HC Deb 11 February 1897 vol 46 cc203-50

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

*MR. REGINALD M'KENNA (Monmouth, N.)

proposed to leave out the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "no Bill will be satisfactory to this House which does not provide for Board Schools as well as Voluntary Schools." He stated that he approached the problem raised by the Second Reading of this Bill on general principles. He did not pretend to any further knowledge than was open to every hon. Member. The basis of our educational establishment was the voluntary system, and the Act of 1870 distributed the carrying out of our educational system over school districts. The Act compelled each district to provide sufficient school accommodation, and where before 1870 there was already sufficient accommodation in existence, the Acts of that year and of 1876 were rather Acts in the nature of exoneration than of bringing fresh burdens to bear on those districts. Three classes of districts had been created by the Act of 1870:—(1) School districts already fully supplied with educational facilities, or subsequently supplied by voluntary effort—these were the Voluntary School Districts; (2) districts which might be called mixed districts, partly supplied by School Boards and partly by Voluntary Schools; (3) a very large class of districts supplied exclusively by School Boards. The Voluntary School district was the one which generally speaking possessed prior to 1870 the greatest adaptation for the needs of education. Many districts now supplied by Voluntary Schools had not been affected by the Act of 1870 except in so far as they had received an additional parliamentary grant. In the pure School Board District, on the other hand, the inhabitants had from the beginning supplied the whole of their educational requirements. They had had no endowment; no beneficent ancestor had established a school in their district; no wealthy residents had borne the expense of maintenance. Without experience, endowment or wealth, they had had to supply themselves with the whole of their educational equipment since the Education Act came into force. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to discriminate between these different districts, and the pure School Board district was the only one which, under this Measure, was to receive no relief. He was going to say to the district, which had the least burden to bear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast paid little and much shall be given thee;" and, on the other hand, he was going to say to the pure Board School district, which from a variety of causes had been least equipped for the educational struggle, "You shall have nothing at all" The right hon. Gentleman under this Bill. "fed the rich and the poor he sent empty away." That was the principle on which the right hon. Gentleman acted in discriminating as between districts. Passing from the question of districts, he proceeded to consider its bearing on the inhabitants. It was clear that within the Voluntary Schools district the voluntary subscribers had borne the whole cost of education, apart from the grants from the Education Department. In the mixed district the ratepayers paid part, and the Voluntary School subscribers paid as ratepayers and something more in respect of voluntary subscriptions. It was evident, therefore, that if they were going to discriminate at all between classes of persons, the voluntary subscriber in the mixed district was entitled to double relief as against a subscriber in a pure Voluntary School district where there were no rates. On the principle of the Amendment such a subscriber would receive double relief, inasmuch as his rates would be diminished at the same time that he received assistance in respect of his Voluntary School. What had been the avowed reason for introducing this Measure? They had been told that it was the intolerable strain on the Voluntary Schools. The intolerable strain was supposed to be represented in these schools by £620,000 a year. This strain was supposed to be brought about by the Education Department in making further demands upon the schools. That increased strain was no doubt met by increased voluntary subscriptions. Since 1876, when the Parliamentary grant was increased., voluntary subscriptions had been augmented to the amount of a little over £100,000 a year. But what was the extent of the relief? For every pound of increased strain the right hon. Gentleman gave £5 of relief. He called that an intolerable relief to a slight burden. The right hon. Gentleman could not justify his proposal upon any statement of figures; he could only justify it by either open or covert attack on the Board Schools. If the right hon. Gentleman wished to establish universal denominational education let him do so openly. Let him propose rate aid to the Voluntary Schools. The right hon. Gentleman had not got the courage of his opinions. He could only indulge in a plan of piecemeal pilfering. He surreptitiously nibbled at a principle which he dared not openly attack. His own supporters would not follow him in a declared assault on the School Boards; and all he did, therefore, was to offer a bribe to each school district in turn to renounce their freedom and to accept denominational teaching. He hoped that on this Amendment they should have the unanimous support of hon. Members from Ireland, who on the resolutions were not able to go into the same Lobby with the Leader of the Opposition. This was a, question of abstract principle; a, claim for equal treatment of one school district as against another school district, just such a claim as hon. Members from Ireland would bring before the House in connection with the Report of the Financial Relations Committee. Some hon. Members had stated that the difficulty of the Voluntary School subscribers had been that there were so few of them that a heavy burden was cast upon individuals. That was an argument against the whole Voluntary School system. It only showed that in particular districts where the money was not easily raised, there was no effective demand for denominational teaching; otherwise the inhabitants, with the fear of a, School Board Rate before them, would willingly subscribe to the schools. He begged to move.

MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)

seconded the Amendment. He said the discussion on the Second Reading could be narrowed down to one issue—whether there was at present equality of treatment between the Board and Voluntary Schools, and what would be the effect of the Bill on the relative positions. It was clear that before the two classes of schools could be compared, it must be supposed that the Board Schools were under private management and control. He admitted to the full the value of the sacrifices made by Churchmen for the maintenance and building of the Voluntary Schools; but the moment an appeal was made on their behalf to public funds, the public had a right to some degree of popular control. His contention was that the denominational system had succeeded in spite of its voluntary element, and not on account of it. Further, the history of the last half-century showed that it was impossible for the denominational schools to provide adequately for the elementary education of the country. The Government claimed a mandate from the country for this Bill. But the mandate would extend to the helping of the necessitous Board Schools as well as of the Voluntary Schools; and, at any rate, it was not backed by the overwhelming feeling of the country. This mandate seemed to be a variable quantity according to circumstances. For instance, as the present Archbishop of Canterbury complained, if the Bishops asked the Government for temperance legislation, the deputation was politely bowed out; but if they asked for increased aid to the Voluntary Schools, they received it at once. He looked forward to a universal system of School Boards; and this Bill failed entirely, because it handed over more money to private control, appointed sectarian bodies to administer it, compelled well-managed schools to confederate with badly-managed schools, and, by repealing the 17s. 6d. limit, removed the chief security for the continuance of voluntary subscriptions. It did all this without giving any corresponding advantage to Board Schools. There were special reasons why Wales should oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. The overwhelming feeling of the Principality was against this Bill. Even in the present condition of parties there were 25 Welsh Members against the Bill and only nine for it. Lord Salisbury had said it was unfair that legislation should be forced on England by the Celtic fringes. Was it not still more unjust that English and Conservative legislation in behalf of Anglican education should be forced on Welsh Nonconformity. Again, Wales already had her separate system of education. She had her own intermediate schools, colleges, and universities established by Act of Parliament, and all were popularly controlled. Was it likely then that Wales would submit to the perpetuation of irresponsible primary education without a protest? No one who knew Wales, the circumstances of the people, and the part which the Church schools had played in the life of Wales, would wonder at the attitude taken by the Welsh Members. He should like to point out how the Bill would operate in Wales upon the system of elementary education. There were 840 denominational schools and 821 Board Schools in the Principality. The number of children in average attendance in the denominational schools was—Church of England, 71,940; of other denominations, 24,400—making a total of 96,000. In the Board Schools there were 171,507 children. The subscriptions of members of the Church of England amounted to 7s. per head of the children attending their Voluntary Schools, or a total of £25,000. They earned in grant £101,314; and the result of the Bill would be to hand them over an additional sum of £17,895. It would, therefore, be possible for the subscriptions to drop from 7s. per child to 2s. per child, and for every 2s. subscribed the Voluntary Schools would receive £1 the State, or 17 times the amount of their subscriptions. The cost of the Board Schools in Wales was £2 4s. 4d. per child, provided from the parliamentary grant, and from a rate which yielded 14s. 10½d. per child. On the whole, the ratepayers of Wales paid £127,998 every year towards the Board Schools. They received nothing from the Bill, and that, in his opinion, constituted a grave injustice. But there were special reasons why that injustice should be more keenly felt in Wales than in other parts of the country. Most of the Church Schools in Wales were in country parts. The great majority of the inhabitants of those parishes were Nonconformists in religion and Liberals in politics; and he could say, from his own personal experience, that the Church Schools in Wales were indirectly made instruments of party and agencies to win the children of Nonconformists to the Church of England. It would, of course, be said that there was a Conscience Clause. But the Conscience Clause was a dead letter. ["Hear, hear!"] The First Lord of the Treasury had said that one of the chief aims of the Bill was to maintain the efficiency of religious teaching in the day schools throughout the country. That was another grievance. Over 70,000 children—most of them Dissenters—were forced to attend those schools in Wales, and were forced to accept the teaching of the Church of England. Again, so far as the teachers were concerned, the case of Wales was worse than the case of England. Wales was a poor country, and some of the most painful episodes he had witnessed there were the instances of bright children who had been made pupil teachers—to whose families the few pounds a year they earned as pupil teachers was a great help—and who had been forced to leave the religious communion to which their parents were attached in order that they might retain those positions. ["Hear, hear!"] Some hon. Members in favour of the Bill had asserted that it was necessary, for the sake of religion, to maintain the denominational schools. So far as Wales was concerned, that was absolutely unnecessary. The cause of religion in Wales bad long ago been lifted far above the elementary schools. There were in Wales 2,300 competent ministers; 4,000 Nonconformist Churches, and the people subscribed over £500,000 every year towards the support of religion. There were also in Wales a large number of Nonconformist Sunday Schools. In connection with only three of the principal Nonconformist bodies in Wales there were 400,000 members of Sunday Schools in the Principality. If, therefore, they took the number of children as compare I with adults to be one-half of that number, they had as many children attending the Sunday Schools of three of the Nonconformist communities in Wales as there were attending all the elementary schools, Board and Voluntary, every day of the week. It had been said over and over again in emphatic terms that it would be impossible to establish a system of universal participation by all schools in those State grants. But they voted many millions in addition to the Army and Navy Estimates every year without a murmur; and if they were willing to do that for the purposes of the Army and Navy, how much more willingly ought they to do it for the paramount interest of the education of the children! Besides, if the Bill passed it would place a charge of £620,000 upon the Consolidated Fund. And for what purpose? For the purpose of aiding one class of schools only. He opposed the Bill because he believed it would be educationally bad. But he opposed it on higher grounds. It was a sad thing that, after 2,000 years of Christianity, they were unable to agree as to the teaching to children of the fundamental principles of Christianity. He believed that the passing of this Bill would strengthen the perpetuation of the present system of denominational education in this country, and would be, in the long run, a very great bar to spiritual progress. We had built up a splendid Empire; and it was beginning to dawn upon the millions of the country now that the roots of industrial progress were to be found in the completeness and the wisdom of our system of primary education. [Cheers.]

