§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH
My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill which stands in my name I desire briefly to make clear my position and purpose in this matter. I am solely responsible for this Bill. I pledge and am pledged to no one, and I compromise no one in this or in any other place. The Bill, therefore, comes before your Lordships with nothing and nobody to recommend it but its own provisions. Those provisions are largely embodied in a Bill which your Lordships read a second time without a division in 1904. That Bill was welcomed by Lord Tweed-mouth, speaking then in the absence of Lord Spencer, as Leader of the Opposition. The noble Lord said—He welcomed the Bill as a message of peace, and he hoped that later on it might be possible to expand it into a concordat.I venture to think, my Lords, that the moment for attempting such an expansion has at last arrived. One of the main features in the Bill of 1904, was, what for brevity I will call, the parental solution of the religious problem. During the last four years a complete discovery has been made of the fact that the children in our elementary schools not only have parents, but that those parents have as much right and claim to determine the religion taught to their children as any other parent in the land.
The present moment seems opportune for another reason. Unless I am gravely mistaken, the country is weary of this prolonged controversy, and reasonable and moderate men are eager for a settlement and feel that the time has come to bring about the composing of this conflict of claims. But if there is to be a settlement that settlement must 4 be a concordat, the virtue of which lies in the fact that, unlike a victory or defeat, it avoids the humiliation of either side and the bitterness which would ensue from such humiliation. But neither the hopes of the past nor the present sense of weariness have chiefly impelled me to undertake the task of presenting this Bill before your Lordships' House. I come from a diocese where there are a large number of voluntary schools. In my own county voluntary schools are in an overwhelming majority. The spectacle of the educational discord constantly before my eyes supplies my main and sustaining motive in bringing this matter before your Lordships' House.
Let me illustrate our present condition from the playground. In the early days of Rugby football I once saw a great match in which both sides were fiercely hacking each other while the football lay many yards away untouched and unheeded. And this is what is happening in Wales to-day. The real business of education is being neglected, and those who ought to be engaged in its promotion are concentrating their energies upon a contemptible and squalid endeavour to persecute, to irritate, and to hamper. You have already had in this House abundant specimens of this sordid strife. I do not think that any one who really cares for the true interests of education can view with anything but the deepest humiliation the progress of this game in which the children are treated as pawns.
For my purpose to-day a retrospect which shall be made as brief as possible seems necessary. Up to 1870, the system of elementary education in this country was voluntary. The Church was the first to take this great work in hand. The State stepped in later when the workingman, armed with a vote, became an object of political interest. These things are quoted as reminiscences. They would be arguments if gratitude were a political asset. The Act of 1870 was avowedly supplementary in character. The Act of 1902 aimed at nothing less than the establishment of a national system of education. That Act did not claim finality, which probably belongs only to destructive legislation. But I believe that the verdict of history will be that 5 that Act was one of the greatest educational measures ever placed on the Statute Book of this country. It must be admitted that that Act rendered the long continuance of the dual system difficult, if not impossible. It has always been a marvel to me that the opponents of that system welcomed the Act with so little gratitude. No doubt that Act, while subverting the dual system, did not remove all possible grievances.
The Bill which I introduced in 1904 grew out of an attempt which was made in North Wales by representatives of both sides to adopt a concordat which would have removed all alleged greivances. The terms of that attempted concordat were that in all the schools in the area concerned there should be a general syllabus of religious instruction on the lines of the London School Board syllabus taught from 9 to 9.45 a.m. on four days in the week in provided schools and on three clays a week in the non-provided schools; that there should be facilities in provided schools for unrestricted religious teaching to the children of those parents who desired it on one day, that on two clays a week there should be facilities given in the non-provided schools for unrestricted religious teaching, and that there should be an annual examination in religious knowledge. It was also agreed upon, as an experiment, that the teachers might, if willing, give the unrestricted religious teaching in provided as well as non-provided schools. The conference at which these terms were discussed was presided over by Sir Francis Edwards, and the terms quoted were agreed to by Mr. Lloyd-George. The concordat fell through, not from any misgiving as to the sincerity of those who offered those terms, but for what I considered the insuperable objection that the concordat lacked legal sanction and legal security. It was in order to gain this sanction and security that I introduced the Bill in 1904, which your Lordships read a second time. The experience of the last four years has only strengthened the conviction I then felt that if the Bill had passed it would have ended the troubles which have since then hampered our educational progress. For these reasons I have ventured once more to submit for your consideration a Bill which embodies that solution.
6 The Bill accepts, without qualification public control and the abolition of tests as conditions of recognition. In passing, let me say that I much wish that a larger measure of public control had been delegated to the localities interested in each school. One of the results of the Act of 1902 has been to dry up, in the case of provided and non-provided schools alike, local interest, and to concentrate all personal interest in and contact with the individual school in the paid officials of the county authority. This is not a party question, but I am convinced that the fact itself reveals a detriment to education. Coming to the question of tests, the Bill accepts their unqualified abolition. The country is now familiar with the arguments on this question, and it has clearly shown its unwillingness to impose a religious test for those who are now in the great majority of cases civil servants.
There is one aspect of this question to which I desire to address myself. It is urged, with unanswerable force, that the teacher who is to give religious instruction must believe in what he teaches. Is a legal test the only or even the best way of securing this? Surely history, for example the history of our own Universities, shows how friable these legal tests were, and how often, instead of being a security for belief, they proved a stimulous to insincerity. There is only one test which is worth anything in these matters. That test is the honour of the teacher himself. If a teacher of his own free will signifies formally that he desires to give religious instruction you have the best security for sincerity which any honest man can give you. If you are dealing with a dishonest man, all tests and engagements are equally worthless. But this Bill asks for the unqualified abolition of tests. As I shall endeavour to prove later, that abolition is not unqualified if you tell the teacher at one moment that he is not of necessity obliged to give any religious instruction and then the next moment tell him that even if he wishes to do so he is obliged not to give one type of religious instruction.
I now come to one of the essential points in the Bill. I have shown that it establishes universal council schools. 7 I venture to submit that you cannot have universal religious freedom in these council schools unless you also establish the right of universal facilities. Personally I regard the grating of general facilities as absolutely indispensable to any permanent settlement. Your Lordships will remember dole of facilities was attempted. When Mr. Birrell came to expound that part of his Bill it stuck me that he was all the time thinking of some other and more perfect arrangement which provided universal facilites, and I came to the conclusion that when Mr. Birrell reached the House of Commons he discovered that he had put the wrong Bill in his Pocket by mistakes.
In dealing with the question of universal facilities I start with two Propositions which I believe will command almost universal acceptance. This country is resolved that religious instruction shall be given in its elementary school. If religious instruction is to be given in our schools, clearly it must be real and substantial, and not less honoured or cared for than any other part of the instruction given. I thing it can be shown that for carrying out these two principles facilities are indispensable. The history of the last thirty-eight years fortifies that statement. Let me briefly recapitulate. In 1870, the Nonconformists in England generally, and in Wales with scarcely an exception, looked with favouring eyes on a secular system. Mr. Foster, in his speech on the Second Reading, quoted a resolution from Nonconformist ministers in Wales in which they demanded that nay system of national education should be made secular and compulsory and in England generally is a parable written for out learning. In Wales the school boards began by being secular. But the example and the felt influence of the religious instruction given in the church schools, slowly but surely induced the Nonconformists to recant this error. I admit the process has been slow. At first religious instruction in our board schools began, and still in many places continues, to consist of Bible reading without note or comment. I speak from Personal know- 8 ledge The whole school were assembled while the teacher read out four or five verses of the Bible to a listless and un-attending crowd of children. Such a sham is as bad for the teacher as it is for the children.
Now, I am continually asked, not only by Nonconformists, but by Churchmen also, Why are you not satisfied with simple Bible teaching? My reply is that I desire it to be simple, and I desire it to be teaching. The real question at issue when you get down to the bedrock of this controversy is this. Are you going to be satisfied with a make believe religious instruction which will meet a passing sentiment and soon disappear altogether from your schools, or are your going securely to safeguard that instruction so that it may form a real, sound, and solid foundation upon which the character of your children may be built up in Christian principles? The voluntary schools, if they have done nothing else, have rendered this mighty service to the country, that they have been mainly instrumental in driving secularism out of our Board schools. They have been our safeguard in the past. Universal facilities will be our safeguard in the future. If the religious instruction given in any of the universal council schools is known by the parents—and parents quickly find these things out—to be unreal and perfunctory, then the lever of universal facilities will come in to redress this defect. But there is one other point about universal facilities. The main controversy on the religious question has turned upon the character of the religious instruction to be taught to the child. Never have I heard in all this controversy any public man venture to deny that the one person who has the right to settle the question of the character of his child is the parent. This Bill turns upon the recognition of the right of the parent.
There are those, for whose zeal and conviction I have the Profoundest respect who will take exception to this Bill on the ground that it allows the State to endow one form, and one form only, of religious instruction. I admit at once that in the abstract it appears to be unjust that the State should pay 9 only for the teaching of undenominattionalism. If we were arguing in the abstract, it might be logical to contend that compulsory education, whether secular or religious, was unjust; but we live in a world of history and of facts. I propose to deal with this, the hardest part of our problem, by applying to its solution, not abstract and a priori deductions, but approaching it with that historial method which commends itself to our day and generation.
