§ Order read, for Consideration of Lords' Amendments.
§ MR. PAUL (Northampton)
asked for Mr. Speaker's ruling on a point which seemed to him of some constitutional importance—whether the Lords' Amendments taken as a whole were not a serious and substantial encroachment upon the privileges of the House. The famous Resolution passed by the House of Commons in 1678, declared—That all aids and supplies to His Majesty in Parliament are the sole gift of the Commons, and all Bills for the granting of any such aids and supplies should begin with the Commons; that it is the undoubted and sole right of the Commons to direct, limit, and appoint in such Kills the ends, purposes, and considerations and—he begged the House to note these words—conditions, limitations, and qualifications of such grants, which ought not to be changed or altered by the House of Lords.That Resolution was far more drastic and comprehensive than the kindred Motion carried by the House after the departure of the Stuarts in 1692, because that related to taxation only, and yet it was that Motion, repeated by the House on a Motion of Lord Palmerston in 1860, which enabled Mr. Gladstone, by an ingenious device, to deprive the House of Lords, as it was supposed, for ever of all control over the taxation of this country. The first clause of the Education Bill as it left this House ran—On and after the first day of January, 1908, a school shall not be recognised as a public elementary school unless it is a school provided by the local education authority.And a public elementary school was a school entitled in the first place to a grant, from the Exchequer, and in the second place to a contribution from local rates. His contention was that this was the governing clause of the whole Bill, and that almost all the other clauses contained modifications or qualifications of it, or exceptions from it. The Lords had amended it by alterations of date which were not material, and by these words—And unless some portion of the school hours of every day is set apart for the purposes of religious instruction.He submitted that that was a substantial change of the conditions under 1577 which a school was entitled to grants of public money. Clause 13, which provided an additional Parliamentary grant of £1,000,000, the Lords had not amended, but he cited it to show that the grant of public money applied to every part of this Bill. He maintained that the Bill was not an education Bill with financial clauses, but a financial Bill with educational clauses. As a sample of the Lords' Amendments he cited that which provided that where an order was made allowing a school to continue as a State-Aided school the Board of Education might pay to the school a Parliamentary Grant as if it were a public elementary school, notwithstanding anything contained in the Act. He submitted that that was a distinct alteration of the conditions made in regard to a pecuniary grant from public sources. He had not been able to find that the precise point he was raising had been decided by any of Mr. Speaker's predecessors; but there was such a thing as indirect evidence, and there were few things more valuable in controversy than the deliberate admissions of the other side. This was not a question between Parties, but between two Houses of Parliament; therefore every peer was a hostile witness. The question had boon twice raised in the House of Lords, in 1897 and 1902, both times on Education Bills. In 1897, Lord Halsbury denied the right of the peers to make any alteration in Committee upon the Voluntary Schools Bill. He was, of course, aware that the Lord Chancellor had no authority in another place; there could be no authority where equality, fraternity, and anarchy prevailed. Amendments by Lord Spencer and the late Lord Kimberley were withdrawn in consequence of Lord Halsbury's pronouncement. So much for the Bill of 1897. The Bill of 1902 was no more a money Bill than the present measure. In fact he should contend that it was far less financial, but when it went up to another place the same question was raised, and Amendments were withdrawn, or not put, on the same ground. Lord Halsbury on that occasion did not commit himself, but another great lawyer, Lord Davey, made a very important utterance. He ventured to refer to Lord Davey both because he was an eminent Judge and because he himself desired to make in that Bill vital changes, and when he said vital he meant 1578 mortal. Lord Davey's speech delivered on 9th December, 1902, was so short and so full of matter that he would conclude what he had to say by reading it—My Lords, I should not presume for one moment to set my opinion against that of the noble Duke, who has had such a vast experience of Parliamentary life, larger, perhaps, than that enjoyed by any other Member of your Lordships' House. I am, however, bound to say that it is not my opinion alone, but also the opinion of others better qualified to speak, that the Resolution of the House of Commons of 1678, which has now been acquiesced in by this House for upwards of 300 years" [he supposed that should be 200 years], "no longer remains a mere Resolution, but has become part of the constitutional law of this country. I quite agree with what was said by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack the other night, that in a Bill of this kind, which deals not only with finance but also contains a number of other provisions, we need not be too particular in scrutinising Amendments which may affect either the 'conditions, qualifications, or limitations' of the grant which is made by the Bill. Hut undoubtedly this Bill does come within the definition 'aid or supply' to His Majesty, referred to in the Resolution of 1678, and the constitutional practice of this House arising out of that Resolution has been not to interfere with either the amount, extent, or incidence of the rate which such a Bill enabled a local authority to raise. I have given careful study to the provisions of this Hill, and endeavoured to make myself acquainted with its clauses, and the conclusion I have come to is that every Amendment of importance is so dependent on questions of finance, either of rating or of Parliamentary grant, that it would be difficult, if not absolutely impossible, to make any Amendment of real substance, such as some of us on this side of the House would desire to make.… I will take another example. There is a good deal of difference of opinion with regard to Clause 7, which imposes on the local education authority the obligation of maintaining denominational schools, and there are many things in it which we would like to alter. I feel very strongly, for instance, on the provision, which was not in the original Bill, which enables the trustees on a charitable trust to charge a rent for the use of the master's residence. I find tucked away in the clause the words, 'Compliance with this section shall be one of the conditions required to be fulfilled by an elementary school in order to obtain a Parliamentary grant.'He submitted that almost every one of the provisions of this Bill was a provision for obtaining a Parliamentary grant and a rate as well. He submitted to Mr. Speaker, the supreme authority on this question, whose word in this House was law, that the representatives of the people, equally proud of this House and equally jealous of its privileges, on whatever benches they 1579 might sit, could not protect their rights and the rights of those who sent them here, unless they refused even to consider any of the Lords' Amendments which affected either the amount or the distribution or the condition of any pecuniary grant from the National Exchequer or from the local rates.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for Northampton for having given me private notice of his intention to raise this very important question. I understand the argument which he submits to me is this—that this House ought not to consider any of the Amendments which have been sent up from the other House by reason of the fact that these Amendments will or may alter the conditions under which the Parliamentary grant has been in the past or will be in the future given to the schools of the country. But the hon. Member dealt in the course of his argument with the question of Clause 13. With regard to that I will dispose of it first, and say that in my opinion the Bill is not governed by Clause 13. That clause might be excised from the Bill entirely, and yet the Bill would stand good, and could be applied and administered. The Bill was not brought in as a money Bill, and it has not been treated as a money Bill. No Amendment has been moved on Clause 13. Therefore, so far as Clause 13 goes, I do not think any infringement of the privileges of this House has been committed. There are certain Amendments which, as they come up, I shall be prepared to deal with, and shall be ready to advise the House as to my opinion whether they are or are not infringements of the privileges of this House. But the hon. Member goes beyond that, and asks me to rule that all the Amendments are infringements of the privileges of this House. In asking me to do that I think he is asking me to press the position which this House has taken up on questions of privilege far beyond the rule which has hitherto obtained. If the argument of the hon. Member were pressed to its logical conclusion it would prevent the House of Lords from dealing with any question which affected the Army, or the Navy, or the Civil Service, or with any object whatever for which any grant is voted by this House. I do not think that that is the intention of the 1580 Resolution which he cited; and it certainly has not been, up to the present time, the practice of this House to press its privileges so far. Therefore, I am driven to the conclusion that the hon. Member has asked me to lay down a rule which has never hitherto been adopted by this House, for which he himself said he was unable to find any direct precedent, and for that reason I cannot accede to the view he has put forward. He cited two-cases in support of his argument. With regard to the Voluntary Schools Bill of 1897, that was introduced as a money Bill in Committee of the Whole House, and was treated as a money Bill throughout. Therefore that precedent, I venture to say, does not apply. With regard to the Education Act of 1902, it is true that certain objections were taken in the other House to amending that Bill, but nevertheless the Bill was amended in the other House; and "when the Bill came back to this House no question was raised as to a breach of privilege having been committed; and therefore no ruling on the point was given, from which it may be assumed that this House accepted the view that it was within the power of the other House to make the Amendments which they then made. For these reasons I feel myself unable to make the ruling which the hon. Member proposed.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Mr. BIRRELL,) Bristol, N.
Once more the scene shifts to the House of Commons. I think I shall be following precedent and certainly consulting the convenience of the House if I am allowed now to state the view which His Majesty's Government takes of the present position —which is one of gravity, both as affecting the Education Bill and also in its constitutional character—and to state the course which they propose to advise the House to adopt in regard to the Lords' Amendments. But the moment I begin to essay this somewhat difficult task I find myself, however closely I may restrict myself to the Lords' Amendments, doing something which is very like asking the House once more, for the second time in the short compass of one Parliamentary year, to consider the provisions of another Education Bill. I say that because I am persuaded there is no man in this House, sit where he may, who does not full well recognise that in 1581 no conceivable circumstances would it have been possible for this House, constituted as it is at present, to read the second time any such Bill as that which has been sent to us by the House of Lords. The Government commands an unusually great majority. My right hon. friend the Prime Minister commands in an unparalleled degree, I venture to think, the affection and confidence of the House. But no majority, however big, no loyalty, however great, would have been sufficient to carry the Second Reading of such a Bill as the Bill now before us. Our own Bill presented some difficulties. The Bill as amended would have presented none, for it would have been from first to last a sheer impossibility.
But the peculiarity of the position does not stop there. If this Bill as amended by the Lords represented a genuine intellectual effort on the part of another place to come to the assistance of this harassed assembly, to do its work in a more orderly and better considered fashion than it can do for itself, such a Bill—even although it would be impossible for his Majesty's Government to recognise the right of the Opposition in another place—a permanent and most unfriendly Opposition— to draft our measures for us—would have a certain amount of interest, it might be only of an antiquarian nature, and I dare say we should have found its perusual and consideration useful to us in some particulars. But we are carefully prevented from any such view of the Lords' Amendments, for they have accompanied their own Bill to the very portals of our House with expressions almost of vituperation and contempt. They do not recommend it to us. They do not say it is a good Bill; indeed, they say it is a bad Bill. I do not complain that they say it is fundamentally a bad Bill, because of course by that they mean that there still lurks in it some portion of its original badness. The original goodness, in my sense of the 'word, still is to be found adhering to it. They assure us it is an unworkable Bill, they wash their hands of responsibility for it, and they say we must take the whole responsibility. It follows, therefore, that the Bill we are about to consider is in no sense our Bill; it is in no real sense their Bill. It is a miserable, mangled, tortured, twisted tertium quid. It is something which no man will father. It received on its 1582 Third Reading the support of only one Bishop of the Establishment, and it is a Bill, therefore, which the Church of England repudiates. [OPPOSITION cries of "No."] I quite agree that scores of rooks caw from their steeples, but the Bill is one which no Nonconformist would touch with the humblest of fireside implements. What are we to do with a Bill returned to us in such a condition as that? From a careful study of the Amendments, which I have had printed and circulated in the White Parliamentary Paper, I do not believe that any man, however oblique may be his vision, however blinded he may be by Party prejudice or ecclesiastical prejudice—I do not, I say, believe that any ordinary House of Commons man, carefully per us this White Paper, can have any doubt whatsoever that the Amendments made in another place are of so extensive a character—I am not dealing with their speeches, although some of these were very drastic— so formidable, so penetrating, so permeating, so cumulative that, though the House of Lords thought it wise to read our measure a second time, they none the less, and notwithstanding that important step, felt themselves at perfect liberty to make such alterations as constitute the Bill sent back to us not our Bill but an alternative solution of their own. No doubt some of the critics in another place, some of them men whose importance I recognise, paid lip service to our two great cardinal principles of popular control and no tests for teachers. I ask the House to consider those Amendments as they affect those principles.
But first a word as to what is meant by popular control. The Bill of 1902, for which the right hon. Gentleman opposite is responsible, transferred, wisely or foolishly, from school boards the vast duty, the enormous responsibility, for providing for the primary education of their district, and for coordinating secondary education so that both should go together, to county councils, city councils, borough councils, 'and municipal councils. From that great alteration enormous consequences have followed, which perhaps nobody except those whose misfortune it is to spend their days in the Board of Education have had an opportunity of fully realising. These bodies measure their importance by the greatness of their 1583 responsibilities. In all those thickly populated districts, those places where the mind of England is made up, those bodies have become infected with a lofty ambition. They are determined to municipalise education from top to bottom; they are determined to get whole and complete control over all the machinery of education, from the infant class to the University. They are determined to be masters in their own schools. The Board of Education know this full well, because it is our duty as the custodians of the vast Parliamentary Grants which the Chancellor of the Exchequer places at our disposal to see that they are properly expended. We have, therefore, occasionally to interfere, and our interference is very often bitterly resented. For these localities say, "We know our own wants better than you do, and this mistrust of us and of our honourable intentions is most unfair." But these Amendments of the Lords, almost every one of them, cut down popular control, restrict popular control, and put the Board of Education again and again over the heads of these great elected authorities, and in many material respects most seriously interfere with their discretion and their freedom of action. And these men will come and say, "What is the good of asking us to give up time, leisure, and money to the discharge of what might be the noblest duty open to a citizen, of looking after the education, primary and secondary, in the locality where we live, and the wants of which we think we know better than anybody else—what is the good of asking us to make all these sacrifices, if at the critical moment, when it comes to taking a decision upon some vital matter, the Board of Education, acting under an Act of Parliament, comes down and interferes with our action, hampers, fetters, and controls it?" And does so, mind you as they will say, not in the interest of education as a whole, but in the interests of denominational schools. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh.'"]
