§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [22nd June], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is prepared to amend the present system by which remission of school fees is obtained through the Poor Law Guardians by parents who cannot afford to pay the fees, but declines to accept a measure which, while it throws on the general taxation of the Country the whole cost of elementary education of children whose parents can afford to pay a part of the costs, and imposes a large additional burden on the Country, does not secure any increased educational efficiency, and is a source of danger to the continuance of voluntary and denominational schools under which the majority of the children of the Country are now educated,"—(Mr. Bartley,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
(12.48.) MR. LLOYD-GEORGE&c.) (Carnarvon,
In the course of the remarks which I made last night I dealt with the proposition that a universal School Board system is in the interests of religion and also in the interests of economy. The noble Lord the Member for Darwen (Viscount Cranborne) assured us that economy and religion are the two predominating elements, and that, so far as England is concerned, there is no objection to the establishment of the School Board system. But I am speaking not as an Englishman, but as a Welshman, and there is another matter which enters into my mind in regard to the establishment of the School Board system as against the denominational system, and that is the sufficiency of the one school as against the other. My argument is that the School Board system has proved itself to be much more efficient than the denominational system. We have now had 20 years within which to test the comparative merits of the two systems. That may certainly be 1316 regarded as an ample time. Whatever the Bill of 1870 may have done for the Nonconformists, it has done this: it has proved that, taking the two systems side by side, there is an incomparable superiority in the School Board system. I have here statistics supplied by the Education Department, which enable me to test the comparative merits of the two systems. Let me first take the question of passes. What is very remarkable and very important in this respect is the increase after the standard is raised. After the First Standard the percentage of passes in the School Board schools is something like 3½ per cent.; in the Second, 4½; in the Third, 6½; in the Fourth, 8¼; in the Fifth, 7; in the Sixth, 10; and in the Seventh, something like 9 per cent. over those in denominational schools. That is a very marked superiority, and a very substantial feature in favour of the School Board system, and it shows that the higher the standard the superiority becomes more marked. The longer that a child remains in a Board school the greater is the impression made upon his mind, and the more effective the education he receives, proving, I think, that the School Board masters are of a superior order. According to the Education Returns, the grant earned in Church schools for children in attendance is 17s. 5½d., as against 18s. 5¼d. earned in the Board schools, or 1s. 0¼. less. That, I think, establishes the superiority of the Board Schools, and what it really means is that not only do the Board schools pass a higher proportion of children in the ordinary standards, but that a far higher proportion earn the merit grants. Let me take, first of all, the infant department. The average attendance in the Church schools is higher by 223,000 than in the Board schools, and yet, notwithstanding that fact, the merit grant was only £142,000, as against £289,000 earned by infant children in the Board schools. That means that the superiority of the infants in the Board schools in that department was something like two to one. Let me go on to the older scholars. The Church schools earned the high merit grant for 306,000 scholars, but the Board schools earned it for 466,000; that is to say, that in the infant department the Board schools were superior by something like two to one, 1317 while in the older scholars' department there was a superiority of something like 160,000 scholars in the Board schools over the scholars in the denominational schools. But that is only one test. Let me take another, the test of specific subjects, which is of great importance, because it is only in schools where the teachers are of the highest ability, that specific subjects can be taught to children. From what I know of Church schools I am able to say that they have very few schoolmasters who are equal to the teaching of specific subjects. I find that in denominational schools 16,600 secured passes in specific subjects, while in the Board schools the number of passes was 43,000, the superiority of the Board schools being something like three to one. Then, again, take the case of cookery. There were 9,000 passes in the Church schools and 52,000 in the Board schools. Lot me take also the test of the night schools, which is, I think, a good test of the usefulness of schools. In the Church night schools the average attendance; was 9,000, against 27,000 in the Board schools. Take every possible test which the Code of last year can afford, and it will be found that the ascendancy is undoubtedly and incomparably in favour of the Board schools. There is still another test, which I do not take from the Education Report, but from the Blue Book, which is to be found in the Library. An hon. Member on the other side of the House told us last night that the voluntary system is more popular than the School Board system. That is a matter of considerable gravity, because if the voluntary schools are more popular the attendance ought to be much higher. I have taken the trouble to test this assertion in connection with my own county, and I find that in South Carnarvonshire the average attendance in the Church schools in proportion to the population was 9 per cent., while the average attendance in the School Board schools was 18 per cent. To my mind, that shows a most astounding superiority in favour of the Board schools. It shows that two children attend the Board schools for every one who attends a Church school. Mr. Byrne, one of Her Majesty's Inspectors, says that last year the regularity, or irregularity, of attendance was very much swayed by the popularity 1318 of the school and the popularity of the teacher. Put that to the test, and it will be found that 18 per cent. of the population attend Board schools, whereas only 9 per cent. attend the Church schools. Take every possible test that statistics can afford, and it will be found that the School Board schools show an undoubted superiority over those of the denominational system. I maintain that there are reasons why this must be so. The voluntary schools cannot afford the expenditure which is necessary to make their institutions thoroughly efficient. Hon. Members opposite say, "Let us have the additional 10s.," but I do not see how that is to mend the matter. No doubt the less voluntary you make them the more efficient they become. It is certain that a school which to a certain extent enjoys the support of a rate gains a greater amount of efficiency than another which depends upon a precarious income and the approval of the squire of the parish. We are told that the School Board rates are compulsory; but the fact of the matter is, that the School Board rates are far more voluntary than the subscriptions under the Church system. I know a case where the rector of a parish goes round among his parishioners and says, "Unless you subscribe there will be a School Board and a School Board rate." This is held up in terrorem, and to call subscriptions thus obtained voluntary is absurd; they are contributions made under duress. Now, upon the school rate I would say this: that the people are so enthusiastic and ardent in the cause of education for their children that they prefer an efficient School Board to a system of cheap education and merely keeping down the rates. The school rate, if the education is efficient, is paid without grumbling, which cannot be said of the rates generally. An illustrative instance recurs to my mind from a School Board district in Wales. Candidates as usual pledged themselves to a policy of economy; but there was one candidate who took a wholly different line, and said, "I am going in for efficiency, whatever may be the rate." And this candidate was returned at the top of the poll. I am sure all the talk of economy does not greatly influence the people; what they want is an efficient system of 1319 national education. Superiority must remain with popular control, because schools are then better managed. How are voluntary schools managed? Invariably by the rector of the parish. [Cries of "No!"] As a rule, then. I confess I am speaking more particularly of Wales. I do not presume to speak of what obtains in English rural parishes. In Wales, undoubtedly, such schools are managed by the rector of the parish. And what is the result? I say nothing of the qualifications of the rector for his particular sphere, but certainly I say that sphere is not usually school management. From his position, training, and habits of thought, he is bound to subordinate the interests of education to the interests of his Church. I cannot blame him. A priest is a priest; before all things he is bound by the instincts of his caste, and he subordinates all things to the interest of his Order. It is no aspersion upon his patriotism to say this, for he believes that to make a man a good Churchman is to make him the bettor citizen. But how is it that these rectors receive promotion to their position? They have not the qualifications which secure good school management. They receive promotion through interest with the patron of the living; sometimes they owe their position to excellent social qualities, and sometimes—though I do not here speak from my own observation—because of the possession of a certain amount of pulpit eloquence, and I am sorry to say too often in Wales a parson receives promotion because of the success with which he has baited Nonconformists all his life. Now each and all of these qualifications may go to make a good rector, and they do make admirable Church Defence agents, but they in no way make a man a good school manager. These qualifications which recommend a man to the position of rector make him but a poor school manager. [" Why?"] I thought I had shown the reason. Promoted as they usually are for political services rendered, they are liable to use their school for the same purposes. Promoted for their zeal in the cause of the Church, they subordinate other matters to the Church interest, and use the school as a means of proselytising. On the other hand, how are School Boards elected? Men of business 1320 capacity and interest in education congregate together. The cumulative voting system prevents anything like an election on purely Party lines. You may, I daresay, have elections on denominational lines, but in fact, what does occur is that you have a Board of business men, and usually ardent educationalists. The management of such a Board is, I say, much superior to the management I have been describing. It is some guarantee for efficiency in the school and knowledge of the teaching there, that members of the Board usually send their own children to the Board School, but when do you hear of a rector sending his children to the school he controls? As I have said, the rector subordinates everything to Church interest, and this influences the choice of teachers in the school. The failure or success of a school depends on the choice of the schoolmaster, and no consideration ought to interfere with the choice of the man most capable and competent for the work of teacher, but education is subordinated to ecclesiasticism in these Church schools. What are the requirements for the schoolmaster? First, he must be a Churchman. I do not object to his being a Churchman, but why circumscribe your selection by making this the first condition, more especially in Wales, where there will probably be but a dozen children out of 