§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee."—(The Earl of Crewe.)
§ *LORD STANMORE,
who had given notice, on the Motion that the House 298 should now resolve itself into Committe, to move—That the consideration of this Bill in Committee be deferred until the effect of the Education Act, 1902, as regards the liability of local education authorities to defray the cost of religious instruction in schools not provided by them has been finally determined by a judgment of this House in the case of the King versus the County Council of the West Riding of Yorkshire, now pending on appeal,said: My Lords, when I first undertook to bring forward the Motion which stands in my name to-day the circumstances were not exactly the same as they are now. At that time the long delay of His Majesty's Government in bringing forward an appeal in the case of the West Riding judgment led to the general belief that it was not intended to bring forward an appeal at all. Since then the appeal has been made, and I assumed that the resolution of His Majesty's Government to do this would necessarily involve some delay in taking the Committee stage of the Bill in this House. It did not occur to me as possible that the idea could be entertained of carrying on pari passu a debate in this House and a judicial inquiry into the effect of the provisions of the existing Act. I therefore expected that I should not be called upon to make any such Motion. I was advised, however, to keep it on the Paper. Well, His Majesty's Government have taken that course which seemed to me impossible, and they are apparently supported in it both by the Leaders of the Opposition and, as I understand, by the right rev. Prelates. That is a great array of authority. I cannot say that I am myself convinced that the objections to proceeding with the Bill——
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I beg the noble Lord's pardon for interrupting him. I think he is under a misapprehension. I should like to ask upon what he relies for the statement hat His Majesty's Government were supported by the front Opposition Bench in proceeding with the Bill.
§ *LORD STANMORE
I relied upon the fact that when the statement was made by the Leader of the House as to the Government's intentions no remark and no challenge of any kind was made by the noble Marquess or by any noble Lord on that side of the House. That was my chief ground for the statement, 299 though I have others, of which the noble Marquess cannot be unaware. However that may be, I think that the objections to the course proposed to be taken are grave. The answers to those objections appear to me to be wholly inadequate. The first and most plausible reason assigned for going on with the Bill in spite of the appeal is that the matter which comes before the Court of Appeal is one which does not very largely concern the Bill now before the House. Even if that were true, I do not think it would be a sufficient reason, for I hold that this House has a right, when it is called upon practically to reverse an Act which it passed two years before, to be in full possession of the real meaning of the Act which it is called upon to destroy. It is not only its right but its duty that it should be so. An Act gravely passed by this House and generally adopted should not be repealed or practically set aside for reasons which may turn out to be not well founded. We ought to know what an Act is and what it does before we proceed to its destruction. I cannot agree that the matter is unimportant in itself, or that it does not affect, and largely affect, the consideration of the Bill in Committee. We have been told in this House that the opposition to the Act of 1902, and the prejudice against that Act, largely contributed to swell the majority which placed His Majesty's present Government in power. Now, how far that is the case I do not intend to inquire, but this I do say, and I do not think it can be denied, that in so far as that opposition to the Act of 1902 had an effect on the General Election of 1906, it was chiefly and mainly due to the belief on the part of those so opposing it that the Act enacted what those who objected to it considered to be grave injustice. It has now been judicially decided, and the decision may be confirmed when this judgment has been given—that there was no such grievance at all. In that case half of the opposition to the Act of 1902 falls; and if that opposition so falls, it is quite on the cards that the Act of 1902, relieved from the principal cause of objection to it, may still be found a good foundation on which to frame a really lasting and satisfactory Education Bill— which the Bill row before us, I fear, can never be. So thinking, I should wish to pause before voting on the first clause.
300 If the judgment of the Appeal Court be affirmed, I should vote against it in the hope of a settlement under the existing system. If the judgment be reversed, I should vote for the clause with Amendments, feeling that a now law was inevitable. The main objection to my Motion is that the appeal does not affect the Bill, but others are also advanced.
We are told that if we delay the judgment we may perhaps wreck the Bill. Well, my Lords, I have no wish to wreck the Bill. I wish to amend it; but I do not think that we must make the wreckage of the Bill the test and line by which we are to guide our conscience. It has been declared in this House by many— and I believe it is felt by a majority— that certain great Amendments are required in this Bill if it is to go through. Are we to consider as our prime object whether the Bill will be wrecked if they be rejected—as rejected they may be— in another place? Then I have been told, and strangely enough, from both sides of the House, that there is a tactical advantage in the course which it is proposed to pursue. My Lords, I suspect clever moves for the sake of a tactical advantage. They often succeed at the moment: they carry you through a momentary difficulty; but almost invariably, as experience shows, they come back in an unpleasant manner upon those who have made them. I say that in my mind, and I think in the mind of many of your Lordships, the reasons for pressing on in haste are inadequate, and I believe there are many Members of this House—there is certainly a very large body in the country —holding the opinion that I do as to the impolicy of proceeding until a judgment has been given.
But there is the fact that His Majesty's Government, and, as I understand, though my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition seemed to disclaim the charge, the majority of the Opposition and of the right rev. Prelates are all agreed that it is desirable to go on immediately without waiting. Well, my Lords, that is your responsibility. Some noble Lords have whispered that they agreed with me that we ought not to go on, but that they would throw the responsibility on the Government. No, my Lords, you cannot do that. You might do it if the Government was in possession of a great majority in this House. As things 301 are it is not with the Government but with the House itself that the responsibility must rest. The House seems inclined, so far as I can judge from indications which have reached me, to take that responsibility, and in the face of a foregone conclusion I do not think I am justified in taking up the time of the House by pressing the Motion standing in my name. I therefore propose, unless some Member of your Lordships' House to whose opinion I should feel bound to defer should express a contrary view, to withdraw the Motion and to content myself in the belief that I have discharged my duty by expressing, as I do now express, my deep regret that the House should be committed to a step which it appears to me will either prevent noble and learned Lords from taking part in the debate which is to come on of matters relating to that subject, or else will lead to the grotesque and unseemly spectacle of noble and learned Lords sitting here in the evening as legislators, and if on the Government side of the House perhaps denouncing the wrongs done by the Act of 1902, and then sitting in the morning in their capacity as Judges to consider whether any grievance at all exists.
That is not only in itself undesirable, but there lies in it a danger of the whole of the judicial privileges of the House being viewed unfavourably outside That would be, in my opinion, one of the greatest calamities that could befall the country; but, at the same time, it cannot be denied that logically there are objections to connecting judicial with legislative functions. It would be an evil day if their severance were demanded in the case of this great Court of Appeal. I therefore wish, before sitting down, to express my deep regret that your Lordships are committed to a course which is hardly respectful to the House in its judicial, capacity, which I think is fraught with some danger to the judicial establishment of the House, and which shows an impatient haste which does not usually characterise the proceedings of this assembly.
§ VISCOUNT GOSCHEN
My Lords, I trust the noble Lord who has just sat down will not think me wanting in respect towards him, and I hope your Lordships will not think me wanting in respect to 302 you, if I do not follow him in the able arguments which he has just placed before us. There are many persons in this House and elsewhere who will feel that there is much force in some of the arguments which the noble Lord has used, but I would rather leave it to the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council to make such answer to the noble Lord as he may think the noble Lord is entitled to.
I think no surprise can be felt that there should be some debate upon the Motion to go into Committee on the Education Bill, because some time has elapsed since the Bill was last before your Lordships, and it may be convenient that some of the most important points should be brought again clearly before the House. In what I may call the smoke of the artillery of the religious controversy many points seem to me to have been overlooked which deserve the attention of your Lordships as administrators and as legislators. I am anxious that it should be fully understood, both by our opponents and by the great public outside, that this Bill cannot simply be debated as a question between the Church and Dissent, and I protest in the strongest degree against the view which has been too generally expressed out of doors that in this House are to be found simply defenders of the Church. We sit here as legislators and not as Churchmen. Because we oppose this Bill, and intend to do what we can to amend it, we are not going to be branded as sectarians or sacerdotalists, or by any of the other epithets which have been so lavishly bestowed upon us outside.
There are questions outside the theological controversy, to some of which I am anxious to call the attention of your Lordships. As I have said, we have to consider this Bill, and to amend it if possible, not only in regard to the education given in Church schools, but also in regard to the education which is given in provided schools. If it is claimed that in deference to fervent Nonconformity a revolution is to take place in all the voluntary schools of the country, surely it is not too much for us to claim as legislators that we should look at the whole area of the education of the country and at what is being done in the provided schools as well as in the voluntary schools. The provided schools cannot claim that in 303 what is to be a national settlement, in what is put forward as a great measure, they are to be exempt from criticism or amendment. This great body of schools, with which the voluntary schools are to be incorporated, cannot claim to be free from the hand of Parliament. Let it be therefore understood that this Bill extends beyond the voluntary schools; it is a Bill dealing also with provided schools, and it deals, further, with many matters not only touching voluntary schools and provided schools, but other educational questions in the country.
The verdict of the country is in the main against secularism. The country has pronounced against secularism, and I believe the great bulk of noble Lords opposite and the great bulk of the Members of the other House are against secularism. Therefore Anglicans, Nonconformists, and all denominations may unite and be prepared to make some sacrifice to resist this danger of secularism. My personal opinion is certainly this, that we must carry such Amendments as may be necessary in the Bill, that we must not limit them to the voluntary schools, but must take a survey of the whole of the schools of the country, and see that such arrangements are made that secularism shall not invade any class of schools. Surely noble Lords opposite will be with us in this, that if it should be proved—I do not say it can —that in provided schools there is an increasing tendency towards secularism, precautions should be taken, while we are engaged in this great controversy, that such a thing may not occur.
I will not trouble your Lordships with observations upon many of the extremely important questions in the Bill. I will not touch upon the question of trusts, except to say that it does appear to me extraordinary that the most recent trusts are not spared. Even trusts established within the last three or four years are to be dealt with without any deference to the wishes of those who have created them. In my own neighbourhood a beloved vicar died, and his parishioners wished to erect a memorial. What form did that memorial take? It took the form of a Church school, and that school was erected by the late vicar's parishioners as a memorial to him and to his Church work. Now that school 304 is to be taken away and its religious character destroyed, and after two or three years the memorial to the vicar is to be swept away.
I will say nothing upon the important question of the compulsory attendance of children except this, that if a concession is made, as I am sure it will be, in that respect, it will not be a concession simply to the Church; it will be a concession to many religiously-minded people outside the Church. There is a general desire that the children should be compelled to attend, and therefore if there is ever to be a debit and credit struck I should not count that as a concession. I will not touch upon the question of the prohibition of teachers to give religious instruction except to say this, that there appeared to me to be among the speakers on the Government side in the House of Commons a considerable belief that it could be arranged that the teachers should be able to teach without infringing the great principle involved in the imposition of tests. I hope that something will be done in that direction. Nor will I speak of the four-fifths clause and the special facilities of all kinds, except to call attention to a shabby addition to the special facilities clause. It was introduced, I think, on Report after some concession had been made, and it is to the effect that where these facilities are given no rent is to be charged for the use of the school-house by the local authority. I call that a shabby little addition to make to an important clause. If there is justice in the clause, why impose this penalty? I wish that these facilities had been given with more cordiality. Then there is the question as to what rent is to be paid. All these are important questions which will no doubt be dealt with, possibly to-night, but certainly in Committee.
I desire to-night to call special attention to some of the distinct administrative effects of Clause 1. I do not know whether the Government have congratulated their draughtsman upon its wording, but I think that the form chosen will involve them in more endless confusion than they could possibly have foreseen. What is the form of that clause? The clause provides that—"No school shall be recognised as a public elementary school unless it is a provided school." The clause will work out in this way—
305 "No voluntary school shall continue to exist unless the local authority chooses that it shall exist." That is the full effect of the clause. Clause 1 establishes public control, and I hope that in its working that control will be real and not bureaucratic; that power will not be centred in a few men at a great distance, who will manage the schools without popular local control.
Public control is not always popular control. The country has insisted upon public control. Let that be accepted. For my part I accept it to the full. It is the decision of the country. Accepting public control as the will of the nation, it seems to be assumed that the form of control in the Bill is the only form of control that could be given. You might have changed the boards of management. In place of the four foundation managers and the two elected managers you might have had three and three, or you might have appointed the whole of the managers, and in that way give full public control. Besides that, you might have applied to the voluntary schools some of the same clauses as have been applied to provided schools, and they might have continued, not as voluntary schools, but as a separate class, if you like, of provided schools. But, instead of that, the alternatives of incorporation or extinction are presented. That is the choice that is given them. Very well, then, what follows? You make the school a provided school. Do you not by that immensely strengthen our contention that we are to deal with provided schools as well as voluntary schools? You yourselves choose to call them provided schools. Well, then, we shall claim to deal with the whole class of provided schools. We shall not consent that the transferred schools, the transformed schools, or whatever title you are going to give them, are to remain a separate entity grouped inside the provided schools but not of them. I say, therefore, that by the form you have chosen you have strengthened our claim.
Why have you chosen this form? It is possibly for the sake of uniformity and in order to have one class of school only—the provided school. But the uniformity thus secured is no real uniformity, because you will continue to 306 have four if not five different classes of schools, and this is a uniformity for which you sacrifice the form of Clause 1 and put it in a way which will land you in great confusion with your sub-divisions of provided schools. What schools will remain? There will be the old orthodox provided schools; there will be the modified, transformed, transferred, ordinary facilities provided schools; there will be the four-fifths facilities provided schools; and there will be the State-aided schools. I believe there may be another class of schools constituted under Clause 9 by some appeal to the Commission. You will have all these various classes. Where, then, is the national system and the uniformity for which sacrifices are to be made and the whole system of education revolutionised?
It is a curious thing that in the whole of this long Bill there is only one mention of foundation managers, except in the small print of the schedule, and but for a reference to an obscure corner of the schedule you would not know what had become of the existing managers. I am a humble foundation manager of a rural school myself, and I searched the Bill to see where I stood. The foundation managers are to have nothing to say in any of the arguments and arrangements of the local authorities. They are out of it. No account whatever is taken of the foundation managers or the subscribers; the men who have devoted themselves to the development of the schools are not even to be consulted. Urban and rural schools are to be dealt with separately. In the urban schools the local authorities may, if they think fit, appoint managers. Will they do so? In all cases they do not. I believe that in one instance in the East End of London a borough council has given notice to quit to the foundation managers who had brought up the school to an extremely high state of efficiency, and the local authority will deal with it themselves. I ask noble Lords who are familiar with local administration, Is it desirable to place too much in the hands of the civic authority as compared with the school authority, and will that authority be as competent to conduct management as a local body which has been long in touch with the parents and children in the locality?
307 I turn to the rural schools. In rural schools the existing foundation managers are to be swept away and new managers will take their place. It is highly probable that a great many of the persons who will compose the new boards will be those who composed the old boards. But has the interregnum been considered by His Majesty's Government? It will be more than a year before the new managers will be appointed, and before we, the existing managers, die. During that time who are to be responsible for the expenses of structural repairs? Suppose a roof falls in. Who is to pay for it? Are the old managers to go round and collect subscriptions from the parishioners, from denominationalists, for repairs of schools that are to be handed over to a local authority, without any indemnity or consideration given in respect of such expenses? Your Lordships would not be entitled to move an Amendment providing that in such a case the local authority would be bound to make good the expense incurred, but I think it is a matter which I may fairly recommend to the notice of His Majesty's Government.
With reference to the management of rural schools, the question of the appointment and dismissal of teachers is of the greatest interest, together with the powers to be given or taken away. One of the powers which is incidentally taken away from the local managers by Clause 1, without anybody having apparently noticed it or mentioned it, is the power of appointing and dismissing teachers. At present, subject to certain assent, they have the exclusive right of appointing and dismissing teachers, but by the school becoming a provided school that power is indirectly taken away. What I ask is, Are the local authorities to have all the power of appointing and dismissing teachers without any kind of reference to the local managers or the parents or anyone else? That is a dangerous power, especially when, as often happens in the country, the local authorities do no know the special needs of a particular school. What influence will the managers have over a master so appointed? I will assume that in many cases, overworked as they are, the local education authorities put their backs into this question and do their utmost to provide 308 the best masters. What is the position of the managers in regard to those masters? What influence are the managers to have over a master so appointed? He is the servant of the local authority, to whom they have nothing whatever to say. Excellent and talented as are the great body of teachers they have a powerful organisation—the National Union of Teachers—of which account must be taken. That organisation will suffer little interference from the local managers.
In the very interesting and somewhat obscure clause in which delegation is proposed the selection of the headmaster is reserved. Why are the smaller authorities to be deprived of this power so intimately affecting the government of the schools? I trust that an Amendment will be inserted on this point. There are a number of other duties which the managers ought to be able to perform and for which some control over the master is almost necessary. The master is not only to teach. There are matters of ventilation and sanitation, questions of the manners of the children, and the question of whether they are ruled with a kindly or a cruel hand. In all these matters it is the men on the spot who ought to be able to deal with the master and control him. I do not say that they should have complete control, but they should have at all events some control. I know a case myself where the head teacher told the correspondent of the foundation managers on a question of ventilation that he had better mind his own business. That is the attitude which may be taken up generally in a great many schools.
Why are the managers restricted in so many matters of administration over which they ought to have control? I believe the motive is suspicion of the parson. It is believed that local management leads to parsonic influence. That is the reason why there is reluctance to give powers to local managers. It is thought that the one idea of parsons in the country is to proselytise. That is a travesty of the truth. It is an absurdity. That the parsons rightly take a great interest in the schools is the fact, and I trust it always will be the fact, and I hope that in the arrangements 309 that will be made there will be no suspicion of him. It is said that the Act of 1902 placed additional power in the hands of the parson. As a matter of fact, the parson was dethroned by the Act of 1902, which put an end to what was described as one-man administration. I will give my own case. On my board of managers there is a parson who acts as correspondent, there is myself, and there are the local butcher, the owner of the village shop, and two farmers. Two of the managers have children in the school; they know every child who attends the school and they take an interest in it. The Government need not be afraid of the parson. He has already been checked in that way, if check were necessary. I was asked the question, "Shall we parsons not be swept away? "I replied," Certainly not. When the new foundation managers are formed, the local authorities at a distance will have to come to you and ask you to be on the board because you will probably be the only man who can thread his way through the endless labyrinthian intricacies of the Code and act as correspondent."
