§ Considered in Committee.
§ [The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, Mr. J. W. LOWTHER, in the Chair.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREA SURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
moved "That it is expedient—
The right hon. Gentleman, who was received with cheers, said:—Mr. Low-ther, among the manifold blessings showered upon us by the Opposition during the course of the Debates upon last year's Education Bill was a plentiful stock of good advice. The Members on the Front Bench opposite and Gentlemen sitting in various other parts of the House—["hear, hear!"]—told the Government that if they had confined their Measure to what was mentioned in the Queen's Speech last year, namely, the relief of Voluntary Schools—if they had checked their vaulting ambition, if they had consented to bring in a brief and simple Bill, that Bill might have received some small amount of criticism and opposition, but would have found something like general acceptance in its main principles from both sides of the House. I do not think I misrepresent the views laid before us, especially by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife, when I say he was peculiarly insistent on the wisdom of the policy of bringing in a short Bill rather than a comprehensive Bill. When the Opposition give you advice in regard to the length of time a particular discussion will take, one has to regard that more or less as the advice of experts—[laughter]—and when they prophecy that any particular Measure will last a very long time they have the satisfaction, which few prophets have, of being in the position of seeing their own prophecy adequately fulfilled. [Laughter.] Under these circumstances, as early as last July—indeed, I think earlier—in the Debate in which I announced that the Bill of last year was dropped, certainly if not then in a public speech which I made shortly afterwards, I announced to all to whom it was of interest that when the Government brought in the Measure they were resolved to bring in for some relief to Voluntary Schools out of Imperial resources, that Bill should be so carefully restricted in its scope that there should be no danger of its defeat merely through 928 lapse of time or through the multiplication of the subjects of debate which Gentlemen opposite are so ingenious in discovering. [Cheers.] That pledge the Government had adhered to. ["Hear, hear!"] The Bill we bring in to-day is a Bill not in any sense covering, or attempting to cover, the field of educational reform. Last year we brought in a Measure designed not merely to give some relief to Voluntary Schools, but also to give relief to necessitous Board Schools, to decentralise the work of the Education Department, to deal with the special questions of secondary education, and to set up such an educational machinery in the country as would unify the system of primary education with the system which exists or ought to be set up with regard to secondary education. That was a comprehensive scheme; I think it was a good scheme. [Cheers.] But it is manifest, if it is to be accomplished—and I think it is—it must be accomplished piecemeal, and not in the shape of one Bill embracing these large and critical subjects, and lending itself, by the very fact that it docs embrace them, as a helpless mark to the arrows of obstruction. We have taken, therefore, what is a fragment of a great subject, but it is a fragment very clearly defined in its scope and very urgent in its character. I admit the temptation to add to the question of the relief of Voluntary Schools the question of the relief of necessitous Board Schools was a most tempting one—tempting, at all events, to Gentlemen on this side of the House. That was part of the scheme of last year. It is undoubtedly an object which ought at an early date to be dealt with, in our judgment, by the Imperial Parliament. ["Hear, hear!"] But the problems which it raises are different in many vital particulars from the problem raised by the relief of the necessitous Voluntary Schools. The scheme which applies to the one does not apply to the other, and we feel we were light in adhering to the policy announced last year—namely, that we would not weight our Bill, in so far as it dealt with Voluntary Schools, by extraneous matter, however important and however urgent that extraneous matter might be. ["' Hear, hear!"] Those are reasons which will, I trust, satisfy my hon. Friends on this side of the House. They will see that if, 929 as is possible, though I fear it is hardly probable, the Bill we are introducing slips rapidly through all its stages, in that ease there will be no difficulty in bringing forward the farther Measure to which I have referred. [Laughter and cheers.] But if, on the other hand, so far from finding in a Bill restricted to the relief of Voluntary Schools a simple Measure on which all sides may be agreed, hon. Gentlemen find in such a Bill an endless theme for discussion and Debate, then there is not a man on this side, I venture to say, who will not thank the Government for the foresight they have shown in this matter and will not be obliged to them for not having imperilled one great subject by allying it with another great subject. [Cheers.] So much for the feeling of Gentlemen on this side of the House, and I hope the reasons I have just ventured to give them will satisfy them. But no reason can surely be required to satisfy hon. Gentlemen opposite that the course we have taken is the right one. I admit I have seen in the public Press a great many statements and speeches made by persons in authority to the effect that hon. Gentlemen opposite were anxiously desirous that in this Bill should be included provisions for aiding ratepayers in the districts of necessitous Board Schools. I have never been able to attach any credence to those statements. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said so in the Address—I hear him whisper. I am always ready to accept his statements, but even that statement slipped from him, it seemed to me, in a moment of incaution. [Laughter.] But, after all, what are we to do? We are asked by the right hon. Gentleman and by those who wish to include provision for necessitous Board Schools, to relieve the most hard-pressed and the most deserving class of ratepayers. On this side of the House we have always been in favour of relieving the hard-pressed ratepayers. [Cheers.] It is quite new to me that that is the favourite doctrine of the other side. ["Hear, hear!"] Why, Sir, not only did the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister for Education do nothing in this direction when he was in office, but how did we occupy a largo part of last Session? We occupied it in listening to denunciations from the other side of our efforts to relieve ratepayers. [Cheers 930 and Opposition cries of "Landlords!"] Wait a, moment, I am coining to that. There was especially one eventful week in which we were discussing in Committee the Bill of my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board, whom we are all so glad to see hack amongst us—[cheers]—in which it is safe to say there was not one hour of the day or night in which you had not a good prospect, if you came within the walls of this House, of hearing the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition explaining at great length—[laughter]—that all the attempted relief of ratepayers went into the pockets of the landlord. No reiteration appeared to dull the pleasure which he gave us, custom never staled him, he went on with a splendid and persevering uniformity, and so enamoured was he of the topic that when the opportunity was unfortunately taken from him in this House by the conclusion of our Debates on the Bill, the whole staple of his speeches in the country through the autumn consisted in dwelling again upon that well-worn theme. [Laughter and cheers.] And are we to be now told that, as we were kept up night after night in 1896 to prevent relief from going into the pockets of the landlords, we are to be kept up night after night in 1897 in order to prevent relief from going to the ratepayers? [Cheers.] Are we seriously to be told that the laws of political economy which we were said then to have disregarded are to be miraculously suspended in the particular case of elementary education? I will not dwell longer upon this aspect of the question. I have stated, I hope not in immoderate language, the difficulty I find in believing that hon. Gentlemen are going to take the course which is threatened. I wait their reply on the particular aspect of the question. I may say I look forward with the greatest confidence to the opportunity which I shall have of dealing with the subject on future occasions. I have now explained to the House what we do not propose to do in this Bill, and why we do not propose to do it. I pass now to a very brief survey of the provisions which the Measure will actually contain, and I am glad to think in this matter I have, or I hope I have, no surprises to spring on the House. The statements which have been made by 931 Members of the Government in the country, and, indeed, in this House, have led the majority of those interested in forecasting the legislative future to foresee that we should limit our efforts in this Bill to the three questions of relieving Voluntary Schools from the pressure of the rates, of dealing with the 17s. 6d. limit, and of distributing the aid grant. On the first of these topics—that of the relief of schools from the pressure of the rates—I think it will be universally admitted by those who have given any study to the question that the present position of Voluntary Schools in relation to the rating authority is one of great inequality, and not only inequality but uncertainty, and in our opinion the inequality and uncertainty should both at once be put an end to. [Cheers.] In the majority of cases throughout England and Wales, I believe that practically no rates are levied on Voluntary Schools. In London and some of the great towns there are rates, but they are levied on no uniform principle, and it is impossible for the managers to foresee from year to year what demands may be made on their resources for the purpose of meeting the requirements of the overseers. In some cases in London, where the chief difficulty arises, there are no rates levied on these schools at all. In other cases the rates levied are merely nominal in amount. In the third class of cases, again, the schools are rated below their value, while in the remainder the full rating permitted by law is exacted. Now, a system so different in its principles and so uncertain in its incidence is one which really cannot stand criticism, and we propose, by a simple enactment, to put Voluntary Schools in the position already occupied by scientific and learned institutions, and say that they shall not be liable to rates at all. [Cheers.] It may be said, and I dare say it will, that to relieve Voluntary Schools from rates is in effect equivalent to giving relief out of the rates. It will or may be said that, inasmuch as the total rateable value of a parish in which the Voluntary School is situated is diminished thereby, the rates must be augmented, though it probably is only to a very slight extent, by the other ratepayers, and that this is in effect equivalent to a system of relieving Voluntary Schools out of the I rates. I do not at all propose to quarrel 932 with words. If anybody likes to maintain that thesis he will not find me a violent opponent. But let it be understood that if that be regarded as allocating support to Voluntary Schools out of the rates, it is so to the same extent, and not to a greater extent, that the rates are allocated now in aid, let us say, of Nonconformist chapels; and if you say we are going to propose rate aid, then you must admit that it is already given, not only to churches and scientific institutions, but to all places of religious worship, Nonconformist or otherwise, which are used exclusively for this purpose. When that fact has once caught hold of the general mind of the House I do not think any great objection will be raised, or, indeed, be anticipated, from either side to this relief, which is very material in certain parts of the Metropolis, but which will not, in fact, bear heavily at all upon any portion of ratepayers either in town or country. The total amount of rates now levied from Voluntary Schools in the vast and wealthy metropolitan area is little over £10,000 a year; and little as it is, relatively speaking, in London, it is still smaller in some other parts of England and Wales. So much for the first of the three provisions which the Bill contains. The second to which I must refer is that which relieves Elementary Day Schools from the 17s. 6d. limit. This provision, and this provision alone, in the Bill extends beyond the province of Voluntary Schools, and includes within its scope Board Schools also. I do not know that I need expend very much time in defending this provision of the Bill. The 17s. 6d. limit, though as it was originally passed it was a great boon to Voluntary Schools, conferred upon them by the Conservative Government of 1874, has long been regarded as a fragment of an ancient system which is scarcely capable of further defence. It is extremely unequal in its operation and extremely arbitrary. As the House knows, a school may earn 17s. 6d. from the Exchequer without expending a single penny upon maintenance from any other source, but it cannot earn 17s. 7d. without finding a contribution of 17s. 7d. to meet it. That is not a state of things which can be defended, and, observe, it is felt most by the very class of schools we most desire to assist—I mean the 933 schools which are so efficiently conducted that they could earn a greater grant, but by the poverty of their surroundings and the circumstances in which they find themselves are debarred from obtaining that advantage which is given to their richer brethren. ["Hear, hear!"] I feel that in a Bill to relieve necessitous schools the omission of the 17s. 6d. would be a serious blot, and one it would not be in my power to defend. I now come to the only remaining provision of the Bill which requires any explanation from me; it relates to the aid grant and to the mode of its distribution. It will be in the recollection of the House that when I withdrew the Bill of last year I made a promise to the Voluntary Schools that whatever else happened in consequence of that withdrawal, they and their interests at all events should not he allowed to suffer. That pledge, Sir, we have fulfilled in the present Bill. Whereas the Bill of last year only allocated 4s. per child in average attendance to the Voluntary Schools, my light hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has permitted me to raise that amount to us.—[Cheers.]—the result of which will be that whereas the most that would have been spent last year upon Voluntary Schools had the Bill become law would have amounted to £489,000, the amount that will be spent in the next financial year when this Bill becomes law will be £610,500, a large increase, partly, no doubt, due to the increasing number of children in Voluntary Schools—["Hear, hear!"]—but due in a still larger measure to the additional 1s. grant which my right hon. Friend has sanctioned. Therefore, Sir, that pledge, at all events, has been, as I think will be admitted on all sides, amply satisfied by the Government. ["Hear, hear!"] But that is not, in my judgment, the greatest improvement, the only or the greatest improvement with regard to the allocation of the aid grant which has been introduced into the new Bill. It will be remembered that the Bill of last year turned entirely upon the local authority. It was through the local authority and it was in the area controlled by the local authority that the aid grant was spent, and the invariable result of that must have been that money would not have gone so far or have been so effectively used in dealing with the worst cases as it may be under a more 934 flexible system dealing probably with larger areas than those the country authority proposed to be set up had under its supervision. Of course, every 1s of this total sum of £616,000 which goes to a school which does not require it, or goes to a school which requires it less than another school, is pro tanto not used to the best advantage, and Ave have been most desirous of devising some scheme by which, as far as human ingenuity can contrive it, every penny of the money shall be used to the greatest possible benefit of the schools. The authority responsible for the distribution under this Bill must necessarily and obviously, as we think, be the Education Department. As the money is money provided by the central Treasury, the body which is to deal with the distribution of that money must be responsible to the Imperial Parliament—it mast, as we think, in the ultimate result, be a Government Department responsible to Parliament through the Minster at the head of that Department, who is to have the responsibility of distributing that very large sum of public money; but to ask the Government Department to make-a comparative estimate of all the schemes for Voluntary Schools in England and Wales without any assistance appears to us to throw upon that Department a burden which it can hardly be asked to bear. For that reason and other reasons, to which I shall refer immediately, we propose to encourage to the best of our ability the formation of associations of Voluntary Schools—["Hear, hear!" and "Oh, oh!"]—who shall have the right, not indeed to control the distribution of this money amongst the schools forming them, but to advise the Department how the money may be best expended, to frame schemes—in other words, for its distribution amongst the various schools of which the associations are composed. I frankly say the beneficial working of this Bill largely depends upon the manner in which those interested in Voluntary Schools use the power of association given them. If, as I most earnestly hope, they use it largely, if the great body of Voluntary Schools in this country are brought into organisation, I think that the result will not merely be that the money which is placed at their disposal will be probably better spent for the promotion of education and the support of 935 the schools than it could be under any other plan, but there will he a common feeling aroused and common machinery brought into existence which will have the very best effect upon the educational and religious efficiency of all schools which take care to join an association. Any association approved by the Education Department will have a right to that definite share of the aid grant. Having a right to that definite share it will have the power to frame a scheme for its distribution, which the Department will, of course, have the power to reject or modify, but which will, I anticipate, in all probability usually guide the Department in the discretion vested in it by the Bill. In this case the interests of the Education Department—that is to say, of education—and those of the associations are, from the very nature of the case, and must be, identical. The associations have, and can have, no other object than the promotion of the efficiency of the schools which form them. Individual managers isolated, it may be, from the operation of public opinion other than that of a small secluded parish may in certain cases allow these questions to slide, but an association must have those interests ever before its mind. The associations will be able to give not merely pecuniary assistance, but assistance in many other ways to their constituent units, and, unless I am greatly deceived, if the Voluntary Schools take full advantage of the liberty to form associations which they are encouraged to take, I think that every friend of education, let alone every friend of the Voluntary system, will have every reason to congratulate himself upon the result which this Bill is likely to produce. I ought to say that so strongly do we believe in the importance of association that we have put in a special provision enabling the Education Department to refuse any assistance out of the aid grant to any school which unreasonably refuses to join the association—["Oh, oh!"]—provided always that no school shall be required to join the association where the majority in the school belongs to a different denomination. There is one other point of great importance which I am most desirous of making very clear to the Committee. In the Bill the Education Department have the right to draw a distinction between town and 936 country, and while the total amount given to the Voluntary Schools over England and Wales is determined by the rate which I have just indicated—namely, 5s. per child on the average attendance—the Education Department have a right to say that town schools, or rather associations containing more town schools than other associations, shall get a larger proportion of grant. Let the Committee not suppose that that means a country school is to get less than a town school. There are many town schools which ought to get much less than 5s., and I hope that under the Bill they will get less. But undoubtedly those districts in which there is a large urban population have greater need than the Voluntary Schools in rural districts, and this for more than one reason. In the first place, the urban schools, especially in the North, suffered very much by the Free Education Act. [Ministerial cheers.] The schools in country districts benefited by the Free Education Act. There is one county in England which gained as much, I think, as 7s. per child in average attendance by the 10s. fee grant which freed Voluntary Schools. While there are counties in that position, there are urban districts where Voluntary Schools were largely supported out of fees, which fees they no longer pay, and which amounted to more than the inadequate 10s., and which they were to be recouped out of the central Exchequer. If that reason is not enough it is manifest that the educational needs of urban districts and the expense of satisfying those needs must, on the whole, be greater than the corresponding needs of rural districts. You have only to look at the expense to which Board Schools go in the education of urban children to see what their view of the situation is. Though I am far from denying that there are, indeed, some Board Schools which are culpably extravagant, the broad fact remains that urban education is more costly than rural education, and the urban power of getting subscriptions does not keep pace with it. Therefore, this general provision of the Education Department is one which I am convinced will greatly add to the utility of the Bill.
- (a) to authorise the payment, out of moneys to he provided by Parliament, of an aid grant to Voluntary Schools, not exceeding five shillings per scholar for the whole number of scholars in those schools;
- (b) to repeal as regards day schools so much of section nineteen of The Elementary Education Act, 1876, as imposes a limit on the Parliamentary grant to elementary schools in England and Wales; and
- (c) to make provision for the exemption from rates of Voluntary Schools."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Hon. Gentlemen opposite found it so clear that I felt I was understood by the Committee. Let us suppose the Rill in full operation in the manner in which the Government hope it will work, I should then conceive that the greater part of the Voluntary Schools of the country would organise themselves into associations. There will no doubt be a margin of schools which cannot be so organised. They will not be penalised for not forming themselves into an organisation. Of those in association each association will receive an amount of money corresponding to the number of scholars in average attendance in the schools composing it, subject only to the fact that if there be many urban schools they will get more than the average 5s., and if many rural schools they will get less. [An HON. MEMBER: "How much?"] That is left to the Education Department. [Opposition murmurs.] These will manifestly remain over the non-associated schools. They will have available for distribution among them an equal amount of 5s. each, subject to the distinction of town and country. It is very likely that the whole of the money will not be distributed by the Education Department, because, presumably, the schools that will refuse to associate will be the rich schools, and possibly certain other schools may, for adequate reasons, refuse to associate themselves, and thus be deprived of the grant. It is possible, therefore, there may be a margin over on that account. That will be again distributed by the Education Department among the associated schools.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
Will the schools not associated be dealt with directly by the Education Department?
THE FIRST LORD OFTHE TREASURY
Yes, they will have to make the best estimate they can of their needs unaided by the advice of the association. It is, perhaps, unnecessary for me to say that we do not propose to alter or interfere in any way with the management of the Voluntary Schools. That is altogether outside the scope of our desire. We provide that any school receiving the grant shall have its accounts audited to the satisfaction of the Education Department, and we consider that that provision with regard to associations will 938 do a great deal not merely to support the schools which are necessitous, but to improve the inefficiency of those which are inefficient. I think I have now made the general scope of the Bill clear. Let me say the Bill is not a difficult Bill to understand. If hon. Gentlemen will allow it to be read a First time and printed there will be no obscurity surrounding it. It only remains that I should give the general connection which, in our view, subsists between this scheme and the present position of the education controversy.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I doubt whether it will be possible to get the Bill through in time.
