HC Deb 28 May 1894 vol 24 cc1496-502
SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)

said, he begged to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that she will direct the New Code of Regulations for Evening Continuation Schools to be amended in the following particulars, namely:—Page 15 (Association of Workers), leave out 2. Working men's cooperative societies, their work in distribution and production.' Page 17, leave out' the services rendered by retail shopkeepers, merchants, manufacturers, and other persons, engaged in distribution and production. He did not deny the merits of the cooperative system, which had its advantages. It had rendered services to the community, and had an historic reputation, but it had a district trade interest in competition with the ordinary retail interest of the country. When it was proposed to inculcate the views and practice of the Co-operative Societies through the medium of State-aided schools many people very naturally objected on the ground that the elementary education of the young should not be made a subject cither of Party, social, or commercial controversy. When objection was taken to the inclusion of the work of Co-operative Societies in the Code the Government put in the services rendered by retail shopkeepers. But obviously it was not proposed to make these subjects matters of public instruction until it was suggested that the work of Co-operative Societies should be put in the Code. The retail traders were quite content that their services and work should remain matters of common knowledge, but they did object to have instruction in the methods of co-operation taught in schools in competition with their work. That this matter was a controversial one was proved by the fact that since the Motion had been on the Paper he had received information from many quarters of the House that telegrams had rained upon hon. Members from Co-operative Societies begging them to support it. Our public schools should be kept free from such controversies. He begged to move his Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that She. will direct the New Code of Regulations for livening Continuation Schools to be amended in the following particulars, namely: — Page 16 (Association of workers), to leave out "2. Working men's co-operative societies, their work in distribution and production. Page 17, leave out "the services rendered by retail shopkeepers, merchants, manufacturers, and other persons engaged in distribution and production."—(Sir R. Temple.)

MR. A. CROSS (Glasgow, Camlachie)

said, that the subject had been raised last Session, but had been evaded by Her Majesty's Government. The objection was to the mention of Co-operative Societies amongst the subjects to be taught in evening continuation schools. His objection was based on the broad principle that it was not wise or expedient that they should in evening continuation schools, or in any other State-aided schools, deal with questions that were controversial, debateable, or likely to cause a divergence of opinion. Controversial polities and religion were not taught in our schools. He did not argue the merits of co-operation. It was sufficient to point out that it was opposed to trade by individual dealers, and that the teaching of the principles and practice of co-operative trade was an offence to those engaged individually in retail trade. They might be told that this teaching was done discreetly—that the facts were broad ones, and that it was only proper that instruction should be given in them. But it was not done discreetly. The Secretary for Scotland had been good enough to say that if instances could be found where the teaching was not discreet the Department would intervene. Well, he (Mr. Cross) knew of a case where a little girl in her home lessons had received questions to be answered of this character—"State in your reply the advantages you will derive from belonging to a Co-operative Store."["Hear, hear !"] Hon. Gentlemen said "Hear, hear !" but if they had been in the position of the father of that little girl—a retail dealer —who found his daughter being taught to define the system which was opposed to the principles by which he gained his living what would have been their sentiments? He submitted that such a thing was an outrage. [Laughter]. If hon. Gentlemen laughed it showed that they were not bestowing that attention to the matter which they ought to do. Traders objected to the teaching of a system which was cutting their throats, especially as it was being taught now—and he ventured to think that it could not be taught as the Secretary for Scotland would like it to be. How could the principles of co-operative trading be taught so as not to be offensive to the parents of the children? The lesson to be taught was that by dealing at Cooperative Stores people were able to obtain goods cheaper than they could be obtained from the retail dealers. It was, he maintained, wrong to impart such lessons to children in State-aided schools. Statements of that kind might be true or might not, but even if true their teaching was calculated to injure other people. Hon. Members who supported the teaching of these subjects in the Education Code objected to the teaching of religion which was more or less controversial in the State-aided schools. He would apply to these gentlemen their own doctrine. When they lent themselves to any special method of conducting trade they gave that method the cloak of their authority, and it went before the country under a false aspect. He could not understand why co-operation should be taught. He was afraid that the whole object was to puff and laud certain stores in certain localities. He might tell the House that retail traders did not care for the advertisements that was given to them by the reference made to them in the Code. [Mr. ACLAND): Yes, they do.] They would no doubt like to have their particular business advertised, as co-operative businesses would be advertised by the instruction that would be given. There was only one Co-operative Store in a given locality, and if co-operation were lauded that store would be lauded. He had that day received a largely signed Petition against the Code, and he had also received telegrams from the Cooperative Stores in the division he represented in favour of the Code. He submitted that the receipt of these communications showed that there was a strong division of feeling in this constituency, and he contended that under these circumstances it was not right that these Regulations should remain in the Code.

MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)

said, that in an admirable Code of Regulations for evening continuation schools the Education Department, with an impartiality and equality of treatment of both Co-operative Stores and private traders of which every one must approve, had put down in the Schedule of subjects of teaching for young people of over 15 years of age the principles of workmen's Co-operative Societies, and also the services rendered by retail traders, merchants, manufacturers, and others. It seemed that it was the duty of any Educational Body to bring before young people the chief phases and characteristics of our national life. That being so, he could not see what objection there could be to giving equality of treatment to co-operation and private trading. He had read many of the primers supplied to school children, and he found that in every school the works of John Stuart Mill, Fawcett, and the leading economists were used. Did the hon. Gentleman opposite contend that a movement which had 1,250,000 members, and which supplied something like 4,000,000 of consumers, was a movement which related to a subject on which young people ought not to be instructed? The Code did not advocate co-operation. It simply suggested the giving to children of expository resumes of the principles of co-operation, and so forth. It did just the same with regard to private traders, and he really could not see how any objection could be taken to it by the hon. Baronet (Sir R. Temple), whom he had always looked upon as an educational expert of great ability, and as one who had done the cause of education in London a great deal of good. It was to him (Mr. Burns) a source of congratulation that in this country there were 28,000 working-men's Associations with a capital of £213,000,000, including Trades Unions, Co-operative Societies, Friendly Societies, and Building Societies. If he were a religious man he should be inclined to say that the British people were predestined through those agencies to be a crucible in which all the industrial, social, and constructive political theories of the future were to be developed. To say that these theories were not to be brought before their children was to put back the clock of education in order to please a few retail traders. The co-operators did not ask for State aid. As a Socialist, he was opposed to co-operation in many aspects, though not because he disapproved of many of its principles; still, he did not think that a reason why he should object to the principles and objects of the Co-operative Societies being taught to the children so that they might inform themselves, and in the end choose as between the co-operative system of producing and distributing goods and the private trading system. Ho congratulated the Education Department upon having drawn up this admirable Code. It would have been incomplete without co-operation and private trading. The hon. Baronet, who had done much for the cause of education in London, was taking the most reactionary step he had ever taken in education, and he hoped the House would not support him.


said, he had little to add to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite. He would point out, however, that no School Authority in the country need cause these subjects to be taught unless they liked, and then it was only in night schools. Ho thought it unadvisable to leave out from their syllabus words which would enable managers to teach the first principles of political economy. It was absurd to talk about money being in this intolerable way—as it appeared to the hon. Member behind him (Mr. A. Cross)— when their own sons in the public schools and Universities—which were largely supported out of public funds—were receiving instruction in political economy as taught by Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and other authorities. If hon. Members as parents did not object to their sons receiving instruction embracing the subjects to which exception was now taken, why should they object to allowing young people of 15, l8, or 21 years of age, who had left the ordinary day schools and were attending evening continuation schools, to receive similar instruction? There had been no desire to stimulate controversy in this matter. The moment the private traders had objected to the teaching of co-operation to meet their wishes the work of the private traders and manufacturers was included in the Code. He was now told that none of the private traders were satisfied. If that were so, he should be sorry for it. Let them agitate against the local School Hoards who adopted the Code, and so prevent the subject to which they objected being taught. For his own part, it seemed a most rational subject to offer to managers of schools to teach if they chose. The Code was being availed of by the London School Board, who took great interest in the subject. University men were teaching large numbers of boys these subjects—be was sure in no controversial spirit, but purely as a matter of principle. If the objections which had been urged to-night were to be taken on principle, they would not be able to put any arithmetical problem to a child in which he was invited to go to the grocers' or the butchers to buy so many pounds or tea or of meat. The objections were ridiculous. The House, no doubt, would agree with the hon. Member for Battersea that these subjects should be taught when such instruction was suitable, and to the benefit of those to whom it was given.


said, that the reference to the Co-operative Societies was on one page of the Code and the reference to private traders on another. Could the School Authorities, if they chose, take one page for instruction and let the other alone?

MR. COCHRANE (Ayrshire, N.)

said, he wished to know if the services rendered by the little shopkeepers would appear in the Scottish Code?


said, if any Scottish School Board desired to instruct children in the principles of retail trading it. would be encouraged by the Scotch Office, and next year the subject would be put in the Code.

Question put, and negatived.