The roots of this religious controversy in education lie deep down in the past. An inquiry ordered by Parliament in 1846 into the state of education in Wales undoubtedly proves that the elements of this controversy were even then apparent, and to the observant it was clear that the conflict which has since divided us was inevitable. With this problem Parliament first dealt in 1870. A perusal of the debates on the Act of 1870 will show how large a part was occupied by the very controversy that divides us to-day. In the historical speech which Mr. Gladstone made on the Third Reading, in answer to Mr. Miall, he said—We have excluded something from the (rate-aided) schools, and what has been so excluded is something peculiarly characteristic of the Church of England and objected to by Dissenters.I quote these words because they give the essence of the compromise of 1870. The Government, by accepting the Cowper-Temple Clause, said, in so many words, to the Nonconformists: We give you the board schools, from which the religious teaching of which you disapprove will be excluded, in which the undenominational teaching of which you approve will be given and paid for by the rates, while the supporters of voluntary schools will have to make up by voluntary contributions for the loss of the rate, and at the same time in districts where both schools exist will still have to pay their share of the rate.
The board schools were started with grant and rate, and the voluntary schools continued with grant only. The compromise worked on the whole fairly well. Undenominationalism was established and endowed, and the Church was left free to teach her own children in her own 10 schools and largely at her own cost. If that compromise is to be abandoned, it is obvious that it would be unjust to Churchmen to retain those conditions in the compromise which the Nonconformists approved and accepted, while abandoning those which Churchmen accepted. If undenominationalism is still to remain rate-aided, it is surely asking very little in return that Churchmen should still be free to teach, and that Church parents should still be free to have their children taught, their own faith at the cost of their own denomination.
Now it is maintained that it is unfair to allow undenominationalism to continue to be the only form of religious instruction paid for by the State. As a matter of logical and abstract discussion, I repeat that that contention seems to be difficult to answer. But a full consideration of the facts and of the history of the compromise on this question removes that difficulty. If it were proposed that all denominations should now pay for the religious instruction of their own children I consider it would be unfair and unjust to disendow suddenly the un-denominationalists, and to impose upon the Nonconformists a burden and a duty which they have not been called upon before to bear and to discharge. There is no concealing the fact that in 1870, while the State gave to the voluntary schools freedom and recognition and encouragement, it gave at the same time a monopoly of State aid to the un-denominationalist. I read this morning in one of the newspapers a letter in which it was stated that this Bill proposes to endow un-denominationalism. I confess I read that statement with amazement. Un-denominationalism has been endowed for the last thirty-eight years. I know well that there are those who, for reasons which all must respect, object in theory as well as in practice to the State defining the religious instruction given to the children in our schools, and recoil with something like abhorrence from a canonical authority given by statute to this or that syllabus of religious instruction. But even this difficulty, which I both admit and feel, is not insuperable.
I would much prefer to call this type of instruction interdenominational rather 11 than undenominational, and personally I would most gladly welcome any proposal which would provide for the framing of the syllabus of this religious instruction to be drawn up by an inter-denominational committee, representative of the various denominations in each local area. As a member of the local education authority for Flintshire, I had the honour of being elected chairman of the committee appointed to draw up a syllabus of religious instruction for that county. Representatives of the leading Nonconformist bodies were on that committee, and I do not hesitate to say that the syllabus upon which we unanimously agreed was one that Churchmen could not only loyally but gratefully accept. Anyone who has followed the meetings of the Student Movement in this country, its meetings last year at Conisheads and this year at Liverpool, will thankfully recognise that there is a vast and precious field of co-operation open and common to those who are prepared to meet and work together in a spirit of cordial Christian fellowship.
The experience of other countries must, of course, be quoted with reservation, but, making the largest allowance for these, I derive hope and strength from the fact that in America inter-denominationalism is a great and growing power for the spread of Christianity. When I consider the compromise which is offered by this Bill to the Church of England the task of justification is much easier. We ask for no privilege whatever. We are content to allow the full benefits given them under the Act of 1870. We are willing to bring our schools into line and to incorporate them in one national system, and we only ask that when these school are all of one type and under one public control, and supported by the rates of Churchmen and Nonconformists, Church parents should have accorded to them the freedom to secure for their children three days in the week within school hours that religious instruction which they desire, and we ask for the freedom to be allowed to pay ourselves for this instruction.
12 I now turn to the question of the teachers. In the Bill now before your Lordships' House it is proposed that the teachers may be free to notify to their local education authority in writing their willingness to give religious instruction. I venture to submit that if the teacher is to be permitted to give the undenominational instruction, he must be equally free to give the denominational instruction. The State is to pay the teacher for giving undenominational instruction, but surely it is a contention which savours of intolerance to maintain that the State would be just and fair if it restricted the freedom of the teacher and said: Although you are not paid for doing so by the State, the State will not allow you, even if you wish to those children whose parents desire it and whose denomination pay for it whose denomination pay for it. If the teachers are not to be allowed to give any religious instruction, then you have a purely secular staff, and I venture to say that by doing this you have laid the foundation for a purely secular system.
I am well aware that in Wales at the present time the teachers in the council schools are appointed not only upon educational grounds, and there is often just grounds of complaint that secondary consideration dictate these appointment. On the other hand, I am convinced that when a settlement has once been reached and sectarian animosities allayed, there would be more hope of a just consideration of all concerned. One thing is obvious, if there is danger from this religious bias operating in the appointment of teacher that bias as just is likely to operate in favour teachers who would be known to be in sympathy with the undenominational rather than with the denominational type of teaching. On this question, however, we must not forget that the teacher himself has a right to freedom and fair play.
Many of the best teachers in this country at the present time regard the religious instruction which they give as the most precious instrument they have for building up character. It is proposed that, these teachers are still to 13 continue in their present positions even when their schools have become provided schools. Is it freedom, is it justice, to tell these men and women that for the rest of their professional lives they are to be excluded by law from giving to the children whose parents desire it that instruction which they deem most valuable, and the giving of which they regard as their most sacred privilege? Great importance in this controversy has been attached to the abolition of tests. If tests are to be abolished the abolition must be unqualified and complete; but if you tell the teachers "You are free to give this type of religious teaching but you are not free to give that type," then you are imposing a fresh test, and although a negative test, one of an equally restrictive character. This Bill asks for the complete freedom of the teacher, and it does not seem to me that you make a man free when you take off a handcuff and put on a muzzle.
I have endeavoured to deal as fully as time permits with the religious question. Once this question has been settled and securities have been given for preserving substantially the integrity of religious teaching, and facilities have been provided for the just recognition of denominational claims, I believe the main difficulty will have been removed from the settlement of what I may call the property question. The Church of England has built and maintained her schools primarily for securing a rightful place for religious teaching in the education of her children. They value those buildings as instruments for the fulfilment of that sacred purpose and trust. Keeping that thought in mind, I propose to give the trustees freedom in this matter, and a free hand with regard to their buildings.
The Bill proposes to give the trustees of the school-house of an elementary school the power to transfer, by agreement, if they wish to do so, the school-house to the local education authority to be conducted as a public elementary school, reserving to the trustees the use of the school on Saturdays and Sundays and not less than two other days in the week out of school hours. Unless provided for otherwise, the trustees will be liable for any damage beyond ordinary 14 wear and tear caused to the room and furniture, while they will be responsible for leaving the room after they have used it in a proper condition for school purposes. If after the transfer of a schoolhouse the local education authority fail to carry out the terms of the transfer, the Board of Education, if they are satisfied of such failure, shall, by order, set aside the transfer. So far the terms of transfer are clear. The trustees are perfectly free to transfer if they like.
But there remains the question of the position of the local education authority. Must they take over the school-house when offered to them by the trustees? Now it is clear that trustees might in some cases stipulate for terms which were unreasonable or offer for transfer buildings which had become unsuitable, while under a compulsory scheme of transfer the local education authority might reject reasonable terms or impose unreasonable conditions. The Bill proposes to solve this difficulty by giving either party an appeal to the Board of Education, and it will be the duty of the Board of Education, after considering all the circumstances of the case, including the interests of education and the economy of the rates, to settle the terms of an arrangement, and make such order as they think fit for carrying it out. It will be observed that the trustees are not in any case bound to transfer, and even when they do transfer no order shall be valid which purports to convey or to vest in the local education authority any greater interest in the school-house than the trustees are willing to convey. There is, therefore, no element of confiscation. Practically I believe these provisions would work out smoothly. Few trustees would desire, when the religious question has been settled, to retain their school-houses, and not allow them to be used as public elementary schools. On the other hand very few local authorities, at any rate in Wales, would desire to incur the expense of new buildings and to reject the transfer of the non-provided school.
