§ The Chairman (Major Milner)
I think it would be convenient to discuss this and the two following Amendments together.
§ Mr. Harvey
This and the following Amendment would make the Clause read:In every county school and in every auxiliary school facilities shall be given for each school day to begin with a collective act of worship.The very greatest importance has been attached by large numbers of those who are most deeply interested in education to this Clause which, as it stands, provides that every school day shall begin with a collective act of worship. I think there has been, on the part of many, a very great misunderstanding of the existing position, because it is already the all but universal practice in council schools for the day to begin with a collective act of worship. But it has not been made a statutory duty, and I believe we should be making a mistake, from the point of view of the State and of religion, if we attempted to enforce upon school authorities as a statutory duty something which, in its essence, no Parliament and no external authority can enforce. You cannot say by Act of Parliament, "You shall worship." You can say, and I believe you ought to say by Act of Parliament, "There shall be the fullest facilities for worship." The State ought to make it possible for Worship to take place in every school and give every convenience and every 2396 encouragement but, it is a higher authority than the State—
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
The hon. Member says the State must make it possible for the schools to provide facilities for worship. Would it not be better if my hon. Friend considered the question from the point of view of the children rather than the teachers? What I am anxious to ensure is that every child shall have the opportunity of daily collective worship provided and I think the schools should be compelled to provide that opportunity.
§ Mr. Harvey
The act of worship is an interior thing which cannot be enforced by an external authority. Nebuchadnezzar can issue his decrees and see that the trumpets, psalteries, dulcimers and stringed instruments are sounded, and can order people to fall down before the brazen image, but he cannot compel the act of worship. No Parliament and no authority can compel it. It is a mistake, I think, for Parliament to pass an Act which seems to assume that we can compel an act of worship, but we can give facilities for it. I believe it will make the greatest difference in the way in which this provision, with the intention of which I sympathise, is carried out by teachers, if it is understood that this act on the part of the teachers is a voluntary act, that facilities are required, but that the act of worship itself is a holy and a wonderful thing which cannot be enforced by Act of Parliament, but must spring from the free act of those who take part in it. I value immensely the idea that the school day should begin with a collective act of worship, but I want it to be true, and it cannot be that if the teachers feel that this is something imposed arbitrarily by an outside authority. They ought to be invited to co-operate in this very great service to their school, and I believe they will joyfully respond in almost all cases to an appeal to take the opportunity that is given when these facilities are provided, but we ought not to enforce it upon the teacher, We must leave freedom of conscience to him, and make it perfectly clear in the wording of the Act. I am aware that there is provision elsewhere and it is not intended that anyone should be compelled to join in an act of worship which is contrary to his conscience, but we should be making a great mistake if we endeavoured to secure in the wording 2397 of the Bill the enforcement of an act which must in its nature be the result of the inward consent of those who take part in it.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
I beg the hon. Gentleman, for whose faith and sincerity I have the deepest respect, not to think of the teachers but to think of the children. It seems to me that the attitude that the State takes up on the Bill—I think the right one—is that the teachers should be bound to provide opportunities for the children to take part in this act of worship. We are not considering the teacher's act of worship, but the opportunity for the children to take part in an act of worship. The children are in the hands of the teacher while they are in school, and the Clause lays it down that the teacher shall be bound to give them this opportunity.
§ Mr. Richards (Wrexham)
I support the Amendment. I agree entirely that, when it comes to a question of religious worship, we must really stand for the greatest freedom for the teacher, and incidentally for the children. I think it is very unfair to suggest, as the Clause seems to do, that a corporate act of worship is not almost universal in the schools. I do not know of any school where the day does not begin with such an act of worship. It has all the greater value in my opinion because it is entirely voluntary. It is the desire of the teachers that they should begin in this way, and I think we should be introducing a very dangerous principle, if we attempted to enforce upon the teachers that they shall do what they are only too glad and too willing to do in a really voluntary spirit.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I put my name to the Amendment because the hon. Member, as it seems to me, has used such happy wording. He has put it into very simple words. It has been put about that a large number of children are completely irreligious and that this is due to the schools. I have made inquiries of a number of friends who are headmasters and directors of education, many of them members of the Church of England. One of them said that this was absolutely brand new. He went so far as to say "organised blasphemy." He said, "We have had in every school for years a corporate act of worship. 2398 Now we are being asked to do this because the Bill says so." I firmly believe that the growth of ignorance, if there is such a growth, about questions relating to the historical facts behind the Bible, and general knowledge of the Christian faith, is due not to the school but to things that happen outside the school. There is a strong feeling that by enforcing a thing in school, yon are not doing a good service to the Church itself. That is held very widely. It seems to me that the Amendment gives the spirit every chance, but does not resort to enforcement. That is the spirit in which the corporate act of worship, which I strongly favour in both primary and secondary schools, has been carried out throughout the country. If we want it to grow, this is not the way to make it grow. When my right hon. Friend had his preliminary discussions with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other leaders of the Churches some time ago, and they pressed him on a number of points—religious instruction, the corporate act of worship, and so on—I hoped he would display the same attitude which he did at the beginning, but he gave them most of the points for which they asked. If there had been a movement started within the Church, as there was at Winchester through Canon Spencer Leeson and others within the Nonconformist Churches, and it had spread as a voluntary movement, that would have been a fine thing; but to go to the Board and ask the President to put compulsion in the Act, is not a way to secure the growth of what my hon. Friend the mover of the Amendment wishes.
§ Mr. Butler
My hon. Friend has raised an interesting aspect of this question, and he will excuse me for interrupting. The deputation to which he referred and which I received a long time ago, was entirely representative of the Free Churches and the Anglican Church, and it was the most representative deputation ever received by a President of the Board.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I knew that it was a combined deputation, and said so, but it would have been much better if they had not pressed for compulsory points but had continued with the growth, which I thought was then promising, for a religious revival among the Churches, that is, for a combination of the Churches.
§ Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite (Holderness)
I want to support the Amendment, although for a reason which may shock my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey). My hon. Friend and I have very little in common politically, but we have the one thing in common that we were educated at the same school, where, for many years, the day has always commenced with a compulsory act of public worship. It is a Quaker school controlled by the Society of Friends, and all the pupils, whatever their denominations, are compelled to attend. My hon. Friend may regard me as a backslider from the education I received, because I happen to sit on this side of the Committee. The fact that the daily act of worship in that school was compulsory, produced an effect opposite to that intended by the governors. There was an element of ridicule, which developed somewhat rapidly among the scholars, at the number of times they were compelled to attend compulsory religious observances. That does not mean that I oppose the idea of schools beginning their day with an act of worship, but I feel that my hon. Friend is on the right lines in the Amendment. In fact, I wish he had impressed his views on the governors of my school years ago. It would have been beneficial to me and others.
