HC Deb 21 July 1897 vol 51 cc641-52

Order for Committee read.

The following notices stood upon the Paper relating to the Order for Committee on this Bill:—


To move,— That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to repeal part of Section nineteen of the Elementary Education Act 1876.


To move,— That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision for the exemption of Voluntary Schools front local rates.


To move,— That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert clauses in the Bill with a view to making provision for insurine adequate representation of local authorities or parents on the management of Voluntary Schools in receipt of the aid grant.


There are three Instructions on the Paper relating to this Bill. The first, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Buchanan) is out of order, in the first place, on the ground that it proposes to instruct the Committee to repeal part of Section 19 of the Elementary Education Act 1876." To be in order it should be clear and specific, and should indicate expressly-to the Committee what part of the section it is proposed that it should deal with. But I understand from the hon. Member that his object in placing this Instruction upon the Paper was to remove the 17s. 6d. limit. That would be in itself out of order. The next two Instructions, which stand in the names of the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) and of the hon. and gallant Member for Forfar, are in order.


moved— That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision for the exemption of Vo!untary Schools from local rates.


said that the lion. Gentleman made an appeal to him upon this point on the Second Reading of the Bill, and he had then indicated to the hon. Gentleman that if he found that it was the general desire of the House that what he desired should he carried into effect, he would take his proposal into favourable consideration. The position in Scotland in relation to this subject was not exactly the same as it was in England, but there were many precedents for making these exemptions in cases of chapels and places of that sort. Although there were differences between the two countries with regard to this particular point, still the analogy of the English Act was so strong that he was prepared to accept the Instruction with the view of accepting at the proper time an Amendment- which would carry its object into effect. [" Hear, hear!"]

MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)

had no desire to put any obstacle in the way of the object of the hon. Member for East Donegal being carried out. He wished, however, to. say that no information had reached him that would lead him to suppose that there was any general desire in Scotland that this relief should be given to the Voluntary Schools. If, however, that relief were to be accorded to them it should be extended to Board Schools also. He wished to know whether he should be in order in moving to amend the Instruction by striking out the word '' voluntary."


said that such an Amendment would be out of order, because it would have the effect of extending the Instruction to Board Schools, and notice is necessary of any extension of an Instruction.

MR. J. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)

said that, although he had no objection to the object of the Instruction, he was opposed to the subject of relief to schools being dealt with in a fragmentary manner by limiting the relief to the Voluntary Schools instead of extending it to all school buildings that were used solely for the purposes of education. If the Instruction before the House could not be amended in the manner suggested by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire there were other ways of overcoming the difficulty. ["Hear, hear!"] If the Instruction were withdrawn, the Lord Advocate might bring in a short Bill to extend the relief to all Scotch schools.


denied that there was any demand in Scotland for the relief of Voluntary Schools from the rates. ["Hear, hear!"]

CAPTAIN PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)

hoped that the Lord Advocate would, on behalf of the Government, give the House a definite promise to include Board Schools within the scope of the exemption. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. THOMAS SHAW (Hawick Burghs)

said that he should oppose the Instruction on the ground that it would have the effect of increasing the preferential treatment of the Voluntary Schools in Scotland. In the course of the Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill the Scotch Members showed that they were opposed to such preferential treatment of Voluntary Schools. As a question of principle it was most objectionable. ["Hear, hear!"]


had heard with great satisfaction the statement of the Lord Advocate that he intended to accept the Instruction. He had never assented to the doctrine of equivalent grants as between various parts of the United Kingdom; and as Parliament had in its wisdom thought it right to relieve English Voluntary Schools from the burden of rates, the same Measure ought to be extended to the Voluntary Schools in Scotland. ["Hear, hear!"]


said that he entirely concurred in the statement that no claim for this particular form of relief had been put forward on behalf of the Scotch Voluntary Schools. Still, he would make no objection to the Instruction if it were extended to the Board Schools—[" hear, hear!"]; but he objected to further differences being created between the two classes of schools in a country where it had not been alleged there were the grievances of Voluntary Schools which had been alleged in the case of England, and where the Voluntary Schools occupied a totally different position than in England. [" Hear, hear !"] in England the Voluntary Schools played a great part in the education of the country, while the Scotch Voluntary Schools had played a very small part in the education of Scotland. Nevertheless, they were willing to do every justice to the Voluntary Schools of Scotland; but they were bound to resist this relief being limited to them when the Board Schools were in every sense entitled to it.

