HC Deb 03 July 1906 vol 159 cc1639-42
MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he would arrange to have the Education Bill reprinted so that they might have Clause 4 before them in its present shape, and, also, how he proposed to ascertain the wishes of the House in respect of the new Clause 3 before they reached Clause 8?


thought it would be very convenient to have a reprint of the Bill, and he would issue orders accordingly. He quite agreed that the new clause stood in a somewhat difficult position. Clause 8 would come on, in ordinary course, to-morrow, and he apprehended that it must be discussed as it stood now upon the Paper. The new clause was introduced because he held the view, perhaps mistakenly, that he was under some obligation, in consequence of what took place in the House, to give a choice in the matter. It was in consequence of the feeling expressed on the other side.

MAJOR SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)

This side.


Then on both sides if you will. I repeat that it was not the Government proposal. Their proposals were as stated in the Bill. A proposal was made by the hon. Member for the University of Oxford that there should be an obligation imposed upon every local education authority to take over every structurally fit school that proposed itself to be taken over. He said that, in his opinion, that ought to be a bi-lateral obligation, and that there should be an obligation on the part of private owners and also of trustees, even although their trusts were what were called of a loose character—trusts which permitted their premises to be applied to non-educational purposes—that they should be taken over too. That proposal was certainly not accepted by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and if he had had the experience he now had of the conduct of measures he would probably have thought it the wiser thing to let the matter drop. But, being anxious to afford facilities for that discussion, he said he would introduce a clause. He did not think it would be fair, however, that he should use the Government majority to compel private owners compulsorily to part with their schools unless it was generally felt that that was a desirable course. Therefore, unless he got some sort of indication—it was very difficult to know to whom he was to look for it—that the clause received some measure of general support, he did not think the Government would persist with it. Although he could not put compulsion on anybody, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were fully entitled to stand on their dignity and say the Government must take its own course, he did think it would be convenient to know what was the view taken of this clause, which was introduced to meet a point by hon. Gentlemen opposite. If it was accepted, Clause 8 would have to be debated in a modified form, but in the absence of any assurance they must go on with Clause 8 as it stood.


asked whether the point which the right hon. Gentleman said the clause was introduced to meet was a pledge given by the Government on the introduction of the Bill that facilities should be given in schools under Clause 3, and whether that was a point which could be ignored by the Government.


said he disputed that altogether. He had read over again the speech he made on that occasion, and he said most unhesitatingly that there was no obligation, expressed or implied, in any part of that speech, on the local authority to take over those schools. He thought he made that perfectly clear as to Clause 3. He invariably used the hypothetical expression"if" the school was transferred, and"if so" again and again. He was not there to defend the precision of his language, and it might very well be that ingenious minds might put another construction upon certain passages. He could not for one moment admit that there was a single word fairly read in his speech, taking the context altogether, which expressed the faintest intention on the part of the Government to impose on every local authority in the country the obligation of taking over voluntary schools, whether they were wanted or not.


asked whether the right hon. Gentleman was correctly reported to have said:—" Thus far the facilities or opportunities I have spoken of have been of a compulsory character"— speaking of Clause 3."When demanded and when required, the authorities must grant them."


said that was the one passage in the whole speech which was ambiguous in its terms. He fully expected to hear it quoted. There were other passages which made it perfectly plain that he contemplated no obligation, and that very likely the schools would not be transferred under that clause.


said that on the strength of the Government pledge an Amendment moved from the Liberal benches was withdrawn.


said he moved the Amendment in question, and after his right hon. friend had given the pledge in very specific terms, he withdrew the Amendment on the advice of the hon. Member for Waterford and against the advice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. The account given by his right hon. friend seemed to him totally at variance with the facts.

MR. SAMUEL EVANS (Glamorganshire, Mid.)

asked whether there was any Question before the House.


We are still at Question time; perhaps the right hon."Gentleman will remember that.


apologised for having exceeded the limits of an Answer to a Question. He was quite willing that the new clause should come on for discussion on the Report stage, if it was wanted. But he still thought he was fairly entitled to ascertain whether the clause was wanted by the House, and he must proceed with Clause 8 on the assumption that the new clause was not wanted.


asked whether it was not the custom, when the Government gave a pledge to introduce a clause, that they should introduce it in accordance with the pledge.

[No reply was given.]

MR. PAUL (Northampton)

hoped his right hon. friend would do nothing to interfere with the burning desire of the Church of England schools for confiscation.