Lest it be supposed these are assertions incapable of being supported, I will take the Amendments in their order. Clause 1 passed this House without any Amendment or alteration. In the other House it is substantially amended by the addition of words so that a school is not to be recognised as a 1584 public elementary school unless some portion of the school hours of every day is set apart for the purpose of religious instruction. [OPPOSITION cheers.] No religion is mentioned, but I suppose by those cheers it is contemplated that the religion will be that of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Cries of "Any religion."] I should like to point out that the words inserted by the Lords are a direct repeal of Section 97 of the Act of 1870, a section which is supposed to prevent any differentiation between any one kind of school and another. It expressly makes it clear that no local authority, no school board, is to be required to provide religious instruction as part of its duty; and, therefore, this clause, with the Lords' Amendment inserted, repeals that section. Consider how it interferes with popular control—with the local authorities in the discharge of their duty. In most cases they have prepared admirable syllabuses which have received high support. They have consulted Church dignitaries, both of the Church of England and of the Church of Rome, in the preparation of these syllabuses; and practically it may be said that—though no doubt they vary from place to place—as a rule, a rule from which there is not the faintest probability of there being any departure, all the educational authorities of the country, with hardly any exception, have of their own free will and accord prepared syllabuses satisfactory to at all events the great majority of the people. And it is my anxious desire, and always has been, that these syllabuses should multiply and increase. But I know perfectly well that the moment you say to these local authorities who hitherto have not done these things "Do it you must," all my hope of getting a reasonable, suitable, and proper syllabus for that religious instruction which I at all events desire as much as any man in this House will be frustrated and destroyed. [" No."] Surely you ought to know that for yourselves. Anybody who has had anything to do with public authorities must know that they do not like Acts of Parliament compelling them to do the thing they hitherto have not done; and in this clause they have perfect freedom to do it in the most perfunctory and unsatisfactory manner. I am justified in instancing this first Amendment as a considerable and 1585 important departure from the principle of popular control.
I come now to Clause 2. I remember perfectly well when it was under discussion in this House my right hon. and gallant friend the Member for one of the divisions of Shropshire, came to me and put before mo the case of private owners of schools. He said these private owners could do what they liked with their schools—turn them into stables if they chose—for they were not trust schools, their owners were absolute owners. They had built them out of the kindness of their own hearts, they were near their own houses, and had adopted a particular kind of architecture and would be sorry to see it interfered with. "Do you not think," he said, "you could introduce, to meet those cases, not more than 1,100 or 1,200 over the whole country, a few words which would enable those private owners to do the work themselves and send in the bill to the local authorities?" I thought it a reasonable and proper provision, and I accepted it. But what did the House of Lords do? They immediately seized hold of it, as they have done all through this Bill with every concession that has been made, to turn it into a right, not of private owners of some 1,100 schools, but of the owners of all the voluntary schools, 14,000 in number, who are to be at liberty to do the repairs if they like (the local authorities not being at liberty to do them), and to send in the bill. I say that is a most unreasonable thing. It is not business. It would hamper the local authorities beyond all expectation, and would increase the expenditure on all the alterations that may be necessary when schools are taken over under this clause. The Board of Education, I need hardly say, are to be the arbiters in case of any dispute. The arbitrament we were willing to accept for 1,100 or 1,200 schools; but now we are to exercise this rôle of arbiter in the case of 14,000. The local authorities, one and all, will justly complain of this interference, and of the increased expenditure, and of the delay that will be occasioned by any such alteration. So much for Clause 2, which undoubtedly does most materially interfere with popular control.
I come now to Clause 3. Everybody in this House will remember the lively scene we had one evening 1586 on the two mornings a week provision. I stuck to my guns there, and maintained that the true interpretation of the clause was that the religious instruction was to be given on two mornings so as to secure that every child got his two mornings and no more a week; and it was perfectly well understood that it was for the local authority to make the arrangement and to consider what circumstances might render it necessary to have more than two days a week allotted for the purpose, with a view to the children having their teaching on their two days a week. That was acceded to. The House of Lords come in and they alter the words to read "on two mornings a week in school hours at such times as may be consistent with the proper conduct of the school and for not less than a clear half-hour on each morning on which the instruction is given." I have no point to make as to the clear half-hour, but I do say it is absolutely essential that the local authority should be master in its own school house, and should have the right of determining whether or not entry on more than two days a week is really necessary. But this question, under sub-section (3a), is another dispute which is to be referred to the Board of Education. The time of the President of the Board of Education is mapped well out for him for the next ten years. To that clause there is a remarkable addition—1 think it is the addition which was introduced into the Bill by Lord Salisbury in another place. It is sub-section (2), which says—If the parents of a reasonable number of children attending any public elementary school require facilities for their children of the same character as those to be afforded under the foregoing provisions of this section, and, in the opinion of the local education authority, those children cannot conveniently attend some other public elementary school in which facilities for religious instruction of the special character desired by the parents are afforded, the local education authority, without prejudice to any of their powers or duties under this section, shall, so far as it is in their opinion reasonably practicable to do so, afford those facilities in the school within school hours accordingly.I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Crowe, whoso conduct of the Bill in another place I would certainly stop to praise if the praise of a colleague had any intrinsic value whatever, had this clause in view when he referred to "envious Casca," but it is a most decided rent. The entry to the board school is entirely 1587 inconsistent with the doctrine of popular control. Clause 4, as amended, I will deal with separately a little further on. Our original Clauses 5, 6, and 7 are all gone; they have disappeared from the Bill. Clauses 5 and 6, I admit, reappear in a somewhat different shape later on, but Clause 7 is gone altogether. I speak here, I admit, with very considerable: emotion. Clause 7 was my own pet clause —flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone—because I believed that Clause 7 would have had the effect of making the conscience clause, which hitherto has had a long but useless career, a genuine reality, a reality which it can never possibly enjoy so long as you transfer the whole brunt of it from the parent who ought to bear it to the shoulder's of the child. So long as you have the child exposed to the teacher's sarcasm and to the ridicule of the playground, to say nothing of the ostracism from those school treats and buns and milk wherewith the clergy and the gentry of the neigbourhood are accustomed to popular is denominational education, you need never hope to have a sound and reasonable and workable conscience clause. I admit Clause 7 was in a somewhat parlous state. Three of my colleagues voted against it in this House, and Lord Ripon, stalwart among stalwarts, and Radical among Radicals, felt it necessary to vote against it in another place; and I have very little doubt, whatever happens to this Bill— if it succeeds, as we all hope it may succeed, in passing into law—that that clause will disappear. In me at all events it will always have a most sincere mourner. Look at 7a at the bottom of page 8 on the White Paper—If any persons consider that a new public elementary school with facilities for religious instruction of some special character not permitted under Section 14, of the Elementary Education Act, 1870, is required in any district, they may give public notice of their intention to provide a school-house for the proposed school,and—when such notice has been given the Board of Education shall determine whether the proposed school is required, and in so doing—then follow certain words with which already I am only too familiar—shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case,—that is to say, all sorts of perfectly inconsistent things, the wishes of the 1588 parents, the economy of the rates, the interest of secular instruction. They "shall take into consideration" any appeal made by the ratepayers; and if they determine that the school is required an arrangement is to be made by the Commission, and after the powers of the Commission shall have expired, it is to be done by the powers of the Board of Education.
Well, now, I really ask the House what has become of popular control over the whole area assigned to the charge of each particular authority if any such provision as this is by any possibility to become law? The thing, I may venture to say, almost becomes a farce. Men all over the north of England and in London and elsewhere will inquire, "What is the good of being on a local authority if all my power, all my responsibility, all my opportunity of doing what I consider to be good are to be absolutely destroyed and vitiated?" As to that appeal to the Board of Education, I venture to say that if Parliament were ever to insert into any Bill any provision such as this, allowing an appeal on behalf of denominational schools from any place by any person, they ought to take upon them selves the responsibility of showing how it is to act. For at present it is a mere matter of the which or fancy of whoever happens to be at the head of the office. Every such school as this increases the rates. In all these schools I frankly admit, otherwise the case would not arise, there are a number of parents who have the religious education of their own children in mind. They will all be of necessity, ex hypothesi, unanimous in favour of the permission being given for the school. Therefore, the President of the Board of Education, if he is a denominationlist, will say that the wishes of these parents should be carried out, altogether irrespective of the £339 14s. 2d. extra which it will cost to the rates. If he is an anti-denominationalist he will say, "I must put on one side the wishes of the parents. They cannot be allowed to compete with the important question of the increase of the rates." All I can say is that in the interests of common justice and fairness, and something like continuity, it is, in our judgment, the duty of the House of Commons not to shirk this question as hitherto always has 1589 been done. If you are going to insert this provision do so boldly, and say in what circumstances the wishes of the parents are to be consulted, and not allow two absolutely inconsistent and irreconcilable policies to sway backwards and forwards in the mind of the President. It is an impossible duty, and the object of my calling attention to it is to show that it is absolutely fatal and destructive, and to say that with this provision it is impossible to maintain that this is a Bill to secure, preserve, and maintain popular control. I will not say anything about Clause 7b relating to inspection of religious instruction, although that is an interference with popular control, since it closes the school while the inspection of religious instruction goes on Clause 8, with the by-law of my hon. friend the Member for Oxford University, makes religious education compulsory in school hours part and parcel of the Bill, and it has final words of a similar character.The obligation of a parent to cause his child to attend school shall, notwithstanding any by-law "—that is, the by-law of my hon. friend—include an obligation to cause the child to attend at the school-house during the portion of the school hours allotted to instruction in religious subjects. Provided that the local education authority and the managers shall provide during the time so allotted, for children who are withdrawn by their parents from any such instruction, some form of secular instruction, and that a parent shall not be subject to any penalty under this section for not causing his child to attend the schoolhouse during any time so allotted, if he shows to the satisfaction of the Court that he has caused his child during that time to attend some form of religious instruction elsewhere.I do not know that that is pre-eminently reasonable. I do not know how the Court can become satisfied that for half an hour each day the child has been given religious education. I should have thought that if a parent could show that the child was being taught something, oven though the instruction were secular, that would have mot the necessities of the case. I mention this clause to show the substantial character of the Lords' alteration. Now I come to the new clauses added. Clause 9a, on page 13, runs thus —(1) Where the local authority fail to accept an arrangement offered to them by the owners of the schoolhouse of an existing voluntary school, as regards the use of the 1590 school-house, and the school is one in respect of which facilities in accordance with Section 3 or 4 of this Act are desired, the owners of the schoolhouse may appeal to the Commission appointed under this Act, and that Commission shall—and so on, and if the Commission are of opinion that there are sufficient grounds of refusal they shall—by order require the local education authority to continue the school as a public elementary school provided by them on such terms and conditions as respects the use of the schoolhouse as may be provided by the order, and to afford the facilities desired.Now there again is a very similar instance of that unilateral principle of which we complain. It is difficult to see how you can reconcile this with the principle of public control. As the Bill left the Commons the local authority had complete liberty whether they would take over a school or not, except that when facilities under Clause 4 were demanded and had been denied that was an exception; but this new clause upsets the whole principle of public control.
I should like to say a word, too, upon the peculiar position of the Commission. It will be remembered that when the idea of a Commission was started it was strongly resisted, and we had hon. Gentleman opposite out of their stores of historical illustration comparing it to the institution of the Star Chamber. By way of meeting the objections I said over and over again that the duties of the Commission would be judicial, and would be exercised by three Commissioners in accordance with the law. That got over some of the objections, and when I gave the names of the three distinguished lawyers who were to be appointed Commissioners then the position was changed, and admiration of the clause was expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The gentlemen named as Commissioners have told me that they had no notion until they had followed the debate of the just place they held in the affections of hon. Gentlemen opposite. These three gentlemen are unwilling—I think I may say at all events they are alarmed—at the prospect of having allotted to them duties of an administrative and not of a judicial character, duties that will require, they think, a staff, an amount of information and of assistance not in contemplation when they were confined to judicial work. Therefore if all this new duty is added there is 1591 very great doubt whether these gentlemen—one of whom, being abroad, I have not consulted—would be willing to accept the responsibility. I have said enough to show that the Amendments of the Lords affect, vitally affect, the doctrine of public control. They would render it almost impossible for a local education authority hereafter, if the Bill became law, to accept with any sense of duty the responsibility of an office the real duty attaching to which it would not be allowed to discharge.
And now I come to another point, the "test for teachers." How have the Lords dealt with that question in their principal Amendments? Now, I admit it is much easier to demand that there shall be no tests for teachers than it is to see that you get it; but that is no reason for not making the demand. Justice has very often been sold, or denied, or delayed since Magna Charta was presented in 1215, but the barons were right in insisting upon the declaration that, according to the common law of England, justice should not be sold, denied, or delayed. So I say we were justified in doing all we could, in face of craft, machinations, and denominational devices, to insist that no religious test should be imposed on a teacher on his appointment or in the course of his employment. It was a delicate point, but it was a necessity—it was part and parcel of our Bill that we meant to prevent the application of such tests directly or indirectly. That was the only reason for forbidding teachers in a transferred school under Clause 3 from giving Catechism or Prayer-book teaching, even though they were willing to give it. We wished to prevent this because we had suspicion—and can any man honestly say that the suspicion is unjustifiable or unreasonable—that if a teacher were allowed to undertake the duty he would be asked by some one, somewhere, not necessarily formally or in public, but sometime or other, it might be at tea time, whether, if appointed, he would volunteer for this teaching. If, in such circumstances, he said "No," can you doubt that in many cases his chance of getting the appointment would be very materially reduced? We make no mystery about the reason, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in it; we ask the House, is it an unreasonable suspicion? 1592 Of course, if the thing is done, we all know the nature of children as to which there has been much ado. Of course, they will follow their regular teacher, because they love him, or because they fear him, ample reasons both of them to secure a child's attention. This is a question we have to consider in the light of the immense importance the Church of England attaches to it—[An HON. MEMBER, "And the Catholics"]—the Roman Catholics are on a different footing. [" How?"] The Church of England, then, means and includes the Church of Rome, if you like. I only wish to shorten my remarks. The point I am upon is this, the importance the Church attaches to this privilege, or this right—call it as you may -the importance they attach to it is in itself a measure of the degree of pressure that will be employed in many places to secure the advantage of this teaching. The clause in the Lords' Amendment would compel the local authority to appoint the teacher, if willing ["No"]—they say "shall"— to give special teaching. It is an unqualified provision, it makes no distinction between town and country, between head and assistant teachers, it will permit any teacher to give the teaching if willing. Therefore, so far as our attempts to secure that there shall be no tests for teachers are concerned, they must be considered as struck out of the Bill and destroyed by the action of the House of Lords
Now turn to sub-section (3) of Clause 8—In every public elementary school in which extended facilities are afforded under this Act, the local education authority shall consult with the parents' committee as to the appointment of any persons to be teachers in the school—and then it goes on—and shall satisfy themselves that the persons so appointed are qualified and willing to give the religious instruction for which the extended facilities are afforded.Now, how are the parents and local authority to satisfy themselves that a particular teacher—say a Roman Catholic —is qualified to teach the tenets of the Roman Catholic faith? They cannot do it. All they can ask is, "Are you a good Catholic, a good Roman Catholic?" and if the man or woman says "Yes," there is an end of the matter so far as the local authority is concerned. But 1593 is that bare question and that bare answer to be a sufficient test of the qualification of a teacher to give theological teaching of a difficult and precise character? I say it cannot; be done, not even by Archbishops and Bishops, who cannot exercise a sufficient control over their own clergy in such matters. That is not the fault of the Bishops and Archbishops; it is inherent in human nature, we all know it, no man can pry into the depths of our souls and find out what we believe and what we do not believe, or if we are qualified to teach that belief. I do not deny the importance of belief, but who can judge of it? Some of the best Bible lessons ever known were given by Dean Stanley, and yet there were those who questioned his right to be called a good Churchman or even a good Christian. The Amendments, I say, will destroy the whole fabric of both public control and abolition of tests for teachers, and our interest in the Bill if confined to this would be entirely gone.
