§ [SECOND READING.]
§ (THIRD DAY'S DEBATE.)
Which Amendment was—
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. Bryce.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ (2.40.) MR. THOMAS SHAW (Hawick Burghs)
When I am asked to consider this Bill, I find myself in a somewhat strange atmosphere. It ought to be considered from the point of view of the foundation of the whole ladder of education, and unless the elementary stage is provided for with comprehensiveness it is altogether impossible to build upon that foundation a solid superstructure of secondary or technical education. I propose to consider the Bill from the point of view of the educational authority which has to deal with the matter of elementary education. A great deal has been said in the last few days about the advantage of having one local educational authority. With a good deal of it I agree, but I do not fall down and worship the idea as a fetish.
What is the local education authority proposed to be set up with reference to primary education in this Bill? My objections to it are threefold. First, that it does not appear to me to be a local authority; secondly, it docs not appear to be an educational authority, and thirdly, it does not appear to be a real authority at all. That may seem a pretty comprehensive piece of criticism, but I will endeavour to justify it. In the first place I maintain, and here I am founded on experience in connection with Scottish education, that the authority set up—and I have particularly in view the County Council—is not a local authority in the ordinary and proper sense of the term as applied to education. What are these Councils? 955 They are bodies ruling over a very considerable tract of territory. Now in educational matters you must have minute knowledge of parochial and even sub-parochial needs and desires, and it is altogether a different question to take a large County Council and to declare that, with regard to each parish and district within its area, it can he informed of the real needs and desires of that parish or district. A local authority governing a particular district would require to have no great distance to travel. The County Council in very many respects does not represent the ordinary working man or artisan. There are the obstacles of distance and of expense, there is the expenditure of time, trouble, and labour, where the work has to be done far away from home. Obstacles of this kind can only be surmounted in the case of large County Councils at a considerable expenditure of time and money, and that is a positive harrier to members of the artisan class. I have therefore the greatest difficulty in calling this new authority a local authority. Take this question of education. Take the case of a local merchant or artisan, a clever man, fond of education and fond of studying the life of the community from an educational point of view. I know such men in scores. If you make the County Council the local education authority the result will be that these men will be unable to take their part in the educational work, because they would first have to pass through a circuitous route, and have to become elected to the County Councils, for which they could not spare, possibly, the necessary time. Therefore, I think I am right in saying that in no proper sense of the term is it a local authority which it is here proposed to set up. I confess to the House that I have always in my mind the consideration of a picture of a local authority with which I am familiar, local in the proper sense of the term, parochial and administrative, and with the fullest consciousness of the needs of even the humblest members of the population. It is from that point of view that I cannot affirm this local educational authority to be in the proper sense of the term a local authority.
956 The next point I have to consider is—Is it really an educational authority? The President of the Local Government Board last night had a good deal to say as to the suggestion of distrust of the members of local administrative bodies. He said it was considered by those who objected to the County Council being the educational authority that these men were unworthy of being trusted with educational control. But that is not the objection at all. We have perfect confidence in the County Councillors within proper County Council functions. Our objection is more physical, practical, and businesslike. It is that you ought not to overload men who are already largely overweighted by County Council business pure and simple. It is for that reason, and not from the point of view of distrust of these popularly elected men, that we make objection. You should not place this fresh burden upon their shoulders. We cannot forget that during the last three decades there has been an enormous burden laid by administration, and by legislation, upon the shoulders of our local authorities. Even since the foundation of County Councils there have been legislative and administrative advances made in the direction of public health—sanitation, the management of water supply, and general attention to local needs; and these have added enormously to the weight of duty which falls on a County Councillor who seeks to conscientiously fulfil his obligations. And if the work of local bodies like County and Parish Councils has been largely added to, I am bound to say that the additional burden falling upon those who conscientiously labour in the educational sphere has been positively overwhelming. What with Minutes of the Education Department and with questions affecting technical and secondary education, and what with the constant strain in connection with the earning of grants, it is impossible to over-estimate the increase which has fallen upon the shoulders of those who properly perform their educational duties. Now, what is proposed by this Bill is to mass these accumulated and accumulating duties now in two different spheres together, and put them on the shoulders of one 957 set of men. What is wanted is an education authority better fitted by being in closer contact with its representative element with the people of this country. We want to create a race of educationists to deal with this specialised subject. We do not want to run a mass of educational material into the ruck of County Council business. The mass of detail which our local bodies have to deal with constitutes an increasing difficulty, and it is by no means easy to induce men who are actively engaged in the business of life to come and share the work. That difficulty will be intensified if you mass these public duties together, and throw them upon the shoulders of one set of men. You will have the ordinary business man, who is so valuable in working on the practical details of education on the one hand, or County Council work on the other, shrink from the accumulation of both, and the country will be cursed with that worst of all specimens, the professional local politician or the man who has nothing to do. A more awkward local citizen and a worse busybody does not exist than the man who has retired from business far too early in life, and seeks to turn his wasted faculties to the consideration of work which, if it were kept separate, would be done by far abler men actively engaged in the practical duties of everyday life. On this ground, therefore, I say that the new authority which is being set up is not a true educational authority.
Then, I have further asserted that it is no authority at all. It is removed from the locality. Education is practically crowded out, and provision is made to enable the County Council, which is to be called the educational authority, to transfer its work and responsibilities to committees selected partly from their own body and partly from outside sources. As to the management of the schools, it is a delegation by delegates to delegates. The old Roman maxim was Delegatus non potest delegare, but by this Bill the delegate is not merely able to delegate his duties to others, but he has a double and even triple power of delegation. I am perfectly alive to the consideration which was urged with perfect fairness by the Vice-President of the Council, that, 958 while you have only one-third of the management sent in, as it were, by the representative authority, there still is a certain amount of control by reason of Clause 8a of the Bill, which enables managers to carry out the directions of the local education authority. What I want to say is this: If that control is non-effective, the local managers will not be disturbed. The County Council will wash its hands of the matter. It will say, "We are away from the spot, we do not know the needs or aspirations or particular circumstances of the locality, and we will therefore give no directions to those who locally manage the schools." That is what I think will occur, although the Vice-President seems to hold that there will be a steady, effective interposition by the Council in the work of the local education authority. If that be so, why not be frank, and put the majority of the managers on the representative principle? There are two ways of dealing with this matter: either you must have School Boards, or, if you are to adhere to the representative principle at all, you must have a majority of power and control among the body of local managers. Here we come to the real defect of the Bill, it is that the Government are adopting a circuitous, shadowy, and unsatisfactory method, which may be pleaded as a substitute for real, effective focal control. The example which Scotland has so splendidly set for thirty years ought to have been followed, and School Boards in increasing ratio should have been provided all over England. There is a possible difficulty on account of this circuitous method. Clause 2 provides that if a local educational authority fails to fulfil its duties under the Elementary Education Act, then it can be brought to book by means of a mandamus granted at the instance of the Central Board. I fancy when such a proceeding came to be discussed there would be some very strange revelations, and that there would be created a general feeling that the County Councils ought to have had a larger representative share.
Now, I know I am dealing with a state of affairs largely foreign to Scotch ideal, but I hope Englishmen will not be content to dispose of the experience which those have who have for thirty years carried on 959 education, not less efficiently than themselves, under the system which I am venturing to lay before the House. The real meaning of this Bill is to be found in the provision for the supersession and extinction of the School Boards. I think that would be a perfectly fatal blunder, and no inducement could be offered me to assist the progress of such a Bill. The whole Bill is founded on a reversal of the true basis of elementary education, namely, that you should have a representative principle, with the willing assent of the people. If you start at the base of the structure, namely, with elementary education, and that founded on local knowledge and experience, and with the people's willing assent, you get their interest in education and you obtain a broad and firm basis upon which you could erect the superstructure of secondary and technical education that is the true pyramid. You can only get the people's interest in education on your side by this representative principle in one or two forms. My countrymen, I grant, are in favour of the School Board system, and I wonder it is condemned in England. In what way has it brought education to the bad? I do not know. I do not know why the Government object to it from an educational point of view. One of the most effective appeals ever made in this House was made by the hon. Member for Camberwell when he appealed for joint action to be taken by the School Boards and municipalities. We have adequate precedent for that proposal in Scotland in the case of secondary education. There is, of course, a difference in the large number of voluntary school managers in England; but is it impossible to conceive that the principle of representative control with regard to these managers should be so leavened in numbers and in power with the real representatives of the people at largo that these bodies could become somewhat more effective in constitution and be practically the School Board for the time?
The true principle of the Bill is that it provides for the extinction of the School Boards, not because the School Boards have become tired, but at the instigation of another body which up to now was not entitled to deal with education at all. That to a Scotchman is perfectly amazing. In Scotland there is no man out of Bedlam who would propose to undermine and abolish School Boards, 960 and why it should be done in England I cannot understand. It is rather a difficult thing now, so great is the education we have achieved in Scotland, to find the distinction between voluntary and board schools mentioned in the education reports, so complete and so perfect in its harmony has it worked in the education in the North. But I find, from the fees paid, the ratio of voluntary schools to the board schools is one to eight. For every eight Board schools in Scotland you have one voluntary school. Under that system we have a large variety of education carried on in the same school. I deplore the idea of increasing the sectarian element. I think it is a bad start for our future citizens that they should be brought up in this way, ticketted and ranged each from the other instead of having impressed upon them their citizenship to the community and the Empire. I do not say that we in Scotland have attained perfection, but I do say that of two peoples in countries that are separated by physical distance, by firth and strait and by the open sea, one has become a wonderful educational unit, all by reason of leaving to representative government the representative control of education. It is a remarkable thing, and in this matter Scotland finds its best heritage in the education of its people. It spreads its education from North to South and from East to West, because it is enforced with the willing assent of the people and by popular election. We were told in olden times that a threepenny rate was going to alarm the people of England, but they are going to be alarmed by a good deal more than a threepenny rate under this Bill. A mistake has been made in attempting to supersede and undermine the School Board. They have performed great functions, not only in Scotland but in England. They have trained up a large body of men whose experience is invaluable in the work of education, and I should deplore it if that experience has been lost to England. A hope has been expressed that these persons will be induced to act as delegates on the County Councils, but if that experience is so valuable, why destroy the School Boards on which it has been gained? Thee are many grounds for objecting to the abolition of the School Boards in England, and I think it would be the deplorable thing for England if their abolition should be 961 proposed. It is a lamentable departure from sound principle that you should take away from the School Boards the functions which they have so brilliantly performed, and undertake the hazardous enterprise of throwing them into the hands of the municipalities. But I understand the position to be that matters in the eye of the Government have largely changed owing to the Cockerton judgment and they are bound to do something either to un-Cockorton or to amend the law. For my part I would have un-Cockertoned the whole law. I submit that it is a pusillanimous policy that this House is to sit down at the feet of the law as administered by the judges, and say that being the law we shall accept the situation and we shall not attempt to alter the law as you have interpreted it. That is a new doctrine; we are here to make laws for judges to administer and I think it would have been wrong on the part of the Government to have rectified the law. Why did these men go beyond this strictly legal constitution? Simply because it was almost impossible to draw a strict line between elementary and secondary or technical education. The School Boards found themselves charged with the duty of teaching the children; and they found that hundreds of them required a little more than they were getting and they gave it to them. And although they broke that law I say the more credit to them for doing so.
Why do not the Government look to Scotland? We do not break the law by giving higher and secondary education. We are charged by the law to do it, and we do it, I hope, with conspicuous success. Why is an English School Board less fit to do in that Department what is done by our Scottish School Boards? In every part of the country, from North to South, and even in some of the remotest islands, attention is being given to secondary education, and I can point to many cases of the most splendid co-ordination between County Councils administering the funds granted to them by the State and the School Boards themselves, under which children have been transferred from one part of the country where there is not sufficient provision, to another part where under a system of bursaries established with the co-operation, under the sanction, and at the request of the School Boards, the County Councils are able, not to overlap, but to co-ordinate, 962 grade, and guide the education up to the very portals of the university itself. It is deplorable that England should be content to sit down under the Cockerton judgment instead of saying the practice that has been condemned as illegal was soundly educational, and it was a sound educational practice, an example in favour of which is to be found ready to hand within the limits of this Island itself.
