§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
, in rising to call attention to the deficient Ministerial responsibility under which the Votes for Education, Art, and Science are administered; and to move for a Select Committee to consider how such Ministerial responsibility may be better secured, said: The subject which I wish to introduce to the attention of the House is not brought before it for the first time, and it is therefore necessary, both in justification of my Motion, and for the sake of clearness, that I should give, in a few sentences, a narrative of the steps taken by the House in past times. The present system of superintending education by a Committee of Council arose in 1839, when a few Members of the Cabinet were associated for the purpose of dispensing small sums of money voted to promote education. Fron 1839 to 1846, only £305,000 of public money were thus expended for the whole seven years. In 1846 new Minutes of the Committee gave increased vigour to the system, and in 10 years, or in 1856, the annual expenditure had amounted to £500,000. That sum, though modest enough in comparison with our present expenditure, awakened the attention of this House, and it began to be uneasy as to the Ministerial responsibility under which these increasing Votes were administered. Accordingly, in that year, an Act was passed for a Vice President of the Committee of Council, who should sit in this House. Sir George Grey, who introduced the Bill, said—This Bill authorized the appointment of a Vice President, who would be enabled to have a seat in the House of Commons, and would be the responsible Minister there in all matters connected with education, so far as the Government were concerned."—[3 Hansard, cxliii. 991.]1590 Lord Granville, in introducing the Bill to the House of Lords, confirmed that view, for he said—It would be desirable that some Minister should be appointed who should be responsible to the House of Commons for the proper distribution of the grants."—[3 Hansard, cxl. 815.]The Bill became law under the clear impression of this House that it had secured a responsible Minister, and under this conviction the educational grants were rapidly increased. The confidence of the House as to the responsibility of the Vice President was first rudely shaken in 1864. In that year there was a discussion as to an alleged mutilation of the Inspection Report, and a Vote, which my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) construed into a censure, led to his resignation of the office of Vice President. The House then appointed a Select Committee on the subject, and before that Committee, the late Vice President gave evidence, clearly establishing that the Lord President is the responsible Minister, and that the Vice President only acts as his delegate. Lord Granville, who was then President, entirely confirmed this view, for he told the Committee—"I am responsible for the whole action of the Department." The House looked upon that view of Ministerial responsibility in a serious light, and in the following year, they appointed another Select Committee to examine into the constitution of the Committee of Council. The Chairman of the Committee was Sir John Pakington. The Committee, among many other witnesses, examined three Presidents of Council—Lords Granville, Russell, and Salisbury. All of them stated that the Lord President alone was responsible for administration, and that the Vice President merely acted in his absence. The utmost that the Lord Presidents would concede, was that the Vice President might be looked upon in the House of Commons in the light of the political Under Secretary of a Department. The Committee then examined three Vice Presidents—Mr. Bruce, Sir Charles Adderley, and Mr. Lowe. They were in the main in accord with the Lord Presidents. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) said—No doubt, in a strict sense I was not responsible; but, in a loose and popular sense, I was responsible.1591 The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Charles Adderley) scarcely admitted even that loose responsibility; while Mr. Bruce was scarcely more clear, when he said—I consider the President is wholly responsible; but for the reasons I have given, I cannot pretend to say that the Vice President is not also responsible.The Committee then examined Mr. Lingen, the Secretary to the Department, and ascertained from him that the irresponsible Vice President did nine-tenths of the work of the office. The Committee were obviously much struck by that statement, and closely examined the Presidents and. Vice Presidents who came before them as witnesses, how far that was the fact. The replies were in substance, that though they had no statistical data by which they could apportion one-tenth of the work to the responsible Lord President, and nine-tenths of the work to the irresponsible Vice President, yet as a general statement of the relations between the two, Mr. Lingen's evidence was substantially true. The Committee of 1865 reported the evidence, and was re-appointed in 1866. In July of that year the Chairman presented his draft Report, which was to the effect that the constitution of the Committee of Council was unsatisfactory, and that the Education of the country should be made into a distinct Department under a responsible Minister of State. But, just as the Committee were about to consider their Chairman's draft Report, a change of Ministry occurred, and the Committee came to an untimely end. The succeeding Government, however, under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman the present First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. Disraeli), were obviously satisfied that the Committee had made out a case, for the Duke of Marlborough introduced a Bill, in 1868, to create a sixth Secretary of State, for the purposes of public education. I have now brought the history of the subject very close to the year 1870, when Parliament resolved to convert a mere contributory into a national system of education. This has vastly increased the importance of the whole question. In 1865, when the House took alarm at the deficient responsibility, the Votes granted to the Committee of Council were £840,000. They have rapidly increased, year by year, and are now £1,852,000. That sum includes 1592 £278,000 for the Science and Art Department. That Department might be dove-tailed with great advantage into the Educational Department; but each is afraid of the other, and they are run on two contiguous and parallel lines of rails, with few crossings, lest they should come into a violent collision. Notwithstanding the large increase in the Votes for Education, yet we still remain in the same uncertain state of Ministerial responsibility as to their administration. If the Lord President be the responsible Minister, is it consistent with our jealous care for public money, that the responsibility for such a large central fund should almost invariably rest with a Member of another House? And even assuming that the Vice President has the sort of responsibility of an Under Secretary of State, is there another instance of such large Votes being moved and explained by a Member of that standing? Though, in theory, and in fact, the Vice President possesses no actual responsibility for administration; yet remember that this large spending Department has its great Parliamentary business in the House of Commons, though its responsible Chief is all but invariably in the House of Lords. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), when Vice President, had incessant educational duties in this House. We, as the Representatives of the people, naturally took the deepest interest in the Bill of 1870 which dealt with the education of the people. My right hon. Friend received the credit as well as the unpopularity of that great measure. Upon whose head did the League pour out the vials of its wrath? Was it upon the responsible President, or the irresponsible Vice President? We all know that not only this House, but the whole nation looked upon my right hon. Friend as the Education Minister de facto, if not de jure. And for that prominent work he was made a Cabinet Minister. Let us consider what an anomaly that was. A subordinate Minister, ranking no higher than Under Secretary of a Department, was sent into the Cabinet on terms of equality with his Chief. If the irresponsible subordinate differed from his responsible Chief in opinion, he was in the Cabinet with full power of defending his own views and upsetting those of his Chief. Such a state of things could not have lasted a week, had the Government not viewed the Vice Pre- 1593 sident in the House of Commons as the real Minister of Education. And yet, all this time, though the Vice President did nine-tenths of the office, as well as all the Parliamentary, work, it was the President who dispensed all the patronage. The Vice President, who ought to answer, and was made to answer, to us for efficient administration, could not appoint a single officer to make that efficient. I quote only a single instance to show how that works. Some years ago, the Accountant at South Kensington was found to have made an improper use of public money, and the circumstance was inquired into by the Committee of Public Accounts upstairs. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) attended as a witness and was asked—"Do you think, in your position as Vice President, you were justified in retaining the Accountant at South Kensington?" To which he replied—In the first place, I wish to take all proper blame to myself, but I have no power of dismissing or appointing: that entirely rests with the Lord President.I think that the House will agree with me that that unsatisfactory state of educational administration ought not to be continued in the new condition of national education in this country. In proposing a Select Committee, I have no intention that it should travel over the same ground as the Committee of 1865 and 1866. They had a limited reference, for they had simply to inquire into the constitution of the Committee of Council, and they did that work in an exhaustive way. A new Select Committee would require to consider the altered relations of education to the nation by the Act of 1870, and the means of bringing under one administrative Department the numerous collateral and outlying educational Votes. When the Conservative Ministry of 1868 brought in their Bill for a sixth Secretary of State for Education, they too, like the Select Committee, took too narrow a view of his functions, and were opposed on the ground that, in the then condition of primary education, there was not work enough to justify the office. Pew would be inclined to make that objection now. Lord Russell, even as far back as 1865, saw that the time was coming when a distinct education Department might become necessary, for he said— 1594If the system of education become extended, then a Minister for the sole purpose of Education would he desirable and almost necessary, because Parliament would look for the responsibility of a single Minister, and, under the present divided system of the Department, there was not full responsibility.A Select Committee, having to consider the question now, would find ample work for a Minister of Education, even if they took away from him the care of cattle, and limited his functions to the removal of ignorance and vice among the people, plagues far more formidable than those among cattle, which, with a strange anomaly, are made to distract attention from the education of the people. Strangely enough, this great increase of education, which Lord Russell foresaw would necessitate a responsible Minister, has lately been used as an argument in "another place" for having none. The argument, there, was that, though the Government of 1868, under the present Premier, was justified in proposing a sixth Secretary of State, the Government of 1874, under the same Prime Minister, would not be so justified, because in the meantime education had taken such a large development. In 1868 the State only subscribed to the efforts of others, now it is charged with education as a national duty, and is responsible that every child in the Kingdom is educated. How that great increase of responsibility, and new imposition of a national duty lessen the importance of a Ministerial office. I do not pretend to understand or to answer; for no contention can be necessary to prove that a major duty is greater than a minor duty. Even, as long ago as 1856, such a high authority as the late Earl of Derby thought that the time had arrived to take away the education from the Privy Council and place it under a single responsible Minister. It has lately been denied that Lord Derby entertained these views, so I will quote his own words from Hansard. He said—The time had arrived when there should he a separate Department established, especially charged with the education of the country, presided over by a Minister immediately responsible to Parliament.…He had a strong feeling that the institution of a Minister of Instruction at the present moment was desirable; and that the subject should be altogether separated from the Privy Council."—[3 Hansard, cxl. 815–16.]But that suggestion, which Lord Derby made so long ago, is now said to be 1595 viewed unfavourably in the eyes of the present Government, which also made it in the Bill in 1868. The noble Duke who now is Lord President is known to have put forth the ad misericordiam argument—"If you take away education from the Lord President, you leave him nothing to do." Well, that argument has some force, but it may be met. Whenever my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) proposes to abolish the office of Lord Privy Seal, the Government reply that a Minister without a Department is a most useful and even necessary adjunct to the Government. That may, however, be true of one Cabinet Minister, and yet it may not be true of two Ministers. In that case, the Lord President of the Council, when he has nothing to do, may coalesce his office with that of the Lord Privy Seal, who has also nothing to do; and thus, without adding to the number of Cabinet offices, a place may be had for an Education Minister, for whom I am sure that a Select Committee could carve out work that would occupy all his time and energies. For such, a Select Committee would never dream of confining his attention to mere primary education, but would confide to him very important duties in promoting Science and Art. A new Select Committee would not only observe a large increase in Votes for primary education under the Committee of Council, but also for the same purpose among other Departments; and they would note the steady rise in expenditure for Science and Art, including galleries and museums. In regard to them they would find either that there is no Ministerial responsibility at all, or one of the loosest and most unsatisfactory kind. Take, as an instance, the Vote for the British Museum. Here we have a national museum receiving a Vote of £100,000 under irresponsible Trustees. That large Vote is actually moved by a private Member, my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), to whom no responsibility of any kind attaches. In 1862 this anomaly was brought under the attention of the House, in a powerful speech, by the present First Commissioner of Public Works (Lord Henry Lennox). On that occasion both the late and present First Lords of the Treasury admitted the necessity for Ministerial responsibility. My right hon. Friend 1596 the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) then said—I admit that there is much to be said in favour of the general principle that the expenditure of money, with a view to the promotion of Education, Science, and Art, should be placed under the control of a single responsible Minister."—[3 Hansard, clxv. 1788.]My right hon. Friend went further, and stated this was and ought to be the aim of the Government. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Disraeli) on that occasion was equally emphatic in accepting that principle, for he said—There is no reason why the control and management of these collections should not be vested in one responsible Adviser of the Crown."—[Ibid. 1800.]Precisely the same view has within the last few months been expressed by the Science Commission. But, tempting as an allusion to the scattered Votes in Class IV. is to me, I will not refer to them in any detail, because they are to form the subject of a distinct Motion by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella). I glance only at the National Galleries for Art. The National Gallery in London is under Trustees, but has a sort of hybrid connection with the Treasury, though that is not constituted as an administrative Department. So is the National Portrait Gallery, the trustees of which are getting up an interesting collection, though they fail to interest the public in it. Again, in Edinburgh and Dublin we have National Galleries of Art managed under the loosest responsibility. With the exception of that in Edinburgh, all these galleries are so disjointed that the Government Schools of Art get no benefit from them. If South Kensington evoke their aid for its Art Schools, the Trustees of the National Galleries, paid for by the State, become indignant. See how that disjointed system works. The British Museum and. South Kensington Museum exhibit the same class of Art objects. The Metropolitan Museums jostle each other in the strangest way. Thus, the active Herbarium at Kew finds itself in the way of the passive Herbarium at the British Museum. The Geological Museum in Jermyn Street finds its collections repeated in Bloomsbury. And all of these institutions, save South Kensington, refuse to aid the provinces. They are suffering from a plethora of collections; their duplicates, their specimens, their redundant pictures, are 1597 packed away in boxes or are rotting in cellars; but if the provinces humbly sue even for a temporary loan from them, their deputations are sent away with the scantest courtesy. All these institutions might be readily co-ordinated, and might be made to co-operate for the advancement of Science and Art, but each at present prevents the development of the other. Our Art as well as our Science institutions are dissipated by disassociation. They ought to aid each other, but, instead of doing that, they fight with scarce concealed hostility, and anyone who will take the trouble to place into two parallel columns the museums and galleries managed under direct Ministerial responsibility, and those managed by irresponsible Trustees, will get a singular illustration of relative activity and passivity. Before leaving this part of the subject, I would simply refer to the fact that, besides these higher museums and galleries, considerable Votes are given to Universities—the Scotch Universities, the Queen's University in Ireland, and the University of London. The Home Secretary, who now is chiefly a Minister of Police and Justice, appoints the Regius Professors in the Scotch Universities, while the Lord Lieutenant appoints those in the Queen's College, but neither has to do with their administration. Whether the funds voted are applied productively or unproductively, the House has no knowledge. In addition to the Votes which I have thus glanced at, there are large educational resources scattered through the Kingdom, part of which have been brought into connection by a loose thread with the Committee of Council. I allude to the endowed schools. The House will recollect how startled it was by the Report of the Endowed Schools Commission, which exposed a system of waste, jobbery, and mismanagement of funds amounting to nearly £600,000 