150 or 200 whose parents belong to the Church of England? Yet, so it is, from the schoolmaster to the smallest monitor in the Welsh Schools, they must be Churchmen selected from the small minority. The right hon. Gentleman last night challenged me to give an instance of persecution. Is not exclusion persecution? Was not the disability of Nonconformists and Roman Catholics from office in former-days persecution? Is not the exclusion of Nonconformists in Wales persecution of the worst type? Here I have a number of advertisements taken from a paper called the Schoolmaster—a sort of official organ of the school teachers in England—and these advertisements bear out what I say as to the qualifications of the teachers for Nonconformist Welsh children. These advertisements repeat each other, "must be a Churchman and communicant;" "must be able to play the organ and lead the choir;" "must teach in Sunday school," and so on. All 1321 this means what I have said, that the interests of education are subordinated to the interests of some little parochial Church or other. In this very paper, which came accidentally into my hands, there is a correspondence upon the extraneous duties of the village school-master, and here an unfortunate master shows that for nine-tenths of his class the extra duties in connection with the Church and choir make Sunday the heaviest day for work. The qualifications of a man as choir-master and organist are first looked to; his competence as a school teacher is a secondary consideration. There was an instance came under my personal observation in a Welsh parish a few years ago. There was a schoolmaster in the national school incompetent as a teacher, but an excellent Churchman. He assisted at the organ and did all those little offices looked for from him in that position, but at last his incompetence as a teacher became such a scandal that all the parishioners rose in protest. A deputation waited upon the rector and represented the case, but the rector found the man so useful in relation to Church matters, such a valuable assistant at public meetings, so useful in organising disturbances at opposition meetings, that he refused to remove him simply because he was an incompetent schoolmaster. Shortly afterwards another rector was appointed, and he took the exceptional course of appointing a Managing Committee for the school, hitherto managed entirely by the rector, but all the members of this Committee were Churchmen, although Churchmen numbered probably not more than 50 in a parish with a population of 1,200. Still the Committee, having the interests of education at heart, sent the incompetent master away and appointed an efficient master, under whom the school improved, and the highest possible grants were earned. But the new master declined to act as an assistant to the clergy of the parish, he refused to light the lamps in the Church for choir practice, and he had the audacity to refuse to assist in the decoration of the Church for a Church festival. Intolerable behaviour this for a schoolmaster, and he was so persecuted that he sent in his resignation. There was considerable conflict in the Committee of Management, Churchmen though they were, 1322 but the rector pulled out his deed of management, insisted upon his authority, and the whole of the Committee were so disgusted that they resigned in a body. This is an example of what happens. An incompetent schoolmaster is retained against the wishes of the inhabitants of the parish, simply because he is useful in connection with Church services and political meetings, and an excellent schoolmaster is sent away because he refuses to become factotum to the rector, the rector's wife, and the curate. What will occur after this Bill is passed? With this 10s. grant the rector will be independent of his subscribers, he will clear fees and subscriptions, he will have a balance in his pocket, and the last vestige of control over his management will be removed, there will not even be the slight influence of lay subscribers to temper his ecclesiastical zeal and modify his proselytising indiscretions. And this when in Wales nine-tenths of the income of the school is derived from Nonconformist attendances. I might, from the Report of the Education Commissioners, find many statements in support of my contention as to the superiority of Board management. I could show that in many instances in these voluntary schools the school buildings are badly built, are in sanitary, and injurious to the health of the children. Here is the Report from the Inspector at Manchester, that the schools are unfit for children to be taught in. This Bill affords an opportunity to remove a deep sense of wrong which exists in the minds of millions of the people of this country who are compelled to subscribe to schools in the management of which they have no share, and to send their children to be educated in places where doctrines are taught with which they do not agree. If these grievances are removed, the energies of a large number of able men, which are now devoted to the redress of these wrongs, will be set free for other objects, and thus the country will benefit. Why should you perpetuate these grievances? Your Church gains nothing thereby. Every grievance redressed adds force to Conservatism in its higher sense; every wrong perpetuated adds strength to the forces of revolution. England requires the services, the energies, the enthusiasm 1323 of men now devoted to the redress of wrongs for other and important national matters. You have in Wales the best men on either side—Churchmen and Nonconformists—devoting their energies to this deplorable struggle, and meantime you have the population reduced to such a condition that, on January 1st, one person in every 19 of the population was in receipt of parish relief. We want, I say, the energies of our people devoted to raising the social condition of the nation. I urge the Government to take this opportunity to give free education in a generous form, free from denominational trammels, and worthy of its name.
§ *(1.30.) MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
It is not my intention to follow the hon. Gentleman through the different topics he has touched upon in a very long speech, for the simple reason that though I listened to him with attention, I failed to discover whether he was speaking for or against the Second Reading of the Bill, or supported or opposed the Amendment. We have had a number of grievances trotted out in which, I have no doubt, the hon. Member firmly believes, but before I accept his ex parte statement as to the facts—with which he cannot be acquainted of his own knowledge—I should like to have them corroborated. No one could deprecate more earnestly than I and other friends of voluntary schools any attempt at tyranny on the part of any clergyman in dealing with this question of education, but it passes my belief that any clergyman can, in the face of the opposition of his parishioners, keep in office a thoroughly incompetent schoolmaster, because he gives his services as organist and dances attendance on the clergyman's wife. No man would be foolish enough to cut off his nose to spite his face, and if the schoolmaster in the case to which I allude were as incompetent as the hon. Member makes out, the Government grant would go down, and it would lead to a drain on the clergyman's pocket and the pockets of those who support him. The hon. Member has endeavoured to show us that the voluntary school system is unpopular, and the Board School system most popular, and his proof of this is that the voluntary system can only be maintained in 1324 many parishes by the clergyman going round to the parishioners, and saying, "Now, unless you subscribe we shall have the exceedingly popular School Board here." The thing they love, it would' seem, is held over them in terrorem. I certainly should have expected an argument of that kind to have come from the other side of the Channel rather than from a canny Welshman. Then the hon. Member says the School Board system is efficient because it is under popular control; but I think he has himself shown that the reason is that the School Boards have an unlimited purse behind them, and it only stands to reason that those who can get all the money they want to pay for the best teachers, and obtain all the school appliances they desire, are likely to secure larger returns than those who are compelled to act with the strictest economy. And there would be an additional expense to be faced, and a greater one than the payment of masters and the purchase of appliances, if the voluntary schools were abolished, namely, the expense of the building of new schools all over the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham estimates that expenditure at something like £50,000,000, and the view the public generally take of the matter is that they would do anything, even put their hands into their pockets for subscriptions to maintain the existing voluntary schools, rather than incur such an expense as that. Well, I am not going to deal with concrete or abstract cases of hardship that I know nothing of. I too, if I cared to do so, could give instances of unfair conduct on the party of Radical majorities on School Boards. But such cases as these appear to me to be outside the mark, for so long as there is error in human nature you will find hard cases which men who have the real interests of education at heart will deprecate strongly. I hope that the Education Department will insist on a proper recognition of the Conscience Clause that will satisfy all parties. I will now explain why, in my opinion, this Bill ought to be supported and passed subject to one or two Amendments in Committee, to make what I believe to be its meaning and effect more clear We on this side are taunted with our 1325 support of the Bill by two sets of people. My hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) and my hon. Friend and colleague the Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) have taunted us with the support of the Bill on the ground that in 188G we opposed free education. If this is a fact, their taunts are reasonable; but, for hon. Members opposite who have always been in favour of free education to taunt us with our change of opinion, seems to me a most extraordinary thing. They ought to welcome us as proselytes, and not to taunt us with our conversion to their own principles, or, if they think we are sincere, they should take credit for having received for themselves the greatest compliment to virtue which is said to lie in the hypocrisy of imitation. But it seems to me to be a begging of the whole question for hon. Members to say we have changed our opinions. It was not in 188G that this matter came forward, but at the General Election of 1885, and it cannot now be truly said of us, "You obtained your seats by proclaiming a certain set of opinions, and now though you have renounced those opinions you still retain your seats." This might be said with good reason of certain gentlemen on the opposite benches, who obtained their seats by Conservative aid as Liberal Unionists, and have turned round and become Gladstonian Home Rulers, but have not resigned. No one of us was elected on this issue in 1886. It was in 1885 that this question came to the front, and then many of us no doubt were opposed, not generally to free education, but to that form of free education which, at that time, seemed to have entered the heads of everybody—the free education that was described in what was known as "the unauthorised programme." If that programme set forth the only means of giving free education to the country I should have opposed it then, and shall oppose it still; but I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council for having so cleverly devised a mode by which free education may in the future be placed within the reach of every parent who desires it for his children without involving the principles and consequences to which we objected in 1885. I am glad I am able to reconcile it with my 1326 political and religious conscience to support