But just a word or two upon the Amendments to Clause 4. That was a very difficult clause to get into the Bill at all. It went, we admit, to the utmost point, it wont somewhat dangerously near going outside the pledges we had given that there should be no tests for teachers; that I do not deny, but we justified it, and I shall still continue to justify it by saying it was intended to be an exception, and to deal with exceptional cases. What those excepted cases were have been repeated so often, I fear, to this House, that it is almost waste of time to reiterate them — homogeneous schools, schools where the overwhelming majority of the children attending them were the children of parents who wished them to receive definite, well-ascertained, clearly - defined, generally understood religious opinions. In these, circumstances, under certain stringent conditions as to the character of the school, to secure its homogeneous character, and as to their being in the immediate neighbourhood other public 'school accommodation where the minority of the children, if there were any such, could receive undenominational education, we thought, and we still think, that if it had been fairly treated in another place, that exception could have been allowed. That was the whole state of, 1594 our case with reference to that. What have the Lords done in these Amendments? First of all, they have destroyed the homogeneous character of the school, which was the very essence of Clause 4, but for which the clause never could have found its way into the Bill at all in face of the difficulties with which we had to contend. The Lords first destroyed it by a very bold Amendment, reducing our four-fifths to a bare majority. Then, on reflection, they thought that was asking, perhaps, a little too much, and they substituted two-thirds. They have not only, by this Amendment, destroyed the character of the school, but by a second Amendment they have got round the obligation for public school accommodation hard-by by saying that in what we used to call a four-fifths school—but i what, I suppose, they would call a two-thirds school —within the walls of that school the undenominational teaching, according to the Cowper-Temple clause, should be given. I say, and hon. Gentle- men opposite will surely have the candour to admit, that was to tear our Clause into tatters. It was to make it impossible; its argument impossible. Every argument that I ever used, or that my right hon. or hon. friends ever used in support of this clause—and I am grateful to them for the support they rendered at a critical time—every argument that we employed has been destroyed, and the whole ground taken away by the action of the House of Lords. Had we nothing but the Lords' Amendments to Clause 4 to go by, they would afford us clear and convincing proof that the House of Lords deliberately intended to change the whole character, scope, and purport of this Bill. I do not think I can do better than quote the admirable words of Lord Crewe when he said they had "turned rules into exceptions, and exceptions into rules."
In these circumstances, what is the course to be taken? Now, Mr. Speaker, His Majesty's Government desire to speak of the House of Lords with every courtesy of language. In my opinion, to be courteous is the first duty of a Minister of the Crown, and there is no occasion, and there can be no occasion, to use strong or violent language upon this subject. It is possible to be courteous and to be firm. If any Member of the House of Commons wishes to see an example of how, in circumstances not dissimilar 1595 to these, it is possible to be courteous and firm, I refer him to the speech made by Lord John Russell in this House, on the 9th June, 1836, when the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Bill was under consideration. It is to be found in Volume 34 of Hansard, in the third series. I think the greatest and strongest lover of the House of Commons will feel that on that occasion Lord John Russell, without ceasing for one moment to be courteous, put the rights and privileges of this House as highly and as well as anybody could ever wish them to be put. But the Government has made up its mind to ask the House to return the Lords' Amendments to them as a whole. Not because they are all bad—because some of them are our own Amendments and therefore as good as gold—but because as a whole we believe them to be destructive of the fabric and main intentions of the measure, and because these destructive Amendments—I am confining myself to these—are so numerous that to go through them clause by clause as they are found in Part I. of this Bill and pick them out one by one would be to impose upon this House, if it were to be done properly, all the labours of a Committee stage. I see no possible way out of it, but that. It has been calculated that at least eighty questions would have to be submitted and eighty divisions would be involved; and the debate arising out of that would necessarily be of so complicated and prolonged a character that it would be impossible, not only at this time of the year, but at any time of the year, for the Government to hope to see it through except under the familiar and painful conditions of the closure. We all know what the consequences of the closure would be. When we came to an allotted day, however much time we gave to this measure, very likely the most important of the Amendments, perhaps even Clause 4 itself, would never have been reached; and as we do not propose, as we do not feel ourselves at liberty, to accept any of the Lords' Amendments, I ask, what would be the good of that?
Another constitutional course is, of course, open to us, and that is to move that we consider the Lords' Amendments on this day three months. Well, that, of course, would be ourselves to wield "the abhorred shears 1596 to slit the thin-spun life of this much amended Bill. I do not want to do that. Whilst there is life there is hope, not, it may be, a sure and certain hope, but at all events, an eager and, I trust, not irrational hope that the life of this important Bill—which in my opinion is well worth preserving if it can be done —should be preserved. Of course, if the Lords insist on their Amendments in their present shape, or anything like their present shape, sacrificed the Bill must be. In its present shape, or anything like its present shape, we do not want it. And if we do not want it, hon. Gentlemen opposite will not pretend to want it. But if the Lords should feel themselves able to recognise this Parliamentary situation; if they were to feel themselves at liberty to withdraw their Amendments as a whole, as we propose to return them as a whole; if they could limit the scope, the purview, and the operation of their Amendments in any manner capable of coming within our scheme as to what this Bill ought to be, why then hope, I say, is still possible for us all. Supposing they were to suggest Amendments to us on Clause 4 intended to give that clause some security which they think at present—mistakenly, in my judgment—it does not possess, why, then, these are Amendments which the Government would most cordially invite this House to consider with a view to coming to a settlement upon this vexed question. If for their two-thirds they were prepared —and I make these remarks by way of suggestion—to substitute three-fourths; if they were to send back an Amendment which already is included among these with regard to the urban areas, why these are Amendments which I say the Government would invite this House to consider with a view to coming to a settlement. If they were to suggest modifications as to the position of the teacher in Clause 3 schools, these are Amendments to which we should certainly be bound to give the most careful consideration. Nor have we any rooted objection to parents' committees. Anybody who ever seeks to settle an education question will meet with difficulties on his own side as well as on the other. I am assuming that all these Amendments of the Lords which so trouble and harass us were out of the way, and that we were in a position to consider on the footing that they were 1597 out of the way what we can do in order to secure the passage into law of this Bill. I still say, therefore, speaking on behalf of the Government, that the Government have no rooted objection to a parents' committee, and would be perfectly willing to consider with regard to Clause 4 schools whether any arrangement can be made whereby that parents' committee should have a voice in the selection of a touchier. I am on perilous ground, I am on delicate ground, but I mention those things as evidence of good faith in my statement that I still entertain hopes of the passage into law of this Bill.
Now, Mr. Speaker, if this Bill is sacrificed, what lies before us? I am certainly the last man to use any threats of any sort or kind. It is an anxious question for everybody. It is an anxious question for Nonconformists. It is an anxious question for Churchmen. It is an anxious question for Roman Catholics and for Protestants. It is an anxious question for municipal authorities; for all public authorities in town and country and it is an exceedingly anxious question for those who are real lovers of education and have the cause of the children at heart. There is not a man, I am certain, who has any knowledge of this question who does not feel the gravity of the present situation and the dangers that lie ahead of any Government and of any Party who remain administrators of the law as it is without an Education Bill of their own. How is that Education Bill to be obtained? That is the question. More money will have to be granted. The local authorities insist upon having more money. My right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not be able long to resist their demand. We have inserted a money clause in this Bill. Money is wanted and for what purpose? To build more schools. In great centres of population, and in those huge suburbs I which surround our towns which present so many complications, being as they are sleeping places of people who work else where, the demand for schools is great and the rateable value of the property is small. These are problems that are certain to force themselves upon us for solution at a very early date. More money will be demanded, and more money will have to be granted for that purpose. More money will have to be granted for 1598 secondary education. More money will have to be granted to the local authorities to provide undenominational residential training colleges for teachers. All these things lie before any Government, I care not what its political complexion. All I would venture to say to hon. Gentlemen opposite is this. I speak with a short experience, I admit, but a very lively experience of a term of one year at the Board of Education. If either they or anybody else, either Church or Chapel, think they can for very long put themselves athwart the will of the municipalities or county councils of this country in their mode of providing education, primary and secondary, they are woefully mistaken. Any Party, any sect, who believes it can place themselves or itself in the way of those great authorities will find them-selves in the position of George Stephen son's cow—they will get the worst of it, in time they will be trampled to death. I think the present time is an opportune time, and I hope every body will so regard it, when it may be possible, even at this eleventh hour, to come to some arrangement whereby those Amendments, being recognised as not suitable for the occasion, should be withdrawn, and that other Amendments fewer in number, more confined in their operation, but perhaps even more important, should be placed on the Paper in another place. You can hardly expect us now to say precisely what we would accept. We have already put as much pressure on our own supporters as might perhaps be reasonably expected of us. Before you ask us to do anything more, before you ask them, as the price of saving this Bill, to go further than they have done, at least give them good evidence to believe that any further concession that is wrung from them will be accepted in the spirit in which it is offered, and not flung back contemptuously at their head. That would not be business. That is not the way in which a compromise of any kind in any matter, great or small, can possibly be effected. I think everybody will agree that I have gone quite as far as I have any right to go in the suggestions I have made. I have now come to the end of my observations. we propose to put down to-night the Resolution to be moved to-morrow by the Prime Minister. It will be something to this effect:—"That the Question of agreement or disagreement with the Lords' Amendments to the Education 1599 Bill be put with respect to those Amendments as a whole." That Resolution would have appeared on the Paper to-day, but for the fact that it would have been out of order, in as much as, according to the practice of this House, any such Resolution has to have precedence of all other business. It would, therefore, have had to be put before the Resolution which I an now moving, a state of things which would have been preposterous, or, to use a more homely illustration, it would have been putting the cart before the horse. It is the procedure of the House alone that has prevented us from putting that Resolution on the Paper to-day. But it will be moved by the Prime Minister the first thing after Questions to-morrow; and, when that is done, the House will be constitutionally in a position to deal with the Lords' Amendments in the manner which I have already suggested it is the intention of the Government to ask the House to deal with them. And now the only other thing I have to do is to move, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."—(Mr. Birrell.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
I think it will be admitted that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and the Resolution with which he concluded are in the sharpest and most startling contrast one with the other. The Motion is that the Lords' Amendments be now considered. The speech was that the Lords' Amendments be now rejected, and rejected without consideration. I hear the Prime Minister contradict me. His experience of this House is longer even than my own, and he must be aware better than any man I am addressing that by considering the Lords' Amendments is meant taking those Amendments one after another, dealing with them and accepting them or rejecting them. That is what the phrase means by the immemorial traditions of this House, and that kind of consideration is to be absolutely refused to the Lords' Amendments by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not know that this announcement of policy is very surprising from the Gentlemen from whom it comes. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us on Friday, what is the use of a new 1600 Parliament if it does not make new precedents? And undoubtedly this is a new precedent and a precedent exactly in conformity with the natural instincts of the Treasury Bench, because it is a policy absolutely destructive of all free discussion in this House of matters connected with this Bill. Never before has this House been denied the opportunity of considering the Lords' Amendments not merely in their total, general effect, but in detail. That opportunity the Government refuse, and they refuse it after having entirely destroyed our full discussion of the Bill upon the Committee and the Report stage. So that this House is, under the guidance of His Majesty's Government, entering into a controversy with the other House, while we, the Members of the House of Commons, are deprived of the natural right we enjoy of saying to the House of Lords:—"These matters have been fully discussed in this House; they have been thoroughly threshed out, and it is for you to consider whether you will accept or reject them." That is not what we are asked to do. What the Government are going to require us to do is to send up the terms of this Bill, unconsidered on the Committee stage of the Bill, unconsidered on the Report stage, and unconsidered when they come down from another place in the form in which they are on the Paper. The right hon. Gentleman said a great deal at the conclusion of his speech about his anxiety for conciliations and about his desire, even at this last moment, that the Bill should, if possible, be saved; but evidently the Government want the Bill to be lost. I am not surprised, because I am not aware that any of their own friends like it and none of their opponents like it. I am not surprised that the Government are very anxious to see the rather chétive existence of this unhappy measure brought to a rapid and peaceful conclusion; but I think they might have gone about that object in a more decent manner, one more in accordance with precedent, one which was less deliberately insulting to the other branch of the Legislature, who, however, will, no doubt, bear with excellent philosophy the policy which the right hon. Gentleman means to thrust on them.
But I am not going to discuss more in detail at the present moment the Resolution which the Prime 1601 Minister is to move tomorrow'. When to-morrow comes we may have more to say on it. I confine myself now to following, not in full detail, but I hope adequately, the general line of argument which the right hon. Gentleman has adopted. He tells us that this Bill has been so profoundly modified that, in effect, if it were pissed in the shape in which it has been sent back to us, it would be no great change in our existing system. That is quite inaccurate.
