§ On the Order for the Second Reading of this Bill,
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)
asked for the ruling of Mr. Speaker as to whether the Second Reading could be moved of a Bill which imposed extra taxation on the agricultural districts of the country, and whether the Bill ought not to have been introduced by Resolution in Committee of Ways and Means.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I have not had my attention drawn to the Bill, but I am told by the Clerk at the Table that it does not contain any reference to Imperial taxation, except in a clause in italics.
§ *MR. R. B. MARTIN (Worcestershire, Droitwich)
then rose to move the Second Reading of the Bill. He said he thought some such Bill as this was a small measure of what was due to the agricultural classes of the country. Some such Bill as this was really necessary. Young people of both sexes were not allowed to work while they were at school, and 8 the whole discipline which prevailed in the teaching of a trade was lost to them. Some extra stimulus by way of education was, he thought, required, to enable young people to take an interest in their work. Young people attended school and left school to go to work, but did not carry from school that interest in their occupation they naturally would have in their young years if the school teaching had some bearing upon the business of their after life. They looked upon school as the means of acquiring book-learning merely, having no reference to the life they would have to live upon the land. Therefore it was necessary to give some means to school managers to excite the interest of the children, so that they might be able to take advantage of that higher education to which there was a tendency all over the country. Great had been the progress of education during the last half-century; and the small amount of elementary education imparted 50 years ago had increased tenfold, and few children now entered upon life without at least being provided with the elements of education. With this knowledge came the tendency among children in agricultural districts to leave the country and settle in towns, and possibly some of that tendency might be due to the fact that their learning was mostly in the shape of what might be called town education, and diverted their minds from the objects and occupations around their homes where their lives ought to be spent. All those who represented agricultural counties must see the great importance of inducing the people not to leave the country and crowd into towns, and a Bill of this nature would do something in that direction; for its object was to provide for young people an interest in their surroundings they did not now possess. In all countries it had been felt, and he believed in most countries on the Continent attention had been paid to that feeling, that in agricultural districts special instruction should be given to young children of which they might take advantage in the work of after life. A word should be said as to the way in which the money was to be found, because, as he could readily understand, no Member representing an agricultural constituency would acquiesce in a proposal to add to the local burdens for the purpose of elementary 9 education. This Bill would not do anything of the kind; it proposed that some portion of the money which went towards technical education should be devoted to that subject, which was, in fact, an important branch of technical education. It was not the intention, in any way, to increase taxation, but rather to allow a certain portion to be taken away from the amount at present devoted to other parts of technical education to carry out the objects of the Bill. The objects, where specified, might, in themselves, seem insignificant, but they were not really so, and for the working of the Bill it was desirable that they should be mentioned specifically, that schools might take advantage of the proposal. He could not but think that it would be of great advantage to the community in agricultural counties to have some training given to children in gardening, and knowledge imparted that would be availed of in small cultivation. If he had not been in his place to-day he would probably have been in an agricultural district in his own county, where a show was held of the results of this small cultivation, and no doubt there would be usual criticisms on the want of knowledge of what could be done in those industries, such as cheese making, bee-keeping, cottage gardening, and so on. The promotion of those and similar industries was the object of the Bill. On its merits he really did not think the Bill could be opposed on either side of the House, nor did he think it could give rise to any contention on principle. It would, he believed, fill a gap in our educational system, and give instruction that would re-act to the general advantage in the future. It was technical education of a most valuable kind. The expense to the county, the proportion a council might be asked to devote to that purpose, would be small. As had been said in relation to another matter,It was clear that if the system were not efficient it would be economical, and if not economical would certainly be efficient.He anticipated that, if the Bill passed, the House would look back with satisfaction on the fact that it had given a zest to the study of subjects by our children, thereby doing something to stay the 10 drifting of our rural population into the already overcrowded towns.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said, that Bill had passed through varied fortunes, and glad he was to find it in the first place on the Orders now when a decision might be given on the Second Reading. His hon. Friend called it a small Bill, and so, no doubt, it was in itself; but, having regard to the effects that would follow its adoption, he held it to be a very important Bill, a Bill of national importance. The Bill should be considered in connection with the Allotments Act, with the Small Holdings Act, and all those facilities granted by Parliament for the acquisition of land by occupiers, which he trusted would in the future be still further extended. Further, the Bill should be read in connection with the agricultural depression. The remedy for that depression would not be found in any heroic measure, the remedies were manifold, and this Bill could be numbered among them. It was one step also towards the solution of that question so often asked in the farming interest, and never replied to:—Why do we send abroad for such an enormous amount of the smaller articles of food, such as poultry, eggs, butter, cheese, vegetables, and so on?Such imports reached a total of between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 sterling. Hon. Members had no doubt in the last few days seen expression given in the newspapers to the grave complain that the tyres for the engines on the Lincolnshire Railway were to be imported from abroad. Great alarm had been expressed on that account, but there should be greater alarm expressed by Chambers of Commerce and others interested in trade at the fact that our imports of one article—cheese—amounted to £4,000,000 annually. Surely this country was intended by Nature to produce cheese if anything rather than tyres for railway engines. The Bill went to the solution of the difficulty by assisting the class of working cultivators. It was a step towards the solution of the great difficulty of the unemployed. It contained on ill-digested, wild remedy, such as land, nationalisation or the turning of unskilled labourers on to the land wholesale. It sought in each parish to bring about 11 the process of cultivation, and this it would accomplish gradually, for he held that there was room in the kingdom for a million of families to be placed on the land and to cultivate it with profit to themselves and the good of the country. It was an important step towards the retention of our skilled agricultural labourers, a race fast dying out in this country. The principle of the Bill had been recommended and advocated by witnesses before all the Royal Commissions on Agriculture and Labour, and in important papers read by farming experts before the British Association, and so forth. His hon. Friend had referred to the depopulation of rural districts, and that was a calamity of national importance. He believed that for this depopulation the system of education in our rural, districts was largely responsible. A large portion of the sum spent on elementary education in our rural districts was wasted. The memory was ladened and crammed, while all the more important faculties of observation and original thought were dormant, and all the best forces of individuality in the children were not brought out, or attempted to be brought out. The great result of this education in the rural districts was to give the children a distaste for rural occupations, which were represented to them as drudgery, and to cram them with what he might call the appearance of knowledge, which they were taught to believe had some money value in the towns to which they might go. It created a distaste in their minds for studies, which they got away from as soon as they could after they left school, and to which they never returned as a rule. He had seen a calculation that not above two per cent. of the rural scholars in their elementary schools continued their studies after they left school. He desired to make it clear that when, in the course of the remarks he wished to address to the House, he used the term Agriculture, he used it in its most inclusive sense—botany, gardening, horticulture, and, in fact, all those subjects which were included in the Schedule of the Bill. Agricultural instruction, in this sense, had been dignified by the name of elementary science, but he preferred to call it the "why and wherefore" of the teaching. Such teaching 12 could be made most attractive to the children, because they all knew—atleast, those who had had anything to do with children knew—that, under it, instead of compulsion being the motive force for school, as it was now, they would have inclination and attraction developed in the children. And, what was more, they would never allow these studies to fall into neglect. They would develop them in after life, because they knew that men were born builders and cultivators, and it was easy to develop and extend those tastes and inclinations. The present system of education presumed that the agricultural labourers were ignorant men because they had no bookish knowledge, and to give them bookish knowledge was all that was aimed at by that system. Those who knew them were aware of the marvellous knowledge they possessed as to crops and everything in rural life, a knowledge which those who knew no different were pleased to say was arrived at by what they called the rule-of-thumb, but which he chose to call the habit and power of observation. Formerly a child began to work very early on the land, and the traditional skill was inherited from father to son, who enriched and bettered that skill from the father's experience and observation. Now the child was very likely put to school at the age he formerly went upon the land, and what they had to do was to replace the practice he formerly gained, and give the child in school that knowledge which he previously got at his work. The Vice President of the Council might say that all this education could be given already. They had to thank that right, hon. Genleman for many improvements, especially in the Code of 1895. They had an improvement in the freedom of classification, and he had allowed an alternative course of elementary science to be taken. To use the words of the Code "the instruction contemplated" was very similar to what was in this Bill; and he also allowed kitchen gardening, but confined it to the fourth standard, and allowed 2s. and 4s. for it. But all this, so far as any practical outcome was concerned, was mere paper. It would come to nothing. He had a Return in his hand showing how the grants were spent; and, taking the rural districts, he found that in the specific subject of botany all the children 13 examined in England and Wales numbered just over 2,000, while those examined in the principles of agriculture numbered about 1,200. The reason for this was not far to seek. They were confined to standards 5, 6, and 7, and as the children left school generally at the third or fourth standard, certainly at the fourth, the instruction in the higher standards could be of little use to them, and, as they saw, it was not. As to the class subjects this report was not so satisfactory, but so far as it went it was very useful, but it was evident from it that this instruction was of very little use as far as agriculture was concerned. But apart from this the instruction was also theoretic, and he held that theoretic knowledge in agriculture was of little use. They might as well try to teach agriculture by theory as to teach a boy how to skate by informing him as to the laws of motion. It must be learned by doing, and if there were one class of humanity that liked "doing" more than another it was children from the time they made mud-pies to the time when they could be taught how to grow crops. If he might suggest a new code of teaching for the rural districts he would have five compulsory subjects—reading, writing, arithmetic, agriculture, and drawing. Then they would get an education which would give the children something they would take away with them, when they left school, and develop in after life; and which they would not need to be urged forward to continue. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President and others had said that the children were too young in the lower standards. Here he spoke from very close practical experience, and he said unhesitatingly that it was scarcely possible to find a child too young to be interested and instructed in this teaching. They were told that many of the children were "thick" and backward. Their present system presumed that if they could not stand being crammed they were backward children, but many of these so-called backward children proved to be the choicest children in their midst; and their intelligences lighted up and became keenly interested the moment they gave them the opportunity of acquiring that knowledge and information, which was real education. Many schools had for years given this 14 kind of teaching. He could give examples of a large number of schools, dating back some 30 years, where the managers and teachers had given this teaching—after school hours, of course—and had received no pay and no grant for it, and it had turned out that one of the chief values of the teaching was that it was the greatest aid to discipline. They all knew what attention was given to this question abroad. They knew it was the very life of their country. But they need not go abroad. There was an example much nearer home in that much distressed country, Ireland; and he was bound to say that, if they wanted anything specially for the benefit of agriculturists, they had only to take some of the Acts of Parliament that existed in that country and endeavour to have them passed into law here, In the Irish agricultural schools agriculture was a compulsory subject. In 1893 there were 80,000 children in the national schools examined in agriculture. They had 45 farms connected with their schools ranging from 3 to 20 acres. On these farms pigs and poultry and bees were kept and flowers were grown, so that practical teaching was fully secured to the scholars. There were also 30 school gardens attached to the ordinary national schools, where the scholars were actually examined in the practical management of gardens, and teachers and scholars were awarded large grants. In 1893 the Irish Education Commissioners gave a special grant in connection with bee-keeping. Hon. Members were aware that they sent enormous sums abroad for an article called honey, which no respectable bee would look at. Why could they not produce honey at home? They never would do so unless they adopted some such measure as that he was now advocating. The Irish Education Commissioners did all they could to encourage these schools, because their object was to develop education in practical agriculture and to extend an interest in the subject among the pupils and teachers in rural schools, and they had reported that, so far as the experiments had extended, the results had been most satisfactory. He was glad to note that the Congested Districts Board were also doing something in the same direction. Mr. O'Bryen, the Inspector of the Board, observing the lack of home industries, 15 and believing that bees could be kept profitably, secured a sum of about £50 from the Board and applied it to the schools. He believed that the children would take an interest in such teaching, and they might be the means of inducing their parents to follow their example; and, in a subsequent report, Mr. O'Bryen stated that he had revisited the scenes of the experiments and found that they had succeeded in the most satisfactory manner. If the children from the age of 4 to 13, which was the most impressionable age, were taught all about bee-keeping they would retain their knowledge, but there was no hope for this teaching unless they began with the children as young as possible. Under the Local Taxation Act of 1890 something like three-quarters of a million of money was put into the hands of the local authorities for technical education. The recent Report showed that nearly the whole of that sum was applied by the County Councils to that purpose. Dorsetshire had about £6,000, Cheshire £17,000. Surrey £18,000, and Herefordshire £5,000 per annum. If foreign local authorities had such sums to deal with they would show results that would astonish us. The Technical Education Act did not allow County Councils to give a penny of that money for technical education in rural elementary schools, or in any elementary schools. If he were told that there were scholarships and exhibitions he would reply that there were comparatively few of these; scholarships meant a good deal of money spent on one person, and as far as the rural labourers' children were concerned they were of little or no use to them. He had a report from the Technical Education Committee of the Surrey County Council which referred to a statement, which it adopted, that out of 90 junior scholarships given in Surrey, a county in which there were 30,000 agricultural labourers, only three fell to the children of that section of the population. This showed that the labourers were not attracted by any sort of scholarship, and, he contended, they were not within their reach. The want which existed must be met by actual gardens in which useful gardening could be taught to the young. The County Councils were bodies of such increasing importance, which did their work so 16 well, that he was reluctant to criticise them; but how was this money spent by the County Councils? They supported crowded colleges where the fees came to perhaps £70 or £80 a year, and, as had been pointed out to him by a schoolmaster, there was thus an enormous waste, for the money spent on one of these colleges would equip a hundred common schools with the appliances for teaching practical gardening and horticulture. Higher education in agriculture was not the great want; if anything we were on a par with, or above, our neighbours in that respect; he was not sure that it was right for County Councils by the aid of public money to compete with private agricultural schools. Scholarships were given to grammar schools and private institutions, but he was bound to say that good work was done in other directions, such as travelling lectures, and continuation schools, though as to the latter there were continual complaints of want of attendance. But they had not begun at the beginning, the elementary schools should be the helpers of the continuation schools. He had had a letter from a man of great experience in teaching in these continuation schools, and he said the great drawback was the absolute ignorance there was of the most elementary principles of agriculture. The children, by the time they had reached the age of 16 to 20, had got other interests, and had, perhaps, gone into the towns. They did not go to continuation classes. This Bill would not only mean handing over the money to the ratepayers, but that the ratepayers would get tenfold for what they were paying for. He had seen a working gardener, who was educated, giving a lesson to a lot of children of about 13 years of age, and they displayed an eager desire for the instruction. The gardener had said that if you taught a small child about flowers, it would lead on to botany. A gentleman in West Dorsetshire had £35 sent down by the County Council for use in his village. He asked him what he was going to do with it; he replied that he did not know, but that he supposed it would be spent somehow. He explained what would be possible under this Bill, and the gentleman recognised that this would be an extremely useful way of spending the money. In sparsely 17 populated districts they could only get classes at the elementary schools. The Surrey County Council were sailing very near the wind, and had 30 or 40 schools to which they had attached school gardens, or plots of land, for which they paid the rent, and this departure had met with the greatest success. He was aware that the fourth clause, dealing with contributions by County Councils, was permissive; he himself would have made it compulsory, but it was no good going ahead of public opinion. It allowed them to give a fair share, and he should have no objection to put a limit of, say, 20 or 30 per cent. to be spent in that way. He maintained that agricultural teaching was unique, and underlay every other training, and would be the basis of prosperity; it should, therefore, be singled out for special treatment. Of course there would be the old bogus argument that by this scheme they would be helping voluntary schools, but he was not deterred by that. In Virginia, in the United States, 150 years ago the educational experts offered education to the Indians; the Chief declined, saying:—We have had some experience of your education and science, but the young men come back unable to trap a deer, or build a wigwam, or do other work suitable to the lives which they are obliged to lead.The agricultural labourer might quite as well make a remonstrance to the Department couched in similar terms. Although, under the Technical Education Act they must not give any money for agricultural teaching in elementary schools, yet they might spend any amount on the rural teacher of agricultural subjects. That, he was glad to say, was being done by many County Councils, and it afforded the true solution of the difficulty, instead of the teachers being brought up to the various colleges. He did not doubt that much opposition to that part of the scheme would come from the Professors and the college officials, who, being highly educated in theory, would naturally desire that the teachers should come to the colleges where there were good classrooms and where they would be more comfortable. He hoped, however, that the Government and the County Councils would override objections of that kind, because otherwise we should soon be in 18 danger of having one huge vested interest established throughout the country in connection with technical education. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the late Government would not accept this Bill, but it was important to observe that in the previous Bill, that was objected to by the late Government, there was a clause for providing scholarships, to enable children to stay longer at elementary schools for the purpose of obtaining agricultural teaching. He certainly should have liked to have seen such a clause in the present Bill, but it was to that clause that the objection of the late Government was confined, and as far as his memory went, the general principle of the measure was not in any way objected to by the late Government. The right hon. Gentleman had further objected that the Bill proposed to introduce a new principle by enabling a portion of the grant-in-aid of technical education, to be expended upon buildings, and that the 3rd Clause permitted the Department to give money for that purpose. If the proposal in the Bill were to authorise an expenditure upon school buildings, he should be disposed to concur in the objection that it was contrary to precedent to do so, but all that was intended by the proposal in the clause was that money should be provided for the erection of the necessary workshops and, perhaps, for pig-stys and such things. Then there was a provision for the establishment of museums, with regard to which he need not trouble the House at any great length, because the advantages of such institutions were shown in France and in other foreign countries. It was in museums that they could train and teach the eye of the child to know at once the kinds of beasts, birds and insects that were beneficial or injurious to the farmer, and a child so taught from its earliest childhood never forgot such things. In conclusion, he apologised very much to the House for having occupied their attention for so long a time. He, however, wanted the Government to accept this Bill, and to regard it as the minimum that the House would be disposed to accept. The Government might, of course, give the supporters of the Bill as much more as they chose to offer. In Ireland it was not a case of granting one or two shillings for this purpose, because in the 19 Irish National Schools five, and even six, shillings was granted for this purpose, while the teachers were paid as much as 60s. for proficiency. There was no doubt that if they wanted these things taught properly they must make it worth the while, in a financial point of view, to the teachers and the managers of schools to teach them. In his opinion the provisions in this Bill would merely discharge a debt which had been owing to the rural labouring population for the last 100 years, because during that period that population had been squeezed off the land, not intentionally, but by the force of circumstances, and they had now been reduced to the position of waifs. This was a debt which society owed to the rural population of the country, and this Bill could only be regarded in the light of an instalment of that debt. The proposals in the measure would be not only for the advantage of the rural population, but they would be of great benefit to the community at large. They might be sure that although this nation might be great and powerful at present, owing to its commerce and its enormous trade, no country could long survive the destruction of its rural population. In neglecting, as we have done for so long, the interests of that population, we were upon the eve of the greatest disaster that could befall a nation. With all their faults, our rural labourers possessed high qualities, and they were of a far superior race to any that could be found abroad. In these circumstances, this Bill was of national importance, and he trusted that nothing would be done to minimise or to compromise its provisions. He begged to second the motion for the Second Reading of the Bill.
*COLONEL WILLIAMS (Dorset, W.)
said, that he earnestly hoped that the House would give a Second Reading to this Bill, because he heartily approved of its general principle, although he could not say that it did not require amending in some of its details. The provisions of the measure, if properly carried into effect, would do much to reconcile the children of agricultural labourers to their lot and to keep them in the position in which they were born and for which they were best fitted. In his experience many boys got ideas in the elementary schools which unfitted them for an 20 agricultural life, and led them to believe that it was only those who could do nothing else that should engage in agricultural pursuits. He, however, confessed to a great jealousy of the proposal in the Bill to apply any portion of the grant for technical education towards elementary schools. He believed that many County Councils had already provided a good deal of apparatus in the way of magic-lanterns and such kind of things for use in evening continuation schools which might be made available in this matter, and he did not see why such things as natural history collections should not be lent for use in the day schools for the purpose of instruction under this Bill. In his opinion instruction should be provided for the teachers. It was true that in some instances the County Councils had provided such instruction, but it must be remembered that many of the smaller elementary schools were under mistresses, and not under masters. He knew many men in his district who were perfectly competent and were willing, to give instruction in school hours; his own gardener, who was a fully qualified and energetic man, sometimes taught in the evening schools, and had given practical instruction in budding and pruning in the various cottage gardens of the neighbourhood. All that such men required were certificates that they were competent to give instruction on agricultural subjects. The difficulty, therefore, would be overcome if the Department would make it somewhat easy for such certificates to be obtained. He would not trouble the House by repeating what had been said, in a much better manner than he could say it, by hon. Members who had preceded him; but he earnestly hoped that the difficulties which had been suggested in the way of carrying out the provisions of this measure would be minimised and overcome, and that the House would not refuse this boon to the agricultural labourer, which would prevent him from being driven off the land into the towns, where he would be compelled to engage in pursuits for which he was not fitted. By passing this Bill the House would give him a chance of qualifying himself for performing successfully the work to which he was born, and would consequently confer the greatest possible benefit upon him.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Wilts, Devizes)
said, that the Mover of the Second Reading of this Bill had called it a most valuable measure for the promotion of technical education, while the Seconder of the Motion had described it as being a measure of national importance, and the latter informed the House that it was the minimum that he could accept.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
I said that it was the minimum which I hoped that the House would accept, not that I would accept.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
apologised to the right hon. Gentleman for having misinterpreted his observations, In his opinion, when the Bill was carefully examined it would be found to be of very small value, and it did not appear to offer anything beyond that which was already obtainable under the existing Education Code. The right hon. Gentleman ridiculed the idea of a 2s., or even a 4s., grant being of the least assistance to the agricultural labourer. But in the parish in which he lived an allotment had been hired by the school managers under the Code, and a system of instruction in cottage gardening, in which great interest was taken, had been adopted; and they hoped that the grant obtained from the Department would materially benefit the funds of the school. He would not go into the question of the ultimate financial benefit to be derived by the country from the slight additional instruction suggested by the Bill, but he could not help thinking that the statement that it would lead to the importation of £4,000,000 worth less cheese than at present, was rather a figure of speech, which might be an attraction outside, than a valid argument in support of the Bill. Nearly every one of the subjects scheduled in the Bill, might, in one way or another, be taught under the existing Code by making a fair, proper, and sufficient use of the cottage garden grant. Those things which could not be done under the Code, but which were proposed by this Bill, were entirely objectionable. He referred to the third and fourth clauses of the measure. If they allowed the Education Department to make grants for the purposes of buildings, they would adopt a principle which had not obtained since 1870. 22 They could not say where these grants were to stop, whether this was to be limited to technical education purposes, or whether they were to extend to the main buildings of public elementary schools. He therefore could not support the principle embodied in the third clause. He was not sure that the fourth clause was not equally objectionable. It proposed to devote to elementary schools money which, with the full approval of the House, had been devoted to the purposes of technical education. He understood that a distinct pledge was given when the Local Taxation Act of 1890 was passed, that the money drawn from the Customs and Excise would not under any circumstances be devoted to the elementary schools. It was very unwise, to say the least of it, if on a Wednesday afternoon in a thin House, they should in a private Member's Bill, go back on a decision to which they had deliberately come. He, therefore, thought it would be impossible for the Government to accept the Bill on the Third Reading if these two clauses were retained. The right hon. Gentleman had talked a good deal about the ignorance of the agricultural labourer, and said he desired to see the transmission from father to son of certain rule-of-thumb traditions.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
I said people were altogether mistaken in taking the agricultural labourer to be ignorant; that their powers were marvellous under the knowledge which they obtained by rule-of-thumb—which was another name for powers of observation which came down traditionally from father to son.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said, it was not his intention to misquote the right hon. Gentleman. But he did not draw a distinction between knowledge which was acquired by scientific teaching and knowledge which was acquired by rule-of-thumb. And while on the one hand he sought to show how valuable rule-of-thumb knowledge was, he, on the other hand, gave a specific instance to prove that it was silly and absurd.
§ SIR HENRY ROSCOE (Manchester, S.)
said, that while agreeing as to the importance of the subject of agricultural education, there were several points in the Bill which deserved the most searching consideration. With regard to Clause 4 23 he thought it most undesirable that the existing arrangement should be disturbed, and he hoped the object they had in view might be accomplished without interfering with the money now applied to the purposes of technical education. He did not think sufficient credit had been given for what the County Councils were now doing in aid of technical education. There were three cases in which County Councils had provided instruction in elementary agriculture and gardening. In the county of Surrey there were no less than 265 different garden plots in use for this purpose, and there were evening continuation classes in no less than 18 centres. In Northumberland local committees were invited to secure small plots of land for the provision of practical instruction in agriculture to ex-standard scholars and young men, preference being given to those attending night schools. Local gardeners had been selected to give the practical instruction and the necessary plots obtained by the local committee. As in Northumberland so in Surrey. In Nottinghamshire the County Council had established district evening schools for the purpose of giving scientific and practical instruction in various subjects. In agriculture the work for the first year was of an elementary character, but for the second year it was more advanced. Lectures, which were illustrated; experiments and practical demonstration, also formed part of the course. In Nottinghamshire, the progress seemed to be more satisfactory than in some of the other counties. Again, take the great county of the West Riding, and they found the County Council had adopted a scheme which included assistance towards the establishment of small garden plots to be attached to a limited number of evening continuation schools, and the expenditure for this purpose amounted to £200. In Berkshire a capitation grant was given to students who attended classes connected with the continuation schools, so that progress was being made. A very distinct objection would be felt with regard to Clause 4; that was to say, the whole of these County Councils would very strongly protest against the use of their money for elementary education. He had only to add that instruction in elementary agriculture and 24 kindred subjects was given in a large number of other counties, although it was not definitely stated whether young people availed themselves of it. But in nine counties, namely, Bedford, North Bucks, Gloucester, Hants, Hereford, Kent, Norfolk, Oxford and Somerset, instruction was provided and allotments and experimental plots or cottage gardens were given over for agricultural instruction, whilst in most cases practical demonstration was given in addition to the ordinary lectures. In other centres action had also been taken, and therefore the House should be made aware of the fact that the counties were really moving in the matter of elementary agricultural education. He should like to see the subject extended—as he was sure they all should—to schools, but he must say he felt a strong objection to the technical grant money, which was urgently needed for its own uses, being diverted in any way. He would also point out that at the present moment a second Royal Commission on secondary education, of which he had the honour to be a member, was considering this very question. While he, in common with all hon. Members, desired to see elementary agricultural education advanced, he did think there was a very great objection to be urged against the source from which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to draw his money—an objection which would be felt throughout the country—but if it could in some way or other be removed, then the Bill would be warmly welcomed from all sides.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
said, the hon. Member for Wilts had stated his belief that what the Bill asked for was the minimum. In his part of the world the people would rather not have so much technical education as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley desired them to have. He was the last man to oppose or even to criticise any Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman, because he was sure everyone in the House appreciated the work the right hon. Gentleman had done for the agricultural labourer and the agricultural labourer's children. It was all very good to give agricultural instruction, but they must cut their coat according to their cloth, and in the agricultural districts there was not money enough to carry out all the schemes suggested by the 25 right hon. Gentleman. The other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer declaimed very strongly about hon. Gentlemen in the House, some of whom he said were faddists and some cranks. He would be sorry to say any hon. Members, least of all the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley, deserved that designation, but when the Chancellor of the Exchequer protested against scientific theorists bringing forward schemes which required large sums of money to be spent from the National Exchequer, and which put extra taxation on the backs of those people who were already sufficiently taxed, he evidently must have had some such proposal as this in mind. He could not help thinking that if the right hon. Gentleman had placed the whole of the expenses of his agricultural instruction on the back of what was called in Essex, "Goschen's grant," he would have earned the gratitude of the country, not only as an educator of youth, but also as a financial reformer. He hoped that before the Bill was passed through Committee, the right hon. Gentleman would consider the proposal that the philanthropic brewers who had contributed so much to technical education already should pay for the agricultural education he proposed.
§ MR. CYRIL DODD (Essex, Maldon)
did not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman was in favour of or against the Bill. [Major RASCH: "Against."] And the hon. and gallant Gentleman objected to it on the ground of expense. He thought that when the Bill was carefully examined it would be found that it was not proposed to cast any additional expense upon the rates. [Major RASCH: "I did not say the rates."] He was somewhat puzzled by the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Wilts because he appeared to speak in some sense as the mouthpiece of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Gentleman told them the Bill was so trifling that it was not worth passing, and then, in the course ef a few moments, he told them the Bill involved such important principles, and contained clauses so objectionable, that it could not possibly be passed. The general principle of the Bill appeared to be, that children of the labouring classes were to be taught the business in which they were to engage. When they 26 recollected that in all European countries a great deal was done in teaching children of the labouring classes their business, it ought to induce them to do everything they could in the same direction. In the first place, the Bill was an effective Bill, although it did not go any great length or effect any great revolutionary purpose. In the second place, it was intended that School Board Managers should have power to assist in carrying out the Act. There were schools in England where there were gardens, but that was not the general condition of schools in the country districts; and this Bill enabled the managers to make the teaching of horticultural subjects practically part of their course. If the money could be found for this, it was an object well deserving the consideration of the House. An attack had been made upon the next clause, which indicated that a special grant should be given by the Education or by the Science and Art Department for the purpose of providing such allotments, school gardens, fittings, buildings, tools, etc. This grant was to be provided from the general taxation of the country, and the clause was open to some objection. The words, "buildings, fittings, tools, and appurtenances," was wide, and might mean great expense; it would depend upon the managers, and they would be under the control and supervision of the Education Department. The 4th clause was objectionable to him, but it could be dealt with when the Bill was in Committee. It was objectionable because, to a certain extent, it provided for the additional establishment of the voluntary schools; and he did not think that Parliament ought further to establish the voluntary schools unless at the same time increased public control were secured. A further objection against the Bill was, that the subjects to be taught which were set out in the Schedule were rather restricted. The children of the labourers might be taught something more than the use of manures and the action of birds and insects on crops. As the Schedule was optional, there were surely many other agricultural subjects which might be included. There would be no harm, for instance, in including poultry-keeping.
§ MR. CYRIL DODD
said, that he was glad to hear that. The constant complaint of the farmer nowadays was, that the labourers did not know how to thatch and to make hurdles, as they used to do. He did not know whether the complaint were true, because one generation always believed the previous generation to have been giants. He should certainly vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, because it involved a principle which was important, if the country could afford to carry it out; and the objections on details could be attended to in Committee. The Bill was hardly dealt with in a fair way when it was said that it was too trifling to be worth passing; nor was it fair to say that the Bill was too big to be accepted. If was a very useful measure, and not in any sense a Party measure; and one that the labourers had a right to expect. There was much talk as to how much had been done to enable the farmers' sons to get a higher technical education. When doles were suppressed technical schools for the farmers' sons were established. While that was being done Parliament ought not to deny some agricultural education to the labourers' children. In every civilised country a great deal was being done in the way of teaching the labouring classes how to use better their agricultural knowledge. Belgium was spending large sums of money for this purpose. Not only were lecturers sent out to various parts of the country for the instruction of the peasant, but lectures were actually given to the soldiers during the period of their military service, so that the soldiers had some knowledge of agriculture when they returned to their homes. In Germany there was a complete system of agricultural education. There were the Agricultural College, the Agricultural School, and the lower Schools of Husbandry, where there was practical work in the fields for children of the age of 14 and upwards. For smaller children there were agriculcultural winter schools; and in Norway, where the teaching was largely done in the winter, there were the same schools for the peasant classes. He did not pretend that this would be a cure for agricultural depression and distress. No one thing that was possible would be a cure. But anything which would tend to be of use to the agricultural classes 28 the House ought eagerly to approve of. The last two Reports which had come from the Royal Commission on Agriculture in regard to two districts in England confirmed what one had read in regard to other districts. They showed that the question was of urgent importance. One of the Reports was that of Mr. Henry Rew, of the district of Sussex, on poultry-rearing and the fattening of poultry. Mr. Rew pointed out the enormous quantity of poultry which was imported from abroad, and the fact that the foreign poultry was not only cheaper, but came into this country under circumstances which gave to it a great advantage. It came in large quantities, and was, therefore, carried cheaply. These small industries had been brought into play, and the means must be found to enable the produce to reach the markets which nature had provided. Mr. Rew stated that a suggestion had been made to him by Mr. Kennard that the Government should add a Poultry Department to the Board of Agriculture, and should put over it a man who had been through the mill. He supposed that meant a man who understood the business of the Department; and such an appointment would be unusual. It was the custom of the Government to appoint men who were not hampered by any knowledge of the Departments over which they were called to preside. Mr. Kenward thought that, even in the Heathfield district of Sussex poultry-rearing was not properly understood by a great many farmers; and, as it was almost the only branch of farming in which we could successfully compete with the foreigner, Mr. Kenward thought that it would be a good plan to send out experts to give instruction on the subject. Mr. Rew then gave figures to show that the poultry industry in Sussex was a very large one, and the amount of State aid which was given in regard to the teaching of poultry-farming and to the industry itself. He could quote report after report of these Commissioners, showing that, in their opinion, a great deal could be done for agriculture if the small industries were encouraged. One reason that the small industries flourished so little in this country as compared with foreign countries was—that our people had not the knowledge 29 to carry them out. He would admit that that was not the only reason; others were the great cost of railway carriage and the difficulty of disposing of the produce when it reached the market. But if our people understood these industries, they would gradually take them up, and we should see some revival of prosperity in this country. The condition of affairs was indeed serious, and he thanked the right hon. Member for the Bordesley Division for having brought forward a Bill, which, if a small contribution, was still a contribution towards that which all had in view—the revival of agriculture in this country.
*MR. ABEL SMITH (Herts, E.)
said, the Education Grant made by the State amounted to something like £9,000,000, and he could not see why they should add to it. Clause 4, as he understood it, would interfere with the technical education which was carried on by the County Councils now, inasmuch as the grant would be taken from those Councils. Agricultural depression had been referred to by hon. Gentlemen. He did not think agricultural depression would be met by extravagence, and he certainly considered that this Bill would lead to an extra outlay on education, for which enough was already provided. In education, as in other things, economy ought to be the order of the day.
§ *THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Mr. A. H. D. ACLAND, York, W.R., Rotherham)
thought they might treat the Bill as one of a non-Party character, and admit that, although they might differ as to details, the general object in view was one with which they all heartily sympathised. He was quite sure that anything that could possibly be done to develop the skill and intelligence of the labourer, whether with reference to his position as a wage-earner under an employer or as a small gardener on his own behalf—as he was so habitually nowadays—everything which would, even in the earliest years, develop that skill so as to make him a more useful man when he began to earn his living in his village was that which would be welcomed by them all. He quite agreed with what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman who had taken so long an interest in this subject—namely, that many labourers, 30 through their capacity of observation, with very little of what might be called school education, were very remarkably skilled workers at their own craft. Anyone who knew the country well, or who had anything to do with the management of property, must sometimes feel resentment at the assumption that the agricultural labourer was one of the lowest class of artisans or labourers in the country. On the contrary, a good labourer, a good carter, a good shepherd, if he knew his work well, was one of the most skilled labourers they could find, and they must all regret that, whatever the cause, his wage was only too frequently much too low as compared with that of his brother labourer in the town. All who were going to spend their lives upon the land should, as far as reasonable and practicable, be assisted to get during school-life whatever instruction was going to be of service to them when they came to till the land. He said so far as practicable, because, after all, it was only a kind of preparation for a knowledge of agriculture, so called, which they could possibly make before the age of 11 or 12. In justice both to the right hon. Gentleman who preceded him in his office, and to the Department over which he presided, he would like to give some illustrations of what was being done now under the present arrangements. He had seen a leaflet relating to this Bill. Many people who read that leaflet would really think there was little or nothing already possible in respect to this kind of teaching. There were in the Code provisions for this teaching in what were called class subjects. Those subjects included botany, horticulture, agriculture, garden plants, different kinds of foods, various animals and how they might be treated, manures, and various other matters. They could be taught as class subjects, under the head of elementary science, to children from seven to eight years old and upwards. Then there were specific subjects—agriculture, botany, and horticulture which could be taken from the fifth standard and upwards. He admitted that specific subjects in ordinary country schools were not much in use. It was very little use granting money or putting new things into Codes unless they could provide teaching in the school of such a character that it would really make any 31 instruction of this sort valuable. In infant schools there was some excellent teaching of what he might call the object-lesson kind, but he felt it was of great importance to carry that object-lesson teaching into the older scholars' schools. He had introduced this object-lesson teaching, which, in his opinion, would be the foundation of all other practical elementary scientific teaching. Then they came to what he thought everybody desired most earnestly—elementary science-teaching in class subjects. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded him as Vice President would admit that they could not suddenly make agriculture compulsory in all their rural schools. The teachers must be considered. They had been accustomed under old Codes to teach certain subjects, and as they grew older they found it difficult to take up new subjects. What must be done was to get the younger teachers to look upon this elementary science and especially the agricultural side of it, as one of the best things they could teach for bringing out the intelligence of the children. He had done his best to encourage the development of evening schools, which had enormously increased. The County Councils had done a great deal towards developing and helping on evening continuation schools, and especially in connection with the subject of agriculture. He had also this year established a cottage-garden grant, and he believed it would prove of real service. He might read to the House the account which a schoolmaster gave him, and there were some schoolmasters who were thoroughly capable of doing this kind of thing, taking a pride in it, and doing it most usefully under present conditions. A schoolmaster in Suffolk, with about 100 pupils, described what was done by him. He said:—Practical work, as far as applies to cottage-gardening done in schoolmaster's garden adjoining playground, at stated times. Object-lessons for general information given occasionally in school from above, illustrated by objects from the boys' gardens. Two years ago we gave the boys of the upper standards a small garden, and the advantages apparent are as follows:—Retains the elder scholars at school. Gives the boys an attachment for school. Employs them during otherwise idle time. Boys often return during evening and before morning school to garden. Boys able to assist their parents at home and often introduce better systems. Makes 32 boys more observing, and gives them an education in the work of Nature. They watch with interest the development of seeds and plants of their own sowing and planting. Provides a bountiful and ready source of objects for lessons in agriculture, horticulture, botany, chemistry—for instance, three weeks since we took the germination and growth of the bean, and sketched diagrams on blackboard from actual beans brought by the boys in various stages of development. It trains them to be industrious, and gives many an opportunity outside school to observe boys' inclinations. Instructs them in a useful and profitable art, with a view to industry and thrift.All this was done under the ordinary grant for a class or specific subject, and probably one of the school managers had arranged that a garden should be attached to the school. Then there was an evening school at the same place, with reference to which the writer said:—This has been rewarded by a continued good attendance. The class is composed of youths, who have left school, and elderly men, who have been attracted by its practical utility. The men, here, speaking generally, knew nothing of the particulars of pruning, grafting, and budding, and now are expert.He had read this in order to show that if they could get day and evening schools of this practical kind in many of our villages it would be a very good thing. Having shown what could be done and was being done, he should like to explain what, in his opinion, were the foundations of progress. First of all, there must be introduced into schools less bookish, and more practical, methods. That could not be done in a day or a year, but they must try gradually to get all the teachers, and especially the younger teachers in country schools, to realise that they would be well advised to interest themselves in these object-lessons on the subject of agriculture. But at present, at any rate, they could not attempt to exert compulsion. The next thing to be done was to provide teachers with every possible assistance, in order that they might be taught how to do the work. County Councils were helping in this matter to a large extent. The facilities which they were offering to teachers were very great. Nineteen County Councils were providing special agricultural instruction for teachers; 16 counties were providing instruction for elementary teachers, in which instruction he assumed that agricultural subjects were generally, if not always, included; and there were various 33 counties which were starting county farms, dairy-farm schools, and schools of agriculture. One county was prepared to spend £5,000 on an experimental farm. It was most desirable that all classes of teachers, who were learning agriculture under the County Councils, should have access to farm schools, so that they might learn the work on its practical side as well as on its theoretical side. If this work of helping willing teachers were carried on in the future as rapidly as at present, they might hope within a reasonable time to have a large number of teachers who would be willing and able to give instruction in these subjects. The teacher who gave instruction in gardening must be a practical gardener himself. The hon. Member for Dorset, in his able maiden, speech, had asked whether, where it was desirable, a practical gardener might be allowed to give instruction in cottage gardening in connection with an elementary school, and whether he could be given a certificate by the Department that he was a capable person, just as a large number of people received certificates that they were competent to teach cookery. He was sure that something of this kind could be arranged. If they could get more masters competent to teach gardening, and if, where no such masters were available, or where the head teacher was a mistress, they could certificate gardeners who were capable of doing the work, they would, between the two methods, do a great deal of good service by degrees. It was not generally known that sums for the maintenance of the land required for gardens could be charged in the accounts of any school. If that were made clear by this Bill it would be well. With regard to the fourth clause of this Bill, he was bound to say that there was clearly the strongest objection to breaking the arrangement made in 1889 as to the way in which they should use the money, which it was then possible to raise by rate under the Technical Education Act, and which was afterwards so very much augmented by the allocation of the drink money. The agreement come to was that this money should not be used for children in the standards. That kind of compact was not to be lightly broken. The understanding was—that that fund partook of the nature of a technical or 34 secondary education fund. He hoped it would be possible, when the Royal Commission on Secondary Education should have concluded its work, to apply some of this money more directly and practically to the provision of good education for the sons of farmers and small tradesmen, many of whom had to pay rates to school boards or voluntary rates to voluntary schools, and yet had less opportunities of getting a really fitting, satisfactory, and cheap education for their children than perhaps any other class in the country. It was perfectly well known that the farmer or small tradesman who wanted for his son something better than an elementary school had too often to put up with a school which was far from satisfactory and where the fees were high. In Wales, practically the whole of the drink money was spent in setting up cheap secondary schools for this particular class, and he hoped that in some parts of the country where there were hardly any available schools it might be made possible to spend part of this money on the establishment of similar schools. He ought not to omit to say that the teaching of teachers by some of our University colleges was being largely assisted by the Agricultural Department. The assistance which the Department had given to the colleges had been very valuable. The question of the special grant, as raised in Clause 3, involved a departure from precedent. The State ought not to infringe the principle that was laid down in the Act of 1870 with the consent of all parties. That principle was that the State should provide grants on the condition that the local management provided school apparatus and that the school was efficient. In his opinion it would be better, if necessary, to increase the 4s. a head grant for cottage gardening than to break through the principle that ran through our educational system—namely, that the Department should provide the grants, and that managers of all elementary schools, whether Board or voluntary, should supply buildings and apparatus. If that principle were once thrown over it would have to be broken down in the towns as well as in the country. He thought that, having regard to the principle involved, the method proposed in the Bill was not the right one. He might say, further, that although he 35 thought the question of a larger grant for gardening might be considered, yet if the State was to begin granting new sums of money now, it should try, if possible, to find a way for providing pensions for teachers. Pensions for teachers constituted one of the very first claims on the Treasury at this time. They ought to try to make some reasonable provision for the older teachers. It was not for the advantage of any school that the scholars should be taught by an aged teacher, who ought to be, if possible—partly by his own contribution, and partly by the assistance of the State—enabled to enjoy a well-earned rest. There was something in Clause 2 of the Bill-which he thought might be fairly considered. As to Clause 3, the question might be considered whether a further special grant for cottage gardening might not be made. On the County Council question he felt very strongly, and he thought that they ought not to break down the contract entered into in 1889. If the Bill could go to the Grand Committee, and some agreement could be come to in the matter, good might be done for the education of children in country schools by giving them opportunities of receiving the more simple kinds of science teaching and practice in cottage gardening, so that when they grew up they might be more efficient workers, both for their employers and for themselves.
§ *SIR W. HART DYKE
said, that, at all events, the House was occupied in discussing matters of grave interest to the country, the treatment of which involved the future prosperity of the agricultural interest. Therefore, he craved the indulgence of hon. Members while he discussed the question from his own point of view. There were two things that struck him ab initio. In the first place this country was spending a huge sum on education. It had reached the sum of nearly £9,000,000, and although only £6,750,000 of that was applied to public elementary 36 schools, still £9,000,000 was spent directly and indirectly on education. In the next place the House was asked to consider a measure for supplying further means of education, and that measure meant money. They ought, then, to consider carefully whether the money would be well spent and whether in spending it they were not in danger of over-lapping certain useful institutions which were now carrying out work of the same description. As to the usefulness of the measure, they all knew that while this country had been careless and negligent, foreign nations had been spending millions on behalf of this system of practical and technical education. All who had travelled on the Continent were aware of the splendid technical schools in Berlin and elsewhere. Nay, more: those who had compared foreign workmen to Englishmen could not fail to have noticed their more practical methods. He had himself constantly noticed the difference, especially in agricultural labour, and had admired the practical way in which a German or a Frenchman or a Swiss would go about his work in the field. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill said that one of its chief purposes was to fill up a gap. This filling-up process had acquired almost an historical popularity, so he at once pricked up his ears. But he took the Code for 1895 in his hand and compared it with the schedule in the Bill, and it appeared to him that a vast amount of the teaching which this Bill sought to give could already be given under the Code. Almost everything that the ingenuity of man could devise in the way of agriculture and horticulture could be taught under the Code. Even in the earlier standards a large amount of teaching might be given in agricultural subjects. Still, there were points in the Bill which might secure some advantage to the agricultural labourer, and he was prepared to support the Bill, hoping it might be 37 referred either to a Grand or Select Committee and thoroughly well considered. He could support the right hon. Gentleman opposite in what he had said about the teaching of agriculture in our schools. Wherever he went he found on the part of both teachers and managers, extraordinary slackness in teaching extra subjects. The great difficulty was to get them to move. He had, over and over again, urged them to study the Code, and to raise a little money by subscription, in order to increase their teaching staff and so secure a better grant. This was an advertising age, and therefore this Bill would be valuable if it only advertised the fact to managers and teachers that what they were asked to do was to assist Parliament by taking these matters up locally and endeavouring to earn a good grant. He would like to ask how and why it was that after all the time and attention that had been given to education in this country, they should be spending the whole of a Wednesday afternoon in finding out if it was a safe course to supply gardens to elementary schools. He did not believe that such a thing would be possible in any other country. In all other countries in Europe these matters were carried out in a practical and thorough manner. When he was at the Education Office he was met at every turn by the difficulty of this position. It was owing to the unfortunate state of things that had resulted from the fact of our educational system being founded on the compromise of 1870 that we found ourselves in the curious position in which we were to-day. In the first place, under the Science and Art Schools Classes, the principles of agriculture were taught and grants were given. In the specific subjects under the Code and under certain conditions grants were given for teaching agriculture; in the Technical Education Act also and under other machinery technical education of a higher character was given, and here, again, the unfortunate 38 religious difficulty somewhat interfered, and the Elementary Schools were left out in the cold. Again, in agricultural districts grants were given by the Agricultural Department for the teaching of agriculture: and, passing again to County Councils, large grants were given under the Customs and Excise Act for technical teaching. Here were five different authorities—some overlapping, some conflicting with one another—and the further contribution of that day, which he hoped to see safely landed in Committee, made up half-a-dozen efforts at technical education in this practical England of ours. Of this he was quite confident—that, with all the difficulties there were to face, with all the intricacies of the situation placed before the House, that the statesman would be rash and unwise who attempted to upset the compromise of 1870. It was part of our national character that when a system was arrived at, when a compromise was come to upon a question so closely touching each and all of us as did this religious question in connection with the Education Act, to adhere to the arrangement, and it had now stood the test of a quarter of a century. But, however smooth the surface might be, it would be wrong to disturb it; and, though the embers might seem cold, he was certain that, whether the Board Schools Party or the voluntary schools party, whichever party happened to be in the majority, endeavoured to repeal that compromise, a storm of controversy would arise that would retard the progress of our educational system for a great number of years. He was not speaking without book, for he remembered well the Debates on the Act of 1870, and had something to do with the events of 1874, and he was quite certain that Clause 25 of Mr. Forster's Act had much to do with the wreck of the Radical Government of the day. One or two words he desired to say on the Clauses of the Bill, and 39 first in reference to the question of expenditure. He apprehended that his right hon. Friend was aware that the machinery of the Bill was likely to come to grief if it should meet with a cold reception from a hard-hearted Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of course his right hon. Friend was also aware that a money Committee would have to be set up before the Bill could proceed, in order that the money clauses could be dealt with. He had high authority on this point, having had charge of a measure of a similar nature. So difficulties might arise in regard to the expenditure under the Bill. Then on another point, it was, to his mind, a grave matter that this was the first time that the House was asked in an Act to sanction the granting of the money of the taxpayers for elementary schools for any purpose, unaccompanied by inspection and examination. Though the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading was anxious that the House should understand that this was a small Bill, and indeed he had been told that in some sense it had been condemned because it was a small Bill, the Bill, though small in regard to expenditure, would have a gradually increasing effect. What he wished to point out was this, that any Chancellor of the Exchequer, having hold of the public purse strings, would have to consider what might be the result of these grants as regards other schools, arid it would be scarcely possible for him to resist demands made upon him if the principle were adopted of giving grants in this manner. Then, another matter he would like to mention. He had not himself any strong objection to County Councils having the power of allocating some of these grants to elementary schools, on principle he had no objection to that; but there was this objection analogous to that he had mentioned in regard to State Grants, that if the County Councils allocated these Grants to schools in rural districts they would have pressure 40 brought to bear upon them for the extension of the principle to towns. Apologising for having detained the House so long, and assuring his right hon. Friend that he was grateful to him for his long labours in the cause of agricultural education, he expressed his intention of giving support to the Bill as a step in the right direction.
§ *MR. H. J. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)
said, he did not desire to trouble the House with remarks at any great length; but he did wish to point out that, of all the Members who had taken part in the Debate, there had not been one who agreed with the Seconder that a great deal could be done under this Bill that could not be done without it. He thought the logical result of the statements made and the arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, and the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, should have been to decline to give a Second Reading to the Bill. Nobody could know better than they how much was possible under present arrangements and how much could be attained under the Bill; but it would be quite in the power of either, while in Office, to consider how far they could give effect to it under existing arrangements, and then to submit a short Bill to make the additions required. He objected to the Bill, in the first place, because it came before the House with somewhat indefinite proposals, and proposed to fix a charge for these proposals on one or all of three sources. It proposed to give power to school boards to put an additional charge upon the rates for the purpose. It proposed to give the Chancellor of the Exchequer power to give an additional amount by way of Grant from the Committee of Council on Education for the Science and Art Department. It proposed, finally, to fix a charge upon the funds, now in the hands of County Councils, for the promotion of technical or higher education. He objected at this time and under present circumstances to any 41 additional charge being put upon the rates or taxes for purposes of elementary education. We had already done a great deal, perhaps more than we ought to have undertaken, but we had not seen the full amount to which it might extend, we had not seen all that would be done under arrangements sanctioned by Parliament, and until more time elapsed it would not be wise to put an additional charge on either of these sources. Take away any clause which gave power to encroach on the fund already appropriated to technical instruction, take away the clauses which impose charges on the national revenue, remove the charge on school rates, and very little would be left in the Bill. But all these had been objected to, and hardly any of the objections had been met, so that the logical result should be to say "No" to the Motion for Second Reading. He could quite understand that Members did not like to discourage or prejudice any proposal which might be deemed to be an assistance to the agricultural industry, arid he fully admitted that this great interest, like others, was suffering from depression, and probably in a more marked degree than others, and if he thought the Bill would give especial relief to the agricultural industry he would look on it in a very different light, but he did not think it was that at all; and when he came to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman he found the Bill spoken of, not as a relief to agriculture, but a Bill for improving the education of children in rural districts. There was a great deal in the right hon. Gentleman's general remarks with which he heartily agreed, but he did not think they could be properly applied to the Bill. He agreed that for those who were to spend their lives in agricultural pursuits, there might be a too bookish character in the instruction given in schools. He was entirely in favour of giving a more practical character to education; he would go so far as to say he agreed with the right lion. Gentleman 42 in most of the subjects he enumerated for instruction; he agreed that instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic and drawing, was the most valuable. The teaching of theoretical grammar he did not regard as very important, the practical use of language was a proper school subject, but the analysis of grammar he did not think so useful. He would not say that elementary principles of agriculture could not be taught, but he did say that the instruction given to young children 10 or 11 years old should not be overburdened. He would give as an essential part of education, a little geography of a practical kind, and a little modern history, and there, he thought they had got as much as they could well give to children at that age. He could cordially welcome any effort to afford any agricultural instruction which would do the children any good, but when they were actually beginning the work of life, when they were actually attending to these matters day by day, such instruction as might be given in evening and continuation schools would come to them with much greater force and power than if they tried to give it them first and left them to put it in practice afterwards. They should, if they could, give them this agricultural instruction going along with their early practice. There, he thought, they would do a real service, but he did not believe in these suggested ways of having a little garden attached to the elementary schools and trotting the children out, as Mr. Squeers did, to teach them how to grow lettuces. He did not wish to refer to any of the other matters which had been discussed by Mr. Collings, except the reference to his old favourite grievance of taking the endowments intended for rural children, and handing them over to the middle classes. He disputed the existence of the grievance, but this was not the time to go into that matter, and he would ask Mr. Collings, if he thought some of these endowments had been applied to wrong uses hitherto, whether 43 it would not really be better, instead of leaving them, as that right hon. Gentleman had suggested, as doles, that they should be applied to some such purposes as those of this Bill. That was a practical way of getting some of the apparatus for the schools. But he was not prepared at present to say that all the large voluntary instincts of Englishmen were gone. He was not prepared to say that they could no longer rely upon the willingness of the people, whether in villages or towns, to give such things, when they really found out that they were wanted, instead of coming up to Downing Street and begging for that purpose. He would sooner go to the rates than to the taxes for this purpose; but he did not want to go to the rates when, with proper encouragement, these things could and ought to be got in the locality. He would give the House an analogous case. It was only two or three days ago that he came back from a meeting of the Governors of a Grammar School, where there was a want of full equipment for physical science teaching. Two gentlemen came forward and offered, at their own cost, to supply at once, the one the machines and the other the motive power. No doubt it would be said this was in a large town, and that, while the expense would be large, the gentlemen were wealthy, but what was done on a large scale in a large town, might be done on a small scale in a small district. They ought to continue to rely upon the good disposition of the inhabitants of the district to support by their own voluntary contributions what was really necessary for the improvement of the education of the children. He should say "No," when the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill was submitted, and he hoped there would be others who would follow the same course.
§ MR. ARTHUR JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
desired to express his sympathy with the objects of the Bill, because it could not be too strongly 44 impressed upon the House that agriculture could not be learned by scientific methods. The only education worth anything for an agriculturist was a life-long experience of the land which he was going to cultivate. It had been said in the course of the Debate that they ought to learn a great deal from foreign countries—that they taught scientific agriculture to such an extent, and spent such a large sum of money upon it, that they in this country ought to be taught by them. He should like to remind the House that they were better agriculturists than any country in the world, because there was no country which grew so much per acre of wheat as they did in this country. They grew a larger amount than any other country in the world, and therefore it showed that they were not such bad agriculturists. The only reason they did not do more in this country in the way of cultivating land was because it did not pay them to cultivate it. He should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jesse Collings) whether, when this Bill went to the Grand Committee, he could not do something to alter his proposal in the second clause. He meant with regard to throwing the burden of this new agricultural education upon the rates. He was very much against that. He agreed with a great deal of what Mr. Roby had just said. He thought there was a good deal of educational money in this country which might be very properly applied to agricultural education, but he should not like to raise any further money from Imperial taxation, and certainly not from the rates, for the purpose of finding means for this new form of education. He did not say this in any hostile spirit to the Bill, but he did say, and he was quite sure Mr. Collings knew, that the country districts were so badly pressed at this time that it would be a very great burden upon them if another penny in the pound were laid upon their rates. Mr. Roby had already pointed out that there was a considerable amount of money already 45 employed in educational purposes, and what he wished to ask Mr. Collings was, whether he could not press more strongly the fourth clause of his Bill by which some of the money might be diverted from technical education towards this agricultural education. At the present time a good deal of this money was used for that purpose. He did not know whether it was legally or illegally done, but it was so used in his own county, and he had just heard, at a meeting of the County Councils Association, which he had attended, that it was also used in the counties of Lancashire, Kent, Surrey, Notts, Derbyshire and Somersetshire. Therefore, he supposed it was legally used. If, however, it was legally used, what he would impress upon Mr. Collings would be to introduce into this Bill another clause, perhaps, enabling them to apply part of this money towards giving this practical agricultural education. The fourth clause was the one he wished to lay great stress upon. He should like that one to be passed and the second clause eliminated. What he disliked about the second clause was that it gave to any School Board or managers of any public elementary school power to provide means and facilities for giving this instruction, and for this purpose the School Boards and managers were to have power to provide, or order the provision of, the necessary funds. He wished them to have the power to demand it from the County Councils, and if this were done he believed it would give more satisfaction to the counties, or at least to most of them, because he was quite sure that the money granted for technical education was not always applied to the very best advantage. He did not say that some of it was not very usefully spent, but in some counties there was a surplus from this technical education money. In one county a very large fund had accumulated from that money, which was not spent every year. A part of that might properly be applied in the direction Mr. Collings had 46 indicated, and he hoped that, when the Bill got into Committee, that might be done. He should like to tell the House that in one county which he knew very intimately, in order to spend the whole of this technical education money, it was actually discussed whether the labourers should be taught foreign, languages or not. A knowledge of foreign languages was a very good thing, but it would not enable the agricultural labourer to earn higher wages on the land. What they wished to teach them, and what the labourers should be taught, was something practical by which they might earn better wages. He thought it was quite proper to take part of this money and apply it in the manner indicated by the right hon. Gentleman. He thought he must, before sitting down, bear testimony to the very great zeal Mr. Collings had always shown for bettering the position of the agricultural labourers, towards which he had done a great deal, and to his successful efforts in educating the country while striving to improve their status. If by the passing of this Bill they improved their position to such a degree that they would have a more practical knowledge of working the land, and thereby be able to earn higher wages, he was sure Mr. Collings would have gained not only the gratitude of every agricultural labourer, but also of every Member who lived and was interested in the country.
§ *MR. T. SNAPE (Lancashire, S.E., Heywood)
said, the hon. Member who had just spoken had fallen into an error, which he thought was shared by other Members of the House, in supposing that any County Council had devoted any portion of its technical instruction funds to agricultural instruction in elementary schools. The Bill had to do with the question of elementary schools, and the technical education money was not granted for them. Here he would like to say that he had listened with very considerable surprise to the speech of his hon. Friend (Mr. Roby), 47 which he was afraid he must characterise as one of a very reactionary character. The possibilities offered by this Bill of a very large development of agricultural instruction in elementary schools were of a very limited nature. There were many reasons why that should be so. During the time in which scholars were being instructed there was very little room for giving lessons in technical education. There was also much difficulty in providing facilities for giving practical agricultural instruction. In the course of the Debate an hon. Member had referred to the desirability of giving instruction in horticulture, but to him it appeared far more important that instruction should be given in the wider subject of agriculture generally. It was obvious that the instruction given on such subjects in elementary schools must be of a very limited kind. There was also the added difficulty to which the Vice President had so forcibly alluded in his remarks—namely, that of finding teachers qualified to give instruction in horticulture or in agricultural subjects. The Vice President had made a suggestion with which he heartily agreed, although he confessed that he did not see how the scheme was to be carried into effect, that the training colleges should take the opportunity of establishing instruction gardens, in which horticulture could be practically taught, and so qualify teachers to give instruction upon those subjects in the schools. He must say that he did not see how the existing training colleges were to obtain such instruction gardens, nevertheless he had a certain amount of sympathy with the proposal. Even, however, if such gardens were provided that would not enable the teachers to acquire proficiency in the much more important subject of agriculture generally, so as to enable them to communicate knowledge of that subject to their students. He entirely concurred in the expression of approval which had been uttered by the Vice President in reference to the grant made 48 by the Board of Agriculture to the University colleges for the purpose of aiding those institutions to give agricultural instruction, because there was no doubt many of the teachers who had studied at those colleges would be able to give instruction at elementary and at secondary education schools. He hoped that if the scheme were properly carried into effect they might see good instruction given in agricultural matters in the future, although it was undoubted that the instruction in these subjects given in elementary schools must necessarily be of a very limited character. He thought that that instruction might be of very great advantage in agricultural districts, and that though it was necessarily limited it would have considerable value. It was the fact that in the agricultural districts there was considerable apathy amongst the agricultural population in regard to instruction of this character. In his county they had, to a limited extent, overcome that apathy, and had succeeded in inducing some portion of the rural population to receive general instruction on the subject of agriculture. They came to their studies, however, in a state of unpreparedness which made the operation of giving instruction a very slow process. In his opinion, therefore, if, in elementary schools they could give an elementary knowledge of horticulture, and of agriculture, instead of finding that apathy and that unpreparedness, they would find the young people in the future much more prepared to receive instruction, and much more eager to receive it. In his county, Lancashire, they had fostered and developed agricultural instruction through the County Council to a high degree. They had established an educational farm of 150 acres, and they had also established a school of agriculture near Preston. They had succeeded in attracting students from rural districts, and at their school they gave the students every facility for carrying on practical, experimental, and technical 49 work. To attract the students, the County Council not only paid the fares of the students to attend the classes, but if necessary they paid their board and lodging to enable them to continue their attendance. It was clear, therefore, that in his county they had gone in the direction which had been indicated by the Vice President, and were giving good and cheap instruction on agricultural subjects out of the technical instruction funds at their disposal. Whilst he was entirely in favour of the proposals in the Bill, which he regarded as being not only unobjectionable, but desirable, he thought that it was necessary in the event of the Bill being read a second time that it should be referred to a Grand Committee in order that the question whence the funds were to be derived, which were to defray the costs of this instruction, should be decided. That question certainly was not satisfactorily settled by the Bill as it stood. He agreed with the suggestion that had been made in the course of the Debate that the doles and charities might be looked upon as a source from whence some of the funds necessary for this purpose might be derived, but he should not be surprised if that suggestion were not anticipated by the Royal Commission on Secondary Education when their Report was issued, because he believed that the Commission for secondary education purposes had had their eye on doles and charities ever since they had sat. And here he must venture, with great deference, to differ from the Vice President, who had suggested that a portion of the county council funds should be devoted to the purposes of Secondary Education. In Lancashire they had no objection to such portion of their funds as they could spare being devoted to the technical branches of such education. But though in that county they had £40,000 a year to spend, instead of that sum being equal to the demands upon it for technical instruction, it was insufficient. Only that week they 50 had had to take into consideration the necessity of reducing their expenditure for that reason. Upon that ground, therefore, they should object in Lancashire to the proposal that the county councils should set apart a portion of their technical instruction funds for the purpose of giving agricultural instruction in elementary schools. It was most undesirable that those schools should be encouraged to think that these funds, which were intended for wholly different purposes were funds upon which they could rely as a means for defraying the expense of agricultural instruction of this kind. These schools should be supported out of the rates and taxes, and it would certainly give rise to a most hostile feeling throughout the country if any attempt were made to appropriate any portion of the county council technical funds for that purpose. He did not know that he need detain the House any longer upon this subject, but he hoped that if the Bill passed a Second Reading, and was referred to a Grand Committee, Clause 4 would be amended in such a way that it would prevent any tinkering or diversion of the funds of the County Council from the objects for which they were originally intended. It was with extreme regret that he had seen a reactionary tendency on the part of certain County Councils on this point. He was not one of those who thought that too much money was being voted from the national funds in aid of the local funds for educational purposes. He believed that no money had ever been spent to so much advantage as that which had been spent upon education. He only regretted that such enormous sums were wasted annually in maintaining increased armaments, while so little was devoted to educational purposes. In conclusion, he should support the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill on the condition that the Mover of it would consent to it being referred to a Grand Committee, for the purpose of 51 a determination being arrived at as to the sources from which the funds necessary for carrying it into operation should be derived.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
said, that although he admitted that there were grave objections to portions of the Bill, he should support the general principle of the measure. Their sympathies with agriculture would no doubt weigh with them, and they would give their support to the right hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham. As a chairman of the School Board for the last 16 or 17 years he had noticed that the programme of the elementary schools was considerably overloaded already, and that was a difficulty which they would have to face. He would gladly see some of the present studies left out, and those more interesting and necessary, like agriculture, included. He fancied everyone on the Benches on this side of the House listened with attention and gratitude to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Education. He was not one of those who thought that under all the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman there ran a vein of anxiety to disturb or distress the voluntary schools. He believed that his determination was, that every school should be efficient, and when once it was, it should be assisted by his Department. The only discordant note which had been struck was by the hon. Member for the Maldon Division of Essex, who said he was sorry to see that some grant could possibly be shared by a voluntary school. He was glad that he had been the only hon. Member who had alluded to that, and he could not help thinking that the allusion was totally unnecessary, and, he might say, unworthy. The ewe lamb of the right hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, had bleated out most successfully, and, although the lamb was a small one, it was full of vitality. Hon. Members on both sides of the House recognised the necessity of doing something in the direction of the Bill. It was all very well to say that the Bill was trifling and its provisions were few, but it was the aggregate of these trifles which would eventually force this question on the country. There was no doubt that amongst many it was held that a portion, at all events, of the grant 52 for technical education was wasted; whether that was the case or not he would not argue, but he should be glad to know that a portion of that money was devoted to a purpose which no one could deny must be of use. He had noticed, as had many others, that the village children in Board Schools were singularly ignorant on matters connected with their everyday life, such as the habits of bees, or the various improvements in horticulture or agriculture itself. He believed the expense incurred under the Bill would be very trifling, and the ordinary School Board teacher would be able, with such rough and ready appliances as could be cheaply bought, to instruct his classes. He thought education of this sort would greatly stimulate the minds of the children, and make them less anxious to fly to the towns, and would induce them to remain and become skilled and valued workmen. He thanked the right hon. Member the Minister for Education for all he had done in this direction, and if he could see his way to allow this Bill to go to a Second Reading they would be able to afford considerable assistance and instruction to the children of our village schools.
§ *MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said, that as a Member of the Royal Commission on Agriculture, before which important evidence on this subject had recently been given, he should like to say a few words. He did not agree with the last speaker that the hon. Member for Maldon was ill-advised in referring to the question of voluntary schools. He had listened with deep interest to the remarks of the right hon. Member for the Dartford Division of Kent. They all felt the very serious difficulty in which the future of education would be placed if a Bill of this nature were to introduce what would be practically almost a revolution in the principles of the Education Act. He felt that after the weighty words of the right hon. Member, they might be assured that there would be agreement on both sides of the House, that these important issues should not be raised in the form proposed in the Bill. They were all in sympathy with the objects of this Bill, so far as they could be attained without introducing highly controversial subjects. 53 He felt the greatest repugnance to allowing private managers, who had no representative responsibility, to practically impose a tax on the taxpayers for carrying out objects, however beneficial. They were all agreed in wishing to have suitable, manual and technical education extended to elementary schools. His right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council had shown that the main objects of this Bill were already, to a very large extent, being carried out under the provisions of the Code. The Bill amounted to little more than a wholesome resolution. Improvements might be introduced in Committee which might make it a help to the Educational Department. The right hon. Member for Bordesley admitted that there was a deficiency of teachers, and at the same time, he proposed to cut off that sum which was now being very usefully employed by the County Councils in the training of those teachers who could really carry out this class of teaching in elementary schools. Mr. Dunstan, head of the Agricultural Department of the University College, Nottingham, and perhaps one of the most important experts we had, in the course of his evidence before the Agricultural Commission was asked,—How would you make the village schoolmaster a capable instructor?and repliedI would not make him an instructor in agriculture to start with. As a rule, a village schoolmaster has been in a village for 12 or 13 years, and has not been hitherto an authority on agriculture; then he goes to the local college and attends a course on agriculture for six or eight weeks, and then comes back as an authority to teach it. The farmers are resenting that very strongly. He ought not to teach agriculture unless he could have a training of about two or three years.The fact was, the greater part of the rural teachers had been trained on wholly different lines. Were they going to give these powers to School Boards and private managers, when it was notorious from the evidence of the best experts that the teachers did not at the present time exist who could carry out these powers effectually. He contended that the Education Department, through the training colleges, and the aid it gave to the agricultural colleges, and the County Councils themselves in the application 54 of the Technical grant, were preparing the way for the carrying out of the agricultural training which they wanted; and it would be undesirable to divert the money from this object. To give to School Boards and private managers the power of acquiring land for the purposes contemplated in the Bill would be an injudicious course to adopt. If the Bill went to a Standing Committee he would propose Amendments which would make it possible for a Parish Council which had hired land, or for a District Council which had acquired land under the Act of 1894, to let plots to School Boards or local managers for the purposes of the measure. He re-affirmed the opinion that the Education Department were themselves carrying out the objects in view as efficiently as possible, having regard to the deficiency in practical trained teachers, and that the County Councils, by their grants in aid of colleges and intermediate schools, were doing their best in the same direction. They could only advance by steps, and he hoped his suggestion might be considered as a practical contribution to the Debate. The Bill, although they all sympathised with its object, was almost unnecessary, and it could not be allowed to pass unless the highly controversial topics raised by Clauses 3 and 4 were eliminated.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said, he had noted two lines of argument, which seemed to him to be antagonistic, in the course of the Debate. The Minister of Education laid considerable stress upon the fact that in the provision which he had recently introduced a great part of what was aimed at by the Bill could be practically accomplished; and, on the other hand, hon. Members had pointed out that the measure was for various purposes insufficient and hardly worth having at all. However, he was glad to acknowledge that there was practically much more to be said in favour of the measure than was to be said against it. One of the main advantages of the measure would be—that it would introduce into elementary schools a class of education by which the children in the rural villages would be able to earn an increased grant. And they were likely to be able to earn this increased grant by bringing to bear on their 55 education a knowledge of the very subjects with which they had been made familiar in their cottage homes. Until the right hon. Gentleman added his new provision to the Code there was not much possibility of the village children being able to earn much additional grant by bringing into play anything they had learned at home. Now there was such an opportunity given, and the Bill went in the direction of increasing it. One reason why the Bill had been taken up was—that it might be supposed, at some future time, to have an effect on the wage-earning power of the class whom it was designed to help, They had been too much inclined, in the Debate, to deal with the question from the point of view of general education, and had lost sight of the facts that what they wished to do was to make some change in the conditions under which the labouring population was educated. It was optional on the part of the County Council to devote the technical grant to this purpose, and they need not do it unless they were satisfied that it could not be spent to better advantage. A similar principle to that embodied in the measure had already been adopted in Ireland, and had worked with good effect there. He wished that in public schools and universities an opportunity were given to those who were to become great landowners, to make the subject of agriculture one of the cardinal points of their education, in order that they might be able to deal with it in a better way than they did at the present time. Reference had been made to the advantage of the grants made by County Councils in furtherance of technical education; but almost universally they had been given for the purposes of technical education which affected more particularly the upper classes of agriculture, and not the lower and labouring classes in whose behalf the present Bill was brought forward.
§ COLONEL KENYON SLANEY
said that, generally speaking, the money had been of greater advantage to other classes than it had been to those particularly concerned with the present Bill, and that accentuated the necessity for such a measure as this. They had heard 56 a great deal of the advantage that had accrued from the travelling instructors sent out by various County Councils, and hon. Members had deplored the fact that the attendance at their lectures had been very limited, and that the results had not been all that might have been expected. But that arose from the fact that the people whom they were trying to attract were grown-up men with stereotyped ideas, and opposed to innovations. If they could get these people during childhood and accustom them to understand that there was merit in what were regarded as new-fangled ideas, they would then get a class who would be willing to go to these lectures and to reap advantage from them. Without underrating the criticisms which had been passed upon the Bill, and without suggesting that those who had brought it in should be too rigid and unbending in their adherence to its present provisions, he was glad to find that there was general concurrence that something in this direction would be of advantage to the labouring population, a class to whom they owed more than they were always inclined to pay. They had a right to demand that the State should do its utmost to fit them for the ownership or occupancy of those small holdings and allotments which it had been so eager to place at their disposal. If small holdings and allotments were to produce the full result hoped for it could only be by those who lived on them being so far educated that they could turn to the utmost advantage the inherent properties of the soil. He had great pleasure in registering his hearty support of the general principles of the Bill, and his sincere hope that it, or something nearly approaching it, would eventually find its way on to the Statute Book.
§ MR. COURTNEY WARNER (Somerset, N.)
observed that it had been said that England spent an enormous amount of money in education and so on. But on this matter they must defer to what other countries did, and it would be found they spent a great deal more than did this country on agricultural education. In Belgium the Minister of Agriculture had now directed that agriculture should form part of the curriculum in the normal schools, in order that 57 they might have competent teachers to give instruction in this subject in the elementary schools. That was the decision the Belgian Government had come to. But in Italy the progress on this question was even more marked. The teaching of agriculture in Italian elementary schools began in 1881–82, and the number of pupils then was 14,000. In 1886–87, however, the number of pupils had increased to 30,000, which showed the thorough manner in which the subject had been taken up in these schools, and the success it had had amongst the labouring population in the agricultural districts. Great objections had been taken to various portions of the Bill. The Minister for Agriculture had objected to Clause 3 because of the 50 per cent., and other speakers had said that if the 50 per cent. were not given, the whole thing would come to an end. He did not agree with the latter view, and at any rate the matter was one which could easily be disposed of if the Bill were sent to a Committee. Clause 4 had also been objected to, but in his opinion that was a clause which was imperatively required. He had had some experience in the County Council of spending the technical education money in a purely agricultural district. The farmers complained that the technical schools and the teaching of technical subjects were of no use in those districts, and the difficulty was to know how to deal with the money. This difficulty, he considered, would be overcome if they were to give grants to urban districts teaching technical subjects, and then were to give equal grants to agricultural districts teaching agriculture. It would then be in the power of the County Council to give grants to agricultural schools to which the labouring men went, and not only would they derive benefit from such instruction, but it would have a beneficial result upon agriculture generally. That was one of the most important sections in the whole Bill, and he hoped it would be passed. This was not, he thought, a final effort in legislation in this direction, and a good deal more might be done in teaching agriculturists to produce more out of the land than they did, and to make allotments and small holdings more valuable than they were at present.
§ *SIR RICHARD PAGET (Somerset Wells)
remarked that the hon. Member who had just sat down, had alluded to what had been done in this question by foreign countries. The fact was that we were following with a very halting step what had been done for many years by other countries. It was a positive disgrace to England to thus lay behind in matters of this kind. He desired to congratulate his right hon. Friend on the success with which he had met in bringing in this Bill. He was very glad to hear, by the Speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President, that he had decided to support the Second Reading of the Bill, and, indeed, they might look forward to an almost unanimous Vote in its favour. The hon. Member for Eccles seemed to be distinguished as the only Member in the House who had been bold enough to get up and oppose the Bill; and he supposed the hon. Gentleman would have the courage of his convictions and refuse to give the Bill his support. One argument of the hon. Member for Eccles was, that he was dead against support from Imperial funds for this object, which he seemed to regard as of a purely local character.
§ *SIR RICHARD PAGET
said, there were those who contended that the whole system of subventions from the Imperial Exchequer, in aid of these matters, was wrong, root and branch. He did not take the view, and his experience had rather tended to show him that, until the way was made smooth by grants from the Imperial Exchequer, nothing whatever was done. Up to about eight years ago practically nothing was being done with a view to the promotion and extension of agricultural education. A small Commission was then appointed by the Vice President of the day, who did him the honour to ask him to take charge of it, and it was recommended that steps should be taken with a view to introducing agricultural technical education. The Commission were asked to indicate what schools they thought should receive grants for teaching this subject. They could not find a single school, with the exception of Aspatria, which could put forward any claim to such grant. No 59 such schools then existed; but now thanks to the Imperial Grant, they saw that schools were gradually springing up all over the country to promote and encourage this particular branch of study It was true that the County Councils who undertook the task of inaugurating Technical Education, had to grope somewhat in the dark, and, as pioneers in this movement, mistakes might have been made by them which had been remedied, as experience had pointed out to them a better way of doing things. In giving his support to the Bill he could not but foresee difficulties in carrying it into effect. They had, for instance, got to deal with the considerable difficulty of teaching. The Vice President had pointed out to them that there were teachers in their schools all over the country so wedded to the old system in which they had been so long at work, that to ask them to study this subject in such a way as to enable them to teach it to pupils was to ask them to do that which was nearly impossible. Their school-time was occupied so much that it would be exceedingly difficult for them to find the leisure in which to master the subject of agriculture in such a way as would make them competent to give instruction in it to others. It might be said that the people themselves were apathetic. He doubted there was any such apathy if they had the chance of learning, and he was convinced that the teaching had only to be of a practical character to make it a success. The scheme of the Bill was that the teaching in the public schools of agricultural subjects should be of a practical character. Those who supported the measure desired that the people whose lives would probably be devoted to agricultural pursuits and agricultural labour, should have the chance in their youth of being taught that which would prove of the greatest service to them in after life. This Bill was the legitimate outcome of legislation of late years in the matter of allotments and small holdings. It was an amplification of their present system, and was to ensure that those who were going to be the small holders of the future should, during their youth, have the opportunity of learning that which would enable them the better to perform the duties for which they were hereafter 60 destined, and to devote their energies to agriculture intelligently and beneficially. He hoped the Bill would go to the Committee as one which met with the approval of both sides of the House, and that in the Grand Committee, minute matters of detail would be satisfactorily arranged, as they very easily could be. He ventured to think that a Wednesday afternoon which had been devoted to the discussion and consideration of the important subject of agricultural education had not been by any means badly spent. They had had several very interesting speeches, including one by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dartford, who had very clearly shown them the extreme intricacy of their present system of education, and it certainly did no harm to bring the Minister of Education face to face with some of the peculiar features of such a system. The promoters of the Bill had the satisfaction of knowing that after a full and complete Debate the House had come to the conclusion that a Bill of the kind was necessary. There were difficulties of administration, and, possibly, some difficulties of finance; but he had no doubt that those difficulties would be overcome if the Committee, to whom the Bill would be referred, approached its consideration in a favourable and friendly spirit. He for one gave the Bill his heartiest support, and wished it a rapid and successful passage through the Grand Committee.
*MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint District)
said, it was quite impossible for schoolmasters to acquire anything but a superficial knowledge of agriculture by merely attending a course of half-a-dozen lectures. In order to get over the difficulty he would suggest the inclusion in the Bill—if it were not already provided for in the Code—of a provision for the appointment of a number of peripatetic teachers—men who were thoroughly acquainted with agricultural subjects—who would be able to give to the children in village schools practical lessons in agriculture. He thought we were laying upon the shoulders of our schoolmasters burdens which in some respects were too heavy for them to bear. It was difficult for the teachers to make themselves efficient in the large number of subjects they were now called upon to master, without adding agriculture to the list, and the difficulty would be got rid of, and much good 61 would be done by appointing as peripatetic teachers persons who were fully qualified to give instruction in agriculture to children. He would like to point out that, so far as Wales was concerned, Clause 4 of the Bill would not apply, for in that country, with the exception of one county, the whole amount of the Local Taxation Grant was already being applied to the purposes of education. That showed the great interest taken in education in Wales. He heartily concurred in the ungrudging tribute accorded by hon. Gentlemen opposite to the splendid work for agricultural education already done by the Vice President of the Council.
§ Bill read 2°.
§ *MR. MARTIN moved, "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Trade, &c."
§ *SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
said that the Committee on Trade and Agriculture had before it a Bill of great importance—the Factory and Workshop Bill—which would take many more weeks to consider. After that they would have the Irish Saturday and Sunday Closing Bill; and after that, the Conciliation (Trade Disputes) Bill and the Light Railways Bill, so that it would probably be August, when there would be a difficulty in securing a quorum, before the Agricultural Education Bill would be dealt with. Under the circumstances, it might be better to allow the Bill to go through the Committee of the whole House.
§ *MR. ACLAND
said, he had adopted the suggestion made in the course of the Debate that the Bill should be referred to the Grand Committee on Trade and Agriculture, but at the time he did not know that the difficulties in the way were insuperable. Still he thought the subject must be debated before the Grand Committee, as in the view of the Government, it involved some very important points.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
said, there was no doubt that the Committee on Trade, of which he was a member, was extremely overworked, and it was not desirable that this Bill should be referred to it if it could be dealt with in some other way. He suggested that it be referred to a Select Committee.
§ *MR. ACLAND
asked that the question as to the Committee be put off until to-morrow, to enable the Government to consider the matter.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, that for three years the Bill had been blocked; and the same fate might await the Motion to refer it to a Committee unless the Government agreed to move it.
§ *MR. ACLAND
said, he could not undertake to make a Motion for a Select Committee, but the matter would be considered by the Government.
§ Debate adjourned till to-morrow.