a-year. Unhappily the House possessed no Minister of Education to whom it could entrust the reform of those schools, though the Vice President of the Council (Mr. W. E. Forster) was a man capable of the task, if he had possessed the power, and so it delegated its legislative authority to a Special Commission, which still exists. But a delegated Legislature contains no opposition, and is apt to go forward on its own internal lights, without the external aid of public opinion 1598 to strengthen and modify its judgments. And although this delegated Legislature has done much good work, yet as a machine it has produced heavy friction, and its bearings on various occasions have become strongly heated. The Commission have frequently been out of accord with the other House, and sometimes with a large minority of this. But suppose all their work had been done in the easiest way, no provision has been made for keeping efficient the schools which they reform. In a few years these will slide back to all their abuses. You resolved that the endowments which had been usurped by the rich should be restored to the inheritance of the deserving poor. You determined to grade schools so as to suit different ages and classes, and you planted the bottom of the ladder of secondary education in our primary schools and rested the top on our Universities, so that all who were able to climb might use it. But you have as yet given to no Minister the power to see that your wise intentions are fulfilled. Schemes are made for the reform of schools; but there is no inspection of them to see whether the schemes are working well or ill. They may succeed, or they may utterly fail; but we are not a bit the wiser, for no reports are made to us, or to anyone, as to the results, nor does any person possess the power to inquire into their working. If you had a Minister of Education, it would be his duty to find out the defects of the secondary system, and to apply to you for new powers to carry out reforms in regard to them. An Education Department, such as we now possess, can do nothing but administer a Parliamentary instruction; but a Minister of Education, responsible for the progress of education as a whole, would require to keep his eye open all round, exercise the powers which he possessed, and ask for new powers when they became necessary. And Parliament would readily give these to a responsible Minister, working with a Government in the face of an Opposition, when it would never entrust them to the delegated authority of an irresponsible Executive Commission. These remarks are as applicable to Scotland and Ireland as they are to England. In Scotland the endowments are £170,000 per annum, and are as wastefully and unproductively employed 1599 as in England, if we except a few lately reformed. In Ireland the endowments are about £40,000 a-year, and are still more wastefully used. In all, the endowments connected with education have an income of £800,000 per annum, a sum ample to organize an efficient scheme of secondary education. Including in one sum the Votes under Class IV., the endowed schools and some outlying Votes for primary education to which I will presently allude, we have a grand total of £3,925,000, which we may easily call £4,000,000, as our increase for this single year has been more than£100,000. That annual sum is so large that a Select Committee might well be employed in bringing its scattered members under a responsible Administration. But it would be affectation to pretend ignorance that my Motion is opposed by the noble Duke who is now Lord President (the Duke of Richmond). The noble Duke is known to entertain the opinion that a Minister of Education already exists, and that he has the honour to be that Minister. Considering the knowledge and capacities of the noble Duke, I could have no difficulty in viewing him in that light, if I believed that the office of Lord President entitled the noble Duke to claim such a distinction. But all that I can admit is that the noble Duke happens to be the Ministerial manager of a large number of primary schools. If the noble Duke be content with the title of Minister of Primary Schools of a very low order, I do not think that he is justified in claiming even this humble distinction. The Lord President has nothing to do with primary schools in Ireland, for which we Vote £540,000. That large Vote is administered by irresponsible Commissioners, who have recently shown how little they care for Parliament by their conduct in the O'Keeffe case. Why should they be free from Parliamentary control? In Scotland there is also a National Board to protect Scottish peculiarities in education, but it is subordinate to the Lord President. Why, then, should we continue to Vote more than £500,000 to Ireland without Ministerial responsibility? Even in Great Britain, the Lord President does not take charge of all the primary schools, for there are outlying Votes for the purpose scattered among various Departments. The Home Secretary receives £240,000 for reformatory and industrial schools. The Pre- 1600 sident of the Local Government Board has £44,000 for pauper schools. The Secretary at War receives £64,000 for military primary schools. I cannot make out clearly how much the Admiralty take for this purpose; but as they maintain and train 7,000 boys, I put it at £200,000. All these outlying schools were at one time under the inspection of the Committee of Council, who threw them off as inconsistent with the mechanical working of the Revised Code. Certainly, I cannot admit that the Lord President of that Council is a Minister of Education—not even a Minister of Primary Schools. As to a Minister in the larger sense, I deny that he has a particle of claim to such a distinction. He has not even succeeded in dove-tailing into his own limited Department the Schools of Science and Art for which he is responsible. I have not considered it necessary to prove my case for inquiry by showing how the system of management even of the primary schools has failed to educate the country. I do not mean to attack the administration of the Committee of Council in the work entrusted to it, for it has nothing but petty duties to perform, and so far as it has power, it has done these petty duties sufficiently well. But what I contend is, that the system under which the Committee works does not enable it to educate the country even in primary-subjects. Year after year, the Education Department reports its own failure to this House. This year it tells us that of the children who ought to pass in Standards from IV. and upwards, only one-fifth did so, and four-fifths failed. That really means, all the rest were so under-educated as to lose the little education they had received in two or three years' wear and tear of life. This is a practical confession of failure in our educational system, or rather want of system. If a Minister entrusted with the true education of the people had under his charge the secondary endowed schools of the Kingdom, and also the higher institutions for which we annually pass large Votes, he would not be content for a day with the miserable results of our primary schools. He would use the other resources at his disposal as means for developing the lower education. He would no doubt bridge over the chasm between the primary and secondary schools, and he would soon be satisfied 1601 that Standard IV., the summit of his ambition at present, is a very rotten bridge for the purpose. There are many circumstances which would stimulate such a Minister to action. He would find that political power had been transferred to the people, many of whom are still uneducated. He would learn that an uneducated people represent a nation one or two generations back in its history. They cannot grasp the ideas of the age in which they live, and are powerless to shake themselves free from the prejudices which the progress of thought has proved to be dangerous error. Such a Minister would carefully watch the conditions affecting industrial progress, and would try to fit our artizans to hold their own in the increasing competition of nations. It would be his interest, as well as his duty, to draw out of the lower schools youths of intelligence and promise, who, by a larger education, might add to the intellectual fund of the country. And last, but not least, a Minister of Education would feel it to be his duty to use the resources at his disposal for the advancement of Science and Art, which, even in their abstract relations, are the mainsprings of progress. I am presenting no highly-coloured picture to the House, for I simply describe the combined educational system which forms the duty of a Minister of Education in foreign countries. In this country there is no Minister of Education. There is only a Lord President of the Council, who is content to remain the manager of a very low order of primary schools, and of a few disjointed schools of Science and Art. I have shown that there are ample materials already existing in this country to form an important Ministry of Education. No other nation in Europe spends anything like what we do for education out of Imperial funds, and yet how poor is our return for the outlay. Not on account of deficient educational materials, for they are abundant, but because they are not used for a common purpose. In reflecting on our poor returns for that large expenditure, I am often reminded of the story of the many people who resolved to build a great edifice. They set about their work very heartily, and collected all sorts of building materials—stone, brick, wood, and iron—till the very ground was cumbered. Then they began to quarrel among them- 1602 selves as to which material should be used for the building. Anyone would have done; two would have been better; but all brought into useful combination would have been best. They could not agree as to the plan, or even as to the position of the front door. Some wished it to open upon the via antiqua, others upon the via moderna; some wished the building to face the temple, others the City. And so they continued their strife, and the edifice remains to this day a mere castle in the air. Is there no analogy to that in the strife of our Churchmen and Dissenters, our Humanists and Utilitarians? Our materials for the progress of Education, Science, and Art, are abundant, but they are thrown together in the wildest confusion. It is time that we should get order out of disorder, for the problem in the future of nations is to organize the forces of war and the forces of peace in the most intelligent manner. The competition among nations for the future will be one of public intellect. It is in this belief that I invite the House to consider the defective organization of our disjointed educational systems. I have approached the question in no party spirit. I have quoted the opinions of four Prime Ministers, two being Conservative and two Liberal, in favour of my proposal. I have proved to the House that even when Ministerial responsibility exists in relation to the education of the people, it is not to be found in the House of their Representatives. There have been exceptions, but in practice the Lord President is always a Peer, and upon him the people, whose education is at stake, can exercise no immediate or direct influence. It remains for the House to decide whether, with the large and rapidly increasing Votes for Education, Science, and Art, they are content to let things remain as they are. Sir, I conclude by moving that a Select Committee be appointed for the purpose I have named in my Resolution.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to consider how the Ministerial responsibility under which the Votes for Education, Art, and Science are administered may be better secured,"—(Mr. Lyon Playfair,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, that no one could have listened to the speech just delivered without feeling that the subject was one which was well worthy of consideration; but still, before a Select Committee was appointed, they should consider the gravity of the question which was brought under their notice. The appointment of a definite Minister of Education would be an addition to the existing Government of the country, and the House could hardly be expected to agree to such a proposal upon the Motion of a private Member, however distinguished. It could only be done upon the advice and responsibility of the Ministers of the Crown themselves. The right hon. Gentleman had said there was no Education Minister. Strictly speaking, he was correct; but they all knew that a Minister of Education did practically exist; that upon the Lord President of the Council devolved the responsibility of the education of the country, and that the Vice President of the Council was as responsible to the House of Commons as any of the Under Secretaries of State were. Instead of adopting the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, he would rather take away from the Lord President and Vice President of the Council those duties connected with their office which seemed somewhat heterogeneous, and not germane to their functions, for, by doing so, they would remove one complaint of the right hon. Gentleman as to their having too much to do. His noble Friend (Viscount Sandon) was well adapted for the Education Department; but he was not aware that he had any special aptitude for dealing with matters relating to the cattle plague or agriculture, which belonged also to his office. It could scarcely be urged as a reason for the appointment of a distinct Minister of Education that the present duties of the Lord President and Vice President were too heavy, because they could not forget that in addition to his other labours, the right hon. Gentleman the late Vice President (Mr. Forster) had charge of the Ballot Bill during its progress through this House, although that measure was not immediately connected with his own Department. He must confess 1604 that he was somewhat alarmed at the suggestion that there should be a Minister of Education to superintend the whole system of education in the country, including the Universities, the public schools, and the endowed schools, because that brought him a vision of a great bureau conducting the whole education of the country. He had no liking for everything being placed under a Department of the State; and he especially objected to that being done in reference to education, as to which so much had been founded upon the old lines of self-reliance and independence, and the voluntary efforts of the people themselves. He also apprehended that if the proposition were carried out the whole education of the country might be conducted upon the principle of the Cowper-Temple Clause; and he did not think that what was proposed would recommend itself to the public opinion of the country.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, the question which had been brought forward was a very important one, and fitting for the House to discuss. When a Member of the late Government, he had formed rather strong views with regard to it, though he wished it to be understood that the remarks he had to make to-day were delivered for himself alone. Speaking, then, for himself only, he was disposed to concur in the view which had been taken by the Cabinet of 1868, when the present Prime Minister was at the head of the Government, and by the Duke of Marlborough, as President of the Council, rather than in that which was attributed to the noble Duke who now filled that office. That noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) was reported to have said, in "another place," in answer to those who contended that there ought to be a Minister of Education, that there was such a Minister, and that he was that Minister, adding that there was another Minister, were he called an Under Secretary of State or Vice President of the Council, who was a second Minister of Education, and that nothing was more clear than that the Lord President was responsible for everything which went on in his Department. The first objection he (Mr. Forster) had to those words was, that they struck him as implying not that there should be some kind of Under Secretary or Vice President representing education in that 1605 House, but that it should be the rule that the First Minister of Education should be in the other House—a rule to which he should strongly object. He should probably be told that legally there was no such rule; but hon. Members knew that practically it was the rule that the Lord President should be a Member of the House of Lords. There was only one exception to it in recent times, and that was when Lord John Russell was for a short time President of the Council; and that was one of those exceptions which really confirmed the general rule. In his opinion, it was not fair to the House of Commons that such should be the rule, because the Department of Education was becoming a very large spending Department, and its expenditure was likely to increase year by year. The Education Votes amounted to £1,800,000, and if the collateral expenditure was taken into account, they would exceed £2,000,000, and these sums were likely to increase, since it was desired that they should, if the money was rightly expended. It was not a good rule that the Education Vote should be moved by one who was second in command, affecting as it did, every constituency in the country, and being, therefore, a subject in which every hon. Member of the House of Commons was interested. What would be said, he should like to know, if the Secretary of War were necessarily a Member of the other House, and the Army Estimates had to be virtually discussed and settled in the other House? It would, no doubt, be said that the sum dealt with under the Education Votes was a very small one in comparison. That was true; but the matter was one which specially concerned the House of Commons. Those Votes, as he had said, affected localities, and therefore were of a nature to enlist in a special degree the interest of the House of Commons. It was most undesirable, in his opinion, therefore, that the Minister specially charged with the duty of supervising education should, by a rule, be necessarily a Member of the other House. The next ground he took was that the present arrangement was not one that was calculated to promote the efficiency either of the Department or of the education given. It was an arrangement that was very unfair to the Vice President, and still more so to the President himself. The Lord Pre- 1606 sident was a high officer of State, but he was not chosen merely with a view to his fitness for administering educational affairs, whilst the Vice President was chosen on that account. Knowing how admirably both the Duke of Richmond and the noble Lord the Vice President were fitted to discharge the duties of their offices, he felt more free to express his opinion on the general disadvantage of the present system in this respect. The daily detail of educational administration was supervised by the Vice President; he must do the work, and must also defend it in the House of Commons; and it was to him that the House and the country looked as being the practical Minister of Education, while, nevertheless, he might be controlled by the Lord President. He did not say that such a system was not likely to work well; but if it was to be permanent, it was not likely to work best. It reminded him of the Japanese Government, where the visible Minister was controlled by the invisible Minister. He felt that he should be taking away much from the force of his argument when he stated that he had worked in perfect agreement with his old and intimate Friends (Lord Aberdare and Lord Ripon), and as Lord Ripon was President of the Council during