§ MR. J. R. YORKE
, who had the following Resolution on the Paper:—That, having regard to the unfairness of the incidence of School Board rates, and the continual increase in their amount, some change in the system under which they are at present levied is urgently required,said, he regretted that, owing to the Forms of the House, he should be unable to move his Resolution. He would, however, remind the House that just before the beginning of the Session an influential deputation, representing the various Chambers of Agriculture, had waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and had laid before him the grievances from which they conceived themselves to be suffering. With respect to this particular question of rates, the right hon. Gentleman had assured them that—The subject was receiving the careful and laborious attention of the Government;and had added that—Of course, the time was near at hand when it would be the duty of the Government in a practical manner to submit their views to Parliament.Encouraged by those words, the representatives of the ratepayers had confidently looked forward to the time when the long-promised, but long-withheld measures of relief should be introduced; but the right hon. Gentleman 264 had said in his speech on the Budget that the consideration of them was postponed. What were the views of the framers of the Act of 1870 with regard to the rate that would be laid on the ratepayers? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) said that practically the Bill provided for a rate not exceeding 3d. in the pound, and that that rate would be rarely exceeded. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government mentioned 3d. as the maximum. But the strongest expression of the impolicy of laying on heavy rates for the purpose of education was made by the Home Secretary, who concluded by saying that if failure should result from the odium that would be excited by the pressure of local taxation, he should have the satisfaction of feeling that he was not responsible for that failure, as he had striven to exclude from the Bill a principle which would make it unworkable. He trusted, therefore, that he should have the right hon. and learned Gentleman's support in affirming the Resolution he had to lay before the House. "Fas est et ab hoste doceri;" and so he might quote the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. J. Howard), who, in a lecture the other day, although he applied the very strongest words to what might be called the "local taxation party," admitted that in the particular matter now under discussion they had a very substantial grievance. He had quoted the opinions of the framers of the Act of 1870 to the effect that a rate of 3d. in the pound would be the maximum, and would rarely be exceeded. Well, in 1878 there were 102 parishes outside boroughs which paid 1s. in the pound, and in 1879 there were 136. In 1878 there were 658 which paid 6d. and upwards, and in 1879, 739. The 3d. limit had been exceeded in 85 per cent of the parishes in which the rate was levied; so that there was a sufficient contrast between the anticipations of the framers of the Act and the result. The 250,000 farmers of England who inhabited school board parishes did not pay, like other people, on their houses only, but on the rateable value of their farms—that was to say, on a sum enormously exceeding the value of their incomes. These unfortunate men paid not only on the value of their houses, but upon the rateable 265 value of their land—that was, their machinery. The present system was working in country places, he might say, tyrannically and oppressively. The working classes had the absolute power of disposing of the money of the other classes in the parish, while they themselves contributed a very small amount. But if this were to be done, let the education be confined to elementary education; let them not call upon the ratepayers to pay for providing educational luxuries. He did not think the public generally were aware of the proportions in which the education expenses were now borne by the three different sources—namely, school fees, grants, and the rates. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. P. Phipps), who was absent through an unfortunate accident, had calculated that the proportions were as follow:—Out of 100 parts, 20 per cent came from the Imperial Revenue, 14 from children's fees, 2 per cent from endowments and other small sources, the remaining 64 being levied from the rates. The widest dissatisfaction prevailed as to the system now in vogue, and it was not to be supposed that grievances of this magnitude would long remain un-discussed. One suggestion was that a county area should be selected, something on the model of his right hon. Friend's Bill relating to Roads. Another suggestion was that it should be laid on Imperial taxation. That was, he thought, a favourite remedy; but he did not think the present moment was a very favourable one for endeavouring to introduce this change. There was a cry of dissatisfaction at the amount of the grants which had been made from the Imperial taxation in aid of Education. It was, perhaps, the most lively branch of expenditure that existed in the Civil Service Estimates. He found that the Education grant had grown from £840,000 in 1870 to £1,566,000 in 1875, to £2,128,000 in 1877, and to £2,979,000 in 1881. They might call it £3,000,000. Then there was the further objection to this proposal that it would be the deathblow of the voluntary system—a system which he did not wish to see destroyed. He then came to this suggestion—could they not let inhabited houses pay the education rate? It was proposed that for the future the same description of building should be chargeable with the education rate that was now liable for 266 the house tax, except that houses under £20 would not be exempt. This, of course would exempt offices, business premises, farm lands, and so forth. The principle which he advocated was that those who benefited should pay—in other words, that the area of benefit should be coterminous with the area of burden. The farmer paid more than formerly for the education of children, and, in addition, he lost their services. Consequently, he was greatly damnified. It might be said that the farmer, after all, was a citizen, and that he benefited by the gradual improvement in the mental and bodily characteristics of the population which was the result of extended education. In the character of citizen he, no doubt, benefited, but in the character of farmer he suffered; therefore, he should pay in his capacity of householder, and not pay upon his land. A three-fourths exemption from the school board rate ought, at least, to be allowed in the case of land. There were precedents for this. There was an exemption of three-fourths in the case of land from the general district rate in urban districts, and land was exempted to the extent of two-thirds under the Libraries Act. By the system which he supported a larger rate would be levied in the country on the mansions of the gentry. The squire of a parish would be the greatest sufferer, because he would pay on his own house and on his cottage property as well. The tenant farmer would be a gainer, because he would pay on his house, instead of on his land, and the clergyman of the parish would also be a gainer. If the new rate should prove insufficient, it might be supplemented in case of need by the old one. It might be said in objection to his views that in a parish where there was a school board, there might be a large manufactory, a large mine, or something of that kind, but that the employer of the people who worked in such an establishment might live in the next parish where there was no school board, and would thus escape from a heavy contribution to the rates. In the Forest of Dean there was a large number of parishes of that kind. That was a difficulty he admitted; but how long was the school board likely to remain within the parochial area? That was an anomaly that was created by the Act of 1870. It was evident that there was 267 only one unit which could be adopted by the Government, and that was the Union. Therefore, that objection, although it might have some immediate value, had no permanent force whatever. The moment was opportune for such a change as he urged, because an election of school boards would take place next autumn, and we would not have to wait until 1885 before the reform he advocated was put in force. In conclusion, he would say to his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council—Si quid novisti rectius istis,Candidus imperti; si non, his utere mecum.Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. PELL
said, that, while disclaiming any intention of saying anything that would have the effect of discouraging the good work of education, he felt it his duty to call the attention of the House to the fact that the country people did consider that they were called upon to bear an undue proportion of school board rates.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. PELL
said, that his hon. Friend's Motion was wholesome and sound in principle, and, therefore, he should be glad to see the House accede to it. He did not go so far, however, as his hon. Friend in the desire to see the land exonerated. He thought the owners of "naked land," with no buildings on it, ought to contribute to the funds for education; but this was a different thing from charging the occupiers of land in the same manner as the occupiers of houses. Nothing had grown so rapidly as the school rate in its dimensions, and it had been accompanied by a still more startling increase in loans.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. PELL
