§ [THIRD READING SECOND DAY'S DEBATES.]
Which Amendment was—
To leave out the word 'now' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months.' "—(Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ (2.35.) DR. MACNAMARA () Camberwell, N.
When my speech was interrupted at the close of the sitting last night I was expressing my regret that the Government have thought it necessary to depart from the principle of one authority for all grades of education. Perhaps I may be allowed to read a sentence from a speech made by the Prime Minister, with which I desire to entirely associate myself—The Government quite recognise that until both primary and secondary education in each district are confided to a single education authority we cannot regard our educational system as properly organised.I am sorry that the Bill in its career through the Committee stage has so seriously departed from that admirable principle. We have one authority for all grades of education—financial, administrative, and autonomous for every county borough, but I regret very much that the Government have found it necessary to depart from the principle by giving autonomy for purely elementary education, while secondary education is to be administered by the county centre to municipal boroughs of over 10,000 and urban districts with over 20,000 population. And much more than that I regret the fact that when Clause 3 was being discussed the Prime Minister acquiesced in the suggestion that miserable boroughs of under 10,000 and urban districts under 20,000 might, if they desired and cared to raise 1d. over and above the 2d. county rate, have autonomy to that extent over higher education. The result is this, that, starting with 129 authorities—county boroughs and administrative counties having autonomy for all purposes—we immediately proceed to create 201 authorities other than the 129 which will be autonomous for elementary but not for higher education, and 853 which will be autonomous 1069 in a measure for higher but not for elementary education. You have 1,183 authorities of one sort or another, and that is, I think, a serious departure from the reasonable ideal set before us by the Prime Minister in the words I have just quoted. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has no doubt been compelled to take this course by political exigencies rather than by educational expediency, but I do not suppose that the people in the localities will act with the maximum stupidity. Indeed, I hope they will not, and that the bad effects of this policy will be mitigated by the good sense of the people who will locally have to administer this scheme. I have no objection to municipalising the control of education. I think it is desirable wherever it is practicable, but it is not practicable in the great county boroughs. Take the case of Leeds. There you have 700 or 800 school departments of various kinds. You have, roughly speaking, 3,000 teachers and 100,000 pupils of one sort or another. You have an annual expenditure of at least half-a-million sterling, an expenditure which is bound to increase with the growth of population. What will be the result if you hand over that work to the Municipal Council? If the scheme of municipalisation is genuine, it must be agreed that in the urban districts a majority of the Education committee shall be members of the Municipal Council. That is the Birmingham League Scheme of which we have heard so much, and you are bound to it, or otherwise your scheme is spurious. Now, in a great city like Leeds the councillors are hard-worked business men, and the stupendous detailed public work entailed by this Bill would fall necessarily into the hands, first of all. of officials and, secondly, into the hands of a numbers of persons who are not directly responsible to the ratepayers who find the money. That is the greatest educational leap in the dark which the country has ever taken. I think the time must come when the county boroughs will come to Parliament and ask for a revival, in some form or another, of the ad hoc body for educational purposes, and in order to meet the objection of the multiplication of elections agree that their ad hoc body 1070 shall be constituted on the same date, the same voting paper, and in the same wards as the Municipal Council. It is my profound belief that that will happen.
Now, Sir, I want to say a word or two about the question of finance. I am profoundly thankful to the Government for having had the courage to recognise once for all that the hopeless endeavour to maintain elementary education by voluntary contributions should be entirely departed from. It has, I think, been a matter of common agreement that the voluntary schools cannot compete with schools supported out of the rates, and I am therefore glad that the Government have decided that they shall be no longer left dependent on voluntary subscription or on the good will and charity of residents in the locality. In the first place, that brings under contribution for elementary education £60,000,000 of the rateable value of the country, which up to the present time has escaped any contribution in that form. I am delighted that the ratepayers of Preston, Stockport, Eastbourne, Cheltenham, Bournemouth, Lincoln, Chester, St. Helens, and 120 other towns will now be compelled to bear their due share of what AI believe to be a communal obligation. In the past they have shuffled out of it on the ground that they dislike the school board system of religious instruction, and that they prefer denominational instruction. I believe that is only true of a small number of the 128 towns. In many places, no doubt, some people have paid more than they need have done for the upkeep of the denominational schools, but so far as the bulk of the ratepayers is concerned the preference has been not for this or that form of religious instruction but for a system which will enable them to escape any contribution of the rates. The people of Preston have got their hearts' desire; they have denominational teaching under this Bill, and I am going to watch with what cheerfulness they will pay for it now that they have to do it out of the rates. It strikes me that when they find that denominational schools are just as expensive as undenominational schools have been they will love one about as little as they have loved the other in the past. I view with entire satisfaction the placing of public elementary schools on public funds and the universalistion of local rates.
1071 I am tired of allowing people to contract themselves out of their communal obligations.
One of the immediate results of the passing of this Bill will be the necessity to overhaul the Education Code, which such matters as the staffing has been fixed with due regard to the poverty of the voluntary schools. What are the provisions of this year's Code in regard to the staffing of the schools? Each certificated head-teacher is held responsible for an average attendance of fifty children, which may mean anything up to seventy-five children on the school roll; each certificated assistant is responsible for an average attendance of sixty children—or about eighty children on the roll—and each ex-pupil-teacher is responsible for an average of forty-five, representing probably sixty on the roll. Then there is another class of young person, of whom there are some 17,000 at work in our voluntary schools—and I think it is a scandal that it should be so—a young person who has no qualification whatever except that she can assure the Inspector of Schools that she is over eighteen and has been vaccinated; this class of teacher is responsible for thirty children in average attendance, or anything up to forty-five on the roll. Thus at the present time in the voluntary schools of England and Wales there is only one certificated teacher for every 103 children in average attendance, which means that the classes are unteachably and cruelly large. The excuse of poverty which has hitherto been the ground for fixing that low standard now disappears, and therefore I urge that we must have an overhauling of the Education Code so as to bring us into something like with the other great civilised countries of Europe as well as the United States of America, where classes of sixty, seventy, eighty, and ninety are never seen. The least we can ask is that the classes shall be reduced to something like manageable proportions.
I come to the question of the management of denominational schools. Rate aid materially involves absolutely full rate control. I have no anxiety as to that, for I am sure that the public, which now has to find eleven-twelfths of the cost of education, will in a short time demand 1072 more than four-twelfths of the representation on the management. So far as the majority of foundation managers is concerned, I look upon the scheme of the Prime Minister as a futile rampart of sand erected on the shore against an incoming tide. I do not see how the Government can expect to limit the representatives of the ratepayers to two out of six. My position was admirably summed up by Lord Selborne who, when asked in 1895 why the Archbishop's Committee did not recommend rate aid, said that—He looked with the greatest fear to their having to take any such course as that of claiming a share of the rates. That, in his opinion, would be a most suicidal policy to adopt, for it would be handing themselves over body and soul to the enemy.The noble Lord will no doubt today content himself with the reflection that "Adversity makes strange bed-fellows." I feel sure that the time will come very soon when the four-twelfths representation will be held not to be an adequate return for the eleven-twelfths public aid. I wish next to say a few words on Clause 7, sub-Section 5, which is to be handed down to posterity as the Kenyon-Slaney Clause. I think that that Clause is an admirable addition to this Bill. It will no doubt be very rarely operative, but when it is applied it will prove a very efficacious correction to the vagaries of a few extreme clericals who are connected with our schools. Only this morning I had occasion to go into the details of a case which I believe the Kenyon-Slaney case will exactly meet. It is the case of the village of Billesdon, Leicestershire, the vicar of which has quite recently mysteriously developed High Church tendencies. The vicar one day went into the school—a Church school—where the schoolmaster worked hard for twenty years giving Church teaching to the satisfaction of everybody concerned, including the diocesan inspector. The vicar found the schoolmaster teaching that there were two sacraments, and, listening to this, said, "This won't do; you may take it there are seven sacraments." The schoolmaster replied, "I am very sorry, but I understand the Church Prayer-book only mentions two, and I have a conscientious objection to teaching seven." The vicar was apparently very much exasperated. This type of vicar is very rare, I admit; 1073 I have not met the type myself, and I have been very closely in touch with elementary education for twenty or thirty years. But here we have a specimen of what this sort of man will do. In this village there is a custom for the teachers to make a May garland and the children to make a procession around the village. Mr. Clowes, the headmaster. who was also superintendent of the Sunday school, without any previous discussion on the part of the vicar, received the following letter—Third Sunday after Easter,Billesden Vicarage, Leicester.
DEAR MR. CLOWES
.—We think it would be a good plan to have the Maypole this year exclusively for children of the Church. Of course, there may be other Maypoles; but as the origin of Maypoles is of a Christian character the children of the Church should have a Maypole of their own. Please give notice in Sunday school to-day that the children of Sunday School and Church will have a special garland of their own this year and that they should go round this week to collect flowers, &c.
§ Yours sincerely,
§ CHAS. R. FOWKE.
§ I may say, with reference to the statement that the origin of My poles is of a Christian character, that it rather nonplussed me, and I spent a lot of time in looking up encyclopædias and dictionaries to discover that origin, but in vain; perhaps one of my hon. friends will be able to invent a special brand of Maypole for Nonconformist children. But to return to the letter. The schoolmaster most respectfully but firmly declined to give out any such notice in the Sunday school, and here I may interpolate a remark on the question of appeal as provided for in the Bill. There id but a narrow margin, after all, between points of secular and religious instruction, and it would be interesting to know whether an appeal against the consequence of this schoolmaster's refusal to comply with the direction of the vicar came under the head of secular or religious. Mr. Fowke expressed the opinion that this master should thereafter resign the superintendence of the Sunday school or give out this notice, and the master accordingly sent in his resignation.
This vicar wrote—
I got your letter last night on my return. I also received your resignation of superintendent of the Sunday-school. I, however, expressed no wish that you should resign.
What I said was that you were bound to give out notices in the Sunday-school which I gave you, or to resign.
§ This master, having resigned the superintendence of the Sunday school, was then called upon to resign his position as a day school teacher, but I am glad to say that such was the feeling of indignation aroused in the village that that notice of resignation was withdrawn. Nine-tenths of the people made an appeal to the vicar that Mr. Clowes should be allowed to continue giving religious instruction. And this is where the Kenyon-Slaney Amendment comes in. The vicar says: "Oh, no! under the trust deed I am the arbitrator in the matter, and to give religious instruction without my consent would create a schism in the village." It is in cases like this where the Kenyon-Slaney Amendment would be more effective. The position is broadly this, that in this village, where up to the present everything has been continued peacefully, you get day by day one section of the children called together to receive religious instruction of a particular sort at the hands of the vicar, and the great mass who do not desire to receive that kind of instruction getting none at all. I admit such a case is exceedingly rare, but it is such a case that the Kenyon-Slaney Clause would be able to meet, and it is because of occasional cases of this kind that I welcome that Clause, which would associate with a foolish incumbent of this kind, five laymen who would be able to regard the subject from a sane point of view.
§ There is only one part of this Bill that I view with apprehension, and that is the part which deals with the provision of new schools. The three Clauses dealing with the provision of new schools were never properly discussed in Committee; they were rushed through in two sittings, with seven applications of the Closure, although they depart entirely and fundamentally from the Accommodation Clause of the Act of 1870. These three Clauses are a fatally ingenious scheme for fastening denominationalism upon national education in this country, and in ten years time I think that those who are watching the operation of this Bill, and the effect that it will have on the education of the country, will look back on those three Clauses as 1075 the most vicious part of this Bill. What are they? Supposing that a village wants a school—I daresay they would prefer a public undenominational school; if they insist or the local authority insists on their behalf upon having one, first of all they have to pay the general rate levied upon the whole county, which the hon. and learned Attorney General put at a maximum of 3d.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir ROBERT FINLAY, Inverness Burghs)
I did not say anything of the kind. I said I should be very glad if one could think it would not be necessary to raise more than 3d.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
I will not enter into any wire-drawing dialectics with the hon. and learned Gentleman. I certainly understood him to suggest that that would be the maximum.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
There is no question of wire-drawing dialectics at all. I merely said I should be very glad if it were so.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
I thought I was fairly representing the hon. and learned Gentleman. But, however, the village that wants a national school has first to pay the county rate of 3d. or 6d., and then if they insist upon an undenominational school, out of their restricted and poverty - stricken rateable value they have to find half, at least, or threequarters, of the entire capital sum for the erection of the school, which means that they will have to rate themselves to the extent of anything between 3d. and 30 pence for fifteen years. In the meantime you have the countervailing suggestion of the Church. The Church will come forward and say, "Why should you pay this charge? There is no necessity for your doing so; here is a building, which it may be is already in existence; or it may be, "We have a building fund, out of which we will build you a school free of charge, so that you will have nothing to pay but the county rate." Of course the people will accept the denominational school. They will swallow the Church Catechism to save the rate. I predict that under this Bill, when it becomes an Act, rarely if ever will a national school be set up in an outside area. Outside the great county boroughs and great urban 1076 centres generally, a new provided school will rarely be set up I may be asked, how is the Church to find the money for a central fund for the erection of non-provided schools? The voluntary contributions amount at present to £650,000. They will fall off, very naturally, when the universal school rate is established. But supposing they only fall off slightly, what will the Church do with the money? Under the original terms of the Bill the Church would have been compelled to use it for the repair of the school fabrics, but since the Bill was altered by Closure in compartments the Church of England gets half the school fees, £60,000, half the endowments, another £60,000, and half the rentals, £30,000.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
The provisions as to endowments and fees to be provided never arose until after the application of Closure by compartments.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
Only after we had been given the time - table. However, half the fees would represent £60,000, half the endowments £60,000, and half the rents of the teachers' houses—though I am told it is the whole—£30,000, making £150,000 in all. That is exactly the sum mentioned by the Bishop of London as being necessary to keep up the repairs of Church of England school buildings.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
Then I will withdraw the remark and put the matter in another way. I have gone carefully into the question, and, judging from a Return which shows the amount spent on repairs in all elementary schools—although it is mixed up with other items—I should be well within the mark if I say that the Church of England has never spent upon repairs more than 2s. a head on the 3,000,000 children in Church schools. That comes to £300,000. Towards that you have £150,000 from public sources 1077 in the shape of rent, fees, and endowments—that is, half the amount which, according to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University, was to be paid by the owners.
