HC Deb 01 August 1889 vol 339 cc157-60

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


Sir, I hope the House will pardon me for saying a few words in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. It deals with a question the importanec of which is felt in every quarter of the House and in all the industrial centres of this country. We have only to look at the munificent gifts of the City Companies in furtherance of technical education and the enormous efforts that have been made in furtherance of that object, to see the vast interest which is felt in the subject. This Bill is the outcome of the efforts to solve difficulties at which we have been labouring for two years, and it is because we have failed to reconcile the interests of Board and Voluntary Schools that I propose the Bill in its present form. The Bill is simple in its character, and is to give the Local Authority power to rate for the purpose of technical education. The Local Authorities will be the County Councils, the Borough Councils, and Urban and Rural Sanitary Authorities. It also provides two limitations which hon. Members will observe in the early part of the Bill. The first limit is in regard to pupils receiving instruction in the obligatory and standard subjects in elementary and primary schools, and the other has reference to the maximum rate which may be levied under it. I do beg hon. Members to remember that on my side of the House, at all events, there is very grave objection indeed to increasing local burdens. For myself, I believe, having studied the question, that an enormous amount of good will be done under this Bill in furthering technical education, if only to the extent of a penny rate. There is an important proviso in Clause 31, which provides that the Local Authority may appoint a Committee for the purpose of working out this plan. The Committee is to consist wholly or partly of members of the Local Authority. Of course, it is right that this Local Authority should be represented in the interests of the ratepayers; but it is hoped, if this Bill become law, that this Local Committee will also be composed of members who are strongly interested in technical education in our industrial centres and large towns. This Local Committee would be also empowered to appoint sub or minor Committees to carry out all the purposes of the Act; that is to say, where the Local Authority decides to take over any existing schools, or institutions, or science schools for the purpose of this Act, for it is desired, where possible, to avoid any expenditure on new buildings. I apprehend that this system of Committees will work in this way—that where the Local Authorities decide to apply this Act in regard to any institution, that such institution will be strongly represented on the Local Committee, which will really combine the representatives of the ratepayers and the Local Committee of Managers for the purpose of carrying out the objects of the technical school or institution. Where the Bill is applied to a Board or Voluntary School for the purpose of establishing evening technical schools or classes, I apprehend that the managers of the Board School and voluntary school will be represented on the Local Committee. I should like to put in a very earnest plea on behalf of this Bill, if only for the enormous impetus it must give for the introduction of evening continuation schools and classes in this country. I believe that the course of instruction which this Bill will initiate will be most popular, and that the evening schools and classes in our large industrial centres will be of enormous advantage to the various schemes of technical education. I know that one objection which will be made to this proposal is that it does not cover the whole ground, and that it does not deal with technical education in elementary schools. If hon. Members read the Report of the Royal Commission and the very careful Report of the London School Board, they will find that the curriculum in those schools is such as to leave very little available time for technical instruction, and this margin will be still further reduced by certain provisions of the New Code, which have been temporarily withdrawn, but which I hope will come into active operation next year. One other objection, I am aware, will be raised—that the Bill does not make the School Board the Rating Authority. I am prepared to say at once that any such proposal would be fatal to this Bill. It would be to again tread upon ground which had already proved so hazardous in endeavouring to promote the solution of this difficult and interesting question. If the School Board were to be the Rating Authority under this Bill, something like 9,000,000 of the population of England and Wales, who are not represented at all upon the School Boards, would be shut out at once from the scope of the Bill. I am not going to detain the House longer. I deeply regret that the time at my disposal is so short, and that I can do so little justice to the subject. But, as regards this question of the School Board, I hope hon. Members opposite will be merciful to us in regard to it. This question has now been before the House for two years, and I would remind the House, for example, that we have lately dealt with the question of intermediate education in Wales to the satisfaction of both sides of the House, and, Sir, I would say to hon. Members who feel strongly on the question of School Boards that in that Bill we have introduced the principle of a regular authority for educational purposes entirely outside the scope of the School Boards. I will not further detain the House, and will only commend the measure to the earnest consideration of the House in the hope that it may be so dealt with as to become a sound and beneficial measure.

* MR. DIXON (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

Considering the interest I have for many years taken in this question, I hope the House will allow me the opportunity of stating the reasons why I feel compelled to oppose this measure.


Order, order! I understand the hon. Gentleman to oppose the Bill, and in that case the measure cannot be further proceeded with at the present moment.

The Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.