§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [18th May], "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.'"—(Lord Balcarres).
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
SIR J. COMPTON RICKETT (Yorkshire, W. R., Osgoldcross)
said that at the interruption of business on the preceding night he was endeavouring to show to the House that it was to the interest of all parties that a settlement of this question should be attained. Party lines at the present time were blurred by questions of religion involving differences of opinion. There were good churchmen on 92 the Liberal side of the House and,a certain number of Nonconformists who in politics were generally attached to the Unionist Party, but who on account of the education dispute supported the Liberal Government at the last election. In the interests of all, therefore, there was good reason for clearing this matter up before the next general election, so that the country should not be confused by an issue that ran quite apart from ordinary political differences. He would like to say at once that hon. Members on that side of the House, and particularly the well-informed Nonconformists of the country, realised to the full, and indeed did not need to be reminded of, the great work that the Church of England had done in the past for education. They were quite aware that when the country had failed in its interest and declined to bear its share of the burden the Church took up that duty. They had no desire to break the continuity of her teaching to the children of her membership. It was of particular importance at the present time that religious teaching for the young should be maintained. For reasons that he need not discuss there was not very much chance of any Church of any denomination securing recruits from the adults of the country. Other experiments, social and otherwise, were being tried to give effect to the philanthropic ideas of the country, and Church methods appeared to have slipped into the background; so the one hope of any denomination lay in their getting hold, as early as possible, of the youth of the land. They were, therefore, not by any means opposing the desire of the Church of England to preserve her time-honoured tradition of teaching religion in the schools. But they must ask her to recognise that in times past a great many more duties were put on her than the State asked at the present time. Once she was sought for miraculous cures, for unction, for poor relief up to the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, and up to a very much later date, for education. Successively she had been relieved of these duties, and certainly her property had not been taken away in proportion to the relief afforded her in the discharge of those duties. They asked now, not in any spirit of hostility, fox 93 the co-operation of the Church in the settlement of the education question The present Bill unified education. Whatever might be said of contracting out, the Bill treated it as an exception and recognised only one class of public elementary schools, and for that class it endeavoured to secure reality of public control. There was, indeed, a half-hearted recognition of the principle in the Act of 1902. Under that Act control was conceded to the extent of one-third of the actual management of the non-provided schools. To that extent it was a recognition of the principle, but it was not effective. He would remind those who viewed the present Bill with suspicion that the management of the schools in the future was not going to be thrown into the hands of secularists or Nonconformists. The Anglicans, and even the Roman Catholics, would have a very large share of the management, and probably in many parts of the country the Anglicans would be in a majority and would provide the machinery through which the law would take effect. This Bill allowed facilities for denominational teaching. It had been suggested that by it such teaching was put in the background and treated as subordinate to the Cowper-Temple teaching, but that need not be so, and it certainly was not the intention of the Bill. There would be no difficulty in putting both classes of teaching—between 9 and 9.30—before the secular work of the school commenced, and they could then run concurrently. They knew that in a large number of Church schools Bible teaching, indistinguishable from that provided in the ordinary elementary schools, was given on four days of the week, and the Catechism was taught on the fifth day. Some wise friends of his told the parents of Nonconformist scholars to keep their children away on the day for that lesson. There would be little need for the Church of England to revise her own method if she would accept Bible instruction for three or four days in the week, and be content to come in and give the lessons of her own Church on the fifth day. With regard to the teachers it was important there should be no subscription to religious creeds imposed on them, and he asked, would it be wise to 94 make a demand on the teachers of the ordinary school—either head or subordinate—for the special purpose of teaching the doctrines of the Church of England or of any other denomination? On the other hand, the teachers selected to give Church of England teaching should be trained members of that Church. The employment of State teachers without some test in the matter of religion did not seem to agree with the standard set up by those who were strong supporters of the denominational system. Moreover, if they agreed that real Bible instruction of a solid and substantial character should be preserved in the ordinary schools of the country then it was essential that the head teacher should see that the teaching was properly given, and to ask that teacher to volunteer to give lessons for any denomination or Church would be to press upon him or her a divided allegiance and perhaps to take him or her away from the proper duties of the school. On every ground the head teacher should be allowed to superintend. The distinction as between the head teacher and the assistant was already recognised in the London continuation schools, where the head teacher did not enjoy the privilege of engaging in evening work conceded to his assistant. It was obviously necessary to guard against any indirect reversal of that decision, because if a head teacher was to be permitted to hire himself out to give lessons in the school there would always be the temptation on the part of the local authority to anticipate the appointments of certain teachers. Any subscription to a religious creed by the teacher was surely now out of the question. He had already said that to create such a test would be difficult at the present time—it would need to be revised almost from year to year. The drafting of a test that would stand for all time would be a task beyond the wit of man. Bible instruction, which he believed most of the House desired should be given, had been tried for nearly forty years. No one was so foolish as to suggest that a teacher did not require some test as to his efficiency in giving even simple Bible teaching. He ought to know something about the mind of the child, the psychology of the child; he ought to have a practical knowledge of the 95 Bible, altogether apart from adhesion to any religious creed. He did not wish to be misunderstood when he said it would be possible to draw from Homer lessons of courage and virtue without requiring the teacher to settle the boundaries of myth and fact in that tradition. The Bible could be taught as literature, and as containing moral lessons and parables of the Unseen. The material of religion could be acquired at the State expense, in the State schools. The spiritual dynamic must be taught in the Church, the Sunday School or the home. Nor was there any real antagonism from the secularists of the country. In some districts it was true that Bible teaching, always optional, had not been adopted, but the cases could be counted on the fingers of the two hands. There was difficulty in the teaching of morals unless it was attached to some historical fact, or given with some religious sanction. Science itself had its hinterland of the Unknown. With religion it looked wistfully and expectantly into the void. The Bill, therefore, continued the rudimentary religious teaching which had proved to work well and was demanded by the people of this country. It was not the Nonconformist form of creed. The Free Churches of this country held strong views on the theory of the Church and the use of the Sacraments, but they said that neither doctrine nor theory should be taught at the public expense. Those who were irreconcilable, those who desired to stand out of the national system had, under the contracting out clause, the opportunity of showing their fidelity to their own views by contributing to their own schools, and taking them into their own hands; at the same time, they would receive a large subvention to assist them in carrying them on. No one regarded the contracting out clause as satisfactory. They looked upon it as an objectionable feature, and if there was a real intention to abandon it no one would be more happy to do so than the Liberals and Nonconformists. They did not desire to see an important section of the schools of this country fall out of the ordinary line of education. The Liberal attitude to contracting out was to regard it as the exception. The objection of the 96 hon. Member for Waterford appeared to be one of terms—if they could agree upon terms his objection practically disappeared. But the hon. Member for Leicester raised a very proper objection when he pointed out that possibly contracting out would lead to a reduction in the salaries of teachers and that the efficiency of the schools would be sacrificed. Both of these objections would, no doubt, be met by a system of grouping of schools, and the securing of greater economy in administration. The Bishop of St. Asaph in his Bill desired that the Church of England should not contract out. As Liberals they would hail the adhesion of the Church schools to the national system, and would listen to proposals for extended facilities in order to avoid separation. Nonconformists only asked that they might have the same standing as the rest of the churches of the country. They had had to win their place in the State first as individuals, then as collectivists in federal action. They had from their meagre resources built their churches, trained their ministry, supported their colleges, crowded their altars with sacrifice, and won, step by step, liberty of worship, and access to opportunities of culture. First they demanded toleration, and at last, they asked for equality not for the purpose of aggression as a means of injuring others, but to use it in the interests of the State and in fellowship and friendship with all other churches.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH (Liverpool, Walton)
said the hon. Member who had just sat down had made a solid and weighty contribution to the debate, and he believed he was the first speaker in any part of the House who had given unqualified support to the Bill on which the House was about to divide. As far as they on the Opposition side of the House were concerned they were placed in a position of some difficulty by an evident disposition on the other side of the House to accuse them of absolute disinclination to compromise on any terms. It would indeed be a serious indictment if it could be truly said that they had barred and bolted the golden gate of compromise, but in the position that presented itself to them and to the country at the present moment they were bound to reflect that the 97 Second Reading of this Bill represented a definite step in the deliberate and definitely adopted policy of the Government. They had had in the course of the last few years repeated statements of that policy; none of these had made any conciliatory proposal, not even the introductory speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty. It would be within the recollection of the House that the First Lord of the Admiralty introducing his first Bill, said—It must not be supposed that this measure is intended in any sense to be a settlement of the education question. After the experience of ray right hon. friend the Chief Secretary, who in his comprehensive and generous measure of last session went to the extreme limit of concession, it is obvious that no legislative settlement can be obtained until the relations between this House and another place have been readjusted.That was the view of the Government, that the matter must be postponed to a great constitutional settlement. A little later the late Prime Minister said, when the abandonment of the Bill in question had been announced to the House—We see our way to propose that we should undertake next session the great task of putting the educational system of the country in order …. It can never have been supposed, I should think by anyone, that we should be content to acquiesce in the position of affairs which was left by the House of Lords at the end of last session, and therefore the announcement that in the very earliest session available to us we will deal with the question on broad lines which will be our own lines—this announcement cannot give rise to any surprise. … With the immediate intention and prospect of full relief by the adoption of a larger measure I think the best thing is not to proceed further with this Bill.A few weeks ago the present Prime Minister said in the country—The Education Bill to be introduced early in the session would be a short Bill, a simple Bill, and a drastic Bill.That was his idea of compromise. The First Commissioner of Works, speaking in the country so recently as the end of March, said—The Government Bill was the last word on denominational compromise, and if it was rejected he saw no solution except a rigid secular system.Having been told from every authoritative source on the Government side that no compromise of any kind except such as was contained within the four 98 corners of the Bill would be offered by the Government the Opposition was to be arraigned before the bar of the country as making party capital out of a discreditable quarrel if they did not come forward themselves with a constructive programme. So far as the First Lord of the Admiralty was concerned he had said the Bishop of St. Asaph's Bill was in its main features identical with his own Bill. Having made that amazing statement the right hon. Gentleman suggested that the two Bills might be amalgamated. The first observation it was necessary to make on that proposal was that the Bishop, of St. Asaph's Bill contained in clear and explicit terms three of the very points insistence on which by the House of Lords rendered the attempted settlement of 1906 impossible. There was, first of all, the point that there should be right of entry into all the council schools. They were told it was impossible to discuss that. The second point was that teachers should be allowed to give the teaching, and the third point was that there should be at least compulsory Cowper-Temple teaching in every elementary school in the country. These being the three points upon which they were told the House of Lords was wrong and unreasonable in insisting, it was a little surprising now to be told that the Bill introduced in another place insisting on every one of them was in substance identical with the proposals made by the right hon. Gentleman. On every occasion when he had ventured to make an observation on the education question he had again and again, as the Member for North-west Manchester had in his maiden speech last night, pointed out the extreme difficulty with which the Government found themselves face to face in the north of England as soon as these proposals were understood, and he was sure the House would be glad to know whether as the result of a fortnight's higgling and wriggling over the education question by the President of the Board of Trade in North-west Manchester the views of the Government as to the reception their proposals were likely to meet with in the country had undergone any modification. He would also venture to ask for a little more explicit information from the President of the Board of Trade on the subject of 99 the special treatment of the Roman Catholics, which he was authorised at a most critical period of his campaign to announce to the constituency on behalf of the Government. It was perfectly clear that the right hon. Gentleman would not have given those assurances unless he was authorised to do so by the First Lord of the Admiralty on behalf of the Government. On that assumption might he suggest that the right hon. Member would have avoided some Parliamentary embarrassment if he had explained what was the nature of the concession that he proposed to give to Roman Catholics. Would the Minister for Education say even now, in order that he might not inflict upon the House hypothetical figures which might not prove to be based on the facts as they would develop? Was his view now that Catholics were to be treated in an exceptional way by addition to the grant or by continuing to them assistance from the rates? Without prying in any way into domestic secrets he would like to ask the Minister for Education what was the form of the special relief that was going to be given to Roman Catholics. The Opposition had never wavered so far as he knew on the subject of the position of Roman Catholics; they were strongly of opinion that Roman Catholics were entitled to receive aid from the rates, and if he were to state a reason for that he found it in the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland the other day on the proposal to establish a University in Ireland. With the substitution of one single word, "school" for "University," the Government arrived at a principle capable of application to the education controversy—I challenge the most confirmed and determined Nonconformist in this House. He will find that if he objects to a school simply because it is set up in a country where most of the people belong to one way of religious faith, and as a consequence that religious faith is freely represented on the governing body—if he objects to that his objection is not to my scheme, but to the religion of those people.He was asked at the election, as he fancied many Members of the House were, a question in a somewhat epigrammatic form, which was widely circulated on behalf of the Roman Catholic com- 100 munity: Will you vote for Catholic teachers for Catholic children in Catholic schools, first, last, and all the time? The question was not perhaps couched in terms of art, but nobody would be unaware of what the real meaning of that question was, and until the Government told them what was to be the amount of the grant to be given to Roman Catholics it was utterly impossible for anyone who represented many Roman Catholics, as he did, to deviate from that pledge by giving any support at all to the present proposal. How did this work out? He would specially ask the attention of the last speaker who had told them that the one thing which he and his co-religionists desired in this matter was equality of treatment with others—he would specially ask the hon. Member to address his mind to the question of how Roman Catholics and Anglicans, if this Bill passed, and on the lines of comparison which he put before him, would receive that equality. What was the position to-day? In London each council child cost the public funds £6 10s. Each Roman Catholic child cost £3 15s., which under the terms of the present Bill was to be reduced to £2 7s. a child. The average attendance at the London Catholic schools was 30,000 children, so that the total amount saved to the rates was £82,500 a year. How was the proposal of the Government calculated to affect the position of the Catholic children in London at the present moment? Mr. Charles Russell, a well-known Liberal, and, as the House well knew, the son of a distinguished Liberal, had prepared some figures, certainly not couched in any spirit of animus against the present Government, and which he thought the Government would acknowledge to be in all substantiate correct. Taking the two typical dioceses of Westminster and Southwark the number of schools was 178 and the total average attendance 40,822. The total present expenditure was £124,000 or £3 1s. per head per child. The cost of maintenance was £23,000, leaving a total expenditure of £14,823. The proposed new grant of 47s. a child as a maximum would produce as a maximum £95,931. That would reduce the income of the Catholic schools in London by 101 £52,392. If they took the case of Liverpool, he had been supplied with figures by some of the constituents of the Attorney-General for Ireland who gave very definite pledges at the election, which pledges neither by his vote nor by his speeches had he made any attempt to redeem, showing that in Liverpool the increase would be £12,000 a year. He wished the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had found it possible to explain on what principle of equality, which he told them was his object in relation to London, Roman Catholics were to pay £52,391 more than his co-religionists paid for their schools while at the same time they paid every farthing which he paid for the rating of his own schools. The hon. Gentleman found no time to explain how this was to be carried out. He had spoken at some length on Catholic schools because he wished to make it perfectly clear that so far as he was concerned, and he thought as far as Protestant Liverpool was concerned, there was every desire that rate-aid should be continued to Roman Catholic schools, both in the interests of fair and equal treatment and in the interests of educational efficiency. But, of course, they said at the same time that rate aid must equally be given to the Anglican schools of Lancashire. Hon. Gentlemen who represented other parts of the country would speak for them. In Lancashire at the present time in the urban areas the voluntary schools had 350,000 children and the council schools about 215,000. That was to say, the voluntary schools would have to find 30s. a child for 350,000 children. It came to this, that three-fifths of the virile populous and progressive county of Lancashire were to be thrown into an educational 'back-water, and all the rates of all the boroughs were to go to two-fifths of the children. That was the fair and equal treatment which was the ideal of the last speaker. There were 600 voluntary schools in rural areas with 115,287 children in attendance. The local education authorities, taking them in the aggregate, had 85 schools with an attendance of 25,000, and it was put forward as a proposal which Lancashire was likely to accept, that the local education authorities with 102 its 85 schools was going to take over without one penny of payment, the 600 schools which had been built by the exertions of Church people. He hoped the Minister for Education would find time to deal with the case of Mickleham in Surrey, which the noble Lord the Member for Chorley had cited. In that case the right hon. Gentleman proposed to take the school on the appointed day. He proposed to pay nothing and to allow the managers to use the school on two nights a week and heating and lighting. The school was actually completed last year by Church people at a cost of £2,390 with the specific object of avoiding Cowper-Temple teaching, and this school was to be taken over without any compensatory privilege except that they might have Cowper-Temple teaching. He could give many instances of schools built in Lancashire quite recently which came under the same condition. Could the right hon. Gentleman who opened this discussion produce any representative who sat on his own side of the House for an urban centre of population in Lancashire who would get up and say there was any chance of these proposals being accepted in Lancashire? No one who knew the present Secretary to the Local Government Board was unaware that it would be impossible for him, merely because he now held an office he well deserved, to vote for a Bill which in his conscience he thought was a wrong Bill. Therefore they were perhaps entitled to assume—though he did not know what the hon. Gentleman's plans were—that he had received some assurance that the vote he would give in this division, if he did give one, would represent merely an academic expression of opinion. It would be quite impossible for him to support to-day a Bill of which he said only a few weeks ago—I hope that nobody else will get the credit of destroying it, let us destroy 'the thing.'
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. MASTERMAN, West Ham, N.)
I never said anything of the kind in connection with this Bill. I don't know whether that is important.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH
said it was very important. If he had misquoted the 103 hon. Member, though he had consulted Hansard, he fully accepted the disclaimer. The hon. Gentleman would not disown the very important statement that he expressed a strong hope, regretting that his vituperative powers were inferior to those of the Secretary to the Admiralty, that the Bill would be destroyed.
§ MR. MASTERMAN
I had every intention of voting for the Bill when I had not the honour of being a Member of the Government—and said so in my speech.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH
said the hon. Gentleman was not singular on that side of the House in that he was going to vote for a Bill of which he certainly said he disapproved in its most important provisions. The hon. Gentleman would not say that he did not hold the view that contracting-out was of the very essence of the scheme. ["No."] Would anyone explain what the essence of the Bill was? It was understood that a certain line of what was humorously called conciliation having failed in 1906 its place was to be taken by the contracting-out clause. If that was not the essence of the Bill would somebody explain it? In regard to this proposal for contracting-out they had said more than once that they stood exactly where the Secretary to the Admiralty stood when he said it was a disgusting proposal to contract out.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Dr. MACNAMARA, Camberwell, N.)
