HL Deb 09 June 1891 vol 354 cc3-9

Order of the Day for the Third Reading, read.


With your Lordships' permission, I would just say a very few words—I will not detain you long—about this very peculiar Bill which my noble Friend has pushed forward to this its final stage with such relentless pertinacity. Indeed, he would have pressed it through this stage, and it would weeks ago have reached the other House if I had not ventured to protest against its being hurried through every stage in this House with nearly empty, or fast emptying, Benches. I pressed him to postpone it for one day, and for one day only, and I am responsible for its delay for that one day, and that one day only. He knows best why weeks instead of one day have elapsed since it was put down for its Third Reading. I venture to think that in its present shape it is not a Bill that is very creditable to the justly high character for workmanship of a legislative Assembly such as this, comprising so many experienced legislators and so many eminent lawyers. I said that it would have passed, and I never thought of persuading your Lordships to reject it. I will not detain you by arguing for or against the possible expediency of giving additional facilities for the acquisition of sites for intermediate schools, whatever they may be—they are undefined in the Bill—or for other schools, or for covered markets. I have in earlier days seen too much of the discomfort suffered by farmers' wives sitting on market days in market places unprotected by anything except a cloak and an umbrella, with their baskets of poultry or vegetables or fruit, not heartily to agree as to the unquestionably superior convenience and healthiness of covered as compared with uncovered markets. Happily, all those towns in Devonshire which many years since, when I was a young man, had only uncovered markets, have long ago obtained covered markets without waiting for my noble Friend's legislation. But throughout the nearly 50 years during which I have had the honour of a seat in one or other of the Houses of Parliament I have always understood that to justify the introduction of a provision into a Bill it was not enough that the provision should effect an improvement in the existing law, but it should also be reasonably germane and relevant to the main object of the Bill, or that at any rate, if not in pari materiâ, it should deal at least with matters coming to a certain degree under the cognisance, or jurisdiction, of the same Department of State. For instance, more than 40 years ago I remember the President of the then newly-established Poor Law Board carried a measure to obviate some minor inconveniences which had been experienced in working the Poor Law. One clause I remember gave an equitable power to the Poor Law Board of remitting disallowances actually made by the auditor for payments not unreasonably, though illegally made, as it turned out—and sometimes the point was a very nice legal one—by the Guardians or their officers. Another clause, if I remember rightly—it is now a long while ago—dealt with the searching of vagrants; and another clause enabled the cost of maintenance of a pauper for a period not exceeding 12 months to be retained out of any property of which the pauper came into possession. But those all related to the Poor Law. Now, I am at a loss to guess what there is in common between intermediate schools (whatever they may be) and other schools on the one hand, and covered markets on the other, except that they are all buildings, and, as buildings, require sites, and we may say, besides that, they are all buildings for public and not for private purposes. When I took up the Bill and read it for the first time, the lines occurred to me of the loyal poet in the Rejected Addresses, indignantly, but rather incongruously, attacking the First Napoleon under the name of "that arch-apostate Boney"— Who made the price of bread, and Luddites, rise? Who filled the butchers' shops with large blue flies? Who with a foul wind ravaged the Caraccas? and so on. Those charges against Napoleon were hardly more incongruous, it seems to me, than the provisions of this Bill. An eminent legal friend of mine said it put him in mind of a notice he had seen over a shop— Boots and shoes sold here, rat-traps and other sweetmeats. It really seems to me, my Lords, that for once we are going to send down to the other House a Bill that will not reflect credit as a piece of workmanlike legislation upon your Lordships. That is, so far as regards the scope of the Bill. Then, as regards the wording of the Bill, the term "intermediate" is quite undefined. "Intermediate," I suppose, must be taken to mean something between two other things, and beyond them, in opposite directions; after a recent Judgment, I rather hesitate to use the words "sides or ends." But what schools between what other schools are these intermediate schools that we are legislating upon supposed to be? I can hardly suppose that he means them to be between the Universities and the elementary schools, those elementary schools which my right rev. Friend the Bishop of London once said, when a great variety of additional specific subjects had been authorised to be taught in them, "ought to be called 'non-elementary elementary' schools," considering that I find among the specific subjects—Latin, French, and German may be taught as languages; chemistry, animal physiology, and botany may be taught as scientific subjects; algebra and euclid may be taught in the way of pure mathematics; mensuration and navigation as applied mathematics; and besides those there are physics and shorthand, &c.—I will not trouble your Lordships with any more. What I wish to know is, what schools beyond can teach anything that is not included in the list of specific subjects except, I suppose, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and Sanscrit, which are taught, I believe, at the Universities, and biology and astronomy? There may be other sciences that lie beyond; but the word "intermediate" of itself gives a very hazy impression as to what schools may be included. Lord Eldon is said to have remarked that "what puzzled him was to say what was not a Scotch marriage." I think the puzzling thing here would be to know what schools are not to be authorised to have sites under the Bill. It may be said that the Bill has passed through all its stages up to its final one, and has been subjected to the scrutiny of the Standing Committee. I am sure I wish to speak with all respect of the Chairmen, and, indeed, of the Standing Committees which have rendered such very valuable service, and which have raised, if possible, the previous character of this House for thoroughly workmanlike legislation; but Aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus"— and my noble Friend must, I think, have caught the Chairman rather nodding when he passed such an anomalous Bill as the present. However, it is said that the exception proves the rule, and so we may, I hope, take this Bill as a confirmation of the general high character of the legislation of this House.