most of the time he was in office, he could not help saying how he had been struck by the remarkable ability, clearness of conception, and rare combination of courage and unselfishness which he displayed in discharging his share of the difficult work which had been entrusted to the Education Department by the late Government. He was, indeed, always willing to accept responsibility himself, while leaving those who worked with him ample freedom of action. But notwithstanding his agreeable relations with those noble Lords, he thought the system a bad one. It was the undoubted fact that the whole patronage of the Department rested, both by precedent and custom, with the Lord President—a rule which had worked very pleasantly for him personally when in office, as it had saved him from considerable trouble and difficulty; but he never could persuade people in the country that the Vice President, who had so much to do with education, did not appoint the Inspectors and examiners, and up to the present moment he was credited or discredited with those 1607 appointments as they were regarded as being good or the reverse. He thought that that circumstance was a sufficient proof of the inconvenience of the present system. His strongest objection, however, to the present system was that he did not believe that it was calculated to promote the progress of education. The Duke of Richmond was a man who had a great knowledge of business, and if he had had the actual charge of the Education administration, he would not have described the working of the Department as he had done. The noble Duke appeared to think that any Minister with a very slight acquaintance with public business would be able to deal with the work, and that as long as the Department carried out the Act, it did its duty; but in his (Mr. Forster's) opinion, the duty of the Department went far beyond that. It would have not only to carry out the Act, but to see that the schools were efficient. The work of the Department was not a work which, once done, was done for ever, but it had to see that the system of education kept pace with the requirements of the time, whether administered by voluntary schools or by school board schools. Then there was the enormous difficulty of non-attendance to be overcome, either by direct or indirect compulsion, or by both. There would also be an increasing sum voted year by year for primary education, which would have to be administered by the Department, and the House of Commons and the country would from year to year expect as much education as possible to be obtained from the sums voted by Parliament for that purpose. Therefore it would be the business of Parliament and that of the Minister to devise how the utmost education could be obtained from the Grants, and given to the children for whom it was intended. There were many other matters which should be considered in connection with this question. The Science and Art Department, for instance, which was a growing Department, and must continue to be so, was one through which the Government had set to work to bring scientific and artistic education home to the general population. It was most important that they should not provide too high an education at the expense of the public; but it was equally important that these things should work together 1608 with the business of primary education. He was glad to find that the present Government had resolved, as the late Government had, to arrange that the Permanent Secretary should be Secretary of the Departments of Primary Education and of Science and Art. Then, again, there was the question of the Museums; and he agreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh that, so far as the Government had to deal with those institutions, they ought to be dealt with by the Minister who had charge of the Education Department. The same observation applied to the Universities. They had had University Bills, and doubtless they would have such Bills again, and he was strongly of opinion that they should be brought in by the Minister of the Government who was responsible for educational matters. All that would furnish a great deal of work—of constant and increasing work—for such a Minister, if England hoped to overtake Germany in the matter of education. The people of this country had through their Government to fight against ignorance, which was a misery to many and a danger to all, and they were not so likely to win the battle if they had not a really responsible general. The principal field of that struggle was the House of Commons, and there the general should be. He did not say they might not have Ministers of talent in the House of Lords, or that the present Lord President could not fight the battle; but, generally speaking, the question most concerned this House, and would have to be fought here. One great question, which could only be considered in that House, was, how much should be spent in carrying on the great work of public education; and then, too, would arise the contest between those who wished to do the utmost that could be done, and those who desired to protect the pockets of their constituents. In this House, therefore, should be the Minister responsible for an economical and, at the same time, efficient expenditure on education. They had now a rating system which involved the question how far they were to levy rates and how far they were to save them, as well as the relations which should subsist between the rating system and the old system of voluntary schools. All those questions would continue to beset the 1609 educational duties of the Government, and they were of especial interest to the House of Commons. Then, again, the Vice President must, he thought, expect to be in the future, as he certainly had been in the past, pretty hard knocked as well as very hard worked, and this also made it desirable that he should be at the head of the Department. If he continued to be subordinate he would not be so ready to initiate policy, but might be tempted to shift the duty and responsibility of doing so upon his Chief. He did not understand that his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh's views went so far as the resolution arrived at by the Cabinet of 1868 did, as to the appointment of a sixth Secretary of State. That was a fair subject for discussion when the proper time arrived. Nor had much stress been laid upon the desirability of continuing the Committee of Council; for, after all, the Committee of Council being a Committee of the Cabinet, matters would remain in that respect practically as they now were. Then, as to the Veterinary Department; he was of opinion that if the Vice President became Minister of Education, it ought to go somewhere else, and that the Board of Trade was its proper place. The objections taken to his right hon. Friend's proposals were two-fold—first, that it was inadvisable to increase the number of Cabinet Ministers; and, next, that it was inadvisable so to deprive the Lord President of work, that he must either become, as had been said, a veterinary surgeon, or hold a position like that of the Lord Privy Seal, irresponsible, and with no work to do. But these objections really answered each other. If it were a condition of the change that the Minister of Education should not be in the Cabinet, then, however anomalous the present system was, it ought not in the interests of education to be altered. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, with the discretion which a Prime Minister ought to possess, had diminished the number of his Cabinet, and he believed it was the general feeling that the right hon. Gentleman had acted wisely in doing so; but he was not quite sure that those who were interested in commerce or local government, or the government of Ireland, would continue to be satisfied if those who were responsible for those 1610 Departments were not in the Cabinet. Looking upon the matter as a common-sense arrangement, the way to keep the Cabinet small in numbers would be not by keeping out of it the representatives of Departments which had a great deal of work to do, but by putting them in the place of Ministers who had no work to do, and who were, in fact, the representatives of no Department. If the Lord President ceased to be a Minister of Education, what would happen? There would be three Ministers in the Cabinet instead of two, who would have very little special departmental work to do—namely, the Lord President of the Council, the Privy Seal, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. In reading the debates in the House of Lords on this subject, he found that two practical suggestions had been made. One of these suggestions was, that the Premier should be Lord President of the Council; and the other, that the offices of Lord President of the Council and Lord Privy Seal might be merged in the same person. As far as he was personally concerned, he could see no great harm as far as questions of precedence were concerned, which would be likely to result from adopting, at any rate, the second of these suggestions. It might be asked why the late Administration did not carry out the policy accepted by the Government in power in 1868, and now brought before the House in the Motion under discussion. In answer to that, he must candidly admit that he did not profess to speak the opinions of his late Colleagues. But, even if he did, it must be remembered that the late Government were so much pressed with work on the question of education, that it would have been very difficult to make a change. To use an illustration drawn from the experiences of his early life, he might say that when a man was full of orders he did not shift his machinery, however advantageous he might think a change might be. The present Lord President having stated that just now there was a lull in the work, he (Mr. Forster) asked the Government to reconsider the arguments which convinced them in 1868 that a change such as was now proposed would prove advantageous.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I very much object to the doctrine now in circulation, that particular appointments in the 1611 Government should be reserved for particular Houses of Parliament. There are certain general principles which must and always will influence any Minister in the formation of a Government. It is desirable, no doubt, that what are called the spending Departments should be represented in the House of Commons, and I do not think any one can charge me with indifference upon that point, for on the two occasions on which I have had the opportunity of attempting to recommend to Her Majesty a body of Gentlemen to administer the affairs of the country, those who have presided over the Navy and over the Army had seats in this House. But if there happened to be in the other House a Member most markedly indicated as being capable of managing the affairs of either the Army or the Navy, we ought not for a moment to be so far influenced by the consideration that the House of Lords is not exactly the spending Department of the State, as to preclude the Sovereign from having the advantage of the services of so distinguished a person. While upon this subject, I may say that up to within a very recent period, Government was precluded by Act of Parliament from including as Postmaster General a Member of this House—and it must be admitted that the Postmaster General presides over one of the most considerable spending Departments of the country. It is only very recently that that Act has been repealed, and the consequence of that, both in the present and late Administration is, that we have had the presence of the Postmaster General in this House. A charge, too, has been made that the Lord President of the Council—viewed with reference to this debate as the Minister of Education—is always a Member of the House of Lords. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford and other hon. Members who have spoken, seemed for the moment to have forgotten that there is a distinguished instance the other way. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: I referred to the fact.] The right hon. Gentleman certainly did seem to call the circumstance to his recollection; but he did it in such a way as to lead me to think it was not present with him in the original conception of his speech, but that as the debate went on he found it convenient to be more precise. Let me ask the House 1612 what is the length of our experience on this subject. If the matter were one of centuries or dynasties, there might be some excuse for the precipitate and somewhat inaccurate inferences drawn from the facts; but it is only 35 years since the Lord President was called upon to fulfil administrative duties in respect to the education of the country, and during that period the Leader of the House of Commons has once occupied the position of President of the Council. [Mr. W. E. Forster: Only for two years.] Well, that was, I will not say his own fault, because one has a great respect for Lord Russell, but still it was not the fault of anybody else. The noble Lord occupied the post and he retired from it. He did this somewhat abruptly, and, if I remember rightly, his retirement created some astonishment; but at any rate, the fact furnishes a distinguished precedent to show that since the Lord President of the Council assumed these important duties in connexion with education, it has been found quite consistent with the formation of a Government, that the most important person in this House—Lord Russell was then Leader of the House of Commons under the Administration of Lord Aberdeen—should be President of the Council. And I can say further, without going into any unnecessary detail, but giving my own experience on the matter, that upon two occasions subsequently it has been contemplated that the President of the Council should have a seat in this House. Nor do I for a moment say that this is not an arrangement which may not frequently arise in the life-time of many of the younger Members who are now present. So much for the complaint of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford that the President of the Council always has a seat in the other House. Practically, I have shown that it is not so, and it is a course which we may prepare ourselves occasionally to experience. Therefore, I do not think that, when we remember the very short period the Lord President has discharged the duties in question, and when we remember the great exception I have already quoted, we can for a moment contend upon that ground—namely, that the Lord President has always sat in the other House—that there is any foundation for the Motion. 1613 There are other grounds to which I will refer. It has been said further that nine-tenths of the business of the office is discharged by the Vice President and not by the Lord President. That is a quotation from some evidence given by a gentleman in the Civil Service before a Committee of Sir John Pakington or the Duke of Newcastle. I can only say that the observations are very loose, and at the same time express my opinion, that if we could cross-examine the official personage who made them, it is very possible the residuum of his testimony would assume a much smaller shape. The fact is, that the business of the office will always be divided according to the disposition of the men; as if we have a very first-rate Vice President—and I am glad to say we have had personal experience of such Vice Presidents of the Council in this House—there is no doubt that he will transact more of the business than his Colleague. But these are attributes of human nature and are not foundations for Select Committees. I would also, before referring to the principal question, make an observation on a statement urged in support of this Motion, to the effect that we ought to have a permanent President of the Council sitting in this House, because we ought always to have somebody responsible to this House. Sir, that is a new version of our Parliamentary constitution. I do not understand what is meant by having a Minister responsible to this or to the other House; but I understand what is meant by having a Minister responsible to Parliament, for that is what the country requires. It requires that in every branch of the Administration there shall be some one in either House of Parliament who can explain or vindicate its policy if called upon to do so; and, if he cannot do it, he, with his Colleagues, must take the consequence. The Government is as much represented, in any public statement of its policy, by an Under Secretary of State, as by a Secretary of State; and we, who know very well that it is utterly impossible for the satisfactory administration of the affairs of this country to have all the Chief Ministers of State in one House of Parliament, say that we should be clearly laying down principles which must weaken our own authority, and at the same time conveying to the country 1614 a very false impression, if we adopted, in effect, the theory of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, and said that at the present moment neither the Foreign Office nor the India Office are responsible to the House of Commons.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Perhaps not; but what I have stated is my ingenuous inference from the observation of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I took care not to state, for I did not think it, that the Vice President would not be responsible to the House of Commons.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Then, what are the complaints? We have, or I am much mistaken, had complaints for a considerable time from the right hon. Gentleman himself, that the fault of the present system lies in the fact that the Minister who primarily represents the Council is not responsible to the House of Commons and is not a Member of the Cabinet. I appeal to the House as to whether that is not a fair inference to be drawn from what has been said in support of the Motion before the House. An appeal has been made to me to support this Motion, because in 1868 a proposal was brought forward in the Cabinet, over which I presided, to appoint a Minister of Education, under the title of sixth Secretary of State to carry out the policy which the right hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh recommends to our adoption this evening. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh has misapprehended the circumstances under which that policy was recommended, and I will, therefore, place them before the House, for I think they will throw some light upon the question. In 1868 there was a great feeling in the country that the state of our national education, or rather the state of our public education, was unsatisfactory, and the Government of the day determined to deal with the question. They believed that the voluntary system, as then applied, was not adequate to the circumstances of the ease, and they had to consider whether they should appeal to local aid, which assumed the shape of the rating question, which had then begun to attract public attention, if not 1615 public popularity. Nevertheless it was the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that a great effort should be made to improve and advance public education in this country. Well, in the first place, their plan was largely to expand the action of the voluntary principle, and they brought forward a proposition to that effect. They did not conceal for a moment that they had ulterior objects. They looked forward to more considerable proposals; they did not in any way pledge themselves against appealing to the rating system ultimately to assist voluntary contributions. But they did not think that the country was at that time by any means ripe for a measure of that kind, and therefore, while they called immediately on Parliament for a large expansion of the voluntary principle, they asked also that an educational Census should be carried into effect, and on the results of that Census they did not for a moment conceal that their ultimate progress must depend. Well, that was a measure which may, no doubt, be dwarfed by the more considerable one which the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Bradford conducted through this House with so much advantage to the country and credit to himself; but in those days of 1868 it was a very great improvement, and we felt that it would have required a Minister to give his whole attention to it. And what, then, was the position of the Lord President of the Council? The Council was then full of various and miscellaneous business. Besides having the charge of public education, the Lord President was also what in familiar conversation is called the Minister of Health; and we thought the time had arrived at which it was absolutely necessary, if any movement was to be made of a considerable kind in the direction of national education, that a Minister should be appointed; and it was I confess, with great hesitation, that the suggestion was carried out and it was proposed that the Lord President should be transformed into a Minister of Education. Well, what has since occurred has not at all justified that suggestion. I have often thought it was premature, but it was not popular at the time; and I am not at all sure that it would be popular at the present time. Look at the position of the Council with regard to educa- 1616 tion. The Council has grappled with great ability and great efficiency with the subject of primary education, and I think the country feels, on the whole, that it has proved itself adequate to it. No one can come forward and make out a case for the Amendment of the right hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh on the ground of the inadequacy of the administration of the Privy Council. Well, besides the ability and the energy of the office, I may fairly assume that one of the reasons for this was, that during those years the office has been relieved of many of the other duties to which I have referred. All the administration relating to public health has been taken from it. Another Department, that of the Local Government Board, has been formed, and is at this moment in a state of imperfect development; and therefore that shows me that, profiting by the experience of the years which have elapsed since 1868, it is extremely unwise to be precipitate in disturbing the existence of offices. The Council has adapted itself admirably to the management of our primary education, while on the other hand, the necessities of the country, gradually and practically observed and acted upon, have already established a new Department, or at least a Department with a new name more accurately describing its public functions in its re-organized form. All that shows that we ought to proceed with the greatest caution in these matters, and if possible—as I think it is quite possible—fulfil public purposes as much as we can by the offices which are established without rushing rashly into the creation of new Departments, which, when they are established, somehow or other very often do not act, and which we are in a few years called upon to abolish. I need not remind the House of the instance of the Court of Bankruptcy, which was established under the commanding and winning eloquence of Lord Brougham. That Court was universally accepted by the country as the solution of many legal difficulties which it had long experienced and regretted; and yet we all know that that new Court, established on a great scale, with four Judges, matured in its rules of administration by the experience of some of the greatest lawyers this country ever produced, and pervaded and sustained in its first years by all the vigilant genius 1617 of Lord Brougham himself, turned out to be a complete failure, to be not adapted, after all, to the wants of the country; and it only involved us in circumstances which were both humiliating and expensive. "Well, as far as the Government are concerned, I believe there are no Gentlemen in this House more convinced than we are of the advisability—I do not like to use a hackneyed phrase—of administrative reform—of improvement in the administration of our offices. With the immense amount of business, every day increasing in this country, and with the, very often, ancient organizations which exist, it requires no doubt to adapt those organizations to the new business vigilance and skill. But in my mind, and in that also of my Colleagues, that can only be done gradually, and any rash attempt at reform, by a Resolution or by the disturbing process of Select Committees, which will obtain information that is in everybody's possession, can only irritate the public mind, and create obstacles which might not otherwise exist to the improvement which might be carefully brought about. I cannot say it is advisable that the Minister of Instruction should be one whose time is occupied too much with other matters, or who cannot give the whole of his energy and that of his Department to a subject of such paramount interest to the country as its national education; but I see nothing, I confess, in the establishment of the Council Board which induces me to believe that that high office might not be rendered completely competent not only to cope with that which it has now to deal with, but with the, no doubt, more difficult circumstances and increasing duties which it will have to encounter. Nor do I for a moment lay down the principle that the Presidency of the Council is an office peculiar to the House of Lords. These are views which I have always entertained, and shall always uphold. In my opinion, if it were necessary, there is no reason why the President of the Council might not be sitting in this House at present; and I would trust entirely to the steps which I may say are daily taken with the view of completing and perfecting our administration with respect to public education, without interfering with that course of improvement by any Resolution such as is now recommended by the right hon. 1618 Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh—a Gentleman, I am quite ready to admit, who is peculiarly entitled to offer his opinions on this subject to the House. I say, then, with regret as far as he is personally concerned, that I cannot sanction the course he has recommended the House to take. Her Majesty's Government are as much alive to all the points which the right hon. Gentleman has placed before the House as he can be himself. It is impossible for those who are charged with the responsibility of governing this country with the sanction of Parliament, not to be aware of the responsibility which attends them with regard to the education of the people. Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends. There is no period in the history of the world in which I believe it has been more important that the disposition and the mind of the people should be considered by the State than it is at present, and in saying that, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Kent (Mr. Talbot), who addressed us with so much ability. I should, like him, be sorry to see what is called a Minister of Education established in this country with an entire or with a considerable control over all our educational establishments from the primary schools to the august Universities. We can see in other countries what has been the consequence of such a system—a system which in a neighbouring country has been supported by philosophers of the highest eminence, and by men of the greatest genius and eloquence, yet the consequence has been, that one character has been impressed on an immense portion of the population, and the whole mind and bent of the people have been moulded under authority in some metropolitan University, which has given the tone to the education and the intellect of the country.
§ MR. LOWE
said, that recasting or remodelling a Department was a process which could not be effected without great inconvenience and dislocation of business, nor without very considerable expense. The presumption, therefore, was in favour of leaving things alone, unless a very clear case could be made out for an alteration. He did not think such a case could be made out against the Education Department. 