§ Order read, for further consideration of Lords Amendments.
§ Lords Amendments read a second time.207
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Mr. Lough,) Islington, W.
moved formally "that this House doth disagree with the Lords' Amendments."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendments."
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON (Oxford University)
said this was a somewhat strange episode in the procedure on this great question. The House first decided not without remonstrance, to deal with the Lords' Amendments as a whole. Now they were invited, without a word of comment, to disagree with those Amendments as a whole. It reminded him of a proceeding familiar in his school days. When a boy showed an exceedingly bad exercise to the master it was torn in two and given back to him without a word, except a direction to produce a better and more satisfactory copy. He did not ask whether it was respectful or courteous to the House of Lords, for he did not believe such a consideration would weigh for a. moment on the benches opposite. But was it fair so to treat Amendments on which the Lords had spent exceeding care and study? If the Lords had acted on purely Party considerations, if they had really desired to do a service to the Unionist Party, to which the majority of them belonged, they would have declined to make a. single Amendment in the Bill, and sent it to the country for administration in the form in which it left the House of Commons. They all knew the history of this Bill. It was prepared so hastily that the Minister in his opening speech read out, as part of the Bill, extracts from an earlier draft. It was so ill-considered that every clause as it came under the Committee's eye appeared to be a revelation to the Minister in charge of it. The Bill was so crudely planned that in the course of its progress the House was introduced to such trifling novelties as the ballot, the State-aided school, a delegation clause as long as an ordinary Act of Parliament, and three separate constitutions for the Welsh education authority. The Bill was discussed under the guillotine, which necessarily made it impossible to discuss, not merely the crude Bill itself, but the Government Amendments to that Bill, 208 to say nothing of the Amendment which the Opposition desired to press upon the House. Supposing this Bill, patched and mended and doctored, this ill-conditioned offspring of the Government, had gone to the country as the first fruit of Radical legislation, what would have been the situation in a year's time of the Minister of Education, with the disappointed Nonconformist on one side, the betrayed Catholic on the other, the injured Church and the overwhelmed ratepayer, all hostile? But the Lords took a more patriotic course. They had made a workable Bill of an almost unworkable Bill. They had made a radically unjust Bill as just as it was possible to make any Bill that was brought in, not in the interest of education, but at the bidding of the passive resister and a section of religious opinion bitterly hostile to the Church schools. The Lords had undoubtedly introduced large and important Amendments into the Bill. But a study of these Amendments would show that they made no departure from the general principles of the Bill, but simply gave some effect to the repeated assurances of the Minister of Education, that the denominations would be fairly treated. The Lords accepted the principle of popular control, which brought Cowper-Temple teaching within the reach of every child, and they accepted the principle that the denominations should pay for their own religious teaching. This Bill had merely been extended in its provisions, and it did not lie in the mouth of any one to say that it was a different Bill from that which was sent up to the House of Lords. The main purpose of their Amendments was to secure as far as possible the opportunity for religious teaching for all, and special religious teaching for those whose parents desired it and were ready to pay for it. This was the purport of the Amendments on Clauses 1 and 7 which provided that such instruction should be given in the schools where it was possible. Were these issues upon which the Government would care to go to the country? He should have thought not. As regards the alteration in Clause 7 which brings religious teaching within the school hours, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education said that the clause as it stood was very near to his heart, but that some of his colleagues voted against 209 him; that the clause was carried by a bare majority in this House, and that in the House of Lords, the Leader of the Government voted against him. It could not, therefore, be said that the House of Lords had done any harm there. As regards the Amendment to Clause 7, which ensured the making of some provision for religious instruction in every school, the right hon. Gentleman had referred to Pan-denominationalism. Pan-denominationalism in this connection could only arise in fancy. Then the right hon. Gentleman said it interfered with public control and brought the local authorities under the Board of Education in a way in which they had never been brought under before. In that the right hon. Gentleman was wrong. The question of giving religious teaching in the school hours was a matter of by-law and time table. That was common knowledge at the Board of Education, and to say that a subject must not be excluded by by-law and must be included in the timetable was no new thing. Then was the Amendment unnecessary? It was well known that some local authorities discountenanced religious instruction in their schools. There were some Welsh counties who acted thus. There was the case of Huddersfield, where the local authority said it desired to eliminate religious teaching from the schools. They were told that in one of the Welsh counties in which there was no religious teaching in schools there was no crime, and that elsewhere such crime as there was emanated from children brought up in voluntary schools. If that sort of thing proved anything it proved too much.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said there was religious obvervance, but that it was desired there to have no religious instruction. They had frequently heard, and with pleasure, the right hon. Gentleman in tones of genuine conviction insist upon the importance of religious instruction in our elementary schools.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said that under the Government Bill no local education authority need make any provision for religious instruction whatever in the council schools, and therefore the only security for religious instruction would be in the transferred voluntary schools in which facilities were given, and the local authority need not accept a transfer of a single voluntary school. No local authority need provide any religious instruction to the children; no parent need send his child to school during that part of the school hours devoted to religious instruction; and no teacher need give it. That was the position of things. The facilities which were given in schools under Clause 3 would be nugatory in many cases if the teacher habitually employed in the school was not allowed to teach the children religion, and the facilities under Clause 4 might be refused or taken away if a single child demanded separate school accommodation which was not forthcoming. Such was the Bill as it stood and it pointed towards secularism, and he ventured to say the Lords were quite right when they put into the Bill that which the right hon. Gentleman approved and the country desired—namely, that elementary education should not be divorced from religious instruction. It was complained that the Lords had put in frequent appeals to the Board of Education, but the right hon. Gentleman himself when he introduced that half-hearted bilateral clause put a very heavy burden on the Board of Education, and there was nothing in the Lords' Amendment putting anything like the burden on the Board of Education which the Board of Education had to bear when the Act of 1902 came into operation, and which it bore, he thought, without coming into collision to any serious extent with the local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman talked about trusting the local authorities, but in fact he was afraid of them. He confessed he did not think it was a desirable thing that the Minister for Education should go about saying, "For heaven's sake don't put this power into my hands, because it may bring me into conflict with the local education authorities." Surely the business of the Board of Education was to enforce the law and advise the local authorities, and it was not right that a Government Department should flinch 211 from the reasonable exercise of such powers as the Legislature entrusted to it, simply because the Minister dreaded a possible conflict with a local authority. The Amendments of the Lords, then, in no way interfered with popular control. As to the question of tests for teachers, that was not wholly unconnected with popular control, because the management of the schools, whether council or voluntary schools, would be henceforth entirely in the hands of the local education authority, who would have not only the power of appointing all the managers of every school, but the absolute appointment and dismissal of the teachers. How, then, could the employment of the teachers under Clause 3 amount to a test? The right hon. Gentleman said last night that a test was a difficult thing to define, but