§ (1.) For aiding Voluntary Schools there shall be annually paid out of moneys provided by Parliament an aid grant, not exceeding in the aggregate five shillings per scholar for the whole number of scholars in those schools.
§ (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 five shillings 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 854 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 the 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. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon) Boroughs
moved, on behalf of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. STEPHENS), to leave out Sub-section (6) for the purpose of inserting the following Sub-section: —(6) "The accounts of every school aided out of the aid grant shall be audited by the district auditor, and the enactments relating to audit by district auditors of the accounts of School Boards and their officers and to all matters incidental thereto and consequential thereon shall apply accordingly, with such adaptations as may be made by regulations of the Local Government Board.At the present moment, he said, there was practically no audit whatever of the Voluntary School accounts, which, in some cases, might be said to be more or less cooked. It was admitted that in the columns for voluntary contributions were included the amounts for the rent of the buildings, which could in no sense of the term be described as voluntary subscriptions. Such an item was not so set down in the case of the School Boards, and it ought to be made perfectly clear what amount really represented the voluntary subscriptions to the school and what represented "cooked" accounts. It came to this, then, that amounts were set down which were really not placed to the credit of the school account. A. school was attached to a church, say, and there were collections for it, but the collections were not bonâ fide made for voluntary education. They were paid for matters connected with the church or chapel. They were put down as voluntary subscriptions to enable the school to get over the 17s. 6d. limit. He thought, if inquiry were made, it would be found that these voluntary subscriptions to the extent of 50 per cent. were bogus subscriptions. There were charges for coal, lighting, and such like dragged 855 into the account which ought not to be there. Besides that, money which was paid from Imperial sources was not devoted to the maintenance of education at all. The schoolmaster was told that he must not only attend to the education of the school but he must play the organ. He thought the Local Government Board auditor should find out what was paid to the teacher in respect to his functions as teacher and the amount paid to him as organist. It was very important, he should have thought, in the interests of the managers themselves, that there should be an auditor independent of all parties. Charges of a serious character had been levelled against the managers of Voluntary Schools, but he had not the facts at hand. [Ironical cheers.] These charges had been submitted to the National Union of Teachers, an impartial body, and if the charges were not true they were libels. Assuming that they were not true, was it not to the interests of the managers that these charges of fraud should be investigated by an independent officer of the Local Government Board? He did not think that clergymen as a rule would shine in the matter of accounts. The accounts should be published, and the public should have free access to them. The hon. Member whose Amendment he moved suggested that they should be dealt with as the School Board accounts were dealt with; but in the case of the Voluntary Schools the accounts were sent up to London, and that was an end of them.
§ SIR J. SAVORY (Westmorland, Appleby)
said the accounts of the Voluntary Schools were open to exactly the same inspection. They were placed outside the schools after they came back from the Department.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he was sorry to say he could not agree with the hon. Member. [Laughter, and a cry of "Withdraw!"]
§ THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Sir J. GORST, Cambridge University),
, who was received with ironical Opposition cheers, read from the Code, which provided that the accounts should be published on the door of the 856 school, and notice given of the days and hours when they might be inspected.
§ MR. A. H. DYKE ACLAND (York, W.R., Rotherham)
said that was a very different thing from the question of audit. There were the words in the Act which dealt with School Board audit, and they showed the position of the ratepayers in regard to the audit.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS (Mr. J. W. LOWTHER,) Cumberland, Penrith
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is in possession of the Committee. [Laughter.]
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
, continuing, said they were grateful for the intervention of the Vice President, and wished he would enlighten them on other points. The fact was, however, that these accounts were purely balance-sheets, and he made the distinct charge that a good many of them were nothing but bogus accounts. [Cries of "Oh!"] A statement was given of so much received and so much paid, but they never got the vouchers for these accounts. What they wanted was to do the same with these schools as with School Boards—to get vouchers for every item, to be able to have a Local Government Board auditor, and to allow any ratepayer of the school district to be present at the audit and to object to an account. In the case of moneys given to officers of the Army, to School Boards, County Councils, and other bodies, every penny that was spent was subjected to the audit of a public official. He begged to move the Amendment.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
hoped the Committee would not be led off by the hon. Gentleman into a discussion on what was the existing system. They were not considering the existing system, but two alternative methods of altering it. Whether the system were good or bad—and certainly it was not as the hon. Gentleman had represented it—the question before the Committee was whether they would adopt the wider words in this Bill, or the narrower words of the Amendment. He had nothing whatever to say against the excellent work done by the Local Government Board auditors, but if the system were restricted to them in some respects, possibly it would be cumbrous and expensive for the schools. It was open to the Education Department to avail themselves of the services of these 857 auditors, if they thought that the most convenient plan. All they pleaded for was that the Department should not be tied down to that method alone of dealing with the audits of the accounts of Voluntary Schools. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, during his term of office, passed a very useful Act, in 1893, for the elementary education of blind and deaf children, in which it was laid down that the accounts should be audited annually, either by a chartered accountant, a banker, a bank manager, or a professional auditor; and the Education Department was given the same licence in this case, and would probably adopt a similar course to that adopted in regard to the Act of the right hon. Gentleman. He believed that system had worked extremely well and cheaply, and he certainly deprecated forcing upon the Education Department a system which would certainly not be better than any they were likely to adopt, and which might, on the other band, throw unnecessary expense on the schools and prove cumbrous in working.
§ MR. ACLAND
said the right hon. Gentleman had stated that the system now proposed would be cumbrous and expensive, but why did he not remember that last year? The words of the Amendment were the words which were agreed to by the Government last year in a Bill which gave the same special aid grant, only not quite so much its was given this year. Surely, when this great Government, after careful consideration, had brought in such a provision for all schools last year, it was reasonable to ask why they did not make the same provision in this Bill for Voluntary Schools alone? In his opinion it would give much more satisfaction if the Government would adopt their own words of last year. From time to time cases were brought before the Department where the entries had not been satisfactory, and where the accounts were not altogether in a proper state. Publicity was the one thing that would prevent that, and would also prevent, what was much more desirable, suspicions on the part of people in the villages and elsewhere, that the accounts were not in a thoroughly satisfactory state. Whatever provision was made, he was sure the Education Department would try to do their best.
§ MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said he should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would have been quite 858 willing to leave it to the Education Department to make the regulations. The Local Government Board were overwhelmed with work, and perhaps too many duties were thrown upon their auditors already. There was another reason for bringing the audit directly under the purview of an educational authority; what they wanted was not merely the production of vouchers to show that the money had been spent, but they wanted to secure that these additional sums given to the Voluntary Schools should be spent in the right way to attain educational efficiency. ["Hear, hear!"] The best way to do that was to enable the officer of the Education Department to see that these sums were spent in the right way.
§ MR. HENRY BROADHURST (Leicester)
said that they were discussing a proposed expenditure of £620,000 a year, which might, for all they knew, grow vastly under the control of the Government in the next few years, and they were asked to allow this money to be spent by irresponsible people, not one of whom would be properly elected, and who, therefore, would have no sense of public responsibility. All that was asked by the Amendment was that there should be some guarantee that these accounts should not be neglected in the future as they had been neglected in the past. It was his fortune or misfortune to be a member of five practically rural representative bodies, the accounts of which were all subjected to the audit of the Local Government Board, and he could assure the Committee that there was no greater power to secure the proper expenditure of public money than the fear what the Local Government 'Board auditor would say when he next came round. They did not require in those local bodies any champions of retrenchment and reform in the sense that they were necessary in this House, because of the dreaded visit, and the properly dreaded visit, of this public functionary, who was subject to no local influence, but who came there as the representative of the central Government and who discharged his duty in a manner which only those who saw it done could appraise it at its proper worth. The hon. Member who had just spoken had expressed a fear that these officers would be unable to meet an increase in their duties. He did not think that that 859 was a point that the Committee ought to consider. The amount of work would be exceedingly small, because those auditors were highly trained, scientific men, and they got through their work with marvelous rapidity and with extraordinary accuracy. All that was asked was that those independent Government officials should be appointed to give to the nation, because the whole nation was interested in the matter, information as to how this public money was expended. If the First Lord of the Treasury could not accept the whole of the Amendment, he might at least give them some hope that at a later stage of the Bill, and in another place, he would have an Amendment, introduced which would secure the super-vision, if not of the Local Government Board auditors, at least of some accountant of such standing in his profession as would give satisfaction to the tax payers of the country.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I read out the regulation that had been passed under the Act of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rotherham, which seemed to me to meet the hon. Gentleman's point.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said that it did not meet his point, because the words were too indefinite. He believed the country would demand that there should be some assurance given that this money would be expended under proper super-vision and control.
§ COLONEL MILWARD (Warwick, Strat-upon-Avon)
said he did not complain that the hon. Member for Carnarvon should bring forward this Amendment, though he thought the hon. Gentleman had done so with unnecessary vehemence, and with but slight acquaintance with the facts of the case. ["Hear, hear!"] He indignantly denied, on the part of many school managers, that their accounts were bogus or cooked. ["Hear, hear!"] He said, moreover, that the school managers courted the very investigation that the hon. Gentleman desired. ["Hear, hear!"] They had nothing to hide in the matter; their accounts were published, and if the present audit were not sufficient the managers were quite willing that the accounts should be subjected to a further audit. ["Hear, hear!"] The only question was what form should the audit take. It had been suggested that it should take the form of a Local Government Board audit. 860 He thought, however, that a certain amount of elasticity should be left in the matter, as it was left in the Bill; for while the managers desired that there should be a full and complete audit of the accounts, they desired also that that audit should be made as economical as possible. They were not School Boards with unlimited resources behind them—["hear, hear!"]—and as this audit would be a first charge upon the money they received they were naturally anxious that it should cost as little as possible. He thought that if the accounts were sent to one common centre, and a considerable number of them investigated together, that would be sufficient to meet the demand for a full investigation, and have at the same time the advantage of being economical. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR JOHN GORST
said he did not know whether he could now speak as a lawyer, but it was his opinion that, taking the clause as it stood, "may" meant "shall." But, whether he could rely upon his legal reminiscences or not, he could assure the Committee that the Education Department would regard the "may" in the Bill as equivalent to a positive direction, and therefore if the clause were passed in the form in which it now stood the Education Department would institute an audit of the accounts of all the schools which received the special aid grant. ["Hear, hear!"] He would go a step farther and say that, if it were in accordance with the general wishes of the managers of the Voluntary Schools, the Education Department would make a universal audit of the school accounts throughout the country. ["Hear, hear!"] The only remaining point was whether the king of audit of those accounts should be left to the discretion of the Education Department, or whether Parliament should take upon itself to prescribe that the audit should be conducted by the district auditors. As a precedent in favour of leaving it to the discretion of the Education Department, there was the Blind and Deaf Children's Act of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rotherham. Under that Act the discretion was left to the Education Department, and, as his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury had pointed out, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rotherham had himself exercised that discretion. The district audit was a very effective 861 one, but it was sometimes a, very expensive one. ["Hear, hear!"] And there was no doubt that in the case of the small schools the cost of the audit by the district auditor would be out of proportion to the sums in question. He therefore thought it would be well if Parliament left to the Education Department a discretion in cases of that kind to cause the audit to be conducted by a chartered accountant or it professional accountant as an equivalent to the district audit. The Committee might depend upon it that if they passed the clause in its present shape there would be an audit of the accounts of every school which received any part of the grant; and, further, the Education Department would do its best to make the audit reasonable and effective.
§ SIR. JOHN MORLEY (Montrose Burghs)
said that it was it matter of great regret that the Vice President of the Council did not intervene in these discussions more frequently; because, when the right hon. Gentleman spoke, the Committee felt itself in the hands of a Minister who was thoroughly familiar with the details of the subject. [opposition cheers.] Between the language of the Vice President of the Council and the language of the First Lord of the Treasury there was all the difference between the language of an expert and that of an amateur. [Opposition cheers and Ministerial cries of "oh!"] The Vice President said that the Committee of Council would, in this case, undoubtedly construe "may" as "shall" If that were the case, what possible reason could induce the Government not to accept the Amendment? ["Hear, hear!"] About two years ago, when an Irish Bill that was before the House passed through Grand Committee without any Amendment, the present Leader of the House made a very energetic remonstrance on the Third Reading. The right hon. Gentleman then appealed to the sense of general probability in the House as to whether it were likely that the hon. Member for Louth, who drafted the Bill, had been the creature of verbal inspiration. He would ask the same question of the drafting of the present Bill. If the Government were proceeding in the ordinary way, there was no doubt that the Government would at once acquiesce in the 862 substitution of "shall" for "may." It was because this Bill was supposed to be the result of verbal inspiration that not one single Amendment had been accepted. [Opposition cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said that he should not pursue the controversy which the right hon. Gentleman had raised; but he would enter an emphatic contradiction to the suggestion that there was the slightest parallel between the action of a Grand Committee and the action of the Whole House. What he had complained of on the occasion referred to was, that if in a Bill referred to a Grand Committee there were no Amendments, the House as a whole never had an opportunity of discussing the details of the Bill. But, whatever else might be said of the proceedings on this Bill, it would not be said that the House as a whole had been deprived of an opportunity of discussing details. [Cheers and laughter.]
