Which Amendment was—
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. Sydney Buxton.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. HARRY SAMUEL
In the remarks I have ventured to make to the House, I have endeavoured to prove that London Borough Councils must be placed either on an equality of power with the county boroughs, or, if that position is denied them, they must at least be the local education authority and have power over the education of their own areas. The Opposition, who have criticised the London Borough Council, must be asked to decide one way or the other. It seems to me that hon. Members who oppose the Government in this matter have the greatest possible pleasure in belittling the whole system of London government that has been set up for the capital of the country. I have endeavoured to prove that justice must be dealt out to the Borough Councils of London in this matter. I go further—I say the members of the Borough Councils are the most natural representatives for this purpose of any single popularly-elected body. They are, first of all, the best judges of sites, for the simple reason that I have always found that the School Board, whenever they have endeavoured to find sites for board schools, have always come into conflict with the local authority, and I have always found that the site selected by the local authority was the hotter. I have the honour to represent a constituency in East London where the poor have to keep the poor; that is a principle I do not defend and am not here to defend. I think it is a wrong principle; but if you take a valuable site in a district like that which is highly rated you necessarily add considerably to the rates per head of the district. That is why I think the London County Council should be the authority for the whole of London education, because it is impossible for us to allow the principle with regard to education of the poor having to keep the poor in any section of 741 the Metropolis. That is one fault of the School Board. Up to the present moment they have totally disregarded the recommendations of the local authorities, and dumped their schools down anywhere they chose without any regard to the wishes of the districts. With regard to the teachers I am one of those who would like to pay a very high compliment to the integrity, honesty of purpose, and deep devotion of the whole of the School Board teachers to the work of education. As a manager of a Board school in the East of London, I have taken the opportunity to pay many and frequent visits to the Board schools of my districts, and I have found at all times that the teachers have done ail in their power to maintain the high standard of education in every school. They have given all their time and all their intellect ungrudgingly to the work of improving the minds of the children of the district, and under any educational authority at which we may arrive I certainly trust that the teachers will not imagine that we shall lose sight of their devotion and the integrity of purpose they have given to the profession which they adorn. I am certain that the teachers will always find that their suggestions will be absolutely and justly considered by every responsible body. Their qualifications are well known, and I have the greatest pleasure in paying this small tribute to their great work.
In dealing with the difficult problem of London Education I have arrived at the conclusion that it is one of great complexity. There are two authorities which have power over the whole of the London districts—the London County Council is one, and the London Borough Councils, which have been created in addition, the other Now I would like to insist on this one thing—that both these powers are indispensable to the constitution of London, and while they overlap to a certain extent the Government, in solving this problem, as I think justly, have arrived at the conclusion that both must be constituted the educational authority for London. The London County Council is the only body that has the power to make a rate over the whole of London, and I have no objection whatever to the number of the representatives of that body being 742 increased on the Board. Under the Bill we have placed upon them, the responsibility of the education of London as a whole, and if the education is not carried out throughout London in the way in which it should be, then the responsibility will fall upon them, and the electors of London will demand at their hands a recognition of the way in which the work has been done. That being so it would ill become us to deny to the representatives of the London County Council the power they ought to have, and I do not see why we should not give them the control, at least numerically, in this matter. It is always possible to formulate the alterations which can be made to a Bill in Committee, but I wish, on this occasion, to confine myself as far as I possibly can to the principle underlying the Bill, and I certainly think that the London County Council should have a numerical majority, but at the same time I have contended, and I hope successfully, that it would be an injustice of the worst kind to deny representation to the London Boroughs as well.
With regard to the ad hoc authority. I have the greatest objection to it; in my opinion it has not been the success which hon. Members claim for it. In the first place, I contend that the School Board does not represent the electors of London. I have in my hand certain figures, which have been compiled with regard to this matter, and I agree with the figures given by the Secretary to the Board of; Education, and also those given by the hon. Member for Camberwell, and I think they have come to a very fair conclusion as to the number of electors the School Board represents. Fifty-five members of the present School Board have been elected, thirteen of whom have resigned and one has died, consequently 25 percent., or a quarter of the present School Board, have never been elected at all. I would also point out that not more than 21 per cent. Of the electors voted at the last election, and under those circumstances no member of the School Board can represent that he is responsible for more than 16 per cent. of the electors, but if you deduct from that the one quarter of the School Board which has since been 743 co-opted you come to this, that when you have polled every vote given by the electorate no member represents more than 12 88 of the electors. Now certain Members have contended that the reason that the electors do not go to the poll in these matters is because of multiplicity of elections. That is what we, on this side, have always said, and what we want is to do everything we can to make the electors of London take a deep And vital interest in what, in my opinion, is the most important question that exists, namely, the education of the Metropolis. Yet you want to deny to the metropolitan boroughs what you give to the humblest boroughs in the country. I hope that I have contended successfully that it is only right and proper to give to the London boroughs the representation that is their due, and I trust that the Government will not follow the example that has been set in this matter by the hon. Member for Poplar, but, having created the Borough Councils, and having foreshadowed that they would clothe them with greater powers in the future, they will now give them that representation to which they are entitled in the control of education for London.
§ MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
I do not desire to follow the hon. Member at length into his statistics, but I would say in passing that the argument he has used is a peculiarly dangerous one. He says because many of the London electors did not go to the poll that therefore the London School Board is not a representative body, but, if that Argument is carried to its logical conclusion, the hon. Member himself only represents a minority of the electors of the constituency which he has the honour to represent in this House, because less than 40 per cent. of the electors voted for him.
§ MR. EMMOTT
Less than 40 per cent., I say, voted for him, but I will not pursue the matter; it is of no consequence.
§ MR. EMMOTT
As I am challenged, I would say that the total electorate of the Division which the hon. Member honours by representing is 6,800, and that the total number who voted for the hon. Member is 2,600. I am not putting it forward as an argument against the hon. Member being a fair representative for his Division; I merely use it to carry his peculiarly dangerous argument a little further than he appeared to be inclined to do. The hon. Member has made a strong appeal in regard to the position of the Borough Councils under this Bill, and I should like to try and disabuse his mind of the fact that by anyone on this side of the House the Borough Councils are condemned or despised; the real facts of the case are rather the other way. We have a fear on this side, which I think is justified to a very great extent, that Members on the other side of the House have an unreasonable objection to, and suspicion of, the London County Council. We may be wrong, but naturally, in matters of this kind, when one holds that view, it must affect one's position. I entirely agree that the Borough Councils of London are sufficiently large to become separate educational entities, but, inasmuch as the hon. Member has acknowledged that you must have one rating authority for education in London, it is quite impossible that the Borough Councils should be complete authorities. That being so, the hon. Member has confined himself to making a fervid appeal to the Government to retain the powers of the Borough Councils as foreshadowed in the Bill. There is one fundamental objection to that, which is that you cannot give these powers to the Borough Councils and retain the authority of the London County Council. You cannot serve two masters in this matter, and if you are to set the power of the purse against the power of management in the selection of teachers and sites, there must necessarily at the outset be a great deal of friction, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education will have to do a great deal in the way of arbitration. But there is another objection. The hon. Member has compared Borough Councils with minor authorities under County Councils in the country, but the representation of those authorities for education under the County Councils is 745 four to two. This proposes to give the entire management to the Borough Councils, and his analogy falls to the ground. More than that, I attach the greatest importance to the question dealt with by my hon. and learned friend the Member for Haddingtonshire and the right hon. Member for Cambridge University, namely, the continuity of management. You cannot hand over these schools to the Borough Councils and retain that continuity of management which is so desirable if the system is to work without friction. There is another thing, if you hand the management of these schools over to the Borough Councils you practically exclude women from the share they have taken in the past. The hon. Member said the Borough Councils were the more suitable people to select sites for schools, but from the little experience I have had of cases where there has been a controversy between the School Board and the local authority, I have found the School Board has made a much wiser choice with regard to sites than the local authority has done. If it is left to the Borough Councils, parochialism must enter far too much into the choice of teachers, and, that being so, it is perfectly evident that the choice of teachers ought to be left in the hands of the larger authority and not in the hands of the Borough Councils.
An extraordinary view has been put forward by the Government as to what the House should vote for in voting for or against the Second Reading of the Bill. The Colonial Secretary said recently that all we were concerned for in such a case was the main principle. That idea is going to carry us a long way. Occasionally, on a Friday, we have an opportunity to introduce Bills into this House on such matters as the taxation of land values, or temperance reform. Then we are told by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that these are matters which cannot be dealt with except by the Government, and only then after having regard to all the questions involved, and that we have not only to consider the principle but also all these matters surrounding the Bill. It seems to me that if the authority of the Colonial Secretary's statement is to maintain in this House that, then hon. Members would 746 have to vote for every wild-cat scheme that might be introduced, if they agreed with the principle, quite independent of the fact of whether it was a workable scheme or not. It seems to me that what we ought to consider in deciding to vote for or against this scheme is this: whether the scheme proposed by this Bill will give us a better Education Board than we at present possess, and in answering that question one must say whether this scheme is better than others which could be produced. We are faced by the fact that the scheme of this Bill has been abandoned. We do not, know where we are. We do not know what Amendments the Government is going to accept, and until we know that, and what the scheme is likely to give us, we cannot say if this is a scheme which should be voted on or not. The scheme must be greatly altered in detail, and when it is altered and the Government have intimated the Amendments to which they I will agree, I do not see what will be left: of the Bill except the first clause. Every other clause will be so altered as to make the Bill totally unrecognisable. Vague promises made by the Government to us are of no use in this matter; we want to know more exactly than we have been told the alterations which the Government I are going to accept, and I do not think I the House ought to give a Second Reading to this Bill until they know what the Government is going to do. In my opinion the Government is playing with the House. We are not being treated fairly. This scheme depends as much on detail as on principle, and although one cannot expect the Government to say exactly what they intend to do in an entirely new scheme, I hold we ought to know in outline and know what the Government are going to accept before we are asked to give a vote on the Second Reading. We want to know: is the Council to be a real authority, is it going to make the scheme for the Committee of managers by itself, or is that scheme to be subject to the approval of the Education Board? Are the Borough Councils to be kept out, or are they to be represented on the Committees, and are they to carry on the management of the schools? We also want to know, with regard to the question of women, how many there are going to be on the Committee, and how many are 747 going to be retained in the management of those schools in which they have taken so great a part in the past. We don't ask for the exact number, but we want a good deal more information than we have had, and it is only fair it should be given to us. We want that information the more because of the extraordinary hurry with which that Second Heading is being passed through. As regards Parliamentary time, the First and Second Reading have come almost together. No time has been given to consider the matter, and until we have these particulars from the Government, we can only deal with the Bill as drawn. As it is drawn, it seems to me a very bad measure; we are told that the principle is municipalisation. There is much to be said in favour of that, and much to be said against it. There is the argument that if you have a body for all purposes, you get a stronger body and better men on it. There is the argument that has been used that you cannot have ad hoc bodies for every purpose, that you must elect men to deal with a large number of subjects, and you must not leave education out; that you must not elect for educational purposes, and nothing else, just as hon. Members sent here represent their constituencies on all subjects, including those they do understand and those they do not. Against this it may be urged education is a special subject, and there are men and women who are willing to go on an authority dealing with education, but are not willing to go on a body dealing with all purposes. There is also a great danger, especially in a great city like London, of your overworking the municipal authorities.
Now the Government have taken a most extraordinary course with regard to municipalisation. At the present time they are considering whether the power of municipalities ought not to be curtailed with regard to some of the functions they have taken upon themselves, and, on the other hand, they are throwing upon their shoulders the burden of the education of the great mass of the people. The municipalities of London say we do not want it. Mr. Beechcroft's Amendment, I am told to-day, was rejected by the County Councils by eighty to twenty-three, and Mr. Beechcroft's resolution was in support of the principle of this Bill. Therefore you say to the London County Council 748 "You must take control of this education." You do not want to have any School Board and it is for that reason you are forcing this Bill through the House. It is a strange thing that the Government should desire to destroy a great body like the School Board, which has done such great work, and to give the work they have done to a new and untried body. That, instead of being Conservatism, seems to me Radicalism in excelsis. I am justified in making these remarks, not so much with regard to London as to other great towns which I know. It would have been much wiser to have given them an opportunity of keeping their School Boards if they chose. In the Act of last year, we made, I am afraid, a great mistake, and I am afraid we are going to do the same in this Bill this year. We are making a great leap in the dark. Some hon. Members say the technical education committee of London h as been a great success. I agree, although I think that success has been a little exaggerated. I think the problem they have to deal with, and the amount of work they have to perform, is a small matter to that which will be thrown upon them under this Bill. We are throwing too much work upon the municipalities without regard to their wishes or capacities. We shall have to deal in the future with the way in which municipal work will have to be regulated—whether it shall be regulated, as Parliamentary work is regulated, by setting up a sort of municipal cabinet to control it, and have the work carried out by paid servants under the authority of the municipal cabinet. If something of that sort is not done, I am afraid, with the work we are throwing on it, that the municipality will break down and some serious muddle will occur with regard to carrying on municipal enterprise. In conclusion, I would say, granted that ad hoc election is impossible, and granted that municipalisation is the remedy, I maintain that this scheme is absolutely wrong. I am perfectly aware that our peculiar English character believes much in compromise, and in that way schemes illogical and absurd in themselves are carried out, but I say at the same time this scheme cannot and will not work. There is friction in every line of it. If the 749 minority only of the members of the Committee are to be members of the London County Council, I hope the House faces this fact, that the London County Council, in nominating the authority, will have to depart from the wise system of proportional party representation it has adopted hitherto. The financial control given under this Bill is illusory. How can it work? The minority appointed by the London County Council may be overwhelmed. The London County Council immediately say "We will stop supplies," and the Board of Education has to step in. A system which can be broken down and crippled in that way this House ought never to consent to.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
