HL Deb 04 May 1882 vol 269 cc63-5

As I see my noble Friend (Lord Norton) opposite, I wish to ask him a Question, of which I have given him private Notice. My noble Friend has given Notice of a very important Motion connected with Education, which he proposes to introduce to your Lordships to-morrow night. It is a subject of the deepest possible importance, not only as being connected with the New Code, which has been discussed in "another place" and in the country generally, but also as relating to the whole system of Government grants towards Elementary Education in this country. Consequently, whoever holds the responsible position which I do, as the Head of Her Majesty's Privy Council, ought to deal with the subject with great care and deliberation. My Lords, I had, consequently, looked forward to taking part in the discussion which must arise on the Motion of my noble Friend; but your Lordships will understand that circumstances have occurred during the last few days which have rendered it impossible for me to bestow that care, time, and attention to the subject which its importance deserves. I should regret to have to deal cursorily, and in a slight manner, with so important a subject; and, therefore, I must ask my noble Friend whether he will kindly postpone the Motion which he has on the Paper for a few days, so as to enable my noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal (Lord Carlingford) to make himself acquainted with all the circumstances of the case? I should also like to take this opportunity of saying one or two words upon the general question, with- out going into the merits of the case, which are not wholly personal to myself, but are due to certain others connected with the Education Department. This subject of the revision of the Code was really entered upon in the Session before last in your Lordships' House. It was in response, I believe, to a request made by my noble Friend that I undertook that the Education Department should look into the subject. I am, therefore, personally connected with the deliberations on this subject; and I need hardly say that during the last year and a-half my constant attention has been given to the best method of carrying out the important pledge which I gave to your Lordships. I feel the deepest interest in the Code, which will be more fully discussed in this House on some future occasion. As the Head of the Education Department, I am directly responsible for it; and I therefore regret the circumstances which will prevent my taking part in the debate. At the same time, I feel I owe to others some recognition of the great services which they have rendered to the cause of the education of the country, and of the manner in which they have dealt with the subject. Your Lordships are aware that, at the present time, the Government have the advantage of the services of a distinguished Gentleman (Mr. Mundella), who has had a long and continuous experience in education, as Vice President of the Committee of Council. He has given, I need hardly state, the greatest possible time and attention to the consideration of the subject. I am quite sure everybody will give to him what credit is due for the excellence of the New Code. There are others connected with the Education Department who have done eminent service in this matter. I allude to those who are in the Education Office, particularly to Sir Francis Sandford and several members of the Department. From their knowledge of the Old Code, which has really grown up under their supervision, they were able to bring an amount of knowledge and experience to bear upon the work without which our labours would have been entirely futile, and the Code would not have been brought to its present state. We have also had the assistance of some of the most distinguished Inspectors of the Department, and I wish to give to them and all those who have taken a part in this work of no ordinary labour my best thanks for the valuable assistance which they have rendered us. I thought I might take this opportunity to render my own personal thanks to all those gentlemen for what they have done with regard to the Code.


said, he was extremely sorry a second time to be obliged to postpone his Motion, especially as the New Code had received scant attention in the other House of Parliament, owing to the overwhelming pressure of other matters, and none in that House, although the country took the greatest interest in the question, as he knew from the enormous number of communications he received from all parts of England. He had intended to make no attack upon the Lord President of the Council. It was rather to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord and his Colleague the Vice President for the great attention they had given to the question, and to call the attention of their Lordships to the general merits of the Education Code. It was impossible for him, in the present circumstances, to resist the appeal of the noble Lord; he could only hope that the arrangements of the Government would be such that the postponement would be as short as possible. In these circumstances, he would postpone the Motion of which he had given Notice.


said, he wished to know whether the postponement was to be till the noble Earl's return from Ireland? He should also like to know when that event was likely to take place?


said, that one reason for asking for delay was that his noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal (Lord Carlingford) would undertake his duties during his absence, and would require some few days before he could deal with the matter. His noble Friend would be ready to accede to the proposal of his noble Friend opposite in a week or 10 days.