HL Deb 22 May 1874 vol 219 cc682-96

wished to ask his noble Friend (Lord Hampton), Whether he meant to press his Resolution for the appointment of a Minister of Public Instruction. Did his noble Friend mean to urge it in a serious manner? because, if he did, there ought to be a somewhat longer Notice of it than one of 24 hours. The first Notice put on the Paper by his noble Friend was merely one of his intention to call attention to the constitution of the Committee of Council on Education and to ask a Question; but for that Notice he last evening substituted his Notice respecting a Minister of Public Instruction. To press an important Motion of which there had only been such a short Notice would not be in accordance with the customs in their Lordships' House.


said, that his only desire was to make a statement, and he had substituted the Resolution with which he proposed to conclude his address for the Notice he had originally given, merely for the purpose of being in Order; it was not therefore his intention to press the Motion to a division. He trusted, however, that the subject-matter of the Motion would receive the attention of Her Majesty's Government, with a view to its subsequent adoption, because he believed that the appointment of such a Minister would do much to promote the cause of Education. His object therefore in moving his Resolution was simply to promote as far as he could an object for which he had contended for many years. That object was of a very simple character, and he had never varied in stating it, his opinion now being, as it long had been, that the rapidly growing educational interests of the country ought to be entrusted to a distinct Department of the State, presided over by a responsible Minister, and not entrusted, as it now was, to a body such as the Committee of Council on Education. He would not detain their Lordships by entering at length into the circumstances under which the Committee of Council was constituted. It was in the year 1839 that the late Lord Lansdowne proposed that the administration of the Education Grant, which then amounted to the small sum of £30,000 a-year, should be entrusted to a Committee of the Privy Council. Since that time, however, the interest of the public in education had rapidly grown, and the grants given by Parliament for the purpose had gradually and steadily increased, After the Committee had been in operation for several years he and other friends of Education became of opinion that the organization of the Committee did not fit it for the performance of the duties of a Department of Education. In 1836 the noble Earl who was then Lord President (Earl Granville) introduced into their Lordships' House a Bill for the appointment of a Vice President of the Council. This official was, however, very different from a Minister of Education. He must here say that on that occasion the noble Earl spoke in courteous and complimentary terms of him and his advocacy of the appointment of a recognized Minister of Public Education; and he supposed the noble Earl might think him ungrateful for having ever since held that the appointment of a Vice President of the Committe of Council on Education did not meet the requirement. Their Lordships would, of course, understand that when he spoke of the Vice President his remarks were directed to the office and not to the individual who filled it. He had no intention whatever of reflecting on the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) who now presided over the Committee or on the individuals of whom it was composed. He addressed himself wholly and exclusively to the organization of the Committee as a mode of administering a great Department; and he did think that as such a body it was anomalous and inconvenient, and that, above all things, no precedent could be found for it in the government of this country. There were Departments presided over by Boards, such as the Board of Admiralty, or by a Council, like the Council of India; but the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Minister for India had for their Council, men who had professional or official experience in the particular matters on which they were called upon to advise their Chiefs, but the constitution of those bodies was in no way analogous to the Committee of Council on Education, in which there were a President and Vice President, who were to a certain extent co-ordinate Ministers, and who were assisted by a Council consisting of the heads of various Departments whose time and attention were constantly devoted to subjects other than those upon which they were called upon to advise—none of that business being connected with Education. He could not help thinking that it was an inconvenient and anomalous mode of conducting a great public Department, and in that view he was supported by very high authority. In 1856, when the question was before the House on the Bill of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville), the late Earl of Derby, who took part in the debate, suggested, whether, if they were disposed to have a Department of Education, it would not be better to have a radical change at once, and appoint a Minister of Education, who should have no other duties to perform, and who should be responsible for the education of the people. The Bill passed and a Vice President was appointed; and no change having been made in the constitution of the Committee after that time, he (Lord Hampton) was so little satisfied with the way in which it worked that in 1865 he felt it to be his duty to move in the House of Commons for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the constitution of the Committee of Council on Education, and the system under which its business was conducted. The Committee was appointed and sat for two Sessions, and at the close of the Session of 1866 it became his duty as Chairman to draw up its Report. He accordingly prepared a draft Report, which was distributed among the Members of the Committee, but it was never considered, and therefore not presented, a change of Government having taken place at the time, and he and other Members of the Committee having become Members of the new Administration. In consequence of these occurrences the sittings of the Committee were not continued, and his Report only appeared as a draft in the Blue Book. Among those, however, who were examined before the