§ *MR. TALBOT
The owners do not receive fees, and the great bulk of Church schools have no fees whatever.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
The total amount of school fees in Church schools is about £120,000; and if the Church is prepared to pool a large sum for building purposes, she ought to be prepared to pool a large sum for repairs. The simple fact is, that after deducting the balance of £150,000 for repairs from the voluntary contributions of £650,000, you have half a million of money still at the disposal of the Church with which to set up a great building fund. But I am not sure that the matter will rest where it is. According to The Times, Dr. Temple said yesterday at Canterbury that—He thought this Bill drove a hard bargain with the Church in some respects.I should like to know what he calls an easy bargain. I should put it the other way and call it a hard bargain with the public. But he goes on to say—In regard to repairs of buildings, he had thought that they would be allowed, at any rate, to leave upon the rates the repairs which were commonly included in the title of maintenance, those occurring from day to day, but that had been distinctly refused.Then comes this significant and ommous sentence—It would be rather a difficult thing to carry any Amendment in the House of Lords, but, nevertheless, they were bound to try.All that I can say is that I hope his effort will be a very successful failure, because I think the bargain was a very fair one, and if anybody is hit it is the over burdened ratepayer. The Archbishop, in conclusion, said that—He had summoned a meeting of all the Bishops for Friday next to discuss the details of the Bill, and he trusted that they might then determine in what way it would be their duty to deal with the Bill when it came into Committee next week.It would be a gross impertinence on my part to offer any advice to Dr. Temple and his colleagues on the Episcopal Bench, but if I did venture to give any advice, it would be that they had better be content with what they have; they have done very well out of the matter.
1078 If they endeavour to make any more extortions—I can call them nothing else—they will reach the last straw and break the patient ratepayer's back.
I apologise for having kept the House so long. I have one final word. I frankly hope that this Bill, certain parts of which I have criticised, will work better in the localities than I fear will be the case. I sincerely hope that the result of the Bill will exceed the expectations of its most enlightened supporters. But this Bill is not the last word on the education question by a long way. I think the last word will be spoken by the people of this country in a much shorter time than the present Ministry imagine. The last word will not be spoken until every public school is under full and complete public control; as far as I am concerned, it will not be spoken until we place before every child in the realm, no matter how humble his extraction, such educational facilities as will enable him wisely and properly to steward the great national heritage which in due course will be handed over to his keeping.
§ *(3.22.) SIR RICHARD JEBB () Cambridge University
Our protracted discussions in Committee have been devoted mainly to the details of the machinery, and to certain aspects of the denominational question. This Bill, however, embodies a great national reform, and before it leaves this House it seems well that some of us should attempt to state the broad effects of the Bill on the educational prospects of the country as we see them. That is what I shall endeavour to do from my own point of view. Before doing so, however, I desire to touch on one or two points in the interesting debate of yesterday.
The first is a reference in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. Referring to the Kenyon-Slaney Clause, after enumerating the various educational agencies under the Bill, the right hon. Gentlemen said—But still we have not yet exhausted the starry firmament. We discover, by its disturbing influence rather than by actual vision, another mighty element, as the old and watchful astronomer recognised the planet Neptune by its influence on other heavenly bodies before it came within the range of his telescope.That unseen power was, of course, the Bishop. I venture to think there is one 1079 difference between the astronomical discovery made by the right hon. Gentleman and that of Neptune. The actual priority of discovery in the latter case was due to a young man afterwards famous as Professor Adams, but the planet was discovered almost simultaneously by the distinguished French astronomer, Leverrier. The glory of the new astronomical discovery, however, is not shared by the right hon. Gentleman with any competitor; it belongs exclusively to himself. How he calculates the deflecting influence of an invisible Bishop on the orbit of a County Councillor, I cannot pretend to say; but, so far as I have observed the movements of those terrestrial bodies, I have not seen that they are particularly attracted by the ecclesiastical planet. As one who voted against the Kenyon-Slaney Clause, I should like to say why I took that course. Under the Clause, the tenour of the trust deed must be observed. The words "the tenour of" indicate that a general observance of the provisions as to religious teaching would suffice. For instance, if the trust deed provides that the teaching shall be that of the Church of England and under the supervision of the clergyman, the general tenour of the deed is satisfied if the teaching in the school continues to be the teaching of the Church of England, and the provision as to the supervision of the clergyman will not interfere with the control of the six managers: that control will be absolute. I entirely sympathise with those who, like the hon. and gallant Member for the Newport Division of Shropshire, wish to control the vagaries of clergymen who are not loyal to the Church of England. For my part, I am a moderate Churchman; and I condemn as strongly as any man in this House the excesses of disloyal clergymen. But I believe that the number of these extreme men is very small; and the reason why I object to the Kenyon-Slaney Clause is that it seems to open the way to the exclusion even of a moderate clergyman, who has not offended against the principles of the Church, from having any say in the religious instruction given in the Church school in his own parish. Anybody familiar with village life knows how inconceivably small and petty are the jealousies which sometimes exist, and 1080 out of the six managers any four may now determine that the clergyman, however unobjectionable, should have nothing whatever to do with the religious teaching in the school. The secular control over the school is already absolutely under the local authority. While I regard this Clause as a provision which may be salutary in a very few cases, it is one which may also operate unjustly towards a number of clergymen who are not really open to censure of any kind, but who from some trivial local cause may find a majority of the managers against them. However, I will pass from that, simply saying that never since I entered the House have I given a vote under clearer convictions than was the case in regard to this Kenyon-Slaney Clause.
The other point to which I wish to refer before coming to the more general aspect of the Bill is contained in a statement made yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen. He said there is no evidence that members of the Church of England desire Church of England teaching for their children. He admits that Roman Catholics desire Roman Catholic teaching. The only evidence he gave us for this theory was that some Church of England parents sent their children to board schools. We have never denied that in some board schools the religious teaching is very good, only there is no security for it. Obviously that is no proof of the right hon. Gentleman's assertion. Look at the history of the last thirty-two years. Would the Church of England have done all it has done, and made all these sacrifices, if the members of the Church did not care for Church of England teaching?
I turn from these points, and come to the larger educational bearings of this Bill. Why is this Bill brought in? What was the state of national education to call for such a large measure of reform? The first cause was that elementary education was in an unsatisfactory state. This was so because some of he voluntary schools were leading a precarious existence, which might have been closed almost any time, and some of them were more or less inefficient, through poverty. That was a very serious defect in our elementary system. Then as to our secondary 1081 system: it was in a chaotic condition. The two main causes of this were the conflict and overlapping of the authorities for secondary education, and, secondly, the overlapping of schools. That is to say, many schools were not doing the work they were designed and fitted for, and were engaged in a competition with other schools. That was wasteful. The Leader of the Opposition observed yesterday that as our educational opportunties were so limited we should not be too fastidious about overlapping. But overlapping is a fatal impediment to general organisation. Until you have schools doing their proper work, you cannot have the system properly organised as a whole.
These are two great defects which call for a large measure like this. There is a third defect, and that is the want of proper linking between primary and secondary education. It had been decided by law that the School Boards could not apply their funds to any other purpose than the elementary education of children. In 1899 the Board of Education took a step in the right direction, by providing that certain schools should be specially equipped and staffed for higher grade work, and that the higher elementary education should be organised, with a systematic curriculum. That was, I think, a reform of great importance, but something more was needed. With those three great defects in our existing educational system, what was the state of the public mind? Much has been said about the absence of a special mandate. I suppose it will be true to say that the public opinion of this country was coming to feel that the state of our education was a very grave national disadvantage, that it hampered us most seriously in industrial and commercial competition, and that it might even become an urgent national peril. If the existence of such a state of public feeling, constantly expressed, was not a mandate to a Government, I cannot imagine what stronger mandate they could want.
What are the general aims of this Bill? In a few words, what are the chief things that it proposes to do? First in regard to elementary education. This Bill makes it possible, for the first time, that every public elementary school 1082 shall be maintained in a state of satisfactory efficiency. It makes this possible by assigning funds to the local education committees for that purpose, and the Board of Education will have as one of its duties to see that the purpose for which the money has been provided is fulfilled. There at once you have an immense gain, by the establishment of a secure basis for our educational system.
Then, as to secondary education. In Clause 2 the local authority is charged to take a survey of the educational needs of its area and to supply or aid the supply of education other than elementary; and it has to take the advice of the Board of Education as to the needs of the area, and the best way of meeting them. Certain funds are assigned to it for that purpose. I attach great importance to the provision that the Board of Education shall be consulted. A few years ago that provision would not have been of so much moment; but as the Board of Education is now constituted, it has a separate department for secondary education. It has all the machinery and the power, and it will certainly have the desire, to afford the most intelligent and effective guidance to the local authorities in the performance of their duty, to see that there is an adequate and suitable supply of secondary education in each area.
Next, as to linking primary with secondary education. The co-ordination of education of every kind is expressly provided for in Clause 2 as one of the duties laid on the local education authority. How can such co-ordination be carried out? Largely, in the first place, by a judicious system of scholarships or bursaries, but also by the adjustment of the curriculum of schools of different kinds and grades.
And now as to the training of teachers. There is nothing of greater national importance at this moment than the training of teachers, and that object is now expressly named in Clause 2. The local authority can establish training colleges or aid institutions that already exist. The grievance of Nonconformists is met, or I hope very largely met, because it is now in the power of the local education authority to establish undenominational training colleges, or undenominational hostels in connection with denominational training college. I am 1083 one of those who have always recognised the grievance of Nonconformists in this matter, and I rejoice to think that this Bill will go far to redress it. I attach very great importance to this provision in the Bill, coming as it does at a time when steps are being taken to establish a register of teachers. By the Order in Council of March last a Teachers' Registration Council is established. The Consultative Committee of the Board of Education have already framed regulations for the formation of a register, and the existence of this register will, I hope, afford a new and powerful stimulus to the training of teachers for secondary education.
In Clause 18 there is a provision in regard to the education committee for the inclusion of experts. That I think is of very great value, because under the old system, even in School Board districts, it is well known that this element was not always adequately represented on the School Board. I welcome also the provision for the necessary inclusion of women in these education committees. It is hardly necessary to point out how indispensable their presence is.
The greatest defect of the old educational system of this country was that it entirely failed to make education a prominent concern and interest of local life in counties or towns, whether large or small. Even in School Board areas education did not occupy that place, because the School Board was distinct from the organ of local government. I welcome this Bill for this reason among others, because I feel that it will go far to make education one of the foremost interests and concerns of the locality, be it country or town. At some sacrifice of strict logic in regard to the one authority principle, the Bill gives local autonomy in a prudently elastic form. The local autonomy is made adaptable to varying circumstances; and the position in which the Board of Education is placed is, so far as I can judge, the right one.
Such central control as is given under this Bill to the Board of Education really depends upon two ideas. The first idea is that the Board of Education represents expert knowledge. The second is that the Board of Education will be competent to advise in the light of a wide and comprehensive survey, more comprehensive than any local authority could take. But when all has been said, it remains true that the working of this Bill will 1084 require the good will and loyal co-operation of all concerned. I am confident that that condition also will be fulfilled, and I believe that this Bill, instead of diminishing, as has been prophesied, will stimulate and increase the popular interest in education.
It is constantly said that nothing is so disastrous in our country with regard to education as the absence of popular interest. For my part, I believe that there is great exaggeration upon this question. In some rural areas apathy exists beyond doubt, but, on the other hand, if you take the artisans of great towns in the North you will find that, as a rule, they are extremely keen about education. It was my honour to hold an educational post in Scotland for several years, and I had some opportunity of observing the feeling of Scotland about education. It may be due to a difference of temperament, or to more favourable conditions, or to both causes, but there is no doubt that in Scotland the interest in education is diffused through all classes in a way to which there is nothing comparable in England. I attribute that partly to the fact that the Scottish Universities have been open to all classes of the people, and partly also to the Scottish system of elementary and secondary education. To what has the apathy in England, so far as it exists, been due? I think one can point to one or two causes which go far to explain the difference between England and Scotland in that respect. The first cause has been the want of variety in the curriculum of our elementary schools. Under the old system of earning grants for special subjects, the curriculum was sometimes ludicrously unsuited to the circumstances and needs of the children. Under the block grant recently introduced, elasticity has been given in respect of the curriculum of elementary schools; thus in a rural school it will now be possible to teach things which will really interest the children, and which will be of use to them in their country life. Another great cause of that apathy has, I think, been want of continuity; that is, the fact that after a certain age, say, from twelve to fifteen years, there was in many cases no upward educational path open to a child of promise. Such a path is opened by this Bill. I think that is one 1085 of the most important benefits it will confer on the community. When these two defects in our educational system—want of variety and want of continuity—have been redressed, and when the machinery of this Bill is in full operation, I believe that in many, I hope most, localities of England there will grow up a real and living interest in education; and I believe that under the influence of this feeling, and with the loyal co-operation of all who are concerned, this Bill will prove what its framers have intended it to be, a far-reaching and salutary measure of educational reform.
§ (3.46.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT () Monmouthshire, W.
I am sure the House has listened with the greatest interest to the speech of one of the highest authorities upon the subject of education among Members of this Assembly. I listened with special interest to the theory of my hon. friend in reference to the apathy shown in this country towards the subject. That apathy, he said, did not exist in the great towns of the North of England, and it did not exist in Scotland. Yes, but what is the education given in the large northern towns and in Scotland? It is the education given under the direction of School Boards. Where is this apathy to be found? In the rural districts, and especially in the South of England, where education is given under the denominational system. That, I think, is a simpler account of the matter than that given by my hon. friend. But I will not venture to occupy the time of the House by going into a general review of what may be the operation of this Bill, being satisfied with the exposition given by my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition. I wish to confine what I have to say tonight to one principal point, and that is to my mind the most important part of the whole, the question of popular control as it stands under the Bill.
