§ (1.) Every County Council and every Council of a Municipal Borough of not less than twenty thousand inhabitants shall appoint an Education Committee for the purposes of this Act, and the County Council acting by that Committee shall be and is in this Act referred to as the education authority for the county.
§ (2.) The number of the members of the Committee shall be fixed by the County Council.
§ (3.) The County Council may appoint persons, whether members of the Council or not, to be members of the Committee, provided that a majority of those members shall be members of the Council.
§ (4.) A member of an Education Committee shall hold office for three years, and one-third, as nearly as may be, of the members of an Education Committee shall retire annually at such time and in such order as may be fixed by the County Council, and their places shall be filled by a new appointment, but retiring members may be re-appointed.
§ (5.) Two or more County Councils may combine for all or any of the purposes of this Act.
§ (6.) Provided as follows:—
- (a.) A County Council may submit to the Education Department a scheme for providing separate Education Committees for different parts of the county or for otherwise modifying or supplementing the provisions of this section so as to adapt the constitution of an Education Committee to the needs of the county or of different parts thereof, and for making any supplemental provisions which appear necessary for carrying into effect the Scheme, and if the Education Department approve any such Scheme, without modification or with any modifications agreed to by the Council, the Scheme shall have effect as if enacted by this Act, but shall be subject to revocation or alteration by a Scheme made in like manner.
- (b.) Where a county governing body has been constituted for any county by a Scheme made in pursuance of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889, the county governing body shall be the Education Committee for the purposes of this Act, and the County Council acting through that governing body shall be the education authority for the county.
§ [The words printed in italics have been inserted in Committee.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
, who was received with loud Ministerial cheers, said: Exactly a week ago, Mr. Lowther, I informed the House, on the Motion for adjournment, of what the general view of the Government at that time was with regard to the future conduct of the Education Bill. I told them that in the opinion of the Government probably the best course would be to continue the discussion in Committee so long as the general exigencies of public business allowed during this part of the Session, and then to adjourn and resume the discussion of the Bill early next year but in the same Session of Parliament. I now have to announce that I shall conclude to-day by moving that you do now leave the Chair—a Motion which will have the effect, as I may inform hon. Gentlemen, of destroying the Bill for the present Session. [Opposition cheers.] I think the Committee are entitled to have from me an explanation and justification of the change of policy which has occurred in the course of these seven days, and that explanation and that justification I now proceed to give. I may premise by reminding the House that, under what I may call the plan of last Monday, there would have been allowed now for the passage of this Bill into law before the exigencies of the new financial year required or suggested a new Session, no less than 53 days, and we thought, and we still think, that 53 days is an adequate length of time to give the discussing a Bill of this Character. [Cheers.] We had no right, or we thought we had no right, to anticipate that we should be met with a character of opposition—[cheers and counter cheers and cries of "From your own side"]—a character of opposition with regard to which, whatever epithet may be supposed best to qualify it, will, 1573 at all events, be admitted to have had this inevitable result, that if continued it would have made 53 days an absolutely inadequate time for passing this Bill into law. [Cheers.] We have been now since last Monday four days in Committee; we have had five days altogether. If the merits of the Opposition are to be measured by the magnitude of their conversational output—[laughter]—this is certainly the most meritorious Opposition of which the history of this country tells us. [Cheers.] And the right hon. Gentleman who appears to dissent from that general statement of their merits has set the example of ranging at large over clauses of the Bill—[cheers and counter cheers]—with a happy sense of irresponsibility which from a debating point of view is extremely attractive, but very ominous to the future prospects of the Measure. Sir, in five nights we have passed two lines—14 words. [Opposition laughter.] I remember that on the fifth night of the Debate on the Home Rule Bill the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Montrose Burghs, then Chief Secretary for Ireland, came down and moved the Closure on the first clause. Now the first clause of the Irish Home Rule Bill set up an Irish Parliament. [Cheers and counter cheers, and Mr. MAC NEILL: "What Lord Carnarvon wanted to set up."] It turned back the Constitutional clock for a hundred years. [Cheers.] It not only set up an Irish Parliament but it determined that that Parliament should consist of two Chambers. It will be admitted that that was no small or insignificant change to introduce into the ancient Constitution of this country. Five nights were enough to Debate, to discuss, to amend, and to pass that clause in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. We have been more than that period discussing the first clause of a Bill which, whether it be a good Bill or a bad Bill, whether this clause be a good clause or whether it be a bad clause, at all events does no more than intrust to existing local authorities duties which those authorities are well competent to perform. [Cheers and Opposition cries of "No!"] I do not enter into the merits of the clause, Mr. Lowther. I should be out of order in doing so. All I ask the House is, to remember that so 1574 great has been the progress in Parliamentary arts since the Home Rule Bill was under discussion that we now cannot in five days touch even the fringe of this inferior and less important subject, whereas it would have been disposed of in the course of five days four years ago. The Committee will do well to consider that state of things. I shall have something more to say upon it before I sit down. But at all events this will be admitted, that in her old age the Mother of Parliaments has become somewhat garrulous. [Cheers and laughter.] It will be manifest both from what I have said and what I am about to say, that it was impossible for the Government to adhere to their original scheme without change. One brief calculation will bring this home in a concrete form to every Gentleman who hears me. There are now on the Paper 96 pages of Amendments. Excluding duplicates there are 1,238—or 1,200 Amendments. Allowing 20 per cent. for friendly Amendments which might possibly be withdrawn or accepted—a not illiberal allowance—that leaves 960 Amendments to be disposed of. That number we cannot regard as final, for one of the peculiarities of the last four nights' Debate has been that for every Amendment of which we dispose two at least appear on the Paper next day. Let us take it at 960—that no further Amendment is put down on the Paper, and these 960 hostile Amendments have to be disposed of. I see, or I think I see, plain indications on the part of those responsible for the conduct of the opposition to this Bill that no Amendment shall be disposed of except after resort to the Closure. [Cheers.] Assuming that it takes 10 minutes to divide—which is a low estimate—and on those Amendments we had to divide twice, it would take up—without any discussion whatever, without a single word being said for or against those Amendments on their merits—it would take, by the mere operation of walking round and round the Lobbies, no less than 40 eight-hour days to dispose of the Amendments on the Paper—40 days of eight hours continuously occupied, not in Debate, not in discussion or argument, but in the healthy but somewhat barren, process of walking round and round the Lobbies. I think it will be 1575 admitted after what I have said that the idea, in the face of such opposition, of finishing this Bill before a new Session had to begin was chimerical and one which no rational man could possibly entertain, however much justification there may have been before. And I have to point out that this state of things would not have been met by an expedient which approves itself to the minds of a certain number of Gentlemen—I mean, of an autumn Session. It is clear that if you added to the 53 days the Government could have given to the discussion of the Bill 25 or 30 days you would not have been nearer your desired object of passing the Bill into law before a new Session had begun, and for this, if for no other, reason—that it is manifest after what has occurred that the mere fact that a time limit is before the Opposition, to driving us over which they may devote their efforts—so long as that is the case there is no hope of passing legislation of this character into law. The only alternative will be admitted by every Gentleman who has heard my calculation and watched for himself what has gone on. If that calculation be just, is it not manifest that we had but three courses open to us? We might, in the first place, have extended this Session to absolutely abnormal limits and carried it on until May, June, or July in defiance of all precedent and probably at the cost of considerable confusion and inconvenience to public business. I do not know that such a course would have been illegal. It would have been unprecedented, and I think it would have been inconvenient. We might have carried the Bill over by a Resolution, and sat about the 15th or end of February, and, if we dropped the Bill as far as this Session is concerned, commence a new Session and by Resolution revive the Bill at the point at which we left it. For that plan I will not deny there is something to be said, and it would be a great advantage in Parliamentary procedure, in connection with large Measures; but I think, if such a plan is to be adopted, it should be adopted after mature deliberation and after the House had had time to consider so great a change in procedure from all points of view. There are two courses; and the third course was the course we 1576 adopted. We are content to sacrifice the 11 days we have occupied on this Bill, to begin the subject afresh early next January—["hear, hear!"]—to carry through the remainder of the Session's business that we think necessary, and to meet at that very early date in order to fulfil our pledges to the Voluntary Schools. [Opposition laughter, Ministerial cheers, and Mr. SWIFT MACNEILL: "Where is Gorst?"] That, Sir, is our scheme which in outline I now desire to press upon the House. There are critics—all Governments have critics—and the critics appear to be disposed to say:—What an extraordinary example of weakness is here shown![Opposition cheers.]You have in the House a majority of 150; the Second Reading of the Bill was carried by a majority far larger than your normal majority; do you mean to say that in such circumstances you are going to show yourselves so poor in spirit as to permit a relatively insignificant minority to foil your Parliamentary plans?Well, Sir, this theory of the advantage of large majorities—[Opposition cheers]—would have overwhelming authority if we had to decide these questions by appeals to force. [Laughter.] But so far as I am aware the only advantage in this House of a large majority is that it is very difficult to turn it into a minority. A small majority, so long as it retains life as a majority, is every bit as powerful as the largest majority that ever was contemplated. I suppose the most tyrannical majority which this House has ever seen is one which, before it finally expired, habitually oscillated between 30 and 13. [Ministerial cheers.] And it is just as easy for a majority, which differs from a minority only by 1-600th part of this assembly, to silence that minority, to tyrannise over it, to pass all Resolutions it pleases, subject only to this, that the majority, being so small, a very small cut at any moment may sever the thread of its existence. Now, Sir, we have to face this question, whether first of all to follow the example of our predecessors and with a majority of 150 to Closure by compartments as they did with a majority of 15. [Cheers.] That is a simple and easy method out of your Parliamentary trouble; anybody can govern in a state of siege—[ironical 1577 Irish cheers]—any Government can get through business by the help of Closure by compartments. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House agree with me in deprecating this last course—[cheers]—but do not let them suppose it would necessarily be unpopular even among their own supporters; on the contrary, the number of persons who confuse violence with vigour is still so great that I doubt not we should be overwhelmed with laudations from some of our best friends in many parts of the country had we taken that course. [Laughter.] But, in my judgment at all events, whatever changes may ultimately be required in our rules, this way of cutting the knot of a difficult situation is not one which we can recommend to the House. Twice before the last Parliament Closure by compartments was adopted—[cheers]—once by the Government of Mr. Gladstone in 1882, and once by the Unionist Government of which I was a Member in 1887; and although, rightly or wrongly, the Administration of the day thought they were driven to that course not by legislative but by administrative necessity, in the last Parliament, for the first time, the Closure by compartments was adopted in cases in which there was no question of administrative necessity and in which legislative necessity alone was pleaded. Observe how the appetite for this poison grows by what it feeds upon. The Home Rule Bill had not been 28 days in Committee before the Minister in charge came down and announced Closure by compartments. But, Sir, another Bill soon came, the Evicted Tenants Bill, and that Bill had not been two days in Committee before the Government of the day, the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, came down and told us that the 22 pages of Amendments on the Paper was sufficient justification, after two days' discussion, for gagging that Bill, as it is described, by closuring in compartments. I do not think that example is reassuring for the future. I think, if this House is driven to adopt any great change in its procedure, it ought to be done in different circumstances and with a different degree of deliberation from that which attended the adoption of the course on those two celebrated occasions during the tenure of power by the right hon. 1578 Gentlemen opposite. I have explained to the House why we have adopted the course we have adopted as distinguished from the only alternative—namely, continuing the Session to an inordinate length, and carrying the Bill over to a new Session, and closuring by compartments. I now address myself, in a very few words, to another part of the subject, which is the effect of that decision of ours will have upon the prospects of those schools for whose benefit primarily this Bill was introduced. We consider we are absolutely pledged—we are still, as we have always have been, pledged—to aid the Voluntary Schools and to carry our aid to the furthest point our Imperial resources will permit. Will the delay resulting from the adoption of the particular plan we have announced our intention of adopting do any harm to these schools? Will the delay be of such a character that they will materially suffer? It is evident from what I have already said they will not suffer from this plan as compared with the plan of handing up this Bill till January and then resuming the consideration of it, for we could not have passed the Bill by the end of the financial year, and therefore no loss will accrue to these schools by any delay our present procedure will involve. The actual amount which would have gone to the Voluntary Schools had we been able to pass the Bill before August would not have been very great—the Chancellor of the Exchequer calculates it at about £100,000—but I hope we may find a method by which even that loss may be avoided; and, although I should be wrong in giving any definite pledge to the House, I can assure hon. Members we shall spare no pains in considering whether the difficulties which lie in the way of that course cannot be effectively surmounted. I therefore venture to say that, whatever other objection there may be to the plan of the Government, the Voluntary Schools will not be prejudiced. They have suffered much from the veiled hostility of those who object to denominational teaching under the somewhat thin disguise of a zeal for education in general. But, Sir, if they have to deal with that opposition, I think we can promise them that that opposition will not have the effect of seriously delaying that relief which it is our great 1579 desire to give them. I have now, Sir, nearly completed my task. I have discussed the relations of our plan to the prospects of Voluntary Schools, to the order of business, and to the rules of Debate. I may be asked, "Have you nothing to say about the credit of the Government?" Well, Sir, I confess I do not feel moved by any of the objections I have heard urged under that head. It may be said, "You have made a miscalculation." We most undoubtedly have made a miscalculation, and the result of that has been the loss of 11 days of Parliamentary time. Whether we were responsible for the miscalculation, whether we had or ought to have had at our disposal the materials for forecasting the peculiar character of the opposition which this Bill would arouse—["Oh, oh!"]—and the peculiar methods by which that opposition would be aided, I leave it to others to determine. I, at all events, am too familiar with incidents of this kind to feel that it is in any respects an important factor in that perennial contest between the two sides of the House in which we are engaged. I hardly remember any year in which a Bill of equal magnitude has not been abandoned by the Government which introduced it. I remember the Welsh Church Bill being introduced and abandoned. [Opposition cries of "No, no!"] How short are the memories of hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Laughter.] They remember the Session in which the Bill went through the House of Commons; but they do not remember that other Session in which it was introduced and not proceeded with. [Cheers.] I remember the Suspensory Bill in 1893. I do not make this a peculiar charge against hon. Gentlemen opposite, for the charge—if it be a charge—is one which can be brought with equal truth against everyone of their predecessors. I remember bringing in the Land Purchase Bill of 1890 and failing to pass it into law, reintroducing it next year in a shorter form, and it is now in the Statute-book. Such experiences are the most familiar items in Parliamentary history. It is not from that point of view in the least that I regard with anxiety and misgiving the incidents of last week and the result of those incidents. Those Debates will be buried in the unfathomable bog of "Hansard" 1580 —[laughter]—never, I suppose, again to see the light, and the controversies which they have occasioned will be forgotten with the same rapidity as the incidents of 1893 are already forgotten by hon. Gentlemen opposite. But there are much more important issues than the credit or discredit of a particular Government or a particular Minister behind those transactions. After all, if one Party fails to do the work of the country another Party will be found to take its place. [Loud Opposition cheers.] If one Leader has proved incompetent, there are plenty of persons capable of filling his place. [Ministerial cries of "No!"] But what does not depend upon the change and chances of political life or political Ministries, is the permanent credit of this House. [Ministerial cheers.] Let it be remembered that we, the Members of this House, and we alone, are the guardians of that credit. We shall get no assistance in that duty from outside critics and outside supporters. The Press, however well instructed, the great mass of the community, however politically zealous, never can form a full and true estimate of our proceedings in the way we can form it. They would welcome, I believe, a change in our Rules, however drastic, which would give to the majority for the time being the absolute control of the business of the House; and, if we are to resist the tyranny of majorities which would then ensue, we must resist it by ourselves, we must not ask for the sympathy of those who are not of ourselves, nor must we ask assistance from those who do not belong to our ranks. It is from that point of view, and that point of view alone, that I deeply regret the evidence of Parliamentary decay—[cries of "Oh, oh!" and Ministerial cheers]—which, last week especially, but in some respects all the events of this Session have begun to show. To those who love our traditions, to those who are careful of our fame these incidents portend, and must portend, great mischiefs in the future. They are ominous, I fear of inevitable change. [Ironical cheers and Nationalist cries of "Home Rule."] But this is not the time to enter upon the nature of those changes. They could not be discussed even if they could be now adumbrated. It would be going far beyond my duty were I to initiate a 1581 Debate which could now, at all events, come to no purpose. Therefore, having explained, and, I hope, justified from every point of view—from the point of view of public business, from the point of view of education, and from the point of view of the Voluntary Schools themselves—the course we have pursued, I have only to move that you, Mr. Lowther, do now leave the Chair. [Cheers.]
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
, who was received with loud cheers, said: I cannot but regret, and deeply regret, the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman has thought it fit to approach this subject. [Cheers.] He has spoken of the course which the Opposition have taken in this matter, and how far they are responsible for the loss of this Bill. But there was one topic on which he did not touch, and that was how far he and his colleagues have contributed to that result. [Cheers.] That is a topic upon which I do not wish—especially in its personal aspect—to dwell. I have too much regard and esteem—I speak it in all sincerity—for the right hon. Gentleman—[cheers]—to desire to censure his conduct as he has thought fit to censure mine. But it is my duty, on behalf of the Gentlemen with whom I act, to state the course we have pursued, and, like himself, to justify that course. What has that course been? The Bill was introduced making a vital change, a revolutionary change in the system of elementary education in this country. We were told that the vital principle, the leading feature of this Bill was found in the first clause. That was repeated over and over again. [Ministerial cheers.] All the other subjects, the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill informed us, were comparatively secondary matters. This transfer of the authority from the Education Department to the new authorities to be constituted under this Bill was the main feature of the Measure. Opposed as we were to that change and to that transfer of authority, it was only natural, and it was proper that the Opposition should devote their energies to the defeat of that clause of the Bill. Now, from whom did the opposition come? [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman has denounced that opposition as unjustifiable and factious. There was 1582 one Amendment, and one Amendment only carried in this House. At whose instance was it carried? By a supporter of the right hon. Gentleman. [Cheers.] It was an Amendment carried by the Leader of the House against the protest and against the opinion and the judgment of the Vice President of the Council; and there is no man in the House, or out of this House, who does not know that it was the carrying of that Amendment by the right hon. Gentleman that was the most fatal blow to the Bill. [Cheers.] At the commencement of this Measure, was it the Opposition alone who were opposed to this Bill? County Council after County Council throughout the country had condemned the Bill, and had declared that they would take no part in carrying it out. Devonshire, the West Riding, and many other counties condemned the Bill; but when that Amendment was introduced, at the instance, or by the consent of the right hon. Gentleman, there was a meeting held upon Friday last by the executive of the united County Councils of the whole of England. There were present there, representing the County Councils Association, the Duke of Bedford, the Earl of Morley, Lord Herries, Sir John Dorington, Sir Richard Paget, Mr. Bill, Mr. Hobhouse, Colonel Williams, and many others distinguished in the Tory Party, and added to these were the clerks of the East Riding of Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Monmouthshire, Lancashire, Bedfordshire, East and West Sussex, Middlesex, and Shropshire. They met together, and, with one exception, unanimously condemned this Bill. [Opposition cheers.] The Vice President of the Council, the other day, prided himself upon the support which he had received from Lancashire and from Sir John Hibbert. Sir John Hibbert, who ought to have taken the chair at that meeting, was judiciously absent, and the Clerk to the Lancashire County Council said:—The result of Mr. Balfour's concession would be that in Lancashire alone there would be as many as 46 educational authorities. Only yesterday the Technical Instruction Committee resolved that the change would strike a serious blow at the administration of the Technical Instruction Acts, and that under those circumstances they considered that the County Council could not with advantage undertake the additional duties proposed to be conferred upon them in regard to public elementary education.1583 [Cheers.] That was the repentance of the Lancashire County Council, and that was their withdrawal of the support which they had previously given to the Bill. [Cheers.] And then the right hon. Gentleman says it is we who, by our factious opposition, have defeated this Bill. [Cheers.] What are the real facts of the origin and disappearance of this Bill I do not know whether we shall ever really learn. But things will leak out on these occasions, and I observe that at this meeting of the executive of the County Councils of England, a Gentleman who seems to have known something about it—the hon. Member for Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse)—is reported to have said:—The Parliamentary Committee of the Association of County Councils drew up a list of reasons why non-county boroughs should not be constituted separate educational authorities. These reasons were duly handed to Sir J. Gorst, and apparently met with his approval, for his speech on Thursday last ran exactly on the lines of those reasons. It was, therefore, greatly to his surprise that within half-an-hour of Sir John Gorst having made his speech, and without any opportunity having been given to any representatives of the County Councils in the House of Commons to speak against the Amendment, the First Lord of the Treasury got up and made the concession which was so much deplored. There was no doubt that the Amendment was moved on other than purely educational grounds. (Sir Albert Rollit had stated publicly that the boroughs would never rest content until they had broken down the line which was fixed at a population of 50,000 by the Act of 1888, not only for educational, but for all administrative purposes. That was what made the concession of such vital importance to nearly all County Councils.Why did not you foresee that your scheme would necessarily create this internecine conflict between boroughs and counties? [Cheers.] Why did you give such superficial consideration to your plans—[cheers]—as not to perceive that the municipal boroughs of England would not stand being overruled by the counties, and that the counties would not permit the boroughs to escape their jurisdiction? [Cheers.] And you tell us that we alone defeated your Bill. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman thinks that to have defeated this Bill is a discredit. We believe it to be a credit. [Loud cheers.] But we have no right to claim the whole credit, and we do not claim it. What we have done, what it was our right to do, and what it was 1584 our duty to do was to debate this Bill, and to examine this Bill until the true character of the Bill and its operations were understood by the country and the House of Commons. [Loud cheers.] That, Sir, we have done; and I am happy to say that we have done it with success. The Vice President of the Council said on Thursday night that these Debates had removed many misconceptions. So they have, Sir. [Cheers.] And when the misconceptions are removed the Bill disappears. What sort of a Bill is this which cannot stand a week's discussion in the House of Commons? [Cheers.] Were the Amendments trivial that we moved? Will you say that the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for London University was a trivial Amendment from the point of view of this Metropolis? Will you say that the Amendment moved on Thursday night by my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch, claiming that you should not transfer he authority nor meddle with the principles on which elementary education was founded, was trivial? Was it not an Amendment which went to the root of the whole question—[cheers]—which we were bound to discuss, and to discuss in manner which was not possible on the Second Reading, because it was only his Amendment which brought out the fact of the friction which would be created? It was presented from every point of view upon Amendments moved from both sides of the House, and they showed the difficulties which were created in the scheme you had propounded. It is for that purpose that debate and discussion exist in the House of Commons. [Cheers.] And when the right hon. Gentleman comes forward and says:—If we have got a Measure which will not stand Debate in the House of Commons we must in future take some method of cutting off that Debate,he had better consider these facts. [Cheers.] He said that cutting off the Debate was the only alternative. What I maintain is that your Bill has perished, not from any factious opposition but from its inherent imperfections. [Loud cheers and Ministerial laughter.] It has perished not only by the exertions of an Opposition which you are never tired of telling us is weak and feeble, it 1585 has perished because you had not the united support of your own Party. [Cheers.] And I believe because you had not the united support of your own Government. [Renewed cheers.] These are the causes which have really wrecked this Bill. We were determined to oppose what you called the vital principles of your Bill, because we saw in it, as explained by Members of your own Cabinet, a deliberate intention to wreck the School Boards of England—[cheers and Ministerial cries of "No!"]—because we have been told in violent terms by the Prime Minister and his Bishops, and in violent terms by the right hon. Gentleman that they hoped and expected that the result of the Bill would be that School Boards would disappear. You say that we made Second Reading speeches upon this Bill. [Ministerial cheers.] When you have such an issue as that raised by the Amendment of Thursday night, whether the new authority was to deal with elementary education or not, of course we went to the whole principle of the Bill, and it was proper that we should do so. The right hon. Gentleman has raised what I venture to call a misleading analogy with respect to the first clause of the Home Rule Bill. The first clause of that Bill declared in favour of the establishment of a legislative assembly in Dublin. But that was the direct question upon which issue had been taken at the General Election. [Ministerial laughter, and Opposition cheers.] Does anyone deny—[Ministerial cries of "Yes"]—let hon. Members wait till they hear what they are going to deny—that Home Rule was the issue at the election of 1892? [Renewed cries of "Yes."] Why, you have been asserting it ever since. The political education of the Gentlemen who say "Yes" is incomplete. [Laughter.] But as to the first clause of this Education Bill nobody ever heard or dreamt of it. [Cheers.] Therefore the two questions are utterly distinct and different, and the full discussion on this absolutely new proposition was demanded. We had that discussion; and the result of it has been that the echo of those Debates has come back to you from the country. They have condemned your Bill. The County Councils have condemned it. You know perfectly well on that side of 1586 the House—though it is natural and discreet that you should not say so—that that part of the Bill has not given universal or general satisfaction. Though we were weak in the Division lobbies, it is perfectly true, yet we were strong in arguments against this Bill, and argument has prevailed. [Cheers.] That new authority which you have endeavoured to set up has disappeared with the Bill. Is it true that, in the opinion of this country, this Bill has disappeared on account of obstructive opposition? I look at the organs of public opinion to-day. To what causes do the journals which are the supporters of the Government attribute the failure of your Bill? Here is one of your main and principal supporters:—The Government have persisted in overloading the Session with complicated and contentions projects of legislation in spite of warnings repeatedly addressed to them in these columns.[Laughter.] That is your friend, The Times newspaper. [Cheers and laughter.] An admirable friend in prosperity, but a broken reed to any Government in adversity. [Loud cheers.] It goes on:—The friends of the Voluntary Schools have been unable to agree among themselves.That is not the doing of a factious Opposition. That is the Church Party. [Cheers and laughter.] Why do not the noble Lord the Member for Rochester and his friends agree among themselves? [Opposition laughter.]Though, as we pointed out, their divisions have jeopardised their common interests. Insisting upon their separate views, they have refused to join heartily in backing up the Government in the course that was ultimately chosen.Would you not reflect on that as being one of the causes which may have destroyed the Bill? [Cheers.] "It is to be hoped that these errors will be avoided next year." [Laughter] I commend that also to the attention of the noble Lord the Member for Rochester. I hope he will not laugh at me to-day—[laughter]—for that advice is given to him in a spirit of sincere regard. There are many things which I envy the noble Lord, but there is nothing which I envy him more than his youth and inexperience. [Loud 1587 laughter and cheers.] And then they go on:—If not, we are unable to see why the disappointments of the present Session should not be reproduced.Now let us hope that the friends of the Voluntary Schools will see the errors of their ways and avert in a future Session the misfortune they have brought upon themselves and the Government in the present Session. That is The Times. Now, then, for what I may call, perhaps, the more nominally official organ, The Standard. [A laugh.] It says:—It is easy to appreciate the laudable desires of the constructive legislator, who fancies he has at length found an opportunity of dealing comprehensively with a great question.Why did you have the laudable desires of the constructive legislator, which have led you to believe that you had no opportunity of dealing comprehensively with a great question of which we now see the result?But experience has shown that comprehensive Measures arouse boundless criticism, and do not always meet with unqualified sympathy and hearty support, even among those who approve of their general principles.Therefore this comprehensive attempt at legislation has not met with the unqualified sympathy and hearty support of Gentlemen opposite who adopted its general principle.If we look a little backward, we shall perceive that all the Unionist Party had pledged itself to do was to save Voluntary Schools from the 'painless extinction' which their enemies were predicting for them by coming to their aid with financial assistance; but out of this small and modest obligation, there had been developed a Measure as large, as wide, and as ambitious, to say the least, as the original Education Act of Mr. Forster.And you denounce us for devoting a week to the discussion of the vital clause of the Bill thus described. [Mr. BALFOUR: "Mr. Forster's Bill took nine days."] I took part in that discussion, and the right hon. Gentleman did not. [A laugh.]Not content with calling into existence a totally new school authority, it aims, at the same time, at bringing secondary education within the scope of its arrangements; and it has, moreover, raised anew the burning question which the famous 'Conscience Clause' was once supposed to have allayed.1588 What is the meaning of that? Why, your own organ says you have introduced a Bill which met with violent opposition and which had not the hearty support of your own Party, that you have raised questions which you need not have raised, and, above all, that you have introduced the element of religious controversy in this Bill. How idle it is for the right hon. Gentleman to come forward and profess to give an explanation of the disappearance of this Bill by saying it is due solely to an obstructive Opposition. [Cheers.] It is very mysterious how this Bill came to be constructed and who constructed it. That I do not suppose we shall ever be told. Why it has disappeared we are not told, but we had a little light thrown upon the matter from a very important quarter on Friday last. In an after-luncheon speech delivered at a meeting of the Midland Union of Conservative Associations we had some intimation from the fugleman of the Conservative Associations of the Midland Counties which throws an important light on the Bill. The chairman was a nobleman whom everyone who knows him respects—Lord Windsor—and he apparently agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the Government had some disadvantages in having so large a following. Well, in that we sympathise with them. [Laughter.] At the meeting of the Midland Conservative Associations Lord Windsor went on to say:—There were occasionally indications of temporary want of cohesion"—[laughter]—"which, however unimportant in themselves, at least gave their opponents moments of what he might call hysterical joy.Moments of hysterical joy! [Laughter.] Really, one wonders whether the great Persian King, as he looked upon Salamis, imagined that Themistocles and the Greeks were afflicted with hysterical joy. Anything like this discomfiture of a great majority, I think, has never been heard of since those experiences which Xerxes had. There was an overwhelming majority on that occasion, but their Measures were not a success. [Laughter.] I do not profess that we look at this matter at all in the spirit of hysterical joy, but we do regard it with calm satisfaction. [Laughter and cheers.] I cannot profess to-night to 1589 observe the ancient maxim that you should say nothing but good of the dead; but we are here to bury this Bill, not to praise it. [Laughter.] Sir, I desire as far as I can to act upon the noble maxim of the oldest and the greatest of poets, that "it is an unholy thing to glory over the slain." ["Hear, hear!"] I wish to say comparatively little of the Bill itself; but with reference to the future of the Bill I do think it is important to consider what was said of it by the Colonial Secretary on the occasion to which I have referred. As we are to revert to this matter, let us see what it is which so high an authority said of this Bill. He said, "The Education Bill is, undoubtedly, a complicated Measure." I suppose it cannot be a complicated Measure, because a week was enough to finish the discussion of it in Committee. [A laugh] He said—The only thing to which any member of the Government is pledged is to do something to prevent the Voluntary Schools from being extinguished.Then the Government are not pledged to this transfer of authority. That is one good thing, at all events.That was our only pledge; but in dealing with that question the Government, like all Governments, especially young Governments"—This unfortunate young Government—[laughter]—With an ambition a little, perhaps, beyond its powers"—It is an unfortunate thing for a Government, even with an overwhelming majority, to have an ambition a little beyond its powers—[laughter]—Desired to take the opportunity to reorganise, to co-ordinate our primary and secondary education systems, in view of the experience which we had gained during the last 25 years.Well, that was beyond their power, and it was an unwise ambition of a young Government. And then there follows this most extraordinary statement:—That part of the Bill, I believe, when passed, will prove to be a great advantage to our whole system of local government throughout the country'["Hear, hear!"] Yes, one would suppose that was part of the Bill to which 1590 they would most faithfully adhere; but not at all. The Colonial Secretary is very willing to part with it—it is of great value and will be of great use—and why? "We did not think that was a Party object," and that was why the Colonial Secretary does not desire to pass that part of the Bill.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
The right hon. Gentleman entirely misrepresents me. That was not the reason why I did not expect Party opposition.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman went on:—And I say now that, as regards the whole of that part of the Education Bill which deals with this subject, it does not matter to any sect, whether it is carried or whether it is not.Your Bill has failed because it has been founded upon Party principles and to serve the interests of a sect. And the right hon. Gentleman goes on to say:—Of its merits I have no doubt.—that is, the first clause of the Bill—but from a Party point of view I do not suppose, if the Bill was passed exactly as it was brought in, except so far as the assistance given to the Voluntary Schools, it would be in any sense a Party Measure or would be of any Party advantage whatever.["Hear, hear!"] And, therefore, the part of the Bill to which the Government are pledged, and to which Gentlemen opposite are pledged, is only that part which can be called a Party Measure. He proceeds:—I admit that we have made a miscalculation of the opposition which was likely to be given to such a Bill. A miscalculation is not a catastrophe, and the best way, I think, to meet a miscalculation is frankly to admit it.I do not know what exactly is the interpretation of a catastrophe and how far it is applicable to the scene at which we are now assisting, but it is true you made a miscalculation. But what was that miscalculation? You thought that the School Boards of this country were unpopular with the nation and that you could trample upon them. That was the spirit of the conferences at the Foreign Office. That was the language which was held throughout the winter, and it was upon that miscalculation that the Bill was founded. You have discovered 1591 your mistake. You have discovered that, not alone on this side of the House, but upon your own side of the House, your attempts on the life of the School Boards of the country have met with repugnance and opposition. ["Hear, hear!"] Now, those, in my opinion, are the main grounds which have destroyed this Bill. We have nothing to regret in the part we have taken in making clear to the country and the House what has been the true object and what has been the true character of this Bill. This Bill has failed because it was introduced without due consideration of the operation of the change which you proposed to effect. It has failed because even your own Party was not united upon it. It has failed because it has been conducted under a mandate from the House of Lords. [Cheers.] It has been conducted under the instructions of those who knew nothing of the real sentiments of its representatives. [Cheers]. That is one of the main causes of the failure of this Bill. It has failed because it was conceived in the interests of a Party and for the promotion of the objects of a sect. [Cheers.] If you will abandon these sources of weakness in the coming year; if you will come forward with a Measure for the education of the people which is framed, not in the interests of a Party, not to fulfil the objects of a sect, then you will find from us no obstructive opposition. [Cheers and counter cheers.] You judge us by yourselves. [Ministerial laughter.] We have declared, and we are willing to show, that in any fair Bill, not conceived in the spirit I have described, elementary education may be made a non-Party Measure. ["Hear, hear!"] If it is brought forward, not with the object of destroying the School Boards of England, but of assisting upon fair terms those schools which might be assisted—if it is a fair Bill for the promotion of the education of the people, then it will be a Bill which will not disappear as this Bill has disappeared under the force of public discussion, but will be a Bill which may make a permanent settlement of the greatest aim to which the House of Commons can direct its attention—namely, the education of the people. [Loud cheers.]
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said that the Vice President of the Council 1592 (Sir John Gorst) stated, on the first occasion on which the House went into Committee on the Bill, that the first clause was regarded by the Government as the most important one in the Measure. Speaking, as he conceived, in the interests of the Voluntary Schools, and of those Catholic Schools in which he was particularly interested, he strongly protested against such a statement. Since then the Government had made the most extraordinary face-about in their attitude towards the Bill and towards the Voluntary Schools. The Committee had it now on the authority of one who must be qualified to speak for his colleagues in reference to the Bill—he meant the Secretary for the Colonies—that it did not matter an atom to the Government whether the devolution clauses were carried or not. It had been pointed out by that right hon. Gentleman that what the Government had pledged themselves to do was to rescue the Voluntary Schools by giving them increased financial aid; and that they were in no sense pledged to introduce the far-reaching and comprehensive proposals of devolution. ["Hear, hear!"] The First Lord of the Treasury had attempted to throw upon the Opposition the responsibility of the destruction of the Bill, but, speaking from a different standpoint, and as one who was pledged to support any real and honest Measure having for its object the rescuing of the Voluntary Schools from the cruel position in which they were now placed, he contended that the loss of the Bill rested not upon the Opposition but upon the Government themselves, [Cheers], who, instead of introducing a simple Measure offering fair and generous treatment of the Voluntary Schools—a Bill which might have been drafted in five or six clauses—had brought in a Bill which aimed at the destruction of the School Board system and revolutionising the entire educational system of the country. ["Hear, hear!"] It had been said that the opinion of the country on the Bill was to be gauged by the extent of the majority for the Second reading. He denied the statement entirely, for many Members voted for the Second reading under protest, because their main desire was to secure some relief for the Voluntary Schools. The supporters of the Voluntary Schools—at least those 1593 who spoke for the Catholic section—had no desire to attack the great educational system of the country or to lower the standard of education. They simply asked for justice, and that Catholic children in this country should not be fined because they went to a school in accordance with the religious convictions of their parents. ["Hear, hear!"] They asked for equality with the children who attended the Board Schools, and that no discrimination should be made among the children who required religious instruction. ["Hear, hear!"] His view of the matter was that the Government had sacrificed the interests of the Voluntary Schools by bringing in a Bill which had produced the greatest possible amount of exasperation and friction while offering the least possible benefit to Voluntary Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] The Bill was dead; it had been swept away, and they had the assurance from the Government that its place would be taken next year by a new Bill. He would venture to press on the Government, in regard to this new Bill, that they should bring forward a logical and defensible Bill, one which would secure the support of the friends of the Voluntary Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] He would suggest that the Government should commence by bringing in a short Bill which would deal out justice to the Voluntary Schools, and redeem the pledges they gave to the constituencies during the last election. But if they would persist in the desire to reorganise and reconstitute, on a new basis, the primary and secondary education of the country, let that be the work of another Session. ["Hear, hear!"] Speaking on behalf of the Catholic Schools, he would urge on the Government, if they really had the interests of the Voluntary Schools at heart, not, in any future attempt to deal with the subject, to mix up in one Bill proposals attacking the School Boards and reorganising the whole educational system of the country with the proposals for the relief of the Voluntary Schools. Let them put forward first the proposals in respect to the Voluntary Schools, and he ventured to say that if they were found to be just and adequate they would command the support of a large majority of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] He had noticed during the Debates that when the question of relief 1594 of the Voluntary Schools was raised there was a great deal of common ground between the two sides of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] Member after Member declared that they recognised the verdict of the country at the last election; that they accepted the Voluntary Schools as part of the educational machinery of the country; and that they did not desire to starve them, to condemn them to inefficiency, or to squeeze them out of existence. But those Members had said that if the Voluntary Schools were to be placed on a par with the Board Schools as regarded assistance from public funds, either from the rates or the Imperial Exchequer, they would demand that there should be some amount of popular control. Statements had appeared from the Catholic Bishops in the country, and from authorities of the Northern Province of the Anglican Church, that if justice was done in the matter of the grant of public money for the Voluntary Schools they would be willing to accept any Measure of public control in the Voluntary Schools so long as it would not destroy the religious character of the Schools. Speaking in the interests of the Roman Catholics he had the deepest possible conviction that it would not be for the good of their schools, nor, indeed, for the good of their Church schools, to settle this question as the result of a long and angry contention, even if they were able to force such a Bill as the present one through the House. He did not believe that any settlement of a question where religious animosities were roused in such a way as that would be a permanent settlement. What he desired and longed for, and what he had worked for, according to his opportunities, in the interests of the Catholic Schools, was some settlement which would be the result rather of give and take between the different sections of the House than of the brute force of a great majority after prolonged and angry discussions. It was to the interest of education that this question should be settled, if it could be settled at all, as the result of compromise. The present Bill, even if it had been possible to press it, would have been no settlement of the question. The whole Session would have been consumed, and passions would have been let loose, and if the old religious animosities, which were now happily 1595 slumbering and to a great extent softened, had been aroused and lashed into fury, the Catholics in this country would have been bound to suffer in the long run. The Conservative Party was not always going to be in power, and the time would come when another Party would come in on a wave of enthusiasm directed against Voluntary Schools, and the position of the Catholic Schools would be much worse than it was to-day. A breathing space had been given by what had occurred. ["Hear, hear!"] This Bill had been lost entirely through the overbounding ambitions of the Government. ["Hear, hear!"] The first blow which was struck at it, and the blow which in his deliberate judgment killed it, was the concession made by the Leader of the House to include the boroughs of 20,000 population and upwards. ["Hear, hear!"] The Leader of the House became rather pathetic over what he called the decay of the House of Commons. Well, he must confess that the Irish Nationalist Members had heard with a certain amount of gratification and satisfaction the groans of the Tory Party over the degradation of Parliamentary institutions to the machinery of Closure by compartments. They could not but remember that Closure by compartments was first introduced to pass an Irish Coercion Bill and to force the Pigott Act through the House for the purpose of catching Irish Members, and so long as this procedure was confined to crushing an Irish minority it never occurred to Unionists that it was an objectionable method. [Cheers.] They had devised several kinds of rules to shorten their Debates, and he supposed they would have another new set next year. But it was all of no use. They had got too much business to do, and they would not be able to do it unless they recast the whole of their Parliamentary institutions so that the work could be adequately devolved. If, instead of endeavouring to devolve the business of the Education Department upon County Councils and other local authorities, the Government would turn its attention to some method of relieving Parliament from what was an absolutely intolerable burden, then and only then would that House really recover its power over its own business. Before 1596 sitting down he desired to ask the First Lord of the Treasury if he could favour them with some indication of what was to be the future course of business. The Members from Ireland hoped that, as the result of what had happened, it might be possible to bring on the Irish Land Bill and other Irish business sooner than was contemplated.
