HC Deb 18 September 1893 vol 17 cc1566-74

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

said, he objected to the renewal of the Peace Preservation Act, a measure of coercion which was unnecessary to the Government in carrying out their policy, especially as they had dispensed with the Criminal Law Procedure Act.


My only answer to the hon. Gentleman is that the Peace Preservation Act has been in force for many years. I do not regard the Act as a measure of coercion, but essentially as a measure of police regulation, and it is from that point of view that I desire to see it renewed.


proposed to amend the first Schedule by omitting the re-enactment of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act. So long as no difficulty arose in the administration of an Act, and the intentions of the Parliament which passed it were carried out, there could be no objection to its re-enactment in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. But in regard to the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, the Government had adopted a principle which was utterly at variance with the intentions of Parliament when the Act was passed, for it was being administered practically for the endowment of the Nonconformists of Wales, and therefore the Committee had a right to say to the Government that they would not grant the re-enactment of this Act unless guarantees were given that in the future it would be administered in accordance with the intentions of those who passed it. He could understand objection being raised to any religious teaching being permitted in schools supported by State aid. But that was not the policy of the Act. It allowed what was called undenominational religious teaching in the schools. But the most rigid denominational religious teaching was carried on in these State-aided schools; and, therefore, as he had said, the Act was an endowment of the Nonconformists of Wales. Again, if the Act were passed in its present form it would prevent the Local Authorities from having a free band in regard to the regulation of endowed schools which had been set up by the Charity Commissioners, and which gave parents of day scholars or board scholars the right to demand instruction for their children in denominational education. When the Welsh Education Act was passed, it was agreed that the Cowper-Temple Scheme should always be applied; but now this was set aside by a clause it was proposed to insert in the present Bill. No doubt hon. Members opposite would attempt to rest their defence of the clause on the Endowed Schools Act. [Cries of "Divide!"] No doubt hon. Members wished to get home to bed. So did he; but he wished to point out that if the Bill were passed as proposed a great injustice would be done to the people belonging to the Church of England in Wales; but no doubt that would be in accordance with the policy of the present Government. But the clause went on in a most remarkable manner— Provided that the person in charge of a boarding-house, if the County Governing Body so allow, and subject to any regulations they may make on the subject, may separately from such general religious teaching, if any, give, either by himself or by deputy, religious instruction of a denominational character. That was subject to the control of the County Governing Bodies. He did not think a more extraordinary provision was ever put into a scheme. The Governing Body, as everyone knew, belonged, in a large majority, to the Nonconformist side, and, consequently, children, whose parents desired they should have Church of England teaching, were compelled to have it subject to the majority of the Nonconformist Body in the Church of England School. ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member approved that, and imagined the County Governing Body would, with impartiality, have the teaching the parent required. He (Lord Cranborne) was not of that opinion, and those with whom he acted and who had taken an interest in Welsh local politics were not of that opinion either. He thought the religious teaching of children who desired Church of England teaching ought not to be subject to the control of County Governing Bodies, consisting of the strong partisan Nonconformists, which the Principality produced. [Cries of "Divide!"] He apologised most humbly to the Committee for detaining them, but he had not had an opportunity of bringing this matter forward before. The history of the religious clauses in the English Education Act were very peculiar. As the Bill was originally introduced into Parliament, it had a clause such as met the views of the Nonconformist Members for Wales, which was imposed on boarding and day scholars alike. That was the same policy that revealed itself in the schemes for Wales. He only quoted the Merioneth scheme, but the policy revealed in that was the same as was found in the Intermediate Education Bill as originally drawn. That Bill went through various modifications, and he held in his hand the Debate in which the Amendment he was going to deal with was introduced. The Member for Dartford, the late Vice President (Sir W. Hart Dyke), introduced a number of Amendments, and his right hon. Friend authorised him to say that the change in the Bill by the adoption of the Cowper-Temple Clause as to boarders was done with the full concurrence of, and after conference with, the Welsh Nonconformist Members. He himself took part in that Debate, and did his best to support the then Vice President, and the attitude taken up. For that he was severely denounced by gentlemen who thought he had done his best to spoil the Bill. Now they were asked to re-enact the Intermediate Education Act, and they believed that the present Government, like their predecessors, were bound to administer the Act in the same spirit in which the late Government administered it, and because hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power they had no right to alter what was the plain intention of Parliament, as shown in Debate at that time, and introduce by a side-wind, by a scheme introduced into Parliament, general words giving power to the Governing Body to make schemes which might be for the advantage of the children, or some general words of that kind. By so doing a breach had been made in the practice of the former Government, and action had been taken directly contrary to the spirit and intention of Parliament. He claimed that he had made out a case for moving an Amendment on the Expiring Laws Continnance Bill. [Cries of "Divide!"] Really he thought this was most unseemly, because if the Government were once more to set this machinery in motion they were bound to give a pledge they would administer it in the spirit in which it was passed.

