*THE EARL OF DARTMORTH
rose to call attention to the action of the Board of Education in connection with the Royston non-provided school, West Riding of Yorkshire; and to move for Papers.
The noble Lord said: I make no apology for bringing this question before your Lordships' House, because I think it is a very important one. There are a great many cases in connection with the action of the Board of Education that suggest oppressive administration, and no doubt the most convenient way of raising those questions would be in another place when the Education Estimates are before the House of Commons. But unfortunately last year there was no opportunity of discussing them, and this year that other place appears to be so busy dealing with other people's business that it has not much time for attending to its own. Therefore I venture to bring the matter before your Lordships. I propose to deal with only one of these cases, although as I say there are a good many others which no doubt will come up for consideration before long. I take the case of the Royston school because it seems to me that it traverses what I believe is a leading principle of our Constitution, that you must not try to achieve by administration that which Parliament refuses to allow by legislation.
The facts are these: the Royston national school is a school near Wakefield, a mixed school with accommodation for 256 children, and an average attendance of 221. Last autumn the head-master resigned, and in accordance with the duty imposed upon them by the Act of 1902 the managers proceeded to appoint a successor. There were sixty-seven candidates, whose applications were gone into, three were selected, and finally, on November 2nd of last year, a decision was arrived at. Two out of the three selected candidates, viz., Mr. Milnes and Mr. Gar-dam, obtained an equal number of votes on the board of managers. In accordance with the provisions of the Act the chairman of the board of managers, who in this case is the vicar of the parish, gave a casting vote in favour of Mr. Milnes. 32 The minority of the managers appealed to the local education authority, the West Riding County Council, attributing motives. I will not go into those motives because there are motives suggested for their desiring the appointment of Mr. Gardam which I think are even stronger than those attributed to the supporters of Mr. Milnes. On the strength of this communication the local authority on November 21st refused to confirm the appointment of Mr. Milnes on educational grounds, those being the only grounds on which a local authority can interfere. The managers appealed against this action to the Board of Education, denying the imputations made, and giving their reasons for appointing Mr. Milnes. The reasons were very simple—that in their opinion Mr. Milnes was the best man, that it was a mixed school, that the other teachers being women they considered a married head-master would be better than an unmarried man (Mr. Milnes is married and Mr. Gardam is not), and that Mr. Milnes has had experience as a headmaster in another West Riding school at Sharlston, while Mr. Gardam had been assistant master at the Royston school for some time. These were the reasons given, and I think most people would regard them as perfectly sufficient.
Communications passed between the Board of Education and the local education authority. The local education authority claimed full discretion in the appointment of teachers and referred to the fact that they had made a visit of inspection and tested the educational qualities of the master. I would call your Lordships' attention to what that test was. Two members of the West Riding County Council Education Committee, not experts, and an official, paid a surprise visit to the Sharlston school. They arrived at 1 o'clock talked to the head-master and examined the scheme of instruction. At 1.30 the children came in, and as soon as they were sitting in their places the inspection began. One class only was examined, and, according to Mr. Milnes, six questions were asked by the visitors and one by himself, the whole business being over in a quarter of an hour. It is true the local education authority suggests that the inspection lasted half an hour. It does 33 not matter much whether it was a quarter of an hour or half an hour; it was on that test the local education authority refused to confirm the appointment of the properly appointed head-master. The Board of Education were not quite satisfied with the action of the local education authority and they express their opinion to that authority in the following terms—The Board would certainly have felt great reluctance in basing a decision of so grave a character upon a single report made under the circumstances described, and it appears to them doubtful whether any teacher could do himself justice if suddenly called upon to give lessons in the presence of three comparative strangers, and under circumstances which must have made it difficult for the children to give their undivided attention.I should like to quote also the opinion of the Board of Education on the educational fitness of Mr. Milnes. With regard to the ability and character of Mr. Milnes the Board quoted the testimony of Mr. Marvin, His Majesty's inspector, who on behalf of the Board made special inquiry. This is Mr. Marvin's Report—Mr. Milnes is unquestionably one of the most deserving of the younger men in my own part of the West Riding, one out of quite a small number of men whom we would naturally have thought of for such promotion as this. I enclose copies of his reports, etc., both of my own and of other inspectors which, favourable as they are, do not fully describe his work or merits. He is a very popular teacher and has a great personal influence on the scholars, caring for them out of school as well as in, starting football clubs, etc., having in this way not only largely increased the number of scholars on the roll, but attaining generally the most regular attendance in the neighbourhood.That is the opinion of the Board of Education on the educational capacities of Mr. Milnes.