that if the teacher in the school were allowed to give denominational religious teaching it was impossible to prevent people ascertaining whether the teacher could give it, and would give it, and then inviting him to give it, and in that way we came to imposing a test. The answer to that was clear. The teacher was appointed by the local authority, and if the teacher were willing to give denominational teaching and the local authority allowed it, to forbid it was to infringe the rights or limit the discretion of the local authority. If the local authority disapproved of the teacher giving such instruction the remedy was in their own hands, and they could give the teacher notice to quit, and appoint a teacher who would not be willing to give the religious teaching required under Clause 3. The vexatious provision which forbade the teacher who was accustomed to the children, and respected by the parents, from giving religious instruction to the children whom he was teaching every day, so far as it was based on the ground of no tests for teachers, was absolutely without foundation. He thought that provision in the Bill was a real hardship imposed upon the transferred schools in the rural areas. The right hon. Gentleman said truly that a test was difficult to define. What were tests? They were told constantly that the demand of the country expressed at the last election was for the abolition of tests. He dared say it was in a certain light. Any hon. Member who stood on a public platform at the general election and put the question, "Are you in favour 212 of tests for teachers?" would be certain to get the answer "No," and he thought the answer would be welcome to both sides. But if the further question had been put, "Are you in favour of letting a man give religious instruction who is disqualified by his ignorance or unbelief?" surely the answer in that case also would have been "No," and it would have commanded respect on both sides. What the Lords had done was to secure the freedom of the teacher. They had not gone so far as the Government themselves had gone in imposing tests, because in Clause 11 of the Government Bill the local authority was directed to see that the teacher appointed to a school coming under that clause was capable, and certainly willing, to give the religious teaching required in the school. So far as the Lords had dealt with the teacher and the giving of religious teaching they had not gone so far anywhere as Clause 11 of the Government. All that they had done in the way of novelty was to introduce the parents' committee, and the reference to it in the case of Clause 4 schools, and he thought the President of the Board of Education had said he was prepared to consider this proposal favourably. As regarded popular control and tests for teachers, he hoped he had established the entire concurrence of the Lords in both these propositions. In regard to the Salisbury Amendment, which was said by the right hon. Gentleman to be wholly inconsistent with popular control, he would point out that by the very terms of that Amendment a wide discretion was left to the local authority, while it met the case of the single school areas, an admitted gap in the Act of 1902. The case had always been spoken of as purely a Nonconformist grievance. It was a two-sided grievance. There had always been Church children who only had access to a Council School. He admitted that the Government Bill entirely remedied one side of that question. Cowper-Temple teaching had been brought within the reach of every child, but the very provision which did that also created a very serious grievance on the other side, because it must be borne in mind that 14,000 voluntary schools would be turned into council schools, and that the children in them would no longer be sure of the religious teaching they used to get. A good many things 213 might happen. The local authority might decline to take a transfer of the schools or the owners might withdraw them, or they might sell the schools to the authority. The remedy proposed by the Lords' Amendments put no hardship upon the local authority, it imposed no cost upon them, and only called upon the local authority to make certain inquiries and allow certain things to be done. He would endeavour to summarise the general purport of the Lords' Amendments. Under those Amendments religious teaching in school hours was to be available for all, and definite religious teaching was to be given to all those who desired to have it, but not at the expense of the local authority. The facilities given under Clauses 3 and 4 were ensured as real substantial facilities by the changes which had been made by the Lords instead of being the illusory things they were under the original Bill. The teachers were to be free from religious tests but also free to teach. And lastly no school which was structurally suitable and which was necessary for giving the religious instruction desired by parents for their children was to be rejected by the local authority without cause shown to the Commission. He ventured to think that those principles were worthy of the consideration of the Government. No doubt the President of the Board of Education would say that they were already embodied in the Bill, but if they were, his opinion was that they were so embedded in other matters as to be hardly discernible in many cases. He thought the Lords might very well stand on those principles which he ventured to assert would be found underlying all their Amendments. He did not desire any prolongation of those weary discussions which had taken place in the past. He supposed there was no one in this House except the President of the Board of Education who was more sensible than he was of the weariness to everyone concerned, the injury to education, and the disastrous effect upon religion of this unsettled state of the education question, but with all his desire for a settlement he did not wish for a hollow peace. He hoped that the Lords would not recede from the great principles on which their Amendments were based. He trusted that 214 those great principles would remain in the Bill, and if this measure was lost on that account, the fault would not lie with the Opposition, who had laboured to give effect to those principles, or with the House of Lords, who had throughout enforced the main principles of the Bill by their Amendments and emphasised the assurances of the Government, but with those supporters of the Government who had, above all things, desired to see the Church schools disappear from our national system of education, and who had tried to enforce with a tryanny which appeared to him to amount to a grave form of religious persecution one form and one form only of religious teaching throughout the elementary education of this country.
COLONEL HERBERT (Monmouthshire, S.)
said he would only refer to the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman in relation to that part of the United Kingdom to which he belonged, namely Wales. The hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University had exercised his wit and what he presumed by courtesy must be called his humour, on the little Principality to which he belonged by referring to the clauses which set up a special education Council for Wales. If he took upon himself the task of criticising the hon. Baronet he should say that he knew everything about education except that which was most human. He had shown this conclusively in his remarks on the absence of religious instruction, for he had declared that there were schools in Wales in which no religious instruction whatever was given. The truth of the matter was that there was a large and increasing feeling in the Principality in favour of the elimination, not of the religious feeling, but of the denominational teaching. He could speak from a personal knowledge of the condition of Wales in regard to its religious teaching. He knew those places where it was said that there was no religious teaching in the schools, and he wished to inform the House that in those very places the children were better instructed in their Bible than probably any children in the whole of England. In those schools, under the national spirit, they had developed a love for this form of education, and they undertook their religious 215 instruction in their own Sunday schools. He thought that was a lesson which a good many hon. Members might learn with advantage from these Nonconformist communities, from which the denominational dogmatic instruction was eliminated. In his opinion that system alone would provide the ultimate solution of this difficulty. The education council for Wales had been made the subject of a little gibe, but it should not be forgotten that in the Principality there was a distinct and separate feeling with regard to educational matters. The Lords who drew nothing from Wales except their revenues and some of their titles were not in touch with the Welsh people, and they did not realise that there existed amongst the people of the Principality a desire to see their country leading in the educational race and leading in a strictly national direction. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the Lords' Amendments tended towards popular control, but how could that statement be justified when their tendency was deliberately to stifle the desire of the Principality to conduct its education in a national way? He believed he expressed the feelings of the Welsh Members when he said that the treatment of Wales alone by the House of Lords was sufficient to make them reject the whole of the Amendments.
