Bill considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
Clause 27 (School Boards.)
said, he would propose to amend the Bill so that school Boards should in all cases be elected by the ratepayers. He believed that the Amendment was not looked on with favour either by the League or the Union; but it had been frequently commended by meetings out-of-doors. The Town Council, which, as the Bill stood, would, in some cases, elect the Board, was by no means fit for the duty, because it would, generally speaking, be composed of a majority of one political opinion, and might even have been elected with a "No Popery" or some other cry. The right hon. Member for South. Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple) pro- posed that at least one-third of the Board should be nominated, a very important provision if cumulative or limited voting were not adopted for these elections. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Brogden) had also placed an Amendment upon the Paper substituting the "burgesses entitled to vote at municipal elections" in place of the Town Council, as the body to elect the school Boards; in his opinion, it would be better to carry some general words at the present moment, leaving the actual definition of the body which was to form the constituency for the election of the school Boards until they came to the Schedule. He should be glad if the Vice President of the Council—who was now in the Cabinet—would express his opinion upon the subject. He begged to move the following Amendment:—
Amendment proposed, in page 10, line 41, to leave out from the word "Act" to the end of the Clause, in order to insert the words "by the ratepayers of the district for which such school Board is elected."—( Sir Charles Dilke.)
said, he should support the Amendment. He was unable to understand any reason why the Town Council should be selected as the best body to elect to school Boards, except merely to get rid of the noise and disturbance of an election. But the question before them was not how the noise and disturbance of an election might be avoided, but what was the best constituency for electing a school Board. The Bill under consideration was not a Reform Bill, but a Bill for the furtherance of education; hon. Members must, therefore, try to divest themselves of the representative theories in which they had entangled themselves in 1868. The Vice President of the Council—whom he must congratulate upon the recognition of the valuable services he had rendered to the country—had said that the object of the Bill was to increase the interest of the parents in the schools, by giving them the direct management of the schools in which their children were being educated. Under these circumstances, it was naturally to be expected that the right hon. Gentleman would have proposed that the parents themselves should have elected the school Boards, otherwise it was difficult to see what immediate share the parents would have in the matter. It was not the children of the Town Council that would attend these schools, but the children of the poor who were employed by the members of the Town Council. If the clause were carried as it stood at present in the Bill the employers would nave the power of compelling the children of the employed to attend school. It was well known that the children of a working man were a source of considerable income to him; in towns there were many children's trades, and in rural districts there were many farming operations performed by children. Thus, many a working man was, in hard times, kept out of the poor-house. Was it wise, then, to allow the great employers of labour to take this source of income from the working man? This would be the same as permitting the employers of labour to lay a tax on the employed. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) upon the necessity of securing the representation of minorities on the school Boards, in order that those minorities might have confidence in the school Board. Now, if the power of electing the school Board were left in the hands of the Town Council, the members of the school Board would be nominated by those who happened to form the majority in the Town Council, and the minority would be entirely unrepresented. Thus, if out of 12 members forming the Town Council seven were Churchmen and five Dissenters, it was probable that the school Board would be formed entirely of Churchmen, and the Dissenters in the town would be unrepresented. If, on the other hand, the ratepayers elected the school Board in the several wards as the Town Council was elected, then the school Board would consist of seven Churchmen and five Dissenters. Under these circumstances, he thought that the Amendment would remove a striking injustice in the Bill.
said, he was aware that a great objection existed in the minds of many hon. Members to a minority clause; but he wished to point out the difference between the effect of such a clause on the election of a school Board under this Bill and on the election of a Member of that House. Were a minority clause not adopted in relation to the election of a school Board the views of the minority would be entirely unrepresented; whereas, in that House, owing to the variety that existed in the character of the different constituencies, opinions of all shades were adequately represented. By giving facilities for the representation of all parties on the school Board a great part of the religious difficulty might be got rid of, because those who represented them would take care that the children of the minority received equal attention and equal justice with those of the majority. The success of the Bill would depend on the excellence of the schools, and we could not have good schools without efficient school Boards. With a view of securing these we ought to endeavour to take the elections, to a great extent, out of the hands of the old party leaders in the different localities. This object would, probably, be attained by the method of voting proposed in the Amendment, of which he had given Notice. Again, we often saw the members of a vestry or other local Board chosen because they advocated a policy of cheeseparing economy. He was in favour of judicious retrenchment; but it would be bad economy to choose a particular schoolmaster because he offered his services at a low figure and not because of his qualifications. Efficiency should therefore be represented as well as economy. He thought that the best mode of election would be that of cumulative voting. At the election he would give every voter a number of votes equal to the number of the members of the school Board to be elected, and he would allow the voter to give all his votes to one candidate or to distribute them among the candidates as he might think fit. He supported the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke), which would give fuller effect to his own; but even if the former were rejected, he should still feel it to be his duty to press his own. It might be objected that it would tend to the compulsory annual retirement of all the members of small school Boards, and of half the members of large ones; but his own opinion was that no great injury would arise if his Amendment were adopted, from all the members retiring every year, as he was certain that useful members would seldom fail to secure re-election. They had heard a great deal about sectarian bitterness, and he regretted that the discussions on this Bill showed that there must be a considerable amount of it; but he thought it would be diminished by such a system of election as he proposed. If the representatives of every creed and of all opinions were united I together in the great and noble task of providing education for the people, they would learn to know each other and to recognize each other's good qualities; and the result would be that instead of sectarian bitterness we should have an increase of Christian charity and kindly feeling.