Bill read 3a (according to Order).


My Lords, there is a new clause which I propose to move to be inserted at the end of this Bill. The 1st clause, which is the only clause of importance, proposes to empower the giving of sites to intermediate schools or other schools sanctioned by Act of Parliament. Of "intermediate schools" there is no definition whatever. The other phrase "other schools sanctioned by Act of Parliament" is equally undefined, but I will let that alone. There is no definition of any kind of what is an intermediate school. I may take it as necessary that any measure dealing with an important subject as this is should have a definition of what that subject is, otherwise it will give rise to endless difficulty, confusion, and even litigation. There has been no School Act passed which is without a definition of what the schools are which are the subject of the measure. The English School Act of 1870 has a distinct definition of our elementary school. The Welsh Intermediate Education Act of 1889 has a definition of what is meant by an intermediate school. This is a definition ready to your hand, and I would suggest that it ought to be adopted or referred to in this Act. If your Lordships will allow me I will read the clause in the Welsh Act, which states what an intermediate school is. It says— The expression 'intermediate education' means a course of education which does not consist chiefly of elementary instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic, but which includes instruction in Latin, Greek, the Welsh and English languages and literature, modern languages, mathematics, natural and applied science, or in some of such studies, and generally in the higher branches of knowledge. My noble Friend Lord Stanley of Alderley, whose Bill this is, has pointed out that the word "Welsh" ought to be omitted here. I am ready, therefore, to omit the words "Welsh and," and I propose to your Lordships That the expression 'intermediate schools' in this Act shall mean schools for intermediate education as defined in Section 17 of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889, and that the words 'Welsh and' be omitted.

Moved, that the following now clause be inserted after Clause 4:— The expression 'intermediate schools' in this Act shall mean schools for intermediate education as defined in Section 17 of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889."—(The Lord Norton.)


I would point out to the noble Lord opposite that there would be a difficulty in adopting that definition for this reason—that if you omit the words "Welsh and" so as to make the definition here that which is contained in the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, but in terms excluding Welsh, that is to say, an intermediate school in which Welsh is not one of the subjects taught, it might, I fear, have this result—that this Bill would not apply to a Welsh intermediate school, that is to say, to a school under the Welsh Intermediate Education Acts. Consequently, if we say that, Wales would complain that it was excluded from the operation of this Act, and that any where else a site could he given for an intermediate school, but a site could not be given for an intermediate school in Wales. I suppose the noble Lord would not desire that result.


I entirely agree with what has just been said by the noble and learned Lord. There is no doubt that if the clause is adopted as altered with the omission of the words "Welsh and," as proposed by my noble Friend Lord Norton, it will be regarded as a slur upon the Welsh language, and that it would, as the noble and learned Lord Herschell has pointed out, prevent any sites being given or accepted in Wales for intermediate schools under the Act. I hope, therefore, the noble Lord will not press his Amendment; and I may add that noble Lords who are better able to form an opinion say the definition is not wanted, as at present the only intermediate schools that can be established are those under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889. If any future legislation such as has been announced as being desired by the Borough of Salford were to be passed enabling what are called "continuation schools" to be established in England, they would be interfered with by this definition which the noble Lord now wishes to add. I hope, therefore, he will withdraw his Amendment.


I speak, of course, with great deference in the presence of the high legal authorities in the House, but is it not possible, there being no definition of intermediate education in this Bill, that when it becomes a Statute the Judges of the land may look at the Statute in which there is already a definition given of intermediate education, and that then they would, following that definition, compel English students to learn Welsh? It would be rather hard, I think, that all English students should be liable to that toil. Would it not be a simpler plan to alter the Bill now by making it apply to all public buildings? Those words would comprehend schools, free libraries, gymnasiums, baths, and washhouses, and all sorts of buildings. None of the buildings I have mentioned are more unconnected with schools than covered markets are; on the contrary, I should say that gymnasiums, free libraries, and baths—I will not say washhouses—are more congenial to schools than are covered markets, with which schoolboys have very little to do except, I am afraid, now and then perhaps, in the appropriation of gooseberries and cherries.


I have no right to speak again; but if I may be allowed to do so, I would suggest this: There does certainly seem to be an amount of vagueness in the words "intermediate schools or other schools sanctioned by Act of Parliament." I suppose that means other intermediate schools, and, if so, I do not see why you want the words "other schools" at all. If it were left simply "schools sanctioned by Act of Parliament," that, I think, would cover it. Therefore, I should propose to leave out the words "or other schools" in Clause 1, if the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment. That alteration, I think, would make it clear.


I quite agree in that. The fact is, the noble Lord behind me (Lord Norton) has been haunted by a suspicion that the words "sanctioned by Act of Parliament" do not apply to the intermediate schools. I read the sentence as applying to intermediate or other schools, which would be probably, in the interpretation of lawyers, "other like schools." At present only those sanctioned by the Welsh Intermediate Education Act are in existence. Therefore, I think it would be quite sufficient to make it read as the noble and learned Lord proposes, that land may be conveyed for sites for "intermediate schools sanctioned by Act of Parliament." and I concur with him in the desirableness of that alteration.


I agree to that, and I beg to withdraw the Amendment of which I have given notice.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move that the words "or other schools," line 15, Clause 1, be omitted.

On Question, agreed to.

Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.