Noble Lords may not know the enormous labour which is put upon the correspondent of a local school; this labour is undertaken frequently by the parson, and I think it would be very difficult in many cases to have it done without his assistance. Those of your Lordships who have schools of your own will recognise that these questions of administration cannot be brushed aside, and we would do well in this House not to allow ourselves to be carried away by theological controversy and omit from our purview questions which I maintain will deeply affect the education of rural England in the future.
I now leave the position of the rural schools and come to the general position in which the voluntary schools will find themselves when the Bill becomes an Act and they are taken over; and here I return to a point on which I but slightly touched at the commencement of my remarks, namely, whether they will be taken over by the local authorities or not and what their position will be. I said it was either incorporation or extinction. If they are not taken over what is their 310 position? We know that they will get neither State-aid nor rate-aid. They will be absolutely in the hands of the local authority. Therefore the Bill must be very narrowly scrutinised with a view of deciding whether they are likely to be taken over. I believe that in a great many counties they will be taken over by wise county councils, which will make as generous terms with them as possible. I have no fear whatever of the general attitude towards them in that case.
But in towns the position is different. I have heard it said that in towns the temptation to take them over would be so strong that they are certain to be taken over, because otherwise new schools would have to he built. But there is a real danger that in small towns municipal ambition and particular views of what constitutes good administration will prompt the councils to decline to take over many schools, although they are structurally fit and perfectly adequate for the purpose for which they were built. At present there is no power to compel the councils to take over the schools. It is perfectly open to them to decide whether they will take them over or not. A town council might say, "Here we have ten schools and ten headmasters and a great many assistant teachers. We will, by grouping the schools, dismissing a great proportion of unnecessary staff, and getting the schools together under two or three headmasters, save the money to pay the interest on the schools we are going to build." That is a contingency which has got to be faced, and in such a case a whole number of voluntary schools might disappear, and disappear not on account of any hostility to the Church or cantankerousness on the part of the local authorities, but because they have different views as to administration. I believe, my Lords, that you cannot resist, the argument that power must be given in the Bill to compel the local authorities to take over schools structurally fit. If you do not see to that voluntary schools will be entirely at the mercy of the local authorities and they may then vanish wholesale.
Every loophole left to the local authorities to force the voluntary schools into their hands strengthens the case that in the provided schools care must be 311 taken to secure facilities for religious instruction. I am sure that a great portion of the people of the country would never stand the unfairness of meting out to Church people a different measure of justice from that given to Nonconformists, who are content with the Cowper-Temple Clause. If, as is certain under the Bill, a vast number of Church children are forced into the provided schools, it is our bounden duty to see that the religious instruction given to them in provided schools is adequate to their needs and meets the just expectations of the parents. It has been said over and over again that Cowper-Temple teaching ought to satisfy the parents. But it does not satisfy the vast number of Churchmen, and, that being so, why should something that they are not satisfied with be forced upon them? This is a comparatively small point, but as showing the absurdity of your system of provided schools embracing a number of schools under different management, you may have as a provided school a school which has ordinary facilities on two days in the week. What is the local authority going to serve out to that school in the way of religious instruction during the remaining three days? Are they to have three days of Cowper-Templeism patched on to two days of denominationalism? I do not think that has received any consideration at all, and it strengthens my argument that you must get uniformity in the provided schools.
I have no objection myself to a great deal of the Cowper-Temple teaching. The Return which was moved for by the most rev. Primate, and which is before the House, shows what is done under the Cowper-Temple Clause, the pains taken and the intelligence put into the syllabus by the local authorities in many cases. But it also shows the carelessness of other local authorities. There are in the Return sad pages which tell you that there are a number of schools in which no religious instruction at all is given. There are a great many others where there is no inspection and where no authority at all over religious instruction exists. Much of the Cowper-Temple teaching is good, but at the same time there is a great deal of it that is bad 312 and tending almost to secularism. There are cases in which the word Christian is struck out, and where the Apostles Creed is not taught.
So little in my public life have I been what is called a sacerdotalist or narrow-minded sectarian that I took a great part in opening -the Universities to Dissenters in former days. I hope, therefore, that I shall not be suspected of being prejudiced if I denounce this Bill in many of its provisions. I was a party to the Act of 1870, but that was an Act to supplement and not to supplant the voluntary school system. Now we have a Bill which is to supplant the voluntary schools. We have to look the matter carefully in the face and to see that, while we are supplanting the voluntary schools and making them into provided schools, the provided schools shall be of such a character that Church children can be sent to them with confidence and without fear of their being trained less religiously than hitherto.
*THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords. I think the House on both sides will feel that the noble Viscount who has just sat down has earned our gratitude for calling attention to a part of this great subject which has often been overlooked. I share, I am afraid, nearly all the apprehensions to which the noble Viscount has given expression. The peril is grave and the apprehensions are widespread that the result of this Bill if passed into law as it stands, notwithstanding some amendment, may be to substitute a bureaucratic system of control—not from headquarters in London, but from headquarters in county towns—over schools which have hitherto been able to secure for their practical working and government the best attention of the picked men of a neighbourhood. The system proposed will certainly not evoke the same enthusiasm on the part of the local managers as the present system. That danger is already apparent under the existing law, and is likely to be aggravated very greatly by the Bill. The fault does not lie with the efficient and capable men who, on behalf of the county councils, are called upon to do the work. The fault lies with the 313 system, which has a tendency to withdraw these matters from those on whose shoulders local responsibility ought to lie and to place it on the shoulders of men who have not, at all events, the same local interest and enthusiasm.
My Lords, we feel grave difficulty in undertaking the task of making Amendments to this Bill, but we mean to try. Of this I am certain, that we could do no worse service to the Government than to allow the Bill to become law as it stands. I am convinced that in a few months' time those who were called upon to administer the law under this Bill would be forcing their representatives in both Houses to move for administrative changes which would be absolutely necessary if the work of education throughout the country is to be carried forward as it should be. Therefore, amendment of some kind is necessary, if only on administrative grounds. But apart from that we are strengthened in the responsibility of amending the Bill by the nature—I say the nature deliberately rather than the number—of the petitions that have come to us on this subject. I presented to your Lordships to-night 475 petitions from different parishes, with 60,298 signatures, and, if any one of your Lordships will examine them, he will be struck, I am certain, by the kind of persons who sign them and by the contrast they present to petitions sometimes presented to both Houses of Parliament, got up by societies for partisan purposes.
In addition to the petitions I have presented to-night there have been, I think, 485 petitions already sent in, and to them I believe I may apply the same description as I have applied to those I have been able more carefully to examine myself. But, apart from that, I desire to call particular attention to a petition presented to-night by me from trustees, the men on whom lies the responsibility of trusteeship for the elementary schools in this country to-day. I have presented to-night one portion of a petition, the rest of which is I know on its way to me, from 137 schools in one diocese alone, the trustees of which distinctly come to your Lordships with 314 this request. What they say is virtually this—We want to go on discharging in such measure as may be possible, the responsibilities that have been laid on our shoulders.and they ask (to quote their own words) that they be not—Forbidden to discharge their responsibilities as trustees.As have said before, I do not regard trusteeships of that sort as in all their details of so sacrosanct a character that, when need calls for it, Parliament ought not to be able to make the alterations that are necessary, especially when such alterations are desired by the trustees themselves. But the conditions preliminary to making these alterations must surely be, if the trust be a modern one, either that of real necessity or of proved misdemeanour or wrong-doing in the discharge of the trust. Now so far as I am aware there has been no endeavour whatever to show that this change is either in the strict sense of the word necessary, or that there has been any failure to discharge aright the trust imposed upon those men in the period during which they held the trust. As the noble Viscount has reminded your Lordships, many of the trusts are of quite modern date, within the last few years, drawn and discharged by living men, and quite obviously these trusts ought to be interfered with as little as possible, and certainly as cautiously as possible. A petition such as that seems to me to be entitled to far more than merely the ordinary consideration given to such documents when they are handed in, as they are sometimes, wholesale, because it is the deliberate request of men who are puzzled by finding themselves face to face with the probable inability to discharge the trust which they have deliberately undertaken, while at the same time they are ready to go on discharging it, and up to this time have done so in a perfectly satisfactory manner.
Our further need for going into Committee and amending this Bill is that a great part of it has never been explained to us at all. There are clauses in this Bill the purport of which I, who 315 have necessarily given a good deal of attention to this subject, certainly do not at present understand at all, and so far as I am aware nobody else does either. The authors of the clauses, perhaps, understand them, but circumstances—I will not put it any stronger than that—have rendered it impossible to explain elsewhere what is the way in which one or other such particular clause is to operate.
I believe we are face to face now with a difficulty which is not entirely novel, but which is at all events unexampled on the scale on which it now arises. It is quite true to say that in the legislation of some years ago there were clauses closured, or guillotined, or which, owing to circumstances in the other House, were not much explained or adequately discussed; but I think I am right in saying that there was not one of such clauses which was not capable of receiving, and which did not receive in this House the full, adequate, and effective discussion which it had not been possible, from whatever reason, to give to it in the other House. But the clauses of this Bill upon which that fate has fallen are the clauses which deal with finance; and I look forward with some anxiety, as do many in the country, to the exposition which may some day have to be given by his Majesty's advisers, because it is the fact that it is now proposed to enact as part of the Statute law of England a series of clauses which were guillotined without discussion in the other House, and will be ruled out of discussion in this House on the ground of privilege, and will then go to the world as clauses which have been agreed upon after full deliberation by the Commons as well as the Lords.
It does seem to me a grave and serious difficulty, quite apart from the question of what the clauses themselves contain, that there are, indisputably as far as I can understand, large portions of this Bill, which it would, in accordance with the ordinary rule, be impossible for your Lordships, I will not say to discuss, but to discuss with such effectiveness as results in amendment. And if it be true that part of those are clauses which we do not understand—which were not explained in the House of Commons—I say constitutionally that is a very grave aspect in the history of what we are trying to do. Take, 316 for example, the clause which deals with the expenditure of a million of money. Does anybody know what is to be done with the money? We are told it is to be in the discretion of the board of Education. The board, one would suppose, would be able to give some indication of the sort of way in which it is to be expended, but at present there is literally none whatever. The only explanation was that a portion of it would be expended for the payment of the Commissioners who were to serve under the Act—that was given by the Minister for Education in the other House—but his attention having been called to the facts, he was obliged to say that this was an entire mistake, that money could not be given under the clause to that particular purpose, and that funds would have to be supplied for that particular purpose from elsewhere.
Then with regard to rent, which we have again and again been reminded inside and outside of Parliament, especially outside, is the way in which compensation is to be given to us, or the way in which things are to be made straight for us where difficulties exist; we have had, as far as I know, not a hint as to the probable way in which that is to be assessed, or anything to guide us as to what we are to expect, as to the manner in which that solatium, if it be one, is to be afforded to us.
But there are other clauses which were explained for the most part before they were actually introduced into the other House, or at all events before discussion took place, clauses which I would ask your Lordships to compare with the explanations thus given in order to see how far the promises made correspond with the text of the clauses as they now stand in the Bill.
Here is one example of what I mean. When the important Clause 4 with its extended facilities was first foreshadowed, there was a deputation from denominational managers, their representatives, and friends, to the Minister for Education to ask him how they were to secure that under such a clause a teacher would be likely to be appointed who was in sympathy with the objects of the school, and who would give the old spirit and tone to the school under the new 317 conditions. The answer given, in part, was this—Clause 4 may require strengthening, but the intention of the clause really is that the schools which come within its conditions should be carried on just as they are now. That is the plain English intention of the clause.… The intention of the clause certainly is that the teachers should remain the same as they are; those who are most qualified to give the particular religious instruction which hitherto has been given in the school.Now there are two meanings to the word "intention." It may mean the pious hope of those who framed this clause, and I have not a doubt that it was and is the pious hope of the framers that that will be the result. But there is no difficulty in making that hope into an assurance by putting something down which will show that that intention is going to be practically carried out by the provisions of the Bill. It seems to me that, unless the intention is to pass from the region of pious hope into the region of fact, it is one of those things which, however well-intentioned, are calculated to have, or to have had, an extremely deceptive effect, because that is the kind of statement which allayed the anxieties of those who were troubled or distressed about this matter. They were referred 1o that statement, and told that that was what is going to happen, when they entertained fears that the local authority might appoint anybody they liked to take charge of a school of that character. That does seem to me to be one of those explanations given beforehand which we have a right to have embodied in the Bill as presented to us.
Another case There was the further question about the teacher giving the religious teaching, and in the House of Commons before that clause was passed, questions were asked, and pressure brought to bear, as to the method by which it would be in any way secured that the teacher giving the religious instruction should be a suitable person to do so.
The Answer given by the Parliamentary Secretary, speaking on behalf of the Government, was—The first question was, whether it would be a matter of contract between the local authority and the teacher they were employing to give this religious instruction. It would; and they would see that they got a good teacher.….The third question was— 318 Supposing a teacher had been employed to give this religious teaching, and a contract was made, and after that the teacher changed his mind and would not give the teaching, what would the local authority do? Well, they would get rid of him, and they would get a man who would fulfil his contract.Nothing could be clearer—I will not say more satisfactory, because I do not think it was. But when we turn to the Bill, the provision is not there. Explanations of that kind, which went far to allay anxiety are not found embodied in the Bill as actually presented to us.
The Bill comes to your Lordships with that kind of introduction and explanation on the part of the promoters, but its con tents show nothing of the sort. Therefore I feel we have a justification for saying not merely that we ought to amend the Bill, but that we ought really to look for Amendments of that kind to come from the Government Bench. Those declarations, as I have said, had an enormous effect in allaying anxiety, and, unless they are to be regarded as worthless, we have the right to ask that the Bill, before it leaves your Lordships House— I would venture to hope before its clauses are actually proposed from the Government Bench—should correspond with the kind of descriptions which were given when it was explained in the House of Commons. I have not seen the Amendments which his Majesty's Government I are going to propose on these clauses. I look forward with the keenest interest to their introduction, because I cannot suppose for a moment that they will not answer to the description I have given.
Then, again, the statement was made again and again as to the facilities that were proposed in the Bill being practically compulsory. They are not practically compulsory at all. The local education authority may refuse to take over a school at all if they so inclined. Those of your Lordships who are familiar with the facts in the northern towns of England—and perhaps in some southern towns—know that, whether it was due to the municipal rivalry to which the noble Viscount referred or to some other cause, there is place after place where the school boards have overbuilt themselves, and where there is now abundant vacant space in their schools. Now it may frequently happen that in 319 the immediate neighbourhood of such schools there may stand a small Church school, admirable in its character, which was built by the self-sacrifice of those who preferred to send their children where they might receive the religious instruction they desired for them. There is, as far as I understand, absolutely nothing to prevent the local authority from saying: "We do not intend to take over that school. We intend simply to take the children into our school, where there is plenty of room,"
Is that what the country intended -when they voted for such general changes as are said to have been authorised by the late General Election? I do not think that was the kind of thing contemplated or intended. Nay, further, I do not think that that was contemplated or desired by the promoters of the Bill; but intentions are one thing and the wording of the Bill is another. We must have the thing put straight, and in black and white, if the intentions of which we have heard a good deal are to be made effective. It is not enough for it to be said: "Certainly, they can do that if they like, but Mr, Birrell hopes they will not." That is really what we are thrown back upon, and against that I feel we have a right to object. A great deal has been said, and rightly said, of Clause 4 and the provisions which it contains for the recognition, in its proper place, of the denominational element in our educational system. We have heard again and again, when we have pointed out the difficulties of such schools as I referred to just now, that they would come under Clause 4. I hope they will, but I do not see the slightest reason for saying that they must, and I see nothing in the Bill that will give any power to those who are responsible for those schools necessarily to bring them under it.
Everything depends on the local authority's will and wish in the matter. I believe as fully as any of your Lordships in the desire and power of most of the local education authorities throughout the country to deal fairly and justly in this matter. We owe a debt to our local authorities, and I should be the last to say that they would be likely in ordinary cases to make a mess of this matter. But everybody 320 who has looked into the facts of the last six months knows that there are loca education authorities who have an animus or prejudice in this matter, and it is not improbable that, after the elections which will now take place, when controvery is keen on this subject, there may be more local authorities acting with animus or bitterness than there are to-day. We have a right, therefore, to ask Parliament to make such provision as shall secure those whom we want to protect from the possible unfairness on a huge and most disastrous scale of a local education authority which happens not to take a large-minded or fair view of this matter.
It is perfectly possible in the case of Clause 4 schools for the local education authority, subject to an appeal, which I think I can show is somewhat visionary, to make conditions of requirement for coming under the clause such as it is impossible for the school to comply with. I am not going into that now; but when the time comes I think I shall be able to show that so cumbrous and so complicated are the conditions that have to be met before a school can get the extended facilities that the clause will require a great deal of amendment before it can carry out the intentions, the perfectly honest and clear intentions, as I believe, of those who have proposed this arrangement. These are points, quite easy to multiply, on which the Bill needs to be amended to bring it into harmony with the genuine promises and declarations that have been made by its promoters.
There are besides a large number of perfectly general statements that have been made by members of the Government, both in the House of Commons and outside its walls, of the desire of the Government that the religious spirit, the religious teaching of an elementary kind, shall go on in all the schools of the country, that no confiscation or anything approaching it shall take place, but that all shall be absolutely fair, even to minorities, whom we are told must always suffer, and further, that the denominational idea shall, within its proper place and within the purview of this Bill, be maintained. But to give real effect to those declarations it is absolutely certain that large, definite, 321 and clear Amendments must be proposed. Some of them, I hope, will come from the Government, and, if not they must come from other quarters of the House.
