§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
I have to thank the Minister for Education for having informed me by a note which I received some three hours ago that he intended to take the course which he has in fact pursued. It is the usual course, but some doubts had been aroused in my mind this morning when I read, in several important journals, a confident expectation not only that the Minister for 1011 Education would speak first in support of the Bill for which he is responsible, but also, so it was stated, that he was in a position to announce two or three important concessions which might go far to mitigate the wrath that has been excited by the Bill before the House. Had he taken that course the Government would have invited us to a discussion. As he has not, the Government challenge us to a conflict; and we accept the challenge. We have not to deal to-day with some imaginary Bill, amended in this or that particular, full of sweetness and light. We have to deal with this Bill, and to it we offer a most uncompromising opposition. With its five parts and its forty clauses, it opens up a field of acute controversy so vast that it would be impossible to survey it, and still less to traverse it, within the limits of any speech which I should dream of inflicting upon the House But that does not make my task any the harder. I do not feel under an obligation at this stage of our proceedings to deal in any detail with many of the subsequent parts of the Bill, not because we do not entertain very grave objections to Parts II, III, and IV, but because the objections which lie against those parts on the merits are in every case enhanced by the nature and character of Part I. I think I can make that plain without making any undue draft upon the patience of the House. Part II seems to us to call for very active opposition. It may be that the Minister in charge of the Bill will be able to allay some of our apprehensions. For my part I feel that no doubt, owing to the exigencies of time, he did not handle this part of the Bill in the First Heading debate so fully and so explicitly as the occasion seemed to demand. If I understand Part II aright, under contingencies which are not remote and which may be brought very near when Part I is in full operation, the training colleges of all denominations will be brought within the scope of Part II. I shall be glad if that is not the case. It may be said that much of the language employed in Part II is copied from other enactments—;the Charitable Trusts Acts and the Endowed Schools Act. I think that is true; but that does not mitigate our opposition to Part II of the Bill. Under the Charitable Trusts Acts the powers to make schemes were very limited. In every case of an endowment of a value greater than £50 a year 1012 action could only be taken with the consent of the governing bodies. In other cases, action could only be taken on application; and in all those cases there was an appeal. Under the Endowed Schools Act the powers were greater, but the objects for which those powers could be used were far more limited. Those Acts were of a temporary character. They did not apply to any endowment in the future, in practice, at any rate, after the year 1869. They did not apply to any endowment oven after the year 1819 except with consent. All this legislation, which did, I admit, place from time to time considerable powers in the hands of the Charity Commissioners or of the Board of Education, was of a limited and temporary character, and, in practice, was only brought info play in order to abate something which could be regarded, if not as a scandal, at any rate as an inevitable diversion of a trust from its original purpose But this legislation in Part II is not of a temporary character, and its purpose is not to better the application of funds in the direction of the intention of those who subscribed them. The whole intention of Part II is that the Board of Education—;that is to say, the Government and the Minister of the day—;should have power to operate on any endowment in order, not to abate a scandal, not to improve the application in accordance with the wishes of the original donors, but in order to render educational endowments—;mark the words—;"as serviceable as possible for educational purposes of the time." It sounds a laudable object; but who is the judge of what educational purposes are? [An HON. MEMBER: The House of Commons.] The Board of Education; under Clause 33, subsection 2, it is the Board of Education, and only the Board of Education, which is to deem what an educational purpose is; because the power given to the Charity Commissioners under another section is only to state the fact that an endowment is connected with education, and not to define what an educational purpose is. Under Clause 16 of Part II, if I road it aright, this Board of Education, or any subsequent Board of Education, is bound to distinguish between what it deems to be an educational purpose and any denominational purpose, and is bound in every case, no matter what the trust deeds may say, or what 1013 the intention of the funds may have been, to subordinate the denominational purpose to what they deem to be an educational purpose. Part II. legislates to this effect—;that any denominational endowment is not an educational purpose, but that it is another purpose, which, within narrow limits and by the good will and indulgence of a single Minister and his colleagues, may not be diverted entirely from the purpose for which the money was originally bestowed. Under Part II. all the limitations and all the restrictions as to the scope and object of the Charitable Trusts Acts and the Endowed Schools Act are swept away. All these powers, so enlarged, are concentrated in the hands of a single Minister, and that Minister is absolved from doing what the Courts, whoso direction is now withdrawn, have always done in the past —;from giving his jurisdiction in accordance with the wishes of those who originally subscribed these sums. I will not elaborate that because I have already Spoken at greater length than I intended upon this point; but I may add that, if Part I. achieves the results which its authors seem to contemplate, if it destroys denominational teaching throughout all the elementary schools of the country, then the importance of other institutions to support the same object becomes loss. It is diminished, and we come back to Part I. of the Bill.
The same is the case if I touch on Part III. I believe that under Part III. "Miscellaneous Provisions," heavy burdens, becoming increasingly onerous, will be placed upon the rates of the rural districts of England. It may be that in Clause IV. the Government have attempted to lighten the impact of that heavy weight. They say that for certain purposes only one quarter of the cost is to fall upon the parish. Yes, but they have omitted, and the omission is significant, the word "improvement." One quarter of the cost of providing schools is to fall on the parish; but in how many cases is a completely new school going to be built, and in how many cases are the existing schools going to be enlarged? And for that there is no remedy in the only clause which attempts to mitigate the burden to fall on the rates. I admit that the Government extend the period for the repayment of sums that have been 1014 borrowed; but is that a blessing to the rural districts of England? We have heard hon. Gentlemen now sitting on the other side decry from those benches again and again the practice of saddling posterity with the debts of the present. If that be unwise in the case of an Empire with a yearly income of from£150,000,000 to £170,000,000, is it not folly, is it not madness, when you are dealing with a poor rural parish to say that debts may be incurred for purposes which few desire, and that the burden may be spread over nearly two generations? There is also to be a grant-in-aid of £1,000,000. That will not go very far if Part I. is carried as it stands, and if it carries out the intentions of the authors of the Bill. And, on the other side of the account, so far as higher education is concerned, by withdrawing all the boroughs and all the urban districts with a population of 50,000, you have taken what I may call the rateable plum out of the country, and you leave only the poorest and most backward districts to boar the burden, it may be of fantastic experiments, in the direction of higher education. And for those experiments, conducted by an educational authority which for the purposes of quiet villagers is as remote as Whitehall, which does not know what their lives are, that authority is allowed, nay encouraged, to spend any amount of money, and to raise any rate it chooses. The 2d. limit is withdrawn. All this may be very well from the point of view of education. I say it is intolerable when you increase the cost of education, not for an educational object, but for an object which has nothing to do with education. It might be right, though I think in that direction we ought to march prudently, to rate the rural districts up to any figure you please for the sake of higher education; but it cannot be right to do that when, at the same time, you are saddling them with the rent and with the cost of repairs of schools with which in the main they are very well satisfied. You are adding that charge to the cost of education, and, therefore, the objections which lie against Parts II. and III. on the merits are enhanced because of the nature of Part I. of the Bill.
I am not going to be led away into discussing Part IV. of the Bill. On the face of it it seems to me to be flagrantly 1015 unjust to England, because Members who sit for Welsh seats are going to speak and to vote during the whole of the debates on Part I. of the Bill, which applies to England, but they will go off with separate benefits. They will be made the absolute arbiters of the fate of every man who differs from them in religion from one end of Wales to the other. There is not in the House of Commons a single Unionist Member from Wales. There is not a single Welsh county council upon which Churchmen have a majority or even an effective voice, and yet all these enormous powers conferred upon the Board of Education by Part II. of the Bill are going to be transferred to a body composed of delegates from the Welsh county councils —; every power except any which may be excepted by Order in Council. This House has little or no control over Orders in Council, and therefore the fortunes, the possessions, and the religious liberty of the minorities in Wales are being handed over to a delegation from the county councils, who differ from them profoundly on all those questions and have shown an almost implacable spirit in the course of this controversy, and at the same time the protection of effective debate in this House is to be denied to these minorities. That is a position which is flagrantly unjust. But its injustice again, as in the case of Part II., is increased when we consider the nature and the character of Part I. of this Bill, for under Part I. all those fabrics towards which the minorities in Wales have contributed, of which they are proud, and to which they look for the protection of the religious views which they are entitled as free citizens to hold, will, with possibly exceptions which need hardly be considered, be transferred from them to those against whom they have been in sharp controversy during the last ten or even thirty years. [MINISTERIAL cheers.] That is applauded on the other side.
Let me refer to Part I. of the Bill. In Part I. of the Bill there is a violation of the principle of religious equality. That in itself is unjust; that in itself calls for our strenuous and uncompromising opposition, unless and until you so amend the Bill as to make it consistent with the principle of religious equality, and it bears other evils in its train. We hold that the two things for which we 1016 care depend upon the preservation of the principle of religious equality. We may be right or wrong, but in the integrity of our hearts we believe that the continuous maintenance of any form of religious instruction in our schools depends largely upon the preservation of the principle of religious equality. We believe, in the second place, that the degree—;I shall develop this later—;to which it is possible to uphold and give effect to the right of the parents depends largely upon preserving the principle of religious equality. You concede that right in theory in certain clauses in this Bill. We claim that the right of the parent is to have his child brought up in the religion which the parent prefers, and to have his child taught by those who believe in the religious instruction. You concede that in theory. [Cries of "No."] Well, that is denied. I should have thought that it was conceded by Clauses 3 and 4. Otherwise, why were these clauses introduced into the Bill at all? But I admit that the concession is of very little value, because when dealing with this right of the parent you limit the operation to non-provided schools. Why? The parent has the right; it exists independent of the accident which has given this or that character to the school, but you fetter the exercise of this right, you imperil its continuance, and you make no reasonable provision for the future. If parents now have a right, which ought to be accorded in so far as that is possible, to choose the kind of religious instruction which their children shall have, why is that right to be denied practically in the future, when by the automatic increase of the population there will be many more parents with similar desires? The whole of this is illogical. That is not a very grave charge to bring against a Bill if it departs from logic in order to meet the exigencies of the people for whom it is brought in. If it does not, if that Bill goes out in this or that direction apparently only to inflict injury upon some classes of the population, then, I think, the charge that it is illogical and irrational is one which will have to be met. We hold that so far as the State is concerned it ought to be neutral. I commend that to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who seems to challenge my zeal in upholding the rights of parents. I assert that in the past the State has been neutral. ["Oh."] When 1017 I made that assertion during the First Reading debate it was greeted, as it has been greeted this afternoon, with tones of dissent and almost derision, but that is not enough to controvert a statement which is made in all earnestness and seriousness by a Member of this House. More is wanted. It is necessary, not that I should be interrupted in the course of my speech, but that in the course of the debate someone should got up in his place to say that in such a year by such an Act the State abandoned its attitude of neutrality, and I defy anyone to do it.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
No. Hon. Members will have to make that good. They will have to show that the Act of 1902 gave facilities to some persons which it denied to others, and inflicted disabilities on some. I have quoted before—;why should I quote again?—;the opinion of Mr. Sidney Webb. If we have to defend the Act of 1902 again we shall be perfectly ready to do it. Until it is proved by argument that the State did depart from that attitude I shall declare that it did not. Until the Minister of Education brought in this Bill, for which he is responsible, the State, in my judgment, had preserved a neutral attitude towards those who, on the one hand, prefer, and we think they have a right to prefer, that religious instruction should be of a definite character, and that it should be given by competent persons in school hours, and, on the other hand, those of our fellow citizens who prefer, as they have a perfect right to do, that religions instruction should be of an undenominational character, that if they are satisfied with the Bill denominational instruction should be given only by the good nature of any one who cares to give it, and that it should be given out of school hours. I hold that the State should hold the balance equally between those two great sections. But taking the facts as they are, the schools in this country in which religious education of the first kind is given number something over 14,200. They are two-thirds of the schools of this country, and more than half the children of the country are being educated in them. Under Clause 1 of the Bill, with an exception which I promise to deal with as fairly as I can, the rule is that all those 1018 schools are to be transferred or converted from the kind of school which many prefer into the kind of school which others prefer. The rule is, with certain exceptions, that from all these schools the religious teaching to which millions of our countrymen attach immense importance is to be abandoned, that the teachers belonging to the various denominations who have perhaps joined the teaching profession because they cared more about these matters than about the mere curriculum of secular education are silenced. They are not to be allowed to teach. That is a great interference with the liberty of the subject, and it is resented by a great body of the teachers. Move-over, owing to the operation of the third part of the Bill, some of these teachers may find that their occupation is gone. They may lose their posts. You may say that you contemplated that contingency, and that you made provision for it. Yes, the Government made provision for that in Clause 7, Sub-section 4. I have received a letter from a teacher directing my attention to this sub-section, which says —;Any teacher employed at the time of the passing of this Act in an existing voluntary school who loses his employment by reason of the school ceasing to be a public elementary school in consequence of this Act, shall be entitled, in accordance with regulations made for the purpose by the Treasury and the Board of Education, notwithstanding anything in the Elementary School Teachers' Superannuation Act, 1898, or the rules made under that Act, to pay contributions to the deferred annuity fund under that Act during any time (not exceeding one year after the date at which he so loses his employment) in which he is not employed in recorded service, and to reckon the time in respect of which contributions are so made as if it were recorded service.He suggested that the Minister for Education might borrow something from the proclamation recently issued to Chinese labourers on the Rand and insert at the end "An exceptional act of benevolence of this kind ought to excite your gratitude." We do not attach great importance to the amount of more money involved in this huge transfer of property from one purpose to another, but it has a bearing on the argument. It does, at any rate, attest the earnestness and the zeal of those who contributed such sums to purposes which this Bill will go far to destroy. There has been a controversy as to the amount of the property involved. When 1019 my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition introduced the Act of 1902 he put the value of the schools at £26,000,000. That figure was criticised on the basis of a Blue-book which was published dealing with the amounts of building grants towards the cost of the erection of these fabrics. But that Blue-book states that it is incomplete. It took no account of any sums which had been contributed before 1839 and after 1875, and only in certain cases was it able to be apprised of the sums contributed between 1839 and 1851. But in the diocese of Wakefield—;not a selected diocese—;it is possible to say how much has been actually spent on its ninety-six schools, as all the accounts have been kept. The Blue-book figures given for these schools are £112,000. The actual money spent on these schools between 1830 and 1902, as revealed by the accounts, was £350,000. That shows the measure of the error, not of the Blue-book, which states that it is incomplete, but of those who take the figures of the Blue-book as if they were complete. Therefore, the amount of voluntary contributions towards these schools was not £14,000,000, minus £1,500,000, as some people said, but no less a sum than £32,000,000. It is true that some of that money was given for purposes other than that to which we attach the greatest importance, viz., religious education. Yes; but is it denied seriously that the great bulk of the money was paid by people who earnestly desired that religious instruction should be given in the schools? That was also the laudable and legitimate desire of the Wesleyans and Roman Catholics in building their schools. But it has been said, "Yes, a great deal of money has been spent on these schools, but they were not properly maintained." It is said that originally those who desired a religious education paid a large proportion of the cost of maintenance, but as time went on they paid a smaller proportion. That is true, and yet it is a fallacious argument. The total cost had so much increased that though relatively they contributed a smaller proportion of the cost, absolutely they gave more year after year. In the case of the Church schools the private contributions towards maintenance amounted to £386,000 in 1871; but in 1902 they amounted to £791,000. It is, therefore, true to say that there was no 1020 relaxation of effort on the part of private subscribers, or diminution of the sacrifices they were ready to incur. I have also heard it said that once the Act of 1902 was passed and rate-aid was obtainable the contributions ceased. That is not the case. In the three years that have passed since 1902 the voluntary contributions have increased, and have maintained an average of £1,000,000 sterling per annum in each one of these years. That mere statement of the amount of property involved shows the importance which voluntary subscribers attached to the particular kind of religious instruction they desired to be given to their children.
But the money value of the thing is as dust in the balance by comparison with their right to have the thing if they choose to have it—;their right that the State should regard their preference with as favourable an eye as the preference of others of their fellow-subjects who take a different view of the matter. I know that the Government repudiates the idea that in passing this Bill they are seeking to deliver a blow at denominational schools. It is always unnecessary to impute motives. Hero we have to deal with facts. If your passion for uniformity, and that alone, carries you to this extreme length, we ask you to curb your passion for uniformity. There was a time when the leaders of Liberal opinion thought that uniformity was not a good but a bad thing. John Stuart Mill was against uniformity in secular education. He said that diversity in education was necessary in order to get the best that could be got out of individual character. He also hold that education established and controlled by the State should only be by way of experiment, as an example and stimulus to keep others up to a certain standard of excellence. If hon. Gentlemen opposite will apply these words to religious education they will understand our attitude towards the dual system which has hitherto existed. We did not attack the undenominational schools; but we did believe, and we do believe, that the existence side by side with undenominational religious instruction of definite religious instruction was a stimulus which kept up the standard of religious instructions in board schools, which are now the provided schools. We believe that if you crush out definite religious instruction you imperil the maintenance of any 1021 form of religious instruction as part and parcel of the education of the English child. The State was neutral in this matter. The State never put a disability on those who preferred undenominational education. The State, in fact, gave encouragement to them to spend these large sums of money, as under the Sites Act of 1841. It gave grants to meet equivalent grants of private generosity. It instigated those who cared for denominational education to subscribe more and more money, and money was forthcoming in the proportion of three and a half to one. The State, in fact, promoted this form of education at the cost of private persons of religious instincts, in order to relieve the general public and those who were satisfied with undenominational education of charges which otherwise they must have borne. In face of the fact, is it proper to transfer the whole of these schools, and to divert them from the purposes that those who spent those large sums of money intended them to subserve?
Let me now turn to the method of transfer. By Clause 2 the transfer is to be carried out by arrangement (which is a new word in legislation) between the owners or trustees of the schools and the local bodies in cases where the local body desires to do so, and in cases where it does not desire to do so these schools may cease to be public elementary schools, and the local body may rate all those who have subscribed these large sums of money in order to build two or three schools to compete with the original schools, withdrawing from them all rate-aid and aid from the Exchequer. That is a monstrous proposition. You invite two persons to make a bargain, and you give to one of the parties to the arrangement the power of ruining the other unless he accepts the terms. The local authority says to the trustees of the unprovided schools, "If you do not accept my terms I shall withdraw all public aid from your schools and build two others and rate you for them. Now, what will you take? But if even with this wonderful lever which the Government has placed in the hands of the local authority, they do not succeed in making an arrangement; then this anonymous, this novel body, is brought into being; this Commission of three, with powers utterly 1022 unknown, is placed above all law. And what a long time the Government is going to give owners and trustees to make this arrangement! If the Bill passes the Commission comes into being on the first of next January. I do not know when the Bill is going to pass. Say it is the end of October or November. In that case they would have to spend their Christmas holiday in making terms with the local authority. This Commission is brought into the machinery for compelling people to surrender their property and to give up their religious convictions in a harsh and unjust manner. But will it work? The only gleam of satisfaction which I have derived from reading this Bill is the belief that it will not work at all. I do not suppose that any of those who agree with us in politics are going to imitate proceedings which we thought foolish and a dereliction of civic duty —; I mean passive resistance; but I do believe that trustees will feel themselves bound as honourable men to defend the suits which are going to be brought against them throughout the length and breadth of the land. It is scarcely left to them as matter of choice. Very little choice is left to anybody under this Bill, unless he be a teacher. Other people have to take what the Government give them; the teacher alone is left to pick and choose. You compel owners and trustees to defend the suits. There are 14,200 voluntary schools, nearly all of them under trusts. Do you suppose, in default of arrangement before January 1st, 1907, that in twenty or thirty years your Commission, unless you give them all the powers of Oliver Cromwell's military generals, will be able to extract that property from people whom you compel to defend it?
I come to the first exemption from the iron rule—;Clause 3, the ordinary facilities. If the local authority allows it, if the Commission awards it, only in the non-provided schools religious education may be given upon two mornings in the week. The teachers are prohibited by the State from giving it, and the pupils are told by statute that they need not attend. Why, it is a mockery. I will not waste time upon that. Coming to Clause 4, the extraordinary facilities, which are confined to urban districts and to boroughs, there, if the local authority allows it, and the inquiry demonstrates 1023 that four-fifths of the parents wish it, the school is to remain more or less a denominational school. I say there is no liberty in any of these exemptions. They do not seriously modify the main rule, which is an iron rule, an unjust and harsh rule. We know pretty well what the effect of the latter exemption may be. Under it, according to a Return, which has been given by my lion, friend, 100 per cent, of the schools of the Jews may be saved, 77 per cent, of the Roman Catholic schools, more than half of the Wesleyan schools, but in the case of the Church of England only one quarter of her schools will be saved. In this matter we are not fighting the battle of any one denomination, and I say that for all denominations the provision is precarious and inadequate. Hon. Members devote a great deal of attention to what they call the attacks on this Bill by Churchmen. I wonder if they read what is sometimes said by those for whose sake this Bill is brought in. I wonder if the Minister for Education read an interesting speech made only a week ago at Torquay by the Rev. F. E. Anthony. Up to 1902 the Rev. F. E. Anthony was chairman of the School Board in Plymouth. Since that time he has been chairman of the Education Committee. On the council there is a Radical majority, and their idea of fair play is to appoint twenty-one Nonconformists and six Conservative Churchmen on the education authority. That is the authority at Plymouth on which all these facilities and exemptions depend; and we know what they moan to do, because Mr. Anthony has told us. He is very dissatisfied with Clauses 3 and 4 of this Bill, but he says fortunately the Government have made both these clauses permissive, and he adds that it will be the duty of the local authority "to use the remedy which the Bill provides.'
Coming to Clause 5, will any sane man believe that people will build schools out of their own money and maintain them on the off-chance that local authorities will at some future day, under no compulsion, take them over and give them the facilities of Clause 4? It is absurd. It is a mockery to put in Clause 5. These exemptions are worthless. The rule remains—;unjust in principle and harsh in application to all denominations. There is an added wrong done to the 1024 Church, not by the Bill, and not by the Government, but by many ardent supporters of the Bill outside this House and in the Press, who, because we, in common with those who belong to other denominations, state that we attach importance to distinctive religious education being given according to the creed and catechism of our Church, taunt us with attacking the Bible. That is hitting below the belt. I think hon. Members who belong to the Liberal Party have forgotten what liberty of conscience means. It is an infringement of any man's liberty of conscience to ask him to justify to those who differ from him the reasons for any religious faith which he may hold. I am not going to be drawn into expressions of any religious or theological opinion, but I say that in this Bill the teacher, and the teacher alone, is allowed to have full liberty of conscience in matters of religious belief.
In venturing to move the complete rejection of this Bill, I deny that we are showing callousness to the prospect that the Bible might be eliminated altogether from our schools. Who are those champions of simple Bible teaching? They are the supporters of a Bill which provides in respect of simple Bible teaching that the local authority need not sanction it, the teacher need not give it, and that the pupil need not attend to receive it.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I will take up that interruption. Hon. Members opposite think that they controvert our argument when they point to the Act of 1870 and the subsequent by-laws instituting the Cowper-Temple clause. On that very ground we have always claimed, and we claim now, that you ought not to destroy the denominational school, because the existence of the denominational school not only gives some measure of justice to those who prefer denominational instruction, but also, in our opinion, gives a stimulus and sets a standard to local authorities who, but for that stimulus and standard, might not, for all we know, give religious teaching in the school. We may be wrong, but that is our view. We stand by the argument 1025 that the State has been neutral to each of these two classes, and we say that it ought to continue to be neutral. We say that this miserable provision even for teaching the Bible does imperil the continuous existence of any religious teaching in our schools, and we think that a national danger. We say that the first part of your Bill crushes out denominational teaching, and we think that a social injustice; and when you welcome this or that argument as a system of compromise, when you declare that we are entering into a battle in order that some political profit may be got out of it, I assure you that you are wrong. Let us deal seriously with what is a serious problem. We feel that you have not reached a solution of the religious difficulty in this Bill; we think, indeed, that you have increased it. You are forcing the country into a period of religious war, and we think that no solution can be arrived at which does not recognise the right of the parent to choose the religious education which is to be given to the child. If you do not do that you at once set up an unfair distinction between the opportunities of the rich and the opportunities of the poor in this country. The rich man sends his son to Eton, and his child hears the services of the Church of England, to which he may be attached by many associations, every day of his life. Why, if a poor man wishes that, is he not to have it? In Clause 9 of the Act of 1902 the right of the parent was fully recognised in respect of the future. In respect of the future, schools were to be provided, denominational or undenominational in character, by any who so wished it, subject only to the efficiency of the education and some regard for the economy of the rates. This was a model. If we had proceeded on these lines we might have found that it was possible to make existing institutions give a greater recognition to the right of the parent. But that is not what you are proposing to do. You are telling us that there are practical difficulties in the way of recognising the right of the parent, that the right of entry upsets the reverence of the pupils for the teacher, and that you cannot build new denominational schools. How do you think that Clause 3 is going to work? Throughout 14,000 schools in this country you are going to have the right of entry which 1026 you say introduces such difficulties into the maintenance of the school.
§ MR. BIRRELL
The right which is specifically defined in Clause 3 is that of leaving the teaching of the trust school which is transferred to the local authority.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
But does the right hon. Gentleman think that in providing this right he is thinking of the right of the parent? He is only thinking of the trust. If that be so, then the battle is more fiercely joined than I thought. Until you have regard for the right of the parent you will never arrive at any peace in the religious strife which you have opened up. If I am told that it is impossible or objectionable to have schools of a particular denominational character, I say that it is the case in Germany in respect of religion. They are supposed to be up-to-date in regard to education. Why then does not the Government imitate them? In respect of language the Austro-Hungarian Empire have provided three schools in every village. The thing is not impracticable if you wish to recognise the right of the parent. But if you say that it is not enough that the State should be neutral, then let the State help by rights of entry everywhere, by building schools in accordance with the wishes of the parent everywhere. We shall not hinder you; we shall help you; but do not for the first time during many decades offer special advantages to those who prefer one kind of religious instruction and inflict special disabilities on those who prefer another kind of religious education. I gather from the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman that he attaches very little importance to the right of the parent. He was thinking more of the kind of vested interest in the school.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I believe that there is a division of opinion in the Government on this question of the right of the parent. I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer once derided it. The right hon. Gentleman said—;A claim is being put forward (never advanced in 1870) which, as far as I know, is as novel as it is startling in its character. 1027 Lord Salisbury and Cardinal Vaughan have discovered that every English parent has the inalienable right to have his children brought up and taught in the religious faith which the parent himself professes.Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer has swayed the councils of the Cabinet, but I will quote another remark as to the right of the parent and the attitude of prelates towards that right which is of greater importance than the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.Happily we have it now settled under the hands of the prelates, both of the Roman and Anglican Churches, that it is the natural and inalienable right of every parent to teach his child his own religious opinions, and that it is the duty of the State to allow all children attending elementary schools to be instructed on the school premises in their father's religion irrespective of the question whether such religion is generally believed to be true or false.I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman recognises the authorship of that quotation. It is initialled "A.B." in a book entitled Boswell's "Life of Johnson,' edited by Augustine Birrell. I believe that it has been republished this year as a companion volume to the Bill for which he has made himself responsible to the House. I used to think that he differed from Dr. Johnson's views on these matters, but I now infer that he agrees with him. Dr. Johnson was talking of the magistrate's rule when he said—;Sir, the only method by which religious truth can be established is by martyrdom. The magistrate has a right to enforce what he thinks; and he who is conscious of the truth has a right to suffer. I am afraid there is no other way of ascertaining the truth but by persecution on the one hand and enduring it on the other.This Bill is persecution. We may have to endure the persecution of this Bill, but we will battle against it at every stage, and if the Bill is passed, then throughout this Parliament and in every succeeding Parliament, until some recognition is given of "the natural and inalienable right" of every parent to see that his child receives from the State the religious teaching which his parents claim for it. I do not admit for a moment that the Act of 1902 involved any departure from neutrality as far as the State is concerned. But supposing it did. Is that a reason for going further in the wrong direction? Is that a reason for piling up religious disabilities on men whose 1028 religious views are as sacred as those of their fellow -subjects? If you do that, you prefer a Parliamentary conflict which will not be confined to the walls of Parliament; and I can state what will happen in the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Queen's Hall in 1896—;It advantage is going to be taken of a special and possibly a transient Parliamentary situation to readjust the arrangement in favour of a particular class of schools (without any compensating equivalent in favour of the public), then I warn those who are responsible that they will have challenged, and that as time goes on they will suffer, reprisals.I would that the necessity for such a conflict might even now be averted; but if you force it upon us we shall face it without fear in the assured hope of ultimate victory. I beg to move.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—;(Mr. Wyndham)
Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (Sir HENRY FOWLER,) Wolverhampton, E.
In the long, able, and eloquent speech to which we have listened, the right hon. Gentleman has announced in almost every variety of phrase his determination and the determination of those who sit on the opposite Benches to fight this Bill to the end, and to adopt all measures to defeat it. But the right hon. Gentleman has not touched the facts of the case, and he has completely ignored the history of the position in which the House and the country are now placed. He has given us his own views with reference to education and the construction of this Bill, and he has made prophecies as to what the result will be; but we dispute the facts of the case as he has stated them, and from most of his construction of the Bill we most strongly dissent. I was glad that the right hon. Gentleman did not "hit below the belt"; but I think that he has rather done so in some of his previous utterances. I should like to enter a protest against the language which the right hon. Gentleman has used elsewhere, and also against the language which the late Prime Minister has used 1029 with reference to this Bill, with reference to its authors, and with reference to their intentions. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down told us a few days ago that this was a tyrannical and iniquitous measure. He described it as one of incredible meanness and as a violation of the canons of eternal justice. Then, passing from prose to poetry—;and no one can do it more effectively than the right hon. Gentleman—;he said—;If this Bill passes, rural England will become a howling wilderness,peopled, I suppose, by howling Nonconformists—;and the solitudes will re-echo nothing but the determined tramp of the rate collector and the harsh commands of the bureaucrat underling.We can afford to smile at that, and we know from his speech this afternoon that the right hon. Gentleman's bark is a great deal worse than his bite. But I protest against a statesman of the experience, the high character, and the position of the Leader of the Opposition saying what he has said in the last forty-eight hours with reference to the conduct of the Government—;Can you conceive any outrage more atrocious? The Government have the deliberate intention of crushing the Church of England.I once heard Mr. Disraeli in this House say of a statement made by one of the most eminent statesmen of the day that it was "an impudent fabrication." The Speaker of that day allowed that phrase to pass, but I am not going to repeat it now. I should be the last to use such an offensive word as "Impudent."
§ * SIR HENEY FOWLER
No; I have too much respect for the right hon. Gentleman and too much respect for myself to apply such a word to him; but I say his statement was a fabrication, and one without the slightest foundation. The right hon. Gentleman was attacking the personal character and intentions of His Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman used stronger words still. He said of theprovisions of the Bill which provide for the clergyman in a rural parish giving religious education on two days in the week, and the provisions which relieve the teacher from giving religious teaching to which he objects—; that it was a great atrocity.1030 Then the right hon. Gentleman went on—;It is not uncharitable"—;I should like to hear the right hon. Gentleman's definition of charity—;to say that it is not the interests of religion which the Government have at heart, but the desire to crush as far as they can a great Church to which they do not belong.Hon. Members are quite at liberty to impute to the members of His Majesty's Government ["The Bill"]—;No; the right hon. Gentleman was speaking of what the intentions of the Government were, and he had no right to say that the nineteen Gentlemen responsible for the government of this country were animated by motives so dishonourable and discreditable. [Cries of "No."]
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has attributed to me the intention of calumniating the persons composing the Government, because I said that they had the intention of crushing the Church of England. The crushing of the Church of England is a policy I should reprobate in the strongest language; but it does not convey personal discredit. The Liberation Society are not scoundrels, and they exist in order to destroy the Church of England. I attributed to the Government a policy which I thought and still think is embodied in the Bill. If they tell me that they repudiate the intention, as they tell me they do, I will no more attribute it to them. I will only say that their Bill does not carry out what they now say is their intention, and that it does carry out what to all appearances it was aimed at carrying out. The right hon. Gentleman thinks I violated the canons of public controversy by what I said. There is not a man on that side who, in the heat of the general election, has not used far more violent language.
§ * SIR HENRY FOWLER
we will pass away from this personal question. An event has taken place which both the right hon. Gentlemen have completely ignored. There has been an appeal to the country on this question. The two questions which were before the country at the last election with reference to education were public control of public money and the abolition of religious tests, which we have heard described this afternoon as partly an insane proposal 1031 and partly an unjust one. Will any one say that those questions were not before the electorate—;that there was an election from John o' Groats to the Land's End where they were not raised?
§ SIR PHILIP MUNTZ (Warwickshire, Tamworth)
In my constituency the question was never raised in any form or shape.
