HL Deb 12 November 1906 vol 164 cc921-97

House again in Committee (according to Order.)

[THE Earl of ONSLOW in the Chair.]


had the following new clause on the Paper in place of Clause 7, which the Committee struck out on Thursday last, viz.:—

7.—(1) The obligation of a parent to cause his child to attend school shall, notwithstanding any by-law, include an obligation to cause the child to attend at the schoolhouse during the portion of the school hours allotted to any religious observance or to instruction in religious subjects. Provided that the local education authority and the managers shall provide during the time so allotted for children who are withdrawn by their parents from any such observance or instruction some form of secular instruction, and that a parent shall not be subject to any penalty under this section for not causing his child to attend the schoolhouse during any time so allotted, if he shows to the satisfaction of the court that he has caused his child during that time to attend some form of religious observance or instruction elsewhere.

(2) In all schools in which elementary instruction is given, there shall be a parents' committee elected and nominated as provided in subsection (4) of Section 4 of this Act, with the same responsibility for and control of the religious instruction given in the school. The appointment of teachers in the school shall be made by the local education authority upon the nomination of the parents' committee, whose nominees shall not be rejected except on educational grounds. If the parents' committee represent to the local education authority that the continued presence of any teacher in the school is objected to by the majority of the parents of children attending the school on grounds connected with the giving of religious instruction in the school, the local education authority shall dismiss the said teacher, or as soon as practicable remove him to another school. The religious instruction given in the school shall, as regards its character, be in accordance with the provisions (if any) of the trust deed relating to the school, and nothing in this section shall affect any provision in a trust deed giving to any ecclesiastical or denominational authority the power of deciding whether the character of the religious instruction is or is not in accordance with the provisions of the trust deed.

(3) The members of the parents' committee shall have access to the school house at all times.

(4) Vacancies in the parents' committee, caused by death, resignation, or other cause shall be filled up by election by the parents of the children attending the school, or by nomination by the owners of the schoolhouse and by the local education authority in the same manner as the original appointment was made.

(5) The right of the owners of the schoolhouse to nominate one member of the parents' committee, and to nominate his successor in case of a vacancy, shall apply only to the case of a school not provided by the local educational authority.

In moving the insertion of this new clause the noble Viscount said their Lordships on Thursday resolved by a large majority to strike out Clause 7. That decision was arrived at, he was happy to say, with the concurrence of many members on the Government side, no less an authority than the noble Marquess the Leader of the House as well as Lord Reay voting in favour of the striking out of the clause. The question now arose, what would their Lordships substitute for it? The first paragraph of his Amendment was almost identical with the Amendment which was proposed in the House of Commons and rejected by a majority of only sixteen votes. There was, however, one change made in the Amendment as it stood in his name on the Paper. An additional guarantee was given to the parent who objected to the religious instruction given in the school in that he might escape all penalties for the non-attendance of his child by showing that the child had had religious instruction elsewhere during the period of the religious instruction in the school. With that simple addition, which was a further protection to a dissenting parent, the clause was identical with the one proposed in the House of Commons.

The second paragraph of his Amendment was, in short, a proposal to establish a parents' committee in all schools. Their Lordship with the consent of the Government,l[...] already sanctioned the creation of a its'[...] committee in Clause 4 schools, an[...]was at a loss to see any reason why[...]privilege should not be extended to[...]other schools. Clause 3 schools more[...]less resembled Clause 4 schools; they were not purely denominational schools but mixed schools with denominational education on each morning of the week and Cowper-Temple instruction given simultaneously in the school—


I am sure the noble Viscount will forgive me for asking whether it might not be convenient to deal separately with these two subsections; they are quite different, and I am afraid that if we debate them both at once some difficulty may arise.


I am quite in agreement with what the noble Marquess has suggested. I think it would be better to take the discussion on the first subsection of the noble Viscount's Amendment and on the Amendment of Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. They are identical in purpose, though slightly | different in form.


said he was quite willing to assent to this course. With regard to the first paragraph, it had been pointed out to him that some difference of opinion might arise in consequence of the use of the words "religious observance." He was willing to strike these words out if they were objectionable. He begged to move the first paragraph of his Amendment.

Amendment moved— On page 6, after Clause 6, to insert, ' 7.—(1) The obligation of a parent to cause his child to attend school shall, notwithstanding any bylaw, include an obligation to cause the child to attend at the schoolhouse during the portion of the school hours allotted to any religious observance or to instruction in religious subjects. Provided that the local education authority and the managers shall provide during the time so allotted for children who are withdrawn by their parents from any such observance or instruction some form of secular instruction, and that a parent shall not be subject to any penalty under this section for not causing his child to attend the schoolhouse during anytime so allotted, if he shows to the satisfaction of the Court that he has caused his child during that time to attend some form of religious observance or instruction elsewhere."—(Viscount Llandaff.)


