§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ THE MINISTER OF ECONOMIC WARFARE (THE EARL OF SELBORNE)
My Lords, as there are one or two Amendments to be taken after the Third Reading of the Bill I would venture to suggest to your Lordships that it might be for the general convenience if I moved the Third Reading of the Bill quite formally, and that there should be no debate on the Motion. We could then, I suggest, consider the Amendments, and reserve what noble Lords have to say on the general aspects of the Bill for the Motion that the Bill do now pass. It that meets with the approval of your Lordships I will now formally move the Third Reading.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Earl of Selborne.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.
§ Clause 13:
§ Establishment and discontinuance of county and auxiliary schools.
§ (5) A local education authority shall not, without the leave of the Minister, do or undertake to do anything (whether or not provided for by the development plan for the area) for which proposals are required by this section to be submitted to the Minister until such proposals have been approved by him, and where the Minister has approved such proposals it shall be the duty of the local 951 education authority to give effect to the proposals as approved by him.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE moved in subsection (5), to leave out all words after "him," where that word first occurs, and insert:
§ "(6) After proposals for the establishment of a new school have been approved by the Minister the authority or persons by whom the proposed school is to be established shall submit to him in the prescribed form and in such manner as he may direct specifications and plans of the school premises, and the Minister, on being satisfied that the school premises will conform to the prescribed standards may approve the specifications and plans:
§ Provided that before submitting specifications and plans in respect of a school which is to be maintained as a voluntary school the persons by whom the school is to be established shall consult the local education authority.
§ (7) When the proposals specifications and plans for a new school have been approved by the Minister it shall be the duty of the authority or persons by whom the proposed school is to be established to give effect to the proposals in accordance with the specifications and plans so approved, except that in the case of proposals submitted under subsection (2) of this section the duty of providing playing fields or any buildings required only for affording facilities for medical inspection or treatment or for providing milk, meals, or other refreshment shall be the duty of the local education authority.
§ (8) When proposals for the maintenance of any school have been approved by the Minister under this section it shall be the duty of the local education authority to maintain it; and an authority shall not be under any duty to maintain a school after proposals that the authority shall cease to maintain it have been approved by the Minister under this section."
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Amendment I confess looks somewhat formidable, and I understand that it is considerably longer than is usual in your Lordships' House at this stage. Therefore, you will no doubt wish me to explain fully the reason for it. The reason is really very simple. It was ascertained too late, unfortunately, for the Report stage that this clause does not quite adequately or clearly deal with the problem of the new school. As the clause reads at present, the Minister's consent to the establishment of a new school by the denominations would be dependent upon the plans for the school being submitted to him and his approving the plans. When he had approved them, and only then, could the matter go forward. But, in reality, there is a prior stage at which 952 the Minister's consent or otherwise to the proposal to establish a new school ought to be indicated; that is on the question as to whether a general case can be made out for the establishment of a new school. If the Bill is left as it is at present, before any denomination, or other body of people, wishing to establish a new school could get the Minister's consent to go forward they would have to go to the expense of having all the plans drawn and estimates prepared and all the rest of it, whereas the Minister's consent might be withheld on some prior consideration.
§ The sole object of this Amendment is to split these two stages, so that the consent is given or withheld on the general question of whether a new school is required in that area. Consent having been given, the procedure is laid down by which the persons proposing to establish the new school submit their plans, which have, of course, to be approved by the Minister before they can go ahead. I hope that your Lordships will agree, therefore, that even at this late hour this Amendment should be made, and I beg to move.
Page 11, line 24, leave out from ("him") to the end of the subsection and insert the said new subsections.—(The Earl of Selborne.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 22 [Powers of local education authority as to use and care of premises of auxiliary schools]:
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, the Amendment to this clause is to correct a slip which I understand occurred in the printing of the Bill. The words "foundation managers" refer only to primary schools, but in Clause 22 we are dealing with secondary schools as well, and therefore the term "foundation governors" must also be used. I beg to move.
Page 19, line 1, after ("managers") insert ("or foundation governors").—(The Earl of Selborne.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 51 [Recovery of cost of boarding accommodation and of clothing]:953
Page 42 line 10, leave out ("subsection") and insert ("section").—(The Earl of Selborne.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 53 [Power to ensure cleanliness]:
THE EARL OF SELBORNE moved to insert after subsection (5):
(6) If after the cleansing of the person or clothing of any pupil has been carried out under this section his person or clothing is again found to be infested with vermin or in a foul condition at any time while he is in attendance at a school maintained by a local education authority or at a county college, and it is proved that the condition of his person or clothing is due to neglect on the part of his parent, or in the case of a pupil in attendance at a county college to his own neglect, the parent or the pupil, as the case may be, shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty shillings.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Amendment is to fulfil the undertaking which I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, to look into a point which he raised and ascertain whether some provision was necessary to meet it. That examination showed that a provision of this sort is necessary. There is a considerable number of cases, unfortunately, of children who have been deloused returning to school very shortly afterwards in a verminous condition. It is necessary, therefore, to take steps to penalize their parent when this renewed verminous condition is due to some neglect on the parent's part. In the form of words proposed by my noble friend, the child's parent was automatically liable to a heavy fine. I do not think that that would be just. I think it must be shown that it is due to the parent's neglect that the verminous condition has arisen again, but where that is so the parent should be prosecuted and liable to a fine. The fine under the Act of 1921 is 10s. We are not quite so blood-thirsty as Lord Ammon, who wanted to fine the parent £5, and we suggest that the appropriate penalty is 20S. In the case of young persons attending county colleges, they would themselves be liable to the fine, and not their parents. I beg to move.
Page 45, line 20, at end insert the said new subsection.—(The Earl of Selborne.)
§ LORD AMMON
My Lords, I should like to express my thanks to the noble Earl for the concession which he has 954 made, but to clear myself of the charge of blood-thirstiness. A fine of £5 was in the draft Bill as the noble Earl first brought it forward. I suggested the old fine of 10s., but the noble Earl has gone 10s. better.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ New clause inserted on Report after Clause 66:
§ Power of Minister to prevent unreasonable exercise of functions.
§ ". If the Minister is satisfied, either on complaint by any person or otherwise, that any local education authority or the managers or governors of any county or auxiliary school have acted or are proposing to act unreasonably with respect to the exercise of any power conferred or the performance of any duty imposed by or under this Act, he may, notwithstanding any enactment rendering the exercise of the power or the performance of the duty contingent upon the opinion of the authority or of the managers or governors, give such directions as to the exercise of the power or the performance of the duty as appear to him to be expedient."
LORD RANKEILLOUR moved to insert at the end of the clause:
Provided that no such directions shall have effect save under the same conditions under which regulations made under this Act require validity.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, my excuse for the Amendment which I have put down at this late stage is that the matter in question was not adequately discussed, owing to one of those unhappy accidents which will occur in the best regulated debating Chambers. There were certain noble Lords who were prepared to speak on this matter, but each was expecting one of the others to begin. It was reminiscent of the lines which your Lordships will remember—
Lord Chatham, with his sabre drawn,
Stood waiting for Sir Richard Strachan;
Sir Richard, eager to be at 'em,
Was waiting for the Earl of Chatham.
That was the position at our last debate.
§ The original subsection in Clause 93 was a very extraordinary one, because, after various rights were given to various bodies or persons—to local authorities, the governors or managers of schools, and so on—a power was inserted, in a little provision lurking towards the end of the Bill, which gave the Minister power to take all those powers away if he thought fit in any particular instance, and to override both local authorities and managers, even when they were agreed. The whole sense 955 of the House was entirely against any such proposal, and thereupon my noble friend allowed the subsection to be deleted and promised to bring forward some other provision on the Report stage. He did bring something else forward, but I am afraid that it makes very little difference. He still has this power where it is held that the local education authority or managers or governors are acting unreasonably, and he is the judge of the use that is made of their powers. He is the judge of whether there has been any unreasonable use, and the same power remains with him to override the other powers which Parliament has given.
§ I suggest, therefore, that the noble Earl has not met what was the feeling of the House. When Parliament gives powers in a Bill, then only with at any rate the passive consent of Parliament should those powers be taken away. My Amendment meets that provision. My noble friend may say that the procedure of laying Papers on the Table of the House will involve delay. As I envisage it, there would be no question of the powers being exercised except after a considerable controversy, and when one or other of the parties was really obdurate. It would be a rare case. If importance is attached to the point, words might be put in to make it clear that it could be exercised only in an exceptional case, when there was real urgency, or some other solution might be found. Clause 93 in its original form provided that in the case of a clear default there might be a remedy by mandamus. I suggest that possibly some remedy of that kind might be used to deal with an unreasonable exercise of powers. I believe that there is a precedent for that in another Act.
§ It may be said that it is impossible to change this provision at this stage. I am not sure about that, but at any rate the new clause to which my Amendment is directed is an Amendment to the Bill, and will have to go back to the Commons, where a solution could certainly be arrived at, either by one of these suggestions or by another. I do submit to your Lordships that it is not right that any Minister—I am not thinking of any particular Minister or of any particular Department—should have these extraordinary powers to override other powers given by an Act of Parliament. I beg to move.956
At end of new clause inserted on Report after Clause 66, insert the said proviso.—(Lord Rankeillour.)
§ LORD ROCHE
My Lords, I do not wish to stand between the House and the noble Earl if he is prepared to accept this Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE indicated dissent.
§ LORD ROCHE
I am sorry, because it is one of the most reasonable Amendments I have ever seen. I do not intend to stand in a white sheet for behaving as Sir Richard Strachan on the last occasion. I think if anyone has a right to complain the noble Lord has a right to complain against His Majesty's Government. For remember what happened on the Report stage. There were two clauses, or two parts of one clause. In one of them, where an absolute duty was laid on local authorities or other similar persons and they did not perform it, the Minister could proceed by mandamus. Where the local authorities had a much wider authority and were bound to exercise a discretion, it was provided that the Minister could override them without rhyme or reason and without going for any mandamus at all. The House was righteously indignant about that. Then the Lord Chancellor and everybody else was eminently reasonable, saying that it would be looked into and so forth.
From those informal communications which are sometimes received, I rather gathered that things were going to be done reasonably and the method that I understood was to be adopted was rather a surprise. It was to have the procedure of applying to a court, but I was most courteously informed on the day the Bill came up on the last occasion, that that was not acceptable to those who were ultimately concerned, and this clause was brought forward instead. At first sight it looked a little reasonable, but I confess that the reasons why I did not intervene on the last occasion were quite other than those which the noble Lord has mentioned. The truth is that without complaining of the hospitality of this Chamber I have found sitting here, either at the request of the Lord Chancellor on judicial matters, or from a sense of duty on legislative matters, a very somnolent performance. The mellifluous tones of the Lord 957 Chancellor and even those of my noble and learned friend left me in a state where I was not at all vigilant. It has often been said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance I can only say we did not show it on that occasion.
Let us briefly look at the matter now. This clause, as proposed by the Government is rather better than it was in the beginning but it still lacks an essential. It does not entitle any Minister to override a local authority where he would have done something else had the authority beer with him in the first instance. It only entitles him to overrule if they have been unreasonable, have come to a decision which no reasonable man would come to. But then, unfortunately, who is to be the judge of that? Why, the Minister himself, and no one else. I submit that that infringes two fundamental principles. The first principle is that if in public or in private life you confer discretion and responsibility upon a person, the way to take away all sense of responsibility is to interfere with his discretion. It renders a person hopeless, and that is the effect of this provision, of saying: "Do what you please, local authorities, but the Minister can overrule you."
I am not denying for a moment that for laggard authorities you need some method of keeping them up to the mark. But this is the implement of the worse horsemanship, the big stick. For such authorities you want a spur not a big stick. What would prevent it being the big stick? Why, the ordinary procedure that is adopted throughout this Bill—providing that where regulations are male they should be brought before somebody else, in this case Parliament. I had a suggestion that they should go to a court, but that was not acceptable. It has been adopted in other Bills, I think with some advantage, but I have no brief as a lawyer for that course. Let it go before Parliament. Regulations on much more important matters than this under this Bill are to be brought before Parliament— regulations about new schools and all sorts of things of that kind have to come before Parliament. Let this come before Parliament too, because I submit that that is the root principle of all democracy. The only way of curbing any tyranny—and Ministers can be as tyrannous as anybody else—is to say that there is someone 958 to whom their judgments can be submitted.
