|Board of Education||7,000,000|
|Royal Palaces and Marlborough House||26,000|
|Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens||35,000|
|Houses of Parliament Buildings||16,000|
|Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain||30,000|
|Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain||15,000|
|Diplomatic and Consular Buildings||20,000|
|Public Buildings, Great Britain||160,000|
|Surveys of the United Kingdom||90,000|
|Harbours under the Board of Trade||10,000|
|Rates on Government Property||260,000|
|Public Works and Buildings, Ireland||110,000|
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
said he proposed to move to reduce this Vote by the sum of £500, in order to call attention to the administration of the Education Act. He knew that he could only allude very indirectly to the merits of the Act itself. He wished to ask the Government whether, having regard to the state of things in the country and to the way in which the Act had worked, they would consider the question of mitigating the asperities of the Act and suspending the operation of certain clauses of the Act until the country had had an opportunity of reconsidering the whole question and expressing an opinion upon it. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Education, in one of the debates last-year, expressed an opinion that the Act was working without friction. Well, that depended entirely upon what his idea of friction was. If it meant that there were no rows outside the Board of Education it could only be said that that branch of the Government was an exception and differed from every other branch. But that was not what friction meant or ought to mean. The questionwas—was the Act working smoothly in the country, was it accepted by the country as a settlement of the question? He was told from all parts of the country that one result of the operation of the Act had been that the work thrown by it on the county councils was so enormous, especially in the case of the larger councils, that it had fallen entirely into the hands of the officials; of course in that case there would be no friction, but then that was not what the Government called popular control. He proposed to call attention to the religious difficulty, because he was perfectly certain that until that difficulty 1005 was removed the Act would not work without friction. The hon. Gentleman last year suggested that the country was accepting it as a settlement even of the religious difficulty, but there was no section or class of opinion in the country that accepted the Act as a settlement of the religious difficulty; Nonconformists did not accept it, and the Church did not accept it, for the Church Times in a leading article only last week said, "nothing but a complete resettlement of the whole question can save us." No Party in the community accepted it as a settlement, and therefore he asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education whether he would do his best to prevent the worst features of the Act from being rigidly carried out until there was a resettlement, or whether he was determined, in the teeth of public opinion, to stick to clauses of the Act that were obnoxious.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
Obnoxious except to hon. Members for Ireland, whom it did not touch. He was referring, of course, to the people who had to carry the Act out and to bear the burden. Every opportunity the country had had of expressing an opinion had boon taken advantage of to denounce the Act; and having regard to that, ought not the Government to do something not to press those parts which were obnoxious to the general public? The hon. Gentleman a year ago made merry over the passive resistance movement. At that time only a few hundred summonses had been issued, but the number of summonses had now risen to 18,000, There were 80,000 cases in which final notices had been served, and the movement was growing day by day. No doubt, from the strictly technical point of view, the movement was a conspiracy. But why was not a prosecution proposed? Because the sympathy of the public was with the resisters of the law. The Act was not accepted in England, there was a great protest against it, and the Government ought to reconsider their position even from the point of view of administration.
He desired to speak chiefly with regard to Wales. The Principality 1006 was probably the most law-abiding part of His Majesty's dominions, the sole function of Judges of assize usually being to receive a pair of white gloves; therefore what had happened was not an outburst of anarchy or a sudden desire on the part of the people to break the law; it was simply a strong and emphatic protest against an Act which they considered to be unfair. What was the position of the Welsh county councils when the administration of this Act was cast upon them? They knew perfectly well that if they levied a rate for the support of Church schools, which were not popularly controlled, and in which sectarian tests were imposed, there would be a passive resistance movement throughout Wales of an even more extended character than had arisen in England. The large majority of the members of the county councils were Nonconformists, and they had to contemplate the possibility of having to prosecute, to drag to the police court and to sell up their own friends, members of their own faith, and their own political supporters, for not paying rates for the support of institutions which they themselves condemned; and they came to the conclusion that under the circumstances it would be fairer and braver to take upon themselves the responsibility of protesting than to leave it to their constituents, while they simply acted as prosecutors. The Board of Education had instituted an inquiry, which was the first step towards the issuing of a mandamus, and that, if persisted in, would mean imprisonment for contempt. Did the Secretary to the Board of Education really think that, having regard to the state of public opinion, this I was a case in which he should proceed to extremities? Was it not rather a case in which a broad and statesmanlike view: should be taken, and an attempt made to effect a settlement? These gentlemen in Wales had taken a conscientious stand, and it was as difficult to persuade men with strong convictions on a particular subject to abandon their position as to persuade a Government with no settled; convictions on any subject to abandon its position.
He was not going to ask the Committee to express any opinion on the action of the Welsh county councils. 1007 Those bodies were responsible to their constituents for the course they had taken. But they bad a certain justification in the words of Ministers of the Crown. For instance, the President of the Local Government Board recently, referring to the breaking of the law by motorists, instead of urging prosecutions criticised the action of the police, and pointed out that even the Prime Minister had suffered in this respect. It was not the only respect in which the Prime Minister had suffered through allowing himself to be driven by a headlong chauffeur. But the President of the Local Government Board, after criticising the men who put the law into operation, proceeded to say that the law was a farce and must be amended. That was just the position of the Welsh county councils. The right hon. Gentleman was head of the Local Government Board, and the view of the county councils was "Our chief holds that if the law is a bad one we are justified in setting it at defiance, and that it is the duty of a decent Government to amend it." That, too, was the position of the Prime Minister with regard to licensing. The law provided that the necessities of the neighbourhood should be taken into account in the question of licences, but the Prime Minister had declared that that requirement pressed hardly upon the owners of property, and had appealed to the magistrates to suspend the operation of the law until an opportunity arose for amending it. The Welsh county councils contended that the Education Act pressed severely on the consciences of thousands of decent people, that they really could not put it into operation, and that, if it had to be administered, it should be by the Board of Education itself. They were determined not to be made the instruments for oppressing their neighbours, and they appealed to the Government to reconsider the whole situation and bring in an amending Bill. One or two cases out of many might be given as showing that irritation and even exasperation were justified by the administration of the Board of Education. One was the school at Pant Glas in Carnarvonshire. The trustees were Church, but the school had been built largely by the efforts of parishioners who were mainly Nonconformists. 1008 Unfortunately the trusts were usually settled frequently behind the backs of the subscribers—by the donors of the sites. For some time this particular school was run as a Church school, but, as there were few Churchmen in the parish, that could not be carried very far. When repairs and extensions were required, a meeting was summoned of the parishioners, who refused to subscribe unless the school were made in reality a parochial school. The clergyman had to accept the condition, and a representative committee of management was appointed. That was how things stood on the passing of the Act. Then, however, finding he could do without voluntary subscribers, the clergyman immediately obtained from the Board of Education an order for a new board of management, with the result that this school, built largely by Nonconformists, and containing not a single Church scholar, was placed under Church management.
§ *THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Sir WILLIAM ANSON,) Oxford University
reminded the hon. Member that the Order to which he was referring was a Draft Final Order, made in accordance with the trust deed, and liable to be reconsidered by the Board of Education when the usage of the school in times past was brought before it by persons in the locality.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that was exactly why he was raising the point. These facts had been represented by the county council, but he had yet to learn that the Board had intimated their intention of cancelling the Order. Under that Order the principal officiating minister of the parish was to be ex officio a manager, or, failing him, the archdeacon, who lived miles away; the nominated manager was to be appointed from time to time by the principal officiating minister; and the two representative managers were to be appointed by the subscribers—although there were now no subscribers, the whole cost of maintenance being cast upon the country. Another clause—which was inserted in all these Orders—provided that only bonâ fide members of the Church of England should be qualified to become managers, 1009 and that no person should be entitled to act until he had signed a declaration that he was a member of the Church of England. If this had been a solitary instance he would not have thought much about it, but he had a bundle of similar cases from Carnarvon, in each of which there appeared a disqualification clause by which the office of a foundation manager was determined if the manager in question became a bankrupt, a lunatic, or a Nonconformist. Although all the children in the schools were Nonconformist, not a single dissenting parent was allowed to be a foundation manager, and yet the Secretary to the Board was "mandamusing" county councils for refusing to stand such insolence in the Orders. Another case was the school at Clynnog, in which Mr. Acland took a great interest. The parishioners refused to subscribe for the rebuilding of the schools unless popular management was instituted. A representative board of management was formed and remained in office until the passage of the Act. The vicar was a member, but he was only one among five or six, and the system worked uncommonly well. Immediately after the passing of the Act an Order was obtained and there again was the same clause that they must be members of the Church of England. [MINISTERIAL cries of Hear, hear!] Hon. Members opposite seemed to think that that was a fair thing. This was a parish where the proportion of Nonconformists to Churchmen was 100 to nine and the only school in the parish built for Nonconformists with the parishioners money had been declared a Church of England school, and no Nonconformist could become one of the foundation managers. He thought that was a monstrous injustice.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said the Board of Education must pay some attention, under Clause 11. to the principles on which the education given in the schools had been conducted in the past. The Board of Education always regarded evidence of usage in the matter in order to settle the draft Orders which were sent to the local authority and other persons interested in the matter. The local authority had not apparently interested itself sufficiently in this matter to make 1010 any representation to the Board of Education. If either the local authority or any person interested in the matter had done so the matter would have been considered.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said the hon. Baronet must have forgotten that the county council of Carnarvonshire had made representations but the grievance had not been redressed. As a matter of fact he had a copy that morning of the representations made by the county council of Carmarthen to the Board of Education, but he had not the date.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said if the Secretary to the Board of Education told him that cases of that sort would be set right then his object would have been served. Take the case of Carmarthen. That was a very crucial case. He could give the Committee the case of a mining village where the rector appointed his two daughters and an old housekeeper at the rectory as the foundation managers. It had been stated that this was a parish 1,200 feet above the sea level. Evidently it was so much above all ordinary ideas of fair play. He was aware that the idea that one of these managers was a servant at the rectory had been repudiated, but he had made further inquiries and found that this statement was correct. One of his complaints was that under these Orders it was competent for the clergyman of a parish, practically, to have his own board of management appointed. Take the Carmarthen schools. With regard to an overwhelming majority of them the Nonconformists were in the proportion of three or four to one and in most cases the Nonconformists helped to build the schools. The hon. Baronet had appointed a very able lawyer to inquire into the matter and he wished to know whether he was going to inquire only into the technical breaches of the Act or into the whole educational condition of Carmarthen and report to the Government what the state of the case really was. Those schools in Carmarthen were under complete clerical control. The vicar was ex-officio manager and in 1011 some cases appointed the second member. Then the two together co-opted members, and in order to make them completely under the control of the minister the co-opted members retired one in the second and the other in the third year. Then they had to be re-elected by those who remained on the Board. The two clergymen on the Board could either elect or re-elect the co-opted members, and therefore instead of being perfectly independent their tenure on the Board was at the mercy of the two clerical members. That was what the Board of Education had sanctioned in regard to schools maintained exclusively out of public funds. There was the case of a village in Carmarthenshire where a school was built by the parishioners, and there was only one Churchman in the parish at the time. The clergyman resided in an adjoining parish. The old British school fell into a state of bad repair and the clergyman said that they must have a new school. Everybody contributed to the school and those who could not give cash contributed something else. Some gave the use of a horse and cart and others gave money, and they helped to build the school either by contributing in this way or giving their labour. To the astonishment of the parishioners the trust had been given over to the National Society. Naturally the parishioners made a protest, but it was no good, and the school was now being run as a Church school while practically there were no others but Nonconformists in the parish. That exasperated and irritated the people beyond endurance, and there were limits to human endurance. Here was a case of a trust in the hands of the Board of Education, and an Order that the foundation managers must sign a declaration that they were members of the Church of England and the moment they ceased to be members they were disqualified. The might be the best men in the parish, but the moment they joined the religion of the majority of the people who built the school they had to go. The people of Carmarthen declared that they would rather go to prison than pay the education rate under such circumstances.