submitted his proposed new Clause in the following terms:— In page 6, after Clause 6, to insert the following new clause:—'The obligation of a parent to cause his child to attend school shall, notwithstanding any by-law, include an obligation to cause the child to attend at the schoolhouse during any time allotted to any religious observance or to instruction in religious subjects during the hours for which the schoolhouse is used for the purposes of a public elementary school. Provided that the local education authority shall provide during the time so allotted for any children who are withdrawn by their parents from any such observance or instruction some form of secular instruction, and that a parent shall not be subject to any penalty under this section for not causing his child to attend the schoolhouse during any time so allotted, if he shows to the satisfaction of the Court that he has caused his child during that time to attend some form of religious observance or instruction elsewhere.' He said his Amendment had practically the same object as that moved by the noble Viscount. It was an Amendment which had been alluded to constantly in the debate, and. as regarded the first part of it down to the word "instruction," it was the same as the Amendment which was moved in the House of Commons and rejected by a majority of only sixteen. It was moved by a Nonconformist and supported by members of the Church of England and by members of his own Church. The second part was an Amendment which was put down on the Paper, but not divided upon in the House of Commons, and for which he thought he might claim the support of the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council, for the noble Earl himself had said that the object they very naturally desired was that it should be possible to take children away for religious instruction elsewhere than in the school. The point of the Amendment was practically this. The Anson by-law, even where adopted, was found to make very little difference in the system carried out before. The noble Earl had explained to the Committee that under the Act of 1870 very few prosecutions were ever taken; and for this obvious reason, that a defence was liable to be set up that children were taken away on the ground of objection to religious teaching. It was notorious to anyone who had had much to do with elementary education that the tendency was for the Anson by-law to be made use of by parents whose desire to remove the child was not actuated by any objection to the religious instruction given, but by a wish to employ the child in some profitable or convenient way. He thought the Amendment standing in his name on the Paper safeguarded in every way necessary the right of the parent to remove his child from a form of religious instruction to which he objected, and got rid of the risk of the facilities being used for purposes which the law did not intend, and with which he was sure none of their Lordships sympathised.


had given notice of the following new clause to take the place of Clause 7:— In all public elementary schools in which extended facilities for special religious instruction have not been given biblical instruction in accordance with Section 14 of the Elementary Education Act, 1870 shall be given during the hours of obligatory attendance to all children whose parents do not make application for their withdrawal from such instruction, secular instruction being provided for all children thus withdrawn and not receiving religious instruction of a special character under Section 3 of this Act. He thought, notwithstanding the proposal of the noble Viscount, that his Amendment was the only practical corollary to the Amendment carried on the first clause of the Bill. As was said at the time by the noble and learned Lord Chancellor, that Amendment was not business exactly, and in that the noble and learned Lord expressed a natural view. If that Amendment were left without something supplementary, it could not be said to be business. It was stated, in the course of the discussion, that the Amendment which had been tacked on to the first clause really amounted to the waving of a flag. That was so, and unless they did something more in the matter they would be simply waving the flag and leaving it behind them without any directions how it was to be carried.

They had three proposals before them for dealing with this matter. Another solution was adumbrated by Mr. Chamberlain in the other House, but it was merely an adumbration. Mr. Chamberlain himself had confessed that the scheme which he had in his mind had failed in Birmingham, so that they might look upon it as not practically before them at this moment. He was aware that a good many persons were inclined to support Mr. Chamberlain's solution; they contended that the Churches ought to undertake the religious education of the children; but that was a very different thing from saying that the Churches could or would undertake it. There was no real hope of the Churches undertaking the whole of this work, until we come to the millenium, so that as things were constituted, he did not think there was any prospect of the Churches undertaking to carry the whole of this burden. If they were to adopt such a scheme as that adumbrated by Mr. Chamberlain, his belief was that they would have in the great cities—he had no doubt that in country places they could meet the matter somehow—thousands upon thousands of derelict children who would be brought up without any religious instruction, and he did not think they ought to face that very dangerous alternative. That was why he put aside that interesting suggestion.

Of the three Amendments standing on the Paper, he hoped their Lordships would prefer his Amendment to the other two. They understood the other night from the noble Marquess the Lender of the Opposition that he inclined towards the Amendment of Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, but he (the right rev. Prelate) ventured to think the noble Marquess possibly had not realised all that was comprised in that Amendment. For his part he could not imagine its being accepted as a working solution of the difficulty. The Amendment of the noble Viscount on the cross benches contained exactly the same inherent defect. The radically defective part of those Amendments, as he understood the matter, was that they proposed that parents should be at liberty to take their children away from school during the hours of religious instruction, provided they showed that they were receiving religious instruction elsewhere. That would mean that in any parish groups of children might be abstracted from the school during the hours of religious instruction to be carried off for this or that instruction or service elsewhere, and he thought it quite unreasonable that local authorities, managers of schools, and teachers should be subjected to that state of things during school hours.

From the point of view of the noble Viscount and of Lord Clifford he failed to see the necessity of this provision. The noble Viscount and the noble Lord were specially interested in schools which had extended religious facilities. Why should they desire a clause of this kind, which would not affect their schools, but would affect other schools with which they professed no immediate concern? When they came to the other class of schools all the awkwardness of the proposal became apparent. He ventured to think that if they passed either the noble Viscount's Amendment or the Amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord opposite, they would raise a storm of objections in many quarters throughout the country, because under the clause proposed a parent would be at liberty to make these outside arrangements, and behind this plausible suggestion they had the plain fact that in nine cases out of ten the arrangement would not be made by the parents but by priests or clergy. What would really happen would be that someone interested in some particular form of denominational instruction or service, would canvass a number of parents, and get their permission to withdraw children and take them either to church or chapel. Such an arrangement would tend to disorganise the life of the school quite unnecessarily, and would not be for the real good of the children.

