On a point of Order. The hon. Member is going to move some additional points, I understand, in connection with denominational schools. The Minister has on to-day's Order Paper, page 902, a new Clause which appears to me to provide an alternative method of assistance. It seems to me, therefore, that the Committee is faced with two things on this issue: one according to the Amendment about to be moved by my hon. Friend, and the other according to the Minister. It puts me in a dilemma, because I have to choose between these two issues. I was wondering whether it would be possible to have a discussion of such a nature as would range over the whole field and, if there are to be Divi- sions, to take them automatically afterwards. It seems very difficult to decide independently and in an isolated manner upon the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend when, lurking behind, is the new Clause by the Minister which deals with the same thing in a different manner.
If the Minister does make some remark with regard to the new Clause, would it be in Order to discuss that in relation to this Amendment? I agree with the Minister that it is essential in his explanation to the Committee, and may help in dealing with this problem, to raise the other matter, but would it be in Order for us also to make remarks on those lines?
It would be useful to consider, if possible, the whole issue together. After all, it is very difficult to dissociate the points, and while I agree that the details on how to operate the new Clause ought to be considered on the new Clause, I hope it will not be impossible to make some mention of it at a later stage.
Naturally, a matter of this kind is in the hands of the Committee and I do not think the Committee benefits from too strict a Ruling, but we must stick to the rule of discussing each Amendment separately, unless it is agreed that two Amendments can be considered together. I think where there is a new Clause, such as we have here, it is a different position, but if, as I said in my original remarks, the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) moves his Amendment and if later the Minister says, "This Amendment is covered by a new Clause," I do not think it would be wrong to have some idea of what that new Clause is. I think, on this occasion, it might be to the advantage of the Committee to have a fairly wide understanding on this matter.
It may be that there are Members who would oppose the Amendment but who would be prepared to look differently on the new Clause. I imagine that many Members may say that they would like the one and would not like the other, and the Committee may get into difficulty if we try to divide the Debate by a sharp line, between my hon. Friend's Amendment and the new Clause.
The Minister may, quite properly, say "I propose not to meet this Amendment in full, but to go some way towards meeting it by my new Clause." That would be a proper course. It would also be a proper course for somebody else to say: "You are going to meet us a little, but riot enough." I think, having regard to the general outlook of things, it might be better if we could dispose of the new Clause today.
They are linked together. They are alternative methods. If the right Gentleman says he proposes to deal with the matter in a different way, will it not be in Order to refer to the alternative method?
I beg to move, in page 67, line 42, to leave out "one half," and to insert "three fourths."
The Clause at present reads:
The Minister shall pay to the managers or governors of every aided school, and of every special agreement school, maintenance contributions equal to one half of any sums ex pended by them in carrying out their obligations under paragraph (a) of Sub-section (3) of Section Fourteen of this Act.
It is laid down that certain repairs that they might be called upon to do shall be met, as to 50 per cent., from their payments, and as to 50 per cent., from the Treasury. At present 95 per cent. of the whole cost of education is being met by the Treasury or the local authorities, so that it is half the remaining 5 per cent. that we are discussing. It is estimated by the Board of Education that the cost of building will increase by 35 per cent. on pre-war. That would mean that the amount we should have to meet would be £10,000,000 over a period. Lord Portal has said that the cost of building will increase by 105 per cent., which means that the Catholic community will have to provide £14,000,000. The Amendment is on that narrow issue. If it is carried, it will bring the cost down from £10,000,000 to £6,500,000, so that what we are discussing is whether we can afford a further grant of £3,500,000. That is what we are appealing for. It is not really a big thing for the community as a whole, but it is a big thing for a particular section of the community. We are anxious to carry out the provisions of the Bill and we intend to carry them out as far as we can. I do not think anyone will say we have been unreasonable in the case we have put forward. We are prepared to accept the system which has been accepted by all denominations in Scotland, but the Minister says it cannot be done in this country and he gave his reasons in the White Paper. Also, we have been prepared to accept pre-1939 costs—that is, without any increased cost for war damage and that kind of thing.
We are not wanting to get clear of our responsibilities. I have said we must pay something for our religion. I speak as a Catholic, and it may be that I am prejudicing my case by doing that, but I
also speak on behalf of the Leigh Council. It met in August last, just after the White Paper was issued, and passed a resolution asking that the amount of the Government grant for the reconditioning of elementary schools should be raised from 50 to 75 per cent. It cannot be said that the Town Council is one-sided. The Labour majority is two out of a total membership of 32. That is a hint to my Labour friends who may take a strong line about the granting of any more money to, Catholic schools. Some hon. Members may be in a difficulty because of what happened last week. We were then brought into line. I came into line. The Prime Minister was questioned by the hon. Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir), who asked:
In view of what the Prime Minister has said about the procedure on the next Sitting Day, I would like to ask him one question. Are the Government going to treat all the rest of the Amendments on the Education Bill in the same way, because, if so, it will be of very little use having a Committee stage?
The Prime Minister replied:
I hesitate to make declarations about the future, until or unless we have been fortified by a Vote of Confidence. But I should not have any hesitation in hazarding the suggestion that every Amendment must be judged on its merits and in the relation which it has to the general policy of the Government"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1944; col. 1456, Vol. 398.]
I submit that the Committee is free to decide what course it will follow. I believe that, if it agreed to the Amendment, the right hon. Gentleman would say, "That is the opinion of the Committee, no principle is involved and we will find the extra money to meet the just demands made by these people."
There is another matter to which it is deplorable to have to refer. A very distasteful circular was issued last week. I can only put it down to fanatical zeal on the part of some people who do not reason at all, because they must know that this kind of thing kills their case. They will never make any progress by such means. I should like to quote words uttered by one of the greatest men is the Catholic hierarchy, the late Cardinal Hinsley:
Our present difficulties, our debts for school buildings, our defects, are due to the inequalities of the past, which condemned us to compete with the provided schools in respect to building and equipment. This unfairness
was inflicted on Catholic ratepayers and taxpayers because of their consciences and because they could not accept a programme of religious instruction agreeable to more wealthy fellow citizens. Catholics from these islands and from the various parts of the great British Commonwealth of Nations have given and are giving their full share to victory in the war and we are most anxious to avoid a revival of the old controversies of the past at this time of crisis. We are still willing to make financial sacrifices for conscience sake, but there is a limit, and the present financial proposals are inadequate.
That states our case. Our burden is too heavy to carry. I agree that the Education Bill is overdue but I want every section of the community to get what it thinks is a fair deal. There is no question of principle involved. It is just a question of giving a little more financial aid.
I rise to support the Amendment which has been moved in such moderate, reasonable and thoughtful terms. I join with the hon. Member in strongly deprecating the outside agitation which has been created by ignorant and ill-informed people. No matter what case is before the Committee, it would be deplorable that outside influence should be exercised in that fashion. The burden on the Catholic community, as on other denominations, in the restoration of their schools is so heavy that the Treasury ought to be prepared to discharge some part of the obligation. The figures the hon. Member has given, which have been examined and re-examined, are evidence of the volume of the burden which will rest on the Catholic community if the Bill goes through in its present form. In the long and somewhat exacting Debates on the Bill of 1936 the case was established for assistance of the nature asked for in this Amendment. In that Debate there was considerable difference of opinion, as there is no doubt in relation to the Amendment now before the Committee, but I think it was established beyond question that there was a case for these schools. The case we submitted to the House of Commons in 1936, which was the subject of prolonged debate and which was established, was for a measure of justice in the restoration of schools that were in need of repair and in the building of new schools. The Committee ought to examine this Amendment in the same spirit as was shown at that time.
We are grateful to the House for the toleration which has been shown for this aspect of our case. It is a great tribute to the democratic quality and character of this House and to the good will which exists in every part of the House that so many Debates have taken place on a matter which, 25 or 30 years ago, would have cut very deeply into public life. That is due to the kindly toleration that the House has shown to the Catholic community. It is not for me to press further the financial considerations, for my hon. Friend has put the case in a nutshell. We are asking for a measure of, I will not call it justice, but of fair play, in relation to the restoration of our schools and the building of new schools. We have a claim for that consideration which the educational structure of the country as a whole demands. The Catholic community in this country, even in our own time, has made a substantial contribution to education. Many hon. Friends in this House have told me from time to time how proud they are of the education which their daughters have had at Catholic schools Many Members of this House and of another place whose children were educated in Catholic schools pay tribute to the standard and quality of the education. We look back to a time, vis-à-vis this Amendment and the financial burden placed upon us, when Catholics were responsible entirely for the educational structure in this country. From the point of view of history and present day economics, we think that we are entitled to the consideration for which we ask in this Amendment.
You, Major Milner, have been extremely kind to us in giving us a large measure of liberty in discussing this Bill, and you have again given us a large measure in this discussion. Unless we have a concession of the nature suggested in the Amendment, or a concession equivalent to it operated at the instance of the Board, or in some other way, and so long as we are unable to carry out the restoration of our schools and make them fit and proper places for the education of our children according to the standards laid down by the Board, an embarrassing burden will be placed on the Catholic community on which I can place no estimate. It will be a serious blow to a section of our people who have done their best to carry out the duties of citizenship and their obligations to the State in every respect. Everybody in this country and abroad acknowledges that this great Bill is an amazing piece of work of my right hon. Friend by which he has raised the whole problem of education to the level it has reached to-day. There are people who rarely talked about education who now are really interested and who feel that something is being done to raise the educational status of the people. Equality of opportunity has assumed a new meaning. It was only in Scotland up to recent times that we found people interested in education, and now the interest has spread. The Scottish dominie played a wonderful part in education in the past. So have the priests in this country, and we are asking that the priest and the lay Catholic teacher in this country should have the same opportunity of making their contribution in the broad field of education that was given to the dominie and the teacher in Scotland in past days. They laid the foundation of the great Scottish school system which my hon. Friend has said we are anxious to enjoy.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) protested a little earlier about certain methods used against my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education, I would like to say something along the same lines. Certain words that he used in this controversy on 29th July, 1943, are constantly being torn from their context by certain supporters of the principle of this Amendment. Among them I include myself, but I do not include myself among those who quote these words against my right hon. Friend. The words were:
Therefore I have not been able to concede the full demand of those who desire complete liberty of conscience."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 5943; col. 1836, Vol. 391.]
By some propagandists those words have been interpreted to mean that my right hon. Friend was opposed to liberty of conscience. Of course he meant nothing of the kind. I believe the meaning of his words would be evident if they were restated in this way—"Certain demands have been made by men who say they desire liberty of conscience; I have not been able to meet those demands fully." That, I am sure, is what my right hon. Friend meant. It is necessary to say that because these words have been constantly quoted against my right hon. Friend and
I do not wish unfair methods to be used in putting the case which we are advancing.
This House unfortunately is not the whole of the community. I am speaking of what one has heard up and down the country, and, therefore, I cannot see that the interruption was very relevant. The traditional apology of oppositions when moving Amendments to Government Bills is the desire, it is said, to remove the more noxious features from a piece of evil legislation. The motive behind this Amendment is entirely the opposite. It is to prevent the good being the enemy of the best. No Education Bill has been more widely greeted with acclamation, notwithstanding the unfortunate and confused convulsions of last week. To-day we are touching something which, unless it is remedied, will prove a source of resentment and grievance felt by an articulate and well articulated minority, a grievance which the Government and my fellow Protestants could easily exorcise with a little courage and imagination. Few Members of the Church of England could be by conviction and upbringing more low than I. But I am interested in the removal of unnecessary discontents. I believe in the tolerations of democracy and I do not believe that democracy implies the tyranny of the majority. True democracy implies respect for minorities and the security of their beliefs.
When I see this proposal to increase the State liability for aided schools from one-half to three-quarters, I ask certain questions. I would like to restate those questions which I put to myself as conscientiously as I can. First, Is it a fair claim? Can the Catholics reasonably be expected to meet the 50 per cent. instead of the 25 per cent. as suggested? Next, If the Catholic claim is conceded would the public at large, both Catholic and Protestant, be painfully aware of any gross addition to the public burden? I believe that that gross addition has been estimated to-day as £3,500,000. It will make a great difference to certain poor Catholic communities if the suggested pro- portion is preserved. The next question is, What will be the social results of denying this claim? Will anyone be injured if the tiny citadel of English catholicism is made a little more secure? What Protestant child or parent would suffer by this concession? I submit that anyone who answers these questions objectively is bound to accept the Catholic claim.
How far should we go in making concessions to minorities? Clearly not so far as to endanger the interests or the rights of the majority. I hope I may be allowed to draw an analogy between the two important minorities in this country, the Jews and the Catholics. No doubt there are bad elements in both communities, but the benefit reaped by the whole community from the good elements in each minority is beyond price and beyond calculation. They supply to the State as a whole that which Disraeli held to be important—vigour and variety to our national life. It is true that both these minorities, more than any other minorities in this country, put their religion first and subordinate everything else to it. But are they to be condemned for that? I should not think any less of myself if I never defied the teaching of the Gospels. Nor can it be contended that either of these two important elements is a menace to the rest of us.
If I may draw an analogy with another community, there is sometimes a slanderous suggestions that all Jews in this country are Communists. That is entirely untrue, but even if it were so, it would not matter because they could not by themselves alone elect one Member to Parliament. Who can seriously suggest that we Protestants in this country are in any danger of being swamped by Catholics? It is a ludicrous proposition because only one child in every 15 is a Catholic. Is that a danger? It was not the Catholics, for example, who made up the total of our fellow countrymen who applauded Franco's rebellion in Spain, nor was it the Catholics as a body who resisted the policy of sanctions against Italy—
I will not risk an interruption from the Chair. I will merely say that I have known a good many Catholics who took neither of, these points of view. I merely wish to say that, even if Catholics entirely held the opinions, which I have suggested but have not described, we could without a twinge of apprehension behave as generously as we like to the Catholic claim, and I am sure that only good would come of it.
Catholics are among the poorest of the community and are not going to face with a light heart 50 per cent. of the cost of building new denominational schools. We see throughout the country how they gather together in poor communities, and the way they scrape together in order to keep their education going is a pattern to every other denomination. Many Protestants would concede that truth without any effort of conscience.
There are three main arguments against the Catholic claim. They vie with one another as fallacies. First, we are told that the claim offends against the Cowper-Temple Clause. I am not going into that matter at any length, because I should fear to be stopped for irrelevance. I merely wish to say that the Cowper-Temple Clause might well die a decent death, being no less than 74 years old. The second argument is that public opinion is opposed to it, but we are never told, when this argument is used, whether public opinion has been properly instructed upon this matter, nor yet how its opposition can be known. Certainly, nothing in the nature of a plebiscite or referendum has ever been held on this matter. In any event we know how Burke gave the right answer long ago. We are here to use our own judgment and certainly not to follow a public opinion which has never yet been defined.
Finally, I am afraid I inferred from the speech of the hon. Member for Leigh almost a suggestion in favour of the third argument, which strikes me as shocking. It is that the Catholics are so keen on their schools that eventually they will pay up in any case, so why worry? This argument has about it a smell of comedy, but perhaps that is rather too good a word. A more accurate word might be "blackmail" but I understand that we are not allowed to use that word in this honourable Committee. It may be that the concession to Catholics for which. I am pleading this afternoon, along with many other Protestant Members of this House, might involve a little more trouble for those of us who constitute the over-whelming Protestant majority, but looking at the matter from the wide aspect of national expenditure and national economics, I really cannot see, as all are to be educated, how it can cost the nation, as a whole, very much more. The main point in the matter is whether we are to be sincere in our attitude about minorities. I make no apology for finishing with another allusion to this question. We often profess our pride in our toleration towards minorities. I do not know why, since this is supposed to be a Christian country, and such toleration is only one of the rudiments of Christianity. To-day, more than ever before, it is a fine reputation well worth possessing, but reputation does not come with the wind. It is something which is the result of conscious effort. This Protestant country ought to be willing to pay something for it.
I am afraid that in one way I rather rejoice that I am giving an illustration of the truth of what was said by the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) that a great change has come over opinion, as compared with, say, a generation ago. I was born and bred in the spirit and tradition of the Scottish Covenanters. I have the honour to belong to the most celebrated and most illustrious parish, adjacent to and indeed part of the constituency of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay). I contested it against him, but without success, on one occasion. I was brought up in that parish. I might say that the blood of the Covenanters is in my veins. From many a platform, and more, if I might say so without any boast at all, than any man living, I have gone about the country extolling the virtue, courage and the heroism—while admitting some of their mistakes—of those our forefathers.
The hon. and gallant Member for West Leeds (Major V. Adams) spoke of himself as a Low Churchman. I do not like the expression, but in that regard I would say frankly, although I do not like the word, that I am a Low Churchman and have gone, and still go, into pulpits, extolling the virtues and simplicities of the Protestant faith. I am a Protestant of the Protestants. It is said, of course, by some, but not with justice, that we are a Protestant country, so why should we be providing facilities for the education of Roman Catholics? The only Protestantism I have ever admired, and to which I have ever adhered or will ever adhere, is one that is ready to concede to other forms of devotional religion the privileges and the right to full liberty and spiritual freedom, which it claims for itself.
If our Catholic friends will excuse my saying so, Protestantism is the last religion in the world that needs to profit by seeking unjust favours at the hand of the State or by imposing unjust disabilities on those who differ from it in creed or ritual. In my view, Protestantism has not to win its way by repression but by seeking a fuller freedom for all. It has to win its way by reason and argument, and by noble deeds, and vieing with other forms of faith, in order to give us a freer purer, nobler and more Christian country. We are not to seek privilege or preference, and least of all repression. I believe in Milton's great dictum in his "Areopagitica":
Let truth and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?
The main thing is that the encounter be free and open. The claims of freedom are more exacting still. It is said that even if we did not provide what is claimed for the Roman Catholics in education, we would in no way be running counter to their civil and religious liberty. But I often think of these great words in the "Stanzas on Freedom" by Russell Lowell, in which he says that we have not full freedom for ourselves
If we do not feel the chain
When it works a brother's pain.
And, in a later verse:
No‡ I True Freedom is to share
All the chains our brothers wear,
And, with heart and hand, to be
Earnest to make others free.
When we give a little bit more liberty to those who differ from us, we open out new avenues of freedom for ourselves.
I doubt whether the Bill will secure exactly what we might call equal treatment. I am more doubtful, after hearing the previous Debates, about the allocation of State support that may be given to various schools, but I believe that it is the best that the Minister can do. Whatever may be our fundamental views on the question, let us get as near as we can to religious equality. It is because I have been struggling all my life to support religious equality that I supported the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, and I would seek to bring this matter also to the gauge of that question When we know all the intricacies, and the efforts that Ministers of the day have made to give equality of treatment, I am not sure that we shall have complete religious equality here. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) say that he welcomed the Scottish system, which has prevailed for 25 years and has operated, and is operating, with the support both of Protestants and Catholics. I recognise that the Minister is not able to travel quite on those lines, but I wish to pay my tribute to the general result of the Scottish system after its operation during these years. We know the difficulty of Catholic doctrine and Protestant doctrines being taught in the State system. It is true to say that the Shorter Catechism is being taught on the Protestant side in Scotland. It is not universally adopted by any means, but it may be taught.
I have only one other point which I wish to put forward. I have stood always for the liberation of the Church from the State. Our Regulations and our system should be so adjusted that we take care that, in seeking the liberation of religion for adults from the State, we do not allow it to be endorsed, established and endowed in the schools. I belong to a Church which, in one of its sections, was wont annually to make this declaration, which is worthy of the attention of the Committee, and ultimately I believe all must agree with it:
This synod of the United Presbyterian Church reaffirms the principle that the teaching of religion is not within the sphere of the State and should therefore be left free from its support and control.
I am not one of those who fear if in the course of history such a resolution should be more fully adopted, for I have faith in religion asserting itself in a way that will meet any situation. When I was in New Zealand, where such a system prevails, I stayed with a minister who was dressing himself one morning to go out. He explained that he was going to give the religious lesson—
I thank you, Major Milner, for the indulgence you have given me, and I would naturally not tread further on that course. I only intended to say what was driving us, and agreeably driving us, to support in full such proposals as have been brought before us. I think, Major Milner, you will not deny me this closing word, that whatever view we take of these difficulties, and of the solutions proposed to-day, it would be a great mistake and a great tragedy if the Churches, either Protestant or Catholic, were to rest on their oars and think that all had been done that could be done. On the contrary, it is my wish that on both sides they should use this solution to further advances in their own definite teaching and religion. I know the difficulties, but it is an operation week by week in Scotland that the schools receive voluntary religious training, sometimes in a church by a minister of religion. I know the difficulties, but if the Churches will so use the new Education Measure, as it is my desire they should use it, to the voluntary furtherance of their own religious teaching it will, in my view, be as life from the dead to the Churches, as well as to the teaching of the country.
I would like, if I may, first to congratulate the mover of this Amendment on the extremely moderate and reasonable way in which he did so. He has set a very good tone to the Debate, which might otherwise have developed differently. The tendency of hon. Members who have spoken up to now has been apparently to regard this Amendment as affecting only the Catholics of this country, but it is, after all, not purely a Catholic question. In spite of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church Assembly, it affects the Church of England as well. It affects Church of England schools very widely indeed, and is one in which everyone of us is deeply concerned. I do not think any of us have indicated that we appreciate that the President of the Board of Education has in this Bill given infinitely more generous terms to the Church schools than any previous holder of his office since 1870. That, is a fact which we ought to recognise and which I find is very widely recognised both among Catholics and members of the Church of England with whom I have discussed this matter.
I think this generous treatment is an indication of the fact that my right hon. Friend fully appreciates the invaluable part which Church schools of all denominations are playing in our system of national education, and he feels, I am sure, that it is desirable from every paint of view that these schools should be allowed to continue the work which they are doing. I do feel, therefore, that we should allow ourselves to be guided by my right hon. Friend as to which is the best way to enable these schools to meet the heavy costs which will fall upon them. We all recognise that these costs have been enormously increased, both as a result of the rise in the cost of building, and also as a result of the very much improved standards of all our school buildings. We who appreciate the work of the Church schools are conscious of the great part they have played in the past. I represent a constituency which never had a school board. The whole of the elementary education of Preston was carried on until 1902 entirely by Church schools. Incidentally, at the present time no fewer than two-thirds of the elementary schools of Preston are Church schools, and three-quarters of the children of Preston are being educated in these schools. It will be understood, therefore, that I have a double reason for wishing that the life of these schools should continue.
My right hon. Friend the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) stated the other day during a discussion on an Amendment, that a very small percentage of parents in this country are at all interested in the religious instruction in the schools. I think he was right, but I am quite sure that every one of us would agree that it is a most deplorable state of affairs. I do not think we should be unjustified in attributing that state of affairs very largely to 74 years of the Cooper-Temple Clause which has forbidden denominational instruction in school. One is very glad that this Bill contains provision for an immense improvement in the standard of religious instruction in schools. I am a member of a Committee which was set up by the Conservative Party some little time ago to issue reports on post-war education, and in that first report, which my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) commented on in such tremely complimentary terms a little while ago, we stated our views that we felt that these Church schools which have proved themselves worthy of support should have the support necessary to enable them to continue their existence. That is a view which I hold. I do not think any of us can deny that there are some Church schools which are not really making the effort they should make, but we would all agree that every possible help should be given to those schools which it is really worth while to help.
My right hon. Friend has made what I believe is, generally speaking, a pretty fair settlement where these Church schools are concerned. I believe that the new Clause which he has inserted in the Bill, which will enable managers of Church schools to raise loans on favourable terms, may prove in the long run to be as effective a way of helping our Church schools as the Amendment which we are now discussing. Quite frankly, there is only one thing with which I am concerned, and that is the best way of helping these schools, all of them, Church of England, Roman Catholic, Nonconformist, of enabling them to continue. That, it seems to me, must be a matter very largely of opinion and we are entitled to express our opinion upon that. I might say at the outset, to reassure my right hon. Friend, that if this Amendment is taken to a Division, I intend to support the Government. I do not intend to cast a Vote of no confidence in my right hon. Friend.
On a point of Order. Are we to be threatened with the political punishment of a Vote of Censure if we fail to record our vote against our conscience? If so, there is no democracy in this Committee.
I do not intend my vote to involve me in expressing my confidence in other Ministers in whom I have somewhat less trust than I have in my right hon. Friend.
I have found that almost the whole of the opposition to the Church schools during the Debate in the Committee stage of this Bill has come from the Welsh Nonconformists. I have no doubt that they are perfectly sincere in their opposition, and that they feel they have the best possible reasons for that opposition, but I do not think I have heard one single English Member, whatever his religion may be, express any kind of animosity or opposition to the Church schools. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend, therefore, since we are a representative assembly here, and since we want to get an expression of opinion here which will represent the feelings of the country, whether he will be prepared to allow the Committee a free vote on this issue? No one can possibly say that this is a question which affects anything except our own personal consciences. There can be no question of confidence in the Government involved in this. It is purely a question of what we think is likely to be the best way to ensure the continued existence of these schools. It may be that I should not wish to support this Amendment when I have heard what my right hon. Friend has had to say on the subject. I am prepared to be guided by him in this matter as I have had the wisdom to be guided during the course of the Bill.
In view of the speeches to which we have already listened, I feel obliged to say that I belong to no religious denomination. I am supporting this Amendment purely and simply on educational grounds as the financial burden placed on non-provided education is sufficiently harsh and severe. The right hon. Gentleman himself has, in his own White Paper, recognised the effect on non-provided schools. I would remind him that in his own White Paper of last July, in paragraph 46, he says:
Much capital expenditure will be needed on these schools. …
He says further:
It will be beyond the financial resources of most Managers to meet unaided the bill. …
And in paragraph 50 there are these words:
… non-provided schools will be required, if they are to continue, to shoulder a financial burden in excess of their capacity.
I suggest that the proposals in this Bill and in this Clause are not measuring up to the gravity of the words used there. It is quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman does not want non-provided education to perish, or he would have abolished the whole system. I do not believe that the nation realises what it owes to the
denominations who have done their national duty in this matter for so long.
As Sir Michael Sadleir has said, "Denominational education is not something which merits a fine." Prior to 1870 there was no dual system. All our elementary schools up to then were run and owned by religious denominations. In 1870 schools were established which were to be built and run out of public money and to be publicly owned. This dual system has continued ever since, but with increasing modification. From 1870 to 1902 the voluntary or denominational schools, with no aid from public funds for buildings or maintenance, passed through 30 years of disastrous competition. Although they had kept the lamp of education burning so long, the State did nothing on their behalf; and, indeed, there was a fierce and deliberate attempt to starve them out. With smaller education grants, they paid their teachers less, they had less equipment, they had worse class-rooms and inferior apparatus; but somehow they contrived to exist, and even to increase in number. Surely, that was a tribute to the seriousness of the people responsible for them.
In these 32 years they shouldered by far the larger part of the national debt of education. This became so clear to the House of Commons that in 1902 the State took over the responsibility for paying their teachers, for wear and tear of buildings, and for other small financial assistance. Later, the right to charge fees in elementary schools was abolished, and this placed further burdens on the denominational, or, as they are now called, non-provided schools. The 1902 Act, bitterly resisted by the Nonconformists, introduced a new phenomenon known as passive resistance. Led by the late highly-respected Dr. Clifford, they objected to the payment of that small amount which they calculated went to pay for the teaching of religious denominational instruction. They acted entirely oblivious of the fact that provided schools were all giving religious instruction, which satisfied them and for which Anglicans, Catholics and Jews paid without demur. This silly little rebellion very soon finished.
Silly little rebellion. I maintain that so long as the nation insists on religious education in its own schools, all religious bodies running their own schools possess an unchallengeable right to full financial assistance. They must, of course, grant adequate representation to the local authorities on their governing bodies, and they must toe the education line which is set for them. On these two very important matters no trouble of any serious kind has ever arisen. As ratepayers and as taxpayers, the denominationalists have not grumbled at paying their full share of religious education costs. Look at the position which we have reached to-day. On the one hand, there is a set of elementary schools built and run from rates and taxes. In them is given a form of religious instruction perfectly satisfactory to Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, Quakers, Christian Scientists, and a score of others. So satisfied are they, that practically the whole of their schools have disappeared and been merged into the national system. On the other hand, another set of elementary schools, built and run by Jews, Anglicans, and Catholics, with aid from rates and taxes, is obliged to find a proportion of the building and running costs out of private resources. This is not too pleasing a picture.
Out of these facts has been built a very strange assumption. It is that Jews, Anglicans and Catholics must pay their full share of costs for provided schools, but must not expect reciprocal treatment for their own schools. The huge debt which the nation owes to them for scores of years of shouldering the great national burden of education seems to count for nothing. If I may say so without offence, there is something a little low-down in the attitude of the Nonconformists, who, having received a tax and rate contribution from the Anglicans, decline to meet their own obligations to the schools of the Anglicans. All these schools, provided and non-provided alike, have for 41 years been incorporated into the educational system of this country. The education given in both of them must toe a common line, and it conforms to a standard set by the State. Surely it is the business of the State and of the education authorities to pay for all education which they approve. In this connection, it is decidedly odd that the principle for which we are appealing in this Amendment has been law for 40 years for all education other than elementary. It is quite lawful for a public authority to bear all the costs of a Roman Catholic secondary school. An Anglican missionary who started a class for adults in Esperanto would be eligible for 100 per cent. grant, if the local education authority approved of what he was doing; and quite rightly so. If what is right for higher education is wrong for elementary education, I should like my friends the two Ministers concerned, to tell me why.
There are 10,553 non-provided schools. What is the problem that faces the managers of those schools? They have a 50 per cent. grant for improvements, and possibly 50 per cent. grant for new buildings. I look upon these grants as hopelessly insufficient. I repeat that, by insisting on a form of religious instruction in our own council schools, we have given the voluntary schools an unchallengeable right to full financial assistance. These school managers who have saved the public the cost of building these 10,000 schools are ratepayers and taxpayers. The people they represent, out of whose pockets the money comes, are also ratepayers and taxpayers. They have paid, and are paying, their full legal share of the building and upkeep charges of all the provided schools. They carry, therefore, a double burden. They have never yet started a passive resistance movement about that. There is something incongruous about the fact that their schools should still depend on private money. The spectacle of governing bodies carrying out work so necessary to the State, and of such great national importance, still anxiously worrying their heads about finance, is bad. I want to see every school with an equal chance to be made fit and worthy, and I do not know of any other plan than that suggested in this Amendment which would secure that end. My own local education committee in Bradford has passed a resolution asking that 75 per cent. grant should be made to the non-provided schools of the country.
Here is a further point which is, I think, of some importance. Since 1902 we have been helping non-provided education on an ever-increasing scale. If it is right to spend money in this way, what is the right stopping place? For good or ill, we have embarked on this course. What is wrong with going the whole hog. I know that m that respect I seem to be pleading 101 100 per cent. grant; I only wish that we could get it. If 50 per cent. is to be the building grant, what is there sacred
about that figure? It does not ensure at schools. It continues a grievance of long standing. It ensures that one set of schools shall be inferior to another. It leaves the position lop-sided. So far back as in May, 1923, the following Motion was carried nemine contradicente in this House:
That the present system of imposing upon the Catholics of England the burden of building their own schools is contrary to religious and economic equality, and that the system of complete educational equality existing in Scotland should, with the necessary changes, be adopted in England."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1923; col. 1552, Vol. 163.]
That Motion was moved by the late Mr. T. P. O'Connor, and seconded by my friend Lord Passfield, then Mr. Sidney Webb. There was a Labour Government in office at that time. Reference has been made to the fact that Scotland has solved this problem. Holland did not have to solve this problem. For 23 years, with 2,680 Catholic schools, there has been absolute financial parity there between all types of schools. In Southern Ireland, if I dare quote that country, with 573 Protestant schools out of 2,114, financial parity also rules. In these three countries the problem has been satisfactorily solved, and, given the will, it could be solved here.
I regard this as a great Bill. I have seen Press comments to the effect that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education is a great Minister, second only to the late Mr. Fisher. I differ entirely from that judgment. I place him a good deal higher. The combination of the Minister himself and his Parliamentary Secretary is about as powerful a one as this House has seen for many years in piloting any kind of Bill, and I wish them luck in that very difficult task. I would add my plea to that of the last speaker that the two Ministers should consent to free this issue from the Whips. They should leave it to the free decision of the Committee, and not involve those of us who feel deeply on this subject, in the embarrassment that many unfortunate hon. Members suffered last week. I hope the Ministers can see their way to oblige us in that respect.
As so many hon. Members, obviously, wish to speak, I might perhaps, with the approval of the Committee, venture to suggest shorter speeches. We have had quite a number of speeches of great length, some of them historical disquisitions, and the point is not really a wide one. I hope hon. Members will be more brief.
On a point of Order. I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if, before we have what is evidently going to be quite a large number of speeches, even if they are short speeches, we could have a brief intervention from the President, or the Parliamentary Secretary, on the question whether we are to have a free vote on this matter. Many of us feel that, if the vote is not going to be free, there is no point in listening to the speeches.
In view of the point put by the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), will the Chair make quite clear—I am in complete sympathy with what you, Major Milner, have said, but it is important from the point of view of future procedure—that, while you, as you were fully entitled to do, have suggested to the Committee that the speeches should be shorter, no power is given to the Chair to shorten speeches? That should be made clear. I realise the difficulty but, frankly, we cannot discuss the matter intelligently, unless we can discuss the Clause which the Minister is going to propose.
I will endeavour to follow your advice, Major Milner, watch the clock, and set a good example. The point that has struck me is the series of speeches, from such a variety of standpoints, all in favour of the Amendment. It is a tribute to the spirit in which this Committee has approached what the Minister knows, better than anyone else, is not an easy matter, and it shows the importance which we all attach to it. I was particularly grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Captain Cobb) for reminding the Committee that the issues raised by this Amendment concern the Church of England just as vitally as Roman Catholic. It it not for me to say what type of school is most valuable in the community. I think we are all proudest of the schools in which we ourselves are interested. But in number there are seven or eight times as many Church of England schools as Roman Catholic, so it is right that members of the Church of England should intervene in this Debate. I do not know what is the experience of other hon. Members, but in my constituency the Church of England through its Ruri-decanal Conference approached me on the question of the 50 per cent. grant being inadequate, before the Roman Catholics in the district did so. I have no complaints whatever about the character of the representations made to me from any quarter within my constituency, though, with the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), I regret the spirit of some of the printed documents circulated to hon. Members.
I must impress upon the Committee the enormous cost that will fall, at any rate upon the Church of England, if the figure remains at 50 per cent. I am not going to give detailed calculations, but I have seen certain figures for the diocese in which my constituents are situated, and, if these are typical, the figure of the financial burden over the country as a whole is going to be very high, and that at a time, as the Committee will realise, when the Church, like the Free Churches, as well as the Roman Catholics, have got to meet very many heavy extra commitments in other directions.
It is true that the Church of England has always made it clear that it intended to work the Bill, and that it was certainly not going to take any steps towards wrecking the Bill, even if it was discovered that Parliament was not prepared to grant more than 50 per cent. At the same time, the Church of England knows perfectly well the weight of the burden which the finding of the 50 per cent. would cast upon it, and it would dearly like it, if Parliament, in its wisdom, considered that a higher figure than 50 per cent. could be granted.
I would support this Amendment myself wholeheartedly, subject to two provisos. The first is that the moving of an Amendment like this should not create the impression in the country that the Churches are interested in materialistic matters, and put business first and religion nowhere. Most fortunately, the spirit in which the hon. Member for Leigh moved the Amendment, showed that there was no spirit of that kind in his mind, nor is there in the mind of the Committee. It is well-known to the Committee that that is not the moving influence in this matter. My other proviso is that the acceptance of a higher figure than 50 per cent. should not cause any revival of sectarian bitterness in the country outside this Committee. It would be disastrous for the future of religious education if anything were to be done in this House, or outside, which would restart that kind of sectarian bitterness which has done so much harm, inside our schools and outside, in the past.
I place my faith in the Government's own statement. In their Explanatory Memorandum, in paragraph 19, it is stated:
The object of the Bill is to enable the auxiliary, no less than the county, schools to play an effective part in the education of the future.
That purpose has been accepted by the House and by this Committee. The dual system is to continue. We have, therefore, got to frame the financial provisions so that it can continue, and that depends on this grant, and I plead once again with my right hon. Friend, who has already shown his generosity towards the Church schools of all denominations—I warmly acknowledge that—to see if he cannot be still more generous.
We have now arrived at a vital point in this Bill. There is no doubt about it that this issue is the vital issue in all these Clauses. We have debated the educational side of the Bill, and, from this side of the Committee, we have gone into the Lobby for the raising of the school-leaving age—officially—for the abolition of fees, and we have been—
The Labour Party, led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), as a matter of party policy, have voted on two main educational issues raised in the Bill. We went into the Lobby and we have been defeated. The educational side of the Bill, therefore, is not by any means what we wanted or expected. As a matter of fact, to me—and I hope my hon. Friends will realise it—the tragedy of this Bill is that we are now passing a provision so that you can get public money up to 75 per cent., or, with the Minister's new Clause, a loan of public money, to keep Church schools in being without raising the school-leaving age by a single day for a single child. That is the issue. We are, therefore, faced with what is the real essence and content of this Bill, and it is not educational, but religious. This Amendment, as a matter of fact, directly relates to the dual system. So far as I am concerned, as I see it, I am faced with a choice between a straight 75 per cent. grant and a system of loans that has been embodied in the new Clause put down by the Minister. Both are designed to assist the Church schools, but I take it that there is no other purpose in them. It is true that the Committee has agreed definitely to the continuance of the dual system, and it is now clear that we are faced with the problem of the method by which we are to maintain that dual system.
I would, with all humility, say to my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee that I would much prefer supporting a 75 per cent. grant than loans for the dual system. I know that my Roman Catholic friends will keep their schools, and I know that they are situated in the industrial areas. In every country that I have read about, whatever action has been taken, so far as I can ascertain, Roman Catholics have been able to keep their schools going. They are, in a certain way, outside our control, but, in this country, we have another problem of educational administration. I may as well be quite open about it. So far as it concerns the teachers, the profession generally, and promotions to headships, the Church of England stands hard and fast.
The 75 per cent. under the 1936 Act was not responded to by the Church of England. We offered in the 1936 Act a minimum of 50 per cent. and a maximum of 75 per cent. What happened? I am merely putting this objectively, because I am not going to give the figures, as they are in a private and confidential document, from which I do not want to quote, But the Committee may take it from me that it is true and that the Roman Catholic Church did find 25 per cent. for many schools. The Church of England failed. I am afraid that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman for State loans for the fraction above the grant is not so much for the schools of the Catholic Church as for the preservation of Church of England schools in certain school areas. There are in this country 4,000 odd Church of England schools in single-school areas. [Interruption.] I think I am about right.
There are 4,000 Church schools in these areas. The Roman Catholic people say, as I understand it, "You should have schools where the education given to children is related to the religious opinions of the parent." I do not entirely agree with that. I think that the Roman Catholics would agree that what they are really saying is, that they agree that the education given in these schools should be education conformable to the opinion of the parents so long as they were Roman Catholics. They would not agree if they were atheists or pagans. Here in rural England you are cutting right across that principle. In 4,000 villages you are compelling the children of Nonconformist parents, Liberal parents, and Socialist parents to send their children to the Church of England school, and that is fundamentally wrong. I turn to my hon. Friends and say—and I can prove it, if anybody challenges me—that this does not mean merely a religious issue. It is not merely concerned with the souls of these little children and the hereafter, but it is concerned with the social and political power of the squire and his wife, and the parson and his wife in the villages.
That is right; Tory strongholds throughout rural England resting on State endowments of the Church schools in those villages. Therefore, I say to my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee, we are not merely concerned with the religious issue but with a deep politi- cal issue. [Interruption.] If anybody on the opposite side of the Committee disagrees with me, I really could quote from this brilliant document which I hold in my hand.
I am not a law unto myself. I have obeyed the law every time. I say again quite definitely, that not only is there a religious issue raised in this, but a deep political issue. I am driven by the Amendment to the Clause to choose, and I repeat what I said before, that I would rather go into the Lobby for 75 per cent. than I would have a State loan. The Minister may say that he lays down certain conditions, but there are no conditions in the Clause of the Bill. I could not go into the Lobby in support of a State loan. I do not want the State to have a sort of usury connection with the Church. I want us to be free. Therefore, I say to my hon. Friends, briefly and definitely, "Let us go for the 75 per cent. rather than for a State loan." A State loan involves definitely a resuscitation and development of Church of England schools throughout the villages of England. In all these Debates they have, like the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke), offered to co-operate but not one move have they made towards our position, and, therefore, I hope the Committee will agree that one of the finest things we can do is to sweep England of these schools in the single-school areas.
I am rather sorry that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) has produced an archaic argument which might have applied to the Middle Ages in relation to the problem we are now discussing. The Amendment was moved primarily from the Roman Catholic point of view and I certainly support it on those grounds, but other speakers have been acquainted with the fact that it affects a much wider range of voluntary schools, including Church of England schools and others. I would like, within the financial limits that we are obliged to observe in discussing this matter, to put this point to the Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach) mentioned that there are some 10,500 elementary schools which might be involved by this provision. The Committee, and certainly public opinion outside, should realise that that is slightly more than half the total number of elementary schools. Besides the 10,500 elementary schools there are some 10,300 council schools. We are dealing with a very considerable proportion of the elementary school organisation as it exists to-day. It is represented in some quarters that, if this concession of what appears to be more generous treatment is conceded, it will in fact impose a burden on the public purse and that those of us who are supporting the Amendment are asking for public funds to be unnecessarily extended.
I beg the Committee to appreciate that if this Bill goes through on a basis which makes it impossible for many or any of these schools to continue, the cost which will accrue to public funds will not be 50 per cent. or the 75 per cent. which is now asked for in relation to the existing schools, but will be 100 per cent. for another school to take its place. Therefore, as far as the State can preserve the existing organisation of the elementary schools, to put it on the most sordid ground, it will in fact save money for the Exchequer. Very unfortunate arguments are raised outside—I am glad to say, not inside the Committee—that the denominations are asking for money from public funds and that it will be a burden on the taxpayer. In fact, we are asking, in the name of common justice to the denominations which have done so much, for an Amendment, which so far as the mere sordid element of finance is concerned, will save public funds from further expenditure.
That wants emphasising, and I am glad that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Preston (Captain Cobb) has made it clear that the Church of England is involved in this matter as well as the Catholic community. I represent a part of the City of Manchester where there are equally comparable examples of three kinds of elementary schools. There is a very large Roman Catholic school, one of the most efficient in the city; there are Church schools, some of the most efficient in the city; and there are council schools, again, some of the most efficient in the city; and there are others. I am merely thinking of the most efficient examples, and they are spread over Roman Catholic, Church of England and council schools. If any of these have to be suppressed because of lack of financial ability to carry on, the cost will be greater to the State and to the community than it will be if this Amendment is conceded enabling them to carry on. The matter goes further than that. There has been some talk of the single-school area. I know of a single-school area where the school is a non-provided Nonconformist school. Do not let the Committee assume that this is only a Catholic question. Of the 10,500 schools my hon. Friend the Member for South Bradford spoke of, 119 are Wesleyan schools and 176 are of other denominations than the Church or Roman Catholic.
Yes, I have in mind a village in Nottinghamshire, which is a single-school area, where there has been a non-provided Nonconformist school for a number of years.
There are 119 Wesleyan schools and 176 others, according to the official figures. Is it fair that, where a school is in being, is efficient and adequate, it should be closed down and another school provided at the public expense merely because we are haggling about the proportion of grant which is to be paid in each of these schools? This matter goes beyond the Catholic community and the Church of England. They may be few, but there are others, some of them Nonconformist single-school areas, who are just as concerned and just as anxious.
There is no question of efficiency in this thing, and if we bring it down to the sordid basis of money, there is no additional expenditure to the State. Actually, by conceding this Amendment, which I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to do, the Exchequer will be eased of its burden and the progress of the Bill will be expedited.
It is proper that the Committee and the country should know that the views so far expressed by those who have been fortunate enough to catch your eye, Major Milner, do not reflect the views of this country as a whole. Every single person who has spoken so far has spoken in favour of the Amendment. It is true that the song has ranged over different keys. The hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke), knowing perfectly well that the authorities for whom he speaks had been more than delighted with offer of 50 per cent. of their capital cost, did not dare to come before the Committee and say, as my Roman Catholic friends have done, "It is right and proper we should get this." He merely hoped that if my Roman Catholic friends, by their emphasis and urgency, were to get the 75 per cent., he and his cohorts would be able to walk in their trail and shadow and get the same. But he was not against it. Then, in another different key, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) was not against the Amendment, and he struck a balance between the Amendment and a future Clause for easy loans which may or may not, in the wisdom of the Committee, become part of this Bill. So far I have the honour to be the first Member to address the Committee and to say in definite concrete terms that I am against increasing the 50 per cent. to 75 per cent.
If the Chair is good enough to call me when the new Clause comes before the Committee, I shall be very glad to inform the Committee of my views upon it. I think the Committee should differentiate between the position of the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans in this matter. The demand made by the one denomination and the other is entirely different. The Catholic attitude, as I understand it, is an attitude by which they say, "We want a school run by Catholics, for Catholics and for nobody else." That is their object. The Church of England, on the other hand, says, "We want Church of England schools, not only for those who are adherents of the Church of England, those who wish for Church of England schools, but for anybody else who happens to be in the area." That applies not only to single-school areas but to other areas as well. We cannot differentiate on the provisions of the Clause before us. We must take them together. It is a question of 50 per cent. or 75 per cent.
This 50 per cent., as has been said again and again, is a compromise. I am not going to repeat what was stated on the Second Reading, but it is an exceedingly generous compromise. It involves giving, with very little public control, sums amounting to between 96 per cent. and 97 per cent. outside public control for the education of children. There has been some contention that it should not involve anything, but, after all, the very essence of the demand made by my Roman Catholic friends is that your communal schools, your publicly-owned, publicly-controlled, publicly-run schools are not good enough for them. That is the claim. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Exactly; they are not good enough for you. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] You want for your Catholic children as good an education as children can get in the ordinary publicly-controlled schools—
May I interrupt to ask a question? I think it has been made clear from the Catholic point of view, that Catholics accept the educational standard laid down by the President of the Board of Education. But if my hon. and learned Friend is speaking officially on behalf of the Free Churches, will he indicate his attitude to the proposal of my right hon. Friend in reference OD loans, because that is very important?
I will deal with the point I was making when interrupted by my hon. and gallant Friend. I said that my Catholic friends want education from an educational standpoint as good as that provided in the State-owned and provided schools. But they want more. They want schools which are primarily designed not for educational purposes but in order to make good Catholics. That is why I respect their views. Emphasis has been laid by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. W. Leach) or the question of approaching them from some educational standpoint. As far as the Roman Catholics are concerned, that is purely secondary; the main purpose they have in mind in the sacrifices they have made to establish and maintain these schools is that they must have Catholic schools to make good Roman Catholics. That is to say, they want something more than is provided by the ordinary State-controlled system, and I say as a Nonconformist, "It is not too much to ask that you should pay for that." I believe in two things from the religious point of view. I believe, first, in tolerance. I do not belong to the Catholic Church. There are Members on the benches opposite who belong to the Catholic Church, and Members on this side belong to the Catholic Church—
Catholicism in religion, means intolerance from the religious point of view. No Nonconformist claims to be universal; he is prepared to accept the differences of other denominations.
On a point of Order. I do not want to interrupt, but is this kind of statement to be allowed without any allusion being made to it? Are we to have a discussion on it, Major Milner?
I am grateful for the tolerance of the Chair. That is one aspect, but the other aspect is of sacrifice for your religious beliefs. Our denomination was established by sacrifice. It is the only way. We have never grumbled at it, and, if you treat schools as part of your religious system, you must be prepared to contribute something towards them. In fact, we are going in this Bill a very long way towards making it easy for them to do so. We have gone, as I have said, to the tune of 96 per cent. or 97 per cent. of the total cost of the new schools. We are shortly to have a Clause—and I suppose I may just refer to it—under which it will be made easy for the other two per cent. or three per cent. to be found. That, I submit to the Committee, is a very fair, generous, tolerant attitude towards a minority of our people. With that tolerant attitude I heartily agree. I think the basis of compromise on that tolerance has been achieved in the 50 per cent. and I hope the President will reject the 75 per cent. If it is carried to the Lobby, I hope that the Committee will reject the increase above the compromise arrived at.
In view of the fact that my conduct has been questioned, I want to ask you, Major Milner, if it is not the fact that on one occasion the Chairman told me that if I did not catch his eye when I stood up, I should call his name.
I had intended to confine myself to two sentences, but I must say a word about the speech made by the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes). I want to put it to him that there are some of us who feel seriously about religious education—and I am not speaking as a Catholic—and who consider that it is not something to which one's right ought to depend on ability to pay. It offends my conscience very much that the chance of parents to get the kind of religious education they want for their children should depend on the mere chance whether some members of the community have money. Some of us feel that sincerely, and it is because of that, that I for one made clear the other day that I had great sympathy with the hon. Member who moved this Amendment. I believe that was widely felt in the Committee and I put it on this ground, that we do not want this financial obstacle—the difficulty caused by this sudden need of expenditure on buildings—to be used as a lever for driving the denominational schools, whether Roman Catholic or Methodist, out of existence.
As I see it we have now to consider a very closely defined point in this Debate. If I interpret the Minister aright, he has taken account of the feeling in the Com- mittee to which I have referred and he has tried to offer a means whereby this financial obstacle shall not be used as an artificial lever to drive out the denominational schools. The only question in my mind has been, Which is the best way to achieve this object—the way proposed in the Amendment or the way proposed by the Minister? I speak with very great diffidence as an adviser to those hon. Members here who represent the Catholic Church; but if I might express my own view, then, quite honestly, as one who wishes them well, I would if I were in their position, unhesitatingly opt for the proposals of the Minister. That is the way by which they can achieve most nearly what is wanted. They would be faced with no sudden intolerable financial burden.
It would in a matter of loan interest spread over many years. The hon. Member for Leigh quoted figures of capital expenditure. I believe he rather underestimated the increase in building costs, so that the immediate burden might well be heavier than he reckoned. If the Roman Catholics have a chance of raising money on loan at low rates of interest—and I think we are entitled to assume that the Minister will be generous as regards interest rates and that the Government will be sensible and in the future will maintain the low interest policy which they have carried through successfully in this war—then I think this extra burden can be carried without difficulty. But if the 25 per cent. capital share had to be found at once that might prove a serious stumbling block. Therefore I personally, not because I want to support the Government, but because I believe it to be best for the cause for which hon. Members opposite stand, shall support the Minister's alternative proposal.
During the Debate on this Bill I have never shown any kind of religious bias nor have I tried in any way to add to the passions which have been aroused on certain occasions, particularly to-day. I regard this Bill as an Education Bill, and judge it from that point of view. I accept the fact, now accepted by the Committee, that the dual system continues. There may be arguments as to whether that is right or wrong, but that has been accepted and its implications must be accepted. I said in the Second Reading Debate, with the ap- proval of the overwhelming majority of my right hon. and hon. Friends, that we regarded the Minister's proposals as a generous solution of the problem. I believe I indicated that we should have to consider this problem—and I am speaking now purely on the basis of an Education Bill—if any further proposals were made. I take no exception whatever to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), who did not import the same amount of feeling into this matter as has been imported into many letters I have had from some of his supporters, both in this country and abroad. My hon. Friend stated his case very cogently, but I must repeat that I, and the majority of my friends and Members of the Committee, regard the 50 per cent. as being a generous offer to the Catholic Church. [HON. MEMBERS: "To all Churches?"] To all Churches, but I will come to that point in a moment; it is primarily to the Roman Catholic Church. They have argued their case rightly, but on these issues men and women are entitled to exercise their own judgment in matters of conscience, and the truth is that the majority of the people of this country, judging by my own correspondence—and it is not inconsiderable—think that the proposal made by the President is a generous proposal.
Therefore, most of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and I must, of course, oppose the Amendment now before the Committee. But my right hon. Friend the Minister has put down a new Clause on the Order Paper, and I do not take the view, which has been expressed on both sides of the Committee, that this is an unwise proposal. Again looking at the matter from a purely educational point of view, I think my right hon. Friend has met what is a difficult situation from the point of view of educational development of buildings in this country. I am told that this matter is not merely concerned with the Roman Catholic Church. If my memory is right the Church of England itself was some sort of party to the 50 per cent. basis and it is a little difficult for the Members of the Committee, who are members of the Church of England, to try this "pepping up" process, hiding, as it were, behind the skirts of the Catholic Church. While the Minister has met not the demand of the English Church but the demand of the Roman Catholic Church I hope it does not mean automatically extending his proposal of loans to every single-school area. I am not talking religion but politics and sheer hard finance in this matter, and I hope my right hon. Friend will have this in mind. Accepting the dual system and the fact that we have a very large number of schools very unfit for their purpose to-day, and accepting the fact that Church authorities have had responsibility imposed upon them, I myself see no injustice to any Church or any class of citizen if the State, by arrangement of loans, enables these Church authorities to develop their school buildings and equipment to bring them up to the agreed national standard. That, I suggest, is fair.
I think my right hon. Friend would offend against the sense of the Committee and the country if he were to accept the Amendment now before the Committee, but I do commend him for having faced what is undoubtedly an important problem, namely, that of permitting the religious bodies which conduct schools to obtain loans which would enable them to raise the standard of their accommodation and equipment to the level required by the law. Having listened to my right hon. Friend I hope the Committee will agree to stand by the original compromise, coupled with the new proposal he makes—
I am sure the Government will be very much obliged to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) for the language he has used and the support he has given to the policy of the Government in this matter, and I am sure the Committee will feel that those Roman Catholic Members who have taken part in the Debate, including my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), have expressed their case with great moderation. There has also been, fortunately, practically no sign, in our Debates, of any feeling against the Roman Catholic schools or the Roman Catholics who wish to continue to conduct education in the atmosphere they desire. I hasten to say that there will be nothing in my remarks either, which could be construed in that sense. In fact, I would like to acknowledge at once the handsome withdrawal of certain methods of propaganda which were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh. I bear no ill-will for the campaign which has been conducted and I hope I shall take what comes to me in the right spirit. In any event, I learn every day.
Coming to the Amendment, I am requested by the mover and his supporters to go above the 50 per cent. offer which has been included as part of this Bill. Let me say at once that the Government are not prepared to go above that 50 per cent. offer. But let me argue the case, because this is one on which hon. Members feel deeply. I hope they will see that the Government are trying to do their best to meet the points of view of hon. Members and that they are fully alive to the seriousness of the issue before us. I think it has only come out in the course of our Debate to-day, that this is not a concession to the Roman Catholics alone. If this concession is made, it must be made to the whole range of denominational schools.
The hon. Member may be assured that I shall not burke the issue, and that I shall explain to him how my ideas are better than his. But as this is rather a difficult subject, perhaps I might be allowed to pursue my own arguments. There can be no line drawn within the denominational world. At various times in our discussions on these matters during the last few years we have wondered whether a line could be drawn here or there in the denominational range, but it is quite impossible. Any concession that is made must, as I have said, be made to the whole range of denominational schools. That means that this concession of raising the grant in the Bill would have to be applied not only to the 1,200 Roman Catholic schools, but also to the 10,000 Church of England departments that exist. That would mean that the fears of my hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke), namely, that the pro- posal to raise the grant to that extent for so many schools would exacerbate the feeling in the country and endanger the settlement that has been reached, would certainly be realised.
Therefore, if I may take it that that was the tenor of his speech, I would say that this proposal, if accepted by the Committee, would endanger the whole settlement and in my view exacerbate the chances of religious understanding. Why would that be so? It would be so because it would be possible then for every Anglican school to receive, if it chose to put up the remainder, a grant of 75 per cent. The result would be—I am not shirking the point made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield—that the problem of the single-school area would be exacerbated. When I come to the alternative proposal, I shall indicate how the Government propose to limit the scope of the proposal. We want to avoid an unlimited extra grant with all the consequences it entails of extra exacerbation and the proposal I have placed on the Paper is made so as to give the opportunity of assisting denominational schools to meet their difficulties in a way that will limit the area of exacerbation. So, I am unhesitatingly recommending the Committee to follow the Government lead.
Let us examine the position. Anybody who followed the Debates in 1902 would be astonished at the good humour and moderation shown on all sides in this Debate, and would be equally astonished to notice the generosity of the offer made by the Government to Church schools as a whole. I am grateful for the many acknowledgments that have been made on all sides of the Committee in favour of the proposals. This proposal to give to the denominational schools a 50 per cent. grant for alterations and repairs, is superimposed on very much more generous terms for help with the running costs of denominational schools. The Committee must not examine this matter in isolation. We are not only giving grants in respect of what amounts to capital expenditure incurred in putting schools in order, which was not the case in 1902, but we are also so revising the liabilities and responsibilities of managers that from now on managers' responsibilities will be confined to external repairs. That is a very remarkable fact which the Committee should bear in mind, and it is a fact which militates, I think, against acceptance of the Amendment put forward.
We have to look at the picture as a whole. Let us take a look therefore at the many other concessions made in the course of the passage of the Bill or included in the Bill. We have done our best to meet the denominations on the question of transport, which is a matter of great importance to the Roman Catholic community in scattered areas. We have done our best to deal with the question of bona fide transfer of schools necessitated by transfer of population, town planning or similar circumstances. We have done our best to deal with the provision of canteens and equipment, another matter of great importance, and we have done our best to deal with the very difficult question of the extension of playing fields or the provision of playing fields. On all these matters, we have done our best. We have, further, reopened the 1936 Act—in this case without a time limit—and we have purposely offered to denominational secondary schools an opportunity, from now on, to have teachers' salaries paid from public funds. It may be that many Roman Catholic schools will find aided status more attractive than any other.
I want to be quite frank with my Roman Catholic friends. They have put many arguments to me and I have examined their figures. Accepting their figures of the cost of carrying out these measures over a number of years, I would point out that in fact they would receive £16,000,000 of public money under the Bill as originally drafted without taking into account the many concessions made in the course of its passage. Moreover, as has been put by many representatives of the Free Churches and others, this 50 per cent. is not accompanied by forms of control which Roman Catholics could not accept. I therefore think that if they look at the picture as a whole, they will feel that the Government have gone a very long way to make it possible for voluntary managers to meet the costs.
There is then the question whether it will be possible for voluntary managers to raise the necessary sums of money to meet their liabilities under this scheme. I have been anxious about what will be the effect, if attempts are made by all managers, who must keep the atmosphere of their schools, to raise money at one and the same time, and I have been struck by the fact that the denominations very often will have just as much school building and repair work to undertake as local authorities. Therefore, I came to the conclusion that there is no case for treating the denominations differently from the local authorities. The local authorities are permitted to borrow on certain terms, and I do not see why a poor local authority should obtain certain business terms from the public loans fund and the denominations should be unable to obtain similar terms. I came to the conclusion, and my colleagues agree with me, that the most equitable manner in which to work this scheme, would be to place the denominations on the same sort of basis as the local authorities, in the matter of raising money.
This leads me to the other great point which I have always tried to make. The Government have tried to help in the matter of running costs, apart from capital expenditure. But we have to face the position that unless the denominations can obtain suitable rates of interest they will find it very hard to fulfil their obligations. It is, in terms of interest and redemption charges, that the denominations should regard their liabilities, and not the raising of a global capital sum at once. If the Roman Catholics have to raise between £9,000,000 and £10,000,000 the position must be looked at in terms of annual charges for interest and redemption. Interest and redemption work out at a much less alarming figure than the capital global cost. I have worked out the position, and I find that while the interest and redemption charges under the original proposals of the Government, if they were not able to obtain terms equivalent to those obtained by the local authorities, would work out at about £590,000 ultimately—but much less in the first year—under the new proposal for rates of interest similar to those charged to the local authority, the cost would be reduced to about £430,000 ultimately.
They get such a very large benefit from the controlled school scheme because under that scheme they would get all the expenses paid. The Roman Catholics could not accept controlled status. I cannot give exact figures in the case of the Church of England because I do not know how they will exercise their option.
I am not going to give any exact figures but they would be, approximately, on the same basis. These loans will have to be agreed with the Treasury. Therefore, anybody who imagines that they will not be on, a businesslike basis will be very disappointed, because I can assure him that they will be controlled by the Treasury. Here I come to the most important point raised not only by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield but by the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) and others.
The general figures have been based on an overall increase of 35 per cent., not only in building costs. Of course, building costs have gone up a great deal because of war circumstances, and I think it would be very unwise to take too pessimistic a view of what building costs are likely to be when the whole scheme is brought into operation, in stages, three or four years after the war.
Now I come to the important point put forward by the right hon. Member for Wakefield. I have put forward an alternative method of easing the burden for the denominations by enabling them to raise capital. I believe this system will work better, and it is not a bad thing that the discretion of the Minister is brought in. I, honestly, take the view that if this new scheme were to result in schools passing over to aided status, the whole balance of the scheme would be upset. I am fortified by what was said by the Bishop of London in the Church Assembly, that he himself felt that if these facilities were used to extend very greatly the number of schools in this category, it might provoke opposition and endanger the settlement. The Bishop went on to say that lest these facilities should be so used, it would be necessary to provide that no loans should be granted, except with the consent of the President of the Board of Education and subject to his approval.
We have, therefore, included in our proposal, a provision that these loans shall be subject to the discretion of the Minister. Some machinery must be set up to ensure that loans cannot be indiscriminately used to perpetuate the grievance of the single-school area. I may have to discuss that with the Committee. Although we are giving an easement to the denominations it must be in such a way as not to exacerbate that grievance. I have proof that the leaders of the denominations themselves would welcome this method. In the Church Assembly of the Anglicans it was passed without any opposing voice. And I think I can say that the position of those who speak with authority for the Roman Catholic communities is somewhat as follows. They stand, and have consistently stood, for the principle that all expenses of Roman Catholic schools, no less than of county schools, should fall on public funds. That still remains their claim, and I feel sure that they would be entirely behind hon. Members in the Amendment they have on the Order Paper. But I am informed that the measure of assistance to Roman Catholic schools for which the Bill provides, including the new Clause, would go a considerable way to meeting many of their representations. Thus we have every reason to hope that, if the Government have their way and the Amendment is not carried, the Bill has a chance of operating in a better atmosphere than would have been possible before.
I appeal to hon. Members to take this opportunity to try to come to an understanding within the Committee, that the method the Government suggest is the best. We have a great future before us in working out this plan, and I trust that it may be possible even to avoid any sort of division on the matter. If so, I feel that it will be in the interest of the children, because by doing that, those who support the Amendment, would not be departing from their conscience, or from their public statements, but would be showing a generous attitude to the future which the Government would be the first to wish to reciprocate.
I find myself in a somewhat awkward position in that I understood it was the intention of the Minister to speak in the middle of the Debate, and tell us something about the new Clause and I was holding my fire until he had done so. Now, apparently, the Committee wish to divide at once. I must ask them to be patient for a few minutes. We attach the greatest importance to the Amendment. We are profoundly dissatisfied with the Minister's solution. I could wish that he had explained a little more fully what the Clause means. I jumped to the conclusion that it meant loans, including sinking fund, of approximately 4 per cent. I understand that it is 4½ per cent., therefore my figures are on the low side. The President's speech proves that what he is now offering is not adequate. He has made it possible for the denominational schools to shoulder the burden, but he has not helped us to carry it. The interest charge alone, over a period of 47 years, will amount to approximately £6,000,000, that is 60 per cent. more than we succeeded in collecting in 25 years, and when you have paid the £6,000,000, the schools are not yours. The sum total, based on a 35 per cent. increase in building costs, will be of the order of £16,000,000. The Minister said he had reason to believe that those who speak for the Church to which I belong thought they ought to have more, but that they can operate the Bill. All the figures that have been discussed have been based on this 35 per cent. increase in cost, and that is a frightfully important point. It has been said that this proposal is very generous to us. We do not deny that we get tremendous advantages under the Bill, but the point is, what is the remainder? The figure of 97 per cent. has been quoted by people who admit that they do not understand it. They fail of understand that the balance of 3 per cent. represents £10,000,000.
What I said was that, apart from the Bill and before the Bill was thought of, something like 95 per cent. of the cost of running the schools was paid for out of public money.
That makes it more deplorable that the figure should have been used at all. We are left with £10,000,000 capital cost. I wish I could make my Friends on this side understand what we are after. We are afraid that, with this higher standard of education on which the Government are rightly insisting, our children may suffer, because we shall not be able to afford to give them what the others will get. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) said that what would happen with these denominational schools is that they would be told to carry on the best way they could. Who will suffer? The children. We are fighting against that. We are fighting, on the other hand, against the possibility of an unpleasant Government, if you like, o: local authority, and the possibility that because we cannot find hinds sufficient to come up to the standard that they demand—and no one has yet defined what that standard is—we shall be closed down. We are not seeking to grab for ourselves. What Catholic Members on this side want is to have schools provided by the State with Catholic teachers in them. It is absurd to sugest that we want anything different from that.
Another point often misunderstood is this. There is a vague and airy feeling that there is a vast community chest on which the Catholics draw. That is not true. Every penny spent on education in the Catholic Church comes out of the pockets of the workers, by and large. There is no great fund. People have told me they are sick and tired of getting up whist drives to pay for their children's education. They pay through the rates, and are provided with a form of education to which they cannot, conscientiously, submit their children. They have to fill the collection plates on Sundays, and go to whist drives and other things in order to fork out more pence for the education that they desire. We say that is not fair. I tried to get the Minister to accept a new class of school, but he said that would upset the equilibrium of the Bill, and my suggestion fell by the wayside, as so many other useful and pertinent suggestions have done.
To come back to the cost, to my mind the Minister has proved our case, both by his proposals and by the absence of an indication of a ceiling of cost. He has not told us what the ultimate cost is to be. His own figures are based on a 35 per cent. increase over pre-war figures and he decided to afford us relief by giving us cheaper money, which some of ns can get cheaper still, so it will not help everyone. If he cannot accept the 75 per cent., will he consider that his calculations have been made on the basis of a 35 per cent. increase, while Lord Portal has said that costs are already up 105 per cent.? With building charges up 105 per cent., that, in effect, puts us back to £600,000 a year, which the Minister has already said is too much for us to bear. Therefore, will he, between now and Report, consider some possible ceiling? It he will do that, we will sit still and try to be happy. We are determined not to put our guarantee behind something that we do not think we can undertake. We do not know what the future holds. We are not quite sure about the Government, and future Governments. There may be all sorts of funny people at that Box. We do not want, at this stage, to have to say, quite regardless of what the costs may be, that we are prepared to shoulder the burden envisaged in the Bill. We are grateful to the Minister for making it possible for us to get the money, and in many cases it will be cheaper than we can get, but, by and large, it only enables us to make sure that we can shoulder the burden. It does not get rid of the burden.
I appeal to hon. Members on this side to realise what it is we are after and that all this money has to be found from the working-man. There are no great dukes and landlords to cough it up for us. It is done by the workers. Our people are the poor people of the country. They are people with large families, who have the greatest burdens to bear. I ask that, as a party, we should reconsider our attitude, and ask the Minister to reconsider the, situation between now and Report and see if he cannot give us more help.
I have had a long and close association with Catholics, and I understand their hardships and poverty and the trouble that they have to maintain their church and schools. That is no reason why the Catholics in this House should become the stalking horses for the Church of England, which is not in any sense a poor organisation. There should be no increase of grant and no loans until 4,000 single-area schools become the property of the education authorities. There has been talk about the Scottish system, but that system could never be applied to this country where 4,000 single-area schools are in the hands of the Tory squires, as the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) says. The hon. Member says that of two evils we should choose the less. I say that of two evils, choose neither of them. If there is to be any talk of finance we have a right to demand that this matter should be settled on the basis of all the single-area schools becoming controlled schools and being taken over by the local authorities. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), in an able, tempered speech, pointed out in effect that the Catholic community had contributed towards, and progressed with, the general advance of the community. Why should they reverse this course, why should Catholics suggest that for a temporary advantage to themselves they would give this terrific advantage to the Anglican Church at the expense of the people of the country? The Catholics will get much more out of co-operation with the community as a whole than they will get by playing into the hands of the Anglicans.
I want to put a question to the President of the Board of Education. In his statement he mentioned certain figures. He mentioned £400,000 a year and 35 per cent. in regard to the question of increased costs. We are anxious to come to some understanding. Could he between now and bringing in his new Clause consider fixing a ceiling as to the increased costs to justify the figures he has mentioned? If he can give us some understanding on those lines I shall gladly not press the Amendment.
I gladly respond to the invitation of the hon. Member. My difficulty is this. I have been discussing costs and a ceiling both outside and inside the Committee for some time. The question of costs is a very difficult one and it involves the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others of my colleagues. The question of costs is, as it were, a moving platform. It moves together with the earnings of wage earners and others who provide the money. If costs go up, wages go up and you go along on a moving platform with them. To fix a definite ceiling on a moving platform is a difficult thing to do. I would not like to give any definite economic undertaking to the hon. Member. I will undertake simply to say that, in any contacts I have with him and his friends, I will continue to explain the situation as I see it. The Catholics as I have seen them are honourable people and do not wish to apply their signatures to something they cannot carry out. If I can explain to them that we are all in the same boat—Government, wage earners, Roman Catholics and everybody else—on the question of costs, the hon. Member will see that no question of dishonour need arise with the Catholics in corning to an understanding on this point.