On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,

*MR. WALFORD CREEN (Wednesbury)

said the question of the Voluntary Schools was often argued as if it were a question between the Church of England and the Roman Catholics on the one side and the entire body of Nonconformists on the other. He thought that method of arguing the question was very misleading. There were a very large number of British schools, which were Voluntary Schools, and which at the same time were undenominational, and those British undenominational schools enjoyed the implicit confidence of Nonconformists in exactly the same degree as the Board Schools did. But apart from the British Schools, there were a large number of Wesleyan schools, and he desired to speak chiefly on the question as to how the Wesleyan community, with which he was himself connected, would be affected by this Bill. The Wesleyans had always taken a keener interest in education than other Nonconformist body, and they were deeply committed to the principle of dcnominationalisin. He thought there was distinct evidence that the Wesleyans were desirous, as a body, of maintaining their denominational schools in the fact that under the late administration at the Education Office of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rotherham, they raised, in response to his demands, a sum of £70,000, which had to be spent on buildings alone. The evidence that the Wesleyans felt the pinch of the present system was found in the fact that in 1894–5 they had to give up no fewer than 29 of their schools, owing to the intolerable strain which hon. Members opposite were fond of deriding. The Wesleyans had 168,010 scholars in their day schools at the present time, so that this religious community would receive under this Bill a sum of more than £42,000 a year from the extra grant alone, in addition to what they would receive from the exemption of their schools from rates and the abolition of the 17s. 6d. limit. Apart from the establishment of clay schools the Wesleyan community had shown their keen interest and belief in denominational education by establishing training colleges for teachers. [" Hear, hear!"] There had passed through these training colleges 2,700 teachers, and at the present time there were 228 students in them. It was, he thought, a very natural thing that the Wesleyan teachers should ask themselves what would be their position if increased aid to Voluntary Schools were not given. They had asked themselves that question, and there was no doubt whatever that whatever might be the opinion of perhaps the majority of Wesleyans on the Government Bill, those who knew most of the position of Wesleyan day schools—that was the teachers themselves—were strongly in favour of the Bill, and strongly felt the absolute necessity of an increased grant to Voluntary Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] The Manchester and District Wesleyan Teachers' Association, at a meeting at Manchester in November last, unanimously passed along and strong resolution in favour of increased aid to Voluntary Schools. This Bill did not, unfortunately, go quite so far as their resolution in favour of some legislative enactment, which would place Voluntary Schools on an equal footing, financially, with Board Schools, but he thought it was a matter of great importance that the House should realise that there was a body of Nonconformist educational experts, such as these Wesleyan teachers undoubtedly were, which was strongly in favour of the continuance of the Voluntary system, and which realised that, if that system were to be continued, some extra help was necessary, and immediately necessary. ["Hear, hear!"] There was one grievance of Nonconformists, which had been admitted, he thought, by everyone who had studied the education question, from Lord Salisbury downwards. That grievance was that, in many rural parishes, Nonconformists were compelled to send their children to the Church School, because it was the only public elementary school in the parish. He thought that admitted grievance might probably be lessened by that part of the Bill which encouraged the formation of the association of schools. He thought all reasonable Nonconformists would admit that the proselytising tendency, which they naturally strongly objected to, did usually occur in those Church Schools, which were under one-man management. It was precisely those schools which would be beneficially affected by the association of schools. In this Bill there seemed to him to be two great principles. The first was that the denominational schools were the only permanent security for maintaining religious teaching. ["Hear, hear!"] He admitted that at the present time they had religious teaching, and very excellent religious teaching, in the great bulk of the Board Schools in this country, but supposing a wave of infidelity, of crude feeling against religion, were to pass over the country? Then if they had none other but Board Schools in the country, in one moment the light of religious teaching might be eclipsed throughout the whole country. He did not say that was probable, but he did say it was possible, and against the possible danger of a great popular feeling of hostility to religion the denominational schools were the only security. ["Hear, hear!"] You cannot teach religion unless you are allowed to depart from that curious compromise, the Cowper-Temple Clause. It is not possible to teach it without some dogma distinctive of some particular sect. We are not all logical people in England, much more so are the people of Scotland, who had discovered that truth long ago. In many Board Schools under the Cowper-Temple Clause dogmas were taught distinctive of some particular sect or church, and only because the Cowper-Temple Clause had been interpreted in this broad fashion did it work at all. Many Wesleyans took the view that religious teaching must be maintained in Board Schools. The Rev. Hugh Trice Hughes the other day made a proposal which was received with almost as much ferocity in some Nonconformist circles as any proposal emanating from a Tory Government—that the Apostles' Creed should be taught in all Board Schools, and he made that suggestion as a special compromise. Immediately there was a loud outcry. Yet it might have been thought that if there was any one common ground among all Christians as to what constituted religious teaching, that would have been found to its most limited extent in the Apostles' Creed. He believed that eventually we should follow, as we had had to follow in other respects, the example of Scotland, and that denominational teaching in all schools, Board and Voluntary, would be admitted on some such principle as was contained in the 25th or 27th Clause of the last Bill introduced by the Government. There was one other main principle at the bottom of the Bill, the principle of educational efficiency. He did not think any reasonable man would say that the prospect of abolishing the denominational system was within the range of practical politics. If at the next General Election the Liberal Party should come back with a majority equal to that of the present Government—and that was going to the extreme of conceivability—supposing them to have such a majority, even then their majority of 150 would not be large enough to abolish the denominational system, because 80 of their supporters would be pledged to maintain the denominational system. The line taken by Members from Ireland, settled once for all the impossibility of abolishing the denominational system. If you admit that denominational teaching must be part of our national system, then you are striking a blow at educational efficiency if you refuse to allow any extra grant to be given to these schools. Voluntary Schools needed more money, teachers were wretchedly underpaid in Voluntary Schools, head-masters on an average receiving 34 per cent. less than the salaries paid in Board Schools, and head-mistresses often 58 per cent. less. Pupils had spent upon them every year in Voluntary Schools, 19s. 6d. per head less than the pupils in Board Schools, and in maintenance, Voluntary School pupils had to put up with 11s. less than Board School pupils. What was the result of this? Voluntary Schools had worse buildings and worse teaching in the long ran, and a blow was struck at educational efficiency, especially in country districts, by a refusal to allow this extra grant to be given. He could understand the position of hon. Members if they said the denominational system must be abolished, but they did not say that, they knew that was impossible, and yet in admitting that, and refusing to allow the Voluntary system to become efficient by this extra grant, their action could only be construed as action contrary to the interests of education. It was said this was refused in the interest of education and in the interest of religious liberty. But what was done? Because a parent preferred to have his child taught in a school of his own religion, therefore, the child of that parent was to be handicapped in his education and deprived of national advantages given to other children. This, because the father preferred to send his child to a school of his own religion, was done in the name of religious liberty! ["Hear, hear!"] The position of hon. Members who refused to give any extra grant at all to Voluntary Schools, and who were forced to admit that Voluntary Schools must be a permanent part of our national system, could not be called a position friendly to the interests of national education. ["Hear, hear!"] For his own part he would give every vote he gave on behalf of the Bill, in entire confidence that the money granted would go to the improvement of education, and would do something to relieve a grievous religious disability that parents who sent their children to Voluntary Schools had been suffering under for a very long time. [Cheers.]

