HC Deb 19 November 1908 vol 196 cc1432-5
MR. AKERS-DOUGLAS (Kent, St. Augustine's)

I beg to ask the Prime Minister whether he is able to make the promised statement with regard to the Education Bill and any Amendments which the Government proposed to make in it.


The Government, after much consideration, have come to the conclusion that the proposals which they are about to submit to the House on the subject of education should not take the form of Amendments to the Bill which has already been read a second time, but should be presented in order that the House may have an opportunity of reviewing them as a whole as a new Bill. These proposals are the outcome of prolonged communications in various quarters, and they will be put forward by the Government, not as the plan which we regard as ideally the best, but as one which all parties who are really anxious for a settlement of a vexed and long-standing controversy may, without any sacrifice of principle on one side or the other, concur in accepting. I have strong grounds for believing that those with whom, on behalf of our Nonconformist friends, we have been conferring, and, on the other hand, the Archbishop of Canterbury, are prepared, in order to obtain a settlement—and if there is solid reason to hope that a settlement may be so obtained—to support our proposals. Both have made it clear in their communications with us that they claim no authority to bind either the members of the Church of England or the Nonconformist bodies as a whole. Both have given us the assurance that, so far as their authority and influence go, they will ex animo acquiesce in the settlement embodied in the Bill and give their support to its being brought into effect. This is, of course, without prejudice to some not unimportant points of detail which may well deserve further consideration. The Bill will, if possible, if the rules of the House allow, be presented tomorrow, but in any case its provisions will be in the hands of Members to-morrow afternoon, or at latest on Saturday morning. I should hope, sufficient time having elapsed to consider our proposals, to take the Second Reading of the new Education Bill on Wednesday and Thursday of next week.


I think I ought at once to say that, as far as we are concerned, we think it is a very short time, if an entirely new Bill is not to reach us till Saturday, that it should be taken for consideration so early as Wednesday.


I hope the right hon. Gentleman and his friends will suspend their judgment on that point until they have seen the Bill. I can assure him that there is no intention on our part unduly to press it forward.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

The right hon. Gentleman says that the Bill is the result of prolonged communications with representatives of the Church of England and the Nonconformists, and that the Bill will, in effect, embody something in the nature of an agreement. May I ask him whether communications of a similar character have taken place between the Government and the representatives of the 2,000,000 of Catholics in this country?


I am sorry to say that for some time there was an indisposition on the part of the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church to enter into communications on the subject, but such communication have taken place recently.


May I ask when these communications were entered into with the authorities of the Catholic Church in this country, inasmuch as I have in my possession, received to-day, a document from the highest authority representing Catholics in England, saying that no such communications have taken place up to to-day?


The hon. Gentleman is, I think, misinformed. There were prolonged communications on the subject in the summer. They were suspended for a time during the autumn, but my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Education as late as yesterday was in communication with the Roman Catholic authorities.

MR. JOYNSON-HICKS (Manchester, N.W.)

Has the Prime Minister had any communication with regard to this proposed compromise with any representatives of lay opinion in the Church of England?

MR. FORSTER (Kent, Sevenoaks)

Should it prove impossible to present the Bill to the House to-morrow, what steps does the right hon. Gentleman propose to take to make us acquainted with its provisions?


If it is found that the rules of the House do not allow it to be taken to-morrow, it will be circulated on Saturday or to-morrow afternoon, together with an explanatory Memorandum.


Is the House to understand that there is or is not any agreement with the Roman Catholic communion?


I think the noble Lord had better give me notice of that Question.

SIR WILLIAM ANSON (Oxford University)

If the Bill appears as a Parliamentary Paper on Saturday and is to be read a second time on Wednesday, when does the right hon. Gentleman propose to introduce it and take the First Reading?


In that case it would simply be presented on Monday in the ordinary way.