§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Viscount Sandon.)
§ MR. MUNDELLA,
in rising to move, as an Amendment—That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that the recommendations contained in the recent Report of the Factory and Workshops Acts Commission, relating to the enforcement of the attendance of children at school, should be introduced in any measure for improving the elementary education of the people,said, it was not without considerable disappointment and regret that he felt it his duty to submit that Amendment. He had hoped that after the able Report of the Royal Commission had been for some weeks in the hands of Members, and after the encouraging speeches of the Home Secretary on the passing of the Factory Bill and the appointment of the Royal Commission on the factories—more especially his speeches in the country—that no measure of education would have been introduced to that House which was so utterly feeble and ineffective as that which had just been brought forward for second reading. His object in moving this Amendment was not to impede the progress of the Bill, for he had been always ready to help forward any measure for the education of the people; but his object was to remove from the Bill defects 1898 which the noble Lord himself acknowledged to exist when he introduced it There had rarely been a more bold and graphic picture drawn of the state of education in this country than that which had been put before the House by the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) on that occasion. If such a statement had been made by any private Member even within the last 10 or 15 years it would have been utterly ridiculed. What was the statement which the noble Lord put before the House so graphically? He said that the school accommodation which the country provided was, at the lowest calculation, for 3,250,000 children; that the daily attendance was only 1,800,000; that the number of children presented for examination in any Standard, from the First to the Sixth, barely reached one-fifth; and that out of the whole number of 1,800,000 in daily attendance, only 200,000 were presented in the three higher Standards. The noble Lord did not say how many "passed" in any Standard. He spared the House that humiliation; but stated, in passing, that the number was not at all satisfactory or commensurate with the great expense which had been incurred in providing education for the children. The noble Lord appealed to the House not to make this a Party question. There were some Members on the Liberal side of the House who never had made any educational question a Party question, and it was to be hoped that the noble Lord would not let it be made a Party question on his own side. The result of the noble Lord's statement was that 1,000,000 children were not receiving a decent education, and after those frank admissions it might have been expected that the measure which he would bring in would be equal to the occasion. The noble Lord himself characterized it as a bold and cautious measure. All measures of this kind ought to be cautious; but he could not agree with the noble Lord that this measure was a bold one. The first part of his speech was bold enough; but the measure itself was as inferior to the promise as it could possibly be. The noble Lord said that he was thoroughly impressed with the gravity and importance of the question; that the country was thoroughly ripe for legislation; that the time and the circumstances were favourable, and that the Government ran no kind of risk in 1899 dealing with the subject in a bold and effective spirit. The noble Lord said he had watched the operation of the system since its introduction, and having seen how much the public was in favour of it he should be sorry if the question were made a Party one. He concurred in that expression of the noble Lord. The noble Lord told them that the time had come when he could put the coping-stone on the educational edifice. In these circumstances one would have expected that we should have had a real educational measure brought forward by the Government, and not what amounted to a reversal of the policy of 1870. Did this measure meet the educational requirements of the country? Was it, or was it not, a reversal of the policy of 1870? What were the educational requirements of the country? The educational position of the country was briefly this:—About one-half of the children were attending schools under bye-laws approved by the Educational Department. The noble Lord said that nearly half of the population were under school boards, where those bye-laws were in force, and where the local authorities made it obligatory on the parents to send their children to school; but the other half of the country was under no kind of educational control, excepting that which was established by the Labour Acts. The noble Lord said there were millions of children in the country who did not attend school at all. Where, he (Mr. Mundella) asked, were those millions of children? He would tell the House: they were in that section of the country which was not covered by the school boards, and wherever there were school boards with compulsory powers there were comparatively few children outside the school. Take nearly all the large towns in England, and it would be found that the increase had been from 60 to 100 per cent on the average attendance at school where there was compulsion. What had the Labour Acts done for education? They only led to general confusion, general inconvenience and dissatisfaction, and in reference to the factories and mines they were a constant cause of confusion. Why should the country have conflicting rules on this question? The noble Lord said—"What we want is simplicity and uniformity of management." Educationally considered, those 1900 Acts had been of little use. The Factory Act of 1874 did some good in providing that no child should pass from school into full-time labour until he had passed the Fourth Standard of education; and under the operation of that rule 11 children were rejected in one day, and sent back to school for another year; and if the law had not been passed, those factory children would be in the streets instead of at school. Wherever school boards had been established the education of the children had, he believed, been well attended to, and the noble Lord deserved credit for having stood by them; but where there were no school boards the effect of this legislation had proved absolutely mischievous. So long as we simply prohibited employment, and did not compel attendance, so long must the result be a failure. Where school boards did not exist we had absenteeism, irregularity, with all the consequences of ignorance and neglect. It would have been natural to suppose that the object of the Bill brought in by the noble Lord would have been to bring about in the non-school board districts by some machinery, whatever it might be, precisely the same state of things which existed in the school board districts. There were, as the noble Lord had said, many hon. Members who objected to school boards, but who were willing to accept any machinery which would accomplish the same end. But what had the noble Lord done? He had brought in a measure which, instead of giving us simplicity and uniformity of arrangement, would tend only to confusion, and to weaken the whole character of the education of the country. He proposed to bring about that uniformity and simplicity by creating two authoririties, who might delegate their powers to a third. We had at present the school board elected by the whole borough or parish, with the cumulative vote, in order that the representation of minorities might be complete. Then we had the town council, which did not represent the whole borough, but simply districts marked out as wards, and not elected by numbers, nor with the cumulative vote. Outside the boroughs we had the Board of Guardians, a body elected for an entirely different purpose, and having no kind of educational proclivities. It was not elected by numbers; there was no cumulative vote in that case either; 1901 it was election by property, and not by numbers. The unpaid magistracy of this country were very much opposed to education. ["No, no!"] He maintained that the county magistrates of this country hated education as a rule. ["No, no!"] Conservative Members outside the House did not hesitate to say the same thing. At present the ex officio members generally did not take much interest in the work of the Guardians, now that it mainly had to do with the administration of relief; but now the magistrates and clergy would have every inducement to attend, in order to bring their influence to bear on education. Then, by way of "simplicity and uniformity," the noble Lord introduced new districts and new areas which did not always agree with those of towns. At Nottingham, for instance, the Board of Guardians had jurisdiction over some rural districts, but the town was under a school board; so that while they could do nothing in the town, they were all-powerful in those outlying districts. In Sheffield they had two school boards; but the Board of Guardians included the whole town, plus a small parish hard by in Derbyshire, and thus, while the Sheffield board had nothing to do with education in the town, it could direct this small village in Derbyshire. In fact, there were, according to official information, only two counties in England in which the Unions did not embrace portions of neighbouring counties; and there was a Union in Northamptonshire which comprised parishes in no fewer than six or seven counties adjacent. The next object of the Bill was to set up a standard of education for the children in the rural districts, and what was that standard? It was that any child who, at 10 years of age, applied to be employed must show that he had attended school 250 times a-year for five years. That was, in fact, only half a year's attendance in each year; and, on looking further into the Bill, he found that these attendances need not be attendances in consecutive years, but that the child might be one year at the age of two in an infant school, attend dame schools in other and intermittent years, and at last satisfy the provision of the Bill with two half-years' attendances just before reaching the age of 10. That was the kind of education it was proposed to give in non-school board dis- 1902 tricts; 250 attendances in each year for five years was to be considered an ample education in these districts. The noble Lord proposed to substitute indirect compulsion for direct compulsion; or, in other words, he would prevent the child labouring until he was 10 years of age, but would not compel him to go to school. He had grave doubts as to the wisdom of preventing a child beginning to labour until certain things had been done, for that amounted in effect to visiting on the child the neglect of his parents. The Bill, he contended, was in several important respects a reversal of the policy of the Act of 1870, which fixed upon the parents the responsibility of the education of their children. The noble Lord, it was true, said that he left optional whether a district should adopt compulsion or not; but there was a reason for taking that course in 1870 which no longer existed, and his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) then said, that in introducing the novel system of compulsion he did not provide for it in his Bill, because two years must elapse before the necessary buildings could be erected which would enable the Legislature to force children to go to school, but that in two or three years he believed the country would be ripe for such a system. The right hon. Gentleman went even a step further, and made it compulsory that the children of paupers should be educated. The Bill of the noble Lord now required that the children of the poor, not paupers, should only be required to give half a year's attendance in each year for five years, without compulsion of any kind. The Factories Act of 1874 had been fairly and honourably carried out in Lancashire and Yorkshire, where children up to 12 years of age could not be employed unless they were at school for half-time. But this Bill would, under the age of 10 years, give the parents in outside urban and rural districts the power of sending their children to work in many domestic manufactures—such as straw-plaiting, lace-making, and other work, without sending them to school, where the children would be subject to no regulation as to hours. Whereas if they were sent into factories they would be compelled to work only half-time, and receive schooling the other half. The Commission which was appointed last year to inquire 1903 into and report upon the working of the Factories Bill in textile manufactures, had made an extremely instructive and able Report, which concluded with only two or three recommendations. They visited every part of the manufacturing districts; they examined 700 witnesses from all parts of those districts. Their recommendations as to education were—that the attendance of all children, whether at work or not (with certain exceptions), should be enforced by law; that the school age should be from 5 to 13 years; that the rule of attendance should be that of a full attendance for five hours daily; and that half-time attendance should be conceded as a privilege to all children who were beneficially employed after 10 years of age. The recommendations of the Commissioners and their able Report, on which this Bill was professedly based, had been thrown over, for no other reason, he was afraid, than Party exigencies. The Bill only adopted one of the recommendations of the Commissioners—namely, that no child should be employed until it had reached the age of 10 years. Some idea of the kind of education likely to be imparted under the proposed system might be obtained from the reasonable excuses which exempted a child from attendance at school. The 11th section stated that—A person shall not be deemed to have taken any child into his employment contrary to the provisions of this Act if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Court having cognizance of the case either that during the employment there is not within two miles, measured according to the nearest road, from the residence of such child any public elementary school which the child can attend.He maintained, however, that there ought to be a public elementary school within two miles of every residence. Another exception to the prohibition of the employment of children was if the employment were in the hay harvest, corn harvest, or hop picking, or was otherwise necessary for the ingathering of the crops. He wanted to know why the noble Lord had not the courage to say that children who were prohibited from working ought to be in attendance at school. In the North of England there was outside the towns a vast population which was not really a rural but an urban population, and why should the children in such places be employed 1904 while those inside the adjacent towns were at school? Again, why should there be a distinction between England and Scotland? Public opinion in Scotland would scout a man who allowed his child five half-year attendances up to the age of 10 and then sent him to work. Why, he wished to know, should the cities and towns of England have a good system of education while the rural districts had a bad one? The opposition to compulsion did not proceed from the artizans or the agricultural labourers. Some of the provisions of the Bill related to what the noble Lord called "wastrel" children. Manufacturers applied that term to every article which was spoilt in the course of manufacture, and if this Bill became law it would create more "wastrel" children than had hitherto existed in our large towns. The noble Lord said the idea of compelling the parent bylaw to send his children, broke down the feeling of personal independence; but in many other ways compulsion was introduced without having that effect. In this case its application would be of the most beneficial character, individually and nationally. Yesterday it was admitted by almost every Member who addressed the House that the moral character of the nation could only be raised by higher education and improved social condition. We were dealing now with the very first steps of education, and ought to lay a sound foundation. Many of the contests between labour and capital arose from what he might fairly call ignorance. He might say that the strikes which had taken place within the last five years had cost at least £30,000,000 more than the education of the whole country would have cost for years, and until the ignorance out of which those disputes arose was removed, we could not have improved social conditions. In another respect this was an important national question. Our artizans had to compete with foreign workmen, and yet, as the right hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Play air) had observed, we sent them into the field armed with "Brown Bess" against competitors who were armed with weapons of precision. Education was now a great public necessity. They were gradually extending the franchise, so that in time the agricultural labourer would be in possession of it, and that being so, it became 1905 the duty of the State to see that he was so far educated as to understand the value of the right which he possessed. He hoped he should hear no more about the expense of carrying out a complete system. He found from a Return moved for by the hon. Member for Leicester that in the course of the 24 years between 1851 and 1875, the Church of England—he ought perhaps to say the clergy of the Church, for in reality the Church itself had done very little in the matter—had contributed towards securing the general education of the country £9,700,000, that the contribution of the other religious bodies had been £2,032,000, and the Government £12,390,000—in all somewhere between £24,000,000 and £25,000,000. That was the whole contribution of the richest nation, and of the richest Churches in the world, to the great cause of national education, whereas the little State of Massachusetts had, in the course of five years, raised $5,462,000 for the same purpose by means of local taxation. And this was not the whole sum paid for education in Massachusetts. Pennsylvania spent still more than Massachusetts—$6,000,000 or $7,000,000 a-year; and with such examples he hoped no more would be heard of the expense of education in this country. The present Government did not shrink from increasing expenditure. Why should they not do for British education what they were doing for British armament? He had dealt only with the educational phase of the question, leaving other Members to state other objections to the Bill. In conclusion, he asked the noble Lord not to identify his name with a measure which would hang up the question of education for several years. Some years hence its complete failure would be admitted, and some future Minister would do for it what the noble Lord was doing for the Agricultural Children Act—repeal it. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ MR. EVELYN ASHLEY,