Now we go a step further. There have been questions asked in another place, but their privileges of questioning are not so great as those we enjoy, and they have not been able to get a very satisfactory answer from the Minister in charge of the Board of Education. On the 10th April, Mr-Lane Fox, the Member for Barkston Ash, asked a question to which he got the following reply—The Board of Education have to satisfy themselves that the decision was come to on educational grounds. There is no shadow of doubt that the decision was come to in the present case on those grounds.34 And that reply was given when the Board had in their possession the Report of their own inspector which I have just read! What is the position of the Board of Education in matters of this kind where there is a controversy? I was always under the impression that the Board of Education was the final court of Appeal. Is it the duty of the Board of Education merely to satisfy themselves that the alleged grounds are educational, or have they to satisfy themselves that the grounds on which the refusal to confirm is made are genuine? If they have not to do the latter, it seems to me that the appointment of the head teacher by the managers becomes an absolute farce, and, that as in this case, a local education authority that object to a particular appointment may set up some perfectly impossible standard and refuse to confirm simply because the man has not come up to the impossible standard which they themselves have imposed. There is one other answer to which I should like to refer, given on 15th April to Lord Turnour—The jurisdiction of the Board of Education, in this and similar cases, is strictly limited to determining whether the local education authority withheld their consent on educational grounds. These grounds in the present case are, of course, within the knowledge of the Board, but it seems unnecessary "—and this is the important part of it—and in the interests of the teacher undesirable to state publicly the precise educational reasons on which the local education authority grounded their decision that Mr. Milnes was unsuited for the post.Now, my Lords, when we consider the difficulty of a teacher in his profession, when we consider how difficult especially is the position of a teacher in the Church of England schools—I think it is a cruel thing, unless there is some strong justification for it, to make a charge of that kind, that there is something behind that must not be made public in the interest of the teacher. It is in the interest of the teacher that I speak, and I claim that we shall have the facts upon which that answer was given made as public here as the statement itself was made in another place. My Lords, perhaps there may be some due found to what has taken place. We do not forget that Mr. Birrell, 35 in his farewell to the Bill of last session said—Whoever is at the Board of Education will administer the law fearlessly, without predilection, and with a perfectly bloodless indifference, to see that the due course of law is observed, and that the course of education is kept at a proper level.We shall do all we can to assist the Board in maintaining Education at its proper level, and to see that the due course of law is observed; but when we talk of "bloodless indifference," do let us bear in mind that where the prospects of a teacher are concerned, though the indifference may be there, it will not be a "bloodless" one. It seems to me that the Board has tried to administer the Act so as to give to the local education authority such an extensive and unrestricted veto as practically to place in their hands the appointment of teachers in voluntary schools— an appointment especially reserved to the managers by the Act of 1902. It is notorious that the Board took the view that Mr. Milnes was thoroughly suited for the appointment as headmaster of Royston School, yet they allowed the local education authority to maintain their objection. As I say, I am speaking now in the interest of the teacher himself, and in his interest, and in justice to him, I would ask that we may have laid upon the Table all the correspondence that has taken place between the respective authorities—the Board of Managers, the local education authority, and the Board of Education— and all the Reports made during the time that Mr. Milnes has been headmaster of the Sharlston School.
§ Moved, "That there be laid before the House Papers in connection with the Royston non-provided school, in the West Hiding of Yorkshire."— (The Earl of Dartmouth.)