He hoped that when their Lordships voted they would not do so under any misconception. If the suggested new clause became law, a ritualistic clergyman, very earnest possibly, and very devoted to the good of his people, as he conceived it, might on Saints' days and on other days, some not recognised by the Church of England, take these children during the half hour to church instead of giving them religious instruction in the school. He was certain, if this liberty was allowed, that in many cases children would be taken to church, and possibly to the childrens' Eucharist, and to hear Mass. He was speaking of what was very probable. They ought to realise what they were doing, and how the country would take it. Some time ago, being away from home and in a city in the midst of a great population, he went to Sunday morning Communion at eight o'clock, and as he was proceeding into the Church he was kept waiting while a band of little children, escorted by some good ladies, were taken in and placed in the nave to witness that Communion. That was just what would happen on school days in an indefinite number of cases if they passed either the Amendment standing in the name of the noble Viscount or the Amendment tabled by the noble Lord opposite. On that ground he asked their Lordships to leave those two Amendments alone. He contended, on the other hand, that his Amendment was thoroughly practicable, and met all the requirements of the case in an equitable manner.

They would have, first of all, the schools with extended facilities; those were provided for, so that his Amendment left them alone. Then they would have the transferred schools, in which the children of all parents who so desired would enjoy the ordinary facilities. There would remain the rest of the scholars in these and other schools which would comprise the great mass of the children throughout the country. To this great proportion of scholars, with which his Amendment dealt directly, Cowper-Temple Bible teaching would be offered, as it had been during the past thirty-six years, to all children whose parents did not withdraw them from it. He ventured to think that the bishops and clergy ought to be satisfied with that, now that it had come to be quite generally understood that Cowper-Temple teaching might and would in most cases include not only the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, but everything that was comprised in the Apostles' Creed, which was the creed of Christendom and not of this or that denomination. Bearing this in mind, he felt that noble Lords might very well be satisfied with the arrangement he suggested for the great bulk of the children whose parents were content with it. Then his Amendment provided that for those children who were withdrawn bona fide secular instruction should be given at the same time.

His Amendment met all the practical requirements of the case, and he knew of no other solution which was likely at once to satisfy the general sentiment of the country and to save them from drifting into a system of secular education. The establishment of a secular system would, to his mind, be a deplorable result, seeing that it was the multitude of little children who would suffer. He had voted in favour of making the offer of some religious instruction compulsory in all schools because he held that it was the duty of the State to give the best available education to all children, and he was convinced that they could not give the best available education if they closed the Bible in the schools. On the other hand, he did not see how it was possible for them, as a practical working arrangement, to go beyond the kind of choice which was set forth clearly in his Amendment. He therefore hoped he might carry the sentiment of their Lordships on both sides of the House with him in favour of his Amendment.


said there were now three competing Amendments before their Lordships, and he thought it would be a little difficult to vote upon them without knowing what the Amendments were. In the first place, he would like to ask Viscount Llandaff whether he would be willing to strike out the words "religious observance," which might give rise to considerable difficulty.


Yes, I am quite willing to omit those words.


I presume the same course will be taken by Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.




said it must be admitted that this was a matter of considerable difficulty. He could quite understand that the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council might be disposed to tell them that, by the proviso they were attempting to negative what they did on Thursday last, but he did not think Lord Crewe would raise any objection to the first part of the Amendment, which simply enacted that children should attend school during the time of religious instruction, and that if they were withdrawn by their parents from such religious instruction they should have some form of secular education to replace it.

The difficulty seemed to him to occur when they came to the proviso, which would enable a certain number of children to be exempted from the rule which the Committee had by a very large majority accepted, that all children should attend the school during the hours of religious instruction. He confessed that he felt some little difficulty about that proviso. It seemed that any parent under it might withdraw his child from the school, thus injuring the discipline and regular arrangement of the school, and if the school authority prosecuted him for the non-attendance of his child the posibility would arise of his obtaining exemption by showing that the child had obtained religious instruction elsewhere. Therefore the offence, if it was one of non-attendance, would have occurred and might be committed in many cases without any remedy for it at all.

But, on the other hand, there was this difficulty. He understood from what the noble Earl had told them the other day, that up to the date of the Anson by-law it was the rule, generally speaking, that children should attend during the hours of religious instruction. But as no prosecutions for non-attendance were carried out that rule was often evaded. Obviously that was a difficulty and one which he thought the noble Earl would admit. The Anson by-law enabled the parent after giving written notice to withdraw his child from the religious instruction with the very natural result that parents gave the notice and the child did not attend any religious instruction at all. He thought their Lordships would agree that in neither case was the result satisfactory.

Why was it that there were no prosecutions for non-attendance under the old rule? Surely because it was felt by the school authorities, at any rate in the case of the provided schools, that where no definite religious instruction was given there was a valid excuse for non-attendance when religious instruction of a denominational character was given elsewhere. Therefore they did not like to prosecute. That was a difficulty which he thought His Majesty's Government ought to meet in some way. It was useless having a rule that could not be enforced; it was worse having a rule that was played with like the Anson bylaw. Viscount Llandaff had suggested that they should meet the difficulty by the proviso in his clause. He did not know whether the noble Earl could overcome the objections to that proviso which had been placed before the Committee by the right rev. prelate the Bishop of Hereford; but, if he could not, he hoped he would be able to suggest some means by which it would be possible for the parents of children attending what had hitherto been called provided or board schools to withdraw their children bona fide for religious instruction elsewhere.

