HC Deb 13 June 1904 vol 135 cc1558-73

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

MR. BOLAND (Kerry, S.)

said his object in putting down the Motion which stood upon the Paper was to call attention to the difficulties under which a number of his co-religionists, in Newport especially, many of them the children of parents of his own race, laboured under this Provisional Order Bill.


Do I understand the hon. Member's object in moving the rejection of the Bill is the same as that which he has for moving the Instruction.


said he desired to defeat the Second Reading of the Bill, but that if he failed in that then he desired to move the Instruction.


The hon. Member is in order; but I was going to suggest that if the object was exactly the same the hon. Member should allow the Second Reading to go, and devote his attention to the Instruction.


said he thanked Mr. Speaker for his suggestion, but he preferred to address himself to the rejection of the Bill, Under this Provisional Order no provision had been made for a Catholic representation on the Education Committee of Newport, yet out of a total of 14,000 children in ail the schools of Newport 2,000 were Catholics, while in the voluntary schools there were 2,000 Catholic children out of 2,500. In other words the Catholic children of Newport were one-seventh of the child population of that district, and were four-fifths of the child population of the voluntary schools. A stronger case for a Catholic representative on the Education Committee could not exist. How was the Education Committee under this Provisional Order to be constituted? According to the Bill there was no provision whatever for a Catholic representative, and the only means by which the Catholics could have representation on the Education Committee was to be found on page 40 of the Bill, where it provided that a member might be put forward by the voluntary school managers. There was such a member now on the Newport Town Council, but he was a representative of the Church of England schools which had amalgamated for this purpose. What he was concerned with was not so much to lay emphasis on the constitution under the Provisional Order but to avoid the danger in the future that Catholic representatives should be excluded. His great object also was to avoid the religious question being raised in municipal elections. It would be a most unfortunate thing if in municipal elections the religious question were brought up and it was said that such a candidate should be put forward or opposed because there was or was not a representative of his religious opinions on the Education Committee. It was in order to avoid religious strife of this kind that he suggested now that until in this Provisional Order it was arranged that a Catholic should be on the Education Committee, this Bill should not be proceeded with.

With regard to the interpretation of the Education Act, he called attention to some of the difficulties in which a member of an Education Committee would find himself. It was perfectly clear from the Act that provision should be made in all cases where a claim for representation could be legitimately made out. The value of the discussion which he now raised was the fact that it gave to Parliament the opportunity to say what it really meant when it passed the Education Act by construing the words of the Act which it had passed. In Newport there had been a desire to avoid friction if possible. On the part of the Catholics there was a desire to meet all sides fairly; they recognised that on the county council they had good representation, but they recognised the fact that although that representation was good there was no guarantee that that state of things would continue and the Catholics would not he mindful of the welfare of their children unless they saw a provision made in the Provisional Order that that representation should continue. In conclusion he urged upon the House that this was a most exceptional case, that the proportion of the Catholic children in Newport was out of all proportion to what obtained in other parts of the country and that the Catholics of Newport felt as they had an exceptional case that before this Bill went through the co-option clause should be made to include Catholic members conversant with the educational needs of the county, and that these matters should not be, as now, left more or less to chance. He moved that this Bill be read a second time his day six months.

MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)

said he formally seconded the Motion, and could add very little to the speech made by his hon. friend, which proved the truth of the contentions made on several occasions. They could not say what the actual result of the Act of last year would be, time alone would tell, but it was only natural that Catholics should make a fight for their schools.