said, he did not think the Amendment of the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) an improvement on the Bill as it stood. He feared it would tend still more than the plan of the Government to drag education into the turmoil of ordinary election contests. He thought the plan contained in the Amendment he had placed on the Paper was best, and most likely to prevent those elections from becoming scenes of political excitement. The general population of the locality would not be so much interested in the good results of a school as the parents who paid for their children; while, as disposing of the grants, the Education Department would also have a greater interest in the matter than the ratepayers. It was very desirable to keep all party and political considerations out of view in the elections for the school Boards; but the difficulty was how to accomplish that object. At every election of a school Board which took place after the payment of a Parliamentary Grant to the school fund under the control of that Board he would give the Education Department authority to nominate from among persons resident within the county one-third of the members to be elected to the vacancies in such school Board; another third he would have elected by the men whose names appeared on the register of the fathers of the children attending the elementary schools within the district of such school Board.
said, that if the Amendment had been confined to small towns he might have seen his way to supporting it; but he did not think it would be advisable to adopt it in the case of large towns. It had been urged in favour of the minority clause that, as the school Board would have to decide on the character of the religious teaching, it would be desirable to have the minority represented on that Board. If, however, the duty of the Board was purely administrative, the minority would not require to be represented. On the other hand, if the Board was to discuss and determine religious questions the result would be this—that if elected by the majority only the Board would probably often be all agreed; whereas, if elected under the Minority Clause, the element of religious discord and animosity would be introduced. He thought it better that those religious questions should not be discussed at the school Board at all, and if he voted for the Minority Clause he should be voting for that which assumed and provided for the existence of that to which he entirely objected. With regard to the Amendment before the Committee, he was disposed to vote for the clause as it stood, and thought that if the Amendment was accepted it should be accepted only with reference to the smaller towns.
said, as he understood the argument of the hon. Gentleman who spoke last the view which he took was this—that peace would be better secured in the school Board by excluding altogether the voice of the minority.
explained that he was only replying to the arguments of the noble Lord (Lord Frederick Cavendish).
said, he would suggest to the Committee that what they had to aim at was not merely the creation of a pleasant state of feeling in the school Board, but the obtaining of a body which should fairly represent the feelings of those concerned—namely, the ratepayers generally, and especially the parents of the children. He should prefer to have every shade of opinion and feeling represented in the Board.
said, the men who took the greatest interest in education in the large towns, and whose services it was most important to enlist in that cause, did not generally engage in municipal contests, but kept personally aloof from them. He, however, had the greatest faith in the Town Councils, especially those of large towns or cities. If the Town Councils had this duty cast upon them, he believed they would select the very best men for the management of those schools. He regretted to differ from the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsa (Sir Charles Dilke); but he should join the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) in supporting the clause of the Government as it stood. What they wanted was that the work should be thoroughly well done by the right men to do it, and not that it should be left in the hands of those who, year after year, appealed to the municipal constituencies, asking them, for example, to "Vote for Smith and a two-penny rate." It would be better to have "Thompson and a three-penny rate," if Thompson was the right man to do the work as it ought to be done.
said, speaking from his experience of the borough he represented (Salford) and of the Town Council of that borough, he concurred with the hon. Member who spoke last, that a more efficient school Board would be obtained by the selection of the Town Council than of the entire body of rate-papers. He thought the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Dilke) could hardly mean that in the large towns the whole of the ratepayers should vote in one mass for the members of the school Board; he took it that his proposal would result in a subdivision of those towns into wards, as was now done. If that were so, the effect would be a double set of contested elections every year; and if religious acrimony was to be brought into the election it would be introduced to a greater extent if the election was direct to the school Board than if the election was through members of the Town Council. But he was of opinion that it was desirable to put some restriction on the election of members of their own body by the Town Council. If it were left to the Town Council to elect whom they pleased, he was afraid the Board would become practically a committee of the Town Council, because it was rarely found that an Alderman was elected from outside the Town Council. On the whole, he thought they were much more likely to get a Board representing various opinions chosen by the Town Council, provided only that a limit were fixed to the number of the members that could be chosen from the Council, the remainder to be elected from outside. If, then, he gave his vote in favour of the clause, it would be with a view of seeing it subsequently amended by the adoption of the proposition, on the Paper, of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert), which would limit the Town Council to the election of two-thirds of the Board from its own body.
said, he concurred in the opinion expressed by the hon. Member who spoke last, that Town Councils were decidedly the best constituencies to elect the Boards, and he thought that the effect of imposing this duty on the Town Councils would be to raise the tone and character of these municipal bodies throughout the country; it would give them something more than matters of police to think of. The elections proposed by the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) would become scenes of as great noise, confusion, and party bitterness as those of the municipal bodies themselves. He hoped that the Vice President of the Council would adhere to his clause, amended by the proviso of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert).
