§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [22nd June], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words," this House is prepared to amend the present system by which remission of school fees is obtained through the Poor Law Guardians by parents who cannot afford to pay the fees, but declines to accept a measure which, while it throws on the general taxation of the Country the whole cost of elementary education of children whose parents can afford to pay a part
of the cost, and imposes a largo additional burden on the Country, does not secure any increased educational efficiency, and is a source of danger to the continuance of voluntary and denominational schools under which the majority of the children of the Country are now educated,"—(Mr. Bartley,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ *(4.10.) VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)
When the hour for the Adjournment of the Debate arrived last night I was expressing my regret that this question has become a burning question. I do not believe that there is any spontaneous desire on the part of any body in this country to be relieved of the payments of school fees. There are very few cases in which a real grievance exists, but as I pointed out last night, for the purposes of politicians, the question has been brought to the front, and we are called upon to deal with it now. My hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) says that the passing of the Bill will be a breach of principle, that the best policy is to allow the parents to have complete control over their children, and to do that which they believe to be for their children's good. If my hon. Friend had been speaking in 1870, I should have attached considerable weight to his views; but now-a-days the authority of the parent is considered to be of no importance. He is not even allowed to determine at what age his children shall begin to work. I quite admit the importance of the question raised by my hon. Friend, but the most important point is the authority of the parent, and not his liability to pay a fee. Even in regard to that liability we have gone a long way already. At present the State or voluntary agencies pay three-fourths of the cost of education. We have increased the cost of education from 30s. in 1870, to 40s. in 1891, not at the expense of the parent, but at the expense of the State or voluntary subscriber. The increase in the cost of education from year to year is open to exactly the same objections, and yet the hon. Gentleman has approved and supported this increase. It cannot be said that under the Bill the 1218 parent would pay nothing at all for the education of his children, because he would actually pay the considerable sum lost through the loss of his children's labour. When compulsory education was first established, it involved a great risk to the voluntary schools, and a breach of principle to a much larger degree than does the Bill before the House. The Bill proposes to transfer a portion of the sum which the parent now pays, and to add it to the sum paid by the State. I think it is legitimate, therefore, to draw the line where the payment of the parent is to end and that of the State to begin at the point which would best suit the interests of the voluntary schools. My hon. Friend the Member for North Islington contends that the transference of payment from the parent to the State is a great breach of principle; but I think he must sec that a great deal of his complaint is really sham principle. The parent pays already but a small portion of the cost of education. We do not deceive him. If we have deceived him hitherto the Debates in this House will soon undeceive him; and I do not think my hon. Friend will save his political soul by resisting the payment of the last fourth. I cannot go with my hon. Friend in saying that the proposal in the Bill is a great breach of principle. Indeed, it appears to me that there is very little novelty in the principle we are asked to endorse. The point of view from which we on this side of the House ought to look at the Bill is this: The compulsory education which was established in 1870 and 1876 involved considerable risk to the existence of voluntary schools, and it involved a breach of principle in a much larger degree than the present Bill. The attitude which supporters of the Government must adept is one having regard to the interests of the voluntary schools alone. The efficiency of these schools has been attacked; but it is forgotten that they minister to the wants of the poorest and most ignorant of the population; and that they naturally cannot on that account produce the same percentage of passes as the Board Schools. But the voluntary schools are popular with all ranks and classes of society, because they are economical and because they are religious; and therefore appeal to 1219 the two leading sentiments in the English mind. Having placed before the House my position as regards the interests of the voluntary schools and discarding what I believe to be sham principles in this matter, I would like to consider for a moment how this Bill affects the interests of the voluntary schools. Undoubtedly, one of the elements which we must consider is the attitude of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton (Sir G. Trevelyan), in his speech last night, was extremely triumphant. He evidently thinks that the day of the voluntary schools is over, and he looks forward to a sort of millennium which is to consist of universal Board Schools. The right hon. Gentleman is a Member of a Party which was always looking forward to the triumph of the Board Schools. They did so in 1870, and they were wrong.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
This is the second time that the noble Lord has referred to me. I must remind him that so little did I look forward to the triumph of Board Schools in 1870 that I resigned because I thought the Bill of 1870 would give them what was very far short of fair play.
§ *VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
I was not a ware of that point in the history of the right hon. Gentleman. I think it is a very good point for him. The right hon. Gentleman is a great hand at resignation. But although the right hon. Gentlemen may have resigned, a good many of his colleagues did not resign. Without attempting to depreciate the right hon. Gentleman, I cannot help thinking that as hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite were completely wrong in 1870, it is equally likely that they may be completely wrong on the present occasion. Although the action of the Opposition does not affect me very much, still it is worth the consideration of the Government. Indeed, under the circumstances, and after the expression of the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, I think the Government ought to be very careful in accepting Amendments which are moved on the Opposition side, while, on the contrary, they ought to be very willing to accept the Amendments which will be 1220 moved on their own side of the House. I believe the Government were right in introducing this Bill, though we cannot conceal from ourselves that a proposal which transferred the obligation of the payment of £2,000,000 from one set of people to the State, could not but be attended with considerable hardships in regard to particular schools. I, therefore, approach the Second Reading of the Bill with considerable misgiving, and I have received letters pointing out how hardly some of the schools will be dealt with in particular localities. On the other hand, if this question had remained unsettled the Party opposite might have endeavoured to destroy the voluntary schools. Popular as the voluntary schools are, I do not know whether the conscience of the people would be strong enough to resist an attack upon them supported by the bribe of free education. Moreover, the Government proposes to put considerable safeguards into the Bill, and if they are well advised, they will accept other safeguards which will be proposed on this side of the House. My hon. Friend seemed to I think that the safeguards would not be worth the paper they were written upon. It has been said that they would be swept away when the Party opposite came into office. I do not believe it. The country cares very little about popular control, but it does care about good schools, and it believes that at present the voluntary schools are better than the Board schools. I do not believe any Member opposite would raise more than a passing cheer if he were to attend a public meeting and talk about popular control. I therefore submit, with great deference, that it is the duty of the House to support the Second Reading, though I confess that the attitude I shall adept after the Second Reading will greatly depend upon the passage of the Bill through Committee. I was pleased to listen to the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty last night. He spoke in no uncertain tone, and he laid it down in an emphatic manner that nothing will induce Her Majesty's Government to accept Amendments in the direction of popular control. I hope the Government will not merely resist Amendments moved on the other side, but will favourably consider Amendments moved on this side of the House. There is one 1221 Amendment which is not only urged upon them from their own side of the House. I refer to the proposal to admit children between three and five to the benefits of the Bill, and, in my judgment, the Government would be well advised if they favourably consider that proposal. There is every probability that the Board schools will have free classes for the older children, and that they will extend the benefit to children between three and five. It will be extremely difficult in such circumstances for the voluntary schools to compete with the Board schools unless they are also made free to the younger children, and the result may be that the parents may desert the voluntary schools and send their infants to the Board schools. This, however, would not be the worst of the matter, because it appears, singularly enough, that where the infants go the older children follow; and if the infants are sent to the Board schools it will be impossible to keep the older children at the voluntary schools near by. [" Hear, hear! "from the Opposition] I am glad that hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to be pleased that I should urge this upon Her Majesty's Government, but I am only following in the footsteps of the hen. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton), who opened the Debate. I earnestly hope that, if it is possible, the Government will consider the suggestion. There is another proposal which venture to submit may be advantageously introduced into the Bill. The 17s. 6d. limit has long been regarded as a grievance bythe voluntary schools. It was considered by the Royal Commission, and the majority of the Members of the Commission recommended that it should be abolished, or, at any rate, greatly changed, while the minority expressed no dissent from that opinion. Moreover, the Government themselves in speaking of this matter have declared that it is well worth consideration and that they intend to consider it. It has assumed even greater importance now that this Bill has been introduced. I hope, therefore, that the Bill will not pass into law without an attempt on the part of the Government to deal with that subject. I presume that most hon. Members have read the Bishop of Wakefield's letter. The schools which he was contemplating 1222 were principally the 4d. schools, and he said that these schools will have to become free schools after the passing of this Bill, or, more correctly speaking, that they will be compelled to reduce their fee income from 4d. to 3d., involving a loss of 2d., namely, 1d. off the fee and, under the operation of the 17s. 6d. limit, Id. off the Government grant as well. The introduction of this Bill has made that question of double importance. What was before a grievance has now become a great grievance, and I hope the Bill will not be allowed to pass into law without an attempt on the part of the Government to deal with the question. I asked the Vice President of the Council the other day to give me a Return, showing the number of weeks during which the elementary schools are open in each year. It is clear that the proposal of the Government is founded upon some average, but whether it is annual or weekly must depend upon artificial considerations. My own opinion is that it would be better to have a weekly average than an annual one. Let me take one instance. A 3d. school is open 44 weeks. The effect of abolishing the fees will be that the managers will lose Is. per child per year, as the Government contribution will only be equal to 40 weeks' fees. How is the shilling to be made up? It may be suggested that that should be raised by increasing the fee. But that would make it necessary to descend into fractions of Id. for fees, and I do not think that would be at all desirable. There is one other Amendment to the Bill I would suggest and that is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should consent, if particular schools desire it, to pay the fee grant in to a common treasury—that is to say, that instead of paying the grant to A, B, C, and D schools separately, the sum of money shall be paid to a common treasurer, and the managers of the four schools determine among which of the schools the grant shall be distributed. The effect of that would be, of course, that among those schools some would be selected as fee-paying schools and others as free schools, for, in spite of the declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in favour of free education, the Government do contemplate the continuance of fees in certain cases. My right hon. Friend the Vice President said 1223 so distinctly. If this grouping system is adopted, it would, without costing the Exchequer 1d. extra, do a great deal to make the working of the Bill easy in the northern parts of England. I wish now to refer to Clause 3 of the Bill—the clause which I view with the greatest disfavour. I am unable to conceive why the Government should have insisted on remitting the fees in districts where there is no desire for free education. It appears to me that the matter is one for the people themselves to determine, and if they do not desire free education, why should it be imposed upon them? I should have been very glad to see words introduced into the Bill with the view either of getting an organised expression of opinion in certain districts as to whether free education shall be established there or not, or of enacting that such a period shall elapse that the people of those districts and the managers of the various schools will have time to look about before the avenging School Board is imposed upon them. All these Amendments, and there may be others, are worthy of the consideration of the Government. I have great sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington and his Amendment, but I am unable to follow him, for it appears to me that it is far more necessary to consider the vital importance of the voluntary schools and the voluntary system to the country than a particular fraction of the expense which may or may not be paid by the State. Though I shall support the Government on the present occasion, I confess that my future attitude will depend entirely on the position which they take up in the future stages of the Bill. At present I cannot pledge myself to anything further than to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ *(4.35.) SIR L. PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
We are much obliged to the noble Lord who last spoke for the information he has given as to the Amendments to be proposed in the interests of Church schools. I may tell him that anything like a full discussion of the Amendments which the noble Lord has told them will be proposed in Committee will certainly land us in a September Session, for those Amendments affect questions so large, and will so alter the character of the Bill, that a short discussion of them 1224 would be absolutely impossible. In the earlier part of his speech the noble Lord made admissions which will be freely welcomed on this side of the House, but which I fear his own friends will not thank him for having made. He told the House that free education has arisen, not from any necessity of freeing the parents from the payment of fees, but from the wicked action of Radical agitators who have gone about the country telling the parents that fees are wrong, and advising them not to pay them any longer. Now, one of the most wicked of those Radical agitators is a great supporter of the Government. He is, indeed, facile princeps in this matter with regard to freeing the schools of this country—I allude to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. Therefore, we must give him a certain amount of the credit for this wicked agitation. But the noble Lord is right—the agitation for the freeing of schools does come from this side of the House, and we are perfectly prepared to admit that on account of this agitation the great been of free education has been achieved for the country. The noble Lord has told us he will not support the hon. Member for North Islington although he agrees with him that the abolition of fees is in itself a bad and unrighteous thing.
§ *SIR L. PLAYFAIR
The noble Lord said the inducing parents to give up paying fees was a very bad thing. But we need not further discuss this question. The great majority of the House, some actively and some passively, have come to the agreement that they will give as large a measure of free or assisted education as the funds at the disposal of the country at the present moment will enable them to do. The Bill makes a large step in advance. Children under five years of age form 10 per cent. of the school-going population, but under the Bill those will not be free; the children above 14, forming I per cent., will also not be free; but 89 per cent. of the children of the country will receive benefits from the Bill either in free or assisted education. That, I venture to say, is a great advance. I am not going to make any argument on the question as to whether we should 1225 free children under five years of age, for I think the arguments of the noble Lord on that point, supported as they were by the hon. Member for Leicester, and also by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow last night, are so conclusive as to the necessity of abolishing the fees for such children that it is sure to be done sooner or later. The question with regard to excluding children above 14, however, has not been fully or properly argued. The First Lord of the Admiralty tried to answer the question last night, but the reasons he gave for the exclusion of these children were exceedingly unsatisfactory. At the present moment the question is one of small magnitude. There are only 42,000 above 14 years of age attending schools, and the small sum of £21,000 would free them all. But I shall be disappointed if, under the operation of this Bill, they do not become more numerous, especially if you give them free education. There are two classes of children who will be injured by the exclusion of those above the age of 14—first, there will be the backward children between the ages of 10 and 14; and, secondly, the children of brightness and promise above 14, who should be specially encouraged to become productive and useful citizens, but who will have the door of education shut in their faces. In order that hon. Members may understand how neglected and backward children will be injured, I may remind the House that all children of ordinary capacity, at seven years of age, ought to have passed Standard I., and should rise one standard yearly; at 10years of ago they ought to pass Standard IV. That is true as regards children of average capacity, but it is not true as regarded the common school life of the country. With regard to backward children, 24 per cent., or nearly one-quarter of all the children, are above ten, and yet remain in standards quite unsuitable to their age; 33,000 of those children above 10 who ought to have passed Standard IV. have not yet gone beyond Standard I.; 118,000 of them rare still sticking at Standard II. when they ought to have got over Standard IV., and 289,000 are still at Standard III. Thus nearly one-quarter of the whole number of children at school, even although they are above 10, 1226 are in standards entirely unsuitable to their age; and when those children reach 14, just at the time when they are beginning to appreciate the benefits of education, and most need it, they will be shut out under the Bill from further progress. As to the forward children, the children of promise, those who are likely to do credit to the country, their further instruction does not, as has been suggested, soar beyond elementary instruction, though if it did soar even into secondary education it would pay the country well to provide it. We ought to do everything in our power to induce children to remain longer in the elementary schools. Our responsibility as a nation should induce us to do that. England has proceeded on different lines from Continental countries. Abroad the principle generally acted upon has been to pay for elementary education out of local rates, and to use Imperial taxation for continuation, secondary, and technical schools. We have done the reverse; we have put the burden of elementary education upon Imperial Funds, and have left very little available for continuation and technical schools. Having adopted this course we must take the responsibility, and try to make the best of our system by pushing on the backward and encouraging the forward to make as much as they can of school life. So far, I think, are both sides of the House on common ground that when the finances of the country render it justifiable we should free the elementary schools of the country at all ages. Then arises the debatable question whether we should give such large contributions to schools when they have no popular representation on the Committees of Management. We must take things as they are, and remember that the voluntary schools form 76 per cent. of all the schools of the country. We have, therefore, a great interest in their prosperity. The State pays now, and will more largely pay when this Bill becomes law, the largest proportion of the cost of these schools. Few will deny the proposition that the increased grant of £2,000,000 to the schools of the Kingdom will entitle the State, if it makes the demand, to have some voice in the local management of the voluntary schools. The difficulty of doing this does not affect the principle. It has been 1227 met in the case of recent Imperial grants for local purposes by delegating this undoubted right of the State to Local Representative Bodies, such as County Councils. I prefer to speak of local co-operation rather than local control; and I would ask in what position voluntary schools will be if this Bill passes without securing to them local co-operation? Hitherto they have been in immediate touch with the parents of the children. The payment of the school pence made each parent a partner in the good teaching and prosperity of the school. The master and the parents were in continual touch, and the interests of both were involved in the well-being of the school. All this local interest is lost by free education. We might have to some extent restored this if the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had been adopted, that parents having children at school should be represented in the management. But the objection to this proposal is that they have neither a natural franchise nor a natural right. The Bill proposes to relieve parents from the payment of school fees at the cost of the taxpayers. Surely it is the people whom we tax, and not the parents whom we relieve that have the natural right to school supervision. The State, which has an inherent right as representing the taxpayers, might have tried to secure increased efficiency in secular education by handing over its right to Local Representative Bodies, in order to secure representative co-operation by the supervision of voluntary schools. If voluntary schools understand their true interests they will be greatly strengthened by some such representative supervision. Suppose that they succeed, as they probably will, in continuing on their present co-optative system of management, what are likely to be the consequences? They will become more and more isolated from a truly national system of education, because their touch with the parents will be annihilated, and there would be a natural tendency on the part of the people to gravitate to the schools managed by local representation. Voluntary schools will become still less schools of the people and still more schools of denominations. But the real force of 1228 education rests with the people, and not with sects. The Royal School Inquiry Commission put this tersely. Upon this Commission were some most distinguished Churchmen—the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Rochester, Dr. Thorold, Dean Hook, and the author of the 1870 Act, Mr. W. E. Forster. This is what they said—The real force whereby the work of education is to be done must come from the people. And every arrangement which fosters the interests of the people in the schools, which teaches the people to look at the schools as their own, which encourages them to take a share in their management, will do as much service as the wisest advice and the most skilful administration.I hope when the Bill enters the Committee stage that the voluntary schools will not meet the situation by a position of non possumus. There are, no doubt, many Members on the Opposition side of the House who dislike denominational schools, and will be glad to see them displaced by Board schools. But the fact exists that 61 per cent. of all the children in average attendance are within the walls of voluntary schools. This large proportion gives strength to the voluntary system, but is a strength coming from the people. Antæus, the giant, thought his strength irresistible, and so it was as long as he was in touch with his mother earth, but when he was separated from that the strength dissolved into weakness. It will soon be so with the voluntary schools, which will become more and more isolated from the people. There is now an opportunity to continue their connection with the people. Many persons at present would be satisfied with general supervision instead of control. If this is refused the demand for local control will become irresistible. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech on Lord Sanden's Act in 1876, said—He believed that in the long run popular feeling would declare itself against the compulsory attendance of children at denominational schools and the support of such schools by public money.I agree with my right hon. Friend that this would be the ultimate result if voluntary schools continue in an isolation which is much increased by the freeing of schools. But the danger will be much less if voluntary schools obtain in some way or other local supervision 1229 by representative men interested in promoting the education of their district. I consider it absolutely certain that fee-paying and free schools cannot long subsist side by side, and that, before long, all schools will become free. This would not go on with the rapidity that it has done in Scotland, where only 15 schools have refused the fee grant and stayed outside it, and only 41 continued as fee-paying schools. You say you are now following the Scotch plan in giving free education to the people. You are doing nothing of the kind; you are involving yourself in entirely new principles. There was one difference between the Scotch Act and this Bill which obliges us to give careful consideration to its provisions. The Scotch Act only established the principle of freeing the compulsory standards, leaving the detail to be worked out by the Scotch Code as an administrative act of the Education Department. But here you are not laying down the principle of free education. You are endeavouring by statutory provisions in this Bill to endow all the schools in the country, good and bad alike, in a way which cannot be altered without getting a new Act of Parliament. You are instituting a new method altogether, and it will be our duty in Committee to watch carefully the provisions of the Bill, because you are stereotyping all your educational provisions in one Act of Parliament. The simple manner in which the Scotch plan works is seen in the fact that, without coming to this House at all, the Scotch Education Department has, by a Minute of three lines, changed the compulsory standards into free education between the age of 5 to 14 as provided in this Bill. But we can do nothing of that sort without passing a new Act of Parliament. What will be the effect of the fee grant on voluntary schools? What is a voluntary school? So far as I understand it, a voluntary school is an association of individuals who have agreed to support a school by subscriptions in lieu of rates. Am I right? If that is the definition, there are 1,176 schools in this country which have not a penny of subscriptions, and therefore these schools are not voluntary in any sense, except that they have hitherto received voluntary fees, or fees from the children who attend them. But in future 1230 these 1,176 schools will receive all the fees from the State, and they will not give a penny of subscriptions. They cease to be voluntary schools, and they become entirely State schools; and can we expect the taxpayers to treat these as voluntary schools without bringing them under any supervision of the State or any delegation made by the State to look after them? There are, moreover, a large number of schools with low fees and low subscriptions that will come under the operation of this Act, and will dispense with their subscriptions altogether and will not require them. It is true that in the case of many of these voluntary schools the school itself has been built by voluntary subscriptions. That is an interesting historical reminiscence, but it is not past history, but present participation in the national system of education which makes it a voluntary school. If those schools continue as part of the school system of this country without effort to meet State grants by voluntary subscriptions to increase their educational efficiency, it is the duty of this House to impose conditions on the new grant fee. To endow such non-subscription voluntary schools with State money and leave them independent of State supervision is a pure anachronism. They are not the only schools which will become State schools and lose all voluntary character. Schools depending now upon a very small amount of voluntary rates or voluntary subscriptions may be reduced to the same level as the 1,176 schools which at present have no voluntary subscriptions. Such are the numerous schools now charging between Id. and 2½per week. These have at present some kind of local management derived from the subscribers to the voluntary rate, who are sometimes of a different denomination from the school, and yet serve on the Committee of Management. In many cases the voluntary subscriptions are small, and might be dispensed with altogether if the surplus between 3d. per week allowed by the State and the 1d. or 2d. hitherto charged were allowed to be applied as the school managers choose. I have examined the statistics of Welsh schools to see in how many cases national and other schools charging less than 3d. per week, and with subscriptions less than 5s. per child 1231 in average attendance, may in future dispense with such subscriptions altogether, and become pure State schools. My Welsh friends will excuse me if I find that my Saxon tongue will not adjust itself to the pronunciation of Welsh names, but if I could pronounce them I could give some curious instances. I can pronounce Brecon, so I will take it as an example. There are three national schools there having 141 scholars, who pay £49 in fees, while the local subscriptions amount only to £8. According to the Bill, these schools will get £70 in fee grants. They will actually make a profit of £13 on the whole cost of the school, after paying the subscriptions of £8, which will probably disappear altogether. Now, take the whole of the Welsh schools having a fee of less than 10s. and subscriptions less than 5s. per child. Nearly one-fourth of the Welsh school children are in such schools. They are 129 in number, containing 20,943 children, who pay £7,558 in fees, while the subscriptions and endowments amount to £2,622, or about 2s. 6d. per head. These schools will receive in fee grants under this Bill about £9,500 for the children between 5 and 14. The endowments of these schools included in the subscriptions are £248. So if I deduct these, the cost of the schools by fees and subscriptions is practically the same as that which will in future be paid by fee grants, so the subscribers may keep almost all the subscriptions in their pockets. Now, when one finds that the Bill will or may act in this way by endowing voluntary schools so as to convert them into State schools entirely supported by public taxation without the need of one penny of subscription, can the Government be surprised that the taxpayers think there should be some local supervision of such schools to see that they are carried on with efficiency and in the general interests of the locality, or, failing that, that there should be provisions for applying the surplus to increased efficiency in education? About 57 per cent. of all the scholars in England pay less than 3d. weekly, and therefore in all these cases there will be a surplus between the actual fees and the fee grant. The amount of this surplus has been estimated at £250,000. Is this large sum to be devoted to in- 1232 creased efficiency of education or to the purpose of lowering school rates or dispensing with voluntary subscriptions? If it were used for either of these purposes, the effects upon education, and, I believe, the effects upon voluntary schools, would be disastrous. Where schools are in a high state of efficiency, such as a good many of those in Birmingham, in London, and some other towns, an argument might be raised for applying the surplus to the reduction of rates which produces the efficiency. The same argument might be applied to cheap schools of high efficiency when that is procured by a liberal use of voluntary subscriptions. But there should be assured efficiency as a condition precedent to the use of the surplus at the will of the managers. There is no legal definition of what constitutes an efficient school, and, I think, therefore, it would probably be best to give to the Education Department the power to determine by the Code the conditions under which the increased efficiency of the school should be determined before the surplus of the fee grant should be at the disposal of the managers. This would be following the lines of the Scotch Act, which does not stereotype every detail in an Act of Parliament. An efficient school has no right to make profit out of the surplus; and efficient schools would probably use it in the improved education of the district. But higher feed schools, again, do not indicate higher efficiency. The Reports of the Inspectors as to the structure, fittings, and education of some of the high-feed denominational schools in Lancashire are deplorable. Some are described as "dingy old sheds," others as being as antiquated in fittings as schools of 40 years ago. The pupil teachers are neglected. Mr. Coward, speaking of this neglect in denominational schools in Manchester, says—It is a matter of wonderment to me that ecclesiastical leaders do not take the matter in hand with earnestness, and remedy what is, in truth, a great evil, and will come soon to be regarded as a scandal.Now, this Bill provides not a single condition for increasing the efficiency of such schools, but endows them largely with State money. I am aware that the Vice President of the Council said in his opening speech that a greater obligation 1233 will be thrown on the Department to enforce improvements and to deny the plea of poverty in the future. But we are about to endow such schools by Act of Parliament, and they may snap their fingers at the Education Department. It is a far wiser thing to leave the framing of the conditions of the grant to the Department as under the Scotch Act. This Bill does not provide one single line or clause to secure efficiency. Now as to infant schools. Though children under five will have to pay school pence and receive no benefit under the Bill, all those above five will have the fee grant. That involves no educational danger as long as the children are under seven years. At that age they should have passed Standard I., and should be in schools for older children preparing to pass Standard II. at eight years of age. There are no less than 239,000 children above seven years in infant schools who ought not to be there at all. There should be no motive to keep them there. But will there not be a motive when infant schools got nearly £120,000 of public money for scholars who it will be their interest to retain? There are two specific questions which I desire to ask the Vice President of the Council, and to which I hope he will reply in his final speech. First, whether the system of pauper school fees paid by Guardians is to be continued in schools still fee-paying when these are the only schools in a district; and, secondly, whether there are to be free places in all such schools? Clause 3, which gives power in certain cases to increase school fees, may either be very dangerous or very useful. If it is intended to give a latitude to the Education Department to increase fees on their own volition, when they have been either abolished or reduced by the Bill, it is a power which no Department of a Government should possess, because it will be subjected to great pressure, and will enable the Department to abrogate the intentions of Parliament with regard to free education. I hope that clause will be much modified in Committee. While criticising the details of the Bill I have no desire to obscure its merits. In its present form, even without alteration, it is an immense step in the progrees of national education. It establishes in fact a new era in education. It will give to four-fiths of the children at school free 1234 education, and assisted education to one-fifth. It will encourage parents to educate their children in higher standards, instead of contenting themselves with a thin veneer of knowledge which is rubbed off in the wear and tear of life. It is the duty of both parties under these circumstances to favour the Bill and to give it full discussion, and no factious or opposing discussion, even in Committee. I think a full discussion in Committee will tend to diminish sectarian jealousies. In my opinion, if we can induce the voluntary schools to accept local supervision, and attach themselves to the interests of localities, the effect will be to diminish sectarian rivalry and secure increased efficiency, which is so much required at the present moment in the country. But, at the same time, I would uttera warning to hon. Members opposite, as the noble Lord uttered a warning to this side of the House. He said, "I am a friend of the Second Reading just now, but I may become an enemy if you do not accept the Amendments that will be moved from all sides of the House in order to strengthen the voluntary schools." So far as I know, where voluntary schools exist, our purpose is to make them efficient, and to bring them into touch with the people by means of popular supervision, but we do not wish to destroy them. If, however, you are going to pass some of the Amendments threatened from the other side of the House, and the effect of which will be to isolate voluntary schools, and strengthen them because they are sectarian schools, you may turn our support into opposition. We therefore hope you will pass the Bill with such reasonable Amendments proposed from either side of the House as will carry out the object of giving free education to the people, of promoting the education of the people, and not with the view of either strengthening the voluntary or the Board school system.
§ (5.22.) MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercrombie)
The noble Lord near me said he would assent to the Second Reading of the Bill in order to move Amendments which would make it acceptable. If all the Amendments that would make it acceptable are to be moved we shall certainly be here till November. Having fought the Election of 1885 in the belief that the 1235 principles of our Party were principles that would not be departed from, it is a matter of great regret to me that the Government should have introduced this Bill. The Bill is said to be a simple and a brief one. Its simplicity, to my thinking, chiefly consists in getting rid of one great difficulty—the payment of fees—and starting other difficulties equally great. Its brevity consists in bringing about a revolution such as we have not had for 20 years in the matter of education, and in omitting to touch the great question of the 17s. 6d. limit, which the friends of the Government have been attacking for many years past. I object to this Bill because I do not think there is any real popular demand for it. If there he such a demand, how is it that for years past we have never had a petition from any recognised body on the subject? When there is a real popular demand for a reform we never fail to receive, month after month, sheaves of petitions asking the House to grant it. The Government ignore the recommendations of the minority of the Royal Commission on Education, who, without prejudging the question of the propriety of the payment of fees, affirmed that there was no way in which the fees could be abolished, and, at the same time, the voluntary schools supported. Those who signed that Report are not, like the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Forrest Fulton) persons who have only a partial knowledge of education, but men who have spent the greater part of their public life and private leisure in dealing with these questions. When eight or nine gentle men who have studied this question append their names to a Report to the effect that we cannot preserve voluntary schools and at the same time remit the fees, it seems to me the Government ought to have thought twice or thrice before they introduce legislation of this kind. My constituency, and indeed the whole of Liverpool, is deeply interested in this matter. I speak with no half-knowledge, and I am informed that there are no less than 51 voluntary schools at Liverpool which will lose £160 each if this Bill passes. While in the past the people have cheerfully paid for the good education that has been given, it is very unlikely that voluntary subscriptions will make up for the serious deficiency 1236 that under any circumstances must be caused if this Bill passes. In Liverpool this Bill will really cost the voluntary schools a sum of £8,241 a year, judging from the fees now paid. Assuming that one-half of this £8,000 continues to be paid, there is still one-half to be met out of voluntary subscriptions. Therefore, it is of very great importance that this legislation should not be driven through without the fullest consideration of the House. I desire to draw attention to the way in which the Bill is being pressed forward, and to remind Members that before a couple of months are over the managers of schools in a great city like Liverpool are to make up their minds which of their schools are to be sacrificed. There are 29 free schools in Liverpool, but they are nearly all in the poorer districts, and the result will be that in order to prevent the erection of new beard schools, some of the voluntary schools that now receive the high fees will have to be sacrificed. I feel this point of the question of time very strongly, and am very much inclined to raise the question in Committee so as to get the date altered from September next to January, 1892. I object to this Bill, not merely because it injures the voluntary schools, but on the grounds upheld by Professor Fawcett in the House long ago, with the approval of the great majority of the Members. I object to £2,000,000 of public money being unnecessarily handed over by the State to be spent by the people for any purpose. We have seen how the London School Board has squandered public money for many years past, and I do not think that private individuals or bodies are likely to spend the public money with greater care. In fact, public money is nobody's money, and, therefore, we ought to be very careful before we give more public money to be spent. I do not agree with the argument that, because education is compulsory, it must be free. If that argument must be followed, we should also pay for the clothing and the food of the children. I believe, too, in maintaining the self-reliance of the parents. It gives parents an interest in the children's education if they have to pay their fees, and there is nothing to show that, if the State paid the fees, the attendance at school would be improved. Free schools have 1237 not always been a success. In the State of Massachusetts weekly fees were remitted in a district, and within five years a high authority, Mr. Brisson, wrote that there was in that district an increasing number of idle and vagabond children, and that non-attendance was the bane of the schools. I think it is altogether preposterous to say that doing away with the fees will procure good attendance, and that the magistrates will convict parents more readily in the future. This form of relief is only another form of outdoor relief, and I think we ought to be very careful about voting any money which would sap the independent action of the parents, and do a great deal towards injuring the body politic. If the Government think that attendance will be greatly increased, why do they not propose to pension off the school attendance officers? But they make no such proposal, for they know perfectly well that they would not save one shilling in that respect by conceding the non-payment of fees. I approve of the Amendment suggested by the hon. Member for Darwen (Lord Cranborne), and would further urge that there should be a quarterly payment of the grant. I am quite in favour of the age for the fee grant beginning below five. I have felt very keenly the production of this Bill. It is uncalled for, even for a coalition Government to saddle on a Party, and I believe it will do no good for the cause of education or for the individual parent, and will not produce the attendance of the child, without which education will be incomplete.
§ (5.35.) MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)
I am sure the agricultural labourers of East Anglia will thank the Government for bringing in this Bill. I recognise the honest straightforwardness of the hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Bartley) and of the hon. Member who has just sat down, but I hope it will not be thought that any great number of the Ministerialists are giving a grudging support to the Vice President, and as a humble Member of the Party I thank the Government for having persevered with their proposal. It is all very well to say that the working classes have not asked for the Bill, but the agricultural labourers in East Anglia, who have families to support on low wages, wish 1238 for relief from school fees. I do not know exactly what constitutes the danger to the voluntary schools. There may be a danger to sectarian influence, and nothing more shows a sense of weakness than the fear that the giving of free education to people would weaken the hold of any religious sect which has stood the test of warfare for centuries. Where a clergyman is able to say he is on good terms with all his parishioners, there is little risk of injuring even a Church school by a measure of this sort. I shall not object to the fee grant being given in respect of scholars over 14. Compulsion should not be extended over that age, but if parents elect to keep children above 14 at school they ought to be encouraged to do so. I thank the Government most heartily for what they have done, and I hope that they will persevere. Whether or not the measure will gain votes for them at the next election is not a matter of primary importance; the fact remains that we have done something for the working classes. The Young Conservative Party has been courting the working classes for five or six years, and has asked them to join the Primrose League and workmen's clubs, with the promise that their interests should receive attention. I congratulate the Government on having had the pluck to bring the Bill before the House, and I hope that every hon. Member will, as far as the main principles of the Bill are concerned, give the Government every assistance.
