HC Deb 19 July 1887 vol 317 cc1464-76

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [18th July], "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to facili- tate the Provision of Technical Instruction."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


In the observations I am about to make, I shall endeavour to be as concise as possible, because I know that hon. Members are waiting to deal with other important matters, and it does, I confess, appear to me that I am guilty of something like cruelty at this time of the Session, considering all we have gone through and with the labours still before us, in introducing to you fresh matter of legislation. But, however, I do venture to plead this in extenuation—namely, that the topic I have introduced to the House is not only not a new topic, but is one which has for a long time stirred up amongst the artizan classes in this country a considerable amount of feeling. When I say that it is no new subject, I venture to allude, for one moment, to the vast voluntary efforts which have already been made with regard to technical instruction. And, Sir, if I am asked why it is I am asking the House to supplement by legislation all that has been done, I reply that it is because I believe in the reality of this movement, and because, for many years, I believe that not only amongst the artizan classes, but amongst our large employers of labour in industrial centres, it has been recognized that although all the commercial depression we are suffering from may not arise from lack of technical and commercial education in this country, yet some part of it is due to the fact that foreign and Continental nations have had great advantages over us in regard to the technical training and special industrial training they have had for their youths. They have for years past outstripped us in this race, and have gained very material advantage thereby. I am encouraged to hope that these proposals I am about to submit will meet with some acceptance from the House; and if, by these proposals, we enable the best material which is now turned out by our schools to continue longer in their school life, and to start into some new educational groove for the benefit of themselves and of the industrial localities in which they live, and for the benefit also of the community at large, I think, Sir, I may venture to urge that the time of the House will not be wasted in discussing such proposals. Well, Sir, it is perfectly true that it may be urged that, as I have not long held my present Office, I am rather rash in introducing this subject, and still more so in view of the fact that a Royal Commission has been sitting for some time considering this great educational question. But I think the House will agree with me that this is somewhat outside the question which the Commission which is now sitting is inquiring into. There was a Royal Commission on Technical Education which reported in 1884. That Commission, which I am only just alluding to, let in a flood of light on this question of technical instruction, and, Sir, I should like for one instant to refer to their special recommendations as regards this country. As the House is aware, that Commission extended its labours to Continental countries, and conducted an exhaustive inquiry in connection with this subject. Well, Sir, this Commission pointed out that there was a considerable difference between our treatment of the educational question and its treatment in other countries. They also pointed out that, with the exception of France, there was no European country of the first rank that has an Imperial Budget for educational purposes comparable to our own; and they further pointed out that with reference to existing educational institutions in this country—alluding to the Science and Art Department at South Kensington—they will not alone accomplish the objects aimed at, and that the localities must depend more than they have done hitherto on their own special exertions. I am fortified, also, by the statement of Mr. Forster, in 1878, when moving his large Budget. He said he desired to have a margin in the matter of expense. It seemed to him that the grant for education then was as high as could be given for such purposes, and that if they went further they would be doing out of the Imperial taxes what ought to be undertaken by local resources. There are two authorities in support of one of the principles of this Bill—two authorities agreeing in the view that the onus of such a measure as this should be borne by local resources. I may quote further from the Report of the Commission in reference to the advisability of introducing technical instruction into the schools. The Commission said, amongst other matters, that already, in Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, and several of our large centres, a considerable step had already been made in this direction, and they ask this very pertinent question— If we introduce needlework into girls' schools, why should not grants also be made for manual instruction in boys' schools? I will not quote further from that Report except in so far as this—that before I touch on the details of my Bill, I will draw attention to the fact that, as the result of the vast inquiries made by the Commission, they recommend, amongst other things, that rudimentary drawing should be continued throughout the Standards, and that instruction should be given in the use of tools for working in wood and iron after school hours. That may be done under this Bill, and they make certain recommendations with regard to object lessons. I do not take such a sanguine view of the proposals I have to make to the House as to think that they will carry out all the recommendations of the Royal Commission. My proposals are these—to enable the Local Authorities to rate for the establishment of technical schools, or to assist in the establishment of technical schools, and also to give Local Authorities power to supplement existing teaching in public elementary schools by technical instruction, whether by day or evening classes. There will also be a proposal in the Bill with regard to the ratepayers, to whom the power of vetoing any proposal under the Bill will be given. Before the Bill comes into operation the ratepayers will be consulted, and in certain circumstances a poll may be demanded. We propose that the Bill should be administered by the Science and Art Department—that is to say, that it should be administered subject to the directorate of that Department. We also propose that the Bill should have its limitation, that no scholar, until he has reached the Sixth Standard, should come within the operation of the Bill, and we propose, further, that the Local Authorities that administer the Bill should be the School Boards, where they exist, and where they do not exist, the Town Councils. I should like, if I am not detaining the House too long, to say one or two words further with regard to these proposals. I should like to allude to Clause 4—and here I think I shall be met with something like general agreement when I urge that if there is anything essentially unpopular in this country at the present time it is the rating power. We all dislike rates, and I think, therefore, in a measure of this kind, if you are to get a fair chance of success, you must be careful to show not only that the ratepayer has some adequate protection, but also that it would be valuable if we could show that the Bill is essentially a cheap Bill so far as its working is concerned, and that great consideration in some respects is shown to the ratepayers in regard to the actual expenses which this Bill may inflict. In the first place, Clause 4, which I may call the operative clause of the Bill, enables Local Authorities to provide technical schools. Well, it is obvious that that provision would involve building, and I should like to point out to the House for one moment a further sub-section under this Clause 4. The next sub-section under this clause enables two Local Authorities to combine with each other for the purpose of providing a technical school common to any one district or to two or more local bodies. It is obvious to us that this will enable a system of combination to be adopted which will prove a great saving to the ratepayers; and, further, the next sub-section provides that the Local Authorities may contribute towards the maintenance or provision of any technical school which has been established by any other Local Authority. I believe that that sub-section will also conduce to great saving. I am not sure whether it is worded correctly as it at present stands; but it is intended to enact that, as in many instances is the case under the Public Libraries' Act, the Local Authorities should be empowered to levy rates for the purpose of supplementing any existing institution. These provisions I think the House will admit are provisions which will enable the Bill to be worked cheaply. In the first place, they allow combinations, which, of course, must be combinations as to the incidence of the rate; but there is a further subsection of the Bill, which I wish, however, to allude to—namely, Sub-section D— which enables the Local Authority to make such arrangements as it may deem necessary or expedient for supplementing by technical teaching the instruction at present given in our elementary schools. This I consider one of the most valuable provisions in the Bill. It will enable a course of technical education to be at once given without saddling the taxpayers with expenditure for building; it will enable evening classes to be held in any elementary day school receiving a grant from the Department at Whitehall. This proposal will, I think, be found most valuable for saving the money of the ratepayers. Then let me refer for an instant to the limitation of the Bill to children in the Sixth Standard. I think all those interested in the question of education will admit that at first we should wish this Bill to apply to the pick of our scholars, and I think it will be the best and surest test of the measure that it should be so applied. It will obviously be an advantage, before we apply the technical education proposed by this Bill, that a good foundation in general education should be laid in each individual case. I am perfectly ready to admit that this limitation as to Standard VI. does considerably restrict the operation of the Bill. From the number who stand at Standard VI. and those who have reached VII., it will be necessary to deduct a large proportion of girls, for it is fair to assume that much of the instruction given will be limited to boys. We must also take out a considerable number of scholars who have passed Standard VI., and take advantage of the instruction at South Kensington in science and art. This does very much restrict the number to which this Bill will at first apply. Here I must allude for an instant to the question of instruction in agriculture. I am free to admit that as the Bill is drawn— as it now stands—it would extend very little instruction for agricultural purposes. But the Bill is capable of considerable development, and when the new Local Authority under the new Local Government Bill is established, I believe by the sub-section that applies to the combination of Local Authorities for the purpose of technical instruction, indeed it is obvious that under this subsection agricultural instruction may be afforded under the Bill. And now I must allude for an instant to another point—the question of rating. I have chosen—naturally chosen—as the rating authority, the School Board authority, and, as I have stated, where that authority does not exist, the Town Councll will be the rating authority. I have proposed, as I have said in the Bill, to insert a provision that when a Local Authority passes a resolution to establish a technical school, then 50, or a third, of the ratepayers may demand that a poll on the question shall be taken; and here I am at once met with a difficulty as regards the Metropolis. I think it would be wrong to bring into existence the enormous voting power of the Metropolis for the purposes of this Bill, nor do I believe it would work well. Just as in the Education Bill of 1870 London was exceptionally treated, so I propose it should be exceptionally treated in this Bill. Of course, I shall be asked how I propose to protect the ratepayers of the Metropolis as regards rating expenditure? Well, I have had placed before me a proposal carefully drawn up by the Vice Chairman of the London School Board—my hon. Friend the Member for the Evesham Division of Worcester (Sir Richard Temple)—a proposal which has been considered and approved by the present Chairman of the London School Board. That proposal is nothing more or less than that contained in Sub-section D of Clause 4 for supplementing existing elementary instruction by technical instruction. From all I can gather, I believe this proposal is popular with the London School Board, and with those they represent. After all it is these that ought to be consulted, and it is for Representatives of London constituencies to say if they will accept this, subject to the undertaking that this policy alone shall be carried out by the London School Board until the next elections in November. This would securely safeguard the interests of the Metropolitan ratepayers. I am assured by the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham, as regards his scheme, that it would involve no extra charge for building upon the ratepayers; expenditure will be reduced to a minimum. I am prepared to consult with hon. Members for Metropolitan constituencies, who must be considered in this matter, and if they so demand, thinking that further security for the ratepayers is necessary, of course it will be possible, in deference to their wish, to insert an additional clause that no action shall be taken until after the next School Board elections. But I believe it would be a mistake to do anything of the kind. I believe that the interests of the ratepayers and of the great mass of the working classes may be safely trusted to the provision of the Vice Chairman to which I have alluded. Then, I shall be asked this question, and I think a very pertinent one. It is perfectly true that a vast amount of voluntary effort has already been expended in the cause of technical instruction, and I may be asked— "If you once establish the principle of rating, do you not thereby lessen the amount of voluntary effort?" I believe we shall do nothing of the kind, and this for several reasons. I believe this measure will be essentially popular among the working classes; and I believe, further, it is impossible to check voluntary effort in a cause such as this by supplementing these efforts from the rates, for I believe that those who are spending money voluntarily for this are doing it in a cause they know to be the best one in which they can spend their money, and where for all the money spent more than compound interest will be paid in the result. There are numerous instances in regard to this matter. Only the other day I noticed that in Lambeth the Public Libraries Act was adopted by a vote of the inhabitants. What was the result there of adopting the principle of rating? I notice that at the concluding meeting, which the result of the first made necessary, and when arrangements had to be made for applying the new system of rating, the first announcement made by the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine), who occupied the chair, was that he was glad to state that a friend of his had not only given the ground for the new library, but had undertaken the whole building at his own cost. Numerous other instances of the same kind have come under my notice. Therefore, I do not think that in establishing a rating power under this Bill we shall check voluntary effort in any sensible degree. One more point I have to deal with, that is the administration of the Bill. We propose that the Bill shall be administered by the Science and Art Department, South Kensington. I have been anxious that the Bill should be so administered, because I think that there we have a Department whose educational capacity has been thoroughly well tested. I know that among some hon. Members the Department is talked of as rather art expensive toy. Now, I am anxious, so far as I am concerned, that the House should be put in the position of knowing what the annual expenditure is at South Kensington, as regards administrative expenditure, and its results. With the leave of the House I will lay on the Table a document I have had prepared, showing for the last five years, in a concise form, what the actual expenditure at South Kensington has been as regards the administration and conduct of the Department, and the actual expenditure as regards results. Hon. Members will be surprised when they see how vast an increase there has been as regards payments by results and how small the increase in adminstrative expenditure. I do not say but that the strictest economy should be pursued in this Department; and, having said as much, I should like the House to bear with me for two minutes while I read the account of what the Department is now doing as regards science and art instruction in the country. During the season of 1886–7 there were 1,936 schools, or separate institutions, in which instruction was given in one or more branches of science, and 6,976 classes in different branches of science. At the May Examination 127,900 papers were sent up. I should like to give one more instance in regard to chemical instruction to show the vast strides made in scientific education in the country. In chemistry, 21,085 papers were worked for examination by the Department. It shows the vast change that has been made when I say that about 30 years ago there were only one or two places existing where students could obtain laboratory instruction, and that only at very high fees. The Royal College of Chemistry was started in 1845, and another institution of a like type was started, I believe, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Sir Lyon Play fair), in Craig's Court, about the same time. Now there are 234 chemical laboratories in connection with the Science and Art Department where students can obtain laboratory instruction at very low fees, There were no less than 4,257 separate benches at the last examinations for the accommodation of 16,155 candidates who were examined in that branch of science. I will not go further into this topic; but I can assure the House that not for a moment would I have thought of putting the administration under this Department if I did not thoroughly believe in its ability to conduct every detail and carry out the work with economy and efficiency. I thank the House for its attention to these somewhat desultory remarks. I do not think I need again go through the provisions of the Bill—I think I have explained them. All I wish to urge is this, that as, happily, this question cannot be tortured into a Party question by any possibility, it is one that plainly interests all; and although I do not submit the Bill as one that covers all the gronnd that hon. Members wish to see covered on this difficult question of technical education, yet I do believe it is a Bill that will do, and quickly do, an enormous amount of good as regards the industrial population. If the proposals of the Bill that provide for a system of continuity of schools, that enable a child, instead of going away from school into idleness, if that and the provision for evening classes were the only clauses in the Bill, these alone would make the Bill worthy of the serious consideration and support of the House. Of course, I am perfectly well aware it is not a perfect measure, that inequalities may be pointed out; but I plead this for the success of the measure, that if hon. Members approve of the principle they will not at this period of the Session overload the Bill with Amendments. I thank the House again for the extreme patience accorded me. Such as the proposals are, I venture to humbly submit them to the calm consideration and judgment of the House.

MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

I rise rather to deprecate discussion than to continue it, and for two reasons, that we can hardly fairly discuss the measure without having the Bill in our possession, and also because Scotch Members are waiting here for a special purpose, and have a claim upon us for their forbearance in allowing the I introduction of this Bill. I am very much obliged—I am grateful to the I right hon. Gentleman (Sir William Hart Dyke) for introducing the Bill, and I hope it may realize his expectations to the full. He has our best wishes for it, and so far as we can help him we will give it our assistance. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman he will meet with no opposition from these Benches; on the contrary, I can promise him the utmost support. But there were one or two points raised in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that I am bound to say fell on my ears with something of surprise and disappointment. The right hon. Gentleman said the whole of the expenditure under the Bill is to come out of local resources—


I think I ought to have explained further what I meant when I adopted the expression from the Commission in regard to this point. It is a subject I would rather deal with on the second reading; but as it is referred to, I may say I did not mean that under no possibility would any grant he made from the Science and Art Department.


This only proves the disadvantage of discussing the measure any further at this stage. I hope, however, that the right hon. Gentleman will guard himself against one provision, and that is the power of veto. Although you empower the Local Authority to establish the system, you allow 50 ratepayers to question it.


To summon a poll.


But does the right hon. Gentleman know what this means? Does he know what this will cost in a large town? Why, it would mean in Sheffield an expenditure of £1,000. More, probably, than we should expend in three or four years on the Bill. You will always find 50 cantankerous ratepayers who are opposed to everything in this world, and who would oppose this Bill. But I will not continue the discussion, though I feel tempted to do so. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not suppose it is a continuation school if he confines it to children of the Sixth Standard. I agree that technical education should be given to children who are well prepared; but we want continuation schools for the tens of thousands of children who are turned out of school at and below the Fourth Standard. He knows that that is the standard at which children are exempt throughout the rural districts, and there is one recommendation of the Royal Commission to which he has not referred, that is that we should raise the standard throughout the country and make it uniform, with Scotland, that no child shall be exempt from attendance until he has passed the Fifth Standard. But I will not detain the House any longer. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make his Bill a thorough and efficient Bill, and not allow any impediment to be imposed against its operation. I can assure him, from this side of the House, he shall have all the assistance we can render to make it a good Bill.

MR. MASON (Lanark, Mid)

I do not rise to continue the discussion, but only to ask if the Bill applies to Scotland?


As the hon. Member knows, there is a different system of education throughout Scotland, and it has been thought better to introduce a separate Bill for Scotland.

MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)

I did not hear what the right hon. Gentleman said; but if he will remember, I asked him a short time ago if the Bill would apply to Scotland. His reply was somewhat enigmatical, that he would endeavour to make the Bill satisfactory to all Members. Will the Bill apply to Scotland or not?


What I said was that the Scotch Department are drafting a Bill of a similar character, to apply to Scotland. There are certain inequalities that require different treatment.


Will it be introduced this Session?


I hope so.

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

I presume the Scotch Bill will be brought in as soon as possible, and will proceed pari passu with the English Bill.

SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)

Only one word to confirm what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council as to the effect of the arrangement made by the School Board. It will absolutely impose no extra burden whatever on the ratepayers of the Metropolis. I say this with a full sense of my responsibility as a Member of the House and Vice President of the School Board.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir William Hart Dyke, Sir Henry Holland, and Mr. Jackson.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 332.]