§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. SPEAKER
There are three Instructions on the Paper referring to this Bill. The first Instruction is in the name of the hon. Member for the Morley Division of Yorkshire, who proposes to instruct the Committee to divide the Bill into two portions. The Bill empowers school boards to maintain certain schools out of the school fund, subject to the sanction of the local authorities and the conditions they impose. What the hon. Member proposes is that the permission to school boards to maintain the schools shall be put into one Bill, and the sanctions and conditions of the local authorities into another. In order that an Instruction of this kind should be permitted, the Bill must be one which lends itself naturally to the division. It appears to me obvious that this Bill does not lend itself to the proposed division. On the contrary, the two objects of the Bill are made dependent one on another. The Instruction is, therefore, out of order. The next Instruction, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Brecknock, is out of order for the same reason. It is moreover too indefinite, and does not state what is to be included in each separate Bill. The next Instruction, standing in the name of the hon. Member for the Rugby Division of Warwickshire, is out of order because it is a mandatory Instruction to a Committee of the Whole House. It would be out of order also if it were not mandatory.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ [Mr. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam) in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:—
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
The first Amendment is out of order. It is not 454 possible to postpone part of the clause. I therefore call on the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire to move the second Amendment.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
said he wished to move the omission of Sub-section 1. The Bill, with the exception of the small portion which dealt with the indemnity of school boards in respect of surcharges under the Cockerton judgment, raised the whole question which was discussed on the motion for Second Reading, and he would, therefore, have to deal with it on somewhat the same general grounds, although he might not perhaps advance exactly the same arguments. His objection to the central proposal of the Bill was that it really avoided the essential issue which was before the country, namely, the maintenance of a certain class of schools, irrespective of party or creed, in the form in which they now existed. Many of those who were prepared to consider favourably changes in their educational system, even those who were ready to consider such changes as might result eventually in the transfer of the powers of school boards to other local authorities, took the view of those who were challenging the policy of this Bill. There were several courses open to the Government in dealing with the issue raised by the Cockerton judgment. They might have made some attempt to dovetail the existing system of continuation schools into a system of intermediate schools, and thus to make a beginning with a true system of secondary education, and had they taken that course they might have gradually weeded out any imperfections and defects in the machinery and character of the existing schools. That was a solution the Government had entirely rejected. Next, they might have made the measure a real suspensory Bill, tiding over till next year or the year after the difficulty created by the Cockerton judgment, and giving the country and all who had the interest of education at heart an opportunity of considering some thoroughly adequate solution of the problem, and of arriving at a comprehensive scheme for the improvement of our educational system. The Government, however, had preferred to take 455 instead of either of these alternatives their present course—far and away the worst which it could possibly have taken. It was granted by all sane men that there was a serious risk to the continued existence and usefulness of these schools if the present system were rendered more complicated and more chaotic, as it would certainly be by this Bill. No one would deny that if they were to keep the schools on they should keep them in the most efficient form that they could. To run the risk of tearing the schools to pieces, and of having perhaps the best portion knocked out of them by the decision of another authority, without even the power of the Education Department to check mis-management—an authority not understanding the educational machinery—an authority which was, in fact, an inexpert authority, was to take the worst possible course. But the Government had adopted that policy in order, he supposed, to settle a question of principle and achieve what after all would be merely a forensic victory. This question was not to be settled by the forces which met together for drafting this little Bill. Bigger forces outside the walls of Parliament would eventually decide the question, and those who assumed that the Bill in its present form would ever achieve the object which it had in view, namely, the destruction of the school board system and the transfer of the control of our educational system from a directly-elected authority to an indirectly-elected and co-optative authority were reckoning without their hosts. Surely the natural course would have been to have had a simple suspensory Bill, and to have adjourned the main question to a subsequent session. The people of this country thoroughly understood a proposal to maintain the existing facilities until the wider aspect of the educational system could be fully considered, but they naturally viewed with profound suspicion and distrust what was obviously an attempt to carry out an educational revolution by stealth.