On that occasion the hon. and learned Member voted for contracting-out.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH
said he was not sure that the hon. Member was right, but in any case it was immaterial.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH
said he quite accepted the hon. Member's statement, but as an alternative to what had he supported it? At the time the Minister in charge of the Bill expressly pointed out the distinction between the scheme of contracting-out which was described 104 as an exception grafted upon an exception. The reasons which animated him in giving the vote which he gave in favour of contracting-out did not; apply in any way to the contracting-out now proposed. If it was disgusting in the interests of educational efficiency in a case which could only arise five or six times, what were they to say when it was a case which might arise in 50 per cent. of the schools of the country? There was no case for making special terms for the Irish Party. Supposing this Bill or the Bill which took its place was sent to another place with special provisions in favour of Roman Catholics. He professed no knowledge about what would take place in another place except that which was possessed by every ordinary observer. But if it was passed and sent up with special facilities for Roman Catholics, he felt sure it would be sent back with a proviso that the same facilities should be enjoyed by Anglicans. Was that the quarrel on which the Government were going to the country? The First Lord of the Admiralty said the Opposition desired to keep this quarrel alive in order to promote party interests. He believed this charge to be profoundly unjust, but assuming it were true, what did it mean? They could only achieve party interests by keeping a popular cause alive. If their cause was popular in the country on what principle of democratic government should they accept proposals like these which were grossly unjust and had not even the qualifying merit of popularity? A suggestion was made only yesterday which, if it was generally accepted, would point the road along which the goal of compromise might be reached. The hon. Member for the Carnarvon District, who was a very thoughtful and able representative of Welsh Nonconformity, made a speech to which he invited the attention of the House and of those who thought they had no grievance. This admission was made last night by the hon. Member. He said that this Bill would certainly remedy the Nonconformist grievance in single school areas, but, he asked, was it certain that Parliament would not create a grievance as real on the part of Churchmen because a large number of Church schools had been built at great sacrifice whose only 105 object was to secure denominational teaching. Those were courageous words, and if they represented the view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government he would be very slow to say that compromise was impossible. The hon. Member also stated that as long as Nonconformists advocated Cowper-Temple teaching, they consistently refused to Roman Catholics and Anglicans the right to say that their form of religion should be taught at the expense of the State and by State-paid teachers. He added that he was amazed that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham were not accepted when the last Education Bill was introduced. Would the right hon. Gentleman opposite tell the House whether he accepted that view or not? If he did the case was not altogether hopeless. The right hon. Gentleman must also recognise that the hon. Member who had spoken was clearly right in saying what they had been saying for years, namely, that they were endowing Nonconformity by this Bill. He would like to call attention to the statement of the hon. Member for Louth that the abandonment of their sectarian schools had tended to reduce the financial burden imposed upon many of the members of his church. Evidently the hon. Member's contribution to a compromise was to make them a present of this financial burden. The only way in which a lasting peace could be obtained was by a recognition of the parents' rights. If that were accepted they must also accept the principle that those who contributed equally to the rates must expect equal treatment. If that were once recognised he was convinced that the administrative difficulties could be dealt with. It was clear that the single-school area came within the range of those difficulties. The hon. Member opposite had quoted two cases where a real grievance was disclosed as far as Nonconformists were concerned. He had quoted a school where the scholars were overwhelmingly Nonconformist as compared with the Church of England, and yet no provision was made for Nonconformist religious teaching. The Bishop of Manchester had expressed his willingness to assist in any arrangement which would make it impossible for this 106 difficulty to be stereotyped in the future. As far as urban areas were concerned, the difficulties were nothing like so serious. In most cases there was a choice of schools and a parent could send his children to whichever school he liked. They were confronted with the problem that the education authority might be embarrassed by demands from Anglicans, Jews, Moravians, or Thugs, asking that they should have a particular kind of religious teaching for their children. Did anybody, who had had any experience in rural districts, believe that such a difficulty would present itself. The hon. Member for Louth had given them two typical cases under the single school area, and they could have been dealt with by the principle of parental right. The late Chief Secretary had pointed out that there were practically only four cases to be met, namely, the Anglicans, the Nonconformists, the Jews, and the Roman Catholics. Did any hon. Member think they would be asked to provide teaching for any other religious community than those four? If that statement were true, then there was no difficulty, and it was idle to say that it was impossible to meet those cases. Let the right hon. Gentleman go to the largest workhouse in London and he would find that the difficulties of administration were the same there as would have to be faced by a large school if it accepted the principle of parental right. In the workhouse they were dealt with simply by the method he was suggesting. The parent of the child in the workhouse or even the child itself said he was a Catholic, an Anglican, a Nonconformist, or a Jew, and that particular religious education was provided for them without friction or difficulty. The administrative difficulties were great, but many of them would begrudge no effort on their part to assist the Government in overcoming them. There were only two real obstacles in the path of the Government's adopting the principle of parental right The first was stated by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and was based upon popular control, and the second was formulated in the cry: No tests for teachers. As far as popular control was concerned there was no objection to conceding what little remnant was 107 withheld under the Act of 1902. In that Act almost complete popular control was given in all respects, except in so far as the simple appointment of the teacher was concerned. What were they to say about the cry of no tests for teachers after the contracting-out proposals contained in this Bill and the speech of the hon. Member for Louth last night? To this cry must be assigned the most conspicuous tombstone in the cemetery of election generalisations. Lord Crewe gave it up in the House of Lords at the time of the Amendments to the 1906 Bill. It was once for all surrendered when an agreement was come to by the Government that no teacher should be appointed who was not acceptable to the parents committee. How was it supposed that the parents committee were going to decide. How were Roman Catholics going to decide whether a teacher would be acceptable to them? Would they inquire into his qualifications to teach cookery? The only way they would be able to determine it would be by finding out whether they were qualified by belief in the doctrine and teaching peculiar to the denominational faith. What did the hon. Member for the Louth Division say? The hon. Gentleman said that no local authority would dream of appointing a Protestant teacher to a Roman Catholic school. Why not? That was what the Opposition wanted to know, if there was no test for teachers. What became of the free play of competition among teachers? What became of every post being open to merit without restriction of creed? The hon. Gentleman said there were methods of ascertaining what the religious opinions of the teachers were. That was his proposal, and that was the Government scheme. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."] Well, the hon. Gentleman was repudiated. He and his friends were glad to hear that the solution he held up to the Roman Catholics was not well-founded. The hon. Gentleman consoled them that under this Bill they would really get Roman Catholic teaching. The right hon. Gentleman opposite shook his head, and he understood that he did not agree with the hon. Gentleman that they would get Roman Catholic teaching. It was a great pity that that was not explained at Manchester during 108 the recent election, when they were told that concessions were going to be given when this Bill was brought forward again. The Government would substitute for a candid and legitimate inquiry, an inquisition which was private, clandestine, and impossible to answer. When this Bill joined its predecessors, as he feared it must do, he would venture to ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider even now whether it was not possible to formulate a scheme upon a basis accepted by both sides of the House and dependent upon parental right. If the Government would help to reach the final stage of this long drawn controversy on these lines, he was sure the right hon. Gentleman, on whose promotion everybody would congratulate him, would go down to history as the Minister who succeeded where many of his predecessors failed, because he laid his foundations deep and truly upon the basis of universal equality.
§ MR. ADKINS (Lancashire, Middleton)
Slid any Member who addressed the House after the fascinating and eloquent speech of the hon. and learned Member would find himself at a great disadvantage, and he would find himself at a double disadvantage-if he happened to be a Lancashire Member who had survived the various forms of rhetoric which on the First Reading had been launched against them by Members of the Opposition. All through the winter they had been suffering under the excommunication by bill, book, and candle of the Bishop of Manchester, and they were told by the hon. and learned Member on the First Reading that they were sure to be destroyed if they supported the Bill. They were also told that day that no Member on that side of the House representing a. Lancashire constituency dare get up to support the Government. It was not for the hon. and learned Member to prophesy what their fate might be, but before his doom was completed he should like to state why it was not only possible, but as they thought it was in the strictest line of duty for Lancashire Members to support most heartily the Second Reading. After all as they had been told already, this controversy was not new. The hon. and 109 learned Member began his speech by saying that this was but one step in the controversy, and when they met their constituents and faced the electors month after month in that long campaign, when the last moribund Parliament was dragging to its close this question was discussed on the platform in conference in public and in private, and there was no issue in this Parliament which had been so thoroughly thrashed out long before this Parliament met. All these alternatives and all this easy criticism was directed by persons less able and less attractive than the hon. and learned Member, but no less sincere and no less representative. Therefore, they said, having faced this question before and having met before the general election the full force of that clerical crusade of which the hon. and learned Member was the best lay helper, they felt no additional tremors when they heard those arguments used across the floor of the House. What, after all, was the central point of the speech they had just heard, and of the speech delivered yesterday by the hon. Member for North-West Manchester, a speech on which he would like to congratulate the hon. Member both for its great ability and for his happy freedom from nervousness? What was the central position so far as Lancashire was concerned? It was that at present there were a large superiority in numbers of scholars in non-provided schools in urban Lancashire over those in council schools. No doubt that was true, but before they could base on that the argument based upon it yesterday and to-day, one would like to know how many of these scholars in voluntary schools represented people who really wished them to be there and who would still keep them there if there was a provided school within reach of every child. When the hon. and learned Member dealt with that question, and when he had the requisite knowledge, then they would be prepared to meet the highly changed position. At present his figures had this disadvantage as compared with his phrases, that they were no more helpful to the discussion, and much less attractive to listen to. The hon. and learned Gentleman placed in the centre of his speech with great force, what 110 was argued yesterday with much less force, that the provisions for contracting-out were of the essence of the measure. They were told by the noble Lord the Member for the Chorley Division that contracting-out was the backbone of the Bill. They had been told yesterday and to-day that the Bill was founded on contracting-out. He had no gift for anatomical metaphor but he should like to say that in his opinion the real core of the Bill was not contracting-out, but the principle that there should be a council school within the reach of every child. No doubt the adjustment of that principle to the infinitely varying difficulties of different places was a matter well worthy of the consideration of this House, and might well call for help from all parties in the House and men of all varieties of experience, but important and difficult as would be the methods by which that principle could be carried out they could, he thought, consider it in Committee. These matters, though of high, were still of secondary concern. The real principle was the one which he had suggested to the House, and was to be found in that provision of the Bill. If that was the case, he, for one, would wish to support the Bill, because that was its central principle, though he was grateful to the hon. and learned Member for the clearness with which he had analysed the objections which could be taken to that principle, and when has ought to represent to the House how easy it would be to carry out the opposite principle. There were only two other principles on which national education could be dealt with. One which they had heard mentioned in the debate by nearly every speaker only to be rejected was called the secular solution. In regard to that, as had already been said, when under the existing law they could have secular education in any local government area if a majority of the electors desired it, and when in practice that had never come about, surely the House would do well to consider other solutions rather than that one which would have far more to be said for it in practice as indeed it had much to be said for it in logic and theory if it could be pointed to as in actual and practical working in any part of the country. The other proposal mentioned in vague 111 terms by Members of the Opposition, mentioned in adroit terms by the hon. and learned Member as being the principle of parental rights had been developed with clearness by the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone in his speech on the First Reading which he asked the House to consider in dealing with the proposal. The noble Lord said—I would not teach the religion of the Thugs, but so long as the religions were moral and in accordance with the law, and I accept this fully, all religions should be taught equally by the State, and there should be no preference, privilege, or advantage given by the State to one religion more than to the others.The hon. and gallant Member for the Abercromby Division of Liverpool interposed the remark "By the teachers?" and the noble Lords replied—Certainly, but I cannot go into the details.He accepted fully the high sincerity of the noble Lord which was the prized possession of members on that side of the House also. But he asked the House to see what this alternative meant when it was put forward in such completeness by the noble Lord. Take an ordinary Midland village such as that where his home was situated. There was a Church of England not too well attended. There was a chapel belonging to the Baptists, there was a small community of Primitive Methodists, and there were a number of persons who, unhappily, did not organise their lines on the principle of denominational loyalty. What were they going to do in a village of 500 people if that was going to be the principle. They must have not one but three or five schools so that everybody might have for their child not only their special faith taught, but taught by people who held that faith in an atmosphere congenial to that faith and free from an influence hostile to the faith throughout the school curriculum. That was the principle acted on under great sacrifices and with the greatest devotion by members of the Roman Catholic Church, and he spoke of the principle and of its application with complete respect. What he would point out with great deference was that if this was to be a guiding principle of national application, a principle held not only by hon. Members on that side of the House but one which it would be well for the whole country to agree to, they were 112 faced with this result, that all national education would become impossible. It would break down because of the expense, because of the inevitable incompetency of the teachers they would get, and it would break down because of the impossible task of giving adequate education in tiny schools removed from wide influences where they could not have enough children to secure proper teaching for each stage in the school life of the child. Therefore, when there was put forward to the House an alternative to the Government proposal, the question was, would this alternative be possible if it became of universal application? He had shown that the noble Lord's principle, much as was to be said for it, would be impossible if it were universally applied, and it was no answer to quote the experience of workhouse schools or the experience of other countries. Why were not Englishmen who chose to sacrifice much that made life worth living in order to be loyal to their own particular religious society, to have as much consideration shown to them as those who belonged to the august communities of Rome or of Canterbury? If they went on the principle laid down by the noble Lord they would reach a state of things absolutely unworkable in practice. He would draw this further conclusion. Non-provided schools in this country were possible under existing Acts of Parliament only because the majority of the people did not want that type, and when they were told that those who supported non-provided schools were paying twice over, he would point out that while in a sense that was true, they were not only paying for the particular kind of religion they wanted, but they were supporting another type which must be there if they were to have their own type at all. If everybody got their own type, the whole scheme would break down. It was a fact that more than half the country were content to do with a form of elementary education which did not foster their own religious societies. By that means only was the continued existence of non-provided schools constitutionally and financially possible. He did not say that the non-provided schools were to be treated unfairly, or that they were not to take cognisance of the fact that Roman 113 Catholics and a large section of Anglicans demanded special treatment. But he submitted to the House that the principle of the council school supported and managed by all, with no form of teaching within it which actually fostered the interests of any particular society, must be the dominant type, and when that was accepted as the dominant type, as it would be under the Government Bill, then and then only were they in a proper position to deal generously and considerately with those who for conscientious reasons, which they all respected, were unable to take full part in a workable national system of education. If that was the case it was only fair to submit to the House that the question of contracting out was not the essence of the Bill, but was really one of the suggested means of dealing with the exceptions that ought not to be ignored, but which could only be dealt with so long as they were exceptions. The noble Lord, the Member for Chorley, had devoted many hours of his valuable life to searching in the columns of Hansard for anything said on the Government side of the House in regard to contracting out. And so zealous was he in his sport that not content with hunting up the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, he even condescended to such small game as himself, and discovered a phrase in which he had said that that which would be a tonic in a few cases might well be poisonous if applied to the whole body politic. He adhered to that. But under this Bill, when the first condition was that there should be a council school within the reach of every child, it could not be possible that contracting out should become universal. It was not denied that contracting out in single-school areas would be impossible under the Bill. But while no one had affection for contracting out, while denominationalism was the ideal of a section of the community, contracting out was absolutely necessary to some extent in any scheme which any Government could proffer. Even in the elaborate provisions of the Bill of 1906, which he supported, there was a loop-hole by which contracting out might be applied. He repeated that contracting out was the inevitable 114 safety valve, but the less extensive it was the better it would be for the education of the country. Lastly, he supported the Bill most heartily because of the provision with regard to the single school area. Complaint had been made of the term "single school area" because it led to confusion with the area of the parish. He would not dispute with the noble Lord's dialectic. They all knew what they meant by a single school area. They all knew that there were parts or the country in which the child had not got a reasonable choice of school. They all knew that that applied to nearly the whole of rural England. Where the child had not got reasonable choice of school on every ground of fair play, religious equality, and educational efficiency, they must have some provision like that set out in the Bill. It was suggested by the noble and learned Member that cases like those mentioned by the hon. Member for Louth, where Nonconformists were in a majority, could be dealt with under the principle of the rights of parents. How could that be? Take any Lincolnshire village where there might be 120 Nonconformists and forty Anglicans. Were they going to have one head teacher for two years and another for the third year? That reminded him of Canning's rhyme—When each fair burgh numerically free,Shall choose its members by the Rule of Three.Were they going to divide the small school staff by some fractional adaptation of that principle? The Nonconformist minority in a village could not be dealt with under the principle of the rights of parents. This was impossible. It could not be done in single school areas. The only way in which the village problem could be solved was not by putting first the special religious opinions of the people in the village, but by considering the village as a local government unit and the whole village being given the power to manage and control it. If there was nothing in this Bill but the abolition of the dual system in villages of rural England it would be well worth fighting for. They had been told by those who should have known better that there was nothing in this Bill to advance the interests of education. He wondered why anyone 115 who had had experience of rural administration could fail to see that the abolition of the dual system was the first step towards helping the educational needs of those villages which had longed for help and never had it adequately up to the present time. All parties in the House regretted the rural exodus to the towns, and were longing to get more people back to the land. One of the many reasons why parents left the villages for the towns was because they could get a better education for their children. There would never be the education in the villages there ought to be when they were cramped and hampered at every turn by the absurdities and anomalies of the dual system. On the county council of which he was a member a most undue proportion of the time of the education committee was taken up with the eternal adjustment between the powers of the committee and rights of managers and proprietor in the necessary educational usage of the school buildings, and until the whole of the schools in a single-school area were directly under the local authority, they would find money and temper wasted, when they needed them all for the development of education. The great difficulty of rural education was that the number of school children was so small that they could not be properly graded by one or two teachers. The remedy was to have an infant school in every small village and schools for older boys and girls in central villages only. So long as the school buildings were owned by private people and the teacher was appointed by these people, they could not enlarge or reduce the school or combine schools or remove teachers. He hoped he had said nothing that would embitter this controversy, but he desired to support the Government, which proposed to bring to an end the greatest possible obstacle to the educational efficiency of the country. They were told there was a prospect of compromise and conciliation. It was surely possible for everyone who held that the universal system of council schools was essential to hold no less strongly that every effort ought to be made to treat with generosity those unable to come into it, and they ought to be open to any kind of suggestion by which variety might be given in urban 116 districts where possible without destroying national machinery. While there was a tendency to seek a solution of this question by mutual accommodation, he could well understand the desire of some politicians of high degree and some small ones of no importance to keep up the policy of the open sore, and give a new barb to criticism. But he trusted that that temptation would be put away and that in proportion to the extreme difficulties of this most vital question they should all take extreme efforts to bring it to an end.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said that everyone must recognise and be grateful for the conciliatory tone of the last speaker. He only regretted that that conciliatory spirit was not shown by Members on both sides of the House in the early stages of these debates. In listening to the discussion he had been struck by its unreality. It had ranged round ill-defined battlecries, which were used on both sides of the House, but with a different understanding of their meaning. The ear had become accustomed to the expressions "no tests for teachers," "public control," "simple Bible teaching," or "Cowper-Temple teaching." With regard to "tests for teachers" he accepted it ten years ago, and was denounced for doing so. There were to be, it was said, no tests for teachers, and yet the hon. Member for Louth offered Catholics, as an inducement to enter the national educational system, an assurance that every local authority in England would put a test to the teachers for the Catholic schools. Yet the hon. Member used this extraordinary expression—He regretted that Catholics could not see their way to come into the national system.That was exactly what Catholics wanted to do. They had always desired to come into the national system so long as their schools would not be destroyed as Catholic schools. The hon. Member said that no local authority in England would dream of appointing a non-Catholic teacher to Catholic schools. If that was so, why should not the Bill itself give that assurance? It was hard for Catholic representatives to have patience with the strange misinterpretation put upon their attitude by organs 117 of public opinion. Only that morning he read in a great English Nonconformist paper a statement that in any settlement the Roman Catholics and Jews must have separate treatment and that exclusion from public control was a privilege they must expect to pay for. Catholics had not asked for freedom from public control. On the contrary, they welcomed public control, so long as it still left their schools Catholic schools. They were willing under the Bill of 1906 to come into a national system on condition that the assurance given by the hon. Member for Louth was made a reality.
