§ Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment to Question [May 7th], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
Which Amendment was—;
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 again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BRYCE, Aberdeen, S.
): It might be supposed from much of the language used during the debate that this Bill is a wanton disturbance of the peace which has prevailed in the education world, and an attack on the Church of England. There has not been much indication of peace in the education world during the last few years, and I think that this measure will be recognised to be a necessary complement of the Act of 1902. It was impossible for the Government, after all that has been said at the general election, to have done less than to bring in this Bill. It is a logical consequence of the Act of 1902. Nevertheless, I do not think that any resentment which may exist with regard to the Act of 1902 ought to prevent the House from endeavouring to consider fairly and temperately what is the nature of the opposition to the Bill. I am aware that underneath the great noise which has been raised in the country there exists a real alarm with regard to its provisions. But I believe that it exists almost entirely in the minds of the clergy. That is no 1318 reason, however, why we should not give it fair consideration and strive, if possible, to disarm that opposition, to show what are the motives which underlie the Bill, and which have induced the Government to believe that it is the only possible settlement of the present controversy. The endowment clauses, for example have excited alarm; but I assure the House that they are not intended in any way to interfere with modern endow ments of a distinctly denominational character. It has been supposed that there is some attempt being made of that kind, but I can assure the House that there is nothing of the kind in the minds of the Government The principles of these provisions are principles which have been stated by leading Liberals during the last forty years. When the Bill reaches the Committee stage every desire will be shown on the part of the Government to deal fairly with the question.
The first complaint made against the Bill is that it removes the tests imposed on teachers, or the obligation to secure that the teacher shall belong to a particular denomination. That provision of the Bill is the inevitable result of the introduction of the principle of local option or contro[...] As long as the voluntary schools were under private management it followed that it was easy for them to make their choice on denominational lines and to ask questions with regard to the teacher. Even under the Act of 1902 this might be done, because the denominational majority was secured. But under popular local control, such as the Bill creates, that system became impossible; and, therefore, I submit if there is any logic in the matter this measure is the logical consequence of what was done in 1902 when the late Government established local popular control. By the Act of 1902 the teachers were virtually made a part of the Civil Service, and if that is the case, then the principle that there should be no distinction of creed or denomination, no selection of men according to religious tests, must necessarily apply to teachers also. This fact, however, does not tie the hands of the local authority as to the selection of the men whom they think to be the fittest for the mastership of a school. I regret the loss which these debates now suffer through the absence 1319 of Lord Hugh Cecil, who has declared that chaos in the appointment of teachers must follow the operation of this Bill. But there is a country north of the Tweed where popularly elected local authorities have not applied any tests for the last thirty years or more. They have found no difficulty in procuring competent religious teachers, no difficulty in choosing men to give religious instruction with perfect satisfaction to the people of Scotland. I think, therefore, that the suggestion which has been made that this Bill will create a practical difficulty in this respect is completely negatived by the long and satisfactory experience of Scotland.
The Government have also been accused of overriding trusts. Trusts have frequently been overridden, conspicuously by the Acts for reforming the Universities, and the trusts of these very schools have been altered by the Act of 1902. The commonest of these trusts was one for the education of the poor in the principles of the Church of England. How far will that be affected by this Bill? The children of the poor will continue to receive elementary education, and provision is made for enabling them to receive it in accordance with the principles of the Church of England on two days in the week. The Schoolhouse will be left in the hands of the trustees for all other purposes of the Church; and the trust is benefited to this extent, that the trustees and subscribers are to be relieved of the whole cost of maintenance. It is said that the wishes of the subscribers will be neglected, but that argument has been very greatly exaggerated. Who are the subscribers? Before 1870 a great deal of the money came out of the public Exchequer; and it is a mistake to suppose that the bulk of the money subscribed since 1870 has come from purely denominational sources. A large part has come from persons who are not members of the Church of England and a large part from persons who desired to avoid school boards and the rates which would follow. A great deal, too, has come from these who have bodies but not souls—;corporations like the great railway companies, who cannot have any denominational purpose whatever. It was originally intended in 1870, and for a long time afterwards, that half the cost of these schools should be borne by the subscribers. But of late years the whole 1320 cost has been borne by the State. The denominational element, therefore, given by the funds subscribed to the building has been largely diluted or washed out by the large sums which the State has annually contributed. The clergy of the Church of England say that this Bill gives a preference to Nonconformity—;as if Nonconformity were a species of religion The Cowper-Temple clause did not create any religion or give any preference to any particular form of creed. It was simply a prohibition to teach a creed or formulary in the schools. That is not Nonconformity, any more than it is Anglicanism or Catholicism. It is a direction to avoid doing anything which brings into force the distinctive tenets of a particular denomination. It is a direction to teach, as far as is possible, that which the Protestant bodies hold in common; and it ought to be called not so much undenominationalism as co denominationalism. What is the religion that is so much complained of as being "Cowper-Temple religion?" It is the Christianity of the first three centuries—;the Christianity that existed before any creeds were imposed. The first official creed was formulated in the year 325, before which Christians had not begun to separate themselves into sects. I am often amused to hear the way people talk of that gentle and kindly man, Mr. Cowper-Temple, as if he were some heresiarch, some bold, bad man who wished to destroy Christian peace. He was the very reverse of all these things. What he desired to have taught was that which is held and valued by nineteen-twentieths of the laity of the Church of England. Is there no such thing as what is called "our common Christianity?" It is a phrase sometimes heard in the pulpit, and often on occasions when people of different denominations meet together for objects of social welfare. It is recognised in every case except where the children are concerned, and yet it is for the children, above all, that this common Christianity ought to exist. I am not referring to the Roman Catholics.
§ MR. BRYCE
No, you were there from the first, and so were we all. There 1321 are sentences in an utterance of the Archbishop of Canterbury which will bear repetition—;It is almost inconceivable that any Christian man who knows the facts can speak of the Christian teaching given in the London school board as worthless because it is undenominational. Such instruction lays the foundation on which the ampler teaching of the Christian faith can be securely built.Canon Maurice and the late Archbishop Temple also spoke with approval of such undenominational teaching. We have had this undenominational system in force since 1870 for half the children in the country. Are the children who have grown up in the Cowper-Temple schools any less religious than these in the voluntary schools? The inspectors admit that they are better trained in Scripture knowledge. Will any one say that these children are less honest, upright, and temperate, or loss willing to serve their fellow-men than the children in the voluntary schools? There have been a great many extraordinary statements made, but no one can say that the results of the board school teaching have been unsatisfactory or inferior to these of the voluntary schools. It is said by some that Bible Protestantism is not Christianity at all. Such persons approximate more to the Catholic Church than to the Church of England. The essential points are the existence of the priesthood and the sacrament, to which they attach a higher and deeper value than other Christians do. If that doctrine is held by the great majority, I admit that their feelings may be these which are held by Catholics. I do not deny that the case of the Catholics is different, that they have a special case, and I earnestly hope both sides of the House will endeavour as far as possible to give consideration to their case. But I will go so far as to say that this view is not the official view of the Church of England as defined in the thirty-nine Articles. For whose benefit is this Bill, as all and other Education Acts have been, to be passed? For the benefit of the children, not for the clergy or for politicians. Can a child of twelve benefit by receiving these distinctive formulæ of Christian doctrine which are excluded by the Cowper-Temple clause? [OPPOSITION cries of "Yes, certainly."] I have had experience of the Catechism, and I remember being 1322 asked such questions as "What is effectual calling?" There are many hon. Members who have learned that the sacrament "is the outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace." Are these metaphysical and theological definitions comprehensible by the simple mind of a child? The only form of Christian teaching that can properly be given to a child is in these few fundamental truths in regard to which Christians are agreed. These fundamental truths are the goodness and greatness of the Creator, the duty to love Him and keep His Commandments, and the sacred precepts of the New Testament, especially these precepts delivered by Christ Himself—;precepts delivered and expressed in language so simple and beautiful that it touches the imagination and emotions of a child and goes home to his heart. All this can be taught, and is being taught, efficiently and usefully in the board schools of the country. There are many great difficulties with regard to the teaching of theology to a child; but I almost thought while listening to the hon. Member for Cambridge University that no mother could be fitted to give simple Bible teaching to a child at her knee unless she had passed through a course of training at a theological college, so high is the standard that the hon. Member thinks is necessary for these who impart theological fundamental truths to a child. When the Act of 1870 was passed it was said that each teacher would try to instil that particular form of doctrine which commended itself to his own conscience. That has happened in the rarest cases. The testimony of every one who knows the working of the board schools for thirty-five years is that these schools have given simple Bible teaching which has caused no offence and has been very beneficial. That, I believe, is the opinion of the parents of the children. There are hon. Members who send their children to Eton or Harrow, where they certainly used to receive very little definite dogmatic religious instruction. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh!"] I can speak for my own contemporaries at the University, who tell me of the instruction they have received. Things may be different today. But I appeal to these hon. Members who come from the classes whose children use the elementary schools to say whether they believe the 1323 working classes desire to have this distinctive sectarian instruction in the schools.
§ EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)
asked whether these hon. Members were in favour of religious instruction.
§ MR. BRYCE
There is a difference of opinion. There are some who prefer a secular system, but I believe the larger number of them would prefer what is called the Cowper-Temple system. I think even these who believe that a secular system is the best and ultimate solution of this question will bear testimony to the fact that the parents are well satisfied with the present board school teaching. I should be deeply grieved to lose from the schools of the country what I believe to be a powerful and valuable agency in modelling the characters of the children. One chief reason why we desire that this Bill should pass is because we believe that practically the only alternative is a secular system. I admit that a secular system is more logical, and that the Cowper-Temple system is not logical; but under a secular system hundreds and thousands of children would get no knowledge of the Bible at all. [OPPOSITION cries of "Why?"] Because they do not go to Sunday school. Their parents ought to teach them, but in many cases they do not do so, and in existing conditions if they are not given it in the schools, they will not get it at all. I ask the House to remember how immeasurable the loss would be to children, even of non-Christian parents, if they knew nothing of Scripture history and Scripture literature. They would have no opportunity of being carried back to that far-distant world so unlike our own, and would know nothing of what has formed the basis of thought and poetry for the whole modern world and has been the central force of European history. I admit that the problem is one of extreme difficulty, and I do not say this solution or any other solution is one which can be considered perfectly satisfactory. It is a difficulty which has vexed Europe, our Colonies, and the United States. Broadly speaking, there are two ways in which attempts has been made to solve it. The German system recognises two religions and provides schools for each denomination. But Germany has two established 1324 Churches, the Catholic Church and the Lutheran, or Evangelical, Church, and both are controlled by the State to a far greater extent than would be tolerated in this country. These two conditions do not exist and are not likely to exist in this country. The other solution is that adopted, with few exceptions, by the British Colonies and by the United States. It is a system which is either entirely secular, excluding religion altogether from the schools, or else confines religious instruction to simple Bible reading. It is the general testimony of those who have spoken in this House that the people of this country do not desire secular education. Here are two alternatives; but we could not follow the German example or the example of the United States. Consequently there is only the other method left which has been adopted in this country. I think the noble Lord the Member for Chorley said last night that there was no danger of secularism in this country at the present moment. There may be no danger at present because the people of this country desire to maintain religion in the schools. But it is conceivable that we might come to secularism, and therefore I appeal to hon. Members to pass this Bill in order to prevent that occurrence. We are trying by this Bill to give facilities which we believe will fairly meet such obstacles as exist. We will go into Committee on the Bill with an open mind, and perfectly prepared to consider such changes as may be proposed, with some conformity, of course, to the general principles laid down. I maintain that the Bill as regards, at any rate, the members of the Church of England imposes no burden; it relieves them of an existing pecuniary burden; it offers fair terms to the denominational schools, and makes practically no difference to distinctive denominational teaching, except that it is to be given, not by the regular teacher, but by others who come in. It is to be given on two days a week, and that is as much as is given now.
§ * MR. TALBOT (Oxford University)
Will the right hon. Gentleman forgive me? Under the Bill, it may be given (if the local authority allow) on not more than two days a week.
§ MR. BRYCE
I think if the local authority and the local managers so 1325 desire it, in the future it may be given on any day. We believe that the local authorities will do it under this Bill. I will tell you why. We believe that the local authorities are in harmony with the religious spirit of the English people. We believe that the local authorities are prepared to carry out what they believe to be the wishes of the English people, and we believe that these bodies are not animated by these sentiments of bigotry against any particular creed which are often attributed to them. Let me give an instance. There is not in this country a more Protestant city than Liverpool—;it is ultra-Protestant. The local authority in Liverpool has been liberal in making grants for instruction to Roman Catholic institutions, and has made no difference between Catholic institutions and others. That I believe to be the general spirit which animates our local authorities throughout England, and it is the spirit which animates local authorities in Scotland, where there has been no attempt to abuse the power to the prejudice of any religious party. This Bill, as it makes no difference in distinctive teaching, gives to all children as much as their minds are fitted to receive. What is it an Education Bill ought to do? It ought to secure symmetry and coordination with elasticity and efficiency. It ought to make the teaching profession an open jirofession—;every post in it equally accessible and open to every man and woman who desires to enter it. It ought to place religious bodies upon an equal footing, and, in particular, to give all the children equal treatment. It surely ought to try to bring up so far as possible in the same schools these children who are afterwards to live together as citizens. This Bill may require some amendment. As I have said we are prepared to consider in a reasonable spirit any amendment. The Bill is an honest effort to accomplish the objects I have stated; to get rid of theological controversy by applying equality; to minimise those ecclesiastical disputes by which our energies have, been divided and wasted, while the interests of the children have been forgotten; and to satisfy that desire to retain the religious character of the schools which animates the great majority of the English people.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
Of all the speeches delivered in the course of this debate I confess that the one which perhaps interested me more than any other was that of the hon. Member for Leicester, and that for two reasons—;first of all, because for the first time I heard a representative in this House put forward a plea in powerful language for secular education in this country, and, secondly, because the hon. Member for Leicester represents a Party which has come freshest from the constituencies. I confess that the speeches and the opinions of the Labour Members on both sides of the House are more interesting to me in this debate than the speeches of these whom I may describe without offence as old stagers in this controversy. One of the arguments used in the powerful speech of the hon. Member for Leicester struck me particularly, and is, I think, full of ominous meaning for hon. Members on both sides of the House. He used these words—;It was a curious fact that every Labour movement was in favour of a system of secular education in public schools. The chief reason was because these who belonged to Labour parties sent their children to these schools. What proportion of the Bishops or of the Members of that House sent their children to these schools.Well, there is a great deal in this argument. I think hon. Members like the right, hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, who value the maintenance of some form of religious training in the schools, will do well to take to heart and give good weight to the fact that the Labour Members who have come in recently, and who have more than any other Members the right to speak for parents, are all now in favour of a secular system. [Cries of "No."] I am referring now to the only prominent member of the Labour Party who has spoken.
MR. LLEWELLYN WILLIAMS (Carmarthen District)
The President of the Board of Trade sends his children to these schools.
§ MR. DILLON
That is a very interesting fact, but the right hon. Gentleman would hardly describe himself as a 1327 Labour Member. I was directing attention to what was stated by the hon. Member for Leicester. While that may be true as regards the general body—;the non-Catholic, the non-Jewish working people of this country—;if the decision of this matter were left to these whose children use the schools it would be rather in favour either of simple Bible teaching, or, I think by a majority, in favour of a secular system. [Cries of "No."] Well, I may be wrong, but if that test be applied to these for whom we as Roman Catholics speak how would the decision go? In regard to the Catholics of the working classes of this country whose children use these schools, there can be no manner of doubt about their view of the matter, and I tell the hon. Member for Leicester that if the members of the Labour Party had been at the Albert Hall the other day, or if they were as well acquainted as many of us are with the sacrifices made week in and week out for years by the poorest Roman Catholics of the working classes of this country to maintain their schools, they would know by the best of all possible tests that they at least desired the maintenance of the Catholic character of these schools. There was just one other point in the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester which struck me as of great significance. We have heard a great deal in these debates on the question of the right of the parent. The hon. Member for Leicester put forward an amazing doctrine. He said he was not a believer in the right of the parents to teach their children the religion which they desired them to receive; on the contrary, he said that in his opinion the children had a right to appeal against the parents impressing upon them their religious creeds or views. Some of us asked at what age. I would say to the hon. Member for Leicester that when he gives expression to such principles as these, he is tilting against a very ancient principle of humanity which is too strong for him. It is nearly 2,500 years since the philosopher Plato laid down the principle in his Republic that every child within a few weeks of birth should be taken from its father and mother. More than 2,000 years have elapsed since then, and even with that great authority that doctrine has not made much progress. No, Sir, in 1328 my opinion the claim of the parents for reasonable State aid is a claim that no Government and no majority has a right to trample upon.
Before I pass away from the views of the Labour Party, let me draw attention, to one aspect of this case, and I do it with all earnestness and all sincerity. I would ask them to remember how many noble causes have been ruined by the fires of religious controversy. I would ask them to consider in dealing with this Bill in its future stages that the apostles of reaction are seeking to cast into the ranks of the Labour Party in England the apple of discord, and whether the great movement of progress so happily inaugurated at the last election, if drawn into irreconcilable hostility towards this Bill in its final stages, may not receive a fatal set back. It may be said and it has been, said that we are wrong in alleging that this Bill if not altered would amount to religious persecution against the Catholics of this country, but I ask all who hold that view whether, when there is a question of religious persecution or suffering from conscience sake, it is not a fact that the only people who have a right to decide that matter are the people who allege they suffer? Those who persecuted in the past from the religious point of view, and it will be so in the future, will never admit that any wrong is done, and it is only these who suffer that really complain.
I should like to say a word about another subject. A remarkable and most interesting maiden speech was made by the hon. Member for Bath. He appealed very directly to the Irish Members, and asked us to say what has the election decided. I thought the election decided in favour of free trade, and we in this House decided by an overwhelming majority that that was the governing element at the election. I thought also the election had decided against Chinese labour, and while I frankly admit that the majority was a good deal due to and increased by the injustice unhappily done by the Bill of 1902, I would ask the hon. Member to go to the Liberal Members for Liverpool, for Manchester, for Bolton, and ask them about the pledges they gave their Catholic electors who voted for them, and 1329 to say frankly whether it was part of their wish to destroy the Catholic schools. We Irishmen who speak for the Roman Catholics deny that as regards the great industrial centres, the decision of the election was that the Catholic schools were to be taken from us or destroyed. On the contrary, we assert, and can prove, that in almost all the centres of industrial population, pledges were given by Liberal candidates that they would see that no injustice was done to the Catholic schools. The hon. Member for Bath made an appeal to us on the Home Rule ground, and said to the Irish Members, "Trust the English people." Well, I want to trust them here in the House of Commons. Let the hon. Member for Bath give us proof here, in the House of Commons, that the English people may be trusted not to act unjustly or in a spirit of bigotry in this matter; let it be settled here where we have Catholic representatives, and not in local municipalities where the voice of the Catholics cannot be heard. Let the Parliament of England settle it. Surely this is a great issue which the Parliament of England ought to decide. What is to be gained by throwing this apple of discord into every local municipality? It is idle for the hon. Member for Bath to say that no local body would act cruelly or unjustly. I do not wish to inflame feeling by going into particular instances, but when we have already on record a warning given by some local bodies that they will use the opportunity given under this Bill, in its present shape, to wipe out the Catholic schools—;then, I say, let us settle the matter here in Parliament and secure that this subject will not be made a bone of contention at every municipal election, and thereby mar the progress of public interest in all other local affairs throughout the country.
Let me say a word in regard to a matter which has come before the country everywhere. It is a question which divides our case by an impassible gulf from the case of the Church of England—;and that is the Cowper-Temple clause. I do not think that anything is to be gained in this controversy by using abusive language. This debate has been hitherto characterised by good temper and temperance of 1330 statement. But it is not true to state I that the teaching in the board schools under the Cowper-Temple clause is a new religion. It is not tyranny. It is simply, as we all admit, what has come to be known in England as Bible instruction; and it is idle to deny that a large section of the Church of England approved of it.
§ MR. DILLON
Exactly; that is what I am talking about. You may accept it as a foundation. Practically speaking, the Church of England, to a large extent, accepts Bible teaching, and it has not been denied that in most of the counties of England the leading ecclesiastics have taken part in drawing up the syllabuses. Hon. Members here, and members of the Church of England outside, say that largely and in the main they accept it as a good foundation. That is the difference between us and the Church of England. The Church of England at its worst or at its lowest says that the doctrine of the Cowper-Temple clause is a good foundation; but to us it is hostile. We object to it; and I warn hon. Members that if we Catholics are forced to the choice between a purely secular system of education and a purely Bible reading system, we will unhesitatingly accept the purely secular; and if that goes on, as sure as the sun will rise to-morrow morning, we shall have in this country very soon a purely secular system of education. It is quite true that at present the majority of the people of England would not like to see the Bible out of the schools, and it is equally true that there is a party growing up who would say "whatever our own desires may be, rather than see this eternal quarrel we would accept the secular system," and if you force us to choose we will take the secular system in preference to simple Bible teaching. Now you understand what it is that divides us. That is the opinion of all my colleagues. Therefore the simple Bible teaching in the schools is to us Catholics worse than no religion. Yes, it is hostile to our system, and what you are doing is this—;if you persist in carrying 1331 out this Bill unamended and thereby destroy our schools and drive us to war against this Bill—;and it would be a prolonged war—;the result will inevitably be, in my opinion, after some years of quarrelling and struggle and perhaps another swing of the pendulum, in which the Liberals would be the under dog and the present Opposition the upper, the institution of a secular system in England. The President of the Board of Trade, in his most powerful and eloquent speech, although I disagreed with most of what he said, used these words—;Here is one thing on which we are all agreed. We agree that it is the business of the State to train and discipline the conscience.That is a very remarkable statement coming from the President of the Board of Trade. I was rather surprised at that definition—;And I think there is agreement between us that this must be done on the principle of Christian morality.But what about the Jews? Is that the business of the State? Mark the werds—;The duty of the State, we are all agreed we must train the consciences on the basis of morality.I think the right hon. Gentleman is out in his logic there, and if he thinks he can apply to us any more than the Jews his notion of the proper way to train our consciences, which he declares to be the business of the State—;to train the consciences of our children in the principles of Christian morality—;I warn him he is just as much at sea as in the case of the Jews. I have said before, and I repeat it, that so far as we Catholics are concerned, it is not the teaching of the catechism that is the most important thing to us in our schools. The Chief Secretary for Ireland has pointed out in his speech how impossible it is for little children to understand the catechism. We differ entirely from his view. We think the proper teaching is dogma and specific truth. But that is not the point. What we are struggling and making sacrifices for in these schools is the creation of a Catholic atmosphere, and teaching the child from his earliest years that he is a member of a great Church. I know that idea is quite foreign to hon. Members opposite, but so 1332 far as I personally am concerned, I attach more importance to have surrounding the child that Catholic atmosphere than I do to the teaching of the catechism, and therefore it is that we are so strongly opposed to any kind of teaching which would allow the teaching of the Church or the Church itself to be ridiculed or belittled in the mind of the child during its school life. Then later on the President of the Board of Trade used this extraordinary language. He said—;We have a new doctrine about religious instruction, the doctrine of the right of the parent.That is a perfectly new doctrine, so far as the general controversy is concerned. Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to remind him of the language he used in 1902? On July 30th, 1902, he said—;Why should a parent not be allowed to dictate to the teachers what doctrine he wished his children to be taught?Mark you, not to teach any doctrine, but to dictate what doctrine he wished his child to be taught.There were three millions of children in the denominational schools and over two millions of these were in the 8,000 parishes with only one school. What right had the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich to speak on behalf of the parents of these millions of children and say, 'This is the particular doctrine these parents want to be taught?' Why would he not allow the parents of these children to say, 'This is the doctrine we want taught to our children?'So that the right of the parent to dictate as to doctrine is not new to the President of the Board of Trade. When I was advocating the right of the parent in England, the chief support I got was from the Radical Party, every man of which came into the lobby with me and voted in favour of the right of the parent to have a substantial voice in the appointment of the teachers. I was denounced in the most unmeasured terms as a traitor to the denominational schools by the then Leader of the Opposition, because he said I was sacrificing the denominational schools. I would like to know would the then Government, if they knew as much as now, have accepted it. They denounced me as a traitor when I got the Radical Party to vote for my Amendment. If they had surrendered and made that concession, then they would, have secured the control of their schools 1333 for the next twenty-five or thirty years. Let me say a word as to the right of the parents. I think there has been in relation to it gross exaggeration. I have read in the newspapers harangues in which it was declared that the parents had an unlimited right to dictate on this subject. Let me remind hon. Members that there are parents who are anti-Christian. I was reading the other day a well-known book I in which the doctrine is advanced that the greatest misfortune which could befall was the teaching of Christianity—;and that until it was rooted out, humanity would never come into its true inheritance. Well, the advocates of this view would have as good a right as any one else to dictate to anyone else. Then what about the Anarchist? Would he be entitled to insist upon instruction in the theory and construction of bombs? Of course that is not a numerous class of the community—;but there are a good many more of them than we know, probably. The right of the parent we must deal with as sensible men. It must be limited by convenience and a sense of the rights of others. We can not claim that where there are two or three Catholic families they should have schools set up for themselves. We must be guided by convenience, and we only claim that the right of the parent is one which should be recognised by the Government, and that it should be the object of the Government not to interfere with it so far as the circumstances permit. That is all we claim. Let me, with a couple of sentences, say what it is that we want. I must ask to be dissociated from the language used here last night by the hon. Member for Chorley. He spoke as the champion of the denominational schools, and when he elicited from the Minister for Education an important declaration that it is his purpose to secure denominational teachers in these denominational schools, he made use of it in a manner which showed that his object was not to save the schools for the purpose for which they were intended, but to utilise the statement for the purposes of his own Party. The Minister for Education, in his recent speeches, has made observations from which I think that, from our point of view, peace may be secured. I will, for the purpose of clearness, read 1334 some notes I have made of what I think will settle this controversy. First of all, I think that Clause 4 should be made a reality, applying to all the Catholic schools, so far as that can justly be done. I put in the word justly, because I for one will never be a party to demanding a Catholic school where there is a majority of other denominational sections. I daresay I shall incur animosity by stating that that is the first demand we make. Secondly, I think there should be some machinery which will secure us from the danger and apprehension of having teachers forced upon our schools of such a character as would make Clause 4 a nullity and a farce. These are the words of the Minister for Education himself. I am perfectly confident that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues never meant that clause to be a nullity and a farce. If they did, why did they introduce it? I am bound to say I will be no party to the attacks which have been made upon the right hon. Gentleman in regard to that clause. I believe that it is his intention to make it a reality, and I do not join with these who abuse him and charge him with ill faith. The third demand is that some provision should be made for future Catholic schools in new centres of Catholic population. That is merely the inevitable corollary and consequence of the previous demands. I say nothing at all about the question of the endowments, because that is a highly technical question, and I understand from the Government that they are prepared to consider any proposal which is brought up. These three demands are not very extravagant; they will not interfere with the general scope of the Bill or its principle, and they are consistent with the principles already accepted by the Radical Party. I make bold to say that if they were conceded and the necessary Amendments, five or six in number, embodied, it would enable us or at least it would enable me to accept the Bill and to appeal to our friends in this country to do likewise.