said, that all who had to do with municipal elections in large towns must know that however desirable a municipality must be, yet the process of accomplishing it was far from desirable, and to have a school Board elected in the same way would be to double all its evils. But, on the other hand, all the quiet, thoughtful, and respectable people who took an interest in the cause of education would then come forward. It would improve the character of the Town Councils, for men who never before took an interest in municipal elections would now take an interest in the elections and in getting themselves elected. But he would not leave the school Board to be the private patronage of the Town Councils; some limitation of the number of councillors was necessary. With that safeguard he would prefer indirect to direct representation.
said, we had an excellent example in the Free Libraries Act. Under that Act a certain portion of the managers were chosen from the Town Council, but a certain proportion must be elected from outside. Now he knew of three cases of Boards elected under that Act, and in two of them at least they were just the Boards that he would like to see elected for school Boards. His own constituency (Sheffield) consisted of 34,000 ratepayers, and he asked if it was possible to have every year a school Board elected by them, with all the vexed questions and the religious difficulty which had been discussed in that House coming before them? But he would be sorry to see the area of selection confined to the Town Councils; he thought there should be some limitation as to the number to be chosen, and he would like to see some such Amendment adopted as had been suggested by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert).
said, that the Council of the borough, whether dealing with free libraries, baths, and washhouses, or other matters, formed its own committees for these purposes, and if it was determined that for everyone of them the Town Council should be thrown back on their constituents, the effect would be to break up municipal government altogether. Therefore, not only for the purposes of the Bill, but for all other local purposes, they should take one and the same Governing Body, and let them form the necessary Boards.
said, the debate had been one of great interest and usefulness, and he only regretted there were not more Members present to take part in it. For himself, he doubted whether any clause in the Bill was more important than the present. Everything depended on getting good working school Boards; and he must honestly confess that this question was a very difficult one for the Government in framing the Bill. He did not know that the difficulty had been much diminished by the arguments made use of on both sides by men who had studied the question, and who were acquainted with the circumstances of their different localities. The point involved was not one upon which the Government would wish to resist very strenuously any decided view of the Committee. It would probably be expected that he should give the reasons why the Government proposed the present plan. His noble Friend opposite (Lord Frederick Cavendish) had said he would prefer the direct representation of the ratepayers, and that the only plan which was in accordance with the principle of the Bill was that the parents should have a voice in the election of the school Boards. But it should be remembered that the parents did elect the Town Councils, which were chosen by a very popular suffrage; and in electing the Town Councils after the Bill was passed, special reference would be had to the duty they had to perform under the Act. It was true that the Town Councils were not at present elected for this purpose; but, in future, they would be elected for this purpose among others. He was not one of those who had joined in the expression of want of confidence in Town Councillors. He was perfectly aware that they were frequently not all that could be desired; but he had generally found that the performance of their duties had been in proportion to the weight and importance of the duties imposed upon them. And it was only natural that it should be so; because, when the duties became more important, the constitution of the Town Council excited greater interest. When it was shown that a Town Council had to deal with this important subject, many men would take an interest in the election, or would be willing to stand as candidates, who hitherto had held entirely aloof. His own experience bore out the statement of his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), that where these bodies had educational duties intrusted to them those duties had been well performed. Indeed, in the inquiry conducted by the Endowed Schools Commission, they found that the schools under the management of the municipal bodies were less faulty than any others—less faulty even than those managed by the Colleges of the Universities. Now, to the direct vote it had been objected that it was desirable, if possible, to avoid the personal excitement and expense of a separate election; and, certainly, no one would say that it was desirable to add another popular election to those which were held in large towns if it could be avoided. In trying this great experiment, they ought to endeavour, as far as they could, to avail themselves of existing machinery; while he believed, moreover, that through the medium of the Town Council, they would, better than by any other plan, discover the men who were most suitable for appointment upon an Educational Board. In large towns, especially, such stringent criticism would be exercised that it would be exceedingly difficult to get these appointments; and the elections would generally fall upon men of experience in educational matters, and upon men who were known to be fitted for those appointments. The best men, too, were frequently unobtrusive—men who took no part in public controversies; and the existence of such men would be better known, he believed, to the Town Council than to the general body of the ratepayers. On the other hand, it was impossible not to admit that the ratepayers might feel more confidence in those elected by themselves than in those elected by others. It was by no means a clear question; but its very doubt would rather induce them to avail themselves of machinery which already existed, instead of trying plans about which they knew nothing. Now, they had not thought it right that Government nominees should be appointed with a view to secure the proper performance of the duties of the Board. If members were appointed by the Government, even if they were overruled by their colleagues, it would be very difficult for the Government, through its nominees, not to be responsible for the doings, and, possibly, even for the misdoings, of the Board. It had always appeared to him that they could exercise more influence over the Board by trusting them entirely, and by giving them considerable powers; for if the Board did not in that case do its duty they could the more easily interfere and insist upon the performance of what was necessary, saving to them—"We tell you clearly what you have to do, and if you do not do it we will step in and do it ourselves." Now, he did not anticipate that any school Board would not do its duty; but if they did the Government would have much less difficulty in interfering with a Board elected by the Town Council than if it were elected directly by the ratepayers. At the same time, he did not think it necessary they should have the same system of election throughout the country, for what might be necessary in one case might not be necessary in another. When they came to consider the metropolis, they would have to consider a different mode of election, because the circumstances there were different. Following out, too, the principle to which he had referred the Government thought it better to place confidence in the Town Council, and that there should be no restriction on the elections. The Government would not agree to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley) or the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert), and restrict their electing members from their own body. They might elect men or women from among their own members or from the outside. He believed that these elections would not be entirely made by the Town Council from their own body. His hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley) had urged that these elections would be confined to Town Councillors, because it was rarely found that an Alderman was selected from outside the Council. But it was quite natural that the election of an Alderman should be confined to the Town Council, because the Councillors might reasonably object to one of the prizes of their career being bestowed upon an outsider. The case, however, would, he believed, be different when it related to a matter which was exceptional, and for which qualifications of a particular character were required. The point, however, was one which was not of vital importance to the Bill. The object which the Government sought to attain was to secure the best body they could for the performance of those duties.
said, he recognized in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the candour with which he had dealt with all the arguments relating to this question, and the justice which he had exhibited towards those who, in their desire to amend this Bill, felt themselves bound to oppose some of the proposals of the Government. He, however, did not think his defence of this part of the Bill was a very perfect one. What was really required was a representation of all parties and of all religions; but it was well known that the municipal representation throughout the country was almost entirely dependent upon politics. Except when a scheme for water supply or something of that kind arose, the members of Town Councils were elected for political considerations only. Consequently, such bodies were wholly unfit to deal with this question of education. In some cases the representation in Town Councils was wholly on one side, and they would not elect persons freely from all parties to constitute the school Boards. In London the elections for district school Boards were extremely fair—men interested in education were elected. But then they were elected by different districts having little connection one with another; if, however, a Town Council were to elect they would send men representing only the majority of their body. In considering this subject the Committee ought to remember that Select Vestries, and other bodies equally as fit as Town Councils to elect the school Boards, were left out of sight altogether. The result of this would be that, in the great majority of parishes and districts, the election would be by the ratepayers. He knew of some Yes-tries in the country which were elected on grounds which, in the opinion of the ratepayers, were far more important than the question of education. The necessity for bringing in an Education Bill was caused by the unwillingness of some parents to send their children to school; but he believed that if the general body of ratepayers in a district were consulted they would elect to the school Boards, irrespective of their religious and political opinions, those clergymen, Nonconformist ministers, and laymen who had devoted themselves specially to education. Again, the question affected the metropolis, for the Select Vestries in London would certainly have as much right to elect as similar bodies in the country. In his opinion Select Vestries would be rather worse bodies than the Town Councils to be intrusted with the election of the school Boards. He wished to say nothing harsh of the Town Councils; but he must express his belief that the greatest misfortune which had befallen this country in regard to local government was the circumstance of the members of the Town Councils being elected for political reasons. Annual political contests had poisoned society in every borough in the country, and it would be most undesirable to make those contests still more bitter by mixing up with them the question of education. That ought to come before the constituencies as a simple, isolated question. All the ratepayers ought to be called upon to elect the persons who were to manage their educational affairs, which should not be mixed up with sanitary questions. He hoped the Committee would treat even the street Arabs not like sewage, as his right hon. Friend wished to treat them, but as human beings with souls. By interesting every ratepayer in the educational wants of the children, the Committee would promote the cause of education far more effectually than by handing over the election of the school Boards to Select Vestries or Town Councils.
said, he thought it would be better to limit the question to the case of boroughs, if the terms of the Amendment would allow of such a course being pursued. The metropolis would, no doubt, have to be dealt with on a different principle. In consequence of alterations which had been introduced into the Bill, the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman opposite respecting Vestries were to a great extent inapplicable to it.
said, he was inclined to act on the suggestion thrown out by his right hon. Friend(Mr. W. E. Forster). In Birmingham, Liverpool, and other very large towns, the election of a school Board would cause great excitement and expense, but in smaller boroughs the same difficulty would not arise. He regretted, however, that the right hon. Gentleman had not been able to assent to the Amendment he had placed on the Notice Paper, for he thought it was right to enact that a Town Council should not elect from among its own body all the members of the school Board.
