§ Considered in Committee:—
§ (In the Committee.)
§ [Mr. EMMOTT (Oldham) in the Chair.]
§ Clause 4:—
having ruled out of order that Amendments standing in 669 the names of the hon. Members for Spalding, North Hackney, Glasgow and Aberdeen University, Chichester, Ludlow, Wycombe and Preston,
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL (Aston Manor)
moved to insert the word "shall" in place of "may." His desire in so doing was to obtain equal treatment for all denominations so that they should be enabled to obtain extended facilities. If the purposes of the clause were carried out, every denomination ought to have equal rights to extended facilities, but from what they had learnt it was perfectly clear that the local education authorities in different parts of the country would not mete out equal treatment to the parents who applied. Even the other day the County Council for the West Riding of Yorkshire had done its best to drive a coach and six through the Act of 1902, and under these circumstances it was legitimate to ask what would occur in many parts, Wales, for instance, granting the word "may" remained and "shall" was not inserted. Supposing in the case of a small village in Wales four-fifths of the parents applied for extended facilities. What guarantee was there that the local education authority would accede to their request? It was most important, in view of what had happened in the West Riding of Yorkshire and Wales and elsewhere, that Parliament should clearly explain its intentions and make this clause mandatory. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Education had said more than once that he did not intend these extended facilities to be illusory. If that was his view he could hardly fail to accept the Amendment. He could not see how the clause could be otherwise than illusory if it was not made mandatory. The right hon. Gentleman had just given notice of a number of other Amendments which, made confusion worse confounded. He had spent some time in trying to find out how they were to affect this clause, but he did not see that they covered the whole ground, though some filled up the gaps now admittedly left open in drafting the Bill.
§ DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)
said it was impossible to carry on the debate without referring to the Amendments of the right hon. Gentleman, and 670 personally he had no objection to their being discussed at this time, but he would like to know whether it was in order.
said that on the Question of "may" or "shall" now under consideration there did arise considerations affecting many, if not all, of the Amendments proposed by the President of the Board of Education. Therefore he thought that it would be for the convenience of the Committee that the general effect of the Government Amendments should be discussed on the present Amendment to some extent, but that attempts to amend those Amendments in detail must be left until they were reached.
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL,
continuing, said he failed to see how the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, which started on the assumption that the local education authority refused to agree to an arrangement with the owners of the schoolhouse, covered the whole ground of Clause 4. Take this case. He would assume that the schoolhouse had been transferred. After an interval of some months, or years, the parents of four-fifths of the children in the particular district desired to get extended facilities for their children. The schoolhouse had already been handed over to the use of the local education authority, and the local authority refused to grant the facilities. What was to happen after that? Therefore as he did not see that the Amendments of the right hon Gentleman grappled adequately with the question he felt that his own Amendment was all the more necessary. It was much the simpler way of dealing with the matter. The alteration of "may" to "shall" was plain and simple legislation, while the Amendments of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to him to be very complicated. It was easy to imagine from existing circumstances what different tempers local education authorities might be in. In one case the local education authority might be in the humour to refuse the facilities altogether. In another they might be in the humour to refuse them to Church of England parents, but not to Roman Catholics or to Jews. Such a thing would be an act of gross injustice, and certainly was not intended by Parliament. Then 671 why should not Parliament say so in the Bill? Further, if the local education authority was left to decide the question of giving facilities to four-fifths of the children, there would be a serious risk of religious quarrels at every local election, and he ventured to think that if the right hon. Gentleman did not make the clause mandatory the religious difficulty would continue as much in the future as in the past. They applied for equal treatment, it was not so long ago that the Prime Minister, speaking at Norwich on November 26th, 1904, said—We want the child to be brought up in the faith of his father at least until he comes to such an age as to be qualified to be a judge of a faith for himself.The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the object of the Liberal Party was to secure perfect freedom of conscience and equal treatment. That quotation showed that the Prime Minister at that time was in favour of some such Amendment, and if that was the view upon which the Radical Party went to the country why could they not now accept the Amendment he moved? With regard to the penalties, he supposed if this clause was made mandatory the proper course would be for the Board of Education to apply for a mandamus against the local authority in fault. But the better course, in his view, would be for the Board of Education to withhold the Parliamentary grants until such time as the local authority had complied with the mandatory conditions under Clause 4. If the Amendment was accepted he would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Education should introduce the penalties required on the lines he had just suggested. In urging the importance of the Amendment he might be allowed to say a word once more on the value of denominational teaching. Many believed that undenominational teaching was simply laying down a method by which everybody was to be a law unto themselves. He did not desire to press one kind of denominational teaching as against another, from this particular point of view. What was important was that denominational teaching should guide the growing youth of the country, watch over it with a helping hand, and save it from drifting away towards that indifference which as a rule led to a 672 career of selfishness and crime. He claimed that the parents of the children should be able to obtain the special kind of religious teaching they desired. He felt convinced that unless they aimed at securing that right to the parents, by the adoption of this Amendment, the Bill had no chance of being regarded as a final settlement of the religious question.
In page 2, line 39, to leave out the word 'may,' and insert the word 'shall.'"—(Mr. Evelyn Cecil.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'may' stand part of the clause."
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Mr. BIRRELL, Bristol, N.)
said he quite agreed with the hon. Member for Aston Manor that probably it, was difficult for him to give reasons why the Government could not accept this Amendment without indicating very shortly the general effect and purport of the Amendments which now appeared on the Paper in his name. He thought that when the matter was fairly considered, having regard to the fact that the new Government Amendments did not in any way raise questions new to the Committee, but, as it were, only fixed and combined in a consecutive form separate Amendments which were now scattered up and down the Amendment Paper, the Committee would agree that time would not be lost if he were allowed very shortly to state the general effect and purport of those Amendments by way of answer to the Amendment which had just been moved. Clause 4 was the only clause with which they were now concerned, and any observations he made must be considered as rigorously confined to that clause. Clause 4, as originally drafted, was admittedly an obvious exception to the whole scheme and plan of the Bill as laid down in the first and most important clause. It had been called, and he did not quarrel with the word, an excrescence on the Bill; but it was, in the opinion of the Government, a necessary clause, and therefore ought to be made an effective clause, in consequence of what followed on the Committee adopting Clause 1 in the form it was introduced with the kind of religious teaching which followed on that. It had often been put 673 to him and the Government that if they had only had, in the preparation of their Bill and in deciding on the scheme they would adopt, the courage to base their measure either on an entirely secular scheme or to adopt "the facilities all-round" proposal, there would have been no necessity for Clause 4, and the supporters of the Government would have been spared a burden on their political minds and opinions by the appearance, in a measure which they wished to support, of a clause that had an undoubted denominational flavour and character. That, however, was inaccurate. Had they adopted the secular system, or the "all-round facilities" system, he would at that moment have been face to face with all the difficulties which had made Clause 4 necessary; because it was not to be supposed that Roman Catholics or Jews or Anglicans would be content to say that their religious feeling was satisfied by setting aside three-quarters of or half an hour each day for the purpose of teaching a catechism or formulary. The Government would have been told that that was the least part of religious education—that it consisted of more than that, namely, the spirit animating the instruction—a spirit which was to be found, as much, he hoped, in a council school as in a voluntary school. It was quite a mistake to suppose that the Government would have got rid of any of their difficulties if they had adopted either the plain secular system or the plan of facilities to everybody to come into a school for half an hour at the beginning of every day. Clause 4 was a purely voluntary clause—that was to say, there was no kind of obligation on the local education authority to take over a school, nor was there any obligation on them, if they were anxious to take over a school, to give extended facilities. On the First Reading of the Bill he said that this clause left everything to the local education authority, and that that authority might do as it liked in the matter. That was a clear statement as to the character of this clause, and then, as soon as the Bill was drafted, the Amendment Paper became crowded with Amendments proposing to substitute "shall" for "may." Therefore the Government had to consider whether or not they could in these four-fifths schools meet the views which were represented by those Amendments. One of the new Amendments which stood 674 in his name sought to remove the risk of any existing voluntary school which fulfilled the conditions (a) and (b) of the first sub-section being improperly refused by the local education authority the extended facilities contemplated by the clause. How did they suggest that that should be done? By providing for an appeal to the Board of Education, in the event of the refusal of a local authority to make arrangements for the transfer of such a school on the terms of the clause. That appeal having been given, he hoped the necessity for it would very rarely occur; but whenever it did, the Board might, if it thought fit, after considering the circumstances of the case and the wishes of the parents of the children attending the school as to the continuance of the school with extended facilities, make its own order as to the terms and conditions, including conditions as to extended facilities. Such an order, of course, when once made must be complied with. It would be the duty of a local education authority to comply with any condition contained in any arrangement made by such an order. But there was an alternative. This new clause provided that, if under any special circumstances of the case the Board thought it expedient, they might make an order allowing the school to continue as a State-aided school, receiving the Parliamentary grant, but not rate aid. He quite understood the objection on principle which every educationist must entertain to schools standing out of the national system; but this was an exception grafted on an exception. Assuming (a) and (b) to be fulfilled, he was confident that it was not likely that the local education authorities would take it on themselves to refuse extended facilities, but he did not quarrel with Gentlemen in any part of the House who thought that the possibility of their doing so was sufficiently real to entitle them to some statutory protection. People were certainly entitled to be cautious in this House and to consider remote possibilities, particularly when the matter concerned was one so vital, as they thought, to the interests of the children. But no one would think that it was very likely that in many instances the local education authority would, conditions (a) and (b) having been fulfilled, decline to enter into an arrangement because, if they did so, they would have to grant 675 facilities. But supposing they did, then came the new Amendment giving an appeal to the Board of Education; and ass lining that the Board supported the appellants and thought it was reasonable that the school should be taken over on the terms of extended facilities being given, it was more unlikely that any local authority would refuse to be guided by the Board of Education. If, however, they still held out, there was a mandamus. He confessed he would not allow himself to contemplate the possibility of a local education authority anywhere refusing to obey an order of the King's Bench. Was there any county in England or Wales where the King's writs did not run? Certainly not. Therefore the mandamus was a most powerful engine whereby to effect the purpose they had in view. But there was an alternative suggested even to the mandamus, and that was that the Board of Education, under any special circumstances of the case, might, if they thought it wise, allow the school to continue and to become a State-aided school, receiving the Parliamentary grant, but not being entitled to rate aid. He was therefore entitled to say they were dealing with a most remote contingency. Such a case was very unlikely to arise. But there was another Amendment which provided for a further contingency, he hoped even more improbable. Lot them assume that the local authority had taken over a school on the terms provided in (a) and (b) and had not conferred the facilities though the school had been transferred, the relations between the school managers and the local authority might become s Drained—unhappy differences might arise, one party being supposed to be tyrannical and the other nagging and foolish. Such things did arise sometimes owing to the folly of people who engaged in a long correspondence with each other before the difficulty was reached. A little common sense on the spot, as a rule, got rid of these petty quarrels. Assuming, however, that the difficulties became sufficiently serious to make those interested in the school feel that their four-fifths facilities were really a sham, they might, after appeal, contract out, as it was called, or stand out, as the Government called it, and receive the Parliamentary grants only. He thought it was wise to insert this clause to show their good faith. He did not suppose 676 the provisions for contracting out would include in any circumstances a serious number of schools; he ventured to hope they would not include any. These Amendments constituted a better and wiser scheme in the interests of all concerned than they could have by simply turning the word "may" into the word "shall." The advantages would be obvious. The Government Amendments secured that, if there was any difference as between the authority and a four-fifths school as to whether it should be taken over, there should be an appeal, with the result that, if in the opinion of the Board of Education the school should be taken over, it had to be taken over. In that sense it might become an obligation on the local authority to take over the school on the conditions and terms fixed by the Board of Education on the appeal. In the Bill, as introduced, there was no obligation, except in the case of schools held under an educational trust, which could not be carried out without transfer to the local authority, to come to an agreement for the taking over of a school. Everything was voluntary. The rent was a matter of bargain between the parties, and if they came to no terms the bargain would be off. Having altered all that, and made it possible by appeal to the Board of Education that the local authority should be required to take the school over, the Government held it to be much fairer and more conducive to voluntary arrangements to say at once that in those four-fifths schools the question of rent should not become an opportunity of haggling between parties, but should be eliminated. The Government also had an Amendment as to the ballot, the object of which was to safeguard and secure condition (a). He did not suppose anyone would object to a ballot being taken in order that there might be no doubt that the wishes of the parents had been genuinely and properly ascertained. In the same interest it was proposed to provide that no child should be reckoned who had not been in average attendance for six months. The object was plain and clear. It was to prevent any manipulation or moving about of the children from one school to another simply for the purpose of obtaining those facilities, which would most certainly interfere with the ascertaining of the genuine denominational character of the school. As soon as that had been ascertained by 677 ballot there would be no difficulty in satisfying any person that the school which had stood that ordeal was the very kind of school contemplated by the machinery of this particular clause. These Amendments were, he submitted, better calculated than the Amendment to give effect to the desire of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and his own desire and that of the Government that the facilities contemplated should be genuine.