I know that it is the fashion to depreciate the value of our rural schoolhouses. That depreciation is based upon calculations less of fact than of controversy. Large sums have been spent upon those buildings within the last four years. 15 In my own diocese the school-houses could not be replaced for less than £300,000. The Bill provides that in any transferred school the teachers in the school at the time of such transfer shall continue to hold office by the same tenure and on the same terms and conditions, as far as they are consistent with the terms of this Act, as before the transfer. I confess that the section incorporated from elsewhere which deals with the case of teachers in an existing voluntary school who may lose their employment by reason of the school ceasing to be an elementary school in consequence of this Act is not altogether satisfactory to me. I trust that if this Bill were passed and a general settlement arrived at, that there would be very few, if any, such cases to deal with. As the clause stands the compensation provided for teachers so deprived of employment is inadequate, and I trust that this defect may be amended.
One matter I desire to refer to briefly, but with all the emphasis I can command. The Church of England will never accept a settlement which does not include an arrangement which will meet generously as they deserve to be met, the claims of Roman Catholics. I have endeavoured to explain the main provisions of this Bill, and I believe that in the acceptance and development of the principles embodied in the Bill lies the way of safety and of peace.
The Bill may fairly claim to be marked by simplicity, uniformity, and efficiency. The solution which it offers of our problem is so simple that he who runs can read. In place of a dual system, which results no longer in a wholesome competition but in diverting men's thoughts and energies from the fruitful work of education into the sterilizing indulgence of sectarian animosities, it introduces for the first time uniformity into our system of elementary education. I venture also to say that the provisions in this Bill would materially and profoundly contribute to the promotion of educational efficiency. Looking at this subject for one moment as a Churchman, I hold that the great Church of England, deeply Concerned as she is in this matter, cannot, while this controversey is proceeding, continue to shelter herself behind a wall of criticism, but that she must come out 16 into the open, and in a large and generous spirit show her willingness and her capacity to offer terms which all true friends of education may be able to accept without detriment to conscience or justice. I beg to move.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Bishop of St. Asaph.)
*THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I am told it would be for the general convenience of the House that I should say something on the Bill at this stage rather than later. My first duty is to make clear—a duty which is scarcely necessary after the exceedingly lucid and powerful speech just delivered—that this Bill must not be regarded as a Bill officially put forward by the Church of England through the Episcopate. Personally I accept no responsibility for this Bill except to this extent—that, knowing through his characteristic courtesy what my brother the Bishop of St. Asaph was going to do, I did not feel justified, in the extremely critical condition of the educational controversy, in opposing him in again attempting what he tried to do in 1904. I will go further, and say that everyone interested in educational questions owes a debt to that man, be he bishop or any one else, who at such a juncture comes forward with a constructive proposal of a thoughtful and practical kind towards the solution of the question.
I have no special affection for this Bill just as it now stands. It does not seem to me to cover the ground. Parts of it are little more than an outlined sketch, and in the filling of them up we should undoubtedly find ourselves in the presence of wide differences of opinion, and that on some of the most important points in controvercy. But, though the Bill may be inadequate or even unsatisfactory, its proposals, as it seems to me, take us further along the road towards an agreement than any constructive plan which is now definitely before the country. Whether they are fair or unfair, the attempt is at least being made on large principles which are at once intelligible and simple. It avoids the bewilderment of the multiplied details, the exceptions, and the compensations which, in a 17 desire to act fairly all round, have cumbered the discussion and would have cumbered the ultimate working of various measures which have at different times been before the House.
May I, in nakedest outline, remind your Lordships of the statistical condition of our problem as it stands? We have in England, roughly, 20,500 elementary schools. Of this number about 6,900 are provided, or council schools, whose fabric belongs to the State, and about 13,500 are non-provided, or, to use the official term which still runs, voluntary schools belonging to trustees or private persons. So that the voluntary schools out-number the provided schools by about two to one. Owing to the fact that the provided schools are bigger than the others, and stand mainly in the towns, the relative number of children in the two classes of schools does not correspond to the number of the buildings. In the provided schools in round numbers there are 2,812,000 children, in the non-provided schools 2,900,000 children, or very nearly half and half. Now at length, after many years in which it was otherwise, there is a slight majority of children in the provided schools. It is out of the dual system of ownership, and indirectly from differences of religious character, that our present difficulties arise.
Various attempts have been made to solve these difficulties in a manner which would be fair to the existing interests—interests of parents, teachers, trustees, subscribers, and the ratepayers at large—and which would also be broadly acceptable to the whole people. Those endeavours have so far proved unsuccessful. A fresh attempt is now before the House of Commons on the initiative of the Government. I am bound to say that, as far as I can judge, all the evidence goes to show that these proposals as they stand are even less acceptable to the public than the previous endeavours that have been made. Objections are coming in from the local authorities, from the teachers, from trustees and managers of existing schools, and from educational experts of every kind. However excellent the intention, it does not appear that there is any very keen anxiety in any weighty quarter to pass that Bill into law as it now stands.
18 In the pause, before its consideration by the House of Commons, a proposal emanating—shall I say?—from the perfervidum ingenium of the Celt, rather than from the slower brain of the Saxon, is laid on the Table for our consideration. If the public Press be a fair criterion of general opinion of a prima facie sort upon this proposal, what is now suggested to us seems to be regarded favourably by controversialists who are ordinarily wide apart. A proposal which virtually, with whatever safeguarding phrases, brings into one camp The Times and the Daily News, the Morning Post and the British Weekly, the Yorkshire Post and the Manchester Guardian—I could easily enlarge the list—cannot altogether be contemptuously regarded either in this House or elsewhere. The proposals in this Bill are large, simple, far-reaching for a rearrangement—I prefer that word to the term bargain—whereby all schools, broadly speaking, shall become provided schools, and all schools shall offer freedom of religious choice both to the parents of the children and to the teachers in the schools. Disencumbered of all detail, the Bill comes to that. If that idea meets with such favour as has been apparently shown to it outside, I personally find it impossible in my keen anxiety for a settlement of this question, to regard it with an unfriendly eye, although the regard must needs be somewhat critical.
I speak throughout for myself alone. Some of those whom I most respect, whose counsel I am most desirous ordinarily of acting by, differ from me on the subject; and it is only, I believe, courteous consideration for myself or for my office which has in some quarters restrained a more vehement expression of that opinion. I recognise that courtesy and desire to call attention to it now lest it should be supposed that I claim to be carrying with me the opinion of all those with whom I should ordinarily act in such matters. I should be glad if those who differ from me would say their say on the subject; and I will myself be perfectly frank and straightforward with the House and those outside. Every serious, thoughtful, observant man must surely be wishful for a settlement now—not from a mere sense of weariness of this controversy—though that is a real factor 19 in our common life and thought—but on public grounds of the deepest and largest kind in behalf of education itself. The present uncertainty tells upon local authorities, upon managers, upon subscribers to our schools and their fabrics, and very markedly upon the teachers. In all these ways the present uncertainty is distinctly hampering and hindering educational advance both in town and country schools.
Then I plead for a settlement on behalf of the strength and the dignity of our municipal and local life. People ought to be elected to our positions of trust in town and country because they are the best men rather than on partisan lines, whether political or denominational; and at this moment I know for certain of good men who would readily serve in these public capacities, but will not face the strife and controversy which is at present necessarily involved in such candidature. Public interests are therefore suffering in a very marked degree by the continuance of this controversy. But, above all, do I desire to a settlement for the sake of our moral and religious work. There never was a time in the history of our country when in social, economic, religious, and moral questions it was more necessary that men who really care, men who are actuated by high motives men who are inspired by genuine zeal, should work together for what is pure and strong and true. We have to face dishonesty of different kinds—greed of gain, dark forms of impurity, and many other evils—rife in the land to-day. We want, in these matters, to stand side by side with those above all whose main interest lies in the moral and religious side of our common life, and it is simply heartbreaking that so many should be sundered because of this one question which keeps them apart. For all these reasons I am predisposed to look with favour upon any suggestion of this kind.
But besides all that, there is a gaunt spectre in the background—namely, the pushing of religious teaching outside our elementary schools altogether. Such a course would be—everybody admits it—right against the wish of the mass of the English people, whatever their denomination or their political connection. If it comes about at all, it will come about by 20 mere force of circumstances, arising from the fact of its having been found practically impossible for people to come to an agreement on a difficulty which cannot be perpetually, continuously, and indefinitely allowed to stand across the path of our educational life. Is that a mere spectre, the creation of a nervous imagination? I try sometimes to think so, and I wish I could find it was. Of the introduction of a definitely secular system as an overt act on the part of any responsible Government or responsible body of leading men, I imagine we need have no fear. No one would categorically propose, or, if they did, have the slightest chance of carrying, a proposition of that kind. But arrangements might very easily he made for the sake of peace in default of agreement, which would force us into such a system indirectly, and we might fund ourselves subjected to it against what would practically be everybody's wish. One of the very gravest disasters would then have occurred which, in my judgment, could at present befall our land. I am predisposed, therefore, to look with a friendly eve on any even tolerable proposal which might bring us peace without the sacrifice of fundamental principle.
I think, my Lords, we sometimes forget that as practical men striving for a really workable solution we have perforce to consider in this matter not only what we think reasonable, but what what other people from their point of view think reasonable, In a letter which I read only this morning I find these words from a shrewd and far-seeing thinker—We should be a little nearer a settlement if those who take part in the controversy could bring themselves to see that it is of no use to go on preaching the reasonableness of our own solution and the unreasonableness of every other. The thing that it concerns us to know is not whether people think wisely or unwisely, but whether they think resolutely—not whether they can defend their formula by sound argument, but whether they are determined to stand by it.That may not be a very heroic sentiment, but I think it is a true one in endeavouring to find the practical solution of a matter of this kind. We must try, so far as is consistent with honesty and self-respect, to meet the wishes and 21 demands which find strong expression on the part of thinking men whether we agree with them or not.
