§ SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)
I beg to ask the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education whether he has in almost even-case refused applications from School Boards and managers of voluntary schools to be permitted to charge or to increase school fees in the manner and under the conditions prescribed by Section 4 (1) of "The Education Act, 1891"; whether he is aware that compliance with such an application was in one instance at least the only means by which the educational benefit of a higher grade school could be secured to the locality; and whether he can state upon what principle his action has been based, or assign any reason for this departure from the practice of the Department in administering the Statute?
§ MR. ACLAND
As to the first paragraph of the right hon. Gentleman's question, the answer is in the affirmative, as to the few cases I have had to deal with. As to the second paragraph, I do not know what school the right hon. Gentleman alludes to. In the case of one higher grade school, I was certainly told that it was essential that it must be allowed to charge fees if it was to be set up. Under this section of the Act, what the Department has to decide is not whether it is for the educational benefit of the district that a particular school should exist, but whether it is for the educational benefit of the district that a particular school should be given exceptional powers to charge fees or to increase fees. This involves a variety of considerations, and I do not at all deny that the deicision in some cases is a matter of difficulty, or that some variety of judgment may arise. I have decided each case brought before me 1471 after careful consideration of all the circumstances.
§ SIR W. HART DYKE
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is prepared to admit that the Act he is now administering; is, in a sense, permissive in its character? Is he prepared in all cases to refuse applications for permission to charge fees and thus render the Act compulsory rather than permissive?
§ MR. ACLAND
I quite admit that it is permissive, but the variety of considerations involved is so great that I do not think I can give such a pledge. Each case must be considered on its merits.
§ MR. DARLING
What course would the right hon. Gentleman take if such a recommendation were made by a strong Liberal majority on a School Board?