Now, quite apart from all details, apart even from the religious difficulty and its controversies, stands the great principle we, at all events, shall always contend for, and which I believe is valued on the other side of the House, that in the disposal of large sums of public money there should be sufficient public control. I ask the House to consider what is the public control effected by this Bill. This Bill starts with a new educational authority, the councils in counties and 1086 boroughs, and it is claimed that as these are popularly-elected bodies, there is consequently popular control. Well, you start with these county and borough councils, and there is one feature in these discussions upon which I must observe, and that is that the subject has been argued throughout rather too much upon the position in boroughs. Now the real difficulty and the real necessity of education in this country lie in the rural districts, and what I have to say has more reference to these districts than to the towns. You start with your County Council. Now a County Council, as everybody will admit, is a body without extended experience of educational work at present. I do not say you cannot impose a new duty on County Councils, but this is an immense subject which quite overshadows the other duties they have to perform, and I think it is a great misfortune, as my right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean said, that the electors of County Councils should not have had the opportunity of considering what sort of a council they would desire to deal with the subject of education. But that can only come later, and for the present you must take the Councils as they are after having been elected for the discharge of totally different duties and for dealing with matters of highways and other local subjects of infinitely less importance than education. This, however, as my right hon. friend says, is a battle that will have to be fought out in the future. Electors in due time will have to consider what should be the constitution of their County Council, and I believe it will be very different from what we have had up to the present time, Elections will be fought on very different grounds and will involve conflicts on religious and political issues to which they have hitherto been strangers. I will assume that County Councils have set to work. Now, they meet four times a year; it is hardly to be supposed that they will meet constantly, like School Boards. But you abolish School Boards and County Councils take their place. They meet four times a year, and of course they cannot settle even the policy, much less the details, of an educational system for the counties, and therefore they are to have an education committee. It is a very proper thing for a County Council to have such a committee, but up to this time a County Council has been thought capable 1087 of choosing and constituting their own committees. But we have changed all that. This Council is not to have the power of choosing its committee, and the consequences I will show as affecting the question of popular control. This committee, I suppose, for the County Council is forbidden to exercise its powers except on consultation with the committee, is to settle the educational policy. My hon. friend behind me stated that the majority of this committee must consist of elected members of the Council, but that is not so; there is a permissive power that it may not be so. If members of the County Council do not want a majority of their members to be on the committee, they may be in a minority, and , therefore, the popular element may be in a minority, and what is insisted upon is that, at all events, there shall be a large body of members of the committee not appointed by the Council; they are to represent other people and are to be nominated by other bodies.
What becomes, then, of your public control? Here is a Council, which is an elected body, which has introduced into its body persons whom they are bound to appoint because they have been nominated by other bodies. Who are these other bodies? My hon. friend who has just sat down talks of education experts, and no doubt County Councils would voluntarily call in education experts to assist them, but that is not the real point; the point is the persons they represent in the shaping of an education policy. There is no secret about it. Everybody knows that the representatives of denominational and sectarian bodies are to be placed on this committee whether the County Council likes it or not. My hon. friend the Secretary to the Education Department used very conciliatory language on the subject. Well, he is a conciliatory person, but this Bill is one that is to last, and power is given to the Education Department to revise the schemes of County Councils, whom you assume to be bodies fit to conduct this great business. In the preparation of a scheme, the Council is supposed to know all about the sort of education fitted for its district, and the scheme goes to the Education Department at Whitehall. The Department may revise the scheme and, if necessary, have a public inquiry to decide whether or not a County Council is a fitting body and 1088 has framed a fitting scheme and competent for its purpose. It is to hear claimants to go upon the committee of the County Council. The Department may not approve the scheme, and may return it to the Council. But suppose the Council differs from the Department, and declines to accept the advice of the Department, what is to happen then? Well, you start with a conflict between the County Council and the Department. My hon. friend who has just sat down says he approves of the control of the Education Department, which runs, as I shall directly show, through the whole of this Bill, and makes them masters everywhere of the County Council in every part of its operations. And you call that popular control! The education authority has not popular control; it may be expert control, but it is not popular control, and the great feature of this Bill is that in no place has the popularly-elected body real control of any part of the education of the country; it is a subordinate agent, and the setting up of a great independent education authority deriving its force from its knowledge of the conditions of the district is absolutely contrary to the whole texture of this Bill. Then we will suppose that in the revised scheme of the Education Department representatives of all the sects have been placed, under the powers of this Bill, upon the Committee of the County Council.
It has been stated here that that has been protested against, and we have endeavoured to mitigate even the terms under which the Councils were obliged to appoint upon nomination. I believe there were representations by a committee of the County Councils that they disliked, and naturally disliked, a position which was altogether inconsistent with their dignity and with their authority, and which they regarded as humiliating; but for some reason or other the Government retained these words, and would not even alter the word "nomination" of these outside bodies. Now, Sir, I say in the first place—to use the word which my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition has used—you dilute your popularly-elected authority by pouring into it these nominations of outside bodies. That is the first invasion of the popular 1089 authority, because this important Committee is not a popularly-elected authority, nor is it nominated even by a popularly-elected body. I confess that this notion of holding a public inquiry, to allow these persons to come forward and claim to be put upon these Committees, not at the instance or even with the consent of the County Councils, is at once to introduce a conflict which will be extremely injurious to education. What is the position of the County Councils? If they do not accept the scheme returned to them by the Education Department, the Education Department in Whitehall supersedes the County Councils, and compels them to act under their orders. I say that is not popular control, nor even that of this education committee. I am trying to look at the thing as I imagine it will work in the rural districts with which I am acquainted. The County Council meets four times a year, and it has to do all the business of the county, which it does very well at present, and all the work of higher education and elementary education and technical education at those meetings. Of course it cannot do it. The work will have to be done by this committee. The committee will, I suppose, meet at the central town in the county, but how often it is to meet I do not know. The School Boards are constantly at work. I see there is a minimum of three months—that is to say, this committee is to meet four times a year also. And upon that is to depend the government of the education of the country. Therefore, it is not on the County Council, nor is it on this committee, that the real working of the education in the rural districts will depend. In the large towns it is different; the Councils are there, and the committees are there, and they can constantly attend to the work. But in the rural districts the whole thing depends, and must depend, on the managers, and the moment you come to the management you annihilate popular control; the whole object is to annihilate popular control. Six managers are to be appointed, and four of these are to be appointed under private trust deeds. That is the management which is to arrest education. The popular control of your great central authority is represented by 1090 one out of six. I say it is a farce to talk of popular control in the management of the schools in the rural districts. There is nothing of the kind. You have deliberately framed your plan for the purpose of excluding popular control. Who are these four managers? They are appointed under private trust deeds, and they are the statutory majority. What is the position, then, of the popularly-elected bodies in the practical management of education in these schools? They are permitted the privilege of appointing one man out of six in the management of all the denominational schools in the rural districts. To talk of popular control under such a system is a farce, a contradiction in terms altogether. You may say that, though the mangers are appointed in this manner, they are to be under the direction and instruction, with regard to secular education, of the education authority. But there is a great difference between giving instructions to men whom you appoint yourself and giving instructions to men who are appointed by other people. But the instructions are to be given to men whom they have not appointed and whom they cannot dismiss, and the statutory majority are what you may call strangers altogether to the education authority, from whom they receive their instructions. That you start with.
I remember that when this Bill was launched we were told that the minority were to act the part of an Opposition; they were to criticise and to appeal to public opinion against anything they disapproved of in the action of the majority. It is that majority to whom the minority of one is to give the instruction in regard to secular education. What is the position in reference to the things in regard to which instruction is to be given? The managers may differ in the view of secular education taken by the County Council or their committee. My hon. friend who has just sat down stated that the great defect of elementary education in this country was want of variety. But this Bill has destroyed all variety in elementary education in this country. The Cockerton judgment is accepted as the Government's principle of elementary education. They actually confine the words "elementary education" to reading, writing, and arithmetic. Therefore, we may well understand that there will be differences of opinion—a 1091 more enlightened view on the part of the County Councils than on the part of the nominees of the trust deeds. But who prevails in that matter? These two authorities—that is to say, the managers and the County Council, who give the instructions—are treated in this Bill as co-equal authorities; one is not subject to the other. They may both of them appeal to the Education Department, and the Education Department may rule out the instructions of the County Council even upon secular education.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I know the Attorney General has given one interpretation on this matter, but it has not the force of a court of law. What he says is that they only determine whether the instructions have been carried out. I do not believe that is the force of the words at all. The words of the Clause are very distinct. They are:If any question arises under this section between the local education authority and the managers of a school not provided by the authority, that question shall be determined by the Board of Education.Therefore, on any question that arises between these two authorities the Board of Education may decide in favour either of one or the other equally. That is not popular control; it is the control of the Education Department, which is not a popular body. Therefore here, again, as everywhere, the authority of the County Council is superseded by the authority of the Education Department, and the popular element is overwhelmed by Downing Street. You raise in these autonomous bodies exactly the same feeling that has been raised in your self-governing colonies by the interference of the experts of Downing Street. They did not tolerate it, and you will not find it tolerated here. The County Councils have proved themselves able and competent to do their own business; and to be told that on every question that arises between them and the managers, the managers will appeal against their instructions to the Education Department, is a source of friction, in my opinion, that will be absolutely injurious to the working of your educational system. As to secular 1092 education, then, the Education Department is the last resort and the final authority to determine it, and not the popularly elected authority. This latter is not the authority in this matter of secular education. All the representations, therefore, which have been made upon this subject, that the local education authority would be supreme in secular education, are entirely inconsistent with the provisions of the Bill.
Take another subject, one of much less importance—the maintenance of buildings. I refer with regret to this sordid subject, which has been dealt with in such a huckstering spirit. What has been the situation with regard to this question? We have been told that this great contribution towards the maintenance of the buildings was a consideration to support the monopoly to be granted to the voluntary schools. We are told that there was to be a great sacrifice on their part. What sacrifice is there? By dint of mere clamour on their part during the debates on the Bill, they have been able to appropriate funds which have been intended for the general education of the children, for the relief of their liabilities—for the relief of those subscriptions which they were to make in order to keep up those buildings. They have succeeded in appropriating endowments, they have succeeded in appropriating the fees and the grants from the Exchequer; and in that manner, as my right hon. friend the Member for South Aberdeen has shown, they have got rid altogether of this liability, and, I believe, pocketed a little nest egg for themselves. And so disappears the whole of the consideration for which they were supposed to claim the monopoly of these schools. Then, when a demand is made by the local authority for some repairs in a country school, these parties, who have shown this spirit, make an appeal to the Education Department in London to inquire and decide whether the repair in some country school ought to be made on the demand of the local education authorities; as if the authorities in Downing Street were better judges of such a matter than the local education authorities who were on the spot and knew what the state of the school was; so that the intellect and 1093 experience of my hon. friend the Secretary to the Board of Education are to be called upon to decide the number of coats of paint ultimately to be given to the school building. I confess I do not at all like the idea of a man of his great educational experience being called upon to decide a question of that kind. That is what my hon. friend who has just spoken calls the expert authority of the Board of Education. I venture to think that there will be frequent applications, because if the managers think they can save half-a-crown, the matter will go to Downing Street, and the question will be decided by the Secretary to the Education Department. I confess that an arrangement of this kind seems to me to be one not calculated either to promote the educational interests of the district or the dignity of the Established Church of England.
Then, Sir, there has come into this Clause of the Bill, by a sort of miracle, the famous Kenyon-Slaney Amendment. The circumstances of that operation are very curious. It does not depend on popular control at all, of course. Popular consideration is to have nothing to say in the matter; it depends entirely on the foundation managers, and the question is whether one of the foundation managers, that is to say, the parson, is to control education, or whether it is to be the managers generally. But, really, the one means the four foundation managers. Well, this Kenyon-Slaney Amendment seems to puzzle the universal intellect of the House. No two persons seem to have the same opinion about it. We have had successive explanations of the Clause from the Attorney General, but each explanation makes the matter less intelligible than it was before. Whether it is that the trust deed should invest the parson with the sole authority in religious teaching, or whether it is that the sole control shall be in the hands of the managers, we are just as much at a loss to know as when the Kenyon-Slaney Amendment was first introduced into the House. It is a remarkable thing that the Government have said that that was always their policy. Well, if it is so, it is curious that they did not put a Clause in their Bill which would have explained their meaning. It is still more curious that, after this Clause was put in, they have not made it clear to the ordinary 1094 intellect what the meaning of that Clause is. Now it is going to be sent up to another place, in order that another place may explain what nobody here understands. It will have, no doubt, some exposition in another place, and it will not be left, as the Clause now stands, to be determined by the Education Department in Downing Street. However, we may feel sure that, like a ghost, before many days expire, the Kenyon-Slaney Amendment will haunt us again here in some form or other. Whether it will be intelligible then or not, whether it will then be satisfactory or not to the adopting parents who sit on the front Bench, I really do not know. I must, I fear, leave that for further explanation.