§ *(5.40.) MR. T. ELLIS (Merionethshire)
It is a very welcome note to hear that, at least, one hon. Member on the opposite side of the House approves the Bill under consideration. The noble Lord the Member for Darwen looked upon the Bill as an odious necessity, the hon. Member for Liverpool denounced it root and branch, and the tone of the First Lord of the Admiralty showed what the attitude of many Members of the Government is towards the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Scotch Members extorted a free education scheme from the Government at the point of the bayonet, and it is evident that in treating with England and Wales the Government have simply acted on the principle that discretion is the better part of valour. The Government were 1239 afraid that a Liberal Ministry in a few years would offer free education, not as a financial boon, but as a great measure of educational progress, and they are now endeavouring to buttress the voluntary schools and to prevent any local control from being extended over the public money granted to those schools. The Vice President of the Council frankly admits that he brought forward the Bill not as an electioneering measure, but as an educational measure, and he confessed that it was his five years' experience at the Education Department which had made him change his mind on the subject of free education. I am glad that my hon. Friends have not taunted hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House with violation of their election pledges, because such a course would have been rather futile. I believe the measure to be justified on the ground of social justice, apart from educational grounds. Relatively to their income, the working classes contribute more to Imperial Revenue than any other class, and it was only fair in the matter of education that they should as soon as possible receive a grant from the Imperial Exchequer. The parents will also be relieved of a heavy burden which presses upon them at the time when it is most difficult to be borne. I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who has ransacked the vocabulary of abuse in describing the burden of school fees, but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that this "odious, oppressive, and abominable tax," will still remain in many parts of the country after the passing of the present Bill. The tax is cruel, according to the right hon. Gentleman in Birmingham, where the school fees only amount to 5s. 5d. in the year; but in Preston and Birkenhead the fees amount to 15s. 5d., and there the tax will be as oppressive after the passing of the Bill as it was in Birmingham before that event. It is deplorable that this grant of £2,000,000 should not have been accompanied by two guarantees. First, the guarantee of local popular control; and, secondly, the guarantee of increased educational efficiency, and the better equipment of schools. It is idle to say that in 1240 education any more than in any other Department of the State local control does not secure greater efficiency. Every Blue Book published by the Education Department proves that popular control increases efficiency, whether regard is had to average attendance, to equipment of the schools, to the percentage of passes, the success of evening and of higher grade schools. I regret that in this Bill the Government have not followed the precedent they set in the Local Government Act. No one would have consented to the grant of £5,000,000 for local purposes contained in that Act without some provision for local effort and local control. Looking to the vast issues bound up in education, is it not much more important that the people of every locality should be interested in the-management and the success of the elementary schools of the country? In those countries where education is most successful the result is largely due to the fact that the people take a great interest in educational matters and enjoy local management of the schools. Mr. Fitch, who was sent to report on the educational system in the United States, said—One great safeguard for the continued and rapid improvement of education in America is the universal interest shown in it by the community. Everywhere there is manifest an eager, almost a restless, desire to effect improvements and to try new experiments.In Switzerland, the model educational country of the Continent, there is no subject which takes a larger share of public attention than the condition of the schools. In the Canton of Zürich 97.5 per cent. of the children of all classes attended the primary schools. The rich and the poor sit together in the public schools, because the teaching and management are so excellent. The words of the Vice President, in reply to questions in this House, and the words of the Royal Commission on elementary education, prove conclusively that there is very little interest taken in the elementary schools in those districts where there are no School Boards, and where interest is shown, but too frequently the clergyman refuses to accept the co-operation of parents or others interested in education. The Commissioners in their Report say— 1241The management practically falls into the hands of a single manager, most frequently the clergyman of the parish,and the Vice President of the Council, in reply to a question put to him the other day, admitted that the Education Department find it most difficult to secure any real interest in education in the non-School Board districts, and I think he must ascribe it to the fact that there is no representation of the parents or of the ratepayers, or of the taxpayers. In England the system is absurd enough, but in Wales it is still more absurd. It is absurd from a mere educational point of view, and it has been made more absurd by the passing of the Intermediate Education Act of 1889. Under that Act the whole of the secondary and technical education in Wales will be completely organised, will be made popular, because it will all come under well organised popular control. There will be a Local Body managing each school, there will then be a County Authority to manage all the schools in the county, over and above that there will be a Central Board for the whole of Wales, supervising the work of the County Governing Authorities, and over and above the three Authorities there will come, of course, the Charity Commissioners and this House. In that respect, therefore, our Intermediate Education will be organised on the best possible basis. But, although the secondary education will be thus organised, the elementary education, which is still more important because a much larger number of people are affected, will be completely unorganised, the schools will be isolated, efforts in them will be ill-directed, and the mass of the people will not be allowed to take much interest in the management of the schools. We sometimes hear that it will be difficult to secure the supervision or the co-operation of the representatives of the taxpayers. I think the precedent set in the case of intermediate education can very well be followed in regard to this Bill. The Duke of Newcastle's Commission on Education recommended that elementary schools in any county should be supervised by the County Board or Council of such county as soon as it be established; and I find that two or three educational authorities who gave evidence 1242 before the last Royal Commission on elementary education, notably the late permanent head of the Education Department—Mr. Patrick Cumin and Lord Lingen—and I think Lord Sandford agrees with them—are of opinion that in order to organise these schools and to encourage an increase in the efficiency of isolated elementary schools, especially in rural districts, we should call in the intervention of the representative Body which has been set up by this Ministry in each of the English and Welsh counties. This has been done with admirable success in regard to intermediate education in Wales. We were dissatisfied with the mere isolated schemes of the Charity Commissioners, and we have taken in hand the organisation of the schools. The Education Department is going to make certain regulations with regard to the disposal of this money; why cannot they do fee elementary education what the Charity Commissioners have been compelled to do with regard to intermediate education? The initiative in drawing schemes of intermediate education lies with the Local Authority, but the schemes cannot become valid until they are sanctioned be the Charity Commissioners, and finally by this House. It seems to me we have just the machinery in Wales which will enable the Education Department to get done for elementary education exactly what has been done for intermediate education. That machinery is the Education Committee of the County Councils; our Education Committees are composed of three members of the County Councils and two members nominated by Her Majesty's Government. What are these five gentlemen enabled to do? Hitherto they have been able to examine in to the whole needs and requirements of education in every Welsh county. They have not only been able to examine into the needs of intermediate education, but they have examined carefully into the relation between elementary education and intermediate education in each county. They have practically finished their work, and are now at your disposal to carry on the good work of organising elementary education. [An hon. Gentleman: no, no.] Whatever may be the feelings of the hon. Gentleman with regard to the English 1243 County Councils I hope he will not oppose our demand that the Welsh County Councils or Education Committees may be allowed to do the work I have referred to. Supposing the Government were to countenance such a proposal as I make, what would they do in Wales? They would enable the vast mass of the people to take a real interest in the organisation of elementary education; they would immediately give a vitality to the management of each school; and they would be able also to make arrangements for the better equipment of elementary schools. I believe that very soon we should see established throughout all our rural districts evening schools and a large number of advanced elementary schools. As it is we in Wales have only a certain number of advanced elementary schools under three or four of our large School Boards. They are doing magnificent work, and it only needs a little initiative and a little help from some large supervising body like the Education Committee to do similar work in very many other parts of Wales. You may say that the money which is granted now will be needed in Wales, as in England, merely for the remission of school fees. That is not so. The right hon. Gentleman has fixed upon 10s. as the average fee, or the sum that would be equivalent to the average fee. Taking England, without London, the Board Schools now receive fees equal to 9s. per child, the voluntary schools receive in fees 11s. 2d. per child, so that the average is about 10s. But in Wales the Board Schools receive in fees 7s. 10d. per child, and the voluntary schools 8s. 5d. per child. If, therefore, you take the limit of 8s. 6d. for the remission of fees, you would have at your disposal 1s. 6d. per child with which to-secure greater efficiency in elementary education. The average attendance of children between 5 and 14 in the counties to which the Intermediate Education Act applies is 200,000, so that the amount accruing to Wales under this Bill will be £100,000, whereas £85,000 will be enough to open all the schools. What is to be done with the remaining £15,000? Is it to go towards a smaller reduction of rate, or towards making so much voluntary subscription unnecessary? I think in the interest of education that would be a grave mistake. If 1244 you gave to the Joint Education Committees a power of drawing up regulations with regard to the disposal of this money, they will be able to allot it so as to obtain increased efficiency of the schools, to provide better equipment and to start evening schools, and what was still more important, advanced elementary schools. Not one of these purposes was inconsistent with the purpose of the Bill. I hope the Vice President of the Council will give to this suggestion a favourable consideration. Since I have made the suggestion in a perfectly friendly tone, I am sorry I have to refer to a matter which I am afraid will bring me into controversy with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite; it would, however, be unfair to my constituents and to my country if I do not bring it forward. From 1870 we in Wales have considered that schools heavily endowed by the State, and managed solely in non-School Board districts by the clergymen, inflict a great wrong upon Nonconformist children, parents, and teachers. They inflict a great wrong upon the parents because the parents are not allowed any voice whatever in the management of the education given to their children. You may say, "Why not set up voluntary schools of your own?" We do not want to set up sectarianism in our education. We prefer that education should be completely national in the broadest sense of the term. Again, you may say, "Why don't you establish School Boards? "We cannot do that. We are bound by the regulation of the Education Department, and, I believe, by the Act of 1870, that so long as there is in any parish sufficient accommodation in any Church school, no other school can be set up. Therefore Nonconformists, in parishes where there happens to be a Church school, are debarred from setting up a free Board school. Then it is a great wrong upon Nonconformist children. It is bad enough in England that Nonconformist children should have to attend Church schools, but in a majority of the parishes in England, Nonconformists are in a minority, and you have enacted a conscience clause. In Wales the Nonconformists are in a majority, and the only school in a large number of parishes is a school belonging to the Church of England. These schools are used now 1245 for proselytising purposes, and it is a distinct wrong that such a state of things should exist. There is a still greater-wrong to Nonconformist teachers that they should be debarred from securing either a pupil teachership or an assistantship, or a teachership in any of the non - School Board parishes where their co-religionists are in a distinct majority. I think that such a state of things is a violation of the spirit of the Act of 1870, and certainly it is a distinct violation of the declaration of Mr. Forster, who, in introducing the Act of 1870, said that a public elementary school was a school that was efficient and suitable. What did he mean by efficient and suitable? By efficient he meant good buildings and good teaching. As it is, there are a large number of rural schools in Wales, as in England, that are not good buildings. They come up to the description which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary gave of some of the schools in Lancashire—stuffy. What did Mr. Forster mean by suitable? He said, "suitable to the particular religious views of the children." I say that sectarian schools, in parishes where Nonconformists are in a great majority, are distinctly unsuitable to the children. Now, I was astonished to hear the noble Lord the Member for Darwen (Viscount Cranborne) declare last night that certain Nonconformist ministers came up from Wales and appeared before the Royal Commission. What for? In order to ask for increased efficiency of the schools? No. In order to say that Wales approved of the Conscience Clause, and that the Nonconformist ministers actually taught their flocks to say what a splendid thing the Conscience Clause was.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
The Nonconformist ministers I referred to did not belong to Wales. I did not say they urged their flocks to take advantage of the Conscience Clause, but that they let the children go to the schools, and let them, without any remonstrance, take advantage of the religious instruction given.
§ *MR. T. ELLIS
According to the report in the Times—I think it was a very full and accurate report—the noble Lord said—Nor did the Welsh Nonconformist ministers themselves who appeared before the Commission 1246 make any complaint on the subject; on the contrary, they asserted that they would not even suggest to their flocks that they should in any degree complain as to the religious teaching which is given by the Church in the schools.
§ *MR. T. ELLIS
I was struck when the noble Lord said Welsh Nonconformist ministers came forward, and I ventured to interrupt him and to ask him for the names. He told me very courteously that he would point out the names in the Report. Since last night I have gone through the three volumes of evidence given before the Royal Commission, and I find that not only did Nonconformist ministers not suggest anything to their flocks, but they did not appear before the Education Commission; not one Welsh Nonconformist minister appeared before the Commission. There was put in evidence a resolution passed by one of the denominations, strongly protesting against any further grant of public money to denominational schools unless they were placed under efficient popular control, and a layman (Mr. Morris), who was questioned by various members of the Royal Commission, said—We do not want denominational education its existence is a distinct injury to education in Wales.So that the Welsh Nonconformist ministers appearing before the Commission to bless the Conscience Clause are myths, and the Welsh witness who gave evidence on this point distinctly said that Wales did not want denominational education. The late permanent head of the Education Department said that the Conscience Clause is only a thing on paper in England. He said—" You may have any number of Conscience Clauses, and they will not be of the slightest use." If that is so in England, it is certainly so in Wales, and we protest, and shall continue to protest, against the farce and mockery of the Conscience Clause as applied to Wales. I ask hon. Members opposite how they would like to reverse the position of the rural schools in England. Suppose that the only school in the 10,000 parishes where the only school is a Church school were a Baptist, or a Primitive Methodist, or a Salvation Army school. Would the Established Churchmen 1247 of this country like to have their children sent to such a school? I am certain hon. Gentlemen would not allow such a state of things to continue for a year. I maintain that the present condition of things in Wales is not only wrong and unwise but unfair, and it is on the score of unfairness that I ask you to alter it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has from time to time said that the nonconformists have a great grievance in this matter. At Denbigh, on a memorable occasion, he referred, in burning words of reproach and anger, to the sufferings which have been inflicted on the Nonconformists of Wales, and to the wrongs they still suffer; and yet now he is found supporting a scheme which will do much to strengthen the position of the voluntary schools of Wales, and to fasten still more closely the yoke of clericalism upon the neck of Welsh Nonconformists. It is to us a keen disappointment that after the right hon. Gentleman should have come into Wales to sympathise with us as Nonconformists, he should now prove himself so completely obdurate to our request that he will not help us to remedy the very state of things which he condemned. His words were these—To my mind the spectacle of so-called National schools turned into private preserves by clerical managers, and used for the exclusive purpose of politics and religion, is one which we ought not to tolerate.But not only is the law tolerating it, but the Government are shovelling out public money in order to sanction it. I should like to refer to a statement made last night by the First Lord of the Admiralty. He asked—and I think that was the very pith of his argument—how could voluntary schools be put under popular control when the managers will still remain responsible for the expense of the school. Let the House examine this argument. How far are the managers responsible? The voluntary schools of England and Wales at the present time are maintained at an expense of £1 16s. 4d. per child. The sum provided by subscriptions averages just over 6s. per child, so that for every 2s. subscribed voluntarily, 11s. is contributed out of public funds. It is easy, then, to gauge the extent of the financial responsibility of voluntary school managers. 1248 Suppose that in asking for local co-operation on the lines laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Leeds the clergyman refuses to allow any of his parishioners to have a voice in the management of the school. Suppose that he says, instead of accepting their assistance," I will shut up the school," will the parish in consequence be deprived of its education? Certainly not. It will in such a case be-only right that the 30s. per child, now paid out of public funds, should be handed over to a school to be managed, by the ratepayers, who would, of course, have to find the remainder of the money required for its maintenance. We are told that voluntary schools are necessary in the interests of the nation and of definite religious teaching. I say that if people want definite religious teaching, if they want to teach the Catechism or religious formula?, if they want to teach such a Catechism as one of my hon. Friends drew attention to recently, a Catechism which says it is a sin to go to chapel, and that as Jesus Christ never went to chapel it would be unwise for children to do so—if teaching of that sort is wanted in the schools, then the persons asking for it should be willing to pay for it. In France and in America sectarian teaching is provided for in schools which the hon. Member for Salford and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade have denounced as private adventure schools. Schools in which the Roman Catholic religion is taught have been denounced as private adventure schools. I repeat that if people deem distinct religious teaching to be a primary necessity, it is only manly and fair that they should pay for it. They are only really voluntary schools. I should like to ask the Vice President of the Council a question with regard to this Bill—with regard to the future working of the fee system in. schools in which fees may be charged in the future. The first Lord of the Admiralty last night stated that there was much to be said against the proposition, that the Government should pay fees for children over 14 years of age. As a rule, these children were the children of the better-to-do ratepayers who could afford to let them stay at school. Now, I find on looking at the Bill that only an average fee of a 1249 certain amount can be charged. Now, may it be charged in some standards and not in others? May Standards II., III., and IV. be freed, while, when the child gets into the higher standards, the fee is clapped on? If so, in making such an arrangement you are doing what has been done in Scotland; you are inducing parents to withdraw their children from school as soon as a fee is charged, and you are placing a distinct disability on the children of the poorer classes. I quite agree in this respect with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham when he says that to charge higher fees in the higher standards is to discourage and handicap working class children. "The idea," he adds—gains currency that cheap education is good enough for the poor man's child, and that anything better must be reserved for those of a superior class. I object to such a cruel and insolent doctrine.Now, it seems to me that in making this additional grant of £2,000,000 for educational purposes care should be taken that the children of poor parents should have an opportunity of being educated in the higher as well as in the lower standards. I thank the House for the indulgence it has extended to me. I am precluded from moving the Amendment which I have placed on the Paper with reference to the Second Beading, and which, I frankly admit, does not go so far as my Welsh colleagues and myself desire, but I should like to remark that the Amendment is put down in no spirit of hostility to the Bill. Hon. Members on this side of the House think that the only fair and durable principle of action in this matter is that public money should not be given for local purposes unless it is accompanied by popular control. The Amendment is put down in a friendly spirit to the Bill, as a fair and practical suggestion, and the object is simply to obtain perfect fairness for the non-School Board districts in Wales, and for the teachers, parents, and children. We hope, and confidently hope, that the Government, having gone so far in their good work with regard to this Bill, will go a little further still and help to organise elementary education in Wales on as popular and as satisfactory a basis as they have already allowed the Welsh 1250 people to organise intermediate education. If they consent to do this, the measure will not only be a great boon to Wales, but it will distinctly make for local freedom, and for the completion of our national system of Welsh education.