§ MR. DILLON
asked if the right hon. Gentleman would be able to make a statement to-morrow as to the general course of business.
§ * VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
said the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was in an awkward position. He was obliged to please his Roman Catholic supporters in this country and he had to try to retain his old connection with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. He would invite the hon. Gentleman to ride one horse or the other; and, if he was really in favour of aiding Voluntary Schools, as he assured them he was, to act with those who had that object in view and not to give his assistance to those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite whose expressed determination it was to kill that scheme. For his part, he was not in any way alarmed as to the future. He hoped they would see, at an early date next year, a thoroughly adequate scheme of relief for Voluntary Schools brought forward and passed into law. ["Hear, hear!"] He confessed he did not believe in any arrangement with the other side. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman opposite had said that if the Government would be content to bring in a Radical Measure he would refrain from obstructive opposition. That was a very significant phrase, because it carried with it the assumption that he had, in what had occurred in Committee, been, guilty of obstructive opposition. [Cheers.]
§ * VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said the right hon. Gentleman did not use the word Radical, but he said a Measure with which he could agree, and that was the same thing. [Cheers.] He thought the right hon. Gentleman was a little bit 1597 hard on the Church party. The other day he accused them of being responsible for bringing in this Bill. Except in so far as they represented a large body of the supporters of the Government, that was a most unwarrantable supposition. To-day he accused them of being one of the main causes of its destruction by reason of their criticism of its provisions. They could not at once be its authors and such critical opponents as to destroy it. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that those who supported Voluntary Schools did not approve of the Government Bill as it stood. They had not signified their approval for the very obvious reason that every speech they made would have led to further discussion and to the making of additonal speeches by hon. Gentlemen opposite. ["Hear, hear!"] As regarded Clause 1, he would only say that it had their most hearty approval and that they said so during the Debate on the Second Reading. They had hoped that the whole nature of this Assembly as a deliberative body would not be destroyed by grossly obstructive tactics. ["Hear, hear!"] All those expectations had, however, been frustrated, and they had been obliged to listen to Second Beading speech after Second Reading speech. The right hon. Gentleman said they had no right to complain of his making a Second Reading speech. No, they had not; but he made so many Second Reading speeches, always the same, that there was endless repetition. ["Hear, hear!"] If it were ever the lot of Members on the Government side of the House to obstruct any Bill—which he hoped was a thing they would never be guilty of—they would do it more artistically than the right hon. Gentleman. [Laughter and "Hear, hear!"] The discussions had shown that the sole object of hon. Members opposite was to obstruct the Bill. He could only say for himself and many of those who had taken an interest in the support of Voluntary Schools that they were deeply grateful to the Government for the great effort they had made to assist them. ["Hear, hear!"] They were quite confident that at an early date that effort would be renewed, and they looked forward to the future without apprehension, but with a determination to defeat any obstructive 1598 tactics with which they might be met. [Cheers.]
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
observed that the Leader of the House at the commencement of his interesting speech stated that he intended to justify and explain his action. He certainly did not justify it, because he did not go into the real reasons why that action was called for, which were the mistakes and errors of the Cabinet, in which he was one of the leading Members. ["Hear, hear!"] When the right hon. Gentleman came to his explanation he explained nothing from his own side of the House, but tried to let his Bill fizz out under a blaze of fireworks directed against the poor innocent Opposition. [Laughter.] The Ministry in power always tried to make out that they were the best and wisest persons and the Opposition the very worst and the greatest obstructives. He had looked through the Amendment Paper, and he would take as an instance of what had been done on the other side the name of an hon. Gentleman who was one of the most modest and unassertive Members of the House. He need not say he alluded to the Member for Islington. [Laughter.] There were altogether 1,238 Amendments, and how many did the right hon. Gentleman think stood in the name of the modest Member for Islington? No fewer than 85 Amendments. [Renewed laughter.] He thought the right hon. Gentleman would find a difficulty in discovering the name of any hon. Gentleman on the Opposition side of the House who, however strong his objections might have been, had developed them so largely as the hon. Gentleman to whom he had alluded. [Laughter and "Hear, hear!"] If the hon. Member for Islington was to be taken as a fair sample, it appeared to him there would be as many Amendments from the one side as the other, and at any rate an enormous number were put down by hon. Gentlemen on the other side. ["Hear, hear!"] The real fact was that hon. Members opposite owed a certain debt of gratitude to the Church at the last election, and, being anxious to pay it, they brought in this Bill. It was very easy to give to Voluntary Schools and aid Church Schools, but they went further than that, and when they determined to 1599 rearrange the whole system of elementary education in this country then their majority fell to pieces, there were dissensions in their own Party, and the Opposition simply looked on and accentuated the dissensions which existed on the other side of the House. [Laughter.] Why did the right hon. Gentleman come down and make reckless proposals to the House of Commons and then, a few days after, when the Opposition had settled down, were ready to go on after August, to have an autumn Session and be the slaves of the right hon. Gentleman, again come down and tell them that would not be enough. Why did this not occur to him before? The right hon. Gentleman did not say his proposal was a foolish one, but he thought he would agree with him that it was a foolish proposal. [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "A sanguine proposal."] Well, he had found there was nothing more foolish in the House than being over sanguine. [Laughter.] It was a remarkable fact that, according to the views of the right hon. Gentleman, he should never be able to pass any Bill unless the minority allowed it, as if a certain number of Amendments were put down, and a Division on the Closure and on each Amendment insisted upon, the time so spent in dividing would exceed the length of any Session. The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that he was not actuated by these lofty principles about the Closure—[laughter]—or feelings of benevolence towards the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman had been himself a very pretty hand at obstruction before now. He knew the art; he had cultivated it, and no doubt under other circumstances he would again cultivate the art and encourage his followers to do likewise. [Laughter.] No, the right hon. Gentleman had to give up the Bill because he knew perfectly well that his own followers would not stand it, and that there was no support behind it. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the rules of procedure and had taken a gloomy view of the House in consequence of what went on. But was it not perfectly true that, whichever Party was in Opposition, there was a considerable amount of obstruction, and had it not become a Parliamentary aim when a Party was in 1600 a minority to stale-mate, if they could, any majority? He agreed that that lowered and degraded Parliament, and he believed that anything which lowered and degraded the House attacked the principle of self-government in this country. ["Hear, hear!"] As far as he was concerned he would give the right hon. Gentleman his most cordial support in so altering the rules of procedure as to place it in the hands of the majority, after fair and legitimate discussion, to be able to pass any Bill they might wish to bring forward. ["Hear, hear!"] He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the graceful manner in which he had met the situation. He thought he had shown his wisdom. When a person had to eat the leek he did it better by not standing to make faces over it and so attracting everybody's attention to what he was doing. It was better to bolt it and swallow it, as the right hon. Gentleman had done. [Laughter.]
§ * MR. HENKY HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said he desired to explain, after what had been said by the Leader of the Opposition, the attitude of the County Councils towards the Bill. On Friday last the Executive Council of the County Councils Association passed a resolution to the effect that considering the changes introduced into the constitution of the education authority by the executive administration in the county or non-county boroughs with a population of 20,000, they were of opinion that it aimed a serious blow at the administration of the Technical Instruction Acts and county administration generally. The resolution of the Association did not touch on elementary education at all, or follow the lines of the resolution passed by certain County Councils, including the Lancashire County Council. They were expressly desirous not to take any political action. They did not condemn the Bill as a whole, but felt bound to take the earliest opportunity to place on record their strong protest against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Islington, and they asked the Government either to reverse their decision on that Amendment or undo some of the striking mischiefs that would have followed. They did not follow the lead given by some half a dozen County 1601 Councils in declining to accept the duties in connection with public elementary education imposed by the Bill. They gave a general support of the Bill, but protested against the acceptance of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Islington. It was therefore clear that if the Leader of the Opposition wanted to find a scapegoat for his Parliamentary sins, he could not find that scapegoat in the County Councils Association.
§ * MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said his hon. Friend who had just spoken had not attempted to minimise the importance of the refusal of the County Councils to accept the duties relating to elementary education imposed upon them by the Bill. The Debates on the Bill had done one thing—they had killed the mischievous idea of making the County Councils the educational machinery for elementary education and had rendered it impossible for the present or any future Government to revive an idea which the local authorities had pronounced unworkable, and which the Government, in spite of its enormous backing, had practically renounced as unworkable. The principle was now established that they must have for the control of elementary education a sufficiently small area for the authority to work in, just as the great School Boards had done in the great towns where they had achieved such splendid triumphs for the development of elementary education, and that the devolution of the powers of the Education Department would be premature and unsatisfactory till education was thus organised. The outlines of the Bill to be introduced next year were not before them, and they were left with an open hand and a free conscience to face the Bill when it came. He was not one of those who recognised an advantage in the competition of a necessarily inferior system of education with the best system in this country, and although there might be some middle line by which the friends of different kinds of educational machinery might be reconciled, they could not commit themselves to any concessions with regard to the principle of maintaining permanently Voluntary Schools as an essential element in the education of this country. The noble Lord the Member for Rochester had referred to the position of Voluntary Schools. Radical 1602 Members did not care so much for the position of Voluntary Schools as for the three millions of children who were being educated in them, and what they would like the Government, whether Liberal or Tory, to do would be to so reorganise popular elementary education as to provide the best and most effective education for those children. That problem would not be solved by overthrowing the School Boards and setting up Clerical Board Schools all over the country. Because the people wanted a national system of education, they did not want to crush out the religious spirit, but to encourage it. He was glad to note that the hon. Member for East Mayo spoke with sympathy of the religious spirit in schools, and used the words religious schools rather than denominational.
§ * MR. DILLON
When I spoke of religious schools I spoke of what are known as denominational schools.
§ * MR. CHANNING
said in any case he believed the religious teaching given in the Board Schools was the best religious teaching for the children, and enabled children of different creeds and Churches to grow up in natural sympathy and toleration. The real problem was to create a religious spirit on which the organisations of the religious bodies might work when young children left school. The decision of the Government had relieved many of those, with whom he had the warmest sympathy, from great anxiety. They felt assured that the existing machinery of national education would not be shattered or destroyed. Religious liberty was safer than it was a week ago; the religious teaching of the children of this country was also safer, and national education had a rational future before it instead of being merged in the chaos of different sects and conflicting religious and political interests. He hoped the Government, in considering the terms of next year's Bill, would have regard not merely to political and Party pledges made before the General Election, but to the welfare of the children of this country.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
said his own personal feeling as a member of the Anglican Communion, and representing his Roman Catholic fellow countrymen, was in favour of Voluntary Schools, and he hoped that the Bill, 1603 with judicious emendation, would secure benefit to the two-and-a-half millions of children in Roman Catholic Schools, most of whom were of Irish extraction. He could hardly accept the forecast that the next Bill would be on the same lines as this, but having regard to the interests of the Irish people in this country, who were among the poorest of the poor, and had conscientious objections to the divorce of religion from school instruction, he earnestly hoped that some extra provision would be made for Voluntary Schools. The First Lord of the Treasury had been the most prodigal of all prodigal sons, in that he had been a party to the wasting of three weeks of Parliamentary time, and it had been lost through his own fault rather than through the defects of Parliamentary machinery; but the history and fate of the Bill had made it clearer than ever that it was hopeless to get detailed legislation through this House, and that for it the great work of the future would be the work of devolution.
§ MR. J. L. WHARTON (York, W. R., Ripon)
said the country would see the wisdom of, as well as the necessity for, the step taken by the Leader of the House. He recollected some discussion of former days, which the right hon. Member for Thanet (Mr. James Lowther) used to call "adequate" discussion, but which other people called obstruction; and there had certainly been adequate discussion of this Bill. Looking at the Amendments on the Paper, it was certain this Bill could not become law this year or in two months of another year. He thanked the Leader of the House for the straightforward action he had taken to save what was left of this Session. There were other Measures which the public wished them to pass, and they could now look forward hopefully to their being passed this Session. As to the future Bill on education, he hoped they would not lose by what they had already done. [Opposition cheers.] He was quite willing to accept that cheer from the Opposition, because he believed that no Bill passed through a fiery ordeal in that House without being the better for it; and he hoped and believed that the next Bill would testify to the benefit of the discussion this Bill had received. No doubt time had been wasted, but some other time in the 1604 future would be all the more usefully spent, and probably on a better Bill. It was stated that £100,000 would be necessary for the relief of the Voluntary Schools within the financial year, and he believed that the majority of the people of the country would be anxious that money necessary for the purpose should be found. On that point some support might be looked for on the other side of the House. No doubt discussion had killed the Bill; but another year it would be introduced in a better form, and the country would appreciate and demand that it should be passed.
§ MR. MARK OLDROYD (Dewsbury)
said he wished to take the opportunity, in the name of those boroughs with a population over 20,000, to thank the Leader of the House for the concession he had made. A great many friends might have told the Leader of the House that he was unwise in making that concession; but whatever opposition might have been aroused against the Bill on account of that concession, the boroughs felt grateful for it. Of course, the Association of County Councils were opposed to it, as militating against the carrying out of technical education by the County Councils. Some of the boroughs would suffer financially by their independence, Dewsbury, for example, receiving £550 instead of £1,600; but still, the boroughs would be able and willing to co-operate cordially with the County Councils in the work of technical education. There were some boroughs that had received little help from their County Councils, and this neglect had accentuated their opinion in favour of separate management. He cordially disliked the Bill. He told his constituents that he was opposed to decentralisation; but he felt that if there was to be decentralization—as seemed only too probable owing to the big majority the Government had at their back—it was only right and fair that the small boroughs should have their independent educational authorities.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said he did not desire to say much about the Bill, which, as he approved of a great deal of it, he regretted was about to be withdrawn. But he wished to know exactly where they were. There was no doubt that if there was any mandate 1605 given at the General Election it was that the Voluntary Schools should be maintained. He did not quite understand the statement of the Leader of the House, but so far as he could gather from it there was to be a small Bill introduced next January in order to give some relief to the Voluntary Schools in the current year, and that later on there would be a larger Bill to re-arrange the primary education system. But why should they not pass the relief Bill now, when they had the whip hand of the Opposition, so to speak—[ironical Opposition laughter]—instead of waiting until next year, when it was quite clear some excuses would be made by the Opposition for opposing the Measure in the way this Bill had been opposed? He could not see any reason why the small Bill should not be introduced immediately and forced through before the Irish Land Bill and other Measures, which, though important, was not so important, or as clearly before the country at the General Election, as the question of the Voluntary Schools. But perhaps the First Lord of the Treasury had some other means of relieving the Voluntary Schools. One thing was clear—something should be done in that direction, and done quickly.
§ MR. J. M. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
said that when the hon. Member for North Islington predicted that next Session some excuse would be found by the Opposition for approving or obstructing legislation on the subject of education, he would remind the hon. Member that it was he and his friends who commenced in the last Parliament a policy—which the present Opposition had not attempted to emulate—for they felt it was certain to detract from the dignity of the House. But the manner in which this Bill had been opposed was only the honest and genuine reflection of the real feeling of the country in regard to the Bill. [Ministerial cries of "No!"] His constituents heartily endorsed the action of the Opposition. Therefore he maintained that so far from the House of Commons having lost in dignity, as the First Lord of the Treasury had imputed, it had gained in dignity from the fact that an honest and full discussion of the details of the Bill had shown it to be an impracticable Measure, and its fate would 1606 be gladly welcomed by all friends of education.
§ * MR. C. J. MONK (Gloucester)
said he learnt with regret, though not with surprise, the position which the Government had taken up in regard to the Bill. He failed to see how the Government would be in a better position next year than they were now. In fact, it seemed to him to be hopeless for them to think of being able to pass a Bill of this nature, opposed as it was by the other side of the House on principle, without some alteration in the rules of procedure. At present any number of Amendments could be put down to a Bill, and each Amendment could be discussed for hours. Of course, the Government had decided very rightly not to use the gag in getting rid of the Amendments which had been put down to the Education Bill, but he would like to hear from the First Lord of the Treasury how the Government could entertain a hope, under the present rules of Debate, of passing an opposed Measure of this nature during a single Session without some alteration in the Rules of procedure.
* MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)
said he had listened carefully to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, in order to ascertain what was to follow the Measure for the relief of the Voluntary Schools, and he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had added anything which would justify the implication of the hon. Member for North Islington that there would also be introduced next year another Bill for altering the primary education system. The hon. Member seemed to think that it would be an easy thing to pass a Measure giving increased money to denominational schools. It was right, therefore, that hon. Members opposite should be warned that the matter would not be so easy as some of them seemed to suppose. The Opposition could not consent to any substantial addition to the money voted to denominational schools except on conditions, including some degree, at least, of local control; also a guarantee that the voluntary subscriptions should not cease, but, on the contrary, increase, and a further guarantee that the additional grant should be devoted to increasing the educational efficiency of the schools 1607 He did not quite agree with the statement that the Bill had been killed by discussion. Discussion had only given the final blow to it. The Bill had been, in fact, killed by its own demerits. In the first place, it was a Bill difficult to understand. When questions were put to Ministers as to the meaning of this clause or that clause, answers were given totally inconsistent with previous answers on the same subjects, and in addition to that, leading Members of the Government made contradictory statements inside and outside the House as to the character and the intentions of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India wished the House to believe that the Bill was opposed only by what he called political dissenters; but he had never known a Measure which received so large an amount of condemnation from educational and other public bodies throughout the country. On the other hand, few public bodies of any authority had come forward in support of the Measure. The Leader of the House had made no reference to the divisions which had shown themselves more and more each week among the professed supporters of the Bill. The action of the Northern Episcopate and their allies, within the last few days, must have seriously embarrassed the Government. The supporters of the Government must make up their minds what they wanted, and how they wanted it, before they called upon the Government again to place themselves in a position of difficulty, similar to that from which the right hon. Gentleman had now extricated himself.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said that these obsequies were very, very sad. The House had lost a most interesting friend, of varied qualities and great conversational power. [Laughter.] What it died of they did not quite know; but in this burial, as in others, there were some consolations. In the first place, "there was a considerable sum of money in the deceased's pocket." [Laughter.] The First Lord of the Treasury put the sum at £100,000, but he understood from the Budget speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was much more than that. Before the Debate was ended, he hoped the Government would explain what was to be done with this money. The Leader 1608 of the House had been reproached with beginning that which he was not able to finish; but he thought the Government had in the present instance acted rightly. There was no other course for them to take. Taking all the days of the present and of a future Session, it would have been impossible to pass a Bill of this kind. [Opposition cheers.] He did not entirely blame the Opposition. The Bill was in itself calculated to promote discussion; and he thought it was a pity that the Government had not restricted it to more modest dimensions. Now the right hon. Gentleman had properly recognised that it was not in his power to pass the Bill.He quits the world where strong temptations try,And since 'tis hard to combat, learns to fly.He hoped that any future Bill would simply fulfil the promise of aid for the Voluntary Schools. He had expected to hear a funeral oration on the Bill from the Vice President of the Council, but the right hon. Gentleman was not present. [Cries of "Yes!"] At least a modest retirement now marked the right hon. Gentleman's presence—[laughter]—and lately the right hon. Gentleman had often been observed occupying the Treasury Bench alone. [Cheers and laughter.] He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman's affection for the Government or his official career would not be affected by the fate of the Bill; and that he would not, officially, imitate Ahithophel, who, when his advice was ignored, saddled his ass, and went home and hanged himself. [Laughter.] He could not comprehend why the Government had not taken last week the course they had announced today. He feared that the able men who composed the Cabinet were called together, like parties, not for consultation, but for the receipt of orders. ["Hear, hear!"] Any system which superseded the Cabinet in favour of a smaller Committee of that body would be fraught with great danger to any Government, because it cut the Government off from information and counsel which their own Members could supply; and such a Government would be very apt to take a course on one Monday which they would find impossible on the following Monday. [Cheers.] He rejoiced that the Bill had met with its fate that day. [Opposition 1609 cheers.] He did not join in the chorus as to the time which had been wasted. There had been 12 days spent over the Education Bill, and three days over the Benefices Bill, and he supposed there would now be another funeral for the latter Measure. [Cheers and laughter.] He thought those 15 days had been gained rather than wasted, because if they had not been employed in the consideration of these Bills the House might have been passing Acts of Parliament, mostly mischievous. [Laughter.] He hoped that now this difficulty had been disposed of, the House would recur with increased vigour to the discussion of Estimates, and the passing of those few small Bills which were calculated to benefit the country. [Laughter.]
§ MR. EDWARD MORTON (Devonport)
said that the hon. Member for North Islington had asserted that, after passing a Bill dealing solely with Voluntary Schools, the Government would introduce another Bill next year dealing with the remaining portions of the Bill about to be dropped. But the First Lord of the Treasury had made no such statement. Before Members came down to the House they had read in The Times an account of the intentions of the Government, which exactly agreed with the subseqnent statement of the Leader of the House, excepting that The Times confirmed the statement made by the hon. Member for North Islington. Was it the intention of the Government to proceed with such a second Bill next Session?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
reminded the Government that an increased burden fell on the Voluntary Schools this year under the Code of 1890. In the month of August they would have to face an additional expenditure of from 4s. to 4s. 6d. per scholar; and, in view of the great disappointment which was undoubtedly felt by the inability of the Government to do anything this year to fulfil the pledges made at the last election, would it not be possible to suspend the operation of that part of the Code of 1890 until a Measure of permanent relief could be introduced?
§ MR. JOSEPH A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)
called attention to the fact that under the Technical Instruction Act of 1888, an urban district and 1610 County Council were each allowed to levy a rate of 1d. in the pound; so that in an urban district the total rate leviable was 2d. in the pound. If, as was proposed in the Education Bill, powers were taken from the County Council and transferred to the urban boroughs the rate for technical education purposes would be limited to 1d. in the pound. In any future Bill he hoped this would be taken into consideration. He should also like to know how the next Parliamentary three days were to be occupied.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The last two or three questions have referred rather to the Bill which is to be introduced next year, than to the Bill which has been withdrawn, and I do not think it would be desirable to discuss the former Bill now. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Devonport says that in my statement I followed The Times newspaper up to a certain point, and that then there was a difference between us. I, unfortunately, did not see The Times this morning—[laughter]—so that I do not know in what my statement agrees or differs from that forecast. But when I state that we mean to meet early in January, that our object will be to deal with the education question, and that we shall especially have in view the necessities of the Voluntary Schools, I have said enough to satisfy the House as to our intentions. [Cheers.] The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down put a question as to the rate which might be levied in an urban district for technical instruction. That is a point which may be worth consideration; but it has not much reference to the present discussion, as the details of the Education Bill are no longer before the House. I ought to have stated that to-morrow we shall proceed with the Report stage of the Agricultural Rating Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Northeast Manchester put a question to me with regard to the Code. That, of course, is only indirected to the topic of this Debate; but I understood my right hon. Friend to urge that, inasmuch as the new Code might throw further pressure on the Voluntary Schools, there was special reason why the financial relief he propose to give to the Voluntary Schools should be given at as early a date as possible. Of course, I cannot enter into the subject of the new 1611 Code, but I can assure my right hon. Friend that it is our intention to give the financial aid to the Voluntary Schools as soon as possible. I think I have now answered all the questions put to me, and I hope the House will now be allowed to come to a decision. ["Hear, hear"!]
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
desired to say that the withdrawal of this Bill, so far as Wales was concerned, would be received with the liveliest satisfaction by the great majority of the people of that country. They believed, as he did, that this Bill was designed in the interests of one Party alone.
§ SIR HENRY MEYSEY-THOMPSON (Staffordshire, Handsworth)
thought that a much too tragic note had been sounded in the newspapers. What was it all about? To hear the Leader of the Opposition talk one would think that no Government had ever attempted to do too much before. He was going very shortly to address his constituents, and he believed he would have a very pleasant time with them. [Laughter.] He would tell hon. Members opposite what he was going to say. [Laughter and Opposition cries of "No !"] He would ask them, "What did you want us to do?" The first thing they wanted was that the wicked should cease from troubling: that had been secured. The next thing they wanted was good administration: they were satisfied with the administration of the present Government. ["Order, order!"]
§ SIR H. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
said the Government had tried the experiment this year in taking Fridays and promising an early Adjournment.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
said it was claimed that there was a mandate from the country for the help of Voluntary Schools. There was one part of the country from which no such mandate came. In the Principality of Wales a large majority had been recorded against the policy of the Bill which was now dead and buried, and unless the just and legitimate grievances of the Non- 1612 conformists were dealt with in the Bill promised it would meet with strong opposition from the representatives of Welsh Nonconformists. The lamentable failure of the attack on the School Boards had aroused the greatest enthusiasm in Wales.
§ Question, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair," put and agreed to (No Report).