in seconding the Amendment, said, the country looked in vain in this Bill for a distinct enunciation of the great principle which must underlie every system of national education—the principle that every parent should provide for the elementary education of his child according to his means. Considering the state of the education question, the hope that such 1906 a principle would be recognized in the Bill was not unreasonable. One would have thought that the range of permissiveness had been exhausted during the six years since 1870, and that the necessity for any Bill lay in the very fact that the time had expired during which any further extension of trustworthy education could be hoped for from the permissive principle. The contagious influence upon neighbouring areas of the system at work, in what might be called the compulsory areas, had prepared the minds of those still outside for the more distinct enactment of a universal compulsory law. He wished to draw attention to the opinions of the authorized advisers of the noble Lord—Mr. Cumin, Assistant Secretary to the Education Department, and that able Inspector of Schools, the Rev. Mr. Kennedy, as expressed in their evidence before the Royal Commission on Factories and Workshops. Mr. Cumin admitted that the people were much more disposed to submit to compulsion than they had been 10 years ago, and Mr. Kennedy stated that the population were gradually becoming accustomed to the compulsory system. Yet, in face of the views of their own Commission, the Government had put indirect compulsion in the forefront of their Bill. He put aside Clause 7, dealing with "wastrel" children, because he trusted it would mean nothing, as there were serious defects in it as an instrument of coercion. The indirect compulsion of this measure consisted in stopping children from going to work at a certain age unless they had completed a specified number of attendances at school, or unless they could pass certain Standards, that was to say you were to tell them—when they wanted to work—that, because by the neglect of their parents and of the State they were ignorant, we would take care that they should also be idle; because by no fault of their own, their mind was unskilled and could never gain the suppleness and polish of their fellows, therefore, care would be taken that their hands should be placed at an equal disadvantage, and that they should lose a couple more years in idleness, neither helping themselves nor the community. Such a proposition only required to be stated to be scouted; and, besides, in the case of factory children you would be debarring them from the only chance 1907 of education they had, because if they went to work they would also have to go to school half-time It was based on the last Agricultural Children Act, the effect of which had been either nugatory or detrimental. He believed this regulation as to the employment of children could only be carried out by the Inspectors, and that town councils and Guardians would decline to enforce it, because it would compel neglected children10 years of age to remain for two years longer not only idle, but ignorant. His objection to this proposal was, further, that while by this Bill it was very properly affirmed that instruction, and not work, ought to be the business of children up to the age of 10, the wrong business was taken away from them without necessarily substituting for it the right business. A material loss was inflicted on the children, but the consideration for that loss was not secured to them, because while the Bill rightly raised the age of exemption from labour to the age of 10, it did not secure education in the meantime. The House had been told that they must be content to advance by steps. He (Mr. Ashley) agreed in that, but this Bill only "marked time" by means of a compulsion that would not compel. It relieved the Government from a responsibility, but failed to bring home that responsibility to parents and others who have the charge of the children of this country.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that the recommendations contained in the recent Report of the Factory and Workshops Acts Commission, relating to the enforcement of the attendance of children at school, should be introduced in any measure for improving the elementary education of the people,"—(Mr. Mundella,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. RIDLEY
I hope, Sir, that the speeches of the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment and of the hon. Member for Poole who seconded him, are an intimation that the noble Lord was not too sanguine when, in introducing this Bill, he ventured to anticipate for it, if not in the most confident spirit, yet with some expectation of suc- 1908 cess, the impartial assistance of all those in this House who have taken, or are taking, a prominent part in furthering the educational interests of the nation. It is, unfortunately, too vividly within our knowledge that this ignorance of the masses has been often made the battleground of religious sects; nor are there wanting signs that the introduction of this measure, or, indeed, of any measure for supplementing the Act of 1870, will be made, as in former times, the occasion for a determined effort on the part of one section or the other to obtain indirect advantages in the struggle for supremacy. I will venture, Sir, in a spirit which I trust may not be thought either uncalled-for or presumptuous, to deprecate the intrusion of any such objects, whether avowed or not. I will endeavour, in the few remarks which I now ask the permission of the House to make, to avoid any such expression of feeling myself; and, further, I will claim for this Bill, no less than for the speech in which it was introduced to the House, the merit of being conceived with the single and loyal desire of supplementing the work done in 1870, of providing for needs created by that very Act, and even foreseen at the time of its being passed, and of its attempting to effect these objects without any unnecessary disturbance of existing machinery, and in accordance with the best public opinion of the country.
The very moderation, Sir, perhaps, of this Bill may be a bar to its progress. Partizans of one extreme or the other may have looked forward to finding proposals in it which it does not contain. They will make their efforts to amend in their own direction, and it is only too probable that failure may render them lukewarm towards a measure which contains much indeed of what they would admit to be universally approved, but little perhaps of what from their own particular standpoint is of the supremest importance. Such politicians may not be unwilling to sacrifice the immediate good, in hopes that the future may have better things in store for them, perhaps even that the agitation of an autumn or a year may strengthen the influence they may bring to bear upon public opinion and the Government. I trust, however, Sir, that this will not generally be the case. This is a Bill which, having been introduced, 1909 ought not to be allowed to drop. I hope the House will take a broad, practical view of it, and that we shall, so far as may be, waive our differences and even our prejudices for the common good. I trust, also, that the Government will show in their conduct of this Bill, as they have done in that of others, that while they can be conciliatory, they can at the same time be resolute and determined, and that once having set their hand to this work, they will not suffer it to languish or expire.
Now, Sir, as regards this Amendment of the hon. Member for Sheffield, I, for one, do not regret that it has been moved. Its object would be perfectly plain and intelligible, from its mere connection with the name of the hon. Member, whose views are well known to the House, even were it not for the unmistakable words in which it is couched, and its reference to the Report of the Factory Commissioners. And that object seems to me, Sir, whatever view one may take of its merits, to be a perfectly legitimate one. It involves, indeed, a point of distinct difference from the principle of the Bill, but it is not inconsistent with it, in so far as it is possible to contemplate it, if made, a part of the machinery of the measure. That measure, Sir, is based upon the universal recognition of all Parties, that means of education having been now provided throughout the country to an extent, if not entirely adequate, yet, at least, in excess of the numbers of children that can be got to attend, it is reasonable to provide further means than now exist for securing that the negligence or wilfulness of parents shall not be suffered to be a bar to their children receiving the simple elements of education, which the State declares it to be for their welfare as well as its own they should receive. With this object it proposes to extend and strengthen the existing provisions for indirect compulsion. It gives the ratepayers in school districts where there are no school boards the power of calling upon a local authority which already is there, to exercise that direct compulsion which cannot now be put in force without the election of a school board; and it gives also to these local authorities power to compel the attendance of those children whom the noble Lord called "wastrels." To propositions, therefore, of indirect compulsion, to the 1910 stringency of which some of my agricultural friends have already taken exception, but the safeguards to which more rigid educationists will wish to sweep away, the Bill adds direct compulsion, but at the will of the districts, and to some extent of the local authorities. The Amendment of my hon. Friend is to take away all option from the districts and authorities, and to establish a universal compulsory law. The object is one which he and others with whom he thinks sought to effect in 1870; it was then, as now, sought to be enforced by the example of various American and Continental States; but the hon. Member relies now to some extent upon the recent Report of the Factory Commissioners, and he has the advantage, too, whatever that advantage may be, of any sense of benefit which may have accrued from the working of the compulsory powers given by the old Act. These experiences have secured him, or done something, at all events, to secure him, the support of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who appears to be now of opinion that the country generally is ripe for the compulsion which is advocated by the hon. Member.
Now, so far, Sir, as the Report of the Factory Commissioners is concerned, I must altogether demur to its being produced as an argument for universal direct compulsion. Their general recommendation which my hon. Friend wishes by his Amendment to adopt may, indeed, be received with the attention and respect which the separate opinions of those Gentlemen who concurred in it deserve. Such weight, and I do not deny it is great weight, it will no doubt possess. But to ask Members of this House, and especially those who represent agricultural constituencies, to accept legislation of this kind upon the ground of the authoritative advice of a Commission, whose inquiry did not legitimately embrace so wide a field, and who, in fact, made no inquiry whatever into the special circumstances of agricultural districts—advice again which was upon this very ground not concurred in by one of their Colleagues, the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don)—such a course does appear to me be a somewhat extraordinary proposition. It is one, at all events, against which I protest, and which I entirely decline to accept.
1911 I say, then, Sir, that this Amendment has no claim to such a sanction as the hon. Member attempts on this ground to attach to it. Nor, again, have we anything to do with other countries. In the freedom of our institutions at any rate we cannot admit ourselves to be anything but leaders and examples, not followers of others, a boast no less true than that of the Athenians of old; and no unimportant part of that freedom is based upon that independence of character which is partly the outcome and partly itself the cause of the local self-government which we enjoy. Government by police and Inspectors may have worked well elsewhere—even there perhaps at a cost not at first sight apparent. Even to the extent to which it has been employed in the working of the Factory and Workshop Acts, are you quite sure that their partial failure may not be due to the invidious light in which the Inspectors you have been obliged to employ have been regarded? But let us at least be cautious how we advance upon such a path. Let us remember that law to be effective in a free country must follow and not lead public opinion. And in this case as in others we do not want the public opinion of other countries—we do not even want their example, certainly not as to details. What we do want, no less for its own sake than for its indirect effect in the maintenance of our national character, is the free action of our own people, urged on, if you will, by the advice, by the example, by the direction of those who have influence over them; but being rather educated in this way up to the abandonment of prejudices, and the self-imposition, if need be, of restrictions, than made to acquiesce discontentedly in law which they cannot understand and will reluctantly obey.
Let the Amendment then, Sir, of my hon. Friend stand or fall not upon the recommendation of a Commission in this matter of no corporate authority, nor upon facts or precedents deduced from other countries; let it rather be decided by seeing what the principles upon which we have hitherto acted, and the experience we possess, show to be the most prudent alike and the most statesmanlike course.
Now, Sir, the point at which we have arrived in this educational matter—and I will promise not to travel more 1912 than necessary beyond the Amendment of my hon. Friend—the point at which we have arrived seems to be this—Up to a comparatively recent period—and speaking now exclusively of England—the State practically ignored the general elementary education of the country. It is a fact to be regretted—but still no less a fact. By the agency, however, and exertions of private individuals, of societies, of religious denominations, a large number of schools were established throughout the country, which ultimately obtained recognition at the hands of the State, so that public grants were made both for building and maintenance, conditions being attached to such grants on the method known as the payment by results. All these exertions, however, and all the self-sacrifice which they entailed, did not succeed in meeting what were universally felt to be the legitimate requirements of society, and in 1870, many previous efforts, which I need not now refer to having been made, a great advance was achieved by the Act of that year which was passed under the vigorous but temperate guidance of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Forster). The intention primarily of that Act was, it will be admitted, to create rate schools in districts where there was a proved educational deficiency. It was an Act essentially supplementary—the State even still maintaining a part which may fairly be called subordinate, so that even now education rests in the country much more upon the traditions and habits of the people than on State help. It was felt, however, that the money of the ratepayers having been taken to erect schools—it was right and proper that they should have through their elected representatives the power of compelling the attendance of the children for whom they were thus bound to provide. Compulsion of an indirect character, and imposed originally as much from humanitarian motives and reasons of health, as with the object of education, had obtained for some time in crowded manufacturing centres. These regulations were left unaltered and unextended, but the provisions of the general Act were, on the lines I have indicated, made of universal application. The results of this legislation were well summarized by the noble Lord when he introduced this Bill, and constitute indeed 1913 the reasons for its introduction. Great efforts having been made, and made successfully, by voluntary enter prize to provide good and efficient schools it is felt yet that there lack some ready means for compelling the children to come in. How is this power to be exercised or conferred? The Bill now before us, stringent as it is in many respects, proceeds upon the old lines of voluntary local action. The Amendment of the hon. Member proposes action yet more decisive. He does not wish to supersede indirect, but he would take away the local option of direct compulsion.
Now, Sir, before dealing shortly with the objections which I have to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman and his Friends, I should like to premise that we who in this House are not dealing with this matter either as educationists entirely or as members of voluntary bodies whether religious or otherwise, but as statesmen, ought not to be carried away by the enthusiasm however laudable of either of these classes. It is natural that persons who have the education of the ignorant deeply at heart should perhaps be little inclined to scrutinize the means of forcing it upon the unwilling parent—it is only natural too that every voluntary body should show a strong interest in promoting compulsion of whatever kind, so that the increase of their fees should diminish the heavy burden they have now to bear. Let us, however, in this House, while not forgetful of these considerations, remember also that our function is to make use, indeed, of these impulses; but, at the same time, to moderate them, and that we are responsible for enacting legislation which may be useless, or even harmful, if it be not such that it can be practically worked, and reasonably obeyed.