§ MR. DILLON
said it was not that that floored the Bill. It was the action of the narrow and foolish extremists on the Nonconformist side who committed the same offence—and would be sorry for it—which the Conservative Party committed in 1902. The extremists thought they could have it all their own way. Extremists on neither side could have things all their own way, and that they would learn before they had finished with the question. The proposals of the Catholics did not floor the Bill, because they were accepted by the Government. Throughout the whole controversy the Catholics, for whom Nationalist Members were entitled to speak, had desired conciliation, and had been anxious to meet whatever Government was in power to the fullest extent their principles would allow, and to make large concessions for the sake of a permanent settlement. They had always been against contracting out because it would mean a poorer class of schools, and because their schools would be deprived of the incalculable benefit of being part and parcel of the great national machinery. With regard to the Bill of 1906 he declared at the time that its author would have his revenge, and his prophecy was coming true. That Bill was a great constructive measure which aroused the enthusiasm of the country on its educational side. Could anyone say that the present Bill was from the educational point of view worthy of being mentioned 118 in the same breath? The Liberal Party had come fresh from the country, with a new mandate to carry such a measure as the Bill of 1906. Catholics made great concessions, and the Bill was finally sent to the House of Lords with a majority of 320. It was an ideal question on which to fight and quarrel with the House of Lords. Why was not the Bill sent back to the House of Lords in the following session? It was an interesting question. The Government selected rather to fight the House of Lords on a Scottish Land Bill. Why was not the Bill of 1906 sent back to the Lords? It was because the extreme men in the Liberal Party said they would have no more of it, and that too much had been conceded. Did not they now think it was a mistake? Did not they think it would have been better to force through the Bill of 1906? The Bill of 1906 might have been forced through and sent to the House of Lords at the beginning of 1907. He thought they would learn before they were done with this education question that they had made a great mistake in not fighting the battle on that. Therefore it was absurd to charge Catholics with refusing public control. They desired public control, and they had not refused to go into the national system. They wanted to go into the national system if it was only made possible for them. It could be made possible. It had been proved in this House that the problem could be successfully solved so far as the Catholics were concerned. An hon. Member speaking upon the matter the previous night had recounted the efforts which had been made and rejected. Amongst others he said that they had asked for contracting out and that when that was brought forward they rejected it. He replied that they never asked for contracting out and that as a matter of settlement they had always refused it. So far as Catholics were concerned and the people for whom the Nationalist Members spoke in this country, they objected to the principle of contracting out. They objected because, even if the grant were increased, they had no ground for hoping that it would be increased to such an extent as to put them upon a position of equality with other schools in the country, and they knew that whatever increase was 119 given to Catholics, in educational progress they would be left far behind indeed. Another matter had been alluded to; namely, the question of parents' rights. He had the honour to be the father of that in modern times. He invented that principle, and brought down on his head attacks, in those days, from nearly the whole House. But that principle had now become very popular on the Opposition side of the House. He was greatly amused on reading the other day a speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury—a very interesting and remarkable speech which he delivered upon the introduction of the Bishop of St. Asaph's Bill. The Archbishop quoted from declarations made by Liberals during the election of 1905 and also in 1900 vindicating the principle of parents' rights. It was a most extraordinary thing that once a Party crossed the floor of the House they seemed to forget the principle of parents' rights altogether. It was a principle only cherished in opposition and not when the Party were in power. In his opinion the time to have settled the whole question on a permanent and lasting basis was in 1902. In that year the Government had a great majority and the question could have been settled. If the Government of the day had shown anything approaching the spirit of compromise which Members were now so anxious to show, a settlement might have been effected which would have safeguarded every possible right or claim of the voluntary schools. It would have been a lasting settlement such as that of 1870, and would have lasted probably another thirty years. But that great opportunity was thrown away. Another opportunity was thrown away in 1906 in his opinion, when the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman who was now Chief Secretary for Ireland was not sent to the House of Lords a. second time, and he was greatly afraid that another opportunity would be thrown away upon the present occasion. The realities of the education question had now passed away from that House, they all knew what was going on behind the scenes, and that there were negotiations in progress. The Irish Members knew nothing about the negotiations except what they saw in the newspapers, and, therefore, 120 as the hon. Member for Waterford said, they had looked forward to this debate with great interest for some glimmer of hope. But up to the present they had seen none. A great deal had been said about the Bishop of St. Asaph's Bill, and it was an extraordinary piece of logical legerdemain that the First Lord of the Admiralty in his speech undertook to prove to them that the principle of contracting out, especially for the Catholic schools, was contained in the Bishop's Bill. What he said was that the Bishop of St. Asaph's Bill, as explained by the Bishop himself, contained that principle, but there was not a word about it in the Bill. It was a Protestant settlement that was proposed. Here was what occurred in the speech of the Bishop of St. Asaph—One matter I desire to refer to briefly, but with all the emphasis I can command. The Church of England will never accept a settlement which does not include an agreement which will meet generously, as they deserve to be met, the claims of the Roman Catholics.But they wanted to know how they deserved to be met. In this Bill there was no comfort at all for them; all the comfort they got was in the explanation of the Bill. So far as the Bishop of St. Asaph's Bill was concerned they did not seem to come in at all. They found themselves without any glimmer of light coming from the pronouncements of the Government. All he could find was this. The First Lord of the Admiralty used a very strange expression which rather appeared to him to bear out the statement made by the President of the Board of Trade in Lancashire. He said—Up to the present it was not open to the Government to deal with various religious denominations otherwise than on a footing of perfect equality. But when a Bill was introduced by the Bishop of St. Asaph's the Government feel more at liberty to act with regard to certain denominations for whom alone the alternative of contracting out would have to be retained.That was not a very hopeful prospect, he must confess, particularly after the speech they had heard that day from the Member for Manchester, and from other Gentlemen before him, and from influential men outside the House. He was very sceptical as to the possibility of the Government's passing a special measure for Catholics apart from 121 Anglicans. And, also, there was no indication in the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty of any determination to put them on a footing of equality, and no indication of improvement in the grant. As he had said, he objected to the whole principle of contracting-out. But if there was to be force put upon them, let it be clearly understood that they could not for one moment assent to the principle laid down in the Daily News to-day, that it was a privilege for which they were bound to pay. They did not want to contract out, but if they were to be put out, then they must be put on a footing of equality, and hon. Members opposite should see that the poor children of the Roman Catholics of this country were not condemned to an inferior system of education. That was a point he wished strongly to impress upon his fellow - countrymen as well as upon Members of this House. The majority of Members opposite were, he thought, thoroughly sympathetic. Their feeling was, and he thought it was a natural feeling, that there was the greatest possible danger of what might be described as a Protestant settlement leaving the Catholics out altogether. He had always felt—he did not want in the least degree to be offensive to hon. Members above the gangway—that the majority of the Protestants of this country were to a large extent content with an agreement based upon Cowper-Temple teaching. That would be fatal to Catholics. He had been immensely struck by two letters which appeared in The Times, one from the Bishop of Chichester, in which he said that Churchmen should remember that while they claimed to be treated on an equality with Roman Catholics, they were bound to take a wider view of the education question. He wrote—We belong, not to a sect, but to the Church of the nation and must do our utmost not only to secure Church education for Church children, but Christian education for all children whose parents will allow them to receive it.That was the point he wished to dwell upon, and it was backed up by another letter from the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Cambridge—The short letter of the Bishop of Chichester represents exactly, I believe, the views of the silent majority of the Churchmen as against 122 the well-organised minority who wish to turn the Church of England into a pseudo-Catholic sect, supported as they are at this moment by some Evangelicals who are Tories first and Churchmen afterwards.If that were true, and if the great silent majority of the people of England were more concerned in maintaining in the schools of this country—in all the schools—that simple Bible teaching as they called it, then it was natural that Catholics should feel alarm lest what he described as a Protestant settlement should be arrived at, leaving them entirely out in the cold. He had never been in the habit of using language such as was adopted in the great debates of 1906 when the system of Cowper-Temple teaching was called a new religion and was eventually termed "Birreligion" and had various other terms of opprobrium applied to it. He felt no sympathy with that line of conduct. All through those debates in 1906, and even to some extent in the debates to-day, there kept running through his mind the two lines of Lever—Fightin' like divils for conciliation,An' hatin' each other for love of God.In this controversy the question of Cowper-Temple teaching had taken an entirely new aspect. He had pointed out that Cowper-Temple teaching was not a definite thing, that it was a form of religion which was accepted by the opinion of this country, and that it was intensely unacceptable to Catholics, so unacceptable that they would prefer the secular system. They pointed out that under the Cowper-Temple teaching they could teach almost any religion, and therefore it was a vague and indefinite thing. So strongly, apparently, did this argument influence the Government that they dropped the whole Cowper-Temple system and introduced a totally new thing in the present Bill. Now there must be an undertaking to provide religious instruction such as was specified in the London County Council Syllabus. This was substituted for Cowper-Temple teaching. They had now got a syllabus. They were progressing. They undertook to do away with the Cowper-Temple system and to have various Syllabuses. They were trying to do what the Councils of the Catholic Church had been endeavouring to do for 900 years, and had not yet 123 finished—to define all the articles of faith. It took a good deal of time, and a good deal of learning, but it was dealt with offhand by the London County Council. The Daily News that morning described, in the most enthusiastic language, as the future of the country under this new Bill if it was accepted—A council school in every parish in which undogmatic Christianity is taught.There was no such thing as undogmatic Christianity; it was an impossibility. In the very forefront of this syllabus, which was full of dogma from one end to the other, it was stated that they were to teach the life of our Lord. And at the end was this extraordinary "Note."—It was found that the syllabus of Jewish instruction was unacceptable to the Jewish children in certain schools of London.It was too dogmatic for the Jews, although there was no dogma in it at all. What did the County Council do in this syllabus which was now returned to Parliament to guide all the council schools of the country under the new Act? It agreed that there should be a separate syllabus dogmatically prepared to suit the Jewish children, which might be taken up as an alternative syllabus to that for the Christian children. That was undogmatic religion under the new County Council's syllabus. They had no syllabus for the Catholic children. That would be beyond even the limit of the County Council. But really was it not pitiable? In all the schools of the country they were going to have this form of religious teaching endowed and they were going to penalise all the children of the country who required some other form of religion. Let him say, once more assuming the role of a prophet, that he was convinced more deeply than he could find words to express his conviction, that no Bill would ever be accepted or pass through Parliament—and even if it were passed by some impossible process, it would be very speedily repealed by the country—which endowed one form of religious teaching and penalised all the parents of the country who required some other form.
§ MR. G. GREENWOOD (Peterborough)
said he had listened patiently to the 124 speeches which had been made, as he had listened two years ago to what seemed to be the interminable discussion as to how much of doctrine and dogma was to be taught in the national elementary schools, and he had come to the conclusion that it was very difficult, if not impossible for one who held the views he held, and he held them very strongly, to record his vote in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill, although he did not intend to vote against it. For many years he had been profoundly impressed with the conviction that there was only one settlement of the question which could possibly be permanent and which was just, and by which they could avoid doing a great amount of injustice to a large number of their fellow citizens, and that was a settlement which must be based upon State neutrality, upon their common citizenship—the settlement commonly known as the secular solution, not the secularist solution as it had been called on the other side of the House—he thought through inadvertence. But outside the House, simply to arouse prejudice and for purposes of misrepresentation, it was very often described as the secularist solution. One might just as well talk of the secular clergy as the secularist clergy. There was a great distinction, as everybody knew, between the two words. It was admitted that the secular was the only logical solution. He had observed that hon. Members when they wanted to disparage and pour contempt upon this solution always began by saying it was the only logical solution and went on with a fine smile of contempt to say that logic could not be expected in politics. He entirely agreed with that. He had lived long enough to know that it was considered by many as the mark of the higher statesmanship to be as illogical as possible and to call it compromise. Therefore, he would be the last to put this solution before the House on the ground of logic. But he put it before the House on the ground of justice, and of justice alone. He thought this solution was a necessary corollary of making education compulsory. He would appeal to passive resisters in the House. They were bound to support the secular solution. For what principle had they been fighting? The passive resister might say he 125 was fighting for no principle at all, but merely for his own hand. He objected very much to paying for Catholic teaching or Anglican teaching, but so long as he could procure Cowper-Temple teaching he was perfectly satisfied, and if someone else's conscience was offended what was that to him? But a passive resister who said that would put himself beyond the pale of argument. He believed the passive resister was a sensible and an honest man, and the principle for which he had been contending could only be that no man ought to be compelled by law to pay for any religious teaching to which he was conscientiously opposed. That ought to be the fundamental principle of our educational system, and it led at once to this solution of State neutrality, because there were thousands in this country who entertained a conscientious objection to Cowper-Temple teaching. To Catholics, as the hon. Member for Waterford had told them, it was abhorrent. As the hon. Member for Mayo had said, they preferred the secular solution. But there were many others who intensely disliked it, and how could it be just to compel them, by law, to pay for it? He might answer in passing a very superficial objection that some people conscientiously objected to pay income-tax. He could answer that in words published more than thirty years ago in a passionate argument for the secular solution in a work which he held in his hand, viz., "The Struggle for National Education" by Mr. John Morley. He said, contemptuously, in answer to that—As if it were not in religious affairs a settled principle of our Government that the majority, however great it may be, and however strenuous its convictions, shall still not force the conscience of the minority.But then what might be taught? It had been held under Cowper-Temple teaching that the Apostle's Creed might be taught. He had mentioned this recently in speaking at a Congregational Church, and the minister when he came to speak said he did not know that he could say he believed in one single word of the Apostle's Creed. That remark was indicative of the signs of the times. He found other examples in the syllabus. He was taught at school as history of divine inspiration that the 126 walls of Jericho fell down at the sound of the trumpets of Joshua, and that the sun and moon stood still in order that the Israelites might complete the slaughter of their enemies, and that when the prophet Elisha was going up, it did not matter where, when he was assailed by some little children on account of a certain physical infirmity which was shared by a great many of them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord, and Providence sent out she bears which tore many of them. Here he had the authority of a Canon of the Church, and a Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture at Oxford and editor of the Encyclopædia Biblica, and it was tidings of great joy when he was no longer compelled in any sense of the word to look upon that as history of divine inspiration. But they were going to ask the teachers to teach these things as divinely inspired truth. It was ridiculous to say that this did not operate as a test for teachers if they asked them to give lessons even in Cowper-Temple teaching. And if they only permitted teachers to give such instruction there would be preferential treatment for those who would do so. But more than that, no man could give that teaching unless he believed in it or unless he was a hypocrite. He admitted that they were not going to ask the teachers to subscribe to a formal or written test, but the things he had mentioned must operate as tests, and if they were going to carry out the doctrine that they were not going to have tests for teachers, they must make up their minds that the teacher must not be allowed to give religious teaching. Considering that the State levied rates and taxes from all the citizens without inquiring what their religious belief was, he contended that the modern State ought not to exert its power to take from the pockets of all its citizens money to uphold religious teaching to which some of those who were forced to contribute conscientiously objected. They did not object to religion, but to State-paid religion. That opinion was not merely the opinion of Secularists, it was what was said years ago in the debates by the old Nonconformist leaders, and perhaps the House would pardon him if he made one short quotation from a speech delivered in 1870, by Mr. Henry 127 Richard, a man who was deservedly held in the highest estimation in that House. He said—As a Nonconformist, he had in limine an insurmountable objection to such a scheme; if he knew anything of the principles of Nonconformity, one of the most fundamental and universally acknowledged of them was this, that it was not right to take money received from the general taxation of the public and apply it to purposes of religious instruction and worship. That principle appeared to him to lie at the very foundation of all religious liberty. For if they claimed the right to compel one man to pay for the support of another man's religion and to enforce that, as they must, by penalties of the law, they passed at once into the region of religious persecution.Those were the words of a man who understood his own mind and was not afraid to express it, and he often wondered what Erastian germ had insinuated itself into the vertebrae of the present day leaders of Nonconformity that they walked with such uncertain steps where their forefathers so strongly trod. In 1870 in a letter to John Bright, Mr. Gladstone said—The fact is, it seems to me, that the Nonconformists have not yet as a body made up their minds whether they want unsectarian religion or simply secular teaching, so far as the application of the rate is concerned. I have never been strong against the latter of these two. It seems to me impartial and not, if fairly worked in any degree unfriendly to religion.He could give the House if it were necessary another extract from Mr. Gladstone in 1870 to the same effect. Therefore, Mr. Gladstone had no apprehension in regard to the secular solution, and he did not think it was necessarily an irreligious system. He could also quote the words of the late Prime Minister, whose loss they all so sincerely deplored, and whose memory they would ever cherish. He could quote his words showing that, in his opinion, nine-tenths of the Liberals, if they had their own way, would ask for the secular solution. The book written by the Secretary for India upon this subject was as full of arguments in favour of this solution as an egg was full of meat. Then there was the extremely interesting speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, to which he had listened in 1906, and who said—There are only two means of settling this question, one is that the State should pay for 128 no religious teaching, and the other is that the State should pay for all religious teaching.The right hon. Gentleman also said that in his belief the second means was impracticable, and therefore he had always given his support to the first. Of course all that was entirely compatible with giving ample facilities to all denominations out of school hours at their own expense. Something had been said as to the rights of parents, and they all recognised those rights. Undoubtedly a parent had the right to have his child brought up in the religion and faith which he believed to be true. He had also the right to say that his child should not be taught in any public school any form of religion which he thought was untrue. The parent, however, had no right to come to the State and say: "I insist on you teaching my child at the State's expense any religion that I choose." If they admitted that they could not draw the line anywhere. They would have to allow ethical societies and other sects the same right with the result that the whole thing would become a theological tug-of-war. They had no right to dictate to the State the manner in which the State should apply the funds taken indiscriminately from all ratepayers. All other attempts at the solution of this question had been dismal failures, and he asked the House to consider whether they might not arrive at a solution of this question upon the common ground of citizenship. Mr. John Morley, in his work on "Compromise," said—The so-called settlement of national education [in 1870] is the most recent and the most deplorable illustration of refusing to examine ideas alleged to be impracticable.It was said that if they advocated this solution, none of them would come back again to the House of Commons. He was not greatly impressed with that argument. If this question was boldly faced and put before the constituencies with sincerity; if they put forward their strong conviction that only in this way could they avoid doing great injustice to a great number of their fellow citizens; he believed the country would approve of it. He had done his best to put before his own constituency the justice of the solution he was advocating. All his life he had found himself very 129 much with minorities, but he had lived to find those minorities not unfrequently turned into majorities. If one was sincerely convinced of any proposal of this kind in regard to its justice, all one could do was to labour for it and rest content believing—That they are slaves who would not beIn the right with two or three.
§ LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)
said the hon. Member who had just spoken would not hear from him any objection to his remarks on the score that advocacy was likely to lead him into electoral difficulties, but when he claimed that his solution was the only just one, then he was bound to say that he joined issue with him. What was the great point of his argument? It was to the effect that it was unfair that one set of people should have their children taught completely at the public expense, while another set of children were not so taught. If his solution were adopted the injustice would still remain. The children of the secularists and those who did not desire any religious teaching would receive from the State the full cost of the religious education of their children. An enormous proportion of the people of this country consisted of those who regarded religion not as a part of secular education, but as the foundation on which secular education should rest. They were to be put in the position of having to pay themselves for that foundation. They would not be treated with that absolute equality which the hon. Member desired. The truth was that they could not arrive at any system which was absolutely equal and just except a system which declared that as soon as the State had compelled all children to be sent to the public elementary schools it was bound to give that form of education which was conscientiously insisted on by the parents of all the children. That was the ideal, but whether they could reach it was a different question, and the hon. Gentleman did not get rid of the difficulty when he said, "If you teach no religion you are acting fairly," because by so doing they would be giving a preference to those who desired no religion at all. He said quite frankly that he saw more prospect of a settlement of this question 130 on the lines the hon. Gentleman suggested than he did on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for the Middleton Division. The hon. Member far the Middleton Division had always been quite frank and clear in his advocacy of the solution which he had suggested. The hon. Gentleman said there was a form of religious teaching which all should accept. That was the undenominational system; that was to be the predominant teaching in the schools of the country.
§ MR. ADKINS
I spoke of the predominant type of school as being under full public control. It was the character of the school government on which I laid stress.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said he was under complete misapprehension of what the hon. Gentleman said. If he only meant that all the schools ought to be of one type and under the control of the local education authority with reference to the appointment of managers and things of that kind, and that the religious teaching should be under the control of the managers, that would be a proposal coming very near what had been frequently advocated in this House. The hon. Gentleman must mean that the education was to be under the control of the local education authority, and be of the Cowper-Temple kind. If the hon. Gentleman did not mean that, he did not know what he meant. He was perfectly accurate when he said that the hon. Gentleman desired that Cowper-Temple teaching should be predominant throughout all the schools. If the hon. Gentleman listened to the hon. Member for East Mayo and the hon. Member for Peterborough, he must have felt that his solution was impossible. That was what he wanted to impress on hon. Members opposite. They could not force undenominational teaching as the predominant and universal teaching in the schools of this country. He left out the people of the unhappy English Church; they, he knew, were not regarded as entitled to much consideration. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh!"] He would be able to show before he sat down that that was the view held in some quarters. The Roman Catholics and the secularists 131 were two sections of the community who said they would not submit to have that form of religious teaching imposed on their children; they said they did not believe in it, and that they did not think it satisfactory. It seemed to him absolutely impossible for the Liberal Party, who had always gone in for religious equality, in the face of that refusal to adopt such a system as that advocated by the hon. Member for the Middleton Division. There was one observation made by the hon. Member for East Mayo with which he heartily agreed. The hon. Gentleman complained very much of the unreality of this discussion. He himself did not quite know what they were discussing. He had not the slightest conception why it was that the Government desired to continue it. Only two points had emerged clearly from the discussion so far as it had gone. The first was that practically no one was in favour of the Government proposals. He was not very sure about the hon. Member for the Middleton Division of Lancashire, and the hon. Member for the Osgoldcross Division of Yorkshire. With these exceptions there was no one who had taken part in the debate who had not condemned one or other of the principal proposals of the Bill. The second thing which had emerged in the debate was that no one really knew what the Government proposed to do. It was very remarkable when the House of Commons were discussing the Second Reading of one of the principal measures of the Government programme. A few weeks ago they thought that they knew what the policy of the Government was. It appeared to have had two periods. There was first what might be called the sword period, which was begun with the celebrated speech at Pontypool by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the natural outcome of that was the Bill now before the House. That was the sword Bill. It was designed to be of a very ruthless character. He was dealing now with the denominational aspect of the question. It was the kind of Bill they expected when they road the right hon. Gentleman's speech and other speeches that followed. Let the House consider what this Bill really proposed to do. He would not repeat the argu- 132 ments which had been stated as to the effect of the Bill on town denominational schools. It gave them the alternative of inefficiency or extinction. There was no doubt about that. As to country schools its proceedings were even more drastic. It proposed their abolition, coupled with the confiscation of their buildings. The right hon. Gentleman had given a return of all the schools in the single school parishes, and distinguished those which were governed by what he called tight trusts. He found that there were 5,600 Church of England schools which were affected by tight trusts. It was very noticeable that there were only 118 affected by tight trusts which did not belong to the Church of England. It was proposed by this Bill to take without any payment whatever the buildings belonging to those schools and the land on which they were built. It was a very moderate estimate to say that the amount of confiscation in hard cash would be £5,000,000. How was this proposed to be justified? By the grant of so-called facilities. That was to say the schools were to be placed at the disposal of the former owners before and after school hours with a prohibition against any regular teacher entering into a school and taking part in the religious education then given. Everybody admitted that facilities of that description were absolutely ridiculous. The only other proposal was that the trustees should be entitled before the confiscation of their schools to insist on teaching in accordance with the London County Council syllabus. Beyond securing just the fact that there must be some dogmatic teaching that syllabus secured nothing at all. It was absolutely no security either for moderate teaching or for extreme teaching or for any teaching which could be called even Christian by most of those who sat beside him; therefore, to flourish the London County Council syllabus in their faces as some compensation for the confiscation of the Church schools and buildings throughout the country was really a piece of political window-dressing which it was difficult to describe with patience. That was the sword period. But recently there had been a different atmosphere. They had heard a great deal of conciliation, and a different tone seemed to have pervaded Ministerial speeches. 133 He had been rather interested to read the causes to which that change of tone had been assigned. In part of the Press which supported the Government it was attributed to the support given by the bishops and archbishops to the Licensing Bill. He did not pretend to understand the workings of the consciences of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but it appeared to him to be a most astounding proposition that because the bishops and archbishops took a view which was more creditable to their hearts than to their heads about another wholly different measure, therefore the Government ought to alter proposals which at any rate it was assumed they had made as those which would properly solve, with due regard to justice and efficiency, the great educational problems of this country. They had heard a great deal about the bishops. He would be the last person in the House to speak with disrespect of the bishops of the Church of England, but he thought somewhat undue importance had been given to certain statements made by some bishops. A bishop and a Member of the House of Lords had his own view about education and the settlement of the education question; but so far as he knew, this Bill had received very small support indeed from any section. He had heard it said that the Archbishop had supported the Bishop of St. Asaph's Bill, but he thought it could only be said by those who had not read the Archbishop's speech. It was not for him to say in regard to everything he said that it was right or wrong, but it was perfectly clear that a Bill on the lines of the Bishop of St. Asaph's proposals was not satisfactory to those for whom he professed to be entitled to speak. But there was another circumstance than the action of the Bishops on the Licensing Bill which possibly had had its effect in altering the views of the Government. They had heard of bye-elections. In one after another of these bye-elections which had occurred in England and Wales the Government had either lost the seat or retained it by a very much reduced majority. He thought it had dawned upon them that the meaning of these bye-elections was that their educational policy, coupled with other parts of their policy, was not viewed with favour. He did not complain of the altered attitude of the Government. He thought 134 it was perfectly legitimate for a Liberal Government or any other Government, to change their attitude. They were not bound to proceed on a line of policy of which the country evidently disapproved. He agreed that it was legitimate for a Government to say that the bye-elections showed that the country disapproved of their policy. But he wished they would go further and tell the House why it was that the country disapproved of their policy. He thought the reason was that it was a highly sectarian administration. That was the real defect of the Government. They had never, in dealing with the education question, tried to deal with it on terms that were fair and just to all sections. They had fixed their eyes too exclusively on the amount of Nonconformist support they could secure from their representatives in the House; and they had attempted to construct an educational settlement which would be satisfactory to that very limited section of opinion. He observed that when he said that the Bill was designed out of hostility to the Church of England there were protests from the other side. He remembered making a like observation about the Bill of 1906 and it was received with similar protests. But he had since received very remarkable confirmation of his view. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in October last went down to South Wales and found that some of his supporters were dissatisfied with the attitude he had taken with reference to Welsh disestablishment, and he was asked to explain the attitude he had taken up. In defending himself the right hon. Gentleman said—What is the very first great measure introduced by the Government in 1906? An Education Bill which constituted the greatest, and most drastic measure of disestablishment and disendowment of a State Church ever proposed. Its effect would be "—these were his words—to disestablish 13,000 Church mission rooms which 2,500,000 children are largely forced by law to attend; to take away from these denominational seminaries under clerical control without compensation national endowments aggregating £7,000,000 and upwards. That measure was"—he went on to say, more picturesquely than accurately—thrown out by the House of Lords"—135 and he drew the attention of the House to this phrase—and next year the Government would bring in another disestablishment Bill to deal with the same problem.Now, that was the fundamental defect of the Government policy. They had attempted to use, more particularly in this Bill, the educational question in order to strike a blow at the Church of England; and as long as they pursued that policy he was convinced that it was doomed to failure. They were told that that policy had been altered, and they asked what was the Government's alternative to the Bill. He hoped that the Prime Minister would shortly favour them with an answer. A great deal had been heard of critical comparisons between the nature of this Bill and that of the Bishop of St. Asaph. Were the Government prepared to adopt the Bill of the Bishop of St. Asaph? Were they prepared to adopt the view of the Liberal Churchman who spoke the previous evening? Were they going to adopt the policy of the Archbishop of Canterbury? What was the policy of the Government? Before they were asked to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill they were entitled to know what were the Government's intentions. What did the Government say in answer to that question? They seemed to have adopted a novel means of meeting that kind of difficulty. Not long ago they had a debate on Home Rule, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland, being hard pressed, turned to the Irish Members and asked: "What do you propose? What is it you want?" He himself thought that that was not a very successful proceeding at the time.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said he was therefore the more surprised that it had been practically repeated on the present occasion. What was the attitude of the Government in this matter? They said "What does the Opposition want?" The question, however, was "What does the Government think they want?" The attitude of the Opposition was simple and well-known. He said that 136 with perfect confidence. It was expressed by the hon. Member for Walton. They had always contended that they could only settle this question by treating everybody with absolute justice. They had always said that in 1906, and the Church of England had said it as early as 1896. They contended in perfectly unmistakable terms that the only way was by admitting the principle that the parents were the people who had the right to settle the kind of education that was to be given to their children. That was the principle always urged from those benches. [MINISTERIAL ironical cries of "Oh!"] He was talking of this Parliament. [Renewed MINISTERIAL ironical cries of "Oh!"] It had always been urged right through the debates in 1906. It was a principle admitted by the late Prime Minister, to which assent had been given by a president of the Free Churches, and to which the Chief Secretary for Ireland had expressed more than once his adherence. He could not conceive of any Nonconformist objection to it. He maintained that no man had ever contested the justice of it. No one could say that it would be an unjust or an improper settlement. The hon. Member who spoke last said that it was logical. The hon. Member for North Camberwell had expressed in the strongest possible words his adhesion to the view that it was logical but impracticable. So said the hon. Member for Middleton. But he could not in the least understand why he put aside, in a lofty way, the fact that it had been in operation in our workhouses, in our Poor Law schools, in our industrial schools, in Germany, in Ireland, and in a number of other countries. He put all that aside as irrelevant and absurd, and said that it was impracticable if there were three or four different Nonconformist sections demanding their own set of teachers to teach the full doctrines which they held. It might fairly be answered to that argument that the Nonconformists were satisfied with Cowper-Temple teaching and that they asked for nothing more. They had said so over and over again. How, then, could they turn round and say "We shall each of us require a separate form of religious instruction suitable to our respective sections?" So far as he 137 was concerned he and his friends withdrew nothing they had said during the last five years. There would be no difficulty in a great majority of cases of providing separate schools and separate teachers, and separate treatment for their children. He was convinced that that was the ideal they should aim at and that they should not force a child in the country into a common Christianity. They should look at the form of teaching which the parents desired, and it was only by a policy of that kind that they could assuage the religious strife they all so much deplored.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Mr. RUNCIMAN, Dewsbury)
The noble and learned Lord who has just sat, down always speaks with great force in our educational discussions. I think, however, he was not present during the debates in 1902, when many of the schemes he now advocates were put forward from the Opposition side of the House, and discarded by the Government which was then in power. I observe he says "We have always urged the claim of the parent to have his child educated in the faith he desires." Who did he mean when he said "we"? The Government of 1902 declined to accept the proposal made by the hon. Member for Mayo which did provide for those very rights of the parent which the noble Lord now advocates. The noble Lord says, "We have always urged equality and justice in this matter," but the whole complaint made against the Act of 1902 is that it does not provide equality and justice. I wish to give as my authority for that statement no one on this side of the House, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire, who, speaking at Barnstaple, reiterated what we have so often heard here, the fact that the Nonconformist grievance has not been met by the Act of 1902. His words were—I am quite ready to admit that the Act of 1902 did not remove all the grievances of which the Nonconformists may justly complain.The noble and learned Lord, in suggesting that equality and justice had already been provided, has altogether forgotten what took place in 1902 and what has taken 138 place since. I venture to say that there was no question more fully canvassed in the constituencies at the time of the last general election than the education question, and I will undertake to say that no single Liberal could have been returned to these benches who was not pledged to public control and no tests for teachers. We made an attempt in 1906 to deal with the problem. The criticism offered to our Bill from the Liberal side was that it gave away too much. Certainly, considering its career through the House of Lords, there probably was some reason for the belief that we did give away a great deal too much. That Bill had an absolutely unprecedented support. It went up to the House of Lords with a majority, I think, of over 300 behind it. Every Liberal Member, the whole Labour Party, the whole Irish Nationalist Party voted for it. In that Bill we gave as we thought our solution, and a very liberal solution, of this problem. When that Bill reached the House of Lords it was torn to pieces. Some of the most important principles were taken out of it or completely vitiated. The Lords interfered with the principle of local control and impaired popular control, they weakened the conscience clause, they did what was infinitely worse—they left the single-school areas absolutely under denominational control. Now we are met with a new situation. The noble Lord suggests that one reason why what he calls a spirit of conciliation is in the air is that we are influenced in some way by the action of the bishops on the Licensing Bill. We are no such thing. We take up the problem absolutely on its merits, though I am only too glad to have the support of a very large number of the bishops on the Licensing Bill. I think it does them credit. It shows that they, at all events, are not prepared to oppose a Bill merely because it happens to be proposed by a Liberal Government. The noble Lord suggested that the action of the bishops on the Licensing Bill is more creditable to their hearts than their heads. Does he consider it a mark of mental inferiority to express approval of a Bill with a high moral motive when it is proposed by a Liberal Government? So far as the action of the bishops on the Licensing Bill is concerned, it has in no 139 way affected the attitude of the Government towards this problem, nor will it do so. The noble Lord also suggested that the bye-elections have induced an alteration in tone. There has been no alteration in tone. The policy of the Government remains what it was, and if right hon. Gentlemen opposite desire to know what that policy is they will find it is embodied in the Bill introduced by my right hon. friend. We have said from the first that the Bill contains the main principles to which we adhere—popular control, no tests for teachers, and it aims at freeing the single-school district from the domination of one sect. If it is possible within these limits to arrive at any adjustment, then we are prepared to accept Amendments which, while not vitiating the principle, will enable us to arrive at an accommodation. I understand there are people who think the contracting-out clause contains the main principle of the Bill. One of the objects of the Bill is to deal with single-school areas. Those who have any knowledge of rural life know full well what has been the pressure brought to bear on those who live in the villages, and it is all rubbish to say that the conscience clause provides a free outlet for those who have been subjected to this oppression. The case of the hardship of the single-school area has been admitted by very high authority, that of the right hon. Gentleman himself, the Leader of the Opposition, when he said in the discussions in 1902 that his Bill did not remove that hardship, that it was one of the difficulties of the existing system, and it would be one of the difficulties of the system that would be brought into being under his Bill. That is one of the objections we have to the existing system—that it does leave the hardship on the single-school areas. Turning to another side of the question, it is said that there is in this Bill some form of confiscation. Let me take the kinds of trusts dealt with in this Bill. There are the schools under limited trusts, those which are not limited, and schools which are privately owned. The noble Lord suggested that there are 9,600 schools under limited trusts in single-school areas which belong to the Church of England. Where does he get his figures from?
§ LORD R. CECIL
I have explained that my difficulty was very great owing to the form of the Government Return. I made them up from the Blue-book, but it is possible it is a few hundreds out.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
It is a mistake, not of hundreds, but of thousands. The information provided for me by the Board of Education shows that there are only 3,700 schools that come into this category in the single-school areas. Let us see how it is they are treated. In the case of schools under limited trusts the transfer is compulsory, but we are quite prepared to meet that difficulty. The difficulty we are met with is this—these schools have to be used for purely educational purposes, that is the express object provided for in their trusts. The local authority have to keep the school-house in repair. In some cases it may be necessary for them to extend it. Let the House contemplate what complication and difficulty we should get into if we had not the control of the fabric. Indeed in many cases it would be a considerable relief to the managers to have that onus placed on the shoulders of the local authority. Then there is left to the denomination the use of the building on Saturdays and Sundays when they may use the school for the whole of the legitimate educational purposes of the Church. The other schools, under loose trusts, are not transferred compulsorily; privately-owned schools can only be transferred by agreement. Now what are the financial conditions of these transfers? I have referred to the limited trusts and to the loose trusts. In single-school areas, the school shall be transferred and the burden of keeping it in repair and extending it will fall on the local education authority. No rent will be paid for the school, because the local education authority will be carrying out the purpose of the trust. An undertaking will be given by the local education authority that such teaching as comes within the limits of the syllabus named in the Bill will be given regularly five days a week if demanded by the trustees. Facilities, real facilities and not illusory ones, will be given on five days a week, and on Saturdays and Sundays the whole use of the fabric. In the case of loose trusts—
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
It is very difficult to say, but I doubt if there are more than 295 Church of England schools. In them rent becomes a matter of bargain, and also, when the transfer is made, whether Cowper-Temple teaching shall be given. In the privately-owned schools—there are about 2,000 Church of England schools—rent becomes a matter of bargain, and also the question of Cowper-Temple teaching, and Saturday and Sunday facilities and facilities during the week. We provide in the case of the whole of these transfers for the whole of these very privileges which are said to solve the problem of the parents' rights. When we are asked to extend parents' rights beyond what is stated in this Bill I should like to know what those rights are. The inalienable rights of the parents have been largely referred to in these debates, and what I want to know is whether it is as the hon. Member for Walton asked—Does it mean that every parent is to secure for his child teaching in his own faith? Does it mean that every Methodist, every Churchman, every Unitarian, every Christian Scientist, every Jew, every Spiritualist is to have teaching for his child—special religious instruction—in every school he is pleased to send his child to?
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
Oh, then the parents' right is to be not as a right but a matter of expediency. Who is to appoint the teacher? The hon. Member for Walton says that he is the apostle of this principle. ["No."] Then he is the last apostle. If we granted to every one of the religious denominations the right of the parent to special religious instruction for his child, to whatever school he sent it, this means the consideration of the point as to the teacher. Is this to apply to every school? That is another pertinent question. Is it to be applied by every child having a religious teacher of his own denomination in the school? The Bishop of Manchester says "No." Is it to be provided for by erecting an 142 enormous number of small denominational schools—a proposal which is often made? No proposal that has ever been made could be more harmful to the educational system. Hon. Members familiar with Ireland know that one of the curses of Irish elementary education is the fact that in a very large number of towns in Ireland, especially in the north of Ireland, you have quite an uncommon number of little schools with thirty and forty children, which cannot be properly staffed and taught, which are vastly expensive, and which do not even solve the religious difficulty. We may ask, how many children are required to justify the demand of a separate teacher or a separate school? I understand that the limit is put at thirty. But why limit the number to thirty if it is the inalienable right of the parent? Is there to be no inalienable right for twenty-nine when there are are only twenty-nine children? If it is to be done by a separate teacher for each denomination, where is the supply of your teachers to come from? If teachers teach their own sect, why should not all have an equal privilege? Does it mean that the trusts are to be subordinated to the wishes of the parents? That question has produced several replies, sometimes from the same person. Apparently the inalienable right of the parent to have his child brought up in his own faith is a right to be exercised in his private capacity and at the expense of the State. We have never denied the right of any parent to bring up his child under what observances he pleases provided he pays for it. He has a right to see that the State does not insist on teaching his child that in which he does not believe, and that right we are prepared to concede. He has no right to require at the public expense instruction in his own particular faith. The parents who really concern themselves about the religious faith of their children do not rely only on the instruction they may receive at the elementary school. The parents who do not trouble are not likely to make any private effort to instil religious feeling in their children and they will not be made to concern themselves by talk about inalienable rights or by multiplying denominational schools. This subject has played a large part in 143 the educational campaign in Lancashire. The hon. Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool and the Bishop of Manchester have undertaken to speak for Lancashire on this subject; but on it Lancashire has not always the same voice. I find that the Bishop of Manchester and the hon. Member for Walton stated in the famous letter to The Times that in the elementary schools of the country the right of the parents to determine the character of the religious education which shall be given to their children—Is one of the points on which it is certain that an overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of Lancashire will insist.They were challenged by my hon. friend the Member for the Abercromby Division of Liverpool and others. They were asked: "Do you mean that the parents' right shall override the trust?" The hon. Member for Walton said of course it did, but the Bishop of Manchester took up a different position. Only a few days later, at a public meeting in Manchester, the Bishop said that he was prepared to grant this right, not if it overrode the trust, but without impairing the trusts; so that there you have a conflict between the parents' rights and the rights of property. The position we are now left in with regard to parents' rights is more than ever confused. The "parental rights" as advocated do not mean the unfettered rights of parents, who constitute the great mass of the public, to control the public elementary schools for which they pay. Parental rights are to be the rights of the parents to agree with the trust deeds. If they do not agree with the trust deeds the trust deeds are to prevail. I have no unkindly feeling towards the Bishop of Manchester, but as I read his proposals in the Press and elsewhere I gather that they are these—Let the parental right prevail universally, but when I say 'universally' I mean (on second thoughts) where the trusts do not forbid them to prevail. We agree for the sake of peace to the establishment of absolute educational equality, but I mean the equality which will preserve to us all our existing privileges at the public expense.I would ask, then, what it is the Church of England itself has to consider. I hear men talk about the strength of the Church's position. I do not know exactly to what they refer, but if they mean 144 that they will be able to hang on to their present attitude for a couple of years, and then that there must be a change of Government, they are taking a very shortsighted view of the public movement. Some of their wisest counsellors believe that also. I find that the Bishop of Wakefield gave a solemn warning at the Representative Church Council last week when he said that—Churchmen were giving the impression that they cared more for their internal differences than for the general educational progress of the country… the spectacle of Christian people, not without much bitterness in many cases, continuing this controversy over many years had become a scandal and a stumbling block.And—They were not so strong in regard to their Church schools as they were.One thing that the Act of 1902 has done is that it has opened the floodgates; and, furthermore, the preponderance of the Church schools has largely diminished. One of my hon. friends asked me a question, I think on Friday or Monday, as to the number of children in attendance in the Church schools in 1897 and 1907, showing the increase or decrease in the decennial period. During these ten years the number of children in the Church schools in average attendance increased by 28,000; the number in the Roman Catholic schools increased by 45,000, while the number in the council and other schools increased by 729,145. That is an indication of which, I think, Churchmen will do well to take note. It means an enormous change in the numbers of children who are passing into the publicly controlled schools. There is another consideration which Churchmen should bear in mind—and that is the onward march of local government. You have given the local authorities some taste of what they may do since 1902 and there is some indication of what they intend to do. They are to keep the schools in good repair, and in consenting to the control of these schools being in their hands they are not likely to lie quiet, even if this Government went out of power, with a control which gave them only one-third of the managers. They are not going to agree, in regard to inspection to part with control so long as the schools may dip their hands into the pockets of the ratepayers. Furthermore, in reference to veto on the appointment 145 or dismissal of teachers, I would point out that really the most important element in the educational controversy is: "Who is to pay for and to control the teacher?" I turn to the proposals made from the opposite side, and I find a unanimity that, whatever may happen, the teachers are to be selected for a denominational purpose. I agree that in some instances this selection may be absolutely vital. In the Roman Catholic schools it would be an outrage on the feelings of the parents to have' a child taught by Protestant teachers. Roman Catholics disagree with Protestants in matters of history, and they could not have in the Roman Catholic schools the same teaching, for example, of the Reformation as in the Protestant schools. We have provided for that special case in the only way which fairly meets the requirements of the case. I know that strong objection is taken to contracting-out on both sides of the House. I wish it were not necessary; I wish that all our schools could come into the State system. Contracting-out is not a new proposal. The hon. Member for the Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities and the hon. Member for Preston proposed contracting-out in 1906. Curiously, the proposal made by the hon. Member for Preston was almost exactly the proposal you now find in this Bill—contracting-out on the widest possible scale, not contracting-out in special cases, not contracting-out for the four-fifths schools, but contracting-out on a wholesale basis; yet the hon. Member for the Walton Division was found in the lobby supporting that proposal which he now thinks good enough to beat our backs with. Then there was the Archbishop of Canterbury's proposal in the House of Lords, suggesting that there should be contracting-out under certain conditions with regard to the teachers. If you are to have contracting-out, you must consider on what terms the contracting-out schools are to stand. The, noble Lord the Member for Chorley suggested that our proposal would drive these schools back to the nineties. Up to 1897 the grant was 31s.; from 1897 to 1902 it was roughly 36s.; from 1902 to now it is 36s. to 42s. or 43s. plus rate aid. Now we suggest 47s., which is an increase of 5s. 6d. to 6s., and if we are driven back 146 to the nineties there is a difference of something like 16s. between now and then.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
The noble Lord's figures will not bear scrutiny. Yesterday he quoted figures with regard to the schools in Lancashire, but they are not to be found in official documents, and I must regard them as not being reliable.
§ SIR PHILIP MAGNUS (London University)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give the increase in the council schools during that time?
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
It has been very large, I agree; and the increase of our grant is very large. We are prepared to devote £1,500,000 as extra grant, and this extra grant will bring a benefit to the constituencies represented by hon. Members opposite. The city of Liverpool alone will, according to the Return, get the advantage of an equivalent of l¾d. in the rate, and every county, borough, and local education authority will receive a benefit from the grants which we are prepared to make under the provisions of the Bill. The noble Lord suggested that the whole thing was abnormal. He took two instances. This is the kind of thing to which we are subjected. He said that in Ebbw Vale we are giving assistance equivalent to an eight-penny rate. I pass over the fact that there is not the same valuation in Ebbw Vale as there is in West Ham. Such is the enthusiasm for education in Ebbw Vale, and such are the requirements of the district, that they are prepared to bear what is equivalent to a half-crown rate, an example that might well be followed in some Lancashire towns. He compares that with West Ham, where the benefit is only one-eighth or one-third of a penny. But in the comparison he made he altogether overlooked the fact that we have provided West Ham, as a necessitous school area, with a grant of £48,000 during the last few years. The benefits which are to be given to Ebbw Vale have been given beforehand to West Ham. Turn to Edmonton. That is another case in 147 point. It has a small benefit, I admit, under this scheme, but it has received £9,000 as a necessitous area during the last few years. You believe the grant should be based on population. We believe it should be based on some system which will bear direct relation to the needs of the neighbourhood. When we come to the discussion of these figures in so far as they affect Catholic schools, I would like to point out a rather startling comparison. I admit that there is a very large margin between the 47s. grant and the total cost per child in Catholic as well as in Church schools. There is meant to be a difference. You cannot be outside the State system and have the advantage of being outside the State system without suffering some of the disadvantages. Mark what happens in Scotland. The grant in Scotland, I think, works out at about 38s. per child in the case of Catholic schools. There is no rate and there is no public control. The subscribers there pay very large sums of money. I do not suggest that 38s. would be enough in England. In Scotland the system works on the 38s. basis, and it can work in England. I am perfectly sure that 47s. is far above the average of the cost in many of the towns, even in Lancashire. I have some figures that have been before me for some time. They show that the cost works out in some towns even under 40s. I admit it is rather rare. In many it works out at 42s. Forty-seven shillings is in many instances a generous allowance. I do not wish the Catholic schools of this country to be unfitted for the work for which they exist. I for one would never be a party to the destruction of the Catholic schools, considering all the circumstances of the case. But let me point out the great difference between those who wish to contract out of the State system and those who are prepared to come in. The whole difference lies round the selection of the teacher. Those denominations who control a very large number of elementary schools in this country have the right to preserve their teacherships for members of their own denominations. They have also an equal right with Nonconformity to such posts as they can secure in open competition in council schools, and they 148 have also preserved to them a number of posts which are closed to Nonconformists and everybody else. That is a marked difference, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if he can find no justification for thus treating these schools outside the State system, which wish to have complete control of their teachers and wish to preserve their teacherships for members of their own denomination, he is mistaken altogether as to the basis on which all grants have been made in the past and will be made in the future. There have been many descriptions of the contracting-out system offered in this House. I only offer one of the Bill in so far as it relates to contracting-out. We believe in providing, as far as we can in this Protestant country, for a settlement on a Protestant basis, making an exception and provision for non-Protestant parents. That, I think, sums up the policy of our Bill. Let me turn to the provisions which we hope to incorporate in our Bill that provide for the preservation of Protestant teaching. I know some hard things have been said about Cowper-Temple teaching. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is not prepared to say hard things about it. I think in 1906 he said in this House that there was a great deal of good in it. His exact words were really rather telling. He said—I attach the greatest value to Cowper-Temple teaching. I not only said I attached great value to it, but I said in my speech I would prefer this unjust and one-sided system to a system which excluded religion.That was one declaration on the subject. I come to the next—I believe there is in it a great deal of most admirable religious teaching.If that be so, I think we have, at all events, disposed of some of the critics on his own side. But what is Cowper-Temple teaching? It is defined in the Bill as being in consonance with the syllabus of the London County Council. I go through that syllabus and I find there the basis of the whole Christian doctrine that is taught in our Churches to-day. You have teaching which covers not only the Old Testament, but the New Testament. Take the First Standard, for instance. The children are to learn the Lord's Prayer, the twenty-third 149 Psalm, simple stories from the Book of Genesis, the leading facts in the life of Our Lord in simple language. I pass over the intermediate standards, and I come to Standard IV., which is a very good example. The children learn the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, St. Matthew, chap. 5, verses 1–12, St. Matthew, chap. 22, verses 35–40, Psalm 121, the 14th chapter of John, 1–15, Psalm 125, studies from the Book of Joshua, a fuller account of the life of Our Lord, with special reference to the events which occurred during the last visit to Jerusalem prior to the final appearance before Pilate. That is the kind of teaching that is given, and it is described in one of the religious papers—I think it was the Church Times—as the religious invention of the County Council. Happily, that is not the opinion either of the people of this country or of the people who send their children to Cowper-Temple schools. There are Members of this House who were trained in schools under this Cowper-Temple teaching, and I do not know that they make any worse Members on that account.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
The charge that is made against this system is that it is the teaching which Nonconformists want. We have heard so much of that in these debates that I had imagined it was played out. It is what they do not disapprove of, but it is not all they want. There are some Gentlemen in this House so ignorant of Nonconformity that they do not know there is any difference between Presbyterians and Baptists.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
I do not know that the difference can be better personified than in the cases of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and my hon. friend who was president of the Baptist Union last year. I say this teaching is not the teaching that all Nonconformists want. Presbyterians do not ask for the Shorter Catechism; Wesleyans do not ask for the Wesleyan Catechism or for Wesley's 150 Notes on the New Testament; Baptists do not ask for their form of teaching of Baptismal Regeneration. But they find it a very good basis, as, indeed, do all the Christian Churches, on which you can build up afterwards a religious superstructure. I believe the hon. Member for North-West Manchester, who made a glowing speech yesterday—I quite agree, from his point of view, it was a very good one—said that many local authorities did not give Cowper-Temple teaching to-day. What does he mean by many? There are eight out of the thousands of local authorities who do not give Cowper-Temple teaching. He asked: "How would the President of the Board of Education propose to deal with the cases of Devonshire, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire, which had no scheme of religious instruction?" I was rather impressed with that point, and I have taken the trouble to look at what takes place in the case of Devonshire. The question was asked of the Devon County Council:—Can you give any information now in the possession of your authority as to the religious instruction, other than that in its regulations or syllabus, given in individual council schools?To that there is the reply—When preparing their regulations the authority decided not to interfere with the discretion of the managers in regard to religious instruction. Speaking generally, religious instruction in the council schools is given on the same lines as under the syllabus of the school boards before the appointed day. The authority has made no special inquiries as to the nature of the instruction given.On the strength of that information it is insinuated in this House that in Devonshire no religious instruction is given in the county council schools. The next question is—Are any council schools in the authority s area known to give no religious instruction, and, if so, how many?The answer is—No council schools are known to give no religious instruction.The same thing applies to Warwickshire and Worcestershire. If the instruction is to be left to the managers or the teachers, I say it is unfair, therefore, to stigmatise the teaching as irreligious. I quite agree that the teacher can only teach well that which he believes, but he cannot teach all that he believes; 151 he cannot teach the mature conception and refined distinction of a highly sensitive intelligence. But the syllabus adopted in the council schools offers, if well done, a simple basis for religious and moral instruction. It is the sort of teaching given on most days in Church schools, and it is suitable for children of tender years. If taught with sincerity by a good man, it is valued by all those whose first consideration is the welfare of the children. To Churchmen I would say, let them recognise frankly what they do get under the Bill of my right hon. friend. The first thing they have got is that the Bill recognises the essential difference between the problem in the single-school parishes and in the other parishes where there is a choice of schools. It also recognises the necessity of a positive definition of Cowper-Temple teaching. The Cowper-Temple clause is a purely negative clause. In this Bill we provide a positive definition of Cowper-Temple teaching. It also recognises what Churchmen care for most—that if they hand over their schools there shall be some security that Christian teaching shall continue to be provided in them. Now I turn, and it is my last point, to the teacher. We are now providing that the teachers shall receive equal treatment, and if this principle is applied to the teacherships, the closing of teacherships in Church schools against Nonconformists must break down. The hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division said they gave full control with the simple exception of the teacher under the previous Act, but that simple exception of the teacher was the most important of all. The hardships under which Nonconformist teachers suffered in the past were eased in some slight degree by the Act of 1902, but the headmastership is still closed against them. Is it any wonder that Nonconformists have declared that that cannot go on? They have had to fight for their rights in the past, and are not likely to lie quiet under existing disabilities. Nonconformists have not been reared under the kindly patronage of the nobility and gentry. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh."] For generations they have suffered persecution, and now, as men's views are widening, as the numbers of the Nonconformists grow, persecution is passing away and is passing into some- 152 thing known as toleration. We believe that toleration ought to be succeeded by equality. May I, then, take it that whenever a teachership is provided by the local authority with the whole salary paid out of the public fund absolute equality is to prevail in all schools? No, Sir; this claim to tests and exclusion cannot continue. The position of the Established Church has been modified in recent years. Nonconformity has grown with increasing rapidity all over the country, and even at this time, for the first time, but not for the last, the Established Church finds itself in a minority. That is a remarkable fact which those who have the interests of the Established Church at heart would do well to remember. The demand for teachers is exceeding the supply, and we do an educational injustice when we prevent a good man from being appointed to a school where he might well carry on educational work, merely because he is a Presbyterian, a Wesleyan, or a Baptist, I do not think it is any wonder that the agitation for free teacherships and freedom from tests should have continued from year to year. I desire, as far as possible, that the teaching of children should be in the hands of men and women of religious spirit, but you cannot foster religious spirit by test and exclusion. Members of the Established Church will not for a single moment imagine that in claiming for Nonconformists equal rights with Churchmen I mean any harm to the Established Church—[OPPOSITION cries of "Oh"]—perhaps hon. Gentlemen will give me credit for some sincerity, but these sectarian struggles injure education in its religious as well as its secular aspect and break the patience of all sensible men. Those who hope for a conciliatory spirit do it as much for the sake of the spiritual life as for the educational efficiency of the schools. We appeal to Churchmen as well as Nonconformists to take a broad view. This world is not so good that we can afford to dissipate religious forces by squabbles and jealousies. The Church of England may have to give up some privileges. It is hard to give up privileges and hard to share with others what we have always regarded as our exclusive rights; but for the Church the sacrifice will be worth while, and she must recognise those who belong to other religious 153 bodies as allies and not subordinates in the long war between right and wrong.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON (Oxford University)
said that the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech compared unfavourably with that of the First Lord of the Admiralty. The House was now left in still further doubt as to the intentions and proposals of the Government if they were to attach any importance to the words of the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading. He had commended the Bill of the Bishop of St. Asaph and had endeavoured to show that the two measures, the Bishop's Bill and his own, were so alike as to be almost indistinguishable. But the Bill of the Bishop of St. Asaph and that of the Government were in essential parts incompatible and repugnant documents, and the latter measure only was before the House. What they had before them was the Second Reading of the Government Bill, and the merits of that Bill had been pressed upon them with the utmost vehemence in all its most repulsive provisions by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. What was the principle of the Bill? That every public elementary school was to be undenominational. This was emphatically an undenominational Bill, and the parent of every child who wanted undenominational teaching was to have such a school within reach of him. The Government in laying down that principle had ignored a large factor in the educational provision of the country, namely, that about half the children in the elementary schools were brought up in voluntary schools where denominational religious teaching was given, that that teaching went on with the goodwill of the parents, without violence to conscience, without any pressure on the teacher, and without detriment to the peace of the locality. He did not dispute the fact that there were areas where there were a considerable number of Nonconformists who had only one school to attend and in which there were only Church teachers. He was not prepared to say that because no complaints was made no grievance was felt, or that if there were a choice of schools the parents would not avail themselves 154 of it. He had had strange experiences of the way in which Nonconformist children went to denominational and even Roman Catholic schools where there was a full choice of schools, but he had never denied that the single-school area difficulty was inadequately dealt with in 1902. That grievance, however, might be dealt with without hardship to the existing voluntary schools, but the Government did not propose to take any such course, but were creating a grievance which, compared to that now existing, was simply intolerable. They proposed to confiscate the rural schools and to take other people's property, built and maintained for a particular purpose, and to use it for purposes for which it was not intended. The right hon. Gentleman said there were only 3,700 schools under trusts or limited trusts which would be confiscated.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said it was quite true that the right hon. Gentleman did not use the word confiscated, but where they definitely proposed to take other people's property, built and maintained for a particular purpose, and appropriate it to themselves, and use it for purposes for which it was not intended he called that confiscation. When the right hon. Gentleman limited the figures to 3,700 he could not precisely contradict his figures, although he had some doubts as to their accuracy. Exception had been taken to the use of the word "confiscation," but cases had already been given of schools built for a particular purpose held under trusts to give education in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England, and these would be taken over, the freehold would be assigned to the local authority, and the teaching which would be given in those schools would be precisely that sort of teaching which the schools were built to avoid. Besides this the parents of the children were to have no choice if they disliked that teaching. Under what conditions was this done? These schools were held under trusts to give education in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England. The Board of Education said, 155 "We are Charity Commissioners. We can and we will, interpret your trusts. So far as secular education is concerned, the local authority will carry them out. So far as the doctrines of the Church of England are concerned, we will allow you, as a favour, the use of the schools for the purposes of catechism on Saturdays and Sundays, and on one or two days after school hours if you can get the children to come in." That seemed to him to add legal chicanery to robbery, and the fact that the right hon. Gentleman was, as he said, only dealing with 3,700 schools was no extenuation of his offence. But, with all this, they did not get a uniform system, because they left to denominationalists the poor consolation of contracting-out. He had not heard any one say a good word for contracting-out. The right hon. Gentleman himself, he thought, regarded it as a painful necessity if the Bill was to have any chance of getting through. In fact, it was put in because he did not wish, as he said, immediately to destroy the Catholic schools. He would only say this of contracting-out—that it was educationally retrograde and bad, financially impossible, and essentially unjust. The sum named as the payment for each child, 47s., was impossible. But the schools were not secure even of that, and there was no assurance that, when the circumstances of the time were, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, favourable to the destruction of Roman Catholic and other voluntary schools, he might not reduce the 47s. to a point at which existence was practically impossible. The right hon. Gentleman had said the thing could be easily done for that money. If he would study the Return for 1907 on the incidence of rates and the cost of maintenance in the various schools, he would find that in counties where education was cheaper the cost of maintenance alone, the payment of teachers and provision of books and appliances came to 8s. 6d. a child more than the 47s., and that in almost every borough and urban district it came to 15s. 6d. more. In London, it came to a great deal more than that. He would like to ask whether this solution of the question met any one of the requirements which a solu- 156 tion of the education question ought to meet? Did it promote religious equality? Could any settlement be said to carry with it the quality of even treatment or religious equality if half the nation got the education of their children free, and if a considerable portion had to pay, not only a contribution towards the education of the rest, but also for the teaching of their own children and the maintenance of their school buildings in addition? He had heard exhortations from hon. Gentlemen on the other side to accept a national solution. What they meant by a national solution was a universal system of council schools. But was that a national solution? It was a solution which gratified Nonconformists, but Nonconformists were not the nation. He would not wish to speak with any disrespect of the Nonconformist conscience, but that extremely wayward and somewhat tyrannous creature was, happily, not the conscience of the nation, and a solution which gratified a section of the community, narrow-minded and tyrannous in religious matters, and which left a very large proportion of the population dissatisfied, labouring under a keen sense of hardship, was in no sense a national solution. Was it educationally good? He did not see how they could call any solution which imposed the contracting-out principle an educational solution. A contracted-out school would be starved: it would be outside local control, and it would be subject merely to the inspection of the Department. They all knew very well about the old system of inspection of voluntary schools. The inspectors necessarily took a more lenient view of the voluntary schools, knowing as they did that they were constantly labouring under financial difficulties, and that the board schools had command of the rates. The same thing would inevitably occur until the right hon. Gentleman said: "Now circumstances admit of my destroying all the voluntary schools in the kingdom." The solution which involved contracting-out did not carry out the mandate which hon. Members opposite claimed to have received from the country—the mandate of complete popular control and no tests for teachers. Popular control disappeared in the 157 contracted-out school; and what security was there that there would not be tests for teachers? The scheme of the Government did not make for religious equality; it was not a national solution; and it was not educationally good. What was the educational policy i of the Government? It was not the same in England as in Ireland; it was not the same in the House of Lords as in the House of Commons. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had proposed an Irish Universities Bill which created a denominational atmosphere for higher education in Ireland. Under the right hon. Gentleman's scheme there was not the slightest chance of a Protestant being appointed to any post in the Roman Catholic University, or of a Roman Catholic being appointed to any post in the Presbyterian University. In England the same right hon. Gentleman had introduced and carried through the House what he constantly and proudly described as an undenominational Bill. So much for the consistency of the Government in different parts of the United Kingdom. Now he came to the consistency of the Government in the two Houses of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman had defended his Bill in the tone of a "whole-hogger." He was for the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill—a Bill which was essentially undenominational. But what was the Bishop of St. Asaph's Bill, which the representative of the Government in the House of Lords entreated the Lords to read a second time, and to which the First Lord of the Admiralty besought the House of Commons to give the most friendly consideration? It was a Bill which admitted denominational teaching on two days at least in the week, not merely in the transferred voluntary schools, but also in every council school in the kingdom, and which allowed that teaching to be given by the regular teachers. He should like very much to know what the position of the Government really was. He supposed they would know when the Prime Minister closed the debate. There was no doubt that although the President of the Board of Education had made a most unconciliatory speech in which the possibility of settlement was compromised if not destroyed, the tone of the First Lord of the Admiralty was dis- 158 tinctly conciliatory, and for his own part he would not say a word which would make an amicable settlement of this painful question more difficult than it was. The First Lord of the Admiralty invited the Opposition to offer suggestions. It was not their business to offer suggestions. It was not they who had brought in the Education Bill, and it was not they who had unsettled the educational system. The Act of 1902 was working well over the greater part of the Kingdom. It was only working with difficulty where an effort had been made by some of the right hon. Gentleman's distinguished colleagues to make it work badly. He could not think that the whole scheme of elementary education wanted such complete reconstruction as was now proposed by the Government. They were told that terrible things would happen if the House of Lords declined to pass the Education Bill of 1906. Things had gone on pretty well since then, in spite of the somewhat partial administration by the Education Office of the provisions affecting the relationship of the voluntary schools and the local authorities. What they hoped for was something of a somewhat more conciliatory character than had been heard that night from the President of the Board of Education. He was not one of those who was alarmed by the secular bogey with which they were threatened in the national schools and the council schools, and which had been raised in this debate as it was raised in the debate of 1906. Secular education had been urged upon them from the benches below the gangway in a very earnest and powerful speech by a distinguished Member of the Labour Party, by whom the case could not have been better stated in the interest of education. It was also urged by certain eminent ecclesiastics, partly because it was popular, and partly because they thought that it would give more complete and full control of religious teaching than could be obtained under any other system. But whatever might be said or felt by the Labour Members, he was convinced that the working classes of the country did not want secular education, and would not have it, and that no Government which desired to prolong its existence for any reasonable term 159 would go to the country and say: "We are for secular education." For his own part, he hoped that as these debates went on they would hear something which would tend more to a settlement of the undoubtedly open questions left by the Act of 1902, than what they had heard that night. For his own part, he would accept no settlement which would not make for religious equality and provide for the parent the religious education which he desired for his children.
§ MR. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
said he remembered many debates on Education Bills, but he thought that the characteristic of the present, as compared with its predecessors, was that on the present occasion they had listened to each others' views more quietly and patiently than they used to do, and they seemed to understand each others' views better than before. That, in itself, was a hopeful sign. If they could reduce this burning question in temperature to such a degree that they might handle it without blistering their fingers, they might come to a system which they might all more or less accept; but he doubted whether the seeds of a compromise had yet been successfully sown. At any rate, they had not yet germinated in this House. He was not certain that they ought to have germinated in the suggestions made in the first speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty; because, if he understood that speech aright, it meant that they were to import into the Bill before the House the very objectionable non-educational provision of contracting-out, and add to that another objectionable and non-educational provision known as the right of entry. As long as an Education Bill contained them he believed it would not pass this House, or if it did pass this House it certainly would not become law. The dangers of contracting-out were not lessened, but greatly increased, by any proposal to add the objectionable feature known as the right of entry. The Act of 1902 did good to education, at the cost of doing violence to conscience and to the well-known political principle, of long application in this country, of the public control of public money. Violence to 160 conscience consisted, as explained in this debate, in compelling persons to pay for the teaching of religious tenets; the teachers, who were public servants, were wholly remunerated for their work, including religious teaching, out of public funds. That was an evil in the existing law which would have to be removed, and would be removed sooner or later. Therefore, the Act which did good educationally did violence to the great political principle of public control of public money. He had tried to discover some other example in this country in which public money was spent, managed, controlled, guided, and administered by private persons privately appointed. He was speaking of money drawn from the taxpayers and ratepayers of the country, and he knew of no other case in this country in which the expenditure of public money was not accompanied by public control, or by persons appointed by the public. He was anxious both on public grounds and on the grounds of conscience that these anomalies in the Act of 1902 should be remedied. But he would not remedy those anomalies by a Bill which would do violence to education. If it was wrong to do violence to conscience and to political principles, it was wrong to do violence to education; and he was sure that it would do violence to education if contracting-out were carried into effect. He had heard claims made on behalf of the parents. He did not believe that the parents of the children in any of the schools made the claim which hon. Members supposed they did. What they did ask for was not denominational teaching in the faith which they themselves believed, nor for the appointment of teachers who held the faith which they themselves held. The real demand by parents was for good schooling and a good school. He believed that if they were to take the parents of the children in council schools, voluntary schools, or any other schools, and consulted them one by one, not 5 per cent. would raise this question of religious teaching or management by persons belonging to a single religious community in the country. The Roman Catholics and Jews were in a different category; but he believed that if the parents of children 161 in council schools, Church of England schools, and Wesleyan schools were consulted one by one, not 5 per cent. of them would desire special religious instruction in their faith. What did the parent want? He wanted for his child education. He was conscious that he had himself missed that boon, and how much he had missed by that lack. He saw more thoroughly than he had ever done before that the race of life for the future was to the educated, and what he demanded for his child was good teaching and a good school. It did not matter very much to him whether that good teaching was accompanied by the learning of certain catechisms associated with certain Churches or not. If it was said that a parent sent his children to a school because the teacher was an ecclesiastical person, and that the school should remain under ecclesiastical control, the parent would reply that that was not what he wanted—he wanted good teaching and a good school. If they asked the parent whether he was anxious that religion should be taught in the schools, he believed that in a great majority of cases the parent would say "Yes." Some parents might not be either for church or chapel, but they wanted their children to have some religious teaching in the schools. They would find many parents throughout the country who were not teetotalers in practice, who were not averse to entering public-houses, or taking a glass of beer, but who liked their children to receive instruction in temperance. Similarly, there were parents who might not be persons of religious mind, but who were desirous that their children should receive some teaching in religion, but he did not be-live that there was anything like a majority of parents, or even a large minority of parents, who desired their children to receive a particular kind of teaching provided by persons belonging to a particular denomination. The parent did not care for the Church or the Catholic, or even the Nonconformist view; he cared for the school. If he wanted a compromise, it must be a compromise which would produce good schools. He did not want right of entry, or contracting-out in this or any other Bill, and it was clear that there was no party in the House prepared to accept contracting-out, and no party con- 162 tent with the right of entry as the other ground of compromise. Compromise in things far more difficult than this had been arranged. Quite recently a compromise had been arranged in a most bitter controversy in a non-party way, and if he might make a suggestion to the Government on this matter he would suggest that they should withdraw this Bill and set up the round table conference, to which so much reference had been made, so that it might be possible in the next year to bring in an agreed Bill. If, however, an agreed Bill could not be arrived at, then they should bring in a Bill of principles in this matter. It was no Bill of Liberal principles that included in it the principle of contracting out, the removal from public control, as it now existed, of a large number of the schools of this country. It was not a Bill of Liberal principles that said that tests were not to be applied to teachers, and yet provided that in all these schools that contracted-out teachers should have tests riveted on them more closely than ever. Let the Government affirm wholly and solely public control of education paid by public money. Let thorn also affirm that there should be no theological tests for teachers. Let them carry the Bill through the House, and then if that Bill met in another place the fate which other Education Bills had met it would at least meet its full honourably and bravely. It would not be a weak compromise based on a policy which would damage education. If a Bill of Liberal principles, framed on the great Liberal principles for which the Liberal Party had fought for so many years, was disregarded and thrown out by the House of Lords, then let the Government take the opinion of the country upon it. This question might not be settled by one, two, or three general elections. He could not agree to the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ MR. H. GOOCH (Camberwell, Peckham)
said they had heard chiefly, in the present debates of the religious question, but the religious question very rarely troubled them in practice, because in most cases there was a choice of schools, and a choice of religious instruction, and consequently no difficulty. In single-school areas of 163 course, a difficulty might arise, but in that case it would arise through the parents belonging to more than one denomination. The solution of that difficulty lay in providing in the school sufficient types of religious instruction to meet the various types of religion of the parents outside. The House must recognise that the people who paid rates and taxes in a given area had different religious views and had (within reasonable limits) a right to have their views met. It was contended by hon. Gentlemen opposite that if that principle was conceeded every sort and kind of opinion would demand facilities. In practice that was not found to be the case. How many classes had to be provided for Cowper-Temple teaching was taken as the mean, and he thought that teaching extraordinarily good, and hoped he would never see anything done to remove it from the schools, but it had one great defect. It did not meet the views of everybody. They had to deal with two other 'classes, one which wanted more definite dogmatic religious teaching than was given in the County Council syllabus, and the other which wanted less. Those who wanted less had their point met by the conscience clause. That clause also met the difficulty of those who desired secular education and no religious teaching at all. Now, as this class had an option under the conscience clause it was only fair and reasonable that a pers in who wanted more definite and dogmatic teaching for his child should also have the same option. The London County Council in East London, where the population was largely Jewish, bad made special arrangements for the schools. They had specially rearranged the schools in order to meet the question of the Jewish holidays. But when a member of the Church of England desired to have his children taken to Church on Ash Wednesday, or any other day which fell in school term, there were considerable difficulties in his way. The right of entry had been recognised by statute for many years in the industrial schools supported with public money. Not only for the past forty years had they had denominational teaching, but the minister went to the industrial school to give that teaching to the particular 164 child whose parents desired it. This facility had worked very smoothly and happily. Section 18 of the Industrial Schools Act, said—In determining on the school the justice and magistrates shall endeavour to ascertain the religious persuasion to which the child belongs, and shall, if possible select a school of such religious persuasion and the order shall specify such religious persuasion.This principle was recognised even in the Children Bill, because Clause 62 of that Bill was to the same effect. Therefore, it was absurd to say that the same principle could not be observed in the elementary school. The Act of 1902 did make for a national system by providing that there should be only one class of school; but this Bill would undo that provision. This Bill would set up two kinds of schools, and gravitate distinctly away from the goal and make a national system perfectly impossible. The Government offered contracting out. He held contracting out on the Government terms to be unjust in principle and perfectly disastrous in practice. No one could accept contracting-out who knew how it would work out in practice in the schools. Take the case of London, with which he was fairly conversant. The education of a child in a non-provided school in London cost 76s. 8d.—in round figures say 77s. There were 150,000 children in the non-provided schools of London. The Government only offered 47s., and the cost was 77s. at the present moment. The cost of education, as everyone knew, would increase, if upon nothing else upon the salaries of the teachers, who had been placed on a rising scale of pay. If the contracting out school child cost 77s., what money would the managers have to provide? First of all, he was offered the grant of 47s. if he got it. The grant was not to exceed 47s. The provision of the Bill was in an absolutely negative form. There was no guarantee whatever for the continuous payment of the grant. There was nothing to prevent the Education Department from adding by Departmental Minute as many regulations as they pleased as conditions of payment of the Parliamentary grant, and when once the school had contracted-out, by the repeal of Section 7 of the Act of 165 1902, the local authority was relieved of all the responsibility. If it was difficult before the Act of 1902 for the voluntary schools to make up a deficit, it would be far more difficult at the present time. The schools had been reorganised, their classes had been cut down, their buildings remodelled, and their teachers were properly paid, being on a rising scale. To offer contracting-out on the present terms to such schools was a mockery and a farce. There was no guarantee whatever under the financial proposals as at present framed that a single farthing of any sort or kind would be paid from public moneys to these schools. The schools that had contracted-out would be left without rates, and with a grant which could be withdrawn or reduced and was in no way secure. At any rate they were told that the present financial arrangements would not last longer than 1911, and the whole thing might be recast when the school had already contracted-out, and there was no responsibility on the local education authority to maintain it. Even assuming the most favourable aspect of this case, every non-provided school in London which contracted-out would be at least 30s. short per annum, with the certainty of a greater deficit hereafter. Meanwhile, what about the school, the children, and the teachers of London? After an immense amount of labour and expense, the non-provided schools had been brought very nearly, if not quite, up to the level of the provided schools. The result of contracting - out in London would mean that the whole of these would begin to go back. First of all, the teachers who had been put on the same scale as the teachers in the council schools, and also upon a rising scale, would begin to leave, and would be replaced by inferior teachers of poor qualifications. The second thing that would happen would be that the contracted-out schools would lose the help of the Council's central machinery, its inspectors, its organisers, and all its central expert staff, and the result would be that the school would gravitate towards the minimum of efficiency. The plant of the school, the books, maps, desks, furniture and so forth, all of which 166 within the last four years they had brought up very nearly if not quite to the standard of the council school, would all go back too, and probably the buildings also. Did the Government seriously require that the supporters of contracted-out schools should be called upon to find 30s. in addition to the rates and taxes which they paid for the provided and non-provided schools? Surely it was perfectly unreasonable to ask them to do so simply because they happened to hold strong religious convictions. The result of contracting-out would be that they would go back to the bad old days before 1902, and the parent would be placed in the cruel dilemma of having either to give up his religious convictions or send his child to a school where that child's future welfare would be sacrificed and he would be handicapped for life. He wanted to take one or two practical points. They had heard a great deal about religious questions, but nobody he had heard in that House had dealt with the question as to how contracting-out would actually work in the schools even were there no religious question. Let them take the very necessary and practical work of the attendance officer. If the contracted-out school was outside the national system, how would the attendance officer deal with the children? Would he be able to enter the schools as he did now, and as he was able to do before 1902 in both provided and non-provided schools, and see that the children attended, or would he only be able to take the child as far as the gates and trust to luck for the rest? If he was unable to enter the school, if he had no jurisdiction, the inevitable result would be that many parents would try to withdraw their children from school, and would play off one school against the other, and the children would not attend ten times in the week as they wanted them to do, but only six times, or whatever was just enough to escape punishment by the magistrate when the parents were brought up. What about the accommodation? Would the contracted-out schools be recognised by the local authority? In London, very often they had a non-provided school and provided school in the same street, 167 sometimes two or three. At the present time they were all recognised as providing school places for the elementary school population. If the non-provided school did not provide accommodation, on what basis would the local authority draw up its accommodation for the neighbourhood? Then there was the question of scholarships. Would the contracted-out school children be eligible for scholarships? As long as scholarships were simply given on the result of examinations, anybody could compete in those examinations; but many were firmly opposed to the system of examination, and would like to choose scholars from our elementary schools by other means, and in that case where did the contracted-out child come in? Was he to be eligible for these scholarships? If not, why had the parents to pay for them out of the rates? A great deal of the child's school life was passed outside the school building altogether. There was wood-work and metal-work, instruction in which was given at nearly all the best elementary schools. At the present time there were 11,500 children out of the non-provided schools who were learning metal and manual work in the Council's centres. What was going to happen to those children if they were in a contracted-out school? Were they to be turned out? The parents of these children paid the rates and taxes, and had every right to send their children to those centres. Then there were 8,500 girls from non-provided schools who attended the centres. If those schools were contracted-out, were th'3 Government going to turn the girls out, and, if so, upon what ground? If, on the other hand, they allowed them to come in they would have another difficulty. Part of the education would be paid for out of the rates and part out of the taxes. If the children were allowed to go into the centre, half of the subjects taught would be paid out of the taxes, and the other half out of the taxes and rates. Before the debate closed tomorrow he looked to somebody on the Government Bench bending his mind to these matters, in order to tell them exactly how this contracting-out was going to work in the schools. There was one other curious aspect of this Bill. 168 If there was one thing which Liberals proposed on every possible occasion, it was that the schools should come under public control and be free from clerical control. If this Bill did anything it simply reversed the whole of that process. It took the schools away from public control, and put them under clerical control, which everybody regarded, he believed, Church people included, as one of the worst features of the old system. The Bill, if passed in its present shape, would offend against one of the chief canons of the Liberal Party. He need not add that there had been a crushing condemnation of the contracting-out principle by the National Union of Teachers. Anybody who knew how a school was and must be worked knew that contracting-out was a farce and a mockery, and that the whole thing would lead to absolute confusion and dislocation. The London education authority, on the advice of its expert officers, had had this matter under consideration for a considerable time, and it was discussed by the committees and sub-committees, and eventually by the Council, who passed the following resolution without a division—and he commended this especially to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, who was one of the ornaments of the County Council. This was the resolution of the Council—That in the opinion of the Council the statutory control as given by the Education Acts of 1902–3 to the Council over the non-provided schools, coupled with compulsory rate-aid, has very greatly increased their educational efficiency by: (1) Procuring the improvement of their buildings; (2) increasing the number and improving tae qualifications of the staff; (3) supplying improved apparatus, books and furniture; (4) providing instruction for adult unqualified teachers; (5) providing additional instruction in domestic subjects and manual training; (6) reorganising and combining small departments; (7) improving average attendance. That neither the proposed financial assistance nor the proposed supervision as set out in the Bill now before Parliament affords a sufficient guarantee of their continued efficiency. That it is undesirable that the education of children in the elementary State-aided schools should be withdrawn from the control of the directly elected representatives of London.To offer contracting-out on the present terms, in any shape or form, to London was a farce and a mockery. It was perfectly useless to offer them 47s., 169 57s., 67s., or even 77s. unless they had some permanent arrangement for the elementary school children in the non-provided schools in London; that was to say, if the Government desired that the children in the two types of schools should have the same chances and the same education. They had heard a good deal about compromises and conferences, and he could say truthfully that any compromise would be welcomed most earnestly by all those who were administering education up and down England. For at least twelve years past they had had an Education Bill brought into the House of Commons nearly every year. These Bills had excited the greatest animosity, and some of them, as in the case of 1906, had been debated very nearly from January to Christmas, and the work of the education authorities was immensely hampered and inconvenienced by the discussion of these Bills in Parliament If anybody could come forward with a compromise they would be only too glad to meet it. It was far more important to those who were administering this subject to get the matter settled, once and for all, than to secure any party advantage. But to offer contracting-out on the present terms for London simply meant that the educational machinery of London would be absolutely dislocated, and he asked the House not to accept contracting-out in principle till they knew how it was going to work out in practice.
§ SIR GEORGE SCOTT ROBERTSON (Bradford, Central)
said that after hearing the speech of the Minister for Education he felt bound to say how disappointed and depressed he was at certain remarks which he had made. He was, unfortunately, unable to hear the speech of the late Minister, and was still unable fully to appreciate the impression it made upon the House, for while he was informed that he was most conciliatory and amiable in his utterances, the view of The Times was that he was hardened and might be described as defiant. Now he supposed the Opposition would rather apply those epithets to the Minister for Education himself, and he was himself disappointed, at the terms in which he had spoken of the Catholic schools and the contracting-out 170 clause, and the arrangements which would be made in accordance with Clause 2 of the Bill. He represented a constituency which had a small but important number of Catholics, and having gone carefully into the subject, and into the amount of compensation which would be just and equitable to them if the Bill came into force, he had come to the conclusion that the maximum in Clause 2 was utterly inadequate for their wants, and that they would be placed in a position of decided inferiority to the other schools in the city. The Roman Catholic community in Bradford was extremely poor—one might almost say the word poverty derived a new significance to anyone who had visited the homes of these people. Another very remarkable characteristic was their devotion to their Church. A friend of his was a porter, and some time ago, owing to the heavy debts of the different schools, and an extension being necessary, the Catholic authorities thought it advisable to arrange to have all the money subscribed before they went into further expenditure. This porter paid 5s. a week for two years. That was one instance out of many of the devotion and sacrifice which the Catholics of Bradford continually exhibited. He had been shown pictures in Churches subscribed by mill-hands and a pulpit subscribed by a woman who sold cabbages in the street. The Church was to them their religion. They recognised themselves as members of a spiritual community which was so closely intimate with then-social life that it became a home, and more than a home, to every person there. But, important as their Church was to them, their schools were far more important. In the solemn exhortation which married couples received at the altar they gathered how important it was in this world and the next that the children should be brought up in the only religion which they professed to be a final and satisfactory one. He knew the schools of two churches quite well. Some years ago it was necessary to build new schools, and they incurred the enormous responsibility of spending £20,000 on their erection. To meet that sum the Catholics had to find £600 a year, or £12 a week. Every Saturday at twelve o'clock, whether it was the depth 171 of winter, whether it was raining heavily, or whether there was intense fatigue from heat, from twelve o'clock to five, the parish priest, nearly seventy years of age, and his poor curates, went about from door to door, collecting money to meet this charge. Not only that, but on the Sunday, after the prolonged successive services from seven in the morning till one, the same priests on the same occupation wandered forth from one o'clock till three, when the children's service began. At four o'clock they had a rest for meals—which was thoroughly well-earned—preparation of sermon and so on, until evening service at half-past six. This went on all the year round without intermission, because it was absolutely essential to collect this £12 a week. What was the position, supposing this Bill were to pass to-morrow? An additional charge would be laid on these two churches of £1,000 a year. That was another £20 a week. So that instead of £12 a week they would have to collect £32. The response of the people to the clergy was extraordinary and admirable. He was speaking of particular schools in Bradford and of instances which he actually knew and understood. This Bill would be a terrible hardship on them. Let the House consider the anger which would animate all those poor people who had to contribute to this extraordinary tax if they were obliged to provide this excessive sum every week. He did not know how the supporters of the Government could reconcile such a proposal with the Liberal principles of religious intolerance and equality of opportunity. He was very disappointed when he heard the Minister for Education speak as if it was right that a certain class of schools should be penalised because they contracted out. That was not just, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would most carefully consider this point. He was sure that, as a reasonable man, the right hon. Gentleman would give this very important matter the consideration it deserved. Many people must be tired of the tedium of these religious controversies. The only point he wished to make was that if people did not like contracting-out and having to pay this maximum sum let them maintain their position. Let the supporters of this Bill 172 say: "Our opponents are wrong, but let us try to convince them and alter their views by reasonable arguments and by every persuasive measure we can adopt, but we will not do anything which may be interpreted as resembling, however remotely, anything approaching persecution."
§ MR. BOLAND (Kerry, S.)
said that after the admirable speech to which they had just listened it was not necessary for an Irish Catholic to lay additional stress upon the position of Catholics in this country. He was deeply indebted to the hon. Gentleman for having put forward the specific instance of Bradford. Catholic children were always to be found in large numbers in the great populous centres, and it was there where hardships were bound to be experienced under this Bill. The Minister for Education had emphasised the position of Catholic schools. During the last ten years the increase in the average attendance in the Catholic schools of this country amounted to 40,000, whereas the increase in the case of Church schools had only been about 20,000. This great increase in the average attendance of Catholic children during a period of ten years was a proof of the remarkable way in which the Catholics of this country had determined to carry on the maintenance of Catholic schools. The views of the Irish Party and of the Irish Catholics in this country had been put forward so clearly by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and the hon. Member for East Mayo that it was hardly necessary for him to dwell upon these points. He thought, however, that it was necessary again to tell the House that they were opposed to the system of contracting-out, and if they had to accept that, then it must be done under such a system as they could look at. The hon. Member for Peckham had shown that as regarded the non-provided schools the 47s. limit in the Bill was absolutely impossible. The President of the Board of Education had stated that in the case of one or two schools it was possible at the present moment to carry on at under 40s. per child, but he did not contest the figures of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, who showed conclusively 173 that under this Bill an additional burden of £150,000 a year would be placed upon the Catholics of England to keep their schools up to a proper standard of efficiency. In some country districts where the rents were not high and expenses were low probably some Catholic schools could be carried on under 47s., but in such places as Lancashire and Bradford that was impossible. What was going to happen in future under a system of contracting-out if those schools wished to avail themselves of opportunities of co-ordination which they were anxious to establish throughout the country? If Catholic children wished to find their way into the Universities, and to avail themselves of the advantages of county scholarships, how could they do it under the contracting - out system? Surely they could not do one thing in Ireland and another in England. In a purely democratic way they were trying to meet the claim of the Irish people by giving them University education. He noticed that a valuable Amendment had been put down by the Chief Secretary for Ireland by which he was going to allow county councils in Ireland to strike rates in order that the clever boys might be able to avail themselves of University training in Ireland. He was very much afraid that, under this Bill, similar facilities would not be given to Catholic children in England. It might well happen that when the new Universities were established in Ireland the children of Irish parents in England would desire, with the aid of these scholarships, to go to Ireland for a University training more in harmony with their views than they could find in this country. However anxious the Government were to meet the Catholic case—and he welcomed the speech of the Minister for Education as showing his recognition of the sacrifices made by the Catholic parents of this country—he hoped nothing would be done to interfere in the future with the proper and efficient teaching of the Catholic children of this country.
§ MR. GEORGE ROBERTS (Norwich)
said that almost every speaker had expressed a desire to have religious equality for every citizen, and in nearly every case they had argued in favour 174 of some particular section with which they had been associated. At the last election the supporters of the Government pledged themselves to two principles as the basis for a settlement of this question: (1) The popular control of all publicly supported schools; and (2) the abolition of religious tests for teachers. He promised himself to support those principles and naturally he approached the consideration of this Bill from that standpoint. He thought it was generally agreed that this Bill did not fulfil those promises which were made at the last election. He was firmly convinced that no solution of the question would be obtained upon the lines laid down in this Bill. In his opinion there were only two solutions of the education difficulty—either to teach all forms of religious belief in the schools or to teach none at all; and as the teaching of all forms was impracticable, he was forced to the conclusion that the only possible solution was the secular solution. The debate seemed to be charged with an air of unreality, and judging from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading they were not supposed to apply themselves to the consideration of the Bill at all. Some sort of a conference, they were told, was contemplated by which it was hoped a compromise would be effected. He thought that before now some information on that point would have been vouchsafed, but as that had not been done he wished to put one or two questions to the Government. If it were true that a conference was contemplated, what would the scope of that conference be? If it was going to represent a certain number of well-organised sections he was not prepared to give his adhesion to it. He would like to know whether the whole question was to be open for consideration at the conference. Would it be in the power of those who favoured a secular solution to advance their views, and to show that it offered the only abiding settlement of the question? It seemed to him that so long as they endeavoured to teach a transcendental subject like religion in the schools of the nation at the nation's expense, so long would they find that the nation was sharply divided upon this matter. 175 It should be clearly understood that the great mass of the people were neither Churchmen, Nonconformists, Catholics, nor Jews. The great mass of the people were not associated with any of these sects. They who advocated the secular solution were in no way opposed to religion, but merely to the State regulation of religion. They were as profoundly religious as any of those who were attached to any of the sects which had loomed large in the debate. He had never yet met any person who was proud of the name of being irreligious; he believed that all were imbued with the desire to get nearer to the Godlike and to live better lives. If they realised that the great mass of the people were not associated with any particular sect, they must find that the difficulties in the way of the solution of this question were accentuated. Furthermore, they had the fact that religious thought in the community was undergoing great changes. In these days of the higher criticism, of comparative mythology, and of the new theology, religious thought was in a state of fluidity, and it was a dangerous task for anybody to undertake to impart any specific form of religious instruction to children. That was a point which ought to have great consideration at the hands of the Government, because it was now seriously proposed that all these sects should have the opportunity of having their particular form of religious instruction imparted at the national expense. If they were logical in this matter, they would have to concede the same right to non-religious sects also. He did not think that those who had been advocating what they called the right of the parent in this matter would be willing to concede the right of the parent to freethinkers and atheists to have their particular doctrines taught at the expense of the State. He felt that those who were attached to the Nonconformist churches were in a very peculiar position when they opposed the secular solution. It seemed to him that if it was wrong to teach adults religion at the expense of the State, it was equally wrong to teach little children dogmatic religion at the expense of the State. Nonconformists were in favour of disestablishment, and if they would 176 be logical they must also favour the secular solution of the education question. It might be said that the simple Bible teaching with which they were satisfied was not dogmatic religion, but a considerable number of people were convinced that it was dogmatic instruction. In fact it had been designated: "Nonconformity on the rates." This was another proof of the utter impossibility of reconciling the conflicting elements concerned in this question. One factor that had never been properly considered was the child itself. After all, education was a question which materially affected the children of the country, although it would not appear to be so regarded from these debates. Some consideration must be had for the powers of a child's mind to understand the things imparted to it. They were assured that religion could only be taught dogmatically. Modern education sought to induce the child to have an intelligent reason for everything it believed, but when they attempted to teach children religion they were forcing them to accept a thing that they who gave the instruction in all probability could not themselves comprehend or understand. In fact it simply meant that children in the schools were taught by rote, and they came to believe a thing because it had been constantly repeated to them. That was not a proper state of affairs. They were told also that in dealing with this question they must have regard to the exaggerated rights of parents. Sometimes he asked himself which parent was meant. In the whole of this discussion the parent was simply regarded as the man. He claimed that the woman had a right to consideration in these matters. Where a woman belonged to a different religion from the father, she has as much right to be considered as the man, and until women had the same electoral power as men he was not prepared to take the responsibility of determining which parent the child should follow in the matter of religion. The position of the Labour Party in regard to the contracting-out part of the Bill had already been clearly stated. They were strongly opposed to those proposals, and they would be compelled to give them their opposition. They hoped the proposals would not be 177 passed into law. One virtue attaching to the Act of 1902 was that it certainly removed the conditions which starved education prior to the passing of that measure. What was good in that Act ought to be conserved. It co-ordinated education and found adequate funds for providing education, and the Labour Party were not prepared to give their adhesion to anything that would go back on that matter. It was quite true that there were grievances arising out of that measure which should be removed, and therefore they hailed with great satisfaction the Government proposals for dealing with the single school areas. If the contracting-out proposals were insisted upon the Labour Party would go with the denominationalists who demanded that the grant should be sufficient. They asked for equal grants and equal rate-aid for those schools, not because they desired to see denominationalism on the rates, but because they desired to see education regarded as a national matter, and they held that children should not be made to suffer simply because of the faith of their parents. There was nothing illogical in that, because, after all, they were claiming that the child should be taught the faith of its parents. The child was not responsible for the faith of its parents. He and his friends did not think that the child should be handicapped because of a thing of that sort. They had been told by the Leader of the Irish Party that the provisions of this Bill would place a liability estimated at £150,000 upon the Catholics of the community. The House knew full well that those Catholics who were able were not willing, and that those who were willing were unable to find that money. Therefore they knew from the outset that the money would not be forthcoming, and that in consequence the efficiency of education in the contracted-out schools must inevitably suffer. He hoped in the interest of the teachers that the contracting-out proposals would not pass into law. The Labour Party were prepared to support the Second Beading of the Bill, but he hoped that the criticism which had been passed on the contracting-out proposals would induce the Government to reconsider them. He hoped 178 the Government would accept the advice of one of their supporters, withdraw the Bill, and redraft it without the contracting-out proposals in it. If in the end they found the solution which they proposed impossible, he trusted they would turn to the secular solution. They were told that the country would by no means accept the secular solution. He was firmly convinced that more people were turning to that solution as a matter of conviction and as a policy of despair, recognising as they did the utter impossibility of reconciling the sectarian elements in this quarrel. They knew that certain proposals in the Licensing Bill were not popular, and the Government never knew whether the country would support them in it. But the Labour Party were prepared to associate themselves with the Prime Minister in educating the people in regard to the just principles of that Bill. If the Government agreed with the Labour Party that the secular solution was the only natural solution of the education difficulty, the Labour Party asked them to go to the country, and tell the people that they were convinced that this was the only abiding solution, and the people would cast their votes in a way that would at least set the nation on the path by which peace and a permanent solution of the question would be found. They no longer wanted a continuance of sectarian squabbles, but to concentrate their endeavours on obtaining educational efficiency.
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL (Aston Manor)
said he was very much impressed with the unreality of this debate, and he should think that a sufficient number of speeches had been delivered in every quarter of the House to convince the Government how little support this Bill really commanded. They had wasted three days of valuable Parliamentary time in discussing a Bill of which everybody disapproved. He had hoped that they would come to some satisfactory result, but that hope had been dissipated by the speeches of the President of the Board of Education and of the First Lord of the Admiralty, because neither of them attempted to defend the Bill, or to tell the House what they proposed to take its place. They 179 on that side of the House had hoped that some compromise, some arrangement which would suit all denominations, would be foreshadowed in those speeches; but in that they had been woefully disappointed. There had been not a shadow of an insinuation of what the Government desired, and they were no nearer a settlement than before. Any attempt at agreement which had been shown at all, had come entirely from the back benches opposite, especially from the hon. Member for Carmarthen Boroughs. But, if there was to be conciliation, why were they told that contracting-out was not of the essence of the Bill? He himself was not enamoured of contracting-out; but as the Bill stood it was the only attempt to meet the requirements of the denominations. If contracting-out was to be withdrawn, he did not see where the conciliation came in. The Government were deliberately throwing down the gauntlet and denominationalists would draw the sword, and do their best to wreck the Bill with contracting-out left out, as it would be devoid of any attempt whatever to meet their just claims. He agreed that a national system would be the best; but one was inclined to ask, what was a national system? Did it mean the endowment of Cowper-Temple teaching at the expense of all other denominations? If it did, then it would not be satisfactory. The Government had not indicated in the least what they meant. The First Lord of the Admiralty had said that there was no change in the policy of the Government. They knew that the policy of the Government had been stated to be a sort of a compromise, but there was no indication as to what that compromise was. The right hon. Gentleman had repeated the old shibboleths—no tests for teachers and complete public control. As to tests for teachers, they were much interested to hear the remarks of the hon. Member for Louth, for they learned from himself and from those for whom he spoke that they were prepared to admit tests. The hon. Gentleman had said that no Roman Catholic was to be appointed to be a teacher in a Protestant school, and that no Protestant teacher was to be appointed in a Roman Catholic school. It was clear, therefore, that he contemplated tests, and he was not, inten- 180 tionally or unintentionally, sincere in saying that he did not advocate tests for teachers. Then, if contracting-out continued, public control disappeared, so that the leading characteristics of the Bill were already condemned. Under these circumstances he could not imagine that the Government seriously contemplated pressing on this Bill in its present form, or indeed with its framework much changed. They were next met with the threat of the secular settlement. He did not believe in that, because he thought there were far too many people in the country—and he hoped it would always be so—who valued religious teaching too much. In his opinion, if they insisted on the exclusive endowment of Cowper-Temple teaching, that would really be the first step towards secularism, and they were likely to go on the downhill grade to secularism by excluding all denominational beliefs other than Cowper-Templarism.
§ MR. EDMUND LAMB (Herefordshire, Leominster)
called attention to the fact that forty Members were not present.
§ House counted; and forty Members being found present—
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL
said that his objection to secularism was that it meant to many of the children no religious teaching at all; and that was a point which could not be too strongly impressed on the House. If the State ignored all religious teaching the homes of many who needed religious teaching most, would be entirely destitute of it. These children who did not get it at school, would not get it anywhere else, and he shuddered to think what would be the future of the nation where the children of the poorer classes get no religious teaching, and what their morals were likely to be. He trusted they would never reach an entirely secular solution. Why should they uproot the whole law and re-model the educational system of the country in order to remedy the one grievance which the Nonconformists rightly felt—the single-school areas? Why not bring in a short Bill to remedy that difficulty? The educational system of the country had admittedly been improved by the passing of the Act 181 of 1902. It had been largely unified, and the Act was working extremely well throughout the country. Let them begin afresh and meet this grievance of the Nonconformists—which he candidly admitted—in the single-school areas. That would be better than upsetting the whole educational system once more. The grievance could be remedied; the question was how. But if the denominational schools were to be abolished altogether, as was sometimes threatened, denominationalists would claim denominational facilities in school hours for all denominations in every school in England where the parents of a sufficient number of children, say ten, desired it. It would be absolutely necessary that they should have some safeguards to obtain the right of entry which they claimed. They were told that if they allowed facilities and the right of entry in schools the plan would be found unworkable. He did not think so, and there was much evidence to prove the contrary. He believed that it was perfectly possible to bring it about; at any rate, why not give it a trial? It worked well in Ireland, it worked well in Switzerland, where they had tried other systems first. In 1883 there was an attempt to enforce universal undenominationalism, but it was rejected by a large majority. Each canton made its own arrangements, but the religious education given in the schools must be given in accordance with the wishes of the parents and guardians, and the utmost care was taken of the religious education of the children. The same system existed in Belgium, Holland, Austria, Greece, Norway, and he believed Denmark. With all this evidence before them, was not it absurd to maintain a non possumus attitude and say that nothing could be done? In Canada and New South Wales facilities were given for denominational teaching.
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL
said he did not desire to put the State Church into a different position from any other. Let all churches have a right to denominational teaching in a single school area if there were enough children to justify 182 it. Provision, he thought, might be made by the local education authority for denominational teachers in single-school areas or general facilities should be granted in those areas. If that were tried, he ventured to prophecy it would be found to work in a perfectly satisfactory way and the grievances of Nonconformists might thereby be got over. There was another proposal which had not been sufficiently considered in the House and to which he would like to call attention. It was noteworthy that under the County Education Committee in East Suffolk a rule had been drawn up in favour of religious instruction in accordance with the spirit of the Apostles' Creed. The committee which drew up the rule consisted of three clergymen of the Church of England, two Nonconformist ministers, two Nonconformist laymen, and one Roman Catholic. In that case it was clear that a great deal of mutual good understanding had been brought about. They had been told by the Government that there was to be a conference upon this matter. The Government were not justified in asking the House to read this Bill a second time merely on the strength of a vague assertion that there might be a conference afterwards. He desired more information about the conference, if a conference there was to be—who were to compose it, what the scope of its inquiry was to be, and what the proposals were that the Government intended to bring before it, The hon. Gentleman suggested there were two matters, would they be brought before the conference? Would the Government consider the advisability of laying down in statutory form the East Suffolk County Education Committee's rule? That would go far to meet the objections even of so strong a denominationalist as himself. Would the Government discuss the granting of facilities in single-school areas—possibly a solution of the whole difficulty? If this Bill was to be forced through the House, hon. Members must be perfectly aware of the bitter grievances under which the denominationalists would suffer. When it was realised how this Bill disregarded the work of those who for thirty-five years had been giving large sums for denominational education, and that it left the voluntary schools 183 to languish and die and destroyed their educational efficiency, had they not good reason for complaint? The Church of England owned most of the schools in single-school areas, and therefore it was the Church that would be the most severely hit. Where was the equal treatment under the Bill? Where was the freedom of conscience? He hoped the Bill might be withdrawn, for it could not be a settlement of this controversy.
§ MR. W. PEARCE (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)
said that as a London Member he did not propose to support this Bill. His difficulty arose from the fact that education in London cost so much more than it did elsewhere. For instance, for the whole of England and Wales it cost £3 5s. 9d. per child, but in London it cost £5 15s. 6d. Looking at it from the London point of view, and with all the good will in the world, he was unable to find many redeeming features in the Bill. There were 146,000 children in non-provided schools, and to-day the cost per child was 30s. in excess of the 47s. provided by the Bill. Prior to 1904, the cost was much less, and the difference of 30s. was entirely due to the handling of those schools by the County Council. In his constituency there were three or four large denominational schools, and the figures of one were so striking that he would like to give them. There were 600 children in the school, and it had been established for nearly 200 years. It was a Church of England school in the East end of London. Nobody imagined that the managers would be able to find £3,000 to put it in order to meet the demands of the London County Council, but they had done so. Since 1904, when they gave up entire control, the expenses of the school had been raised nearly £1 per head, 16s. 9d. being entirely due to the salaries, of the teachers, which were over £3 per child. Besides that there were £800 worth of London County Council fixtures in the school. They, of course, were not the property of the managers, and, in case they contracted-out, they would have to be refunded to the London County Council. He had three or four of that kind of schools in his constituency, and he asked the Government how it 184 was posible for him to tell his constituents that the proposals in the Bill were fair and reasonable so far as they were concerned? He ought to tell the House how London had been treated ever since the Parliamentary grant was made. The cost of education in London must, for obvious reasons, very much exceed the cost in any other district. The exceptional cost in London arose in three ways—the salaries of teachers, the cost of maintenance, and the provision of buildings. Something might be said as to extravagance in the cost of maintenance, but as to salaries of teachers and cost of land and building, London was in a position in which excess cost could not be avoided. One would, therefore, have thought that it would have been recognised that London had special difficulties, and that some special terms would have been made for it; but, as a matter of fact, whereas the average grant per head for the whole country was £2 0s. 6d., the grant for London was only £1 18s. 6d. per head. Was this because the system of education in London was worse than it was in the rest of the country? Nothing of the sort. The system of education in London was, if anything, better, and it was certainly more expensive. He had been a school manager in London for thirty-five years, and the education system there was by no means inferior to that in any other part of the country. He had set to work, therefore, to find out why London was getting so much less of the Exchequer Grant than the rest of the country. The grant was made up in three ways. There war, the Annual Grant, the Fee Grant, and the Aid Grant. London got the worst of it in the Aid Grant. He did not know who introduced it, but he was a very astute Minister, and he had manipulated the grant to the detriment of London. He had based the grant on the produce of a penny rate. The higher the assessment of a district, therefore, the less money it received. The grant was based on 1½d. for every 2d. short of 10s. produced by a penny rate. The London Members must either have been asleep or the astute Minister of that day must have obscured the issue by the words in which he wrapped his proposal. The produce of a penny rate in London being higher than 185 in any other, part of the country, it received 2s. per child less under the grant, and it was perfectly plain that during the last sixteen or seventeen years London had been jerrymandered out of a sum of £65,000 per annum. He did not think anyone could give any reason why London should receive a less grant per school child than the remainder of England and Wales. London was treated badly. The Aid Grant was a bad precedent, and he was sorry to say it had been followed by the First Lord of the Admiralty, who introduced this Bill. He recognised that something ought to be allowed for the extra expense of education, and he proceeded to set up a system based on 2s. for the average numbers and one third for the loan charge. It was not, however, to exceed 6s. per child. As in the case of the Aid Grant, the situation had again been manipulated against London. Except for the 6s. limitation, London would have been entitled to a grant of 9s. 6d. per child, and the 6s. limitation reduced the fund payable to London by about £115,000. As a London Member and seeing how it was proposed to treat London, he was obliged to sink his natural desire to vote for a Government measure; and, although he might be excused of parochialism, he felt that London had such a large interest at strike that he would only be doing his duty in pointing oat how it was proposed to make London suffer. It would be said, in reply, that in spite of all this London would receive a grant of £200,000 and that the rates would be relieved to that amount. That was quite true, but where did the £200,000 come from? It had to be raised by taxation. London took its share in the taxation, and its share in the taxation which produced the £1,500,000 was £350,000. London therefore would pay £350,000 and get £200,000 back. Still, they were told to rest and be thankful. He was a new Member of the House but he had felt obliged to get up and make some protest with regard to the C3se of London. He had had a great deal to do with the administration of education in London, and he agreed with the hon. Member for Peckham, who had made a non-party speech, with regard to the administrative difficulties of the Bill. So far as London was con- 186 cerned, the Bill seemed to him to have been devised without any knowledge of or regard to the educational position. He felt obliged therefore with great regret to declare that on the present occasion he could not support the Government in the Second Reading of their Bill.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
The hon. Member who. has just addressed the House has expressed his opposition to the Bill we are supposed to be discussing. He spoke with obvious knowledge of the condition of the educational problem in London, and I think he proved, from an administrative point of view, that this Bill is impossible. If we except the two right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken, every single speaker who has taken part in the two days debate has, from one point of view or another, expressed his dissatisfaction with the Bill. Almost every hon. Member has accompanied that expression of dissatisfaction with an expression of expectation that the Government did not really mean it, and that they proposed, if not to-day, then tomorrow, and if not to-morrow, then upon some future occasion, either to withdraw this Bill or to go very far beyond the four corners within which it is at present contained. That expectation may be described as having been on tip-too when the President of the Board of Education rose to speak. My hon. friend the Member for Marylebone wanted to know what the position of the Government was. We fully thought the President of the Board of Education would give us in a more detailed and convincing manner a statement of that position. The statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty was not detailed, but it was somewhat more convincing than the speech of the President of the Board of Education. The First Lord did not declare, as the President of the Board of Education did, that there has been no alteration in tone; the policy of the Government remains what it was; it is embodied in the Bill. That was not what the First Lord of the Admiralty said. He said that although he had quitted the Board of Education he was speaking because there was some change. He was not very precise as to what the charge was, but he told us that something had happened, notably that 187 a Bill had been introduced in another place which had not yet reached the Second Reading stage, and he intimated, less clearly, that proposals for a compromise were in the air. He ended with a threat. He said that unless some body, or some bodies, also unspecified, failed to approach the question in a proper spirit, then this Bill would be taken up and proceeded with through all its stages. The threat of yesterday is the policy of to-day. It makes it very hard for any of us to take part in the discussion with any hope of usefully contributing to it. If I had believed that the President of the Board of Education had stated the policy of the Government when he said, "There is no alteration; the policy of the Government remains the same and is embodied in the Bill," I certainly should not have ventured to waste the time of the House as every speaker must be wasting it if that indeed be the policy of the Government. I suppose everyone who remembers past debates of this character feels a good deal of diffidence in approaching the subject at all. In my case, it amounts to doubt whether I can say anything of any useful purpose and almost to disgust. The difficulty is that we are discussing a question under conditions which make it hard for us either to fight our opponents, if we are opposed in this question, or to make peace with them if peace is to be made. It is hard to conduct war or to make peace in a fog. We do not know where we are, because the Government decline to tell the House where they are. Even if there were reason to believe that the President of the Board of Education had told us their policy to-day, we know that it was not the policy stated by the First Lord of the Admiralty yesterday, and we do not believe it will be the policy stated by the Prime Minister to-morrow, and even if all three of the Ministers enunciated the same policy on three days running, which would be a record in consistency, we should still remember that members of the Government have up to now contemplated five different methods of dealing with this admittedly difficult question. Before he was a member of the Government the Chief Secretary for Ireland had a very benevolent regard for 188 what used to be called facilities all round. When a member of the Government, bringing in an Education Bill, he again and again used language which entitled us to believe that he regretted the practical difficulties of making that ideal the basis of a compromise. Then we had the Bill of 1906 adopted by the Government after contemplation and dropped. Then we had the Bill of 1907 contemplated by the Government and dropped. Then we have the Bill which we are supposed to be discussing, contemplated by the Government—we do not know whether it is going to be dropped or not; and then we have the Bill introduced in another place, contemplated by the Government, and we are not told whether they are going to adopt it or reject it. Yesterday the spokesman of the Front Bench hung up his sword and extended to us the olive branch. If you hang up a sword that is suspended over the head of the person to whom you offer the olive branch you are likely to produce an atmosphere of constraint. A proceeding, otherwise graceful, may become awkward, and it has become more awkward when this evening the next spokesman for the Government takes down the sword again and flourishes it in our face. These conditions are unusual even in a House familiar with having the rights of discussion somewhat summarily curtailed. We are quite familiar with the practice of suddenly imposing the collective mind of the Government on the House. We know that the Government in the privacy of the Cabinet have been discussing two or three alternative schemes for months, but they may have decided on the one they produced by a majority of one for all we know, and they come to the House and say: "You shall have three or six days under the guillotine, and you must accept our collective wisdom." Now they have gone a step further. They are asking the House to make up their mind for them. I very much doubt whether we can do so. Personally, I can only speak for those whom I represent, for my constituents in Dover, and those whose opinion on this matter I have had opportunities of collecting, for I have made many speeches on this subject in the country. These views were stated 189 admirably in the brilliant maiden speech the hon. Member for North-West Manchester, and again to-day with the great force and brilliancy to which we are accustomed by the hon. and learned Member for Walton. Those whom I represent want to keep the educational advantages which accrued under the Act of 1902. They do not want to enjoy what the President of the Board of Education called the advantages of being outside the national scheme of education; they have no leanings in that direction. But while they wish to keep these advantages, they hold that the State ought to be able to adjust the enjoyment of them to the religious needs and scruples of all persons who in this country pay taxes and rates in order that the children should receive these advantages. So it is held by a number of people in this country, far in excess of any estimate of which the Government has yet thought. There is a lull in the controversy, but no one believes that the whole policy of the Government is contained in this Bill. Perhaps we should not be wasting time if, in the lull, we reflected that what we are discussing is not education at all but the relation of the State to the various sections of the community who desire the same opportunities of secular education for their children, but wish to have those opportunities without sacrificing their religious' convictions or paying more for them than other people pay for theirs. I do not think anyone would imperil the chances of ultimate peace if he were to say, as I am prepared to say, that we are making a great mistake in this matter in not consulting the views of what are called extremists extremists in questions of this kind are often those who have oared enough about the subject to be quite clear as to what they want, and even sometimes to know what it is that] their opponents want, and you are far more likely to arrive at a lasting peace if you understand clearly the views of extremists than if you muffle them up in the amiable hopes of moderate men who have not cared about the matters in dispute. I believe there are three sets of extremists. There are those who favour the secular solution. I will call them "so-called extremists," not using the word in an offensive sense. 190 With all respect it is not practical politics to hope that a lasting settlement can be based upon a secular solution. They are missionaries, and they will continue their propaganda, but for the moment we cannot look to their solution as the possible basis of any lasting compromise. There are only two other sets of extremists. One is that to which I belong, denominational extremists. Is own position very extreme? Our position quite briefly is that in this matter the State ought to be neutral towards all forms of religious instruction given in our schools. The position of the Nonconformists or undenominational extremists is that the State ought not to impose, but to affirm, foster, prefer, some neutral type of religious instruction which all parents ought to like even if they are so benighted as not to like it. There is a real opposition between those two views. Each may be honourably held, and what we ought to consider in this Bill is the ancient and horrid controversy as the Chief Secretary called it. Which of these views supplies the best foundation upon which an edifice of compromise could be erected? Naturally, I prefer the denominational view. I have no doubt that those who are in favour of undenominational education prefer the undenominational view. But, taking the view that the State ought to be neutral towards all forms of religious instruction in our primary schools—if you make that the foundation of your compromise, you will not be driven into contracting out. The other view is to have a sort of neutral religion as the affirmed type, and then you are driven to contracting out. The President of the Board of Education objected to some of my hon. friends saying that contracting out was the essence of this Bill. It certainly is the necessary corollary. Then, again, if this Bill passes, a large number of schools will not be satisfied with the neutral form of religious instruction, and so the co-ordinated system of education established by the Act of 1902 would be torn up again. That Act, also, for the first time in history, brought men of every religious belief into closer civic community than they had enjoyed before Civic life in all the towns of England was quickened and vivified indirectly as a 191 consequence of the Act of 1902, and every institution outside the Government Department was brought into the collective system of the country. Such advantages as those ought not to be imperilled for a point of honour. If you take up the extreme position that there is to be one type of religous instruction fostered and preferred by the State you will have contracting out, and then you will pluck out of the civic life many of its most important members in our towns. Then, by universal admission, the view that the State should be neutral to all kinds of religious instruction is theoretically fair; and it is a great advantage to have as the basis a plan that is theoretically fair. This is only criticised upon the ground that it is hard to carry out in practice. Everybody admits that the neutrality of the State or facilities all round is theoretically a fair solution, and I think you will obtain a great advantage by taking as your basis a plan on which you will have to erect many concessions, but which is theoretically fair. Everybody has admitted that the religious difficulty exists a great deal more outside the schools than inside. I have heard the Secretary to the Admiralty assert more than once that he has entered schools and been quite unaware that there was any religious difficulty. The religious difficulty is outside the schools, and if you start as the basis of compromise with a view theoretically fair, you get the advantage that it will be harder for people outside with strong religious convictions to find a fulcrum on which they can place a lever to overturn the edifice of compromise. If you make the plan fair in its basis parents and teachers and children, by generous facilities, can have all their needs met and all their scruples properly regarded. Let the Government start their edifice of compromise on a basis theoretically fair, which does not drive them to contracting out, and then, in a spirit of charity and generosity, they will find no difficulty at any rate with the extremists with whom I venture to associate myself. I think we are more likely to arrive at a peaceable solution if we recognise that there are two classes, those who believe that the State can foster and prefer a neutral type of religion, and those who hold that the State should be neutral 192 in its attitude to all forms of religious instruction. If we accept the fact that those two views are held—and I very much doubt whether either party will ever surrender the view which it holds—then the only hope for a lasting peace is by a treaty between those two parties, with, of course, generous facilities to minorities. The Opposition has always held that the Act of 1902 enshrined the principles of justice and equality—a very rough justice, if you like, but it could not be claimed that the State was giving its help and assistance to one party, rather than to another. In the single-school areas we found that the Nonconformist parent and teacher had to put up with difficulties which we should have preferred to remove, but we found equally that in many large towns parents did not get for their children the education they desired. The justice is rough. Well, then, let the Government make it even, but it will cease to be justice unless they base their plan on a foundation which is just and theoretically fair.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Mr. MCKINNON WOOD, Glasgow, St. Rollox)
said he thought the right hon. Gentleman must have found it difficult to draw a distinction between rough justice and positive injustice, because he made the admission that the settlement of 1902 left the Nonconformist in rural districts under conditions which even the authors of the Act regretted and would like to see removed. Ore of the most important features of the Bill before the House was the removal of those; conditions, and if there were no other reason for voting for the Second Reading he could not help thinking that was a sufficient reason, because the grievance in the rural districts was much more acute than anything experienced in large towns. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover had used words which for a long time he found a difficulty in understanding; he had said there were three sets of extremists, and he defined the denominational extremist as a person who thought that the State ought to be neutral. At last he found the right hon. Gentleman meant something quite different from neutral; he meant leaving things as they were. That was not neutrality. He could 193 have wished that his first speech since he took office had been on a less controversial subject than this. Ho approached this question rather from the point of view of an administrator. He saw on the other side of the House a distinguished educationist in the hon. Member for the University of London. He recalled the days when they worked as colleagues on the committee which started the system of public technical education in the metropolis. In regard to that work they had a free hand, and they had no party strife. They never inquired as to the religious denomination of anyone, and the result was that they were only limited in the development of education by the possibilities of the circumstances connected with the workmen and others whom they desired to benefit, and by the money at their disposal. When the administration of elementary education was put into the same hands, the question was surrounded by the religious controversy, and the same free co-operation became impossible. Although he desired to approach the question as an administrator, he would be misunderstood if it was supposed that he desired to minimise the questions of conscience involved in this controversy, or that he took up a position of indifference in regard to those questions. He was convinced by his experience in the administration of education that the present position rendered it very difficult, and in some cases impossible, for a person who merely desired without regard to other considerations to deal out even-handed justice to those engaged in the administration of education to do that fairly to all the people concerned. He did not desire to go into details in this matter, but the question of the promotion of teachers on a fair basis as between Nonconformists and members of the Church of England raised insuperable difficulties in our great towns, because not only had they many schools confined to the teachers of one denomination while all the other schools were open, but the initial selection gave the teachers who had that advantage a further advantage in the case of other schools which were free to all. It was 194 very unsatisfactory that these difficulties should be allowed to continue, and the present position stood in the way of the development of education itself. Neither the member of the public authority nor the official was able to give his mind freely to educational interests without: being trammelled by all sorts of other considerations. In fact, the educationist was very much in the position of the Jews, when they rebuilt Jerusalem; he had to build his educational Jerusalem with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. That difficulty was by no means confined to this House. It cropped up in every council and in every education committee room. He did not object to these matters of controversy being fought out in Parliament, but what he did object to was that the administrator was constantly hampered by questions of religious and party strife in carrying out the work of looking after the interests of the children. Everybody admitted that the case was much more serious in the rural districts. The more they appreciated the growing desire of the great religious denominations to work together harmoniously in certain matters, the more they must desire the removal of this controversy, which was the cause of difference and division; and the leaders of the Church and of Nonconformity, who had recently been making efforts to bring about a peaceful solution of this question, seemed to him to deserve the thanks of the country and of that House. He could not help expressing deep regret at remarks made in the debate in a tone which he could only describe as one of contemptuous reproach. The tone of the First Lord of the Admiralty, in opening the debate was conciliatory, he did not think that was denied, but the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill ignored the conciliatory spirit of his right hon. friend. The noble Lord made two remarks which ought naturally to have led up to the consideration of an amicable settlement of this question. He admitted the grievance of the single school areas, and he said that the sectarian trouble existed rather on the platform than in the schools. If those two things were true, 195 they were strong reasons for putting an end to this controversy. Yet he contented himself with criticism of the Bill exactly as it stood. In regard to the criticism of the contracting out clause he had to point out that the principle had been supported by the Party opposite. The right hon. Member for Dover criticised it, but his name appeared in the division list as supporting it in 1906. It was on a Motion by the hon. Member for Preston which proposed a very wide scheme of contracting out. But the speech of the noble Lord was "sweet reasonableness" itself compared with that of the new Member for North-West Manchester, a speech so much approved by hon. Members opposite that they had scarcely ceased to cheer it yet. Every reference to it called forth approving cheers, and therefore he took it that that speech represented the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Member claimed to represent the whole of Lancashire, but there were many thousands who would repudiate the claim. He used one curious phrase. He said he represented the parents, and since then he had been wondering whom the hon. Member thought that Members on the Government side of the House represented. The conclusion of the hon. Member's speech—the most significant part of it—he delivered in the true Cambyses vein, calling on his Party, as if he were leader, to postpone and hinder a settlement until they were in power and able to dictate terms from the Treasury Bench. Well, neither party could settle this question by dictating terms. The right hon. Gentleman opposite tried to settle it in this way in 1902, but the Government now were taking a more excellent way and trying to bring about a reasonable and amicable settlement. Ho could only regret that they had not received encouragement from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.
§ MR. MCKINNON WOOD
said that the First Lord of the Admiralty stated quite clearly yesterday that the Government were pledged to certain root principles within which they were perfectly willing to discuss terms of accommodation. What had impressed him most in the debate had been that, with few exceptions, they had heard little of purely educational interests in the matter. There were exceptions—his hon. friend the Member for Peckham, his hon. friend the Member for Leicester, and the hon. Member for the Middleton Division of Lancashire—but as a rule they had heard discussion of everything but education, and the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last justified this and said they were discussing not education but the duty of the State in regard to religious opinions. In his view, that was a great misfortune. The hon. Member for Leicester had criticised the Bill with great reasonableness from his own point of view, put had accepted the Bill as a basis for a settlement. The secular proposal might cut certain awkward knots, but he thought the hon. Member was mistaken in thinking it would be generally accepted as a solution. It had been tried in the Colonies for years, but there was revolt against it, and the Parliament of Queensland had recently passed an Act for referring to the people by way of referendum the question of admitting the Bible into the schools of the Colony. Out of this long controversy some points of general agreement had emerged. He did not say universal agreement after the speech of the hon. Member for North-West Manchester, but general agreement. Distinguished leaders of the Party opposite and of the Church admitted the grievances of Nonconformists in rural districts; and he would appeal to hon. Members on the Government side who differed from some of the provisions of the Bill to remember that one of its most important objects was the removal of these very grievances in the rural districts. An hon. Member 197 opposite said they did not desire peace at any price. Nor did the Government. There were certain root principles which had been authoritatively stated by the Prime Minister to which the Government firmly adhered; but they had shown a very open mind in regard to questions of machinery not only in dealing with this Bill but in the Bill of 1906. His right hon. friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland had made concessions in regard to machinery in the 1906 Bill of which he thought hon. Members opposite did not quite appreciate the value until the chance of accepting them was gone. He thought the speech of his right hon. friend in regard to this Bill showed that the Government was animated by the same spirit. They did not desire a truce; but they did desire an enduring peace. They did not desire to approach the question in a spirit of bargaining; but they thought it their duty to seek peace and ensue it in the interests of education; and, if that spirit were met with contempt as he thought it had largely been met in the course of the debate, the responsibility of failure would not be upon them, but upon those who refused the offer of compromise. He believed that outside the House there were thousands of men belonging to all Churches and both parties who would support the Government in any endeavour to bring about a settlement of the question which would enable them all, to whatever sect or party they might belong, to join together to establish and build up a system of education which they were all agreed was one of the most vital of national interests.
§ MR. BRIDGEMAN (Shropshire, Oswestry)
said he felt very considerable difficulty in appearing in the debate, for it was almost impossible for anyone who desired a settlement of the question to say anything in the way of improving the present situation. The hon. Gentle- 198 man who spoke last and who said he represented the Government, had stated that they were not prepared to approach this question in a spirit of bargain. If that was the case, how did they ask hon. Members to support a spirit of compromise? How could there be a compromise if there was to be no spirit of bargaining? The hon. Gentleman had also praised the efforts made by the people outside—the leaders of the Church and of Nonconformity to reach a compromise. What efforts had the Government made to-night to bring about peace? The attitude of the Government had been this: directly any attempt was made by the Opposition to discuss this Bill they were told they wore refusing a compromise. But many others held the views that he did, that it was impossible to arrive at a fair settlement on these lines. If it was admitted that it was right that they should institute a system of religion to be taught in all the schools of the country, how could it be right to do it without paying anything for the schools they were going to take? Again, with regard to public control, if it was the wish of the public in a particular district that such religious instruction should take place, how could it be right to take the school away, and say to the 100 per cent. of parents who wished their children to go on that in the interests of the whole the one thing they wanted most must be taken away? The right hon. Gentleman had observed that a great deal might be done by giving £1,500,000 of public money towards carrying out the purposes of the Bill. The hon. Member for Leicester welcomed what he believed was going to be a great contribution to the rates, but, so far as he could himself see from the figures worked out for him, the result would be that Shropshire would have to find £9,000, which meant that they must impose a 2d. rate. The contributions which were made did not cover the question of upkeep of fabric, 199 of repairs of schools, and so forth. Those expenses were always ignored by hon. Gentlemen opposite who desired to criticise the Act of 1902. And, from that point of view, that would be a heavy loss to the county councils. Although he firmly believed that it was the duty of the Government to give more money to education, he could not help thinking that the First Lord of the Admiralty would have met the wishes of the country, if after providing for medical inspection he had devoted the rest of the money, which he proposed to vote to the destruction of the Church schools, to the construction of a new battleship. They all recognised the Nonconformist grievance in single school areas, but it could be remedied without imposing a still greater grievance on other people. The Government could only settle this question by approaching it in a spirit of fair play.
§ MR. BELLOC (Salford, S.)
said that the one element in the whole of this debate was whether the unification of elementary education in this country was valuable or not. If it was, then this Bill was a wise one. If, on the other hand, the unification of elementary education was not a matter worthy of achievement, then this Bill was an unwise one. Upon that the whole question turned. If a dual or multiple system did not handicap us, then this debate was merely the discussion of small jealousies between cliques of the wealthy governing classes, for with the exception of the Catholics and the Jews there was no strong popular opinion on the subject. If the unification of our elementary education was worthy of achievement then the Bill was wise. Unification of elementary education had been preached by every educationist worthy of the name in every civilised country in the world. It was unification of elementary education under one bureaucratic control that transformed Germany into what she is. They need 200 not go for illustrations to those who were not and never could be our rivals. They had better far to go to our great trade rivals, France and Germany. He was not now speaking of "higher education," the condition of which in this country was past praying for, or of secondary education which did not exist, but of our elementary education which differed from that of all our great rivals. There was, he thought, no one who cared for the results of elementary education in the modern state who would not wish to see a simple and united system, and the House would agree with him when he said that the mistakes of modern elementary education had been enormous. He was too young to have witnessed the change, but men of the previous generation who had witnessed it, men of the most diverse sorts, men in the rural districts, men in the great manufacturing towns, and men who had seen the industrial rise of modern Germany, had all come to the conclusion that modern compulsory free elementary education had changed the face of Europe. Were we abreast of our rivals? So long as we kept the multiple or dual system, it was universally admitted among experts that we were not. Could we establish a universal system in this country? He was quite certain that if those who had taken the matter in hand in a practical way on the local councils, and especially on the London County Council, thought that ideal possible, they would say, "Let us establish to-morrow a united system with central control,"—allowing, of course, largely for local difference, and that local spirit peculiar to the life of this people. But could they establish it? There was only one rock upon which it was practicable for it to exist. They would make the territorial squires angry if they established it in the rural districts, and they would make a certain number of archælogical ecclesiastics very angry if they established it in the towns. There was, however, only one mass of 201 opinion at the present moment opposed to it, and that was the body of his coreligionists. There was no other organised body in Great Britain which consistently, in all ranks of society and under all circumstances, put faith before mundane matters. Let those who were afraid to call a spade a spade ask themselves who of their Jewish friends or acquaintances, upon making a considerable sum of money, hesitated to send their sons to an Anglican school, or who of the Jewish community upon achieving a place in society hesitated to send their sons to Eton or Harrow. At enormous sacrifice, at the sacrifice of the opportunity and advantage of community with the national life, his co-religionists maintained for three generations, two generations most actively, even amongst their wealthier members a system of a separate education. So long as that intense feeling existed, so long would this obstacle to a complete national system exist also. The House had heard from the hon. Member for Bradford a short and most eloquent appeal. He spoke, not as a member of their communion, but as representing certain constituents, and he had given facts and figures which were surely sufficiently striking. Could they pretend that their differences in theological opinions compared in any way with that intense favour which made poor men sacrifice 5s. per week and which made the poor in the slums of our great industrial cities build their schools, endow their altars, and beautify their churches? That was a peculiar phenomenon which they met in modern England, and undoubtedly but for it every practical man would adopt some one united system and would, therefore, favour the secular system. That point had to be met, and he confessed the best and most practicable method seemed to him to be some such rule as was adopted in 1906—-a rule that four-fifths or some very large proportion of the parents should be allowed to give 202 to a school an exceptional position. They had often heard that that was a clause introduced merely for the Catholics. It was a clause introduced for any body of men who cared enough to send their children on a rainy day some distance to school instead of to the nearest school, for any body of parents who had sufficient grip upon their fanciful philosophy to make it the principal thing in their lives. It was simply because the Catholics were an exceptional body in the State that it applied to them. He agreed with it and spoke in favour of it in the North of England, where, especially in Lancashire, there was controversy on the Bill. He said, and would say again, that it was a statesmanlike solution of the difficulty. There was no doubt that the Bill introduced by the present Chief Secretary for Ireland was a statesmanlike solution of the education difficulty. Men differed as to how it was wrecked. The hon. Member for Mayo told them that it was wrecked by the Nonconformist extreme opinion. He was not of that opinion. He thought it was wrecked by the House of Lords.
§ And, it being Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned. Debate to be resumed To-morrow.