§ * SIR HENRY FOWLER
There is no rule without an exception. But there was no man on this side of the House who was not pledged on these questions; and I say that in the heat of that election there were a large number of candidates on the other side of the House, some of whom are here and a great many of whom are not, who again and again intimated that they were dissatisfied with the legislation of 1902 and were in favour of the principle of public control of public money, and opposed to the imposition of tests. I will give one or two authorities as to this point. From a number of organs of public opinion on the Unionist side I will take two. The Times of April 10th said—;The last shreds of denominational or clerical management are thus swept away, and a great step is taken towards the establishment of one uniform national system. With this it is useless to quarrel. It was probably inevitable, and Mr. Birrell was perhaps right in intimating that as long as the dual system remained we could have neither peace nor progress.Then the Standard of April 9th said—;Unionists must reconcile themselves to two very important and very unfortunate reversals of the existing law. In every school that receives assistance from local taxation it is certain, in the first place, that complete popular control will be established—;the foundation managers of the voluntary schools will be swept away. Secondly, we may be sure that what are called religious tests for teachers will be abolished It would be useless in the present state of parties at Westminister to argue that question. Of nine-tenths of the Liberal majority it is said that if their minds were open to conviction on this point they would have no right to be sitting in the House of Commons.The hon. Member has said that in his constitutency they were ignorant of the education question.
§ SIR PHILIP MUNTZ
I had Nonconformists on my platform who expressed their strong approval of the late Government's Education Bill.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
It is the great organ of public opinion in Warwickshire, and it said—;The Government could not by any possibility avoid giving complete public control to all rate-aided elementary schools and throwing the teaching profession open to all, irrespective of religious belief. Their pledges to the electors and, we think, the verdict given at the polls demanded this as the minimum. No one, therefore, can be in the least surprised that the Government has so far modified the Act of 1902 as to bring all non-provided schools under the control of popularly elected bodies and abolished religious tests for teachers employed in those schools. Nor would it be anything but futile to attempt to upset these provisions of the Bill.Now, I think upon that I am justified in asserting that it was the opinion of the Press. But I have another and a higher authority—;Lord St. Aldwyn, so well known in this House as Sir Michael Hicks Beach. He is reported to have said—;He had always felt that the maintenance of denominational schools depended largely upon voluntary subscriptions, and that rate aid would kill such subscriptions, as it had done; and that the question would arise whether it was possible to maintain those schools under their separate voluntary management. Rate aid having killed voluntary subscriptions, he was not going to argue that the result of the late general election had not given the present Government fair ground to say that there must be public control over all schools which received rate aid.That is the real situation in which the Government were placed; and they would have flinched from their duty if they had not proposed to enact the two fundamental principles against which we are asked by the Amendment to vote, and every man who votes for the Amendment will vote against the two fundamental principles of public control over public money and the abolition of religious tests. Now, what is the position? Up to 1870 almost all the education in this country had been the result of voluntary effort inspired by Christian motives. I am not going to undervalue in any degree what the Church of England and other denominations have done for education; it would be unfair and unjust to do 1033 so; but we have to keep facts in mind. In 1895 the then Prime Minister avowed the intention of his Government to relieve the intolerable strain of finding the money to keep these voluntary schools afloat. Efforts have been made to prevent the creation of school boards in a large number of parishes. I know that in my own districts Voluntary Schools were supported from the desire to keep out school boards. In fact, it was stated that if you could only give so much money it would avoid a rate. I admit there have been erected since 1870 6,765 voluntary schools, and, so far as I can make out, taking the figures from the Education Department, £4,865,000 has been raised by voluntary subscriptions, and when it is said that it is unfair for one of two parties to an agreement to attempt to destroy the other, let us see what was the agreement of 1870. The position then taken up was this. At that time, when the Bill was brought in, the cost of education in the country was roughly estimated by Mr. Gladstone at 30s. a head, and he said a third was contributed by public grants, a third by parents in fees, and a third was provided by voluntary subscriptions. Mr. Gladstone then made the proposal which formed part of the Government scheme for building grants to encourage the erection of additional voluntary schools, that the third from public money should be made a half, and that the other parties should find the other half. Now, what has happened since then? I have mentioned the intolerable strain, and the right hon. Gentleman has said that subscriptions rose to £600,000 or £700,000; but we are dealing with larger figures. In 1870 the entire cost was only £500,000, and the attendance at the schools was, practically, 1,000,000, and the local rates provided £300,000; but in 1902 the expenditure of public money for elementary education was something like £12,000,000, of which £8,250,000 was in grants and £3,250,000 from rates. I will go somewhat higher than the right hon. Gentleman in regard to voluntary subscriptions. I think they were nearly £900,000, but what of that when there is a grant of £12,000,000 from the public funds? The cost, no doubt, has gone up, and is now, I suppose, £3 a head, and in voluntary schools £2 6s. 8d., but no doubt the hon. Member for North Camberwell will deal with this part of 1034 the subject more accurately than I can. And now, what is proposed? We are told it is robbery and confiscation—;that is, I believe, the Bishop of Manchester's phrase, and I think it has boon adopted this afternoon—;and the right hon. Gentleman says we are going to take these schools from them, that we are going to appropriate the money spent in the erection and other objects, and are sinking a blow at legal rights consecrated by legislation and administration for 1,000 years. Now, I say at once the proposal is not to take the property; it will remain in the existing ownership. At present the control is, under the Act of 1902, under private management, and we say now that, being publicly supported, the management must be under representative public control. We ask for the user of the schools for five days in the week and for a certain number of hours each day. We do not interfere with them in the evening, and we do not interfere with them on two days one of which is most important day of all. What about the Sunday schools? Have the Sunday schools no power in the Church of England? There is not a bishop on the Bench or a clergyman doing his duty who will not admit that his Sunday school is conferring the highest benefit upon his parishioners. Do we stop there? No. We say you have provided these schools, and we will pay rent for the five days' user. And that is confiscation—; that is, robbery! In addition, we say we will relieve you from the cost of repairs. You may say the terms are not so liberal as they should be, and there are others who say we are too generous, but it is nonsense to call this confiscation; it is a misuse of the English language; you might as well call it murder or burglary.
That is so far as pounds, shillings, and pence are concerned; and then the right hon. Gentleman attaches supreme importance, and rightly so, to the higher issues—;religious education. On two days of the week the education authority is obliged to hand over to the denomination the religious teaching in the schools. That is what the Bill proposes; there are two days upon which the Church or denomination for whom the school was erected are entitled to carry on its religious teaching. It is not optional; it is not subject to the local authority; they will be entitled, if the Act passes, if a parent wishes his 1035 child to be so taught, to give religious teaching.
§ * SIR HENRY FOWLER
I am not dealing with theoretic possibilities, but with actual every-day possibilities; it is in Clause 2. You can then have special denominational teaching, with the catechisms and Church formularies, and you will have the right to discontinue the attendance of the children during the other days of the week when another class of instruction is given to which objection is taken. I will give the House a practical illustration. Ono of the most distinguished clergymen in London wrote to The Times this week stating that as a rule the clergy only gave religious instruction on two days in the week. I met, the other day, a friend of mine, the clergyman of a parish where there is only a voluntary school, and I said to him, "What do you do?" He said, "I give my catechism instruction on two days a week." Of course during the rest of the week the teacher gives the religious instruction. But that instruction is not confined to specific formularies; it is general Biblical instruction.
§ * SIR HENRY FOWLER
Is there any proposal that there should be a discontinuance of Church teachers? [Cries of "Yes."] Nothing of the sort. In every school taken over the right of the voluntary teacher is preserved; his continuance in office is maintained. The words of the clause are—;Where a local education authority continue an existing voluntary school under this Act as a school provided by them, any teachers in the school at the time of the transfer shall continue to hold office under the local education authority by the same tenure and on the same terms and conditions so far as they are consistent with the provisions of this Act as before the transfer.
§ * SIR HENRY FOWLER
The difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman dwelt upon was with reference to the insuffi- 1036 cient, inadequate, and unnecessary religion which is taught at the present time in the ordinary board schools. I think he forgot that 1,000,000 children belonging to Church of England parents are at this moment, and have been for many years, trained in the school board schools. Is it to be said that they have had no religious instruction? What is the testimony of the archbishops, bishops, and clergy of the Church of England as-to the character and nature of the religious teaching of the board schools? I must in justice make one or two quotations, in order to show that the religious instruction of the board schools is not entitled to be treated with the contempt with which it has been the fashion in the last few days to treat it. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Durham—;I could go through the whole list of bishops and quote the manner in which they have spoken of the efficiency, of the value, and of the high character of the religious teaching in board schools. The Archbishop of Canterbury says—;It is almost inconceivable how any Christian man who knows the facts can speak of the religions teaching at present given under the London School Board as 'worthless.' Have all those who speak with ready assurance, on the subject really examined the religions syllabus of the London School Board. To declare it to be impossible profitably to convey to the mind of a little child the sacred lessons which Holy Scripture gives in story and precept and psalm and parable, and, above all, in the life and works of our Blessed Lord, unaccompanied for the moment by Church doctrines of a distinctive sort—;to declare this is, it seems to me, to contradict the simple experience of a thousand Christian homes. It is to me almost inconceivable how any Christian man who knows the facts can speak of the religious teaching at present given under the London Board as 'worthless,' because it is—;to use a sorely battered term—; undenominational. … It is simply trifling with this grave subject to ignore that such instruction lays the foundation upon which the ampler teaching of the Christian faith can be securely built.I am not going to undervalue the question of the right of the parent with reference to the education of his children. We propose to have on two days of the week distinctive teaching, and on the other three days to have this education of which the Archbishop of Canterbury speaks so highly; and I think that that is as complete and satisfactory a system of religious education as at all events in the Reform Churches can be required. 1037 The right hon. Member for West Birmingham has made statements on this subject within the last two or three days in letters and in speeches—;it appears to have rather a fascination for him—;with reference to what are the central proposals, as he regards them, of the Government. He says we are proposing to endow a new religion with a million of money. I think it would be impossible to put in any one sentence consisting of that number of words two more transparent and almost, so far as he is concerned, impossible facts. "A new religion! "We heard what the Archbishop of Canterbury has said. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has ever read the syllabus of the Birmingham School Board—
§ * SIR HENRY FOWLER
And whether he remembers the Birmingham School Board controversy in 1903, when the present Bishop of Manchester, who took an active, and I believe a very valuable, part, in reference to this syllabus, said—;He confessed that the cry of the impossibility of undenominational teaching amazed him. … There was no book in the world which was so true to the point of the heart's compass as the Bible. Men who read that book differently, but read it sincerely, still found that was the effect it produced upon them, and that was the effect they desired to see produced on the children, and whatever a teacher could do to enhance that effect without sectarian bias they would give him liberty to do.Yet that same bishop said within the last few days of this mode of undenominational education that "It would imperil the Christian faith." I have great faith in popularly elected and popularly controlled authorities. I do not find the majority of Englishmen are in the habit of doing an unfair or unjust thing, and I do not believe they will do it. I do not believe the majority of English parents or the majority of English voters are going to exclude religious teaching from English schools. I know that a proposition was made to do it in this House in 1870, and I know that the division which took place in this House then was 420 against purely secular education and sixty for. But when it came to deal with it in the concrete form of the Cowper - Temple clause, Mr. Disraeli 1038 made a very ingenious and a very powerful speech against it, and he predicted in almost the same language as the right hon. Gentleman to-day the calamities which would follow from this non-denominational teaching. He predicted sectarian controversy if this question was left open. There has been no controversy from that day to this. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh!"] No; not with reference to the religious teaching in board schools. I repeat that the board school system has met with the approval of the bulk of the people of this country. It was, I think, Archbishop Tait who said at Croydon that the school board system had solved the religious difficulty. Of course, you can get up controversy by machinery with which we are all familiar; but what I would ask is, how many board schools have discontinued this system? Ten years ago a Return was granted in the House of Lords with reference to the extent to which this school board system, this "new religion," had been adopted in the schools of England by the popularly elected authorities, and there were at that time only seven school boards that did not have religious teaching. These seven school boards were of a very limited character, for the entire number of children under them was something like 8,200 out of a total of 2,250,000.
