HL Deb 01 June 1893 vol 12 cc1701-13

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee."


desired to interpose a few remarks upon the Bill before the Committee stage. Lord Colchester, who, like himself, was a member of the London School Board, made a speech the other night in which he seemed to infer that the Bill was very generally desired by that Body. He was not at all convinced that the Bill was desired by those forming the majority of the London School Board who followed the lead of the Chairman. It was true that a small section was extremely anxious to see it passed into law; but, on the other hand, a large number wore strongly opposed to the policy of the Bill. He objected to the Bill because he believed it would be found to be unworkable, and would tend to accelerate the strides now being made towards secular education. There were many denominations, and if all were to give distinctive religious teaching, even in a large school, the school building would have to be enlarged for the purpose of affording the accommodation that would be required. The interference with the ordinary work of the school would necessitate a re-arrangement of the time table; and the managers would be tempted to recommend the appointment of teachers, not for their qualifications as such, but because of the denominational views they might hold. He took his stand in opposing the Bill upon the compromise proposed by the late Mr. Smith and supported by the late Mr. Samuel Morley and by Professor Huxley. That compromise he regarded as a settlement of the controversy.


said, what he stated on the previous occasion referred to by his noble Friend was that there was a feeling of dissatisfaction in some respects with the present position of things. It could hardly be denied that there were large numbers of people of various religious denominations who were desirous that their children should receive religious instruction of their own denomination in the schools. At the same time, he did not think the inconvenience from the number of different sects to be provided for would be as great as supposed. Many Dissenting Bodies did not attach so much value to religious teaching in day schools, though it was greatly desired by the Church of England, the Wesleyans, and others, who, as ratepayers, were as much entitled to consideration as those who differed from them.


