HL Deb 20 July 1868 vol 193 cc1461-73

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I could hardly have acceded to the request made to me by some of my noble Friends near me that I should move the second reading of the Public Schools Bill unless I had felt sure that at this stage it was not I likely to meet with opposition, or to give rise to any detailed discussion. It is difficult to imagine how any measure ever presented to your Lordships' consideration could have undergone more thorough examination or have received in its main principles more complete sanction than the Bill to which I have now to ask you to give a second reading. I would venture to remind your Lordships that in the year 1862 Her Majesty was pleased to issue a Commission to inquire into the management of the nine principal Schools of this country. That Commission was presided over by a noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon) whom I see opposite, who conducted the inquiry with, very great ability and very great diligence; and two other noble Lords, Friends of mine, were also distinguished Members of it. The Commission sat for, I think, a period of two years; it examined locally all the authorities and all the persons principally connected with those various establishments, and nothing could have been more searching or more complete than the examination and inquiry which they then made. They presented in the year 1864 a very comprehensive Report; and I am bound to say that whatever changes have since been made, and whatever investigations have since taken place, in the main the measure now submitted to your Lordships' consideration is founded on the recommendations made try that Commission. One of the points to which I believe the Commission agreed in attaching great importance—namely, that under the system now pursued at the Public Schools too exclusive an attention is given to the study of Greek and Latin, and too little attention to the modern languages. I should be the last to deprecate the study of the classical languages; but the Commissioners have been much misunderstood if it be supposed that their object, in recommending a larger introduction of modern languages, was to lower the standard of the Public Schools as a preparation for the Universities, although they thought that other branches of instruction might be usefully introduced. Before I go further, I would remark that, although no immediate result in a Parliamentary or legislative sense followed upon the Report, yet that the labours of the Commissioners were by no means fruitless. In regard to one of the Schools upon which the Commissioners reported in some respects unfavourably—the great school at Eton—a new Head Master, who is a relative of mine, has been appointed, and I rejoice in the amendment which has been apparent in that school. To show how far other branches of instruction beyond the classical languages have been introduced I will read a few lines which I have received from the Provost of Eton. He says— There are at present 861 boys in the School. Of these, 761 are obliged to learn French. They have two hours a week at lessons and a French exercise. Nearly 300 of these 761 are also learning physical science (physical geography, mechanics, astronomy, hydrostatics, or optics), two hours a week and questions to answer. The first; 100 in the school are compelled to learn some modern language, or physical science, or political economy. Of these, 28 are learning German, 11 Italian, 6 physical science, 7 political economy, the rest French. This Paper shows that the recommendations of the Commissioners have not been barren of results. The principal recommendations of the Commissioners refer to the regulation of the new Governing Body to which is intrusted the duty of making very extensive alterations, partly by statute and partly by regulations. The statutes of the schools have reference to the foundation, endowments, and different fundamental rules of the College or School. These can only be altered by the authority of the Queen in Council, after due and ample notice has been given to all the parties, interested. The regulations, as distinguished from the statutes, are those which principally apply to the discipline, studies, and numerous details of the School—and these may be introduced by the Governing Body without the sanction of an Order in Council. The Commissioners proposed to carry into effect the alterations they suggested; and my noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon), in 1865, introduced a Bill of an important character to give effect to these recommendations. In illustration of the concurrence of opinion that led to this Bill, I may state that, on the Motion of my noble Friend, the Bill was referred to a Committee of your Lordships' House. They sat and took evidence, They allowed all the Schools to be represented—and they were very ably represented—before the Committee. I had the honour of being a member, and I must say that I never sat upon a Committee which gave a more dispassionate and industrious consideration to the subject referred to them. The Committee introduced considerable alterations into the plan. The Commissioners had in the Schedule of the Bill constituted the new Governing Body of the Schools. That was thought to be going too far in interference with the local and internal management of the Schools, and the Committee, with the concurrence of my noble Friend, struck out the Sche- dule which constituted the new Governing Body, and left the Governing Body as it had previously existed; but with the power of recommending reforms in their own constitution. In order to carry out those reforms, they appointed by name a number of Commissioners, without whose sanction no step could be taken by the Governing Body. It was by this time rather late in the Session, and the Bill was not carried to a third reading. In 1866, the same Bill was introduced with no modifications whatever; but at the next stage an alteration introduced by myself was carried by the narrow majority of 28 to 27, which took away from the Commissioners so to be appointed the power of altering the constitution of the Governing Body, unless the Governing Body themselves chose to make the alteration. I thought it was a very large and extensive power to place in the hands of the Commissioners—the power of naming the Governing Body. The Bill went down to the Commons at the close of the Session of 1866; but at that period of the Session there was but small chance of making successful progress with it, and in July the Order was discharged. In 1867, when I had the honour of being at the head of the Government, I thought it my duty to introduce the Bill precisely in the form in which it had received the assent of your Lordships. Then came the question of vesting in the Commissioners the power of altering the constitution of the Governing Body; and, although I still thought it better to send down precisely the same Bill, yet I said that if the Commons thought fit to make any alteration on that point I should not feel that I was bound to offer any opposition to such Amendments. That Bill was sent down early in the year—in fact, in the month of March, 1867. Your Lordships know the importance of the various subjects which engaged the attention of the other House during the whole of last Session, and it is not surprising that that House had not time to take this and other important measures into its consideration. Again, in the present year, other Bills connected with the great measure of last year have been submitted to the House of Commons, together with other questions more or less apropos, of which I shall say nothing, except that they occupied a great deal of time and prevented, until a late day, the progress of this Bill; so that it was only within the last few days that the measure was submitted to your Lordships' House. In the first place, therefore, the subject was inquired into by a Royal Commission. A Bill was then brought in, which was before your Lordships for three successive years, and was examined by a Select Committee. It went down to the House of Commons, where it was also referred to a Select Committee; and from that House the Bill has emerged in its present state. The main principle of the Bill has never varied from its first introduction, and has been acceded to by both Houses; and, under these circumstances, I hope it will not be found necessary by your Lordships to offer any opposition to the second reading. With regard to the composition of the Governing Body, a proposition has been made that does not altogether correspond either with the propositions first submitted to this House or the alteration made in it. The House of Commons has introduced a provision that the present Governing Bodies shall have the power for a limited time of reforming their own constitutions. It appears, however, to me that the time given for this proceeding is unnecessarily short, extending only until the 1st of January, 1869. That is a period of only five months; and it will probably be the month of November before the several Governing Bodies can meet to consider the subject. Whatever alteration they may make of the nature to which I have previously referred will have to be submitted for the consideration of the Queen in Council, and will not take effect until three months after being approved by Her Majesty in Council. The period allowed for any Governing Body to carry into effect the change in its constitution seems to me unnecessarily short; and although there is a provision by which the Crown may extend it for three months, the time will even then be so brief that I submit for your Lordships' consideration whether you concur with me in thinking that it might be usefully prolonged. In the event of the Governing Body taking no action, or no action approved by the Commissioners, within that short period, the Special Commissioners are then to have the power of taking into their own hands the composition of the Governing Body, and up to the 1st of January, 1870, or, if extended by the favour of the Crown, up to the 1st of January, 1871, the existing or reformed Governing Body is to have the power of framing statutes and regulations in pursuance of the provisions of this Bill. If the Governing Body, however, fail to satisfy the Commissioners with regard to such schemes and regulations before the 1st of January, 1870, or, if extended, before the 1st of January, 1871, the whole power devolves, as in the case of the Oxford and Cambridge Acts, upon the Special Commissioners of framing their schemes and regulations, the schemes being subject to the revision of the Committee of Privy Council, and two months elapsing before their coming into force, for the purpose of giving persons an opportunity of preferring objections. I presume that if the time is extended for the Governing Bodies to make their schemes and regulations, a corresponding extension will be allowed to the Commissioners, whose powers may be extended from the 1st of January, 1871, to the 1st of January, 1872, at which time the whole powers of the Commissioners lapse. With regard to the schemes and regulations now for the first time introduced into the Bill, your Lordships will find that the 7th clause enables the Commissioners to frame statutes as to the disposal of the income or property of the Schools, for the purpose of improving or enlarging the existing establishments