I agree with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) that this sort of thing is going on at present satisfactorily, and is probably developing, but if we put it in the Statute, it will produce the opposite effect to that intended. I have been impressed by the number of letters I have received on this subject from my constituents. The vast majority of them support the arguments of the hon. Member for the English Universities. If only for that reason, I hope that my right hon. Friend will be prepared to give the Amendment careful consideration. Perhaps, if he is unable to give a definite reply to-day, he will not close his mind to the views which have been put forward, but will defer consideration until the Report stage.
§ Professor Gruffydd
This Amendment concerns very closely not only the Church of England and the Nonconformist body, but certain sections in the Nonconformist body itself. It may be news to the Minister that all Nonconformists are not of the same opinion on this matter. Some are 2400 very much nearer the Church of England point of view than they are to the views of my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey). I should like to make it clear that not one of those people who agree with me objects to the act of religious worship in schools. Indeed, we welcome it and think that it is a great advance in the pure education of the country and an essential part of life. I should, however, be much more pleased with the change in the attitude towards public worship if I believed that it corresponded to a change of heart in the country. I am not convinced that it does correspond at all to a change of heart in the country. I said that there is a division among Nonconformists themselves on this matter and it is only right that a minority opinion, which on this one point would probably be in agreement with the rationalists and materialists, should have due recognition. There are, roughly, two points of view on religious observance. The first is what I may call without offence the priestly view, that religious observance can be beneficial, without relation to the attitude towards religion of those people who are taking part in it.
§ Professor Gruffydd
It is not a view taken only by priests necessarily. The other point of view, which I am trying to put forward, is that we believe that religious worship should never be observed by any kind of compulsion, whether legal or social. We do not believe in religious observance as a form of higher education or as something to be done from ethical or moral motives. We believe that the only priest and the only celebrant should be the person himself, guided by the inner light of conscience. Two conditions should be fulfilled before we can accept an act of worship in the schools. The first is that the headmaster or whoever conducts it should do it because he choses to do so, because he wants to do so, and because he feels in his conscience that he should do so. The second is that the parents of the children should desire it. There is no doubt that this Bill satisfies the second condition, but there is no satisfaction of the first. There is nothing to guarantee that an atheist headmaster with an atheist staff will not conduct public worship in school.
§ Professor Gruffydd
I agree with my hon. Friend that you could have an atheist clergyman conducting a service, but it would not be known that he was an atheist, except to his own God. A worse thing than having an atheist headmaster conducting a service, is to have a headmaster whom the children can, by no stretch of imagination, associate with anything spiritual. It would be a tragedy for a child to have his early life contorted and distorted by such conditions. I hope that my right hon. Friend will do something to meet the objections which my hon. Friend and others have put forward to this Clause.
§ Mr. Butler
The Committee will have been seized with the gravity of the question which we are now approaching. There are other aspects of it to be considered on this Clause. My hon. Friend the Member for the Combined Universities (Mr. Harvey) has tried his hand with great skill at redrafting the opening portion of the Clause. When the Government were considering this important matter, they also tried their hand at different forms of drafts, and they came to the conclusion in the end, although they bore in mind most of the arguments that have been raised, that the Clause was better drafted in this way. I think that my hon. Friend's drafting leaves the matter rather too vague to satisfy the vast number of interests who have been in communication with the Government on this matter. My hon. Friend, who spoke with great sincerity, and who had the advantage of the influence of the Quaker educational background, of which we all have a great opinion, said that he received many letters. I can assure him that I am speaking after contact with some major interests in this country, and that they represent the point of view not only of the Free Churches, but of the Anglican community. I believe it to be their view that a Clause drafted in this manner is the best way of approaching this question. If my hon. Friend were right in saying that this was a compulsory act of worship, I should be inclined to take his view, but the later provisions of the Clause indicate that a parent who desires his children not to join in this act of worship, is not obliged to cause the children to attend. There- 2402 fore, it is not a compulsory act of worship, or a compulsory church parade, as some people imagine. It is a collective act of worship which carries on the present practice.
I should like the Committee and the country to realise that this is the practice in almost every school of the country. It is perfectly right for those who have spoken, including the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay), to say that there is a great deal of nonsense talked about schools being God-less and about there being no worship or religious instruction. In fact, within the limits of what we have been able to achieve, the schools are doing great work in this field, but it is absolutely right for me, as the Minister in charge, to say that the schools, although they can play their part, cannot do everything.
The great part of the responsibility for this religious worship or instruction must fall on the denomination, or on the parents themselves in the family circle, and what the schools can do is to help with this vital part of a child's upbringing. In framing the Bill, which the Committee will observe is a massive one, the Government have, all the time, taken into consideration the pros and cons, as they affect different great bodies of persons in this country. In my opinion, there is a vast body of persons who desire to see a Clause like this in an Act of Parliament. The Bill is a great advance in the history of our country and is one of great weight and value. I have explained that this act of worship is not compulsory, and that to have used alternative words would have made the situation rather too vague for me to be able to satisfy all those who are interested in this matter. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will, therefore, not press his Amendment. I guarantee that, if I had had any brain wave as to a better method of framing the Clause, I would have been only too glad to go to my hon. Friend and make a suggestion.
§ Mr. Cove
In spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, we must remember that we are dealing with one of the most serious aspects of the Bill. I hope he will not be offended if I state, quite frankly, that the religious content of the Bill is much bigger and fuller than the education content. I do not want to exaggerate, but the Bill can be described pretty fairly as a Bill for the endowment 2403 of compulsory religious teaching throughout the whole State system of education. Not only does it do that, but it preserves and extends religious denominational teaching through the schools. This is a revolution in British educational history. There is no shadow of doubt about it. Hitherto, as I have understood it, the State has kept outside the religious field in the schools of our country. [Interruption]. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) will have his opportunity later. Religious teaching has gone on, and it is untrue to say, as the right bon. Gentleman has just agreed, that our council schools are Godless schools. A collective act of worship has been carried on in almost all the schools of the country, but now it will be compulsory; the State enters into it. I do not know what the repercussions and the reactions will be, but I am afraid they may not be what hon. Members opposite desire them to be. I am not so sure that they will be in the interest of religious feeling and religious opinion and belief. I am not so sure that State compulsion will lead in the direction which hon. Members opposite desire. It is possible to make religious teaching very unpopular.
I am not quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman and Members behind him are taking the right line. May I say to my hon. Friends here that I have watched for many months a discussion of this issue in all the religious papers? I have in my pocket the first of the documents issued by the Conservative Central Advisory Committee on Education, in relation to this matter, and I would advise hon. Members to read it. It is the most brilliant exposition of the Conservative point of view relating to education that I have ever read. Indeed, I will give it this, that it is the best document that I have read for a long time about the meaning, content and purpose of education. I could quote from religious papers and from this document, to what effect? To this effect: that religion is being used, or hoped to be used, as a sanction for reactionary social policy.
§ Mr. Cove
Hon. Members have to be careful. I may be wrong but I want to say to my friends in the Church of England in particular that if religious 2404 teaching is to be approached from any political angle at all, it is a most dangerous approach to make. Involved in compulsory State religious teaching the Bill carries with it also State compulsion for the act of religious worship, as well as compulsion for religious instruction and compulsion for inspection. The Board of Education comes in, and will send an inspector around. We do not know what troubles there may be. Indeed, I do not know what adverse reaction may occur in connection with religious instruction in schools.
§ Captain Cobb (Preston)
On a point of Order. Is it not a fact that we are not discussing religious instruction, but an act of worship?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward)
I have been following the hon. Member's argument very closely and I cannot see that he has been out of Order in anything he has said so far.
§ Mr. Cove
In the interests of religious teaching in the schools, one wants, I feel, to cement the motive and purpose in the Measure, particularly in these times through which we are passing and those through which we shall have to pass when the war is over. I, therefore, say, let religious teaching in the schools be free from State compulsion. Let the State, as a State, keep out of it. Let religion flourish on the basis of the voluntary attitude towards it. Let religion, in other words, win its own way, by the power of religion. I hope that the hon. Member will stand firm by his Amendment. This is a vital issue. If he will stand firm by his Amendment, I for one, in the interests of religion itself, and in the interests of the unity of the State—[Interruption.] I have been brought up a Nonconformist. I have not been brought up under any totalitarian and regimented system of worship. Like my hon. Friend, I stand by it and believe in it. We believe that religious teaching in the schools should be voluntary. Give it every facility certainly, and let the State provide facilities for the development of religious knowledge, emotion and feeling; but do not, I beg hon. Members, bring the State in, to establish compulsion for any act of religious worship in the schools of this country.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon 2405 (Mr. Cove) has brought me into the discussion, I should like to make clear the position of myself and those with whom I am associated. He has misconceived the position, as usual. I would like to say that speaking for the Nonconformists in this Debate he is not a very good advertisement for the spirit of Christian charity which ought to prevail among us. I would rather listen to the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd). Those with whom I am associated agree to a large extent, in being anxious to preserve the right of parents to bring up their own children in their own faith, and I am most anxious that no-one should be compelled to attend religious worship or undergo religious instruction in which he did not believe. That right is safeguarded by the right of withdrawal in the Bill; but I do not want to enter into the major question. I will only say that, so far as I know, this provision has not been put in at the instance of the Church of England. I have in my hand a paper headed "A Methodist statement on the Education Bill." One sentence in it is this:It is also gratifying to know that in future, the fundamentals of the Christian faith will be recognised in all schools, in daily acts of worship and in regular instruction.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I agree with the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) that the State should keep outside the field of religion, but I do not believe with him that that would be in the interests of religion. It is obvious that religion has had to force itself on the State, or force the State to come in, to give it some hope of survival. That is why these Clauses are in the Bill. I understand the difficulties of the Minister, but I do not agree with the hon. Member for Aberavon when he says that the Bill is simply an endowment of the denominations. I have read the White Paper with some care. I consider that the Bill is a great Measure and makes a fine approach to education, but the problem of the act of religious worship comes in, and it is very difficult to get away from it.
What is actually meant by this act of worship? The hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) spoke of "the priestly attitude" to this matter. It is a very unfortunate way of putting it. It seems to me that the Catholics' attitude is that religion should penetrate everything they do in the 2406 schools, and that this act of worship, at some period of the school day, means nothing to them by itself, and is simply an act of heresy. The Evangelical Christian, of whom there are many in this country, believes in carrying the spirit with him in all that he sees and does and everything he learns and teaches. An act of worship, by itself, means nothing to him and is mere folly and humbug. Hon. Members will find that the Evangelical Christian is not interested in an act of worship by itself.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I think the hon. Member is going too far. The only question before the Committee is whether or not a certain time every day should be allotted to an act of worship in the schools.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am dealing with the act of worship which has been suggested by the Amendment. I would point out that I am not traversing anything like the ground which was traversed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon, who dealt very widely with religious education. I am concerned with the Amendment. It is necessary to understand what an act of worship is for, and what it represents. It does not represent the Catholic, it does not represent the Evangelical Christian, it does not represent those who believe that education should be kept apart from religion altogether and that the State should not interfere in religion at all. So that it is simply between the Catholics, the Evangelical Christians, and those who believe in the State having nothing to do with religion on one side, and the main force of the Established Church of this country on the other. Their desire is not to help on education but to establish more firmly, if possible, the Established Church in this country. I think that this situation, in view of the very large number of people in this country, the majority of people in this country who are not interested in an act of worship by itself—no Catholic would dare to get up and tell me that he, or any other Catholic, is interested in this act of worship by itself.
§ Mr. Walter Edwards (Whitechapel)
I can get up and say that quite definitely, as far as the vast majority of Catholics in this country are concerned.
§ Mr. Gallacher
It is the first time that I have heard from a Catholic source, that 2407 any Catholic would accept education with only an act of worship of this kind at the beginning or end of the day.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am speaking about what Catholics believe as far as education is concerned. I am talking of their beliefs so far as education is concerned, that a mere act of worship, by itself, means nothing, that religion means accompanying and penetrating all the education that goes on in the school.