§ LORD EDMUND TALBOT
said that earlier in the evening he criticised the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, because that speech was understood by hon. friends of his to show a sign of the weakening of the Catholic position in regard to this Bill. Before he was called to order he had made allusion to the fact that in that speech the hon. and learned Gentleman had stated that he and those who thought with him were prepared to accept as a concession with regard to Clause 4, a three-fourths, instead of a four-fifths majority, and he ventured to point out to him that he thought that when the Bill was in Committee in this House, the hon. Baronet who was associated with him had on the Paper an Amendment for a bare majority. What he particularly wished to criticise with reference to the 216 speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman was the fact that where is he appeared to assume that if they had a three-fourths majority of those voting, there would be only something like thirty Catholic schools left out of the extended facilities, whereas the real fact was that there would be no less than 170 Catholic schools left out. He was only venturing to criticise the statement that the Amendment now in the Bill, put in in another place, and which they might call the new sub-sections (b) and (c) of Clause 4, was, in the opinion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, too stringent, and one which, speaking for himself, he was not prepared to accept. He seemed inclined favourably towards the Amendment of the Lord President of the Council which was an alternative to the Amendment now on the Paper. He (Lord Edmund Talbot) wished to point out that that Amendment would not be accepted by his co-religionists, who had given this matter very careful study, and who represented Catholic opinion on this point. Even if the number of ten were raised, as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggested it ought to be raised, to twenty or thirty, it would not be acceptable to Catholics, because, among other reasons, under that Amendment the whole arrangement might be upset at any moment by an overflow of children from neighbouring schools. The hon. and learned Gentleman had used rather a vague phrase with reference to the appointment of the teacher. He had seemed to suggest that he would be satisfied provided the parents' committee had a voice in the selection of the teacher. He himself did not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman really meant it to be as weak as that; what he probably had in his mind was the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for East Mayo, but which, owing to the drastic and unprecedented action of the Government to-day, that hon. Member would not have an opportunity of moving. The words in that Amendment were that no teacher should be appointed without the concurrence of the parents' committee. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education had indicated certain concessions he was prepared to make with regard to the Amendments inserted 217 in another place. Might he ask the Secretary to the Board of Education whether that Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for East Mayo was one which the Government were prepared to accept?
§ LORD EDMUND TALBOT
said this was a particular Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for East Mayo, and he ventured most respectfully to ask whether they might have a definite answer "Yes" or "No" to the question: Were the Government prepared to accept that Amendment? The hon. Member shook his head. He gathered that he would not give an answer. Then they knew where they were. While there were Amendments suggested they were unable to get from the Government any definite announcement whether they would accept them or not. He would like to point out that this was an important question for Catholics. Even if the words of the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Mayo were accepted by the Government they would not be quite strong enough to secure what the Catholics of this country demanded, viz., the statutory right to the appointment of teachers in their schools. The schools were built with the money of Catholics, and in many cases with the money of the very poor. He ventured to assure the Government that if this Bill passed into law and Catholic teachers were not appointed in Catholic schools, there would be serious trouble in the country and for the Government. With reference to the point that some of his hon. friends seemed to think that the Catholic opposition to this measure was not quite so strong as it was, he could assure them that it was stronger than ever because of the fact that in another place the Amendments which had been passed and which were now on the Paper were not considered by the Catholic body as sufficient to meet their requirements. A few days ago an important deputation waited on Lord Lansdowne. That deputation was composed, with two or three exceptions, entirely of laymen. 218 They were representative of all the great industrial towns in the north, the midlands, and the south, including representatives from Durham, Liverpool, Birmingham, Derby, London, and right away down west as far as Bristol and Cardiff. They were unanimous in urging upon Lord Lansdowne the importance of, if possible, bringing in on the Report Stage still stronger Amendments on behalf of the Catholic schools than those which had already been inserted. They laid special stress on the question of the appointment of the teacher. Since that deputation a resolution had been passed by the Catholic Education Council, of which he had the honour to be a member, and which was representative of every Catholic diocese in this country, that the Bill as amended by the House of Lords still remained unsatisfactory to Catholics. That resolution was unanimously approved by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, and he would remind the House that in all matters affecting religious education in the Church to which he belonged, the opinion and approval of the Bishops was not to be ignored. It was not surprising that as a result of that expression of opinion the Catholic Peers in another place decided to take the somewhat strong step of voting against the Third Reading of the Bill. They did so in spite of the fact that the Bill as amended contained many Amendments favourable to the Catholic schools, and in doing so they were only following the example of the hon. Member for Waterford and those who took similar action on the Third Reading in this House. He would like before he sat down to call attention to the resolution passed by the Liverpool City Council one day last week in which they decided to send a petition asking this House to accept the Lords' Amendments. That resolution was very significant. It was passed by sixty-one votes to four, and the four members in the minority were members of the Liberal Party, but the rest of the Liberal Party, belonging to the city council, walked out and did not vote. He thought that was very significant for this reason, that Liverpool understood the Catholic side of the question and, if he might venture to say so to hon. Gentlemen opposite, was far more sympathetic than the 219 Government was with regard to the Catholic position. He would like to quote a short extract from the speech, the remarkable speech delivered the other day by the Catholic Bishop of Liverpool. He quoted it with all possible respect as a warning to His Majesty's Government as to what might possibly happen if in the future Catholic chools were not given what Catholics demanded as justice. This was what he said—As to the future it seemed to him dark. It might be that they would have to resist the law, not in any passive sense, but in an active sense, for passive resistance did not count. The present was a time for plain speaking and a time for them to decide whether to obey God or the law. If their opponents thought they would take over Catholic schools, they would find Catholics ready to fight.He would remind the Government that there were in Lancashire alone 150,000 Catholic children in the Catholic schools, and he would suggest to them before any action was taken which would affect the Catholic welfare of these schools, it would be well for them to pause.
MR. T. RICHARDS (Monmouthshire, W.)
said he wanted to congratulate the Government upon the course they had taken in this matter. He had been a silent but sincere admirer of the President of the Board of Education who had honestly attempted to hold the balance of justice fairly between the contending Parties in the House. If he had tilted it to one side it was in favour rather of his opponents than of his friends. He was anxious that this religious question should be settled finally, and he hoped the Government in any compromise would not weaken the measure of popular control in the Bill, or do anything which would impose tests on teachers, and that they would insist upon the retention of the clause giving Wales a national council. Whatever might be said as to the influence that had been at work in the Lords with respect to other Amendments, he thought he would be right in stating that the Amendment of the Lords deleting this clause had been dictated by the Welsh Bishops in the House of Lords. And he supposed the only reason that could be advanced for that by the Bishops was that they were afraid to entrust the 220 people of Wales with the religious education of their children. The Leader of the Opposition in several speeches had said that they ought to insist upon full parental control of the religious education of the children. If that was so, then here were the people of Wales—a whole nation—unanimously asking to be entrusted with the religious education of their children. There were differences in the Welsh Party upon many things. He supposed it would be a very difficult thing to assimilate the collectivism of the junior Member for Merthyr with the individualism of the senior Member for Merthyr, and there were many other differences in the Party. But whatever differences of opinion in other matters there might be, the whole of the Welsh Members were unanimous in their desire that the Government should insist upon the retention of this clause. Given this Welsh national council, the religious question would not arise, or if it did he was of opinion that it would be amicably arranged. He had had some experience of education both as regards school boards and intermediate education, and on one occasion he remembered all the members of a school board on which he served were Nonconformists with the exception of the vicar of the parish. The only religious instruction given to the children consisted of a prayer, the singing of a hymn, and the ordinary observances of that kind, but the vicar proposed that they should give simple Bible teaching. Strange to say, the whole of the Nonconformist members of the board agreed to that without any quarrel or difficulty whatever, and the agreement was still in force. He was in favour of religious teaching in the schools, and he was therefore pained that some of his closest friends on that side of the House had swallowed the bait so carefully laid for them by the hon. Member for Burnley in his "secular" Resolution. He had heard it said on Labour platforms—"Look at the economic condition of this country, the poverty on the one hand, and the riches on the other, notwithstanding that you have had twenty centuries of the Christian religion." He agreed that the Christian religion did not exercise the power it might, but he was horrified to contemplate what the economic condition of the 221 working people of the country would have been were it not for those twenty centuries of the influence of the Christian religion. The question which naturally occurred to a Welshman was why the Welsh Bishops were afraid of trusting the religious education of the children to the Welsh people. After a careful survey of what was said in the House of Lords it occurred to him that one reason was that the Welsh Bishops wished to punish the Welsh people for the sins of the President of the Board of Trade. It was told—he thought it was in Shakespeare—that Edward the Fourth was persuaded that someone whose name began with the letter C was to be the cause of his downfall, and, as the result of that, he sent the poor Duke of Clarence to the Tower. He thought the President of the Board of Trade would have preferred that the Welsh Bishops should have sent him to the Tower rather than expunge from the Bill the clause giving Wales a Welsh Council. The real reason why the Welsh Bishops were opposed to entrusting the religious education of the children to the people was because in the long past their predecessors so neglected their duty, and allowed not only the education of the children, but all religious observance, to fall into such a state of degradation, that they lost, and had never regained, the control and influence they should have in religious matters with the Welsh people. For a hundred years after the Reformation, dissent in Wales was unknown, and then a few stalwarts, who felt that the fetters of the Established Church bound them down, and that its practices were not for the elevation of the people, commenced a religious campaign in the Principality, with the result that places of worship sprang up until there was a place for every man, woman and child. Men coming from the mine, the forge, or the shop, built up with their own hands the little places of worship on the hillsides, and these were the people to whom the four Welsh Bishops refused to entrust the religious education of the children. He was glad to believe that the activities and the purity of the Church had much improved of late years; but what had occurred in the little village he was born in and where he lived might be taken 222 as typical of what had taken place all over the principality. Long ago, before he was born, Nonconformist places of worship provided seats for every man, woman and child. The Established Church was there, and worshipped in a small long room above a public house; while the vicar had a large mansion and extensive grounds on a most beautiful site. A new vicar came, and perhaps felt the qualms of conscience which David experienced on one occasion, that he should dwell in a splendid mansion while the ark of God was dwelling in a tent. The vicar put a lot of activity into the matter, collected money from his few members, and built a little church in the village.