§ MR. DILLON
A pledge was given that the grant in aid should take effect during the present financial year, and that the Voluntary Schools should lose nothing by it.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The Voluntary Schools will lose nothing; by this Bill not being passed last year. On the contrary, they will have gained immensely. If the Bill of last year had passed they would have got a, sum estimated at about £100,000 in the last quarter of this year, and they would have gone on getting money at the rate of £480,000 a year. They now get £618,000 a year for ever—[Opposition laughter]—or, if not for ever, until some right hon. Gentleman opposite has the courage to take the money away from them. ["Hear, hear," and a laugh.] There remain only one or two words for me to say as to our view of the relation of this Bill to the present position of the education controversy which has raged with so much warmth, I might almost say bitterness, during the last year and a.-half. Let it be noted that the Bill rests entirely on the substructure of the Bill of 1870. That Bill came from its Parliamentary ordeal battered out of recognition by its original framers by the conflicting forces of the two sides, and the result is that we have in England at this moment a system of education which has indeed its merits, but which no human being pretends is symmetrical or logical. The Irish system is a symmetrical and logical one; so is the Scotch. The Scotch system, let me remind hon. 939 Gentlemen opposite, gives power to the education authority of each parish to teach any religious symbol which it desires—[Opposition cries of "Oh"]—a right which is availed of in nine-tenths or ninety-nine hundredths of the parochial schools in Scotland. While Ireland and Scotland have systems capable of logical defence, we in England undoubtedly live under a system the inconsistencies of which a child can point out. Nothing can be more absurd than the compromise which has worked not unsatisfactorily for these last 25 years. Can anything, for example, be more absurd than to have in one parish where there happens to be a Voluntary School with rich subscribers, but where, it may be, the great mass of the population are Dissenters, the children of the latter compelled to go to a school where there is religious teaching of which the mass disapprove, and yet the latter are prevented from getting any funds out of the rates to build a school of their own, while in the next parish you may have an equal injustice on the other hand? ["Hear, hear!"] You may have a large population of members of the Church of England too poor to obtain a Voluntary School and with a School Board school thrust upon them where they are absolutely precluded from teaching the symbols of the religion they profess. ["Hear, hear!"] That is absolutely indefensible. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not know that anyone tries to defend it. ["Hear, hear!"] This is an inconsistent system which has such strange doctrines advanced as that in the abstract it may be right and is right to spend the taxpayers' money upon undenominational education, but in the abstract it is wrong to spend that money upon denominational education. ["Hear, hear!"] These are anomalies which no one can defend. I might go on, but there are too many of these cases. There is the case of the unfortunate clergyman or priest in a very poor district of some manufacturing town who is hardly able to scrape together the pence which enable him to keep going his Voluntary School which he thinks necessary for the proper religious education of his flock, and at the same time you oblige him to pay a rate to a School Board of which he disapproves—a rate amounting to comparatively an, immense sum out of the wretched income 940 he enjoys. ["Hear, hear!"] If that is a grievance to the Church, surely there is the grievance also of the Nonconformists in cases where, because the ground is already occupied by a, denominational school, it is impossible for those who do not like the religious teaching given there to get any assistance for any other school out of the public funds. ["Hear, hear!"] None of us can pretend that this is a good system or one which will bear argument, or that it is symmetrical in design. But it has this one immense advantage—it does allow scope both for a system of denominational religious teaching on the one hand and teaching which is not denominational on the other. ["Hear, hear!"] And it is because the system is big enough and roomy enough for both these methods of education that so far it has not been found unworthy of the general favour of the English public. ["Hear, hear!"] I am not going to argue as to the necessity or advantage of denominational religious teaching. I hold and have publicly expressed very strong personal views upon this subject, and I shall not trouble the House with them again. But I want, the House to remember that it is really folly to suppose that if the denominational schools are starved out of existence the people of this country will ever consent to acquiesce in the undenominational teaching they tolerate in the Board Schools—["hear, hear"]—as long as a, denominational system stands side by side with it. ["Hear, hear!"] If anyone chooses to say that matters in which Christians are agreed are infinitely more important than those in which Christians differ—if they say "You ought to be able to found a system of doctrine common to all religious denominations "—I point to the historic fact that all through time and by the necessities of human nature you can only get religious education of adults or children taught by a religious organisation, and that all religious organisations have been associated with a definite doctrinal basis. ["Hear, hear!"] There is no use arguing against facts like these. ["Hear, hear!"] I am convinced that there is no hope of educational peace in this country if at any moment the Board School system were to succeed in squeezing out the voluntary system. But there is a 941 real danger that this may take place. I am not going through the well-worn history of the 3d. rate. Everyone who has any tincture of the knowledge of this subject is aware that no one can be expected to see the great cost and the extravagance of education as conducted by the School Board. [Cheers and cries of "No!"] I make no general charge. I say that the great cost and occasionally great extravagance—[cheers and cries of "No!"]—well, I do not wish to he controversial, and therefore I will say simply the great cost of School Board education, which is all that is necessary for my argument. The result of that has been to throw an ever increasing strain upon the not illimitable resources of the Voluntary Schools. That is a familial' story known by everyone. It is not merely in the interests of those hon. Gentlemen who sit cm this side of the House, who are attached as I am to a system of denominational religious teaching, but in the interest of those who are attached to the undenominational system, that I say that both Parties should try to make this Bill a workable success. [Cheers.] I have seen symptoms in more than one Party of desire to use the present crisis in education for the purpose of upsetting the Act of 1870 and to build a new educational building upon new foundations. Some hon. Friends of mine upon this side of the House wish that there should be a general system introduced which should place denominational teaching upon a very different basis from that on which it now rests. With every sympathy for their aims I may say that, in my judgment, they are unwise for two reasons—in the first place, because I do not think the public opinion of this country is ripe, or will be ripe for many years, if ever, for the sort of change which they desire.["Hear, hear!"] At all events, it is not ripe at the present time. ["Hear, hear!"] A Government which should attempt to pass such a gigantic measure would not have at its command a sufficient force to carry it through. [Cheers.] There are some of those friendly critics who say, "You have an enormous majority at your back. Do you mean to say that with such a majority you cannot carry any Bill you desire to pass?" Friendly critics who make that observation are at liberty to deal as they please with 942 Government proposals, but the liberty they ask for themselves is one which they can scarcely refuse to others. ["Hear, hear!"] While I do not doubt that they will be found zealous supporters of the Government policy if it squared with their own views, they can hardly seek to impose a discipline upon others of our followers which these Gentlemen themselves are the last to accept in their own case. [Cheers.] I have a second objection to this attempt to repeal the whole scheme of our voluntary education, and it is this—no human being can tell what would be the issue of such an attempt. [Cheers.] I do not mean the issue to the Government—for that is a small matter—nor to the Party, for they exist for the community—but my belief is that it is impossible for any man to foresee what system of education would issue from a general controversy in which the whole subject of the Act of 1870 would be thrown into the melting pot. ["Hear, hear!"] Until I can see my way more clearly I shall regard such a policy with some mistrust. If those who wish, in the interests of denominational education, to upset the Act of 1870—or those who wish to keep intact that Act of 1870, see with pleasure the gradual operation of those laws which at the present moment are starving out of existence Voluntary Schools—their error from their own point of view, it seems to me, is profound. If their wish could be fulfilled and it were even possible for Voluntary Schools to maintain the struggle for a long period, and we were to introduce the system of undenominational schools, then the whole educational compromise under the Act of 1870 would come to an end. A new state of things would be brought into existence, and it would be impossible for this or any other Government to allay the educational storm which would sweep the country from one end to the other. [Cheers.] It may be said that the Bill is an attempt to patch up a rotten system—the system of 1870. It may be-said that the building was never well planned or symmetrical, and that it never satisfied the taste of its legislative architects. All that is true—[cheers]—but I confess that it is no reproach to a practical statesman to say that he endeavours to make the best of the building in which he lives. ["Hear hear!"] If the Voluntary Schools will take full advantage of 943 the present Bill, which I hope will pass, I believe that they will be placed in a position of security that they have not previously occupied. ["Hear, hear!"] But I admit that I may be wrong, and if the Voluntary Schools will not make the best of the opportunity now offered to them, in that case our Bill will fail—in that case the subject will again come up for discussion and treatment in this House. If the signs of the times which meet one in every country in Europe are of any significance as to the future of this country, then I say we shall be in that ease involved in religious discussions which certainly will not add to the charity of our public life or to the ease of the Legislature. ["Hear, hear!"] As I have intimated, it is beyond the power of prophecy to say what will happen if everything has to be refashioned from the beginning, and if an attempt is made to meet the views both of those who like the present School Board system and those who like the denominational system. In any case, oven if the Bill does fail, I, for my part, shall feel that the Government will have done well to introduce it and try to pass it—as pass it I hope we shall. [Cheers.] We shall have done well, because it is our duty to make the best of what we have got. We have done well, because it is our duty to attempt, at all events, without unnecessary controversy, to settle a great controversial question. I shall not regret it, because, after all, the man who prefers, even for a few years, to live out the bitterness of religious disputation and settles, even for a few years, a subject by which the passions of men are so easily moved, may at least accomplish some good by doing his best to settle and set at rest this burning question. The effort, I say, deserves well, not merely of those who support us in the country, but of our bitterest opponents who profess to maintain the present School Board system, and who, if they believe me, will only be rushing to its destruction if they do anything to hasten the decay of the voluntary system, which is part of the great settlement of 1870. ["Hear, hear!"] If there be any obscurity in my exposition, and obscurity I doubt not there has been, it will, I am sure, be remedied by the first glance at the very short Measure I have to introduce, and I would earnestly deprecate any elaborate 944 discussion upon the provisions of a Measure which hon. Members have not seen, and which cannot, in the nature of things, be seen until the Bill is read a first time. I have not the slightest desire to limit the discussion which the House may desire to have on the Measure, but I venture to think that that discussion would be much better taken at a later period than on the motion that the Committee do now assent to this resolution, which I now beg to move:—That it is expedient (a) to authorise the payment out of moneys to be provided by Parliament of an aid grant to Voluntary Schools not exceeding 5s. per scholar for the whole number of scholars in those schools; (b) to repeal, as regards Day Schools, so much of Section 19 of the Elementary Education Act, 1876. as imposes a limit on the Parliamentary grant to Elementary Schools in England and Wales; and (c) to make provision for the exemption from rates of Voluntary Schools." [Cheers.]
§ MR. A. H. DYKE ACLAND (York, W.R., Rotherham)
said there were some things which, in view of the speech they had just heard, and in view of the method by which they were about to engage in discussing what had been laid before them, should be said at once. Now, the method in which the matter had been brought before them was somewhat remarkable. They were under the impression last year that a certain portion of the surplus of 1896 must be assigned very early in the present Session—before March 31—and that was why the House of Commons was being called together so early. [Cheers.] They were under the impression that haste was so great that this matter of including Voluntary Schools and excluding Board Schools must be approved before March 31. But now, for the first time, they discovered that the Bill need not be through by March 31. That affected the whole position which the House ought to take up towards the question. What was the question before them, and what was the 4th clause of last year's Bill? It proposed to give part of last year's money to Voluntary Schools and part to Board Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] Some of the Voluntary Schools, as was indicated in the Queen's Speech of last year, were in a precarious position, and in view of the increasing demands upon them it had been admitted that hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House were not hostile to a 945 certain amount of increased grant from Parliament, under reasonable conditions, to necessitous schools, whether Voluntary or Board Schools. Then there were, on the other hand, ratepayers' schools—the Board Schools. What was the genesis of those schools? Some Gentlemen spoke of them as if they were the product of the fancy of certain groups of individuals. They were the schools erected by the community in those poorer parts of the country parishes and in those poorer parts of towns where no rich people resided. They represented the effort of the community to supply education where voluntary effort could not Supply it, and to make up, during the last quarter of a century, the terrible arrears of education in the country. What was the policy of the right hon. Gentleman with all the Session before him? Had not the Government encouraged expectations with regard to the poor Board Schools? They had done so, and he hoped to show that those expectations had been greatly increased by them ever since last Session. But what was the attitude which, the right hon. Gentleman had taken up? He said that there was this year a considerable surplus, and that he was dealing with money he had now in hand. But were they to be blindfolded in this matter? The House was, it appeared, to pass the Bill for the Voluntary Schools, but it was to be left absolutely in the dark as to what portion of money was going to be assigned to the Board Schools, or what were called necessitous Board Schools. He should have thought that to introduce two separate Education Bills would be calculated to create more friction and waste more time than to introduce one Bill dealing with the whole question. [Cheers.] But the Government reserved to themselves the opportunity of having no Bill for the Board Schools at all, notwithstanding the general understanding. ["Hear, hear!"] The result of that would be that the Board Schools to which the Government pledged themselves by last year's Bill to give something out of last year's surplus would, perhaps, get nothing even out of this year's surplus. ["Hear, hear!"] What he wanted to show to the House as what the posit on of the Government had 946 been with reference to the ratepayers and their schools during the past 18 months—what promises they had made and undertakings they had entered into which, on this occasion, at any rate, they were absolutely going to disappoint. ["Hear, hear!"] He had observed that when his hon. and learned Friends were conducting a breach of promise case they made a great many quotations from letters and documents concerned. The present case was remarkably analogous to a breach of promise case, and, therefore, he proposed to read a few extracts from documents. ["Hear, hear," and laughter.] After the few months available for consideration during the autumn following the General Election, Lord Salisbury spoke one day and the Duke of Devonshire the next day on this subject. That was in November, 1895. Lord Salisbury met a great gathering of Conservative Associations and spoke to them in the following manner:—I wish to point out to you that there are two educational problems. One is to enable those who are educating the people of this country to educate them according to the religious belief of their parents. I believe that to be an essential object, and one of which we ought never to lose sight.That policy was embodied in Clause 27 of last year's Bill; but that clause was no longer before the House, although, with reference to it, the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich said that it was the only part of last year's Bill which aroused anything like enthusiasm among the friends of religious education. Lord Salisbury continued his speech thus:—The other question is this—How are we to diminish the tremendous burden—and the increasing burden—which the education rate is laying upon many communities in this country?The present proposals did nothing directly, and very little indirectly, to; diminish these tremendous burdens. [Cheers.] The day after Lord Salisbury made this speech, the Archbishops and Bishops, as a deputation from the Church, went to the Duke of Devonshire, as the First Education Minister of this country. He called him "the first Education Minister" because at present there were three Education Ministers. [Cheers 947 and laughter.] In replying to the deputation, the Duke of Devonshire said:—Probably it is the opinion of many of you that an addition of 5s. would not be an adequate or sufficient sum. But you must remember that a grant of 5s. all round"—[cheers]—" would amount to a million of money. What, I presume, is intended by this demand, is a fixed grant all round. I do not conceive that it is proposed by any legislation to depart from the principle of statutory equality as regards State aid to Voluntary and Board Schools." [Loud Opposition cheers.]
§ MR. ACLAND
Is there none now? [Cheers.] I am sorry that the new Education Minister has not followed the methods on which the Parliamentary grants are made. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I am sorry that the old Education Minister has not followed Section 97 of the Act of 1870.
§ MR. ACLAND
said that of course he was not alluding to certain small grants to schools in poor districts. He was alluding to the £7,000,000 which were voted every year in the Estimates under Class 4. [Cheers.] That was what the Duke of Devonshire was alluding to, and that money was allotted on principles of statutory equality between Board and Voluntary Schools. [Cheers.] That was the principle on which the Duke of Devonshire evidently conceived that the whole of this matter ought to be treated; but when the Bill of last year was brought in, it was found not to observe that principle, though it was more generous in admitting the principle of relief and help to Board Schools than the present proposals, which had no time limitation whatever. The provisions of last year's Bill admitted two broad principles, which lay quite outside the present proposals. They admitted Board Schools to a share of the Parliamentary grant, and they admitted the principle of representative control. [Cheers.] Shortly after the introduction of that Bill, one of the staunchest supporters of the Unionist Government, the hon. Member for the Edgbaston Division of Birmingham, said:—The grant should be a grant all round, and if a clause not giving a grant all round remained in the Bill when it became law, he should vote against the Third reading.948 The hon. Member should find it easy to vote against the Second Reading of the present proposals, which did nothing at all for Board Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] The fourth clause of last year's Bill gave only £50,000 to Board Schools; but it was hoped that the question would doe fully debated, and that it could be shown that, even from the point of view of the Government, it was not a reasonable way of treating necessitous Board Schools. This hope was encouraged by a letter which the Colonial Secretary wrote to Mr. Ansell, a member of the Birmingham School Board, who objected to the differentiation between Board and Voluntary Schools in the special aid grant. The right hon. Gentleman said:—I feel that there is, prima facie, much to be said on the matter, and I have no doubt that these questions will receive the fullest consideration in the Committee on the Bill.[Ironical cheers.] The Government had taken very good care that questions of that kind should not, as far as they could help it, receive any consideration at all. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The hon. Gentleman is quite mistaken. He seems to think that I have adopted a Parliamentary procedure to assist an attempt to exclude something from the consideration of the Committee. All I have done has been done because I could do nothing else under the rides of this House.
§ MR. ACLAND
said that his contention was that if the Resolution now submitted to the House had contained a proposal to give a certain amount of money to certain poor schools, there would have been no objection on this ground whatever. Then the right hon. Gentleman would not have been "fettered and bound." [Cheers.] Then the Opposition would not have been "fettered and bound." [Cheers.] If the word "elementary" had been substituted for the word "voluntary" in the Resolution, the Committee would have had the discussion which they ought to have, and which they would have had last year if Clause 4 had been reached. When last year's Bill was being discussed a very remarkable speech was made by a former Education Minister, the right hon. Member for Dartford. With reference to Clause 4, 949 which proposed to give only, £50,000 to Board Schools and nearly £500,000 to Voluntary Schools—he thought some change would have to be made with regard to this grant and its distribution. If this was to be a fair and just Bill it must not help the Voluntary Schools and pretend, up to a certain point, to assist the Board Schools, and then secure the one and leave the Board Schools out in the cold.[Cheers.] That would he a good motto for the present procedure. The Government were determined, whatever else happened, to secure the Voluntary Schools, and then, if time permitted—[laughter]—they would see whether or not they would leave the Board Schools out in the cold. [Cheers.] The right hon. Member for Dartford added, in the same speech—Unless this was a fair and just, it could not be a lasting, settlement, but would lead to future controversies and struggles in the House.[Cheers.] So much for the expectations created at the time last year's Bill was withdrawn.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I distinctly stated in July that this Bill would be restricted to Voluntary Schools.