§ LORD EDMUND TALBOT (Sussex, Chichester)
said he had asked the leave of his right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition to intervene in the debate now because he was not allowed, by his doctor's orders, to remain in the House for any length of time. He was very anxious to be allowed to say one or two words from the Catholic point of view with reference to these proposals of the Minister for Education. He looked at the question of Clause 4 entirely at this moment from the point of view of his Catholic co-religionists. He might say at once that these proposals of the Government had been received by the Catholic body with great disappointment and much surprise. They thought—they were led to believe, in fact—that it was admitted by the Government that Clause 4 was inserted in the Bill for the purpose of meeting their case. They would very much like to know whether at the time the Government inserted that clause, and at the time the right hon. Gentleman received the Jewish deputation, he was aware that that clause, instead of meeting the Catholic case, destroyed practically one half of their schools. If the Government, in drafting their clause, were not aware of that fact, then the Catholics felt that they had some right, even though a minority, to ask to have it explained why the clause had not been altered for the purpose of meeting their case. As the clause stood, nearly one-fourth of their schools were absolutely cut out by the 5,000 limitation. Practically another fourth of their schools were wiped out by the four-fifths limitation. As a matter of fact, practically one-half of their schools, instead of being helped by this clause, were destroyed, and ceased to exist as Catholic schools. With regard to the new proposals, they were anxious to know what effect sub- 678 section (b) had on them. It did not appear to him and his co-religionists that there was any security that these Amendments would be operative unless the local education authority were compelled to find accommodation for the one-fifth balance in the school. That was a point on which they would like some enlightenment. They would also like to know how these Amendments were going to apply to new schools. They did not see in the proposals of the Government wherein—
I am afraid I must stop the noble Lord. We cannot discuss new schools on Clause 4. They come in Clause 5.
§ LORD EDMUND TALBOT
said he apologised if he had gone too far. Might he ask the Government to explain on what principle they made the limitation of the 5,000 area? It seemed to Catholics that the Government were putting a different value on the soul of a country child as compared with that of a town child. They wanted to know on what principle, in places where there was a Catholic school outside the 5,000 limitation, and in the same locality another school, the Catholics in that locality were to have meted out to them different treatment from what they would have in an urban area. With reference to the proposal of contracting out, the new Amendments, he admitted, might have in theory some attractions. In the form in which it was put in this Amendment it meant starvation. It was unfair and cruel on the teachers, unless the Government accepted the Amendment which the hon. Member for North Camberwell had very rightly and properly put down on behalf of his own profession. But if the Government did accept that Amendment, then the scheme, so far as the Catholics were concerned, was absolutely unworkable. It was unfair to the children, because it cut them out and deprived them of taking their share in the scholarships and in the general advantages to be gained in the district in which they lived. And all this was done at the expense of depriving Catholics of the rent. It appeared to some of them, at any rate, that the proposed abolition 679 of the rent clause, to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded, was very near breaking the promise given by the Government. If he might be allowed, he should like before he sat down to read Resolutions which had been passed by the Watching Committee of the Catholic Educational Councils on these new Amendments, and which had the approval of the Catholic bishops. These Resolutions were passed on Saturday last. The first was—That the Committee, having considered the proposed Government Amendments to Clause 4, is of opinion that they fail to meet any of the substantial objections which the council have already submitted to the bishops as being among the grounds upon which in their opinion the Bill ought to be opposed.Secondly—Having considered the effect of the proposals to set up a class of State-aided schools, the Committee is of opinion that the provisions for establishing such a class as set out in the Government Amendments are open to the same objections as caused the Committee to pass on June 18th the following Resolution: 'That the Committee, having considered the probability of a system of contracting out of the Education Bill being proposed for the acceptance of the Catholic body, declares that any such proposal must be opposed as strongly as the Bill as it stands, unless it be accompanied by adequate Government grants having regard to the cost of education in the provided schools of the respective areas.'Lastly—The Committee therefore submit that the Government's Amendments to Clause 4 as set out in the Parliamentary Papers of June 23rd be opposed.These Resolutions, as he had said, had the approval of the bishops of his Church. In their opinion the only practical result of the new proposals was that they deprived them of the rent promised in the Bill, and gave an appeal to the Board of Education with the only possible result that that Board could give them an order to starve.
§ MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)
said it had been alleged that this Amendment would be an excrescence on the Bill. He believed that it would be nothing of the kind; it was really an essential part of the whole. Under Clause 1, how did the voluntary schools stand? After the Committee passed that portion of the Bill, it was pointed out that unless such words as "except in so far 680 as subsequent clauses would alter their condition" were accepted these schools would be wiped out of existence. They would receive no recognition, they would be eliminated from the State system; they would not get any Exchequer grants or even have a right to that portion of the rates which the Catholic owners of the schools and the parents attending them had paid. It was obvious that except in the rare instances of endowed Catholic schools, or Catholic schools provided by wealthy patrons, the Catholic schools would be wiped out by Clause 1 unless they were revived by some special provisions. Clause 2 was the first attempt to provide for the essential work of revivification. The Government acknowledged that it was not their intention to wipe out these schools, but to make provision for the continuance of the work of education in the buildings of the voluntary schools. They recognised the rights of the owners and parents of the children attending these schools; but the words of the clause, after a long discussion, did not carry out the intention of the Government. It was said that the Catholics ought to have faith that the voluntary measure would be acted on and would be accepted by the local authorities, and that to impose compulsion on the local authorities would be harmful and intolerable. It was on the same principle that they were now asked to accept Clause 4,"save in so far as subsequent Amendments should be incorporated in that clause." That being the clause for the resuscitation of the Catholic schools, they must carefully scrutinise both the original provisions and the proposed Amendments. The Catholic case generally was that the great principle of admission, subject to such conditions and stipulations as this House might determine, should be defined and settled here in this central Parliament. It was here and here alone that the voice of the whole country could determine on what general terms and principles a settlement of this great educational question could be accomplished. He thought the House of Commons would not be equal to its great position if it threw into the hands of local areas and local education authorities, not elected for educational purposes only, a task to which it had 681 been itself unequal. No greater humiliation could be put on the House of Commons than that it should abdicate its position in this way. The Amendment of the hon. Member, which he supported, asserted the view that the principle of admission should be placed beyond the power of the local authorities. Purely administrative questions might be dealt with by the local areas and local education authorities, although their decisions even on these questions were not to be final. But the primary principle of admission should be settled by Parliament and so also should the provisions of Clause 4 be made mandatory. These two parts of the question were entirely distinct, all that part connected with the design—whether the school was to be taken over under the limitations prescribed—being quite distinct from the other. The appeal on those questions which were to be in the first instance decided by the local authority was a great improvement and an essential security. But that did not in the least modify the objection of Roman Catholics to leaving to the local authority the decision as to whether a school should be admitted. That was their position on the clause as originally produced, and they had to ask themselves whether anything had taken place which would justify them in withdrawing from that position—the abandonment of Amendments on the subject of "shall" instead of "may" in order that they might adopt as satisfactory the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. These facilities concerned more vitally than those of any other denomination, except perhaps the Jews, the Roman Catholic schools. Very large facilities were given to the schools of the Roman Catholic denomination under Clause 3, but they were of small or no importance; but the facilities under Clause 4 were to them the essential part of the Bill. There was no foundation so far as their information went for the view that the facilities under Clause 4 as it stood would apply to more than about half the Roman Catholic schools, which made it still more essential that where they did apply they should be made operative. Therefore, when the time came it would be their duty to move Amendments which would make these facilities applicable to a larger number of schools. Probably less than half the Roman Catholic schools would come 682 within the four-fifths Clause, and that in his judgment would be a most deplorable condition of things, which would demand consideration at the appropriate time, rendering it far more essential for them to see that in the comparatively limited number of schools where it could come into operation, the clause should be made as effective as it could possibly be. Let the Committee consider for a moment what the condition of things was in which it was to become effective. What was the character of the school population that existed, and was to be dealt with? It was a school containing Jews, Roman Catholics, or others. The others were provided for else where, and it was therefore only those of one faith with whom this clause dealt. So far as they dealt with them for the purposes of secular education they observed the right rules for efficiency and saw that the State got an educated citizen. The only privilege these children of one faith had was that their education should be conducted simultaneously with the religious training of their own faith. How many Members of this House were there who in their calm and considered moments would think that it was otherwise than right and just that under these conditions the religion of the children should be taught in a way which their pastors and parents believed was the only way in which it could be effectively taught in the schools? That was the proposition the principle of which he wanted recognised by Parliament by a declaration of the right to have facilities if the conditions were complied with. Why should they throw it as a bone of contention to the different areas, to be decided with all the heat and bitterness that this question raised, without the light and instruction of this great central Parliament acting for all? Why not declare in favour of religious freedom, which could do no harm to any man, woman, or child? Why not settle the question once and for all by taking it out of the hands of the local authorities and not inviting them to exercise an option as they were invited by the Bill as drawn? Why should it be said that this great principle could not be declared once and for all? Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen had said that they did not believe that this was a case in which the local authorities, if they 683 had the power, would care to exercise it. If there was such an overwhelming opinion in that direction, was not that an overwhelming reason for settling it once and for all? He thought the obvious duty of Parliament was not to throw this bone of contention to the local authorities. His view was that the declaration of the principle which they hoped to accomplish by the passing of this Amendment, and the appeal to the central authority could do more than anything else that he could suggest to obviate unjust treatment in those matters which in a primary state were left in the control of the local authorities. They must not permit the details of this measure to be made the pretext for a reconsideration of the principles which had already in theory been grafted on to an Act of Parliament. There must be an appeal to the central authority, because, Parliament having decided how the general point should be settled by a legislative Act, there must be reserved a final appeal to the central authority with the same responsibility, the same broad view, and the same constitution He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Education that the introduction of an appeal was an important improvement. As to the proposal of a ballot, some form must be adopted to determine whether four-fifths desired this change; he supposed that it was to be done by a vote, and, for his part, he had not a word to say against the ballot. The next was a most important provision—that in cases in which there were four-fifths in favour of facilities, those facilities should be granted. But there was to be no payment of rent at all. The Minister for Education would excuse him for saying that he could not characterise that proposal otherwise than as mean and shabby. He submitted that the large use of the buildings by the trustees might involve some question of rent to be paid by the education authority for the use of buildings during the remaining time. That was a question just as much as the use that was given on Saturday and Sunday. But let them take the substance of the section. The authority obtained by this arrangement the use of the buildings for all the purposes for which it was entitled to interfere. Was it to pay nothing for that to the owners who had built and improved the schools under 684 circumstances of peculiar difficulty? Was it possible that Parliament would adopt that view? Although to those for whom he spoke this question was of great importance, he admitted that their primary object was to obtain that freedom of religious instruction which they believed to be essential; and if they were to be told that they were to be deprived of portion of the rent, if that was the price that Parliament was going to exact for religious freedom, he was sure that rather than go without the facilities they would pay the extorted price. But before it was decided to demand that price, let them consider whether it was a wise course to take. It was possible there might be some advantage from that course of action; it was possible that it might lead to the easier making of bargains. Their cardinal objection was that there was no declaration at present of a right or duty to give these general facilities. In the clauses providing for appeal there were some words which might indicate that facilities were to be given, but they left it open. He agreed with those who said that schools which, upon appeal to the Board of Education, might be contracted out, and only entitled to State aid and not rate aid, would in most, cases be exposed to absolute starvation. No one doubted that schools that were defective in structural facilities, in educational arrangements, and in salaries to teachers would be allowed to lag behind. If those schools were not taken over by the local authority, and if on appeal to the Board of Education the answer they were to receive was "Go out," they would be turned out into the wilderness. The Education Board put a glass of water and a loaf of bread in their hands and turned them out with those supplies as their portion, but they were to continue to pay the rates for all the schools in their area. What was to be done with their share of the rates? Was it to be handed back to them to carry on, at any rate so far as their own share of the rates was concerned, that public work which they were bound to do efficiently for the satisfaction of the State, so that the population of this country might be educated? It was to be put into the pockets of the other ratepayers whose children went to the provided schools. The burden of the wealthy was to be 685 lightened and that of the poor increased. He called the provision about no rent shabby and mean. This was what the right hon. Gentleman asked them in effect to be grateful for. Under these conditions they might well contend that in the name of conscientious scruple those other ratepayers of the area should decline to receive and put into their own pockets the rates paid by the parents of the Catholic children. He would have liked to have seen a nearer approach to justice introduced into the Bill. These contracted-out schools, however efficient the education they gave and however good the structure of the premises, were not to receive a shilling from the public purse. Under these circumstances it was clear that they were bound to deal with the Amendment before them as a declaration of principle which Parliament ought to make.
