§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (The Marquess of LONDONDERRY)
My Lords, in rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill I can assure my noble friend Lord Wemyss that we have not the slightest intention of rushing this measure through your Lordships' House. We propose to deal with it, I trust, in a manner which he will consider is conducive to the dignity of the House. I would first of all express my sincere regret that there has been any necessity for His Majesty's Government introducing this measure. During the last two sessions your Lordships have had before you two most important measures connected with education, and, therefore, your Lordships might justly ask why you are for a third session in succession required to deal with the question. Before I resume my seat I trust I may be able to persuade your Lordships that this third measure is one of necessity, and that if His Majesty's Government did not ask Parliament to sanction it they would be unworthy to occupy their position.
The great duty of a responsible Government is to maintain law. It is their equally important duty to prevent injustice, and I maintain that it is my duty as President of the Board of Education to promote the efficiency of education and not to allow schools to deteriorate owing to unjust treatment. Your 164 Lordships will remember the details of the two Acts which have already become law. When the Bill of 1902 was passed I trusted and believed it would receive a chance of working fairly, because I imagined there was an earnest desire on the part of all those to whom the administration of the Act was entrusted to promote the efficiency of education. I think I may say, without being unduly sanguine, that in the majority of areas our hopes have been to a very great extent realised. At the present moment there are only five areas in which the Act is not working, and we have reason to believe that these will be reduced in a short time; and I would add that in many areas we have reason to congratulate ourselves on the very satisfactory way in which that Act is now working. I venture to think that where the Act has been taken up by the local education authority with the desire to promote the efficiency of education it has realised our expectations. But there are parts of the country in which those expectations have not been realised.
I regret to say that in the Principality of Wales the Act has been flouted. The action of certain local education authorities has been conducive to gross injustice to certain schools of whose principles these local education authorities do not approve, and the result of that injustice, if allowed to continue, would be a want of efficiency in those schools.
Let me say one word about the Act of 1902. Your Lordships will remember that in another place and in this House it occupied a considerable time in its passage through its various stages. I am not going to deny for a moment that it was a Bill of a controversial character. I should be extremely surprised to see any measure connected with education that would not be of a controversial character, and, therefore, I allow at once that it was open to criticism. I will allow also that the Bill was not a perfect one, but I have yet to find any Act of Parliament which is universally considered perfect. And when we consider that the Act of 1902 had to be built on the foundations of the Act of 1870, which I do not think any noble Lord will hold was admitted universally to be perfect, I do not think I am wrong in allowing that it was possible to declare 165 that the Act of 1902 was not altogether satisfactory. But whether controversial or not, whether perfect or not, the Bill received the assent of both Houses of Parliament and is now the law of the land, and as such I maintain that it is the bounden duty of His Majesty's Government to insist on its being carried into force.
I regret sincerely the absence of the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition, because if there is one Member of your Lordships' House to whom I could appeal to insist on the maintenance of law and order it is the noble Earl, Lord Spencer. I remember well the three years, from 1882 to 1885, when he so ably discharged the duties of Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. He had powers given him to carry out the law of the land, and he exercised those powers to the admiration of every law-abiding subject in Ireland. Therefore, 1 should have liked to have appealed to the noble Earl and to have asked him what his opinion would be after that experience, if His Majesty's Government in the present condition of affairs had allowed the law in certain parts of the country to be flouted or administered with injustice to one section of the community. I should also have liked to have asked the noble Earl, had he been in his place, whether he supported the statements which have been made by Mr. Lloyd-George, one of his supporters.
I have made three distinct statements. I have stated that the Act has been flouted in Wales, that injustice has been done to certain schools which are not popular with the authorities, and that the efficiency of the schools, if this injustice is allowed to continue, will be jeopardised. I hope to prove that each of those statements is accurate. Now, with regard to the Act being flouted, I will quote to your Lordships Mr. Lloyd-George's statement, and I believe I am justified in considering him the spokesman of the Welsh county councils on this subject. Speaking at Bradford, Mr. Lloyd-George described the action of the Welsh county councils as follows—They were getting majorities not to facilitate the carrying out of every provision, but to throw obstacles in the way of carrying out those provisions in the Act which were not suitable to the requirements of their localities. That was their first principle.166 Mr. Lloyd-George also stated in March—Did they propose to defy the Act? Not at all. He simply suggested that they should walk round it.That is a quotation which I should have liked to have asked the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition whether he endorsed or not. I would refer to what was done in Carmarthenshire, where the county council bound themselves by resolution to have absolutely nothing to do with the voluntary schools. It was proved beyond all doubt, by the public inquiry held in March last, that that county council was in default in almost every possible way in which they could fail to do their duty in this matter.
Having, I think, proved my statement that the Welsh county councils have flouted the Act, I now come to the injustice which is being done by certain local education authorities to the voluntary schools. I find in the Swansea Daily News of 25th May last year a report of one of the conferences that were held at which the following resolution was passed—That until the Act is so amended as to give them full control over schools not provided by them, the councils of Wales and Monmouthshire be recommended to refrain from applying the rates to such schools.I maintain that it is a gross injustice to these schools, and one which cannot be tolerated by those responsible for the education of the country.
The complaint of the Welsh county councils is this—first of all, that the voluntary schools have been placed upon the rates, and secondly, that the majority of the managers of these schools are not elected by popular control but are appointed under certain trust deeds. Let me deal with the question of the voluntary schools being placed on the rates. I think that action was one of very tardy justice to these voluntary schools at the hands of the Government. I think the people of this country are absolutely ignorant of the debt of gratitude they owe to voluntary schools. They seem to ignore the fact that had it not been for the voluntary schools there would have been practically no education up to 1870. When we consider the expense to which voluntary schools have been put and the work they have done, it does seem a somewhat 167 ungrateful act on the part of the people to declare that they should not receive support out of the rates.
I now turn to the argument that the majority of the managers of voluntary schools are not popularly elected. It is our duty to respect the wishes of those who have endowed denominational schools on the distinct understanding that denominational education shall be given in those schools, and unless we had maintained a majority of those managers on the board of management we should have been guilty of a breach of trust, and should have betrayed the principles of those to whom these voluntary schools owed their existence. I think those who take this line entirely forget one fact, namely, that with regard to secular education, even in denominational schools, under the Act of 1902 the local authority is absolutely paramount. It is frequently argued that if the voluntary schools of Wales are not supported out of the rates they are in no worse position than they were before; but that is no answer. The voluntary schools pay rates in the counties which they did not pay before. Those rates are paid into the general fund of the county, but the county councils in some cases refuse to return to the voluntary schools their share, and distribute it among schools which are more popular with the local education authority. It must be remembered that to the local education authorities has been given omnipotent power in regard to the condition of the buildings and their maintenance, and they have in many cases exercised their power in effecting improvements. Is it just that a local authority should insist on improvements, and yet refuse just pecuniary aid to maintain the efficiency of education in those buildings? I venture to say that an act of greater injustice could not possibly be done, and it is an act of injustice which the Board of Education could not possibly tolerate.