*MR. LLOYD MORGAN (Carmarthen, W.)

said he was sorry to be obliged to oppose an Education Bill, and did not think that the amount of money expended upon education was by any means excessive. Indeed, the lesson we ought to learn from continental countries, much poorer than ourselves, seemed to be that we were well within the reasonable limits of such expenditure. From those countries we were able to see that increased grants to national educational purposes meant increase of national prosperity. This Bill, however, professed to advance education, but on such terms as made it impossible for him to give his assent to it. He could not help thinking the Bill would create very widespread disappointment and dissatisfaction in the country, beneficial as it would be to a certain class, a class anxious to propagate certain religious formularies and dogmas at the expense of their poorer brethren. No doubt it would be received with satisfaction by those who had declined to rate themselves for educational purposes. Election addresses he saw, during the last electoral campaign, not only in his own, but in other constituencies, pointed to the conclusion that all ratepayers were going to be benefited, if only a Conservative Government came into power. But what did they find? There had been a hope that a scheme would have been forthcoming that would throw on the Imperial Exchequer part of the burden of school rates, not for the purpose of assisting Voluntary Schools only, but for the relief of poor districts where school rates were highland all poor schools would receive advantage from it. But the Bill did nothing to relieve ratepayers where rates were most heavy; nothing to relieve any district where schools were most necessitous; it did a great deal to make the load of the taxpayer heavier. The Bill was indefensible, on the ground that it did everything to assist people who had done nothing for themselves and for those who had shown themselves laggards in the march of educational progress. As regarded Voluntary Schools, how stood the case? They had always been treated by Parliament in a manner more favoured than any other. When the Act of 1870 was passed, the Liberal Government not only assisted them, but deliberately held out to them inducements and opportunities to extend, at the public expense, an educational system which at that time and ever since had loudly and repeatedly called for reform. The operation of that Act was suspended, so far as Voluntary Schools were concerned, for a period of twelve months. And what was done? Up to that time the annual number of applications for building grants for denominational schools were 150. And what happened during the period of grace which followed the passing of the Act of 1870? Applications came from 3,300 parishes in the country for the establishment of Voluntary Schools, and the House voted £268,000 for the purpose of perpetuating a system which the great mass of the people of this country believed, as they believed now, was unfair and unjust to the cause of educational progress. It was a great mistake to imagine that Voluntary Schools were as popular as some Members wished the House to believe they were. The popularity of these schools depended, not so much on the fact that the religious doctrines of certain sections were taught in them, but from the fact that there were no rates charged in those parishes where such schools were maintained. It was the dread which the farming class had of any further rates that really lay at the bottom of the popularity of those schools. It was a great mistake to suppose that the popularity was derived from the fact that they belonged to the Church of England, the Wesleyans, or any other section; the base of such popularity as they had was in the fact that they saved the ratepayers' pockets. Whenever the question arose in one of these parishes whether the Voluntary system should be continued or the broader and better system of School Boar is should be introduced, the way in which parishioners were induced to decide against the School Board was by the I appeal of those interested in the maintenance of Voluntary Schools to the ratepayers to save their pockets. He could not assent to the proposition of the hon. Member who had just spoken, that these denominational schools were the only schools of a really religious agency. He could not accede to the view-that there was any substantial objection raised by anyone to the religious instruction given in Board Schools. He could not help thinking that the wave of infidelity which the hon. Gentleman had referred to as being possible was much more likely to be brought about by debating this question in the House of Commons and about the country than by anything else. From his point of view he did not think a day school was the right place in which to teach religion at all, or the schoolmaster the proper person to teach it, or that the State was the proper quarter from which the payment for religion in any shape or form ought to come. If religious teaching was to be taught at all, it ought to be taught by agencies outside the day school. When the hon. Gentleman said that the voluntary system of education would counteract any wave of infidelity, he seemed to have lost sight of the fact that the real religious agency in this country was not the day school at all, but the Sunday School. If hon. Members in that House who took an interest in religious and philanthropic work would devote their energies to getting agencies outside to take up this question of instructing the young in religion—and there was a wide and splendid field of work—they would be doing much more substantial good to the community than they would do by fighting over questions of sects and creeds, which would have a very bad effect on the country. What would the effect of this Bill be when passed? In the first place it would make Voluntary Schools more independent of public opinion than they were at present, and put an end to any control the parents had over the schools—if they had any—now. The claim in the past for free action on behalf of those who managed the Voluntary Schools was based on the ground that the managers had made great sacrifices in the large amount of money they had spent. But the subscriptions to the Voluntary Schools were a diminishing quantity. In 1875 they amounted to 9s. 6d. per head; in 1890 to 7s.; and at the present time they were but 6s. 8d. per head. Still this control went on. The subscriptions, it was contended, represented the religious teaching, but if they went down year by year it was clear that the control the managers had over the schools should diminish in a corresponding ratio. They now found that practically the State was paying for a system of denominational education in this country. In 1876, when an Education Bill was introduced by a Conservative Government, Lord Hartington, speaking in that House, said if that kind of thing went on the schools might be called denominational schools, but they could no longer be called Voluntary Schools. It was qute clear that a substantial case had been made out for some control on behalf of the public over such a vast amount of public money as was being expended, and he asked the Government to approach this question of control with a free and open mind. He, and those who thought with him, did not object to the teaching of dogmas in schools, but they objected to their being taught in schools which were supported almost entirely out of public money. Whatever religious doctrine was preferred might be taught in a school, so long as it was not paid for by the State. Where the State had to pay largely to the schools there ought to be some public control, and the fact that this was the principle adopted in the case of Board Schools accounted for their educational superiority over the Voluntary Schools. Those connected with the Voluntary Schools ought to see that this Bill was introduced, not for such schools in general, but principally for the Voluntary Schools of the Established Church and the Roman Catholic Church. They had heard of the "intolerable strain." Where did it come from? It had been said that a large number of Wesleyans were in favour of this Bill. That was not the case, for the view the Wesleyan body had taken was that there ought to be established within the reach of every family in this country a school which was managed on thoroughly un-sectarian lines. But how did this question of intolerable strain come in? It came in simply with regard to the two classes of schools he had mentioned. Other Voluntary Schools, namely, those of the Wesleyan body and the British Schools, which were managed on unsectarian lines, provided for the education of 480,000 children, and this intolerable strain did not appeal to that class. It did not appeal really to the very poorest class in the country, the people who provided for the education of 480,000 children, who paid for their own chapels and ministers, and who did not say one single word about the intolerable strain which hon. Members opposite said existed. If he happened to be a Churchman he should be ashamed of the attitude Churchmen took up with regard to this matter, belonging as they did to the richest and most powerful class in the community, complaining of the intolerable strain of keeping up their schools, whilst the poorest people in the country not only said nothing about any intolerable strain, but protested against this proposed unjust expenditure of money. There was one question which the right hon. Member for West Monmouthshire put the other night, and to which there had as yet been no answer, namely: why £600,000 should be given to districts which declined to rate themselves and declined to subscribe, while nothing was to be given to those districts which had made large sacrifices for the sake of education? He would suggest to hon. Members who intended to speak in that Debate that they should deal with that question, and, if it were possible to do so, give an answer to it.


remarked that the hon. Member who had last spoken seemed to think that this Bill was hostile to the ratepayers. That was a most extraordinary delusion, because, by securing the continuance in safety of the Voluntary Schools, it would, instead of being hostile to them, save the ratepayers of this country an enormous expenditure of the ratepayers' money. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member said that the whole popularity of Voluntary Schools, or, as he himself should prefer to call them, denominational schools, was a myth. He had told them that why people liked the denominational school was because it saved them expense in education. There were more places in Board than in Voluntary Schools, but many parents preferred to send their children to Voluntary Schools. Why was that? He freely admitted that the secular education in Board Schools was better. It was because they valued the religious teaching of the Voluntary Schools. The Mover of the Amendment tried to make out that the supporters of Board Schools were more to be pitied than the supporters of Voluntary Schools. He seemed to think the latter were rich people who deserved no sympathy. But take the Roman Catholic schools. They were supported by the pence of poor persons, collected with much difficulty and infinite labour. The whole contention that the ratepayer was worse off than the voluntary subscriber was simply absurd. Nothing had been more splendid than the earnestness of the religious denominations during the last 27 years in their competition to maintain their schools against the wealthy ratepaying communities which supported the Board Schools. The hon. Member was not the only one who had tried to minimise the strain that existed upon the supporters of the Voluntary Schools. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, on the First Reading of the Bill did so.

SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

I said that the strain on the ratepayers was quite as great as that on the supporters of Voluntary Schools.


resuming, said he did not think the facts would bear out that contention. They found that even under the stress of the competition between Board and Voluntary Schools the expenditure of Voluntary Schools was relatively less and was yearly becoming more so. That phenomenon on one side of the account produced a coresponding phenomenon on the other, and they found that not only was the grant greater to Voluntary than Board Schools, but the difference in the grant to the two classes of schools was yearly becoming greater. Was there no "s rain" on the teachers of Voluntary Schools? From their love for the schools the teachers were willing to receive lower salaries than those paid to teachers in Board Schools. The hon. Member could have no conception what a difference this made. In Birmingham Board School teachers were paid half as much again as the teachers in the Voluntary Schools; in Manchester Board School teachers received nearly half as much again as Voluntary School teachers; and in London, which was, of course, the worst and most striking instance that could be given, Board School teachers received nearly two-thirds as much again as the Voluntary School teacher. In rich communities like these the great inequality was most acutely felt, and he hoped the Bill would do something to remedy it. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman said the surrenders of Voluntary Schools were few. To surrender was the last resort of such schools, but he regretted to say the number of schools that had surrendered was not inconsiderable. Since 1870, 1,323 Voluntary Schools had surrendered, of which 938 were Church of England Schools. Whether they looked at The amount spent on the Voluntary Schools or earned by them, the sums paid to the teachers or the schools that had surrendered or been given up, they must come to the conclusion to which their private experience had led them—that the strain on the Voluntary Schools was great. ["Hear, hear!"] It varied as between place and place, school district and school district, locality and locality; it also varied from year to year. This was very important to bear in mind when they came to consider the policy of the present Bill. As between county and county he did not think the existence could be doubted of the great inequality which the Colonial Secretary had told Parliament it was the policy of the Bill to remedy. In Oxford-shire the difference between the expenditure of Voluntary and Board Schools was almost nil. If anything, more was spent on the Voluntary Schools. In the case of an ordinary agricultural county he believed it would be found that 5s. or 6s. marked the difference in the expenditure in Voluntary and Board Schools. But in the large centres it was different. In Manchester 14s. more per head was spent on the education of Board School than on Voluntary School children. He was quite willing to consider the ratepayer, but what he thought was of the utmost importance was that the children should receive a good education. [Opposition cheers.] A parent who desired that his child should receive a religious education, so far from being treated worse than the parent who cared chiefly for secular education, ought to be favoured by the State as a worthy citizen who desire I that his child should be one too. In Birmingham 16s. 11½d. more was spent per head on the education of Board as compared with Voluntary School children. In London, the most crushing case of all, 22s. per head more was spent on Board School children. This showed the enormous inequality between place and place, and justified the discrimination between place and place provided for in the Bill. The Education Department were permitted to make a larger grant for urban than rural children. He hailed this with satisfaction, and trusted that when the Bill became law the Department would avail itself of the power which he hoped Parliament would confer upon it. A. distinction was also to be made between school and school in the same locality. The expense of a child's education in a small school was much greater than in a large school. There were many varieties of schools, and it would be most unwise if 5s., or whatever it was, were granted to every school alike, regardless of individual necessities. ["Hear, hear!"] Consequently the Government had adopted, and he thought most wisely, a device which they had pressed upon them over and over again during the last ten years—namely, to give this money especially in order to induce schools to federate together. ["Hear, hear!"] That had been the policy of Churchmen, and, indeed, he believed, of all those who had the interests of education at heart. He recollected that in the Act of 1891 they succeeded in putting in a provision to bring about federation, but the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton discovered some musty privilege of that House which made that clause abortive; but he did not think the right hon. Gentleman, although he succeeded in destroying that clause, had ever disapproved of the principle. He was very glad that the germ of federation which they planted in the Bill of 1891 was developing into so promising a plan as that in the present Bill. That policy had been favoured always by the Churches; and the National Society, which had the supervision of more than half the schools of this country, was strongly in favour of the system of federation which the Government had consented to. ["Hear, hear!"] The distinction between urban and rural, and the federation of schools, appeared to him to be admirable points. He ought not to omit to say, with regard to the 5s., that since the last time the subject was before Parliament there was a great improvement, for which they were grateful to the Government. He had pointed out that not only were Board Schools much richer than Voluntary Schools, but every year they spent more and more, and the difference between the two classes of schools grew greater. He was sorry there was nothing in the Bill that would meet that case. This Bill, although a Measure of very great relief, could not in any way be considered as a settlement of the difficulty. [Ministerial cheers and ironical Opposition cheers.] There was, for example, the case of the London School Board. He thought he was not inaccurate in saying that last year the expenditure per child on the London School Board had increased to the extent of over 3s. It was quite clear that in a place where such a rapid increase had taken place, nothing in the Government Bill could be looked upon as a permanent settlement of the difficulty. This was, as his right hon. Friend had implied, an interim Measure. He did not criticise the Government for a moment for having adopted an interim Measure rather than a permanent one, but, of course, it left a good deal to be done in the future. The Bill as it stood could not meet the difficulty of the growing expenditure. He understood that the position was, that as soon as the Bill passed, schemes would be drawn under which sums of money would be allotted to the various schemes, and that these would receive the approval of the Department, together with the constitution under which these various federations would work. He was afraid that when once the sums of money had been determined on they never could be varied. They could not say, because a School Board in one district had determined to give a more expensive education, that, therefore, they must give more money to certain Voluntary Schools, and for that purpose must take some of the money hitherto granted to other Voluntary Schools. That would be an impossibility. Therefore no readjustment was possible to meet the growing expenditure, and that was sufficient to show that this Bill could not be considered permanent. He understood the position of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite was that whatever was done to the Volun-Schools should be done to the Board Schools; and that, if the Voluntary Schools were placed in a better position to compete with their rivals, in this Bill, when light hon. Gentlemen opposite came into office they would put it right by increasing the sum given to the Board Schools. [Opposition cheers.] They probably would not have enough money to do it—[laughter]—but that would be absurd. Churchmen had asked the Government to treat the Board and Voluntary Schools upon the same footing as far as State money was concerned, on the express condition that the existing inequality between the two should be remedied by a measure of rate aid. To ask them to give State aid money equally to the Board and Voluntary Schools would be the most absurd thing in the world if those inequalities of which they complained were not remedied. ["Hear, hear!"] Although, as he had said, it was not of a permanent character, the Bill appeared to him to be in many ways an admirably drawn Measure. He thought that some parts of the Bill were rather vaguely expressed—[ironical Opposition cheers]—but it was not at all a bad plan in the case of an interim Measure to allow the Department a free hand in making the necessary arrangements, although he was no advocate for giving too great power to the Education Department. He earnestly hoped these considerations would be borne in mind. Of what kind ought a permanent Measure to be? On that point he would like to offer a word of warning to many of his hon. Friends sitting behind the Government. Some of them had indicated a Measure of secondary education as the proper ultimate solution of the Primary Schools difficulty. He believed that to be a delusion, though he had not a word to say against the establishment of a system of secondary education. The establishment of such a system would help the solution of the difficulties of Elementary Schools, but it would not solve them. [" Hear, hear!"] They had it on the assurance of the Government themselves, in the Report of the Committee on Education, that it was the cost of elementary education which was continually rising and must continue to rise. ["Hear, hear!"] He was glad to say that the scheme which was drawn up at Church House had been commented on not, at all unfavourably. He believed that in its general outlines it was an admirable scheme, and it was a scheme which would not have been in any way unpopular with Board Schools, because it would have treated Board and Voluntary Schools alike. The remedy for the inequalities which now existed would have been found in the rates, and the income of the Voluntary Schools would have been the same as the income of the Board Schools, and in that way it would have been a final settlement. He did not, however, criticise the Government because they did not find themselves able to adopt that scheme, and while the Unionist Party was making up its mind—[Opposition cheers]—he did not think it was at all a had thing to have an interim Bill. Hut Voluntary Schools could not be saved permanently by any fixed sum. ["Hear, Hear!"] There were two parties, one of whom, as had been said, had a bottomless purse, and was perpetually raising the expenditure. In consequence of public opinion not being ripe, the Government were unable to effect a settlement of this question. They had done what in them lay to meet the difficulties of Voluntary Schools, and he thanked them most heartily that in some of the provisions of this Hill they had realised and attempted to meet the conditions under which their unequal contest with Board Schools was carried on. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed the Bill would give that sufficient breathing space to Voluntary Schools which would enable them to survive until a more permanent Measure could be agreed on by Parliament and the country. [Cheers.]

MR. JOHN MORLEY, (Montrose Burghs)

who was received with cheers, said: I am sure that the whole House, however they may differ from the noble Lord on many important topics of difference, will recognise in all he said on this question, and in what he has said to-night, a tone of absolute sincerity. [Cheers.] But while I hope that in what I have to say I shall not say anything to wound the feelings of the noble Lord, I must say that he has made some remarks which I do not think will afford comfort-to right hon. Gentlemen on the Bench opposite, or persuade the House of the expediency of the Measure which we are discussing. ["Hear, hear!"] It appears from what the noble Lord has said that this is a Measure which we are to take as an interim Measure, to last while the Unionist Party is making up its mind. [Cheers.] But how long are we to wait? [Cheers.] What is to be thought when one of the most important supporters of the Government says that this is a casual and temporary settlement which they have not thought out, and which they do not design to be a settlement, but something to amuse their own supporters for a year or two, or for whatever lapse of time is necessary to enable them to make up their minds? ["Hear, hear!"] The noble Lord said one or two things which are instructive. He flattered himself that when the time comes for the occupants of that Bench to retire those who succeed them will find no balance of revenue with which to deal either with Voluntary Schools or Board Schools. [Cheers.] That is a very discouraging announcement on the part of the noble Lord, which I think is very likely to come true. The prospect he is holding out to my right hon. Friends near me is certainly a gloomy one. [Laughter.] But all that the noble Lord could say of the Bill was that it was not a bad plan, that it was vaguely expressed and all the better for that. [Cheers.] That I comprehend, because, if your intentions are crude, or if you have intentions which it is not convenient to disclose, crude drafting is certainly an advantage. [Cheers and laughter.] In that portion of the noble Lord's speech which I heard, I did not detect once the accent of the citizen. I heard the accent of the Churchman, I heard the accent of the sectarian—[cheers]—but I never once heard the accent of the citizen, and I am bound to say that I did not hear the accent of a man who thinks that we are discussing the great topic of the education of our common people. I submit, with all respect for the noble Lord's sincerity and the work in which he is engaged, from his own point of view, that the fact that he does not regard this subject from a civic standpoint—


Before the right hon. Member came into the House I had said that what I cared most about was the education of the children, and that I did not regard the interests of the ratepayers as approaching in importance the interests of the children. ["Hear, hear!"]


That does not materially affect my view, because the noble Lord, perfectly conscientiously and perfectly within his rights as a citizen, regards education as Church education, and that is not what the State is concerned with. [Cheers.] It is a good many years since I took an active, and perhaps an aggressive, part in this controversy, following and working with my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary. [Cheers.] We are engaged in a very serious controversy, and behind all this discussion there are—I should be the last person to deny it—grave and solemn issues. As far as those things as to which it is very important that men should care are concerned, I have not changed my views since the opening of the education battle after Mr. Forster's Act was passed. But I am quite willing to admit that in some respects the movement of events, the movement of men's minds, has not gone as far as in those rather distant days the Colonial Secretary and I anticipated. I admit that, and therefore if anybody is in a humour to bring up against me utterances of an aggressive character upon education policy, made under a different set of circumstances, I do not withdraw from them as made at that time. But, as I said, a new situation has arisen, partly owing to the merits, which I will not deny, and services, and activity, and generosity of the Party which the noble Lord represents. [Ministerial cheers.] I should not be dealing fairly with the subject or the House if I did not make that admission at once. But we have come to a new situation, or rather we have arrived at a point where we have to recognise a new situation. The view held between 1870 and 1880 by the Colonial Secretary, myself, and others, was that the nation would desire to have what we thought and I still think most desirable that it should have—namely, a system under which there should be no recognition by the State of any educational institutions which in any way partook of a sectarian character. [Cheers.] I hold that view as strongly as I ever did; but in this House we must deal with the practical problem before us in a practical spirit. I do not think that the Government do that by bringing in what the noble Lord truly calls an interim Measure, a Measure which is not a settlement, but which is in the nature of a defence hastily thrown up, and a defence of what? It is a defence of a Church endowed with privileges, and which seeks to endow itself both by interim Measures and by the permanent Measures which the noble Lord hopes some day or other to have—Measures which shall strengthen its defences and add still more to the sectarian character of these educational institutions. Now I come to the Amendment before the House. I do not think, after the extremely clear and lucid speech in which my hon. Friend below the gangway moved this Amendment, that need labour the question of the expediency of attempting a settlement of the claims of the Voluntary Schools without also attempting a settlement of the equal claims of the Board Schools. I will not go into that question on its merits, because the Government have been slowly, reluctantly, and grudgingly driven to this position, that they feel they are bound at the earliest possible moment to bring in a Measure which shall deal with Board Schools more or less on the same principles as those on which they are now dealing with Voluntary Schools. But that was not the language used at the beginning of the Session. [Cheers.] The Government have had some sharp spurs applied to them. [THE FIRST LORD of the TREASIRY: "That was exactly the language used."] [Opposition crien of "No!" and cheers.] I do not believe that in the speech with which the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill there was any serious language of that kind.


That was because I was introducing one Bill and not another. [Laughter mid cheers.]


Yes, the position you now take up is that you are eager to introduce the other Bill, but you did not take up that position then. ["Hear, hear!"]


The Bill was not ready. It would not have been in order.


We understand perfectly well that various sharp spurs have been applied to the Government. We have had declarations from hon. Members below the gangway opposite, and there have been one or two elections. [Cheers.] I am sure the right hon. Gentleman cannot have overlooked what was said by the defeated candidate for Walthamstow, who belongs to the Ministerial Party. He said:— If the Education Bill had been introduced three days later we should have kept Walthamstow; if three days earlier we should have lost Romford. [Cheers.] Now the high-water mark of the pledges or promises of the Government on this question of bringing in a Bill dealing with School Boards, as you are now proposing to deal with Voluntary Schools, was reached by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies, whose absence and the cause of it I am sure we all very sincerely regret. [Cheers.] What did my right hon. Friend say? He said:— We pledge ourselves to this, that if gentlemen opposite give us reasonable time we will deal with this matter, even though it is not, as I have shown, as urgent and as pressing in the same Session. Speaking of the Leader of the Opposition the Colonial Secretary added:— He will say, 'Oh, that is not enough for us; we are of a suspicious disposition; we do not trust you.' Well, we do not trust even my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies. Our confidence in him has been rudely shaken—[laughter]—and even his stern stability of conviction and his fidelity to the professions of a lifetime—[laughter and cheers]—do not entirely reassure us. When my right hon. Friend was speaking, my memory went back to the time when he was President of the National Education League—[cheers]—and, lo! now we have revealed to us the statesman who was then, the prime leader in the Nonconformist attack on the Act of 1870, because it was unfair to Nonconformists, turned into the valiant leader of the clerical attack on the School Boards—[cheers]—because they are unfair to the clerical party. We may always change our opinions: as I have said I have changed some of mine. It may be said that "men may rise on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things." [Laughter.] It is, however, a very ungraceful performance; and it is a great mistake if you lay the ghosts of your dead selves by executing exultant war dances over the graves of your dead selves. [Laughter and cheers.] We have a right, therefore, to be suspicious as to the intentions of the Government with regard to this companion Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] We cannot forget the well-known language of Lord Salisbury when he said:— It is our business to capture the Board Schools under the present law and then to capture them under a better law. You cannot expect us, when you blame us for not accepting your pledges that you are going to bring in a companion Bill, to take all this for granted in face of a Government which has uniformly treated School Boards and Board Schools or used language in connection with them as if they were of the nature of a scourge or a plague. [Cheers.] It is quite true the Government have had their lesson, but we still cannot be quite sure that you will treat the introduction of the School Board Bill as urgent and as a companion Bill. The notions of the Government that a matter is urgent are very elastic, for they told us that this Bill was urgent. We were summoned together before the usual time, and it was urgent that the Bill should pass before March 31. The Vice President of the Council, in November last, said it was urgent that a Measure dealing with Voluntary Schools should be passed; but what guarantee have we that the Board School question shall be considered urgent? The Government have promised, no doubt, to deal with the matter, but that is not going very far. We want to know how the Government is going to deal with the matter of Board Schools. [Cheers.] Are you going to treat the Board Schools as under this Bill you are treating Voluntary Schools, or are you going to limit the grant in the Board Schools as you do not limit it in connection with the Voluntary Schools? While you give 5s. under this Bill to the Voluntary Schools all round, are you going to give 5s., not to all Board Schools, but only to certain Board Schools? That is a point which we should be glad to have light upon. [Cheers.] Are you going to help subscribers on one footing and payers of school rates on another? The noble Lord clearly thinks that there is a claim on the part of Voluntary School subscribers to relief which does not exist in the case of the ratepayers. [Ministerial cheers.] That claim I will examine in a moment. But on this point let us know whether you intend that in cities like New-castle, Bradford, and Leeds, where the ratepayers contribute most to the great cost of education, this cost is to be continued while you are to reserve your bounty for places where the rates are light and the Voluntary subscriptions are inadequate. Take the case of Newcastle. There is about an equal number of children in the Board and the Voluntary Schools—about 12,000 in each of those classes of schools. Under this Bill the Voluntary Schools will get something like £3,000 or £4,000 and the Board Schools are to receive nothing at all. [Ministerial cheers.] Now we know. It will interest that constituency to know that the most zealous supporters of the Government think it a perfectly fair, equitable, and just thing that, though the same number of children are in the Board Schools and in the Voluntary Schools of Newcastle, the latter are to receive all this money and the Board Schools are to receive nothing at all. ["Hear, hear!"] Of course, I could go through an endless list, but I only mention one other place, the circumstances of which are different, and that is the case of Nottingham. In Nottingham there are 12,000 children in the Voluntary Schools and 25,000 in the Board Schools, and the rate is 13d. in the pound. The Voluntary Schools of Nottingham will receive, amid the plaudits of hon. Gentlemen, £3,000, and the ratepayers, instead of being relieved as they ought to be to the tune of £0,000, will not receive a farthing from this so-called interim settlement. [Cheers.] I say you tell us nothing unless you tell us you are going to treat those two classes of schools on the same footing. I was very much impressed by the fervour with which the Colonial Secretary brought forward the case of Birmingham. "The case of the Board Schools," he said. is not the same as the case of the Voluntary Schools. The Board School has its grant and it has in addition the bottomless purse of the ratepayer. [Laughter.] I do not know what our ratepaying constituents will say to the proposition that you may do anything with rates because the purse of the ratepayer is bottomless. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not know even what the Vice President of the Council thinks of that, because last year he cited rather striking figures. He showed that every rural School Board, or almost every rural School Board, is as necessitous as any Voluntary School or set of Voluntary Schools in the country. [Cheer.] The purse of the ratepayers in those poor country parishes is bottomless, according to the argument of the Colonial Secretary, but the argument will not hold water. I do not think the noble Lord to-night quite fairly appreciated the situation. He said the State has stiffened the conditions on which education is carried on and has raised its demands as to the quality of the education, and the result is a strain on the Voluntary Schools winch it is not fair they should have imposed upon them. He forgets that there is a real difference of opinion as to what a voluntary subscription is, and what is the meaning of the claim which a voluntary subscription gives on the purse of the State. What the State says to the local community is that they are to provide their fair share in making provision for education in the locality. The State stands perfectly neutral between the two sources of local contribution. ["No!"] Who says "No"? Surely, theoretically—I wish it were practically—the State stands neutral. No hon. Gentleman who is at all acquainted with the matter will deny that proposition. It is a matter of indifference to us, says the State, whether you raise the funds by local contributions of by rates. The two sources of local contribution stand on precisely the same footing in respect of a claim for a Parliamentary grant of any kind whatever. The obligation on the ratepayers is one imposed by Parliament. Why, then, should Parliament, in giving to schools a relief, made necessary by a Parliamentary demand as to the character and quality of education—why should the State deal differently with the two classes of local contributions, and why should the ratepayers be placed at a disadvantage as compared with voluntary subscribers? ["Hear, hear!"] What is the argument of the Colonial Secretary? It is a most remarkable argument; and I invite the attention of the noble Lords the Members for Rochester, Greenwich, and South Kensington to the consideration of the point of this argument. The Colonial Secretary said at Birmingham—and the argument will be used all over the country— If you allow the Voluntary Schools to be extinguished, your rate will rise from Is to 1s. 9d. [Ministerial cheers.] I see the Attorney General enthusiastic over those words. [Laughter.] But they are not an argument at all; they are a prediction. [Cheers] The argument is that if you do not deal liberally with the Voluntary Schools you will have to provide for all the work that those Voluntary Schools now do. [Ministerial cheers.] But what does that presuppose? Why, that the existing religious communions, although receiving out of moneys voted by this House 30s. per head rough, and though themselves only contributing 6s. or 7s. per head, yet care so little for their educational denominational institutions, are so little in earnest about them, are so insincere—[cheers]—in their professions as to the deep value of this denominational instruction, that they are willing to throw it all to the winds, and falsify all their professions because terms are to be made as to a 5s. grant. [Cheers.] I wonder what the noble Lord and his friends would have said of me if I had imputed to him and his friends such shallowness in their deep convictions. [Cheers.] The prediction of the Colonial Secretary is one that is very likely to tell, and it is one which—if there is any force in it whatever—proves what I do not myself believe, that all this talk about the earnestness of Churchmen and others for their denominational instruction is not sincere. [Cheers, and cries of "No!"] Mind, it is not I who say it is insincere. I cannot forget this fact—that the communion which is poorest, which is most hard-pressed in this country, in which a shilling is harder to get than a sovereign is in the Anglican communion—I mean the Roman Catholic communion—they have not transferred one single school. [Cheers.] Therefore, do not let hon. Gentlemen opposite be angry with me because I do not accept this argument based on the prediction that rates will go up if you do not deal generously with the Voluntary Schools. I know that at this day it is impossible to assume assent to a system extinguishing the Voluntary Schools. But do not let us be frightened out of being just to the Board Schools by this empty threat that if you do not concede what the extreme partisans of the Voluntary Schools demand you will have those schools extinguished and an enormous burden cast on the rates. There is no evidence of such a thing, and I do not believe it. Now, as to the Bill, hitherto I have been dealing with our contention that it ought to be attended by a companion Bill, and that without it a grievous injustice will be done. This is not a Bill. It is the skeleton of a Bill. [Cheers.] The First Lord has spoken of the simplicity of the Bill; but, as my right hon. Friend observed, the simplicity is rather in the authors of the Bill than in the Bill itself. Before the Session is over a good many reasons will be given for the contention that this Bill is too simple a Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] I doubt whether there has ever been such an abdication of legislative function on the part of this House before as that which the Government rashly and in their simplicity ask the House to consent to now. [Cheers.] This Bill creates unknown bodies. It does not tell us on what principle they are to be created, or how large they are to be; it does not pacify the right hon. Member for Bodmin by saying whether or not there will be proportional representation on them. [Laughter.] They are created under conditions of which this House knows nothing whatever, and they are to be invested, under certain conditions, with important statutory rights. The Education Department, without a hint or a glimpse of the intention of this House, or of what is called "the wisdom of Parliament," is to form associations as it nkes. [Cries of "No!"] Who says "No?"