§ MR. CARLILE (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)
I am sorry to intervene for a moment. I know of one School Board with over 8,000 children where no religious instruction is given.
§ MR. CARLILE
But I know of one which alone has 8,000 children. [AN HON. MEMBER: What is the name of it?] The borough of Huddersfield.
§ * SIR HENRY FOWLER
I am only quoting the official Return of ten years ago. But supposing the statement of the hon. Gentleman to be true, what is that out of 2,250,000 millions of children? The right hon. Gentleman attached great importance to the endowed schools. That is a question for the Committee stage of the Bill. My belief—;it may be ill-grounded—;is that there is a large amount 1039 of money applied, and applied unsatisfactorily, to endowed schools which ought to be applied to elementary education. I understand that that opinion has a considerable amount of support from educational authorities. But nothing is intended of an unjust or unfair character with reference to endowed schools. This is an attempt, it may be a bad attempt, to take an opportunity of carrying out more fully what was the intention of the machinery of the Endowed Schools Act, and I am not now going to say one word more about it one way or the other.
But with reference to the Commission, which the right hon. Gentleman described as an anonymous triumvirate placed above the law, who, if a trustee would not betray his trust, might seize the property and divert it in a way which the trust was drawn up to prevent: has the right hon. Gentleman read that clause?
§ * SIR HENRY FOWLER
Yes, but my right hon. friend said the names would be put in before the Bill passed, and that a Judge would be one of the three; and the right hon. Gentleman opposite did not tell the House that they would be bound to administer the trusts according to the law of the land and the decisions of the Courts of Chancery. This Commission is intended to facilitate and to cheapen the expense of settlements. This imputation to them of the wicked offence of departing from the ordinary courts of justice to expedite matters was advanced by one who was a distinguished member of a Conservative Government which passed the Scottish Church Bill two years ago, when issues affecting millions of property held on religious trusts were referred to the final decision of a Commission presided over by the Secretary of State for the Colonies; and Scotland approved of what was done, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London defended it in the House and used arguments in its favour in which the then Opposition concurred. Is that to be denounced as dishonourable and unjust in one case which is allowed in another? I have no doubt there are many points in this Bill which will be the subject of great controversy in Committee. That I am quite prepared for; and I have no doubt that 1040 there will be a very frank use of all the forms of the House with reference to it. I am quite aware that in a controversy of this sort neither side can have all their own way. I think the great blunder the Leader of the Opposition made in 1902 was that he would not listen to compromise. It should be within the right hon. Gentleman's memory that shortly before we adjourned for the autumn recess I besought him not to press that clause which involved giving a majority to the managers of the denomination to which the schools belonged. I told him—;and I did not speak without some knowledge of the case—;that thoughtful, reasonable men on both sides were endeavouring to arrive at a solution. I said if he would give us the six weeks' holiday something might be agreed upon which would avoid what has arisen since. He said "No." He was determined to go on; and I ventured to say that was a declaration of war against Nonconformists. There has been a war. I do not want to have a repetition of that. [Ironical OPPOSITION cheers and counter MINISTERIAL cheers.] An hon. Member says we will have it. Well, if you mean war à outrance you can have it. If it requires two to make peace, two are also involved in a war if a war is declared. I think it would be a pitiable thing if the statesmanship of this House came to this subject without something of a different temper than we have seen up to the present time. I have said before, and I say it still, that the majority of the people of this country are just and fair. I deny in the strongest language that my colleagues are animated by any personal motive hostile to the Church of England. Why, the majority of the Cabinet are members of the Church of England. If only men apply their common sense to this matter, they will see that what you impute to us is not only that we are rogues, but that we are fools, and that is a combination which no man likes to have imputed to him.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
A respectable man may desire to destroy the Church of England. He may be very foolish and yet respectable.
§ * SIR HENRY FOWLER
The charge is, and I do not think it is a just one, that we are producing this legislation, not in the interests of religion, not 1041 in the interests of education, but with no other but the base, mean motive of destroying the Church of England. That I repudiate in the strongest language I can command. I am willing to forget these personal attacks, for this is not a pleasant controversy for either Churchmen or Nonconformists. It is not a pleasant struggle for public men to be engaged in. It is a controversy in which we ought to be influenced by higher motives than Party triumph. As you know, as you have admitted, as your leaders have declared, including the noble Lord who will have some influence in another place when that question comes up there, the people of this country have decided this matter. They have decided in favour of two fundamental principles. From these two fundamental principles they will not depart; and I think if these are carried —;and I believe the Second Heading of this Bill will be carried, even in the teeth of this uncompromising opposition, with these two great principles—;I do not believe the resources of British statesmanship or the charity of British Christianity is so far exhausted that we cannot arrive at something fair and just to all sections of the House, whether they sit on this side or on that. I hope and I believe that this will be the distinguishing characteristic of our legislation on this question.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I recognise the excellence of the concluding remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, and I join with him sincerely in the wish that by the wise direction of the Government on this question this controversy may end satisfactorily. I know that there is something of a difficulty and responsibility which has fallen upon me in the discharge of the duty which I have undertaken, and therefore, I hope to receive the indulgence of the House. This is a measure which, especially for the people on whose behalf I speak, deals with their most profound convictions, their very fervent and sometimes with more than their fervent emotions. I wish to address the House in no spirit of partisanship as between the two great Parties into which this House is divided; and I hope in the observations which I have to make I shall state clearly the case of those in whose 1042 behalf I have to speak. At the same time I wish to avoid using any word which will hurt the legitimate susceptibilities of hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House or below the gangways. In fact I cannot do better in my observations than follow the example of the Archbishop of Westminster in the speech which he made in the very remarkable gathering in this City on Saturday last—;The object of this gathering,said the Archbishop,is not to attack, still less to denounce those who wittingly or unwittingly are the cause of the present great anxiety.… Our concern on this occasion, I wish it to be well understood, is solely for the safety of our Catholic Schools. And it is in behalf of these Catholic Schools, and in their behalf only, that I speak here this afternoon.Now, I hope that the Minister of Education, and the House generally, will realise the amount of attention, excitement, and profound apprehension which this measure has excited in the minds of the Catholic people of this country. I have had a long and intimate association with my fellow countrymen in England; and I venture to say that never, in the course of the twenty-six years during which I have been associated with them familiarly, have I known their feelings to be so deeply stirred as they are at the present moment in reference to this Bill. Now, why are the Catholic-people of this country so deeply disturbed? The Archbishop of Westminster very properly indicates that it is not for him to say whether the injury or the peril which this Bill involves to the schools of the Catholic children is wittingly or unwittingly inflicted. Nor am I entitled to deal with the speeches by which this Bill has been defended, notably by the speeches of the Minister of Education. What I have to deal with is the Bill itself as it stands. The feeling of the Catholic people of this country is that the Bill threatens to extinguish the Catholic character of their schools. It is no answer to these apprehensions to say that even if the Catholic character of the schools were destroyed, the children would get a good secular education. The Catholic people of this country and all over the world would not be parties to sacrificing the religious character of the teaching in their schools. Still less is it an answer to them to say that if their schools were deprived of the Catholic 1043 character which they at present enjoy, its place would be taken by simple Bible teaching or by teaching of an undenominational character. I listened with attention and considerable assent to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton in reference to the character and amount of the religious education given in the former school board schools. I can confirm one of his statements. He challenged the right hon. Member for West Birmingham as to whether he had read the religious syllabus of the Birmingham education authority. I have read the syllabus of the education authority of the city a Division of which I have the honour to represent. That syllabus covers twenty-two pages and I am quite willing to accept the criticism which the right hon. Gentleman would pass upon such a syllabus. It would not be too much to say that a large amount of religious instruction would be given under such a syllabus. But with regard to this denominational system our position is entirely different from that of hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House and from that of hon. Gentlemen above the gangway on this side of the House. On the Ministerial side of the House hon. Gentlemen say that denominational teaching is adequate and on the Opposition side it is contended that it is inadequate. Our contention is that it is hostile to us, and the more admirable it is the more hostile it is; and, therefore, every argument advanced in favour of it is one against it. I cannot better give our contention as to that part of the case than in the words of a Memorial I received from a very ancient and representative Catholic body in the town of Preston. Preston has a considerable Catholic population, and it has built many schools and has spent £17,000 or £18,000 upon one school alone. This body which was the first charitable Catholic society founded in Preston in 1701 sent me this Memorial, and it runs—;We cannot accept what is quite simple Bible teaching; not merely is this instruction imperfect in the sense in which it is offered to us, but it is often actively and fundamentally hostile to the Catholic ideal. It embodies the principle of the right of private judgment by each individual to Interpret the Bible for himself, and it makes the Bible the supreme and sole source of religious authority. To attempt to enforce this upon Catholic children would be nothing short of religious persecution.1044 There is another body in this country to which our case has an extraordinary analogy, and that is the Jews. The other day a deputation was received by the Minister of Education from an influential body of Jewish gentlemen. The Memorial presented to the Minister for Education contained these words—;They pointed out that it was extremely difficult to provide undenominational religious teaching which could be taught to Jews and non-Jews alike, and it would be impossible for the Jews to accept any syllabus which incorporated Christian teaching of any kind.That represents another position than that of the Jews. Any syllabus of the kind mentioned which you may fashion is hostile to us. The Memorial also sets out that—;We are of opinion that, inasmuch as the Jewish schools were founded for the purpose of imparting Jewish instruction to Jewish children, they should be maintained for that purpose, and that Hebrew and Yiddish teaching should be given by Jewish teachers, and that a portion of the managers should be of the Jewish faith.It is a fact that in the East End of London and in other parts of the country under the existing law Jewish teachers and Jewish teaching and an entirely Jewish atmosphere have been given to schools both voluntary and, what was more remarkable, provided schools. I happen to have read some of the comments which the speech of the Minister for Education elicited. I did not read the hon. Gentleman's speech, but I understand that some people are under the impression that if a Jewish teacher be given to a Jewish school, or a Catholic teacher is given to a Catholic school, something novel and revolutionary is going to be introduced into our legislation. As a matter of fact, however, for years in the provided schools of the Jews in the East End of London there has been Jewish teaching, there has been a Jewish teacher, and instruction is given in Yiddish and Hebrew. The fact remains that in the Jewish schools in the East End of London there is provided by the authorities Jewish teachers and teaching. That is right and I approve of it. I think any other way of dealing with the Jewish schools would be intolerant and intolerable, and am I not entitled to say that a great Christian religion like the Catholic religion ought to be given the same rights which are justly and generously accorded to the children of the Jewish community? In other respects I 1045 claim a close analogy between the Jewish and the Catholic schools. We represent a minority as they do, and we represent a poor minority; but the fact upon which I will lay stress is that our schools are homogeneous in that the majority of the children are of one creed. Moreover our schools are not, any more than their schools are, the schools of proselytism, persecution, or ascendancy. I therefore claim for our schools the same rights as theirs.
