§ Considered in Committee.
§ [The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, Mr. J. W. LOWTHER, in the Chair.]
§ [PROGRESS, 4TH MARCH.—FIFTH DAY.]
§ Clause 1,—
- "(1) For aiding Voluntary Schools there shall be annually paid out of moneys provided by Parliament an aid grant not exceeding in the aggregate 5s. per scholar for the whole number of scholars in those schools.
- "(2) The all grant shall be distributed by the Education Department to such Voluntary Schools and in such manner and amounts as the Department think best for the purpose of helping necessitous schools and increasing their efficiency, due regard being had to the maintenance of voluntary subscriptions.
- "(3) If associations of schools are constituted in such manner in such areas and with such governing bodies representative of the managers as are approved by the Education Department, there shall be allotted to each association while so approved,
- "(a) a share of the aid grant to be computed according to the number of scholars in the schools of the association at the rate of 5s. per scholar, or, if the Department fix different rates for town and country schools respectively (which they are hereby empowered to do) then at those rates; and
- "(b) a corresponding share of any sum which may be available out of the aid grant after distribution has been made to unassociated schools.
- "(4) The share so allotted to each such association shall be distributed as aforesaid by the Education Department after consulting the governing body of the association, and in accordance with any scheme prepared by that body which the Department for the time being approve.
- "(5) The Education Department may exclude a school from any share of the aid grant which it might otherwise receive, if, in the opinion of the Department, it unreasonably refuses or fails to join such an association, but the refusal or failure shall not be deemed unreasonable if the majority of the schools in the association belong to a religious denomination to which the school in question does not itself belong.
- "(6) The Education Department may require as a condition of the school receiving a share of the aid grant, that the accounts and receipts and expenditure of the school shall be annually audited in accordance with the regulations of the Department.
- "(7) The decision of the Education Department upon any question relating to the distribution or allotment of the aid grant, including the question whether an association is or is not in conformity with this Act, and whether a school is a town or a country school, shall be final."
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon) Boroughs
moved, in Sub-section (2) to leave out the words "as the Department think best," and to insert the words "in accordance with a scheme to be formulated by the Department and laid before Parliament in manner hereinafter provided." The Education Act of 1870 afforded a striking contrast to the method adopted by the Government for the distribution of the grant under this Bill. Under that Act all schools were placed on an equal basis; there was no distinction drawn between schools in town and 210 country, prosperous and unprosperous, sectarian or undenominational, all had an equal claim on the Exchequer, and if they passed the required examination that claim was satisfied. The next point was that there were expressed conditions upon which Voluntary Schools could claim this grant. Those conditions were explicitly set forth, and there could be no dispute about them. The definition of a necessitous school in the Act was also clear and explicit. It said that when a school existed in an area the rateable value of which could not produce a certain amount in proportion to the number of children in the school, a certain aid grant was to be given to it. It was, therefore, impossible that there could be any favouritism between schools on the part of the Department. The Department could not pick and choose in the distribution of the money. It was to give the money to schools in certain districts which were clearly defined by Act of Parliament. But that was not all. In addition to all those conditions which circumscribed the discretion of the Department in the distribution of the money, the Act said further that a Minute must be prepared by the Department, and that that Minute must be laid upon the Table of the House for the space of one month. So much for the Act of 1870, which was passed by a Liberal Government. Then came the Education Act of 1876, which was passed by a Conservative Government. Under the 19th Section of that Act there was a further grant made to necessitous schools. In that Act again there was a clear definition of a necessitous school—which was a school in a district with a population of 300 or 400—and no discretion was left to the Department to pick and choose. The Act of 1870 dealt with a grant of £10,000 or £15,000; the Act of 1876 only granted a few thousand pounds; but the present Bill dealt with a, grant of £600,000. How was it proposed to deal with the, money? No Minute or regulation was to be laid before Parliament. The distribution of the money was left absolutely to the Education Department, in consultation with the school associations. He asked the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury—if the right hon. Gentleman did him the honour of replying to his Amendment—whether he could point to a single precedent of a proposal of this 211 kind having been incorporated by any Government in a Bill? There had been an increasing tendency in Acts passed of late to leave the real practical work of legislation to be done by the Departments. Last year, for instance, a large sum of money was given for the relief of rates in agricultural districts. The bulk of the work in the way of regulations was left to the Local Government Board. But this Bill went beyond the Agricultural Rates Act. The regulations of the Local Government Board under that Act were to be laid on the Table for ten days and discussed. But under this Bill there were to be no regulations laid on the Table. The House simply voted the money, and said to the Department, "Spend it as you please." What might happen? There were £600,000 to be distributed among the necessitous schools; and there was to be a distinction between town and country. Yet there were absolutely no regulations by which the Department was to be guided in its discrimination. There was nothing to prevent four-fifths of the money being distributed among the towns, and only one-fifth in the country districts. Before any such scheme was put into operation the opinion of the House of Commons ought to be invited upon it. What the Bill amounted to was the establishment of a bureaucracy. He begged to move—
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir ROBERT FINLAY,) Inverness Burghs
said that there was no repugnancy between the 2nd Sub-section, and the 3rd and 4th.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
Does not Subsection (a) of Sub-section (3) limit the discretion of the Department?
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said that Sub-section (2) referred to the distribution of the grant to individual schools. Subsection (a) of Sub-section (3) referred to the allotment to the associations.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
But the Education Department is bound to pay over the lump sum to the associations?
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
No. The payment will be direct to the school. The hon. and learned Gentleman, continuing, said it was impossible for the House of Commons to act, in the manner suggested by the Amendment, as a satisfactory Court of Appeal in the distribution of the grant. It was not a matter of general regulation but of individual 212 discrimination as between schools. Sometimes 5s. per child would be too little, and sometimes it would be too much. How could the House engage in an inquiry with reference to the necessities of a particular school? Any question of general principle as raised by Section 97 of the Act of 1870 the House could deal with; but human ingenuity could not devise a tribunal more unfitted to decide between the claims of school and school than the House of Commons. He hoped the Committee would have no hesitation in rejecting an Amendment which was utterly unpractical and inconsistent with the whole scheme of the Bill.