The Prime Minister said, "Why do you not build your own schools? The lavish 1012 generosity of Churchmen built these schools, and now you want to collar them." Churchmen had not built them. There was an inquiry by the Charity Commissioners—not a very partisan body from the Nonconformist point of view —into these trusts among others, and case after case would be found where the schools had not been built by the Anglican Church. Besides, if the parishioners there really wanted little denominational schools of their own they had got to build them. He made an inquiry into the case of Carmarthen, and he found that there was not a single parish throughout the county which had not an excellent school attached to some chapel or other, most of them better than the national school from the point of view of light, air, and ventilation. They were more modern and excellent buildings. What would happen if they followed the advice of the Prime Minister and took advantage of the clause in the Act which enabled them to set up denominational schools. He impressed this on the Committee in order to show that they were not making a fight for their own sect, and that it was not merely intolerance. Supposing they utilised each denominational school they could get more than thirty children and they could I get the county council readily to I acknowledge it, and they could go to the Board of Education, and that Board would not refuse it. What would happen was this. In a parish with 120 children all now in one school and brought up together as one little community, they would have three hostile wrangling little camps—the J Church crowd in one, the Congregational crowd in another, and the Methodists in a third. That was as bad from the social point of view as could be imagined. What about the educational point of view. From the sectarian point of view it would be a first rate thing. It would mean that the county council would furnish the school; every desk would be bought out of the rates instead of being subscribed for by little farmers who had not too much money to spare. More than that, they could get a teacher, and although they could not lay it down as a condition of his tenure, it would be an understanding that he would be a Sunday school teacher, that he would play the organ, and that he would be a sort of lay 1013 curate for the minister in the little church. There would also be one or two little assistants who would be most useful to the Congregational chapel in the district. If they were simply seeking sectarian ends they would follow the Prime Minister's advice, wreck the parish, and ruin education. He thought it was to their honour that they preferred to submit to hardship and grievance, and the intolerance and greed of one sect, until they got the thing remedied, rather than ruin the education of their children for a whole generation. The Congregationalists were practically the National Church in that community; they were an overwhelming majority of the public. The Anglican communion was a negligible quantity so far as numbers were concerned. He did not want to say anything disrespectful. The Church said, "We want to have our own school, and have our children taught by our own teacher—a man of our own communion. We think that is necessary for the religious instruction of our children." Congregationalists would naturally prefer a man of their own religious opinion, and he would be useful to them, but they preferred to take the interest of the whole community into account. Seeing that the Nonconformists were taking a perfectly unselfish point of view, he asked the Board of Education not to proceed to the extremity of sending men to prison for taking a perfectly enlightened, fair, and honourable view of their duty.
There was no county council that had fretted the members of the opposite party or different communions more fairly than the county council of Carmarthen. It was a Nonconformist council by three or four to one. There was a vacancy in the clerkship of the council a short time ago, and although there were applications from Nonconformists, they elected a Churchman. It was idle to suggest that it was purely sectarian rancour that had driven them to this position. They had really done it for the protection of their own children, and the protection of their own people, and he asked the hon. Member to consider whether it was not better, from the point of view of education, from the point of view of the Government itself, that a perfectly fair inquiry should be 1014 instituted into the circumstances rather than that the Government should do as they had done. He knew they had been misled by the Bishops. He was perfectly certain that they were told by certain Bishops that the Welsh county councils would not take that line. He asked the Government whether it was not a case for statesmanship and not for police action. It was not a case for threats. These people were fighting a perfectly unselfish battle. They had been supporters of religious equality. In the election of 1868 they fought for the principle of religious equality for Ireland with no promise of anything for themselves. These farmers in Carmarthenshire defied their landlords then, and voted Liberal for the first time. There were scores of them evicted. There was an inquiry by the House of Commons into the circumstances of the evictions, and it ended in the passing of the Ballot Act. When the Welsh people had suffered all this for religious equality in Ireland, he thought he could appeal to Irish Members not to vote for sending men to prison when they were going to apply the same principle to themselves. These men were taking a perfectly broad view of the whole situation. He was speaking, be believed, the opinion of the vast majority of the people in Wales when he said that they would rather have a settlement thin strike, but if the Government persisted in pushing this to an extremity, they were prepared to endure any penalty the law could put upon them. The county councils of Wales met as a body, and sent a reasonable invitation to the Bishops to meet them and discuss the possibility of arriving at a settlement before they ever threatened at all. What did the Bishops do? Three of the four Bishops refused to meet the county councils. He knew it was the Bishops who were now pressing the Government to prosecute the Welsh county councils. He could well understand that hon. Members opposite could hardly conceive that to be the case, and he said that to their credit. He was sorry to say it was the case. It was Episcopal pressure which was now inducing the Government to take this action. He did not believe the Government wished to do it. They were willing to let matters slide. The county councils in Wales were willing to make 1015 things as easy as possible until a settlement was arrived at. One Bishop met them, and he said—We want facilities for religious instruction by our own people. We want first of all the syllabus of the London School Board. We want facilities to teach our own children our own creed; but we do not regard the syllabus of the London School Board as sufficient.What was the answer of the Welsh county councils? He invited the attention of the Committee to this again before they determined that these county councils should be prosecuted. The official answer given by the Welsh county councils was that they would advocate the complete and unqualified acceptance of the proposals made in the Bishop of St. Asaph's memorandum as to arrangements to be made for religious instruction in all schools, for securing that such religious instruction should be regular and effective, and for seeing that there were special facilities for Church children. But the other Bishops refused to accept the proposals of the Bishop of St. Asaph. He would ask who, in these circumstances, was responsible for this unpleasant position? Was it the county councils who were prepared to meet the clergy? The councils even offered a rent to them for their schools. He asked the hon. Gentleman to say in his reply whether, rather than prosecute, he did not think it a case for a little toleration, a little consideration, and a real inquiry into the conditions. The danger of Ministers always was to apply what they thought was a strong hand in a situation of this kind. The real strong man was the man who was strong to take the, hazards of the right course. The hon. Gentleman had got to choose which course he would take. If he produced strife and sedition in Wales, it would do him no credit. On the other hand, if he took a wise and statesmanlike course, he would bring peace to Wales and earn the gratitude of the Welsh people.
§ Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item, Class 4 (Board of Education), be reduced by £500."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
said he wished to support his hon. friend 1016 in the strong appeal he had made to the Government. The speech of his hon. friend was based not upon the religious question, but upon educational grievances, upon the damage which w is being done to the administration of the Act of 1902 in Wales by circumstances of a remarkable kind, to which ha called attention. He himself felt he had some title to appeal to the Government on this matter, because, from the beginning, he sympathised with what he conceived to be the main and ruling purpose of the Act of 1902. That purpose he took to be to place all education, higher as well as primary, in the hands of a representative body—the county councils having been chosen for the purpose—and therefore to lay the foundation of a system which would develop into an adequate national system of education all over the country. He pointed out at the time, both inside and outside the House, that what was then done was only laying the foundation; that there was a superstructure to be raised on the top, and apparently a price to be paid to the Church for removing obstacles, which required consideration hereafter. He was unable then to vote for the Government Bill because of the Church clauses, nevertheless he was strongly sympathetic with the purpose of the hon. Baronet and with the view of the Government which, as he conceived it, recognised that we had outgrown the School Board stage with its limitations to primary education, and a stage at which there was no School Board representation at all in large parts of the country. He believed that the hon. Baronet had been sincerely desirous of doing the best for national education, and that the distinguished permanent officials who assisted him were also anxious to make the most of their opportunities. He believed that a better spirit as regarded education was abroad now than for a very long time past, and yet they found the administration of this Act was being carried out in Wales in the fashion described by his hon. friend, and this must convince any impartial and fair-minded man that they were on the verge of a great peril for the very system of education which the Government had called into existence. Education could not be administered efficiently in the 1017 teeth of the opposition of a whole people. They could not mandamus a nation any more than they could draw an indictment against a nation. They could not compel a whole people, to whom they had entrusted the working of a system, to carry it out in a fashion repugnant to their own views and the views of their constituents. It was well deserving of attention that the Welsh county councils had not been accused of that. They appeared to have welcomed the principle of the Act, but had found it was impossible for them, in the face of public opinion, to dminister the Church clauses and to maintain the voluntary schools out of the rates under the schemes cast.