As the hon. Member, as I understand, is opposed to the ad hoc authority——
§ MR. EMMOTT
I should prefer to keep it in London, and with regard to municipalisation I think we should have gone more slowly.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
He thinks we should have gone more slowly. He is also against the Borough Councils, and does not want the London County Council, because he says it is forcing on them something they do not want. Under these circumstances I do not know what authority he would put in the place of that the Government proposes. One of the main objections which have been put forward to the Bill is that it has been brought forward too hurriedly. Now the First Reading was taken on the 6th of April, and the Second Reading is being taken on the 28th; that is surely not too short a time for the London County Council to discuss and master the details of the Bill. But I may point out that alterations in a Bill do not take place on Second Reading, but in the Committee stage, and I do not believe that will be entered into for another week or ten days, and there will be plenty of time to move Amendments when we get to the Committee stage.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington said the free churches were going to suffer because of the suspension of the School Board for 750 London, and that the result of this scheme would be to largely endow the Church of England; but I do not see why the London County Council and the Borough County Council should favour the Church any more than the School Board has done. If any change takes place I should think the London County Council would be even more against the clergy than the School Board. I remember a time when the clergy had great influence over the School Board, but I have never heard of their having much influence on the County Council. Then the hon. Gentleman who just has sat down seemed to quarrel with the Government because it had been said that on the Second Reading of a Bill one voted for the principle and not for details. I have been here in the House nearly eleven years and I have endeavoured to devote as much time as I could to the details of the business of the House, and I have always understood that on the Second Reading of a Bill the only thing that has to be considered is the principle. It is on that understanding that I intend to vote for this Bill. I have never had reason from my place to advocate the cause of the London County Council. When they are in the right I am their supporter, but when they are in the wrong I am their opponent. My action against the London County Council has not been due to any prejudice on my part. I believe on the particular occasions to which I refer they have been misled. I intend to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill because I admit that the principle involved in the Bill should be one authority. I agree with the principle, but I do not agree with the details of the Bill, because I think the London County Council, though nominally constituted as the authority, is, as a matter of fact, not the authority; and I hope in the Committee stage right hon. Gentlemen below me will encourage Amendments which may be moved with the object of giving more effective control to the London County Council. Whatever the authority is to be under this Bill it should be an effective authority I do not believe in constituting an authority, and then taking away all its powers. I think that the County Council should be the authority, and that if a rating authority has the power to levy a rate that authority should be elected by 751 the people who pay the rate. The County Council levies a rate all over London, and is the only authority which should be chosen under the Bill.
Then, again, the Council has done good work whenever it has taken up the subject of education. I believe that no one will contend that the Council has done badly as regards education; and, therefore, it has a right to be chosen as the authority for education in London. My hon. friend the Member for Hampstead said that if the Borough Councils were eliminated it would be a slight upon them. I do not wish to do anything that might be considered a slight on the Borough Councils, but, in this particular instance, I do not think that they are the proper authorities. The Borough Councils were not created to be an educational authority, but to carry out other very important and useful work, and it would be no slight on them not to be chosen as the education authorities. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Haddington made, if I may be allowed to say so, an extremely eloquent and able speech on the subject. I am not able to follow him into the intricacies of the education question, but I should like to say that I hope that the Government, besides making the London County Council the paramount authority, will endeavour in some way to arrange that the co-opted member shall be co-opted under some scheme to be arranged with the approval of the Board of Education. I would leave the Borough Councils to be the managers under that scheme; but I think something such as I have suggested would go far to remove the difficulty in connection with the Bill. It would be practically on the lines of the Bill of last year; and we give London an education authority for which it has a right to ask.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has referred in a spirit of doubt, which I think is largely shared on this side of the House as well as on the other, to the advisability of extending powers under the Bill to the Borough Councils; and he seems to desire to make the London County Council not only the paramount authority over the Borough Councils, but to place it in the position 752 of being a real education authority, as other County Councils were placed under the Act of last year. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware of the opinion expressed at a meeting of the London County Council this afternoon. After all, the London County Council are the best judges of their own business. They are a singularly businesslike and competent body. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster interrupted my hon. friend the Member for North Camberwell, and said that the resolution which was to be proposed at the meeting of the County Council was not a resolution demanding an ad hoc authority. The resolution which was passed is in this form:—That this Council is strongly opposed to the scheme proposed by the Bill, and would prefer either the maintenance of the present system or the creation of one directly-elected education authority which should have real and complete control over all grades of education.The following words were afterwards added:—And to devote itself exclusively to educational purposes.I do not think that after that resolution it can be contended that we are any longer in the dark as to the opinion of the Parliament of this great Metropolis, the London County Council, as to what ought to be done under this Bill. I make no disguise of my attitude. I approach this Bill in the same spirit that I approached the Bill of last year. I opposed the Bill of last year because it divorced education from popular control, and imposed on the people the duty of supplying funds for sectarian teaching. With regard to this Bill, I say that if these arguments had any force with regard to the Bill of last year, they have ten times more force with regard to this Bill. To destroy the London School Board is a much more serious act of destruction than to destroy the other School Boards of this country; and the endowment of religion, and the-fortifying of the sacerdotal spirit in directing the lives and the future of the children is a much more serious question in London, where many of the churches and church schools are, to my knowledge, far more under the influence of extremists than are churches and church schools in the country. Romish doctrines are being inculcated in every possible way in the children; and it is far more serious to 753 endow sacerdotalism with new resources in London than in the country. This Bill seems to be the worst of all possible measures for dealing with the problem of education in London. When the principle of the democratic control of popular education was endorsed in the Act of 1870, the triumph in London was the greatest of all. Look at the difference between districts in London at that time, and the same districts now, with their splendidly equipped Board schools—centres of light and culture and refinement for the children of the poor. They are magnificent monuments to the principle of the democratic control of education.
Then again the London County Council itself is a splendid monument of municipal unification, and a broad conception of municipal duty, which has been evolved, not from small local bodies without any special unity, but from this great body of representatives gathered together from all parts of London. Both the London School Board and the London County Council are themselves the strongest arguments in favour of an ad hoc directly-elected authority as the omnipotent education authority in London. The Act of last year attempted, I will not say dishonestly, but deceptively, to set up a single education authority in the counties and great boroughs of England and Wales. But in regard to this Bill, which openly sets aside the principle of a single authority, you propose to give nominally administrative and financial control to the London County Council; but it is not real control, because you do not give a majority to the London County Council. There have been adumbrations of a possible reconstruction of this Bill from the back Benches opposite; and it was also alluded to in a rather indefinite manner by the First Lord of the Treasury; but there has been no reconstruction as yet which would justify us in saying that the Bill does not propose a purely nominal administrative and financial control to be given to the London County Council—a control which is to be at once taken away because the Council is to be denied a majority on its own Committee.
§ MR. CHANNING
Further, the London County Council is not to be left free, as other councils are, to fix the limits of delegation of powers to the Borough Councils; and it is not to be free to regulate local expenditure, except as regards the question of sites. The third clause practically gives a very large number of indefinite powers to the Borough Councils. If any question arises as to whether the point in question is a detail of administration or management which belongs to the Borough Council or not that point is not to be decided by the supreme authority of the County Council, but is to be referred to the Board of Education. This Bill sets the Borough and County Councils fighting together, with the Board of Education as a sort of umpire. We all know that the school managers have taken an earnest interest in educational matters, and we ought to continue to trust them with the management of the schools. The hon. Member for Hampstead said the Borough Councils were infants whom they ought to instruct in respect to these tremendous obligations to be placed upon them. I think it is a monstrous thing to ask these "baby councils" to undertake the management of all the schools of London and entrust them with the future of the many children of this great Metropolis. The First Lord of the Treasury has stated that it is absolutely necessary to have a unity of rating throughout the metropolitan area. I agree with that, but why are we not to have a unity of administration as well? The London County Council, by its resolution to-day, shows that it is so overworked that, far from taking up other duties, it is anxious to transfer to a directly representative body elected for educational purposes the educational duties which it now carries out with regard to technical education.
We have heard frequently of the multiplicity of elections and the sparseness of the polls. Naturally people do not like their business life disturbed by elections for two or three months together. It might be true that the number of electors who go to the poll is very small, but what is the real reason why hon. Members opposite are so hostile to the County Council and the School Board? Is it 755 because of the smallness of votes? No, it is because those votes, whether given for the County Council or the School Board, manage in the long run to return a progressive majority. Supposing it is true that 25 per cent. only record their votes for the County Council and School Board elections, and 75 per cent. abstain from voting—why do they abstain? We know the artifices and appeals which have been made by the Unionist Party again and again with regard to School Board questions and County Council elections, but those appeals have been rejected and refused again and again by the people of London, and why? Because the greater portion of the electors have made up their mind that the business of the London School Board and the London County Council has been well and wisely conducted in the best interest of the Metropolis, and therefore they have not been able to whip up this 75 per cent. The question of the multiplicity of elections is a very serious one, and really in this matter right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite would do well to study the example afforded by the United States upon this subject. My hon. friend the Member for North Camberwell suggested that we might have the School Board elected in single electoral districts like the County Council, and at the same time and on the same ballot paper as the London County Council. That is the method adopted in every one of the American elections, and it is an immense saving of time, trouble, and expense. This arrangement completely avoids all those difficulties which seem to be such stumbling blocks to many hon. Members on both sides of the House.
What is the real solid objection which members of the Conservative Party, and some hon. Members on the Opposition side, have raised continually against the London School Board? It is that the School Board is elected for educational purposes, and that it is not a rate-making body. But it makes a precept, and imposes its will upon the rating authority, and its precept cannot be set aside by the rating authority. There is another case in which the example of the great American cities might be followed. In America they have a single education authority elected by the people. It is an 756 ad hocauthority, but it has not the right to impose its own financial obligations upon the rating authority of that district. Under the American system men and women give their lives wholly to one class of duty, and they are not members of the municipal body at all. They draw up their plans and suggestions, but the finance remains absolutely under the control of the City Council, or whatever the paramount financial body may be. I have raised as one of my principal objections to this Bill the conflict between the jurisdiction of the power of the Borough Councils and the County Councils. I do not quite understand the figures furnished by the hon. Member for Islington as to the grant in aid which may be given to London under this Bill. Under Clause 3 of this Bill you are creating twenty-nine new bodies which can impose a precept upon the London County Council, and, as far as I can understand the Bill, the London County Council will not be able to resist the precepts and expenditure imposed upon them by the various Borough Councils.
§ MR. CHANNING
That is the effect of the Clause, as I understand it. [An HON. MEMBER: It is the other way about.] I should welcome any assurance that we shall not have an immense increase of London rates under this Bill. The Borough Councils are to test the qualifications of the teachers, and they are to appoint surveyors to examine sites and appoint officers to carry out the various duties which are given to them somewhat indefinitely under this Bill. If the Board of Education is favourable to Borough Councils, Clause 3 is very elastic, and their power to increase the rates may be very much multiplied. Both administratively and financially this Bill is unworkable and prejudicial to the interests of London. The problem of dealing with nearly 1,000,000 children demands an authority capable of devoting all its energies, and the efforts of the best men and women you can find in London, to this work of educating the children; and to call 757 upon a Borough or County Council to treat this as a mere light and unimportant extra addendum to its agenda is simply playing with the educational interests of this great metropolis. I shall be glad if before the Second Reading we have some assurance of the complete recasting of this Bill, both in its principles as well as its details, but if the measure is not thoroughly re-cast I shall give it my most strenuous opposition.
§ MR. MIDDLEMORE (Birmingham, N.),
who was indistinctly heard, said: This Bill does not please anybody, not even the Government. Even at this early stage the Prime Minister has hinted, not vaguely, that he will be prepared to amend it, which looked like banning his own Bill, playing the rôle of the devil's advocate. In the very few remarks I shall offer I shall confine myself almost entirely to the authority and its creation. Everything we objected to, some of us strongly and passionately, in the Bill of last year, reappears in the present measure, with an authority so astonishing that it appears frankly to have surprised the Prime Minister himself, who is prepared to run away from it. The farther the right hon. Gentleman runs away from it the better. The Bill as it stands is an impossible Bill. I do not think it can be carried without the assistance of the Irish Members who helped to carry the wear-and-tear Bill of last session.
§ MR. MIDDLEMORE
There will be twenty nine authorities created under this Bill. I should like to say a very few words in criticism of these new authorities and also to add a few words of regret in regard to the extinction of the School Board. Under this measure the County Councils will have to pay the bill. I think that is clear.