, on resuming, said, the school rate had increased six times in amount between 1874 and 1880. The loans in respect of the School Board had risen from a little over £1,000,000 to close upon £13,000,000. Yet the School Board fees, which in 1876 produced 268 £122,000, had only risen to £335,000 in 1880, in spite of the increase of the population. He believed that any measure which brought the charge for education nearer home to those who benefited by it would be an honest and a sound measure. It was a well-known fact that in certain districts the proper incidence of the charge had been avoided by a bye-law setting forth that the district was too poor to pay the ordinary rate; and he himself knew of cases where the same child, whose fee had on account of poverty been reduced to 1d., had paid to the savings-bank officers from 10s. to £1 at a time. Were not such proceedings as that calculated to demoralize the parents? He felt sure that the question raised by the hon. Member for East Gloucestershire was one of considerable importance, and one which deserved the serious attention of the House.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said, in his opinion there were two objects in bringing the Motion before the House—one was that it should act as a little bait, thrown out in order to obtain the farmer's support; and the other as a little relief, to be given to the poor landlords. If it was intended to give any benefit to the farmers, he congratulated that class on the service which the opposite side had given them, because the few hon. Gentlemen sitting in that part of the House had made a tremendous effort to get to the door before the Speaker could count them. Scarcely a single borough Member on the other side had remained in the House to defend the educational establishments of their constituents. The great merit of the speech of the hon. Member for East Gloucestershire (Mr. J. R. Yorke) was its simplicity and frankness. He owned that the object of his Motion was to throw the whole of the educational rate on those who were least able to meet the demand and his great argument—and he seemed to think it perfectly unanswerable—was that those who received the benefit from the education rate should be the people, and the only people, who should be called upon to pay it. He (Mr. Broadhurst) would ask the House whether the benefits of education were confined alone to those who received that education? He did not for a moment hesitate to say that not only were manufacturers engaged in our vast industries benefited by the education of their workpeople, 269 but so were the farmers. [Mr. WARTON: No.] An educated farm labourer must be far more valuable than an ignorant farm labourer. [Mr. WARTON: No.] The hon. and learned Member for Bridport assumed the right to speak for the agricultural labourer; but he (Mr. Broadhurst) ventured to say that any person who had studied the labour question, and who had had the least knowledge of the condition of labour in this country, would unhesitatingly be of opinion that the better the workman was educated the better workman was he, and the more profitable to his employer. The Motion proposed not only to relieve the farmer, but to interfere with the incidence of taxation in the great centres of industry by relieving factories and workshops of their due share of the cost of the education of their neighbours. Notwithstanding what the hon. Member for East Gloucestershire had said, he (Mr. Broadhurst) ventured to say that there were not a dozen owners of workshops, whether Liberals or Conservatives, who desired anything of the kind. If the hon. Member had had some experience in manufacturing industries, he would have learnt that he also was interested in the education of those whom he employed. The landowners, and the squires, and the farmers did not altogether lose the money that they paid for education. It had been the habit of country gentlemen to pay the rates necessary for the maintenance of prisons and workhouses without question and without grumbling. ["No, no‡"] Well, they had always grumbled when they had anything to pay, no matter what they paid. He was perfectly willing to accept the correction, and ought not to have fallen into the error. It was better for them to pay for education than for prisons and workhouses, and they had to pay in some way or other. They must know that if these children were not educated, they would probably become, later on, a burden on either the prison or workhouse rates, and they must, therefore, much prefer to pay the rate levied for educational purposes. The adoption of such a proposal, which he could not separate from a Bill that had been before the House for some time, would strike at the very root of the educational system of the country, destroying and rendering such a system impossible in the future. He hoped the House 270 would guard the Education Acts which had been passed, and not allow their value to be frittered away by a Motion suddenly sprung upon the House on a Friday evening. Speaking for himself, one-fifteenth of his rates went for education, and there was no part of his rates paid more cheerfully than the 20s. in this respect; and he only regretted that the Forms of the House would not allow of a division, in order that the constituencies might see the insidious attempt to undermine a system which had made education one of the birthrights of Englishmen, and, at the same time, to know who were its enemies. He hoped they would defend it as long as they possessed any political power.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst) assumed too much when he said that there was a feeling against education in this country on the part of the wealthier classes; and he (Mr. Gregory) ventured to remind the hon. Member of the sums given voluntarily to education. He did not think it could be said that those who had the means gave grudgingly. He thought it was reasonable to inquire whether the taxation was fairly applied, and whether it could be mitigated or relieved. He considered the school board system an extravagant one. The cost under it per child was £3 10s. a-year, whereas the cost under the voluntary system was £1 15s. [Mr. MUNDELLA: NO; that is a mistake.] Well, the right hon. Gentleman could give the correct figures; but it would hardly be denied that the system of voluntary contributions for the purpose of the education of children was cheaper and more satisfactory in its results than the system of rates under the school board system. They had a right to inquire how that difference arose. He would remind the House that, even under the present system, something like £750,000 was raised annually for the purpose of education by voluntary aid. He could not help thinking, therefore, that the system of voluntary aid had proved most advantageous to the country. Again, as regarded the expenses of management, he thought the voluntary system was infinitely preferable to that adopted under the school board, where the rates which could be levied were well-nigh inexhaustible. A person in a voluntary school knew where his contributions would end; but 271 the manager of a school board knew that he had only to levy a further rate. Whatever expenses he incurred must be paid by the ratepayers. He had been very much struck with what had occurred under his own cognizance. Some years ago notice was given by the London School Board to a landowner for whom he acted of a portion of his land in a populous district being required for the purposes of a school. On going to look at the site selected, he found that another school had also been erected by the Board at the other end of the street; but he was told that this was in a different district, and, consequently, another must be put up. But this was not all. A short time afterwards he received notice that further land was required for the purpose of a playground for the two schools; and, consequently, the land was bought, the houses pulled down, and compensation paid to owners, lessees, and occupiers, besides all the costs of the transaction, by the Board.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he would furnish all the necessary particulars to the right hon. Gentleman if he required them. Another point to which he wished to draw the attention of the House was that the Standards in Board schools were now raised exceedingly and unnecessarily high. Indeed, it was a question whether the education provided by the Statute was not beyond the necessities of the case, and that, as a consequence, large numbers of the middle classes were availing themselves of the advantages of gratuitously educating their children by the means thus afforded. There could be no doubt that tradesmen, clerks, and agents of various descriptions were largely taking advantage of the present system to the detriment of the ratepayers. The question of what remedy could be applied was a very serious one. He did not know whether this concerned the Education Department or not; but, however that might be, he thought the question was one which was entitled to the consideration of the House. It required most careful watching, and a close investigation of the causes which led to the present results. Above all, it was necessary we should see that the persons who had 272 been invested with large powers of taxation should apply those powers with due consideration for the benefit of those whose interests were at stake. He thought that the proposal of his hon. Friend would check the disposition to incur unnecessary outlay on the part of school boards, and throw, to a certain extent, the burden on the shoulders of the classes to whom he had referred.