HC Deb 17 November 1902 vol 114 cc1131-44

Resolution reported: "That it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of certain annual grants to local education authorities in pursuance of any Act of the present Session to make further provision with respect to education in England and Wales."

(2.45) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

suggested that it would be for the convenience of the House that these proposals should not be debated at this stage. On the Clause that was coming on they would he governed in their discussion of these proposals by the Rules of Committee, and not by the more stringent Rules of Report.


said he would like to make the observation that it was rather an odd procedure to invite the House of Commons to consider on Monday a Clause which was only put upon the Paper on Friday night, and a proposal which affected so closely not only the interests that the House had to guard, but the interests and concerns of so many local authorities throughout the country.


Order, order! It would be irregular to discuss the Clause on Report of the Money Resolution.


said he was going to conclude by saying that he did not see any objection to the course proposed. He had no desire to do anything that was in the least degree irregular. It was only by way of obiter dictum that, while agreeing to the particular course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, he put in a little protest against the way in which the matter had been laid before the House by the Government.

SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

said there was another complaint they had to make. Perhaps he might be allowed to put it in the form of a Question. They could not thoroughly understand the working of the financial proposals of the Bill without the figures showing the operation of the Bill financially throughout the country. He understood that the Duke of Devonshire had promised to give those figures, and he wished to know why they had not been given to the House. With regard to the appeal which had been made, he thought they ought to have some opportunity of discussing the Clause in its double aspect, and he therefore hoped that any Motion not intended to make nonsense of the Clause would not be too strictly viewed.


said that from a purely financial point of view he thought the appeal made by the First Lord of the Treasury was, to say the least of it, somewhat cool. This enormous financial proposal, which in accordance with the invariable Rule of the House had been brought in first in Committee, was closured, and no one had an opportunity of saying a single word about a scheme which he understood involved from one and a half to two millions. Surely it was cool for the right hon. Gentleman to ask the House to forego its undoubted right to discuss this matter. I Let it be observed that from a financial point of view this was absolutely the only occasion which the House would have of discussing it. What the House would discuss when they came to the Clause would be particular circumstances and conditions under which the money already authorised should he handed out. The House was not in such a position that it could dispense with any of the securities with which the wisdom of their predecessors had surrounded their financial operations. It behoved the House to stand up for every power it possessed in connection with the authorisation of any charge upon the public purse. It was extremely unfortunate that the Government had found it necessary to prohibit any discussion on the financial operation of the Bill.

MR. ROBSON (South Shields)

said he wished to attack the principle of the Clause because it contained the element of pure sectarian endowment, which it had hitherto been the policy of the House to avoid. The policy of the Government was to abrogate once for all the principle emphatically laid down in the Act of 1870 that no State money should be given to denominational bodies except under conditions which would make it clear that none of the money should he applied to the cost of religious instruction. That principle was laid down by Mr. Gladstone, and accepted by the Church party, but Parliament was asked to found a new order of lay dogmatic teachers, to be paid entirely by the State. It was said that the Church provided an equivalent in giving the use of its schools. But that was a gift which the Church could not withhold; for, literally, thousands of these schools were built, to the extent of 50 per cent. of the cost, out of State money. The Church had broken down under "the intolerable strain" of maintaining these schools; and now it transferred all the secular obligation to the State, still claiming the right to use the schools for all its own denominational purposes. For all these advantages the Church in return was only to hear the cost of repairs. The Church had got the best of the bargain, and, in some cases, it would make a small pecuniary profit, because the commercial astuteness of the Prime Minister had arranged that the Church was to retain, for denominational purposes, not only the schools, but the teachers' houses, which, under the Act of 1870, were to be taken as part of the school-house, although many of them were partly built at the expense of the State. How did the Prime Minister justify that misappropriation of State money? He should not oppose this grant if it were a grant to secular education only. It was not certain, however, that the funds available for secular education would be increased by the Resolution in its new form. Why should the localities proceed to increase the salaries of the teachers and improve the efficiency of denominational schools? They would be apt to leave these schools where they found them, and not to raise the salaries of men whom they did not appoint and could not control, for the benefit of schools which they were not allowed to manage. There was to be established a new order of lay ecclesiastical teachers. Henceforth the teachers in denominational schools would be ecclesiastical officers, ecclesiastically appointed, and ecclesiastically controlled, performing among their other duties functions which were strictly ecclesiastical; and that system was devised, not because it was necessary to the maintenance of religious education, but for the endowment of religious education. The Bill was only in favour of religious education because it sought to put the religious education of a particular Church on a basis of religious endowment. Contempt was often cast upon the "Nonconformist conscience," but did not the policy the House was now asked to adopt afford a singular illustration of the "Anglican conscience"—at any rate, as that conscience was put forward in Parliament, but not, he believed, as it prevailed among the lay members of the Anglican community. Nonconformist communities, by continuous effort and self-sacrifice, which commanded the greatest possible respect, supported their own ministry and carried on the religious work far beyond the bounds of their own people and churches. The sacrifices made by them for the maintenance of their faith were very real, and often touched personal comforts and even the necessities of life. Those sacrifices were to be increased in order that a far wealthier community might be relieved of a much smaller sacrifice. How were they to be increased? The Church was "coming on the rates!" That phrase was usually held to indicate a rude fall in social status, but he really thought it was not so bad as coming on the bread, sugar, and tea of the poorest of the community. They could now begin to see why the corn tax was imposed. In a time of peace, and with every prospect of a surplus, that tax was imposed as an immediate preliminary to this Bill. Supporters of the measure doubtless regarded these proposals as high State policy, with a fine flavour of religious enthusiasm, but Nonconformists and the people at large—whose affections the Church of England desired to win, but whose taxation was to be increased for the purposes of the Bill—would regard the policy as one of simple meanness. Was that the light in which the Church of England desired to appear either to its Nonconformist brethren or to those whom it wished to win to its fold?

But to pass to another question. A new order of dogmatic teachers to perform really clerical duties was to be founded. Was that what the Church intended In addition to its other disadvantages, the grant was in direct contravention of one of the most important but most neglected rubrics of the Church. The Prayer Book stated— The curate of every parish should diligently, upon Sundays and Holy days, alter the second lesson at Evening Prayer, openly in the church, instruct and examine as many children of his parish sent to him as may be convenient, in some part of the Catechism. That was how the Church directed its catechetical teaching to be conducted, and it was almost the method adopted by Nonconformists. The latter were content that the basis of morality and religion—common to all Christian sects and forms of faith—should be taught in the State schools, but when an advance was made to the catechetical teaching of specific doctrines, they were not only willing to teach their own children, but insisted on so doing. Nonconformists had no desire to avoid that paramount duty, and the Church of England had no right to get rid of it. The noble Lord the Member for Greenwich was quite right when he maintained that the proper persons to teach the young of the Church of England were the clergy. What was to be said of the vagaries of the Anglican, or rather the ecclesiastical conscience, which was shocked at the suggestion that laymen should control clergymen in the management of a school, and yet insisted that somebody else should provide the money to enable laymen to do the duty of the clergy?

There had appeared on the Paper, as a Government Amendment, the suggestion that in a school where fees were paid, a part of the fees should be given to the denominational managers towards the cost of religious instruction. That proposal was an evidence of the business-like astuteness of the Prime Minister in the interests of denominational teaching. Why should not that commercial astuteness be devoted in another direction? If the Church was to part with the teaching of its young, and to throw the charge on the State, ought it not to sacrifice some portion of its vast endowments? If the Prime Minister allocated the fees with such precise justice, let him allocate the endowments also. A fair application of that principle would make the right hon. Gentleman a little less eager in his raids on the public purse for the benefit of a particular denomination. Those raids were now made with much apparent success, but the Church of England would probably pay dearly for them. The strength of Nonconformity lay largely in the sense of personal responsibility felt by all Nonconformists in the maintenance of their faith, and that moral quality was shown by results to be worth more, even from the financial point of view, than all the endowments of the Church. The Prime Minister might or might not succeed in his efforts to squeeze out Nonconformity, but he would certainly succeed—although it was not his object—in weakening the sense of personal responsibility in the laity of the Church of England. Every session the right hon. Gentleman came forward with a measure to give further relief. In the long run the Church would probably not thank him for his efforts, and certainly those efforts would meet with the hostility of the people at large, when they understood how the richest branch of the Church of Christ in the world could or would live and do its work only out of taxation, which fell on the poorest of the poor.

(3.14.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

My hon. friend the Member for Kings Lynn said he had never heard so cool a proposition as my suggestion, that we should not waste our time—"waste," I think, is strictly the word—over the Report stage of this Resolution, but proceed at once to the discussion of the Clause in Committee, under the less rigid Rules which then govern our debates. My hon. friend is a far better judge of coolness than I can pretend to be, and if, after consideration, that is his verdict, I do not intend to defend myself against charge. But I would point out to the Committee that, if my hon. friend's objection was simply regard for the public purse and to secure a strictly financial debate on, the Report of the financial Resolution he must have been singularly disappointed by the speech to which we have just listened. The hon. and learned Member told us of a great many things. He told us of the demerits of the Church of England, the demerits of the First Lord of the Treasury, and the demerits of the Bill at large, but however they have really nothing to do with the financial proposals of the Bill considered as financial proposals. When I listened the hon. and learned Member's speech I confess that I could not feel in my heart to blame him, because I felt that this must have been some belated specimen of a Second Reading speech which the unfortunate accidents of debate had prevented him delivering earlier. The hon. and learned Member has told us that this Bill is an extraordinary and a generous gift to the Church of England, and he has told us that in so far as it relieves the ratepayer, it relieves him of a charge which he ought to bear. I am glad he has made that statement, because I find that some of my friends think this proposal very hard upon them. The hon. and learned Member has treated this Resolution throughout as if it referred to a contribution from the taxpayer to denominational education and denominational schools. It is nothing of the kind. It is a contribution to the general education of the country, which affects provided schools as much as unprovided, and which affects unprovided as much as provided schools, and for the hon. and learned Member to come down here and talk about it as if it was a contribution from the poorest of the poor, is to make a travesty of the facts which I am surprised at coming from an hon. Member holding the position which he does in this House, and I am surprised that he should have condescended to this. The hon. and learned Member was not only wholly and utterly inaccurate in his conclusions, but he was absolutely inaccurate as to the principle which underlies this proposal. He said that it was a new principle, and that for the first time we are breaking through an old and well-established canon that there should not be any contribution from public funds to denominational education. The hon. and learned Member must have known that he was talking something nearly approaching to nonsense when he made that statement. He must know that the State has constantly contributed to denominational teaching, both in England and Scotland, and he must know perfectly well that whatever may be said about the novelty of giving rate-aid in England, however novel that principle may be, there is absolutely no novelty whatever in the principle of giving money out of the Exchequer towards schools in which denominational teaching takes place.


I never, of course, said it was a novel principle for the State to give money to schools in which there was denominational teaching. What I said was that in giving that money the State had always taken care that no part of the money should be allocated to the cost of religious teaching. That was the principle which I laid down.


The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite wrong, and it is perfectly easy to show that no public money goes to denominational teaching in those schools now. It is only a question of going through the accounts of the schools. I venture to say that the hon. and learned Member's theoretical principle is as much preserved, if it ever had any existence, under this Bill as it was before. This Resolution deals with a contribution which is a contribution by the Exchequer, not to one class but to all classes of schools, or, more correctly speaking, it is a contribution from the Exchequer not to schools at all of any sort or kind or distinction, but to the ratepayers upon whom rests the obligation of providing schools. If the House agrees with my contention, they will draw, as I do, two conclusions. One is that the hon. and learned Member's speech was irrelevant from beginning to end, and the other that the sooner we get into Committee upon the Clause the better. I do not know what the promise of the Duke of Devonshire refers to, but I do not think it is possible to give the figures yet, and there must be an element of conjecture about them.

MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)

said that although he approved the amalgamation of the two grants of 1897, a suggestion which he himself had made, he most cordially supported the general contention of his hon. and learned friend who had just spoken. He traversed the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury that the speech of the Member for South Shields was in any sense irrelevant to the financial issues raised by the Resolution. The whole of his speech was based upon the provision of public money and its expenditure upon the objects proposed, and upon both those points he thought his hon. and learned friend had established an unanswerable case for the criticism he had levelled against the Bill. They perfectly recognised the purpose and the policy of this Bill. Step by step in the course of the Committee on this Bill concession after concession had been made to the denominational interests, and no protection was given to the public, no guarantee was given that these grants would be expended in the way the nation had a right to demand, namely, in the development of secular education. There was nothing to restrain sectarian bodies in their efforts to divert these grants and use them for sectarian ends. This half million of money would go to support the machinery placed in the hands of the denominationalists to capture and monopolise the schools of the country. That was one aspect of this grant. It was an enormous subvention to sectarianism. And the other aspect was equally characteristic of the uniform policy of this Ministry. The question of rates was ultimately a landlord's question. And this money was being given in a way which inevitably made it a new subvention to the landowners. He protested against this grant because there was no guarantee given to the public that this money would be spent upon popular education. They had been giving subsidy after subsidy in the teacher's house, in the share of endowments, and in other ways. They had learned finally today that even in the case of denominational school managers who had not had the pluck, and would not make the pecuniary sacrifices, to keep their schools going in the past, and who had, in consequence, transferred them to the School Boards to run. These extra funds would now be handed over to enable them to take over their schools and turn them into denominational schools again.

DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)

said this proposal had only been on the Paper for a few hours, and he wished to know if an opportunity would be given them of discussing the general bearings of the Clause.

MR. TREVELYAN (Yorkshire, W. R., Elland)

asked if they would be able to discuss in Committee whether part of the grant ought not to be given to secondary education.


said he was 10th to answer what was apparently a question of order, but he should greatly doubt whether it was possible to dismiss secondary education. That was not, however, for him to decide. As to the question of the hon. Member for North Camberwell, that must depend upon the character of the Amendment. He thought they must treat the whole Clause as a discussable proposition. On the other hand, the Amendment might be of a character which would enable other Amendments to be brought before the Committee.

MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)

said he would reserve anything he desired to say on the proposed grant for the Committee stage, but he wished to ask a question which he thought could be more suitably answered now than in Committee. It had reference to the position of London in connection with this matter. London was for the moment left out of the Bill, and the House could not say at present whether the Government intended to deal with it next year. Assuming that the Bill applied to London, then London, in the ordinary course, would be entitled under the new proposal to £195,000 out of the total grant. Deducting the £49,000 which the voluntary schools received under the voluntary schools grant—he was using round figures, which he thought were sufficient for his purpose—London would be entitled to £146,000 out of the round £1,000,000 proposed as the additional sum to be given under the Bill. It appeared to him that a sum of £146,000 ought to be put aside in respect of London. Obviously it would not be fair that London taxpayers should contribute this additional sum unless London schools were to benefit to the same extent as they would do if the Bill applied to London. According to the ordinary calculation, London contributed one-fifth of the whole sum of the Imperial taxation, and therefore the amount to which the London taxpayers were entitled was something like £200,000. The Prime Minister had said that the question of Ireland and Scotland would he reserved, but that these countries would not in any sense be damnified by this Bill passing and by an additional sum being given to England. How would London stand in this matter? It seemed to him that the only way of dealing with the matter was to earmark £150,000 for the benefit of London education.


The provisions of this Bill, as the hon. Gentleman knows, do not refer to London. We hope to deal with London on an early day, but I do not see how we can allocate money to London until we deal with it.


said he did not mean that.


Or accumulate it.


said that until London was dealt with, London would he mulcted to the extent he had indicated.

SIR EDWARD STRACHEY (Somersetshire, S.)

said he understood his hon. and learned friend the Member for South Shields would oppose the grant if a division were taken. He understood that his hon. friend the Member for East Northamptonshire was in the same position. He therefore wished to state the reason why he would support this grant in aid. If he had come to the House and heard the speech of the hon. and learned Member for South Shields without any knowledge of the question, he should probably have been influenced by his arguments. But what were the sober facts of the case? This was a grant in aid of local rates. It was a grant in aid of the provided schools, just as much as a grant in aid of the non-provided schools. If his hon. and learned friend had moved to reduce the amount by what went to the non-provided schools, there would have been something to say for the proposal. He was perfectly ready to oppose any further grants in aid being given to the denominational schools where there was not popular control, but this was not a grant to the denominational schools, because these schools would receive the grant in one way or another, or rather, he ought to say, they would receive the money from the taxes in one way or another, whether there was any grant or not. The only effect of refusing this grant in aid would be that the denominational schools would receive a larger sum out of the local rates, and the provided schools would receive more out of the Imperial Exchequer. Were they prepared to refuse this grant in aid, and even the increase that had been made, and at the same time to say that the local rates should be increased in proportion? That was quite right, undoubtedly, from the point of view of the hon. Member who represented one of the Divisions of London. He represented a great many who paid no rates at all, the voluntary subscriptions having been so liberal that no local rates had been required. He did not think the view stated by the hon. Member for North Camberwell was that which was generally taken by Members of the House. It was perfectly true that the financial proposals gave a little more than was contemplated, until last week. It was, however, limited indeed, and there was this objection to the limitation that they laid down the principle that the local rate for primary education should never be less than 3d. in the £, and if, by good management and economy, combined with efficiency, those local rates should be under 3d. in the £, the Imperial Exchequer grant would at once be reduced by the same amount. That appeared to him to be an unsatisfactory form. It was encouraging people in the local districts to economise the amount of grant voted from the Imperial Exchequer. At the same time it ought to be borne in mind that this grant was only for primary education, and that an amount would have to be raised for secondary education. It was now suggested that the rate for that purpose should be 2d. The whisky money had been applied in the past in many cases entirely to secondary education. The Government were really putting on the local ratepayers this compulsory rate of 3d., and at the same time there was another equivalent rate of 3d. The result would be that the local ratepayers would have to contribute 6d. in the £ for educational purposes in their district. He did not argue entirely from the point of view of the agriculturist. He believed the local rates pressed heavily in country towns and villages on the small shopkeepers and tradesmen and the agricultural labourers, and it was in behalf of those men that he supported the grant in aid.

(3.42.) MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)

said he wished to refer to the point raised by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, and to ask the Committee to consider how they stood from the point of view of procedure. Here they were asked to pass the Report stage of the Resolution, authorising the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pay certain large sums of money out of the Treasury, and neither the Prime Minister nor the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the Committee, even in an estimate, what was the total sum of money the Resolution was to authorise payment of. The Committee stage of the Resolution was closured on Friday afternoon. As he read the Resolution, it was an indefinite sum that was to be paid out of the Exchequer. It seemed to him they had arrived at a stage when the Treasury was to be considered as a sort of private box of the Ministry of the day, instead of as the public purse to be directly guarded by this House. He doubted if there ever was an occasion throughout the history of the House when there was a Resolution undiscussed in Committee or unexplained on the Report stage by a Minister of the Crown, and by which it was proposed to authorise large sums of money to be paid out of the Treasury, without any estimate in round figures being placed before the House. He should have liked to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place at present. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, as guardian of the Treasury, would not remain dumb to the end of the Report stage. The position was even more striking for this reason, that the Resolution which stood on the Paper for many weeks until Friday last, was a Resolution which had been drawn up in consultation with the them Chancellor of the Exchequer. They were informed by the Prime Minister that it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day that had insisted on the grant from the Treasury should not exceed three fourths of the expenditure on education. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer in doing that was taking a very effectual safeguard over the National funds, but in a moment that safeguard had disappeared. He hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would tell the House what he thought of this unlimited Resolution.

Resolution agreed to.