The secret is that if you have a good representative authority, strictly local and strictly educational—I have very little patience with observations which seem to refer to School Board election and the ad hoc principle as an anachronism; it is nothing of the sort; it is a brilliant success in my own country, and I do not see why England should not continue to have the benefit of it. The secret is that if the representative principle is applied in a locality you may have on top of it, so to speak—growing out of it, and built upon it—a secondary and technical system, and the whole community perfectly content to take upon itself the burden of the secondary and technical education through the rates. Something was said about it being an anachronism. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University spoke of the impossibility of electing skilled educationists, and said that the real discussions at local School Board elections were on the question of religion. Whatever may have been the experience of England—and I should think it very unlikely that that had been its experience—it is not our experience in the North. Our discussions there at School Board elections are on the subject of whether there shall be a higher grade school established in the Community, or whether there shall be a secondary department or a technical institution reared in their midst and paid for out of the rates. I should deplore the day when those things were withdrawn from the direct consideration of the electorate, because the very fact of their being considered is in itself an education to the community. I therefore differ from the scheme of this Bill. I cannot understand the attitude of my hon. and learned friend the Member for Haddingtonshire in thinking that anything which abolishes School Boards can be a step in advance.
Then with regard to the religious difficulties in Scotland. The religious 963 difficulty is said to be at the root of al the trouble in England. The hon. Member for North Camberwell pleaded for a concordat. We have a concordat in Scotland. From an educationist point of view, after the heart-breaking speech of the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich, it is absolutely impossible to have a concordat in England. His view is that the initial operation with regard to the education of a child is to teach him the doctrines of Church membership. Indeed, he went so far as to say that if the Bible were taught in a school without any doctrinal interpretation it would tend towards Nonconformity. Of course, he meant his kind of Nonconformity. If he came North of the Tweed he himself would be a Dissenter. I think it would be a particular kind of conformity that he would be looking for, but he would not find it. The conformity which suits Scotch people is a very poor Nonconformity with him. But we have had a concordat in Scotland, and what is the reason? The reason is that the people have been trained to think that education is the work of the State, and that to a large extent, if not entirely, the training in religion is the work of the parent and of the Church. I myself will never acquiesce in that concordat in any active sense. I think that if the battle were to be fought over again in Scotland, we should relegate to the Churches the duty of instructing their young as well as their grown up adherents, and we should leave entirely to the State the duty of secular instruction. That is my principle. But when the noble Lord declares that Bible teaching alone makes for Nonconformity, all I can say is that we in Scotland, if we are to have religion at all, are perfectly content with Bible teaching. That is good enough for us. No doubt we have a Catechism. It is what the Lord Chancellor would describe as "a sort of" catechism. It is a strange document, probably deriving most of its peculiarities from the fact—as stated by the Vice-President of the Council—that it was a Westminster Document. Westminster document though it was, our Catechism is after all only a series of propositions and answers proved at each stage by references to Holy Writ, it is really a little compendium of human duty derived from the Bible itself. No person could learn from it that there was such 964 a thing as Church or Dissent, Episcopacy or Presbytery. Indeed, this Catechism could be read from end to end without a man knowing what a denomination was or what kind of a creature a sectarian might be. In fact, in Scotland the man who talks of a Dissenter in a patronising fashion is a poor sort of creature, and, fortunately, a very rare one. I think our contact with England is helping in that, because the High Church people of England when they go North are all Dissenters too, and the difficulty would be a constantly growing one, more particularly in the summer months, when these Dissenters flood our Highland counties.
The noble Lord said that his idea of a school was that it should have a front door and a back door—that the front door should be the door through which the child went into the school, but that the school was not properly furnished unless it had a back door through which the child was pushed into the Church. I do not believe in back door education. I think it is a pitiable confession that the great and wealthy Church of England should have to make such an appeal—because after ail, it is an appeal to proselytism. The cure for all that propagandism is public by. If your local managers had a majority of the governing body elected by the people, the first thing that would happen would be that their proceedings would be public. From that moment proselytism, as such, would be crippled and would tend to disappear, because it always seeks hidden ways. I would therefore plead that in this Bill, even if you consent to the abolition of the School Boards, you should see to it that a majority on these managing bodies should be given to the people of England in their representative capacity.
This Bill will not remove the domestic trouble between the religions established by law and those that are self-supporting. Indeed, I fear it may add a rankling sense of injustice to that trouble. A Bill which provides for the abolition of School Boards, for depriving the people of a direct share in the administration of their local finances, can never have my support. England may go her own way, she may despise experience, but 965 time will show whether to lay the foundations of your entire system in popular elections in localities, and on particular educational issues, will not give a better basis than that provided by this Bill, upon which to build a superstructure which shall take all the gifted sons and daughters of the country even to the higher grades of education. The Bill continues clericalism, and to clericalise education is to sterilise it. It removes the contact of citizens with the primary survey over, and the real responsibility for, education. It will make them take less interest in the thing, and that is the first step towards losing the thing itself. What is that? It is the education we are asking for. It is for that education on a broad popular basis that I appeal, because it is by that, if not by that alone, that we can fit this great people to maintain its place among the nations of the world.
§ (3.30.) SIR WILLIAM ANSON (Oxford University)
The debate has been very prolonged, and I shall endeavour to confine myself to one or two of the salient points of the Bill. If I do not deal particularly with the arguments of the hon. Member who has just sat down, it is because I hope, before I have finished, to be able to show that, interesting though the issues he raised are, they are not relevant to the present situation.
What are the main attacks on the Bill? Apart from the constitution of the authority, it may be said that the main charges are that rates are to be levied on behalf of denominational schools, and that not enough is done for secondary education. These two charges are, then, combined in this: when the great and growing needs of secondary education are manifest before you, why do you interfere with the possibilities of meeting them, by introducing this burning question of rate aid for voluntary schools? I think the answer will be that you cannot create a system of secondary education with a wave of the hand, after the neglect under which the subject has laboured ever since we began to take any interest in education at all. We have at present practically no system of secondary education, and it would be extremely rash to endeavour 966 to constitute a complete and ready-made system in the Bill before us. With regard to voluntary schools, if you are embarking on a large and eventually costly system of secondary education, it would be imprudent to leave in your rear and on your lines of communication 14,000 voluntary schools, which might some day be left on your hands, and have to be replaced, and 3,000,000 children who are being educated in those schools. That really is the answer to almost everything said by the hon. Member who has just sat down. The conditions in England are not the same as in Scotland.
But I would rather deal with the Bill as a constructive measure, leaving matters of detail to the Committee stage. I will not touch on the adoptive clause, which has found no friends except the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen. He likes the Bill so little that, if it is to be passed he would like to take it in as small doses as possible. I take it that our object in dealing with education generally elementary and secondary, is to avoid as far as we can, breaks in transition—to enable the youth of this country to pass from the elementary to the higher elementary, and so to secondary education, with as little dislocation of school life, as little change, as easy a transition as we can possibly effect. That points to the importance of the one authority which is one of the great features of this Bill I think it also suggests that it is well not to do as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen proposed—deal with secondary education first; but that we ought to begin from below and organise our elementary education before we proceed to work up to a coherent and uniform system for all sorts of secondary education—If one admits those propositions, one is met by this difficulty: How are you to organise elementary education when you are faced with two sets of schools differently governed—one by School Boards, and the other by voluntary managers, differently financed—one living on the rates and having the inexhaustible resources of the rate payers behind it, and the other maintaining a precarious existence by voluntary contributions; both competing, 967 their only bond being the Board of Education and the inspection from Whitehall? And there we are met by a further difficulty: If one set of schools has these inexhaustible resources in the rates, and the other is hampered by the difficulty of obtaining the contributions necessary to its existence, how is it possible to maintain an even standard of attainment in the two sets of schools? How is it possible that the one set of schools should not be allowed to drop below the other, and so the whole standard of elementary education be lowered? It may be said, "Why not leave the whole thing alone, let the voluntary schools linger until they die out, and then replace them I There are several objections to that. While they linger, there is an ever-present feeling of injustice, which, I think, has hardly been adequately represented even by Members on this side of the House. A Churchman has three courses open to him with regard to elementary education. He may be in a School Board district, and then he pays rates for a school which does not satisfy all his requirements; or he may be a contributor to a voluntary school, and then he pays for the school which he desires out of his own pocket; or he may be in a district where there are both voluntary and board schools, and then he pays the rate and also his voluntary subscription. That is rather a hard case. What is the position of the Nonconformist? If he is in a School Board district, he pays rates for a school which entirely satisfies his requirements; if he is in the district of a voluntary school, it is true he does not get exactly what he wants, but he has nothing to pay for it. The conditions of the two, therefore, are not the same, and there is a constant and aggravating injustice laid upon members of the Church of England in this respect.
Then there is another objection to the abolition of voluntary schools. The districts which they at present serve must be served somehow or other: There are 14,000 of these schools. How are you going to supply their place as regards buildings? Are you going to buy, rent, or replace the buildings? Where are you going to find the money? 968 Out of the rates? But when you have the buildings, all is not done. You have to maintain the schools. How are you going to maintain them? Out of the rates? I venture to think that the plan of the present Bill, which provides for laying on the rates the burden of maintaining the schools, but accepts the buildings as provided by the voluntary societies, will sit much more lightly on my hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Chelmsford Division than would a condition of things in which he had to both provide and maintain the schools.
Then there is the question of religion. These schools have been maintained at great sacrifices and under great difficulties for more than thirty years. That shows that there are people who are prepared to make sacrifices for the faith they hold. We have heard powerful and eloquent speeches from the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich and the hon. and learned Member for Leamington and Warwick. Nobody who heard those speeches could fail to recognise not only their force and eloquence, but the tone of conviction which rang through them, and I would be bound to say that those speeches will find a willing echo in the hearts of thousands, or even millions, of our follow countrymen. No Government could venture to disregard such religious convictions. The voluntary schools are there, and they can only pass away at a great expense to the community, and by giving a great shock to the religious feelings of many. Their maintenance becomes simply a question of terms, and the question is whether the terms offered by this Bill are fair. I am very anxious that they should be as fair as they can be made, and I hope hon. Members will give me credit for having no desire to see denominational schools maintained simply because they are denominational, or otherwise than in a state of complete efficiency.
Are the terms fair? There is the question of management. It has been said that the nominees of the local authority ought to be in a majority on the managing body. I venture to think that that is quite unnecessary for the purpose these nominees are intended to serve. If the Bill provided for a majority, it might entirely alter and destroy the denominational character of the 969 schools, but it would not add to the supervision which these nominated managers will exercise, or to the care with which they will communicate to the local authority any deterioration or injustice or misappropriation of money which might take place. These managers are really to be the watch-dogs of the local authority, and I should say that a proportion of one-third would be amply sufficient for that purpose. Then as to the teaching. Hon. Members opposite have inquired whether the local authority would be able to require the dismissal of a teacher on educational grounds. We are told that that is implied in Clause 8, section (a). [Mr. A. J.BALFOUR: Hear, hear!] I am glad to hear that, because it is essential for the good government of the school that the local authority should be able to require the dismissal of an inefficient teacher on the ground that his secular instruction was inadequate. Then we are told that the maintenance of these voluntary schools closes the lower ranks of the teaching profession to the great mass of Nonconformists throughout the country. I should be glad to see that remedied if it can be remedied without altering the denominational character of the schools. Always bearing in mind that a denominational school should remain such as it was intended to be, I should be glad to support any proposition which would open the lower grades of the teaching profession to Nonconformists.
Now I pass from the elementary part of the Bill. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division of Northumberland yesterday criticised the provision placing the power in the hands of the Borough or Urban Councils. I venture to think that that is one of the most important provisions of the Bill. At any rate, it is an answer to the charge of rigidity. The urban districts and non-county boroughs can remain the elementary education authority. It is just in those parts of the Kingdom that the School Boards have been strongest and most vigorous. The Urban District Councils and the Borough Councils as the education authorities can appropriate the School Boards en masse for the purpose of their elementary education Committees. What is more, there is a 970 power, if the urban district desires to exercise the option, to deal with secondary education to the extent of a penny rate. If those districts and boroughs do avail themselves of the penny rate, they can enable their elementary education authority to do what the Cockerton judgment declared to be illegal when it was done by the School Boards and to carry on the higher elementary education with perfect legality and to the satisfaction of the community in which those Boards or Councils are. In fact, the School Board will survive in another form. It is obviously impossible to have a uniform system of education throughout the country if you have a number of small Corporations, each with absolute control of the rates in their area. If you are to have one authority, then I am afraid that the School Boards must lose their corporate existence and financial powers but subject to this I should be glad to see them survive to discharge the duties they have discharged in the past.