We on the Episcopal Bench shall undoubtedly propose some such Amendments, and shall be prepared to support others of which notice has already been given, and which seem to give effect to what we believe to be right principles. What I desire to emphasise beforehand is that these Amendments, which I for one—I must only speak for myself— shall either propose or support, are coherent with one another, part of a definite scheme, and that they are not in any sense what can be called wrecking Amendments of a mischievous kind. They are not meant, as some Amendments are sometimes meant, to knock a hole into the bottom of the Bill so that it may sink. That is not my plan or purpose or idea in the Amendments for which I am either wholly responsible or am going to support. They are, on the contrary, Amendments designed to carry out with such fairness as is practicable and possible within the limits of the Bill the principles which we believe to be sound and right in this matter. They are meant either to give effect to the distinct declarations which the Government have made and which, as I think, they have failed to give effect to in this Bill, or else to do what is palpably and admittedly fair and just and right all round.
In my speech on the Second Reading of the Bill I laid down three or four large principles for which we feel absolutely bound to contend. We think that something must be definitely said which shall secure that in regard to all the schools of the country we may not merely hope that they shall not be secularised, but that secularised they cannot be. I am certain that this is in accord with the feelings of the country, and I can see no reason at all why such a provision, if you like rather as a demonstration than as a possibility of enforcement in all its details, should not stand in the forefront of the Bill as something which is giving effect to the repeated declarations that the Bill is not to have, and is not in- 322 tended to have, a secularising character at all.
We further feel that the teaching of elementary religion in our schools must, wherever possible, be given by teachers qualified and trained for that purpose, teachers who, in a literal sense, mean what they say. I have no sort of wish, nor have those who propose Amendments of that class, to reimpose what can be described as denominational tests upon Civil Servants as such, and it is absolutely misleading to put it in that way. We have no desire to impose on Civil Servants, as such, tests either denominational or even religious in their character. I am most eager to protect the conscientious men who shrink, to their honour be it said, from any action which would seem like endeavouring to obtain promotion in their profession by saying they believe something they do not believe. Those men are entitled to the highest honour and respect, and we ought to do all that is reasonable and proper to safeguard those men's interests.
But, while we have every desire to help and to protect and safeguard from loss, as far as we may, the honest and often highly religious-minded men who take that view, we feel that it should be made a practical impossibility for education authorities to impose the duty of giving religious teaching upon people about whose qualification to give such teaching they have no power to make inquiry. We must render it absolutely clear that any local education authority which laid down a rule that no inquiry should be permissible as to the qualifications of the man part of whose duty it is to give religious teaching would be acting in a way contrary to the provisions of the Bill. What we desire to do is to make it perfectly easy for the honest and conscientious men to withdraw from the giving of that religious teaching, and, on the other hand, to secure that the local education authority shall make such inquiry as may be thought necessary as regards the person to whom that special and most difficult and responsible duty is given by the authority. And we must protest against any endeavour to muzzle and silence by force, by positive enactment, the teachers in those schools 323 where denominational teaching is, by the Bill, going to be given, who are eager to give it, who have been trained specially to give it, and who can give it without interfering in the least with the ordinary work or discipline of the school. To say that such men and women as those are to be compulsorily silenced from doing that which they are specially qualified and have been specially trained to do seems to me to be simple tyranny, and that tyranny I, for one, intend to resist.
The next point is that definite religious teaching must be accessible wherever possible to those children whose parents desire it for them. The Minister for Education has more than once said words like those—I have secured access to undenominational teaching everywhere for children of Nonconformists.That is perfectly right. I am very glad he has done so; I desire to support it in every possible way, and I think it is the very thing we desire to see embodied, if possible, in the provisions of an Act of Parliament. We welcome and will support it in every way. But we must ask for a corresponding right on the other side, that those who desire denominational teaching for their children shall also have access to that teaching in all parts of the country. One limb seems to require the other limb if the corporate body is to stand; and that is one of the Amendments which will be required to make this a satisfactory provision. We must ask for some further recognition in this Bill of the work of those who have with infinite self-sacrifice, care, and devotion built up denominational schools in our great towns alongside the board schools for those who desire their children to receive that kind of religious teaching rather than the other. Unless you are going to belie all that has been said about confiscation you must recognise the output of money as well as the devotion, which is of more value, which has been bestowed upon these schools during recent years. We must make it impossible for the local education authorities to render these gifts inoperative. To do less than that would be, as it seems to me, to belie every principle of public honour to which we have been pledged in the story of Parliamentary government.
324 In dealing with this Bill we have a difficult and dispiriting task. I think the position in which this House stands is something like the position of a great consulting surgeon or doctor to whom a patient has been brought after he has been handled by other practitioners in different conditions elsewhere—a patient, for instance who has been treated on the battlefield in the midst of noise and strife and difficulty, which rendered the quiet treatment which he ought to have had impossible. With delicate organs shattered or wounded, with limbs perhaps broken and twisted, the patient is brought to another authority, to a quieter atmosphere, and in different surroundings to have himself attended to and, if possible, set straight. The task imposed upon such a consulting surgeon or physician is a very difficult one. He can only make the best of a bad job. He will not, when he has done, be able to say the thing is satisfactorily done or that the medical treatment which the patient has received is the medical treatment which he ought to have had all through. It will not be a triumphant result. All he can do is to make the best of a somewhat bad business. The proposals which this Bill contains are not ours now, and they will not be ours when we have amended them. We cannot regard them, even when amended, as those for which we are to take full responsibility. We do as well as we can to amend what seems to us to be gravely amiss with the measure which comes to us. Unless some such Amendments are made we shall consider what steps we ought finally to take when the moment for such consideration arises. We all remember Wordsworth's poem aboutThe maid whom there were none to praise,And very few to love.I think that is the position in which the Bill stands at the present moment. I hear of none who praise it except somewhat superficially, and I hear of no one who pretends to love the Bill as it at present stands. But we will do our best to bring it into conformity with common fairness and practicable workableness, and with the promises—I lay stress on that—and undertakings of the Government.
I apologise for detaining your Lordships twice as long as I meant to, but I 325 desire to say one concluding word. The: Bishops who sit in. this House are sometimes represented as sitting here with the duty upon them, so to speak, of fighting for our own hand and doing what if desirable simply in the interests of the Church. So far as I am concerned, and I am certain I speak for others, that is very far from my thoughts upon an evening such as this. I have no right, perhaps, to speak for others; but for myself I hold my place in this House, as I consider, not primarily for the protection of Church interests, but primarily for setting forward as much as in me lies the social, moral, and religious welfare of the English people. I am thinking not of Church children in Church schools, or of Church children in board schools, but of all the little children in the elementary schools of England, and of our desire that Christian training should be secured for them in the best way that it possibly can be. Ours is the widest outlook, with as I believe, the widest possibilities and results. I am looking far beyond the interests of our Church, dearly as I cherish them, absolutely as I desire to protect them.
We do not have in this House—I wish we had—the presence of the leaders of the Nonconformist ministry. No one would welcome them more cordially within these walls than I should. But in their absence I should like to feel that we can in some degree discharge on their behalf the responsibilities for which, as Christian men, they care most. Like us they have at heart primarily and in the main the religious upbringing of the children of the English people, and I should like to think that they had entrusted to us to some extent the fighting of their battle. We are trying to fight for them to the uttermost. We want to go forward not for promoting the interests either of Church or of chapel as such, but with the single object that the little children entrusted to the schools may be Christianly as well as virtuously brought up. We are trying to set that forward. Such has been my aim ever since I have had the honour of a seat in your Lord ships' House, and it is especially my aim and purpose now with regard to those children. It has been so from the first, and certainly it will continue to be my endeavour as long as I retain my place in the Parliament of the country.
§ *LORD EVERSLEY
My Lords, I feel very sorry to find myself in conflict with the noble Viscount who spoke last but one upon a Bill of this character. I can not but recollect, the many times in past years that we were shoulder to shoulder supporting measures of great importance and of a similar character affecting questions of religious equality. My noble friend has of late years fallen into other company, I will not say worse company, but he is no longer, it appears to me, actuated by the same enthusiasm which used to animate him in the past. He has changed considerably since the time when he fathered that important measure dealing with University tests. It seems to me that the Bill now before the House is very much of the same character as that which dealt with University tests. It provides the same security for the children of the poor as that Bill provided for the sons of the rich — namely, it provides that there shall be absolute religious equality in the schools between Nonconformists and Church people, and that there shall be no tests in respect of the teachers.
I listened with some interest to ascertain whether the noble Viscount really opposed the Bill or not, and his speech left me completely in doubt upon the subject. I could not but recollect the speech which was made not many weeks ago by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition at Nottingham, a speech in which he said that the Unionist Party were not opposed to the principle of public control or to the principle of the abolition of tests, and that they did not intend to run Church against Chapel. By that last expression I assume he meant that the Unionist Party are in favour of absolute equality between Church people and Nonconformists, but I failed to follow whether the noble Viscount agreed with the noble Marquess, whether he really is in favour of the main principles of the Bill as defined by the noble Marquess, or whether he is not.
The noble Viscount occupied the greater part of his speech in dealing with important questions, but still they were questions of detail and not really vital to the principle of the Bill. He said a great deal about the managers of these transferred schools, and the inexpediency of centralising too much in the education authorities of the counties. I for my part 327 am very much disposed to agree with him on that point. I think the tendency has been to centralise too much in the county authorities, but that is a defect which has been brought about mainly by the Act of 1902; and I think the noble Viscount failed to point out that there is a clause in this Bill which endeavours to minimise that and to reduce it greatly. I refer to the power given to local authorities to break up their areas into smaller districts with a view to not having such enormous areas to deal with. I hope for my part that great effect will be given to that clause.
Then, again, I did not quite understand whether my noble friend, who at the conclusion of his speech spoke of the extreme anxiety of Church parents for the religious education of their children, recognises what has been done by the Bill in that direction. And as so much confusion has arisen upon that point, and so many misrepresentations have been made in different parts of the country upon it, I hope the House will permit me to say a few words in explanation of the method adopted in the Bill of securing religious instruction. It is still stated in many places that the Bill absolutely fails to secure religious education to the children. That is an entire misapprehension. The Bill enables managers of schools which are about to be transferred to make it a condition of the transfer, in the first place, that there shall be undenominational education for all children in the school, and, in the second place, that there shall be doctrinal instruction in the transferred Church schools for the children of Church parents who desire it. It does seem to me that the clause gives full security that there shall be religious education in the future.
I have been told that many people are still under the impression that it will be entirely at the discretion of the local authority to what extent undenominational education shall be given. That is not so. I believe I am right in saying that it would be competent, when the managers transferred a Church school to the local authority, to make it a condition that a particular syllabus of undenominational education should be carried out, What I imagine will happen will be this. When the Bill is passed into law the bishop of the diocese in which the transferred school exists will advise the managers as 328 to their power under this clause, and as to the particular religious syllabus which they ought to insist upon. That will be the case in every part of the country. That being so, it does seem to me that the securities given for religious education in the transferred schools is ample and complete.
Then my noble friend went on to speak of the desire of the parents for religious instruction for the children in the schools. I think myself that a good deal of exaggeration takes place on that point. I have no doubt whatever that the great bulk of parents in rural districts, and generally throughout the country, are in favour of religious instruction, but they do not desire, as a rule, doctrinal instruction. My own belief is that the great bulk of parents, especially in rural districts, are abundantly satisfied with undenominational education and with Bible teaching, and do not desire to have more specific doctrinal teaching for their children.
I may remind the House that a great change has taken place in this respect in late years. In my early days there was practically little doctrinal education in the elementary schools. Education, generally speaking, was undenominational. The schoolmasters then gave nearly the whole of the religious instruction, and it was only rarely that the clergy entered the school for that purpose. But a great change has taken place in late years, mainly owing, I think, to the influence of the High Church Party. Greater efforts have been made by the clergy for the purpose of enforcing doctrinal education. The result has been that the clergy as a rule, or certainly a majority of the clergy, enter the schools twice a week, and sometimes three times a week, for the purpose of giving doctrinal education. In this way the grievance of Nonconformists has been greatly intensified, because they find that their children cannot go to these Church schools without having to submit to being taught the doctrines of a religion in which they do not believe.
I think myself that the parents of Church children have also some reason to complain of what has taken place. In many parts of the country the clergy are of a very strenuous, conscientious, and active character, believing that Bible teaching alone is 329 insufficient and even mischievous and injurious, and probably many of them agree with the noble Viscount opposite, Viscount Halifax, who in a recent speech at the Church Congress told his audience that in his opinion the principles of the Reformation ought to be repented of in tears and ashes. In my belief there are many Church parents who do not wish that their children shall be instructed by clergymen of this character, and who would willingly, if it were possible, withdraw their children from religious instruction of this kind. In my belief, protection for the children of Church people is almost as necessary as it is for the children of Nonconformists, and one great merit of this Bill is that it gives that protection. In future, although there will be undenominational education in the transferred Church schools for all, education of a special character in the doctrines of the Church will be given only to those children whose parents desire it, and therefore the parents of Church children who object to the doctrines which are taught by the clergymen in the school will have an opportunity of withdrawing their children from that instruction.
Turning now to the speech of the most rev. Primate, I congratulate him upon the general moderation and tone of it. It seemed to me to be a considerable advance upon his speech on the Second Reading. Much of the earlier part of his speech I could take no exception to. I do not think that we could find any fault with him for saying that those parts of the Bill which have not been discussed in the other House should be fully discussed in this House, or when he contends that any promises which have been made by the Government, and which in his view the Bill does not fully carry out, should be thoroughly examined and the Bill brought into harmony with them. But he went on, in the latter part of his speech, to propound certain alterations which he considered would be necessary, and they seemed to me to go very far beyond the general scope of the Bill, and to be of the character of the drastic Amendments which he promised us on the Second Reading.
I think there is no very great fear of drastic Amendments. I look back upon legislation of the same kind for a great many years past, and I remember many 330 cases in which drastic Amendments were inserted by your Lordships and were rejected by the other House, and when the Bills came back to this House those Amendments were not insisted upon. My belief is that the promise of drastic Amendments has often been used by sagacious and able Leaders of the House in order to induce their supporters not to divide against the Bill on Second Reading, and when the drastic Amendments are carried through this House and go back to the other House, and are there rejected, they are not insisted upon by your Lordships. The fact is, that whatever reasons there may be for not opposing a Bill on Second Reading they are equally good for not insisting upon drastic Amendments when they are sent back by the other House. I recollect a great number of measures passed by the House of Commons by large majorities, and affecting the Church especially, to which the whole Bench of Bishops were opposed, as originally introduced. Among them were such measures as those for the abolition of the Church Rate and University Tests, Irish Church Disestablishment and the reformation of the burial laws. The course of all those Bills has been the same. They were carried by enormous majorities in the House of Commons; they came up to this House, where the majority of noble Lords were very much against them, but they did not think it desirable to vote against the Second Reading. Drastic Amendments were inserted here, and the measures were returned to your Lordships' House by the House of Commons with the Amendments objected to, and the Bills eventually passed with little or no alteration.
But of all the measures which I have alluded to the one which is best worthy of the consideration of your Lordships was the measure for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, for I think it presents a very complete analogy to the procedure in connection with the present Bill, and points out what is likely to occur at future stages of this Bill. Your Lordships will probably recollect that the measure for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church passed the House of Commons by an enormous majority. It had been the subject of an appeal to the country; it came up to this House backed by the 331 verdict of the country and by an enormous majority in the House of Commons. Your Lordships had the previous year rejected by an overwhelming majority a measure of a suspensory character involving the same principle, and it was very well known that a great majority of your Lordships, including the whole of the occupants of the Episcopal Bench, were against the principle of that Bill.
The then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Tait, who was a man of very wide statesmanship, probably the greatest statesman who has occupied the chair of St. Augustine in the last 200 years, made a speech on the Second Reading of the Bill. He spoke in terms of which I was very much reminded by the speech of the present Archbishop of Canterbury on the Second Reading of this Bill He pointed out the grave objections to the Bill, but said he thought it would be more prudent on the part of their Lordships to read the Bill a second time. He promised, however, that there should be drastic Amendments in Committee. Those drastic Amendments were moved in Committee, and they converted the Bill into something very different from what it originally was. They incorporated the principle of concurrent endowment and saved a greater part of the temporalities of the Irish Church. The Bill then went back to the House of Commons and these Amendments were at once rejected, at the instance of Mr. Gladstone in a powerful speech, in which he spoke of your Lordships as living up in a balloon. I very well recollect the speech. The Bill came back again to the House of Lords, and at that stage a consultation took place between Lord Cairns, the Archbishop, and Lord Granville, and an arrangement was come to. I believe that arrangement was due to wise statesmanship on the part of the Archbishop and of the other men concerned, but the result of it all was that the measure passed with very small Amendments. The greater part of the drastic Amendments were withdrawn, and the Bill was formally agreed to very much as it had been originally introduced, with this exception, that one million more in money was saved for the Irish Church, which I think was a very small price paid for peace and quiet and for the settlement of a great question.
