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Wedlock Elementary Education Bill—Bill 151

Volume 220: debated on Monday 22 June 1874

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Lords Second Reading

Order for Second Reading read.

, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, in favour of which he presented a Petition from the Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Councilmen of Wenlock, said, that the area of the borough was 30,200 acres, and that it extended 17 miles as the crow flies. It contained 17 parishes, in which the provision for elementary education was sufficient according to the Elementary Education Bill. A few gentlemen in the borough, however, were anxious for the establishment of a school board, but the general feeling of the borough was against it. This Bill had come down from the Lords, and its object was to exempt the borough from the operation of the general Act on education, and permit each parish of which it was composed to elect a school board if it felt so disposed. He hoped the measure would receive the assent of the House, for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) had admitted it was an exceptional case. He would move the second reading.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—( General Forester.)

, in moving the rejection of the Bill, said, he regretted, as the Colleague of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, to have to submit to the House that no case had been made out for the application of exceptional legislation in the case of this borough. The Bill was not one that would meet with general approval by the inhabitants, for this was a ease where a strong feeling existed in favour of compulsory education, and it was a case where compulsion ought to be extended by establishing a school board not for any particular parish, but for the whole borough. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford introduced his Bill, his hon. and gallant Colleague (General Forester) desired to have Wenlock excepted from the provisions of the Act as regarded boroughs; and that was the object of this Bill. If a school board were elected for each parish in the borough, and there were 13 parishes in the borough, they could not work together with the same efficiency as if they had only one board, and he contended that one would not be so expensive as 13. He admitted that some of the parishes were a considerable distance from the centre, but he did not see how some of these small parishes could bear the expense of a separate school board, and the result would be that the educational machinery would be a failure in very many instances. There was no case made out for such legislation, and on that ground he must oppose the second reading

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—( Mr. Alexander Brown.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

said, his hon. Friend had changed his mind, he was very sorry to hear, for he was sure he had not changed it for the better, and he could add that the people of the borough as a whole remained in favour of the Bill introduced by his hon. and gallant Friend. The district did not want a single school board, and it was a district to which that system would be quite inapplicable. The great bulk of the district consisted of rural parishes, and the feeling in it was in favour, not of school boards, but of being allowed to act as other rural districts were permitted to do. Out of 13 parishes in the borough, 12 objected to the introduction of a school board.

said, the Bill was one of considerable importance. In opposing it he did not wish to argue the question whether there should be general compulsion for the Kingdom, or whether school boards were preferable to voluntary schools. The ground on which he opposed the Bill, and begged the Vice President of the Council to pause before giving his assent to it was, because he believed that if it were passed, a considerable blow would be struck at the working of the Act of 1870—a blow which he felt sure the Government would not wish to strike at that measure. Nothing in that Act was more debated than the area of rating and the school district, and the conclusion was come to, after a great deal of discussion, that in municipal, as distinguished from Parliamentary boroughs, the municipal borough area should be the area of the school district, and in other cases the parish. He thought there ought to be the strongest possible care and most complete unity of feeling on the part of the inhabitants of a place before the House adopted any exceptional legislation. There was not that unanimous opinion in this case, and he hoped the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) would consider before he supported the Bill. If they once began to make a change on account of the wishes of a portion of the constituency of any borough, as proposed by the Bill, they could not stop at Wenlock, and he did not see how they could avoid bringing about a change throughout the whole Kingdom.

said, he must decline to discuss the grave matter opened up by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. A. H. Brown) as to compulsion; but if he thought there was the slightest danger of the Bill changing the principle of the Act of 1870, he would not give it his support. But the case of Wenlock was a very curious one, being that of a group of villages connected with several distinct towns, and when he found that the Mayor and Corporation supported the measure now under consideration, he thought it a strong point in its favour. There were, however, some Amendments which it was proposed to insert in Committee, very much in the sense of what the hon. Member himself would have proposed; but as for the case itself, believing it to be unique and one of great singularity, that could not in any way be quoted as a precedent, he thought it right to give his consent to the second reading.

regretted very much that the noble Lord had given his assent to the Bill, believing that the case was anything but unique. It looked very like a job, and he was afraid there was a Whig nobleman at the bottom of it. Like the borough which he had the honour to represent the wealthiest portion of the inhabitants lived outside the municipal borough, and, like Wenlock in the present instance, would avoid any school rates whatever. He thought it was setting a bad precedent, and hoped the House would reject the second reading of the Bill.

assured the hon. Member that he was mistaken in supposing that any of the wealthy people of Wenlock wished to relieve themselves from contributions in support of the schools. He would also remind him that the Mayor and Common Council of the borough of Wenlock were in favour of the Bill.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 141; Noes 57; Majority 84.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.

House adjourned at Twelve o'clock.