§ (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.382
§ (2) The aid 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 a school receiving a share of the aid grant, that accounts of the 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. ELLIS GRIFFITH (Anglesey)
moved in Sub-section (3), after the word "constituted" to insert the words "in accordance with the regulations hereinafter laid down." His object, he explained, was to induce the Government to give the Committee some further information as to the way in which these associations were to be formed. Under the Bill as presented there was no information of any kind, and this was the view taken by The Times, which, in 383 a leading article of the 12th February, said:—Mr. Balfour denied the accuracy of this construction" (the construction that the machinery of the Bill was new and arbitrary), "but there is certainly nothing in the Bill to show how the associations of schools are to come into existence. They are simply referred to as if they were well known institutions which are to be called into play by a mere enabling clause.It was upon the line of that criticism that he begged to move his Amendment, in order to give an opportunity for those in charge of the Bill to say what they meant by these associations. The subsection said they were to be constituted in every such area as the Education Department might think fit. He did not think the House of Commons ought to delegate those duties to an Education Department already so heavily worked that the Vice President of the Council himself was not able to spare any time to give them an explanation about the Bill, and he did not think it fair to oppress the right hon. Gentleman further with the laborious duties this Bill threw upon his shoulders. What were the areas? Was not that so important a point that the House of Commons was entitled to some further information upon it? They were completely in the dark as to what was the area ultimately to be adopted by the Government, through the Education Department. He believed there were, at any rate, two civil areas suggested. The Vice President of the Council, on one of the few occasions upon which he enlightened the House, suggested that the area should be coterminous with a million population. That would include about six hundred Voluntary Schools, on an average, which, he submitted, was rather too numerous a body to come within the purview of one educational association. Again, it had been suggested that the area covered by the different inspectors of these Voluntary Schools should be taken as the basis of an association, which, he thought, was the better suggestion of the two. Of course, Gentlemen in that House connected with the Church Party were not satisfied with a civil, but wanted an ecclesiastical, area, and he believed there was some struggle between the Bishops and Archdeacons on the point. The question of area was more important from the point of view of a 384 subject which would come later on—namely, the reference to town and country which was contained in the Bill. It was there proposed to differentiate between town and country in favour of the town, so that they might give one association more because it included in its area more town and less country, and give another less because it included more country and less town. They were, therefore, entitled to some explanation on the point. Who were to be represented on these associations? He was aware it would be out of order to suggest that any fresh duties should be thrown upon any statutory body, therefore, he assumed it would be out of order on the part of any hon. Member to move an Amendment casting duties of this kind upon the County Council, but there was no reason why the Government itself should not allow the County Council that had jurisdiction within an association area to be represented upon the association. One merit of the Bill of last year was that it recognised that the County Council had something to do with this, and he would suggest that the County Council was not less able to have a voice felt on the association than it was in the Bill of last year to be a County governing body. If the Government resisted this Amendment, he would ask them to give some assurance that they would, at any rate, see that the Education Department would take steps to provide for a representation of the teachers themselves upon the associations. His own fear was that these associations would become clerical bodies. Clerical bodies did not care for education as such. They cared for their own particular creed, therefore, it was necessary to leaven these clerical associations with some element that cared for education, and teachers of elementary schools were most interested in promoting education, and in seeing that it was properly carried on in the schools. He also submitted that the Education Department ought to be directly represented upon the associations. Upon the governing bodies of University Colleges in receipt of Government money the Government itself directly appointed some one to represent it. If the Education Department were directly represented upon the different associations they could select men who lived within the area of the association, who knew something of the necessities of the 385 district, who would look generally after the interests of education, and who would counterbalance somewhat the strictly clerical element of the associations, and enable them the more properly to do their work. Again, he would urge that, as these associations were to be practically of a compulsory character, every school within the area should be directly represented upon the association itself, otherwise, he thought, the chance of a school unrepresented obtaining the 5s. grant would be less than that of a school powerfully and directly represented upon the association. He thought the Church schools would join the association, but what became of the Roman Catholic, the Wesleyan, and other schools? Were they to be taken all over the country, or was there one portion of the country to be taken as a definite area, within which all the schools must join in the association? He had standing in his name at a later stage the regulations which he submitted ought to be accepted by the Government, in which he suggested that the managers of Voluntary Schools within the area should elect one half of the governing body of the association, one quarter should be represented by the Education Department, the other quarter to be teachers of schools in the association area. He begged to move the Amendment.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
said the actual words of the Amendment dealt with unknown and unspecified regulations to be hereinafter laid down. The hon. Member had naturally indicated the kind of regulations which, under these general words, he wished to introduce at a later stage; but he (the First Lord of the Treasury) thought they had better wait until these proposals were before them before they attempted to discuss their merits. It appeared to him that nothing would be gained by introducing these words, because there was nothing to prevent either the hon. Member or his Friends making specific proposals which they thought would improve the Bill. He would not, therefore, deal with the question of area or the constitution of the governing body, because on both these topics he feared he would have a good deal to say before these proceedings came to an end.
§ MR. A. H. DYKE ACLAND (Yorks, W.R., Rotherham)
pointed out that most 386 Bills of this kind affecting local authorities contained provisions regarding them which were not inserted in detail in the body of the Bill. He considered the hon. Member for Anglesey had moved a very useful Amendment on which he hoped the First Lord of the Treasury would have been able to tell the Committee something as to the various matters dealt with in accordance with promises given. When the Opposition raised points as to the extraordinary nebulousness of the associations which the supporters and opponents of the Bill alike felt, on the proposal to give equal grants to schools all round, coupled with the voluntary associations which they desired, the right hon. Gentleman advised them to postpone the point as it would be raised later on. Now, when they suggested that he might inform them, upon matters in which they were absolutely in the dark, he suggested that they should put it off again. Information upon the views of the Government as to these associations was desired for their guidance by many supporters of the Government in the country. There it was difficult for local bodies to follow the details of a Bill which was passing rapidly—[Ministerial laughter and cries of "Oh!"]—through the House. Well, The Times that morning said that on the whole the progress made with the Bill had been favourable. If the Committee compared the progress of the Bill with that of the "non-contentious" Parish Councils Bill it would be found that, on the whole, the present Opposition could not be accused of obstruction. The Canterbury Diocesan Board of Education a little while ago considered the Bill. Of course, they generally approved of it; but when they came to the distribution clauses they said:—This Board is unable to express any opinion on the distribution clauses of the Bill in the absence of any sufficient details as to the principles upon which the distribution is to be effected.[Cheers.] The Canterbury Diocesan Board of Education was in the same position that they were in this House. It had been said that no clause could be found in any Act of Parliament which was so utterly vague. Then there were extremely varied views as to the functions of the associations. The Colonial 387 Secretary said they would be merely advisory. But the First Lord of the Treasury, on the First Reading of the Bill, did not say their functions would be merely advisory. He said they would be able to give not, merely pecuniary assistance but assistance in many other ways. What were the "many other ways?" That was one of the things the Opposition desired to know. Last night the First Lord of the Treasury said his hopes as regarded the Bill were staked more on the associations than on the money. The Leader of the House, who was finally responsible for the Bill, had staked his reputation upon it.
§ MR. ACLAND
said he was under the impression that at an early stage of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman said he would drop the Bill if popular representation on the governing bodies of the schools were insisted on. [Ministerial cries of "No!"] At all events, he said the associations were of primary importance to the Bill. So he expected the right hon. Gentleman would have given the Committee clear information as to what the associations were. Again and again the leading organs of the Government in the Press had asked for more information about them. The Times had over and over again asked for it, and only that morning said that a thorough investigation with regard to the proposed associations was required. The Lincoln Diocesan Board of Education had considered the Bill, and the opinion and advice of such bodies on a Bill of this kind was of considerable importance. The Board had passed a Resolution to the effect that, while recognising the extreme value of the principle of association of elementary schools, they thought the proper distribution of the aid grant and the efficiency of education would be more likely to be promoted if the governing bodies of representative managers named in the Bill were modified by the addition of representatives of the local civil authorities and educational experts, the whole being representative of a defined area. An opinion of that sort was certainly not to be despised, and ought to be considered. The question of representation was extremely important, because the associations were not, in the ordinary sense of the word, 388 voluntary. No one could get over that. The composition of the governing body was of the very highest importance. Were they to be practically a clerical body, or were, provisions to be laid down that a strong lay element should exist? There was nothing in the Bill which, implied any definite or certain element in these Associations. Did the Government intend to follow the advice of some of their wisest counsellors and introduce a strong lay element? By that means there would be representation of popular bodies, and some strength might be introduced into the Associations. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. ERNEST GRAY (West, Ham, N.)