or of establishing any subordinate or other Schools in connection therewith. There is a subsequent provision that no existing rights shall be interfered with; but the Commissioners will have power to regulate the income of future Wardens, Provosts, and Fellows. Now, there is a doubt whether such power was not included in the general powers of the Bill; but I have thought it right to call your Lordships' attention to the fact that this power is expressly given in this Bill, to the Governing Body in the first instance, and failing them, to the Special Commissioners. With regard to regulations, a provision has been introduced giving the Governing Body or the Special Commissioners power of making regulations which do not require the consideration of the Privy Council, for the purpose of giving facilities for the education of boys whose parents or guardians wish to withdraw them from the religious instruction of the School, and also for enabling boys other than boarders to attend school and participate in its educational advantages. Now, as to the latter, I doubt whether any such provision is necessary, for I recollect that when I was at Eton, considerably more than half a century ago, two little boys, aged five and six, whose parents resided at Windsor, were brought down every day, attended by their nursemaid, it being an object to enter as Collegers, at the earliest possible period, because no boy entering the same year was allowed to be placed above them in the School. Those boys were allowed to come to Eton and partake of all the instruction given there. Under what authority that was done, I do not know; but this Bill gives distinct authority for that purpose. I do not think that such a provision is likely to be extensively applied at Eton; whether it will have more extensive operation at Harrow, Rugby, and the other Schools, of which I have not the same knowledge, I cannot say. I understand a great effort was made in the House of Commons to make these last two powers compulsory on the Commissioners; but that House negatived the proposal, and have left it to the Governing Body or the Commissioners to decide whether or not they will extend the privileges of Eton by admitting boys whose parents wish to withdraw them from religious instruction, and also by admitting boys other than boarders to attend at the School for daily instruction. These, I think, are the only modifications of any consequence which the House of Commons have introduced into the Bill. They are matters for consideration in Committee; but they certainly would not justify your Lordships in offering any opposition to the second reading. I will now call your Lordships' attention to another point of great importance. Nothing can be larger than the powers which by this Bill are conferred upon the Special Commissioners, and it is, of course, of the utmost importance that those Commissioners should be persons commanding the confidence and respect of the country. Seven gentlemen were originally named; but from various causes only two of them remain on the present list—the most rev. Prelate who presides over the diocese of York and the Clerk of the Parliaments. The other gentlemen whose names now appear in the Bill are—the Marquess of Salisbury, the Recorder of London, Sir John Lubbock, Mr. Coleridge, and Mr. Charles Stuart Parker. In the Bill as originally introduced the last name was that of a gentleman universally respected, the Rev. Canon Blakesley; but, for some reason—I know not what—his name was struck out when the Bill was in Committee in the House of Commons, and Mr. Parker's name was substituted. I have not the honour of personal acquaintance with either of those gentlemen, and I have no opinion to offer as to the propriety of the alteration; but I cannot help expressing great regret that any alteration of a personal character should have been made. At the same time, I am sure that no gentleman in that position would have the least desire that any personal interest or feeling should stand in the way of the passing of the Bill. There are several other questions on which I should not venture to express an opinion, such as the financial arrangement with regard to Westminster School. The Governing Body in the case of Westminster consists of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, with the Dean of Christ's Church, Oxford, and the Master of Trinity, Cambridge. Now, they have but a slight interest, if any, in the School; and it has been thought desirable—I have no doubt they themselves feel it desirable—that a new Governing Body should be appointed. It will therefore be necessary to make some arrangement with regard to the contribution to be made to the School, and a provision has been introduced by which, within a limited time, it shall be open to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, if they can agree, or if not, to either of them, to submit a scheme whereby the new Governing Body shall contribute to the School a sum not less than £3,500, and not exceeding £4,000, after deducting expenses of management. That is a question on which I understand the noble Earl at the head of the Commission will make some observations; but I presume they will be more fitly addressed to your Lordships when in Committee than at the present time. There are subordinate provisions affecting the different Schools; but considering the ordeals through which the Bill has passed, and the general assent given to it by your Lordships on previous occasions, and also by the House of Commons, I need not trespass further on your Lordships' time, and I will therefore conclude by asking you to give the Bill a second reading.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Derby.)