said he did not see what this had to do with the question before the House. The hon. Member must keep to the paint.
MR. T. RICHARDS
said he was sorry: if he was out of order, but it had occurred to him that the refusal of the Bishops to trust Welshmen with the education of the children called for some indication of their work in the past. He would only add, to show the religious intolerance they met with sometimes, that the Bishop in consecrating the building, said, "Thank God, the little village had a church at last!" He hoped that whatever the Government did with other matters they would, in compliment to the unanimous desire of the Welsh representatives in the House, insist that the clause entrusting to the Welsh people the control of education in Wales should be retained. It came to this, that the voice of thirty-four publicly elected Members of the House of Commons were to be ignored, and the voice of four Bishops, who were never seen nor heard by 90 per cent. of the people, were to dictate the policy with regard to education in Wales. He hoped the Government would not be led away by those Bishops who had tasted the sweets of privilege, and like the followers of Ulysses, had forgotten their country and their homes.
§ *MR. CARLILE
said that on that side of the House they regretted the reception which had been accorded to the Amendments of the House of Lords, because they 223 believed that they were reasonable They believed that the religious instruction of the school ought to be given within school hours, and they did not consider that it was a reasonable thing that that religious instruction should be fixed to be given out of school hours and be placed in such a position as to convey to the children's minds the idea that the subject was of a secondary character and was of so little importance that the instruction in regard to it might be imparted at times outside school hours. For their part as Churchmen they believed that religious instruction ought to be an integral part of the child's education. They did not believe in any education which did not rest upon a religious basis. They would rather that children in whom they took an interest should be without any education at all than that they should have merely secular education, and, therefore, they believed that religious instruction should be given in the school hours. They thought that the provision inserted by the Lords was eminently reasonable, and that it was reasonable was shown by the attitude of the President of the Board of Education himself. The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well, and he had not hesitated to state it, that the country and he himself were in favour of religious instruction in the schools. If such instruction was believed by the people to be essential why should it be given outside of school hours? Any parent who desired that his child should not receive religious instruction could withdraw his child from it. The President of the Board of Education had reminded the House, he was sure quite rightly, that references to Huddersfield might be misleading in some respects. It would be a great mistake for hon. Members to suppose that during the whole of the school hours in Huddersfield the name of God was excluded. Such wild statements had, however, been made, but some of them who knew something of the West Riding were aware that that was not the case in Huddersfield. They knew that in Huddersfield at the opening of the schools there was the singing of a hymn and the reading of a passage from Scripture and the Lord's Prayer. All of those pro- 224 ceedings were very devoutly carried out, but he did not think that anybody could contend that that was religious instruction. [Cries of "Why not?"] He would ask whether in the case of geography or arithmetic or any other secular subject it would be considered that the children were receiving instruction in those subjects if the teacher merely read a chapter of arithmetic or geography and the matter ended there. It was not religious instruction, especially in view of the fact that no examination of any kind in religious knowledge was permitted in these council schools. He, therefore, thought they were justified in saying that in Huddersfield there was no religious instruction. It was a deplorable thing that among the eight or nine thousand children attending the council schools there, there should be a large number of children who, so far as the week-day was concerned, never got any religious instruction. The hon. Member for West Monmouth had spoken of Sunday schools. He had the greatest respect for the Sunday school teachers and for the work they did, but, after all, they were not trained to impart knowledge with the aptitude of the regular teacher in the school. It was, therefore, a fallacy to suppose that Sunday school teaching could take the place of the religious instruction given in the denominational schools. In some of the schools in the large boroughs where religious instruction was not given, the books of moral maxims which were used in place of religious instruction were, he thought, somewhat mischievious. For instance, Hackwood's book of moral maxims, which was used in the West Riding, commenced with the maxim that honesty was the best policy; but the man who was honest only so long as it was the best policy was a rogue, and he would be sorry to let him have the run of his pockets. There was not the power behind these moral maxims that lay behind Holy Scripture to fasten on the mind of the child, and character could not be built up upon them. Therefore, they were glad that the Lords had put the religious instruction in the school hours. They also approved that trustees should execute their trusts, and that the wishes of the pious founders should be considered. Power was given by a special 225 Amendment proposed by the President of the Board of Education, at the suggestion of hon. Members who sat in Opposition, to private owners to carry out the reconstructions of their own schools, and it was only reasonable that in another place that power should have been extended to trustees who were in a position analagous to that of the private owners. It was only right that they also should have the opportunity to submit a scheme to the local education authority, who should if they approved the scheme, sanction the necessary payments. By the Lords' Amendment the concessions made in this House had been made real instead of their being only the intentions and good wishes of the President of the Board of Education. The right hon. Gentleman, when they desired to be assured that the local authorities would be reasonable, had always replied that it could not be supposed that the local authorities would be unreasonable. But they could not trust the local authorities, and they should not be asked to do so; he was glad that another place had taken that view, and instead of leaving the local authorities the power of granting or refusing the facilities had made it mandatory on them to grant them. With regard to religious tests, he did not believe that real tests had ever existed. The so-called tests still existed under this Bill. Everybody knew that if a teacher was to give religious instruction in a school of a particular denomination those who had the appointment of the teacher ought to exercise the right of ascertaining that the teacher believed in the religion the doctrines of which he was to expound. Nothing could be more destructive of religious faith in the minds of the children than the knowledge, which they would soon acquire, that the teacher was not a believer in the faith he or she taught. If there was to be religious instruction in the schools there should also be inspection in religious knowledge. But while religious instruction was now given in some schools, no attempt was made to focus the religious knowledge of the children by means of inspection, and it was only reasonable that there should be some provision which should admit of examination in this matter. For these and other reasons he ventured to express the hope 226 that the House would adopt, if not as a whole at least to some extent, the Amendments made in another place.