COLONEL DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)

said that in the town in which he lived the Voluntary School was the largest school, and the children attending it were the poorest in the town. The people who sent their children to that school made greater pecuniary sacrifice than the people who sent their children to the Board Schools, because they had not only to pay for the fabric of their own school, but they had to contribute their share of the rates which went to maintain the Board Schools; and if, as hon. Gentlemen opposite desired, the Board Schools were exempted from rates, an additional burden would, of course, be placed on those people. The Voluntary Schools were largely supported by the Roman Catholics, and the House was bound to recognise that among them there existed a very strong objection, on religious ground, to sending their children to Board Schools. He would never agree to the Voluntary Schools having a share of the rates unless it were accompanied with popular control; but, with the example of England before them, it would be hard on those schools if, because they were in Scotland, they should be deprived of this small concession of exemption from rates.

Motion made, and Question put,— That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision for the exemption of Voluntary Schools from local rates. The House divided: —Ayes, 100; Noes, 37.—(Division List, No. 317.)

Ordered, That it be au Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision for the exemption of Voluntary Schools from local rates.


moved— That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert clauses in the Bill with a view to making provision for insuring adequate representation of local authorities or parents on the management of Voluntary Schools in receipt of the aid grant. This Bill was experimental, but, it was experimental in the direction of reaction rather than in the direction of progress. ["Hear, hear!"] The educational system of Scotland was on totally different lines from the educational system of England. It was not open to the charge that the Voluntary Schools had been badly treated. Their progress during the last 25 years, the enthusiasm for education on the part of Scotchmen, entirely disposed of any such statement. Before the Act of 1872, which introduced the present system, Roman Catholics freely attended the parish schools. At that time there were more Roman Catholics attending the parish schools than the Roman Catholic schools. Those who represented Voluntary Schools in Scotland had always declared that they had no objection to a certain amount of popular control. At present, Voluntary Schools were entirely under the control of the non-representative managers, who were largely clerical, and it was to add a lay element that he had moved the Instruction. In order that education might be carried on in accordance with the feelings of the parents as well as of the managers, he proposed that the local authorities should be represented on the Boards of Management. There was one great argument in favour of the Instruction. In speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill, the Lord Advocate made some alarming statements about Scottish education. He seemed to intimate that it was only to proceed pari passu with English education. The Lord Advocate would find that some of his remarks had very much cooled the ardour of educationalists in Scotland. The mainstay of education in Scotland was the interest and sympathy shown for it by the people at large; and there was no surer way of maintaining that sympathy and interest than by associating the people with the management of the schools, and making them feel that the efficiency of the schools largely depended on them. He commended the Instruction to the Government on the ground that this Measure was a novel departure in Scotch education, and that, therefore, the present time was opportune for considering the question of popular representation. The noble Lord the Member for Rochester had said that it would be unjust that the Voluntary Schools in Scotland should not receive the same assistance as those in England. The noble Lord forgot that while public opinion in England preponderated in favour of the Voluntary School system, it was just the other way in Scotland. In Scotland they desired a wide tolerance for every one, and the recognition of the principle that the success of education depended very much on widening the channels of public interest.


said that he must contradict the unintentional misrepresentation of what he had said on the Second Reading of the Bill. He had never said that the policy of the future was for Scotland to get no educational advantage unless it had already been secured for England. What he had said was that education was a national interest, in which both countries were entitled to be consulted; and that advantages in connection with secondary education would not be given to Scotland or England without raising a just demand for the same advantages in the other country. But that had very little to do with the question raised by the Instruction, the effect of which was that the managers of Voluntary Schools should no longer be what they were, but should be representative of the local authorities and the parents. The hon. Member was perfectly well aware that in the Roman Catholic schools they would certainly not like such a provision.


