HL Deb 29 July 1870 vol 203 cc1156-60

House in Committee (according to Order).

Clauses 1 to 3—Preliminary.

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Definitions).


proposed, page 1 lines 22 and 23, to omit the words "the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council on Education" and insert "the Minister of Education or President of the Board of Education," with the view of confiding the charge of the education of the country to a separate Department. The Committee of Council consisted, among other Members, of his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, of the Home Secretary, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, these Members of the Government were fully occupied with the duties of their respective Departments, and were unable to give any attention to the question of education. Another reason for the change he proposed was that, although the Committee of Privy Council might be able to superintend the existing system, the extension now proposed and the many difficult and important questions to which it would give rise demanded the formation of a distinct Department. The only question, indeed, was whether the change should be made at once or whether at some not very remote date. Now, he maintained that all the difficult questions connected with political and religious differences, considering the apathy which prevailed in the rural districts, should come at once before a permanent Department, instead of being partly decided by the present interim administration. He found that the Department as at present constituted, contained 61 Inspectors and 15 Assistant Inspectors, and with the clerks and others engaged it numbered 150 persons. Now, surely, such an extensive machinery adapted to a system of such great importance required to be placed under the control of a responsible chief.

Amendment moved.


said, he rose with considerable reluctance to express a difference of opinion from his noble Friend who had just sat down. He felt regret at all times in differing from his noble Friend, but most especially in differing from him on the subject of education, to which his noble Friend had given so much attention through many years of his life. He would not enter into the abstract question what was the best composition for the Education Department; but he would ask his noble Friend not to press his Amendment in the present circumstances. While he bore his willing testimony to the excellent working of the Department, he was ready to admit also that there were some serious defects, and that its reorganization would probably have to be considered. With regard to the present constitution of the Department, he considered that he, as Lord President, had been singularly fortunate. Their Lordships had shown, by the observations which fell from noble Lords on both sides of the House at the second reading, how much they appreciated the great ability and the eminent services of his right hon. Friend the Vice President. But he must also say that he had been fortunate in the permanent chiefs of departments. There were two men especially, whose ability and experience he could not too highly eulogize—he meant Mr. Lingen and Sir Francis Sandford, who had on all occasions given him the most complete and efficient assistance. His noble Friend (Earl Russell) had pointed to the Members of the Committee of Council on Education, who held the highest official offices of the State, and asked how is was possible that they who were so occupied with the duties of their own Departments could give any attention to education. Now, he (Earl de Grey) must mention that the composition of the Council of Education was regulated merely by two considerations—the first was that those Ministers were appointed whose Departments were more or less associated with education; and the second was the personal qualifications of the Members themselves. His noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, for instance, was a Member of the Committee not because he was Foreign Secretary, but because he had been for a long time President of the Council, and his assistance and advice in the Department was therefore of very great value. It was time the Committee was not often called together; but when it was called the advice of the Members on the points on which they were to be consulted was found to be of great value. But he did not mean to deny that when the educational arrangements of the country were placed on a sounder basis it might, and would, be necessary to reconsider the organization of the Department. At present they were passing through a state of transition, and it would be better to wait and see what new features the question would assume—not only elementary education, but middle-class and public school examination, for all those must come under the charge of the Department. But he would go further, and say that they could not make that change alone. If they made that change in the Education Department it would be necessary to take account of a great many other Departments which would be affected by the change. The question was one that eminently deserved the consideration of the Government, and it would be for the Government not only to consider what changes were necessary in this Department, but what modifications that change would render necessary in others. He hoped, therefore, that his noble Friend would not, under these circumstances, press his Amendment.


said, he thought the arguments of his noble Friend were rather reasons for his Amendment than against it. When they were about to make a great change it was the proper time to consider its effects upon the other arrangements. If other Departments were likewise to be considered, he should wish to propose some extensive alteration. For instance, he should like to abolish the Office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and to create two new Secretaries of State—one for Ireland, and one for Law and Justice.


said, his noble Friend (Earl Russell) had given cogent reasons for that proposal; while no very conclusive arguments had been used in opposition to it.


hoped his noble Friend would not press the Amendment. He agreed that it was not a perfect argument to say that because up to this time a system had worked well, therefore at no future time should you make a change. It was very desirable, however, that at that stage, before their Lordships knew what development the Bill would have, a decision should not be taken upon a point not comprised in the measure sent from the other House.


said, he should be content if he could hope that the arrangement for appointing a Minister of Education would be adopted at no very remote period.


said, he was unwilling now to discuss whether there ought to be a Minister of Education or not; but, supposing he were of that opinion, he did not think that, having regard to the form in which the Bill was presented to their Lordships, this was the proper time for carrying out the object of the noble Earl. If, therefore, the noble Earl divided the House he must vote against him.


said, he entirely agreed with the Amendment; but he could not think this the proper occasion for proposing the alteration. He hoped the noble Earl's proposal would be carried at no distant day.


said, he was also much disposed to agree with the noble Earl as to the expediency of having a Minister of Education; but thought it inexpedient to press the subject now.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.