Amendment proposed— To leave out the word 'now' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. Boland.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said his hon. friend ought to be congratulated on the great skill he had shown in dealing with circumstances diverse in their character and often extremely difficult. It was of happy augury that after the somewhat angry discussions which had taken place in 1902 there should remain only one case in which the decision of Parliament was sought. All other discussions had ended amicably and he hoped this would also. All the other cases had been concluded by an amicable conference between the hon. Baronet and the local authority concerned, and this was the only case in which that more friendly solution had not been taken advantage of. The onus of proof in this case rested very much with those who desired to refuse the Second Reading of this Bill. It was impossible that the conditions of Newport could be so different from those of other places that there must be a different mode of settling a difficulty to that which had been arranged in other places. Newport was a prosperous mining and commercial town with every appearance of happiness and success. The provision that all members of the Education Committee should be members of the town council had been adopted in no case whatever. There had been, he believed, in every case a power of election either by the council itself or by those whose recommendations had been submitted to the council and approved by them. That was strongly recommended by the right hon. Member for Aberdeen on behalf of the Commission over which he had so well presided. He had am tied most forcibly, and to his (Sir Francis') mind conclusively, as to the importance of not confining the members of the Education Committees to the members of the councils alone, but of taking advice outside. By seeking such advice they got greater uniformity in the sanitary laws. It was a very great misfortune that towns near to one another should live under different Sanitary Acts, and he hoped the time would come when Parliament itself would reverse its steps and would make for that uniformity which hitherto it had discouraged. He thought the same law ought to prevail with regard to matters of education. The instances in which appointments, nominations, or recommendations were made from outside were almost innumerable, and showed that the suggestions of the right hon. Member for Aberdeen, which had been practically carried out in the operation of this Act. had been acceptable to the great communities. In the case of Leeds, they had on their Education Committee a representative of the Yorkshire College, Wolverhampton had one from the Birmingham University, Wakefield co-opted from the Yorkshire College, Cheshire from the Liverpool University, Lancaster from the Manchester University, Suffolk from the Cambridge University, Warwick from the Birmingham University, Liverpool from the Liverpool University, Manchester from the Manchester University, Rotherham from the University College, Sheffield. He himself had the honour of being a member of the Education Committee of Wigan, and there they had a representative of the University of Liverpool, who was one of the most valuable members on the Committee, bringing as he did from that University information which they did not possess at Wigan, and which was of the greatest benefit to them.

The clause to which objection had been taken provided first of all that the members of the Education Committee should be members of the county council and then proceeded to say, "if at any time in the opinion of the council a sufficient number of persons qualified as required by this Order cannot be found among the members of the council they can ask for the addition of three members chosen from outside its own members." There had been cases of this kind in various parts of Yorkshire which were sufficient to prove the value of that principle in working the Act, and its popularity. He hoped the House would come to a unanimous conclusion in this case and that there would thus be an end of all these cases without any adverse voting. That would be a happy omen of the time when there would be more unanimity in the case of education which would promote the progress of that great movement of which they all desired to see the success.

DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)

said the discussion was valuable because it gave the Board of Education an opportunity of stating exactly their interpretation of the Act of 1902. Section 17, as originally drafted, made it obligatory for outsiders to be on an Education Committee, but it was altered in its passage through the House. The view taken by the Board of Education was that it was obligatory, and the Board of Education continued in that spirit for a long time. They badgered Bridgwater for a very long time. Bridgwater constended that the words "where it appear desirable" governed not merely nomination or recommendation but also the broad fact that where it was not desirable, outsiders need not be put on. The Board of Education said that was not so, and badgered them until they put on an outsider. The same thing happened to the little town of Loughborough, who took the view that they need not have outsiders on their Education Committee unless they liked. The Board of Education would not have that at any price, and the Parliamentary Secretary the hon. Baronet insisted in the most emphatic way that he would in all schemes submitted to him compel the community to have outsiders on the Committee. The thing went on; Cardiff and Newport remained recalcitrant—they said we will have members of our town council on our Committee, and we will have a woman on our Committee; that is obligatory, but we will not have outsiders unless we think it is desirable. Then came the London County Council with a scheme in which they said they would have only London County Councillors on the Committee, and then the Board of Education caved in and did not dare to badger them. It got out of the difficulty in the most puerile way. It said, "Tell us, if you please, whether there are in the Council persons versed in educational interests." He thought that the Board of Education were interpreting Clause 17 entirely at variance with what had been Consistently stated from the Treasury Bench. His own position was perfectly clear. He resisted co-option when the Bill was being passed; but now the Board of Education ran one way in London and another way in the smaller towns. He objected to co-option because he desired that the education authority should be directly elected. As far as he was concerned, he should like to see Catholics on the Education Committee, but they ought to stand first as members for the town council. He rested on a democratic basis in this matter. The whole incident, apart from the vagaries of the Education Department, showed the utter folly of his Catholic friends in rejecting the ad hoc principle. What had been the experience since 1870? There was a Roman Catholic representative on every great school board; but under the new Act it was complained that Catholics could not get representation. He read a speech the other day which was delivered by the Very Rev. Canon Richardson, of Manchester, who said— When the Act of 1902 was first introduced he thought it was a measure which would do a lot of good. It had, however, turned out to be a rotten Act which was doing Catholics a lot of harm. If the Newport School Board was left as it was, it would certainly have a Catholic representative, just as Catholics had been represented on the school boards of London, Liverpool, Manchester, and other cities. It was too late for his Catholic friends to ask for preferential treatment; and it would have been better had they voted for a directly elected education authority.


said that the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Camberwell was always asking them to trust everybody at the polls, but what if they could not obtain a representative by direct election? The Education Act was a very good Act for Catholics. It give them a great deal of money, although they did not get as much as was given to the Board schools, and he thought that Catholics should struggle to have representation on the various education authorities. He suggested that the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment should let the Second Reading pass without a division, provided he got the Instruction. Catholics could not claim to have a majority of the representation; but they certainly ought to be represented by at least one member. Surely, the House would not be afraid of allowing one Catholic member on the board of management; and he hoped that the Government would be able to accept the Instruction.


said the fact that the Provisional Order had been attacked on two sides, one complaining that co-option had been suggested, the other that co-option had been insufficiently secured, showed that the Board of Education had been fair and impartial in the matter. The Board had never varied in its policy. It had never raised any objection to the Committee being entirely constituted of members of the council, always provided they were assured they were persons of experience in education and acquainted with the educational needs of the area, and they had asked every local authority, which did not place outsiders on its Committee, not to close the door to co-option in case persons duly qualified should not be present on the Council. There was not a local authority averse to co-option which had not accepted, after more or less hesitation, such a scheme as was now before the House. [Dr. MACNAMARA: What about the case of London?] Among the local authorities which had accepted such a scheme were the county of Monmouth, the boroughs of Bradford, Halifax, and Scarborough, while a good many local authorities in Wales had accepted schemes in which not less than a certain number of the Committee must be, and and all might be, members of this Council. In regard to London he could not help thinking that, when Parliament had laid upon the County Council the enormous burden of educational administration, the Board were right in allowing the County Council to work out its scheme of education in its own way—[Dr. MACNAMARA: In accordance with Section 17]—in accordance with Section 17. But had this scheme borne hardly upon any local authority? Of the three boroughs for which schemes were being made by Provisional Order Swansea had not opposed, Newport was now prepared to accept such a scheme, Cardiff desired no more than to enter a protest against any suggestion of co-option. He did not think the Board of Education did any injustice to any local authority in asking them not to close the door against co-option if at some time they should find they could not obtain suitable members in the council for their Education Committee. As to the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Kerry, the Board of Education had never been unmindful of the anxiety felt by the managers of denominational schools that they should have representation on the Education Committees, and they had always pointed out to the local authorities that the anxiety of those bodies would be allayed if they were given a spokesman—for it came to no more—on the Education Committee. But if the local authorities replied that they objected on democratic principles to co-option, or that they were afraid that if denominational representation was introduced into the Education Committee it would give rise to religious disputes and difficulties; and when they further said that they had no intention of dealing unfairly with denominational schools, but desired that the Education Committee should consist of members of their own council, the Board had always given way to the local authorities. If the Board refused to give way to the local authorities in such a matter, it was not one Provisional Order but fifty or sixty Provisional Orders they would have to introduce, and the time of the House of Commons would be occupied in discussing the details of education schemes over a great part of England. Moreover, it would be no benefit to the schools whose representatives were forced on the Education Committee by the Board of Education in opposition to local feeling. As matters stood, he knew of no complaint of injustice having been done to Roman Catholic schools in districts where the Roman Catholics had no direct representation on the Education Committee. In Bradford and in Newcastle-on-Tyne there were in each case more than 4,000 Roman Catholic children in the schools, in St. Helen's more than 5,000. There was no special provision for Roman Catholic representation and there had been no complaints. What was asked for in the case of Newport was preferential treatment of one denomination and a complicated procedure for choosing a Roman Catholic for this Committee which would be embodied in a Provisional Order and only alterable by Bill. He was sure that the Board were right in the interests of the smooth working of the Act, and of the schools themselves, to decline to force on local authorities a form of representation to which they were averse.

MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)

said that, personally, he was not opposed to the co-option of outside members to Education Committees. On the contrary, he would welcome it; but what he objected to was the forcing of local education authorities to elect outside members when such a proceeding was contrary to local opinion. The Secretary to the Board of Education admitted that; and that was practically his own opinion also. If he was a member of the Newport Town Council, he would favour the inclusion of persons of experience; but he objected to forcing on the elected authorities the nominee of outside bodies against their wish.


said that under the Provisional Order the Education Committee would have power to co-opt persons of experience if they so desired, and only if they so desired.