With reference to this question of popular control, I will only further allude to the Clause which deals with new schools. It is a most extraordinary thing. If there be anything which the local education authority ought to be a judge of and capable of judging, it is whether there should be a new school in a district of its area. If it is not fit to judge of such a matter as that, it is not fit to judge of anything at all in regard to education. It is absolutely excluded from judging that question, because the Education Department are to be the sole judges whether there is to be a new school or not. If the Education Department thinks that there ought to be a new school in the district, what happens? Why, the Education Department summons a meeting to inquire whether the local education authority is a fit judge of such things. They invite the people to come, and any ten ratepayers can come forward and say, "The County Council knows nothing at all about this. We pray that you shall not allow them to erect a new school; our school is the best, and if there is to be a new school it is not to be their school; it is a school which we are prepared to put up." What a predicament to put the County Council in! They are to be challenged by outsiders, and their views are to be set at naught—the views of the education authority. What becomes, then, of popular control with regard to new schools, and that the authority are to decide this question amongst other things? I call special attention to this enactment in this Clause, because it is the greatest indignity and disability inflicted upon the local authorities 1095 that it is possible to conceive. It is not, seemingly, the wishes of the parents or the opinions of the authorities on the spot that are to be considered. Then, as to "the economy of the rates," is it the Education Department in London or the County Council which is to determine the disposal of the rates? A thing like that will not be tolerated, and ought not to be tolerated. Yet it is seriously proposed that a matter of this kind shall be taken out of the hands of the Council and put into the hands of the Education Department in Downing Street. Do you call that decentralisation? Why, a more centralising Bill was never introduced into this House. It centralises everything and every point, and it makes the Education Department in Downing Street masters of the County Council at every step and in every department of their work. Therefore, to say that this is not a centralising Bill is futile; it is contrary to every Clause of the Measure. And the opinions of the County Councils with regard to it have been declared. I have already referred to the County Councils Association. It is my belief that they regard the manner in which they are dealt with, with, if not indignation, resentment. They are treated as if they were children. They are treated as people who are incapable and incompetent to carry on their work if they are not under the tutelage and under the rod of the Education Department in every step that they have to take. The Council of the county which I have honour to represent, have passed a resolution against this Bill by a majority of twenty-nine to sixteen. This body respectfully informed the Government that if the Bill "passed in its present shape this Council cannot be responsible for its administration." I do not wonder at any County Council taking such a view of a duty cast upon them when they are treated throughout as if they are not fit to discharge the office which they are called upon to undertake. That is what I have to say upon the subject of popular control.
Sir, there are many other features of this Bill to which we have great objection, but this is a question which seriously affects the authority to which you are going to transfer the education 1096 of the country. In my opinion you are showing an absolute distrust of the popular authority, and making it incapable of discharging the duties that you put upon it. I will not detain the House much longer. I regard this as a bad Education Bill. In higher education it supplies resources which are utterly inadequate. They may be made adequate possibly in some of the great towns. As far as the country is concerned, you will have made no adequate provision, even with the alteration of Clause 23, for enabling those in the elementary schools to get access to higher education. The establishments for higher education in the rural districts will be few and far between, and the children from the elementary schools, whom you have practically excluded by your Bill from higher education, by following the principle of the Cockerton judgement, will not get to the higher educational establishments. The amount of money you have enabled the County Councils to dispose of will not be sufficient for the establishment of extensive buildings and staff, for the training of teachers, and for all the duties which are cast upon these bodies in spite of the Amendments made in Section 23. Complaints have been made of the length of the discussions upon the Bill. The length of those discussions is due to the incomplete and imperfect manner in which the Bill was introduced. If you look at the Bill as it is now and as it was when it was introduced, you will see that the main part—that a great part, at all events—of the Bill had not been thought out or worked out by the Government when it was introduced. It cannot be denied that a great part of the people of this country are not favourable to your Bill. It was a little amusing to hear my hon. friend the Member for Stretford the other day say that the Bill was popular in the North of England. He was at once confronted by my hon. and learned friend the recently-elected Member for Cleveland, which, according to my geographical knowledge, is in the North of England. As far as we are able to test this matter by recent popular elections, whether in the municipalities or electoral Parliamentary districts, the verdict has been unfavourable to the Bill. This Bill will go forth to the country—I regret it deeply—as a signal not of peace but of conflict. There is nobody on the 1097 other side of the House who will deny that proposition. The Bill destroys all that organisation which has been most successful in education, and its whole object is to promote that system which has been the least successful. It diminishes public control over education as it exists in the School Boards. A Bill which has those characteristics in my opinion cannot and will not settle the question of national education. There remains nothing in my opinion for those who desire to see a real and sound system of national education established except hereafter to struggle eagerly and persistently to establish a real popular control over the education of the country and to remove the influence of sectarian dogmas from the education of the people.
§ (4.40.) SIR ROBERT FINLAY
I think that what must have struck every man who has been in the House at the close of this protracted debate is the deep repose that has fallen upon the House now that the last stage of the Bill has been entered upon. It has had, perhaps, a stormy youth, but its old age, so far as its career through the House is concerned, seems to be perfectly peaceful. [A VOICE: "Gag."] The House debated all Tuesday, and will be debating all this evening, whether the Bill should be read a third time, and some people may say the debates have been a little dull. If there were the intense feeling which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth has spoken of, it would surely have found some manifestation on the Benches opposite. But I can see little sign in the House of what the right hon. Gentleman seems to expect—that the Bill will go to the country as a message, not of peace, but of war. One hon, Gentleman opposite produced what he said was a carefully-prepared diagram. He held it up, however, at such a distance as only to tantalise us, and he explained that it showed in great detail the rights of popular control and the rights of clericalism, and a number of other things with which I need not trouble the House; but this is not a time for diagrams or the discussion of details. We are upon the Third Reading of a great measure of national importance. The question is whether we are going to give up the problem of English education as insoluble. No one can at 1098 present defend the existing state of things in this country with regard to education; but the difficulties of the situation are very largely due to the fact that when the State was absolutely neglecting its duty of popular education, the Church stepped in and covered the ground with schools. She was for some time the only machinery for giving the education which we now recognise it is the duty of the Government to supply. When the ground has been covered in that way we cannot proceed in quite so symmetrical a manner as if we were starting a system for the first time. A learned man once said of the English alphabet that it was defective, redundant, erroneous and inconsistent. All these things could be said, I think with perfect truth, of the educational system of England at the present time. What are we going to do? Some remedy must be applied. Everybody is agreed as to that, but no one has any remedy to suggest except the Bill which is now before the House. Hon. Members who object to the Bill, say with perfect truth that it is not for them at present to prepare an alternative measure, but they might indicate broadly what competing scheme is in the field. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen revealed the fact, of which I myself was aware, that he had a competing scheme; but he said that he had been prevented on two occasions by the Closure from bringing it forward, and that on the Third Reading of the Bill it was too late to discuss its merits.
§ MR. BRYCE () Aberdeen, S.
The Attorney General seems to me to be labouring under a defect which has been ascribed to my countrymen in not understanding that I was making what was perhaps rather a mild joke.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
On the contrary, I think the joke a very good one, because I believe the right hon. Gentleman has not any scheme at all.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
Why does not the right hon. Gentleman expose his scheme to the blasts of criticism?
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
Why does not the right hon. Gentleman tell us there is a better way of dealing with this matter? Why does he lock it up in his own breast? He seems to have treated his scheme like Don Quixote treated his second helmet when, without exposing it to further rude experiments, he pronounced it to be an excellent helmet indeed. To reject this measure is really a counsel of despair, and equivalent to saying, "We may as well give up the problem of English education altogether," From time to time a plaintive cry is raised during these debates for the Scottish system. The Scottish system as it exists at the present moment has very many and very great merits; it has not the merit which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire ascribed to it. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the interest of the Scotch in, and their passion for, education had all been created by School Boards. I need hardly tell anyone acquainted with Scotland that that passion and interest existed long before School Boards were heard of, and would continue to exist if School Boards should ever disappear. Under any system or conditions, I believe the people of Scotland would insist on having good education for their children.
The Scotch system in one which whenever it has come under discussion has produced confusion on the other side of the House. If it were proposed to give the Scotch system, the question would at once arise: Are you prepared to take that which is a vital feature of the Scotch system, viz., the complete control of the local education authority over the religious education in the schools? Whenever the question has been raised some hon. Members have replied in the affirmative, but the great majority in the negative. ["No."] Well, a great many have. Will anybody say that the Nonconformists are prepared to abandon the Cowper-Temple Clause? It is perfectly notorious that that Clause is regarded by the great majority of English Nonconformists as the very ark of the covenant, and any man who dared to lay his hand upon it would incur their extremest 1100 wrath. We have had said to us: "Give us the Scotch system, and abolish the Cowper-Temple Clause."
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
If I understand the interruption of the hon. Member, that is what he wants. It might suit Wales, but would it suit England? I venture to say that, with the views entertained by English Nonconformists, to abolish the Cowper-Temple Clause would be to throw your whole system of local government into confusion. There is the keenest feeling on the subject. I think it an unreasonable feeling, because, naturally, I am in favour of the Scotch system and the complete freedom given by that system to the local education authority. But one must recognise facts. It is no use trying to legislate regardless of the conditions by which the problem is complicated. I venture to think that the Government would have made a huge mistake, for which hon. Members opposite would have been prompt to punish them, if they had brought forward a proposal involving the adoption of the Scotch system and the abolition of the Cowper-Temple Clause. The problem with which the Government had to deal is not an easy one, owing to the fact that our system of education is so complex, being largely the result of voluntary effort, while, at the same time the State has stepped in and set up. side by side with the voluntary schools, board schools. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen talked contemptuously of the consideration that the Church schools were there and had to be reckoned with; he dismissed it as the "bricks-and-mortar" argument. But these Church schools are just as much the property of the trustees as the house of the right hon. Gentleman is his property.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
It is perfectly true that they are held under trusts; but that trust only embodies the desire, to which legal effect has been given, of those who supplied the money with which the school was built. Does the 1101 right hon. Gentleman deny that the trustees have a legal property in the assets available for the purposes of the trust? Does he deny that they are bound to apply the property to those purposes? Does he propose that wherever property is held under a public trust the State may step in, irrespective of any change of circumstances, and confiscate that property, applying it to other purposes merely on the terms of making what they consider to be adequate compensation to the owners?
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
No one will deny that where circumstances have widely changed trusts of a public and charitable nature may properly be varied by the State. But the practical proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, as explained last night, is that the State should step in and say: "We are going to take these schools, paying you a rent for them, and apply them to such educational purposes as we think proper, not being those for which the schools were founded."
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
Well, very nearly. The proposal was to take the schools, pay a rent, and use them for purposes other than those for which they were established.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
I think I have stated with sufficient accuracy the nature of the proposal. I venture to say that to expropriate all these schools, 1102 even though rents were paid, would be doing violence to those principles on which the courts of law and the Legislature of this country have been in the habit of acting. It is no use saying you will pay a rent. The owners of the institutions desire them to be applied to the purposes for which they were established. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire was very severe on the Church with reference to what he called the bargain she had driven as to the duties to be discharged by the present owners of the schools, the repairs, the sums to be received in respect of endowments and fees, and so forth. I have had occasion to look into this matter, and if the right hon. Gentleman went into it carefully he would find that the imposition upon the managers of the duty of executing the repairs will bear very hardly on a great many Church schools. That duty has been imposed because it seemed to the Government to be consistent with the scheme of the Bill, and best divided the matter as between the managers and the local education authority. It Will impose considerable sacrifices on those interested in many of these schools, and I believe those sacrifices will be met by a system of combination throughout the country dioceses. To say that the Bill has given to the Church a great deal more than she was entitled to is a statement which no one could make if they had looked into the details.
Then the right hon. Gentleman said it was a ridiculous thing that the Board of Education should be called in to decide whether a new schools should be a provided or a non-provided school. I think it is a most reasonable provision that—after the local inquiry, after eliciting the opinion of the neighbourhood, and taking all the circumstances into consideration—the Board should be able to arbitrate in the Interests of all concerned. The right hon. Gentleman made another statement which seemed to be calculated almost to incite the local authorities to rise in rebellion against such a proposal.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
I venture to say that all those who are familiar with 1103 the extent to which local government is supervised and controlled through the machinery of local inquiries agree that it would be hopeless to attempt to get the local education authorities to engage in any such crusade as that which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to advocate.
We do not say that this Bill is an ideal solution of all the difficulties of the case. The problem is a very difficult and complicated one, and what we do say is that the Bill is the only practicable solution, having regard to the materials with which the Government have had to work. We have had to deal with two forces—the element of denominational control and the element of popular control. I believe that under the provisions of the Bill those two forces will work together, "not by collision, but by pressure." There will not be a series of sharp collisions between the denominational interest and the local education authority as some seem to anticipate; but the two forces will work together, the one pressing on the other, without friction or trouble, with a result which will express a system of national education, doing no violence to the religious convictions of any large section of the people.
In regard to the question of popular control, to which the greater part of his speech was devoted, the right hon. Gentleman said that the County or Borough Councils would not really be supreme, because they would have education committees.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
The right hon. Gentleman went further. I understood him to say that the Council could only act on the advice of the education committee.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
I am sorry if I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. What is the fact is that the education committee must be consulted, and before acting the Council ought to have heard the advice of the 1104 education committee, but that is subject to this question, that if the Council regard it as a case of emergency they need not wait for the report of the education committee. As regards the powers of the education committee, they are only such as the council think fit to delegate to them. The right hon. Gentleman did say that the intrusion into the committee of outside elements was somewhat derogatory to the position of the local education authority. I do not share that view. I believe that the local education authority will welcome the presence on the education committee of those who have special knowledge of the circumstances of the schools in the district or have special knowledge in education matters.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
We are preparing a scheme for the whole country, and we have thought it right in that scheme to lay down those conditions which seem to make more for the harmonious working of the plan, and I venture to think that it is no use to say "Why not leave it to the Councils?" if the scheme is the best scheme for achieving a successful result. The right hon. Gentleman has criticised the power of appointment of the County Councils in regard to those nominated to serve on those bodies. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's statement was quite accurate, but I will not weary the House by referring to the admirable and clear statement made on this point by my hon. friend the Secretary to the Board of Education. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire proceeded to deal with the question of the control of the local education authority over secular education, and he said that it was not a real and effective control. On this point I should like to quote what was said on the 7th of November by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen. He said:—They had subjected denominational schools to the control of the local authority for all purposes of secular instruction. Therefore, so far as secular instruction was concerned the denominational schools were on a level with other schools,
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
I am pointing out that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen stated, and correctly stated, that as regards the control of secular education the denominational schools were on the same footing as the board schools. The whole fallacy of the right hon. Gentleman's argument on this point is that he very much exaggerates the functions and office of the managers as against the local education authorities. Every one knows who has read the Bill that the managers are bound to obey the instructions of the local education authority in every matter relating to secular instruction, and if they do not obey those instructions the local education authority may step in and themselves see that their instructions are carried out.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
But if there is a difference between them it must go to the Education Department, to whom the final appeal is given.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
I will deal with that point in a moment. The fact that the local education authority have the power of so stepping in will prevent any friction arising. If there had been no remedy at the command of the local education authority it is conceivable that a wrong-headed board of managers might set themselves up against the local education authority, but as soon as they realise that the local education authority can step in and themselves do the act they know that resistance is futile and the apprehended collision will never take place. It will be another case in which the bodies established under this Bill will achieve the desired result, not by a collision but by pressure. The right hon. Gentleman said that what he had in his mind was the appeal to the Board of Education which was given in a case of difference between the managers and the local education authorities. The 1106 right hon. Gentleman is really under a complete mistake, as he will find if he will look at the terms of Clause 7, which Provide that—The managers of the schools shall carry out any directions of the local education authority as to the secular instruction to be given.There follows later in the Clause a section which provides that any question arising between the managers and the local education authority shall be determined by the Board of Education.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
I really do not think that this point had been contested seriously by anybody except the right hon. Gentleman opposite since it was explained. This point has been explained over and over again. The Clause says—The managers of the school shall carry out any directions of the local education authority as to the secular instruction.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
No, they cannot; the Board of Education must accept the law as it is declared by statute, and if the statute says in terms that any direction given by the local education authority is to be carried out by the managers, the managers must carry it out.