expressed his very great regret that the details of the Associations were not more clearly outlined in the Bill. He felt constrained to support, the Amendment. These Associations might be beneficial, but he looked forward to them with grave apprehension, as he was fearful that they might give rise to a large amount of local jealousy and irritation. These Associations would actually be making suggestions to the Department as to the distribution of money amongst themselves; in other words, every man upon them would have a direct interest in the money being distributed.["Hear, hear!"] He had always understood that persons supposed to have a personal interest were forbidden to take any part in the distribution of the funds. He thought the apprehensions of some of the most prominent supporters of the Church and of the Voluntary Schools would be removed if in the Bill some indication were given as to the areas, constitution, and duties of these new educational authorities. [Opposition cheers.] It was a little difficult to discuss the constitution of a body without knowing the area from which that body was to be drawn. They had only had one small piece of information during the Debate as to the area or constitution, and that was in the exceedingly interesting and able speech, made by the Vice President of the Council. [Ironical Opposition cheers.] In that speech he referred to an Association area covering a population of one million persons. He had been working that out to see what the constitution of the Association would be, and he was alarmed at the proportions which it would assume. The First Lord of the 389 Treasury, earlier in the progress of the Bill, had stated that one of the benefits he looked forward to in regard to the Associations would be that the bad manager would come into contact with men of wider capacity and more business-like habits. He ventured to submit that those were just the very men who would not be elected on the Boards of the Associations if anything like a wide area were covered. He looked forward to the time when there should be County Boards of Education both for primary and secondary education. As to the areas, he thought those of the inspectors' districts would be of most advantage. He regretted that some statement had not been made as to the line of action which would be adopted. Taking a population of a million, 490 schools would be the number of schools covered by the Association, and such an area might cover the counties of Cornwall and Devon. How could any one Board sitting at Plymouth determine what would be the necessities of a school in the north of Devon and a school in the south-west of Cornwall? He believed the Associations when the Bill passed would have to appoint inspectors to collect and tabulate evidence as to the necessities of the different schools, and for the large staff which would be necessary for this purpose the voluntary subscriptions would be "sweated." Perhaps the Government had determined to press the Bill through Committee without the adoption of any Amendment whatever—[Opposition Cheers]—and he could easily conceive that they might reasonably have come to such a determination, having regard to the series of Amendments which had been moved. He regretted that the discussion had not been limited to what were, in his opinion, bonâ fide Amendments—[Ministerial Cheers]—rather than to Amendments which were designed, not to amend, but to destroy, the Bill. If it were impossible to insert Amendments at this stage its to the areas, composition, and duties of the new Associations, he hoped at a future stage they would receive a clear statement on the subject. The opinions he had expressed were the opinions of the rank and file of the Conservative Party; and, as he desired to see the Bill passed in a form which would make it most profitable to the 390 Voluntary Schools, he hoped the Government would pay attention to those opinions.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I waited for an instant to see whether it were possible that the Government really intended to make no reply to the appeals made to them in the two speeches which have just been addressed to the Committee from both sides of the House, by Members of the greatest experience in educational questions. They have been asked to state whether they are disposed, or not disposed, before the Bill leaves the Committee, to give some information on the subject of their views in reference to these voluntary associations. This Amendment merely states that there shall be in the Bill some further definition of the conditions upon which these voluntary associations are to be founded. I do not know whether it is that the First Lord of the Treasury is so enamoured of this infant upon whom, as he told us the other night, his future depends—
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Well, there was an eloquent passage that went to my heart—[laughter]—in which the right hon. Gentleman said he was prepared to brave the storm that would be aroused over the failure of this plan of associations. But then it is the way of great men to prefer always their inferior work. [Laughter.] It is said that Milton thought "Paradise Lost" was his greatest production.[Cries of "Paradise Regained," and laughter.] Yes, "Paradise Regained." I am sorry for the slip. Whether these voluntary associations will be the "Paradise Regained" of the First Lord of the Treasury, or whether in the future his reputation will depend on the "Paradise Lost" of the voluntary associations, I am not able to say. [Laughter.] But if the First Lord is not aware that there is very great doubt and anxiety as to the sagacity of this scheme, surely the speech he has just heard from his own side must enlighten him on the subject; and besides numerous articles have appeared in newspapers which are ranked among his supporters entreating him to reconsider the scheme. The only gleam of light which we have had as to the basis upon which 391 these associations are to formed is the statement of the Vice President of the Council that they were to be founded on the basis of a million population. That, the Mover of the Amendment stated, would involve 600 schools. Then 600 gentlemen are to meet to distribute this money. My right hon. Friend the late Vice President of the Council asked whether there was to be any lay element in these associations; and some Member on the other side approved of the suggestion. But the First Lord did not state, and he evidently is not prepared to state that even amongst these 600 persons there shall be any laymen at all. ["Hear, hear!"] What we are asking for now is that we should have some light upon the question as to how these bodies are to be constituted. It is said they are to be constituted as approved by the Education Department. [Ministerial cries of "Hear, hear!"] Yes, but what are to be the general principles upon which the Education Department is to approve of these associations? That is exactly what the representative of the Education Department in this House has not been allowed to tell us: and everything depends upon that. [Cheers.] But if the Vice President of the Committee of the Council is not allowed to give to the House or to the country any indication whatever of the lines upon which these associations are to be administered and constituted, at all events we have got here a responsible Minister and a Member of the Committee of the Council in the First Lord of the Admiralty. [Laughter.] When we asked the Vice President whom that Council consisted of he mentioned with great emphasis the First Lord of the Admiralty as one of the principal lights of that body—[laughter]—and if the Vice President is not to have a voice in the determination of this matter no more than he has a voice in this House—[laughter]—perhaps the more distinguished members of Committee of the Council, such as the First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for War—[laughter]—might give us some indication of what is intended in this matter. Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not expect—does not think it fair to expect—that the House is going to pass this Bill without any further information on the subject than has been already given.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY:
I have already stated that the speech of the Mover of the Amendment, if not the Amendment itself, covered two points—the question of area and the question of constitution. On both of these points there are Amendments on the Paper; and that to deal with those points now, however desirable, would be to anticipate discussion.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
But all this Amendment asks is that there should be some definition. But we know now what the policy of the Government is in regard to the Bill. The Government are determined that no Amendment is to be admitted into the Bill, for the express purpose of preventing discussion on a future stage. [Cheers.] And what is it that we complain of? We complain that from the first it has been determined that there shall be no discussion and no Amendment of this Bill; and that every method is to be employed to prevent that discussion and that Amendment. [Cheers.] I cannot but think that this refusal of the Government to give information on this material question is neither fair nor just to the country. [Cheers.] If the Government are determined to pursue that course, we can only protest. They will in vain say that they have allowed, on this great question of education, that freedom of discussion in this House which it ought to receive. Certainly the Measure will not go forth to the country with that sanction which a Measure of importance that has been properly discussed ought to go country. [Cheers.] Our views are in vain against the great battalions opposite. I have never known these great battalions to be employed in the manner in which they have been employed by the Government throughout this Bill, and especially in connection with this point of the school associations, despite the appeals which have been made to the Government from their own side of the House as well as from the ranks of their opponents. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I am not going to be led by the right hon. Gentleman into a discussion 393 of the methods by which this Bill has been conducted. When the right hon. Gentleman tells the astonished Committee that there has not been full and free discussion upon the Measure, I confess that if his idea of full and free discussion is not satisfied by the time we have spent in passing ten lines, I do not know how he proposes that legislation should pass through this House at all. [Cheers.] I do not remember any case in my Parliamentary experience in which so much time has been taken as over the discussion, very often—if I may speak my full opinion—of very frivolous Amendments to the first few lines of the Bill. [cheers; and cries of "The Home Rule Bill" from the Opposition Benches.] The discussion on the first clause of the Home Rule Bill was a protracted discussion: but I do not believe it was nearly as protracted as this discussion. [Cheers.] Let it be remembered that in the Debates which we have had, by the very admission of hon. Gentlemen opposite, we have not yet reached the most critical part of the clause; for the matter on which they must feel most keenly is the question of the associations. The Government have no desire to conceal their views; but the sole point is, ought we to discuss this question on this Amendment or on specific Amendments raising the different points? [Cheers.] It is a matter of convenience, and I should have thought that the latter course was the more convenient. The right hon. Gentleman seems, too, to have forgotten that it has been ruled by the Chair that the words of the hon. Member for Anglesey are to be read in connection with a later Amendment of his, and are to be debated in connection with that. Now, that later Amendment does not raise the general question of the associations; and I should, therefore, be out of order if I were to attempt to respond to the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman. As to his statement that it is the settled policy of the Government that no Amendment shall be adopted, I would say that it is the settled policy of the Government that no Amendment shall be adopted which will not improve the Bill. [Cheers.] But if anything which, in our judgment, would improve the Bill, be suggested from either side of the House, of course it will be adopted. I have known Measures in which changes 394 were introduced by the Government, not because they thought the changes would improve the Bill, but to conciliate the Opposition and make the Debates run more smoothly. But those Bills were met by the Opposition in a very different spirit and manner; and it must be perfectly obvious to anyone that Amendments which are not improvements to the Bill, and which are simply brought forward to smooth the passage of the Bill, would not in this case have that effect, and ought not in this case to be adopted. [Cheers.]