And now, let me make a strong appeal to the Labour and the Radical Parties. I appeal first of all to the Nonconformists of this country. I personally have never taken part in some of the taunts which have been 1335 frequently levelled against the Nonconformist conscience. I can never forget that with them we fought shoulder to shoulder against religious tests and for other forms of liberty in this country. But so far as the religious test is in this Bill I will not vote against it. I will never vote for the abolition of religious tests in regard to education, and I will fight against the appointment as teacher to a homogeneous Catholic school of some man who will turn Clause 4 into a farce. [An HON. MEMBER: But that is a test.] The hon. Member does not know what a religious test means the sense in which I use it, and I say that a man who calls that a test merely puts difficulties in our way. I appeal to the Nonconformists) on this ground, that when in 1902, after long debate, it was made manifest to this House what was the chief grievance of which they complained, I myself stood up and on behalf of the Irish Party moved the Amendment, in regard to which the President of the Board of Trade told the House that although it would not be absolutely satisfactory to them it would remove the greater part of their grievance. At that time I was denounced as a traitor by the Tablet newspaper and by many of the leading members of the Catholic Church in this country. I ask the Nonconformists now to be reasonable and to reciprocate and meet me half way. I will ask them to do nothing in this matter which is unjust to them or which will inflict injustice upon them. I entered upon that occasion into the region of prophecy, a dangerous rôle for a politician to take. I prophesied to these who resisted the Amendment that there would be a mighty reaction and that they would suffer. I prophesy to the Nonconformists now that that motto and example of 1902, vae victis, or any measure inflicting injustice will have a similar reaction. I appeal finally to the Labour Party to help us in Committee. I appeal to them because we, the Irish Catholics of this country, threw all our weight to help them to create a Labour Party. They have a long road to travel, with many difficulties, and if at the outset of that road, which I hope will be a glorious one, Labour is thrown back into the arms of reaction, and the floodgates of religious 1336 bitterness are opened, I warn the Labour Party that it will be a dangerous course to follow. Let us approach this Bill in a spirit of conciliation, and from that point of view I confidently prophesy that it will be easy, at least as far as we Irish Members are concerned, to find a way out of the difficulty. All that we ask for is that our schools should be secured, and for liberty to build new schools for our people as centres of population spring up. I will not, and I cannot, believe that it is the purpose of this Government to take from us the schools which, whatever can be said of any other section of the population, have undoubtedly been reared by the sweat and the labour of the toiling millions of our population.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
Everybody who has listened to the speech which has just been delivered will agree with me as to its importance and interest, derived not merely from the ability and eloquence of the speaker, but also from the position which he occupies as a representative man with reference to this question. We recognise that his position on this occasion might have been embarrassing to a less practised debater. He desires on other grounds, not here in question, to give a general support to the Government. He is opposed—;conscientiously opposed—;to this Bill. He has, therefore, at the same time to criticise the Opposition, to support the Government, and to destroy the Bill. The hon. Gentleman has put before us the views which, he has explained, represent the present position and the present desires of the Irish Catholic Party. It is very difficult to gauge the full meaning of so important a declaration when it is first brought before the House in this way in the course of a speech, but I think I am not wrong in saying that the amendments which he asks for from the Government are, first, that Clause 4 should be made a reality. I do not know whether he goes quite as far as we do, but if he does, if he is willing to agree with us on that, he must go with us to the extent of saying that Clause 4, as it stands, is a sham and he wishes to make it a reality. He wishes that the Government shall accept amendments which will prevent 1337 the intrusion of teachers of any other denomination into Catholic schools; in other words, he wishes, as all of us must expect he would, that the Catholic atmosphere of the Catholic schools shall be considered sacred and be continuously preserved. He asks not merely that the position of Catholic schools as it is at present shall be continued, but that facilities shall be given, that full liberty shall be given, to the creed for the creation of new schools on the same principle; and, lastly, he suggests that amendments shall be made in the clause dealing with endowments, although he does not specify what they are. He said, in his eloquent peroration, that these demands were made in a spirit of conciliation, and that they were in his opinion very moderate demands. I am not certain whether I differ from him, but these conciliatory and moderate demands destroy the two principles of the Bill. They absolutely destroy the principle of public control over all elementary schools, and they absolutely destroy the principle on which the Government have hitherto insisted—;the abolition of what they call tests for teachers. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that this talk about tests for teachers is a misapplication of words. This is a matter which is on totally different lines from these tests which we, all of us—;at any rate, these of us who profess Liberal and progressive ideas on whichever side of the House we sit—;have always opposed, and which our ancestors in their time opposed. It may be right to carry the matter further. All I wish to say is that I agree with the hon. Member if he meant to impress on the House that they are not in pari materia with what are called tests for teachers.
Now, Sir, let us consider the moderate and conciliatory demands of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, speaking alone, as he is entitled to speak, and as necessarily he wishes to speak, for the Irish Catholic Party. So far as they are concerned they will be reconciled by the acceptance of these moderate amendments. But does the House think that it is reasonable to ask us to be satisfied with a concession which is made to only one of the sections which object to the Bill? I am not by any means certain—;I have no right to 1338 speak for others, but I am inclined to think that if these moderate and conciliatory conditions which are asked for on behalf of the Irish Catholics are granted and extended, as they must be, to every other denomination—;if they are extended, as they must be, to the Anglicans, to all these members of Noncomformist bodies who do not accept the views of the Free Churches, and to the Jews, I am not certain, but at first sight I am inclined to believe, you will settle the whole question. The hon. Member stated the views which are held by a definite section of the House, and he expressed what I may call some indifference for those whom he called old stagers, among whom, I am sure, he will admit himself to be a distinguished member. I also claim that I am a very old stager in this education business. More than thirty years ago I was chairman of the National Education Board. At the same time I was a member of several Noncomformist committees. A short time afterwards I was chairman for three years of the Birmingham School Board, so that I have had theoretical and practical experience upon this question; and in all these capacities it is my pride and my delightful recollection that I was associated throughout with my friend the late Dr. Dale. There must be some here who also enjoyed his friendship. No man, as I think, ever held a higher place as a representative of the Free Churches, and it will be admitted by all that he had most sincere religious convictions. His whole spirit was one of devotion and piety; and at the same time there was not a man who had a broader mind or who attached more importance to absolute justice and equality in dealing with all classes of men—;these from whom he differed as well as these amongst whom he worked and lived. Thirty years ago almost to a month, when I entered this House, I made my maiden speech, and it was upon this subject; and very curious it is to look back and see that the position was exactly the same then as it is now, and that we have not proceeded one step towards a final settlement. The bone of contention is the same; and I say that, until you come to some definite conclusion as to the principles to be adopted in order to do 1339 justice to all, you never will approach anything in the nature of a solution of this problem. Looking at this speech—;it was a short one and, I think, imperfectly reported—;I find I made two statements. I said that if the priest and the parson, and of course by that I did not mean to speak of particular denominations, but meant that if all clerical and ecclesiastical influence were withdrawn, there would be no religious difficulty. That was my view then, but I am not certain, when we come to examine it, that that statement has helped us or will help us much. My second statement was that the true principles of justice must De observed, and that the principles of the three Nonconformist Committees and of the Birmingham School Board which I represented—;and which were the principles, remember, of Nonconformists as able and as distinguished as Dr. Dale and Mr. Henry Richards—;that these principles, which involved no sectarian instruction—;that is a different thing altogether—;but an entire separation between the work of the State and the work of the individual or denomination, offered then, as they seem to me to offer now, the only foundation on which to establish a fair and impartial system. Now, what has struck me in this debate is its essential unreality. We are arguing each from our own side, in opposite directions, but in parallel lines which never meet. I can afford to admit a very great deal of what was said this evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen, for instance, and it would not in the slightest degree be relevant to the objections I take to this Bill. Each side has put forward its own views and argues that its own views are absolutely reasonable, that they are not unjust and do not interfere unjustly with anybody's conscience, and that there is no desire to interfere unjustly with anybody's conscience. They argue in, I will say, a reasonable and absolutely correct manner, and it would be absolutely satisfactory if we were dealing with a purely secular subject. But, as the hon. Member who has just sat down has well pointed out, when you come to matters of conscience, you cannot dispose of them by reasonable arguments. If you prove to the satisfaction of the whole House, instead of to the satisfaction of only your own side, 1340 that the system you are imposing generally under this Bill is absolutely reasonable, after all, you will have to how to the House upon what principle you intend to impose it compulsorily on someone who does not accept it. You may try and convert your opponent and to show him that he is wrong, but when you come to these matters of conscience, at the end of the discussion he tells you you have not converted him. Then you have to see how, consistently with your own principles of justice and religious liberty, you can impose your Bill on him. I would like to give some examples. I will take them from two Bills, the Bill of 1902 and the Bill now before us. The Bill of 1902, as we all know, and as many of our friends on this side of the House have found to their disadvantage during the last election, raised passionate opposition. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton said it had resulted in a. mandate, and he defined the mandate. I do not agree with his definition. If there was any mandate at all I do not think it was in the form in which the right hon. Gentleman believes it was. I cannot help recalling what the hon. Member for East Mayo said just now, when he pointed out how many mandates are supposed to have been given at the general election; there is nothing that anybody who was successful attaches, importance to which he does not designate-by the sacred name of a popular mandate. Let us grant it. I have always maintained that there were a great number of mandates, almost an infinite number, as many mandates as there are Members of the House. Do not let us hear any more of there having been a conclusive popular decision upon any one particular subject. But I complained of the definition of the Member for Wolverhampton. I should have said it was not a mandate from the country about education at all. So far as it was a mandate, it was a mandate from the majority of the Dissenters that Parliament should relieve them of what they felt to be a burning, grievance. They did not prescribe the method; they honestly believed they had a grievance, and they asked that it should be removed. Could not we, could not the supporters of the Act of 1902 at any rate, make a perfectly good argument 1341 to show that their claim was an extremely unreasonable one? Let us take two points. What was the grievance of the Nonconformist? That he was compelled to pay rates for religious instruction of which he disapproved. Yes, but he paid taxes for I do not know how many years. Logically he ought not to have objected to the imposition of a rate. That might justify the promoters of the Act in thinking that no grievance would arise; but the grievance did arise, and our answer did not convert any single Dissenter that I am aware of. We had a much more serious argument than that. The promoters of the Bill might have said "You complain of grievance in that you are made to pay taxes and rates for an opinion of which you disapprove. On the other hand, you are compelling a great number of others—;Catholics, Anglicans, and Jews—;to pay rates and taxes for opinions of which they do not approve." If you talk about fairness, about equality as regards different sects, there was a scheme in that Bill of 1902 of what may be called concurrent endowment. If, on the one hand, the Anglicans had their schools, the Catholics theirs, the Jews theirs, for which the Nonconformists were called upon to pay, so the Nonconformists had the Board Schools, at which the religious education given satisfied them, and was paid for by the people who did not approve of that form of religion. I say that that was a very good argument, just as good as any we have heard to-night in favour of this Bill; but from the point of view of the House of Commons we must bear in mind that it did not convert the Dissenters. I have never made any concealment of my personal view that, although I think the Dissenters very much exaggerated their grievance, they had a grievance when the Act came into operation. At any rate, for my purpose it is sufficient to say that they thought they had a grievance, and in these circumstances it was the duty of any Government, whether the present Government or our Government if we had been fortunate at the general election, to endeavour as statesmen and on political grounds to remove the grievance, if possible. We are agreed. Indeed I am striving not to argue this matter in an unnecessarily controversial manner. I say the Government have attempted to 1342 remove that grievance. They were called upon to make the attempt. I do not complain of the attempt—;I complain of the way in which they have made it. They have attempted to remove the heavy burden the Nonconformist felt upon his shoulders by putting it on the Catholic or Anglican. I defy them to say that that is their mandate. I defy them to show that the great bulk of the Nonconformists desire not merely the removal of their own grievance, but that it should be placed on the shoulders of somebody else. So much for the Act of 1902. Both side shad a good case. What remained at the end of the discussion was that there was a considerable number of people who thought they had a conscientious grievance. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen, following the right hon. Gentleman for Wolverhampton, gave us an admirable description, a most impassioned panegyric of the system at present adopted in a board school. He spoke in a way which I think commanded the assent of the majority of the House. Let me incidentally, by the way, correct myself. The Member for Wolverhampton, I think, complained of some words I let fall incidentally. I had spoken of the present Bill as the endowment of a new religion. I withdraw that description. It is inaccurate. What I meant, what I do say, is that it is a new endowment of a special form of religion which is already largely endowed. The million a year which is now to be taken from the pockets of the taxpayers is a further endowment in addition to what is already given to the support of this board school teaching, which is so praised—;so rightly and justly praised—;by the two right hon. Gentlemen to whom I have referred.