I do.


This is what the Bill says:— If associations of schools are constituted in such manner, in such areas, and with such governing bodies representative of the managers as are approved by the Education Department. [Cheers.] I say there is not a hint there, there is no principle whatever by which the Department is to be guided in forming, or approving of the formation, of these bodies, their areas, or any particulars concerning them. [Cheers.] Second, the Education Department is to distribute grants and amounts as it likes. Third, it is to exclude from participation in the grants all schools whose refusal to associate themselves does not satisfy the Department as reasonable. [Cheers.] Fourth, it is to fix a discriminating scale between rural and urban schools, if it likes and as it likes. [Cheers.] Fifth, it is to decide as it likes, whether due regard is or is not being paid to the maintenance of Voluntary Schools. I say there is no precaution taken to secure that what the wisdom of Parliament desires the Department to do in regard to any of these cardinal principles shall be done. We talk very often of the necessity for devolution and delegation; but this is devolution and delegation with a vengeance. [Cheers.] This may be crude drafting. It hides either a crude intention, or an intention it is not thought desirable to make clear. ["Hear, hear!"] I now come to a couple of minor points indicating the spirit in which this Bill has been framed and showing that it is worse than the Bill of last year. Audit is one of the most important things if we are going to have real control over these schools. In the present Bill the Department may require an audit if they are so minded. In the Bill of last year you declared that the accounts of every school should be audited, not by the inspectors of the Department, but by the inspectors of the County Councils. I do not believe the Vice President of the Council would deny that the, present system of audit is very much in the nature of a sham. Last year you said the audit must be undertaken by an independent public officer. Now, the audit is optional and the auditor is a less responsible officer. [Cheers.] Then there is another small point. The First Lord of the Treasury said this was a very simple Bill; that the Second Heading would be got rid of in two-and-a-half days' discussion, and that we would have a short Committee stage. But does the right hon. Gentleman know how many questions are lying in wait amid the complex machinery which has been invented? ["Hear, hear!"] You propose that the Voluntary Schools shall pay no rates. I do not see anything objectionable in that. [Ministerial cheers.] Yes, but why do you nut extend it to the Board Schools? [Cheers.] I know you will say:— Oh, what is the use of taking the trouble to free the Board Schools from rates—that would simply be taking money out of one pocket to put it into another? [Ministerial cheers.] That is not so at all. All Board Schools will pay rates, not for themselves, but fur the whole union in which they are situated; and if there is a Voluntary School in any parish in the union it will not contribute one penny to the rates. [Cheers.] In most towns the School Board is in a union which is much larger than the area of the town itself. The town of Luton, in Bedfordshire, has 30,000 inhabitants, but it belongs to a union with 45,000 inhabitants. Therefore Luton will pay rates on its own schools for the benefit of 15,000 people—that is, the difference between the 45,000 population of the union and the '50,000 population of the Luton School Board area—the 15,000 being outside the town in rural parishes with Voluntary Schools which will make no contribution in relief of the union rate. [Cheers.] And yet this is a Bill which the right hon. Gentleman describes as a simple Bill and hopes will pass quickly. [Laughter.] Again, we were told, I think by the Solicitor General in the Debate on the Resolution, that if adequate safeguards were a point upon which we wanted light, why did we not reserve our criticisms until we saw the Bill? We all know that that is a common argument when a Bill is introduced or when there is a preliminary Resolution. It is first said: "When you see the Bill you can better raise your points." Then you are warned they are Committee points, and you must wait for the Committee; and then, when you raise these points in Committee you are ruled out of order. [Cheers and laughter.] There were three points upon which we said that safeguards were necessary. They were popular control, that this additional grant should be expended in promoting efficiency, and that the level of private subscriptions should not be lowered. As to efficiency, I discern no safeguard whatever. ["Hear, hear!"] The Bill says the Department shall distribute the aid grant as they "think best for the purpose of helping necessitous schools and increasing their efficiency." That is all. Last year you enumerated what you meant by efficiency, but in this Bill you substitute a single phrase for what in the Bill of last year was an elaborate and detailed account of what efficiency was and what the conditions were which the local authority was to require. The substitution of an indefinite phrase for definite and detailed language will certainly not tend to make the Department regard increased efficiency in proportion to the expenditure as a vital object. We have to take care by definite enactments—[cheers]—which we shall, at all events, try to insert in the Bill, that this increased grant shall go to increased efficiency, and that no portion of it shall find its way to such matters as structural alterations, or paying off debts—["Hear, hear!"]—which, I am told, is a possible use to which the balance of this money may be devoted. As to the maintenance of subscriptions, what are the words of the Bill? "Due regard being had to the maintenance of voluntary subscriptions." Surely that is a very weak phrase in regard to what, in our view, ought to be an obligation of the very first order. What is "due regard to the maintenance of voluntary subscriptions?" Do you mean the maintenance of the present rate? There are 1,000 Voluntary Schools which have no subscriptions, and there are 3,000 whose voluntary subscriptions are under 5s. Are you going to stereotype that for all time? Is the Department, having due regard to the maintenance of subscriptions, to insist upon their maintenance at that level? Subscriptions went up during 1894–95. That, however, was a special effort. Will you, for instance, insist upon the subscriptions being kept up to the level of a five-years' average? Then there is the question of local popular control, which many of us regard as the most important point of all. Where is the safeguard for that? Last year you recognised the principle; but I find no recognition whatever of it in this Bill. There is no provision introducing any sort of popular control either on the board of managers of the schools or on the management of the associations; and you are going to hand over these large sums of public money to bodies of persons who will distribute it in absolute irresponsibility of public opinion and public feeling in the localities concerned; so you are aggravating what is a well-recognised, established anomaly in our educational system. Our view on this point was well stated in 1885 by my light hon. Friend the present Colonial Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman then said:— The existence of sectarian schools supported by State grant is no doubt a very serious question, and one which some day or another ought to receive consideration. Whenever the time comes for its discussion, I for one shall not hesitate to express my opinions that contribution of Government money, whether great or small, ought in all cases to be accompanied by some form of representative control." [Opposition cheers.] "To my mind the spectacle of a so-called national school turned into a private preserve by clerical managers, and used for exclusive purposes of politics or religion, is one which the law ought not to tolerate. The right hon. Gentleman laid it down the other night that the consistency of one of its prominent Members was one of the priceless possessions of the House. [Laughter.] Now, the Bill directs that the Education Department might, if it likes, take into account differences that exist between schools in the towns and schools in the country. The First Lord of the Treasury has said that the argument for this discrimination between town and country rested upon a broad fact. What was that fact? That which the right hon. Gentleman alleged to be a fact I do not believe to be a fact at all. I think he made a mistake—that he was misinformed when he said that the cost of education is lower in the country than in the towns. [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "Hear, hear!"] The House will readily understand that this is a very important matter, and that it will greatly interest the constituencies, especially those in the urban districts. Well, a distinction may be drawn between urban and rural schools, because, as the First Lord of the Treasury says, the urban schools are more costly than the rural schools, and by a rural county I mean a county where the majority of the population live under rural circumstances and are engaged in rural pursuits. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, taking the most recent figures that are accessible, I will compare Durham and Staffordshire, which are obviously urban counties, with Dorsetshire, Herefordshire, and Shropshire. In Durham the cost of education per head is 34s., and in Staffordshire 32s. 6d.