§ *THE EARL Of CREWE
My Lords, the noble Lord has made a very full and clear statement of this somewhat remarkable case—a case which has excited very great interest throughout the West Riding of Yorkshire, and which has also excited, as the noble Lord stated, no small amount of comment in another place. Now the noble Lord has stated. 36 I think with perfect accuracy, the main facts of the case, although I am not entirely in agreement with the conclusion he drew from those facts, or with all the comments which he made upon them. It is perfectly true that Mr. Milnes was appointed by the managers, as the noble Lord stated, by the casting vote of the vicar. Two of the managers then appealed to the local authority, asking them to overrule the managers' decision in favour of another candidate, Mr. Gardam. The result of that proceeding was that the Education Committee deputed two of their number, accompanied by their school inspector, to pay a visit to the school. The noble Earl stated, I think, that these gentlemen who attended were not experts, but as a matter of fact both of them had been for some years members of the Staffing Committee— one, I think, as Chairman—both had very full knowledge of the appointment of teachers, and their inspector was also, of course, a competent man. Well, they paid a visit to this school, and the conclusions they reached, and which were stated in a Report which they issued, were not entirely favourable to Mr. Milnes. I will not trouble the House by reading the Report now, although it is not very long, but the general result of it was that they stated that although they did not deny that he was a good school master, they did not think he was up to the mark as regards this particular school. They say in conclusion that "without wishing in any way unduly to reflect upon Mr. Milnes, who is, they believe, a very painstaking teacher, the Committee do not consider he is the proper man to put at the head of Royston National School, which has been very skilfully organised and taught by the retiring headmaster, and where he would have to deal with a greater number of children, and a larger staff, and receive a largely increased salary." That conclusion was arrived at after a visit which, I think, lasted about three-quarters of an hour, and as a result of this Report, the local education authority refused their consent to this appointment under Section 7 of the Act. Then the managers, as they are empowered to do—
§ *THE EARL Of CREWE
The noble Earl stated that there was a tie between the two candidates, Nobody was appointed at the moment, of course, because the matter was under appeal. They appealed under Section 7. The Board made inquiry as to the fitness of Mr. Milnes, and they received a very excellent Report from one of their inspectors—a Report from which the noble Earl has quoted. In consequence of this, they suggested that the local authority had been misled in the opinion which they had formed, and they hoped that the matter would be reconsidered, and the appointment approved. This, however, the local authority refused to do, and the Board itself had to consider what was the proper course for them to take under the Act of 1902. I must remind the noble Lord that my right hon. friend Mr. McKenna does not sit administering justice under a palm tree, but he has to administer a particular Act of Parliament, and he is bound to be governed by the sections of that Act of Parliament. The section of that Act relating to this matter is this—The consent of the local education authority shall be required to the appointment of teachers, but that consent shall not be withheld except on educational grounds.And then a further subsection of the same clause says—If any questions arise under this section between the local education authority and the managers of a school not provided by the authority that question shall be determined by the Board of Education.Well, the Board had to consider what is meant by withholding consent to an appointment on educational grounds, and the result of their deliberations was the following letter. They said—The duty of the Board in such cases is confined to determining in accordance with the provisions of Section 7 (I.) (c) of the Education Act, 1902, whether the consent of the authority is withheld upon educational grounds, and the authority informed the Board that after taking such steps as they deemed to be satisfactory and sufficient to ascertain the educational qualifications of Mr. Milnes, they have come to the conclusion that he is not up to the standard 38 which they consider desirable, and for that reason have decided not to confirm his appointment. Under these circumstances the refusal of the authority appears to be based upon educational grounds within the meaning of the above-mentioned section, and the Board so determine. They are not prepared therefore to interfere with the discretion of the local authority in the matter.In sending a copy of this letter to the local authority the Board added words, some of which the noble Lord quoted, but which by permission of the House I will read again. They said—From the information before them the Board feel some doubt as to the correctness of the view taken by the authority as to Mr. Milnes' qualifications. The Board would certainly have felt great reluctance in basing a decision of so grave a character upon a single Report made under the circumstances described, as it appears to them doubtful whether any teacher could do himself justice if suddenly called upon to give lessons in the presence of three comparative strangers, and under circumstances which must have made it difficult for the children to give him their undivided attention.It is obvious, I think, by this time to the House that the real, substantial question which the Board of Education had to decide was whether its jurisdiction is confined to determining whether the education authority's refusal is based upon educational grounds, or whether the Board has then to proceed to decide whether those educational grounds are adequate grounds — that is to say, whether the Board's estimate of the fitness of a teacher for a particular appointment is the same as the local authority's, and, if not, which is the right one. In view of the wording of the Act of Parliament the Board are advised, and have decided, that they have no jurisdiction to determine the adequacy of the educational grounds. If, of course, it was shown to them that the whole thing was not bona fide, if there had been no attempt to discover educational grounds, and if no Report had been made, the matter would have been different. But in this instance, where the grounds alleged by the authority are personal to the teacher—not merely showing that a better teacher could be found, but showing that this particular teacher was not suited to this particular school—which is what the local authority do show—the Board hold that they have no further jurisdiction to interfere in the matter. That is to say 39 that, although the Board think in this particular instance that the conclusion at which the local authority have arrived is an incorrect one, they are not able to say that the local authority did not take such steps as established their bona fides in the matter.
§ *THE EARL Of DARTMOUTH
The Board said so in their own remarks, which have been read. They have said that the local authority did not take sufficient steps to find out. What you have just read yourself says it is not sufficient.
§ *LORD ASHBOURNE
Does the letter contain what the noble Lord has just been stating—that it was not within the jurisdiction of the Board of Education to decide?
§ *THE EARL Of CREWE
No, I am stating what the opinion of the Board is. The statement that the Board has no jurisdiction is the opinion at which the Board arrived in considering the legal aspect of the case.
§ *THE EARL Of CREWE
No, that is not stated in the reply. The noble Earl says that we ourselves admit—the Board admit—that the examination was not sufficient. Well it might be possible on that to say, "Go down again and make a further inquiry;" and the local authority might do so; but of course there would be no guarantee that they would not arrive at the same conclusion at which they arrived on their first examination.
There is just one further point that is worth mentioning—that if the words "educational grounds" are taken to mean adequate educational grounds, it would appear to follow that the words of the latter part of the same subsection, alluding to religious grounds, must also be taken to mean adequate religious grounds. And after all, we did not draw this Act of 1902. I quite believe that if the noble Marquess had been in opposition and had been drawing the Act for 40 somebody else to administer, he would have been quite willing to place upon the Board the onus of stating whether the educational grounds were adequate. But as he was in office at the time, he knew quite well that the Board of Education would not be prepared to take the responsibility of entering into a sort of competition with the local authority as to whether the fitness of a particular teacher for a particular school could or could not be established.
The noble Earl mentioned some of the Answers to Questions given by my right hon. friend in another place, and he seemed to think that a hardship had been inflicted upon the teacher in not publishing the Report of the local authority concerning him. I can assure the noble Earl that what my right hon. friend said was entirely in the interest of the teacher. He, in our opinion, is not a very well used man in this particular connection, and it does not seem that it would be in his interest to advertise still further the fact that the local authority found him, in their opinion, unfit to conduct this particular school. But as a matter of fact, on the 17th April last my right hon. friend was asked by Mr. Bridge-man in the first place—Whether any directions with respect to the educational qualifications of teachers had been issued by the local educational authority for the West Riding of Yorkshire;and then the hon. Member went on to ask—Whether the Report of that local education authority, as to the educational grounds on which consent to his appointment was withheld by that authority, is corroborated in any single respect by the Reports of the inspectors of the Board of Education; and whether he will consider the desirability of publishing the Reports of the local authority and of the Board's inspector.I have no information,"said my right hon. friend,is to the first two paragraphs of the hon. Member's Question.And he then went on to say:I doubt whether, in the interests of the teacher, it is desirable to publish the Report which the Board had received from the West Riding County Council upon his teaching capacity, but as the hon. Member presses for it, I will lay copies of both Reports upon the Table.41 And I suppose as far as the House of Commons is concerned, that has been done. No doubt it has not been circulated as a Parliamentary Paper, but it can be placed at the disposal of the noble Earl, or of noble Lords generally, if they would like to see it.
I may merely say in conclusion that the Board of Education bases its action entirely upon its duty under the Act of Parliament. It expresses no further opinion than I have expressed upon the particular merits of the case, but it considers itself limited in a particular way by the Act of Parliament, and of course it has been obliged to act accordingly.