a scheme for giving free education by means of the excellent and simple plan contrived by the right hon. Gentleman. What were the objections to the proposal of 1885? The first was what I may call the political-economical objection that there was a tinge of socialism in enabling a man to get free, or at the common expense, that which he ought to pay for himself. No doubt, in 1885, I did bring forward that as one of the many reasons against the scheme of free education then proposed. And, no doubt, that objection obtains still; but it is only an objection of degree, and not of principle. When you are giving three-fourths or five-sixths of the cost of education to the parent you are infringing the principles of political economy as much as if you were giving him the whole. All Poor Laws are socialistic, and whilst you have an elaborate Poor Law system of that kind in existence, as you have had for 300 years, all help of this kind is a matter of degree, and the pros and cons have to be weighed one against the other, and if the advantages overbalance the disadvantages you may vote for the scheme, even though you may be a strict political economist. Another objection was that, with free education, parents would not trouble to send their children to school, and the attendance would fall. I am convinced now, by the facts which have been put before us, and the arguments based thereon, that that is a mistake, and that free education does not injure the attendance at the schools. Therefore, the objection falls through. Again, the scheme we opposed would have been enormously expensive—would have thrown an additional burden on the public purse of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 a year. Further, that burden was to be placed on one kind of property only, namely, real property; and, in the next place, all schools were to be School Board schools without exception, and the result would be one uniform system of schools throughout the country, without competition and without emulation—a gigantic State monopoly of education; and, worst of all, it would in all probability have been—and the authors intended that it should be—incapable of giving that religious instruction which a very large number of parents desire for their little ones. The present Bill is free from these 1327 objectionable features. I now turn to the positive advantages of the present proposal. These are considerable, as regards the parents, the children, and the school-classes. As regards the parent, from my experience in connection with the School Board of London of the remission of fees, I am gradually becoming convinced that if you can get rid of that system of remitting fees you will be conferring a real boon and doing away with a great hardship. The poor parent, perhaps temporarily out of work, has to give up an evening to attend a committee. Then he must expose his private affairs, and at the end of six months he must apply again. If his children are at a voluntary school he must go before the Guardians. It is not called parochial relief, but in the man's mind the distinction is lost; his self-respect is gone; the ice has been broken; and he no longer shrinks, as before, from applying for poor relief. And so the present system has a tendency to pauperise and sap the independence of a large class of the community. A child coming without the fee is in many places sent home for it, and does not return, and then the classes are broken, and the tuition interrupted. Sometimes the children are kept at school, but their poverty is, I am told, publicly commented on—I am not speaking of London—also a good deal of the teachers' time is taken up with accounts of receipts and of arrears, which have to be periodically remitted. This Bill does away with these troubles. But hon. and right hon. Members opposite like the Member for Leicester, and the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow, try to frighten us out of our support of the measure. They warn us that the inevitable consequence of the Bill will be the establishment of Universal School Boards—which is a consummation they wish to bring about, but they do not like a Conservative Government to have the credit of it. But I do not believe in their prophecies. There were similar prophecies in 1870, and I was not frightened then. I believe that the managers of voluntary schools will rise to the occasion, and that the schools will benefit by the Bill. I deny that the retention of voluntary schools and of religious instruction is opposed to the principles of true Liberalism. At any 1328 rate, it was not opposed to Liberalism as represented by Lord John Russell and Mr. Forster. The hon. Member for Leicester wishes us to believe that there is but one Liberalism, and he is its prophet. I wonder whether the hon Member ever heard of Lord John Russell That statesman will be remembered as the champion of civil and religious liberty long after the hon. Member lies forgotten in his grave. Lord John Russell was the founder of our national system of education. What was his first condition, the sine quâ non, of a Government grant? That the managers of the school should be connected with some recognised religious body, and should give in the school definite religious teaching such as that body approved to the satisfaction of the Education Department, the rights of others being protected by a Conscience Clause. Well, hon. Members opposite say that Lord John Russell was not a true Liberal? [An hon. MEMBER: Certainly.] Well, Lord John is a dead hon. unable to defend himself. I will give the hon. Member something better—a living example. When Mr. Forster, in concert with the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, brought in the Act of 1870, he did not attempt to abolish voluntary schools. On the contrary, the School Board system then introduced was intended only to be supplementary to the voluntary school system where that proved insufficient. Will the hon. Gentleman dare to say that the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian is not a true Liberal? He is silent, as I expected. I will not detain the House very much longer, but I wish to say a few words with regard to the borough I represent—and I think I may fairly claim to do so, because my hon. Friend and colleague put the other view of the case before the House last night. Neither of us can pretend to speak for the "whole constituency of Stockport. We have not had an opportunity of consulting our constituents yet with regard to the Bill; therefore, each of us can only give what I may call his individual opinion. We agree as to what is to be desired; we differ only as to the effect of this measure. Now, what is the position of the borough of Stockport with regard to education? The borough of Stockport has 22 schools, all of them voluntary schools. 1329 Ten of them are Church schools, with 6,200 children; nine are Wesleyan and British Schools, with 5,164 children; and three are Roman Catholic, with 1,679 children. It follows that every parent in Stockport has an ample choice of schools. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield told the House that the average fee was 19s. 1d. I have here a Return of the School Attendance Committee, the greater number of whose members are Gladstonians and Radicals, and I find that the average fee is 3.86 pennies per week, or 14s. for 41 weeks. In the very highest school of all, the average is only 51–10th of a penny, or 18s. 7d. per 44 weeks. In the cheaper schools there are 5,252 children, who pay on an average only 2¼d. a week, which for 44 weeks comes to 8s. 3d., while the remainder pay just under 5d., which for 44 weeks comes to 18s. 1d. It is said the schools are inefficient, but the average Government Grant is 19s. 9½d. per head, although I believe in some of the schools it is kept down by the 17s. 6d. limit. The cost to the rates in Stockport is £509, or a rate of just over 1d. in the £1. But my hon. Friend (Mr. Jennings) fears that this Bill will force a School Board upon "the town. He imagines that under the 3rd sub-section of the 3rd clause a hundred parents, instigated by some political agitator, may demand free education for their children, and thereupon, as a matter of necessity, a School Board will be inflicted upon us. If my hon. Friend, instead of being an eminent literary mau, had been like myself an ordinary lawyer, he would not have so misunderstood the sub-section. If he will look at it again, and refer to the Elementary Education Act of 1870, he will see that what it very properly provides is that if complaint is made to the Education Department that there is not sufficient free elementary school accommodation, the Department is to make inquiry, and put into force, if necessary, the machinery of the Education Act of 1870. Under that Act, a reasonable time, not exceeding six months, is given, and if then the accommodation is not supplied a School Board will be formed. In Stockport the people are devotedly attached to the voluntary system, and will make efforts and sacrifices to maintain it. At present over 5,000 children 1330 pay 2¼d. a piece; in future they will be admitted free. At present the parents of more than 6,000 children cheerfully pay fees of from 4d. to 9d. for the advantages of more select schools, which they thus obtain. In future they will pay from 1d. to 6d. for the same advantages, and if they have readily paid the larger fees they are not likely to grudge them when so greatly reduced as they will be by this Bill. If, as my hon. Colleague supposes, some few beyond the 5252 do claim free places for their children, the managers of the voluntary schools will put their heads together and supply them. I honestly confess that I should be ashamed to show my face in Stockport again if I voted against the Bill, and thus deprived my constituents of the advantages it will confer upon them. When I reflect that all the present advantages are obtained for the town at a cost to the rates of £509, and that if we had a School Board we might have as high a rate as that of the Metropolis, and have the cost raised to £11,000, I think my constituents will determine that whatever else happens they will not have a School Board. There are in the Bill, to my mind, a few things that require slight amendment. Sub-section 2 of Clause 3, I think, hardly carries out the right hon. Gentleman's intention. As it stands it encourages inefficiency, and discourages improvement. It should allow for a total increase of fees as the numbers enlarge, but should prohibit proportional increase. I shall move an Amendment to that effect in Committee. I would also add my voice to those who have begged the Government to get rid of the limit from three to five. It does seem to me that they ought not to maintain it. I quite admit that children under five are sent to school, to a great extent, for the benefit of the parents; but, at the same time, having regard to the importance of getting the children into school freely, and objecting to handicap the voluntary schools in districts where School Boards exist, by forcing these young children into the Board schools, which will probably admit them free, I hope the Government will alter this provision of their Bill. The removal of the 14 years' limit would be a very different thing. I should prefer that a system be adopted to enable the more capable 1331 boys to continue their education by means of scholarships. If you say that all boys over 14, however, dull or idle, may continue at school without payment, you will next be asked to say that all young people may go to the Universities at the public expense. I consider this Bill a step in the right direction, and it is because it assists all who need assistance, without drawing invidious distinctions between the pauper and the poor, because it maintains the existing system in its integrity, and because it gives that system every chance of surviving the tax made upon it, and enables us to look forward to national education being still given on those various lines which suit the various tastes of the people, that I give my support to the Second Reading. (2.0.)