332 Well, my Lords, I cannot but think that the course of events in connection with this Bill will be very much such as I have described in the case of the Irish Disestablishment Bill. Your Lordships have heard that drastic Amendments are likely to be moved. The Bishop of Manchester has published a series of Amendments which in his opinion ought to be carried, and he said of these drastic Amendments that he hoped the result would be the same as that of an overdose of chloroform, and that the Bill would receive its quietus in a very short time. I do not think that will be quite the character of the Amendments which will be moved by the Archbishop of Canterbury. At the same time, judging from his speech to-night and the speech he made on the Second Reading, they will be sufficiently wide, and I have not the smallest doubt that when the Bill goes back to the House of Commons those Amendments, if carried by your Lordships—and no doubt your Lordships will be able to carry what Amendments you like—will be rejected. Then will come the real point of the difficulty, namely, whether an arrangment can be arrived at between the Leaders of the two Parties. There will be, no doubt, a meeting between the Archbishop of Canterbury, the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition, and one or two Ministers from this side of the House, and they will discuss whether an arrangement can lie come to. It will then be seen what is the maximum which the one can give, and the minimum which the other will receive, and I hope it may be possible for an arrangement to be arrived at. For my part when that strenuous moment of settlement arrives I cannot believe that statesmen of the ability of the noble Marquess opposite and the Archbishop of Canterbury will be so unwise as to force their craft to windward against the heavy gale of public opinion. My belief is that the Bill will ultimately pass with some modicum of Amendment, and that it will be found after a time—as in the case of the other Bills to which I have referred affecting the Church, against which so much opposition was raised at the moment— that none of the prophecies of ruin to the Church of England will be realised. The Bill will not injure but will benefit the Church of England, because it will 333 dissociate the Church from a system which in the minds of vast numbers of the people is connected with the sense of injury and wrong.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, the noble Lord who had just sat down, will, I am sure, not consider me guilty of any discourtesy if I do not follow him over the whole of his arguments with regard to the Act disestablishing the Irish Church, for I cannot see any analogy between the Irish Church question and that now before your Lordships. I feel that it is a great advantage that we should have this debate on the Motion to go into Committee. The importance of the present debate cannot be overrated, because the measure before us has not been adequately considered in another place. I doubt if there has ever been a Bill of such importance come up to your Lordships after such an inadequate discussion in the other House. The clauses not fully discussed in the other House, or not discussed at all, must be considered by your Lordships, and, if necessary, amended.
The more the Bill is examined the more, I am convinced, will your Lordships be impressed with the necessity of obtaining from members of His Majesty's Government fuller explanations than have been given in the other House, where there have been inconsistencies between the speeches in its support as well as in the clauses themselves. Therefore, I venture to say your Lordships are entering upon a most important duty, not only to yourselves but to the country, in insisting upon a full discussion of these various clauses. I attribute the confusion that has arisen to bad drafting and to the anomalies in the machinery.
I propose to-night to draw attention to some other inconsistencies and anomalies, and I hope I shall receive from noble Lords opposite some definite reply which will materially assist us in framing Amendments, which are exceedingly difficult to frame at present. In the first place, the clauses are not self-contained. The same subject matter is spread over different clauses of the Bill, and the rules of the other House have prevented their discussion in relation one to another. This was notably the case in regard to the facilities clauses, on 334 which there has been no general discussion, Amendments to one being ruled out of order when they touched the subject matter of another towards which it was closely related. There were many vital points dealt with in Clauses 7 and 8 in connection with facilities which were not discussed in the House of Commons when the question was raised on Clause 3. The result of the clauses not being self-contained was that a general Amendment moved to Clause 3, dealing with facilities, was ruled out of order inasmuch as it could be considered at a later period when Clauses 7 and 8 were reached, but when Clauses 7 and 8 were taken the discussion was confined to the specific points raised in these clauses.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Earl of CREWE)
May I ask the noble Marquess to what point in Clauses 7 and 8 he alludes? Clause 7 refers to compulsory attendance and Clause 8 to teachers. Perhaps the noble Marquess means Clauses 4 and 5?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
No, I mean Clauses 7 and 8. There was no general discussion on the question of facilities, and therefore I would like to ask the noble Earl opposite to explain what the views of His Majesty's Government are with regard to facilities. Then I would like to ask how we are to reconcile the different opinions expressed by members of His Majesty's Government with regard to certain other details of the measure. When the Bill was introduced in the House of Commons it was claimed on behalf of the Government that they had at their back the mandate of the country. I have heard that statement also made in your Lordships' House, and while to a certain extent I do not deny it I should like to have an answer to one or two questions. I should like to ask, had His Majesty's Government any mandate from the country to introduce Clause 1, which abolishes at one fell swoop 14,000 denominational schools, which were built and endowed by their founders for the purpose of promoting denominational religious education? I venture to say they had not. I contend that the country does not expect these 14,000 schools to be abolished by Clause 1, and it will therefore be our duty to deal with this question when we reach it in Committee.
335 His Majesty's Government have declared that they received from the country a mandate for popular control and the abolition of tests for teachers. I am not prepared to say that there was not a certain kind of mandate on the question of popular control, and, perhaps, for the abolition of tests for teachers; but if they had a mandate on those points, why have they not carried it out? Mr. Asquith, speaking on 10th May, declared that as regards the education question the remedy for the grievances was to be found, in the opinion of the majority of the electors—In the adoption of the two principles which are called popular control and the abolition of tests.I do not in the least challenge that statement, but on the Second Reading of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman said that popular control in an effective sense involved the transfer—Of the management and direction of every elementary school which depends on the State for support from a private to a public authority.But on the Third Reading Mr. Asquith said that if this Bill passed into law—Every public elementary school—by which, of course, I mean every school maintained both out of the rates and the taxes—will become a provided school, and be under the exclusive management and control of a representative public authority.Thus, on the Second Reading public control was to be applied to every State-supported school, and on the Third Reading it is applied to schools both State-supported and rate-maintained. Mr. Asquith's speeches are a little difficult to reconcile, and perhaps the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council will be able to enlighten us upon them. Then, again, Mr. Birrell declared on the First Reading of the Bill that there should be no contracting out of public control. I do not criticise the views of Mr. Birrell and Mr. Asquith, but I think your Lordships will allow that there is a certain amount of discrepancy between the speeches of members of the Government and the clauses of the Bill as it stands, and I would ask the noble Earl the Lord President if he will explain those discrepancies.
Then as to the question of no tests for teachers. How have the Government carried out the mandate of the country with regard to that? How are we 336 to reconcile the clauses in the Bill with the mandate received or with the speeches made by leading members of the Government? Another question upon which explanation is required from the Government is that of the granting of compulsory facilities, a matter which Mr. Birrell pathetically confessed during the Committee stage of the Bill was "in a tangle." Mr. Birrell, in introducing the Bill, said—In those schools dealt with in Clause 2, on two days a week, if it is stipulated for and demanded by the parents, special denominational teaching of some kind shall be given at the expense of those demanding it, but not by the teacher nor in compulsory hours. Thus far the facilities or opportunities I have spoken of have been of a compulsory character. When demanded and when required the authorities must grant them.When the Bill is examined, however, it is found that this pledge is not fulfilled. The local education authorities are only bound to allow facilities in a transferred school—if it had been made a condition of any arrangementfor the use of the school. On the Committee stage of the Bill it was pointed out that there was no obligation on the local authority to take over the schools or to grant facilities, and Amendments were moved to secure this, and to put Clauses 2 and 3 into accordance with the speeches of members of the Government. But when Mr. Birrell's reciprocal obligation clause was introduced it mot with scant favour from his own Party, and was rejected by 327 votes to seventy-eight, the division affording the unique spectacle of the Government whips telling against the Government clause. I sincerely hope the noble Earl in charge of the Bill will definitely explain how the Government reconcile all these discrepancies. It seems evident that the Bill, despite its importance, has not been prepared with sufficient care.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
My Lords, we were told by the noble Marquess who has just sat down that the House of Lords, in passing the Second Reading of the Bill, has accepted its principle. That principle has been explained by the Minister in charge of the Bill in the House of Commons to be undenominationalism. That is the principle which underlies this Bill, and, therefore, any Amendments that are introduced with 337 the intention of converting the Bill, which is undenominational, into a denominational measure will conflict with its principle, which has already been accepted by your Lordships' House.
Some of the Amendments on the Paper are undoubtedly of a wrecking character. They will emasculate the Bill, they will change its whole scope and character, and, therefore, they have no chance of being accepted by His Majesty's Government, although they may be forced upon the Government by this House. The right rev. Primate, who spoke, if I may be allowed to say so, with that wisdom and moderation and common-sense which the country has learned to expect from him, and which it never expects in vain, indicated that he did not intend to move any wrecking Amendments, and certainly the line he mapped out may possibly in some respects improve the Bill, but he has not yet put his Amendments upon the Paper. Other Amendments, however, have been put down, and if they are persisted in they must inevitably change the whole character of the Bill, and, therefore, they cannot possibly be accepted by the Government.
My noble friend who has just sat down pleaded that this Bill had not been considered sufficiently and with adequate care in the other House. I think that if he had occupied himself, as I have done during the last month, in reading in Hansard the entire debates in the House of Commons, he would not say that the Bill had not been sufficiently considered. The arguments on every aspect of the Bill were brought forward again and again, and I do not think that the Bill requires amendment in your Lordships' House on the ground that it was inadequately considered in the other House. This Bill is an honest and sincere attempt on the part of the Government to introduce peace into our schools, but I am afraid that their appeals for peace have fallen on deaf ears. I think that as long as religious controversy is mixed up with educational questions there can be no peace. In fact, it seems to me that the advancing wave of education must always be marked with a surf of sectarian strife, and, that being so, there is no chance of peace while religious controversy is mixed up with educational questions.
338 But, for all that, the State desires to see peace, and nobody can question that the paramount idea in the minds of the English people at the last election was to arrive at some satisfactory compromise under which justice should be done to everybody. I think that is the desire of the English people, but I am afraid— I do not say this with any disrespect —that Churchmen are almost constitutionally, I will not say incapable, but certainly averse to compromise. Therefore, it is proverbially difficult to arrange a compromise where Churchmen are concerned. It was this attitude on the part of Churchmen that was responsible for the Act of 1902. They had the power in those days, but they pressed their advantage too far and carried things with too high a hand, and it was because they did that in 1902 that your Lordships are now discussing this Bill in 1906. Had they acted in the hour of their power with greater moderation, had they paid more attention to the protests of their opponents, had they approached the question in a more conciliatory spirit, either this Bill would never have been introduced or it would have assumed an entirely different character. By pressing their powers too far they made a settlement that could not stand, and, therefore, the present Government had to take up the matter, and I trust that their settlement will be followed by a more fortunate result.
I said that the country desired a compromise. A compromise is a settlement of difficulties by mutual concessions, and the question is what concessions are the Opposition prepared to make in your Lordships' House. I think it was the Marquess of Londonderry who said that nobody was pleased with this Bill, that nobody had a good word to say for it. I think the noble Marquess was really going too far. But the fact that nobody is pleased with the Bill is one of the best things that could be said in its favour. It shows that it is not framed too much in the interests of any sect, any church, or any class. It shows that it has tried to hold the balance even; but now that it has entered your Lordship's House it may be said, without any stretch of imagination, to be passing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, where it will encounter many and great dangers, but, nevertheless, I 339 trust it will emerge safely on the other side, though it may possibly receive some knocks on the way and lose a limb or two.
It will be a great misfortune if the Bill does not survive. It is a compromise between the two extremities —secularism on the one hand and denominationalism on the other. The country has clearly pronounced against the denominational solution of this question. The denominational solution was proposed in 1902. That solution has been finally rejected by the country. Some other solution must be found. The other solution was secularism. I think all who have studied this question must know there is a good deal to be said for secularism. It is the only logical solution. As a matter of fact, the State is not at all bound to teach religion; it is only bound to give secular instruction to the children. Religion is, and ought to be, a matter for parents, and I believe if the Government had adopted the secular solution their Bill could hardly have been opposed with greater acrimony and vigour than has this Bill. Lord Beaconsfield, who had a knack of seeing further ahead than most people, once said that the time would come when the State would only have to provide secular education, and when all religious education would have to be provided by religious bodies. We have not come to that point yet. That solution has been rejected by the House of Commons by an overwhelming majority, and I think we can all congratulate ourselves on the fact. But, if you reject the denominational solution on the one hand, and the secular solution on the other, surely there only remains the undenominational solution, which is that now contained in this Bill.
An expression was used by one speaker, that this Bill as it stands will alienate the children from the Church of England, and that her interests under it will be materially injured. I cannot believe that to be so. I believe the Church of England exaggerates the result of this Bill. If she is that great and influential body I believe her to be, if she has that hold on the people which I believe her to have, the Church of England has very little indeed to fear from this Bill. The noble Marquess opposite said that 14,000 340 schools would be withdrawn from the Church of England.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
The noble Marquess makes his case worse. I do not think the schools are going to be abolished; they are going to be transferred. But if they are transferred, my noble friend must remember they are transferred under conditions, and one of those conditions is that facilities have to be given in the schools. Denominational teaching will be given in those 14,000 schools for two days in the week, while hitherto it has only been the custom to give the Church Catechism and so on during two days in the week. Again, of those 14,000 schools at least 25 per cent.— some put it at 50 per cent.—will become four-fifths schools.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
It is admitted that some of them will be four-fifths schools, and nobody has put the number lower than 25 per cent. In those four-fifths schools no change whatever will be made. The case, therefore, is really not so bad as the noble Marquess made out. I believe that the Church of England, with her powerful organisation and far-reaching influence, will have just as much to say in the training and education of the children under this Bill as she has had hitherto. May I ask what it is that is really underneath all the Amendments on the Paper? What is it that the Opposition are really striving for? You are striving for this, that every child in the country that is receiving denominational education should continue to receive that denominational education to the same extent, to the same degree, given by the same people and in the same way and the same form as hitherto; that practically there should be no change whatever made in substance or in essence in the teaching which the children have received hitherto in voluntary schools; that the privileges of the Church in the schools should remain absolutely intact, and although you admit popular control in theory, in practice it would be nothing but a shadow. That is 341 really what the Opposition are contending for. If the Amendments on the Paper are carried, or if only half of them are carried, there will be practically no change whatever in the religious instruction given in the schools. They cannot expect that, and some compromise at all events must be arrived at.
It is impossible to maintain the position which the Church of England has taken up unless you can prove three paradoxes. These paradoxes are very prominent in nearly all the speeches made about this Bill. The first paradox is that the people of England, though a religious people, are not to be trusted to maintain religion in their schools; the second paradox is that religion is the same thing as dogma; and the third paradox is that Christianity cannot possibly be taught by simple Christian teaching. Now, those three paradoxes are maintained in all their integrity by the opponents of the Bill, who say there is no security for religious teaching. That rests with the people of this country. If they are determined not to have it, it is impossible to resist their wishes; but they have shown plainly that they do intend to have religious teaching, and religious teaching they will have. It is said on the one hand, there is no security that we shall have religious teaching and that we cannot trust the local bodies. On the other hand it is said, give all the powers to the parents and they will take care there is religious teaching in the schools. The local bodies are composed of parents, and I believe they are thoroughly just, upright, conscientious men, who have the interests of the children at heart.
You cannot have it both ways. Either the parents are to be trusted or they are not to be trusted. The parents will not save you on the one hand and destroy religious teaching on the other. There is no real fear that religious teaching will be discontinued in our schools. The trouble is that when you talk of religious teaching, what is often meant is denominational teaching. Plain Bible teaching has been described as municipal religion. I think nobody who has studied the syllabuses that have been issued will say that municipal religion is a bad imitation of the real thing. Those syllabuses have been drawn up by men of piety and integrity and wisdom. In fact, I think nobody has come forward since 342 the publication of these syllabuses to find fault with them. The religion taught under these syllabuses is a religion that must undoubtedly have the effect upon the mind of the child which all religious teaching ought to have. But that is not enough apparently. You confuse religion with dogma. The two things are entirely different. Dogmatic teaching is not the same thing as religious teaching, and religious teaching is not the same thing as dogmatic teaching. Lord Robert Cecil, in the House of Commons, referred to certain doctrines asdogmas over which Europe has been fighting for hundreds of years.It seems to me an amazing thing that noble Lords and others should cling so to the necessity of giving this dogmatic instruction to children when their minds cannot possibly receive it. What is the use of teaching children dogmas which Europe has been fighting over for hundreds of years? Plain Bible teaching is the teaching most fitted for children, and it is, to my mind, a strange thing that the members of the Church of England are not satisfied with that teaching.
I now come to the third paradox, and here I must again quote Lord Robert Cecil, who made a most astonishing statement during the debate on the Education Bill. He said—The morality of the Sermon on the Mount would be, I believe, accepted by almost every person in this country as part of their religious belief, but it is grotesque to tell me that it is fundamental Christianity. I say I regard such teaching as that as absolutely worthless from the point of view of Christianity, absolutely worthless, and I know that I speak with the full assent of a large proportion of the members of the Church of England.I should like to ask the most rev. Primate whether that represents his view, whether in his view the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is absolutely worthless from the point of view of Christianity, and whether he thinks that the statement is correct that when Lord Robert Cecil enunciated that view he spoke with the full assent of a large proportion of the members of the Church of England. It seems to me that if the members of the Church of England take up that view and oppose the Bill on the ground that the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is absolutely worthless, it is a position which will do the Church of England more 343 harm than it will do the Bill. The statement that the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, which contains the very essence of the spirit of Christianity, which embodies the highest doctrines in the world and has ennobled millions of lives — the statement that such teaching is worthless is one that is almost revolting to read.
The truth is that those who talk in that way are taking up the Catholic position. They forget that the Church of England is a Protestant Church, and as a Protestant Church it is built upon the Bible and rests upon the Bible. It is said, Why do you pay such respect to the consciences of the Jews and the Roman Catholics when you do not pay respect to the consciences of members of the Church of England? The position is entirely different. You cannot expect Jews to accept teaching which involves belief in Christianity, and as to Roman Catholics, it cannot be expected that they can be satisfied with simple Bible teaching which they regard as imperfect, and which is actively and fundamentally hostile to Roman Catholic ideas. The position of Protestants in this matter is a totally different one from the position of Roman Catholics. Therefore, it seems to me that in order to oppose this Bill successfully and to make out that it does a great injustice you have to prove these three paradoxes.
I doubt if you can convince the country that serious injury is done to the Church of England when it clearly understands what facilities are given to those who belong to the Church of England for continuing Church of England instruction in the transferred schools. If you think of the children themselves rather than of the interests of the Church, there can be no possible objection to make to the facilities now offered. The Cowper-Temple Clause has been in operation thirty-six years and has proved a great success. A generation has grown up since that clause was first established, and nobody can deny that children trained under that teaching in the board schools have turned out good citizens and capable of fulfilling their duties in every respect to the State. There is not one jot or tittle of evidence to prove that children brought up in Church schools are any better than the children brought up and trained 344 in schools where the religious instruction has been under the Cowper-Temple clause. Therefore, the case against such teaching to my mind falls to the ground. I will read the advice given the Church of England by an eminent Churchman, and I recommend it to your notice. He said—The Church of England ought to constitute itself the champion exponent of that fundamental Christianity which is common to Protestants, and which commends itself to the general acceptance of the English nation.If the members of the Church of England adopted that principle, I am sure they would allow this measure to pass. This Bill is really an honest and sincere attempt to solve a most difficult problem and settle a great controversy, and it is the measure which has the best chance of producing a satisfactory solution, for it does justice to all and shows favour to none.
§ *LORD BARNARD
My Lords, may I ask your Lordships' indulgence for a brief period while I draw your attention to one aspect of this Bill which I do not think has yet received the attention it deserves: I refer to the effect which it will have upon the law of charitable trusts. This is rather an intricate and technical subject, and perhaps, therefore, I should explain to your Lordships why, under the circumstances, I am so bold as to venture to intrude my views upon the subject. Some of your Lordships may be aware that for a period of over ten years I was engaged as an official in the Charity Commission, and during those ten years it was my daily business, except during vacation time, year in and year out, to deal with the law of charitable trusts; and unless a man is devoid entirely of intelligence he cannot pursue one occupation for ten whole years without being, at any rate to a certain extent, saturated with ideas upon the subject, and, in this case, obtaining technical knowledge of the principles underlying the laws relating to charitable trusts and their administration in this country and the history of those principles. The question has been very little referred to in the course of the debates on this Bill, either in this or in the other House, or even in the country. I gather—and this is from my own personal and official knowledge, —that people, although they have a deep and vital interest in charitable trusts, 345 are, as a rule, not very conversant with the law on the subject.
Will your Lordships bear with me for one moment while I deal, as briefly as possible, with the principles of the law? Ever since the time of the Reformation, from after the dissolution of the religious houses, trusts for charitable purposes began to be created and to come into operation, and from that time to this those trusts have always received special favour at the hands of the Courts, at the hands of the Legislature, and at the hands of the administrative departments of the State. Your Lordships are familiar, I doubt not, with the general nature of a trust; but may I add to your knowledge the fact that a charitable trust is in law a trust for certain public purposes? Those purposes were originally defined in an Act passed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, which still is the governing Act, and all charities are now public charities or not by analogy with that Act of Parliament.
I have said that charities are particularly favoured by the Courts and by the country at large. I think it is very desirable that they should be so, because they are to a very large extent, though not absolutely, for the benefit of the poorer classes of the community. The purposes for which they exist are very largely for the benefit of the poor; therefore it naturally follows that anything that tends to impair the security of charitable trusts must be to the disadvantage of the poorer classes. A private trust, as your Lordships know very well, must be carried out literally, and the same applies to a charitable trust.
The most rev. Primate stated this afternoon that he does not consider a charitable trust absolutely sacrosanct. Neither does the law. The law, in its favour to charitable trusts, has always provided a means whereby such trusts can be adapted to the needs and exigencies of the day without in any way destroying them. That was always done, and is done at the present day, by means of what are technically known as "schemes." About the middle of the last century it was a very expensive matter to go to the Courts to obtain a scheme for the appointment of trustees or the alteration of the trusts of a charity; but through the efforts of one of the 346 predecessors of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, Henry, Lord Brougham—through his efforts, extending over the best part of half a century, the Charitable Trusts Act of 1853 was eventually passed. That Act transferred to the Charity Commissioners a great many of the powers previously vested in the Courts, and simplified the machinery by which the Courts could deal with more important cases. That was a great step in advance, but it made no alteration in the principles on which the law governing these charities was founded.
The principle upon which charitable trusts are altered is no doubt familiar to many of your Lordships by the old Norman French word cy-près. I have referred to-day, and on two or three previous occasions, in the Library of your Lordships' House to two books which contain so explicit and so clear a statement of the law on the subject that I think it is only due to your Lordships that I should mention them. One is a book the authority of which all noble and learned Lords will recognise; it is a book which I myself was obliged to read before I was called to the Bar, viz., Snell's "Principles of Equity." That book contains the clearest and most specific statement of what is a charitable trust, the nature of the circumstances under which it may be altered, and what the doctrine of cy-près is. The other book, which has been well known to me ever since I first entered the Charity Commission, is equally clear, viz., Tudor's "Law of Charitable Trusts." I am particularly familiar with that book, as I had the honour of assisting to edit one edition of it. Shortly speaking, the principle laid down in those books, adopted by the Courts, and recognised by the Legislature, is this; that where an intention has been expressed, when a trust has been created for a charitable purpose, the Courts and the Legislature will as nearly as possible—cy-près—carry out the intention of the donor or founder.
But what we do find is proposed in this Bill? In sub-section (2) of Clause 2 there is what I must venture to describe, judging from my own experience on the subject, as one of the most far-reaching propositions on this particular subject that it has over been my lot to come across; in fact, never since the statute of Queen Elizabeth has such a proposal been laid before Parliament It is that 347 trustees of certain charitable trusts therein referred to should be at liberty to make any arrangements they think fit without any reference whatever to the trusts by which they are bound. I leave it to your Lordships to judge whether such a proceeding as that is conducive to the welfare of the public. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, on the Second Reading of this Bill referred to this subject, and a reference was made to that part of his speech by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House. I have this afternoon referred to the words used by the Leader of the House on that occasion, and it is quite clear to me that the noble Marquess had not in his mind when he was speaking sub-section (2) of Clause 2; he was thinking only of the provision which occurs later in the Bill for the establishment of a Commission—it is now Clause 9. That convinces me that even so important a person as the Leader of this House does not entirely grasp the effect which this Bill will have on the system of charitable trusts. Therefore I venture, with all the earnestness which I can bring to bear on the subject, to ask not only this House, but more especially His Majesty's Government, to reconsider these clauses of the Bill, particularly the clause to which I have just referred, and to see if it is not their duty to make some alteration, so as to prevent any breach in the continuity of the practice which has been so long adopted and so well established in this country.
There are not a very large number of people acquainted with this subject, or with its intricacies; at any rate, so far as your Lordships' House is concerned, I know only one other noble Lord, and that is Lord Colchester, who was for a time in the Charity Commission, though only concerned with one branch of the subject. I suppose that many great equity lawyers have more or less acquaintance with the subject, but since the establishment of the Charity Commissioners, to which I have already referred, these matters have been very largely withdrawn from the Courts, except in very rare eases, which are dealt with by the official generally known as "the Attorney General's devil." There are not many members of the Bar, I suspect, who are very familiar with this particular topic, and we know that the Attorney- 348 General's "devils" are, as a rule, preferred to seats on the Bench, so that their mouths, in connection with such matters as these, are stopped.
I shall consider it my duty, unless some Amendments are proposed by His Majesty's Government, to endeavour to induce your Lordships in Committee to make some alteration in the provisions of the Bill in regard to this particular topic, to bring it more into harmony with the practice which has prevailed in this country for so many years, and I shall feel no hesitation in doing so, because I consider, as I stated just now, that it is the interests of the people, and especially of the lower classes, that are at stake.
I should very deeply regret, and I am sure your Lordships would regret, any action on the part of Parliament which would tend to impair the benefits which the humbler classes of His Majesty's subjects in England and Wales obtain from charitable trusts, even if those advantages were to be impaired for what I am sure noble Lords opposite will excuse me for saying I cannot but consider a purely political party purpose. There is no doubt whatever that His Majesty's Government have found themselves in a very difficult position. I do not know, and I do not think anybody knows —certainly it is not officially known in this House—what proportion of schools are subject to charitable trusts. I believe from what one has heard in the country that inquiries were recently instituted by the board of Education as to the tenure of elementary schools, but the result of those inquiries, if there were any, has never been communicated to this House. Therefore we are really not in a position to deal with the question of schoolhouses subject to charitable trusts until such further information is vouchsafed to us. To my own certain knowledge, however, and to the knowledge of many of your Lordships, an enormous number of the public elementary schools of the country are held upon trust for the purpose of the instruction of the children of the poorer classes in the doctrine and principles of the Church of England. Again to my own knowledge, these deeds vary very widely; they are not all drawn on one model; there is no binding rule about them at all.
There is another subject in connection with those deeds to which I should like 349 to refer, and that is an Act of Parliament which, as far as I know, appears to have been overlooked in the preparation of this Bill; I refer to the Schools Sites Act of, I think, 1841. That Act provides that a site for a school may be conveyed to the incumbent and churchwardens of any parish for the purposes of a school for that parish. The definition clause later in the Bill—and we must consider definitions in dealing with this subsection, because the word "owner" is there used— apparently altogether overlooks the fact that there are two bodies interested in the ownership of these elementary schools. There is, in the first place, the incumbent and churchwardens in whom is vested the legal estate, and they hold the site upon trust to permit it to be used by a body of managers whose qualifications are stated in the deed, and who must generally be members of the Church of England. I should like to know, and I hope we shall be told from the Treasury Bench, what is meant by "owners." Does it mean the incumbent and churchwardens in whom the bare legal estate is vested? Does it mean the managers who manage the school? Or does it mean both of these bodies in combination? That is merely one of the many little difficulties which must arise in the consideration of this particular question.
Then let me refer, for one moment, to Clause 9 and the following clause of the Bill. These clauses set up a Commission, which it is proposed should deal, as I consider in the proper way—by means of a scheme—with the trusts of all those schools which do not enter into any arrangement with the local education authority. I may remark that in this case I consider the provisions of the Bill to a certain extent satisfactory, inasmuch as it is proscribed that in making such schemes the Commission should act in accordance with the principles followed by the High Court in exorcising, as the successors of the Court of Chancery, the ordinary jurisdiction as to charities inherent in that Court. If the Commission acts on those principles I shall have no fear but that charities which the donors and benefactors intended to be for the promotion of Church of England education will be preserved for that object.
But I would ask His Majesty's Government one other question. Assuming that 350 the Bill were passed exactly in the form in which it now stands, and that a school subject to a charitable trust were to make one of these arrangements, I want to know whether His Majesty's Government intend—and here I may remark that I cordially agree with the most rev. Primate who stated earlier in the debate that what we want is to have the intentions of the Government written in the Bill—do they intend that those schools should be taken over from the present managers free of all expense, or do they intend that rent or other equivalent is to be paid for them? That is a vital question. I will assume for one moment that they intend that a rent should be paid. I do not quite know to which of the two bodies I have named the rent should be paid, but I would ask His Majesty's Government where in the Bill they have provided for the allocation of those moneys. They are charitable moneys subject to charitable trusts. What is to be done with them? How are they to be applied? I think that this and many similar questions require some explanation, and, if I mistake not, the Bill will require considerable amendment on this particular point. Far be it from me to suggest that any improper motive or any purely political motives have swayed the draughtsman of this Bill. At the same time, in so far as it deals with this particular question, I think the Bill fails lamentably to preserve intact the rights of citizens.
May I, in conclusion, venture to ask your Lordships to bear in mind what the result of such an innovation as is here proposed will be? I have often heard that Englishmen do not compare favourably with the people of other nations in the benefactions which they give for public purposes. I do not agree with the statement myself, from the intimate acquaintance I have had with the matter at the Charity Commission; but whether it is so or not, I ask your Lordships to consider what will be the result of establishing a precedent such as this, which is bound to be quoted on future occasions, that, when occasion requires, the wishes and intentions of founders and benefactors may be set at naught by Parliament. In a small way I have myself been the founder of a charity for the benefit of the sick poor in a town in the Midlands of England. I do not know that I should 351 be best pleased if I thought that on some future occasion, perhaps even in my own lifetime, it might be said that the charity would be more usefully applied if it was devoted to some totally different object— say to municipal football, or something of the kind. I beg your Lordships to pause and consider very carefully what the effect of the proposal made in this Bill will be, not only in connection with the schools, but also in regard to charities and to donors and benefactors at large. My own impression is that it will very largely stop the flow of generosity and seriously injure the classes who benefit by that generosity. The noble Viscount (Viscount Goschen) has already alluded to this subject, and that brings me to the fact that under recent legislation—the Endowed Schools Act, for instance— empowering the Charity Commissioners and the Endowed Schools Commissioners to deal with certain charities, charities of recent creation were especially excepted, except with the consent of the governing body.
I should like also to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact stated in the textbooks to which I have alluded, that there are two circumstances, and two circumstances only, which justify the trusts of charitable property being authoritatively diverted to something different. One is that the original purpose is "impracticable," and the other that it is "inexpedient." Perhaps the best known case under the first of these heads is that of a charity administered by the Ironmongers Company in the City of London—a charity for the relief of Barbary captives. We all know that there are now no Barbary captives; therefore it is impracticable to carry out such a purpose, and a scheme for something different is necessary. Even in that case the Court attempted to carry out the trust cy-près, for they examined the will of the benefactor, and, finding that he had left the bulk of his property for educational purposes, they concluded that had he been alive and realised that this part of his charity could not be carried out, he would probably have given the whole to educational purposes, and they acted accordingly. There are many such cases. But I ask your Lordships to consider these two questions, in the first place, is it "impracticable" at the present day to give instruction in 352 Church of England doctrine to the children of the poorer classes; and, in the second place, is it "inexpedient" as a matter of public policy to do so? I venture to leave those points with the greatest confidence to the consideration of your Lordships.
§ LORD BELPER
My Lords, I do not rise for the purpose of adding anything to the very interesting and clear remarks on the subject of trusts which have just been addressed to you by the noble Lord behind me. I am sure that what he has said well requires the attention of the House, but certainly I am not competent to add anything on a subject so technical as that which he has introduced. There is, however, another question which has attracted very little attention in Parliament, but which is of the greatest possible interest to those who have to administer education in the country. The particular clause to which I wish to direct your Lordships' attention is now Clause 15, dealing with the delegation powers of the county councils.
The career of the clause has already been somewhat remarkable. A clause which called itself a delegation clause, but which to my mind could hardly deserve that description, was introduced to the other House with the Bill and read a second time. It gave every minor authority, oven the parish council, power to require the county council to give them power with regard to the management of education in their own districts. Your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that the County Councils Association, whose opinion I wish to represent, took very strong objection to that clause, feeling that it would largely interfere with the proper carrying out of their duties and cripple them very largely in the administration of education. I readily recognise that our views, and the views of others, were speedily adopted by His Majesty's Government, for that clause was withdrawn in the other House before it was ever discussed. On that withdrawal there was another clause—a rather suggestive clause—brought forward by a private Member, the career of which was equally short. That clause was, I think, withdrawn on the same day that it was introduced to the notice of the Committee in the other House. Finally, the Minister for Education undertook to introduce a 353 clause dealing with the subject, and it is that clause which we now have in the Bill, but neither in the other House nor in this House has it received the attention of which it is worthy, nor has there been any discussion of it on the part of those who have practical knowledge of the matter with which it deals.
With regard to this delegation clause lot me say at once that I do not, in speaking on behalf of the County Councils Association, nor in expressing my own views, take the least exception to the principle of devolution. I recognise that there must be very great advantages in any proposal which will allow county councils to delegate their powers to minor authorities under conditions which will ensure efficiency and economy of management on the part of those local authorities. It is obvious that with the immense amount of detail with which the county councils have at present to deal, it must be a relief to them to feel secure that they can safely delegate some of their powers to local authorities who will be more on the spot and who can deal with matters according to the wishes of their neighbours. In addition to that, I think it is of the utmost importance that the county councils in carrying out their duties should be able to induce the best men in the different localities to interest themselves in the cause of education, and in the management of education locally. That object is not likely to be achieved unless you give those who are to take an interest in education some power, and thus induce them to give up time to a work in which they can be of very great assistance to the county councils.
But the point I wish to emphasise is that the clause as it stands, in the opinion of the County Councils Association, and with the assent of the great majority of the representatives of the county councils, does not fulfil the conditions they would like to see in regard to a clause of this description. I do not think I can do bettor than quote a resolution passed by the County Councils Association more than three months ago, before the present clause was introduced into the Bill. The resolution is to the following effect—That the Council desire to express their strong opinion that no delegation clause is likely to work satisfactorily which does not allow the county council authority to constitute district committees without restriction in the 354 manner best suited to the circumstances of the particular county.No one can have heard the discussion by the representatives of different county councils without feeling strongly how very varied are the circumstances and conditions of the different counties in which this work of education has to be carried on, and that if you are going to impose stringent and fixed regulations as to the manner in which these committees are to be constituted you will in many cases prevent the assistance of the very best men and the men conversant with education whom it is the desire of all those in the country who take an interest in education to got to assist them in their work. What we feel is that the greatest possible latitude should be left to the county councils in this matter. I recognise that the broad conditions laid down in this clause may be very desirable in a large number of local districts. The clause practically says that these bodies are to be representative bodies in some form or other, either elected by the ratepayers or representing the minor local authorities. I fully recognise that direct representation has the greatest possible advantages, that with bodies elected by the ratepayers you have at all events the feeling that at their backs are the wishes and feelings of the ratepayers themselves. But while I feel fully that, whatever form the clause may take, eventually these conditions will be largely made use of in the election of the local education authorities, the point I wish especially to bring to the notice of the House and of the Government is whether, if there are places, and I have no doubt there are, where you will not get an efficient education authority in that way, they should be tied and bound to elect a committee in this particular manner. There may be many alternative modes of electing bodies suitable for having certain powers with regard to education. It is clear, to begin with, that it is highly desirable to enlist the assistance of those who take a real interest in the work of education, and in many of the districts, especially small scattered country districts, it is very doubtful whether you would get that by a system which compelled these bodies to be formed by direct election.
Let me take two or three cases. I am not sure what it is contemplated by the Government the position of the managers 355 under this clause will be. There is a section which gives full power to the county councils to do away with managers altogether. Viscount Goschen spoke earlier in the debate of his fear that managers were going to be done away with altogether, especially in urban districts. This sub-section, if made use of, would allow county councils to do away with managers in every district, whether urban or rural. I know it is an optional clause, but at the same time, as we have had no explanation with regard to it, and practically no discussion upon it, I would venture to ask the Government what they conceive will be the manner in which this clause will be carried out, and whether they contemplate that this power will be largely made use of to do away with managers altogether. I can quite understand that in urban districts that may be possible and desirable, and that where you have two or three schools, or a group of schools, which may be managed by the urban district or by representatives of the urban district, with good educationists upon the committee, there would be very little left for the managers to do; but I very much doubt whether in scattered country districts, those who are interested in particular schools would at all like to feel that every power was taken away from them and handed over to a body, even a minor authority, on which they might be represented, or handed over without any regard to their opinions whatever. If managers are to be kept up in the country districts I venture to think that in any scheme of devolution, no better body could be constituted than one representing the managers of every parish in the district in which that minor body is to be constituted. In most parishes there is someone who takes an interest in education and finds his way on to the managing body, and if you have a body representing the managers of the different schools, I venture to think that such a body would be not only more in touch with the schools themselves, but much more efficient than any elected body would be, for the purpose of undertaking such duties as may be handed over to them by the county councils. In the clause as it stands such a scheme would not be possible, because the managers are not looked upon as a body who could be represented, but I think it 356 would be a very great misfortune if an educational authority of that sort could not be constituted.
Then take another question. Your Lordships may be aware that in many counties the power given in the Act of 1902 has been made use of to constitute delegation bodies to assist the county councils in the management of education. In some cases they have had delegated to them powers connected with primary education; in others, they have had thrown in the local management of secondary education. In many cases they have been working with great satisfaction to the district and to all the people concerned, and they have appointed clerks and officers to work under them. What is to be the position of such bodies if these new bodies are to be constituted under the clause to which I am referring? One of two things must happen to them; either they must be abolished and make way for a body possibly less efficient than themselves and not so popular in the district for which they have to act, or you will have two bodies working side by side with overlapping powers, a state of things which cannot possible go on for any length of time.
These are only two points to which I have called your attention. Many criticisms might be passed on the clause as it stands, but I do not wish at this stage to refer to details. I should like to recognise that in sub-section (2) of the clause a very desirable power is given to county councils, viz., that when they delegate duties to one of these representative bodies, the expenses of those duties, if carried out, should be borne by the particular district. That, I think, will have a very wholesome effect in ensuring more economical, or, at all events, less extravagant management than might otherwise be the case, and the attention of the ratepayers in the district will be called to the fact if the management is extravagant, so that they may take care that they very soon have a different set of gentlemen on the education committee to manage their affairs.
I should like also to refer to sub-section (3), which lays down that the powers of these different bodies are to be uniform. I doubt very much whether that clause will encourage the granting of delegation 357 powers. It is clear that if the powers are to be uniform, they will be governed by the amount of power which can be entrusted to the least competent authority in the county. No doubt those delegation powers must be tentative to a large degree, but the development of the system will be retarded if it is not possible to give to the best education committees or representative bodies larger powers than could be entrusted to one of whose efficiency there was great doubt.
I have ventured to bring forward these points because the question has been so little discussed before, and I thought it would be convenient that the views of so important a body as the County Councils Association should be heard before the Committee stage was embarked upon. I can assure the House and the Government that the views of the Association are not governed by any political sympathies whatever. The views which I have ventured to put forward as representing the opinions of the representatives of county councils in the country are equally shared by many gentlemen who are supporters of His Majesty's Government. I do not think that on this subject there is any difference of opinion on the ground of party politics. We sincerely believe that if you are to have a clause which will work satisfactorily in the way of delegating to minor authorities some of the powers which county councils will be glad to get rid of, it is most important that very great latitude should be given to the councils in deciding what is the best constitution to suit the needs of the particular districts, varying so greatly as they do in the different counties. I shall have some Amendments to propose in Committee, which I hope, when the time comes, will receive much support; I hope the Government will recognise the spirit in which those Amendments will be put forward, and, at all events, do something to second us in our desire that these delegation powers should be made as workable as possible, and that the clause should be so framed as to give wide powers to the county councils to settle the conditions under which these bodies should be constituted.
*THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Lord FITZMAURICE)
My Lords, after the long and varied discussion which we have had, f think it would be hardly respectful to your Lordships if some Member of His Majesty's Government did not intervene in the discussion. We met this afternoon, I think, largely with a sort of understanding in the air that advantage was to be taken of this preliminary discussion, on going into Committee, to raise some of those points which perhaps had received, owing to inevitable reasons, not quite sufficient attention in the debate on the Second Reading. I allude, borrowing the phrase of the noble Viscount who practically initiated this discussion, to what may be called the administrative aspects of the Bill.
I am sure that I express the feeling of all my colleagues when I say that to us at least this discussion has already been very satisfactory; because it has, I think, by this time entirely relieved us of any real necessity of replying very fully to a charge which was made, I know, quite bona fide, but still, I think rather unjustly, during the debate on the Second Reading—that this Bill was a Bill simply concerned with the religious difficulty—that it was simply a Bill concerned with an attempt, more or less successful according to the aspect from which each individual speaker looked at it, to regulate the respective rights, and to remedy the different grievances, of various religious bodies—bodies called Church and chapel. This discussion has undoubtedly brought out the fact that there are very large and important administrative aspects of this Bill. Some of them, no doubt, as the noble Viscount showed, or tried to show, are be und up with the working of the earlier clauses of the Bill, which deal with what is popularly called the religious difficulty, but others are in the later clauses of the Bill, such as those which have been touched upon in the interesting speech of my noble friend Lord Belper, and which have no connection, by any possible imagination, with the religious difficulty.
I myself would have wished that it might have been possible—but probably it 359 was impossible—to have kept the religious difficulty out of this question this evening altogether, as no doubt most of us in our hearts intended that it should be. But the religious difficulty is rather like that famous head of King Charles I, which we know in "David Copperfield" somehow or other always got introduced, whether he liked it or not, into the wise advice whïch Mr. Dick used to convey to Miss Trotwood in regard to the education of David Copperfield. We are discussing the education not of one boy, like Mr. Dick and Miss Trotwood, but of the future generations of the children of this country, and it certainly would appear that, much as we try to do so, even in a calm discussion like that of this evening, King Charles I.'s head, in the shape of the religious difficulty, gets into the discussion whether we like it or not. I must say that if I wanted a conspicuous instance of this, I should find it at once in the speech of the noble Viscount who initiated this discussion; because he started by saying that his speech was going to be strictly administrative, and we were all delighted to hear that; but he had not proceeded five minutes before King Charles I's. head appeared, and it appeared again and again throughout the speech. We had the insinuation, no doubt perfectly sincerely made, that some of the clauses of this Bill, even in regard to such a colourless matter as delegation, were in some manner animated by the fear which the Radical had of the parson. That shows how very difficult indeed it is in this matter to keep out the religious difficulty even if you desire to do so. Therefore I am not going to make any rash pledge that I shall be perfectly successful myself in keeping it out, because with the illustrious examples before me of those who have tried and failed, I feel that I might try and fail also. But I can assuredly say that I shall do my utmost to keep it out, and to follow some, it not all, of those complicated points which have been raised by various noble Lords in the discussion; though I would, if I may, put in this caveat—that all those points are essentially Committee points, and that we might, I think, take our stand, if we chose, upon strict Parliamentary precedent, and say that we admit that, most, or indeed all of those points are fair subjects for dis- 360 cussion and for difference of opinion, but that we could discuss them a great deal better if we had before us on the Paper the Amendments of noble Lords opposite, and of right rev. Prelates, and could come to close quarters, with the Chairman of Committees in the Chair. But as they have been raised at this stage, I shall try to deal with them, though my task is an arduous one, because these points are all very complicated, and involve many points in many Acts of Parliament. I shall, however, try to say a few words upon some of them.
The noble Viscount rather disappointed us in one way. We were under the impression that he was going to give us the benefit of his unrivalled knowledge of finance, but, except upon very minor and small points, he almost gave the go-by to the larger financial aspects of the Bill—possibly (I desire if I can to adopt that explanation)— thinking that a very able and interesting speech made upon the Second Reading of the Bill by the Marquess of Huntly sufficiently covered the ground.
§ VISCOUNT GOSCHEN
That was not my reason. My reason was that I could not possibly understand them on this point. There is no material for discussion of finance in the Bill.
I was about to say with regard to the speech of the noble Lord whose name I have mentioned that I am glad to have this opportunity of stating what I know was felt by my noble friend the Lord President as well as by others—that we all realised at the time that that speech was unfortunately driven into a corner by the numerous speeches dealing with more exciting aspects of the question; but we desired then, as we desire now, to acknowledge that that speech was a very important contribution to the debate, hnd whatever the noble Viscount may aave felt, I think the noble Marquess to whom I allude certainly felt that there was a great deal in the Bill which was quite capable of accurate and full discussion, and it was for that reason that he brought his views before the House.
361 One of the points which the noble Viscount raised was in regard to the question of rent, and the noble Lord opposite, Lord Barnard, followed on the same lines, asking what was proposed to be done by this Bill in regard to the rent of the schools under the arrangements which are to be made under Section 2. He asked, would there be any rent; how much would it be; what would become of the rent after it had been paid; how would it be dealt with by the owners and trustees who would receive it? He seemed to think that those questions were very difficult to answer, and that there ought to have been in any case some clear statement in the Bill—clearer than any he could find. Really I cannot see where the difficulty is. Here are two bodies of people—one the owners and trustees of certain schools, reasonable and rational men, and the other the local education authority—who are to make certain arrangements in regard to the rent of certain buildings. What greater difficulty is there in these bodies arriving at a fair agreement in regard to the rental of these schools than has been experienced by the county education authorities during the last few years, all over England, in arriving at a similar agreement in regard to the rental of the houses of the schoolmasters, which were left, as I thought unjustly, by the Act of 1902 to be the property of the managers of the denominational schools, and in regard to which, in nine cases out of ten, agreements had to be made for the county authority to pay a rental? What has happened? Simply this. The county surveyor has been sent down to make a report as to the value of the building, he has reported to the county education authority, and the matter, so far as I know—and I have had some experience—has always been settled without any great difficulty, because the question is approached by gentlemen with knowledge of property in their own localities, and the rental is fixed in that manner. There will be a similar state of things in regard to the rental of these schools. The officials of the county council will be sent down to make a report as to the fair rental for the school buildings.
362 Then I am asked what will become of the rental afterwards. There again I see no difficulty whatever. The money will be handed over to the persons entitled by law to receive it—namely, the owners under the existing trusts. If the existing trusts are of such a nature as to enable them, without any further question, to apply that money in a proper manner, they will so apply it; and if, on the other hand, they find that their trusts are not sufficient, it will then be their be under duty, and they will be compelled by other people to do it if they fail—but I am not suggesting that they will—to go to the Charity Commissioners, and to get a scheme for the application of the money so received. That is all under existing Acts of Parliament incorporated in this Bill, and in the Act of 1902, the machinery of which is perfectly familiar to a great number of noble Lords in this House.
Then I am asked, also, as to another question bearing upon, this matter. What is to happen in regard to ordinary facilities in the case of those voluntary schools—those non-provided schools, as they now are—especially where there are trusts, in regard to the possibility of giving certain kinds of religions instruction, either in harmony with the Cowper-Temple clause or coming within the definition of ordinary facilities, or giving both? It was suggested by the noble Viscount, as I understand, that the Bill was very vague, if not altogether silent, upon this question. If the noble Viscount will look at sub-section (5) of Section 2, he will find that this matter, which was raised in the House of Commons, and which I admit was not fully dealt with in the original Bill, is wholly covered by the sub-section to which I have alluded. It will be a matter of arrangement, so that facilities and the Cowper-Temple teaching can, if necessary, both be given in these circumstances.
Then the noble Viscount, again sailing near the edge of this question, said— "Look at the sorrowful position of the unfortunate owners and trustees, in any case during the coming year. Possibly when all those arrangements are made, hard though it be to imagine it, no great injustice will be done. But just think of next year! If this Bill passes, what a 363 sorrowful position a large body of denominational trustees will be in, with the dark future in front of them and the gloomy past behind them, still in occupation of their schools. What are they to do," he asked, almost in tones of indignation, "if they think the roof is going to tumble down or if they have to put in a new floor; who is going to pay for it?" I have the answer to the noble Viscount. I think he has forgotten, not a little clause in this Bill, but a very important sub-section buried away in one of the schedules of the Act of 1902. Has he forgotten that one of the most contentious subjects, a matter which was fought hard here on the floor of this House, and which in the House of Commons, where I then sat, we fought to the last, was as to the justice of allowing considerable sums of money, which represented the balances due, at the time of the passing of the Act, to the voluntary schools, to be paid over to them for the benefit of their structural fund—not merely to pay the existing current debts of the school for the last school year, but to be handed over to them, if there was a balance after the payment of any outstanding liabilities, and not only to be handed over to them, but handed over to the Voluntary Church Schools Association, so that all these funds should be pooled in every county? What was the excuse given us? There was only one, and that was these very structural expenses upon which the noble Viscount says they will not have a single penny to spend.
The noble Viscount says that. He may speak from the experience of one particular county.
I know a county where it has not been spent, and 364 in any case the money was given for that purpose. There were large sums, and I have never been able to get a Return in regard to the matter. I asked in the House of Commons, during the debates on the Education Bill, whether we were ever to have a full Return of these sums, but it was never given. Therefore, whether or not these sums have all been spent in some counties and not in others, my answer to the question of the noble Viscount is perfectly simple. When he asks, "How is the roof to be paid for next year under the regime of this present Government?" my reply is, "Out of the moneyshanded over to these schools under the regime of the late Government." I hope I have, in any case upon this question, given a reply which will be satisfactory to the noble Viscount.
I have shown that, although he has forgotten it, he is in possession of large sums of money which he evidently has overlooked.
Now, my Lords, I do not think I would be justified in taking up your time with a detailed reply to what was said by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Barnard) in regard to the general rights of Parliament to interfere with trusts, I, of course, desire to acknowledge his great ability, and the experience which he has had in these matters. There is nobody, either in this or in the other House of Parliament, who can speak with greater knowledge upon this question. But after all, the matter was discussed upon the Second Reading of the Bill. We were told that this was another, and a most extreme, instance of the reckless conduct of Liberal Governments in interfering with trusts. I had to reply to that argument then, and I can only say briefly that we have heard these arguments before, that they are invariably brought forward every time any Government, whether Liberal or Conservative, attempts to deal with trusts, and I think I might in any case 365 express the hope that in that matter I have the noble Viscount on my side, because I may remind him that he was our protagonist and champion in the struggle for the abolition of University collegiate tests, and that in the House of Commons he was made the object of exactly the same attacks as those with which we are met to-day.
I now come to the speech of my noble friend who has just addressed the House. It is probably unnecessary that I should tell him that any argument, any request, any suggestion brought forward by the County Councils Association is one of which individually I must speak with the greatest respect. It has been my good fortune for many years to sit on that body with my noble friend and many other noble Lords whom I see in the House, and I can certainly say on behalf of the Government that we recognise the advantage which we have in this House in the presence of so many of those who have taken an active part in the work of the association, and in the work of the counties as chairmen, and that we hope, when we get into Committee, that we shall have the advantage of their assistance, especially in regard to these non-controversial questions
My noble friend has said with perfect truth that the fortunes of Clause 15 have been varied. The clause has, no doubt, assumed quite a different shape from that which it originally took, and it passed also through an intermediate stage; but I hope my noble friend will allow me to point out that that little piece of history is in itself a proof of how anxious the Government have been to knock this clause into a reasonable shape. We all know that this question of devolution is one of the most difficult in the whole of the Bill. Probably nobody would have blamed the Government very much if they had said: "The Bill deals with so many and such complicated questions that devolution must stand over for another year." But they were anxious to make this Bill a large and comprehensive measure, and knowing, as they did, that there was a very strong feeling in the country generally, shared in by the county councils themselves, that a certain amount of devolution was necessary, they de- 366 cided to tackle the question, although they knew full well that they were marching into a sort of administrative hornets' nest, as the result indeed showed. In this clause the Government has had to try to piece together two things which it is difficult to piece together. They have had to secure the great advantages which have undoubtedly flowed to education from having bodies like the councils of boroughs and of counties operating over an area large in point of acreage and population, and, on the other hand, by a skilful system of devolution to minor authorities they have had to try to check the destruction of local interest which, to a certain extent, has been going on, especially in our rural districts, in the smaller areas of government. When the Government began to examine this question, they found, after hearing the views of many persons, that there was a great deal of difference of opinion as to what the devolution area and the devolution authority ought to be. There were some—I take for example the county of Northampton, in regard to which I have often had the advantage of hearing the views of the noble Lord whose absence we all regret so much—I mean Lord Spencer; I believe that in the county of Northampton they have very considerable confidence in their rural councils. In other counties they have greater confidence in the smaller area— in the parish council for example, which they think is still nearer to the people, and undoubtedly it is far nearer to the parents of the children than the rural council. In other counties—in the county of Somerset, for instance, it was put forward by Mr. Henry Hobhouse that it would be a desirable thing to have an even greater latitude, and to compose committees, or delegation bodies, not necessarily from any one particular area or one particular set of people, but taken from a wider area of selection. That being so, the ultimate decision of the Government was that they would, as far as possible, leave each county within certain limits to make its own scheme, their conclusion being, after hearing these various views, that the circumstances of one county were not necessarily those of another. Therefore my noble friend and I are so far on common ground, and all that we have really to work out is 367 the application of that principle; we are not disputing as to the principle itself.
What I understand is that my noble friend will place upon the Paper certain Amendments which will perhaps carry further those views which, as I have said, have already been adopted by the Government, It would be impossible, of course, for me, or indeed for the Government, to-night to say how far we could accept those Amendments, until we have actually seen them; but I can certainly say in regard to what fell from the noble Viscount, and to a certain extent from my noble friend opposite, in regard to managers, that there again, on the point of principle, there is no difference between us, because they both urged the granting of powers to the managers on the ground that the managers were exceedingly near and close locally to the parents of the children attending the schools. That, as I have said, it is the wish of the Government to recognise, and it is of course to be borne in mind—and here I am furnishing the noble Viscount with an argument—that when the process, much dreaded by him, of turning all these schools into provided schools has been carried out, the managers of the schools will all, in a way, he representatives of public local authorities, because they will not be appointed by owners or parents, but they will be appointed, under the Act of 1902, partly by the county councils, partly by the borough councils in the case of boroughs, and partly, in the counties, by representatives of the parish.
Then we were asked to explain rather more fully what we meant in regard to this question of managers by one of the sub-sections at the end of Clause 15— sub-section (8). I think the noble Viscount said that this was the only place in the Bill where he could find any mention of the managers.
This is subsection (8), I think. The meaning of that sub-section is simply this. We recognise that there may be some counties which will take the area of the parish council as the education area. There will be a parish council in most of those 368 parishes, and it occurred to the Government that it would be rather absurd if, in a comparatively small parish, there were two bodies, very likely almost the same people, both concerned with the management of the same school, and that therefore it should be possible, in the case of a comparatively small parish, where there is a parish council, that the parish council itself should be capable of being constituted managers of the school. That is all the clause means. No doubt, theoretically, it applies elsewhere, but as a matter of practice it would be almost impossible to apply the clause except in a rural parish. The words no doubt used are—Managers appointed under Section 6 of the Act, 1902,and I am quite aware that that section covers be roughs as well as parishes; but I think if the noble Viscount, with his great experience, will look at the clause he will see that the object and meaning are perfectly plain. If, however, it is necessary to make even clearer the meaning which I have explained, there will be no difficulty in moving words to effect that object in Committee. But the clause itself fully meets the wishes of the noble Viscount, because it recognises that it will be desirable in many cases to have a body of local managers, whether through the parish council or somebody else, representing those persons who are nearest to the interests, and have the greatest knowledge, of the children who are actually attending the school.
The noble Viscount said also that he regretted that we had involved this Bill in a great amount of confusion by the importation of no less than five classes of schools. It is true, if you analyse the Bill very closely, that there will be five classes of schools under the administration of the county council; but I must remind the noble Viscount and noble Lords opposite that, if these different classes of schools exist, they have been brought into operation one by one in order to make an honest attempt to meet, so far as we can, the wishes of noble Lords opposite and of right rev. Prelates, in regard to the maintenance of a certain kind of religious education. Therefore I shall be a little disappointed 369 if, in these debates, we are to have these works which I think ought to be counted to us by noble Lords opposite for righteousness, taken up and cast in our teeth, because in reality they do not represent our abstract desires in the matter; our abstract desires would be limited to the application of Clause 1.
§ VISCOUNT GOSCHEN
My noble friend has not caught my point. My point was that the Bill was so drawn that it was necessary to introduce these different classes of schools, whereas the whole thing might have been remedied by making one uniform system for the provided schools giving the necessary facilities for parents. If that were done the whole of these difficulties would vanish.
I am inclined to think that if the noble Viscount were to try to work out that scheme into a Bill, he would probably find that there were almost as many varieties of schools as under our Bill. It is very easy to lay down a general proposition, and to say it is all quite plain and simple, and it is not for me to set my limited experience against the great experience of the noble Viscount; but I think the plan that he has explained will immediately suggest to those who have had experience of educational administration an immense confusion of all kinds of varied administration and varied schools.
Be that as it may, we shall attempt in Committee to justify these proposals, and it will, I think, be for noble Lords opposite to put their Amendments on the Paper and show us their hand. The most rev. Prelate, in a speech which, like all his speeches, was of the greatest moderation of form and partly so in substance, said he almost hoped that before, we went into Committee the Government would have put down some Amendments. I am afraid I cannot hold out any hope that we are going to do anything of the kind. We appear without fear with this Bill which has come up from another place. We think we can justify it. We believe 370 that we have a great majority of the people of this country behind it, and behind the Government that brought it in. At the same time, there will be every desire to meet noble Lords and right rev. Prelates so far as possible. But there is one observation, and one observation only, in regard to the controversial aspects of this question, which I shall venture to make. I admitted a moment ago the moderation, both of form and of substance, of the speech of the most rev. Primate. But at the end of that speech there was an observation which I confess filled me with some little alarm. I am not certain that I understood it—I hope I misunderstood it; but so far as I understood it, it was that, going considerably beyond what he said on Second Reading, he expressed the opinion that there ought to be what I think he called reciprocity between the existing provided schools and the non-provided schools which are now to become what have been called in these debates transferred schools, and that if it is fair to bring Cowper-Temple teaching to any extent into the present non-provided schools, there ought to be reciprocity, and that ordinary facilities should be capable of being put into the existing provided schools. That suggestion has often been made; therefore I was not altogether unprepared for it, but I am bound to say that that would be striking a blow at the Bill in a vital point. I am sure if noble Lords will refer to the debates which took place elsewhere, and in the country at large, they will see that there is hardly anything which is more strongly held by Liberal and by Nonconformist opinion than that, whatever else may happen, whether this Bill passes or whether it does not, no stone shall be touched, and no hand shall be laid, upon the old school board schools, the present county council schools, which have been raised and paid for by the money of the taxpayers and ratepayers of the country, and are their property and in their possession.
§ *LORD ASHBOURNE
The noble Lord who has just spoken has closed his speech with a very remarkable and significant statement — that although the voluntary schools may be swept away or their existence imperilled without 371 a word, the provided schools are to be treated as so sacred that they are to be regarded as the Ark of the Covenant which nobody must criticise, discuss, or seek to amend. I never heard a more extraordinary statement. The noble Lord commenced his speech by expressing his surprise at the introduction of the religious difficulty. Did your Lordships ever hear anything more astounding? If there was no religious difficulty, would there be any Bill? Will not the Bill be a hopeless and miserable failure if it leaves the religious difficulty in a state of worse confusion than when you put your hands to paper?
The noble Lord dealt, with an ingenuity at which I was not surprised, with some of the topics, not the largest ones, that have been introduced into the debate this evening; but when he might have applied himself to dealing with the larger questions which have been thrown out for discussion—some of the suggestions in the speech of the most rev. Primate, or put forward by the noble Viscount—I would have expected to hear some words indicating a desire on the part of the Government to consider those topics in Committee with an open mind, and an anxiety to meet them, as far as possible, by fair Amendments and in a fair spirit. But there was not one single syllable indicating a desire to compromise, or to meet difficulties in any reasonable way.
The noble Lord said, in reference to the most rev. Primate's speech: "Let him come into the open, and put his Amendments on the Paper." I have no doubt, whatever, from what was said by the most rev. Primate, that he will put his Amendments on the Paper, and that Amendments will be brought forward by noble Lords in other parts of the House; and I have no doubt that the noble Lord the President of the Council will consider and discuss them with the fairness which he always evidences in his proceedings in this House. But surely the obligation to place Amendments on the Paper is not all one sided. Surely, having regard to what took place in the House of Commons, and to Mr. Birrell's numerous statements as to what he hoped, and expected, and intended, but did not actually do, through the Bill, 372 we have a right to expect that the Government will present their Amendments, that they must have Amendments that are ready, and that they will themselves come into the open and show that they are not only people with most splendid intentions, but they know how to carry out those intentions, by putting into the Bill apt words which cannot be misconstrued, forgotten, or explained away. I have no doubt this is a topic which will be mentioned repeatedly as the discussion proceeds. It will be impossible for the Government to fold their hands and say that they alone of the people in this House are not to present Amendments. Everyone knows that the Bill teems with points of attack, that it abounds in positions that indicate the necessity of Amendment, and that if it is not copiously amended it will be un-telligible if passed into law, and must be doomed to complete failure.
No one can suggest that my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition has indicated the slightest desire to retard the consideration of every aspect of this Bill. When it was suggested, two or three nights ago, by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House that he desired that the appeal in the West Biding case should proceed without any regard to, or interference with, the proceedings on this Bill, my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition indicated no dissent, leaving the Government to adopt their own course and not taking any part at all which would indicate the slightest desire whatever to retard the progress of the Government's procedure as to what they thought the best way of carrying on their business and bringing this matter fully and completely before Parliament.
I cannot think that, the interval of two or three months which has elapsed from the time the House adjourned for the recess has been spent in vain. We were invited by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, in his closing speech before the adjournment, to carefully road and consider this Bill, and I think most of us have had ample opportunity of so doing; I know I have myself, and I am sure a great many of your Lordships have also. We have had abundant opportunity of reading also a vast amount of literature on this question, and of meeting a great many very intelligent "men in the street," who are able 373 to tell us their opinion, and how the question strikes them. I believe myself that this time of intercourse with our fellow citizens has been fruitful in instruction. I do not think the Bill has stood the test of criticism, examination, or time. Every criticism that I heard made on the Second Reading of this Bill has been confirmed and strengthened during the time which has elapsed, by the progress and development of opinion. I do not wish to impute anything to the Government, because it is best always to impute as good motives as you reasonably can; but if the Government wore given their choice as to what they would like to happen to this Bill, I believe the course which they would most dread to face, and most dislike to adopt, would be that of passing the Bill into law forthwith as it stands now, unamended and with all its imperfections. I think if that were proposed now, the noble Marquess opposite would hold up his hands in pious attitude, and say, "Save us from our friends! "
I commence with an observation that is really a matter by which any legislative proposal of this magnitude, complexity, and importance has a right to be judged. It has not a vestige of the principle of either settlement or finality. It disturbs, I admit not illegitimately, a previous settlement, because certain changes were deemed right and fair; but if you disturb a pre-existing settlement, it should be with a view to establishing something in its place that would be regarded as a better settlement, or at all events a settlement with some principle of finality. If this Bill passed in its present shape, it is quite obvious that there would not be any chance of finality in it. The noble Lord opposite, Lord Grimthorpe, said that the Bill was conceived in a spirit of compromise. What did he mean by the word "compromise"? Whore is the compromise? If compromising is taking all on one side, and giving nothing to the other, he is right; but if the word is to be taken in the ordinary sense, no one except a person who thought he was addressing a lunatic asylum would venture to adopt any such phrase.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
I may say that the compromise was between secularism on the one side and denominationalism on the other.
§ *LORD ASHBOURNE
The word "compromise" was the word on which the noble Lord placed his principal reliance, and it struck me that it was a very extraordinary statement, and one that did not bear any examination from any ordinary standpoint. The conception of the Bill, I think the noble Lord said, was that it should be on undenominational lines. Be it so. And there was to be one class of schools that was to carry out that conception. That broke down the very minute it was sought to be applied. Instead of there being one class of schools all entirely undenominational, the very necessity of the thing required the Government to proceed to re-manufacture the first clause in four or five clauses that followed after; and we find that instead of there being one single class of schools there are four or five classes, and that the principle of undenominationalism had to be practically put aside again from the necessity of things, and that the principle of donominationalism, that is, definite religious teaching, had to be recognised in Sections 3 and 4.
The fourth clause, which has been so much attacked, is an interesting and in a sense a valuable clause. It is valuable because it shows that the simplest elements of justice require that denominationalism must be recognised, and that something should be done to meet the legitimate claims of those who believe in the religion that they profess. More than that, it recognises the rights of parents to be considered in reference to that tremendously important matter. Having made these recognitions, it is obvious, on reading the clause, that it is to the last degree partial and unfair. Let there be equality all round. What is justice for one, let it be justice for all. But this Clause 4, which is a strange piece of drafting, is not just, fair, or workable. I have no right to make constitutional suggestions, but I almost wish that our constitutional arrangements would enable the draftsman of a great Bill like this to be made a sessional Peer. I think it would be an infinite comfort if we could have him introduced for the session—I think one session would be enough for him—so that he could hear his work discussed, and be asked to explain what is meant by the extraordinary adjustments of language and clauses.
375 I have said that the Bill is partial and unjust. Is it not so? It is brought in to endeavour to satisfy the Roman Catholics and the Jews. That is a perfectly legitimate purpose. They have every claim to be satisfied. They have every right to have their legitimate wants met. Mr. Morley, speaking some months ago (I was greatly struck by his words, but I am not quite sure that he would use them now, in the light of subsequent discussions, although he might, because he is an honest and upright politician), said that the clause was framed to meet the needs and the desires of non-Protestants. What did he mean? That the Roman Catholics were entitled to consideration because they were non-Protestants; that the Jews wore entitled to consideration for the same reason; but that the Church of England and any Protestants that desired special facilities might come in at the tail as well as they could. It was said by Mr. Birrell that he did not intend to damage the Church or its interests. I am sure that the words of Mr. Birrell, he being an honourable gentleman, are entitled to acceptance. It was not intended to damage those interests, but was it intended to ignore them, or to forget them? Were they realised? Did he ever try to appreciate the standpoint of the Church? Is it not obvious to anyone who reads the Bill that the Church, and the interests of millions who belong to it, were all put aside or treated as of no account? Several other classes were considered and dealt with, but no account was taken of the largest class in the country. It was right and just, the argument of Mr. Morley goes, to consider the claims of the Roman Catholics, because their conscientious feelings require it. It was right and just to consider the claims of the Jews for the same reason. I ask, then, in the name of fairplay and common justice, why are not the conscientious views and conclusions of the members of the great Church of England also to be borne in mind? I can see no answer to that, except it be this—that what was good enough for Dr. Clifford was good enough for them. I can see no other possible way of defending it.
Four things stand out conspicuously plain after all the discussion of these months. The country will have no secularism. It demands and insists upon 376 religious education; that that religious education should be given in school hours, that it is to be given by competent and convinced teachers, and that the wishes of the parents are to be had some regard to. Ono would almost say that these were maxims of common sense. I would like to hear the Government say how they regard those propositions, which to us are so obvious. The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Hereford has, I believe, adopted every one of these four points, and I believe others also. Although he is in favour of the Bill, and anxious to support it, he mentions these and other Amendments as being necessary. Surely we are entitled, either by Amendments on the Paper, or by adequate speech in your Lordships' House on this stage of the Bill, to be told how the Government regard these important matters.
This is not the time to discuss the details, but there are two broad facts that have struck my mind in reading the Bill. In my opinion—and I have read this Bill in the closest way more than once—the existence of voluntary schools is in deadly peril under the clauses of the Bill. It is not a Bill for translating them into ordinary provided schools. Nothing of the kind. If this Bill passes it prescribes a charter under which the voluntary schools of the country may be extinguished, some of them, it may be, gradually; but a machinery—potent, even omnipotent— is provided, under which the voluntary schools of the country are placed, first in deadly peril and then may be bled to death.
I again come to the intentions of Mr. Birrell. I speak of him with all respect, entirely believing in the sincerity which animates his expressions of opinion. But no one can deny the legal construction of the Bill, by which these voluntary schools are handed over, bound neck and heels to the action of the local authority; the local education authority may refuse to take over all or some of them, and those that are left out will die. Mr. Birrell said that that was not his intention, that he intended that all suitable schools should be taken over, and that all fair-minded councils would take over all the schools that were suitable structurally and otherwise. I hope, and I would like to expect, that that would be so, but it is not in the Bill. Being a 377 plain man with a legal training, I am glad to found myself on a more acute ecclesiastical mind. The most rev. Primate pointed out that nothing could le more agreeable than the good wishes and benevolent designs of Mr. Birrell, but they are not in the Bill. What is in the Bill is this: that the local education authorities need only take over the voluntary schools where they desire to do so. What a foundation to rest on! It is a mere quicksand. You put all the voluntary schools, which have done so much in history and in reality, on which generations in the past and millions in the present are spending thousands of pounds—you put them all outside the protection of the Act of Parliament, hanging on the words of a Minister, words which are liable to lie forgotten no matter how honourable the Minister may be, and you refuse to put one syllable into the Act to enable people to say, "These are the wishes and intentions of Parliament, stated in the terms of the statute, which would otherwise expose us to the danger of destruction." This is a real danger. Viscount Goschen put the matter with admirable force. I hate making personal charges, and I will not make any. But the local education authorities vary; some of them are good; some of them, may be, too good, and they might have a notion in their minds that they had a more excellent way for the education of the country than taking over these voluntary schools, which, to their minds, have nothing to recommend thorn ignoring their history and the religious teaching and the memories of those who founded them, spent their money upon them, and died in the hope that they would always give the education they desired. These local education authorities might, it may be, think that they could give bettor education in larger and grander buildings, better organised, better co-ordinated; they might think they could do the work better by a system of centralisation; they might have no sympathy with the cause of religious education; they might have their own fads to carry out; and you would be thus leaning for the protection of the voluntary schools upon local authorities that were absolutely free to do what they liked, to follow out every whim that passed through their minds; and thus it might be that though many of them—I hope very many 378 of them—would be anxious to act according to the kindly and benevolent hopes of Mr. Birrell, there might be others who would leave thousands of these schools out in the cold to die and be forgotten, with no statute to appeal to.
Why appeal to the Government to put down Amendments dealing with this question? The answer is this. In order that these schools should not be left in a position of real peril. It is not fair; it is not just; it is un-English. It is reasonable that the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should ask noble Lords to come forward and place their Amendments on the Paper, to come out into the open and show their hands. But let the Government show their hand. Do they moan to leave these schools at the mere beck of the local education authority, without putting a line or comma into the Bill that can give thorn legal protection and duration? Do they mean to leave them to the accident of every change of mind that each election may bring about, fought, it may be, on educational or religious grounds? Again I say it is not reasonable or just. I think the Government should come forward, and by apt words or reasonable Amendments show us that they do not intend these consequences to follow.
There is one other point I wish to mention; it is in reference to the special facilities. Really that clause, if it wore not such a tremendously grave thing, dealing with such serious and important topics, touching us all so nearly, would be ludicrous in its—I cannot call it cunning drafting, but in its curious, mixed-up, involved and incomprehensible drafting. There are a lot of fanciful conditions. "Fanciful" is the kindest word I can use. Mr. Birrell said himself that in order to got the special facilities these schools had to run the gauntlet of very severe provisions. Why should they run any such gauntlet to got that right? I am not going to discuss the clause now. But what reason is there for supporting the restriction of these special facilities, under all the circumstances, to an urban district of 5,000 population? Is there either logic or sense for it? May not every single reason that would induce you to give these special facilities exist equally outside an urban district? May 379 there not be the same reasons as to population, the same second school, the same need of providing everything? Why have you got in your mind this fetish limiting the facilities to the urban districts? The four-fifths clause is really a conundrum. You might as well take any other figure, instead of bluntly and frankly saying that in a district where the other conditions were satisfied and the majority of parents desired it they should be entitled to get those special facilities. Is it much to ask or much to give special facilities to parents to teach their children their own religion if the majority of them desire it? That is a very grave and serious matter to consider.
Then there is no appeal that can be regarded as satisfactory. There is no appeal at all on the earlier point I made as to saving the school from destruction if the local education authority will not take it over. On that large and vital point there is no appeal whatever, good or bad. As to special facilities, there is an appeal to the board of Education. And what may lie the result of that appeal? One of the results — and if the Bill remained as it is I think it might become the favourite result—would be to turn the school into a State-aided school. I can understand the temptation to work that plan. The local education authority would be greatly tempted to say—Put them off the rates, and make it a State-aided school, thus fleeing as of all trouble and difficulty.That is one of the points the Government will have very seriously to explain in Committee. This introduction of the State-aided school was entirely the creation of the Governmental genius, and they seem proud of it, because they put in immediately afterwards, that if twenty parents are dissatisfied about the special facilities there may be an appeal to the board of Education. And what is to happen then? Not that the board of Education is to put the matter right, but if they find that the parents are right, and that the facilities are inadequate and unreasonable, the school is to become a State-aided school. Can you conceive anything more marvellous in drafting than that? The parents complain that the facilities are not given fairly and reasonably. On appeal the Board of 380 Education find that the complaints are justified. But they do not try to set the matter right. They take the school off the rates and make it a State aided school!
There is only one other matter to which will refer, and that is the question of charitable trusts, to which Lord Barnard so clearly and forcibly alluded. I do not think the noble Lord opposite much cared about grappling with the question; he played with the fringe of it gravely, but still——
I spoke very fully on that point in the debate on the Second Reading, and I said that I did not think I should be justified in repeating my arguments on the present occasion.
§ *LORD ASHBOURNE
I had the pleasure of hearing the noble Lord on the Second Reading, when he discussed everything in the fullest way, but I was confining myself to to-day, and I only want to make a couple of observations in reference to it. This clause is extremely strange. It hands over charitable trusts to the absolute mercy of the trustees. I do not say they may betray their trust, but they may be unmindful of its importance and the need of carrying it out, and they may hand it over without check or stint to the local education authority. That is certainly not in accordance with the existing law. Unless there is some tremendous public interest behind to justify it it would be a monstrous change to introduce. Bear in mind, too, that as the noble Viscount (Viscount Goschen) pointed out, it can be applied to trusts which were created only two or three years ago, when thousands upon thousands of pounds were spent in the belief that these charitable trusts would be administered according to the then state of the law. It is true that a Commission is called into existence to deal with the charitable trusts which have not been handed over by the trustees. One would think it would have been more reasonable to enable an appeal to be taken to the Commission by anyone dissatisfied with the action of the trustees. I am not satisfied about the powers that are given, but I will not discuss them now. In some particulars the powers 381 are too wide, in others they are too narrow; I say nothing as to the personnel of the Commission. I believe it is entitled to all the approval that has been expressed in reference to it.
At this late hour, my Lords, I would not be justified in occupying more of your time. The Bill requires the closest possible examination, Reading through it once or twice will not got one to the bottom of its meanings, no matter what advantages your Lordships may have in the way of technical practice in reading such documents. It is not an easy Bill to understand or to follow, and to balance the clauses one against another. In many particulars as framed and un-amended it is unjust and unworkable; it merits, and I am sure it will receive at your Lordships' hands, a searching, jealous, and, I trust, very acute examination.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Earl of CREWE)
My Lords, at this late hour, if I consulted my own inclination, I should be disposed to leave matters as they are, but I fear I should scarcely be acquitted of discourtesy to noble Lords opposite if I were not to make just a few observations in reply to what has fallen from speakers on that side of the House. I re-echo what fell from my noble friend behind me, and from the noble Viscount who spoke second in this debate, as to the advantage which the House has gained from holding this discussion. Even those who, like my noble friend Lord Grimthorpe, have devoted the entir eperiod of the recess to a study of this subject will feel that a discussion of this kind does something to clarify their ideas, and to concentrate their attention on the more important points of the Bill.
First of all, it is right that I should say a word with reference to the Motion which was placed on the Paper by the noble Lord on the Cross Benches, in relation to a possible postponement of this subject. The appeal which the board of Education has made from the Court of Appeal to your Lordships' House in its judicial capacity was, as my noble friend the Leader of the House stated, taken purely on administrative grounds. It was found as the autumn wont on that the local authorities were placed in a position of great confusion and difficulty by the judgment of the Court of 382 Appeal. Individual members of educational authorities found themselves in a position which might lead to their incurring serious personal liability. It was obvious that it was our duty to remove that uncertainty as soon as the necessity was impressed upon us, and therefore we lost no time in appealing. The noble Lord on the Cross Benches seemed to imagine that in not postponing the discussion of this Bill we were actuated by some mysterious motive.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Well, the noble Lord spoke of some tactical advantage. I do not know what communication may have passed between him and others, but certainly no communications whatever, so far as I know, passed between this Bench and himself which could have led him to think that any tactical advantage was involved. I do not know whether noble Lords opposite see any tactical advantage in that action. We see no tactical advantage, or the contrary, to ourselves in going on; and when the noble Lord spoke of the danger of wrecking the Bill which might be involved by postponement again, I do not know what his authority was for that statement. It is undoubtedly true that, in view of the uncertainty which must exist as to when the appeal to your Lordships' House can be finally decided, an indefinite delay would take place, and it might have happened that we should not have been able to proceed with this measure until an extremely inconvenient time. I can conceive that we might have been carried on into next year. That would have been exceedingly inconvenient, but it is by no means the same thing as saying that the Bill would have been wrecked.
I desire before leaving this subject fully to acknowledge the attitude taken by the noble Lords opposite in leaving us to use the best judgment we can in reference to proceeding with the Bill. We decided to proceed because we believe that the discussion on the Bill will not be seriously, or indeed at all materially, hampered or interfered with by the fact that this judgment is under review. There is a common impression existing, I daresay, mainly in the minds of those 383 who have read neither the judgment of the Court of Appeal nor the Bill, that there is some close connection between the two. The noble Lord on the Cross Benches, of course, is not in that position. It certainly does seem to me that the judgment has no real bearing upon this Bill in the sense of affecting our proceedings in the matter. I think it is quite possible for us to carry on this discussion regarding the decision of the Court of Appeal as not having come to hand, and I see no reason why, in the course of this discussion, it should be even mentioned.
I now pass to one or two matters arising out of the debate Many of the remarks of the noble Viscount who spoke second have been dealt with by my noble friend behind me. There is only one to which I wish to allude. The noble Viscount spoke of both sides of the House as being combined against the possible advance of secularism, and he seemed to hint that it might be the case that in the council schools of this country a tendency to secularism was at any rate increasing. I do not know on what authority the noble Viscount made that statement. So far as I know there is no foundation for it, and I do think that the Return of the county syllabuses which was placed in the hands of your Lordships in the summer would certainly lead us to a contrary conclusion. As I said at the time, and I say again, I was agreeably surprised at the extent to which real religious instruction is given in council schools, and I hope and believe that the fears expressed by the noble Viscount have no real foundation in fact.
I pass to one or two observations made by the most rev. Primate. He spoke of the great number of petitions that he had kindly refrained from laying on the Table but which he had brought to your Lordships' House. Their number does not surprise me, for it is common knowledge that a very considerable fooling has been aroused among Churchmen, particularly Churchmen of a certain school, in reference to some of the provisions of this measure. But the most rev. Primate mentioned one petition signed by a number of trustees of voluntary schools in which they asked not to be "forbidden" to carry out their trust. Well, my Lords, that word seems to me to convey a very great inaccuracy. No- 384 body forbids them to carry out their trust. What may be done under the Bill is to cease to supply them with funds to carry out their trust. That appears to me to be an entirely different matter, and it is hardly a correct use of the English language to say that in any sense they are forbidden to carry out their trust because public money is not forthcoming for the purpose.
Then the most rev. Primate said a word about the financial provisions of the Bill, and complained that they had not been sufficiently explained. I am afraid I passed lightly over them in my Second Beading speech. I wearied your Lordships then for nearly two hours, and it was impossible to deal at length with all the points in the Bill. I did, however, two days ago state, as clearly as I am able, in reply to a question from the noble Lord opposite, what the position is with regard to the disposition and allocation of the £1,000,000 provided under the Bill, and I notice that another noble friend of mine has a Question on the Paper on the some subject to which I shall be happy to give an Answer on Monday.
The most rev. Primate intimated that there were certain discrepancies between statements which had been made by those who were able to speak with authority about this Bill and the words in the Bill itself, and the noble Marquess opposite, Lord Londonderry, made a similar complaint. The most rev. Primate first accused us of inconsistency with regard to Clause 4. He stated that Mr. Birrell had, as indeed he did, stated that it was the intention of the clause that religious teaching should in those schools be carried on as heretofore. It is exceedingly difficult, of course, to be sure that one places the same construction on a phrase as another may place on it. We know how difficult it is, from the case which has been the subject of part of the discussion to-night, to speak clearly even in an Act of Parliament, but certainly when my right hon. friend stated that that was the intention of the clause I took him to mean, and I should have thought most people would have taken him to mean, to express the hope that that would be the effect of the clause. I certainly cannot admit that my right hon. friend in making that statement gave any pledge or promise whatever that the 385 appointment of the teacher would remain in the hands of the denomination.
Then the most rev. Primate quoted a phrase which was used by my hon. friend Mr. Lough in the House of Commons, with regard to the teacher who was not qualified to give religious instruction. My hon. friend used a colloquial phrase, to the effect that the teacher would be "got rid of." It was explained, either the same night or the following night, that my hon. friend's colloquial phrase had been misunderstood. What he intended to convey was not that the teacher would be dismissed, but that he would be so far dismissed that he would not have to give the religious instruction, which would be given by someone else. The third discrepency to which the most rev. Primate alluded was that which has become well known in another place under the title of the "gap" in Clause 2,—that is to say, that although facilities have to be given in the schools that are taken over there is not an absolute assurance that a school will be taken over. Therefore, in stating that schools would receive facilities there is no doubt to be borne in mind the possibility that the school may not be taken over at all. The history of what occurred in another place is well known to noble Lords opposite. It was stated by my right hon. friend, and stated with perfect truth, that the local authorities might say, and would say, "We are obliged to take over the schools, but a considerable number of people are entitled to say 'Our schools shall not be taken.'" And that, in the view of the local authorities, would not represent fair play as between the two parties. The result of that is what is known as the bilateral scheme—that is to say, if those representing the owners were willing to have it provided that the school should be handed over, we in our turn were willing to provide that the school must be taken. That offer was not accepted in another place. Whether noble Lords would be disposed to accept it here I cannot say, but the circumstances are perfectly well known, and I really do not think the most rev. Primate has any great cause of complaint of us as to the manner in which we have dealt with that question.
I am afraid I must beg to be excused, so far as this evening is concerned, 386 from replying categorically to a great number of questions which were put to me by the noble Marquess opposite, Lord Londonderry. These are all matters relating to individual clauses which, in my judgment, would be better dealt with as they arise in Committee. The noble and learned Lord who has just sat down, dealt at considerable length—at what I venture to call Committee length—with Clause 4. I hope he, too, will excuse me if I do not attempt at this hour to argue the case for Clause 4 as it stands. I merely wish to make this observation. The noble and learned Lord quoted a remark of my right hon. friend Mr. Morley, to the effect that it was intended to meet the case of non-Protestant churches, and he agreed, I think, that it met the case of the Roman Catholic Church, though we have had some complaints that it does not entirely do so.
§ *LORD ASHBOURNE
I said it had been stated that it was intended to meet the case of the Roman Catholic Church.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I accept that as the only word of approbation we received from the noble and learned Lord in the course of his speech. He implied that it was no use at all to the Church of England. I think my right hon. friend was quite accurate in what he said. It is meant to be of use, and I think will be of use, to the Church of England so far as the Church of England is non-Protestant. My impression was that the Church of England was a Protestant Church and other things too, but, so far as it is non-Protestant, and so far as Anglicans are unwilling to receive the ordinary Protestant teaching which they can receive in the provided schools, and are not content with the minor facilities, I have no doubt that in a considerable number of cases Clause 4 will serve the needs of certain members of the Church of England who dislike and repudiate the title of Protestant. Then the noble and learned Lord said he could not do us a greater disservice than to help us pass 387 the Bill as it stands. I do not advise the noble and learned Lord to be too sure of that. Will he try us? I hope we shall see some evidence of his willingness to allow the Bill to pass as it stands when we go through the various clauses in Committee.
I have no desire at this stage to discuss the debatable points of the Bill further, but there are two phrases which have often been used in the course of this discussion upon which I think it might be well to get a clear understanding so far as we can of our meaning. I refer to the two phrases "public control" and "no test for teachers." The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition stated, I think, in his speech at Nottingham, that he was in favour of these two principles, and the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, in his speech en the Second Heading, made the same observation. And most gratifying observations to us they were. But perhaps it is important, before we show the complete exultation we would desire on hearing those statements, to know that what we mean by public control and by the absence of religious tests is the same as is meant by noble Lords opposite.
The noble Duke on the Cross Benches, the Duke of Devonshire, has an idea of his own upon popular control. He stated, in his exceedingly weighty speech on the Second Reading, that in his opinion the Act of 1902 was not a contravention of the principle of public control. That is to say, that in leaving the voluntary schools with four denominational managers against two appointed by the ratepayers, the principle of popular control was not contravened. That is a revival of a statement made by the noble Duke in the course of the debates in 1902. I remember various passages that took place between him and the noble Earl Lord Rosebery, and also, I think, between him and myself on this very point during the debates in 1902. The noble Duke's argument was this, that, so far as the ratepayers were concerned, they were represented by two managers; of the others, one might be considered to represent the subscribers and the local interest, and the remaining three, or at any rate two, must be taken as representing the State, because they were appointed under Parliamentary sanction by those who, for the time being, were His 388 Majesty's advisers. At that time I took the opportunity of pointing out that, if that was so, it was obviously right that those two or three managers should go out with the Government.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I have no doubt that the noble Earl is quoting me correctly, but I must say I do not recognise my argument.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I think if the noble Duke will do me the favour of referring to the debate he will see that I am not misquoting him in any way. His argument was that the State, as represented by His Majesty's advisers for the time being, wanted denominational instruction in the schools, and the only way they could get it was by appointing these people to represent them. I am bound to say I thought at the time that the argument showed a most amazing dialectic subtlety, and I am not surprised at this distance of time that the noble Duke has not carried it with him. But I am sure that if he will refer to the debate and read his own speech he will see that I am not misquoting him in the slightest degree. I merely mention this statement for the purpose of saying that if that is the real public control which noble Lords opposite think sufficient we cannot agree with them, and that we therefore cannot understand the words in the same sense.
The only other point on which I have to say a word is that of religious tests, to which noble Lords opposite declare themselves equally opposed, and I hope I may be allowed to say in speaking of this subject that the most rev. Primate displayed, if possible, even more than his usual fairness of mind in dealing with it. In the debate on the Second Reading the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, said he could not see the difference between a test and a qualification, and that if a qualification to teach a subject was demanded, it was the same thing as applying a test. It seems to me that that is an argument which cannot be sustained. What is the definition of a test in this connection? It seems to me that a test is applied when an applicant for an appointment is asked what his religious views are, and the obtaining of the appointment depends upon the reply which he gives.
389 I might mention a possible parallel case. Supposing I desired to obtain a tenant for a farm. If, after having made the usual inquiries as to his fanning capabilities and his possession of sufficient capital, I then proceeded to ask him if he hold Liberal opinions, I should not attempt to conceal from myself that I was applying a political test. I might, of course, say that I considered it a necessary qualification for anybody who held a farm on my estate to be able to spread the Liberal faith in his parish. It would be a thing which I should have a perfect legal right to do although I think it would be a monstrously foolish thing to do. But I should not attempt to conceal from myself that I was applying a test. Consequently if noble Lords imagine that it is possible in any way before a teacher is appointed to find out whether he is a communicant of the Church of England, whether he is a Roman Catholic, or whether he is an Agnostic, and to make his appointment or non-appointment depend on his answer, if they think it is possible to do that without applying a test we differ from them in toto.
I can only conclude by saying that any Amendments which noble Lords place on the Paper will receive the closest attention from His Majesty's Government, and we shall weigh them with the respect which is due to Amendments emanating from the high quarters from which they come. Noble Lords may not think we have succeeded, but in drafting this Bill we have been actuated by a desire to do justice to all parties. It is hardly necessary, I think, for us to deny any intention of taking away any of the reasonable rights of the Church of England. I can only say of myself what I should say with equal confidence of my right hon. friend Mr. Birrell, that anything like intolerance or bigotry or the spirit of persecution is equally distasteful to us in whatever garb it appears. But I would add this, that in dealing with these Amendments we cannot agree to abandon the principles which we believe are held in this matter by the very great majority of our fellow countrymen, and which we have endeavoured as best we can to translate into legislation in a Bill which is coining again before your Lordships on Monday.
§ On Question, Motion to go into Committee agreed to.390
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The Earl of ONSLOW in the Chair.]
§ Moved, That the House do resume— (The Marquess of Ripon.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed, and to be again in Committee on Monday next.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before Twelve o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter past Four o'clock.