Committee were Earl Granville, Earl Russell, Mr. Lowe, Lord Aberdare (then Mr. Bruce), and Sir Charles Adderley. Nothing could be more remarkable than the discrepancies between them as to the nature of the duties which as Presidents and Tice Presidents of the Committee of Council they were required to perform. Mr. Lowe was of opinion that as Vice President of the Council he was exactly in the same position as an Under Secretary of State. Mr. Bruce entirely dissented from that view, and held that the situation was not that of an Under Secretary of State, adding that he had considered himself to be a Minister responsible to Parliament for the manner in which his duties were discharged. Sir Charles Adderley's view was that the Committee was useless, and worse than useless; and he stated that when they met he had "to teach them the questions which they had to consider." Earl Granville approved of the Committee, but admitted that it was better to have the responsibility concentrated than divided, and he also concurred with Mr. Lowe that there was nothing in the office which might not be conducted by one man. He further declared that this Committee had absolutely no responsibility, and that if he differed from the Committee on any question of principle, he should not consider himself bound by the opinion of the majority. What a body the Committee must be when one of its Presidents distinctly stated that he should not consider himself bound to follow its decisions. Earl Russell, however, differed in opinion from Earl Granville. He considered that the Committee had responsibilities, though it would be difficult to determine their extent, and was of opinion that the view of the majority should override that of the Lord President. Now, such discrepancies of opinion on such a matter among statesmen who had actually filled the office either of President or Vice President, were hardly consistent with the proper organization and useful working of a great Public Department; but the climax of anomaly was reached when, in the late Government, the President and Vice President of the Council happened to sit side by side as Members of the same Cabinet, each representing the Department of Education. In 1868, in the first Administration presided over by the present Prime Minister, the Duke of Marlborough, who then filled the office of Lord President of the Council, introduced a Bill, one of the most important provisions of which was the appointment of a Secretary of State who should have under his charge and control all matters connected with education. In moving this Bill, the noble Duke said that Her Majesty's Government had come to the conclusion that the work of education was large enough to engage the undivided attention of a distinct Department of the State. The Bill did not pass; but, on the second reading, the noble Duke gave a very effective answer to a question which might also be put in the course of the present debate. It was asked, why should not the President and Vice President of the Council be able to administer the Department of Education quite as well as a Secretary and Under Secretary of State? and to that the noble Duke replied by reminding those who raised the objection that the President of the Council had many other duties to perform besides presiding over the Department of Education—the Public Health, Quarantine, Cattle Disease Nuisances, the Channel Islands, and many other subjects sufficient to engage his whole energies. The duties of the Committee were, indeed, very various. He himself on a recent day introduced a deputation to the Lord President on the subject of improving the training of teachers for middle-class schools, and on another a deputation on the subject of the cattle disease. Each of those subjects was very important in itself, but what connection had the one with the other that both should be dealt with by the same Department? And the question now was whether the time had not come when this jumble of duties should not be terminated, and when the Minister who had to consider all matters relating to Public Health and the Prevention of Cattle Disease should be relieved from the duty of presiding over the Education Department of the country. But if a Minister of Education was necessary in 1868, it was more necessary now—for since that year three great changes had occurred in the question of Public Education. The first was the Bill—now an Act—introduced by Mr. Forster in 1870; the second was the establishment of the Endowed Schools Commission; and the third was the appointment of the Royal Commission on the subject of Scientific Instruction, which was presided over by the Duke of Devonshire, who was carrying on its duties with most able Colleagues. With regard to the Education Act, he desired to speak of it with all praise; but, in his opinion, it had left the question of education in some respects in an unsettled and unsatisfactory state. There was, in his mind, one great defect in the Act, and that was that it did not make satisfactory provision for the religious education of the people. He thought no one would controvert him when he said that the secular views of the Birmingham League found no favour with the people. He did not limit his remarks to any particular body—he did not distinguish between Churchmen and Dissenters—but he repeated that the great body of the nation desired that the education of the people should be based on religious grounds. Again, the training of teachers for upper and middle-class schools had become a necessity. At present, too, there were no less than 700 school boards constituted—and hero surely was matter sufficient to occupy the attention of any Minister—the schemes prepared by the Endowed Schools Commissioners had also to be carefully considered; he had himself presented many Petitions in favour of museums as a means of technical instruction; and lastly, the recommendations contained in the Fourth Deport of the Royal Commission on Scientific Instruction, which was recently presented to Parliament, furnished additional arguments in favour of the Resolution. These were the grounds on which he ventured to submit that the Committee of Council on Education should give way to a more regularly constituted Department, and the Government now in power carry out the views of which as a party they approved in 1868. The noble Lord concluded by moving the Resolution pro formâ.

Moved to resolve, That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that the Committee of Council on Education should be superseded by the appointment of a Minister of Public Instruction, who should be entrusted with the care and superintendence of all matters relating to national encouragement of science and art and popular education.—(The Lord Hampton.)


My Lords, my noble Friend (Lord Hampton) in the concluding part of his speech, appeared entirely to forget that he had altered his Notice as it orginally stood on the Paper, and that in lieu of a Question as to the intention of the Government he had substituted a Resolution embodying a policy of his own. Accordingly I have now no Question to answer on behalf of the Government. But though I need not be at the pains of replying to a Question which has not been put, I shall address myself to some of the observations made to your Lordships by my noble Friend with the view of showing you that the House ought not to concur in his Motion. My noble Friend, in the course of his observations, told your Lordships that he referred to offices and not to individuals, and that he had no intention to reflect on mo, and in return I shall speak as if the Lord President were some other individual than the person who has now the honour of addressing your Lordships. I must, in the first place, remark that I waited to hear from my noble Friend, as he went on, what great failures had attended the carrying on of the business of the Committee of Council. In the early part of his speech my noble Friend commented a great deal on the constitution of the Department. He said it was anomalous, inconvenient, and such as had no precedent in this country. Taking the Committee of Council as a whole, I venture to think that it is a very convenient organization for the carrying on of business, because by means of it the President has an opportunity of advising with the other Members of the Government on the various measures connected with education. In matters relating to education in Scotland we have the advantage of the knowledge of the Lord Advocate, and in all matters relating to education in this country we have the counsels of my noble Friend the Minister for India, and for the Army my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War. My noble Friend referred to a speech made by the late Lord Derby in 1856; but on looking to that speech I do not think it supports the proposition of my noble Friend to the extent he seems to suppose. Lord Derby said the time might come when it would be necessary to appoint a Minister of Education, and that he thought the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education should then be one and the same person. I shall not now, my Lords, go into the question whether the Prime Minister should be President of the Council or I should be Prime Minister; but I do not think Lord Derby's observations were intended to have the application which my noble Friend seeks to give them. As to the various kinds of business which my noble Friend referred to as being discharged by the Committee of Council, I would remind him that many matters relating to the public health are not now within the duties of the Committee; they have been handed over to the Local Government Board. As to museums, and the department of Science and Art, my noble Friend did not show us why the arrangements under which the Museums at South Kensington and Bethnal Green are conducted are not to be regarded as satisfactory; and my noble Friend did not state what he proposed to do as to them. My noble Friend referred to the state of things which existed in 1856, and thence down to 1865—but we have got a step forward since 1865. He says there ought to be a Minister of Education. My answer is that there exists a Minister of Education, and I have the honour to be that Minister. That is plain from an Order in Council dated in 1856, after the appointment of a Vice President. There is another Minister, whether you like to call him an Under Secretary or Vice President of the Council, who is second to the President; but nothing can be more decisive, clear, and conclusive than that the Lord President of the Council is Minister of Education, and that he is responsible for everything that goes on in the Department of Education—and he is in truth a Minister of Education with a seat in the Cabinet. My noble Friend does not attack the appointments to either office. That of Vice President has been filled by such men as Mr. Lowe, Lord Aberdare, and Mr. Forster, and I would ask where could you find men better qualified for the post? I think the same question may be put in respect of my noble Friend Lord Sandon, who is now Vice President. My noble Friend (Lord Hampton) has referred to the Bill introduced by the Duke of Marlborough in 1868, for the appointment of a Minister of Education, which Bill fell through; but the state of things in respect of education has entirely altered since then. At that time the Department had to overtake all the work of education throughout the country; but the Act passed by the late Government in 1870, has relieved it of much of that work. True a largo amount of additional work immediately followed the passing of that Act; but it has been greatly reduced since, and there is no such difficulty in carrying on the business of the Department as my noble Friend supposes; and though there is a very large number of school boards—some 700 or 800—very little acquaintance with habits of business enables the Ministers of the Department to get through the business which conies from the School Boards. Then as to the Endowed School Commission, I can assure my noble Friend that the questions which come before the Lord President arising out of the schemes give but comparatively little trouble. The details are easily mastered, and I think the schemes which have been dealt with by me have been settled satisfactorily. I think I may assert so much because no complaints have been made on that head in respect of schemes which have received the sanction of the Department. My noble Friend referred to the evidence given by Lord Russell before his Committee; but I see that when asked as to the responsibility of the Department, Lord Russell said there was no