§ MR. ACLAND
said that he would not deny that the right hon. Gentleman had said so, but at that time Clause 4 was so fully in the mind of everyone that there was no thought of nothing being given to the Board Schools in the present Measure. During the Recess there were some remarkable utterances which encouraged the belief that the position of the Board Schools, and of the ratepayers who supported them, was likely to be much better in the new Bill than in that of last year. He would now quote from the second Education Minister. [Cheers and laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, writing in The North American Review in October 1896, said:—In the country the Voluntary Schools are better off than the Board Schools. There is no competition and no necessity for levelling up as in the towns. The Voluntary Schools can hold their own without further pecuniary support." [Cheers.] "The rates levied in School Board districts are a greater burden upon the people than the subscriptions in parishes which have Voluntary Schools." [Cheers.] "It is rather, indeed, the Board 950 Schools which require financial assistance to enable the instruction given in them to be levelled up to the same efficiency as that given by their rivals.After such a statement from the Vice President, what was the Government doing? Were they aware that out of 2,500 Boards in this country no less than 1,750 were in districts with less than 3,000 inhabitants? And for these School Boards, which needed levelling up rather than leaving out in the cold, the Government were, for the present, going to do absolutely nothing. [Cheers.] Then the right hon. Gentleman wrote an article in the November issue of the Nineteenth Century. in which he said that in rural districts where the Board School system was not spreading there were many parishes in which the Voluntary Schools were in no danger of extinction, and he added:—In any grant made by the Exchequer to country schools it would be difficult to defend upon any principle of justice its restriction to those under Voluntary management.[Cheers.] Did the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House wonder after that that the country had expected that something was going to be done for country Board Schools? [Cheers.] The Vice-President of the Council then went on:—Two parishes may exist side by side, in which there is equal need of additional funds to make the village school efficient. The parish which is under School Board management is probably the poorer of the two, lacking the wealthier residents whose subscriptions help to keep up the Voluntary School. It has greater burdens, for it has to pay for elections and management as well as for schools. It would be impossible to give a grant from the Exchequer to the richer parish and leave the poorer out in the cold.[Cheers.] But what the head of the Education Department in this House first said would be difficult and then said would be impossible the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had found himself able to do that day. [Cheers.] On another occasion, speaking to the metropolitan division of the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations, the Vice-President of the Board of Education made the same remark about the two country parishes side by side, one with a School Board and the other without a School 951 Board, and pointed out that the one without the School Board would get a substantial grant, while the other, although the poorer parish, would get nothing. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to deal with the towns. He said:—In the towns there would be this difficulty—that a town which bore very little burden now, because most of the children were educated in Voluntary Schools, would get a very large grant from the Government, whereas a neighbouring town which had a large number of children in the Board Schools and had only a few Voluntary Schools, would get very little indeed out of the Government; and when the different towns in the kingdom came to examine how much they would get out of a grant of that kind, strong representations would come from many quarters that they were not being treated with justice.[Cheers.] After reading such speeches the friends of the Board Schools believed they had the voice of the Government encouraging them to hope that the case of the Board Schools, instead of getting weaker, was getting stronger and stronger; but now they found that they were on that point entirely mistaken. ["Hear, hear!"] There was a remarkable gathering held at the Church House, Dean's Yard, in November, to consider the education question. What that meeting recommended was an equal grant from the Parliamentary funds to all schools alike—Voluntary and Board—of 6s. per child, and they added, as an essential and vital part of their scheme, a rate-aid grant for children in Voluntary Schools within Board School districts. The Church Conference might fairly say that if rate-aid in Board School districts was withdrawn their whole scheme fell to the ground. He therefore did not want to draw any unjust conclusions from the recommendations of that meeting; but he would point out that there were 4½ millions of children approximately in average attendance in all schools. Of those, approximately, two milions were in Board Schools and 2½ millions approximately in Voluntary Schools. Voluntary Schools might be divided roughly into halves—one-half in Board School districts where there was a Board School rate, and the other half in non-Board School districts where there was no such rate. If the Church Conference could have obtained from the Government a grant either from the rates 952 or from the State, which would be a grant to the extra necessitous in the Board School districts, then on that assumption the Church Conference were willing to treat all their children in non-Board School districts on an equality with Board School children, and give them an equal grant from the Imperial fund. It seemed to him that that tended to show that the Church Conference, if their own case had been met, were willing to take a more generous view of grants of Imperial aid, whether to Board or to Voluntary Schools, than the Government themselves took. ["Hear, hear!"] But without pressing that point too far, he would come to the methods of giving and distributing the money as proposed by the Government. The proposition this year was that £620,000 was to be given to the Voluntary Schools, or £125,000 more than last year; whereas, in the case of the Board Schools, instead of an increase, there was nil—a reduction of £50,000. That meant that when they took the equivalent grant for Ireland and Scotland—
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (SIR MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
This is not a case for an equivalent grant at all.
§ MR. ACLAND
Surely there will be an equivalent grant, for some purpose or another, to Ireland and Scotland?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The question of education has not been treated in the way of equivalent grants at all. Ireland has more than her equivalent grant.
§ MR. ACLAND
Then do I understand that Ireland is to receive no equivalent at all for this gift of over half-a-million to a certain portion of the English community? Do I understand also that Scotland, which has been so long in the van of education, will receive no equivalent? [Cheers.]
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The right hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. Of course the question of primary education both in Ireland and Scotland will have to be considered. What I meant by saying that there would be no equivalent grant to Ireland or Scotland is that this question is not to be treated as contributions have been treated in relief of local taxation.
§ MR. ACLAND
admitted that what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said had somewhat changed his position on that point. What he had meant to say was that if Ireland and Scotland were given equivalent grants the sum which it would be necessary to pay out for the purposes of education or for similar purposes to the three countries would have considerably exceeded three-quarters of a million. However, £620,000 was about to be voted in aid of Voluntary Schools, and that was enough for his purpose. He should like to know in what way was the contribution to be made in this country. Two-thirds of the population of this country who were in School Board districts paid rates for School Boards; and the other third, who were mostly in country districts, did not pay School Board rates. But what did the Government propose to do? They were going to take two-thirds of the money from districts largely urban, where School Board rates were paid, and to hand over a very considerable portion of it to districts largely rural where no School Board rates were paid at all. So far as that was the case, it was the policy of the Agricultural Rating Act of last year. [Cheers.] He agreed with the First Lord of the Treasury that in a complicated matter of this kind it was hardly advisable at present to attempt au analysis of the particular method of distribution. But he thought he might assume that Lancashire was not going to suffer under the Bill of this year as compared with the Bill of last year, and also that the Voluntary Schools of Lancashire would get on an average not much less than 5s. per child. Then, assuming that in the case of Lancashire there would be a 5s. grant all round and in the case of London a 5s. grant all round, what would be the position of the taxpayer in London as compared with the taxpayer in Lancashire? Lancashire would get on that basis about £114,000, while London, which had almost exactly the same number of children all told, Voluntary and Board, in average attendance, would on the same basis only get about £44,000, or £70,000 a year less than Lancashire. [Cheers.] He commended that to the attention of the London Members. [Cheers.] The London ratepayer, who paid a rate twice as high as did the Lancashire ratepayer, instead of getting twice 954 as much money was going to get £70,000 a year less. He wished to plead the case of Manchester before the right hon. Gentleman. [Ironical cheers.] He would contrast Manchester with some other towns which had not such poor districts as Manchester, and where the community had not been obliged, in order to provide education for its children, to build schools at a larger expense to the ratepayers. He would take the case of three Lancashire boroughs which got about the same number of Voluntary School children as Manchester—Bury, Preston, and St. Helens. He found that they had something like 40,000 children in Voluntary Schools, while so had Manchester. If Manchester had no other children to look after, then Manchester would be on an equality with Bury, Preston, and St. Helens; but then there was the case of all the remaining Manchester children, to the number of 33,000, who were in Board Schools and who were not getting a penny out of this Bill. The Manchester ratepayer paid certainly a sixpenny rate, if he were not mistaken, and a very considerable amount—he thought 17s. or 18s. per child—to the Board Schools. But the right hon. Gentleman proposed to do nothing whatever towards all these Board School children in Manchester, although there were 33,000 more of them to deal with than in those three boroughs which were going to get 5s. for every one of their children. His surprise was that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester should treat the Manchester and Lancashire ratepayers in this way. [Ironical cheers.] He had in his hand an interesting card which was sent out to the constituents of the right hon. Gentleman at the last General Election in Manchester. On one side it had two trumpeters and a crown—[laughter]—over the two trumpeters, who carried flags on their trumpets, were written the words, "Security and prosperity." [Laughter and Ministerial cheers.] Under the crown is written the word "Progress," and at the bottom of this picture—Your vote and interest are respectfully solicited on behalf of the right hon. Gentleman, Arthur James Balfour, Unionist candidate for East Manchester.Then followed the name of the printer and publisher in Manchester, and the words "See over." He saw over, and 955 there he found the words at the top," The programme of the Unionist Tarty under 15 heads"—[laughter]—and between the "exclusion of pauper aliens" and "Church Defence "—and he was certain there was not a word in this programme as to assistance to Voluntary Schools—he found these remarkable words, "Poor Law and School Board rates to be charged on the Imperial Exchequer." [Laughter and ironical cheers.] Here they were in Committee of Ways and Means, dealing with the funds of the Imperial Exchequer, and the present time he should have thought an eligible opportunity for dealing with the matter. He commended that view of the right hon. Gentleman to some of the boroughs in Lancashire which paid School Board rates besides Manchester. Then there was the case of Birmingham, five boroughs at least in Staffordshire, the large boroughs in the West Riding—Leeds, Halifax, Sheffield, places like Yarmouth, Norwich, and even in the South like Croydon and Brighton. If these cases were looked into it would soon be seen what a large share of the taxation might be given to them if they were dealt with on the Duke of Devonshire's principle of statutory equality, and what a very small portion they would get under this proposal. He left out of sight the whole question of what were called the poor Board School districts, places like West Ham, Walthamstow, Romford, and Tottenham—all of these were to be dealt with this Session on the principle, probably, of nothing for most of them, and, if time permitted, a little for some of them. So far as he could discover there was nothing whatever to guarantee that the voluntary subscriptions to Voluntary Schools were to be maintained, although it had often been asserted by Leaders of the opposite side, and by Archbishops and Bishops, that they ought to do everything in their power to keep up voluntary subscriptions in order to preserve the very name of Voluntary Schools. The late Archbishop of Canterbury said that the North was not qualifying—qualifying, he said, meant paying subscriptions and, he added, he had never got an answer to the question why the people of the North should get admission to all the rates for a subscription of 3s. 6d. for each child, when their subscription in the South was 956 10s. 6d. There was nothing in what the right hon. Gentleman said which appeared to give any guarantee whatever that a good deal of this money might not be poured into the Voluntary Schools—no doubt for an excellent purpose—and a good deal of it be wasted by coming out of them again at the other end in the form of a reduction of subscriptions. No doubt they should hear more about that before this Bill had passed, but he would take this opportunity of saying that the State abandoned any encouragement of the idea of local support. The 17s. 6d. limit, which they called so wicked, and which was an invention of the Tory Government of 1876, was now to be abolished, and the State laid down principles for the future that demanded no local support whatever to meet the support which came from the Exchequer.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The right hon. Gentleman has no right whatever to say that; he has not seen the Bill.
§ MR. ACLAND
said he should, of course, be glad to hear if there was some provision which the right hon. Gentleman had not mentioned, but the abolition of the 17s. 6d. limit was generally supposed to mean the abolition of any condition remaining on the Statute Book by which local subscribers were expected to contribute something to meet the grant. ["Hear, hear!"] With reference to the rating of school buildings there was no doubt that there were some districts in London and other places where he did not think the ratepayers would be afraid to say that to some extent this proposal was a giving of rate aid to Voluntary Schools. He quite agreed that in many country places the amount which would be laid upon the ratepayers would be very small. He thought, however, he was bound to give, at any rate, one case—that of the parish of St. George-the-Martyr in Southwark—where Voluntary Schools were very moderately rated, much more so than the Board Schools, and yet in that parish the Voluntary Schools would not in future pay the £165 which they had been in the habit of paying. That sum broken up among the children in the Voluntary Schools came to 1s. 6d. per child, so that these children would receive not only 5s. each from the Exchequer, but also 1s. 6d. each from the ratepayer. There was not 957 to be a word in the Bill as to any change of management in the Voluntary Schools. Last year, according to the evidence of the noble Lord the Member for Rochester, and other Members, the Bill gave control to the ratepayers in a form which did not prove satisfactory to the House; it could not be laid merely to their account that the scheme broke down, when they remembered the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for the Honiton Division of Devonshire. Now they had withdrawn any control scheme whatever. They must bear in mind that this subject was growing more and more important in the feelings especially of the people in the country districts. Would it not be well to listen to the moderate counsels of Lord Northbrook, who was chairman of his county council and knew the county districts in the South of England well, who, writing to the Bishop of Winchester, said that in his opinion there ought to be on the management of country schools representation of the parents, or representation of the parish council? ["Hear, hear!"] He thought that if they knew the minds of some hon. Gentlemen opposite they would say that they were not themselves in favour in many country districts of the extremely limited clerical control which in many places alone held sway. ["Hear, hear."] He thought they would say they would like to see all country schools follow the example of some of the best Voluntary country schools where parents were represented, and sometimes even the Parish Council or the parish meeting. It seemed to him a source of great regret that, having given them some idea that the Government believed in the principle of control, and were not afraid of it last year, they asked for this enormous sum to Voluntary Schools this year, and withdrew entirely from any position they might have taken up with regard to the representation of either parents or inhabitants on the management of Voluntary Schools. Looking at the general educational aspects of the proposition laid before the Committee, he had to say that the administration from the centre was difficult in any case. It was more difficult, as the Leader of the House suggested, than the system either of Ireland or of Scotland. The subject stirred some of the deepest and strongest feelings they 958 could find in man. By the present proposal, on the one hand, they were embarrassing and making more difficult the administration at the centre and in the country at large; among those who were interested in the cause of the ratepayers' schools they were raising a feeling, by keeping them out in the cold, of irritation and exasperation which they could not expect easily to allay. All this was injurious to true education. [Cheers.] It was going to make their progress in the uncontentious matters of education, which were so important to this country, more difficult than it was before. It was going to raise, in a form which never had been raised, an antagonistic spirit with reference to the way in which the Government dealt with elementary education. The hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington, in seconding the Address to the Speech from the Throne, urged them to take a very moderate line on educational questions. But it was not quite so easy to take a moderate line when the question was treated in the way in which it was to be treated now—["Hear, hear!"]—when one Party to the bargain, one strong claimant for help, was left absolutely outside. As to the Act of 1870, did the Government think they were preserving it by the methods and the proposal now laid before them? They were trustees there for all those who bore the burden in regard to education, whatever kind of school they supported. They must do their best, and he hoped some hon. Gentlemen on the other side would help them, to fight out what were really the broad issues of this question. [Cheers and counter-cheers.] The principles of the Act of 1870 were the principles of equality. [Opposition cheers and Ministerial cries of "Rates."] He did not wish to say one word of threat, but he would quote the words of the Duke of Devonshire when he met a clerical deputation at Birmingham:—Where once the principles of the Act of 1870 had been departed from," he said," it is of course open to your opponent to regard the settlement then arrived at as completely at an end. I think it will he prudent on the part of the managers of Voluntary Schools to remember that the existence of Parliament is not perpetual.[Cheers.] The Government had had a great opportunity. They had a huge surplus last year; they would have a 959 great surplus this year. They had an immense majority in the House of Commons, and they had had—he said it without hesitation—on many points a not unreasonable minority. With all these advantages, and with no limit of time to hold them back, he thought it was a matter of profound regret that they had taken such a Measure, and that they had selected such a manner to put their Measure into force. [Cheers.] The Government had laid before the Committee a Measure which went back upon the expectations which they had created in the minds of those who were interested in the Board Schools of this country. They had put them in a position in which only half the case could be fully dealt with, and they had deliberately shut out the Board Schools into the cold. They had chosen a method of dealing with this matter in the House of Commons which, he ventured to say, prejudiced even their own case, which was unjust to the ratepayers and taxpayers, and which was gravely unfair to their representatives in the House of Commons. [Cheers.]