§ MR. PAUL (Northampton)
supported the Amendment of the hon. Member with the greatest freedom, though he hoped less responsibility, because he received no support from any of his Nonconformist friends when he endeavoured to oppose the third clause of the Bill, drawn unwisely and unskilfully, as he thought, for the exclusive benefit of the Church to which he belonged. The clause did not apply alone to the Church on behalf of which the hon. Member for South Longford had so eloquently pleaded. It applied to the Church of England, Wesleyans, and Jews. In the course of these debates he did not think the efforts of the clergymen of the Church of England in the cause of education had always received sufficient justice. By the accident of birth he knew as much about those efforts as any man in the House. The man whom of all others in the world he most honoured and revered had been for more than sixty years a clergyman of the Church of England. During the whole of that time he had taken an active interest in education, secular as well as religious. He took it long before Parliament recognised its duty in the Act of 1870, and there were hundreds of other clergymen like him in all parts of England. When he saw the President of the Board of Education reproached 686 for not having bestowed more compliments on the Church of England he was inclined to ask himself whether an established and endowed Church, an ancient and a privileged body, would be likely or willing to accept or to ask for praise of that kind. They might as well request a few kind words on behalf of the British Constitution. The Church of England, moreover, was not only a Protestant Church; it was an Erastian Church, prepared and almost bound to accept such reasonable form of Protestant faith as the wisdom of Parliament might prescribe. He did not think he could deny, if he were driven with his back to the wall, that this was a Christian and Protestant Bill. It followed from that that they owed some little indulgence to the Jews and Catholics. The Jews in this country were a body of very wealthy men. But was that the case with the Catholics? It was very much the reverse. No Church in this country had spent more money and time in the cause of education than the Roman Catholic. But many of them were exceedingly poor. If we were to force upon them a form of religious teaching which they would not accept, their schools would have to be either supported out of their poverty or altogether closed. When he said this was a Protestant Bill he meant that simple Christian teaching—which he very much preferred to the phrase "simple Bible teaching," because there was a great deal of the Bible quite unsuited to children—given by laymen was suitable to all Protestant churches, but with the Roman Catholics it was not so. The authority of the Church in matters of religion was part of the Roman Catholic faith, and this kind of teaching was by her regarded as worse than nothing. To use a homely simile, it was like offering a man a cigarette after a good meal—it was not an imperfect form of enjoyment; it was a mockery of a real need. He did not so much share the mistrust of the local authorities expressed by the hon. Member for Aston Manor. He believed ninety-nine hundredths of them would do absolute justice as between Protestant and Catholic. But he took rather the view expressed by the hon. 687 Member for South Longford that there might be here and there some unreasonable body which might, if left to itself, throw the whole machinery of the Act out of gear. If he were a lawyer he should "pray in aid" the speech of the President of the Board of Education on the Amendment which his right hon. friend was nominally opposing, for the whole gist of his argument was that they must, in the last resort, have recourse to a mandamus in the King's Bench, and he asked in what part of this country the King's writ did not run. The ultimate resource, therefore, under the Bill, as under the Amendment, was compulsion. Then was it not more reasonable that the House should do simply, directly, and at once, what in any case it would have to do indirectly and in the long run? Surely it was no disparagement of local authorities to say that in a great measure of national policy, a question of the highest principle Parliament must itself decide. In a case of this kind, involving the fate of a large number of schools scattered up and down the country, belonging to a Church whose members had cheerfully paid rates and taxes for teaching other people's religion, and therefore had some claim that public money should be devoted to teaching their own—in a case of that kind he did not say that Parliament would be cowardly, but it would be derogating from its own high responsibility if it did not decide this matter for itself once and for all. This was a far graver question than the mere arrangement of items in a curriculum; it went to the bottom, to the radical principle upon which education rests, to questions which were agitated long before these religious controversies which excited perhaps undue interest now, questions which led the greatest of all philosophers to say, long before religious sects began to brawl, that education was not filling the mind with knowledge, but turning the eye of the soul towards the light.
§ MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said he regarded Clause 4 as one of the most vital and important clauses in the Bill, principally because he believed in denominational education, and also because he had some distrust of facilities which allowed a 688 great number of doctrines to be presented concurrently in the schools. He felt fully the force of what the hon. Member for North Camberwell said the other day about the common religious lesson, and he would be glad if there could be that common lesson in most of their schools, because he desired to see Clause 4 effective and operative. He desired that the Catholics, the Jews, the Anglicans and the Wesleyans who had schools, should be able to maintain them in their integrity and, have in them a common atmosphere and a common social religious spirit which might be engendered by their teaching. So far from fortifying Clause 4 the Amendments to be proposed by the Government seemed to be in fatal derogation of it. Many Nonconformists regarded it as intolerable that they should be called upon to pay rates for other people's religion. ["Hear hear," from the MINISTERIAL Benches.]
§ MR. LYTTELTON
said that was their point of view, and he had not the faintest doubt that that belief I would find root in the minds of numerous local authorities. The Minister of Education had throughout the discussions on the Bill recognised and even contemplated acute hostility to Clause 4 on the part of the local authorities.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
thought that, having regard to Nonconformist opinion, it was a certainty that there would be strenuous opposition, and passive resistance was at the bottom of the feeling. What I was the position created by the Amendment? Where there was a preponderance of four-fifths of the parents of any particular denomination, the local authority had only to say, "We will not come into your arrangement and we refuse it, "and then there would be an appeal. The Board of Education could either reverse the decision of the local authorities or they could make the school a State-aided school. What was the President of the Board of Education 689 likely to do? The right hon. Gentleman knew what it would mean to threaten people with imprisonment for disobeying an Order of the King's Bench. He knew that Nonconformists and others were quite willing to go to prison rather than pay a rate for the establishment and maintenance of a Roman Catholic school. If that state of things arose, what would be the position of the Board of Education, provided they were human beings, as he supposed they were? Of course I they would shrink from the remedy of mandamus and resort to starving out Roman Catholic schools by reducing them to absolute difficulties.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
said it was perfectly clear that a department would always take the line of least resistance. There were some departments in the past to which that general indictment did not apply, but as a general rule it was quite true. They had this local authority with local knowledge and prejudice against the Roman Catholic schools and denominational schools which were Anglican or Jewish. Then there was the natural pressure which they could bring to bear in the locality, and there was the mandamus with all its terrors in the distance and to which no department ever wished to resort. Against all these difficulties they were to have an appeal to a department whose general policy was against denominational schools and against the poor people who in the future would have not only to continue the struggle to keep their own schools, but also to tax themselves for the benefit of other schools which must under this clause exist and compete with them. That was the sort of thing that was hailed with applause by those who were anxious to attack denominational education. Was there ever a stranger method adopted of trying to satisfy those who were not content with Clause 4 as it stood in its permissive condition, and endeavouring to abate the hostility they must naturally feel to the non-mandatory character of the clause? He 690 most emphatically urged the Committee not to be taken in by this extraordinary and illusory provision. There was no excuse for anyone being taken in after the speech of the Minister for Education, who was nothing if not candid. He told them that if a difficulty arose in the enforcement of their remedy there was behind them the State-aided school. What a preposterous admission! That was the very thing they had been contemplating all along, namely, the opposition of the locality to the clause and to the denominational schools and the attempt to enforce it by the Board of Education. Assuming that Board was willing to attempt to reverse the decision of the local authority, then there would be resistance by the local authority passive or active, and the Government Department placed in this position was not to enforce that which they had decided to be just, namely, the reversal of the local authority's decision, but were to return to the pre-1902 state, which every hon. Member who really understood the educational problem and every single expert regarded as a disastrous condition of struggling poverty which men submitted to who conscientiously desired to maintain the faith of their fathers.
§ DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)
said that after the Second Reading of the Bill he put down an Amendment to substitute "shall" for "may." He did not think that in this there was a matter of very high principle involved, but he thought it was a matter of administrative convenience. The Bill provided that four-fifths of the parents of the children must petition, and there was now to be a ballot to see that the petition was a genuine one. The children must have been at the schools six months and if extended facilities were granted there would be no rental. He ventured to think that was a very fair proposal. In the four-fifths schools they would get denominational religious instruction every day. Under the Bill if the, managers got a teacher to volunteer they would be in the future as they were now, in the matter of religious education if the local education authority agreed, and he hoped by would agree.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said the clause provided that the teacher might be a volunteer for giving religious instruction. In regard to religious teaching these schools would be substantially just as well off as they were now. Besides, they would be financially much better off under the Bill than before. Under the Act of 1902 the wear and tear of the buildings was a charge upon the public authority, while under this Bill in addition to the wear and tear the public was compelled to pay for the upkeep of the fabrics which, according to the late Bishop of Manchester, amounted to £700,000 a year for Church Schools alone. Therefore it seemed to him that Roman Catholics and other denominationalists would be better off than before. Over and above that it had to be remembered that the denominationalists would have the free use of the buildings two days of the week, and at least four nights of the week. The proposal that there should be no rental was a fair one under the circumstances. But why not make the clause mandatory? Clause 3 was going to be mandatory in effect. The Minister for Education said the other day—I still have it in my mind if it can be done—and I think it can—to propose a new clause by an amendment of Clause 2, which will make it perfectly clear that the local authority, if it chooses, may take over a school and grant those facilities.He disagreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London. He did not think the local authority would be pig-headed when they came down to actual committee work. A great many people were pig-headed on the platform, but it was a curious fact that men of all shades of politics and religion, when they sat down together day by day to the work of actual administration were able amicably to settle matters, which they did not seem to be able to come within a thousand miles of settling in this House. He thought that in every local authority, however, there might be one pig-headed individual. There would always be some crank or pig-headed individual who every time the matter came up would make a long and acrimonious speech as to whether these facilities 692 should be given or not; he would squabble over this matter at local elections. In the interest of local government, and not of high principle—that was gone long ago—the clause as regards the rirs "may" should be turned into "shall." The question was as to harmonious working in the locality, and the Board of Education, or rather the President of the Board, had said that he would grant an appeal to the Board of Education. So far so good, but it was a roundabout way of getting the same thing for those who thought that they had no security. What he desired, and what he should certainly vote for, was that the Government should make "may" into "shall" in this line. The alternative of contracting-out under the clause had been ingeniously styled by somebody as the safety valve of Clause 4. He confessed that he was more than amazed that a proposition of that sort should come from the Government—that schools should be able to stand outside and yet receive State grants. That proposal went diametrically across the first clause which was the backbone of the Bill. It provided—On and after the first day, of January one thousand nine hundred and eight, a school shall not be recognised as a public elementary school unless it is a school provided by the local education authority.Therefore those schools which contracted-out would not be public elementary schools provided by the local authority. He had yet to learn how the Government could propose to give any Government grants to these schools seeing that they were not public elementary schools. That was a matter which would ultimately have to be considered, and Clause 1 would have to be materially modified to make this proposal consistent with it. He strenuously pressed this matter on educational grounds. It was wholly alien to the principles of Liberalism that there should be schools which derived nine-tenths of their income from public sources and yet were outside of public local control. The Act of 1902 did bring these schools to a small extent within the area of public supervision and control. The proposal now brought forward by a Liberal Government was to push them outside, and the parson was once more to become the 693 one-man manager, and the teacher was to be appointed under religious tests. He was elected to see that religious tests were abolished in the case of teachers; and he was going to get them abolished. He did not see how the proposal of the Government was defensible in any way on Liberal principles. Previous to 1902 the teachers in the voluntary schools were paid 20 per cent, below the teachers in the provided schools. Many of the local authorities had, with great generosity, put the teachers in the non-provided schools on the same footing as those in the provided schools. This proposal would, in the vast majority of cases, send these teachers back again to the old scale of payment in the voluntary schools after having had two or three years well-deserved remuneration at the higher salaries. This was an amazing proposal to bring before the Committee. He was conscientiously bound to speak frankly and strongly upon it. If adopted, it would be disastrous to educational efficiency unless they could surround it with most scrupulously devised safeguards. It would be even more disastrous to the denominations, and he should be surprised if any denomination gave support to such a proposal. The schools had been four years under the rates. The maintenance of the schools had gone up by 20 per cent. How could they maintain the level of efficiency which would be properly demanded now, if compelled to contract out. Once more the children of the country were to be sacrificed because some obscurantists wanted to reduce the rates and some denominationalists wanted to tighten their grip on the schools. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education had said this would only happen under special circumstances and in rare cases. He was perfectly confident that the President of the Board of Education did not realise—not the religious bitterness of the local authorities, for he did not think that would come into play much when once they had got to work behind closed doors—but the desire of the local education authorities to get a reduction of the rates. Every school they could compel to contract-out would mean a reduction 694 of the rates, and the local authorities in order to get the rates reduced would make the conditions under Clause 4 so onerous as to compel the denominationalists to contract-out. For thirty-two years many of the local authorities successfully dodged the education rate; they said that they preferred denominational teaching. He thought Lancashire was a classical example of that policy.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said Preston was one of the worst instances in the whole country. When he went to speak at Preston, some ten years ago, he had given to him a leaflet signed, by the Mayor stating that Preston had never succumbed to the Godless school board system. Let Preston, said the Mayor, never lose the proud privilege of giving the children denominational teaching. But a postcript in heavy clarendon type stated that unless the denominational system was maintained there would be a sixpenny school board rate. That was the real trouble. He had supported the Act of 1902 right through for the reason that that did put these schools on the rates, though he admitted certain vital concomitants were omitted. That was what made the Act unpopular. If there had been more money in the central Exchequer—the South African war made that impossible—and the right hon. Gentleman opposite could have put his Bill of 1902 on the central Exchequer, throughout the great bulk of the country and particularly in those areas which never had a rate before they would not have had much passive resistance. The whole thing had arisen because of hostility to the local rate. The religious phase of the problem moved only a small number of very zealous people. Let them be frank about this matter. He was most anxious about the far-reaching effect of this proposal. People desired to keep rates at the lowest level, and the designedly onerous conditions made by local authorities would drive these schools to contract-out if this proposal were allowed to stand. He viewed the whole proposal, therefore, with the greatest apprehension, and a great deal of disappointment. 695 He did not like to go the length of saying that he viewed it with disgust, but he viewed it with a very near approach to that. He thought there could be nothing worse for the country than that they should set out to make a national system, then push these schools outside of local supervision, and allow them to have nine-tenths of their income from public sources without any scrap of local control. That was a thoroughly bad proposal He was surprised at the quarter from which the proposal came. He asked the President of the Board of Education what sort of guarantee could he get that these poor people would have sufficient income from private sources in addition to the Government grant to keep their schools up to the level of the provided schools in the area? He asked him what sort of provision would he make for the teachers in those schools? He maintained that these schools would have gone long ago had it not been for the zeal and self-sacrifice of the voluntary school teachers who had formerly been paid 20 per cent, below the salaries of other teachers in the same locality. What assurance was the right hon. Gentleman going to give the Committee that the teachers in the schools which were to be thrust out, would be paid a fair day's pay for a fair day's work or that they would have their present salaries secured to them? He put the matter very strongly, he hoped not offensively, but he maintained that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman were reactionary, and he was extremely sorry that they had ever been made by a Liberal front bench.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY (Kent, Ashford)
said that the present Amendment was of very considerable importance; but not a single word, except by the right hon. Gentleman, had been said against it. That fact alone should make hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial benches pause before they gave their consent to the propositions put forward by the Minister for Education. He agreed with much that had been said by the hon. Member for North Camberwell, but he wished to enter a caveat against the argument that they should trust the local authorities on the question of rent seeing that 696 under Clause 4 the voluntary schools would get quite as good advantages as they had before. He would point out that that was not so. So far as they knew, the religious instruction under Clause 4 was to be paid for by the denominations, and if that teaching was to be given by the teachers there was no provision in the Bill which ensured that those teachers should be such as could give the religious teaching nominally provided for under the clause. The rent question did not affect the Church of England schools as much as those of other denominations. In one or two instances in Kent, in which the question of rent would arise, the Education Department had issued an instalment of a. Return from which it would be seen what was the position of the Education Department. In that return 480 voluntary schools were dealt with, 375 of which the officials of the Department said were bound by educational trusts. If that were so the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was fairly possible, that the rent for these schools would be only a pepper-corn, rent. Therefore it was very likely that for only 5 per cent, of the schools would any rent be got at all. He thought that in these circumstances longer time for the discussion of the financial proposals in the Bill was more than ever necessary. The Committee must be made aware of what was the use that was to be made of the £1,000,000 that was to be voted. It would be within the recollection of the Committee that, during the consideration of Clause 2, the President of the Board of Education said that when Clauses 3 and 4 came on for discussion, many of the difficulties, that had arisen under Clause 2 would be got out of the way; and that he hoped the gap the existence of which he admitted would be filled up in regard to the local authorities taking over efficient schools; but under the proposed new Amendments instead of the gap being filled up it had been made wider than ever. He would be very glad to ascertain whether or not the State-aided schools which were described as "transferred voluntary schools" would come under Clause 2. That was a very important point if they 697 were to be deprived of rent, of any share of the rates, and of any advantage of having the fabric of the schools maintained. They had heard of the intolerable strain as the cause of the Act of 1902, especially on the voluntary schools in the rural parts of the country, but it was these same schools that were being cut out from the application of this Bill if it became law. He entirely agreed with the lion. Member for North Camberwell so far as the unfortunate position of the teachers was concerned under the new Amendments; and he could not understand how hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial Benches could defend the system proposed to be established. He insisted that the clause was very difficult to follow, and that it was almost impossible to tell how the Education Department was to find out the desires of the parents or to trace out the exact moment at which the scheme should be made applicable. It seemed to him that Clause 4 should be made mandatory, and that it should be laid down that the local authorities should not be put in a position in which they could act, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman himself, in a manner that was not just, righteous, or fair. For these reasons he respectfully suggested that the Government ought to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. BELLOC (Salford, S.)
said that this was a practical matter, and one that was more than ordinarily difficult because it related to the future. Nearly every argument that had been used in favour of making Clause 4 mandatory had been presented on some supposed action which the local authorities would take in the future. He could not say too strongly not only for himself, but for many Catholics who voted Liberal at the last election, and who would vote Liberal again, that they as a rule trusted the local authorities. They recognised that the resistance to the Act of 1902 was an attempt on the part of Nonconformists to remedy a grievance which might easily have been remedied. He admitted that there might be cases in which a pig-headed local authority, or even a pig-headed individual on a local authority, might bring this system of national control into contempt and to a 698 deadlock. The question was whether the Committee would consent to get rid of that deadlock by making the clause mandatory or by giving under the Bill a power of appeal to the Board of Education. In either case there would have to be coercion, and whether that coercion was contained within the four corners of the Bill or attained by an administrative dodge was of little importance. For himself he would say that so far as he knew, the value of those different methods of procedure was very nearly equal. If some local authority did not want to keep up a four-fifths school it would not be blind to the action of the Board of Education under the Bill and it would not be blind to the other remedy which might be afforded. On the whole, however, he thought it would be more straightforward, more logical, and more in accordance with his pledges to maintain the rights of Catholic schools if he voted in favour of the clause being made mandatory.
§ SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan)
said he had among his constituents a large body of Roman Catholics, and, admiring as he did their work in the cause of education, he felt sympathy with them in reference to the present situation. He hoped this clause would be made mandatory, because the decisions of local authorities were eminently uncertain and liable to be changed from election to election. Those who lived in the West Riding of Yorkshire had had occasion to lament the policy of the county council which they regarded as unjust, while their action was harsh. The High Court had also condemned it as illegal. How could he support a proposition which would give a county council of that kind discretion in regard to the facilities to be granted under this clause? Local control entailed debate on all subject of education. With a purely secular system it might be possible to keep religious questions out of the arena, but if they admitted religion into the schools the subject could not be kept out from local controversy. He desired to minimise everything which would tend to arouse ill-feeling, and therefore he opposed the proposals of the Government, believing that they would cause strife and the separation of people 699 who ought to be able to work together to promote education for the young.
§ MR. ALFRED HUTTON (Yorkshire, W.R. Morley)
said that all the speeches to which they had listened in that debate had been in favour of the Amendment for inserting the word "shall" as against "may." At the risk, however, of being called a "pig-headed individual" he ventured to say a word in favour of the retention of the word "may." He would point out that many hon. Gentlemen who spoke originally in condemnation of Clause 4 now spoke in favour of making it mandatory. He thought the local education authorities would not be as ready as some hon. Members supposed to divest themselves of responsibility in order to save a little rate. He thought on the contrary that the local education authorities would have the tendency to keep all the power they possibly could. He was not in favour of contracting-out, but if it were a choice between two evils he preferred it to having the clause made mandatory. But he regarded the clause, as a whole, as a very bad one, whether contracting out was allowed or not. Nonconformists had in the past objected to pay rates for teaching other people's religion, but they did not ask other people to pay rates for teaching their religion. He had always spoken in favour of leaving all religious education in the hands of the Church and taking it away from the hands of the State. The representatives of Nonconformists disputed the assertion that it was important in the interests of education that mere denominational religion should be taught in the school. They disputed it, as they believed, in the interests of education, because they thought that if they were going to try and safeguard religion by Clause 4 they would create strife, ill-feeling, and objection to that kind of religious teaching by the State, and in the long run do more harm than good. At any rate he believed with all his heart that no Nonconformist would ask anyone to pay rates for the teaching of his religion. It was said that the religion taught in council schools was Nonconformist religion, but it was a most extraordinary statement to make. If it was brought home to Nonconformists 700 generally that the religion taught in Council schools was Nonconformist as opposed to Anglican or Catholic he was convinced that practically all Nonconformists would agree that the only solution would be secular education. He believed Clause 4 was a valuable concession to the denominationalists. Previous speakers had all minimised it, but he thought it was a great deal, and he was afraid it gave away the position of the teachers. He would oppose the Amendment, and he hoped the Government would not yield on this point. It was extraordinary that Clauses 2 and 3 were now found to be absolutely mandatory though they had thought they were both optional. He hoped the Committee would save the situation in regard to the fourth clause.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
said the hon. Member for the Morley Division had said that Nonconformists did not desire in the slightest degree that their religion should be taught at other people's expense. He accepted the statement quite freely, and he would tell him in return that the position of Catholics was that they claimed that their money should not be taken from them for the maintenance of schools where Protestant religion was taught. It had been stated—and the statement had apparently given some offence to hon. Gentlemen opposite, —that Cowper-Temple teaching was in reality Nonconformist religion. He did not make that statement himself, but he did say that whether it was near the Nonconformist religion or not it certainly was a form of Protestantism, and, as such, Catholics ought not to be called upon to pay for its support. If the President of the Board of Education succeeded in the Amendment which he had placed on the Paper, a number of the Catholic schools of this country would be placed back in the position in which they were before 1902; that was to say, they would have to pay once more largely out of their own pockets for the maintenance of their own schools, and at the same time they would be called upon to pay rates for the maintenance of the schools in which Cowper-Temple Protestant religion was taught. That was not justice towards the Catholic 701 people of this country. The proposal that these schools, which were the result of the sacrifice of the savings of the poorest portion of the community, were to be penalised if the parents of the children attending those schools declared in favour of the religion in which they believed, was something which he never expected of the President of the Board of Education, or of a Government calling itself Liberal. These Catholic schools were, as had been said, a veritable wonder to behold. They had been built out of the scanty savings of the hardest working portion of the population. These people had suffered privation, and, in many cases, the pinch of hunger itself; and yet. no matter how they had to deprive themselves and their children of the ordinary necessaries of life, they always found sufficient to pay, as far as their means would allow, for the schools in which they believed their children would be taught that religion which was dearer to them almost than life According to the Amendment put on the Paper by the right hon. Gentleman they were told that if facilitie; were given for the teaching of religion in which the people firmly, passionately, and devotedly believed, no rent whatever was to be paid for the use of the school. A proposition of that kind was manifestly unjust. It came as a surprise to him at any rate, and he believed it would come as a shock and a surprise to the great majority of liberal-minded people of this country. Why should a school, the parents of the children attending which declared in favour of certain denominational education, be deprived of rent? Why should they not be placed in this matter upon the same footing as other schools? Why, in a word, should an effort be made, by the trick of withholding