§ *(2.15.) MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
I do not desire to go into any question which may be argued in Committee, or into the subject of popular control, which is outside the principle of the Bill. As one who was an advocate of free education when very few Liberal Members were advocates of that principle, I have always supporters the principle of this Bill, namely, that the parents of children compelled to attend school should not be called upon to pay fees. I deny altogether the pretensions of certain hon. Members opposite to constitute themselves the sole representatives of the promoters and supporters of voluntary schools. With no uncertain voice, they have proclaimed themselves the representatives of the interests of voluntary schools. I deny, first, that they represent those interests, except in a small degree; and, secondly, that the Bill will in any way endanger voluntary schools. On the contrary, I think it will put them on a sounder basis. Hon. Gentlemen may represent the extreme clerical party, but not the majority of the clergy, now wider and more liberal in sentiment, whilst they do not represent the general body of Churchmen, or other denominations connected with voluntary schools. It will not be denied that the Roman Catholics are in favour of the Bill, from the Archbishop of Westminster to down the humblest member of the Roman Catholic Body; and certainly hon. Members opposite will get no assistance from the members of the Jewish persuasion, and they do not profess to 1332 represent Nonconformist opinion. Nearly all the denominational schools belong to one or other of these bodies. If they have not the support of the Church of England, whose support have they? Voluntary schools are divided into two classes—the purely denominational schools of the town and mixed schools in large towns, by the side of which work the Board schools. I am neither an opponent of Board schools nor of voluntary schools; and I believe that where you find them working side by side in the towns you get good schools. In these voluntary schools, therefore, the conduct of schools is entirely a matter between the parents of the children and the managers of one denomination. What excuse is there for thrusting upon them control from outside? But as to rural districts, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds was rather too limited in the definition which he gave of voluntary schools. First, there are the schools managed by trustees, supported by subscriptions, and with or without a voluntary rate. In this case the parents and ratepayers, not as ratepayers, but as parishioners, are represented among the trustees. There are other schools representative of subscribers; and I believe that if the subscribers have any common sense they will get some representatives of the parents on their Committees in order to prevent any chance of a Board school being established. Then there is the proprietary school, usually belonging to the landlord of the district, and managed generally to the satisfaction of the parents, without the clergyman having supreme control. These are the different classes of schools. What will happen under this Bill? Simply that the fees will be paid both in Board and voluntary schools, not by the parents, but by the State. How can that injure the voluntary schools? It will certainly put them in a much stronger position and make them more popular, because the parents will not have to pay the fees they are now called upon to meet. In parishes where voluntary schools exist there have been small fees and large subscriptions, the landlords and farmers having put their' hands into their pockets. In all fairness, I would ask whether they are to be put in a worse position than other schools because of that generosity in the past. On my own property I have 1333 done my best to get control of the schools, for the simple purpose of lowering the fees as much as possible; and I do not see why those schools should be put in a worse position because others have not chosen to put their hands into their pockets. Then we are told that the ratepayers claim representation on voluntary schools. I cannot see what claim they can have as ratepayers. I can understand the claim of the taxpayer or of the parents. But the Government represents the taxpayer through the army of Inspectors who inspect the schools. For my own part I should be very glad to see a larger army of Inspectors, and see the efficiency of education very much increased under the present Bill. I also think that the managers of voluntary schools would do wisely to get representatives of the parents to assist them. I for one have always acted on that principle. I have a committee of five—two members of the Church of England, two Nonconformists, and one Roman Catholic. I have never found the slightest friction under the Conscience Clause in the schools managed by the committee. I think the necessities of large towns require a certain number of Board schools, and I think the voluntary schools will work very well side by side with them, as they do in the borough which I represent. It is a curious fact that out of seven members of the School Board of Grimsby, five are managers of private voluntary schools. Yet they manage to work perfectly well together. I must entirely decline to go into the Welsh question. It seems to me that the Welsh Members have set the Board schools against the voluntary schools, while extreme Members opposite have set the voluntary schools against the Board schools. I advise the Government to avoid either extreme, and to adhere to the Bill strictly. If they were to accept the Amendments shadowed forth by the son of the Prime Minister (Viscount Cranborne) or by hon. Members on this side, they would find themselves in a very great difficulty. With regard to the 3rd clause, I think we want a little further explanation of its meaning, also as to the lowering of the age. I, for one, have always been an advocate of keeping compulsion and free education together. I advocated that freely some six or seven years ago, when it was not part of the creed of the Liberal Party. 1334 But there has been a great advance of public opinion since that time in the Education Question. I, for one, should be prepared to lower the age to four years, but I should warn Ministers against turning schools into nurseries. As no school pence are to be paid in future, parents living near the schools would always be found ready to send their children. These are the only two points which I will ask the Government to take into consideration. I am willing to accept the Bill as a fair and wise settlement of the question, and I believe it neither will injure the voluntary schools on the one hand nor the Board schools on the other. The people, I believe, are thoroughly in favour of the principle of the Bill and will not thank any Members who by Amendments interpose obstacles to its progress.
§ *(2.31.) MR. G. W. BALFOUR (Leeds, Central)
I am not in so fortunate a position as the right hon. Gentleman. I have never been in favour of free education, and, like many of my friends, I find myself placed by the action of the Government in an embarrassing position. On the general merits of the question my opinion remains entirely unchanged. The payment of school fees by parents has been described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) as an "odious and oppressive tax." I am bound to say that I altogether fail to understand such language, and I believe there are very few parents in the country who had discovered that they were victims of an odious and oppressive tax until the right hon. Gentleman informed them of the fact. I do not know what may be the state of the case in Birmingham, but speaking for my own constituency, and I think the same is true of the country generally, school fees are paid by parents willingly and cheerfully. In my opinion, the demand for this measure has not arisen from the working classes nor from the parents of children in elementary schools. It has been started by politicians inside and outside the House, and often with an ulterior object which has nothing to do with the merits of the question. I join in the regret expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford that this measure should have been introduced by a Conservative Government. The duty of educating their children ought to be 1335 readily undertaken by parents, even at the cost of considerable sacrifice to themselves. I believe there are no sacrifices more amply repaid than those made by parents on behalf of their children—repaid by the moral effect on parent and child, and by the drawing closer those ties of family affection which have made domestic life in this country what it is. Society generally rests really on the life of the family, and it ought to be our endeavour to make children the children of their parents, not the children of the State; but so far as education goes, the Bill makes children the children of the State, and no longer the children of their parents. I know it has been said by several Members that the principle has been already conceded, inasmuch as the State already pays three-quarters of the expense of the education of children, and why, it is asked, do you object so strongly to the payment of the remaining fourth? Those who use this argument misconceive our position. We think that parents ought to pay for the education of their children as far as they are able to do so. But the State demands in its own interest, and in the interest of the children, that they shall receive an education beyond what the poorer parents in this country can possibly afford. Therefore, it amounts to this, that at present the State and the parents are in a kind of partnership in the matter of education, and it is right and fair under the circumstances that the State should bear part of the burden. That is assisted education in the proper sense of the term. We have it already, and it is perfectly defensible, but now free education is proposed, and that must be defended by arguments of quite a different kind. By this measure we shall weaken the parental tie, we shall make a wasteful use of the taxpayers' money, for these £2,000,000 might certainly be used in a more profitable manner, and we shall place a burden upon other shoulders than those which should rightly bear it. What are the arguments brought forward in favour of the measure on the merits of the question? We have the arguments derived from compulsion, from the anticipated educational effect of free education, from economy of teachers time, at present occupied in collecting the school pence; and, finally, 1336 we have the argument founded on the hardship inflicted upon the poor parent who has to make application to the Guardians for remission of fees. I am not going into these arguments at length. I think the argument for compulsion is a fallacy. I do not think you can draw any inference from compulsion, except that where a parent is unable to pay, undoubtedly the public are bound to pay for him. As to the supposed greater regularity of attendance that will result from the abolition of fees, though it has been confidently asserted that this result will ensue, educational authorities of great eminence take a precisely opposite view, so I must consider this argument as of doubtful cogency. As regards the small gain of time to the teacher in each week in being relieved from the duty of collecting fees, and the hardship there may be in having to make application to Guardians, these considerations, though sound as far as they go, are of too flimsy a character to base upon them the necessity for a great change like this, which my hon. colleague described yesterday as a tremendous revolution. These being my views on the general question, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington will perceive that I go very far with him in the opinion he holds. But I do not think, looking at the stage at which we have now arrived, and the condition of public feeling in the House, it is worth while to carry our opposition to the Bill so far as to divide against the Second Reading. We know pretty well by this time what the real motive of the Government is in introducing this Bill. My right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council did, indeed, enumerate, with that genial simplicity of manner which makes him so popular in this House, the arguments which have converted him to free education. I could not help thinking, however, that my right hon. Friend performed that portion of his task in a somewhat perfunctory manner, and that there was not in that part of his observations any ring of strong conviction. On this subject I prefer to take the view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has distinctly declared that he supports the Bill because of the protection which it gives to the voluntary schools. The Government have come to the conclusion that free education is inevitable, and they prefer free educa- 1337 tion passed by themselves to free education passed by their opponents. From one point of view they are right. I think a measure of free education passed by a Conservative Government is likely to be more favourable to voluntary schools than a similar measure passed by the followers of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. Nevertheless, I consider that the Government have made a mistake. I do not think that free education was inevitable till the Government made it so by adopting it into their programme. Moreover, even if free education were to be passed by the Party opposite, I still think, looking at the extreme financial difficulties involved in the destruction of the voluntary schools, and also looking to the necessity under which they are of consulting the sentiments of their Irish allies, that the danger to the voluntary schools—I do not deny there might be a danger—was not so serious as