HC Deb 26 April 1897 vol 48 cc1081-118

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

complained of the great difficulty in which the House was placed in proceeding to discuss an important Measure like this so early after the holidays—a difficulty which was well illustrated by the extraordinary return which had been circulated by the Education Department. The return purported to be a list of the necessitous schools throughout the country which were to be aided by the Bill. One would think that some common principle was applied to these schools, and that something like equal treatment was meted out to them. In working out the results shown in the return, he found that, there were 28 School Boards which received the munificent sum of £1 each, and 186 School Boards which received between £1 and £10. The results in counties were still more extraordinary. In Bedfordshire the Bill would give 5s. per scholar, but in Buckinghamshire the amount was only 2s. 7¼d. In Cornwall the amount was 3s. 1d., in Devon 5s. 5d., in Dorset 1s. 11d. It was therefore evident that the principle of the Bill did not apply fairly. The anomalies were worse in the case of particular Boards in the same county. In Berkshire one School Board, with a rate of 9d., received 1s. 7d. per scholar, and another with a rate of 9½d., with practically the same number of children and conditions, received 3s. 6d. In Bedfordshire, for one School Board the grant would be 2s. 7d. per scholar, while another School Board in the same county received 5s. 5d., the rate being a penny more. The whole return was full of anomalies, and it illustrated how unequally the principle of the Bill worked. London, however, was treated worse than any part of the country. No grant of any kind was given to London. It was said that London had no necessitous schools, but the return showed how false was the statement. Just outside the borders of London some School Boards in Essex received the largest amount under the Bill, but in the East End of London, where there were just as many necessitous schools, nothing was given. Owing to the system of rating spread over London, the rich districts contributed to the necessitous schools, which were thereby supported. Why should not a similar principle be laid down with regard to Voluntary Schools? Under the Voluntary Schools Act, London received only £44,000, but her contribution under the Act would be at least £140,000. He thought hon. Members who represented London divisions ought to look into this matter. Out of 60 Members, there were 52 sitting on the opposite side of the House who supported the Government. They had London in the hollow of their hands, and the result was they were laying this iniquitous financial burden on London for the benefit of the rest of the country. There was another feature to which he wished to direct attention. They were laying on this large grant without any equivalent grant being made to Ireland. He said that the Irish Members ought to devote more attention than they seemed inclined to do. They voted for the grant to the Voluntary Schools without ever raising this principle, that Ireland had to contribute part of the money. Now there was a further grant of only £120,000, but Ireland would have to contribute its share. He thought such a grant should be watched with jealous care. The Bill, no doubt, was a short Bill, and it seemed to be in the larger part a quotation from the Bill of 1870. As his hon. Friend said, no doubt it was going to be ram-rodded through the House, but before it passed they ought to work more on the points to which he referred, and maintain the principle of equality of treatment which had been upheld to the present time.

* MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)

proposed to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add instead thereof the words In the opinion of this House, no Bill making further provision for aiding School Boards will be satisfactory which does not at least provide a sum amounting in the aggregate to five shillings per scholar for the whole number of scholars in average attendance at Board Schools in England and Wales. He said this Bill was on a par with all the previous performances of this Ministry, who had been occupied since the last election in keeping up its record of broken promises. Their policy had been to sacrifice principles and pledges in paying their supporters out of the pockets of the taxpayer. Few things would discredit them more than the way they had thrown away a great opportunity in this matter of education. The Government had a great majority and enormous surpluses. But their policy in the two Bills of this Session amounted to this—that they wore not trying to help education, but to promote the interests of one class of schools. They stuffed to repletion the treasury of the Voluntary Schools, while they starved the Board Schools to make them unpopular. ["Hear, hear!"] Either the whole of the cry about the suffering ratepayer, which had been the staple topic of the Tory candidates on every platform in the last two general elections, had been insincere and unreal, or else this Bill convicted the Tory Party of a flagrant breach of faith. The First Lord of the Treasury, in introducing the Voluntary Schools Bill, had said they had always been in favour of relieving tin hard-pressed ratepayers. After looking at the Return he could not understand how the First Lord of the Treasury could look a Lancashire ratepayer in the face again. Why should the ratepayers who, in the exercise of their own judgment and civic rights had imposed on themselves rates for educational purposes, receive no consideration? The 53 Boards of Lancashire expended close upon £303,000 on their schools; but under this Bill—this generous Bill—only four Boards would receive £291, or 10d. a child, and most of this went to Barrow. [Laughter.] There were 13 other county boroughs in Lancashire spending £250,650, but under this Bill they would not get a farthing; but if Lancashire was treated on the principle of absolute equality it would get a sum of nearly £30,000. Why were the Lancashire ratepayers, who expended out of rates £303,000, and altogether about £800,000 on education, to get no help whatever? It was worse still as to London, which spent nearly three millions, and it was not to get a farthing of help. By right London ought to have £100,000 given to it. In the 64 great county boroughs, excluding London, the ratepayers contributed to educational purposes £1,225,000, or ten times as much as the voluntary subscribers contributed to their schools. Yet the great boroughs were to receive only about £45,000, and of this sum £30,000 would go to five towns. The Bill would not deal fairly with the great boroughs, which, had imposed upon themselves many burdens in the interests of education. The help given in the county boroughs under this Measure would amount only to 10½d. per child. What ought to be done was to deal with both classes of schools on equal terms, and to grant for the relief of the ratepayers an aggregate sum calculated according to the whole number of the children in average attendance. That plan should be adopted, and then the 64 county boroughs would receive £153,000 without London, and London being added £256,000. In these boroughs the efforts of voluntary subscribers were represented by £210,000, and those efforts were to be met by a grant of £191,000 out of the Treasury. But the volume of the rates imposed upon these populations by their own authorities amounted to £2,700,000, and their efforts were only to be met by a miserable grant of £45,000. The ratepayers had made 13 times the amount of local effort made by the voluntary subscribers, and vet the grant which the former were to receive was only one-fourth of that awarded to the latter. The Government had dealt with this question in a light and airy fashion. They had not attempted to argue it out when the Bill was introduced, and no one had risen to justify the principle of the Bill that day, the Second Reading having been moved by a mere nod to the Chair. He held that the Bill was a scandal, having regard to the obvious duties of the Government towards elementary education. In no other country in the world would such a division be drawn between one class of schools and another; nowhere else would one class of schools be dealt with on the principle of rewarding them in inverse ratio to the amount of local efforts made to support them. This was a sham Bill; it did not proceed on the principle of recognising the poverty of districts. What it did was to award a very small amount of money to a very few districts which came within the operation of t the Measure owing, as it were, to the accidents of assessment. He might be told that he ought not to find fault with the Bill, because his own county was rather favoured by it. But what was the real state of the case regarding Northamptonshire? The sum given would be only £1,549, and that would be given to School Boards which raised rates amounting to nearly £24,000. The subscriptions to Voluntary Schools amounted to £11,500, and the grant which they were to receive was £8,250. Thus the grant to the Voluntary Schools reached a percentage upon the subscriptions of 72, while the proportion of the Board Schools' grant to the rate would be only 8.6. That was to say, nine times more was to be given to the Voluntary Schools than to the Board Schools, and that would be the case in a county which was described as specially favoured. The whole policy of the Act of 1870 was based upon the principle of equality of treatment, and when the Debates of 1876 took place the same claim was put forward by the friends of national education, and up to the present time the principle of equality of treatment had been frankly and fully recognised, he might almost say, on both sides, the did not need to quote again the well-known reply of the Duke of Devonshire to the depu- tation that waited upon him on this question. The doctrine of the Tory Party on the subject of relieving the rates was peculiar. If a community agreed to rate itself for any other object than the education of its children, the ratepayers, according to the Party opposite, ought to be rewarded by the State, and grants flowed like water. But if the ratepayers determined to rate themselves for what was, perhaps, one of the highest objects of local self-government, namely, the education of the children in their district, they were apparently to be penalised, and to be substantially lined for the transgression. This Bill had already caused suspicion and dislike among large classes of those who were interested in this question. The right hon. Gentleman opposite must have read the discussions that took place the other day at the conference of the National Teachers at Swansea, when a Resolution demanding exactly what he now asked the House to sanction was passed with unanimity. The hon. Member for North West Ham had explained that he understood the Resolution as meaning that the Legislature ought to deal with all classes of schools on equal and fair lines, and ought to treat one class of local effort in the cause of education on the same principles as they applied to the other class. One set of schools were supported by contributions from the rates; the other set were supported by contributions from individuals and societies. Both sets ought to receive equal treatment, and the interests of the children ought to be kept in view as a vital principle. It was simply monstrous to talk of the bottomless purse of the ratepayers. The truth was that they soon got to the bottom of the generosity of the voluntary subscriber. Some hon. Members had expressed the opinion that the whole subject of the maintenance of elementary education should be transferred to the Exchequer. He wished most strongly to dissociate himself from any such view, for he did not think that the elementary education of this country could be carried on in a satisfactory way either in its educational aspect or in its economic aspect if they were to transfer to the Exchequer the local payments which were now made on a sense of local responsibility, which created a large amount of local interest and which naturally developed a great amount of local attention. Such a transfer would be a very grave mistake of policy. While he assented to the principle of the sliding scale, he regarded the present application as ludicrous. Under its application some 25 or 30 School Boards would receive the enormous sum of £1 each towards their expenditure. Would it not be farcical for the right hon. Gentleman to send that to a School Board, which, of course, that sum would not benefit in the least? He wanted to get rid of these small Boards altogether. Education ought to be organised in a broad spirit, and there ought to be large representative authorities in a county, which could be intrusted, not with miserable little sums, but with large and substantial amounts, so that excellence might be obtained, and the best educational equipment provided over a considerable area. This was a pettifogging Bill, and he wished, in moving his Amendment, to protest not only against the Bill as wholly inadequate and wholly defective in machinery, but also against the spirit which underlay this whole class of legislation—the spirit of pushing under one class of schools as much as possible, while treating the other class with as much consideration as was possible. That principle was wholly wrong and absolutely contrary to the common sense view taken by all great nations on the question of education. He demanded in his Amendment that this question should be adequately dealt with on the principle of fairness to all sides, and in a comprehensive spirit which would assign a large sum to the Education Department to distribute in all centres where aid was specially required. On these grounds he begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)