I will now prove my statement that owing to the injustice done to certain voluntary schools the efficiency of those schools is retarded and jeopardised. The local education authorities in certain parts of Wales have declared that it is perfectly possible to maintain the efficiency of schools out of the grants, and that they 168 need have no recourse to the rates. My experience has shown me that that opinion is absolutely incorrect. We have investigated that question and proved it so. There are some schools that cannot even pay the salaries of the teachers out of the grants, let alone purchase books, apparatus, and the hundred and one things connected with education. In regard to Merionethshire, the report instances two schools where the salaries were £240 and £84 respectively, and where the grants only amounted to £213 and £67 respectively, and yet, besides these salaries, which the grant did not meet, there was the expense of books, apparatus, etc., to be met. Therefore, it is absurd to say that these schools could be maintained out of the grants and had no need for rate support. There are certain schools in Merionethshire which have only been kept efficient for months past owing to the generosity of the managers. Is that the way to administer an Act which had for one of its objects the relief of voluntary schools? I maintain that we should not be doing justice if we allowed those managers to continue to bear that burden. How are those schools to fare if those managers—and they are not rich men—find themselves unable to continue to meet the expenses out of their own pockets? Your Lordships know that these schools must fall to the ground, to the detriment of the education of the rising generation in that part of the country.
I see on the other side of the House my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley. In neither House of Parliament is there a greater expert in educational matters than he is. No man has devoted himself more to the efficiency of education, and he knows full well that if the efficiency of education is to be maintained there must be in existence the highest class of teachers. My noble friend is always persistent on the question of the efficiency of the teachers. I entirely agree with him, and, therefore, knowing my noble friend's predilection in this direction, I confess it was with some surprise that I read a letter of his in the Westminster Gazette on the 3rd instant, in the course of which the noble Lord said—At this moment, in spite of the extreme tension and resentment aroused by the Education Act of 1902, the local authorities even in 169 Wales are administering it, and if they were left alone, time, which softens difficulties, might lead to a reasonable modus vivendi between the opposing parties.I confess I was at a loss to understand what the noble Lord meant by suggesting that time should be given in order to allow things to settle down. The matter is absolutely urgent. If we do not deal with this question at this moment we might find ourselves in certain of these schools without any teachers at all. I would ask my noble friend what is to be done in the interval while the modus vivendi is being arrived at. Would he allow schools to be without teachers? Would he insist on those who have been carrying on these schools at their own expense being made to continue to do so compulsorily? Well, if they do not, what does the noble Lord propose should be done in the interval before the modus vivendi is arrived at? We consider it is our duty to maintain the efficiency of each and every school, and not to differentiate between one school and another.
We annually appeal to the country for a very large sum of money for elementary education, and the country invariably grants us that without a murmur. But what do they expect in return? They expect the efficiency of every single school; they expect us to be able to assure them, through our responsible representatives in Parliament, that we are satisfied that every teacher is up to the mark, and if we are going to allow certain schools to be without teachers or to have cheap teachers who are not up to the mark, I say we should be betraying the confidence of the country. We are asked sometimes why in this Bill the Board of Education propose to decide the case without asking for a public inquiry. The answer to that is a very simple one. Inquiry, as your Lordships know, is a very long business. It is a long business in any circumstances, and to initiate an inquiry into such petty questions as might be involved would be utterly unworthy of this cause. It might be a question merely of the salary of a teacher, or whether coals had been provided one week and not another. Would any noble Lord propose, under any such circumstances, that an inquiry should be held? If we held an inquiry, we should have to communicate with the local authority, and we find that the local 170 authorities have a knack of ignoring letters that are sent from the Board of Education, and absolutely declining to answer the questions put to them. Mr. Lloyd-George, speaking on this subject, said—The Carnarvonshire County Council meet only once a (platter. At the last meeting there might be before the council a communication from the Board of Education. The chairman would say, 'I am very sorry, but we cannot possibly attend to that to-day,' and somebody would move the adjournment to the next meeting, which would be held in June.Therefore, your Lordships will see that if we had to hold an inquiry at the instigation, or with the consent, of the county council, we might have to wait. in the case of Carnarvonshire, more than three months before we got an answer to our letter. We are not likely to act in any case unless we have absolutely good grounds for doing so, but it would be better for the Board of Education to deal with the matter at once rather than leave it hung up till the next meeting of the county council.
There is another point. It has been said that this is a coercion Bill. I took the liberty the other night of interrupting my noble friend Lord Burghclere when he called it a coercion Bill, because I think if there is one Bill associated with education which is not a coercion Bill, it is this one. if your Lordships had chosen to say that there was a certain amount of coercion about the Act of 1902, I do not think I should have been able to have given a flat contradiction, because under that Act it is possible to obtain a mandamus to compel the local authority to carry out their duty if they neglected it. But under this Bill there is no such compulsory power. It may be asked, Why have we not put in a provision for a manda nus here? My reply is that we do not wish to create in every part of Wales village heroes with dauntless breasts. This is not a measure of a coercive character. It does no harm to the conscientious scruples of any conscientious council. When an authority refuses to administer the Act this Bill simply places the Board of Education in the place of that authority in regard to the school or schools affected. I have heard it said, "Oh, but you are interfering with the spirit of the Act of 1902, 171 which was to hand over to the local education authority the whole control of these schools."
Their authority is absolutely untouched if they only choose to maintain it. Take any individual school. If the county council provide for it in every detail except one, they are paramount over every one of those details except that one. Therefore, when we are told that we are interfering by this Bill with the spirit of the Act of 1902, I am compelled to say that this is not the case. We are upholding it in every way. I say, on behalf of the Board of Education, that it will be with the utmost reluctance that we shall find ourselves called upon to intervene in such cases; and on the first occasion that a defaulting authority removes a grievance, automatically the power of this measure ceases. His Majesty's Government are determined to insist on the policy of justice to all classes of the community, and I venture to hope that we may never be called upon to administer this Act; but if we are so called upon we shall administer it only because the action has been forced upon us and because the claims of justice make it necessary for us to intervene.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)
* LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
My Lords, it is with great regret that I rise to move, as an Amendment, that this Bill be read this day three months. I listened with great interest and attention to all that my noble friend the Lord President of the Council said upon this Bill. He gave us at length his views as to the necessity for the Bill and the mischiefs it was intended to correct, but he did not give us as full an explanation as I could have wished of the operation of the Bill itself. But I have no doubt that he or some other noble Lord may find an opportunity, in replying, to illustrate or explain one or two points which the noble Marquess passed over. At this late period of the session, and with the empty Benches I see around me, I feel it is rather an idle thing to attempt to use this House as a deliberative Assembly, seeing that we are simply recording decisions which have been come to by methods of which we are aware in another 172 place. I regret we should be legislating at a time when it is impossible for us to properly examine the details of Bills that come before us.
I pass now to the reasons why I think we ought not to accept this Bill. I will at the outset make this admission, or concession, or admit this point of agreement with the noble Marquess, that I think, in the first place, any Party that has passed a law through Parliament is entitled to say that it will carry out that law effectively, and I will go a step further and admit that it is the duty of any Ministry, whether they carried that particular law or not, to give effect to the law as it stands. I think these are two ample admissions. But it does not follow that this Bill is a wise or effective way of carrying out the legislation of 1902, nor does it follow that it is a just way. The noble Marquess spoke largely of justice. I agree entirely that justice should guide our deliberations and our actions. I thought on one or two points of his speech he slid a little into an ambiguous use of the word justice, because what he described as justice would, in my opinion, be injustice. I think it would be unjust for a Government Department to use its arbitrary powers in going beyond the limits of the law.
I will explain very briefly what I mean. The noble Marquess gave an illustration of cases in which he would put this Bill in force, namely, where there was a discrimination between the board and the voluntary schools, where a teacher in a voluntary school was getting a smaller salary than was paid in the board schools. but I would point out that, although, no doubt, in the popular sense that would be what we should call doing justice to the voluntary schools, that is not what the Act of 1902 entitles them to. That Act puts it as an obligation on the local authority to maintain all schools efficiently, and it is the duty, I agree, of the noble Marquess and his Department to see that the law is carried out. But when they have brought schools to the standard of efficiency, it does not at all follow that the local education authority may not go beyond the obligations of the law in the case of some schools. There is no clause in the Act of 1902 obliging the local authority to give a large and liberal 173 measure beyond what the Board of Education is entitled to demand in every school, but it was quite clear from the noble Marquess's speech that what he understood as justice to voluntary schools was the forcing of the local education authority to do more than the law compelled them to if they were not treating voluntary schools as well as board schools.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
What I pointed out was that voluntary schools in some cases are even denied the salaries of the teachers.
* Loup STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
The noble Marquess spoke of salaries which were not as liberal as they should be. That is quite a different thing. I was very much obliged to the noble Marquess for the very kind way in which he spoke of me, and I think I may claim this for myself, that I do care very much for this matter of education. I am anxious to see the education of the country efficient, and I believe that far more powerful than coercive measures for developing the efficiency of education in the country is the active sympathy, co-operation, and good will of the people, and anything which tends to divide the nation into two camps, to create a feeling of hostility and resentment, bordering, I might almost say, on civil war, is likely in the long run to be injurious to education.
I do not in the least dispute the right of the Government to bring in a Bill to remedy the defects in their legislation of 1902, but I do think this legislation of their's is wanting in statesmanship. It will not heal the breach; it will not facilitate that compromise, that modus vivendi which I think we saw in the debate on the Bishop of St. Asaph's Bill was desired by those who are interested in this question. Some people think that when going into negotiations it is better to do so armed with loaded revolvers. My belief is that if the clergy, the Nonconformists, and the civil party, the party of democracy and citizenship, all go into a conference with loaded revolvers, there is more likelihood of the revolvers going off than of any agreement being promoted and of their killing persons other than the combatants. I am perfectly sure of this and everyone 174 I have spoken to on the subject admits it, that there will have to be very material changes in the direction of more popular government by those counties which have to find the money. They feel also that this religious question has somehow or other got to be met in some method of compromise. I think I may say that, generally speaking, those gentlemen one speaks to are rather impatient at the extreme eagerness of people whose theological sympathies are much more keen and much more subtle than those of the man in the street to force upon the man in the street the necessity of pressing those theological subtleties on young children. I am sure the noble Marquess, with his connection with Wales and with the populous and democratic county of Durham, must see that we have got to make a great step forward in the direction of working with the people and not against the people if we are to get a national system which will be good for the country.
Now let me make one or two observations upon the Bill, and why I think it a bad Bill. First of all I think that if the Government had waited a little longer they would have brought things nearer to a meeting. I am sure this Bill in parts of the country where the situation is strained will make it ten times as strained as it is now. I was a little surprised at the statement of the noble Marquess that there would not be time to hold inquiries in these cases. I think it does not lie in the mouths of those who take upon themselves the responsibility of governing a country to say that they have not time to meet the claims of justice. The noble Marquess, in almost the last words of his speech, asked for justice for all classes and all persons. Well, are not the county councils in the nature of classes and persons, and are they not entitled to justice as well as anyone else? The noble Marquess claimed to put these remedies in the absolute, free, administrative discretion of the Board of Education, quite uncontrolled.
We had a great deal of discussion last week as to what was the range of administration and what was the range of law, and, therefore, of justice, in local affairs with reference to the Licensing Bill. We saw that when the licensee 175 was on his trial for misconduct, every precaution was taken by proper trial at quarter sessions that justice should be administered. Even in the region of administration every care was taken that that administration should be carried out in what the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack called a judicial spirit, by securing the fullest opportunity to the party interested. and enabling evidence to be heard. But in this Bill you are substituting a new remedy for the remedies which you had under the Act of 1870, the Act of 1876, and your last Act of 1902. In the Act of 1870 there were drastic provisions for superseding school boards in default, but that enactment provided that no such school board should be superseded until there had been a public inquiry by the Education Department as it then was. The same was done in 1876, when you were dealing with school attendance committees, and in both those cases you had the further check of publicity and responsibility, for it became the duty of the Board of Education to report fully each case where they so acted to Parliament. One of my Amendments reproduces the words of those sections. By the Act of 1902, before you could proceed for a mandamus you had the obligation put upon you to hold a public inquiry. It was not only necessary in the Act of 1902 to go to Parliament. You there had greater safeguard than in the Acts of 1870 or 1876, because if the Board of Education applied for a mandamus they would have to set forth the facts they alleged, and if those facts did not disclose a legal obligation on the part of the school board the mandamus would not issue.
My contention is that under this Bill the Board of Education have turned into administration that which ought to have been judicial. You are passing from the temperate atmosphere of British justice to the administrative despotism of Russia. The proceedings clearly are judicial in their character. To say to a public authority—to say, for instance, to the County Council of the West Riding of Yorkshire—you have failed to comply with your statutory obligations and you are in default, and, therefore, we will divert money which by the Act of Parliament should go to you and devote it to paying sums which you ought to 176 have paid under the Act—to make such a statement is charging them with an offence, and they ought pro-eminently to be heard. I should like to say—I do not know whether the noble Earl on the Woolsack will contradict me—that it is a fundamental axiom of law, it is what the old metaphysical lawyers would call part of the law of nature antecedent to all positive and municipal laws, that a person charged with an offence should be heard in his own defence.
I looked up a case which happened in 1858–1859 in which the defendant was no less a person than the Archbishop of Canterbury. A high church clergyman named Poole had been hearing confessions of an indelicate character from young women. This has now become so common that nobody notices it; but in those days the Bishop of London inquired into the matter and revoked Mr. Poole's licence. The curate appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, but the Archbishop, with a kindly confidence in the discretion and wisdom of his suffragan, confirmed his decision without giving Mr. Poole an opportunity of being heard in his own defence. But Mr. Poole, as is often done in these cases by clergy with high notions of ecclesiastical independence, appealed to the secular arm to protect him against his ecclesiastical superiors. In those days Lord Campbell was Lord Chief Justice, and in making the rule absolute and in ordering the Archbishop to hear Poole before he condemned him, his Lordship said—One of the first principles of natural justice is that no man should be convicted without being first heard.And the Lord Chief Justice went on in his judgment to quote these words—"Qui aliguid statuerit parte inaudita altera aequum licet statuerit non aequus fuerit."and continuing, he said—A very aged judge said, not irreverently, that the Almighty and Omniscient Being would not condemn our first parents without their being heard. That precedent had always been acted upon.I will grant to my noble friend the President of the Council that the provisions of the Act of 1902 as to the public inquiry may be lengthy. He will notice that in my Amendment I have not asked for so much as that. I have asked that 177 before condemnation the charge should be communicated in writing to the incriminated persons, and that any evidence a local authority might desire to submit relative to the charge should be heard. I cannot think that the noble Marquess can seriously be of opinion that his argument as to the time an inquiry would take is material, because if, for instance, a defendant would not plead, if he remained mute of malice, then the Board of Education would be perfectly entitled—and I do not think anyone would complain of them if they did so—to adopt prompt means to deal with the case. I am quite sure that if the Board of Education had wished to give fair play to the defendants they would have given them an opportunity of being heard.
Then, again, why should it not be reported to Parliament? The draftsman who prepared this Bill might very fairly have secured that the searchlight of publicity and full record of their action should be turned on the Board of Education. The noble Marquess represented that it was not reasonable to wait indefinitely while some paltry question was being decided, but does not the noble Marquess see that that is amply covered in his own Bill? He has made a provision in Sub-section (a)of his first clause, that any act, thing, payment, or grant which in the opinion of the Board of Education might otherwise be invalid by reason of the default of the authority shall have effect. He cannot pretend that, if there was a charge, the inquiry and finding could not be got through in a month, and that the managers could not in the meantime finance the school in the paltry things mentioned, knowing that if the Board of Education decided that the school had been improperly deprived of these things they would be reimbursed. The object, no doubt, has been to leave this in the indefinite region of administration.
Mr. Lloyd-George seems to be the bogey man of the noble Marquess. I think we can afford to discuss this Bill without referring to any reported speech of Mr. Lloyd-George. Many politicians often crow loud on the platform, but when they come to be brought to the test of action we find that the crowing is not so effective. But does the noble Marquess think 178 that nobody is ever guilty of walking round an Act except Mr. Lloyd-George and those whom he instigates? One of the reasons why I object to this Bill is that even if it directed the Board of Education to proceed with all regard to the forms of justice by giving a hearing before they condemned, our experience of the Board of Education is that that Board itself is not at all unwilling to walk round the Education Acts. If the noble Marquess would introduce a short Bill enabling anybody who thought the Board of Education were walking round or violating the Act to obtain a mandamus I should be quite content with that long circuitous method and should be glad of the opportunity of bringing the Board of Education to a Court of law to answer for their conduct.
Ever since the responsibility of the maintenance of schools has been put on public authorities and their support has come upon the rates, the Board of Education have very promptly taken the widest and most general powers, far beyond the definite obligations of the Code, when that Code was applied to voluntary schools with limited means I do not find that the Board of Education have taken any steps to apply to existing schools the sanitary and structural requirements which they now declare to be needed in regard to all new schools. The Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee and other official documents contain plenty of statements with regard to the defective structural state of many schools. We now have it stated by a former Vice-President of the Council that at the headquarters of the Board of Education reports of inspectors have not only been suppressed, but have been doctored. The father of the noble Marquess the Lord Privy Seal, in his earlier days in the House of Commons, distinguished himself as a Private Member by making an attack on Mr. Lowe, who had at that time to resign because it was declared that some accounts of inspectors had been modified or suppressed. I have known for some time that the Board of Education in its public documents forbade inspectors from commenting on the shortcomings of any teacher. In the published instructions of the Board of Education they were ordered to make their remarks general 179 and not to make any definite criticism on the teachers.
I will give an illustration or two of the neglect of the Board of Education to enforce the most elementary rules of health and decency in schools when they were voluntary schools. I have had before me, as chairman of the Anglesey Education Committee, various reports, and there are cases where year after year notes have been made, but nothing has been done to remedy the defects. There is one case which is quite comic. With regard to a certain school the Government inspector says, after talking of flagrant defects—I ought to have reported this long ago, but the great age of the incumbent and the respect in which he is held in the neighbourhood made me hold my tongue; but now that a new clergyman is appointed, I feel that I must speak out.It is notorious that for years the grossest indulgence has been shown in cases of the gravest sanitary defects in voluntary schools. Therefore, I say that the Board of Education have frequently walked round an Act of Parliament. It is this persistent policy of favouritism by the Board of Education, spread over a long series of years, which makes us rather distrust that Board being put, not in a judicial position, but in an administrative position to perform judicial acts. I know that in the Board of Education a great deal of what my Lords are supposed to be answerable for is merely the signature of some clerk not very high up in that office. I believe there may be quite ten officials who are authorised to sign letters on behalf of the Department.
I am sure the attention of the noble Marquess must have been called to the way in which the Board of Education have been working the schemes for foundation managers in schools which have come under this Act. To a large extent an additional denominational element has been thrown into the management of schools which was not there before. I will give one instance. It is the case of a school in Pembrokeshire, the St. Ishmael School. That school was vested in the rector and churchwardens. The rector and churchwardens were a kind of quasi corporation, but they had absolutely no rights in the school whatever. The managers were to be five persons elected by the freest suffrage of the subscribers 180 and with no denominational obligations whatever. The Board of Education thrust upon these people a scheme altering it in a material way, limiting the popular character, and insisting that the rector and churchwardens should have a right to one of the seats held by the five elected managers. The desire of the Board of Education broke down here because in this parish, so strong is the prevalent anti-Board of Education sentiment, that although the rector and churchwardens had the power to elect one they did not elect the rector, and, therefore, in spite of that attempt of the Board of Education, the school still remains fully under popular control. But, as I say, no thanks to the Board of Education. I could give many similar instances.
