§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
I wish to ask the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) a question, on the subject of which I have given him notice, which is, whether any Minute has been agreed to by the Committee of Privy Council on Education, effecting or proposing to effect any alteration in the administration of the public grant voted by Parliament for educational purposes?
§ The EARL of DERBY
In answer to the question put to me by the noble Marquess, of which he was kind enough to give me notice, I beg to state that a Minute has been agreed to—that is to say, a Minute has been agreed to in substance, though not yet in exact words, which will make some alteration, and effect some relaxation in the stringency of some portions of what are called the management clauses affecting schools connected with the Church of England. It is not proposed to make any alteration with respect to the management clauses themselves; but it is proposed with respect to the grants to certain schools, that certain words should be introduced in the alternative in lieu of certain words in the management clauses, and to provide that parties who may avail themselves of this option should not be disqualified in consequence from receiving any portion of the funds appropriated by the Government to the purpose of education. As I said before, the precise form of words has not been definitely agreed upon; but as soon as they are, I shall have great pleasure in laying the Minute upon your Lordships' table.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
I did not intend to raise any discussion upon the subject on this occasion, and I certainly do not wish to pronounce any opinion what- 469 ever on the subject of those alterations, because I am the last man to say that some alterations may not be very properly made from time to time in the regulations under which the grants are distributed. What has induced me to put the question to the noble Earl is, that that alteration, which has been described by high authority as an important one, has been made under very peculiar circumstances. Now, my Lords, it is only a very few days ago that a Vote was proposed in the other House of Parliament for applying a portion of the public money to this grant. It has been hitherto uniformly the custom, when any material alteration has been made in the condition of these grants, to lay that alteration forthwith before Parliament. I regret exceedingly that the present important alteration was not communicated to the House of Commons, nor any intention expressing of making such alteration at the moment when the other House was called upon to provide for this portion of the public service. This branch of the public service was so provided for no doubt upon the conviction that no such alterations was intended. I do not say whether the proposed alteration is a fitting one or not; but be it the very best of all alterations, which I assume it to be, the other House of Parliament had the right to be informed upon the subject before it voted the money. And I will take upon myself to say that while I was a Member of the Council on Education, in no one case did it ever occur that immediately subsequent to the voting of money for that branch of the public service, any alterations were made. On the contrary, the greatest care was always taken to communicate any such alteration from time to time; but, above all, to communicate it immediately before calling upon the other House to vote any portion of the public money for that purpose. I must say that the House of Commons have not, in the present case, had not that opportunity which they always have had, and which they have a right to have afforded them, namely, of obtaining the information for which the money is required, and the mode in which it is to be applied for the public service. It was not till after this Vote was obtained—it was agreed to on the 3rd of June, and reported on the 4th— that any intimation of the proposed alteration of the Minute was made. It was not till the money was secured from the other House that that intimation was made, and then, not even to the House of Commons, 470 but to another quarter, where it was probably supposed it would receive a more hearty reception.
§ The EARL of DERBY
I hope the noble Marquess does not intend to impute to Her Majesty's Government that they have been actuated in the course they have felt it their duty to pursue, by any unworthy desire of deluding or deceiving this or the other House of Parliament. We have had frequent representations made to us, similar representations were also made to the noble Marquess when he was at the head of the department on this subject. Complaints were presented, as we thought then, and as I think now, well-grounded, just complaints, upon the part of members of the Church of England, that with respect to the stringency of the regulations of the management clauses, they were not placed upon a footing of equality with other religious denominations to which aid was afforded from the grant. We have never concealed our opinion that in that respect the Church of England have cause to complain of the stringency of those clauses; and at the very earliest period at which it was possible for us to take those clauses into our consideration we entered into consultation with the Education Committee, with the view of seeing if whether—keeping in view the principle of perfect fairness and equality among the various denominations, and maintaining the principle of the management clauses—it was practicable to introduce such amendments and alterations as would meet well-founded objections, and remove what we considered to be a legitimate cause of complaint. We have not in the slightest degree altered the existing management clauses; but where liberty has been given to other denominations with respect to the religious and moral education of the people, we have not thought that the Church of England was making an extravagant or unreasonable demand if they required that the same liberty which was given to other denominations should be enjoyed by members of the Church of England also. My Lords, I quite agree with the declaration of the noble Marquess that is the duty of those who arc charged with the administration of those funds to give the earliest information to Parliament of any alteration which they may purpose to effect in the terms on which they are granted. At the same time I presume the noble Marquess does not go so far as to contend that, before the terms of a Minute are actually agreed upon by 471 the Committee of Privy Council itself, any communication should necessarily be made, not of the Minute agreed upon, but of the Minute which may at some subsequent period be agreed upon. And although the noble Marquess has said that he knows of no instance in which any important alteration has been made at a short period subsequent to the grant of the money, I take the liberty of informing him that in the course of the last winter the noble Marquess himself did by a Minute, which has only recently been laid before the House, introduce a very important alteration in the principle upon which this grant of public money is made, namely, that he consented to an endowment for the establishment of a school for the instruction of Jewish children at the expense of the British public. That is a very important alteration—a more complete alteration of principle than any which is involved in the amendments which we propose to make in the management clause, and which, when the noble Marquess has seen, I shall be perfectly ready to vindicate—I say that the proposed alteration is one of importance; but it is important only in this respect—that I believe it will have the effect, and that I conceive a most desirable effect, of removing well-founded dissatisfaction upon the part of members of the Church of England —of healing dissensions in the body of that Church, and materially increasing the amount which members of that Church can conscientiously profit by—that aid which is afforded by the country to all denominations, and which I think ought to be afforded to all denominations, with at least equal liberty.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