They could not discuss that Bill without having some regard to the whole policy of the Government, the successive steps they had taken, and especially the minutes and codes of 456 last year and this. He did not, of course, intend to put himself out of order by dealing with these wider questions, but his point was simply that the sub-section which they were now discussing made it incumbent on an authority which was inexpert and which had not been elected to deal with that educational problem to determine difficult and delicate problems. It was not even proposed to wait until they had another election of county councils or other authorities with the knowledge in the minds of the electors that they were asked to choose an authority to deal with the question. The county councils were asked to deal with the matter on the spur of the moment, and he ventured to suggest that it was a serious thing to attempt to transfer a complicated series of issues to the discretion of an authority not elected to decide these questions, and not having the necessary experience to enable them to arrive at a proper decision in regard to them. He would not deal in detail with the Minute recently issued, but he would point out what was perfectly within the knowledge of everyone who had even the most elementary experience of educational machinery—namely, that that Minute was full of pitfalls; that it was exceedingly difficult to judge at once all the results of it in various schools; and that the issue of this Minute must add enormously to the grave difficulty for an absolutely inexpert authority, without technical knowledge, to carry out a complicated series of decisions requiring full appreciation of all the facts. The County Council would be called upon to decide a question of the greatest possible difficulty—whether there was to be any demarcation between primary and secondary education at all, and if, so, where it was to be drawn. Here they were faced with a problem upon which even the greatest experts in the country had the most serious difficulty in arriving at a decision. Was it prudent to throw a question of that kind upon the county councils, which were elected to deal with questions of roads, sewage, sanitation, and lighting? It would be reckless mismanagement and misgovernment to do anything of the kind. There was also the question of overlapping. Was 457 that a question these bodies were able to deal with in a rational way? It was perfectly clear that it presented as grave difficulties as the question of the distinction between primary and secondary education. Did they expect that the county councils through committees would be able to deal instantly with the relative importance of the schemes and curricula of the different schools, and decide how much they would allow or would not allow? They were throwing a problem on the county councils upon which it was practically impossible for them to arrive at a decision. They would have to deal with questions of staff and expenditure, which involved considerations of every possible kind; and while he did not in the slightest degree underrate the value of their work in connection with the technical classes under their control, he said that to ask them on the spur of the moment to settle those questions on a week or two's notice was the culmination of insanity in a legislative proposal. It seemed to be supposed by some who had argued in favour of the Bill that the county councils in the exercise of their discretionary powers with regard to this new educational machinery would have the power of spending money in connection with those matters. He did not think they would have the power of spending any money except under the Technical Instruction Act. That money was practically forestalled.
He had read very carefully the educational press, not only from the point of view which he took, and with which he found himself logically identified in the course he had taken with regard to education, but also with regard to the contentions advanced on the other side, and he ventured to say they would not find, except in one or two extremely opinionated men, and those somewhat youthful and enthusiastic, anything like an attempt to deal with the difficulties which they had to face at the present time. They had heard a great deal of the character of the schools. The Vice-President had tried, unworthily and unjustly, to create a violent prejudice against the evening schools carried on by the London School Board and other school boards, because, for sooth, one of the attractions of the 458 schools was that they included dancing in the curricula as one of the recognised exercises. If it was bad advice that any attraction of this kind should be included in the evening schools, what would the House think of the position of Scotland in the matter? On 27th December last year Sir Henry Craik wrote to the school board of Dunfermline that the Board of Education saw no reason to object to the inclusion of dancing, that the extent to which it was carried was a matter primarily for the school board to decide, and that the Board of Education had no doubt the school board would pay careful attention to that. Mr. Sidney Webb, the greatest champion in London of the municipalisation of education, had, in a recent paper, justified the "organisation of pleasure in the polytechnics, with the object of attracting young people to technical education." He was not himself specially in favour of introducing attractions of that kind into education of any sort; he thought it would be better outside. But surely the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the other night was absolutely beside the point, because the real answer was that England had been backward in this question of evening continuation schools on account of our not having the compulsory system which prevailed in many parts of Germany and other continental countries, and which we ought to have if we were to attain anything like a level with Germany in these matters. What was the attitude of the county councils themselves? Did they welcome the responsibilities? He did not know whether the First Lord of the Treasury was aware that the county council of Northampton had rejected this Bill by a vote of two to one in a full meeting last Thursday. He believed that only two members of the county council spoke in favour of the Bill. Everybody else opposed it as an inadequate and unsatisfactory measure. That was a county council in which, assuming that the Liberal Unionists were in ordinary politics supporters of the Government, he should think that certainly two to one were against the party to which he had the honour to belong.
The policy of this Bill was against the instincts and wishes of the largest and 459 most representative working men bodies in this country. He was present that afternoon at a gathering of representatives of co-operators who waited on some Members of the House. That body, representing 1,750,000 of persons, declared emphatically against the whole of that legislation. They declared in the most emphatic way in favour of direct control of education and against the suppression of or injury to the higher grade and evening schools. He was informed that in many evening schools, even without compulsion, the attendance was not at all what the Vice-President tried to make out. The evening school statistics taken from the return for 1900 showed that the number of pupils of all ages in both voluntary and board schools was 509,251, of whom 348,668 were above the age of fifteen. The average attendance was 206,335. That showed an average attendance even without compulsion of 40 per cent., and his information was that the percentage of attendance was nearly as good as in some of the day schools in many parts of the country. Another charge brought against these schools was that they were undermining and destroying the secondary schools. He had in his hand the figures with regard to the evening schools in the town of Birmingham. The attendance there was 2,281 under fifteen years of age, and 6,930 over fifteen, and he was informed that it would be impossible under this Bill, and under the minute, to carry on the evening schools for the 2,281 who were under fifteen, these being public elementary schools. He had another piece of information from Birmingham bearing on the fact that these schools did not undermine and cut away ground of the higher and secondary education which it was so important to develop. In Birmingham there was one of the best secondary schools in the country—King Edward's School. When the first of the higher grade schools was started there were 2,000 pupils in King Edward's School. There were now several of these higher grade schools. There had been an increase of 900 pupils in the higher grade schools, and so far from this increase having been drawn from King Edward's School there had been in the same time an increase of over 700 pupils in King Edward's School. The policy 460 which underlay the Bill was the stamping out of the higher grade-schools. The Bill was really an appeal to the prejudices and narrow-mindedness of some of the county councils in the country to cut down education. That was the sort of nonsense which was talked about overlapping. Instead of undercutting the secondary schools, these higher grade schools supplied a large number of the pupils of the very best material for the higher secondary schools. He was told that in the technical schools, in Birmingham there was the constant difficulty that pupils came there who were absolutely unfitted for and incapable of carrying out the calculations-necessary for laboratory work. And. what happened? The managers of the technical schools had to send them back to the higher grade schools which the right hon. Gentleman was treating with contempt. The right hon. Gentleman was trying to oust the youths from these schools where alone they could sharpen their wits and obtain the knowledge absolutely necessary for them to enable them to make proper use of the secondary schools. He had attempted to lay before the Committee some of the grave difficulties raised by the Bill and to answer the right hon. Gentleman's flimsy, unsubstantial, and not specially creditable case against the school boards. He had also brought before the Committee the very grave difficulties which would be created by giving a discretionary power—even if they wished to exercise it in a broad and. generous spirit—to the county councils which were not elected for the purpose, and which had no experience of the educational problems which had puzzled those who had given their whole lives to them. He wished he could say that he hoped his motion had been accepted, but he trusted the debate which he had tried to open in as conciliatory spirit as he could, dealing with such a question, might lead to some speeches which would throw greater light on the main issue and might also lead to some concession or compromise, and so save those schools which were of such vital importance to the country, and enable them without party feeling, or controversial bitterness to enter next year on the discussion of the reform of our educational system 461 fully, logically, and radically from end to end.
In page 1, line 5, to leave out Sub-clause (1)."—(Mr. Charming.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'Where a school board' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Sir J. GORST,) Cambridge University
The Amendment moved by the hon. Member who has just sat down is not really an Amendment on the Bill, but means an invitation to the Committee to reject the Bill altogether.
§ MR. CHANNING
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. The rejection of this sub-section will leave it perfectly possible for the Government to pass an indemnity Bill in the second sub-section with slight verbal amendments.
§ SIR J. GORST
If the Amendment were carried the whole substance of the Bill would be rejected and only a small fraction of it would be left. The hon. Gentleman has only entered on a renewal of the discussion which was conducted by the House for two nights last week, and he has not produced any argument which was not then fully considered. I am sure the Committee do not wish me to follow him in his speech and to review over and over again all those propositions which were discussed and decided upon by the House. I most certainly hope that the Committee will not dwell very long upon these sort of preliminary objections to the Bill, but let us get on to consider the Amendments on the Paper and see what alterations, if any, may be made upon it.
§ MR. ROBERT SPENCER (Northamptonshire, Mid)
said that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Council had referred to the speech of his hon. friend the Member for East Northampton as a rehash of his former speeches and a rechauffe of the debate of last week. But the right hon. Gentleman must be absolutely unaware, in 462 saying so, that the great county of Northampton had given a decision on these points. So far as he knew the Northampton County Council was the first which had discussed the effect of this Bill. He had the honour of a seat on the Northampton County Council and he had been very glad indeed to listen to the debate which had been initiated by the hon. Gentleman, whom he could not say was of the same political complexion as himself, but who had made an admirable speech strongly objecting to the power which this Bill proposed to give to county councils. He might lay himself open to the acidulated criticism of the right hon. Gentleman if he ventured to quote what the Northampton County Council had done. All the same he would state it. Many of the members of the county council were entirely opposed to each other in politics, but the result of their debate last week was that the whole council, or, at least, the large majority, were strongly in favour of efficient education, which would not be promoted if this Bill were passed into law. He would point out to the right hon. Gentleman—though, of course, that might be a matter too trivial for his interest, still it was a matter of importance to the county of Northampton—that the great majority which supported the resolution asked that the powers proposed in the Bill should not be given to the county councils and that majority was made up not of one but of all political parties. Apparently the real reason for the fear of the Northampton County Council on this subject was that a new duty and new labour would be thrown upon the council which they did not wish, and that at the back of it all there would be brought in a new question which in the past, and undoubtedly in the future, would raise considerable feeling and possibly religious animosity, which, of all the feelings in the world, this House ought to do its utmost to prevent. Of course this whole thing came from some unfortunate person of the name of Cockerton, and they quite understood that the county councils of England heartily detested the name of Cockerton. At the same time it was far too important a matter to decide against the wishes of the localities, and he hoped his hon. 463 friend would go to a division, and that the House would do its utmost to support the local authorities in rejecting the Bill.
§ MR. TREVELYAN (Yorkshire, W.R., Elland)
said that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill had complained that this was not an Amendment, but that this was a motion destructive of the substance of the Bill. The substance of what they wanted to do by this Bill was to enable the school boards to continue to do the work which they had been doing for many years past; and they wanted to find the simplest and most satisfactory way of doing it. By cutting out the first sub-section they left in the last sub-section to which some such proposition might be added as that suggested by the hon. Member for North Worcestershire, by which exception might be applied to expenses incurred before 31st July, 1902. In that event the second sub-section would meet the whole difficulty without any application whatever to the local authority, to which the Government wished the school boards to apply. The First Lord of the Treasury said the other night that the Government could not consent to that because it would be a triumph for the school boards. Of course, as things stood now, it would undoubtedly cause the friends of the school boards to chuckle if the Government were to throw over the proposition of putting the consent into the hands of the county councils. But putting aside the fact that possibly they might for a moment gloat over it, the proposal of leaving it entirely in the hands of the Government to consent to the school boards continuing their work, would not extend the field of the work of the school boards at all, it would not commit Parliament to saying that in future they would not restrict the field of the school boards, and it would, in no sense whatever, recognise the ad hoc principle for the future. He wished to make it perfectly clear that a very large number of Members even on that side of the House were not, and would not be, committed to the ad hoc principle. Personally he did not look forward to directly-elected authorities in all the counties controlling our education for the future. He very much doubted if the Government had introduced a 464 Bill dealing with the whole question of education and placing it into the hands of the county authorities whether he would have voted against it. What they objected to was a sort of municipalisation which this Bill proposed. It was a victory against the school boards of the worst sort because they were not substituting the municipal authority for an ad hoc authority; they were simply saying that if the county councils pleased they might veto the work of the school boards.
There were two possibilities resulting from the first sub-section. First, that the county councils might universally continue these schools. If so, the harm done by the Bill would be comparatively small. But even there this sub-section was objectionable, because the extension of the work of the school boards would be prevented, and because there would be a very large amount of friction between the two authorities. But the other proposition, important for the Committee to consider, was that the county councils might impede the continuance of this work of the school boards. It was, after all, not so very unreasonable to suppose that that was what many of them would do. This Bill had been brought into existence by a speech from the Vice-President of the Council in which he made a direct attack upon these higher grade and evening continuation classes as worthless; and what was that but an invitation to the county councils to suppress these classes? What was that but an intimation that, in the opinion of the Government, it would be well if they did so? Then a minute had been issued which, apart from the Bill altogether, would destroy a great deal of the work which was being carried on. As an indication of the tendency of the Government in the Bill, there was the fact that the county councils were to be prevented from setting up a greater number of classes than existed at present. Municipalities would be perfectly justified in regarding the action of the Government as an invitation to them to use the power which was to be given to them to suppress these classes. Was that a prospect of which the Committee would approve? Was it worth while for the sake of laying down a principle to run 465 the risk of destroying the work which was now being done? Further, no opportunity was to be given to the local authorities to set up anything in the place of these classes. Surely if these classes were not being carried out in a manner that was satisfactory to the Education Department and to the Conservative party, an endeavour should be made to improve and not to destroy them. Therefore he said the Government were beginning at the wrong end in attacking the great school boards. Many hon. Members would admit that elementary education was unsatisfactory as far as the small school boards and the necessarily unprogressive voluntary schools were concerned, and every hon. Member would admit that secondary education could be improved; but was that any reason for attacking that part of the education system, the large school boards, which were the only part of the education system which had been working excellently in the past? The school boards were attempting to fulfil a duty which no other body had attempted; and the Government were now endeavouring to cut off their power to carry out the small amount of secondary and advanced education which was given before there was anything to replace it. He, and hon. Members who thought with him, would take every opportunity of protesting against that, and would fight the Bill line by line.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, N.)
said that a remark or two of the two preceding speakers who had speculated as to what action the county councils and the municipalities would be likely to take led him to desire to make a few remarks. The hon. Member for East Northamptonshire, in protesting against the present proposed legislation, was attacking the wrong point altogether with reference to the matter. The difficulties which existed in giving Technical Instruction were due largely, in Yorkshire at any rate, to want of both secondary and elementary education, and though he admired in a very high degree the work of the school boards, it seemed to him that the reflection of the hon. Member was a reflection on the elementary schools conducted, 466 among others, by the school boards. The hon. Member for the Elland division spoke of the probable attitude of the county councils and the municipalities with reference to the Bill. He could not speak for the county councils as he knew very little about their work, but he was authorised to say on behalf of the Council of the Municipal Corporations' Association that they desired that the late Bill should be passed and that they thoroughly approved of its municipal principle; and it had better be understood, once for all, that whatever the boroughs could do to further the main municipal principle of the Bill would be done. The hon. Member for the Elland division apprehended that there would be friction and hostility, and he had said that the Bill was an invitation to the municipalities to suppress certain schools the classes which were now being held. First of all, he did not think that the municipalities would for a moment consent to entertain any such invitation. They would, he was firmly convinced, form an opinion on their own judgment, always considering that among the highest of all their interests was the improvement of the public education of the country. They had not worked in the direction imputed to them under the Act of 1889, one of the provisions of which was almost identical with the provisions in the Bill before the Committee, as it stated that the municipalities might, on the application of the school boards, aid certain secondary forms of education; and sums had already been voted for that purpose to the school boards, and to these very schools and classes, though apparently without any general knowledge of the fact. He could give numerous instances, and was it not a fair inference that the municipalities, animated with the highest desire for better education, would pursue the same course of action as regarded the present Bill. But to put the matter beyond doubt as far as the municipalities were concerned, he would read a resolution which had been unanimously passed by the Education Committee of the Municipal Corporations Association since the first Reading of the Bill; a resolution which, he would add, would be 467 accepted, he had every reason to believe, by the Association. It was as follows—That in the opinion of the Committee a liberal interpretation should, when the Bill becomes law, be placed upon its provisions, and all municipal authorities should be urged to maintain the present status and efficiency of the schools within the scope of the Act.the municipalities valued these schools and classes too much to take, in his opinion, any part in the suppression of work which they must know to be vitally necessary both to the individual and also from the commercial point of view. Therefore it was idle merely to speculate on the subject as far as the municipalities were concerned. On the one side he heard fears openly expressed as to the action of the municipalities. On the other hand it was suggested that there was hope that the municipalities might be the means of limiting education. All he could say was that, in his view, the fear was misplaced and that the hope, if it existed, would, he trusted, be disappointed by the action of the municipalities. What the municipalities had done for public libraries, schools of art and museums, and gymnasia, and the like, and also under the Technical Education Act, gave the lie to any such suggestion. The local patriotism of the municipalities would prevail in the matter. They might be depended on to know what was best for their people, and to apply broadly and strongly the principles which animated hon. Gentlemen opposite, but which they must not arrogate to themselves alone. The resolution he had read showed what the representative educational body of the municipalities meant, and if any one imagined that they would limit education he would venture to reply that in their opinion nothing would be too costly for education, on which depended the power and the welfare of the people of the country. As a proof of the principles for which he was contending he would state that in the former Bill the municipalities considered that the limitation of the rate to a 1d. or 2d. was not proper in dealing with the corporations. Huddersfield, for instance, could do nothing with its technical schools on such a limited basis, and at the instance of that corporation, an amendment to 468 the late Bill had been unanimously carried by the council of the Municipal Coporations' Association and communicated to the Government, condemning such a limitation of the rate, and advocating a power to very largely increase educational expenditure. The hopes and fears which were being entertained with regard to the action of the municipalities might, therefore, be alike disappointed, and he both hoped and believed their truly patriotic action would be directed to doing the best they could for the education of the people.
§ MR. ALFRED HUTTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Morley)
said the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had attempted to reassure the Committee as to the future of the schools affected by the Bill, and had tried to remove their fears as to the continued existence of such schools; but the Vice-President of the Council had already stated that the schools which the hon. Gentleman stated were of the utmost value to the country were only teaching "cheap, shoddy, education."
§ SIR J. GORST
I never said anything of the kind. What I said was that there were certain schools which gave shoddy education; but I never attributed that to all the schools.
§ MR. ALFRED HUTTON
said that the right hon. Gentleman stated that the education given by certain schools was cheap and shoddy.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
I must remind the hon. Member that it is customary to accept the interpretation by a Minister of his own words.
§ MR. ALFRED HUTTON
said that he was not going to dispute that; but the speech which culminated in that expression began with a reference to science and art classes which would be affected by the Bill, and regarding which the right hon. Gentleman used the expression "cheap and shoddy."
§ MR. ALFRED HUTTON
said he was very sorry if he had misinterpreted the expression of the right hon. Gentleman, 469 but he used the expression with reference to some classes in London, and he also referred to certain classes in the higher grade schools in the country. The noble Lord the Member for Greenwich supported the other day a resolution in favour of the proposal of the sub-section. He should be the last to dispute the noble Lord's right to speak with authority on any subject he wished; but he questioned his authority to speak as to the value of that proposal. The classes which would be affected by the subsection were the classes which could alone make possible technical colleges and schools in the great towns in the North. They had been told that if they rejected the sub-section they would be rejecting the substance of the Bill; but they had also been told that the Bill was merely a temporary expedient to get out of the difficulty occasioned by the Cockerton judgment. If that were so, the second sub-section would suffice admirably. He believed that the First Lord of the Treasury had stated that the Bill was to be a temporary measure; but the right hon. Gentleman also said that it was a great step onwards. But when they were told that the sub-section contained the real substance of the Bill, they were inclined to fear that it was not merely a temporary expedient to get rid of the Cockerton judgment, and he thought, therefore, they were right in asking whether it was to be merely temporary, or whether it was to be regarded as a great step towards the future system of education of the country. The real substance of the sub-section was a declaration of war on the school boards. There was no doubt about that whatever. If the right hon. Gentleman merely wished to give power to continue the classes affected by the Cockerton judgment, he could do that by the second sub-section perfectly well. Anyone who had witnessed the splendid work accomplished by these classes during the last two years must support the motion of his hon. friend. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in trying by that sub-section to stereotype the work of the school boards to reading and writing. He was led to be rather more fearful now than he was during the discus ion on the Second Reading. He would particularly direct the attention 470 of the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken to the possibility mentioned in a letter from the secretary of the Vice-President with reference to some of the classes affected by the Bill. That letter stated "Sir John Gorst does not anticipate that there will be many such schools hereafter."
§ SIR J. GORST
The schools referred to were public elementary schools under the public Elementary Evening Schools Code, which by the Cockerton judgment are restricted to giving elementary education to children under fifteen.
§ MR. ALFRED HUTTON
said he had never heard before that the Cockerton judgment limited elementary education to children under fifteen. One of the judges stated that the age might be sixteen or seventeen, and he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman would find in any judgment that the school boards were limited to teaching children under fifteen.
§ SIR J. GORST
We are advised that the judgment would not safely allow any school board to expend school rates in teaching children over fifteen. It will be within the knowledge of many hon. Members opposite that the learned counsel who appeared for the London School Board in the case has also advised them to exactly the same effect.
§ MR. ALFRED HUTTON
said the right hon. Gentleman had no need to bring in a Bill and pass an Act of Parliament to try and make those things safe. It was not the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to take an interpretation of the Cockerton judgment as to what would be safe, and incorporate it in an Act of Parliament. It was his duty to come to Parliament with a policy, and introduce a Bill which would not only secure, but also permit of the full development of, these classes and schools. He was exceedingly sorry to see in the first sub-section an unneces- 471 sary exhibition of hatred of the school board system, which was a culmination of the plan of campaign which had been carried on with more or less success since 1896, in order to bring the school boards to their knees, and make it impossible for them to carry out the functions and duties given to them by Act of Parliament
§ MR. DUKE (Plymouth)
said that, like many hon. Members on that side of the House, he had a great admiration for the work of the school boards, and very great sympathy with them in their present position. He said candidly that if he thought the Bill pledged the Committee to something in the nature of a deliberate affront to the school boards, and to a policy which would destroy their work, he would not support it. But it was because he did not believe anything of the kind that he intended to vote for the principle of the Bill. Hon. Members spoke of the Bill in its educational aspect as though it were not a step forward. He controverted that proposition altogether. The Bill for the first time authorised the expenditure of money out of the School Fund on schools giving education to some extent, at any rate, of the character of secondary education; and when hon. Members protested that there was no educational benefit in the Bill he thought they overlooked the fact that at the present time the kind of education which the Bill would sanction was declared by the Cockerton judgment to be illegal, so far as it was given out of the School Fund. Therefore, the Bill would make an advance, though perhaps not a very great advance, with regard to the educational policy of the country. It seemed to him that it pledged the House to a permanent support of education of the kind which the Cockerton judgment declared could not be given by the school boards. He submitted that that was a distinct advance in an educational respect; and that the Bill in that particular was a good Bill. If the Bill were good in that particular, what were the reasons which should induce the Committee to reject it? It was said that it was an attack on the school boards. He would ask the Committee to consider the position of the 472 school boards. An hon. Member had said that what was really needed was a suspensory Bill, and he had been trying to find out what it was that hon. Members considered that such a Bill was going to suspend. It could not suspend anything unless it suspended the whole machinery by which public bodies were confined within the proper limits of their functions. The High Court, in the exercise of a very well understood jurisdiction, had ascertained that the school boards had been expending money which they were not authorised to expend. If there was any statute or statutory provision or administrative regulation which could be suspended, so as to make this expenditure lawful, he would like to know what it was. He submitted that nothing could be suspended which would make this expenditure lawful. Therefore they had to find some direct means of making it lawful. Accordingly, it was proposed to vest the control in the direct representation of the people who supplied the money which had to be expended, and no more democratic proposal could be made to justify or legalise this expenditure than to place the control in the hands of the people who provided the money.
§ MR. DUKE
said that hon. Gentlemen seemed to forget that the school board was elected by the cumulative vote; that it was not representative, in the true democratic sense that it represented by direct and equal representation those out of whose pockets the money came. That was a means of preventing excesses. Hon. Members talked lightly of the teaching of dancing to grown people out of the rates, but a good many of the ratepayers considered it a great hardship that the money taken out of their pockets should be used in such a way. He supported the Bill, and intended to vote for it, because he did not know of a more democratic manner of preventing excesses and absurdities than that the expenditure in question should be governed by the people who found the money. He did not think there could be a better provision than this Bill contained for the temporary administration of the 473 schools. Two Members for Northamptonshire had said that the county councils did not want to interfere in this matter, and he was quite sure the borough councils did not, but at the same time, if there was any overlapping or excess in the application the School Fund, then the interference of the councils would be less derogatory to the school board than that of a governmental department. In the borough which he represented, he knew that since the county borough council had had the administration of money for technical and secondary education, the school board and the council had gone hand in hand; they had used the same building and had made the most of the money entrusted to them, and he gathered from that that there would be no friction between them. Upon those grounds he supported the Bill.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said that the Vice-President had complained that if the Amendment was carried it would retard the whole effect of the Bill; that was not so, because if Sub-section 1 disappeared there would still be Sub-section 2 to fall back upon, which permitted the Local Government Auditor to sanction expenditure immediately necessary, and they had only to extend that by "twelve months," and they got exactly what was being asked for. He hoped the principle of verbal inspiration would not be applied to this Bill, because after the debate on the Second Reading many Members on both sides of the House would like to see the details of the Bill altered before it became law. Referring to the statement of the Vice-President that the education given in the London School Board's evening classes was "cheap and shoddy," he pointed out that last year the Board had 395 classes, and in only twenty of these was dancing permitted, and that was with the express sanction of the right hon. Gentleman's own officials. The right hon. Gentleman would probably deny that, but that was the statement made by the Chairman of the School Board Committee on the previous Thursday. The right hon. Gentleman's stricture was applied to the whole of the art classes, and not merely to those in which 474 dancing was taught. The right hon. Gentleman's statement was that—How could they compete with the free evening art classes of the School Board, which not only supplied the students with models and drawing materials, but with the canvas and paints and everything they wanted for the purpose? Naturally a poor student who has not got too many half-crowns in his pocket will go to the free places instead of getting the better instruction (Opposition cries of 'Oh')—yes, I venture to say the better instruction he would receive in a proper school of art. It is cheap and bad. The education which you are spreading amongst the people is cheap, shoddy education instead of the better and higher education which we wish to promote.He desired to support the Amendment because so far as he could see the purpose of this sub-section was to hamstring the school boards by putting them under the county councils, and he protested emphatically against the establishment of so far-reaching a principle through the medium of a mere temporary measure intended only to meet an unforeseen emergency. In 1895 a deputation from the National Society, headed by the two Archbishops, waited on the Duke of Devonshire to press for a number of changes in the system of elementary education. Practically all those changes had now been made except one—the subordination of the school boards to the municipal authority which should revise its precept. On that point, the Duke of Devonshire said—He understood they proposed a check, not by a public department, but by another local authority, and that, no doubt, was a question well worthy very serious attention; but he was afraid that whatever might happen between the rural school board and the county council they would raise difficulties and a hotly controverted question if they proposed that the accounts of school boards should be subject to control by town councils, which, perhaps, could scarcely be called the superior body in some plaees.That was carried out precisely in this Bill. The proposal of the Bill was to subordinate the precepts of the school board to the town council.
§ SIR J. GORST
said that the sufficient and legitimate expenditure was made under Parliament. What his noble friend objected to was the submission of the legitimate expenditure of school boards to the control of the town coun- 475 cils. They were only to subordinate to the town council expenditure that was not legal. In the Bill the control was limited to the expenditure for which the school boards had no sanction.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said he would like to know what expenditure was legal and what was not. The contention of the right hon. Gentleman could not be maintained, because the right hon. Gentleman had declined to say what was legal and what was illegal expenditure on the part of the school board. The sub-section really repealed the Act of 1870, because the Act gave the school boards absolute right to draw upon local rates. They made up their budget and saw what the deficiency was likely to be, and then sent to the town council to make up the deficiency, and the town council whether it liked it or not had to find the money. They were bound to give the school board what it wanted. This proposal was to put the veto in the hands of the municipal councils, and why? Because the Government knew that the municipal councils were less keen on primary education than great school boards. The Government tried in 1896 to curb the zeal of the school boards. Their proposal was abortive, and now there was an attempt being made by an ingenious flank movement to carry out the same operation, to leave the municipal councils the pleasant task of truncating the school boards, and to tie the school boards down to the absolute rudiments. He was at a loss to understand why the Government desired to tie the school boards down to the absolute rudiments which this sub-section attempted to secure. He had attempted to find out what the object was for so doing, and he thought he had done so in the speech which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman at Bristol, on 23rd December, 1897. On that occasion the Vice-President referred to certain reforms which were urgently necessary for the cause of national education. Those were the days when the right hon. Gentleman made Progressive speeches on education. The reforms included better teachers, longer school life, and better attendance; and in giving an answer to the question why those things 476 were not secured the right hon. Gentle man said,—because the members of the Government were selected from a class which was not entirely convinced of the necessity or the desirability of higher education for the people. They held the opinion, which was sometimes expressed by great professors of Universities in their speeches, that there were certain functions which had to be performed in the modern life of civilised communities which were best performed by people ignorant and brutish.Here they had the keynote of the Government's policy from the lips of the Education Minister, and it found endorsement in what Lord Salisbury said fn 1895 to the Brighton Conservative Association. Lord Salisbury then said—I confess I should like to see Mr. Forster's statement that the rate would never exceed threepence in the pound written in letters two feet long and placed over every school board school in the country.He thought after those statements he could put his finger on the reason why the Government seized on the Cockerton judgment, and out-Cockertonised Cockerton in this matter.