§ MR. BIRRELL
I did not say that there would be no change in the existing system. I said it would effect no change for the better.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has corrected mo. The changes it would make are, first, that it would throw the whole cost of denominational teaching on the denomination. I suppose that is a change. Does the right hon. Gentleman say it is not a change for the better?
§ MR. BIRRELL
By itself it would be a change for the better, but not accompanied by the other things.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I thought the right hon. Gentleman said there would be no change for the better, and this is, as far as it goes, a change for the bettor. Then, he says, no addition to local control is given by the Bill as it comes down to us. The House will be perfectly aware that that contention is wholly without foundation. The Bill as amended by the Lords hands over to the local authority the appointment of teachers in all Clause 3 and Clause 4 schools, in Clause 3 schools without any control whatever from any other quarter. That is a change. Is it a change for the hotter? I should have thought the Government would have thought it was a change for the better, but I gather from the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman that it is not a change for the better. There is a further instance in which there is a profound modification which I thoroughly sympathise with. It is that, while every denominationalist in the country has got to pay for the denominational teaching given to his children, every child in the country can get Cowper-Temple teaching at the cost of the rates. So that the Bill as 1602 it left the House of Lords profoundly modifies our existing system in these three particulars at least. (1) It makes denominations pay for their own teaching; (2) it gives the local authority control over the appointment of teachers in every school in the kingdom; and (3) it gives to every child in the kingdom the right to have Cowper-Temple teaching at the cost of those who do not like that teaching. How anybody can say that a Bill so modified is a Bill framed in the interests of denominationalists passes my comprehension.
Though I dare say the right hon. Gentleman will receive my statement with surprise, I do not approach this subject in the interest of denominational teaching. I approach it now, as I have always tried to approach it, from much broader and more general grounds. I think we ought if we can to consider that we have some kind of duty to be impartial, rather aloof from the religious question in this country, that this House should have the same relation as the Indian Government has to those alien religions with which we are brought into such close administrative control. Let us great all beliefs, all denominations, impartially. That is what we have got to aim at, and it is not from the point of view of a particular denomination; it is not as an Anglican, Roman Catholic, or Nonconformist; it is not in the interest of any special sect or form, or quality of belief or disbelief, that I address the House. I address it from an external and impartial standpoint. It is quite true that the Act of 1902, for which I was responsible, built on an old foundation. The main object of the Act was not to deal with the religious question at all, but with the pressing needs of the secular question. Its object was to put, and it did put for the first time in our history, the whole education of the country on a solid, logical, and coherent basis. That was the main object; and in doing that I admit we dealt as little as possible with those very difficult controversial subjects which could not be wholly avoided by any Bill which could be brought in. But one great departure was made from the old principle of the Act of 1870, which had hitherto regulated our proceedings, and that was in the clause which for the first time in our history permitted the parent's views to be heard with regard to 1603 the erection of new schools, and the provision of new places of education for his children if he were dissatisfied with the religious teaching in the places existing. The parent under the Act of 1870 was never considered at all; he did not come in, he did not count; he might withdraw his child, no doubt, from religious education, but apart from that privilege he was not regarded as a person who had anything to say with regard to the system of religious education pursued. The Act of 1902 made a great alteration in that, but I quite admit it did in the main build on the old foundation of 1870, and did not bring in in any complete or full measure the parental control. But if you are going to destroy the Act of 1870 and the Act of 1902, if you are going to abandon the traditional principles which have hitherto regulated our educational system, you are driven to consider upon what logical and fundamental basis you are going to raise your new superstructure; and I say there is but one such basis; there is one foundation and one only which will stand examination on which this House may feel that it is proceeding safely, and that is not local control, of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks, but parental control—parental authority. Local control is adequate, it is proper, it is the right machinery to use when you are dealing with those things on which there is really no difference of opinion between one sect and another, or one parent and another. Where all are agreed on general principles the local authority may very well decide questions of mathematics and geography, upon how much time is to be given to this subject of secular study or that. But by what authority are we going to make the local education authority the arbiter of the religious education of the children of this country? If you are really going to tear up the old foundation of 1870 and 1902, if you are going to say that where denominationalists have built a school, spent thousands of pounds upon it, and taught within its walls for generations, all that is to be swept away as meaningless and of no significance, then the only conceivable, logical, just, or tolerable method of dealing with the question is so to frame your system, as far as may be, as to allow every parent to decide what religion he would like given to his children, and, if you can, provide machinery for meeting it. That is the real basis, as I think, of, 1604 any new legislation; and that is the basis on which the House of Lords have worked, so far as I can see, in all the modifications they have introduced into this Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman went through the Amendments of the Lords; I am not going to follow each one of his criticisms. I think the House would not wish me to go into all the points he raised; but I will take the more important ones. His first criticisms were directed against an Amendment introduced by the Lords on Clause 1. That Amendment simply says that there shall be a place in the time-table of every school m which religious education may be given. The right hon. Gentleman waxes very indignant over that because, he says, it is interference with the rights and liberties of the local authority. If it is interference with the local authority, it is in the interests of the parents of the children as regards religious education, it comes exactly within the category I have described, and follows out the only principle you can adopt if you reject the historic standpoint. The right hon. Gentleman tries to persuade the House that the Education Department cannot deal with such questions; but I am informed by my hon. friend near me that when he was at the Board of Education he refused to sanction a time-table, that he had controversies with the local authorities as regards by-laws dealing with this very subject, and those controversies were carried by my hon. friend to a successful issue without rousing any of those passions which I gather the right hon. Gentleman thinks will be roused in the breasts of the outraged municipal or county authority by any such tyrannical interference as that which is involved in asking for half an hour a day, or whatever it may be, to be put aside for religious instruction. The right hon. Gentleman made, if he will allow me to say so, the only lapse from fairness and good taste in the whole of his speech when dealing with that subject. He said he assumed the religion to be given in that half hour was the religion of hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite him, whatever that particular religion may be. I have no means of taking a census on the point, but I imagine there would be varieties of religion on this side of the House, as there are on that. The right hon. 1605 Gentleman had no justification for that sneer, he had no basis for it in the speeches made in the House of Lords, or the Amendments introduced there, and I am sorry he should for one moment have forgotten that perfect courtesy and good taste which is so characteristic of all he says in this House.
What was the next point? It was the Amendment introduced by Lord Salisbury in the other House dealing with provided schools, and the teaching to be given outside the Cowper-Temple clause in provided schools where those schools belong to what are known as single-school areas. I understood the light hon. Gentleman to say—I was amazed, but I do not think I misunderstood him—that this was an interference with the liberties of the local authority.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I was amazed that this was a violation of those fundamental principles of local independence so dear to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Pools not the light hon. Gentleman see that so far from being an interference with the local authority it is the reverse? The Cowper-Temple clause in itself is a violation of those liberties. The view of the Government is that it is wicked to interfere with a local education authority when it refuses to give the education; desired by the parent of the child, but: that you may interfere with it to prevent its giving that teaching? How can these advocates of the rights of local authorities have the face to get up and say they approve of the Cowper-Temple clause? I That argument has been often stated, has it ever been met? You not only say —I think you are wrong—that the local authority ought to have control over secular education, but you go much further and say it shall be the arbiter of the kind of religious education given to the children. I think your principle is wrong; but at all events carry it out consistently, and if the local authority be the proper guide, philosopher, and friend in all these matters connected with the children put under its charge, give it absolute freedom to meet, if it desires to meet, the wishes of the parents in that respect. What answer is there to that argument, what beginning of an answer? 1606 Does any hon. Gentleman think he has got an answer? I challenge him to produce it. There is no answer. Those who deafen us with those cries in favour of the liberty of the local authority, and at the same moment say that to allow the local authority to give any teaching except Cowper-Temple teaching is a thing they would never stand—I think the hon. Member for North Camberwell said it was an outrage they would never tolerate, the touching of sacred things, the Ark of the Covenant.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is perfectly true that in 1902, except in the very important particular I described, I built on the old foundations, and left the Cowper-Temple clause untouched, and single school areas untouched; but I never came forward and said I did it because I thought we ought not to interfere with the liberty of the local authority. That is what they are talking of on that bench. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down did not adduce one argument against the Amendments of the House of Lords except that they interfered with the liberties which ought to be given, and which were given by the Bill in its original shape, to local authorities. Let him be consistent, let him carry out his own principles, and lot the right hon. Gentleman, who is, doubtless, going to answer me, not shirk this point, but explain with what face he can at the same time tell us that the religious teaching of the children is a matter, not for parents, but the local authority, and then say that the local authority is to be hampered in its selection of the teaching to be given to the children by this perfectly arbitrary and illogical clause. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not deal with it to his own satisfaction.
The next point was that the religious teaching should be within school hours, and the right hon. Gentleman said that that violated a principle very dear to himself. He mourned the departure of Clause 7, in which the opposite principle was embodied, and said he still maintained, though against some of his own colleagues, that the principle of Clause 7 was right. I am sure the right hon. 1607 Gentleman was perfectly sincere in that statement, but how he can really reconcile this view with the view which he expressed very eloquently on the Third Reading of the Bill, that the religious training of the younger generations of this country is of fundamental importance to the future of the race, I cannot understand. I cannot bring myself to see how you can both regard a subject as of primary importance for educational purposes and also hold that you may exclude it from the ordinary curriculum.
The conscience clause would be put in force, or ought to be made capable of being put in force, by those persons who do not wish their children to receive a particular kind of religion at a particular kind of school, and those are the very people who are very careful to give their children religious education at home.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes; but is that very interesting observation really pertinent to the argument? What I was saying was that if you treat religion as of less importance than arithmetic and geography it will be considered as of less importance by the children and by the parents, and you cannot do a greater disservice to the religious education of the young than to say that by common consent, by the action of the Education Department, indeed, of the Legislature, it is to be put in a lower and less dignified position than those subjects of secular interest on which most of the day is spent. How anybody who believes in religious education can quarrel with the Lords because the Lords say that religion is of such importance that it ought to be treated with not less dignity, at least, than other subjects of study, I fail to understand. In the interests of the House I will not follow the next point dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman, viz., the appeal to the Commission.
I now come to the question of teachers. The right hon. Gentleman says the Government have laid it down as a fundamental principle that there are to be no tests for teachers. But the right hon. Gentleman has never told us what tests for the teachers are. To my mind one of the reasons why he has never told us what he means by tests 1608 for teachers is that if he did tell us it would be found that he himself by his Bill has deliberately imposed tests on teachers. Are not tests on teachers involved in Clause 4? That is, if Clause 4 is anything more than a sham and a humbug. The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman, all through the debates on the Education Bill, was in a position of great difficulty, and I have always felt for him. Speaking in this House with his friends behind him he has always laid great stress on the point that there were to be no tests for teachers. But when he was receiving deputations from bodies in whose interest Clause 4 was devised he was forced to say that by the nature of the case Clause 4 schools were to go on in the future as they had gone on in the past, that their teachers were to be selected in the future as they had been selected in the past, and that, therefore, there would be tests for teachers. If the right hon. Gentleman admitted that he had violated the principle of no tests for teachers, but that he saw no other way of escape, and had made the violation as small as possible, I could understand his position. But the Government have always said they would have no tests for teachers. I say emphatically that unless Clause 4 has been a piece of hypocrisy from the beginning, it was intended to meet the interests of the denominations, and therefore from the beginning this Bill has contemplated tests for teachers. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman has put in a clause with regard to provisional schools in which he not only admits tests for teachers, but clearly indicates that the local authority is quite well qualified to look into the religious merits or demerits of teachers selected for certain schools. If tests for teachers are wrong, then this Bill is wrong. If tests for teachers are not wrong, then the Government and the House of Lords differ only in degree and not in kind.
What is the last great cause of quarrel which the Government have with the Lords? It relates partly to the proportion of children which may constitute a school—a fourth-clause school, and partly to the manner in which the unsectarian minority in such a school are to be treated. Again, we come to the old question—Were the Government sincere when they originally proposed 1609 Clause 4, that relief should be given to those who desired denominational teaching for their children? Directly we examine the clause we are forced to the conclusion that they never intended Clause 4 to work, because the presence of a single Nonconformist child in a Roman Catholic school prevents that school coming under Clause 4, or the presence of a single Roman Catholic in a Church of England school prevents that school obtaining the benefits of Clause 4. In a word, the majority must be an overwhelming majority. Everything was done to ensure that parents, however they desired it, were not to have the benefit which Clause 4 was ostensibly intended to give them. I appeal to the principle which must be our fundamental guide in the settlement of this education question, the principle of the wishes of the parents. The Government seem to think that the Lords have done a very bold or audacious thing in reducing the necessary majority of parents to carry the special facilities for religious instruction from four-fifths to two-thirds. In my opinion, if the action of the Lords is open to any criticism, it is open to the criticism that it does not go far enough. But the Government have taken the view that it is so wicked for parents to desire to settle the religious instruction their children are to receive that in order to settle it their majority must be overwhelming. The principle of the Government is that the local authority is to be the supreme controller not merely of secular, but of religious, education. The principle upon which the Lords have, in a hesitating and cautious manner, modified the Bill is that the parents are to be the judges of the religious education which is to be given to their children. I ask—which of these two contending principles is more in accordance, not only with natural justice, but with those professions of liberty of conscience which come so readily to the lips of Radical orators and are so seldom found in Radical legislation? Questions which Parliament is held to be not competent to touch, questions of individual conscience, and the relations between the seen and the unseen, are held to be matters that naturally come within the purview of every local authority in the country. I do not think we are qualified in this House to deal with matters of religion, 1610 but I absolutely deny that we are less qualified to deal with matters of religion than a board of aldermen and councillors. The action of the Government is a return to the discredited system of the Middle Ages, which was but slightly dissipated at the Reformation, the system which led to the persecution of Protestants by Roman Catholics, of Roman Catholics by Protestants, and of one sect of Protestants by another sees of Protestants; and is contrary to religious toleration, to freedom of conscience, and to liberal principles, as those things are now understood. That which you have taken away from the State you have transferred to the municipality. I say that the principle which makes it wrong for the State to interfere makes it wrong for the municipality to interfere The right which the parent has as against the State he equally has as against the municipality, and I absolutely repudiate the doctrine laid down by the right hon. Gentleman that any sect or any minority which comes into collision with the local authority will find themselves crushed under its heel or destroyed like Stephenson's cow by the incoming rush of the local authority. I think history is against the right hon. Gentleman. I think the growth of opinion is in favour of that individual liberty which the right hon. Gentleman wants us to sacrifice on the municipal altar.