§ *THE EARL Of DARTMOUTH
My Lords, I should like to say a word or two further, because, as I gather from what the noble Lord has just told us, he has implied that the local education authority at any rate, and possibly the Board of Education as well, are not satisfied with the teaching powers of Mr. Milnes for this particular school. The chairman of the West Riding Education Committee on the 19th February last wrote a letter to the Yorkshire Post. Of course it is not official, but this is his opinion of this case, and I should like to call the noble Lord's attention to this. Mr. Dunn says—That he had not heard of one single word being said by any member of the education committee to the effect that Mr. Milnes was unlit for the post.…The competence of Mr. Milnes to take charge of the school has not been questioned, but it was considered that a few of the sixty or more candidates were preferable.Here is the opinion of the head of the Education Committee of the West Riding County Council, and as regards his opinion that other candidates were better, surely the persons to judge which candidate is the best are the managers who go into all the circumstances of the case, and for their decision to be upset in this way is, I think, extremely hard, especially when there is a suggestion that there is something behind that action which in the interests of the teacher cannot be made public.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
I think it is manifest from listening to the Lord President of the Council that he does not 42 a bit like the job which has been cast upon his shoulders of trying to explain (it is impossible to defend) this transaction. In my opinion harsher measure never was meted out to any man than has been meted out to this gentleman who was elected to this post after consideration. I do not want to deduce anything unduly from anyone's manner, but it is perfectly plain from the letters, and from the action of the Board of Education, that they too did not like the job cast upon them, and they did their best, I am bound to say—except that they did not have the courage of their final opinion—to stand by this man, and ensure that he should not be treated harshly and unjustly.
My Lords, the matter is one that really does not stand a moment's examination. There is not one of your Lordships on either side of the House who does not feel that if he had had the decision of the matter, this man would not have been treated in this way, and that it was not reasonable, it was not fair, it was not English, so to treat him. I am not going to repeat the facts again. They lie in a nutshell. The barest, and the plainest, and the nakedest statement of the facts takes away the possibility of justifying what has been done. Hero is a man who had served for a number of years as a master in a school. I believe he had always given satisfaction to the Board of Education. I have gathered that there were earlier Reports in addition to the particular one which has been referred to by my noble friend and the production of which he challenged. It appears that he had always been a deserving headmaster. Then he was elected, whether by a casting vote or not, I do not know; but he was elected by the managers, and their decision was sent up to be confirmed by the local education authority. For reasons which I will not now discuss—I wish to make no imputations — they refused to confirm the manager's decision. As I say, I make no imputation, and I assume that they acted upon their view of the merits of the facts. The appeal went from them in the proper legal way to the Board of Education, and the noble Earl has told us what view the Board of Education took. I believe 43 the noble Earl was desirous—indeed, he was most obviously anxious—to tell everything to the House, but he has not read that clause. The subsection in question was subsection (3) of Clause 7. That was the clause under which the appeal was taken, and that clause commences thus—I have not the words before me just now, but I believe I am right—If any question arises between the local education authority and the managers of a school—not a particular question, be it noted, but "any" question—any such question is to be determined by the Board of Education.And the Board of Education, it is manifest from all that took place on the correspondence and on the Report, took the view that it was a question for them, and they sent down one of their most trained and competent inspectors, who made a special Report upon the case, and reported strongly in favour of this man (I never heard a Report more strongly in favour of any man)—of the merits, the character, and the worth of this man as a headmaster. He was worthy of being selected, worthy of being retained, unworthy of having all his claims set aside, and of being sent adrift upon the world. What does all that indicate? That the Board of Education themselves shrunk from the task of confirming what was done by the local education authority; and in the letters that have been written, as well as by the Report of this trained inspector of their own, it is obvious that they did their very best, by expressing the strongest, most vigorous, and clearest opinion that this transaction should not be. allowed to stand. The local education authority adhered to their views. They were wrong, and if the Board of Education had followed up their previous correct action—if I may presume so to describe it—of writing this clear letter in this man's favour, and sending down an inspector to get a Report—if they had said, "We must act upon our own clear views which we have already expressed in our letters, and which our inspector has expressed in the form of a Report which we accept and adopt "— if they had said," under those circumstances, this being a question raised between the managers and the local 44 authority, we decide that it is not a case in which we can shrink from our duty of confirming the appointment of this man "—then they would in my opinion have acted properly, and in a manner against which no exception could have been taken.