said, many hon. Members would remember that this question was before the House in the last Session of Parliament when the Bill for Scotland was passed. On that occasion he had the honour to move an Amendment the object of which was to restrict the powers of the Town Councils, and to provide that two-thirds in number of each school Board should be elected outside of the Town Councils. The House was pleased unanimously to approve his proposition, and, with it added, the Bill went up to the House of Lords. Having had considerable experience of Town Councils and of their mode of election and working, he was quite satisfied that by leaving the election to the ratepayers a much more effective school Board would be secured than if the appointments were left in the hands of the Town Councils. There were many men among those best qualified to fill the office of members of school Boards who would not compete for the honour of being Town Councillors, and whose services, therefore, would be lost to the public in the positions they were best qualified to fill. Such men, however, if they could be elected to the school Boards by the ratepayers independently of the strife and turmoil of their local Parliaments, would render great and almost invaluable services. Then the election to positions on the school Boards by Town Councils would often operate as what he might describe as a kind of indirect bribery. The weak side of a man being known, he could be flattered by being appointed to an office outside the Council, such as that of a member of a school Board would be, and a great disadvantage might thereby result to the practical and useful working of the school Board. A, being a member of the Town Council, would say to B—"Here is Mr. C, who takes very little interest in Town Council matters, but would like to be a member of the school Board. Let us use our influence to get him elected, and if elected, he will support us in our Town Council policy." This would take place frequently, and, he doubted not, with the worst results, by preventing the election of men better qualified for school purposes. Then there was this other consideration—that at present the majority of Town Councils were almost overwhelmed with work; and if additional work were placed upon them, depend upon it they would give to the whole amount of business they had to transact no larger amount of time than they gave at present, and therefore the general municipal work devolving upon such bodies would suffer, as well as the new kind of school work that was proposed to be put upon so many of their members as might constitute a school Board. For these reasons he was quite sure the Government would do wisely to concede the point demanded by the Motion of the hon. Member for Chelsea; and, in conclusion, he might say that he should not have troubled the House upon this question had it not been that his experience in regard to the election and working of Town Councils had been very considerable.
said, the important question to be considered was in which way an elective body could be obtained which would elect the best persons for the management of the schools with reference solely to their fitness for that duty. That object could, he believed, be best secured by the adoption of the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Forster), and he hoped, therefore, the Government would adhere to their proposal.
said, he thought, as the case of boroughs was different from that of other districts, it would be well if his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) would limit his Amendment to the former—at all events, for the present.
said, he regretted he could not act upon the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman.
said, he doubted whether the House was not rather straining its powers in giving the Town Councils authority to tax the public. Feeling assured that public opinion was in favour of the direct appointment and control of school Boards by the ratepayers themselves, and finding that the Government and the House were in a state of indecision in the matter, he would urge the postponement of the Bill to next Session.
said, he must point out that the discussion hitherto had dealt with the comparative competency of the Town Council or the ratepayers to elect an efficient school Board. But however efficient, and by whatever body elected, the Board would not work well unless it possessed the confidence of the parents of the children. In the borough which he represented (Plymouth), public opinion was decidedly in favour of direct election by the ratepayers.
said, while giving full weight to the arguments on the other side, he must observe that the discussion tended to confirm the Government in the belief that they had taken the right course in the plan they originally proposed. Allusion had been made to the difficulty of the Town Council in performing their present duties. That was a reason why they would be more likely not to elect members from their own body; and his own expectation was that they would not choose members from their own body. Although the Division would be taken on the Motion of the hon. Member for Chelsea, the Committee would bear in mind that the question of the metropolis was open for after consideration, together with that of the country districts. He did not consider the Committee were deciding more than the case of the boroughs upon this Amendment.
said, he was not prepared to accept the Town Council as the elective body without some limitation on their right of election.
said, that point had not been before the Committee; but, no doubt, it would be debated.
said, he held himself perfectly free upon that point; but wishing to see clergymen, Roman Catholic priests, and Dissenting ministers placed upon the school Board, and co-operating for the education of the children, he thought that was a result more likely to be secured by the Municipal Councils than by democratic elections.
asked what was the question upon which the Committee would vote?
said, the effect of the Amendment of the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Dilke) would be that, if it were carried in the form proposed, the ratepayers in town or country would elect the school Boards; but, as he should put the Amendment, it would be open to the Committee to consider the other Amendments of which Notice had been given upon this clause.
, in reply, said, he submitted his Amendment because the representation of minorities by wards would not be sufficient to secure that adequate" representation upon the school Boards of all those interests which the right hon. Gentleman declared to be a great necessity.
Question put, "That the words 'in a borough' stand part of the Clause."
The Committee divided:—Ayes 150; Noes 145: Majority 5.
said, he rose to move, in line 42, to leave out "in a parish" and insert "for a parish shall be the elected guardians of the union in which such parish is situate." He contended that the guardians, from the mode of their election and the nature of their duties, were peculiarly fitted to elect the school Board, and they would do so without being influenced by political considerations. The guardians also were the proper persons to give the information required under the 8th clause, as well as the information in respect to united school districts and contributory districts.
said, he hoped his hon. Friend would not press the Amendment. The question had been fully considered by the Government, and they found the difficulties in the way of selecting the union were almost insuperable. It was desirable to separate education as much as possible from connection with poor relief. And, besides, the mode of taking the votes in the election for guardians presented a difficulty in the way of adopting the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said, he would beg to move, in Clause 27, line 42, to leave out the word "Vestry" and insert "ratepayers," with the view of placing the election of the school Board in a parish in the hands of the ratepayers instead of the Vestry.
said, as the feeling of the Committee was in favour of the proposed Amendment, he would accept it. Since the time when the Bill was drawn, he had understood that the cases in which the Vestries could be advantageously used were much fewer than had originally been expected.