, in seconding the Amendment, said that the question before the House was whether the proposal of the Government was fair to the Board Schools. In the preceding Bill a certain class of schools and a certain class of ratepayers received from the Government £620,000 a year, while under this Bill the Board Schools were to receive only £110,000. This was but a very small proportion to the total amount raised in rates throughout the country, which last year reached to more than £2,000,000. The relief given to the ratepayers under this Bill would amount to hardly 5 per cent, on the amount of the rates, whereas the relief given to Voluntary Schools would reach the large proportion of 75 per cent. of the amount contributed by voluntary subscribers. The average rate raised for Board Schools throughout the country at the present time was 9d. in the pound, and the meaning of the financial proposals of the Bill was that in future the ratepayers would have to subscribe towards their schools, not 9d. in the pound, but 8½d. The number of schools that would be affected by the Bill was comparatively small—out of 5,316 School Boards only 794 were dealt with by the Bill. Taking first the county boroughs, a large number of them would get nothing under the Bill. Birmingham, for instance, where 48,276 children were being educated in Board Schools as against 24,396 in denominational schools, would get nothing under the Bill, although the rate was a fairly high one. The case of Liverpool was the same, and Nottingham with 25,110 children being educated in Board Schools, and with a rate of 15d. in the pound, would not get a penny. Coming next to urban districts with a population of over 20,000, he found that in the County of Middlesex only one such district—namely Tottenham—would receive anything under the Bill, and in Kent and Lancashire not one. Darlington, where 3,543 children were being educated, and where the rate was 10d. in the pound; Acton, with 3,019 children and a rate of 10d.; and Hornsey, with 4,971 children and a rate of 11d., would all receive nothing. But there was another injustice or anomaly in the operation of the Bill. The rate in Workington was 9½d., and the School Board there would receive 5s. 7d. per child in average attendance, whereas in Stockton, with a rate of 9¾d., the School Board would get only 1s. per child. The main objections were taken on that side of the House to the Bill. First, that the grant was totally inadequate, and secondly, that in the distribution of the grant the Bill would work unfairly and unequally. The exceptional position of Wales deepened the injustice of the Bill. The dominating principle in the proposals of the Government was that there should be some connection between the rateable value of a district and the number of the children in the schools; but that principle would not be carried out when the Bill came into actual operation. The School Boards in Wales and Monmouthshire under the Bill would receive approximately £22,000. At present, under the Bill of 1870, they were entitled to the sum of £30,373, so that the real money benefit to Wales and Monmouthshire would be £15,000. The amount raised by the rates in Wales and Monmouthshire was about £114,000, so that the relief given would not amount to more than 15 per cent. of the amount raised. The 5s. grant under the Voluntary Schools Act for Wales and Monmouthshire reached in round figures £25,000. The subscriptions towards Voluntary Schools came to about £35,000. Therefore the relief given to these voluntary subscribers would be at the rate of 70 per cent. In Anglesey there were 31 School Boards, but eight only would be affected by the Bill. The ratepayers contributed to the School Boards £3,792, and they would receive £95 10s., from which sum about £25—which they were already entitled to under the Act of 1870— was In the deducted. In Carnarvonshire there were 60 School Boards, but only would be affected. The ratepayers contributed £8,000, and they would receive £1,300. They were already entitled to £620, so that the nett relief would be £758 only. The case of Flintshire was still worse. There were there five School Boards, and only one would receive aid. The local School Board rates amounted to £4,560, but the ratepayers were only to receive the miserable pittance of £140. Under the Voluntary Schools Act, however, the denominational schools received £2,404 per annum. In Merionethshire there were 19 School Boards, but only eight got relief. The ratepayers contributed £9,369, and they would get £867. In Montgomeryshire there were 15 School Boards, but only two got any relief. The ratepayers contributed £2,864, and they got £29. In Denbighshire the case was almost as bad. There were 28 School Hoards, but five only got any grant. The ratepayers raised every year for the schools £10,000, but they would get £500 only. The subscribers to denominational schools contributed over £3,038, but they got £2,070. Not only was the grant under the Bill totally inadequate, but the sliding scale would work very unfairly as between Board School and Board School. For instance, the heaviest rated School Board in Denbighshire, whose rate was 1s. 5½d. in the £, got the least under the Bill—namely, £43; while the School Board whose rate was the lightest—10¾d.—got the most, namely, £314. Summarising the ease as regarded North Wales, there were in that district 158 School Boards, only 37 of which would receive any relief at all. The ratepayers contributed towards their Board Schools over £38,000, and they would receive under the Bill £2,360 only. They would thus be relieved to the extent of 7 per cent., while the Voluntary Schools had been-relieved to the extent of over 70 per cent. Because he regarded the grant given by the Bill as totally inadequate for the purpose which the Government had in view, and because the sliding scale as now drawn would undoubtedly operate unfairly as between School Board and School Board, he had much pleasure in seconding he Amendment.

* SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)

thought the House could hardly help feeling that the very important question raised by the Bill had been discussed by the two hon. Members who had just spoken in reference to minute details rather than general principles. His hon. Friend who moved the Amendment complained very much because Lancashire was not fairly dealt with by the Bill, and he thought the Leader of the House would have great difficulty in meeting his constituents, considering how very little relief would be given to Lancashire. But they all remembered that a little "while ago, when the Voluntary Schools Bill was before the House, the accusation brought against the Government was that Lancashire received a great deal too much, and that the constituents of the Leader of the House were being bribed by the large amount received under that Bill. The hue taken by the Opposition, generally did not seem to be at all consistent with the principles which they had advocated when other Measures had been before the House. He understood that this Bill would not be opposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. They did not, however, manifest any great gratitude for it. They seemed "willing to wound, yet afraid to strike." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton indeed said that he would welcome any proposal to grant money from the Imperial Exchequer in aid of rates. He was sorry to hear his right hon. Friend say so. That used to be the special view of the Tory Party. Sir Massey Lopes year after year brought forward Motions in that sense, and they were resisted by the great majority of the Liberals on the ground that such grants tended to weaken economy, and to encourage additional expenditure; that they took a guinea out of one pocket to put a sovereign into the other. The experience of recent years went far to confirm the truth of that opinion. They had heard much about the "bottomless purse" of the ratepayers, and it was certainly no use pouring money into a "bottomless purse." Our taxation had increased, and our rates had risen also. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had more than once pointed out, and with great force, the inconsistency of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who denounced the Agricultural Rating Bill of last year, because they said that any relief of rates on land went into the pockets of the landlords, and now complained of this Bill because it did not do enough to relieve the ratepayers in large towns. If the Government brought in a Bill to relieve the rates, right hon. Gentlemen condemned it as a Bill in relief of landlords, on the ground that rates fell on the landlords. If a Bill were brought in to help necessitous schools, they were told that rates fell on occupiers, and that the Government were doing nothing, or very little, to assist the overburdened ratepayers. As he understood, this apparent contradiction was justified by the allegation that the incidence of rates in town and country was quite different; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton had told them that the First Lord of the Admiralty in his standard work on local taxation had clearly pointed out the difference between the incidence of rate on different classes of property. The right hon. Gentleman had kindly referred him to the passages on which he relied, but they scarcely seemed to him to bear out the interpretation put on them. No doubt the subject was very complex and there were many differences, but as regarded land, he understood the contention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to have been that most land was held on yearly tenancies, and somewhat below its value, so that in agricultural districts the tendency had been "to throw by far the greater part of the rates upon the tenants." On the other hand, when there were leases, he said that both in the case of land and houses, where a fresh agreement is to be made with the owner of the soil, the whole of the existing rates comes out of the pocket of the landlord in the shape of a diminished rent; neither the farmer nor the builder knowingly or willingly intends any portion to come out of his own pocket; if it does, it is because he has miscalculated the future. Passing to the case of towns, did he say that rates were ultimately paid by the occupiers? Not at all. When ground-rents were high he said, "It is almost certain that rates affect the ground landlord alone," and he added:— To sum up the case of house property generally, it appears that the owners of building land, like the owners of other land, have to submit to a reduction of rent equivalent to the average amount of rates which the builder or other lessee calculates that he would have to pay according to the average of past rates. He could not think, therefore, that the First Lord of the Admiralty would agree to the interpretation placed upon his words by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton. However that might be, he must say that in the long run, and speaking in the great majority of cases, he believed that the rates in towns as well as in the country districts fell ultimately upon the owner of the land. Of course, where land was let below its real value, either in towns or country, that did not apply; but in towns that was not often the case. He confessed, therefore, under these circumstances that he had some difficulty in, understanding the application which was now made of the term "necessitous School Boards." Hon. Gentlemen opposite complained that by the recent legislation of the Government the towns were placed in an unfair position. Wolverhampton, for instance, and West Ham had been specially referred to. But let the House take the case of two men who invested money, the one in land and the other in Wolverhampton or one of our great cities. In the first case the value of the investment as a rule had considerably fallen, in the other it had largely risen; and yet they were told that they ought to impose taxation which fell upon all classes of the community in order to help those whose property had most risen. Take, again, the case of West Ham. Suppose two men who invested money, one in land down in Essex, the other in West Ham. He admitted that rates were very high in West Ham, and should not grudge some present assistance. It was quite true that the rates in West Ham were very high; but whereas the investment of the man who purchased land in West Ham had greatly increased in value, on the other hand the unfortunate purchaser of land down in Essex found that much of his property was now derelict and almost valueless; and yet they were told that they should tax them in order to help their much more fortunate neighbours. Of course, in making these remarks he was speaking of a permanent contribution. It was undeniable that in West Ham the rates had largely risen of late years, and for some temporary assistance therefore there was no doubt very much to be said. He believed that in London there would be a feeling that they had some cause to complain of the manner in which they had been recently treated, not especially by the present Government, but by those also who had preceded them. It might be quite true that London was, as a whole, a rich place, but there were very poor districts in London; and London would, he thought, consider that it had some reason to complain that they should receive so little benefit from the Voluntary Schools Bill and none at all from the present Measure. He admitted, however, the difficulty in the ease of London, and a Committee was sitting on the whole question. He trusted that the result would be to do justice to London, but so far as the present Bill was concerned he regarded this Bill as an honest proposal on the part of the Government to carry out their pledge as regarded Board Schools.

SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

I do not propose to follow my right hon. Friend into the very dry subject of the incidence of rating. I have too often bored the House upon that question to bore it again to-night can only say that trust he will take occasion to repeat his views when the First Lord of the Admiralty is here, and shall rejoice in the duel between two such authorities on this question about which we are all so much perplexed. I am glad to think that in my right hon. Friend's opinion London has a case, and if he can persuade the Government to amend the Bill to meet the case of London he will have from this side all the support he desires. I desire to say a word or two upon the source and origin of this Bill, and shall endeavour to submit to the House that the present modification of the 3d. rate and the present modification of 7s. 6d. is not at all in harmony with the Act of 1870, does not carry out its spirit, and instead of meeting the state of facts with which that Act was intended to grapple, it aggravates the situation all round and makes it much worse. When Mr. Forster introduced his Bill in 1870 he called attention to the question of the burden which would be cast upon the ratepayer, and the figures he proceeded upon were these. He put the cost of education at that time at £1 7s. 6d. per head, of which the Government grant represented 9s. 7d., the subscriptions 7s. 3d., and the parents' fees were something between 8s. and 9s. Mr. Forster had to ask the House of Commons to consider what the probable future cost of education would be, and he then told the House that, in his judgment, the rate would not exceed 3d. in the pound. Mr. Forster never departed from that estimate. His intention was that 3d. should be the maximum, and that if there was anything beyond 3d. then that the State—that is, the Consolidated Fund—should be called in aid of the local rate, and that no further burden should be imposed on the ratepayer. Clause 84, as it, originally stood in the Bill of 1870, showed that Mr. Forster's opinion then was that the extreme cost which ought to fall upon the local authority should not be more than 10s. per child, and that if that figure were exceeded the State should make up the difference. That Bill was not, like the Education Bill of this Session, run rapidly through the House. [Cheers.] The country was allowed a long interval for its consideration between its Second Heading and its Committee stage. The Bill was introduced in February, and in June, when it came on again there was a crisis, for, as those who have read the life of Mr. Forster will know, the Cabinet was not quite united as to the best course to the pursued. In June, Mr. Gladstone, who was then First Lord of the Treasury, proposed that, having regard to the burdens thrown both upon the local authorities and the voluntary subscribers, the State grant should be increased to 50 per cent. of the whole cost of education—the additional grant to be given to both rated and Voluntary Schools alike—and in proposing that change Mr. Gladstone said that the relief it would give to the rates would be so considerable that the School Board rate would never come to 3d. in the pound. Again, when in Committee on the Bill, an Amendment was moved that the School Board rate should not exceed one penny in the pound, and that all the rest of the cost of education should be paid out of the Imperial funds, Mr. Forster declared it was not probable that any charge for the purposes of the Bill would exceed a rate of 3d. in the pound. Accordingly 7s. 6d. per child was substituted for 10s. per child in Clause 81 of the Bill. All this showed that the whole Clause was based upon the principle that the School Board rate was not to exceed 3d. in the pound. The Government now propose to alter this scheme. They still adhere to the 3d. in the pound, and they still adhere to the 7s. 6d. in the way of making them the basis of their calculation, but they do not accept the 7s. 6d. per child as the limit of local taxation beyond which the cost of education should be paid by the State. Mr. Forster said in 1870 that 30s. per year—made up of local rates, school fees, and Government grants—was too high a figure at which to place the cost of educating each child. He then expressed the belief that the real cost was 25s. 7d. Well, the cost has about doubled since then. In Voluntary Schools it is £2, and in Board Schools £2 10s. per child per annum. The Government grant, which was then something over 9s., is now double. Therefore the Government grant has increased in proportion to the cost. The cost of education since 1870 has doubled; the Government grant has doubled; but the local burden has remained stationary. The Government have declared that, so far as the Voluntary Schools were concerned, they are entitled to an additional grant, and under the Act of this Session they have increased that grant by 5s. I am not going to discuss that Act at all. I am dealing with this Bill as carrying out the avowed policy of 1870, upon which that Act was based, that there should be a limit fixed, having regard to the cost of education, beyond which the tax upon the local ratepayer should not be increased. Mr. Forster said more than once, "We cannot go into the question of the incidence of taxation." The defect of rates then was that they did not fall fairly on all classes of property. The complaint of that day is the complaint which is made to-day. An inquiry was promised into the question of the incidence of taxation 25 years ago, but it has not been carried out, and I am very sceptical whether it will be carried out. We ought to legislate on the basis that rates as levied now are not levied fairly on all classes of the community, and it is within your right to increase the burden of those rates beyond a certain figure if for a certain purpose the State requires the locality to discharge certain duties. But the principle of the Act of 1870 was that the State was to give aid by a very considerable contribution after a certain amount of that figure had been contributed. What is the rate to-day? I am quite willing to say that regard should be had to the increased cost of education, the increased grant, and the different circumstances; what was right to fix as a rate limit in 1870 would not be right to fix in 1897. Suppose you doubled the rate, and said that 6d. should be the rate instead of 3d., it would be a true proportion according to the present cost of education. My hon. Friend told you that in the case of 1,500 of the principal School Boards of England the rate exceeds 6d. in the pound. The Government admit the grievance, and they propose to meet it by this Bill. But whatever may say in support of the Amendment of my hon. Friend behind me as to the injustice which we have already discussed as between Board Schools and Voluntary Schools, think the injustice inside this Bill is far greater than even the initial injustice as between the two classes of schools. ["Hear, hear!"] do not impute for a moment to the right hon. Gentleman opposite or the Government any intention to commit an injustice; but they have adopted a scheme and a sliding scale which are inevitably bound to work unjustly, and which will defy them, to adapt to any principle that can work satisfactorily or fairly. I must trouble the House with a few figures on this question. I will deal with what the School Boards inside this Bill are going to get, and show the gross and unparalleled injustice of this scheme. I see my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin opposite, so will take a few of the School Boards in Cornwall which are going to be relieved under this Bill, and having shown the differences between them, will ask the Government to state on what principle they defend them. In St. Allies the school rate is 7d. in the pound, and it is to get 4s. 10d. for every child in the Board School. St. Austell pays a rate of 10¾d., and it: is to get only 2s. 2d. St. Endellion pays a rate of 10¼d., and is to get 4s. 4d. St. Just in Penwith pays a rate of 14d, and is to get 7s. 7d.; while St. Just in Roseland, with ii rate of 21d., is to get 7s. 6d. St. Tenth pays a rate of 14d., and is to get only 3s. 11d. I will leave the right hon. Member for Bodmin to explain to his constituents the financial justice and equity of this scheme. In the County of Derby, the borough of Chesterfield pays a rate of 1s., and is to get 3s. 1d.; Hartington, with a rate of 1s. 2¼d., is to get only 2s. 11d.; Ilkeston pays a rate of 11d., and is to get 4s.; Osmaston pays a rate of 1s. 4d., and is to get 6s. 8d.; Pinxton pays a rate of 1s. 1d., and is to get 6s. 9d. In the county of Devon, Bideford pays a rate of 11d., and is to get 4s. 1d.; Buckfastleigh pays a rate of 11¼d., and is to get 4s. 2d.; the borough of Devonport pays a rate of 1s., and is to get only 4d.; while Kingswear, which also pays a rate of 1s., gets 5s. 10d. In the county of Durham, Crook pays a rate of 1s., and is to get 5s. 7d.; the borough of Gateshead pays a rate of 10d., and is to get 3s. 8d.; whereas the borough of West Hartlepool pays a rate of 1s. 0¼d., and is to get 3s. 4d. The anomalies are astounding in Essex, in Gloucester, and in Kent. In the latter county, Dartford pays a rate of 1s. 3¼d., and is to get only 7d.; while Burham, which, only pays a rate of 8d., is to get 1s. 10d. In the county of Lancaster, the borough of Barrow-in-Furness pays a rate of 1s. 0¼d., and is to get 7d.; while Shevington, with a rate of 10d., is to get 5s. 4d. In the county of Leicester, the borough of Loughborough pays a rate of 10¼d., and is to get only 1s. 3d. In Lincoln, the borough of Grimsby, with a rate of 9¼d., is to get only 4d. might take many other counties, but will take my own county of Staffordshire, where the differences are really amusing, as well as startling. In Willenhall the rate is 11d., and they are to get 4s. 1d. I am very pleased that my constituents there will receive that sum. That is a purely manufacturing neighbourhood. But there is another place in the county, Burslem, which is of precisely the same character, and where precisely the same conditions obtain, and which, although the rate is the same, 11d., is to get only 2s. 4d. I should like to hear why this anomaly should exist. Rushall, with a rate of 10d., is to get 6s. There are two Nortons in Staffordshire, each with a rate of 1s., but one is to get 4s. 1d. and the other 3s. 4d. In Warwickshire, Aston, which is really a part of Birmingham, is to get 2s. 6d. per head, while Birmingham gets nothing. In Worcestershire there are some astounding discrepancies. Kidderminster, with a rate of 1s. 1d., is to get only 1d., while Dudley, with a rate of 8¼d., is to get 8d. Wollscote, again, with a rate of 4¾d., is to get 5s. 3d. The county of York bristles with these inequalities, and they are to be found all through the Bill ventured to call the other Bill discriminating injustice; call this Bill indiscriminating injustice put it to the House that it is impossible to defend this scheme upon the principle of Mr. Forster's Act of 1870, and it is impossible to defend the extraordinary operation of this sliding scale. The startling contrasts which I have given are inherent in an attempt to apportion this relief according to the rate raised in various localities, because the diversity of the rating areas prevents it. Our rating areas are as great a chaos as are our rates. There are circumstances involving the amount of rate raised, such as the poverty or wealth of the locality, or the character of its occupants. If you had even taken the whole county, you might have had less injustice in this Bill. The only method by which you can ever arrive at a settlement of this question is by treating the schools, whether Voluntary or School Board, equally all round—[cheers]—as all previous legislation with reference to public grants has done. You cannot adjust the matter by the rates; you cannot institute an inquisitorial inquiry as to what locality is rich or poor, or what school ought or ought not to be benefited. Your principle should be to treat all alike, and to give to every one the same think a very inadequate amount is given to School Boards. In a year when the Exchequer is overflowing, as, perhaps, it has never overflowed before, think it would have been worthy of the House of Commons, and of the Government to have treated Board Schools with a generous liberality, and not to wee how far they could screw them down. I think the sum given ought not to have been less than that given to the Voluntary Schools, and if the Government had chosen to give both classes of schools more, perhaps, it would have been wiser, and such action would have been more likely to obtain a final settlement than anything we have had yet. If you give one Board School 5s., give it to another. Your own limit is wrong as to what is a necessitous school within that limit. Distribute equally within that limit, and think you should distribute outside that limit. Take a new-limit, and instead of 3d. some other figure, and treat all schools exactly alike, totally irrespective of the richness or poverty of the district in which the school may be situated. [Cheers]

MR. B. L. COHEN (Islington, E.)

, replying to the speech of the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, said an argument, sought to be based on the prediction of 1870, that 3d. in the pound would suffice for the education rate throughout the country, carried almost its own refutation. The right hon. Gentleman said he wanted equality of treatment. But surely it was not treating Board and Voluntary Schools equally that the latter should have £618,000 under the Voluntary Schools Bill of the present year, and that the Imperial Exchequer should be used in aid of Board Schools where the rate was in excess of 6d. in the pound. What the advocates of Voluntary Schools wanted, and what they had never had and were not getting under this Bill, was equal treatment all round. Any system such as the right hon. Gentleman suggested—that the Imperial Exchequer should be drawn upon to aid all School Boards where the rate was in excess of 6d. in the pound—would not only perpetuate, but aggravate the existing inequalities. Hon. Members opposite challenged London Members to defend the Bill in the face of the scandal and grave injustice, as they called it, to which London was subjected under the Bill. The hon. Member for West Islington showed some sense of conscience. He had been so strenuous in his efforts to divert to England and London a great portion of the expenditure which should properly be defrayed by Ireland that he offered them a litle sop in aid where they were entitled to no relief whatever.


asked if the hon. Member could mention any instance of any such sum being diverted to England that should have been paid by Ireland.


replied that, if it were relevant, he could go into the figures; but he understood that during the Debate on the financial relations between England and Ireland the hon. Member said two-and-a-half millions now being paid by Ireland should be paid by England.


The Royal Commission on the Financial Relations said so, not me. How ridiculous!


, resuming, said it was urged by hon. Members opposite that the Government were dealing with this great educational question piecemeal, and that this Bill was not final. A more unreasonable and inconsistent charge could not be made. It was truly said that the Bill of last year attempted too much. The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken said it would revolutionise our system of elementary education; others said that system would be undermined. This year we had two Bills, joint Bills, not so ambitious as the one Bill of last year, and the Government were reproached for dealing with the question piecemeal. The reproach was due to misapprehension of the purpose of the Bill now under discussion. It did not vary the system on which, elementary education was conducted either in Board or Voluntary Schools, but simply gave aid to necessitous School Board Schools which, because of their need, were in a condition of inefficiency and perhaps decay, or in peril of falling out of existence altogether. He did not think any of the anomalies repeatedly referred to by hon. Members opposite were relevant to this Bill, because they did not touch the principle on which the Bill was framed. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to forget that the needs and necessities of Board Schools in certain places did not depend exclusively or even mainly upon the School Board rate which happened to be levied in those places, but on the amount which would be realised by the raising of 1d. in the pound. That was the principle on which the Bill was framed, and which guided its awards and appropriations. Even that must and did work some injustice in certain cases, but the principle was as nearly perfect as any principle of the kind could be. No one had been louder in his praise of aiding necessitous Board Schools than the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, who now advocated equal treatment all round.


said that what he said was that it was impossible in dealing with expenditure like school grants to exactly ascertain the respective needs of each locality, and that the only workable principle was to give to each school an equal sum according to the needs of the children in attendance.


remarked that he did not know whether that was possible, but the Bill made an attempt (to a great extent successful) to reduce inequalities and aid districts which, by the amount that 1d. in the pound would produce, proved to be necessitous. He agreed that London was hardly treated by getting no grant under the Bill, but as a London Member he could not seek redress for one injustice by inflicting another on another part of the country. He admitted that the Agricultural Rates Bill of last year, instead of diminishing an injustice, accentuated it. [Opposition cheers.] But he supported the Bill, believing it was a necessary and just measure. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Shoreditch was a member of that Commission before whom the London Members would argue the case and establish the injustice. But he would not, because they suffered an injustice in London, on that account support a claim for London for which not a shred of foundation could be established. If London had a claim, the method which hon. Gentlemen opposite would resort to would give them little or no benefit. If they were to give the whole of the £110,000 to the metropolis it would make practically no difference to the School Board rate. The only way to reduce the School Board rate of London was to reduce the School Board expenditure. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not say that the expenditure was excessive, nor did he ask that it should be diminished, but he did say that it was oppressive. Even if they were to give £20,000 or £30,000 out of this grant to London instead of going in relief of the rates, it would be applied to increase the expenditure—perhaps the necessary expenditure—and to cause education which was intended to be primary to become still more secondary. It was intended by the Act of 1870 and by the subsequent Free Education Act that the education given in Board Schools should be primary and not secondary, and the way to reduce the School Board rate of London was to divide more sharply and rigidly than was now the case the line which separated primary and secondary education. He did not complain of the education that was given in the Board Schools, and was not prepared to assert that it was extravagantly administered; but contended that if they were to give an education so much in advance of that which was intended by the Act of 1870 and the Free Education Act, then it was scarcely straightforward of hon. Members opposite to complain of the cost which that education necessarily involved. ["Hear, hear!"] He supported the Bill because he believed it was framed on a right principle. It recognised the necessities of their School Boards, and gave them relief in proportion to their needs. He was convinced that the grant proposed by the Bill was equitable and proportionate. It could not be equitable unless it was proportionate. The object of this Bill and the Voluntary Schools Act was to give aid on an equitable and a proportionate principle to those schools which were in want of pecuniary support. To help those which were not in need would be to perpetuate and not to remove the inequalities that admittedly now existed. He believed this Bill would materially contribute to, if it did not entirely accomplish that object; and, at any rate, it was a faithful fulfilment of the pledge given by the Government, and by all their supporters, before the last General Election. He thanked the Government for having brought in the Bill, which he hoped would be speedily passed into law.


remarked that until the speech which had just been delivered, he regarded this Bill as one of the most difficult subjects to thoroughly understand. That notion, however, had beeen put altogether on one side by the extraordinary speech of the hon. Member for Islington, who had declared that the way to lessen the educational burdens upon, the ratepayers of London was to cut down the rates. The hon. Member said he was against lowering the educational standard of the metropolis, and then he went, on to explain, by some curious process with which he did not seem, to be quite satisfied himself, why he was supporting a Bill which gave no relief to his own constituents—a portion of the metropolis—the metropolis itself having a claim equal, to say the least of it, to any other educational authority in the United Kingdom. The hon. Member would find it much, easier to make his explanation to that House than he would find it to meet his constituents in this matter. London ratepayers would want to know from their Members why it was they supported a Measure for the relief of Board Schools which did not give a single penny to the poor Board Schools of the metropolis. This Bill was in ended as a sop. The Government obtained the support of main' of the borough Members to the Church Schools Bill by the pledge that they would do something for the School Boards, but while they had given over, £600,000 to the Voluntary, which were mainly Church of England, Schools, they only proposed to give £110,000 to the struggling Board Schools, and that in the most irregular manner imaginable. For instance, the School Board to which he was a ratepayer did not get a farthing, although, owing to the very high assessment of the parish, the rates were exceedingly heavy. It had been shown by speaker after speaker that the machinery of the Bill produced great injustice in various parts of the country, and he hoped the Vice President would insist upon a larger and better scheme. He supported the Amendment—which he hoped would be pressed to a Division—because it said that equality should be dealt out to both classes of schools, and that the Board School was as much entitled to 5s. per head all round as was the Voluntary School. He was bound to acknowledge that although the assistance given by the Bill was given in an inefficient, partial, irregular, and haphazard manner, his constituency would receive over £3,000 in the first year. But there was to be a process; of reduction each year, and it seemed to him that by the extraordinary machinery provided it was possible for them to reach the vanishing point. If the Government, with their overflowing coffers and their enormous revenue, unexampled in the history of their country, had had the moral courage to devote a portion of the great surplus they would have to dealing out equal treatment to all classes of schools, their action would have been met with a universal shout of approval, and they would have received probably as united a support from the Opposition as from their own followers. Money was lavishly thrown away on naval and military matters, but when they came to the question of a sound education for every child in the land—one of the most important factors in their competition with foreign countries—they became parsimonious and mean. Educated Germans were their great competitors in London to-day, and yet they had a milk and water suggestion from the Member for East Islington that the educational standard of London should be lowered the was surprised to hear the noble Lord the Member for Rochester cheer a backward policy of that kind.


I cheered a proposal to lower the expenditure, not the standard of education.


said he should like the noble Lord to explain how the cost of education was to be lowered without lowering the standard of education. He wanted to know how the Government were going to defend their treatment of School Boards as compared with their treatment of Voluntary Schools. Of course, if they adopted the suggestion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton and provided £500,000 out of the Budget, so as to make the relief of the two classes of schools equal, they would remove the greatest cause of complaint against the present Measure; and if the Government made sure that all Boards got a fair share of the grant they would do much to facilitate its passage through the House.

MR. C. A. CRIPPS (Gloucestershire, Stroud)

thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton was somewhat inaccurate in his analysis of the provisions of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the Bill proposed an alteration in the, 3d. and in the sum of 7s. 6d. The only change made had reference, not to the 3d., but to the 7s. 6d. Under the Bill a sliding scale was provided by which that sum of 7s. 6d. might be altered according to the amount in the pound which was paid in various districts towards School Board expenses. When the right hon. Gentleman realised that he would see that what the Government were now proposing was not an alteration of the policy laid down by Mr. Forster in 1870, but a carrying out of that policy in connection with new conditions so as to bring about somewhat the same results that were brought about by the very proposal which Mr. Forster himself introduced. The statistics prepared by the Education Department showed that the nominal produce of the 3d. rate per School Board scholar in average attendance varied according to the conditions of different localities. Therefore School Board districts under the scheme of Mr. Forster would have derived in some cases, although they were heavily taxed, no advantage at all; and in other cases a varying scale of advantage entirely dependent on the particular conditions of the particular locality to which that section might be applied. The basis of the Government scheme was exactly the same, although it was applied in a somewhat more artistic manner, and although the amount which might the given in School Board districts was proportionately, to a certain extent, increased. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite approved of the principle adopted by Mr. Forster in 1870 he would find merely an extension and improvement of the same principle in the provisions of the present Bill. It might, be perfectly true that where they had a sliding scale of this kind they would have conditions of hardship, but the principle was right. It was not the actual rate paid, but it was the rate paid in reference to the burden which that rate threw on the ratepayers. That was the principle and basis on which the Government proposal was fixed. ["Hear, hear!"] In 1870 Mr. Forster put it forward as the first part of his argument that he desired to cover the country with good schools. The Government, in the Voluntary Schools Act and in the present Bill, were merely seeking to carry out what Mr. Forster put forward as the first plank in his educational programme. The difficulty had arisen because the standard of efficiency was very much higher now than it was in 1870, and, therefore, if they were to apply to the present standard of education the same principle as Mr. Forster applied in 1870, they must, do it by giving a larger amount from. Imperial resources. They could not do it in any other way. He did not think it would be possible to actually limit the amount of the School Board rate in the manner the right hon. Gentleman opposite had suggested, but he understood the right hon. Gentleman to agree with the general principle that, the greater part, of the funds for educational purposes should be supplied from, the national Exchequer. The Government by this Bill were recognising the change of circumstances since Mr. Forster's time, and were leaving the burden for education as nearly as possible where Mr. Forster designed that it should be placed. If that was so the whole argument of the right hon. Gentleman opposite was in favour not only of the main part, of the proposal, that the assistance should come from the National Exchequer, but also of the manner in which it was to be distributed—by the amendment of Section 97 of Mr. Forster's Act. They had heard a great deal about the principle of statutory equality. But up to this Session there had, in, consequence of the operation of Section 97 of the Act of 1870, been statutory inequality in favour of poor School Board districts, and the Government by their legislation were seeking to secure equal treatment for both classes of schools. With regard to the incidence of rates, he maintained that they could not lay down any general principle in order to show whether the occupier who paid the rates in the first instance was the person who would get the benefit of any relief. In the long run the relief might go to the landlord. But that was not the question; in the first instance it would go to the occupier. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton had spoken of the in-equality of the proposals of the Government as between Voluntary School districts and School Board districts. He submitted that the same principle which was typified in the word "necessitous" had been applied by the Government equally in both cases. Necessity meant either that an intolerable strain was put on those who bad to provide the funds for education, or that the financial conditions were such that the education given was inefficient. The Government proposed to give relief from the National Exchequer in order that neither of these alternatives should come about, and they applied the same principle whether in the case of Voluntary School districts or of School Board districts. In this case, as in the case of the Voluntary Schools Bill, the policy of the Opposition was one of negation. If education was to be made efficient, and the overburdened ratepayers relieved in the poor School districts, the necessary funds could only come from one source, the National Exchequer. It was so that money given in this way was likely to be wasted. He had never heard one iota of evidence adduced in support of that view and believed it to be a mere chimera. Anyone who had studied the question must come to the conclusion that the system of subvention, which would have to be carried much further so far as education was concerned, had never led to extravagance, and that the increased local expenditure was due to the growth of the necessities of the districts. It was difficult to say how the Bill would operate in all cases; but, taking the two counties with which he was best acquainted, he found that both in Gloucestershire and in Buckinghamshire the relief would go where it was most needed. He was one of those who would like still more to have been done under a Bill of this kind in the way of relieving the ratepayer from the heavy burden of elementary education. But by their two Measures the Government had found nearly three-quarters of a million per annum in order to assist primary national education. That was a great boon from the proper source, a far greater boon than had ever been proposed by any Member on the opposite side of the House. The objection urged to the method in which the proposed relief was to be given was the current argument of the Opposition against Bills brought forward by the Government. But if they looked at the question from the wider point of view and agreed with the premise of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that relief should be given and that it could only come from the National Exchequer, he doubted whether any more equitable system could be found than that embodied in this Bill and in the Act dealing with Voluntary Schools. He hoped that most of the funds provided would be used for one purpose and one purpose only—for promoting and extending the efficiency of the national education of this country. [Cheers.]

* MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)

said that it would have been convenient for the House if the Minister of Education, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, had supplied information which was altogether wanting on its introduction. He had been plied with questions; he had been called upon to remove the ambiguities of the 97th Clause of the Act of 1870; and the Returns which had been produced by the Education Department had disclosed the fantastic and absurd inequalities which would result from the operation of the Bill. It could not be supposed that they were intended or anticipated by the Government; which might be credited with honesty of intention; but which had, he thought, sadly blundered. Did they mean to remove these anomalies, and to allow Amendments to be adopted, or was the Bill to be forced through the House as its predecessor had been? ["Hear, hear!"] It had been repeatedly said that the two Bills were financial, and not educational. Measures; but they were not even good financial Measures; for they would create the grossest inequalities and cause the utmost discontent in numerous localities. The two Bills would do little or nothing for the improvement of education; but would produce a new crop of educational anomalies and evils. What were the future prospects of education under the present Government? They might, perhaps, pass a Teachers' Pension Bill, and deal with Secondary Education, but as regarded elementary education, he suspected that the constructive power of the Government was now exhausted. This was certain, that nothing had been, or was likely to be, done by the Government to redress the grievances of Nonconformists in the 8,000 parishes in which there was only a Church of England school. The grievance had been frankly admitted by the Government; but they were no forwarder in the absence of measures of redress. He hoped that the Government's treatment of the subject of education would have the effect of bracing up not Free Churchmen only, but all real friends of educational progress, to enter at once on an agitation which would not cease until there existed an educational system which would be national in fact as well as in name.


The House will probably expect me, before the Bill is Head a Second time, to make a few observations in regard to the criticisms from the opposite side of the House. Now, the hon. Member for Northampton, in moving the rejection of the Bill, has used over again the old arguments that there ought to have been similarity of treatment accorded to the Board and the Voluntary Schools. I hope he will not think me discourteous if do not follow him again into these arguments. The Bill which has now become law is a Bill based avowedly on the principle of redressing the inequalities which exist between Board Schools in regard to their command of public funds by giving a larger share of the grant out of the Exchequer to the Voluntary and to the Board Schools. The question was very well argued on both sides—I took no part in the discussion and can speak the more impartially—[a laugh.]—and the House, by an overwhelming majority, adopted the policy of the Government, and resolved that that principle should be carried out in legislation; and, therefore, hope the hon. Member for Northampton will forgive me for treating it as res adjudicata. But the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton criticised the Bill in en entirely different spirit. He criticised it as a bad Bill on its own merits, and he gave us a very interesting and very accurate account of the intentions of the authors of the Act of 1870 in passing that clause which this Bill is intended to amend. He carried his description of the history of the clause up to a certain point, up to its embodiment in the Act of 1870, but he did not tell the House or impress upon the House what think ought to be remembered—that the intentions with which the authors passed that section and the expectations they entertained of the operation of it were in every particular falsified. The section amounted to an engagement on the part of the Imperial Government that they would see the local authorities through at the cost of a rate of threepence in the pound. But the result of an experience of 25 years has shown not only that that could not, be done, but that it was an impossible scheme. I do not wish to throw any blame on such persons as Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Forster, but we have the advantage now of 25 years' experience. They were talking of things which they expected and hoped for, but we have the advantage of knowing what has actually occurred, and the expectations they formed were in every respect falsified. So far from the threepenny rate seeing the local authorities through, the rate has gone up in some places to an enormous amount, and in most places far above threepence. The average rate throughout the country is ninepence, and, so far from the cost of education thrown on the local authorities being 7s. 6d. per child, it has gone up on an average of 20s. per child. So far, moreover, from the cost being uniform, it varies enormously in different parts of the country, and there is no kind of uniformity attending it. What the Government had to deal with in the Bill which they proposed was not the expectations of Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Forster, but the actual working of the 97th Section of the Act of 1870 in the country. A great many of the injustices which the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton detailed are not the creation of this Bill amending that statute, but the creation of the statute itself. ["Hear, hear!"] Let me take one example—that of Aston and Birmingham. It is said:—"What a monstrous thing it is that under this Bill Birmingham will get nothing and Aston will get 2s. 6d. per child."' But Aston is already getting under the existing law a sum of 1s. 10d. per child, so that a greater part of the injustice which so excited the reprobation of the right hon. Gentleman is in existence already. [Cheers.] The Bill merely increases the subsidy which Aston receives. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to tell me that the 97th Section of the Act of 1870 should be amended in accordance with the intentions with which the authors of the Act of 1870 passed that section? think that a very little consideration would show the House that such an amendment as that is impossible. What would you have to do? You would have to substitute 9d. for 3d. and 21s. for 7s. 6d. Would the right hon. Gentleman recommend that the House should now enact that where a rate of 9d. in the pound did not produce a sum of 21s. per child the difference should be met out of the Exchequer? Such a proposal as that is practically impossible. In the first place an enormous number of School Boards which are now receiving assistance from the Consolidated Fund would have this assistance cut off. Aston, for example, is receiving assistance from the Consolidated Fund; would any one propose to cut off from the local authorities who are receiving that amount of aid the aid which they are receiving? There would be such an amount of opposition as would make the passage of such a Bill impossible. But that is not the only difficulty. The authors of the Act of 1870 did not seem to realise the great variety of the cost of education in different places. I do not know any practical scheme by which you could give the kind of relief they wish to give to local authorities, because, whereas in some places the 9d. rate is not more than sufficient to provide the necessary standard of education, there are other places in which the amount of 21s. is gross extravagance, and where no such amount as a 9d. rate would be rendered necessary. Therefore, on reflection, even the right hon. Gentleman will admit that, if the Government had attempted, not to amend the Act of 1870 as in operation, but to pass an entirely new section and to carry out the mistaken intentions which the authors of the Act of 1870 contemplated, they would have been embarking on a perfectly impossible course, and would have been quite unable to carry such a scheme. What the Government attempted to do was a very much more modest and simple proposal. They did not intend by this Bill to reverse the earlier Act of the Session, or to attempt to carry out the intentions of Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Forster in 1870. All they have attempted to do, and all they profess they are doing, is to make the operation of the 97th Section of the Act of 1870 more just, more equitable, and to give better assistance to the School Boards which are in considerable danger must say that the examples which have been brought forward as to the operation of this sliding scale have really, if the whole of the facts of the case are known, proved the equity with which it would work. The first thing stated is that London is cut out of the Bill. Nothing of the kind is the fact. London is not in the 97th Section of the Act of 1870 now, because the rate of 3d. in the pound in London produces between 21s. and 22s. instead of 7s. 6d. cannot conceive any extension of the Act of 1870 which would bring London under its operation, where the rateable value is so high compared with the number of children to be educated. London, therefore, is not cut out of the Bill; the Act has not been so amended as to bring London within it; and do not think it could be amended to have this result. The hon. Member for West Islington contrasted the treatment of London with the treatment of West Ham and Tottenham and other poor districts in the neighbourhood. It is true that West Ham gets a large sum, and it is true that Tottenham, gets a considerable sum under the education rate if this Bill becomes law in its present form, but the ratepayers of Tottenham and West Ham will pay a greater sum to the education of the children than the ratepayers of London. I have heard a great many reckless assertions made in the course of the Debate. The hon. Member for West Islington, complained that Devon, which was a wealthy county, got more relief than Cornwall, a poor county. I have taken the trouble to have the amount calculated. I find, so far from, this being the case, that Devon, with double the population of Cornwall, receives only £945 under the Bill, whereas Cornwall gets £2,711. [Cheers.] Then there is another illustration given which think shows the extreme equity of the operation of the Bill. It is said that in Berkshire there are only two places which receive relief under the Bill. Each place has practically a rate of 9d., the same number of children in the schools, and it is said, "How monstrous that under the Bill one place should get £18 and the other only £8." But the hon. Member omitted to tell the House that in the one case the 3d. rate produces 7s. 11d. and in the other case 6s.; so that the operation of the monstrous injustice of the Bill will be to give both places the same amount per child out of the rate, combined with the assistance given. A contrast has been made between Huddersfield and Middlesbrough; but the hon. Member who made it did not tell the House that in Huddersfield the produce of the 3d. rate was 14s. 8d., while in Middlesbrough it was 8s. 3d., and Middlesbrough, being far more poor, gets more relief under the Bill than Huddersfield, which is the richer of the two places. Workington and Stockton-on-Tees were also mentioned as cases of differential treatment, but in Workington the 3d. rate is 4s. 6d. per child, while in Stockton it is 8s. 6d. Naturally, therefore, poor Workington gets a larger subsidy than Stockton. Attempts were also made to show that there are important places which do not get anything under the Bill, among the places being Liverpool. But in Liverpool the 3d. rate produces 27s. per child, or a sum greater than in London. Can anybody suggest any amendment which will bring a town like Liverpool, with a rate of only 3d. in the pound, producing 27s. per child, into the position of a town needing and receiving aid? I must point out that the purpose of this Bill is not a kind of prize-giving, as the hon. Member for Northampton, seems to think. It is not intended that the Exchequer should give money to School Boards in proportion, to the excellence of their schools and the good which they have done to the community. If that were the intention, you might well complain that towns like London and Liverpool and Manchester were left out. But there is no such intention. This is not a Bill to found prizes and rewards to local authorities for the way in which they have discharged their duties. It is a Bill to help those districts where the number of children to be educated bears an undue proportion to the rateable value, districts like West Ham, where there are many children and where the rateable value is low. The operation of the Bill, as far as can be foreseen from the rather rough statistics which we are able to lay before the House, will be in the opinion of the Committee of Council on Education to give assistance where it is most wanted. On the whole, they are very well satisfied with the apparent operation of the Measure. Before sitting down must give the House one caution. This Return, which has been in everybody's hands, and which was prepared at the request of the right hon. Member for Rotherham, is necessarily a rough Return, and it is impossible for the Education Department to vouch for its accuracy. It is based upon financial statements, made by the clerks of School Boards, and the rate stated is sometimes the gross rate and sometimes the net, and we have no means of discriminating whether the rate given is the gross or the net rate. Therefore the localities mentioned in this Report must not reckon absolutely upon getting relief upon the figures given here. But when the amount to which each place is entitled comes to be estimated, of course accurate figures will the obtained, and the grant will be dispensed by the Committee of Council upon figures which are thoroughly trustworthy. I hope the House will now consent to Read the Bill a Second time. When the Committee stage is reached, if any hon. Members can suggest amendments under which the relief given can be made to operate in a more just manner, I can assure them that such amendments will receive most careful consideration. [Cheers.]

MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)

urged that the Opposition were entitled to protest against the inadequacy of the sum which was to be applied for relieving the strain upon the ratepayers. The strain in the case of the Voluntary Schools was much less severe, and yet they were to be assisted much more generously. This Bill was ludicrously inadequate to effect the object which it had in view, and the distribution of this small sum of money would not promote greater equality, but would create still greater anomalies and inequalities. The Vice President based the greater part of his case on the ground that he was making a very modest proposal to the House. It was because the proposal was so modest that they objected to it. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to what the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton had said respecting the motive which influenced those who introduced the Act of 1870, and particularly the intention of Clause 97, which the House was now asked to amend. What his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton had said was this, that they based their claim for a large grant on the ground that the prophecies, the ideas and intentions of the framers of the Act of 1870 had, after the stress of time, largely broken down. The First Lord of the Treasury had himself supported the increased grant for Voluntary Schools on the ground that the compromise of the Act of 1870 had broken down, and that in order to keep those schools in existence it was necessary to give them additional assistance. Surely, then, the Opposition were entitled to argue that if the Government intended to place the educational system of this country on a new and enlarged basis they ought not to be tied and bound by the language of the 97th Section, and ought to deal with the question according to some plan which would be fairer to the different sections of ratepayers. The arguments of the Vice President and other supporters of the Bill were based upon a fallacy. Over and over again it had been stated that because the rateable value of a particular district was low it was a poor district which ought to receive a comparatively larger amount of this education dole. But as a matter of fact it was not the poverty or wealth of a particular district which measured the strain and stress of the burden on the ratepayers in that district. In London, to take an instance, a rate of a shilling in the pound for educational purposes was just as great a burden upon the workers there as it was in any poorer district in the country. A rate of 11d. in London was as great a burden on the ratepayers of London as a similar rate was on ratepayers of any other part of the Kingdom. It was a fallacy to say that one could in any sense measure the strain and stress which was to be met by this Bill of the rateable value of any particular district. Whilst in London, for example, the rateable value was very high, not only because there was much wealth, but also because the assessment had been estimated at a very high rate, and was increased every five years, whilst that was the case in London, in many other districts the assessments and assessable value was put at a very low figure. The real way to estimate the education rate as an extra burden was by considering the weight of the total rate and the education rate in a particular district, and not merely by weighing an extra penny in the education rate. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted the case of West Ham, and that undoubtedly was one of the cases in which, there ought to be considerable relief. Would the hon. Member for North West Ham get up and say that his district would receive the amount of relief that it was entitled to They must not take this Bill by itself, but must treat the two Bills of the Government as one whole, in order to ascertain what was the real relief given to a particular district. West Ham was perhaps the most necessitous of all the districts—in fact, this Bill had been called a West Ham and Walthamstow Relief Bill. But comparing the position of West Ham under the two Bills with the position of Preston, they found that the inequality of treatment was astoundingly great. The population of Preston was half that of West Ham, and its educational burden was one-tenth of that of West Ham, and yet the relief given in Preston would be £4,400, while in West Ham the relief given by this Bill, deducting what it received under the old 97th Section, would only be £10,600.


said that that figure was inaccurate. The sum which West Ham would receive under the two-Bills would be much greater, about £20,000.


said that the only basis for calculation available was the Return presented by the Vice President. The right hon. Gentleman, however, admitted that the statistics which it contained were inaccurate.


said he was dealing with the total amount receivable under the two Bills.


said he also was taking the two Bills together as a complete educational grant from the Government to necessitous Board Schools and necessitous Voluntary Schools. He was bound to say that the thought it was very unsatisfactory that the House should have to discuss a Bill of this kind in a hurry, when the right hon. Gentleman opposite himself said that his own return was largely inaccurate, and when they found a discrepancy between the figures of the right hon. Gentleman and the statement of the hon. Member below the Gangway. He wished to say a word with reference to the position of London. Taking the cases of London and Lancashire, and taking the two Bills together, he found that while in Lancashire, taking the Board Schools and Voluntary Schools together, the burden on the ratepayers and subscribers amounted to something like £400,000 a year, in London it amounted to over £1,500,000. When, therefore, the House came to consider the question of equality of burden, he could not see how it could be just or right that in the education policy of the Government, while the cost to the London ratepayers and subscribers amounted to more than four times the cost falling on the ratepayers and subscribers of Lancashire, the relief received in London should be only one-third of that received by the inhabitants of Lancashire. He thought it was obvious that however high might be the assessment in certain parts of London, when the poorer parts were considered, the burden of the education rate was far greater than it was in Lancashire. From his own point of view as a Member for one of the poorer districts of London, he considered that London was being very hardly treated by the Government. He would not treat London as a separate entity in any sense of the term if the Government had not treated these matters as matters of class and interest and locality; but he objected that under the Rating Bill of last year Londoners should have to pay £400,000 in order to give relief to the country districts, and that they should now be called upon to pay £120,000 to other parts of the country for what the did not believe would be any great step forward in educational progress, but would really lead to greater anomalies in the future, inasmuch as it was founded on great injustice as between the different classes of schools and the different classes of ratepayers. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)

paid he would be unable to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, though if the hon. Member had moved a direct negative to the Bill, he would have been able to give him his support. He considered that as the Bill stood it was a wrong to a large class of the ratepayers of the United Kingdom. This grant, though nominally a grant to the School Boards, was really a grant in relief of the ratepayers of certain districts. No doubt there were poor ratepayers in certain districts in Great Britain who were perhaps an object for the commiseration of the House, but in Ireland, which would have to find a portion of the money, the vast majority of the ratepayers were in the same positon as the small minority of the ratepayers of Great Britain, and thus the effect of the Bill would be to exaggerate enormously the fiscal injustice under which Ireland now laboured. This Bill must be taken in connection with the other Bills that had preceded it, and others that would doubtless come after. It could not be dissociated from the Agricultural Hating Bill of last year or from the Voluntary Schools Bill, which though an excellent Measure, was not, he believed, a just Measure, because it was not accompanied by a similar measure of justice to the Voluntary Schools of Ireland. And now this Bill was introduced without any proposal to afford similar relief to Scotland and Ireland, beyond some vague indication that the Government were contemplating proposals for the relief of Ireland. If he was told that there would be something of the same kind as the ridiculous Bill introduced the other night, all he could say was, that was not what Ireland wanted. The only way to give an equivalent to Ireland was to give similar relief to that given to England. He protested against the practice of giving large sums by way of relief to the wealthy and well-to-do ratepayers of England, while nothing was done for the poorer ratepayers of Ireland. He contended that if they went into the figures it would be found that the grant out of the Imperial funds for education in England was larger in proportion to the population than the grant from Imperial funds in Ireland. There were no means now of increasing the taxation in Ireland, and the plan was resorted to of making the Irish taxpayer bear a portion of the burden of education here in accordance with the wishes of the most selfish, section of the English people. Although he should have to vote against the Amendment he protested against this plan of relieving the English ratepayer at the expense of the overburdened taxpayer in Ireland.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes, 122; Noes, 11.—(Division List, No". 186.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed for Thursday.