responsibility on it beyond what occurred in other offices. And on one point I would remind my noble Friend that if you appoint a Minister of Instruction you do not thereby get rid of responsibility. On looking at the evidence given to the Committee by my noble Friend opposite (Earl Granville), who presided over the Education Department for many years, I do not think that he alleged that he found any difficulty in conducting its business, and I think the view he took was that he was the responsible Minister. My noble Friend quoted Mr. Lowe, but he did not cite one remark which was made by that light hon. Gentleman. He was asked, how the Department was managed? and he replied that it was managed very much like other Departments. Matters of routine go to the gentlemen at the head of the various permanent offices, from whom they are passed on to the very able Permanent Secretary (Sir Francis Sandford), who considers points and discusses them with the Vice-President, who again takes counsel with the President. Mr. Lowe described it as a system of sieves, and said that what was too large to go through his sieve, he passed on to the Lord President. I do not know whether my noble Friend intends that the jurisdiction of his Minister of Instruction should extend to Ireland? If he has not thought of this point, I leave it to him for his consideration before the next time he brings on his Motion. But supposing he succeeds with his Motion, who is to be his Minister? Would he be a Secretary of State having an Under Secretary? In such case I ask my noble Friend, in pity, what does he propose to do with the Lord President of the Council, who now holds official rank in the Government next after the Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor? What duties would he leave to the Lord President? In fact, if the scheme of my noble Friend were carried out, and a Secretary of State was to be made Minister of Education, nothing would be left for the President of the Council, except the drawing up of Orders in Council, which are clone in the Department, and over which he has no real supervision, and it seems to me that the President of the Council would subside into a first-class Veterinary Surgeon. I do not think I should discharge the duties of that office to the satisfaction of the country. On that ground, therefore, I should dispute the advisability of my noble Friend assigning me such an appointment. My noble Friend has stated that he has appeared before me on two or three occasions lately as introducer of deputations of schoolmasters and agriculturists. I hope and fancy from what passed on these occasions, that those who presided over the Department—not myself alone, but my noble Friend Lord Sandon—for we act most cordially together, and there can be no one more satisfactory to his Colleagues than my noble Friend—did not exhibit any ignorance of what was going on in either subject. I know I can say for myself that I felt quite equal to my noble Friend on all these occasions. For these reasons I do not think the time has arrived for appointing a Minister of Education. But if there ever was such a time it was before the great measure of education had been passed by the late Government, when there might have been some plea for it. I will not go now into the question whether the people of this country are or are not in favour of a religious education, for I do not think it comes within the terms of the Resolution. The subject has now been sufficiently long before the public and the Department, and the Department are perfectly satisfied that they can deal with everything that comes before them connected with the education of the country. For this reason I shall think it my duty to meet with a negative the Motion of my noble Friend.


My Lords, after what has fallen from the noble Duke—and the noble Duke having said that he could not accept this Resolution and having given his reasons for that course—it is hardly necessary for me to add anything; but there is one point on which I wish to corroborate him. On the abstract question I entirely agree with my noble Friend who made this Motion—as to the immense importance of education. Abstractedly I see no objection to a Minister of Education; but, in order to prove his case it would be necessary to do what my noble Friend did not attempt—namely, to prove its necessity and show the practical inconveniences of the present system. As to whom the responsibility attaches I should say there could not be the slightest doubt on that subject, only that a noble Friend and Colleague of mine has given a somewhat contradictory opinion. The more, however, I think on it, the more convinced I am that the opinion I gave before the Committee was perfectly right. It appears to me quite clear, that notwithstanding the appointment of the Vice President of the Council to represent the Department in the House of Commons, the Minute which appointed a Vice President made it clear that it is the President of the Council who is responsible for all that occurs in the Department. The noble Duke the President of the Council is Minister of Education; and the very fact to which my noble Friend referred of the Department having been represented in the late Government by two Members of the Cabinet at the same time, if it tells at all, tells in favour of the Department as showing that two Ministers were likely to have more weight in the Cabinet than one. And hero there is a question which I would ask my noble Friend. Is the new Minister of Education whom he proposes, necessarily, to be a Member of the Cabinet or not? If it is not convenient for him to do so, it is quite clear that Education would lose very much by not being represented in the Cabinet as now by the President of the Council. I own there is something of anomaly in the Vice President of the Council having been, as in the late Government, a Member of the Cabinet. But his position there was not because he was Vice President, but because that office happened to be held by a person who from his political knowledge on all subjects, his weight in the House of Commons, and his power of speaking was considered to be a most advisable adjunct. As to the working of the Department, I have had longer experience on that point than the noble Duke, and I can sincerely say I never knew any inconvenience arising from the fact of the Vice President being the representative of the Department in the House of Commons. I think, on the one hand, there is considerable advantage in this case in having a person in this House the responsible Minister of Education; and on the other in having a Vice President of the Council instead of an Under Secretary in the House of Commons, as being higher in rank, and as giving the Prime Minister the power of selecting a person of superior position to fill that post. I do not think there would practically be any advantage in a change. But there is another point which I think worth your Lordships' attention. Is it desirable to increase the number of the great Departments of the State? I doubt it exceedingly. I put aside the question of the expense of the additional salaries of the staff of the new Department; but I think it most important not unnecessarily to create a large number of great Departments. Then the heads of great Departments have a claim to be in the Cabinet. I think in the formation of the present Government it was wisely decided to diminish the number in the Cabinet rather than to increase it. I remember a good many years ago, when a Government was formed by the father of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), many Members of our party regretted that he did not reduce his Cabinet to a much smaller number. Making the Cabinet unwieldy is not a good thing for the Administration. The noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) stated that the late Lord Derby had said that in his opinion the Lord President of the Council ought to be Prime Minister. I think it has always been a disadvantage that the Prime Minister should have no particular office. I have thought that an easy way of getting rid of the difficulty would be to restore the office of Lord High Treasurer, which in that way would be most useful—but that is not the question now. Your Lordships must have observed that every now and then there is a demand for a Minister of Agriculture, and again another demand for a Minister of Education, both to be Members of the Cabinet. But I am quite sure myself that the multiplication of this class of great officials is a thing not to be desired.


supported the Resolution, He had always been in favour of the appointment of a responsible Minister of Education, rather than that the Department should he principally under the direction of a Vice President, in a subordinate position, in the House of Commons. He thought great inconvenience had arisen from the want of such a Minister. Considering the great part the State now took in the education of the country, it ought to be possible to select for that office, without any reference to other duties, the man who would be fittest for the work of Education, and that work alone. If the President of the Council was always responsible for educational matters, what, he asked, was the position of the Vice President? Such men as Mr. Lowe, a noble Lord not now in the House (Lord Aberdare), and Mr. Forster had left their impress on the educational policy of the day. In his opinion, those eminent men might be regarded as Ministers of Education, for they hold a position different from that of the minor Ministers of any Department. What would have been thought in the country, under the late Ministry, if it had been announced that the Vice President of the Council had resigned his office? It would at once have been supposed that the whole educational policy of the Government had been changed. On the other hand, what sort of a spectacle was it to find the Minister actually presiding over the Education of the country, answering Questions relating to the diseases of cattle? It was, therefore, better that we should have a responsible Minister of Education than that the Minister in the House of Commons should hold a subordinate place—especially now that the question of education occupied a totally different position from what it had done before. There might be a question as to how the State should interfere with education; but if it did so interfere, the work ought to be confided to a separate Department presided over by a Minister specially selected with reference to his fitness to deal with the subject.


said, his noble Friend the present President of the Council, as well as his noble Friend (Earl Granville), who so long occupied that office, had demonstrated so clearly the inexpediency of adopting the Motion of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Hampton) that he should not have thought it worth while to add a word to the debate, if the noble Lord opposite had not made a great mistake in supposing that the constitution of the Education Department was anything new or unprecedented in the manner of carrying on the government of this country. The noble Lord ought to have been aware that in the early days of our Government, when the affairs of the country were far simpler and less complex than at present, the whole Government was really carried on by the Privy Council, and the Ministers of State were merely instruments to carry into effect the directions given by that Body. In short, the Privy Council was bonâ fide the Government of the country. At a much later period, when the Secretaries of State came to exercise a larger and more independent power, a Committee of the Privy Council became the real instrument for governing the Colonies. Our Colonies were then governed by the Committee of the Privy Council for Trade and Plantations, the constitution of which was similar to that of the Committee on Education at the present day. Therefore, instead of being anything new or anomalous in this country, the Committee of Council on Education was merely an adaptation of the oldest practice of the Constitution—and, in his opinion, it was a very convenient one. It seemed to him, however, to be irregular that both the President and the Vice President should sit in the same Cabinet. While he admitted that the present system acted well, he was far from saying that, on some future occasion, the whole constitution of the great Offices of State might not very properly undergo revision.

On Question? Resolved in the Negative.