§ *(6.41.) MR. W. HAYES FISHER (Fulham)
I think the speech we have just listened to constitutes a valuable contribution to this Debate, as also was that able and argumentative speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Leeds, who demanded first that the Government should take care to secure increased efficiency in the elementary schools in which the grant of 10s. exceeded the amount now received from fees. I join in that demand which I believe to be generally made on both sides of the House, and I hope that the Vice President, in endeavouring to attain this object, will pay close attention to manual training and to special class subjects of a practical nature, such as laundry work, cookery, and elementary instruction in the principles of agriculture. I agree also with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Leeds that it would be wise to include children from three to five in the operation of the Bill. I own that I have been affected by the bitter cry of the outcast babes, and I think it is greatly to our interest to induce parents to send children to school at this age instead of allowing them to roll in the gutter outside their own homes. Having had not a little experience on Committees which deal with applications for the remission of school fees, I well know how, often the excuse is made, that elder children are kept at home to mind the younger one. We ought, as far as possible, to deprive parents of this excuse for the irregular attendance of children at school. I am a strong advocate for parents keeping their children at school as long as they possibly can, but I do not think as good a case has been made out for the free education of children over 14 years of age, as of those between three and five. I think that parents, if they cannot afford to keep a child at school after he is 14 years old, should send backward children to the continuation school. I fail utterly, however to see how the door is slammed in their face because the limit is fixed at 14. The parent of a child of 1251 14, supposing he is attending at a 6d. school, has saved £9 during the time the child is between 5 and 14, and having saved that sum, the parent can very well afford one sovereign, which would cover the child's education for one more year. I am one of those who opposed free education in 1885, but I did so always on the ground that it was brought forward by gentlemen who had manifested openly a design to destroy the voluntary schools. At the same time, I have constantly admitted in the speeches I made the social argument in favour of free schools; I have constantly said the cause of education generally would gain by free schools. I cannot say that I am at all impressed with the argument that the independence of the working man will be undermined by giving him a contribution of one-fourth more to the education of his children. We are three-fourths socialistic already in this matter. In our Imperial and Municipal system there is an ever-increasing flow of socialistic blood, and I cannot see that the national character is in any way deteriorated in consequence. If I thought that the Bill of the Government would do injury to the voluntary schools, I should go into the Lobby with the hon. Member for North Islington, but I am persuaded the contrary is the case. They will really be in a stronger position to meet the attacks which must inevitably come from the secularising section of the Radical Party. Naturally the agricultural labourer is not impervious to pecuniary considerations. He would have been told by hon. Members opposite that he had only to vote for a School Board and he would get his children educated free. The 6d. a week which the labourer often pays in school fees represents one-fortieth part of his income, and the saving of that outlay would have proved a strong inducement to him to vote for the Board school as against the voluntary school. The Government by their proposal have removed this pecuniary lever from the hands of hon. Gentlemen opposite and have placed voluntary schools in a better position than they were before. I am told by some of my friends that the other side never would have carried this question to the detriment of voluntary schools, because the Roman Catholics never would have supported 1252 them. Well, I was in the House when the remarkable transaction took place between the right hon. Member for Newcastle and the hon. Member for West Belfast with reference to Roman Catholic education, and I must say that my respect for the right hon. Gentleman, which was considerable, received a rude shock when he made that infamous compact with the hon. Member for West Belfast. [Murmurs from the Opposition Benches.] If that word gives offence I will withdraw it, but I still think it was a very unfair compact to make with one who was supposed to represent the Roman Catholic schools. Let me take the case of Arundel, in Sussex, where the population is fairly equally divided, and where there are two schools, one supported by the voluntary subscriptions of the Roman Catholics, and the other by the voluntary subscriptions of members of the-Church of England. In such, a case as that, if we are to have popular control by a body elected by the ratepayers, I want to know whether hon. Members opposite think it fair that the Roman Catholic ratepayers should have the power to elect Representatives who would have the control of the Church schools, whilst the ratepayers belonging to the Church of England should have no power to control the Roman Catholic schools. I think that this question of popular control is one which my right hon. Friend should not entertain in any shape or way. I should not object to some form of popular control if brought forward by gentlemen animated by the spirit of the hon. Member for South Leeds, but I know that the popular control intended will be brought forward in. the interests of the political Nonconformists, and I feel sure that such popular control would not lead to increased educational efficiency, but to increased religious inefficiency. I shall, therefore, resist any Amendment towards maintaining popular control. I am perfectly prepared to support any measure which would give a more efficient form of education in our rural parishes, but that would not be gained by any form of popular control yet submitted to the consideration of the House. I repeat, that by this Bill voluntary schools will be placed in a far better position than they now hold; and when my hon. Friends who are opposed to the 1253 measure come further to consider it, I believe that, while they praise the Vice President for his general educational policy, which has done so much for the education of the country, they will not heap upon him or upon the Government any blame for a measure which, while promoting the cause of education generally, will help to perpetuate the voluntary system, which in the past has worked so well.
§ *(6.58.) MR. DIXON (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
I wish to state one or two reasons why the privilege of free education should be extended to children over 14 years of age. We, in Birmingham, have had considerable experience of the education of children above 14. There is a school there to which only children can go who have passed the sixth standard, and those children are invited to remain there for one, two, or three years, until they have learnt a sufficient amount of science and drawing to enable them to become better workmen in the trade to which they may be called. We have found from experience that a large amount of good has been obtained from that school, and we have received letters from some of the children, after they have left the school, expressing gratitude for the excellent education they there received, and the magnificent situations they had been enabled thereby to obtain. What will be the consequences if children over 14 are not allowed to have their education free. The parents, if they are to be charged high fees, will not allow the children to remain at school after they have attained the age of 14. Parents may think less of the advantage of sending their children to school, and more of the advantage of sending them to work. But it seems to me that it is the duty of the State and of educationalists to protect children against the poverty or selfishness of parents, and if under this Bill we make all our schools free irrespective of age, we can effectually do this. But if it be not done, then some School Boards will decline to charge fees below 5 or above 14, throwing the cost of so doing on to the rates, and the result will be that as voluntary schools cannot afford to lose the fees, they will find that their children below five will be transferred to the Board schools, and, once admitted, 1254 they will remain there during the whole of their school life. I know this means the expenditure of a large sum of money, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer may say we have not got it. Well, I am not the Chancellor off the Exchequer, and cannot divine the means by which that difficulty may be overcome; but so important is it that it is worth almost any sacrifice to make the measure a complete measure, instead of an incomplete one. One other point I would call attention to is the desirability of taking care that the money saved by the managers of schools where the fee hitherto charged is below the 10s. fee grant should be devoted exclusively to perfecting the system of education. It may be, I admit, difficult for any ordinary Member to frame a clause which will gain that object in a satisfactory manner, but that is the office of the Department, and I hope the Vice President will frame such a clause, and make it part of the measure. It may not be necessary to explain everything in such a clause, it may be sufficient to declare the object and require the Department to carry it out; but do let it be understood what our intention is. There are strong reasons why those who have supported denominational schools, and who would not for a moment tolerate a Bill of this kind if it were really prejudicial to the interests of those schools, should ask the Government to introduce a clause of this kind. As was intimated last night, we are noticing very carefully and minutely whether voluntary subscriptions are in creasing or diminishing, and it was said by an hon. Member, speaking from this side of the House, and I think with truth, that these subscriptions since 1876 have declined 15 per cent. If that be true, then the argument based upon the fact is that the claim of voluntary schools for separate and private management has so far become weaker; and you may rely upon it that, exactly in proportion as the voluntary subscriptions decrease, so will the claim for public control become stronger and stronger until it is absolutely irresistible. The result of this free grant will probably be to still further diminish subscriptions in many parishes, and I warn hon. Gentlemen opposite that they may be playing into the hands of their opponents, 1255 and providing a weapon that will go far to destroy voluntary schools. I therefore hope the right hon. Gentleman will take that into consideration and find sufficient support to enable him to introduce such a clause, which has, indeed, been recommended on both sides of the House. It will appear from these remarks that my object is to strengthen voluntary schools, and to prevent anything being done which may in any way weaken them; but I have always been a very advanced educationalist. It is not I who look with horror at the vanishing of voluntary schools—not at all; but I do say this, that, in the interests of education, it would be far better that the money saved from the payment of fees should go to the improvement of these schools than that it should go to the relief of the voluntary subscribers. That would be a scandal, and I therefore call attention to this as an important matter. It is to me a source of the greatest satisfaction, not only that the Government have acquiesced in the principle of Tree Education; not only that they have brought in this Bill, which excites the greatest admiration, but because it is a Bill which carries out the principle on lines that invite the least resistance. So far as we can judge from the Debate, the Bill has only opposition from the hon. Members who moved and seconded this Amendment. I do not wonder at this, for the Bill carries out the principle in a way that does the least injury to any interest. I do not say it does no injury, for it is impossible to introduce such a change without affecting some school in some manner; but I say it affects them pecuniarily to the least possible extent. I am thankful to the Government for their effort, and trust it will be successful. I treat this question of free schools as one quite apart from, and distinct from, the question how the schools shall be governed. Unquestionably, I prefer public control to private management, and I have always done so; but I separate the two questions, and am content to let the question of public control wait until a later period. It is not possible at this time of the Session, and, indeed, it would occupy a large portion of any Session, to discuss with the care they deserve, all the many questions that arise in regard to elementary education. Let us 1256 take them one by one. This one is completely dealt with, and I venture to say that the effect of carrying this measure will not be in any way to prejudice the hopes and aspirations of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who believe so strongly in public control of free schools. I thank the Government for this important measure. The sum of £2,000,000 is a large one, but the question is one the importance of which is not overestimated by the largeness of the amount. The experience we have had in Birmingham has shown that when we gave, as we did to a larger extent than almost any other town, free orders to children we did not thereby diminish the attendance or decrease the interest in education, but we had a larger attendance and greater results, and the same will be the case when this measure comes into operation.
(7.15.) MR. FARQUHARSON (Dorset, W.)
I am glad to have the opportunity of expressing my entire satisfaction with the principle of the Bill. I cannot help thinking that if the hon. Member for North Islington and others who represent large urban constituencies thoroughly understood the conditions of life of the agricultural labourer they would be sorry to say a single word to hinder the passage of the Bill. I do not think hon. Members realise the fact that during the winter months many a farm labourer has to subsist on 10s. or 12s. a week, out of which he has to clothe and feed his wife and children. This, surely, is enough for him to do with his scanty resources without having to find the weekly pence for the education he is forced to give his children. It has been done I know, but at what cost? A reference to the Reports of the Prison Commissioners will open the eyes of some Members of urban constituencies. It will be found that while for the past 10 years convictions for offences generally have fallen, convictions for offences against the Education Act have risen from 40,000 to 80,000 annually. With the greatest effort these men have been enabled to pay the school pence. The amount demanded may seem small to artisans in towns, but it is an intolerable burden to the farm labourer under the hard conditions of village life, with long families and low wages. When the Bill becomes law, I believe it will be hailed 1257 in agricultural communities with the greatest satisfaction. At the present moment farm labourers scarcely believe what advantages they are going to receive under the Bill; but when they find that at the most pinching period of their struggling life, when they have a young family to support, they receive what is equivalent to an addition of 10 per cent. of their wages, I am sure this will be hailed with the greatest satisfaction. Possibly there is some slight danger to the interests of voluntary schools, but it is small indeed. A very great danger there will be to voluntary schools if the agricultural labourers and poor artisans find that the supporters of voluntary schools have stood between them and the free education of their children. The danger, then, will be 20 times as great as any half a dozen Bills of this character can cause to voluntary schools. I have great pleasure in supporting the Bill, and I have the more pleasure because in a recent measure I opposed the Government. I support the Government entirely on this occasion, and congratulate them upon the courage with which they have brought the Bill forward.