§ MR. ELLIS GRIFFITH () Anglesey
The only question arising is as to whether they have carried out the directions or not.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
That is another matter. If the question is as to whether the direction has been carried out, then the Board of Education might have to decide. but it would be a very barren field, because the local education authority might give another direction and might insist on that being carried out.
The right hon. Gentleman has also touched on the question of religious education, and, of course, no one can do so without naming that Clause which will render my hon. and gallant friend the 1107 Member for the Newport Division of Shropshire immortal. On more than one occasion I have stated my view of the effect of that Clause. If the trust deeds provide for the reference to a bishop on the question of what is appropriate religious teaching, having regard to the tenets of the denomination, that reference will not be interfered with; but, as regards the whole management and control of the giving of that religious instruction, how and by whom it is to be given, the effective power of decision rests without appeal with the managers. My right hon. friend the Member for Cambridge University seems to express some apprehensions as to how this Clause may work. I do not share those apprehensions; I believe that the people are perfectly ready and willing to welcome the guidance of the clergy, and that it is only in very rare cases, where the clergman is very extreme or wrong-headed—for there are such cases in all professions—that there will be any danger of collision. In such cases, the managers, of course, within the terms of the trust deed as to the nature of the religious instruction, must have the last word. The right hon. Gentleman says that different views are entertained with regard to the meaning of the Kenyon-Slaney Clause, but I would remind the House that no Amendment was moved to the Clause in Committee, or, at all events, was not pressed.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL () Green wich
On the contrary, I moved Amendments which were much more intelligible than the Clause.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
On the whole, the action of my noble friend was very platonic when the Amendment was before the House. The Amendments were not pressed.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
That is what is generally spoken of as not being pressed. I agree that our debates since have shown very considerable difference of opinion as to the meaning and effect of this Clause. The fact that such a difference of opinion exists, in my view renders it eminently desirable that when this Clause is discussed in another place such alterations shall be made as will put its meaning beyond all dispute. We know that others may think differently, but it is not as if the difference of opinion on the meaning of this Clause was to be measured by the side of the House on which hon. Gentlemen sit. It is not that the Government takes one view of the meaning of this Clause and that hon. Members on this side of the House agree with them, while hon. Member on the other side take a different view. The differences on this Clause are not coincident with the division of politics. If they were some such suggestion might be made as was thrown out in the remarks of my right hon. friend the First Lord of the Treasury the other night as to the division of opinion on subjects of this kind when they are raised in this House. I have always maintained that my right hon. friend would have been a great lawyer—a very great lawyer. The differences of opinion with regard to this Clause are not coincident with the differences of political opinion in the House, and I am bound to say this, that I have been very much struck in the somewhat protracted and very keen debates on this Bill with the fairness of the hon. and learned Gentlemen on the other side of the House. Time after time it has, of course, been my duty to the best of my ability to state my views as to the construction of particular portions of the Bill. Debate had often arisen on the question whether that was the true interpretation or not. On several occasions hon. and learned Gentlemen on the other side of the House, dealing with matters as to questions of law, have interposed and expressed their concurrence in the view I have ventured to express as being the true meaning of the Clause, and have in this way avoided the partisanship of the mere politician. I think it only fair that I should acknowledge in this matter what I may call the intellectual honesty of the members of my profession on the other side 1109 of the House. It is what everyone would have expected who knows the profession, and, therefore, I think it is not unsuitable that I should express the sense I myself entertain.
On this side of the House—and this is what I wish to direct attention to—there has been considerable divergence of opinion as to the meaning of the Kenyon-Slaney Clause, and it is for that reason that I, speaking for myself, think it most desirable that when this measure goes to another place this controversy should be finally settled, and settled in two directions. In the first place, I think I have seen symptoms in some of the speeches of my noble friend the Member for Greenwich of a disposition to contend that the wording of the earlier part of the Clause is somewhat ambiguous, and that the provision that the religious instruction should be given in accordance with the trust deed would really incorporate all the provisions of the trust deed as to the superintendence of the clergy apart from the right of control of the managers. I think it is perfectly clear that construction is impossible. In the second place, I entertain a strong personal opinion that if a trust deed has provided for the decision of a question of what is the religious teaching of the denomination by some ecclesiastical authority, it is much more proper and decorous that it should be decided by that authority than that it should be wrangled over by the managers themselves, with the vision of a revision by a court of law in the background. I certainly should welcome any addition to the Clause which will put it beyond the reach of controversy that the construction of the Clause is what I have already said it must be, if you take it as a whole—namely, that the Power of decision by a suitable authority is not interfered with by the control given to the managers. We have been told by my noble friend who interrupted me just now that it would be perfectly amazing to make any distinction in this matter between doctrine and machinery. I can assure my noble friend that by his remarks on that subject he has made a great deal more of it than I have done. It is unfortunately true that in the history of the Church questions of government, of rites and ceremonies, of 1110 procedure, and of machinery have absorbed an amount of attention which might more worthily have been devoted to the weightier matters of the law; but to import matters of that sort as to Church government and as to proper procedure in giving religious instruction in a school is to me an astounding statement. If I may venture to say so to my noble friend, it shows an amount of confusion which is possible only in one who for the moment has lost himself in the mist of ecclesiastical controversy. Where are such pretensions to stop? Is it to be said that no mother is to be allowed to teach her children religion unless she is under the immediate superintendence of a clergyman? Is she to take out a licence for that purpose? I shall not enlarge on that subject, but it is rather a striking thing that claims of this kind should ever have been seriously advanced by the great Protestant Church of England.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL
My hon. and learned friend must not suppose that I admit that he understands my point. or that he has correctly represented it.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
I infer that my noble friend shares with the lay mind the propensity, when it is convicted of inaccuracy, to ride off on the plea that it is a legal quibble. This Bill will soon pass into law. It will pass from the debates of this House, and we believe that it will go out into the country and will have the effect of securing that for every English child there shall be available the best education that can be given by this country. I do not very much like some of that educational slang with which we have become familiar in the House lately. We have been told over and over again that this Bill establishes the "ladder" system. One would suppose that it establishes some new system of gymnastic exercise. What this Bill does is that it secures a career open to talent; it secures good education for 1111 every child born in country. Everyone recognises that ability occurs as frequently among the children of the poor as among the children of those who are better off. The object of this Bill is to secure that every child shall have the opportunity of seeing what is in him, and of rising, if his capacities fit him for it, to even the highest position which is attainable. I need not go into the provision this Bill makes to secure that elementary instruction shall be thoroughly given. Many of the Church schools have been on a level with best board schools with regard to efficiency, but unfortunately it is the case that in a great many other instances, owing to the want of funds they have stood on a lower level. That will be made good by the Bill. Secondary education will be provided, and every child may pass from a good elementary to a good secondary school if fit for it.
I would just call the attention of the House to one most valuable provision of the Bill which I think has been a good deal overlooked. It is contained in the second sub-Section of Clause 23. By that, power is given to the local education authority, with the consent of the Board of Education, to extend the age limit for attendance at elementary schools "in the case of any such school if no suitable higher education is available within a reasonable distance of the school." I regard that as a most valuable provision. It entirely obviates the remark I have sometimes heard made that there may be a difficulty under the system established in the way of a child who wishes to pass on to a secondary school if that school is at some distance.
This Bill I regard as a great democratic measure, and I believe it will be recognised as such. I was astounded to hear— "amazed," I think, was the word used by my noble friend—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen say that the working men had condemned the measure because they thought it sacrificed their interest to that of the clergy. What I would say is this, that such ideas might obtain some currency during the autumn campaign. No doubt at that time there was an enormous amount of very gross misrepresentation as to the nature and effect of the Bill. I have been told that a great many working men were under the impression that it was a Bill to abolish the board 1112 schools. I have heard hon. Members in this House very often, when they meant to talk of a board school talk of a School Board. The impression received currency on account of the misrepresentations of some who were interested in stirring up the agitation against the Bill; but these misrepresentations have really in many cases been so gross that they could not bear the light, and they have disappeared in the course of the thorough discussion the Bill has undergone in Committee. I believe the working men will appreciate the true character of this Bill. They will take the measure of the Bill, and they will take the measure of those who desire to utilise them for political purposes. The Bill is in all essentials what it was when introduced into the House. I do not believe that there ever has been a Bill of so much importance which has passed through the House less changed than this Bill has done. Reference has been made over and over again to the changes which have been made. The Government have not been deaf to suggestions. We have developed the Bill where it was desirable, and made clear what was already implied. The Bill upon which we have been engaged so long will very soon be tested in actual work. All those "Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire," which the imagination of hon. Gentlemen on the platform during the autumn conjured up, have now disappeared before the light of day. The working of the Bill as an Act will be in the hands of the country, and I believe that the practical genius and the sound common-sense of the English people will show that this is a measure which works without friction and worthily achieves those great results for which it is intended.
§ (5.30.) MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I agree with the Attorney General that there has been no substantial change in the character of the Bill. It is just as bad now as it was six months ago. There are no improvements in it. There is just as much public control and just as much sectarianism, and perhaps a little more. But I was exceedingly surprised to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman say that this was a Bill to enable children of capacity to rise to the 1113 highest positions. Possibly the hon. and learned Gentleman was not thinking of the Nonconformist pupil teachers, who can never hope to rise beyond the pupil teacher stage. They can obtain assistant masterships, but never rise to the highest positions in the schools. Before the hon. and learned Gentleman makes any more statements I should advise him to read the Bill.
With regard to the Kenyon-Slaney Amendment, I am not going to take part in the brilliant ping-pong match between the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich and the Attorney General; but I thought it was a significant admission to make on the Third Reading, that this Amendment is to the changed in another place. What has happened to induce them to mutilate this Amendment to such an extent? think it has something to do with what the hon. and learned Gentleman calls, not collision but pressure. With regard to the Scotch system. The learned Attorney General said that the Scotch system had been repudiated by the majority of the Members sitting on this side. He was challenged on that statement. We asked him to name one person who in any way repudiated it, and he could not do so. He said it had been repudiated by the majority. That is not my view at all. Then he said this was not an ideal solution. I was glad to hear that statement. At any rate it is not the best. There are two alternatives which would have been better than the present Bill. I agree with the Colonial Secretary that probably the best system is a system where the control is in the hands of the people and the education given in the schools is absolutely unsectarian, and I also agree that there is no chance of the people accepting such a system; but even without that there are two systems which are better. The Scotch system is better. The Scotch system obtains now in some of the most important centres in Wales. In the Rhondda Valley, for instance, where every denomination agreed to develop a syllabus of religious instruction, drafted by the vicar of the parish, and there there is perfect peace. I have seen the Scotch system at work, and it is a success. Then there is the other alternative which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Green- 1114 wich suggests, but shrinks from the Manitoba, Ontario, and New South Wales systems. Both those systems have worked well and have eliminated the religious controversy for ever. Everybody who knows the evil which this religious controversy has wrought knows how necessary it is to eliminate it. These two systems, which found acceptance not merely among the moderate men of both sides but among men like the hon. Member for Tunbridge, who is not generally regarded as moderate on Church matters, are put on one side for the sake of perpetuating a system which only keeps up the bitterness and irritation which has been the bane of education for the last fifty years. I believe either of those alternatives would have been more popular.
The Government's scheme has not the advantage of being really popular. Where is the popular feeling in favour of the Bill? It has been repudiated on every occasion when the test of popular opinion has been applied. Those were remarkable figures published in The Times yesterday as to the results of the municipal contests. Wherever there have been contests on the issue of the Education Bill they have resulted in large majorities against it. Although 109 Unionist Members have been returned as against fifty-three Liberal Members, still, in the municipal contests, there has been a majority of five to four against the Education Bill. That is a remarkable indication of the state of public opinion in the only way in which we can test it at the present moment. And every attempt to get up a counter-agitation has failed. The Albert Hall meeting was not a public meeting, though the clergy acted as recruiting sergeants ad hoc. There was one exception. There was a smoking concert held in support of the Bill somewhere in the South of England. So little confidence had those who organised it in the Bill that they appealed with influences spirituous rather than spiritual in their nature, and thought it best to pass the resolution and to say as little as possible about it. "Captain Cook kindly gave a number of selections on his fine double-trumpet instrument," and he sang to this great meeting in support 1115 of the Bill, "Wait till the clouds roll by," and by way of referring to the Kenyon-Slaney Amendment he sang "The Happy Family," and ended up with "Good Old Joe." It was a little irrelevant to the Education Bill, but its effect was good, because I see it ended in an "unanimous and enthusiatic" resolution in favour of the Education Bill. With that exception I have failed to find any indication of the opinion of the people in this country in favour of it.
