§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH
My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I venture once again to emphasise the two main principles of the measure. In natural sequence to the principle of the Act of 1902, this Bill proposes to give to the local education authorities created by that Act that fuller and freer power of negotiation which local experience has already shown to be necessary. The solution of the religious difficulty, the main difficulty really in this controversy, is found in claiming for the parent the right to decide the character of the religious instruction imparted to his child. The critics of this Bill have not, I believe, ventured to question the soundness of either of those two principles. But it is when we come to the application of these principles that difficulties arise. Before discussing these, a brief survey of the situation created by the Act of 1902 is necessary for my purpose.
The Act of 1902 has beyond all question weakened the denominational character of the voluntary schools. The managers of those schools are beginning to realise that their powers of management are severely circumscribed, and that those powers, where the local authority is unfriendly, can be legally reduced to almost humiliating dimensions. But while the powers of management have well nigh gone, the financial responsibilities of the foundation managers have been, at any rate in one respect, very seriously increased. How, for example, are the voluntary schools, in districts which now for the first time know the feeling of a school rate, going by voluntary effort to raise the money necessary for large and reasonable requirements in the way of structural improvements? No doubt in the past the dread of a school board rate has occasionally added some names to subscription lists, but that will occur no longer. In large towns the position of the voluntary schools is in peril of being lowered by the establishment of higher standard schools which the local education 394 authorities, invested by the Act with the power of grading schools, will probably consider necessary for educational efficiency.
In Wales there is an added trouble. The Act of 1902 euphemistically describes the voluntary schools as non-provided; and in the Principality that description has; been interpreted to mean that the voluntary schools are to be non-provided with the means of maintenance. It is true tint the Act of 1902 has left to the voluntary schools a remnant of their old privileges. Unfortunately this remnant now supplies our opponents with their one grievance; I say their one grievance because when complete popular control is once given the rest that is asked for follows. In approaching this delicate question of popular control I do not think that any fair-minded man will question the greatness of the services rendered to popular education in this country by the Church of England in the past. The Church of England did not wait to educate the working man until he was enfranchised. The Church long years ago entered upon this work inspired by the parental duty "educate your children." The State has recently been moved to undertake this task by the political motive, "educate your masters." But, my Lords, great as are the claims of the voluntary schools, I frankly admit that when I find that before 1870 public funds contributed only 37 per cent, of the total cost of maintenance, and that now they will contribute more than 90 per cent., justice demands that control should go to the paymaster.
In the present controversy the representatives of the voluntary schools are, of course, the champions of the cause of religious education, and their opponents the champions of popular control. These claims do not seem to me to be irreconcilable. Even in Wales the local education authorities are not as a body opposed to the giving of religious instruction. This Bill offers an arrangement by which the representatives of the voluntary schools may barter the small remnant of privilege still left them for a plan which will secure religious instruction in all the elementary schools of the country. This Bill would make such an arrangement locally easy and legally binding. It seems to me—if this may be said here 395 without disrespect—that such an arrangement is more easily carried out in detail by negotiations with the local authorities than by an appeal to Parliament, where other considerations would come in to harness and mutilate the progress of any such measure. In any arrangement contemplated there are two points that must, of course be fully and fairly faced—the question of inside facilities and the abolition of tests. I think it will be generally admitted that the vast majority of the people of this country have made it clear that they consider that religious instruction is an essential part of education, and that they are resolved that the education given in their elementary schools shall not be bereft of this essential. The difficulty is the character of the religious instruction to be imparted. The Board schools met the difficulty in a somewhat negative fashion: "You must take the syllabus we offer or nothing." In passing may 1 observe that there must be some flaw in the logic of those who desire to free religion from all State patronage and control and at the same time now ask the State to endow and control this school board religion in all the elementary schools of the country. This attempt to formulate a religious instruction so vague and varied that it must be nameless, is not satisfactory.
May we not get clean away from the wrangle about denominational and undenominational, if we substitute for these gaunt and irritating epithets the word "parental"? Will anyone venture to maintain that any body of school managers—Board or voluntary—ought to have the right or the power to decide the faith which is taught to the child? This Bill thus claims what common sense and common justice demand—the right of the parent to have his child taught his own faith in no delusive or proselytising spirit. The recognition of this parental right places us on sound ground. If religious instruction is to form an essential part of education in elementary schools it must be given in their school hours. Your Lordships may have heard of an experiment on a large scale made last year at Eastbourne by the Free Church Council to organise what are called outside facilities. The complete failure of that experiment remains for our 396 instruction. On the other hand the plan of inside facilities existing in the Drury Lane Day Industrial School, which is practically an ordinary Board school, affords evidence that such a system may be successfully worked while people are reasonable and just. No doubt there is, as the noble Earl opposite said, opposition in some quarters to inside facilities; but it is my conviction that the opposition grows weaker as the justice of the demand and the principle upon which it rests are more clearly understood.
Our opponents are not unwilling that the school board religion should be taught at the public expense. We, however, only ask that we may be allowed to teach our own children at our own cost their own faith. I desire before leaving this point to quote a solution of the religious difficulty which was put forth some time ago in the form of an Education Bill. That Bill made these proposals: "All children will be bound to attend the religious instruction. Every denomination will be able to obtain the religious instruction they desire for their children. Such instruction will be imparted by the ministers themselves or by such other persons as may be appointed by them. The Government shall not be called upon to pay for the religious instruction so given." These provisions are taken from an Education Bill drafted by the late Mr. Thomas Gee, a minister and leader of Welsh Nonconformity, a man of unique influence among Nonconformists. Mr. Gee as a politician did not belong to the less advanced section of his Party, and I cannot bring myself to believe that an arrangement which commended itself to Mr. Gee will be repudiated by the political representatives of Nonconformity to-day. It would be premature at this stage to discuss in further detail more than the main principle of this proposal.
I now come to the question of tests. Once more justice seems to me, I frankly admit it, to deprecate the imposition of a religious test for the great majority of those who are now public servants. But I go even further. I am not at all sure that a legal religious test is the best means of securing what we want. The character of the teacher is the important point. I grant that the Bible teacher, to do any good, must be a Bible believer. 397 How is this to be secured? You must have, it is said, a test. There is a legal test aid a real test, and often they are not identical. There may be a legal test laxly applied, and laxly submitted to, and therefore, for the purposes for which it was devised, in no sense a real test. I imagine that the most strenuous defender of legal tests to-day would have to admit abundant illustrations of this statement in the past. On the other hand, you may have a very real test without any legal sanction at all for the same. In Wales, we have had for ten years undenominational intermediate schools, without any religious test whatever for the teachers of the star.
At the beginning of things, in some of the schools with which I was well acquainted, the governing bodies were overwhelmingly Nonconformist, and, although no test was supposed to be applied and the suggestion of a test would have been indignantly repudiated, I know, on the best authority, that no Churchman, and most certainly no Roman Catholic, would have had the slightest chance of being appointed to the mastership, although his qualifications were unquestionably the highest, it went eve a further than this. Where the Calvinistic Methodists are predominant other Nonconformists grievously complained that the silent test which all clearly understood, but none acknowledged, was Calvinistic. But I now gladly recognise that this initial tendency to unfairness is disappearing. But this experience shows that you may have very real tests which are not legal, and legal tests which are not real. The fact is that, in the ultimate resort, these matters are ruled by the predominant feeling and conviction of those interested in the school, and that, while theoretically it seems unanswerable that for Christian teaching there should be a legal test that the teacher is a Christian, it will be found in practice that the main safeguard lies in the religious convictions of the community immediately concerned. Even in Wales I could accept that security provided that the power of the local authorities is not restricted by such Parliamentary fetters as the Cowper-Temple Clause.
Experience has made clear that the Nonconformists as a body are in favour 398 of religious instruction. When I see the forces that are gathering for those who value education only on its secular an material side, I feel profoundly anxious that the friends of religious instruction, whether Churchmen or Nonconformists, should not weaken their influence by unnecessary strife and division. Remove the grievances that cause contention, and the united forces of those in favour of religious education may be trusted to secure qualified teachers, because absence of legal tests by no means implies absence of inquiry as to a teacher's faith and fitness to instruct. Looking at this matter as a Churchman, I ask myself whether the cause of religious education, for which the Church has made such splendid sacrifices in the past, will not best be promoted by such an arrangement as would be permitted under the provisions of this Bill.
It seems to me that the best use which can be made of the hold over schools which the Act has left to the Church, may be, before it is lost piecemeal, to exchange it, on adequate security, for an arrangement which would give religious instruction in all our elementary schools. Your Lordships may have read Mr. Augustine Birrell's words on this point—How," he asks, "can a compromise be affected? Do ut des calls our Birmingham Bismarek. It is a wise maxim. What has Nonconformity got to offer the Church of England? But one thing—the Cowper-Temple Clause. What, ought or might the Church party be willing to give in exchange for a right of entry into the provided schools?Mr. Birrell's answer to his own question indicates his approval of such a mutual concession.