Does that apply to all schools, or only to Voluntary Schools?


To all schools.


Including Board Schools?


I think so, but I will see in a moment. [The right hon. Gentleman having consulted a paper, said] No, I beg pardon; I was in error. The figures apply to Voluntary Schools. Well, to proceed; I find that while in the two urban counties I have named the oust of education per head is only 34s. and 32s. 6d. per head respectively, in Dorsetshire the cost is 37s. 6d. per head, in Herefordshire 42s. per head, and in Shropshire 38s. per head. [Cheers.] Those figures, therefore, do not bear out the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. ["Hear, hear!"] I would call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to another fact. The proposal is that urban schools should have more than rural schools. Why? I have shown they do not spend more on education, but less. Then as to subscriptions—this, at all events, concerns Voluntary Schools only. In Durham the subscription is 5s. 8d. per head and 4s. in Staffordshire. Yes, but in Dorsetshire it is 9s., in Herefordshire it is 10s. 3d., and in Shropshire 9s. So you come to this, that where the subscription is highest, and where the cost per child is highest, there, according to the intention of the Treasury, there is going to be the least appropriation of this grant. [Cheers.] Of course, it is perfectly obvious why rural schools cost more than urban schools. It is because they have a smaller attendance, and therefore the cost is divided over a smaller area. ["Hear, hear!"] I have, I think, given some reasons why the Members for urban constituencies should be somewhat concerned in this Bill. I think this is a reason why the Members for rural constituencies, too, should think they are not very fairly dealt with. I come now to the matter of the associations. The proposal of the associations is the kernel of the Bill. [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY; "Hear, hear!"] What does this association mean? It means that, instead of allowing the Department directly to distribute this 5s. per head in the same way as it distributes the capitation grant—instead of dealing with it in that simple way—the ingenious mind of the author of the Bill has invented machinery which, to those who realise the conditions under which the associations are to work, is as cumbrous and as unworkable as any machinery that has ever been invented. The right hon. Gentleman interrupted me on the point of the hypothetical character of the formation of these associations. I do not know that there has ever been before an organic part of a Bill introduced by such a word as "if "— "if" these associations come into existence. It is very peculiar, at all events. If they do not come into existence, if they do not offer to create themselves in some way or another, then I suppose the Education Department will distribute this grant as it thinks fit through its inspectors. But it is not your intention that these associations shall not come into existence, On the contrary, your whole hope—and the light hon. Gentleman did not conceal it—[The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "Hear, hear!"]—is that these associations will form themselves. I will not give any opinion of my own of what these associations are likely to be, but I will quote the words of The Times this morning in a well-informed article, of what the Government undoubtedly expect:— We may take it for granted that they will be fur large areas, possibly one for each diocese "—[cheers]—" working through sub-associations for archdeaconries or rural deaneries, and that at first they will be no more than bodies representing the managers of the associated schools, with the duty of drawing up a scheme of distribution of the aid grant among them—the said grant, when confirmed by the Education Department, being paid, not to the association (as contemplated in some schemes of federation), but direct to the schools. To put it shortly: if that is the true meaning of what is in contemplation by the Government of what the Department will do, if the right hon. Gentleman continues to administer the Department under the direction of the Government, you are going to give this money to the Bishops and to Cardinal Vaughan to distribute as they think best. [Cheers.] That is the plain interpretation of it. Of course, there may be, for all I know, some other interpretation; but if there is, you had better tell us plainly what it is that you do mean. ["Hear, hear!"] I am not sure, so far as my information goes, that this device will be very acceptable. I rather think that when the proposal was made some time last year, either at the Church House or some such gathering, it was received very frigidly indeed, and for a very good reason—because the local clergy, the clerical managers, felt that any step of this kind, any diocesan centralisation, would stop the interest of local subscribers and the flow of subscriptions. I want to ask this question, which perhaps the Solicitor General will presently answer. Suppose that a clergyman, a clerical manager, or any manager, says, "Oh, no; I think that by joining this diocesan association I shall be checking local interest in the school, and therefore I cannot agree to pool"—I use a profane word—"my grant." Is that to be, or is it not to be, a reasonable ground of refusal? ["Hear, hear!"] Depend upon it, it is one of which you will hear a great deal. ["Hear, hear!"] Take another case. I am told that British schools and many Wesleyan schools have posts of their own foundation, but I take such an instance as this. A clergyman, say, in the town of Blackburn, where are excellent Voluntary Schools, this clergyman has this 5s. grant warm in his pocket. Will he, do you think, be happy to hand this grant over to the diocesan centre and receive back perhaps some 2s. or 3s. as his share? Well, if he refuses to associate and pool his money, is that to be treated as unreasonable? ["Hear!"] There are hundreds of illustrations I could give, but I will not at this hour labour the point. My own impression is, and hon. Gentlemen opposite know more about-this than I do, but I suspect they will share my impression, that these local managers, clergymen, and others, would far rather trust the Education Department to distribute the fund than they would under compulsion—for it is a kind of compulsion—enter into one of these associations where everyone will be ready to make a fight for his own hand under circumstances far more disadvantageous than if he had to do with the Department itself. Let us picture to ourselves what will be the position of the Department in the face of these associations. There will be two attitudes, either the Department will be energetic, vigilant, and with a, will of its own, or it will see with the eyes and hear with the ears of the association. If the latter, the Department sees with association eyes and hears with association ears, then these diocesan associations will be left completely masters of the field, which I do not think is contemplated by the House of Commons. If the Department does not surrender itself, if it stands fast and exercises its judgment as to the local fitness and fairness of schemes submitted to it, if it satisfies itself that the schemes are properly carried out then why should not the Department, if it is going to undertake all the work of supervision, do the thing itself direct and at once without this intervening body? The right bon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council last year gave us instances of the overwork of the Department. It was a striking account, and I want to know what in the view of the Government is going to be added to the burden of this already overworked Department. Then there is the question of the administrative cost of the machinery you have chosen. These associations will, I presume, have to sit permanently with a, secretary and offices. Who is to pay? I do not know whether the cost is to come out of the £620,000. ["No, no!"] Then it will come out of a charge on the Department? [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "No!"] It must come out of one or the other, or where is it to come from? I gather it is not to be an extra charge on the Department? [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "Hear, hear!"] Then we have this position—here is this unknown, unconstituted body to be paid out of some unknown fund. [Opposition cheers.] Then, besides this local charge, there will eventually be, as everyone must see, an enormous extension of the central staff; there must be in such a system as this. Have you realised how much that will be? The Department will have to exercise supervision over all the refusals, to consult with the diocesan body as to schemes, and will have most unenviable functions. Many have been the trials of the Department before now, but nothing to compare with this. Under the Bill it will be a sort of Court of Appeal to which will come complaints of all kinds as to the appropriation of funds and other wranglings, all of which the Department will have to decide. I do not wish to say anything uncharitable about the clergymen and these diocesan centres, but I presume they are not exempt from the ordinary infirmities of human nature where money is concerned, and nobody can doubt that the Department will have to settle endless complaints and contentions arising out of this business. I should like to know whether any estimate has been made of the cost of all this. The First Lord of the Treasury said one reason against giving 5s. all round to all schools alike in addition to the capitation grant—a scheme of which before this Bill leaves the House we shall hear more was that it would involve enormous waste. ["Hear, hear!"] Quite so. He meant, I suppose, you would give the grant to schools that did not need it. Has the right hon. Gentleman attempted to estimate how much extravagance and waste will be involved by this costly and cumbrous machinery which will be set up? I beg him to think of that. ["Hear, hear!"] Meanwhile, I have a strong objection to the Bill as it stands. The noble Lord opposite was right in calling this an interim Bill. If you had meant to proceed to a final and full settlement you never would have devised all this unworkable machinery. You know perfectly well, and Members for urban constituencies must know, that you will not be able to pass separately a Board School Bill.