There is no evidence of that.


said that he did not know what the hon. Member meant by evidence; but he did not think that the hon. Member would venture to contradict the assertion. The hon. Member wished to disturb a system which had worked perfectly well; and in respect of this additional grant of 3s. it would be foolish to do such a thing. The hon. Member spoke of the increase in the Voluntary Schools since 1872. In one sense there had been an increase, and in another, there was not.


said it was the fact that in those bodies which had chosen to maintain the system of Voluntary Schools there had been a marked increase in the number of schools since 1872.


said that he was aware of that. But if the schools had increased in number, it was a testimony to the good work which they were doing. What were the conditions under which alone the Voluntary Schools could obtain aid? The school must be one which, in the opinion of the Department, was efficiently contributory to the education of the parish or borough in which it was situate. Then no grant was to be made in respect of any school established after 1872, unless the Department was, after due inquiry, satisfied that no sufficient provision existed for the children for whom the school was intended, regard being had to the rehgious beliefs of the parents. Therefore, there would be nothing but a feeling of satisfaction that the Voluntary Schools had done so well. The House having decided on the Second Reading of this Bill that a further contribution should be granted to these schools, was it worth while to raise the troublesome and thorny question of the management of the schools, when there was no complaint? The general question of popular representation in the sense of being always a necessary concomitant to State aid, was a very large question; and all he would say was that the present time was not opportune for raising the question, especially on a matter of no very great dimensions.

MR. JAMES BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

said there was no evidence that the proposal now made would receive any opposition from the Roman Catholic schools, which, of course, were the schools mainly affected; on the contrary, there was every reason to believe that the Roman Catholic schools and their managers entertained no objections to it. Some of the most powerful and influential spokesmen of the Roman Catholic Church in England had spoken in that sense in regard to the English Bill, and he believed similar statements had been made in Scotland by influential authorities there, and, as they knew, the policy of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church was one over the whole island. And in answer to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman that the moment was inopportune, he could not conceive a more suitable moment for carrying out a suggestion which was on the lines of the whole educational policy of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman dwelt in the strongest terms on the way in which they were thriving; he did not say a word about the intolerable strain to which they were exposed. That was the foundation of the whole case; but in Scotland the case wisely rested on identity of treatment with England. The right hon. Gentleman did not deny that there was a case for public control; he merely pleaded that the proposal was inopportune. But what better movement could be imagined. This was a moment when without any demand on the part of these schools Parliament was going to give them an additional grant, which was to come out of the pockets of the taxpayers. As the Scottish taxpayers were going to get much less than their share of the money being spent upon education this year, they had all the more reason to desire that their claims in regard to its application should receive fair recognition. It could not be suggested that the demand for sonic measure of local control would operate to the prejudice of those schools. Local control was objected to in England because it was said that an element of religious controversy would be introduced by it in country parishes. That could not happen in the case of Scotland, because the Roman Catholic schools admittedly existed for the sake of Roman Catholic teaching, and any one who went as a member of the local managing body would do so accepting the principle that it was a Roman Catholic school, and not to raise any difficulties about Roman Catholic teaching. He would only go to look after the general education of the school, and to bring the school into relation with the local authority and the local feeling. It was clear that in other respects the school would be benefited, and the town would be benefited by having the Voluntary School, through the representative of the School Board, brought into organic rela- tionship with the School Board and the general educational system of the town. He thought this was as good a time as they could possibly choose, and he hoped they would bring the support of a large body of opinion in the House, as he was sure they should in Scotland.


said the right hon. Gentleman appeared to consider that he was in a position to speak authoritatively for a section of the community of which he was not a Member.


I merely referred to declarations made by Roman Catholic authorities.


said declarations made on certain occasions were now quoted as if they were applicable to a totally different situation. When tie Roman Catholic authorities proclaimed themselves ready to submit to inspection, audit, and examination by local authorities, they did it on the distinct understanding that they should be admitted to a share of the rates which local authorities dispensed. Give the Roman Catholics a share of the rates and they would submit to any reasonable inspection they liked.