It runs all through our British history more than anything else, and Ministries are just like any other good people if they are left unfettered, in that they are apt to become tyrants. I submit that a remedy so simple, a provision so necessary as this, ought to be accepted by His Majesty's Government, and if it is not accepted by them, your Lordships should insist on it. The noble Earl in charge of the Bill, with great good humour, charged me with hatred or detestation of Ministries. I assure him I have no such feeling. I have served under and with too many great civil servants, beginning with perhaps the greatest of them all in my experience, Sir Eyre Crowe, to have any distaste or lack of respect for civil servants or Ministries. But, no more than anybody else, can they be safely trusted with an absolute power and that is the thing which I ask your Lordships to prevent under this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
My Lords, I feel bound to express the same opinion as the noble and learned Lord. The only check upon the Minister which is suggested by the proviso of my noble friend Lord Rankeillour is that the regulations in the normal case shall be laid before Parliament, and unless Parliament chooses to do something during the forty days mentioned in the clause the regulations become operative. So that really it is not a question of taking away the Minister's powers, except in the very limited case where Parliament chooses to interfere. The difficulty about the matter is this. No important decision of this sort should really be made, overruling root and branch, so to speak, the decision of an important local education authority, unless some person has considered it or unless Parliament is willing, by silence, to approve it. Some very important steps have been taken by Ministers in the past under a somewhat similar sort of power. But the Ministers there, as I understand it, have always been astute enough to get the questions raised in the House of Commons before the matter became effective and they had to act, and the occasions in question were occasions where the House had already become aware of what was proposed and had assented to it. But, of course, that was optional.
959 The question here is whether a Minister should, without placing the matter before the House and without consulting anybody, overrule the decision of an important local education authority or the managers or governors of an important school, mero motu as we say in the law. The objection to it, I think, is purely the objection to delay, and as I understand, Lord Rankeillour is quite willing to exclude the cases where the Minister must act urgently by the introduction of some words in his clause. The words I would suggest which would meet the case would be these: after the words "provided that" add—unless the case is one in which an immediate direction is in the opinion of the Minister required.Such words as those would prevent any education authority acting in a hurry and getting the better of the Minister by insisting on this clause. In the normal case, where it is a question of some discretion being exercised legitimately within the powers of the local authority, it does seem to me to be a great pity to give one more Minister an autocratic and somewhat Hitlerite kind of power without any chance, in the normal case, of submitting the matter to the other House or some other body before his act becomes effective.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, I confess this matter was not quite so fully debated on the Report stage as I had anticipated. Possibly the old rhyme to which my noble friend alluded might be re-written:Lord Roche, with his Amendment drawn,Was waiting for the Viscount Maugham.Both my noble friends have clearly stated their objections to the clause, but I should like to draw attention to some points which have been overlooked. In the first place this Bill undoubtedly confers, and professes to confer, greater powers on the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education is charged with greater responsibilities than was the President of the Board of Education under the Act of 1921 and previous Acts. If your Lordships will look at the first clause of the Bill you will see in the very forefront it says that a Minister shall be appointedwhose duty it shall be to promote the education of the people of England and 960 Wales and the progressive development of institutions devoted to that purpose, and to secure the effective execution by local authorities, under his control and direction, of the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area.That is stated in the very first words of the Bill. The Minister of Education will bear a greater responsibility than did the President of the Board of Education, whose powers were limited to supervision. That is a real change in our educational machinery which this Bill brings about and which noble Lords must keep in mind.
Then I would point out to my noble friends that the new clause differs fundametally from that which was originally in the Bill. It is a clause of appeal. The clause as originally drafted had no appellate nature at all, but it is now quite evident that the Minister is only to come in on the complaint of any person or otherwise. The words "or otherwise" enable him to move proprio motu; but the words show that that would be very exceptional. The real purpose of the clause is to provide some court of appeal in cases where local education authorities or managers have acted unreasonably. These new words lay down that the only ground on which the Minister could act is if he is satisfied that a local authority has been unreasonable in the exercise of its discretion. That surely limits the application of the clause to something much smaller than did the original words of the Bill.
I submit that it is absolutely necessary to have such an appeal because there are hundreds of managers and local authorities all over the country who may have to make sometimes very difficult decisions, and there may be local factors that possibly exacerbate controversy. It would be expecting altogether too much to assume that no mistake will ever be made, and we should all agree that the Minister should have some power of reversing an unwise or an unfortunate decision. My noble friends say that the Minister himself ought to be subject to the check either of Parliament or of a Judge. But this is a matter of administration. I suggest that neither of these two procedures would really be at all suitable. The Amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Rankeillour would mean that the Minister's decision would in turn be subject to the approval of 961 both Houses of Parliament. That would be quite unworkable, as my noble friend Lord Maugham seemed to recognize, because some of the decisions would have to be taken very quickly.
I am advised that it is anticipated that these decisions will in the great majority of cases relate to very small matters indeed. For example, if under subsection (2) of Clause 49 a parent objected to the household in which a local authority was boarding his child, on the ground that the religion of the household was not the same as his own, that would be the sort of case in which this clause might be found necessary. You could not deal with a situation like that by tabling a Motion or laying a Paper before both Houses of Parliament. Parliament might not be in session. It might be two months before Parliament met, and then there would be a further lapse of forty days before the Minister knew where he was and whether his decision was upheld or not. You could not administer this or any other Act under procedure of that kind. I think we should be putting the Minister in a very unfair position. My noble friend Lord Maugham recognized that because he suggested some qualifying words, but I would remind him that under our Standing Orders that is no longer possible because his suggestion has not been printed, although the matter could be dealt with in another place.
My noble friend Lord Roche urged that this matter ought to be in the last instance submitted to a Judge. I have two things to say about that. The first is that we should all desire to see any legal question submitted to a Judge, but in matters of administration a Minister ought to be as competent to deal with them as a Judge could be. It is a different type of decision. Secondly I would point out to your Lordships that every one of these cases, if sufficiently important and if the local education authority felt sufficiently strongly about it, could be brought before the Law Courts. That is a fact which my noble friends have not fully appreciated.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I was endeavouring to explain. What would happen under this very clause which we are considering is that the Minister, having come to his decision to reverse a 962 decision of the local education authority, would then direct the local education authority to do what he told them, and if a local education authority neglect to do that the Minister's only remedy would be by mandamus against the local education authority. Therefore if the matter were sufficiently important and if the local education authority felt sufficiently strongly about it, the matter could always be brought into the courts.
§ LORD ROCHE
May I ask a question on that because it is a very important statement to make? If one looks at Clause 96 (1) I am afraid, speaking as a lawyer, that the noble Earl is wrong. In Clause 96 (1) you will find a provision that any such directions shall be enforceable, on an application made on behalf of the Minister by mandamus. Those words "by mandamus" are entirely absent from the noble Earl's new clause. If you put in "by mandamus" then such directions shall be enforceable on behalf of the Minister only by mandamus. If that were done in the new clause it would very much affect my view of the matter. But those words are not there. I do not think it is a matter of construction.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I am afraid I have not made myself quite clear. The point is this; if the Minister decides against a local education authority he issues a direction to the local education authority to do what he has decided. Under the clause we are now debating he has authority to issue such a direction to the local education authority and if the local education authority ignored that direction that would bring them within the scope of Clause 96 (1). The procedure of Clause 96 (1) would apply.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
May I intervene for a moment, for this is very important? Would it be possible for the local education authority to plead before the court and sustain the plea that the action or default had been unreasonable?
§ THE EARL, OF SELBORNE
No. The issue no doubt before the court would be whether the Minister had given his decision in such and such a sense, whether he had authority to give this decision and the like. That would be the issue that would be tried before the court. It would be impossible to do that without 963 the merits of the whole matter being ventilated.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
The Minister would have to explain the circumstances under which he had exercised the discretion given him by the clause and the whole argument would be unintelligible unless the circumstances of the case were gone into.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
The court would not have powers to decide that point but the whole matter would be ventilated in the court, and the Judge would be free to express his opinion on the matter. I do suggest that it gives an added check of publicity to the whole matter which should not be entirely ignored. It is not the same thing as Clause 96 (1) but it is a stage in the proceedings which could occur if the matter were sufficiently important. After all, the gravamen of my noble friend's case is that something really wrong and really important might be done under this procedure. If the matter was one of minor importance I think he would agree it could be entrusted to the discretion even of a Cabinet Minister, but he is afraid, as I understand him, that something of great importance that was really wrong might be done. My reply to him is that these are administrative matters, that the Bill confers upon the Minister an administrative responsibility greater than any President of the Board of Education has ever borne, and that the matter could be ventilated in the Law Courts at the last stage if it was thought to be necessary. Then again, as I pointed out to your Lordships when we discussed the matter on the Committee stage, while Parliament was sitting, or as soon as Parliament did sit, the Minister could be brought to book, as all Ministers can be brought to book either here or in another place. We had all that out on the Committee stage and I do suggest that this is not the sort of Hitlerism that my noble friend would have us believe. The great majority of cases to be dealt with under this machinery would be minor matters but if any major issue arose it would be impossible for a Minister to do anything important that was wrong or ill-advised without having 964 to go through a most unpleasant time in the exposure which Parliamentary supervision provides to check the action of Ministers.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I would like to demur to the statement of the noble Earl in charge of the Bill that the merits of the Minister's order could be investigated under the procedure by mandamus. Personally I think that on mandamus the court could only investigate whether the Minister had made the order under this new clause and when the court was satisfied of that fact it could not, and it would be totally contrary to its duties to do so, investigate the merits of the decision which the Minister had made. Therefore I think the noble Earl's major objection to this proviso falls to the ground. My noble friend says that the Minister has to be satisfied. Of course he has, but if he is satisfied he could presumably convince Parliament that his decision was well founded. This only provides that his decision is subject to Parliament. My noble friend says that this is the Minister's decision. I dare say it is, but I hope I shall not hear from him that any administrative actions by a Minister of the Crown are not subject to the overriding jurisdiction of Parliament.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
My Lords, I do not know whether, having moved this, I may say a further word. I am afraid my noble friend's argument from Clause 1 cuts very much the other way. I did not know that meant that you were going transform the Minister into a Grand Llama and that he was to become much more active than Grand Llamas usually are, but if it is right or wrong it must not depend on whether you are to magnify the status or personality of the Minister of Education. It must be on merits. With regard to the contention that it would be foolish to use this procedure for small matters, there are very many things to be done in this Bill, and in many other Acts referring to quite small matters. On Clause 44, I think it is, you have to have a regulation which has to receive the tacit approval of Parliament for such things as notices of attendance at county colleges and the like. In war legislation there are any number of orders on small matters. I am not sure there is not one about the price of herring, for example, which can be demurred to by Parliament. I do not 965 know whether it is so in that particular matter, but it is so in quite a number of very small things. After the weight of legal argument that has supported the point I have raised, and in view of the fact that something on the lines suggested by Lord Maugham or otherwise can yet be inserted in the House of Commons, I do not think I can possibly withdraw this Amendment.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, I feel that something should be said by a layman on this Amendment. I have tie greatest respect for the law and a great belief in liberty, but I cannot feel that it is really right to press this matter beyond the point already reached. This clause gives the Minister a power, if complaint is made or if he thinks it necessary to intervene himself, override discretion left to the local authority or governors or managers. As has been said, there must be somebody to appeal to when there is apparent unreasonableness, and an illustration was given. May I recall another illustration which I mentioned at the Committee stage? A local authority may take steps to set up a conference and may select one association of teachers and refuse representation to all other associations. When I raised that point the noble Earl said that in this clause in the Bill there was a remedy. There could be an appeal to the Minister to override the local authority and say that other associations deserved representation and must have it. It is really absurd if every case of that kind has to be laid before Parliament and wait forty days before it can come into effect. I would appeal to my noble friend who moved this Amendment to consider again the vast number of cases that will arise where a Minister must have the final voice. I can remember a case which I think a good many noble Lords will remember concerning a great northern local authority. When the matter is of real importance it will reverberate through Parliament long before the Minister exercises his final power. I think the matter ought to be left as it stands.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I must say that I agree with the right reverend Prelate. The suggestion that the matter should be brought before a Judge is not a very good plan because a Judge is not the kind of person to deal with these matters, and I think my legal friends 966 will agree with that. If you want to ensure that Parliament, your Lordships' House and another place, shall have authority, then the Minister is the man to make the decision. By putting it on the Minister you make sure that if any great local authority does not agree with his decision the matter will certainly be brought before your Lordships' House or another place and without delay. I started by thinking that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roche, was right, but I have come to the conclusion now, and so have one or two of my friends, that the Government are right. I shall support the Government on this point.
My Lords, I should like to add another layman's voice. I certainly hope that the Government will stand firm in this matter. It is dangerous for a layman to quote law or express a legal view, but it does strike me that the noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, rather mixed the procedure requisite for a regulation and this procedure, which, as the noble Earl pointed out, is purely administrative. Not only will this clause enable the Minister to deal with small affairs, but I think it will also serve as a useful—I am sorry if the noble Lord objects, to the term "big stick"—as a coercive power by which he may bring laggard authorities up to the mark. One of the principal weaknesses of the Bill is certain permissive clauses which might result in, differences in educational advantages throughout the country. I sincerely hope the Government will stand firm.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 118 [Repeal of Enactments]:
Page 86, line 26, leave out ("Part II and IV") and insert ("Part II").—(The Earl of Selborne.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ First Schedule [Local Administration]:
Page go, line 38, leave out ("Act") and insert ("Schedule").—(The Earl of Selborne.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.967
§ Sixth Schedule [Procedure for preparing and bringing into operation an agreed syllabus of religious instruction]:
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, the Amendments to this Schedule which I have put on the Paper all deal with the same point. It was discovered on re-examination of the Schedule that a syllabus, before it has been agreed, was referred to as an agreed syllabus. Obviously a syllabus cannot be called an agreed syllabus until it is agreed, therefore it was felt that it should be called a syllabus of religious instruction. I beg to move.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 97, line 4, leave out ("an agreed") and insert ("any").
§ Page 98, line 2, leave out ("agreed syllabus") and insert ("syllabus of religious instruction").
§ Page 98, line 12, leave out ("agreed syllabus") and insert ("syllabus of religious instruction").
§ Page 98, line 34, leave out ("of religious instruction").—(The Earl of Selborne.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, it is now my privilege to move "That the Bill do now pass." This Bill is the first fruit of the Government's reconstruction programme presided over by my noble friend the Minister of Reconstruction, but is to a very particular degree the personal work of my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Education and his devoted lieutenants. It is to him and to them that I feel we ought to pay our tribute for the breadth of vision, the great faith, the untiring energy and the consummate tact with which this great reform has been conceived and brought to birth. It is, undoubtedly, the most ambitious and comprehensive Education Bill ever passed through Parliament.
I would like my second tribute to be to your Lordships for the great amount of time and labour that you have devoted to the examination and improvement of the Bill. To that task you have brought a wealth of experience and learning such as no other legislative assembly in the world can claim. We have been assisted in these deliberations by four ex-Presidents of the Board of Education, three ex-Lord Chancellors, and many other experienced statesmen, lawyers, and right reverend Prelates who are experts on various issues raised by the Bill. And 968 not only that. You have debated this matter under conditions of greater freedom than have obtained in another place for many a long year. As the Government have every reason to know, there is no tame Government majority here, there are no rules of closure, no timetables, no selection of Amendments from the Chair, and, what is even more notable, there are no points of order.
Your Lordships have therefore been able to give the Bill a scrutiny which has been more minute and more exacting than it has received elsewhere. Yet it has been a scrutiny which, I venture to say, has been distinguished by its breadth of approach and absence of pettifogging haggling. It is, therefore, not surprising that a number of important issues have been raised in your Lordships' House which had escaped notice elsewhere. The one which we have just been debating is a notable example. It was never debated at all in another place. The overriding instruction that the wishes of parents should be observed whenever possible—for which we are indebted to my noble friend Lord Rankeillour—the establishment of the Standing Joint Advisory Committee on the agreed syllabus, the mitigation of the law in regard to the attendance of very young children, are all cases in point. And there are a number of other instances as well. Without pledging my right honourable friend that he will be able to accept all the Amendments that your Lordships have made, I should like to say that, in my humble opinion, the Bill has been very much improved in this House, and on behalf of His Majesty's Government I would tender our very sincere thanks for your Lordships' assistance. I venture to say that if anybody doubts the utility of the function which a Second Chamber can perform in the working of a free democracy I would commend to him a study of those copies of Hansard which record your Lordships' debates on this particular Bill.
In passing this measure, I think we must recognize two things. The first is that this great reform, and other great reforms which are now before Parliament, will necessarily involve a very considerable expenditure both in money and in man-power, and no one at present can say with certainty that we are assured of being able, after the war, to afford all the reforms and improvements 969 we should Wish to be able to make. Our financial condition after the war will be such that we shall not be able to afford anything unless we can pay for it in the wealth produced. We shall have to buy food and raw materials from abroad, and all reforms and the whole of our national Budget will have to be paid for out of the surplus of wealth produced in this country after those necessary imports have been paid for. Anybody who ignores that fact is living in a fool's paradise, and any politician who conceals that fact from his fellow-countrymen is doing them an ill service. I think it was your Lordships' keen appreciation of the financial difficulties in which this country will be involved after the war that led you to insist on a full development of technical education under this Bill, and although I, personally, regret the Amendment which your Lordships carried on that particular subject, I can assure you that my right honourable friend attaches just as much importance as this House does to the development of technical education. The second faint we must bear in mind is that this Bill is only a piece of machinery. How it will function depends mainly on those who have to work it; that is to say the Ministry, the local education authorities, the managers and the teachers.
In passing this Bill we have not solved the education problem; we have merely defined it. A tremendous work of construction and administration lies ahead. It is of the first importance that the best men and women should come forward and offer themselves as teachers, and that they should also offer their services on the local authorities and boards of management that will have to administer this Bill. Even if we have the cash, mere expenditure of money will achieve nothing. There is a feeling in the country, which a has its echoes in your Lordships' House, that in the past a great deal of money has been spent without full benefit being gained from it, that sometimes we have not always got the right stamp of teacher, that we have not always taught the best subjects and that we have not always been able to help the children as much as we had hoped.
In our new education system it must be our ambition first and foremost to give the children the right standard of values and conduct, to teach them their civic responsibilities, to give them the power of continuing to learn, and to equip them 970 for the battle of life. None of these things can be achieved unless the children have a firm religious foundation. I, personally, believe that it is impossible for the Anglo-Saxon conception of democracy to function unless it is based on the Christian ethic, and if it is transplanted to any country where that ethic is rejected it would wither and die amid great human suffering. But that is a lesser aspect of the matter. To anyone who believes that every man has an immortal soul, the proper presentation of religion must be the most important object of life. I do not suppose that anyone is completely satisfied in regard to all the religious provisions of this Bill. Certainly there are many alterations in it desired by Anglicans, Free Churchmen and Roman Catholics. But it has the immeasurable superiority over every other Bill that has ever come to Westminster, that it has been debated not only here but up and down the country in a spirit of Christian charity and with a genuine desire in all quarters to understand and to meet the needs of other denominations. So only can this problem be approached.
