at the very principle of the clause. I am, however, willing to expunge the words "not being schools provided by a school board." The Government do not wish the House to be detained very long over this clause, and they are anxious to meet hon. Members opposite in a fair and candid manner. I must say that the Amendment I have suggested will throw some trouble and labour on the Education Department, but we are prepared, in the interests of peace and harmony, to consent to it.


Will the right hon. Gentleman be willing to agree that no School Board schools shall combine with voluntary schools?


Yes, Sir.


Then on the understanding that the right hon. Gentleman will move the Amendment he has indicated, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.


We will add words to the following effect: "Providing that schools provided by school boards shall not be grouped with other schools."


I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I have to move the omission of the words in lines 2 and 3 "not being schools provided by a school board."

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, in lines 2 and 3, to leave out the words "not being schools provided by a school board."

Amendment agreed to.

(11.21.) MR. T. ELLIS

I beg to propose an Amendment that, in line 5, after the word "department," the words "forthwith be laid before Parliament," be inserted. I may point out that this Amendment simply carries out the suggestion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.




But what will be done if Parliament is not sitting? It is not desirable that these arrangements should be delayed because they happen to be made in the Parliamentary Recess.


It will have to be presented as soon as Parliament meets.

Amendment agreed to.

*(11.22.) MR. H. H. FOWLER

I have now to move an Amendment which raises the whole effect of this clause, and if accepted it will prevent my submitting a point of order as to whether it is competent for the House of Lords to insert an Amendment authorising a grant of money. I think it will be admitted that the effect of the clause is to do away with the 17s. 6d. limit contained in the 19th section of the Elementary Education Act of 1871. [Cries of "No, no!"] Hon. Members opposite say "No," and in that case I shall bespeak their support for my Amendment, which will put the point beyond all question. I propose to add after "1891," in line 7, the words "except section 19 of the Elementary Education Act of 1876." If it is proposed to repeal that clause and to increase the grant by means of the amendment made in another place, then it will have the effect of largely increasing the education grant. This, I contend, the Lords have no right to do; it can only be done by a previous Resolution of this House in Committee of Ways and Means authorising the grant of public money for the purpose.

Amendment proposed, in line 7, to insert, after "1891," the words "except section nineteen of 'The Elementary Education Act, 1876."—(Mr. H H. Fowler.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

*(11.26.) LORD G. HAMILTON

I think the right hon. Gentleman is somewhat unreasonable in the arguments he has put forward. What is the proposal before the House? It is that under certain conditions several schools shall be treated as one school. The hon. Gentleman says they shall not be treated as one school because of a particular section of the Act of 1871. I have listened to the Debate which has now been going on for some hours, and it seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman does not grasp what Clause 5 actually does. What it does is to enable one school to subsidise another. I deny that the clause which has come down from the Lords will upset the 17s. 6d. limit. It will do nothing of the kind. The hon. Gentleman spoke of a considerable increase in the Education Estimates, but the total amount involved by the 17s. 6d. limit is under £40,000 a year. He has suggested that our object is to legislate for the education of the classes as against the education of the masses. I believe he concluded his first speech with words to that effect. But what is the practical effect of this proposal? There is no hardship whatever in any case where a school earns a grant. But sometimes a school does not do that, and then this clause will enable a rich school to assist a poor school to earn the money. I quite accept the objection urged against any extension of the 17s. 6d. limit, that it would prevent voluntary subscriptions coming in; but I wish to point out that this provision will simply enable the managers of schools in the same neighbourhood to combine their funds, and that the result will be that a poor school will benefit by being able to meet all the educational requirements laid down by the Code. The clause will only take effect in a limited number of cases, and recollecting that in the cases where higher fees are charged it is by the voluntary action of the parents, and bearing also in mind the spirit in which the Government have met hon. Gentlemen opposite, I hope they will not think it their duty further to delay the progress of the Bill by pressing this Amendment.

(11.30.) The House divided:—Ayes 58; Noes 105.—(Div. List, No. 408.)