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
I will not now enter upon the question whether the conduct of the Opposition or of the Government does involve a departure from Parliamentary precedent; but when we come to the question whether the clause stand part of the Bill—or if at a subsequent stage we are able to debate the Bill as a whole—many of us will feel it our duty to call the attention of the House and of the country to the fact that in relation to a Measure of first-class importance an absolutely new departure has been taken. [Cheers.] I must point out to the right hon. Gentleman that he has not even attempted to meet the point put by the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman says that when we come to a subsequent Amendment we can discuss the constitution and the areas of these associations. But that is not the question. The question is: Are the Government prepared to introduce into the Bill, at any time and in any shape, words which will secure that the constitution of these associations shall be a matter of statutory definition—[Cheer]—that the conditions under which they exist shall be prescribed by Parliament, and not left to the fluctuating caprice of a Government Department? [Cheers.] As between the authorised version of the intentions of the Government, and the unauthorised version given last night by the Colonial Secretary, I Prefer the former. We know that you are going to attempt to introduce a novel experiment into our educational system; that it is intended that, to a very large although to an undefined extent, the discretion of the Education Department shall be governed by the recommendations of the associations. That being so, we are entitled to insist that at some stage or other—and this seems to be the 395 most convenient stage—we should preserve to Parliament the power of prescribing, by fitting language in the Bill, what is to be the constitution and what are to be the areas of these new bodies. The right hon. Gentleman says that he will accept Amendments which are improvements to the Bill. But is he, or is he not, prepared to lay down that in a matter of such vital importance as this all control is to be withdrawn from the House of Commons and that we are to be left absolutely at the discretion of the Department? [Cheers.] There are two ways in which the principle of statutory control might be carried into effect. You might prescribe, either in the section itself or in a schedule, the conditions under which these associations are to be constituted and carried out. There is another method—namely, that the Education Department should, from time to time, lay upon the Table of the House the schemes by which these associations are constituted. We are prepared to adopt whichever method the Government think most convenient; but we assert that you ought not to hand over these large powers to bodies whose constitution is indefinite, and as to whose conditions of action no pledges which the right hon. Gentleman can give can possibly bind the future. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
May I point out that on this Amendment the question is not raised? Supposing the Amendment be rejected, as I hope it will be, it will still be as open to the Committee as before to lay down Parliamentary conditions with regard to the associations, either by the methods suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, or by the methods suggested by various other ingenious persons who have pat down Amendments. [Laughter.] If he asks me whether I think there ought to be Parliamentary regulations in this matter, I say I have not been able to think of any Parliamentary regulations—[ironical cheers]—which would not be deleterious to the object in view. [Ironical cheers.] I am quite ready to listen to suggestions and to argue them—[Opposition laughter]—and if suggestions are made which ought to be introduced into the Bill, of course they will be.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
said that the right hon. Member for Fife talked about a new departure. 396 It was undoubtedly true that, since the Parliament which sat in 1892, a wise spirit of conciliation and compromise had left the House, and the sooner it came back the better. ["Hear, hear!"] He himself entirely disagreed with the view of the right hon. Member for Fife, and he favoured the plan of the Government. All were agreed that there must be some local authority to assist in the distribution of this money. He thought it was much better that these authorities should be as various and as suitable to local circumstances as possible. [Cheers.] The only way to obtain that was, while making the formation of associations compulsory, to leave their forum voluntary. The Committee had wisely rejected the proposal that the administration should be left entirely in the hands of the Education Department. He was bound to say that he objected to the Bill because it gave more power than it ought to the Education Department; but he preferred the proposals of the Government in respect to these associations, because, to some extent, they modified that power. ["Hear, hear!"] He was always in favour—even at the expense of efficiency—of giving the power to local authorities to manage local affairs; and he was always opposed to giving further powers to the Government State Departments. [Cheers.] That was a bad and detestable form of government. He thought it would be impossible to insert in the Bill any general rule by which the associations could be formed. It would be much better to leave them to the voluntary section of the localities than to insert rules which could only end in creating inelastic bodies unsuited to the localities. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
regretted that the Government had not responded to the appeal which had been made to them. This was the most important part of the Bill, and when the Government were pressed for information they always put the question off to a later stage. An hon. Gentleman had said that a deputation of teachers had waited on him, and had expressed the greatest apprehension as to these associations; but that, after hearing his explanations they went away perfectly satisfied. That was quite likely; for the Bill supplied as far as the associations were concerned, a mere outline, and it was quite open to 397 any Gentleman to fill up the details according to his own wishes. In the country there was considerable misapprehension and misgiving in regard to these associations, and in particular, fear was entertained that the associations would be too largely ecclesiastical in their composition. That was a fear which was not limited to Dissenters, but was shared by influential Churchmen, such as the Bishop of Hereford and Canon Barker. He looked at the Bill from a metropolitan point of view, and he Would call attention to one point. The London Diocesan Board of Education had an executive Poor Schools Relief Fund Committee, Which was composed of four laymen and 19 clergymen. He contended that, unless they took some absolute security in the Bill itself for the due representation of the lay element on the associations, the solid interests of education would be sacrificed to sectarian zeal, perhaps he should say to sectarian bigotry.
§ MR. R. W. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
stated that he had received from an influential body in that county, the Church of England Diocesan Committee, a resolution very strongly urging the Poor Law Union as the most satisfactory form of area. That area was already recognised in the Education Statutes in connection with the appointment of attendance officers.
§ MR. GEORGE LAMBERT (Devon, South Molton)
declared that it was a gross fallacy of language to call the associations a local authority. Those associations were composed of absolutely irresponsible persons. They were responsible to no body of electors, and he did not know whom they were responsible to. Formerly, the First Lord of the Treasury spoke of the 5s. grant as of the greatest importance to the Voluntary Schools, but now, it appeared it wits not the money so much as the associations which were so important. The Amendment was a very reasonably and right one. Not only influential Churchmen, whose names had been mentioned, but the Wesleyan body and the National Teachers' Union were strongly opposed to the associations part of the Bill. It would, therefore, be consonant with the views of a large number of people to accept the Amendment, so that the proposed associations could be so amended as to inspire confidence in the country.
§ MR. LAMBERT
said the right hon. Gentleman would give the House no indication in what way he would amend the Bill. If the schools were to be compulsorily federated he could not but think that mischief would ensue.
§ MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Nottingham, Mansfield)
feared that if the Amendment were rejected, they would be told from the Chair that the principle had been decided, and they would be bound rigorously to confine themselves to the particular Amendment. If the First Lord of the Treasury would accept the principle of the Amendment he would cheerfully accept his advice, but he had done nothing of the kind. On the contrary, his reasoning showed that he had not an open mind on the subject. This discussion had raised a very serious question and suggested some great difficulties. There was one general reason why the Amendment should be adopted. It was that the method proposed by the Bill was a thoroughly unconstitutional one. The regulations which would be framed in accordance with the Bill would be in the nature, and would have all the effect, of an Act of Parliament. They would constitute a document of far greater importance than many statutes which had received the sanction of Parliament. The Department would be called upon to do what he submitted ought to be done by the House. The proposal of the Government effaced Parliament, or reduced it to absolute impotence. The Government was in fact deliberately shirking a most difficult question.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
pointed out that, regulations or no regulations, the associations were to be approved by the Education Department; if not so approved, they fell to the ground with regard to their right to this part of the grant. The House had confirmed in Sub-section (2) the general principle that the Department should have uncontrolled power, and the remaining five Sub-sections were simply limitations of what the House had already done. Though he acknowledged that a dangerous power was given to the Department, he did not think it would be possible for 399 Parliament to lay down the regulations. He looked with considerable misgiving on the proposal contained in this section of the Bill, first of all giving the Department absolute uncontrolled power in the disposition of funds, and then affecting to control the Department by the creation of associations which the same Department had to approve.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
asked for some information as to what should be the constitution and area of the associations. The Leader of the House had been urged to allow some control over the Department itself as well as some ultimate control over the associations. Unless Parliament and the country had some means whereby they might really be made aware of the lines on which the associations were to be formed, he maintained that the Committee was voting the grant of money entirely in the dark as to what would be the constitution of the bodies to which the distribution was to relegated and the mode in which the money was to be distributed. It was almost impossible for the Committee, until they knew what the areas would be, to discuss the constitution; and, whilst they knew the constitution, to discuss the subject of areas. Was the right hon. Gentleman prepared to give favourable consideration to reasonable Amendments in regard to area and representation?
§ MR. B. L. COHEN (Islington, E.)
said he had certainly no desire to extend clerical influence in the Voluntary Schools. When hon. Gentlemen opposite said that the supporters of the Government did not approach the subject with an open mind, he threw back the reproach and said that it was the Opposition who approached the subject with a closed mind. Why should it be assumed that the associations were to exercise their influence in a narrow-minded, intolerant, selfish way, which was contrary to the practice of all those bodies to whom the administration of the funds would be confided, and contrary to their holy calling?
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said that the clause dealt with the conditions of the formation of the associations, their constitution, the area, and the governing bodies representing managers through whom they were to act. The issue between the two sides of the 400 House was as to whether this constitution was to be left absolutely to the initiative of any body which chose to form an association subject to the approval of the Education Department, or whether Parliament was to have a voice in laying down the regulations under which that constitution was to take place, and subject to which the Education Department was to act. That was a fair proposition, which should be looked at from a practical and from a constitutional point of view. There was a tendency on the Treasury Bench at one time to exaggerate the power of the associations and at another time to minimise them. The associations were, in fact, a new mode of local government in this country, a new mode of School Boards, and all they were asking for was that some regulations with regard to them should be put into the Bill. They asked the Government to do one of two things—either to put a schedule in the Bill setting out the regulations under which the associations should be formed, which was a simple way and secured the effective control of Parliament, and would enable the Department to proceed on something like uniform lines and with something like practical results; or to say that the Education Department should itself take the initiative, that they should prescribe the rules under which the associations should be formed, and that Parliament should merely have the right to say "Aye" or "No," if they said anything at all, but that Parliament should have that power vested in them. That did not seem to be an unreasonable proposition. They ought to know something of the constitution of the new local authority, which was actually to have the power of distributing this money in the first instance. He was not so sure that this would be a final matter—he was not sure that they would stop at the £600,000. There had been some ominous hints in the course of the Debate that, if the First Lord of the Treasury or the Chancellor of the Exchequer had seen his way to make this grant 10s. instead of 5s., there would have been no opposition on that side of the House. [Ministerial cheers.] These associations were the authorities which were to have the control, in the first instance, of upwards of half a million of money. In the course of time they might have a larger control, 401 and the Committee could not shut its eyes to the fact that the First Lord of the Treasury regarded these associations as of enormous value, and that he regarded them, not as a mere banking authority, but as a controlling authority to rectify what was bad and to develop what was good. Having regard to the power and the money the House of Commons was going to place in the hands of associations in the first instance, and also the possibility, perhaps the probability, of an extension of power and financial control, he thought they had a right to again ask the Government, in their own way if they liked, to provide that Parliament should have some voice in the initiation of these associations.["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)
said there was a very strong constitutional reason in favour of this Amendment and against the course of the Government. There had not been a single case in this country yet where they had constituted any authority like a local authority for the spending of money where they had intrusted the constitution of that authority to a Department. Yet they were asking Parliament to give a free hand to the Education Department without any kind of suggestion to the representative of that Department in the House as to what kind of associations might be formed, or as to what the constitution of these bodies would be, and to intrust this matter solely to the Education Department. The Education Department was, according to some of its best supporters on the other side of the House, incompetent to do the work of the distribution of this money. If the Education Department were incompetent to do that, he submitted that they were not called upon to say that the Department was competent to constitute an association. There might be a good deal to be said in favour of not charging the Bill with long regulations for the constitution of these associations if they had any idea at all what kind of associations they wanted, but they had never been told. This Bill would come into operation soon. He wanted to ask the Vice President, who might, and probably would be Vice President at that time, what kind of scheme would he approve for these associations? It seemed to him that in deciding the constitution, apart 402 from the question of representation, of the associations, they must put it under one of three heads—they must say either that the associations were to be topographical associations, or that they were to be based on religious belief and tenets, or that they were to be included in diocesan, or school, or inspectors' areas. Under the first head let him take London. What kind of association would the Vice President expect to be formed in London? Would he constitute an association for North London, an association for the South of London, one for the West of London, and one for the East of London, or would he form one for the whole of London altogether? One was entitled to ask the Department—at any rate if they were to be intrusted with these powers and if they refused to put the regulations into the Bill—what kind of associations they expected to be formed. Was it to be a statutory body? How was it to act? Was it to have a clerk? Where was it to meet? Regulations were made with regard to School Boards, and yet the Government refused to take the same course in regard to these associations.
Several Members of the Opposition rose to continue the Debate, when
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 223; Noes, 109.—(Division List, No. 89.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words 'in such manner' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 232; Noes, 106.—(Division List, No. 90.)
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, after the usual interval,
§ MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northampton, E.),
in whose name the following Amendment stood on the Paper—in Sub-section (3) to leave out the words "in such areas and," in order to insert the 403 words "in urban or rural sanitary districts"—said that, the words "in such manner" having been inserted in the Bill, he proposed to move after the word "in" to insert "urban and rural sanitary districts." This, he thought, would raise the point he wished to raise.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said he was afraid the hon. Member could not move the Amendment in that form, because it was an alternative to the next words. The way he would put the Amendment would be to leave out "in such areas."
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said that one alternative only to the words of the Bill could be proposed at a time. It would be very inconvenient to discuss half-a-dozen alternatives at the same time. The general rule of the House was that there should be a Motion and an Amendment, and if the Committee pronounced in favour of one, it was obvious that the other was rejected. The proper course was to discuss the question of areas upon the Amendment of the hon. Member, and if the Committee approved of the words in the Bill, no other areas could be suggested.
§ SIR H. FOWLER
said he understood that the question the Chairman proposed to put was that the words "in such areas" stand part of the Bill. He might object to those words, and he might object also to the proposal of the hon. Member. Would he not then be at liberty to say that in his opinion the county was the better area? Would it not be a great limitation of the right of discussion on a most important part of the Bill, if hon. Members were prevented from suggesting areas which they thought preferable to both? An Amendment might actually be proposed in the interests of the Government
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said he did not mean that the discussion was to be limited in the sense referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said that he objected to the words "in such areas," and might equally object to the proposal of the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman could vote against the words 404 "in such areas," and if they were struck out he could vote against any other words which might be proposed.
§ SIR H. FOWLER
said he wished to be clear that the discussion would not be limited to the words "in such areas."
§ MR. CHANNING
, continuing, said he would state briefly to the Committee the reasons why he suggested that if they laid down any area, in the Bill, that area should be the sanitary district. The Committee having assented to the principle of these associations being formed, the first object should be to provide that they should be formed on workable lines, so that the associations might carry out what had been expressed by the Vice President of the Council as their object. The Vice President of the Committee of Council had dwelt in his speech on this question on the isolation of managers and on the necessity of bringing local pressure to bear upon those whom he described as eccentric individuals. The right hon. Gentleman said, in describing these associations, that when the managers met together united in one common association, individual eccentricities would at least be likely to be suppressed, and that every effort had been made to prevent the loss of what he called local interest, as the managers of various parishes would meet together and come into contact with one another. Those words were the best indication of how these associations were expected to work, but he submitted to the Committee that if they had some immense area, such as a diocesan area, the whole of the ideal state of things foreshadowed by the Vice President would be absolutely out of reach. Last year there was an opinion widely shared by hon. Members opposite that the County Committee could not have a sufficiently direct local interest and local connection with individual schools, and that from conditions of time and space it would be impossible for the members to be brought together to carry out what was intended. A fortiori a very large organisation with a place of meeting at a, great distance from any of the schools would render impossible the state of things which the right hon. Gentleman contemplated. Two theories of 405 these associations had been put before the Committee. There was the theory of the hon. and learned Member for Stroud, that these associations were merely advisory bodies, who would meet together, perhaps only once after the passing of this Bill, to consider the figures and accounts of the schools within their jurisdiction, and to prepare some kind of Report for the Education Department, upon which that Department could form their conclusions. The other point of view which had been put forward by the First Lord of the Treasury and others, was that these associations were to be the germ of a local educational authority of a new kind. His Amendment was arguable on either of these hypotheses. If the association were to be merely an advisory body, how utterly futile it would be to set up a large financial staff, to go to the expense of further inspectors, and to have all the cost and entourage of an additional education Department in every diocese of the country. If they were to have a merely advisory body of a peripatetic character to inquire into the condition of the Voluntary Schools in the diocese, there ought to be a cheap and a ready means by which that body could ascertain the facts. The areas proposed in his Amendment would be manageable areas. In the country, the Voluntary School managers of a district could meet in the market town, could prepare an intelligible Report to lay before the Education Department, and they could among themselves prepare it without any extra expenditure for staff. He knew many clergymen in the country who would carry out these duties admirably without any mutual animosity, and who would be able to deal with these questions in a business-like and firm manner. If they looked into the accounts of existing associations of this kind, such as the Diocesan Board of London, they saw that the expenses of management, inspection, examination, etc., ate up the larger share of the money. By the Amendment which he proposed, the whole of that would be avoided, and the managers of Voluntary Schools, in an area of reasonable size, would be able to meet together in one room and discuss their subject in a business-like fashion. If the Amendment were arguable on that basis, its argumentative basis was still stronger, 406 if they viewed this new association as a new educational authority. Many of them who were enthusiastic supporters of the idea of national education felt that it would be a terrible mistake to introduce, through these associations, a form of local authority which would stand as an obstacle between them and a rational reorganisation of education in the future. In the paper circulated yesterday by the Lincoln Diocesan Board, hon. Members would see that it was stated:—That it is of the greatest importance that in an association of Voluntary Schools care should be taken not to do anything which would tend to make the establishment of some other educational local authority impossible or even difficult in future.Therefore he maintained that it was rational, when forming these associations, to form them on such lines and in such areas as would not preclude the permanent and proper re-organisation of education in this country in the future. He would remind the Committee that the Bill of last year, in the fourth clause, introduced for the first time this proposal of associations, and the proposal was then confined to a county or to portions of a county. The association proposal as foreshadowed in that Bill was on the lines on which he was urging the Committee to act that day, the principle, being that these associations ought to be, formed in some reasonable relation to the divisions in the country and the ordinary local government of the country. The Lincoln Diocesan Education Board had laid down in the strongest way their opinion that these associations should be formed in the areas which he was asking the Committee to adopt. The Board said:—It is most important that the area within which associations of schools is permitted should be strictly defined. The best area appears to be the area of the poor law union.The opinion had also been expressed by Canon Nunn that the areas of these associations foreshadowed the discussion would be altogether too large. In his own county, a comparatively small one, which was typical of the ordinary conditions of the Midlands, and in which there were urban districts and very wide agricultural districts, there were about 275 Voluntary Schools, and, if his suggestion were adopted, six associations would be formed in 407 the county. On the hypothesis that these associations were to be the germ of any reform of local government in regard to education, the organisation would be satisfactory, because it would be an organisation of men who were thoroughly acquainted with the details of the district, and who would be local representatives of the local interests of the Voluntary Schools. In the rural parts of the county there were not many School Boards, and practically all the schools of some of the unions would be in the hands of the managers of the Voluntary Schools. They would, therefore, have in the associations a combination which would rationally represent the local wants of the people of the district. Turn to the large towns and the case was still stronger. The Voluntary Schools in a large town have their special wants and organisation. He assumed that the association would have to go thoroughly into the matter, and would deal with the facts and necessities and all the circumstances out of which arose the claim for relief. The local spirit in large towns was intensely strong, and there would be found the greatest reluctance on the part of managers of the schools to having a portion of the grant taken from them, and the power of making representation to the Department taken away from those who had devoted themselves to the management of these schools as the work of their lives, and the control in these respects transferred to a set of men in some cathedral city miles away, men who came to the town in which the schools were situated perhaps only twice or thrice in the year. Certainly this would produce great discontent among the managers of these schools. Turn to the case of London, and he appealed confidently to hon. Members opposite, for their policy in regard to London had been exactly parallel to the lines of his Amendment, and in regard to local government they had foreshadowed again and again the idea of splitting up London into reasonable areas. He had nothing to do with that in its broader aspect, but in regard to the management of Voluntary Schools, there was a great deal to be said in favour of dividing London into areas. He hoped the Amendment would meet acceptance from the Committee in the interest of all concerned. It would reduce 408 the inevitable expenditure in the administration of the Bill; and, though this was a matter hon. Members opposite treated with indifference, it would be looked into closely in the country when the scheme came to be worked. In local interest and local capacity in regard to schools was the key to educational success. In all our towns, and in many of our villages, to local effort was due success in educational matters, and the arguments used last year against the adoption of large areas were applicable on this occasion, although only Voluntary Schools were being dealt with. He moved in Subsection (3) to leave out the words "in such areas and," in order to insert the words "in urban or rural sanitary districts."
§ MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
was sorry he could not agree with the Amendment, for he fully recognised the practical and reasonable spirit in which it had been moved, and could not disguise from himself that, if they could, conformably with the objects of the Bill and the objects Members on his side of the House had in view, delineate any specific area for association which would coincide with an existing area of local government, it would be an immense advantage. The hon. Member wished to define the area as a rural or urban sanitary district. It was true some of these were of immense size—Manchester and Liverpool, for instance; and there was a great deal to be said for such large areas. But sanitary districts varied very much in size, and at the other end of the scale were small districts having populations of from 2,000 to 5,000, and containing perhaps two or three Voluntary Schools. Such districts he had knowledge of in his own county. Did not the hon. Gentleman see that to take such a small area for association would spoil the whole value of the scheme, and make any effectual system of distribution impossible with due regard to the interests of the schools? Take a larger area, take the town the hon. Member had mentioned, Lincoln. In that town were 15 Church Schools, two Wesleyan, one Roman Catholic, and one undenominational school. Did the hon. Member propose that all these schools should form one association in the City of Lincoln? He did not propose that; probably he would propose that the 15 Church Schools would form one association, but this number 409 was not large enough to make association really useful for the purposes for which it was designed. It was not bodies for the management of schools they were dealing with, but bodies who would simply draw up schemes for the distribution of grants, according to varying needs. The effect of adopting the Amendment would be to drop the principle of association in large portions of the country for any denomination, and the only way in which a local government area could be adopted, or even a larger area, would be to make such association compulsory. If hon. Members were prepared, and they were not prepared, to force all schools into association, to whatever denomination they might belong—if they were prepared to force a small minority of Wesleyan or Roman Catholic Schools into an association chiefly composed of Church of England Schools, then there would be a great deal more to be said for these small local areas. But if these associations were likely to be chiefly of a denominational character, then they must be allowed to be formed on voluntary lines, and these would, as a rule, coincide with the existing areas of ecclesiastical organisation, and it would be impossible to take a local government area or even the districts of Her Majesty's Inspectors. He could wish it were not so, he could wish that such great differences did not exist between denominations, but things must be looked at as they were in fact, and it could hardly be regarded as practicable to force the schools of all denominations that happened to be in a local area into one association.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
said he had given notice of an Amendment which he understood it would now be in order to discuss, and which raised a different set of considerations to this Amendment now put forward. His proposal was, that these associations should be constituted in "civil" areas, and the point was this. The Committee was dealing with a large grant of public money, and he did not know that there was any precedent for making such a grant to a body of a purely ecclesiastical character. He had gathered the general idea from these, Debates that the constitution of these associations would be diocesan. ["No, no!"] He would ask the hon. Member who contradicted him whether, 410 as a matter of fact, it was not absolutely certain that, in the case of Church of England Schools, the associations would be diocesan? ["Hear!"] As a matter of fact they knew what would happen. Voluntary Schools in every diocese would be amalgamated into one association, and the area would not be civil, but ecclesiastical, the area of the diocese. The association would, of course, consist largely of clergymen, naturally so, because they took a great interest in schools, in fact, so much interest that they spoke of the schools in proprietorial terms. The natural head of the clergy was the Bishop, so there would be diocesan education boards presided over by a Bishop. A strong Bishop would have the future fortunes of the clergy, to a great extent, at his disposal, and what the Committee was now practically asked to do was to endow each of the Bishops with from £10,000 to £15,000 a year, to use largely at his own discretion—["No, no!"]—and for what purpose? He was only putting the probabilities of the case, and did not wish to say anything offensive to hon. Members. As a matter of fact they must know that a Bishop of strong character, a great and good man, could easily get his own way, and these associations being constituted upon the ecclesiastical area would be entirely under the control of the Bishop of the diocese. The money and the power would be used in Wales, at all events, not for educational purposes, but for the purposes of fighting Nonconformists. ["No, no!" and "Hear, hear!"] This was his ground of objection to the clause, though his reasons would not commend themselves to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Under this proposal a grant of public money was being made, and the very least Parliament should do would be to provide that the area should have some outward connection with the State and not with an ecclesiastical area. He ventured to ask the House whether, at the end of the nineteenth century, it was going so frankly to endow denominationalism in this way? He was under the impression that the current of thought and opinion was entirely in an opposite direction. He hoped the Committee would see the necessity of making the areas in which this public money was to be spent civil areas, and that it would not lend itself 411 to the open endowment of a denomination in the way suggested by the Bill. ["Hear!"]
§ MR. SCOTT-MONTAGU (Hants,) New Forest
remarked that he had an Amendment on the Paper providing that no areas in rural districts should exceed district council areas except with the permission of the Department. There was a distinct feeling in many sparsely populated districts, especially in the south of England, that they might be over-whelmed by one or two big towns which had great powers of combination, and that they might not, therefore, quite get their fair share of the grant. ["Hear, hear!"] There were many Members on his side of the House who would like to know from the Government whether, if in a rural district, now in a rural district council area, the people desired to form themselves into an association, that association would be allowed to stand, even though there was an application for an association to include the whole diocese? ["Hear, hear!"] There were many cases in which there were large dioceses, embracing widely differing populations, whose sympathies were not at all with one another, and whose rating and means for subscribing to Voluntary Schools were not the same. He admitted there was a difficulty about the formation of the area. There seemed to him, outside the ecclesiastical, to be only three possible areas—namely, the diocesan, the county council, and the rural district. He should be glad if the Leader of the House would tell them whether an association which had been formed within a diocese would be allowed to have a separate existence even though an association for the whole diocesan area had been applied for?
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
thought this Amendment afforded the Government an opportunity of making a general statement of their views on the question of areas, which would enable hon. Members to know on what basis the particular discussion was to be conducted. What hon. Members on his side of the House desired to know was whether these areas were to be ecclesiastical or civil. The Amendment of his hon. Friend behind him, as well as that of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Scott-Montagu) went to show that there was a very considerable feeling on 412 both sides that they did not want the associations to be put on other than existing areas. The blot in their county government arrangements was the enormous number and complication of their areas, and instead of creating new ones, the contemplated areas ought to be coterminous with the existing areas. It appeared to him the real evil at the bottom of these associations was that whatever area they fixed they must necessarily get considerable inequalities between district and district. The First Lord of the Treasury had said that in giving this money the object of the Government was not only to give to necessitous schools, but also, in the fullest possible degree, according to their necessity; therefore, any money that did not go to them in proportion to the necessities of the schools would be really largely wasted. But, as he had said, however they constituted these associations, there must be considerable inequalities and divergencies between district and district. One association would cover a richer area than another; it would receive 5s. per head for the children in attendance at the schools, and the result would be that one association having a richer number of schools than another would be able to give a larger sum per head to its necessitous schools than the association which covered a poorer area. On that ground he was sorry to say he could not support the particular Amendment before the Committee, as it would limit the area of the associations so greatly that the inequalities to which he had referred would be largely accentuated. The hon. Member opposite had suggested three possible areas, and he, for one, considered the best area of the three was the county council area. He held this belief first, on the ground that it was the larger area, and therefore the inequalities between district and district would be less than if there were smaller areas; and secondly, because it was an area which had now become fully recognised, and in every case, though there would still be inequalities, would cover a very large number of schools, some necessitous and some of a richer character. On the ground, therefore, that the proposal of his hon. Friend limited them too much, and created too many of these associtions, he was afraid he could not give it his support. But the Amendment was 413 put in such a way that they should vote for it on the ground that it did suggest instead of the ecclesiastical, a civil area; and, secondly, that while supporting these words they left it open to discuss the subsequent Amendment of his hon. Friend below the gangway, or the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman opposite who had last spoken.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS
thought the Amendment he had on the Paper would meet with the approval of the hon. Member for the New Forest Division of Hants. The objection to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton was that in many cases these districts would be too small for associations. In rural districts it might mean that in some cases there was only one school, so that the power of association in the Bill could not be exercised if the Amendment were adopted. There was also the objection of the hon. Member for Somersetshire that there would be a difficulty in getting Voluntary Schools, belonging to various denominations in small districts, to combine together. The Amendment of which he had given notice proposed, without defining them exactly, that the areas should not be smaller than the county and county boroughs. He had looked at the returns of the Education Department, and he found there were 99 inspectors' districts already. In other words, the school districts of the county were divided into 99, and the areas of the county would not be far short of the areas which were now comprised in the various districts of the inspectors. Of course the counties themselves would be very unequal. In some counties there were very many schools, and in others a much smaller number. In Lancashire there were 1,578 Voluntary Schools, and in Yorkshire 1,444, while in Rutland there were only 85. If the associations were to work at all, there ought to be some limit of area given to the Education Department, and he entirely agreed with the view that they ought to be civil areas. They had now a multiplicity of areas for various kinds of local government, and it would not be advisable to increase the number. There was one argument in favour of the suggestion which he made to the First Lord of the Treasury, and that was that the Government themselves in their Bill of last year defined the county and the county borough as the 414 proper area for the educational authority. He desired to ask the First Lord of the Treasury why the Government did not adopt this year the area and the districts they proposed in the Bill of last year.
§ COLONEL VICTOR MILWARD (Warwickshire, Stratford-on-Avon)
said he did not share the view of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, and he hoped the Government would not express their views on this question until they had heard what had been said, and even then would not bind themselves down to a hard-and-fast line, because in many areas there must be a certain amount of elasticity. The areas should be large enough to induce persons of real ability to attend the meetings which would be held. As in the County Council they had better men than they had in the District Council, and in the District Council better men than in the Parish Council, so he hoped the area would be large enough to attract the best men. Secondly, he hoped the area would be one that would commend itself to the laity. [Opposition cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite had talked about the clergy, and said there was to be an attempt to make this a clerical organisation. The hon. Member for Anglesey said the clerical element must be satisfied, and that this body must be a clerical body. The hon. Member for East Northamptonshire (Mr. Channing) said this was to be a sacerdotal organisation, and the hon. Member for Flintshire had in various ways repeated the same thing. He held in his hands some evidence that the clergy of the country did not view the matter in that light at all. The executive committee of the Diocesan Society held a meeting at Worcester yesterday, and if any set of persons were to be suspected they were. They were the head and front of the offending; they were the head centre of the diocesan organisation of Worcester; and the Archdeacon of Worcester said at their sub-committee that day some members were of opinion that the areas of the federation should have civil rather than ecclesiastical boundaries. [Opposition cheers.] He was sure if the federations were to obtain the confidence of the public they had better include all Voluntary Schools and be not merely a Church association, a British association, a Roman Catholic association, or a Wesleyan association, but a general federation. He (Colonel Milward) agreed 415 that if possible the association should include all denominations. He said that, having had experience, and he therefore thought the organisation should not be a diocesan organisation. He also thought it should not be a county organisation, but should be fixed according to the areas of the inspectors. [Opposition cheers.] They had to get together the representatives of a large number of schools to divide a certain amount of public money. The Worcester Diocesan organisation extended into five inspectors' districts, and unless an inspectors' area was adopted, considerable complications would arise, and perpetual difficulties would have to be faced. The diocesan associations were already associations to help necessitous schools, and these proposed associations would meet together in the same way. They would know how much money they had to divide, and they would inquire into the circumstances of the different schools, and he had not the least doubt they would be able to divide the money in a manner satisfactory to the schools. ["Hear, hear!"] If they adhered to the diocesan federations they would have to incur a large cost in respect of inspection and organisation, but if they had the inspectors' area they would still have the diocesan organisation working by their side, still carrying on the work of diocesan inspection. The present diocesan organisation cost about £350. The diocese of the new body need not cost more than £40 or £50 at the outside the first year, and gradually less afterwards, and he believed that these bodies would securely strengthen the Voluntary Schools. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
differed from the opinion that the associations should include schools of all denominations. He felt reluctant to vote for the compulsory character of the Association Clause, and his reluctance would be increased if it was sought to drive the Catholic schools of the country into associations dominated by schools connected with the Church of England.
§ MR. DILLON
said he was aware of this. He believed the associations would work better if voluntary, and he should be extremely hostile to Catholic schools being forced into associations predominated by the Church of England. The 416 hon. Member for Hampshire said there were three different alternatives in dealing with the question of area. He entirely differed from the hon. Member. He spoke as if there were only schools connected with one denomination. But this Bill was being passed, not for the benefit of one religious denomination, but for the benefit of persons of every religious denomination whose religious convictions impelled them to send their children to a religious school. It was of vital importance that the Committee should have some information from the Government of their intentions in regard to these denominations, whose schools were often scattered, sometimes so scattered that if an attempt were made to fix the area by population or a number of schools, the associations would cover so large an area that in many cases it would be almost impossible to administer them. The Committee ought to be informed of the intention of the Government as to the unit for the associations. If the unit of association were to be fixed approximately by the number of schools concerned, they would like to have some idea of what would be the minimum number of schools for an association. He assumed that the number of schools must be the number of schools in a district belonging to one denomination. He thought that Roman Catholics would form their own association. He wished to know whether the area was to be geographical, whether it would be based on a unit of population, or on the number of schools in a certain district which were of one denomination. His attitude towards the association proposal would largely depend on the intention of the Government in regard to the compulsory part of the section.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I think the Committee will consider that I have been justified in holding back on this Amendment until we have heard some of the various conflicting proposals which are intended as substitutes for that which the Government has put forward for acceptance by the House. We have seen that each speaker has a new plan for settling the area in which he thinks these associations ought to be formed. It is, perhaps, not an inopportune object lesson for these Gentlemen to see how impossible it would have been for the Government to obtain unanimity if they had decided to introduce into the 417 Bill some fixed area in which all associations would have to be formed. It has been freely suggested throughout the course of these discussions that the vagueness, as our opponents term it—but the elasticity as I prefer to term it—which lets been left in the Bill in relation to these associations is little better than a drafting dodge on the part of the Government, or an obscure statement by those who have not made up their own minds, or who have not taken the trouble to think out the full character of their own proposals. I can assure the Committee that neither of those charitable explanations is the correct one. It has not been to avoid drafting difficulties, or because we have not given time and attention to the matter, that we have deliberately come to the conclusion that the elastic framework which we have provided for these associations is the only possible framework which will meet the necessities of the case. ["Hear, hear!"] Last night the Committee decided by a very large majority that the Education Department was to be assisted in its work by the associations voluntarily formed, and the only question we have now got to determine is whether we shall lay down in the Bill elaborate statutory regulations dealing with the constitution and area of these associations, or whether we shall leave them to develop in each district according to the needs of the district, and according to the needs of the class of denominational school. We have unhesitatingly decided that the fluid method is better than the rigid method—["hear, hear!"]—that the discretion left to the Department was a necessary discretion, and that the House would be extremely ill-advised if it had attempted to tie down in rigid fetters the new bodies which it is hoped may be called into existence after this Bill has become law. In answer to the hon. Member for East Mayo, I would say that the associations are voluntary associations in the fullest sense of the word. I am not referring now to the later sub-section, in which, no doubt, there is a possible potential loss to any school which unreasonably refuses to join the association. I am now simply dealing with the formation of the associations themselves, and these associations are unquestionably voluntary, and there is no power given to the Department by the Bill to compel Voluntary Schools who are unwilling to join the associations to 418 carry out that policy. That alone shows the enormous difference that there is between the associations that we wish to call into existence and the local authorities with whom these associations have been so freely compared. The only statutory power which is given to the associations by the Bill is the power of advising. ["Hear, hear!"] If, when they are called into existence, they should not confine their functions to advising the Department, but should voluntarily consult together on questions of common interest to all of them, I should rejoice, and think that a most useful addition to their functions. Here, again, there is a distinction between these bodies thus voluntarily created and the local authorities, for the statutory duties of the local authority are the only duties which they must perform. We, therefore, have decided that the elasticity given by the Bill is absolutely essential if the objects of the Bill are to be carried out. Those views are greatly strengthened when we consider the necessary doubt which hangs over the constitution and work of bodies which we do not force into existence, but which will he proposed for our acceptance by bodies voluntarily joining together to form associations. For example, would it not be folly for the House of Commons or Parliament to attempt to lay down regulations for these associations, when it does not know, and cannot know, whether these associations will be denominational or not? I have no doubt that, broadly speaking, the Roman Catholics will prefer to do what they have a perfect right to do under the Bill—namely, to form separate associations, themselves dealing with the money allotted.
§ MR. DILLON
asked whether it was quite clear that they could form a separate association in the same area where an association existed.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I am coming to that directly. In the Same way the Wesleyan body may possibly refuse to form associations at all, or they may decide to form associations entirely composed of Wesleyan schools, or they may desire to join associations constituted partly of other denominations. The result would be exactly what the hon. Gentleman pointed out in his interruption; you will necessarily have, if these associations are denominational, associations are denominational, associations of different 419 denominations covering the same area. ["Hear, hear!"] By way of simple illustration, you may have an Anglican association coterminous with a county; you may have Roman Catholic associations which would not only include the county, but more than one Roman Catholic diocese; and you may have a Wesleyan association which shall be coincident as regards area with the circuit which is the administrative unit of that body. However that may be, it is evident that if these voluntary associations should desire to form themselves upon these lines, the same area will be under two or three separate associations, and all associations will not have the same boundary. If that is to be the result of the Bill, how, then, can the House of Commons be asked to engage itself in so wild a task as the laying down of specific rules for the constitution of associations which are so infinitely varied in their character, in their needs, and also in the character of the schools with which they have to deal? [Cheers.] I have one thing more to say, and I say it freely, because I want to be quite candid with the House. I admit that there is a large experimental element in these associations. ["Hear, hear!"] No statutory recognition has ever been given to them before. No bodies of this kind have ever before been asked to carry out statutory duties. ["Hear, hear!"] I grant, therefore, there is an experimental side to them. But would it not be folly not to resort to that experiment, and thereby prevent the Education Department from learning by experience; and the denominational schools themselves from learning by experience, and from modifying from time to time the character, it may be the area, and it may be the constitution, of the association they are now voluntarily called upon to join? [Cheers.] We have shown that neither through idleness nor by design do we leave the Bill in its present shape; but that it is essential to the free, healthy and unfettered growth of these associations that we should not attempt by statutory regulations to lay down beforehand the exact lines to which they are to conform. [Cheers.]
§ MR. ACLAND
said he had done his best to follow the arguments of the First Lord of the Treasury. He understood that non-Church bodies were to be allowed to associate in any areas they 420 thought fit. But in the case of the Established Church schools, which were scattered all over the country, which were to be found everywhere, the feeling expressed on the other side of the House had not been met—namely, whether, in regard to those schools, it would not be possible to arrange that the limits of the various Church associations should correspond with the limits of some civil local authority existing at the present time? The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had said, "the Anglican association might be coterminous with the county."
§ MR. ACLAND
said that statement showed the difficulty of discussing the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Anglican association might be coterminous with the county. The Vice President of the Council had said that the basis of the association might possibly be a million population, while the Solicitor General had said that it would probably be the diocese. But there was one thing he failed to understand, and that was, that in answer to the hon. Member for East Mayo the right hon. Gentleman had said that they were voluntary associations in the fullest sense of the word. He would like to know the meaning of that phrase. Speaking on the First Reading of the Bill, and describing those associations, the right hon. Gentleman said:—So strongly do we believe in the importance of associations that we have put in a special provision enabling the Education Department to refuse any assistance out of the grant to any school which unreasonably refuses to join any association.[Cheers.] And yet they were told that the associations were voluntary associations in the fullest sense of the word. Take the case of 100 schools—that 60 of the schools wanted to form themselves into an association and that 40 did not. Would an association be formed of the 100 schools because the majority wanted it; or, in other words, would the 60 compel the 40 to join? Or, in the case where 40 schools wanted to form an association and 60 did not, would each school be allowed to form an association in itself and go individually to the Department for assistance? He thought the Government ought to make it clear 421 what was the first step to be taken towards the formation of an association. Why could not an arrangement be made, at any rate in the case of the Church of England schools, which were to be found everywhere, by which some civil area, such as the County Council area, would be the normal rule in regard to Church associations? Could there not at least be some regulation by which, in a case where there was a desire to have a civil area, the Department could form an association covering that civil area, if possible? If they allowed voluntary grouping according to the needs of a district, it could be easily altered as the needs of the case in the future required. In such a case association would be purely voluntary, and no school need join if it liked. It was the shadow of compulsion that lay behind the proposal of the Government that made the real difficulty. It was because, when associations were formed, they would tend to become permanent, that they were anxious to know whether, at any rate in the case of the Church schools, it would not be advisable to establish a civil area, instead of leaving it simply to the Education Department without any reference from Parliament. If the question were left in its present hopelessly vague condition, it would tend to confusion, and not to simplicity, in the administration of the Bill.
§ MR. C. P. SCOTT (Lancashire, Leigh)
said that until about a quarter of an hour ago there was no man in the House who knew whether the area was to be the same for all denominations, or whether it was to be different for different denominations. The First Lord of the Treasury had told them, not indeed directly, but by implication, that there ought to be different areas for different denominations. So it appeared they had been talking the whole evening without knowing what they were talking about. [Ministerial cheers.] Hon. Members opposite blamed them for wasting the time of the House. If anyone had wasted time that afternoon it was the First Lord of the Treasury. [Cheers.] Had the First Lord been so good as to have told them at the commencement of the Debate what it was he had in his mind in regard to these associations, every one of the Amendments which had been discussed that day would have been discussed at any rate in a totally 422 different light. [Cheers.] The First Lord said that there were to be different areas for every denomination. [Cries of "No."] Then what did the right hon. Gentleman mean? [Laughter.] He distinctly implied that there were to be different areas as for the Wesleyans, whose circuits were each to form an association. Again, the Catholics, the right hon. Gentleman said, might have an even larger area for the associations. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the elasticity and fluidity of these associations. A better word would have been "chaos." Hon. Gentlemen opposite had in their minds all the time the Church of England Schools only; but the schools of other denominations had an equal right to be considered. The British Schools had no common organisation, and were scattered all over the country. How were they to be dealt with? Altogether they were numerous enough to form two associations at the most. There were 400 Wesleyan Schools in the country. On the basis of the hon. Member for West Ham, they would all be included in one association. Then there were the Unitarians, the Baptists, and the United Methodists. They all had schools of their own, and had a right to be considered. The Committee had a right to know how the Government were going to deal with these schools. He knew what the schools would do if they were left to themselves—they would take the 5s. and do nothing more. They did not want to associate; they only wished to be left out of the associations. But were these schools to be compelled to come into association, or were they not? Supposing that a small majority of the schools wished to form an association, were the minority to be bound under penalties to assent? Or were they to be free to stand out? Those questions went to the whole root of the Government's proposals.
§ MR. REES DAVIES (Pembrokeshire)
said that the Leader of the House had urged the desirability of allowing elasticity and discretion to the Education Department. That was the Government's answer to every Amendment, whether it related to a definition of necessitous schools or to one of "due regard" to voluntary subscriptions. Parliament was giving the Education Department power to place any construction it pleased on perfectly general words. 423 There had been a distinct declaration on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite in favour of some definition of these words in the clause; and it was certain that these association areas ought to be civil and not ecclesiastical areas. The hon. and gallant Member for Worcestershire had quoted one dignitary of the Church on this question. He would quote another. Speaking at a meeting of the Houses of Convocation in November last, the Bishop of Hereford said:—There is another course; and that is, with an equally light heart and very little discussion, voting compulsory federation. There are not. I fancy, half-a-adozen people in this room who have thought out the results of that course. You are proposing to set up a compulsory ecclesiastical authority everywhere to administer the funds of the State. I am not sufficiently sanguine to believe or to hope that the country will accept that; if they do not, where are we?Representing a constituency which contained an overwhelming majority of Nonconformists and Board Schools, he was extremely doubtful as to the discretion to be exercised by an ecclesiastical body in that district.
§ MR. HUMPHREYS-OWEN (Montgomery)
who was indistinctly heard, said that, taking the unit of one million suggested by the Vice President of the Council, an association would just about cover 11 counties in North and South Wales, excluding Glamorgan and Monmouth. If that were to be the area of the association for Wales, it was not possible to exaggerate the inconvenience which would be imposed on members of the association. What common aims could schools in opposite ends of the Principality have? And even supposing that the diocese was taken as the area, the area would be so wide that there was hardly a single place in any diocese in Wales to and from which it would be possible for all the members of the association to travel in one day. Thus a very onerous tax would be imposed on the members. The number of children in Church schools in Wales was 99,000, while there were in Board Schools 150,000. The parents of the great majority of the 99,000 children in Voluntary Schools were Nonconformists; and he appealed to the noble Lord the Member for Rochester to say whether it was right that the education of those children should be placed entirely in the hands of bodies representing another church? As had been pointed 424 out, this was the first step towards independent action of the Church of England. Surely, if that was the case it was the imperative duty of Parliament to see that at all events it retained some power over the manner in which the associations were formed. When the practical working of the Bill was fully apprehended by the country it would be a much graver matter than hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to anticipate. In Wales especially, if the county area was not adopted, great difficulty would be experienced in Wales in the working of the Act.
§ SIR H. FOWLER
suggested that if the right hon. Gentleman would agree to withdraw the sub-section which made these associations compulsory, a great many of the objections which hon. Members took to them would be, if not removed, at all events considerably modified. It was idle to say that an association was voluntary when those who were to compose it were forced to come into it or pay a pecuniary fine. In last year's Bill the Government left it perfectly open to an association whether it would go in or not, but in leaving it open the Bill defined the area. The Bill said:—The association may represent for the purpose of this section, either all the schools or all the schools of a particular religious denomination in the county, or any part of the county, or some of such schools.Now, the area last year was that of the county. There was great force in what the hon. Member for Mayo said that they could not expect Roman Catholic schools to form part of an association in which that denomination would be in a minority; and that might apply to other Nonconformist schools. At all events, the Government, in their great Bill of last year, came to the conclusion that the county area was the proper area, whereas now the right hon. Gentleman took strong objection to the county area. Be that as it might, would the right hon. Gentleman agree to lay the scheme of association before Parliament in order that Parliament might have an opportunity of pronouncing an opinion upon it? He could not conceive upon what ground of experience or Parliamentary practice the Government should refuse to do that. Why should the Education Department be supreme? Why should not Members of Parliament representing denominations, great or small, or no denomination at all have 425 the right to say, "The Education Department has framed a scheme which is unjust to those we represent, and against which there is no appeal, and which scheme can be enforced by a pecuniary fine"? He was anxious to make the Act as workable as possible. There were large interests at stake, and conflicts of interest which might possibly assume a religious and sectarian character. It was desirable, therefore, that Parliament should keep the control in its own hands so as to prevent those difficulties coming to the surface. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would endeavour to meet the views of the Opposition, and not meet them with a perpetual non possumus. If he insisted that the delimitation of areas was to be left to the Department, then the corollary of that was that the scheme when formulated should be submitted to the judgment of the House.
§ MR. H. C. F. LUTTRELL (Devon, Tavistock)
said that the object of the Amendment was to localise the associations, and, in his judgment, it was better to lay it down that the Education Department should choose as far as possible smaller districts. Local wants would then be attended to. An objection had been raised by the hon. Member for Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse) that if this Amendment were carried there would be some districts too small to be workable. No doubt there was some validity in this, but it must also be borne in mind that if it were not carried the areas might be much too large, and he contended that there was far greater objection to their being too large than too small. The objection of the hon. Member for Somerset would be met by adding the words "except with the permission of the Education Department." The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon had commented on the importance of the lay element being represented. This, in his opinion, was very important, but if the lay element was to be adequately represented the areas must not be too large. In the Bill there was nothing to prevent the areas being immense. It was possible under the Bill to have one association for the whole of England and one for Wales. How could the lay element be represented if this was done? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had said it was preferable to have a fluid Measure to a rigid one. But he would point out that a fluid Measure 426 might overflow, and to have only one or two associations would be an overflowing which would prevent any local administration by the lay element, and would preclude, too, any elasticity in instruction according to the local wants and requirements of the parents. On these grounds he urged the importance of the Amendment.
§ MR. REGINALD MCKENNA (Monmouthshire, N.)
said it was clear that the associations could not be formed in the present year, and the money would have to be distributed by the Department, which could not undertake any discrimination between the schools. Definite rules should be made for the formation of associations, in order that there should be no delay.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon) Boroughs
asked whether it was proposed to have separate associations for town schools and separate associations for country schools?
§ Question put, "That the words 'in such areas and' stand part of the clause."
§ The Committee divided—Ayes, 324; Noes, 125.—(Division List, No. 91.)
§ And, it being after Half-past Five of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.