§ *THE EARL Of CREWE
Will the noble Lord go as far as to say that in his opinion, if we had done it, we should not have broken the law?
§ Lord ASHBOURNE
I prefer that that Question should be addressed to the Lord Chancellor. I never read the letter before, but I listened carefully to the noble Lord when he was reading it, and the words used at the end were that the Board were not prepared (why were they not prepared? under the circumstances to overrule the discretion of the local authority.
§ *THE EARL Of CREWE
What they said was—The refusal of the authority appears to be based upon educational grounds within the meaning of the above-mentioned section, and the Board so determine.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
But I think the words that linger in my hearing are also to be found there, that: "under these circumstances the Board are not prepared to overrule the discretion of the local authority"; and the noble Earl qualified that again by introducing the statement that he did not say that if the Board arrived at the conclusion that the reason was not one which could be accepted it would not give an opinion. Surely there must be a point where they are bound to give effect to their own clear opinion against the action of others when it has been brought before them. If not, it would make this appeal really and truly worthless. It might be that it would not be a case of a casting vote. It might be a case when; there was a majority of three-fourths of the managers, and it might be that the local education authority had said: "We do not mind this great consensus of local opinion; we will act upon our own opinion in this matter, although the local opinion may be composed of four-fifths of the managers, and although their opinion may be distinctly approved 45 by the Board of Education." I submit; that it is intelligible and reasonable that the law intended that such a question as this, being a question between the parties, should be decided upon a fair consideration of the facts, the merits, and the reason of the case. My Lords, it would not be reasonable to apply any other consideration, I suggest, to this case, otherwise the whole appeal, which is an appeal upon ''any" question between the parties, could be made illusory and worthless. In. the light of the discussion that has taken place I would very much wish that on a fairer view of the facts, the Board would consider whether they are bound—that is the question— as a matter of jurisdiction to ignore their own reading of the merits and the facts of the case, and to overrule the Report of their own inspector and say: "We are bound hand and foot; an appeal has come to us; we have a clear opinion that the appeal should be allowed, but there is something in the Act of Parliament that takes away our discretion, and we will not decide the question, because we do not think that under the circumstances of the case it would be convenient for us to do so."
§ THE MARQUESS Of LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I had no idea of joining in this debate, but in view of what has fallen from the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council, I think it is only right that, as a recent Minister of Education, I should say a few words on the subject.
My noble friend (the Earl of Dartmouth) has so clearly stated the case, and has brought out so fully what is, in my opinion, the unjust treatment this teacher has received at the hands of the local education authority in the West Riding of Yorkshire, that I do not think it is at all necessary for me to enter into that question. But, my Lords, the Act of Parliament, as I read it during the time I was Minister of Education, laid down very clearly that except on educational grounds the education authority had no right to reverse the decision of the managers in the appointment of a teacher to a voluntary school. That, I think, was laid down in clear terms. As I gather from what I have heard 46 in the course of this debate, the education authority in the West Riding seem to have been determined to assist the three out of six managers who were opposed to the appointment of this gentleman, and at the same time (as I gather merely from listening to the debate this evening) they suddenly, at a moment's notice, and without warning, sent down three members of their Education Committee, who were very likely gentlemen hostile to the whole system of denominational education, to make a surprise visit— swooping down upon this school, perhaps not giving either the master or the children a chance of doing their best, and condemning that master as being inefficient on educational grounds. As I say, I know nothing of the matter except what I have learnt from listening from the debate to-night, but that is how it strikes me, and if the view which I have formed is correct, I think it is most unfair to that teacher that he should be condemned in that way. I do not know that amongst the many certificates of qualifications that I have seen, I ever heard one of greater weight than that which was read by my noble friend Lord Dartmouth, with regard to the master whose interests he is now defending. I do not think the noble Earl (Lord Crewe) would for one moment challenge that, and yet for this reason— because he is declared, upon the result of this surprise visit, to be unfit on educational grounds to be appointed to this post—that man is practically ruined. My Lords, it seems to me a very hard case, and, to my mind, entirely contrary to the spirit of the Act of 1902. My noble and learned friend (Lord Ashbourne) has dealt with the matter from the legal aspect, and therefore I will not go further into that branch of the question; but what I should like to ask is this: Did the President of the Board of Education take legal opinion before he wrote that letter in answer to the letter of the local authority?