I would venture to say one word to my Nonconformist friends. I am anxious to understand and to sympathise with their grievances; such sympathy is not rendered easier by the grotesque misrepresentations which have prevailed of the Act of 1902. I think it may be said I that the Church of England has borne all this misrepresentation with dignity and self-control. There are extremists who hope that a swinging pendulum may give the n all they ask for, but I believe they will find that they have miscalculated their own power. Be this as it may, I trust that the cause of education is not to be made once more a subject of political 399 strife and agitation. It is my conviction that the measure now submitted to your Lordships would do something to arrest such a catastrophe. The details of the measure are doubtless open to amendment, but the principles upon which it is based are, I believe, accepted as sound. The local education authorities will have a freer hand given to them in carrying out those educational responsibilities with which they are already charged. It is, I believe, the verdict of the people of this country that there is to be religious education in our elementary schools, and this Bill claims that the faith taught to the child shall be decided by the parent of the child.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Bishop of St. Asaph.)
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (The Marquess of LONDONDERRY)
My Lords, I did not rise at once to address your Lordships when the right rev. Prelate resumed his seat, as I anticipated that I should have heard other right rev. Prelates discuss the question, and I certainly had hoped to have heard from noble Lords opposite their views either in approval or condemnation of the Bill. I confess that my position at the present moment is a somewhat difficult one. It might be said that there was no reason whatever why His Majesty's Government should interfere in regard to a measure, which, if my memory serves me rightly, the right rev. Prelate who introduced it declared on the First Reading was one for which he and he alone was responsible; that it would have been possible for your Lordships to decide this question without any intervention whatever from the Government Bench; but there are various reasons which force me, if I may use that expression, to interpose in this discussion.
On the occasion of the First Reading of the Bill I responded for His Majesty's Government, and I then expressed the sympathy that I personally felt with the right rev. Prelate in the course he had taken; but I also said that if a definite answer was to be given by His Majesty's Government as to their attitude upon this measure, we must have sufficient time for 400 the consideration of it, seeing that it is undoubtedly a measure which makes considerable alterations in the Act of 1902, for which the noble Duke the late Lord President of the Council (the Duke of Devonshire) and myself were responsible. As I then explained, we could not at a moment's notice allow alterations to take place in that measure, no matter how satisfactory they might be, and even if they were accepted by the whole community, without giving careful consideration to them ourselves. Naturally the right rev. Prelate, after the remarks I made on that occasion, has a perfect right to expect from me a full reply on behalf of His Majesty's Government today. I trust that he will not consider me guilty of any discourtesy, or of breaking any pledge that I made on the occasion of the First Reading, when I say that, for reasons which I shall enumerate, it is impossible for me, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, to give any definite answer to-day as to whether His Majesty's Government approve or disapprove of this measure.
As your Lordships may remember, I welcomed the speech of the right rev. Prelate when he moved the First Reading of the Bill, for the right rev. Prelate had accepted the suggestion I had myself made at Carnarvon. I expressed a hope, when speaking at Carnarvon, that it might be possible for all classes of the community in Wales to meet together and arrive at some solution of the difficult problem in that part of the country, and I added that if an amicable solution was arrived at, His Majesty's Government would regard it as very satisfactory and would, if possible, do all in their power to further it. After the discussion which took place in your Lordships' House on the First Reading of this Bill, I had hoped that this question would be discussed and ventilated, not only in your Lordships' House, but throughout the country, so that before the time came for me to speak on the Second Reading of the Bill, I should have been able to gather what was the feeling in that part of the country at which the Bill is aimed, and to give your Lordships some definite answer as to the position of the Government. But I am obliged to admit that the hopes I expressed at that time were of too sanguine a character.
401 I do not know that I can call to mind a single speech in or out of Parliament, either giving a general acceptance to the scheme of the right rev. Prelate, or even a welcome, no matter how cold. There may be reasons why this should be the case. On the occasion of the First Reading of this Bill, the noble Earl the Leader of I the Opposition in this House (whose absence I am sure we all regret, and the reason for it still more) in the very brief speech which he then delivered, offered opposition of the most hostile character to one of the main provisions of the Bill. It may have been due to that cause; but as to that I offer no opinion. But I do certainly recognise this fact, that the Bill does not at the present moment fulfil the condition which I considered so absolutely essential for its recognition as a measure of conciliation, namely, that it should be accepted by all parties in the nature of what I might call an eirenicon. As the Bill has not been accepted in the spirit in which I had ventured to hope it would have been before it reached its present stage, it is, of course, impossible for His Majesty's Government to give support to the measure. That being the case, I cannot but think that any discussion which may take place in your Lordships' House to-day must be more or less of an academic character. Unless noble Lords opposite have changed their minds, as I sincerely hope they have, since we last discussed this matter, they will, in all probability, offer opposition to the Second Reading, and, as I have said, the only chance of its becoming law would lie in its being accepted in the country, and receiving the universal consent of your Lordships' House.
The main and essential provision of the right rev. Prelate's Bill is to permit what I will call an arrangement, and what in vulgar terms might be called a system of bargaining, between voluntary school managers and the local education authority. But your Lordships know full well that if a proper bargain is to be made between two parties, both must start on fairly, if not absolutely, equal terms. The experience of the last few months has shown that, in certain parts of the country, the voluntary schools would not start on equal terms with the local authorities, inasmuch as they have 402 been, I venture to think, extremely unfairly treated, and undue pressure has been put upon them. That being the case, until Parliament passes what is known as the Defaulting Authorities Bill, which I anticipate will shortly come up from the House of Commons, and which I venture to hope will become law before this session is brought to an end, the voluntary school managers will not be on a par with the local authorities, and will not be able to argue or bargain on equal terms. In these circumstances, if the right rev. Prelate will allow me to say so, I do think that the discussion on the Second Reading of this Bill must be even more academic, inasmuch as we cannot offer any suggestion as to what could or should be done until the Bill to which I have referred becomes the law of the land. Therefore, any remarks which I may make now must have reference to conditions which will arise after the passage of that measure.
In the Bill now before your Lordships there are many points of great difficulty; but to my mind the essential element in this Bill in regard to the question of bargaining between the managers and the local education authorities is that of reciprocity. I want to make very clear what to my mind is the definition of reciprocity. It is obvious that no solution of the difficulty can be considered a fair one which denies to parents the right to have their children given such religious instruction as they desire, merely because the school near which they live has been provided out of the rates. Very few of your Lordships will have failed to observe the remarks made in the other House by Mr. Lloyd-George and Dr. Macnamara, who have given vent to volumes of praise of the Scottish system of education, and who have also gone further, and declared their desire that the Scottish system should be extended to England and Wales. If that desire were carried into effect, the restrictions which at the present moment prevent denominational education in provided schools would entirely disappear. I regret that the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition is not in his place to-day, because I should have liked to ask him how he reconciles the statements of his followers in the other 403 House with his own remarks on the First Reading of this Bill, when he denounced any question of denominational education in voluntary schools. Compare the proposals of Dr. Macnamara and Mr. Lloyd-George with the proposal contained in the Bill of the right rev. Prelate. The right, rev. Prelate's Bill only requires that denominational instruction should be given in voluntary or provided schools at the expense of the denomination, whereas under the Scottish system denominational instruction is given in schools where it is demanded, not at the expense of the denomination, but at the expense of the rates as a whole.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Marquess, but I should be glad if he could quote the speech of Mr. Lloyd-George in which he said that he was ready to accept the Scottish system in all its details in Wales.
§ THE MARQUESS OP LONDONDERRY
I have not Mr. Lloyd-George's speech with me, but I have it in my mind. I may say that I quoted his speech in his own constituency, and was not contradicted there; but as I have not the extract I will leave Mr. Lloyd-George out of consideration. I do not think the noble Lord will repudiate the fact that that statement has been made by Dr. Macnamara. What I do say is that if this Bill is denounced by noble Lords opposite, or not considered worthy of consideration in this House because it does offer these proposals, then I say there is altogether taken out of the Bill that spirit of reciprocity which in any bargain must be an essential feature. I now come to a very difficult part of the question. I refer to what are known as the facilities given for denominational instruction in provided schools. I am one of those who consider religious instruction in schools as of such importance that I view with the greatest possible apprehension any proposal to give it up. It is said that a syllabus 404 could be issued which would be agreeable to all parties, but I doubt very much whether that is the case. I go further. It is my conviction that a teacher who has to impart religious instruction should be a person absolutely devoted to it in spirit, and who honestly and earnestly believes in the instruction which he or she imparts. Consequently, I think that that is one of the parts of the Bill which, even if it were accepted by your Lordships, we should have to very carefully consider before allowing it to become law.