Why not


Of course it is only promised on condition that there is abundance of time. You will see from the few points I have stated against the Bill as it now stands, as fairly as I could, what by fair consideration and fair examination of all the points that you have raised, and which you must have known you would raise whenever you touched this complex and intricate educational question—you will see what time there will be to consider another Measure. ["Hear, hear!"] It would have been a far greater economy of time, and you would have arrived far more rapidly at the object you profess, if you had united the two Bills. [Cheers.] At any rate your own skeleton will have to be clothed. I hope I have said nothing in the remarks I have made to make Gentlemen below the Gangway suppose I am for a moment in conflict with what I think is good in their aims. But, as I began by saying, I do not feel in this Bill there is a true recognition of the great principle of civil equality. I think there is an attempt—a clumsy and cumbrous attempt—to do what the noble Lord desired to have clone—namely, provide a sort of defence hastily thrown up. I think the noble Lord accurately described it, and it is because it is in the nature of a defence, not for a great public object, but for a sectarian object, and because it is hastily thrown up and not deliberately conceived and maturely planned, that I, for one, shall cordially vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend. [Cheers.]

*MR. GRIFF1TH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)

thought if the Government wanted any justification for their policy in dividing the two Bills it was furnished by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, who, only raising a few points on one of the Bills, had spoken for an hour and a half. How many hours would have been taken up if the two schemes had been included in this Bill? The Government were to be sincerely congratulated on their policy, and if what the right hon. Gentleman had urged was the worst that could be said about the Bill they might proceed with it with a very light heart. The right hon. Gentleman had asked them why, in the case of Newcastle and other places, they were going to give a large sum of money to the subscribers of Voluntary Schools and not going to give an equal sum of money to the ratepayers who supported the Board Schools? The right hon. Gentleman seemed to forget that the people who, by their subscriptions, supported the Voluntary Schools in Newcastle, also by payment of the rates, supported the Board Schools. They were the people who were now contributing to both sets of schools, and in relieving them the Government were not only relieving the voluntary subscribers but those ratepayers who were now paying doubly for the education of the people. The right hon. Gentleman asked them the old question, "Why is there to be no popular control?" But in the last year's Bill there was popular control, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would not have that popular control, although they now taunted the Government with not having put it into this year's Bill. The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question was that for this particular proposal local popular control was unnecessary, because, as the funds were provided entirely by the taxpayer, all that was necessary was to see that the taxpayers' money and interests were properly safeguarded, and that was effectually done by the inspection of the Education Department. The right hon. Gentleman waxed very indignant over the fact that the associations of schools in the Bill were so very vague. It was complained that no exact process was laid down by which the associations were to be formed. Elasticity in the formation of the associations was of the greatest importance, and he submitted that a great deal of harm would have been done, and this provision rendered nugatory, if, instead of allowing localities to form associations in the way that seemed best to them, elaborate instructions were laid down exactly how the associations were to be formed. He attached the greatest importance to the associations, and could not imagine anything better or more calculated to relieve distress in connection with the schools. More or less distress existed among the Voluntary Schools all over the country. But the distress varied. In his own constituency were schools which did not want any aid; to others, from 5s. to 10s. would be barely sufficient. By means of the associations the help given could be made suitable to the amount of distress existing in each particular school. He would rather have the associations with no grant at all than any grant likely to be given without association. Nothing was more likely to effect a permanent settlement of the question than the association of schools. By association Voluntary Schools would not only be able to make the pecuniary grant go further, but, with good management, they would be able to stand up against the Board Schools which were competing hostilely against them. The right hon. Member for Montrose asked why such vague words were used as to maintaining volun- tary subscriptions? He himself contended that the best way had been adopted of maintaining the subscriptions. If a school ceased to raise subscriptions, trusting to get this aid grant, the Education Department would have an absolute right to refuse it. The power of the Department to refuse would have the best effect in maintaining the subscriptions. The right hon. Member for Montrose gave fallacious figures to disprove the position of the First Lord of the Treasury that larger grants ought to go to urban than to rural schools. The right hon. Member for Montrose in his figures had only referred to Voluntary Schools. Voluntary Schools in urban districts had to compete with the Board Schools, which had the unlimited purse of the rates, and it was in the urban districts that this competition, was most severe. There was no point whatever in simply taking the Voluntary Schools. The friends of Voluntary Schools were all in favour of educational efficency, but they held strongly that there could not be educational efficiency in the proper sense without definite religious instruction. That was a most serious matter, which the citizens of this country had to consider. They had to consider the future of the nation, and it would be a very serious thing to turn out on the country children who, in the future, would have votes and be our governors, who had not been brought up with any definite instruction in religion. The Opposition had undoubtedly brought forward many different arguments against the Bill. They had complained that the Voluntary Schools were all to get grants and that all the Board Schools were not to. He did not believe in the sincerity of these arguments. He believed that the real reason for the opposition to this Bill, and to the Bill of last year, was that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were determined to get rid of religious instruction in the schools altogether. The right hon. Member for Montrose had said that in former years that was his position. The Party opposite had been in alliance with what was called the Edu- cational Progressive Party on the London School Board, whose programme in 1891 was to do away entirely with religious instruction in the schools. He submitted that that was the real issue, and there could be no agreement between those who wished to get this Bill pushed through and those who were determined, not only to stop this Bill if they could, but to stop any Education Bill brought in in the interests of the Voluntary Schools. The Board Schools had the rates to depend on, but the Voluntary Schools had only the voluntary subscription—[Opposition laughter]—as compared with the rates. [Cheers.] Partly owing to the competition of the Board Schools, partly owing to the increased cost of education, it was almost impossible now to keep the Voluntary Schools alive. It had been said that the talk of an intolerable strain was all nonsense, and that they were proposing an excessive remedy for a very small grievance. But since 1870 the cost of education per child per annum had increased by no less than a sovereign each. So far from asking for an excessive remedy they were asking for a minimum, and the Government in this Bill were proposing a minimum. If the Bill were rejected, in a great many places the Voluntary Schools would cease to exist, and, in his opinion, that was the object of hon. Members opposite, who hated religious instruction. [Cries of "No!"] Well, who hated definite religious instruction. [Cries of "No!"] They were content, at all events, with the sort of religious instruction they got in the Board Schools, which meant that they might hare no religious instruction at all, because it was left absolutely to the members of the Board to decide whether they would have religious instruction or not. That sort of religious instruction would not satisfy hon. Members on that side of the House. He quite believed the time would come when the Cowper-Temple Clause would be repealed, and when all schools alike would be supported out of the rates or by Government money, and all would be denomi- national; but if the country were not yet ripe for that, they must, at all hazards, save the Voluntary Schools. As a temporary Measure this was an exceedingly good one, and this grant would be of the very greatest use to the Voluntary Schools. He believed in the abolition of the 17s. 6d. limit, which worked most unfairly. He thanked the Government most emphatically for this Bill. He would only like to make one criticism. There had undoubtedly been some disappointment among the friends of Voluntary Schools at the postponement of the share which they thought they were promised last year. A great many schools had been counting upon getting this grant soon, and getting it in the present year; and he earnestly hoped that, when the Bill was through, the Government would be able to make arrangements whereby at all events a portion of the grant should he paid as soon as possible—that was to say, that they should not have to wait until the end of the financial year 1897–98. He would only repeat that while not accepting this as a final settlement of the question, he thought that it was an exceedingly useful Measure, that it would render a great deal of help to schools which were seriously in need of help, and that it would tend to the maintenance of the dual system in education which had been going on now for 27 years. For these reasons he thanked the Government for having introduced it, and he hoped they would put it through as quickly as possible. ["Hear, hear!"]

Debate adjourned till Monday next.