§ THE MARQUESS Of LONDONDERRY
It seems to me to be so contrary to the spirit of the Act of 1902 that such an injustice should be brought about by the operation of that Act that I hope the noble Earl will consider the matter and bring it up again. I do not wish to say anything controversial, but what rankles in our minds is the threat held out by the noble Earl (the Earl of Crewe) in his concluding speech upon the Education Bill of last session, when he said that he feared its rejection would lead to harsh words and harsh actions. Perhaps this is one of those harsh actions. If so, I can only say that I am sorry to think that a great Department like the Board of Education should be able to bring itself to do such a harsh action to a man who is qualified, as far as I can gather, on every ground, simply because the local authority happens to be hostile to the system of denominational schools. I think it is a great advantage to us to have had this question raised by my noble friend (the Earl of Dartmouth), and I wish that I had known more of the details myself before entering upon the question. But, merely speaking offhand as a past President of the Council, I can only say that I deeply regret the line which has been taken in this case by the Board of Education.
THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Lord Fitzmaurice)
I would ask permission to recall the attention of your Lordships to what is really the point before the House. It is not whether we think that the refusal of the West Riding Local Education Authority with regard to this particular teacher was harsh or not; nor are we really justified in discussing all the complicated facts of what is evidently a very controversial story.
I fully agree with what the noble Lord has just said 48 across the House. The point is really a very simple one. Is the Board of Education justified or not in its construction of the sub-section of the Act of Parliament—Subsection (c) of Section (1) of the 7th Clause of the Act? I have had some experience as a member of a local education authority, and I know this— that Section 7 of the Art of 1902 is a clause of very great length and of very great difficulty in many ways, and points of law are constantly arising upon it. In reality what we are discussing tonight is, as I have just said, not merely the merits of this case but the point of law. One view has been placed with great authority and great clearness before the House by the noble Lord who addressed the house from the Front Opposition Bench (Lord Ashbourne), and of course his opinion upon a legal question is bound to carry great weight with your Lordships. But, on the other hand, I must remind your Lordships that there is another view, and I must also add that I have a recollection—though I am not able to give chapter and verse—of this point having arisen before, and that, although it may not have been within the intention of Parliament, or of the late Government, when they framed that particular section, the best view of the meaning of this clause was that if the Board of Education is once satisfied upon what is really almost more a question of fact than a question of law —namely, that the education authority, whether in their view rightly or wrongly, has acted upon educational grounds— then the Board of Education, whether it wishes to do so or not, is not able to intervene on the merits of the case. That may or may not be a desirable state of things. That may be a reason for extending the jurisdiction of the Board of Education in appeals of this kind so as to bring it back to what the noble Lord said that in his opinion it was the intention of the late Government to make it. But while the Board of Education, upon adequate legal advice, has come, rightly or wrongly, to the conclusion that as long as it is satisfied that a local authority has acted upon grounds which are educational in their character, and not upon reasons of favour, or of prejudice, or of something involving injustice, they cannot interfere with its decision, then I think it would be 49 exceedingly difficult for your Lordships' House, or the other House of Parliament to intervene in a matter of this kind, and to constitute itself, as it were, upon the whole merits of the case (the story being a very complicated one) a sort of extra Court of Appeal to try and reverse the decision of the Board of Education.
§ EARL CAWDOR
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just addressed your Lordships has so much authority and experience in regard to local government that I should not venture for a moment to question anything which he puts before your Lordships founded upon that experience. But, as the noble Lord has pointed out, we are really discussing a point of law, and therefore perhaps I may assume that, as neither the noble Lord nor myself am a lawyer, we are equally competent to discuss it from that point of view.
§ EARL CAWDOR
Then, the noble Lord being a lawyer, and I not being one, it is clearly not open to me to discuss a point of law against him. All I desire to draw attention to is the very grave importance of the question we are discussing. I do not wish to raise it as a controversial matter so far as Party politics are concerned, but I do put it to the noble Lord the President of the Council that it is a matter of great importance.