But at all events I thank the right hon. Gentleman for one thing. He has brought out perfectly clearly what is the point of difference between this House and the House of Lords. The nature of that difference is apt to be lost in the mass of Amendments which have come down to us, and the complication of clauses and subsections, until people fail to see the forest for the trees. The right hon. Gentleman has made it perfectly clear that, according to the modern doctrine of Radicalism, the religion of our children is to be settled for us by county councils and municipalities. All the changes introduced by the House of Lords are in the direction of giving increased authority to the parent, and of saying that your machinery must be molded and modified in so far as practical difficulties will allow, so as to give the parent as great a right to settle the religion taught his children as he already has to teach it in the home, 1611 and if these be the two antagonisms upon which the two Houses are to quarrel, if the House of Lords are to stand committed to one principle and we in this House to another, how will it be when we go to the final judge that is to choose between us? I venture to say that when public opinion begins really to sift all these details and winnow out the great principles on one side and the other, it cannot fail to see what is becoming clearer every day, that the ingenuity of those who are responsible for our law-making ought to be devoted to increasing, as the Lords' Amendments have attempted, the rights of the parent over the education of his child. That form of communism which makes the child the child of the State and not the child of those who begot him certainly will not find favour with the general community. Whatever our views on general Socialism may be, more and more we are feeling that it is the inalienable right of the parent to do all that is practically possible to give his children those views on the greatest, the most difficult, the most important of all subjects, the relation of man to God and to the eternal verities in which he himself believes. The idea that parental duty is to be taken away from the parent and handed to the town council because, forsooth, any other course is an interference with local liberty, strikes me as bad statesmanship, and if I may say so, bad Liberalism. Whether good or bad Liberalism, it is at all events inconsistent with the increasing strength of those conditions which more and more, as I believe, are going to dominate the educational policy of the country. It is in this firm conviction that I look forward to the struggle, if struggle there is to be, either between the two Houses now or, in regard to the policy which this House represents, in the country hereafter. I do not wish to throw this Bill back in the face of the Government even if I had the power to do so; but much rather, far rather, would I see it perish absolutely amid general indifference and contempt than see it passed into law in the shape in which the right hon. Gentleman desires it to pass.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said he must express his personal regret that the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of the Government had proposed to take 1612 the course which he stated would be pursued the next day. He said that, because he took a very serious view of the whole situation not only religious but political. As one who voted against the Third Reading of the Bill it might seem paradoxical for him to say that he deeply regretted the lack of any compromise which would increase the chances of this measure being passed into law. The Minister for Education had said he hoped for a compromise, but he could not gather from the Leader of the Opposition that there was a chance that any such hope would be realised, and he must say that if the desire of the Government was to carry this Bill by making concessions he could not see that the course they were going to take the next day was a fortunate one. He could not look upon the future with anything like confidence or with anything but the deepest misgiving. If the Bill failed to pass it would be a very serious thing for the Government and for the Liberal Party, and looking at the matter from an educational point of view, he thought it would be a disastrous thing if they wore to have this controversy about religious education hanging over their heads from year to year. As one who was opposed to secularism he said that the loss of this Bill would be a most serious thing to those who wished to prevent the name of God from being banished from the schools of a Christian country. Speaking on behalf not only of those who represented Ireland, but of 2,000,000 Roman Catholics in this country, on the Third Reading he had felt it his duty to recapitulate the attitude which they took up. They voted against the Third Reading of the Bill, but, as he said, they did so with the utmost reluctance and regret, and they did so on the special grounds which they thought were suitable to the special case of those on whose behalf they were speaking. The general discussion on this Bill had been of a different character, but so far as Clause 4 was concerned the interests of those on behalf of whom he spoke were in opposition to those of hon. Members above the gangway. Ever since the Bill was introduced it had been admitted that the case of the Catholics and of the Jews was exceptional and demanded exceptional treatment, and all they had ever asked for wag that the exceptional treatment which was contained in the Bill should be made a reality. They 1613 never asked that those whom he represented should be divorced from the general national system of education in the country. All they asked for was that the promises of the right hon. Gentleman should be made good by Amendments to Clause 4. They never asked for anything which was inconsistent with the general principles of this Bill; they asked for nothing which was inconsistent with the real mandate which the Liberal Party got from the country at the last general election. Their demands were consistent with the broad question of popular control, and in regard to that subject he would like to remind hon. Members on the Ministerial Benches that they as a body voted with them, and against the Opposition, in favour of the clause which said that there should be no religious tests for teachers. How came it about that they found themselves; forced to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill? They wore forced to take that course because the moderate, but to them vital and essential Amendments, which they proposed to Clause 4 were rejected. They believed that half the Catholic; schools of this country would be excluded, as the Bill stood, from the operation of Clause 4. That meant that the Catholics wore in this exceptional position—that while other religious denominations if they happened to be excluded under the operation of Clause 4, could, without doing violence to their consciences, take advantage of the ordinary Cowper-Temple Clause, the Catholics could not. So that half their schools would be starved. Had they been met by the Government in a conciliatory spirit in the Amendments which they moved to Clause; 4, they would have been able to vote with the Government on the Third Reading of the Bill, and would have increased the majority by which it was carried from 192 to somewhere about 350. And though it might be, said that a majority of 192 was sufficient, no one who knew anything of the Parliamentary history of this country would deny that a Bill with a majority of 350 behind it would be in a far stronger position when it went to the House of Lords than the one which went the other day on its dangerous, and he feared disastrous journey through the Lobby. The Catholics stood just, where they did before. They did not know what the 1614 future had in store for them, but it appeared to him that the circumstances under which they reiterated their claims; had been changed. Either this Bill would 'become law and pass by means of a compromise or it would not. If it was to become law, manifestly a portion of the compromise must be something in the nature of the Amendments which they asked for in Clause 4. If the Bill was not going to pass and the result of the sending back of the Lords' Amendments en bloc was the dropping of the Bill, then surely it was advisable that the Government should have the Irish Party, representing as they did 2,000,000 of Catholics in this country at their back, if they could get their support without impairing the principles of this measure. He had listened with extreme pleasure to that portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which dealt with this part of the subject. Let him recapitulate the Amendments asked for. They declared that the two limits in Clause 4— the four-fifths and the urban area—would exclude by their operations half of their schools from the clause. That was denied and denied most vehemently, by the hon. Member for North Camberwell. But the further inquiries that had been made upon the subject since confirmed the statement that under the operations of these two limits at least 500 Catholic schools out of a total of little over 1,000 would have been excluded from the operation of Clause 4, and that meant the starvation of these schools. They asked therefore to omit the limitation of 5,000 population per urban area and asked for the modification of the four-fifths limitation. He had listened with the greatest pleasure, but, he confessed, with some regret to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that if the opportunity were now given to the Government to consider the basis of compromise on which to get the Bill through, they would turn a favourable ear to the claim the Nationalist's then made with regard to the population of the urban area, and that they would accept the very Amendment they moved, namely, to make the limitation three-fourths instead of four-fifths. Now these concessions, if he could call them concessions at this moment, in these circumstances wore of enormous importance to them. They would, they believed, extend the operations of Clause 4 not to all their 1615 schools, but to practically all their schools. They did not want the Government to do anything upon this Bill which would tend to perpetuate the Nonconformist grievance in the one school area. That they were willing absolutely to give up. He had made some inquiries, and he found it would mean a considerable improvement to their schools. About thirty would still be excluded from the operation of these facilities. But they were willing that that sacrifice should be made in order that they might show the people of this country clearly that they did not desire to retain anything which would tend to the maintenance of that one school area grievance of the Nonconformists. But putting that on one side these two concessions would include the bulk of their schools. Why under Heaven these concessions were not made to the Catholics in the Committee stage of the Bill he could not conceive. He was sure they were made honestly and sincerely. He would be the last man in the world to impute to the President of the Board of Education or to the Prime Minister and those responsible for the Bill that they were throwing out these concessions now when it was too late. But he sincerely trusted that the opportunity might not be lost for considering compromise upon these lines by the procedure they had adopted for to-morrow. On the question of four-fifths or two thirds they agreed in Committee to a ballot, but they insisted that the ballot should be an honest ballot, and that the people who did not vote should not be counted as against denominational teaching. They asked for a three-fourths majority upon a ballot of those who voted. Of course the ballot would be a dishonest device if every man who did not vote was taken as voting against the claim. On the question of the teachers what they asked was this they never asked for the imposition of religious tests. They voted in favour of the clause abolishing religious tests, but so far as Clause 4 was concerned, which was the exception to the general plan of the Bill, they took their stand upon the words of the Minister for Education himself, that it would be an absurdity—not only a gross injustice but an absurdity—to send into a Jewish school a man not qualified to teach Jewish doctrine or to send into a Catholic school a man who did not know or believe in the Catholic worship. It would be like sending a nun into a 1616 Protestant school to teach Protestant doctrine. The thing was so grotesque and ridiculous that it stood to reason that the intention of the Government was that that should not happen and the Minister for Education correctly interpreted the intention of the Bill. But that danger was not safeguarded against, and what they asked was that a parents' committee should be associated with the local authority in the selection of teachers so as to make sure that this gross absurdity would not take place. The right hon. Gentleman in his reference to this matter was somewhat vague, but he gathered from him that the Government on the basis of compromise and the passing of their Bill were willing that parents 'committees should be given a voice in the selection of teachers in the extended facilities schools. He did not wish to discuss words. He was only alluding to the substance, and if the words of the Minister for Education meant their ordinary and natural meaning then the right hon. Gentleman had conceded what they asked, because they asked only that a voice should be given to the parents' committee in the selection of teachers. If the Government had been really willing to concede that, the right hon. Gentleman might, by making this concession in Committee, without the slightest difficulty have obtained the vote of the Irish Party upon the Third Reading of the Bill. On the question of the school accommodation to be provided for minorities in these four-fifths schools, the House of Lords put in an Amendment which he candidly thought unreasonable. He did not agree with the words. They were unreasonable and went much further than the necessity of the case demanded. If all these schools wore homogeneous schools where the overwhelming bulk of the scholars were of one religion—and that was their grievance—would it not be a monstrous thing if out of a Catholic school of 400 or 500 scholars it was in the power of five or six Protestant children —let him say by way of reductio ad absurdum in the power of one child—to prevent the extended facilities being given to that school at all because there was not what was considered adequate school accommodation foe that child in the neighbourhood? The House of Lords passed an Amendment which went far beyond that. Lord Crewe, he noticed, proposed a compromise upon this point 1617 to the effect that the minority of children should be more than ten. He said nothing about the figure ten. Probably that was too low. But the fact that Lord Crewe made that proposal showed that the Government were not impervious to argument on the question and recognised the existence of a real grievance. And if they were to go on with the serious consideration of this Bill at all he would ask also that that concession be made. He passed by the question of "may" and "shall" and the question of the appeal to the Board of Education because, as far as he was concerned, he and his friends agreed that probably the appeal to the Board of Education was making the clause mandatory. There was nothing very remarkable in the Amendments they demanded on Clause 4, and he repeated that if on the Third Reading they had received promises of the insertion of the list of Amendments as now conceded at this stage they would have frankly supported the Bill. Their appeal and demand on these points were moderate, and he begged of the Government, if it were possible, even now at the eleventh hour, to introduce these Amendments into their Bill, and, if possible, pass their Bill into law. It would be, he supposed, hoping against hope that anything could come of to-day's proceedings except the loss of the Bill. But, speaking for those with whom he was associated, on the basis of getting these concessions, he was most anxious that the Bill should not be lost, and he would do everything in his power to prevent the wrecking of it. He hoped sincerely that out of all this strife and turmoil and confusion in the end a measure might emerge which, by showing a proper toleration of the religious views of all sections of the people, might postpone, he hoped, for ever what he would regard as the evil day when the name of God would be banished from the schools of this country.
§ MR. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
said he could assure the hon. and learned Member for Waterford that the great Nonconformist communities had as little desire as the great Catholic Church that the name of God should be banished from the elementary schools of this country. Speaking as a Methodist fully 1618 conversant with the views of that great Christian community, he would unhesitatingly say that there was not the faintest basis for the fear expressed by the Leader of the Opposition that they would ever stand side by side with any section of the people who desired secularism in the elementary schools of the country. The position that Wesleyan Methodists — the largest section of Methodists—had taken up, which position was formulated in the minutes of the Conference, was that they wanted popular control, abolition of tests for teachers, and Bible instruction given in the schools —not merely Bible reading, but Bible instruction given by the teachers. He thought that was an irrefutable answer to the fears and assertions which had been made by the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. The question was, what was the position of this Bill at present, and what was going to happen? He was not quite clear as to whether the House was invited that day to attend a funeral or a resurrection. He was not at all surprised at the course taken by the House of Lords. He was not surprised, and he was bound to say personally that he could not express the same amount of regret as had been expressed in some quarters. He had not been enamoured of the Bill, and he did not believe it to be a popular Bill with Nonconfomists. He knew it was not with hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was impossible to say that among Nonconformists this was a popular Bill, because it had been growing more unpopular, even in the form in which it left this House, the more it become known. He was simply asserting a well-known fact. That unpopularity had appeared in the declarations of the governing bodies of nearly all Nonconformist churches in the country. They had submitted to the utmost limit of concession, and they begged the Government not to concede an inch more. They had great objection to Clause 4. Even the Wesleyan Church, the most Conservative of the lot, although becoming increasingly Liberal he was thankful to say, had again reiterated its objection to Clause 4. He was very anxious to meet the case of the Catholics, and he felt the necessity of dealing with the Catholic case. He did not believe it 1619 was just to make a Catholic boy go into an elementary school and submit to Cowper-Temple religious instruction. Why was that doctrine not applied to the Anglican Church? Because the Anglican Church was supposed to be a Protestant Church, and because he looked upon the Bible instruction as coming within the four corners of the Thirty-nine Articles, which assert that the Bible is the foundation of the faith of the Church of England. It was suggested to-day that certain further concessions —most moment concessions—were to be offered at all events. There was no doubt that the Bill had been completely transformed in the House of Lords. It contained, at first, the leaven of sectarianism. It was not surprising that that had grown into a huge lump. It was manifestly such a denominational and sectarian Bill as it had come down to this House that no Tory Party would ever have dared to submit it to the House of Commons. But he earnestly hoped that concessions in the most objectionable Clause 4 would not be granted. The limitation of that obnoxious clause to urban areas was its sole redeeming feature for the rural districts. Now it was suggested that the limitations should be thrust away, and that facilities should be conceded, possibly to sectarian authorities in rural districts, to capture the elementary school even in the one school area. [" No."] That was the construction he put upon that provision. But even if it were not limited, there wore scores of small towns where there were only two schools and where the abolition of this limit of 5,000 would plunge the Nonconformists into the hands of the clerical authorities. The concession of the parents' committee appeared to him to make confusion worse confounded. Already the district county council managed the local school, and under the provisions of this Bill there would be, in addition, a local committee. There were the teachers, and now on the top of that they were to have the parents' committee —a new authority super-imposed upon the other three. He earnestly trusted the Government would recognise—as indeed the Minister of Education had always recognised and had said over and over again—that the loyalty of Non- conformists to the Government had been strained to the utmost possible point by 1620 the concessions which had been given already, and that they would pay attention to the earnest hope that this Bill would not be further mutilated and marred by concessions which could only give it into a still more sectarian and denominational character, and which would make it even more objectionable than it was at the present moment to those struggling bodies of Nonconformists, particularly in the rural districts of England, who for so long had felt that they had upon their necks the heel of the priests.
§ * MR. BELLOC (Salford, S.)
remarked that everything said in the course of the next few days by anyone who took part in the debates on this Bill earlier in the year would necessarily be somewhat of a repetition. He would attempt to touch only upon the point which they would discuss when the Government Motion came before them. They were considering, as the Motion stood, not only generally the Lords' Amendments, but also two very important points. The first was how far the House would have a mandate, and how far they individually would have mandates, to support the Government in certain further concessions. Secondly, they were concerned, although indirectly, with the question of whether it were wise or not to follow the policy which the President of the Board of Education had declared to be the Government policy of to-morrow, namely, the sending back of all the Amendments of the House of Lords en bloc. As to the first of these points he could only reiterate what he said at an earlier part of the year, and what had been said with far more force than he could say it from the Irish Benches a moment ago. It was a very simple point, but the simplest of points apparently must be iterated and re-iterated in these debates. He thought the admission just made by the hon. Member for Louth sufficiently showed that reiteration did at least no harm and sometimes could convert. There was a body of some 2,000,000 or more Catholic fellow-citizens concerned in this Bill. It was a body which voted almost unanimously for the present Government. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Throughout South Lancashire more than 90 per cent. of the 1621 Catholic vote was recorded for the Radical and Labour candidates. IN political affairs they had not only to consider the volume, but also the potentiality of a popular vote. If hon. Members interrogated the average artisan in their constituentcies they would find they knew nothing and cared nothing about the Bill, but they would find that every Catholic voter had followed the measure all through with the keenest interest, and knew how he suffered by the form in which the Bill left the House. There was in this country a certain society, and those who were communicants of it accepted its authority and saw in it the salvation not only of themselves but the world in general other than that part of it which was Catholic. The preservation of that society for themselves and their children was infinitely more sacred to them than wealth, personal health, or anything which a man could claim. On the whole, even with the grievance which Catholics still felt in this matter, it was to their advantage, and it was only the fulfilment of the mandate they received at the last election that they should send back the Lords' Amendments en bloc. In the first place, this was the only logical course to adopt, because it must be clearly understood by the and Catholics that no consistent Radical could be dependent even for a good thing upon the non-elected Chamber. Who were the men who had inserted these Amendments? They could be easily defined. They included in the first place a small body of eminent men given a position in a sort of Senate for their services to the nation. Secondly, there was a larger body of men who sat in the Upper Chamber simply by hereditary right. And thirdly, there was a body of men who had openly purchased their places in that Assembly. Every man who had any sort of political standing would deny the right of the Lords to treat a measure in the way they had done in this instance. The Catholics of Great Britain would obtain the immunity and treatment they desired, but they would obtain it in other ways; they would not be defeated, because they were infused with something that was never defeated, and that was Irish blood. On the whole he considered that it was his duty to vote 1622 for the rejection of the Lords' Amendments en bloc, and he should do so with all the more pleasure because he knew how strong the feeling of the ordinary English voter was against the claim which the House of Lords were putting forward in regard to Liberal legislation. He would not be properly representing the views of his constituency if he recognised in anyway the claim of the House of Lords to veto measures passed by the House of Commons.
§ MR. ALFRED HUTTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Morley)
said that in regard to what the hon. Member for South Salford had Said it should not be forgotten that the body for whom he had been speaking helped the Conservative Government to put the Education Bill of 1902 on the Statute-book, and that was the measure which had caused all the trouble. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford had said that Clause 4 would have the effect of keeping half the Roman Catholic schools of the country from enjoying the privileges which that provision offered. He did not dispute that argument only in the spirit. That might be true of half the schools, but he did not think it would affect half the scholars; in his opinion the percentage of Catholic scholars excluded would be far smaller than 50 per cent. Therefore he did not think that could be made a ground of serious complaint, because the percentage of Roman Catholic scholars which the clause would cover would be extremely large indeed. Personally he had not offered any vigorous opposition to Clause 4, although he disliked it very much at the time it was introduced, and he was unable in consequence to give his support to the Third Reading of the Bill. If the Government concessions had gone much further no doubt more hon. Members would have taken the same view as he did. The President of the Board of Education had spoken about making Clause 4 a reality. If it was retained in the Bill at all he agreed that it should be a reality and not a sham. Jewish schools should have Jewish teachers and Catholic schools Catholic teachers, but the test by which that arrangement was to be secured through the appointment of a parents' committee was a very different thing 1623 from brushing aside the limit as to places having 5,000 population, and the making of the four-fifths into a three-fourths majority of parents. While they admitted that Clause 4 must be in the Bill, that was no reason why it should be extended throughout the country in the rural as well as in the more populous urban districts where there could be an Alternative school within a reasonable distance. He was not at all sure that there would be an alternative school within a reasonable distance if they removed the 5,000 limit. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had put a correct interpretation on the suggestions of his right hon. friend, the alterations in Clause 4 which might be acceptable to others would not be the kind of alterations to which he could possibly give his support. His right hon friend had referred to possible concessions under Clause 3, but in his opinion it would be a very dangerous thing indeed to meddle with that clause, and to give anyone in the House of Lords the idea that there was in the mind of the Government a disposition to make concessions would be a very great mistake tactically and otherwise. The Bill as it left the Commons gave denominational interests far more privileges than anyone would have expected after the last general election, and the friends of denominational schools would make a great mistake if they thought the country would tolerate any extension of the privileges which had been offered under the Bill, an offer which was never likely to be repeated by any other Liberal Government.
§ SIR ALFRED THOMAS (Glamorganshire, E.)
said he was very glad his right hon. friend had stood up to the House of Lords so boldly. He never knew a Bill begun so well and end so badly as this Bill. He would have thought that the ingenuity of the House of Lords could not have made it weaker, but they had done so, and he would at once say that rather than accept the Bill in its present condition he would prefer to be tinder the 1902 Act. He found that in the House of Lords they made much of having a committee of parents. He very well remembered on the Bill of 1902 the best speech on that subject was made by 1624 the late Prime Minister, who spoke of the position of the parents and their desire for religious teaching. He agreed with his position then and he agreed with it now. He said that the parents were the only right teachers, and they had no right to force any other teachers on the children. They had no right to teach any doctrine which was repugnant to the parent or the scholar, and it seemed to him that his right hon. friend was attempting to do the impossible when he attempted to teach religious and secular education at the same time. An hon. Member of the Opposition once said to him, "Are you in favour of religious instruction in a school?" and when he replied, "I am afraid I am," he was told, "Then you are inconsistent." He began to consider his position and to ask himself the question, "What do you profess? What is your political creed?" The principal clause of his creed was the liberation of religion from State control, and how, therefore, could he agree to introduce religion into the State schools? His right hon. friend had produced a great measure. He hoped in another two years he would have an opportunity of voting for another great measure for the liberation of religion from State control. He was not speaking for all the Party with whom he was associated, but there were nine of them who agreed with him in the secular solution, because they believed there was no other method practicable in a national system of education. The Leader of the Irish Nationalist Party had said he was anxious to join a national system of education, but how could they have a national system with a dozen different creeds? There could be only one system and that must be a secular system. He was sorry to hear his right hon. friend say that that would be the means of banning the name of God from the schools. Did that mean that all our religious bodies would cease to exist? He thought they were quite able to keep up religion in the land without having it in the secular schools. It would be a sorry day for the country if they were reduced to the religious teaching in the secular schools. He believed that some concessions could be made by the other House. If not, he would rather there was no Bill.
§ * MR. HOOPER (Dudley)
expressed the hope that hon. Members would show to him the courtesy and consideration which they always extended to one who addressed the House for the first time. The Amendments made in another place with regard to religious instruction, in so far as they related to the ordinary transferred schools, might, he thought, be fairly though roughly summarised, as follows:—(1) Instruction compulsory with conscience clause; (2) denominational instruction to be given; (3) permission for teacher to give such instruction at expense of denomination. Over and against that policy was the Government plan which might be summarised as follows:—(1) Religious instruction to be left to local authority; (2) if given it must be subject to limitation of Cowper-Temple clause; and (3) the teacher was not to give denominational religious instruction. On this issue he would like to speak as an ordinary and moderate layman of the Free Churches. Anyone who had read the speeches in this House on their unhappy religious differences must have been impressed with their earnestness and moderation, and the tone of reverence which characterised them all. He for one personally felt, putting aside the Roman Catholics and the Jews, and perhaps some extremists both in the Anglican and in the Free Churches, that there was so much common ground between the great Protestant communities that with the exercise of mutual good-will, trust, and confidence an acceptable basis ought to be found. He could not say how devoutly he wished that consummation. He was certain that their differences rested largely on their misunderstandings, want of confidence, and the difficulty they had in looking at the controversy from each other's standpoint. In reading the speeches of those who voiced the views of the Roman Catholic community, and also the views of both sections of the Anglican Church, he had tried honestly and earnestly to understand their point of view in this controversy, and to grasp their meaning of revealed truth, but he admitted that he found it extremely difficult. He recognised also how difficult it must be for the members of those historic churches to understand the posi- 1626 tion of the FREE Churches, or the truths for which those Churches stood as witnesses. That being so, he thought they ought to make allowances one for the other. What was the main charge against the Government and which had caused all these Amendments? The charge made by hon. Gentlemen opposite was that the Government were practically endowing a new form of religion, or as some said, the Nonconformist religion, because they permitted the teachers to teach the Cowper-Temple religion, but declined to permit them to teach any other, and it was held that that was unfair and unjust. The question was, What was meant by calling this the teaching of a new religion? Surely there was only one Christian religious faith. There might be many different organisations, many schools of thought, different forms and ceremonies, but behind all these there remained the fundamental truths of our common religious faith which remain and could not be shaken. Could not he as a Free Churchman say to his friends of the Roman Catholic Church, "We" believe in the same God the Father Almighty We trust to the same Saviour —the Divine Son of God—and we rely day by day upon the same Divine Spirit indwelling in our lives. When we put out to sea we shall all look "for the same pilot as we cross the bar?" There was no such thing as Cowper-Temple religion. The clause associated with that name enunciated a principle and said that the religious teaching to be given in the schools should be one of peace and not of religious strife, and it asked each denomination to consent to eliminate from the teaching in the public elementary schools those religious truths which differentiated one religious body from another. The Cowper-Temple clause did not prevent dogmatic religious teaching; it was essentially a peace suggestion. He did not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite had taken the trouble to read the reports of the controversy over the Bill of 1870; but if they had done so they would find that the Cowper-Temple clause was supported by Churchmen and Tories, the author himself both being a Churchman and a Tory. And the reason for its adoption was not, as some thought, to provide religious teaching acceptable 1627 to Nonconformists. No, the reason was that Parliament for the first time had created State schools, placed them under public control to be supported by public money, the teachers of which were not to be subject to any religious tests, and therefore by common consent denominational religious instruction could not be given therein—hence, the limitation imposed by the Cowper-Temple clause. Now it was admitted on all hands that the country had decided that the old voluntary or non-provided schools were to be State schools supported by public money, and that the teachers were not to be subject to any test. Consequently the Government proposed to apply to those new State schools the Cowper-Temple clause, just as in 1870 it was applied to the State schools then for the first time created. The question was whether that policy on the part of the Government violated religious equality or was unjust and unfair to the Church of England. He had no hesitation in saying that that was not the case, and for the following reasons. First of all, he was a denomination a list. The denomination to which he belonged— the Congregational Church—held distinctive truths for which their fathers had fought, were persecuted and suffered, for which their Church stood as a witness, and which they hold as precious as life itself. They said however, that they were so anxious that the religious atmosphere of these State schools should be one of peace and not sectarian strife, that they were willing to make sacrifices therefore, and agreed that their denominational truths should not be taught in the State schools by State teachers; but they would be content to teach them in their homes, in the Sunday schools, and in their churches. And so also with the Wesleyans, the Baptists, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and other Free Church communities. They had their distinctive truths for which their churches stood as witnesses before the world, but these Churches also for the same reason were willing not to press for their denominational truths to be taught in the State schools and by the State teachers. So that when it was said that 1628 Nonconformists were satisfied with the religious teaching given under the Cowper-Temple clause further explanation was necessary. They were content solely on the ground that they were anxious for peace, and not because undenominational religion satisfied their faith or was a complete exposition of the truth as they apprehended it. On the same grounds they asked the Church of England to agree to eliminate from the religious curriculum in the State schools her distinctive truths that clashed with the convictions of other Protestant communities He would give an instance. As he understood, the Church of England claimed with the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Church to an apostolic succession of the priesthood, and that they only were empowered to teach divine truth. Now Congregationalists believed with all conviction that when a man was born again and endowed by the Spirit of God he was not only competent but bound to teach within the limits of his knowledge. But was it necessary to impress upon the young child mind such conflicting conceptions of truth? They did not desire to force an alien faith on the Church of England, but only asked that all denominations should be placed on the same footing. The Church of England said, "It is true that you Free Churches are billing to make a sacrifice and consent to forego the teaching of your denominational truths in State schools, but if you ask us to make the same sacrifices that is unfair; it violates religious equality." Whether or no it was unfair was one of the issues that had to be decided by the House. At all events the Government showed their fairness by consenting that the Church of England should have the opportunity of imparting her denominational teaching on two mornings in the week. The principle underlying the Lords' Amendments was contained in a suggestion made by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham on the Second Reading of the Bill. He should like to say at this point that he regretted the absence of the right hon. Gentleman on account of illness, and he hoped that though his recovery was slow it would be permanent. The right hon. 1629 Gentleman said they should separate the religious from the secular, let denominational religion be taught in school hours by the teacher at the expense of the denomination; and the right hon. Gentleman instanced a case, "Here is a school the teachers to which have been appointed without any test. Some are willing to give Church teaching, and some religious instruction according to the syllabus of the local authority. Why not let thorn do it," and there, he said, they had the solution of the difficulty. But the right hon. Gentleman made the mistake of lumping all the Free Churches together, and saying, "The local authority syllabus is good enough for you. If it should become part of the law of the land that any denomination might utilise a teacher to teach his own denominational leaching, he as a Congregation a list should make the same demand and insist that in every school in the land where there wore children whose parents were Congregationalists a teacher should be appointed capable of teaching the distinctive denominational truths of the Congregational Church. The other great Free Church communities would make a similar demand. This would mean, if not ostensibly, yet practically, imposing tests on teachers. They would become the sport of sectarian strife, as each denomination would try and secure the appointment of teachers capable of teaching their own faith. This would also be disastrous educationally, for the teacher would secure appointment for his sectarian zeal, and not for his educational qualifications. He honestly believed that if the Government proposals were accepted it would follow that when the denominations saw that they could not in State schools teach any formulary or distinctive Catechism the Churches generally would say one to the other, "Cannot we draw up some syllabus of instruction suitable to the child mind which may be dogmatic but not distinctive?" The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham once said that if he had to look at this question from the beginning he would still have hopes of bringing the Churches into line, and he himself still had hopes that that would be done. He hoped it would not go forth to the world that our Churches 1630 could not agree upon a Catechism or something which, apart from denominationalism, was suitable to every child. He had in his hands a Catechism which was in use in Jamaica and in Canada and which had been drawn up and agreed to by the Church of England and those who were called in this country Free Churches, and what he wished to ask hon. Members opposite was this. Was the Church of England in our Colonies part of the corporate whole of that Church, and, if so, and if was possible for them to come to such a conclusion in the Colonies, how was it impossible for some such agreement to be come to in the mother country? If the Churches could so agree, who doubted that the local authorities would accept such a syllabus, and peace and concord would reign in our schools? He thought the policy initiated by the Government was the only one which would be acceptable to the country.