What demands does this proposal try to meet? First, as the Bishop of St. Asaph has reminded us, it tries to meet the demand for complete public control. All schools, speaking generally, are to become provided schools. I am personally by no means ready to admit that our voluntary schools now, inspected by the Government, by the local authority, overhauled at every turn, are not for all reasonable and practical purposes, under a complete system of public control; but on the very principle which I have just laid down, I am obliged to admit that a great many people do not think so; and we ought to try, in every way short of the abandonment of principle, to meet the genuine sentiments to which they give expression, whether we think those sentiments reasonable or not.
Personally, I believe in the exercise of public control in quite other ways than by a centralised bureaucracy. I look forward to a far wider re-establishment before very long of real local managers who shall be managers in fact as well as in name, who shall be completely popularly elected and shall have real power to manage, under proper supervision and appeal, the schools of which they are managers. I believe that by that means we shall securely enlist what at present we are in danger of forfeiting, the local interest of our best men. I am quite certain there is grave peril in the opposite state of things. Some local education authorities are acting wisely by deputing large powers to local managers. Others from economic or other reasons are weekly or monthly diminishing the responsibilities which belong to local managers, and by that means are quietly, I am afraid, tending to impair, if not to kill, that local interest which is vital to the real success of our schools throughout the land. Anyhow, this Bill gives in explicit terms complete public control, and admits the principle.
Then the Bill admits the principle of the freedom of the teacher as such from religious tests. That is the most difficult 22 question, I think, of all the many difficult questions which arise in connection with our educational problem. I have myself all my life supported the principle of freedom from tests of all those who occupy public offices in the Civil Service or in other similar public capacity. I think that is accepted now by most people, and I confess I have come to admit it myself even for teachers in their professional capacity. But we must beware of making that principle, I had almost said, ridiculous, by saying that while we bid or encourage men or women as part of their daily work to teach religion, we absolutely decline to let anybody find out whether or not they have by training, experience, or knowledge, any fitness for the task. That seems to me to be a quite unreasonable following out in a fanciful direction of the large and sound principle of the freedom of the responsible public man from tests of a religious, and especially of a denominational, kind.
As I read this Bill, the proposals sketched to us provide first for keeping the suitable teacher, if he so wishes, as the main agent in all branches of education, including what we distinctively call religious teaching. That is, to my mind, intensely valuable. No one else can adequately take the place of that teacher, if he be a fit person, in giving religious teaching. To sever the secular teacher from the religious teacher, if such severance can be avoided, seems to me to be harmful in the extreme. The Bill also provides for distinguishing, so to speak, between the teacher, whose freedom from tests is as such guaranteed, and the teacher of religious knowledge. Only when a teacher offers himself either for the teaching of Holy Scripture or for the development of that teaching in a definitely denominational direction would he be a person who would give religious teaching. Thus the teacher would approach one part of his work simply as a professional teacher having a complete guarantee against any inquiry of a religious or denominational kind, other than those which refer to his moral character and the like, and he would approach the other part as a further duty which he is qualified or anxious to perform, but which he would not be called upon to undertake unless he offered himself 23 for the purpose. By not so offering himself he would not be in any way prejudiced professionally in the life which he otherwise wants to lead as a teacher. In the new plan, then, which thus draws a distinction, it ought surely to be possible for somebody, under a system of complete popular control, to find out whether the person who volunteers to give this teaching at the direction and at the cost of the local authority is or is not a fit person for the task. The proposal of the Bishop of St. Asaph, then, seems to satisfy two great demands—the demand for popular control and the demand for the freedom of the teacher as such from religious tests.
On the other side—I speak of the other side without forgetting that the controversialists many times overlap in their opinions—we admit in this plan the principle of the parents' right of choice. That is, in our view, a fundamental principle which ought to underlie the whole treatment of this controversy. It is, of course, quite easy to overpress that assertion of the parents' right. To expect that every parent always will have found for him exactly what he desires is out of the question. The demand must be consistent with due management of the school, but within those proper limits it seems to me that it is impossible to assert too broadly or emphatically the parents' right as the governing principle of our action at the present time. We hear it sometimes said that the theory of the parents' right is a growth springing from the modern sacerdotal school. I have been looking back to find when it began. As far back as 1865 the doctrine was asserted by one who came forward as a witness on behalf of the Liberal Government before a Parliamentary Committee then sitting under Sir John Pakington. Lord Granville, at the time Lord President of the Council, was asked—Would your Lordships hold that it is the parent alone who ought to have supreme authority over the religious teaching given to his children?The answer given was—I should.Coming down later, I find the recognition of that principle continuous, down to 24 the controversies of the last year or two. In 1903, at the national council of the Evangelical Free Churches, held at Brighton, the president in his inaugural address, said—We hold that it is the right of parents, not of trust deeds or of parish priests, to determine the character of the religious teaching given to their children; and, if this Bill (of 1902) had given the parents the power to assert that right and the opportunity to secure their wishes, there would have been an end to the bitterness of this controversy.So it is impossible to say that this assertion is one put forward on behalf of the Church alone and that it has not a wider basis of authority behind it. In the municipal election in Liverpool last November, where controversy ran high, the Liberal Party put forward a circular containing the following—Who are in favour of religious teaching in schools in accordance with the wishes of the parents?—The Liberal Party.The Church of England has throughout contended for this principle of parents' rights as one that is sound and ought to be maintained. Elaborate evidence to that effect before the Committee of 1865–6 was given by the Rev. J. P. Norris, who had been one of Her Majesty's inspector of schools. Similarly in 1895 a memorial signed by the two Archbishops on behalf of the Church was presented to the Government. Among the various principles which the memorial laid down it asserted—The right of parents to determine the character of the religious instruction provided for their children.andThe safeguarding of this right as regards the religious teaching both of the children of Church parents in Board schools and of the children of Nonconformist parents in Church schools.I want to destroy, if I can, the theory that this principle is something which is now put forward purely for controversial purposes, and to remind your Lordships of the prominent place which it has always occupied. If that principle is to be asserted, enforcement must be given to it in all our schools, not in one class alone. It is largely because in all our schools this Bill would enforce that point that I am prepared to look upon its proposals with favour.
25 The Bishop of St. Asaph has alluded to the question of the teachers' religious liberty. I think his argument is unanswerable. The teacher's religious liberty is the due complement of the other theory of the teacher's freedom from tests. There must be liberty both ways. As it has been put, we decline to take off the fetters merely to put on the muzzle. We who know teachers in intimate daily intercourse and in our schools, whether council or voluntary, know how careful we ought to be to safeguard their liberty of conscience, and we know the keenness many of them feel about giving religious teaching. The old theory that all teachers are competent to give that teaching if it be teaching of a simple kind has been entirely upset by the changes which have recently come about in the system of training colleges. People say we ought to be perfectly satisfied that the average teacher can give religious instruction, because we have seen the system work well for a great many years. But the conditions have changed. Formerly almost all the teachers were people who had been trained under direct religious auspices, though not always denominational. Now a vast number of teachers are every year going forth into our schools who have never from the time they were themselves little boys and girls had any official teaching in religious matters or any training which would qualify them for that most difficult of all tasks—the giving of religious teaching adequately. The Day colleges are secular colleges almost entirely, and as long as that remains true the danger we speak of is a very real one indeed. The number of teachers who rightly would rather not give such teaching is undoubtedly large. The number who have had no training whatever for the purpose is undoubtedly large. I should desire that such men and women should be excused from giving religious teaching, not by having to come forward and claim to be excused, but should be excused merely because they did not come forward and volunteer to give religious teaching. That seems to me to be fairer to the teacher and much safer in its results in the schools. Those are what I may call the merits of the proposal before us.
26 Let us look at the other side. What does the Bill leave out? Most obviously it leaves out the fact that there are some schools in England which cannot possibly come within such a provision as this. There are Roman Catholic schools, Jewish schools, some of the Anglican schools, especially practising schools attached to denominational training colleges, and there are Wesleyan schools, to the best of my belief, to be considered. I do not wish to draw the line as to what number of Anglican schools would have to be included in this list, but there are a large number of schools which stand in an exceptional position for which some provision must necessarily be made. That provision must be made, whether it be by the somewhat awkward expedient of contracting out, or in some other way. That is absolutely essential to any settlement that is to be a fair one all round for the voluntary schools of England as they are. There is nothing against that in the Bill; it simply leaves the question out. Undoubtedly it would have to be made perfectly clear what could be done. The question is a very difficult one. It needs thorough consideration, and, of course, the suggestion I am making is wholly different from the method now proposed in the Government Bill, which would suggest, if the schools are to obtain any privileges, contracting out, not by the dozen, but by hundreds and thousands. That is a proposition which seems to me to be absolutely unworkable in practice. Without the insertion of some such provision as I have spoken of I do not think the proposal now before us could be made fair or practicable.