rent, to prevent the parents having their children taught the religion in which they believed? This one provision alone would do more perhaps than anything that had as yet occurred to inflame the feeling of the Catholic people with the idea that an injustice had been done to them. Did Liberal Members imagine that Roman Catholics would tamely submit to pay rates to maintain schools for religion to be taught in which they did not believe, while 702 they themselves were to be deprived of all share of the rates? Did those Nonconformists who boasted so much about being passive resisters in regard to the Education Act of 1902, imagine that the Catholics would, out of their hard earnings, tamely pay not only for their own schools, but also for the schools which satisfied Nonconformists? Without in the least anticipating that there would or desiring for a single moment that there should be any trouble, he did say that the Catholic people would not tamely submit to a system so manifestly unjust. It would not be reasonable to believe that any considerable number of local authorities, because of religious prejudice, would shut out a. section of the community from having the children properly educated; but he did know that there were places where the feeling of a portion of the community against the Catholic religion ran so high that pressure would be brought to bear upon the local authorities to shut out the Catholic schools. Surely it was not an unreasonable thing that they should ask Parliament, if it were satisfied that under certain circumstances certain religion should be taught, to say that it should be the law, and not leave it to small local authorities to decide. In the main he believed the local authorities of this country administered their ordinary work in an excellent manner, but those authorities were not originally intended to administer education or to decide upon questions of religion, and it was a perfectly monstrous thing to say that the question of religion was to be made an initial issue at local elections, as. would be undoubtedly the case if this clause were not made mandatory. He appealed to hon. Members on the Ministerial side to have the courage of their convictions. He was certain every hon. Gentleman was anxious to deal fairly with the schools of every denomination and that, if every hon. Gentleman were free from Party and outside influences, he would declare that, as it had been deemed wise by Parliament that under certain circumstances in certain schools denominational teaching should be given, it should be incumbent upon the local authority to grant the necessary fac lities. He would far sooner have the fourth 703 clause made mandatory than any provision reverting to the position of 1902, unless a guarantee were given that they would not be called upon, in addition to paying for the maintenance of their own schools, to help to maintain schools supported by hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side. One matter at least for congratulation in the debate was the exhibition of fairness and good temper that had been displayed. He could assure hon. Gentlemen representing Nonconformists that they who represented the Catholic people had not the slightest atom of ill-will towards them. Their sympathies were for all people who had been unjustly and unfairly treated in the matter of conscience and religion. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had had their battles to fight and had had their dark days as the Catholic representatives had had theirs. He appealed to them to recognise that in the stand they were making the Irish Members were struggling for the recognition of that which was most dear to the people and something which they would never relinquish. The hon. Member for North Camberwell had said that he thought the Denominationalists were greedy. Could that be said of Catholics who asked that in the schools which they had built out of their savings and sacrifices their children should be taught that religion which they held dearer than life itself?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
said they certainly found themselves in a very peculiar position. So far as he knew, not one single Member had risen from any part of the House to give any full support to the proposition of the Government. The only hon. Member who rose apparently to do so was the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Morley Division of the North-West Riding; but, although the hon. Gentleman supported the present form of the Bill so far as "may" was concerned, and expressed his preference for "may" over "shall," he coupled that assurance with a declaration that he was totally opposed to the whole of the clause in principle and was not, and never could be, a convert to it. That was an extremely exceptional position for a strong Government to find itself in in the discussion of their principal Bill. The result was to 704 impress upon his mind what he had felt all along, that it was almost impossible to amend this Bill, that the Bill was drawn on wrong lines, and that upon those lines it was impossible to make a final settlement, which he did the right hon. Gentleman the justice to believe it had been his ambition to achieve. Taking the point they were discussing, although he would vote for the Amendment, he cared very little whether it was carried or not. The balance seemed to him, as to the hon. Member for South Salford, to lean on the side of the Amendment. But suppose the Amendment was not carried. In that case the clause, which he firmly believed was honestly introduced in order to give facilities in a large number of cases, and especially in the case of Catholic schools, would be illusory. If the Amendment remained the clause would be a sham. That was admitted, unconsciously if they liked, in all the speeches made in connection with this Amendment. There was not a single speaker on the Treasury Bench who had not admitted that if the clause was not made mandatory there might be, and there would be, local authorities who would refuse to give the facilities required. Then they proposed an elaborate scheme—so complicated that few outside the House not experts in the matter understood it—the effect of which would be to allow the schools which were not permitted by the local authority to enjoy the facilities to contract themselves out. In that case, as had been pointed out with unmistakable clearness by the hon. Member who had just sat down, they were doing a great injustice to those schools, whether Catholic or of any other denomination, by putting them in an impracticable position. He did not know that he agreed with what had been said about those schools being in an intolerable position in 1902; but whether they were or not at that time they would certainly be in an intolerable position now that they had to find double and treble the money which they found it impossible to find in other circumstances. If the clause remained as it was—a discretionary clause—it was illusory and would not be accepted by anybody as an adequate fulfilment of the pledge which they had all understood the Government to give. 705 If they accepted the Amendment and made the clause mandatory, then in the same spirit and for the same reasons they must go on to make other Amendments in the clause. That would be in strict accordance with the promises they had given. They must turn "may" into "shall." They must do away with those absurd and ridiculous and inconsistent and almost insulting distinctions between urban and other areas. They must do away with the absurd proposition that four-fifths of the parents might have a conscience and that three-fifths were not entitled to anything of the kind. All these things would have to be done away with. Then he granted that they would have carried out their pledges and have provided facilities by which the parents of the children who desired it would be able to obtain denominational teaching; they would have met the case of the Catholics; they would have met the case of the Jews; they would have met the case to a very large extent, he should think entirely, of the Anglican Church. But then what would the passive resisters say? They would have produced a Bill which would give more ground for passive resistance than anything in the Bill of 1902. They would have introduced a Bill in which they would altogether have neglected their great principle of the freedom of teachers from tests; they would have introduced a system in which they would not have given the public the control of the denominational schools. They would have made every person in the community pay for religious instruction of which he did not approve. That was the alternative to leaving the clause discretionary. If it was left discretionary it was a delusion and a sham, and if it was made mandatory it was not their Bill. The proposal made at an earlier period was their only possible solution. It was not, as he had ventured to say before, or it need not be, the secular solution. It was a separation between religious and secular instruction. That they had chosen to represent as the secular solution quite erroneously, and they had on that account condemned it. But unless they could, in some way or other, bring back the Bill to those lines or to a position in which procedure on those lines would be possible, they could not do justice be- 706 tween the religious sects of this country and they could not produce any final settlement.
§ MR. SPICER (Hackney, Central)
said he believed that Clause 4 was an honest attempt to meet a very difficult position, and for that reason he should support the Government in maintaining "may" as against "shall." Many of the speeches that afternoon had proceeded on the basis that the local authorities of the country were distrusted, and he was rather surprised. Whilst he gave hon. Members opposite full credit for doing everything in their power to uphold the Catholic religion, still Members on the Ministerial side had sacrificed something to give them the power they desired and had trusted them just as they asked hon. Members to trust local authorities now. Local authorities deserved well of this House, and they were doing better service than Parliament could do if they attempted to legislate for them. He did not admit that the clause contained everything that was attributed to it. It was a reasonable clause because it was to be worked under the local authority. A good deal of criticism had been read into it, because hon. Members thought of the present denominational majorities of non-provided schools rather than the ordinary action of local authorities. He supported the clause because it trusted local authorities and because he believed that they would not wish to burn their fingers in a conflict with the Roman Catholic Church. He therefore trusted that the House would uphold "may" as against "shall."
§ SIR HENRY CRAIK (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)
said his preference for a contracting-out provision in Clause 1, instead of on this clause, had been justified by the debate. When he proposed contracting-out it was as a voluntary act when a school had ample means for carrying on its work, but here it was a course to which a school would be driven in its extremity, without resources to meet its needs. The contracting-out he contemplated was not only voluntary, but it involved independent management. He asked the attention of the Minister for Education to this point. Did he or did he 707 not intend that these schools, which were to lose the benefit of all share in the rates if they contracted out, were still to be managed largely by members of the local authority? Did the Amendment contain any provision about this at all? It left the school under the management of a body upon which the local authority would be largely represented, and yet the school would not share in the rates raised by that authority That was to say, the schools of the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans would be left to a very large extent under the management of the local authority, while at the same time they would not share in the benefit of the rates raised by the local authority. Thirdly, he would point out another matter which he thought the light hon. Gentleman had overlooked, and it was a very important one. In his Amendment the right hon. Gentleman declared that these schools were to share in the grant, but surely he had not turned his attention to the item of grant under Section 10 of the Act of 1902. What did the right hon. Gentleman mean to do with regard to that? There was no provision whatever by which the grant under Section 10 of the 1902 Act could be allocated to a particular school. It was to be allocated according to the scale only in respect of attendance at schools which were provided and managed by the local authority. This would involve an additional hardship upon the voluntary schools of the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans. They would get the annual grant under the Code, but they would be entirely deprived of their share of the £l,400,000 or £1,500,000 a year under the section he had mentioned. For these reasons he drew a strong distinction between the principle of contracting-out which he suggested, and that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
said the Minister for Education appeared this afternoon to be in the position of a good man struggling with adversity. They all felt that the right hon. Gentleman was being put into a very painful position, and they recognised that, whatever might be their views on this or that particular matter, he, at any rate, was trying to do his best to meet 708 the complicated elements of this difficult part of the Bill. He was unable to agree with the right hon. Gentleman in this matter. He differed from him for a reason which he did not think had yet received sufficient acknowledgment in the Committee. Those who had attacked the view now put forward by the Government had been told over and over again that they were suspicious of the local authorities. It was in the interest of the local authorities that he supported the Amendment to make the clause mandatory. All friends of local government must feel that they were showing their friendship for the local authorities best by keeping the question of religion out of their ken. When they brought the element of religion into a local contest they brought in an element which dominated all others. Therefore he would vote for the Amendment primarily for the sake of local government. Local government affairs had been increasing in complexity in recent years. Local authorities had now to deal with gas, water, electricity, trams, parks, and education, and already there was found some difficulty in getting proper men to take part in local work, and therein lay a great danger to municipal life.
said that though the limits of discussion were wide, it was, after all, a question as to whether local, education authorities "may" or "shall" give extended facilities in certain cases.
§ MR. HARWOOD
said it was just the question of "may" or "may not" that would dislocate local affairs at elections; it would bring in the element of religion to dominate all other questions. The Minister for Education might say that he had brought the right of appeal into this clause, as he had done into an earlier clause. But there was a serious difference. In the first case, the matter was primarily one of administration; here it was a matter of principle, and it was for Parliament to settle matters of principle. The provision which the right hon. Gentleman offered in regard to contracting out filled him with amazement. Those who cared for national education must view with alarm the prospect of a number of schools going outside the national system. Why should they have a Bill 709 at all, if they were to nullify it by allowing schools to go outside? Moreover, the treatment which was to be given to those schools seemed to him to be cruel. He was not pleading the cause of the Roman Catholic school or of any particular class of schools, but it seemed to him to be a monstrous thing to put a penalty on the teaching of religion. That was how it would appear to the public. It was as if Parliament were saying: "If you teach this kind of religion we will put a ban on you." Passive resistance! Why, in Bolton for thirty-two years the Roman Catholics, the poorest part of the population, kept up their own schools at their own expense and paid the School Board rate without a murmur. The members of the Government were being troubled by resistance of another kind from their own supporters, and he thought one of the causes of that was that they had condoned too much passive resistance. It was not for this House, which was the maker of laws, to treat lightly those who had disobeyed the law. It was not for this House to turn round on these poor people, who for thirty years had obeyed the law, although it was cruel to them, by paying rates for schools to which they could not possibly send their children, and say to them: "If you persist in teaching your religion we will put a ban on you, turn you into the wilderness, and put a mark upon you." That was surely not the way this House should treat the relationship of religion to the great problem of education. The clause unamended would be almost unfortunate thing for local government, and for municipal enterprise, and certainly he would oppose it.
