§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee on the Corrupt Practices at Elections Bill read.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, he was about to move that the Order of the Day be read for the House going into Committee on this Bill; but before the House went into Committee, he wished to set himself right in the opinion of the House, and in that of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), in reference to a statement made by him with regard to a supposed alteration having been made by the Committee of Privy Council in their Minutes subsequent to the vote being taken in the House of Commons for educational purposes. It was stated by the noble Earl the other night that the Committee of Privy Council of Education under the late Government had made an alteration in the management clauses in reference to the Jewish schools, after the vote by Parliament of the grant for the year. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) stated in general terms that he was convinced that no material alteration had been made by the late Government subsequent to the vote for the year being taken in the House of Commons; but he had since had an opportunity of referring to the merits of the case, and he found that, so far from the proceedings of the Committee of Privy Council with respect to Jewish schools affording any such precedent, it actually appeared, by a paper on their Lordships' table, that a letter had been addressed by the Committee of Privy Council on the 8th January to the Jewish Committee, in which they were informed that unless a satisfactory arrangement could be proposed by them previous to the vote on education being taken, no such vote could be taken by which they would benefit. That did not rest on his own authority, but on the authority of the Minutes actually on their Lordships' table. At the same time he begged to state his belief that it was from mere inadvertence on the part of the noble Earl that that statement was made. He begged also to add his perfect satisfaction with the assurance which he understood the noble Earl to have given on Friday night, that no alteration should take place of a material or novel nature in the proceedings of the Committee of Council on Education until opportunities were afforded to Parliament, especially to the House of Commons, for judging of the nature of those alterations. He might be al- 556 lowed also to add, that no actual proceeding whatever had taken place with regard to the Jewish schools.
§ The EARL of DERBY
said, that on Friday last he had the honour of receiving a private note from the noble Marquess, in which he stated that it Was his intention to put a question as to whether or not a new Minute had been prepared by the Committee of Privy Council on Education, but, as he understood the noble Marquess, without intending to raise any discussion upon the subject. The noble Marquess did put his question, and he (the Earl of Derby) answered it, simply detailing the circumstances; and he confessed that it was with some surprise he then heard from the noble Marquess the expression of a rather severe censure on the course Her Majesty's Government had pursued, not with regard to the substance of the Minute itself, but from the fact of having laid it on the table at all. That, he thought, was hardly consistent with the noble Marquess's declaration that he did not intend to raise a discussion. Now, expecting that no discussion would be raised, he (the Earl of Derby) had come down to the House altogether unprepared for the accusation which the noble Marquess had made in such strong terms—that the Government had purposely abstained from laying this Minute on the table of the other House of Parliament until they had obtained the grant for education by a vote of the House of Commons. He (the Earl of Derby) must say that he felt that to be an accusation highly discreditable to Her Majesty's Government, and one which he could not and ought not to pass over without observation. The noble Marquess asserted that on no previous occasion subsequently to passing the educational vote for the year, had any important alteration been made in the Minutes of the Committee of Privy Council without submitting that alteration to Parliament, in order to obtain its sanction thereto—indeed, he went further, and said that on no occasion had any important alteration been made without submitting it to the other House of Parliament previous to asking for the educational vote for the year. Now he (the Earl of Derby) was not prepared at the time with any precedent in reference to the conduct of the Committee of Council; but it did occur to him that in the course of last winter a declaration was made on the part of the Committee, by means of a Minute, that they would 557 consent to grant assistance to Jewish schools—they having in the year 1849 (and no alteration having been made by them in the meantime) declared that those schools were not, under the terms of the Minutes, admissible to participate in the grant for education. But though the case of the Jewish schools might not afford him a precedent of the sort, yet he was quite sure that he should satisfy their Lordships that, in the declaration which the noble Marquess had felt himself called upon to make, he was speaking in error and misapprehension in the general assertion which he made on Friday; and he (the Earl of Derby) was in hopes when he saw the noble Marquess rise that evening, that he was about to correct that misapprehension. The House would recollect that the statement of the noble Marquess was, that it had never been the practice to make any material alteration in the Minutes of the Committee of Privy Council subsequently to obtaining the sanction of Parliament to the educational grant for the year. Now he begged their Lordships' attention to the following facts:—In the year 1847, 100,000l. was voted on the 26th of April, and on the 10th of July there was passed by the Education Committee a supplementary Minute, that supplementary Minute being represented by the noble Marquess himself, in a discussion which afterwards took place in this House, as one of very great importance, and which would enable the Committee of Council to give assistance to many schools to which they were previously debarred from giving such assistance by the Minutes which had been laid before the House. That supplementary Minute was agreed to on the 10th July, 1847, and the effect of it was to admit to the benefit of the public grant for education all schools which refused to submit to any inspection or report with regard to the religious instruction which was given in those schools. Surely the noble Marquess would admit that that was an important alteration in principle. The vote being passed on the 24th of April, the supplementary Minute was agreed to on the 10th of July, and laid upon the table of this House on the 16th of July; but it was not even then, nor until it had been called for, laid upon the table of the other House of Parliament. He (the Earl of Derby) took the liberty of commenting upon this fact on the 22nd of July, and on the 23rd— the following day—Parliament was prorogued 558 previously to a dissolution. Passing over minor instances of the same kind, he presumed that their Lordships would be of opinion, since great stress had been laid upon the proposed alteration of the management clauses by the present Committee of Council, that these management clauses themselves formed a rather important portion of the system. Well, the vote for the year 1847 was taken on the 26th of April, and the management clauses A, B, C, and 1), which regulated, for the first time, the whole of the restrictions imposed upon grants to Church of England schools, bore date the 28th of June, 1847; and for the first time they were laid before Parliament, not in the course of that Session—not only not previously to taking the grant for that Session—but they were not laid before Parliament until they appeared as part of the blue book; subsequently taking the vote—not for that—but for the succeeding Session of Parliament. In short, the management clauses were passed after the vote for the year was taken, whilst Parliament was sitting, and were not submitted separately to Parliament at all. The vote for the following year, 1848, was taken on the 23rd of August, and the management clauses so contained in the blue book were laid before their Lordships' House on the same day; but they appeared not to have been laid before the House of Commons until the 22nd of August, the day after the vote was taken, and then they were produced without any explanation. Again, after considerable discussion with the National Society for Education, the management clauses were revised and altered materially in the year 1849. But, from that day to this, alterations so made had never been separately laid upon the table, of the House, but were inserted in the blue book. The Vote for the year 1849 was taken on the 4th of June, and the revised management clauses appeared in the Minutes of the Committee of Council of 1848, but they were for the first time submitted to Parliament on the 28th of June, 1849. He had now stated the important occasions upon which, contrary to the statement of the noble Marquess, material alterations were made whilst Parliament was sitting, and subsequently to the Estimates for the year having been granted; and which alterations were not communicated to Parliament at all until the following Session— one of these alterations being the alteration of the whole system of the manage- 559 ment clauses, of which the present Minute was not so much an alteration as an alternative offered to the Church schools for the acceptance of the management clauses in their present or amended state. He hoped he had now said enough to satisfy their Lordships that in the course Her Majesty's Government had pursued, they had not been without a precedent to support their views. At the same time he must positively disclaim, for himself and for his Colleagues in the Government, any desire whatever to withdraw from the fullest cognisance of Parliament this or any other alteration that might he proposed; and if the noble Marquess would like to discuss the merits of the particular alteration now contemplated—which, being substantially agreed to a week ago, was finally arranged on Saturday last, and which he (the Earl of Derby) had brought down to lay upon their Lordships' table to-night—he should be most happy to give him the opportunity of doing so. With regard to the particular time at which that Minute was agreed upon, he could assure the noble Marquess that, at that time, he did not himself knew whether the specific Vote for education had passed the House of Commons or not; but if it would be any satisfaction to the noble Marquess, he would tell him the ground upon which that particular time was chosen for no longer delaying to come to a conclusion upon the Minute. The fact was, that on the following Thursday there was to be the annual meeting of the National Society; and Her Majesty's Government were extremely desirous, by making an alteration which they hoped would meet the views of moderate Churchmen, to prevent a repetition of the very painful discussion which took place last year, and to prevent the bringing forward of extreme opinions on either side, and to reconcile, previous to the annual meeting, the great body of Churchmen upon a subject with regard to which there had hitherto been most unfortunate, and he thought unprofitable, discussions between them.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, he wished shortly to state that he placed the most implicit faith in the statement made by the noble Earl as to the circumstances under which this Vote was moved in the other House of Parliament. He had not intended to cast any imputation whatever on the good faith of the noble Earl. But with regard to the other point to which the noble Earl had adverted—that of the management clauses—he 560 (the Marquess of Lansdowne) admitted that if the noble Earl could prove that the alterations made by the late Committee of Privy Council were alterations of the system, and not such as were adopted in consequence of explanations given in Parliament—that they could not be considered in any other point of view than as a change of principle—he would be justified in the observations he had made. It would be obvious to their Lordships that he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) could not go into the question in that incidental way; but he should be prepared to do so on a future occasion. But he believed the alterations in the clauses in question were not alterations of the system, but were strictly in furtherance of the assurances given to Parliament for the carrying out of that system.
§ The EARL of CHICHESTER
begged to corroborate the statement of the noble Marquess, that the management clauses were not in themselves an alteration of the principle of the system, but were merely a more perfect carrying out of the system to which Government were previously pledged; in proof of which he referred to communications he had had with the noble Marquess on the subject of a Motion which he had intended to bring forward with the view of making the imposition of the clauses compulsory, but which Motion he had abandoned when he learnt the intentions of the Government.
The BISHOP of OXFORD
thought that the assistance which the noble Earl had intended to give the Government by his statement was rather of an unfortunate character; inasmuch as the fact that the noble Earl had mentioned, that he had himself intended to bring forward a Motion on the subject, showed that he considered the matter to be one of very great importance. The noble Marquess had described the former alteration of the management clauses as an unimportant charge, and not falling within the category of an alteration at all.
The BISHOP of OXFORD
had understood the noble Marquess to say that it was merely a carrying out of what had been done before, and was therefore not necessarily laid before Parliament. He, on the other hand, thought it was an operation of the greatest possible moment, and one on which Parliament ought to have been fully consulted, and had the opportunity of expressing an opinion. He thought 561 that if this noble Marquess would fix a time when the question could be properly discussed, he should be able to show the noble Marquess that very important changes had been repeatedly introduced by the late Government after the annual vote had been taken.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, he should have felt it highly improper to go into the general question: all he wished was to set himself right. He admitted that the management clauses were an important change as to the mode of administering the grant, but there was no change in principle. The object was that schools of every denomination complying with those conditions might derive the benefit of the grant.