§ Mr. C. Davies
I beg to move, in page 11, line 45, after the first "school," to insert:and provided that there is not a county school available within reasonable distance the Order shall direct that the school shall be a controlled school.This is one of the most important Amendments we have yet been called upon to discuss. The Committee will see that we are now seeking to deal with cases not of publicly provided schools but of the privately provided schools which we call auxiliary schools. They are divided by the Clause into three classes: controlled, aided, and special agreement schools. The Amendment proposes that, where there is no county school within a reasonable distance of the children's home, the auxiliary school which it is proposed shall be continued shall be a controlled school. A very pertinent question was put by an hon. Member a moment or two ago, in which he asked for a definition of controlled schools. They are not really defined in the Bill but, by a process of elimination, we can get at what a controlled school is. It is a school where the whole of the money is provided out of public funds. Once the school has become controlled, the managers shall then, in the majority, be publicly elected and appointed. Here follows the necessity for the Amendment.
We are approaching this matter in a rather calm atmosphere. Had I been in this Committee 42 years ago, when this major question was being discussed, I wonder what atmosphere would have been present. It is necessary for me to refer to one or two matters in connection with this aspect. At the time when the Measure of 1902 was passed, there were, roughly, 14,275 schools which had been established by the Church of England. None of us can ever sufficiently acknowledge our debt to the people who established those schools, and I agree with the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. I. Thomas) as to that acknowledgment, but we should not so worship our ancestors that we do not want to see any changes. Since then, in spite of the great assistance that was given by the Act of 1902 to those schools, the number has fallen to 10,553.
Without a doubt, the number has fallen much lower than that, as, unfortunately, 1031 tunately, many of the schools do not provide those amenities for the children that ought to be provided. Many of them undoubtedly will have to be closed. The estimate has been made that something like two-thirds will have to come down. Be that as it may, out of that 10,553 there are over 4,000 which are the only schools in their particular areas, which are what we know as the single-school areas. They have provided the only form of elementary education for the children within those areas, and the children have had to attend them as denominational schools, although their own parents belonged to another denomination. That is an injustice. I cannot imagine anything more harmful to a child than to have the denominational teaching of the home and the parents questioned by the denominational teaching of the school which it attends. Religious denominational teaching in itself is a very big problem for the child mind.
§ Earl Winterton
My hon. and learned Friend will, of course, take into account the interesting fact that, in the country as a whole, only some 15 per cent. of the parents belong to any denomination.
§ Mr. Davies
It may be. I am only expressing my view as to how it affects those who do belong to a denomination.
§ Mr. Davies
At any rate, we do know that this is an injustice, and, if I may quote His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, who recently acknowledged that injustice and hoped that something would be done to ease it—
§ Mr. Brooke
This statement about the Archbishop of Canterbury has now been made three times in this Committee. Before it is made again, would the hon. and learned Member who intends to usé it, obtain the actual words which the Archbishop said?
§ Mr. Davies
The words which I have only go as far as an exhortation to the teachers in these schools to be sympathetic and kind to the Nonconformist children.
§ Mr. Brooke
On a point of Order. I have not got the quotation. I submit that if an hon. Member comes to this Committee quoting words used by someone who is not a Member of the House of Commons he should be able to quote those words precisely.
§ Mr. Davies
In the single-school areas, of which there are more than 4,000, there is a religious atmosphere which—I am anxious to use the tenderest words I can—is not fully acceptable to the parents of the children who are compelled to attend those schools. We are embarking on a rational system of education. Frankly, speaking far myself, but what is much more to the point, speaking on behalf of all denominations who call themselves the Free Churches of this country, I say they would like to have had the complete abolition of the dual system, and to put in the hands of the State, the whole cost and the control. They have not insisted upon their point of view to the extent of opposing this Bill, although they are so anxious about the whole situation. But let it not be thought for a moment that the Nonconformist conscience is even slumbering. This Committee heard a great deal about it in the great controversies of 1902, but we are anxious for this Measure to be passed and to give the fullest possible education to the children of this country. That is why we are anxious to see it through with as little injustice as possible.
We feel that if this Amendment is accepted the position will then be that there will be within the reach of every child, within reason, a school provided in full by the public and managed, to the extent of a majority, by those elected by the public, where there will not be a compulsory denominational atmosphere contrary to the atmosphere to which the 1033 child is accustomed in his home. Surely that is the greatest distance you could have expected the Nonconformists to go. They want every child, whatever its denomination, to be given the best possible education, and not compelled to suffer from being what I may call segregated from the others. It is a matter on which I feel deeply—that the little children in the denominational schools should be divided into their particular denominations. It must leave not only a feeling of bewilderment in their little minds but may cause, in the case of a minority, even a feeling of inferiority, a feeling that there is something peculiar about them. It is that which we are anxious to avoid.
I will leave the question of the teachers to my hon. Friends who, I am sure, will be following me. I have tried to put my case as emphatically as I can, but without wishing to injure anyone's feelings whatever they may be. Let me refer to one or two figures in passing. The Noble Lord referred to the few who unfortunately belong to any religious denomination, but I think in Wales and along the Border the proportion must be far higher. I shall, therefore, content myself by referring to figures along the Border. The county of Shropshire, which is the one adjacent to my own, and is one of the greatest and most beautiful counties in England or Wales, is of so fruitful an agricultural type that it has naturally attracted the poor people from the hills of Wales. In the main the people of Wales are Nonconformists, a preponderance so overwhelming that Parliament passed a special Act with regard to Wales and dis-established and disendowed the English Church there. They are pouring over the Border into Shropshire.
What is the position in all the counties of which I have got particulars, and I have particulars here of seven? Shropshire is the one that stands highest in the proportion of Church of England schools to the total schools. The proportion in Shropshire is as high as 76 per cent. One can be certain that into the bulk of that 76 per cent. goes a very large number of children belonging to some denomination other than that of the Church of England. The other figures are very near to this proportion: Oxford, 75 per cent., West Suffolk, 72 per cent., East and West Sussex, 72 per cent. I do not know these counties or their position as well as I know Shropshire. That being the position, might we 1034 appeal to the generosity of this Committee, on behalf of those people who have now for generation after generation been compelled to suffer injustice, to take this simple easy step which will remove it once and for all and put all on a proper equality.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas
My hon. and learned Friend has taken our minds back to "old, unhappy far-off things and battles long ago," but he has done it in a manner very different from the spirit of 1902, and I am sure it is one which those of us who are communicants of the Church of England will desire to reciprocate. I feel a number of difficulties about his Amendment. The first is one which I feel sure would be pointed out in any case by the Minister. It is a purely drafting one. I am surprised that two of my hon. and learned Friends have put down an Amendment which would introduce a contradiction into the Clause. Under the Clause, if the managers are able to satisfy certain conditions the Minister is to make an order directing that the school shall be an aided school; but without any alteration in this provision, the Amendment introduces another set of conditions under which the Minister is to direct that the school shall become a controlled school. But that drafting difficulty could, of course, be got over at a later stage, and I do not dwell on that.
I would like to come to the principle in the matter. In these 4,000 single-school areas Nonconformists have undoubtedly been suffering from an injustice, and it is one which those of us who speak, whether officially or unofficially, for the Church of England would like to meet. My hon. and learned Friend will believe me when I say that some of us who are members of the Church of England have discussed this matter informally and we would very much like to do all that can be done to meet our hon. Friends in this matter. I believe the difficulties can be met by arranging for transport and so on—
§ Mr. Thomas
I do not wish to dwell on that now, but I wish to record the conviction that it can be done. We are willing as far as we possibly can to meet them in that matter. We shall naturally wish to have an opportunity to meet them—
§ Mr. Magnay (Gateshead)
Who gave the hon. Member authority on behalf of the Church of England? Is he at liberty to deal with a matter like this? What does he actually mean about it?
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Member could not have listened very carefully or he would have known that I made no claim to speak for the Church of England. I claim only to speak for myself and hon. Friends in this Committee with whom I have been discussing the matter. I certainly do not speak for the Church of England officially, but I know the mind of that Church—
§ Mr. Thomas
I have admitted there is an injustice in this matter which ought to be met, and within the Rules of Order all I can discuss is the particular method of remedying that injustice which is proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Davies) and his associates. The great difficulty I see about this Amendment is that in remedying the injustice suffered by Nonconformists he would introduce a new injustice for members of the Anglican Church, for he would merely invert the position. I do not believe that these injustices are so great as he represents. I should deplore it very much indeed if it were the case, as he said, that teachers in Church schools questioned the denominational teaching given in the homes. I hope the position is that teachers in the Church schools expound the positive teaching given in the Church Catechism and not go out of their way to question the religious faith of people who differ from the Anglican Church. But be that as it may, whether the injustices exist or not there is a sense of injustice and that is undoubtedly what matters. Whether there is substance for it or not, Nonconformists feel that there 1036 is an injustice. The Amendment would merely invert the position, for it means that in single-school areas in future the children of Church of England parents would have to accept the teaching given in the controlled school. The hon. and learned Member may think us very unreasonable but many of us parents—
§ Mr. Thomas
If my hon. Friend had allowed me I was about to say that a very large number of us parents who are members of the Church of England would find ourselves quite unable in conscience to send our children to schools where the teaching is conducted on the basis of the agreed syllabus.
§ Mr. Thomas
My hon. Friend is now falling into the error of the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay) in supposing that I am speaking for the Church of England. I cannot make it plainer that I am not doing anything of the sort, but that I am representing the views of a very large number of parents in the Church of England who cannot in conscience accept the agreed syllabus which would be given in the controlled schools. That is why I say that the Amendment would merely invert the position. Instead of Nonconformist parents suffering—
§ It being the hour appointed for the consideration of Opposed Private Business, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 6, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.