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
regretted that the Government had not accepted the Amendment, at least in some modified form, because a principle of the greatest importance was raised. In the sub-section under discussion the general distribution of the funds was dealt with. By this sub-section it was to rest with the Education Department to determine to what schools, in what manner, and in what amount the fund was to be distributed. Sub-section (3) provided for the allotment to particular associations, and Sub-section (4) provided for the actual payment of the grant by the Department. At every one of these stages, it was the contention of the Opposition, the matter ought to be submitted to the jurisdiction and determination of the House. [Cheers.] He had an Amendment down on the subsection dealing with the allotment to associations, to give to the House of Commons a final voice as to the constitution of those bodies, and as to their government in the exercise of their large and novel functions. ["Hear, hear!"] The preliminary step, with which the Committee was now dealing, was also of very great importance, and he demurred to the suggestion that this was purely a matter of detail. One of the main grounds for the Amendment was a desire to elicit from the Education Department, in the form of a scheme to be laid on the Table of the House, a statement of the general considerations or rules which they intended to apply, first of all in determining the all-important question of what classes of schools among the Voluntary Schools were to be treated as "necessitous;" and, next, in determining by what scale the grant was to be reckoned. The Amendment was not put forward in a spirit 213 hostile to the scheme of the Bill, but on grounds which eight to be generally accepted—the first being constitutional principle, and the Other being administrative convenience. As the law stood, not a penny of public money was voted for educational purposes as to the expenditure of which the House had not by Act of Parliament an absolutely complete control. There was, first, the Parliamentary grant prescribed by the Act of 1870, and its developments. Not only were the conditions under which that grant was given fixed, but the amount in which it was given and every condition applicable to it were prescribed by a code laid on the Table of the House every year. Section 97 of the Act of 1870 expressly provided that no addition to or subtraction front these conditions should be valid without the House having an opportunity of expressing its views. [Cheers.] As to the fee-grant given under the Act of 1891, was that left to the discretion of the Department? Many hon. Members opposite would have preferred to see a greater degree of elasticity allowed; but Parliament, on the face of the Act, prescribed what should be the figure of the grant, and there was no possibility or power on the part of the Education Department to vary that amount from year to year or as between school and school. It was quite true that there was a provision in the Act—which he did not think had been applied in many cases—under which the Education Department were empowered, in certain very special circumstances, to vary the amount of the grant, but it was expressly provided that the Education Department should report annually all eases in which they had sanctioned the imposition or augmentation of fees under this particular section. That was the state of the case at present, and now, for the first time, this Bill proposed to leave the distribution of this very considerable sum to the absolute and uncontrolled discretion of a Government Department. The Government Department was to be at large as regarded the class of schools to whom the money was to be given, as regarded the scale of amounts in which the money was to be distributed, and, what was still more important, as regarded the constitution and allocation of these voluntary associations, which were intended to be 214 the means and instruments of the Department in the actual distribution of the money. He asked hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they could produce any Parliamentary precedent in any part of their legislation in any Department in which an uncontrolled and practically irresponsible power had been given over money to be voted annually by Parliament from the taxes, either to any Government power or, still more, to any voluntary association constituted altogether outside Parliamentary authority. It might said that Parliament did retain an indirect and, at the same time, effective control in the fact that, when the Education Estimates came on for discussion, it was open to hon. Gentlemen to move to reduce the salary of the Vice President of the Council. Assuming for the sake of argument that the salary of the Vice President was still to be the natural Parliamentary opportunity for raising questions as to the administration of the Department, it was too much to expect that, at the fag end of the Session, perhaps in a single night, those who had objection to, or wished to criticise, the distribution of this fund among the diocesan associations of the country should be shut up within the narrow limits of that particular opportunity, and that that should be represented to them as if it were anything more than an illusory and shadowy Parliamentary control. ["Hear, hear!"] What they wanted, in this as in all other cases of a grant of public money, was that that House should have an absolute control from first to last. The Duke of Devonshire, speaking as late as February 12th last, at a more or less private meeting of the Liberal Unionist Association, made this observation:—There was nothing, therefore, in what I said on that occasion which would in the slightest degree prevent either the Government of which I am a member or myself from supporting a proposal made to Parliament to sanction a special aid grant to certain schools, whether Voluntary or Board Schools, which might require such aid, such aid to be granted on conditions to be prescribed by Parliament itself, and not to be left to the discretion of the Department.They were seeking to give effect not only to the views of the Duke of Devonshire, but to the only legitimate method of Parliamentary control, when they said that the schemes for the distribution of 215 this aid grant should be laid on the Table of the House. He would point out, further, that they were acting not only in accordance with previous legislation as regarded elementary education, but with the vast body of legislation in other Departments which was strictly relevant to the subject. What was done in the case of the Endowed Schools Act, where they were dealing with a strictly local fund? So jealous was Parliament in that case that, apart from the Commissioners constituted by the Act and the Education Department, which was placed over the Commissioners with an ultimate voice as to the manner in which those endowments should be allocated, an express provision was made that the schemes should be laid on the Table of the House, and that not until a sufficient time had elapsed for Parliamentary criticism and approval should those schemes come into operation and become law. Again, in another case of a very similar character—that of the City of London Parochial Charities in 1883—exactly the same procedure was followed, and again this was a case of a fund in which there was only a local interest. Finally, there was the case of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, which dealt with funds jointly produced by rates levied in the counties and by contributions from the Imperial Exchequer. Primarily the proposals for the allocation of that fund were left to the discretion of the joint committees; above the joint committees were put the Charity Commissioners, and above the Charity Commissioners there was the Education Department. If, when the matter had reached that stage, any objections were taken, Parliament required that the schemes should be laid on the Table of that House, and the vast majority, if not the whole, of those schemes had in fact been laid on the Tables of both Houses of Parliament. He asked the Government how, in view of that absolute unbroken stream of Parliamentary precedents, both where they were dealing with Imperial grants and even where they were dealing with local educational endowments, they were going to justify their action in now, for the first time, setting aside the principle which had hitherto been embodied in legislative proposals of this kind and which had been recognised by both Parties in the State? This was a prin- 216 ciple to which they attached the highest constitutional importance, and, unless the Government had made up their mind that every Amendment of every sort or kind was to be rigorously and arbitrarily excluded from the Bill, he could not understand why they should not accept the present Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
said the right hon. Gentleman opposite had recommended this Amendment on the ground that it was in accordance with precedent. He gathered the Amendment was that every year, before allocating the money, the schemes under which it was to be allocated to the various schools were to be laid before the House of Commons.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said the right hon. Gentleman opposite recommended the Amendment on the ground that it was strictly analogous to the principle laid down by Parliament in the case of the Endowed Schools Act. Anybody who had had a lengthened experience of that House knew that nothing could give more labour and trouble to the House than this perpetual survey of the schemes of the Endowed Schools Commissioners. That trouble had to be undertaken, not merely because previous legislation had pressed it upon them and without new legislation they could not free themselves of it, but because it was manifest that, where they were dealing with private funds, which they transferred from one body to another body, from one set of people who, perhaps, represented the original beneficiaries of the charity to another set of people who did not represent the beneficiaries of the charity, it was absolutely necessary that those schemes should be brought before a tribunal which should have the right to pronounce upon them. But when, with regard to any scheme, that process was gone through it was gone through once for all; it never had to be repeated; the schemes never had to be surveyed again.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said that might be so, and he dared say he was entirely wrong; but he did not remember any case in which, after Parliament had assented to a scheme, and which had been brought into full operation, it was again put through the mill and again brought before Parliament. At all events, whether there was the power in existing legislation of revarying these schemes and whether that power was used or not, it was certain that the schemes were brought forward with the intention of their being permanent. Now, let the Committee consider the plan seriously put before it in relation to administrative effectiveness and due economy of Parliamentary time. He believed there were some 14,000 Voluntary Schools in the country. He did not know how many of them would receive a share of the aid grant, but no doubt a very large number would. Each of them, he supposed, would, according to the analogy of the Charity Commission, be presented to Parliament in order that Parliament might pronounce upon it.
§ MR. ASQUITH
explained that the right hon. Gentleman was under a misapprehension. What they wanted was that the scheme should be put upon the Paper, so that the House should be enabled to judge of the principles upon which the Department acted in laying down what were and what were not necessitous schools.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
replied that if general principles were all that was asked for, those principles were already sufficiently laid down in the Bill. It had been admitted by both sides that to formulate what a necessitous Voluntary School is amounted to an impossibility. It was impossible to define the degree of necessity or to lay down in a formulated manner the exact grounds and causes from which that necessity might arise. But to think that the Education Department or any other department would have any difficulty in determining, in what proportion the money should be divided between schools A, B, and C, or in coming to a conclusion 218 as to whether schools A, B, and C were really necessitous and really required the aid grant, he did not for a moment believe. The Bill would not be improved by the Amendment. He respectfully submitted that the Amendment, so far from improving the Bill, would only occupy the time of the House by useless and unnecessary discussion, and would not afford any useful guidance to the Department.
§ MR. W. S. ROBSON (South Shields)
said that of course 15,000 schemes could not possibly be laid on the Table and advantageously discussed, but the number of schemes was limited, not by the number of schools, as the First Lord of the Treasury appeared to think, but by the number of associations. Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the Solicitor General had said one single word to meet the argument in support of the Amendment. What was the real gist of the objection taken to the Bill as it stood? It was that it introduced a grave constitutional change by conferring upon a Department what were in effect legislative powers. They were perfectly familiar with the great discretion imposed upon public Departments, but whenever it was given, the principle upon which the discretion was to be exercised was carefully laid down. In fact the whole growth of constitutional government depended upon the application of that very principle, namely, control by the Legislature over the Executive. The Solicitor General made a somewhat curious excuse for conferring this particular power upon the Executive. He said the Executive could not possibly deal with 15,000 individual cases. That was quite true, and the draftsman of the Bill foresaw that. He had made the associations deal with individual schools, and that was a very significant circumstance. The Education Department, in fact, according to the argument, could not check or control the distribution of this money, and so sectarian bodies were to have delegated to them that which was in substance a legislative function. That was even more serious than legislative delegation to departments; it was legislative delegation to purely sectarian associations. If they were going to give powers so wide as this to a Department, then the constitutional result of that must be that the Department must go down with the Ministry. That 219 was where this Bill, and similar Bills—such as the Rating Bill and the Light Railways Bill—were leading us. This was the Tory method of devolution. They would not have Home Rule, and so they had invented a new method of devolution, which would lead to the introduction of the American system into English politics. Great changes generally came about as the result of small changes not properly considered at the time they were introduced.
§ MR. ROBERT PURVIS (Peterborough)
hoped the Committee would reject the Amendment. This matter was one of business. A business man in his relations with his subordinates or clerks did not tie them down in regard to every act, he did not dictate to them every act, but he judged of their acts by the results. And so Parliament might be considered in the same relation to the Education Department. The Department was its subordinate, and Parliament would not dictate every act to the Department, but would judge by the results. This Amendment rested upon the proposition, half concealed and half revealed, that Parliament was to dictate every act to the Department. The proposition might with equal force be used as an argument against the existence of the Department altogether. In the second place the Amendment was opposed to the general policy of the Bill. The localities were to come to a decision with regard to the distribution of this money, and then to send up to the Department, but this Amendment turned the machinery so that matters should work downwards, from Parliament through the Department to the localities. If the Amendment were adopted what would happen in the case of the schools that would not associate? Surely it was for the locality to decide whether a school which stood aloof was entitled to the 5s. grant. The distribution of the money must be determined by particular needs and could not be formulated in a general scheme, indeed, a scheme to be adequate for its purpose must be an encyclopædia embracing, a field as wide and varied as human needs. As it was for the localities to decide, so it would be for the Department always to accept the proposal of the localities, unless they were opposed to fairness, sound policy, and common sense. It seemed to him that if the Amendment were adopted 220 the whole policy of the Bill would be turned upside down.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
was surprised the. First Lord of the Treasury had any difficulty in comprehending the remarkably lucid speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife. [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "I quite understood it!"] Then the right hon. Gentleman took care in replying to affect not to understand it. ["Hear, hear!"] The argument as to 15,000 schemes was all very good for a Parliamentary Debate, but there was no practical life in it. ["Hear, hear!"] What the Amendment was intended to say was that the Education Department, in dealing with this new grant, should, in the first instance, lay down the general principles by which the Department would be guided in administering the fund, that those general principles should either form part of the Code, or in some shape or form be laid before Parliament, and Parliament should have an opportunity of challenging any one of those principles or conferring upon the scheme, as a whole, its legislative approval. There was no question of enormous detail in that. The hon. Member for Peterborough had not had much experience, or he would have known that the rule of Parliament was to trust nobody but itself in the distribution and appropriation of public money. A Department were the servants and not the masters of Parliament, and it was for Parliament to say when it voted public money how and to what purpose that public money should be voted. The First Lord of the Treasury had not touched what was the real crux of the situation—namely, that every shilling of money voted up to the present for educational purposes had been voted in accordance with Code and with schemes which, in every case, had been laid before Parliament. Why were the Government departing upon this occasion from the uniform practice of Parliament? He remembered that when, during the passing of the Parish Councils Act, he pleaded very strongly for some discretion being reposed in the Local Government Board, hon. Gentlemen opposite were very fond of saying, "Ah, well; but there may be a change in the Minister, and, although we may be content to trust the head of the Local Government Board to-day, we should not be content to trust him to- 221 morrow." But suppose there was a change in the Education Department. He know that the whole of this scheme was based on the eternity of the present Administration—[a laugh]—but it was quite possible that there, would be another head of the Education Department, and that schemes might be proposed which would prejudicially affect the interests of Voluntary Schools. Were hon. Gentlemen going to sacrifice for a mere Party victory now what they might hereafter regard as a most valuable protection to themselves? He had found that no Party attached greater value to safeguards which protect, minorities than the Conservative Party when it was, in a minority; but he did not wish to put this matter upon a Party basis. He wished to continue, the uniform control of the House of Commons in such matters; to preserve the continuity of the Education Acts from first to last. If the Leader of the House would not listen to precedents established by Mr. Forster, Lord Sandon, and others, perhaps he would be guided by what he himself had done. In the, Education Bill of last year there was the provision thatany regulations made by the Education Department for the purpose of this Act shall not come into force until they have laid fur one month on the Table of the House.[Cheers.] In the face of that provision in last year's Bill, the right hon. Gentleman had told the House of Commons that what was suggested would be a. waste of House of Commons' time. He trusted that hon. Gentlemen opposite, as Members of the House of Commons—not as members of the Conservative Party—would uphold the jurisdiction of the House of Commons in this matter. [Cheers.]
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
said it was impossible to see how the Amendment would work. In addition to that the Amendment was fairly open to the charge the Leader of the House brought against it—namely, that it might necessitate investigation by the Department, of schemes in respect of 15,000 schools. But, there was yet another objection to the present proposal. This Amendment must, be taken with, the consequential one appearing on page 21 of the Amendment Paper, and the effect of 222 the two Amendments taken together was that no money would be payable to any Voluntary School until after a scheme was drawn, and had lain for 30 days on the Table of the House. The Bill had been brought in in order to remedy a very urgent necessity—["hear, hear!"]—to meet difficulties which were imminent, which were on the point of crushing the Voluntary Schools in all parts of the country, and he was afraid that the drawing up of schemes would be a very lengthy process. If the Amendment were adopted everything would have to be hung up until Parliament met next year, and then 30 days must elapse before the country could get any advantage out of the Bill. He thought that this was an absolute an I complete reason why no support should be given to the Amendment. They wanted the money as soon as possible—[ironical cheers]—and very naturally. ["Hear, hear."] The whole, policy and object of the Bill was to give as quickly as possible whatever money might be granted. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman had referred to him, and it was perfectly true that he had no love for the proposal to devote this large sum of money to be administered by a Government Department at their own sweet will. He had no great confidence in the Education Department. [Opposition laughter.] It was not a, Party question. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not want to say one word against the permanent officials in that Department. [Laughter.] They had always treated him personally with the greatest courtesy. They were most industrious public servants, but, at the same time, the conduct of the Education Department had not been everything that some of them desired. He did not defend a large sum of money being administered by the Education or any other Department. He was not, however, prepared to vote for the Amendment.
§ MR. J. M. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
said if the Government were going to apply general principles in the administration of the Act he hoped they would be explained, and laid before the Committee. Not a single penny could be distributed by the Department except by the scheme prepared by the governing body of the association. Surely, if it 223 was possible for the governing body to pass such a scheme, it was possible for the Department to place before the House the parts of which it approves or disapproves.
§ MR. ERNEST GRAY (West Ham, N.]
said he was regardless of Party in the matter of administration. When a Minister got to active work he administered the Department in accordance with the traditions of the Department, and he threw Party feelings on one side. A great part of the speeches of Gentlemen opposite had been devoted to what the associations were going to do, and one Gentleman said that the first duty would be to fight the local School Boards with this money. But this money would not go into the hands of the associations. The money was to go direct from the Education Department to the managers of the schools. As to the suggestion that all the schemes should be submitted to the House of Commons, that would be a terrible outlook for the House.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)
said the hon. Member who had just sat down had practically admitted that the proposal of the Government had completely broken down. The noble Lord the Member for Rochester, who was the champion of the Voluntary Schools, had contended that if Parliament were to keep a tight grip upon this money it would be impossible that the amount could be obtained in time. There was, however, a precedent to be found in the Rating Bill of last year, which was not in as forward a stage this time last year as this Bill now was, and yet the money under it was obtained in time to relieve the landlords and the farmers. But of course if the noble Lord meant that the money could not be provided for the year 1896–7, there might be a great deal in his argument. Subsection (4) of the clause provided that the share so allotted to each such association should be distributed by the Education Department after consultation with the governing body of the association, and in accordance with any scheme prepared by that body which the Department might approve. If the association could devise a scheme for the distribution of the money surely the Education Department would be much better prepared to do so. There was another point that 224 he should wish to refer to, and it was one to which the attention of the Committee had not hitherto been drawn. It was clear from the language of the Bill that the Government did not desire that Parliament should have the control of this money, because by Sub-section (7) it was provided that:—The decision of the Education Department upon any question relating to the distribution or allotment of the aid grant, including the question whether an association is or is not in conformity with this Act, and whether a school is a town or a country school, shall be final.Therefore under the terms of the Subsection it would be impossible to bring the conduct, or the principle on which they acted, of the Education Department before that House at all—one of the great difficulties which hon. Members had had to encounter in moving Amendments of this character was that they really did not know the exact meaning which the Government attached to the term "necessitous" in relation to Voluntary Schools. No scheme for the distribution of this money had been laid before that House, and therefore hon. Members were bound to ask among what classes of schools this money was to be distributed. Did the Government intend to distribute this money among those schools that were necessitous because they were badly managed and were inefficient? For instance, one school that was well managed might have smaller funds than one that was necessitous and behindhand because it was badly managed. In the opinion of many hon. Members badly managed and inefficient schools should not be allowed to share in the distribution of this money. A school, moreover, might become necessitous in consequence of there being no local competition, and the subscriptions falling off, for that reason. In these circumstances he thought that the House ought to reserve to themselves the full control over the distribution of this money. Before he sat down he desired to refer to an Amendment which stood upon the Paper in his name, to the hon. Member's Amendment, which, if in order, he should in due course ask the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair to put to the Committee, namely to insert the words "the Commons House of," before the word "Parliament."
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS
said that in that case he should not propose it. For his own part, while agreeing with the principle of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Carnarvon, he should have much preferred the sanction of that House, unfettered by that of the other House of Parliament, being required to the scheme to be formulated by the Education Department; but of course, as the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair had ruled his Amendment out of order, he should bow to that ruling and should not move it. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar),
who rose amid cries of "divide," said that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury cried "divide," but in his opinion this Amendment was a most important one, and went to the very root of the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] The fact was that that House were about to hand over this £600,000 to the Education Department without knowing the principle upon which it was to be distributed. He had no desire to fetter the discretion of that Department, but he thought that the House was entitled to know upon what lines the money was to be distributed. Surely the Government were in a position to give hon. Members some general idea of the principle of the scheme which they had in view, under which this large sum was to be distributed. Such a scheme ought to be laid before that House before this Bill became law. In supporting this Amendment hon. Members were not dealing with the individual schools, but with the associations acting with the sanction of the Education Department, from whose decision with regard to the scheme for the distribution of the money there was to be no appeal. Ought not the Department to lay down certain propositions with regard to management, efficiency, staffing, and teaching in schools? Were they to pay no regard to the amount of the subscriptions? These among other matters were essential to be determined. This Amendment was not moved in any spirit of hostility to the Bill. It was moved with the object of placing the Bill on a 226 more substantial and satisfactory footing. ["Hear, hear!"] Last year they had before them a Bill dealing with a smaller sum of money, in which a certain amount of local control over expenditure was proposed. This year they had a Bill dealing with a larger SUM of money and there was no control at all provided for. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman last year thought it necessary that a scheme for the expenditure of the money should be laid before the House, in order that they might know the grounds on which they were voting the money; but this year he had omitted that proposal, and the Committee were entitled to ask his reason for omitting it. ["Hear, hear!"] There were plenty of precedents for such a safeguard. The right hon. Gentleman had said that this was an experiment. If that was so it was all the more reason why it should be placed on a satisfactory basis. He thought the First Lord of the Treasury ought to abandon the position he had taken up, and say why, when he thought it essential to put such a safeguard in the Bill of last year, he now omitted it. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said that the speeches of the noble Lord the Member for Rochester and of the Member for West Ham seemed to him conclusive in favour of some Amendment of this sort. If the money was to be obtained promptly for necessitous Voluntary Schools, it would be better for the noble Lord and the hon. Member to support some such Amendment as this. Without it the Bill was absolutely without meaning. ["Hear, hear!"] The procedure of the Bill contemplated that this money would be withheld until associations were formed, and until the Department had had an opportunity of considering the constitution of these associations, and that then various schemes might be drawn up by the associations for the approval of the Department, dividing the schools within the purview of the associations into necessitous schools, and schools not requiring a share of the grant. It was perfectly obvious that that process would take a considerable time, and he would put it to any practical man to say whether the proposal of his hon. Friend or some such proposal, would not bring this money within the reach of the schools more 227 promptly than the scheme held forth in the Bill? ["Hear, hear!"] The Committee had a right to know the principle on which the question of whether a school was necessitous or not was to be determined. He had recently been in the United States, and had inquired into the principle upon which they acted there. In the State of Massachusetts—
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
reminded the hon. Member that the only question before the Committee was that a scheme should be submitted to Parliament.
§ MR. CHANNING,
continuing, said that his hon. Friend was asking by this Amendment for an essentially reasonable and practical safeguard, and one which had over and over again been adopted in legislation of this kind. The distribution of this money could only be effected by some definite and plain machinery, and the machinery foreshadowed in the Bill was in the last degree illusory and vague. The whole thing was left to the Department and the associations. The First Lord of the Treasury, in his introductory speech, said that the scheme of the association would in all probability usually guide the Department in the apportionment of the grant to individual schools. The Committee, therefore, had from the right hon. Gentleman the clearest indication that this money would be distributed by the association, and, therefore, they had a right to demand that the schemes in which the money would be distributed would be brought before Parliament. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 212; Noes, 79.—(Division List, No. 77.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words as the Department think best,' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 221; Noes, 73.—(Division List, No. 78.)228
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, after the usual interval,
§ MR. STRACHEY
(who had given notice of his intention to move, in Subsection (2), after the word "best" to insert the words "after consulting the school attendance authority for the district"), addressing the Chairman of Ways and Means, said: On a point of order, may I ask, Sir, on what ground you have ruled the Amendment standing in my name out of order?
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
On the ground that it imposes certain duties upon an authority which has been constituted for wholly different duties, and those duties are sought to be imposed by this Amendment without any preliminary Resolution of the House.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
moved, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the words "the purpose of helping necessitous," and to insert the word "those." If this Amendment were accepted, the hon. Member said, it would practically leave greater discretion to the Department in dealing with and distributing this grant, and would make it clear that the chief object in voting this large sum of money to Voluntary Schools was to increase their efficiency. They would indicate their view that their definition, to a large extent, of "necessitous" was combined with the question of efficiency, and that any money they voted for Voluntary Schools was to go, not to mere necessity, which, in many cases, was self-created, and therefore did not deserve consideration, but to be used entirely in promoting increased efficiency. The word "necessitous" was one which nobody seemed to be able to define, and which the hon. Member for West Ham had just assured them he was at a loss to find a definition for. Unless, therefore, they had some further definition of the term the Bill would go forth to the public as one in which none of those interested in education would have any light or leading at all in regard to this matter. They had not even had any attempted definition of the word "necessitous," except by the hon. and learned Member for Stroud, who had rushed in where the First Lord of the Treasury feared to tread. That hon. Member's definition of a necessitous 229 school was, to his mind, a ridiculously crude one, because he said a necessitous school was one in which the expenditure exceeded the income. That was only one of very many elements in regard to the question of necessity, and, in many cases, was one of the last considerations which would have to be taken into account in defining necessity. The First Lord of the Treasury practically threw over this definition of his supporter, and admitted that he was not in a position to define what was a necessitous school. In regard to all the questions that had been raised they wished to know from the Government whether, for instance, a school, of which the clergyman was the sole manager, could claim the special aid grant without the Department insisting upon more efficient management. More information was needed as to what the Government meant by "necessitous" schools. He contended that public money would be largely used in many cases, not to relieve educational necessity, but denominational necessity, and would not be used, as they thought, it should be, simply for increased efficiency, but to keep alive schools which, from an educational point of view, had much better become extinct. They also wanted information on the important point what was meant by necessitous schools, especially as between denomination and denomination. Nearly every Roman Catholic School in the country was in every sense of the term a "necessitous" school. Subscriptions to keep them going were raised with difficulty, and these schools boasted with great justice that they had never transferred one of their schools to a School Board. If the Vice President took the same number of Roman Catholic schools as of Church of England schools he would probably see that the former were, on the whole, more necessitous than the latter, and it was a question whether the same amount per head would be voted to the Church of England association as to the Roman Catholic association. Some of the Church Schools would not require any grant; the others in the association would get from 5s. up to £1 per head, while the Roman Catholic, the practically necessitous schools, would at the outside receive only 5s. or 6s. per head. The real point in favour of the Amendment was that, if passed, it would give discretion to the Education Department to allot the grant 230 in the way they thought best for educational efficiency, and if there was put in a word such as "necessity" which no one could define, it would greatly hamper the action of the Education Department, lead to a large amount of money being wasted by its being given to so-called necessitous schools, which could never be efficient, leaving less for poor but efficient schools whose efficiency would be largely improved by the additional grant. On that ground chiefly, and because he wanted some further definition of necessitous schools, he moved his Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
said hon. Members opposite were raising the same questions on every Amendment. The hon. Member who had just spoken had several times raised questions which were discussed on the last Amendment. That there should be some control as to subscriptions was a matter they were going to discuss. As had been pointed out, the question of the associations did not arise on the Amendment. The hon. Member had again asked the Government to define "necessitous" schools. The hon. Member knew that an answer had been given. It was an answer that in his own humble judgment was satisfactory. No definition could possibly define the varying conditions or include all the difficulties of a school which might be properly called "necessitous," and to include specific cases which they would all agree would be necessitous, would be the worst thing they could do, because not even the united skill of the Bench opposite assisted by Gentlemen below the Gangway, could define all the cases of necessity that should be included.
§ MR. BUXTON
said the Government proposed by the Bill to give a special aid grant to necessitous schools, and the onus was on them to define what necessitous meant.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said it was not difficult to say what was a necessitous school. The difficulty was to give a definition which would include all necessitous schools. If the restrictive words in the Bill were cut out by the Amendment, non-necessitous schools would have a right to claim help. The real fact was that the words in the Bill were necessary to guide the Education Department in the exercise of their discretion. The hon. 231 Member had certainly overlooked two cases which rendered the words absolutely necessary. Take a school where the teachers were good but underpaid, and schools which were thoroughly good but carried on at a loss. These were both cases of necessitous schools, and no one could deny that there might be many other cases which the Education Department might regard as necessitous. The hon. Member had asked the question as to what was a necessitous school 15 or 16 times. The only method that could be adopted was to indicate a necessitous school as a school which might be helped, and put upon the Education Department the responsible obligation of fulfilling the duty of helping it. For these reasons the Government regarded the words proposed to be cut out as necessary in the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. HENRY BROADHURST (Leicester)
said the Attorney General complained that the same question was asked again and again; their complaint was that it had never been answered. This Bill, as drawn up, gave no definition whatever of what was a necessitous school. Moreover, it did not give any guarantee that the public funds should not be devoted to schools that were not necessitous. There were many schools that might be necessitous entirely through mismanagement or incompetency, and those schools ought not to have the same consideration as schools that were necessitous from sheer poverty. How were they going to prevent other schools that were not necessitous from receiving equal help from the public funds as the necessitous schools received? The Attorney General utterly failed to give them an explanation, and they might, therefore, fairly conclude that the question they put was unanswerable, and could not be explained. The Attorney General wanted to relegate to a lot of inexperienced country rectors, vicars, farmers and squires a point of law which he admitted that he himself was perfectly incapable of explaining. Surely it was reasonable to appeal to him to give them his assistance. They were honestly desirous of understanding this matter, and they had the right to come to the paid Law Officer of the Crown to help them to give advice to their constituents on a point of such importance. They had the advantage of the presence 232 of the Solicitor General also, and he suggested that the Attorney General and the Solicitor General should consult together for half an hour to see whether they could not frame some definition; or, failing that, to see whether they could not make up their minds to advise their friends to re-draft the Bill. He should support his hon. Friend if he went to a division.
§ MR. HARRY FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)
said the House must have been intensely amused at the pathetic appeal of the hon. Gentleman to the Law Officers, but he was afraid that advice was asked for in the spirit of those who had already made up their minds. He had listened carefully to the explanation of the Attorney General, and he had made the explanation of the word "necessitous" perfectly clear to the Committee. As he understood it, the difficulty of putting a definition on the word "necessitous" into the Act was, that any number of cases might arise in which a school ought to be helped out of this fund, but would not be helped if the definition were inserted in the Act. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that the Education Department should have an absolute discretion to do what it liked with the public money. As he understood the Bill, the Education Department would have a fixed sum given to it, and, subject to distinguishing between town and country schools, it would be bound by every scheme put before it by an association when once it had approved of that scheme. No scheme of any local association would be approved by a responsible Minister unless that scheme provided for the efficiency of the school; and if the responsible Minister exercised his discretion wrongly it would be open to that House to raise the question. If the Amendment were carried it would mean that the necessity for helping the needy schools would be removed. These words were words of limitation, in that they limited the distribution of this money to necessitous schools; the only complaint was, that necessitous schools were not defined; but he had no doubt those words would be liberally construed by the Education Department and the local associations, whereas, if the words were taken out, there would be nothing to guide the Department.
§ MR. HUMPHREYS-OWEN (Montgomery)
complained that they had never had anything but evasive answers in regard to this matter.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said he thought the Government were well advised in not attempting to define the word "necessitous." In his opinion it was impossible to do it. As there were an infinite variety of schools, and as each school would have to be considered on its merits, all Voluntary Schools would, practically speaking, claim to be necessitous. If a school was not necessitous in the pecuniary sense it would be necessitous in the sense that it desired to extend the scope of its operations, and it would therefore claim to be necessitous within the meaning of the Bill. The circumstances of the schools were so varied that it would be impossible to define those that were necessitous, and the better and more simple plan would be to administer the grant all round to all Voluntary Schools.
§ MR. A. H. DYKE ACLAND (York, W.R., Rotherham)
said he found himself in full accord with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. The hon. Member had pointed out what he had ventured to express on other Amendments, namely, that they might define the words "necessitous schools" or leave them undefined as much as they pleased, but they would find in the practical working of the scheme that in 90 per cent. of the schools amongst which the grant would be administered, they would not be able to distinguish between the necessitous and the non-necessitous schools. What would happen was that as in the vast number of cases, there was no absolute distinction between necessitous and non-necessitous schools; between rich and poor schools, the word "necessitous" would in the long run be regarded as a phrase of no meaning. It seemed to him, therefore, that it would be far better to leave out the words "necessitous schools" and say that the money was to be distributed as the Department thought best for increasing the efficiency of the schools. According to a report in The Guardian of February 24, of the proceedings in the lower House of the Convocation of York, which met to consider this Bill, when the sub-section the Committee were now debating was reached, Mr. Mapeland Wood said that in his opinion 234 the sub-section rigidly restricted the Department to helping necessitous schools, and moved the substitution of "those" for "necessitous." The Dean of Manchester then said, "I second that. 'Necessitous' is full of mischief." And the Convocation of York, unlike the House of Commons, agreed to that Amendment.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I think that if there is to be obstruction, it should be artistic obstruction. [Opposition cries of "Oh!" and Ministerial cheers.] I have made an observation which has given some offence to the other side; but I remember that about a week ago, when we were considering the first line of the first Clause of the Bill, an Amendment was moved to insert the word "necessitous" before the words "Voluntary Schools." [Cheers.] That was argued at enormous length[cheers]—by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They had none of these difficulties about defining necessitous schools then. [Cheers.] In the very first line of the Bill they thought it better to introduce the word "necessitous" so governing the whole sub-section.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS
said that there was no question of obstruction here at all. [Cries of "Oh!" and laughter.] The Government had all along declared that the object was to relieve necessitous schools; and naturally, in considering the clause under which the money was granted, the Opposition moved to insert the word "necessitous," in order to confine the grant to necessitous schools. That was no reason why, on the second sub-section the Government should not be asked to define "necessitous." [Ministerial cries of "You want to leave it out!"] The Government were asked to leave it out for Parliamentary reasons which were perfectly well known. [Ironical Ministerial cheers and laughter.] It was in order to give hon. Gentlemen opposite an opportunity of fulfilling the task to which they had shown themselves indifferent. What, in the name of goodness, was the use of bringing in a Bill to help "necessitous schools" if no one could define the phrase? The Attorney General had said that he would not answer the question because it had been answered 15 times.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
I said the question had been answered over and over again by instances of necessitous 235 schools being given. But I said, at the same time, that no exhaustive definition could be given.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS
said that the Attorney General had given two instances—one of a school where the teachers were underpaid, and the other where the school was carried on at a loss. As to the first, the Government had refused an Amendment securing the better payment of teachers; and as to the second, he would read Canon Nunn's letter to the Guardian in last December:—When we come to deal with deficiency of income—and this, of course, only arises in Voluntary Schools—such deficiency is caused either, first, by lack of school fees, or (2) by want of sufficient subscriptions, or (3) by poor Government grants, arising from bad teaching or inefficient management.As to the want of fees, the Government had been asked to restrict the aid to schools where no fees were charged, and they had refused. As to deficient subscriptions, the Government had been asked over and over again whether they were going to call those schools necessitous in which subscriptions had been abandoned altogether; and they had refused to answer. And as to the poor Government grants, was it to be said that a school was necessitous and had established its claim to further aid from Parliament because the teaching was bad and the management inefficient? The Attorney General, the Solicitor General, and the First Lord of the Treasury had all refused to define a necessitous school. There was one other occupant of the Treasury Bench who knew, or should know—the Vice President of the Council. If the right hon. Gentleman would not give the Committee his own opinion, let him expound that of the Committee of Council.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 265; Noes, 111.—(Division List, No. 79.)236
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words 'for the purpose of helping necessitous' stand part of the clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 280; Noes, 116.—(Division List, No. 80.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I beg to move. "That the Quespart of the clause' be now put." [Oppo-to the word "due," in line 12, stand part of the Clause' be now put." [Opposition cries of "Oh, oh!" and Ministerial cheers.]
§ Question put, "That the Question, That the words of the clause down to the word "due," in line 12, stand part of the clause' be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 275; Noes, 119.—(Division List, No. 81.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words of the clause down to the word 'due' in line 12, stand part of the clause."
§ *The Committee divided:—Ayes, 294; Noes, 115.
§ MR. GEORGE LAMBERT (Devon, South Molton)
, moved in Sub-section (2) after the word "efficiency," to insert the words:—Provided that no school shall be so helped the voluntary subscriptions in support of which fall short of the average of the past three years.He observed that on a former occasion the Leader of the House stated that what the Voluntary Schools wanted was money. He trusted, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would accept this Amendment in order to insure that the subscriptions to Voluntary Schools should be kept up. At present the Bill contained no provision requiring that the subscriptions should be maintained at their existing level. There was, in fact, only a pious opinion expressed that the aid grant should not be used in relief of subscribers. There were two classes of subscribers in country districts, the clergyman and the squire, who did not as a rule care so much about education—["Oh, oh!"]—but who in subscribing liked to patronise their parishioners, and 237 to be able to say, "This is my school, and I shall do what I like with it." ["Oh, oh," and derisive laughter.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite disbelieved that, he would refer them to an article contributed to the North American Review by the Vice President of the Council, dealing with the educational enthusiasm of the territorial aristocracy. ["Hear, hear!"] Another class of subscribers to Voluntary Schools were those who did so in order to avoid School Boards and save the School Board Rate. If the Amendment was not accepted, there was a risk that this amount of money to be voted would go into the pockets of the voluntary subscribers instead of being devoted to educational purposes. In the case of a necessitous school in a country district with subscriptions to the amount of 5s. per head, and a non-necessitous school with a subscription list of 10s. per head, the last-named might receive no grant from the Vote, but the school with the 5s. list, supposed to be necessitous, would receive a grant. Those subscribers who subscribed 10s. per child were, therefore, subscribing for the benefit of schools in localities other than their own. They knew how difficult it was for voluntary subscriptions to be maintained for schools in the immediate locality of the subscriber. How much more difficult would it be therefore, unless a proviso of this kind were inserted, to get subscribers to support schools in which they had no interest. Under the Associations Clause there would be no guarantee that those voluntary subscribers would not be relieved of their subscriptions; all they would fear would be the disfavour of their bishops. In 1870 the subscriptions averaged 6s. 11¾d. per child in average attendance. In 1877 they were increased to 8s. 8¾d. because grants were only given in proportion to the amount of subscriptions to the schools. In 1876 the 17s. 6d. limit was established, and there was no need for voluntary subscribers to subscribe so largely, and they did not do it. The subscriptions had gradually dwindled till in 1894 they sunk to 6s. 6¼d. per child. This fact clearly showed that the voluntary subscribers would not subscribe to their schools unless absolutely compelled to do so. ["No, no!"]
§ MR. LAMBERT
said he was giving the amount taken from the Education Department returns. If the gross amount of subscriptions were more than they were twenty years ago, they were not so much per child in average attendance, and therefore the subscribers did not cope with the growing necessities of education. [Ministerial cheers.] Then, if they were unable to cope with the growing necessities of education, why did they come to Parliament and ask it to vote an additional sum of money without a shadow of local control for schools that were called voluntary I It seemed to him perfectly ridiculous. If these were Voluntary Schools, let subscriptions be forthcoming or let them be State Schools, or denominational schools, at any rate erase the word "voluntary." The cost of education in 1877 was 33s. 9d. per head, in 1894 it was 38s. 1d., an increase of 4s. 4d. per head. And how had Government grants increased? In 1877 Government grants and fees were 25s. a head, but in 1894 the amount had increased to 30s. 4d., an increase of 5s. 4d., while voluntary subscriptions had decreased by 2s. 2½d conclusively proving that if the Government grant was high and Parliament voted liberal sums for maintenance, then subscriptions fell off. He had been very interested in seeing how churchmen, as represented by hon. Gentlemen opposite, had endeavoured to evade their responsibilites in this matter. In 1888 the present Archbishop of Canterbury, then Bishop of London, proposed an Amendment to the Education Commission Report, in which he said—We cannot recommend that in any case grants from the Department should exceed the amount contributed on the spot and that as a condition of management subscribers should provide a substantial share of the cost.In 1895 the late Archbishop of Canterbury said, "We do not want to reduce our subscriptions." That was precisely the text of this Amendment that voluntary subscriptions should not be reduced. "No one," said the late Archbishop,thinks that we are not willing to have a certain proportion of subscriptions insisted upon as a condition of this grant.239 Here then was the Archbishop in 1888 declaring that no grant from the Department should exceed the amount provided on the spot. The Report of the Commission said a substantial share of the burden of the costs should be borne by the localiiy, and two years ago the late Archbishop said a certain proportion of subscriptions should be insisted upon, and yet now all the Government did was to provide that "due regard shall be had to voluntary subscriptions." They did not go so far as the bishops did to insure that subscriptions should be kept up to their present level. What was the House called upon to vote? The amount was said to be £616,000, but, inasmuch as the 17s. 6d. limit was to be abolished and the schools were to be free from rating, there would be considerably more than £616,000 from the public funds. He hoped the late Vice President, who occupied office in the years 1889–92, would support this Amendment; for he said on February 2 that he thought'it should be a sine quâ non that in all cases where assistance was given there should be some guarantee on the part of the locality that subsisting subscriptions should be maintained.What did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say, speaking at Bristol, on November 14 last year?If it was in his power to relieve the supporters of Voluntary Schools in Bristol from every penny of their future subscriptions towards the maintenance of schools, he would not do it; for he was convinced that if schools ceased to be voluntarily supported, they should cease to be denominational and, in a word, to exist.It was to be hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would persuade his colleagues to accept this Amendment to insure that voluntary subscriptions should be maintained at their present level, thus securing the continuity of Voluntary Schools, and also that the Grant proposed to be allotted should be devoted, not to the relief of subscribers, but entirely to educational purposes. He moved the Amendment standing in his name.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
There are two questions connected with this Amendment which might be raised, but which I will not discuss. 240 First, the broad question which has been raised outside as to whether the State has the right to require voluntary subscriptions at all in dealing with the national necessities of elementary education; and the other is the practical difficulty that would be raised if this Amendment were accepted in determining the amount of voluntary subscriptions in any three years. In truth, I think the hon. Gentleman will see, if he considers the matter, that on the immediate merits of his Amendment his contention can hardly be sustained. Take this simple case. You have a country parish in which there is, let us say, one wealthy landowner who has liberally subscribed to the support of the Voluntary School in the parish. He dies, and his property passes into the hands of trustees, who for one reason or another think themselves precluded from continuing the policy hitherto carried out by the owner of the property. How can it be maintained that a school under such circumstances, by the mere fact of a change of ownership in the parish, should change deprived from deriving any benefit under this Bill? ["Hear, hear!"] There are hundreds of other cases of a similar kind. There are cases, for example, in the suburbs of our big towns in which the villa population is gradually being expelled and driven further afield by a working class population far less able than their predecessors to support Voluntary Schools. [Cheers.] I might go on multiplying cases of that sort. How is it possible to contend that either in the case of a country parish, which I have described, or a suburban district, which I have also described, you are compulsorily to fine districts suffering from this change of fortune because, through no fault of their own, through no illiberality on the part of any person concerned, the value of the subscriptions is less than what it was in the three preceding years? [Cheers.] I think the statement of these two concrete instances which. I have given to the Committee is sufficient to show the hon. Gentleman that his Amendment could not be accepted. ["Hear, hear!"] I will go further. The cases I have cited to the Committee are cases in which changes have occurred. Take the case in which no change has taken place and in which, 241 in my judgment, a relief to voluntary subscribers is legitimate. Take the case of a poor clergyman who is enthusiastic for education in his parish and who spends out of his scanty emoluments an amount altogether disproportionate to anything that can properly be demanded of him in support of the Voluntary Schools. Though I am as strong as the hon. Gentleman in thinking that this money should not, broadly speaking, go to voluntary subscribers, I think that is a case in which voluntary subscribers may ask legitimately for some relief from the State. [Cheers.] I believe other cases can be found in our big towns of a similar character. It, perhaps, more concerns Roman Catholics than it does either Anglicans or any Nonconformist sect, but certainly there are very poor districts in our big towns in which the whole burden of the Voluntary Schools falls upon the pennies of the very poor. [Cheers.] In that case also, as in the one I have just cited, I think some relief to voluntary subscriptions may not illegitimately be demanded from this subvention of the State, and for these reasons I think the Committee would act most imprudently if they endeavoured by any hard and fast line to stereotype in every single case the total amount of voluntary subscriptions each year to be given in any particular district. Having said so much, I must, before I sit down, say I trust the Committee will not suppose I am of opinion that the system of Voluntary Schools can be kept up in this country unless the voluntary subscribers are prepared, broadly speaking and ill the main, to maintain or even to increase the aid they now give to Voluntary Schools—["hear, hear!"]—and my hope and belief is that there will be no falling off generally of voluntary subscriptions. Of course, if the voluntary subscribers take the view which is attributed to them by some persons in this House, if they are animated by purely selfish considerations, if their view simply is that the State is giving money which they are willing to see used to save their own pockets, then I say the system of Voluntary Schools will be in serious danger. ["Hear, hear!"] I anticipate no such results from this Bill. [Cheers.] The hon. Gentleman, following upon speakers who have preceded him in the previous Amendment, has expressed a fear lest in certain cases people should 242 voluntarily leave off their subscriptions in order to obtain a share of the aid grant. In my opinion self-induced poverty of that kind has no title to assistance. [Cheers.] The well-to-do man who says, "Here is the State coming to my assistance; let me save the £5, or £10, or £20 (or whatever it is) I have hitherto given my Voluntary School," deserves no consideration, and I trust he will receive no consideration under the Bill. [Cheers.] I draw some encouragement from the fact that when the State gave the 10s. grant to all schools—Voluntary and Board Schools—in the kingdom, that event which did greatly ease the position of a large number of Voluntary Schools in the country districts was, taking the country as a whole, followed by no diminution in voluntary subscriptions, and I think it is a most remarkable and encouraging fact that, in spite of agricultural depression, in spite of the enormous difficulties which both the clergy and laity in the country districts have had to face in recent years in the support of local charities, the voluntary subscriptions to the schools in these country districts have not only not materially fallen off, but have, I believe, in the main increased. [Cheers.] I urge the acceptance of the words in the Bill, which will have the double effect of promoting relaxation in the strain of voluntary subscriptions where relaxation is legitimate, and prevent it from occurring as a general fact all over the country. They are words which I think are absolutely necessary to give necessary elasticity, but they do not constitute an encouragement to the subscribers of Voluntary Schools to relax those philanthropic efforts on the continuance of which the existence of Voluntary Schools must in the long run depend. [Cheers.]
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I am sure, from the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman has addressed himself to this question, that he feels it is one of the serious questions of the Bill. He cannot conceal from himself that there is a widespread belief that one of the results of the Bill will be to relieve Voluntary Schools from this necessity of voluntary subscriptions. [Ministerial cries of "No!"] That that belief exists no one can deny, and that it is one of the great apprehensions 243 in regard to the Bill no one can question. The right hon. Gentleman himself has expressed an opinion that we were glad to hear—that, in his judgment, it is absolutely necessary to the existence of Voluntary Schools that subscriptions should be maintained. But he must also be aware that that opinion is not shared by what I may call the denominational party generally. He stated that there was an opinion among many people that voluntary subscriptions ought not to be demanded as a condition of additional grants. It is denied by a large proportion of the supporters of voluntary subscriptions that they should be maintained. We have seen the correspondence of the Bishops on the subject, in which it is challenged that any voluntary subscription should be demanded at all. In removing the 17s. 6d. limit you are unquestionably removing one of the great securities to voluntary subscriptions. The fear of many outside, and, I believe, inside, the House is, that this Bill does not give adequate security for the maintenance of voluntary subscriptions which the right hon. Gentleman says he desires to maintain or which he thinks are essential to the Voluntary Schools. With reference to the opinion that voluntary subscriptions should not be maintained as a condition of further grants to Voluntary Schools, all I can say is, that anyone who denies that must be prepared to overthrow altogether the settlement of 1870, because that settlement was absolutely founded on this clear principle—that the exemption from popular control and representation was conceded to Voluntary Schools solely on the ground of adequate voluntary subscription. That is the principle on which the whole of our legislation has gone hitherto, and, although in 1876, when a relaxation was made, still that principle was maintained as a fundamental principle upon which Voluntary Schools were entitled to receive public money without the public control which of course exists in reference to the Board Schools. I venture to say the Bill does not give any adequate or real assurance that voluntary subscriptions will be properly maintained. The whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman—though he said he desired that voluntary subscriptions should be maintained—was a cata- 244 logue of cases in which they ought not to be maintained, and those cases might be multiplied to any extent. The example of the impecunious parson of whom we have heard will be followed by the impecunious landlord. And how are you to ascertain whether or not a man who has subscribed is not able to subscribe any longer? Are you going to examine his mortgages and ascertain the number of his children? Unless you are going to lay down a rule such as the 17s. 6d. limit, how it is to be decided what is an adequate subscription or not in every parish in the country? Hitherto some rule has been maintained, to a certain degree, in regard to the adequacy of the subscription; but you are going to get rid of that rule, and in its place you are substituting nothing that gives any assurance whatever. From parish after parish where diminution of subscriptions takes place you will have representations that they have not the means to continue them. How is the Education Department to deal with that? ["Hear, hear!"] How can they deal with the minute parishes that are scattered over the country? These discussions have run very much open the condition of the large towns, and naturally all the elements of education are to be found there, but really the difficulties in all these cases lie not so much in the large towns as in the small parishes scattered throughout the country. ["Hear, hear!"] Those who have enlarged on this subject solely from the point of view of the large towns can never have lived in country parishes, and must be utterly unacquainted with the difficulties that arise there. Unless you attempt in some way or other to give some instruction that shall influence and guide the decision of the Education Department you will have no means of arriving at any reasonable conclusion on this subject. We really are here on the very pith and marrow of the question. If you are dealing with the Voluntary Schools you are dealing with the question of subscriptions, and while you are dealing with the question of subscriptions I venture to think that we ought very carefully to endeavour to secure some greater assurance for maintaining that vital principle of Voluntary Schools than that which is now to be found in the Bill. [Cheers.]
§ MR. ABEL THOMAS (Carmarthen, E.)
supported the Amendment. He imagined these words had some meaning, and he supposed they were intended to mean that due regard should be had to the maintenance of voluntary subscriptions. Various arguments had been advanced against the Amendment, but it seemed to him that some such Amendment as was now suggested was absolutely necessary. If it was urged that no regard should be had to the maintenance of voluntary subscriptions at all, what was the use of retaining words of this kind?
§ The hon. Member was speaking at Midnight, when the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.