§ *(7.20.) MR. SUMMERS (Huddersfield)
With great pleasure I support this Bill, which describes itself as a Bill for the purpose of making further provision for assisting education in public elementary schools in England and Wales. I congratulate the Government on having produced such a Bill, and hon. Gentlemen opposite on the intention many of them have announced of supporting it. There are many stages in conversion, and I was particularly delighted to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Gray), because he, I think, went further than any other hon. Gentleman who has spoken from the other side. He said, and said truly, that sects and religions, whatever they might be, Roman Catholic, Church of England, or any of the various forms of Dissent, must stand or fall upon their own merits. That is an admirable principle, and I hope to live to see the day when the hon. Member will support it by voting for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England. There are other Members on that side who do not go the length the hon. Member for Malden has gone, who screw up their 1258 courage to the point of supporting, "assisted" education, but who hesitate at "free" education. But "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Whether you call it an "assisted" or a "free" education Bill, I for one heartily support the principle, and shall give my vote cordially for the Second Reading. I congratulate hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on their conversion. There is the fullest evidence of their having undergone the process. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, when introducing the Bill, made such a frank confession of change of opinion that he has disarmed all criticism. I will not throw it in his teeth on this occasion that he has changed his mind, but we know he has, for it stands recorded in his election address, dated November 12, 1885—I am opposed to the proposal for free education, as upsetting the arrangement and settlement of the Act of 1870, which has produced such good results.The right hon. Gentleman has told us what has led to his conversion, namely, his experience at the Education Office, and in introducing the present Bill he gave several good and admirable reasons in favour of the principle of free education. But all Ministers have not been so communicative as the Vice, President of the Council. There is, for example, the Post master General. In his election address to the Cambridge University, he explained his position on the subject of free education.With regard to free education," he said "while I should be ready to remit school fees in any case of extreme poverty, I cannot see the justice of providing education gratis to those who can pay for it.Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us, in the course of this Debate, what it is that has led him to regard as being just to-day what he denounced as unjust some half a dozen years ago. Then there is another right hon. Gentleman who has taken a prominent part in connection with this subject—the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the General Election of 1885 the right hon. Gentleman was one of the stoutest opponents of that unauthorised programme in which free education held a very prominent place. The right hon. Gentleman did not content himself with a general denunciation of the un-authorised 1259 programme—he went specifically into the subject of free education. Speaking at St. Leonards on September 18, 1885, he said—As I am anxious that the individual should not be lost sight of in favour of substituting local authority upon every possible occasion, so I wish to maintain, as strongly as possible, the sense of parental duty. I do not believe," he continued," that education will be fostered by the free system, nor am I convinced that in countries where it exists more value is placed on education than is placed upon it here, and I am not prepared, at the present moment, to accept the arguments on the other side."In love," it is said," it is well to begin with a little aversion." I suppose it was on this principle that the right hon. Gentleman made love to free education six short years ago. The right hon. Gentleman recently told a meeting of the Primrose League at St. James's Hall (May 29) why he now supports free education, though he still disbelieves in its principle. The thing, he said, is inevitable, and it had better be carried out by a Conservative than a Liberal Government, because the Conservatives would be more tender than the Liberals in dealing with the voluntary schools. Can this be the same Mr. Goschen who, in August, 1876, spoke and voted against the Third Reading of Lord Sanden's Bill, and in doing so used these memorable words—He believed that in the long run popular feeling would declare itself against the compulsory attendance of children at denominational schools, and the support of such schools by public money?That is an admirable statement of the position of the Liberal Party on the question, but the right hon. Gentleman has been keeping bad company of late, and has, as a consequence, sadly deteriorated. We find he is going completely to change his attitude towards Board schools and voluntary schools respectively, and, perhaps, he will give us a little more fully in the course of the Debate the reasons that have led him to this change. Whatever the motives that have actuated hon. and right hon. Gentlemen we rejoice at their conversion. We are told that joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance. In the same way we rejoice more over the conversion of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite more than we do over the host of Liberals and Radicals led by such 1260 men as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who have been preaching what we hold to be sound doctrines on this subject any time you like to mention during the last 20 years. We start, then, on this firm ground, that free education is now the accepted policy of the two great Parties in the State, and, therefore, it is not any longer necessary to argue in favour of that principle in any detail. It may, however, be desirable to indicate the heads of some of the arguments on which the advocates of free education have relied. I place first, as being most important, the argument that it will improve attendance at school by removing all obstacles to the attendance of the very poorest children. High educational authorities tell us that the children of school age constitute one-fifth of the population, and that the number of school places to be provided ought to be at least one-sixth of the population. On this basis we ought to have in England and Wales 5,800,000 (one in five) scholars on the register and 4,800,000 (one in six) in average daily attendance. As a matter of fact, we have not 5,800,000, but 4,800,000, on the register; and, instead of having 4,800,000 in average attendance, we have only 3,700,000 in average attendance at school. In other words, there ought to be at least 1,000,000 children in our public elementary schools who are not found there at the present time. Will free education help us in this matter? I believe that it will, and in support of this contention I will give hon. Members the experience of other countries. Take, for example, what has happened in the Kingdom of Prussia. The obligation on parents in Prussia to send their children to school from the age of 5 to that of 14 was established by a general regulation in 1763. We find, however, that that obligation was not really enforced. It was not till 1869 that the Municipality of Berlin resolved to make, from the beginning of 1870, the instruction in it communal schools gratuitous for all scholars. In 1869, before the introduction of free schooling, the Municipality had 49 communal schools, with 31,752 scholars. In 1885 it had 146 communal schools, with 132,889 scholars. 1261This," says Mr. Matthew Arnold," is a sufficient answer to the question whether school attendance has increased or diminished since the abolition of school fees.Then Mr. Arnold goes on to deal with the case of Switzerland, and he shows that there also the making of education gratuitous has led to improvement in the attendance of the children. He says—To the question whether the attendance at school has increased or diminished since the instruction was made gratuitous, I can give no answer so complete as a confrontation of the numbers at present actually attending the town school of Lucerne with the number attending 15 years ago. They are now 3,300; they were then 1,500.The same thing has happened wherever free education has been introduced. It has led to an increase in the attendance of the children at school. It has happened in America, though, no doubt, in some parts of that country the attendance is not so good as in others where fees are still exacted. If any hon. Member will read the Report of Bishop Eraser, late Bishop of Manchester, as to the effect of the introduction of free education into America, I think he will find that there also the general rule applies that after its introduction there was a great improvement in school attendance. But we need not go to foreign countries to form a just opinion of this matter. It may not be within the knowledge of all hon. Members that there are already some free schools in this country. There is, for example, a free school in Manchester, and another in London, and we are able to compare their working with that of schools where fees are still exacted. The Manchester Free School is a school for the children of very poor parents, and the result is most remarkable. Out of every 100 children who are on the books, 98 attend regularly, and of those all but one in every 100 pass the examinations. In London there is a free Jews' school, and in it are about 2,000 children, all belonging to very poor parents. In this school no fewer than 94 out of every 100 on the books are in average attendance, whereas the general average for all England is not 94 per cent. but only about 77 per cent. And then we can appeal to the experience of Scotland. Scotland is always in advance of England on educational matters. Well, in Scotland there has been 12 months' experience of a 1262 system of free education, so far as the compulsory standards are concerned. The Reports of the School Inspectors show what has been the result—The relief of fees," says one Inspector, "has already increased the attendance of young children at many schools, even to the extent of causing difficulty in the matter of accomodation.Speaking of the swelling numbers enrolled, another Inspector writes—This increase has taken place markedly in the infant department in all schools, especially since free education came into force, and the need of extending the accommodation for this portion of the work will, ere long, force itself upon the School Boards.Wherever we look, then, we find that free education has been followed by great improvement in the attendance of children at school; and if there were no other reason in favour of this Bill than that, I, for one, should heartily support it. The first and principal argument in favour of free education is that it will cause 1,000,000 more children to be in school every day than there are there at the present time. This would be enough to convince me that it is high time that the inhabitants of the United Kingdom should have the same advantages in this matter of free education that are already enjoyed by the Swiss, the Canadians, the people of the United States, the Swedes, the Austrians, the Italians, the Danes, our neighbours the French, and our cousins at the Antipodes. That, in my opinion, is the principal argument in favour of free education, but it is not the only argument. Another argument that may be used on behalf of free education is this: that children in large centres of population will be enabled to attend the schools most convenient to their homes, and not, as very often happens at present, have to trudge a considerable distance to find a penny or twopenny school. Then, again, I believe that this Bill will render a proper administration of the compulsory attendance clauses possible. At the present moment we know, from the Reports of the Factory Inspectors as well as from the Reports of the Education Department, that the Education Act is to a largo extent a dead letter in some of our rural districts. The School Attendance Committees will not prosecute, or the Magistrates will not convict, and when fees are abolished it will be much easier, it seems to me, to 1263 enforce the compulsory clauses. There is another argument that is sometimes used in favour of the Bill, namely, that it will remove a serious hardship from the parent who finds the payment particularly oppressive just at that time when the rearing of a family makes the heaviest demands upon his scanty purse. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham laid particular stress upon this point when he went about the country denouncing the school fees as an "odious and abominable tax." I confess I am not disposed to attach quite the same importance to this particular argument as the right hon. Gentleman did, and the late Mr. Bright, the House will remember, by implication rebuked his colleague in the representation of Birmingham upon this point—I think," said Mr. Bright, "as a mere burden upon parents, the payment of 1d., or 2d., or 3d., whatever it be for a child for his week's education, is not a burden from which conscientious parents ought to shrink. That is my view, because, after all, I suppose there are very few labourers' families who pay more for the education of their children in a Board school than perhaps a quart of beer in a week, and I think that parents have a duty to their children whether or not the law is disposed to enforce that duty.I think there is great truth me that, but still there are many parents who do not do their duty to their children in the way of education, and, therefore, we come to the conclusion that in the interests of the children themselves we ought to abolish school fees. Another, and I think a stronger, argument in favour of free education is, that it will sweep away another pressing hardship, namely, that experienced by the indigent parent whose child requires fee-remission in a voluntary school. In such a case the Board of Guardians is, under Lord Sanden's Act, the remitting authority. There is nothing in the Bill which proposes to abolish Section 10 of Lord Sanden's Act; but we are led to understand that the Bill, when passed into law, will have the effect of severing the present objectionable connection between education and pauperism. Now, having laid down some of the arguments in favour of the principle of free education, I go on to say, let us apply that principle thoroughly. The whole case for free education may be summed up 1264 in a single sentence, which is this: "It is in the interests of education itself that education should be free," and the next proposition is this: If we are to set up a system of free education, let us do it in a thorough-going fashion. Let us free all the standards, and not merely the compulsory standards. If we look back for a moment upon the history of public elementary education, we have every reason to congratulate ourselves, especially as regards the quantity of education given. In 1870 the number of children in our public elementary schools was only 1,000,000, whereas there are now nearly four times that number. There ought to be five times that number, but still the result, as a whole, is extremely satisfactory. But as to quality of education I cannot say so much. The Education Department themselves complain that the education of so many children of 10 years and upwards is discontinued as soon as, bypassing the prescribed standard, they are freed from the obligation to attend school, and become entitled to go to work. Then, again, the standards for partial and total exemption are extremely low. There are 160 School Boards, and 89 Attendance Committees, who have Standard II. as the standard for partial exemption, 936 School Boards, and 481 School Attendance Committees, who have Standard IV. as the standard for full-time exemption. These low standards are contrary to the law and practice of Scotland. Advantage should be taken of the introduction of the Assisted Education Bill to raise the standards of partial and total exemption at least to the level at which they stand in Scotland. The experience in Scotland is against freeing only the compulsory standards. I congratulate the Vice President upon not having repeated that blunder, but he is falling into an error of an equally serious character by proposing to limit the operation of the Bill to children between the ages of 5 and 14. The number of children under five years of age on the registers is as many as 471,445; the number of boys and girls over 14 on the registers is, on the other hand, only 42,134. If the Bill passes in its present shape this latter number, small as it is, will be still further reduced; but if, as I trust will be the case, the Bill is 1265 amended in Committee by striking out the words "under fourteen years of age," the number of boys and girls over 14 in our public elementary schools will, I believe, be very considerably augmented. The First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord G. Hamilton) last night used two arguments against freeing from payment boys and girls of over 14 years of age. He said, first, that parents of such children could afford to pay for them; and, secondly, that he objected to what he called grafting secondary education on to elementary education at the expense of the taxpayer. On the first point I notice that he is in conflict with the hon. Member for the Edgbaston Division (Mr. G. Dixon). But assuming that he is right in his facts, and the parents could pay, the argument proves too much, because a great many of the parents of the children between the ages of 5 and 14 could afford to pay also. As regards grafting secondary on primary education, I was in hopes that we should not have heard any speeches from the Benches opposite against extending even the secondary education of this country, and I would remind the noble Lord that in this matter he is distinctly at variance with the President of the Board of Trade (Sir M. Hicks Beach). That right hon. Gentleman, speaking at Cirencester on September 18th, 1885, said—If you establish free education in our elementary schools, you must in common justice go further; you must make higher education and secondary education free also to all who wish to avail themselves of it.I trust then, Sir, that in Committee these limitations will be removed and that we shall free children of all ages in our public elementary schools from the payment of fees. I come last of all to the question of popular control. I do not now intend to argue that question at any length. It will come up again in the shape of an Instruction on going into Committee. I will state very briefly how the matter stands. The cost of maintaining our public elementary schools is at the present time some £7,500,000. That sum is made up of the following proportions:—Grant £3,250,000, fees £2,000,000, rates, £1,500,000, and voluntary contributions £750,000. In other words, out of a total of £7,500,000, the voluntary con- 1266 tributions come to only £750,000. Nine-tenths of the cost of maintaining our public elementary schools, after this Bill has become law, will come from public money in the shape of rates and taxes, and only one-tenth from voluntary contributions. We hold that the nation, which provides nine-tenths of the money, should have the control and management of the education. Perhaps I may be told this is not a fair way of stating the question, and that I ought to take the voluntary schools by themselves. If I do that I find that when this Bill becomes law, between four-fifths and five-sixths of the money will come from the public for the maintenance of these schools in the shape of taxes, and only one-fifth or one-sixth will come from private individuals in the shape of voluntary contributions. I will not now enlarge upon this topic, but will simply say that we on this side of the House intend to be true to the great principle that where public money is given public control shall follow. I give my hearty support to the Bill, however, believing as I do that it will do much to improve the character and increase the efficiency of our public elementary schools, and so tend to make the rising generation more intelligent, more enterprising, and more resourceful than that which, by the inexorable decree of fate, is fast journeying towards "the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns."
§ (7.56.) MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)
The hon. Member who has just sat down made merry at the change of front made by some of my right hon. Friends. Circumstances and times have altered, and, consequently, it is the duty of statesmen to adapt themselves from time to time to the necessities of the case. Every institution in a free country contains within itself the germs of change. My own withers, at all events, are unwrung, for several years ago I foresaw that, owing to compulsion and the difficulty of collecting school pence, there would inevitably be forced on the Government some system of free schools. The real principle of all Conservative institutions permits from time to time the adoption of such changes as their daily working shows to be necessary. Many of us were averse to the idea of free education, because we were and are of opinion that yon 1267 have no business to put your hands into the pockets of the taxpayers unless it is necessary for the good of the community. It was at one time supposed that education was a matter that concerned parents alone. Circumstances have altered, and everyone can see that it is of vital importance to the political and social fabric of the country that there should be an educated community. It was with this aim that the Government determined to introduce this great reform, without injuring in any way the denominational schools. The hon. Member spoke as if this Bill would destroy all the voluntary schools, but is that the case? In this country the voluntary school system is one that has taken a firm hold on the minds of the people. It suits the habits of the English people, who like denominational education, as will be seen by the figures which are given, and which show that in the Church of England schools alone, apart from the British schools and those of the Wesleyans and Catholics, there are 1,682,167 children against 1,468,892 in the Board schools. We have heard a good deal about the necessity of popular control over the schools, and it has been said in this House that we are proposing to grant money to schools with no State supervision at all. This, however, is a great mistake, because no school in the Kingdom will get any public money unless it is under State supervision. The hon. Member who has just sat down said he was in favour of the principle that all public money ought to be under public control. But so it is. All the money granted by this House is under public control in the same way as the money voted for the Army and Navy; but if it is proposed to put all the Catholic and Wesleyan and other denominational schools under the control of the general body of taxpayers, that is in reality asking that the Government shall provide for the abolition of all the voluntary schools. That is a proposition to which Her Majesty's Government could not assent; but then we are told that the amount of interest taken in these schools would be greatly increased if you would only give the ratepayers control over them. Why, already the greatest possible amount of interest is taken in these schools by the members of the different churches and 1268 chapels to which they are attached, and the only effect of giving what is called popular control over the schools would be to destroy the interest which is now felt in them. My hon. Friend, who knows something of Lancashire, and has seen the processions of the Church and other schools which take place in Whit-week, ought not to underrate the enormous amount of interest which denominational education excites in this country as associated with the churches and chapels of the different Religious Bodies. The hon. Member opposite is wrong in supposing that this Bill does not repeal the 10th section of Lord Sanden's Act as to relief from school fees. Every child in this country between the ages of 5 and 14 will be entitled to be placed in a school and receive free education if the parent desires it. This is practically the whole scheme of the Bill. Something has been said as to fining down the fees; but this means, no doubt, that the Bill is founded on the assumption that there are large numbers of working men who have, without a murmer up to the present time, paid considerable fees, and that in future they will prefer to pay the difference between 3d. and the higher fee rather than lose the education their children have been receiving. That is the theory; but, should it in practice happen that the entire body of parents should demand places for their children and refuse to pay anything towards the cost, that would undoubtedly be a very serious matter. In the borough which I have the honour to represent the average fees are as high as 16s. 7¾d. per child, the lowest being 10s. 2d., and the next to that 13s. 2d. Therefore it will be apparent that if all the parents should demand free education for their children these schools would suffer; but I think the result will be found to be that they will not take such a course, and that they will be glad to be relieved from the necessity of sending their children to schools where the rougher elements are to be found, and to pay a small fee in order to ensure this object. I have no doubt we shall hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council that this Bill is really very different from what many hon. Members suppose. There may be schools which are now paying low fees which 1269 will be entirely free, but there are other schools where the higher foes are paid where a higher education will be obtainable. It has been asked, why should we stop at the age of 14? and a forcible speech was made by the hon. Member for Birmingham in which he said it was not desirable to free education after the age of 14. No Member of the Government has said that this is intended, but having only £2,000,000 to deal with the Government must fix a limitation somewhere. For my own part, I cannot see any objection if the funds are sufficient to giving technical and other education even beyond the age of 14. And I think no one in this House will say that that would in itself be a good and a desirable thing. There can be nothing in the age of 14 which makes it advisable to limit education to that age. There is certainly on the part of those who have communicated with me on the subject a desire, if it be found impossible to extend the age beyond 14, to make the extension at the other end and commence at three years in the case of infants. I am told that infants must have places found for them in infant schools; and if it cannot be done under the Bill, it must necessarily be done at great expense to the parents or managers of the schools. A good deal has been said upon another point, namely, that this Bill is intended as a bribe to the agricultural labourer. But the position of the agricultural labourer, with his small earnings of something like 13s. a week, is certainly deserving of consideration. Surely he ought not to be forced to pay for the schooling of his children out of his small earnings; and, therefore, it becomes the duty of the State to see that his children are not deprived of the benefits of that education which is given to the children of all other classes of the community. I have been totally unable to grasp the grievance complained of by an hon. Member representing a Welsh constituency, who complained of the operation of the Conscience Clause. He says that all they desire is sectarian education; and surely when they can get that, as they must do under the Conscience Clause, there can be no real grievance. On the other hand the Members of the Church of England, in common with other religious denominations, think that the religious principle 1270 ought to be at the root of all English education, and therefore they provide for that education which they deem it best to give in their different schools during the period of early youth. How that can be a grievance to those who do not allow their children to receive this teaching I cannot understand. I was certainly struck by one grievance put forward by the hon. Member opposite, and that was the grivance which exists in respect to the pupil teachers. It does seem hard that the children of Nonconformists should not be promoted to these positions, and I think there ought to be some way of remedying this defect. In conclusion, I think the chief merits of this Bill are that, while it does not harm the denominational schools, it at the same time will afford free elementary education to all who desire it throughout this country.(8.20.)
*(8.54.) MR. LLOYD MORGAN (Carmarthen, W.)
Several hon. Members who have spoken have given reasons for their sudden conversion to the policy of free education. May I suggest that the conversion may be due to the speedy approach of a General Election? If the Government had known what course events would take they might have delayed their action a short time longer, so as to have secured an unbroken unanimity of opinion on their own side of the House. I am sorry for some reasons to join in this Debate. I should have preferred to have been an onlooker while Members opposite settled their little quarrel. But there are one or two aspects of the question to which I wish to draw attention. I do not propose to dwell on the Bill generally, because I think I may say that all Members on this side of the House are in favour of it. I am anxious, however, to join in the protest against the advance of so enormous a sum of money for educational purposes, while there is to be an absence of popular control. Hon. Members opposite have always been anxious to bolster up the voluntary schools, so that the Established Church may continue for some time to come to maintain the power it possesses in the rural districts. Liberals have always held the principle that where public money is used there should be public control in regard to the use of it. It is true that the compromise of 1870 put the question for some time in 1271 abeyance; but now that it has been reopened by hon. Gentlemen opposite, it will remain open until it is settled in a very different way to that which they propose to deal with it. They imagine that because 20 years have elapsed since the settlement of 1890—and the question during that period has been left alone—that a similar result will follow any arrangement they may now make. But they are making a great mistake. New forces are now coming into action, and those forces will not leave the question in so unsatisfactory a state and will not allow public money to be used by Private Bodies without that popular control for which the Liberals have always fought. This Bill presents some of the characteristics which the Tory Party have always shown in reference to the question of elementary education. They have always proved themselves to be the supporters of the voluntary schools and of the Established Church. There cannot be any doubt that the Bill is of very great importance to the Welsh people. Wales is recognised as being a land of Nonconformists. When the Government more than 50 years ago began to make grants in and of education the Nonconformists declined to accept them. By an Order in Council in 1849 public money was granted for elementary education, but in order to get the money the managers were bound to teach religion in their schools. The Nonconformists understood that to mean that they were to get the money for teaching religion, and they declined to accept it on that ground. It was a great loss to them, not only in money, but in the education of their children; but it was a loss incurred in support of a principle, and I think their position was an honourable and straightforward one to take up. The Church came in and said, "We have not got any scruples of that kind; we will take the money." They did take it, and the result is that voluntary schools connected with the Church of England are now to be found in such great numbers. In Wales these schools were forced upon the people, and they do not want that class of school. This is not a new question. Mr. Bowstead, one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, in the year 1853 went down to Wales. He was a Churchman, but the anomalous state of things immediately struck him. He saw an immense, preponderating power of Nonconformity, 1272 and yet Church schools established everywhere. In 1855, when he published his Report, he pointed out how great the anomaly was. He said that when you deal with the Welsh people you are bound to bear in mind that they are Nonconformists. He said the schools adapted to the Welsh people were un-sectarian schools, and he recommended the establishment of schools in connection with the British and Foreign School Society. Some of the Church schools were obviously built simply for the purpose of getting the Government money during the period of grace given by the Education Act of 1870, and some of them which were then built have been described as nothing more or less than shanties. We think the time has come for putting a stop to further grants of public money for perpetuating this system of sectarian education. The hon. Member who spoke last said he did not know what control we wanted. Under this Bill large numbers of voluntary schools will be entirely supported with Government money, and you are going to hand over the control of those schools simply to the clergyman and the squire of the parish without allowing any popular control whatever. The hon. Member also said he did not see why religious instruction should not be given in day schools, and he expressed the opinion that a great many children would have no religious instruction at all if they did not receive it then. I entertain some doubts as to the value of religious instruction given in day schools under the conditions and in the manner in which subjects are taught in those schools. I should be inclined to think that by mixing religious and secular subjects you would lower the religious without elevating the secular education. He said he could not appreciate where the injustice came in in a school where there was a Conscience Clause. If it were a clause used for the purpose of protecting a minority one could understand it, but in the case of Wales it is the majority which has to avail itself of it. And that is not all. There is a way of putting on pressure and proselytising without coming directly into contact with the children in the schools. These schools are managed practically by the clergyman in such parish. He is always about the place. The schoolmaster is very often selected, not because he is a good 1273 teacher, but for reasons entirely outside that. It is understood that he will have duties to perform in connection with the Church for which he is not directly paid. In many places he has to play the harmonium in the parish church. Those are some of my objections to the Bill. I only rose for the purpose of entering my protest against the payment of a large sum of money by the State without insisting upon popular control.
*(9.13.) CAPTAIN EDWARDS HEATH-COTE (Staffordshire, N.W.)
I am going to trouble the House for a very short time as a Member who has never addressed it before with you, Sir, in the Chair, but as one who has always taken a great interest in this subject. I do not myself feel any of the taunts addressed to us from the other side of the House as to our conversion, and so on. I fancy I was converted to the principle of free education before a good many Members on both sides of the House were in favour of it. I heartily thank the Government for bringing forward this Bill for one reason—because it will, I believe, enable the voluntary schools to exist alongside the Board schools, and I believe poor parents like to have a choice of schools just as much as the richer parents. Members of this House like to have the choice of sending their sons to Eton, Harrow, Winchester, or elsewhere; but because they choose one of the public schools, they do not wish for the abolition of the others. I think poor people like to have a choice also. There may be a little feeling about a schoolmaster in one school or another, and it is pleasant to the parent to be able to send his child to a school where he is in harmony with the master. A competition between two schools is also, I think, a good thing, and will tend to keep them both up to the mark. It is like competition between any two shops, and induces their managers to do the very utmost they can for their customers. The question of popular control is absolutely vital. If the difficulty aroused in some cases by the managers being the mere nominees of the clergyman cannot be got over in some way I feel certain that sooner or later—and probably sooner than later—the voluntary system must collapse. I would ask the Government to consider whether there is no possible medium between 1274 giving the management to the clergyman alone and adopting what is called popular control. I suggest that the Government might possibly get over the difficulty by substituting "parental control" for "popular control." Personally, I should like to see half the managers elected by the parents, but perhaps half would be too large a representation, and if I could not get half I would be content with less. But I do think it is absolutely essential to the future of voluntary schools that the parents should have some voice in the management of the school which their children attend. On the other hand, I do not see that the ratepayers have any claim to a share in the management where the rates do not contribute. I venture to urge the Government as strongly as I can, in the interest of voluntary schools, to endeavour to devise some simple machinery by which the parents may be fairly represented in the management of voluntary schools. Everybody admits that regularity of attendance is at the bottom of the success of any school. How are you to get regularity of attendance without you get the cooperation of the parents, and how are you to get the co-operation of parents if you do not have their interest, and also their sympathy, and how can you expect to have either their interest or sympathy if you treat them as mere ciphers who have really nothing to do with the children except to bring them into the world and send them to school? In my opinion, parental control would go a long way towards getting over the difficulty, which most Members must feel, that a clerical despotism, however kindly, is not in accordance with the instincts of the age, and is not, therefore, likely to conduce to the stability of the voluntary school system.
§ (9.22.) MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
I cordially join with other hon. Members in thanking the Government for introducing the Bill. I hope that all Parties in the House will allow it to go through with out delay. The great bulk of the speeches we have heard have been addressed to such questions as local control, and voluntary as opposed to Board schools, and a stranger who listened to the Debate would think that we were re-opening the great question of national education in this small Bill which deals 1275 with one question only, namely, the remission of fees. If hon. Members intend to push all these matters, I fear there is not much hope of the people of this country getting free education within any measurable time. We have heard very excellent speeches on the question of local control. We have had the case laid before us in an admirable speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Sir L. Playfair). We have had a speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. Ellis), who suggests that County Councils shall have the full management of voluntary schools; but I did not gather from him that County Councils as Rating Bodies should have corresponding power to help these schools from the rates. The hon. Member (Mr. Edwards-Heathcote) has suggested that there should be parental control. All these questions are very interesting, but they are not immediately connected with the subject before us. The Amendment which really deals with this question is that proposed by the hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley), which is against free education. Although the hon. Member made a very able speech, he took, I think, a very wrong view. He spoke particularly of the demoralisation that what he called free education would cause amongst the poorer classes. First of all, we must get rid of the word "free" as in any sense eleemosynary. There is no question of giving free education in the sense of charity. Free education is intended to be given just as free libraries and museums are opened for the benefit of the people, the only difference being that people are compelled to make use of schools. What is it, as a solid fact, that the Government offer? Relief from the intolerable burden, in many districts at least, of the payment of school fees, and not only that, but relief within a month or two if hon. Members on both sides will allow the Bill to pass, and not in their excess of affection for it stifle it by their embraces. The Bill offers free education to something like 80 per cent. of the children in our public elementary schools, including all the poorer children, especially those in the rural districts, and I thank the Government for having grappled with what all admit is a very difficult question. It would not have been difficult if we had had a clean slate; but the 1276 Government had to graft this Bill upon a complicated system, or, in fact, two systems, and they have done it in the simplest and most effective manner. The burden of the speeches of the hon. Member for Leicester and others has been to assail the system and to assail the Government through that system. I think it would be but fair and honest to remember to whom, more than to any other Party, that system is due. The principle of the National Education League in 1868 to 1870 was free, compulsory, properly-managed education, because we said that support out of the rates would carry the right of control. We did our best to stamp the necessity of this on the country and on the Government of the day, but we met with indifference, and legislation was passed which not only preserved the status of voluntary schools, but made them ten times stronger than before. Hon. Members will remember the period of grace given, which the friends of the voluntary system availed themselves of, to an extraordinary degree, to make the system stronger than ever it was before. Against every protest and argument this was done, but it is that which has enabled the voluntary system to attain, as it has since done, the position of occuping something like three-fourths of the public elementary schools of this country. Therefore it is but fair, when these grave charges are brought against the system, to remember the Party and the Government which made that system what it is. More than this, we tried in 1885 to get the same leaders to recognise free education, but without success, and it remains a fact that except the present Government there has been no Government and no Opposition, as represented by their responsible leaders, which has ever adopted free education as part of its programme. Of course, I admit that it has been put on the programme of the present Opposition, and especially on that wonderful programme which has been lately put forward, but it has never been attempted or admitted when there has been power to carry it out. I should like to see universal popular control, but the demands of the hon. Member for Leicester and the hon. Member for Northamptonshire mean the denying of a much-needed relief to the poorer class. ["No."] Then what is it we hear about free education being unsatisfactory unless 1277 joined to popular control? If that means anything it means that we must have popular control with free education, but we shall not get all these wonderful things shadewed forth in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds and the hon. Member for Merioneth in two or three months, or probably two or three years, and therefore I am not going to deny this much-needed boon until we get popular control. Men who are getting 12s. a week have to pay 8d. to 13d. a week, and I want to ease them of that burden as soon as it can possibly be done. It is easy for hon. Members to go down to country places and say, "We must have popular control," without telling the people what popular control means with regard to cost and to the likelihood of success. The ratepayers will not be so much in favour of popular control if they are told that it means an addition of 4d. to 10d. in the £1. They would rather have free education immediately, and allow the other things to come in due course. The hon. Member for Leicester seems to feel this, because he has suggested that the money should come from the revenues of the Disestablished Church of England. Perhaps hon. Members will put that on the new programme—Free Education out of the revenues of the Disestablished Church—and perhaps their present leader, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, will be the leader of the Party to bring this about. Well, that might come, perhaps, if necessity compels. I would advise hon. Members who desire this to take example by the Representatives of Wales. Said those hon. Gentlemen, "You will not have our support unless you go in for disestablishment of the Church in Wales." Do the same thing and you will get what you want. No doubt a programme of that sort, advocated by a Party of which the right hon. Gentleman is the acknowledged leader, would give great satisfaction. But you must be sure to get the pledge when the Party are out of Office, and I am not sure then how you are to have it carried out; pledges have failed in that respect before now. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton has said we must make a stout fight in Committee for popular control. But let the country understand what that moans. It means a stout fight to deprive the poor of any immediate free education— 1278 [" No "]—to kill the Bill on a side issue. ["No."] I do not say that it is not a worthy issue as taken by itself, but it should not be taken in order to deprive the poor of the great boon which is now, as it were, standing at their doors. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Channing) "let the cat out of the bag" in a guileless and innocent manner." He was pledged," he said," not to accept free education without popular control, "and," said he," we are going to take every step we can that will not imperil the Bill in order to secure public control." There is a confession of the whole business. In effect the hon. Member says this: "We will take such steps as will, so far as we are concerned, make the passing of the Bill impossible; but we will trust to others, and the hope that we shall be in the minority, to defeat our efforts and carry the Bill in spite of us." Then, after this, we shall find these gentlemen on public platforms denouncing those who saved the Bill, and declaring that we voted against public control. If free education is to wait until all those arrangements so ably suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds and others are carried out, and if the whole question as between voluntary and Board schools is to be adjusted, we shall have to wait a considerable time; it certainly could not be passed this Session. If the Bill does not pass this Session, and for my part I cannot see how it can pass if all those questions are to be discussed and settled, if the Bill is delayed through these tactics, and so does not pass, then the responsibility will be with hon. Members around me, who attempt to hitch on to the Bill those other questions which from their very nature must take a considerable time to settle. Some hon. Members have said they are willing to take the Bill as an instalment. Then why do not they do it? They have tried to impose conditions, which if they were carried would kill the Bill, and then they call that accepting it as an instalment. It is said that Manchester would not impose a 2d. rate to make education entirely free. If that is so, what hope have hon. Members that the country would accept the enormous rate which would follow the abolition of the voluntary schools? Some hon. Members say that the proposals of the Government will ex- 1279 tirpate voluntary schools, while others declare they will give the voluntary schools new life. The fact is nobody can tell what will happen after this Bill. Then why not leave those questions to be settled in the future? We are all in favour of free education for the poorer classes. It is now offered to them in a simple Bill, which can be passed within a reasonable time. There is no hope of doing so if all those other questions are hitched on to it. There is another question, and that is the extension of free education to all ages. To that question I hope the Government will give their serious attention. Most valuable instruction and training is given to children under five years old, and I believe they get far more benefit from school after five years old, from the fact that they have been in school before five, than otherwise. Then a far greater proportion of the children over five can go to school if they can take the younger child with them. If you deny the infants admission into the younger department, that will create the greatest temptation and even necessity for keeping some of the elder girls away from school to look after them. So that, from every point of view, that is one of the most important suggestions that have been made, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give his attention to it. In any case, the thanks of all sides are due to the right hon. Gentleman for having so speedily given effect to the promises of the Government. This is one more of those unpleasant surprises which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen here have had by reason of legislation which was pleasing to the poorer classes coming from their political opponents. They ought not to complain; they had their chance, and made their promises, but they have forgone their chance, and broken their promises. They ought, as patriots, to rejoice that others are carrying out those promises in a manner which it cannot be denied is effectual, if hon. Members will let it go through without embarrassing the Bill with other questions and impossible conditions.
§ *(9.52.) MR. BIRRELL (Fife, W.)
The political bigotry of the hon. Member who has just sat down has led him into a vast Serbonian bog, in which he has floundered for the last 20 minutes. The hon. Member would have the House believe that gentlemen sitting on this 1280 side of the House are opposing the Bill. We are anxious that the Bill should be read a second time as soon as possible. There is no Amendment on the Paper belonging to a Member on this side of the House; the Amendment we are now discussing is that of the hon. Member for North St. Pancras. No Amendment will be produced or pushed by the Opposition which would in any way imperil the passage of the Bill. I agree that in those circumstances it is rather curious that if we are all in favour of the Bill we should now be debating it, but the statement that it would endanger voluntary schools was a challenge thrown out by hon. Gentlemen opposite, which could not fail to give rise to discussion. Not from this side of the House has a single word been said which need frighten the right hon. Gentleman the father of this Bill as to the fate of his offspring at this or the Committee stage. Hon. Members opposite have one after another declared that they have always been in favour of free education, but they have been restrained by the bigotry of a Front Bench, which refused to let them give expression to their views, and frowned upon them when they attempted to do so. It appears that a baleful influence is exercised by the Front Ministerial Bench on the intelligence of their followers, who, if only they are let alone, are good sound Radicals. The hon. Member for the Malden Division (Mr. C. Gray) has taunted the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Lawrence) with being an old Tory, and it would be easy to describe the hon. Member for Malden as being, on the whole, a partially educated Radical, for, amongst other things, he referred to the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches as sects in a manner to gratify the hon. Member for Leicester. It would be unreasonable and ungrateful not to express a sense of obligation to Her Majesty's Ministers for producing this measure. A franker and fairer measure of free education could not have been expected to be laid on the Table. The hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham has been the Secretary of an Association which advocates free education with popular control; but now he says we ought to be silent about popular control because it will involve an enormous addition to the rates. I suppose the hon. Member explained on the 1281 platforms of the League the enormous addition to the rates that popular control will involve. What was true then is true now, but we cannot expect everything at once even from a Tory Government, and we must allow them a little time and some pressure. It is gratifying to hear that Scotch experience, which has lasted only a year, has converted so many Members, but Scotch education was coupled with restrictions as to standards which inflicted the deepest injury on Scotch education, yet when the Opposition used all the arguments now used in support of freeing all the Standards they were not honoured with a reply. As to the effect on Ministers of the pressure of Home Rule, no principle can be said to be dead which makes the right hon. Member for West Birmingham something like a Tory, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer three-fourths of a Socialist. If the Liberal Party had been tempted to give any other principle except Home Rule a first place in their programme, we should not now be welcoming with enthusiasm free education for England and Wales. It is unfair to say we are opposing voluntary schools. I only wish there were a great many more of those schools. What is complained of is the involuntary and enforced attendance of children whose parents do not belong to, or sympathise with, the spirit and mode in which the education is given. There are 10,000 parishes in which there is no school except the school under the control of the clergyman. The complaint is that children are compelled to attend schools in which the instruction is inefficient, the teaching staff weak, and certificated teachers few. What is complained of is that children are compelled to go to schools in which the feelings of their parents are in no way consulted, and which are managed by the parson, whose disposition is often tempered, and not for the better, by the parson's wife. I rejoice to be a Member of the House at a time when a Conservative Government, under circumstances with which all are familiar, introduces a measure of free education.