1619 What, he would ask, was the history of the Department? Thirty-five years had elapsed since it had been established, and it began with the administration of a grant of £30,000 for the purposes of education, while it was generally acknowledged that it carried into effect with efficiency the work with which it had been intrusted. But that was scarcely a fair estimate of what it had accomplished. It had found the education of this country totally unformed; it had every species of prejudice to contend with, and yet the result was that which was now to be seen throughout the land. It had not merely administered a system, but fashioned and created it, and had done things such as few Departments had achieved. It had taken up education in a most elementary state, and had succeeded in bringing it to a very considerable point of perfection. The House should, therefore, in his opinion, pause before it interfered with a Department which had proved itself to be so worthy of confidence. If it were to be altered it ought, he thought, to be on better grounds than he had heard urged. The great difficulties with which it had had to contend were connected with matters of religion, and it was in his opinion, highly desirable that there should be a Minister of great authority in the House of Lords to fight the battles of education against the jealousies and prejudices of the Bishops in that Assembly. Nor could he see that the cause of education had suffered in the least, because its interests had been committed in the House of Commons to the hands of a Minister of secondary rank. Such a Minister had to win his spurs; and being generally a man of ability, who looked forward to promotion, bestowed considerable pains on his work. That was one of the reasons why, in his opinion, the business of the Department had been so well administered. Now, if there were in that House a Minister of the first importance representing the Department, the result would be that if he made a mistake it would be immediately laid hold of for the purpose of injuring the Government of the day, though the question of education was one which it was desirable to remove as far as possible from the arena of party politics. He believed besides, that there were not in the Education Department materials to occupy 1620 the whole of the time of a Minister of the first class, because its purpose being to administer public money on certain conditions, although the difficulty of laying down those conditions might be great, yet once laid down, the duty of seeing whether they were complied with belonged rather to the permanent officials than to the Minister; nor did he think it desirable that it should be otherwise, inasmuch as it was required the system should be worked steadily, so that those who had invested their money in setting up schools should know what they had to rely upon. It was clear, he might add, that the success which had attended the efforts of the Department was due mainly to its constitution rather than to fortuitous circumstances, and it would be therefore in his opinion extremely imprudent to effect such a revolution in it as was proposed. Having discharged an arduous duty most efficiently it required something more than mere theoretical objections to justify so great an alteration. As to the higher education of the country, he quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) that nothing could be more undesirable than that we should have a Minister of Education in the sense which had been applied to it. He did not wish to see our Universities, middle-class, and public schools placed under the management of any Minister of the Government. He desired to see the Governing Bodies of those institutions possessing the independence which they now possessed, cheeked, if necessary, not by the discretion of a Minister, but by Rules laid down by Parliament. In his opinion they could not take a more retrograde step than to give to any person a general roving commission to interfere with every school, College, and University. Let them be content with what had been done, and not attempt to substitute for the true and genuine growth of public opinion and individual action, the maxims of a Government probably not half so well informed as the person who at present conducted the affairs of schools and Colleges. He hoped his right hon. Friend, under the circumstances, would be content with the ventilation which the subject had received, and not think it necessary to press the matter to a division.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
said, the question now before House seemed to be one which could be most effectively discussed by those who had had official experience, and he did not therefore propose to occupy the time of the House for more than a few minutes. He hoped, however, he might be allowed to say a few words, because as a Member of the Science Commission so ably presided over by the Duke of Devonshire, the subject under discussion had been much pressed on his attention. The Commission had not indeed reported on this question; nevertheless, the views to which his Colleagues had been led by the evidence were clearly indicated in more than one of the Reports already issued. It had been said elsewhere by a high authority (the Duke of Richmond), that the present pressure of work on the Education Department would be but temporary; that in a short time the various questions about school boards, rates of payment, payment of fees, &c, would be settled; and that the Education Department would then have comparatively little to do. Surely, however, it was a great mistake to suppose that the business of an Education Minister should be confined to questions relating to elementary schools. They must, he thought, take a broader view of the question. Moreover, that was not a question of time only, or of name, but also one of power. If, indeed, they had no educational endowments, it might be wise to leave the higher education of the country to the operation of natural laws, in the confidence that in the long run, the best schools would succeed in the struggle for existence. But even if such a course would be wisest under other circumstances, it was not applicable to the present state of the case. They had large educational endowments, but a system which was not even now in harmony with the present state of things, and which consequently did not produce the results which might reasonably be expected. He should indeed be very far from wishing to make Universities and great public schools mere Government institutions; such a course would be most unfortunate. But questions were continually arising which urgently demanded the attention of Government. If there had been a Minister of Education the endowed schools would not have 1622 been allowed to fall into the condition in which too many of them were when the Endowed Schools Act was passed. Again let them take the endowments of Oxford and Cambridge. A very large and influential body of Fellows had recently presented a memorial to Mr. Gladstone, in which they said that the present regulations connected with the tenure of Fellowships were highly unsatisfactory; that they were—detrimental to the efficiency of teaching in the University, and calculated to deprive her of the educational services of many of her ablest members.He might add that the Science Commission had reported unanimously in the same sense. Let them take the number of Fellowships. At Oxford there were about 370, at Cambridge about 350, and there was a very general opinion that that number was much too large. Lord Salisbury, the Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said that—Considering the amount of controversy that prevails on University questions, it is astonishing how great an agreement there is upon that point. I have heard from all schools, theological and political, in the University a coincidence of opinion that the present application of the revenues of Fellowships is exceedingly unsatisfactory.Again, let them take the distribution of the Fellowships. Out of the whole number, he believed that not above a dozen had been given for proficiency in natural science, while even as regarded the scholarships, those offered for natural science were only a small fraction of the whole. But then, the Colleges said, and said with some force, that they could not do more for natural science, because the subjects were not sufficiently taught in the schools; while, on the other hand, the schools did not teach it, because so few inducements were held out at the Universities. Both admitted that a change was needed, but each was waiting for the other. Here, again, the influence of some co-ordinating authority was much needed. Then, there was the management of their Museums. It was generally felt that the erection of the new Natural History Museum at South Kensington should be taken advantage of to effect a change in the Governing Authority of the British Museum; that, as recommended by the Science Commission, the national collection should be under the charge of Directors, responsible to a special 1623 Minister of State. At present the different national collections were in competition, not in harmony. Then again, courses of lectures on science, accessible to all classes on payment of a small fee, should be organized in the great centres of population, and especially in the Metropolis, somewhat on the model of those given in Paris in connection with the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers. Those lectures were attended last year by no less than 250,000 persons. It was true that in London, something of the same kind had been also done, as courses of lectures on experimental and natural science were now given in connection with the School of Mines. These courses had been most successful, but the accommodation was nothing like sufficient to contain all those who wished to attend, even under existing circumstances. If, however, the system were extended, more accommodation provided, and greater publicity given to them, it could hardly be doubted that the effect would be most beneficial. There were many other matters to which he might refer. The encouragement of original research, for instance, was not less important than any of these questions to which he had called attention, and perhaps hardly less difficult. The duties, then, of an Education Minister would be both numerous and important. So far from regarding them as to any extent temporary and provisional, he believed that, large as they were, they were still increasing, would increase, and ought to increase. As our country progressed in civilization, the education of the people would become more and more important, and though he should be sorry to speak with any undue confidence, still under these circumstances he hoped that the House would consent to the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
said, that after the statement of the Prime Minister that he was alive to the desirability of reform in the Education Department as well as other Departments of Government, but that he thought it would be inconvenient at the present moment to precipitate a change, he would best consult the feelings of the House if he asked permission to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Question put, and agreed to.