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, that had the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. R. Yorke) who had brought forward this Motion gone to a division, he (Mr. Firth) should have voted in favour of it. In supporting the Motion, however, he was scarcely able to do it on the grounds advanced by the hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. Firth) represented a borough constituency of considerable size, and it was found that the incidence of the school rate was exceedingly hard and unjust. The hon. Member for East Gloucestershire laid down the true principle when he said that those who benefited by education should pay for it. But the question to consider in that relation was—who were those who benefited? Those who benefited were very well indicated by a well-known American statesman. Speaking in the State of New York, when describing a measure for the education of the people in that State, he said he did not consider that a community would be worth living in in which the children were not well educated, and that it was the interest of everyone possessing a large stake in the country that there should be that security which could only effectually result from the education of its citizens. The hardship on farmers was hardly more than that on shopkeepers in the towns, and the shopkeepers would hardly have any relief from the proposal of the hon. Member. He thought that the present rate asked by the London School Board was a very moderate one, being at the rate of 6d. in the pound, producing £700,000, and representing an outlay of 3s. 6d. per head; but he would remind the House that in Massachusetts the same rate would be six times that sum, reaching, as it did, £1 per head. The education in Boston was proportionately higher, and with 63,000 children at school, 52,000 were in the public schools, and only 5,000 in voluntary schools. He had been told by a gentleman in America that the system prevailing in Boston was to ask every inhabit- 273 ant to say how much he was worth after he had paid all his debts. The various estimates were added together, and the rate put on the top of the estimates. If the House accepted the principle that those who had the greatest stake in the country were most benefited by education, there could be no objection to that system of rating. But it might be said, "What guarantee have you that correct estimates will be sent in?" Of course, they had none; but the estimates were published every year, and he had been told that so many persons were desirous of appearing to have more than they really had, that in the end the matter squared itself. That system, though grossly inquisitorial, would be perfectly fair—affecting rich and poor equally—and while he did not recommend it, he mentioned it because it seemed to him that somewhere between that system and the one at present adopted in this country must be found the solution of the problem raised by the Motion. It would relieve the shopkeeper who had a high rent to pay, and who had little profit left after meeting debts, and would reach the man who had no shop and no business, and did nothing but live on his income. On the other hand, our own system was exceedingly unfair. Take the case of the bootmaker, compelled to take a shop in a leading thoroughfare, and a gentleman with £20,000 in Consols, both of whom occupied houses rated at £100 a-year. In the one case the bootmaker, who worked hard all day at his trade, might be worth £2,000, and the other, say, £20,000. Surely, it could not be fair that the one should pay as much as the other. In Boston such a man had to pay 10 times more than a tradesman; whereas, in this country, he paid the same. A just system would lie in some intermediate adjustment. He admitted the difficulty which surrounded the subject, yet he hoped some solution might be found which would relieve the cases of hardship. During the time that he was a member of the School Board of London, he had attended the meetings of the Statistical Committee of the Board, and they were always most careful to deal fairly with the interests of property. The machinery of the London School Board had been set working by gentlemen who had devoted many hours of their valuable time for that purpose. The machinery only required oiling to 274 remain in order, and he trusted that so much personal devotion to a great work would not be thrown away.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he was glad the Motion had been brought forward and discussed, though in a conversational debate. He agreed with his hon. Friend (Mr. J. R. Yorke) as to the substantial character of his grievance, but differed from him in regard to the remedies. At the same time, he must congratulate him upon his receiving the support, somewhat unexpected, of the hon. and learned Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth). But the case of those whom his hon. Friend represented differed materially from that of the shopkeeper of whom the hon. and learned Member spoke. In the one case the shopkeeper was rated upon the house he occupied, and to him the rule could fairly be applied—"As a man's house is, so is his ability to pay." There might be many objections to that system, but none so grave as in the farmer's case. He (Mr. Sclater-Booth) was glad his hon. Friend had brought forward the Motion in its present form, for it was impossible for any hon. Member to hope to carry a Bill through the House involving a transfer of the burden of taxation. There could be no doubt as to the substantial character of the grievance complained of; and had the Education Act of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) come fully into operation, and the system of school boards been adopted as universally as had been desired by the promoters of them, this question must long since have come before the House, for the burden to the occupiers of land arising from defects in the incidence of the rating must have long since been found to be intolerable. The tendency to throw heavier burdens upon the rates had become more and more marked as time proceeded. He would instance two cases—the sanitary rate and the education rate. A theory was propounded that a certain area—the area of the parish—must be considered as giving the inhabitants a common interest in a common object. This interest of the parish was regarded as affording the best means of securing the health of the population; and a few years later the same area was taken for the purposes of education. But the effect was, in both cases, to work a great injustice to the occupiers of land, because no 275 means was provided for opening up the contract between the landlord and the tenant, and giving the occupier an opportunity of varying his rent in proportion to the new burden thrown on the occupation. That injustice was remedied, to some extent, in regard to the sanitary rate—namely by the mitigation of the charge on land, as compared with the charge on house property. The remedy which his hon. Friend desired to apply to the education rate was, he thought, much more easily applicable to the case of the sanitary rate. When his hon. Friend said that the house tax was the more fair way of assessing the education rate, he (Mr. Sclater-Booth) should rather say that that was the mode by which the pressure of the sanitary rates in rural districts might most justly and properly be mitigated. If they examined closely the case of the rural districts, he thought it would be found that a house tax, although it would mitigate some portion of the injustice to which his hon. Friend drew attention, would create injustice of another sort and promote jealousy of another kind. In the rural districts, in the event of the establishment of a school board, the immediate effect was to transfer the cost of the education of the parish from the wealthier classes, who had hitherto presumably defrayed it by their subscriptions, to the shoulders of the farmers, whose means of discharging it was in the inverse ratio of their ratability. The Education Act was deficient in this important particular, that it provided no means, under the school board system, for opening the contract between the landlord and the tenant and requiring that, until a new contract was entered into, the rate should be divided between them. It was a flagrant injustice of the school board system that no such arrangement was made. It was the habit of this country to go on with legislation very imperfect theoretically, provided that it worked practically in a manner more or less satisfactorily; and the reason why the Education Act had gone on belong without provoking more noisy and violent explosions of disgust and alarm was that the Act had been found to work with considerable fairness in the urban districts where the great masses of the people were concentrated and where education had, on the whole, been satisfactorily provided by means of 276 the system which it constituted. Up to this moment, in the agricultural districts, generally speaking, the school board system had not been introduced. That system must, however, be regarded as looming in the distance for all of them, and the time would come when it would spread all over the country, and then that flagrant injustice would have to be dealt with. He could quote instances in his own immediate neighborhood in which large parishes, purely agricultural, had been obliged to come under the school board system from accidental circumstances, such as the failure of subscriptions to meet the requirements of the Education Department, or through some quarrel arising among the inhabitants. He did not himself offer a complete remedy. It was difficult to interfere with the power on which the educational system now rested—namely, the power of borrowing money at easy rates of interest, constructing buildings, establishing school boards, and providing that the inhabitants of the district should be represented and should manage their own affairs. He submitted, however, that it was the bounden duty of the Government and of that Department of the State which had most to do with the supervision of local taxation to keep in mind the questions connected with the unfair incidence of rating. The grievance and the difficulty to which his hon. Friend had called attention were not yet fully upon them. The question was a growing one; and as time went on he felt satisfied that it would be found that no Government could afford to ignore the necessity of facing it.
MR. LYULPH STANLEY
said, he inferred that the speech of the hon. Member for East Gloucestershire (Mr. J. R. Yorke) had been prepared for another occasion. No doubt, when the Education Act was passed there were individual speculations as to what the rate might amount to; but what his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) said was that he hoped a rate of 3d. would be rarely exceeded. There was, however, an expectation that it might be, because the right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Stafford Northcote) raised the question whether, when it did exceed 3d., one-half of it should not be borne by the State; but that proposal was negatived. It was very delusive to 277 group together the boards whose rates amounted to 6d. or 1s., and to exclude the larger number whose rates were lower. The majority of the boards whose rates were high were those of small rural parishes, and, no doubt, in scattered districts the rate fell heavily on a few farmers who were the principal ratepayers; but, taking the country generally, the hon. Member who introduced the subject had given an incorrect idea of the cost of education. He (Mr. Lyulph Stanley) believed, however, that the extension of the area from which school boards were elected would be a very substantial remedy. The great burden upon small school boards arose from the expense of the elections and the salaries of officials, and the proper remedy for that would be the more frequent exercise on the part of the Department of the power it had of consolidating the townships where they existed in close contiguity, thus reducing the cost of elections and of clerks' services. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member that it would not be desirable to increase the contribution of the State and decrease the local contribution. There was great danger in taking that step that local control over the work would be unduly diminished; whereas, in the work of education, it was of paramount importance to interest the particular localities. He thought there was a danger, which was increasing every year, of centralization in the question of education. We did not want in this country the French system of centralization, where the Education Department nominated and removed all the teachers. He looked upon the main proposal of the hon. Member as most pernicious, destructive, and mischievous to education, because, if it were carried out, there was not a railway, or ironworks, or system of docks, or a factory that would pay a penny to the education rate. Was it reasonable, for example, that the colliery of a Durham village, which brought the population there, and created the demand for the education rate, should not pay one farthing to the cost? Let them imagine what the effect of that would be in large manufacturing towns such as Ashton, Barrow, and Middles borough. In the great manufacturing towns of Lancashire, which consisted of whole streets of cottages, the employers often living outside the borough, 278 nearly the whole burden of the education rate would be thrown upon the parents whose children were educated at the board schools. Perhaps the hon. Member would be very glad of that; but it was not the principle upon which legislation had been based of late years. It seemed to him that the hon. Member's speech was not characterized by any very great love of education, especially that part of it in which he compared the educational system of the country to a system of Poor Law relief. He (Mr. Lyulph Stanley) could only say that if the hon. Member thought the business of the State was to dole out the means of education, his views were so completely at variance with the policy adopted by the country in recent years that no political Party would agree with him. The necessities of life in the present day required something more than a mere dole of education, and made it impossible to teach the "three R's" without going further. According to the proposal of the hon. Member who had introduced the subject, the farmer, the landlord, the manufacturer, nearly everyone, in short, would be relieved of the greater part of his present burden, till no one would be left to be rated but the poorer class of householders. It seemed to him that the proposal of the hon. Member started from an entirely wrong supposition; whereas the Education Act took it for granted that the training of children was a matter of national importance, the cost of which must be borne, to a great extent, locally. He (Mr. Lyulph Stanley) did not mean to say that something was not required to be done on the question of rating; but to say that it was expedient to re-adjust the incidence of the rates, for the single matter of education, seemed to him an utterly idle proposition to bring forward. Inequalities, perhaps, existed which might need to be remedied, and contributions might be made proportionate rather to a man's ability to pay than to the extent of his visible property; but he held, on the whole, that the proposal that had been made to the House would not satisfactorily meet the difficulties of the case. In conclusion, he must say, with reference to the complaint of the burden on small rural parishes, that he could not understand the feeling of English ratepayers in objecting to the payment of 1d. extra for such a useful object as education. 279 Let them look at Scotland, where school boards were universal throughout the country, and in the rural districts the rate was infinitely higher than in England. In some of the Highland parishes the school board rate went up to 3s., 4s. and 5s. in the pound; and yet he had seen with what liberality and energy the people of those Highland parishes had built admirable school houses, and had provided the means to bring schoolmasters within the reach of very small handfuls of children. But the fact was, that in Scotland the people had been longer accustomed to education than they were in England, and they valued it more; and, although the pinch had come more upon the Scotch than it had upon the English people, they did not make such complaints about it. He admitted there was a grievance; but he considered that it was a sham and a delusion to imagine that a proposal of this kind was going to remedy it. The fact was that they in England needed to appreciate education more, and they would not then be so sensitive on this point.
§ MR. STORER
said, it was untrue to Bay, as had been said in the course of the debate, that the inhabitants of rural parishes and the owners of land had a great objection to education. They had not the slightest objection to it; what they objected to was that a great part of the burden should be thrown upon land which benefited so little from the education for which they paid, and that the occupiers of land had to bear a disproportionate share of the burden when compared with the dwellers in towns. Allusion had been made to the original estimate for the school board rate that 3d. in the pound would be sufficient. But it appeared from a Paper which had been presented to the House, that in the rural parts of England hardly any of the school board parishes paid less than 1s. in the pound, while some paid as high as 2s. 6d., which was equal to an income tax of 5s. in the pound. What urban district paid anything like that? Every agriculturist knew well that, in that education rate, he paid not for what was an advantage to him, but for his own damage and disaster, because education took the hands away from agriculture permanently, and, therefore, increased the price of labor. The difficulty and disaster from that cause were 280 now so great that the land was going out of cultivation, because farmers could not find the money to provide the additional labor or children to do the work which they formerly did. In short, the farmers would be driven to distraction by the burdens which were laid upon them. They were told by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst) that this was not a question for the occupier, because if he did not pay in rates, he should have to pay in rent. But everybody knew now that rents could not be increased, and landowners considered themselves well off if they got any rent for their land at all. He (Mr. Storer) did not think the substitution of the Union area for the parochial area would meet the view of the people in the rural districts.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that he could not help remarking as to the wide scope the discussion had taken. Only yesterday the hon. Member for East Gloucestershire (Mr. J. R. Yorke) had a Bill on the Paper against which there was an Amendment, and there was very slight chance of that Bill being discussed. Very adroitly, however, he managed some time last night to discharge the Bill, and to put down on the Paper a Resolution which contained the substance of that measure. Upon that Resolution the whole question of Education, the Code, and even sewing had been discussed, though the subject before them had only to do with the incidence of the Education rate, a matter which had reference to the Local Government Board rather than to his own Department. The hon. Gentleman stated that the Prime Minister had promised to deal with this question. When the deputation representing the agricultural interest waited upon his right hon. Friend, it was quite possible that the education rate was mentioned, and that the Prime Minister promised that the whole question should be considered in dealing with local government and county taxation; but there was no promise that this question should be considered separately by the Government, or even that it should be included in the other rates proposed to be dealt with. The hon. Gentleman stated that when the Education Act was launched by his (Mr. Mundella's) right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), that right hon. Gentleman ex- 281 pressed an opinion that a rate of 3d. in the pound would rarely be exceeded. He (Mr. Mundella) was afraid there were very few estimates made to the House, either as to local or general taxation, which did not come, in the course of years, to exceed the original estimate. But, as great stress had been laid upon this question of rates, it was right that he should deal with it more particularly, and tell the House what it was, and where it fell in reality. From a Return for the year 1879–80—the last that was made—the total of the education rate for England was £1,477,919, or less than £1,500,000. Of that sum London bore £585,000, and the boroughs of England £451,000, while the rural parishes of England paid only £440,000. Those parishes were not by any means rural, but many of them were urban and manufacturing districts. The total amount paid by the rural parishes, therefore, was very small, though he admitted that in some of them it was very burdensome. The cause of that was that the parish had been originally taken as the unit of the school board system, and some of them being very small, the rate fell heavily upon them. The reason why the rates of the small school boards were high was that they had to bear the cost of election contests and of clerks' salaries, just as much as the larger boards. He hoped some day they should be able to find a means of diminishing these expenses for school boards and other local authorities in the small parishes. He did not think that it was necessary that the principal attorney in a country parish, or, where there was none, one from the neighboring town, should derive an annual emolument from the administration of a solitary school of 150 children; and it was monstrous that we had not found a means, not only in respect to schools, but to other administrations, of getting rid of those gentlemen who were attached to all local institutions. He had had to cut down the charges made in some cases, and he had been able to reduce them by as much as 50 per cent. The question, what had been the average of the school board rates? was easily ascertained by reference to the statistics. In the year 1879 it was 5 7.10d.; in boroughs, 4 1.10d.; and in parishes, 5 6.10d.—so that although there were many parishes under 3d., there were 282 some—and a considerable number probably—in which 3d. had been exceeded. But he believed that, on the whole, the education rate had been exceptionally well spent, and the administration of the Act had been conducted, on the whole, with great economy. He was very much surprised at some of the statistics of the hon. Member for East Gloucestershire, as to the proportion of school incomes from different sources; he could not tell whence these ridiculous figures had been obtained. They might, however, be tested and corrected by a table given in the last Report which covered a period of 10 years. In that time it appeared that the total income, apart from the Government grant, was £20,933,000, of which £9,827,000 was from school rates, and the Government grant was £11,783,000.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that might be so; but the Education Act dealt with the elementary education of the whole country, and he therefore quoted figures embracing all the schools. He admitted that, in some instances, the burdens of the school board rate were too heavy; but he would ask how was it we did not hear any complaint from Scotland? Scotland had a school board in every parish, and the rates were much higher than in England, and yet he was almost in disgrace because he did not raise the Standard for Scotland. The schools were attended by farmers' sons and the children of the middle classes, and their parents did not consider themselves pauperized by accepting the Government grant. Scotland obtained 2s. a-year for every child more than was paid in England. The reason why Scotland bore its rates patiently was that education was admitted to be an important factor in promoting the prosperity and welfare of the country; while, in England, they had gentlemen declaring that education was a bad thing for the agricultural interest, that it took men away from the farms, disqualified them for the plough, and sent them in search of other employments. In England there were 8,000 rural parishes in which children were free to labor on passing the Fourth Standard, which every child ought to pass 283 at 10 years of age. [An hon. MEMBER: But they do not.] The reason for that was that the law was not put in force early enough; it was only when a child came to the 10th year and could not pass, that pressure was put on. When the farmer came to know his interests better, he would apply the pressure earlier so as to be able to have the labor of the child when it reached the age. The effect of Scotch pre-eminence in this matter was that, in all parts of the world, Scotchmen took leading positions out of all proportion to their numbers. One reason for the satisfaction which prevailed in Scotland was that the farmer paid only half the rate and the landlord paid the other half, because the rate was divided between the owner and the occupier. He had no doubt the hon. Member opposite would look with favor upon that division, and he (Mr. Mundella) should be glad if the local taxation reformers in the country would propose a similar division; but in that debate he had not heard anyone urge that the landlord should pay half the school board rate. That would go a great way towards the solution of the question. He should be glad to see the areas of rural boards extended, and the Union made the unit, and the rate paid equally by landlord and tenant. That would be a good solution, and he wished hon. Members opposite could give him a cheer for this suggestion. The hon. Member for East Gloucestershire complained of the present system, because it enabled the working classes to spend rates to which they did not contribute. He made a great mistake in that respect. Since the passing of the Reform Bill of 1867, the electors in Sheffield, for instance, had increased in number from 9,000 odd to 40,000 odd, and the 30,000 odd brought in did contribute to the rate in proportion to their means as much as the upper and middle classes. The hon. Member suggested the putting of the whole burden of the school board rate upon inhabited houses. He said the children came from the houses, and that, therefore, the cost of their education should be defrayed by rates upon the houses—in other words, that it should be borne by the poor occupants. He (Mr. Mundella) could not conceive, unless the hon. Member really desired to make education odious and unpopular, a worse suggestion than that. If it were carried out, lands, mines, railways, 284 factories, canals, gas-works, and, indeed, everything but inhabited houses, would escape the burden of the rate. The result of that he could illustrate by his own personal experience. He had been a large employer of labor in towns in which there were mills employing thousands of workpeople. He did not live in either of the towns; and if the mills had not been rated, he would have escaped altogether any contribution towards the cost of educating the workpeople, on whose intelligence so much depended. In Sheffield there were two large joint-stock companies producing armour-plate; each paid, perhaps, £5,000 a-year in rates; each employed 4,000 or 5,000 workmen, representing two or three times as many children; and if the proposition of the hon. Member were carried out, these large works—many of whose shareholders lived outside the town—would be relieved from every farthing of school board taxation. The proposal of the hon. Member would also exclude railway companies. Whenever railway companies came into a district, they always brought a large number of servants with them. Yet these undertakings would be entirely exempt from taxation. The practical effect of it would be to relieve the burdens of the rich, because they could live where they pleased, and to place them upon the shoulders of the poor. Under a system such as that proposed, there would be rich men's parishes and poor men's parishes. The rich man would pay nothing, and the poor man, in respect of his cottage, would be required to pay all. In many instances that would be the practical result. The hon. Member had mentioned the Public Libraries Act; but he must remember that that Act could only be put into operation in boroughs where the population exceeded 5,000, and then only under certain restrictions. No complaint, therefore, could be founded on that enactment. Complaints, however, had been made that the school rate had been increased six times during the last seven years—since 1874—and that the loans had been increased from £1,000,000 to £13,000,000. He had already pointed out that the loans had grown mainly in the great boroughs and not in the rural districts; and the reason of this growth was owing to the fact that, until recent years, the education of the children of London, for instance, had been shame- 285 fully neglected. It had been said that there was a school at the end of every street; but those who said so forgot, at the same time, to mention the slums which were in the immediate neighborhood of each school. It would be found that even now the school accommodation was not adequate for the requirements of many districts, particularly in Lambent, where alone there was a deficiency of 7,000 places. Whenever a new school was begun, which was never done without the consent of the Education Department, applications were frequently made to builders to know when it could be finished, in order that children might be sent there. As regarded education in rural districts, he had the authority of Mr. Clare Read for saying that want of education was one of the causes which made American competition so formidable to us; and if we would hope to contend successfully against that competition, we must give our children much higher and better education than we had hitherto done. He could confirm a statement made by the hon. and learned Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth) with respect to the education rate in America. In Massachusetts 17s. per head of the population was the amount of the rate paid, against 2s. per head in the boroughs, or 3s. 6d. per head in London. Since William Penn founded Pennsylvania, every State in the Union had reserved a large portion of its land for education; but, unfortunately, they had no such resource in this country. With respect to the loans which had been contracted, there had been no extravagance. Most of the debts had been contracted during the six years in which the late Government was in power, and he would say that, in his opinion, the utmost discretion had been observed in making them. The utmost regard to economy had distinguished the late Government in this matter, and he did not believe that any money had ever been laid out better. The effect of it was that, by an expenditure of from £13,000,000 to £14,000,000, the country had got schools which would last them for the next century. He believed it would confer great and growing benefits for many years to come. He thought that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Pell) was indebted to Members on the Ministerial side for keeping a House, for, in the course of half-an-hour, there 286 were no less than three attempts to count out the House; and whenever he (Mr. Mundella) hurried back from the Lobby he found the champions of local taxation rushing out of the House. He could not for one moment assent to the principle laid down by his hon. Friend. To his proposal that there should be quinquennial elections and school boards, he was not sure that he would not assent; but he was not prepared to say at this moment that this was the best solution of the question. With reference to school board elections, whenever the question was dealt with it should not be dealt with piecemeal, but on the responsibility of the Government. He must leave any other question to be dealt with by his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board.
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council (Mr. Mundella) had admitted that there was much to be said in favor of some of the points urged by his hon. Friend (Mr. J. R. Yorke), and he (Earl Percy) certainly hoped that what had passed would not be without fruit. But it appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman had confused two very distinct questions—namely, the operations of the Education Act in the rural parts of the country, and its effects in the boroughs and large towns. The right hon. Gentleman had dealt entirely with the case of large manufacturing towns and the persons employed in collieries, and upon railways and other industries. He (Earl Percy) would confess, for his own part, that he thought there was a great deal in what was said as to the inapplicability of the Resolution to large manufacturing towns, as there was no doubt that the manufacturing classes derived far greater benefit from the advantages of education than did the agricultural classes. He agreed with the opinion that such proposals as that now before the House only touched the fringe of the subject. It would, however, really have the effect of dividing the burden of the cost of education between the landlords and the occupiers, and that, he thought, was desirable. His own impression was that the question of local taxation would not be satisfactorily settled until they had discovered a new unit of taxation, which should not be either the parish or the 287 Union. But if they were to wait until the question could be dealt with as a whole, he feared that the burden which was complained of would have to be borne for a very long time. He disputed the allegation that the Motion was at variance with the feelings of the country; while with regard to the one asserting that hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House did not appreciate the benefits of education, he thought it was an amusing statement to make when they looked round and saw the very vague manner in which hon. Members opposite talked about education. He believed the Conservatives represented the feelings of the rural population of the country on that question fully as well, and even to a greater extent, than hon. Members on the other side who represented boroughs. It was a subject who affected the rural districts more than the boroughs, yet, at one period of the debate, not a single Member representing those districts was present on the other side of the House. None of the arguments that had been adduced on the Ministerial side of the House had dealt with the rural aspect of this question. He thought, from the accounts received daily and hourly, that it might be doubted whether the new system of education had much improved the condition of the people morally; and he thought that it was highly probable that the institution of board schools had deteriorated the religious condition of the people. Speaking generally, his impression was that in rural districts the occupiers should in some way be relieved of some of the great burden of local taxation which pressed upon them. He, therefore, asked the House to consent to the proposition that the rural districts suffered from the present system, for a distinction should be drawn between the towns and the rural districts; and he hoped something would be done to remedy the grievances that existed.
§ MR. DUCKHAM
said he must call attention to the fact that laborers did not pay the rates on their cottages, and, therefore, it was not correct to say that the burden of the rate fell on the laboring classes. If the alterations in question were carried out, the burden would not fall upon the working classes, but upon those who were the occupiers of their farms. He had heard with regret 288 the despondent way in which the noble Earl who had just spoken (Earl Percy) had referred to the progress and effect of education. He (Mr. Duckham) regarded education as a great national question, and one to the cost of which the general wealth of the nation should contribute a great deal more than it did. He was surprised to hear the noble Earl state that education had not improved the morals of the people of the country. He believed that the tendency of the present system of education was to improve the morals of the people, and make them better members of society; but, at the same time, it was wrong to place such heavy burdens upon the occupiers of the soil as those they now suffered under. He thought that a re-adjustment of the rate was necessary; and, in his opinion, a fair apportionment of it would be to levy one-fourth on the land, and the remaining three-fourths on the houses. This was only a portion of a great national question; and if there had been less obstruction, there was no doubt it would have been dealt with during the present Session, as promised by the Government. MR R. H. PAGET said, he thought there should be some alteration in the present system, for the simple reason that the cost to the rates of the maintenance of elementary schools would be intolerable if the voluntary schools should disappear. It was the maintenance of those schools by the wealthier classes that enabled the rural ratepayers to bear the burdens that were cast upon them. He hoped and believed the voluntary schools were not doomed to early extinction. There was great vitality in them, for two reasons—first, the conviction prevailed in the rural districts that religion could only be taught in its entirety and integrity in voluntary schools; and, secondly, those schools were infinitely more economical than Board schools. Wherever school boards did exist in rural districts, the burden was very irksome. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council did not deny that, and admitted that there was an injustice. That injustice was annually increasing, and hon. Members on that side of the House would always complain of it until an efficient remedy was provided. This question would not be allowed to remain long in its present state. The Government of the day was prepared to concede largely 289 the demands made upon them by those who were not always the most loyal of Her Majesty's subjects; and when reasonable demands were made by loyal subjects they ought, at least, to receive a similar amount of attention. If there was any class in the country who appreciated the necessity of education it was the farmers; and the reform in educational matters which would be most beneficial to them and to the country would be the promotion and improvement of secondary education. He acknowledged the conciliatory spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had spoken, and hoped it was an indication that Her Majesty's Government would endeavor speedily to remedy the grievance, the serious character of which was generally admitted. As regards halving the rate, however, there were many simple and obvious objections to such a course if it were the only remedy proposed. He thought that the discussion they had had that night was of a very important character. He believed that the Resolution was one to which the House might well have agreed, for no one could deny that some change in the present system was desirable. He must express his regret that the distinct promise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal with the whole subject of local taxation would not be realized during the present Session; and though until that was done he feared that there would be no attempt to deal with this part of the question, yet he considered it would be well to place on record the Resolution now before the House, if only as a protest against the continuance of an injustice, which had been admitted by nearly every hon. Member who had taken part in this debate.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, he had listened to the speech of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. R. H. Paget), and he agreed with him that the Motion before the House was one of great importance. He was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman allege that no class in England more appreciated the advantages of education than the farmers of the country. He was glad to find that the farmers of England had arrived at that feeling, and that a hon. Gentleman who knew so much of them was ready to declare that they were directing their attention to obtain higher education for 290 the agricultural children. He believed that their attention to that subject would do much to raise the standard of education in England generally; and he knew of no class which would be benefited more by that standard being raised than the farmers of England. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Percy) said he concurred in the belief that education in Scotland was more highly appreciated than it was in England. He (Mr. Ramsay) believed that that was admitted on all hands; but in what class of society was it most appreciated? He knew of none by whom it was appreciated more highly than by the Scotch farmers. The noble Earl said that the middle classes did not take advantage of the schools for which they were made to pay a large proportion of the expense. He thought it would be of great advantage to the people of England if the distinctions between various classes of society were much less taken notice of than they were in the education of the young. He saw no reason why the sons of the Peer and of the peasant should not sit on the same bench in the parish schools. He thought it would be for the advantage of both classes if the distinctions which now existed were done away with. The hon. Gentleman who introduced the subject (Mr. J. R. Yorke) referred to the case of Scotland; and allusion had been made to the fact that, under certain sanitary Acts, the land was exempted from the same payments as the houses. But the cases of sanitary improvement in a district and the education of the children were essentially different; and the only result of carrying out the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman, that they should increase the tax by placing it upon houses only in the rural districts, would be to render it impossible to collect the rate without inflicting great hardship upon the individuals who paid it. He thought that those who professed to speak in the interests of education should shrink before they did anything that would tend to bring about such a state of affairs. He gathered, however, that the hon. Gentleman who introduced the subject had not in view the interests of education as he (Mr. Ramsay) understood them, because he said that if they were to provide for education out of the rates, they should provide only for mere elementary education. The hon. Gentleman would like 291 the children of the working classes to get that elementary education and nothing more. He (Mr. Ramsay) was afraid, from the expressions which had fallen from the opposite Benches, that hon. Members were under the impression that the education of the poor was not for the advantage of the rich, and that if a greater proportion of the rates were devoted to educational purposes no very large amount of good would be done to the people employed. Now, the rich, even although they paid the larger portion of the rates, got quite as much advantage from the higher education of the poor they employed as the poor themselves. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. R. H. Paget) referred to the question of dividing the rates between the owner and the occupier, which was the practice in Scotland, and the hon. Member complained that it would do nothing for the yeoman, because the yeoman was the owner of his own house and land, and must necessarily pay the rates both for ownership and occupancy. That, however, was no argument against the propriety of adopting the system; and he thought the landowners of England, and those who administered the county rates in England, would do well to consider that the very fact of the rates being so charged, and by requiring the owner and the occupier to bear an equal share of the rates, would do much to do away with the discontent which now prevailed in regard to the distribution of the rates. He was of opinion that the county administration in England should be the same as that in Scotland; and when the question came to be dealt with by Her Majesty's Government he hoped that that principle would be the one adopted. At present there existed a wide distinction as to the mode in which the rates were levied. The occupier in England was made to pay the whole of the rates, whereas in Scotland they were equally borne by the owner and the occupier. He thought it was equally to the interest of the owner and the occupier that a change in this respect should be brought about at an early day, so that the incidence of the rates might be rendered equal in both countries. He was aware that it was said to be demonstrable that the rate paid by the occupier fell ultimately on the proprietor. Although that was quite true in theory, in practice it made an 292 Essential difference whether the owner only paid the rates, or whether the owner and occupier had to pay alike, because there was no argument that reached the understanding more quickly than the argument that affected the pocket. He thought if the Government could see their way to the passing of a short Act to provide that rates of all descriptions in England should be levied equally from the owner and occupier, it would be of great service to the interests of education as well as to the interests of the poor, and that it would tend to allay the feeling of bitterness which now prevailed in the minds of many of the occupying tenants. He had no wish to take up the time of the House; but he had thought it right that he should make some reference to the remarks which had been made, and he thanked the House for having listened to him.
§ VISCOUNT EMLYN
said that a hon. Friend who sat below him had spoken of Union areas, but was opposed altogether to the application in any way of the Union area for school board purposes, as distinguished from parishes. Personally, he (Viscount Emlyn) thought, although he admitted that the subject was a difficult one that something should be done in the direction of the creation of more equal districts for school board purposes. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council (Mr. Mundella) alluded to a certain extent, to the same point. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the smallness of the parishes in the school board districts as an evil, in so far as they increased in such localities the proportionate cost of the work of education. But that was one of the evils that had always existed since the passing of the Act of 1870. He (Viscount Emlyn) admitted the difficulty, but could not see how, under the present system, it was to be avoided. They saw now, in the same locality, one parish with a low rate able value, in which it was necessary to employ all the paraphernalia of a school board, side by side with a large school district, which included five or six parishes. Certainly the evil was one of considerable magnitude, and one that to many persons appeared quite absurd; and he should therefore be very glad, if it were possible, to see an equalization of these charges—not spreading them, perhaps, absolutely over Union areas, but, at all 293 events, extending them over larger areas than those of parishes. It seemed to be thought that an extension of area might diminish the interest taken in the affairs of the district. Now, he did not think the Guardians of the poor paid less attention to the affairs of their own localities because their duties were extended to the whole Union, or that they would be better performed if they were confined to the parishes. To his mind, where the area was extended, the public obtained better service, and, on the whole, there was a better administration of the affairs of the locality. The question now before the House seemed to him to raise the whole question of the incidence of taxation. He did not think it possible to go into the question and restrict their observations solely to the subject of education. When they discussed the incidence of taxation it became necessary to refer not to education only, but to the question of local taxation generally. Therefore, if he wandered away from the question of education, it would not be because he did so intentionally, but simply because of the way in which the Resolution had been put before the House. As far as he was able to gather, the general tendency of those who had considered the subject of late had been to proceed exactly in an opposite direction to that now suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for East Gloucestershire (Mr. J. R. Yorke). There had been no tendency, so far as he had seen hitherto, to restrict and contract the areas of local taxation; but it had been the wish of everyone with whom he had been brought in contact to enlarge those areas, and more especially in regard to education. The question of education was so wide and so Imperial a subject that the incidence of the taxation affecting it ought to be spread over a wider area than at present. What would be the result if the intention of his hon. Friend were carried out? In regard to that intention, he (Viscount Emlyn) took note only of the absolute wording of the Resolution, and it seemed to him that it might mean anything or nothing. He was, therefore, bound to couple with it the matter contained in the speech of his hon. Friend; and, as far as he was able to understand what his hon. Friend intended, it was, in rural and other parishes, to exempt the land entirely from taxation so far as education was con- 294 cerned. His noble Friend the Member for North Northumberland (Earl Percy) seemed to think that, as far as the rural districts were affected, the case was entirely different from that of the localities referred to as borough districts; but how would the rural districts be affected? In some of these rural districts they found, not unnaturally, a considerable outcry in regard to the heavy rate that was collected for educational purposes. He did not propose to enter into the question of whose fault that was. His hon. Friend (Mr. J. R. Yorke) would cut out all the land, and put the charge upon the houses only; but did he think, if that were done, that the rate would be less heavily felt? It might be imposed upon fewer people; but the amount of money to be paid would be just the same, and some individuals would have to pay two or three times as much as they did now. Now, that would be moving in exactly the contrary direction to that which he thought they ought to proceed. He did not think that a larger amount of Imperial taxation should be devoted in aid of educational purposes. There were many reasons why that should not be done; but, to his mind, there was great room for the curtailment of the expenditure, not by the Imperial Government, but by the local authorities themselves, and he should be very much disinclined to lessen their responsibilities in the matter. He believed that the more the responsibility was placed on the local authorities the better. He thought there were good grounds for pressing to the front the argument that, education being an Imperial need, the cost of it should be borne, to a great extent, by the Imperial funds; but the more hon. Gentlemen studied the question the more they would satisfy themselves that the charge was borne, to a considerable extent, by Imperial funds at the present time. He thought anyone who had had any experience in the country would see that there was great carelessness in checking expenditure; and one great cure for it, and one which he would be very sorry to abolish, was that the burden should be felt in those districts in which the local authorities were the most lax in the matter of extravagance of expenditure. A question which had been raised by one or two hon. Gentlemen who had spoken on the question had reference to the propriety of dividing 295 the expense between the landlord and the tenant; and the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay), who had just addressed the House, alluded principally to that point. But it certainly appeared to him (Viscount Emlyn) that that was merely a question of the representation of those who paid the taxes. If they were going to make the landlord pay one-half and the tenant the other half, they must each have equal representation. No doubt much might be said in favour of making each pay half of the taxes, and giving each representation on the board, and forcing both to the front, compelling them to take part in the local management. Another question brought forward by his noble Friend the Member for North Northumberland was that of over-education. [Mr. WARTON: Hear, hear‡] The hon. and learned Member near him (Mr. Warton) cheered that sentiment. As far as he (Viscount Emlyn) was able to gather, the only possible occasion on which they could object to over-education was where they prevented poor persons, or the children of poor persons, from earning their living by over-educating them, and compelling them to go to school. A strict limit should be placed as to how far they were to resort to absolute compulsion in the way of education. He did not say that compulsion had gone too far at present; but he had been glad to hear what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council in regard to the absolute necessity of using compulsion for children at an early age. He (Viscount Emlyn) himself, in his experience, had seen many and many a cruel case, in which the school boards had been obliged to step in at a time when the child should have been earning a certain amount of wages. And why was that? Simply because the school boards had not stepped in sooner. If the school boards had got the children into the schools at an earlier age, and if, at the first moment when it was considered necessary that a child should be at school, they had insisted upon its going there, the House would never have heard one word upon this question of compulsion, because the children would have passed all the necessary standards by the time they were old enough to earn anything worth mentioning. What should be done was to compel the attendance of the children at school at the 296 earliest age the Act allowed compulsion to be used at all. If that were done, a great step would be made towards the removal and sweeping away of the objections that were heard now, that (owing not to the action of the Imperial Government, but owing to the laxity of the local authorities), the Education Act was constantly stepping in between the poor parents and the bread or wages which their children could earn. They heard much in regard to the expenses of the school boards. He thought they would employ their time better if they urged the local authorities in their own districts to diminish the expense of their own school boards. In some districts the local authorities took every pains, and used every means in their power, to diminish the expenditure and give to the children the best education possible; but, unfortunately, in other districts the authorities acted in a very different manner. Therefore, he hoped that whatever steps were taken in the direction of relief to local taxation, care would be taken to insure that there was co-operation on the part of the local authorities in diminishing the expenses of the school boards in their own districts. He had been very sorry to hear his noble Friend the Member for North Northumberland (Earl Percy) speak of the education which the school boards gave to children throughout the country as having an effect in the wrong direction upon the morality of the people. He could not conceive that his noble Friend had had experience in the matter. To judge of the justice of his remarks in this respect it was only necessary to call to mind many districts in which, before the passing of the Act of 1870, no education whatever was provided for a large percentage of the children of the poor, and to compare their condition then with their condition now, when efficient board schools were at work within them. No doubt, it would be said—"It is all very well for you to give this education to the children; but do you give them any religious or moral education?" But that was a question which had to be answered by the ratepayers in each district; and if these, as regarded the children who attended the elementary schools, could not be trusted to see that they received moral and religious education up to a certain point, then he despaired of the effect of any kind of local self-govern- 297 ment in relation to those subjects. He was obliged to confess to a doubt as to whether his noble Friend was right, and whether he could bring before that House, or before any body of persons acquainted with the subject, any figures whatever to show that since the commencement of the operation of the Education Acts the morality of the lower classes, especially amongst the younger members of them, had deteriorated. For his own part, he (Viscount Emlyn) did not believe that that was the case; and he could not but feel that the eloquence which charged these deficiencies on the school boards would be better employed in appealing to the ratepayers of the country to insist, by their votes and influence, that moral and religious education should be given in the board schools of every district.
§ MR. THOMAS COLLINS
said, he did not agree with the hon. Member for Mid Somersetshire (Mr. R. H. Paget), that it would have been better if the Resolution on the Paper could have been put to the test of a division, because it seemed to him that it was so vaguely drawn that it might mean anything or nothing. To say that, having regard to the unfairness of the incidence of school board rates, and the continual increase in their amount, some change in the system under which they were at present levied was urgently required, was simply an abstract Resolution, and one which did not even point out to the House the direction in which the injustice complained of took place, and which, if it were passed, would bind the House to nothing whatever. Therefore, although the discussion which had taken place was of a useful character, he saw no cause for regret that the House was not in a position to go to a division on the subject. With reference to the system of rating shadowed forth by the noble Viscount the Member for Carmarthen (Viscount Evelyn), he (Mr. T. Collins) believed it would be a monstrous act to make the area of rating union and not parochial. It would, in his opinion, be most unjust to call upon places that had established schools of their own to provide schools for other places where this duty had been neglected. He lived in a district where there were some 30 parishes or townships included in the Union, and in the whole of those 30 parishes there was 298 only one in which there was a school board; and he asked whether it would not be a monstrous thing that the 29 townships in which the squire and the parson had provided schools should be called on to relieve the remaining solitary township of the burden very properly cast upon it? He protested against such a doctrine in every way, and sincerely hoped that nothing more would be heard of the proposal to make the area of rating non-parochial. He could not agree with the noble Earl the Member for North Northumberland (Earl Percy) that there was any failure on the part of the board schools to teach religion and morality; on the contrary, he believed that, on the whole, these subjects were satisfactorily treated in the education given in the bulk of the schools in England and Wales. A great deal was to be said on the question as to whether the rate ought to be divided, as suggested by the hon. Member for the Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Ramsay). He (Mr. T. Collins) did not feel especially enamoured of legislation on this subject by hon. Members who came from beyond the Tweed; but this question was a small one indeed, because everyone knew that the incidence of taxation, so far as land was concerned, eventually fell upon the owner; and if they were to alter the present system by making the rate a primary charge upon the owner, the tenant would have to pay more rent. To deal fairly with that, they ought to give the owner the right of voting, so that half the members of the school board should be elected by them, and half by the occupiers. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council (Mr. Mundella) had hinted that, at a future day, some such tax as the house tax should be appropriated to local government purposes. It had always struck him (Mr. T. Collins), as an Income Tax Commissioner, that the burden of the house tax fell very heavily upon the trading classes, and, indeed, very unfairly upon them, because the large tradesman undoubtedly paid more than the country squire; and therefore he thought that if that tax, instead of remaining an Imperial tax, were given in aid of local taxation, it would greatly relieve the local burdens of the country. They often received promises from right hon. Gentlemen opposite, which were not 299 fulfilled; but this of the right hon. Gentlemen he trusted would be carried into effect by the Prime Minister handing over the house tax at no distant day for the benefit of the local taxpayers. With regard to the question as to whether or not taxation for the purpose of education should be placed on the same footing as the sanitary tax, he believed that the occupier of purely agricultural land paid one-twelfth of that rate; and that, as a rule, in his own district, had always given satisfaction to the ratepayers. He was a member of the Sanitary Committee in his district, and he had never heard any person complain that the large agricultural tracts therein did not pay the same rate as dwelling-houses. Therefore, looking at the matter in the abstract, he believed, if the whole question were to be dealt with de novo, it would be a fair proposal, and one which would meet with general approval if a half, or some smaller proportion of the rate levied on the houses in the district, were charged upon agricultural land. As he had already pointed out, the Resolution before them might mean anything or nothing. He could not support it, because he did not consider it advisable to pledge the House to abstract Resolutions, especially when they did not point to some definite remedy. And, therefore, he should be prepared to vote for going into Committee of Supply.