Then there should be some clearer definition than I can now gather from the Bill of what is meant by the transfer of our buildings. I believe Churchmen at large would entirely agree with the opinion that the asset of our ownership of the buildings must be retained. Ultimate possession must remain ours even where the transfer for school hours and for working purposes to the local education authority is complete.
But far the most important of the difficulties that the Bill suggests is that it by one sweep calls upon the men and women all over the land 27 who have striven and taxed themselves in time, in money, and in toil for the maintaining of our voluntary schools as they are—it bids them hand those schools over to become provided schools.
The less important side of that question is the money side; but that point must be looked into. I find the very strangest ignorance among those from whom I should certainly not expect it on the money aspect of what our sacrifice has been with regard to our voluntary schools. A short time ago I was talking to a leading Member of Parliament, a supporter of the Government, for whom I entertain the highest respect, both as to his knowledge of many subjects, as to his character, and as to his enthusiasm upon moral and religious questions, and I asked him what he had found to be the main actuating influence which had led him to vote for some of the provisions in the Bill which came to grief two years ago. He answered—I was largely led to it by the knowledge of the falling off in voluntary subscriptions as showing a diminution of the interest which people take in voluntary schools. Had they maintained them as they did in 1870, the whole position would have been very much different.I asked him—Were you votes actuated by that?and he said—Certainly they were.I said—Would you be surprised if I told you that during these thirty years the subscriptions have not only not fallen off, but have grown steadily, and are more than double what they were when the Act of 1870 was passed?Here are the facts. In 1870 the voluntary contributions, for maintenance only, throughout England amounted to £418,000 a year, and of that sum the schools connected specially with the Church of England contributed £329,000. In 1880 the figure had grown to £739,000, and in 1901 the total amounted to £844,000, of which the Church subscribed £648,000. Therefore the Church of England alone was subscribing in 1901 £648,000 per annum as contrasted with £329,000 which we had been subscribing when the Education Act first came into force.
I do not put the monetary contributions as the main point, but it is necessary to put them forward as evidence 28 how deep and growing has been the interest shown in this cause. Of course, I am perfectly aware that a good deal of that money was not given for strictly religious reasons. Much was given in the earlier years at any rate, in order to avoid the creation of school boards with their attendant rates. But if any one thinks that that explains the large amounts subscribed, let him look at the case of boroughs where there were school boards, and where people were already rated, and he will find that the contrast between the earlier subscriptions and the later ones is, in many cases, even more marked there than in the country places. Or take it in another way. Since 1902 everybody has been rated. Subscriptions are no longer wanted for maintenance, but they are wanted for buildings. We have no means of knowing exactly how much money has been given during that time for building purposes, as it does not necessarily appear in any statistical return, but during these three years I can say, from personal investigation, that more than £1,500,000 have been subscribed by people all of whom were already rated, in order to improve the buildings of their voluntary schools.
Why was all that money given? After deducting the money given for keeping out school boards, we can say that it was given to secure real religious teaching in our schools by competent people. I sometimes wonder what those who oppose us and deride our efforts really think does go on in the religious hour in our voluntary schools. Simple Bible teaching is sometimes contrasted with the teaching usually given in Church schools. Why, my Lords, the term "Simple Bible teaching," correctly describes the chief teaching in our schools if it be given by Christian men and women whose fitness we have ascertained as far as we can ascertain it, and who, with all the help that a living Church can give, are trying to make that teaching for the Church's own children a reality for worship and for life. Therefore, to draw a distinction between "simple Bible teaching" and "Church of England teaching" under the idea that something wholly different is being done in our schools is to misunderstand the position.
29 This proposal would allow both sorts of teaching in all schools; but it is urged by many that it is unfair that the one should be paid for out of the rates and that the other should not. I entirely agree; it is altogether unfair. But many things are unfair, and sometimes the best test of a man's earnestness is the fact that he is willing to suffer unfairness rather than abandon his principle. There is the question of money, and there is the far more important question of principle which lies behind. As to money, it seems to me palpably unfair in a country of religious freedom that some men should be called upon to pay twice over for the religious instruction which is being given to their children; that they should first have to pay a rate like other people, and that then they should have to pay extra for the religious part of the teaching to be given by teachers for whom they themselves would have responsibility. That is an unfair thing, but I do not say for that reason it is fatal to the acceptance of this principle.
But the question, not of money, but of principle is far reaching indeed. I have tried to show that such a plan as this would inflict hardship upon us in many ways. It would hand over during school hours not the use of our buildings only, but all control as to the appointment of teachers, and all security for what is somewhat vaguely called the atmosphere of the school. We should be paying for religious teaching more than twice over in places where our buildings were our own, and this would be true of two-thirds of the schools of England. That is an immense sacrifice to ask of us on the whole. I am still, my Lords, prepared to advocate our making it if, and only if, by so doing we can, on reasonable lines, settle this difficulty and secure a firm basis for the future. But to do that we must definitely secure freedom of parental choice in all schools and freedom to the teacher to volunteer for denominational teaching in all schools. Without that, in addition to some provision for exceptional schools, the fabric of the arrangement would at once fall to pieces in our hands. And when I say I am prepared to give some support to the plan, I mean to the plan in its entirely; not the plan with one-half of it taken away.
30 I picture myself having to go to the man in the country town or large village who has with infinite care during the last few years raised the money necessary for building a denominational school. He tells me, "If this new plan becomes law, I have lost everything. I might just as well have kept my money in my pocket; other people who have been living here have not paid a farthing towards it and they will have quite as much advantage in the end as we who have paid the money. Is that fair or reasonable?" My answer is, "It is most unfair, most unreasonable, as regards the personal result upon yourself and your friends. But what has happened is this. By the sacrifices which you and they have made you have secured the assertion of that principle of the parents' right of a denominational kind in all the schools of the land. There is where the difference comes in. You have not gained all that you hoped for in your school, and you have certainly gained nothing for yourself, but you have gained it for the children of England: and that is something which has been worth making sacrifices for.
Of course, to any solution such as this an infinite number of practical objections could be taken. I have no doubt Lord Stanley of Alderley would be able, from his vast accumulated knowledge of the practical management of schools, to show us how entirely unworkable it is. Any and every scheme which the wit of man can devise for settling this question can be shown to bristle with difficulties whichever way we look at it. But we exist to overcome these difficulties; and in my opinion the difficulties can be overcome if we put our backs to it and strive for a settlement.
I come to the last point. I know I tread on very dangerous ground, but I am going to be perfectly frank with the House and with those who may read our words outside. We shall be told, I think, that by the preferential treatment allowed to undenominational teaching—the paying for it, that is, out of the rates when the denominational teaching has to be voluntarily paid for by people already rated—we are establishing and endowing a new form of religion, to which, for want of a truer nomenclature, the critics have given the name of "Cowper-Templeism"—a system anomalous, 31 irregular, and fraught with great peril because of the inevitable uncertainty as to the form it may take in particular cases. Theoretically I am not prepared to dispute that proposition, and, if the statement was as true in concrete fact as it is in abstract theory, it might be fatal to any such plan of settlement as is here suggested.
But we are bound, in fairness, to bear two things in mind. First, that some such preferential treatment has been in use, however unfairly, ever since 1870, and therefore in assenting to it we are not writing upon a clean slate, or devising a new plan of our own. We have next to remember that it is only by a strained use of terms that we can speak of that sort of teaching as a particular form of religion, or, in other words, an "ism" Conceivably it might be made so, but, with a pretty full experience upon this subject ever since my Ordination thirty-four years ago, I cannot honestly say that I think it has been so made. Most of the teachers who have imparted it are themselves members of some religious denomination, and I have not heard in my intercourse with them that they have found it inconsistent with their thoughtful loyalty to their own Church, whatever it be, to be giving this kind of Scriptural teaching upon a large Christian basis.
Will you pardon me if I explain by an example what I mean? It would be wholly out of place to enter here upon theological questions, but I do not know how to make my meaning clear except by an instance. If you will turn to the series of religious syllabuses now in use in council schools, you will find that in many of the more careful of them there is a long series of New Testament passages which are to be taught to the children. Take three of the passages generally included in the syllabus: The story of the manger cradle at Bethlehem; the parable of the Prodigal Son; and the story in outline of St. Paul's conversion and subsequent life. Christian teachers of all denominations are teaching these. Now, as a Christian, you cannot teach the story of the manger cradle even in the simplest form without teaching the coming of our Lord to this world. You cannot, as a Christian, teach our Lord's parable of the Prodigal Son without teaching, again in simplest form, what is meant by God's 32 forgiveness of sin. You cannot as a Christian teach the story of St. Paul's conversion and subsequent life and work without its turning upon the fact of the resurrection of our Lord. Of course, the character of all such teaching depends upon the teacher. Hence the supreme importance of the Christian training colleges of the land—hence, too, the need of securing that no compulsion is put upon any teacher; he only gives such teaching, be it "simple Bible teaching" or anything else, if he desires to do so, and offers himself as possessing the requisite knowledge. Our teachers are a high class of men and women—as every one who knows them will admit; and in the main I am certain that—if once we have secured to them adequate opportunity of training—we may largely trust them, and they will prove responsive to, and worthy of, that trust.