to justify the Conservative Party in adopting a policy which it has for so many years steadfastly and consistently opposed. But whether I am right or wrong in thinking a mistake has been made, the deed has been done, the surrender has been actually accomplished; and although those who think as I do are not bound to affix their signatures to the capitulation by voting for the Second Reading, neither, on the other hand, do I think anything will be gained at the present stage by further recriminations or by a barren and futile opposition. What is left us as practical men is to try to make this measure as good a measure as possible, and to see that it shall contain provisions adequate to protect the voluntary schools. If I held the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington, and taken, I know, by others, that the Bill will destroy voluntary schools, I should have no alternative than to offer it the utmost opposition in my power. But I really cannot take that view. I do not say the Bill is perfect in every particular. On the contrary, it is open to criticism both for what it does and for what it leaves undone. But it is not so bad as to be incapable of amendment. I am glad the Government have stood firm on the question of popular control of voluntary 1338 schools. My right hon. Friend and colleague in the representation of Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair), in a speech marked by his accustomed moderation and ability, addressed himself to this question, and told us he preferred to use the word co-operation instead of control. Well, my own view is, that if the voluntary schools were to invite cooperation of the kind, they would very soon find themselves in the position of the horse in the fable, who inviting the huntsman to mount and cooperate with him in driving the stag from the pastures, found himself provided with bit and bridle he could not get rid of. The hon. Member for Merionethshire (Mr. T. Ellis) in an eloquent speech insisted on the greater educational excellence of Board schools as the result of popular control. I think he spoke in somewhat exaggerated terms, and I do not believe the superiority is so marked as he represented it to be. But if it exists at all, is it necessarily due to popular control? We all know that in Board Schools the cost per child for education is higher than in voluntary schools. If there is any superiority in results, I venture to say that the reason of it lies upon the surface. It is due, if it exists, to the fact that the Board schools have more money at their disposal. I am glad that on this question the Government have "burnt their boats," that they have resolved to admit nothing in the nature of public control. On the other hand, there is an important omission from the Bill of which the friends of voluntary schools have a right to complain. It was understood that when this question was dealt with, the question of the 17s. 6d. limit should also be dealt with. I do not say there was a definite promise, but there was a; kind of expectation held out to us to this effect. The pressure of the 17s. 6d. limit has long been matter of just complaint. The limitation is thoroughly bad in principle. I do not deny that it may have some effect in stimulating voluntary subscriptions, but apart from that not a single thing can be said in its favour. Bad as the effect is on Board schools, it is far worse on voluntary schools. It is bad for Board schools because it acts as a temptation to extravagance; it is worse for voluntary schools, because it discourages 1339 educational efficiency, and acts as an incentive to managers to resort to every kind of shift and expedient in order to make their accounts look as favourable as possible. It presses less heavily on the Board schools, because in the rates they have a Fortunatus' purse, and their resources are practically unlimited. But with voluntary schools subscriptions are not inexhaustible. The inequality is keenly felt in the competition which goes on in large towns between Board and voluntary schools. I am not asking, for a moment, that anything should be done to take away the advantage that Board schools possess in this respect; but, at the same time, I do not think it is right for the Educational Department to increase the inequalities that exist in their favour. We had a right to expect that when the question of free education was dealt with the 17s. 6d. limit would have been dealt with at the same time. There is a special reason why this should be done, for in the schools in the North, where high fees are charged, the effect of the 17s. 6d. limit will be harsher than before. It will be harsher, because certain provisions in the Bill tend in the case of voluntary schools to reduce the amount of the contribution from local sources, which is a condition of a claim to the extra grant. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for War has challenged anyone to say in what respect the Bill will be prejudicial to high-fee schools. I assert that the 10s. grant, together with the amount of surplus fee it will be permissible to charge under the Bill, will not reach the amount obtained from the present fees. I know that proposition is disputed by the Vice President. He proposes to give 10s. per head of average attendance, and over and above that, if the total amount of fees during the standard year has amounted to more than that sum, the excess may be charged in fees. I quite admit that regarded as a mathematical problem, as an equation in arithmetic, there is no fault to be found with my right hon. Friend's figures. But in ordinary practice how are you to raise a fee which represents 1s. 6d. in the course of the year. It might be possible under a decimal system, or if it was possible to charge fractions of a penny, but those acquainted with our educational system know that school fees must be pennies or multiples of a 1340 penny. That is one way in which I assert that, in practice, the voluntary schools charging high fees will be injured by the Bill as at present drawn. The Board schools, on the other hand, which have a lower average fee, positively gain by my right hon. Friend's proposal, and they will employ their gain in order to free every Board school; and a good many authorities on the subject assert that if the Board schools do that, the voluntary schools will have to follow their example. It has been asserted that there is more difference between a small fee and no fee than between a high fee and a low fee. I do not offer a very confident opinion on that point, and only actual experience can determine it. But while I regard that matter as doubtful, this I assert—that Board schools will systematically, throughout the country, relieve from the payment of fees children under the age of five. In that it is quite certain the voluntary schools will have to follow their example. On this subject of the limitation of age, there is a consensus of opinion on both sides of the House. Hon. Gentlemen opposite desire the removal of the limitation on educational grounds, while, even apart from such grounds, those on this side of the House desire it because they feel that, if it were retained, the voluntary schools would suffer heavily. I earnestly urge upon the Government the desirability of admitting an Amendment in this direction. It would be most foolish, in my opinion, and in the end most uneconomical also, if, when we are about to spend £2,000,000, we should decline to spend £200,000 more, when, by so doing, we might remove a serious blot from the Bill. There are other points, especially in connection with the third clause, to which I take exception; but I will not touch upon them now. I am not able to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. But if my right hon. Friend (the Vice President of the Council) will lend a favourable ear to Amendments of a reasonable character from this side of the House, I have no desire on my side to carry my opposition any further than to refrain from voting for the Second Reading, and will do my best afterwards to co-operate with him in getting the Bill through Committee as rapidly as possible.
§ (2.59.) MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
The moderate and scholarlike spirit just delivered is somewhat of a relief from the general character of speeches delivered from that side of the House during this Debate. The hon. Gentleman is one of the few who have felt it necessary to argue on the grounds for and against free education. He has brought forward his arguments with the neatness and skill which he always exhibits in and out of this House, but most of us on this side of the House have been inclined throughout the whole of this discussion to view such arguments as rather academic at the present time, and we have for years exhausted these arguments in public utterances. I shall not attempt to argue in favour of free education, belief in which is almost universal, but I claim the right to explain why it is that I shall vote heartily for the Second Reading of a Bill which at first sight appears to controvert some of the principles for which I have long contended. The effect of this Bill upon voluntary schools has been pointed out by the Bishop of Wakefield in a letter to the Times, and the arguments in that letter have never been answered. The Bishop says the result will be that the voluntary schools will inevitably be driven to make their education free also, because they must either lower their standard of education or receive a higher rate of subscription than at present. But the voluntary schools' subscriptions have been declining, and those schools will be so overburdened that they will be driven to hand over their scholars to the Board schools; and so the voluntary system will receive a severe blow. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite imagine that, in voting for the Bill, they are about to strengthen the voluntary school system. We welcome their hallucination, because they are about to pass a measure which we conceive is eminently in the direction of what we desire. Whether the 10s. is too little or too much to meet the existing foes of the voluntary schools, the present Bill makes towards popular control. Last night the Secretary of State for War, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, declared that he would have none of the popular control in the miserable sense in which it was proposed by my right 1342 hon. Friend. I am glad of it. That control was but a poor affair, wholly different from the control which we on this side of the House have always desired, and we base our support of the Second Reading of this Bill, not upon the vain hope of introducing any bastard control such as that proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, but upon what, to our mind, is an inevitable certainty, namely, that the principle which this Bill establishes makes, as I have endeavoured to explain, towards the popular control which we desire. The First Lord of the Admiralty and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby have argued that you have no right to demand control by the ratepayers over money which the ratepayers have not themselves supplied. In the first place, I say we are not demanding control by the ratepayers as such. What we demand is control by the local representatives of the taxpaying community. In the case of education itself, the present Government have admitted the right of the ratepayers to control over funds which are given from the general taxation of the country. A very large sum has been given by the Government for technical education, and control over it has been placed in the hands of the Local Authorities without any obligation on their part to contribute any sum from the ratepayers' money for a similar purpose. There you have, therefore, the very principle adopted by the present Government. We support the Second Reading of the Bill because it also greatly intensifies the argument which we employ. Take the present Church of England schools. You hare at present a 10s. fee and 7s. subscription; 17s. 6d. is the highest contribution from the public purse. When this Bill passes you will transfer that 10s. from the personal payment of the parents to the public purse. The argument for popular control will become irresistible when the 17s. 6d. has boon changed to 27s. 6d. and only counterbalanced by the 7s. contributed by the parties who claim complete control over the whole. It has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby and by others that possibly contribution by the taxpayers involves only a greater central control. If central control is the only control that 1343 can be introduced into this measure it would be better than none, but I think the impossibility and impracticability of an efficient central administration of all the schools of this country has been already demonstrated. Now, this Bill does not give free education entirely. We are sorry it does not, but we who have been in favour of free education from top to bottom for many years, intend to vote for it, because we are confident that the rags and tatters of the fees which still may hang about some of the schools under the system the Bill inaugurates cannot subsist even for the space perhaps of a year. The hon. and learned Member for West Ham (Mr. F. Fulton) stated the other night that if all the schools of West Ham were placed under the School Board there would be an additional rate imposed upon that borough of 4s. in the £1. Another opponent of popular control said there are many agricultural labourers who will find their rental doubled by a universal School Board system. I very much doubt the correctness of these statements. Suppose you throw on the rates absolutely the whole cost of public elementary education in this country, namely, seven millions and odd pounds, that would not come to 1s. in the £1 on the rateable value of England.