§ SIR GEORGE DOUGHTY (Great Grimsby)
said he recognised the very difficult task which the right hon. Gentle-man had had to perform and the ability, courage, and candour with which he had discharged his duty. He and many hon. Members on both sides of the House hoped that some compromise might be arrived at. In the early part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech that did not seem possible, but they gathered from the later part of it that the right hon. Gentleman himself as well as His Majesty's Government thought that, if a reasonable compromise could be arrived at, this Bill ought to be placed upon the Statute-book. He was one of those who Were very desirous that some compromise on this vexed and difficult question should be come to. He was sorry that in the first part of his reply the right hon. Gentleman gave so much attention to the machinery of the Bill apart from its general principles. He quite agreed, however, that to give the right of entry into the council schools would be unfair and unjust, and would receive in all parts of the country the strongest possible opposition. He took up that position for several reasons. He was connected, as chairman of a large educational authority, with the 1631 educational work of the country, and, so far as that particular Amendment went, he was not aware that in any part of the country at the last general election any appeal was made on that subject to the electors. Whatever mandate might have been received by the Government they certainly had not received any mandate to open the doors of the council schools to others than those whom the council had appointed to teach. Under no circumstances, therefore, could the Government accept such an Amendment, and he would rather that the Bill were of than that the peaceful conditions with regard to religious instruction which now prevailed in the council schools should be disturbed by any outside influence. During the last thirty years there had been growing up in the council schools a national system of religious education, and in the syllabuses published by the Board of Education used in those schools it would be found that the principles in which the Churches were agreed were embodied. There was no religious difficulty in the council schools, and if at that moment any Government proposed to introduce sectarian teaching into them they would have to face as great a difficulty as they were facing to-day. It was a privilege to him to express his frank opinion upon this subject, and to urge upon the Government that discord should not at this time be sown by anybody. He would venture to suggest two or three points upon which there might be some compromise. In Clause I of the Bill there were words added which indicated that the local education committee school of the future could only be considered one when some form of religious teaching was given. He was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman express some hesitation as to whether those words could be accepted or not, but if he could accept them and show that the House of Commons and the country did desire that some form of religious teaching should be given to the children it would set at rest a good many doubts. As to the Amendments to Clauses 2 and 3 he did not observe that the Amendments of the House of Lords affected any important principle; in his judgment they only strengthened the clauses. It was in Clause 4 that the 1632 difficulty, not merely of the Government, but of many other sections of Members was caused. What did the Government intend to do about it? The right hon. Gentleman had said nothing about the question of whether the clause was to stand as it left this House or was to remain mandatory as it was made by the House of Lords. He observed that Clause 3 was to be made mandatory, it being provided that the local education authority "shall" give facilities under that section. He understood from the silence of the right hon. Gentleman that it was the intention of the Government to consider that question in regard to Clause 4. The most vital part of that clause was the question of removing the word "urban" and extending the special facilities provision to all the schools in England and Wales. He was bound to say that he objected very strongly to that. In villages where there was only one school the Government would create a much greater injustice by making it a special facility school.
§ SIR GEORGE DOUGHTY
was glad to hear that, but would suggest that instead of the 5,000 area special facilities should be given to other districts. He had always sympathised with the Nonconformist feeling as to the injustice of the single-school area. He had never felt that there was any injustice in an area where there were three schools, because there a man could send his child to the school which he desired. In the first place, in the single-school areas Cowper-Temple teaching would be given on five days of the week and an opportunity for Church teaching would be given on two of those days, so that in single school areas the religious people of the district would have given to their children that religious instruction in which they believed. The Bill as it left the House of Lords had secured that there should be no religious tests for teachers, but there seemed to be some hesitation on the part of the Government to allow the teachers to give religious 1633 instruction in the schools. As he understood the matter the Nonconformist grievance at the present time was that there were 12,000 schools in which Nonconformists could not secure the position of head teacher. But the fact that the appointment was in the gift of the local authority, and that there was no religious test surely got over that difficulty. The only sect against which Clause 3 was aimed was the Church of England, because under Clause 4 the teacher might give, under the special facilities, religious teaching, and in all local education authority schools Cowper-Temple teaching was to be given to the children at the expense of the State. The only school in which the, teacher was prohibited from giving religious instruction was the Clause 3 school. If the Government could concede the right of the teacher to give Cowper-Temple teaching and religious teaching under Clause 4, he did not think it was asking too much when they asked them to allow special teaching to be given in Clause 3 schools. He himself would much rather that the teacher should give the religious instruction than that the clergyman should be allowed to go into the school to give it because the religious instruction, as given by the teacher, would in the first place be more in harmony with the secular education given in the school, and the local authority would therefore have a better control over that secular education. If the Government could see their way to make a concession on the points he had mentioned, and if there was a little give; and take on the other Amendments, it seemed to him that there ought not to be any serious difficulty in coming to a final settlement, which if it brought peace into the schools, would be worth all the time the right hon. Gentleman had given to it.
§ MR. MADDISON (Burnley)
expressed this gratification at the action the Government had taken with regard to the Lords' Amendments. The hon. Member for Grimsby had said there should be some give and take, but upon looking at the words of the Bill there appeared to be not much give. It was all take. When the Bill left this House the Government supporters were agreed with regard to 1634 most of its details. His right hon. friend only spoke truth when he said that in order to get the Bill through he had placed a great strain upon the Government's supporters. The Bill then was moderation itself. The right hon. Gentleman had cultivated the art of concession to such an extent that it was all in favour of hon. Members opposite. Far more concessions had been made in the direction of recognising sectarianism than in building up a truly general system of national education. No one could say, having regard to the strong demand made by the Nonconformists throughout the country, that the Government had brought in a Bill that was at all extravagant. How had the Lords met the Bill? Wherever there had been a concession they had enlarged it until the Bill had become in some respects more reactionary than the Act it sought to amend. The Lords' Amendments represented aristocratic contempt for democracy. The Leader of the Opposition had treated the House to a very elaborate argument to show that as this country had given up the consideration of religion in matters of State, so the Government should not now seek to vest in local authorities the power it had given up in regard to affairs of State. That argument, which upon the slightest examination was shown to be utterly hollow, was based upon parental responsibility, a fine sentiment in its proper place, but an impossible sentiment in this connection. How could each individual parent get the religious education that he desired for his child in a particular school? It was impossible. There was as much difference between high, low, and broad churchmen as between the various sects of Nonconformity. The result of this freedom was nothing but the basest tyranny, because, while the large sects might get the religious instruction they required for their children, the small sects would not. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman was, therefore, impossible. There was, however, some force in what the right hon. Gentleman said when he put to the Government the difficulty of the local authority being a competent body to select a particular form of religion to be taught in the school. He had always felt that there 1635 was a difficulty in a local authority selecting something which had been called by the hon. Member for Dudley the common denominator. It was not easy to get a common denominator. If, therefore, there was any argument in that point of the right hon. Gentleman it was an argument for secular teaching alone. Because, as the State had given up the consideration of religion in matters of State, it would be wise to apply the same principle to local authorities. It was not, however, for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to complain of and attack the Government when they would not help them to take the course which he believed would ultimately work for the good of education in this country and set up a genuine system of education. Whatever might be the outcome of these discussions, there was a general and growing feeling throughout the country that months and years were being wasted in wrangling upon the great and solemn subject of religion, which in the first instance was a matter for the individual and the home; and that the great issue of education, which ought to be the sole issue before the House, was being obstructed. The progress of education was being delayed and the onward march that we ought to be making in order to bring the education of the country abreast of some of the other nations of the world was being retarded. The religious question had been the reason for this. The peoples of Europe were feeling more and more the spectre of clericalism which was hovering round the schools, find where it had not been able to poison the wells of knowledge it had destroyed them. His Majesty's Government would have been better advised if they had made at least an effort towards the secular solution. They had an example in the common schools of America, where the children, whether their parents looked to Rome, to Canterbury, or to Geneva, learnt the same common things. What was the result? Had that had a bad effect upon the churches of the United States? Were the Sunday schools of the United States inferior to our own? On the contrary, they were vigorous and growing, because religion, like knowledge, was best when it leaned on itself and did not look for artificial and external aids.
§ * MR. EVELYN CECIL (Aston Manor)
deeply regretted the course which the Government had announced they would take to-morrow. The Government professed that they desired a compromise, but he did not think the course proposed made for a compromise. If they really desired a compromise it would have been much wiser to have taken the Amendments seriatim, and pointed out specifically in the debates which Amendments they were disposed to accept. As it was he feared that they had put the Bill in jeopardy. The hon. Member who had just sat down spoke of Government concessions. He had sat through all the debates on the previous stages of this Bill, and he was utterly at a loss to know what concessions were made during those debates at any time what-ever. There were no concessions. It was one of the complaints from the Opposition point of view that there was no attempt whatever in the earlier stages of the Bill to meet the Opposition at all.