§ Mr. Edwards
Could the hon. Member say from where he gets all his information about the religious views of the Roman Catholic people?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am sorry, Sir Lambert. The point I want to make is that surely there are very large numbers of people in this country who are not concerned with an act of worship, as such, by itself. I know the difficult position of the Minister. I know the obstacles that stand in the way of getting a balance, but, at the same time, I believe that he could accept this Amendment. It is not only cleverly phrased, as has been said, but it is delicately phrased. I think he could accept this Amendment and make the situation, as far as the act of worship is concerned, as free as it is possible to make it in the existing circumstances. I would not, in any circumstances, make this particular question a means of holding up or hindering the Bill because I believe that the Bill is very valuable, but I would certainly urge acceptance of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Butler
In view of the statement which the hon. Member has made, which seams to represent a general opinion, that he would not use this as a method of delaying the Bill, I must say one or two serious words more on this matter. The position is that we have been arguing for a long time in a very good spirit and with great sincerity an Amendment which suggests that there shall be facilities for religious worship. It is a slight variation from what is in the Bill. I have explained why the Government cannot accept these words 2408 and I believe that the reasons I have given are valid. I have also explained that the child of a parent who does not wish it to attend this worship, need not do so. Therefore, the speeches made about this being compulsory and totalitarian are grossly out of place. I would ask then are we to go on for a long time on this point? If so, my patience is inexhaustible, and I try to maintain an equable temperament throughout, but I would point out that this is a small issue and there is a great deal of the Bill still to come. I must appeal to the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey) to say whether he wants to pursue this matter. If he thinks there is great virtue in his wording I suggest he should come and speak to me again, but I cannot take away from the fact that there are a great many, including representatives of the Free Churches, the Established Church and other denominations, who do attach importance to this. This Bill is a whole. Certain sections occasionally like to have a little foray on their own. They had a little foray yesterday against the Bill. They must remember that in a Bill of this character, there are points here and there that one may or may not like. I believe that this is a point which some hon. Members do not like and other hon. Members do like. This is a free country and a free Committee. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and others who feel on these matters, have certainly had their say, but they must realise that there are great bodies of opinion who feel the other way. As Minister I am impartial on this, as on many other matters, but I want to get on with my Bill. I believe we can do so best by adhering to my words, but if other people want to take other action they are entitled to advocate it. I appeal to the Committee to proceed with the Bill on the present lines.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
The Minister has just made a reference to me and to some of my hon. Friends and has described us as having had a foray yesterday. We are as anxious as the Minister is to further the interests of education, but we are saddled with a duty just as much as he is, of watching with the very greatest care every word which is going into this Bill. Whatever discussions may have taken place outside cannot be represented here. We have our 2409 duty as Members of Parliament, and this Bill is coming before Parliament and not before any body or any representative bodies outside. Therefore we are entitled to express opinions. The Minister has made excellent progress yesterday and he is making good progress to-day, and may I point out, this is not a small issue. This is a major issue. The one question is, Shall a certain portion of the school day be devoted to an act of worship?
May I say, in answer to certain taunts which have been thrown out at the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), that these taunts rather surprise me? Religion is a matter for the private individual and his own conscience. If there is one thing of which we are eminently proud in this country, it is our freedom to exercise our own religious conscience in our own way. What we object to, and what we are anxious to point out is that we recognise the sincerity of those who hold a different opinion from us, but we ask them to recognise that we too have a conscience. We are making no claims—[Interruption]. The point is, Shall this time be devoted compulsorily or not? [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not compulsion."]
If hon. Members will bear with me a moment, there is freedom given to the children, at the request of the parent, but there is no such freedom given to the teacher. The word is "shall." I am very anxious not to take up time. What I was hoping was that, having put this Amendment forward, in the spirit in which we have put it forward, raising no controversial issues which we can possibly avoid, our point should be met. I remember sitting in the gallery of another place in 1902 when these questions were being discussed with much greater fierceness than is the case to-day. We are anxious to avoid that spirit. What I was hoping the Minister would say was that, between now and the Report stage, he would consider referring the matter to further talks between himself and the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey). Could he give us this assurance, that he will consider this most sympathetically? He has said himself that he is anxious to get words that will satisfy us all. If these words are too vague, then might I make this appeal: that between now and the Report stage he will give real consideration to the matter which disturbs us, that is the word 2410 "shall" and compulsion, and take away that compulsion and give us freedom in our schools?
Mr. Coleģate (The Wrekin)
I cannot understand the speech we have just heard. It seems to me to be based on an utterly unreal picture of the position as it will obtain if this Clause goes through. I have taken great interest in this matter ever since the publication of the White Paper. I have had large meetings in my constituency. I have met a great many people of a great many different sects, and if there is one feature in this Bill which is more popular than any other it is the actual Clause we are discussing today. I venture to say that if you could have a plebiscite of parents to-day 95 per cent. would vote for that Clause as it stands, with the word "shall" and not the word "may," because even those parents who take the somewhat unusual position which our hon. Friends do, and who are in a very small minority, know that there is an adequate safeguard in this Bill to prevent their children from being forced to attend an act of worship which is repugnant to the conscience of the parents concerned. It is quite wrong to talk about this matter as though this were a totalitarian State, forcing wretched little children to go to some form of worship to which their parents objected.
§ Mr. C. Davies
I never said anything of the kind. I do not know why hon. Member should put words into my mouth.
Other hon. Members have used the word "totalitarian," and the hon. and learned Member certainly gave the impression of agreeing with those people whole-heartedly. If he does not wish to give that impression, he should make it clear and dissociate himself from the remarks of some hon. Members behind him. This question of "shall" or "may" is one of the most vital things in the whole of this Bill. It represents not something that has been brought up at a late date but a feeling which has been steadily growing in this country for the last ten or fifteen years, and which was brought to a head almost immediately on the outbreak of war by the widespread feeling that the teaching in the schools in this country—only on this aspect I am referring to—was not all that it should be.
§ Mr. Lindsay
My right hon. Friend the Minister has already said that these accusations about Godless schools are very largely unfounded. He has also said that it is the regular thing now, in 99 per cent. of the schools, for this to be done voluntarily. Therefore, my hon. Friend is not quite in accord with existing facts.
My hon. Friend misunderstood me. I am not referring to what has been said about Godless schools, but to a general feeling that a more spiritual view must be taken of education if it is to achieve the objects we all want it to achieve. It is no argument to say that my right hon. Friend has already denied the accusations of Godless schools. I quite agree, but that does not take away from the fact. Read the literature, go to parents' meetings: it is an absolutely universal belief that the education of this country must be built on a firmer spiritual basis; and, for that reason, this Clause is one of the most popular Clauses in the Bill. I hope that the Government will stand firm on the wording in the Bill.
Mr. Driberģ (Maldon)
I shall not detain the Committee for more than a few minutes, but I feel strongly moved to say a few words about this Clause from a point of view which I think has not been so far put. I do not represent anybody at all except myself. [An HON. MEMBER: "And your constituents."] And my constituents. But on this matter, no doubt, my constituents are not unanimous, and I am not sure that I agree with what the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) said about there being practically 100 per cent. support for this Clause among the people generally. But that obviously is a subjective matter. There are no statistics—
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member's mistake is perhaps pardonable, but we are not discussing the whole Clause. We are discussing only the first three Amendments to the Clause.
With respect, I agree that we are discussing the first three Amendments, and I feel bound to say why I support the Amendments. I support them partly because I do not think that the Clause as it stands will achieve the effect which it sets out to achieve. I was saying that I represent nobody but 2412 myself and some of my constituents; but I speak as a member of the Church of England, as a church-warden, and as a manager of a Church school, and I do not think that the compulsory act of corporate worship every day will be conducive to the interests of true religion. I think it is far more likely to be one step in the process, which has been going on in recent years, of developing a kind of "national religion" in this country comparable to the German Christianity which has been developed in Nazi Germany.
§ Mr. Butler
This is a very important thing. I am responsible for the schools of the country, with the local authorities. This practice is universal at present. Am I to take it that that leads to German Christianity? I know the hon. Member does not want me to lead him into paths which he does not wish to enter, but he will see the tenor of his remarks. We are discussing something which is going on already.
You are now, in this Bill, making it statutory. I do not want to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman himself. I know that nothing could be further from his thoughts or wishes, but I think that this has been the drift in recent years, and that the Bill, as it is worded, will encourage that tendency. If I may use the language of the Thirty-nine Articles, I think it is much more likely not to serve true religion at all but to make of it "a blasphemous fable and a dangerous deceit." I must also support the Amendments because it is particularly the duty of Church people to do all they can to safeguard freedom of conscience. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will enlighten us on this, but I am not sure that the situation could not arise in which a sincerely agnostic teacher was obliged to conduct an act of corporate worship. I should be glad if he could tell us that that could not happen in any circumstances. If it could happen in any circumstances, that makes another reason why I feel bound to support these Amendments.
In his recent brief intervention, the right hon. Gentleman used a phrase which was somewhat ambiguous. He said that there is the safeguard that "the child of any parent who wishes to" can withdraw from these acts of corporate worship. I presume that he meant 2413 only if the parent wishes it, because that is what the Bill says. He did not mean if the child wishes it. But it seems to me—and this is not a frivolous point by any means—that an intelligent, forward boy or girl of 15 or 16 has begun to think for himself about religion, and might take a different point of view from that taken by his parents, and I think that he should be allowed to do so. For these reasons—with apologies for detaining the Committee so long—I feel bound to record my conviction that Church people, as well as others, should support the Amendments.
Mr. Maģnay (Gateshead)
I think it would be to the utmost advantage of the education of this country if the Minister would adhere to the terms of the Bill. We are all agreed in this country now that there is no salvation in secular education. There is no power in it. Only religion can do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There is no doubt about that.
There are some indifferent persons who think otherwise; but I am talking about the commonsense, ordinary people. I speak, as I have said here before, as a Methodist of four generations, trained in the schools, and I think it is a seemly thing to say grace before meat. I think it is a seemly and—
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member must not discuss religion as a whole. The only question before the Committee at present is whether a certain amount of time should be allotted every day for a corporate act of worship.
That is my point. The time of the meal is fixed; that is why we have the grace. The time of opening the school is fixed, and the time for a corporate act of worship ought to be at the beginning of the school, as the first definite act of the day. We ought to show, by symbol and sign, that we put it first. I could make a long speech, and a very good one, on this point. I hope the Minister will stick to it, and see that the Bill, as it is, is carried.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Barnstaple)
I am very surprised that the Minister should say that the leading representatives of 2414 so many powerful interests attach so much importance to getting compulsion for something which is 99.5 per cent. practised at the moment. I am a little anxious whether it is not timidity and lack of self-confidence which have caused them to insist on this, because they are wondering whether in 20 years' time they will not be in need of this compulsion, feeling that the 99.5 per cent. may by then have become only 90 per cent. or 75 per cent. We are at a crisis point in the affairs of the world, and the truths of Christianity have to be interpreted to keep abreast of the times. I get a little afraid when I see people asking for compulsory powers which can be used as a substitute for keeping the practice running. Therefore, I think the Amendments ought to be accepted.
§ Mr. E. Harvey
I appreciate the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman replied to these Amendments, but I believe that he has not realised how vitally important it is to many of us that the State should not attempt to compel an act of worship. That is the whole essence of the matter. We want to see the freest and fullest facilities given for worship; but once you enact, by Act of Parliament, that an act of worship shall be compulsory, you have done something which is against the interests of religion itself. On that account I cannot withdraw this Amendment unless my right hon. Friend is able to say that, after consultation—and I realise that he has been in touch with very important interests outside—he will give us some other opportunity to consider either this or some other form of words as an alternative to the Clause as it is drafted. He has gone a long way to get the greatest measure of unity in the Committee, and I honour him for that. We all want to avoid Divisions on this Bill. I do not want the Committee to divide, but I must divide it if I cannot get any prospect of the kind I have asked for, because it is a matter of principle which concerns both the whole country and the interests of religion itself.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 121; Noes, 20.
|Division No. 7.||AYES.|
|Adamson, Mrs. Jennie L. (Dartford)||Gledhill, G.||Nield, Major B. E.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Goldie, N. B.||Peto, Major B. A. J.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Grant-Ferris, Wing-Commander R.||Prescott, W. R. S.|
|Apsley, Lady||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Pym, L. R.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Raikes, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Robertson, D. (Streatham)|
|Beaumont, Maj. Hn. R. E. B. (P'ts'h)||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Robertson, Rt. Hn. Sir M. A. (M'ham)|
|Beech, Major F. W.||Hudson, Sir A. (Hackney, N.)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Savory, Professor D. L.|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||James, Wing-Com. A. (Well'borough)||Selley, Sir H. R.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T. (Cleveland)||Keatinge, Major E. M.||Silkin, L.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham)||Keeling, E. H.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Keir, Mrs. Cazalet||Southby, Comdr. Sir A. R. J.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Key, C. W.||Storey, S.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)||Kirby, B. V.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Cary, R. A.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)|
|Challen, Flight-Lieut. C.||Leslie, J. R.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Levy, T.||Studholme, Capt. H. G.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C.||Lewis, O.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Colegate, W. A.||Liddall, W. S.||Thorne, W.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Linstead, H. N.||Thorneycroft, Major G. E. P. (Stafford)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Lipson, D. L.||Touche, G. C.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon, Sir G. L.||Little, Sir E. Graham- (London Univ.)||Tufnell, Leut.-Comdr. R. L.|
|Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.||Loftus, P. C.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)|
|Denville, Alfred||Magnay, T.||Waterhouse, Captain Rt. Hon. C.|
|Douglas, F. C. R.||Maitland, Sir A.||Wells, Sir S. Richard|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. (Kens'gt'n, N.)||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)|
|Dunn, E.||Manningham-Buller, Major R. E.||Windsor, W.|
|Eccles, D. M.||Martin, J. H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ede, J. C.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Wright, Mrs. Beatrice F. (Bodmin)|
|Edwards, Walter J. (Whitechapel)||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||York, Major C.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Fox, Squadron Leader Sir G. W. G.||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)||Mr. Boulton and Captain|
|Gates, Major E. E.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Universities)||McEwen.|
|Glanville, J. E.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Gallacher, W.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey, W.)|
|Barstow, P. G.||Gruffydd, W. J.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Bevan, A. (Ebbw Vale)||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Broad, F. A.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||White, H. (Derby, N. E.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Maxton, J.|
|Cove, W. G.||Messer, F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Montague, F.||Mr. Edmund Harvey and Mr.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Richards, R.||Lindsay.|
§ The Temporary Chairman
The next Amendment I select is the one standing in the name of the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke), and I would like to suggest that it might be convenient for the Committee if that Amendment and the next one in the name of the same hon. Member were discussed together.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
On a point of Order. Am I to understand that the Amendment in my name, which follows the two Amendments just mentioned—In page 19, line 33, at end, to insert: "with the exception that no denominational instruction shall be imparted to any pupil at a primary school and that at such schools reli- 2416 gious instruction will be limited to the accepted Christian principles of truth, honesty, kindness, clean living and self-respect"—will be included in the general discussion on those Amendments?
§ The Temporary Chairman
Yes, that may be included in the general discussion on these two Amendments.
§ Mr. Brooke
I beg to move, in page 19, line 31, to leave out "a collective act of," and to insert "collective."
This Amendment, and that which immediately follows it, will not, I am glad to say, raise any of the religious issues which were involved in our last discussion. They deal with a comparatively small adminis- 2417 trative point, and my hon. Friends and I desire to clarify the Bill in this respect. If hon. Members will look at the Clause, they will see that it imposes a complete obligation on the authorities to arrange for a collective act of worship on the part of all pupils, where that can be done, but there is a proviso which says that, where that cannot be done—where, for instance, only nine-tenths of the pupils can be got into the school hall—there shall then be no obligation whatever. There is no obligation to do the best possible for the greatest number of pupils and these two Amendments are designed to fill that gap. They are designed to make it plain that the obligation is for collective worship on the part of all pupils, and that the arrangements shall be such that the act of worship shall be a single one for all the pupils, if the school premises so permit. The issue is quite simple, and I very much hope that the Government will be willing to clarify the position in this respect.
§ Sir T. Moore
Although the point that I wish to make is not strictly in accord with that just mentioned by the hon. Member opposite, it does, to some extent, follow the view he has sought to express. I am forced to the view contained in my Amendment not from any anti-religious attitude whatever, as I am sure hon. Members will agree, but because of my own experience in my own childhood. I found that at the age of say, five to 11, the primary stage of the school curriculum, I learned without complete understanding. I was given a certain number of denominational or dogmatic teachings to absorb which never percolated beyond, so to speak, my outer mind. The tongue became cognisant of what I was taught, but my mind never absorbed it, and I felt that it was a waste of effort and a waste of education, on the part of those trying to instruct me, to fit into a non-receptive mind teachings which that mind was not capable of properly understanding or absorbing. Therefore, I put in the Amendment my view that no denominational teaching should be given during the primary stage of education. This is the character-forming period of life, and the time for teaching the Christian virtues of truth, honesty and self-respect, and I believe and hope that the Minister may see his way to agree with me that, once you may have formed character at that impressionable age of from five to 11, then you can, with sincerity and convic- 2418 tion, super-impose the denominational teaching which would follow in the secondary stage. I feel so strongly about this because I feel it would be in the best interests of the country as a whole, and certainly would not hinder the Christian development of our teaching.
§ Mr. Ede
I do not think it would be very helpful to the Committee if I followed the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) into some of the delightful by-paths into which he has attempted to lure me; because we shall be discussing the kind of issue he raises on other parts of the Bill, and I think it would be preferable if I postponed any remarks I have to offer until that time, although, in view of their delicacy, I sincerely hope my right hon. Friend will be walking down the avenue with me. With regard to the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke), it does help us in a difficulty that inevitably presented itself when a decision was taken that a collective act of worship should take place. Many of the archaic Church schools of the country are so constructed that it is really impossible to have the collective act of worship in any circumstances consistent with reverence, and therefore, while we do provide one way out, we think the way provided by the hon. Member for West Lewisham is better, whereby the principle of the collective act of worship is retained and it is left to the authorities of the school to see that it is carried out in the most reverent way that is practicable in all the circumstances. For that reason, I have to accept the two Amendments which have been mentioned:
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 19, line 32, leave out from "and," to the end of line 38, and insert:
the arrangements made therefor shall provide for a single act of worship attended by all such pupils unless, in the opinion of the local education authority or in the case of an auxiliary school of the managers or governors thereof, the school premises are such as to make it impracticable to assemble them for that purpose.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Section religious instruction shall be given in every county school and in every auxiliary school."—[Mr. Brooke.]
§ Mr. Brooke
I beg to move, in page 20, line 9, after "to," to insert "attend religious worship or to."