(11.40.) MR. J. BRYN ROBERTS

I beg to move the insertion of the words "until the Education Department shall withdraw such approval" after "scheme," in line 7. In the course of events, it may be discovered that the grouping has led to abuse, and I want to give power to the Education Department, in case such a discovery is made, to withdraw approval. It is impossible in a matter of this kind to foretell the exact working of the grouping of schools. The discussion to-night shows it is very difficult to ascertain what the effect will be with respect to the different Acts of Parliament relating to education and the regulations of the Department.

Amendment proposed to the Lords' Amendment, after "scheme," line 7, to insert "until the Education Department shall withdraw such approval."—(Mr. J. Bryn Roberts.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


I recognise the spirit in which the hon. Member has moved the Amendment, but he seems to have the idea that once the Education Department approves a scheme the scheme cannot be altered. The hon. Member's fear is an exaggerated one. The Department must always retain a power to modify arrangements they have approved. For instance, if there be any such abuse discovered they can refuse the grant to a school. I therefore think the insertion of these words is unnecessary.


I submit that the Education Department ought to have power to abrogate a scheme. I cannot see how, if a new scheme is found unsatisfactory, the right hon. Gentleman or any other Vice President can fine a particular school for the bad working of a grouping scheme; it is impossible to withhold the whole grant. Surely the right hon. Gentleman ought to have power to abrogate a scheme if it is-found not to work well in practice.


I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept this Amendment. It is very necessary that the Education Department should have some power to revise or, if right, to withdraw a scheme. Ten or fifteen schools may be grouped together, and to withhold the grant may disorganise the whole educational facilities of an entire district.


I do not wish to prolong the discussion, and will only say that it is perfectly obvious that if the Education Department find a scheme is working badly they must have the power to try another. I confess I do not like the words the hon. Gentleman has suggested, but I will accept them on the understanding that, if necessary, they will be amended in another place.

Question put, and agreed to.


In accordance with the promise I made, I beg to move to omit Sub-section (2) and to add at the end of the clause— Provided that schools provided by a school board shall not be grouped with any other public elementary school. We are working under pressure to-night, and, therefore, if these words are not deemed sufficient by the Government draftsmen, we shall reserve to ourselves the right to amend them.

Motion made, and Question, "That Sub-section (2) stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.

Amendment proposed, to add at end of the Amendment— Provided that schools provided by a school board shall not be grouped with any other public elementary school."—(Sir W. Hart Dyke.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


I think that the adoption of these words would prevent any Board school combining with another Board school. I would, therefore, suggest that the Amendment should read— Provided that no board school shall be associated with any public elementary school other than a board school under this section.


Yes, that is better.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, at end of the Amendment to add— Provided that no board school shall be associated with any public elementary school other than a board school under this section."—(Mr. S. T. Evans.)

Question, "That those words be there added," put, and agreed to.

Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment as amended."—(Sir W. Hart Dyke.)


I now beg to ask you, Sir, whether it is competent for the House of Lords to insert an Amendment of this character, the effect of which will be to increase the grant under the Act of 1870?


As I have said before, the question is one of inference and construction; but I have no hesitation in saying that if the 17s. 6d. limit will be exceeded in any particular school, the Lords have exceeded Privilege.


In face of your ruling, Sir, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he does not think it desirable to safeguard this clause by adding a proviso?


I will not argue the point now, because I am bound to admit that after the Speaker's ruling the question requires grave consideration.


I fully appreciate the difficulty of the right hon. Gentleman's position. He is Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, therefore, bound to carefully guard the financial operation of the Bill, and at present he is leader of the House and bound to guard its privileges to the fullest extent. I do not think it would be right to press for a decision now, and, therefore, I beg to move that the Debate be now adjourned. The Government will, therefore, have an opportunity of considering their position with reference to what is a very serious invasion of the privileges of this House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. H. H. Fowler.)


Sir, I understand your ruling to be that if this Amendment will have the effect of increasing the grant of any school it is a breach of Privilege. I wish to ask you whether, if that is only a contingent and indirect effect, the question of Privilege arises?


If the indirect effect of the Amendment will be such as is ascribed to it, the Amendment will be a breach of Privilege.


Under the circumstances, I must assent to the adjournment of the Debate.

Debate adjourned till to-morrow.

Consideration of Lords Amendments to be resumed to-morrow.