In the first place I deal with this clause for the limitation to 5,000 people. I think I am right in saying that the right hon. Gentleman calculated that that clause would exclude about 100 Catholic schools, but as a matter of fact 243 schools are in rural districts. I understand, of course, that there is a distinction made between the rural schools and the urban schools. In some respects it is right and necessary that that should be so. In the town people have so many schools, but in many parts of the country there is only one school, where the religion of one creed is taught. But let me point out some hardships which this limitation would involve. I heard the other day of a school in which there were 340 children. This is one that would come into the case of the 5,000 limit. Of that number 300 were Catholics and forty were Protestants. It would be a monstrous thing that the minority of forty should have the right to deprive the 300 of the right to special religious teaching.
But there are other points in Clause 4, the main clause as it affects us, to which I must call attention. It is known to everybody that the Catholic schools of this country have Protestant children amongst their pupils. I do not say this is a reason of complaint. We are bound by law, and bound by good feeling, to open our schools to these children; but we do not invite them; we do not entice them, and when they get there we do not proselytise them. I say our generosity and tolerance in this respect should not be used against us to take away the rights of the majority of Catholic children in favour of the rights of a minority of Protestant children. Another objection I have to the Bill is this—;I am not going very closely into a criticism of this Bill, but there is one danger which anybody who knows the 1046 character of our population in this country will readily appreciate. Our population to a large extent is a shifting population. That is one of the marks and tokens of its position as a poor population. It is shifting because it has to follow its work. We have seen how in sonic cases many houses have had to be demolished because our people have had to go to Bootle or somewhere else to follow their work, and also because of their insanitary condition. It is evident that this four-fifths proportion may sometimes be destroyed by a fact which is not to the discredit of the Irish population. It is possible that these schools may be invaded, and that in a moment of extreme religious excitement advantage may be taken of a sudden invasion of the school by children of another faith to destroy its Catholic character. My main objection to the proposal of the Government is that what we regard as the fundamental right, the liberty of conscience, is placed at the mercy of the local authorities of the country. If, as I hold, that is a fundamental liberty, it ought to be bestowed by no smaller power than this Imperial Parliament, and it ought to be guarded by no less firm security than the statute law. I have the obiter dictum of the right hon. Gentleman—;perhaps I could quote two obiter dicta. In his opening speech he spoke of the generosity, equitableness, and broad-mindedness of the local authorities of this country. I accept the general statement, and I accept it particularly with regard to my own constituency of Liverpool. There was another obiter dictum in which he said that under Clause 4 there was a loophole for pig-headed obstinacy, denominational bigotry and jealousy. That is our case Will anybody deny that if we liked we could give cases in the last few years of this pig-headed obstinacy, denominational bigotry, and jealousy on the part of the local authorities of this country? I am not going into that question, I am not going to open the door for a controversial discussion which I am most anxious as far as possible to avoid. I hope that the House will take it from me that in the Committee stage, if our views are contested, I will be able to prove that many local authorities have treated Catholic schools in a far from liberal or generous or friendly spirit, and I hold that it is unwise on the part of the right hon. Gentleman 1047 to ask us, in the face of that experience, or even without that, to place the Catholic character of our schools at the mercy of the local authorities of this country unguaranteed by anything less than by statute.
Furthermore I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, Is his method the best for carrying out his own policy? I take the concluding words of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who has just ingeminated peace. He ingeminated peace as the only way to secure religious equality. I ingeminate peace. I want this controversy to end, and to end in securing religious liberty. But will contested local elections, with the education question as the supreme issue, secure this end? Why, during the last four or five years there has not been a single election in this country in which the people were aroused in which education was not the first and supreme issue upon which they gave their votes. In every municipal election in this country that has been the issue upon which our people have acted, and I want to put it to the House whether it makes for religious liberty that at every municipal election in the country you should have religious parties voting on religious questions instead of devoting themselves to the health of the people, which ought to lie the main issue. The House should realise what this question moans to the Catholics of this country. The Catholics of this country are English Catholics as well as Irish Catholics, and we mean to make our fight together, both English and Irish. But it is no secret to the House—;I am making no extravagant claim when I ask the House to agree that the vast majority of the Catholics of this country are Irish—;that this is largely an Irish question, which must be felt and realised from the Irish historical standpoint. I do not mean to go into the past history of Ireland; I will describe the Irish historical position as being this, that the Irish people, and the charity of the Catholic people of Ireland at least, have, over and over again, sacrificed their material interest in the interests of their religious convictions. They are intelligent and quick; in many countries outside this they are the leaders of political life; in this and other countries they are the ornaments 1048 of the learned professions, and yet, for years, on account of religion, they were excluded from sharing in professional life. The Irish land question has passed into a problem. There is not a sod of the millions of Irish acres the ownership of which has not been three times surrendered by the Irish people because of their religious convictions. The Irish schools in this country date from the year 1845. That was the year in which our people migrated to this country. Our people came here flying from starvation and pestilence. Those who came to this country did not come from choice. I do not wish to say anything that might be used to cause ill-feeling, but I must say that they came to this country because they could not go to the United States, and they could not go to the United States because they had not the three or four pounds that would take thorn in the hold of a sailing vessel. But they had the three or four shillings that enabled thorn to conic amongst the cattle on the decks of the boats to this country. In my own constituency of Liverpool the Irish people gathered in the largest numbers in that disastrous time; 26,000 of them landed in the February of 1847, and soon afterwards 13,000 odd of them were in the receipt of relief; they brought no money with them, no education in their heads, no training even of their hands. Some of them brought not only hunger but fever, and I could quote a notable passage from Carlyle on the subject which is well known to many. These were the circumstances under which the great migration into this country took place; and what did this poor people do? They gave out of their poverty the money by which were built side by side the chapel and the Catholic schools, and I tell the Ministry this. They do not realise at all the feeling upon this question if they do not realise the fact that to the Irish Catholic his school is as dear to him as his chapel. Those are the men and women who built the Catholic schools of this country. Am I not entitled to ask, therefore, that these schools shall be spared and reserved? Is it not a claim that I can make to this assembly with confidence? It is a claim of a minority, in face of a vast and overwhelming majority of people of other creeds; it is the claim of a people who, while guarding their own liberties, never violated the liberties of others; it is a 1049 claim inspired by genuine faith, sanctified by sacrifice unprofane by ascendancy, and I confidently leave it before the conscience and judgment of this House.
§ * MR. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool into the interesting sketch which he has given of the Irish historic position. It is sometimes thought, and perhaps more frequently said, that the English Nonconformists have a standing feud with the Catholic Party. I do not know whether the hon. Member believes me or not when I say that so far as I am personally concerned I have never entertained the slightest animosity to my Roman Catholic fellow-citizens. I do not believe in their creed, and they do not accept mine. But I never forget that in many, and some perhaps of the most important principles of the Christian faith, the Catholics and the Methodists are absolutely one. I hope, I do not know whether rightly or wrongly, the day may possibly come when under happier auspices these religious differences may to some extent have been set aside, and we may even see the accomplished Leader of the Irish Party in this House, the hon. Member for Waterford, rising to thank the English Nonconformists as Mr. O'Connell did in 1829. In 1829 Mr. O'Connell appeared on the platform of the Protestant Society in London and thanked the English Nonconformists. I will quote his words, as they have been sometimes challenged—;I have come here as the representative, not of the intellect, of that I am incapable, but of the warm-hearted feeling of the people of Ireland. I stand here to-day with my country to express our gratitude in feeble but sincere language, for the exertions made on our behalf by our Protestant dissenting brethren.I do not know whether that happy day may ever come again when Nonconformists and Catholics may stand upon the same platform and describe one another as brethren; but I would venture to say that the Catholic case as presented by the hon. Member a moment ago seemed to me somewhat more moderate than that presented by the acknowledged and authorised organ of that great religious community in this country, because I observe that the Tablet on Saturday said—;The Government knows by this time that the irreconcilable minimum of our demands 1050 is that there shall be Catholic teachers all the time, with liberty to give Catholic instruction under Catholic control, to the children of Catholic parents.They do not go on to say what I presume is inferred, that that education is to be given at the public cost. Till that is conceded, they say—;They may cry "peace, peace,' and there shall be no peace.And they preface that remark by saying that the resolutions of the Catholic bishops, supplementing those of the Education Council, have fairly committed the Catholics of the United Kingdom to a trial of strength with the Liberal Government. Already Clause 4, to which I will refer in a few moments, granting special facilities for religious education, seems to me to have gone beyond the length of justice and of reason. And if this demand really represents the minimum of the requirements of the Catholic Church, I hardly see myself how it is possible to meet that claim.
May I say, passing from the Roman Catholic claims to which I make no further reference, that I am one of the last persons to entertain against the Church of England any animosity or hatred. I think that is the phrase used by the Leader of the Opposition on more than one occasion when he has referred to the views of the persons whom he describes as the political dissenter. I was myself trained in an Anglican atmosphere. At the college where I was no less than five Anglican Churchmen were responsible for my education. One was a dean, two were canons, and the others were clergymen of some distinction in the Anglican Church. Not a single layman assisted in such education as I obtained. Every morning for throe years I was compelled to listen to the Anglican Liturgy. I was one of two or three Dissenters, and I received a large number of ponderous and elegantly bound volumes for winning the college Divinity prize. I passed through that ordeal without, I think, the smell of fire upon me. I am sure that my Noncomformist opinions were never in the slightest degree jeopardised by that strange association which for three years I had; and I may venture to urge the Irish Party not to be afraid of associating with those who have different ideals of Christianity, and belong to different sections of the Church of Christ. I hope that the time will come 1051 when that enlightened policy which has been pursued in connection with the English universities by the Catholic authorities will be extended by the responsible authorities of their Church right down to the elementary schools in this country. I may remind the Irish Members in this House that one of their most eloquent, and one of their most accomplished colleagues, not now a Member of this House—;I refer to Mr. Michael Davitt—;was educated in a Wesley an day school in Lancashire, and so far as I know, he did not suffer in the slightest degree from it. The Leader of the Opposition has spoken in a very derogatory way of what he calls the political Nonconformists, and has said that he always draws in his own mind a sharp distinction between them and the spiritual or religious Nonconformists. I am not going into that nice distinction. I believe it to be wholly visionary and more suitable for the island of Laputa to which he referred on Saturday, than for the common-sense regions in which we dwell. But the Bill is from our point of view a necessary Bill, and a moderate and reasonable Bill. It is not like the Government Bill of 1902. At the general election of 1900 who imagined for a moment that the men sent to Parliament were going to vote for the destruction of the School Board system? Here there has been no such ambiguity. The Leader of the Opposition said that children liked things clearly and precisely stated. So do grown-up people, and no issue has ever been put before the country with greater clearness and with greater precision than has the claim made by a vast section of the English people for public control, and for the abolition of the sectarian tests imposed upon teachers. This polity was foreshadowed and suggested by nearly every great religious organisation in this country other than that of the Anglican Church —;by nearly every important educational organisation, and in its main issue by the leading Labour organisations. We are told that the Free Chinches of this country are not entitled to claim the right of guiding public opinion. Why are they denied this right? They are in close touch with the working-classes of this country, they are popularly elected organisations capable of feeling the pulse of the country, and they have never put their power into the scale 1052 against popular liberty. These are some of the claims which the Free Churches put forward when they urge the Government to amend the unjust, unworkable, and costly legislation of 1902. In what way does the present Bill carry out our plans and our suggestions? It was a very favorite assertion of the Loader of the Opposition—;an assertion never proved—;that his Bill had improved the position of Nonconformists. I have no doubt he thought so, but I have never met a Nonconformist who was of his opinion, and we claim the right to exercise our own judgment in that respect. All though the great county and diocese of Lincoln there is hardly a single case where one Nonconformist since the passing of the Act of 1902 has been appointed on the management of a voluntary school. The diocesan syllabus of High Church instruction is given in all the non-provided schools, large and small, although there is a large proportion of Nonconformists attending them. It is not right to expect that the Nonconformists of that great county should sit down quietly and accept the Act of 1902 as a solution of the difficulty. Indeed the diocesan inspector of that county has candidly admitted that they took advantage of the presence of Methodist children in those schools for the purpose of embracing them in the folds of the Anglican Church. Canon Pennington, writing in 1897, said—;Our syllabus is always arranged so as to give distinctive denominational instruction. I always saw it was given when I was diocesan inspector, and always asked the children, chiefly the children of Nonconformist parents, questions bearing upon it. This is the case throughout Lincolnshire. Thus, in fact, we are training the children of Nonconformists to be children of the Church.Nonconformists were determined to put an end at the earliest possible moment to the using of these Anglican schools for the purpose of alienating the children of Nonconformists from the faith of their fathers. But we sometimes argue upon this question as though nothing had taken place in the march of educational reform and progress during the last generation or two. There was a time when perhaps the parson might have been accepted as a satisfactory teacher even for secular education. That day has completely gone. The parson in the old days might have been able to teach reading, writing, and 1053 arithmetic, and the elements of knowledge, but he is totally unfitted to perform the duties of a secular teacher to-day. That is the whole trend of educational experience in every country in the world.
There is another thing which makes us most suspicious—;antagonistic if you like—;to the religious instruction given in these Church of England schools. The Church of England herself has completely altered. The Church of England is rapidly approximating in doctrine, creed, and ritual to the principles of the Roman Catholic Church. That is one strong reason why Nonconformists fought the last election with an intensity and earnestness never before exhibited in this country—;to secure a Government that would make one of its first objects the reversal of the unfortunate legislation of 1902. I admit perfectly that the political dissenter—;if you choose so to describe him—;took the field. There are many men sitting on the Ministerial side of this House who would not have left their occupations, their municipal work, and their various social engagements, to seek a place in Parliament had it not been for the very distinct and special object of carrying this Bill upon which we are now engaged.
Has this Bill met our reasonable demands? We asked for one type of schools under absolute popular control. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has pointed out how futile and absurd was the opinion that in those little village boards of management with a majority of four to two there was any effective popular control, and even now under the distant county council there cannot be in my judgment a rational popular control. We desire education authorities in smaller areas where a knowledge of the local interests and of the locality, and the assistance of women on boards of school management in the work of elementary education, can be enlisted. It is impossible in a county like Lincoln for multitudes of people, otherwise fit, to spend a whole day for the purpose of sitting on the county council as the education authority, and while a very important step has been taken by the unification of of the schools and placing them under popular control, in my judgment that control will not be effective until greater use is made of those smaller school areas. 1054 I observe that the power of appointing teachers is reserved for the central authority. I am not sure that that might not be modified by conferring such a power upon these local and smaller school areas. With regard to the teachers, I have the figures of a very large number of schools within twenty miles of the central town of my division, and I cannot find a single case where a Nonconformist teacher has been appointed under the Act of 1902, even in the lower grades of these various schools. It is only bare justice to the teachers in our schools that they should be exempted from those most humiliating extraneous duties which were often indirectly forced upon them, and they should be recognised as Civil Servants of the State. Reference has been made to the training colleges. I trust that stops may be taken to place all denominational training colleges in receipt of State aid under some sort of public control, and that the tests imposed upon students at our training colleges may be removed. In reply to those who are so afraid of the influence of the teachers I may remind the House that 70 per cent. of the teachers in the School Board schools have been educated in the strict preserves of the training colleges of the Anglican Church. If hon. Members will read a number of letters which have appeared in that well known Church of England newspaper, the Layman, they will find in letters from twelve or fourteen experienced teachers in school board schools most valuable evidence of the religious influence exerted in those schools by teachers who have been trained in the training colleges of the Anglican Church. So far as popular control and the abolition of ecclesiastical tests are concerned, everybody until quite recently appeared to be agreed. My right hon. friend the Member for Wolverhampton has quoted The Times newspaper and the Standard newspaper, and what they state is only typical of every journal which has dealt with this subject. I know there was a little quarrel between the Birmingham Post and the Yorkshire Post as to whether the former journal had quite accurately stated the cause of the defeat of the Unionist Party at the last election. The former paper said it was the Education Act of 1902, the latter said it was tariff reform. Now the religious difficulty comes upon the field, and it is the most troublesome and 1055 contentious subject with which we have to deal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in one of his letters says that there are only two alternatives, the first being a secular system, a purely secular system, with outside facilities—
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member has not quoted me verbatim. I never called the system secular, but what I suggested does involve an entire separation between religious and secular instruction. That can hardly be called a secular system.
§ * MR. PERKS
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman suggests only two plans, but I am going to suggest a third, and I think it is the best of the three—;at any rate it is the one which the Government has accepted. I will take the first. Supposing we say that the school in regular hours is to deal with only secular subjects. I imagine that excludes Bible reading, and consequently Bible exposition. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that facilities should be given outside school hours, but upon the school premises, for the various religious denominations if they want to give their special doctrinal instruction. That is a perfectly intelligible and clear plan, which is supported by a very considerable amount of opinion in this country, but it has to contend with this great and insuperable difficulty, namely, that it turns the Bible out of the elementary schools of England. That is against English sentiment and opposed to the wishes of a huge and preponderating section of British opinion. Therefore, I think that may be brushed aside as not being a practical policy. Now what is the policy which is proposed as an alternative? It is this. Let every religious denomination come into the school for the purpose of explaining and impressing upon the children the various religious views which they hold. That theory has been smashed into atoms from a practical standpoint by one of the most accomplished educationalists that was ever at the Education Department, namely, Sir J. Fitch. It involves an inquiry into the religious opinions of the children in the schools. Someone would have to go round to take a sort of religious census in order to ascertain the opinions of the parents of some 500 or 1,000 children 1056 attending a school. That would have been the first difficulty confronting the managers. Having ascertained the religious opinions of the parents they were to be divided into about ten, twelve, or even twenty sects. They would have to be penned off in different little rooms at times suitable for their instruction; and that is the second difficulty. The third difficulty is who is to teach them? It is impossible to impose this duty upon the headmaster or the headmistress who may not be acquainted with the views of the parents or the requirements of the children. I think upon one occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham spoke of the Wesleyan religion. I may point out that there is no such thing as the Wesleyan religion.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I have not made any speech on this subject lately. I know I referred incidentally to it in a speech the other day.
§ * MR. PERKS
I know that the right hon. Gentleman has been recently engaged in dealing with more important subjects, but I remember the right hon. Gentleman using in 1902 the expression which seemed to me to be a very extraordinary one, and one, which at all events, shows great ignorance of the Wesleyan Church, its creeds and its practices. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham with his great experience of Nonconformity is in such a state of blissful ignorance, what must be the state of the average village teacher upon this subject? The first objection is that the scheme necessitates an inquiry into the opinions of the parent, the second that it pens off the children into a number of little ecclesiastical folds, and the third that it requires an inquiry into the theological opinions of the staff and involves the admission of various clergy. It increases what I think every citizen and every patriot and every Christian man must desire to decrease—;it increases, instead of removes, strife of areligious nature amongst the children of our homos and of our people. That is the second suggestion in the right hon. Gentleman's letter. But the Government has adopted another plan. The Government has fallen back upon the well-tried experience of the various school boards of this country, and it has adopted a scheme in this Bill, which I believe is reasonable, workable and practical, and also 1057 a popular one based upon the experience, of our great school boards and upon the popular judgment of the electors of this country. The Bill provides for simple Bible teaching. [OPPOSITION cries of "No."] The Government unquestionably gives authority to the local education authority to continue what has been done by all the great school boards with hardly a single exception. The school board system is a simple Bible system. As the President of the Board of Education has said, the Bible stands at the very base of school board instruction in this country. I very well remember one of the Articles of the Anglican Church, which I have not looked at for more than thirty years—;I believe it is Article 6—;and it lays down the doctrine that the holy Scriptures are at the basis of the Religious Faith of the Church of England. What has been the reception of Clause 3, and what is that clause? It is anathematised by almost everybody. The Bishop of London goes so far as to say—;Religious instruction under this provision will be given of the kind which the board schools were built to avoid.That is certainly a most extraordinary statement for any bishop of the Anglican Church to make. We are told that there cannot be such a thing as fundamental religious instruction. A late Member of this House, Lord Hugh Cecil, said—;It imposes a system of education which at the best tends to undermine Christianity.That is a position which it is almost impossible for any Nonconformist to assent to. Then there is the contrary opinion held by Canon Henson. Preaching at Westminster on April 9th, Canon Henson said—;Schools erected before the Education Act were mostly erected on the broad understanding that the principles of the established Church were those of all Protestants. The schools erected since the passing of the Education Act were erected under legal compulsion and were, in point of fact, a cheap alternative for rate-built and rate-supported schools.The same authority says—;The Church of England ought to constitute itself the champion and the exponent of that fundamental Christianity which was common to Protestants, and alone commended itself to the general acceptance of the English nation.What does Clause 3 do for denomi-nationalism—;for the Church of England, the Wesleyans, the Roman Catholics, and other denominations who own sectarian schools? I have known many a time, 1058 in the course of my business experience, propositions put before great commercial undertakings for grants in towns like Crewe, Rugby, York, and many other places. I could name applications which have been made by Church of England school managers for grants for schools for the purpose of avoiding school board rates on railways and other commercial institutions. It is a fallacy to suppose that the money given to all these schools has been given for the purpose of advancing the religious tenets of the communities to which they belong. The clause puts the whole cost of maintaining those schools on the local authority. The ratepayer or taxpayer thereby makes a considerable grant to the denomination. In the next place it gives them the use of these schools on week evenings and, as my right hon. friend has said, on Saturday and Sunday. There are 7,000,000 children in the Sunday schools of England; their instruction will go on, on Sunday, in these buildings, which in the case of the Church of England will be paid for by the State. It gives them also rent. Now what is the rent going to be? From figures which I have roughly taken out it would appear that the Church of England will receive in the shape of rent, if her schools are transferred to the public authorities, upwards of £500,000 per annum, the Wesleyan Church upwards of £20,000, the Roman Catholic Church upwards of £40,000, and the other denominations and the British schools upwards of £20,000. Those are all endowments for the benefit of these religious communities for handing over their buildings on several days of the week for the purpose of secular instruction. Furthermore, it affords the opportunity for religious instruction to be given. On two days of the week special religious instruction can be given. That clause will probably not be availed of by some of the great Nonconformist churches in the country. They are content with the Bible instruction given by the teacher. There are hon Gentleman opposite who think that is not enough. They want the child trained in abstruse or fine theological problems and theories. They therefore wish to superadd something to the common Biblical instruction given by the great school boards of the country, and it is provided in the Bill that on two mornings of the week a teacher of religion —;either the curate of the parish, or, in the case of Catholics, if they accept this 1059 clause, the priest—;would come in and give the instruction which he thought necessary. We are told that this is the endowment of Nonconformity, that it is establishing a now religion, or a Nonconformist religion. Who has ever heard before that the Bible is a Nonconformist book and that instruction given out of the Bible is Nonconformist religion? It is a new religion, according to the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham.
