HL Deb 21 March 1870 vol 200 cc304-7

rose to call the attention of the House to an error in the Parochial Schools (Scotland) Bill, returned to that House from the Commons on the 9th of August last, as affording proof of the just objection entertained by this House to proceed with the consideration of the Commons' Amendments at so late a period of the Session. He desired to remind their Lordships of the interest he had always taken, and the exertions he had often made, to secure proper time for the consideration, by their Lordships, of the various measures sent up to them from the other House; and it was in consequence of the opposition he had made to the departure from that principle, that their Lordships had come to the determination of not proceeding with the consideration of the Amendments made by the other House in the Parochial Schools (Scotland) Bill last Session—that measure having been sent up to their Lordships after the Appropriation Act had been read a third time, and when they were within two days of the prorogation of Parliament. He had now had his attention called to a matter in that Bill, which showed the importance of attending strictly to this arrangement. The Parochial Schools (Scotland) Bill was sent down to the House of Commons at a comparatively early period of the Session, with a clause which provided retiring allowances to schoolmasters after a certain period of service, and it had also what was called a "red letter" provision, enabling the school committee to make an assessment to meet the demands for those retiring allowances. The provision proposed by their Lordships was that the school committee, in the case of a new national school, might grant a retiring allowance to the schoolmaster, not to be less than one-half of his salary. When the Bill went down to the other House it was read in due course a first and second time; it was then committed pro formâ, when, amongst other Amendments, the House of Commons inserted one to the effect of the provision which their Lordships had sent down to them in red letter, with the addition of these words—"If such teacher have served for more than ten years shall, and in any other case may grant," &c. The effect of the provision so amended was to give to the schoolmaster who had served ten years a compulsory retiring allowance, unless he had been dismissed for improper conduct. Well, those words passed through commitment andre-commitment—in fact, remained in the clause up to the very last stage. On the third reading the Bill was further amended in the House of Commons, but that clause was not touched; the Amendments then made in the Bill affected Clauses 15, 16, 21, 23, 28, and 65. In that state it was sent up to their Lordships' House at nearly the close of the Session for reconsideration. When the Bill was reprinted in their Lordships' House it was found that this particular clause was omitted. His attention was specially called to the omission affecting so materially the interests of the schoolmasters by those gentlemen themselves—it appearing that, as the Bill stood, no retiring allowances could be granted them. He submitted the matter to their Lordships' consideration. The fact was, that the mistake arose from the haste in which the Bill was prepared to be returned to their Lordships on the same day that it had been read a third time and extensively amended. The words making the allowance in certain cases obligatory wore accidentally struck out, and the Amendment restoring the "red letter" provision inserted. Now, as the omitted words were not in the Bill as sent down from this House, their Lordships, had the mistake been discovered, could not have inserted them, and the only means of rectifying it would have been for the Commons to request that the Bill might be returned to them in order that they might put it in the shape which they desired. The mistake, however, could not have been discovered till their Lordships' print had appeared, and had been compared with the Commons' print; and as the former was only issued on the day when the Bill would have been considered, the probability was that the measure would have been passed minus the provision to which the schoolmasters would have been entitled, and which they would have supposed had been secured to them. This case showed the danger of hurried legislation, and he hoped the matter would be considered by the Commons as well as by their Lordships; for it was but fair that each House should have sufficient time to deal with Bills which came to it from the other, and the desire of both must be to secure perfect legislation. He was not sure that Governments were not at times too anxious to pass too many important measures to allow of their being properly considered; and this Session the time of the other House might be so occupied by some of the Bills now before them that they would not be sent up to their Lordships, or Bills originating here sent back as amended, in proper time. He hoped, however, that with this example before them their Lordships would be resolved to maintain their undoubted right to be allowed proper time for the consideration of the measures submitted to them.


remarked that there was a homely but very expressive proverb which affirmed that it was no use crying over spilt milk, and he was certainly not disposed to cry over the spilt milk of the Scotch Education Bill last Session, or over the dispute in which he was worsted by the noble Lord. He never for a moment disputed that the Bill came back to this House under peculiar circumstances, and that if their Lordships thought themselves unable to give the Amendments proper consideration they were fully justified in refusing to deal with them. All that he suggested at the time was that, the Bill having originated here, and many of the Amendments not being hostile to the views of their Lordships, it would not, if they were anxious to pass the measure, be inconsistent with their duty to consider them even at so late a period of the Session. He perfectly recognized the right of the noble Lord to watch the proceedings of their Lordships' House with special attention, in order that they might not be open to real or formal objection; but he must say that the case he had now brought forward was not a very strong one. The clause in question was reprinted in the precise form in which it left this House, and the mistake would not have been a very serious one, though, no doubt, the schoolmasters were anxious to secure retiring allowances, and obtained the moving of an Amendment in the other House. [Lord REDESDALE remarked that the Amendment was carried.] It did not come back to this House as carried. With regard to the measure itself, he was happy to find a considerable agreement of opinion had been expressed; and he hoped that after the English Education Bill had received the sanction of both Houses, a Bill not unlike that which passed this House last year might be again brought forward.


asked whether it was not possible to frame the Bill on the subject of education in England in such terms as to make it applicable to England and Scotland? A few separate clauses might be required; but in the country districts the existing means of education were admittedly ample, though in the towns the parochial system was not sufficient.


entirely dissented from the suggestion of his noble Friend. As regarded the subject mooted by the noble Lord the Chairman of Committee, though he was unwilling to say anything which might appear unfriendly towards Ministers whom he was in the habit of supporting, he quite agreed with the manner in which the Bill was sent back, on the assumption that it would be passed without the opportunity of considering its details, was quite unreasonable.

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