§ MR. R. JEBB (Cambridge University)
trusted his right hon. Friend opposite would pardon him if he ventured to express the opinion that, while he devoted a large portion of his speech to details, he did not altogether succeed in presenting a fair general view of the circumstances under which this Bill had been produced or of the intentions of the First Lord of the Treasury. [Cheers.] The Bill was confined to the object of affording a limited amount of relief, at as early a date as might be practicable, of an urgently needed kind. ["Hear, hear!"] As to the urgency he ventured to say there could be no dispute. [Cheers.] It was certain that, if such aid was not afforded at a reasonably early date, very large numbers of their Voluntary Schools would be threatened with extinction—["hear, hear!"]—and it was not disputable that if the Voluntary Schools were to perish there would be cast upon the ratepayers a new annual burden exceeding £4,000,000. ["Hear, hear!"] As to the amount of relief which the Bill proposed to give, he confessed that in his opinion it fell short of that which the supporters of Voluntary Schools might rightfully claim. ["Hear, hear!"] He held the view formulated by the 960 meeting of the two Convocations at the Church House, and put forward on behalf of the Roman Catholics of this country by their hierarchy, that supporters of Voluntary Schools were entitled, not merely in return for what they had done and were doing, but simply as citizens and ratepayers, to share in that education rate raised within school districts which they helped to pay. [Cheers.] That, however, was not in question at the present time. It had been assumed throughout his speech by his right hon. Friend opposite that the Leader of the House did not really intend to introduce a Bill for the relief of the necessitous Board Schools. He submitted there was absolutely no ground for such an assumption as that. [Cheers.] The Leader of the House told them quite plainly and frankly that he did not intend to introduce such a Measure at an early date, and it might be in the knowledge of some Members that a few days ago there appeared in the Press a letter addressed by the First Lord of the Treasury to the hon. Member for West Ham in which a similar pledge was given in the most distinct and unequivocal terms. There was, therefore, absolutely no ground for asserting over and over again that the necessitous Board Schools were to be left out in the cold. ["Hear, hear!"] But it was impossible to discuss this Bill without touching on a question which lay at the root of the whole matter, and that was the policy of giving public money to denominational schools. There were two views of elementary education competing in this country, and that competition was at the root of all their controversies on this subject. One view was—and he desired to state it as fairly as he could—that education might be satisfactory, although it was very largely secular, or else tempered by religious instruction according to a standard which might vary in each municipality. The religious instruction might be such as to satisfy even some Church people. It might be such as to satisfy all Christians; it might be such as to be acceptable to all Christians plus the Unitarians; it might be such as to be acceptable to all persons who acknowledged the existence of a God; it might be such as to be accepted even by those who did not. That was the present state of the religious element in the Board Schools' instruction. 961 The other view was that since education tended to form character and to aim at forming character, and since religion was most potent for that purpose, education should he based upon its teaching, and that if this religious teaching was to have that fundamental place in education it must be definite. ["Hear, hear!"] It could not be denied that parents had a right to choose in which of these two views their children were to be educated—the Board School view or the Voluntary School view. ["Hear, hear!"] About three-sevenths, or, as his right hon. Friend said, four-ninths, at all events less than half, of the children of the country now receive elementary education in Board Schools, and more than half in Voluntary Schools. The State imposes elementary education on all. The State, therefore, has no moral right to penalise any of its citizens for preferring that view presented by the Voluntary Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] If the State does that it enforces on the community an arbitrary and a narrow idea of education, and fines them for not keeping to it. Before 1870 no one would have dreamed of such a thing. Board Schools were set up, not to supplant, but to supplement Voluntary Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] The doctrine that Board Schools should be universal and that education based on religious and sectarian caprice, in which eccentric persons chose to indulge, should be paid for as they would pay for any other expensive luxury, was not only a novel doctrine, but repugnant to common sense and common justice. ["Hear, hear!"] But it was very justly urged that when public money was given to denominational schools there should be representative control of those schools. ["Hear, hear!"] All recognised that. His right hon. Friend who had just sat down said the Bill would not give representative control. What was the form of public aid to be given? If it was to be a grant from the State, then the form of control correlative to State aid would be central control by the State; but if it was to be rate aid, then the correlative control would be local control. But they had not to do with rate aid, and therefore nothing to do with local control. What form of central control could be more complete and effectual than that the Bill proposed to give—the control of the 962 Education Department? ["Hear, hear!"] Take the case of those schools which grouped themselves in association. Each such federation was to prepare a scheme which was to be submitted to the Education Department, and this scheme was to indicate how it was proposed to allocate the grant the federation would receive in its collective capacity among several schools belonging to it. The scheme would have to be submitted to the Education Department, and with the Department would lie the right to modify or reject the scheme. Suppose the Education Department had reason to know from the evidence of its inspectors that a particular school was in an efficient state, it would have the power to diminish or withhold that portion of the grant the federation proposed to apply to that school. Take the case of particular schools which did not federate for any reason, in regard to each of these the Education Department would have the right to withhold the grant on the ground of inefficiency. ["Hear, hear!"] But, moreover, it could withhold it simply on the ground that a particular school had unreasonably declined to join a federation; while it was provided that a school which was denominationally isolated should not be made to join a federation of which the majority of schools belonged to another denomination. If these guarantees that grants should not go to non-efficient schools were not adequate, he really did not know what guarantee could be so. ["Hear, hear!"] Then it had been urged outside the House, in anticipation of the Bill, and no doubt the topic would come up again in course of discussion before the Bill passed, that public money should not be given to any denominational school unless that school could meet the grant with a certain proportional voluntary subscription. ["Hear, hear!"] Evidently the friends of Voluntary Schools had the strongest of all possible reasons for earnestly desiring and strenuously endeavouring to keep up their subscriptions. And why? Simply for the reason that without that help they could not hope to compete on the strength of State aid alone with Board Schools, which had both State aid and rate aid. ["Hear, hear!"] Board Schools had hitherto had claims on the State; but, in addition, Board 963 Schools were spending nearly five millions a year on maintenance alone, the total expenditure of the School Boards of England and Wales amounting to about eight and a half millions. What had been done by the subscribers to Voluntary Schools? In 1870 the total amount of annual subscriptions was about £295,000, and at the present time it was more than double that—about £600,000. ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Friend reminded him these were Church of England Schools alone, so his argument was the stronger. Since 1870 Church of England Schools alone had expended about seven and a half millions. Then there were school buildings and endowments—what he might call the crystallised form of subscriptions. It was this assistance alone which had made it possible for Voluntary Schools to hold their own against Board Schools, which could respond to every new requirement of the Education Department by drawing on the bottomless purse of the rates. ["Hear, hear!"] But the point to which he particularly desired to draw attention was this, that you could not fairly lay down the rule that voluntary subscriptions should everywhere and in every case bear a fixed ratio to the amount of State aid. Take the case of poor schools in the poorest parts of the great towns of the north, and as a good instance the Roman Catholic Schools. Those, like many of our own Church Schools ministered to the very poorest of the poor. They had fewer sources of aid to which they could look outside the area of their own district and their own communion, and greatly to the honour of the Roman communion they had never yet surrendered one of their schools. Think for a moment what a sacrifice this simple fact implied, and how difficult it would be to raise subscriptions among the poorest populations of these northern towns, and what it meant to impose on these poor people in addition to the duty of providing daily bread for their young children that of saving them from starvation of mind. ["Hear, hear!"] Those who had charge of these schools had to go far afield and make application to charitable persons all over the country and continually to renew efforts of the most laborious kind to make ends meet. In the case of such districts as these, where from the very nature of the 964 case Voluntary subscriptions could not be merely local, but must be largely non-local, it would be unreasonable to place schools under similar conditions as to the ratio of local subscriptions as those situated in well-to-do districts where subscriptions could be raised with comparative ease. ["Hear, hear!"] Before sitting down he added a few words on the general relations of the Bill to the prospect of future legislation on this subject. The Bill did not carry, and his right hon. Friend did not claim for it, the character of finality. ["Hear, hear" from The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY.] That was no reproach to the Bill. It would be very difficult to say how a final solution of the elementary education problem could be found until the country realised more widely and clearly than it yet had done the true relation of such projects to Mr. Forster's Act of 1870. Some of his hon. Friends had been accustomed to speak of Mr. Forster's Act as a settlement and a compromise. He was sorry to say that if it was once a settlement it had long been unsettled and not fairly to Voluntary Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] If it was originally a compromise it had come to be a compromise in which the interest of one of the contracting parties was ignored. If it was still observed in the letter it had often been violated, and was often still violated in the spirit. ["Hear, hear!"] Board Schools were set up not to occupy the whole field of elementary education, but to fill up vacant spaces in it. With diffidence he expressed his feeling that there were only two methods by which the problem of elementary education could be finally dealt with. One method was to give Voluntary Schools a share in the education rate levied in the School Board district, they in return having a fair amount of local control with those safeguards for preserving the distinctive basis and character of the denominational schools. ["Hear, hear!"] He felt that with a little goodwill and a little trust and confidence on both sides this could be carried out far more easily than many of his hon. Friends supposed. ["Hear, hear!"] The other method did not lie within the range of present politics. It was that the State should take over the maintenance of all the elementary schools, paying for them out of the 965 taxes, leaving localities and denominations to find the buildings. This did not now seem to be within the range of practical politics, and he was aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could hardly be induced to entertain such an idea unless the country declared for it in an unmistakable manner, but he did not feel so certain that some such plan might not be heard of in years to come. Meantime one thing might be done which would largely facilitate the settlement of this elementary education problem, and that was to draw a line between primary and secondary education. ["Hear, hear!"] He earnestly hoped that Her Majesty's Government might be induced to consider the expediency of introducing legislation at an early date defining elementary education, not merely from the point of view of those solicitous for secondary education, but on account of its intimate bearing on the elementary education of Voluntary Schools. Meanwhile he recognised that this limited Measure was founded on plain and broad grounds of justice. It was to be supplemented at an early date by a Measure giving relief to necessitous Board Schools. While fully recognising the sincerity of the intentions of hon. Gentlemen opposite and the signal services many of them had rendered to the cause of education, he yet contended that those on his side of the House were no less earnest in their desire to promote educational efficiency, and in that spirit he approved of the present proposal. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
remarked that the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken had said that this was a limited Bill, founded on principles of justice, and about to be speedily supplemented by another Bill, which would deal with necessitous Board Schools. The Bill was, indeed, a limited Bill. [Opposition cheers.] Those interested in necessitous Board Schools never thought, until within the last few days, that it would be so limited and it was a Bill wholly opposed to the principles of justice on account of that very limitation. [Opposition cheers.] Of course, if the Bill were to be supplemented in a few weeks, or even months, with a certainty of its passing in the present Session, by a Bill dealing with the necessitous Board School districts, they on 966 that side of the House should only now ask why the two portions of the Bill had been dissociated, and why they should be given the trouble of fighting this Bill on the ground that the other matter was not included in it, and then have that other matter dealt with in the present Session by another Bill which they should all accept. The question of the procedure of the House was one of great importance in connection with this question. They were so tied up and limited by the Resolution they were asked to pass, confined as it was to Voluntary Schools, that they would be prevented in Committee from raising the claims of the necessitous Board Schools; and it was therefore necessary and most strictly relevant on this Resolution to discuss the claims of the necessitous Board Schools to equal treatment with that meted out to the Voluntary Schools. As he understood it would not be competent for them to move to extend the scope of the Resolution beyond the Voluntary Schools so as to include the necessitous Board Schools, many hon. Members would be driven to vote against the whole Resolution on the ground of its injustice. ["Hear, hear!"] The Leader of the House had said he was astonished that they should be surprised at the present Bill being limited by the word "Voluntary" in this way. Having been chairman of the conference on this very subject, which represented the Board School authorities in the country, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that it was never for one moment supposed that the Bill would be so limited. ["Hear, hear!"] Last year, when the right hon. Gentleman withdrew the Education Bill, he said, in reference to the Bill of this year, "We shall especially have in view the necessities of the Voluntary Schools." That was what the Government stated in the Queen's Speech of 1896, and when, on the first night of last Session, they were asked whether the necessitous Board Schools would be included, they replied in the affirmative. It was an absolute injustice to attempt to give this money to the Voluntary Schools without, at the same time, considering the poor Board School districts. Did the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Ham consider that the statement made that night by the right hon. Gentleman was equivalent to the assurances 967 contained in the letter he had received from the right hon. Gentleman? Until that night they were all under the belief that the Education Bill was to be passed before March 31. [Opposition cheers.] Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman said in his letter that the poor School Board districts were not to be dealt with in the first Bill, they supposed that it would only be a short Bill, which would be hurried through before March 31, so that, even during the present Session, there might be a chance of passing a further Bill dealing with the other portion of the subject.
§ SIR C. DILKE
I understood from the right hon. Gentleman earlier in the evening that that would not be so.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The length of time the Bill will take depends not upon me, but upon hon. Gentlemen opposite. I should have thought it would have easily passed before March 31. All I said was I was under no pledge to get it through before, although we would make every effort to do so.
§ SIR C. DILKE
understood that last year a pledge was given that the £100,000 should be voted in the course of the present financial year, and that the Voluntary Schools would get the money. From that promise he now gathered the right hon. Gentleman had gone back. The Bill which was promised was a simple one, but this, instead of answering that description, was a complicated Measure, and in its federation proposals would undoubtedly receive a good deal of discussion. What was offered to the poor Board Schools was that, if the Bill slipped rapidly through, then it would be possible to deal with their case. That was a very faint hope; it was one which would not be satisfactory to the districts concerned, nor would it meet what had been described by the Vice President of the Council as the crying injustice of the treatment of one-half of the case, without treatment of the other. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that the rise in the rates in certain districts was owing to extravagance on the part of some of the School Boards. There might have been extravagance in some cases, but he 968 asserted that in the poor districts they had more guarantee against extravagance by the Boards than they had in districts which were not equally poor. The right hon. Gentleman had asked the late Vice-President whether he had done anything towards meeting those poor School Board district cases. The position of the Education Department under the late Government was that whenever a fresh Education Bill had to be brought in the grievances of those districts should be dealt with. That promise was renewed by the present Government, who said the matter should be dealt with and a more favourable treatment extended to the poor School Boards when they came to discuss Clause 4 of last year's Bill. Of course, they never reached Clause 4, but, from what transpired, they thought the Government would be prepared to make even a larger proposal, in this regard, than they did in last year's Bill. An attempt had been made by Government in 1876 to deal with this question, when Lord Sandon's Bill was discussed. That Bill proposed an improvement in the poor districts section of the Act of 1870, but the proposal was withdrawn because of difficulties connected with Voluntary Schools. It was a well-known fact that necessitous districts could not be picked out as far as Voluntary Schools were concerned, because some of the poorest Roman Catholic Schools were situated in the richest districts. He merely referred to this in order to show that in 1870, and again in 1876—in fact on every occasion, this question had been recognised as a pressing evil to be coped with, and they had had the promise of the late Government and the promise of the present Government, that it would be dealt with in the next Education Bill. Since last year there had been an aggravation of the case. There were a large number of small districts scattered all over Wales, which had within recent years, owing to their increasing poverty, become qualified to receive the small extra grant under Section 97 of the Act of 1870. Many of those districts had been unaware of the fact that they were entitled to assistance, and when they discovered it and applied for the money, the law officers held that they were not entitled to any money previously earned by them, and that they must start afresh. 969 The extent of this grievance was very great. The School Board rate in some districts against which he was certain extravagance could not be alleged—districts which came within the speech of the Vice President of the Council last year—had risen to over 3s. The Vice President himself last year picked out certain districts and distinctly admitted that no allegation of extravagance could be made against them. The position the right hon. Gentleman took up was that this was a crying case, that it must be dealt with by the House of Commons, and would be dealt with soon. A portion of the case was to be by itself in this Bill, and he asked hon. Members did they believe that if they parted with this Bill without a far more definite understanding than they now had, they would within the lifetime of the present Parliament see any attempt made to cope with the other portion of the question? 40 or 50 Members on the Conservative side represented necessitous School Board districts, and if they were content with the promise given them that night, they were very different from what he took some of them to be. No doubt stronger promises would be given, but he could see no reason, now that the absolute limit of time necessary for the passing of this Bill had been removed, why the two cases should not be dealt with together, seeing that the Government admitted that the two parts of the case were equally urgent. A suggestion had been made that the necessities of poor districts might possibly require very different modes of treatment. He ventured to assert that no system of dealing with them by an increase of area could meet the case. It could be met only on financial grounds. In his own constituency the area was enormous, and the rateable value was very low. In one parish it was very little more than £1 a head of the population, and, through the extraordinary Order of the Local Government Board under the Agricultural Bating Act, the small freeholders had been excluded from the benefits of that Act. There were districts in which the Voluntary Schools which would be assisted were hardly known to the population—where the Church had not been able to cope with the necessities of the districts, and where there was no Voluntary School system which could possibly 970 take the place of the poor Board Schools. In his own district the Voluntary Schools which existed obtained virtually no subscriptions from the public, and that which was counted as a voluntary subscription was a gift from the Crown in another form. There was one case in which the grants from the Crown in one form and another were already as much as £418, while the subscriptions and sales of work, and income from all other sources were only £4. The fact was that such schools were out of sympathy with the feelings of the district. It was a Nonconformist district, and the public would not use and would not subscribe to the Voluntary Schools. To assist the Voluntary Schools where they no more than covered the ground as far as their own church population was concerned, and to refuse to assist the School Board rate, was to create a burning sense of injustice among the people. Of course he could understand the necessities of the Government with their own supporters. At the same time a great many of their supporters represented districts of the kind he had referred to, and they had recently been telling their friends that the Govermnent intended to deal with their case. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had said that the Government intended to deal with it, but he confessed that he could not imagine that there was any dealing with their case in the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman that night. The right hon. Gentleman said that if their Bill slipped through quickly a further Bill would be introduced, but he gave nothing like an undertaking on which hon. Members could go to the people concerned and say that their case would be considered. The only opportunity Hon. Members had of dealing with this part of the question was at this stage, and on the Second Reading. They were driven to object to this Resolution and to vote against it. There would undoubtedly be a rankling sense of injustice in the minds of those who inhabited poor School Board districts; yet where the rates were at an enormous height the Government were going to pick out and help Voluntary Schools, which were almost unknown to the population, and leave this injustice unredressed until a time which he believed would be outside the limits of the present Parliament.