You will not suppose me to be myself ceasing to assert that children, especially as they grow older, are entitled to claim a more definite form of Christian teaching. Of course they are. Hence our building so many schools. Hence our struggle, even when paying for other schools also, to maintain ours. Hence the value we attach to that best of all summaries of the Christian faith—the Church Catechism. Such teaching is dearer to us than life itself. By this plan now outlined to us you would secure that, where the parent wishes it, and where the thing can be so arranged, there shall be opportunity everywhere for such definite teaching. It is the recognition of that parental right all round which in large measure commends this scheme to me. Not as a fair one—not as one which will not press hardly upon ourselves, not as one which gives us all that we might quite reasonably ask—but as one which may give us a roadway towards the bourne of settlement which we so desire.
I believe that when you regard the matter as a whole,—and leave necessarily out of account some of the stoutest and worthiest champions who uncompromisingly fight for what they believe to be right in this matter, but who, perhaps, a little fail to see the difficulties which beset the olution which they would desire—the great main body of this Christian people is more at one upon this anxious question than commonly appears. Which 33 of us has taken part in great religious gatherings of all sorts and conditions of men—say at the time of the passing of the great Queen, seven years ago, when, all the land over, men who are ordinarily sundered offered prayer and praise together, or in the solemn consecration of our King, or on the recurring occasions of the funerals of our greatest men—which of us has borne part in these without feeling the pulsation of a larger Christian life, of a fundamental Christian unity? Which of us but feels at such an hour that down in the deeps of life the things which unite us in our faith are larger and stronger than the things which sunder us? If we can let such thoughts bear fruit in the attitude and temper of mind with which we approach the education controversy, its settlement—my Lords, it is my anxious wish and prayer—on lines of large tolerance and of real liberty may be near at hand.
§ *THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Earl of CREWE)
My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I now intervene in order to state, as I hope I may be able to with at any rate a fair degree of brevity, what the view of His Majesty's Government is with regard to this Bill. I may perhaps begin by saying that at first sight there seems to be some analogy between the position of His Majesty's Government in regard to this measure and their position with regard to two measures relating to Scotland which came up at an earlier period of the session, when my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack and myself had to state on behalf of the Government that we were not able to take any part in the discussion. But I think a little consideration will show that the resemblance, so far as it exists between the two cases, is purely superficial. In the first place, the Bill of His Majesty's Government relating to Scottish land was, so to speak, knocking at the doors of your Lordships' House, whereas it will yet be some little time before the Government measure on education arrives here.
But there is another and a larger difference. The fact is that this education question is in a very special and peculiar position. It is, if I may say so, 34 more entirely and completely public property than any other question which can be said to be before the country at this time. There is no consideration concerning it that has not been brought before Parliament and no point that has not been argued and re-argued both here and in the Press. And consequently I think that even my right hon. friend who presides over the Education Department cannot claim, so to speak, exclusive patent rights even as regards the measure of which he has charge in the other House of Parliament. A short time ago a friend of mine reminded me that anybody who had to do with an education Bill could not act more wisely than in following the example of a lady celebrated in a poem of some 200 years ago, whoIn matters of conscience adhered to two rules—To advise with no bigots, and jest with no fools";and he might have added—what he did not add—that attention to that precept would relieve anybody from studying, at any rate, the whole of the correspondence which appears in the public Press on this question of education.
That means that this question ought to be approached with gravity and with moderation. The office of the right rev. Prelate who is responsible for this Bill made it, of course, certain that the first condition would be fulfilled, though it might not be an absolute guarantee that the second would be fulfilled also. But, as a matter of fact, I think your Lordships will all agree that it is in a spirit of very real moderation that the right rev. Prelate has approached this question. I recognise also a similar spirit of moderation in the eloquent speech of the most rev. Primate to which we have just listened, even running through his full and most closely reasoned apologia for the system of Church of England schools in this country.
His Majesty's Government recognise in this Bill an honest attempt to come to a settlement of this question, and we recognise it all the more fully because we are aware that it is not the first time that the right rev. Prelate has made a similar attempt. He alluded to his action in introducing the Transferred Schools Bill in 1904. That Bill bore some resemblance to the present measure, 35 although it is, of course, by no means identical. It was of a much more permissive and tentative character than the present measure. I do not think any of your Lordships could have listened without respect, and even without emotion, to what the most rev. Primate said of his belief that this controversy ought somehow to be settled and of his conviction that means could be found of settling it. I heartily join with him in the expression of that wish, and I do believe that there is an increasing desire in the country for a settlement. I believe that the desire to arrange this question has reached a somewhat different stratum of opinion from that which was affected by it even so recently as when our Bill of two years ago was being brought in. And that is not because there is any conviction that the differences between the different parties on this subject are trivial in themselves, or that they can be lightly treated or ignored, but there is, I think, a growing conviction that it is a discredit to our national reputation for common sense that this controversy should be so long kept open—a discredit, if you will, to His Majesty's Government, but a discredit, also, to His Majesty's Opposition; a discredit, if you will, to the Church, but a discredit, also, to Nonconformity. If there is one aptitude on which we pride ourselves as a nation, it is that of being able to come to working agreements on difficult subjects, and I feel that the country is getting positively ashamed of the time that is being taken to settle this question.
There is, also, a further point, alluded to by the most rev. Primate, and it is this. If every path we take, as we hope, towards a settlement, is found to end in a thicket or a morass, people will begin to turn towards the wide and apparently straight path which leads to the secular system. That system, as we know, is attractive to many from its symmetry. It seems to content those who believe that under it they can give religious education to the children belonging to their own particular sect or section in the Church, but in the opinion of, as I believe, the majority of the people of this country it risks gravely compromising the religious life of the nation as a whole. The conclusion which I have reached from these things, 36 after hearing the two speeches which have just been delivered, if I may venture to give advice to your Lordships, is that you would do wisely to read this Bill a second time. It is difficult to see that any injury can be done to the interests either of education or of religion by doing so, whereas the curt rejection of the Bill might, in my opinion, make a solution of the question more difficult.
But, my Lords, I should not be candid, and I should not be following the example which the most rev. Primate has given us, if I were to pretend that, in my opinion, all is plain sailing, or anything approaching plain sailing, for this Bill. There are very serious difficulties to be faced before this Bill could be regarded as a solution of the question. In the first place, both the previous speakers have drawn attention to the fact that no provision is made in the Bill for exceptional cases, such as those of the Roman Catholics and the Jews, and the right rev. Prelate regarded some provision of the kind as an indispensable part of the Bill. If he did, I am not quite clear why he did not make some attempt to meet it.
I do not know what the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church may be as regards passive resistance, but, if the Bill were to be passed into law as it stands, the adoption of passive resistance by every Roman Catholic, from the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Norfolk) down to the poorest Irish labourer who carries a hod up a ladder would, I think, be explained, even if it were not justified. I see—and this is an important matter to bear in mind in this connection—no way by which this omission can be rectified in this Bill. I do not think that, without contravening the privileges of another place, it would be possible to insert, as an Amendment of this Bill, any provision which would meet the case of the Roman Catholics and the Jews. That is one difficulty which affects the Bill, although it need not be regarded as a difficulty of substance in a settlement of the whole question.
But the Bill proposes, as your Lordships will have gathered from the speeches 37 that have been made, to alter the law in two very important particulars, dealing, in fact, with what, I think, were the two most interesting and important points of controversy between the two sides of the House when the Bill of my right hon. friend Mr. Birrell was before us. The first is the question of permitting all the teachers to give religious instruction. Perhaps I may be allowed to say, in passing, how deeply impressed I was with the description which the most rev. Primate gave of what is known as Cowper-Temple teaching, so valuable, as I think, because it described that teaching, not as it might be according to some à priori theory, but as it has actually been found to be in the practice of our schools. But this question of the teacher giving the denominational teaching is, as we all remember, as I, indeed, sorrowfully remember, one of the most controversial and difficult with which we had to deal. We always felt, and I never concealed my opinion, that in one sense it was a hardship on the teacher not to be allowed to give this particular teaching if he or she were willing to do so. But what will be said in particular, of course, as regards the single school areas, is that by allowing the teachers who are prepared to do so to give the denominational teaching you will be, as a matter of fact and reality, leaving a large number of those village schools, to all intents and purposes, precisely the same schools as they are at this moment, and that you will fail to meet what is the admitted grievance of Nonconformist parents and their children in those particular districts. You will also be told, I have no doubt, in the words used, I remember, on a former occasion by the noble Duke whose loss we all so deeply deplore—the Duke of Devonshire—that the difficulty consists in the fact that, if you make it an object to have a teacher of a particular religious belief to give denominational teaching, the teacher will be appointed either in order to give the teaching or in order not to give it. That is a practical difficulty of management which you will have to face.