§ MR. J. MORLEY
said it was quite true that the right hon. Gentleman on the occasion referred to described the Bill before the Grand Committee as "a long, complicated, and controversial Measure," and this Bill was not long nor complicated. But no one could deny that it was controversial. There were points arising, which obviously necessitated differences of opinion, and many criticisms had been offered from the Ministerial side of the House. The words used by the right hon. Gentleman about the procedure on the Bill in Grand Committee were perfectly general, and would just as well apply to the present case. The right hon. Gentleman said:—After all, I will appeal to gentlemen who have some knowledge of Parliamentary practice and procedure, and I ask them whether, in the whole experience of Parliamentary life, they have ever known of a long, complicated, and controversial Measure, so perfect in all its details, so admirably drafted, and so completely covering the ground intended to be covered, that no Amendment, even of an adverb, was inserted in it? I have heard of verbal inspiration in another connection, but I never heard it asserted that any draftsman had verbal inspiration in the drafting of a Measure of local government.[Cheer.]
§ MR. GEORGE LAMBERT (Devon, South Molten)
said that the Bill would have had a better chance of being amended in a Grand Committee than in the House.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
I do not think that subject, ought to be proceeded with further. It is not really relevant.
§ MR. LAMBERT
said that in the Bill of last year these audits were made compulsory, but that Bill was introduced by the Vice President of the Council, who had now been superseded by a Minister who was not even a member of the Committee of Council. He would in this matter rather follow the lead of the hon. Member for Hornsey, who was a business man, than that of the First Lord of the Treasury. It was most essential that there should be an economic and efficient audit, involving a searching investigation where the expenditure of public money was concerned. The hon. Member for South West Warwickshire said that there was no evidence of these accounts having been cooked. In 1893 the right hon. Member for Rotherham, then Vice President, in answer to a Question, informed the House that the Vicar of Merton, who had died shortly before, had made a statement when dying that for some years he had falsified the school accounts, by attributing fictitious subscriptions to people with their consent.
§ MR. LAMBERT
said that it could not go on for years under a system of public audit. It was absolutely necessary in the spending of public money that the public should have the means of knowing that the money was spent as Parliament had intended. The best way to secure that, was to put the audit in the hands of practised men, with full knowledge of the case, like the district overseers.
MR BRYNMOR JONES (Swansea Boroughs)
submitted that Parliament could not do better than adapt the District Auditors Act, 1879, Which worked well for 17 or 18 years, and was perfectly understood by all who took part in local municipal life, to the case of the Voluntary Schools. It would be less expensive and more effective than the employment of a chartered accountant. As to the construction of the word "may" as distinguished from "shall," they had had no opinion from the Attorney General or the Solicitor General. In his opinion the word "may" gave a discretion to the Department. The word, as 864 applied to the functions of a public Department, had never been construed as of a directory or mandatory character, but as conferring a discretion.
§ SIR FRANK LOCKWOOD (York)
suggested that unless there was some objection to amending this Bill in any form, really the reasonable thing would be to substitute the word about which there could not be a shadow of doubt. There had been considerable discussion in the Courts of Law as to whether "may" does or does not mean "shall," but, as far as he knew, there had not been any general direction by the Courts that "may" was equivalent in all cases to "shall" The most recent case of which he had any present knowledge was one decided in 1873, where the question turned upon whether a local authority had power under an Act of Parliament to exempt a, ragged school from assessment to a rate, and Mr. Justice Blackburn, afterwards Lord Justice Blackburn, laid it down that the use of the words "may exempt" was intended to give a discretion to the rating authority. Therefore it was clear the two terms were not equivalent in all cases; and, on the point now under discussion, he was of opinion that they left a discretion to the Department.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir ROBERT FINLAY,) Inverness Burghs
observed that, in the case cited, it could not for a moment be said that there was any duty on the part of the rating authority to exempt the ragged school from assessment; the words were obviously merely permissive. But here no one could doubt that the Department, having this power conferred upon it, must regard it as its duty to exercise the power. The power was conferred for the purpose of seeing that the accounts were properly kept as one of the conditions of the school getting a share or the aid grant. Possibly a case might be so clear—as, if there was only one receipt on one side and one payment on the other—that obviously it would be unnecessary to go through the form of audit; but if there was a case for it, the duty of the Department would be to exercise the power. He would not lay it down broadly that "may" was always equivalent to "shall." He would remind his hon. and learned Friend of the philosopher who held that life and death were 865 the same. A young student came up to him and said, "Then why don't you kill yourself?" The philosopher replied, "Why should I? Life and death are the same." Where was the occasion to make any alteration here?
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
hardly thought the illustration of the Solicitor General a very happy one, and, indeed, if anything, it pointed in the direction of making the change. For his part he did not consider the verbal change important, but the Amendment was of immense importance. It was notorious that there had been fraud in the accounts of some, of these Voluntary Schools. Many hon. Menders had spoken with the men who had committed those frauds, and were familiar with the fact that the accounts had been patched up. The only defence of the Government for this, new departure was that the ordinary audit would be too costly, particularly in the case of Small schools. In the Bill conducted by the late President of the Local Government Board, the audit by the district auditor of the accounts the parish council and parish meeting, however small the number of inhabitants, was provided for. Parishes, however small, had their accounts audited in this way because it was the cheapest and most effective method. In fact it was the only real audit of public accounts in the country which could he said to exist. Why, then, not insert a similar provision in this Bill, instead of the intangible audit depending entirely on the will of the Education Department?
§ MR. ALBERT SPICER (Monmouth Boroughs)
pleaded in support of the Amendment that it Was all-important to keep up similarity of procedure with regard to the auditing of accounts in Voluntary Schools and Board Schools. As a member of a School Board, he could testify to the good service rendered certain points raised by the auditor of the Local Government Board. It was important that the auditors of accounts of School Boards should also come into contact with the accounts of the Voluntary Schools. The Committee ought not to set up more barriers that would make it more difficult to institute really satisfactory system of national education suited to all classes. If this Amendment Were not adopted, there would be two 866 different sets of audits and different systems as well. He therefore hoped that the Government would yield in the matter.
MR. HUMPRREYS-OWEN (Montgomery)
said that the real reason of the difficulty of the Committee was that they assumed the Voluntary Schools to be voluntary organisations which existed solely for the purpose of giving education, and that the Government aided so far as it could. No doubt that was the case 40 or 50 years ago, but now circumstances had altered. They were merely one of the means of educating the whole people, and the result was that where the State provided nearly the whole of the money State control should necessarily follow. The Committee was now seeking to impose on the Voluntary Schools a State control which was the necessary result of their being intrusted with a Considerable amount of State money. They did not charge the whole of the School managers with framing bogus accounts; in the majority of eases the work was well done, and the money was honestly spent. But it was necessary to take precautions that the money should be properly expended in all cases. Evidence of this was to he found in the "Hints circulated by the Huddersfield and Saddleworth Church and Day Schools Association." These were given in the final Report of the Elementary Education Commissioners (1888) pp. 339-340:—5. As much as possible the scholars should be encouraged to purchase their own school requisites either of the managers or their deputy, the head teacher. The amount returned front the sale of school material may be reckoned as income.8. All accounts for the purchase of school materials should be paid in full, and the discounts received should be entered as items of income.10. When the managers provide a residence for the teacher, the latter should pay a, rent for the same, and their salaries be correspondingly increased.11. All necessary work performed gratuitously on behalf of the school, or gifts in kind, should be paid for, and the amounts returned as donations.And the minority Commissioners say,In the absence of art official audit and full publicity of accounts, it is possible to charge an apparently high salary as paid to the teacher, and to enter on the side of the receipts a subscription to the school representing the difference between the real and the nominal salary. It is said that teachers have sometimes signed receipts for salaries larger than they 867 have received. If managers are tempted to commit such frauds they may easily, while the accounts remain unpublished and unaudited, deceive the inspector, who has little time or inclination to examine the accounts minutely. We desire not merely that the accounts of Voluntary Schools should be subject to an independent public audit, but we think they should also be made public in the locality.As to the difference between "may" and "shall," he said it was very bad drafting not to use words which expressed the meaning completely. Something had been said about the efficiency of posting accounts on the church door. He knew a Voluntary School which was carried on in a little chapel-of-ease on the side of a Welsh hill. What satisfaction could such a posting of accounts be to the general ratepayers of the parish? Half of them did not go to the chapel at all. The only safeguard which the parishioners had was the knowledge that the accounts were not merely to be audited by the managers of schools, but that they were to be audited by an external person of responsibility, and were accessible at all reasonable times at some public place. He hoped that the Government would not show that they appeared to shirk the audit. For what purpose could they wish to screen misdeeds of this kind and to foster the contempt shown by certain managers of anything like popular control?
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said he desired to point out that the district auditor had now to audit the accounts of every parish in England and Wales. Practically, therefore, the machinery was at hand, and there was no cheaper audit. When he was at the Local Government Board he thought that the fees were much too low, and he thought that higher fees ought to be charged. This audit would be short, simple, and effective, would be guided by uniform rules, and would give satisfaction to the public. If the Vice President would say it should be a real and effective audit by the district auditor the difficulties of the position would be considerably alleviated. He was sure the First Lord of the Treasury would fully admit that under the Bill the bulk of the funds by which Voluntary Schools were supported would be received from public sources. When the rate and the 17s. 6d. limit were removed there would be altogether the equivalent of 30s or 35s. paid for every child in a public Voluntary School, and surely the public 868 had a right to know that the money was properly spent. At the present time 9d. out of every 1s. spent came from public funds, and practically the effect of the Bill would be to make the proportion 10d. out of the 1s. Surely the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the guardian of the public purse, would see the importance of an official audit? It should not be left haphazard to the chance opinion of well-meaning men, who might have strange financial views as to the disposal of other people's money. To secure public confidence it was desirable there should be an effective audit, and he invited the Vice President or the First Lord to give some indication of what would be the guiding principle of such an audit.
§ SIR J. GORST
said the Committee might be assured that the Education Department would have an efficient, effective audit. He had been asked to give a pledge that, as a, rule, the audit should be carried out by the district auditor, and he should be very much inclined to do that were it not for the fact that his predecessor in office, on 28th January, 1895, which, of course, was after the passing of the Parish Councils Act, came to the conclusion that the accounts of schools under the Blind and Deaf Children Act—schools not under School Boards, but under charitable management—should be audited by a chartered accountant, a banker; a bank manager, or a professional auditor. In the face of such a decision taken by his predecessor he did not like to pledge himself without further consideration to an audit conducted by the district auditor. He would undertake that the question of audit should be very carefully considered. The Department had no other object than to have an audit at once efficient and as little burdensome to the schools as possible, and if the district auditor would be cheap that would naturally be the auditor the Department would choose.
§ MR. ACLAND
said, so far as any previous action of his was a stumbling-block in the way of the Vice President, and if it was what he had done in 1895 prevented the right hon. Gentleman from giving the pledge, he would be happy to confess that he very likely made an error in 1895. [Laughter.] He was quite ready to remove that stumbling-block and difficulty out of the right hon. Gentleman's way. He might also point out 869 the difference between the simple accounts of a hundred Board Schools and the accounts of 14,000 Voluntary Schools, which should all be arranged on a uniform system.
§ MR. W. WOODALL (Hanley)
appealed to the Vice President to accept the encouragement of the Committee, and to disregard the comparatively small matter concerned in the Blind and Deaf Schools precedent. The discussion had made clear the desire for an intelligent, uniform, and thoroughly efficient audit. He just mentioned the fact that these school buildings were used not merely for educational purposes, but in many cases as Sunday schools, mission halls, village clubs, and for a number of purposes, and without intention the money might be misused if accounts were not overhauled by an expert auditor accustomed to a regular method of public accounts. The statement of his right hon. Friend left the Government no excuse, and he urged the Vice President to go a step farther and promise a reliable audit by the district Local Government Board auditor.
§ MR. EDWARD STRACHEY (Somerset, S.)
could not understand, if the Government were quite ready to admit there must be efficient audit, why there should be any objection to declaring as much in the Act. The Legislature had thought fit to submit the accounts of Board Schools in rural districts to effective audit, and equally should the funds granted to Voluntary Schools have this safeguard. There should be a statutory audit just as there was in the case of School Board funds derived from public sources, and the auditor should have the same powers to surcharge.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 217; Noes, 97.—(Division List, No. 123.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That Sub-section (6) stand part of the clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 230; Noes, 100.—(Division List, No. 124.)
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, after the usual interval,870
§ MR. J. H. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
moved, at the end of Sub-section (6) after the word "Department," to insert:—Provided that it shall be the duty of the auditor to disallow any payments for rent, cleaning, warming, or lighting of the school buildings, or for any of these, as are not reasonable and wholly and fairly incurred during or in connection with the use of the premises as a public elementary day school, to disallow any expenditure on Salaries and wages not wholly in payment for services rendered in public elementary day schools, and to surcharge any person liable by law to be surcharged with any sum of money which is considered by the auditor to have been unreasonably or improperly so expended.He said that the object of the Amendment was not to decide who the auditor should be, but with what powers he should be armed, and that the auditor, whoever he might be, should have power to decide whether the amounts charged in the school accounts were of a reasonable and fair nature. The House had already decided that there should be no representative management of Voluntary Schools, which would in itself have been a safeguard against the misappropriation of public money, and the only way in which that could now be secured was by giving the auditor the powers proposed in the Amendment. At the present moment, irrespective of the aid grant, the grant paid to Voluntary Schools was to some extent misappropriated, through large sums being charged by the managers as rent, which in many cases were out of all proportion to the occupation of the premises for something like 26 hours in the week. In one case a school in the North of England, which consisted of 950 children, and which received from the State £1,398, the school expenditure upon furniture, rent, rates, fuel, and lighting, was returned as £965, that was to say that 25s. 9d. per head was spent on the education of the children, and 20s. 2d. per head upon the items he had named. Take the question of furniture and apparatus. He held in his hand a copy of balance sheet for the year ending April 1896, of a Voluntary School. It was not a Church of England Voluntary School, and he did not wish to suggest that this kind of thing was peculiar to one denomination. He found in the items of expenditure a sum of £77 was entered for 871 books, apparatus, and stationery, and a sum of £26 for furniture and repairs, and he was informed on the best authority that out of this total sum of £103 a very considerable portion represented charges on account, not of the day school, but of the Sunday school, and of meetings held in connection with the place of worship. He found also upon the same account—and he did not bring this forward as at all the most serious or extreme instance he could bring forward—that a rent of £76 was charged for this school. The total voluntary contributions to the school were £5 5s., so that nearly all this £76 was taken away from the school in the shape of rent and paid to the denomination with which the school was connected. In addition to that there was a charge for fuel, lighting, and cleaning of —68. He had no doubt that in this as in many other cases, that charge included payments for fuel, lighting, and cleaning of the premises for purposes other than those of the day school. There were cases in which payments were put on the per contra side. He had on a previous occasion mentioned the case in which an evening continuation school, to meeting 20 times per year, paid —20 towards the cost of the fuel, lighting, and cleaning in the day schools account, while the Sunday school, whose numbers were ten times as large as those of the evening continuation school, and met 104 times a year, paid not —20 but £5 a year towards the cost which was charged on the day schools account. He would mention a few other examples, which he could multiply indefinitely, of the way in which, as the income of Voluntary Schools increased these charges increased also, not because the actual cost increased, but because the income was enabled to bear an additional charge. He took the case of a northern Voluntary School, where the rent in 1885 was £250 a year, and in 1895 it had gone up to £350 a year, although the premises were no larger. The intention of the State was that the income of the school should be spent on education and not on the payment of an enlarged rent to the trustees or owners of the property in connection with which the school was established. He was quite aware that, as things had stood in the past, frequently the sums charged on the one side as rent had been returned wholly 872 or in part on the other side of the account as voluntary contributions, and he knew that that had been done in view of the operation of the 17s. 6d. limit. But this limit was now to be abolished, and in future there would be no incentive, and certainly no compulsion, on managers or the trustees of property in connection with which the schools were held, to return to the income of those schools as subscriptions the income they drew from the schools as a charge for rent. Unless they empowered the auditor to decide whether, in the case of any given school, rent ought to be charged, and if so, how much might fairly be charged, they would have sums, which had hitherto been charged as rent and returned to the schools as voluntary contributions, absolutely retained by the trustees or owners of the property in connection with which the school was established. Then there was the case of another northern Voluntary School, in which there were no fees and no subscriptions whatever. There the rent charged was £100 per annum, and this was not returned to the school in the form of voluntary subscriptions, but was used to pay off the mortgage on the property. In anther case in which a rent of £125 was charged, the money was also used to defray the mortgage on the property. This was a means of irregularly borrowing from the State. The trustees of a place of worship decided to build a new building for their Sunday school. They borrowed money for that purpose, and they discovered that one of the best ways of paying off the mortgage was to open a day school in those premises, to charge rent for the day school, and to use the rent for paying off the mortgage debt on the property, and so, eventually, after a series of years, to pay for the building, which became the property of the denomination alone, and not in any sense the State's, almost entirely out of State funds provided for the day school and the day school alone. If a Voluntary School were held in trust for the purposes of education, no charge for rent could be made, but there were many Voluntary Schools not in trust, and it was in those schools where these charges were made. It seemed to him that, if it were unfair and improper for a school endowed or held in trust to have a rent charged against it, it was none the less improper that schools opened for educa- 873 tion, but not in trust, should have part of their income withdrawn for rent. It was not merely the question of rent, after all. It was question of fuel, lighting, and cleaning, and the cost of a caretaker. He would give the Committee the case of a Lancashire Voluntary School, where five years ago the charge returned to the Education Department for the apparitor of the school (the cleaner) and his expenses was £50. Two years later it had grown to £80; two years later still to £120; and last year it had gone up to £150. Though the same man did the same amount was abstracted year after year from the money given by the State for education purposes, and not for parochial purposes, proper in themselves, but over which the State had no control. He did not suggest that these things were done for the personal benefit of the managers of the schools. He was bound to say he knew very few cases indeed in which these abstractions of public money were used for private advantage by managers. But it was being done, and he did know of one case in which the whole of the books supplied to the manager's house and family, whether novels or newspapers, or magazines, were charged to the school book account. He knew that king of thing was rare, but it was not wholly unknown, and it was not wholly without the knowledge of the Education Department. His position was this—the Education Department had already that power to lay down the regulations for an audit which they were supposed to get by this Bill. They had at the present moment exactly the same power as this Bill proposed to give them with respect to the general income and expenditure. They had not in the past used it, and how inadequate and insufficient it had been was shown by the fact that these misappropriations of money in one way or another, upon one item of the accounts or another, did occur in scores and hundreds of cases. He believed the predecessor of the Vice President appointed some three or four years ago an official of the Education Department whose task it was to investigate the accounts of the schools. He would like the results of that investigation laid on the Table of the House in the form of a Parliamentary Paper. He only wished that could be done, for he imagined that the 874 revelations which would then be made public would be sufficient to more than establish his claim that they must do more than secure that there should be an audit, and that the auditor should be qualified for his work. They must give the auditor power to go behind the vouchers and say, "Here is a charge for rent. Is that charge wholly and fairly incurred for the use of the premises as a day school, or is it incurred for other purposes?" There was also the question of the payment of teachers for extraneous tasks. He wanted to acknowledge that the Department had been able under successive Ministries to take certain safeguards, and to strengthen the regulations in regard to this matter. The Vice President had, in the model agreement which he had place in the Code, done something to prevent in the future the kind of thing of which he was complaining. It was certainly the case that in many instances the fees paid to teachers for extraneous services were included in the salaries paid to them as masters and mistresses of their day schools, and there was no proper power in the auditor's hands to distinguish between the two and to cause the fees for the performance of parochial duties not connected with the school to be separated from the fees and salary paid in respect of the work as teachers in the school itself. He was quite aware that every member of the Committee was as opposed to this kind of thing as he was, and as anxious to prevent it in the future. It was for this reason that he wished to empower the Education Department to see that the auditor should have the power to disallow any payments for the purposes to which he had referred which he considered not to be reasonable and not wholly or fairly incurred in respect of the school itself. Unless the Government consented to something of this kind, and unless the Department in its regulations took care that this provision should be observed, then he ventured to foretell—and he spoke with some knowledge of the subject—that as of the present grant very large sums indeed were diverted from the use of the schools and the purposes of education, so of the special aid grant itself large sums would be diverted to purposes foreign to the purpose the Government had in view. It was for these reasons that he moved his Amendment.
SIR J. CORST
observed that the Amendment of the hon. Member was to insert in the Bill a statutory Instruction to the auditor. A very little consideration, however, would show him that such a statutory Instruction was wholly unnecessary, and would not be of any advantage in the audit of public accounts. The Education Department had already not only got the powers which the hon. Member said he was anxious to clothe them with, but they exercised those powers. ["Hear, hear!"] The accounts of the schools were rendered upon forms which were supplied to the managers, and one of the things prescribed in the form of accounts which the manager of every Voluntary School had to render, was that the expenditure which related jointly to day and Sunday schools should be divided between them in proportion to the number of hours per week which each had been used, and the salary entered must be the amount paid to each teacher for services as teacher, and must not include any sums paid to the teacher for any services in any other capacity. ["Hear, hear!" It would therefore be seen that the auditor who was appointed by the Education Department—even if things were to go no farther than the present regulations—would be bound to see that the charges rendered for rent, cleaning, warming, or lighting, were properly divided between the Sunday and day schools, or any other purpose for which the school had been open, and would be obliged to see that the salaries entered as paid to teachers were actually paid to them for their services as teachers and not for being organists, secretaries of clubs in the villages, or any other purpose. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought the Committee would see that, if the effective audit were carried out in future which he had promised, it was quite clear the auditor who was appointed by the Education Department would, so far as an auditor could do so, secure that the accounts were proper accounts, and would, without any instruction in an Act of Parliament, carry out the purpose which the hon. Member desired to see effected. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
thought his hon. Friend was well advised in raising the matter in the form he had done. They had received a most important declaration from the Vice 876 President of the Council—whose participation in the Debates they most cordially welcomed—who, he understood, said that when the Bill passed, and when this audit was applied to Voluntary Schools, the instructions of the Department would insure that the audit was an effective one, so that the irregularities to which reference had been made might not occur in the future. If that were so, he thought his hon. Friend had attained the purpose he had in view.
§ MR. ERNEST GRAY (West Ham, N.)
asked if, under the improved form of audit which he understood the Vice President had promised should be carried out by the Department, it would be possible for the auditor to determine whether the amounts set out in the vouchers submitted to him were of a reasonable character or not? If the auditor had not that power, then these irregularities would undoubtedly continue. He admitted that at present the auditors received full vouchers and statements of accounts, but there was no power to get behind the vouchers to determine whether the amounts had been actually expended or whether they were reasonable. He knew from his own personal knowledge that the matter of rent had in many instances led to very gross abuse on the part of the managers of certain schools. They had held that the charges made for rent had not been reasonable, but he always understood the attitude of the Department had been that the vouchers stated the amounts had been paid, and that they could not go behind the vouchers. Under the new system would the auditor have the power of stopping unreasonable charges although vouchers might be presented? In proof of the fact that, although vouchers were presented, irregularities might and did occur, he mentioned that six or seven years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dartford was at the head of the Education Department, he had the advantage of drawing his attention to a case in which duplicate receipts had been given by one person for five years to the Local Government Board and the Education Department at the same time; so that the State was paying over money to the schools and the two State Departments were receiving duplicate vouchers for the same expenditure of money. It was not only a gross irregularity, but the schools lost large sums of money year 877 after year. He was anxious that that sort of thing should be completely stopped, because, if not, the greater the amount of money that was given to the schools, the greater would be the irregularity. While it might not be advisable, after the statement of the Vice President, to press the Amendment to a Division, if it were so pressed he should vote for it, because he felt that every effort must be made by the House to see that the Votes of the House were rigidly carried into effect, and money voted for educational purposes was not expended in any other direction. If the right hon. Gentleman could assure them that the auditors could go behind the vouchers to determine whether the expenditure was of a reasonable or unreasonable character, then he thought what the hon. Member for Nottingham desired by his Amendment would be effected.
§ SIR J. GORST
replied that no doubt it would be the duty of the auditor to call attention to any claim that was not really a bonâ fide claim for educational purposes, and it would then be the duty of the Education Department to deal with the case of that particular school.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGG (York, W.R., Keighley)
considered that up to the present time the examination of the accounts of the Voluntary Schools had not been of an effective character. Under the Bill they had a possibility of making the audit effective, and he thought they were justified in asking that there should be the same examination into the accounts of the Voluntary Schools as had hitherto existed in reference to the Board Schools. His complaint was that, while they had a mode of audit granted to them, there was no definite form laid down as to how that method of audit should be conducted. What was desired was that there should be an audit on the same principle as when they were dealing with accounts of a similar kind. He thought the district auditor should be the official charged with the duty of auditing the accounts, and then it would, in his opinion, be impossible for the irregularities to again occur to which reference had been made. The present mode of dealing with this matter was very unsatisfactory, and he trusted it would be remedied by the adoption of the Amendment.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
asked the Vice President of the Council if the Education Department 878 would have any power to impose penalties upon any person who was found, on the auditing of the accounts, to have committed any irregularities?
§ MR. LEWIS
hoped the Vice President would see that in some form or other the school accounts were satisfactorily audited. But they could not be properly audited unless the auditor had power to put test questions as to documents submitted to him; otherwise he would be obliged to take those supplied to him without question.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
said it should be well understood that no Member on the Ministerial side had any sympathy with the kind of irregularities to which attention had been drawn. He asked the Vice President of the Committee of Council to explain what powers the auditors really possessed, and whether, if the auditor found any suspicions of irregularity, he would have power to inquire into it and make a Report to the Education Department?
§ SIR J. GORST
replied that if the auditor noticed any payment that was exorbitant or unreasonable he could call the attention of the Department to it, and further inquiries would be made. If he found that the managers of a school were defrauding the public revenue by making sham payments, it would be their duty to cut off the grant as the most effectual way of putting a stop to such irregularities.
§ MR. YOXALL
said the reply Of the Vice President had been so satisfactory that he would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. LEONARD COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
, on behalf of the hon. Member for East Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse), who was temporarily absent, moved at the end of Sub-section (6) to insert the words:—The Education Department may appoint one of their officers to attend the meetings of the governing body of any association formed under this section, but such officer shall not have a right to vote.The local inspector's knowledge of the schools in the country would be of extreme value and importance to the governing bodies of the associations, and he 879 would bring to their deliberations knowledge which they would not otherwise have. It would be the duty of the governing bodies to examine the wants and circumstances of each school in the association and to determine by comparison of the needs of the different schools which most deserved assistance. The local inspector would bring that comparative knowledge in the most authoritative manner before the members of the governing bodies, and they could not have a better adviser or informer.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE
said there were many precedents which encouraged the Committee to make the provision his Amendment suggested in the Bill. One occurred in the Welsh Intermediate Education Act. In that case the arrangement had worked extremely well, having removed the chance of friction between the county authority and the central department. There was a similar proposal in the Education Bill of last year, although that Bill was not on all fours with this. It was most advisable that the central authority should come into direct contact with the local authority, as it would if the proposal in the Amendment were carried out. It would save time and friction, and be of great practical assistance to the associations and to the Education Department.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said he sympathised with the object of the Amendment, but he thought it would be sufficiently carried out by the Bill as it stood. He believed in most, if not all, cases of the kind mentioned as precedents by his hon. Friend the bodies had executive functions over which a power of supervision was given to the Education Department. [Mr. HERBERT LEWIS: "Not in all"] Then in a large number. He himself looked forward with confidence to the harmonious co-operation of the associations with the Education Department. He rather doubted whether the proposal of his right hon. Friend would produce that harmonious co-operation without which the associations would not work so satisfactorily as they should. Probably in all cases the inspector would be present with the association and would take cognisance of what was done by the associations, but if they were to suppose what he thought the impossible, and what everybody thought the highly improbable, case of an association persist- 880 ently refusing to admit into their conference an inspector of the Department which, after all, had the power of refusing every one of their decisions, then he thought there would be strong ground of suspicion on the part of the Department that things were being done in the association which would not bear the light. Let the Committee remember that in one sense these associations were the creatures of the Department—in the sense that the Department could cease to approve of them. The Department was not only required to sanction their coming into existence, but if an association misbehaved itself it was in the power of the Department to withdraw its approval, when ipso facto the association stood dissolved. Surely that was sufficient power to give to the Department without this unnecessary additional piece of coercion. Everything ought to be done by them in the Bill to make these associations, called into existence voluntarily, retain their voluntary character as far as might be. While he believed, as a matter of fact, that the inspector of the Department would really be cognisant of all that was done by the associations and would work in harmony with them, he thought it might savour of undue interference on the part of the Department if they were, on the face of the Bill, to give the compulsory powers which his right hon. Friend asked for.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said that Sub-section (3) of the clause provided thatif 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," etc.There the Education Department might withdraw its approval at any time.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said these words could clearly never be taken to mean that an association should admit to its body an assessor from the Education Department.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
thought his noble Friend misunderstood him. He was disposed to agree that the words 881 would not carry the right to insist that there should be an assessor, but if the Department had reason to suppose that the machinery of the association was being put to an improper purpose, he apprehended it would be perfectly within the power of the Department to withdraw its approval.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said he did not think that was all explanation which absolutely carried conviction to their minds. [Opposition cheers.] He did not think the Department would take that line, but it was more material to consider whether there was an object in having an assessor of the Department on these associations. The associations would have a great many difficult things to do, they would have to draw these schemes under which the money was to be paid to the individual schools, and these schemes must be subject to a number of elaborate rules, as to what necessitous meant, as to due regard being had to the maintenance of subscriptions, and how endowments were to be treated. As these were matters of the greatest difficulty and complexity, he thought the simpler method would be to have an assessor from the Education Department sitting with the association, who could explain to them in detail what the real views of the Department were. He felt convinced that his hon. and learned Friend would not insist that the Education Department had any power to withdraw the approval it had granted to an association, except on the conditions stated in the clause, and so long as it was administered in conformity with the Act.
§ MR. J. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said that, whether the Bill were called vague or elastic, it was clear that the associations would have to make up their minds on many questions of great difficulty, and it would be a great advantage to them if an experienced representative of the Department were present. Moreover, when the Department had in the last resort to examine these schemes their assessors would then be able to explain what were the principles on which the associations had drawn them up, which would be a gain to the Department. There existed, rightly or wrongly, a good deal of apprehension about the associations in the minds of many managers of Voluntary Schools, and also among the clergy. The apprehension was that these associations would tend to fall into the hands of a 882 small number of persons, and would tend to become arbitrary in their methods in the endeavour to introduce uniformity. It would very much reassure the managers if they knew that there would be a representative of the Department present. He would call the attention of the Committee lastly to the fact that this was exactly the line of the recommendations of two Royal Commissions. As far back as 1868 the Royal Commission on the Schools inquiry recommended that there should be an efficient district Commissioner, who should have an educational seat on every one of the district Boards.
§ MR. WILLIAM AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)
said that the Amendment, however well intended, was really calculated to do mischief. He quite agreed that it was important that the associations should have the assistance and the advice of some officer from the Education Department now and then, when some difficult question arose; but if such officer had the right to be always present at meetings of the associations he would become a sort of spy upon the associations; and, what was worse, it would tend to destroy the independence of the associations, because the members would be afraid to go against the opinion of the officer of the Education Department, and they would justify any determination they might come to in any matter by saying that it had the sanction of the representative of the Department.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said that under Sub-section (4) the money allotted to each association must be distributed in accordance with the scheme prepared by that association, and approved by the Education Department. That meant that the money could not be distributed unless on a scheme sanctioned by both the association and the Department. Surely, then, it was most desirable that steps should be taken to bring about that essential agreement between the association and the Department, and he could see no better agency for that purpose than the presence of an official of the Department at meetings of the association held to prepare a scheme.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said that the scheme of an association did not meet with the approval of the Department, the money would be distributed by the Department.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
doubted whether that could be done. In his opinion, 883 reading Sub-section (4), the money must be distributed according to the scheme drawn up by the association and sanctioned by the Education Department. Therefore it would be necessary to have an officer of the Department present at the meetings of the association, with a view to bring about that essential agreement.
§ MR. GRAY
was glad to hear the assurance that the Education Department would have the power to withdraw its approval from any association that was not satisfactorily conducted. In regard to the Amendment, he would point out that he believed it was contrary to the practice and traditions of the Education Department that its inspectors should appear to interfere in the slightest way with the management of the schools, or that they should ever attend the managers' meetings. Therefore, unless some power were given, either in the Act or by a public instruction of the Department, the inspector would never think of associating himself with an association, and the association would never think of inviting the inspector to attend their meetings. Power was given under the Technical Instruction Act to local technical instruction committees to co-operate with the inspector of schools for the district, and they often found him a most useful member. If that precedent were followed in the present case, if the inspector were allowed to associate himself with the association, it would tend to rapidity and economy the construction of schemes.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS
said that the presence of the educational assessors on the Welsh intermediate education bodies during the past seven years was most valuable. Those gentlemen were educationists of great skill and practical experience, with a thorough knowledge of the laws relating to education, and the great benefits which had accrued to the cause of education in Wales through the presence of those gentlemen on the bodies ought to induce the Committee to accept the Amendment. These associations would be new to their work, and he thought that the presence of an official from the Education Department at their meetings was necessary, not only in the interest of the associations, but of the Department itself. The associations would not be able to meet frequently, they would have to communicate 884 constantly with the Education Department, and it would be utterly impossible for them to carry out the regulations, however clear they were, with that full knowledge of the views of the Department which was so essential. He resented the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Harrow that these officials would be spies in any sense or form. In them the associations would find important and valuable auxiliaries.
§ MR. JEBB (Cambridge University)
said that while he fully appreciated the value of guidance of the associations from the Education Department, he felt very strongly that the presence of an official representative of the Education Department when the associations were engaged in framing schemes would tend to restrict the free initiation of the associations, and that, therefore, the schemes would come before the body which was charged with the ultimate revision, already prejudged from an official point of view.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that the First Lord of the Treasury, in declining to accept the Amendment, raised a very important point. The right hon. Gentleman said that if the proceedings of the associations were such as not to commend their work to the Education Department, the Department would have the right to dissolve the associations. Was that so or was it not? He asked the Solicitor General to point out a single section, subsection, or syllable in the Bill which entitled the Department to dissolve an association.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said he quite agreed with the view of his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury. The approval of the Department was necessary in the first instance to the manner of the constitution of the area and of the governing body. He understood the hon. Member for Carnarvon was of opinion that even if an association were guilty of gross misconduct, the Education Department would not be at liberty to withdraw their approval. Such a view as that did not commend itself to common sense, and would not commend itself to any court of law.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said that if an association misconducted itself, of course the Department would be able to take the fact into account—[Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE: "Where is the power?"]—as to 885 whether they should or not continue their approval. The persistent refusal to allow an inspector to attend when his presence would be desirable would be one element to be taken into account.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
thought that it would be well that an association might be able to invite one of the officers of the Education Department to attend a meeting. It was, however, another matter altogether to say that the Education Department might order one of their officers to attend. Words might advantageously be inserted in the clause providing that an officer would attend, if it were desired by an association that he should attend.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
It understood the First Lord of the Treasury objected to the presence of inspectors of the Education Department at meetings of associations on the ground that the Education Department would have ample power over the association, and that if an association acted in disregard of the view of the Department, the Department would withhold the grant, and, ipso facto, the association would be dissolved. He agreed with the construction which the First Lord of the Treasury placed upon the words of the clause in this respect. The words of the clause were:—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—while so approved by the Education Department. Therefore the association was not a permanent body which was to have allotted to it money totally independent of the Education Department. When they came to Sub-section (4), they found the words:—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.That meant that the Department might at one time approve and at another time disapprove. He thought power was completely reserved to the Department to deal with an association as they thought proper. If the Education Department had not that power, where would be the responsibility to Parliament? As to the presence of an inspector at meetings of an association, the hon. and learned 886 Member for Harrow appeared to think that that would he an entirely new departure, and that it would be a very dangerous subordination of the authority of the local association to the central Department. The hon. and learned Gentleman must have forgotten the administration of the Poor Law, in pursuance of which an inspector of the Local Government Board attended meetings of boards of guardians when important questions were to be discussed. There was nothing novel in the present suggestion. It was not only linking the authority of the Department with the local authority of the association, and there was nothing which would tend more to promote that uniformity of principle throughout the whole kingdom than the presence of inspectors would secure at the meetings of the associations.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
asked whether there was any process by which, if the Department made a mistake, they could be called to account?
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 266; Noes, 111.—(Division List, No. 125.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 119; Noes, 263.—(Division List, No. 126.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I claim to move "That the Question, 'That Clause I stand part of the Bill,' be now put." [Ministerial cheers and Opposition cries of "Oh, oh!" and "Gag."]
§ Question put, "That the Question 'That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill' be now put."
§ The Committee divided: —Ayes, 259;,Noes, 112.—(Division List, No. 127.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 279; Noes, 107.—(Division List, No. 128.)887
§ Clause 2,—
§ REPEAL OF 17s. 6D. LIMIT IN S. 19 OF 39 AND 40 VICT. C. 79, AS RESPECTS DAY SCHOOLS IN ENGLAND AND WALES.
2. "After the last day of March, one thousand hundred and ninety-seven, the following words in section nineteen of the Elementary Education Act, 1876, namely, 'such grants shall not in any year be reduced by reason of its excess above the income of the school if the grant do not exceed the amount of seventeen shillings and sixpence per child in average attendance at the school during that year, but shall not exceed that amount per child, except by the same sum by which the income of the school derived from voluntary contributions, rates, school fees, endowments, or any source whatever other than the Parliamentary grant, exceeds the said amount per child, and,' shall be repealed so far as they apply to day schools in England and Wales."
§ Whereupon Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again "— (Sir Henry Fowler)—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again TO-morrow.