*MR. HAY MORGAN (Cornwall, Truro)
heartily congratulated the Government on the strong action they had taken in regard to the Amendments sent down from another place. He knew very little about the technical side of the question as to how these Amendments ought to be dealt with by the House, but his general experience taught him that the first thing to do was to make up one's mind as to the right line to take, and, that being done, go as strongly on that line as possible. The Government, having made up their mind to reject the Lords' Amendments, could not go too strongly in that direction. They should have no fear of their action. He knew statements were being made outside about the risk which was being run by the course they were adopting, but he thought they could afford to wait with equanimity until they saw what the Lords would do in the matter. The other House had completely transmogrified the Government Bill. They had knocked it completely out of recognition. The Bill was now far more sectarian than even the Act of 1902. The Lords had completely changed the tone, spirit, and intention of the Bill. A Resolution was proposed in this House at the commencement of the session in favour of secular instruction in public schools. He was one who voted against that Resolution, and he did so because he hoped it was possible to find a way out of the difficulty. He thought it was of the highest importance that the children should have the Bible placed before them, and he had hoped it was possible to devise some means of still retaining the Bible instruction in the school, but he was bound to say that at the present time the action taken by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite and by Members of another place had thoroughly convinced him there was no chance of educational peace in the public elementary schools in this country until secular instruction alone were given in them. In 1870 the Nonconformist leaders of the country championed that course, and they were only 227 drawn to Cowper-Templeism as a compromise. If the Lords refused to accept this Bill, he believed that Nonconformity as a whole would revert to the battle for secular instruction and would insist on no interference on the part of the State with anything connected with religion. The Bill as it came down from the Lords retained the tests for teachers. The hon. Baronet, the Member for Oxford University had said the Government had introduced into the Bill a clause with regard to religious tests far more drastic than anything that had been put in by another place. That was somewhat unfair, and indeed ungracious on the part of the hon. Baronet. Clause 11 was only brought in for the purpose of dealing with a temporary condition of affairs. At most the schools dealt with there could only be in existence two years, and more than that, the very part of the clause which the hon. Baronet charged the Government with having inconsistently introduced was accepted by the Government as an Amendment from the other side, and a few malcontents, including himself, voted against the Government on the point. Under the Bill as it had come down from the Peers the teacher was to have liberty to volunteer to give denominational instruction. So far as his experience and observation went, that meant that in the villages, at any rate, it would be equal to compulsion—not compulsion in law, of course, but compulsion by circumstances. He believed that under this method in the villages they would have teachers doing lip service to a faith which their mind and conscience did not approve. The trustees would have money which they would be able to use in the payment of the teachers for giving religious instruction. To his mind that would become a bribe to the teachers. It ought not to be, but they were dealing with human beings, and those who were sometimes in a condition where £10 or £20 made all the difference between finding it difficult to make both ends meet and being in a state of comparative opulence. It was placing in the way of the teacher a temptation which the State had no right to sanction. No one had any objection to the teacher getting £10 or £20 above 228 his usual salary, but he did strongly object to that money being paid for the purpose of getting him to profess a certain faith. He believed it was a fond fallacy of some members of the Church of England that by these means they were increasing the number of adherents to their faith. [Opposition cries of "No."] That had been said, though he would put a charitable construction upon it. They could not have believers who were created either by bribery or coercion. Hypocrites were made by that means—never true converts. He agreed that in certain senses the religious test would be difficult absolutely to abolish. There were insidious methods of finding out the religious faith of a teacher. But if they could not altogether abolish tests they could at least prohibit the teachers from giving denominational instruction, and so give them the best protection possible. Clause 7 was to his mind a very important clause, and he very much regretted that the President of the Board of Education feared it would be necessary to drop it. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the old conscience clause was not used to any great extent, because the burden fell not upon the right shoulders, but upon the shoulders of the children. Those who pushed these little children into the forefront of the religious battle, making their sensitive minds and affectionate hearts—always yearning for sympathy—the mark for the sarcasm of the village parson or, still worse, the mark of the public opinion of their little world, were guilty of one of the meanest, most cowardly, and contemptible things he knew of. Let the burden fall upon the right shoulders. Let it fall on the parents, as it would fall if Clause 7 were retained. The Government was divided upon this point. He understood the President of the Board of Education to say there were three Cabinet Ministers who voted against this clause. He wondered who this trinity of powerful personalities could be that they could master the Cabinet and override and overrule a majority of forty-seven in this House. Could they not sink their powerful personalities for a time and let the House decide this matter? Surely the President of the Board of Education had worked hard enough, and he had told them this was his own 229 pet clause. The right hon. Gentleman had worked while the others had slumbered, and if they were there that night he would like to ask them to assist in passing this clause. The hon. Member for Mid Herts made out that if Clause 7 were retained some children would receive no religious instruction at all. There were a couple of very significant figures in that connection. There were in the public elementary schools to-day under the whip-hand of the school attendance officer and the compulsion of the magistrates acting upon the parents, nearly 5,000,000 scholars, whereas in the Sunday schools, an absolutely voluntary organisation, there were nearly 8,000,000 scholars. Making every allowance, the difference between the two figures was very large indeed. There were very few children who were not attached to some Sunday school. The Government Bill was a great advance from an educational point of view in that it improved the machinery for education, and for that reason he devoutly hoped it would pass. He had no expectation that it would settle the religious difficulty, and he had no particular desire that it should do so, although he agreed that the State schools should not be made the battle-ground for contending sects. The President of the Board of Education had hinted at concessions. He regarded the suggestion as a rope that was thrown to a drowning man. He hoped the House of Lords would take hold of the rope and save themselves. Personally he had no desire to save them, but they had got the Education Bill in their pockets, and he wanted to save that. If they clutched the rope they would be brought dripping, but safe, to land and the Bill would be saved too.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devonshire, Honiton)
said the issue between the different parties in the House was very clearly defined on this question. He thought it was important that those sitting on the Ministerial side should realise what were the feelings and motives which actuated the Opposition in the line they were taking. The speech of the hon. Member for Truro had proved to be a valuable contribution to the debate, and had made it clear what principles were at stake. Some months ago the Secretary 230 to the Board of Education pointed out that the churches were unable to give religious teaching which was at all adequate to the needs of the children, and as the parents were either incompetent or unwilling to do it themselves he argued that the State must come in and connect religious teaching with the teaching in the schools. He believed that it was necessary and desirable that the State should, at all events, if it did not undertake religious instruction itself, encourage it in the schools and lay down the principle for the guidance of local authorities that there should be religious teaching every day in every school. If they looked across the Channel, they would at once see what the separation of religion from the teaching in the schools was leading to. In France at the present moment they were carrying out to the full the principles of some hon. Members opposite. They had recently resolved to delete from the coins of the State in France the words "God protect France," and the same country gloried in the fact that their educational policy had destroyed a belief in the supernatural and prayers to an Almighty Being. Those were the things which made them fight earnestly for religious teaching in the schools. When the action of the House of Lords in regard to this Bill was understood, the country would say that they were right, and the people would refuse to follow such examples as he had indicated, and would insist upon maintaining a high standard of religious teaching. That was what they were now contending for, and he believed that in the end they would win.
§ *MR. ADKINS (Lancashire, Middleton)
said in these days of acute crisis he addressed the House with a sense of diffidence and a consciousness of how easy it was on such an occasion to render a difficult position still more difficult by words of provocation or words not carefully considered. He regretted, though he frankly acknowledged the necessity, that the imperative demands of time and procedure had made it impossible for the Government to accept the Amendments which the Earl of Crewe had 231 accepted in the House of Lords, because he believed those Amendments would indicate to the country the moderation of the Government's position and the desire which was felt by many of the Government's supporters that some settlement of this great and difficult question should be reached as soon as possible. He most cordially and loyally supported the Government in their decision as to procedure and as to the rejection of those Amendments, which individually were plausible, but collectively impossible. He thought it was very doubtful whether many of those Members of the other House who were responsible for this sinister sequence of Amendments realised how urgently a solution of the problem was required and what extreme difficulty there would be if the education question was not advanced by legislation. It had been in many parts of the country the tolerant and wise policy of the local authorities to exhibit perhaps an undue laxity in the way they had allowed the owners of privately managed schools to neglect their duties of putting their fabrics into proper order and of fulfilling the very mild demands of the Act of 1902. He knew that in one county, of the education authority of which he was a member, there were many schools in a condition quite unsuitable for the proper conduct of education, which had been allowed to remain in an unsatisfactory condition because of the tolerance and consideration of the authority who had waited for Parliament to deal with the matter. When Members were tempted to reject the Bill because they thought the Government would be landed in administrative difficulties passing the wit of man to solve, he would remind them that many of these administrative problems were due to the extreme tolerance and consideration of local authorities, and that the desire of practical men, who were merely concerned for educational efficiency, would not be too long delayed, and the perils of rejecting the Bill would be felt by the owners of these unsuitable schools even more than by the Government. They were all interested in the difficult problems connected with religious education, but those who had spent a good deal of time in trying to carry out Acts of Parliament knew that other aspects of the education problem were just as pressing 232 as that connected with religion. He wished to thank the Government for all they had done in Part II. of the Bill, and he thanked the President for the whole tone of the speech which he delivered yesterday, which showed that he realised, what practical men of all Parties realised, that local education authorities were not hotbeds of fanatical dissenters or coteries of obscurantist churchmen, but were really representative of the whole community, and must be trusted if the education of the country was to be carried on efficiently and vigorously. He was not very sanguine, but he hoped that at any rate in regard to Part II. of the Bill, embracing matters of extreme importance under the heads of delegation, medical inspection, development of secondary education, and matters of administration that pressed for solution, no conflict between the two Houses on theological grounds would prevent that part of the Bill from speedily becoming law. He was one of those who had never been hostile to the Bill as introduced, and still less had he been hostile to it in the form in which it went to the other House. If further concessions were to be made, they should be concessions in matters of detail which would not affect the principles of the measure—principles which had been affirmed over and over again at many elections. The principle in the Bill to which they on that side were determined to be loyal was that there should be within the reach of every child in the country an elementary school absolutely and entirely under local popular control—one in which the religious teaching was of that general kind which appealed to all except the great religious bodies to whom special treatment was given in the Bill; unless there was such a school within the reach of every child there was no room for concessions, but when such schools were universal he welcomed every effort made to give honest and considerate concessions. But the Lords had destroyed that universal school of the civic type, which was absolutely essential if the system of education was to be really national. The moment they had this system firmly established in single school areas, then, and not till then was the way clear for exceptional and special treatment for those who required it. Everyone of the concessions which the President of 233 the Board of Education had declared he was prepared to consider appeared to be consistent with the maintenance of a national system, but no one on that side of the House could be expected to give a complete and wholehearted adhesion to any of these adumbrated Amendments unless they knew how they were to work out under a final settlement. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken, for instance, of reducing the four-fifths majority under Clause 4 to three-fourths. On the question of principle there was little room for difference of opinion. The policy of the Government was to give exceptional treatment wherever there was a community within a community—a body of persons who, having made sacrifices according to their conscientious convictions, were separate and distinct from the community as a whole—and that might well be achieved by a throe-fourths majority. But he for one trusted that the Government, even at the price of losing the Bill, would say that it should be a three-fourths majority of all the parents of the children attending the schools, and not a three-fourths majority of those who could be induced by any persuasion to vote. The real test should be whether a community within the community really desired the special treatment. It had been suggested that it was possible that under certain circumstances the teachers who were appointed by the local authority without any religious test might be allowed to teach the specialised religion in the schools in which they were employed if the local authority permitted them. The essential thing was that such permission should really be a permission to genuine volunteers, and should not be an oblique method of exerting pressure and imposing a test. He hoped the procedure of the House of Commons would be interpreted elsewhere in the spirit in which the Prime Minister spoke—a spirit neither of defiance nor insult, but a spirit of moderation and of keeping the door open for a settlement. If it was interpreted in that way elsewhere there was yet a possibility of settling this great question. On the question of the fundamental principle they and hon. Members opposite must agree to differ, and respect each others conscientious convictions, but within those wide limits there were infinite possibilities of agreement. He 234 hoped those on that side of the House would do all they could to support the Government, with loyalty to those great principles and in the moderation of temper and method by which they still hoped the Bill might become law, and by which he believed the great problem of national education would be advanced a long step for the benefit of all sections of the community and to the satisfaction of all who cared for the better education of the children of the country.
§ *MR. BRIDGEMAN
said the hon. Member for the Truro Division had stated that while they all recognised that differences of opinion prevailed in regard to religious matters they ought to respect one another's opinions, though they could not all agree. It was because he believed that, that he had come to the conclusion that the only possible solution of the question was to respect whatever religious opinion everybody held. The hon. Gentleman opposite spoke with very great feeling in regard to Clause 7, and the right hon. the Minister for Education had addressed to the House many touching words on that particular point; but both spoke as if the conscience clause was one which affected the children, and not the parents. Neither of them seemed to have sufficiently grasped the point that the people who had to make up their minds on the question of religious instruction were not the children, but the parents. He wished to save the children from such a position as had been described by the hon. Gentleman opposite; and he was quite sure that he represented the views of every one on those benches in admiring all who had the courage of their opinions. He did not believe in a picture that had been drawn of the danger which existed in the country schools. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the children were biassed by being offered school treats.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said that what he had stated was that the children did not get the school treats unless they got the religious instruction.