§ * MR. EVELYN CECIL
said those concessions were not made during the debates in this House. Now, at the last moment, after contemptuously throwing back the Lords' Amendments at their heads, the Government indicated that they were prepared possibly to consider some few of their Amendments. But that was not a course at all calculated to produce a compromise. He did not say it was past hope. He thought the Bill was a thoroughly bad Bill, but for the sake of peace and of getting this question out of the way he thought there might be something said for a compromise if it could be obtained. If the Bill did not pass the blame would, in consequence of to-day's proceedings, lie at the door of the Government, and not at the door of the House of Lords.. The President of the Board of Education had complained that the House of Lords had ignored the principle of popular control, and apparently the right hon. Gentleman considered that this was the case in many of the Amendments that they had made. He endeavoured to follow the right hon. Gentleman, but failed. In Clause I the 1637 Lords had added a provision that some portion of the school hours should be devoted to religious instruction. In what respect did that infringe upon the principle of popular control? Was it claimed by right hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite that popular control excluded religious instruction? He did not suppose that that was so, but in that case why could they not say in the Bill that it did not? Why could not they agree to the Lords' Amendment? If the Government had any doubt whether popular control included or did not include religious instruction let them appeal to the country. Why did they not appeal to the country? Various Cabinet Ministers, particularly the President of the Board of Trade, in one of those characteristic speeches full of the usual extravagance which had to be so largely discounted, had said that the reason was that the Ministry dissolved a year ago. But supposing this same Bill was before the House at the end of this Parliament, would they dissolve upon it then? They knew perfectly well that if they did dissolve on it they would be soundly beaten. [MINISTERIAL Cries of "No."] Then the sooner they tried the better. They would unquestionably be beaten, and they dared not go to the country now, for they knew that the country would not endorse the Bill. The Lords also knew it, and that was exactly the strength of their position. Coming to closer quarters, he would like to know exactly what was meant by full popular control. Did the Radical Party want popular control through Parliament? If so, they had it already. If they meant popular control in the details of local educational administration they were very far from it at present. Did they really suppose that the local education authority had complete popular control? Was it not perfectly well known that it was regulated by the Board of Education, limited by Acts of Parliament, and curtailed by the Code.? In that sense there was anything but complete popular control, and it was mere clap - trap and imposture to go to the country and talk about popular control as the one aim and object of the Radical Party when they did not make a serious effort in this Bill to bring about that popular con- 1638 trol of the local education authority, who, in spite of the claim of the President of the Board of Education, was not its own master in its own affairs at all. It was controlled by the Board of Education and by Parliament, and it had to obey the Code. He was therefore at a loss to understand upon what grounds this claim of supreme control by the local education authority was made. The Radical Party seemed to have great faith in local education authorities, but their policy in this respect was very different from what it was when in opposition. On 16th October, 1903, the Prime Minister, in criticising the Education Act of 1902 at Bolton, said—I can quite understand that in good selected instances the Act may be made to work by intelligent and large-minded people in a fair way, but these county councils are not all of that character; what we want is not to be protected from the good, but protected from the evil.That was exactly what the Opposition wanted now. That was a perfectly fair and sensible policy, but it seemed to be one which the Prime Minister in his admiration and trust of local education authorities was now prepared to ignore and condemn. The President of the Board of Education had vaguely foreshadowed that the Government were prepared in some respects to admit a few of the Lords' Amendments. He gathered that Amendments to Clause 3 were not in the main at any rate, if at all, to be considered; but the Church of England and other denominations were perfectly justified in claiming the right to impart such teaching, whether the local education authority liked it or not, as was proposed in Clause 3. The real quarrel between the House of Lords and the Government was this: The Government admitted that a few children should be allowed to receive the religious instruction which their parents desired and the House of Lords wished that more children should receive it. They desired to make the concessions in Clauses 3 and 4 real and not illusory. They had not altered the principle, but they had simply introduced certain words to secure that those concessions should not be a sham, and it was this to which the Government objected. Surely action of that kind on the part of the Upper Chamber ought not to be regarded as ground for a quarrel. 1639 The object of the Lords' Amendments was to make the Bill a reality, and he trusted that the Government would consider the Amendments carefully if the House of Lords decided to send this measure back again to this House. He did not propose to deal at any length with the Lords' Amendments. As to the proposal to de- crease the proportion from four-fifths to a two-thirds majority he failed to see why the Government should refuse to accept the smaller fraction, which would not involve any difficulty whatever in the working of the school. The President of the Board of Education had laid it down that minorities and not majorities must suffer, but if the Bill as it left this House was carried into effect the majority would suffer. The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that to abolish tests for teachers was an impracticable policy to carry out wholesale. Clause 4 deliberately created a test for teachers, and Clause 3 imposed upon them the test that they should be incompetent to teach religious instruction. If the introduction of outside teachers was injurious to school discipline, as the President of the Board of Education had maintained, why under this Bill was the introduction of outside teachers of religion insisted upon under Clause 3? If the Bill were lost it would be entirely in consequence of the announcement made: to-day. Ministers scouted the ideas, impressed on the Bill by the Lords, of parental control and responsibility, and of equal justice to all denominations. They preferred to foist on those who did not desire it the State-aided Cowper-Temple religion. Such a Bill, even if passed, could not be a final settlement. After the shifts the Government had made and the dissatisfaction they had created in the country by not applying equal justice all round it was impossible for this Bill to effect a final settlement. The Bill contained some clauses which would be useful, but it was so overweighted with injustice to denominations and disregard of parental wishes that it would not be the last Education Bill within even a short period which would be placed upon the Statute-book.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devonshire, Honiton)
said he had heard with great regret the determination of 1640 the Government to send this Bill back to the Lords without any consideration of the Amendments which they, after careful and reasonable discussion, had introduced into the Bill; and he believed that that disappointment would be shared by the country generally. He believed there was in the country a very genuine wish that this question should be settled, and that the interests of the children should be regarded first and not be made the sport of different Parties in the State. There was a wish which had found ready acceptance in regard to the two main principles of the Bill, viz., popular control, and the abolition of tests for teachers, and that was carried out by the absolute control given to the local authority as to the appointment of teachers and also freeing the teachers from tests. He thought the Government ought to be willing to recognise that it was not possible to deal with the matter on cast-iron principles, and there should be reasonable elasticity and reasonable regard to consciences other than those of Nonconformists. Many Members would have been ready, as he would himself, to have gone a long way to obtain a fair and reasonable settlement of the question. But the Government had taken the line of throwing back the Bill to the Lords with the contemptuous suggestion that they should come with bated breath and ask humbly to put before the Government their view of the principles which at the last moment the President of the Board of Education admitted they might be willing possibly to consider. He felt that the way in which this had been done would be taken by the country as showing that there was no real desire for a settlement, and that the hon. Member for Louth and Dr Clifford, who were the real masters of the situation, had laid down the lines on which alone the Government must proceed. The Lords had made an Amendment to the Bill providing that a school should not be recognised as a public elementary school unless some part of the time were set apart for religious instruction. He attached very great importance to the existence of that provision in the Bill. No attempt had been made to indicate to the local authorities what the religious instruction was to be. What the 1641 House could very well do was to lay down the principle that there could be no education worth having without religion being included. He believed that wherever religion was excluded from the schools in other countries public morals had suffered. If, as might be the result of all this conflict, there arose a system of secular education he and his friends had clear consciences in the matter, because they had always maintained that religion must be part of the ordinary curriculum of the school. It was for that the Roman Catholics especially had made great sacrifices in the past, and were making sacrifices now. The children of the denominationalists were to be sacrificed, their education was to be hindered, and this strife was to be continued because the Government had Members behind them to whom they paid so much deference that they were willing that those, things should happen rather than allow denominational teaching to be given. Germany. Holland, and other countries had been able successfully to maintain a system of denominational teaching alongside of thorough educational efficiency in the schools. He and his friends believed that a system of that sort commended itself to the people of this country, and they would maintain the struggle for it as long as they could. The question was a serious and complicated one, and he would not give up hope that a fair and reasonable arrangement might yet be come to. He confessed, however, that after the declaration made on behalf of the Government that night his hopes were faint, and that there was little likelihood of their being realised.
§ * MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)
said he had received copies of many resolutions couched very much in the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Louth, whose attitude was very much that of his own Free Church constituents. Like his hon. friend, he sympathised with the Catholic attitude, and was well aware they could not accept the Cowper-Temple teaching, to which, personally, he had no objection. The traditional attitude of Catholics towards education made it impossible for them to accept Cowper-Temple teaching which every other sect of Christians might adopt, except themselves, as suitable to the occasion, and as representing as much 1642 of the essentials of Christianity as the small minds and brains of children could carry away. It might be asked, Why ought not the same measure to be meted out to the Church of En gland as to the Roman Catholic Church? In his own constituency the Church of England and the Free Churches were about equally divided, and he had no mandate from churchmen. His belief was that the Church was making a serious mistake in taking up such a strong attitude against the Bill. He regretted it, and dreaded the reinforcement of strength to the ranks of secularists that would result if this Bill were lost. Moderate men were now inclined to despair of a fair settlement. He understood the President of the Board of Education to say that the door was still ajar, and he hoped the House of Lords would take into account the strong feeling in the country and would walk through that open door. The Protestant wing, or rather main body of the Church of England, might well make an effort to agree with the Free Churches, with which historically and doctrinally, it should be in sympathy. The Roman Catholic attitude was exactly the reverse of the Free Church attitude. The former Church held by authority, by the authority of an infalliable Church, and would have from first to last no other atmosphere. The Free Churches held an exactly contrary position and thought the essentials of Christianity might be taught at the public expense, but that dogma was a matter of private or home tuition. He believed that if the West Riding judgment were reversed the loss of the Bill would be severely felt, and he hoped some suitable arrangement might yet be made.
§ MR. LANE-FOX (Yorkshire, W.R., Barkston Ash)
said the hon. Member for the Montgomery Boroughs had warned the Church of England that if they was not prepared to accept the Bill, they would have to accept a stiffer and stronger measure. He thought he could safely say that the Church of England would not be afraid of any stiffer or stronger Bill, but would stand by their principles, and they were not going to be intimidated by any suggestion of that kind. It was obvious that the system proposed would not satisfy the great majority of churchmen, and that they 1643 must have something supplemental to Cowper-Temple teaching. What he really wished to ask the Government was whether the House was to believe that they were sincere in the statement they had made that they still wished to save the Bill. A statement had appeared in one of the newspapers that morning which attributed to the Government a secret compromise with their extreme supporters, so that they might make a show in the House and give a false impression throughout the country of being in favour of a compromise, and thus throw the onus of destroying the Bill on the House of Lords. Were the Government sincere, or were they simply sending the Bill like a lamb to be slaughtered in the most opprobrious manner? If the Government really meant to do their best for the Bill, were they adopting the right method? Were they going the most likely way to obtain concessions from the House of Lords when they said, "If you are good children and behave nicely, we will hear what you have to say?" The President of the Board of Education might have told the House certain things that would be accepted, but he merely said that certain Amendments would be considered. Was that merely an attempt to blind the country in order to show that the Government were in a reasonable spirit of compromise, though all the while they did not mean to give way? The hon. Member for Burnley had referred to concessions made by the Government while the Bill was passing through this House, but when challenged he could not name them.
§ MR. MADDISON
said he had been quite consistent. He stated that there were substantial concessions in connection with Clauses 3 and 4.
§ MR. LANE-FOX
said he did not complain of the hon. Member's consistency; he only complained that he had not answered the question. What considerable concessions did the Government make on Clauses 3 and 4 when the Bill was passing through the House?
§ MR. MADDISON
said he was perhaps wrong in saying that they were made while the Bill was passing through the 1644 House, but he was certainly right about the Bill as introduced. That was sufficient for his point.
§ MR. LANE-FOX
said he was perfectly satisfied that his own point was made, All that he wanted to prove was that the Government made no concession whatever during the passing of the Bill. The hon. Member had also alluded to the un-desirability of clericalism in connection with education in the public elementary schools. They had become accustomed to that bogey being trotted out in this House. It was first referred to by the President of the Board of Trade, who told the House that clericalism was the enemy. If it was the object of the Bill to destroy clericalism, a clear light was thrown on the question whether the Government were, really sincere in their desire to obtain concessions from the other House. He would like to know whether that was a consistent method of treating the Lords' Amendments? Why should the Government after all the work that had been spent on this Bill now propose to throw it on the dust heap? Personally he thought that the concessions made by the Lords had gone quite far enough, and he doubted whether the Lords would make any further concessions unless they had reason to believe that if made they would be treated with proper and due respect.
§ MR. HART-DAVIES (Hackney, N.)
said that anyone must have been convinced that this sort of deadlock was certain to arise. He was one of those who went into the Lobby in favour of secular education, and they were accused of driving the Bible out of the schools. But what they said was, that the State as a State had no connection with religion; but if the State was to pay for any form of religious education it should pay for all. He believed that the ultimate solution of the question must be secular education, with liberty of entry. He thought they had had quite enough of wrangles over the question of religious education; and he had never been able to see that there was any difficulty in the way of liberty of entry. The State should be responsible for the secular education of the children, leaving the churches to 1645 do their own work in the way of religious instruction.
§ Question, "That the Lords' Amendments be now considered," put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That further proceedings on the consideration of the Lords' Amendments be now adjourned."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)
thought the action of the Government had put the House of Commons into a somewhat ridiculous position. They had passed part of the Parliamentary day solemnly coming to the conclusion that the Lords' Amendments be now considered. That having been accepted by the House, the Home Secretary had as solemnly moved that the consideration of the Lords' Amendments be adjourned until to-morrow. That might be good tactics towards the House of Lords, but it was most disrespectful towards the House of Commons. And tomorrow, as he gathered from the speech of the President of the Board of Education, a guillotine Motion was going to be introduced by which the consideration of the Lords' Amendments was to be taken en bloc, and by which they were to be thrown out in their entirety. [MINISTERIAL Cheers]. Of course, very naturally that procedure commended itself to hon. Members opposite. He had listened with proper attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and like the hon. Member for Louth he was much puzzled, and was unable to understand whether they were assisting at the funeral or the resuscitation of the Bill. He doubted if the right hon. Gentleman knew himself. He said without fear of contradiction that one portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech differed entirely from another. At one moment he talked gaily of compromise, and at another moment he laid it down, no doubt for the benefit of a particular section of the House, that he did not mean to give way on any particular or important Amendment. That was no compromise, and they understood quite clearly that the right hon. Gentleman was going to guillotine the whole of the Lords' Amendments, including two or 1646 three which had been inserted by Lord Crewe himself. He thought there was something behind this.
§ * MR. CLAUDE HAY (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said that the action of the Government deserved a protest from every independent Member of the House. The very idea that they were not to discuss this Bill, except when the Government permitted was not only an exhibition of cowardice, but strong evidence that they did not dare to leave the House of Commons to discuss the Lords' Amendments freely. The hon. Member for Hackney had dealt with the question of secular education. He would not go over the points raised by the hon. Member, but he wished to say that in his constituency there were a large number of Roman Catholics who had an intense feeling with regard to the Bill, and who would resent the manner in which the Government were trying to deal with the Amendments introduced by the Upper House, and he believed that the action of His Majesty's advisers would be received throughout the country with contempt.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said he only intervened for one moment because the noble Lord had used the word "guillotine," but the Resolution to be moved to-morrow was not correctly described by that term. The Resolution was to the effect that the question of agreement or disagreement with the Lords Amendments to this Bill should be discussed as a whole. He was not aware that that involved the guillotine. It was merely a matter of method. The Government did not propose to accept the Lords' Amendments, but they proposed to return them to them as a whole. They did not propose to present them to the House of Commons for the purpose of asking the House to discuss them one by one. He would not repeat the arguments which he had used on this subject, and merely said that the Question to be put to the House was that the Lords Amendments should be dealt with as a whole, and that involved nothing in the nature of the proceedings known as the guillotine.
§ Question put, and agreed to. Lords Amendments to be further considered to-morrow.