§ * SIR HENRY FOWLER (Welverhampton, E.)
That is paid to denominational schools in rent and repairs. There is no endowment of anybody.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Pardon me. Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not deny that if he did not propose to deal with the denominational schools, it would not be necessary to find this million, and that the object is to change the religious 1343 teaching now given in a denominational school to the teaching now given in a board school? There is no other object in the Bill—;no substantial object. I have no personal complaint to make against this board school religion. I have seen the syllabus of the Birmingham Board to which the Member for Wolverhampton referred; I approve of it. But I can go a great deal further. There has not been, to my knowledge, in all the board schools of Birmingham, a complaint from any parent sending his child to these schools of the religious instruction which has been given. Does it never strike the right hon. Gentleman that that argument tells on the other side? How many children of Nonconformists are there who go to Church schools, how many Protestants who go to Roman Catholic schools? Clearly there is a considerable number. What is very much rarer, but that also exists—;how many Roman Catholics go to Protestant schools? I might take other denominations. How many complaints can you establish from the parents in any one of these cases? If you assert that the parents would be satisfied with the board school religion in any case, because they have not hitherto complained, on the same ground you may say the parents would be satisfied with the Church of England Catechism because they have not complained. There is no general or substantial complaint on the part of the parents in any of these cases. It seems to me that that justifies the statement which I made, and which I quoted from my maiden speech, in which I said that if the sects would stand aside there would be no religious difficulty. But that does not help the Government; the sects will not stand aside. Neither the Nonconformists, nor the Cathelics, nor the Church of England are prepared to accept that position of entire neutrality, and accordingly we have the religious difficulty always with us. Now, I say, what is the use of all your argument, of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen? I am not denying its force; I am not saying I do not agree with it; it may be most unreasonable for the Member for East Mayo to refuse to accept as thoroughly satisfactory the education given in the London Board Schools; it is open to the right hon. Gen- 1344 tleman to think the Church of England are excessively unreasonable in rejecting the school board religion as not being satisfactory to them, and in not voluntarily introducing it into their schools. All I point out is that the right hon. Gentleman has not converted them, that they remain unconvinced, and that just as firmly and sincerely as any Nonconformist believes that his conscience was injured by the Act of 1902, the Anglican believes his conscience will be injured by the Bill of 1906. ["No."] An Hon. Gentleman opposite says "No." That is the old doctrine of intolerance, of which I am sure the hon. Gentleman opposite would make a most admirable representative: that the conscience of any man is only known to these who are prepared to persecute him, that it is for somebody else to declare either what his conscience is or what it ought to be. No reasonable man on the other side will, I think, doubt that it is true to say that in these matters of conscience there is only one judge, and that that is not the man who makes the law, but the man who suffers from the law. However admirable or reasonable the argument you use, there remains the fact that there are a large number of people who would regard the system you desire to establish as a system of religious persecution. I say that the mandate given was a mandate to relieve a grievance, and not to impose one. And there is a difference between a Bill which, I believe, would have been unanimously supported in this House, and a Bill of this kind which merely transfers the difficulty.
How do you attempt to deal with this religious difficulty? The right hon. Gentleman just now—;as, indeed, other speakers from that side also—;seemed to think that in absolute defiance of logic or justice they can make exceptions, that they can treat a great political Party, supporting them in other things, differently in religious matters to everybody else. I say they cannot do it. But they have tried to do it by Clause 4. I am not complaining of the attempt to satisfy the Roman Cathelics—;let me be clearly understood—;I only complain that they do not try and satisfy others. But in order to satisfy the objections of the Roman Catholics, which they must have anticipated, whose views on this 1345 subject have been always clearly express pressed, they introduced Clause 4. But they surrender absolutely the whole principle of the Bill, surrender absolutely these irreducible minima of which they talked so bravely on the introduction of the Bill, if they maintain the exception in favour of the Catholics. I said at the beginning of my speech, and I repeat, that in order to pacify the Catholics you will have to give more, I am inclined to say I hope you will give more—;but you will have to give it to us. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Who is 'us'?"] "Us" in this House means the Party with which I am associated and for which I am speaking, that is the Unionist Party. Now what did you mean, what did you intend, when you said that the principles of your Bill, to which you attach great importance, are the principle of public control and the abolition of tests? What do you mean by public control? Do you mean public control of secular instruction? With some natural consideration of special cases, that is a principle we are all ready to accept. We, the Unionist Party, have no difficulty. The late Government, by the Act of 1902, wished and intended to advance that principle of public control of secular education. We always held that very large advances had been made in that direction, and if you want now to go further we have no objection. But that is not the Bill as it stands. The Bill provides for the control of religious instruction, and that is a totally different thing. What I want to point out, in specially considering the large number of Dissenters who are in this House, is that the principle of control of religious instruction by the State is in total opposition to every principle that the Free Churches have ever laid down. When I think that these are the descendants of Mr. Henry Richards, of Dr. Dale, and Mr. Miall! What is the principle of the Liberation Society? Probably many Members on the other side belong to that society—;do they know what the indefeasible principles of that society are? We are told—;I have not examined for myself, but I give it, believing it to be correct—;that, according to the Free Church Yearbook, one of the essential principles of that society is: "To oppose any 1346 payment for religious purposes out of public funds compulsorily exacted from all classes of the community." I appeal to members of the Liberation Society on the other side, at any rate, can you approve conscientiously of a Bill which throws all this additional cost, which maintains the existing cost of religious instruction, "out of public funds compulsorily exacted from all classes of the community"? I say, if you are false to your tradition and your faith, then you are thrown back to the other position—;I venture to quote from my maiden speech—;and you must assent to the separation between religious and secular instruction. Suppose we accept this extraordinary demand of a Liberal and a Nonconformist Party to control religious instruction. The Bill not only claims it, but it proposes to exercise that control in the most unfair and most partial manner, to exercise it in a way which, although it may not have been intended, must inure to the disadvantage of Catholics, Jews, and Churchmen, and to the advantage of the Free Churches, and the Free Churches alone. ["No!"] We have heard something of the Cowper-Temple clause, but curiously enough the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen, generally accurate in all these matters of detail, did not accurately describe that clause, although I do not differ from him much in the practical application of it. The clause prevents, not the teaching of doctrinal religion, but the use of any religious catechism or formulary which is distinctive of any religious denomination.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
But you observe there is a difference, at all events, in the possible use of the clause, although I do not think there has been a great difference in the practical use of the clause.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
It would be perfectly possible for the teachers to give doctrinal instruction without the use of any formulary distinctive of the sect.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
We agree on that, then. Now under that Cowper-Temple clause, what has been substantially the effect? The effect has been that, owing to the prohibition, boards which are not able, even if they wish, to give this doctrinal instruction by means of the ordinary catechism and formularies, have as an alternative the form of religious instruction which I do not intend to call the Nonconformist religion, but which has been entirely satisfactory to Nonconformists generally, almost without exception [MINISTERIAL cries of "And to Churchmen"], and not to Churchmen ["Oh"], not to Churchmen universally. You measure a grievance by the number of people who feel it. "If you are in a minority we burn you at the stake if you do not agree with us." I assert that in the knowledge of everybody there are great numbers of distinguished Churchmen, both ecclesiastics and Church laymen, who entirely repudiate this teaching, and refuse to accept it as satisfactory. Even these who have praised the teaching have always declared that, from their point of view, it is altogether insufficient and inadequate. But now contrast the treatment of the denominationalist, the effective teaching of whose view is prohibited by law, with the optional facilities which are given in order to enable the denominationalist to give the teaching he desires. In the one case it is compulsion; in the case of this Bill it is only optional. What authority has anybody who cares for this denominational education to believe that in all cases, at all times, and in all districts the local authorities will concede the "facilities" the responsibilities for which are thrown upon them? The right hon. Gentleman has said he believes in the sense of justice and fair play of the local authorities, which will induce them to give these facilities. Well, I suppose the Government have a sense of justice and fair play, but that has not induced them to give these facilities. Their Bill is all directed against the denominations, and then they say, "Oh, but do not think of that, we have got a loophole and we trust to the local authorities to be more considerate, more generous, more 1348 liberal-minded than we have been ourselves."
What is this Bill? The title is, "To make further provision for education." Surely that is an absolute mis-description. What further provision does it make for education? It is one thing of which the promoters of the Act of 1902, and especally my right hon. friend, may well be proud, that the principal part of his Bill—;too much lost sight of, but by far the larger part—;was directed to the unifying and improvement of secular instruction, and was deliberately framed in the interests of the children; and with regard to these new provisions no alteration, no addition hardly, has been suggested. This Bill, however, ought to be called one to settle the religious difficulty. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, getting into a flame of histrionic indignation, denounced my right hon. friend the Member for the City because, apparently, he had said the intention of the Bill was to injure the Church. We judge from the terms of the Bill, and in all matters of life most of us from the written word judge the intention. The right hon. Gentleman gave an assurance that it was not intended to injure the Church. That is the opinion of the right hon. Member for Welverhampton and probably some of his colleagues; but is that the opinion of the President of the Board of Trade, whom I am sorry not to see in his place? Many cooks went to this broth. What did that right hon. Gentleman say last night? One sentence that will remain in all our minds for a long time to come was quoted from a great Frenchman. He said, "Clericalism is the enemy." [MINISTERIAL Cheers.] And Nonconformist religionists of different denominations cheer that. The Frenchman who used that expression had a different situation altogether to deal with. He had to deal with a clericalism which threatened the law, which was considered to be opposing the law, and interfering in politics. Clericalism at that time was thought to be hostile to the State, and for these reasons it was declared by this great statesman to be the common enemy. We have got your definition of clericalism—;those who interfere in politics: have you ever heard of political Dissenters; those who oppose the law: have you ever heard of passive resisters? 1349 Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can identify clericalism, or the declaration that clericalism is the enemy, with one sect, with one denomination. If it is the enemy, I think, on the definition which I have extracted from your assents it is much less the enemy than certain Nonconformists sects which I will not name, which it would be invidious to mention. No, Sir, clericalism is not in this country the enemy. I hope it never will be. With all our religious dissensions I hope we shall retain our respect for all who are ministers of religion and who honestly and sincerely preach and teach the things they believe. But, no doubt, it is impossible to doubt, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, when he used that expression, had not the innocent intentions towards the Church which are proclaimed so loudly by his colleague the Member for Wolverhampton.
I do not pause to dwell on the object of the promoters of this Bill. If I have been able to make myself understood in the arguments I have put before the House, I ask you now, as politicians, do you think that this Bill will be a final settlement of the question with which it undertakes to deal? Are not you wasting your time? [Cries of "No!"] Do you think you are advancing our common object? I ask you, as politicians, to look at the practical situation. You have a majority so large that in defiance of all the minorities—;the minority here, the minority there (pointing to the Nationalist Benches), and the minority there (indicating the Labour Party)—;you can, if you like, carry this Bill through the House of Commons without the slightest amendment. According to our constitution it has got to go elsewhere. ["Oh!"] I am dealing with the practical situation. You do not deny that it has to go elsewhere. When I think of the circumstances, I do think there may be some peculiar incidents in that House. I can conceive of the very difficult position in which a certain noble Lord, whom we all respect very much, but whose religious opinions differ from these of the majority, will be placed if he has to introduce this Bill. Anyway, it has to be considered that the Bill may be amended. I ask you, what- 1350 ever its fate in another place—;whether it is ultimately destroyed there or destroyed by your refusal to accept Amendments which may be put into it—;what do you think you will gain if there is another appeal to the people? One thing I say. In this House we are in a minority, but on this question there is not the slightest doubt that practically, at least, half the people of this country are opposed to this Bill. [Cries of "Oh."] You profess to think not. Wait for the election and we shall see. We are equally confident, and nothing but an express test will finally settle any difference of opinion between us. But, although you may say not, for the purpose of cheering your spirits in this House, there is not a man amongst you who knows anything whatever of political agitation in this country who does not know in his heart that whatever happens, if you went to the country on this Bill, you would come in with a smaller majority and you would justify any action that may have been taken against you. But I go further. Suppose, on the contrary, that the people of the country are so enamoured of this Bill that when it becomes the sole issue—;when Chinese slavery and the big and. little loaf are all forgotten—;they give you a majority bigger than ever and we are reduced to some half dozen, almost solitary, individuals on these benches [Cries of "Seven"]—;I accept the compliment. I will answer for seven. But when that occurs, again I say, do you think that a settlement of this kind, which will leave behind a rankling in the hearts of a very large proportion of the people of this country, can be final? One fears that you will force the Party here, waiting, as we have to wait, for the swing of the pendulum, which you all know must come, to inscribe the repeal of this Bill upon their banners, and you will leave the religious controversy where it was—;tossed from side to side without any better chance of settlement than it has ever had in the past.