The second important alteration is in regard to what is known as all-round facilities. All-round facilities have had 38 a very real attraction, I think, for everybody who has attempted to find a solution of this question. I do not hesitate to say, speaking for the Government, that they were our first love and, though we have exhibited considerable infidelity to them at different times since, still we have never lost a certain affection for them. But I think it will be admitted that the question is one of extreme difficulty by those who recollect the debate which began in your Lordships' House on 31st October, 1906. In that debate, Lord Balfour of Burleigh moved an Amendment which proposed to incorporate in the Bill a system of general facilities; it was not quite so complete a system as that advocated in another Amendment by Lord Ampthill. I well remember that debate. The noble Marquess who leads the Opposition spoke in general terms in favour of the plan. Then two speeches were made, and I recollect those speeches very well, because they were an instance of what one does not very often see in the course of a discussion in any deliberative Assembly. As a general rule speeches are made on one side or the other, arguments are made and answered, and there is no visible effect on the opinion of anybody. But, on this particular occasion, two speeches were made, one by the Duke of Devonshire, and the other by Viscount St. Aldwyn, and one could, so to speak, see these speeches fermenting in the minds of noble Lords, with the result, as I believe, that whereas the great body of the House came down here with a very distinct predilection in favour of general facilities, then a kind of blight fell on every one, and it was generally agreed that it was not possible to support the Amendment. I remember that discussion, and I cannot help calling attention to it, lest it should be supposed that it is, after all, an easy matter to bring about this, in many ways, most attractive change.
One argument that will be used again is the exceedingly important one that it is a very difficult matter indeed, assuming that there is any considerable number of local authorities who definitely object to the giving of those facilities in council schools, to force upon them the necessity for doing so. There 39 is no conceivable legal machinery by which that can be satisfactorily done; and it is well, therefore, if anything is to come of this, to demand distinct evidence, which may be forthcoming—I do not say it will not—of something like a general agreement all over the country, on the part of the public generally, and the local authorities in particular, that this is the proper solution at which we should aim. There were other difficulties, into which I need not go, expressed so eloquently and so fully by the most rev. Primate—difficulties from the Church point of view, which we must fairly balance against those from the Nonconformist, and purely civic point of view. The two sets of objections must be carefully balanced one against another, if we are to arrive at anything like a compromise.
My right hon. friend the President of the Board of Education has a Bill of his own in another place. That Bill differs in some important particulars from this, but it has this general resemblance to it—and so far the right rev. Prelate's Bill may, I think, be said to be founded on it—that it does aim at the establishment of a genuine national system. A universal national system is by general consent an impossibility; but both Bills aim at the abolition of a dual system, and the establishment of a single system. In our opinion it is my right hon. friend's Bill which ought to form the ultimate basis of full discussion on this subject in your Lordships' House. In the first place, it is usual and convenient that the discussion of an important subject like this should be taken on a Government Bill. In the second place, I do not think it is possible, consistently with the practice of Parliament, to engraft on this measure a clause dealing with the exceptional schools for which provision is to be made. Therefore, if your Lordships are willing, as I hope you will be, to give this Bill a Second Reading, its further discussion should be postponed at any rate for some considerable time. Of course, I entirely admit what fell from the most rev. Primate. This must not be regarded as the definite proposal or offer of the Church of England as a whole. We shall get no such offer; and, therefore, we must take what we can 40 get in the way of expressions of opinion. We regard this Bill as being the expression of the opinion of a very large and, as we believe, of an increasing body of Church people upon the general lines on which this question ought to be settled. Feeling this, recognising this, we regard the production of this Bill as being a distinct assistance to my right hon. friend in laying his proposals before Parliament and the country.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, before this discussion proceeds further, it may, perhaps, be convenient that I should tell the House how some of us think that the Motion before us should be dealt with. I propose, before I resume my seat, to move an Amendment, the effect of which will be that this debate, instead of proceeding further, should be adjourned, and the few words which I have now to say will be devoted to an attempt to show your Lordships that there is a sufficient reason for the course which I advocate.
We find ourselves, particularly after the speech to hick we have just listened, in a somewhat singular and unexpected position. His Majesty's Government have an Education Bill of their own. That Bill is one of such importance that they always assigned to it, if not the very foremost place, at any rate nearly the foremost place, in their legislative programme. We have been always under the impression that they had formed an inexorable resolve to pass that Bill, and it is interesting to observe that as lately as Friday last a colleague of the noble Earl's, Mr. Harcourt, announced that the Education Bill represented "the last word on denominational compromise." It is really remarkable that this last word should prove to be the penultimate, or even perhaps the ante-penultimate word of His Majesty's Government, and that the real last word should be spoken in your Lordships' House and of all places in the world, from the Episcopal Bench.
One sometimes endeavours, before a discussion of this kind, to form an idea of the kind of speech to which one is likely to have to reply; and I had formed a very distinct idea of the kind of speech which the Lord President 41 was likely to deliver, and to which I should have to reply. It was not the same speech as that to which we have listened; and indeed, in the noble Earl's opening observations I think I detected certain feeling on his part that the House had a right to expect that his speech should be of a rather different kind. Like his, my mind went back to the occasion when we were discussing the Small Holdings Bills of Lord Camperdown. At that time there were two Small Holdings Bills before Parliament, one of them before the House of Commons and the other before your Lordships' House; I cannot resist reminding the noble Earl of some observations which fell from him on that occasion. He complained that my noble friend, in persevering with his Bill, was showing a certain want of courtesy to the Minister in charge of the rival measure, and he went on—If this kind of thing is going to take place, the world will be not only a school for saints but a school for martyrs. I regard with some alarm the prospect of similar tactics being pursued with regard to the Education Bill, or Education Bills.I can conceive at least seven different Education Bills, which might be brought in from different quarters of the House, at least three from the Episcopal Bench, and four or five from other quarters.And now, my Lords, listen to what follows—If it became the practice that independent Members were to bring in Bills of their own in order to anticipate Government measures, all I can say is that the prospect is one which fills me personally with something very like horror.We detected no trace of horror in the composed remarks which the noble Earl delivered just now. On the contrary, what the noble Earl has told us, is that he, like, I believe, nearlyall your Lordships, is earnestly desirous of seeing a settlement of this educational controversy, that he regards some of the proposals contained in the right rev. Prelate's Bill as of a valuable and suggestive character; and I understood him to add that His Majesty's Government were, at any rate, prepared to consider the propriety of grafting some of them upon their own Bill. I am, I own, a little doubtful as to the result of this process of grafting. I remember a 42 conjuring trick which used to give great amusement in former days. The conjurer produced first a black rabbit and then a white rabbit; he kneaded the two together in his hat, and eventually produced a piebald rabbit. I fear that in this case the result of the process of amalgamation may be that we shall have a measure of ambiguous colour and of doubtful parentage. I am anxious that your Lordship' House should not be put in the position of confederates, distracting the attention of the public from the real issue while these ingenious proceedings are in progress. I hope that your Lordships will bear this in mind—that if you pass the Second Reading of this Bill, its provisions will be taken as representing your last word upon this subject. It will not be your irreducible minimum, it will be your unincreasable maximum. If this House should be placed in that position, I cannot help thinking that the champions of our voluntary schools will have had a very grievous set-back. If I say this, I earnestly trust your Lordships will not think that I am cynical or otherwise than grateful both to the right rev. Prelate who introduced the measure and to the Lord Archbishop for the part they have taken in the discussion. I feel as strongly as they do the need of a settlement of this endless educational controversy. I feel as strongly as they do that, while it continues to rage, the cause of education is suffering. I feel, above all, the immense responsibility which will rest on the shoulders of those who for party or other reasons obstruct a reasonable settlement of the difficulty if it should prove to be within our reach.
But I must say a few words as to the principal features of this Bill. I certainly regard them as a long step in the direction of the kind of compromise which I should like to see arrived at, and amongst them are concessions to which the right rev. Prelates cannot have consented without a certain feeling of reluctance, and a knowledge that they were exposing themselves to criticism, if not to odium, on the part of those with whom they usually act.
The Bill, in the first place, stipulates that religious instruction is to be given in all primary schools. If that principle 43 be accepted we establish at once an invaluable bulwark against the peril of secularism which it has been truly said to-night lies in the offing, and to which we shall be brought nearer if those who desire that religious instruction should prevail are not able to come to terms among themselves. In the next place, I find in the Bill a frank admission of the parents' right to supplement non-distinctive religious education by religious instruction of a distinctive kind, even in the council schools. If that concession were to be secured it would, indeed, be a long step in advance. In the third place, I find in the Bill an admission of the teacher's right to give religious instruction if he desires to give it himself and the parents of the children desire him to do so. Let me remind your Lordships that these are three points around which the fiercest battle raged when the education question was before us in 1906, and if those three points upon which we then insisted can be settled as we desire they should be settled, we should, indeed, find ourselves much nearer to agreement.
But, while I readily make these admissions, I feel, as the most rev. Primate has told us he feels, that many points of the Bill stop far short of the kind of settlement upon which most of us on this side of the House would look with favour. There are, in the first place, several ambiguities in the Bill on which I will not dwell except to say that upon one point—a point of the greatest importance, namely, the conditions under which the trustees of the denominational schools are to be allowed to transfer the school buildings—I do not find in the Bill all that the right rev. Prelate in his admirable speech led us to suppose we might expect to find in it. That, no doubt, will be afterwards explained. But there are not only ambiguities in the Bill; there are omissions in it of a most serious description. In the first place, can any of us expect that the Bill in its present shape should receive any degree of support either from the Roman Catholics, or from the Jews, or from the owners of those Church schools which we used to speak of as homogeneous in character and as having a distinctive denominational atmosphere. The right rev. Prelate, I think, gave us to understand that in that 44 respect the Bill was capable of amendment; but the matter is surely far too serious to be left out of account when we are dealing with the question of giving the Bill a Second Reading.
Then we are left in the dark as to what really is intended when, in the second clause, reference is made to the admission of religious teaching of a non-distinctive character in all the elementary schools. We have often been told in weighty words from the bench opposite that non-distinctive teaching, simple Christian teaching, may mean a great deal or that it may mean nothing at all; and I for one should be very sorry to see a Bill pass without some very much more specific information as to what is really meant by non-distinctive religious teaching. If we are, so to speak, to standardise the religious instruction given universally in these schools, we have a right to know at what point it is to be standardised, and, above all, what precautions you are going to taken in order to prevent the standard which may receive the acceptance of Parliament to-day from being afterwards debased, and debased by administrative action of the kind with which we have become painfully familiar during the last few months.
There is another point with regard to which the Bill is silent—I mean the steps it is intended to take in order to ascertain whether the teachers are really competent to give even the simple Bible teaching which they are intended to provide. The right rev. Prelate apparently has some plan for achieving this object without imposing a test; but this point again is of far too great importance to be left unprovided for by specific provisions in the Bill.
But irrespectively of these considerations, I must point out that the noble Earl did not give us to understand that this measure was to be accepted, or that it stood any chance of being accepted, by His Majesty's Government as a substitute for their own Bill. Some parts of it may, he gave us to understand, be grafted on to the Government Bill, but we do not know how much. I suggest to your Lordships that this being so we have a right to ask that the whole of the Government scheme should be placed before us rather 45 than that we should consent to the Second Reading of a measure which is obviously, and by the admissions of Ministers themselves, something very different from the kind of Bill they hope themselves to pass into law. The noble Earl was very frank with us. He told us that it did not seem to him that this process of amalgamation was by any means plain sailing. I am afraid not. In regard perhaps to the most important of all the proposals contained in the right rev. Prelate's Bill—I mean the proposal that facilities should be given in the council schools—he gave us to understand that he and his colleagues had at one time been enamoured of the idea, but that at a subsequent time they had been guilty of infidelity to it, and at this moment I do not know that I gathered from him that he had any distinct views one way or the other on the subject. If that is the attitude of the Government with regard to what I conceive to be the cardinal feature in the right rev. Prelate's proposal, I say that we have no right to commit ourselves to an approval of a Bill when so much of it still remains in a state of doubt and suspense.
Nor do I at all believe that by reading this Bill a second time to-night on the understanding indicated we should bring ourselves one inch nearer to the kind of concordat of which many of us are in favour. I believe, on the contrary, that the effect of taking a vote upon the Second Reading of the Bill would only be to accentuate the differences which we know to exist on many cardinal points. If His Majesty's Government really desire to appropriate some of the provisions of the right rev. Prelate's Bill and to add them to their own, they can perfectly well do so without asking us to take the Second Reading to-night. They can consider the matter at their leisure, and at the proper time bring before us a complete Bill embodying their own proposals, with the addition of so much of the right rev. Prelate's proposals as they desire to accept. In the meanwhile this debate will not have been without its use. It will, at any rate, have made this clear, that we shall all be glad to see this controversy set at rest, and that we recognise that, if it is to be set at rest, it can be set at rest only by a compromise, and that a compromise means that each side must surrender something of that to which it is most attached. 46 Having established that, I earnestly hope that the right rev. Prelate will be content with the debate that has taken place, and that he will not insist upon taking the sense of the House or upon placing us in a position of difficulty with regard to a situation which is certainly a very singular one, and which has to a great extent resulted from the somewhat unexpected attitude assumed by His Majesty's Government. I move the adjournment of the debate.
That the debate be adjourned."—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
*THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (The Marquess of RIPON)
My Lords, I do not rise for the purpose of objecting in the least degree to the adjournment of the debate, though I regret that my noble friend will not have another opportunity of speaking at a later period of the discussion. He is an exhausted volcano, and I greatly regret that he will not have another opportunity of farther expressing his opinion upon this matter. I listened with sorrow to the general tone of the noble Marquess's speech. It seemed to me, I confess, to jar unpleasantly with the tone of the three other speeches to which we have listened to-night. The excuse, I suppose, is to be found in this, that my noble friend did not know, as he frankly told us, what was going to be said by my noble friend behind me, and that he was, therefore, quite unprepared as to the part he should take in this matter. The speech of the noble Marquess, indeed, was a mere party speech, and only towards the latter portion of it did he give us any hope that he would look upon this matter in the spirit in which it has been approached by the right rev. Prelate who introduced the Bill, by the most rev. Primate, and by my noble friend behind me the Lord President of the Council. In my judgment, this is to be regretted. There does seem to be a general desire to come to a compromise or understanding upon this question, and I cannot say that I think that most important object was in the slightest degree advanced by the tone which my noble friend adopted. No doubt this Bill cannot be accepted as 47 it stands. There is one part of it to which I could not for a moment think of being a party, and that is that it makes no provision—I do not exactly know why no provision was included—for Roman Catholics and Jews. I recognise the earnest desire to arrive at a settlement by compromise, but we shall never arrive at such a settlement unless we are prepared to approach it in a spirit considerably different from that of the noble Marquess.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BIRMINGHAM
My Lords, I am going to have the audacity to ask your Lordships to listen to a few words from me upon this Bill. I—
THE LORD BISHOP OF BIRMINGHAM
I do not know whether I can use this opportunity to say a few words which I believe should be said from this bench, partly because I do not think it desirable in the public interest that it should go forth that this Bill has at all a kind of agreed consent from this bench, and partly because there is one particular point which seems to me to have been very little, if at all, touched upon in this discussion. Though I listened, for my own part with profound satisfaction, to the speech of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, I did not, even in his speech, catch exactly the attention to this point which I think it demands. Those of us who cannot find in this Bill the prospect of a reasonable settlement are those who value most the privilege of giving distinctive religious teaching to the children of those parents who desire such teaching through teachers who believe in it. At present our stronghold for fulfilling this all-important function is the position of the denominational schools, and I do not think we would be justified as trustees of a great 48 public duty in surrendering that stronghold for the prospect of additional facilities in all schools. The reason why I think this is because I do not believe that the parents of any very large number of children would ask for special facilities where any kind of religious teaching was already given as the normal and established kind. I read this afternoon in the Manchester Guardian this inducement to persons to vote for this Bill, that—If these facilities were allowed, it is highly probable that they would be very little used.Why? I think the answer a fairly obvious one. If all parents were asked whether they wished religious teaching for their children I have no doubt that the great majority would express a desire for religious teaching; and, if asked what kind of religious teaching, they would with more or less eagerness indicate the religious teaching they desired. But, if there was already a religious teaching established and endowed as the ordinary religious teaching in the school, I believe comparatively few parents would ask, over and above that, for extra facilities for a special kind of religious teaching. Unwillingness to ask for anything extra pervades all classes in England. I believe the majority of the parents of the upper classes would not be willing to send their children to a school where there was no religious teaching, but I have been amazed to find how few parents, either of the upper or of the lower classes, appear to care what particular character that religious teaching takes. Therefore, I think if there was religious teaching provided in all schools—
§ *THE EARL OF CREWE
I am extremely sorry to interrupt, but I would remind the right rev. Prelate that it is irregular at this stage to speak to any question but that of the adjournment. On the adjourned debate he will be able to speak as long as he likes on the merits of the Bill. The House has to confine itself now to the question of the adjournment.
THE LORD BISHOP or Sr. ASAPH
My Lords, I desire to say that I willingly accept the Amendment to adjourn the debate.
THE EARL or ROSEBERY
May I say one word strictly pertinent to the Motion for adjournment? I think all of us must feel, after the brave and noble speech we listened to this evening from the most rev. Primate, that there is some hope of a settlement of this controversy, due partly to the many fruitless attempts made to settle it, and also due to some extent to the shame which is creeping over the people of this country at our failure to settle it. Then we come to the question of what is to be done with this Bill. Surely it represents an enormous step forward. I can quite understand the caution with which the noble Marquess treated it lest it should be considered as the last word that he was willing to agree to in behalf of his Party in connection with this question. But it would be a thousand pities if this Bill were read a second time to-night, because after what has fallen from the Front Opposition Bench, it is perfectly clear that the Opposition as a whole would not feel that they could vote for it at this stage of the controversy. Whereas, if the debate is adjourned by the proposition of the noble Marquess, the Bill will not die, but will lie dormant, and it is quite possible as this controversy advances, and as things may occur in another place, that it might be well to revive the dormant Bill. Whish, in any case, must remain on the journals and records of this House as a document of the highest educational importance.
THE DUKE or NORFOLK
I understand that, the Adjournment being moved, any further discussion on the Bill at this stage would be irregular?
THE DUKE OF NORFOLK
That relieves me of the necessity of inflicting a speech upon your Lordships. I congratulate you.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to, and the further debate adjourned accordingly, sine die.