Amendment agreed to.
said, that the circumstance that the funds to be disposed of under the Bill would not all come from the Town Councils, but partly from the Consolidated Fund and from school fees, suggested the propriety of dividing the selection of the school Boards among those who represented the different contributors. He, therefore, proposed to add the following Proviso to Clause 27:—
The Inspectors, from their local knowledge of the districts, would prepare a list of qualified persons. This principle was recognized in the London Boards, and in the appointment of ex officio Poor Law Guardians. In that way school Boards would contain considerable diversity of representation, and would not be confined to one party, either political or ecclesiastical. They would be elected not on account of any local feeling, but by competent persons who were directly interested in the promotion of education in the district."Provided, That at every election of a school Board which shall take place after the payment of a Parliamentary Grant to the School Fund under the control of such school Board, the Education Department shall have authority to nominate from among persons resident within the county in which such school Board is acting one-third of the members to be elected to the vacancies in such school Board; and one-third of such members shall be elected by the men whose names appear on the register kept as hereinafter provided of the fathers of the children attending the elementary schools within the district of such school Board."
said, he highly appreciated the motives of the right hon. Gentleman in introducing this Amendment, but he thought the Committee would see it was absolutely impracticable. In the first place, it did not follow that the persons named in the first part of the Amendment were resident in the locality, or that those mentioned in either part were ratepayers. Thus two-thirds of the school Boards need not be ratepayers, so that they might be distributing local rates to which none of them contributed. He wished to know how the Education Department in London was to know who were properly resident in the locality. He had a great objection to systems of centralization, and this was one of the most extreme propositions of the kind ever brought before the House. He was sure the Committee would not agree to the Privy Council electing one-third of all the school Boards in the kingdom. Again, it must be remembered that the parents of children in the school formed a very fluctuating body, and under this Amendment they might elect for three years, according to the Schedule, persons who had the greatest antipathy to sending their own children to school. It was well known that in the poorer portions of large towns parents greatly neglected the education of their children, and, therefore, they were the last persons who ought to be entrusted with authority of this kind.
said, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Assheton Cross) had anticipated the answer he must give to this proposal, although he was very sorry to oppose any Amendment moved by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cowper-Temple), who had given this question so much attention. He could not see how the proposal could possibly work. It was quite beyond the power of the central Department to discover the proper parties in any locality to be appointed members of the school Board. He sympathized in the desire to bring in the parents of the children; but, as had been said, they were a fluctuating body, and in the event of an election it would be easy to send a child to school for the time in order to get a vote. There was also a practical objection to the Amendment in detail, for it would give denominational schools power over those governed by a school Board.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
stated that a precedent existed in the Scotch Act of last year for the restriction of members of the Town Council upon the Board to one-third of the total number. He accordingly moved at the end of the clause to add—
"Provided, That not more than two-thirds of the number to be elected by the Council shall, at the time of their election, be members of such Council."
said, although his own feeling was against the proposal, he was prepared to adopt it in deference to what he believed to be the wish of the Committee. The limitation in the Scotch Act of last year was undoubtedly a precedent, and so was a similar limitation contained in the Free Libraries Act for Scotland.
said, the Scotch precedent was in favour only of one-third of the Council, and he believed a better Board would be secured by fixing that proportion of members of the Town Council as the limit. He accordingly moved, as an Amendment to the proposed. Amendment, to leave out "two-thirds" and insert "one-third."
said, that in all the cases with which he was acquainted, Town Councils exercised a wise discretion as to the choice of trustees, visitors of schools, &c. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) had yielded so far as to accept the Amendment proposing "two-thirds," and he (Mr. Whitwell) should oppose the suggested limitation.
said, it had recently fallen to his lot to see something of the working of the school system in parts of the United States. In the city of Boston, which afforded probably the best example, the school Board was elected by the Town Council. Formerly the Board was elected by the citizens, but this became, like most other things in that country, a political election; and the choice was accordingly transferred to the Town Council, without, as he believed, the least restriction, and they elected, not their own members, as a rule, but the persons best qualified to fill the position.
said, he approved of having two-thirds from within the Town Council, and he hoped the Government would stand firmly by the proportion of one-third from outside. This would afford facilities for the nomination of the rector, the Dissenting minister, and the Roman Catholic priest, who would not otherwise be elected.
said, the members of the Town Councils were elected by the same suffrage as Members of Parliament. He wished that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) had been carried; but having pressed these functions upon them in many cases against their will, the best thing now for the House to do was to leave them totally unrestricted in the exercise of their discretion.
said, he doubted whether there would be many persons volunteering to go on these Boards, and they had ready to their hand, in the members from the Town Council, the nucleus of a Board, while the proportion of two-thirds gave all needful security.
said, he thought these matters were far too important to be handed over to indirect representation. If direct compulsion was to be carried out it would be of great importance that it should be administered by the Town Council itself.