§ MR. MIDDLEMORE
The County Council will have to pay the bill and to control, or try to control, the education 758 of London through this new many-headed authority with which, I suspect, the County Council will have little or no connection. The Borough Council committees are to manage the schools, select the sites, and employ and dismiss the teachers. Now, where does the control of the County Council come in? You transfer to these Borough Councils all that is vital and essential, and then you say the County Council has the control. I respectfully submit that that is not so. If you deprive your authority of the power of initiation and of the power of selecting sites, and appointing and dismissing teachers, you make the County Council a subordinate authority at once as far as these all-important duties are concerned. The Bill attempts to establish a dual control and fails, and it establishes control by twenty-nine bodies, which it calls, most incorrectly, subordinate bodies. If the County Council has one spark of self-respect it will not accept the duties which the House is invited to impose upon it, and, if they take that course, I do not think there is any power on earth to compel them to take up those duties. This Bill does not allow the County Council to make its own scheme, and in this respect you treat it worse than any borough in the country that has 10,000 inhabitants. The Government even places them in a minority on their own Committee, and makes their authority a sham and insincere one, and ineffective because it is deprived of all control. The right hon. Gentleman said that this is a Bill to destroy the School Board. Why should the School Board be destroyed? The Prime Minister be lauds it and says that, though it has many enemies, he is not one of them. But the right hon. Gentleman is doing an enemy's part. Can hostility go further than destruction of the School Board? When the right hon. Gentleman says the Board has conferred immense obligations on children and parents, and then proceeds to recompense the Board with loss of life, I am reminded of the Walrus and the Carpenter, weeping over the oysters before eating them. I should have thought that the proper course to have taken would have been to extend the operations of the School Board and confer fresh powers upon them. The right hon. Gentleman gave certain reasons for destroying the 759 School Board, but they were not equal to the occasion. The right hon. Gentleman says ad hoc authority is extravagant, but I do not believe that the London School Board has been more extravagant than the great Municipal Councils of the country, which have been piling up debt in a way to jeopardise their credit. But I must add that for the present Government to pose as the apostles of economy is a spectacle that "staggers humanity."
The right hon. Gentleman said further that the work was over-centralised. I do not believe it. The School Board has decentralised its work as occasion required; it has appointed Committees, Sub-committees, 250 groups of managers, and 2,000 individual managers. What could they do more? Could these fresh bodies decentralise or depute better? I believe the right hon. Gentleman wants, not to decentralise, but to dethrone. He wants to take the crown from the School Board, break it into thirty pieces, and distribute the pieces among local authorities, giving the most insignificant piece of all to the County Council. The electors do not go to the poll in sufficient numbers for the right hon. Gentleman. According to his scheme they will not go to the poll at all. Clearly he will make bad worse in that respect. As far as they do go to the poll it is a great gain to education. I do not know what are the real grounds for destroying the School Board. He seemed to praise the Board on educational grounds, but I am afraid he is going to destroy it on non-educational grounds. I am told that the influence of the teachers on elections is a matter that lies very heavily on the conscience of some of my hon. friends. The chief influence of the teacher is in the schoolroom, and there these elementary teachers are the greatest force we have for forming the character of the future citizens of London. For my part I would do everything possible to encourage their interference in elections; I am glad to see them anywhere, and I would do anything I could to improve their status. The only reason for destroying the School Board is, in my opinion, that they have done badly for the children of London. The reverse is the case. The parents are under immense obligations to them. I say, therefore, that the Bill is radically bad, because, according to the 760 right hon. Gentleman's own showing, it is going to destroy what is radically good. The right hon. Gentleman had an almost supreme opportunity of re-organising the education of London—the almost Imperial task of taking the first educational step towards bringing the Empire closer together, but I am afraid there is only one man in the Ministry who can see and seize a great Imperial task. The Government have missed a great educational opportunity, and, what is more, I believe they are doing a very ill turn to upwards of 1,000,000 children in London.
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
Not only has the Borough Council in my constituency protested, I believe unanimously, against the passing of this Bill, but throughout the constituency, as far as I am aware, there has not been a single voice raised in support of the proposals of the Government. I have had a long experience on the subject of education. At the time Mr. Forster was preparing his Bill I was one of a large deputation of working men who waited on that statesman urging him to make the Bill a popular measure. I say popular not because the masses of the people were wanting in sympathy with education, but because the proposal as originally drafted was to do what this Bill proposes—to give to the local authorities the power to control the educational destinies of London. The deputation wrestled with Mr. Forster for some time on the subject, and ultimately he frankly admitted that they had convinced him as to the desirability of the authority being directly elected by the ratepayers, and the result was the establishment of the London School Board. There was then in London, a large organisation of working men, called the Auxiliary of the National Education League, and a very angry controversy ensued between the supporters and the opponents of a national scheme of education as to the kind of religious teaching to be given in the board schools. It was due to the working men to whom I have referred, and to Mr. Spurgeon, who presided over a great meeting of that body in Exeter Hall, that the compromise ultimately agreed to was first suggested. At the first election for the School Board I was a candidate having for my colleague Professor Huxley, and 761 we took an active part in endeavouring to give effect to the Act. At subsequent elections also I did the best I could to assist the cause of education, in which, during all my life, I have taken a very deep interest. For twelve years I was a member of the School Attendance Committee of the old Borough of Marylebone, so I think I may say without egotism that I have some practical acquaintance with the work of the School Board, and I have no hesitation in saying that it has accomplish a splendid work, the full benefits of which we have not yet lived to see. The present generation has derived enormous advantage from that work, and even the Prime Minister is compelled to bear testimony to its excellence, although he has forgotten to tell us why he proposes to annihilate the body which has done that wonderful work. I mention these matters simply to show that I may claim to speak with some practical acquaintance of the subject under discussion.
Notwithstanding the small percentage of the electorate which has from time to time gone to the poll, I believe that the great work which has been accomplished is largely due to the democratic basis on which the Board was established, and I cannot help thinking that that is one of the crimes it has committed, and one of the reasons its dissolution is to be precipitated. I hope I am wrong in that view, but if the School Board has done such magnificent work for London why is it to be abolished? That is the question my constituents are asking. It has been asked in this House, but no satisfactory answer has been vouchsafed. What demand has been made, and from whence has that demand come, for the abolition of the School Board? There has not been a single meeting in the Metropolis, or a single petition presented to this House, or the slightest feeling exhibited anywhere, except in clerical quarters, for the abolition of the School Board. We have, therefore, to seek for reasons which do not appear on the surface, and I do not think it is very difficult to ascertain what those reasons are. It is easy to account for the small percentage of the electorate who have voted at the School Board elections. The masses of the people had been so confident 762 that nobody would be found so wicked as to stop the cause of educational progress that they did not trouble to go to the poll. Ever since the Board was established the clerical party have from time to time made efforts to stop the educational clock, and on one occasion they did manage to "capture the School Board," and to retain the control for three years. It has been said that the masses of the people were indifferent to the cause of education. It was not indifference, but over-confidence, that lost that election, and when the next opportunity came round there was an uprising throughout London, with the result that the clerical party were swept from power, and they have never regained the position they then lost. That is the real reason the School Board is now to be abolished. Because it is clear that the ratepayers will not tolerate the Board being governed, and the educational destinies of London being controlled, by a clerical majority, that authority is to be swept away. It was not indifference on the part of the ratepayers of London that led to the catastrophe but it was over-confidence, and ever since they have been doing their best, except at the last election of the School Board, to prevent the clerical party from regaining the ascendancy it once occupied on the School Board. When the election took place in 1900 the country was suffering from the delirium of the war fever, and if I wanted any evidence that war has a demoralising effect on the people I should find it in the fact that the people of London in that year forgot their duties. They were "Mafficking" in the streets instead of going to the poll to record their votes but they have bitterly repented themselves. You will have plenty of evidence accumulated before long that will convince you that I am right. The General Election of 1900 overshadowed the elections for the Borough Councils and the School Board which followed. When the election for the School Board of London took place the electors were absolutely surfeited with elections. Those facts were quite sufficient to explain the small percentage of electors who went to the poll at the School Board election. So far as I am able to judge this Bill is going to result, for some time, in chaos.