I regret that the noble Earl has so far departed from the strict answer to my question as to be led somewhat irregularly into a vindication of the proposed Amendments. I did not intend to argue this subject further than it relates to the immediate question which I took the liberty of asking; and that immediate topic the noble Earl has altogether avoided. This is not the House of Parliament to which the communication ought to be made. When the time comes that we shall be enabled to judge from the Minute itself how far the alteration is likely to affect the Church of England, I shall be fully prepared to go into that question; and I hope to be able to show that the Church of England was most advantageously situated under the existing management of this grant. With 472 respect to other sects, any alterations in what are called the "management clauses with reference to the Church of England, must undoubtedly be attended with the consequence—the unfortunate consequence —of making alterations equally in the conditions attached to this grant with respect to other denominations. I wish, however, most distinctly to explain that the sole ground of my complaint to-night is, that whereas meetings of the Committee of Privy Council have been repeatedly held upon a question which the noble Earl has said has been repeatedly the subject of consideration of himself and his Colleagues since the appointment of the new Committee of Council—a subject with reference to which the noble Earl has expressed a strong sense of the importance of making these proposed alterations, both before and since he came into office, yet that these meetings have been held, and the subject repeatedly considered, entirely unknown to Parliament and the public until some time after the Vote had been obtained. And I once more distinctly state that there was no material alteration agreed to by the Committee of Privy Council while I had the honour to be connected with it, which was not communicated to the House of Commons before any vote of public money was asked for. The noble Earl has not stated the date at which the Minute was agreed to; but I think he will see that the proceedings upon this occasion are in the highest degree open to the objections which he himself has taken before now to the proceedings of the Committee of Privy Council not being laid before the House in time for Parliament to know how it ought to act with regard to them. In this case the House of Commons has been called upon to act in perfect ignorance of the intentions of the Committee of Privy Council upon a subject which the noble Earl himself says is one of the utmost importance, and which has occupied a considerble share of his attention and that of his Colleagues since their accession to office.
I should be glad to know whether it is intended that this new Minute, which is not yet quite complete in its wording, should take effect with respect to the grant of money which has just been voted by the House of Commons for the purposes of education; or whether it is intended to apply only to the vote of another year? I ask the question upon this ground: the House of Commons has been in the habit of giving a large discretion to the 473 Government with respect to the application of money voted for the purpose of education in England and Ireland. Upon the other hand, the Government for the time being have made it their duty to take care that when the House of Commons voted the money for this purpose, the House should he fully aware of the way in which the money was to be applied. The consequence has been, as the noble Marquess has informed you, that no change of importance was ever made in the regulations by which the money was applied, without its being done in such a manner as that the House should know of such alteration before the money was voted to which that alteration should apply. Now I perceive that the gentleman who has for many years served as Secretary to the Committee of Privy Council on Education, has, in a letter which appeared this day in the public newspapers, referred to these facts. He refers to one or two important alterations which have taken place in the regulations, and shows that great care was taken that those changes should be made at such times as that Parliament should understand them before any money was voted to which those alterations were to apply. In the present case the noble Earl opposite has informed us that the subject has been for some time under consideration; that it is an amendment of considerable importance; and that the substance of the proposed alteration was settled some time ago. Now, if the noble Earl had wished to adhere to what has hitherto been the practice in such cases, the course was perfectly clear. The House of Commons had not closed the Committee of Supply; there remained several votes of supply to agree to; and the natural and obvious course, if the noble Earl wished to keep the House informed, as in previous cases, of the means to which the money was to be applied, was to have deferred this vote until the other votes had passed, and in the meantime, having completed the wording of the Minute, to lay it upon the table of the House, and call attention to it before the vote passed. If the noble Earl intends that the altered Minute should take immediate effect, that was the straightforward, fair, and honest way of dealing with the other House of Parliament. I do not impute to the noble Earl any intention of that conduct which he seems to fancy has been imputed to him, but which it was not the intention of the noble Marquess to impute; but the noble Earl having omitted to take that 474 course which in my opinion was necessary, if it is intended that the amended clause should take immediate effect, I think he will be wanting in that respect towards the House of Commons, and in the straightforward conduct which it has a right to expect, if the alteration is made to take effect before another year shall have gone by, and another vote of money has been conceded. The question, therefore, which I wish to ask is this: does the noble Earl intend, or not, that the grant which has just been made by the House of Commons shall be applied according to those rules and regulations which the House of Commons, in voting that money, believed to be in force, and not likely to be altered; or, is it intended that any changes shall, or shall not, take effect with respect to this particular vote, which were not known to the House of Commons at the time of voting the money.
§ The EARL of DERBY
I did not anticipate that any discussion of this nature would have arisen upon the notice of the noble Marquess of his intention to put a question to me on this subject. I am, consequently, not at all able to enter upon a discussion of the particular times of the year, and seasons, at which important alterations have been made in the rules laid down by the Commissioners of National Education; but if I am not much mistaken, many of the most important alterations and decisions which have been made by the Committee of Education have been made during the recess of Parliament, and consequently at a time when the Vote had been agreed to. I have no desire that the House of Commons should, in the slightest degree, be deceived with respect to the purpose for which any vote has been granted; and I am quite ready at once to say that under the Minute which is about to be issued, but which has not yet been issued, no sum of money shall be applied until the House of Commons has had full and ample opportunity of pronouncing its judgment upon the expediency or inexpediency of such alteration.