§ MR. CHARLES ROBERTS (Lincoln)
said he spoke as a friend of Clause 4 in principle, though exception might be taken to its details. He thought the clause could be defended on grounds of principle, and a word of thanks was due to the Government for having met the representations made to them inside and outside the House by allowing an appeal to the Board of Education. They were not dealing here with single school districts. In such single school districts there were, he knew, some Roman Catholic schools; but these he understood the Roman Catholics did not 710 propose to maintain on their present denominational basis. Lender this clause they were dealing with urban districts where there was a choice of schools, and where it was possible without sacrificing educational efficiency to grant concession. In those urban districts under the clause it was to be an absolute condition that there should be public school accommodation for other children. The Clause 4 school would not be the old denominational school as it was known in the past. Under the old system the denominational school had a monopoly of a district in which there were children of mixed creeds. The new Clause 4 school would not have a monopoly. It would be an option or an alternative. The denominational school under Clause 4 was a single-religion school. It was a school which could not exist unless there was accommodation for children who belonged to other creeds. Although he admitted that the Clause 4 school might be under clerical influence, it was under popular management and control. He thought that that was a clear difference, and that, therefore, they might give extended facilities under the clause. Nevertheless the Government had gone far enough in granting the appeal to the Board of Education. They all knew that there might be local authorities who would not allow the rates to go to denominational schools; and they did not get rid of the difficulty if the clause was made mandatory. They were dealing with authorities, some of whom might be pigheaded, and might fight the clause in other ways that plainly occurred to him; and it would not get rid of the difficulty to substitute "shall" for "may." Then in the last resort the Board of Education had the power of mandamus. The hon. Member for Bolton had said that this was a matter which ought to be taken entirely out of the hands of the local education authorities; but that could not be done, because there were questions of accommodation, structure, sanitation, and what children were to be considered as children attending the schools—all these questions had in any case to be placed in the hands of the local educate on authorities. It would be far better, in his opinion, to trust in the first instance to the localities and to submit the 711 adjustment of these facilities to justice and reason, rather than for the House of Commons to thrust this clause down the throats of the local authorities, whether they wanted it or not. After all, they were all anxious to get to a peaceful settlement of this unending religious wrangling, and many of those on his own side of the House would welcome concession, which would, without sacrificing fundamental principles, make for peaceful settlement. He did not know whether he had read the Amendment rightly, but in his view the contracting-out arrangement would rarely occur, and it would be a remedy adopted in the last resort. It would only apply to a fraction of a fraction of the schools. He did not believe that any great breach in our national system of education would be made in leaving these occasional and exceptional powers over this mere res duum of schools in the hands of the President of the Board of Education. He did not see much harm in a few experiments being made in that direction, but he regarded contracting-out as a temporary expedient—it was only going to last five years—during which period religious party passions would have time to cool down.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said he was quite sure that the Minister for Education could not but have been moved by the appeal made by the noble Lord the Member for Chichester and by speaker after speaker, in behalf of the poor Catholics in this country. He himself was an Evangelical Churchman, but he hoped he had toleration to those who differed from him, and who wished to do justice to their own feelings and to their own schools. If they said it was necessary to have more extended facilities than were given to them in Clause 3, he thought they ought to be given. The noble Lord the Member for Chichester had said that half of the Catholic schools would be destroyed under the Bill. Surely that was a serious matter. He thought that if a Church wished that religious instruction should be imparted for more than two days in the week it should be given. He himself was a manager of a Church school, and he believed that the general practice in the Church of England 712 schools at the present time was that special religious teaching was only given for one half hour in the week. He had gone into schools to find out what was being taught, and had heard the children being taught to do their duty towards God and to their neighbour according to the Church Catechism— teaching which, formerly, no Nonconformist would have been unwilling to listen to. He knew that there were Catholics and some Anglicans and Jews who were willing to go further than he would, and there was no doubt that in some centres the existing religious teaching would not be sufficient. At the present moment he did not think we had strife in our local authorities. On the contrary he knew from his own experience they had peace reigning within them. Why should they disturb that peace by bringing in these sectarian and religious differences at every municipal election? If the proposal of the Government were adopted it would introduce into local elections that strife which they all wished to avoid. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues wished to be fair and to do justice in the case of all schools. They should therefore endeavour to do justice to the Roman Catholic schools. Such an appeal came, he thought, with much more force from a Member who, like himself, was opposed to every doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, and to the extreme doctrines of the Church of England, than it would do from those interested.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said the Bill did not apply to Ireland and did not affect his constituency, but he could not help expressing an opinion upon the question, because he thought that an exaggerated view had been taken on both sides. Taking Clause 4, and dealing for a moment with it from the Nonconformist attitude, the President of the Board of Education had declared that he meant to make the extended facilities for special religious instruction a reality. Accepting, therefore, the idea that it was going to be made operative on a large scale, if that were so, what was the overwhelming reason against it being made mandatory? He took the Nonconformist position because 713 they were going to vote for the clause upon an assurance that it was going to be made a reality. But if the Government meant this clause to be a reality, and if they knew that it was going to be a reality, whatever they did in that Committee, surely the issue at stake from that standpoint was a very small one indeed. That was what made him say that he thought exaggerated views had been taken of this clause. He was going to vote for the Amendment, although he did not distrust the local authorities of this country. He had had a great deal to do with them. For five years he was at the Local Government Board and therefore knew something about the subject, but anybody who was acquainted with England knew that there were not only local authorities who were pig-headed and who gave a great deal of trouble to the central authority, but a great many local authorities were not only pig-headed but bigoted. There was nothing a Department would shrink from more than mandamusing a great local authority, or in fact any local authority. He remembered the Local Government Board mandamusing the Leicester Board of Guardians about vaccination. He remembered how much they shrank from it, and how they were driven from point to point, how they were glad to give it the go by, and how in the end the whole proceedings ended in smoke. The mandamusing of a local authority could not be done with impunity, and if it came to that on a large scale the working of the Act would be wrecked. The Government drew this clause with the avowed intention of meeting the susceptibilities of the Roman Catholic and the Jew, and they had to include the Anglican. If the Government meant, as they had said, that the clause should be a reality, that it should not be illusory, what reason could there be against making it mandatory? To throw this question into municipal elections all over England would be one of the worst things the House of Commons could do.
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE (Wexford, N.)
said they had now reached the crucial point of the Bill, and the matter was of such importance to hose whom he 714 represented that he felt he must trespass upon the time of the Committee. While recognising the honesty of the intention of the Minister for Education, he expressed the fear that, in endeavouring to reconcile the various conflicting interests concerned in this question, the right hon. Gentleman was attempting to do the impossible by the means he proposed. The only way of dealing with the problem was by adopting a policy of equality all round, of letting each sect teach its children in its own way. It was of no use to say that the State could not afford to give religious teaching, because in his view it was the first duty of the State to see that the children of the community were brought up with proper religious teaching and that no portion of the children of its citizens were neglected or damnified in any way by the system of education it undertook. Some hon. Members had spoken for local authorities and were entitled to do so because they were members of local authorities themselves. On the whole, however, he did not think that the local authority point of view had been properly dealt with. He did not think there was any distinction between English and Irish local authorities; the Irish local authority was very much in the same position as the English local authority. Many of his hon. friends and himself had been involved in local affairs, and he himself had taken part in every form of local authority which existed in Ireland. He thought that in the interests of the local authorities themselves this clause ought to be made mandatory. If the local authorities throughout the country were canvassed, and asked, not from a platform, but in their committees, what they felt, he believed they would agree that the last thing they desired to see was local elections influenced by religious discussions. After all, Parliament ought to have the courage of its convictions, and if it meant this clause to be a reality it ought to say so. It ought to say that the provision of this clause should be carried into effect, in order to save the local authorities the trouble of fighting election after election upon religious or sectarian lines. He was very much struck by the objection which some hon. Members seemed to take to the proposal that the local authority should pay the 715 rent of the schools which they were to take over. In his country that rent would be paid in respect of property which had been created by the labour and self-sacrifice of the poorest part of the population. He was referring to the schools created by the labours and sacrifices of the Catholic population. If in Great Britain the Government said that they intended to acquire the property of these Roman Catholics they were bound in common honesty to pay for it. He looked on the proposal for contracting-out as a dangerous one for Catholic schools. The salaries of teachers had been raised, the condition of the schools had been improved, and the expenses of education were not likely to diminish in the future. Schools which contracted-out might accordingly find it difficult to satisfy the authorities, and might run the risk of being closed on the ground that they were not properly carried on. Catholics were not responsible for the educational disturbance of the last few years, and he hoped they would not be made to suffer in consequence of it.
§ MR. HART-DAVIES (Hackney, N.)
thought the whole of the debate was one more illustration of the difficulties which were created when the Government got away from the clear path of principle. It was a matter of hopeless difficulty to combine denominational teaching with public control. Contracting-out was, he thought, a step in the right direction, although he did not think it proceeded upon proper lines inasmuch as it was made a question of an order of the Board of Education instead of a question of the wishes of the trustees or managers of schools. Although he did not often find himself in agreement with the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, he agreed with every word the right hon. Gentleman had said on this subject. He was sure it was the only logical and satisfactory solution. It was impossible to carry on an efficient system of education if a large section of the community had a rankling sense of grievance, as he believed under this section they would have.
§ MR. J. RAMSAY MACDONALD
said whether they voted for Clause 4 or against it, in favour of "may" or of "shall," or for or against various 716 Amendments that had been put upon the Paper by the Government, they would find themselves in a difficulty. Those for whom he spoke did not accept this Bill as being a satisfactory solution of the religious difficulty. They supported strenuously the proposal of the hon. Member for Burnley, which they considered at the time laid down a basis upon which a satisfactory educational superstructure could be erected. They were enormously out-voted. They saw the difficulties which followed from the magnificent beating they got on that occasion. He was painfully aware that to talk of logic and of rational conclusion in connection with this topic would meet with the severe disapprobation of some of his hon. friends opposite. Nevertheless, the fact remained that every Member of this House who voted against them on that particular occasion voted in favour of Clause 4. He had been exceedingly amused by some of the speeches which Nonconformists spokesmen had delivered to-day. If the country were entirely Nonconformist he could understand those speeches. There would in that case be common sense and practical wisdom in an hon. Member assuring the House that nobody could object to the Bill as it stood. Clause 4 was a reasonable and necessary corollary of the principle on which this Bill was founded. There were only two possible ways of dealing with the religious question in connection with elementary education. One was to say that as the State was a secular organization—which, of course, was the Protestant view of the State—it could only concern itself with the secular aspect of education. That was the view taken by him and his friends, but it was a view that had been rejected by an overwhelming majority. The only other way of dealing with the question, therefore, was to apply the principle of toleration. The principle of toleration was not to lay down what was called the greatest common ground occupied by all sects; that was merely tipping the scale in favour of the sect which laid the least emphasis upon denominational instruction. He was sorry that any sect should lay great emphasis upon denominational instruction, but he was not there to take any part but that of a judge, so far as one possibly could, and to 717 weigh as impartially as possible both sides of the question. The principle of toleration meant the recognition of the existence of separate denominations which did not and could not agree as to what were the essential principles of Christianity. If every sect said simple Bible teaching was the foundation upon which they built their particular sectarian edifice then it would be altogether unreasonable and illogical for the representatives of those sects to say that Clause 4 was a necessary corollary of the debates and divisions upon Clause 1. But that was not a correct description of the religious state of the country, and therefore the application of the principles of toleration to religion could not possibly be satisfied by the Bill. Having voted as so many hon. Members did the other day, they were bound to say that so far as they reasonably could they had to recognise the right of denominations to retain their schools, and appoint, at any rate, the headmasters of those schools in order to retain their religious atmosphere. The Committee were bound to see that in giving effect to the principle of toleration they did not reduce the efficiency of the education given in the denominational schools. He thought the Committee would be perfectly unanimous that they could not give effect to the principle in any way which would reduce the efficiency of education. Therefore the Committee were bound to reject the Amendment allowing certain schools to contract themselves out of the operation of the Bill. They could not give effect to this principle of toleration by allowing premises to be used as a schoolhouse if unfitted for that purpose, and they had already safeguarded themselves against that; and the Board of Education had powers quite apart from the Bill under which they could reject such premises. So far as the Bill was drafted it gave them all the safeguards from an educational point of view that were necessary, and then it imposed the simple mechanical test that if four-fifths of the children attending a particular schools asked, by means of a secret ballot, that that school should be denominational, the local authority might accede to their request. The question was, Ought this to be left in the hands of the local authority? He was not going to reason from 718 the special point of view of any denomination. He wanted to consider the matter from a political point of view, because that was the view he and his friends were more interested in than the religious aspect of the question. They might just as well draft a Factory Bill and provide that the local authorities should do certain things and then stipulate that those provisions of the Factory law which were placed under the control of the local authorities should come into operation only if the local authoriries so decided. Any such stipulation would immediately bring the law into absolute chaos, and the House would at once object to any local authorities having such a power What they were laying down in Clause 4 was that denominational schools followed as a necessary consequence on the basis of the Bill as drafted. They were laying down as part of civil rights that under certain circumstances a certain proportion of parents should be able to claim certain privileges for their children. It was not a question of expediency, it was a question of denominations that differed from the great majority of the people of the country. If that was not the position, Clause 4 ought never to have been included.
But, if the meaning he put on the general idea and the consequence of that idea was embodied in the Bill, then he said this was not a question of local self-government, it was a question of a declaration on the part of the legislative authority of the country that such and such should be the civil right of the parents, and under certain conditions that civil right should be mechanically recognised on the part of the administrative authorities created by the Bill. He could not conceive for a moment of any theory of local self-government which demanded that this question should be handed over for final settlement to the local authority. It was not a question of local administration. Why should the education authority in his own constituency declare that no special facilities should be given, and the education authority of an adjoining constituency say that they should be given? Surely the clause did not lay down a clear principle of law in such a way as to gain 719 or it the confidence of the denominations which they were asking to remain passive and administer the Bill in a fair-minded way. He and his friends also looked at the matter from another point of view. They had hon. Members on town councils or county councils, and there was one thing they were keenly alive to, namely, the introduction of sectarian strife into the contests for efficient local administration. He could assure hon. Members that that was going to continue if the clause was left in its optional form. Those hon. Members who had gone through local elections would agree with the view he had expressed. ["No."] Surely Members must have a vivid recollection of school board elections, and the municipal elections that followed the Bill of 1902. Hon. Members must surely pause before they said they were prepared to face municipal elections after this Bill became law, when the first thing a local authority was to be asked to do was to decide whether Clause 4 should be put into operation or not. Were they prepared to face such elections when this question would be put in the forefront of the considerations that would influence the voting at such elections? Did they seriously imagine that the principles of sound municipal administration were going to be the main considerations in these elections? There was another point. Even if they left the clause optional and inserted provisions enabling the Board of Education to intervene if it found it desirable or necessary so to do, they were opening the doors for serious conflict between the Board of Education and some local authorities. Opinions would differ as to how great was that risk, but surely they had Wales as an example to warn them in that direction, and he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, as to the great temptation that would be placed in the way of local authorities to take the line of least resistance, a most objectionable course from the point of view of sound and efficient education. He did not look forward with any degree of pleasure or hope or expectation to the methods by which local education authorities would have to decide whether or not this or that school should be taken over, or whether special facilities should be given, 720 and following that, an appeal to the Board of Education and an inquiry and possibly a decision against the local authority. He thought it very likely that local authorities, knowing that, reference could be made to the Board of Education, would be inclined, as a matter of convenience and policy, to refuse to give these special facilities. It was in fact an invitation to the local authorities to refuse these facilities in the first instance and refer the whole question to the Board of Education. One could easily imagine that expedient being made an election cry in certain places. Candidates would pledge themselves to refer the matter to the Board for final decision, and he thought such candidates would be credited with being cute electioneered. That was not a desirable position to occupy, and therefore he was going to-vote for the clause being made mandatory. If that was defeated he would undoubtedly support the Government Amendments with the exception of that which gave the schools power to contract out of the Bill. He regretted that the very simple and straightforward word "shall" was not introduced into the first clause, for that would have given the Catholics and the Church some guarantee that toleration was going to-be exercised, which was not the case so far as this Bill was concerned.
MR. LLEWELLYN WILLIAMS (Carmarthen District)
assured the Government that they would have the undivided support of the vast majority of their supporters if they were pro pared to stick to their Bill and to their Amendments. It was not question whether their followers were willing to support the Government; it was a question whether the Government were willing to support their own Bill. In the last few days the Members who had been most vocal on the Liberal side were those who opposed the Government, but he asked the Government not merely to regard the views of those Members, but also to regard the views of those who silently followed the Government into the Division Lobby. He was one of those who supported the secular Amendment and he regretted ever since that more Members had rot had the courage of their opinions to support 721 that solution. It was the logical and inevitable solution, but the Government had not accepted it. The Bill had been built on the principle of local option. Clause 4 as it stood gave the local authority the option to give extended facilities, and he urged the Government, as they had after mature thought introduced a Bill based on the principle of local option, not to allow themselves to be bullied out of that position or to be blandished out of it by speeches made on either side of the House. The hon. Member for the Chichester Division had said that 50 per cent, of the Catholic schools would be destroyed by Clause 4. Nothing surprised him more than to hear that reiterated.
MR. LLEWELLYN WILLIAMS
Does the hon. Member mean to say that if 50 per cent, do not come within the operation of Clause 4 they will not come within the operation of Clause 3?
MR. LLEWELLYN WILLIAMS
said that was another matter. If a school could not be brought within the conditions of Clause 4 he contended there was nothing to prevent its being brought within Clause 3. That was not the extinction of denominational teaching in this country. As to contracting out, if he thought it would be used by the Board of Education indiscriminately or that its powers would be evoked to a large extent, he would view it with great apprehension. But he did not conceive that anything of that kind would happen. He assured the Irish Members that the Welsh Members, who represented the greatest body of Nonconformists in this country, only asked that local option should be allowed them because they had not got a Parliament of their own to decide what they wanted.
MR. LLEWELLYN WILLIAMS
said he was glad to hear that, but that dealt with only a small part of the Home Rule question. If this clause was made mandatory a greater flame would be kindled in Wales than the present Government would be able to put out. But if local option was allowed, if they trusted the local authorities in Wales, the Bill would work smoothly and well. Someone had said: suppose there was a pig-headed authority. No one knew better than he did that things were done during the last three or four years, both in Wales and outside it, which in their sober and calmer moments none of I them would like to justify. There was a state of war, and the Welsh Coercion Act as it was called was passed against the protest of Welsh Members and he was sorry that the Irish Members voted for it.
MR. LLEWELLYN WILLIAMS
Some of the Irish Party did. The Coercion Act was passed to coerce these people into doing what they did not want to do. This Bill could not be passed without the consent of the vast majority of the Liberal Members. It had met with the approval of the President of the Board of Trade, who was the greatest nationalist leader they had yet produced, and a Bill that was supported by him was not to be flouted by the Welsh authorities. The Bill would go to the constituencies in a different way from that of 1902 and it would go with greater sanction behind it. He asked hon. Members who were interested in Clause 4 and the provision it made for the voluntary schools within the four-fifths area, to trust the people to do the right thing, and not to try to coerce them. That was the real argument in favour of leaving the clause as it stood. He agreed that contracting out was nominally, at all events, a breach of Clause 1 of the Bill. Let him remind hon. Members of what happened in Scotland. The Scottish system, if he was rightly informed, was precisely the sort of system which was proposed by the Government in this Bill. Local option was given. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] Let him explain what he meant. He 723 understood that the local authorities could appoint if they liked Catholic teachers, and he was told that where there was a vast predominance of Catholic children such teachers were so appointed. There was not one uniform system of schools in Scotland, for he believed that one-tenth of them were outside the national system. He did not believe that contracting-out would be operative in more than a few cases; indeed, not at all in Wales. But he believed in the policy of justice, of trusting the people, and of leaving to each locality to decide what was best for its own community.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said that some remarks which fell from the last speaker were of great interest, because they showed that he, in common with other Members of the Committee, believed that this Bill did not leave anything in effect to the determination of the local authority; that the Government, in fact, did not trust the local authority. Without going over the ground already covered, let them see how Clause 4 stood. They began by giving directions to the local authorties, and said: "You are not to allow denominational schools to go on unless certain conditions are fulfilled." These conditions were:—the school had to be suitable; the area had to be an urban area; the parents in favour of the extended facilities must be in the proportion of 4 to 1 of the other parents having children at the school; there must be an alternative school in the area; the population of the area was to be 5,000; there was to be no rent; the salary of the teacher was to be paid by the denomination. So that, so far from leaving this matter to the good sense and discretion of the local authorities, the Government started by saying that the local authorities were not to recognise any one of those schools unless these seven conditions were fulfilled. He was not saying that these conditions were too numerous or too stringent. That was not the point; but if they were to have so many conditions then the whole trend of the argument was in favour of saying that if the whole of the conditions were fulfilled the denominational schools should go on. Not only, however, had all these conditions to be fulfilled before the local authorities 724 had a word to say, but after the conditions were fulfilled three appeals were granted against their conditions in certain circumstances. One sprang from Clause 2: if the local authorities wished to give the go-by to the whole situation, then there was to be an appeal. The second was if the managers or owners offered to enter into a treaty with the local authorities to take over a school, and the latter did not wish to do so, the tribunal of appeal might say either one of two things—first, that if the conditions were fulfilled, the local authority must take over the schools, or, secondly, they might say that under certain circumstances the denominational schools were to be State-aided schools. What then were the local authorities to do if they had conscientious objections, because they might have taken a reactionary step previous to 1902, or even worse? Then as to the third appeal. Supposing the local authorities ostensibly afforded the extended facilities, but did not in practice give satisfaction in the matter, the Board of Education might spring the teachers' question. The local au-authorities might say: "The teachers here do not hold the religious views of the owners of the schools," and the Board of Education might then say: "This is a bad business, and we will take away the rates from that school, and only give the Parliamentary grant." But there was another set of facts. The local authorities were elected every three years; and did anybody suppose that the election would not turn in many places to a considerable extent on points arising out of the religious difficulty?
Not content with that, the Government brought in another alternative by saying that these arrangements were to be reviewed every five years so as to obtain, by ballot, the sanction of the parents of four-fifths of the children attending the schools. Thus the Government had added another election to the many existing elections, and in fifteen years they might have five ordinary local authority elections, and three by ballot, in which the religious difficulty would be prominent. All these difficulties had arisen because the Government would not have the courage to say that where the conditions, 725 however numerous or stringent, were fulfilled, religious freedom should be accorded to those who desired that the denominational schools should be continued in practice. It had often been said that the religious difficulty was more theoretical than practical. That might be, but in practice the difficulty would remain, because it would be complicated by these new definitions, by these appeals, by these elections, and would become so acute in the districts j in which it existed at present, that it would extend to other parts, and so spread bitterness all round.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITE (Norfolk, N.W.)
said he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had added much to the enlightenment of the debate, and he confessed he did not follow the right hon. Gentleman's logic. His hon. friend the Member for Leicester, who ought to have contributed to the debate something worth listening to, was, however, influenced by his predilection for secular education. For his part he denied that the Stats had any right to pay for the religious education which any citizen might demand. The right hon. Member for Dover deprecated very much the sectarian strife which was likely to be engendered if the Clause now before the Committee was accepted. He (Mr. White) confessed he had no such great fear of evil resulting from the religious question being dealt with by the local authorities. Indeed he thought it might be a means of stimulating the interest of the people in education generally. It had been said that the School Board elections had been influenced by the religious question, but he knew that there were many other interests concerned which influenced those elections. He was quite certain that since 1902 education had fallen much more into the background than was the case when the school boards existed, and their elections were fought. He wished to press the point that the Bill itself was a compromise. It was not a Bill which many of them would have drawn. It was not a Bill which, in its essence, represented the views of Nonconformists, although it had been asserted that such was the case. If it had been a Bill for the establishment of a really national system 726 of education, and if the Bill had abolished all denominational schools, there might have been something to be said for it. But it was a compromise on the part of the Government to do something for education. It had been with some little reluctance that many of them had found the Minister for Education making one concession after another, in the best possible spirit, but a spirit he was bound to say which had not been reciprocated by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He confessed he did not understand why hon. Gentlemen opposite were so unwilling to put themselves into the hands of the local authorities, being sure that where the conditions existed which demanded a Roman Catholic school such a school would be granted. The Bill was in principle a local option measure, and he was strongly opposed to making the clause mandatory. It seemed to him contrary to the spirit of the Constitution that religion should be made in any sense mandatory. As a last resort in very peculiar circumstances he was prepared to support the contracting-out clause, and he thought the other provisions in the Government Amendments would commend themselves to the majority of the Committee. They were an honest and reasonable attempt to meet conflicting interests, and enabled him and those who thought with him to accept the clause in a way they could not otherwise have done. As to rent, he would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that they were acquiring really better terms than under the 1902 Act. The ballot was a satisfactory way of ascertaining the opinion of the parents. They knew under what circumstances numbers of petitions were sent up to the House, how they were prepared under great misrepresentation and misunderstanding. The ballot would be a safeguard to both parents and local authorities against such evils as he had alluded to. The fact that the Bill did not suit either Party might be taken as a proof that the Government had hit on a happy medium.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said that n discussing the Amendment he could not without violating the rules of order allude to some of the points in regard to the whole clause 727 with which they on the Irish Benches were most shocked. He could not accept what had been said about the 5,000 limit. If that 1imit were retained he was informed that 50 per cent, of the Catholic schools in England would be excluded from this clause. ["No."] He was in a better position han the hon. Gentlemen who aid "No" to know that that would be the result; and if it were really t ue that by the limitations of this clause 50 per cent, of the Catholic schools would be excluded, he could not b lieve that the right hon. Gentleman would be a party to such an act of injustice. Therefore it would be no consolation to them to know that the third clause might be made applicable to these schools He repeated that about 50 per cent., or nearly 500 schools out 1,043 would be excluded under Clause 4, if this limitation was persisted in. He did not say that anybody contemplated an act of in-justice, and he was not prepared to dissent from the proposal that the local authorities would be fair and just generally. Accepting the view, however, that local authorities were generally tolerant, he desired protection against the intolerant things which it had been admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon might be done in a state of war, but which would not be done in cool blood. He accepted the analogy, but when they came to deal with questions of religion, one was never certain when one was in a state of war, especially if the question was mixed up with practical considerations. They knew, for instance, that in one great district of England teachers were penalised by a reduction of 10 per cent, in their salaries because they did not give religious instruction; that, he considered, to be an intolerable grievance and constituted a grave danger to the Catholic schools which afforded secular education. Distinctions were made if the parents of children preferred that they should go to a Catholic instead of to a Protestant school. There had been cases in Wales, such for instance as that at Barry, in which fuel had been refused for the purposes of denominational schools to which the majority of the members of the local authority were opposed. While accepting the statement that these things were done in a state of war, surely they ought 728 to protect themselves against this state of things. In regard to local option a very small local option was left in this; Bill. Had hon. Members read the Law Reports in The Times? Did they not know that at this very time the Minister for Education was applying for a mandamus to compel a Yorkshire local authority to do that which in his opinion ought to be done? Whatever was the cause at issue between the West Riding and the Minister for Education — his right hon. friend was on one side and the local authority was on the other. That being so, his right hon. friend had to go to the court to get a mandamus. In view of that it was rather too much to ask them to accept the theory that local bodies under all circumstances and at all times might be trusted to do what was right. It was said that the local authorities ought to be left with discretion, but his answer was that there were certain fundamental liberties which ought not to be at the mercy of any imperial or local authority, and one of these was religious equality. If it were the opinion of this Committee that the Catholics, the Jews, and the Anglicans who fulfilled the conditions of the Bill should be allowed this religious equality, then they ought to make that the subject of statute law, and not leave it to the caprice or the goodwill of the local authority. The question of the rent was one of those small petty niggling acts, which very often created a great deal more resentment than more important things. Religious equality meant exactly the same position for the schools of the Catholics as for the schools of the Nonconformists, and if they devote voted rates and taxes to the teaching of what they might call undenominational Christianity, but what Catholics called Protestantism, he could not understand the consistency and logic of denying the rent to a Catholic school because Catholic instead of Protestant doctrine was taught in it. These Catholic schools appealed to him and to every educationist as the schools of the poorest, and if any inequality was to exist it should not be in favour of the schools of the better-to-do classes. It was all very well for the representatives of some of the great Nonconformist bodies to speak of the withholding of this rent as no grievance 729 when the members of those bodies need not send their children to these elementary schools unless they liked. They could send them to a grammar school or a private school; but the parents of the children who went to the Catholic schools were too poor to do that. It was almost the worst act of the great Irish tragedy that the people of the Irish race who had come to England or Scotland had to take the unhealthiest work and the work which involved the greatest drudgery and was the worst paid. These were the people whom it was proposed to penalise by withholding the rent, and, what was more, to contract them out of the Act. He regarded contracting-out, and still more to be contracted-out, as a reactionary step. There had never been an instance in this country of a Catholic school once established having been surrendered. He might well appeal not to the generosity, but to the justice of tolerant, fair-minded men. The proposal was that if a local authority could not be persuaded or bullied into taking these schools they should be contracted out. That meant ill-paid teachers and ill-ventilated schools. There was no class which could bear these disadvantages less than the people for whom he spoke. He hoped that the majority in this House would rise above Party, and see that the rights of these people were respected.