763 During the past thirty years splendid work has been done for education in London through the machinery set up by the School Board, whose members have devoted themselves assiduously to the work without fee or reward. Now you are going to summarily dismiss the body which has done that splendid work and put all the efficient costly machinery into the melting pot. You will have to begin all over again with a new authority. Why should we begin all over again? I ask the Parliamentary Secretary in all sincerity if he will tell us what crime the School Board has committed that it should be annihilated? I cannot help thinking that it is because the clerical party that are behind the Government failed to permanently capture the School Board of London, as they were advised to do some time ago by a very high authority. If it had not been for that influence I feel strongly that the School Board would have been allowed to continue its work. The new authority which is to be set up against the wish of the London County Council is to be an educational authority but only in name. Everybody in the House has from time to time noted the sturdy opposition which the hon. Member for Peckham has given to any proposals of the London County Council. He never loses an opportunity of pitching into that body and saying the most unpleasant things about it. But he now tells us that he is in favour of the work of education being undertaken by the London County Council. Does he wish to popularise a body which, ever since it was established, he has been doing his best to denounce and belittle? Nothing of the kind. Everybody knows that a taxing body is always unpopular. People do not inquire into the reasons which induce a body to impose taxes, and, supposing that this Bill passes, as it unfortunately will, every ratepayer will know that the demand for the school tax, which there is too much reason to fear will be increased, comes from the London County Council. The County Council will not have its Popularity increased by that fact. On the contrary it will afford the hon. Member for Peckham, and others who view the County Council in this unfavourable light, to say, "Oh, yes, these new taxes for educational purposes 764 are being imposed by the wicked County Council." It will assist them in their persistent efforts to make that body unpopular. There are many more reasons which could be stated in opposition to the Bill, but I have stated the sentiments that animate the working men in the constituency of Haggerston, which I represent in this House. I have not found one of any political creed, whether he be Tory, Radical, or Socialist, who has a good word to say for the Bill. They say that there must be some ulterior purpose to serve in proposing to abolish a body like the School Board of London, which has done such splendid work. In voting against the Second Reading of the Bill I shall feel that I have never given a vote with a greater amount of heartiness.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
There is one feature which has characterised this debate throughout the afternoon and evening, and that is the extreme strength and vigour of the language used in denunciation of the Bill contrasted with the profound calm which has reigned in the House. The Bill has been called by every sort of name. The hon. Member for Poplar who compared me to Rehoboam has, I think, followed the injunction of Solomon, that to spare the rod is to spoil the child. I may also remind the hon. Member that Rehoboam does not furnish an altogether happy illustration of the results of that educational method. I do hope that the Bill may be a better justification of the proverb, and by the Bill I mean the real Bill, and not the Bill which has been described by various Members who have taken upon themselves to expound its provisions, each according to his particular fancy. The hon. Member for North Birmingham drew a picture which certainly did not portray the Bill of the Government. It never entered the mind of the Government, and it certainly is not the Bill before the House. The Bill before the House is simply the application of the Education Act of last year to London, with two changes—first, as to the management of a certain class of schools; and secondly, as to the composition of the Committee which is to advise the Council and to whom the Council may, if it pleases, delegate powers. That is all the novelty in the Bill, which is really a 765 piece of machinery for the extension, and to a certain extent the adaptation, of the Act of 1902 to London. The London County Council is to be the education authority, and the control of the provided schools is to be delegated to the Borough Councils. There is a good deal of misunderstanding as to what that decentralisation or delegation means. It has been alleged that the Government were breaking up the elementary education of London into twenty-nine separate departments. Nothing could be a more untrue representation of the purport of the Bill. What would happen if we followed the Act of 1902? In that case for every school which was not a voluntary school the London County Council would have to appoint four managers, and the Borough Council as the minor local authority, would have to appoint two, and therefore the London County Council would have to deal with over 450 bodies. What we provide in the Bill is that the Borough Councils are to be responsible to the London County Council for the management of the schools. They are empowered to conduct the management through committees consisting of themselves, or of outsiders joined to members of the Councils. Can this be said to be breaking up the educational system of London? What powers do the London County Council retain? I think if hon. Members would only be good enough to read the Act with the Bill they would have clearer notions as to the powers proposed to be conferred. Under the Act, the County Council has the powers of the School Board and the complete control of expenditure. Under the Bill the County Council will have power to give general directions and to fix the numbers, salaries, and qualifications of the teachers; the amount of school accommodation needed, and the provision to be made for it. The Council is also the school attendance authority, and regulates the numbers of the staff in all its departments. In fixing the qualifications of the teachers they can acquire variety of experience, and can secure the supply of that great service of teachers to which the Member for Haddingtonshire referred. The Borough Councils will make out estimates for their requirements for repairs, furniture and the like, and submit these to the 766 County Council. Thus, instead of having to keep a check on 450 separate bodies of school managers, the County Council will deal direct with twenty-nine Borough Councils, and will thus be free from care for all the small details which so much oppress the members of the existing School Board—as we heard from the most interesting but somewhat depressing diary which was read to the House by the hon. Member for Camberwell—because the central authority will only pass the estimates and exercise powers of inspection, audit, and the like, so as to ensure that the money is properly spent. In that way, I cannot help thinking the central local authority will find itself relieved from the burden of administration in small matters which has weighed very heavily on the London School Board, while it will not lose control over the general educational policy, or the regulation of the educational system of London. There is no reason to fear that the London County Council and the Borough Councils will desire to alter the existing organisation of the School Board. That organisation only wants to be re-arranged with a view to the new relations between the boroughs and the educational authority; and there will be plenty of time to do that in the interval between the passing of the Bill and its coming into operation. I hope that next year we shall see a new scheme of management of the schools, which will be as effective and less onerous to those who take part in it as that of the London School Board.