said the point he wished to put was that the principle of co-option ought not to be forced upon reluctant authorities. If a town council preferred to trust its own members who were elected by the people, why should not they be allowed to do so. He thought that towns like Newport and Cardiff would elect the very best men available. After all, the duties cast on the local authorities by the Education Act were more important than the duties cast upon them by any other Act; and, therefore, he objected to their being forced to co-opt against their will. He thought the Act was perfectly clear upon that point. It was intended that the power of co-option should be left to the local authorities to exercise if they considered it desirable. After all, a town council was the best judge as to the wants and needs of its locality. The local authorities were afraid that the academic element might become too strong. There was considerable suspicion of that element; and in some places there was as much prejudice against it as there was against parsons. The local authorities were afraid of persons of that kind being forced upon them. The Secretary to the Board of Education drew distinctions between London and Cardiff, and he said that London was treated differently from Cardiff. But why was that? It was because when the Act for London was passed they had had a year's experience of the Act of 1902; and they found that there was in the country a feeling of resentment against the action of the Board of Education. If there was a distinction to be drawn between London and Cardiff it was not altogether in favour of London. In London less than 40 per cent, of the electors recorded their votes, but that was not the case in Cardiff. If a distinction was to be drawn he would rather trust those who had given the most genuine guarantees of their interests in education. He thought these public bodies could be trusted to select the best people to look after their own interests.

The Board of Education had been very careful to carry out Sub-section 3 of Section 17, which referred to nomination by voluntary schools and outside bodies, but he noticed that Sub-section D was ignored altogether. He had never before seen a Provisional Order of this character. He did not think his hon. friend need fear that the Catholics in Wales would be unfairly treated provided they showed that they had some confidence in the people. He was perfectly certain that the Catholics had never had any reason in the past to consider that they had been treated unfairly by the vast bulk of the people of Wales. Unfortunately, the Catholics had ranged themselves on the side of those whom the Opposition considered were the enemies of Welsh education at the present moment. They had gone inside Port Arthur and consequently they must take the risk; but if a shell struck a Catholic school it was not because they were aimed at the Catholics, but because they were aimed at the battlements. They were not trying to hit anybody in particular, but they were firing into the line of battle. Therefore the Catholics must not take it that those who opposed this measure had any angry feeling towards them, because there was really no feeling at all in the matter. As his hon. friend had told the House there were Catholics upon the Cardiff Town Council, and there was no objection towards them simply because they were Catholics. There were also, he was informed. Catholics on the Newport Town Council. He wished to say, however, that if Catholic representatives were to be forced on the people by a Provisional Older he was afraid it would do the Catholics themselves more harm than if they trusted to the good sense of the people in Wales. The hon. Baronet the Member for Wigan said he was in favour of this proposal because it created uniformity, but it was perfectly clear that the hon. Baronet could not have studied these schemes, for he had never seen a measure in which there was less uniformity. Because this measure interfered with the local autonomy of two towns which were well fitted to manage these things for themselves he should oppose this Provisional Order.


said he had never heard a more extraordinary speech than she one which had just been delivered. The hon. Member for Carnarvon said he was supporting the rejection of this Bill in order to secure a particular kind of co-option, although in the past he had objected to any form whatever of co-option.


said that on the contrary he had supported co-option in the case of his own council.


said the hon. Member for Kerry had moved the rejection of this Bill in order to secure a most objectionable kind of preferential co-option in the case of the Cardiff education scheme. The co-option he desired was a co-option for a particular religious denomination, and this House, he was sure, would never agree to give preferential treatment to any religious denomination, however strong they might happen to be. That was the position he had always taken up. The hon. Member opposite not only did not want this co-option, but he did not want even the possibility of a future council exercising the Tight of co-option, and yet he asked the House to reject the Bill. Coming to the special objections which had been raised to this Provisional Order, he did not think that those hon. Members who had raised objections understood the proposals of this measure in the least. It had been said that they ought not to compel the town council or county council to co-opt, but the real fact of the matter was that this scheme did not give any such compulsion whatever. It simply laid down that the Education Committee was to consist of twenty-six members of the town council of Cardiff and two women, provided that if, in the opinion of the council, a sufficient number of competent persons could not be found amongst the members of the council, the council could co-opt three members from outside. So far from compelling co-option this Bill permitted it at a future time if the council thought it desirable. A future Cardiff Town Council might come to the decision that they could strengthen their Education Committee by co-option, and why should they not have that power? The hon. Member for Carnarvon talked a great deal about democratic institutions, but now he appeared to be afraid of the working of them, and he wanted to tie the hands of future town councils of Cardiff by the narrow opinions held by the present town council. For his own part, if he had any objection to this Bill at all, it would be not because it compelled co-option but because the compulsory powers were so very weak. He would sooner see co-option in all cases so arranged that all educational interests and all the different religious denominations should be adequately represented. His only objection was that this measure did not go far enough, and if the hon. Member for Kerry had moved his Amendment in the interests of all denominations he should have supported him. He could not see how anybody who desired to see these great authorities carrying out education in their areas in the interests of all concerned, and in the most enlightened spirit, could object to the council having this very mild power of strengthening their hands by additions from outside if they thought it desirable.

LORD EDMUND TALBOT (Sussex, Chichester)

said he agreed that in this matter of representation Catholics had a distinct grievance. Although he sympathised with the hon. Member for Kerry he did not advise him to press his Amendment to a division, because if a division were taken and his proposal were carried, it would defeat the very object which the hon. Member and himself had in view. Therefore he hoped the hon. Member would take the advice of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway and not carry his proposal to a division. If he did press it to a division he was afraid he should have to vote against him.

MR. SAMUEL EVANS (Glamorganshire, Mid.)

said it was a new thing for the hon. Member for Tunbridge to ask that there should be no preferential treatment for any religious denomination. He had followed this controversy very closely, and he was bound to say that in his opinion he did not think there was any compulsion in this scheme, but it was a mere conformity with the letter of the law. So far from being of a compulsory character, the proviso stated that the town council need not co-opt, and it limited the power of co-option which they at present possessed. If in the opinion of the council a sufficient number of persons could not be found among the members of the council, then the council might enlarge the Committee. Therefore the scheme said the town council were not to co-opt at all unless the council concluded that it did not contain a sufficient number amongst its members qualified to act. They were only to co-opt if, in the opinion of the council for the time being, there was not a sufficient number of members qualified to act upon the Education Committee. He should like to see the county borough of Cardiff or Newport represented by a council who were prepared to say that their council did not contain a sufficient number of people qualified to constitute this Committee. Why was this scheme brought forward as a Provisional Order? Why, merely to let down gently the Education Department, who had to confess themselves beaten in their struggle with the Welsh boroughs, but were allowed to pretend to force these schemes upon them. They were told when the Education Bill was under consideration that if the got into struggles of this kind the Government would find themselves worsted, but nevertheless they were wasting the time of the House of Commons in passing a Bill to confirm Provisional Orders in order to do that which could have been accomplished by sanctioning a scheme were it not that the Education Department wished to save it? amour propre. He was sorry that the hon. Member for Carnarvon had stated that he was going to vote against these Orders, because he was in favour of them. In Wales, up to the present, in the administration of secondary education they had kept outside these denominational difficulties. With regard to the Catholics he thought that far and away the wiser course for the Catholics to pursue was to trust to the Education Committees appointed by the various education authorities. At the present moment it was well to remember the part which the Catholics took along with the supporters of the Government in the slaughter of school boards. As they all knew, on the school boards in the past the Roman Catholics had always been able to get a representative by means of the cumulative vote, and, therefore, having assisted to abolish school boards he did not think it became them now to complain that they could not get everything in the scheme which was embodied in the Act of 1902. He should vote for the Second Reading of this measure, because he thought this Provisional Order was absolutely harmless and it would allow the Education Department to drop down gently.

SIR JOSEPH LAWRENCE (Monmouth Boroughs)

said that as Newport was the principal town in his constituency, he hoped the House would let the Bill go to a Second Reading. He sympathised with the object of the hon. Member for South Kerry and the other Members of the Irish Party in insisting upon some representation being accorded under the scheme to the Roman Catholics of Newport. But it was evident from the course the debate had taken that any attempt to secure preferential treatment for any particular denomination was bound to be defeated, and under these circumstances it was better to accept the inevitable with a good grace, and trust to the correct feeling and sense of fair play of the majority of the local education authority to act generously to the minority. The hon. Member for South Kerry had made his protest, and that was all that could reasonably be expected now, for since the four Catholic Members of the Newport Town Council, whom they might have looked to to protect the interests of their own body, had consented to the scheme, the ground for any opposition in the special interests of the Catholic body was cut from underneath the feet of himself and the hon. Member opposite. He appealed therefore to the Irish Members to withdraw the Amendment and Instruction, and so not to interfere with the favourable reception which was now given to the scheme by the Catholic town councillors of Newport; and he urged this also in the interests of educational harmony. On the merits of the Instruction itself he should like to say this—that perhaps there was no other town in Great Britain where a stronger case could be made out, or where facts more eloquently spoke in favour of some exceptional educational representation being accorded to the Catholic body, than Newport. Four-fifths of the children in the voluntary schools were members of that faith, and if the House only knew of the denial and self-sacrificing labours which the Roman Catholic clergy and laity of the town had practised in order to provide for the educational wants of their poorer brethren, the knowledge of those efforts would only extort the warmest approval.


said that with the permission of the House he would withdraw his Motion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.