Why, Sir, any system you could find in force in any part of the Empire would be better than this. It does not really produce a settlement, but quite the reverse. It converts the precarious holding that a favoured sect had upon the education of the children of the land into a freehold, but we shall continue to contest the title, and we shall appeal to a higher tribunal and reverse the decision. The result of this religious element has been that this country is the most backward of all really civilised countries in its educational system, and this is the country which can best afford to do the best for education and least afford to do the worst. We depend more upon education than any of our great rivals, yet compare the educational system of this country, not with the United States, but with a little country like Switzerland. What is the remarkable way in which it works out? I take my figures from the excellent Reports supplied by the Board of Education. I find that while England spends a farthing per head of the population on secondary education, Wales spends twenty times that, and Switzerland spends fifty-five times as much. The country of Gloucester and the Canton of Berne are comparable in size and population. Let us take those. I find in Berne they spend £147,000 out of the common cantonal rates on education, and Gloucester spends £7,000. In Berne there are seventy-three secondary schools, one university, one school of fine arts, one veterinary school, five training colleges for primary teachers, and one training college for secondary teachers; in Gloucester there is one training college for the whole of that part of the country and not only from Gloucester, and no secondary schools set up from public funds. What advantage has Gloucester got? Is its theology better than that of 1116 Berne? Are the morals of Gloucester better? Is Gloucester cheese even better? I am very doubtful of it. Take the comparison from another point of view. You find this little country, Switzerland, doing ten times as much for education as these rich counties of England, but, on the other hand, the police rate of Gloucester is four times as much as that of Berne.
§ SIR JOHN DORINGTON () Gloucestershire, Tewkesbury
Does the hon. Gentleman say the police rate of Gloucester is higher than the police rate of the other counties of England?
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I am not saying it is. I suggest that the police rate in Berne is one-fourth what it is in Gloucester.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
If the hon. Member had known the rating system of Switzerland he would not have asked that question.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
If the hon. Member challenges me I will give him the exact figures. £50,000 is spent in Gloucester for police—
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
That is about half. If the hon. Baronet tells me the total expenditure for police in Gloucester is only £30,000, I accept his statement; but I suggest to him that the total for local and imperial police is £60,000, of 1117 which the State pays half. I simply instanced this in order to point out how backward we are compared with other countries. This is due very largely to the fact that sectarian controversy has kept us back, I do not say that a denominational system is necessarily incompatible with good education; that is not the question. Where you get a homogeneous people it does not much matter, there is not much harm then, but when you have the people split up into fifty different sects there are only two alternatives which could be adopted. You must either deal with the question as the United States deals with it, by keeping out all religious dogma, or, as some of the Colonies have done, by giving facilities with complete popular control.
Let me point out one or two instances where I think the perpetuation of this sectarian system damages education. For one thing, it preserves a dual control, if that is a proper description of what will happen after this Bill becomes law, a very bad principle in any kind of management. In some of the functions the managers will be subordinate to the local authority; in others the managers will divide the authority with the Councils; in others the managers will be superior to the Councils; in others the authority will be divided between the managers, the clergyman, and the Bishop, which is the Kenyon-Slaney plot. Again, it would be divided between the managers, the Council, and the Board of Education; indeed, nobody can tell in whom the powers are vested. This is not dual control; it is multiple control, and it is impossible to have an efficient system under it. These sectarian differences which you are keeping alive are very injurious to efficiency. You will have men going on to these bodies purely and solely to keep down the level of School Board efficiency in the interest of the rival concern. It is exactly as if you had a man with a trading concern of his own going on to the board of a rival concern. What would he do? He would resist the sinking of capital for the purposes of improving and increasing the trade of the concern on the board of which he sat, in the interests of his own concern; and when you put a man interested in voluntary schools on the management of a provided school, 1118 naturally in the interest of the system in which he is most interested he will use his position to cripple that system he least believes in. On the other hand, what happens? You not only get the non-provided men trying to cripple the provided schools, but the men opposed to the sectarian schools doing their best to keep down the expenditure of those schools. So you get this rivalry, not to raise the level of education, but to depreciate it, and you place religious zeal permanently against educational efficiency in this county.
There is another element which this Bill introduces for the first time—the distracting influence of religious controversy in local administration. If you introduce religion into any question it is a matter so absorbing in debate that that element must dominate every other minor consideration. If anyone wants to know how distracting this religious element in administration is, let him look at the debates of this House. The Prime Minister complained that education was scarcely heard of in the debates, and that every debate had gone back to the same old religious discussion. As long as religion was mixed up with administration that result can only be expected. It is the most important element, and how can you keep it under? You are bound to get to it; that is what we complain of. Take the Kenyon-Slaney discussion, and in describing it in that way I do not refer to the hon. and gallant Member as a man, but to the hon. Member as an institution. I watched it as an impartial observer, I took no part in the action, I thought it was better to keep out of it, that it was dangerous. There were the High and Low Churches firing at close quarters; there was cross-firing by Nonconformists and Roman Catholics, and for a humorous non-combatant I thought it looked too dangerous, and I took cover. What happened? For two days you felt it coming. There were important Amendments on the paper, but the House had no patience with them, management, control, appointment of teachers; excellent Amendments which ought to have been discussed from a business point of view. But we passed them all over; we wanted to get to religion, and when it was reached we said, "Thank heaven, here is religion at last; now for a row." It was like a whirlpool. You felt its power of 1119 suction days beforehand, drawing everything to it with increasing celerity. My hon. friend the Member for North Camberwell, whom I expected to see a rock in the rapids, was swept away like a lath, and for hours this House swirled round and round in the vortex of a mad frenzy of theological controversy. On the following day who was here? Not many. The House looked like a meeting of the Corporation after a big City dinner. That is what will happen all through the country. Directly you bring in religion it will be the dominant consideration in every discussion. I speak as an alderman of long standing. What do hon. Members think the Agenda Paper will be like? You will probably see on the County Council Agenda Paper questions affecting roads and bridges and the like, all matters affecting the comfort, business, and convenience of the people very largely, and— after this Bill is passed—probably the expediency of adding a new wing to the county lunatic asylum. But, whatever is on and whatever is off, one thing is certain, that on the subject of education there will be a long list of Motions. From one part of the county there will be a row about the appointment, and in another about the dismissal of teachers; the Anglican maypole will come up for discussion; complaints will be made that one denomination is being unduly favoured in the matter of schools, while another denomination will be complaining that they are not favoured enough, and there will be controversies about the violation of the Conscience Clause. Endless questions will crop up.
You may say, "Nothing of this kind occurred in Wales," and that is true, because we introduced into our intermediate Education Act, with the consent of the Unionist Government, a Clause that no dogmatic formulary of any kind should be taught in the schools. What is the result? There is not five minutes given to the discussion of religious controversy in the County Councils of Wales from one end to the other. We keep it all outside, and that is what you want to do here if you want to do business for education. Why you should introduce these matters I have never been able to understand. Supposing these items came last on the Agenda Paper, will there be any patience shown to discuss roads and bridges, or other humdrum and dull, but very necessary and important, matters of local 1120 administration? County councillors will be whipped up, as the laity of the Church were whipped up by the bishops and clergy for the Albert Hall meeting, and no time will be allowed for the discussion of the really important business of the Council. They will want to get to the religious controversy. There will be closure by compartments introduced in every County Council in the land. That is what you will get. In every County and Town Council the question of the repression of popery in the village schools will be debated, whereas they ought to be discussing the suppression of swine fever. The Thirty-nine Articles will become part of the Standing Orders of every Town Council; you will have Kenyon-Slaneys arising in every county, keeping watch hand ward over village Cecils. This is the state of things that will arise.
What on earth have these dogmas to do with religion? One hon. Member says it is the right of the parent. What right has the parent to dictate to the State that the State should at its own expense teach any theology? I do not know that the parents have a right to demand that the State should teach anything. It is not a question of the right of the parent, but of the interest of the community, and is it in the interest of the community that it should intervene in these squabbles between forty or fifty different sects? You cannot say the Church has a right and the Primitive Methodists have not. It all these exercise their rights you split up education and shatter it to atoms Lord Salisbury said with regard to India that the Government had a great horror of using its authority as a partisan of one religion more than another. Those were wise words, and I wish the statesmanship which is good enough to be applied to the people of India could be applied to the people of England and Wales. It is altogether a question of the interest of the community. I do not know that the community has a right to teach theology, but hon. Members opposite ought to be logical. If it is the business of the community to teach theology it should not confine the theology to one kind. Hon. Members say "But we have an Established Church," but the same arguments as they use can be used in favour of the 1121 unendowed Churches and schools. The hon. and learned Member for Stretford a few days ago said, "Take care that you do not offend the clergy, for if you do, the moment their energies are withdrawn from these schools they will disappear." If they did, What becomes of this great craving of hundreds and thousands of parents for definite Christian teaching if this is simply a Clerical agitation? Hon. Members opposite say dogma is essential. Who at the present moment is their ideal of a great British patriot? The Member for West Birmingham— the right hon. Gentleman who belongs to the least orthodox of the Churches; he is not a believer in the dogmatic religion of the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich, and Yet nobody doubts the genuineness of his patriotism. Dogma, therefore, even from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, is not essential to British statesmanship. I am not sure that the Prime Minister is not a schismatic, according to the notions of the noble Lord. Even he is not safe, if it depends upon dogma. He is the sort of man that the noble Lord prays the Good to deliver us from on Sun lays and Feast days.
After all these are not the things that make a good citizen. Look at the things that are asked to be taught. I am sorry to have to refer to them, but when our religion demands it these things must be mentioned. What is it the Church asks should be taught? It teaches a truncated Creed. Take the two or three things wherein the Churches really differ. They are not things you ought to teach children. Take the doctrine of the godfather and the godmother. Those who have got them are within the sphere of influence of a religious organisation. Therefore, they do not need them. As for those who have not got them, why on earth should they be harassed and tormented for not having them? It is not to them you ought to talk; it is to the parents. The children cannot mend it, so what is the good of talking about it in school? Or take the theory about being humble and lowly to your betters. That is really teaching a political creed. Let me give an example—I am not talking of those creeds which some of the clergy believe in. Take a thing of this sort—we repudiate it and say you have no right to teach it. "Order yourselves
1122 lowly and reverently to all your betters." That is all right— but it depends upon who your betters are. Those who are taught in the training colleges, which are maintained at the public expense, are instructed how they are to explain these things. "Who are our betters? Those in a higher position than ourselves, either by birth, wealth, or office." I wonder if the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich acts up to that. How does he treat the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs? Does he show him that deference which is due to his Catechismal superiority? As a true son of the Catechism I am myself always perplexed how to act. I meet many men; I know nothing about their worldly circumstances, and have no time to look into their family pedigree. What am I to do? Should I say, "I am at a loss to know whether you ought to take off your hat to me, or I to you. Would you mind, in order to assist me, telling me what your balance at your banker's is?" If I get the answer, "It is so much," I am to immediately take off my hat and say, "Sir, your obedient servant." I say they have no right to teach this repulsive snobbery. [Cheers and cries of "Oh."] It is this repulsive snobbery from which the Carpenter's Son suffered. I have seen columns in The Times filled with this: "Undenominational teaching in the Board Schools is obnoxious to Churchmen." To teach kindness, goodness, honesty, purity, temperance, charity—this is undenominational, obnoxious to all good Churchmen! To teach them to cringe before wealth; yes, this is pure religion and undefiled, and therefore you ought to endow it. It is perfectly definite. You are to order yourselves humbly and lowly to wealth. That is not the teaching I would have. I would rather have the words which the American schools teach: "If any man be great among you let him be your servant." All the great Presidents of America have been poor men without a pedigree.
I have only one word to add. There is a clear issue before the country. Public control—yes, and if you are going to teach religion in the schools, teach it from the Book which is acceptable to all Christians. Give the Bible to the children. It is done by the board schools, and I have seen even bishops commend the way it is explained. There is one thing 1123 that always struck me about these tenets of the Church Catechism—how irrelevant they are to the real perils that children have to encounter in life. Give the children the Bible if you want to teach them the Christian faith. Let it be expounded to them by its Founder. Stop this brawling of priests in and around the schools, so that the children may hear Him speak to them in His own words. I appeal to the House of Commons now, at the eleventh hour, to use its great influence and lift its commanding voice and say, "Pray silence for the Master."
§ *(6.12.) MR. PLUMMER () Newcastle-on-Tyne
Very early in the Autumn Session, I believe before the Autumn Session commenced, the hon. Member who has just sat down, speaking outside this House with all that delightful contempt for accuracy of description with which he so often entertains us, described the Government and this Bill as a hen sitting on an addled egg, the chicken from which would get lost in the November fogs, but today we see that the chicken has come safely through the November fogs, and is about to be sent forth a thriving bird, destined to become a veritable Methuselah among fowls. Not a few on both sides of the House, I am glad to think, are prepared to a attribute this result, to a large extent, to the skilful leadership of the Prime Minister, of whom the Leader of the Opposition, in these education debates, truly said the other evening, "That if he had to hang a man he would take care to do it with a silken cord." When the country heard the Bill described as "conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity"—a description which I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Oldham repudiate with contempt—when the country heard of "School Boards being butchered to make a parson's holiday"— a phrase easily recognised as being by the author of the other historical phrase with regard to "smoking hecatombs of slaughtered babes"—it soon came to the conclusion that the Bill could not be so bad as it was painted, and it was then an easy step to arrive at—the further conclusion that it was a much better Bill than it at first expected. Now I think it is generally recognised that the agitation is dying down, if it is not already dead, and the task with which hon. Members opposite are face to face at the present moment is that of 1124 devising some means or method by which to keep it alive. On that point I cannot expect my opinion to be taken as of much value, but fortunately I have the direct testimony of the Free Church Federation, because the Rev. Dr. Guinness Rogers stated the other day at a meeting in the Farringdon Hall that there was a danger before the Act came into operation of a subsidence of the zeal which was now stirring them, and that every means must be taken to keep it alive, "every means" being pleasantly suggestive of the fact that "the resources of civilisation are not yet exhausted." I can almost imagine the death-bed scene. I think I see Dr. Clifford fittingly in attendance on the dying patient; the Leader of the Opposition present, with some doubt as to whether he wishes the agitation to expire or to recover, and the hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs vigorously, but in vain, trying to keep up an artificial supply of oxygen.