§ *(10.8.) MR. JENNINGS (Stock port)
I feel it my duty to give some expression to the opinions which are entertained of this Bill by a great part of my constituents. Stockport 1282 is one of those places in which there is no Board school, the whole system of education there being based on the voluntary principle. It has had some experience of Board schools, but it liked them so little that it got rid of them some 12 years ago, and since then it is allowed that the education has been excellent; it has amply satisfied the people, and it has produced good results. The Church schools exist there no doubt, but they exist side by side with the Wesleyan schools and the schools of the other Nonconformist bodies, which are equally successful with the Church schools. The people of Stockport are satisfied with that voluntary system, and they look with dread on the introduction of a School Board. The more they see what School Boards have done in other places, the less they wish to see them introduced in to Stockport. They have heard that in London the rate has reached Is. in the £1, that in some places the schools are crumbling to pieces, that the ventilation of others comes straight from the sewers, and that in other cases it is proposed to supply the schools with grand pianos and other things which would be considered out of place in a voluntary school. Large numbers of persons engaged in the work of education in Stockport feel great anxiety lest the Bill should strike at the system they are conversant with, and in which they have been brought up. I am aware it is said that their apprehensions are groundless, and that there is no reason to fear this particular Bill, as it is full of elaborate checks and contrivances and safeguards, under which voluntary schools will find security for all time to come. Well but during the past 20 years most of us have seen many instances of this kind of legislation. A measure is brought forward, skilfully devised to disarm fears and to administer anodynes to everyone who is at all disposed to be nervous as to the result. It is brought forward with the argument of the fatalist, "If you do not pass this, the other Party will, but there are times in the history of a great Party when that argument ought not to prevail. There is no limit to which it can be put. If it is good as applied to this scheme to-day, it will be equally good as applied to the Disestablishment of the Church on a future occasion. I do not see how we are to draw the line between the state of 1283 things which we have to face to-day in reference to the schools and that which at no distant day may arise with regard to the Church. As to the argument that if we do not pass this measure, the other Party will, my answer is that it is better in some cases to let the other Party carry out legislation than for a great historic Party to break all their pledges of the past. The second stage of this kind of legislation we have also seen in former days. As time has elapsed, defects have been found in the working of a Bill, a supplementary measure has been brought forward, and we have been told that as we had acccepted the principle of the first Bill, we could not with any decency refuse the extension of it. In that way the work of surrender is made complete, and destruction may be carried into every part of the institutions of the country. This is the history of the Rake's Progress in legislation, and there is no reason to suppose that the history of this particular Bill will vary in any degree from that of the long series of measures that has gone before it. It may be asked what practical objection have the people of Stockport and the other large towns to make to the Bill. Why, they fear the operation under which a small number of parents—100 according to the statement of the Vice - President—may at any moment claim the establishment of a free school, or accommodation for free scholars. In Stockport, as, I suppose, in a great many other places, Party feeling runs very high. Every instrument that comes to hand is used for partisan purposes, and it is quite impossible that this Bill can be in existence for any period of time without its being turned to that purpose in Stockport. Party feeling will soon be mixed up with education, and a small number of persons will demand free schools. School Boards will necessarily follow, and the waters of strife will be let loose in a way that no true friend of education will desire to see. There will be no way of avoiding that under the operation of the Bill. The Radical Members have not attempted to deceive us; they have told us that they regard this measure merely as an instalment of what is to come. Some of them have said that they look on the limitations in the Bill as likely to be swept away before many years are over. The 1284 right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield said the other night that even the limitations that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President proposes in the Bill carry the seeds of death in them and must soon be swept away, and, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester said with equal candour and truth—and I believe his words will be verified before many years are over—the Bill introduces a policy which will be the doom of the denominational schools. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division told us it was true, as was stated by the hon. Member for North Islington, that the immediate result would be the establishment of School Boards in important centres now without them, and that the ultimate result would be to establish School Boards everywhere. These are frank statements of the promoters of the Bill; if we walk into the pit, it will not be because we have not been honestly warned by the opposite Party whither we are going. In my opinion, the hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) has taken a most manly and honourable course throughout this discussion, and he is amply justified in pointing out what he believes will be the inevitable result of this measure. My own constituents most certainly do not desire to have universal popular control over education and universal School Boards. The passing of this measure will deprive the Conservative Party of any right to object hereafter to Radical legislation of a more drastic kind. Although I, of course, hope that in spite of everything the voluntary schools will be able to maintain their ground, my conviction is that it will be recorded in history that the sentence of death was passed upon those schools when this Bill became law. It will be impossible for any lengthened period to keep voluntary schools in existence side by side with free schools and Board schools, because people certainly will not pay for that which they can get for nothing, even if what they get for nothing is not quite so good as that for which they would have to pay. I should regard the destruction of the voluntary schools as a great disaster to the country. Hon. Members opposite may sneer at our voluntary schools as being managed by tyrannical parsons and by still more 1285 tyrannical parsons' wives, but they cannot help admitting that those schools have done a great deal of good for the country, and have sent forth thousands of men and women into the world fully equipped with a good education, and that it would be exceedingly difficult to find an efficient substitute for them. Regret has been expressed that the Conservative Party are not yet prepared to accept popular control. But popular control means the removal of these denominational and voluntary schools from the hands of the persons who have practically built them and kept them up. Do you suppose that when you have substituted popular control for the present management, the voluntary contributions will come in as they do now, when the contributors see all their principles subverted and all matters connected with religious education thrown aside? They will naturally do what we should all do under such circumstances; they will withhold their subscriptions; the schools which they have built will fall into ruin, or pass into the control of School Boards. Such a result I should deeply deplore. The regrets expressed by hon. Members opposite that the Conservative Party do not at once accept the principle of popular control in voluntary schools are a little unreasonable. Surely hon. Members will admit that the Conservative Party has made considerable progress in recent times. Since I have been in this House I have seen measure after measure passed into law which my Party had been accustomed to denounce. I, for one, have not voted for those measures. I do not claim any credit for consistency, but I am a somewhat old-fashioned person, and find it hard to flourish upon this diet of one's own pledges and promises. One can eat the dish once or twice, but after a time it becomes a little monotonous. In 1885 I stated my objections to free education, and since then there has been no change in the conditions of the problem. We are merely told that the thing has to be done, and we must do it. If in 1885 a measure of free education threatened the existence of voluntary schools, it threatens their existence equally now. We are told that it has become imperative. We are like people in a trance who see enemies advancing upon them and cannot defend themselves, although sometimes our lips move, and very 1286 strange sounds proceed from them. I do not venture to pass any censure on the course that may be taken by my hon. Friends around me, who have always believed in the benefits of free education, but I respect the position taken up by my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington, and, though he cannot expect to carry his Amendment, I believe the principles he advocates are, in the main, sound. I believe time will vindicate them, and will prove that those were right who warned the upholders of voluntary schools that, in consenting to this Bill, they signed their own death-warrant.
§ *(10.28.) SIR E. BIRKBECK (Norfolk, E.)
I do not concur in the views which are held upon this question by either the last speaker or by the hon. Member for North Islington. I know that about 95 per cent. of my constituents are in favour of the Bill, which I characterise as one of the most popular measures ever introduced into the House of Commons. I am satisfied that as soon as free education is established, the attendance at schools in the rural parishes will be very largely increased, and I am far from believing that this measure will in any way be detrimental to the voluntary schools. I believe that, as in the case of the Act of 1870, there will be great advantage gained by the voluntary schools, and that the prophecies made against this Bill will prove fallacious. I believe that the voluntary schools will, under the Bill, have a fresh start. The only protest I have received against the Bill has come from a town where there are a certain number of voluntary schools, and the managers ask the right hon. Gentleman to give a larger grant to these schools. But how can the Chancellor of the Exchequer be squeezed further? More cannot be extracted from him, and we should be thankful for what we have got, and must not press for more at present. So far as hon. Members who, like myself, represent rural constituencies are concerned, they are grateful for what they have got, and do not mean to give way in any direction that will mean a reduction of the amount of the grant. We mean to sit tight and not part with any of the 10s. grant. Inasmuch as, according to the new Code, we are asked in rural schools to provide for still more subjects to be taught, such as drawing, & c, we must 1287 have the money my right hon. Friend proposes should be given, and we cannot do with less. What we have got we mean to stick to. Why do hon. Members from this side of the House oppose this proposal? Surely, when Scotland has the benefit of free education, it is not reasonable to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill with a Motion such as that of the hon. Member for North Islington. Scotland having got this measure of justice, how can Members by their action endeavour to prevent the boon being extended to agricultural labourers in rural districts and artisans in towns in England? The question whether or not parents should have some representation on the school management is worthy of serious consideration, and I should be prepared to support a movement in that direction. But I hope that no hon. Member on either side will make this a ground for opposing the passage of the Bill. I shall do what I can to facilitate the progress of the Bill, and entertain the hope that by September 1st the measure will be in actual operation. I would impress upon Her Majesty's Government that they should, at all hazards, and however late it should make the Session, listen to no sort of representation from any part of the House that would delay the passage of the Bill, but that they should stick to their guns and carry the Bill in the present Session.
§ *(10.35.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I think that the hon. Member who has just sat down may reassure himself as to the passage of the Bill so far as Members on this side of the House are concerned. There is no intention to oppose it now or delay it in Committee. We simply raise those points that we think it impossible to avoid raising, because they touch matters of principle, or involve the usefulness of the Bill, and we put our own views clearly forward before the country as to matters which are likely to become questions of controversy in the future. I cannot help observing how little argument has been addressed to the Amendment before us. We have not heard a word on the economical and ethical aspects of the question. This reform is to be carried out by the Party formerly opposed to free education, but it is now defended on mere opportunist grounds, and on grounds relating to the 1288 propriety of strengthening voluntary schools. For some years it has been plain that free education could be carried, and the only question was whether it would be carried by the Party which had advocated, or by the Party which had denounced it. The latter has turned out to be the case; and the Government have not paid their former convictions even the compliment of explaining the grounds of this strange and sudden conversion. They do not now try to explain away the great economic and ethical objections which they formerly advanced. So far as we are told, those objections remain, and nothing but political expediency has given birth to the present measure. However, I do not wish to reproach the Government, and if I did I could not say anything half so severe as that which has been said by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings). The hon. Member, who knows the politics of other countries as well as his own, doubtless appreciates the change which has come over Political Parties in Great Britain, and understands why the Tory Party is now obliged to shape its policy according to the views of the great mass of the people. This is the first example we have had given us on a large scale of this change in the character of British politics, a change destructive of the old lines of our Party divisions; but we are not likely to want abundant examples in the future. I am not sanguine of the Tory Party taking up Disestablishment, but I see no reason why they should not bring in a Bill, which they might call a Bill for the better government of Ireland, and which would practically confer Home Rule on that country. Then we should find the Chancellor of the Exchequer arguing that such a Bill was necessary, because it was the only method of averting the more dangerous kind of Home Rule which the Liberal Party would otherwise have carried. Many predictions have been made as to the working of this measure. I do not propose to add to them further than to say that the hon. Member for Stockport seems to be right in holding that it will seriously injure the voluntary schools in the manufacturing districts. We are, however, very much in the dark as to the way in which the Government propose to deal with the case of schools whose fees are higher than the 10s. will cover. We must wait to hear more before 1289 we can criticise that part of the scheme. It appears to me that schools, which hitherto have depended on their fees, will be hard put to it. I propose, however, to deal with the case of schools whose fees are below the grant—that is to say, the schools which will make a profit out of the 10s. How will those schools—that is to say, the great bulk of the rural voluntary schools—be affected? What will be the result of paying a fee-grant larger than the sum now derived from fees—that is, of putting the balance of the money into the pockets of the managers of those schools? That at once raises the question of popular control, and I should like to say to the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division that we cannot avoid bringing in this question of popular control. We are bound to deal with it. We were told, first by Lord Salisbury and afterwards by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the main aim and object of the Bill would be to place voluntary schools upon a basis from which they could never be shaken. Therefore, we are bound to examine what will be the effect on voluntary schools. The question is, whether the terms to be given to the voluntary schools are fair terms? We do not approach the question in a spirit of religious hostility. The day of aggressive secularism is entirely past, and there are but few persons left who desire to have no religious instruction given in public elementary schools. I am certainly not one of those persons, We cannot, however, acquiesce in any change in the voluntary schools which will make them more independent of the public and of parents than they are now. The voluntary schools have hitherto claimed to be allowed free action on the ground that the managers have made sacrifices. If the State pays the whole cost of the schools this claim of the managers of the voluntary schools disappears altogether. If it pays nearly all the cost the claim is enormously weakened. Now, it has been shown that in a great many instances the grant of 10s. will not only annihilate the necessity for subscriptions, but will actually put a bonus into the pockets of the managers. Are the managers of denominational schools to be allowed in respect of exceedingly small subscriptions, or of no subscriptions 1290 whatever, to retain the same control which they have now for all purposes? It appears to me that that would amount to nothing less than a new ecclesiastical endowment. This Bill will enable the managers of voluntary schools to be in a position in which they will be able to take the balance of the fund from the educational purposes of the school and to apply them to purposes which are hardly indicated at all, perhaps, as some one has suggested, to the payment of an organist in the parish church. Or put the matter in another way. The education given in these schools is partly general and partly religious. The State may be held to bear the cost of the general education, while the religious portion of the education may be taken to be fairly represented by the subscriptions. But if the contributions of the subscribers are taken away, this justification of the present arrangements can no longer be used, for then the State would, out of its own pocket, be paying for denominational education. On the present occasion I will not argue against the Conscience Clause in principle: but it appears to me to be a very unsatisfactory expedient, which is opposed to the genius of our institutions, as they have been latterly developed, and to the principle of equality in religious matters before the law. Supposing, however, that we acquiesce in the Conscience Clause, we complain that the denominational schools are not worked merely for the purpose of giving religious instruction, and that they have too frequently been made the instruments partly of a somewhat rampant and aggressive ecclesiasticism and partly of religious proselytism. It cannot, I think, be denied that there is a great deal of virtual proselytism in the rural schools, and that the schools are worked so as to promote the interests not merely of one Religious Body but of one Political Party. That is a patent fact, and this proselytising is increasing, partly in consequence of the great ecclesiastical movement which began some 50 years ago at Oxford, and partly in consequence of the increased political activity, particularly of ladies, in rural parishes. In fact, there is far more of what I might almost call persecution in rural parishes now than there was formerly. That being so, ought we not to attempt to provide some remedy? Although I should my- 1291 self prefer, were the field clear, a system of universal School Boards, with no State payment to any denominational school, I need not now argue, and do not argue, that proposition. We are not now arguing for a system of popular control that will take the schools out of the hands of the local managers and extinguish their present character. Adopting the language of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, I say that we are asking that there shall be upon the Managing Committees of these rural schools somebody to see fair play, and someone who represents an external element. Remember that we are by this Bill taking away from the parent his present locus standi. At present he pays the school pence, and has the right to be listened to when he comes to pay the pence; but henceforward his child will be the child of the State, and the managers will occupy a more independent position than before, so they can treat the complaints of the parent with an indifference, which cannot be used to him now. This shows that the claim made on behalf of the parents is not only a reasonable but a seasonable claim, for it is based on the fact that you are changing the position of the school. It is not, however, possible to give to some particular parents qua parents, a power over the school; this must be done by a system of election. If the State is going to exercise the control to which it is entitled because it finds the money, it ought to exercise it through the medium of an elective body. The easiest plan would be to give to the School Boards and School Attendance Committees, where no School Boards exist, the right to appoint members of the Managing Committees of voluntary schools. I hope hon. Members will endeavour to deal with this question of popular representation in a non-partisan spirit. Many Members on this side of the House feel strongly that what is called religious education, as far as it consists in teaching distinctive doctrines and formularies, is really a chimera. These distinctive doctrines, of which so much is said, are not really comprehensible by children of 10 or 12 years of age. I would not, however, for the moment press that view of the subject. What I desire to insist on is the need of pre-venting the tendency to pervert and 1292 abuse the control of voluntary schools for purposes which are not so much religious as sectarian and even political. I hope that on the Committee stage the Government will admit the justice of the claim that there should be some measure of popular representation on the Managing Committees of the voluntary schools. If the Government will accept an Amendment brought forward in the spirit of compromise, I think they will find not only that their Bill will be far more likely to be well received now, but that its arrangements will have the prospect of a longer life.
§ (11.0.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE,) Lincolnshire, Horncastle
I think the hon. Member, in his speech, contributed something of great value to the Government in carrying through their Bill. The object of the Government is to introduce free education with the smallest possible disturbance of the existing conditions in schools throughout the country. The hon. Member said that as the compromise had been disturbed, therefore other questions might now be opened; and he added that the manner in which the compromise had been disturbed was largely in favour of the voluntary schools.