I want to say one or two words on Clause 4. I am bound to say that when we come to the extended facilities proposed to be given by that clause we are entering upon somewhat debatable ground, and so far as I am concerned I do not at all like the extended facilities proposed to be given. This clause has, I understand, been rejected by the Roman Catholic Church and by the Anglican Church. The Bishop of London says that the facilities are so grudging and so hedged round by conditions as to be practically useless. What are the main objections to this clause from the standpoint of English Nonconformists whose views I specially hold? In the first place, it appears to me that they render Clause 3 nugatory, or largely nugatory. It is proposed that in all urban districts with a population of 5,000—;that means in areas represented by 24,000,000 people out of 32,000,000—; sectarian denominational schools should be perpetuated. The Bill provides for an option being given to the local authorities to give sectarian teaching, which would be followed manifestly by religious tests in schools, in places where there is a population of over 5,000, and where the right is claimed by the parents. That would have the effect of plunging almost every local community into a struggle on religious issues at their various local elections. The effect on the teaching staff, in my judgment, would be most pernicious. It would involve the entry into these schools of religious teachers, and I greatly fear that it would perpetuate passive resistance by many English Nonconformists, which has been such an unfortunate result of the legislation of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I know that it was an amusing thing to the late Minister of Education to find ministers of religion flung into gaol under 1060 the provisions of the Act of 1902, and to find a number of persons haled before the magistrates for non-payment of rates. The hon. Gentleman treated this as a most amusing incident of his tenure of office. I trust that he may never have another opportunity of seeing such an exhibition of public antipathy to any Bill.
I would only venture in conclusion to express in regard to this particular clause the hope that the Government will keep an open mind. It is rejected by the Anglican Church, it does not meet the wishes of the Catholic Church, and it is adverse to the strong convictions of a very large percentage of the Nonconformists. If that be the case, why retain it in the Bill? The Bill is a perfectly workable and practical measure without it. There is no compulsion at all upon sectarian school managers. If they choose to close the doors of their schools they can do so, and if they desire to keep the doors open they can do so. In bygone days those great religious communities made great sacrifices in the interest of education. If a religious community feels strongly on this subject, what is its paramount duty? It will keep these schools open; it will not transfer them to the local authority. What the local authorities would have to do would be to build a new commodious up-to-date school in place of what is often at the present moment an old-fashioned, broken-down, insanitary building. I would recall to the mind of the Government a letter that was written in 1870 by Lord Ripon to Mr. Forster when he was getting the Bill of that year through the House of Commons. Lord Ripon was the Minister in attendance on the Crown at Balmoral, and he wrote to Mr. Forster as follows—;Your business and mine is simply to try and get the Bill through without alterations to which we object. If Gladstone prefers to carry it by the aid of the Tories rather than by consolidating the bulk of the Liberals that is his affair, not ours, and we must let him do what he likes on that point.That was an unfortunate piece of advice, and it led to a condition of discontent for many years between Nonconformists and a section of the Liberal Party and Mr. Gladstone's Government. I recall that passage in the progress of the Bill of 1870 for the purpose of suggesting to the Government that if Clause 4 is universally reprobated by the various sections of the community for whom it 1061 is intended it would be futile to pursue what it proposes in the face of that opposition.
§ * SIR HENRY CRAIK
I think if the House wished to learn something of the spirit which animates this Bill it could not have done better than to listen to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. The hon. Gentleman has endeavoured by every means in his power to raise the strongest feelings of religious bitterness and has imported into the debate his own particular religious opinions. In his eloquent and impressive speech the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool began by stating that he spoke entirely for the Catholic Church. I think as he went on, when he spoke words which touched the hearts of all of us, we felt that he had unduly narrowed the scope of his own sympathies. I think also he unduly doubted the sympathy he might obtain from his Anglican fellow subjects. Before I touch on the Bill I should like to touch on one or two points brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He began by the somewhat unusual process of answering speeches which were delivered elsewhere than in this House, and he quoted as unquestionable authority various newspapers, as if we were bound to accept their statements as the expression of our own views. Some of those views I cannot accept. I do not think they have been expessed within the limits of the discussion in this House. The right hon. Gentleman went on further to speak as to the mandate given at the last election in regard to this question of education. He referred to one or two of the provisions of the Bill, but I think he gave more attention to the opinions expressed on the public platform and in the newspaper articles than to the clauses of the Bill. He refused to accept the criticism as to the guarantee of the facilities in every case, and stated semewhat hotly in reply to such objections that these facilities would be a necessary consequence of the Bill. But he forgot that the trustees might find themselves under the tender mercies of the triumvirate, and might have to accept the position forced upon them. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was necessary that in the four-fifth clause the local authority could 1062 not say, "You must teach the faith of the children in your school." It is true that, so far as Section 7 is concerned, it preserves the teachers in their office so long as they live; but the right hon. Member forgot that in case of a vacancy there was no power on the part of the local authority to appoint a teacher to teach the denominational religion. Unlike the hon. Member for Scotland Division, I do not approach the discussion of this Bill as a representative of any particular communion, a position which I am not entitled to assume. It is true that my objections to the Bill are based mainly, although not solely, upon the treatment of the voluntary schools, and upon the attempted solution, which I think no solution at all, of the religious question in education. But I propose to discuss the Bill, not from the standpoint of any particular section, but as inflicting an injury upon constitutional and individual liberty, because it interferes with the rights of the family and the home, and will, I believe, adversely influence educational progress in general, a work in which my whole life has been spent, and the progress of which I believe to be one of the supreme interests of the nation. There are two features which reappear in all these educational discussions. The first is that whenever an English Minister of Education rises to propose a new Bill, he invariably laments the dire necessity laid upon him to address an audience chiefly interested in disputed questions of religious belief, and he then proceeds to occupy the greater part of his speech with little else. Both these features have bean repeated by the President of the Board of Education in introducing this Bill. He described the crowded audience which gathered to hear him as attracted not by his eloquence and wit, nor by any interest in education, but only by the prospect of an acrimonious discussion of these questions. He then proceeded to satisfy these tastes by devoting more than nine-tenths of his speech solely to religious disputes, and giving us a modicum of educational bread to an ocean of the sack of sectarian discussion. I venture to claim for my own country that when Education Bills dealing with Scotland have been discussed in this House, the religious question, if not entirely absent, at least occupied very much less prominence in the discussion. I do not been due to any lack 1063 of tenacious hold on their religious creeds on the part of my countrymen, nor to the absence of denominational teaching from our educational system, which on the contrary, frankly, avowedly, and as I conceive logically, gives full freedom to all denominations. But in this reiterated complaint of the intrusion of religious feeling into educational questions, is there not something of conscious or unconscious cant? What wonder that the problems concerning men so deeply, and affecting them so vitally as the position of religion in the eternal economy of our schools should arouse strong feeling? While human nature remains what it is, it will continue to be stirred by what lies at the foundation of our children's education, and it is folly to expect that the enthusiastic defence of religious belief will retire from the field until you effect a reasonable settlement. After all, there are only three possible attitudes towards any religious dogma. We may be for the dogma, against the dogma, or we may care nothing either way. Whatever the attitude we assume we are the adherents of a particular sect or form of opinion, to one or other of which every human being must belong, and no one of us has a right to stigmatise his fellow-citizens as narrow-minded or sectarian because he holds a particular view. Which is the best of these views must remain a matter of eternal dispute, and for the settlement of that dispute I think most hon. Members will agree there can be no worse arena that the House of Commons. But although Parliament cannot safely interfere to pronounce on any particular religious dogma, Parliament has a function of supreme importance of which it cannot divest itself, that of laying down the conditions under which diverse religious convictions shall operate. What is to be the rule in the application of these conditions? Can there be any other than to leave the most absolute freedom to all? I would venture to repeat some weighty words of Dr. Chalmers, whose authority Nonconformists will at least not question, which were quoted by the late Lord Playfair in this House in 1871—;If there were not,said Chalmers,as there certainly was not, a theological Parliament versed in dogma, the next best thing is that in any public measure for the education of the people, Government should abstain from introducing the element of religion 1064 at all into their part of the scheme, leaving, this matter entirely to the parties who had to do with the erection and management of the schools, which the Government hail been called on to assist.These words I hold express the charter under which all religious communities are entitled to work, and all the difficulties and perplexities which have arisen are due only to your having deserted that principle.
What, briefly, has been the history of State action in regard to education? Will the House allow me to recall it in two or three sentences for the light it throws upon the present position? These Parliamentary grants for the maintenance of the schools are less than seventy years old. At first, and although hon. Members may have forgotten it, for nearly one half of that period the rule was that no school was eligible for grant which was not connected with some recognised religious community. That rule ended only in 1870. I do not assert that it was an expedient rule, or that it should be continued. I only adduce it as showing the attitude assumed by the State and the responsibility which that attitude involved. It was only with the Act of 1870, when a new class of rate supported schools was established, that a novel restriction was imposed, and that last refuge of logical imbecility and of moral cowardice—;the Cowper-Temple clause—; was invented. Many of us will be ready to admit that illogical as that scheme was it might in practice work fairly enough when the restrictions which it imposed, were partial only, and when the voluntary schools still supplied an outlet for freedom. It was introduced into the Bill by Mr. Gladstone as an afterthought and, as we all know, with a scarcely suppressed feeling of dislike. Under no circumstance could he, as he fully admitted, have altered his Bill to introduce this clause unless it had been supplemented by definite denominational teaching in the voluntary schools. Let me quote two or three sentences of Mr. Gladstone's utterances in 1870. On the 10th of June he said—;We know perfectly well that practical judgment and the spirit of Christianity combined with commonsense may succeed, and does succeed in a vast number of cases, in avoiding the thorny path of controversy in the work of communicating religious instruction to children, but the whole essence of that process lies in its voluntary character.On the 30th of June he used the following words, which seem almost 1065 prophetic of the situation which has now arisen—;We do not admit that the simple and devout character of teaching can be secured by an attempt to exclude all reference to tenets and doctrines. That is an exclusion that cannot be effected, and if it could be, ought not to be. It is an invasion of the freedom of religious teaching such as ought not to be tolerated in this country. And those who attempt to sustain it in argument, whether as between party and party in this House, or as between one branch of the legislature and another, will find themselves shattered and discomfited the moment they attempt to bring to the tribunal of reason a proposal to establish by law a system so forced and so unnatural.And, it being a quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business sot down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.