HC Deb 14 August 1889 vol 339 cc1248-58

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [9th August], "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


I hope that the House will consent to the Bill being now read a second time. There1 is, I think, a general desire to see it pass into law.

* MR. M'LAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)

I should like to ask a question as to the interpretation of this Bill and as to its scope. It is a Bill of which I cordially approve, and I rejoice that the Government are making up their minds to pass it. I wish to know, however, whether it will be competent under it for the Local Authorities to make grants for the purposes of dairy and agricultural education? The whole tenour of the Bill deals with the Science and Art Department. I believe that the £5,000 which the House voted last year for agricultural education was placed in the hands of the Agricultural Department of the Privy Council, and I fear very much that, unless a very wide interpretation is given to the 5th section of this Bill, we shall find ourselves tied up to those classes of instruction which are under the Department of Science and Art. The Government have now for the first time adopted the principle of giving grants to agricultural education, but there is no reason, I think, why Local Authorities should not be allowed to vote money out of the rates, with the full consent of the ratepayers, for the support of agricultural education. Dairy schools are springing up in a satisfactory and even a surprising manner, and the £5,000 voted last year for agricultural education has been largely expended; but, in my opinion, it would be far more satisfactory if Local Authorities were distinctly allowed to support schools, giving the technical instruction they desire. To take my own county, I do not know why the Cheshire County Council should not be allowed to support agricultural and dairy education throughout the county, as much as other technical education for the mechanics of Crewe or the chemical workers of Northwich. The matter could be dealt with in Committee, but we are anxious that the Bill should get through Committee after 12 o'clock at night, so that we wish all contested points cleared away. If there are any differences they should be disposed of now, when the Bill cannot be stopped by a formal ob- jection. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council to say whether it would be possible to extend this education to agricultural subjects within the terms of the Bill as they at present stand, or, if not, whether he would allow me to insert some words to provide that agriculture shall be included within the scope of the measure. All that would be necessary would be to add after the Department of Science and Art the words "and Board of Agriculture," or whatever the exact designation of the new Department may be. If the right hon. hon. Gentleman would agree to that, it would be largely availed of and would prove an immense boon to the agricultural community of the country. There is a growing feeling on the part of the farmers, and country people generally, that we ought to do something to improve our knowledge of agriculture and dairy produce. We spend a fabulously large amount in this country in buying foreign dairy produce, and most of that money might be retained at home if dairy technical instruction were properly developed. There is an indefinite and almost infinite amount of dairy produce required in this country. I cannot help expressing regret that the School Boards are not to be one of the Local Authorities to take this matter in hand. They would be, it seems to me, a much better authority than that proposed where they exist. Where they do not exist, I should be willing to try any other authority. I know that that is a point upon which the Government will not give way; therefore I hope the matter will not be pressed. We must make the best of it, and trust that, at some future time, the Act may be extended to School Boards, and made wider in its application.


By the leave of the House I would explain this point. The difficulty in the hon. Member's mind no doubt arises from the ancient difficulty of drawing up any exact definition of technical instruction. The Definition Clause first mentions the different species of instruction already sanctioned by the Science and Art Department to which grants are given, and then come the words "or any other form of instruction which may for the time being be sanctioned by the Department." I presume that the point to which the hon. Member refers will be favourably received by the Department when a demand is made for the recognition of that particular form of instruction. As I understand, the fact of the Government having given a grant already in favour of dairy farming will not prevent such instruction being extended under the Bill.

MR. MATHER (Lancashire, S. E. Gorton)

In rising to support the Bill as it is to be amended, I desire to say that in its present form it could not have been acceptable to this side of the House. I am happy to say, however, that the Government have accepted Amendments which will touch the point raised by the Member for Crewe, and will in no way interfere with the present functions performed by School Board districts, while at the same time they will enable the Bill to be of the greatest use in country districts where no School Board Authority exists. I feel that it is important that we should at this period of the Session come to an unanimous decision to pass the SECOND READING of the Bill to-day, in order that we may at the earliest time make a commencement in that new departure in practical education, which is so necessary for the welfare of the country. I deplore, as most of my friends deplore the fact that the Bill of the hon. Member for South Manchester was not accepted by the House. It was a Bill comprehensive in its scope and wide enough to take in all questions of manual and technical instruction, from education in infant schools to higher and secondary education. But, of course, it is difficult in a Bill of that kind, raising contentious points, to get the House generally to agree to it, particularly at a late period of the Session. The Government, as I understand, have now introduced a Bill which eliminates for the time being the questions of denominational and School Board education, and which starts from the point at which science and art teaching and technical instruction may be undertaken by Local Authorities, constituting themselves authorities for the purpose, or by School Boards, or, failing the one or the other, by Local Authorities under a rate of 1d. in the£1. I can assure the House that if the Bill passes with the Amendments which have been suggested to the Government, it will become at once a very great boon to our industrial and manufacturing districts, and also to those districts which the Member for Crewe represents. I have taken it for granted from the first that schools necessary to promote the interests of the agricultural classes are included in this Bill. Some of my friends consider that the Bill constitutes another educational authority in large towns and School Board districts. If I thought so, it would be impossible for me to support the Bill; but the Government have undertaken that Amendments shall be put into it providing that where School Boards exist, and are now exercising such authority as is necessary to promote technical education, they shall have the power to demand from the Local Authority such means as they may require, in order to promote the well-being of their schools. The School Boards of our large towns have already undertaken very important work in that direction, and the Science and Art Department receive now a grant in aid for the work they do in connection with the higher branches of technical instruction. But there is a want of funds, and the fees are so high that the working classes cannot avail themselves as much as is desirable of the benefits which such schools are capable of supplying. Instead of there being some hundreds of children of from 14 to 17 years of age attending the night schools, and also the schools that the School Boards have established for technical instruction, very few boys from the elementary schools are able to attend, consequently very little good is done. But there will be an opportunity of extending this work into other branches of education. There will be laboratories and manual training, and the technical training of various kinds will be adapted to the wants of the different districts. Under these circumstances we can all appreciate the enormous advantages that will accrue to the industrial classes from the passage of this Bill during the present Sesssion. I fully sympathise with the desire of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council that this Bill should be read a second time to-day without any undue discussion. I sincerely trust that we may this afternoon be enabled to obtain an expression of opinion both from those who support the Bill and from those who are in doubt with regard to the Amendment which, we are told, will be accepted, in order that the House may hereafter have an opportunity of making the measure one that will be satisfactory not only to the friends of education generally, but to the country at large.

MR. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)

There are some of us on this side of the House who are in a difficulty with regard to this measure. As the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken admits, it is not so perfect as to enable him to give it his full support in its present form, although he says he is prepared to vote for the Second Reading, because in private conferences he has had with the heads of the Educational Department they promised to insert Amendments which, in his opinion, will render the Measure acceptable to the House.


Allow me to say there were no private conferences at all. What has taken place has been the result of long negotiations with hon. Members on this side of the House who have for many years been connected with the movement in favour of technical education, who have been Members of the Royal Commission on Technical Education, and who have had this question much more at heart than many hon. Gentlemen on the opposite Benches.


I was not a member of the Royal Commission on Technical Education, but at the same time I may say that I have made myself conversant with the needs of the working classes on this subject, and, having passed through the workshop myself, I think I have some knowledge of what is required. We have at the present time a grand school in the Technical Institute, and I have taken an active part in that work. The mistake which has been made is that a certain number of Gentlemen constitute themselves the guardians of technical instruction, and act by themselves, whereas they might have taken us into their confidence and allowed us to have something to say on the subject. Well, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mather) tells us he has arrived at some conclusion in consultation with his friends that will tend to make the Bill complete, and I think that before we read it a second time—I do not suggest that we should be responsible for throwing it out, because technical instruction is a very important matter—we ought to have some indication as to the way in which it is proposed to amend the measure. We have, however, learnt that it is intended to put the Educational Authorities throughout the country in what is said to be their proper place, by sweeping away those that have existed since 1870, and placing in their stead Local Authorities, who at present have nothing to do with education. This, to me, is a most surprising proposition, and one that renders the Bill thoroughly objectionable. If, however, the Amendments that are to be accepted will have the effect of putting the Local Authorities of the great towns in their proper position, I should be glad to accede to them; but we ought at least to know how far this result will be achieved. It would be a good thing if the right hon. Gentleman would state to the House before the Bill is read a second time what are the Amendments the Government are prepared to accept.

* MR. H. STEWART (Spalding)

I would point out that we are now discussing an Amended Bill that has been altered in order to meet the wishes of many hon. Members, but I may say, for myself, that I have been no party to what has been arranged, and therefore do not feel myself bound by it. I would remind the House that we are now entirely re-opening the question as settled by the Education Act of 1870. I desire to see whatever powers may be granted by this Bill placed under the control of educational authorities elected by the people. We are simply anxious to continue the development of the educational work commenced in 1870, and we want to see an efficient control given to the elected educational authorities of the towns and districts in which the education is to be given. If this be the spirit of the Amendment conceded by the right hon. Gentleman, it will, I think, not only commend itself to the House; but to all who feel the slightest interest in this important matter.


I congratulate the Government and the House on the manner in which this Bill has been received. The Government have indicated that they are prepared to accept Amendments which hon. Members opposite are desirous of inserting in the Bill, and I think there is reason to hope that there will be no real difficulty in coming to an amicable adjustment, but at the same time I think it only right to say that we on these Benches cannot absolutely commit ourselves to the acceptance of any Amendments which we have not had the opportunity of seeing and considering.

MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)

I think, Sir, that this is a Bill which ought to have been introduced at the commencement of the Session, and that it should not have been left over until we have arrived at the fag-end of our business, so that we find ourselves in the very awkward position that we must either accept the measure without Debate or do without it altogether. I was quite willing to give my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton credit for having arranged a satisfactory compromise with the Government; but I noticed at the time this was alluded to that there was an expression of dissent from the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. Moreover, the noble Lord, opposite, who is a prominent and leading supporter of Her Majesty's Government, has risen in his place and stated that hon. Members on that side of the House cannot commit themselves to the Amendments referred to, because they have not seen them—or, at any rate, have not had sufficient time to consider them. Well, Sir, I ask, are we to read this Bill a second time today on the assurance of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton, and after that are the Government or their friends to be at liberty to repudiate these Amendments, or so to modify or cut them down that they will not accomplish the object desired? This is a very important consideration; and the Government have brought all this criticism on themselves by the confused manner in which they have proceeded with their work. One point of objection on our part is that the Bill creates two or three separate authorities to whom the educational work it will promote is to be confided. Now, the kind of education we are discussing is most important to the interests of this country, and yet it is proposed to place it in the hands of Local Authorities, some of whom are described as the Rural Sanitary Authorities within the meaning of the Public Health Act. We may accept the assurances of my hon. Friend as far as they go; but we ought to be doubly assured that this important question of technical education is not to be left in the hands of an Urban or Rural Authority who will divide their attention between drainage works and technical education. It is absurd to think we can accept the Bill without some definite assurance from the Government that they will agree to the Amendments of my hon. Friend. I am disposed to accept his assurance, because I know the good and kindly labour he has expended on this work; but I say that I and others have also expended time and labour upon it. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Rowlands), I have felt the want of technical instruction, and, although we have not had time to deal with the matter in the manner we should have desired, we are aware of the practical necessities requiring to be met, and, consequently, we have been agitating for legislation on the subject for many years. What we want is a good, thorough, honest, and comprehensive measure, to be placed, as far as possible, in the hands of educational, and not drainage, authorities. I recognise the importance of the point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Crewe (Mr. M'Laren), who, if he looks at Clause 5—the Definition Clause—will see that the agricultural authorities in every part of the country have only to make a representation to the Central Authority in order to obtain the fullest and most complete powers for providing instruction in butter or cheese making, or in any other agricultural industry. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill has acted wisely in providing that it shall not include the teaching or practice of every trade, industry, or employment, and here he will see that I have something to say in praise of the Bill as well as in criticism of the Government policy with regard to it. Had the right hon. Gentleman not inserted this proviso, he would have bad the whole of the skilled trades at him. I should have opposed the Second Reading of the Bill, but for the assurance of the hon. Member for Gorton that all reasonable protection will be given to the constituted educational authorities, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman opposite will say what are the proposals he intends to accept.


I am exceedingly anxious that there should be a perfect understanding on this question. We have accepted the Amendment of the hon. Member for Gorton in perfect good faith, and that hon. Member is perfectly aware of the fact that the Government are desirous of giving expression to his wishes. If the Amendment is not accepted in perfect good faith, the Bill will be dropped. We intend to ask the House to accept the Bill, and have no intention of departing from the arrangement which has been entered into. I hope I have satisfied the House on this point. With regard to the details of the Amendments we are willing to accept, the proper time for discussing them will be when we have the clauses before us in the Committee stage, and if they are not found to be satisfactory to the House, it will be for the House to say so. I trust that, under these circumstances, the House will now be prepared to read the Bill a second time.

MR. H. COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)

As one who is intensely anxious to see a good system of technical education established, I desire to say a few words. The promotion of this kind of education has been one of the labours of my life. I do not know what are the Amendments my hon. Friend wishes to introduce, and it may be that they will remove my objections to the Bill; but as it now stands the measure is one which I cannot accept. I hold in my hand a letter from one of the most distinguished educational authorities in the country, Mr. Lyulph Stanley, and he says the Bill is a bad Bill, and gives his reasons for so saying. The difficulty in which we are placed at the present moment is that we do not know what Amendments are to be put into the Bill. The noble Lord opposite says he cannot accept Amendments he has not seen, and we, on this side, say we want to know what the Amendments are to be. I shall not, however, oppose the Second Reading of the Bill; but in agreeing to the Motion I accept it on the personal authority of my hon. Friend, who assures me that it will remove the difficulty which exists in many of our minds.

* MR. H. J. WILSON (York, W.R., Holmfirth)

The statement we have heard as to the Amendments to be accepted by Her Majesty's Government considerably modifies the objections we should otherwise entertain to the Bill; but until we more thoroughly understand what the Amendments are, we cannot be sure that they will entirely remove those objections. I rise mainly in order to express a hope that, when the Bill gets into Committee, we shall have a fuller opportunity of thoroughly understanding how far the Government are prepared to meet us. As far as lean understand them, the intended Amendments will modify but not altogether remove our objections to the Bill, In regard to what has been pointed out by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst), with regard to entrusting the control of technical education to the Rural Sanitary Authorities, I entirely agree with him. It seems a most extraordinary idea to give Boards of Guardians the charge of Technical Education. I hope we shall hereafter have ample opportunity of going into the whole question and of stating at length our objection to the School Board being ousted as the educational authority. I want to know why the School Board should not be made the educational authority; and, if we cannot ensure that, I should like to know why the School Board should not be represented on the Body which is to deal with the matter. In some way or other I think we ought to secure that.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday.