HL Deb 07 July 1871 vol 207 cc1277-82

asked whether, an Address having been voted by the other House of Parliament to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to refer back for the second time a scheme of the Public School Commissioners relating to Harrow School for a re-consideration by the Commissioners, the Government intended to take any action? As their Lordships were aware, the great schools of Shrewsbury, Winchester, the Charterhouse, Harrow, and Rugby, were among the foundations referred to the Public School Commissioners by the Act of 1868, and consequently excepted from the operation of the Endowed Schools Act of 1869. The latter Act also provided that no changes should be made in the character of the Governing Bodies of denominational schools. But the Commissioners having proposed that the Governing Bodies of the five schools he had named should be Churchmen, the House of Commons prayed Her Majesty to refer the schemes back to them. The Commissioners, on re-consideration, waived this qualification in the case of Shrewsbury, the Charterhouse, and Rugby, but retained it in the cases of Harrow and Winchester. The House of Commons recently—at 2 o'clock in the morning, and, as it appeared, without debate—adopted an Address praying the Crown to disallow the Harrow statute. This Motion was supported by the Government, though it was in direct contravention of the two Acts to which he had referred. As senior Governor of Harrow he would offer no opinion on the proposed change; but the Government having unanimously adhered to the Endowed Schools Commissioners in the case of Emanuel Hospital, though in opposition to the will of the founder, it was strange that they should wish to set aside the decision of the Public School Commissioners when those Commissioners were acting conformably with the intention of the founder.


said, that in the absence of his noble Friend the Lord President he would answer the Question of the noble Duke. The Act applying to the schools in question was the Public Schools Act of 1868, and they did not in strict law come under the operation of the Endowed Schools Act of 1869. The 17th section of that Act provided that membership of the Church of England should not be required as a qualification for membership of the Governing Body of any endowed school. Last year the House of Commons adopted an Address to Her Majesty, in which, referring to the five statutes establishing the constitution of the new Governing Bodies of these schools, they represented to Her Majesty that since the passing of the Public Schools Act of 1868, the Endowed Schools Act of 1869 had been passed, and prayed that Her Majesty would refer back those statutes to the Public Schools Commissioners— In order that they might have the opportunity of re-considering certain parts of the said statutes with reference to the principles applied in the Endowed Schools Act to other Endowed Schools. The statutes were accordingly referred back and re-considered by the Commissioners, who abandoned the condition of Church membership in the cases of Shrewsbury, the Charterhouse, and Rugby, but retained it in the cases of Winchester and Harrow. An Address was moved this Session objecting to the condition of Church membership being introduced for the first time in the case of Harrow. There was no report of the debate, but eight Members took part in it, and it was carried by a large majority. Her Majesty had given the same answer to this Address as to that adopted by their Lordships respecting Emanuel Hospital—namely, that she would withhold her assent from such part of the scheme as had been objected to by their Address.


said: As one of the Special Commissioners under the Public Schools Act who have presented the scheme for Harrow School, I desire to make a few observations in addition to what the noble Viscount has said. The noble Viscount draws a parallel between the disallowance of a scheme for Emanuel Hospital upon an Address from this House, and a disallowance of the Harrow scheme upon an Address from the other House of Parliament. But the two Acts of Parliament under which these schemes are drawn are quite different. The Endowed Schools Act directs that the Crown shall disallow any scheme upon an Address from either House; but the Public Schools Act contains no such provision, nor did the Commissioners who administered it suspect that any scheme against which an Address might be presented would, as a matter of course, be disallowed without further consideration. With reference to the particular provision in question, the facts are these. The Public Schools Act was passed to carry out the changes recommended by the Schools Inquiry Commissioners in 1861, as the Preamble of the Act clearly shows. Now, it was one of their recommendations that the Governors of Harrow should be "members of the Established Church;" and therefore in inserting this provision in their original scheme the Commissioners were simply fulfilling the duty laid upon them by the Preamble of the Act. When the scheme was presented to Parliament last year an Address was moved in the other House that Her Majesty would be pleased to refer back the schemes of Harrow. Winchester, Rugby, Charterhouse, and Shrewsbury, for the purpose of considering these schemes in connection with the provisions as to the religious character of the schools of the Endowed Schools Act, 1869. My Lords, it is true that an Act passed for another class of schools in 1869 could have no effect on the Act passed in 1868 for the public schools, which were moreover exempted in express terms from the operation of the latter Act. At the same time, the Commissioners might very well, in a matter belonging to their discretion, use the latter Act for the purpose of illustrating the general policy of Parliament; they therefore accepted the task laid upon them by this Address, and proceeded carefully to ascertain which of the five schools were denominational schools, and which were not. They were of opinion that Charterhouse, Rugby, and Shrewsbury, did not come under this description, and that Winchester and Harrow did. About Winchester there is no dispute, although I cannot accept the noble Viscount's remark that Winchester is a cathedral school. It is, in fact, like Eton, connected with a college. With regard to Harrow, the case is simply this. By its charter the rules of the school were, after the death of John Lyon, to be drawn up by the Governors, with the consent of the Bishop of London, and any ambiguity was to be decided by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Every scholar was to learn the Lord's Prayer, the Articles of Faith, the Ten Commandments, and other chief parts of the Catechism. Almost the very words by which our Catechism is referred to in the Confirmation Service. The master is also to teach them out of Calvin's or Noel's Catechism. Noel's Catechism was published at the request of the two Archbishops, and sanctioned by the 79th Canon; and whilst Calvin's Catechism is not the work of a member of the Church of England, it was largely in use in England under the name of Stephen's Catechism, who was the translator of it. And Noell's Catechism, according to the authority of the present Bishop of Chester, is a good deal founded upon it. The scholars were to attend the parish church, and there was an endowment for the preaching of 30 sermons, the Headmaster to have the preference as the preacher of them. The secretary to the Governors informs us that the Governors have always been members of the Church of England, and the name of the Earl of Aberdeen, which has been quoted as an exception, turns out to be no exception at all. My Lords, I am at a loss to think of anything that is wanting here to constitute a Church school. A Bishop is to draw its rules, an Archbishop to interpret them; the Catechisms in use in the Church are to be taught to the boys; they are to receive instruction by sermons in the parish church, and the Governors have always been members of the Church of England. Upon these facts I venture to assert that Harrow is as much a Church of England school as Winchester itself. When the schemes were lately presented to Parliament embodying these results, Her Majesty's Government took a very unusual course. They had themselves accepted and promoted the reference to the Endowed Schools Act, and, having left the matter to the Commissioners, they were bound to abide by the result of it, even supposing that the Public School Commissioners had made some error in judgment. The Government might have induced Parliament to lay down that Harrow was or was not a Church of England school; but having chosen to refer this question to the Commissioners, they ought to have accepted the result even if they did not agree with it. I have tried to show your Lordships that it was completely right; but what was the course taken by the Government? Almost at the last moment, when it was too late for your Lordships' House to take any action in the matter, if you were so minded, a Motion was made to address the Queen to disallow the Harrow Statute as regarded this qualification of the Governors, that they should be members of the Church of England, and Her Majesty's Government gave their support to this Address, and accordingly the Statute is to be disallowed. The general policy of such a course appears open to question. Upon the Commissioners is thrown the responsibility of making statutes, whilst Parliament reserves to itself the power of disallowing them in whole or in part. But the part so rejected may be the result of much consideration and of a compromise between existing interests. Parliament should either undertake the responsibility of framing the schemes itself, or else it should attach some weight to the labours of those upon whom the responsibility is thrown. It is impossible, therefore, for the Commissioners to think with satisfaction upon the course that Her Majesty's Government have adopted.