said, that as a Member of the Commission appointed six years ago and also of the Select Committee of this House, he thanked the noble Earl for his lucid explanation of the origin, progress, and general history of the Bill, which had freed him from the necessity of entering into some details which might otherwise have been necessary. He was glad to learn from the noble Earl's statement that the main principle recommended by the Commissioners, and founded upon the evidence given before them, had been in no respect departed from by the House of Commons. Seeing, however, that no intimation was given of a difference of opinion with respect to the principle of the Bill, and that such very little alteration was made in it at any stage of its progress, he regretted that so much time should have been spent in passing the Bill through the House of Commons. He knew very well that the time of the House of Commons last year was almost exclusively occupied with the Reform Bill, and that this year it was partly occupied with Reform Bills and partly with another subject; but as there always was an intention to send the Bill to a Select Committee, some steps should have been taken at an earlier period to expedite the measure. He did not think that the Bill should have come up to their Lordships' House at a period when they were told that they must absolutely pass it through its successive stages in the four or five following days. He hoped his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) would consent to an extension of the period during which the Governing Bodies might reform themselves. It was not a very easy matter, and would not be done without considerable discussion. These Governing Bodies could not be brought together before November; and even if they were to agree more quickly than they could be expected to do, the assent of the Privy Council would be necessary, and before the arrangements could be made the time allowed to the Commission would have expired. He hoped, therefore, his noble Friend would consent to have the time enlarged. With respect to the Memorandum, a most satisfactory statement had been made by his noble Friend. And here he must take the opportunity of distinctly contradicting the allegations that the Commission over which he had had the honour to preside were opposed to the teaching of Latin. He certainly considered, and had often said in that House, that Latin should be the basis of every liberal education. But what the Commissioners complained of was that it was exclusively taught; and he must say that the Paper which his noble Friend had read fully justified the views of the Commission, and was an earnest of the great change which had occurred at Eton. But he begged their Lordships to bear in mind that all these alterations which his noble Friend had referred to had been made within the last six months. It appeared that now 761 boys, which was just 700 more than before, were learning French at Eton. The French Master in his evidence had stated that seventy boys were the maximum that had ever learnt any scrap of French, and he could not say that any real progress had been made. He (the Earl of Clarendon) remembered putting this question to the witness—"Having now been twenty years a French Master at Eton, your greatest ambition would be to be recognized?" and the answer was—"Exactly so." He would also recall to their Lordships' minds that when Dr. Balston was before the Committee, and was asked whether he did not think modern languages necessary to the liberal education of an English gentleman, he admitted that they were—that it was desirable to learn French, and that education was not complete without it; but he seemed to think that modern languages should be learnt somewhere else than at Eton. His noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) had alluded to the clause which he carried by the narrow majority of 1—that was done by a sort of "fluke;" and, certainly, when they had changed sides in the House, and the conduct of the Bill had devolved upon his noble Friend, he introduced it. But he (the Earl of Clarendon) would have endeavoured to induce their Lordships to reverse their former votes, and he thought he could have given very good reasons for such a course. His noble Friend, however, had made a very satisfactory statement now with regard to the clause. He was glad that the clause had been omitted. There was only one more point to which his noble Friend had alluded upon which he wished to say a few words—namely, as to Westminster School, and the importance of not altering in any way Clause 21 of the Bill. He believed the very existence of Westminster School might be said to depend on the retaining of that clause. In pursuance of the general wish, both of old Westminsters and the public, it had been decided that the School should not be removed into the country, but should be retained as a great Public London School. But, after personal inspection, and with the entire approval of his noble Friend opposite, it was recommended that a grant should be made by the Dean and Chapter and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners which was necessary not only for the help, hut the proper status of the School. He believed that this matter had been taken into the very serious consideration of the House of Commons, and that Clause 21 would satisfy all the requirements of the school. Some legislation of this kind was necessary, for, although the Dean and Chapter were now very liberal-minded men, and would do what was right and just, yet in this matter they wanted some looking after.


said, he must deny that the introduction of French at Eton was altogether due to the new Master. The improvements adopted there in this respect were due to the friendly writing of Sir John Coleridge, to the writing of Mr. Higgins, which was not very friendly, and lastly to the Commission. As to the Bill, he approved entirely of the scope of it, which had not been materially altered. Having compared the Bill, however, with the recommendations of the Commissioners, with the Bill as it came out of the Select Committee three years ago, and with the Bill of 1867, he found that there were several changes in details of which he did not see the necessity. He would desire, therefore, to propose some Amendments which would make it more in accordance with the measure as it came out of the Select Committee of this House. Their Lordships had reason to complain very much of the position in which this House had been placed with regard to many important Bills by the late period of the Session at which these Bills had come up. He was told that if their Lordships touched a single letter of this Bill, they might imperil it. Now, that was an exceedingly unfair position for the House to be placed in. He did not wish to imperil the Bill; but he hoped there was time to make the Amendments which were necessary.


, speaking as an old Westminster boy, expressed a hope that nothing would be done to diminish the usefulness of that ancient foundation.


said, that no blame could be attributed to the Government for the late period of the Session at which the Bill had come up to this House; but seeing the pressure of important business upon the other, it was difficult to see how greater despatch could have been secured. He could assure their Lordships that the Government had done all they possibly could to push on the Bill, which had been considered at Morning Sittings; but the opponents of the Bill were so determined to delay it, that the Government had found it impossible to bring it on until now. He agreed that it would be most desirable to extend the time within which the Governing Bodies were to make such reforms as were desirable. But the Privy Council would now under the Bill have the power of extending this period for three months, and their Lordships would probably do well to extend it for three months longer. Having been educated at Eton, he knew that at that time, although there was a French Master, few boys learnt French. But while strong prejudice existed against Eton on this account in the mind of many persons, he thought that much blame rested with the parents of the boys. It was impossible to learn French by a lesson of two hours a week, and the preparation of one exercise a week. Many of the parents of Eton boys were well-to-do and even wealthy, and it was quite in their power to teach their boys French, and perfect French, before they went to Eton. French might be taught, through a French bonne, without the child knowing he was learning French. He travelled with the late Duke of Hamilton who learnt French and Italian in that way; and wherever they went in those two countries the natives believed him to be one of themselves and no Englishman. If a boy arrived at Eton, having learnt French in that way—not grammatically, but by the ear—he would soon perfect himself as a French scholar. He knew a family, and that not a rich, one, in which four or five children were acquiring French through companionship with a French child. He thought it rested rather with parents than with the Heads of the much abused Schools to teach children a language which he believed it was impossible to learn in a desultory way at a Public School, where so many other things were taught. One evil in connection with Public Schools was the length of the holidays, which took from three to three and a half months out of the year, to the total interruption of tuition during that period. By far the greater number of boys had complete holiday, their minds were allowed to lie fallow, and, if their memories were not unusually retentive, they forgot much of what they had learnt. Under these circumstances, he was compelled to say that many of the sins which were laid at the door of Public Schools ought to be laid at the door of the parents. If the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) had not kindly taken charge of the Bill, he would himself have introduced it into this House.


hoped that some time would be given for the consideration of the Amendments before the next stage of the Bill was taken.


urged the utter impossibility of boys being instructed properly with the amount of tutorial assistance employed at the Public Schools. When thirty or forty boys were intrusted to one teacher they could not make the progress they would if the teachers were more numerous in proportion to the pupils.


said, a noble Lord opposite (Lord Lyttelton) had remarked that it would be dangerous to make any Amendments upon the Bill, because they would be refused by the House of Commons. Now, there were some points in the Bill which the Government considered worthy of consideration; and he did not believe that the other House would act in so unusual—not to say so unconstitutional—a manner as to refuse to consider their Lordships' Amendments to a Bill sent up to that House at so late a period of the Session. That seemed to him rather a reason why their Lordships should make alterations. The Bill had been twice fully considered by their Lordships, and had been twice referred to Select Committees; so it might be considered their own Bill; and they had a perfect right to make what Amendments in it they thought proper. He quite agreed that time should be given for the consideration of the Amendments; and he should therefore propose not to take the Committee until Thursday.

Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.