If anyone says this Bill will not end the religious problem in schools, I would answer that we are not ending a problem, we are commencing a new approach to it, and the right approach—an approach which recognizes that what the denominations have in common immeasurably outweighs the points on which they differ, and that the real enemy, which has passed unnoticed too long while we were pulling the motes and beams out of each other's eves, is the naked materialistic paganism which has reared its head in Europe to a height unknown for a thousand years, and which threatens Christendom to-day, and with it our civilization, our homes, our people.
I trust and pray that this Bill, far from being an element of discord among Christians, will be a means by which greater interdenominational co-operation may be achieved, bringing with it increased personal understanding and sympathy. In taking leave of the Bill, I should like to regard it not as something concluded but as something commenced—a pilgrimage which may lead us to an England that is not only better educated, more cultured, better qualified to face the tasks of citizenship and better equipped in craftsman- 971 ship, but also an England which allows as never before the principles of liberty, justice, toleration and discipline on which this realm depends, and which themselves are founded on the teaching of the Church of Christ. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(The Earl of Selborne.)
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTER-BURY
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lords who have allowed me to intervene at this moment. I had not anticipated that our proceedings would last so long, and I have allowed to stand an important engagement to which I must shortly depart. I should not like this Motion to be carried, however, without some words from these Benches to express the profound admiration which we feel for the way in which the President of the Board of Education has conducted the whole of the preliminaries for the framing of the measure, and for the manner in which the noble Earl in charge of the Bill has conducted the proceedings in this House. We are all deeply grateful to him for his patience, understanding and tact, and we on these Benches, and I believe almost every member of your Lordship's House, are deeply grateful to him for the fact that his interest in this measure arises in large part because of the extent to which it has written religion into the educational system of our country.
If I may underline one part of his speech, let us never forget that freedom here, and also in Holland, began with the sense that men must obey God rather than man. Freedom was primarily understood in this country as freedom to worship God in accordance with the dictates of conscience. It is from that root that English freedom has sprung; it is not here a principle of self-assertion, but a principle of the direct relationship between the individual and God. At a moment, therefore, when we are fighting for liberty, it is a great thing we should also more firmly than ever before establish the religious foundation of the education of our children. That is secured by this Bill, provided that what it enacts is carried out in the spirit of the Bill itself.
There is nothing more that I wish to add to the words I spoke earlier about the great advance in education itself represented by this Bill. It is only right 972 that someone from these Benches should express our sense of the great gain that we anticipate to the country from the provisions which it contains, and our gratitude both to the President and to the noble Earl for the way in which they have considered the points which we have put before them. The Bill does not, of course, contain everything for which we asked. If we were beginning afresh, right at the beginning, many of us would wish to shape the whole handling of the religious question quite differently. But we are in an historical situation in which we have to deal with the material which is given to us; and I most sincerely believe that, speaking broadly, the manner in which this Bill deals with that vital subject is the most promising which could be devised for the future welfare of our country. I am therefore most happy to speak these few words of appreciation before the Motion is finally put.
§ LORD AMMON
My Lords, I too should like to join in felicitating those responsible for introducing this Bill, and also, as one who has probably increased the noble Earl's work, I want to thank him very much for the courtesy and patience with which he has piloted the Bill through your Lordships' House. I think it is true to say that one would have to go back a long way in the history of Parliament to find another example of legislation fraught with so much expectation and launched with such general good will as this. It is true to say that its potentialities for good must depend largely on whether it is worked in the spirit in which it has been conceived, and on whether full effect is given to it. I hope that the enthusiasm which it has generated will not pass away with the urgency of the moment and with the passing of the threat which has brought us together and to a large extent dissolved the political barriers which divide us from one another. I hope that neither time nor the expense of giving effect to the Bill will diminish the enthusiasm and keenness to work the Bill to the full. I wondered whether I detected something like an apologia in advance in the speech of the noble Earl, lest difficulties of that kind might arise in the future; but in that I hope that I am entirely wrong.
This Bill is aimed at the building of character, and by no means only at material improvement. Looking back 973 over the history of education in this country, much has been achieved in the past eighty years both in material advance and for the welfare of our young people, but we are bound to confess that it has not been enough. There are matters which give us grave concern. I for one look forward with very serious apprehension to the future of our children unless the principles of this, Bill are brought into operation and carried out in the right spirit, because scientific knowledge and mechanical advance have given certain powers to mankind which, if not properly used and disciplined, may be the very instruments which will destroy those who have brought them into being. It is because we feel the need for this discipline that we welcome the Bill.
I have listened with interest to noble Lords who have talked about the influence of the home on children and their religion. I am bound to say from my own knowledge that I do not think that influence is what it used to be; I hold that it is greatly exaggerated. To a large extent we are living in the afterglow of the Victorian era, which might be rapidly dissipated, and at present the influence of the home on the child so far as religion is concerned is almost a minus quantity. We have to look to a Bill such as this to supply that lack, and to bring us back to paths from which we have to some extent departed. One of the most important things to make the operation of this Bill successful is the quality of teachers whom we secure and their efficient training. In that connexion the words of the McNair Report are well worth consideration, when they speak of "the immense importance to the country of securing an adequate supply of men and women of character," and say thatwe are convinced that nothing but drastic reforms, involving the expenditure of considerable additional sums of money will secure what the schools need, and what children and young people deserve.It is estimated that the post-war need of teachers will be something between 80,000 and 90,000. That means a minimum establishment of 250,000, with an annual intake of 15,000. That involves very serious consideration and indicates that a great deal has to be done in regard to training colleges, to supply the teachers who will be needed. I think that is one of the very strong reasons for raising the 974 school age to sixteen because it suggests a way in which we may find the need of teachers supplied in days to come.
We have had in this country a good deal of unrest and a good deal of suspicion about post-war legislation, as to whether or not the Government are in earnest about it or whether it is just a kind of sick-bed repentance. But in this measure at any rate they have begun well. I cannot think of any better beginning that could be made than in the matter of education. After all, it is along the right lines making for the spiritual welfare of our people, bringing them up be something better than just more efficient money earners. If we attend to the mind and spirit of our people the rest will be added unto them. I wish this new legislation God-speed on its journey. The machinery is there. It needs spiritual, dynamic, and consecrated effort to achieve its highest purpose. I sincerely trust it will.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I had the privilege on the Second Reading of extending on behalf of my noble friends who sit on these Benches a cordial welcome to this great measure, and now on their behalf I wish to say a word to speed it on its way to the Statute Book. The old controversies happily have not been heard, and such discussions as have taken place in a lively spirit have been quite unexpected and unforeseen. We have had more debates on methods of cleanliness than on the kinds of godliness, and the matter of ensuring the defence of our native land has aroused more interest than the question of securing the defence of denominational interests.
I would desire only to join in the congratulations that have been offered to the President of the Board of Education, the architect and chief builder of this great Bill, and also to the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, who has conducted the measure through this House. It must have been a great relief to him, after having been Minister of Economic Warfare now for several years and having hard and often unpleasant duties to perform, especially in enforcing the hateful necessity of the blockade of Europe, to be able now to turn for some few weeks to another and different task, to exchange the sword for the ploughshare, and to be able to conduct through one of the Houses of Parliament this great pacific, constructive and 975 productive Bill. We are indebted to him for his industry, his patience and his courtesy, and we would extend to him our appreciation of the manner in which he has conducted the Bill through the House and our congratulations on its speedy passage.
§ LORD DARYNGTON
My Lords, as one who has not often addressed your Lordships' House, I should like to be allowed to say one or two words with regard to this Bill. Like the noble Viscount who has just spoken, I was a member of the House of Commons in 1902 and remember the kind of controversy that raged on questions of religion when the Education Bill of that year was before Parliament. It is a matter of great congratulation that that feeling has disappeared. I should like to say a word or two about the question of religious education. I listened to the noble Earl just now when he spoke on this matter, and I agree with everything he said. It always seems to me that what we require is to find teachers who are suitable to give the education, those who believe in the Christian faith and realize its effect on mankind, who believe that the longest life on earth is but a moment in eternity. To them this question must be of infinite importance, and the noble Earl put that particularly well. I believe it will be a great advantage to the children of the country to have a corporate act of worship at the beginning of the school day, and if the teachers realize this, they can very often do a tremendous service to the children whom they instruct. For instance, supposing the day after His Majesty the King made his appeal for prayer the teachers in our schools took advantage of the opportunity to speak to the children on that subject, it would be of enormous value. I believe it would be a very good thing to have a picture of His Majesty in every school in the country with the words of that appeal underneath.
I want to say one or two words with regard to the question of the size of classes. I could say a good deal more in regard to what has been done about technical education and other matters, but I do not want to detain your Lordships. When I was in the House of Commons listening to the debate the other day I heard this question mentioned many 976 times, and the Professor who represented the University of Wales said this:This Bill, with its great profusion of new provisions, is only the raw material of education. The finished product can only be made available for our sons and daughters by the colossal task of the Ministry in making appropriate regulations, and by the good will of the local education authorities in carrying them out, especially in the matter of staffing and size of classes.He went on to quote from a letter from an Army education officer who is trying to teach 200 British soldiers to read and write. They put their inability to read and write down to the fact that they had sat on the back benches of primary schools in classes of fifty and sixty and had been promoted to higher classes on age and nothing else.
It seems to me—and I have been present at many education debates in both Houses of Parliament in the last forty-five years—that that is really a tremendous stigma. There is no excuse for that happening at all. I do not know how we are going to get the teachers we require in future, but it may be that many of these men who are serving in the war will, when they come back, be just the sort of men specially fitted to take up the work. So far as Christian teaching is concerned, a half-hearted Christian is very little good. In conclusion I want to suggest one other point. I suggest that the time for religious instruction should be fixed to suit the convenience of the teachers. If there is a particular teacher in the school who is best qualified for giving religious instruction and making it a reality, that teacher ought to be employed at the time it is most convenient for him.
I shall not say anything about the Minister of Education because he was almost embarrassed in the House of Commons with the amount of praise which he received, but I should like to pay a tribute to the noble Earl for the way in which he has conducted the Bill through this House. I had the privilege of knowing him before he was even a candidate for Parliament and, if I may say so, I have watched his career with great interest. I know how difficult it is to try and defend a Bill which is outside one's own Department, and the great skill he has shown, his adaptability, his amiability, and his sympathy are deserving of the gratitude of your Lordships' House.
THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, I should like in the first instance to associate myself with the tributes which have been paid to the noble Earl in charge of the Bill. We are really very grateful to him for the patience and courtesy he has displayed and for the attention he has given to the various proposals which my noble friends and I have put forward for the improvement of the Bill. From the Roman Catholic point of view we do feel that the Bill now before your Lordships is a better Bill, though I am afraid I must add only slightly better, than it was when it was first introduced into your Lordships' House. In particular the wishes of parents are to be taken into consideration at every stage of education, while in the original Bill these wishes were limited to Part II of the Bill. Your Lordships must not think that even with these improvements we can consider the Bill to be satisfactory. That is sad, because it is very nearly a great Bill.
The financial injustices to which I referred in my speech on the Second Reading still continue unchanged. To our great regret and disappointment we have not been able to secure any inclusion in the text of the Bill of the assurance given by the President of the Board of Education—whom we all wish to congratulate on being able to resume his very ardous duties—that denominations and voluntary managers should be placed in the same situation as local authorities find themselves when borrowing to carry out public works. That was a definite statement made by the President of the Board of Education, and it was made later than the statement quoted by the noble Earl on the Report stage. Then the noble Earl stated that the denominations were to be placed on the same sort of basis as the local authorities in the matter of raising money. As I pointed out, the other statement was made at a later stage. We therefore feel we are entitled to have some provision in the Bill to give effect to that. It is not that we have not the fullest confidence in the intentions of the Minister or that we have not even greater confidence in, And admiration for, the First Lord of the Treasury; but Governments come and go, statesmen come and go, and we should have liked a definite provision in the Bill regarding the future. I wonder if it is too much to hope that even at this 978 very late stage the Government might take this point again into consideration.