The right hon. Member for Cambridge University expressed a wish that special schools, such as those for epileptic children and deaf and dumb children, would not be excluded. I do not think that they are excluded. They are public elementary schools; but that is a matter which may fairly be considered at a later stage of the Bill, and it does not touch the principles with which we are now concerned. What we shall have to consider, and what will have to be dealt with when there is one educational authority for London is the educational problem of the future—the grading of schools, and the determination of what are really public elementary schools, and what are schools which give education higher than elementary under the Act of 1902. But that is an educational 767 problem which rests in the future, and which I do not think concerns the educational principles of the Bill. There are one or two other advantages which must arise from decentralisation. I think there will be greater elasticity imparted to the curriculum of the elementary schools. The School Board system has been rigorous. The School Board inspectors have had to insist on a certain uniformity, which has borne hardly on the poorer parts of London.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
The Borough Councils, knowing the needs of their area will, advised by their Committees of management, occupy a stronger position as against the central authority than the existing Boards of Managers can possibly do in relation to the School Board. In some schools progress must be slower and subjects less numerous, and things must be repeated in some schools which do not need repetition in every school. The teaching will be simpler or more complex in one school than in another, and that will be to the great advantage of the children of London. The Borough Councils will also take some account of the relation of elementary education to the industries of their respective areas, and in that way education will be related to local requirements as it never has been before in London. Besides, there will be an increase of local interest created in the schools, and a more serious and constant effort to find employment for the children as they leave the schools. Nothing will be more valuable to the progress of the children in later life than that, when they can earn a livelihood, there will be people always on the alert to secure engagements for such children. Then there is the question of the Committees through whom the Borough Councils are to act. It has been said that the Clause dealing with the Committees is crude. I am afraid that the Clause has been framed on the principle—perhaps too absolutely on the principle so much heard of, and pressed upon us in the debates last autumn—that we should trust the local authorities. The Clause was framed 768 on the assumption that the Borough Councils would exercise common sense in the formation of their Committees, that they would put on these Committees those persons who for so long and successfully interested themselves in education, and worked under the School Board. I have the greatest possible desire that we should not lose the assistance of the managers who have worked with the London School Board. I think it an absolute necessity also that women should have a place in the management of the schools. If this House cannot put that confidence in the Borough Councils, it is perfectly open to hon. Members to make the clause more precise, so as to ensure that there should be persons from outside the Borough Councils, and that some of them should be women. Then as to the provision of sites, I think that some hon. Members have mixed up the question of the choice of sites with the accommodation and provision of schools. But I hold that it is a reasonable provision that the Borough Councils should be entitled to have a word is the choice of the sites in the future. Then if the management of the Borough Councils is inefficient, and if there is any neglect on the part of the local authorities, there is in the last resort the right of the County Council to interpose and represent to the Board of Education that the management is not what it should be, and to enter and make its own provision through its own Committee. I think, therefore, that we are taking every precaution that there should be good management of the schools. I believe that this process of decentralisation, this delegation of power to the Borough Councils, will not only be a great relief to the local authority in regard to the heavy work imposed upon it, but that it will also excite an interest in the education of the children of London which has not existed before, and which should be the object of every Government, even at some temporary sacrifice of good administration, to promote and encourage. I hope I have satisfied the House that this clause as to management, which has been called defective, and many other hard names, may be worked, even as it stands, for the benefit of the children of London.
769 There is a departure from the Act of 1902, in the constitution of the Committee. Now that departure has been attributed to various sinister motives—to animosity to the London County Council, to love of the Borough Councils, to political interests, to clerical interests. All these are said to have combined to induce the Government to frame a Committee devoid of those elements which the last speaker thought were the basis and main object of the Bill. I should have thought that a Committee on which the preponderance is given to the London County Council would enable hon. Members to trust it. There can be no doubt as to where the predominant influence will rest. One hon. Member suggested that the matter ought to have been settled by scheme; but what would happen would be that when the County Councils had framed its scheme, and brought it before the Board of Education, the Borough Councils would protest that they were not represented. From the experience I have had of the working of the Act of 1902, I should most earnestly deprecate, on behalf of the Board of Education, throwing on that Board the duty of saying whether or no the boroughs should be represented on that Committee. I maintain that the question of whether the Borough Councils should be represented on the Education Committee should be settled by Parliament, and not by the Board of Education. If these Borough Councils are to present their estimates, and to exercise the administrative power, which I wish to see them exercise, then it seems to me not merely equitable, but reasonable and convenient that they should be represented on the Committee. In framing this scheme of a Committee, I have been actuated by a desire to associate all interests concerned in education in the common work of the education of the area. The main principle of the Bill, it must be borne in mind, is that the London County Council shall be the local education authority; that it must have a Committee which it can trust, and whose advice it will be willing to take; that it must have a Committee to which it will be willing to delegate such powers as it does not desire to exercise itself. How the Committee should be framed is not a matter to be discussed 770 on the Second Reading of the Bill. Our object is to lay down the principle which I have submitted—that the Committee must be so framed that the London County Council can give it its full trust and confidence. Having laid down that as the principle of the Bill, and as the desire of the Government, I ask the House to proceed with the Second Beading of the Bill without further cavilling at the present construction of the Committee. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh!"] That ex hausts the points of departure from the policy of last session in the Bill now before us. But there remains a question which has been raised, and which I believe is the main question in the minds of many hon. Members opposite, and that is, whether a body directly elected for educational purposes or a body directly elected for general municipal purposes, with education thrown in, is the right sort of authority in the interests of London. We are told that an authority directly elected for educational purposes, is democratic, and that an authority directly elected for other than educational purposes is not democratic.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, whom I regret not to seen in his place, has alleged that a body constituted as this Committee would "De-democratise" our educational system—that the London County Council elected by the ratepayers for general and municipal purposes is democratic, but that the Borough Councils, elected by ratepayers for the purposes of the Borough are clerical or retrograde, or un-democratic. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to go to Poplar or to Bethnal Green and tell the councillors there that they are "De-democratic." Perhaps he might safely do so, because they might not understand jargon which is a convenient vehicle for confused ideas. Perhaps he might explain that this was a notion of democracy constructed ad hoc for the purposes of debate, as principles sometimes are. Well, why should education be severed from the rest of municipal work? Surely education, and particularly elementary education, is full of municipal problems. There is a good deal of waste, I am sorry to say, of educational force, because the children 771 going to school do not come in a condition in which they can really benefit by the education provided for them. We have never known this. Our educational deficiencies are due to our own idleness, our own shiftlessness, our own stupidity; but we have never been able to say that we could not learn because we were cold or hungry, or because our homes were noisy and squalid, or because we were tired out before the day began with running errands or with doing domestic work. These are serious questions which should engage the attention of the municipal authority, for we must bear in mind that there is a good deal besides teaching which goes towards the education of the poor. And then there are great educational problems which are worthy of the attention of any Municipality, however great. There is the adapting of the education given to the needs of the children; there are the particular industrial and trade needs as well as the higher forms of education. And I would not limit the considerations to the material and industrial needs. There is need that our education and training should be such as to form the character, to add to interest life and to give a permanent value to the education of a child. And I think with these great problems to be solved—and with these great objects in view we may well hope that these new municipalities, between whom it has been so often said to-night that friction is sure to arise—will forget the squalid jealousies which have been attributed to them by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, and will give their whole heart to the great work of educating the children of this generation to be the good citizens of the next.
