HC Deb 02 March 1896 vol 37 cc1593-600

*MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry) moved:— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold Her consent from so much of the Intermediate and Technical Scheme of the Glamorgan County Council, as relates to Gelligaer School. The scheme in question, he said, affected not only Gelligaer in Glamorgan, but also two parishes in the County of Mon-mouth. The value of the property was now £1,100 a year, but would shortly be £4,000. The proposal in the scheme was that the whole endowment should be used exclusively for assisting 21 grade schools scattered over Glamorganshire, that it should, in fact, go in relief of the rates—and save perhaps a fraction of a farthing in the education rate. Now, one of the principles laid down by the Charity Commissioners and all other educational authorities was that educational endowments should not be used in relief for rates. The counter proposal of the petitioners was to establish a great public school at Gelligaer with a classical and modern side. There was not a single such public school in Wales. There was no wish to parochialise the endowments, but to create a school from which the boys might pass to the Universities. It was not the case that if Gelligaer was taken out of the scheme, the scheme was ruined. On the contrary, £400 a year would immediately be liberated for the purpose of secondary education. Petitions in favour of his Motion had been presented from the local School Board, the District Council, and from 3, 117 people.

MR. W. T. HOWELL (Denbigh Boroughs)

seconded the Motion. He said that the endowments at present amounted to £1,100 a year, but the property of the charity was coal-bearing, and became more valuable every year. In a very few years the yearly value would have increased to £4,000, and the present purchase price of the land would yield that income. Yet the Joint Education Committee offered to give only £1,500 a year in exchange for this property. They wanted to preserve an endowment which was not left to Glamorgan, but to the parish of Gelligaer, and they mentioned they had plenty of opportunity for a proper use of the funds. Glamorgan was a rich country, yet the funds belonging to Galligaer were under this scheme to go not to poor places, but to some rich places, such as Penarth, Barry, Pontypridd, and Bridgend. Galligaer was a growing neighbourhood. They had a population of 15,000, and they wanted to have money for scholarships which would take boys up to the old Universities and also the new University of Wales. This scheme seemed to him a very unjust way for the Glamorgan County Council to get their intermediate education.

MR. GRANT LAWSON (York, N. R.,) Thirsk

said, it was with much regret that he had to ask the House to reject a Motion made by his hon. Friend the Member for the Oswestry Division of Shropshire. But he was bound to do so on this occasion. In this matter there was no question whatever between his hon. Friend and himself from the religious point of view. The only question between them at that moment was whether the House would, or would not, support the Charity Commissioners in a loyal attempt to carry into effect an Act of Parliament passed by a Unionist Administration and loyally accepted by the Radical Party. Under the scheme as it stood Gelligaer would have a better secondary school for boys than it had ever had, a new girls' school, and £1,500 a year to support the secondary education of the children of 15,000 people. Under the will of Mr. Lewis it had originally a school worth £40, and £10 a year for a master. Under the scheme it was to have the advantages he had mentioned, and yet Gelligaer was not satisfied. Why not? His hon. Friend said that Gelligaer wanted the money in order to erect there a great public school like Eton or Harrow. If the Charity Commissioners had allowed this charity money to be used for such a purpose a volume of "Hansard" would not have contained the reproaches which would have been cast upon them from all quarters of that House. The purpose of the Motion was a greedy and selfish one for Gelligaer, although it would still be rich, educationally speaking, under the scheme, wanted even more, than was necessary, and would refuse to allow other parts of the county that needed help to share a little in the riches it derived from this endowment. Ho therefore hoped the Motion would be rejected, and that the House would act on the principle it had always observed in similar matters—that in cases where the fund given by a pious founder had, in the course of years and through change of conditions, outgrown the objects for which it was given, the area of benefit should be extended. A Motion, opposed to this principle had met recently with little support in another place. It was negatived on the suggestion of Lord Cranbrook. The principle might be right or it might be wrong. But if it was wrong this was not the way to deal with it. Let it be dealt with by legislation as a whole and not piecemeal by Motions of this sort. If this Motion were to prevail, every education scheme made by the Charity Commissioners would be brought down here after 12 o'clock and discussed. He hoped the House would not encourage this new mode of procedure and that it would, if for this occasion only, support the Charity Commissioners in endeavouring literally to carry out the duties laid upon them by Acts of Parliament.

MR. ALFRED THOMAS (Glamorgan, E.)

said, that the great point of the objection taken to the inclusion of the Gelligaer Endowment in the Glamorgan County Scheme was that by the provisions of the scheme, a large and growing charity would be diverted from the purposes and intentions of the founder and that the poor children of Gelligaer would be robbed of the magnificent inheritance left them by their generous benefactor. He freely admitted that there would be some ground for the contention, were the terms of the bequest carried out from the foundation up to the present time. But instead of this being the case there had been at least six schemes formulated, each differing from the preceding one, and so much was this the case that all that was left of the original will and testament of the founder were the words "Lewis' Endowment." And this must have been the opinion of those gentlemen who signed the two petitions against the Scheme of 1874, when they said among other things:— That under the proposed Scheme of the Endowed Schools Commissioners, all such poor children will be deprived of the advantages they have hitherto enjoyed, both under the will of the Founder and the said Scheme of the Court of Chancery, As expressed in the will, provision was made for building a school near the Church of Gelligaer, in which 15 poor boys were to be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic— "poor boys of the said Parish of Gelligaer." In 1849 the Court of Chancery formulated a scheme to meet the increased income of the Charity in which they introduced many modifications. Among the most important was that of abandoning the school built in the village of Gelligaer, and building a large school at Pengam, close to the boundary of the parishes of Bedwellty and Mynyddislwn, to accommodate 150 poor boys and 100 poor girls of the parish of Gelligaer. But as the parishes of Bedwellty and Mynyddislwn were then, as now, thickly populated, and Gelligaer at that point and time having but few residents, though ostensibly built for the parish of Gelligaer, the school was almost entirely filled by boys and girls from the neighbouring parishes of Bedwellty and Mynyddislwn. And as a result they claimed a prescriptive right to participate in the educational advantages of the charity and in the Scheme of 1874. This claim was recognised in giving each parish the right to nominate a Governor on the Governing Body and this was the beginning of the diversion of the benefits of the charity, which was no longer limited to the boys and girls of the parish of Gelligaer. Against this he made no complaint. The benefits of education could not be too widely extended, and he felt very proud of the fact that many gentlemen now holding distinguished positions, who though not natives of the Principality, were Grammar School of Gelligaer. But the greatest change was that effected in the Scheme of 1874, when the school was changed from the elementary to the secondary grade, and the school made a public school, without any restriction as regards the locality in which the scholars resided. That was quite a revolution from the terms and provisions of the will of the founder, though the circumstances and conditions of the time, contrasted with those existing in 1817 quite warranted the innovation; and was he believed strictly in the spirit, though far from the letter of that document. Since 1715 they had their present poor law, which though anything but satisfactory, placed the poor, the destitute poor, in a very different position from that existing some two hundred years ago. As the State had stepped in and filled the place of the founder, his charity was wisely used in supplementing the aid given by the State to the talented boys and girls of the Gelligaer district. What was the present position of the Gelligaer Schools? There were 134 boys attending the school, of which number only 37 were residents of the parish of Gelligaer. There were 25 female pupil teachers who attended the Higher Grade Elementary School at Pontlottyn to receive instruction in French and Domestic Economy—for which a payment of £200 per annum was made by the Governors. At present there were seven female teachers holding Queen's Scholarships who were exhibitioners of £15 each for two years; and prizes were given to female pupil teachers to the amount of £30, making in all a sum of £480 per annum. That went directly to the benefit of boys and girls of the parish of Gelligaer. The balance of the £1,100 was common to the rest of the country. With regard to the income of the charity, the income at the present time was something over £1,100 per annum, and it was contended that it would soon be between £3,000 and £4,000 per year. But what were the facts? The present working, from which they had drawn the major portion of their income, was fast disappearing and it was only a question of a few years before the celebrated Brithdin seam would be quite exhausted. It was true that there was an agreement by which a dead rent of £800 per annum was secured; but it was also a fact that a 12 years' clause was inserted by which it was inferred that it was probable that 12 years would elapse before the output of coal would exceed that amount of royalty. He did not wish it to be inferred that ultimately the income would not be all that was contended; but at present the sinkings for deep seams had not been commenced, and an eminent mining surveyor stated at a late inquiry at Gelligaer that it might be 12 or more years before the projected colliery would be in full working order. There was every probability that for the next 10 years little if any increase would be made in the income of the charity. By the scheme now laid on the Table it was proposed to take the endowment—and what did they find was offered in exchange? First, an immediate endowment of £1,500 per annum; then a grant of £3,000 to build a school for girls who would receive the same instruction as the boys. Many other advantages the scheme offered which would increase the sum of £1,500—first, the participation in the surplus of the County fund which he was told would not be less than £100 to each County school. Then the County Governing Body would undertake the examination of the schools, which would be something like £45 per annum for the two schools. The management of the property of the charity would fall upon the County and thus another advantage of £40 a year to the new managers. The keeping in repair of the farm and other buildings was no small item in the charity, and he was told that £100 per annum would not be a large average to put down for that item. Lastly, the County Governing Body would allow their travelling lecturers to lecture on four subjects, which would be equal to a cash payment to the two County schools of £200 per annum. All these items added to the £1,500 would, in round numbers, be £2,000, or an increase of some £900 over the present income. But those would by no means exhaust the advantages that Gelligaer would obtain under the scheme. It was a fact that but for the inclusion of the scheme there would be no County scheme proposed for Gelligaer. The boys and girls of that district, if they wished to attend a County school would have to go to Merthyr or Caerphilly; and for this reason Caerphilly was denied the advantage and prestige of a County School. The scholars of the new schools would participate in the exhibitions offered by the County Governing Body, and they would have the advantage of the examination under the Intermediate Education Act. What were the objections urged by those who led the attack in Gelligaer? The House would sooner find what they did want by ascertaining what they did not want to be accomplished. The Rector of Gelligaer and a friend, who accompanied him to London for the purpose of opposing the scheme, published a leaflet further explaining his position. Among other things he said— It is not sought to keep Gelligaer apart from the county scheme; what is sought is that a classical side should be added to the boys' schools, and that it be raised to a level with Cowbridge, i.e., into the first class of intermediate. Under the scheme the only difference that existed as between the curriculum of the two schools was that Greek might be taught in the Cowbridge School. Gelligaer was deemed to be a good field for teaching mining, metallurgy and engineering; and in this way it would have a superior place to any other County school. But there was no reason why Greek should not be taught if there were any demand for it, as he believed there would be. That teaching could be obtained through the Charity Commissioners on it being shown that there was need for that extension of the curriculum. So now they find that the issue was narrowed down to the question of teaching Greek; and, though they were told that it was an easy matter to obtain the power to teach Greek, yet, because it was not included in the scheme, it was proposed to wreck the scheme. Those who did that would be the worst enemies of the boys and girls of Gelligaer. No worse calamity could befall them than to wreck the, present scheme; for what did it offer?—a school with a higher endowment than that of any other county. They would be brought under the Welsh Act, and into line with national education; they would have every facility and advantage to equip themselves to fight the battle of life, arid win its highest prizes. His hon. Friend pleaded for paupers. He himself pleaded for his young constituents as citizens who wish to participate in the benefits of the Welsh Intermediate Act and not to be disfranchised, as they otherwise would be, if this scheme were not passed by the House of Commons. [Cheers.]

The House divided:—Ayes, 21; Noes, 140.—(Division List, No. 25.)