There is one further point on which I feel it is necessary to detain your Lordships for one or two minutes because I have had no opportunity hitherto of replying to certain arguments put forward by the noble Earl on the Second Reading. I realize that it is not possible to secure any alterations in the Bill itself on this point, but it is to my mind very important, for the purposes of record if for nothing else, that the thesis put forward by the noble Earl should not remain unchallenged. The particular question to which I refer has created considerable interest in international circles. Your Lordships may remember that during the Second Reading I called attention to the provisions of certain treaties of which we are signatories and which require the equitable treatment of religious minorities as regards sums provided by public funds. I claimed that this implied that Roman Catholic are entitled to exactly similar treatment in respect of public funds as any other schools. To this the noble Earl answered that the treaties provided for equitable treatment and not equal treatment, and that equitable treatment was given under the Bill. I agree that equitable treatment and equal treatment are by no means synonymous terms, but the noble Earl will agree with me when I say that equitable treatment may sometimes necessitate equal treatment. I would point out to him that, as regards these treaties, equitable treatment was in fact always interpreted as equal treatment, and this interpretation was agreed to and approved by the representatives of His Majesty's Government. I hope very much that the noble Earl will bring this fact before the high legal and diplomatic authority to whom he alluded, and ask him whether in view of what I have said he will not revise his opinion.
The noble Earl put forward an astonishing thesis. He said that if I could produce figures to show that the Roman Catholics contributed in rates and taxes sums equal to or greater than the sums they would receive under the Bill, then I should have a case for showing unequal treatment. It is perfectly clear, in the first instance, that it is quite impossible to produce any figures of that kind at a time when we have these enormous anonymous joint-stock companies and landlords and 979 owners paying rates on blocks of flats, and so on. If I asked the Government themselves to produce such figures, the reply would, I am sure, be that they could not do so. Let me look for one moment where this argument would take us. It comes to this. If a religious minority were wealthy, although small, it would receive 100 per cent. of its education expenses, while if it were poor, although very numerous, it might only receive 50 per cent. In fact there would be discrimination against a poor minority, and wealth would be the criterion. That does not represent equitable treatment, and it is certainly entirely contrary to the intentions of the authors of the Minority Treaties, which, by the way, I did not draft, although the noble Earl attributed that task to me.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I only wish to say that I should be the first to thank the noble Earl who has had charge of this Bill for his patience with me and also that, if at any moment I imparted some heat into the debate, I am sorry. I hope too, Lord Ammon will tell his friends that I have some hope that we shall all move forward together in the spirit of amity, even on the question of how far you should teach children equality of sacrifice in defence of their native land. I thought it proper that I should thank the noble Earl because many of my friends have said I had a real grievance in that he promised me a regulation to be issued and then later on had to withdraw it. They said I had asked for a loaf and had been given half a loaf. Well, half a loaf is better than no bread. The next day they thought I was left with nothing. But I do not take that view. I realize the difficulties of the noble Earl in not being able always to get in touch with the Minister of Education, and I myself absolve him from all blame and thank him for all he has done.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, before the question is put and the Bill is passed I would ask the House to allow me in quite a few sentences to make some observations on this very great Bill. My noble friend Lord Perth qualified that expression and said it was "nearly a great Bill." Both he and Lord Rankeillour have frequently presented the point of view which they naturally espouse 980 throughout these debates with the greatest persuasiveness and good temper. But it is a great Bill, and I will venture to adopt and confirm what was said by Lord Selborne at the beginning of this discussion, that the way in which this Bill has been handled in this House is in itself a justification for this ancient assembly. It is by the careful and persistent and useful powers of revision that we have improved the Bill. I do not doubt that we shall send it back to the House of Commons really improved and I should trust that the Amendments we have made will be, almost without exception, accepted. And, my Lords, do not let us forget that the subject of education discussed in Parliament has not always been handled in this same calm and discreet manner. My noble friends Lord Daryington and Lord Samuel and I and Lord Mottistone, to take only those examples, have very different recollections of the Education Bill of 1906.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My own experience does not go back as far as that. But I know that the Bill of 1902 was also a very serious time of conflict. As I said at the start my own knowledge of the matter goes back to 1906 and the same atmosphere tended to prevail even on an earlier occasion. No doubt the difference is due to a great advance in public understanding of the whole subject, to much greater willingness to co-operate, and to the fact that the needs of education have tended to bind us all together rather than to intensify those things in regard to which we may differ. I am bound to say I think in the present instance the calm atmosphere is largely due to the statesmanship of Mr. Butler and, as everybody in this House agrees, it is also largely due to the sweet reasonableness of my noble friend.
Let us finally note the position which this Bill takes in the Parliamentary effort to build a better world after the war. Lord Ammon made the point that it is the first complete and comprehensive Bill reaching the Statute Book on that head. But what is of interest to notice is that in our British history, when the time has come for Parliament to be reformed and new forces to be freshly roused, it has invariably been the case that under this new impulse it is to the subject of education that Parliament has turned. It was 981 so in the case of the first Reform Bill. In 1832 the very first thing that was done by the new Parliament of that year was to resolve for the first time that a sum of public money should be given to the promotion of public education. It was £20,000 Still, that was the immediate sequenc, of the passage of the first Reform Bill. Take the second Reform Bill of 1867. A great additional power of public opinion was introduced actively as part of the motive of Parliamentary work. Immediately after 1867 there was set to work all those investigations and plans which led to the great Education Bill of 1870. If you take the third Reform Bill, the Bill of 1884, there again one of the things which followed it very closely was the establishment of free education in our elementary schools. So it, is true to say that in our Parliamentary history whenever Parliament has got an access of renewed strength and a new consciousness of its power and duty, it has been to the improvement of education that it has always turned.
The same thing is true, though in rather a different way, it connexion with the two great wars. After the first great war, at a time when so much effort and so much hope, rather disappointed hopes in some cases now, were being thrown into the purpose of preparing this land to be a fit plate for those who had sought to conic back to, we saw the Fisher Bill being introduced and carried through Parliament. It was a Bill that met with more general sympathy and acceptance than an3, other of the post-war proposals of that lime. It is therefore entirely in the line of what has happened before that when we are all of us now doing our utmost to help in Parliament to plan what we can do for the future, that first in the list of positive Parliamentary achievements comes this great education Bill.
I would be very far from saying that the carriage of this Bill is the most important stage of this development. On the contrary, the Minister of Education who has done so famously up to now, is only about to enter upon his real task. It is going to be a tremendous business to clothe this scheme with flesh and blood, provide buildings and teachers and develop this new spirit of instruction. Plato in his scheme for an ideal State put at its very foundation the education of the children. He was right in doing so, for 982 unless that foundation were well and truly laid there was no prospect of his Republic deserving to be regarded as an ideal institution. So it is with us. If we wish to contribute to the well-being of our country when the war is over, it will be a great solace to feel that in this matter at least the foundation has been well and truly laid.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.