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said there was one peculiarity which must have struck the Minister for Education. The right hon. Gentleman, like the mover of the Amendment, desired that this clause might be a reality, and he had put down Amendments of his own to achieve that object. He desired, like the mover of the Amendment, that no voluntary school which fulfilled the general conditions of the clause should by the action of a local authority be excluded from the advantages which he wanted to give it. But whom had he found to defend his proposition? The only gentleman in the House who had risen to defend the Government and to speak against the Amendment was the hon. Member for the Morley Division of Yorkhire who had spoken in favour of local option, and local option was no longer the Government policy in regard to this clause. Therefore, the only gentlemen who had spoken against the 730 Amendment differed fundamentally from the policy which the Government desired to carry out by the Amendments they had put upon the Paper. He thought it was one of the most singular incidents of a Parliamentary debate he had ever known that the only defenders of the Government were those who differed from the Government's policy. They had not to-day to concern themselves with the gentlemen who were in favour of local option, but to compare the two alternative methods which were now before the Committee. There was, firstly, the proposition of his hon. friend, the perfectly simple, direct, and intelligible proposition that a local authority which, according to the Government, ought to give these facilities was to be obliged by the Act to give them. That was a plain, straightforward, honest, direct, and intelligible way. It did not commend itself to the Government; and what they had got to do was to compare this plain and simple method with the tortuous, ambiguous, and, he thought, wholly unjustifiable plan which the Government had put before them in the Amendments the right hon. Gentleman had explained, but, if he would allow him to say so, not defended in the speech which he had addressed to the Committee. The first criticism he had to make was that the Government proposal aimed at taking the responsibility off the local authority, which they agreed was not in all cases to be trusted, and handing it over to the Education Department. But was the Education Department to be wholly trusted in these matters? Some hon. Gentlemen had talked of the Education Department as if it were, necessarily, a judicial body, absolutely to be trusted to decide, without respect to Party prejudice, religious opinion, or political opinion, questions which by hypothesis were tearing asunder public opinion in some constituencies. Was the Board of Education, even in the opinion of the head of the Department himself, a judicial body of that kind? And if it were a judicial body under the right hon. Gentleman himself, had the Committee the smallest security that it was going to remain a judicial body under the right hon. Gentleman's successors, from whatever party they might be drawn? The drafting of the clause made it obligatory 731 that there should be a revision of these arrangements every five years. Every five years some Minister for Education— and he could not think the right hon. Gentleman desired to be Minister for Education for more than five years—had got to revise all these arrangements. Was there the smallest probability, or any reasonable hope, in the absence of statutory directions or any clear indication of what the policy of Parliament was, that the right hon. Gentleman or his successors would look at these difficult problems in the pure, dry light of justice? The right hon. Gentleman himself, in one of his speeches, indicated this exact weakness, and deprecated responsibilities being thrown either on himself, or upon his successors, or upon the Department, which, in a number of cases, must bring him and them into collision with bitter divisions of religious opinion, and, it might be, even with bitter differences of political opinion. That was the first objection to the Government's proposal to which the plan of his hon. friend was not open. The second objection was that the Government plan was clumsy beyond expression. They set up in Clause 4, as originally drafted, the most elaborate machinery, and all that was, or might be, doubled in any particular case by the Amendment of the Government, because the Government, or the Education Department, had got to revise the decisions come to by all this elaborate machinery, and, for the life of him, he could not see how a decision arrived at by that machinery could be upset unless they first put in operation machinery not less elaborate and not less complicated. All that had to be done in order to carry out an object which his hon. friend would accomplish by the change of a single word in the clause. It was a curious thing that the Government were not content with substituting an unsafe tribunal for a safe direction of the House of Commons and establishing clumsy machinery, but must needs accompany it with this amazing clause about rent. He did not think the provision had been defended by any one except the Member for North Camberwell, who, in the course of a speech, with much of which he agreed, made an apology for this kind of rent. He did not himself 732 think any apology was possible. This was the second instance of what appeared to have become an habitual proceeding; with the Government. The Government were driven by argument to concede something to the voluntary schools. They made a concession on Clause 2, and they were now making what they regarded as a concession on Clause 4. In each case they appeared to have-thought that they would conciliate their Nonconformist supporters by putting a pecuniary fine upon those-whose religious convictions they were endeavouring to satisfy. In the first case they said they would carry out their deliberate pledges, but as the price of their fidelity to their own promises, would require that every owner of a private school as well as of a trust deed school should hand over that school to the local authority if required. Now the Committee had the second case. What relation could the most ingenious dialectician in the House suggest between an arrangement by which they were to meet the consciences of the owners and parents connected with a particular voluntary school and the rent paid for that school? What connexion could there be between making a local, authority carry out what the Government said was its duty and handing: over to it as a bonus for carrying out that duty the rent of some voluntary school? There was an extraordinary want of logic in these proposals which amazed him. If the Government had said from the beginning that they did not think any voluntary school ought to exact rent, he would have thought their position grossly unjust; But they would have said, "We have a majority and we mean to take the school." But to bring this forward as if it had some connection with satisfying the conscience of schools intended to be benefited by Clause 4 was a thing which no man could justify, and which the Minister of Education had thrown upon the Committee without a word of explanation or justification. He considered it not only extremely petty and unreasonable, but he ventured to think it would have consequences of a very serious character The object of the Government, it was said, was to induce the local bodies to carry out their admitted functions. 733 Why did the Government put into their Amendment every inducement to the local authority to ignore the obligations which they said ought to be obeyed? If his hon. friend's Amendment were carried the local authorities would have no alternative between dealing fairly by Clause 4 or breaking the law directly. But the Government had literally bribed the local authority by their Amendments not to carry out the policy which they said the local authority were bound to carry out. First there was the rent. If the local authorities did not come to an arrangement with the voluntary schools they would be relieved of paying the rent and of repairing the schools. They would therefore have a direct pecuniary motive for quarrelling with the managers of voluntary schools and either refusing to make an arrangement with them or refusing to make an arrangement which they could work tolerably, so that the voluntary schools would beg the Education Department that they might be relieved of this unnatural alliance and allowed, even at the cost of inefficiency and poverty, to be placed in a position of something like liberty. But the bribe to the local authority was not merely a money bribe. Everybody knew that the Government had got themselves into a great mess over Clause 4, because that clause, whether in its new or in its old; form, required that the man who had been a passive resister since 1902 should go on resisting passively to the end of time. In every area in which a voluntary school was kept going at the expense of the rates every conscientious passive resister was bound to continue to uphold his principles. There was no loophole from that embarrassing situation under Clause 4 as it originally stood. But a loophole would be provided if every voluntary school within an area; in which there was a passive resister was driven by the local authority to become a State-aided school. Then and then only would the conscientious passive resister be at peace; then 734 and then only would he be justified in obeying the laws of his country. He would no longer allow his goods to be restrained, even if he had no kind friend to relieve him from that obligation. Everybody would admit that that was a strong temptation to the local authority to drive or exclude every voluntary school out of the educational system of the country. As it rested with the local authority alone to decide whether or not a voluntary school should be paid out of the rates or entirely out of the taxes, who could doubt that in places where there was a passive resister—places, for instance, like the West Riding of Yorkshire and Wales—the local authority would without hesitation choose the course which relieved them of this difficulty of their own conscience and that of their friends at the price of the efficiency of the school? He confessed he wholly agreed with the hon. Member for North Camberwell that the contracting-out clause was a retrograde clause. Never had he heard such warm eulogies of the Act of 1902, even from the supporters of the Act, as he had heard that night from the Ministerial Benches; and never had he so fully realised the truth of the opinion he had always been bold enough to entertain that that Act was a great and permanent educational measure as when he heard it admitted with such frankness that night. The hon. Member for North Camberwell had always been consistent in that view, but the significant thing was that no one on the Ministerial Benches had ventured to contradict the hon. Gentleman. No one could deny that to allow any school now supported out of the rates and taxes to be henceforth aided out of taxes alone was a retrograde step, from the point of view of secular education, and thoroughly and completely reactionary. It not only put the schools back into the position they occupied before 1902, but it emphasized that evil by bringing them down from the high position to which the Act of 1902 had raised them. The Government solution of the great 735 religious difficulty was to turn well-equipped schools into ill-equipped schools by compelling them to give up the advantages of the rates which were conferred upon them by the Act of 1902. Surely that was one of the most grotesque results of the fortnight's debates on the Bill. It was in the fullest sense in direct contradiction to the most emphatic promises and pledges given by the right hon. Gentleman himself. They all had fresh in their minds the speech made on the introduction of the Bill which had raised so many hopes that had been already dashed to the ground. ["No."] It raised among other hopes the hope, indeed the certainty, that wherever the owners of denominational schools desired the system of denominational teaching to be continued it would be continued subject to the restrictions in Clause 3. The Government promised that on the First Reading, but they now attempted to give a different interpretation to their unmistakable pledge. Might he remind the right hon. Gentleman of what he said? The right hon. Gentleman said—That after the appointed day no elementary school should receive a penny of public money, either from the rates or taxes, unless it becomes a provided school within the meaning of the Education Act. Unless electoral pledges were fustian and fudge, unless they were mere sound and fury signifying n tiling, no one man could ignore that.Was there a man in the House who could interpret the right hon. Gentleman's explicit statement in any other sense than this, that henceforth every public elementary school was to be, in the first place, under public management, and, in the second place, to receive aid out of rates as well as out of taxes? Could there be a clearer renunciation of the idea that there were to be what were now called Stated-aided schools — schools entirely outside the general system of the county schools which were to subsist or starve, as the case might be, upon taxes, and taxes alone, which were to have no connection with the local authority either byway of control or assistance, which were 736 not to receive a single penny out of the rates. That was for ever to be abolished. [Hear, hear," from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.] Did he understand the cheer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as indicating that the Government viewed that policy with satisfaction? The right hon. Gentleman adopted a prudent reticence. At all events, the reported and corrected words of the Members of the Government indicated that they never contemplated, when they brought in the Bill, any such class of school as State-aided schools, but that they deliberately thought they were introducing a reform which went further than the Act of 1902, not, indeed, in giving more rate aid, but in giving public control over the schools. One word by way of summing up. The Government found among those who were going to support the Amendment only those who were in favour of local option. Those who were in favour of local option were, indeed, opposed to the Amendment, but they were equally opposed to the policy of the Government They were quite opposed to the policy of the Government. They relied, therefore, upon the somewhat hollow support of those Who fundamentally differed from them in the object to be attained. In the object to be attained there was no difference between the Government and his hon. friend. His hon. friend proposed a clear and straightforward method of dealing with it. The Government method was not clear, and not straightforward—it involved the greatest injustice to voluntary schools, it carried with it the most reactionary result upon general education, and it was in direct and explicit contradiction to the promises made by the Minister for Education himself.
§ MR. BIRRELL
replied that they intended to take nothing except the Worcester Election Petition Motion.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress; and ask leave to sit again"—(Mr. Birrell)—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.