said, the great object was to secure efficient school Boards, and he doubted whether members of municipal bodies, having drainage, sewerage, police, and a multitude of other duties to attend to, could afford the necessary time and attention for working the school Boards properly.
said, he was quite satisfied as long as full power was given to the Municipal Council to elect members outside its own body.
said, that if any words were inserted expressing distrust of the Town Councils, the House would be undoing the good effected by the conservative decision they had come to upon an earlier portion of the clause. Parliament would actually seem to be taking out of the hands of the trustees and into its own the election of a certain number of the members. ["No, no!"]
said, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles Adderley) was mistaken. There was no proposal to take from the Town Councils any of their powers of election, but simply to restrain them from electing more than two-thirds of the Board from among their own members. It was not a mat- ter of much importance; but he thought it would suit the views of the Committee better if it were to be enacted that some portion of those to be elected should be elected from persons outside the Town Council. If the Amendments were withdrawn words might be inserted in the clause to the effect that not more than one-third of the number of persons on the school Board should be elected from persons who at the time of the election were members of the Town Council.
Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.
said, he wished to propose an Amendment in reference to the school Boards of the metropolis, which were excepted from a previous decision by the Committee; one sufficient reason being that in London, with the exception of the City Corporation, there were no municipal bodies properly so called. Ten cities and boroughs were grouped together and called the metropolis; they were governed by Vestries, and there was an increasing feeling that these bodies should not be left to appoint the school Boards, because the Vestrymen were not elected to perform any analogous duties. It was feared that there would be a predominant section, if not sect, in each of those bodies; that the minority would be wholly unrepresented; and that there would be an annual struggle, which would result in the election of persons not the best fitted to discharge the duties which would attach to members of school Boards. A better and the wiser course would be to leave the ratepayers of the metropolis at large to choose the persons who were to superintend education in the various parishes, and the strongest argument in favour of that course was to be found in the fact that although three months had elapsed since he gave notice of his Amendment—which was analyzed and discussed by the Press—not one Petition had been presented against it, while there had been a strong expression of opinion in its favour. Another argument in support of his Amendment was to be found in the growing belief that large areas of educational administration were most likely to secure tolerance, thoughtfulness, and fair play. It might be said that his Amendment would set a precedent, and he did not wish to deny it; but he trusted, that the day was not distant when such a precedent might be found useful. He begged to move, in page 10, line 42, after "Vestry" to insert "and in the metropolis by the parishioners of the parishes therein in manner provided by this Act."
supported the Amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
said, with a view to secure the more perfect representation of all persons concerned in the government of the schools, he would beg to move at the end of the clause to add—
"At every such election every voter shall be entitled to a number of votes equal to the number of the members of the school Board to be elected, and may give all such votes to one candidate, or may distribute them among the candidates as he thinks fit."
said, he thought it would be possible to adopt this form of cumulative voting in the country parishes and in London, presuming the ratepayers would have the election in the latter case, and it would not be impossible to adopt it in the Town Council, who would elect in the case of boroughs. The smallest minority on a Town Council would, in fact, be able to make itself heard if the cumulative vote were adopted.
said, he would support the Amendment, as he thought that in such cases the fullest expression ought to be given to the opinions of the minority.
said, he would vote for the Amendment, which would have the effect of ensuring a spirit of peace and of compromise, especially in the case of the corporations of large towns, and it would largely tend to soften asperities that might otherwise engender fierce and bitter contests.
said, if this new principle were applied to the election of school Boards it would be difficult to limit its application. Why should it not apply also to burial Boards, or other bodies where all kinds of parties might ask to be represented?
said, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, that the Government were prepared to shape their policy by the general feeling of the House, he hoped that they would not only accept the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding (Lord Frederick Cavendish), but would see that in order to be consistent they were bound to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke), which had been rejected by a very narrow majority. It had been stated that a minority of one-twelfth on the Town Council would be able to elect their member on the school Boards; but although they might do so on the first occasion, when 12 members were to be elected, the minority would not be able to secure the return of their member on future occasions when only three members of the school Board were to be elected, unless they formed one-fourth of the Town Council. In order to secure a fair representation of all shades of opinion, the school Boards must be elected by the ratepayers. He trusted, therefore, that on the bringing up of the Report the Government would consent to a reversal of the vote that had just been given upon this point.
said, that the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) had spoken as though the Committee were unanimously in favour of cumulative voting; but he, for one, agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire in having no faith in these fantastic methods of attempting to govern England by anything but a majority. People in this country had always been in the habit of looking at every man as a single individual; whereas those who supported cumulative voting appeared to regard him as three or four men rolled into one. To adopt the principle of cumulative voting in the election of school Boards would be a most dangerous experiment—than which he could not conceive one mote likely to wreck the success of the Bill.
said, he thought that if they adopted the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding (Lord Frederick Cavendish), they were bound to reverse their decision upon the proposal of the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke).
said, he did not see how a minority of one-twelfth of the Town Council were to return their member on the school Board, because he had not understood that the two members of whom such a minority would consist would have the power of returning any member they might choose.
said, he thought it objectionable to introduce into the Bill a principle contrary to the old-established rule that questions were to be determined in this country by pure majorities. If the cumulative system were adopted, it was quite possible that there might be combinations such as were well known to the wirepullers at elections entered into as would enable the minority of the Town Council to elect the large majority of the school Board. He trusted that the Committee would maintain the old system, which was intelligible to everybody.
said, that if the Committee were to be four hours discussing two lines and a-half of one clause, there would be but little chance of this Bill becoming law during the present Session of Parliament. The object they had in view was to determine upon the best method of electing school Boards so that parents might place confidence. He thought the Amendment was based upon grounds that were fair and equitable. It was not fair to ignore the rights of a minority. Let them consider an example. In Liverpool they were called upon to establish schools for 20,000 children. These were the children of poor Irish persons. But if there were no provision to secure the rights of a minority, the school Board would consist entirely of persons attached to the English Church. This Board would establish schools not in accordance with the views of the Catholic Church; and the religious teaching in those schools would be contrary to the Catholic doctrines? Would that be just? would it be equitable? If they accepted the Amendment, the voice of the Dissenters and the Roman Catholics would be heard on the local Board.
said, he I hoped the Government would consider this question on its merits, and not be led away by prejudices such as that which his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Jessel) had brought to bear on its consideration. His hon. and learned Friend had shown that he did not understand the proposition of his noble Friend, because all his (Mr. Jessel's) arithmetical illustrations proved was that a similar plan had been effectual In keeping the majority from getting everything. It proved that where there were 10 persons to be elected, and the majority attempted to elect all the 10 from their own party, they did not succeed. He thought that arguments founded on prejudice were not worthy of Members of so much ability, skill, and genius. If this Bill, for which he had no very great affection, was to work, the Boards must have the confidence of the people of the localities; and if even only one member of a minority were elected, his presence on the Board would go far to secure for it an amount of confidence that would prevent much ill-feeling that might otherwise exist.
said, that he thought it advisable to adopt the Amendment, otherwise the Dissenters would not be fairly represented in some localities.
said, there were other interests to be considered besides those of the majority and the minority. The interests of the community as a whole were paramount. He was for throwing on the Council the whole responsibility of electing the school Boards.
said, that the Members of the Government then present had listened to this discussion with strict impartiality. His right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council and himself had been rather stiff opponents of the minority principle in regard to Parliamentary Elections; but they were compelled in fairness to begin this discussion by recognizing that the main considerations which made that principle inadmissible or inexpedient in Parliamentary Elections were not applicable to the case before the Committee. This was a new and separate question. The Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Assheton Cross) had, undoubtedly, pointed to circumstances which ought not to be left out of view in respect of the diversity both of the qualification and the eligibility of the electors, and of the mode of election which already characterized our elections for local purposes; and the House could not entirely put out of view that, whatever the conclusions which might be come to, they were at present engaged in a formal and elaborate inquiry as to these elections for local purposes, which in almost all cases were connected with local taxation. Therefore, whatever they might do in this matter, they must reserve to themselves liberty to deal with the results of that examination. When the Committee, presided over by his right hon. Friend the President of the Poor Law Board, made its Report, it was perfectly possible that the House would have to consider recommendations bearing on the general question of local elections. He thought, therefore, that what they had to do in this case was to adopt the plan which, on the whole, seemed to be the best with regard to the subject of education; and, perhaps, there never was a case in which it was more desirable and more important they should even run some risks in order to give the most complete representation on the Boards. His right hon. Friend the Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley) had said what was quite true when he pointed out that the whole issue on this question was not one as between majorities and minorities. There were many sections of persons all of whom had interests and feelings which it might be desirable to have represented on the local Boards; and, though he admitted the force of what had been said by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt), yet, on the other hand, the representation on the local Board of every shade of opinion would tend to divest the elections of acrimony and animosity. The question was one of great difficulty, and his noble Friend (Lord Frederick Cavendish) had admitted that the system of cumulative voting was less adapted to the election of Town Councillors than to a direct election by the body of the ratepayers. Under these circumstances, he felt there was no conclusion at which the Government could arrive with great clearness of view. They had to make choice amid conflicting difficulties, and they thought they would adopt the best course in agreeing to the Motion of his noble Friend. He could not admit that there was such complete novelty in a plan of this kind as his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Jessel) seemed to suppose; because they must remember Mr. Sturges Bourne's Act. At the same time, there was some novelty in the plan proposed by his noble Friend—something in the character of an experiment; but he thought that, on the whole, the Committee would act wisely in adopting it, and if they did so he hoped it would prove successful.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 28 agreed to.
, in moving that the Chairman now report Progress, said, the next clause would require reconsideration after the conclusion arrived at that evening. He would look carefully over the Schedules, which would also require some alteration. He hoped the Committee would not regard the small amount of progress made that night with the Bill as the measure of their future despatch. The fact was, they had a most difficult and important question before them that evening, and he did not think Government could be blamed for having waited to hear the opinions of the Committee upon it.
Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.