I hope the right rev. Prelate will not think that in the remarks I am making I am guilty of undue criticism. I can assure him I fully recognise his good intentions in introducing this measure. I should very much regret that he should for one moment think that I did not appreciate the great efforts he has made to solve this very difficult question, which some people regard as impossible of solution. But it has been my duty to-day to endeavour to balance the difficulties and the advantages that may arise, should the Bill become law. I say at once that this measure cannot be considered a Government measure. It is a measure of which His Majesty's Government as a whole can neither approve nor disapprove. The question is one on which I cannot pledge any individual Member on the Front Bench. I venture, however, on my own behalf, to say that the right rev. Prelate has my sincere sympathy. I recognise in his Bill his good intentions and, knowing Wales as I do, I appreciate the difficulties that are experienced there in the promotion of the efficiency of education. Therefore, if the right rev. Prelate presses the Bill to a division, I shall go into the Lobby with him. But I would ask him not to press your Lordships to a division on this occasion. I do not think any benefit could result from such a step, inasmuch as there are so many important matters of detail, even one of which any division would fail to settle. While I shall follow the right rev. Prelate into the Division Lobby in favour of the Bill if he takes it to a Second Reading, I cannot admit for one moment that any universal or general departure from the Act of 1902 can be accepted by His Majesty's Government without very careful consideration. If it were found possible, while maintaining 405 religious instruction in the voluntary schools as secured by the Act of 1902, to arrive at some agreement agreeable to all sections of the community for promoting the cause of education and restoring good feeling, the Government would not only consider, but they would be anxious to further such a scheme. But until that time arrives it is impossible for the Government to depart from the position laid down in the Act of 1902. I trust that the answer I have given has not disappointed the right rev. Prelate, whose endeavours to promote the efficiency of education in Wales I fully appreciate.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
My Lords, I desire in the first instance to say that I find that the noble Marquess was right with regard to what Mr. Lloyd-George said. He did state in the House of Commons that so far as Wales was concerned he would be prepared to accept the Scottish system; but, my Lords, I do not think it is much good talking about the Scottish system being accepted for Wales only, for we know perfectly well that we should not find in England that acceptance which, if Mr. Lloyd-George is right, would be found in Wales. I was not surprised at the reluctance of the noble Marquess to rise after the speech of the right rev. Prelate. Apparently he was waiting for noble Lords from other parts of the House to inform his mind as to what should be said with regard to this Bill. The noble Marquess, in the most frank and open way, announced that the Government once more had no settled convictions on a great subject. I think this makes the fourth subject which we have had recently on which the Government have no settled convictions—there is the question of fiscal reform, there is the question of reform of the War Office, there is the Irish Catholic University question, and now there is the basis of a concordat to settle this much disputed question of religious teaching in voluntary schools. The noble Marquess said that he was forced to the position he had taken up by the Opposition. For a member of a powerful Ministry, such as there is in office now, to say that the Opposition had forced him to a particular course seems to me to be the most curious con- 406 fession of weakness that was ever made by a Minister.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I beg the noble Lord's pardon. What I pointed out was that if this Bill was to become the law of the land it must be by common consent, that it could not be carried into law unless your Lordships' House was more or less unanimous on the subject.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
I do not see that this Bill is in a different position from any other Bill. The people who are responsible for legislation are the Ministry in office, and when the Ministry in office has a huge majority in the Lower House of Parliament and a still greater majority in this House, surely it is not fair to try to shuffle off the responsibility on to a "miserable remnant of an Opposition," for we are constantly being informed that we are only a miserable remnant. Therefore, I think we have a right to disclaim responsibility put on our shoulders which we certainly have done nothing to deserve. Like the noble Marquess, I am very sorry that my noble friend Lord Spencer, a predecessor of his in the distinguished office he holds, is not here to-night, because he could deal with this subject with far greater knowledge than I can pretend to possess; but I think the position of my noble friend on the last occasion when this Bill was before the House has been somewhat misrepresented. All that my noble friend said was that there were particular points in the Bill which would be met by hostility. That was all he said, and I think we can say the same thing now.
There are points in this Bill which will be met with hostility, but the principle is one to which we take no exception whatever. It is a Bill which may perfectly fairly form the basis of some arrangement in the future. For my own part, and speaking for those who sit beside me, I can tell the noble Marquess that he is mistaken in regard to the position we take up on this Bill. We shall certainly not oppose the Second Reading. It is quite true we do find fault with the details of the measure. In the first place, we think that the Bill is too small, that it is not sufficiently comprehensive; it only professes to 407 deal with one of three important points. The Bill deals only, and then only to a small extent, with the question of denominational religious teaching in the schools throughout the country, but there are other questions which will have to be considered before a final settlement can be arrived at. There are the questions of the teachers' tests and of management in the non-provided schools. I do not wish to raise these questions to-day. All I say is that in our judgment there cannot be a final settlement of the question till those matters are also taken into consideration and are dealt with in no aggressive spirit. I think on all these questions there is plenty of room for argument, plenty of room for compromise, plenty of room for agreement; but there cannot be a final settlement until these questions are dealt with and considered. And I am bound to say that I do not believe their fair consideration is possible so long as the present Parliament exists, and until: we have gone to the electors of this country to obtain from them a mandate as to how these weighty matters should be dealt with.
I say, then, that the first criticism I have is that the Bill is not sufficiently comprehensive. Then I think it is vague: there is no element of compulsion in it. My belief is that for an arrangement of this sort to be satisfactory and sufficient it ought to be imposed on all schools alike. It should not be left to a mere question of local option as to whether it should be adopted or not. It is quite true that in Wales, under the circumstances that exist there, it is possible that it may be acceptable to the Church authorities that a permissive arrangement of this sort should be made law, and probably it might, in Wales, be a settlement of the difficulty; but we have also got to consider England, and the question I would like to put in all moderation is, would either of the parties in England be satisfied with an arrangement on the lines in this Bill? Do you think English Nonconformists would not look upon it with some suspicion, and do you think that the majority of Church people in England would be content to accept an arrangement which certainly places them in a position a good deal less favourable 408 than the position they are in under the Act at present? I hope it may be that the majority of them will be willing to come down from the position they have taken up, and regard this question as one which, as the noble Marquess has said, should be kept out of the region of political strife and should be dealt with simply and entirely from the point of view of the children who have to be educated.
I was very glad to welcome in the former debate the speech that was made by the most rev. Primate. He, I think, laid down three conditions, or said there were three principles to which he gave adhesion, and I equally give adhesion to those principles. First, he said that simple religious teaching should prevail throughout our elementary school system. To that I personally would give my fullest adhesion. He said, secondly, that the religious teaching should be given by those who would give it genuinely as well as effectively. Certainly, in the broad sense, I would accept that; but, my Lords, I could not allow that that principle should be so interpreted that the test of being able to give genuine and effective religious teaching is, that the teacher should belong to one particular denomination. I think that the capacity to give such in an elementary school belongs to members of all denominations, and that all denominations should be treated exactly alike in considering the qualifications of individual teachers for religious teaching in our elementary schools. Then the most rev. Primate said that in our elementary educational system, as a whole, place should be found for denominational teaching of some sort. Again I agree, but I agree only on this condition, that no charge for such teaching should be thrown on the rates, but should be borne entirely by the particular denomination which is giving that teaching.
I think the best test of the way this Bill would work would be to try and see what would happen supposing it were made compulsory instead of being permissive as at is at present. If the scheme were universally adopted there would be only one class of school, which would be entirely controlled and managed by the public, it would be free from religious tests, and for its normal religious instruction would offer the present 409 undenominational teaching. At the same time, either as an alternative or a supplement to this, there would be given denominational teaching in school hours, to those children whose parents desire it, but not at the public cost. So far would the Cowper-Temple clause be modified. I do not say that it is necessary to maintain every detail of the Cowper-Temple clause for ever, but it does seem to me that in order to secure the satisfactory working of a Bill such as this, the Bill should be made universal and apply to all schools, and denominational teaching should not be given within school hours. I do think it very difficult to allow denominational teaching to be given within school hours. I myself, curiously enough, have at my very gates a school where the system I advocate has been in operation for a very long time. It is a Board school in the Highlands, in a district where there are a great many Catholics. There is the usual religious teaching at the beginning of the day's work, to which the scholars go or not as they please, and if they do not attend no remark is made, and they are not treated in any derogatory way for not attending, What happens with regard to the Catholic children is that a priest visits the school two or three times a week after school hours and gives the children instruction in the tenets of the Roman Catholic faith. That is taking place in a Presbyterian school in a Presbyterian country, and the system has worked perfectly easily and perfectly well. I believe the same thing would be found to work in other places with regard to other denominations which certainly are not nearly so far apart as Roman Catholics and Presbyterians. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I do not think that denominational education should be given during school hours, that I think the proposals in the Bill should be made general to the schools, and that denominational teaching should be charged on the denominations and not on the rates. I believe myself that, so far as this particular question is concerned, the Bill may perfectly well be made the basis of an agreement. I welcome it, to use the noble Marquess's expression, as an eirenicon—I mean by that a message of peace, and I hope 410 that later it will be possible to expand it into a concordat.
THE LORD AREHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I was one of those who when this Bill was before your Lordships eight weeks ago, spoke pretty fully as regards the general principles which underlie every endeavour of this sort, and I do not find in anything that has yet been said to-night any reason to modify what I said at that time as to my own view of the proposals of the right rev. Prelate who introduced this Bill, His wide knowledge of the whole subject and the tone which he has throughout adopted, not merely in this House, but in more trying circumstances outside its walls, would lead everybody to give favourable consideration to any suggestion emanating from him; and I for one rejoice to have heard to-night from the Opposition side of the House a more favourable reception given to the Bill, in general terms, at any rate, than that with which it was favoured on the occasion of the First Reading by the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition, whose absence we now so greatly regret. At the same time I think it is true to say that the discussion to-night does resolve itself into something not far from an academic character, because it is difficult for any one to imagine that a Bill which is to be criticised with the kind of raking comment which this measure has received to-night from my noble friend who has just spoken would have much chance of being carried through both Houses of Parliament in the present condition of affairs.
I should like to say how greatly I welcome the words which have fallen from the noble Lord opposite, Lord Tweed-mouth, as to the three conditions which I vainly endeavoured to make the basis of a conference with Nonconformist leaders some months ago. Had I received from those who I then approached a similar acceptance of the large principles without going into their details, the circumstances might have been somewhat different to-day. I venture to think that the noble Lord, probably through lack of intimate personal experience of such schools, experience which it is difficult for any one of your Lordships except those who sit upon these Benches to have 411 had, scareely realises the vital importance of the difference between religious teach-inginside and religious teaching outside school hours. If the noble Lord will paroon a personal reminiscence, I should like to remind him that a good many years ago I had the pleasure of visiting the particular school to which he has referred and which is situated near the gates of the noble Lord's residence in Scotland. I therefore know something of the very peculiar conditions under which it is carried on, and anything less like the condition of things which prevail in the large towns, say, in South London, or Leeds, or Birmingham, than the conditions which prevail in Inverness-shire, it is scareely possible to imagine. While I do not want to go into a question of this detail, although it is detail of the highest importance, it would so far as I can at present see, be impossible for us to give way on this particular point. We are anxious to have the religious teaching given within school hours, because thus only can it in our judgment be effectively given to those for whom the need is greatest.
I was particularly thankful to hear the noble Lord say that he does not adhere to the principle, so constantly repeated by those who seem to be leaders on I the side he represents, that it is contrary so sound Liberal principles to make any inquiry whatever as to the religious tenets of a person who is to give religious instruction. I understand the noble Lord's contention to be that to inquire as to the denomination of a teacher is one thing and to inquire as to his power to give instruction is another; but I could furnish the noble Lord with quotation after quotation from the accredited and responsible protagonists on the other side, who have used words which are quite incompatable with what the noble Lord has this evening, to my great satisfaction, slid. I shall rejoice if the noble Lord's words to-night are the signal of a new departure among those who have, in a way that has disappointed most of us, declined to allow that it was compatible with large and liberal principles in this matter to find out whether or not a teacher who is to give religious instruction is competent to give it from his heart as something which he believes.
I regret, however to hear the talk 412 about "two sides" in this controversy. It is a controversy largely carried on among those whose special task it is to set forth the doctrines of the Christian faith in England, and it is deplorable to hear "two sides" spoken of in a controversy of this kind, while at the bottom of the hearts of those who are contending there is practical agreement in the desire to see religious teaching maintained in our schools. But, my Lords, we do need to ascertain how far we are at one as to practical policy. For it would be a farce to pretend that a Bill of this kind laying down principles upon which a concordat could proceed would be worth anything unless it be accepted with considerable cordiality by both parties to the controversy. While what we have heard to-night qualifies to some degree the opposition which such proposals have hitherto met with, I shall be agreeably surprised if we learn that so great a change takes place as to enable those who have been opposing us hitherto to join us in carrying forward a measure on the lines of this Bill. However anxious we may be for a peaceful solution, we dare not shut our eyes to the modes of argument which are being everywhere employed, and I must confess that it is very difficult to carry on a controversy of this kind amid misrepresentations, taunts, and denunciations on the part of those who are trying to oppose us in this matter. The utterances do not come merely from the irresponsible Members of the other party to the controversy; they come from the responsible spokesmen of a great Party in the State which has been endeavouring to set forth the principles of what it strangely describes as religious liberty. Here are a few examples of the kind of utterances to which I refer—Nonconformists will never stop their warfare until they have completely disestablished the Church.This Bill takes the Board schools from the people and gives them over, roughly speaking, to one section of the people, the Anglican Church.What is at stake is not education, but the inalienable birthright of the citizen, the right to the free, unfettered use of his inmost soul.I rejoice to hear this evening from the Opposition side a different tone, and I welcome it from the bottom of my heart.
May I say a word or two upon the larger question which is involved 413 although I doubt whether there would be a very wide difference of opinion among your Lordships upon it. It is, of course, perfectly possible for the Church of England to make over bodily to the nation as a free gift, the whole of the schools which have been with immense sacrifice and at enormous cost erected by the members of the Church of England. Their value is variously estimated, but I imagine that £20,000,000 is a very moderate estimate indeed. But if we were to do this it would have to be because we had obtained absolute assurances that the principles of the cause for which we have incurred this enormous cost of labour and self-sacrifice, mainly on the part of the clergy, to maintain these schools were absolutely assured for the time to come at the very least as firmly as they are assured now. That is the assurance we ought to be able to obtain before we are even asked to withdraw from a position which the fairness and common sense of Englishmen, apart from religious principle, would feel that we have a right to retain, and we are certain we are doing nothing unfair when we claim to have a predominant say as to the character of the religious teaching which is for the future to be given in our schools.
We are constantly asked, "Why not trust the common sense of the people at large?" I have great sympathy with that argument. I believe that if we were allowed to put it freely to the test the underlying principles of religious purpose which characterise the English people would prevail to maintain in the vast majority of cases the kind of teaching we should desire to see given in our elementary schools, but what we are asked to do is not that. We are asked to bid the English people go into the settlement of the controversy with one hand tied. It is suggested that we should say to the public, "You take the schools over, but the teaching in them must be of a particular character." And it is because the thing we are asked to do does not consist in trusting the people freely, but rather in half trusting the people, that I for one feel the most intense difficulty in giving practical effect to principles which in their abstract and general sense we cordially approve.
414 Then again we are constantly asked, "Why should you not be satisfied with the kind of teaching given in the Board schools? Surely it is good on the whole." That argument is constantly accompanied by a kind of easy reference to the school boards of London, Birmingham, Liverpool, and other places of that sort. But there is the widest possible contrast between the religious teaching given under such auspices as those and the religious teaching given in recent years in the smaller, less responsible, less splendidly-manned kind of Board schools up and down the country. Your Lordships will remember that in 1895 a Parliamentary Return was published, showing what was nominally the religious teaching given in the Board schools of England and Wales.
That Return shows that in 1895 fifty-seven school board districts in England and Wales had absolutely no religious teaching of any kind at all, that 316 others read the Bible with no word of comment (which practically means for little children no instruction at all as to what the Bible means), and there were something like 700 districts in which the religious teaching given was not inspected at all. And that lack of inspection makes the teaching given in many cases practically worthless. The last thing I desire publicly to do is to give specimens in an argument of this kind which might prove to be irritating rather than helpful; but I should be ready, if necessary, to show that religious teaching has been practically non-existent in a large number of places where the Blue-book says it does exist— non-existent because there was no inspection and nobody whose business it was to see that the instruction was properly given. There, again, comes in the question of Scotland. The Scottish people are a more religious people in the mass than the English, there is more interest taken in theological subjects by the people in Scotland than in England, and for many years the religious teaching given in the Board schools in Scotland was excellent, partly owing to the thorough training of the teachers in religious matters, and partly to the popular demand for it and interest in it. Nowadays, however for lack of inspection, it is beginning, to dwindle and go down. If your Lordships refer to the reports furnished this 415 very year to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland as to the way in which religious teaching, for lack of inspection by duly appointed religious inspectors, was going down, you will find an object-lesson very full of force and meaning as to what might happen in England if we went forward on similar lines. It is because there is in England a large mass of people who care, with all their heart, for the improvement of their schools in secular matters, but who care yet more for the religious side, and are determined that they shall not only have religious teaching given, but that the value of that teaching shall be inspected, the qualification of the teachers ascertained, and year by year a report rendered to the authorities—it is for that reason that not only in Church schools, but in Board schools, the religiou, instruction has been so good as it has. There, my Lords, are matters we should bear in mind when we are contemplating a great change in this far-reaching question. The discussion which has taken place to-night is to my mind reassuring, as showing that we are drawing nearer the possibility of arriving at a conclusion which shall maintain in their fulness the fundamental principles for which we care.
LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
My Lords, I wish at the outset to say that I do not approach this Bill in any spirit of hostility. Before coming down to the House this afternoon I had made up my mind, after giving the most careful consideration to the Bill, and after reading and re-reading all the speeches delivered on the First Reading, that though I did not think this Bill a possible basis for legislation in this session, there was an opening as to certain concessions of principle which, if accepted, and possibly if debated in Committee, might pave the way to fruitful and effective legislation in the future. And I must say I was a little surprised by what struck me as the change of tone adopted by the noble Marquess the President of the Board of Education.
Speaking at Carnarvon the noble Marquess said that the Government did not assert that the Act of 1902 was perfect, and that they were anxious to secure any solution of this difficult question 416 which should be accepted permanently by all sections of the community. That is a very wise summing-up of what should be the attitude of a Government responsible for the carrying of the Act of 1902, which, as it stands, does not implant in the mind of anyone any confidence either of its permanence or of its satisfactory character. I thought when the noble Marquess laid stress upon the fact that, even when a measure conciliatory in its character was introduced, there was not much hope of dealing with it unless we got substantial agreement on both sides of the House, that the noble Marquess's political instincts were singularly ill-directed. For he told us in the same breath that His Majesty's Government were determined to put forward their Coercion Bill to amend in an important particular the Act of 1902. We are told that the Government would think several times before touching that Act. I ask them to consider seriously before proceeding with the Bill which is now hung up in the House of Commons.
May I touch upon one or two of the observations which fell from the most rev. Primate? I did think that it seemed there was an attempt, both on his part and on the part of the noble Marquess the President of the Board of Education, to run away from responsibility in connection with this Bill, and to attempt to fix the responsibility on this side. There was a special attack made upon the noble Earl who leads the Opposition. I heard the noble Earl's speech, and I thought that it was a most cautious speech, not declaring any general hostility to the Bill, but simply putting in a caveat as to the special points with regard to facilities within school hours. The term "within school hours" is one of a very technical and special character. I heard also the speech of the most rev. Primate. Some people give an indication by their reticence which other people give by outspoken remarks, but though the most rev. Primate followed the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of St. Asaph he abstained from saving any word on the question of inside facilities during school hours.
We are told, and I was very glad to hear the testimony from the right rev. Prelate, that in this question the only people who are to be consulted as to the religious instruction of the children are 417 their parents. That was a proposition laid down at the outset in the debates on the Bill of 1902 by Mr. Balfour, but when an attempt was made to secure that these parents should have effective control by being represented on the management of the schools we heard an entirely different story, and the only people who were allowed to be represented were the clergy and the subscribers—the foundation managers. If you said that in every school district the parents should elect two out of the four foundation managers, that would give a very substantial voice to the parents, but the most rev. Primate told us that what succeeded in the case of the Highlands would not succeed in England, for he told us that the great masses of the working classes in our great towns are singularly indifferent to ecclesiastical denominations. But that rather indicates that all this desire is not a desire so much on behalf of the parents as a desire for the parents, to do good to them, not to give effect to their wishes.
THE LORD AREHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
What I was speaking of as the indifference of parents in large towns was not to religious education merely, but to education of all kinds.
LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
I cannot contend with the most rev. Primate in his knowledge of schools in general, but I have some knowledge of the attitude of parents in the poorest parts of London as well as in the more well-to-do, and, while I should entirely agree with him as to the great indifference of parents to theological distinctions, I am happy to say that, largely as the result of the devoted labours of the teachers, a very keen sense of the value of the schools has been built up among the parents, and there is a gradually increasing desire on their part to send their children regularly and punctually to school. There were several controversial matters introduced in the speech of the most rev. Primate which I will not touch upon, partly because if I open all the points which might be dealt with my observations would be too long, and partly because I wish to keep strictly to such words as may help to lead to an ultimate settlement of this question.
418 May I say without flattery of the right rev. Prelate, who has moved the Second Reading of the Bill, that I think his speech goes to the root of the matter, and shows an appreciation of the difficulty and seriousuess of the problem, and how it ought to be met. I feel perfectly sure that quite apart from the wrangling and disputes of the Churches, there is a body in this country which has not yet been referred to, but which is more important, and in the long run will be more powerful than either Church or Chapel, and that is the body of the citizenship of this country, and it is because I look forward to resting our public school system, as it is in all the great communities of the English-speaking race, upon the broad basis of citizenship, that I welcome the recognition by the mover of this Bill that the ultimate settlement must be the public management of all the schools which are available and intended for the community as a whole.
I quite recognise at the same time that the right rev. Prelate and those who act with him have a right to say that this is not a newly colonised country where the whole thing is being started afresh. This is a country where great vested interests have been built up, partly no doubt by the self-sacrifice of those who believed in distinctive forms of religious teaching, and you cannot expect to step into their inheritance and take possession of these schools in the same way that you would if you were starting fresh schools. Therefore, I maintain that in the case of those schools the present managers have a partial ownership over them, that there is a collateral ownership belonging to the denominations who erected them. The right rev. Prelate in charge of this Bill, and I think I may say the most rev. Primate, though in a more guarded way, recognise that you must have a universal system of publicly managed schools, and they claim at the same time that you must have a recognition of facilities for giving definite religious instruction to those who desire it in accordance with the wishes of the founders of those schools. But they both go a step further than that. They both desire to imprint upon all the schools in the country in the first 419 instance, and at the public expense, a system of undenominational religious teaching. I take it from the speech of the right rev. Prelate that a syllabus such as that of the School Board for London faithfully and efficiently carried out would satisfy him very largely. For many years I have been a party to administering that syllabus, and it is not for me to fall out with right rev. Prelates when they propose to establish that—
THE LORD AREHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
If the noble Lord thinks he is quoting me he is going beyond anything I have endeavoured to say.
LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
I should be very sorry to misrepresent anyone, but part of the scheme of the right rev. Prelate is that in consideration of making over the aided schools they should make a bargain that in the provided schools generally they may stipulate for a scheme of general religious instruction which would satisfy them apart from the question of facilities for definite religious instruction. The first principle laid down by the most rev. Primate was simple religious teaching to prevail throughout our elementary school system, that is, the establishment of a general undenominational syllabus. The Arehbishop of Canterbury shakes his head, but if he will write to The Times and give a sketch of his simple religious syllabus which is to be in force in every school, he will render valuable assistance. I expect it would hardly contain that which when Bishop of Winchester he was a party to introducing into the school board at Farnham, namely, the Apostles' Creed.
That is the interpretation I put upon his words "simple religious instruction to prevail in all the schools." Where I pause is here. There is a strong section of those who are most devoted to Church principles to whom this solution is absolutely abhorrent. It is particularly abhorrent to the National Society, whose official organ it has been my painful duty to read for many years. If that section of the community are modifying their views, and if they are going now to say that the one form of religion which is to have State paronage, and to be picked out as being maintained at the public expense is this general undenominational teaching, I should not oppose them 420 though, I think, the Anglican has as much right to claim that the minimum of Christianity shall not be taught at his expense as the unsectarian has to claim that the maximum of Christianity shall not be taught at his expense. I believe that the majority of the bench of Bishops would prefer general Bible teaching to none. I believe that most of the clergy, when they are not engaged in abusing school board religion, in order to keep out a school board, would prefer it, and I believe the majority of the people of England prefer it. But there is a great difference between letting responsibility rest with the local education authority as to the amount of religious teaching to be given and in putting it in an Act of Parliament. That would be with a vengeance an affirmation of State religion in our elementary schools.
May I now touch upon the Arehbishop's three conditions? He says I have not done justice to his first condition. I shall await a fuller exposition of what it is, although I think I have put the fairest and most natural interpretation upon it. The second condition was that religious teaching must be given by those who can give it genuinely and effectively. I dissent from the Arehbishop's analogy of the teaching of drawing. I contend that the teaching of religion does not rest on the same footing as drawing. When you come to teach the foundations of moral conduct, there is no doubt that the convictions and the feelings of the teacher are as vital as his knowledge; but I ask your Lordships does anyone imagine that with the education authority you have you are going in any way to introduce, even if it were desirable, an inquisition into the piety and holiness of the people employed to teach in your elementary schools. We went into all this in the School Board for London, and we saw it was ridiculous. You cannot allow an inquiry into people's religious convictions. We do not allow people to ask, "Are you of any denomination," and that is the usual feeling of the people of this country.
You would not get laymen elected by the community to consent for one minute to an inquisition into the religious belief of the people they employ in the elementary schools, but the more you insist on the fact that the people 421 who teach things which are to appeal to the conscience and the heart should be people in earnest in what they teach the more you are thrown back on severing that part of the teaching from secular teaching and giving it to people who believe in it, and are chosen by the Churches and not by the community. I do not know that even a small religious community are always successful. I see before me the noble Viscount under whom I had the pleasure of serving for a long time on the Education Commission, and he will remember we sent the most searehing questions to the managers of schools throughout the country, and we found that the returns showed that a far larger percentage of the managers of schools of the Church of England admitted that they habitually suspended religious instruction when the Government examination was drawing near, than was the case in the Board schools. I do not believe myself that in choosing teachers for the ordinary work you will be able to get people whom the various denominations would entrust with the duty of speaking upon religious matters to the children, and you had better abandon that idea; but if, of course, you are willing to take the responsibility yourself, if the clergyman of the parish is willing—and I am afraid a large percentage of the clergymen are not—to go into the schools, say, at nine o'clock in the morning and take part themselves in the teaching, then you will get a person who is presumably fit to talk seriously and thoughtfully to the children.
The third point was that in our educational system as a whole place should be found for denominational teaching of some sort. I put it to the right rev. Bench. Is not the idea "in school hours" technically a weak staff to lean upon? You may have the instruction given out of official school hours and yet at a most convenient time. The right rev. Prelate who moved the Second Reading of this Bill used the illustration of the Drury Lane School, but he forgot that this school is under a different Act, and that the registration of children according to denominations is compulsory. But if he wants an illustration of what can be done in the way of voluntary religious instruction when people are in earnest, 422 I would recommend him to turn his attention to the schools frequented by the Jews in the East End of London. There is no doubt the Jews are very tenacious of their religious convictions, and anxious that the children should be fully brought up in them. The Jews have organised at their own expense in the East End a voluntary organisation, and the School Board, and now the County Council, have put at their disposal the use of the buildings, with no charge for warming or lighting, but outside school hours. I believe that when there is a keen desire you will have that; but the fact is, there is no use disguising it, that there is not that keen desire; and this desire, whether it is for denominational or undenominational teaching is put forward on behalf of the people, and not by the people.
The noble Marquess said the Bill had his sympathy. I think in these things we want a little more than sympathy. We want support, and I am prepared to support the right rev. Prelate. I do not think he has thought out his Bill sufficiently. It would not be suitable to go into the details of the Bill now. That is a matter for Committee, but I shall be prepared to show that this Bill in no way gives effect to the wishes the right rev. Prelate has expressed in his speech. So far from giving greater facilities to the public authority for the transfer of schools, it rather puts difficulties in the way. It proposes arrangements which, while I have no doubt they will be used in good faith by the right rev. Prelate, might be used in very serious bad faith to throw a burden on the community and afterwards to regain use of the schools. I would not have made that charge unless I had an instance to give which I think illustrates the mischief that might come from these permissive transfers with the power of breaking down the obligations of the Act of Parliament as to rent, purchase, and cost of repairs.
The newspapers of late have been very full of letters of indignation on behalf of the Church of England against what was supposed to be a very mischievous concession made in the Isle of Wight, where certain Church schools were to be given over; but when your Lordships know what were the facts about that school in 423 Cowes, you would think the indignation ought to come rather from the Nonconformists and ratepayers than from the Established Church. I have in my hand the agreement, and it goes on to recite that the freehold of this school is vested in the Bishop, and that whereas the foundation managers of the said school are quite unable to provide or to raise the large sum of money which, according to independent reports of the surveyor for the local education authority and of the Voluntary Schools Association will have to be spent to bring the school premises into proper condition for the purposes of education, and whereas the said managers have made every effort to raise such money but have failed, then it is proposed that the school shall be transferred, that the public authority shall put the schools in repair, that after a certain time the agreement may contemplate the schools being taken back by the voluntary managers, but the public authority are to have no lien on the buildings so put in repair when they are restored to the voluntary managers.
The most rev. Primate spoke of the unfair statements made outside your Lordships' House. Would he think it hard if I were to say outside the House, as I say inside the House, that we must be very careful not to allow the public to be plundered in order that insanitary voluntary schools may be put into repair and then handed back to the owners, because that is what was proposed at Cowes. I wish to remind the right rev. Prelate, before sitting down, of a fact which I am sure the noble Marquess the President of the Board of Education will endorse, that he must not imagine that by putting in his Bill the provision that these schools shall not be affected by the Transfer Clause of the Act of 1902, which makes such a school a new school, he is going to get his school back. I am quite sure many of the right rev. Prelates here know perfectly well that the school and the schoolhouse are two different things. The school is like the church, a congregation of faithful men; the schoolhouse is the building in which that congregation are assembled, and the transfer of the school is the transfer of the organisation with the children and their teaching staff. The mere fact that they are taught for some 424 time in temporary premises does not oust the public authority from the responsible duty and right of continuing the education of these children as an existing school and not as a new school if, from any circumstances, they should be deprived of their premises.
We have constantly in London taken over voluntary schools for a time until a proper school could be provided, but we never recognised that, merely because the building went back to the voluntary owners, the children went back too. The children were ours and we continued to educate them. I would ask right rev. Prelates, Do they not believe that in the rural districts of Wales, where the single school system prevails, there will be always be two-thirds or three-fourths, perhaps nine-tenths, of the parents who are not members of the Established Church? Is it not natural that these people should wish, not for a short time but permanently, that they should have a voice in the management of the schools, and that the positions of headmaster and headmistress should be open to their co-religionists. You must come to that, and I do not hesitate to say that the longer this controversy goes on the more the people of this country will be determined that the public school system shall rest upon a civic and not an ecclesiastical basis.
§ LORD NORTON
My Lords, this is a subject in which I have all my life taken the keenest interest. Half a century ago I was Vice-President of the Education Committee's Council, and even before that I spent many years in promoting the voluntary system. I have seen how the subject of national education has been necessarily taken up by the State, and the danger to this country in the State undertaking the most intimate matters of individual and domestic concern, the most important of which is that of religious education. I believe that if the State steps in in loc parentis the character of the country will become changed. When Mr. Forster introduced by the Act of 1870 rate-support of education, he was afraid it would produce the religious difficulty, and only hoped it would not become an anti-religious difficulty. Anything that offers an opening for getting rid of this 425 difficulty is of the greatest importance. The Bill now before us shews how the difficulty may be voluntarily got over in one locality, and so indicates a principle which might be followed.
There is a unanimous feeling, strongly expressed by the noble Marquess, the President of the Board of Education, and by two noble Lords who have spoken on the other side of the House, in favour of the principle of this Bill, the object of which is to get religious teaching into all our schools, and not separately taught in denominational schools. As long as there are two separate sets of schools it becomes a matter of contest, and it is a very unequal contest. The process of division which has gone on since the State interfered has tended to eliminate from national education the principal part of it—the religious instruction; and it is now by many avowed that the object of national education is simply to fit the rising generation to compete with foreigners in commercial markets. It is clear, from what fell from the noble Lord who has just sat down, that lie would propose purely secular instruction in all the schools in the country, and leave religious instruction to the various denominations. Lord Tweedmouth said he objected to the Bill because it was not universal. The merit of this Bill is that it does not attempt to be at once universal. This is a statement which must be first deat with locally, in the hope that the concordat adopted locally may gradually spread. To propose a universal concordat at once is to propose postponing indefinitely the question. This difficulty will, of course, settle itself, as all questions in this practical country do settle themselves. But how? By the entire sacrifice of the non-provided schools. They are sinking now as a result of the pressure upon them. It will be found absolutely impossible to carry on a system in which one body are called upon to support, out of their own resources, an unequal contest with public funds to which they also have to contribute. The voluntary schools are already beginning to suffer through the loss of support. The consequent partnership in undertaking between the public purse and the private purse is one that cannot long be sustained, and therefore the principle of united action 426 in the right rev. Prelate's Bill is necessary to permancy. I hope the voting on this Bill will be perfectly free. I understood the noble Marquess to say that he would support the Second Reading.
§ LORD NORTON
Then, so far as the Government is concerned, it may be considered an open question. I shall certainly support the Second Reading, and urge your Lordships to consider whether the Bill will not offer a scheme for removing the religious difficulty, without losing the main object of national education. All the objections which have been made during this debate are objections which could be very well dealt with by a Select Committee.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ROCHESTER
My Lords, I do not know that this debate can be said to have been a very lively one. At the same time I cannot help thinking that a disinterested spectator would be able to derive from it some measure of entertainment; for I think it has taken, in some degree, the character of what I might call "a fishing debate." I have observed a certain tendency in all the speakers to see what they could get out of the other side, and to register on the tablets of the memory something for future use. The debate has assumed that character, because the object with which the Bill is moved is to express a sentiment, rather than to clothe that sentiment with any particular form of substance. Of course, you must have a Bill, and when you have a Bill, you must have clauses, and the clauses must have a meaning; but I do think it is true to say that the value of the right rev. Prelate's Bill is to give expression to some kind of readiness on the part of different interests to look fairly at any suggestions of re-arrangement or compromise. The noble Lord opposite, in a genial way, threw in, if I understood him rightly, a little taunt at us for being so soon ready for this after the Act of 1902. I own that I did not feel very much moved by that taunt. I think the Act of 1902 may at least be said to have done this. It has left what I may perhaps call, for 427 short, the denominational factor in religious education in a very different position from that in which it found it. I, for my part, am prepared to face the noble Lord's taunt and to say that we should be ready to look very carefully at any serious proposal to give effect to the various forms of religious conviction which exist in the nation.
I do not think that those who care for the sacred interests of religion can be the least indifferent to a condition of things in which religious men find themselves in vehement opposition. I hope I am not saying too much if I say that we should feel this even more, had the controversy on the other side been conducted in the country with more respect for the religious convictions which we hold, if the weapons used against us had been less the weapons of virulence and abuse, and if the movement had not taken so strongly political a character. I feel sure there are multitudes of those whom the Bishop represents, who are in that attitude towards compromise, and therefore I suppose our way of expressing that sentiment is to join the right rev. Primate in supporting the Second Reading of this Bill. But I think we must be a little careful as to what we do not do as well as to what we do. I think that we must not attribute too much to incidental expressions on either side, and still less to the use made by the opposite side in either case of those expressions. It would, for example, be rather startling if the people of this country, on reading the newspapers to-morrow morning, should imagine the most rev. Primate at this time of day committed, as it would learn from the noble Lord opposite, to a universal system of undenominational education. It would, perhaps, be a little surprising, on the other hand, to the noble Lord himself, if it were found that a very kindly, and, in my opinion, very thoughtful expression, which he used about the logic of the religious situation, bound him for all time to the support of denominational instruction by the State on exactly the same terms as the support of undenominational instruction. That is, by the way, what this Bill does not do.
It is unfortunate that the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition, did on the 428 occasion of the First Reading plump down his foot, if I may say so, upon an objection to the Bill without looking more generally to see what elements of a possible solution it contained; but it is very satisfactory that the discussion to-night has gone the other way. The real reason why the debate takes this form is, if I am not mistaken, that when you have a great question like this in the position for the sacred interests of religion can in which this question now stands, you can only attempt compromise when the pressure of circumstances drives you that way. It is notorious that in the present state of business the Bill cannot be made law this session, neither do circumstances at this moment suggest the possibility of any general compromise throughout the country. The most rev. Primate has reminded your Lordships that in the course of last year he did, rather boldly, come forward to suggest that it was not hopeless for us to consider, charitably and unitedly, with those to whom we were in a great measure opposed, the terms of some concordat. I think that in trying to get down to the root principles of the matter and below the current controversies he took the risk of the very criticism which the noble Lord has made. He made what was a very honourable offer, but was the result such as to lead us to think that the moment was ripe for a compromise? I have every possible respect for the services which have been rendered by the noble Lord opposite to London education, but I have always thought he appeared to insist on the unbending system of universal unde-nominationalism which is the greatest bar to a solution of this question. I hope the time will come when the noble Lord and those he represents will be willing to go into the discussion on more hopeful lines. The Second Reading of this Bill in the meantime can do no more than affirm the general desire that the ultimate solution, whether it be next year or a few years later, shall be a solution arising not from the victory of one party or the; other but from something which will do justice to the feeling of the different contending parties.
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE
My Lords, I only intervene in this debate for a few moments. I am afraid the concluding words of the right rev. Prelate whom 429 We always hear with such interest recommend us to a council of perfection which we are very unlikely to see acted upon in this country. But as I understand, he construes the attitude of your Lordships' House to-night as one in cordial agreement with the sentiment which is incarnated in this Bill, but speaking generally he thinks that a Resolution of the House would have been as effective as this Bill. Enough has been said, and very well said, on the merits and demerits of this Bill. The only thing I wish to say is that it seems to me, after the approval given to the Bill by the noble Marquess the Minister for Education, that the Bill should have been introduced by His Majesty's Government and not have been left to a private Member. I daresay it is due to some deficiency in my own intelligence, but I find myself in some confusion of mind about the exact position of His Majesty's Government on this Bill, and, as I daresay some other noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite will wind up this debate, I hope he will make that position clear. It is the noble Marquess who produces this confusion of mind. He began by telling us that nothing was to be done in this direction without the unanimous consent of your Lordships' House. I may say that a good many things have been done in this House, with, no doubt, unanimous and cordial acceptance on the part of noble Lords opposite, but which have met with very little support on this side.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. I anticipated that we should have heard from the Front Bench opposite views in accord with those which the noble Earl, the Leader of the Opposition, expressed on the First Reading, and consequently, after that statement in which the noble Earl declared his hostility to the measure, it was with great surprise that I heard noble Lords opposite state that they accepted it.
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE
I am afraid I cannot enter into the noble Marques' difficulties, but he cannot have been quite unprepared, for I understand that a whip was sent out to bring noble Lords down to this debate. But, be that as it may, I pass to the confusion 430 of mind in which I find myself as to the opinion of the Government. The noble Marquess first told us that your Lordships' House should not be urged to divide on this Bill. Then he told us that His Majesty's Government could give no definite answer as to what was their view of the Bill, and he next stated that he himself Would follow the right rev. Prelate into the Lobby in support of the Second Reading should the Bill go to a division. This exhibits an agreeable detachment of mind on grave questions to which His Majesty's Government have of late made us tolerably accustomed. But what I want to know is, in what capacity did the noble Marquess address us, and in what capacity will he vote? He told us just now that he was going to vote as a private Member, and an admirer of the right rev. Prelate and of his work in Wales. But the noble Marquess is Minister of Education, and as such we know he has the interests aid the morals of education deeply at heart. Is his vote tempered at all by his views as Minister of Education? Does he divorce himself from his position as Minister of Education.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I think I clearly pointed out that this Bill is a private Bill introduce I entirely on the responsibility of the right rev. Prelate, on which I was not speaking as a member of His Majesty's Government and on which no member of the Government need have spoken. I have explained why on personal grounds the right rev. Prelate having introduced this Bill rather in accordance with a suggestion I made at Carnarvon, I shall in support of the go into the lobby Second Reading.
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE
That is what I complain of. It is a private Bill and we think it ought to have been a public Bill, as the noble Marquess made such a strong point of its being a desirable Bill. However, I understand that the noble Marquess is speaking as a private Member and not as a member of a Ministry of many talents, but with no settled convictions. But we on this side really mean business. We think this is a desirable locus standi for arriving at a solution. It seems to me there is, then, 431 the unanimous acceptance all round the noble Marquess insists upon. Everybody agrees that the Bill offers a sort of jumping-off place for the closing of longstanding wrangles and disputes, which, to use the words of the right rev. Prelate who introduced the Bill, are "gaunt and irritating" to a great many people, and which, in my opinion, would justify some later day Tert llian to say with all Tertullian's irony, "See how these Christians love one another." If we go to a division I shall cordially support the Second Reading.
THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
My Lords, I feel somewhat shy of prolonging this interesting discussion, partly because it is so purely academic. At the same time I desire to add one or two words to what has been said. While I desire to express my sympathy with the right rev. Prelate who has introduced this Bill, I see no chance of its establishing educational peace. Any one who reads the Bill carefully must feel that there is no sort of finality about it; it is purely a piece of patchwork, which could produce no lasting results. As it stands it would be simply attempting a new patch to an old garment. There is another reason why I feel we are somewhat wasting our time in these discussions, and it is this. To my mind it is clear that this is no longer a question for a moribund Parliament to deal with. If it is to be dealt with in any binding and lasting way it must be dealt with by the people at a general election and by a new Parliament. Moreover, as an optional Bill this measure would in n any places create more confusion than it would settle. I can understand those who are closely identified with Wales feeling that they would be glad to see a settlement of some kind. The mass of the Welsh people would work it according to Welsh ideas, but over the border they may have entirely different ideas. Therefore I have no hesitation in saying that the Bill would produce endless confusion throughout the length and breadth of the land; and for this reason, that it is optional. As my right rev. brother of Rochester has said, we have listened to a number of fishing speeches. They rather presented themselves to my mind as poaching speeches—speeches in which 432 the speaker was aiming at catching as much as he could on the opposite side of the House. I think this Bill would be worthy of serious and practical consideration subject to the condition precedent that there should be a school under public control and management within a reasonable distance of every parent. Given that condition I believe I could make a reasonable concordat on the basis of this Bill.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (The Earl of SELBORNE)
My Lords, I cannot help thinking that notwithstanding the Party chaff of my noble friend opposite what has passed to-night will be looked back upon as notable in the history of this controversy. Without any offence or intention of offence to my noble friends opposite I will say that this is the first time they seem to me to have officially spoken with any kindly or unprejudiced appreciation of the point of view of those with whom they do not agree on this question. The attitude of my noble friend opposite really does differ fundamentally from the attitude of the speakers belonging to his Party who have spoken on this question in the country, and also from the tone of the official literature issued by his Party; and it is more remarkable because the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, although taking a distinctly different view in so me respects from that of my noble friend, frankly accepted this Bill as a basis from which he was willing to work. My noble friend who spoke last on the other side of the House spoke even more strongly in that direction. But I think all these speakers have been unfair in their interpretation of the attitude of my noble friend the President of the Board of Education.
The noble Marquess has reminded your Lordships that this is a private Bill, for which neither the Party opposite nor His Majesty's Government are responsible; and he has a right to feel very considerable satisfaction that the Bill has been the subject of debate here to-night, because, however far it may depart from his own particular ideas in this matter or however near it may approach them, it is the first public attempt in either House of Parliament to take up the lead which he gave at Carnarvon, and, much as it may surprise my noble friend 433 opposite who spoke last, the noble Marquess speaks for all his colleagues. But it does not follow that because a private Bill has received the measure of welcome which my noble friend has accorded to this Bill, the Government should forthwith take it up and pass it through Parliament in this session.
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE
I do not want to interrupt the noble Earl, but what surprises me is that if the noble Marquess speaks on behalf of his colleagues, why should he not say so?
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I think I have answered my noble friend's Question. This being a private Bill my noble friend behind n e took up an attitude which is common in dealing with such matters in both Houses of Parliament. In the present state of public business no Bill, however perfect, has any chance of passing into law in the other House this session. I would like briefly to allude to some points of criticism taken by my noble friend Lord Tweedmouth. I think he admitted that it was a correct quotation from Mr. Lloyd-George that he had accepted the principle of the Scottish system so far as Wales was concerned, but my noble friend added that the case of England is not the same. Later on in his speech he gave us a very interesting illustration of a Scottish school at his park gates, and the most rev. Primate pointed out how utterly different the conditions of that school were from many schools in London. Does not my noble friend opposite see the application of his own criticism and the most rev. Primate's illustration to his complaint that there was no element of compulsion in this Bill? If the case of England is different from that of Wales, if the case of London is different from that of Inverness-shire ought not the main point of policy in any settlement to be not the rigidity demanded him but flexibility and elasticity.
Is it quite certain that what we want is the smallest measure of devolution to local bodies and the greatest measure of compulsion? May it not be more probable that a solution will be found in the greatest amount of discretion to the local authorities combined with the least possible amount of compulsion? 434 When the Education Act of 1902 was introduce by the Government in the House of Commons, that Bill itself was made compulsory. It was made compulsory in Committee, and I think the whole of the Opposition, the friends of my noble friend opposite, voted against making it compulsory. That shows that the opinions on that side are still in an unsettled condition. My noble friend said the Bill was not sufficiently comprehensive. He quoted especially the fact that there was no provision for popular management of non-provided schools—I will allude to that question later on—and said that the question of tests for teachers was not sufficiently clearly dealt with. There is no time to-night to attempt to deal atany length with that most difficult question; but I think if I interpreted my noble friend's attitude correctly it was this, that he and his friends could not agree to, or countenance, any attempt to press a religious test on a candidate for teachership.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
Any denominational test on a candidate for teachership. But, with that proviso, he quite felt the force of the argument that a teacher should not be required to teach what he or she could not teach conscientiously, and that the teachers themselves should be invited freely to co-operate in doing what they could to make a settlement easier; that is to say, that where they were willing to assist, the distribution of the teachers should be such as to utilise their assistance to the greatest possible extent. I think I might illustrate what I understand to be my noble friend's meaning by saying that he would not think it reasonable that a Presbyterian should be deliberately chosen to teach Roman Catholic children.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I am not saying anything about tests. Suppose a Presbyterian and a Roman Catholic teacher were equally ready to take part in religious instruction, common sense would say that the Roman Catholic teacher should be set to teach Roman 435 Catholic children. I would ask your Lordships to observe how this principle was carried out by Lord Stanley of Alderley when he was Vice-Chairman of the School Board for London. He successfully solved the problem, for in the Jewish schools to which he alluded to-night I understand the whole of the teachers appointed by the School Board for London were Jews.
LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
You are misinformed. Not a great many years ago a Jewish head teacher was appointed to overcome the prejudices of the Jews. After that Jews were appointed as far as they could be got, because of the language, but of late years it has been a matter of perfect indifference.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
Then my noble friend dealt briefly with the principle laid down by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his speech in the last debate. I understood him to say that he did not differ from the right rev. Prelate in the hope that a simple system of religious teaching should universally prevail in any national settlement. He also agreed that the religious teaching should be given genuinely as well as effectively. He also agreed that a place for denominational teaching should be found, provided that the denominational teaching was not at the expense of the denomination and not in school hours; and he wound up by saying he was not prepared to contend that there never could be any alteration of any fort in the Cooper-Temple clause. I do think that that is a very notable speech coming from my noble friend, although I admit that in the proviso he has made in respect to the school hours he is at once touching on a difficulty that goes deep down into this controversy.
The noble Lord and his friends say that this denominational religious teaching, given at the expense of the Church or denomination, should not be given in school hours. I think the onus of proof rests on those who say that a vast body of people in this country, whose children go to the schools and who pay the taxes or rates by which the schools are supported, should not be allowed to arrange with the 436 local authority that their children should have this teaching in school hours if they wish it. The onus of proof will certainly rest on those who desire to fetter, in what seems to me this strange way, the right of the parent, the ratepayer, the taxpayer, and the local education authority. This question, I agree, is not likely to be settled in this Parliament, but as to-day we are exchanging mutual confidences, and as my noble friend who spoke last urged that on this side we should show that we reciprocated the spirit shown on that side, let me put, not in any spirit of contention, some of our points of view, which I think noble Lords opposite would do well to think over.
We have heard a great deal about the Nonconformist conscience. Noble Lords on that side of the House and their supporters in the country say that the Government have not sufficiently considered the conscience of Nonconformists and those who object to a system of denominational teaching. That has not been our intention, but noble Lords opposite do not seem to be aware that Church people have as deep and conscientious convictions in favour of denominational teaching as some Nonconformists have in favour of undenominational teaching, and it will be impossible to produce that national educational concordat which is desired, unless Church people and Roman Catholics and others who are denominationalists are given the sane credit for religious strength of conviction as is properly claimed for Nonconformists. You cannot have a national settlement if you leave out half the nation. I will not attempt to dispute on statistics, but I will divide roughly the whole population into two halves— the half to whom the undenominational school is the ideal and the half to whom the denominational school is the ideal. It is quite impossible for us to attempt a settlement, and leave out of count that half who are undenominationalists, and it is at least as impossible for noble Lords opposite to attempt a settlement if they leave out of count that half of the nation which fervently believes in denominational religious instruction.
However imperfect the present system, the endeavour of the Government in their legislation has been to find room for 437 both systems. Noble Lords may contend that the Government failed, that we did not sufficiently take into account the views of our Nonconformist fellow-subjects; but will they right that wrong, if wrong it be, by taking away from the other half of the population the right to denominational teaching? No, my Lords, the only national system, the only peace, the only concordat would be one which was accepted by Churchmen, by Roman Catholics, and by all lovers of definite religious teaching, as well as by that great Nonconformist body who prefer in the public elementary schools to have only undenominational teaching. Hitherto these bodies, although having a different interpretation of their religious ideal, have been united in wishing the system of public education in this country to be associated with religion. Pity it is that they shold, by their divisions, misunderstandings, and mutual attacks, give so much hope and encouragement to those who do not wish religion to be included in the public Educational system of this country. The real danger that confronts us is indifierentism to all religious teaching. It is because I hope, from what has taken place to-day, that the two sides are beginning to understand each other better, and will so be enabled to present a more united front to those who desire a system of secular instruction—it is because I believe we have advanced a little in that direction that I join in supporting the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.