There is one class I do not know whether I am not stretching a point in calling them educationists, who do not lack representation in this House, and who while they are enamoured of direct compulsion are still more enamoured, as it would seem, of school boards. They are even so enamoured of them as to be willing to let compulsion go to the wall, if only they can secure the establishment of the machinery for which their soul longeth. Now I wish to say nothing here of their ulterior object, even though it has been openly enough avowed by themselves. I wish to deal only now 1914 with the arguments which they, and others who are not of them, deduce from the past action of school boards, in favour of their universal establishment in order to carry out direct compulsion. These gentlemen, Sir, argue that there being now a population of 12,000,000 and upwards under school boards, and of that 12,000,000, 10,000,000 and upwards under compulsory bye-laws, you have it as almost an axiom that the establishment of school boards would mean the establishment of direct compulsion, and would involve that satisfactory filling of our schools which we all desire. Now there is no necessity to argue against the universal setting up of school boards throughout the country. The project is a dead one—if, indeed, we might call that dead, which can hardly be said to have ever had life. It is quite plain that the country will have none of them. But has the argument deduced from their past action any life or reality either? On looking into the figures what do I find? Why I find that though the proportion of population under compulsory laws to the whole which is under the management of school boards is as large as I have stated, that is, about 10 to 12, or five-sixths, yet of the total number of school boards less than one-third (the figures are, I believe, 527 out of 1,653) have adopted these bye-laws—the fact, of course, being that in the large boroughs teeming with a crowded population these laws have been put in force, while in the rural districts, that is to say, in that part of the country which is mostly affected by this Bill, they have not been so adopted. I should have thought that was a significant fact. But, further, I find that whereas a very large proportion of those boards which were the earliest formed adopted the bye-laws—a steadily increasing number in proportion to the lateness of their formation have not passed any such laws. It is, of course, true that a large number of these later boards have been compulsorily formed, and I have no wish to push the argument too far; but it may at least be fairly deduced from these facts that whatever the result you obtain, you do not obtain one favourable to the views of these hon. Gentlemen to whom I have referred. Well, but I might go on again to ask—what proof have you got that the working of the 1915 compulsion which you say is so excellent a thing, is altogether what you represent it to be? Have you any right to attribute all the increase, which has admittedly taken place in attendance, to the effect of these laws? Have there been no other causes in operation? Or, again, are things going quite so smoothly, say in this great metropolis, as you would have us to believe? With all the care and caution which may have been exercised, has your system increased in popularity, even among the better classes touched by it? I shall be much surprised if a satisfactory answer can be given to such doubts, and in the absence of such an answer, how can you ask us to accept with cheerfulness the compulsory imposition of what, even when voluntarily undergone, has produced a result so negative, to put it in the mildest form, so unsatisfactory, as I should be disposed to call it?
But this same class of Gentlemen object again to what they say will be the operation of the compulsion proposed by this Bill. Granting that it will come into effect, they say you may be forcing the parent to send his child to a denominational school to which he conscientiously objects. Well, I am hound to believe in the earnestness of the hon. Gentlemen in this House who hold those views. But I honestly confess I cannot understand the reality of the objection. I have tried theoretically to realize it, and though I hope I am no bigot, and though my ambition is to take a fair view of both sides of a question, I utterly fail to do so. And if again I turn to experience, I not only find abundant evidence to prove, but I know of my own knowledge, that wherever good schools exist, the parents take possession of them for their children, and care nothing for the ecclesiastical differences of the managers. I know that was the case even before there was a Conscience Clause established, and when Government Inspectors were clergymen of the Church of England. And I must say I find it now impossible to bring home to myself that with this Conscience Clause in every public elementary school, with the clause which forbids the teaching of any creed in such a school, and with other safeguards existing, even if these were not sufficient, I say I find it quite impossible to believe that there is any force, any life, any substance what- 1916 ever in this objection of the hon. Gentlemen. That it is put forward, and put forward with eloquence, strength, and pertinacity, I know well; but those who do so will forgive me for saying that it needs explanation, and that the explanation one suggests to oneself is more creditable to their courage and ingenuity than to their liberality and zeal for education.
Let me not be understood, Sir, as wishing to argue in favour of indirect as against direct compulsion. I am very reluctant to regard them as rivals. As to the former, it is unanimously admitted that it has the advantage of enlisting all the motives of the parent, both good and bad, in favour of education, and in principle at least, though naturally there will be objections raised to details, there will probably be no opposition to that extension of it which this Bill proposes. It is upon the latter—upon the question of how to grant direct powers for the compulsory attendance of children below 10 that the battle will be raised—that, in fact it has already commenced, and it is upon this point that I submit the Bill is wiser than my hon. Friend.
Now, I have tried to point out to the House—and I am much obliged to them for their indulgence, upon which I will trespass but very little longer—I have tried to point out the principles, which I humbly venture to insist should guide us in this matter. I have endeavoured to show negatively that the proposal of the hon. Gentleman and certain other educationists in this House, and out of it, are not worthy of our acceptance. Let me indicate very shortly the reasons why I think this Bill is sound in principle and practical in its character. Now, in the first place, Sir, this Bill avoids the error of trying to set up uniformity where uniformity does not and cannot exist. It shows in an unmistakable manner upon its face the intentions of the Legislature, and so far as certain conditions and requirements can be universally laid down, it enacts them, even then leaving the necessary modifications to the local authorities; beyond that point, and where you touch upon ground which experience tells you is delicate, it leaves the decision as to such interference to the ratepayers of the districts. It constitutes, in fact, an elastic system, which can adapt itself to the varying wants, customs, and re- 1917 quirements of the diversified parts of the country which, it will affect and benefit. How else could you hope for the intelligent co-operation of those who have to work it, or to be controlled by it? Am I to be told that in a part of the country like that which I have the honour to represent, where it is upon record that children seldom, if ever, go to work before 11 or 12, and then only for summer work, it can be reasonable or fair to impose restrictions and machinery, which mean expense, for the purpose of effecting that which is already done? Surely we have some right, Sir, to ask to be let alone—or, at all events, to be trusted with the discretion—if you will it, the privilege—of putting into force ourselves the machinery offered us by the Bill. And this leads me, Sir, to say a word about the fitness of the Boards of Guardians to exercise these powers. It is a common objection to them that, being composed to a great extent of farmers and employers of labour, they will not be too anxious to carry out the provisions of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman, Sir, used expressions about the predisposition of ex officio Guardians, which the past history of educational efforts in no sort of degree warranted his making against them, whether as county gentlemen or clerical magistrates. But, again, the disposition of the local authorities is not the sole measure of the efficiency of the Bill—for that you have the authority of the Education Department at their back, and your experience of that authority is that it is certainly not to be charged with remissness or negligence. But, more than this, and speaking now of those for whom I am bound to speak, I unhesitatingly say, in the words of that Report to which I have already referred, that so far from being lukewarm in promoting the education of their labourers, or hostile to it, the farmers in the division which I have the honour to represent give every encouragement to the schools, in some cases supporting them altogether, and in others paying the school fees of the children entirely or in part. I will make another quotation, and say, I find that in the southern division of my county (certainly not more favourably inclined to education than the northern), the Hexham Board of Guardians reported to Mr. Henley that— 1918Few, if any, farmers in their Union employed either boys or girls under 12 or 13, and they would prefer not to have them till they are 14 or 15; and they recommended that no boy or girl he allowed to be employed under 12 or 13 without producing a certificate of attendance at school for a certain number of days during the preceding six months.Another Board of Guardians, again—that of Bellingham—reported—That children of either sex under 12 years of age are of little use to the farm, and ought to be at school under that age.I think that men who, 10 years ago, in their corporate capacity, held such views, may fairly be trusted to the extent this Bill proposes. Nor do I see, Sir, any force in the objection that by such agents you will bring education into association with pauperism. The Guardians will only pay the fees where the parent is too poor, and in that case who else but the relieving officer is the responsible and proper person for such a duty? And the work is not new; for in the case of paupers the Guardians have not only been in the habit of paying fees at any school selected by the parents, but have taken care through their officers to enforce attendance. And again, Sir, let it not be forgotten that there is a real connection between wages and education. Hunger and ignorance are both bad to bear, but hunger is the hardest; and as, in the case of nations, it is in the main true to assert that prosperity and wealth must precede high literary culture, so is it undeniably true—and let my own county be again the witness—that good wages make good education, rather than good education good wages.
Sir, in the support which I give, and give most heartily, to this Bill, let me not be supposed to be holding it up as a pattern of perfection. Of its principle I most unhesitatingly approve; but certainly I am not here to say that it does not contain faults both of omission and commission. Its details I might easily criticize. I think it, for instance, exceedingly doubtful how far the Bill is wise in committing such powers to the undefined Committees to be appointed by Boards of Guardians—how far the system of free education prizes is either sound or practical; whether some of the exemptions ought so explicitly to be defined by statute. Nor am I unwilling to confess that the 1919 Bill might have contained some facilities and provisions which would have been perhaps only fair and just, certainly very acceptable, to those who are now most heavily burdened in the struggle to maintain their old-established schools. But meanwhile, Sir, I believe this to be, as I have said, a loyal and honest measure. No country ever did more for education within the space of six years than we have done since 1870. This Bill advances in the old lines upon which the policy, the successful policy, of that Act was based. It enforces still more strongly the doctrine of parental responsibility; it tightens the grasp of compulsion. I do trust, Sir, this Session may see it passed; and I believe that if this be the case we shall hasten the day, which it may perhaps be too sanguine for us just now to anticipate, when compulsion shall have become effete machinery, and parental responsibility shall need no Acts of Parliament for its enforcement.
§ LORD FREDERICK CAVENDISH
said, he did not know whether his hon. Friend (Mr. Mundella) intended to divide upon his Amendment, but the House was certainly much indebted to him for having moved it. There were many points that would have hereafter to be discussed; but the question immediately before them was quite sufficient to absorb the attention of the House. The Amendment was not hostile to the Bill, because it could if adopted, be incorporated in it, and for this reason he should support that Amendment, Notices of Amendment had been given for Committee by the right hon. Member (Mr. W. E. Forster) and by himself which would, he believed, practically do what the hon. Member (Mr. Mundella) desired. It had been said that the Report on the Factory and Workshops Act should go for nothing, so far as regarded agricultural children; but the fact was, that the condition of those children came within the scope of their inquiry, for they were directed to inquire in reference to trades, industries, and occupations other than those which were dealt with by the Act of 1874, so as to arrive at the conclusion whether further provision was required in regard to the improvement of the education of young persons and children. How could the Commissioners have fulfilled that duty if they had not inquired into the condi- 1920 tion of agricultural children? In the discussion upon the Bill of the hon. Member of Birmingham (Mr. Dixon), to establish school boards throughout the country and to provide for direct compulsion, the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) said that the Government would appoint a Commission to inquire into the whole of the Labour Laws in connection with education, which would include the case of agricultural children. It appeared from the Returns of population that there were in the country 400,000 children between the ages of 11 and 15 who were unemployed. Of these, 100,000 were employed in agriculture, 100,000 in factories, ane 200,000 in various other occupations. He wanted to know why, under the Factories Act, there should be strong provisions for children who were employed in factories, whilst there were no similar provisions for those who were employed in other capacities? It could hardly be said that compulsory attendance was unsatisfactory, because the members of those boards which had adopted compulsory attendance had had to undergo re-election, and he asked whether there was any instance in which the electors had taken the opportunity to repeal that policy of the board. These compulsory bye-laws had been spoken of as an interference with the liberty of Englishmen; but such an interference with liberty could not have been brought about without the consent of each district. He did not see how the liberty of parents would be more interfered with by an enactment of Parliament than when the same principle was adopted by the votes of their neighbours. Why did not those who objected to the compulsion as an interference with liberty move to repeal the law that established compulsory education all over Scotland? Did the Scotch value liberty less than Englishmen did? Compulsion in Scotland had produced most satisfactory results. He believed that the plan proposed in the Report upon the Factories and Workshops Act was preferable to that embodied in the present Bill. The noble Lord stated that the key of the Bill was to be found, in Clause 4, and that clause was entirely founded on the principle of the prohibition of employment. It said that no child under 10 years of age should be employed at all, and next that no child who had not obtained a certificate of efficiency in education should be 1921 employed up to the age of 14. The principle of the clause was the improvement of school attendance by the prohibition of employment; but the principle of the Report of the Commissioners was the education of all children consistently with the allowance of considerable employment. The object in view was that children should be employed, yet should be also educated—that their education should interfere as little as possible with their labour. With that object the Commissioners proposed—as the Government now did—to prohibit the employment of children up to the age of 10, but they also proposed that in the case of children over 10 years of age the system known as the half-time system, which had done so much good work in the country, should be extended by being adapted to the varying circumstances of the country. The noble Lord stated that very few children went to work in the agricultural districts under 11 or 12 years of age, and that above that age they only worked during the summer months; but if that were so, how could they be prejudiced by the adoption of the recommendation of the Commissioners? The reason of the bad attendance at school of children under 10 was not that such children were employed. It arose from the apathy and indifference of the parents; and how was it proposed to deal with that matter in the case of children under 14? By prohibiting the employment of such children unless they had obtained the certificate to which he had referred. The hon. Member had spoken of that as a system of indirect compulsion; but the House must not allow itself to be misled by words. The system proposed by the Commissioners and that of the noble Lord were totally dissimilar. Of the latter they had already had experience. It was tried under the Coal Mines Act and under the Agricultural Children Act, and in each case it completely failed. The reason it failed was this—that the penalty on the parent was so great that it could not be enforced. In the present case the hardship on the parent was great, but that on the child who was prevented learning anything as to the means of earning his future livelihood, and of obtaining training which would be invaluable to him, was greater still. But it was said that the necessity of obtaining a certificate could be got rid of 1922 by 250 attendances at school, and what was that but six months' attendance, by which means a child of between two and three years of age might become qualified. [Viscount SANDON observed that the child attending must be over five years of age.] He was glad to hear it; but, at all events, the 250 attendances might be got through in a little over six months, and such a proposal could not be for a moment compared with the half-time system, by which labour was associated with education. Mr. Tufnell, a high authority on the matter, had given an opinion in reference to it, in which he spoke of the hardship on the child who could not by examination obtain a certificate, adding that the hardship on a clever child of being deprived of further instruction than that which would enable him to obtain the certificate was greater still. Mr. Tufnell expressed strong objections to a pass examination. He said—There is, in my opinion, a still stronger objection to any pass examination. It is well known that the effect of a competitive examination is not only to keep the examinees up to the prescribed standard, but to induce them to go beyond it….A pass examination has an exactly contrary effect. As every one must go through it, the standard must be fixed below the general average ability of the examinees, or an unendurable amount of failures would occur.Mr. Tufnell said, in conclusion—My final conclusion with regard to the proposal for prohibiting the employment of children who do not go through a pass examination is that it would be a retrograde movement in the educational condition of the country. I am not aware that it has been adopted by any foreign nation.This was the opinion arrived at by a gentleman who had for two years devoted his time to the consideration of the education of the children of agricultural districts. No adequate precaution was taken under the Bill that children under 12 should not be employed, nor was there any provision for the extension of the half-time system. It was important that children should be learning that which would enable them to earn their future livelihood while they were attending school, and this very often would only be done by the half-time system. Could not some arrangement be adopted, as in Northumberland, whereby in certain months when children were wanted in the fields, they might be 1923 excused from attending school, while the months when they were usually idle should be devoted to improving the education which they had previously acquired? The proposal of the noble Lord left the matter open to all the anomalies which he had himself condemned. For instance, there would be one set of rules under the Factory Acts, another under the Workshops Act, and a difference between districts having school boards and those without school boards. These differences were quite indefensible. The noble Lord gave reasons for dispensing with the certificate of education in the case of children who lived two miles from a public elementary school; but how would he deal with the parents who removed their residence in order to get into one of these districts? There were 865 civil parishes without elementary schools, and this Act might be evaded in each of them by a parent who had neglected to educate his children removing to one of these parishes where his children would be employed at once. In all these parishes the noble Lord's test failed. It seemed to him that there were very grave objections to the plan of requiring a preliminary test, while there was overwhelming evidence of the success of compulsory education, wherever it had been fairly tried, and there was no complaint from Scotland of the working of the complete compulsory system. If a parent could show that his child above 10 years of age was well employed he ought to be allowed to claim half-time attendance. If, however, the child were idle, and likely to fall into bad habits, then he should be compelled to attend full time. His reasons for preferring the plan of the Commissioners to that of the Government were because the former was based upon the successful experience of a system which had proved its efficacy. He preferred the plan of the Commissioners, because it would cause the least possible interference with employment. It would not hamper industry, or deprive the parent of wages, or the child of its early training for its future livelihood. The Government plan, on the other hand, employed the prohibition of labour as the fundamental means of securing education. The plan of the Royal Commissioners would raise the level of education, because the child must attend school regularly without some reasonable excuse, 1924 whilst the plan of the Government would tend to lower it. There were certain provisions in the Bill which would be useful; but if his hon. Friend pressed his Motion to a division he must vote with him. He trusted, however, that the noble Lord would summon up courage, and adopt provisions such as were suggested by his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W.E. Forster), which would give general satisfaction and operate beneficially for the country.
§ MR. HEYGATE
said, he had to complain of defects in the Bill very different from those to which attention had just been called. He regarded the Bill as nothing more than a careful attempt to introduce a system of indirect compulsion, with the view of increasing the attendance at elementary schools, in a manner as little objectionable to the country as could well be conceived; and the only exception to this description of it was furnished by the 13th clause, which gave a small modicum of relief to the voluntary schools. To the principle of compulsion he had always objected in theory; yet he could not be insensible to the growing desire for it throughout the country, and therefore he would not put himself in opposition to the general feeling in favour of it; but he was glad to be able to thank the Government for having adopted the least objectionable means of enforcing compulsion. He thought the Government had gone too far in restricting the employment of children up to the age of 14, unless they had certain, certificates, or had made a certain number of attendances, and if they had adopted the age of 12 or 13, they would have had less difficulty in securing the enforcement of the measure. He hoped the noble Lord in charge of the Bill would re-consider this point. The objection taken to the Bill that it was permissive in its character was an objection that already applied to the discretion of school boards as to whether or not they would adopt compulsory bye-laws. It was a fact that large numbers of school boards did not adopt compulsory bye-laws, and, until they were compelled to do so, compulsion could hardly be enforced in the case of Boards of Guardians. The objection that compulsion ought not to be enforced where there was only one school, which might be a denominational school that was distasteful to the parents, 1925 was a most unreasonable objection, for there was the most perfect freedom of withdrawal from religious instruction under the Conscience Clause, which certainly was valueless, though not in the sense suggested, but only because parents had no desire to avail themselves of it. The friends of religious education had great reason for disappointment with the Bill, and it was to them and to hon. Members sitting behind him rather than to the Opposition that the noble Lord ought to have apologized when he disclaimed any desire to reverse the policy of the Act of1870. They had some right to expect the redemption of the promises that had been then showered upon them. There was a strong feeling throughout the country that some relief should be given to the voluntary system, considering the hard pressure there was upon it owing to the unfair competition of school boards, and in various ways; and he regretted that the suggestions laid before the Prime Minister in the autumn by an influential deputation, headed by the Primate, had not been embodied in the Bill, except the small relief that was granted by the 13th clause. There were no statistics to show what would be the operation of that clause, but he believed it would hardly carry out the intention of its authors to help the poorest and most deserving schools. It was shown, by honest inspection, that children in voluntary schools "earned" in Government grants a larger sum per head than the children in board schools, and the grants thus earned should be paid in full, and not subjected to deductions such as those partially dealt with by Clause 13 of the Bill; and both the history and the position of voluntary schools made it a duty to see that these were not overborne by unnecessary hindrances. Then, again, many school boards seemed to have misapprehended their mission and exceeded their duty, and that increased the injustice of compelling subscribers to voluntary schools to contribute to school-board rates. He could not help thinking that the building of schools had been carried to a preposterous extent; and the system appeared to have been sanctioned by the Education Department ever since 1870. He thought it was time that better control should be ensured by legislation in that respect. In London there was admitted 1926 school accommodation for 412,000 children, while the average attendance with a compulsory bye-law was only 288,000. In Leicester there was school accommodation for 16,500, with an average attendance of 12,000. There also they had a compulsory bye-law. These were fair examples, and not exceptional cases, and he believed the calculations were very erroneous on which so many schools had been built. There were other points in which some relief might have been expected. Where school boards had become useless, or where there was a general feeling that they should be dissolved, he thought the ratepayers who had originally called them into being should have the power to put an end to them. There was a general desire throughout the country for religious education, and he confessed he was disappointed that this Bill did not contain provisions to strengthen the voluntary system, by which alone religious instruction could be secured. In these circumstances he could but give a half-hearted and not a very cordial support to this Bill. It was good so far as it went, but it did not go far enough. He should have preferred a bolder measure, which, grappling with some of the greater difficulties of the case, might indeed have provoked greater antagonism, but would in the end have secured the religious teaching of the country, and entitled the Government who proposed it to the gratitude of the religious and law-abiding people.
§ MR. EVANS
said, he could not entirely agree with the hon. Member who had just addressed the House. He had been a member of a school board ever since school boards were established, and that board had certainly not squandered the ratepayers' money in building unnecessary schools. They had also unanimously determined that religious instruction should be given in their schools. At the same time, he would not force it on a locality if the locality did not wish it. The question rested with the ratepayers themselves, and those whom they elected to the school boards. With regard to voluntary schools, the hon. Member appeared to think they were very hardly treated; but Clause 13 would be found very favourable to poor schools in many districts, whether voluntary or board schools. So far as regarded the general 1927 principles of the Bill, particularly after the rumours he had heard of re-actionary measures, he felt considerable relief. He thought the Government should have recourse to bolder and more stringent provisions, and endeavour to enforce what was proposed by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella). The dread of compulsion in regard to education was proved by experience to have been very much of a bugbear. The school board with which he was connected had put in force compulsory powers to get the children to school, and they had found little or no practical difficulty in carrying them out. The committee of the board had to listen at its meetings to the remonstrances of neglectful parents and guardians, as well as to a good deal of falsehood; but, generally speaking, the dread of a summons sufficed to make them send their children to school. He believed the same result would be obtained if compulsion were applied in country places, and that with a law-abiding people like ours the difficulties which some apprehended would, as had been the case in the towns, be found to vanish. He should, therefore, be glad if that Resolution, which would not destroy, but only enlarge and supplement the Bill, were carried, or if the Amendments which the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) was to move in Committee were adopted. In that case a valuable measure might be passed; whereas if the Bill became law as it now stood, it would cause disappointment, and in many parts of the country would prove very nearly inoperative.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
regarded the Bill very much in the same light as the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Heygate). He regretted that the Government had not seen their way to giving more substantial encouragement to voluntary schools than was offered by the 13th clause. He had been in hopes that the Government would have been able to see their way to adopting the suggestions he had made to the President of the Council for incorporating the Canadian system, or something very like it, in the Bill. The noble Lord had stated that there were various practical difficulties in the way of adopting that course, but as he had not explained what they were he was unable now to deal with that 1928 part of the question. However, even that small boon to those schools was, unfortunately, opposed. It was recklessly said that it would create inefficient schools, but, in fact, it was impossible for the schools to obtain any grant without first proving their efficiency. The voluntary schools now earned far more of the Government grant than the board schools. In his constituency one voluntary school in the matter of drawing obtained 54 prizes in the examination under the Science and Art Department, whereas no board school ever obtained more than 40; while in regard to the less ornamental branches of education, in the same school 99 per cent of the children passed the Inspector's examination. Nothing was more remarkable than the waning popularity of school boards and education rates, and they should look to voluntary effort, aided by Government grants, as the best means of promoting education. It had sent a thrill of shame throughout the country to think that such a state of things as now existed in Birmingham could have been brought about under the Education Act in one of our largest towns. He hoped the noble Lord would see his way to give increased support to voluntary schools. The Resolution of the hon. Member for Sheffield, if adopted, instead of improving the Bill, would render it still less acceptable than it was.
§ MR. D. DAVIES
said, he did not like the Bill; but he hoped it would be so far improved as to make it a good measure. He regretted to say there were 13,000 children in a district of Wales which he knew who were not at any school, and he hoped the Bill would be so framed as to guard against and prevent such a state of things as that. He was quite of opinion that Boards of Guardians and Corporations would not take the necessary trouble to get the children into the different schools. The difficulty was not now so great as it was six years ago. He was a member of one of the oldest school boards, and that board had never experienced any difficulty in securing a proper attendance. That board had always been elected without opposition, and had not spent a penny on any of the elections. Unless compulsion was used he was satisfied that a proper attendance would never be secured. Approving of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sheffield, 1929 he was prepared to give it his support, considering the vast number of children in the country who were growing up without receiving any education. The noble Lord, no doubt, thought that the 13th clause would benefit the agricultural districts, but in reality it would do nothing of the sort. In his district, which consisted of 5,600 acres, the rateable value at 7s. 6d. per acre was £2,100, and that at 3d. in the pound would produce £26. The number of people was 360, and the children in the district 60, and at 6s. per head the cost was £18. In the towns where the children were more numerous, and the same staff could teach double the number, the cost would be one-half what it was in the agricultural and thinly-peopled districts. The consequence was, that whereas in towns the cost would be cleared by the rates and the school pence, the Government rate in addition would absorb the extra penny of the income tax. In his opinion, there ought to be no Government grants unless the attendance was compulsory. Why should the parish or district be put to the expense of providing schools and schoolmasters unless they could get the children there? As a manager of these schools in his own district he did not find any difficulty, but he thought that the Church of England should have a little more friendly feeling. The noble Lord said that Nonconformists were an "unclubable set, "but how could it be otherwise when such lessons were taught to the children as he would read from a catechism authorized by the Church of England? He did not stand up for building schools for every sect and denomination. Forty years ago, when he went to a Church school, no difficulties of this kind occurred, but somehow the Church had altered. He would not read from the catechism he had mentioned, and which was in use in Montgomeryshire, anything about doctrines, but he would ask the House to listen to these questions and answers—Q. What are those who separate themselves from the Church of England commonly called? A. Dissenters. Q. Are there different sorts of Dissenters? A. Yes; Baptists, Independents, Quakers, and others. Q. Is it wrong to worship with Dissenters? A. Yes; we should only attend places of worship which belong to the Church of England.
§ [Mr. BIRLEY: Will the hon. Member 1930 name the author?] Why should he name him? The thing was clear enough. The book was largely circulated in Wales, which contained a large majority of Nonconformists, and was it any wonder they were offended? ["Name."] The book was circulated by the Church of England Extension Association. For himself he wished to see all these separations broken down, and that they should all join together as they did in the old times. It was quite clear that the children must be educated somewhere, and equally clear that, in the rural districts especially, they could not be educated in separate schools.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, he was one of those who did not think it necessary that the Government should have brought in any Bill for education in the rural districts; but, at the same time, as there was a strong feeling existing on the subject, he believed the Government had exercised a wise discretion in proposing the present measure. He had read the Bill most carefully, and he acknowledged without hesitation that it was as good a Bill as could have been passed under the circumstances. There were provisions in it which, in his opinion, would meet all the requirements of the country, and for that reason the measure deserved to pass. He objected strongly to the principle of compulsion contained in the Bill of 1870, and considered the Government had acted wisely in excluding it from their Bill. It was their duty to guide the parents rather than force them to educate their children, and he believed that their object would be effectually attained by the provision that no child should be allowed to work before 10 years of age. He knew of nothing more calculated to induce parents to educate their children than that limitation as to age; and he did not see what better authority could be hit on to put that law into force than the Boards of Guardians, composed, as those bodies were, of gentlemen connected with land and farmers. The children in rural districts did not require any great amount of education. All they required was to be able to read and write and do certain sums in arithmetic; in fact, such an amount of education as would induce them on idle days to take up a book instead of going to the public house. He trusted there would be no attempt to establish a very high class of education in, 1931 our rural schools, as over education would have the effect of driving away manual labour from the country. There was no happier class than the agricultural labourers of England; and therefore whatever was done in this matter they should endeavour on the one hand not to make education nauseous to the people, or, on the other hand, to give them such an education as would tend to drive them from earning their bread from the soil. He considered that the Amendment struck at the root of the Bill by introducing the principle of direct compulsion, and therefore he should oppose it.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
When the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) introduced this Bill, he laid before the House, fairly and frankly, as in fact he laid before himself when engaged in devising remedies, the evils of the situation, and has enabled us to judge how far the remedies may prove effectual. The problem, for which the Bill seeks a solution, is how we are to get 1,700,000 neglected children into school. The noble Lord admitted that it was the desire of the country that education should be universal. In fact, since 1802, Parliament has been devising various means of compulsion through labour laws, and recently has provided ample school accommodation. But, still, there is a large deficiency of attendance, and parents do not perform their duties to their children. This Bill is a logical consequence of the Act of 1870. Then we compelled communities to provide schools and education for themselves, and it is but one step forward to say that the individuals composing them shall receive the education provided. There are differences of opinion how this should be done; but the noble Lord has the advantage of a practical unanimity of purpose that all the children of this country must be educated. There are three ways of achieving the end. The parents might be forced by direct compulsion to send their children to school; or the children should not be allowed to labour till they acquire educational certificates; or there might be a combination of the direct and indirect methods of compulsion. Now, the Bill adopts the latter combination. In the wisdom of this I entirely agree. There is, in fact, no antagonism between direct and indirect compulsion as there is between the subject to which 1932 the same adjectives are applied—direct and indirect taxation. In regard to compulsion, both are collateral roads to the same end. The leaning, however, of the Bill is to travel as much as possible by the indirect road. I have not the least objection to that if the result be secured, for, as to the abstract principles involved in the two methods, there is nothing to choose between them. The noble Lord seems to think it harsh that policemen or truant officers should drive children into school by direct compulsion. To my mind, it seems equally harsh to drive them in, through threats of starvation, by refusing employment to the uneducated. Both methods are stern, if they be not harsh, and the choice between them is a mere matter of expediency. As the Bill sometimes uses one method, sometimes the other, there is little use in discussing which is the best. The Bill in some respects uses the indirect method uniformly and well. It found our labour laws confused and complicated; it makes them simple and clear. It holds out powerful motives to ordinary parents to educate their children. It enlists both the noble and ignoble motives of such parents in the work of education. Under it, good parents will equip their children with the tools of labour, and selfish parents will push on their children in the hope of getting the wages of their work. And the merit of this part of the Bill is that the poor will feel that the same kind of compulsionis applied to them as to the rich. The Army, the Navy, the Civil Service, the medical profession, the Law, the Church, are all subject to labour passes of an acquired education. When a policeman drives the child of a poor man to school, the latter, though he is mistaken, thinks that the policeman does not go to the rich man's house. But the main principle of this Bill will appear equitable, because an examination of the rich for employment is now made nearly as general as that provided by this Bill for the poor. So far, then, as indirect compulsion will go, I believe the provisions of the Bill, except as to the absence at half-time in rural districts, are framed in a sense of justice and with a prudent forbearance to existing circumstances. But indirect compulsion is insufficient. The Bill admits this, or it would not have adopted a supplementary system of direct compulsion. A future educational standard, 1933 applied to a child in its eleventh year, involves at least five years' foresight on the part of the parent; and as prudent, intelligent parents will exercise this foresight—indirect compulsion is sufficient for them. But it is not enough for the thriftless, improvident parents, who will sacrifice to the needs of the day the whole future of a life. For such parents the year 1881, when this Bill comes into full operation, has no prospective terrors. The labour-pass system for their children, unless there be a compulsion between 5 and 10, would simply exclude the child of 11 from the labour market, and thus postpone for some years the working ability of the children of improvident parents. What would be the result of relying on this labour-pass system alone? One of two results must necessarily follow. Either the Act would become a dead letter, because magistrates would refuse to enforce the law against children of 11, from a disinclination to prevent them earning their bread; or the law would be enforced, and children of 11 would be at last driven into school, which they had neglected in their earlier years. But observe what an extravagantly costly system of education this would be. A child between 5 and 10 gets its schooling for 3d. per week. But a child from 11 to 14 has a wage value of 3s. a-week in the labour market. You refuse it permission to labour, and the parent is deprived of this 3s. a-week and has still to provide 3d. a-week in fees, so that the education which could have been got for 3d. a-week under 10 will practically cost 3s. 3d. above 10. The noble Lord would reply—that is the fault of the parent and not of the Bill. To that I would rejoin that it is the result of the timidity of the Government in not enforcing direct compulsion on the child between 5 and 10. With regard to the effects of a general labour pass we have little experience, and certainly as much of an unfavourable as of a favourable kind; but in regard to direct compulsion between the ages of 5 and 10, we have the widest experience. In Scotland it applies to the whole population. There the duty of a parent to send a child to school from 5 to 13 is clear and explicit, and his neglect of that duty is punished. In England, 10,000,000 out of a population of 22,000,000 are under the compulsory bye-laws of school boards. Hence we 1934 have a large experience of the working of direct compulsion, and full justification for its extension. The Bill recognizes this by allowing Boards of Guardians to make such bye-laws, if the ratepayers demand them. What are the chances of their doing so? The Agricultural Children Act gave the necessary powers to enforce a modified compulsory attendance, and only 11 counties have adopted it. Two-thirds of the English counties have allowed the Act to become dead. That represents the chances of permissive compulsion. Certainly, in some cases, Boards of Guardians will be moved by ratepayers to make compulsory bye-laws. But such action implies a ready-formed zeal for education. The effect would be to repeat the error of the old Committee of Council system, under which zealous and intelligent parishes got Government grants and preserved their intelligence; while ignorant and benighted parishes were left ignorant and benighted. So with this Bill, it will work well under conditions in which it is not needed, and it is certain to fail where it is most required. But this requires no argument, for the Bill gives us four direct compulsory clauses. By the 7th clause the local authority, though not the parent, is made responsible for the education of children under 10. But frightened by this spasmodic vigour, numerous doors are opened by which the parent may escape. Even "domestic employment" of the child is a statutory excuse. But supposing children are ordered by a Court of summary jurisdiction to attend school, as this clause provides, what is that but direct compulsion in its most naked form? If, then, the principle be admitted, why not make the parent responsible, as in the Scotch Act, and not the local authority? The noble Lord was very eloquent as to the responsibilities of the parent—will he accept the Amendment to make them statutory? He would thus lessen the extreme severity of the screw which he applies to the child, at 10. The screw which he puts on them is applied with unsparing torture in Clauses 8 to 10. Actually, penal deprivation of liberty, through the Industrial Schools Act, is now to be applied to persistent truants. This Act of 1866, extended to school boards in 1870, is very useful for vagabond and criminal children, but was never intended for 1935 merely ill-managed children. Recollect what reformatories and industrial schools are. Reformatories are destined for those who have committed crime; and, in. Great Britain, though not in Ireland, they have been confined to their true purpose. Juvenile crime does not increase, so the Reformatories remain stationary. From 1864 to 1874, their inmates have grown from 4,300 to 5,600, and no more. Industrial schools are in a different position. Their object is to remove from society, by sentences of penal detention, which may extend from short periods to a length of seven years, scamps and petty thieves, or children under criminal parents. If kept to their proper purpose they should not increase rapidly, because juvenile crime is stationary. Yet this is far from being the case, for while their inmates were only 488 in 38 schools in 1864, they had mounted to 11,409 in 104 schools in 1874. Now, the reason for this rapid increase is not far to seek. Local authorities use these schools as a substitute for Union schools, and as a means of throwing the expense of maintaining poor children on Imperial taxation. The proportion of local rates (independently of school-board contributions) 1ast year was as £20,000 to £134,000 supplied by the Imperial Treasury. In Scotland this temptation is not so great, because the law forces parishes to contribute for wastrel children; but in England, where the law is lax, it is too great to be resisted by the local conscience. Since 1870, the school boards have used these institutions freely. In England last year, 1,331 were sent at the instance of these boards; while in Scotland, where industrial schools have a still larger development, only 31 were sent. Why this difference? Because compulsion is universal in Scotland, and that suffices to prevent the formation of a large wastrel class. The school boards spent £20,000 in this experiment, at a cost of 5s. a-head per week to themselves and of 15s. to the State. And what was the result? I will give the answer in the words of the Dean of Ripon, the Rev. Sydney Turner, who until lately has been the Inspector of these schools. In his last Report he says—But independently of the objections to mixing such unruly, wilful, and unmanageable (or, as they might be truly styled, ill-managed) children with the petty thieves and little scamps that the industrial school properly contains, the expense thrown on the board for the maintenance 1936 of such cases, amounting usually to 5s. per week, is not likely to allow of the continued use of so costly a method for enforcing school attendance.It is true that he gives a qualified approval to such a course as that suggested by this Bill, that the period of detention might be worked out by day attendances, but he prefers Miss Mary Carpenter's scheme of regular day schools for clothing, feeding, and educating these non-criminal wastrels. The latter plan is working successfully; but the mixed plan, as proposed in the Bill, was actually in operation in 1857, and had to be abandoned from its injurious effects on the discipline of the schools. I do not deny that if day industrial schools were administered with much care and watchfully guarded against improper use they might be a useful machinery in place of the more expensive boarding schools. It has been necessary to discuss at some length this particular plan for enforcing compulsion, because, as the Bill is now framed, it is its essential plan. My objections to it are two fold—first, that if successful it would be inordinately costly; and second, that it is unjust and impolitic. If partially successful, we may assume that 20,000 wastrels out of the 1,700,000 truants might be got into the schools in addition to their present numbers. Now, without taking into account new buildings which would be necessary, the cost of maintenance, according to the present rate upon 31,000 children, would be £750,000, of which the State would require to find at least £500,000. We now pay £l,750,000 to educate 2,000,000 children, but by this system we should have to pay £500,000 to educate 30,000. Will the managers of industrial schools co-operate in this plan? I am told that already four-fifths of these schools are memorializing the Government against the scheme. The second objection is as to the injustice and impolicy of the proposal. It is unjust both to the child and to the taxpayer. Instead of promoting parental responsibility, for which the noble Lord argued, it destroys it. The State is placed in loco parentis, and the parent is rewarded for his improvidence by being relieved of the care and charges of the child. The plan is unjust to the child, because mask the industrial school as we may, it is legally a prison in which, a child is deprived of personal liberty. So the sum of the plan is this, that it 1937 relieves the responsible parent of the consequences of his improvidence, and punishes the irresponsible child for the neglect of the parent. But there is a deeper objection still, for by using penal schools as the chief engine of compulsion, you connect compulsory education with crime, and go far to render enforced attendance odious to the community. I recollect when my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) proposed to make school attendance a condition of Poor Law relief, an outcry arose that he was associating education with pauperism. But surely it is a hundred times worse to unite it with crime. The reason why these penal clauses are now essential to the Bill is that the Government are afraid to make every parent responsible in law for the education of his children. Accept the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford to this effect—that is, simply to assimilate the law of England to that of Scotland—and all these penal clauses may be advantageously expunged from the Bill, because then the Industrial Schools Acts of 1866 and 1872 and the Education Act of 1870 contain abundant provisions for providing for a vagabond class. The mistake of the Bill is that it jumbles up this class with mere ill-managed children. For them ordinary direct compulsion is sufficient, as the experience of Scotland proves. For the others you have still the industrial schools and reformatories. I have discussed this Bill as an educational measure, in order that I might not be tempted off that view by the ecclesiastical herring which has been trailed across the path. I do not deny that the Bill is sufficient, in its indirect clauses, for ordinary careless parents. But it fails with the reckless and improvident parent, for it is he who supplies the habitual truant, and in after-life both the parent and the ratepayer will blame the Government for its temerity in enforcing direct compulsion. The parent will say, You had no justification in trusting to my knowledge of prospective law, or to my forethought, when all experience has taught you that I had neither one nor the other. The taxpayer and the ratepayer will blame your timidity when they find that you throw upon them at an inordinate cost the consequences of the neglect of the parent. Among the educationalists of this House there are many who care more for education than 1938 for ecclesiastical differences. But when your Bill makes us all hopeless of attaining universal education through its permissive provisions, it is natural that we should look somewhat jealously to the religious aspects of the measure. Then permissive compulsion in rural districts looks like a machine for filling old and creating new denominational schools. I do not think this was the object of the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) in constructing the Bill, because I have faith in his single desire to extend the benefits of education to the whole community. If he will meet those who have a like desire with himself by making the provisions of his Bill effective for this great object, the magnitude of such a result will dwarf the objections to the local means for carrying it out.
§ MR. BIRLEY
congratulated the House on the eminently practical character which this debate had throughout assumed. He had heard with some regret the right hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Playfair) state that a good deal would be said by hon. Members opposite on the question of the religious difficulty; he trusted, however, that nothing would be uttered that would lead to an acrimonious discussion on the subject. For his own part, he should not object to see, at all events, the substance of the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) incorporated into the Bill, with the Preamble of which it would not be inconsistent. It had been stated that there were no fewer than 1,700,000 truant children in England, but that was an exaggeration arising out of the way in which the Privy Council Returns were drawn up. As to the question of compulsion, there was on that side of the House as strong a desire as on the other, although they did not speak with as much emphasis, to see truant children of the careless poor or of the criminal part of the population sent to school and obtaining an efficient and useful secular education. He might remind the right hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh that the Bill was intended to carry out that object, although perhaps some of its clauses were weak as regarded penalties and as affording loopholes of escape to those who might attempt to disregard them. The experience of the last six years indicated the necessity of caution, and he 1939 could appeal with confidence to the school boards of the great towns, such as London, Liverpool, and Manchester, to show that with all their compulsory bye-laws, and with all their staff of truant compellers, they had been obliged to be extremely cautious in attempting to enforce the law rigidly. True it was that they had been able to reach a large portion of the population who were very indifferent about sending their children to school; but when they attempted to descend to the lower strata their efforts had proved most unsuccessful. The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) had naturally referred to the example of Scotland, and had alluded to the Report of the Commission upon the Factory and Workshops Act, but in that Report it was stated that in the towns of Glasgow and Dundee there was still a large proportion of the population which was not receiving efficient instruction. He might observe that, although there might be a strong feeling in favour of compulsion in theory, in practice it would be found to press very hardly upon those who were honest, but were exceedingly poor and destitute, and then the sympathy of all classes would be excited against the system. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman himself would be the first to complain in the event of anything like an abuse of authority in that respect being developed. When the Manchester Board had attempted to put stringent regulations into force they had been strongly attacked by the leading newspapers. A good deal had been said with reference to the desire which the working classes themselves had that compulsion should be adopted; but he imagined that they were in favour of its being applied in the case of others and not of themselves. They felt that many of their neighbours were a curse and an injury to the community, and to such persons they, perhaps, wished that compulsion should be applied. A great difficulty had been felt with regard to the age at which children should be allowed to go to work. The Manchester School Board, however, recommended that the local authority should have power to grant permission to children to be employed half time at the age of nine, in cases of evident necessity. With regard to industrial schools, there were very efficient ones in Manchester, and it would be a pity to send children 1940 of a certain class there to disarrange establishments of that kind. He believed it quite possible to have a number of schools of a low type to which those children might be sent without causing any great cost to the ratepayers. That course would be preferable to sending these children to ordinary elementary schools in the first instance; for many of them were only half fed and half clothed and of filthy habits, with whom children of the better class of labourers naturally objected to consort. He agreed with the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. D. Davies) that the proposed allowance to the so-called poor districts would work in a most surprising manner, and the really poor districts would not get the benefit of it, and in this respect, therefore, he hoped to see the Bill modified. Certain of the deductions which were made were of a most annoying character, while they saved very little money to the department. The public elementary schools should not, in his opinion, be called upon to pay local rates. With regard to the question of religious education, he thought it was a matter of regret that there was nothing in the Bill which provided for religious teaching, or even for the recognition of religion. He failed to see how the fulfilment of parental responsibility in relation to the education of children could be properly secured unless parents were enabled to provide for their religious instruction. The country at large would hail the removal of this blot, if it were done with discretion. He hoped it would be possible to add a clause to the Bill providing that the board schools should give some elementary religious instruction that would be suited to the capacity of children of from 5 to 10 years of age. On the whole, he thought the Bill had been very well and carefully drawn, and that while its proposals had been to some extent misconstrued, the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Factories and Workshops Act had been exaggerated. He trusted the House would in the present case—as was done when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford passed his great Bill through the House—apply itself in earnest to the perfecting of the measure, in order to increase the quantity and quality of sound education for the working classes of this country.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, that he felt he occupied an awkward position, because he agreed with nobody in the House upon this question. He declared his affection for the system of education which existed in 1870, when his right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) introduced his measure, for at that time the progress in education was slow and sure, but now it was rapid and unsafe. Until the moment when the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Ridley) rose to speak upon this Bill it seemed as if the Government intended it to be a serious measure of legislation; but that impression was removed when he heard the hon. Member, who was an ardent supporter of the Government, say that the Amendment of the hon. Member (Mr. Mundella) was one which ought to be introduced into the Bill. ["No, no!"] The hon. Member was not present, but he had certainly said something to that effect. Three defects were alleged against the Act of 1870. In the first place, it was said that the machinery which it rendered necessary was terribly costly; secondly, it was said that the education given in board schools was not as good as that afforded in elementary schools; and, in the third place, it was alleged that, though the education given in the board schools was not religious, those schools were, by the very fact of their existence, killing off the denominational schools. With regard to the first alleged defect, they found that under the school board system the average cost per child educated, for purchase of sites and building schools, was £11 6s., while in 1867–8, when he was Vice President of the Council, it did not amount to more than £5 per child, or £5 10s. in some exceptional cases. This was a vast expense, from which the ratepayers must inevitably recoil. He found that the charges for the cost of schooling the children in board schools, which might be described as the current expenses of the schools, was, in the case of the London School Board, £2 12s. per child. Canon Gregory, who had written a pamphlet on the subject, came to the conclusion that while the cost per child was £1 9s. 3d. in voluntary schools, it amounted to £2 9s. 10d. in board schools. In voluntary schools the expense amounted to £1 9s. per head, whereas in school board schools it amounted to £2 9s., the additional expense having, of course, to be 1942 found out of the rate. Was it, then, any cause for surprise that school boards had become unpopular? He found that of 14,082 civil parishes, only 1,479 had adopted school boards to the number of 1,100; while in the boroughs, excluding London, out of 224, 113 had adopted them. He further found that out of the 1,213 school boards 523 had no board schools, leaving 690 as the number having them. Then as regarded compulsion, the proportion of the school boards which had adopted the compulsory system was, again excluding London, in boroughs 96 to 113, and in parishes 316 to 1,479, another proof—if one were required—that the school boards were not popular, and more especially as to the system of compulsory attendance. Then, again, he would take the test of the Government grant. In the case of Nonconformist schools it amounted to 13s. 0¼d. The Roman Catholic came next, amounting as it did to 12s. 10¾d. Next in order came the Church of England, which amounted to 12s. 8¼d., while that to the school boards was 11s. 5¼d. Then as to the religious teaching in the school boards. He knew that there was religious teaching in some of them; but the testimony of Bishop Ryan, the Vicar of Bradford, and as a member of a school board, was that his experience led him to the conviction that in board schools efficient religious instruction could not be given. But then the board schools had only, with a view to support themselves, to put their hands in the bag which was filled by the ratepayers, and it stood to reason that, with such an advantage, they must in time supersede the denominational schools. There were many cases in which Town Councils had to pay for the education of children who were in receipt of out-door relief, and those children were sent to denominational schools—in almost all cases Church of England schools. Again, Boards of Guardians might pay the fees of the children of "poor persons," and in spite of what had been said to the contrary he was of opinion that boards consisting of all the Justices of the Peace of the district and whose other members were elected according to a property qualification, would necessarily be influenced more or less by the interests and the prejudices of the class which had put them in office. He was glad to know that in the case of industrial schools 1943 children were sent to schools of the denomination to which they belonged, although he feared that if the principle were to be carried to its legitimate result great expense must be incurred in the building of industrial schools, as under the present state of things a child had sometimes to be sent to a school 100 miles off. The Home Secretary, in a letter read at the Sheffield School Board, stated that the introduction of short periods of detention would necessitate the establishment of special schools, as the bringing together of the two classes of children would be prejudicial to the discipline of the school. He added that the local authority must be prepared to contribute a large share of the expense of these industrial schools. There were to be two kinds of compulsion under the Bill, the one direct and the other indirect. There was to be a certificate of stupidity, and the parson of the parish would be the person who would usually be called upon to give it. One of the clauses of the Bill would prevent a child under 10, or in other cases under 14, from helping his father at his trade. Nor would a child be allowed to do a little sewing in the evening. Was that just? With regard to direct compulsion the locality might improve it if it chose, but was it likely to do so? Only 316 school boards throughout the rural parishes of England had adopted compulsion. He did not believe it would become more general under the Bill, for neither the farmers nor the Guardians desired it. If they adopted it would it be enforced? The Bill said the school authorities might do this if they thought fit, and might do that if they thought proper. This was permissive legislation run mad. What was the use of saying they might enforce compulsion if they thought fit, when the House knew they would not think it fit? If the Town Councils and the Boards of Guardians did not do their duty, the noble Lord took power to suspend them. But did the noble Lord believe that he would ever suspend a whole Board of Guardians or a Town Council and put others in their places? If he did put others in their places, they would do just the same. If, in fact, these bodies put compulsion in force, they would be doing a great injustice. He knew a town where there were several schools. One was a Roman Ca- 1944 tholic school, attended by about 60 poor children. The Government had now brought in a Bill to make compulsion easy, and the result would probably be that all the children would be compelled to go to one of the Church of England schools. He would ask anyone whether that was just? No Irish Members, at least, would dare to vote for a Bill that would compel 60 Roman Catholic children to go to a Church of England school. He trusted that the House would not permit a measure that would perpetuate an injustice of this kind to become law. Take the case of a farm labourer, who was disabled by an accident, and unable to work. He could not afford to pay the 2d. a-week, and kept his children from school. The school officer would thereupon come to his house and insist on the children going to school, or, if not, the father would have to pay 5s. a-week for each instead of 2d. Or the labourer might say to his children—"You must do a little work to enable us to get food." There upon in came the officer and fined him 40s. for each child who had been allowed to work when the father had met with an accident. Was that just? He warned the Government that by this legislation they were meddling with the labour question, which was becoming a very serious one, both in this country and on the Continent. It might be all very well to smile at the mention of the name of Mr. Arch, but behind him there were thousands who would not be put down. The Bill would interfere with the labour of the very class to whom the House had refused to give votes. This in itself was not wise; and the time would come when they would spurn this legislation and would be tempted to spurn legislation of a more serious character. As to the religious question, it was clear that the board schools were not religious schools; and, in fact, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe), in speaking about payment by results, claimed for the system as a merit that it would secularize education, and said that he desired to go further in that direction. To parody the poet—The force of pathos could no further go.Though urged by Dixon and maintained by Lowe.As to the relief afforded by the Bill to voluntary schools, the total amount of the deductions from the grants which 1945 by Section 13 of the Bill were not to be made any longer would amount to £28,142, so that only 1–34th of the grant would be added to some Roman Catholic schools, 1–40th to Church schools, 1–54th to Nonconformist schools, and 1–130th to board schools; but if all the 750 poor children now at large were compelled to attend, and paid their fees at the rate of 2d. they would amount to £6,250. That proceeding he objected to because it would simply relieve the rates. It was not the poor place but the poor school that required help; and there was many a poor school in a rich place. As cumulative voting did not exist in the election of Guardians, they were mostly members of the Church of England, and a local committee they would appoint would usually consist of the parson and his two churchwardens, who would compel Dissenters and Roman Catholics to send their children to a Church of England school and to pay its fees. That would be sufficient to raise a sectarian agitation throughout the country that would not die out until it had put an end to religious education in England, which would inflict great injury not only on the working man, but a still greater one in a religious point of view. The only way in which the Bill would supply the defects of past legislation was that it would prevent other school boards being established and necessitate legislation for getting rid of those which exist. No Nonconformist, and certainly no Irish Member, ought to vote for the second reading.
§ MR. PELL
said, he was entirely at a loss to understand what particular system of education the noble Lord who had just sat down would advocate. His speech reminded him of a remark he once heard a right hon. Gentleman address to the Conservative Members, when in Opposition, on the occasion of the Irish Church Bill. He compared the Opposition to oxen, who, being in the enjoyment of a fine fat pasture, hunted about to find a corner of the field in which there was a crop of nettles or thistles in which they might get their noses stung. He thought even on that—the Conservative—side of the House the Bill had not been received with that hearty approval which it deserved. It required that the parent should send his child to school from the age of 5 to 10 with something like regularity, so 1946 as to ensure his attendance for 250 days in the year; and if the required attendances had not taken place the parent might be then required to send the child to school until he attained the age of 14. No new educational local authority was to be brought into existence. The powers of the Bill were to be entrusted to an old local authority, the guardians of the poor, whose duty it would be to enforce its provisions; and, finally, if the local authorities were in default the Education Department would have the power to supersede them. Those were very important, and at the same time simple and intelligible, provisions, and went a considerable length in the direction of compulsion. The question they had to ask themselves now was whether the country was prepared to submit to more than was proposed by the Bill. He thought not, and further, that nothing could be more injurious than an attempt to thrust on the country a code of laws which the people did not approve and were not prepared to respect or enforce. In his opinion, the Bill went as far as the country was willing to go. If any alteration was made in it, he would desire some little change in the exceptions. These, in the form he found them in the Bill, might afford a loop-hole through which parents might escape from the legal obligations intended to be imposed on them. But that point would be considered in Committee. He hoped the Government would adhere to the Bill as closely as they could, for it had been drawn by a master-hand with great care and apparently without sectarian views, either to advance the cause of the Church or Dissent.
§ MR. DIXON
understood his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Playfair) to say that if the Government could see their way to accept the Amendment of his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), both those right hon. Gentlemen would be prepared to support the Bill; but the House would not be surprised when he stated that he should not be prepared to support the Bill even if that Amendment were accepted by the Government. He said more, even if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) were accepted by the Government, it would not entirely remove his objections to the Bill. Without troubling the 1947 House with any argument at present, he would very briefly state the changes he should like to see made in the Bill. He should like Clause 13 to be omitted entirely from the Bill. That clause proposed to increase, under certain circumstances, grants to poor schools or schools in poor districts. Although he knew something about school matters and had been accustomed to study the clauses of Education Bills, he had not been able to make out what was the meaning of this clause. He could not understand what would be the effect of it, because, according to his reading of the clause, Birmingham would be proclaimed a poor district. He could not think for a moment that was really the intention of the Government. It might be that the clause had been drawn up in such a manner as not to represent their intention. He presumed it was the intention of the Government to afford some assistance to what was ordinarily understood by the words poor or struggling denominational schools. He thought schools of that description ought to be handed over by some means or other to the local authorities, who would be able to supply any deficiency in their means out of public funds and to give public management and control. There were two other points in which he wished changes to be made which he thought important. One was with reference to direct compulsion, and the other with reference to the powers to be given under this Bill to the local authorities who were charged with the carrying out of compulsion. Whilst he did not wish to raise any objection to the provisions of the Bill with reference to indirect compulsion, he must say that, in his opinion, those provisions were of the most severe and stringent character, so severe and so stringent that, if they stood alone, he for one, much as he was in favour of compulsion, and greatly as he desired the education of the people, should hesitate before he gave his vote for the Bill. What was required, and what would, in fact, take away almost entirely the stringency of the indirect compulsion clauses, would be a satisfactory provision for direct compulsion, because, if a direct compulsory law worked satisfactorily, then indirect compulsion almost ceased to be necessary. He believed, however, that the direct compulsory clause of the Bill was extremely roundabout, and would be very imper- 1948 fect in its operation. He doubted whether the House fully comprehended what its effect would be. They were to be launched in a course the effect of which they could not anticipate, because they had had no experience of it; and they were asked to leave a channel which they knew, and of the success of which they had had experience. It would be much better if, having fixed upon the local authority, they were to say simply that they would give to that authority the power of enacting bye-laws which was given by the Act of 1870; but with this difference that they would make it obligatory upon all local authorities—whether school boards, Town Councils, or Boards of Guardians—to make and enforce compulsory bye-laws. In his opinion, compulsory bye-laws so framed would be much better adapted for the purpose they had in view than the first section of Clause 7. They had often been told that the circumstances of different parts of the country varied considerably, and that it was difficult to make a law which should apply with equal force and justice in every district, and they had been told, moreover, that they in that House were not thoroughly acquainted with the circumstances of every district. If, therefore, they left the formation and carrying out of the bye-laws to the various districts, he was inclined to believe that compulsory laws so framed would be more perfect and more effective than anything that could be done under the first section of Clause7. He had always been considered to be the advocate of school boards, and when on three several occasions he had brought forward an Elementary Education Bill he had been met with the objection almost universally from the other side of the House, not that his Bill was a measure for direct compulsion, but that it was a Bill for the establishment of universal school boards. He assured the House that he was willing now to support the Government in the establishment of a different machinery—that was to say, a machinery of Boards of Guardians and Town Councils for carrying out compulsion. He must, however, remind the House that he did not think this machinery was as good as the machinery of the Act of 1870, and he had stated on various occasions his reasons for entertaining that opinion. Boards of Guardians, though nominally 1949 popular assemblies, were not really elected by the parents of the children who would be sent to the schools. With a strong compulsory education law they ought to have a popular representative body to enforce it, and that body should be representative, not of the clergy, not of the landowner, not of the farmer merely, but also of the parents of the children themselves. That objection to Boards of Guardians, which to his mind was a very strong one, he, however, got over by looking forward to a very great improvement in our system of local self-government, to a local authority—probably the Board of Guardians—elected by the same constituency as the Town Councillors in the large towns. In his opinion, it was essential, if this Act were to work well in the rural districts and to be satisfactory to the country generally, that, having fixed upon their local authority, the Government being satisfied with it and the country party having accepted it, they should give to it the full powers of the school boards. He had noticed all through the discussions upon this interesting question that the objections to school boards had been of such a character as would not apply to Boards of Guardians and Town Councils; and, therefore, he saw no reason why Gentlemen opposite should not be perfectly willing to confer upon the local authority of their choice the powers of school boards. If that were done, he should regard the proposition of the Government as statesmanlike, and would give it is support. He very much doubted the possibility of passing this Session the Bill as it stood; but, assuming that it was carried, it would not satisfy a very important section of the country—namely, the Nonconformists. The noble Lord the Member for Westmeath (Lord Robert Montagu) had in very forcible language explained what the feeling of the Roman Catholics would be if the measure were carried in its present form. The Roman Catholics would have no protection for their children against being driven into Church schools. The Nonconformists complained of the same grievance; and since the Bill had been introduced the most important of the Dissenting denominations had met to protest against the grant of compulsory powers which might be used to compel their children to attend Church schools. He was not surprised at their having raised this protest. 1950 There was no protection granted to them by the Bill, and that being the case, they were not satisfied. One result of passing the Bill in its present form would be to create a great deal of ill-feeling throughout the rural districts, and there would be a revival of hostility to the Church of England which might accelerate its downfall. The other result which might follow was that the Nonconformists, being the most numerous and the most active section of the Liberal Party, would insist, when a new Liberal Administration came into office, upon the abrogation of the obnoxious clauses. But they would not in that case be satisfied with the mere repeal of these clauses. They would insist, not only on the universal establishment of school boards, but on the establishment of an unsectarian school in every district. It was for Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House to say whether these were results which they would desire to produce. For his own part, he should, for the reasons he had given, oppose the Bill.
§ MR. A. MILLS
said, he was not at all alarmed at the consequences foreshadowed by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dixon) if Parliament adopted this Bill. He did not understand what the hon. Member meant by unsectarian education; but he believed the feeling of the country would have supported the Government if it had recognized distinctly in this Bill the duty of Christian education. However, as a member of the London School Board, he wished to make some remarks, as that body had been greatly abused in this debate. He did not need to be told that it was very unpopular, and he would not discuss whether it deserved to be so or not. One reason, no doubt, was its alleged extravagance. But, practically, its unpopularity rested upon its having enforced the compulsory bye-laws which it had adopted. The Bill before them recognised not only indirect, but direct compulsion; and the question was, how far, by whom, and how it should be carried out? The London School Board had been in existence nearly six years—and he had been a member of it nearly three years. Its expenditure on enforcing compulsion was no doubt great—£29,000 a-year; and at the present moment the average attendance of children, notwithstanding the application of compulsory bye-laws, had 1951 not increased in proportion to the numbers on the rolls beyond what it was three years ago. They had no doubt brought a larger number of children, not only into the board schools, but into the denominational ones; but they were not in a position to put the London School Board before the country as a model of success in the matter of compulsion. At this very moment he was summoned to attend a committee of the whole Board to consider and revise their compulsory bye-laws, and it certainly appeared to him that the effect produced by these bye-laws had not been what might have been expected from them considering the expenditure they involved. In view of that state of things, would it be wise to invite the country to adopt, he would not say a system of universal school boards, but school boards carrying on the compulsory system in a manner precisely analogous to that of London? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Playfair) had said that by imposing parental responsibility upon the people they would settle the education question; but that really was a problem they had not yet solved, and could not solve. A little practical experience was worth a great deal of theory; and in presiding over one of the Committees—the Committee which was trying to carry out the compulsory bye-laws—he had never had a task more difficult to discharge in a manner satisfactory to himself. Everyone knew the difficulty. It was not a question of fees, or the pennies and twopences which parents had to pay, but it was whether, in order to carry out strictly what the law ordered and decreed, that the child of very poor parents should be educated, they would go the length of breaking up the homes of such persons, by taking from them the 3s. or 4s. a-week which their children might earn or might save by "minding the baby" while the mother was engaged in some productive labour. If this system of compulsion throughout the country was made universal and without exception, it would greatly increase the burdens of the ratepayers and bear heavily upon many poor families, and would end by making national elementary education generally unpopular. That would be a most unfortunate mistake. He had 1952 some experience in the London School Board, and that had shown him that in most large towns they could not get on without compulsion. In London they might as well throw their money into the sea as try to do without compulsion, but he did not think that that applied to small towns and rural districts. Objection had been made to entrusting Boards of Guardians with the duty of carrying out the law where there was no school board; but he doubted whether, on the whole, the Government could have found any existing body better qualified to carry out tentatively the experiment which was proposed by this Bill. It was a case in which they must begin by degrees, and he repeated that he thought a good selection had been made. With respect to the Bill, as a whole, he would not deny that there were portions of it which he would like to see altered, and in Committee probably it might be considered; but he hoped the Session would not close without its principal clauses being agreed to, and the work of education in the rural districts, small towns, and remote districts thereby greatly promoted.
§ MR. WALTER
said, he had hoped they might have been allowed to discuss this important measure without feeling as if they were sitting under the shadow of Disestablishment. He had hoped that, had not the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) introduced the religious element into the question, they might have altogether passed it over. But as the hon. Member had referred to a document which most of them had, no doubt, received—a sort of remonstrance drawn up by the Nonconformist body against this Bill—he must be allowed to say that he had read that document with very great surprise and very great regret; and he almost wondered how those respectable gentlemen could have the conscience to put their hands to it. What was it they really expected them to do? Had they not been as active as others in pressing for compulsion, and were we now to be told that, having arrived at the point of making compulsion universally applicable, it should not be applied—that they would offer it all the opposition in their power, and subvert the whole existing system with the view of introducing something new and untried? He feared they were utterly irreconcilable; but he could only say, 1953 however intolerant they were of Churchmen in this matter, he had never felt the same intolerance in dealing with Nonconformists. He must say he wished, while they were so ready to discover points of difference when it was a question of sending children to school, they would be a little more consistent when they asked, as they usually did, for assistance to help to build, their own schools. He would read to the House a short note which he received some time ago from a Wesleyan minister in answer to a letter on the occasion of applying for a subscription, because it was a fair illustration of the sort of feeling which Nonconformists in general entertained on the subject—a feeling which was natural, and which he did not in the least object to. He was asked for a subscription to a Wesleyan school in his own neighbourhood, and he gave it as a matter of course. He asked the minister to be so good as to inform him what was the principle on which the school was conducted, because he understood that Nonconformists in general professed something unsectarian and undenominational and liberal in their Church principles. In the reply the minister said—Allow me, in the name of the committee of the Wesleyan day school, to thank you for the cheque which you so kindly enclosed, and, in reply to your inquiries about the management of the school, to say it will still be conducted under the general direction of the Wesleyan Committee, sanctioned by the Lords of the Privy Council on Education. It will be supported by voluntary contributions, and partly by Government grant, with instruction given by the teacher, and an occasional address by myself, without interfering with the time for secular instruction.The Conscience Clause, he added, was strictly followed, and the instruction embraced Bible lessons and the Wesleyan catechism. "Beyond this there was nothing distinctly denominational, except the name of the school." Now, he would venture to say, from his knowledge of Church of England schools, that this was precisely the description which he would, give, as a Churchman, of the management and the character of the religious instruction adopted in these schools. He might mention the case of a small town near which he lived. There were three schools in the town; there was one under his own management, one a National school, and the other a 1954 British and Foreign school. They were all excellent schools. There was no dispute between the managers of these schools and the parents. Not long ago a poor woman, who was a Nonconformist, complained that her child, who was sent to the National school, was obliged to learn certain hymns to which she objected. She had remonstrated with the clergyman, who refused to allow the child to receive any religious instruction without learning these hymns. But the mother did not on this account send her child to the British and Foreign school. She sent her child to the other Church of England school, and the clergyman there very properly allowed the child to receive religious instruction without learning the hymns, and the child thus received religious instruction suitable to his age without being sent to the Nonconformist school. One practical illustration was worth 50 arguments, and he mentioned this case to show that there was really no religious difficulty, These remonstrances were got up for Party and political purposes. And unless you were prepared to disestablish the whole of the 10,000 or 15,000 Church of England schools in this country, making them purely secular schools, he did not see how they could deal with people who were so unreasonable. Strictly speaking we had no denominational schools, because the timetable clause, which was insisted upon by the Nonconformists as the only conscience clause which would afford them the protection they required, really converted every school after a certain hour in the day into a purely undenominational and secular school. Dismissing the religious question, he came now to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella). The Prime Minister the other day stated that this House was remarkable among other things for a dislike of logical legislation. The Bill now before the House, and the way in which it had been met, was a fair illustration of that truth, for truth it undoubtedly was. The hon. Member (Mr. Mundella) met the Bill, not by a direct negative like that of which the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Dilke) had given Notice, but by saying that it was desirable to import something into it which he did not explain, referring the House, instead to a Report which no Member was bound to go into the Library and read, 1955 and which 500 Members certainly would not read. If the hon. Gentleman specified the recommendations of the Report which he desired to incorporate in the Bill they might then he considered in Committee; but the House could not with propriety be asked now to pledge itself to recommendations which were not so specified. In the Report a whole string of measures were recommended for the compulsory education of factory children; but though these measures might be expedient for the particular purpose for which they were recommended, it did not follow that they should be imported into a Bill of this kind. It was an illogical way of meeting the Bill; and he could not help referring to what seemed a growing evil—the custom of meeting the second reading of Bills by abstract or semi-abstract Resolutions, instead of by direct negatives, which enabled one to say "Aye" or "No" on the question. It was an ingenious way of catching votes, for if Members opposed the Amendment it might be said that they objected to the recommendations of the Commissioners. Now, he did not object to those recommendations, but he did object to the attempt to foist them into the Bill in this way. As to the question at issue between the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mundella) and the Vice President of the Council, it appeared to be very much a question of words. He could not help feeling that the noble Lord had been rather unjust, not only to children and parents, but also to himself in the particular form in which the measure was framed. Undoubtedly if sub-section 1 of Clause 7 were carried out in his parish he should make it a direct mode of compulsion. The question of direct or indirect compulsion was very much a question of words. In the one case you said—"You shall do this or that." In the other case the parent was told—"Your child shall not earn sixpence a week till it goes to school." Clause 7 did more than this, because it empowered the local authority, if it pleased, to send the child off to school. At the same time, he should have been better pleased if there had not been this apparent concession to the feelings of unwilling parents, and if a more direct mode of dealing with the subject had been adopted. He did not approve the system of waiting for parishioners 1956 to apply to Boards of Guardians in order to exercise the powers given to them under the Bill. The children meanwhile were much in the position of the children in the parable, who sat in the marketplace and complained that while they piped their companions would not dance. So might our children say—"We have compelled you to build schools for us, but you don't compel us to go into them." The ratepayers had a right to complain that they were taxed for this purpose, whether they liked it or not, while parents were allowed to send their children or not, as they pleased, into the schools thus compulsorily built. From his experience as a county magistrate, he was bound to say that he did not find the great difficulty which was sometimes supposed to exist among parents about sending their children to school. The greater difficulty was in securing regular attendance on account of the many temptations to children to stay away. Much firmness on this point was required on the part of the schoolmaster and the managers; and, indeed, the great desideratum just now was strict supervision by managers and thoroughly efficient schoolmasters and schoolmistresses. As to the body to which these functions were to be delegated in rural districts, the Board of Guardians seemed to be the only authority which was really available. The hon. Member for Sheffield said that the county magistrates did not care for education, which he believed to be a very unjust imputation upon them; but if you had an election in rural districts the very people elected to act in this capacity would probably be the working committees of the schools, including, the parson, the squire, and one or two other gentlemen. It was to be regretted that the Bill did not provide for securing the services of ladies who took an interest in carrying on schools, because, as far as he was aware, ladies were not eligible as members of Boards of Guardians. ["Yes."] At all events, it was not the practice to elect them in that part of the country with which he was best acquainted. If his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield or any other Member had Amendments to move which would remove defects from the Bill, he would do well to bring them forward subsequently; but he hoped that much more time would not be consumed in discussing the principles of 1957 the measure, on which they were all substantially agreed, or in offering any serious opposition to the Bill going into Committee.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
said, that a great deal had been said about Scotland, and it seemed to be the opinion of some hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House that because they had school boards in Scotland they ought to be satisfied. He could not say from his experience—which was somewhat extensive, as he was connected with different parts of the country, and had been chairman of a large country school board for three years, and had lately been re-elected—that all what was expected of these school boards had been fulfilled. There was a great deal of trouble, turmoil, and confusion in the election of the members of the boards, and a great deal of unnecessary expense in the machinery employed. ["No."] The hon. Gentleman might say "No, no;" but he thought in his part of the country that he had as much experience as anyone else in the matter, and if he had time he could bring forward facts in the case to satisfy hon. Members. From his own experience, the men who were appointed on the school boards came from all parts of the country, were not always elected on account of their previous knowledge of education, and of some it had been said, they could hardly write their own names. He alluded to this as showing that though it was not the rule, many were elected who could scarcely be considered fit persons to be entrusted with the care of the education of the people. As regarded himself, he in his official capacity had been fortunately circumstanced, but numerous complaints of the system had been made in all parts of Scotland, and he could not say that school boards had given such universal satisfaction in that country as hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to imagine. There was a difficulty in getting good men to act on the boards, but a still greater difficulty in getting good men to take any interest in matters of education. "What was everybody's business was nobody's business," and the result of the school board system was, that the education in Scotland was not as sound as it was, neither in developing the higher branches, nor from a religious point of view. It was true that in Scotland there was a general feeling 1958 that compulsory attendance ought to be strictly enforced. It had been said—"If it can be enforced in Scotland, why could it not be enforced in England?" But it should be remembered that for the last 300 years—since 1494—compulsion had existed in Scotland, and it was therefore no new thing in that country, not that he implied by that statement that it had been the rule, for the Act passed by the Estates in 1494 confined compulsory education to one class—that was, the nobles—and it had long been obsolete; but there could be no doubt that, whether engendered by the spirit of that old Act or not, there was a strong feeling in the minds of the people of Scotland before the Act of 1872 was passed, that education ought to be made compulsory, so the Government of the day had experienced no difficulty in insisting on the principle of compulsion. While expressing his general concurrence with the present Bill, his chief object in rising to address the House was to express his sincere regret that it contained no clause with regard to religious education. He was certain there would be no difficulty in carrying it out if it were passed. The Bible ought to be read in every school that received money or aid from Parliament, and if it was kept back it would be denying to the agricultural labourer that which would not only teach him to elect his legislators, but which would teach him to live so that he need not fear to die. It was not the working man either of Scotland or of England who objected to the Bible, and he held that unless they inserted a clause in the measure on the subject of religious education they should not be faithful to their trust as Members of Parliament. The only objectors to the proposal would be the members of that party in the House known as the Birmingham School. Hon. Members ought, in his opinion, to be very thankful to the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter), for having in so straightforward and so truthful a manner answered the Nonconformist memorandum which had been referred to. He (Mr. Stewart) was not advocating denominational teaching—little children did not trouble themselves about doctrine; but they should be taught their duty to God and man, on which surely they were all agreed. He trusted there would be no strife or angry feeling 1959 upon what every right-thinking person must agree in heart, for if religion was to be taught it should be well taught. It should be put on the same footing with other branches of education. It could be easily taught, few failures would take place, and good payment would follow. At that late tour he would not further detain the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Kay-Shuttle worth.)
§ MR. FAWCETT
wished before the Question was put, to complain of the manner in which the debate been conducted on the part of the Government. He had been a Member of that House for over 10 years, and he believed it to be a thing absolutely without precedent that a Bill of such importance should have been discussed during an entire evening, and yet that no Minister should have condescended to reply to the remarkable speeches which had in more than one instance been made against it. For his own part, he begged to give Notice that if a similar course were adopted when the debate were resumed, and no Member of the Government rose until it was about to be wound up, he should move that it be again adjourned, in order that he might have an opportunity of replying to whatever the Government might have to urge against the objections taken to the Bill.
§ MR. DISRAELI
There is one speech from an hon. Gentleman opposite which will receive a reply to-night, and that is the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. One more unauthorized or unfair I never heard. The hon. Gentleman referred to his Parliamentary experience—not of very great duration—and says there never was an instance known in which a debate was conducted as this has been to-night. I say, from my own experience, which is not inferior, I believe, to that of the hon. Gentleman, that with Bills of a similar character to this the same course is invariably taken. Why, the measure was introduced by one of the Ministers in a speech of considerable length, in which my noble Friend entered into all the principles and most of the details of the question, and we have naturally a wish to hear the opinion of both sides of the House. 1960 That is invariably the custom under circumstances of this nature. We have not attempted to curtail the debate; we have thrown no obstacle in the way of its adjournment; and we shall be prepared at the proper time to take our part in the debate. The hon. Gentleman, who is always dictating to the Government how we are to conduct the Business of the House, gave a solemn warning of empty threats as to what he he will do unless we pursue a course which is agreeable to himself. He says we have not answered the speeches of several distinguished Members who have spoken. One reason why we have not done so is that some of those Gentlemen answered themselves. He says that the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) ought to have been answered, and also the right hon. Member for Edinburgh University (Mr. Lyon Playfair). Any observations we may have to make upon their speeches will be made in due time. But the right hon. Member for Edinburgh University answered in a great degree the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield. We have been listening critically to the remarks of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House on this great question of national education, and it is only by that attention that the Government can become acquainted with the feeling of the House. It is a very common complaint—one which is well founded, but one which is inevitable—that the opportunity is not given to many Members of this House who wish to address it of doing so. That is an inconvenience arising from the great interest now taken in Public Business, and the number of Members who wish to take part in it, and in an important question like this it seems to me that the House ought to have ample opportunity for discussing it. It has had to-night an opportunity of that kind. The debate will be continued, and I trust concluded, on Monday, and, unless the hon. Member who has just addressed us brings forward any very original views which may perplex the Government, we shall, in relation to the observations and suggestions which have been made, offer our opinions to the country and to you, Sir.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I do not pretend that my Parliamentary experience rivals that of the right hon. 1961 Gentleman who has just sat down; but I should have supposed, had I not heard otherwise from such high authority, that the course taken this evening by the Government is somewhat unusual. A course somewhat similar to this was taken some few nights ago on the occasion of the discussion on the second reading of the University of Oxford Bill, and although on that occasion a statement was made by a right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench, no right hon. Gentleman afterwards thought it necessary to rise and answer the arguments addressed to the Government from both sides of the House. Now, it is somewhat singular that very nearly the same reason was discovered by the Government on that occasion for the course they took as that of to-night. When the Adjournment of the Debate was moved the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that no Member of the Government had risen to answer the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) because, in the opinion of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman had answered himself. Now the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) has borrowed, which is not his usual custom, and which I was rather surprised to hear him do, the argument of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in saying that it was not necessary to answer the arguments which were advanced on this side because several of the speeches answered themselves. Well, Sir, that is a matter of opinion. No doubt it is extremely satisfactory to the Government that the debate should be so conducted that we should either answer ourselves, or one another; but it might perhaps have been more advisable if some Member of the Government had taken the trouble to point out in what respect we have answered ourselves or answered each other. But I am not disposed to take so serious a view of the conduct of the Government as my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney. If they think this a fitting way of conducting a debate, I am sure I am not desirous of contradicting that opinion. I can only assume that this is a subject of great importance, and that they are not anxious that it should be brought with undue haste to a conclusion, and that we ought—all of us—to express our opinions in the course 1962 of a debate from which they admit they are gaining very much instruction as to the mode in which they should treat the Bill. I presume that after the debate has been conducted for a few hours more they will be able to form an opinion on the measure, and that some right hon. Gentleman sitting upon those benches will be prepared to rise and give expression to that opinion. The only conclusion I can draw at present from the silence of the Government is that they think this debate well worthy of long and protracted discussion, and that if they think it proper to pursue the same tactics as they have done to-night on another evening, they will consent to yet another adjournment to another evening.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday next.