I wish to say, in conclusion, a word or two as to the unwisdom of legislation which will set people at arms length. I hope the noble Marquess, when he comes to reflect, will see that he must not put his sympathies in the place of his legal rights, and no matter how much he would have liked to see the denominational schools treated as liberally as provided schools, the Act of 1902 has not said so. That Act provides that the schools shall be maintained in an efficient condition, and so long as they are staffed with sufficient and competent teachers, the requirements of the Act are satisfied. You may beat down illegal opposition, and, of course, illegal opposition is a thing which we do not stand up for, but what we must recognise is this, that there is a point in human endurance when, if you push people too far, a certain number will break out into illegal opposition. In Wales we have had many examples of that, from the Rebecca riots downwards.
Within the limits of the law there are ample means for unfriendly local authorities to make a great difference in the way they treat the voluntary schools. Recollect that in the whole region of what the Act calls education other than elementary, but which I prefer to call secondary education, they have an absolutely free hand, and need not give a penny unless they choose. By the Cockerton judgment you have made the whole training of pupil teachers a part of the secondary branch of education. 181 I am anxious that we should come to a state of live and let live, and, getting a large public control, that we should find some way to a common ground on the religious difficulties, and that we should all of us unite to do the best we can for the schools. But I feel certain that this is not the way to get at that. Strife does not lead to friendship and to co-operation. The steps taken in this Bill, I have no hesitation in saying, are lawless steps. I call it lawless to give to a Department, with no check upon it except the ultimate check of public opinion, discretionary power where their power ought to be judicial. Such confusion of administrative and judicial power has been much more common in other countries than in ours, and was a characteristic of the ancien régime in France. It was a very prominent characteristic of the form of government of the old monarchy in France before the Revolution, and you have only to read the wisest historians to see how that habit of using lawlessness in defence of privilege set the example to the people in the French Revolution to use the same method in their own defence.
This Bill will, I doubt not, become law; but I cannot pass from it without entering my most serious protest, because I think the Bill in itself mischievous to the cause of education, and dangerous as setting a bad example of lawless methods which may some day be turned upon those who now use them. The noble Marquess said that he had gone into the figures, and it was idle to say that the voluntary schools could be maintained by the Government grant without further aid. I quite agree that to attempt at the present day to maintain a school as it should be maintained, especially a small rural school, upon the public money without some local material effort is quite impossible; but there, again, I would like to ask the noble Marquess why, for so many years,the Board of Education acquiesced in a standard of efficiency in these schools which led to voluntary schools by the thousand being managed entirely without a shilling subscription, and that too when the public aid was less liberal than it is now? Of course, the truth is that they were not adequately maintained, and the Board of Education ought to have done their duty before. The 182 Board of Education have not held the balance equally or fairly. While it was a question of private means and denominational schools, the balance leaned to inefficiency rather than pinch them, but now that it is a question of public means the balance is to be pressed heavily down on the side of efficiency at the expense of the community, while leaving the management not under public control. I am truly anxious, if I can, to pause on the brink of what I cannot but describe as as a sort of hidden civil war. I do not believe the Government will subdue these hot-headed Welshmen by coercion. I believe Taffy is sharp enough to do you in some way, but perhaps not in the way that has been adumbrated in The Times as the method likely to be adopted by Mr. Lloyd-George. If the Government start on this career of coercion I am afraid they will reap such a crop as they will live to regret.
To leave out the word 'now' and add at the end of the Motion the words 'this day three months.'"—(Lord Stanley of Alderley.)
* THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, this Bill has been much associated outside the walls of Parliament, and perhaps even in another place, with questions of denominational controversy and religious differences; but, as a matter of fact, it has nothing, of necessity, to do with those questions. What has happened is that certain schools have not received from public sources the financial aid to which they are entitled under the Act of 1902. This Bill proposes to remedy this not by coercion, for it deliberately avoids that, but by providing some mode by which, from public sources, the funds which have not been hitherto forthcoming should be supplied.
The grievance is said to be felt mainly, or solely, at this moment in Church schools. I literally do not know whether that statement is accurate or not, and it does not seem to me to affect the question at all. Whether the managers are Churchmen or Nonconformists, whatever is the nature of the schools which have found themselves, contrary to the law, placed in a position in which they are unable to be maintained in efficiency, my sympathy 183 goes out to the managers who are placed in a position of such extraordinary difficulty. Many of those who have been placed in that position during the last few months have shown in the face of almost crushing difficulties a patience, a public spirit, and a quiet perseverance which are beyond all praise. I say this not because they are Churchmen. I should say exactly the same thing if they were those who were the extremest opponents of Churchmen, provided they were placed in a like position.
What we have to consider is simply that men who are entitled by law to have certain moneys provided to enable them to discharge duties which have been laid upon them have been left without those moneys. They are therefore entitled to our sympathy and to the help which the provisions of this Bill will afford them. Were the position reversed; if it had happened that Church party spirit or Church high handedness or bigotry of any kind had led to the violation of a law clearly enacted and laid down, and that that violation was supposed to be for the advantage of Churchmen and to the disadvantage of their opponents, I should feel exactly as I do now, that the Legislature ought to provide some remedy and to see that justice was done. It is not a denominational question. It is simply a question the ordinary administration of the law of for the benefit of the citizens as a whole.
I was greatly interested in two propositions to which, as I understood him, the noble Lord opposite committed himself. One was that it was the duty of any Ministry to give effect to the law as it stood, whether that law was passed by themselves or by their opponents, and hat illegal opposition was a thing which he certainly would not stand up for. The other was that the whole effort of educational authorities in Wales during the last few months had really been to make every school of every kind as efficient as the law allowed.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I am sorry I misunderstood the noble Lord, but in that case I need not go on to say what I 184 should have been prepared to say if the noble Lord had committed himself to such a proposition, that the facts would have been against him. If it is the case that Wales is at this moment desirous of applying in all practicable ways the law as it stands for the promotion of education, then this Act will become a dead letter. It is only where the cause of education is not being promoted, where the children are suffering, and where things are going backward, that we desire, not on any ground of partisan politics or of denominational spirit, but simply in order to promote administrative efficiency in carrying out the trust, to pass such measure as the Government think is necessary for that purpose. This seems to be the true position of the matter, and I, for one, feel that the Government have only done their duty in bringing in a measure to facilitate the quiet and effective administration of the law of the land.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, the noble Marquess who introduced this measure expressed a feeling of deep regret that the Government were, as he considered, obliged to bring it in. That regret is fully shared by us who sit on this side of the House. The only difference between us is that we place the responsibility for the measure on different shoulders from those on which it is placed by the noble Marquess. It is, of course, a matter of general agreement among all Members of your Lordships' House, as was stated by my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley in what I think every one will admit was an exceedingly well reasoned and moderate speech, that any Government is prima facie compelled to enforce its own laws, and a very heavy burden of proof rests upon those who for any reason may decline to comply with those laws. That is a matter which is of such general agreement that it really is not worth arguing in your Lordships' House.
But if, in spite of that, we take exception to this Bill I think it is reasonable to state that there is no ground for calling upon us on this side of the House to suggest a remedy for the position in which His Majesty's Government find themselves placed. We should not have passed the noble Marquess's Act at all in the form in which it was passed, and therefore we 185 cannot, as I think, be called upon to suggest any remedy for the position in which the noble Marquess finds himself placed. The noble Marquess, in his opening remarks, quoted with some freedom the name of my friend Mr. Lloyd-George, and he implied, I think, that the state of things which had given rise to the introduction of tins measure was in no small degree due to Mr. Lloyd-George's action. Now, Mr. Lloyd-George, as we all know, is a man not only of very great ability, but also of very great energy and activity, and it stands to reason that in any national movement of this kind he would take a prominent place. But, on this subject, Mr. Lloyd-George has throughout shown a very strong disposition towards conciliation. I need not remind the House of the negotiations which took place between him and the Bishop of St. Asaph and others, in which I think it was generally agreed that on both sides a spirit of great conciliation and moderation was shown.
I cannot help thinking that this is one of those cases in which the Conservative Party is wont to ascribe to agitators what is the result of a national movement. A belief in the power of agitators is as strongly impressed on the minds of the Conservative Party as was the belief in the power of witches in the 16th century; and I do not know any better test you can take of the division between Conservative and Liberal than the fact that the one believes in the almost omnipotent nature of agitators, whilst the other believes very little in the power of agitators at all. What we believe is that unless any movement has a strong national following at the back of it, all the efforts of two or three people, however eloquent and however capable, will be in vain. In a recent debate, Lord Balfour of Burleigh was bantered by the noble Marquess the Lord Privy Seal upon his general belief in the excellence of Scottish judgment when applied to legislation, and I should like to ask your Lordships whether you can conceive a measure of this kind being applied to Scotland. Of course, it is open to anybody, particularly to a Scotsman, to say that Scotsmen never ask for anything but what is absolutely reasonable, and that, therefore, the case could not arise; but I would ask your Lordships 186 whether, in any measure on which Scottish feeling in the opinion of the Government was wrongly roused, you would endeavour to take any such steps as those which His Majesty's Government are attempting to take on the present occation?
The noble Marquess opposite alluded to Ireland, and expressed regret—a regret which we all share—at the absence of the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition. He said Lord Spencer had shown, during his occupancy of the Viceroyalty of Ireland, the absolute necessity of ensuring obedience to the law. I would venture to point out that when my noble friend was in Ireland and devoting himself, as we know, at great personal risk to ensuring obedience to the law, that law was directed against crime and outrage, and not against opinion; and 1 would further remind the noble Marquess that, after two periods as Viceroy, the conclusion at which my noble friend arrived was this, that it was impossible to continue to govern that country in direct opposition to popular opinion.
The most rev. Primate who has just sat down said, and I think we are all disposed to agree with him, that it is impossible not to feel both regret and pity at the position in which some managers of schools may be placed by the action of the Welsh county councils, and also a still deeper regret if the education of any children suffers in consequence of their action. I am sure we fully share that regret. But the most rev. Primate himself admitted the keenness for education felt by the Welsh county councils, and I would ask him and the House to consider that there must be a very great depth of sincere conviction behind these county councils before they could take action, which I am certain must in many cases be painful to them, in so far as it interferes with the education of the children or inflicts hardships on those who have made sacrifices to support education.
The speech of my noble friend, Lord Stanley of Alderley was, I think, a conciliatory speech, and I am certain he struck the right note when he said it was only by conciliation and a compromise of some kind that this matter can 187 be happily settled. I cannot think that in introducing this Bill, as they have, the Government have shown a sense of the possibility of conciliation. The form of the Bill does not concern us materially in this House, because it will be passed rapidly through its different stages, but I feel bound to remind your Lordships that the form is an unusual one. It is distinctly unusual to include in one clause, as is done in this Bill, a number of very distinct provisions which I have no doubt noble Lords who are used to the drafting of Bills will agree it would have been infinitely more usual to place under the heading of separate clauses. That form, so far as I know, was taken with the view of facilitating the passage of the Bill in another place; but if it had that effect it was only, as we know, after unfortunate incidents to which I need not further allude. There is no doubt that the adoption of that particular form added very considerably to the exasperation of those who were opposed to the Bill on its merits. I fear it is a case, as my noble friend said, that His Majesty's Government in this measure have declared war on public opinion in Wales. I most deeply regret it, and I can only say that, whatever unhappy consequences may ensue, and in particular whatever unfortunate consequences may ensue to the cause of education in that country, which, after all, is the main matter, in our opinion the principal responsibility will rest on the head of His Majesty's Government.
§ EARL CAWDOR
My Lords, I do not think we have had placed before us what is really the issue we have to consider. The noble Lord who moved the rejection of this Bill made a very interesting speech, but, with great deference to him, I venture to say it did not touch the fringe of the question. The question we have to discuss is whether or not the Bill is necessary in consequence of the position taken up by certain local education authorities, notably in Wales. The noble Lord did not attempt to show that local authorities were endeavouring to do their duty. Does he maintain that the Act of 1902 is being administered in Wales?
§ EARL CAWDOR
As a matter of fact, every one knows that it is not so administered. An inquiry was held some time ago by Mr. Lawrence, and it is shown distinctly that, point after point, the county in which that inquiry was held was in default. They declined to appoint managers, to properly maintain the schools, or to take any steps whatever to bring the Act into force. I am aware that subsequently many of these matters were ostensibly set right, but that took place the moment that this Bill had been introduced into Parliament and not before. Another action taken in the same county was the withdrawal of all provision as to attendance of children in non-provided schools, which produced such an enormous loss in revenue in regard to grants, owing to non-attendance, that the county council had to meet again and reverse their policy in that respect. I would like to know from the noble Lord what step he and his friends think ought to be taken. Is the noble Lord, with his. love of education, content that the Act of 1902 should be a dead letter, even in one county? I am sure the noble Lord would not undertake the responsibility of saying "Yes" to that question. If that is the case, what is the position? Are we to wait, and if so, how long? 1 How long are the children in these schools to be starved? How long are we to tolerate. the position of schoolmasters not having their salaries fixed and vacancies not filled up? I do not believe the noble. Lord would tolerate for one moment the idea that we should wait until the county councils came to their senses and administered the Act. The noble Lord said that the duties of the Board of Education should be solely judicial and not administrative.
§ EARL CAWDOR
I understood the noble Lord to say that the Board of Education in a matter of this kind should not undertake administrative duties.
LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
I said that when they took upon themselves a judicial duty they should not turn it into an administrative one.
§ EARL CAWDOR
You have to deal with the position as it stands. There is a non-administration of the law. A judicial decision has already been given, particularly in the case of Mr. Lawrence's inquiry, but that could not put the matter right. He merely discovered that certain local authorities were in default, but that did not, and could not, mend the matter. Therefore you are driven to the alternative of having some administrative power behind, which can say, "If the local authority does not do its duty we will step in and see that it is done for them." We are told that this Bill is going to give rise to great disturbance and great trouble. Who is it going to hurt? It cannot by any possibility hurt any authority which administers the Act properly. It can only come into operation when the local authority sets itself deliberately to defy Parliament. Any Government that did not, in these circumstances, bring in a Bill of this kind would not be fit to administer the affairs of State. The noble Earl who spoke last taunted the Party on this side with thinking a great deal too much of agitation. Possibly I have had more experience of agitation than the noble Earl.
Let me tell your Lordships, in a few words, what agitation has done in this matter. In Carnarvonshire the education committee appointed by the county council set to work to enforce the Act, whereupon they brought down upon themselves a whirlwind of political agitation. It was declared that this was wrong and that the education committee must go back on what they had done, must pass what was called a "no-rate" resolution. That agitation was conducted in every polling district for county council election purposes, and the members of the education committee were held up to execration and told that if they did not turn round they would be turned out. What was the result? There was a meeting of the county council and of the education committee. The education committee turned clean round and reversed the decision to which 190 they had arrived, consequent, of course, on this political agitation, and they passed a resolution practically declaring that they would not administer the Act. Does the noble Lord call that agitation which has nothing in it? We are told that in face of this agitation we are to wait, that a little time will heal everything and put things right. I wonder whether the noble Lord has noticed in the newspapers during the last day or two statements of a proposed autumn campaign. I will not say whether or not there is anything in it, but the people who fanned the present agitation into being have threatened to get the county councils to set themselves up against this Bill. This is a Bill which cannot hurt anyone; it is only intended to work against, local authorities which will not administer the law; and I hope your Lordships will give it a Second Reading.
§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
My Lords, it is very gratifying, not only, I am sure, to my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley, but also to those who sit on these Benches, to observe the very courteous manner in which members of His Majesty's Government recognise the noble Lord's claim to speak with especial authority upon this subject. We on this side of the House, on the other hand, fully recognise the zealous and conscientious manner in which the noble Marquess the President of the Board of Education discharges the duties of his office, though unfortunately we find ourselves in disagreement with him on this occasion. There is one feature in this measure which has not been alluded to except incidentally. Perhaps your Lordships will say it ought not to be alluded to. What I have in mind is the history of the Bill before it left the other House of Parliament. I know it is regarded as out of order to refer to what occurred in the other House, but I could quote a very good precedent for the sort of allusion I am about to make in a debate on the Compensation for Disturbances (Ireland) Bill. On that occasion I remember Lord Beaconsfield alluding to certain matters connected with the course of that Bill through the House of Commons, and therefore I think it is not altogether out of place for me to remind 191 your Lordships that some very remarkable occurrences took place in connection with this Bill. I allude to that matter by way of illustrating the fact that there is good ground for the apprehension of Lord Stanley and others that the passing of this Bill will not necessarily have the effect which the noble Earl who has just spoken seems so confidently to assume that it will have, namely, the effect of settling this question.
One of my noble friend Lord Stanley's chief objections to the Bill is that it confers discretionary power on the Board of Education. That may have an irritating effect and accentuate the feeling of injustice which, as we know, has been at the bottom of the opposition to the Act of 1902. Though it may not be easy to suggest a remedy, I think a further attempt at conciliation, and the giving of a little more time for that purpose, would have been more likely to succeed than this drastic measure. It is very easy to say that the local authorities are defying the law; but it must be remembered that they are animated by conscientious objection, and not by a mere spirit of lawlessness. We have had plenty of evidence as to the nature of the movement, which shows that the agitation is conducted by men of unimpeachable character, and is marked by deep earnestness and conviction. That being so, any attempt to deal with it in a hard and fast manner by Act of Parliament will lead, not to the peaceful settlement which we all desire, but to fresh complications.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. DAVID'S
My Lords, I do not think, as a Welsh Bishop, I should be doing my duty if I were to let this debate pass without saying a few words. First of all, let me say that I most heartily concur with the noble Earl opposite that there are earnest and deep-seated convictions against the Act of 1902; but I am quite sure the noble Earl will agree with me when I venture to claim that earnestness and deep-seated convictions are by no means all on one side of this unhappy controversy. The managers of Church schools in Wales fully deserve the cordial recognition which the most rev. Primate gave of their patience and public spirit. I also would like to recognise the moderation and the candour of the able speech of the noble Lord the 192 mover of the Amendment, whom we are very glad now to find is a chairman of a Welsh education committee; and I, for my part, who take, if I may venture to say so, sincere interest in education apart from its controversial aspect, have great hopes that the tone of the noble Lord's speech to-day will animate all his share in educational matters in Wales, and will do great good.
Regret has been expressed on both sides of the House at the necessity for the introduction of this Bill. No one in this House can regret that necessity more than myself. For, as a Welshman, I am very proud of anything which redounds to the credit of my countrymen, and I always read with great satisfaction the testimony of His Majesty's Judges year after year as to the law-abiding character of the Welsh people. I am quite sure that the noble Lord opposite, when his residence in Wales has extended over a longer period, will give to my countrymen a praise somewhat warmer than he has extended to them to-night. I have risen particularly to say that, in my opinion, the reason why this Bill is unfortunately necessary is that those who are responsible for leading Welsh opinion have committed two serious mistakes. The first is a mistake of fact—namely, that there is no necessity to charge any part of the cost of the maintenance of the non-provided schools on the rates, as the increased grant from the Exchequer would cover the loss of voluntary contributions; and the second is, that the Welsh county councils will have done their business if they keep the non-provided schools up to the level of efficiency of 1902. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education has shown in another place that the first calculation is £12,000 a year wide of the mark; and that it is impossible to maintain the standard of 1902 in the non-provided schools without the assistance of the rates.
It has been asked whether in several districts in Wales the Act has been fairly administered. I hold in my hand a list of nineteen schools in Montgomeryshire where at the present moment the teachers are not paid, and the Bishop of St. Asaph, in The Times a few days ago, gave a very pathetic incident of the ha dship involved. There are fifteen schools 193 in Merionethshire in the same condition. We are told that our voluntary schools are in an unsatisfactory condition structurally, but in Carmarthenshire there was no imposition of any kind made upon the managers in regard to buildings, and in Montgomeryshire I understand the sole reason alleged why the teachers are not paid is that the Parliamentary grants for those schools have been exhausted. It is strange, too, that those who have said that we ought to be content with the standard of efficiency of maintenance in 1902 should now turn round and say that we must have a very much higher standard with regard to buildings. The critics of the Act of 1902 cannot be allowed to have it both ways.
I sincerely hope that this Bill, which, I have no doubt, will pass into law, may not be put in operation. I particularly hope that because I believe that the agitation which has brought us to the present position in Wales rested on a mistake, but neither Welshmen nor any other nation can very well be blamed for not being infallible. Those who are persuading the county councils of Wales to take up this unhappy line of action may, however, now that the facts have been brought out, reconsider their position without any loss of honour, and I am quite sure that if they do they will find that the managers of Church schools in Wales, and the clergy and laity of the Church in Wales, will be delighted to meet them at least half-way.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
My Lords, I probably approach this question from a somewhat different point of view from that of my noble friend who moved the Amendment, but I concur in the conclusion to which he has arrived. No one who has listened to this debate can doubt that we are placed in a very difficult position in regard to the Education Act of 1902, and it is necessary that we should carefully consider the results to which that Act has already led. When that Act was passing through Parliament there were many—and I was one—who had great doubt about it, and who believed that it would not lead to a satisfactory result in many respects; but I do not profess to have had sufficient foresight to have discovered all the evils which I think have arisen out of it. In 194 one part of the country public bodies are taking a course which is inconsistent with the Act of Parliament, and in other parts of the country there are large numbers of persons who sympathise with the action which is being taken in Wales.
This is, very properly, a general Act, and it concerns the whole of the country, but, of course, when it is passed it will have operation mainly in Wales. I was very glad to hear the right rev. Prelate who has just spoken say that he hoped it would not come into operation. That feeling I share; but I am bound to say I do not in the least expect that it will not come into operation. I am convinced that one of its main effects will be to increase the difficulties and irritation which now exist on this subject. The present state of things may be dealt with in two ways. It may either be dealt with by conciliatory or by unconciliatory measures—I will not, in deference to the noble Marquess, use the word coercion. But where those engaged in controversy are on both sides earnest and conscientious men, as in this case, nothing is more necessary than that you should proceed by a method of conciliation. By rejecting such methods, and relying alone upon methods of an opposite character, such as the present Bill, you will not bring this controversy to an end; you will not approach the day when some statesmanlike solution of the difficulty may be found; you will only increase and aggravate it and render more and more difficult any really satisfactory solution.
Earlier in this session there seemed for a moment to be an opportunity of turning to the ways of conciliation. The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of St. Asaph, who, unhappily, is not in the House on this occasion, made a speech and introduced a Bill instinct with the spirit of conciliation. I do not say that a settlement could have been made on the exact basis of that Bill—I do not think that it could—but I do say that if His Majesty's Government had been inclined to proceed by way of conciliation, they might have done a great deal in that direction if they had discussed and endeavoured to amend the Bill of the right rev. Prelate. Everybody spoke kindly on that Bill, but nothing was done. I 195 looked the other day to see in exactly what position the Bill was at the present moment. My Lords, it is waiting for Committee, and it will wait for Committee till Parliament is prorogued. The opportunity which it offered was rejected, and we have instead proposals dealing with the matter in a very different spirit.
Do not let the noble Marquess believe that this measure will not aggravate the difficulties that exist. I will make no allusion, because it is, perhaps, not right that we should do so, to anything which passed in another place upon a recent occasion; but does the noble Marquess really believe that the Welsh people are likely to give up their opinions, and to abandon the advice of those who lead them, in consequence of this measure? I could hold no notion of the kind. I believe that that which ought to be our foremost object in this matter, namely, the bringing together of the parties who differ so as to come to some settlement upon it, will be rendered infinitely more difficult by the passage of this Bill. I do not at all say that in a case where the persons on both sides of the controversy entertain honest and sincere convictions of a conscientious nature it is easy to come to a settlement. It is not. But, my Lords, I cannot believe that it exceeds the statesmanship of this country to arrive at a settlement of this matter, if there is the real desire to do so, upon fair and equal terms.
It is often thought that the views put forward by Nonconformists are not really conscientious views. I differ entirely from that opinion. I have known the Nonconformists of this country for some fifty years; I have known particularly their views on this subject of education, and I have no doubt that the views which they hold—views which I do not myself share—are quite as conscientious as my own views in respect to the necessity of definite religious instruction. Therefore, my Lords, this Bill will not do what we want. It will aggravate and prolong the controversy and render it more difficult to bring it to an end. I was reading this morning a speech by Lord Hugh Cecil in another place, and I find that he there said, or is reported to have said, that he was certian that no educational settlement would be permanent until all religious 196 bodies acquiesced in it. I agree entirely with Lord Hugh Cecil in that; but I do not believe—I cannot believe—that that is a state of things which cannot by skill and conciliation be brought about. Lord Hugh Cecil went on to say that Nonconformists must try to understand the Church position—that is to say, the position of those who are in favour of the existence of denominational schools. I quite agree with that statement, but I must add to it by saying that I think that the friends of denominational schools must also on their side try to understand the feelings of Nonconformists. That is the proper method of conciliation. There will be, of course, up to the end of time, extreme men on both sides who are incapable of understanding the meaning of conciliation, and who look only to the methods of force. But force will not settle the question. In the meantime the education of this country is to grievously suffer; in the meantime the difficulties that have arisen are not at all being allayed, but rather increased; and it is my firm conviction that if something is not done to settle this question and to bring about a general agreement—so far as such a thing is possible in regard to this matter—we shall be heading straight for a system of secular schools. That is not a system I desire to promote or to see established, but, honestly, I believe it is the continuation of this controversy which will tend to bring it in. This Bill, then, will make no settlement. It will be met, as I believe, with stern opposition and resistance. It will not benefit the education of this country; it will not improve our schools, and I believe still more that the class of schools which will suffer most from the erroneous policy which is now pursued will be the denominational schools.
§ On Question, whether the word "now" shall stand part of the Motion, resolved in the affirmative.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.