The clause we are discussin;—Subsection (3) of Clause 7—says—If any questions arise under this section between the local education authority and the managers of a, school not provided by the authority, that question shall be determined by the Board of Education.My Lords, we are told now that the Board of Education hold that in arriving at that determination they are limited in the scope of their inquiry. I think we must press again, as was pressed just now, that we should like to know the legal authority for that limitation which is stated to exist in this clause. I do not express any opinion as to whether it exists or not, but I do press upon your Lordships and upon the noble Earl that this is a matter which should be 50 cleared up. And for this reason. Your Lordships will remember very wall that, when the Act of 1902 was before Parliament, it was first of all argued that the managers should have the appointment of teachers in non-provided schools. The objection was then raised, as I remember very well, that if that were so you might be paying teachers who were educationally unfit, and therefore the clause was put in giving the local education authority the right to dissent from the appointment of teachers by the managers, but upon educational grounds alone. No other power was given to the local education authority. That was the safeguard of the ratepayer against inefficient teachers. Then came in the question of a difference of opinion arising between the managers and the education authority, and that contingency was dealt with by Subsection (3) under which it was to be decided by the Board of Education. I do not want to prolong this discussion, but I venture to make an appeal to the noble Lord that he should give us in full the papers and correspond-once on this subject, and the reports of inspectors referred to in the course of that correspondence. This is a matter which concerns not only the teacher in whose behalf Lord Dartmouth has pleaded; I think it is essential that we should have the whole story clearly before us, without reservation of any kind, in order that we may know where we stand on the matter; and I hope the noble Earl will not rest satisfied by telling us that some legal authority or other has given his opinion, but that he will take care that the highest possible legal authorities are consulted. The opinion should be taken of the highest law officers of the Crown, and that opinion should be laid before Parliament.
§ *THE EARL Of CREWE
I can only address your Lordships again by the indulgence of the House, but I will certainly ask my right hon. friend, who I cannot conceive will have any objection, to lay the Papers in this case before the House, bearing always in mind, of course, that the merits of the case have nothing to do with the point which we have been discussing or with the action of the Board of Education.
§ *THE EARL Of DARTMOUTH
May I interrupt the noble Earl for one moment? My object is to get these Papers laid on the Table of the House in order that the public may know that the answer of the Minister of Education in another place as to something more being behind which could not be justified has no proper foundation.
§ *THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH
In the interests of the teacher I ask that the whole case should be made public.
§ *THE EARL Of CREWE
By all means As far as I know, the Papers in question are now in the possession of the House of Commons, at least I imagine so, because my right hon. friend said on the 17th April that they would be laid before the House. I will of course also consult my right hon. friend as to the method of once more determining the legal point. He acted upon the legal opinion which was at his disposal, but of course I quite admit that the matter is one of very considerable gravity, and it is very proper that it should be decided by the most competent authorities possible. Perhaps I might be allowed to say that the explanation, to my mind, is an exceedingly simple one why this burden was not thrown upon the Board of Education. It is because, when Acts of Parliament are passed, a. Department undoubtedly desires to relieve itself, as far as possible, from the settling of awkward questions, and I am bound to say that the Board of Education would view with very great dismay the prospect of having practically to appoint the teachers in these cases, because that is what it would mean.
§ *THE EARL Of CREWE
And when I am told (and I was only told by the noble and learned Lord, and not by the noble Marquess who was responsible for the Bill of 1902) that the intention of the Government at that time was that the Board of Education should settle these questions, I take great leave to doubt it.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
I beg to correct the noble Earl. I said nothing of the kind. What I said was that in case of an appeal to the Board of Education it was unfair that there should not be a power of veto in that Board. There is a veto with regard to educational grounds.
§ *THE EARL Of CREWE
My point was that the Board of Education at that time—by intention, and deliberately—refrained from saying the educational grounds should be "adequate," but, as they believed, left the matter in the position in which it is now. That is the only further point I now wish to make.
§ *THE EARL Of DARTMOUTH
It is, of course, understood that I move for the production of the reports of the inspectors, the correspondence, the legal opinion, and any other papers that may be useful to the House.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.