regretted he had been unable to be present at the Second Reading, or he would then have supported the Bill. He thought it was scarcely possible to exaggerate the importance of the measure. In London at the present moment there was a considerable agitation on the subject; and as soon as the existence of the Bill and the discussions upon it became known, there was not a School Board in the country that would not be deeply interested, and there were a great many families that would take the deepest interest in its progress and results. Many years ago he came to the conclusion that the only satisfactory solution of the religious difficulty would be in carrying out some such national system as was now proposed in this Bill— namely, that there should be combined secular education supported from the rates and opportunities for separate religious instruction in every school allowed to the different religious denominations as a matter of voluntary action on their part. Much had been said as to the compromise arrived at in 1870 which was embodied in the Cowper-Temple Clause in the Education Act; but, in his opinion, too much weight had been attached to that compromise. With the advance of time the bitterness of the controversy on religious education, which made compromise necessary, had become abated; more of the spirit of tolerance prevailed now, and he submitted that the compromise of 23 years ago was not in any degree to be held binding now. And there was this further advantage, in reviewing the question at the present time, that experience had shown, as he contended, that the provision made for religious education in 1870 had not brought out satisfactory results. The total absence of all religious education in schools was a great injury to the country. What was the system now pursued? All that was done was that for a short time in each school there was a portion of Scripture read. That was not anything like a provision for religious education. Some noble Lords maintained that this was well supplemented by home training. Could anyone seriously say, with any knowledge of the homes of this country, especially of the working classes, where the parents had but little time for such duties, that there was anything like adequate home religious education given to children? It was idle to represent that there could be time for such instruction in the vast majority of working-class homes. He did not deny that without such instruction children might be brought up to speak truthfully, and to act honourably in accordance with the principles of morality; but in the view of those who supported the Bill it would add greatly to the strength of the moral lessons inculcated if they were supported by reference to the sanctions and the motives supplied by the teaching of Christian doctrines. It could not be suggested that the objection which was made to the scheme of 1870 applied to this scheme at all, because here, for the first time, the proposal was that while secular teaching alone should be thrown upon the rates, religious education should be supplied by the different religious bodies themselves. With regard to the objection that such a system was impracticable, he might mention that shortly before 1847 there was a school opened in Edinburgh by a well-known clergyman of the Free Church; but he made it a condition of admission that the children who came to the school should receive religious teaching according to the Presbyterian doctrines. The result was that a great many Roman Catholic children were left in the streets. That was considered by many as a very great injustice, and it was resolved that another school should be established, which should be conducted on quite different principles. Accordingly the United Industrial School was founded in 1847, and ever since, for nearly half-a-century, it had been successfully conducted. By the constitution of that school the subscribers generally were to pay for the secular education of the children; but the religious education which might be given was to be kept distinct, and was to be paid for by those who were interested in the particular denomination whose doctrines were to be taught. The school had subscribers among those who were regarded as extreme Liberals in politics. The late Mr. Adam Black, who was one of the staunchest Liberals in Scotland, was one of the main supporters of the school, and the noble Lord (the Earl of Rosebery), who conducted the foreign affairs of this country, had been, and was still, its President, and took the deepest interest in its welfare. Mr. Donald Crawford, the Member for North-East Lanarkshire, and Mr. Wallace, the Member for East Edinburgh, were also supporters of the school. The various Reports showed again and again, from the day on which the school was founded until the present time, that its Chairman and Directors had expressed the strongest conviction that in the principle of securing for the children common secular and separate religious education, if fairly carried out, would be found the ultimate solution of the educational difficulty. This was no small or recent experiment: the matter had gone beyond the region of experiment. There were 54 schools in Birmingham also, in almost every one of which religious instruction had been carried on for a period of 20 years precisely in the way which was proposed by the Bill, and with general satisfaction. With regard to the objections that had been urged against the Bill, not one of the noble Lords who had spoken against it had denied, so far as he understood, that the measure would be a desirable one if it could be practically carried out. It had been suggested that it would be likely to stir up religious animosity, and thus hinder the work of education; but he believed the tendency of the measure would be in quite the other direction. As long as this whole question was left undetermined there would be contention and agitation about it. But if, by a measure like that before their Lordships, the different denominations obtained the absolute right to have religious teaching in the schools on their own suggestion and at their own expense, an end would be put to the present unsettled and unsatisfactory state of things. He saw nothing whatever in the measure calculated to foment or raise religious animosity. Another objection urged against, the Bill was that, if passed, it would lead to some question or difficulty with denominational schools. He ventured to think that no such question would arise; but, even were it probable, this objection was not a good reason for rejecting a measure good in itself, and any such point could be dealt with when it arose. He appealed to noble Lords who had opposed the Bill to re-consider the matter. He believed it was possible to effectively carry out the scheme proposed, and he thought he had shown this by the illustrations he had given. If this measure was passed they would strengthen the hands of the Education Department in resisting demands for founding denominational schools in future. It might now be said in support of such demands that children could not get the religious teaching they required within the particular district or parish. That plea would be at once taken away by the adoption of this Bill. Public opinion had been maturing for a long time in the direction of the measure. Reference was made on the last occasion when the Bill was before their Lordships to a passage written by Dr. Martineau, in which he stated that he was willing to accept a Bill of this kind, and would hail it; and allusion had also been made to Mr. Huxley's views. It might be interesting to their Lordships to know that his esteemed friend Mr. Huxley, who was opposed to the proposal then before the London School Board, thoroughly approved the scheme of the Bill. It was substantially a Liberal measure, and was supported, as he had shown, by many eminent Liberals. The Bill would confer on Roman Catholics benefits to which they were justly entitled. In due course he presumed the Bill would go to the other House; and it was hardly to be supposed that the Roman Catholic Members, especially the Representatives from Ireland, would refuse on any grounds to support a measure which would give their Church equal privileges with the Church of England and other Churches in the United Kingdom. He earnestly hoped that, for the various reasons he had given, the Bill would be passed. He felt he ought not, in justice to himself, having so long held the views he had now stated, to remain silent in the discussion of so important a subject.


said, that, so far from this being a new system or an experiment, it had been carried on, at all events as far as Ireland was concerned, and to a great degree successfully, for more than 50 years. Lord Stanley then established there a National system of education which was founded on the principle of separate religious and united secular teaching, and there seemed no reason why a measure of the kind should not be applied to England. In Ireland it had certainly had the most excellent effect, though, no doubt, some of the most intolerant had refused to accept it. It was extraordinary, with the noble Earl's great knowledge of this question, that he should not have been aware how long this system had existed in Ireland. No doubt the Roman Catholic clergy would like to have no religious teaching but their own; the system had, however, down to this time, been more or loss carried out by the School Boards in Ireland; and he hoped their Lordships would adopt it for this country.

Motion agreed to: House in Committee accordingly.

Clauses 1 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 5.


wished to make a few remarks on this and the previous clause. He said the scope of the Bill appeared to have been misapprehended by some of the noble Lords who had spoken in support of it. It was merely with reference to Board Schools, and no others, to provide for religious instruction being given in them. The distinction should be borne in mind between the object of providing for denominational religious instruction under certain conditions and the means prescribed for effecting that object. Those means he could not but regard as unfortunate, and he believed that the Bill would be received in another place as a challenge. Whatever might be the merits or demerits of the Cowper-Temple Clause, it had produced, on the whole for 23 years religious peace, though he did not desire to stand up as a very ardent advocate of it. In 1870 it was considered that the field was already mainly occupied by denominational schools; and, in the first instance, the Board schools were represented to Parliament as a supplement to the general system. Accordingly, the Cowper-Temple Clause was adopted as a compromise rather than that the schools should provide for united secular education and separate religious instruction. The Report of Lord Cross's Commission on the provision for religious instruction in Boards Schools was, on the whole, favourable. This Bill did not deal, as it might be possible to deal, with the difficulties attending denominational education, which should, as far as possible, he thought, be met by separate schools. He deprecated the interference with the management of Board schools, which would be sanctioned by the clause, and suggested that provision for the religious teaching which the right rev. Prelate in charge of the measure desired to promote should be made in some different way. For instance, the position of denominational schools, as compared with that of Board schools, might be improved, and in that way the extension of religious teaching might be promoted.


My Lords, I cannot help saying that I do not recognise, in the instances which have been cited, anything like precedents for the provisions of this Bill. A case has been referred to in which two Committees were appointed, one Protestant and the other Roman Catholic, to see that the children received religious teaching according to which religion they belonged; but, as I gather, there was no provision for separate Presbyterian teaching, and children of that denomination received teaching of a general Protestant character. In the first place, I would point out that this is not a Bill dealing with all schools. It is, if I may say so without offence, an extremely partisan Bill. It insists upon provision being made for religious teaching at the instance of parents of a few children attending at the Board schools, but it makes no such provision as regards the vast number of denominational schools, which in many parts of the country are the only schools to which it is possible for parents to send their children. I venture to say the Bill is a partisan measure, because it deals with Board schools only and does not apply to voluntary denominational schools, which are partly supported out of rates, and in many of which there might be a demand made for religious instruction of a different kind than is supplied. The right rev. Prelate is apparently only alive to injustice when it affects those who belong to the Church to which he belongs himself; he sees no injustice in the fact that in localities where there are no Board schools children whose parents belong to one denomination have often to attend schools where the religious instruction of a different denomination is given. I should not be surprised if the ultimate result of the proposal in the clause were to diminish the amount of religious teaching imparted in Board schools, and make the education secular only. A large number of schools in this country teach, I believe simply and briefly, the truths which are held in common by Churchmen and Nonconformists alike. That instruction is given to all the children. Would it be a gain to religious teaching for many of them that you substitute special religious teaching for those who are not of that denomination, but who, if the parents care enough about it, can receive that teaching at home or on Sundays? While this system might secure to a limited number of children a little more Church-teaching, it would, I think, result in leaving a vast number of children who most need it without religious teaching at all. The children who most need some kind of religious instruction in the schools are those whose parents, as a general rule, care nothing about the character of such instruction. In a vast number of the Board Schools there is, as I have said, religious teaching given, which, though it may not be the religious teaching of any particular denomination, is religious teaching to which a vast majority of laymen, whether Churchmen or Nonconformists, could take no exception. That teaching simply consists of the truths which are held in common by Churchmen and the great mass of Nonconformists alike. The instruction is given to all the children alike, and I ask whether it would be a gain if you were to substitute teaching of the special tenets of any sect. My belief is, as I have said, that in the case of children whose parents care enough about the matter special religious teaching is secured to them by giving it on Sundays rather than on week days. This Bill, therefore, if carried into law would, I believe, strike a vital blow at the religious teaching in schools for the children who most need such instruction.


expressed surprise that the Bill had been spoken of by the noble and learned Lord as a partisan measure. If it had been drawn specially in the interests of the Church of England, he would have put in "twenty children" instead of "five children" us the number for whom separate provision might be made. But he considered that his position as Bishop required him to be true to the first principles of religion rather than to the special tenets of the Church with which he was connected—that was to say, in this case to freedom of conscience. The noble and learned Lord, in speaking of voluntary schools, said they were supported out of the public rates. That was not the case.


Then I withdraw "rates" and substitute "grants." I believe that 74 per cent. of the cost is defrayed by grants.


said, that those schools had been built at enormous cost, and were kept up at great expense—a burden which fell entirely on the shoulders of the promoters of the voluntary schools, who did not possess the privilege of borrowing capital like the Board schools, when improvements were suddenly demanded.


thought that the noble and learned Lord could hardly have made himself acquainted with what had recently taken place in the London School Board when he spoke of this measure being extremely injurious to the cause of religious education in Board schools throughout the country. The religious teaching which was given under the London School Board was founded on the compromise arranged by the late Mr. W. H. Smith and Mr. Samuel Morley on the basis of the Cowper-Temple Clause, which was intended to secure the teaching of the Christian religion in Board schools. What was the fact at present? In the case of a very large number of children compelled to go to the London Board schools, it was found that the elementary truths of the Christian religion were neglected in a manner which would surprise the noble and learned Lord. But when, in view of this state of things, certain gentlemen, who believed that the teaching of religion in the schools of the country was a matter of vital importance, asked that the provisions of the Cowper-Temple Clause should be honestly carried out, that the doctrines of the Atonement and the Divinity of our Lord should be taught in the Board schools, they were met by an outcry that it would inflict an injustice on a large number of ratepayers—Jews, Unitarians, and persons of other denominations. It had been conclusively proved, however, that the compromise established as between the members of the Church and the Nonconformists had now drifted into a supposed compromise between Christians and non-Christians. The School Boards throughout the country were professing to give instruction in the Christian religion, but they were doing nothing of the kind. Take the case of Wales, for example; the great majority of the schools there gave no religions teaching whatever, or very little, and we ought not now to refuse to provide that necessary religious teaching should be given under our great national system of education.


intimated his intention to vote for Clause 5, if it was opposed, though he very much regretted that any occasion had arisen for the revival of this controversy. The existence of dangers had been referred to, but the dangers wore not all on one side. Unless something was done to satisfy the religious feelings of the community in the matter of education their Lordships might depend upon it that their whole system of public education, sooner or later, would be endangered. It seemed to him that, as far as it went, the Bill would give relief from this danger. It would relieve the Board schools from what otherwise might be great difficulties in their way. The principle of the Bill seemed to him to be absolutely just. He regretted that this question had arisen; but as it had been raised, he should vote for the Bill, especially as their Lordships had already affirmed the principle of the Bill, LORD SHAND moved, in page 2, line 13, to leave out from ("teach") to the end of the sub-section. Their Lordships would understand that the Amendments he proposed were of a friendly character, with the view to improve the Bill and not to injure it in any way. The result of the clause as it stood would be to invite inquiry into the competency of the teacher to be a religious instructor, and he was afraid that implied examining him as to his religious belief. That would be objectionable, and would injure the Bill when it got to the other House of Parliament.

Amendment moved, in page 2, line 13, to leave out from ("teach") to the end of the sub-section.—(The Lord Shand.)


accepted the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

LORD SHAND moved, in line 18, after ("incompetence"), to insert ("(d.) No part of the expense rendered necessary by any arrangement for giving separate religious instruction shall be paid from the funds of the School Board, but such expense shall be provided for to the satisfaction of the Board by the persons making application to have such arrangement made.") As provision was made in the Bill that the religious instruction might he given either within or outside the school-house, it might be necessary to pay for separate rooms, and such expense must not fall on the rates; and it seemed only right and proper, also, that where the schoolrooms were used for that purpose, it should be in the power of the School Board to make a charge.


asked whether it was really necessary to discuss this point, as it seemed a small matter?


said that, if rooms had to be hired, it would be against principle for the expense to be thrown on the School Board, but the Amendment would not apply where the schoolroom was used, unless some extra expense was incurred.


agreed that the noble and learned Lord had expressed the meaning of the clause, and that the question of payment would only arise if any extra cost was incurred. No injustice must be done to the ratepayers. With regard to the difficulty which had been suggested of getting the children to attend the religious instruction, his information from Birmingham was that all the children in the schools there did attend it. They certainly did not absent themselves by their parents' desire.


I venture to suggest that we are not discussing here the position of the Birmingham schools or School Board. The Birmingham School Board will be in precisely the same position after this Bill has passed, if it does pass, as it is in now.

Amendment agreed to.

THE BISHOP OF SALISBURY moved the following words as a new subsection (e):— ("No teacher already employed in the school by the Board shall give religious instruction under this section without the consent of the Board or the managers.") It had been thought that perhaps as a religious teacher there might be nominated, by parents, the master of a school. That appeared to be a serious objection, and it was thought better, therefore, to propose this sub-section to avoid any strain being put on the relations between the managers and the staff. It would serve as an interpretation upon the provision in Section A that the religious teacher might be a teacher in the school provided the Board approved.


It seems to me by implication to say that you may employ one of the teachers in the Board school for this purpose provided he is not already appointed at the time of the passing of this Act as manager.


thought it conveyed exactly the opposite.


said, this was intended to meet the objection that there would otherwise be an unlimited power of appointing persons who were teachers in the school; which ought to be subject to the consent of the Board or managers. It seemed to him that this was a distinct improvement.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7.

LORD SHAND moved, in page 2, line 36, after ("board") to insert— ("On payment of a charge sufficient to meet the expense of printing such forms, where the same shall be printed.") This was a trifling matter, no doubt, but it was just one of those trifles which sometimes aroused people.

Amendment agreed to.

Verbal Amendments.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Bill re-committed to the Standing Committee: and to he printed as amended. (No. 122.)