§ (1.) Every County Council and every Council of a Municipal Borough of not less than twenty thousand inhabitants shall appoint an Education Committee for the purposes of this Act, and the County Council acting by that Committee shall be and is in this Act referred to as the education authority for the county.
§ (2.) The number of the members of the Committee shall be fixed by the County Council.
§ (3.) The County Council may appoint persons, whether members of the Council or not, to be members of the Committee, provided that a majority of those members shall be members of the Council.
§ (4.) A member of an Education Committee shall hold office for three years, and one-third, as nearly as may be, of the members of an Education Committee shall retire annually at such time and in such order as may be fixed by the County Council, and their places shall be filled by a new appointment, but retiring members may be reappointed.
§ (5.) Two or more County Councils may combine for all or any of the purposes of this Act.
§ (6.) Provided as follows:—
- (a.) A County Council may submit to the Education Department a Scheme for providing separate Education Committees for different parts of the county or for otherwise modifying or supplementing the provisions of this section so as to adapt the constitution of an Education Committee to the needs of the county or of different parts thereof, and for making any supplemental provisions which appear necessary for carrying into effect the Scheme, and if the Education Department approve any Scheme, without modification or with any modifications agreed to by the Council, the Scheme shall have effect as if enacted by this Act, but shall be subject to revocation or alteration by a Scheme made in like manner.
- (b.) Where a county governing body has been constituted for any county by a Scheme made in pursuance of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889, the county governing body shall be the Education Committee for the purposes of this Act, and the County Council acting through that governing body shall be the education authority for the county.
§ [The words printed in italics have been inserted in Committee.]
§ Another Amendment [proposed June 17th], in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "this Act," and to insert the words "education other than elementary."—(Mr. James Stuart.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'this Act' stand part of the Clause."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
continuing his remarks in support of the Amendment moved the previous evening, said that what occurred on Wednesday and on Thursday last intensified the necessity for his Amendment. On Wednesday they learnt for the first time that the Education Committee was to be an independent authority—as much so as the Watch Committee of a town. He appealed to those who felt it was desirable there should be the same authority for secondary and elementary education, that, seeing that the authority was what it appeared to be, they would agree with him that while the authority might be acceptable enough for secondary education, was so greatly inferior to what they supposed it to be for elementary education, and that they would support his Amendment, which practically continued secondary education with certain extended powers, and left over, until they got a more suitable authority, the question of a change in elementary education. There were many who were prepared to place secondary education under the control of such a composite Committee, but would be wholly unprepared to place elementary education under the control of other than a properly representative authority. There were many reasons for this. The chief difference between the two was that there existed at that moment a representative authority of the kind for elementary education, 1344 whereas for secondary education such an authority was entirely new. Though it might have been desirable to place elementary and secondary education under the same authority when that authority was such as they had heard it to be, the reasons for uniting the two were intensified. The other reason which intensified the necessity for the Amendment was what transpired last Thursday, when the operation of the Bill was altered by an Amendment which received the support of the Government. It had been objected that his Amendment really raised a Second Reading Debate. It dealt drastically with parts of the Bill, and yet did not affect large parts of it. It did not affect the portion of the grant to Voluntary Schools, though it affected in a minor degree the machinery by which it was to be given. What his Amendment desired to do was to mitigate the attack made on the School Boards, which was the main object of the Bill. His Amendment did not touch the limitation of the grant by Parliament, and if Clause 26, which enabled County Councils to curtail the expenditure of the School Board was, as the Leader of the House said, independent of this particular authority, it was independent of this Amendment. No doubt the Bill provided for the distribution of the 4s. grant through the proposed local authority which was to have certain powers not optional, but obligatory. Why was the distribution of the grant intrusted to this particular local authority? He had never heard that satisfactorily explained in that House. The distribution of the grant was not a reason for creating a new local authority for elementary education. What was the peculiarity of this 4s. grant? They were at present distributing through the Department something equal to a 29s. grant, and under circumstances that worked well. Where they had machinery accustomed to distribute the grant, and make all the inquiries necessary under Clause 13 as to efficiency, suitability, etc.—and in the last Parliament but one they added to it the distribution of the 10s. fee grant, and therefore recognised the fitness of the Department for the purpose—why were they going to have the 4s. grant distributed by a new body. There was no reason for making the distribution 1345 the ground for creating a new body. It could be distributed by the same machinery as the 29s. and the 10s. grants. It was said that supervision was required. If so, it could be exercised by means of the Department. The Special Aid Grant could be better distributed by another authority than by the proposed Committee. There was a residue to be dealt with, but that residue largely arose from a flaw in the Bill, and that was the withholding from Voluntary Schools of sums equivalent to their endowment. The power need not be placed in the hands of the proposed authority if this Committee thought the endowments ought not to be subtracted. But if the Bill remained unaltered, the residue to be dealt with was infinitesimal, and by no means afforded ground for creating a local authority. He would not deny that this Amendment, if it were carried, would destroy the clause which would transfer certain powers of the Department to the new authority. In the large boroughs and in those with conterminous School Boards no new authority was needed; all that was needed was that the Department should retain its present position. If an authority were required it was furnished by the existing School Boards, which would furnish more educational experts than would be obtained in any other manner. It would be better to trust the School Board than to create a new authority to be in a position partly of supervision, partly of competition, and partly of substitution, and not directly elected. A body indirectly elected in part, and in part co-opted, was to be substituted in the same area for the elected body. Professing to seek skilled persons they were abandoning the body specially elected for its fitness for the work, and substituting a worse body, and one that was clearly less representative. No other authority than the School Board was needed, and if necessary its functions could be increased. Why should the matter be complicated by appointing a Committee for these purposes at all? The 4s. grant could be better distributed through the Department. And in the county he did not want any authority over elementary education. He disagreed with diminishing the area for secondary education, and with enlarging it to any great extent with elementary education. 1346 It would be impossible for the members of the Norfolk County Council, now meeting once a month, to manage local elementary education. The Bill created this authority for the purpose of delegating its powers. Why not continue the present arrangements with the Department, which was admirably equipped and had an enormous fund of experience to guide it? They turned elementary education over to a body which had no experience of the work, whose staff would have to be created, whose creation would be expensive and would probably have to be paid for out of the rates, and that staff would have to be created and trained by a body which had no previous experience of elementary education work. How could such a change be justified when there existed an admirable system for the work of primary education? Of course the matter was very different in respect to technical and secondary education. In the first place the county was a suitable area for technical and secondary education, as the Secondary Education Commission had reported, and the County Council was the only existing authority that had any experience whatever of secondary and technical education. Therefore he admitted that the County Council was, for the purposes of secondary education, a reasonable authority, though it needed development in that respect. What he asked the Committee to do was not to pronounce against the union of secondary and technical education in the same body—although personally he was against it—but to pronounce against this authority for elementary education, because it was so bad and so unsuitable for the purpose. He was not opposed to the enlargement of local control over education. But it would have to be done by development, and the promoters of the Bill showed by their antagonism to the School Board system that they were incapable of dealing justly with that development. He did not say that the arrangement he proposed would fufil the Report of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education, but it would go a considerable way towards doing it, and no step would be taken which would have to be retraced afterwards. That was an important matter. The Committee charged with the work would 1347 have quite enough to do. It was developing work; it was good work; it was desirable and desired. Why should they complicate that good work by putting on this body wholly new functions in relation to elementary education? If the Government persisted in their scheme, they would not only degrade the School Boards in towns, but they would arrest that of which the country was so much in need—the organised development of secondary and technical education. Both functions were too heavy to place upon one body. Let the technical and secondary education authority be strengthened; and then let it work and develop itself in its own way. He beseeched the House not to put too much on the backs of this Committee at once. Let them not spoil two things. The Government were going to spoil the School Board system by the creation of a new authority for elementary education; and they were going to spoil the secondary and technical system by putting on the back of the existing Committees—slightly altered—elementary education work, for which they were not competent, and which they were not prepared to carry out. ["Hear, hear!"] But the Government were recognising that their attack upon the School Board system, of which the outward and visible sign was the establishing of this new educational authority, was repudiated by the country; that they had made a mistake; that they had misjudged the feeling of the country—Tory as well as Liberal—towards the School Board system. ["Hear, hear!"] Let them, then, be warned in time. Let them withdraw their proposed interference with the School Board system. Let them accept his Amendment. [Ministerial laughter.] If they persisted in placing elementary education under the new body, non-representative and uncontrolled even by the County Council, their Bill was dead, and the sooner it was buried the better. [Cheers.]
§ THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Sir JOHN GORST,) Cambridge University
This Bill proposes to create a county authority and to confer upon that authority a number of functions in regard to primary and secondary education. We are now in Committee, engaged in considering the 1348 creation of that authority and the functions which will be bestowed upon it, and at the very outset of our deliberations the hon. Gentleman invites us by his Amendment to say that no function in relation to elementary education shall be conferred upon this new authority. That raises a very large question; and in debating it I suppose we shall debate—as the hon. Member has done—the whole Bill from beginning to end. [Cheers.] But it is a very remarkable thing that the next Amendment on the Paper, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Tyneside, proposes that the new authority shall be confined entirely to elementary education. [Laughter and cheers]
§ MR. JOSEPH A. PEASE) (Northumberland, Tyneside
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to explain what the object of my Amendment is. [Laughter.]
§ SIR J. GORST
Oh, no. I think it would be rather inconvenient to have another Amendment explained at this stage. [Laughter.] I only call attention to the remarkable fact that, whereas the first Amendment would shear the education authority of its elementary education functions, the second Amendment would shear it of its secondary education functions. [Cheers.] I do not think that it would be useful that I should follow the hon. Member for Hoxton through all the arguments of his speech. I do not think the present moment is a convenient opportunity for arguing as to the expediency of the various functions of elementary education which the Government proposes to bestow upon this new authority. Those functions I am prepared to defend when we come to them. Every one of them has been discussed in general terms upon the Second Reading of the Bill; and I do not propose to go over the whole of that ground again. All I will say is this, that it is most urgent in the interest of education that there should be some authority in the country which could exercise supervision over both elementary and secondary education. [Laughter.] It is quite true that the Secondary Education Commission did not recommend that; but they did not recommend it for the express reason that the terms of the reference confined 1349 them exclusively to secondary education, and that, therefore, they had no right to pronounce any opinion upon any matter connected with elementary education. But there were several Members of the Commission who expressed their opinion on the point in some memoranda published with the Report; and there was no strong opinion given either by the witnesses or by the Commission itself against the bestowal on the body, the creation of which they contemplated, of elementary as well as secondary education functions. What is the urgent educational reason for such a course? It is that there is now in the country an overlapping of elementary and secondary education work, which causes already a great deal of waste both of energy and money, and which is likely not to diminish, but to increase. ["Hear, hear!"] In some of the county boroughs in Wales there are excellent School Boards, conducting admirable higher grade schools, and there are also some county authorities under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, which are also conducting schools which are threatening to overlap, and are, indeed, beginning to overlap, the work of the School Boards. ["No, no!"] I say yes. ["Hear, hear!"] In the borough of Cardigan the two authorities are so conscious of their danger that they have got volunteer committees representing both bodies in order to endeavour by volunteer efforts of their own to prevent overlapping. That is the ground on which it is thought very desirable that there should be some authority which can exercise such a supervision over both elementary and secondary education as will prevent the two from overlapping. A great many people talk easily and simply about defining secondary and elementary education, and about separating the one from the other; but it is impossible to say where elementary education ends and where secondary education begins, and it is only by establishing some authority which has the right of supervision over both that you can prevent the overlapping which is so inconvenient and so detrimental to the true interests of education. ["Hear, hear!"] That is why I should advise the Committee not to shut the door at the outset, and without considering the 1350 clauses of the Bill, to come to the conclusion that it is impossible to give the county authority such supervision. Let us rather reject the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hoxton, and proceed with the clauses of the Bill, and see whether we can give such functions to the county authority as will be useful, and will not interfere with the existing arrangements for elementary education. Hon. Members opposite say that we are interfering with the existing arrangements for elementary education. [Opposition cheers.] That is not so. There is not one of the great School Boards—I have said it before, and I hope the Committee will forgive me for repeating it—there is not one of the great School Boards in London, Liverpool, Manchester, or Leeds that will not go on when this Bill is passed, exactly as they are going on now. ["Hear, hear!"] If there is any provision in the Bill by which this new authority will interfere with or injure the work of the School Boards, when we come to those clauses, and any hon. Member will show that they will have that effect, an Amendment shall be introduced to prevent it. Clause 2 is a Declaratory Clause, which is put in to declare the purposes and principles of the Bill, and it declares that it shall be the duty of the education authority to supplement and not to supplant such existing organisations for educational purposes as for the time being supply efficient instruction. There is the principle of the Bill, and if there be in the clauses of the Bill any provisions which conflict with that principle, if they are pointed out, they shall be removed. ["Hear, hear!"] All I have to do now is to invite the Committee not to determine before the discussion of the clauses that it will give no functions of any kind in elementary education to the new authority, but to deal with the clauses, and when we come to them to see that the functions proposed to be given are useful ones, and will conduce to the interests of education. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
The descriptions which are given by various Members of the Government of the objects of this Bill are of such a kaleidoscopic character that it is difficult to catch the flying 1351 colours as they change. [Laughter.] We have had the Bill described in various ways. First of all we have a section of the Cabinet, which I hope I may describe without offence as the common-sense section, which last winter told us, through the head of the Education Department, the President of the Council, that it did not approve at all of the creation of new authorities to control existing authorities. Then, another Cabinet Minister, whom I must include in the category I have mentioned—the Chancellor of the Exchequer, told us at Bristol that there was no intention of interfering with any of the fundamental principles of the Act of 1870. Then came another co-ordinate, perhaps superior, authority, who told us that this was to be a great reform of the whole educational system of the country.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord G. HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Baling
Who said that?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
If you will give me time I will tell you. If the noble Lord, instead of asking me, will ask his Leader, he will find that he said that the object of the Bill was the municipalisation of education, that the ultimate ideal was that of absorbing the School Boards. We have a great vista of a grand reform opened to us that is to immortalise the existing Government—[laughter]—and its great majority. Then we were told that decentralisation was the object, and now we are told this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman that the only object——
§ SIR J. GORST
Really, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman must not misrepresent me so. I never said the only object. I said I would go through the various arguments again, and I gave only one single reason for having this authority, and I do not at all hold that that is the only reason.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
At all events, the only reason the right hon. Gentleman thought it necessary to advance this afternoon was that it was to prevent the overlapping in Wales of elementary and secondary education. [Laughter.] Certainly a smaller reason for such an enormous change was never advanced by a responsible Minister. [Cheers.] Now, Sir, I beg to offer the right hon. Gentleman and the Leader of the House terms of peace on this matter. [Minis- 1352 terial laughter.] There is a great part of this Bill in which we are willing to join and assist them. We are desirous that you should establish a good system of secondary education. On that part of the Bill—I am not speaking of its details, but in the general objects and principles of that part of the Bill we desire to help; and I do hope that the Government recognise this, as they ought, that in establishing a system of education under this Bill there should be as far as possible the consent of all Parties in the House and in the country. ["Hear, hear!"] Let us see, then, on what parts of this Bill we are agreed and ready to support the Government.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I rise to order, Sir. ["Order, order!"] I wish to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is now speaking to the Amendment
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
My object is to show why we object to that part of the Bill which deals with elementary education, and for that purpose I want to show that our objections are not taken to other parts of the Bill. [Cheers.]
* THE CHAIRMAN
If the right hon. Gentleman confines himself to that, of course he is in order. [Opposition cheers.] At the same time I see it is very difficult to limit hon. Members on this Amendment, because it raises such a large question. I hope the Committee will endeavour as far as possible to keep within reasonable limits.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I was saying that on the question of secondary education we are substantially agreed. With reference to elementary education we are also agreed to some extent as to the object in view, though we differ as to details; but the question on which we are absolutely and irreconcilably opposed to you is the necessity of creating a new 1353 educational authority, and particularly the authority sought to be created under the first clause. If that were out of the way you might go on with this Bill and have only a moderate discussion of its details. It is the creation of this new authority that we are opposing in this Amendment, so far as it deals with elementary education, and the manner in which it is dealt with in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Let us discuss that afterwards," but I affirm that we must discuss it now. ["Hear, hear!"] We must view the authority created in the first clause of the Bill for the purposes of elementary education in connection with the powers which the Bill intends to confer upon that authority. We are bound to look at what you propose that this authority shall do with reference to elementary education. Why do you think it necessary to create this new authority? The right hon. Gentleman has given a wholly insufficient reason. There is no power conferred by this Bill—except under Clause 3, which is not compulsory—which could not be expressed just as well without the creation of this new authority. Even if you make up your minds to press forward the religious question raised by Clause 27, your new education authority will not be necessary. What we are discussing now—and it is really the bone of contention between you and us—is whether it is necessary to create a new authority in connection with elementary education. We say that it will be a machine inferior to that which you have already, and that when you have constructed it, friction will be created between the new machine and that which you have already in operation. With reference to secondary education, you may appropriately claim a new authority, that being a new thing; but for elementary education you have an authority of 25 years' standing. You are cutting down an old tree in order to replace it by a new one. It is because you are destroying the existing system and introducing elements of friction where you do not destroy, that we have called this a revolutionary Measure. ["Hear, hear!"] These provisions in regard to elementary education were not what we were led to expect when this Bill was introduced. 1354 ["Hear, hear!"] We do not know at what period what the right hon. Gentleman had called "the vital principle of the Bill" was embodied in the Measure, but it was not there at the time of the Queen's Speech. We were not told then that there was to be a new authority. I suppose that in the memoirs of the next century the public will perhaps learn the secret history of the transformation of the Bill since the date of the Queen's Speech. ["Hear, hear!"] This new education authority, we are told, is to be a municipal authority, and it was held out as a tempting consideration, especially for Liberals, that this was to be a great reform in local self-government. You were to get rid of the desperate state of affairs due to centralisation, and you were to have everywhere an independent authority. But the authority is not independent. All the features of independence are absent, and the new body is to be subject to the final authority of the Central Department. Therefore you cannot tempt us to assist the creation of this new authority by declaring that you are setting up an independent authority on the principle of local self-government. Of whom is this new authority to consist? According to the explanation which we had yesterday, it is to be a deputation of the County Council, and may consist of only half that body, plus one. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman was asked yesterday what would be the real nature of the new authority, and he said it was to be like the Watch Committee of a Municipal Council. That surprised us very much, and he was asked whether this body would report to the County Council, from which it was supposed to derive its power. [Sir J. GORST: "I was asked whether it would report for confirmation."] Let us see what the answer was that the right hon. Gentleman gave to a question put to him on April 16th. The hon. Member for East Leeds put the following question:—I beg to ask the Vice President of the Committee of Council whether it is intended that the education committee of a County Council proposed to be established under the Education Bill shall bring up its proceedings in full meeting of the County Council for the approval or otherwise of the latter.1355 This was the reply of the right hon. Gentleman:—The reports of the education committee to the County Council will be governed by the provisions of section 82, sub-section 2, of the Local Government Act, 1888.This, mark you, is the body to which you are going to transfer the enormous machinery of the primary education of this country. ["Hear, hear!"] The statements of the Government on the subject of this authority have shown vacillation. On April 16th we have one account, and a totally different one. on June 17th. The right hon. Gentleman said that every Committee would report its proceedings to the Council by whom it was appointed. Now, let me read the sub-section of the Act of 1888, which the right hon. Gentleman referred to in his answer on April 16th. It begins: "Every Committee"—not a Watch Committee, which stands upon a totally different footing, but an ordinary committee of a Municipal Corporation—that, according to the right hon. Gentleman, was to be the pattern and model.
§ SIR J. GORST
All I said was that the reports of the education authority will be governed by that section. [Opposition cries of "Oh!"]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman will regret his interruption. It shows so completely that he has even now not understood the body he is creating. The answer of the right hon. Gentleman is given to the question:—If it is intended that the education committee of a County Council proposed to be established under the Education Bill shall bring up its proceedings in full meeting of the County Council for the approval or otherwise of the latter.[Cheers.] What sort of an answer is this to such a question? [Cheers.] Everyone knew, and the right hon. Gentleman understood, that he was answering, and was bound to answer the question in the sense in which it was put. The right hon. Gentleman's answer is:—The reports of the education committee to the County Council will be governed by the provisions of section 82 (2) of the Local Government Act, 1888.[Cheers.]
§ SIR J. GORST
I interrupted because the right hon. Gentleman was putting words into my mouth which I did not use.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
No, Sir, they are your own words in answer to the question. [Cheers.] There was a further question wherein it was said that:—the question was not based upon the wording of the Bill, but was as to the intentions of the Government which they desired to embody in the Bill";and the hon. Member who put the question:—appealed to the right hon. Gentleman whether on a subject of such extreme importance he was not entitled to an answer.Then the right hon. Gentleman said:—The intention of the Government was that the reports of the committees should be regulated by the general law.[Cheers.] But the Watch Committee is not the general law. It is a remarkable and extraordinary exception to the general law. The general law is that stated in the sub-section to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in his answer:—Every committee shall report its proceedings to the Council by whom it was appointed.Now, mark this:—But to the extent to which the Council so direct, the acts and proceedings of the committee shall not be required by the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882, to be submitted to the Council for their approval.[Cheers.] What does that mean? By the Municipal Corporations Act reports were to be made and were subject, as I understand, necessarily to approval or confirmation. This Act of 1888 so far relaxes that obligation that the County Council may, if they please, relax that obligation of confirmation, but if the County Council does not relax that obligation, then every act of the Committee under the general law is subject both to report and confirmation. [Cheers.] Not only has the right hon. Gentleman not studied the character of his Bill or the authority he is creating, but it is inconsistent with the description of the authority yesterday, and with the curt answer which he gave to the question 1357 put to him to-day. He was asked today whether—the proceedings of the education committee of the County Council would be reported to the County Council for confirmation.The right hon. Gentleman's reply was "No." Unless, therefore, the County Council passed a special resolution that proceedings shall not be reported for confirmation they must be reported. [Sir J. GORST dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman may shake his head, but those are the words of the Act I have read. The Government, indeed, do not understand the character of the education authority, but I will assume what is the fact, that this education authority is a mere deputation, a delegation of the County Council. You are going to transfer the whole of this vast and carefully constructed machinery of elementary education in this country to the County Council. Why are you going to do that? Are you dissatisfied with the Education Department and the work it has done? We have heard about the millions of letters; but there is not a Department, in the country which does not receive millions of letters. If you go to the Board of Trade or to the Inland Revenue Department you will find that the number of letters there is considerable, but that is no reason for making such a transfer as this. You must give us a better reason than that. I want to come to an understanding with the promoters of the Bill how they really think it is going to work. Let us take some particular county and try to see how this new authority is going to act. I will take a great county like Devon, which is of large geographical extent and not very dense in population, or take the West Riding of Yorkshire with a dense population. How do you think this new authority is going practically to work. Take Devon. Of course the County Council to whom you are going to transfer those powers meets, I suppose, at Exeter, many miles distant from many parts of the county, and by transferring the work of the Education Department you will require a body constantly sitting at Exeter, to deal with the questions that will arise every day. On some of those questions the authorities of Elementary Schools all over the country have to go 1358 to the Department and ask for instructions, and the instructions are given. Where is the body going to sit every day during office hours at Exeter. Who are the people who are going to do the work? That is the first question. We are told that there are to be local bodies in different parts of the country if necessary. The persons constituting these local bodies will be part, I presume, of the County Council. I do not know how many they will be—three or four—but, at all events, there will be different authorities in different parts of the county. Those persons must be perpetually sitting there in order to be consulted and to become acquainted with what is going on. [Cheers.] A letter is sent to them; are those bodies not to write letters also? Who is to attend to that work and where are they to sit? The West Riding of Yorkshire has declined to setup this authority, and the more the Bill is understood the more you will have County Councils throughout the country declining to have anything to say to its operation in connection with a work for which they find it extremely ill-adapted. [Cheers.] It is said that you are going to gain the immense advantage of local autonomy and local knowledge. But, first of all, you find that there is no local autonomy in the Bill at all, I will assume that the County Council at Exeter or the County Council at some other part of Devon appoint an authority. The delegated authority will have to refer on various points to the County Council when a difficulty arises. First of all, the deputed County Committee is appealed to, but that deputed Committee cannot do anything without reporting to the County Council sitting at Exeter. Is it to be autonomous? I thought that the great recommendation of this Measure was that it conferred something like independent local self-government, and that the county of Devon was supposed to know its affairs better that the Education Department. But look at Clause 14. [Cheers.] If any one objects to what the County Council of Devon does or to its sub-committee, letters are at once written to the Education Department to overrule them. That is what you call trusting local self-government. [Laughter.] The local body is made absolutely subordinate to the central body, and that at the complaint of any small schools 1359 within their jurisdiction. Anything more unlike decentralisation I cannot conceive; It is centralisation gone mad that you are creating. [Cheers.] Then we are told this is like a Watch Committee in a municipal borough. Now just look at Clause 15:—If any education authority fail to perform any duty imposed on them by or under this Act, the Education Department may appoint any person to perform that duty, and the person so appointed shall, for that purpose, have the same powers and authorities as the education authority, and his expenses shall be defrayed as part of the expenses of the educational authority.That is what you call local self-government! What do you think a municipal borough would say if the Home Secretary were to say to it—We do not approve of what your Watch Committee is doing and we will send a man down to fulfil the duties of the Watch Committee"—in the town of Birmingham for instance?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
But School Boards have not been treated as a municipal body. I should like to see you sending down a man to Birmingham to supersede the Watch Committee and to perform their duties. Again, let us see what Clause 16 says:—16. (1). The County Council shall provide such officers, servants, buildings, furniture, and other things as are necessary for the execution of the duties of the Education Committee and shall pay the expenses of executing those duties.(2). The power of raising money for the purposes of this Act shall be vested in the County Council, and shall not be exercised through the Education Committee.We are told that this education authority is to be independent. I imagine that, in the payment of this money, if the County Council is to pay it, it is not to be by a precept sent from this delegated Committee; the County Council is to have some voice and judgment as to the manner in which the money is to be expended. For that purpose, of course, that subordinate authority must report to them and must get their approval. I apprehend the Education Committee will not simply say to the Council—We are going to spend so many hundreds or thousands of pounds, and it is for us to say how the money is to be spent and it is for you to supply the money.1360 Of course, when this Bill was drawn the whole intention was that this Committee should be like an ordinary Committee of a County Council. But now assume that you create this extraordinary authority. The right hon. Gentleman said he had not the smallest intention of interfering with School Boards. When did it occur to the promoters of this Bill that they did not want at all to interfere with School Boards? What is the meaning of all those meetings at which we were told the great object of creating a new authority was to check School Boards? [Cheers.] Have the Government repented? [Laughter.] Because we want to know how far this Bill is in the hands of the Bishops or not. [Cheers.] We know the clerics' object was to control the School Boards. That was their declaration at the Archbishops' deputation, it was backed up by the Prime Minister, and to-day we are told that the new authority is not to interfere in any way with the School Boards. Does the noble Lord the Member for Rochester (Viscount Cranborne) understand that that is the view of the Bill—[Laughter]—and does he accept the view that the new authority is not to interfere with School Boards at all? If we have that clearly understood we shall have advanced a good deal. Certainly we are getting new light every day. I never before heard it declared by the Government that this authority shall have no power to check School Boards. Let us take note of that.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
We have been so perplexed by the different statements made by the Gentleman responsible for this Bill that I am afraid the statement of the right hon. Gentleman has not obtained the prominence which it deserved. I hope now it will be known throughout the country that he will accept my Amendment, as he has declared to-day, which shall prevent the new education authority interfering in any way with the School Boards. [Cheers.]