The composition of the authority is a question that has been very much discussed. We have been told by the hon. Member for the Hawick Burghs that it is a departure from the conditions and the practice of School Board elections, and that it will be fatal to the cause of education in this country. Well, the experience of Scotland may be, and probably is, different from that of England. I have heard but one opinion, and everyone's experience tells him the same story that you cannot get up any great interest in School Board elections, and that an ad hoc authority would be selected on anything almost but educational grounds. The great consensus of experienced judgment has come to the same conclusion as the Royal Commission on Secondary Education, that an ad hoc authority for educational purposes is by no means a desirable kind of authority for such matters.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
Perhaps my hon. friend will permit me to say that the recommendations of the Royal Commission did not refer to School Boards or elementary education at all. They were entirely confined to secondary education.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
I am speaking from memory, but I think the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that the setting aside of the method of choosing the authority by direct election occurs in that part of the Report of the Commission which refers to the School Boards as candidates for the position of secondary education authorities. The great merit of the proposed authority is that it preserves the representative character, because the ultimate authority in these matters is the County Council, and it also provides for the collection of all education interests in the area, and for bringing them all together to supervise elementary and secondary education within those districts.
Now I come to what has been a very serious charge against this Bill, namely, that it does so little for secondary education. It is said that the new authority has no means at its disposal and no very distinct duties before it. We have heard somewhat grandiose descriptions of what the secondary education authority ought to be from the hon. Member for East Lothian and the senior Member for Oldham. I think that they suggested functions which the new authority would hardly be adequate to discharge. But the most serious and detailed attack on the secondary education authority was made by the hon. Member for the Berwick Division. He said that the fault of the Bill was the rigidity, that there was no elasticity, and that he would like to see a new education authority inspired by greater freedom, with what he called megalomania, and invested with considerable power. I listened with some surprise when he proceeded to state what he would have done under the circumstances and to give a definition of the duties of the secondary education authority. The first thing which this inspired authority was to do was to prepare a Report of all the educational resources of the neighbourhood. When it had so reported, the information collected was to be the foundation of a scheme, and if the scheme was approved by the Board of Education, assistance was to be provided from public funds. The employment of which would be subject as a matter, of course, to close departmental supervision. I think that the secondary 972 education authority, if set to work according to the plan of the hon. Gentleman, would indulge its megalomania in a straight waistcoat. The limited proposals with regard to finance and the absence of any precise directions to the local authorities are good points in the Bill. The authority will be new for the most part to the work. The conditions under which they will work will be very different in different parts of the country, and it is very desirable that they should consider the resources of their neighbourhood before they begin to raise the money from the ratepayers. One has heard the complaint made already as to the extravagance of the municipal authorities with reference to technical instruction. My own opinion is, that this new secondary education authority will for some time to come be engaged on the border-line between elementary and secondary education; and I do not think it could be more usefully employed. But I have been driven, in the course of this debate, to the conclusion that the education of this country is much more a national than a local concern, and that in the region of secondary education it certainly ought not to be left to the liberality of the ratepayers, or to the megalomania of the County Councils. I have served now for something like two years on the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education, and I have heard something at almost every meeting which have brought home to me that our system of secondary education wants an impulse in some directions, wants control in others, wants organisation everywhere, and that impulse and control can only come from the State through the Board of Education. I think that the Minister of Education during the next few years will hold one of the most important offices, and discharge one of the most important functions that can be discharged by any member of His Majesty's Government. I trust that we shall not fall back on the precarious resources of the ratepayers, but that the Imperial Exchequer will be required to meet the cost that must be incurred if we are to hold our own in the great struggle of nations. But though the great ideas of my hon. friends on the other side of the House may not 973 be realised in the immediate future, and probably not by the agency of this Bill, yet I do believe that the secondary education authority under this Bill will have power to discharge a very useful function, and that it will lay a very useful foundation for future effort. I do not suppose that it will at once create or produce in our schools captains of industry, or that it will contribute to the national resources of science and literature, but the extension and the efficiency of that education which lies above elementary education, and on the borderland will have the most valuable effect on the life and character of the people. Education cannot secure success in life, but it may go a long way to make life interesting, and when we consider the dreary surroundings and the monotonous life of many of our fellow countrymen of the labouring class, it is a great thing that continuity and efficiency of education should give them as a permanent possession some knowledge of the wonders of science, of the associations of history, of the resources of literature. It is for this modest work, which I think may be done and effectually done, that the new authority is proposed to be created by the Bill. If the foundations are modest, I yet believe that they will permit a great and valuable superstructure to be raised, and it is because I believe them to be sound and sure that I will vote most heartily for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ (4.0.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I certainly never thought, when I took an active part thirty-two years ago in the discussion of the Education Bill of 1870, that I should today find myself in the midst of the same controversy which so largely occupied the attention of Parliament then; still less that I should find myself face to face with what I may call a revolutionary scheme, which destroys, and is intended to destroy, all the features of the settlement of that time; which destroys, and is intended to destroy, the School Boards then established, which is intended to relieve the voluntary schools from the obligations into which they then entered and transfer the authority for education into entirely different hands.
974 Now, Sir, the principles upon which this Bill is founded have been stated very definitely by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, and by the Vice-President of the Council; but I have this advantage at least in discussing this matter, that I hold to the same principles for which I contended in 1870. They were the principles of the Birmingham League, and I have not, like the founder of that league, abandoned and repudiated them. These principles required that public money should not be given without public control. Now, what are the principles on which this Bill is said to be founded? My right hon. friend the Member for the Dartford Division, who speaks with such authority in this House, asks why we have so failed since then in advancing education, as we wished and as we ought to have done. In my opinion that failure is due, in one word, to denominationalism. What has weakened educational effort in this country? It has been the contest between the voluntary schools and the School Boards. Each ought to have played a greater part than it has played; and now we have a new scheme which is to destroy that form of education which, it is admitted, has been most complete and effective, and to continue that which, it is admitted, has been the least effective, and to endow it with a larger amount of public money. It is claimed that this new scheme has two merits. It is said that it is going to decentralise education, to establish a local authority, to give absolute autonomy, to carry out coordination, whatever that word may mean, and to lead up to secondary education. The Vice-President of the Council, with that graceful self-depreciation which is characteristic of him, has said at Bradford, and practically repeated here, thathe has been seven years at the Board of Education, and that it will be a disastrous day for the education of this country when it conies to he directed from a central body, however learned and however wise, rather than by a local body, chosen by the people, who know their wants better than the learned and wise people who superintend education at Whitehall, and that the purpose of the Bill is to give effect to this view.But I ask the attention of the House to the manner in which the principle of decentralisation is carried out in this Bill. The County and Borough Councils are not to 975 do anything in regard to education at all, except to find the money. They are to act through an Education Committee. You would have thought that this body, so competent, and which knows everything about education, so much better than they do at Whitehall, was competent to choose its own Education Committee. But no. They are to prepare a scheme. And that scheme is not to take effect without the consent of the Education Department at Whitehall. That does not look to me anything like decentralisation. At Whitehall, they are to judge whether the scheme of the autonomous authority is good or not, and whether they will approve it. They are to give public notice and hold an inquiry if they do not approve it, they may issue a provisional order to take the place of the scheme of the Council. That is to be the position of your autonomous County and Borough Councils! Their schemes are to be supervised by Whitehall, and to be superseded by Whitehall if they are not approved. That is what you call decentralisation! I should like to know what the Birmingham Corporation would think if it were declared that they were not fit to form their own Watch Committee, or Committees for water, gas, or roads, that they must come up to London to get the approval of some central body which may substitute by provisional order another Committee than that chosen by the Birmingham Council itself? I cannot conceive anything more inconsistent with the statement of the Vice-President of the Council that seven years experience at the Board of Education has shown him that these wise and learned men at Whitehall know much less of the business of education than the local bodies; yet they are to sit in judgment upon these local bodies and to overrule them if they please. That is the position of the Councils in regard to education under this Bill—primary education and secondary education—the Board of Education is to govern all. The confidence the Councils have already enjoyed in the case of technical education will be withdrawn, and the constitution of the Executive Committees for this purpose must be submitted to central supervision. It is admitted by the Vice-President of the Council that primary education must be regarded as the 976 foundation of the general scheme of education and that you must build up from that. You are going to force primary education on these Councils. What will their position be as a local decentralised autonomous authority with reference to the primary education given in the 14,000 voluntary schools with an attendance of 3,000,000 children? I venture to say they will have no authority at all. The management in schools provided by the local education authority is to be in the hands of managers appointed by that authority; but in the case of the voluntary schools not so provided they are to be managed by the persons who are the managers for the purposes of the Elementary Education Acts, 1870 to 1900. The position of the local authority is that they may add one-third to the number of managers. That will leave them in a perpetual minority, and I would ask—What are to be their functions in the management? We are told that they are to secure publicity; that they are to criticise; that they are, in fact, to be a statutory opposition to the majority, framed, I suppose, on the model of the existing House of Commons, and in about the same proportions. There is to be a majority of two-thirds of voluntary managers, and there is to be a constitutional opposition not to exceed one-third, and they are to carry out the elementary education of the country. That is the whole control the local authority is to have over these voluntary schools. This one-third is to secure publicity, I think my right hon. friend the Member for Dart ford said, in the Press. So I suppose the members of this one-third minority are to write against their fellow managers in the newspapers. What a nice, harmonious body—the one-third minority and the two-thirds majority engaged in criticism in the Press! That is the plan which is proposed for conducting elementary education in the voluntary schools.
§ SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)
I dislike to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but really what I said was that absolute publicity would be given to any real grievance which occurred. It would be noised abroad, would get into the Press, and would be public knowledge.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
That is exactly what I said. It will get into the Press, and publicity will be secured. I shall be told that in Clause 8 the local education authority shall, in the case of schools not provided by them—that is, voluntary schools—impose on the managers what they think fit, except upon the religious question. I would ask the House to consider the conditions on which the local authority will be able to instruct the managers to do anything at all. Sub-Section 2, Clause 8, says—If any question arises under this section between the local authority and the managers of a school, that question shall be determined—by whom?—by the Board of Education in London.Therefore, if the local authority give instructions to the managers, and the managers disapprove of them, the dispute is to be determined by the Department in Whitehall—those wise and learned gentlemen who know so much less about it than the local authority. The local authority has no effectual voice in the matter, no effectual authority over the managers, because it is in a statutory minority of one third; and it has no final authority, because any dispute is to be referred to the Board of Education in Whitehall. That is what you call decentralisation. I venture to say it is a delusion, and if it were not an uncivil word, I would call it an imposture. In an incautious moment, the Vice President of the Council said that the powers of the Education Department in law would remain exactly as they are. And so they will. Indeed, under this Bill, they will be rather increased; it is a centralisation Bill in every part of it, as I venture to think I will show. Subsection (a) of Clause 8 provides that the managers shall carry out any directions of the local authority as to the secular instruction to be given in the schools. They will do nothing of the kind. How will directions as to secular instruction in the schools be really given? They will be given in the code by the Education Board, because the Board fixes what are to be the real conditions of the grant, and, therefore, controls the principal fund, determines what is to be the standard, and, in point of fact, what is to be the education in the 978 schools. The language of the Bill is framed so delicately that it is difficult to understand it. The Vice-President told us conclusively that if the local authority let the education in a school down, it would rest with him to take care to bring it up; and, therefore, the Board are the persons who will really control secular education in the schools. The next thing is that the local authorities shall have power to inspect the schools. What is to come of their inspection? Supposing they inspect the schools, and that the Education Department inspects them also. The grant depends upon the Department, and if the local authority is perfectly satisfied, and says that a school ought to have a full grant, the Department may take exactly the opposite view, and the inspection of the local authority comes to nothing at all. Then the next thing is that the consent of the local education authority is to be required for the appointment of teachers, excluding the religious element. But supposing the majority of the managers appoint a teacher, and the local authority maintains that he is not a proper teacher for secular purposes, who determines the question between them? Why, the Education Board in London. That is what you call decentralisation. Was there ever such an absurdity? It is the establishment of a constant conflict between the managers and the local authority, the managers being absolutely independent of the local authority—a conflict which is to go to Whitehall to be decided. What could be more injurious to education than an operation of that kind? There is, in fact, a triple authority—the managers, the local authority, both of which are subject to the authority at Whitehall. To contend that there is a single autonomous local authority is absolutely without foundation.
I come to the next point. The managers of the schools are, out of their funds, to keep the schools in good repair. We know that is a most controversial question. We remember how Mr. Acland was attacked whenever he called for some addition to or improvement of a school. The local authority says to the managers of a school, "You must spend so much money on improvements." The managers reply that they do not 979 think it ought to be done. That goes for decision to Whitehall; and that is what you call decentralisation. This is the pretence in which this Bill is offered to the country. The next sub-section is also to be subject to revision as to the persons to be chosen by the local authority to be managers. Sub-section (e) states that the local education authority shall have the right of appointing such persons as they think fit to be additional managers, so that their number shall not exceed a third of the whole number. But the following sub-section provides that if any question arises between the local authority and the managers it shall be decided by the Board of Education. If the managers disapprove of the one-third, the question must go to Whitehall to be determined. Therefore, I say that the fundamental principle on which this Bill professes to be founded is an entire delusion and a sham. There is worse still to come in the clauses which follow. Is there any subject of greater importance than the question whether or not, in a particular district, a new school should be set up? But who is to determine that question, on which the local authority is by far the best judge? If you look at Clause 9, you will see that if the local authority proposes to erect a new school in their district, any ten ratepayers may oppose. And who is to settle the matter? The Board of Education. They are the body who is to determine, as against the local authority, whether or not a new school is wanted in the district. Then there is the question, What power has the local authority to put an end to unnecessary schools? Surely nothing can be more important than this power to determine whether a school was unnecessary, and, therefore, should not be supported out of the rates. The Bill provides that a school actually in existence shall not be considered unnecessary in which the number of scholars in average attendance, as computed by the Board of Education, is not less than thirty. Therefore the local authority cannot determine whether new schools are to be set up, or whether small schools in existence shall be considered unnecessary. That takes from the Bill itself all the pretence as to those competent authorities, and I believe the Borough Councils of this country and the County Councils of this country are 980 proud of their independence, and will resent being thus treated. Talk about co-ordination! Why, this is subordination. You may call this local self-government. Is it local self-government to treat these authorities in the way the Bill proposes to treat them? This Bill has been framed in the conviction that these bodies do not understand their business, are not fit to carry out the duties imposed upon them by the Bill, and that they should be placed, under the control of those wise men in. Whitehall. Then the Vice-President said that everything depends upon having a single finance. But is there a single finance here? Why, there is no more a single finance than there is a single authority. There are four funds—the rates, the Government grant, the whisky money, and the voluntary subscriptions. In fact, the finances are as multiform as the governing bodies; and, therefore, the whole pretence of unity in finance, as well as in administration, is absolutely destroyed by the framework of the Bill. The Bill places these self governing bodies, these great County and Borough Councils, in a humiliating position such as they are not placed in with regard to any other of their duties so far as education is concerned. Instead of a glorification, it is a humiliation to these bodies to impose upon them a duty for which you think them so imperfectly fitted that you place them under the sort of tutelage that the Bill contemplates for them.
Then there is the question of the rates. I see many hon. Gentlemen opposite who have the good fortune to live more in the country than in the town. My own life, also, has been spent more in the country than in the town; and if there is anything more severely felt in the county district even than the influenza I should say that it is the rates. It is the one subject upon which people in the country districts feel more acutely than anything else. Now you are going to inflict upon these country districts a new burden in the form of a rate, and that new burden will come to the farmers, the small shopkeepers, even to the labourers, with a quarterly or half-yearly demand which was never known before. Dwellers in the country do not like this kind of novelty. It is a novelty that does not amuse them 981 at all, which they very much resent; and it will not be commended to them by the knowledge that it is inflicted upon them in order to relieve some half-dozen of the best-to-do people in the district from the necessity of paying their subscriptions to the voluntary schools. That will make the new rate odious, and will also make the cause of education disliked, because they will feel that an injustice has been done to them in order to relieve others. I have not myself calculated what the exact increase in the rates will be. I have seen it stated that it will be from five pence to sixpence. I do not know whether that includes the board schools. But, at all events, there will be this increase in the rates in country districts. In the large towns people, like the eel accustomed to be skinned, are familiar with high rates; but in the country districts the rate ranges from two shillings to three shillings. A very small addition to the rates is more sensibly felt in the country districts than in the big towns; and, therefore, this education rate, I venture to say, will be one of the most detested things ever introduced in the rural districts of England. The talk of making the adoption of elementary education compulsory is due to the fear that it will be so disliked that if you do not compel the local authorities to adopt it the County Councils will not be disposed to do so, in view of the hostile feelings of their constituents. You may depend upon it that when this new rate for the relief of the rich inhabitants of the parish is brought into effect, it will be the burning question at the elections for the County Councils, not this year alone, but next year and every year. Hatred of rates in the country districts is stronger than zeal for education; and by this new rate you will arouse a spirit of resistance to education more powerful than you could possibly create in any other manner. Improved education will depend upon the magnitude of the rate, and that being so, you will have created by this method of procedure, machinery for the purpose of enabling the voluntary school people to escape their obligations. The supporters of voluntary schools, I venture to say, played a very active part in the settlement of 1870, when they purchased 982 the monopoly of their schools by undertaking to provide a large portion of their expenditure. What has been the history ever since? They call that obligation an "intolerable strain." Yes, you will hear the ratepayers call it an intolerable strain before you have done. It has been a perpetual struggle on the part of the voluntary subscribers, assisted by the Government, to get rid of the obligation to pay the price and to keep the monopoly. This Bill accomplishes that purpose. It is a denial of the compromise of 1870 that is the basis and motive power of this Bill. This rate will be resisted. I do not say by violent methods—that is not necessary—but by returning County Councillors who will keep down the rates. There will be such an outcry from the ratepayers that it will be absolutely impossible to do what is desirable and necessary for the improvement of education.
I now come to a subject difficult and tender to deal with, and that is the religious difficulty. I join in the universal sentiment of admiration for the remarkable speech of the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich, which raised the level of the whole of this debate. He spoke with evident sincerity and with an eloquence which we seldom hear in this House. But he was frank. He was courageous. He declined to accept the point of view of the hon. Member for Haddingtonshire. He did not say what it has been the habit to say—that there is no religious difficulty. That is not true. It is not an honest assertion. Every one knows that there is a religious difficulty. The noble Lord himself is a splendid impersonation of the religious difficulty. What is the religious difficulty? It is that the majority of the elementary schools supported by public funds are such that in them the religious education is conducted by, and in the interests of, a single denomination. That applies in the rural districts in most of those 14,000 schools. In a good many places we are cognisant of, there is only one school and there cannot be more, and the whole of the education there is conducted in the interests of one single denomination. The noble Lord says that the religious instruction in the Board Schools is 983 very good as far as it goes; but that "it cannot attach a child to a denomination." That is the object of the voluntary schools, and that is the religious difficulty. It is all very well for the denomination to which the child is attaches; but what becomes of the other denominations from which the child is detached? The noble Lord says that unless you have a school which attaches the child to a denomination you "lose a great chance." This Bill, then, is to afford to those who support the Government "a great chance." That is denominationalism well defined by the noble Lord, and nobody knows better than he does what denominationalism is; and that is why I say that the thing which has stood in the way of the advance of education in this country is denominationalism. As long as you maintain that you will never improve the education of the country. There is, as the noble Lord says, the schoolroom with two doors. You compel the children to enter by one door, and then they are subject to a process of manufacture; and when they come out of the other door they are highly-finished denominationalists of the Church pattern.
The noble Lord says that this Bill maintains the status quo. But that is not the case; because the status quo demanded voluntary subscriptions, and the Bill removes the obligation of voluntary subscriptions and places the obligation upon the ratepayers. The noble Lord hardly defends the equity of the arrangement by which under the voluntary school system they get possession of the children and subject them to the influences and the process to which I have just alluded, and he admits that the existing arrangement is not his ideal; and he has a very high and noble ideal. But I wish there were some trace of his ideal in the Bill. There is nothing of the kind. He feels the injustice which is being done to other denominations, and he looks forward to a time when the Nonconformists will be his allies. Yes, Sir, it would be a very good thing if the Church and the Nonconformists acted together for the promotion of religion. Every one wishes it. But what is the necessary and elementary 984 condition of the alliance? It is that both parties should be on equal terms. You will never have an effective alliance until it fulfils that condition. That is the only condition for a sound alliance. The noble Lord contemplates a millennium in which the lion shall lie down with the lamb. But the period of the arrival of that millennium is not fixed; and in the meanwhile, until it arrives, the lion will follow its unregenerate instincts and proceed to devour the lamb. That is a process which has been, and is being, performed. Therefore, however much we admire the aspirations of the noble Lord, and wish they could be fulfilled, but I fear for the present that we must contemplate the religious difficulty which some people are insincere enough to deny the existence of—an argument which the noble Lord has sufficiently demolished.
It was stated frankly by the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich that there is an indisposition on the part of the people of this country to place the education of the whole children mainly in the hands of the clergy. That is a feeling which has not diminished, but has increased. You are astonished that this Bill, which is a Bill practically for giving voluntary schools into the undisputed management of the clerical element, has evoked a storm of opposition from the Nonconformists of this country. I will go further and say that there is a disinclination stronger than there ever was on the part of the Protestant laity of this country against clerical management. That being so, what is likely to be the result? It is not a question, as it was thirty years ago, of simple creeds and the Church Catechism; it goes a great deal deeper than that now, because it goes into questions of far-reaching doctrine and very new and strange practices. This will be the dominant element in these schools which are to be placed, not under the local authority, but under managers independent of the local authority, and so there will be less and less desire by the Protestant laity to forward education in schools of that character. I do not wish to say anything that will be offensive to anybody, but it is idle to shut your eyes to feelings and sentiments which are very prevalent and very strong; and, therefore, any claim founded 985 on the principles laid down by the noble Lord, in my opinion, will not tend to improve or advance education in this country, but will retard it. It is idle to say that the religious difficulty does not exist. It does, and it spreads the spirit of discord through the whole of your educational machinery. And, mind you, when in the country districts of this land, you have, especially in the rural districts, the dislike of rates aggravated and embittered by the religious difficulty, you will have created a force adverse to education of which we cannot measure the extent. It will provoke a resistance to education which will go on from year to year. It will leave you, I fear, in a sense of shame at your backwardness as compared with other people who have not exposed themselves to the same mischiefs. It will be a question for the ratepayers whether the clergy are to have the exclusive possession practically of the common schools of the country. I believe that, if not to-day at a very early period, the ratepayers, who will have a voice in this matter, will declare their dissatisfaction with the arrangement which will give in so large a portion of the common schools an advantage to one denomination to which they are not entitled. This is a condition of things which will not be long tolerated.
I apologise to the House for occupying so much time, and I will not deal with other branches of education, because it is admitted that the disputable part of this Bill is that dealing with elementary education. My firm belief is that when these local authorities have exhausted their energies and resources upon elementary education, there will be nothing left for secondary education. In my opinion, this Bill fails in every point. It has failed to fulfil the conditions of the claim which it made upon the confidence of the House. It does nothing for elementary education except to relieve the denominational managers from their contributions, while it imposes substantially no obligation upon them. The County Councils have been greatly and deservedly praised for what they have done for technical education. They have done it well. They have done it with the whisky money. They had the power to raise a penny rate, but they have not used the power. I observe that in only three counties in England have they used the rate. Why? Because they knew the 986 storm that the imposition of the penny rate would bring upon them, and now you are going to give them power to raise a two penny rate for secondary education.
This new rate will create an antieducation spirit. The Bill does not create the single authority which it pretends to create. What it does is to create a new authority in addition to those that existed before: which is a very different thing. This is not an Education Bill; it is a Convocation Bill. It is in that nest the egg was laid, and it has been brought here for us to hatch it. This Bill, therefore, in my opinion, has failed on this great occasion, when the country expected that there was to be a broad spirit dominating the whole plan to provide a satisfactory scheme for national education. The Government should have set aside all these denominational questions and have addressed itself to the whole of the people, irrespective of their creed. If these County Councils were worthy of confidence, why have you cribbed, cabined, and confined them at every point? So far from advancing the cause of education, it will throw it backward, and for my part I shall heartily vote against the Second Beading of the Bill.
§ (5.15.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir ROBERT FINLAY,) Inverness Burghs
The hon. and learned Member for the Border Burghs has referred to the record of Scotland in connection with the subject of education. I venture to say that in the course of his speech the fundamental differences existing in Scotland as compared with England in respect of education were almost entirely ignored, and one point which is absolutely vital was omitted, and that is, that in almost every public school in Scotland the people insist that there should be distinctive religious teaching. There were one or two other points in the speech that I should have been tempted to dwell upon, but I think that in his own constituency some interest will be excited by his views on the Shorter Catechism. I sincerely hope that the next time he appears at Galashiels he will be heckled on this subject. I could not help being reminded of his forgetfulness of some of the most material points of Scottish history. He seemed to think that interest in education in Scotland originated with School Boards. Every one 987 who has any acquaintance with the history of education in Scotland knows that it was because education was given at the end of the seventeenth century in an Act of the Scottish Parliament that education itself created the demand for and the interest in it. To talk of interest in education in Scotland as being the result of an educative body created ad hoc for educational purposes, is to travesty the most elementary facts of Scottish history.
I pass from the hon. and learned Gentleman to the attack made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire. I venture very respectfully to say that in his speech he looked at this matter rather too much as if it were one which was to be determined by denominational jealousies and the conflicting claims of different religious bodies in this country. This is a national matter. Education is a matter for the whole nation, and this Bill has not been conceived in the interest of any one religious body. I trust that when it passes its Second Reading, as I hope this House will do tomorrow, the House will be striking a blow for education altogether apart from its effect on the prospects or fortunes of particular religious denominations. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the settlement of 1837. In that settlement the existence of voluntary schools was an essential element, and the board schools were intended to supplement those schools, which existed throughout the country, and which it was believed would continue to exist. But then we are face to face with this state of things. It is impossible for schools which exist merely by subscriptions to keep pace with the ever-increasing demands of education. We must recognise that schools which have the rates behind them are in a position of advantage, and that the children who attend them obtain, as a rule, better education than those who attend the voluntary schools. I am not speaking, of course, of any universal rule to that effect. There are many most excellent voluntary schools which will compare with the very best of the board schools, but still, particularly in the country, I think it will be found that on the whole the voluntary schools are not in a position to compete with those supported out of the rates. What, then, are we to 988 do? Are those schools to be abolished? You must face the situation, and in endeavouring to carry out the settlement of 1870, if you find that it is impossible in this way to provide education sufficiently good for the great body of the children, in fact the majority of the children in this country, you must have recourse to some other means. The right hon. Gentleman is extremely lugubrious as to the effect which the existence of the education rate will have upon the ratepayers and the voters in the country. I am not going to enter into a competition with the right hon. Gentleman in the region of prophecy.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
I do not think that is a sound opinion. I suppose he means by that, that interest in education is not at present so much developed in the South of England as in the Northern parts of the country. The one object of the Bill is to spread education and to increase the interest in it; and we believe as that interest spreads it will be found that the people of the country are not unwilling to take their share in the burden which must be borne if our elementary education is to be placed on a proper footing. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has been hardly just to the County Councils in the matter of education. He spoke as if, with regard to the powers they already exercise with reference to technical education, they had not been in any way spending their own money, while now the money would have to be raised by the rates. Well, as a matter of fact, the money given to them out of the general taxation of the country, is money which, if not applied by them for technical education, would have gone to the relief of rates. If you take money which would go to the relief of rates for the purposes of technical education, they areas distinctly contributing for the purposes of education as they would be if the money was received out of the rates. I think the right hon. Gentleman was not accurate in what he said with regard to the money used for the purposes of technical education. I think he will 989 find that in many cases the County Councils have shown their interest in exercising the powers they have by imposing a supplementary rate.
I desire to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and the House to the fact that this Bill, which has now been before the country for some time, has today, I am informed, been the subject of consideration by the Association of County Councils. They know something of the County Councils, they know something about their own localities, and they know a good deal about this Bill. I am informed that by a resolution passed by a very large majority they cordially accepted the general principles of the Bill, and expressed their willingness loyally to work it. I do not say for a moment that they pledged themselves to every detail, but I believe I am accurately expressing the sense of the resolution, which was carried by thirty votes to seven, when I say that they cordially welcome this measure.
§ MR. DUNCAN (Yorkshire, W.R., Otley)
May I say that I was present at the meeting? There were several members there who did not vote in the way their County Councils desired. They took the opportunity of criticising the action of their own Councils, and voted contrary to their decisions.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
I am not qualified to enter into controversy with the hon. Gentleman as to what took place at the meeting. I think the House will see that the members of the County Council Association are those best qualified to voice their opinions. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that this Bill altogether failed in the respect that it does not decentralise the work. Well, if I rightly understand the principle of decentralisation, it is that you should have local administration coupled with central control where that control may be necessary. The right hon. Gentleman asks—how is it decentralisation if you have central bodies at certain points which can control the action of the local bodies? Surely it is a matter of everyday practice that the Local Government Board intervenes with reference to the action of those local bodies throughout 990 the country. We every day hear of inquiries held by the Local Government Board, and I never before heard it even suggested that there was anything inconsistent with decentralisation by having a central body to which in case of need you might have recourse. The right hon. Gentleman said that the control of the Board of Education was so great under this Bill that there was little left for the local authority to do. We have heard some criticism of the Bill from those Benches in a different tone. We have hitherto been told by most of the speakers on the Opposition side that the powers of the Board of Education were so impaired by this Bill that it was a serious blot upon it. Then the right hon. Gentleman throws over all that class of critics and says that the powers are so great that they leave nothing for the local authority. I think I may set off the one criticism against the other. The right hon. Gentleman asks why should the Board of Education give its assistance in settling the scheme which is to be initiated by the local authority? Surely there can be nothing more reasonable than that when a matter of this kind is being launched in a locality, the local authority should have the benefit of the experience, and the advice of the Board of Education—assistance, and, in case of necessity, veto. Surely the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that some controlling power of that kind may be most usefully exercised by way of giving security against eccentricities in any particular scheme. There is nothing inconsistent in that with local government. The right hon. Gentleman goes on to say, with regard to new schools, that the Board of Education decides whether these schools are to be made or not. That is, if there is opposition to a new school, it is then only that the Board of Education is called upon to decide, and I can imagine no body more qualified for settling such local disputes. We are told that this is a Bill to hand over the control of national education to the clergy of the Established Church. I venture to say it does nothing of the kind. It is a Bill to render thoroughly efficient those schools in which the majority of the children of this country are educated, and to put the secular education under the control of the local authorities, who best know the wants 991 of the neighbourhood. One other criticism I will just notice in a single sentence. The right hon. Gentleman said there is a great want of uniformity about the Bill, because the funds to be devoted to education come from four different quarters. The funds which this House controls the administration of come from many different quarters. The question is whether there is one controlling authority. We do provide one controlling authority, which will deal with the budget, which will settle how much is to be given to education, and exercise proper supervision over the application of that money in conformity with local wants.
A good deal of the criticism contained in many of the speeches delivered from the other side dealt with matters of detail rather for consideration in Committee than on a Second Reading debate. Even the most interesting and charming speech of the hon. Member for the Berwick Division, to which I am sure the whole House listened with the greatest pleasure, argued questions which had better be disposed of in Committee. As the hon. Member himself put it, he did very much differ from the principles laid down by the Vice-President, but only to the application of them. These are, however, considerations that deserve discussion at the proper time in Committee. But there is one feature in connection with this Bill to which I desire to call the attention of the House. Everyone admits that this question of education is a national emergency. Unfortunately, on account of mutual religious jealousies, we have lost educational time, and we cannot afford to lose any more. We must, in fact, make up lee-way. Now, while everybody is agreed as to that, there is no alternative scheme before the House and the country. There has been criticism of details, vague aspirations have been expressed, but no one has ventured to formulate, even in broad outline, an alternative scheme. I remember hearing a remark made in this House that a certain Bill "held the field." Now, everyone is agreed as to the urgency of a reform of education in this country, but is it not remarkable that no one has been able to tell this House what alternative policy to this Bill he would give? So far as I have been able to follow hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, their ideal would be a system of 992 universal School Boards all over the country—schools in every district supported from the rates and administered by the School Boards. But we must face the actual state of the facts. There are many districts in the country where there are no School Boards, and therefore no board schools More than half of the children in the country are being educated in voluntary schools. What are you going to do? No one suggests that you should confiscate the fabric of the voluntary schools. No one suggests that while these schools exist you should spend £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 of money in building other schools side by side with them and in competition with them. If both these courses are out of the question, the only alternative is that we must wait till these voluntary schools die out before we can secure an adequate and proper system of education in this country. But even if the voluntary schools died out—which I very much doubt—it would take generations; and in the meantime you would have a very large proportion of the children of this country suffering from defective education, because it is admitted that these schools cannot compete with the School Board schools as regards effective education. Is that a state of things which this country can regard with equanimity? Are we to go on seeing those children lanquishing for education, waiting for the time when the voluntary schools die out and something else which hon. Members opposite would prefer takes their place? Some language has been used in the course of the debate as if the Government were selecting the voluntary schools for favour because the yare Church schools. Nothing of the kind. We deal with these schools because they are there. You can only deal with the material at hand. When I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for the Elland Division the other night, I could not help remembering the great speech delivered in this House in 1847 by his illustrious relative, Lord Macaulay, on this question of education, in the course of which he poured scorn and contempt on the idea that because you gave a grant to voluntary schools you were necessarily favouring Church schools. You give a grant to these schools because they exist. You face the facts and work with the material available for the structure you propose to raise. This Bill proposes to deal with 993 these schools. It proposes, in the first place, to make them thoroughly efficient by giving them adequate funds, and by supplying them with skilled superintendence as regards their management. In the second place, it is intended to secure for all the children attending these schools absolute freedom of conscience. We have sometimes been told that the Church schools are really engines for proselytising amongst dissenters. I venture to think that that is a vain imagination, and not a devout imagination. It is a vision called up by a consideration of what ought to be alien to any dealing with the problems of national education. The Vice-President of the Council threw down on the floor of this House a challenge in regard to this subject, which no one has ventured to take up.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
Who is this belated challenger? This debate has gone on for some time since my right hon. friend threw down his challenge, and no case of hardship has been mentioned which, on careful examination, has not invariably disappeared, and I venture to say that if any other case were suggested, it would, when subjected to examination, disappear like the myth to which my right hon. friend has already adverted. But, if anything of the kind has taken place, or has been possible, in the past, it will be certainly impossible in the future. There would be representatives of the public on the Board of Managers, very complete publicity, and effective control of the managers by the Board of Education in London. I venture to put it to the House, therefore, that the suggestion that this Bill may be used for proselytising purposes must be dismissed. The truth is that the religious difficulty has been enormously exaggerated. Nobody denies that a religious difficulty exists, and it must be dealt with in connection with the voluntary schools; but anyone who pretends to know what are the wishes of English parents in regard to this matter will admit that this is a point capable of adjustment. The people of England will not have anything to do with a purely secular instruction. The experiment was tried in Birmingham, 994 and it broke down, owing to the opposition quite as much of the Nonconformists as of the Churchmen. What the people of this country desire is that the teaching to be given to their children should be teaching associated with religious belief. A great many people seem to think that the feelings of the poor must be different from those of, for instance, hon. Members of this House. I suppose that very few hon. Members here would care to send their boys to any school where the teaching was not connected with some religious belief. I am convinced that the poor have very much the same feeling, and that their instincts on this point are very perfectly sound. They recognise that education is not merely the imparting of knowledge or information to the children; that it is not merely the training of the intellectual faculties. It is the formation of character; and to ignore in the formation of character those higher influences which do not come into the course of a purely secular instruction, is to go counter to the instincts of the people of this country and to the dictates of common sense. I believe that in the interests of even secular instruction you cannot ignore the necessity of associating your teaching with some form of belief. Are you to tear out some of the most interesting passages in history because the teacher is not to be allowed to tell his scholars what certain events mean, or what happened on some great historical occasion? As soon as children get over the merest elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic, as soon as they begin to read literature, even of the humblest kind, they are brought face to face with the question of religious belief, and a teacher cannot keep silence or be restrained from telling the children the history of what occurred 2,000 years ago. He must make some reference to things divine. His mouth cannot be shut as to the greatest fact in the history of the world—the introduction of Christianity—and that there is something more than human in regard to these matters. Then, when the young people go on with their historical studies—I am not now referring to recondite philosophic subjects—is the teacher to pass by the great events of the fifteenth century because he does not know which side to take? 995 The experiment of purely secular education has been tried in some of our colonies, and the experiment is being followed with interest. I remember being told by some gentlemen from one of our colonies that they had found by experience that you cripple your secular instruction if the teacher is not at liberty to give that instruction in connection with some form of religious teaching. If we had universal board schools all over the country, which I believe will be quite impossible for generations, I firmly believe that the instincts of religious people would demand that in those board schools there should be a definite teaching of the Christian religion side by side with the secular instruction. The House has heard the testimonies of two most distinguished prelates of the English Church, the Bishop of Winchester and the Bishop of Rochester, as to the admirable character of the religious instruction given in board schools. Therefore, the problem of religious instruction is one which is capable of being solved, and I believe that the children of Nonconformists will be safe from being proselytised in those schools which are dealt with in this Bill. I believe that the net result of this Bill will be that, without trenching upon freedom of conscience, we shall raise the character of secular instruction given in those schools.
There is one fallacy which seems to have pervaded a great many of the speeches during this debate. We have been told that what is wanted is popular interest in education. Of course, if you have popular interest in education, surely it would show itself upon the occasion of an election. It does show itself in Scotland, because people there are intensely interested in education, and the whole of Scotland is supplied with School Boards. But if you have a state of apathy existing, an election will not create enthusiasm for education or give that popular interest which it is necessary for every educational authority to have at its back. If there is want of interest in education the way to deal with it is not by any attempt to manipulate the electoral machinery, but to provide education. Education is not always to be regulated by the law of supply and demand. It is the parent himself, who has had the advantage of education, who alone realises what education, or want of education, will mean to his child, and 996 those parents are the people who will insist upon education being provided of a good quality. But the ignorant parent who has no education himself is apt to undervalue education, and will show his apathy even under the most admirably arranged electoral machinery for educational purposes. What this Bill proposes is to further education by giving the control to a representative local authority.
Then it is said that the local authority is not elected ad hoc, and it is not elected specially for educational purposes. Why should it be so elected? I believe nothing has tended to perplex local affairs and fritter away the energies of the electors more than the multiplication of elections. I believe that many worthy men and good citizens who have not troubled their heads much about the education question will recognise that one of the conspicuous merits of this Bill is that it provides only one election in the future. What we want is that the functions of the local bodies shall be so adequate, so complete, and so far-reaching that they will enlist all sorts of interests in the election. If we can have one local body for all purposes, I believe we shall come much nearer to perfection in these matters than we shall by any system under which the energies of the electors are divided between a number of different bodies for different and special purposes. Of course, the local authority under this Bill will be a Committee of experts. What the electors can do in this matter is to send men to the County Council who will realise the advantages of education, and who will know the sort of men they ought to appoint as representatives upon this Committee of experts by whom the machinery of this Bill is to be worked. That is the way in which popular government can be carried on, and they are not the true friends of popular government who put it to the people as if it would be withdrawing anything from their power when you make provision for them having the best expert system of carrying out local government.
I do not propose on this occasion to go into the details of the various criticisms which have been made, because there will be a more suitable opportunity to deal with them than the present time. With regard to the authorities, two complaints have been made. It has been said that 997 the County Councils are too large to have the control of primary education, and that the counties are too large an area to take. If we give up the idea of leaving it to each parish, what other unit can be taken? We want attention paid, no doubt, to local matters, but we also want a certain amount of uniformity of administration. By the powers given to the County Councils under this Bill, they can consult the requirements of every locality and ask those best qualified to deal with that locality to give their assistance, and I believe it is much better for the working of an educational system to have County Councils at the head than that we should attempt to split up the county into very small districts, with an elementary education authority to act separately in each one of them. It is said that some of the boroughs and urban districts are too small for the purposes of secondary education. I do not deny that something may be said from this point of view; but it will be impossible to take away the powers those boroughs and urban districts already possess, and any mischief which may result will be obviated by the powers of combination which are conferred on these districts under the Bill.
Another criticism which has been passed upon the Bill is that the powers and duties of the local authorities are not sufficiently detailed in this Bill, and we have been asked what provision is to be made for schools for the training of pupil teachers, and so on. I venture to put it to the House that we should have made a very great mistake if we had attempted to burden this Bill with a code of minute instructions and regulations. I think it is much better to put some trust in the local authorities and leave the Bill elastic in this respect, trusting to the controlling power of the Board of Education. I believe that the County Councils and other local authorities to whom this Bill proposes to entrust this great national question will prove themselves worthy of our trust and confidence. I earnestly hope that the House will pass the Second Reading of this Bill with as little delay as possible, because the question is one of very great importance and very great urgency.
§ (6.0.) MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
This Bill may be considered from many points 998 of view. Ireland is not very much concerned, and Englishmen are well able to look after their own interests in education. As an impartial listener, and as one who has sat through all the three nights of the debate, I have been deeply struck with what has been said as to the great urgency of secondary education and the poor provision that is made for it in the present Bill. It is no part of my business to discuss that question. There is, however, one question on which I desire to say a word before I come to the question which largely interests Catholics, for whom I speak in this House, and that is the question of rates versus taxes as a source from which national education ought to be supported. I have long held a strong view that as regards the primary education of a nation, the source from which the main bulk of the expense ought to come is the national taxes. I must confess that in that view I have been strongly confirmed by all that I have heard in the course of the present debate. Why, I ask, should any considerable portion of the burden of education, which is really a national affair, and which applies to the children of all the people, be cast upon localities without any reference to the capacity of those localities to bear the burden? It is evident that such a, principle will cast a grave injustice and a great burden upon localities where the inhabitants are poor, and this is the reason why many parts of the country have been left so deplorably behind in education. It appears to me that a fair arrangement would be that if a locality were called upon, out of its rates or by means of voluntary contributions, to supply the fabric of schools, the nation, out of taxes, ought to boar the whole burden of the maintenance of national education. By thus shifting the burden, you would enable and invite the ratepayers out of their own resources to do something towards the erection of a structure for secondary education, which is a matter of vital and urgent importance. This is a proposal which, I venture to submit to the House, would confer two great benefits. In the first place, it would clear the road for the erection of a system of secondary education worthy of the wealth of this country, which you have to admit is lamentably 999 out-distanced by all the civilised nations of Europe, and which will not be altered under this Bill. In the second place, my suggestion would get rid of a difficulty, which, I confess, weighs upon my mind very heavily, and that is the difficulty of settling this question of the voluntary schools. I share the view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire, who said that where the power of the purse resides, there the absolute control will ultimately go. For reasons which I will explain hereafter, Irish Members propose to give their hearty support to this Bill on account of one principle which it contains, although I confess that I have considerable forebodings as to the ultimate result of this Bill upon voluntary schools. I dismiss this aspect of the question finally by saying that when I heard in the course of this debate what was universally admitted on all sides—that one of the great obstacles to the elementary portion of this Bill, and still more to the secondary education proposals, is want of funds and the difficulty of finding where those funds are to come from—I could not help thinking how much better it would have been if we could have rescued some of the £220,000,000 which we have spent on the war in South Africa, or even if we could have devoted to this purpose some £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 from the sum which has been added to the permanent expenses of this country for keeping up the Army and the Navy. Education, after all, forms the basis of a nation's greatness far more than fleets and armies, and this country is at last beginning to find out that this question is more important than imperialism.
I come now to a subject upon which I speak for a large body of people who are more vitally interested in this question than any other section of the community. They are poor people, and from their poverty they have given the most magnificent proof of the earnestness of their convictions by the support which they have given to voluntary schools. I am speaking now for the Irish Catholics of Great Britain, and when we are asked why we intervene in this debate, I say it is because this question, so far as it affects the Catholics of this country, is an Irish question. Quite nine-tenths of the children who frequent these voluntary schools are children of the poor, and 1000 these schools have been maintained for years not from the contributions of the wealthy, but from the sixpences and the pennies of the poor people. Therefore, we are bound to defend the interests of those people in this House. One feature throughout this debate has struck me very much. Speaker after speaker on the opposite side of the House has declared that he proposes to deal with this question without reference to the religious difficulty. Really, at this period of the day, such an argument appears to give an unreal aspect to the debate, and it is almost incredible. Is there a single hon. Member in this House who will not admit that it is the religious difficulty which hangs like a weight round the neck of education in this country? Many hon. Members have declared that they are ashamed of the position of England in this matter. Is it not trifling with the House to attempt in a debate of this character to shirk that one obstacle which has proved insurmountable, and which in the case of the present Bill will keep this House engaged discussing it for many weeks? If you could eliminate the religious difficulty, your Education Bill would pass the Second Reading in a single night, and the Committee stage would not take a week. Therefore, I say that for a man to get up in his place in the House of Commons and proceed to discuss this question by stating at the outset that he proposes to avoid the religious difficulty, reminds me of the story of the ostrich hiding its head in the sand. The religious difficulty is the whole difficulty, and until you get rid of it you can never put education in England and Wales on a proper footing.
Do not imagine for a single moment that this Bill is going to get rid of the religious difficulty. I have listened carefully to this debate, and one of the chief objects I had in view was to master the Nonconformist grievance against this system. So long as you have so great a body of Nonconformists, feeling so intensely as they do feel in opposition to your proposals for the settlement of this question, do you imagine that you are going to disarm that hostility by ridicule? As I understand it, the grievance of the Nonconformist is that in 9,000 or 10,000 parishes in England and Wales there is only one school in each parish, and to that school the children of millions of 1001 Nonconformist parents are obliged to go because there is no other. Their complaint is that in those schools Nonconformists have no voice whatever in the management, and that there is a steady pressure put upon the children to conform to the teachings of the Church of England. That is what I gather to be the grievance of the Nonconformists. They also complain that disabilities are placed on Nonconformist children who desire to become teachers, and that there are difficulties thrown in their way in getting employment after they have been trained. If this be true, the state of things is perfectly monstrous. I do not profess to be able to say whether it is true or false, but I cannot believe that a large body of men representing the bulk of Nonconformists in this House would say these things if they knew them to be false. The attitude of the Vice-President of the Council in flatly denying the facts which have been stated on these Benches appears to me to be an attitude very little calculated to bring about that concord and agreement between the different religious denominations of this country upon which alone any enduring and prosperous system of education can be based.
Having said that much, let me just say a word upon another question. I have only two criticisms to make upon the position of Nonconformists. Why do Nonconformists not bring forward some practical plan, other than the total destruction of the denominational character of the denominational schools, which would abolish this grievance? For my part, I may say that any proposal to deal with that question which does not tend to destroy the Catholic schools, will receive the warmest support from Nationalist Members. I have spoken to the leaders of the Nonconformist party, and I have assured them that nothing would give us greater pleasure than to support any scheme which would put an end to their grievance. As to the shocking cases mentioned by the hon. Member for North Camberwell, in which Nonconformist pupil teachers who had distinguished themselves highly in examinations found the utmost difficulty in getting into training colleges, I think that is perfectly monstrous, and more monstrous 1002 still if in this matter national schools have the advantage. But why do the Nonconformists, who are so wealthy, not provide themselves with more training colleges? As far as I can understand them, they stand exactly on the same footing as Catholics, who do provide training colleges of their own.
Let me turn for a moment to another aspect of this question. I assure my hon. friends above the gangway that I do not wish to be offensive, and all I want is that we should come to close quarters with them, and my desire is that we should understand each other. I would ask this question: Are the Nonconformists of this country anxious to banish Christian teaching of every kind from the schools? ["No."] If they are not anxious to do that, what form of Christian teaching do they want? They want that form of Christian teaching which suits their view. I must confess that, as a Roman Catholic, I have always been lost in astonishment why the different branches of the Protestant Church cannot agree on this matter. We Roman Catholics frankly say that we are the advocates of Christian unity and of an inspired Church. We place dogma and authority over the right of individual judgment. Until I came into this House I thought that that was the dividing line between us of the old Church and those who broke away at the Reformation—that they believe in what is described as an open Bible and the right of private judgment and the individual conscience, whereas we believe in authority and tradition and a unified Church. That being so, it must be manifest to any intelligence that we cannot, on these religious questions, mix with those who advocate that other principle. But I really cannot understand why the different Protestant denominations cannot arrive at some common understanding, so far as religious teaching goes.
Now let me remonstrate with my Nonconformist friends on another point. The other day the hon. Member for the Louth division of Lincolnshire, who, I believe, speaks with authority for the Methodist body, indignantly denounced this Bill on the ground that 1003 it gave public money to denominational teaching. I was amazed. The Methodist body—so far as I can get any information on the subject—are as much denominational in their teaching as we are ourselves; they maintain an elaborate system of denominational education, and they have even denominational training colleges of their own. What are the facts about the Wesleyan Methodists? They have denominational schools in which their own docrines are taught, enjoying an income of £215,344 per annum, of which, by voluntary contributions, they raise £20,200, or about 7 per cent. of the whole. We Catholics contribute £81,000 by private subscriptions. It works out in this way—the Methodists contribute 3s. 2d. per child per annum for the support of their denominational schools, while we Roman Catholics contribute 6s. 2d.; and who will doubt for a single moment that the Methodists, man for man, are five or even ten times as wealthy as the Roman Catholics? Then I turn to the finances of the Methodist denominational colleges. Their total income is £13,741 5s.; voluntary contributions from individuals, £25; and from Diocesan Boards, etc., £1,800, or about 13 per cent. of the whole. The Roman Catholics have three colleges, with a total income of £13,364 3s. 6d. Their voluntary contributions from individuals are £437, and from Boards £2,017, or 18 per cent. of the whole. Therefore, out of our poverty, also in connection with training colleges, we contribute a larger percentage.
In view of these facts, seeing that they are drawing a larger proportion of public money for the support of their denominational colleges, is it not extraordinary that the Wesleyans should come to this House and protest against the principle of denominational teaching being supported out of public funds? How can that be reconciled with common frankness? The Methodists have a Conference and an Education Committee, and here is an extract from the last report of that Committee, which really is an extraordinary document—In anticipation of important legislation it would be most unwise to allow as ingle Wesleyan school to be closed or transferred. The Committee, while sympathising with the managers 1004 of schools which are financially embarrassed, appeal to them, now that relief is within measurable distance, to continue their work.I really do think it is rather hard, in view of that statement, that the hon. Member should come down here and denounce the principle to which I have referred. We are told that this Education Committee was overruled at the meeting of the Conference. So it was; it was out-voted. But one reason given was this: "Such management"—alluding to the management provided in the Bill—"need not, in the opinion of the Committee, interfere with the denominational character of the school." That was the ground on which it was suggested the Bill should be supported. In view of these facts, it is rather a large order that hon. Members, professing to speak for the great majority of that body, should denounce the principle of denominational support.
§ MR. RANDLES (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
Methodist opinion is clearly divided on this point. I do not want the hon. Member to fall into the mistake of assuming that the hon. Member for the Louth Division was speaking for the whole of the Methodist Church.
§ MR. DILLON
But when their Education Committee issued an appeal several months ago to their schools to hold out because of the prospect of relief which was coming, it is very strange that he should come here and argue against denominational support.
Now, with regard to Christian teaching. In reply to my question, it was said that there is no desire to banish Christian teaching from the schools. But is not Christian teaching sectarian? Of course it is. Do you mean to tell me that the teaching of the divinity of our Lord is not one of the greatest dogmas? It lies at the root of our whole religion. The position of hon. Members seems to be that nothing is dogma in which they believe, but that everything is dogma in which we believe and they do not. Why do they speak of Bible teaching? Why the Bible? Why not Shakespeare or the Dialogues of Plato, or any other great book which contains moral truth? Do you believe in the inspiration of the Bible? Do you believe in the sacred 1005 character of the Bible? Is not that dogma? Is it not a dogma to say that the Bible is a sacred book? The moment you make that assertion, you are teaching dogma. The position of these gentlemen is simply this—that "orthodoxy is our doxy, while heterodoxy is every other person's doxy." The position of many of the Nonconformists, so far as my limited intellect enables me to comprehend it, is this: "Nothing is dogma in which we believe, but the moment you touch anything which the Church of England teaches, and still more which the Church of Rome teaches, and in which we do not believe, you get into the region of dogma." A more illogical or preposterous position was never taken up by rational people. If you are logical, the moment you break with the principle of sectarian teaching, you must banish Christianity and you must banish the Bible, or else you must bring the Bible in, as it was brought in in some of the foreign schools, in the days of the French Revolution, as a beautiful poem to be placed beside the poems of Shakespeare and others.
I have listened to the whole of this debate, but not one of the charges which have been brought against donominational schools affects the position of Catholic schools. Ours is a totally different question from that around which the controversy of this debate has raged. Ours is an urban, not a rural question. In the case of the Catholic schools—with possibly ten or twelve exceptions—there is no question of the compulsion of non-Catholic children to attend our schools. Our schools are also situated in large urban districts, where there are alternative schools to which the children can go. No charge of proselytism of which I have ever heard has ever been brought against any of our schools in the country, and yet we are in the unhappy position of being to some extent involved in this conflict. We have been told that if some arrangement could be made by which our schools could be left entirely outside the religious controversy, everyone would be inclined to treat them generously. But is it not a melancholy thing that because the Protestants of this country cannot arrange their differences, we should be dragged into this storm and made to suffer for their 1006 alleged offences against each other? Here I would take an extract from the remarkable and powerful speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division of Northumberland. He says—Even now, if you could give me evidence of towns in which really substantial contributions are being made by groups of parents or groups of persons to Church schools, and alternative schools are available in the district, I would not press objections to giving aid to those denominational schools.That is exactly our case. We can satisfy that canon of criticism, and therefore I claim the support of the hon. Baronet in our case. Then he used another expression which struck very strangely upon my ear. He said—It is not a principle that is in doubt, but what is in doubt is the application of the principle.That may be the case to some extent regarding Protestants, but it is not the case with us. With us, it is a question of principle, of principle in the highest possible degree. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill said that more than one-third of the children in the voluntary schools were Nonconformists' children, and that in his opinion the parents in this country did not care one farthing for dogma. What is the Catholic position in this matter? Sir, we attach the most vital importance to the teaching of religion in our schools; but there is another matter, so far as I personally speak, and I am sure I speak also for my co-religionists, to which we attach even greater importance, and that is the Catholic atmosphere of our schools. I care very little for the teaching of religion in the schools, if the school is not Catholic in all its influence and atmosphere. Dogma and Catechism, in my opinion, are the best part of religious teaching, and if you are to admit that there may be, in the schools to which your children are sent, teachers who will avail themselves, from malice prepense, or from a sincere belief of the opportunities that offer in the course of the school hours, to either ridicule or undermine the faith of the children, I would not give much for all the dogma in that school. That is our position, and a position from which nothing but absolute necessity could drive us.
I regard education as a very different thing to what it has been treated in the House of Commons. I place the objects 1007 of education in the following order—(1) The religious and moral training, and the formation of the character of the child; (2) the physical health and development of the child; and (3) the acquisition of learning. I know that that view is not shared by a good many Members of the House, but in the Catholic Church we consider that moral training should go hand in hand, not only with religious teaching, but with religious influences and a religious atmosphere. Irish Members propose to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill because they approve of the principle of placing Catholic and other denominational schools on equal terms with undenominational schools. They hold themselves, however, quite free in Committee to take such action as they think proper in the interest of the Catholics. I cannot for the life of me understand why this Bill is so violently opposed by Nonconformists. I do not like to be a prophet of evil, but I see in this Bill the germs of what may be the total disruption of the denominational schools.
With regard to Clause 5, I take it that it is now dead. If this is not so and it was to be left optional, all I have to say is that it would be a cowardly Bill, because, instead of attempting to settle this question, it would be an admission that the Government were afraid of it. With regard to Clause 8, in its present form it would give the local authority power to squeeze denominational schools out of existence altogether in a very few years, and, therefore, I shall endeavour to introduce some Amendment in Committee. I wish to point out to hon. Members who hold the view that this Bill is going to relieve the managers of the voluntary schools from all costs, that it is going to do nothing of the sort. In some instances I am sure they will be put to greater expense under this Bill, and the only advantage they will gain is that their teaching will be levelled up to the level of the board schools. Then turn to Section 12, which provides the new authority. There is no provision to secure the representation of Catholic or any other denominational schools. The section is exceedingly vague, and leaves it absolutely uncertain whether we shall have a single representative of the Catholic schools upon the new authority, and, if 1008 not, we shall be in a worse position than we were before. I have urged this view, but have not succeeded in making it prevail, and it is with a certain amount of regret and alarm that I part with the cumulative vote, which gave one or two Protestant representatives who could be depended upon from my point of view. For these reasons I do not at all share the enthusiasm which some Members have as to the effect of this Bill.
I had, Mr. Speaker, intended to say something about the finances of the Bill, but it is very complicated, and we will have abundant opportunity later on of dealing with them. I support the Bill because it contains a principle which it would be impossible to overthrow and trample under foot without producing an interminable wrangle, and that is the principle of allowing parents to have their children brought up in their own religion, and allowing denominational schools to exist where people desire to have them. We do not support this Bill with any desire to inflict any injustice or hardship upon any section of the community. We desire justice for ourselves and for our poor people in this country, and we do not desire to inflict any disabilities upon anyone.
In conclusion, I once more renew the appeal I have frequently made to friends on both sides of the Honse upon this education question. What is to become of this question if the quarrel goes on? Cannot you get some common-sense men on both sides to come together privately, and arrange concord—a policy which you ought, twenty years ago, to have adopted, and which would have enabled you to unite the forces of this country to bring up your educational system to the level of that of the rest of the civilised world? It must not be imagined that by the passing of this Bill the whole question will be closed, for I look forward to the future from the point of view of Catholic schools, and their interest and existence, with the deepest alarm. If the Government force through this Bill, and ignore Catholic and Nonconformist grievances, they will simply be giving rise to a vast reaction and agitation, in which, in the end, the interests of education must inevitably suffer. It will continue to obstruct and destroy the education of this 1009 country until common sense at last prevails over the disputes in which both sides, it seems to me, are a bit unreasonable, and until some day or other you adopt the policy you ought to have adopted twenty years ago, of getting the leaders together and endeavouring to arrive at some form of compromise to enable the united forces of this country to bring up the level of your education to that of the rest of civilisation.
§ (6.46.) MR. ERNEST GRAY (West Ham, N.)
Before considering the terms of the Bill, I wish to take the earliest opportunity of entering my strong protest against a phrase which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South. Aberdeen has used three times in the course of the debate on this Bill—on the First Reading, the Second Reading, and again a few moments ago. I understand that he has asserted that, in his opinion, the Protestant parents of this country do not care a farthing for dogmatic religion. I venture to say that that is inaccurate.
§ MR. ERNEST GRAY
My protest is justified. I care not who uses the phrase. The right hon. Gentleman has used the phrase on three occasions. There may be a, large number who do not care anything about dogmatic religion, but I venture to say that the phrase, as applied to the whole class, is not accurate, and I go further and say that it will give offence to many who feel strongly on this subject and who are as desirous that in Protestant schools the faith they hold should be taught as Catholics are that their faith should be taught in Catholic 1010 schools. The argument was altogether unnecessary, and it seems to me most offensive. I for one, as a Churchman, take the earliest opportunity of repudiating it.
I want to refer to the principles on which the new authority is to be constituted. Let me say that this debate, if it has done nothing else, has undoubtedly demonstrated the fact that no other plan except one on the lines of that put forward by the Government is at all possible at the present time. What has the opposition been throughout the whole of this debate? United in one idea only—that of opposing—but on no single principle put forward from those Benches have any two prominent men agreed. If there is one principle on which Catholic and Nonconformist, the friends of voluntary and board schools, and, in fact, nearly all others, are agreed up and down the country, it is that there must he one authority for all forms of education below university level, exercising jurisdiction in large areas and controlling all classes of schools. Even Free Church Council meetings adopt a policy of that character, though they may add that it should be popularly elected. Everybody who has gone into the subject with any care has come to the conclusion that there can be no progress, no equal opportunity for every child, no equity in the distribution of educational charges, until you have one authority. The right hon. Gentleman threw it all over with disdain; he kicked it in front of him as a principle not worthy of a second consideration. He condemned the Bill because it sought to give effect to that principle, and he went on afterwards to say that, admitting the principle, the Bill did not give effect to it. That struck me as a remarkable thing coming from a gentleman who presided over a Royal Commission on Education. The next note that struck me was in the forcible speech delivered by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division. He adopted a different idea. He was in favour of one authority, but that we had better get it in stages, that we ought to have an authority first for higher education, and that probably at a later date it should take charge of elementary education. But what happened from the 1011 seat immediately behind him when a former Bill was introduced? Because the Government of that day did not provide for both forms of education in one and the same measure, notice for the rejection of the Bill was given before the First Beading debate had expired. Day after day the Government was condemned up hill and down dale, in the House and out of it because the measure did not propose one authority for the whole, and now we have the Front Opposition Bench declaring that this is a preposterous scheme. I would ask any one who has listened to this debate from beginning to end to compare the speeches of the Member for South Aberdeen, the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division, with that of the hon. Member for North Camberwell who laid down that you must have as the essential principle of any reform this one authority. With a conflict of that sort surely it is obvious to the House and the country that whatever be the merits or the demerits of this Bill there is no other scheme possible. If a Government were in office formed by Members from the Opposition side of the House with the right hon. Gentleman as one of its prominent Members he would be compelled to bring in a duplicate of this Bill. There is indeed no other solution of the question.
Let mo ask the House to come to close quarters with the question for a moment, to leave generalities and come to details, and to apply the principles of this Bill to a county, and see what are the conclusions you are driven to. Take, for example, the county of Northampton. In that county at the present moment, in addition to the technical authorities and others dealing with higher education, you have forty School Boards—not an excessively large number as counties go—and no less than twenty-three of those are exercising jurisdiction over populations of less than 1,000. There is one School Board in a district which has a population of loss than 250. This is surely carrying the principle of election to a farce. The election of these microscopic authorities, with next to no power and little or no responsibility, is a subject to which no responsible Minister can close his eyes. He must take steps for the removal of the smaller authorities. If you take away these twenty-three School 1012 Boards where the population is under 1,000 you cannot leave a void there. You have immediately to take in hand the remaining larger authorities and extend their boundaries and enlarge their powers, which you cannot do without first removing them. You have at once to sweep the whole country clear of the existing School Boards, even if you proposed to set up a universal School Board system, inasmuch as the School Boards must cover large areas. There is no need to enter into detail, but you cannot get good men and women for the work, you cannot put schools where they are wanted, you cannot give the children equal opportunity, and properly distribute the rate charges unless you have larger areas, and even the greatest partisans of the School Boards admit that you must first sweep the country clear of School Boards in order to put them up again. Certainly you must do so in the Administrative Counties, whatever may be done in the Boroughs.
If you go through this process in order to secure progress and some satisfactory system both of elementary and secondary education, you are brought face to face with the question—What are you going to put in the place of the existing authorities? Shall it be large School Boards elected ad hoc, or shall you come to the conclusion, as the Government has done, that it shall be the municipal authority? I have never said a word in this House in opposition to School Board work. Sometimes I have found myself at marked variance with the Vice-President of the Council on this very question. I am not blind, however, to the fact that a large amount of the friction existing in the country is due to the fact that one authority spends the money which the other authority has to levy I am perfectly certain that your Borough Council or County Council will carry on the work of education, both higher and elementary, with the efficiency which has marked the larger School Boards of the country. Why, the same gentlemen are on them very often. There sits one opposite—the Chairman of the Technical Committee and the Chairman of the School Board. In the eyes of some people he is a villain of the deepest dye as a Member of the County Council, and he is everything that is desirable as 1013 Chairman of the School Board. I cannot bring myself to take that view. You will get the best men in the County Council, and men who have not hitherto been brought into the County Council will be brought in. You will tap a new stratum of society, and, I venture to think this will be for the benefit of the ordinary administration of the Council as well as for the benefit of popular education. You will get these men brought into close touch with the duties they are called upon to discharge, and I feel confident that they will perform them well. There is no better educational authority in the whole country than the Technical Instruction Committee of the London County Council. Nobody has done better work with a smaller amount of self-advertising than that Committee. If that Committee and those of other County Councils can do their technical work well, I do not despair that when their powers are extended to other phases of educational life, they will discharge their work with the same zeal and the same determination, county against county, to make their own county as efficient as the nation would desire. A new idea has grown up in the popular mind. The education of a poor man's child is not now regarded as a charity to the child, or a gift to the family. The idea now is that the education of the poor is the preservation of the State, and we must teach these children in order that the nation may have the full benefit of their mental activity. It is national insurance. It is the development of the best wealth the country has, and with that view—a view which is growing widely throughout the country—I am quite certain that the County and Borough Councils will discharge their duty with efficiency and zeal. If the rating authority is to be the educational authority, that cannot be secured by the universal establishment of School Boards. I believe myself that no complete reform is possible until the administration of the local rates is placed in the hands of one body, and therefore, I am glad to find that the Government have placed education in the hands of the County and Borough Councils which have full control over all local government. It struck me that the hon. Member for North Camberwell was somewhat illogical, when he suggested that in 1014 some of the large boroughs the Schools Board should be allowed to remain, and that the Council should have its powers extended so as to control every form of higher education, because in the earlier part of his speech, my hon. friend declared that this Bill would be grotesque if the option were allowed to remain, and yet he is claiming that there should be option to continue two authorities. I should be prepared to go with him if he would give the people in these large boroughs the option to elect one authority which should take over both Higher and Elementary Education, but I cannot consent to any option which would leave Higher Education in the hands of one body, and Elementary Education in the hands of another. The Government Bill proposes to reduce the number of educational authorities from something over 3,000 to 328. That reduction alone will make for efficiency. It will be easier for the Board of Education to deal with 328 authorities, than to carry on correspondence with 3,000 authorities. It may be that we have included some boroughs and urban districts which are too small, but that is a detail on which I will not now touch. I think that in a small country like ours we can carry on our educational work perfectly with something like 320 authorities.
A phase of educational work which has not been referred to in the course of the debate, I will touch upon, because I know that outside there is a very keen interest in it accompanied with some fear. I refer to the large educational domain which is under the entire control of the private schoolmaster. A phrase was dropped by the Vice President of the Council which I cordially endorse. It was to the effect that much may be done by organisation without the expenditure of any money at all. The Bill gives power to the County Councils to supervise private schools, and few who have not thought of the matter can understand how much benefit that will confer on the country. If you give people to understand that a certain private school is efficient, and that another is not, you give a chance of selection to parents who can afford to pay £30, £40, or £50 for the education of their children, but who cannot afford 1015 to send them to a public school. They will have the opportunity of selecting an efficient private school rather than one in which more injury than good is conferred on their children. Any one may start a private school and call it a secondary institution or college. These grow up like mushrooms, especially in seaside places, and often die as rapidly; and parents too often find that the children sent to them have been ruined. Of course there are many good private schools, but my point is not whether they are good or bad, but that at present there is no power in the local authority to test their efficiency. The power given to the local authority by the Bill to give certificates of efficiency to private schools will, in my opinion, be of incalculable benefit.
I listened with keen interest to the masterly analysis which the hon. Member for East Mayo gave of the religious question. I never heard the Nonconformist position more completely laid bare than by the hon. Gentleman. Religious liberty has been the constant cry of Nonconformists, but in its application to school life that liberty does not exist. I most fully concur in the statement that there is as much dogmatic religious teaching in the board schools as in the Church of England, schools. It is merely a question of degree. I doubt even if there is much in the argument of degree, for the principles of the Christian faith taught in the board schools are as repulsive and objectionable to the Atheist and the Jew as the religion taught in the voluntary schools is to those who oppose the Bill. This question will never be settled until freedom of religious thought becomes accepted in fact as well as in theory. I know what the voluntary school is, and what the Sunday school is; and I insist that, notwithstanding all your excellent Sunday schools, you will be committing a crime if you banish religious teaching from the ordinary day schools, Sunday schools, no matter how efficient, can never make up for the teaching which is given in religious instruction in the day school day by day. No one knows, except those who have tried it, what it is for the ordinary teacher in a day school to be recognised 1016 by the children as the one who should, and who does, give religious instruction as the first part of every day's programme. The influence on the child's life brought into contract with such a teacher is greater than many can imagine, and it would be nothing short of a national disaster to banish that influence from the day schools of the country. Nonconformists allow without protest a treasury grant of 37s. per child to be given to Anglican, Catholic, Wesleyan, and board schools alike. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] Well, I never hear any protest except when an Education Bill comes along. They allow 37s. per child to be given to schools over which there is next to no control, and yet they make a great pother about an additional grant of 10s. per child to bring these schools up to the level of the board schools, when in return these denominational schools are to be brought under absolute control. I know what the voluntary school is. At the present moment what happens is this—The Board of Education sends down the money voted by Parliament direct from the paymaster's office to the managers, and so long as they conform to the regulations of the Board of Education no one can say yea or nay as to how that money is spent. For who is thereto check them? The Inspector of the Education Department may look in occasionally, but very rarely does he trouble about the finance of the school. He is too busy in testing the educational status of the school. It is true that the accounts have to be audited, but the auditor is selected by the managers. Probably he is a bank manager, a man whose honesty is undoubted; but he is altogether unfamiliar with school accounts, and has no power to examine witnesses on oath, or to go behind the vouchers submitted to him by the managers I venture to say that if any gentleman who thinks that there will be no control over dominational schools under this Bill, hands me over his income, I will undertake to put him under most efficient control. The man who holds the purse is the man who can exercise the control. The Board of Education has been able to exercise such control as it has exercised because it had the purse strings in its fingers. The local authority will hold the purse in the future. Under this Bill not 1017 one single penny-piece would the managers of Voluntary Schools receive from the Board of Education in the future. Every half-penny of the Parliamentary Grant, Fee Grant, and Aid Grant would be paid on account of that School to the Local Authority, who would afterwards pay it out in accordance with conditions made by themselves.
But that is not all. I can recollect only a few years back, some of us would have given much for the audit in this Bid. It will not in future be the audit of a friendly bank manager, but the audit of the Local Government Board, and a satisfactory explanation will have to be given on every penny that is spent. That is not all. I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth deriding just now the one-third representation on the managing body of these schools. It appeared to me that he himself was at that moment the exemplification of one man sent as the representative of a minority. He is a representative of the minority in this House, but he takes every opportunity of disclosing to the public anything which he thinks may be evil. Put one man not afraid to open his mouth, one man who is determined to know what is going on, on the managing body, and he will prevent anything wrong. If I may say so, it is absurd to start with the assumption that the money of these 14,000 schools is being misspent. There may be a case here or there in a half a dozen years where evil has been done, but in the great majority of cases we know what happens. When there is a deficiency the managers put their hands in their pockets and make it up, and I shall be delighted when repairs are required in a denominational school if the new managers will respond as readily as the parsons have done. The fact is that one man acting as the representative of the County Council can prevent evil, and these schools will find themselves very effectively under control. What, therefore, are we getting? By expenditure from local rates, children in the voluntary schools are now to have the opportunities that have been enjoyed by board school children for thirty years. Persecution does not prevail to-day, yet thousands and tens of thousands have been penalised year in and year out on account of their faith. Now these children are to have equal 1018 opportunities with the children attending board schools, and it is time that they had them, not in the interests of the children, not in the interests of any section, but in the interests of the nation. What has been happening is just this—we, in our blindness and sectarian passion have robbed the country of the best fruits of the training of over three millions of children year after year. It is asserted, again and again, that so long as these schools continue in their poverty there can be no progress. A large number of School Board elections are fought on the cry that the School Boards must not go too fast in order that their schools may not outpace the voluntary schools. Those who assert their love for educational progress are amongst those who would perpetuate this system, and keep the voluntary schools as they are, rather than recognise that people have religious scruples. Reciprocity cannot be all on one side. You cannot expect Anglicans to go on paying for board schools without receiving just and fair treatment themselves. Our people have paid readily and willingly the School Board rate, but they bitterly resent the fact that they have to pay for the maintainance of a principle which has been already granted to every other denomination if they care to use it. The Bill will confer a long delayed measure of justice on these schools.
With regard to the cost which will be thrown on the ratepayers, I cannot close my eyes to it; no one can. It is right we should face it boldly. Whether considered from the point of view of industrial supremacy, or the higher standard of living among our people, if we are to have education it must be paid for. Under present conditions a very large and disproportionate share will be thrown on the local rates and will fall very heavily indeed on some districts. But it is absurd to suggest that it will mean a jumping up of 5d. or 6d. in the £1 in any district at once. The voluntary schools will not be brought up to the level of the board schools all at once; the process will be gradual, but no doubt in from six to ten years you will have in some districts a rate very much higher than it is now. In fact, the more a district has neglected its duty in the past, the more heavily it 1019 will have to pay, and for that I am not altogether sorry. In a district where a½d. School Board rate has served in the past, there will in future have to be a rate of 6d. or 1s. In my own district we have a rate of 2s. 8½d. for School Board purposes alone, and we anticipate that when we take over 7,000 more children, our education rate will run to 3s. 1½d. in the £1. If we add to that a rate of 2d. for higher education we are face to face with a School Board rate of 3s. 3d. or 3s. 4d. in the £1, and that in a populous but poor and heavily rated district. I will not elaborate the suggestion now, but, in my opinion, effect will have to be given by the Government to the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Taxation, and the maintenance of public education will have to be regarded as a national service. If these children are being taught in order that the nation may have the benefit of their brains, the nation must pay for the work. It is as much a national protection as the Army or the Navy, but whoever heard of local contributions, much less voluntary subscriptions, towards the support of the Army or Navy. Education is our great army in the march of progress, and it will have to be supported, like the army which is sent out to slaughter, by the National Exchequer, rather than by means of local contributions. We shall hear more of this question before the Bill is through Committee. The great rating authorities are already realising what their position will be under the Bill. They are struggling between two opinions, whether to see that the children are well taught, or to protest against the Bill in an endeavour to save the rates. I believe, however, that they will come heartily to the conclusion that, cost what it may, the children must be well taught, and afterwards they will make an appeal, which I do not think that Parliament can long resist, that the localities shall provide the buildings and maintain them in a state of efficiency, using them as a local asset, and that the cost of instructing the children, of forming and developing their character, and making them good and profitable citizens, shall he paid by the National Exchequer. It will mean a shifting of the burden, but it will not mean a diminution of the burden. It will mean the transfer from reality to personality 1020 of a part of the burden of this work, and I see no reason why personality should not pay its fair share. I hope I have examined this Bill not as a Party politician. In this House and out of it I have always refused to look at education from a Party standpoint, just as I can never bring myself to look upon it from a sectarian standpoint. To my mind the immediate effect of this Bill will be the strengthening of the county authorities and the simplification of local government; it will mean effective control over local expenditure; and, above and beyond all, it will mean equal opportunities for every child, whether in a large town or a village, whether in a mansion or a cottage; in fact it will mean a chance for brains wherever they may be found. It will mean a more equitable distribution of the charges for education than prevails at the present time, and in my view also, it is a prelude, and an essential prelude, to the nationalisation of education charges. As such I warmly support the Bill.
It being half-past Seven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
Debate to be resumed tomorrow.