§ *MR. BRIDGEMAN
said there were treats on both sides, and his argument would have more weight if 235 there were no such things as chapel treats. The argument for rejecting all these Amendments had been based mainly on the contention that they violated in some way, not explained, the mandate given by the country to the Government. He believed that the mandate was that in single school districts where the Church teaching was the only teaching which could be received, the Nonconformists believed that it was unfair to compel them to choose between Church teaching and no religious teaching whatever. What they demanded was that if they objected to Church teaching, they should be allowed to have Cowper-Temple teaching rather than no teaching at all. There was nothing in the Amendments in the House of Lords to contravene that mandate. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the House that no one voted at the general election on the education question with the idea that the parents would have anything to say in the matter. He was in a position to say that that was not the case in the division which he represented. His opponent had said that the State should confine itself to giving secular instruction, and if the parents chose to do so they could let teachers go into the schools and impart religious instruction. That was what the Minister of Education called pan-denominationalism, and what the hon. Member for North Camberwell described as pandemonium. On another occasion his opponent said that there should be no denominational teaching in. the school against the wishes of the parents of the children. That was exactly what the Bill as it came from the Lords provided. The right hon. Gentleman had also claimed a mandate for popular control and no tests for teachers, but there was no mandate for popular control which could only be exercised on one side of the question. What sort of popular control was it when the whole number of parents in a parish might desire one kind of teaching and not be able to get it? One might just as well say that a person could have either beef or mutton, but there was no beef. It was as if when he wanted to dine in this House, and he went into the dining-room, he was told by the hon. Member for West Derbyshire that he could only have Resurrection pie or weak 236 soup, while the Jews might have their Kosher meat and the Catholics their fish, because the hon. Member for Louth, who was a shining light of the Nonconformists, had decided, however, that what was good enough for him was good enough for everybody else except the Jews and the Roman Catholics. What was the use of calling it popular control when it was only popular control so long as it suited the hon. Member for Louth? It was nothing of the sort. In the same way the cry about the abolition of tests for teachers was only useful for platform speeches and was not a reality. The Government had said that they were giving freedom to teachers in this matter. He said that they were doing the reverse, and so far from giving them freedom they were compelling them to decide in only one way. He would give an illustration. Only a few days before they had had under consideration the Provision of Meals for Children Bill, and it was urged that the teacher should be relieved from the necessity of presiding at those meals outside the school hours, and words were put in providing that no teacher in a public elementary school should be required as part of his duties to supervise or assist, or abstain from supervising or assisting, in the provision of meals. That was claimed as giving freedom to the teachers in this matter He had moved an Amendment to this Bill exactly to that effect, that the teacher should not be compelled either to give or to abstain from giving any particular form of religious teaching in the schools, and that it should not be a condition of their employment. That Amendment was not, however, accepted, but if such a provision constituted freedom in the case of a Provision of Meals Bill why was it not freedom under the Education Bill, which involved much more important questions? He could understand people appointing teachers and the teachers saying, "We are not going to help you with regard to the provision of meals." In that case he could understand the managers saying that they would rather have someone who was more willing, but he could not believe it likely that after a man said, "My conscience does not allow me to do this," he would be compelled to do it. If a man had conscientious objections there were thousands of other places 237 where he could obtain a situation. It was said that the teachers wished for this, but he believed that there was no greater fallacy than that the voluntary school teachers wished for it. What they wished for was freedom in the matter, and in his constituency they had petitioned the House of Lords that they might be allowed to give this teaching, and said that it was insulting them to deprive them of the privilege. He believed that that represented the views of the vast majority of the elementary school teachers, and he did not believe that the resolution of the National Union of School Teachers represented their view. Another reason given for opposing the whole of the Amendments of the House of Lords, which was emphasised very much in the speech of the President of the Board of Education at Bristol a few weeks ago, was that the House of Lords was interfering with the freedom of the local education authority, and they had been told what an insult it was not to leave these matters to the local education authority, who were perfectly competent to deal with them and should not be hampered in any way. If Ministerialists were going to carry that argument to its logical conclusion, why did they not allow the local education authority to settle the time table, the code, and at what age children should be allowed to leave school? Were these things of more importance than the religious teaching of the future generations of the country? He would very much like to know what arguments could be adduced in favour of trusting the local education authority on this point and not trusting it on the others which he had mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman did not trust the local education authority fully. He was merely trusting them to do what he and those who supported the Government said was in the interest of the particular cause they advocated and of the mandate which they professed to have got from the country. The Government were not giving the local education authority a free hand, and until they did so he could not see that they had any right to claim that there should be no appeal to the Board of Education in this matter. Another point which the President of the Board of Education complained 238 of bitterly at Bristol was that there would be appeals on the ground that, although the schools were structurally fit, the local education authority would not take them over. But it had always been part of the duty of the Board of Education to see that the sanitary condition of the schools was kept up, not to the standard of the local education authority, but to the standard of the Board of Education. It was said that there would be 7,000 appeals in regard to structural questions but how did that add to the work of the Board of Education if that Board had already satisfied themselves that the structures were so built as to come up to modern requirements? It did not add one jot to their work, and to say that the local education authority was entirely free from the jurisdiction of the Board of Education was to say what he did not believe one-tenth of hon. Members opposite wished, because these authorities were to be free on this point only, namely, to carry out the views which hon. Members wanted to enforce. It was very difficult indeed to discuss Amendments of the House of Lords under existing conditions because they had not the slightest idea of what hon. Members opposite would agree to; they had not the slightest idea of what would satisfy them in the way of alteration in the Amendments made in another place, because the Government had deprived them of any kind of knowledge of the reality of their pretended concessions and of the possibility of testing the reality of those Amendments which they desired, or of discussing anyone of them. If they had intended to give way they might have said so before; they might have said so even to-day, and he took as a sign that they did not wish to confirm the concessions they had made the extraordinary course they had adopted in this debate. The fact was that they wished to avoid the dilemma in which they would be put by having to discuss Clause 1 and Clause 4 as separate questions. Up to now they had tried to speak with a double voice to different sections in this House and in the country. Now, having found it impossible to continue to speak with a double voice, they had made up their minds not to speak at all.