§ MR. ROBSON (South Shields)
The hon. Gentleman has addressed a House in a state of political calmness that it is worth while to compare with the feeling which pervades the country. I suppose we have scarcely ever had a measure of first-class importance debated in a House so thin, and in which the speeches on the whole have been so quiet. But in the country we have a feeling of religious conviction aroused to an extent that has not been observed for many years. We have men of position and substance in the country; men to whom the old-fashioned phrase "Fear God and honour the King" may well be 772 applied; men who fill all sorts of positions in public life and serve their fellow citizens without reward. We have these men, excellent citizens and responsible fathers of families, called upon to choose between their conscience and a statute of the law, and for the first time in my time—or in the time of many of those present—we have a great body of respectable English citizens declaring that they will not obey the Acts passed by this House—that they will not obey this Act when it is passed. The House is calm because it is discussing that which is undoubtedly important, but is not a matter of vital importance to the country. The country has not yet thought how the Education Bill is to be adapted to London. To the country the essential vice and injustice of the Act of last year and of this Bill are apparent. It is therefore, calm to discuss details, but you cannot be sure that it will be calm when you apply the Act. It has not yet been put in force in the country; when it has that will be the time for the Secretary to the Board of Education to judge of the political calm. He will then, perhaps, find himself in a sort of storm-centre, and he will not enjoy the position. However, may I say a few words upon those questions of administrative detail upon which the Secretary has not dwelt? He has treated this Bill as though it were a mere matter of machinery, and I apprehend he proposes to substitute for an inefficient a more efficient machinery. That should be the Government's object, and yet, curiously enough, that is not their declared object. They do not profess to substitute a more or less efficient machinery, because the Prime Minister in his speech was careful to disclaim any intention of casting any reflections upon the London School Board, which is one of the public institutions most esteemed, not only by those under whose jurisdiction it comes, but by the whole of England. The right hon. Gentleman, in defending this Bill, was careful not to say anything calculated to lessen the London School Board in public esteem. But that is a small matter compared with his restraint in not attacking it. What is the efficiency that you expect from the new bodies? It is certainly not to be supposed they: will be more ardent in the cause of edu- 773 cation, nor is it supposed they will be any less extravagant than the London School Board. I, for my own part, have listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has just said about the advantages he expects to be derived from the new bodies. But he does not expect that the financial control will be more efficient. On the contrary, it seems the desire of the Ministry to reproduce in our local institutions the kind of muddle and mischief that we have in this House. We have here learned the great disadvantage of having a mass of duties beyond our administrative capacity. In the municipalities there has been a sort of specialisation in the functions that they have to perform. These duties are apparently to be thrown into the hands of one body, so that the electors will no longer be able to choose men especially fitted for an especial purpose. I really begin to think that the Ministry are elevating muddle to the dignity of method. The very essence of this Bill is an attack upon an efficient body for its inefficiency. It is not enough to call this Ministry inefficient; it is anti-efficient; and we have a striking instance of that in this Bill. But it is not the administrative side of the Bill that I wish to lay the most stress upon. I began by drawing attention to the state of feeling in the country. One of the essential features of these Education Bills is that they make the great masses of people pay for the teaching of doctrines in which they do not believe. It is that injustice which this Bill proposes to extend to London.
Since the last Bill passed we have had a remarkable movement spreading throughout the country, a movement on the part of responsible law-abiding citizens for refusing to pay rates or taxes to be levied by this Bill. I think the Ministry ought not to allow that situation to pass without observation in dealing with this Bill. Have they taken the trouble to inquire what is the Nonconformist grievance? An hon. Member behind me said last year that, if men would not go to the State for taxes they would go for rates. Under the old system the theory was that the State paid, by means of taxes, for secular education alone, and that in the case of School Boards ratepayers paid for whatever other education might be required over and above the State grant, but in the voluntary schools religious teaching 774 was paid for entirely by subscribers. That was the old theory on which the State acted. It was the theory laid down by the Act of 1870 and which has been since steadily maintained. Now we have the subscribers definitely and finally relieved from that charge. Therefore the Nonconformists are called upon to pay by these rates the very sum that was previously paid by the subscribers, and they are faced for the first time with a demand upon their consciences which they cannot avoid. They will stand a great deal that is bad in practice so long as the theory is good, but when both theory and practice are bad as Englishmen they naturally rise up against them. That is a situation with which the Ministry have not fairly dealt in this Bill. They say that, after all, the existing system does not make a great difference, and that the injustice complained of is exceptional. But that is no answer, and this is an injustice to which the Nonconformist will not submit. He would be unworthy of his creed and nationality if he were to do so. May I remind the House of what was laid down as a Church view by the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich? In a passage of fine eloquence, which greatly impressed the House and which well repaid consideration, if only on argumentative grounds, he put forward the view that the Church depended upon apostolic succession. That is the theory which the Church has taught in schools throughout the country, and it cannot be taught without teaching children to regard Nonconformists as being without the pale of the Church in its true and legitimate sense. That is the teaching you put into the hands of 13,000 or 14,000 laymen in the country, under the control of the clergymen and the foundation managers. That is the doctrine which must be taught to the children of Nonconformists.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
No, I said "what nonsense." In thousands of Church schools on four days of the week 775 the same kind of Bible teaching is given as that in the Board schools, and on the fifth day, while the Church children are taught the Catechism, the Nonconformist children have a Bible lesson of the same character as on the other four days.
§ MR. ROBSON
I greatly doubt the generality of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, but it does not meet my argument, which is, that the Church insists on having the control of teaching in these schools. If the Church is willing to adopt that system and give up the control then away go the grievances of the Nonconformists. But the Church will not adopt that system, and, therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman speaks of cases of which Nonconformists cannot complain, and which exist not because of the law but because of the will of the particular managers, by way of indicating that there is no Nonconformist grievance, then I say to the right hon. Gentleman, "What nonsense!" It is nonsense of a character which is not creditable either to the logic or the candour of the right hon. Gentleman. Everyone knows that the state of things I have been describing is the state of things permitted by law, and that the teaching of religion in the non-provided schools is put into the hands of the clergy and the foundation managers, and that once it is put into their hands no Nonconformist has a right to demand any religious teaching except that given by the Church. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well there is no such right, and that it is denied by those who pretend to be champions of religious teaching. They will get the law into such a condition that the child of a Nonconformist will be compelled to have religious teaching detrimental to his faith, or no teaching 776 at all. This is the grievance which this Bill proposes to extend, and I warn the Ministry that they will have to consider something more in this Bill than has yet been considered.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Burdett-Coutts.)
§ Put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow