§ [SECOND READING.]
§ [FOURTH DAY'S DEBATE]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [5th May], "That the Bill he now read a second time."
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. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
I do not propose in the course of my observations to criticise the machinery of the Bill, but I shall simply endeavour to present, as shortly as I can, the Nonconformist case against the principle of the measure. Those who heard the speech of my hon. friend the Member for East Mayo must have felt that the case for the denominational schools had been presented with great ability and moderation, and as a Nonconformist, I thank him for the very sympathetic treatment he accorded to our case. I believe it would have been more sympathetic had he known more about it. The representatives of the denominational schools have given frequent assurances that they are prepared to consider the grievances of Nonconformists in Committee. I do not feel very convinced that those assurances will bear much fruit when the time comes, but still, I feel confident that the hon. Member for East Mayo will fulfil his pledge and will vote for such Amendments as will enable us to make the best of a very bad Bill. All he desires, as I understand, is to protect the Catholic schools, and he is not anxious to rivet the old clericalism on Nonconformists in the rural districts of England and Wales. Now I come to the speech of the Attorney General. It struck me that it was based on a very badly-drawn brief. He quoted in support of the Bill a resolution passed by the County Councils Association, and asserted that the County Councils had met in conclave in London and passed a resolution in favour of the Bill. I should like the House to hear the first few lines of that resolution, which the hon. and learned Gentleman claims to be in favour of the Bill. It says—'" Without expressing any opinion on the controversial questions raised by the Education Bill," etc.Can the hon. and learned Gentleman point to a single clause in the Bill which is not controversial? If he can, then he may claim the resolution as being in favour of it, but I submit that he cannot. The Attorney General also said there was no proselytism in Church schools. That shows how he was instructed. The 1099 hon. and learned Gentleman cannot possibly have known what is going on in the rural districts of England and Wales, or he would not have made that statement. This is what a diocesan inspector of the Church schools wrote to the chief organ of the Church, the Guardian—Our syllabus is arranged so as to give distinctive denosminational instruction. I always saw it was given, and always asked the children, chiefly the children of Nonconformists, questions bearing upon it. Thus, in fact, we trained the children of the Nonconformists to be children of the Church.That was Canon Pennington, a diocesan inspector for twenty years. It is obvious that to say there is no proselytism is absurd.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
On the 4th August, 1897. The hon. and learned Gentleman rather indicated who instructed him when he came to analyse his ideas on definite religious teaching. The only illustration which he gave of dogmatic teaching given in Anglican schools which Nonconformists could not support, and which could not be given in board schools, was the historical view of the Reformation. But as I understand it, the view accepted by all Protestants, whether Anglicans or Nonconformists, of what took place at the Reformation was the same up till recently. There is, of course, a fundamental difference between the Roman Catholic and the Protestant view, and I can quite understand it is absolutely impossible to teach that history in such a way as not to be unfair to the Catholics. The view of the Reformation accepted by Nonconformists was that accepted by Anglicans until recently. But if it is wanted to have a new view of the Reformation taught in rate-aided schools, a view which is not acceptable to Protestants, if the managers of Church schools want that, then let them frankly throw in their lot with the Catholics. We shall then know how to deal with them. They have no right to pose as members of the Protestant Church and to proceed to create dissension and strife with regard to dogmatic teaching, purely in order to teach views of the Reformation which, by their own oath of office, they are bound not to 1100 take. It is very significant, and I hope the Protestant Church of England will take note of it, that the Attorney General has said that a new view of the Reformation is to be taught.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
"A different view from that taken by Nonconformists and Protestants"—what does that mean, then? What did the hon. and learned Gentleman mean when he said there was nothing which could not be taught in board schools by common acceptance of all Protestants, but not of Catholics? He said you want something different, that you want something definite which belongs to Anglicans; and I say that everything that belongs to Anglican Protestants equally belongs to Nonconformist Protestants. What becomes of his contention that that is the one thing which divides him from the Nonconformists? Yet it was the only illustration he gave of the different kind of teaching that was required. If he simply wanted to make a case for the Catholic schools, I should agree with him. But where is the case for the Anglican schools, which is a far more important matter? I agree with the hon. Member for East Mayo that the question of the authority is really not the important point of the Bill. There is only one important question that divides us—that of rate aid for teaching religion, of which a large section of the ratepayers do not approve, That is the whole question, so far as we are concerned Speaking from observation and experience in Wales, I say that if the people are in earnest about education, and if the source, at any rate, of the authority is the electorate, it does not much matter what the authority is. I cannot comprehend why my hon. friend the Member for Haddington said the authority was everything, and advised Nonconformists not to mind these religious squabbles. You cannot base any good system of education on an injustice to a large section of the community. What is the injustice, and where does it come in in this case? If you are perpetuating an injustice you are doing the greatest harm in the world to the cause of education. Politically speaking, my hon. friend seems always to be above the snow-line. His counsel was very serene in its purity, 1101 but rather sterile. Let him descend from the region of eternal snow and come down to bare facts, and he will find that things are not so easy to settle as they seem. The religious difficulty is the one we have got to settle before we can get a good system of education in this country. The Government are going to got rid of the School Boards. [An HON. MEMBER: No, no.] The hon. Gentleman opposite says no, but the Government are simply going to put an end to their corporate existence and financial capacity, and that is what you do to a criminal when you execute him. You are setting up another authority. Personally, I do not mind that, so long as it is a representative authority; so long as you give real control to the people of the country, for then you will have a watch-dog on the Committee. He will, I know, be only one watch-dog, as against two parsons, and that is unfair odds. But the great evil is that the popular representative will be in a permanent statutory minority. He will know that, and so, too, will the others. It is not like the case put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire, where the man in a minority has a chance of converting the others. He will never be able to do that. I agree in one respect with the Member for Ton-bridge——
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
The hon. Member cheered a sentence, and thus showed that he agreed with me when I said you cannot build any good system of education upon injustice. Perhaps he meant by his cheer that the injustice was on the Church side. I maintain it is on the Nonconformist side. Every hon. Member who has spoken on that side of the House has admitted there is a Nonconformist grievance—every one except the hon. Member for Cockermouth.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I am glad to hear that the hon. Member belongs to the Nonconformist National Scouts. 1102 He has won his commission by fighting against his own people. But I say that, by common consent, there is a Nonconformist grievance. What is the grievance of the Church? The Catholics, put in a different category. Special advantages and privileges are given to the Anglican denominational schools which are not given to the Nonconformists and to the board schools. The Church have over 12,000 schools in the country, which are mission rooms to educate the children of the poor in the principles of the Church. In 8,000 parishes there are no other schools, and the whole machinery of the law is there utilised to force the Nonconformist children into them. You tell them: "You will have no religious instruction at all unless you are prepared to take the instruction of the Church of England. The total expense for the staff of these schools is £3,400,000 yearly, and the State gives £3,600,000 per annum, so that the staff engaged in teaching Church of England principles is wholly paid by the State. Another advantage possessed by the Anglican Church is the patronage of 60,000 excellent appointments in the Civil Service—exclusive patronage to 60,000 appointments to one of the best, most remunerative, and most honourable careers that a child can possibly enter upon. A Member on the other side said yesterday that the Nonconformists have a grievance there. So they have. Out of 2,000,000 children in Anglican schools, 1,000,000 are Nonconformists. Are hon. Members aware that there are 700,000 Methodist children in these Church schools?
§ MR. TALBOT (Oxford University)
Will the hon. Member say on what basis those figures are calculated? There has been no census.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. The Methodist Connexion have gone very closely into the matter, and it is upon their authority, which is quite good enough for me, I make the statement. In Wales, at any rate, the vast majority of the children in the Anglican schools are Nonconformists, yet they are not allowed to enter the teaching profession except on condition of their becoming 1103 members or attending the services of the Church of England. The hon. Baronet he Member for Oxford University said yesterday—Here is a grievance from which Nonconformists are suffering; I am prepared to redress it.How?I am prepared to support any Amendment, compatible with the denominational character of the schools, by which the Nonconformist children should be allowed to enter the lower grades of the teaching profession.There are 1,000,000 of these children, containing among them probably the best suited for the teaching profession, but, however well-behaved, able, and bright they may be, all you say to them is, "We will allow you to become a lower grade official in this school, but nothing beyond that." Where does the principle of equality come in? All we ask is equal treatment, especially in these 8,000 parishes.
§ MR. ERNEST GRAY (West Ham)
Entering the lower grade would give them the opportunity of advancing to the higher.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
Really, the hon. Gentleman might take the trouble to master the elements of the denominational case. If he had only listened to the speech to which I referred——
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
Then perhaps he has forgotten that the hon. Baronet said he would not make them principal teachers. Does the hon. Member really mean to say that in any Anglican school in those 8,000 parishes a Nonconformist would be allowed to become a head-teacher?
§ MR. ERNEST GRAY
No. I say the argument has been entirely misrepresented. The statement made yesterday was to the effect that under this Bill the training of teachers would occupy a totally different position. Instead of it being necessary for a pupil teacher to go into an ordinary elementary school to get his training, the Nonconformist or Anglican child would go into a proper establishment for the training of teachers and get his training there 1104 altogether apart from denominational influences. The entire argument has been that this Bill redressed the grievance of which complaint was justly made.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
That argument has the disadvantage of being irrelevant. I am coming to the question of training colleges, but at present I am dealing with elementary and State schools in these parishes, and I say that, even after the concession of being allowed to enter the lower grades, a Nonconformist can never hope to become the chief teacher in any one of these schools. But take the training colleges. Most of them are denominational, but built largely and maintained almost exclusively out of State funds. Only one-twentieth of the expense of maintaining the Anglican Colleges is provided by the subscriptions of the Anglican Church. Take the case of the Oxford Diocesan Training College. The total expenditure was £1,300; the voluntary subscriptions from individuals were nil, and from the Diocesan Board £13 10s., the remainder coming out of Government grants and the pockets of the students themselves. These are denominational colleges, and the hon. Gentleman says they enjoy no advantages which Nonconformists have not at the same time.
The fourth difference is that in these parishes the prestige and influence which come from having the complete control of these communal institutions are in the hands of the Church of England.
These are the advantages—60,000 positions in the Civil Service, the control of these communal institutions, the machinery of the law to force children into the schools to be taught the doctrines of their particular faith—and what do they give for them? They give £650,000 a year, as against £4,000,000 from the State. Taking their own claim as to the number of the adherents of the Church in this country, that is exactly a farthing per week per head for every adult adherent. This is the intolerable strain for all these privileges, but the maintenance of the schools is now to be thrown entirely on the rates; they have simply to keep the schools in repair. They are grumbling even at that. The Duke of Northumberland writes to complain of it. At the very outside, the repairs will come to 1105 £60,000 a year, representing, say, one-tenth of a farthing per week for every adult adherent of the Church of England—one-fifth of the widow's mite, and Dukes grumble at it! There is no coin of the realm sufficiently trilling and insignificant to mark the maximum of sacrifice which these fierce religious zealots are prepared to make for their faith. It is simply imposing on the credulity of the country and the House of Commons to say that it is simply their earnest desire to give definite dogmatic teaching to the children of the land. Let them give some proof of it. I am not so sure that this slackening in the desire for definite religious teaching is not attributable to something else. An interesting report was published a few years ago by the National Society. The Secretary wrote to the comptroller of the funds of the National School in each district for a report as to the condition of the school, and some of the replies are very interesting. Here is the reply from the Monmouth Archidiaconal Secretary—I fear, however, that the laity are beginning to get tired of supporting Church schools. I regret to say that I know many who consider themselves to be good Church people, and yet who fail to recognise the duty of supporting religious education. There seems to be an increasing idea that the hoard school Bible reading is nearly, if not quite, as good.That is really the explanation of the desire of the friends of religious education to throw the schools on the rates. Their own people are beginning' to get the idea into their heads that the religious training-given in the board schools is quite as good, apart from the pure question of proselytism.
Then we are told there is equality at the present moment. Says the Anglican: "The Nonconformists have their schools and we have ours. The board schools are Nonconformist schools." Let us see how thoroughly preposterous that statement is. The control of these schools is in the hands of the ratepayers, a majority of whom, according to hon. Members opposite, are Church people. More than that: the majority of the members of these Boards throughout England and Wales are denominationalists—Catholics and Church people; and some of the largest and most influential Boards in the Kingdom, such as in Liverpool and Manchester, are run entirely by the denominationalists. For years 1106 the London Board was run by Mr. Diggle and Mr. Riley, who are not, I believe, very fierce Nonconformists. How absurd it is to say that board schools are Nonconformist schools! But that is not all. There are several School Boards run in the interests of voluntary schools. Some districts are so poor that they cannot find the money for a voluntary school. The Board of Education insist on a school being set up, and, in order to prevent the absolute breakdown of the denominational system, the School Board is called upon to run up a school as a supplement—that is, the School Boards are used as a means of buttressing denominational schools in several large districts in the country.
Let me give another reason to show that board schools are not Nonconformist schools. The teacherships are open to Churchmen, Catholics, and Nonconformists. The noble Lord the Member for Greenwich admitted the other day that the majority of the teachers were Church people. Of course they are. Can it be said that they are Nonconformist schools? Let me instance two parishes that I know, both overwhelmingly Nonconformist, the one with a School Board and the other with an Anglican school. In the latter there has not been a Nonconformist teacher since I have known it. Every one of the Nonconformists who enter the teaching profession have to go through the portals of the Church, although five-sixths of the funds of that school are provided by the Nonconformists. Go to the next parish: The School Board is Nonconformist; the head teacher in the school is a Churchman; the two masters are Churchmen; the majority of the appointments in the school are filled by Church people, although it is kept up by Nonconformists. Where is the equality of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks? Go to the next parish: The same state of things exists there. There is never any distinction made. We are told that the religious teaching given in Board Schools is Nonconformist, but why are we told this? Is the Bible a Nonconformist book? It is not for me to repudiate the suggestion, but we do not claim a monopoly in it. I could understand that argument from a Roman 1107 Catholic point of view, because I understand their Bible is different from ours. But why should the education be said to be Nonconformist? Hon. Members who say that the religious teaching given in these schools is undenominational, and therefore, must be Nonconformist, do not know what they are talking about. There is no such thing as undenominational education in England. The differences in dogmas between the different sects of Nonconformists are quite as great, in their own view, as the differences between Nonconformists and members of the Church of England. Some differ so much that they will not admit the others to communion. But Nonconformists recognise that they must make some sacrifices for the common good. What would have been the situation if Nonconformists had taken as greedy a view as some denominationalists, I am sorry to say, set up? Suppose, for instance, that they had insisted upon having their own schools and their own doctrines taught in every district by their own masters. The difficulty would not have been the question of providing school buildings, for in almost every case they have already school buildings, and use thorn on Sundays. The result would have been that, instead of there being one school in the district of a fairly good stamp, there would have been five or six miserable and ill-equipped schools, giving no such education as is even given now. Therefore, the Nonconformists say that as it is a matter of education, which is a matter of national life, they must all sacrifice some convenience for the benefit of the rest of the community. Therefore, they say, "Teach the Bible. We have such confidence in the character of our religion that we shall be able afterwards to teach our dogmas and creed." But hon. Members say," It is an education which satisfies you, but which does not satisfy us." But does it satisfy the Nonconformists? If by that you mean that they regard the teaching as sufficient without its being supplemented, it certainly is not satisfactory. They supplement it at their Sunday schools and their Bible classes in the evening, where they teach their own dogmas in their own way. This is the position of things in this country. This is the only country I have over heard of where, the community being divided up between five or six 1108 powerful sects, one sect has monopolised the control of education. America is divided up among a number of powerful sects, of which the Congregationalists are the most numerous, but there is no one sect monopolising the conduct of education. Lord Salisbury, on Wednesday night, said he was full of admiration for the type of manhood turned out by our colonies, but that type of man is not turned out by the kind of education supplied in this country. In Holland you have the same state of things; no religious teaching is given with the other lessons which is obnoxious to anybody, but the clergymen of each particular denomination are permitted to come to the schools after school hours and teach their own doctrine to their own particular flock. This is the system which should be adopted in this country. I quite agree that if we, as a large sect, insist on denominational teaching for our children, we have no right to object to other sects insisting on it also. I was in a Church school for years, and I went through all the catechism. For better or worse, I am the sort of article that denominational schools turn out. In Church schools you have a time table, providing so much teaching which is dogmatic and so much teaching that is not dogmatic. One morning you will read the books of Kings. Judges, and Samuel—and I defy anyone, however dogmatic he may be, to extract any dogma out of the operations, military or otherwise, of those monarchs. On the following morning you have the ten commandments, and the following day you have the catechism; and what I ask hon. Gentlemen to do is to follow out in their minds this arrangement. Would it be more difficult to, say teach the books of Kings, Judges, and Samuel, and the undogmatic part of the Bible, in the early part of the day, and leave the clergyman of each denomination afterwards to give his catechism? The present system is the worst, from the point of view of the clergyman teaching, that ever was.
The noble Lord the Member for Greenwich, in his eloquent speech the other day, held that the time was coming when Nonconformity and Anglicanism would have to fight Shoulder to shoulder against unbelief. Is the present system the best method of fighting? Is not the teaching in the Church schools apostasy? In the Church schools the majority of 1109 the children are Nonconformists—[Cries of dissent]—yes, certainly. What is the use of denying such a truism? There are hundreds and hundreds of schools in which the majority of the children are Nonconformists. Take a school of that kind, if you like, with a majority of Nonconformists. The noble Lord says that the whole basis of doctrinal teaching is baptism into membership. What does that mean? I know perfectly well that when you question a child the first thing you ask is "What is your name, M or N?" and so on. For every Nonconformist child in the school it is untrue; it is false. What a training against unbelief that is! It starts with inculcating a doctrine that every child in the school knows, so far as he is concerned, is false in fact, and which his parent teaches him is false in principle. That is not training against unbelief. It is training for scepticism in matters religious. No: whether it is for the interests of education or the interests of religion, it is better that we should agree. Let us have one school, In America what are they doing? They have discovered what mischief there is in education in these little rural schools, and, instead of taking the school to the child, they choose the reverse order, and there, now, there is a sort of State arrangement for the purpose of building one large school and carrying the children for miles and miles to one school, in order to have them altogether and to have a bigger school and a better staff. Whilst our most important rivals have learned that lesson, we are bringing in a Bill to reverse the order and split up the rural schools into five or six. What folly, from the point of view of education to begin with, and; also from the point of view of citizenship and good feeling! It is most important that we should learn to act together in a country like this. The Premier was full last night of the dangers to which we are exposed—dangers internal, dangers external, dangers from foreigners, from our own colonies, and from our own people. There is no doubt that the time will come when we will have to stand shoulder to shoulder against some of those dangers, and how are we preparing for it? By perpetuating a system that splits up this country into an infinite number of hostile camps. I think the lesson of Ireland might very well be taken to heart. I am not sure that a 1110 great many of the evils of Ireland are not attributable to the fact that you have two bitterly hostile religious camps—people who have been trained, as it were, disciplined and taught from their childhood not to act together, but to act in hostility and bitterness towards each other. With the lesson of Ireland, the lesson of the colonies, the lesson of Germany, the United States and Holland, before us, we are going back and teaching our people to split up, to quarrel, and to keep alive those religious dissensions among us. It is folly of the worst type, and not statesmanship.
My hon. friends from Ireland were candid with the Nonconformists, and I should like to give one candid word to them. I deeply regret that they support this Bill. If it were purely a Bill for starting Catholic schools for the teaching of their own children—not proselytism—I could not complain. But this is but a tenth part of the whole of this controversy. It is a Bill not for starting such schools, not for teaching children in the religion of their parents. It is a Bill for riveting the clerical yoke on thousands of parishes in England. Who are the men who rejoice most at the introduction of the Bill? The bitterest enemies of Ireland. Who are the men who will be saddened most because they have done it? The best friends of Ireland. Let me put another consideration. We are a small minority in the House opposing the Bill; we are impotent to stop it, whatever the force of public opinion behind us may be, if the Government force it through. Is it because the people of the country are against us on clericalism? No; I believe the people of England are as determined as ever that they will not have the clerical yoke. If we had a straight issue on the question of the control of our schools by the State priesthood, I venture to say that, as we boat them in 1868 with the help of the Church, and defeated them in 1885 against the Irish, we would do it again on that straight issue; but, unfortunately, we are in a minority—for one reason, and one reason only, and I am not ashamed of it. It is because we committed ourselves to the cause of Ireland. Now, this is what I put to my hon. friends. It is rather hard. In 1886 we threw over our most cherished leaders in this 1111 country—Spurgeon and Bright, Dr. I Allan, Dr. Dale, and even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West: Birmingham. We threw them over for one reason only: because we felt what was due to Ireland; and it is rather hard, I think—if they will forgive me speaking candidly—to be put in this plight of being beaten down for the cause of Ireland, and that Irishmen, of all people, should help our foes and theirs to make our defeat the more intolerable. Let them remember this. Who are the people who will benefit by this Bill? The people who benefit by it are the people who coerced Ireland, and supported every measure for throwing the leaders of the Irish people into prison, and for keeping Ireland down with soldiers and police. Who are the people who are hit by the Bill? The people of Wales. We were offered, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, Disestablishment, if we would throw over Home Rule. We did not do it, and some of the men who declined to do it will be sold up for rates under this Bill, and probably imprisoned under the mandamus of this Bill. They will remember that the instrument under which that happened was forged partly by the Irish Members. In the matter of Home Rule even the chiefs of their own Church have not been as good friends as the chiefs of Nonconformity. Cardinal Vaughan, a priest of their own Church, passes them by when they are fallen on the roadside. I am not sure that he did not join in helping their assailants.
§ MR. JAMES HOPE (Sheffield, Brightside)
said that Cardinal Vaughan had never expressed an opinion on Home Rule.
§ MR. LLOYD - GEORGE
Cardinal Vaughan did his very best to help to return hon. Members opposite. Yes, the Rev. Hugh Price Hughes, and the other Nonconformist Samaritans, from the Catholic point of view, who are distant as the poles in their religious views, declined absolutely to listen to the appeals of religious bigotry, and helped them, notwithstanding all the risks which they foresaw. I do appeal to hon. Members from Ireland sincerely, for the sake of their own country—I am 1112 not merely a Nonconformist; I believe in the sacred cause, as they do, of small nationalities, of which they have been the guardian in this House—I appeal to them not to join, in oppressing Nonconformists who have been their friends, with the enemies of their faith and their race.
§ (3.41.) MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
The hon. Member, in the remarkable speech which he has just delivered, appealed to the Irish Members not to oppose the Welsh Nonconformists because they fought for the Irish Roman Catholics in favour of Home Rule. I suppose the Welsh Nonconformists supported Home Rule because they believed it right and good, and I suppose the Irish Roman Catholics will support this Bill because they believe it is right and good to maintain denominational religion in the schools. Does the hon. Member suppose that for the sake of a mere Party or political advantage, the Irish Roman Catholics are going to give up what they hold dear to themselves, namely, their belief in their Roman Catholic schools? Surely this is bringing down this question to a mere question of bartering. Surely it is coming very far down from the high level which the hon. Member struck at the beginning of his speech, but surely he cannot suppose that the Irish Roman Catholics should give up their principle any more in this matter than the hon. Members opposite will give up their principle of Home Rule if they are called upon to do so for the sake of a Party advantage. The hon. Member opposite has stated the Nonconformist case. I am not disposed to say that he has stated it unfairly. I am not in the least anxious to be unfair to Nonconformists. I am most anxious in the discussion of this measure that we should all try to be fair and to understand one another. When the hon. Member speaks of the grievances of Nonconformists, I rather think he has made some statements which will not bear investigation. He speaks of 14,000 places where the Church of England school is the only school.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
Well, the actual number does not matter. He says there are 9,500 places in which 1113 Nonconformist children are proselytised. I say it is unnecessary to call them mission rooms. It is natural that in denominational schools the religion of the denomination should be taught. The same might be said of Roman Catholic schools and of Wesleyan schools. The hon. Member entirely forgets the "conscience clause." Nobody need be proselytised who does not wish to be proselytised. The conscience clause secures the withdrawal, if desired, of every child who objects to the religious teaching in the Church schools. I think it is hard that the children in 9,000 schools can only be taught the religious dogmas of the Church of Englandor no religion at all. We Churchmen fully admit the grievance. In 1896 we made a perfectly fair offer that separate religious instruction should be given to every child according to the faith of its parents at a separate hour. But who rejected that otter? It was the Nonconformists. [Cries from the Opposition Benches of "No."] At any rate they caused its withdrawal. I regret myself that that bargain is not repeated on this occasion; but it may not be impossible to insert such a provision for separate religious facilities in the Bill in Committee. I have always been in favour of having separate religious facilities outside the schools. Why on earth cannot we meet on common ground there? Why should not the children be withdrawn from all the schools in order to obtain separate religious instruction according to the belief of their parents? If that were done we should have accomplished something to bridge over the gulf which separates us on this question of religious education. The hon. Member opposite repeated the assertion so often made, that according to the Bill the State would pay, as is alleged it does pay now, the cost of denominational education. I deny entirely that that is the case. The Church has built schools of the capital value of £26,000,000 and the annual value of these schools is equal to far more than the cost of the religious instruction given in them. All that the Bill says is, "Let us make these voluntary schools educationally efficient, and let the managers, by providing the school buildings and by their voluntary contributions, keep providing their children with their own religious instruction"—that is to say that the 1114 State should pay for the secular instruction which the State prescribes, and for which I say the State ought to pay. We are told that Nonconformist children cannot become teachers; but there is nothing at the present time, or in the Bill, to prevent them. On the contrary, the child of any Nonconformist can become a teacher. Of course, I fully admit that a head teacher of a voluntary school would not be appointed if he were a Nonconformist. That is only reasonable, because how else can you maintain the denominational character of a school unless the head teacher is a member of that denomination? But there are other schools in which Nonconformist lads and young women may seek engagements. There are the board schools on which Nonconformist teachers are already appointed. The real answer to the argument of the hon. Gentleman opposite is that if the Nonconformists want to make more places for teachers of their own creed, they ought to build more schools. I really do not think that very much can be made of the grievance alleged by the hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs. The hon. Member says that this is the only country in the world where the Church has the control of educational appointments.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
Of course I made no such statement. I know several countries where the Church is all-powerful. What I said was that this is the only country in the world where one sect, one church, has practically the whole control of education.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
I quite accept my hon. friend's correction. But let me ask, how it is that the Church of England has obtained this position of pre-eminence? It simply is, that because for sixty years before 1870, the State neglected its duty towards education, The National Society was founded in 1811; and the first Government grant to education was made in 1833. In the latter year there were 1,225,000 pupils in the Church schools. Attempts were made to work up the State to its duty in this matter; and Lord Brougham in 1820 brought in a Bill to set up a national system of education. That Bill, I am sorry to say, was lost on account of the opposition of 1115 the Nonconformists—an opposition similar to that which is trying to prevent the Bill before the House passing. On that occasion, Lord Brougham said—No sooner had he given power to the parish minister to put his veto upon the schoolmaster if he chose, than his worthy and esteemed friends, the Dissenters, took the alarm. It was in vain that he reminded them that he had left the door of the school which he proposed to establish, not only ajar, but thrown right hack upon its hinges, for the admission of their children. They met, they combined, they reasoned. They felt more; than they reasoned, and they were more led by their passions than by their feelings or their reason.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
The control of the schools would have been very similar to that proposed under the present Bill; and it is the same class of people who, led more by their passions than their feelings or their reason, oppose the Bill of the present year as they did that of 1820. The policy of hon. Members opposite is perfectly plain. They wish to destroy the denominational schools, but I venture to say that they cannot do that. Since 1870, the voluntary schools have had a hard fight. They have had to compete with the board schools which are supported by the rates, but notwithstanding that, whereas the voluntary schools in 1870 numbered 8,281, they now number 11,319. The voluntary scholars in 1870 were 1,693,000; now they number 3,056,000. The contributions to the voluntary schools in 1870 reached £418,000; now they amount to £863,000. I submit that these are cardinal facts that lie at the root of this Bill. The denominational schools exist, and you cannot get rid of them. Are you to leave them as they are, or if you cannot destroy them, are you to leave them weak educationally and inefficient, not up to date as regards the salaries of the teachers, the buildings, or the apparatus? The wiser policy is to tell frankly the managers of the voluntary schools, that as long as they maintain efficiency in the secular instruction of their schools, they will have the support of the country. That is the policy of the Government in the Bill before the House, and hence I support it. The 1116 hon. Member opposite has spoken of the grievances of the Nonconformist, but he has said nothing of the grievances of Churchmen. I do not wish to put these too high, but the fact remains, and cannot be contradicted, that ever since 1870 they have been paying out of their own pockets for the support of their own denominational schools, and at the same time they have had to contribute through the rates for the support of the board schools. I do not say that the board schools are Nonconformist schools, but I maintain that in these schools religion is taught which Nonconformists accept. [Opposition cries of "No, no!"] Well, they teach a religion with which Nonconformists appear to be satisfied. [Opposition cries of "No, no!"] Well, you are content with it, and we are not.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
So do we, but we believe that the religious teaching given in the board schools is of such a nature that we cannot accept it. It is so imperfect that we believe it to be, in many cases, positively injurious. I only wish that we could, for the sake of education, come to some real understanding. I approach this question, not from the denominational point of view, but from the educational standard. I say that in this Bill, now before the House, there is the potentiality of a great educational reform. I cannot imagine a greater reform than the single authority which the Government are setting up. I have seen something of secondary education as a member of the Endowed Schools Committee. Hon. Members who take an interest in the question know that we had an opportunity of dealing both with elementary and secondary education, and that we were often able by means of scholarships to advance children from the elementary to the secondary schools and thence to the university, because we were, within our limited powers, a single authority. That is, I think, a strong argument in favour of the single authority proposed in the Bill. At the present time there are School Boards, Voluntary School Managers, Technical School Committees, 1117 Higher Grade School Committees, Endowed Grammar School Committees, Continuation School Committees, and so on. I ask how it is possible to have any real progressive system under these circumstances, until all these different Committees are swept away and one single authority is set up. There are 2,550 School Boards, 14,000 Voluntary School Boards of Managers, and 120 Technical School Committees, and all these will be swept away by this Bill, and placed under one central authority. I support the Bill because it is fair to the denominational schools. I hope, however, the optional clause will disappear, and, like many other hon. Members, I confess I wish that the introduction of this Bill bad been accompanied by a Treasury Grant equal to the extra amount it will cost. Education is essentially a national service, and I think that the great bulk of the cost should be paid out of national resources. In conclusion, I most earnestly hope that we will find in this outside facilities, such as I have indicated, for religious instruction, and that the Government will do their best to pass the Bill into law.
§ (4.3.) MR. C. P. SCOTT (Lancashire, Leigh)
There was one passage in the speech of the hon. Gentleman with which, I am certain, both sides of the House will cordially agree, and that was his plea for peace. If there is one thing necessary to the interests of education, to the vital interests of the country, it is good feeling, a common understanding, and a willingness to work together for a common aim on the part of all sections of the community. If I thought this Bill would make for peace, I would be the last to oppose it. If I thought it would help us to unite together, and to build up a system which might be permanent, which might heal discord, and which might form the foundation from which we might progress to the educational standard of other great countries, I would make great sacrifice of prejudice, of feeling, I might almost say of conviction, in order to join with other hon. Members in passing this Bill. But it is precisely because it does not make for peace that I feel myself totally 1118 unable to support it. Why does it not make for peace? Because it is based on opposing and conflicting principles.
What does the Bill propose? It proposes in the first place to establish everywhere a public authority for education. I have no fault to find with that. I think it is a very admirable thing. It is what we on this side of the House have been hoping and praying for for thirty years. It is proposed to make the authority the municipal authority. I have no fault to find with that either. Some of my hon. friends are opposed to the establishment of municipal authorities for education. I am in favour of it. I do not, indeed, desire to overthrow by a mere act of power—I think it would be the height of folly—those great ad hoc authorities which for thirty years have been doing the educational work of the country. I think that would be a foolish thing; and I hope, whether this Bill be adopted or not, whether the optional clause be passed or not, that at least no hasty steps will be taken to overthrow the great School Boards of the country. That would produce dire confusion and disaster; but on the principle of municipal authorities for education, I am entirely in accord with the Bill. Why am I in favour of a municipal authority? Because it is popular; because it is strong. I should, however, like to point out that the municipal authority is, in one respect, less popular than the ad hoc authority. It excludes women and clergymen. That is, I think, a serious matter. Every one will agree, I am certain the Vice-President will admit, that women have been among the most useful members of our School Boards, and that some of our best educationalists have been clergymen. In Manchester and Salford the chairmen of the School Boards are clergymen, and they are among the most practical and useful educationists we have. That is true also of other parts of the country. But, on the whole, the municipal authority is a thoroughly popular body; and I only hope that in the course of the Committee stage in this Bill, we may see that it gets a free hand. It is also a powerful authority. The most powerful of the institutions of this country is its local government. 1119 Why is it powerful? Because it is in direct contact with the daily lives of the people. I believe that it is stronger even than Parliament itself, and that if our other institutions were to cease tomorrow, and we were only left the great municipal organisation of the country, all other institutions could be built up again from that foundation.
The cardinal principle of this Bill is, in my opinion, that it attaches to the service of education the mighty engine of popular self government. But having done that, it proceeds at once to place checks and impediments in the way of the working of these public bodies. Are the County Councils and County Boroughs, the great educational authorities to be set up, to be given a free hand? Far from it. The first thing the Bill does is to limit their power to the expenditure of money. Not a thing can they do themselves for education. The whole administrative work of education is relegated to Committees, and these Committees are not to be genuinely representative. They are to be Committees on which, for the first time in the municipal history of this country, outside bodies are to be allowed to nominate members, who are to have an equal share of power with the representatives of the municipalities. That, however, comparatively speaking, is a small matter.
The other great principle of the Bill is, that it places all the private voluntary schools on the rates. I do not say that that is necessarily wrong; but I do say that if these schools are placed on the rates, they will have to accept the invariable principle of municipal government, that where the ratepayer pays the ratepayer controls. If I were the most bitter enemy of denominational schools, I might look with some favour on a proposal of this kind; because I believe the Bill will set at work forces which you will not be able to restrain. I believe that if you place denominational schools on the rates it is absolutely inevitable—I do not say tomorrow or next day—that they will be placed under the complete control of the ratepayers. That will not happen in a day; it will not happen without a struggle. You are preparing the beginning of a conflict which will rage in every district in the country, in 1120 every corner of the land, and which will continue until the principle of our system of local government has been vindicated, and the ratepayers are the real masters of the schools for which they pay. That is why I am opposed to this Bill. I am opposed to it because it is the beginning, not of peace, not of a large and generous settlement, but of war, and of an internecine and bitter conflict. That is not what we desire in the education of this country. We may be asked—Are the enormous number of denominational schools to be left to starve? I do not think they ought to be left to starve. I think we ought to do our duty, and to raise up, as far as we are able, these schools to the general level of the board school education of the country. That is our plain duty; but if that is to be done it implies certain conditions.
I do not desire to abolish denominational schools altogether. I think that the plea which the hon. Member for East Mayo made yesterday for the Roman Catholic schools was a powerful plea. I think where we have schools frequented entirely, or practically entirely, by the children of one denomination, and where it is part of the faith of the parents that the children should have an education permeated from beginning to end with their own religion, that there is a case for separate schools. But to how many schools will that definition apply? It applies to Catholic schools, and, perhaps, to a certain number of schools of other denominations, especially in the great towns; but it does not apply to cases in which there is only one school in a district. It is a disastrous abuse of the plea of religious scruple that one sect should, by power of superior wealth, superior organisation, superior knowledge and all the advantages of a State Church, lay hold of these schools and say, "These are our schools and you must pay for them." I would say to the denominational schools: "Do not come on the rates; make some sacrifices, even if they are a little hard, and take the rest from the State." If these schools are to be maintained out of the rates, they must inevitably come under the ratepayer's control. If I were sitting on that side of the House, and deeply concerned for these schools, I would say, "God forbid that we should take too 1121 much of the public money for them, and, above all, God forbid that we should touch the rates." If I thought it were possible so to amend this Bill in Committee as to secure the great advantage of a universal public system, and at the same time to avoid those internecine conflicts, which I foresee are inevitable, I would vote for the Bill. It is because I do not see any prospect of that kind, but only an interminable vista of wrangling and bitterness that I feel compelled to vote against it.
§ (4.17.) MR. TALBOT (Oxford University)
With regard to this debate, I think the Government must be congratulated on the course which it has taken, because, notwithstanding the adverse criticism that has been brought to bear upon the Bill, a great deal of favour has been shown to it by those who are yet going to vote against it. Even those who are going to vote against it have felt bound to give a great deal of favourable criticism to this Bill. On the whole they support the principle of it, even the hon. Member who has last spoken is in favour of the general principle, because, he says, if it was not for something which he does not find in it, or for something which he does find in it, he would vote for it. In the earlier part of the debate we had a most interesting speech from the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire, which on the whole was perhaps the best commendation of the Bill which we have heard, and the hon. and learned Member said that he could not vote against it. From his point of view that was a great thing to say, but had he been in the House I would have asked him whether he could not have gone one step further and given his vote in favour of it. The debate has been remarkable for some of the most impressive speeches that have been heard for some time. We have had a speech from the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division of Northumberland, and, above all, we had a most impressive speech from my noble friend the Member for Greenwich the day before yesterday. Anybody who listened to those speeches must have been convinced that the best days of Parliament had not come to an end. They were worthy of the best traditions of Parliament and of the 1122 country. The Government is to be congratulated on this debate, because it has done another good thing. It has brushed away a good deal of that froth and frenzy which has animated a certain section of the public outside on this question. If anybody has read the utterances reported in the newspapers and has read what has been said at the Free Church conferences, they would have come to the conclusion that this was the most intolerant Bill ever brought into this House. But when they come to this House these lions roar like sucking doves. Taking the tone of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen generally, the tone in this House is in marked contrast with the frenzy heard outside, and I trust that when we come to the Committee stage of this Bill reasonable consideration will be given to the proposals which the Government have made.
Before I go further into the question of the Bill, may I ask the House to remember some of the facts which belong to this controversy. First of all, there is the great fact which has been referred to today—the existence of the voluntary schools; and though this seems to be a truism, yet if it were not for that great fact we might deal with education in a very different manner to that in which it is proposed to deal with it now. But we have the fact that not only are the voluntary schools in existence, but they have been growing ever since 1870, nay, they have doubled since that time, and yet throughout these years they have had to compete with the rate-aided schools of the country. It may be said that these schools increased in number, because people wished to avoid the School Board rate, and I will not deny that this may be one reason for their growth, but that is not the only reason, because it is incredible that when you are able to be economical at your neighbour's expense, you should go to the trouble of spending money, and incurring, it may be, obloquy in order to add to the number of voluntary schools. I believe that one great reason for the increase of voluntary schools is summed up in one short word "faith." It is because people believe in the principles in which they have been brought up that these schools have increased and multiplied. We saw 1123 a notable example of that in that very impressive speech at the close of yesterday's sitting from the hon. Member for East Mayo. Roman Catholics have had to make great sacrifices—greater sacrifices even than we have made, but they make them because they believe in the principles which are embodied in their schools. I claim that hon. Gentlemen should give us in the English Church credit for convictions as deep as those which belong to the Roman Church.
That is one fact, but there is another fact that we must recoginse. Some people prefer undenominational schools, just as some prefer denominational schools, and, that being so, it is quite right that the Government in this Bill should recognise that these schools should be put upon an equality; but there is another fact that has not been sufficiently considered, I mean the limitation of the possibilites of the improvement of rural education. It is not true to say that the rural schools of England are, generally speaking, bad schools; many of them are excellent, and have turned out young men and young women who have been able to attain to good positions in life, young men and young women whoso whole training was in these village schools. One hon. Member opposite spoke of the educational condition of our peasants being worse than that of any peasants in Westean Europe, but we all know that that is merely a figure of speech. The rural schools of this country are doing useful, and invaluable work. It is not easy work and it is done at a great sacrifice. But whatever system is established you can never make the rural schools of England equal to the great schools of which you are so proud in the towns. You cannot expect to obtain the same standard of education in them as you obtain in the large urban populations. What follows I Simply this, that you must leave the management of these schools to the men who understand their limitations. They can be managed by the voluntary school managers, and the Government propose that, in addition, there shall be certain persons nominated by the county authorities who shall take care that the efficiency of the schools shall be as high as it possibly can be. I should like hon. Members to justify some of their statements. We 1124 have been told that this is a Bill for placing schools under the control of Churchmen. No more extraordinary statement could be imagined. No doubt, there are village schools under the control of the clergy for the simple reason that they are, very often, the only people in the neighbourhood who take any interest in education. But now, for the first time, outside people are to be brought in to help the clergy, and yet the opponents of the Bill, shutting their eyes to this fact, declare that it will increase clerical control. Clerical control cannot be increased by bringing in people from outside.
Then there are the deficiences in the schools which we are all anxious to have supplied. But the money must be paid by somebody. People sometimes talk as though there was an unlimited fund in the clouds from which the money is to come pouring down in a golden shower for the purposes of education. There are only three means of paying for these schools—taxes, rates, and voluntary subscriptions. We shall still have to pay a good deal in voluntary subscriptions, but the schools must be mainly supported out of either the rates or the taxes. Personally, I should have thought it would have been a good plan for the Government to have contributed more largely from the taxes than they have done. It is clear something will have to come out of the taxes—the grants, for instance—but a great deal of the support of these schools, voluntary and undenominational, will come out of the rates. I do not hesitate to say that this will be a very heavy burden on the rates. I believe the hon. and gallant Member for the Chelmsford Division intends to vote against the Bill because his constituents cannot bear any addition to the rates. I would remind him, however, that if he were to throw out this Bill—which happily he cannot do by his single vote—he would find himself in a very uncomfortable position, because in time to come, if those schools ceased to exist and a system of universal School Boards were established, the people in Essex would find their rates much more seriously increased.
I come now to the objections which have been raised. It has been objected that there is no control, or that there is 1125 less control than before. One outside man may not be much, but, at any rate, if he cannot make his vote prevail he can make his speech to be heard. I have sat on a good many public Boards, and I have always found that two or three men, though in a hopeless minority can make it exceedingly unpleasant and very disagreeable for the majority to go against them. I am far from believing that the influence of people from outside can be measured merely by their number. The mere fact of the existence of an outside element will make the Managing Committees at any rate cautious as to how they trample on the liberty of the subject—which many hon. Members appear to imagine they will attempt to do. That the Bill will increase the rates is an unfortunate but undeniable fact. But if the Government were induced to withdraw the Bill, and the voluntary schools ceased to exist, the increase of the rates would be, as I have already said, considerably higher.
Another, and perhaps more difficult subject is the Noncomformist religious grievance. No doubt there is a grievance in parishes where the only school is a voluntary school. How can the matter be arranged? I want Members to come forward with some plan that can be discussed. It would not remedy that grievance to substitute another for it. If, instead of the grievance to the Noncomformist conscience, you were to substitute a grievance to the Church conscience, the matter would not be bettered, and to make these Church schools into schools offensive to the conscientious convictions of Churchmen would be simply to substitute one grievance for another. There is one suggestion I would respectfully submit; I do not know whether it has the least chance of being accepted. There are precedents for what I may call outside facilities—that is to say, allowing parents, who do not conscientiously agree with the religious teaching given in the school, to have their children taught outside the school in religious matters. Any arrangement of that kind, if acceptable to Nonconformists, I should be perfectly willing to consider. I am told that that is the case also in Ireland, under a regulation of the Commissioners of National Education. And there is also a provision to the same effect in the regulations of the Liverpool School Board. As to facilities for religious instruction 1126 inside the schools, that was the proposal of the Bill of 1896, but when I interrupted the hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs just now he did not appear to approve of it at all, and said it would not solve any of the difficulties.
I mention these things to show that the attitude in which I approach the question is not the irreconcilable attitude so often attributed to Members of the Church of England. I have always said, and I think Churchmen generally have said, that what we ask in this matter is no favour, but fair treatment. We ask that the doctrines in which we believe shall be taught as freely, and with as little hindrance or let, as the doctrines of any other denomination. It is not always remembered that in large urban School Board districts members of the Church of England suffer from a religious disability, which this Bill, excellent though it is in many respects, does nothing to remove. It will still be, the fact that in many urban districts and in some rural districts, however deeply convinced a man may be of the doctrines of the Church of England, or of the Church of Rome, or of any other Church or religious body, he can send his children only to a school in which it is forbidden by law to give those children the definite religious instruction the parent desires. That is a grievous religious disability. We are told that the parents do not care. How do you know they do not care? But supposing there is even only one man in a district who does care, why should he be compelled to send his child to a school in which the religious instruction is of a kind of which he entirely disapproves?
§ MR. TALBOT
The right hon. Gentle man must not go away with that delusion. That is not the fact. There are urban districts in which it is impossible to find a school other than a board school, in which the Cowper Temple Clause prevents religious instruction in any dogmatic form.
1127 I come now to the advantages of the Bill. After many anxious years I am deeply grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has done. I know how difficult this matter is. I know the many thorny questions which surround it, and I know that it is one of those subjects in regard to which it is impossible for men, however anxious they may be to agree, to come to exactly similar conclusions. I do not say that this is the Bill I should have introduced if I had had the framing of it, but I do say that for the first time we have provided here a framework which may hereafter be most adequately filled up. You have the single authority; you have a recognition of the duty of the State to provide secondary education. I do not say that much is done for secondary education. After urging for so many years the absolute necessity of putting secondary education on a firmer basis, we are now going to pass a Bill the chief result of which will be to better primary education. But I shall not quarrel with the Government on that account, because I see in this Bill the groundwork on which a great deal may be done hereafter for secondary education. After listening to the whole of this debate, I have come to the conclusion that the mind of this House is earnestly set upon the development of secondary instruction. We are dealing with the popular institutions of the country, elected by the voice of the people. I have no fear but that, the mind of the country being so earnestly set on the development of secondary instruction, the County Councils and the Borough Councils will fairly represent the view of this House and will carry out that instruction in a very thorough manner. I am also gratified with the Bill because it seems to me to carry out the true principles of religious liberty. I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite take a precisely opposite view, but I believe that in this measure we have for the first time a frank recognition of the great work that has been done for education by the religious bodies of this country, and I believe this is a proper safeguard for putting upon the best possible basis our secular education. And, lastly, it seems to be a recognition of that great work of education which 1128 has been carried on now for nearly a century in this land, with many imperfections and hindrances, but with a growing devotion and determination.
§ (4.50.) MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
This debate, Sir, has lasted so many days, and been illustrated on both sides of the House by speeches of such exceptional ability, and, perhaps I may add, such unusual length, that it would be unpardonable in me or in any one else at this stage to trespass for more than a very few moments on the attention of the House. I think we may be said to have reached a point at which it would be impossible for the wit of man to contribute a new idea to this discussion; and I shall not attempt anything more ambitious than, without in any way examining minutely the provisions of the Bill, to restate as clearly as I can two or three points which in my judgment justify our opposition to the Second Beading. The first and the main question, as I think has been recognised by the great majority of speakers upon both sides of the House, is this—Is this a good Education Bill? Is it, in other words, calculated to enlarge the area, to raise the standard, to increase the fruitfulness of our national system of teaching? All other questions beside that are subsidiary and subordinate.
There has been nothing more remarkable in this debate than the testimony which almost every speech has afforded to the deep and growing consciousness of men of all creeds and schools, of every variety of political complexion, that the most formidable danger which now menaces not only our industrial supremacy—for I agree with the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich that we must look above and beyond that—but in the largest and highest sense menaces our very national existence, is the relative ignorance of our people. And for my part I say frankly and at once that, if I could persuade myself that this Bill or any measure, proceeding from any quarter, was adapted to remove or diminish that peril, I should be prepared to close my eyes to a great many things to which I should otherwise take exception, to shut the door upon pure logic, and to throw 1129 abstract symmetry out of the window. I There is another aspect of the matter which cannot be ignored, and that is—How does the Bill affect our system of local government? Does it substitute unity for multiplicity, as has been claimed for it? Does it give us co-ordination where at present we have anarchy? Does it tend to put administrative energy where you have now administrative slackness? And in particular, as regards the local administration of our educational affairs, is it likely to secure for us the men best equipped by capacity and experience, with the least amount of friction, for the actual daily working of the system, the stimulus of local interest, and, above all—and what is more important than all—the safeguard of popular control and popular responsibility?
These are the tests which I propose very briefly to apply to the provisions of the Bill. I start with the admission which has been made, I think, from both sides of the House, by almost every speaker who has taken part in the debate, that, while our educational system is imperfect and inadequate in almost all its parts, the point where the deficiency is most patent, and where, therefore, the need for reform is most urgent, is in what is commonly called secondary education. Now, how does the Bill deal with secondary education? Let the House remember that in the first place, under the guise of secondary or higher education—I do not think the word "secondary" is used in the Bill—the Bill very considerably enlarges the area which will have to be dealt with by the new authority, because it annexes to secondary education areas which at present belong to the province of elementary education. For instance, after this Bill is passed, no child over fifteen years of age will be allowed to be educated in an elementary school at all.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman's authority is for saying that that is the present law. I am quite aware that I gave an opinion to the London 1130 School Board as to what was the safest course for them to adopt, but there can be no question what the practice has been, and that over large parts of England, in London, and in almost all our big towns, numbers of children over fifteen years of age have studied in the elementary schools. The practice, indeed, has been sanctioned by the Department. Again, all the higher grade and evening continuation schools—and I suppose the right hon. Gentleman will again tell me that this is the existing law—which at present are carried on by the School Boards are in future to become part of the work of secondary instruction. We learnt from the Vice President—not from the Bill—that the whole provision for the training of teachers, pupil teachers as well as adult teachers, is also in future to be regarded as part of secondary education, and will have to be met out of the resources that are at the disposal of the local authority for that purpose. Therefore, I am justified in saying that the new authority, out of the twopenny rate and the whisky money, will have to cover a much wider area than at present. So much will have to be subtracted from the area of elementary education; and therefore you are largely increasing the burden on the secondary authority. That being so, how does the Bill equip and empower the authority to deal with this enlarged burden of responsibility?
In the first place, we know that the provisions of the Bill are permissive, and not compulsory. Will those permissive powers be used? We have been taunted, some of us on this side of the House who have expressed scepticism upon that subject, with distrust of the local authorities and popular government. So far as I know my own mind, nothing is more alien to me than suspicion or distrust of local authorities. I think the County Councils, most of them, in the work they have done under the Technical Instruction Act, with hampered powers and limited resources, have contributed, on the whole, very sensibly to the improvement of the state of things which previously prevailed. It is all very well to talk about trusting the local authority; but you must have regard to human nature as we know it, and above all to human nature as it is presented by the human being when he 1131 has for the time to he regarded as mainly, if not entirely, a ratepaying instrument. That is the person you have got to consider on these matters. You have to consider, also, the patent fact that there are different degrees of temperature as regards educational zeal and interest in different districts of the country.
And, further, what is more important than all when you are considering whether these powers are going to be used or not, you have to bear in mind the fact which was brought out very forcibly by my hon. friend the Member for Berwick, that, at the same time and by the very same measure by which you are giving to this local authority a permissive power to deal with secondary education in an enlarged sense, you are clothing it with an absolute duty to make provision for primary education and to add to the rates to the extent to which it may be necessary to do so for the purpose of maintaining the so-called voluntary schools. It stands to reason that the compulsory duty of adding largely to the rates for the purposes of elementary education, so far as it goes, will operate, not as an incentive, but precisely in the opposite direction when the question arises whether, and how far, they shall exercise their permissive powers to use the rates for secondary education. And then, finally, upon this point, even supposing you have the County Councils, in the more enlightened parts of the country, prepared to take over this additional burden, and to spend the whole resources which Parliament has placed at its disposal for the purpose, what a miserably inadequate provision this Bill makes. ["No."] I think so. You who taunt us with our distrust of local authorities have so little confidence in them that you limit their powers to a twopenny rate for the purpose which we all admit to be the most urgent educational purpose of the country. I see that only yesterday, at a meeting of the County Councils Association which appears to have expressed a general academic approval of this Bill, a resolution was moved to omit the twopenny rate, the result of which would be that the County Councils would be left with the whisky money and nothing else to 1132 discharge their additional duties in regard to secondary education. I am answering my own question—Is this a good education Bill? Starting with the admission, as everybody starts, that secondary education is the most urgent of our educational problems, you will have, if this Bill passes into law, an extended area for the authority, an increased burden for the authority to carry, and yet you will have an authority clothed with no duty, and with diminished incentives, and inadequate resources.
Although these powers are permissive as regards secondary education, the authority is placed under a duty by the Bill to provide elementary education. I hope that is so. I must assume after what the Vice President said that it is. If it is I cannot understand why the express provision to that effect under the Act of 1870 is proposed to be repealed.
§ THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE COMMITTEE OF COUNCIL ON EDUCATION (Sir JOHN GORST, Cambridge University)
The duty is to remain.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I am very glad to hear that. I will assume that the authority is clothed with the absolute duty which exists at present to make adequate provision for elementary education. I cannot conceive that the Government ever intended that it should be taken away. I am not going to be led astray into what I regard as purely an academic controversy as to the relative merits and demerits of what, in the barbarous jargon of the hour, is called an ad hoc authority. I do not think it is a practical question. English education, being what it is, and I having to accept existing facts, I look upon that controversy as so much wasted breath. But I do regret more than words can express that the Government, in the ostensible pursuit of what I agree to be a high educational ideal—the creation of a single authority—proposes a plan which, on the one hand, for the reasons I have already given, will impair the usefulness of the present authorities for the purposes of secondary education, and on the other hand will annihilate 1133 the existence of the present authorities which are doing the best work in the country for elementary education. To start in your pursuit of a single authority by crippling one set of authorities and destroying another is not a very hopeful way of commencing the journey. I speak in this matter not as a blind and uncompromising advocate of School Boards. I am not by any means wedded on a priori grounds or from the teaching of experience to the School Board system. I think that over many parts of the country, as those who are familiar with the facts know, the School Board system has not been a success, not from any fault on the part of the persons concerned, but because the areas are too restricted, the possible resources at the disposal of the School Board are too insignificant; and when you have to contend with districts of educational apathy and lethargy, it is not to be wondered that the output is very unsatisfactory. But in the large towns I do not think it is disputed by any one acquainted with the facts that the School Boards have done and are doing admirable educational work. The Vice-President admitted that himself the other day. The only complaint which he brought against the School Boards of the large towns was that some of their schools are too big, that there are too many children in some of the schools, that the classes are too large, and that the education is thereby rendered inefficient. That may be the case here and there, but are you going to have a duplication of these schools, with the cost of erecting fresh buildings and equipping them and so forth, when you are taking over at the expense of the rates the Voluntary Schools. It is quite true that the Government have shrunk from an immediate and general massacre of School Boards. They are to live on but under what conditions? They are to live on with a noose round their necks, which a casual majority at a Town Council election, possibly obtained on some different issue, may at any moment tighten with fatal consequences. For the first time in our municipal history you will have introduced into the County Council and Town Council elections the question of the 1134 maintenance or non-maintenance of the School Board, associated as it will be with a whole cluster of religious and sectarian controversies from which municipal politics have hitherto been happily free. I say, reviewing these facts, it would have been far better to delay the creation of your one authority, to preserve the existence of these large and efficient School Boards, and to facilitate by a sufficiently elastic provision in the Bill the establishment of what I may call a concordat between School Boards on the one side and Town and County Councils on the other, by means of which they would have jointly undertaken by a regular and co-ordinate system to work elementary and higher education. That would have been a wise and statesmanlike way of dealing with the problem.
But have you got one authority? You are destroying one set of authorities and crippling another. What are you putting in their place? Where is the single authority? In Clauses 6 and 7 of the Bill there is a distinction between control on one side and management on the other. Where control ends and management begins, or where management ends and control begins, is one of the problems that will have to be worked out by those who administer the Act. But the confusion reaches a climax in the eighth clause dealing with denominational schools. Let me ask the House to realise the condition of things under that clause. You have one Committee which controls but does not manage; another Committee which manages but does not control; you have above them both the Board of Education, which, whenever they differ, is to determine which is in the right; and, lastly, you have the County Council, whose sole function in the matter is to pay the bill and levy the rate. Committee one, Committee two, Board of Education, County Council—that is your one authority! I do not think that the blessed words unity and simplicity have over been more taken in vain than by the authors of the Bill in this series of simulacra presented to us as a single authority.
I come now in the natural order to say a word about the denominational schools. I have never myself taken an extreme or fanatical attitude in relation I to this question. Some words of mine, 1135 uttered in 1896, have been quoted; but since 1896 many events have occurred. We used to hear a great deal then about the intolerable strain upon denominational schools. Parliament has been spending half its time since then in relieving that strain at the expense of the taxpayers. It was an essential feature of the arrangement under which the denominational schools became part of our national system that there should be provided from local sources an equivalent contribution to that made by the State. Since 1896 you have abolished the 17s. 6d. limit, which was a kind of safeguard for the arrangement; next you have exempted the denominational schools from local rates; further, you have subsidised them by an aid grant of £700,000 a year; and, finally, by the ingenious arrangement of the block grant, you have given to them, and to some of the worst of them, a subsidy in addition to that which they already enjoy. In all these four ways since 1896 the strain on voluntary schools has been relieved at the expense of the State. I cannot admit that their claim is so strong as it was five years ago. I am one of those who admit reluctantly, but as a practical man, that the denominational schools are an integral and indispensable part of our national system. You cannot get rid of them; you cannot by any practical means find a substitute for them. They educate at present 3,000,000 of our school population, and whether the motive be, as some people suppose, pure zeal on the part of the parents for Anglican principles, or, as I am somewhat inclined to suspect, although, perhaps I may be cynical, a desire to avoid the imposition of a compulsory rate—whatever be the true reason, there is no doubt that these schools over a large part of the country have been hitherto the chosen schools of the people.
Let us start with that, and let us see what is the right way to deal with denominational schools. No one in this matter is entitled to stand on the platform of abstract principle. There are only two logical positions in relation to this side of the question. One is the position of those who hold that it is the sole duty of the State to provide secular instruction and that the religious instruction of the children ought to be 1136 left to their parents. There is another position which is equally logical. It is the position which I understand to be the one taken by the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich. It is that education, unless it is accompanied by dogmatic teaching, is not education worthy the name—not a thing which the State ought to supply, or, at any rate, not a thing which the State ought to compel a parent on behalf of his children to receive, and that therefore the moment you have a compulsory law the parent has a correlative right to have his children taught at the expense of the State, not only secular instruction, but his own religion or substitute for religion, as the case may be. According to the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich the child who is born an Anglican is to remain an Anglican still; and the child who is born an Agnostic is to remain an Agnostic still; and all this is to be done at the cost of the State. That is a logical position, but it is a position which shows a surprising contempt for the actual realities of human nature and English life. For what is the ideal school of the noble Lord? It is a school in which you gather together children who come from all kinds of homes I and all sorts of parents, and who are taught during the greater part of the day side by side in various branches of secular instruction. But the hour strikes for religious teaching, and what happens then? The children are all I sorted out into separate theological flocks, and each flock is herded off into a little ecclesiastical pen of its own, there to be grounded and confirmed at the cost; of the State in the doctrines, or it may be in the negations, which are dear to its parents. The noble Lord would provide for the man who has no faith, as well as for those who have a superabundance of faith, and he asks all I the sects to join in a concordat. These bodies which now spend so much time—I will not say in anathematising one another, for anathemas are not in fashion—but in trying to convert one another's adherents, are to join in one confederacy that the religion of the children of the nation shall be stereotyped in the parental status quo. The noble Lord rightly calls this an ideal; for anything more remote from the practical good sense of the 1137 country, notwithstanding the marvellous magic and power with which the ideal was described, has never been presented to the House.
These, than, are the two logical positions. But in this country we have adopted neither. In 1870 we adopted a compromise, which has been observed ever since. On the one side you have the denominational schools which are subsidised by the State, subject to the conscience clause, and on the understanding—which has since been set aside—that they shall provide a local equivalent to the State's contribution. On the other side you have the Board Schools supported out of the rates, where it is left to the local authority to say whether the teaching shall be purely secular or secular and religious; and in the latter case, the formularies of no particular sect are to be taught. That is a compromise, and on the whole it has worked fairly well. The Anglican ratepayer has gone on paying rates, part of which was spent on religious teaching which bethought inadequate. The Nonconformist taxpayer has gone on paying taxes, though they have gone to subsidise Anglican and Roman doctrine in the voluntary schools. It is an illogical position; and yet, that it has worked on the whole fairly well makes it obvious that in a case of such delicate equilibrium, which might be so easily disturbed, it was the duty of the Government, before coming forward with fresh proposals, to consult both sides to the contract, and not, as they have done, to leave one side entirely out in the cold, and to accept almost verbatim et literatim every suggestion which has been made by the other. Why must the denominational schools be helped? As far as I make the admission that they must—though I recognise the energy and zeal and self-denial which the clergy of the Church of England have shown in the maintenance of these schools—it is not from any feeling that it is due to the subscribers of the schools. They no longer pay that which was the condition and basis of the original arrangement—namely, a local equivalent to the State contribution; and during recent years they have, as I have shown, received abundant additional contributions from the State. The schools must be helped, not 1138 because the subscribers have a grievance, but because the schools themselves are inefficient. It is purely from an educational point of view that I gladly acquiesce in whatever additional contribution is necessary. But if you give additional help on that ground only, it must be on two conditions, neither of which is observed in this Bill. In the first place, you must secure that the additional money, whether derived from rates or taxes, goes exclusively and entirely to increasing the efficiency of the schools. I find no safeguard in the Bill that this additional subvention which is to come out of the rates will not to a considerable extent go in relief of existing subscriptions. It is quite true that the subscribers are to keep the schools in repair.
§ MR. ASQUITH
But they are not the only people who pay the new rate. If the new rate only came out of the pockets of the subscribers to the schools, it would be a very unproductive source of revenue. All that the subscribers, qua subscribers, have to do is to keep the fabric in repair; and if they do not, heaven knows, at any rate, I don't, and I cannot find anyone who can tell me, what will be the consequences. They have nothing beyond this academic and paper obligation to keep the fabrics in repair. I do not want to argue in a spirit hostile to the subscribers, but does the Bill provide for the increase of the efficiency of these schools? It depends entirely upon the amount which is raised by the rate, because that is the only new source of revenue which the Bill provides. Is that rate likely to be a popular rate? In the districts where the schools are most backward, where the teachers are ill-paid and the apparatus is out of date, and all the educational appliances are lacking, are you going to extract from the ratepayers a sum sufficient to bring those schools up to the School Board standard? That is the crux of the whole question. It is not the least use appearing to give on paper this additional support to the denominational schools unless you can show at the same time that you are 1139 providing that which is the only justification for any grant at all, namely, increased efficiency. I see no such security in the Bill. There is another condition of equal importance on which we are entitled to insist, and not from the point of view of education merely, but also from the point of view of the principles which underlie our system of local government. The anomaly, which has never yet been justified, of public funds being managed by private persons is one that ought to be put an end to. I admit that we have not been logical in this matter, and that the anomaly has existed to a certain extent ever since the Education Act was passed; but we have always drawn a broad line of distinction between the administration of funds which come from the public Exchequer and those which are derived from the local rates. In this case, for the first time, the Government resort to the rates; and they cannot produce a single case in which, in regard to a fund derived from the rates, the ratepayers have not the commanding and controlling voice in its administration. I admit as a corollary that, if the denominational schools are taken over, the denominational teaching must go on. But when once that is safeguarded, as it should be, I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite—and I should like to ask the two Houses of Convocation if we could come face to face with them—why should they object to representative authority and control? Except as regards the interest upon the capital expenditure incurred in building and fitting the school, and the expense of the annnal repairs, the subscribers of the schools will have no pecuniary liability of any kind. The whole cost of the school, subject to whatever subscriptions may still be received, will be defrayed out of public funds, imperial or local. In a vast number of rural parishes where there is only a single school you will have a school, financed in that way, to which the parents are compelled to send their children, and in which the teachers will, in nine cases out of ten, belong to one religious denomination That is the state of things existing now. And all this Bill does, having provided for these schools this large additional reservoir in I he rates, is to give a permissive 1140 power to the local authority to appoint a number not exceeding a third to the managing body.
My right hon. friend who has just sat down said that a small, determined, pertinacious minority might offer a great deal of opposition to the course of business, and we are, not without examples inside and outside the House that this is so; but what a charming prospect does this offer for the management of the schools! The voice of the ratepayers who will contribute nine-tenths, and in some instances ninety-nine-hundredths, of the cost is to make itself felt through the obstructive action of an articulate, noisy minority. That is all the security for popular control the Bill offers. It is idle to tell me, as I have heard it stated, that, as the management is subject to the control of the Committee, and the Committee is nominated by the County Council, and the County Council is responsible to the ratepayers, ergo—that is the argument—the management is responsible to the ratepayers. The managing body is removed by three degrees from the people who contribute the funds. The truth is, the framers of this Bill have burned a pinch of academic incense at the altar of popular control, while they leave the management in the hands of a body with no representative authority and no popular responsibility. That, from the Liberal point of view, is the fatal vice of the Bill. I ask the House to reject it, because, in my judgment, for the reasons I have given, it offers no real prospect of educational improvement, it aggravates and extends the area of sectarian animosities, and it sets at defiance the fundamental principles of democratic government.
§ (5.32.) MR. WALTER PALMER (Salisbury)
My reason for venturing to address the House on the important subject of education is that I am one of those who, in the absence in the past of any scheme dealing with higher education, have devoted themselves, not only theoretically but practically, to what I consider to be the solution of some of the difficulties of this complex question. But, Sir, it is not alone from the point of view of higher education that I approach this question. Having 1141 been for many years a voluntary school manager, and having also seen a great deal of School Board elections, I regard it as a matter of the highest gratification that the Government have introduced what, in my estimation, is a great and comprehensive measure. Having said that, it follows that I do not agree with a great deal of what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It may not be impolite on my part here to say that, although I listened attentively to his speech, there was to my mind nothing new, except in one respect, in the shape of argument. Every argument which he adduced had already been fully discussed, and every statement made has in my opinion been most completely and satisfactorily met on our side of the House; the only exception being the subtle legal point regarding the age limit, a matter with which I do not feel myself competent to deal, but which can easily be attended to during Committee stage.
I think it will generally be granted that the Government has a much more difficult task than that which existed in 1870. They have still to face the same antagonism on the part of what I may, perhaps, call the non-Church party against any system based on religious views. They have to traverse the same ground as in 1870 with regard to elementary education, and as the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire remarked the other day, the range now extends to the border land of our Universities. More than that, they have to remember this fact that, taking the work done in the last ten years in the way of higher education, the larger part by far has been done by voluntary enterprise, and that voluntary effort has been backed up by £400,000 a year, or half the money which passes through the hands of technical committees. But the most difficult part that they will have to encounter is that which forms the main argument of cur opponents, which I gather to be this, that because School Boards only dealing with half the elementary education have done such excellent work in the past, therefore a system based upon direct election is the proper way of dealing with the whole subject. I entirely disagree with that view, and I shall endeavour to give 1142 one or two reasons why I think the system of direct election is not the best course we can pursue. Surely the proper co-ordination of education is a matter far too serious and far too difficult to be properly grasped by a popular electorate, who have not the time nor the leisure to understand the problems at stake. Elementary education under codes and rules laid down by the Board of Education is one thing, but when we come to the subject of higher education, which, as the Vice-President so ably pointed out the other day, must be worked in accordance with the necessities and needs of the different districts of the country, we are dealing with an entirely different matter. Then we have to remember that a very large proportion of the higher education of this country is the result of that voluntary effort which is so often the root of enterprise in this country. And as Chairman of the Council of a college, built up by individual effort, which has 1,100 students on its register, and on whose Council are representatives of no less than five County Councils, I claim to regard the whole subject from a broad point of view. It is because of that experience which I have had that I venture to give the Government my support.
First of all, the scheme for placing education under the existing local authorities appears to me to be the only possible way of meeting all the different social, religious, and economic difficulties which we have to meet, and which vary so much in different parts of the country. It has been sufficiently well pointed out during the debate how that, under County Councils as the rating authority, we shall have systematic control over expenditure. They are popularly elected and represent all sections, thought, and interests. The Technical Committees of the County Councils have considerable experience, and to a very large extent the machinery necessary for the purpose. Then I wish to mention this: many of the members of County Councils, in addition to the work and experience they have had as members of the Technical Committees, are managers of elementary schools—voluntary and board. These Technical Committees are now often guided by their secretaries, some of 1143 them most talented men, and have most nobly supported the many institutions throughout the country, the result of voluntary enterprise, and I therefore claim that from the point of view of such institutions as that with which I am connected, the new authority is only a fair and proper legal recognition of interests proved to be good by experience. But if we had a system of direct election to control the various secondary and technical institutions which have been built up by voluntary effort throughout the country, and had to depend on the result of popular election, I think there would be created a feeling of unrest and uncertainty little short of calamitous. From the point of view of such institutions as that to which I belong, I consider, if any support we were to receive from the public was to be subject to the fluctuations of popular sentiment, it would be absolutely impossible to conduct the course of education on settled and permanent lines. If we had to follow the whims and fancies of some newly elected popular body, it might constitute an entire change in the system successfully pursued for the last ten years. But, Sir, not the least valuable part of the Government scheme, is that which relates to the power of co-option. Neither School Boards nor County Councils, at the present moment, always find those amongst themselves who are known in each district to be best acquainted with educational subjects. Those individuals to whom I refer very largely spend their time and energies in the councils of educational institutions, where they are free from the annoyance, irritation, and sometimes farce of the so-called popular election. The presence of representatives of such institutions on these co-opted bodies—heads of colleges, together with the pick of the educationists of the district, men with calm dispassionate minds who are not attracted by electioneering cries, and the best members of existing School Boards and other bodies—will, I think, ensure continuity of work, and interest, and enthusiasm.
Another point to which I would like to refer is the fact that this co-option would react on the County Councils, for when the County Councils had selected those whom they consider superior, or 1144 who have more technical knowledge than themselves, how will they then be able to resist the suggestions they make, Technical Committees are to a large extent now guided almost entirely by secretaries to whom generally is due the amount of work which has already been achieved during the last ten years, but the principle of co-option here should act as a counterpoise to the too energetic; and in the reverse case could act as a stimulus. We hear a great deal at the present time of the question of efficiency, and I maintain that in no way can we better gain that efficiency than by a scheme of decentralisation. This is one of the main principles of this Bill. Individual initiative is the root of enterprise, and the method of decentralisation put forward in this Bill will be directly stimulating those institutions that have built up so much of the education which this country enjoys. From my own experience I say—and I believe the same applies to every county—that a latent energy exists in our counties which only requires arousing under this scheme of proposed Committees. But I venture to maintain that we should never secure the services of the most efficient advisers of those counties under the method of what is called by hon. Gentlemen opposite popular ad hoc election.
There is one question of particular importance which I should like to mention in connection with the question of decentralisation, and which renders it necessary that County Councils should act together as proposed by the Bill. Agriculture is still our largest industry, and I think we all are agreed that rural education ought to be entirely re organised to meet the requirements of the country. Well, Sir, I suggest that the way to make a workman love his work is to make him understand it, and that is the principle at the bottom of the Bill of 1899 which is associated with the name of the hon. and learnerd Member for South Shields, called the "Half-Timers Bill." The half-time theory contained a sound principle which, however, was never operative because of the practical difficulties between teachers and the employers. Again, Sir, the Code of 1900, suggesting a curriculum that should be carried out in country schools, 1145 that the education might be adapted to rural life, is only in use in a few places, but the theory is extremely good. But we want something more than that. We need a real system dealing with the question of rural education from elementary education upwards. And I hope that during the progress of the debate the Minister of Agriculture will give us some indication of what in his opinion is the best mode of dealing with that question. I do not know whet her many Members have read that series of admirable publications edited by Mr. Sadler, head of the Special Enquiries Department of the Board of Education, which have kept us alive to what other nations are doing. It may not be too much to hope that the County Councils under this Bill may be able to do something to mitigate the evil which so largely affects the question of maintaining our rural population on the laud. The present Bill opens up new hopes and new possibility. I venture to think the country is weary of the continual religious wrangle of which we have heard so much in this House and which now too often forms the motive at School Board elections. When the upholders of our School Board system have learnt to throw aside the superstition by which they regard the School Boards as the only perfect system, we shall have freed education from the everlasting religious controversy, and each county will be able to move forward on lines of permanent progress. There is only one more observation. I should like to make. Is not higher education—in a certain sense—much more important than elementary? A boy who merely learns to read and write, may remain a labourer all his life and often derives no real benefit from what he has learnt. But the system which creates a selection of the more intelligent to learn that which by its use and application increases the trade and prosperity of the country, is one which necessitates the employment within its counsels of the most calm and energetic educationists of the day. This, I maintain, is impossible, or at least improbable, under the system of ad hoc election.
A well-known educational authority, in one of the publications presented to this House, remarks—Education is not a thing in itself but one aspect of modern life and one of the many closely related expressions of national energy and intention.1146 The Bill before us, which contains principles initiated in 1870—and which is founded to a great extent on the report of the Commission presided over by the right hon. Member for Aberdeen, and supported by statements from the highest authorities who have written for years past on education—I consider will enable the country to develop this national energy, and that I maintain is impossible under proposals of the Opposition. Who does not feel that the work of the last thirty years is but the dawn of this great subject? All parties alike are alive to the fact that the maintenance of our existence, as a great industrial nation, in the future must depend on the intelligence of all the units which form the whole. I think the proposals of the Government go far to form the future framework on which a solid structure can be built to meet the varied requirements of our educational progress, and I shall support the Bill with my heartiest sympathy because I consider it to be a measure of far-reaching and beneficial importance.
§ (5.55.) MR. GEORGE WHITE (Norfolk, N.W.)
I am not ashamed to confess to this House that I am one of those militant Nonconformists who have been referred to by the right hon. Member for the Oxford University, who offered the suggestion that we, or some of us, expressed sentiments outside this House that we were afraid to utter inside. It has not been from want of disposition, but from want of opportunity, that those sentiments have not been expressed in the House earlier. Yet I want it to be understood that I desire to approach this question quite as much as an educationist as a Nonconformist. I have been connected with board school work and with the work of technical education practically from the foundation of those two institutions, and upon that I claim to have some practical knowledge of the subject. Therefore, if I first address myself to the Nonconformist aspect of this question, it will not be because I desire to put in the second place the educational aspect, but because I believe there is a disposition on the part of the House to treat this religious question as of little account, as being advocated by a small minority in the country. Now, 1147 there were two speeches which certainly merit the attention of those who occupy the position I profess to occupy. One was the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich—a speech that has been universally admired in this House for its frankness and sincerity, and for the very high tone which it imparted to the debate. The noble Lord at least gave us credit for having conscientious convictions which are not to be thrust aside by a mere expression of words, but the difficulty is that he seems altogether to ignore the great gulf which lies between his view and that which we, as Nonconformists, take. He treats the whole matter on the basis of Church and State, whilst we, in the matter of religion, have to say "hands off." And so long as that gulf lies between us, it is impossible for him to get the alliance he seeks, however desirable it may be. The other speech was the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo—hard, practical, and logical. I am not going to dispute for a moment the logical position he put before the House. I am afraid, as the right hon. Gentleman below me said just now, we are not in this House governed by logic, and therefore we cannot debate this question on logical grounds. The hon. Member approached this question from the point of view of sympathy with his Church, and I frankly admit I have great sympathy with the position in which the Romanist is placed in this House, and I would gladly support anything to mitigate the sadness of that position. But I do not think the hon. Gentleman did us credit in supposing that we are asking for ourselves that which we are not prepared to give to others; neither did he give us credit for our part in trying to give the Church in which he believes those rights which we claim. With regard to the attack he made on the hon. Member for the Louth Division, it is neither my right nor my privilege to defend that hon. Gentleman; but the Church to which I belong takes nothing from the State by way of payment for education, and is prepared to accept nothing for any obligation. When we took up the position of declining to pay this rate, we were taunted with inconsistency, because we paid in taxes for the teaching of the same doctrines that we now disclaim our right to pay for in rates. There is no logical answer to that 1148 except that the compromise of 1870 was accepted not because it was absolutely approved by Nonconformists, but in order not to hinder the cause of education throughout the country generally. That compromise was agreed to, rather than hinder the cause of education. But the situation then was very different from that of today. Those who claimed support from the State for the teaching in their schools were themselves very liberal supporters of those institutions—much more so than is now the case. Their liabilities have been whittled down year by year, and we feel that the time has come to make a strong and determined protest against any further legislation on those lines. At that time, about one-third of the cost of maintenance came from voluntary subscriptions; now the whole of that cost is to come out of public funds. Therefore, though it may not be absolutely logical, we say that it is one of those positions which we are driven to take because of the extreme action of those who attempt to impose on public funds the whole of the maintenance of their schools. We believe that the State has no right to teach religion, and cannot do so without injury to liberty and freedom of conscience. That is the general position we take on this education question.
Now let me deal with the matter from an educational point of view, and show how the various parts of the Bill touch the question of conscience to which I have referred. I think I shall carry the House with me in four propositions as to the needs of the nation at the present moment—firstly, a want of a general and efficient scheme of secondary education; secondly, an organic connection between the different branches of educational work; thirdly, a more liberal outlay on the maintenance of denominational schools; and, fourthly, a larger and more generous provision for the training of teachers. There may be, of course, many additions to those four requirements; but in a general way the rest might be left as matters of detail for Committee consideration. Can any impartial Member of the House say that, with those four propositions before them, it would not have been possible for half a dozen Members, say three from either side of the House, or for half a dozen educationists from outside the House, to have produced a Bill 1149 infinitely more satisfactory and vastly I more efficient from an educational point of view, and more tolerant from a religious point of view, than the measure we are discussing?
Take the secondary provision. It is not as good or as effective, in my judgment, as the provision in the Bill of last year. No provision is made for ascertaining the needs of the nation in the matter. As an old School Board supporter, I remember that the first claim made upon us by the Government thirty years ago was to ascertain the extent of the need for elementary education in the various parts of the country. The same course ought to have been pursued in regard to secondary education. We have a variety of grammar schools, more or less efficient, many of them less rather than more; we have secondary schools of different kinds; but we do not know the need of the nation, so far as numbers are concerned, nor the provision at present existing.
It is unnecessary to repeat arguments already used; I will simply emphasise the fact that a twopenny rate is altogether inadequate for the work to be done under the Bill. The educational authority ought to be able to erect secondary schools wherever they are required: it will have to subsidise a variety of secondary schools already in existence; it will have to found scholarships if the Bill is to be of any real service to the elementary schools. There is nothing in the Bill as to the fees to be charged. If the boys and girls of our elementary schools are to profit by secondary education, it must be by scholarships, and scholarships alone. That in itself cannot represent a very small sum to come out of the twopenny rate. Technical education requires all, or even more than, the whisky money. Then it will have to provide for all the higher grade work which has been carried on under the School Boards, and, in addition, there is the evening and continuation schools. If any hon. Member will contend that a twopenny rate is adequate for all those purposes, I should like him to sit down and divide the twopence into the respective portions. And yet there is not one of those matters which ought to be neglected in a system of secondary education. This is a very important branch of work, and I almost agree that secondary education is for the moment the pressing want with which the Government ought to have 1150 dealt. A friend of mine, who for many years was a prominent Member of this House, in an address recently delivered as Lord Rector of St. Andrew's University, made use of this expression—It is my opinion, as one who has watched this long, that it is not too much to say that commercial and trade decay lies before us unless we can pull ourselves together in this matter. We potter over night-schools and this or that piece of technical teaching; where our competitors are spending thousands of pounds we spend half a dozen pence.That is put in emphatic language, but I believe it is the language of truth, and I am sure it represents the feeling of a large number of experienced commercial men in the country, as well as that of the most experienced educationist. I cannot but express surprise that the Government did not feel compelled, under present circumstances, to deal with this subject first. I can only understand their neglect to do so on the hypothesis that they had behind them the pressure which has been brought to bear on Members of Parliament in Resolutions of Convocation and Diocesan Boards, in which the destruction of School Boards and the obtaining of funds for clerical schools are the first objections Members are urged to set before them. Had the Government been content to deal with this question of secondary education, I am sure it would have been found a subject large enough for one session. Past experience ought to have told them that in meddling with primary education, and in attempting to destroy the School Boards, they were stirring up feelings of strife and passion in the place of that calm consideration which ought to prevail in regard to such a matter.
Had the Government dealt first with secondary education, we could, in a year or two, have come to the question of an organic connection between the various educational bodies. This is said to be a scheme for one authority. I am not sure that one authority is the absolute ideal for educational matters. I have had some experience in my own city of cooperation between Technical and Secondary Committees, and Elementary Committees, and the School Board. That co-operation has worked admirably and for the production of the best kind of education. Therefore, I would like to have seen an attempt made to deal with 1151 secondary education first, and then, when that had been established on a satisfactory basis, to have considered what organic connection there might be between secondary and elementary education. The argument used in favour of one authority is that it is impossible to draw the dividing line between elementary and secondary education. But that is exactly what this Bill attempts to do. It is the height of absurdity to call this a one-authority Bill. It has been shown that there is a multiplication of authorities. But, even conceding that one authority for all kinds of education is the best system. I say that you have in that work a field worthy of the highest ambition and service of any man or woman in the country. For myself, I have not departed from the principle of an ad hoc authority. I do not mind whether or not it is called a School Board. I have no particular reverence for School Board institutions, as such; but I do say that if you co-ordinate all branches of education—elementary, secondary, and technical—you have there a field of work large and grand enough to occupy the time of any one body elected to deal with it, and one noble enough to call forth the best efforts of our fellow citizens. I cannot sympathise with the view that educational experts would not seek election to such a body. What is there so superior in those who devote themselves to education that they should not submit themselves to the same ordeal as members of Town and County Councils, and even of this House itself? So far from it being a disadvantage, I think it would be a great advantage; it would do the professors of universities and other educational experts all the good in the world to go through the rough-and-tumble of an election, and to come in contact more with human nature in everyday life.
But I cannot find this one authority in the Bill. If it is there, what is the authority? We have the County Council and we have the Borough Council—nominally, but really nothing of the sort. The County Council elects its education authority in the form of a Committee; then you have beyond two sets of managers, and in non-county boroughs and urban districts a different authority altogether. The great drawback to these 1152 authorities is that they are removed from the ratepayer, and thus from their work. Having had some thirty years experience on a large School Board, I have seen the influence of the work upon those who had been engaged in it.
In the course of the last thirty years many of my fellow citizens have sought places upon that body, and it has been the delight of all true educationists to see how well the needs of the children have been provided for. Many of the members of the Board have profited by the experience, and as educationists have taken totally different views of educational matters than when they first went on. Touch with the ratepayers is a great advantage. If we are to have one authority, why should it be the County Council and the Borough Council? The President and the Vice-President of the Council—these heavenly twins—seem determined at the outset of their career to practically extinguish School Boards by looking for another local authority, and the reason for this seems to be that they could not take County Councillors from the work in which they were engaged. I do not think it is necessary to take them from that work, but, if the Government are so tender in regard to! County Councils, why not have a little sympathy with School Boards? The former have been in existence for thirteen years, and the latter for thirty years. Therefore, if they were not willing, and felt it too great a burden for Technical Committees to do this work, they might at least have had a little sympathy with those large School Boards, which, it is admitted on all hands, have done extremely good work. I believe that the whole ground of this change is to be found in the fact that the clerical party have not had sufficient control of the School Board work, and, therefore, it must be taken out of the hands of the School Boards altogether.
Why do I make this statement? I suppose I have had the same experience as other hon. Members in receiving many resolutions from Convocations and other diocesan institutions, and in comparing the resolutions of the two Houses of Convocation, I find that some of the paragraphs of this Bill are almost literally word for word the paragraphs sent in from the Convocation, and, therefore, I think I am justified in styling this Bill 1153 a clerical Bill. May I say, by the way, that in making these remarks, I am in no sense antagonistic to these bodies. There is no reason why I should be, because I have served for twenty-five years on the Borough Council, and I know what the disposition and capacity of a Borough Council is. I think I also know something of County Councils, and I am far from saying that there could not be found in these bodies, if educational work is deputed to them, men who could, it they would, make themselves capable of dealing with this question. But in regard to County Councils especially, it does seem to mo that to place upon a county like the one from which I come, extending over many miles, this authority, you must of necessity cut the County Council off from any contact with it. I heard one of the most eminent members of the County Council in my constituency say that in the course of the last thirteen years he had travelled 22,000 miles to attend the meetings of his County Council, and he said that it puzzled him to tell how many more thousands of miles he would have to travel if he had to attend to the work of elementary education as well.
And now with regard to this liberal outlay upon denominational schools. I am afraid that we are very often charged with antagonism to denominational schools as such. I say that that is not a just charge, for nothing would give us greater delight than to see these schools better financed, with the result that there would be better and more complete teaching apparatus in them. I look upon this Bill, however, as a substitution of rates for subscriptions, and I fear very much that all the teachers hope for from this Bill will not turn out to be realised because we have got the difficulty of the rates to deal with, and if it simply comes to be a substitution of rates for subscriptions then the income of the schools will not be increased in the way that it ought to be.
Why do I say this? Simply for two reasons. In the first place because I know that in a very large number of places School Boards have been kept out because of the fear of the rate. I have attended many country meetings where claims have been made for School Boards, and the one cry has been made 1154 that it would involve a very large rate, and that has been sufficient to keep the School Board out. I want to point out that every step towards efficiency in this Bill necessarily means an increase in the rates, and that, in my judgment, is one of the weak places in this Bill. The education authority has done something in the past to pay for the extra efficiency of the schools. What is the position today? With a difference of a shilling in the grant between a very bad school and a very good school, what motive is there for; efficiency? I remember the time when there was a motive, and when that motive appealed to a great many people who were not educationists. It is said that it will be cheaper to start these schools well, because the difference between a bad and a good school may be that there will be no grant at all, or it may be a high grant, and the difference between the two grants was at one time quite ten shillings per head. It might be a low motive, but there was the motive. There should be no motive but that of educational interest.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITE
The right hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear," and yet many of us know that it is not so many years ago that he said that the individuals who will have the control of this education were the individuals who had had the least interest in education of any body of inhabitants in this country. Unless he gives them some more motive than is contained in this Bill, I say that there is not sufficient motive to make these schools efficient, and even the teachers themselves may suffer in point of salary. I could go into a number of details as to the impossibility, in my judgment, of a County Council going into all the matters affecting the salaries of teachers and other things of that kind which are absolutely necessary if you are not to have great waste. These are matters which those who are practically acquainted with School Boards know perfectly well mean a very great deal of time in the course of the year, and with many hundreds of teachers' salaries to supervise, how are the County Councils going to manage this work efficiently? It seems to me that the details of this work will be far too serious for them to undertake with any degree of efficiency.
1155 But the most serious part, in my opinion, is the provision made in the rate which I claim is unjust to the Nonconformist part of the community. This payment will be part of a payment which goes for the most dogmatic teaching to which millions of my fellow countrymen have a deep and a conscientious objection. I know that conscience has become in this House a matter of very little consequence indeed. [Ministerial cries of "Oh, oh!"] At any rate the Nonconformist conscience and the religious conscience has been treated in this debate as a matter non-existent, and therefore I claim that in this House it has become a matter of very little consequence. I want to treat this matter as fairly as I can. It is said that this is not a parents' grievance. I have an intimate acquaintance with the rural districts in the country, and whilst this may not be so much a grievance in large towns, I know it is a parents' grievance in many of the villages with which I am acquainted. I am not going to detain the House with the details of this grievance. I know that there are, in many of our country districts broad minded clergymen who would disdain to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by these schools of making little Churchmen out of the Nonconformist children in those schools. I do not think, however, that I am committing any breach of charity when I say that there is a large and increasing number of those who think it their duty to lose no opportunity of impressing their dogmatic teaching upon any children who may come into their hands, and therefore I say that it is a parents' grievance which is felt most accutely by many thousands of people in this country. If the House passes the Bill in its present form I am sure hon. Members will realise later on that it is a grievance of the most serious kind.
It is the same question which was fought over in connection with the Bill of 1870. I was then a Member of the Birmingham Education League. In that position I had as my mentor the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, to whoso speeches on education I paid the greatest attention, and I probably owe to those speeches and to the Leaders of the Birmingham Education League a good many of the impressions upon education which have stayed with me ever since. "What principle did the Colonial Secretary 1156 and his right hon. colleague subscribe to in connection with that League? They declared—That no Amendment can be satisfactory in reference to the religions difficulty which does not provide that no creed, catechism, or tenet peculiar to any sect should he taught in schools under the management of School Boards or receiving grants from local rates.That position, taken up thirty years ago, is the position on which we take our stand today, and it does seem to me a sad comment upon the action of the Government that thirty years should elapse in which, certainly, men's ideas have broadened, in which some degrees of religious liberty have been obtained, that we should still have to fight this battle over again in regard to education as it had to be fought in those days. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman, to his honour, at a meeting I attended backed his opinions with a cheque for £1,000 to take care that the opinions of the. League were thoroughly promulgated throughout the country. Therefore, we may take the measure of his success as due to the liberality with which he supported those opinions. It is no use to say now that sectarian passions have been let loose. They are the calm solid convictions of conscience that are not to be moved by any passing sentences of that kind. Those of us who take up this position do not do so because we are less enthusiastic educationists than those who differ from us, but because we feel that this Bill will revive the worst features of this contest and hinder the education of this country in a way which it has not been hindered in any other country on the face of the globe. The greatest surprise of my life is to find the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary having any part in a Bill such as that which is before this House. That the right hon. Gentleman, with his antecedents and his fierce hatred of clericalism, should be a party to this Bill, the effect of which I believe will be that in ten years it will put all the rural schools of this country under the control of one denominational body—that the right hon. Gentleman should be a party to a Bill of this sort is a phenomenon which I venture to say the political horizon of a century cannot match. Why do we fear the working of 1157 a clause of this kind? For the reason I which I have already stated. This week I have been asked to subscribe in the case of a school in a village where a new clergyman came in and introduced a new catechism. Some parents withdrew their children from the school in consequence of the introduction of that catechism. The head teacher, a consistent Churchwoman, went to see the parents to know the reason for the children being kept away. The clergyman charged her with going to persuade them to keep the children away, and more than half of the parents in the village have started a school to show their resentment of the treatment the teacher has received from the clergyman. I could give case after case of actions of this kind, and that is why we fear the action of the clergy in this matter. But unfortunately it is a feeling which is not confined to clergymen. A short time ago I was sitting on the bench in the city of Norwich, and I had as my chairman a gentleman who is an opponent of the School Board system. A juvenile delinquent was brought before the bench, and my friend turned to me and said I that these godless School Board schools produced many children of that class. I said to an officer who was in attendance at the court, "Do you happen to know what school this lad has attended?" He said: "St. Giles' Church school, all his life." I mention that incident to show the unwarranted prejudices that are formed by many Churchmen in regard to these schools, and it is this feeling unchecked which we fear will operate in regard to these clauses.
The right to have this payment from the rate is claimed on the ground that there should be provision for buildings. The First Lord of the Treasury alarmed the House, I suppose, by speaking of £26,000,000 as the sum that would be necessary to replace those buildings. Well, in the first place, I deny that they have any right to be replaced as a whole. A great many of them have had substantial grants from public funds. Those grants have been made to certain Trusts, and a great many of these schools are held in trust for educational purposes, and I hold that they cannot righteously be alienated from those purposes. To say that they 1158 must all be closed, and new one substituted, I do not think is a fair statement of the case, but, even if it were, putting aside the number of schools not wanted for the dual system which is done away with, is the amount so large as to frighten the House from making any great educational reform and from making a step forward? A grant of five shillings per head to the relief of rates would be sufficient, capitalised, to provide all those school buildings and to pay for them in the time the Local Government Board would grant loans without any additional charge whatever beyond that five or six shillings which has been given as a dole to those schools. It need not frighten the Government, and why should it frighten us?
I want, in conclusion, to ask why are the feelings of the Nonconformists aroused?—for I suppose that even the right hon. Gentleman will admit that they are aroused. For my part, having had a good deal of experience in public work for many years, I have never known any feeling to be so widespread and determined—and I say this simply with a disposition to make the facts known to many Members who might not be aware of them—as the resistance to this Bill. Two evenings this week I have addressed two meetings, attended by 5,000 people. In Portsmouth the Town Hall was crowded, and we had an object lesson of the clergy against the people. There were over 2,000 people present, and when the resolution was put the Chairman asked that those in favour of it should rise. The whole mass rose. The contrary proposition was put. The vicar of Portsmouth and the curate rose—and all honour to them for having the courage to stand up in the face of the people to show their opposition to the resolution. They were the only dissentients from that resolution. This does not arise from antagonism to the Church, but from the determination to stand no further encroachments upon what we believe to be the rights of conscience and religious equality. I believe the difficulty might have been met. I cannot see that it is beyond the wit of statesmen to devise some scheme which, without destroying the denominational schools, would have preserved the liberty of all with regard to these 1159 matters. It is said that we make no suggestion. Well, we have so much to do in defending our rights, and in attempting to hold that which we have got, that it is difficult to sit down calmly and make suggestions. This Bill is put on the Table with all the disabilities it lays upon us, and we are not asked for suggestions on it. There have been conferences in the North of England more than once where something very near an agreement has been come to on those religious questions. So near has that been, that I do not think it is impossible that an agreement can be come to; and I am sure that the line which this Bill takes is not the line upon which we are ever likely to come to an agreement. We decline to take payment from the rates for the teaching of our own tenets and beliefs, and we decline to pay a rate for the same thing. I know it is said that the denominationalists pay rates for teaching of which they do not approve. I cannot understand that position. Logically, of course, when you come to the Agnostic, or those who disbelieve the Bible altogether, it may be that there is a grievance to a small extent, but the simple truths of the Bible, read without note or comment in the board schools, and read in the most reverential way possible, cannot, in my opinion, outrage the judgment of a Churchman as teaching dogma, and it cannot outrage the conscience of the Nonconformist. There comes the difference between the two positions, and I hope before this Bill passes through Committee some suggestion may be offered which will hold out some mode of arrangement whereby, recognising as we do the work the denominational schools are doing at the present day and the necessity for it, they should have more funds at their disposal in order to be educationally efficient. I assure the House that we have no desire to stand in the way of any educational improvement that can be made in the régime of which I have spoken.
With regard to the position of teachers, I think educationists will acknowledge that the great difficulty of the arrangement of 1870 was that it provided for a great extension of 1160 education without making any adequate provision for the training of the teachers who were to superintend that education; and yet we have gone on for thirty years without in any way remedying that defect. There was no part of the speech of the First Lord that I listened to with greater interest than that which referred to the provision for the training of teachers. He admitted the disabilities under which the Nonconformists rested, in the rural districts especially, and he admitted the need for a more efficient teaching staff; and yet there is nothing whatever in the Bill, except any little fund that can be squeezed out of the twopenny rate, which makes any provision for the training of teachers at all. Surely this is a defect that cannot any longer go on. I was greatly surprised, I must say, to hear the assertion of the Vice-President that the disability of the Nonconformist parents to get their children into the teaching profession was a ghost which vanished when the statement was investigated. I have seen the right hon. Gentleman's ghosts come up clothed in flesh and blood, and I can assure him that this is a real grievance. Where are the provisions for the training of Nonconformist teachers? I know scores of villages where a small shopkeeper is a Nonconformist, and he desires to get a boy or girl into the teaching profession. The only opportunity he has is by sending the boy and girl to take up a permanent residence in, say, the city of Norwich, because in his village no child can be admitted as a pupil teacher who does not belong to the Church of England. It is a grievance which exists in thousands of villages in this country. [Sir JOHN GORST indicated dissent.] The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I tell him what I know. I could give him a string of cases which have been brought before mo in my own constituency of parents who rest under that disability. He says that you cannot make teachers by Act of Parliament. May I say that that is a sample of the sophistries which run through the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. We can make provision for teachers' training, free from those denominational tests which now exist in our colleges, 1161 and which we consider are one of the greatest scandals on the religious liberty of the country at the present moment. I say in reference to the colleges that do exist, and which take nine-tenths of their money from public funds, that it is an anachronism that practically half the nation should be excluded from them. I think the fairness of this House, if it realised what the position is, would be prepared to sweep it away at the earliest moment.
I thank the House for having listened to me so attentively. The subject of education is one on which I have spent many years of my life. I feel strongly upon it, representing, as I claim to do, the body of Nonconformists who have shown their interest in education by spending millions of money on school buildings, some of which are practically the same as the school buildings of the Church of England. I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that if the education can be made efficient without interfering with their conscientious opinions in regard to religious teaching, I would be only too proud to lend them a hand.
§ (6.46.) MR. HKNRY HOBHOUSE (Somersetshire, E.)
Acting on a strict regard to economy of time in debate, I shall address myself for only a very few minutes to a question which I think has not received sufficient attention in this House, viz., whether the County Councils, to whom these great powers are to be entrusted, are able and willing to exercise them. Up till yesterday there had been no opportunity for the County Councils to express their opinion on the matter. I think it, therefore, necessary to read to the House one of the resolutions passed by the County Councils Association at their annual meeting in the Guildhall, Westminster, yesterday. That resolution, which was passed by a majority of four or five to one set forth—That, without expressing any opinion on the controversial questions raised by the Education Bill, the proposals contained in that Bill to place the control of all education in administrative counties under local education authorities meet with the general approval of this Association; and that, as regards the administrative counties, the County Councils, acting through Committees as the educational authorities, are well qualified and prepared, if so requested by Parliament, to undertake the powers and duties imposed upon those authorities by the Bill.1162 One parenthesis was added to that resolution on the suggestion of the President, Sir J. T. Hibbert, to which I wish to call the attention of the House, viz., that a majority of the Education Committee should be Members of the Council. That is a very important point, and I feel confident that the Bill will be amended in that direction before it passes through Committee. My contention is that that resolution shows not only the confidence of the County Council in their capacity for the duty imposed upon them by this Bill, but their willingness to undertake it. But another resolution was passed by the Association of County Councils in regard to finance. In its original form that resolution read—That part of the Bill in respect to technical and secondary education meets with the approval of this Association, so far as it renews to the County Councils their former powers, and allows them to raise a 2d. rate.But that resolution was amended by the omission of the words, "And allows them to raise a 2d. rate."
This is a subject on which the County Councils feel strongly, and I must protest against the misapprehension in regard to it conveyed in the words of the right hon. Member for East Fife. The carrying of that Amendment yesterday by the County Councils Association does not show their unwillingness to raise any rate, but shows that they desire perfect freedom of rating. They do not, however, think that the expenditure for higher education should be levied exclusively on the county rate, but claim that assistance should be given from the Exchequer. In my own county, which is a very large agricultural I county, we have got a very well developed system of secondary education. We have founded a large number of scholarships, which have done much to improve the condition of the teachers, and we are maintaining no less than 160 evening continuation schools—all of which is strictly analogous to the duties proposed to be conferred by the Bill on the County Councils. I believe that when the Bill passes we shall have 400 or 500 day schools controlled—not managed—by the County Council; and I do not hesitate to say that the work will be efficiently performed. If that can be done in the county of Somerset, why should it not be done 1163 in any other county? In spite of several minor defects in the Bill, which can he remedied in Committee, I am prepared to support the Second Reading, because I believe that, in the present aspect of affairs, the Bill affords the only practical basis for better education in the country districts.
§ SIR JOSEPH LEESE (Lancashire, Accrington)
I mean to make a very short speech indeed, and qualify myself for the applause of the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford. I want to explain why I will have to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill. I consider that the Bill offends against the true principles of religious liberty—the principles of a free Church in a free State. It may be said that this is nothing new; that at present money is given to the voluntary schools, and that that violates the principles which I am advocating. But this Bill goes much further in that direction. Of course, everybody knows that the Bill will pass the Second Reading in spite of all that we can do; but I hope that those who desire efficient education for the nation will take care so to amend it in Committee that for the public money which is to be given the public will get a real quid pro quo.
§ (6.57.) MR. SPEAR (Devonshire, Tavistock)
I will only detain the House for a few minutes; but as a Nonconformist, I must express my belief that this Bill is an honest and earnest attempt to deal with the question of education in a just and equitable way. I am not pre-pared to give a silent vote for the Second Reading, because I desire to point out some directions in which the Bill may be made more efficient, and capable at the same time of respecting the religious liberty of the people. I am not prepared to divorce religious from secular education in the schools. We must give up the idea of a uniform system of religious education. The right hon. Member for East Fife says that we have the voluntary schools, and that we must deal with them. Considering what these schools did for the cause of education prior to 1870, they have, of course, to be considered I am not one of those who desire to suppress them. As a Nonconformist I believe that the voluntary schools have a just claim to the careful consideration 1164 of Parliament, and it is because the Bill is based on that principle that I intend to vote for its Second Reading. At the same time, I wish to see certain precautions taken. The noble Lord the Member for Greenwich, in language which those who heard it will not easily forget, spoke of the sordid materialism of the present age. In that I heartily support him; but if the noble Lord had shown a little less determination to resist an adequate popular control in the management of voluntary schools, he would have done something to promote a good understanding between Churchmen and Nonconformists. I do not think that the provisions of the Bill are sufficient for that purpose. I think that we should have such popular control as would protect children who attend any school with which the Church is not connected: therefore the proportion of school managers to be appointed by the local educational authority should be at least one half. With regard to higher education, I think it is high time that our code of education was co-ordinated. I also hope that it will be made plain that the majority of members of the voluntary school Education Committees shall be not only appointed by the local authority, as provided in the Bill, but shall be themselves members of the local authority. We already have one Joint Committee of the County Councils which is practically independent of those bodies, and as a member of a County Council for many years I know what friction that results in, and therefore I think that the proportion of the voluntary school managers appointed by the local educational authority should be at least one half, and should consist of members of the local authority.
I think that a larger share of the cost of maintenance of education should come from the Imperial Exchequer than is now the case, and, though the Bill does not promise an increase of help from the Exchequer, yet I hope the Government will be able to promise us that when the finances of the country are a little easier they will give us an increased grant, and relieve the ratepayers of the extra burden that will be placed upon them by this Act. I am sorry to see the supersession of the School Boards. I have been a member of a School Board for thirty years, and know the 1165 good work they have done; but if we look at the matter in an impartial way we must see that it is impossible to have two rating authorities for the same area, and if we are to have this system throughout all areas, there cannot be two rating authorities. But I hope the Government will do something to insure popular control. While the Bill makes it possible for the County Councils to utilise members of Parish Committees on the local Committees, I hope it will be made clear in the Bill that half the members of the local Committees shall be parish and local members. I know that local people like to have a voice in selecting the men and women—because I hope women will not be excluded from the operation of this Bill—who will superintend the education of their children, and it follows that if the right hon. Gentleman accepts some such suggestion as that the local education Committee shall be selected in a fair proportion from these local representative bodies, he will overcome a lot of the opposition to this measure. This is desirable also from another point of view; for, although it is desirable that we should have some educational experts on these Committees, too many are not required. Although they are extremely good servants, they are very poor masters. At the same time, there should be sufficient to promote such progressive education as is desired.
I do not know that I should be justified in detaining the House any longer, but I know that Nonconformists are largely against this Bill, and I know that many Liberal Unionist Nonconformists, who have during the crisis through which this country has been passing supported the Unionist Party bravely in maintaining the integrity of the kingdom and promoting the welfare of the Empire, are somewhat alarmed by this Bill, but I feel that that alarm will be greatly reduced and overcome if the Government make it plain that the central educational body shall be truly representative. I shall vote for the Second Reading of the Bill without hesitation. It is said that it is going to be fatal to Nonconformity, but I do not believe a word of it. Nonconformity is based upon the principle of religious liberty, and I have too much confidence in the sense of our people to believe that it will have that effect. At the same 1166 time, having regard to the fact that so much money will be handed over, it is only just that we should have half the nomination of the members of the Committee of Management of the voluntary schools. I know that Church people are afraid that that might interfere with the distinctive rights of the Church, but I believe that Nonconformists will respect the rights of the Church under the circumstances, and we expect Churchmen to show the same spirit towards us. In order to dispel the fears and apprehensions that are felt on this subject, I am going to point out that the majority of the members of the Committee of Management of these schools now are Churchmen, and that at the present time Nonconformist children can attend Church schools without having their consciences tempted in any way. I will just say further that I do not think this will be a settlement of the whole question; but, so far from the rights of Nonconformists being interfered with, I believe that under this Bill they will enjoy greater liberty than they do at present, and that there will be less danger of intolerance in the future than there has been in the past.
§ (7.14.) MR. BRIGG (Yorkshire, W.R., Keighley)
, who was almost inaudible in the Gallery, was understood to say that the Amendment which had been put down in his name,† but which it was not now possible to move, was really a suggestion that had been made by the County Council of the West Riding of Yorkshire, to which he had the honour to belong. It was a very efficient County Council, and they had taken the whole matter of this Bill into consideration, and had come to the conclusion that it was not desirable for County Councils to take in hand the elementary part of the education mentioned in this Bill. They were willing to take secondary education, but they felt that elementary education was quite beyond their province. The County Council of the West Biding of Yorkshire was a most important one, and was the† The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member was :—"That no Bill will be satisfactory which provides that the County Councils of comities and horoughs of over. 10,000 inhabitants, and of urban authorities of over 20,000 inhabitants, shall have the option to deal with elementary education.1167 first to take upon itself the duty of levying a rate upon the county for the purposes of technical education; and the opinion which had been come to by them had not been come to without due consideration. They had impressed upon him that he was not to accept Part III. of the Bill, for the reason that for the last three years they had expected to receive a Secondary Education Bill, instead of which they had been presented with this Bill, in which secondary education had been stultified and in which they found the least possible reference to it—and this in spite of the fact that for years the whole cry of the country had been that the secondary education of the country was inefficient, and a whole sheaf of Bills had been brought in to deal with it, every one of which had been ignored by this Bill. In the West Biding of Yorkshire there were 1,236 schools which would be thrown upon the hands of the County Council, in addition to the present educational work which they were doing; and, considering the fact that they had already undertaken technical and secondary educational work, they thought it was undesirable to take over the elementary education. He did not wish to say anything with regard to the abolition of the School Boards, except that the County Council of the West Biding had found no difficulty in working with them. It was his candid opinion that if this Bill had been framed upon the lines originally set before the country, giving better organisation to secondary education and leaving over the question of elementary education until the County Council or some other body had found their way to deal with it, the whole thing might have been brought into one great Act. The County Council insisted on getting good men. It was difficult to find men willing to give their time and energies to this matter. It was easy enough to find faddists, but they were not the men required. The great fault of this Bill was the want of co-ordination of the elementary and secondary schools. With regard to the present religious instruction in the Sunday schools, he would like to say—though perhaps the question of the Sunday schools was not one which presented itself to the mind of everybody—that the Sunday school scholars far exceeded in numbers the 1168 day school scholars, and, while the religious instruction given in board schools amounted to about two and a half hours a week, in the Sunday schools a larger number of scholars of a more advanced age received religious instruction for double the time which was given to it in the ordinary schools. He merely mentioned that fact to show there was no desire whatever on the part of the board schools to do away with religious teaching, but, on the contrary, they desired to encourage it in every possible way. The Bill on the whole seemed to have a tendency to level down instead of levelling up, and he was afraid that it would result in the deterioration of the education of the country.
§ (7.20.) COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
Like the hon. Member for Accrington, I do not desire to detain the House for more than a few moments. I fancy that during the three days that this debate has occupied, practically all that could be said for and against the Bill has been said, and many of the speeches to which we have listened have been simply the reiteration of facts amply well stated by previous speakers. There is no doubt that the criticisms that have been made on this Bill inside this House have been much more moderate and temperate than these which have been made outside. It may be that the atmosphere of this House is calmer than that of the platform, but it is also possible that hon. Members now having had time to consider the Bill have come to the conclusion that this is a Bill which does not limit education as they thought. The main feature of the Bill is the single authority—one rating authority, and one educational authority. I believe it is the most valuable feature of the Bill, and it has been but little criticised in this House, which has practically accepted it. The second valuable feature of the Bill is the creation of the local administrative authority in the County Council. I believe the County Councils, who have already done such good work with technical education, are not only capable but even anxious to undertake the duties which will be thrust upon them by this Bill. Another feature of the Bill, not quite so apparent, but one which appeals to an agricultural Member, is the increase in the rates. I confess we shall 1169 have to face the disagreeable prospect of an increase in the rates, but surely a nation is not going to live on low rates alone. We must think of what other advantages will be brought about by this Bill, and, even though the rates be temporarily increased by it, if it brings about, as I believe it will, better education, I, as an agricultural Member who does not like high rates, will consider that we shall have done well for the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth said that the people in the country thought more of rates than education. That is a difficulty which I, as the chairman of a very rural School Board, have had to face. That is one of the difficulties which I believe will be removed by this Bill. I believe the County Council, by the office they undertake, will infuse a different spirit into the people as regards elementary education. I hope and believe that the secondary education in this country is sound, but I believe one of the drawbacks to its application is that the elementary education has been deficient, and that I hope will be remedied under this Bill. It has been claimed for this Bill a little prematurely, I think—that it can be looked upon as a final settlement of this question. I should be extremely sorry if it was a final settlement, and I believe, as time goes on, that additions to this Bill will be not only desirable but necessary. But I believe it is a stop in the right direction—a great and bold step, a step that educationists and others in the country have been asking for for some time. I am glad the Government has brought it forward, and I believe it will be supported not only by hon. Members on this side of the House, but also by hon. Members on the other, who would be sorry to see it rejected.
§ MR. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
I shall not, Sir, be able to compress my remarks in the short time left before the break, but I will be as brief as possible in the statement of the facts. The purport of this Bill is to unify and to improve education, both in the secondary and elementary branches; and I can well believe that the original framers of it kept that object very fully in view, and produced a Bill which, if the Government had dared to introduce it, would have served the purpose. But it does not need much knowledge of the subject to see that the original drafting 1170 of the Bill has been very largely departed from. Here and there a new line has been added, and here and there an old line has been erased, and the result is that we have a Bill that will not provide the education desired, and will not fulfil the purpose which it had in view. I will refer, in the first place, to the options. The Bill is very full of options—in fact, on every page and almost in every clause of the Bill there is an option, to be taken or left according to the will of somebody.
The option for the purpose of raising money for the purposes of higher education is a grave blot to begin with, and the option also of taking over elementary work. It ought not to be left to the option of local authorities as to whether secondary education should be taken up.
It being half-past Seven of the clock, the debate was suspended until the evening sitting.