2419 This Amendment is really for the removal of doubt. The words in the Clause are "receive religious instruction." There may be certain cases where it is desired that children who are withdrawn from religious instruction in the school for religious denominational instruction outside should go to church during one of those periods. I know that a case like that is provided for, if it is a recognised day of worship. Under Clause 37 there are no penalties imposed against a child being absent from schoolon any day exclusively set apart for religious observance by the religious body to which the parent belongs.So far so good. It is a natural course for the vicar, or whoever is giving the denominational religious instruction, to desire, on an occasional day, that the children should go to church. Then the local education authority may be faced with the difficulty of deciding whether they are allowed to release the children for that purpose. I would not have bothered the Committee on the point if that precise difficulty had not arisen in the past, and if it were not the case that dispute is possible between school managers and the local education authority on this point. My hon. Friends and myself think it would be well to remove this doubt by the insertion here of a definite reference to religious worship, extending the existing words of the Clause "receive religious instruction." I hope that the Government will be able to help us in this matter.
§ Mr. Ede
The Government have no doubt that the point that my hon. Friend wishes to have cleared up is already provided for. In future, if there should be a dispute between the managers or governors and the local education authority with regard to the matter, it will go to the Board for decision, on the application of the managers. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will not feel it necessary to press the Amendment, because it might have one effect to which he has not alluded. You cannot, every morning, have some children absenting themselves from the collective act of worship in order that they might attend a service in a church or some other building. We have been appealed to by religious leaders to arrange this collective act of worship, so that the day shall start with the whole 2420 school in unison making its approach to the tasks of the day. I cannot help thinking that it would be very undesirable to make provision, whereby that collective act could really break out into a series of acts in separate places of worship, with the children having their collective act away from the school, and possibly the Salvation Army children being led back to school by the band, and thus exercising a proselytising influence on behalf of that body, which would be most unfair.
§ Mr. Brooke
We thoroughly agree with the Parliamentary Secretary. We do not want that kind of service at the beginning of the school day. We want collective worship to be truly collective. The Parliamentary Secretary has assured me that it is a matter on which an appeal would lie, if necessary, by managers to the Board, and I hope that I am right in understanding that, if an appeal was made, the Board would not be unsympathetic to the considerations I have put before the Committee. In those circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Astor (Fulham, East)
There is one point in this Clause which, I hope, the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will think over, to see whether amendment of it might not be desirable on the Report stage. In Sub-section (3) the power to withdraw from the act of religious worship is given exclusively to the parents of the child, and not to the child. The Churches agree that a child of at least from 14 or 15 upwards is able to make a serious decision on religion in deciding whether it should be a candidate for confirmation or not. I believe that the Catholic Church puts the age of confirmation even lower. You might have a case in which a child, after reaching a certain age, arrived at a conscientious and reasonable decision against attending worship, but yet the parents might be utterly out of sympathy with that decision. Is it desirable to force such a child to an act of worship to which he has a genuine conscientious objection? This will have to be administered very carefully with safeguards, otherwise many 2421 children in school who wanted to go out to play, would discover that they had a conscience on this particular matter. One would only wish to make such an exception if the headmaster were genuinely convinced that the objection of the child was serious and well-founded, based on reason and not on some desire to enjoy or absent himself. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will consider this point, and, if it is considered practicable to meet consciences in that way, he will perhaps introduce an Amendment on the Report stage.
The very point which has been brought up by my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor) was the reason why I abstained from voting in the recent Division. This is a very serious matter. If a boy or girl decided that he or she did not want to attend this act of collective worship, and the parents forced attendance, it might have a terrible effect on the child hereafter and drive it completely away from any religion at all. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will consider this point and see whether, later on, something cannot be done to meet it. It is indeed a very important point; mothers of sons realise it only too well.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I rise to support the spirit of the last two speeches. This indicates the direction in which we may go once we have compulsion. It is a very serious step for a strong supporter of this Bill to divide against it. I hope that the Committee realise that we have now, in this Clause, imposed the equivalent of a religious test on the children of this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We have built into the school structure of England a new religion.
§ Mr. Denville
On a point of Order. Is not the hon. Gentlemen misleading the Committee? He has distinctly said on more than one occasion that they have freedom of conscience, to go wherever they choose.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I will not pursue that, except to say that I have not found, in 2422 speaking at meetings all over the country, an overwhelming opinion in favour of it. Therefore, I hope that we shall not continue to have the imposition of something which appears to come from a hierarchy and which I cannot find acceptable to the great mass of the people.
I have a certain sympathy with hon. Members who have brought up this point, but I would suggest to them that they are thinking of this act of collective worship rather in the form of some doctrinal teaching. What we understand is that this collective act of worship is not to take the form of appearing to impose any doctrine on the children who attend it. In the case in point, do not let us go too far into this question of individual responsibility. It is not fair to allow a child of 14 to saddle himself or herself with so serious a responsibility as that of deciding to abstain from a collective act of worship which does not involve any doctrinal teaching at all. I remember that in my school days there were many things to which I objected, and I am most thankful now I was taught many of the things to which I then objected. I am certain in that spirit, in which everyone concerned approaches this question of opening the school day with a collective act of worship, there is nothing which would offend a child, who, at that early age, had become so advanced an agnostic as to wish to be excused, in spite of its parents, from this act of worship. If we were to allow this, we should be acting against Amendment after Amendment and Clause after Clause in this Bill, which ask that attention should be paid to the wishes of the parents. How can you bring in a Bill and say that one of the most important things in education is to have due regard to the wishes of the parents, and yet, on so fundamental a thing as joining in a collective act of worship, you say that the parents' wishes shall be disregarded?
Commander Kinģ-Hall (Ormskirk)
I wish to express my view that attention should be paid to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor). This is, obviously, an extremely difficult question for Parliament to handle at all. The hon. Member made the remark that a child might not 2423 want to go there because he might want to go somewhere to enjoy himself, as if a child should not enjoy this collective act of worship. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) seemed to be moving from side to side on a kind of knife edge, between an ethical act and a religious act. I will not detain the Committee with the complications involved there, but I believe that the point raised by the hon. Member for East Fulham should be looked into, though, frankly, I do not envy my right hon. Friend's task in attempting to come to a decision on this matter.
§ Mr. Brooke
There are two highly important points on which a few words must be said before we pass this Clause. One is that we are here enacting an act of worship and religious instruction in all schools and we are making no mention in the Bill that we normally intend this to be Christian worship. It would satisfy the minds and allay the fears of a great number of people in this country, if the word "Christian" were inserted, either in this Clause, or in the interpretation Clause, with such obviously necessary safeguards as will be required for Jewish schools and others, which are definitely understood to be non-Christian schools. This insertion is the right way of safeguarding our plans against the kind of danger to which attention was called by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay), who supposed that some new kind of State religion would emerge from this legislation. If the word "Christian" were inserted in the proper place, it would then be clear beyond all doubt that Parliament intended the act of worship and religious instruction in schools to be in accordance with the views of the Christian Churches of this country.
§ Viscountess Astor
How does the hon. Member know? It is, more than in any other country in the world.
§ Mr. Brooke
Christianity is something greater than any one denomination in this country. My second point is that there has been nothing said as to the applicability of this Clause to boarding schools. 2424 In the Bill we are planning for the extension of boarding schools, but here we are making provision based wholly on the day school. I should have liked the Minister to say he would introduce regulations showing how the parents' wishes were to be safeguarded in the case of boarding schools. When we come to the Clause dealing with special schools the Minister definitely proposes to make regulations.
§ Mr. Brooke
We are left entirely in doubt as to how the Board will adapt the Clause to boarding schools. The Clause speaks of the beginning of a school day. That obviously applies to week-days. We have not thought in terms of Sundays. We have not thought out whether, in the case of these new county boarding schools, every parent is to have the right to say that his child shall or shall not go to whichever church or chapel they wish on a Sunday.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
This is getting wide of the question. I must ask the hon. Member to leave out the question of Sunday.
§ Mr. Brooke
Then I will confine myself to this. The Clause is fitted into denominational views and Free Church views as to the nature of the religious instruction to be given in day schools. The Free Church view is that that should be undenominational, and that the Churches themselves should add to it their own instruction, out of school-time, through their Sunday schools, to attach their children to their own worshipping communities. All that, of course, becomes quite different when the child is entirely under the control of the school authority—that is the local education authority—throughout the week, Sundays included. That is why I say we ought not to pass this Clause without asking for some statement from the Government as to their intentions.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Is my hon. Friend acquainted with the camp schools now set up in this country, where children go voluntarily and willingly to the church on Sunday without any compulsion at all? It is one of the most wonderful things that have happened.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am well aware of what is happening in camp schools, and I am not sure that some things that are happening in camp schools are not against the law.
§ Mr. Ede
I will deal first with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor) and the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). We recognise that there is this difficulty about senior pupils in secondary schools. They, of course, have been there up to the present, and where religious instruction has been given in the schools this problem has already been dealt with and, as far as I know, has never given rise to any practical difficulties. But inasmuch as religious instruction will now be made compulsory, and as one of the reasons put forward and pressed by the Churches was the fact that too frequently there was no religious instruction in upper forms in secondary schools, we shall have to examine this point with care. We will do so between now and the Report stage. I do not want to tread on some of the coats that have been trailed so provokingly in front of me and behind me. This is a very difficult point to deal with, and I should hate it to be thought that I was dealing with it flippantly or facetiously. I had the honour, with my right hon. Friend, of receiving the great deputation which came to us from all the evangelical religious bodies of the country. My own denomination and the Roman Catholics were not represented, but apart from that I think we had the full range of Christian opinion in this country represented. The deputation was led by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, with the present Archbishop, other Bishops and the great leaders of the Free Churches accompanying him, and they asked us for certain things.
My experience is not that of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay). I have addressed a considerable number of meetings and I have had to explain the Archbishops' five points. Of course there are some people who see the word "Archbishops" and do not trouble to read any more. With those people I cannot argue. But I have never had, at any meeting I have addressed, any objection raised to the provision in this Clause 2426 either as to the collective act of worship or compulsory religious instruction. There is, I think, a general recognition that even if parents themselves have in the course of life encountered difficulties that have led them into doubts and into hesitations, they do desire that their children shall have a grounding in the principles of the Christian faith as it ought to be practised in this counry. I do not believe there is the opposition to this part of the Bill that has been suggested in some of the speeches. Neither do I think there is any justification for those people who, on the other side, tend to sneer—I do not apply this to the hon. Member for Klmarnock, but to some of the people he quoted—at what we proposed to do in the schools and call it a school religion. It is something far better, far wider than that, as is shown by the general adhesion of the Churches to the various agreed syllabuses in the country.
In fact there really is among the worshipping communities in the country a very wide measure of agreement that this is not something special but does represent the things on which, fortunately, we can unite. I hope we shall postpone as long as possible the introduction to the child mind of those things on which we unfortunately differ. Most of them, let us be thankful, are beyond the comprehension of the child mind. The hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) asked me a question about the boarding school. This Clause relates only to the school meeting as a school. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock pointed out, what is known to every one who has been associated with the camp school movement, that, in the usual British way of tolerance and good sense, in the camp schools this problem has solved itself, and I am quite sure that if it is left as far as possible to the professional teachers to arrange, their standard of professional honour is such that they will neither inflict on a child any religious intolerance, nor neglect the legitimate desire of any parents. It may be necessary that there should be regulations framed, but I would hope that we should be allowed to profit by the rich experiences we are gaining at the moment before we attempt to set into regulations some of those things which, after all, in their final working do not depend upon regulations but upon the recognition by 2427 the professional teacher of the position he is placed in, in honour, to the children who are committed to his care.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to ask the Minister, before the Clause is passed, if he would consider re-drafting it and making the system contracting-in instead of contracting-out. That is the system which applies to the trade union movement—to contract-in and not to contract-out. I say this because I know the very great difficulties that confront parents and children when contracting-out. It is very, very difficult to put a child in the position where it has to contract-out. As I listen to some of the products of the collective act of worship, I am the more concerned to get this considered. On one occasion an old lady offered to pray for me, but before I could thank her, a Tory Christian said, "You are wasting your time, that man is damned to all eternity." I would say, after listening to the self-appointed passengers to paradise here to-day, that I can view my own woeful position, my own predestined damnation, unperturbed and with equanimity. I cannot see, from anything said here, that the act of worship has been of any benefit in producing anything in the nature of a spirit that is helpful to the speakers. Our education should produce citizens who will be helpful, in the real sense, to their fellows, and I am sure we have not got that on the other side of the Committee, no matter how many acts of worship they have made.
§ Sir Georģe Hume (Greenwich)
I would like to say one word in strong support of the plea made by the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) that the word "Christian" should be inserted in the Clause. There is a great deal of anxiety in the country because Christianity is not emphasised; it is always "religion." That is a very broad term, but this is a Christian country and we ought to have the word "Christian" inserted. There is another anxiety, and that is that the word "Bible" does not appear. I am hopeful it will be possible at a later stage to do something in that direction as well.
§ Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.