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said that few positions were more perilous than that of the man who spoke on the First Reading of a Bill. He remembered well, when the Bill of 1870 was brought in, an hon. Member who made a speech in rapturous appreciation of Mr. Forster's proposal was very much twitted afterwards by a right hon. Member on his rashness in having done so. If it was rash to speak on a First Reading, it was still more rash to speak on a Resolution which was only preparatory; and if in these remarks he appeared to be condemning himself, he would point out that last year he showed no such indiscretion, for he did not open his mouth in the House at any stage of the Bill of last year, though it was true that he did write a letter to The Times. which was very much ridiculed at the time because he recommended that the Bill should be withdrawn. [Opposition cheers.] Why was he rash enough to speak on the subject now when he held back last year? But there had been a great change in the situation. He understood that the reason Parliament met some weeks earlier than usual was that something should be accomplished before the end of the financial year. [Opposition cheers.] He believed that impression was shared by the rest of the country. ["Hear, hear!"] In the course of the autumn a letter appeared in The Times from Sir C. Ryan, Comptroller and Auditor-General, pointing out that if the Bill were to be passed before the end of the financial year it was necessary it should be a simple one, and the money granted under it should be at once handed over to those who were entitled to receive it. Having that in mind, he himself was quite prepared to accept a Bill passed before March 31 restricted to the Voluntary Schools, because he thought it impossible to pass a more complex Bill within such a limited time. But now the effort to secure the money during the financial year had been abandoned, the position was entirely changed, and the ready acquiescence he was prepared to give the Bill under those circumstances he must now withhold. He approached the subject in no spirit of jealousy. He had come to recognise that they must pay deference to the wishes of parents where they were clearly expressed, and if they were followed it would be absolutely unjust to withhold public money from the 972 school. Personally he was an upholder of unsectarian education. [Opposition cheers.] He should like to see Board Schools multiplied, but he had no right to impress his feeling on the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich or the parents of children in the country and if they insisted upon having schools where their children could be sent and their faith safeguarded, our scheme of national education would have to be enlarged to take them in on equal terms. Therefore, although the Archbishops and Bishops at the Clergy House might have shown some ignorance of the conditions of Parliamentary life, he regarded their plan of action as a statesmanlike plan on the whole, and they were entitled to this meed of admiration—that what they proposed was absolutely just and equal to all parties. It was in the face of that confession that he approached the proposals of the Bill. The Archbishops and Bishops did not seem to realise how much the farmers and others in country districts hated the rates. Looking at the permanent forces at work in support of denominational schools, he was inclined to think that in the reasonable progress of time they would see, not perhaps the Government that now held office, but possibly the right hon. Member for West Monmouth introducing a scheme of rate-aided support of denominational schools. It was all very well to deride the Archbishops and Bishops for their ignorance of the conditions of Parliamentary life, but he was not sure that they were not miracles of political wisdom compared with the present Government—[Opposition cheers and laughter]—if they could see how the system proposed would work in the face of the conditions of political thought and life in the country. The scheme before the House was defensible only if accepted as a temporary measure and as a half measure. Had it been so restricted and the intention been to pass it before the end of the financial year, under some guarantee that there was to be further action hereafter, he should have supported it. But it came without such guarantees in its present naked deformity, and the House of Commons would find by contact with people out-of-doors that there were forces at work in the masses of the people which would be hostile to the permanence of such a settle- 973 ment. [Opposition cheers.] In his constituency the parishioners in the moorlands would out of their poverty have to support their School Boards, while their richer neighbours over the border received assistance under this scheme. How could he go to such parishes and defend such a scheme? It was impossible. ["Hear, hear!"] If it were restricted under guarantees, he might have told them that it was only a temporary shift, necessary because of the House of Commons, which compelled certain things to be done by March 31, and other things would follow. They might say that many things were promised by the House of Commons, and what security had they that the task of completing the scheme would be undertaken by the present Government? The speech of the Minister who had introduced the scheme held out faint hope that during the time of the present Parliament anything further would be done to supplement the scheme. How should he defend the allocation which was to be made on the recommendation of committees at the discretion of the Education Department—a system which gave many parishes less than their neighbours? He strongly protested against any scheme which left the allocation of money more or less to the Education Department. Now, was the thing so hopeless that they were driven to vote against this Resolution? Could they not have a guarantee which would fix the Government to an engagement to complete the scheme? If so, hon. Members could go to their constituents and say this was only a partial Measure, and standing by itself it was unjust—[opposition laughter]—but it necessarily came to an end in a limited time, and then they would find a complete programme fulfilled. The Bill proposed to authorise the expenditure of money in aid of Voluntary Schools. Why not insert the words "during the year ending March 31, 1898." If those words were inserted it would give the Government a whole year to see something of the working of this complex scheme, and if they gave the guarantee they had mentioned the Government would not be able to come next Session and say, "We are too busy to take up and complete the scheme." ["Hear, hear!"] Constituents were prone to be suspicious. If the Government would give some 974 guarantee binding them next year at the latest to complete their plan, Members would not feel the same trepidation. But, if the subject was to remain as it had been introduced by the First Lord of the Treasury, the House, he thought, could not rest satisfied. It was for the Government to determine in what temper they should proceed, and he urged upon Ministers the necessity of doing something promptly, which would free some of their supporters from great embarrassment and themselves from some suspicion. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. C. A. CRIPPS (Gloucester, Stroud)
cordially supported the proposals of the First Lord of the Treasury. He did so on the ground that matters of this kind should be regarded from the point of view of the interests of our educational system. The test was this—Were the proposals of the Government likely to inure to the benefit of the whole educational system of this country? If that test were applied, he thought it would be found that the proposals of the Government were such as would certainly be for the benefit of our educational system, as including both Board Schools and Voluntary or Denominational Schools. The right hon. Member for Rotherham had gone into the question of breach of promise, as he called it, and had attempted to show that as between various towns or boroughs the scheme of the Government might act inequitably and unfairly. But neither of these censures really went to the root of these proposals. What they had to consider was not whether certain Members had made certain promises in the past with regard to our educational system. They were not to be guided by the rival interests of Members representing town or country districts. They had to take a wider view, and to ask themselves whether these proposals were likely to improve the educational system of the country. In his opinion, the Government, by limiting their proposals for this Session within the smallest possible scope, had adopted the best means to initiate a reform which, in its ultimate results, would certainly benefit both the Voluntary Schools and the necessitous Board Schools. A Measure like this was undoubtedly necessary as a temporary palliative, but there was no doubt that in the final settlement of this education question, every 975 school in the country must be treated in the same way, whether Voluntary or necessitous Board Schools, whether denominational or undenominational. But at the present time the pinch was felt in connection with the support of our Voluntary Schools, and it was good statesmanship to introduce a Measure which dealt in the first place with the immediate difficulty, with that which was known as the intolerable strain affecting the denominational and Voluntary Schools of this country. He admitted that hon. Members opposite could always bring to bear criticism of the following kind. If the scheme was too large then the Government could be taunted with the impossibility of carrying it within the limited time at their disposal; if, on the other hand, the scheme was limited in scope, the suggestion could be made that it ought not to pass because, forsooth, it did not deal with other matters of great complexity. He agreed most fully with what had been said by the First Lord of the Treasury, that one could not regard the educational system of this country from a merely theoretical and abstract point of view. One must consider it historically, and in connection with what had been done in the past, particularly since the Act of 1870. He did not believe that the country at large were ripe for such a revolution in our educational system as would upset or put on one side the settlement of 1870. He held that the settlement of 1870 ought to be supported, because that settlement, as explained by its great author, the late Mr. Forster, was intended to preserve denominational and undenominational schools side by side, so that the friends of each system might be satisfied. In connection with that settlement it was very essential to consider the question of local management. The distinction drawn in that matter by the Act of 1870 was rightly drawn, and had worked admirably. So far as State aid was given—and a large measure of State aid had been given ever since 1870—Parliament was satisfied that the funds were provided and used for the proper service of education by the system of inspection under the Central Department in Whitehall. And if on the present occasion the proposal was merely to give an increased measure of the aid to the Voluntary Schools, there was no ground for 976 upsetting the settlement of the Act of 1870, or introducing any Measure of local management at all. The principle adopted in 1870 ought to be carefully preserved, there being no reason why they should rely on local control instead of on the control of the central management, exercised through the inspectors sent down from Whitehall. Where Parliament granted money it had a right to exercise control in order to make sure that that money was rightly expended. Where money was given by the State the State must see that that money was properly expended under a proper system of inspection. But where money was provided out of rates, and where as incidental to that there was local control—where assistance was given to our Voluntary Schools out of the rates—full control in respect of that expenditure ought to be given to the ratepayers. One of the reasons why he supported the proposal of the Government was that it was a proposal based on the principle of State aid, and that if they applied that principle to our Voluntary Schools they must apply it also hereafter to the necessitous Board Schools. When they should have developed the whole system they must give the same measure of State aid to all schools. In order to bring about ultimately a great reform of that kind it was a wise policy to introduce it in compartments, and to take the first step where the necessity was greatest, and our Voluntary and Denominational Schools were those which now needed help most. Why was it that the Voluntary and Denominational Schools wanted some additional and special aid? This point, he thought, was only half understood. There were three causes which were operating and making it necessary to relieve the Denominational or Voluntary Schools. They had in the first place to consider that the expense of education in this country, whether in Board Schools or Voluntary districts, had been very largely increased by the requirements of Parliament—he meant the code requirements which were framed by the Education Department, and which were laid upon the table of the House. If Parliament required a larger expenditure on our national primary education, Parliament, in the first place, ought to find the necessary funds and means. That was the principle which they were recog- 977 nising that night. Voluntary Schools had suffered because Parliament had demanded that the expenditure on primary education should be largely increased. The House was merely recognising in this Measure what was in itself a Measure of Justice—namely, that Parliament, which had imposed this expenditure, should find the money in connection with the primary education of their Voluntary Schools. The second cause had been referred to—that of free education. He felt strongly that there was a special case as regarded Voluntary Schools in connection with some of the large towns, and particularly the large towns of Lancashire. The effect of free education, or the measures connected with it, had been different in different parts of the country, and whereas in many of their country districts free education operated so as to relieve the pressure on Voluntary Schools, on the other hand, in the larger towns, particularly in the Manchester district, the measure of relief given by Parliament had been nothing like sufficient to make up the deficiency from the absence of school payments. It was therefore only fair, right, and just that there should be some system of discrimination by which, if they looked to the reality of things, the Voluntary Schools in the various districts should be helped somewhat in the same manner. Something had been said as to what had been called the competition of the School Board in the School Board districts. He did not speak with any feeling of hostility to the School Board system in this country; on the contrary, he believed that it was as necessary to have a School Board system as to preserve the Voluntary and Denominational system; but he thought that this question of competition had been somewhat misunderstood. He did not object to a fair competition, but to a competition levelled at supplanting a rival. He did not think that what the Boards had done was to be laid at the door of the School Boards. He thought the fault was due to Parliament, because it had hitherto refused to draw a right limitation as between primary and secondary education. How could Parliament expect that these School Boards should know the limits of their power without some guidance was given to them by Parliament itself? If 978 they were to lay down the true limitation between primary and secondary education, to bring forward a system of secondary education and keep within its due limits the system of primary education, then this so-called competition would not exist, or at any rate it would be a fair and proper one. He thought, therefore, that the Government had started from the proper point because it had recognised that assistance in connection with our national education should be given from the National Exchequer. It had recognised that this was an Imperial or National matter rather than a local one. It might be true, as had been urged by the right hon. Member for Bodmin, that in future the rates may be spread over a, larger quantity of property than at present; but what can be more unjust at present than to throw the cost of our national primary education on a portion which represented about a half of the property of the country? If, however, the expense of education were thrown on the Exchequer, it was fairly spread over all the property of the country; if they threw additional expenditure on the rates it was borne by a, portion only of the property in the country, and borne in such a way that the poorest districts must always suffer most. He hoped that consideration would be borne in mind in dealing with the present proposal, because if the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, for example, desired that the Measure should be extended to necessitous schools, then the right hon. Gentleman must support the present proposal of the Government, because by no other means could relief be given. In any educational reform they ought to take care that the poorer districts were treated as well as the richer districts. He admitted that at the present time it was almost impossible to deal with the question of discrimination in distributing the 5s. grant as between the Voluntary Schools in the country; but he thought the principle was right. He thought that assistance ought to be given where it was most wanted. He hoped that when the House came to consider these Resolutions later it would be acknowledged that this at any rate was the first necessary step. It might also realise that if a larger Measure had been introduced it would only have been 979 brought in with the liability of failure attached to it. The First Lord of the Treasury had introduced a Measure which was just, right, and equitable as far as it went. It was founded on the true basis upon which further Measures ought to be introduced, whether they referred to necessitous Board Schools or to all the Board Schools in the various districts of the country.
§ MR. CHARLES MORLEY (Brecknock)
said that the proposals of the Government should be met with resolute opposition. What was the real object of the Government? They were proposing to make a grant of public money to a particular class of schools—for what object? Were they anxious merely to promote efficiency of education, or did they seek to increase and extend the teaching of theological and ecclesiastical dogma in our public Elementary Schools? If their object was the first it would be easy for them to insert some provision by which it would be made clear that this money was to be applied, not in saving the sensitive pockets of clerical supporters of Church Schools, but in promoting the efficiency of education which those schools provided. The House had been told that Voluntary Schools were in danger of extinction; was that the real opinion of the Government? He believed it was not the opinion of many of them. In the Nineteenth Century of November last, the Vice President of the Council stated that in the country districts, at all events, the Voluntary Schools, were in no danger of extinction. The Colonial Secretary last May stated that the right principle was to keep the Voluntary Schools on their legs. It appeared that one reason why the right hon. Gentleman had changed his mind and no longer wished to extinguish Voluntary Schools was that he found they could not be extinguished. But if that was so, why did the right hon. Gentleman say, in the course of the same speech, that the Voluntary Schools were being extinguished by unfair competition? The right hon. Gentleman talked about" rooting up" the system of Voluntary Schools. No doubt there was a good Radical ring about the expression which reminded one of other days; but who proposed to root up the Voluntary School system? No one, he believed. It was quite time the country recognised 980 who in this matter were the attacking party and who attacked. It was the Board School system which was being attacked, and not the Voluntary Schools, and it was the present Government who were making the attack. They were now proposing a fresh departure from the settlement of 1870, which laid down equality of treatment for all classes of schools alike. The Leader of the House had acknowledged the enormous pressure to which ratepayers of places like Romford and Walthamstow and West Ham were subjected, but the result of the proposals before the Committee would be that the districts named would have to support their own schools at great sacrifice to themselves, and would be compelled to contribute to other schools where there was no School Board rate at all. He represented a county of which the large proportion of population were Nonconformists, and the amount of injustice which they now suffered would be largely increased if these proposals were carried out. Nonconformists were excluded not only from the management, but also from the teaching staff of more than half of the public Elementary Schools of the country. In many places children of Nonconformists were being compulsorily educated in Church Schools. In other words, parents were forced to forego what Lord Salisbury had referred to as an inalienable right—the right of the parent to have his child taught his own religion. Another hardship in connection with this allocation of public money was that while the money was drawn from taxpayers of all shades of religious opinion, it was to be given to schools which, while public in name, were under private management, and which were retained for the most part for the propagation of dogmas of one Church only. He contended that there was no justice in the proposals of the Government, and was certain they would not carry with them the approval of the country in general. It was the earnest desire of many hon. Members on both sides of the House to retain religious instruction in our Public Elementary Schools; but he warned the Committee that if the proposals of the Government were carried, it would inevitably tend to hasten the day when religious instruction would no longer be regarded as one of the duties of the State as Schoolmaster.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
, as one of the malcontents last year, the only one on the Ministerial side except the Member for South-West Ham who voted against the Bill, wished to say that he believed the majority of his constituents would gratefully accept the proposals of the First Lord of the Treasury, and he should support the Bill. He was glad the Government had not included in the Measure the proposal made last year of raising the age of compulsory attendance of agricultural labourers' children from 11 to 12. He was glad also they had decided not to be seduced by the Church Committee or the Convocation of Bishops sitting at the Church House in Dean's-yard into giving rate aid to Voluntary Schools. If the Government had not dropped that idea, the agricultural districts would have dropped them at the next General Election. [Opposition cheers.] He thought, however, the teachers ought to have got something in the shape of security of tenure. The money to be voted should be, to a certain extent, earmarked both for apparatus and for extra pay to the teachers. [Opposition cheers.] He had a resolution in his pocket from an important body of his constituents, in which they objected to relief not being given to Board Schools and Voluntary Schools alike. He held that the money should be paid to both alike, and should come out of one Imperial fund. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House promised, indeed, a supplementary Bill "if time permits." It lay entirely with the Government to say whether time should permit or not. If the Government would only limit the exuberant rhetoric of hon. Gentlemen on both sides—[laughter]—there would be ample time, and so everybody would be satisfied.
§ MR. R. W. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
said he was not surprised that the hon. Member had received a resolution from his constituents disapproving of these proposals. Before long Members who represented Nonconformist constituencies would have so many of these resolutions that they would have to increase the size of their pockets to hold them all. The Bill would meet with resolute opposition from Nonconformists all over the country. They were deeply dissatisfied with the working 982 of the Act of 1870, which was framed in the interests of the Voluntary Schools and operated most unjustly against Nonconformists. That effect had been anticipated. Mr. Bright protested against that Act, which he said encouraged denominational education and only established Board Schools where such education was impossible. In 1872 the right hon. Member for West Birmingham said that the Act wasbad in principle, made worse in practice, and remained a monument of the ingratitude of a Liberal Government and an intolerable injustice to Nonconformists.There was a significant passage in the life of Mr. W. E. Forster bearing on the unacceptability of the Act of 1870 to Nonconformists. Mr. Forster had protested against some concessions in the interests of Voluntary Schools and against those of the Dissenters, and Lord Ripon wrote to him:—Your business and mine is simply to try and get the Bill through. If Gladstone prefers to carry it with the aid of the Tories rather than by conciliating the bulk of Liberal opinion that is his affair, and not ours, and we must let him do what he likes.Great changes had taken place since 1870. Then there were only 6,000 Church Schools; now there were 12,000. That extension of the voluntary system was foreseen by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who in 1872 said,No School Boards could be established under the Act in those parishes, and Dissenters must accept in the education of their children such protection as the conscience clause afforded.There were districts in this country with a population of no less than 9,000,000, where parents had no choice of schools at all. Dissenters must send their children to the Anglican Schools, conducted under the management of the parsons. It was said that the Voluntary Schools were popular. In 40 towns situated in 26 different counties, the Church Schools six years ago educated 21,387 children, while the Board Schools educated 27,706. These were towns where there was only a Board and a Church school side by side. Today the figures were 21,934 for the Voluntary Schools, and 40,872 in the 983 Board Schools. That showed the result where the parents had a choice. The Bishops did not believe that the schools were so popular, because one of the main arguments used by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Convocation in November last against rate aid was that it would bring with it popular control. A year ago the Secretary for the Colonies justified his changed attitude by saying that the Voluntary Schools had seized hold upon the popular imagination. What they were attempting to do was to seize hold upon the popular purse. Another great change which had come over them was that they were no longer Voluntary in the same degree as they were 25 years ago. The total cost of the Anglican Schools was, £3,600,000; but the Voluntary subscriptions were only. £640,000. That proportion was not large enough to justify resistance to popular control. To-night, as with the Bill of last year, Member after Member had said that he was in favour of the Bill while objecting to details, One of the great grievances of Nonconformists was that while out of 1,800,000 children in the Church Schools, 750,000, at least, were Nonconformists; the parents of those children had no voice in the management of the schools, and their children were excluded from the teaching profession. Yet the House was asked to vote this additional money to sectarian schools, without any guarantee for the protection of the Nonconformist children. In some towns there were none but sectarian schools; and as long as any denomination offered to supply deficiencies, it was impossible to erect a Board School. Next to the Church of England the largest religious community was the Wesleyan Methodist body; and they had completely turned round within the last few years in regard to their education policy. In 1870, when the Board School system was established they were unfortunately sitting on the fence. They supported a system of maintaining School Boards alongside of Voluntary Schools. But they had entirely departed from that attitude; and the strongest resolutions against the policy of the Government had come from that Church which used to be considered somewhat Conservative. The Committee had been told that this increased grant would be distributed from headquarters 984 but with the advice of local associations, which, of course, would be clerical assemblies. The Government were undoubtedly to be congratulated on having rejected some of the most vehemently worded resolutions of the Church Conference last November; but their adoption of this system of federated associations showed that they had not completely shaken off their clerical advisers. He should like to know whether the extra grant was to be given to schools which were not free schools, and so be used for bolstering up those numerous schools in which free education was not given. They could not forget that the Prime Minister had said that a vigorous effort must be made to capture the Board Schools in the interest of the Church of England; and as this Measure was obviously intended to strengthen that Church in the rural districts, as it had been shaped largely by the clerical supporters of the Government, and as it made no attempt to remedy the grievances under which School Boards in necessitous districts laboured, he trusted that the House—supported by the Nonconformists, by all lovers of the School Board system of education, and he would add by every lover of fair play—would earnestly and resolutely oppose the Measure. [Cheers.]
On the return of the CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, after the usual interval,
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said that as one who had been a strong advocate of Voluntary or denominational Schools he acknowledged that the grant of £616,500 towards the maintenance of those schools would be of immense benefit to them at the present time when he knew that they were in a position of great financial difficulty. No one could doubt that the grant would be a very great advantage to them in a pecuniary sense. As far as this Bill went hon. Members must be satisfied that a great effort had been made on the part of the Government to place these schools upon a more sound financial basis than they had hitherto occupied. It was necessary, however, to look a little deeper into the matter than the mere pecuniary advantage which these schools would 985 obtain under the Bill. They were bound to consider not only the immediate benefit to the schools which would flow from this Bill, but whether this large grant would afford a real solution of the problem before them, and whether it would place denominational schools upon a permanent financial basis. He should like hon. Members to look at this question from one or two aspects. In the first place would this grant place the Voluntary Schools upon an equal footing with the Board Schools. He thought that that was a very reasonable question to be asked. The relative cost of the maintenance of the two classes of schools had been gone into very fairly in the Report of the Education Department. He would not trouble the House with the details but this Report showed clearly that the cost of maintenance of the Board Schools was £2 10s. 2d. per head while that of the Voluntary Schools was only. £1 18s. 11 ½d. per head. Even adding this large sum of 5s. per head to be given by the grant the cost of maintenance of the Voluntary Schools would be far less than that of the Board Schools. Therefore, even this large grant would not place the Voluntary Schools and the Board Schools upon an equal financial footing in the country districts, while the discrepancy between them would be far larger in London. The second question he desired to ask was whether this grant would put a stop to the rivalry in expenditure that now existed between the Board and the Voluntary Schools? It was well known that for many years there had been a sort of rivalry in expenditure going on between the two sets of schools. He did not say that that rivalry was altogether an evil because it tended to make the schools better and more efficient, but there could be no doubt that this expenditure was being continually increased. Would the proposal to give 5s. per head tend to decrease or increase this competition? In his opinion it would have a very strong tendency to egg on the expenditure of Board Schools, who would feel for the moment they were placed in a somewhat unfair position, and not at all contribute to a sounder system of education or destroy the rivalry between the two sets of schools. The increase in the rates per scholar last year was 1s. 4d. If that rate of increase only went on for 986 three or four years, this large grant would soon be absorbed. There was, therefore, not much of a permanent character about this legislation. There was a third point worthy of consideration—Would this proposal tend to educational peace or educational war? To his mind one of the great essential characteristics of the successful promotion of education was that it should go on peaceably and with as little as possible Debate in this House, and above all things it should be kept as far as possible from the turmoil of political controversy and strife. He asked any hon. Gentleman whether the proposal was likely to tend to peace and harmony in educational matters. He could not help thinking that the proposal would give the opponents of the Government a very good rallying cry. [Opposition cheers.] It seemed to him it would tend in every possible way to foment in each district an agitation which before long would become very serious: the Government were in fact giving their opponents a very useful political cry. He could not for a moment suppose that the suggestion as to the association of schools would last even through the Committee stage. [Renewed Opposition cheers.] If the Education Department had to decide between the rival claims of different districts and schools as to whether the one or the other should have 3s., 4s., 5s., 6s., or what not, they would lay themselves open to abuse and to every possible suggestion of corruption. The Department would be put in an unfair position, and in his judgment such a system as that would not be tolerated long. He regretted he had had to make these remarks, because he thought that at the present time they had a grand opportunity. They had a large majority, and they had a mandate from the country to support the Voluntary Schools, and to permanently settle this great question. That it must be permanently settled was obvious. The Leader of the House suggested that there would be another Bill. No one, however, who had any knowledge of the working of the House would conceive it possible to have two Educational Bills in one Session. They must consider this Bill, good or bad, as the work of this Parliament. It was possible a Technical or a Secondary Education Bill on a smaller scale might be 987 dangled before them, but still it was impossible to get this Measure through the House sufficiently early to enable them to take up another Bill dealing with the same subject. It appeared to him there was a simple solution of this great question. Everything was greatly cheaper since 1870. Since then they had made education compulsory and free, and he asked why could not the State fix the standard of secular education it required in all children and then fix the cost, to be varied, of course by Parliament from time to time? Parliament would pay the cost to Board and Voluntary Schools alike, leaving the management, cost of buildings, equipment, and religious teaching to the School Board in School Board districts and to Voluntary Schools in Voluntary School districts. That solution would have all the advantage of permanency, and there would not be rivalry between the two sets of schools, except friendly rivalry to do the best they could for each section of the community. The cost would be very little greater under such a system than under the present one. The First Lord proposed to grant £616,000. The poor Board Schools had a greater claim, which would be pressed very strongly upon the House. They would require, £100,000, if not more; and he calculated that if the whole cost of secular teaching were put down at 35s. per head—and that would be a liberal allowance—the additional cost to supplement the present vote in the Estimates would be covered by just a million sterling. That was only, after all, £200,000 or £300,000, the cost of a gunboat, in addition to what we were now spending and proposing to spend. No one could say he had not always advocated the cause of elementary and other education. Though not in the House at the time he had much to do with the Education Act of 1870, and he would be the last to suggest that the working of that beneficent Measure should be at all damaged. He had, however, always held that denominational schools were essential, for in his judgment education without doctrinal religion was of little value. He knew it was often considered pretty much like treason to venture to differ from those who were supposed to lead them. If The Times condescended to notice his remarks it would possibly attribute to him, as it did 988 to the hon. Member for Cardiff in respect to the South Africa Committee, personal motives in making these remarks. He had no such motives. During the many years he had been interested in social and educational questions he had been a great believer in a sound and popular system of education. He wished to see those who preferred a non-denominational system have what they desired just as he would provide a denominational system of education for those who wished to have it. They were bound to promote any national system that would advance those interests. In his judgment, to put anything in this Bill which would suggest unfairness to any one particular class of schools would tend to sectarian rivalry and to retard the progress of sound education. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed that even in this Bill, short as, it was, the Government might have dealt with the question on a larger basis, having regard to the cost of secular education as a whole, and he repeated that from this point of view he thought the problem might have been solved. But he feared that the scheme set forth, though by it certain schools which badly wanted help would be assisted, would give an idea, of unfairness in regard to other schools; that it would set up a spirit, of rivalry and antagonism, and that the Measure to be introduced would not tend ultimately to the firmer foundation of the Voluntary Schools. [Opposition cheers.]
§ MR. ALBERT SPICER (Monmouth Boroughs)
said he heartily concurred in the concluding remarks of the previous speaker. He thought the Government had made a great mistake in dealing with this matter from the narrow standpoint they had taken up, especially because, representing as they did, all shades of ecclesiastical opinion, they had peculiar advantages in dealing with it, and an opportunity of recognising what was fair and just to each section. The Measure, however, was drafted in a way which was most unfair and unjust to all free Churchmen. ["Hear, hear!"] In the Debate of last Session the Nonconformists, or political Nonconformists, as they were termed, were twitted by a noble Lord on the front Bench with having prevented, through their intolerance, a solution of this question. That was not true. The name "Political Noncon- 989 formists" was simply used, they knew, as a term of opprobrium, but after all Political Nonconformists were simply Nonconformists who were really in earnest and believed implicitly in their principles. ["Hear, hear!"] At any rate, they had a right to fair treatment in this matter. Free Churchmen, and he spoke as one, had shown their interest in the work of definite religious education, and it was proved by this fact that to-day they had a larger number of scholars and teachers in their Sunday schools than the Church of England. Free Churchmen were not responsible for the present difficulty. It had even been said that the existing School Board system of education was conducted in harmony with the ideas and wishes of the Nonconformists. He denied that free Churchmen had anything to do with that settlement. The Cowper-Temple Clause, which gave the undenominational character to the Act of 1870, was not of their creation. At that time, as had already been said that evening, the Nonconformists were divided on the question; the great Wesleyan body were in favour of denominational education, while the Congregationalists, the Baptists, and other bodies openly advocated that the State should take care of secular education, and that all the Churches should look after religious education. That was the attitude assumed, but directly after the Act was passed the London School Board was established, and they agreed that there should be Bible teaching in their schools. Well, that course caught the idea of the country, and the School Boards, with only a few exceptions, followed it. That system, therefore, was not created by the Nonconformists; it was adopted because it met the common sense views of the great mass of those who had to do with the Board Schools. The Nonconformists had, indeed, directly suffered by the system. For what was the result of it after 25 years experience? Why, that at the present time there were 8,000 parishes in England in which the only schools were those connected with the Established Church. The direct effect of this was that in any of those parishes where there was an intolerant Clergyman, or where strong Church views were held, the Nonconformist children attending 990 them—there was no other school available for them—were under a certain stigma. [Cheers, and Ministerial cries of " No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite exclaimed "No," but he knew that it was so in many eases. It might be said that the people who, suffered under this state of things should make their complaints known; but it must be borne in mind that most of the Nonconformists in such parishes were in the employment of the leading Churchmen in the district, and thus could not complain, or seek protection under the Conscience Clause without making themselves obnoxious. He contended that it was grossly unfair to place Nonconformists in that position, which they had endured in those 8,000 parishes for 25 years. ["Hear, hear!"] A second glaring injustice was that, while only one-sixth of the cost of the so-called Voluntary or Church of England Schools was borne by subscriptions and, endowments, the other five-sixths were borne by the State, and yet the whole management of the schools was in the hands of one party. ["Hear, hear!"] No fair-minded man could say that that was a, right state of things. A third great injustice to Nonconformists was that in the parishes to which he had referred, not a single Nonconformist young man or woman was permitted to enter the educational profession. ["Hear, hear!"] There were many bright young men and women in those parishes—some of them the sons and daughters of Nonconformist Ministers—who would be glad to enter the profession, and who would willingly and loyally serve the schools, subject to a. Conscience Clause, but they were told that their services were not required unless they gave up their Nonconformity. ["' Hear, hear," and Ministerial cries of "Oh, oh!"] That was no less an injury to education in those districts than to the Nonconformists. It was said that they must have definite religious teaching. He had had some experience of School Boards; he had served on one Board for 15 years; and on that Board the Nonconformists and the Liberals were always in a, minority, yet they worked harmoniously. All the Voluntary Schools in that district were handed over to the Board by the managers. The Board enlarged the schools at the ratepayers' expense, and gave the Churchmen the right of using 991 them twice a week and on Sundays. Moreover, the Board gave them the use of all the new appliances for their own, special work, and he ventured to say that there were not ten men then in that district who would desire to go back to the old system. Yet this was a district, which, having adopted a fair and reasonable system through their representatives, would get nothing under this Hill. ["Hear, hear!"] That was in itself an evidence of the injustice of the course the Government adopted, for the effect of the proposal would be to punish those who had determined to work loyally together in the cause of national education. ["Hear, hear!"] And he believed that in the general experience concerning this particular district was really to be found the solution of the difficulty before them. It was said that if they bad those schools everywhere controlled, where State-aided by popular representation, they would incur enormous expense. But let them bear in mind that this would only be the ease if all the existing Voluntary Schools were shut up. If they could only arrange some fair way by which they should be transferred to popularly elected bodies, all these questions would instantly pass away. But it was said that they must have definite religious education. How were they to get it? They must bear in mind in the first place that teachers to Board Schools and to Voluntary Schools were today provided very largely from the same source. The Church Party had in their hands the great majority of the training institutions for the teachers, and any of them who had sat on boards knew perfectly well that they selected quite as many teachers from the Church training institutions as they did from those that were undenominational. He believed the percentage of Church training institutions to that of undenominational were something like 80 per cent. After all, what did this definite religious education depend upon? It depended upon those who are, after all, in responsible charge of the school. If those in charge, whether in Voluntary Schools or in Board Schools, were in sympathy with definite religious education, the teachers selected would also be religious men, and would be men who would be in sympathy with definite religious instruction. At the present time 992 he did not believe there was any more definite religious education in Church Schools than there was in the great mass of Board Schools. It was not every clergyman who conducted the religious education. He was told that in the great mass of schools their so-called doctrinal education, meaning the Church catechism, was only taught once a week, and that the rest of the week it was simply Bible teaching, similar to that conducted in Board Schools. It seemed to him so much cant was talked on this matter by the so-called upholders of the Voluntary Schools, who were contradicting in their own lives and in the education they themselves were giving their children what they claimed there. They took the high schools, and secondary schools which had the system of undenominational education, and yet they were always crying out for their so-called definite doctrinal education in the education of those they could help to control. Let them look at this matter honestly. There were just as many on that side of the House interested in definite religious education as on the other side, and they would not have the Members of the Government Party claiming that they on the Opposition side were against such education. Let them have religious education established in conformity with the wishes of the people as a whole. It seemed to him that this proposal of the Government was not only unfair and unjust to the Free Churchmen, but it was peculiarly unfair and unjust to those who had shown the greatest interest in the cause of education. After all, two-thirds of the nation at the present time lived in Board School Districts. [HON. MEMBERS: "No; four-sevenths!"] He was speaking of the population. The people who would pay this new bill were the general taxpayers, and the general population who were in Board Schools were two-thirds, or 19,700,000, and one-third, or 9,200,000, were in Voluntary Schools. So that the very districts who would not rate themselves were to be helped by being allowed a gift, of which a large proportion would be paid by those who already paid a heavy share. He ventured to predict that there was no question that had been brought before this country that was so likely to reunite the Free Churchmen who had been separated 993 by Home Rule as the one which had been introduced that evening by the First Lord of the Treasury. He should give his earnest opposition to the Resolution.
§ MR. GEORGE DIXON (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
said he had noticed that the greatest objection that had been put forward to the Resolution was its injustice and unfairness to the poor Board Schools in the country districts. With all that had been said on that subject he entirely sympathised. [Opposition cheers.] Their case was one of the most unexpected and extraordinary injustice. [Opposition cheers.] He rose now for the purpose of placing before the Committee the case of the School Boards in the large towns, which had been scarcely referred to. The injustice and the unfairness there, in some respects, were equally great, and he wished to point out what were the real facts of the case, in the 6,000 or 8,000 rural districts where there were no Board Schools at all, what had been the history of their difficulties since the Act of 1870 was passed? By that Act they were authorised to form a Board School, and, having done that, they then had the power to levy a rate over the district which would be sufficient to provide all that was necessary for the efficient carrying on of their schools. But what did they do? They refused to form these School Boards and to levy this rate, and they refused because, he would not say entirely, but in a very large number of these villages mainly, they would not suffer the loss consequent on that rate. They had gone on all these years under those conditions. The Government had largely increased—nay, doubled—their grant, and, as they had been told very properly that night, the introduction of free education added considerably to their revenue. Therefore, financially, their position had been continually improving. ["Hear, hear!"] What did they hear now, within the last two years especially, since the Unionist Government had had a majority of 150? [Opposition cheers.] They had heard that these schools were in a state of financial decrepitude so alarming that unless something was immediately done they would find that they would be closed and that an enormous expense consequent thereon would be thrown on the rates. [Cheers.] He sympathised with 994 those Gentlemen who said that would not be the case. In his opinion it was only the assertion of people who were entirely ignorant of the case. [Opposition cheers.] Let him draw the attention of the Committee to the state of the large towns. He would take the one he lived in, and of the School Board of which he had been a member since the commencement. What had they done? Of course they were compelled to provide sufficient accommodation for all those children who could not find accommodation in the existing schools. They had no choice. They had rated Birmingham to the extent of 46s. per scholar in their schools. They paid now—the last rate was—£115,000. Why did they do that? Because, in the first place, they were compelled to erect additional schools, and, in the second place, because they felt it was their duty to give to these children an education that would be efficient and that would gain the end the country had in view in the passing of the Act of 1870. They were told they had been competing with the denominational schools, as some people said to his utter astonishment, for the purpose of killing the denominational schools. That was utterly and entirely untrue. [Opposition cheers.] Such a thing had never yet entered into the mind of one single member of the Birmingham School Board, and he did not believe it had ever entered into the mind of any member of a School Board in, any other part of the country. When the School Board was formed more than 20 years ago there was an average attendance of between 16,000 and 17,000 children in Voluntary Schools, and instead of these schools having been injured the average attendance in Voluntary Schools was 25,000. ["Hear, hear!"] Knowing as he did everything that had been done by the Birmingham Board, he did not hesitate to say, in the strongest possible manner, that the Board had never done anything that had been to the injury of a single denominational school and had always been on the most friendly terms with managers of those schools. What did this proposal mean? In some 6,000 or 8,000 agricultural parishes the population had continually refused to rate themselves and improve the education given in their schools, whereas in Birmingham they had 995 spent no less than 46s. a head for the elementary education of their children. Under such circumstances the proposal was made to give this large grant of 5s. a head to those 6,000 or 8,000 parishes in country districts who had refused to rate themselves to the extent of a penny. [Opposition cheers.] When it was said that opposition to that proposal came from enemies of Voluntary Schools who wished them to be wiped out he utterly and entirely denied that. ["Hear!"] He would not vote against an additional grant of 5s. to those schools under the circumstances in which they were placed, I but such a grant must be accompanied by an equal grant to large town School Boards. ["Hear, hear!"] It would be utterly unfair to confine the grant on the plea of their destitute condition to those who had refused to rate themselves and ignore those who had rated themselves heavily in the cause of education. It was said that the real cause of the difficulty was the unfair competition between Voluntary and Board Schools, the latter having the bottomless pocket of the ratepayers at command and spending so much money on their schools that the Voluntary Schools were injured. His answer to that, in the first place, was—Suppose this 5s. grant made, what would be the result? Would this grant prevent to any extent the competition complained of? Not at all; that competition would go on precisely as before. ["Hear, hear!"] That which was said to be injurious to Voluntary Schools, though he did not admit it, would still continue. In giving this grant, and refusing it to School Boards, Voluntary Schools would not be benefited so far as this so-called competition was concerned. He denied that if the grant were extended to School Boards it would be wasted. In a large number of cases—he was sure it would be so in Birmingham—the grant would go to relieve the school rate. No more than now would there be any disposition to use the money recklessly. Whatever a School Board did was done with the knowledge and consent of the ratepayers. To say to ratepayers that they should not spend the money in a way they might think proper, having regard to the education of the children in their area, was not an attitude that should be assumed towards a self-governing community. There was no case whatever for 996 denying to School Boards this additional grant. If this principle were violated it would amount to a repeal of the most important principles of the Act of 1870, which directed that grants should be equal to all schools, and throughout all the great towns of England there would be a strong sense of resentment against the unfairness and injustice. ["Hear, hear!"] This feeling would grow year by year, and would become so strong that neither the Government that made the proposal nor Voluntary Schools would in the end gain by the arrangement, and it must be recognised as a very great mistake. ["Hear, hear!"] The grant, if made, should be made to all schools. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan)
hoped the Committee would permit him to speak a few words on this subject, because of the interest he had always taken in educational matters. In successive years, in conference and co-operation with others, he had introduced Bills to remove or mitigate the severity of the 17s. 6d. limit and for the relief of the rating of Voluntary Schools, and he felt that he should fail in his duty if he did not thank the Government for the proposal made. He did not intend to traverse the wide field which had been entered upon by Members who had preceded him. He concurred in the feeling expressed that injury was caused to the cause of education by mixing it up with political turmoil. Friends of education should work in harmony for the attainment of the one great end—the educational welfare of the country. As regarded what had been said by the hon. Member opposite with reference to the difficulties and hardships felt by Nonconformists, he would remark that many members of the Church of England appreciated those difficulties, and would rejoice if means could be devised for remedying them. He would remind the hon. Gentleman that there were Roman Catholics as well as Protestant Nonconformists in this country, whose interests must be borne in mind, and representing a borough which contained a large Irish Roman Catholic population, he should not be performing his duty towards them if he were to allow them to be ignored in that discussion. Turning to the main points of the Bill, he agreed 997 with the First Lord of the Treasury that the chargeability of Voluntary Schools to rates was unequal and uncertain. There were some schools with which he was intimately acquainted where the whole question of continuing or discontinuing them depended upon the pressure or the absence of pressure on the part of the rating authorities, and there would be a sense of relief to Voluntary Schools if the law were thus changed. The principle of exemption now applied to many institutions ought in fairness and justice to be extended to the Voluntary Schools. As representing a town where there were large schools situated among the poor population, he must express his great satisfaction that the 17s. 6d. limit was to be entirely abolished. There were schools in Wigan which, to use the terms of the managers, were heavily fined. He knew of two Roman Catholic schools which were fined £50 and £60 a year, and there were schools belonging to the Church of England which were subjected to the same infliction. This charge was not only a heavy financial burden, but it also acted prejudicially to the cause of education, as it prevented managers extending the curriculum and giving a, higher and better education. As to the increase of grant, he would remind the Committee of the increase in cost, owing to the action of the Government and the requirements of the Code. In the case of elementary schools, it had risen from £1 7s. 5d. in 1872 to £1 18s. 11.d. in 1895; while in the case of Board Schools the change was even more remarkable, the cost having risen from £1 8s. 4½d. to £2 10s. l¾d. But the friends of Voluntary Schools had not been inactive. They had increased their contributions. Taking the Voluntary Schools as a whole, there had been a growth of voluntary contributions from 6s. 6¼d. in 1894 to 6s. 9d. in 1895—a large sum when they were dealing with millions of children. He did not desire that there should be any diminution in their contributions, and was perfectly sure that Voluntary Schools could not continue to exist and have the support of the House of Commons unless the managers were willing to make liberal and growing contributions in support of their schools. As regarded the question of association, he had for many years desired such a system. At present each 998 Voluntary School was isolated, but the Board Schools were grouped together, and he did not himself think that the Voluntary Schools could ever compete with the Board Schools on fair terms except they were brought together under some system of union and association. That system would give them mutual aid and facilities for consultation, and would give that flow of promotion from one school to another which now existed in Board Schools, and which would give life and energy to many of their schools in the large towns, He knew the feeling of hardship which existed among the friends of Voluntary Schools that they should receive no help from the rates, but he believed that such help was inconsistent with the existence of Voluntary Schools, and he, therefore, rejoiced to find a proposal made by the Government that those who contributed to the taxes of the country should pay part of the money arising from taxes in support of Voluntary Schools. Reference had been made to the County Palatine of Lancaster, and the name of the late Archbishop Benson had been mentioned in the Debate. It was stated that the late Primate had said that the benevolence of many in Lancashire was very inferior to the benevolence found in London. The venerable Prelate acted under a misapprehension, and with that candour which was part of his nature admitted in a letter to the newspapers that he was in error, and that the amount contributed in Lancashire to Voluntary Schools was far in excess of the amount contributed in London. He had confined his remarks as far as he possibly could to the question in hand, because he thought that injury was done to the cause of education by the discursive character of these Debates. He believed that if they dealt with one question at a time their progress would be more solid. He had confined his remarks to the case of Voluntary Schools alone, because he believed that alone was the question before the Committee. He regarded the proposals of the Government—although, perhaps, the proposal for association was somewhat attended with difficulties—as proposals which they ought all to support, and he felt grateful to the Government for their course in this matter. He believed that they had done their best to redeem their pledges, and that when 999 the Measure was known in the country it would arouse a feeling of satisfaction, and that the position of Voluntary Schools, which was not only dear to the managers but also as dear to the parents of the children, would be rendered more secure by the action which the Government had taken in the proposals which they had now submitted to the House of Commons.
§ SIR JOSEPH LEESE (Lancashire, Accrington)
said he came to the House with the full intention of giving his vote in favour of the Resolution of the Government, but he was disappointed to find, not only that the Resolution was so narrow in its terms, but that, after the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury, it carried with it certain provisions which made him hesitate to promise his vote. He was faced by an initial difficulty. He found it very difficult—nay, almost impossible—to dissociate local from Imperial interests. It was almost inevitable that the opinion of a Member of Parliament should be influenced by the position of his own constituency in regard to a great Imperial proposal like this Education Question. That had been the experience of several speakers that night. His right hon. and hon. Friends the Members for Bodmin and the Forest of Dean and Birmingham had all felt bound to place the needs of their own constituencies before the House, and to some extent to view the questions at issue with the eyes of their own constituencies. He therefore did not apologise for placing before the House the position in which he found himself in respect of his own constituency. He represented one of the most populous parts of Lancashire—a division of the county in which there had never been, and was not, a School Board or a Board School. ["Hear, hear!"] They last year educated their 10,000 children entirely in denominational schools, of which there were 48 in the division, and they raised in the same year £2,168 in voluntary contributions, which was equal to about a 4s. grant. They therefore felt it difficult, denominational educationalists as they undoubtedly were, to refuse this grant of 5s. if it was offered to them. ["Hear, hear!"] But they were not blind to the great danger that the grant, if given, might be used as a substitute for private subscriptions— 1000 [Opposition cheers]—and they were unwilling to run that risk. [Opposition cheers.] Men might argue that, as the point of efficiency had been reached in their schools, and as the inspectors were, satisfied both as to the education given and as to the condition of their buildings, then this £2,500 (which would be the amount of a 5s. grant) would free them from the necessity for contributions. He could not find in the statement of the Leader of the House that there was to be any safeguard for the continuance of these private subscriptions. He therefore felt great difficulty indeed in following the right hon. Gentleman into the Lobby. [Opposition cheers.] He recognised that they could not fully debate the matter until they had seen the Bill, but he confessed he did not like the scheme of distribution. Above all things, he would like to see the necessitous schools helped more than those that did not so much require assistance, but he was afraid that the proposal as to distribution would create jealousy among the schools of the division. He did not like the proposed association or federation of these various denominational schools. Were they going to have the pooling of all their incomes, and to put on the shoulders of the prosperous denominational schools the burden of carrying those that were less prosperous? With regard to the omission of necessitous Board Schools, although those in his division were denominationalists, every one of them, at any rate by practice, they had no dislike to School Boards. They had no jealousy of them, and therefore they thought their omission from the benefit of this grant was very hard indeed. If the principle on which the Government were acting was to bring about a better and more efficient system of education, then, in leaving out those who required their help, they were not fulfilling their obligations to the country, and they were offending against every principle of equality. He was afraid he could not vote for the present Resolution, but when it came to granting the 5s. in Committee, then he could promise the Government his assistance.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
said that he should trespass for only a few minutes upon the time of the House. He should have preferred to 1001 wait until the Bill arrived at a later stage before he dealt with the provisions of the Measure, but there were some questions which it was only open to him to discuss at the present stage, and therefore he was compelled to refer to them on that occasion. He confessed that he had heard the very interesting speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury with sonic surprise. They thought that they were going to learn the details of some small Measure for the distribution of the sum voted last year, and they found that what was proposed by the Government Bill was really a new departure in our educational policy. Several hon. Members had spoken of Voluntary Schools as if they were of necessity denominational schools. That, however, was not the case. There were in many parts of the country, as in his own immediate neighbourhood, a great number of small parishes in which there were Voluntary Schools which were not denominational, but were maintained for the purpose of avoiding the elaborate and expensive machinery of a School Board, and the heartburnings that resulted from School Board elections. As far as denominational schools themselves were concerned he confessed that he had grave doubts as to the advantage of dogmatic theology fur young children. The great founders of religions based their teaching not upon dogmatic theology but upon morals and conduct. However that might be, they could not shut their eyes to the fact that denominational schools were supported by a great number of our countrymen and therefore they were bound to regard them as forming a very important part of our educational system. He would venture to throw out two suggestions that he thought would greatly benefit Voluntary Schools and save expense to the rates. In the first place there were the class subjects, which were History, Geography, English, and Elementary Science. English schools were only allowed to take two of these subjects, whereas Scotch schools were allowed to take all four. The Scotch schools, therefore, were enabled to earn 2s. a head more than the English schools could. There could be no doubt that the Scotch system was the best from an educational point of view, and if permitted here also Voluntary Schools might 1002 earn 2s. per child more than it was now possible for them to do. We ought to encourage the study of these subjects in the smaller schools throughout the country. He could not see why our English Schools should be placed at a disadvantage in this respect. This was specially important in view of the abolition of the 17s. 6d. limit. He should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman in passing whether the 17s. 6d. limit could be removed in the ease of the Board Schools as well as in that of the Voluntary Schools.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
said the next point on which he should like to say a word was with reference to the subscriptions and the rates. Hon. Members would recognise that it was impossible that Voluntary Schools could be carried on without the aid of subscriptions, and that if the Voluntary Schools ceased to exist the cost to the ratepayers and the taxpayers of the country would be enormously increased. It must be admitted, however, that it was a great hardship upon those who subscribed to maintain the Voluntary Schools that they should also be called upon to pay rates for the maintenance of the Board Schools. It was obvious that in that ease the subscribers to those schools had to pay twice over for the education of their district. He asked therefore whether it would not be fair to allow subscriptions to Voluntary Schools to count against the School Board rate. The rates would, in the long run, be relieved, because as Voluntary Schools were more economical than Board Schools, every £.1 in subscriptions to the Voluntary Schools would save some £1 5s. to the rates. The adoption of his suggestion would greatly encourage subscriptions, and would therefore do much to assist the Voluntary Schools. It would also save rates and taxes, because it would go far to obviate the necessity for any call either on the ratepayers or on the National Exchequer. He should be prepared to support the Resolution which had been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, but he should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he could not, to a great extent, meet the needs and exigencies of the Voluntary 1003 Schools—which formed so important and valuable a part of our educational system—by relaxing the rules with regard to the payment for class subjects and by allowing subscriptions to those schools to count against the rates.
§ MR. J. H. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
thought that a large amount of perverted ingenuity had been shown by the promoters of this Measure. It would have been easy to construct a small and good Bill, but this was a small and bad Bill. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman had been misled by the misrepresentations of his own friends—misrepresentations based upon fallacies. The first of such fallacies was that the condition of the Voluntary Schools was due to the competition of the Board Schools. That he denied. The pecuniary position of the Voluntary Schools was due to the growing requirements of the Education Department, which were due to the growing requirements of the public. The requirements of the Education Department had affected the Board Schools as well, and in endeavouring to meet them the Board Schools had incurred considerable expense. There had been no competition on the part of School Boards with the object of driving Voluntary Schools out of the field. For some seven years past most School Boards bad been under the control of majorities, composed of Churchmen and Conservatives, and yet these very majorities—returned on the cry of economy and justice to Voluntary Schools—had been unable to check the expenditure of the Boards on education. That expenditure had gone on, and rightly so. Could anybody contend that the School Boards had spent too much money on education? Why, there was no country in the civilised world which did not spend, either actually or relatively, more on primary education than this country did. Surely when so much of the national welfare depended upon education it would not be right to check the expenditure of School Boards in a niggardly way. The simple and logical course for the Government to take would have been to grant to Board Schools and Voluntary Schools alike a sum in aid of their local expenditure. What harm would there have been in a Bill which said: "We have required more work from both Board Schools and Voluntary Schools, and therefore we will 1004 assist them both to meet their expenditure by a grant of 5s. more?" As to the repeal of the 17s. 6d. limit, it would result in placing the finances of the Voluntary Schools in four or five years in exactly the same position which they now occupied. Five shillings of State income would have been substituted for 5s. of local income; and four or five years hence the friends of the Voluntary Schools would be coming to that House and asking for a further grant, with less justification than they had now, because in that time local aid would very largely have ceased to be. Why was it that the Government were not prepared to give this 5s. grant all round? He ascribed it to the fact that they had been misled with regard to what the School Boards would most likely do with the 5s. grant. It had been assumed that if they gave more to the School Boards they would increase the competition of the Board School managers as against the Voluntary Schools. He did not believe that that would be the case. The School Boards had felt the strain of the requirements of the Education Department as much as the Voluntary Schools had, and they would gladly take an opportunity of reducing their rates to the amount that a 5s. grant would enable them to reduce them. If they compared the expenditure of the Government on the Metropolitan Police with the Government expenditure on the School Boards what did they find? The Police Rate amounted last year to £776,458, whilst the Imperial subsidy was £987,000. The rate levied by the School Board amounted to £1,473,125, whilst the Imperial subsidy was only £590,376. Thus, for the police that House granted in relief of local taxation £987 for every £776 raised by rates, whilst for the London Board Schools Parliament granted only £59 for every £147 raised by rates. In the provinces they found much the same state of things. The Provincial School Boards raised £2,146,043 in rates, and the Imperial subsidy was £2,050,174; but the county authorities raised in rates £2,289,265, and received as subsidy £2,375,984. Thus the Provincial School Boards received £205 in subsidy for every £214 raised by rates, whilst the county authorities received £237 in subsidy for every £228 raised by rates. 1005 Surely the School Boards were justly entitled to a larger subsidy. If it was true, as he thought, that the School Boards would use this 5s. grant in relief of the rates, what could be said to justify the withholding of the grant from them? If it was said that the aim of the promoters of the Bill was to increase the finances of the Voluntary Schools as compared with those of the Board Schools, he would point out that that result would be achieved if the School Board rate was reduced by the amount of this 5s. grant, and the Voluntary Schools added the 5s. to their expenditure. The Bill, he maintained, contained elements of grave danger, and the first of these was the withdrawal of the 17s. 6d. limit. If they took away that check and safeguard, that protection against the withdrawal of voluntary contributions, in a very few years the income of the average Voluntary School would drop very nearly to the level of the present day. The second element was the proposal of associations of Voluntary Schools which, if they consisted more of urban than of rural schools were to receive more money than if they consisted of rural schools as compared with urban schools. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that urban, schools were more in need of money than the rural schools. He denied this. In London there were federated Voluntary Schools under the Diocesan Board which were as badly off as any schools in the country; but if they took the Voluntary Schools as a whole they would find that the rural Voluntary Schools, like the rural Board Schools, were worse off than the urban Board and Voluntary Schools, and if more money was going to be given it should be to the rural schools and not to the urban schools. He did not gather from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that it was proposed to give any varying amounts as aids to schools according to their varied necessities. That was a most important point. It was essential in any well considered scheme of aid to the rural schools in particular that there should be a differentiation in the amount of aid given to them varying in inverse ratio according to the size of the schools. As to the compulsory federation plan, at present Voluntary Schools had the right to federate in a voluntary way. It was 1006 open to all Voluntary Schools at present to combine, but they did not care to do it. For example, they might have a Voluntary School with an active committee raising a considerable sum of money from local contributions; on the other hand they might have a school where the vicar and the committee did not do their duty in a, business-like way; but the idea of the Government was to cast all the schools into the pool, the well-doing as well as the ill-doing. Unless they could show some reasonable cause for not federating they would not obtain any special aid at all. Here was a premium placed on incapacity, a special payment in respect of neglect of duty. Then there was the question as to the disposal of this money. In Clause IV. of last year's Bill there was an attempt to earmark the income for the purposes for which it was most required, but he did not gather from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that the Bill this year contained any proposal of the kind. There was nothing whatever to prevent the whole 5s. per child going, not to increase the staff and improve the payment of the poorly-paid teachers, but to relieve the subscribers or to increase the rent charge in the school accounts, and payable to the church or chapel connected with the schools. It appeared to him that the Bill was one which, except in the matter of size, was as bad as the Bill of last year. If the First Lord of the Treasury had been present during the whole of the discussion he would have seen that the omens were against his Bill already. ["No, no!"] This infantile Bill opened its eyes in much the same gloom as that in which its predecessor closed its eyes. [Laughter.] It had few friends on the opposite side of the House. Member after Member had spoken against the Bill, and he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to cast away the theological prejudice which made him inacapable of doing justice to the School Boards, and made this Measure an indirect negative attack on the School Boards, just as the Bill of last year was a positive and direct attack on the School Boards. If the right hon. Gentleman would specifically state that during the Session there would be a Bill brought in giving the grant to the Board Schools he would receive support from the Opposition side of the House. It was 1007 not too late to make this Bill a Measure for aiding Board Schools, and many Members were prepared to vote for a grant to Board and Voluntary Schools. The right hon. Gentleman appealed to the House to defer the general engagement on the educational Question. He could not imagine a conjuncture more favourable to that side of the House than that which occurred last Session. He would appeal to the Government to give the grant all round, and in that way they would do an act of justice which would be recognised by the House and the country, and which would do more to settle the Education Question upon a firm and friendly basis than a dozen Bills such as they had before the House tonight.