§ *MR. BRYCE
I said that the compromise was being disturbed in favour of the voluntary schools in rural districts. But with regard to the denominational schools in large towns, I agreed with the hon. Member for Stockport.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I accept the hon. Member's correction. It is true that the grants by the State are increased, and that relief will thereby be given to certain persons who are at present bearing the burden of primary education. But what reason is there that these people should not be relieved? In time past they, by means of subscriptions or of increased rates, largely contributed to the expense of education in their own district; and if they made this sacrifice to keep fees low, why should they not derive some benefit when fees are abolished? The only condition on which the Government insist is that efficiency shall be maintained; and so long as this is done, the principle of the Government is that those who are bearing the heat and burden of the day, whether parents 1293 or school managers or ratepayers, shall derive some benefit from the proposed relief. Another particular point in the hon. Member's speech to which I wish to refer had reference to persecution in rural schools. The hon. Gentleman made a very broad statement, and I call upon him to substantiate it by a single fact. The hon. Member has not adduced one fact in support of one of the most audacious statements ever made in the House of Commons.
§ *MR. BRYCE
The right hon. Gentleman is very much mistaken in his representation of what I said. I said that there was a great deal of proselytism and a good deal of intolerance, and that in the case of some rural schools this intolerance almost approached to persecution.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I call upon the hon. Gentleman to give some proof of this assertion. I have a more intimate acquaintance with rural schools even than the hon. Gentleman, and I altogether deny that the persecution exists, The country will not accept the statement on the bare assertion of the hon. Gentleman, without any further proof. The Debate has shown one thing very clearly, namely, the enormous diversity of the conditions which exist in schools in different parts of the country. An hon. Member speaking from the point of view of one town or county must altogether fail to grasp the true conditions of the problem. It is true that, in spite of this diversity of conditions, the Government propose to establish a uniform fee grant of 10s.; but everyone must be satisfied that if the Government had attempted to graduate the grant according to the demands of the Board or voluntary schools, or according to the different conditions prevailing in the North and the South of England, or according to the different schools in different towns, the proposal would have been landed in inextricable difficulties. Had such a scheme been passed, it would never have had the smallest chance of lasting; the successors of the present Government would never have understood it, and they would have taken the earliest opportunity of repudiating it. The Government take their stand on the broad ground of an average fee paid throughout the country; and, having laid down that rigid rule, they are perfectly prepared 1294 to adapt all the other circumstances of the case, to take account of the varying conditions in different parts of the country, and to make the scheme so elastic as not to press hardly on the people in any particular district. I will give the House the reasons which make me a strong supporter of the proposals contained in the Bill. It has been assumed by some hon. Members, particularly by some on the Ministerial side of the House, that because free schools are to be established, the danger to voluntary schools will be increased. Why? The hon. Member for North Islington has spoken with that confident assertion which a man of his experience might not unnaturally assume; and the hon. Member for Stockport has spoken in strong language to the same purport. But neither of the hon. Gentlemen has condescended to give the House a single reason in support of the contention. I have the fullest sympathy with those who support the denominational and voluntary schools. I would have been no party to any Bill of this description if I had thought that its ultimate effect would have been to, damage the denominational schools But let the House look at the matter as practical men. Here are certain schools receiving a grant from the State. The Government propose in the Bill that the grant should be increased. Then we are told that because the grant has been increased, therefore the voluntary schools are to be destroyed. So far as I can understand, on the contrary, the schools will be more efficient, in a better financial condition, more popular, more necessary; and yet we are actually asked to say, in face of these facts, that parents will be ready to see those schools destroyed, and that hon. Members opposite will thus obtain a greater power to destroy them. It may be said, however, that their apprehensions do not extend to all schools, and that their main fear is in the case of the high-feed schools in large towns. Again, I ask on what ground hon. Members make any such assertion? The Debate has shown in the clearest manner that those high-feed schools would have been placed in the utmost possible danger in any scheme proposed by hon. Members opposite, and that the 10s. grant would only be given in cases where schools were made altogether free.
1295 Why is it that this grant in and to the high-feed schools was likely to endanger their maintenance? For years past both the managers of those schools and the parents of the children attending them have contributed into a common fund for the maintenance of those schools. The proposal of the Government is to add to that common fund; to give them a considerable sum—a fixed and certain sum—towards maintaining those schools. Then we are told that the fact of giving them that increased Government grant will get rid of the energy and self-sacrifice which have created and maintained them. It is assumed by some hon. Members on the Government side of the House that those high-feed schools are going to be made free by the Government scheme. My right hon. Friend who introduced the Bill never said anything of the kind. It is no part of the Government scheme that all schools should be free; but it is part of their scheme that free places should be provided where such places are desired. But even if we had gone further, and had said that all schools are to be free, I should not be afraid of the result. I believe that the energy and self-sacrifice which created the voluntary schools will get over the difficulty then to be faced. I may be told also that there is a danger to those schools. Of course, there is a danger. Anyone who has read the signs of the times, who has read the speeches which have been made throughout the country, must know well that those schools are in danger from the policy which has been promulgated by hon. Members opposite; and, therefore, hon. Members on the Conservative Benches can estimate the danger for themselves. The right hon. Member for Leeds told the House that he did not desire to destroy the voluntary schools, but when the right hon. Gentleman made that statement it was noticeable that he did not elicit one cheer from the Party sitting behind him. The right hon. Gentleman said that at the present moment the strength of the voluntary schools lay in the fact that they were in touch with the people of the country in consequence of the payment of fees. It passes my comprehension to believe that the strength of the voluntary schools consists only in the fact that a child, probably much against its wish and that of its parents, paid 1d. every Monday morning 1296 to the mistress or master of the school. That touch of the 1d. is worth nothing at all as security to the voluntary school. The right hon. Gentleman also urges that our best security is to establish a system of what he calls local supervision. Hon Members opposite spoke of it as being a very moderate control. I hope that hon. Members on the Conservative side will not be led away by any such sophistry as that. We all know what a moderate amount of control means. It means the thin end of the wedge, in order afterwards to obtain a complete scheme of control. We should resist this proposal at the beginning, and we should make up our minds to resist it to the end. We believe that the ultimate intention of hon. Members opposite is the universal establishment of School Boards and the sweeping away of the denominational schools of the country. But the point to which I wish to direct practical attention is this—in what degree is their power to carry out that object increased by the proposals in the Bill? If the Bill increases that power of doing mischief, then it is a bad Bill; but if it does not so increase that power, then I am prepared to say that it is a good Bill. Are there any consequences of safety following from this Bill The first, in which I think really is the strength of our voluntary schools, lies in the financial difficulty of effecting a change in the present system. There cannot be a doubt that but for the financial difficulty the object and aim of hon. Gentlemen opposite would be much easier of accomplishment. We know as well as the Government that the amount of money spent in the country, not only by the Church of England, but by other denominations, is so great that the mere proposal to wipe the voluntary system away would involve such an expense that right hon. Gentlemen opposite, at any rate, are not prepared to propose it. But the greatest strength of the voluntary schools is the popularity of the denominational system. Our advocacy of the denominational schools is based, not upon expediency, but upon principle. It goes so deep down into the feelings which all of us entertain that we are prepared to fight for it as hard as we can. Although we have seen the denominational system applied by all denominations, by the great Wesleyan 1297 body and the Roman Catholics in this country, it is perfectly certain that the main work in that direction has been done by the Church of England. In the speech of the hon. Member for Merioneth he referred to the work of the Church of England in Wales, and said, "Here are we, the Dissenting body of this country, in a majority "—as the hon. Member said, though I do not admit that—"and yet the Church of England has a school over which we have no control." Can there be any more eloquent testimony to the work of the Church of England than that? In 1870 the Welsh had a year of grace given them to keep out the denominational schools, and then the Church of England stepped in and provided the necessary schools at their own cost. It does not he in the mouth of the hon. Member therefore to complain of the action which was taken by the Church of England in the true interests of education in Wales. Then the hon. Member for Fife spoke of the 10,000 schools maintained by the Church of England in parishes where there are no other schools. Again, that is eloquent testimony in favour of the Church of England. The Church of England did the main work of education at a time when it was not so popular and fashionable as at present. It is, therefore, a hard thing that the Church of England should now be asked to stand aside and allow another system to supplant theirs. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite maintain that all schools receiving assistance ought to be under popular control? Obviously there are a great many among them who have not that feeling. I do not think that any of them have forgotten the opinion which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle expressed in the House of Commons last year. He told us that he was prepared to make an exception for the Jews and Roman Catholics.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I was present also, and did not hear it, but, of course, I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says, but he must also remember the 1298 manner in which the Member for West Belfast, to whom that observation was addressed, immediately jumped up and clinched the remark of the right hon. Gentleman without the reservation which the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton has just laid down. The hon. Member for West Belfast said that he and his friends were, therefore, prepared to vote for the Amendment before the House. The right hon. Member for Newcastle, when he made that statement, had not looked for a moment at the essential conditions of the problem. Can he contend that the Roman Catholics and the Jews are to be favoured, and the Wesleyans and the Church of England are not? But that statement was not made by the right hon. Member for Newcastle alone. It was also made by the right hon. Member for Sheffield. Is it possible, supposing that there is a Wesleyan school doing the work admirably, that because they do not limit themselves solely to Wesleyans, but admit one or two Church of England residents in the parish, that school is to be abolished? Yet there is no other possible conclusion to be drawn from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, even as amended by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton. There are undoubtedly dangers to face, but those dangers are not produced by the Bill of the Government. On the contrary, our Bill offers a distinct means of escaping from those dangers. I would strongly urge on Members on the Government side not to allow gloomy prognostications to deter them from supporting a Bill which will strengthen voluntary schools. If we quake and shake at every speech that is made on the other side, if we are going to give up our case before it is half argued, it is perfectly certain we shall suffer in the future. Of course, there are difficulties in a change of system, but I am quite sure the Conservative Party will not shrink from them, but will meet those small difficulties. My first reason for supporting this Bill is because it will not damage the voluntary schools, and because it will afford us a most favourable standpoint from which to resist any attack upon voluntary schools. The second reason why I support this Bill is because of its educational effect. Take our policy as a whole. My right hon. Friend has not only introduced this 1299 Bill, but has enormously modified the conditions of elementary education in this country, and if anyone will take a perfectly candid view he will be perfectly satisfied that the effect of our educational proposals has been to advance the cause of education, and to do so in the most legitimate manner—not, as has been said by my noble Friend, by endeavouring to engraft upon primary education a sort of spurious secondary education, but rather by improving primary education throughout the country. Let me remind the House of two or three respects in which it is probable that education will be advanced. First of all we give enormous relief to the teachers, and that is of enormous advantage to the cause of education, especially in cases where the attendance is irregular. Secondly, we improve the attendance of the scholars. There will be no longer a temptation to the parents to withdraw their children as early as they have done. The absence of fees up to the age of 14 gives encouragement to the parents to keep the children at school as long as they can. This is shown by the experience of other countries in which free education exists. Then provision is made for warning the inefficient schools, and lastly the teaching staff will be increased in many respects. It has been suggested that the difference between the grant and what the school fees now amount to should be devoted to the teachers. But Her Majesty's Government think it better to leave this matter to the Department, for what is good in one part of the country may not be good in another, and it is thought best to leave it to the Department to decide on the best means of improving the education in each district. The third reason why I support this Bill is that it will relieve the burden on parents. The Bill will get rid of the pauperising system under which the Guardians pay at the present time the fees of 200,000 children. It will get rid of that irregularity of attendance which so largely exists at the present time, and of those unhappy proceedings before Magistrates which so seldom lead to convictions. I feel sure that the friends of denominational education need have no fear of the consequences of the Bill now before the House. It is, of course, impossible to introduce a measure so far reaching as this without creating 1300 some difficulties; but Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that as a whole, and on being thoroughly understood, the Bill will meet with general acquiescence and be found to be a measure which, with safety to all interests concerned, ought to be placed as speedily as possible upon the Statute Book.
§ (11.45.) MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
I think that everyone who has paid any attention to this question of education will feel that the Bill will have one of two effects. It must either very greatly improve the education given in the country, or very seriously deteriorate it; and as the Bill is drawn at present it seems to me there is great danger of the latter result. In my opinion, it does not provide the necessary precautions to insure improved education, removing as it does the incentive to private subscriptions, especially in the rural districts. It has been said that we should rely on the Code as a protection against these dangers, but are we able to do so? Nothing can save the denominational schools but the improved education given in them, and if the effect of the Bill is, as is feared by many of those who are deeply interested in the cause of education, and who are no enemies to the denominational school, to deteriorate the education given, the Government will be bringing about the very danger which they foresaw. Therefore, it will be a wise course for those to pursue who are favourable to these schools if, when the Bill is in Committee, instead of following a policy of timidity and dread, they seek to place every facility in the hands of the Department and the friends of education to safeguard the measure against the dangers to which I have referred. I am quite sure that if the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President, who has shown himself a true friend of education, has a free hand in the matter, the Bill may be made in passing through Committee one which will really add to the efficiency of our national education: but if, as I have said before, through the fear of dangers they themselves are creating, the friends of the denominational schools will not place it either in the power of the Bill or of the Code to provide the precautions necessary against the deterioration of the education given, the doom of those schools will be sealed.
(11.50.) MR. LLOYD-GEORGE&c.) (Carnarvon,
I think the fact that Ministers have accepted the principle of free education ought not to blind hon. Members on this side of the House to the dangerous and insidious character of the Bill with regard to other points. I refer in particular to the question of popular control; and, as a Welsh Nonconformist, I protest against a Bill which is nothing more or less than the further endowment of the Church of England in Wales, which is already too highly endowed. It is a gross injustice inflicted on the great majority of the people of the Principality that they should be compelled to contribute towards the maintenance of, and to send their children to, schools where what they believe to be pernicious doctrines are taught—doctrines, too, which are ostensibly directed to the destruction of Nonconformity. The Welsh Nonconformists have been taunted with the fact that, although they are in a majority, they have not erected schools of their own; but it seems to have been forgotten that the Nonconformists in Wales have had to erect their own chapels, and to maintain their own ministers, without any outside assistance. Again, the landlords, who belong to the Church party, have been grinding the Nonconformists by a system of rack-renting. It is all very well for Churchmen in this House to taunt Nonconformists in Wales with not having erected schools, whilst they, the Church people, have erected schools out of the plunder of a Nonconformist nation. It is said the Welsh people can avail themselves of the Conscience Clause, but the man who did so would be a marked man—marked by the landlord, by the parson, and by all the people who have the command of all the capital in the rural districts in Wales as in England, and the man's child would be a marked lad in the school. But how can the Nonconformists of Wales erect schools? Where are they going to get the sites? All the land is in the hands of the Church landlords. I was surprised to hear the noble Lord the Member for Darwen (Viscount Cranborne) say that Nonconformists did not erect schools in the rural districts. He ought to know something of the difficulty which Nonconformists have in getting chapels in his own district. They have a still greater difficulty in 1302 getting sites for schools. The First Lord of the Admiralty told us that administration must follow financial responsibility. The noble Lord seemed to suppose that was an argument in favour of the voluntary schools, whereas it is the basis of our whole case against them. Four-fifths of the financial responsibility falls on the ratepayers of the country, and only one-fifth on the voluntary subscribers. There are hundreds of cases in Wales where, if this Bill is passed, the whole of the financial responsibility will fall on the ratepayers. Where four-fifths of the financial responsibility falls on the ratepayers, four-fifths of the administration ought to be given to them, and only one-fifth to the voluntary subscribers. I have such confidence in the sense of honour and fairness of gentlemen opposite that I believe they would not vote in favour of the perpetuation and subsidising of the present system unless they believed some great public benefit would result from it. What is that public benefit? We have been told over and over again that the one great public benefit is that the interests of religion will not suffer by the denominational system going down. That argument was adduced when the Education Bill of 1870 was brought forward; but, with very few exceptions, the School Boards of England and Wales have imparted religious education to their children. On a School Board I know there is an excellent system of scriptural education—which is religious education in its purest form, unconfined within the narrow dogmas of any sect. It is said that the denominational schools are more economical than the Board schools. I maintain that they are not. If economy means cheapness they are, no doubt, more economical; but inasmuch as efficiency is, to my mind, the first element in economy, I maintain that these schools are not more economical. I find from the statistics recently published in a White Book that the efficiency of the schools increases in the same ratio as the expenditure upon each child. We are told that denominational schools have cost something like £20,000,000, but of that something like £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 has been contributed by the taxpayers. Many of the buildings are absolutely unfit for the purpose for which they were designed, and it is a question whether in the course of a few 1303 years they will not have to be entirely reconstructed. I maintain that the School Board system is the more efficacious for educational purposes in this country, and I say the matter of economy is a mere trifle in comparison with the educational advantages of the children. Hon. Members opposite never make a protest against voting millions for the purchase of engines of destruction, but when it becomes a question of devoting £1,000,000 to education they talk about economy, and one would imagine that their Party was all for economy in this House.
§ It being Midnight the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow.