HL Deb 25 February 1896 vol 37 cc1033-40

moved That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her to withhold Her consent from so much of the Scheme 'for the management of the funds contributed for the purposes of the Central Welsh Board by the county governing bodies established by the Schemes made under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889, for the administrative counties of Cardigan, Carnarvon, Merioneth, and Montgomery, and for the county boroughs of Cardiff and Newport, and by the county governing bodies established or to be established by Schemes under the said Act for the administrative counties of Anglesey, Brecknock, Carmarthen, Denbigh, Flint, Glamorgan, Monmouth, Pembroke, and Radnor, and for the county borough of Swansea,' as refers to Betton's Charity (Schools Account). He said that under the late Government a Scheme for the formation of a Central Board of Education for Wales was drawn up. That Scheme appropriated among other funds, Betton's Charity, which was now given to Elementary Schools of the Church of England in England and Wales. His Motion only related to that part of the Scheme which affected this Charity, but he would venture to point out that the whole Scheme was open to very serious objections. To begin with, opinion in Wales was very much divided on the question of the formation of a Central Board. The Principal of Cardiff College and a number of those who supported him did not want to have a Central Board. They wished the funds given to it under this Scheme to be entrusted to the new Welsh University Council. There were other considerations of great weight. At present they had in Wales a University with a Council and Senate, and each College had its own Council and Senate. They had also in each county a county and district governing body as well as local governors of schools, and it was now proposed to add a new body to be called the Central Board of Education. It seemed to him that such a multiplicity of organisations must lead to confusion, and it was rather hard to inflict such a mass of conflicting machinery on a country so small as Wales. He would also venture to point out that it was educationally for the interests of the new intermediate schools in Wales that the body to examine and inspect them should be absolutely free and independent, and he thought that body should be somewhat after the model suggested in the Report of the Commission on Secondary Education. The more Welsh Education was made free and open, and brought into touch with the English system the better it would be, he believed, for Wales. But he did not intend to move the rejection of the whole Scheme. He only moved the rejection of that part which related to Betton's Charity. In 1724 Thomas Betton left the residue of his estate in trust to the Ironmongers' Company, as to one half to be applied to the redemption of captives in Barbary, and as to the other half to be divided between certain persons in London and Charity schools in which teaching was carried on in accordance with the principles of the Church of England. The first part of the trust failed, and a Scheme was prepared in 1846 by the Court of Chancery and was afterwards confirmed by the House of Lords, directing that the funds should be applied to Charity schools in England and Wales conducted on Church principles. The fund now amounted to something like £8,000 a year, and about 1,300 schools were receiving assistance from it. This Scheme proposed to take away the portion given to Church Schools in Wales, about £900 a year, but it left untouched the part given to Church Schools in England. He submitted there was no justice or reason in such a proposal. The percentage of the population attending Church schools in his diocese was quite as large as that in the dioceses of Canterbury or York; and it was, in his opinion, very hard to take away from those schools the assistance given to them by such a charity as this. He therefore moved the Motion which stood in his name.


I do not propose to offer any opposition to the Motion of the right rev. Prelate. It is unnecessary to go into the question of the principal object of this Scheme, or the arrangements that have been made for intermediate and higher education in Wales. The part of the Scheme to which the right rev. Prelate takes exception is not an essential part of the Scheme itself, which is one for the establishment of an Examining Board for the whole of the schools under the Welsh Intermediate Act. The proposed application of the funds of Betton's Charity has, I believe, been repeatedly suggested with reference to schemes in England; but, having regard to the very strong opposition to which such proposals have always given rise, that intention of diverting any part of these funds from the assistance of elementary education to other objects has either been entirely abandoned or, at all events, indefinitely postponed. For some reason or another, it was believed that the proposed application might meet with less opposition in Wales, especially as I believe it was intended, in connection with it, somewhat to increase the amount of the grant which would be applied to the benefit of Wales. As, however, this has not been the case, and as the opposition to the Scheme in Wales is quite as strong as that to which deference has been paid in connection with similar proposals in England, I do not propose to offer any opposition to the Motion of the right rev. Prelate. The Scheme has been drawn up by the Charity Commissioners in such a way as to enable those provisions to be omitted without invalidating the rest of the Scheme.


said he was sorry to have to say that Lord Rosebery was unable to be present, and that Lord Playfair was ill. He had, therefore, been asked to say a few words with regard to the proposal of the right rev. Prelate. The proposal was rather a considerable one, as it asked their Lordships to reverse the decision arrived at—or, at all events, approved of—by the Education Department under two successive Governments. He would also point out that the Scheme emanated from the Education Committees of the counties of Wales, which consisted of three persons chosen by each County Council and two persons nominated by the President of the Council. No doubt the right rev. Prelate had a perfect right to make the most he could of the decision arrived at in 1846, and he did not impugn the justice of the decision, although the fact that it was carried to the House of Lords showed that there was reason to doubt it. Admitting, however, the righteousness and authority of that decision, surely a good deal had happened since; and he thought that the right rev. Prelate should have shown, not only that the decision of 1846 was right and just, but that the same decision ought to have been arrived at now—50 years afterwards—in a totally different state of circumstances. In 1846 none of the circumstances affecting the present Scheme had been passed. In those days education, so far as it was assisted—to a very small extent—by the State, was merely elementary, and the change proposed in the application of these funds was necessary because of the changed circumstances of the case. There was a peculiarity in this case which the right rev. Prelate had not remarked—that this money was not originally ear-marked for the purposes of education, and it therefore came under the Endowed Schools Acts. But even supposing this money had been ear-marked, there was the high authority of the late Lord Selborne himself for saying that benefactions ear-marked for education would not be confined to one denomination unless the evidence in favour of such a restriction was absolutely clear; and he did not quite understand how such evidence was forthcoming in the case of a fund not originally ear-marked at all for education. He would only say, in conclusion, that surely the best use that could be made of the funds—and there was no reason to suppose that the founder would have objected to such an application of the money—was, in the circumstances of the case, to place them at the disposal of the large representative body, the formation of which the noble Duke had not yet given up, notwithstanding the strictures passed upon it by the right rev. Prelate; and that these funds should be applied to the purposes that would be most beneficial to the interests of the higher education of the people of Wales.


desired to point out that there was something very real indeed to be brought forward in defence of what the right rev. Prelate had urged, and it was contained in the original will of the founder, who did not give all his money to one purpose, but divided it into three parts. Half was to be given for the redemption of captives in Barbary, and the remaining half was to be divided between destitute persons in London and charity schools where teaching in accordance with the principles of the Church of England was given. That very distinctly ear-marked the kind of education the founder would have wished to assist if he had known that that part of the fund set apart by him for the redemption of slaves in Barbary would come back to be rearranged. It would have been a very natural thing for the founder to give this portion of the fund for the purposes of education, because he had already given a large sum for that purpose. It was clear that, had he had the disposal of it, he would have given it in connection with education in accordance with the principles of the Church of England. He thought it would be a very great mistake to depart from what was indicated by the founder in his will.


said, that of course this Address would be adopted, the disposition of endowments of this kind being entirely in the hands of the Episcopate. Noble Lords on his side of the House had found that it was useless to protest or divide when, on previous occasions, they had been dealing with endowments. Where the person who created an endowment for an educational purpose destined it for teaching in connection with the Church of England, a forcible argument was doubtless supplied to the Members of the Episcopal Bench. But in the present case they were dealing with an endowment not created for any such purpose. The testator had not endowed Church of England schools in Wales with this money. It was true that he had endowed certain Church of England schools in London, but with that endowment there was no intention to interfere. The question was, what was the best course to take at the present day with regard to the money left for releasing slaves in Barbary. When the testator made his will the questions of secondary and technical education were not in his contemplation, it was true; but the use to which he designed this money—namely, the release of slaves in Barbary—being out of date, and secondary education being an object now regarded as of very high importance, why should that House interfere with the conclusion arrived at by the Education Department, and by the joint Committee of the County Councils in Wales, that this money could be best used in the way provided by the scheme? If the money was allocated 50 years ago to certain schools in Wales there was no reason that he knew why that arrangement should be stereotyped. The case in favour of the scheme was very strong, but he recognised that it would be of no avail to divide in its favour.


I think the noble and learned Lord always ignores on these occasions the fact that jurisdiction has been reserved to this House to deal with these schemes. The noble and learned Lord says that if Mr. Betton had destined this money for Church education he would recognise that to be a cogent argument, although I think I can remember occasions when he has not been greatly influenced by arguments of that kind. But the fact is that, if a testator has left money for the support of the education of a special religious body, the general and equitable jurisdiction of the Houses of Parliament does not apply unless there has been some accidental default. I understand that in passing the Measures under which these schemes are framed we were willing to pass provisions of a somewhat stringent and doubtful character on the understanding that we retained an equitable jurisdiction over their application, and that whenever that application did not coincide with the general policy which Parliament had in view we should interfere to correct it. Now, I imagine the policy Parliament had in view was to maintain the status quo as between religious denominations. It did not wish to encourage any aggressive claims by the Church of England upon money that belonged to the Dissenting or unsectarian body. On the other hand, it did not wish to encourage any spoliation of that which was destined for the Church of England. There are occasions when the words of the Endowed Schools Act do not provide entirely for the fulfilment of this policy, which Parliament had in view. In the case before us the money was assigned in 1846 by the authorities of that day to the support of Church religious education. They may have been right or wrong, but 50 years make a good prescription. This plan having been laid down by the authorities of that day, it came within the principle of the Endowed Schools Act, if not actually within the words, and it seems to me that the House of Lords by supporting that plan would be exercising its jurisdiction in a manner in which it is right that that jurisdiction should be exercised. Nothing can be more injurious either to the cause of religious peace or of successful education than that the various religious bodies should conduct a predatory war into one another's endowments. What we have to resist too often is the attempt on the part of that religious body which calls itself Unsectarian to take away the endowments of the Church of England; but I am not desirous that the Church of England should take away endowments that are unsectarian. It appears to me that it would be well that there should be a proclamation of peace between religious bodies, and that they should cease to dispute one another's titles to endowments, so that they may set to work to do the business they have in hand. I think that is much more likely to foster religious peace and to favour the promotion of that education which the noble and learned Lord, in entire sympathy with the whole House, so earnestly supports, than anything which shall keep alive the religious conflicts by which the education of the people has been so frequently impeded. Therefore I think the Motion of the Bight Reverend Prelate is in itself wise, and it is in conformity with the general principles and policy which this House has observed with respect to endowments of this kind. ["Hear, hear!"]

Agreed to. Ordered that the said Address be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.