§ MR. MASSIE (Wiltshire, Cricklade)
said, that in opposing these Amendments in this manner, the Government had taken the only course open to them to take with due respect to themselves and to this House whose executive they were. It remained for the House of Lords to take the next step, and they in this House could look forward to the step without any apprehension. The constitutional question had been raised in a way which embittered half the religious population of the country, which re-enforced political conviction with religious fervour, and which, therefore, brought the end nearer, and would make the revolution, when it came, more complete. Outside the circle of the different religions and churches, there were many who had keen political conviction and who, if they had no religious fervour, had a substitute for it in the feeling of genuine contempt with which they looked upon ecclesiastic manœuvring and churches fighting for the spoil. They did not understand the conscience that in the last resort meant the demand for public money and for power to persecute; the conscience, not governed by any settled and universal principle, but by the squeezableness of Governments and the prospects of success. But they did understand the principles of those religious people who sought nothing for themselves but equal rights with their fellow-citizens and equal for child, parent, and teacher. And they could understand the resentment felt by these religious people when it was proposed that a school should be handed over to a church provided that one-third of the children could find accommodation elsewhere, somewhere, anywhere; for what mattered it, so long as the children were, like Tom Hood's unfortunate, "anywhere, anywhere out of the world"? It now remained for the Lords to say whether they would withdraw from their attitude of wanton disregard of the general election and of the majority the election had sent to this House. The President of the Board of Education had plainly left the door open; it might be that the door was not opened wide, but it was open wide enough. The question was whether in fact it was not opened too wide. To open a back door to the 240 test on teachers was a delicate and dangerous operation If the teacher, with all his influence upon the children, and with all the outside influences that could be brought to bear upon himself was still to remain the teacher of the Church the rural electors who had returned the Government, to power would say they had been sold. If the committee of the parents was to have power equal to that of the local authority or perhaps greater, having the power of veto; if they could put a spoke in the wheel of the local authority, then there would be, as the snuff-taking Highlander said, "grand accommodation," grand accommodation for canvassing, misleading, manipulation, and intimidation, especially in those districts, where the powers that were held sway. And if women were to be eligible for the committee elected by parents they might have a repetition of that quartet of foundation managers: the vicar, the vicar's wife, the vicar's daughter, and the late vicar's housekeeper. There would then be lively times for those who were advocates of real public control and who desired to free our villages from the sinister influence of sectarianism. But supposing the Lords were obstinate and the Bill was dropped, that would be only one of the penalties to be paid for the state of the Constitution as it was, and which would always have to be paid until that state was changed. However, the Government with their support could still do a great deal to improve the education of the country. They could repent of their long neglect. They could fall back upon the strong recommendation of the Conservative Royal Commission of 1888 which had not yet been carried into effect, and which was that the measurement basis per child should be raised from seven, eight, or nine feet to ten feet. That was the rule in all new schools, and the health of the children in the old schools was as important as that of the children in the new schools. It might mean the extension of buildings at the cost of the denominations. It might mean the diminution of numbers in attendance and the diminution of grants, at the expense of the same defaulters. It might also mean the building of new council schools in many districts, but it 241 need not mean the raising of rates. A money Bill could divert the £1,000,000 set apart in. this Education Bill to purposes other, and perhaps even better, than the extravagant tenderness of the promoters of the Bill originally designed. That £1,000,000 could stand for the interest and sinking fund of a capital sum of some £28,000,000 to £30,000,000 lent to the local authorities to build people's schools where sectarianism would for ever cease from troubling. All on the Ministerial side of the House, at any rate, were looking forward to that day, and the Government could easily hasten its dawn. That expedient would largely case the situation. It would relax what was really an intolerable strain. The rejection of this Bill would not only raise in a bulkier form the question of the constitutional abuse, but also the spectre of a religious quarrel whose issues might finally be as drastic as those in France—a quarrel not between Nonconformists and the Church, but a quarrel between the State and clericalism. The English people were said to be not so quick as the French in seeing what the logical outcome of a process was, but though they were slow, when once they were on the move they were steady and sure. They would destroy no Church, but they would deliver the State. They would set the Church free, without any overwhelming pecuniary encumbrance, to go on its way rejoicing in the fulfilment of its spiritual destiny within the bounds of civic justice and civic safety. When that day came those who, unlike himself, had the larger part of their work before them might be alive to look back without regret to the not unmixed misfortune of the loss of this outmanœuvred, metamorphosed, perverted Education Bill.
§ MR. LANE-FOX (Yorkshire, W.R., Barkston Ash)
appealed for more breadth of view, so that the feelings which he believed a great many Members of the Opposition were ready to allow to hon. Members on the Government side, should be allowed in part to them. Surely the only chance of putting the question upon a permanent basis was to admit that all Parties and all creeds had strong convictions which called for respect. The hon. Member for Middleton had told them that he saw great dangers to the Church 242 of England and to education in the rejection of this Bill and how much he admired certain provisions of the Bill. There were certain provisions which all Parties were anxious to pass, and if they were put into a Bill and brought before the House there ought to be no difficulty in passing them. It was because of the wholly impractical religious difficulty imported, and which was in part removed by some of the Amendments of another place, that it had been impossible to accept the Bill on the Opposition side of the House. The perils to education he fully granted, but, it seemed to him, they had far better imperil the cause of education a little longer if as a result they could have a final and permanent settlement. He did not believe the policy adopted by hon. Gentlemen opposite was one that would secure such a settlement, and he hoped in his heart that they were not going to persist in this uncompromising attitude to the Amendments which had come down from the Lords. When hon. Gentlemen spoke of the sinister influences of sectarianism and used other rounded periods of a similar nature it appeared to be impossible to expect a final settlement. If hon. Members would put their heads together and realise that there were convictions on both sides he believed that in course of time, if not now, they might achieve a better result. He did not see the force of the argument that it would not have been possible to consider these Amendments seriatim or in detail. He could not believe that if an ageement were entered into between the great Parties of this House to carry a certain business in a certain time that business could not be carried out satisfactorily. What were they to expect from the attitude of the hon. Gentleman who said the reason for refusing these Amendments en bloc was because of the place whence they came and in order to shew their contempt for the other House? Was that an argument that was likely to be listened to by the other House? It seemed to him that if the Government desired deliberately to provoke a conflict with the House of Lords they could not find a more certain way of doing it than the course they were adopting in regard to these Amendments. What was the real intention of the Government? They wanted to 243 know what they were prepared to accept, and what they were prepared to stand firm upon. The most important questions to be dealt with were the Amendments dealing with the facilities to be given in provided schools and whether the teachers were to be allowed to give that instruction. When every child in the country could obtain Cowper-Temple teaching free of cost, surely it was not a great deal to ask that those parents who required some different form of religious instruction for their children should be allowed to obtain it at their own expense. That concession was considered to be a breach of a great principle. The hon. Member for Louth had told them that the one question on which he was prepared to resist was the question of extra facilities in schools outside urban areas. It had been pointed out time after time that the urban area was the most ridiculous and most useless distinction they could possibly make. What they had always complained of was that there should be this inequality of treatment between one school and another, and what they wanted was fairness all round. He thought the parents of the children in rural districts would value religious instruction as highly as the parents of the children in urban districts. They also desired to know what was the position of the Government in regard to the question of the three-fourths majority. They wanted to know what was going to happen in regard to facilities for Cowper-Temple teaching in Clause 4 schools and what safeguards were going to be adopted. All that the Lords had done by their Amendments was to make the safeguards in the Bill realities instead of shams. The speeches which had been made by hon. Members on the Ministerial side had done nothing to make a compromise on this question any easier, and unless they got a more satisfactory expression of opinion from the Government the House of Lords would be doing a great injustice to those people who believed in denominational teaching if they did not stand firm by their Amendments and maintain the position they had taken up. Two great cardinal principles appeared to underlie the speeches of hon. Members opposite. One of them was a 244 very strong hatred of the House of Lords and the other was an equally strong hatred of the Church of England. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh, oh!"]
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he would like to ask what were the intentions of the Government in regard to this debate. He presumed that if the adjournment of the debate was agreed to now it would be on the distinct understanding that if there was any desire to continue the debate on Thursday the Government would offer no opposition to that course. He was not at all sure that that course would be necessary, but he should like to know, if there was a desire to continue the discussion of the Lords' Amendments on Thursday, whether the Leader of the House would offer any objection.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
thought that this debate might have gone on a little longer, but perhaps it would be most convenient to adjourn it now and resume it to-morrow. If they found that the debate was not exhausted by to-morrow night there would, of course, be no objection to the debate's going over.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.