HC Deb 25 October 1906 vol 163 cc423-5
MR. PAUL (Northampton)

I beg to ask the President of the board of Education why the Government are appealing to the House of Lords against a decision of the Court of Appeal which declares the law to be in accordance with their own policy; whether the Act to which the decision applies is not superseded by legislation now before Parliament; what the appeal will cost the public; and in what form an Estimate for the expense of this dilatory proceeding will come before the House.

*MR. CLOUGH (Yorkshire, W.R., Skipton)

I wish also to ask whether the Cockerton judgment was submitted to the review of the House of Lords; if not, and seeing that the board of Education then adapted its administration to the findings of that Court of Appeal, why did not the board of Education now adapt its administration to the recent findings in the Court of Appeal in the case of the West Riding judgment?


The Petition of Appeal has been lodged because of the practical difficulties of an administrative character occasioned by the decision of the Court of Appeal. Local authorities find themselves unable; to know what is their legal position in I respect of many important points, such as (a) whether they are bound to make any deduction in respect of religious instruction in the voluntary schools; (b) in respect of how many hours devoted to such instruction, and of what kind of instruction, such deduction should be made; (c) what personal liability they would individually be under in the payment of salaries under existing agreements; and so forth. These considerations appear to render a decision of the Final Court of Appeal obviously desirable in the interests alike of the local authorities; the teachers, and the public generally. It is a mistake to suppose that the decision in question will shortly be superseded by any legislation now before Parliament, since the whole of the year 1907, under the terms of the Government Bill, is a transition period during which the Act of 1902 will in very many places still be in operation. In reply to the third and fourth paragraphs of the Question, the question of costs is a matter entirely in the discretion of the Court. In so far as they may fall upon the Exchequer they are included in the ordinary law charges. It is public and common knowledge that the Cockerton judgment was not carried to the House of Lords. I do not know what reasons determined that decision, but my imagination is capable of suggesting some. In the Cockerton case all the judges—the two Judges in the Court of King's Bench and the three Judges in the Court of Appeal— were unanimous, and consequently I can imagine that the Law Officers of the Crown did not think it needful to recommend an appeal to the House of Lords. In the West Riding case, however, the three Judges who heard the case in the first instance and one member of the Court of Appeal were all of one way of thinking, and two Judges of the Court of Appeal were of the other way of thinking; but the decision of the two Judges who wore members of the Court of Appeal very properly overruled the decision given by their four judicial brethren. In the face of a judicial disagreement like that, I see a distinction between the Cockerton judgment and the other case. The Cockerton case, no doubt, affected the board of Education and also the local authorities. As far as the board of Education is concerned, it was able to alter its administration, while in respect of the local authorities, the House came to their relief by passing a Bill to continuo and carry on the Cockerton schools. The West Riding decision affects the administration of education by the local authorities, and that is why we thought it well to relieve the state of anxiety by endeavouring to obtain a final decision.


gave notice that he would move a Resolution protesting against this waste of public money on lawyers.