pointed out that the Roman Catholics had, equally with the Protestants, a voice in the management of School Boards. Thanks to the Cumulative vote, they had a representation which was denied to minorities in other spheres. He admitted that the Roman Catholics were entitled to have Roman Catholic instruction in their schools, but while admitting that principle in its entirety, they had also to take this into consideration, that in Scotland they had wade provision for the religious instruction being taken at a different time from the ordinary secular instruction of the school. Any parent might withdraw his child from the religious instruction, and no child was to suffer on account of not attending religious instruction, and this applied to Protestant and Roman Catholic schools. In Scotland, therefore, they brought the element of controversy within a very small compass indeed, but the case was different. in England. With regard to the rest of the Instruction, the hours set apart for religious instruction were public property. There was nothing unfair, if Roman Catholics were allowed representation on Board Schools in Scotland, in giving a certain amount of popular representation on the Roman Catholic schools, not to interfere with religious instruction, but with the view of having some little representation as to the teaching beyond the religious instruction. That was all they asked. Representation of the public would give this advantage—that they could see, apart from the man being a Roman Catholic, whether he was a proper teacher and whether he was teaching in such a way that even a Protestant child could go to the school if necessary. It would also secure that the teacher should be paid for his services in the school, and that his services were not applied to sonic other purposes connected with the denomination. He frankly admitted that in the case of Voluntary Schools, especially in the case of Roman Catholics, that there was a great advantage in Scotland, because it was found that if the interest was kept up in the attendance in these schools the grant was materially helped. He referred particularly to the case of Glasgow, where the average attendance of Protestant children was 86 per cent., and the Roman Catholics 85 per cent. This was largely due to the fact that the managers of the last named schools voluntarily took an interest in them which no public body would take in developing, them. He was in favour of these schools remaining, with the popular element in them, but this was not inconsistent with a certain amount of popular control which would not interfere with the religious teaching. As Voluntary Schools in Scotland were increasing year by year, it could not be said that they were badly treated. He admitted that the Voluntary Schools in England were decreasing year by year, notwithstanding the increase of population, and to meet that decrease it had been found necessary to prop them up a little more.

MR. J. A. CAMPBELL (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)

agreed with many of the remarks of the last speaker as to the satisfactory work accomplished by the Board School system in Scotland, but he wished now to return to the question more immediately before the House. The right hon. Member for South Aberdeen referred to expressions which had been made by governors of Voluntary Schools to the effect that they would welcome some measure of local assistance in the management of their schools. He thought that the argument which the right hon. Gentleman drew had been shattered by the remarks of the hon. Member for East Donegal. When it was said that some local assistance of the kind would not be objected to, he believed that such a statement was only made when there was a question of claiming a share of the school rate. Managers of Voluntary Schools in Scotland had abstained from claiming a share of the school rate, and as a counterpoise they had claimed to be continued undisturbed in the management of their schools. The denominational management of the Voluntary Schools was the price that was paid for giving them no share of the school rate. Let the Voluntary Schools ask for a share of the school rate, and then they might with justice be required to admit an adequate representation of local authorities on the management. But the two things must stand apart; and this Instruction would deprive Voluntary Schools of their distinctive character.

MR. ALEXANDER CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)

reminded the House of the extreme liberalism of the Scottish educational system. The Roman Catholics not only had the compensating advantage of being represented on the School Board, but if they possessed a majority they could actually force Roman Catholic teaching on the School Board. This fact was a complete answer to any case of hardship. The second argument against the Instruction was that so long as the Voluntary Schools did not participate in the rates they bought the privilege of being relieved from any outside control. That was a somewhat feasible argument, but the moment they accepted this grant they had practically participated, because the grant would materially help them with their subscriptions. The Lord Advocate thought that it would be unfair that outside religions should be introduced on the management of Roman Catholic schools, but his own theory was that this Amendment was not designed to allow the outside public any management on the Board, but to give some representation of the parents in the school.

MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)

would like to see public control given on these schools, Roman Catholic as well as Episcopalian; indeed, he would like to see the Voluntary Schools cease altogether, all parties being content to accept their excellent Scottish system. The whole question was on an absolutely different footing in Scotland; the Roman Catholic schools were under the management of their own body, and they were increasing in number. But they did not claim or receive any part of the support from the rates. As long as they did not, he did not see how the House could sanction the claim that the local authorities ought to have any share in the control. He hoped that the Department, in giving this extra three shillings, would insist on greater efficiency, but he failed to follow the argument that on the strength of an additional Treasury grant an additional representation should be put into the hands of the local authorities.

Question put,— That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert clauses in the Bill with a view to making provisions for insuring adequate representations of local authorities or parents on the management of voluntary schools in receipt of the aid giant. The House divided:—Ayes, 48; Noes, 131.—(Division List, No. 318.)

Bill considered in Committee.

[The CHAIRMAN Of WAYS and MEANS, Mr. J. W. LOWTHER, in the Chair.]

Clause 1,—