There is only one way in which you can settle this question. You must settle it by some measure which will be recognised by the people of this country—;I am not now speaking of clericalism—;as inalienably just. You must adopt the principle—;a principle which appears in times past to have been 1351 accepted by the President of the Board of Education and the President of the Board of Trade; I have quotations from their works and speeches which show that there was a time when they accepted the principle—;of the right of the parent. Of course I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo that you must not carry that right to an absurd extent. The right of a parent, for instance, certainly does not extend to brutalising his child or to depriving his child of advantages which the State intended he should have. But we all know what we mean; and we say, most of us at any rate, that a parent has an inalienable right to be consulted, or, at all events, to secure, in some form or another, substantially the religious education which he desires for his children.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I will answer that at once. If anybody gets it at the cost of the State, then it is the inalienable right of everybody. There are two ways of doing it. Everyone knows that the State can provide, in every case, what the parent wants. That is what is done in some other countries. I think the hon. Member for Louth the other day rather elaborately argued that it was impossible. It is not impossible. It is done now in this country. It is done in the industrial schools and in the workhouse schools; and I do not wonder that somebody has wittily said that, in order that a parent may be secured in the exercise of his inalienable right to have his child taught the religion of which he approves, either the parent must die or the child must commit a crime. That is one alternative. I do not believe that, with good will, it would not be possible to carry out that alternative. After all, that is the alternative at which the old system aimed. That was the object which was, roughly, carried out by the Bill of 1870, which allowed of provision being made, side by side, for children of very denomination. The fault of that system, that which has given rise to most of the sense of grievance, is that it is not adequately distributed throughout the 1352 country. In certain places, no doubt, there is not sufficient choice; but, if you take the towns, I do believe the system at present is substantially fair. But that is not the alternative which I ventured to press on the House thirty years ago, and which, holding the same opinion, I press upon the House this afternoon. I say the most logical, the fairest, the most reasonable and the most easily attainable of all systems is the system which separates the duty of the State from the duty respectively belonging to the parent and the sect. We are told by Members of the Government that really one of the main objects of this Bill has been to prevent that system which they describe as a secular system, which they call turning the Bible out of the schools, and bringing up the children in atheism or irreligion. There is nothing whatever of substance in that cry. Like all other cries with which we were familiar at the last election, it has gone to the bourne from which no political cry ever returns. What we propose, we who advocate this system, is not secularism. I can conceive that there may be earnest Agnostics or Secularists, who aggressively desire the teaching of their views; but I am aware that they are absolutely insignificant in number, and what we, who talk of this separation, all desire is not secularism, but a division of duty and of conscience.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN, Stirling Burghs
): Will the right hon. Gentleman forgive me for interrupting him? He says, "What we desire." On a previous occasion in his speech, we had to ask what he meant by "We." He said of course it was the Unionist Party for which he was speaking. Does "We" still mean the Unionist Party?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
On the present occasion "We", means those who agree with me. When the right hon. Gentleman intervened I was about to say that in the practical application of this principle I admit there are serious difficulties. We tried three years ago in the board schools of Birmingham an entire and absolute separation; but that experiment, under the conditions in which it 1353 was tried, was not a success. If you attempt to make a separation; if you allow any child to be absent who pleases at the time that religious instruction is given, you offer a premium either to the child to stay away or to a selfish parent, who wants the work of his child, to keep him from school. In my opinion, therefore, the religious instruction must be given within the compulsory school hours, although all parents who desire that their children should not attend the religious instruction would, as a matter of course, have their children instructed in secular work during the period of religious instruction. I am perfectly certain that you would demoralise the school if you tried to bring in a certain number of children, say, at 9 o'clock for religious instruction and the remainder at 9.45. You must have all the school assembled at 9 o'clock, the opening hour. That is part of the facility which I and we—;again on the same definition—;would desire to give. I am totally unable to understand the logic or the justice of these who pretend to lay a prohibition on the teachers against teaching religion. That they should not be compelled to teach it, of course, we all agree. That no test as to their religious opinions should be exacted from them at the time of their first appointment I think we all agree. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh" and "We?"]
SIR H. CAMPBBLL-BANNERMAN
Will the right hon. Gentleman say again which particular "we" is it this time?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I have just consulted with my right hon. friend the Member for the City of London, and I believe that during the whole of this debate no one on this side of the House has expressed anything inconsistent with what I have just said. If that is so, on this occasion I may claim that "we" represents the Unionist Party. Let me make the position quite clear. I say that when a teacher comes forward to enter a great State service there is no more reason, no more justice, in exacting from him a profession of any particular religious opinion than there is in doing it in the case of more important servants of the State. [MINISTERIAL cheers.] Why hon. Members opposite should display such 1354 boisterous exhilaration at the statement of a fact which no one has ever denied I cannot for the life of me see. Let us take a practical case. Here is a school to which teachers who have made no profession of any religion are appointed. There is desired by so many Nonconformists religious teaching in accordance with the board school syllabus. There is desired by so many Churchmen religious teaching in accordance with the Church. There may be others who will make similar demands. These teachers being there without any previous test, what is there to prevent them—;if there is general knowledge on their part that such religious teaching is desired, and that they would be favourably received if they offered to give it—;what possible reason is there for interfering with their liberty in time which is not the State's, but their own, and in refusing to permit them, if they choose, to come forward voluntarily and say, "I should like to give board school instruction"; or "I should like to teach the Church Catechism"? That is not a test. Supposing they offered to give their services for secretarial work out of school hours, who is to prevent them, and who is to say it would be unreasonable, in such a case, to inquire as to their ability to give this secretarial assistance? I desire—;to avoid all possibility of further intervention by the Prime Minister—;I desire that the teachers should have full opportunity to offer themselves to be taken on and paid by the denominations, or the representatives of the parents in a particular case. I therefore claim that the facilities afforded to any endeavours to secure separation between religious and secular instruction should include liberty to the teacher to offer himself to give religious instruction, if he is willing and desires to do so. I suppose we are all convinced that a great number of the teachers would so offer themselves if such an opportunity were given. We tried in Birmingham, quite lately, to give denominational teaching by the help of the different denominations who sent in their own teachers. The school teacher was not obliged to attend, but every teacher in every board school did attend. Why? They said that, if they were away during the time of religious instruction, it would take them 1355 an hour afterwards to get the school into good order. Their experience was that, although they took no part in the religious instruction, their presence at the time was necessary for the general discipline of the school. I conceive that on either of the two lines I have submitted to the House you may have a permanent settlement. I have expressed my preference for the line I mentioned second. But you will never have a permanent settlement on lines like these of the present Bill, which are palpably unfair to a very large section of the community, which are opposed to their sincere convictions, and which they, in accordance with their conscience, can never agree to accept.
§ * MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
In the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to which we have just listened there was less opposition to the main principles of the Bill than in the majority of the speeches to which we have listened from that side of the House. When I listened to the right hon. Gentleman it occurred to me that no great effort would he required, so far as the right hon. Gentleman and these who agreed with him are concerned, to arrive at some general settlement, not upon the lines of resistance to the Bill, but of amendment and modification. I have been struck by the variety and incongruity of the elements which are opposed to this Bill. We have on the one hand the English Church Union, headed by Lord Halifax; then you have the Anglican Bishops and a considerable proportion of the Anglican Church, which, though not prepared to follow Lord Halifax, are yet prepared to stand in with him in opposition to the Bill. Then we have the Roman Catholic Church, which of course from its own point of view opposes the Bill, and finds among the Irish Nationalist Party advocates to whose views we can listen with respect. Then we have the Unionist Party, who on this occasion are prepared to go into the same lobby with the Irish Party. Then we have the Labour Party who are prepared to vote for the Second Reading, but are not satisfied with anything but secular education pure and simple. Lastly, we have the right hon. Member for West Birming- 1356 ham, in a class apart as a champion of the Church of England and the protagonist of voluntary schools, or perhaps better described as the consistent opponent of all established and endowed religions, and particularly of the further endowment of any special form of religion. The variety and incongruity of the opposition to the Bill almost inclines one to accept the suggestion that, our differences upon religious matters being irreconcilable, we should adopt the alternative of suppressing them in this House and agree to banish religion from the schools, falling back, as the last speaker was almost inclined to do, upon limiting the function of the State to purely secular instructions in our elementary schools. I do not propose to follow that course. I approach this Bill from a frankly Protestant point of view, while hon. Members below the gangway opposite approach it from a frankly Roman Catholic point of view. What does this Bill aim at? It aims at establishing one universal system of popular control under which, as far as possible, teachers shall not be debarred because they are members of a particular religious creed. Then we have to face the question which has already been dealt with by the hon. Member for Leicester and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and that is whether the State is to take any responsibility for religious instruction at all, and, if so, for what kind of religious instruction it is to take responsibility. I hope and trust that the kind of religious instruction which is proposed under this Bill will meet with general acceptance on behalf of the Protestant sentiment of this community. I am aware that members of the Church of England are not, some of them, prepared to accept what is called undenominational teaching, unless there is attached to it a system of dogma and sacramental instruction, which for my part I think the minds of young children are altogether unfitted to receive. But, in any case, I hope that we shall frankly face the situation and, as members of a Christian community, agree that the State must undertake responsibility for religious instruction of some kind, and that the only question before this House will be, for which kind of 1357 religious instruction we are prepared to accept responsibility. The doctrine of parental rights is one for which I have a very great sympathy. I believe that in the first speech that I made in this House I did emphasise the rights of parents in the matter of the religion of their children, though I think in its application the principle is to be dealt with in the same way as the application of all other general principles, and you cannot be severely symmetrical or logical. But I am quite certain of this, that if the State seeks to build a general system of religion in our schools upon the basis of parental right, inalienable or otherwise, it is building upon a foundation of shifting sand. We cannot get rid of our responsibility in this House by devolving it upon local authorities, nor by devolving upon parents the decision of whether they will or will not have religious instruction and which kind of religious instruction they are going to have. Let me recall what was recently said on this point by the Bishop of Birmingham. The Bishop of Birmingham in a pamphlet upon this Bill said—;Some thirty years ago there was a sort of a Protestant religion with a doctrine of the Trinity, of heaven and hell, of atonement and judgment, of resurrection and eternal life, which for good or evil could be more or less assumed. Such a standard has gone. I seriously doubt whether nearly one half of the grown men of the country could seriously say that they believed that Christ is God, or that he really rose on the third day from the dead. It is not that they have become Unitarian, but it is that their religious opinions are in a state of chaos.That is the solemn utterance of an English Bishop upon the condition of faith among the adults of this country. What is to become of the children of these people? Are you going to ask these parents which kind of faith they want their children brought up in? I must say that if this is true—;I think it is an appalling though exaggerated picture—;but if there is any truth in it, it is simply monstrous to suppose that you can leave the religious destinies of the children of this country in the hands of parents who are not prepared to accept even the elements of Christian faith. The clause of the Bill which has excited most opposition is that clause which says that no attendance at religious instruction shall be required. This clause has met with 1358 the most determined opposition on the other side of the House, an opposition in which I fully join, and yet I am bound to recognise that, after all, it is only the principle of parental rights pushed to an extreme, because if you say that the parent has a right to dictate in which form of religious faith his children shall be educated it is only one step further—;or perhaps it is only an equivalent step—;for him to say whether his children shall have any religious instruction at all. That is a position which I for one decline to accept. I hope that this Bill will undergo substantial amendment in Committee, and I hope that one Amendment upon which this House will insist, unless it is prepared to accept the secularist solution, will be that this clause shall be deleted from the Bill. I cannot conceive how any one who is not prepared to accept the secularist solution—;to adopt the suggestion either of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham or these of the hon. Member for Leicester, between whose ideas there appears to be only the very thinnest wall of partition—;can fail to join with all on either side of the House who hold that if the State is to be responsible for religious instruction at all, it must make it part of the ordinary course of the school and not treat it as something attendance at which is a mere act of option on the part of the parents. Then I hope that we shall not in this House be confronted with a painful position as between these who adhere to and welcome in this Bill the principle of simple Bible teaching as the basis of religious instruction and the Churches who reject and oppose it and are not prepared with an alternative. Surely, Sir, the worst thing that could happen in this country would be that the State, with the Bible in its hand, should confront the Churches and that the Churches in response should say, "We reject the Bible and we have no solution which we can offer and which you can accept." I think that would be disastrous to the future of religion in this country, and I earnestly trust that some means may be found by which, accepting Bible teaching as the basis of our authorised instruction, for which the State pays and is responsible, adequate facilities may be found for these who think that 1359 this is insufficient and requires to be supplemented.
