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and subsequently the selection of the chairman, Mr. H. Chaplin,
and sub eeener opposition in the House he question
for a vote of's Sir John Gorgmmons in m
The intimation given in the House of Lords that the Government were prepared to deal with the question of secondary education gave some interest to the Vice-President's annual statement in the House of Commons in moving the education vote (April 28). Sir John Gorst (Cambridge University), in asking for a vote of 8,753,9861. for the cost of education in England and Wales, admitted that, notwithstanding the large additional expenditure of last year, his estimate showed a further increase of 186,2401. Public opinion on the subject of education was making satisfactory progress, as appeared for instance in the hearty welcome accorded to Mr. Robson's bill for raising the age of coinpulsory attendance at school. That was the first reform necessary, and without it all other reforms would be nugatory. With regard to the question of irregular attendance, which had been much before the public of late, he should be extremely disappointed if, when the figures for 1899 were made up, it did not turn out that there had been a great improvement in attendance. As it was, the average rate, which had declined during the years 1895-7, rose in 1898 to 81.66 per cent., the highest attained since the passing of the act of 1870. He had referred last year to the large number of children who were supposed to be attending school as full-time scholars, while employed to such an extent in manual labour that they came to school quite unfit to receive any intellectual instruction at all. He then spoke from conjecture, but the returns ordered had since come in, and they showed that at least 145,000 children were so employed for wages or profit, and there was every reason to believe that these figures were greatly below the truth. The hours of work apparently ranged from ten to seventy a week; the average earnings did not exceed 1s. a head. Sir J. Gorst went on to claim that the department had done its best to increase the number of teachers, and explained the changes about to be introduced. In conclusion, Sir J. Gorst said he understood that his official position and functions were to be the subject of criticism. Powers had often been attributed to him which he did not possess, and in fact the Order in Council of February 25, 1856, which constituted the office he held, simply provided that the Vice-President of the Committee of Council on Education should “act under the direction of the Lord President” and “act for him in his absence.” Those were the functions he was appointed to discharge, and he had endeavoured to the best of his ability to perform them. On the vote for 5,153,9871., necessary to complete the sum required, being put from the chair, Mr. Herbert Lewis (Flint Boroughs) moved to reduce the Vice-President's salary by 1001. as a protest against the alleged undue subserviency of the Education Department to the managers of Church schools. The debate which ensued wandered over many topics. Mr. Birrell (Fifeshire, W.)
did not think it in accordance with good sense or good feeling that Sir J. Gorst should remain in the position he occupied. Mr. Cripps (Stroud, Gloucestershire) could not allow that the department unduly favoured Church schools : the exact opposite was the case. As to the aid-grant, the requirements of “my lords” had more than swallowed up all the benefits which might have accrued from it. Sir Henry Fowler (Wolverhampton, E.) complained that in 8,000 parishes people were obliged to send their children to voluntary schools whether they liked the teaching in them or not. Under such conditions the parents ought to have some control over the schools. Mr. T. P. O'Connor (Scotland, Liverpool) admitted the grievance; indeed he claimed for the Nonconformist what he claimed for the Roman Catholic child-namely, that he should be brought up without any offence or prejudice to the faith of his fathers. Mr. Lloyd-George (Carnarvon Boroughs) maintained that even under the board school system Roman Catholics received special privileges. In a maiden speech, Mr. Middlemore (Birmingham, N.) criticised the Government for not themselves taking up the question of raising the school age. Sir John Lubbock (London University) sympathised with those who thought it a hardship to have to contribute both to voluntary and board schools, and suggested that subscriptions to the former in any given district should be treated as a set-off against the school board rate. Mr. Yoxall (Nottingham, W.) hoped that during the coming year the department would set themselves to formulate a plan for allotting the grant on the “block system” which prevailed in Scotland, whereby a school received its share, not in proportion to the number of subjects taken, but in proportion to the general efficiency of the work. Mr. Bryce (Aberdeen, S.), who described the Vice-President as “not a skipper, not even a pilot, but merely a boatswain,” considered that if we were ever to bring our rural schools up to the level of those in Germany or Switzerland we should have to rely less on pupil-teachers. Sir J. Gorst, in reply, vindicated the department from the charge of indifference to the interests of Nonconformists, and declared that he knew of no case in which a Nonconformist pupil-teacher as such had been treated tyrannically; accusations to that effect had been brought, but they had not been substantiated. A Government Bill to meet the needs of defective children was being prepared and would be pressed forward. Sir H. CampbellBannerman followed in the same strain as Mr. Birrell regarding the official position of the Vice-President, who, they declared, showed a strange lack of regard for his own personal dignity by retaining a position in which he was unable to give effect to his avowed views, and by showing contempt for his office, his department and his chief. The reduction having been negatived by 155 to 71 votes, Mr. Balfour thereupon moved the closure, which was carried by 153 to 63 votes, and the vote agreed to. On the report of the vote being brought up (May 1) Sir John
Gorst defended his position in the department, observing that as to all-important questions his views and those of the Lord President were entirely in accord. No doubt the department had been sometimes overruled by the Government, as happened in the case of other departments under Administrations chosen from either side of the House ; but the duke, who was the embodiment of political honour, had not therefore thought it necessary to resign, and it seemed to Sir J. Gorst that it would be a presumption on his part to do so. Formerly a charge had been brought against him of speaking against his chief at the India Office on the Manipur question; but during the whole time he was Under Secretary he retained the full confidence of Lord Cross, as he now enjoyed the confidence of the Duke of Devonshire. Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman said his quarrel was not so much with Sir J. Gorst, whose great ability he admired, as with the Government for allowing the affairs of the Education Department to be conducted as they did. He gave instances of the Vice-President's inopportune irony and his ostentatious silence, and ended by inviting the Government to find him a more congenial post.
The second reading of the Church Discipline Bill unexpectedly coincided with the sitting of the court of the archbishops, which met at Lambeth to hear cases of disputed ritual. The court did not assume to be a court of law, but was held in accordance with the directions contained in the preface to the Prayer-book for cases in which the clergyman and his bishop were not in agreement as to ceremonial matters. The points argued before the metropolitan regarded the ceremonial use of incense in the English Church and the use of processional lights. The proceedings were very lengthy, and much evidence was tendered in support of the traditional custom.
In the House of Lords the interest in the ritual question had apparently expended itself before Easter; but in the Commons Mr. C. M'Arthur (Exchange, Liverpool) was anxious to create new offences, a new tribunal and new punishments by means of a Church Discipline Bill, which affirmed the royal supremacy, did away with the episcopal veto, and substituted deprivation for imprisonment in the case of clerical disobedience. The Attorney-General met the bill by an amendment declaring that while the House was not prepared to accept a measure which made fresh offences and ignored the authority of the bishops, it was of opinion “that if the efforts now being made by the archbishops and bishops to secure the due obedience of the clergy are not speedily effectual, further legislation will be required to maintain the observance of the existing laws of Church and realm.” Lord Hugh Cecil (Greenwich) did not like the amendment, nor did he think the course taken by Government either very wise or very dignified. Whenever legislation might be brought forward of the same kind as the present bill, which aimed at removing the disciplinary authority from the
hishops to a lay tringly resisted. Lothe language of them
bishops to a lay tribunal, that legislation would be strenuously and uncompromisingly resisted. Lord H. Cecil went on to illustrate with great force, by appeal to the language of the Prayerbook, the utter incompatibility of the procedure contemplated under Mr. M'Arthur's bill with the view of the office of a bishop which commended itself to the authors of the reformation settlement in this country. Neither was it conformable to the idea of the royal supremacy. The true remedy for present troubles was to be found in an appeal to an authority which the whole High Church party looked to—the authority of the bishops. That authority was being exercised, and with no common measure of success, against what was illegal. He believed the archbishops, in the tribunal they had set up, would come to a wise and an independent decision, and he had not the least doubt the overwhelming mass of the High Church clergy and laity would defer to that decision whatever it might be. Sir Wm. Harcourt did not add much help to either side by his speech ; but he admitted that the bishops were or ought to be before all others the guardians of the law of the Church; the question was whether they had done their duty in that capacity. He did not find much evidence to answer that question in the affirmative. The bill before them contained a good deal in which he could not concur at all, but at all events it asserted the necessity of action, and it had the merit of providing a cheap form of procedure. He cordially agreed, too, in the necessity of removing the veto or, at all events, limiting it to the repression of merely trivial and vexatious prosecutions. If only because the bill did that much he should vote for the second reading.