§ MR. FORREST FULTON (West Ham, N.)
I pointed out that the 4s. in the £1 in West Ham did not include the capital value of the school buildings.
§ MR. STUART
The capital value of the school buildings would scarcely make up the difference. I wish to make this point clear to the House in order to prove that wild statements are frequently indulged in by hon. Gentlemen when they endeavour to expose the evils of the system of general popular control. It has been stated by the Secretary of State for War, and reiterated by the late Solicitor to the London School Board, that we on the Liberal side of the House have indulged in prognostications and prophecies. I beg to remind hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that it is not the Liberal Members of this House who are responsible for these prognostications and prophecies: it is the clerical supporters of hon. Gentlemen opposite who are responsible for them. It was the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Howorth) who first drew attention to the very points which have been urged 1344 so frequently in the course of this Debate by us. We have no desire to twit hon. Gentlemen opposite with their conversion to free education in principle. We do not twit them with it: we simply point out the shortcomings of this Bill, and show why it is we can consistently support this measure. If, after the expression of the views they gave in 1885 and other years, they have come to support and even to bring in a Free Education Bill we can only rejoice that they have at last come to see the thing from our point of view, and that they have to-day done what we have never yet managed to do—they have rendered the adoption in this country of free education and its concomitants, which I have endeavoured to describe, absolutely certain and inevitable.
§ (3.25.) SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
So many Members on this side of the House have expressed distrust of free education that I desire to say one or two words in hearty support of it. It is quite true that upon this side of the House there may be some necessity for vindicating a change of opinion. I notice that a recent speaker referred to the reference to that change made by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council as perfunctory. The right hon. Gentleman said, and "aid with great force, that his educational experience at the Department had convinced him of the difficulties which surround the question, and of the necessity, in the interest of general education in the country, of the bringing in of a measure of this description. I have no reason to plead any such change of opinion. In my election address of 1885 I advocated free education. I have done so consistently since, because I believe that the change will be of educational value to the country, and hat the voluntary schools which we admire for their past services will have the best chance of survival by the passing of a measure of this description. Not only do I approve of free education, but I think the constituency which I represent does so. I have in my hands a resolution from the Finsbury and City Teachers" Association, which possesses 580 members, in which they state they cordially approve of the Assisted Education. Bill now before Parliament. Probably, teachers alone know the vast difficulties which surround the present system. I 1345 notice the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. G. W. Balfour) gave one reason which actuates him and others in not actually opposing this measure: it is the desire to sustain the voluntary schools. I reecho that sentiment, but I hardly regard that as a complete and adequate motive. My motive is to sustain both the voluntary schools and the School Board schools, and to make them both as efficient as possible. Having served for many years on a School Board, having had the opportunity the other day of opening a higher grade school at Hull, no one can value more highly than I the advantage of that great national system of education which was inaugurated in 1870. I hold that our object should be to supplement and not to supply either one description of school or the other. I am at variance with those speakers who have drawn a contrast between the mode in which the work of the two institutions is done. I believe that, as a whole, the results of that work are most satisfactory, and if any measure were to be passed which would detract from the support of the voluntary schools and impose upon the people of this country the obligation of raising an immense capital sum to supply their places, and a very large income to cover the consequent annual expenditure, the result would be a reaction against all education. I hold that at the present moment there is danger on the ground of the cost of the present system of such a reaction, and it is because no one values education more highly than I do that I think we should adhere to the compromise of 1870, and do our utmost to maintain both classes of school in existence for the common educational benefit of the country. Let me refer for one moment to what the last speaker has said. It was the speech of an expert whose knowledge of the subject commends itself to us. But I cannot help thinking that he, while advocating the measure, was like some other speakers on the same side of the House, somewhat disposed to increase the distrust of it felt by some hon. Members on this side. He said that from his point of view it might lead to more popular control, and I have some suspicion that the speech was—unconsciously perhaps—intended to encourage the feeling prevalent on this side against the Bill on that account. It may be 1346 that, after this legislation, the voluntary schools may in some cases have difficulties to contend against, but I believe that those who have supported these schools in the past, and who remember the services rendered to the country by the National Society, and the immense income raised voluntarily for educational purposes, will continue their support. Those who remember what these schools have done since the Act of 1870 was passed, and who recall the predictions then uttered as to the possibility of the survival of the voluntary system, will realise that that system is founded on two great principles, the principle of distinctive religious teaching and the principle of parental control with reference to that matter. The best means to insure the continuance and increase of the support of voluntary schools will be to give the friends of the schools strong reason to hope that these institutions will be allowed to survive permanently. If you place them upon such a footing as will enable them to see that they will be able to continue their work, the result will be most beneficial to your general system of education. Speakers on the other side of the House have made it almost a matter of reproach that they have converted us to a policy of free education; and many hon. Members opposite have taunted our Party on account of their supposed conversion. But do not those hon. Members forget the history of this question? This is by no means a new question. It is, at least, a century old. The first suggestion made with regard to free education came from this side of the House—from William Pitt. Therefore to speak of this question as if up to the present it has been the exclusive property of the Party-opposite is to ignore history. Well had it been for this country if Pitt's advice had been followed, if we had done here at the beginning of the century what Stein did for Germany. It is true that in 1885 a proposal was made on the other side of the House in favour of free education, but it was made in the unauthorised programme only, and that programme was not assented to by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, and other occupants of the Front Opposition Bench Since then, too, quite another question has monopolised the attention of Parliament. To those who say that the un- 1347 authorised programme is now being reproduced, I would point out that whereas in the original proposal no mention was made of voluntary schools, the Bill before the House is based upon the principle of the retention and maintenance of those institutions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who was the author of the unauthorised programme, has made this great concession to the feelings of the supporters of voluntary schools, and I submit that this is the first occasion upon which any scheme has been formulated which has met with general acceptance in this House. We on this side of the House may, I think, claim to have taken the initiative. The Government, I hold, can justly claim that for the first time they have brought the question dealt with by the Bill within the range of practical politics. I approve the measure heartily, whilst recognising that it may be improved in respect of some of its details. For my own part, I never could have assented to any limitation by standards, and I am glad my right hon. Friend has not asked us to support any such proposal. I hope that the younger children may yet be received free of charge, for the education of children at the early age when discipline and obedience can best be taught is of paramount importance. I regret that it should have been thought necessary to introduce some of the limitations respecting age which are found in the Bill. As an educational reformer, I hope that very soon children over 14 will be able to get free education, for I believe that children of all classes should have equality of opportunity for acquiring instruction. I am in favour of opening wide the avenues to knowledge, believing that knowledge will develop a conservative tendency amongst the people. A good deal has been said on this side of the House about the necessity of encouraging self-reliance and the danger of impairing it. The necessity, I think, may be exaggerated. It is clear that the feeling of the people is changing considerably on the subject of individualism as an essential principle of political action. Time was when the country was completely subservient to the utilitarian theory, but that doctrine of the Manchester school is now undergoing great modification, and it is gradually coming to be understood that the welfare of mankind is a greater political 1348 objective than that of those who support that doctrine. There is, consequently, a great justification for measures of a social character. To the recognition of this truth we owe those public parks, free libraries, and other institutions which are so largely increasing. The community is beginning to feel that there is a power of organisation in the State which ought to be used to a greater extent than in the past; in other words, that, as a community, it ought to do those things which it can do better and more cheaply than the individual can. Holding these views, I believe, in connection with education, that knowledge, which gives so much power, should be placed as largely as possible within the reach of the people. I hope that the argument of compulsion will not be relied upon too much in supporting this measure. The principle upon which this Bill is based was enunciated by Lord Salisbury six years ago, when he said that the existence of compulsory education undoubtedly gave the poor a very considerable claim, and that if the poor could not pay for the education of their children without enormous difficulty that was a reason for assisting them. That is the germ of this measure. There are many poor parents who are struggling to give their children education whom this Bill will assist. Let us not forget the claims of the children themselves. If parents cannot pay, and the education of their children is neglected, the consequences to the latter may be disastrous and lifelong. The primary duty of the House in this matter is to provide for the welfare of the children. If parents are not able to bear the cost, it is in the interest of the public that the community should bear it. We have not had time since the passing of the Act of 1870 to estimate accurately the social and moral results of education upon adults. But when we look at the statistics of juvenile crime, we find that as education increases so crime diminishes. It is owing to that fact that Parliament has been able to pass those salutary measures which enable the Magistrate to say, "I do not convict; let the school try to do what the gaol may not be able to accomplish." That being the case, I say that compulsion is for the advantage of the country. It gives education to the people, and if the community derives 1349 the benefit of the education, it should also bear the burden. It has been said that it is the thriftless parents only who will be relieved by this Bill. That is not so. They are already relieved of the payment of the fees by existing Acts, but those who will benefit are those poor parents—and they are many—who find it a hard struggle to pay the fees, but who will not go through the degradation of applying to the Guardians for the remission of them. That is just the class which should be relieved. I deny that the freeing of education will have a tendency to encourage irregularity of attendance or to discourage the use of voluntary schools. I believe parents will more and more value the benefits of education, and that those who wish their children to have a distinctive religious teaching will make use of the voluntary schools instead of being deterred from doing so as now by one of the worst and most iniquitous Acts ever placed on the Statute Book of this realm. I trust that the feeling of the House so generally expressed in favour of the Bill will enable it to pass its Second Beading, and, on behalf of a large portion of those whom I represent, I beg to give the measure my most hearty approval.
§ *(3.50.) THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Sir W. HART DYKE,) Kent, Dartford
I hope I may be forgiven if I intervene in the Debate at this moment, because I believe there is a common interest among us all that the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill should be decided before this Sitting is concluded. I venture humbly to urge this upon the House, because, although any hon. Member may be forgiven for occupying the time of the House upon a question of such importance, the vast number of points made in this Debate would be more advantageously raised in Committee. I know, of course, that a great question of principle is involved. This Debate shows, at all events, the great interests with which the House has to deal. And here I may say that in my time I never remember a Debate more practically or fairly conducted, or one more worthy of the best traditions of the House. Not only am I satisfied with the tone of the Debate, but I readily admit that the reception of the measure by hon. Members opposite has been eminently fair, although I am 1350 not prepared to accept the sanguine view which they take as to the ultimate result of the measure should it become law. Of this I am certain, from long and close consideration of educational improvements since the passing of Mr. Forster's Act, that if there be sacrifices on this side, there are equally great, or even greater, sacrifices to be made by hon. Members opposite. It may be some consolation to my hon. Friends to know that some right hon. Gentlemen opposite are suffering some inconvenience in consequence of opinions which they have long expressed in regard to popular control and other matters. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington is perfectly consistent in being opposed to the measure toto cœlo. It was not a case of gloves with him. My hon. Friend took off the gloves, and hit out hard wherever he could; and, hearing him, I could not help being reminded of early scenes in my Parliamentary life, when Mr. Horsman and Mr. Lowe were pitching into the Government of Lord Russell concerning the Reform Bill. I remember that on that occasion—it was in the days of my Parliamentary youth—I yelled with fiendish delight at what was taking place, and now, although the boot is on the other leg altogether, the situation is not without excitement and not without delight. It struck me at the time, as it strikes me now, that in his speech my hon. Friend dealt a good deal in prophecy and in assertion, urging that great danger would arise from this measure, but as to facts and arguments I found that they were conspicuous by their absence. My hon. Friend continually told us that this proposal for free education contained the germ of destruction for the voluntary schools. My hon. Friend produced no arguments and no facts in support of that assertion. Now, I beg to observe at starting that I believe this proposal has in it not only the germ of immediate success, but that, as embodied in this Bill, it will be a lasting and enduring settlement, because it causes no vital change in the existing system, because it is founded upon the experience of the legislation of 21 years ago, and upon a system which has grown up and been supported through the length and breadth of the land by our own people up to the present day. I believe it will be a lasting and enduring settlement, because, in 1351 its essence, it meets the requirements and even the prejudices of our people with regard to education. One of the main objections of my hon. Friend is that this proposal of ours will ruin the higher grade schools. I venture to dispute that assertion, because I believe that the variety now existing in our elementary system, not only between school and school, but between fee and fee, is the product of demand and supply—that is to say, it has grown up out of the needs and requirements of our educational system. Therefore, when my hon. Friend urges that danger lurks in this proposal, I venture to say that he has brought forward not one tittle of evidence to show that the same variety as to fees demanded by the age may not be equally carried out, if not increased, by the system which we suggest—that is, the graded system, with a grant of 10s. per head of average attendance. My hon. Friend also referred to the question of local control. He hinted that because we give this fee grant it must bring with it popular control. This question of local control has been ably dealt with on a previous occasion by my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, and as I am led to believe that the whole question will be raised in a substantive form before long I will not go deeply into the question, but I should like to give my hon. Friend a crumb of comfort with regard to it. Since the Act of 1870 the grants that have been given to the voluntary schools have been increased by no less than 82 per cent.; but I fail to understand how it is that the increase of those grants by another 7 per cent. must bring about the destruction of those schools by the establishment of popular control. How does my hon. Friend think that the whole system of voluntary schools is going to be swept away and the establishment of local control is likely to come about? Does he think that the immediate result of a majority of hon. Members opposite, coming into power at the next election, will be the introduction of the principle of local control? Assuming that the Party opposite are triumphant at the next election, I should like, as an old Whip, to offer my hon. Friend this crumb of comfort. Even in the event of their return, are there not likely to be at least 60 Representatives of Irish opinion sitting on the opposite 1352 Benches, counting 120 on a Division, who must go into the Lobby in support of the denominational schools of the country? We know that the Roman Catholic schools are the breath and the life of Roman Catholicism; and I would remind my hon. Friend that whoever may propose the legislation he dreads, there are 60 strong reasons against its ever being adopted by a Radical Government. I should now like to say one or two words concerning some important points which have been raised in connection with the Bill. It is obvious to any one who has but slightly studied the question that the initial difficulty in dealing comprehensively and in a statesmanlike spirit with a question like this is the extraordinary variety and extent of the fee in different parts of the country. It is a great puzzle to me to understand how and why it is my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington and some of his friends are urging that this is a measure for the destruction of voluntary schools, when a great majority of the schools in. England, and all the schools in Wales, are offered a grant considerably in excess of the ordinary fees. In attempting to frame a measure like this it has been my duty to go into the question of the great difficulty and extraordinary discrepancy of the fees in different parts of the country. I admit that, while in 28 or 29 counties in England this fee grant is a subvention to voluntary schools, yet there are counties where difficulties will arise. As to the condition of things in counties like Lancashire and Yorkshire, which exercises the minds of the constituents of the noble Lord the Member for Darwen and the hon. Member for Leeds, I have been asked how this Bill will operate in the case of a school where there is a small balance of fees over and above the fee grant we give. It seems to be assumed in the case of the higher-feed schools that the Government have taken the 3d. fee as the basis of payment in each of those schools, and that any sum which is represented by the difference between the grant and the payment as a 3d. fee will accrue as a loss to the school. A list has been presented of schools to which it is said a loss will accrue under this proposal of ours. I will assume the case of a school where the fees nearly approach, or rather exceed, the grant we give, My noble 1353 Friend asks, supposing this surplus to represent a¼d. or a ½d., how will it be possible to charge this sum per child? I will answer that at once. Take the case of a school where the excess is, say, £40. It will be the duty of the Department to secure in such a case that the fees charged shall not be in excess of £40 on the same average attendance, but the Department will not have to take cognizance as to how the sum is raised, because the excess may be distributed as the managers think fit among certain of the parents who pay the higher fee. Thus, I say again, we are sustaining the existing system. In the case of 90 per cent. of these schools many parents who send their children are the better class of parents—small shopkeepers and others. That is the class to whom the managers will appeal to make up the difference. I hope I have made that clear. Another point raised had reference to a system of co-operation among the high-feed schools. To my mind, there can be no difficulty in carrying out such a system. Take the case of any Lancashire town where the high fee is charged. The managers of the different schools can meet together and say that they will have a common fund. They can also decide which school shall be made free, obviously choosing the school in which the fees are lowest. The result will be that the other schools will benefit by the fee grant without having any demand for free places, and they will have to help their poorer brethren. One or two criticisms have been made in a very frank and fair manner by the right hon. Member for Leeds. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a very important point, which has been raised, and, no doubt, will be raised again before we have done with this measure. The right hon. Gentleman said it at once struck everybody on reading this Bill for the first time that there must be a large number of schools in which the fee grant we give will exceed the fee charged in certain schools. Whether this is a right thing or a wrong thing to do, I say that this is inseparable from our measure. Though the Bill may appear to work somewhat unequally, I challenge hon. Members to lay a better scheme before the House, in which the provisions will work better or meet all the requirements of the case. It has been pointed out that the schools which 1354 will be affected in the matter of extra fee are twofold; but both in the Board schools and in the voluntary schools up to this time large sacrifices have been made year after year by the ratepayers on the one hand and the subscribers to the voluntary schools on the other, in order to secure the provision of efficient schools in their districts. Speaking on behalf of the Government, we see no reason why those who have been making these large sacrifices should not now reap something from their efforts in the past, provided the efficiency of their schools is preserved for the future. This is one class of schools; and, as to the other class, no doubt there are in many parts of the country a large number of schools which have been starved in their resources. There is a limit to the pressure as regards efficiency that can be put upon such schools. It must be observed that there is no distinction here between Board schools and voluntary schools, and, in point of fact, a vast number of both classes of schools are efficient which are still struggling schools. Up to 1890 a certain leniency was extended to these schools which was not extended to other schools. The Government have been asked how they can secure that the balance should not go into the pockets of the subscribers instead of being applied to increasing the efficiency of the schools. Well, we have made in our Code of 1890 some very radical and considerable changes. Under this Code we have for the first time established a system whereby any school which does not come up to the requirements of the Department can, after a certain warning, be declared inefficient. We have also extended the curriculum and inserted a provision that at least one class-subject shall be taught in every school. That, I think, an important matter, and I need hardly say how immensely valuable this will be in the poorer elementary schools in the country districts where a demand is made for the teaching of agriculture in the schools. I would point to another criticism urged by my right hon. Friend and others. They say, "It is all very well for you to say that the Department will require educational efficiency in the schools when we are making a grant of this magnitude. We want something more. The House ought to demand that there should be some legislative 1355 enactment to secure that the whole of this sum should go to promote educational efficiency." My reply to that is a practical one. I reply that there is an enactment already dealing with this very question. The Act of 1876, Section 70, provides that the income of a school shall be applied only for the purpose of public elementary education. This is emphasised in Article 90 of the Code itself, which not only repeats the substance of the clause but has a most important note in addition, stating that the school accounts may include part of the salary of a teacher of drawing, manual instruction, drill, cookery, laundry work, or any other special subject employed by managers of several schools at a central class or the employment of a separate teacher. If, therefore, we are challenged or the point of making provision for the application of this special grant to education, I say we already have the means at hand in the Code not only for spending it, but for spending it on the best and most practical form of education. I have heard hints that it might be advisable and necessary that an audit should be published of the school accounts. Well, at present the Inspectors not only have access to these accounts, but they can demand vouchers for any sums which may have been spent. Moreover, in the Code of 1890, one of the chief new provisions is that in every case these accounts shall be published and placed in some conspicuous position so as to be within the reach of all. So far as the Department is concerned, we do intend that this shall be essentially an educational measure. And, as far as I am concerned, I think, from my knowledge of the working of the Education Acts, there will be no difficulty in securing that this great boon which we are now offering shall be successfully applied to increasing education in each and all of these schools. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Sir L. Playfair) has referred to the first and second subsections of the third clause of the Bill, and has asked for explanations of them. It is perfectly obvious that if this Bill is to work well, the largest latitude must be given in regard to the provision of free education, and we must disturb existing circumstances in each locality as little as possible. Some Members 1356 may say it looks at first sight as if we are attempting to get back with one hand what we give with the other, and that we are proposing to enact some system by which fee charging may be re-established in a district. That is not the object of our proposal. What is the procedure under these sub-sections? They are intended to meet an emergency of this kind. It may be desirable in a portion of a certain district to set up a free school. But the population may shift, and the demand for free education may shift with it, say from the eastern to the western portion of the locality. This provision is simply to enable the Department to close a free school when there is no longer any necessity for it, and to open a free school in another portion of the district. I am informed on the highest authority that unless some such clause as this is passed there will be immense difficulty in meeting a demand for free education where it is most needed. My right hon. Friend asked what would be the result if the managers of a school refused to give free school accommodation. In the first place, there would be an inquiry on the spot, and if in the end the managers refused to give free education, they would be informed that a School Board would be established. There is no doubt that that would be the operation of Subsection 3 of Clause 3. With regard to another point which has been raised, I am assured that after the year of grace has expired no school fees can be paid by Guardians, and in all cases where a demand is made for remission it must come under the operation of the Bill, and be supplied in the shape of free places. However, when we get into Committee on the Bill, there will be no difficulty in inserting in the Schedule an Amendment repealing Clause 10 of the Act of 1876. Then the right hon. Gentleman alluded to a vast number of voluntary schools where there are practically no subscriptions. It is true that there are voluntary schools where there are no subscriptions, but hon. Members are doubtless aware that there are many voluntary schools which get considerable subscriptions in one year and none in the next. It has again and again been stated that the subscriptions to voluntary schools are falling off. There is something invidious in that remark. I do not think it 1357 is fair that that statement should be made, because it would appear from it that, at the very time this great boon is being given, the subscriptions to denominational schools are falling off. But what is the fact? The sums raised by endowments and voluntary contributions in schools connected with the Church of England during 1890–91 represent an increase of £12,000 per annum as regards endowments and £7,000 per annum as regards subscriptions, in all an increase of £19,000 per annum. In Wesleyan schools during the same period the increase amounts to £2,000, and in Roman Catholic schools to £19,000 per annum, making in all an increase of £40,000 per annum in the subscriptions to voluntary schools. With regard to the age limit, of course it is impossible for me to make any statement whatever at this stage of the Bill beyond the statement I made in introducing the measure. I have had no opportunity of consulting my colleagues in regard to it. I am aware that considerable pressure will be put upon my right hon. Friend on this matter, and it is perfectly obvious that it would be wrong at this stage to indicate any course whatever. For myself, I am content again to repeat the argument I urged in introducing the Bill, namely, that it is a measure to relieve those parents who are compelled to send their children to school, and it is to meet their requirements that the Bill has been framed. With regard to other questions, as there are several Members who are anxious to speak—["No, no!" and "Divide!"] Well, Sir, it is clear that hon. Members are anxious for the Division, and therefore I will only say, in conclusion, that Her Majesty's Government ask for this measure a fair field and no favour. Hostile criticisms have been directed against it, but that is only natural when we are dealing with a question so complicated as free education. Some hon. Members on this side of the House have expressed alarm with regard to our proposition. The hon. Member for Stockport last night made a speech upon the measure which has been completely and amply met by the speech made by his colleague to-day. The hon. Member for Stockport gave us an exposition of what the operation of this Bill would be in the large towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and I com- 1358 mend that exposition to my hon. Friends who regret the proposal we have placed before the House. There is one other point I should like to urge on friends of ours. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite accept this Bill because it does contain a principle which they profess to hold dear; but hon. Members on this side of the House seemed to be imbued with the notion that hon. Members opposite accept the Bill because it is to do away with the voluntary system. I do not think that is a very complimentary view to take of the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I know there are some hon. Members opposite who would like to do away with the voluntary system, but there are vast numbers of hon. Members opposite also who, I believe, have no such notion in their heads. I find the hon. Member for Leicester denounced the Bill on the ground that it would check the increase of School Boards. The hon. Member for Northampton contended that the measure was conceived in the interest of voluntary schools and to improve the financial position of voluntary schools. The hon. Member for Merioneth denounced the Bill in no measured terms as contributing towards the subvention or purchasing of voluntary schools, and another hon. Member from Wales delivered a speech, upwards of an hour in length, denouncing the measure on the ground that this great scheme for free education was a scheme for procuring and providing Church organists throughout the length and breadth of the land. I mention these facts in order to allay the fears of hon. Members on this side of the House. So far as I am concerned I can assure them of this—that I have given years of thought and inquiry and consideration to the solution of the problem before us; and I can assure them of this, as one who has had some little experience, who has heard every argument for and against the great scheme of 1870, and who has watched with some diligence and care the educational progress made since then—I say, standing here in my place in Parliament, that I am convinced and assured in my own mind that no fairer measure than this has ever been introduced. So far as voluntary schools are concerned, it deals out equal justice to voluntary and Board schools alike, and will afford relief throughout the educational system. I say further that it will maintain 1359 variety and elasticity in that system, its very best attribute, which I am thankful to say still clings to it, and will, I hope, over cling to it to the end. And it is because this scheme of ours disturbs so little and re-enacts so little, while it meets in all respects the requirements of free education, that I commend it to the honest, fair, and judicial consideration of this House. Fair play I know it will receive from the objectors on this side of the House, and also fair criticism on the other side. I only ask this House in a calm and judicial spirit to make this a good and well-working measure for the benefit of the great mass of the population.
§ (4.42.) MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
I do not rise to continue the Debate, but rather to deprecate further discussion. We have now had a discussion extending over nearly three days. We believe that, so far as we are concerned on this side of the House, we have stated our case fully, and we have no desire to hinder the Division being immediately taken. We wish to come to business, and, when we get to business, to make our protests in a firm and temperate manner with a view to the Bill becoming law this Session within a reasonable time. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will be of opinion that if this measure is to pass this year we must not have any concessions on such burning questions as the 17s. 6d. limit. We are prepared to place our Amendments on the Paper at once. We wish to make it a thoroughly good working Bill. We are not sanguine that it will achieve all we desire, but we do not intend in any way to imperil the main principle of the Bill. We cannot carry this Session all we desire with regard to free education, but we believe the day is not far distant when we shall be able to do so, and in that belief I would ask hon. Members to proceed at once to a Division.
§ (4.45.) The House divided:—Ayes 318; Noes 10.—(Div. List, No. 304.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.