I do not propose to take up the time of the House by going at any length into the debatable point as to whether the facilities offered in this Bill are or are not sufficient. I quite agree with these critics who have said that they make such large concessions to the denominational principle that they do in effect vitiate the main principles of the Bill. I do not think that is any drawback to practical men desirous of settling a thorny question. I am perfectly certain that those who attempt to worship the goddess of logic at the expense of reason and conscience and practical suggestion will find that they are only unsettling instead of settling this question. Therefore, Sir, it is no objection to me, and I think it ought to be no objection to any reasonable man, that while this Bill does embody certain cardinal principles of popular control and of freedom for all teachers to rise to the highest ranks in their profession and also a standard system of religious instruction based upon the Bible, it is no drawback that the Bill gives additional facilities to these who are not satisfied with the religious education which the State is prepared to give.
Criticism has been directed against the clause which deals with the fixed majority of four-fifths of the parents, and upon which depends the continuation of denominational schools. I would ask for my part what majority hon. Members think should be allowed to trample on the rights of minorities. Surely there must be in such matters give and take. If you insist on four-fifths of the parents in the schools being in favour of a particular form of denominational teaching there is even then a hardship to the one-fifth which is not in sympathy with them. If this particular vulgar fraction is not acceptable then we shall in Committee have suggestions of another kind, but I am convinced of this: that whatever exceptions are made the difficulties of dealing with minorities of parents will still continue and it will be extremely difficult to find facilities which will be satisfactory all round.
1360 So far as I am concerned I am prepared, to give this Bill a Second Reading vote because it embodies certain principles which I believe were affirmed at the general election, and because, frankly speaking, from the Protestant point of view it does recognise the obligation of the State to give religious instruction. I hope before we have done with it to make it recognise it far more, and to recognise in that instruction that this, after all, is a Protestant country. I leave myself perfectly free in Committee to move or support such Amendments as will make it more fair, as I think it can be made, and make it more emphatic, in all its details, in the matter of the great principle of preserving the religious character of our elementary schools.
One word more, before I sit down, on the position of the Church of England. I assert without fear of contradiction that as regards the Church of England the appeal she makes is that the Bible is the rule of faith and final standard of authority. Everybody who knows the Articles of the Church of England knows that nothing is required from any member of the Church that cannot be proved by the certain warranty of Holy Scripture. That is the position of the Church of England. I understand that that is not the position of the Church of Rome, but it is fair and consistent for the members of the Church of England to welcome the appeal to the Bible which is the basis of the reform of his Church. And when we consider what is going on to-day in the Church, I will only say there is much disquiet to these who desire to adhere to the Reformation standards, in our schools, on which the Church is based. I hold in my hand the particulars of services in a church in a southern diocese for Easter week. The whole of these services are made up of low masses, sung masses, processions, stations of the Cross, and what is called Catechism Mass. This is not in a Roman Catholic Church, but a Church of England, and it is common notoriety that these things prevail. What I desire, and what I have desired for many years, is that in the elementary schools which belong to the Church of England this kind of thing should not be allowed. Whatever they may be in other places, they 1361 are not in their lawful place there, and for my part I welcome any Bill, if it is just in other directions, which will put a stop to these illegalities and vagaries which have done so much to weaken the confidence of the Protestant population of this country in the Church of the Reformation.
Now I desire to say, in conclusion' one word as regards this Bill, and the possibility of a final settlement of our differences. I have spoken quite frankly from the Protestant point of view. I hold Protestant opinions strongly. I sometimes notice in the public Press that they are described as narrow-minded, bigoted and vulgar. It is the fashion in a Protestant country to talk in this way, whilst the utterances of our Roman Catholic colleagues in this House are described as conscientious and devout. I object to that. I think we ought to give to every school of thought respect for the conscientious convictions which it possesses, and in the matter of education try to find a solution; and it can be done, with due consideration to the always admitted fact that this, after all, is a Protestant country and the centre of the Protestant forces of the world. I should be only too glad to join in any efforts to arrive at a peaceful, final and lasting solution. I read occasionally something of the triumph of Parties and of policies. I say nothing of political Party triumphs, but I do say that in the matter of religion triumph of Parties, and policies, and persons should be accepted with fear and trembling. I am old enough to have learnt that in controversies of this kind the victories which come even to righteous principles may be pushed too far. I recognise that it takes all creeds to make a nation, and I trust that this Bill may be so modified before it finally receives the signature of the Monarch that, instead of having for twenty years still to battle over what is called the religious difficulty, it may prove the means of equitably and satisfactorily adjusting the differences in what is, after all, a Christian country.
§ * MR. F. E. SMITH (Liverpool, Walton)
I listened with some surprise to the speech of the hon. Member for the Toxteth Division of Liverpool in which he 1362 set forth the grounds upon which he supported this Bill. he told us he was a Protestant. He told us also that he contemplated the present position of the Church of England, so far as its Protestant condition is concerned, with great disquiet. Of course everybody knows to what the hon. Member was referring; he was obviously referring to the forthcoming Report of the Royal Commission. But with great respect to him, whatever may be the effect of that Report of the Royal Commission on the matters with which it deals, it has about as much to do with the Bill before the House today as the question of King Charles' head. I believe I am largely in agreement with many of the views the hon. Gentleman has expressed to-day. If it be established as the result of that Royal Commission that there are cases of illegality with which it will be proper to deal, then they must be adequately treated, but I am utterly at a loss to fathom the intellectual attitude of these who put before the House the view that, because there may be five or six—;or twelve or more persons if you like—;who disobey the law of England, therefore they will support a Bill which will or may be unjust to all these members of the Church of England who have no desire at all to disobey the law. I conceive that this question of Protestantism is a mere red herring drawn across the trail of this Bill, and I venture to say that it comes with very little grace from a Member of this House who is going to support the Second Reading of a measure in respect to which there is every reason to apprehend that special concessions to Roman Catholics are about to be given. I do not say myself that I would view with anything but satisfaction the concessions asked for by the hon. Member for East Mayo and his coreligionists on the lines of his speech; but I do suggest that if these concessions for which the hon. Member for East Mayo asks are not rendered impossible by a cast iron wall of principle—;if that be not so, then these who on these benches represent the Church of England are equally entitled to claim them. To deal with the converse of that proposition, if there is some cast iron wall of principle which prevents you making these concessions to the Church of England, then you are guilty of a pusillanimous repudiation of this principle if you extend such 1363 concessions to hon. Gentlemen sitting below the gangway in derogation from everything said at the time of the election and of the principle upon which we are told the vote of the country was given. Many claims have been put forward as to the ground upon which we are asked to support the Second Reading of this Bill. The Minister for Education has told us that it embodies two great principles; first, he says it will effect and bring about a national settlement, and, secondly, that it will make for simplicity in the schools.
I do not think the most sanguine Member of this House will attempt to say that this measure is likely to effect a national settlement. I suppose if there is one circumstance which must have prevented this measure being accepted as a settlement it is the deplorable speech of the President of the Board of Trade, who told us—;and the phrase was dealt with by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham—;that democracy had pronounced clericalism to be the enemy. I wonder whether Members in this House recall the utterance of a gentleman of whom I speak with respect—;Dr. Clifford—;when he said that he was minister at Westbourne Park for the same reasons and principles that lie was president of the Paddington Radical Association. I do not suggest that that may not be true, and that the claim may not be well-founded; but I do suggest that if you sit in this House, as so many do, as the result of oratorical efforts on the platform by battalions of Noncomformist ministers, it is not wise, it is not decent, and surely it is not grateful to tell the House that the enemy democracy has to fear is clericalism. When the hon. Gentleman puts himself forward in this House as being authorised to tell the House what it is democracy wants, and suggests that democracy has given an opinion on the subject of clericalism, I would ask him and also others who sit in this House whether they suggest that they were returned on a basis of anti-clericalism. I hold in my hand an Answer that interests me because it was given by the Attorney-General for Ireland, who sits like myself for a Division of Liverpool. He was asked by a man of Roman Catholic faith whether, if returned, he would support a Bill upon the lines which we 1364 are discussing to-night. Did he answer or did any who sit on the Ministerial side of the House answer and say, "We are following the democracy, and the democracy has said that clericalism is the enemy." Let me read what he said—;I am in receipt of your letter of the 9th inst. in which you have submitted to me a question as regards the right of Catholic parents to have their children educated in the elementary schools in conformity with their religious opinions. I have already, I think, answered the question in my election address satisfactorily to Catholics, and I need only repeat here that I shall do all I can to preserve for Catholics in any Education Bill which the Government may introduce, the right to have their children educated in their own faith, and by teachers of their own faith. I think that is all they ask for, and every reasonable person of any religious conviction must admit the reasonableness of that demand.It is carrying cynicism too far for one Member of the Government to come down to this House and to tell us that what democracy says is that clericalism is the enemy and for another member of the Government when he wanted to get into the House and to conciliate the feelings of these who were likely to be his constituents to protest that no reasonable person could dispute the right of Catholics to have the Catholic religion taught in their schools by persons of that persuasion—;a claim very unlikely, if conceded, to diminish the influence of clericalism.
This Bill, so far as it is put forward as a national settlement, will fail, and it will fail so far as it is put forward as a measure of simplicity, for you must remember that you found in existence two schools and you are, leaving by this measure four schools. You are leaving, in the first place, provided schools; in the second place, facility schools; in the third place, special facility schools, and in the fourth place, the excluded schools in cases where they are either the subject of a private ownership or are held under trust which permits of exclusion. Do not let the House think for a moment that the fact that you are going to leave four classes of schools will make no difference to your educational machinery. It all means complication and proves the impossibility of that simplification of machinery 1365 which was put forward by the Minister who introduced the Bill as one of its chief merits. The Bill will fail not alone on these grounds, but on grounds which go deeper still, because it is not a compromise nor a concordat, but a mere brutal dictation of terms. ["No."] Hon. Members say "no." I venture to think that when the clauses of this Bill are examined and when the principles are tested, not in the light of what was said below the gangway on the Opposition side or in the light of what I and my friends say, but in the light of these who have been held entitled to speak for the Liberal Party in times past—;judged I say by that test it is a brutal dictation of terms. You must re-write the old reflection and say "Thus conscience doth make bullies of us all." Let me remind the House of what was said by the Minister for War, than whom there is no greater authority on education, and who has worked for education while others have shrieked. I will remind the House of what he said in 1902 when the Bill was introduced. He wrote deliberately and away from the heat of debate—;If the Liberal Party came into power tomorrow, and tried to establish a general school board scheme, it would find itself in even a more serious position than that in which Mr. Gladstone was in 1870, when with a huge majority he failed to accomplish this very thing.This is the view which the Minister for War took. I would ask hon. Members opposite whether there is no justification for saying it is an imposition, a brutal dictation of terms, when I remind them, as has already been said in the debate, that it is not in controversy between the two sides of the House that dissenters get, under this Bill, what they are conscientiously satisfied with for the education of their children. I do not say, and it does not in the least matter whether you use the expression, that dissent is endowed. I am willing to avoid the term if any hon. Member thinks the term offensive, but when you penetrate beneath the words to the substance, no one can deny that you are getting by the assistance of the rates the form of religious education for your children in the schools which satisfies your conscience. You are getting what Mr. Gladstone called the popular injustice of undenominational instruction, and what he called 1366 elsewhere the glaring partiality, so far as it appeals to the rates, of undenominational instruction. If Mr. Gladstone was right in saying it was a glaringly impartial application of the rates, is it not possible that there may be some ground for the grievances seriously felt on this side of the House? The hon. Member for North West Ham in an interesting speech said that the Government had no mandate to stamp on the country one form of religious teaching, and that to attempt to deal with it in this Bill was to load the dice. Do not hon. Gentlemen think that when one of their number, returned to this House to support them, describes their policy as a loading of dice, that there may be ground for saying that it is dictation of terms? If we go below the gangway we find the hon. Member for Blackburn saying that Nonconformists in their joy at having Nonconformity established as a State religion are embracing a measure which will inflict an outrage on the majority of this country. Is that right or wrong? If it is true, is it to be suggested that there is no grievance? If it is well-founded, surely you can realise that you are imposing by Act of Parliament on the majority of this country and forcing them to pay for a creed which is not their creed. Surely these observations from their own ranks might make hon. Members a little more tolerant when we attempt to place before them the view which is held by the majority of the clergy and the laity of England. I would ask hon. Members in dealing with the opposition of the Church of England not to dismiss it with the curt statement that it is merely a matter of the bishops' agitation. I think they realise as well as I do that from the moment the bishops of the Church of England cease to have behind them the laity of the Church in the protests they are making you may deride their opposition. If hon. Gentlemen think that in this matter the bishops have not the support of the vast majority of the Church of England behind them they are likely to have a very rude awakening. And when we are told that Nonconformists under this Bill are securing no special advantage, I will merely ask some subsequent 1367 speaker who has a right to speak on behalf of Nonconformists to tell us of one fundamental article of his particular creed which is excluded to-day from that national system which you are putting on the rates. I ask him to call attention not merely to some point of collateral teaching, but to some point of doctrine which goes down to the foundation of his belief and is taught in the Sunday school of his own providing.
