HL Deb 29 June 1837 vol 38 cc1683-5
Lord Brougham

said, that after what had fallen from his noble Friend, the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, and after the observations of the noble Duke, he felt it necessary to state the grounds on which he should postpone the Bill which stood for the second reading on the orders. The Bill, as their lordships were aware, was divided into two parts, and he had hoped that that part which applied exclusively to education, and to which he had anticipated no objection, might have been passed in the present Session. He had hoped that they would have adopted that part, and given to the Commissioners the disposition of certain charitable funds while they reserved the higher powers, which he thought the Commissioners ought to have for more mature consideration at another period. His reason, however, for postponing that part for this Session, was not the state of the business in the House, but because he thought it necessary to wait until they knew the extent of the power necessary to be given to the Commissioners; for until they knew that, they would not be able to decide how the Board should be filled up. No time, therefore, would be saved by urging the Bill in the present Session. At the same time he must impress on the attention of their Lordships, the necessity of making some legislative effort, as early as the state of business in the next Parliament would admit, for carrying out this great object of education. Other countries, which did not possess half our advantages for carrying out the principle of general education, had got the start of us in endeavours to do so. France, to its great credit, was making rapid strides in that way. In Saxony, the population of which did not exceed a million and a-half, there were 280,000 children at school. The same principle was carried out, though to a somewhat less extent in proportion to the population, in Prussia. In that country, they were actually teaching 2,000,000 of children between seven and fourteen years of age. In those countries, our superiority to which we were constantly boasting of, there was a greater number of children educated than here compared to our population, though the system of education was not so good. At the same time, our general system was by no means a good one. We had many schools, but it was only by courtesy we could call them a system of education. He felt, that the superintendence of a general system of education ought to be placed under one of his Majesty's Ministers, whether under the name of a Minister of Instruction, or any other designation. No one entertained the least doubt, that a Minister of the Crown ought to be at the head of this department. The plan of this Bill was, that there should be a board of paid Commissioners holding their places for life, and only removable, like the judges, for misconduct, with a Minister of the Crown at the head of the department. This was the foundation of the measure, to which he might add one other, and the most important consideration of the whole—that the measure was so framed as not to interfere with the exertions of individuals, and so as not to form a substitute for those exertions, and, above all, in order to provide against the possibility of oppression and abuse. He could not help expressing his disappointment at the necessity of postponing this measure, but he derived very great satisfaction from the fact, that the more this plan was considered, the more acceptance it had found in all parts of the country.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

entirely concurred with his noble and learned Friend, in postponing this measure; but he should feel extremely sorry, if it were supposed that his noble and learned Friend's measure were deferred from any hesitation on the part of their Lordships, in affirming its principle, so far as the measure related to education, and so far as it recognised the necessity of there being some State authority for perfecting and advancing the system of education which existed in this country. There were, certainly, difficulties in the way, which every one was aware of, but he thought that it was impossible to go into the general subject of education, without coming to the conclusion, that the constant exercise of something like an effective government authority, was required to prevent schools being diverted to some other objects than those for which they were originally instituted, and from becoming in their objects and character mischievous or nugatory altogether. It was impossible to refer to the details so ably collected by the Statistical Society of Manchester, with regard to the state of education in that town and Liverpool, without becoming convinced how much of education was going on of a merely nominal character. He was most anxious, as far as he was concerned, to affirm the principle of this Bill, as far as it related to education; and he should be prepared, in the next Session of Parliament, to apply himself to the consideration of the subject, feeling that it was one which, to a greater or less extent, must be taken under the superintendence of the Government.

Subject dropped.