§ MR. ALFRED HOPKINSON (Wilts, Cricklade)
thought it had been proved, and, indeed, almost admitted, that if a Bill was passed on the lines of the Resolution before the House it would result in a condition of things which could not possibly be; a permanent settlement of the question, and which would introduce new anomalies and new injustices. [Opposition cheers.] He said so not from any spirit of hostility to Voluntary Schools. He admitted fully that some Measure of relief was necessary for those schools. But the difficulties and injustices to which he referred were not, merely as between Voluntary and Board Schools, but as between one locality and another—[Opposition cheers]—and which ought not to be allowed to exist even for the space of a single year. He had in his mind's eye two parishes side by side. In one there was an admirably conducted Voluntary School system, fair to the Dissenters, and where no religious difficulty whatever was felt. In the next parish there was a poor School Board. Now as between those two parishes he had no preference in this particular regard for one parish over the other, but he could not go down and say it was a fair way of dealing if, out of public funds to which both contributed equally, a large sum was given to the district where there was a Voluntary School and nothing whatever to the district where there was a, poor School Board. [Opposition cheers.] He knew another and much more important place where there was an admirable School Board system, where 90 per cent. of the children attend the Board Schools, 1008 and where again no religious difficulty had ever been heard of. How could he possibly go down and say to the men in that town, nine-tenths of whom were fair-minded artisans, it was a right and reasonable thing that out of the general taxes to which they contribute their full quota practically nothing should be given to them, while a large amount was given to some neighbouring district which was no more populous, which might be richer, but which had neglected its educational duties? [Opposition cheers.] The only way out of the difficulty was to have some distinct and definite pledge that the question should be dealt with in favour of Board Schools, at all events the poorer Board Schools, on some early day. The mere statement that the question would be dealt with "if there was time" was not good enough. [Opposition cheers.] The right hon. Member for Bodmin had suggested one solution. Another would be, that before the Bill passed the House another Bill should be introduced for making a grant to Board Schools. If that were done then it might be possible to support the proposals of the Government; otherwise not. [Opposition cheers.] Individual opinions of private Members might not appear to be of much importance, but they were of importance to this extent—that if those who held them were there, and the Government were there with their support, it was because the statements such Members had made to the electors at the General Election were thought to be in accordance with justice and fairness. If this scheme were to stand and to stand alone without a distinct pledge of a further Bill he must confess that it would be impossible to make the same appeal to the electors on the same platform again. [Loud Opposition cheers.]
MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)
said that the First Lord of the Treasury had probably by this time been disabused of the idea that a small Bill, if it were a bad Bill, was easier to pass than a big Bill. The Government had admitted the anomalies which existed in the present educational system, but they had only attempted to redress the grievances of one side. In dealing with the Church Schools the Government's was a cash transaction; but other parties had to be content with a promise for the future, 1009 subject to all Parliamentary accidents. It was said that this procedure was justified on account of the greater urgency of the case for the Voluntary Schools. One hon. Member even said that unless this aid were given the schools would perish. That confirmed the idea that the Church of England had attempted too great a task, in seeking to monopolise so large a part of the educational machinery of the country. The necessities of the Board Schools in poor districts were just as great; a fact which the Vice President had admitted last Session, It was said that the condition of the Voluntary Schools was brought about by the competition of the Board Schools. But there were thousands of parishes where no School Board existed. Again, the requirements of the Education Department fell equally on both classes of schools; and as to the rejoinder that the Board Schools could fall back upon the rates, it was quite obvious that the taxable power of a small and poor parish must be absolutely limited. The First Lord of the Treasury insisted that the control of the Education Department over the schools was quite sufficient; as the assistance given was State-aid and not rate-aid. But money did not supply everything that was necessary in the management of public schools. Public interest as well as public money was required; and the great virtue of local control was that it gave to all the people of a parish an interest in the parish schools. It had been said that parents showed their preference for Voluntary Schools by sending their children to such schools. But in 8,000 parishes parents could not do anything else, because in those parishes there were no other schools within their reach. He looked upon the scheme of the Government as a retrogressive scheme. It was in the teeth of the declarations of Members of the Government during the Recess, and notably of the Vice President of the Council. It took away from the Board Schools that which was their due, and differentiated between the Board Schools and the Voluntary Schools. The measure was a measure to bribe the inhabitants of parishes to maintain Voluntary Schools, by offering them increased assistance from the State; while, on the other hand, the friends of 1010 the Board Schools were penalised, because they were told that where Board Schools existed they should not receive a single penny from the grant. It was ridiculous to suppose that a, one-sided and nakedly sectarian measure such as this would bring about the settlement of the Education Question which the First Lord of the Treasury anticipated. It was clear, even from the speeches delivered from the Ministerial side of the House, that the Bill, if passed into law, would simply add fuel to the controversial fire. It would increase the antagonism between the Voluntary and Board School systems, and, although he had no doubt as to what the issue would be in that struggle, in the interests of education and social peace he greatly desired that it should be avoided. [Cheers.]
§ MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said he should support the Resolution, because he believed it would improve education in the Voluntary Schools, and especially those in the country districts. At the same time he was bound to sympathise with the expression of regret which had come from one of his hon. Friends that the Government had not been able to provide in the proposed Bill some relief for necessitous Board School districts. [Opposition cheers.] He was not, however, altogether surprised at the action of the Government, for undoubtedly they had reason to anticipate, from what had passed in many of the Debates of last year, that a separate proposal to give so much per child to the Voluntary Schools would have been unanimously accepted by the House. It was also pretty clear from certain speeches that any proposal the Government might have made in the Bill to assist necessitous School Boards would certainly have also been made a matter of controversy by hon. Members who insisted that every School Board had an equal claim to this relief. However, the Government had already on various occasions pledged themselves that the question of necessitous School Board districts would be dealt with, and dealt with promptly. The Committee was bound to rely loyally on those pledges. But he felt sure that if necessary they would have that pledge repeated in still stronger terms before the Debate closed. 1011 Those of them who were in favour of both these measures of relief might, he thought, without hesitation, vote cordially in favour of this Resolution, leaving it to the discretion of the Government whether it should be dealt with in one Measure or in two. Surely there were very few hon. Members, whatever they might wish, who expected the disappearance at any rate in the immediate future of Voluntary Schools, and so long as any large section desired—as undoubtedly they did at the present moment—some security for definite religious instruction in the Schools, so long ought they to support the Voluntary Schools. He was always ready to admit that many School Boards did give admirable religious instruction, but there were many districts in the country where the ratepayers probably preferred to pay voluntary rates—not subscriptions—in order to avoid what they thought the unnecessary extravagance of School Board expenditure. The present policy of hon. Members opposite, was not so much an assault on the Voluntary Schools as a starving out policy. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought there was an increasing demand for a higher and better education in our elementary schools, the curriculum was always being extended, salaries were gradually rising, and the numbers of children in the schools were increasing. But they must remember the different conditions in which the Voluntary Schools and Board Schools were. The Board Schools had the purse of the ratepayer to draw upon, and although in a sense that purse was limited, yet they could not expect the same length of purse to exist among the subscribers to Voluntary Schools. It was not the fact that subscriptions to Voluntary Schools had, during the last 15 years fallen off; so far from that being the case there had been during the last 15 years an absolute increase of some-thing like £150,000, and he found that the average per child had kept up to very nearly 6s. 9d. So that there was good evidence that the subscribers to Voluntary Schools were making laudable and substantial efforts to keep up with the constantly increasing demand which was made upon them. It was extremely difficult for any authority to discriminate between these different schools, and he very much doubted whether any dis- 1012 crimination could be made between town and country in this matter. It was very difficult to intrust any Government Department with wide powers of discretion. However wise, judicious, and fair they might be in reality, undoubtedly their action would give rise to accusations of favouritism. The difficulty might to some extent be got over by the Government proposal for the association of schools. Local know-ledge and combination were wanted. He had always considered that the best thing for our Voluntary School system was to have more association of school managers. The great weakness of the country Voluntary Schools at any rate was isolation. So long as they were isolated they could not have really efficient teaching, and often they could not have really efficient management. Any Measure that would promote the association on a large scale of Voluntary Schools, would be of great permanent benefit to them and education generally. Whether it could be done by compulsion was doubtful. But any means short of compulsion might well be resorted to. Certainly the best guarantee against waste was to allot sums of money rather to groups of schools than individuals. For these reasons he thought the plan outlined in the Bill was likely at any rate for a certain number of years to give relief and improvement to our Voluntary School system. Whether it would prove a permanent solution of the question was very doubtful. Personally, he thought there was no permanent solution short of rate aid to Voluntary Schools wherever it might be required, and he would not hesitate to allow, where rate aid was received, a due proportion of popular representative control. The Government had been wise and statesmenlike to begin by a proposal which did no real injustice to any class of school, which would undoubtedly tend to relieve the pressure on Voluntary Schools, and with proper supervision would prove a permanent benefit to the education of the country.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
agreed that the pledge given by the First Lord of the Treasury as to extending the support proposed to be given by Board Schools to Voluntary Schools should be repeated in more definite terms. They ought to know whether the assistance proposed to be 1013 given in the future Bill to the Board Schools would be similar in extent and granted on similar principles to the assistance proposed to be given to Voluntary Schools. That proposal made no distinction between necessitous Voluntary Schools and those not necessitous. It was proposed to give a five per cent. grant for every child in every Voluntary School. He should like to know whether it was proposed to give a similar grant to all the children in Board Schools whether necessitous or not. He did not understand that the grant of five per cent. per child was to be given to the particular school which the child attended. He understood the object of grouping schools was to enable the grant earned by one child to be allocated to another. Would Board Schools be grouped for the same purpose or would the grants earned by children in prosperous Board Schools be allocated to less fortunate School Boards which might thereby be able to get a larger grant than was earned by their own children. The necessity of extending the provision to Board Schools seemed to underlie all the speeches delivered on the Opposition side. He entirely shared the view that not only ought relief to be given to necessi-Board Schools but to all alike. It was a mistake to treat this question as only affecting the interests of necessitous Board Schools. Necessitous ratepayers ought also to be considered who existed in all School Board districts wealthy or not. The richest School Board derived its rates from the ratepayers, many of whom were necessitous, and the ratepayers' pockets should be relieved as well as the pockets of contributors to Voluntary Schools. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would have to feel the difficulty which in many constituencies would be found very great that the Government had given large grants in relief of wealthy subscribers to Voluntary Schools, and refused or omitted to give any grant whatever, in relief of the pockets of the heavily burdened ratepayers. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to think they did well in denouncing School Board extravagance, because they thereby spoke in favour of the ratepayer, but School Board expenditure went no further than was necessitated by the exigencies of the case, and, therefore, the refusal to extend this grant to School Boards was simply a refusal to assist 1014 necessitous ratepayers where School Boards existed. Hon. Members opposite also argued that it was wise this legislation should be piecemeal, and that in the first place the relief should be confined to Voluntary Schools. They argued in this way because they thought it was easier to pass a Bill of a limited character than to pass one of an extended nature. That would be true if the limitation were one of the subjects of the Bill. He denied entirely that it was easier to pass a Bill if they limited the operation of the relief given by it to a particular section of the community. The machinery necessary for giving this relief was practically the same machinery as would be necessary if the Bill gave relief to Board Schools. He did not wish to attribute to the Government the sinister desire to pass this Bill, and the hope that some difficulty might arise which would make it impossible to pass another, but certainly one was forced to the belief that there was some extraordinary motive behind the desire to pass this Measure. There was another point which excited a very great suspicion in his mind. The word "voluntary" was introduced. It seemed to him it was absolutely unnecessary even for the purposes of the Government to introduce that word. If the word "elementary," were substituted, it would be perfectly-possible to give the relief to Voluntary Schools, but it would also be possible to extend the operation of the Measure to Board Schools, if the House desired to do so. He put it to the First Lord of the Treasury, whether it would not be wise to make such an alteration in the wording of the Bill. That course would have been a much wiser one than passing an unnecessary and a stringent Resolution to tie the hands of the House so as to prevent equal justice being done to the Voluntary and Board Schools. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. ERNEST GRAY (West Ham, N.)
said that the Debate that evening had been remarkable for more reasons than one. He had noticed with no little satisfaction, the improved friendliness of tone adopted by hon. Members on his side of the House towards the School Boards, and the absence of attack on the Voluntary Schools by hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Cheers.] It appeared as though the Bill of last Session had 1015 really served a good purpose in bringing both sides of the House more nearly to an understanding on the great education question. ["Hear, hear!"] That being the case, he could not help expressing regret that the Government had not seen their way to take advantage of the rapprochement. and to bring in a scheme which, while doing justice to both Voluntary and Board Schools, would have met the general views of the House and of the country at large. [Cheers.] He could conceive of but one good excuse for dealing with only one section of the Government Scheme at the present time—namely, that they intended to pass this Measure and bring it into operation by March 31st, so that the Voluntary Schools might draw their grants up to the end of the present financial year. ["Hear, hear!"] That was the general belief in the country, and he must say that it was one of the surprises of the evening to find now that the Government did not intend to take that course. [Opposition cheers.] He could not understand why the passage of this Measure had not been facilitated by the incorporation in one and the same Bill of proposals for the necessitous Board Schools. He hoped that nobody would accuse him of any lack of sympathy with Voluntary Schools, because he ventured to uge that the claims of the necessitous Board School districts should be either considered in that Measure before the House or at an early date after the present proposals were passed. To that end, a promise or pledge should be given by the First Lord of the Treasury to undertake a Bill of that nature in somewhat more explicit terms than they had heard that afternoon from him. He was not desirous of seeing that pledge form part of the present Resolution, nor was he desirous of seeing a Bill introduced at once in order to give the House mi earnest of security for the pledge. It would be sufficient for him, and doubtless for the House if the First Lord of the Treasury would state to them, in unequivocal language, that it was his intention to bring in a Bill dealing with the necessitous Board School districts at the earliest possible date. Otherwise he had no doubt that one of the earliest effects of this Bill would be to intensify the attack made on the voluntary system, and to more acutely develop the feeling of 1016 in justice which now existed throughout the country in regard to the Board Schools, and that sense of injustice unless it was removed would eventually drag down the Voluntary Schools. He was therefore pleading not only in the interests of the poorer School Board districts, but also in the interests of the Voluntary Schools that the two Measures should have been placed before the Committee at one and the same time. ["Hear, hear!"] His sympathy with the Voluntary School system, and with the Church of England had been measured by many a Sunday's work in their behalf during the last 25 years, and he hoped, therefore, that no one would accuse him of attempting to deprive the Voluntary Schools of the funds which he knew they needed so much, because he pleaded that the necessitous Board Schools should receive equal relief. ["Hear, hear!"] He knew there were many Voluntary Schools which needed relief in buildings, appliances, and staff, not through the competition of neighbouring Board Schools, but through the constantly increasing demands made by the Central Department. Those demands the Board Schools were able to meet, but the Voluntary Schools through lack of funds had been unable to do so. There was the inequality between the two systems—inequality not created by the Board Schools but the ever increasing demands of the Department and the failure of the locality to meet those demands, with the result that in many districts the Voluntary Schools compared unfavour ably with the neighbouring Board Schools. Yet he knew that many of the Voluntary Schools were well equipped, well staffed, and well managed, and could compare favourably in every way with the very best Board School in the country. These were schools which did not need relief, and the managers of which, if left to themselves would hardly apply for relief under this Bill, and they certainly would not do so if any conditions were attached to the granting of that relief, and to him it seemed to be folly to propose any scheme which provided that those schools which did not need relief should share in the money which was so much wanted by the poorer schools. ["Hear, hear!"] There might on that ground be some- 1017 thing to be said for this system of federation—a system which, he thought, would need more explanation, and no doubt would be more fully understood when the terms of the Bill were before them. For the moment he would like to ask for information at once as to the possible size of these federations—whether two schools could form a federation, for example, or whether it would be a federation covering two or three counties. Much would depend on the area over which the federation would have control. He must say, in passing, that he regretted that some such system of federation was not also to be compulsorily applied to the small School Boards of the country, so that proper and more efficient management might be secured. But his object in rising that night was rather to emphasise the urgent, the crying, necessity that existed for the relief, not of the School Boards, not of the Board Schools, but of the ratepayer—if they liked, of the Churchman—in the School Board districts, who for the last 25 years had been compelled to pay a rate which pressed with enormous severity on the Churchman and on the ratepayer, who was to have no relief under this proposal, while a neighbouring district where probably the Voluntary Schools had been supported by not more than two-and-a-half per cent. of the population, would receive relief. He took his own constituency—one he had brought before the Committee and the House on previous occasions, and, he was sorry to say, should be compelled to bring forward until relief was granted to the district—an area, including a population of over a quarter of a million, and with a School Board rate of 2s. 6d. in the pound. This rate was not due to extravagance—he could not press that too strongly on his hon. Friends on that side of the House. Anybody with a grain of common sense would see that, with a rate of these proportions, the ratepayers would take pretty good care that there was no extravagance on the part of their representatives. The very existence of that heavy rate was in itself a check upon all extravagance. The high rate was simply due to the fact that they had a low rateable value and a very dense population, coupled, perhaps, with the other influencing cause, that it was a new district, formed since the Act of 1018 1870, and therefore but slightly supplied with Voluntary Schools. Let them put this Bill on the very lowest, the most immoral grounds they could—that this Bill was for the relief of the Church supporters of the Government. He did not pretend for a single instant that that was the ground to put it upon, but let them assume it for the sake of argument. Then, surely the Churchman in a district who had been contributing to the support of the Voluntary Schools that were there, and had been compelled to go on, year after year, paying this constantly increasing School Board rate, might well look to the Government and claim relief with as much justice and with as much hope of receiving sympathy as a Church supporter of Voluntary Schools in another district. And, should he say with greater expectation of securing relief, and with greater hope of securing sympathy than the Churchman in another district who had not supported the Voluntary Schools. It must be clearly understood that of that one-third of the population which now paid no School Board rate, but very few indeed of those ten million people subscribed at the present time to Voluntary Schools. Might he venture to say that if Churchmen generally had done their duty to their schools—ay! and Nonconformists too, who had kept their own separate management—if they had done their duty to their schools as well, as thoroughly and as loyally as the small percentage had done, then this claim would not have been made on the Government for relief. Take a district like Preston where the support of the Voluntary Schools had fallen entirely upon the purse of the few, and where the great mass of the population had shirked their duty to their schools and evaded their responsibilities. He appealed to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he was not accurately describing Preston, as a town which had successfully resisted the advent of a School Board, partly on account of its love for Voluntary Schools, and partly on account of its dislike of the School Board rate, and that the number of those who had resisted it on account of their dislike of the School Board rate was very much larger than those who had shown their loyalty to Voluntary Schools. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. GRAY
continuing, said he hoped he was not misrepresenting his hon. Friend's constituency. He had no intention of doing so when he said he was informed by some of the most energetic supporters of the Church in Preston quite recently, that unfortunately every effort they had made on behalf of their Voluntary Schools, fell largely and constantly on the same few individuals who were consistent in their support, and they had regretted, as everyone, every friend of the Voluntary system must regret, that the large mass of these so-called Church supporters had not contributed to the support of the Church Schools. He ventured to say that those who were labouring in these necessitous Board districts, had as much right to appeal to the Government for assistance as those who had failed to support the schools in Voluntary School areas, and he very bitterly regretted that the scheme now before the Committee left these necessitous districts altogether unprovided with relief, and he feared with but very scanty assurances as to the future. [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY "No, no,!"] He was very glad to hear that disclaimer. He must say that from the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman, he had a hope, a very strong hope, that in the early part of this Session some provision would be made for them.
And, it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
Committee report progress; to sit again tomorrow.