§ SIR J. GORST
I must interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. I did not say that. What I did was to read that clause in the Bill which says that "it 1361 shall be the duty of the education authority to supplement and not to supplant" existing organisations for educational purposes, and I added that anything inconsistent with that principle would be struck out of the Bill.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
When the right hon. Gentleman comes to read his speech to-morrow he will find that what he said was that the intention of the Government was not to interfere with School Boards; and that if there was anything inconsistent with that statement he should be willing to put it right.
§ SIR J. GORST
It is too bad of the right hon. Gentleman persisting in misrepresenting what I said. I think my statements are generally clear enough. I try to make them so. What I said was that the new authority would not interfere with the work of School Boards where it was being efficiently done, and I instanced such School Boards as those of London, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, and so on, and then I read out the beginning of Clause 2, and added, that if anything in the subsequent clauses could be shown to be inconsistent with the principle there laid down, it should be amended.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I have not the smallest desire to misrepresent him, but really I understood what he said very much in the sense of what he has now explained. I do not see the difference at all. I only hope that this declaration of his may cross the river to Lambeth—[cheers]—and that it shall be understood there as we understand it here, and that all notion of checking School Boards and of creating a new authority, which is to restrain expenditure or lower the efficiency of education, is at an end. [Cheers.] If so, we are approaching one another—[laughter]—and our objections to this Bill will be largely removed. As I say, we have most important statements day by day. Hon. Gentlemen opposite must excuse me for regarding the declaration to-day as one of the most valued results in Committee on this Bill. Now let us see how exactly it works out. Clause 13 says—the education authority shall take care that every school receiving from them any money is 1362 inspected and examined by such persons and in such manner as may be approved by the Education Department,and they are to satisfy themselves with respect to sufficient and suitable buildings, furniture, school apparatus, staff of teachers, discipline, and other matters. Am I right in assuming that these schools mentioned in my question, receiving from the Education Department, will come under Clause 13?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Then these great Board Schools are to remain free from interference after you have given the new education authority power to interfere with them in the smallest particular. [Cheers.]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
According to Clause 13 the education authority is to take care that any school receiving public money is inspected and examined, etc.
§ SIR J. GORST
The only provision of the clause is that, say, the Gateshead Town Council shall see that any schools which receive any money from them conform to the conditions of Sub-section 2 of Section 13 of the Bill. But every one of those conditions would be complied with in the case of the Gateshead schools, because they are all under the inspection of the Education Department; and all the Local Authority has to do is to see that every school which is assisted is in that category.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Then, is the Education Department to do it or not? All that inspection is now done efficiently by the Education Department, and you create a new authority to duplicate the work—[Cheers]—to double the expense—[Cheers]—and to make a different report from that of the inspector; and when you have two Reports, the Department is to determine which of the two is right. [Cheers.] Here you have two co-ordinate authorities to do the same thing; and that is what the Leader of the House objected to the other day. He said, "Why two authorities to do two things?" I say, still more, why 1363 two authorities to do the same thing? [Cheers.] You say that you are not interfering with the great School Boards. They are bodies which for nearly a quarter of a century have had experience of the work of inspection, and do you believe that your new authority will do it better or half as well? [Cheers.] It is said that you must have this new auhority to dispense the 4s. grant, and you assume that the new authority will know better the local conditions. Will it? Why? It can know nothing of the subject, and it will have to educate itself before it educates other people. You create a new authority, which perhaps in 20 years may know half as much as the authority already existing, and you say that it is to discriminate—rather a difficult thing—between the schools which are and those which are not to have the grant. But the Education Department knows all that already—knows it a great deal better than any new and raw body can know it; and it will deal with the question, in the opinion of those communities, with much more impartiality. [Cheers.] It will not have the prejudices which naturally affect these questions, and will not be affected by sectarian considerations. The right hon. Gentleman said that this was a very large question. Yes, it is. It is one of the largest questions which could possibly have been raised; and I do not think that the Government when they introduced this proposal had any notion how great the question was. [Cheers.] Of this I am quite certain—that they had no notion of the repugnance which exists in the minds of the people of this country—[cheers]—to see the existing system of primary education overthrown for the purpose of putting in its place such an authority as that which is created in this section of the Bill. This is the point on which a great divergence of opinion has arisen between the two sides of the House. It is owing to the creation of this unnecessary, inexperienced, and, in my opinion, utterly incompetent authority in the place of the experienced and capable authority which is now dealing with the education of this country that we mainly resist—[cheers]—to the utmost of our ability the provisions of this Bill. If the Government now would reconsider this matter; if they would be content to apply this new 1364 authority to secondary education, where I dare say it might be highly useful and advantageous; if they would give the advantages to Voluntary Schools which, subject to reasonable conditions we are willing to grant, then they might pass, with the general consent of the House of Commons and the approval of the country, an Education Bill which would be useful and permanent; and they would not induce a conflict of opinion which is mischievous in the highest degree, and which, in my belief, will be detrimental to the cause of education. [Cheers]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
By an unforeseen and unhappy accident we were deprived on the Second Reading of this Bill of a speech from the right hon. Gentleman. [Laughter.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
But Providence has taken care that we should suffer no permanent loss in this matter. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to give us two or three versions since the Committee stage began of that speech which he deprived us on what some of us venture to think was a more legitimate opportunity for it. [Cheers and laughter.] There were parts of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which, I think, travelled so far beyond the Amendment that he will hardly expect me to give a detailed examination of them. To the rest of his speech I propose to give a few words of specific reply. Before I do that, however, let me make a brief allusion to the pacific overtures made at the beginning of the right hon. Gentleman's speech and repeated at the end. He led us to understand that if we dropped Clause 1 of the Bill—
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
If we refrained from setting up an education authority which should have any relation to primary education, all the differences separating the two parties might be happily healed, and we might proceed with a changed face with the further consideration of the clauses which still remain. I am always glad to think that we and hon. Gentlemen 1365 opposite may not be so widely divided in opinion as sometimes seems to be the case. But I recall, at an earlier stage of the public discussions of this question, a good many utterances made by right hon. Gentlemen opposite on the subject of the proposed educational Measure which they then knew the Government were pledged to introduce. That was at a stage when, as they are never tired of telling us, neither they nor the country, nor the Government themselves, as they assert, had the slightest intention of setting up this educational authority for any purpose connected with elementary education. But even at that stage, before the present obnoxious proposal was dreamt of, we had announcements of the unswerving, unalterable opposition with which any proposal we might introduce with regard to education would be received. [Ministerial cheers, and Opposition cries of ''When?"]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I wrote two letters in which I entirely approved of the plan as proposed in the Queen's Speech with regard to the Voluntary Schools.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I am always sorry that any letter of the right hon. Gentleman should escape my notice, because they are generally such pleasant reading for me. [Laughter.] But the right hon. Gentleman near him (Mr. Asquith) delivered some philippics on education in the winter and the early spring from which I gathered that he, at that time quite ignorant of these proposals, meant to oppose the proposal which he did anticipate with regard to aiding the Voluntary Schools.
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
I did make more than one speech on this subject, before the plans of Her Majesty's Government were revealed. I said that I could not believe that the intentions of the Government were those attributed to them by their clerical supporters; but I added that I, and the Liberal Party generally, had no objection to additional aid from the public funds being given to the Voluntary Schools, provided that reasonable conditions were observed for representative management.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The idea, then, of right hon. 1366 Gentlemen opposite of bringing in a non-contentious Bill which should not deserve the epithet of an educational revolution would be to make the Voluntary Schools cease to be voluntary—[cheers]—and to transfer the management of their affairs from the present managers to some other elected body. I am not going to discuss that proposal, but there is not much probability of the forecast of the right hon. Gentleman being satisfied, unless the proposal is withdrawn, as to the treatment to be meted out to the Voluntary Schools. I pass from these general observations to more specific charges. The first is that the Bill will throw upon the education authorities, and through them on the County Councils, work of a kind which they will be utterly unable to perform. That is not the view of some important County Councils—["hear, hear!"]—but no County Council is obliged to bear the weight of these duties. ["Oh, oh!"] Clause 3 is a voluntary clause, and if any County Council cannot discharge these duties it need not adopt Clause 3. It may adopt part of the power or none of the power. Then the right hon. Gentleman says:—You call this measure decentralising, and yet you leave the power of appeal to the education authority when the school is aggrieved.Is that such an interference as to call for special remark? Does that power not exist under the Poor Law, and is it denied that the Poor Law is administered locally? It is the first time that I have heard that the Poor Law is centrally administered. But the right hon. Gentleman went on to say, in order to enforce his argument, that practically there was no decentralisation—that the Education Department would be the power to replace an education authority. That is quite true, but they have that power now with regard to School Boards and with regard to Boards of Guardians. They have the power now to replace the London School Board with a set of managers. Now, I want to know whether the School Board of London—the body which has the control of the School Board Schools of London—is or is not deserving of the name of a local authority; and when the right hon. Gentleman tells us that no central 1367 authority dare oppose such bodies as the great County Councils, I reply that I do not think a collision is likely to occur between these great bodies and the central authority of the Education Department. It is just as improbable as a collision between the London School Board and the Education Department. The fact is that the existence of this right of appeal is so well known in our system of local government that I am amazed at the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman at the introduction of this provision in the Bill. Then the right hon. Gentleman told us—and I confess it seemed to me that he travelled far outside the Amendment—that he criticised not for the first time the power given under Clause 26 for checking School Board expenditure. He appeared to be under the impression that this power is vested in the education authority. That is not so. It is vested in the County Council. ["Hear, hear!"] Why, then, did he travel so far from the Amendment to deal with a matter which is not touched in the remotest degree by this clause?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I was speaking about the relations between the County Council and the education authority and the relations with this authority as to expenditure. I spoke of how far these relations extended.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The right hon. Gentleman seems to forget the Amendment—[laughter and "hear, hear!"]—but that is no reason why the right hon. Gentleman should have gone into a tirade on Clause 26.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Is the right hon. Gentleman opposed to placing the education authority under the financial control of the County Council?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
My complaint was that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill explained to us yesterday that this was a matter quite independent of the County Council, and I 1368 showed how difficult it was to understand how the County Council was to have exclusive financial authority and exercise that authority without having some kind of corresponding authority over the Committee.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I now understand the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not agree with him. A Watch Committee is under the Borough Council in the matter of expenditure, and this Bill follows exactly the same lines in that matter. The Watch Committee is independent where finance is not concerned, but it is not independent where finance is concerned. I do not think we have gone beyond what we said yesterday. It may be argued that this power of curtailing School Board expenditure is a power which should not be granted, but that has nothing to do with the clause, for no power is given to these education authorities to interfere with the expenditure of the School Boards. It is perfectly true—we have never denied it—that the power of inspection now enjoyed by the Education Department will be enjoyed by the education authority. But that is not an interference with the School Boards. It is not taking away any power that the School Boards now possess. It is not interfering with any privilege that they now exercise. It is giving to the local authority the power exercised by the Education Department, and that cannot be properly described as an interference with the work of the School Board. There is nothing in this Bill which enables the local authorities to interfere in this matter with the School Board. The next complaint of the right hon. Gentleman is really absurd. He tells us that the Borough Councils or the City Councils are so raw and so ignorant that they are incapable of undertaking the work. He casts his prophetic eye forward 20 years, and he says that then these bodies may have learnt something of the work; but then in two minutes—not more—[laughter]—he admitted they had discharged their duties satisfactorily with regard to secondary education. [Renewed laughter.] For that work they are thoroughly competent.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
For my part I do not profess to know anything about education; I am the last person to pose as an authority on that subject; but I should have thought that a body which is able to deal satisfactorily with secondary education, involving greater educational knowledge and experience and more complex problems than anything connected with primary education, may safely be trusted with the power proposed to be given under this Bill. [Cheers.] If such a body is competent to discharge the one duty it cannot be described as incompetent to discharge the other. ["Hear, hear!"] I fear I have fallen into the error of travelling beyond the Amendment, but I hope that I have shown that, so far as the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, there is no reason why we should accept the Amendment. [Cheers.]
§ * MR. GEORGE LAMBERT (Devonshire, South Molton)
said the right hon. Gentleman had not advanced a single argument why the Amendment should not be accepted. He had told them that secondary education was more intricate than primary education. That might be so, but primary education was thought so important that it was made compulsory, and there were quite 100 primary schools to one secondary school. It was true there was a majority of 267 in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill, but he was persuaded that the Gentlemen who voted for the Second Reading wanted more money to be given to the Voluntary Schools, and certainly did not want to upset our existing educational system. He would like to put it to any clergyman of the Church of England who had a Voluntary School to manage, whether he would not rather have 10s. per child and do away with the clause than have the additrional 4s. with the clause. There was no doubt which he would accept. It was said it was necessary to decentralise education. He did not see that necessity; at all events, not to the extent as was proposed by the Bill. Education up to the age of 12 was fairly uniform all over the country. It was after the age of 12 that secondary education was given, and it was in respect of that they required the elasticity which was secured by decentralisation. If education was a 1370 national need, to be paid for out of national funds, why did they bring local management into play? Primary education was too vital a matter to be intrusted to the County Councils. He had the honour to be a member of the Devonshire County Council, and at their last meeting the Council dealt with roads and bridges, sanitation, police, rivers pollution, diseases of animals, wild birds' protection, sale of food and drugs, sea fisheries, fertilisers and feeding stuffs, rating, allotments, weights and measures, locomotives, lunacy, and technical education. To add elementary education to the list of subjects County Councils had to deal with would unduly tax their working capacity. He maintained that County Councils were not suitable bodies for this work, for they consisted of men who were not keen educationists. Moreover, any man who desired a seat on a County Council—especially of a large county like Devonshire—must have plenty of leisure and means to be able to attend to his duties. County Councillors were, as a rule, gentlemen who did not get their children educated at Board Schools, so that they would practically superintend the education of other people's children. He was also of opinion that if the Bill passed it would be a source of great danger to County Councils. The Councils were now elected because of their business capabilities. Hitherto politics or religion had not crept into the Councils, but he felt that one result of the adoption of the Bill would be the introduction of those disturbing elements. There would be enormous friction between the County Councils and the local bodies with whom they must work if they undertook the proposed duties. A good deal of friction had been caused between County Councils and the small boroughs upon the question of main roads and other questions, but if County Councils had to deal with the whole of the Voluntary Schools, they would undoubtedly be brought in considerable collision with the managers of the schools, and that would not lead to peace and concord in rural districts. He could not see why the Government wanted to make the County Council the authority to distribute this money to the Voluntary Schools. Surely it did not require very much machinery to send down cheques to all the Voluntary 1371 Schools. He should have thought a few more clerks in the Education Department would have been amply sufficient to do the work. The Devonshire County Council, 75 per cent. of whose members were Conservatives, were unwilling to undertake the new duties. At a meeting last week they adopted a resolution, by a majority of three to two, deprecating the proposed transfer to them of any duty connected with elementary education. The Chairman, Lord Clinton, spoke out very strongly indeed. He was the Conservative Leader in Devonshire, and an ardent advocate of the Voluntary Schools. He had urged strongly that good reasons had been given why the County Councils should not desire those duties thrust upon them in regard to both the extra work and the cost they would entail. In Devon the County Council, composed, as it was, of 75 per cent. of Conservatives, had, by the large majority of three to two, passed a resolution strongly deprecating the proposal to transfer the duties in connection with elementary education to the County Councils, and he maintained that some attention ought to be paid to the views of the Councils on this matter, for many of them had objected to undertake the duties. ["Hear, hear!"] The additional expense which would be thrown upon the Councils by the Bill would be very great. In Devonshire the control of educational matters by the County Council would entail a very heavy expense upon the ratepayers of the county. In regard to technical education in Devon, he found that the cost of administering the grant of £11,400, which was received, amounted to £1,000 a year, or rather under 10 per cent. The grants in aid of elementary education to Devon amounted to £96,000 a year. So if the cost of administering elementary education were in like proportion—and it might be more rather than less—it would mean an extra cost to the ratepayers of £9,600 a year. That was the kind of thing hon. Members opposite would have to defend before their constituents if this Measure became law. The grant of 4s. a head to the 35,000 children in the Voluntary Schools in the county of Devon—excluding the county boroughs of Devonport, Plymouth, and Exeter—would be about £7,000 a year, which would cost over 1372 £9,000 to administer, and he thought that would be paying through the nose for the extra 4s. to those schools. The Education Department now administered the schools at a cost of less than £4,000 a year; but it would cost the county, as he had said, £9,600 a year at least to carry out the work, a high price to pay for a small concession of decentralisation. [Cheers.] So strongly did he feel the importance of adequate provision being made for education, that he would not object to the additional expense if he thought it would tend to increased efficiency. But he did not believe it would do so. Certainly no reasons had been given to show that educational efficiency would be advanced in the slightest degree by the proposal of the Government to place elementary education in the hands of the County Councils. On the contrary, he believed the Bill would operate to the positive injury of both the County Councils and elementary education. By placing those duties on the County Councils, they would be imposing them on an unsuitable, unwilling, and inexperienced body for the purpose, which would impair the efficiency of education and destroy the utility of the Councils themselves by introducing political and religious considerations into their elections and deliberations. It was difficult for him to perceive what advantage was to be gained in any way by imposing this educational work on the Councils. ["Hear, hear!"] What need was there for it? ["Hear, hear!"] What demand was there for it? Certainly the country had made no demand for the change, for it was evident by the late elections and the opinion of the County Councils that the country generally was against it. [Cheers.] In the last Parliament the Government were constantly taunted with the question what mandate they had from the country for their Measures. What mandate had the Government for this change? [Cheers.] None. [Cheers.] Moreover, the question of this change of educational authority had never been put before the country, which he believed had been attached to the School Board system. [Cheers.] It was opposed even by many influential Members of the Conservative Party. The School Board system had worked well for 26 years, but before the Vice President of the 1373 Council had been in office for six months, he had resolved to entirely change that system in regard to elementary education. For his part he could not but think the right hon. Gentleman had been animated by very rash and revolutionary tendencies in bringing before the House of Commons such proposals as this Bill contained. He could only hope that full time would be given the country to consider the Measure, for if that was done he was perfectly certain the country would condemn it. [Cheers]
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said the First Lord of the Treasury, in illustrating, a few minutes since, the relations which would exist between the new educational authority and the central authority, fell into certain inaccuracies. There could be no doubt the right hon. Gentleman thoroughly understood the Bill, but he certainly was not as well acquainted with the general system of local government. In describing the relations between the new educational authority and the Education Department, he stated that the Department had the power to dissolve the School Board for London. The Department had no such power. ["Hear, hear!"] The London School Board was a statutory body which could only be touched by Act of Parliament. It was quite true that the Council had power over other School Boards, which could be exercised on local representation being made, but even those powers were not so great as the right hon. Gentleman supposed. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to defend the proposition by reference to the position of the Poor Law authorities in this country. He did not know whether there were many Members who were prepared to defend the existing relations between the central government and the Poor Law authorities. He had had experience from both ends, and all he could say was that he would be a bold man who, understanding the present system, got up and defended it in that House, and much less recommended it as an example that they should follow in the creation of new authorities. On the subject of the Amendment he was one of those who had never changed his 1374 views, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was in the same position. In 1870, they, with most of the Conservative Party, voted for the creation of School Boards everywhere throughout the country. In the belief of most of them, the alternative scheme to that presented by the Government in this clause was that for School Boards everywhere, retaining existing School Boards in districts of a reasonable size, and in small districts substituting School Boards, with a general control over the matters dealt with in this part of the Bill, for the authorities which existed at the present time. The relation into which they were bringing the central authority, with its powers delegated to County Councils, to the existing School Boards had, in his mind, been misdescribed by the Government to the House that afternoon. The Vice President had said that this Bill would not interfere with efficient School Boards. The Leader of the Opposition had very powerfully combated that statement as regarded all the matters which arose under Clause 13, but there were other portions of the Bill in which the interference with efficient School Boards would be very direct and close. Take such a School Board district as that which contained half the population in his constituency. They were one of the School Boards which came under Clause 4, and in their case the School Board would be absolutely under the thumb of the new county authority in matters of elementary education. Not only were they to be inspected by that authority to see whether they were efficient, but the whole of the additional money which was promised under Clause 4 to be given in that case would be absolutely at their discretion. They could give every farthing if they pleased to this particular School Board, or they could give none to them and hand the money over to some other Board in some other part of the county. He hoped he was a true decentraliser, but he maintained that, in a great portion of the rural counties, to take any powers away from School Boards and to give them to the County Council was not an act of 1375 decentralisation but of centralisation. There was no true representation in a matter of this kind for the district upon the County Council. For purely county matters—for main roads, bridges, and matters of that kind, and even for technical education—the County Council might be a very proper body, but it was not a representative body for the locality in the same way that the existing School Boards were. In their case every consideration of religious and political difference came in to augment the difficulty and to increase the friction. It was possible to get over the difficulty by the adoption of a scheme under Clause 4 by which the Education Department, rather than the County Council, might become the body to exercise these very delicate functions, and also by getting the money, in some way, ear-marked. But if they got over the difficulty in Clause 4, he was convinced that they were setting up in Clause 1 an authority which would be in constant friction with the School Boards throughout the country, and that the friction, great as it was when the Bill was introduced, had been increased by letting in the boroughs of 20,000. He should certainly vote for the Amendment.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to minimise the effect of this proposal, and had said certain things which, if they stood alone, might have left them comparatively reassured. He had told them that the great School Boards of Manchester and Liverpool would not be interfered with, and that Clause 2 which said that everything was to be left alone that was working well, was the principle of the Measure. But he had also said in previous Debates that the principle of the Measure—is the establishment in every county and county borough of a paramount educational authority. It is to be the one channel through which public money is to reach the schools,and that, with regard to the great School Boards of Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds, he would actually begin by giving the administration of the Government grant to the county boroughs and the County Councils. He for one was not prepared to trust the right hon. Gentleman with the immense powers, 1376 which this Bill conferred, of giving the entire administration of their education to every County Council and to every municipal borough. The right hon. Gentleman told them that this scheme was recommended by the Duke of Newcastle's Commission of 1861 as regarded elementary education, by various Secondary Education Commissions which had sat since, and above all by the Commission on Elementary Education which sat in 1888. Those remarks of the right hon. Gentleman must be taken not only with great reservation, but in his opinion they gave altogether an incorrect impression. Both the Commissions of 1861 and of 1888 decided exactly contrary to the view which the right hon. Gentleman had attributed to them. The Commission of 1861 did not recommend in every county the establishment of a paramount educational authority, or that public money should be distributed through, and only through, the educational authority. It laid down most distinctly that every penny of the grant from the taxes should be given by the central educational authority at Whitehall after inspection carried on by that authority. It was quite true that it likewise proposed that local rates should be given in aid of schools by county and borough boards. But those county and borough boards were to have no powers whatever over the taxes, and were to give the rates only to those schools which had been approved by the central authority. As to the Commission of 1888 the right hon. Gentleman said that a memorandum was issued by that Commission. Yes; the memorandum was issued by Commission in exactly the sense in which Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode issued it. They published it, but they did not in any sense approve of it. ["Hear, hear!"] The approval they gave it was contained in these words:—Without expressing any opinion on Sir Francis Sandford's plan we think it worthy of consideration, and insert it as an appendix to this chapter of our report.What was Sir Francis Sandford' s plan? It was a plan, among other things, to give the administration of local education to every District Council and borough of over 10,000 inhabitants. That was to say, it did that which the 1377 Opposition defended and urged in Committee the other day but which they failed to carry, although its adoption would have greatly improved the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] The real opinion of the Commission of 1888 was expressed in the clearest words in their final conclusions:—That the power of deciding on the claims of schools to be supported out of the Parliamentary grant can hardly be placed in other hands than those of the Department to which it had been committed by statute, and should not be placed in the hands of a local body.That was exactly what the Opposition said and why they asked the Committee to accept this Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"] That was the collective opinion of the Commission. He would give the individual opinion of a very important member of that Commission—one of the majority—Canon Smith, of Canterbury, who in a letter to The Times a few days ago, gave this advice in the present situation:—The ship must be lightened, it seems agreed, if the Education Bill with its valuable freight of special aid to Voluntary Schools, is to be brought safely into port this Session. Let that pecuniary assistance be procured and committed to the Education Department to administer along with the Parliamentary grant.That was excellent advice; he believed it would have been supported by the entire Commission at the time, and if it were adopted by the Government they might get on with the Bill and make it a really useful Measure. ["Hear, hear!"] Let hon. Members consider what the present system was of carrying on education. It was carried on by inspection from headquarters conducted by a body of something like 200 inspectors, who were very carefully chosen from the best class of men fitted for the purpose, who acted according to the great traditions of the office and thoroughly knew the work in which they were engaged. The Rev. Mr. Fitch, who knew their educational system as well as any man in the country, in a most excellent article, wrote:—Whatever be the defects of our existing system, it at least secures for every public elementary school in the land, however small and remote, an annual visit from an officer of the Central Department, who is necessarily detached from local associations, and free from sectarian 1378 influences, and whose duty it is to recognise impartially all forms of good work, and to ascertain how far the ideal framed under the sanction of Parliament has been or is likely to be fulfilled.[''Hear, hear!"] That was what they had got at present; but what was the Bill going to give them? In the first place primary inspection was, under Clause 3, to be handed over in every county which adopted it, to the emissaries of the County Council. They would be judges of first instance in all the infinite detail that regarded the efficiency of a school. In a matter of great importance like their national education it was necessary to speak plainly, and he said he did not believe they could trust the County Council to select that class of inspectors whom they ought to have to carry on their education. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed the system of leaving the selection to the County Councils would open the door to nepotism and favouritism. First of all they might have religious favouritism, because the cheap and easy thing to do would be to take the diocesan inspector, who would accordingly be taken in many instances. Again, there might be personal and family favouritism; the decision of the Committee might be overruled and the relation of a powerful and popular local magnate appointed. He earnestly hoped Scotch Members would consider how they voted on this question. They heard a great deal about Germany and Switzerland, but he believed there was no country in the world where education was more thoroughly understood than it was in Scotland. He would like to know what Scotchmen would say to a proposal to subject Scotch School Boards to the County Councils. ["Hear, hear!"] Quite recently they instituted County Committees for secondary education—half County Council and half School Board; but even for this purpose the School Boards were uneasy at half power being given to County Councillors. But to give County Councils the unreserved and untempered control and supervision of elementary education was a proposal which Scotchmen would not hear of for one moment. ["Hear, hear!"] There was every difference between the application of this system to elementary and secondary education. In the case of secondary education a County Committee had only to manage 1379 six, seven, ten, or a dozen schools, but in the case of elementary education it had to manage perhaps up to six or seven hundred. The proposal as regarded secondary education was reasonable and practicable, but in the case of elementary education it was impossible. In secondary education it would be beneficial, but in elementary education baneful and fatal, and that was why they on that side of the House supported the Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. R. B. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
observed that the First Lord of the Treasury had asked—Why did you put forward these bodies and speak of them as suitable for secondary education if they are not fit for elementary education?and he argued as though these new bodies—the educational authorities—were bodies which, from the point of view of secondary education, were wholly untried. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Technical Education Act dealt wholly with technical education, and he threw down a challenge to the Opposition to show that these bodies were, to any considerable degree, concerned with the administration of secondary education. They might have pointed to the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, under which there was constituted a body specially charged with secondary education. In the Technical Instruction Act, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, there was a definition of technical instruction which he was sure could not have been present to his mind when the right hon. Gentleman used this argument. Technical instruction in the Act in question was not only defined to be instruction in the principles of science and art applicable to industries, but it included instruction in branches of art in respect of which grants were made, and any other form of instruction—including modern languages, commercial and agricultural subjects—which for the time being was sanctioned by the Department. He was informed by those familiar with the facts that in many parts of England the Department had sanctioned the going far beyond technical education, such as the teaching of higher mathematics, and all manner of things, short of the dead languages, which belonged to the secondary education which was proposed under this 1380 scheme, and, in urging the acceptance of the Amendment, said the Government were in none too good a position that they could afford to set aside a good offer. The Leader of the Opposition came to them at an opportune moment and offered them assistance. The prospects of the great Unionist majority were obscured by the torrents, storms, and floods which were pouring themselves over the land. When their fair prospects were submerged in this fashion, his right hon. Friend came, like the dove, with an olive leaf in his hand as a sign of the receding of the torrent, but the Government, instead of accepting the Amendment as the Mount Ararat on which their ark might rest, treated it contemptuously. Had the Vice President of the Council read the Unionist newspapers on the situation? Was he aware that the most powerful Ministerial organs were insisting—[Ministerial cries of "Question."]
§ MR. HALDANE
said the Amendment gave the Government the opportunity of adopting secondary education as the sole topic of the Bill, leaving others to be dealt with on another occasion. They had already machinery adapted to secondary education but which was not adapted to elementary education, which stood on a totally different footing, and there were provisions of the Bill which would remove elementary education further from the control of popular bodies than was realised until Wednesday's Debate. The Government could in consequence only expect prolonged Debates. That very morning what did The Times say about the position of Ministers? [Ministerial cries of "Order!" and "Question."] Really when hon. Gentlemen opposite got into such a state of terrified agitation at the very mention of a Times leading article the Unionist Party must be in a bad situation. [Laughter and cries of "Question."]
* THE CHAIRMAN
It is unusual to quote leading articles in newspapers as a reason for accepting an Amendment. [Ministerial cheers and laughter.]
§ MR. HALDANE
said he merely made reference to the Press as a reason for curtailing the whole scope of legislation 1381 intended to be traversed by the Bill. The point that he desired to make was that unless the Bill was shortened and adapted to the purpose for which it was intended, and unless restricted to matters upon which there was no controversy, it was impossible for the Committee adequately to deal with it.
§ MR. J. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
, who was indistinctly heard, pointed out that the Royal Commission on Secondary Education did not report in favour of placing the control of secondary and elementary education in the same hands. It had no authority to inquire into the matter. An authority dealing with secondary education alone would not be biassed by religious or political partisanship, as one that dealt with elementary education would be. If the Government desired to facilitate the passing of the Bill they would withdraw the proposed local authority so far as it referred to elementary education, in connection with which there would sure to be prolonged and acute controversy, and confine it to secondary education. If the Government made up their minds to recast any part of the Bill he hoped they would endeavour to give a favourable consideration to the suggestions which had been laid before them.
§ MR. ALFRED HUTTON (York, W. R., Morley)
said the establishment of a new county authority was entirely subversive of the policy hitherto pursued in the control of elementary education. With regard to secondary education it was a continuation of the policy which had been adopted at various times by that House. When parents were compelled to send their children to a particular school, it seemed very unjust to hand over the managing control to an authority which the parents were absolutely unable to reach. The policy had hitherto been to keep the control of elementary education in the hands either of the House, the Education Department, or the School Boards, and by that means they had been able to bring forward their grievances and secure a remedy. Even in that House they could sometimes secure information from the Vice President of the Council, and if the people did not approve of his policy they knew what means to adopt in order to reverse it. Also in local matters they could reverse the policy of the School 1382 Board. But, by the admission of the right hon. Gentleman, it would be out of the power of parents or ratepayers to do so under the proposals now before them, and that was a very serious objection to handing over the administration of elementary schools to this county authority. That the County Council should also have the distribution of the money allotted was also a very serious matter. They would also have to raise the rates for particular school districts, and yet the chances were that there would not be a single representative of the ratepayers upon the authority, or not more than one. They believed in the good old-fashioned principle that taxation should not go without representation, but if they had the authority established by the County Council they would certainly not have more than one representative of the school district for which School Board rates were to be raised. How would it be possible to bring any pressure to bear in order to have any grievances remedied? The system at present was exceedingly simple, but under the new system it would be complicated in the highest possible degree. He very much feared that the system adopted in the Bill would lead to wirepulling in connection with our Education Department, and the administration of education, of the most regrettable character. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that by christening his scheme by the name of "decentralisation," hon. Members on that side of the House must necessarily bow down and worship it, but he did not see why they should accept this shibboleth. They thought this scheme of decentralisation would not advance the cause of education, but would provide many opportunities for retarding the progress of education, and they therefore sincerely thought that the best interests of elementary education would be served by maintaining the present simple and efficient system.
§ MR. J. BRIGG (York, W.R., Keighley)
said that although it might be desirable to embrace all classes of education under one management, practically it had hitherto been found to be impossible so far as it had been tried. He had had a considerable amount of practical experience in the subject before the Committee, having been actively engaged 1383 in the matter. From an early age he had had experience of Sunday Schools, Elementary Schools, Grammar Schools, different kinds of Middle-class Schools, passing on to Colleges and Universities. He had also had the privilege of knowing how the money was expended. He would venture to say that the Vice President himself did not know the effect which would be produced by the Bill if it was brought into operation. It was an exceedingly ingenious Bill, but its provisions were so mixed that he believed the Vice President could not foresee its possible effects. If a workman was engaged with a piece of machinery of an elaborate and technical kind which was producing a very desirable product, and if some foreman told him to alter the wheels, chains, and levers, he should look with very great doubt upon the suggestion. That was the position in which they were placed with reference to this Bill as a whole. Theoretically, one authority for education might be correct, but, as in other subjects, social and industrial ideas must give way to what could be made practical. He had had special opportunities for knowing the working of educational agencies, living in an active community, and taking interest in all classes of schools—elementary, middle class, private and public grammar schools and colleges. The Vice President himself did not realise the difficulty there would be in finding good men to work his scheme. He held a strong opinion that it would be a wise step to let the Bill apply only to technical and secondary work. This was not only his own opinion, but he expressed it more especially as representing the West Riding of the county of York. Was the opinion of the West Riding worth having? He thought it was by reason of the work the division was carrying on. The County Council had divided the county into districts, and appointed in each a district committee to watch the needs and interests of the respective districts. Through this machinery the County Council had taken hold of every elementary school, and offered scholarships to higher schools. It had given grants for the teaching of subjects taught in day and night schools, and also in higher-grade Board Schools. It had offered scholarships to colleges and 1384 universities, grants to technical classes in sciences, and in domestic subjects. It had opened mining schools, weaving schools, spinning schools, and agricultural classes. It had laid out experimental plots, and provided examples of culture with different kinds of manures. It had provided teachers for classes of all kinds asked for—commercial classes, classes for type writing, shorthand—and it had taught the study of Bradshaw and the London Directory as class subjects. It had taken up art subjects and designing; it had given a grant for exceptional talent called a "grant for genuity" and it had made a travelling grant for the visitation of foreign countries by teachers or advanced scholars. This had been done by the County Council principally by the delegation of work to different agencies, and by a thorough system of inspection. But this could not have been done if elementary education work had been added. Personally he should be proud of the Country Council if it could have undertaken it. They had one of the best clerks in England, and a chairman in Lord Ripon second to none in his interest in educational work. They tried much to see if it was not possible, but, after serious consideration, the County Council was obliged to pass the following adverse resolution:—That the County Council does not approve the proposal to transfer to the County Council the duties associated with the administration and supervision of the Elementary Education Acts.The proposed new duties connected with elementary education would break down the organisation. It could not take over the School Attendance Committee's work, the management of industrial schools, the charge of workhouse children to be taken contrary to the wish of the guardians, and the work of the Science and Art Department. Finally, the friction sure to be caused by the 27th Clause would introduce elements of discord into every department of the Council's work. No religious difficulty had yet been found in secondary and technical education. Parliament could pass laws to constitute an authority, but it could not make that authority do good work contrary to its own opinion. Why crowd work on to 1385 the County Council? Let the County Councils and boroughs do the secondary and technical, and the School Boards the elementary work. He believed it possible to even obtain a uniform system of working secondary education to include the county, county boroughs, and non-county boroughs. Nothing was improved by the decentralisation of 27 places where the Education Department could influence and control the new education authority; and under Clause 27 the Education Department's decision of "what is reasonable" was to be final and without appeal. He appealed to the Vice President to cut out the contentious clauses, and, instead of borrowing plausible ideas from the Report of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education, and using them as screens to hide and confuse the attack upon the public purse for denominational purposes, to come out boldly with a Bill for Secondary Education on the lines already largely approved by the country, and then, if might must take the place of right, to bring in a Bill for taking in an open, straightforward way a bagful of the people's money and give it to the hungry ecclesiastics, lay and professional, and tell them to make the best use of it so long as they have it, for you cannot guarantee it any longer than the present Party remains in power.
§ * MR. J. H. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
said that as a Member of the Royal Commission he had in a memorandum attached to the Report expressed his view that there should be one educational authority only, which should deal with both primary and secondary education. It was due to historic action that we had now separate local authorities, the one dealing with primary and the other with technical education. He desired to point out his reasons for entertaining the opinion that there ought to be one and not two local educational authorities In the first place the principle of a sole educational authority was a democratic one. The schools for the upper, the middle, and the lower classes should be under the same local authority. The estabishment of different local authorities for different schools tended to encourage snobbishness on the part of the parents, of the children, and of the teachers in the different 1386 schools, and that of itself constituted a great drawback to the progress of education throughout the country. He believed that it was a mistake, also, to divide public education into water-tight compartments which had no organic connection with each other. They would gain both economically and administratively if they could secure the control of education by a sole local educational authority, because they would avoid the overlapping and over-supply of schools, and other things that now were adverse to the full benefit being obtained from our educational system. Primary, secondary, and commercial schools, and schools where higher education was given, would all derive advantage from the control of all being under the same local authority. By such a system there would be a systematic connection established between schools, among which there was at present next to no co-operation. There was now next to no attempt on the part of the different classes of schools to fit into, and dovetail into each other their curricula, and no such attempt would be made until both primary and secondary schools were placed under the same local educational authority. It was only in that way that systematic continuity between primary and secondary education could be attained. If his suggestion were adopted there would be an easy and continuous path from the smallest of the primary schools to the highest of the secondary schools. For these reasons he was in favour of there being one and the same local authority for educational purposes in each locality. He admitted that there were practical difficulties in the way of his proposal being carried into effect, and if they could not secure the establishment of a sole authority the next best thing was that the Voluntary Schools and the Secondary Schools should be under one authority. He was also anxious to secure some kind of local control over voluntary schools. He should have preferred that all classes of schools should have been placed under the School Board, because under the present system the management of thousands of schools was practically that of one man. He knew, however, that that suggestion would not meet with acceptance and that the managers of the Voluntary Schools would never consent to accept control of their 1387 schools from the School Board, and the secondary schools and teachers considered themselves to be of far too much importance and to stand too high to come under the control of that body. A new authority, largely municipal, would be more acceptable both to voluntary and secondary school managers. The general thing was to secure some kind of co-ordinating and reformative control. For these reasons he could not support that Amendment and must give his vote in favour of the Government proposal.
§ MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S. W.)
said that in general theory he was entirely in accord with his hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, but with regard to his practical attitude, he was led to a conclusion directly opposite to that of his hon. Friend. His idea had always been to have one authority directly elected ad hoc, charged with the control of all the departments of public education; and he ventured to hope that that ideal would be realised in the not very distant future. It was obvious that it could not be realised immediately, and they had now to consider what course they would take on the practical issue before them. He could not bring himself to the point of sacrificing the great principle of direct election. Almost every speech delivered from the Treasury Bench increased the obscurity by which this unhappy Bill was surrounded, and the speech of the Leader of the House that evening was no exception to the rule. The Bill had been ushered in with a flourish of trumpets as a large Measure of decentralisation, but the Leader of the House had tried to set up an analogy between the plan of the Government and our Poor Law system, which was one of the most highly centralised systems ever established. The Vice President of the Council had objected that the Amendment raised a great question prematurely. He demurred altogether to the allegation that the question had been raised prematurely, being of opinion that it could only be raised appropriately at this very period of the clause, where provision was made for the creation of an Education Committee for the purposes of elementary education. In considering the question whether it was really necessary for the purposes of elementary education to bring into existence 1388 this new and very costly authority, he thought he was entitled to confine his view to the compulsory provisions of the Bill. He passed by Clause 3, which would practically be a dead letter, because these local authorities upon whom the Education Department might be expected to be willing to confer the powers to which the clause related, were evidently unwilling to assume these powers, and these authorities who might be prepared to ask for the powers could not safely be intrusted with them. Eliminating Clause 3, he asked what functions were left for the new body to perform in connection with elementary education. There was only one—namely, the distribution of the Special Aid Grant, and he protested strongly against the vicious proposal to bring into existence a most elaborate and expensive machinery for the performance of what were by comparison insignificant functions. He would take London as an illustration. He had calculated that the Special Aid Grant which would be distributed in London would amount to something over £35,000, and in order to distribute that sum, the Government were going to bring into existence new machinery, a new set of officials, new buildings, and all the paraphernalia of a great organisation. The cost of distributing the grant would be larger than the grant itself. The London ratepayer had been hardly hit by this Government already, and in the interests of the ratepayers he protested against the creation of this elaborate machinery, which would have nothing like adequate functions to perform. A plausible colour had been attempted to be given to this provision by representing that it would enlarge the power of local government. But it was no good bestowing power upon a local authority unless with the power discretion was given also, and how much discretion would be given to the education authority in regard to the distribution of this grant? In the first place, it was provided that in the case of Voluntary Schools the grant should be distributed in proportion to the number of scholars in each school. No discretion was given in the matter. Then there was the further provision that in cases where there were endowments, the value of an endowment must be deducted from the 1389 grant. Thus, the amount to be distributed in London, in regard to which there would be any discretion, would not be £35,000, but an almost infinitesimal fraction of that very small sum. Very different considerations affected the question of the control of elementary education on the one hand, and the question of the control of secondary and technical education on the other. The Vice President of the Council seemed to think that he could derive some support for his proposal from the Report of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education. The right hon. Gentleman, however, was not entitled to claim support from that quarter, for the Report stated expressly that the Commissioners held themselves to be debarred from even considering the question of elementary education. [Sir J. GORST: "I said so."] Yes; but the right hon. Member, nevertheless, seemed to think that his proposals were supported by the Report. Supposing that an appeal were made to experience, how would the argument stand? So far as our experience in London went in regard to secondary education, there was, he admitted, something to be said in favour of an indirectly-elected body. He should be ungrateful indeed, as a London Member, if he were not to acknowledge the invaluable services done to the cause of technical education by the London Technical Board, an indirectly elected body composed of 20 members of the County Council and of 15 members chosen from outside. On the other hand, as far as elementary education in London was concerned, experience should lead them to decide without reserve in favour of a directly elected body. No one who knew London 25 years ago would venture to deny the extraordinary progress which had been made in popular education, and all that popular education brought with it. If any one wished to realise what had been done for education in London under a directly elected body, let him go to the East End, and look at and talk to the children, and contrast their present condition with their condition 25 years ago. The testimony of experience, as far as elementary education was concerned was wholly on the side of direct election. Not in London alone, but in all great centres of population, the School Board 1390 was essentially a popular body. Take the case of West Ham as an example. It had been the cruel misfortune of the School Board of West Ham to inflict upon its constituents a school rate of no less than 2s. 4d. in the pound, a circumstance likely to damp enthusiasm and stir up ill-feeling against the best and wisest local authority. Yet they had recently heard in the House both the hon. Members for West Ham, in spite of this almost intolerable burden, speaking in favour of an Amendment for the exclusion of West Ham from the operation of the first clause of this Bill. There was a further consideration which he thought differentiated the case of secondary education from elementary education. Secondary education was a national interest of the highest importance, but after all, it did affect, and could only affect, a small proportion of our community, whereas elementary education affected the whole community. If a subject of this universal interest was to be handed over to such a body as this Bill contemplated, he feared that a serious blow would be given to the principle of direct popular representation. The effect of this clause would be to lower the status of members of School Boards. London had experience of two indirectly elected bodies—the Metropolitan Board of Works, and the Metropolitan Asylums Board. The people of London, warned by what they had suffered in the past, could not think of continuing to suffer from indirectly elected bodies, and they were very little disposed to supersede the popular and directly elected London School Board by such an authority as was proposed by the Bill.
* SIR U. KAY - SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
supported the Amendment. There were, he said, good reasons why they might be disposed to confide secondary education to a new authority, and yet might not be disposed to confide primary education. One of the most grievous results of the Bill would be that it would introduce into municipal and County Council elections the odium theologicum of conflicting sects and parties. The right hon. Member for Bridgeton mentioned a letter of Archdeacon Smith in The Times of yesterday, but there was also a letter in The Times of to-day from the Dean of St. Paul's, 1391 a distinguished member of the Church Party, who strongly desired that the Education Bill should be dropped, that only Clauses 4, 19, and 20 should be passed, and that Clause 1 setting up this new education authority for the purposes of primary education, should not be persevered with. He wished to call attention to the Vice President's remark that the local authority would be necessary to discriminate between the richer and the poorer Voluntary Schools in the distribution of the Special Aid Grant. He had two answers to that. In the first place, no discrimination of that kind was contemplated by the Bill. But if such a discrimination were to be introduced, he would strongly urge that the local authority was not so capable of impartially discriminating between one school and another as the Central Department in London with the help of its Inspectors and the audit. A more invidious task, and one more difficult to discharge, could scarcely be thrown on a County Council, and especially on a Borough Council. They would always be open to the imputation of favouring one party or sect more than another, and the arrangement would probably end in their having to give equally to all. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the question of school attendance, saying that he had always contemplated that the County Councils would act through the local bodies, the responsibility to rest with the County Council, in order that the work might be well done and in order to secure uniformity. In Lancashire uniformity would be impossible under the Bill. They would have in that county 31 education authorities—15 originally contemplated by the Bill, and 16 introduced by the Amendment which the Government accepted on Thursday last. That number would be very considerably added to soon, for it would be practically impossible to keep out those urban sanitary districts to which reference had been made, which were equally populous, equally urban in character, and equally deserving of local autonomy in municipal matters, as places already accepted as being fit to be educational authorities. These districts would become ambitious of being placed on an equality with the boroughs, and there would be a rush for charters. Therefore he foresaw that in- 1392 evitably they would have within a few years between 40 and 50 authorities in Lancashire alone, and this would not tend to uniformity of action. Another great difficulty was that of area. The county was the wrong area to have control. It was too wide, too scattered, and in Lancashire it was honeycombed. For secondary education the case was totally different. The County Council was already accustomed to manage technical education, and it might be comparatively easy for the Lancashire County Council sitting at Preston to undertake the control of secondary education work. When the resolution was passed by the County Council of Lancashire in which they expressed a readiness to adopt the position in which this Bill would place them, even then the Chairman of the Technical Committee and other members of the Council expressed an opinion that it would be infinitely better that the new authority should be elected ad hoc, and 13 voted for an Amendment to that effect and 19 against it. The resolution itself was passed in a thin meeting of the County Council, 23 voting on one side and 14 on the other. One of the strongest reasons he had for opposing the inclusion of primary education in the powers given to the education authority was that in the boroughs where a School Board was efficiently doing the work, the giving of those powers was superfluous and even mischievous. The speeches made on the Government's own side, for example, by the Members for West Ham, proved that the School Boards were not so unpopular as was supposed. The Vice President of the Council must know that the two great forces in national education since the passing of the Act of 1870 had been—first, the enlightenment, the zeal, and the earnestness of the men and women who had worked on the School Boards, especially the great urban School Boards; and secondly, the Education Department. Yet now the Government were doing their utmost to place those who had no such experience and could show no record of such zeal and earnestness in a position of control over the School Board; and in the next place, they were proposing to deprive the Education Department of those powers which it had so usefully exercised. He could speak from early recollections of the good work 1393 of that Department long before the Act of 1870, and since the passing of that Act the same spirit had animated it under successive Vice Presidents, and indeed it had always been somewhat in advance of the general public opinion of the country. Yet at a time when it was of such immense importance to us, materially, morally, and in the interests of the educational welfare of our people, that we should make further advance, it was proposed to weaken those two great forces and so to deal a heavy blow at primary education.
§ MR. T. T. BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)
professed a feeling of admiration for hon. Gentlemen who had succeeded in making Second Reading speeches on every single Amendment. He had listened to a long series of Second Reading speeches in which the whole area of the Bill had been considered, praised a little, and damned very much by hon. Members who had spoken one after the other. When the Bill first made its appearance, they were told from the other side that there was something good in it and something capable of amendment. There was no Bill perfect in every word and line. They were told in strong language by the late Home Secretary and the hon. Member for Northampton, that it was a degrading and detestable Bill, and any little virtue in it seemed to have vanished. Again, they were told that if the Government would only drop a portion of the Bill, the rest would be very good indeed. The Bill had been likened to a sick animal suffering from indigestion, but the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeen on the Second Reading took exactly an opposite course to that taken to-day. Then the right hon. Gentleman said, not to drop out of the Bill elementary education, but to drop secondary education. How was it possible to carry a Bill through this House if such different points, each inconsistent with the other, were to be taken from time to time by those who pretended in the first instance that by some amendment it would be made a good Bill? On the Second Reading the right hon. Member for Aberdeen complained of the Bill with regard to its provisions relating to secondary education, because it was contrary to the advice 1394 given by the Commission on Secondary Education. The hon. Member added:—Looking at a balance of advantages, and to the fact that, in the press of elementary education work, secondary education interests might be forgotten, it would be better to leave secondary education to a special authority, and he hoped even now the Bill would be amended in that sense.That was on the 6th May, and now the Government was asked to take an exactly contrary course. That was not treating the Bill fairly. It was undoubtedly true that the Education Department was overworked, and that the time had come when elementary education might be better conducted and controlled by localities than by the overworked Central Authority. Therefore the only difference could be as to whether the proposed authorities were capable of carrying out the work. Could hon. Members suggest that the County Councils were incapable of dealing with education? The first principle of the Bill was decentralisation, and it was a wise and proper provision which would improve and not degrade popular education. To take the care of elementary education from the new authorities, leaving only secondary education to them, would be to make the Bill hardly worth the time which already had been spent on it.
§ * SIR GEORGE OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
said that he rose to answer the challenge which the Vice President of the Council had thrown down to the Welsh Members. From the moment he heard the right hon. Gentleman's first speech, he was convinced of the increasing difficulties of combining in one Bill two such different things as primary and secondary education. The First Lord of the Treasury argued that if the new authorities were capable of dealing with primary education, they must a fortiori be capable of dealing with secondary education; but that was a very superficial view. The educational duties, machinery and equipment were different in the two cases. While secondary education was concerned with six or seven schools, primary education might be concerned with six or seven hundred. Besides, elementary education being compulsory, the parents of the children had a right to some voice in the election of those who administered the schools. No such consideration entered 1395 into the question of secondary education. In Wales they had an educational authority dealing with the intermediate schools, to which the Bill now proposed to hand over the control of elementary education; but that which had been a conspicuous success in one case might be an equally conspicuous failure in dealing with elementary schools. The Vice President said it had been discovered that in Wales, in one or two cases, the power of the intermediate school authorities overlapped those of the School Boards. He had never heard of such a case. But if it existed, was it a reason for calling into existence this complicated and costly machinery? Since the day when Charles Lambe's Chinaman burnt down his house to roast a pig, such a cumbrous device had never been resorted to in order to secure so insignificant an object. Surely the Education Department could itself prevent any overlapping of authorities. The Amendment showed the Government the way out of a "tight place;" and if instead of "ploughing the sands" they would adopt it, they would be welcomed with open arms by the Opposition. The Bill could very easily be adapted to the case of secondary education.
§ MAJOR F. C. RASCH (Essex, S. E.)
said that he did not pretend to be an enthusiast or an expert on the subject of education, and he had not before spoken on the Committee stage of this Bill. But if he carried out the wishes of his constituents, he should not be able to vote against this Amendment. If there was one thing in the Bill which his constituents disliked more than the 21st Clause, raising the age of the children, it was this clause, which proposed to knock the School Boards on the head. He entirely agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Gray) when he said that he should be sorry for the Unionist Party if this clause were passed.
§ * MR. JOSEPH A. PEASE
said the Vice President had assumed that he was opposed to the Amendment; but his view was that, if a new authority were to be set up, and to be given new powers, it was far preferable to give it powers with respect to secondary education than in respect of primary education. His own County Council opposed the 1396 Bill on this very ground. The Education Committee had unanimously requested the County Council of Durham to petition against the Bill, and although both political parties were represented by about an equal number of members, the County Council had put Party feeling to one side and had unanimously accepted the recommendation of the Education Committee and petitioned against the the Bill. The following were the two first paragraphs of the petition—(1.) That it is not desirable in the interests of education to impose on the County Council the administration of the duties of the Education Department in respect of the Parliamentary grant for elementary education, or of the fixing or alteration of the code of elementary education, or of inspecting and securing or certifying the efficiency of elementary schools.(2.) That the duplicate system of examination and inspection provided for in the Bill would be wasteful and likely to create friction, and would involve Local Authorities in heavy extra expenditure which has hitherto been borne by the public Exchequer.He had been somewhat surprised at the enormous cost the Bill would create in the administration proposed, and he had asked the Secretary to the Education Committee of the Durham County Council to indicate to him what would be the expenditure in that county in the event of the provisions of the Bill coming into operation, and the reply was as follows:—Under clause 16 (1) I estimate administration expenses thus:—The Elementary Day School grant for England and Wales, according to the last Government Returns, amounted to £4,137,000; for the administrative County of Durham only for the same period it was £110,000, practically one-fortieth part. The cost of the London Office of the Education Department was £68,943; one-fortieth of this would be £1,750; Her Majesty's Inspectors cost £186,600; one-fortieth of this would be £4,664. These taken together amount to £6,414.It goes on to say:—A penny rate on the rateable value of the County would realise £13,100; so that you will see, even on this rule-of-three basis, the administration of the County Education Office would be equal to ½ in the £. We must, however, bear in remembrance that the cost of administration must necessarily be increased by the splitting up of the work into so many separate areas, each area requiring its own special chief adviser…"There are, of course, other expenses to consider under the Bill, for instance, the management of Poor Law Schools in addition to the transfer of Industrial Schools from that 1397 special Committee to the Education Committee under Clause 2 (3) and the proposed distribution of the Government grants for Science and Art amounting to £2,900 per annum, and the Education Department's Evening Continuation School grants, which last year amounted to £2,300, and which every year will undoubtedly increase in amount. Then there is the consideration of the fair distribution of the special aid grant. All these are new work, the management of which at present is a somewhat unknown quantity. You may take it, however, without any reservation, that £7,000 a year would certainly not be a high figure at which to put the whole of the County Office expenses, including inspection. Then there is Inspection of Secondary Schools to add.
§ * MR. J. A. PEASE
Because there is no provision made for meeting the expenditure in the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR J. GORST
said the terms were left to be agreed upon between the education authority and the Education Department.
§ * MR. J. A. PEASE
Yes; but we ought to know what the Government are going to do. Are the Government going to meet this extraordinary expenditure? [Opposition cheers.] He believed the expenditure in his own county would amount to nearly £10,000. Under the Bill there were 64 County Councils, 64 County Boroughs, 69 Urban Councils, or in all 197 new authorities, and if their average expenditure was only a quarter of that of Durham, the Committee would see, by multiplying 200 by £2,500, they were going to increase the expenditure in the country by their Bill by upwards of half a million. Why that was the very sum they proposed to give to the Voluntary Schools. What they gave with one hand they were going to impose on the county authorities with the other. If not, where was the money to be found? They were going to give these powers to many bodies which were absolutely unfitted to discharge them. [Cries of "Question!"] It was the question. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not speak without some slight experience, for he had been for 10 years on a Municipal Council, and he said that in the small boroughs they were not competent to look after educational necessities—particularly technical education. The members of Town Councils were not educational experts in the same way as were the members of School Boards. He argued that the clause as 1398 it stood would lead to utter disorganisation, particularly with regard to the higher branches of education. For instance, it was necessary to organise technical and secondary education classes. The number of competent men able to teach and lecture in any county were limited, and if a number of authorities vied with one another to secure the services of teachers and lecturers, the maximum expense would be incurred with a minimum of good. Again, provision ought to be made in every county to secure the tuition and cultivation of teachers, but how could this be undertaken if there were a multitude of competing authorities who were by themselves unable to arrange for teachers' classes. Again, scholarships would become under the Bill less valuable, and the clever pupils would not have the same opportunity of securing through their scholarships University education. And again, there was the question of institutes. The County Council for the boroughs in Durham had set aside £12,500 for the erection of technical institutes. Each of those institutes ought to be the centre for higher education, instead of being devoted to mere urban or parochial educational interests. In the south of Durham there were four or five small boroughs, and it was very important that the technical institutes which had been erected and which were being erected, should be the centre for the development of technical education as a whole for the whole of the district, and not merely for the towns. The right hon. Gentleman's proposals were of a retrograde character, and, therefore, he was glad to support the Amendment of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. D. F. GODDARD (Ipswich)
said it was possible to conceive an authority adapted to the controlling of elementary and secondary education. That authority, however, must be elected for the purpose. The authority under the Bill was absolutely unsuited for the purpose intended. In the first place it was composed of men who had as little knowledge of the details and machinery of carrying on elementary education as it was possible to find. He was a member of a county Borough Council, and he could confidently say that that Council was quite unsuited to have supreme and paramount control of elementary education. It would also 1399 be a great act of injustice to place such Councils over the heads of those who had made themselves thoroughly competent to deal with questions of elementary education. It had been argued that the Bill did not interfere in any way with School Boards. If that was so, how was it that all the School Boards were up in arms against the Bill? They had distinctly come to the conclusion that the Bill was harmful to their interests. ["Not all!"] There might he a few who had not, but the right hon. Gentleman would agree that the great majority of the School Boards looked upon the Bill as inimical to their interests. Those reasons wore strong enough why the elementary education part should be struck out of the Bill. But there was another reason which might he used with force—namely, that it would be extremely unwise that religious questions should in any way he introduced in an authority that had to deal with secondary education. That was an opinion held by all earnest educationalists in the country. He was persuaded that, if this Amendment were accepted, it would disarm a good deal of the opposition which even the Government by this time must feel was entertained in the country against their Bill.
§ SIR J. KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)
said he had considerable doubt as to the principle of making the County Council the education authority. Only yesterday he received a copy of a very clear resolution passed by the County Council of Devon strongly deprecating the placing upon their shoulders at the present time of the proposed additional duties. [Opposition cheers] A resolution like that must command the attention of the county Members, because the County Council spoke with the authority and voice of the whole county. ["Hear, hear!"] He took it that the Council objected to take upon themselves the new duties, on the ground of expense in the first place, and on the ground that they had already very large duties in the second place. No doubt they also thought that education, except technical education, was outside their province. He felt the force of what had been said as to the danger of throwing into the election of County Councils the apple of religious discord. [Opposition cheers.] The Gov- 1400 ernment would do well to consider whether it would not be better to confine, for the time being, the work of the County Councils to secondary education and to education under the Poor Law. ["Hear, hear!"] They should not force the County Councils to undertake duties which they were unwilling to carry out. It would be far wiser to give them the lesser powers at first, and after a time, when experience and confidence in the work had been gained, they might then impose upon them the larger duties proposed by the Bill, if it was found that the country approved of that course being taken. [Opposition cheers.] There was another and a wider question—whether it was possible in the limits of the present Session to carry the Bill into law. [Opposition cheers.] In the prospect of a permanent solution they did not want to have a Measure carried which would leave the seeds of dissension and discord, doing serious damage to the education of the country. [Opposition cheers.] The Bill had been much misunderstood and very much misrepresented. [Ministerial cheers.] There were in the Measure, as he conceived, many elements of good, and he hoped those portions of the Bill would be carried into law. ["Hear, hear!"] But whether they went on with the Bill now, or in an autumn Session, or in next January, he hardly thought it would have a fair chance of achieving that permanent settlement which they all so much desired. It was too big a question to be settled in a hurry. ["Hear, hear!"] It was too vital a question to be carried through by large majorities without a large amount of mutual consent, and if satisfactory arrangements could be made to give the necessary aid to Voluntary Schools, it would be well for the Government to consider whether, in the interests of education itself, it was not better to drop the Bill. [Opposition cheers.]
* THE CHAIRMAN
said it was quite out of order for the hon. Baronet to discuss that question. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR J. KENNAWAY
said that his suggestion to the Government was that they should seriously consider under the circumstances, whether it would not be sufficient to intrust the County Council with the minor duties for the present. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. A. H. DYKE ACLAND (York, W.R., Rotherham)
said he was not going to follow the hon. Baronet in reference to the remark which the Chairman had ruled out of order, but he did hope that Ministers would take note of the observations he made. [Opposition cheers.] The speech of the hon. Baronet was one of the most important that had been delivered in the course of the present Debate. [Opposition cheers.] Those who had heard that speech might be left to consider whether the course advised by the hon. Baronet was not the proper one to be taken at the present time. They would all agree with the hon. Baronet that this Question was one which was not to be settled in a hurry—[cheers]—and in saying this he was speaking in no party sense. That, indeed, was the feeling that strongly prevailed all over the country, and among all parties, and those who had read the letters in The Times on the Question would be forced to come to the same conclusion—namely, that the Question ought not to be settled in a hurry. ["Hear, hear!"] It would be much better, as the hon. Baronet had said, if the settlement was to be a permanent one, to settle the Question by mutual consent. [Opposition cheers.] The hon. Baronet had said that they could not force a great body like the County Council of Devon to undertake duties which it did not want to discharge. That was exactly what Members on the Opposition side of the House had been trying to say all the evening. [Cheers.] Then the hon. Baronet added—and all would agree with him—that after a time, when the new authority had had adequate time for preparation, it might be possible to make some delegation of further powers to them in the work of education. But that time was not now. [Cheers.] No Member of the Opposition had ever said that there might not be a time in the future when some proposition of this kind—not perhaps exactly in the form now proposed by the Bill—to delegate further educational powers might not be feasible. At present the whole thing was a matter of surprise to the country, and the local authorities themselves were entirely unprepared, ["Hear, hear!"] It had been pointed out during the Debate that if the suggestions from the Opposition 1402 side of the House were accepted—that if it were possible that some Amendment of the kind now before the Committee were accepted, it would largely lighten the ship and lessen the matters of controversy. In such circumstances some of the most contentious clauses in the Bill would fall together, and yet some matters in which hon. Gentlemen opposite were greatly interested would remain in the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] If the advice of Archdeacon Smith, who was a strong supporter of the Government, and who knew as much about this subject as anybody, was taken, they could hand over the administration of the Special Aid Grant for the present to the Education Department. Clause 4 would not then be necessary, and then the new education authority which it was proposed to set up would not be required for the Special Aid Grant. The Dean of St. Paul's gave similar advice. Moreover, if the Government wished to carry out the system of municipalisation—which the First Lord of the Treasury said was a splendid idea—on the model of foreign countries, it could be done in a much simpler way by transferring the School Boards and all their work to the Town Councils, in which case they would not want the proposed new authority at all. He did not say that he agreed with the plan, but it would be a simpler way of carrying out the object than the proposals of the Government. ["Hear, hear!"] If the suggestion he referred to was adopted the Poor Law and school attendance would not come under the authority. Section 27, which dealt with the religious question, would not come under this authority, and as to secondary education, they would be with the Government in friendly discussion so long as that matter was the only one to be determined. What would they free themselves from if they accepted this offer? They would free themselves from one of the most odious limitations in the Bill, which he did not believe any Member of the House really desired—the limitation of the Parliamentary grant. ["Hear, hear!"] The only reason for this odious limitation was Clause 3. If they got rid of Clause 3 he was confident they would get rid of this limitation. Then they would not have to attempt to force Clause 4 on to unwilling bodies; they would get rid of the heavy 1403 expenditure on the rates for setting up these education authorities; they would not be charged, as they were now by men of all parties, with doing a real injury to local government, and, finally, they would not be a mere mosaic and chaos, but true and real decentralisation. One of his reasons for objecting so much to this decentralisation was because he believed it was totally unreal. They had been constantly told by the Vice President that this authority was absolutely necessary for the supervision of elementary education; but would they get supervision, either of expenditure or of the children, out of it? They knew perfectly well they would get nothing of the sort. The effect of the Bill, if it became law as it stood at present, would be that they would have a series of local authorities which varied in their work from county to county, and as to which they could hardly say one was doing the same work as the other. What was the relation of the Education Department to be to those towns which did all the work under Clauses 3 and 4? That was a question he had not been able to answer. He did not know quite which was going to be the paramount authority, the local Town Council Committee or the Education Department. They could not have two paramount authorities, and the result would be that there would be a constant struggle between the two. What would be the position of the County Council which refused to act under Clause 3? They were going to try and force them to set up a Department and Inspectors in order to administer this 4s. grant. That was an important function; but it was one which, according to some of the Government's best friends, could be performed by the Education Department—["Hear, hear!"]—and which they would find it very difficult to force upon the educational authority. Then, in his opinion, there was going to be another class of authority who would not undertake the powers under Clause 3, and who, when they tried to compel them to take the powers under Clause 4, would say they would not carry them out and would sooner be defaulters. The Education Department was bound, in these circumstances, to appoint a person to perform the duty, and, of course, they would appoint the Departmental Inspector of the district. 1404 That was the very man who had all the requisite information and would do the work admirably. ["Hear, hear!"] They would save money by that course, for they would avoid all the expense involved in appeals and the consequent correspondence with the Education Department. All appeals would disappear, because they could not appeal from Cæsar to Cæsar. The only expense involved—and he had no doubt the local authority would readily incur it—would be that of supplying, possibly, an additional clerk or two for the Departmental Inspector. If they looked at it from the point of view he had presented, the only result of this decentralisation would be to throw the country into a state of extraordinary chaos. The work of the Education Department would be made more difficult than ever, for they would hardly know in a single case that came up what kind of an authority they were dealing with. Why should they in England be placed by this Bill in a position which might reduce their educational arrangements to a state of chaos, when they knew perfectly well that Scotland and Ireland were going to remain under the system which now obtained? [Cheers.] He could not find any reason why they were going to insist upon setting up all these local Education Departments when they knew perfectly well that a great many of them would refuse to accept the powers under the Bill, and they would almost compel them to be defaulted. Surely it would be far better to leave all that alone, to do as had been suggested, give them secondary education to work out, and not force upon them this particular elementary education work. He ventured to say this was really a grave issue to the country. It need not be treated as a Party question. ["Hear, hear!"] If this Amendment were carried the Government and hon. Members opposite would get all that they pledged themselves to their constituents to obtain. They would get all that was promised in the Queen's Speech, but they would not get certain proposed arrangements in the country as to which many of their own supporters were doubtful, as to which many experienced County Councillors were more than doubtful, and which might imperil the success of their County 1405 Council work, create confusion and chaos, and do great damage to their elementary education system.[Cheers.]
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has disposed of the strongest argument in favour of the present Amendment. It was the argument so temperately and forcibly stated by the hon. Baronet the Member for Devonshire, that you ought not to force powers upon unwilling persons. ["Hear, hear!"] The elementary education powers which in this Bill are conferred upon County Councils are almost all voluntary or permissive powers. In the case of the larger boroughs and towns they are all permissive with one exception, and that is the distribution of the special aid grant under Clause 4. The right hon. Gentleman has just shown that any County Council which is reluctant to assume these powers may easily back out of them. That may not be the most dignified position for a County Council to take up, and I doubt whether a single County Council will do so—["Hear, hear!"]—still if they wish to refuse to distribute the grant under Clause 4, the Education Department, by appointing an inspector, would practically relieve the County Council of all the disagreeable consequences of their failure to perform that duty. ["Hear, hear!"] Let me say how entirely I agree with what was said by the hon. Baronet the Member for Devonshire about the misrepresentations with which this Bill has been received; and the discussions of the last few days, if they have served no other good purpose, have at least removed a great many of those misconceptions and misrepresentations—[Cheers and counter cheers]—which have been so industriously circulated by the Leader of the Opposition—[Ministerial cheers]—respecting the provisions of this Bill. Whenever one of these misconceptions or misrepresentations has been removed the right hon. Gentlenan has got up and declared, "Here is another revelation." ["Hear, hear!"] In no one particular has this matter been more misrepresented and more misunderstood than in the most important of all the functions which this Bill proposes to confer upon the local authority—namely, the distribution of the Government grant under Clause 3 of the Bill; and the 1406 unsuitability of the County Councils for performing these functions has been brought forward by speakers over and over again to-night as a very strong argument in favour of the Amendment and against trusting any powers in relation to elementary education to the County Council. May I very shortly tell the Committee how this matter stands? This is not a proposal we are now making for the first time. The proposal is to be found in the legislation of the country. It is in the Statute-book, Section 10 of the Local Government Act of 1888, which has now been law for eight years, providing that—The Local Government Board may, at any time, make a Provisional Order for transferring to the County Councils any such powers, duties, and liabilities of the Education Department as are conferred by or in pursuance of any statute and appear to relate to matters arising within the county and to be of an administrative character.[Cheers.] Under that statute the local Government Board could now, by a Provisional Order, confer upon all the County Councils in England and Wales those duties in connection with the administration of the Government grant. That would be, no doubt, a compulsory devolution, and the Bill is not compulsory. Our Bill is wanted for this reason. That statute gives the Government only power to make, in certain matters, a general and compulsory transfer to all the County Councils in England and Wales. The Bill enables that devolution to be made, and only to be made, for such of the County Councils as choose to accept it and as are willing to undertake the duties which Clause 3 will throw upon them. That is the reason why the clause is necessary. ["Hear, hear!"] The Government do not want to force the powers on reluctant authorities; they only wish to confer them upon those who desire to exercise them, and the clause is necessary for that purpose. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke that it is not expedient in a matter of this kind to force the exercise of these powers upon a reluctant County Council. But suppose the Amendment is carried, it not only prevents the Government doing that which they have no intention of doing, and no power by this Bill to do— 1407 namely, to force these powers on reluctant County Councils—but it will also prevent the Government from conferring the powers upon a willing County Council, and although County Councils have been paraded in this House who have refused to exercise the powers, there are other County Councils—not less important—in this country that have expressed their intention and desire to exercise their powers under Section 3. [Cheers.] There is the county of Lancashire amongst others ["Hear, hear!"] That, I suppose, is a County Council which, if it were desirous and ready to exercise such powers, could properly have them conferred upon it. Then there are the County Councils of Cumberland and Cheshire. ["Hear, hear!"] Why, because it is not expedient to force these powers upon reluctant authorities, should the hon. Member for Hoxton intervene, and by such intervention shut the door to all the powers in connection with elementary education to any County Council and prevent Lancashire, Cheshire, and Cumberland exercising these functions which they desire to exercise? ["Hear, hear!"] Then the right hon. Gentleman in a ludicrous manner, attributed to me the intention of conferring these powers on selected and favoured Councils. What I said was that it was not the policy of the Government to proceed in the matter with undue haste, and that therefore we should begin by conferring the powers under Sub-section 3 on the larger and more important County Councils, and I mentioned Lancashire in particular.
§ SIR JOSEPH LEESE (Lancashire, Accrington)
Does the Lancashire County Council accept all the powers? Is it not true, as Sir J. Hibbert, at any rate, told me, that they have refused to administer Clause 26?
§ SIR J. GORST
All the powers conferred by the Bill on county authorities. I do not think I am at liberty to say what Sir John Hibbert said to me, but I understand that the Lancashire County Council has expressed itself as willing to exercise the powers given by Sub-section 3.
§ MR. ACLAND
quoted from a former speech of the Vice President of the Council:—The Committee of Council were not bound to confer these powers. They could be handed over to no County Council except with the 1408 sanction of the Education Department, and the Department would select those with whom the experiment would be made.
§ SIR J. GORST
But I did not speak about it in the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, as if I were going to exercise favouritism. I spoke of the ordinary prudence of any administrator who begins an experiment; and this is an experiment.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The selection consists in taking those Councils who are willing to agree, and refusing the others.
§ SIR J. GORST
That is a meaning which none who heard my words would say they bore. If it is the meaning of my words, then I was mistaken. There is no idea on the part of the Government, or the Department which I have the honour to represent, to make any kind of invidious selection. The intention is that this devolution is to be done, not as it would be under the Act of 1888, all at once, but gradually, County Council by County Council. ("Why?") Because it is not a good thing to force powers on unwilling people. The hon. Member for Tyneside seemed to think enormous expense would be thrown on county authorities in carrying out devolution under Clause 3. If so, it will be their own fault. They need not accept devolution under Clause 3 unless the terms satisfy them. Sir John Hibbert's opinion—which, as that of an ex-Secretary to the Treasury and present chairman of the Lancashire County Council, is entitled to some weight—is that it can be done cheaper by the various local authorities than it is done by the central Government. If so, there might be such savings as would form a considerable solatium to the county authorities which undertake, on behalf of the Government, to perform certain duties. I am a little amused at the change which has come over the arguments of right hon. Gentlemen opposite about decentralisation. When we began, our decentralisation was of so drastic a character that I was accused of inviolating my own office and destroying the Education Department. Now we are told that our decentralisation is not real, for we keep too great power in the hands of the central authority. The whole of this discussion, and this violent opposition to the Bill, is really founded on a misconception. ["Hear, 1409 hear!"] The Gentlemen opposite, and their adherents in the country, and their Press, had got it into their heads at a very early stage that this Bill was a deadly blow aimed at the School Boards. [Opposition cheers".] They have been gradually finding out in the course of these discussions, very much to their own surprise, that it was not so—[Opposition laughter and Ministerial cheers]—and the most candid course they could pursue after discovering that, will be to let us get on with the Bill, and to give to these new authorities, which they have themselves expressed their willingness to create for secondary purposes, such limited control—because it is very limited—over elementary education as is necessary to the real educational progress of the country.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for the Rotherham Division, made use of the word "disingenuous"; I will not apply that word to the right hon. Gentleman himself, but I will call the attention of the Committee to what I think was a mistaken view which he took of the 10th Clause of the Local Government Act. He conveyed to the Committee the impression that it was already in the power of the Local Government Board, by a Provisional Order, to transfer to the various county authorities any of the functions of the Education Department. The right hon. Gentleman did not emphasise or explain to the Committee the meaning of the word "Provisional." The Local Government Board can make no final Order; the Provisional Order requires the confirmation of Parliament and requires an Act of Parliament, and so jealous was this House, when that clause was introduced, that no power of this sort should be conferred behind its back, that they added a special sub-section to the clause, which the right hon. Gentleman did not read, that the Act of Parliament confirming any Provisional Order made under that section should be a public general Act. [Opposition cheers.] Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman, or the Government, had wished to put any one of the transfers into force that he has quoted, he would have had to bring in a public Bill and pass it through this 1410 House. [Opposition cheers.] But I rise to call the attention of the Committee to a speech which the right hon. Gentleman has not answered. He did refer to one argument in it, and those who have just come into the House would be under the impression that the hon. Baronet the Member for the Honiton Division of Devonshire, who sits on the other side of the House, had raised some objection to this clause in the Bill on the ground of the unwillingness of the county authorities to carry these provisions into force, and the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the fact that he had given an option was a sufficient answer to that objection, and that, whereas he had made it a great point in his own proposal that there should be a paramount education authority in every county, yet it was something in his favour that there need not be such a paramount authority in the county objected to. But that was the very smallest part of the hon. Baronet's speech; I think it is greatly to be regretted that, with one exception, there was no Cabinet Minister present when that speech was made. ["Hear, hear!"] No more important speech has been made this evening, and I am sure my right hon. Friend will forgive me when I say that not even his powerful speech was so deadly a blow to the Bill as the speech of the hon. Baronet. The right hon. Gentleman has vouchsafed no reply to what the hon. Baronet urged, not only with reference to the unwillingness of the County Council to perform these duties, but as to the impracticability of the scheme and the cost of the scheme. Still more important, as coming from one of their own most tried and loyal supporters, was the statement that the carrying of this Amendment, which is in fact the carrying of the scheme of the paramount and separate educational authority, could not be regarded as a permanent settlement of this educational system; that it was in the interests of education, of the country, and of the House that this question should be settled, not on pure Party lines, but by a system of concession on both sides of the House ["hear hear!"]; that a strong feeling had been raised in the country on this question, and that a Bill forced through this House by a Parliamentary majority would not, and 1411 could not, be regarded as a permanent settlement. We want to know the answer of the Government to those objections—["hear, hear!"]—and whether, in the teeth of the recommendation of one of their strongest and most experienced supporters, they should proceed with this section of the Bill. When the Committee comes to a critical point in an important Bill, when from the side of the Government and from supporters of the Government suggestions are made with reference to facilitating the progress of the Bill, and taking out of it certain portions which are contentious and passing those portions which meet with general acceptance, the House of Commons is entitled to know from the Government what course they intend to take, whether they will or will not listen to the arguments, not of their opponents, but of their supporters, or whether they intend coûte qui coûte to go on with this Bill. [Cheers.]
§ MR. EDWARD MORTON (Devonport)
said he wished to refer to some points which had not been mentioned in previous speeches. He was met with continued interruptions from the Ministerial Benches, followed by cries of "Progress" from the Opposition Benches, and concluded by moving to report progress.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
, who had recently returned to his seat said: I heard the last words of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton to the effect that we listened to the arguments of our opponents, and did not reply to them. ["No, no; your Friends."] I have been listening to arguments in support of the Amendment since a quarter past four o'clock to-day. It is an important Amendment, and I do not desire to minimise its importance, but a Debate on even the most important Amendment might by this time be brought to a legitimate conclusion. The Leader of the Opposition spoke over an hour; several of his colleagues have spoken; several Members have spoken on that side—["And on your side!"]—a certain number on this side; surely we have threshed out the question adequately; and if some hon. Members do show impatience at the continuance of the Debate, I do not think it is an adequate justification for the hon. Member 1412 moving to report progress. I hope the hon. Member will consent to withdraw the Motion, and will address the Committee, and that then we may take a decision on the Amendment. ["No, no!"]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I think it a great misfortune the Leader of the House was not present to hear the speech made from his own side of the House. I agree with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, that by far the most important speech made to-night was the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Devonshire. Only one Member of the Cabinet was present to hear it. The object of the speech was to ask the Government to take time in this matter. That appeal was made to the Government by one of the oldest and most respected Members of the House, and some answer ought to be made to that appeal by the Government. [Cheers.] That is, to my mind, the great argument for reporting progress to-night. We are not going to discuss the Bill to-morrow. The Government will have time to consider the appeal made to them by the hon. Baronet with reference to this Bill, and they will be able on Monday to inform the House what course they intend to take, and whether they intend to fight this battle to the bitter end. [Cheers and counter cheers.] I hear some voices on the other side but not all the voices. I hear that of the noble Lord the Member for Rochester, whom I identify with the war-to-the-knife party—the noble Lord and the youthful clerics beside him. [Loud laughter.] I am sure that the older and wiser Members or this House do not desire to deal with a question concerning the education of the country in that spirit. [Cheers.] But the hon. Baronet the Member for Devonshire implored the House to endeavour to arrive at some friendly settlement of this question by mutual agreement between both sides of the House. Of course, we do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to listen to overtures of that character emanating from this side of the House, but when they come from a man like the hon. Baronet, I should have expected that they would have received consideration at the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. [Ironical cheers and 1413 laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh at the suggestion of the hon. Baronet.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The noble Lord is welcome to laugh at me if I say anything that is calculated to provoke laughter.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I can only say that I differ from the noble Lord. [Cheers.] I recognise the noble Lord as the evil genius of this Bill—[loud cheers]—that is to say, the noble Lord, with the Bishops at his back. [Cheers.]
* THE CHAIRMAN
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that the question before the Committee is that progress shall be reported. [Loud ministerial cheers.]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
My argument is in favour of progress being reported, and I hope that the Motion to report progress will be carried, in order that the Government may take into consideration the observations of the hon. Baronet the Member for Devonshire, which, if they do not weigh with the House to-night, will weigh largely with the country to-morrow. [Cheers.] The speech of the hon. Baronet is one which requires consideration. If the Government had been present when it was delivered I am confident that they would have considered it, but as they were not present when it was made, it would be an extremely good thing if they had a day to consider it instead of endeavouring to force the House to a decision upon this important question to-night.
§ Question put, "That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 131; Noes, 254.—(Division List, No. 248.)1414
§ MR. MORTON rose to continue the Debate, when
§ MR. MORTON
, seated, and speaking with his hat on, said: As I understand it, Sir, the House has just decided by a large majority, substantially, that I am to be heard. [Ministerial cries of "No, no!" and laughter.] In the circumstances I cannot be closured when I am trying to obey the House. [Cheers and Ministerial laughter.]
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 256; Noes, 142.—(Division List, No. 249.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words 'this Act' stand part of the clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 258; Noes, 127.—(Division List, No. 250.)
§ And it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.