HC Deb 10 February 1891 vol 350 cc292-7

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [9th February]— That it be an Instruction to the Committee that the Committee do provide that those parishes or portions of parishes which under the Extension Bill are included in the borough but exempted from the payment of School Board rates, shall also be exempted from voting for Members of the School Board so long as their exemption from these rates continues, and that the Leicester School Board shall remain free from responsibility as to the school attendance in those areas."—(Mr. James Ellis.)

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.

(3.15.) MR. JAMES ELLIS (Leicestershire, Bosworth)

In moving this Instruction, I wish to explain that Clause 70 of the Bill provides that the parish of Knighton and portions of other parishes in the immediate neighbourhood of the borough of Leicester shall be specially exempted from the payment of School Board rates until the Education Act in pursuance of the Elementary Education Act of 1870 shall provide that further school accommodation is necessary in such parishes, and shall declare that such accommodation, not having been provided by the parishes themselves, has been provided by the Leicester School Board at the request of the Education Department. I am sorry to appear in any way to oppose the Corporation of Leicester. I admit that the Bill which is now before the House is one which is much needed, and one of which I heartily approve, except in regard to this simple provision. I believe that the time has come when it is absolutely necessary that the old boundaries of the borough should be extended, and I think that the present proposal to take in the parishes enumerated in the Bill is as wise as any that can be proposed. But I am also of opinion that when they are taken in they ought to be taken in once for all and on the same terms. In this matter I simply represent the educational body of Leicester—the Leicester School Board. I do not profess to criticise the Bill as a whole, but simply to take exception to that part of it which affects the School Board. The parish of Knighton, in fact, represents the richest part of the town of Leicester, and it happens to be outside the boundary of the borough. But the wealth of Knighton is derived from Leicester. In olden times a tradesman lived close to his warehouse, and a shopkeeper close to his shop. It is, however, the custom in modern times for tradesmen and manufacturers to live outside the town. That fact does not lessen their interest in the town, or relieve them from the obligation to contribute towards its rates. My contention is that they ought no longer to be allowed to evade the rates. They receive immense benefit from the borough of Leicester; they get their gas at a very cheap rate, and water is brought to them which they could not possibly bring for themselves. But, although they derive enormous advantages from their connection with the borough, they desire to escape the obligations which ought to fall upon them. I must say I am surprised that they should be unwilling, while they take part in the administration of the affairs of the borough, to avoid paying what is due from them. The Leicester School Board consists of 15 persons. It was elected two years ago without a contest, and it fairly represents the whole of the inhabitants, not only in a religious but a political point of view. It comprises a clergyman of an antient parish, several Churchmen, a Roman Catholic, a Baptist, and other Dissenters, and I myself represent the Society of Friends. So far as politics are concerned, we represent everybody in this House except our Irish friends below the Gangway, and upon this question we are absolutely unanimous. There is not a single dissentient from the opinion that the onus now laid on the part of the borough we represent is unjust. The question does not rest with Knighton alone. Knighton is provided already with a school equal to the education of its present inhabitants, and perhaps some 200 more. No one knows for a fact whether that is so or not, because there is no efficient management of the children with a view of bringing them into the school, for the Rural Authority takes little or no interest in the matter. But the difficulty does not stop there, because there are other parishes adjoining, such as the Abbey Lands, where Cardinal Wolsey died, and others which are un provided for. At present the children have no schools to go to, except those within the borough. I maintain that it is unjust to the ratepayers of the borough that they should be required to provide education to the children of these parishes at a cost per head of 12s. 6d. Unless something is now done to remedy this evil and anomaly, I venture to prophesy that for the next 20 years the question will not be one of this or that education, but of teaching the children out of the borough rates. I have no wish to labour the question, but I think we have a very strong case. In Germany, houses, warehouses, schools, and everything are mapped out and placed in their proper places; but in this country, unfortunately, the system is to allow every individual to do pretty much as he likes. My contention is, that if we pass this Bill as it stands we shall introduce a new element of confusion and disorder. I therefore ask this House, not only in the interests of the people of Leicester, but of all other towns to assent to this Instruction, or something equivalent to it.

(3.27.) MR.TAPLING (Leicestershire, Harborough)

The hon. Member opposite has given a history of this case from his own point of view, but I hope to put a different complexion upon it. I think it is an error to say that there is any unwillingness, as far as Knighton is concerned, to come into the borough of Leicester. The hon. Member has alluded to other districts, but they are of very little importance, and Knighton alone is really aimed at in this Instruction. The Corporation of Leicester have been anxious to enlarge the boundaries of the borough, but they have been met with very great opposition. They have now come to a definite arrangement with the principal inhabitants of Knighton. The circumstances of Knighton are somewhat peculiar. There is a very good school there, towards which large sums of money have been subscribed through the liberality of the inhabitants. As yet there has never been a school rate in Knighton, and when the inhabitants were asked to be included in the Leicester rate they made the reasonable request, that if they are to continue to carry on their school at their own expense they should not be saddled with the school rate of Leicester. The Corporation have assented to that principle, and are willing to carry out an arrangement to that effect. But, after all, this is not a permanent arrangement, because in future it will become, in all probability, the duty of the School Board to supply additional accommodation in Knighton, in which case the ordinary School Board rate will be imposed on the ratepayers of that place. The agreement between the Corporation and the inhabitants of Knighton is embodied in the 70th section of the present Bill. And I may add, that the Manchester and Stockton-on Tees Improvement Bills contain similar provisions. If this Instruction is carried it will involve the Corporation of Leicester in a breach of faith towards the inhabitants of Knighton. And on that ground I ask the House to reject it. The latter part of the Instruction asks that the Leicester School Board shall remain free from responsibility as to the school attendance in the new areas. If the Bill is assented to by the House it will have the effect of providing that the Attendance Committee of the Union, which includes Knighton, shall in future have no jurisdiction at all in Knighton as regards the School Board. There would thus be absolutely no educational control whatever in Knighton. I venture to think that my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council will not be prepared to tolerate such a state of things for a single moment, seeing that it would inflict a serious injury upon the cause of education in Knighton and upon the Voluntary Schools there, which up to now have been eminently successful. The expense of an attendance officer from Leicester to look after the attendance at Knighton would be very small indeed, and is not likely to be for an indefinite period, as I have no doubt that the parish before long will be included within the borough for education purposes. The proposal of the hon. Member, if adopted, will have the effect of abolishing all control over the attendance of the children at Knighton, and will practically take them out of the operation of the Education Act. I am not authorised to say so, but I do not think my constituents would feel inclined to hold out about the question of votes. That, however, is a matter which may be considered in Committee. and the Bill amended accordingly. I ask the House to leave the discretion in the matter to the Committee upstairs, instead of imposing this mandate upon them. I am afraid that if the Instruction is carried it will seriously jeopardise the passing of the Bill, and I therefore trust that the hon. Member will withdraw it.


If the hon. Member will give an assurance that the inhabitants of Knighton will forego the voting power I am ready to withdraw the Instruction.


I am not authorised to give that assurance on their behalf.

(3.35.) SIR W. FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)

The Corporation of Leicester are at present engaged in the difficult task of making arrangements with the outlying parishes in order to increase the area of the borough. I know how difficult such an operation is, especially in regard to a great and important borough like Leicester. At the first sight I was inclined to support the Corporation in the arrangement they propose to make, but I feel that it is introducing a new principle, which is altogether unconstitutional. Hitherto I have always been taught that taxation without representation is a kind of tyranny, but here we are going to have representation without any taxation whatever. I think it would be a mistake to introduce into the Bill the principle of giving to a certain number of the inhabitants the power of electing members to the School Board without requiring them to contribute to the School Board rates. I think the suggestion thrown out by the hon. Member for the Harborough Division (Mr. Tapling) is a wise one, and I trust that it will be adopted.

(3.40.) MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

I think it is a pity that this discussion should be continued, because it can scarcely be seriously maintained that the parish of Knighton, while not contributing to the school rate for Leicester, should yet possess the power of voting at the School Board elections. I believe that any Committee upstairs would view such a proposal with distrust and dissatisfaction, and I therefore hope that some agreement will be come to. I listened to the remarks of the hon. Member for the Harborough Division in opposition to the Instruction, and I think he exercised great discretion in intimating the practicability of bringing the parish of Knighton within the borough of Leicester, with the proviso that so-long as it was not called upon to contribute to the school rates it should not possess a voting power in the election of the members of the School Board.

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