HC Deb 02 August 1899 vol 75 cc1146-9

As amended, considered.

MR. E. FLOWER (Bradford, W.)

I desire to call the attention of the House to a new departure in connection with this Bill, and I will ask the Vice-President for some expression of opinion as to the course which has been pursued. A very extraordinary proceeding was adopted by the London School Board in the case of the Netley Street Schools in St. Pancras. In the immediate vicinity of these schools there is a very large and flourishing Church school, and before the School Board proceeded with the scheme for the enlargement of the Netley Street Schools, they instructed the visitors, who are the attendance officers of the Board, to make a house-to-house canvass of the parents of the children attending the Church schools. I venture to think that that was an exceedingly improper and probably an illegal course to have taken. The visitors are officers appointed to secure the attendance of children at Board and Voluntary schools alike, and it can only be regarded as a serious abuse of authority that they should be taken away from their proper duties to take part in a partisan canvass of this character. I maintain that those officers were deliberately taken away from their duties to participate in this party canvass, and to use information obtained for a totally different purpose, in order to carry out the policy of the School Board. I hope we shall have from the Vice-President a very candid opinion as to these tactics. I do not think they are conducive to the interests of education, or that they are legal, and I trust that the Education Department will take steps to prevent their recurrence. The only other matter to which I desire to direct the attention of the Vice-President is with regard to the accommodation in the Voluntary schools. A great many of the schools in this Bill calculate their accommodation upon what is known as the ten-foot basis. I wish to know whether the School Board is acting under the sanction of the Education Department in enlarging those schools upon that basis without reckoning the accommodation in neighbouring Voluntary schools. I know that in the minds of many members of the School Board for London there is a doubt as to the action that would be taken by the Department, and it is very desirable that there should be an understanding. I do not desire to prevent the passing of this Bill, and I only rise to draw attention to the two points I have mentioned.

MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal, Green, S. W.)

I desire to call attention to another aspect of this Bill. Attention has been called to the action of the London School Board in vastly increasing the enormous difficulty of the housing problem in London by taking possession of working-class dwellings without making any accommodation for their occupants elsewhere. The Board is under statutory obligation to provide accommodation elsewhere if they take more than twenty houses, but they directly evade that obligation by breaking up what is practically one scheme into a number of parts, no one of which would involve the taking of twenty houses, thereby escaping the obligation laid on them by Parliament. As regards Bethnal Green, it has been proved to the satisfaction of the Home Secretary that that course has actually been followed by the London School Board. The Bill now before the House remedies that evil by the Amendment introduced yesterday, and I merely desire to explain that in consequence of the assurance given by the right hon. gentleman the Home Secretary I do not intend to move the Amendment that stands in my name, and I thank him on behalf of my constituency for his action.


In reply to the hon. Member for West Bradford, the Education Department have nothing to do with the proceedings of the London School Board attendance officers. I have no official knowledge of the matter he has mentioned. From what I have heard I think it is extremely improper, but the remedy is not with the Education Department; it rests mainly with the ratepayers if they disapprove of the action of the Board. With regard to the ten foot basis, the Education Department is not bound by the calculation of the London School Board. They calculate the number of school places in accordance with the provision in the Code, and enlargements are made, having regard not only to existing deficiency, but also to prospective deficiency. The Department acts in accordance with what is laid down in the Code, without any reference to the London School Board.

MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)

If the right hon. Gentleman will investigate the point raised by my hon. friend, he will find that there is more in it than he imagines. What I understand is that the London School Board, in calculating the amount of accommodation required, looks round to see what other school accommodation exists, and they cast their eyes on a number of Voluntary schools, for which they have no particular sympathy; and if the School Board takes an extravagant basis and calculates on it, and then puts the onus on the Voluntary schools of proving that they have a sufficient amount of accommodation, a deficiency at once arises. When the School Board approaches the Department with a case calculated on this basis, unless the Department is vigilant—


It is vigilant.


I am glad to hear it, but I think it is not as vigilant as it ought to be.

Objection being taken, further Proceeding on Consideration, as amended, stood adjourned.

Bill, as amended, to be further considered To-morrow.