So far as he could see, the difficulty would only arise in the case of children attending provided schools. It would not arise in the case of extended facilities schools. He did not think it need arise in schools under Clause 3, because they would have for a certain time in the week denominational instruction for the children who desired it. But there would be a grievance if nothing were done in the case of children whose parents desired that they should obtain denominational instruction which they could not obtain in council schools. Therefore, he hoped the noble Earl, if he could not accept this proviso, would suggest some means by which the grievance might be remedied.


My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just sat down has stated with great clearness the effect of these Amendments. If the clause were simply struck out things would remain as they are, and the Anson by-law might be brought into operation in the district of any local authority. But the noble Viscount and the noble Lord opposite desire to make attendance compulsory during the religious hour, subject to the very important proviso attached to each clause. The objection which I took to the striking out of our Clause 7 I am, of course, bound to take to the first part of these proposed clauses. The words in these clauses do nothing to meet the difficulty which, as I said, was the final bias which kept me in favour of the clause in our Bill, namely, the importance of preserving a real and effective conscience clause.

As the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Hereford pointed out with great force, there might be a number of cases in which the proviso under which children could be taken off to church might make it exceedingly difficult to exercise the conscience clause in favour of certain children belonging to the Church of England. That, I think, cannot be disputed, and it seems to me rather to accentuate the attack on the conscience clause which, as I believe, was made by the striking out of our clause as it stood. The noble Viscount stated very correctly the fact that prosecutions had not been instituted for children absenting themselves during the religious hour, and he ascribed it to the fact that authorities were not willing to prosecute when there might be a possibility, or even a presumption, that children had been withdrawn for religious instruction elsewhere. That might have been the case in some instances, but I am inclined to think that the lack of prosecutions was generally founded on a very different sentiment, namely, a dislike to fine people for not sending their children to religious as distinguished from secular instruction, and my belief is that, if the clause is carried, including the proviso under which a parent is allowed to escape penalties by proving that his child has been to church, the unwillingness to prosecute will be still stronger, My impression is that authorities will not be eager to prosecute, but that, if they do. and parents are brought before an average bench for not having sent their children to church—for that is the way the matter would be put—in a great many cases the magistrates, if they feel themselves obliged to convict, will inflict merely a nominal penalty.

Your Lordships must remember that anything like a compulsory attendance at church or any form of religious observance—even though noble Lords strike out the word "observance" I do not feel entirely confident that something in the nature of a service would not naturally form part of this religious time—anything in the nature of compulsory attendance at a religious building for this purpose is distasteful to the minds of our fellow-countrymen. There is a further difficulty, that it is very hard to say under the clause as it is worded what could be taken as an excuse. If a parent kept his child at home and said that he had been going through some form of religious instruction, would that be taken as an excuse under the words of the clause as they stand? In fact, I think that this is, if I may say so, an Amendment designed to meet the peculiar conditions of the Church to which the noble Viscount and the noble Lord belong; it would work quite easily in their instance, but I do not think it would work with anything like the same ease as regards the Church of England.

The right rev. Prelate behind me has an alternative suggestion which is not, perhaps, strictly germane to the discussion, but which at the same time, by the rather courteous practice of this House, it is well to say something upon. For I take it that if the noble Viscount's Amendment is carried the right rev. Prelate's will go out, and, therefore, perhaps I may be forgiven if I say a few words upon it now. I have to say that we could not accept that Amendment for the same reason that we could not accept the Amendment to Clause 1. There is no definition of Biblical instruction—at least I have never seen one—and we come back to the question of the Board of Education syllabus and all those matters which, as noble Lords may remember, we discussed at great length on Clause 1. But it is upon that ground, the impossibility of giving a definition, especially in the case of a local authority not disposed to enter into the spirit of the right rev. Prelate's Amendment, that I think as practical men, we could not agree to his Amendment any more than to those of the other two noble Lords.


pointed out that the provision in the clauses proposed by Viscount Llandaff and Lord Clifford of Chudleigh affected many others besides the members of the Roman Catholic Communion. He had had experience of this in his own neighbourhood in Yorkshire, where the local education authority refused to allow members of the Church of England to withdraw their children for religious instruction on certain days and insisted on the children attending school, the parents being exposed to fines because they insisted on their right to withdraw their children. He supported the clause as suggested by Viscount Llandaff.


said it would be a great mistake to suppose that the Amendments now before the Committee were consequential upon the Resolution passed at their last sitting. What the Committee did on Thursday last was to negative a proposal in the Government Bill that henceforward the only range of obligation to attend school should be during secular instruction. The law up to this time had been, and the law at this moment was, that the obligation to attend school was during such time as the local authority might define in its by-laws. In fact, owing to the Board of Education having drawn up certain model by-laws, which had been generally accepted, as far as he knew, the by-laws in force throughout the country made attendance at school compulsory during the whole time a school was open, so that, not by the operation of the Act of Parliament, but by the operation of the by-laws framed by the local authorities on the advice of the Board of Education, the obligation to attend school extended over the whole period of the school hours.

A mistaken explanation had been given of the reason why parents had not been summoned for the non-attendance of their children during the Scripture hour. The almost universal practice had been to mark the register after the religious instruction and immediately before the commencement of secular instruction. In fact, when Lord Cross's Commission obtained returns from a very wide area, they found—and this was more the case in Church schools than in board schools— that the practice was only to mark the register after religious instruction. In many cases the register was marked twice, before and after religious instruction, and the solitary case he knew of where the register was marked only once and that before religious teaching was that of the school board for Liverpool, who, in the interest of punctual attendance, determined that they would only have one mark and that before religious teaching. But Liverpool stood quite isolated in that respect. As their Lordships would see, if a child was marked on the register as present it would be idle to go before a magistrate to get the parent fined for the child's absence. The local education authority could not produce a register on which a child was marked as present and ask the magistrate to fine the parent on the ground that the child was absent.

The reasons for the course taken in the marking of the register were two-fold. The principal reason was that no local authority or private manager wished to lose a material part of the school income, namely, the Government Grant, and if the local authority had closed the register soon after nine o'clock, the child, although allowed to come in afterwards for secular instruction, would not have appeared as in attendance; consequently the average attendance would have been pulled down and the grant diminished. The Government did not require, as a condition of its grant, that there should be any attendance beyond the period devoted to secular education, and they were prohibited from employing their inspectors in looking into or examining the religious instruction.

If there was to be any compromise or modification of the Bill with a view to its passing—and he must say the prospect seemed to be fading into the distance as he saw the long roll of Amendments that had been carried—if there was to be any chance of peace in this atmosphere of turmoil, it would be well to save one or two points on which there might be an approach between the two Houses. If the House were content with having struck out the clause the law would be left as it stood at present, whereby under the by-laws there was a legal obligation to attend the whole time the school was open. But it rested in the discretion of the local authority, and he thought would still rest with them even if they passed either of the Amendments now proposed, whether they should summon the parent, if they satisfied the Board of Education by marking the register, as they had almost invariably done, after as well as before the Scripture lesson and earning the grant on the children who came late.

He thought the only effect of passing the first part of the Amendment would be slightly to amend the Act of 1870 and to make obligatory school attendance co-extensive with the whole time the school was open. If they said that the children who were sent to religious observances elsewhere should be excused but those who were not sent to religious observances should not be excused, they were bringing in the secular arm to enforce some religious observance. To put that in the Bill would be to inflame opinion and to widen the breach between the two Houses. He did not give up all hope, and he would be glad if the points of difference between them were minimised, so that there might be a chance of something coming out of the protracted work of the session. It was because he felt that this Amendment would increase the difficulty that he opposed it. In his opinion the right rev. Prelate's Amendment was more objectionable than the one immediately before the Committee.


said the proviso to subsection (1) of the proposed new clause contained two propositions. The first was that if a child was withdrawn from religious instruction he should have secular instruction. He had heard no objection to that provision. He thought it would meet the objections that had been raised if the second provision was omitted. He therefore proposed to move to leave out all the words from "secular instruction" to the end of the subsection. It could not then be said that the arm of the State was being employed to compel children to attend any form of religious instruction; and the earlier part of the Amendment, which seemed to him to be of very great importance, would still remain. He was afraid that parents who wished to make use of their children for other purposes would give the excuse that they were withdrawing them for religious instruction. The earlier part of the noble Viscount's Amendment was an important improvement of the Bill, and he hoped it would be carried.


believed the true solution of the whole difficulty was in the direction of Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Amendment, which had been withdrawn. This Amendment went a long way in the direction of Lord Balfour's proposal, and he hoped that it would be accepted.


said that in a great many places there was no convenient place outside the school house where the children could be instructed, and if they were not instructed in the school-house they would not be instructed at all. He hoped that this Amendment would be passed in substance. He thought they were bound by their action in omitting the Government clause to put in some clause making attendance during the time for religious instruction of some kind obligatory. The Bishop of Hereford had quoted Mr. Chamberlain as having said that his particular scheme had been a failure in Birmingham, but the right rev. Prelate had omitted to mention that Mr. Chamberlain added that it had never had a fair chance. He did not think that matter was now under discussion, but, undoubtedly, the scheme in Birmingham, so far as it was worked, was worked in such a subsidiary manner that it never had a fair chance. What was necessary in framing an Education Bill was to have regard to the strong feeling existing in the country that religious instruction should be given, and it would be a real interference with religious sentiment if that feeling was not met.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Stanley held out to us what he evidently intended as an olive branch. I wish we could grasp at it, but it does not seem to me to meet sufficiently the requirements of the case. So far as I could understand him, he would leave these matters to the decision of the local education authorities. We cannot exclude from consideration that there may be local education authorities who take what we should regard as a perverse view of these matters.

And let me remind the Committee that in regard to what I would almost call the main question, whether or not, opportunities are to be provided for religious instruction in these elementary schools we have not left it to the local education authority to decide; for the Amendment which your Lordships have already inserted in Clause 1 stipulates clearly that a part of the school hours of every school shall be allotted to religious instruction. Is it unreasonable, in those circumstances, for us to go on to say that every child must be present at school during that portion of time? We say that, of course, subject to the condition that the parent is free, for conscientious reasons, to withdraw his child from religious instruction.

We further stipulate that if he does so the child is not to be allowed to idle about in the 6treet or to play marbles. Then comes the concluding stipulation, that if religious instruction of the kind desired by the parents can be obtained within easy reach of the school the parent shall not be liable to any penalty if he withdraws his child from school and allows him to receive the particular form of religious instructions which he prefers. That seems to me to be a logical and reasonable proposal; but I must say I agree with what was said by my noble friend Viscount St. Aldwyn when he pointed out that the clause as now drawn is perhaps open to the criticism that it makes it almost too easy for parents to take advantage of the concluding words of the Amendment and to take their children away on the plea, which might not be a perfectly honest one, that they would receive religious instruction in some other place.

Let me, however, protest against the manner in which we have been told during this discussion that the child could be taken away from school in order to go to church. There is no question of that, because my noble friend Viscount Llandaff has taken out of his Amendment the words "religious observance." Therefore, if the child is taken away at all he is taken away in order that he may receive religious instruction and religious instruction only. I suggest that, in order to meet the criticism of my noble friend Viscount St. Aldwyn, it might be possible to limit the proviso in such a way as to make it apply only in cases where no facilities for special religious instruction are afforded under the Act. That would considerably limit the risk which my noble friend has in view, and if some such words as those were acceptable to His Majesty's Government I should be very glad to vote for them. The matter is one for them to consider rather than for us.


said his Amendment appeared to him to follow necessarily from the Amendment to Clause 1 and the excision of Clause 7. He had not the remotest idea in moving his Amendment of forwarding the interests of his own religious community or of any other community in particular. It was put down with the object of giving additional protection to the parent who objected to the kind of religious instruction given during the period allotted, and to free him, if he could prove that his child was receiving religious instruction of the kind he liked elsewhere, from any penalty in respect of non- attendance at the school. Lord Balfour's Amendment had a much wider scope and met the demand which their Lordships still had to meet—the protection of minorities in all cases. His Amendment was simply a limited exception to an obligation imposed on the parent, and was not in the interest of any particular religious denomination, but in the interest of all. As to the Bishop of Hereford's Amendment, he could not see that it was at all germane to the purpose of his Amendment. In the first place, the right rev. Prelate's Amendment only applied to Clause 3 schools and council schools. In the case of those schools the right rev. Prelate insisted that Cowper-Temple instruction should be given by the local authority during the time allotted to religious instruction. That was taking away the option which the local education authority at present had of giving instruction of that kind or not as they thought fit. It was a further tieing up of the liberty which the local education authority exercised under the law as it now stood.


asked his noble friend Lord Avebury whether his objections to the proviso would be met as his own would be, by the insertion, according to the suggestion of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, after the word "that" in the ninth line of Lord Llandaff's Amendment, of these words, namely— In the case of schools in which no facilities for religious instruction of a special character are afforded under this Act; thus confining the operation of the proviso to what had hitherto been called board schools.


said his objection was largely suggested by the remarks of the noble Viscount. He had hardly had time to consider the words now proposed, but he had such respect for the noble Viscount's judgment that he was willing to accept them.


thought it would be better to leave the words as they stood.


I understand that the noble Viscount desires to omit from his Amendment any reference to "religious observance"?




Then I will read the Amendment as I understand the noble Viscount moves it— To insert the following new clause: '7. The obligation of a parent to cause his child to attend school shall, notwithstanding any by-law, include an obligation to cause the child to attend at the school-house during the portion

of the school hours allotted to instruction in religious subjects; provided that the local education authority and the managers shall provide during the time so allotted for children who are withdrawn by their parents from any such instruction some form of secular instructon,—'"

Is that the form in which the noble Viscount desires to move his Amendment?



On Question, "That those words be there inserted," their Lordships divided. Contents, 151; Not-contents, 43.

Canterbury, L. Abp. Wharncliffe, E. Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)
York, L. Abp. Yarborough, E. Chaworth, L. (E. Heath.)
Chevlesmore, L.
Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.) Bridport, V. Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
Devonshire, D. Churchill. V. [Teller.] Colchester, L.
Grafton, D. Colville of Culross, V. Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)
Newcastle, D. Falkland, V. De Freyne, L.
Northumberland, D. Falmouth, V. Digby, L.
Richmond, and Gordon, D. Halifax, V. Dormer, L.
Sutherland, D. Hill, V. Ellenborough, L.
Wellington, D. Hutchinson, V. (E. Donough- Emly, L.
more.) Estcourt, L.
Abergavenny, M. Knutsford, V. Faber, L.
Bath, M. Llandaff, V. Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)
Bute, M. Ridley, V. Fingall, L. (E. Fingall.)
Camden, M. Forester, L.
Lansdowne, M. St. Aldwyn, V. Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
Salisbury, M. Gormanston, L. (V. Gorman-
Bangor, L. Bp. ston.)
Albemarle, E. Birmingham, L. Bp. Harris, L.
Ancaster, E. Bristol, L. Bp. Hastings, L.
Ashburnham, E. Exeter, L. Bp. Howard of Glossop, L.
Cadogan, E. Lincoln, L. Bp. Hylton, L.
Camperdown, E. Liverpool, L. Bp. Kelvin, L.
Cathcart, E. London, L. Bp. Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)
Cawdor, E. Oxford, L. Bp. Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and
Clarendon E. St. David s, L. Bp. Mount-Earl.)
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch Salisbury, L. Bp. Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)
and Queensberry.) Southwark, L. Bp. Knaresborough, L.
Eldon, E. Wakefield, L. Bp. Lawrence, L.
Feversham, E. Winchester, L. Bp. Leith of Fyvie, L.
Graham, E. (D. Montrose.) Llangattock, L.
Halsbury, E. Abinger, L. Lovat, L.
Hardwicke, E. Alington, L. Macnaghten L.
Ilchester, E. Alverstone, L. Manners, L.
Jersey, E. Ampthill, L. Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly).
Mar and Kellie, E. Ardilaun, L. Methuen, L.
Morley, E. Ashbourne, L. Muncaster, L.
Munster, E. Ashcombe, L. Napier, L.
Nelson, E. Atkinson, L. North, L.
Northbrook, E. Avebury, L. Northbourne, L.
Onslow, E. Barnard, L. Petre, L.
Pembroke and Montgomery, E. Barrymore, L. Poltimore, L.
Plymouth, E. Belhaven and Stenton, L. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough)
Saint Germans, E. Belper, L. Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)
Scarborough, E. Blythswood, L. Rathmore, L.
Shaftesbury, E. Boston, L. Ravensworth, L.
Stamford, E. Brancepath, L. (V. Boyne.) Redesdale, L.
Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Braye, L. Revelstoke, L.
Waldegrave, E. [Teller.] Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.) Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Robertson, L. Shute, L. (V. Barrington.) Waleran, L.
Sanderson, L. Stalbridge, L. Wolverton, L.
Sandys, L. Stanmore, L. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Seaton, L. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E.
Sherborne, L. Galloway.)
Crewe, E. (L. President.) St. Asaph, L. Bp. Hemphill, L.
Kinnaird, L.
Ripon, M. (L. Privy Seal.) Burghclere, L. Lyveden, L.
Castletown, L. Monkswell, L.
Coleridge, L. Nunburnholme, L.
Manchester, D. Courtney of Penwith, L. Pirrie, L.
Denman L. [Teller.] Reay, L.
Beauchamp, E. Dunning, L. (L. Rollo.) Rendel, L.
Carrington, E. Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kin- Ribblesdale, L. [Teller.]
Chesterfield, E. cardine.) Sandhurst, L.
Craven, E. Eversley, L. Saye and Sele, L.
Kimberley, E. Farrer, L. Shuttleworth, L.
Lytton, E. Fitzmaurice, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Portsmouth, E. Glantawe, L. Tweedmouth, L.
Temple, E. Grimthorpe, L. Wandsworth, L.
Haversham, L. Welby, L.
Hereford, L. Bp. Headley, L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— In line 9, after the word 'that,' to insert the following words, "In the case of schools in which no facilities for religious instruction of a special character are afforded under this Act."—(Viscount St. Aldwyn.)


It is now moved that the following words be inserted, after the word "that"— in the case of schools in which no facilities for religious instruction of a special character are afforded under this Act.'


I now move the remainder of the first paragraph down to "elsewhere," omitting the words "observance or."


next moved to insert his second subsection, the object of which was, he said, to make the parents' committee universal in all schools. Their Lordships had decided, with the assent of His Majesty's Government, that there should be a parents' committee in Clause 4 schools, but he was unable to draw any distinction between Clause 4 schools, Clause 3 schools, State-aided schools, and temporarily occupied schools, these being the different classes of schools they had to deal with. Clause 3 schools were denominational schools in part, but not wholly, like Clause 4 schools. State-aided schools were also denominational schools, as also were the temporarily occupied schools. He could suggest no reason why, when their Lordships had declared that there ought to be a parents' committee in Clause 4 schools, the other three classes of schools should not have a parents' committee to superintend and control the religious instruction.

The point where difference would arise, he presumed, was in the case of council schools. He could imagine no argument which would take from the parents of children attending council schools the right which had been given to parents of children attending Clause 4 schools. It was nothing short of religious tyranny for a Department of the State to prescribe the religious instruction to be given to the children of parents who were compelled to send their children to public elementary schools. There never had been a State syllabus of religious instruction in the public elementary schools of this country, and His Majesty's inspectors were forbidden to inquire into the religious instruction given in any school. Therefore the State had very properly abstained from any interference with religious instruction.

Under the Act of 1870 Parliament left it to the school boards to decide the kind and amount of religious instruction to be given to the children attending their schools. The school boards were very analogous to the parents' committees he was now suggesting. The members of those boards were in close touch with the parents, and by the provision of the cumulative vote opportunities were given for the minority to have some representation on the school board. When the Act of 1902 made the county councils the local education authority instead of the school boards, the case seemed to him to be entirely altered. County councils were not in: touch with the parents; they did not represent each particular parish in their county. They represented the ratepayers of the county, it was true, but they were not in touch with, and did not represent the feelings of, the parents in the particular parishes with regard to the religious instruction which should be given in the council schools. He therefore submitted to their Lordships that the parents' committee should exist in council schools as well as in denominational schools in order to preside over and regulate the religious instruction give in those schools

The next step in his argument was that the instruction must be given by the teachers in the school; it was perfectly idle to suppose that outsiders could be called in of sufficient quality and in sufficient numbers to give the religious instruction desired. They could not expect a giver of religious instruction to instruct more than forty children. Therefore for a school of 400 children they would require ten teachers to be brought in if the instruction was not to be given by the teachers in the school. That would be found to be an impossibility in practice. When their Lordships remembered the hundreds of thousands of children who had to be dealt with, who had to receive religious instruction of some sort, the idea that outside teachers could in practice, especially in rural districts, be found, and that remuneration sufficient to induce them to serve for this short period of each day could be provided, seemed to him to be perfectly impossible of realisation. Therefore he ventured to urge upon their Lords-hips that, if there was to be religious teaching given at all in the schools, it must be given by the teachers.

Again, the parents' committee, who had the control and regulation of the religious instruction, ought to have a voice in the appointment of the teachers. He observed from the Amendments on the Paper that the most rev. Primate and Lord Camperdown suggested that the parents' committee should have a vote in the appointment of the teachers. His suggestion was that the appointment of the teachers should rest with the local education authority, but that the parents' committee should nominate the teachers, should present to the local education authority for appointment candidates satisfactory to them. The local education authority would then have the right to refuse those nominees upon educational grounds. In this way they made sure that the persons appointed would be fit to give the secular instruction.


I do not like interrupting the noble Viscount, but if he looks a little ahead he will see that this particular question arises on an Amendment to be moved by Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and, I think, in a form which would satisfy him. It is, of course, quite true that the Amendment of the most rev. Primate would not satisfy the noble Viscount, but I think Lord Clifford of Chudleigh's would. In that case, perhaps the noble Viscount would consent to take this discussion on Clause 8—the teachers clause.


said it was very inconvenient to postpone part of an Amendment. Strictly, they were on the second paragraph of his Amendment, and, though it did not deal with teachers, they were on the threshold of the teachers question.


thought that what the noble Viscount had said with regard to the parents' committee was perfectly relevant. He gathered that the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council agreed that parents should have some voice in the selection and appointment of the teachers.




Does the noble Earl differ from us on that?




If the noble Earl repudiates that, I have no more to say, but I certainly gathered that he was with us in that matter.


My object in rising was to point out that it seemed to me better to postpone all questions relating to teachers until we came to what we call the teachers clause— namely, Clause 8. It is quite possible to argue the virtues and merits of the parents' committee without dealing with the particular function of the appointment of teachers.


said that the first paragraph in the noble Viscount's Amendment as it stood on the Paper had been agreed to as a substitute for Clause 7; but the second paragraph, which dealt with the appointment of a parents' committee for all schools, was an entirely separate matter, and, in his opinion, ought to be dealt with in a separate clause. He suggested to the noble Viscount that he should be content with having obtained paragraph 1 of his Amendment as the new Clause 7, and either move the second paragraph as a separate clause or postpone it.


suggested that the noble Viscount should limit the sub- section to the first four lines. That would establish the parents' committees, but it would leave the whole question of the teachers over until they reached Clause 8.


joined in the hope that Viscount Llandaff would postpone the question of the parents' committee. That proposal would come much better on Clause 15. In that clause they had to provide for the local management of all schools, and surely they could hardly desire to have a parents' committee and a local committee as well managing every school.


And then there are the managers.


Yes, and managers too. I think the whole matter had much better be considered together.


said he could see no connection between the delegation of the powers of the local education authorities and the appointment of teachers in particular schools.


I was speaking of the organisation of the local committee, not of their powers.


said that if it was more convenient to the Committee that this part of his Amendment should be postponed he would gladly bow to the wishes of their Lordships. But he thought it should be understood that Lord Clifford and himself should have precedence when the time came to move their clauses with regard to the share that the parents' committees should have in the appointment of teachers. It seemed to him that that was a necessary part of the organisation of the parents' committees, and, subject to that, he would be quite willing to postpone so much of his second subsection as related to the appointment of teachers, and limit it to whether or not there should be a parents' committee in those schools as well as in Clause 4 schools.


said it would be extremely inconvenient if the Committed were to discuss the question of establishing a parents' committee in every school, and to discuss it apart, not only from the clause which gave powers of delegation, but also apart from the question of managers. The delegation clause especially alluded to the point whether the power of appointing teachers should be delegated or not. It also alluded to the question of the managers and their powers, and he thought that if they were to discuss these differently-constituted bodies separately they would get into more hopeless confusion than they were in now. In the interest of business he hoped their Lordships would insist that these matters should be discussed in such a way that the Committee would be able to see what relation they bore one to another.


I hope my noble and learned friend Viscount Llandaff will see that it would be more in accordance with the wishes of the Committee on both sides if he would be good enough not to persist in his Amendment at this juncture.


said he had already bowed to the wishes of the Committee and limited his Amendment to the first four lines, which raised the question whether or not there should be a parents' committee in these schools.


I think the point of the objection which has been raised to the Amendment is this. We have already dealt with the question of the parents' committees as part of the machinery of Clause 4. The question of committees of this kind might possibly arise further on when we come to the local machinery for the administration of this Act; but I am bound to say that, at this moment, when we are on the point of discussing the duties of the teachers and the circumstances of their appointment, the fresh proposal to introduce parents' committees not only in regard to Clause 4 schools bur in regard to all other schools, does seem to me somewhat inappropriate. I would venture to join in the appeal to the noble and learned Viscount to withdraw his Amendment altogether.


said he could not resist the appeals that had been made to him, and he would postpone his Amendment.


Then the noble Viscount withdraws his Amendment?


No, I do not withdraw it. I postpone it.


Well, it is withdrawn for the time being.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

  1. Clause 8:— 18,015 words, 1 division
Forward to