Instead of the agitation having had the anticipated effect in the country, it has entirely missed fire. If I ask myself why it has missed fire, I should answer the question on two grounds. First, because it was based far too much in some quarters on dislike and jealousy of the National Church; and, secondly, because of an exaggerated and misconceived idea of the gullibility of the people in this 20th century, neither of which factors are as potent as they once were. Not even the most frantic efforts to label the new education rate as the old Church rate have induced the country to believe such a false idea, and instead of a surging mass of the Opposition returning to the House immediately the Autumn Session commenced with the ultimatum, "Withdraw, or dissolve!" we have had the spectacle of some half of their number in attendance, trying either to obstruct the Measure or to obtain modifications and concessions. More over the attitude of the Opposition has not always been the same inside and outside the House. It may be considered clever—no doubt it is very 'cute—but I find it difficult to think much politically of the hon. Member who has just addressed the House—who has spent much time here in endeavouring to obtain modifications of the Measure, and has then proceeded to address 1125 meetings in the country, and to warn his audiences against the Ministerial concessions "because they are part of the whole trick and business of the Government." There were two main arguments which had been advanced against the Bill—first, that there is no mandate from the country; and, secondly, that in the Bill, even as now amended, there is no popular control. So far as regards the "no mandate" argument, I am content to leave that in the position in which it was left by the right hon. Gentleman, my predecessor in the representation of Newcastle, when speaking recently within the sacred precincts of the National Liberal Club. I will trouble the House with only one phase it. Where was the mandate for the Education Bill of 1870? It is notorious that the General Election of 1868 was fought upon one question, and one question only, viz., the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, and though it may be said that there was a reference to education in the election address of Mr. Gladstone, similar reference may be found in the addresses of hon. Members on this side who stood at the last General Election. Where, then, was the mandate for the establishment of School Boards in 1870—for the establishment of the system which has so heavily handicapped the voluntary schools ever since?
As regards "no control," I pass by the statement of the hon. Member for North Camberwell that "all the best educated countries in the world have municipalised education," not because I undervalue his authority, but because I have noticed that whenever we quote him against his colleagues on that side of the House, we are always met with the reply, "Oh, Macnamara he is an educationalist!"—as much as to say that he is no Liberal. I would ask the House therefore to listen to two voices of 1170. The first is that of the late Mr. Mundella, who said that—He was satisfied that no greater mistake could be committed than that of leaving school boards to be elected by the popular vote.The other voice is that of Mr. George Dixon, of Birmingham, who was not only a Liberal, but also an educationalist, and who declared, speaking from his place in the House of Commons— 1126I really do wish my hon. friends, taking the same view of politics, belonging to the same Radical school as myself, would have a little more confidence in what I have always supposed to be one of the chief Radical doctrines, viz., trust in municipal government elected by the ratepayers.I venture to think the annoyance, to use no stronger term, manifested from the Benches opposite, has been due to the realisation of the fact that they have—fairly or unfairly, form whichever point they may choose to regard it—been cheated out of what they looked upon as a great opportunity of damaging the National Church. We have been told by the hon. Member for Rugby, in his famous horse story, that when he goes to buy a horse he expects to carry away at the same time and for the same money not only the horse, but also the bridle and saddle. In short, in language with which in his professional association with persons accustomed to stand at the bar of justice he must be familiar, he expected to "collar the lot." In this case I believe hon. Members opposite not only expected they would secure the Church horse, the Church bridle and the Church saddle, but they also thought they ought to have the conveyance and the stables as well, and because they had been disappointed in that expectation, we have—again to use legal phraseology—had that exhibition of "incompatibility of temper" which has been so noticeable in the discussions. The last resort of hon. Members opposite is to throw up their hands in pious horror at the operation of the Closure. It seems to me ridiculous. They have as mush right to complain of the Closure as the man who murdered both his father and mother had to ask for mercy from the judge on the ground that he was an orphan. Whose fault was it that he was and orphan? Why, his own, of course, and he knew it. Whose fault was it that the Closure has operated against hon. Members opposite? Why, their own, of course, and not only did they know it, but, what is of far greater consequence, the country knows it to.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE () Northampton
I look upon the question affected by this Bill through the spectacles neither of Roman Catholics, nor of Anglicans, nor of Nonconformists, but simply of one who 1127 desires to see a sound system of education established throughout the country. I believe that that system will never be established so long as the line of demarcation between the functions of the State and the functions of the individual is not maintained. The function of the State is to look after secular education, and that of the individual—the parent or the pastor—is to look after religious education. If ever you try to evade the function of the individual and place it on the State you will fall into all sorts of difficulties, and education will suffer. My hon. friend has praised the excellences of undogmatic religion. I am surprised that anyone should assert in this House that there could be such a thing as undogmatic Christianity. The words are an absolute contradiction in terms. Nondogmatic morality has been spoken of, but to tell us that you are able to get a religion based upon a supernatural revelation to men, and you can do so without accepting the dogamatisms of that religion, seems to me to be an utter absurdity and a contradiction in terms. What is the consequence of breaking down the barrier? When once you break down the barrier you will have men wanting to go further. The result of teaching religion in board schools is that you have denominational religion in a great many schools, and education becomes the battle-ground of rival sects. Why was this Bill brought in? Was it because of the Cockerton judgment? If so, why did you not limit it to that? Was it for the benefit of secondary education? If so, why did you not limit it to that? The real reason why this Bill was brought in—and hon. Gentlemen opposite must be well aware of it—was that there were 8,000 parishes in England where there was a Church school, and the subscriptions so fell off that, although the education was starved, the schools were in a state of absolute bankruptcy. That is the real reason. This is the richest Church in the world. It is the Church which contains most of the rich men in England, and it does seem to me something mean and contemptible on the part of rich Churchmen that if they believe in the doctrines of their own Church they should not be ready to pay a certain portion to meet the cost of their schools instead of sponging upon others.
I respect all religions equally, and I have no objection to any man in the 1128 world believing in anything he pleases, and inculcating it on others, but I object to him calling upon us to pay for the teaching of that religion. Let each sect sit like a hen on their own eggs and hatch them, and not use the State as a sort of incubator to hatch its own sectional eggs. We know the old proverb that he who pays for the music has a right to call the tune, but when we are asked to pay for this, and when we are allowed to call the tune, I do not think it will be a Church tune. By this Bill the Government have had to invade one of the most elementary principles of control over the money which is found by the State. The Government were trying to blink the whole question. In one Clause of this Bill power is given for the appointment of managers. Six of them are appointed for a school, four of them being put upon the board by the Church itself. I wonder what would be said if it were proposed that the Liberal Party should be allowed to co-opt two-thirds of the Members of this House. It is a mere farce and ridiculous to talk about these six managers, four of whom are co-opted, as being representatives of the parish in which the schools are situated. The first Lord of the Treasury said that although they were called managers they did not manage? I contend that they do manage, because they have the right to appoint the master. If you will only provide that I shall be allowed to appoint the masters of the schools, I will undertake to turn the rising generation into thoroughly sound Radicals without a Conservative amongst them.
One speaker has said that these schools are an annexe to the Church, and he said they were also an annexe to the family. If so, why do you not allow the heads of the family to interfere in any sort of way? It has been said that the country desires to have this Bill, but if that is so why will you not leave the matter to the country? If the country really desires this system of managers why not leave it to the parishioners and the parents of the children to have a voice in the matter, and to have a supreme voice to decide what is to be done in the schools. There is another elementary principle of self-government as it is recognised in this country which 1129 has been trampled under foot, and that is the principle that there should be no obligation upon a civil servant to state his religion, much less to hold any particular religion. You have in these 8,000 schools 8,000 masters who are practically civil servants, and who are only appointed if they belong to the Church of England; in fact they must belong to the Church of England in order to get the appointment. What can a Bill be worth that tramples upon two such elementary principles of civil liberty and civil rights as this Bill does?
I can understand perfectly well this proposal if the school happens to be situated in a place where other schools are entirely out of the reach of the children, but you must remember that this is not the case in the 8,000 parishes where there is only one school, and in that one school you make it obligatory that every child in the parish shall attend. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth there was a statute obliging everybody to attend the parish church, and what is the difference between that and obliging children to attend these schools? The result of this policy is that the children are forced into a school where there is a Church atmosphere.
We have talked a good deal about the Kenyon-Slaney Amendment, and it is not an edifying spectacle to see the Church members quarrelling like cats and dogs over this Amendment. I took no interest in it at all. It was a matter of perfect indifference to me. Not that I object at all to the clergymen, but I object to the Church. If you have Church schools supported at the public expense it does not concern me so much how the money shall be allocated between the clergymen and the laymen, for I object alike to both clergy and laity having anything to do with it. When the First Lord of the Treasury passed his Closure by compartments, I came to the conclusion that I would not take part in the discussions in fetters. I object to being fettered or muzzled, and therefore I did not give one single vote after Closure by compartments was passed either in Committee or on Report. What happened? No sooner was the Closure passed than the right hon. Gentleman began to give sops to the clerical party and the clerical representatives on the other side of the House. He could not give the clerical party all 1130 they wanted, and so the right hon. Gentleman tried to make it up by doles, State grants, and in other ways, and he gave them the fees and the school houses. He gave these, I suppose, as a sort of inducement to them to fall into line and to accept his Bill. What occurred in regard to the Amendments? A very large number of Amendments were put down on the Paper by hon. Members of both sides of the House, and how many of them were put from the Chair? I do not suppose that more than half-a-dozen of them were discussed. All these Amendments were put down by hon. Gentlemen who had made a speciality of these particular subjects and who had studied the question, and they were anxious to amend the Bill, but all their efforts were swept entirely away by this Closure by compartments.
Therefore many of the proposals in this Bill have been carried without any discussion at all, and now the House is called upon to say that that is a proper mode in which to legislate. I think that is a mode of reducing this House to contempt in the sight of the country, and I absolutely decline to have anything to do with it. But sometimes good comes out of bad. Disestablishment, or the desire for it, was a living force at one time in the country, but I do not know whether that matter is one our slate at the present time, because the Liberal slate has been cleaned, and if disestablishment has not been wiped off altogether it certainly has been a little blurred of late. I hope the effect of this Bill will be to write it large again on our slate. The Church, directly it felt itself safe in its own laager, issued forth and raided in our country. Churchmen said "As we have an endowed Church and the country is so foolish as to accept this, they will perhaps allow us to have endowed Church schools," and it appears to me that they been pretty right in that view. I do not blame the Tories for this for an instant. We cannot expect to get grapes from Tory thorns. I blame the country for sending the Tories to this House with a majority. I find, however, one consolation in what has occurred. I think that the Church has proved itself so aggressive in this matter that it is exceedingly possible that Liberals will unite to expel them from the fortress in which they have retired. This was done with the robber barons of the Rhine. They sallied forth and 1131 plundered the neighbouring country, and at last neighbouring country became so disgusted that they were not satisfied with defending their own, but they went and levelled the fortresses of those barons. That I hope will be the result of this Bill. I think the result will be that the Church schools in the end will suffer. I think the Church has overreached itself. Why were these schools established in the parishes? It was simply because it was a means of avoiding school rates. Now you have school rates whether they are to be voluntary schools, Church schools, or board schools. Now that you have taken the rates and deprived the ratepayers of control over the money, now that you have gone back to the old principle, that a man to be a civil servant of the country is to be a member of the Church of England, I think you will find, although perhaps you did not absolutely intend it that the end will be the ending of those Church schools, and that is a result I most sincerely desire.
I think this debate has shown how impossible it is to have any good system of education so long as you do not lay it down that there should be nothing but secular education taught by the State with State money. Have you heard much of education in these debates? Complaint has been made on all sides that instead of education you have had nothing but sectarian bickerings. The children are concerned in this matter. I have heard a great deal about the teachers, and this and that, but the children have hardly ever been mentioned at all. There is no doubt that we are entirely behind other nations in the matter of education, and if we hope to hold our own with foreign countries we must educate our people up to the mark educate our people up to the mark of the inhabitants of Germany, and the United States who complete with us in foreign markets. There is no doubt that if the country had not allowed itself to be carried away a short time ago, and had not rushed wildly into the reckless folly into which it was recommended to rush by a sensational Press, we should not have been spending so much money on war as we are doing at the present moment. What is going on at present in the country? I am not going to transgress by pursuing this subject, 1132 which would be out of order, but I may be allowed to point out that, while we in the House of Commons, are quarrelling, and nagging, and bickering over the religious question in connection with schools, in another place we had a noble Lord proposing that the educational deficiency should be met by establishing a public holiday every year at which there were to be speeches made, as far as I understood him, on behalf of Birmingham Imperialism, and the little people were to be bribed into support of this by having a festival. I know that soldiers are needed, but there is something beyond being a soldier, and it is time to protest against this clericalism which has invaded the Benches on the other side of the House, and against the militarism which has not only invaded the Benches on the other side, but to a large and serious extent the Benches on this side. I want good citizens to be made, and I believe that a good citizens can be made without his being converted either into being a member of the Church of England or into a soldier. I recognise that we must have soldiers, and I have no objection to anybody who likes being a member of the Church of England, but I do hold that a sound, large, and broad system of education is infinitely better for this country than if we were to manage to take the other half of Africa at a further cost of about £250,000,000, even if we were to spend double what we are now spending on ships and armaments and soliders.
§ (6.50.) MR. TALBOT
So far as I can understand the somewhat discursive remarks of the hon. Gentlemen who has just spoken, he is really in favour of a simply secular system of education. Well, it is not really worth while to argue that question tonight, because the country has long ago made up its mind against the hon. Gentlemen. When I say that, I say that not this House only, but that the whole community, has declared in the most unmistakable manner that secular education, pure and simple, is a thing they will not have, and therefore it would be a waste of the time of the House to reply to the arguments which have been adduced. The argument with regard to militarism is not germane to the question we are discussing 1133 tonight, and I may also pass that by. I shall confine my remarks, which will be very few, entirely to matters connected with the Bill which we are now asked to read a third time.
Two points have struck me notably in regard to the discussions on the Bill. The first is that the opposition to the Bill has been based upon an extraordinary absence of reference to facts. Instead of facts we have had fictions. I am not going to weary the House with quotations, but I should like just to mention one or two of the remarks which have been made by the opponents of the Bill. I have here a statement by Dr. Clifford, the eminent Nonconformist divine. He says:The Cabinet now pledges itself to effect the utter elimination of all the best elements of the present system of State education, and to secure the unchecked sway of the priest.That is one of his statements, and another is this:This Bill, according to Mr. Bryce, takes the board schools from the people, and gives them, roughly speaking, to one section of the people—that is, to the Anglican Church. That is the fact. A heavier condemnation of the Bill and of its promoters could not be uttered.I asked myself when I read these extraordinary statements, "Who is making these remarks?" I believe Dr. Clifford is an able and a conscientious man but, I must say that are most misleading and absolutely inaccurate statements. It is difficult for me in dealing with such statements that the board schools had been taken from the people and given to one section of the people—those belonging to the Anglican Church—is a absolutely contrary to the whole truth about the Bill. I wondered whether I was dreaming, or whether it was a statement which had really been made by a responsible person. Dr. Clifford is a good and able man, but when he cites the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen as his authority for a statement so absolutely contrary to the truth, I am driven to this dilemma: either Dr. Clifford does not know the facts—in which case he ought not to speak about them—or he does know them, and speaks what are not the facts. If the latter alternative is true, I cannot designate such conduct in language which would be in accordance with the Rules of the House. In a northern part of the country, where an election has lately taken place, one of 1134 the arguments used against the candidate who supported the Government was that, if this Bill were passed, the universal payment of school fees would be enforced for every child. [An HON. MEMBER: Who said that?] I am told that was so. I am quoting the handbills which were circulated in the Cleveland Division, the constituency to which I refer. The hon. Gentlemen who represents the constituency is not here at present. He was here yesterday and made and interesting maiden speech to the House, and I wish he had been here now to have repudiated the statement I have made if it is not correct. That is another absolute mis-statement. In former controversies we have generally been agreed on the facts. I take the cases of the disestablishment of the Irish Church, Which is the first in which I was personally engaged. We knew then what was the proposal of the Government. Some of us thought it was a bad thing to disestablish the Irish Church, and others thought it was a good thing. There was a very proper distinction of opinion. but here it is impossible to argue with hon. Gentlemen opposite if they take their stand on statements of this kind, and if we do not agree on the elementary facts of the situation, it is impossible to come to close quarters. I regret as much as anyone can do the introduction of this new element into Parliamentary controversies, Which, if allowed to spread. would make the debates in this House almost useless. We have heard a great deal about the undue advantage to the Church. That is a matter upon which we may naturally take different views. It is perfectly reasonable that one person should think these provisions give undue advantage to the Church, while another person takes a different view; but to say that the Bill takes away the board schools and gives them over to the Church is an absolute perversion of the fact, and I should have expected that it would have been repudiated by hon. Members opposite. I regret that we have to deal with them from that point of view.
I should like to ask the House to allow me to correct a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen in his speech last night. I have here a letter which has been put into my hand, and I have been asked to make use of it, 1135 The right hon. Gentlemen the Member for South Aberdeen said that the Bishop of London, at the Albert Hall meeting, estimated the cost of repairs for Church schools at £150,000 per annum; and then the right hon. Gentlemen went on to show that the proportion of fees and endowments the Church would receive (which he treated as a gift to the Church) was £162,000, so that the burden said to be laid upon Churchmen was a fiction; the whole cost would be provided for them with a balance of £12,000, and that the Bill was an endowment of the Church. Now, a reference to the report of the Albert Hall meeting will show that that is not an accurate statement of what the Bishop of London said. The Bishop says that he never made the statement attributed to him, and his Lordship has this morning given me authority to say that he not only did not make it, but that what he said was absolutely inconsistent with it. The information supplied to me is that there are nearly 3,000,000 places in Church schools, and that the cost of structural and annual repairs is at least 5s. a head. The London School Board estimates 3s. 6d. a head for annual repairs only.
§ *MR. TALBOT
The hon. Gentleman has a perfect right to his own opinion. He is an expert in these matters. The information supplied to me is that the cost for structural and annual repairs amounts to 5s. per head, and that that would amount to, on the calculation of 3,000,000 places in the Church schools, £750,000; where as £150,000 would only allow Is. a head for all repairs. Whether I am correct or not in the statement of annual cost, at any rate it will be evident that the statement attributed to the Bishop of London is absolutely inaccurate. There is another thing that strikes me about this Bill, which is remarkably different from most measures with which I have had to deal, and that is, that each side seems to expect that it will grant enormous advantages to the other side. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who oppose this Bill said it would be of enormous advantage to the Church; my hon. friends connected with the Church who support the Bill say they expect to reap no great 1136 advantage from it, but that a great deal of risk will be involved before a satisfactory conclusion has been arrived at. Probably the truth lies in this, as in most things, in the middle, and I trust that in the long run justice will be attained. Although we differ from hon. Gentlemen opposite, this, at any rate, we must acknowledge, as practical statesmen, that in a matter of this kind we are dealing not with what might be ideally best, but with the best under the circumstances. The hon. Gentleman, when he spoke of secular education, asked why the Government did not brush aside the whole existing condition of things; but he did not emphasise the fact that this country of England is permeated by a great system of religious education provided at an enormous cost. He said that the Church schools had been supplied in order to escape the school rates; but a great number of these Church schools were established long before there was any school rate by Churchmen, Churchwomen, and other religious people who were anxious for religious education. We cannot get rid on these schools because the hon. Member for Northampton wants a universal system of secular instruction. I am anxious to provide for religious education. We meet the facts of the case; we acknowledge that there are these denominational schools all over the country, and we cannot brush them aside as if they were non-existent. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they think the matter over calmly, will acknowledge that this is the only way this question can be dealt with. From existing facts must a national system be developed.
Before I sit down I should like to say a word or two about the celebrated Kenyon-Slaney Clause. I am quite sure that my hon. and gallant friend proposed that Clause not to throw obstacles in the way of what I have described as the object of the Government, but with a real and earnest desire to purge some of the Church schools of some of their defects, and to correct heresies that may exist in the Church. But in trying to do that he introduced into the Education Bill what I cannot but consider a provision of an alien character. In every period since the foundation of the Church there have been attempts to teach false doctrines. There is nothing new in that; but I do not think that an Education Bill is an 1137 occasion to establish the purity of the Church; and I know that this unfortunate Clause had introduced a great deal of bitterness into the discussion. However, at all events, there it is, and we cannot get rid of it; but I hope we shall try to get it made less injurious than I think it is likely to be. The Attorney General made a very interesting speech about it, and drew a distinction between the interpretation of two parts of this Clause. There were two reasons why I voted against the Clause. One was that it seemed to me to deprive the clergyman of the proper position he should hold in a Church school, and the other was that it takes away the appeal to the Bishop in a dispute between the managers and the clergyman. In regard to the first, the Attorney General did not think that there was any obscurity in regard to the position of the clergyman and the managers; and in regard to the second, my hon. and gallant friend, after hearing the Attorney General, said that he would be very glad if any obscurity which rests upon the Clause were put right in another place. In such questions it is of the greatest importance that there should be no obscurity whatever in the words of the Clause. These should, at least, say what they mean to say, so that there may be fewer floods of litigation, and less cases of dispute. That will be better for us all. We do not want to spend our time or money in fighting in the law courts. I do hope the Government will see that, when the Bill goes to the House of Lords, this Clause shall be made absolutely intelligible, and that whatever the Clause is intended to mean, that meaning shall be made perfectly clear.
There is another point I wish to bring before the House. I know I represent here a great deal of opinion outside in regard to it which does not often find articulate volume in this House. I refer to the single-school areas, on which there has been much exaggeration. It has been said that there are 8,000 single-school areas. That is a great mistake; I believe there are only 5,000, and in a large number of these no Nonconformist grievance exists, simply because there are no Nonconformists in the parish owever, I admit that in Wales, and in 1138 Lincolnshire, the West Riding of York, and in Cornwall, Nonconformist grievances do exist. Now, I am quite ready to meet a grievance, but I cannot meet one grievance by substituting another. What hon. Gentleman opposite wish is to remove the Nonconformist grievance by making a Church grievance. That would not settle the question in any way. I am quite ready to allow any amount of religious teaching in schools for which there is a real demand; but when we proposed that it was met with opposition on the other side. They said it was absurd, although it seemed to me the very essence of Liberalism. I still believe that the proper solution of the question lies in my noble friend's Amendment, and that in the long run it will be seen that we were right and that that solution must come. When it does come, it will be acknowledged that we were the pioneers of a great educational reform.
§ *MR. HERBERT SAMUEL () Yorkshire, Cleveland
I have been informed that while I was out of the House the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University stated that in the Cleveland election a leaflet was issued on my behalf stating that fees would be charged in all Church schools if this Bill became law. I have no knowledge of any such leaflet, and must ask the right hon. Gentleman to produce the leaflet.
§ *MR. TALBOT
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his correction, and I will take care that the information is supplied to him. I have not the leaflet with me. I only said I heard of it.
§ *MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
I think that the right hon. Gentleman should not have made the statement without being able to produce his authority.
§ *MR. TALBOT
When the hon. Gentleman has been longer in the House he will know that we do not always produce documents in support of statements that are made. I merely said that a report had reached me that a statement to that effect was made in the North of England. I did not say that the hon. Member was conscious of it. I say that in supporting this Bill we have 1139 been supporting the progress of the cause of education. I ask whether there is any alternative to the proposals of the Government. From my point of view of doing justice to the Church schools, though I by no means regard this Bill as perfect. I cannot say that any other scheme could have been produced with a chance of passing. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, in all fairness and honesty, whether any other scheme presents itself to them which can be reasonably proposed to the country. As regards the secularisation of all the schools in the country, that is out of the question. Nobody could think that the removal of the Church schools is a practical proposal. If that be so, if there is no other alternative, we must give to the Government measure the support which I think it deserves. This Bill has done much to establish a feeling of gratitude in the minds of all of us to the Prime Minister, and I ask for the privilege of a colleague to congratulate the Secretary to the Board of Education on the admirable way in which he has seconded the labours of his chief. This is one of the most difficult subjects, and it was almost impossible to bring it to a conclusion without friction; but when friction disappears and heat cools, the people of this country will, I believe, look back and recognise that in the Education Bill, and in the manner in which it was passed, they have secured a real triumph in the great cause of national education.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES () Durham, N. W.
We all of us must recognise the moderation and good sense which has characterised all the speeches we have had during this debate, including that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University. But hon. Gentlemen opposite must forgive me for pointing out that these are question of great principles and that there is a diametrical opposition between the view of the mode in which these question of education are treated by the right hon. Gentleman and those who support him, and the view of the mode in which we, on this side of the House, regard them. We readily recognise that the Church of England has a great position in our educational system. We readily recognise that no popular mandate was necessary for the 1140 purpose that some step should be taken by a responsible Government for the co-ordination and consolidation of education. And for elevating the voluntary denominational schools of the country up to the same standard of efficiency as that enjoyed by the board schools. But although we recognise the necessity for these changes, we are irresistibly forced to the conclusion that the methods adopted by the Government are not the methods which should, to the best advantage of the Government, have been pursued by the Government. This question of education must be divided into two parts—one religious and the other educational. On the educational part we, on this side of the House, are of opinion that the School Boards ought not to have been abolished. I do not see the Prime Minister present, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education is in his place, and I would ask him on what authority did this abolition of the School Boards rest before it was carried into effect, and by the manner in which it has been done by this Bill.
In 1895 a Royal Commissions was appointed for the purpose of inquiring into technical instruction, and many persons of the greatest educational authority gave evidence before that Royal Commission. And with one or two exceptions, every witness of authority expressed the opinion that it was inadvisable to abolish the School Boards. but that, on the contrary, it was essential, in the interests of the cause of education, that the School Boards should be maintained. I would remind the House of a few of the authorities for that statement. I suppose that there are few more distinguished men in the cause of education in this country than Sir George Kekewich, who has been so long associated with the public Department of Education, and he gave his unqualified opinion in favour of that point. The same observation applies to the Head Master of King Edward VI. School, Birmingham—a gentleman who was also vice chairman of the Birmingham School Board. Another of the representatives of that School Board also gave his opinion against the abolition of the School Boards. On the same lines was the evidence of Mr. Anthony, chairman of the Liverpool School Board, Mr. Fitch, H. M. Inspector of Schools.
1141 Mr. Feron, a most distinguished educationist, and lastly the right hon. Gentleman who was a late Minister for Education, the Member for the Dartford Division of Kent. One or two of them went as far as to say that the School Boards should execute the functions for the administration of secondary education. I shall be subject to correction, but I believe that the only gentlemen who gave evidence during that long and exhaustive Commission in favour of the abolition of School Boards were two Members of the Technical Instruction Committee of the Corporation of Manchester, Mr. Alderman Hoy, and Mr. Reynolds, also a member of the Manchester Technical Instruction Committee. the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Islington, and a member of the Town Council of Derby. Their evidence was in favour of the abolition of the School Boards and substituting for them County Councils or Town Councils. I think myself that the House was entitles to receive from the Ministry of this country some authoritative expression of opinion in favour of the abolition of School Boards before they introduced this Bill, and that they are unable to produce that authority. Why are we asked therefore to agree to their proposal? I admit that there are many School Boards in the country districts that were defective, but the Act of 1870 provided machinery to meet that difficulty, while the Royal Commission said that districts might be chosen, larger than the School Board areas, but smaller than the county, which could deal with primary, technical, and secondary education. I am no enemy of the County Councils. So far as technical education is concerned, the County Councils have done fairly well, but it is manifestly absurd to suppose that in the area of a large county it is possible for the County Council effectively to discharge the duty of the administration of education. Now, we have had no experience of the manner in which County Councils or Town Council are able to deal with education, but I think we can draw an inference from their treatment of the question hitherto, that they are calculated to starve education.
§ It being half-past Seven of the clock, the Debate stood Adjourned till this evening.