Schedule 1.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 6, to leave out "No. 35 (Welsh Intermediate Education)."—(Viscount Cranborne)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."


said, the noble Lord had brought forward a charge against the present Government of having made some great change in policy in dealing with these schemes, and the noble Lord, he thought, based most of his argument on that assumption. He would like to point out to the Committee that every one of the schemes that contained this alleged objectionable religions clause was finished, so far as the Charity Commissioners were concerned, before the present Government came into Office; not a single scheme had passed from the Charity Commissioners with any change whatsoever since the present Government came into Office. The Conscience Clause was in every one of them. Among these were schemes for the Counties of Carnarvon, Merioneth, Pembroke, Flint, Denbigh, and Montgomery. There had been no change whatever either in the policy of the Commissioners or the Government.


asked if the hon. Gentleman asserted these clauses received the assent of Her Majesty's late advisers, because his right hon. Friend assured them to the contrary.


said, that so far as Carnarvon was concerned, he thought the Education Department sanctioned the scheme. At the instance of Lord Knutsford, strongly supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council in the late Government, the Address to that scheme was adopted unanimously in another place, and no one ventured to bring forward an Address in that House to reject that scheme. With regard to the Merioneth scheme, the clause as it stood was a compromise that was effected by the Education Department, as between the clause adopted by the Charity Commission and the Joint Education Committee of Merioneth. The scheme of the Charity Commissioners was adopted with a minor alteration. The noble Lord said most of the schemes touched schools belonging to a particular denomination. In all the 16 schemes ever drawn up in Wales and Monmouth shire there was not a single school belonging to any denomination touched or affected by this scheme. In the case of Carnarvon a complaint was made that one school, Fryer's, was a Church of England School. Lord Knutsford, speaking on behalf of the late Government, took objection to that, and said the inclusion of Fryer's was quite in conformity with the Act of 1889. How did the Nonconformist majority propose to deal with the religious instruction in boarding schools? So far as the day schools were concerned, the noble Lord admitted it was included in the Welsh Act of 1889, but how did it deal with the religious education? He should like to read to the Committee the provision made for religious instruction in boarding schools. The first provision was this— In the hostel, or boarding house, or school, scholars shall be allowed to attend such places of worship, and have reasonable facilities for religious instruction from such religious teachers, as their parents may choose for them. He ventured to think no more liberal provision could be adopted than the provision introduced in that scheme. The second provision, as to family worship, was— Christian family worship shall be held daily in the hostel or boarding house, but in the family worship so held the formularies of any particular denomination shall not be used. The noble Lord made objection to that provision, but that was the very provision which was passed unanimously in the House of Lords.


I have nothing to do with the House of Lords.


said, if the able Lord had so little interest in the doings of the House of Lords, why did he not himself move an Address to Her Majesty to reject this clause, and take the opinion of the House of Commons upon it? Neither he nor his hon. Friend took any step whatsoever to challenge the opinion of that House. The last provision ran thus— In the course of any general Christian religious teaching given in the hostel or boarding-house, the formularies of any particular denomination shall not be used, nor shall the distinctive tenets of any particular denomination be taught, provided that the person in charge of a boarding-house, if the County Governing Body so allow, and subject to any regulations they may make on the subject, may separately from such general religious teaching (if any), give, either by himself or deputy, religious instruction of a denominational character, but only to those scholars whose parents have in writing expressed a wish for such instruction. That gave a free hand to the Local Authority—the very provision which the noble Lord wanted. He ventured to submit that in these counties, where the Nonconformists were in an enormous majority, this provision was as liberal a provision as could be devised. If the clause were not re-enacted the result would be that many schemes which were now in progress could not be proceeded with. He trusted the Committee would not accept the Amendment of the noble Lord.

MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)

who spoke amid cries of "Divide!" supported the Amendment of the noble Lord. They objected, and challenged the continuance of this Welsh Intermediate Act, because they said it had been worked in a manner in which it was never intended to be worked. He would remind the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken, of the Debate on the Welsh Intermediate Act which took place in July 1889, when the very power which was now sought to be introduced into this scheme was sought for by the hon. Gentleman and his friends, and was deliberately refused in this House. The Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Stuart Rendel), on the occasion of the Debate of 1889, moved to omit the word "day" before scholars, and he said— The question of boarders is one about which the feeling is very strong in Wales. Mr. Osborne Morgan supported the Amendment, and then the following discussion ensued:— Sir W. HART DYKE: I appreciate the point which has been raised, but I cannot accept any Amendment virtually tending to widen the clause, which already extends the Cowper-Temple Clause to day-schools. Mr. T. E. ELLIS: May I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman? I think it would be rather hard if a Nonconformist child were a boarder in a school in Wales, and were compelled to attend lessons on any religious subject in connection with some other religious denomination. Viscount CRANBORNE hoped the change would not be made. Mr. MUNDELLA: I think this clause should be allowed to extend to board scholars as well as day scholars. Why had he quoted all this? Because he wanted to show that this point was distinctly raised in 1889, and was distinctly refused; therefore, when the hon. Gentleman sought now to apply to boarders the provision which the Act only applied to day scholars, he was doing that which the Act of Parliament did not allow him to do. In the Report of the Endowed Schools Inquiry Commission, 1867, on which the Endowed Schools Act was founded, it was stated— Parents of day scholars ought to be allowed to withdraw their children from the religious instruction if they think fit, and also to appeal against any unfair inculcation of religious doctrines in the course of the secular instruction. Then the Report went on to say— Boarders must stand on a different footing. A master who has boarders in his house is not merely a teacher; he has for the time the full responsibility of a parent. He would not trouble the Committee with the whole extract. He merely quoted this to show that the matter had been very deliberately regulated by Parliament, and that a distinction had been always drawn between day scholars and boarders. Whilst, on the one hand, day scholars had been given that provision for undenominational teaching under these schemes of the Endowed School Acts, enlarged by the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, the matter with regard to boarders had been distinctly put on a different footing, and what they said was that the present Government had materially altered the foundations on which that was done. The words of the Merionethshire scheme— If the County Governing Body so allow, and subject to any regulations they may make on the subject"— were deliberately put in against the scheme which the Charity Commissioners had framed. The scheme, as submitted by the Charity Commissioners, had left discretion in the hands of the master, and the Education Department, acting on the advice of the Charity Commissioners, put in these words, taking away the option of the master to demand liberty of religious teaching and giving it to a Governing Body. His noble Friend was not saying too much when he said that the County Governing Body in a Welsh county was a hostile body which might make and force hostile regulations upon the people. What they asked was that this Act should be administered in the spirit in which it was passed, and they maintained it was not so administered. They did not stand alone on the Merionethshire Scheme, because they had the Cardiganshire Scheme, which actually went to this extent in illiberality—that they excluded from the benefits of Cardiganshire Scholarships boys attending a certain school, notoriously one of the best in the county, because it happened to be a denominational school. [Mr. ACLAND: It is under private management.] That was a perversion of language: the school was, to all intents and purposes, a public school, and it had the public confidence to a remarkable degree. The Carnarvonshire scheme, though sufficiently undenominational to please most people, had not been challenged in either House of Parliament; but there was another scheme for Denbighshire, which dealt with the ancient school of Ruthin, long connected with the Church.


said, there had been no change in the Denbighshire scheme during the last 18 months.


said, he knew the scheme had created great alarm, and he hoped it would not be pressed aggressively. He regretted once more that these matters could not be brought before the House on a more suitable occasion. It was the fault of the system under which they laboured; they had not had the ordinary opportunities of bringing forward their grievances. All they asked was that the "denominational conscience," as it was called, should be respected [Laughter]. He supposed there was no harm in doing that? Their demand was, he thought, a very simple one. If the Church in Wales was in a minority, he thought they should have the privilege of a minority, and be protected in all these matters.

Question put, and agreed to.

Other Schedules agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the third time, and passed.