Mr. Balfour wound up the debate with an appeal to the House to reject the bill by an overwhelming majority. He defended the bishops from the charge of doing nothing to vindicate the law or to establish harmony in the Church, and he anticipated good results from the Lambeth tribunal. The action of the bishops would, he hoped, render further legislation unnecessary. There must, he admitted, be a court of law somewhere in the background, for no spiritual organisation could possibly flourish on litigation. “Of this," he continued, “I am sure, that if time should show that the existing organisation of the Church cannot secure that obedience which exists in the body of every communion, whatever its character, and if the remedy is such as to destroy the practical episcopal character of the Church, then I think that will be the beginning of the end of the Church of England.” He did not, however, anticipate any such results, but believed, on the contrary, that the existing law, as administered by the present episcopate, would be found sufficient. Mr. Balfour ended his speech by an eloquent declaration that if the Church was to remain the Church of the great majority of Englishmen, it must also remain the institution that was · purified and remodelled at the reformation. The House then divided, and although both the tellers were from the Government side of the House, the bill was rejected by 310 to 156 votes, the minority being made up of 119 Liberals, 33 Conservatives and 4 Liberal Unionists.
No session seemed complete unless it included some more or less successful scheme to relieve the needs of Ireland, or to satisfy the grievances of some section of its inhabitants. The proposal introduced this year by the Irish Secretary, Mr. Gerald Balfour (Leeds, C.), was in a great measure based upon a bill introduced two years previously, but not adequately discussed. Nominally establishing a department of agriculture and other industries, and technical instruction in Ireland, the new bill, he explained, concentrated in one department functions at present distributed between five or six different departments; provided machinery and funds for extending to other parts of Ireland the operations of the Congested Districts Board in the congested districts; and promoted technical instruction in relation to urban industries. The income to be allotted to the department would be 166,0001. a year, derived chiefly from the Imperial Exchequer, from the Irish Church Fund, and from certain savings effected under the Judicature Act of 1897. A definite sum of 55,0001. a year was allocated to urban technical instruction; 10,0001. to sea fisheries; and the remaining 101,0001. to agriculture and other rural industries. The new department, which would be directly responsible to Parliament through the Chief Secretary as its president, and a new parliamentary officer as its vice-president, was to be assisted in the application of its funds by an agricultural board and a board of technical instruction ; but only a minority of the members on these boards would be nominated by the Government, the majority being chosen by the County Councils. After Mr. Dillon (Mayo, E.) had protested against the introduction of so important a measure under the ten-minutes rule, and denounced its finance as shabby and unsatisfactory, the bill was read a first time.
Foreign and colonial affairs, although occupying space in the newspapers and obtaining spasmodic attention from the public, were but slightly touched upon in Parliament. In fulfilment of a promise made by Lord Salisbury, the Anglo-Russian agreement with regard to China was laid on the table. Under its provisions, as explained by the Prime Minister (May 1), England had agreed neither to undertake nor encourage the construction of any railway by English persons or others north of the great wall of China. Russia, on the other hand, had made exactly similar stipulations with respect to the basin of the Yang-tsze. There were in the agreement certain provisions with regard to the railway to be made to Niu Chwang, and our interests in that respect were entirely protected. He was anxious not to appear to attach to the particular stipulations of this agreement an exaggerated importance; but he attached very great importance to the agreeinent itself as a sign of good feeling between the Governments of Great Britain and Russia.