The Motion of his hon. friend in substance was—"Let us have an inquiry into this matter on a much larger scale than is now done." It was all very well to say that they could have a Commissioner to make an inquiry under the Act of 1902; but the Commissioner would go down and take a strictly legal view of the question; it would be impossible for him to take that broad view of the subject which was necessary if the truth was to be brought before their minds. In that: state of things, the question was—what was the position of the Government on | this matter? He had considerable sympathy with the difficulty in which the hon. Baronet was placed. There was no doubt that his powers were very much narrowed by the chief clauses of the Act of 1902, and, if this were the place to discuss that Act, he would point out that that ought to make him gravely consider whether it was not the duty of the Government to come to Parliament to deal with these clauses. Wales was a very good test case. There they had the people as keen about education as in any other part of the Empire. Their education was far in advance of the general system in England or, he believed, in Scotland. In the latter country elementary education might have done well; but they had nothing to rival the intermediate education in Wales. In that state of things, the hon. Baronet had to administer the Act in Wales among a people who were as keen to make the most of it, and get the most out of it, as any in this land. But what was the situation? The whole country was in revolt, and from very 1018 obvious causes. They could not work an Act of this kind among a people like that without exercising the greatest toleration and forbearance, and without very considerably modifying the clause; of the Act of 1902. There never would be peace in that country nor would the condition of things be tolerable so long as the Act was administered religiously and not educationally. It would hive been infinitely better for the administration of the hon. Baronet if he had been able to say—" I have nothing to do with religious controversies; I am thankful that I am relieved from the necessity of entering on a course which can only end by bringing me into collision with either one religious body or another." The hon. Baronet had taken another course. He was not quite sure whether the hon. Baronet was driven to it by the clauses of the Act. The hon. Baronet used an expression that the draft Orders were made in correspondence and were subject to reconsideration. That was a hopeful expression. What he asked was —how, even in correspondence, had the hon. Baronet come to make Orders like these? If he said he had been forced to make them under Section XL, Sub-section 4, then his duty at a very early stage was to have said, "In the case we have in Wales, it is obviously essential that we should come to Parliament for further powers; and in the meantime I will make interim Orders only." But he had taken the hon. Baronet to guard himself by saying that under Section XI he had considerable discretion in the matter. If the hon. Gentleman had discretion then, he contended, it would have been better had these Orders not been made, even in draft. They were calculated to awaken more than suspicion—a real hostility on the part of the people who felt a grievance. How could they force people to pay out money for voluntary education in voluntary schools under conditions such as these Orders laid down?
It could not be forgotten that this was not merely a Nonconformist, question in Wales. It was, first, an education question; and, second, if the view which his hon. friend took and which was supported by some of the most distinguished Churchmen in Wales, such as the Bishop of St. Asaph, had been adopted this controversy 1019 never would have arisen. A compromise was offered by which they would have adopted a certain amount of the London School Board system, and have given access during what were technically school hours, at the very beginning of the day, to those who wished to give religious education. Had that compromise been accepted it might have been that these Orders might have been framed in such a scheme if the hon. Baronet conceived he had latitude under Section XI. But the compromise was rejected; and how could the Government come forward and hope for success in the administration of the Act in Wales unless they were prepared to over-rule the more militant Churchmen and take the view of the minority of very large-minded Churchmen in that country? At the same time, he thought there might be great difficulty in such a moderate compromise. He was rather suspicious himself of what was called Bible teaching in the schools. He understood the view of the hon. Member for Greenwich was that the religious aspirations of people who desired Church teaching could not be satisfied under any mere system of that kind. What was wanted by such people was real Church schools, carried on in the spirit of the Church, and where religion was taught under direction of the Church. But his contention was that that was no business of the State, and he doubted whether it was any man's business in the State to give simple Bible teaching. What was simple Bible teaching would depend on the opinions of particular people. It was perfectly impossible to carry out a system of education which would enable the State to solve these religious conundrums and adjustments of dogma. The less the State had to do with religious dogmas the more it would be possible to do for education. He believed it would have been possible to have framed an Order which would have enabled all the denominations—including the Anglican—to get access to the schools, with certain advantages to those which had claims to the title of founders, and which would not have given rise to the vast seething controversy which had been aroused throughout Wales. There were three classes of people to blame in this matter. First of all, Parliament for having given way so much to the demands 1020 of the Church in framing what might have been a really great educational system for this country. Secondly, the Church for having insisted too much on its rights. The Government ought to have had courage to meet that insistence if their educational system was not to be brought to abject failure. Thirdly, the Department, for having made these draft Orders. Even draft Orders were calculated to excite suspicion or to provoke hostility, and the sooner they disappeared the better; and, therefore he hoped they were about to see the last of them in their present form. They might have the same thing in Yorkshire or East Anglia as in Wales, and wherever religious feeling ran high and the majority of the people were Nonconformist. Was that a condition of things that was good for education: He was looking at these things from the educational point of view and as a friend of those in this, or any Government, who made an effort to raise national education; and he would say to the hon. Baronet that if he wished to give the people confidence in the administration of the educational system of the country it was necessary to modify and avoid the kind of doctrine which had brought about such a controversy in Wales, and in many parts of England.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said the Education Act had been attacked from a great many points of view. The hon. Member for Carnarvon commenced by saying it had met with universal disapproval throughout the country. If that were so one would naturally seek for evidence of the fact from the local authorities who were concerned in the administration of the Act. If there had been universal disapproval surely there would have been some disinclination expressed on the part of the local authority to undertake the administration, but there were only ten local authorities in England and Wales whose schemes had not been submitted and published and actually approved by the Board: there were only four whose schemes had not yet been approved by the Board, but which were in course of publication, and there was not one local authority which had failed to send in a scheme. It might therefore be assumed 1021 that the Act had very considerable educational merits inasmuch as almost every local authority had undertaken to administer it, and all would do so if they could administer some portion of it in their own way. He did not want to argue over again what had been so often argued, nor did he wish to endeavour to calculate the infinitesimal portion of the rate which Nonconformists might be called upon to contribute to the religious teaching given in the denominational schools. He would rather ask what was meant when the hon. Member for Carnarvon said the Nonconformists were desirous of having a settlement; that they would not build schools for their own denomination; that they would rather wait till the matter was settled. Did this mean that they would wait till the schools passed into their hands I They appeared to have no scruple in compelling others, whatever form of religious belief they professed, to pay for the schools that they liked, in which the secular instruction was the same as in the voluntary schools but in which the religious teaching was what was called simple Bible teaching, which might be the teaching of mere reigious history, or which might convey dogma in various forms. But those were the schools of which the hon. Member and his friends approved and those were the schools they desired people to pay for. Did they wish to drive every one into schools in which the form of religious teaching was given which they themselves preferred, or did they wish to secularise education altogether? [OPPOSITION cries of "No."] He would like to know which of these views the hon. Member held.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I thought I said I accepted the proposals of the Bishop of St. Asaph on the point.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said he understood the hon. Member to say in January last that the Bishop of St. Asaph had entirely misunderstood him if he thought for a moment that denominational religious teaching could be given in school hours. Therefore the alternative was either the secularisation of education, which he ventured to think would not be popular in this country, or a religious tyranny by which everybody 1022 would be required to send their children to elementary schools in which teaching was given which the Nonconformists, and the Nonconformists especially, if not alone, preferred.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said they accepted the proposals of the Church with regard to the basis of religious instruction altogether, and so far as the times were concerned they accepted the proposals of the Department that the time should be put back in order to enable the Church Children to receive such special religious teaching as they required.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said he was right in restating the fact that the hon. Member denounced in January any id a that religious denominational teaching should be permitted in school hours.
§ MR LLOYD-GEORGE
said the hen. Baronet ignored the point, that the suggestion that the school hour should Le put back came from the Board of Education. That was accepted by the Welsh County Councils.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said it came to this that denominational teaching would not be given in school hours. He would like to know how far the dissatisfaction so far as it had been exhibited in England and Wales was really a genuine outburst of public opinion [AN HONT. MEMBER: The by-elections will tell you.] or how far it had been fostered by the hon. Member and his friends. He had been taken to task for speaking of the passive resistance movement as a political movement, but he did not think he was altogether wrong. The hon. Member having quoted a circular letter sent out by the president of the National Free Church Council and Dr. Clifford, the Chairman of the Passive Resistance Committee, also from a speech made by the hon. Member for Carnarvon at Portsmouth at a passive resisters' luncheon, confessed, that with every respect to the genuine expression of conscience that had no doubt found its place in some part of this movement, he could not but regard the movement as stimulated and organised by an energetic political Party for political purposes.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said in the course of this organisation there had been evidence of abundant misrepresentation. He would give to the House as an instance a resolution passed by a meeting of the Methodist Free Churches of Leeds and Bradford in opposition to the Act for the reason amongst others that it had abolished School Boards and substituted for them education boards; which gave the clergy of one section of the Church an almost absolute authority in determining the educational policy of the nation. He had not been able to refrain from pointing out in reply to those resolutions that the board schools were only transferred from the, popularly elected School Boards to the popularly elected county councils; that it could not be said that the clergy had a considerable place on the education committees of the county councils; that he should have thought there were very few clergymen on those committees; and that the voluntary schools were brought for the first time, so far as secular education was concerned, entirely under popular control; while the religious teaching there given was taken out of the control of the parson and brought under the control of the school managers. The answer which he had received was that it would have been fairer if he had taken the resolutions as a whole, especially the last resolution. The last resolution was as follows—That the Act violates the sacred rights of conscience, involving acts which interfere with the solemn relation between God and the individual soul,He confessed he felt it impossible to argue further with persons who applied such solemn expressions to the question of paying probably a few halfpence on a rate to teach children the religion of their parents. His own feeling was that he would willingly contribute to any form of religious teaching which would impart to the persons who passed those resolutions some of the elements of Christian truthfulness and Christian charity. Another form of misrepresentation was used with regard to these "Orders" for foundation managers. The practice was that the 1024 Board of Education sent a form of inquiry and received back that form filled up as to the conditions of the trust deed and the wishes of the managers, and the Board did not act further than to conform with the conditions of the trust deed and the wishes of the managers. The Order was circulated among the people of the neighbourhood, and anybody interested in the school could object to it if it did not carry out the conditions of the trust deed or the wishes of the managers or the usuages of the school. In the Daily News of December 6th a statement appeared as to Orders respecting six schools alleged to have been entirely managed by Nonconformists, and now transferred by the Orders of the Board to the management of Churchmen. As a, matter of fact five of the Orders were draft Orders awaiting representations from the locality; in the sixth case no Order had been made at all and every Order made was made as asked for by the managers. One of the two cases mentioned by the hon. Member was under the consideration of the Board, and in one of the cases attacked by the Daily News three out of the four managers were to be free from any Church qualifications. Only one representation had been received from the local education authority of Carmarthen, but a general complaint was made that a communicant qualification was required. In no casein the Carmarthenshire Orders was a communicant qualification required, as it had been the practice of the Board to leave out that qualification unless it appeared in the trust deed, and was especially demanded by the managers. In every case any representations made in respect to draft Orders had been considered, and as regarded Carmarthen the representation "from the local authority would be the subject of an inquiry to be held.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
asked whether the hon. Gentleman would give instructions that the inquiry should cover all the circumstances and conditions and not be subject to technical restrictions.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
pointed out that the nature of the inquiry would depend entirely upon the instructions given. Would the hon. Gentleman instruct the Commissioner to inquire into all the circumstances; unless he did so, all sorts of things might be ruled out of a technical inquiry.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
thought the Board would impress upon Mr. Lawrence that the inquiry should take as complete a form as possible regarding everything that might affect the judgment of the Board in making the Order which might have to be made as the result of the inquiry.
He would now turn to the trouble which had occurred in Wales. This began with a conference held at Cardiff last year, in which the hon. Member laid down the startling proposition that voluntary schools would be better off than when they had to rely on subscriptions. That, he was sorry to say, was not so; they had suffered a lost of £12,000 a year. Anglesey schools, perhaps, were better off, but it was not the case generally that schools were better off under the grants. Another conference followed at Swansea, at which a "no rate" resolution was passed, and, though the movement did not require so extended an organisation as did the passive resistance agitation in England, great efforts were made by the hon. Member and his friends to prevent the Act being properly worked. At the Swansea meeting the hon. Member renounced the councils of South Wales for their willingness to carry out the law.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said that was the result of the hon. Member's endeavours. At that time there were certainly three counties prepared to carry out the Act. The Carmarthenshire Education Committee had an interesting discussion on the subject, in the course of which a "no rate" resolution was proposed and rejected, the chairman characterising the resolution as unchristian, immoral, and cowardly, inasmuch as it inflicted suffering on the innocent children throughout the country. Subsequently, however, the council was 1026 terrorised into departing from its decision; a number of Welsh Members of Parliament went down and exercised their influence throughout the county, and when the council met crowds of people attended the meeting, yelling as each vote in favour of the rate was given, and cheering every vote to the contrary. It was under these benign influences that the Carmarthenshire County Council passed a "no rate" resolution. The result of this policy had been deplorable. According to the reports of inspectors, in some schools attendance had fallen off and even ceased in consequence of there being no funds to provide fires, in others coals were supplied by the teachers, and in other instances materials and apparatus could not be provided. There had been refusals to appoint teachers and to make payments beyond the Parliamentary grant. He asked those Members of the House whose efforts had induced the Welsh County Councils to decline to put the Act into operation, so far as the voluntary schools were concerned, whether the Act could be said to have had a fair trial in Wales? Clearly it had not. Not only had the Act not had a fair trial, but the Nonconformists, who had endeavoured to prevent its having a fair trial, boasted of their law-breaking propensities. The Rev. Owen Campbell, speaking at a conference of the Haverfordwest and District Free Church Council, was reported to have said that Nonconformists had always been law breakers and it was by breaking laws that, they could get them repealed Such a sentiment appeared to him to point to anarchy.
He hoped the House did not think that he was insensible to the difficulties of this religious question. No one who had been engaged, as he had been for more than a year, in administering this Act could fail to be painfully conscious of the continual irritation and difficulties which were aroused by the recurrence of these disputes over the appointment of foundation managers and the payments of the small amounts which the councils were asked to pay to the voluntary schools in Wales. He knew that the difficulty was great. The great difficulty in arriving at a solution such as he should like to see effected was to be found not in the 1027 Act of 1902, but in the law of 1870. During the debates on the Education Act he said there was another settlement of the religious difficulty which he hoped that they would reach some day, although the Act as it was then passed appeared to him to be a fair compromise. Believing as he did that education should be part of the child's life, and that therefore its religion should be part of its education, he desired to see a system under which religious teaching should be available for all, and denominational religious teaching for all who wanted it, in school hours, protected by a rigid conscience clause. But at the time of the passing of the Education Act they had to deal with 14,000 voluntary schools, with their buildings and with their trust deeds; they had to consider the condition of those schools, the immense sums which had been spent by the Church of England upon them, the infinitesimal proportion of the rate which was to be paid by those who did not accept the denominational teaching in those schools, and the necessity of bringing the voluntary schools into line as regarded secular education. Therefore he held that the compromise was a fair one. [OPPOSITION laughter and cries of "No," and MINISTERIAL cries of "Arrangement."] He would accept the word "arrangement." He contended that it was a fair arrangement and that it should have a fair trial. So far as he was able to insist upon it, it should have a fair trial. They were instituting an inquiry with regard to the county of Carmarthen, and when the Board of Education were put in possession of the facts they would have to consider what form of Order they must make to provide that the Act should be carried into effect. He thought that the Order might prove to be more effective than the hon. Member for Carnarvon supposed.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said if it was not effective, if the powers possessed by the Board were insufficient or inapplicable, he should have to ask for further powers and he should do so without hesitation. He should like to ask j hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench 1028 opposite how they regarded this disobedience to the law by members of county councils who, having voluntarily offered themselves for election and having been elected to carry out certain duties imposed upon them, deliberately and avowedly cist the law aside. Did hon. Members opposite condone those actions? Did they approve of them? If they did not approve of them, would they have the honesty and courage to say so? In order to carry out a political purpose these councils had practised, if he might use the eloquent language of the Leader of the Opposition, "methods of barbarism"; they had neglected the children of their elementary schools, they had left them without books and materials, they had left them to remain cold and wet in the winter months for want of fuel. He doubted whether the country would approve of those actions, stimulated as they were by political animosities and religious bigotry—by the political animosities and the religious bigotry, he might almost add the personal ambition, of certain members of the Nonconformist body in Wales.
§ SIR. EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
said the hon. Baronet's speech had left hon. Members on his side of the House more hopeless than they had ever been of any amendment of the Education Act from the present Government. They knew when the Government were passing the Act that it was their opinion that the Act would not raise strong feeling in the country. They had, until the hon. Baronet spoke, some hope that the Government might have realised now that their anticipations were wrong and that strong feeling had arisen. The hon. Baronet did not believe in the genuineness of the feeling because he said it was political. It was precisely because the feeling was strong and genuine, and because the sense of injustice was deeply felt, that the matter had become political. It had been said that those on the Opposition side of the House had been able to work up this feeling and make the Education Act a political question, but a little while ago it used to be hinted that they were in a hurry to take up the Education Act because the feeling in the country was so strong. Was the organisation 1029 of the passive resisters not a genuine feeling? Was tariff reform not organised and was the Anti-Corn Law League not organised. Was there no feeling behind those movements? The hon. Baronet laid down two propositions—that anything that was political, as soon as it became so, was not genuine, and anything which was organised was not sincere. That was the hopelessness of the position. Even the Prime Minister had not shown his inability to understand Nonconformist feeling with regard to the Education Act so perversely, if he might use the word without offence, as the hon. Baronet had done. The hon. Baronet seemed to think that the grievance was- an infinitesimal one with regard to the payment of rates, because it was only a few halfpence contributed out of the rates, which went to denominational teaching. Supposing it was a matter of principle or of conscience, the question of a few halfpence might be just as serious as the question of a few pounds. The whole root of the matter was not objection to denominational teaching, but objection to denominational management of public elementary schools. The hon. Baronet spoke of Nonconformists wishing to force children into schools of their own particular pattern. The hon. Member for Carnarvon had given cases in which the whole of the children of the Nonconformists were being forced into Church schools under the present Act — in one case all the children in Carmarthen and in another case 100 children out of 109. He thought that of all the clauses which had better come out of the Act the particular clause which offered facilities for the setting up of a number of small schools was about the most anti-educational. They could not divide the educational status of the ordinary parish up into a number of small schools. They must have one school, and to that school everybody must go. Hon. Members on the other side were always saying that it was a great hardship for the children of Church parents to be forced into a school where the atmosphere was Nonconformist, but they never seemed to realise that the hardship was just as great for Nonconformist children to be forced into a Church school.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
asked if other hon. Members opposite realised it. The fact was that, though this might be greater in degree in Wales, it was a grievance which was widespread over the whole country. The Vice-President was going to have an inquiry into Wales. He did not know how far the inquiry was to go. The hon. Gentleman had told them that it was to be very ample, very thorough, and very full, but he had hinted that it might probably lead to a mandamus.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
I only said it might result in our having to make an Order. I did not say it probably would.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said he would withdraw the word "probably" and say that, although he did not know what the result of the inquiry would be, the only possible result which he did put hypothetically to the House was that of a mandamus, subject to this that, if the mandamus did not prove effective, they must take some stronger measures. That was not a very hopeful spirit in which to conduct an inquiry. He wished personally that the inquiry was going to consider not only Wales, but how far it was possible to bring the provisions of the Act into conformity with the opinion of the country. If they had an inquiry of that kind it would soon be turned, not into an inquiry as to the conduct of the Welsh county councils, but an inquiry into the need of an amendment of the Act itself. The Vice-President deplored the friction constantly arising with regard to the administration of the Act, but it never seemed to occur to him that the reason for the friction was the Act itself. He knew the hon. Gentleman sincerely deplored that friction because he was a friend of education, but he did not see that until the Act was amended they would not get rid of that friction. They would not get rid of the friction till, as the result of the inquiries which might take place, they came to the conclusion that their system of elementary education must be a national system and that they must have all their schools on one footing. To do that he was quite aware that they would have to take over a large number of schools which were now privately owned, and that, so much had the expenditure of the country got out of hand, it 1031 was difficult to find the money. But when some of our wasteful expenditure had been brought under control, then they might have money to devote to education and an amendment of the Act which would at last bring peace and thoroughness into education.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
said he would be interested to hear how the right hon. Baronet would bring all these schools into one pattern and how he would deal with the Cowper-Temple Clause.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
replied that now that all the schools were practically supported by public money, they must be all under representative management. The difficulty was that a large number of these schools were privately owned, but a great many of these privately owned schools had been largely built out of public money. They would have to deal with these, in his opinion, just as they dealt with land or buildings that were required for public purposes. It was absurd that where school buildings already existed in a parish, and there was only need for one, hat the community should be put to the expense of building an entirely new school. They would have to apply compulsory powers of purchase to them, and when they came to that they would have to consider how much money would require to be spent before they were in thorough order. They would have to give to the county councils the power of taking these schools and treating them as provided schools. To give the County Councils the power of taking the schools they would have to find money out of the taxes to put the educational system on a satisfacfactory basis. They had dealt in Ireland with the system of dual ownership of land. The dual system in education was keeping education back, and there would be no settlement, he believed, and no real progress in this country until we got rid of the dual system. The Prime Minister had raised the question as to how they would deal with the Cowper-Temple clause in regard to religious teaching. That was, of course, a question on which opinion might greatly differ, and on which he was perhaps only entitled to speak his own opinion. He should say 1032 that, so far as religious teaching was concerned, he had no objection whatever to full liberty of religious teaching provided out of private funds and given outside of school hours. He would give every facility in the way of arranging the school hours for that instruction being given to children whose parents desired that they should have it. As to whether they would have secular education only, or whether they would have Board school teaching, there might be difference of opinion, but he was convinced that if they got over the difficulty of management and control, and got one system of education, they would find every section of religious opinion in the country much more reasonable and conciliatory than they expected.
§ LORD EDMUND TALBOT (Sussex, Chichester)
Do you propose to force Catholic children into these schools?
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said he knew the Roman Catholic difficulty was a great one in this matter, and he respected their feelings. If they made up their minds to have one system he believed they would find all sections of religious opinion more reasonable, conciliatory, and open to compromise than people were aware of at present. He expressed his personal opinion on that matter. The county councils were not worked up by the speeches of his hon. and learned friend the Member for Carnarvon. No one in the House would under-rate the eloquence and force of the hon. Member's speeches, but he would himself be the first to resent the idea that he and other hon. Members had manufactured the opinion in Wales which had made the county councils act as they had done. The action of the county councils in Wales was due simply to their feeling that the thing was not just, and that in the districts where the majority of the population were Nonconformists they had not had fair play. The county councils, and the Welsh county councils especially, deserved consideration from the House in this matter. Great obligations had been placed upon them. The larger the duties laid upon the local authorities the greater was the consideration with which they must be treated. They could not lay great duties upon them and treat them 1033 as indentured labourers bound to take orders without any say in the matter. The county councils in Wales were not backward about education. They were not unprogressive, but they, as he understood, had stated that in the present state of feeling, with the limited powers given them by this Act, they had difficulty in discharge of the obligations laid upon them. There was a time when this the House of Commons used to refuse supplies. Those were times to which hon. Members could look back with credit. The House of Commons was told in those days that it was lacking in public spirit, and that the country was suffering. Its answer always was that is grievances must be redressed. No doubt it might be said perfectly truly that the county councils were local, statutory, and subordinate authorities, but they would not dispose of this difficulty by taking narrow technical points. They would not dispose of it by narrow legal points, or the narrow application of abstract logic. They would have to recognise that, if they laid upon the county councils these great duties, they would have to have their say as to the powers necessary to entrust them with, in order to enable them to carry out their obligations. It was not the backward county councils that were making the difficulty. It was the most progressive county councils. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Hoard of Education said that in Wales they were not giving the Act a fair trial. Was the Act giving the county councils a fair trial? The progressive county councils were the local authorities which would have been most ready, sympathetic, and keen in working the Education Act, but these were the ones with whom most difficulty was found. The hon. Gentleman would have to realise that this feeling was genuine. He was convinced that until the matter was taken up in a broad spirit which would get rid of the dual system, they would have in education neither peace nor progress.
§ *SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)
said that the hon. and learned Member for Carnarvon, after all his declamation, had scarcely produced two instances in Wales showing solid grievance in regard to the 1034 working of the Act. The hon. Member had referred to isolated cases in Wales where there had been special difficulties in connection with the schools. These were invariably cases which had rightly been brought under the notice of the Department, but no one of these cases had been dealt with under the clauses of the Act. They were all as it were sub judice, and had not yet been dealt with by the Board of Education. He was not going to dwell on this question as it affected Wales. He admitted that there was a great distinction between the Principality and England with regard to the working of this Act. He wished to be fair and just. One or two cases which the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted did show a certain inequality and injustice which might be remedied. They did occur in out of the way places, but he did not believe that many of them could be cited. So far as he was concerned, he would be one of the first to accept some possible Amendment which would enable the Board of Education to deal with such cases in an equitable manner. In Wales there were Radical county councils, but the position was very different in England. There were a large number of counties in England where the county councils were essentially Tory in their character. It seemed to him that the hon. and learned Gentleman ought to be a little more patient with regard to the campaign against the Act. He ought to have tested the Act and given it a chance before attacking its provisions in the way he had done.
He, himself, would give the House his opinion of the working of the Act in Kent, where the Nonconformists would be more likely to have a rough time if it were not working fairly. Having given nine months close attention to its working he said advisedly that he had never known so much gross misrepresentation and calumny sown broadcast with regard to any Act of Parliament as there had been with regard to this Education Act. He knew that the word calumny just now was supposed to be a very ugly word, but if one half the calumny had been used against the character of any hon. Member as there had been against this Act, he would have been able to recover very substantial damages. He held in his hand a leaflet 1035 which denounced the Act as one for handing over the School Boards to the Romanistic clergy of this country. The changes made by the Act in regard to the position of the Nonconformists were, in his opinion, changes in favour of Nonconformity, and not of the Church. It is true that the difficulties surrounding the question had clogged the way of education to a very great extent. These difficulties met Mr. Forster in 1870, and prevented all succeeding Governments from touching the question of higher and secondary education until this Government tad the courage to face the situation. This Government had the same dilemma to meet, but they successfully encountered it, by founding a compromise on the top of the earlier compromise. What was that compromise? It was to ask those who possessed the buildings of the voluntary schools, and to whom the value of the site also appertained, to hand over these to the nation if a portion of the rates were assigned to them. Of course, in addition to that, there was the alteration by the introduction of the outside management. A fairer or more just compromise was never offered. The great controversy between the two sides of the House had been in regard to control; but he said advisedly, after nine months experience of the working of the Act in his own county, that before another year was over, all the old parson-controlled schools would have disappeared. The introduction of one-third of the representatives outside the trustees into the management of these schools had thrown all the inner working of the schools open to the public and made it public property. It enabled daily and even hourly tests to be applied to the working of the conscience clause in everything appertaining to the Church schools; and now there was no grievance for which there was not an immediate remedy. If any wrong whatever was being done, there was a court of appeal in the educational committee of the county or borough council. One thing he had discovered was that if there was one difficulty greater than another it was to give the managers of those schools something to do. The result was that the representative body was practically the managers of the schools. There was not a single complaint 1036 made by any Nonconformist parent connected with any Church school in his county brought before him which he was not prepared to deal with at once and to rectify to the full. And yet they were told that this was an Act to hand over the schools to the power of the priest. A more unfounded statement was never made.
A grievance much touched on was a very just one—that of the treatment of the pupil teachers. They all knew that for a vast number of years it was not possible for Church schools to have Nonconformist pupil teachers. But no test was now to be applied either to pupil teachers or assistants; and under the Cowper-Temple Clause, Nonconformist students could now enter pupil-teacher centres, training colleges, and hostels without any test whatever. That was a very serious change in favour of Nonconformists. He was prepared to admit that there was one grievance remaining, and that was that Nonconformists could not become headmasters of certain school, but that was part of the compromise to which he had alluded, and it was on that compromise that the buildings and leases had been handed over to the nation for public purposes. He was bound to say that except for that bar, the highest posts in the teaching profession were practically about as open to Nonconformists as to Churchmen; and before long there would be openings for the children of Nonconformists in the secondary schools and all the other branches of the teaching profession generally. He welcomed some of the remarks from the hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick, who suggested a possible Amendment to brush away once for all these difficulties. Hon. Members opposite knew that his views in regard to these matters were not illiberal. He had always looked at this question from an educational point of view; but in common fairness and justice they should admit that the Church of England first of all introduced the great question of education, and occupied the ground to an enormous extent when first the education of the children of England was seriously grappled with. The Church of England was there to-day, and it was because she was there to-day that he wished to separate education from mere 1037 denominational squabbles. He, for one, would therefore welcome any compromise by which they would secure that every parent could have the particular religious education which he, or she, wished for his, or her, children absolutely given in the schools.
The lion. Baronet the Member for Berwick suggested that this was a question of money, and with that he agreed. The hon. Baronet suggested that religious education should not be given in school hours, but that the schools should be open for it an hour earlier; but he believed that that system would break down because of the difficulties concerning the attendance so early, of the children whose parents wanted them to earn a little money. The difficulty might be solved by the State stepping in and, for the sake of peace, giving a grant of so much a year for the purpose of religious education. Rather than that there should be no settlement of this vexed question, he would hand over that money to all denominations alike for religious education. He believed that no money of the State would ever be spent to better purpose. Those were questions on which he felt very deeply. He did not and he could not believe in the evil prophesies concerning the working of the Act in which some lion. Members opposite indulged. He believed in the local authorities; that they were practical business men who would look at these difficult problems purely and simply from an educational point of view, and he was certain that they would not lean either to the advantage of Church or Dissent to the injustice of either. And so far as those with whom he was associated in his own county were concerned, though there was a preponderance of Churchmen on the committee, every possible injustice and grievance of Nonconformists which came before the committee would be remedied. And of this he was certain, that all the extraordinarily exaggerated statements made concerning the Act would vanish into thin air, and that the Act would be worked wisely and well in the future.
§ MR. ABEL THOMAS (Carmarthenshire, E.)
said he was not one of those who did not want the local authorities to carry out the Act. It was perfectly true that when 1038 the Act was under discussion he thought the School Board system was the best: but he had changed his opinion and he believed now that the present was the best. They had been told that the Act was a compromise. He repudiated that. The Act was thrust down the throats of Members on his side of the House, and to talk of it as a compromise was ridiculous. The hon. Baronet the Member for Dart-ford said that the Act was a good Act so far as it went; that it was good for England.
§ MR. ABEL THOMAS
said that no Act of Parliament which was good for one part of the country and impossible for another part could be a good Act in itself. It had been said that the hon. Member for Carnarvon had started this agitation in Wales. With all his admiration for the hon. Gentleman he did not think that he would claim that he had started the agitation. He could not imagine that hon. Members opposite who made that statement really appreciated the position. After all, would hon. Gentlemen opposite put themselves in the position of the people in Wales? He ventured to say that there was not a voluntary school in Wales in which every two out of three boys and girls were not the children of Nonconformist parents. Out of those sixty schools there was not a single one in which the majority of the children were not children of Nonconformist parents. Imagine the position reversed, and instead of the Church people having the majority of the management of these schools that four Baptists had the management, and only a Baptist was able to become headmaster. Under such circumstances there was one noble Lord opposite who would be a passive resister, and he would give the Bishops the credit for being passive resisters, and their Party would be ashamed of them if they were not. The position was the same throughout Wales. The majority of the children in 99 out of 100 of the voluntary schools were Nonconformists. In more than half they were two to one and in the remainder they were five to one. The parents sent their children to these 1039 schools with the knowledge that four out of the six managers were certain to be Church people, and that the headmaster and head mistress were Church people. It was nonsense to say there was no Church of England atmosphere in such a school. The Government must face the difficulty that many had become passive resisters honestly, truthfully, and concientiously.
What was the position? The Government was paying the whole: cost of carrying on the schools, the buildings had to a large extent been supplied by Church people, but they had had the use of them for thirty years, and it must be remembered many of them were built to prevent a Board school coming into the place after the passing of the Act of 1870. Were the children to be impressed and stamped with Church doctrine for all time? Under these circumstances he thought the county councils were justified in the action they had taken when they found that the vast majority of their constituents were in favour of their not carrying out this Act. Assuming a mandamus I was applied for what was to be the result? Were they to be fined or sent to gaol? Let the Committee imagine what the result would be in that case. The posit on was ridiculous. If the new members who had undertaken to carry out the Act in the way suggested, attended any of the meetings of the council and the other members withdrew, there would not be a quorum to carry out any business and this Act could not be carried out; was everybody in Wales and Monmouth to be sent to goal? Was the whole country to be fined? Would it not under the circumstances be best for the Government to admit that they had passed an unworkable Act, and one that could not be carried out so far as the management was concerned. And inasmuch as they would never get the people of Wales to assent to the proposition that all who were appointed to headmasterships should be Church of England people, would it not be better to face the position at once than to have an inquiry to find out whether or not the late county councils had committed a breach of the Act. If that were done and new county councils elected, their majorities would be even greater than before. The hon. Member had spoken about Christian 1040 truthfulness and Christian charity, could not Christian truthfulness and charity be obtained from the Church side? Was it Christian truthfulness and charity to build denominational schools and compel the people of the neighbourhood to send their children to these schools, which were Church schools in every sense of the word? Let hon. Members put themselves in the position of the Nonconformists, and see how they would feel in that position. He ventured to assert that if they did, the Act would be impossible in M ales in a very short time. If the Government knew the feeling in Wales in reference to this Act he did not believe they would ever force it down the throats of the Welsh people. He ventured to say five out of six Welsh people were prepared to go through a considerable amount of martyrdom, not because of what their Parliamentary representatives told them, but because of what they thought and spoke of among themselves.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said this reduction had been moved by the hon. Member for Carnarvon in order to censure the Board of Education for their administration of the Act. Some of the grievances brought forward by the hon. Member appeared to be in course of consideration by the Board. One or two of them, as he understood, had already been dealt with and mitigated. Therefore, so far as the question of the reduction of the Vote and the grievances brought forward were concerned, he thought there was nothing more to be said. But his hon. friend in his turn had made a very grave charge against the local authorities in Wales. He had himself always maintained that the great principle of this Education Act was not the Church clause, as they had been called, but the devolution on the local authority of all educational powers and responsibility, and be did not think if the Liberal Party came into power to-morrow they would alter the principle of the Act. In future the whole responsibility for the organisation and administration of education would rest with the local authorities; and the charge which the Secretary to the Board of Education was bringing against the Welsh local authorities was that they were now refusing to administer this statute law, 1041 and were by their attitude making it impossible for the Act to be carried out. This attitude was assumed by the Welsh people not because they were opposed to the local administration, because there was no part of the United Kingdom where local responsibility was more welcomed than in Wales. When the first Education Bill was presented its warmest supporters were the Welsh Members. Therefore it was not the fundamental idea of the Education Act which caused this hostility on the part of the Welsh county councils, but a desire to procure the amendment of certain parts of the Act.
Whether it was right or wrong to attempt to force the House of Commons to amend in certain directions the Act of 1902 he would not discuss, but the attempt would be much more likely to secure his sympathy if the sufferers from the attempt were not the unhappy children in the schools. He put it to the Welsh Members, was it right to attempt to procure the amendment of an Act of Parliament by putting this stress and strain upon the children attending the schools in Wales? Under the law of the land it was the duty of the Welsh county councils to provide for and supervise the secular instruction in the voluntary schools which they now refused to touch. The fact that in those schools, although the instruction given was according to the formularies and doctrines of the Church of England, the greater proportion of the children were Nonconformist, well deserved the attention of the House, and if any amendment of the law could be introduced by which that grievance could be alleviated, it was one the House must properly consider. But if the children were Nonconformist, there was the conscience clause of which they could take advantage. The religious instruction even in Church schools was to a very small extent denominational, and in few schools was denominational instruction given on more than one day in the week. There was nothing whatever to prevent the parents withdrawing their children while anything in the shape of denominational instruction was being given. But the children in these schools were entitled to have their secular instruction 1042 cared for by the county council, and it was not right that they should be deprived of the advantages of warmth, light, and proper apparatus, which Parliament had conferred upon them by this Act. That consideration caused him entirely to disapprove of the particular method by which the Welsh county councils were attempting to secure the amendment of the Act. He respected their conscientious scruples, but he thought they were wrong in adopting a procedure by which injury was inflicted upon the totally innocent children. When Vice-President of the Council he avoided as much as possible discussing the religious question because, while he did not think it caused any real difficulty in the schools, it had recently caused great difficulty in the administration of the Act.
In dealing with the religious question three courses were open to Parliament. The first was to restrict the operations of the State to secular instruction. Such a course, for which much might be said, had been adopted in many of the Colonies and almost universally in America, and experience had not shown that it led to a very irreligious character on the part of the population. It certainly developed the Sunday school, making that institution a much more real thing, and many of the American States bore evidence to the fact that a religious and pious population could grow up under such a system. But the people of this country were not prepared to adopt that system; certainly public opinion was not ripe for it at I present, and it must be put aside as not being practical politics. The second course, tried to some extent in the Act of 1870, was to invent a form of religious teaching on which everybody agreed. He knew of no religious instruction which came as near to that definition as the instruction given under the London School Board. That instruction was admirable, as far as it went; it was based I on the Bible; it dealt with simple portions I which the children could understand; and, as a preparation for further instruction in more advanced theology, or more advanced dogmatic religion, it could not be surpassed. But there again the great objection was that the people were not I content with it.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
said the Roman Catholics, the Jews, and a large proportion of Church of England people were not content with it. To force children of these people to receive undenominational teaching against the will of the parents was a matter of oppression. The third course was to provide frankly denominational teaching. It was because there had been such teaching ever since the Act of 1870 that that measure had worked as well as it had. The children were able to go to Church of England, Wesleyan, Roman Catholic, or Jewish schools, and get the particular kind of instruction desired by their parents. He admitted that in many places there was no choice, and it was in those places the agitation arose which culminated in the Act of 1902. He had always thought that the religious difficulty could be solved in the simplest possible way. Why should it not be made a part of the duty of the managers to see that as far as practicable all the children received such religious instruction as was acceptable to their parents? That would be just and fair all round. That was not a mere theatrical suggestion; it had been carried out in hundreds of schools for the last thirty or forty years. In many schools, theoretically Church schools, there were committees on which Nonconformists had representation; on most days of the week religious instruction applicable to all the children was given, and on one day in the week separate religious teaching to the Nonconformist, and the catechism, or other forms of Anglican teaching, to the Church children was given. Why could not the whole of this difficulty be settled in that way?
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
asked what the right hon. Gentleman would do when there were half-a-dozen sections.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
said there were not half-a-dozen sections who could not agree upon a common form of religious teaching. At the outside there would not be more than two or three different sections to provide for. That seemed to him the only solution possible, and if it were carried out fairly—as he was sure 1044 it would be under the county councils — he believed the religious difficulty would cease to exist. He earnestly pleaded with the Welsh people that, in the meantime, until an amendment of the present arrangements could be procured, they should not let the poor little children suffer, but come to some modus vivendi with the Church and the Board of Education. [Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE: Hear, hear!] He congratulated the hon. Member on his attempts to bring about such an arrangement; he had nothing but praise for his action; but would not the hon. Member, joined by his friends, renew those efforts, and see whether, in conjunction with the Board of Education, a modus rivendi for the next year or two could be arrived at, so that the schools would be taken over by the county councils, the secular instruction in Wales kept up to a proper standard, and these children saved from the deprivation of education, warmth, apparatus, and so forth, which appeared to be the result of the present deadlock.
§ *DR. MACNAMARA
said the last speaker had left the matter in a far more hopeful condition than had the speech of his successor at the Board of Education. His scheme would be workable given two previous conditions. In the first place, they must have absolute public control over education, and, in the second place, the teachers must be entirely the servants of the public authority. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University would agree with him in that. If they could have those two points conceded then they could see their way out of the difficulty. With regard to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, he persisted in stating that the Act of 1902 was a compromise, and he had complained of serious misrepresentations of that Act. The most serious misrepresentation he (Dr. Macnamara) had heard was to call the Act a compromise, because that was exactly what it was not. The Act of 1902 repealed the whole legislation of thirty-one years, and one-third of the Act was closured, and the situation afterwards worsened in another place. He did not know how an Act like that could be called a compromise. The Act of 1870 was a real compromise, for Mr. Gladstone and Mr. 1045 Forster were continually receiving and accepting suggestions from the Conservative side, and as much of that Act belonged to the Conservatives as to the Liberals. That was a compromise, but how many opportunities did they, the Liberals, get of introducing any workable alterations is the Act of 1902? The Parliamentary Secretary said he did not understand their position on the question of religious instruction, but all they desired was to secure religious liberty. He said they had now to choose between universal denominationalism and universal secularism. The choice was not between these two. If they were driven back to secularism in their schools it would be because of the bickerings of sectarian bodies, and he personally should deplore that. The choice was along the lines so able set forth by the hon. Member for Carnarvon and the Member for Cambridge University, namely, the St. Asaph compromise. That system consisted of undenominational instruction with Biblical instruction, along the lines of the London School Board system. [An HON. MEMBER: That was outside the time-table. No, it was not outside the time-table. There were certain hours during which the children came to school, and it was no use fixing the religious education outside those hours. It was no use offering the Church of England facilities for religious teaching at hours at which the children would not come. What the Bishop of St. Asaph and those who acted with him agreed to, was that on the days upon which specific denominational teaching was to be given the time-table hours should be altered from 9.30 or later, so that the children might attend in ordinary hours and come to school as they did under ordinary circumstances, but State compulsion was to begin at the later time. That was not outside the ordinary school hours, but it was agreed that if these special facilities were given they should be paid for by the denomination themselves. He deplored very much the breakdown of the St. Asaph compromise, but they could not blame Nonconformists for it. They must blame the stupidity of one or two Church dignitaries in Wales. Another effort was made by the Rev. Canon Eade and Mr. Samuel Storey in the county of 1046 Durham, and they went further than the Bishop of St. Asaph. Did hon. Members think that tie Darham proposal, which would have settled the difficulty all over the country, was not a fair and reasonable one? The Durham proposal was put forward as an experiment, and it met the difficulties in the fairest way, for it gave preferential treatment to the managers of non-provided schools. It laid down that the county council should appoint the teachers on the recommendations of the managers of the school, Non-provided schools were to be leased for a period and even the State teacher night, for a consideration, become the denominational volunteer. That meant that the Nonconformists of Durham were prepared to go a very long way to meet the difficulties, and he deplored the lack of foresight and statesmanship shown by the leaders of the Church of England, one or two o; whom opposed the whole scheme and thus brought about this bitter struggle He thought that half-a-dozen men chosen from both sides of the House could settle the matter in a very short time. If they were to look up the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich with his hon. friend the Member for Carnarvon and say that they should not come out until a settlement was effected, he really believed they would arrive at a settlement. He had grave doubts as to which would come out alive; but there would be a settlement all the same. He deplored the stupidity of those who had caused these struggles, which a little generosity and liberal-mindedness on both sides could have avoided.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said he understood that the matter before the Committee was a proposal to reduce the Vote, on the ground of the maladministration of the Board of Education. In all matters of concordat the Board of Education, so far as it had any powers in the matter, had done its best to stimulate any proposals made to it. Therefore, what the hon. Member was saying did not apply to the Board of Education.
§ *DR. MACNAMARA
said he had been very careful to limit his remarks to one or two dignitaries of the Church of England, and not to the Board of Education. 1047 He came now to a matter of pure administration. To-day he asked a Question with regard to the London education scheme, and he understood that it would be discourteous to the Council to reply to his Question at the present time. He understood the sanction of the Board of Education to the London County Council scheme was on its way, but the Parliamentary Secretary did not want to say co at the present time. They could not expect consistency from Governments, but they did expect it from Government Departments. He thought the London scheme was hopelessly inadequate. There were to be thirty-eight members of the London County Council, and five women to be co-opted under the London scheme. Section 17 of the Act laid it down that representatives of other bodies and persons of experience in education acquainted with the needs of the various kinds of schools in the area, might be appointed. In the early days of the Act the Board of Education laid the greatest stress upon that provision, and at Loughborough and Bridgwater they rejected schemes because they did not include representatives of the outside area and persons of a more wide and varied experience in education. The Board of Education had been sending back schemes all over the country on these grounds, and he asked for a little consistency in dealing with big and little authorities. On the 5th of November, 1902, the hon. Baronet said county councils were not elected specially for educational matters and some of them might not be the best for education, and it was therefore desirable that the local authorities should be assisted by persons acquainted with the work and that it should be incumbent upon them to appoint a committee. The Board of Education had been fighting Cardiff, Swansea, and Newport ever since they submitted their schemes, although they were similar to that of the I London County Council. He protested very vigorously against that kind of treatment in the case of these Welsh boroughs. The scheme of the London County Council did not satisfy Section 17 of the Act. When the Committee were discussing the Estimates on 9th July 1903, the hon. Gentleman explained what these 1048 schemes would have to contain. The hon. Gentleman said then that he was prepared to stand by the declarations which had been made, and to insist that these provisions should be met in the schemes, and he had been insisting ever since until he came to deal with the London County Council. He thought it was discreditable that a great Department of the Government should worry these little towns to meet their desires in the matter of their schemes, and that it should be afraid to tell the London County Council that their scheme did not satisfy the requirements. His Welsh colleagues had been taunted with having defied the law. He thought that men who defied the law showed a good deal more respect for it than those who made it farcical, which was what the Board of Education had done.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir ROBERT FINLAY, Inverness Burghs)
said the Act of 1902 had certain features regarding which he desired to offer a few observations. The first of these features was that the School Boards should be abolished throughout the country; the second was the endeavour to make provision for the more efficient teaching in the schools in which a majority of the children of this country had to receive their education; and the third was the substitution of the county council for the School Board as the education authority. The Committee must have listened with the greatest possible interest to what was said by his hon. and learned friend the Member for East Carmarthen. The hon. Member was formerly opposed to the county councils having charge of education, but he now stated that he was convinced that he had been wrong, and that the county councils were the better authority. When the Bill was passing through the House they were told from time to time that the propel body to take charge of education was an ad hoc authority.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
said he supposed that what was said by the hon. Member for East Carmarthenshire might be taken as a sort of epitaph on all those prophecies.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
All the Welsh Members, with one exception, voted for control by the county council at that time.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
said he was very glad to hear that, and it confirmed what he was saying, that there was a large body of opinion in favour of the Government proposal for the substitution of the county councils for the School Boards. The second feature which the Act of 1902 dealt with was this. A considerable majority of the children of the country were then in what were called voluntary schools. These schools were not, in many cases, as efficient as they ought to have been. They were not efficient for the best of all reasons—that was, the want of means to bring the education up to the level of that given in the best Board schools, and in addition to that there were complaints that these schools were very much under clerical control. He could not help feeling that the second complaint was one unduly exaggerated. The existence of abuses arising from clerical control were few and far between. The influence of the clergy on ducation had been for the advantage of the country. Hon. Members seemed to be altogether oblivious to the services rendered to education in this country by the clergy of the Church of England at a time when the State did little or nothing for education. When no one else would take it up, it was taken up by the clergy, and carried to a considerable point by them. A vast number of the children attending the voluntary schools which he had described were Nonconformists. How was their grievance to be redressed? He was one of those who believed that it was the right of every child to have as good an education as could be secured for it. He believed that in the matter of education a good healthy element of lay control was a desirable element.
Was there any alternative proposal be-lore the country when the Act was passed? Nothing whatever. If it might be called an alternative policy the idea which seemed to be at the back of some of the opposition to the Government measure was that the voluntary schools should gradually be allowed to bleed to death until they were unable to compete with the Board schools, so that when in 1050 the course of time they would cease to exist they would be universally supplanted by a system of Board schools all over the country. There were many objections, to which he was not going to refer, to that proposal, but what he did ask the House was this—What was to become of the children in the meantime while that process was going on? He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University was quite right when he called the attention of the Committee to the fact that, in a debate in regard to the administration of the Education Act, the first thing to be considered was the interest of the children. The schools attended by a large majority of the children of the country being admittedly inefficient, were they going to continue that state of things indefinitely until one by one they had disappeared, and until in the course of a generation, after any amount of friction had been gone through, they should find them supplanted by a universal network of Board schools all over the country? He ventured to say that that was an impossible proposal in the interest of fair dealing towards those schools. The Act had remedied those evils which existed before it was passed. Wherever the Act was fairly administered the non-provided schools would now be on the same level of efficiency with the very best provided schools; and the result was that, whereas the majority of the children had formerly to put up with an education not so good as that at the service of the minority, every child would now have the best education which could be provided. The alleged grievance of too much clerical control in the voluntary schools had no foundation whatever in fact, while so far, as the grievances of Nonconformist teachers were concerned the Act was a great step in advance [An HON. MEMBER; No.]—well, a step in advance.
He dissented altogether from the doctrine that the State should adopt the system of secular teaching, and hoped the day would never come when such a system would be introduced into the schools. Whatever might be said of the abstract merits of such a system the people of this country would have none of it. It was absolutely outside the range of practical politics. From every point of view it was extremely undesirable, and for this 1051 reason—that there were a great many children who would receive no religious instruction if it did not form part of the teaching in the elementary schools. But, was it impossible that there should be something of an agreement among the great bodies which represented religion in this country? Of course, the case of the Roman Catholics must be dealt with separately; but was it not possible- that, among the other bodies which held so much in common, there might be an agreement as to what was suitable religious teaching for children? The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire, when something of that kind was suggested by the right hon. Member for Cambridge University, said, "How is that possible where you have six sects to deal with?" But surely these six sects were not at variance on the subject as 10 what was suitable religious teaching? Or, if they were, it was a scandal to their common Christianity. Speaking for himself, he could most devoutly have wished that some such compromise as that associated with the Bishop of St. Asaph could have been arrived at. He understood it was that religious teaching such as was provided for under the London School Board syllabus should be given, supplemented by such denominational teaching as was desired by the parents of the children. If he was correctly informed, the hon. Member for Carnarvon was very largely responsible for the miscarriage of that proposal, because that hon. Gentleman insisted that denominational education should not be given in school hours. It was no use providing denominational education unless it was allowed to be given in school hours, for in a great many cases the children would not otherwise be got to attend.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that if that were the reason the compromise was refused, that reason was not assigned by the clergy at the time. On the contrary, all the conditions laid down by the clergy in regard to religious education were agreed to in the most unqualified terms.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
said he was not familiar with the details of what had passed, but he gathered that he was right when he stated that the hon. Gentleman had insisted that the denominational 1052 teaching should not be in school hours. To his mind denominational teaching, to be a reality, must be given in school hours, because, if given out of school hours the temptation would be very strong on the parents to employ their children in these hours for the profit of the family, or in amusing themselves, instead of attending, to the religious instruction provided for them. He desired, in conclusion, to emphasise the appeal made to consider the interests of the children in Wales on this subject. Was it not too bad that, while this dispute was raging, the children should be left without proper fires, proper books, and the best teaching The children were far too valuable to be mere counters in the game of political or ecclesiastical controversy. He hoped that the Committee would recognise that the Act of 1902 was an honest effort, in the interests of the children, to promote thoroughly good and efficient education, and that that Act had been well and honestly administered by the Department in charge of it.
§ *SIR MICHAEL FOSTER (Londen University)
said he wished to say a few words to express his sympathy with the proposition of the hon. Member for Carnarvon in so far as this meant that the Act of 1902 should be amended. He felt the more justified in saying that, because he had always from the beginning expressed his opinion that the Act had within it many admirable provisions for the improvement of the general education of the people. He did not wonder that it had excited an interest in education, and had promoted education throughout the country to a very remarkable extent. But the Bill even as presented and still more when it left the House as an Act contained within itself, in his opinion, certain evils. One evil was that, for the first time, teachers paid by the State were called upon to declare their religion. But an even greater evil than that was that, so it seemed to him, the Act contained the possibility of stirring up religious strife throughout the country, and so interfering with the interests of the education of the children. When he looked back on the history of the past two years, he must confess that it had raised up strife. 1053 Admirably as it had been carried out in the case of his right hon. friend the Member for Dartford, the very complaint of the right hon. Baronet proved that it had created religious controversy. The number of passive resisters showed how a real element of religious strife had been stirred up by the Act. His political conscience was stronger than his religious conscience, at least to this extent, that he was willing to accept the little wrong which might be done by the Act in order to secure its greater benefits. But his religious conscience was strong enough to make him appreciate the working of the conscience of those in all conditions of life, following all manner of occupations, in every variety of circumstances, who had been led by their consciences to do that which they had never done before, and what they trusted they would never do again, resist the law; and it was in order that that religious strife should as soon as possible be brought to an end that he wished to see the Act amended. From what he had heard that day, he had greater hope than he had two years ago that the real solution of the problem, that which was contained in the suggestion of his right hon. friend the Member for Cambridge University—a solution, however, which had formerly been rejected—would be in the end accepted. That solution lay in this, that the State, since it could only well and truly handle those things about which it was not bitterly and widely divided, and since it was bitterly and largely divided about religious instruction could not handle that, but could well and truly offer teaching which included the teaching of right and wrong, and man's duty to his neighbour. Looking round, it seemed to him that there was a growing public opinion in favour of what had been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Haddingtonshire and supported by the right hon. Baronet from the Front Bench. He did not like to use the phrase secular teaching, because secular teaching seemed to connote the idea of teaching which did not help in the formation of character or of moral well-being. Moral teaching did not depend on any one religious opinion; it was the basis and the product of all religions.
1054 The solution towards which public sentiment seemed to be tending, although some hon. Members said that it was not within practical politics, was that the State should confine itself to, and pay for, that teaching which was the basis of every religion and allow each denomination to come in and teach its own particular tenets at its own cost. If the person who carried out the denominational teaching was a teacher in the school, so much the better, for it would have a greater effect upon the children. Depend upon it, that was the only real solution of the education problem; it was a solution which must come sooner or later, and the sooner it came the better.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
said the House would congratulate itself on the very fair spirit of compromise which appeared to prevail on all sides. There was an evident desire shown by hon. Members in all parts that this present strife, this religious bitterness, this sectarian spirit which appeared to have done so much harm to the cause of education, should, if possible, be brought to an end. He claimed for himself that during the discussion on the Act of 1902, he always held that some compromise, rather different to that decided upon, should have been arrived at to remove the grievances, real or imaginary, of people who did not see eye to eye with Churchmen in this question. He believed most hon. Members were anxious to bring about this result. But surely there was one condition that ought to precede any alteration of the law, and this was that the law as it at present stood ought to be administered. He was emphatically for a compromise; hue he did say it was the plain duty of the Government and of public authorities like the county councils to administer the Act as a condition precedent to any alteration of the law. What was the position of affairs now? The Motion brought forward at the instance of the hon. Member for Carnarvon represented the case of the Welsh county councils, but he contended that the Welsh county councils' refusal to administer the Act had involved enormous hardships on the children of Wales. Whether the Act was suitable for Wales 1055 or not, their first duty was to administer it. But what were the special grievances brought forward by the hon. Member for Carnarvon? When they considered what he said, they amounted to a very little— viz., that certain draft Orders had been issued which inflicted a hardship in cases where Nonconformists had subscribed, along with Churchmen, to the building of certain schools. But these were only draft Orders; they had not yet I the force of law; the Board of Education was considering them; they were not in operation, and, therefore, the grievance brought forward was an exceedingly small one, and one which did not justify the action of the county councils in refusing to administer the Act altogether. The hon. Member for Carnarvon gave a long list of grievances in connection with Wales, and he did not deny that there might be grievances; but the hon. Member went on to tell them; that the county councils wished to act in the broadest spirit and that they were acting in a spirit of religious equality. What, however, was the state of affairs in one of the boroughs which the hon. Member himself represented? Were they exhibiting an example of the spirit of religious equality in the borough of Pwllheli? There were two schools, a national school and a Board school. In connection with the Board school all the teachers and all the officials were Nonconformist, though Church people paid at least half of the rates.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
said he would come to that presently. In the Board school the headmaster of the boys' section, the headmistress of the girls' department, the county clerk of education, the attendance officer, the assistant teachers, the pupil teachers, and the school cleaner, all were Calvinistic Methodists. This was the spirit of religious equality in which hon. Members opposite acted when they got a majority in the council. In the case of the Church school there were no less than three pupil teachers who were Nonconformists; and he ventured to say that the spirit of religious equality was much 1056 more manifest in the persecuted Church school than in the schools conducted as hon. Members opposite would desire to see them. When the Act came into force the local authority for that district was careful to appoint six managers to the Board school, every one of whom was a Nonconformist, and the majority of whom were Calvinistic Methodists. He had put this case forward to show there were grievances on both sides. He fully admitted there were difficulties in Wales. There was, he granted, a Nonconformist majority there, and where there was only one school and that Church of England, even with the conscience clause, there was, he admitted, the appearance of a grievance. But what ought to be done. The hon. Member had spoken about the Bishop of St. Asaph's compromise. He knew a good deal about that compromise. For his part he supported a compromise on those lines, but what was the real reason why it broke down? It was that under the existing state of the law no compromise would have been valid and might have been repudiated afterwards.
§ *MR GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
That is not quite fair. It is not a case of trusting an individual's word. You have to trust an elective body. Under the compromise the Church would have handed over her schools, a new council might have been elected, and there could have been no charge of bad faith against these successors. No public authority can bind its successors, and they might have gone back from what was a purely private arrangement, and then the Church would have been in the position of having parted with her schools and of having no possible means of getting them back.
§ MR. HUMPHREYS-OWEN
There was to have been a short period at the termination of which, if they had found that the compromise did not work, they would have got their schools back.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
said that under the compromise the Church would have handed the schools over.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
But you cannot make them provide schools for three years. Where is the power in the Act to do it? If there was a power to lease the schools temporarily, I agree, but the leaders of the Church were advised that it could not be done, and that they ran the risk of losing their schools altogether. The general opinion was that in the case of schools provided by Church people for Church objects they had no right to run that risk, and, therefore, in the present state of the law, even if the compromise were desirable, they could not to do it. Continuing, the hon. Member said they knew that a spirit of compromise was in the air, and he looked forward to some new Education Bill which might relieve their difficulties. He did not think they had quite arrived at that compromise yet. For his part he would never accept any compromise unless definite denominational teaching were given in school hours and not out of school hours; but they were going on lines which he hoped would lead to some such arrangement; and by degrees they might understand each other better. He appealed to hon. Members opposite—granting that compromise might come—whether it was not their duty to administer the law while it lasted. He was not referring to passive resisters. An individual might like to break the law, though, in his opinion, they did so largely for political reasons, but they were not concerned with individuals. It was a far more serious thing for great local authorities to deliberately set their faces against carrying out the law, or, at all events, to say they would not carry out the law except under conditions not within and never contemplated by the Act. It was their duty to see that the law was carried out, and, while this was being done, they might endeavour to come to some better system. He would support any compromise which met the religious difficulties of others without placing disabilities upon any other sect or community.
§ MR. HUMPHREYS OWEN
expressed the opinion that what was now being fought was the claim of the clergy to 1058 control elementary education, thus continuing the controversy which was begun with the Act of Uniformity. Education had so long been the monopoly of the Church of England that she was naturally reluctant to give up control, but she must now realise that the time had come when the control must be relinquished. The clergy regarded the denominational schools as their own private property, but that was an entire mistake; they were merely trustees. They held the schools for the purpose of giving education, and education was now a public trust, and if Parliament had the power to direct what should be done with public trust property, the trustees were under no obligation any longer to regard their responsibilities under the trust deed, and the handing over of the schools to the public authority was nothing more than the execution of their duty. He would be no party to any compromise upon the subject of public control, and on the subject of religious tests the Nonconformists could not give way. The imposition of religious tests either engendered and encouraged hypocrisy or tended to drive out of the teaching profession those best fitted for it. He was opposed to the counsel of despair which counselled either strict denominationalism or purely secular teaching. He could not regard the teaching of religious facts as they presented themselves in the New Testament as denominational teaching.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.