§ * MR. LEIF JONES (Westmoreland, Appleby)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us of any fundamental doctrine of the Church of England which is excluded?
§ * MR. F. E. SMITH
It is obvious that I could give the hon. Member half a dozen. I need only mention the Sacrament. Although the opposition of the Church of England in this matter is in principle the same as the opposition of the Church of Rome and of the Jewish Church, if you are going to contend that the principle on which you won this election does not preclude you from making concessions to hon. Gentlemen from Ireland or the Jews, how are you going to differentiate a principle between the Jews, the Roman Catholics, and the Church of England? Does the hon. Gentleman wish to discriminate at all? He is by no means so ready to intervene in the debate now as he was a minute ago. If it is his object to introduce such differentiation between the Jews, Roman Catholics and the Church of England, what becomes of his principle that under no circumstances will he have what have been described as religious tests for teachers. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill said that in this matter he relied upon the moderation and good sense of the local authorities. If you are going to give that special treatment you are face to face with the inexorable necessity which you cannot avoid of consenting, and you will have imposed these very same inquiries which have been described as tests by hon. Gentlemen in the country. ["No, no."] If they were not tests perhaps someone will explain why they were abused on every platform as being tests. If they were, then you are going to reproduce and perpetuate them in this 1368 Bill. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill has not the courage to impose them himself, but he encourages the local bodies to do it. When I am told that I do not do justice to the views of Dissenters when I say that they have all the religious teaching they want from the rates, I reply that this position is not one which has ever been put forward by the great Parliamentary Dissenters in the past. Have hon. Members on the Ministerial side ever read one of the most able presentations of the Nonconformist case in an education discussion—;I refer to the speech of Mr. Miall who said—;The Bible is our only Book; no creed, catechism, or liturgy is its rival with us.[MINISTERIAL Cheers.] I note with great satisfaction that approval. If the Bible is your only book, then you are getting your only book at our charge for the purpose of the religious education of your children. ["No, no."] Hon. Gentlemen cannot have it both ways. They cheer the declaration of Mr. Miall and when I retort that they are getting at our charge the only Book they want for the purposes of religious education, it is idle to meet that statement with clamour. If hon. Members opposite are not satisfied with Mr. Miall's view, let me recall a statement made in the same debate by one who had at least as great a claim to speak with authority. Sir William Harcourt. He said—;What is the doctrine of religious equality? If I understand the doctrine it is this: that the State in its relation with its citizens is absolutely indifferent to all forms of religious teaching, and as regards any funds raised either directly by the State or indirectly under its authority, one form of religious opinion has as full a right to share in the appropriation of such funds as another.Those were the views of the old Liberal party, and we ask to-day whether you adhere as a broad declaration of principle to the view that so far as the appropriation of public money is concerned, one religious denomination should benefit equally with another, that the creed which demands special books and formulæ shall be in no worse a position so far as public money is concerned than the creed which, like your own, is represented by the Bible without any liturgy or catechism. That is the simple demand which has received the high 1369 authority of Sir William Harcourt. When we are told that the position is a new one, I would ask hon. Members to recall the decision of 1870 and the compromise which was then entered into by all parties. The State was then called upon to repair years and decades of educational neglect. You had then to establish a universal school board rate, and you had to rate Roman Catholics and Jews, who would rather die illiterate than use your schools, and you had to rate Anglicans, who rightly or wrongly, have raised millions of pounds with the intention of avoiding Cowper-Temple instruction. Hon. Members opposite should remember that the measure of 1870 could not have been carried in face of the opposition of the Church of England and the Church of Rome if it had not been on the perfectly well understood terms of a permanent compromise with both these Churches. If that proposition is doubted, I would remind hon. Members of the words of Mr. Forster, who said—;If the Conservative party had used Party tactics to oppose the Bill it never could have passed.There you have the fact that the Bill introducing a universal school rate would never have been passed without the support of the Church of England, and the consideration you then gave was that voluntary schools, whether Catholic, Church of England, or Jewish, should be permanently incorporated in the educational system of the country. This is no mere matter of inference of mine from chance words uttered in the debate. Let me remind you of what Mr. Gladstone said on this very point. He said on the Second Reading debate—;The machinery of voluntary schools we found not only existing in this country but overspreading it, and on every ground, but particularly on the ground of what is due to the promoters of these schools and their benevolent and self-denying labours—;That is a higher note than clericalism, the common enemy—;We adopted as the fundamental principles of the Bill that we would frankly employ voluntary schools, but because we cannot do with voluntary schools alone we proposed to fall back on the rates and fill up the gap which we saw.When the Leader of your Party and the Minister who introduced your Bill 1370 in 1870 said to these who had built and supported voluntary schools, "If you will also consent to a rate, if you will assist us to pass this Bill which we cannot pass without your support, we will only treat the new machinery as a means of filling gaps in your system," is it suggested that it is just or honest to come to the House of Commons in 1906 and say to these who represent these schools, "Although these were the terms which were made, we will now—;I will not use the word confiscate—;appropriate by forms of law the schools which we were only going to supplement when we extorted from you your assent in 1870?" Between 1870 and 1902 £23,000,000 were raised by these who supported voluntary schools for the purposes of their maintenance. I give the hon. Member for North Camberwell all the credit he is entitled to for the industrious energy with which he has shown that some of this money was subscribed by railway companies. Making all allowances for that, it is sufficient for my proposition that in these thirty-two years millions of pounds have been subscribed by these who feel that denominational teaching is in the interests of the children. I think it was an Under-Secretary who said a week or two ago in this House in another connection that wrongs may be forgiven, but anything in the nature of a trick or chicane will always rankle. I say for these who were induced to consent to that settlement in 1870 that you are not entitled to say they were induced to give that consent, without which you could not have passed your Bill, without something in the nature of a trick or chicane.
It is suggested now, on grounds which I have never been able to understand, that in 1906 a new principle came into play. I would like to ask hon. Gentleman opposite what single circumstance existed in the year 1906, so far as the position of voluntary schools is concerned which did not exist in the year 1870, when the compromise was made? [MINISTERIAL cries of "Rates."] Hon. Gentlemen tell me that since 1870 the rates have come. Let me ask them to think for a single moment what is involved in that contention. Let me ask how high you can put the conscientious objection which depends on the 1371 rate. No one can put it higher than this, that you must not impose a public burden on a man in order to make him pay for a religion which affronts his conscience. Will any hon. Member say it matters whether the public burden is collected by the municipal or the national tax collector? The grievance, if there be one, is the same in both cases. I contend that the ground of principle was conceded once and for all in 1834, when the State granted £20,000 to the voluntary societies, and it was again conceded in 1839 when £30,000 was substituted as the amount of the grant. I say to those hon. Gentlemen who tell us in 1906 that their consciences are affronted, that their predecessors in the Nonconformist world were not men who objected less than they do to pay for religious education which was not theirs, but they did not seek for the tolerance of the auctioneer or jostle into a well-advertised prominence at the police court. Were they less righteous than hon. Gentlemen, or were they merely less intolerant? If the position is put before me as one hon. and learned Gentleman put it, as being a distinction in the nature of a rate, if it is going to be seriously contested that it matters whether it is a tax or a rate, I would ask him whether he has ever considered the circumstances under which we are rated for religious instruction in the workhouse? I do not know whether he is aware that to-day in the workhouse, denominational religious education is being given at his and my charge. It appears that in the effort to understand this conscience, with which we are told we must not jest, we must draw a distinction which goes even deeper. We must not draw merely the distinction between a rate and a tax. It appears that sometimes you may pay a rate in support of denominational education without affronting your conscience, but you may withhold the rate, and pray in aid of your conscience to violate the law, if by doing so you can injure the Church of Rome or the Church of England, or the Unionist Party. Sir, though we may not jest with these consciences we may perhaps point out that they jest with themselves. I have only to add that when 1372 we are told that the real remedy for one at least of the grievances which have been felt in the past is that children shall not be compelled to go to school during the hour in which religious instruction is given, then I would remind hon. Gentlemen of a sentence in which that suggestion was once and for all dismissed by Sir William Harcourt, who said—;You tell us on the one hand that religion is the basis of all education, and we accept that statement and establish religious schools. You say it is the greatest, the most important part of education, and then you give effect to your declaration by telling the children when they come to school, you must not fail to attend to reading, writing, arithmetic and geography, but there is one subject you should entirely neglect, if you please. When religious instruction is about to be imparted, if you object to the teaching, you should go out and play at marbles in the gutter.The President of the Board of Trade said that simple Bible teaching alone stands between the country and secular education. What is the value of this barrier so long as you allow any child who would rather play in the playground to avoid religious instruction to do so. I would ask the House to consider the advice given by the President of the Board of Trade in 1903 to the Welsh Councils in an interview given to the rep e-sentative of the Manchester Guardian—;Let all the children go out for a few moments and then let these who prefer the catechism to play return to the religious instruction, while their playfellows are free to continue their play. He had no doubt that the children would have such a regard for the apostolic succession as would draw them back to the school while the wicked went away bird-nesting.If that is the spirit in which you are going to work, the less you talk about the value of the barrier against secularism which you are erecting by this Bill and the sacrifices you are thereby making the better it will be for your reputation for sincerity.
It has been pointed out that the expropriation clauses of this Bill are among the most objectionable. Here again the President of the Board of Trade said—;In the main the expense of building these schools fell upon Churchmen. For my own part, I would no more rob the Church of property that is legitimately hers than I would rob my own little chapel of its property.I have not heard that the triumvirate is going to deal with the little chapel, 1373 but if it were, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would have a little more regard for the feelings of these whose property is going to be placed in the hands of that triumvirate. The Government have proposed to offer a partial bribe to one section, and they have undergone the unspeakable humiliation of seeing that bribe despised by these to whom it is offered. [Laughter.] If these who laugh think that the four-fifths clause is going to be accepted in its present form, I venture to say they will be rudely undeceived by speakers who will follow below the gangway. Let me close with another quotation from Sir William Harcourt—;What becomes of the minority? They are offered religious education which does not suit them. It must not be said that they can get secular education. I presume that the minority require religious instruction as well as the majority and you offer them a form of education paid fur out of the rates that they cannot use. Do you tell me that is political justice or religious equality?I say, speaking for the rank and file of the Party to which I belong, that we shall offer to this Bill, at every stage, a sustained resistance both in principle and in detail. We shall address, so far as we can, a larger, audience than that we are addressing within these walls, and we shall look forward to an ampler division lobby than that which is about to register your fleeting triumph.
§ * MR. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
I am sure that the House listened with admiration to the speech of the hon. Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool—;a speech of great brilliancy, and cogency, expressed with remarkable modesty, which is quite proper in a new Member, and dealing with affairs of the past as though he were an old Member of thirty-five years ago. We must object, however, to be tied down to the plans, the ideals, or even the expedients of thirty-five years ago. I would remind the hon. Member that much water has run under Westminster Bridge since then. Compromises and arrangements which were made then and which then were practicable and far have ceased to be practicable and fair now. One essential part of the arrangement made in 1870 was that a good share—;a considerable share—;of the cost of 1374 maintaining the voluntary schools should be provided by voluntary subscriptions. In 1902 that essential part of the compromise was withdrawn by the action of the Government of that day, and the very basis of the arrangement of 1870 has ceased to exist. I did not object to the decision of 1902 to equip financially all schools to the same extent and from the same sources, and to transfer the maintenance of the voluntary schools to the local authority. But I pointed out then—;as others did—;that before very long that change in the compromise of 1870 would bring about the complete transfer of voluntary schools to public control. The Government has been returned by a huge majority to bring that about, and I believe the means by which they propose to bring it about are fair and wise. I note that throughout the debate there has been no opposition brought forward to the removal from the hands of the clergy man and his three fellow foundation managers of the power of managing the voluntary schools. That point of the Bill appears to be generally conceded. You must have popular control. The next leading principle of the measure is that teachers who are public servants renumerated by public money shall not be subjected to any denominational tests. At present, a Nonconformist teacher does not apply for the head teachership of a non-provided Church of England school because he knows that, no matter how well qualified he may be in other respects, he will not be appointed. Similarly a Protestant teacher never applies for an appointment in a Roman Catholic school. The Bill, however, says that the local authority shall not in future inquire into the religious faith of teachers in making appointments; and that teachers may claim the benefit of a conscience clause in regard to the giving of religious instruction. I believe that in future Protestant teachers will not apply for appointments in schools which under the four-fifths provision are distinctively Roman Catholic, and every applicant for employment in a Catholic school will be a Catholic. The fears of Catholics that Protestant teachers will be foisted on Roman Catholic schools are groundless. In the same way, I believe that no teacher will apply for an appointment in an Anglican school unless 1375 he be a member of that communion. That is how it will work out in practice, although by the Bill all teachers are theoretically and practically freed from all denominational tests and placed on the same footing. In the third place, the Government has been instructed by the majority of the country to prevent as far as possible the compulsory teaching at the public expense of denominational religion to children whose parents do not wish them to receive it. In the past it was the case that the children of Nonconformist parents sometimes attended Anglican schools and that Protestant children attended Catholic schools. The Government propose that in all these schools the teaching of religion shall not be compulsory upon the local authority, and that no child shall be compelled to receive religious instruction where it is given. On two days in the week volunteer teachers of the same denomination as the children may come in and give dogmatic teaching. At present, not one-fifth of the time of the children is spent on religious teaching in the Anglican schools. I understand from the hon. Member for the Walton Division that there should be a right to give instruction in the Catechism. They will have that right by the Bill through the clergyman or curate or amateur teacher on two days per week. I understood the hon. Member to say that the children might withdraw from that instruction, and he blamed the President of the Board of Trade because that right hon. Gentleman had said that the children might remain in the playground during the hour of religious teaching. Does the hon. Gentleman not see that if a parent wants to have religious teaching given to his child he will see to it that it is given; but what right have we, or the local authorities, or the school managers to compel a child to attend religious instruction which his parent does not require for him? There is a great amount of nonsense talked about religious atmosphere, and about the parental demand for dogmatic teaching. I am bound however to recognise that that exists among Roman Catholics, and teachers tell me that Roman Catholic parents earnestly desire that their children should receive in Roman Catholic schools instruction in the Roman Catholic faith. If that is the case in schools where four-fifths of the 1376 parents are Roman Catholics that instruction can be given. That is to say, the teachers in such a school would be Roman Catholics, for no Protestant teacher would apply for an appointment in a Roman Catholic school, and even if he did, no local authority would appoint him. With the four-fifths majority the scheme of the Bill is perfectly fair. In the one school area children are to have on three days in the week undenominational teaching, and on two days in the week there will be denominational teaching, so that in that way religious instruction in the district is safe-guarded. In urban areas, that is in places with a population of 5,000 and over, speaking from practical experience, I firmly believe that in the working out of Clause 4 by the four-fifths majority, parents will get all that they desire either as Roman Catholics or Jews. My right hon. friend the Minister for Education has been told hundreds of times during this debate that this is not to be a final settlement; that this Bill is not the olive branch of peace. I do not suppose that he ever expected that it would be. In the long, slow, painful process of the evolution of a national system of education from a system of clerical control, many proposals have been made, many schemes of development have been passed, and some of them have proved abortive. As the Act of 1902 was the parent of the present Bill, so this Bill will be the father to its successor. Principles on either side have to be considered, both by the Anglican and Catholic Party, and by the Free Churches, who have stood up in the past for freedom of judgment. Concessions have to be made in order to effect a working arrangement, and I submit that this Bill does that. It is a singularly clever and workable Bill. I would warn my right hon. friend opposite that in the Bill there is a certain balance of concession, and a certain equilibrium of justice to all parties, which must not be lightly disturbed. He must not lean too much to one side or the other. What will be the safeguard of this Bill in the country? What is now the governing influence to prevent the extension of the agitation against the Bill by Anglican ecclesiastics? Hon. Members know that behind that agitation and outcry there is no real backing from the laity. [OPPOSITION cries of 1377 "Oh, oh!"] And why? It is because the laity are never too anxious for definite dogmatic teaching, and are not prepared to sacrifice the training of their children for this life to preparation for the next under clerical management. I listened with interest to the most eloquent and pathetic speeches from the Members for Ireland. I would like to contrast these speeches with the speeches of the official Opposition. In tone, spirit, knowledge, fairness in controversy, the Irish speeches were all that could be desired, and I would assure the hon. Members that on this side of the House we are willing to go a long way, as far as may be, with them, but I maintain that it will not be possible to claim for ever a continuance of the clerical system. We on this side of the House cannot at the present moment present an unbending front, we may make concessions with safeguards; but I believe that this Bill will make for the progress of education throughout the land. There are two points I wish to press on the Minister for Education. There are Roman Catholic and Anglican teachers who would like to impart the religious instruction in their schools. My right hon. friend says that no teacher should be compelled to become a religious teacher, but it might be provided that there should be full liberty to do so so long as the "volunteer" was not compelled and became a "pressed man." Again, in the case of non-provided schools the Minister for Education has made arrangements in the Bill to the effect that a teacher shall not suffer by the transfer; but he has not inserted in the Bill anything in the way of compensation to a teacher who is displaced because the trustees and the Local Authority cannot agree to continue the school. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will find means of dealing with that question.
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN (Cork)
I an very far from desiring to depart from the tone of good temper and moderation which has prevailed generally during this debate, and of which I think we have had a very admirable example in the speech to which we have just listened. It is a good omen for the ultimate shaping of this Bill that hon. 1378 Members opposite have been fair-minded enough to recognise, that if Irish Members have felt it to be a duty to intervene, and to intervene actively in this debate, it is because we in a very special manner are the representatives, and with very few exceptions, the direct representatives in this House, of Catholics in England nine-tenths of whom are of our own blood and kin. They have never deserted us in the hour of necessity for Ireland and it would be a base desertion indeed if we deserted them in regard to a Bill which has alarmed them in regard to their consciences, more actuely than any other Bill which has been brought forward during the last thirty years. The point of conflict, or of anything like irreconcilable conflict between us as representing the Catholics and the Government, is really rather circumscribed. From all the speeches that I have listened to from the other side of the House, I believe that there is not a man on the opposite benches who really desires to force Protestant teachers, or Protestant teaching, upon the Catholic schools. I was very glad to hear the declaration made upon that subject by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and that is the very essence of the matter which threatened a division among the forces in this House and between us and these who in regard to other matters we may be in sympathy. If the assurances of the hon. Gentleman opposite can only be worked out legally and in a way which will protect the Catholics of England against caprice or mere ebullitions of local fanaticism, I do not think it would be beyond the power of fair minded and far sighted statesmanship to find a solution which would pave the way to the settlement of other points which are in difference. The Minister who is in charge of this Bill has displayed a spirit and a disposition to recognise frankly the altogether exceptional necessities of the case in reference to Catholic and Jewish schools, and in such a way as really not to leave very much to be desired on our part, unless it is that his words and intentions should be embodied in the Act itself. As to the right hon. Gentleman himself, I do not think any one of us have any difficulty in believing in and recognising his perfect sincerity, but unfortunately it is not his words, but 1379 those contained in the Bill which govern this matter. It is the legal powers given to the local authorities to deal with the parents of over 250,000 Catholic children that we have to look to, and we have had some wonderful experiences in Ireland, during the working of the Land Purchase Act, of how often even the most flattering promises and the most generous intentions of a Minister in this House can be bedevilled by the bodies, who after all, will have devolved upon them, the carrying out of the intentions of Parliament. The hon. Member for Bath made an appeal to us to trust the English democracy as they were willing to trust us. I quite agree. I am a sufficient believer in popular institutions when controlled by a large public opinion to believe that the local authorities in general will accept in a generous and magnanimous spirit the provisions to be applied to Catholic and Jewish schools, as distinguished from these which are to be applied to the different sections of the great Protestant body who are united in the belief that the Bible is the sole depository of dogmatic teaching. I quite agree in that. But it is the minority of cases that we have to guard against, where these local authorities, under the chances of an election, may fall under the domination of some noisy and intolerant local clique in some rural parish, where there would be no opportunity of arguing with them, and no public opinion to set them right. I venture to say that this Bill does not provide a shadow of a safeguard for the Catholics of England if once they were to surrender their rights in their schools. The right hon. Gentleman himself alluded to the pig-headed and obstinate forces which at any time in any civilised country may break out, and he freely confessed that these local authorities were not the easiest to handle. If they are not easily handled by a powerful Minister with all the power of the Education Department at his back, how does he suppose that they are going to be handled by the members of a very small and perhaps despised Catholic minority in a backward-district in England, where it may come within, the power of any single headstrong bore or bigot who wishes to overrule it? It seems that the right hon. Gentleman himself has a secret intuition that not merely abstract utterances but definite 1380 provisions are necessary if this Bill is to succeed in quieting the consciences of large masses of the people whose children attend these schools. It is clear that the utterances of the right hon. Gentleman are not intended to be merely platonic, and I do not think any one in this House will suspect the right hon. Gentleman of duplicity, but why not say in the Bill the way in which these schools are intended to be worked? The right hon. Gentleman tells us that he shrinks from applying coercive measures against these bodies; but, really, are they so sacrosanct that they cannot be dealt with? For what does the Local Government Board and the Education Department exist if they are not able to restrain these local bodies from a larger and broader point of view? This Bill, however, does not provide an appeal of any sort from the decision of these narrow tribunals in the matter of all others—;that is to say, local sectarian prejudice—;where they stand most in need of some appeal. You find it necessary to constitute a Court of Appeal against the highest and best trained judicial intellects in the country, and yet a poor Catholic minority in some backward district in England has no appeal of any sort against an act of oppression which may be inflicted upon it, by narrow-minded parochial bodies, in direct contravention of the spirit professed, and I have no doubt sincerely entertained, by the Minister in charge of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech to the Jewish deputation, stated that it was his intention that the schools should be carried on just as they are carried on now, and that it was his intention that the schools and teachers should remain as they are. Why not give it incontrovertible legal efficacy by translating his words into a few plain sentences in the Bill itself? So far as I know there is no objection to the principle of public control as to everything relating to the material efficiency of the schools. We welcome every test of efficiency that can satisfy the ratepayers that they are getting sound value in the way of secular education for their money. But no man of enlightenment will contend that popular control has any business to interfere between a man's conscience and his God. Popular control would destroy the right of the parent to 1381 transmit to his children the possession which he values more than any other, and which he would not part with for any consideration on earth. We must not have other creeds forced on us in the Catholic schools. The Nonconformists of England themselves have exactly the same traditions of suffering for their belief, and they have shown the same consistency in adhering to their belief. We admire them and respect them for it. The hon. Member for Louth, I think, last night reminded us—;he need not have done so, for we are not in the least danger of forgetting it—;of all that Ireland in the days of O'Connell owed in its splendid struggle for civil and religious liberty to the Free Churches of this country. I hope the hon. Member and his friends also have not forgotten either that in the days of O'Connell the representatives of Ireland did something to repay their debt in days when the Dissenters of England were struggling to get rid of shackles, which to some extent reduced them to something like the position of an inferior race. And the hon. Member will scarcely deny that even in our own day the representatives of Ireland, by their votes, have had some share in bringing about these great social reforms which are the ornaments of Nonconformist history. It would be with anything but a light heart that I should see the temporary severance in any working of these forces which have so many common interests and ideals. It would be all the more lamentable because our quarrel is with the words of this Bill rather than the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman. We are claiming absolutely nothing which is not of the essence of religious liberty, namely, that the religious instruction which this Bill concedes ought to accompany secular instruction shall be religious instruction conformable to our own faith and not the teaching of other faiths, however good and sacred they may be. Without going into the data of Catholicism and Protestantism, all the world knows that the difference between our belief and that of the different Protestant communions of England is that theirs is a belief which believes in the Bible as the sole source and foundation of dogmatic belief, whilst in the other case its interpretation is not left 1382 to be a matter of common judgment, and the Bible does not stand alone as the sanction for our faith. It is not with any desire to introduce the odium theoligicum into this debate that I mention that fact, but to remind the House that while Biblical teaching may and ought to form the common ground of the Protestant communions, and therefore must be the logical basis of religious teaching in the Protestant schools, that teaching would be antagonistic to the principle which is the very foundation of our faith. It is the principal barrier, the insurmountable barrier, between us, and upon this there can be no possible compromise. The right hon. Gentleman recognised that when he stated that the schools should be conducted in the future as in the past and that it was the statutory obligation of the local authority to carry that out. I think it would be ten thousand pities, when we have come so very near a common standpoint, for the sake of the larger interests of this Bill, and the great work that is before this Parliament, if some effort were not made to put down in black and white a legal recognition of what in the abstract is now recognised as the just claims of the Catholics of Ireland. It would be not candid, and worse than idle, for me not to insist on that particular point, that the teaching in every Catholic school shall continue to be Catholic and shall not be of any other faith. On that point the whole Catholic body of England and Ireland is as absolutely and unchangeably united as it is possible for a million of men to be. They have not for centuries faced disabilities and suffering, they have not made incredible sacrifices out of their poverty and nakedness, to build up these schools in England in order to hand over the fruits of their struggles in the shape of these schools to persons other than of their own faith. And I say in conclusion that the more the Catholic claims and attitude are examined by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Education the more inevitably he will recognise that in the firm and temperate attitude the Catholics have taken up they are making a stand for conscience' sake to which every generous friend of liberty, than whom 1383 there is no greater than the right hon. Gentleman himself, will honour and do justice.
Motion made, and Question, "That the debate be now adjourned "—;(Mr. John Redmond)—;put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.