Coming now to the details of this Sub-section, he pointed out that the Sub-section said, "they may empower the school board." But supposing that a municipal council did not empower a school board, what happened? The work was brought to a standstill and a state of civil war ensued between the local authorities, at the instance of a Minister whose great desire was to secure local harmony. The Government were, indeed, proposing a scheme which was absolutely and grotesquely unworkable. The school boards would have to go to the town councils and submit their balance, sheets for each school, and the result would be haggling over each item, because the councils had no knowledge or experience of the Education Acts. Even if the town council was friendly disposed, nobody knew what was legal or what was not. The school board did not know, the Cockerton judgment did not say, the right hon. Gentleman would not say, and the town council certainly did not know, and there would be a continual squabble between the town councils and the school boards. A crop of perplexities had arisen already in towns like Gateshead and Leeds, where the Circular of the Department had been 477 received anticipating the passing of this Bill. The school boards could not see their way to continue their schools, and he thought that if they were to write up over the doors of the schools "school closed by action of the Government," it would very soon bring the Government to its senses. Not only was this attack on the school boards proceeding merrily apace by departmental circular, which he considered was most improper, but, as far as the school board for London was concerned, a strong attempt was being made by a Member of this House to dictate to the Local Government Board auditor before the Second Reading of the Bill how he ought to go to work with regard to the expenditure of the London School Board. He read a letter from the hon. Member for Greenwich, written in his capacity as chairman of "the Cockerton Defence Committee," on the 8th inst. to the Local Government Board drawing attention, on behalf of the Cockerton Defence Committee, to "the misleading manner in which accounts had hitherto been drawn up and presented for audit." The letter urged that the London School Board should be required "to keep separate ledgers and accounts for all work outside the Whitehall Code and for all work relating to pupils over fifteen years of age." He objected to any anticipation of the decision of the House, though this had been the policy of the Government ever since 1895.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN,
who was inaudible in the Gallery, was understood to intimate that the hon. Member's remarks were not relevant to the question before the Committee, and that his arguments must be confined to the subject of the Amendment upon the Paper.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said the question had been raised in the debate as to what the Cockerton judgment decided in the matter of age; that letter of the noble Lord to the Local Government Board said that the age—
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
said that the hon. Gentleman was now apparently renewing the argument which he had just ruled as out of order.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said he desired only to make clear what it was that the Cockerton judgment decided. The Vice-President insisted that it laid it down that there should be no payment beyond fifteen, but what Mr. Justice Wills in his judgment said was that it was impossible to lay down any definite boundary separating children from young men and young women, and he added—Practically, I suppose that somewhere between 16 and 17 is the highest an age that has been arrived at which no one would ordinarily call childhood.That was where the Government got its fifteen from. He protested against the narrowing down of that judgment, as had been done, for the purposes of this Bill. He objected very strongly to this proposal, because it established a principle of a far-reaching character which ought to be submitted to the House de novo and fought out in a fair and square manner, and not smuggled through in a short and temporary measure, and also because the details were grotesquely unworkable, and were bound to be followed by interminable local perplexity, haggling, and squabbling.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITE (Norfolk, N.W.)
said he did not know of a single municipality that had had an opportunity of expressing an opinion on the measure before the Committee. Although it might be perfectly true that a body, which, under ordinary circumstances, might be taken as representative of the municipalities, had passed a certain resolution as stated by the hon. Member for South Islington, the principle here involved was such an entirely novel one that it was somewhat dangerous for the hon. Member to speculate as to what the municipalities would or would not do. For the first time in his municipal experience he had recently had an opportunity of attending a meeting of the Municipal Corporations Association, and from the way in which the Education Bill at that time before the House was brought forward and discussed by the body, he did not think they had much interest in the work or any great desire to advance the cause of education. The representatives on that association were largely town clerks of 479 different boroughs and municipalities, and in keeping with human nature generally, they probably would not object to increased powers being put into their hands. But such a body was not necessarily representative of the municipalities themselves, and while he did not argue that the municipalities if this duty were cast upon them, would not do the best they could, he was not disposed to accept a resolution of that association as warranting the assurance that the highest interests of education would be considered. As a general rule, in these times of extended municipal work, borough and county councils had quite as much to do as they could deal with, and so far as the present Bill was concerned, they had had no time to consider its scope or the additional burden it would impose upon them. His conviction was that those councils which were not opposed to the spread of education would at once, without any consideration whatever, refer the matter to their technical committees, while those which had opposing views in regard to education would immediately get into friction with the school boards. As he understood, all that they could do was to give permission to the school boards to go on with the work which had been declared to be illegal. But assuming they desired not to give that permission, they had the great power of determining whether or not this work should go on. The hon. Member for Plymouth had said that this was an Education Act, because it pledged the House to that branch of education which had been declared to be illegal. The Bill pledged the House to nothing of the kind. It simply gave town and county councils power to permit the school boards to go on with the work for a year. So far from pledging the House to that work, it seemed rather to put a block in its way; it certainly blocked the way to any extension of the work for the next year. That was a very serious part of the question. If this higher elementary education had been a benefit to the community, why should it be stopped even for twelve months? Five years ago the Vice-President referred to the higher grade schools as "processes of the elementary education system." If that were so, why should those legitimate 480 processes be stopped? But the right hon. Gentleman went much further than that, for after stating that in this particular the school boards were exceeding the functions for which they were originally designed, he said—In the absence of any more regular mode of providing the people with the secondary education which the necessity of the time so urgently demands, their proceedings are undoubtedly highly approved by the people for whom they act, and any attempt to curtail by legislation the operation of the school boards in this direction without providing some better alternative method by which the wants of the public would be supplied would be unpopular.The right hon. Gentleman was now doing what he then said would be unpopular. No authority was established by this Bill. Much as the Education Bill No. 1 was objected to, he thought in that respect it was better than the present Bill. Here no authority was provided. The position was that the school board had to go to the council; the council would have no time to consider the question; it would either have at once to give carte blanche to the school board to go on—and if it did that where was the value of the application?—or if it declined to do that it would have to go into the details of the work of the school boards, and all the friction to which reference had been made would arise. The borough councils were not sufficiently in touch with the work of school boards to pass an intelligent judgment. He admitted that on the whole the technical education work had been well done, and the money provided largely expended for that purpose. But so recently as the previous week one county council had voted £1,600 from the technical education fund to the reduction of the rates, and that course might be followed still further when these bodies had to deal with the question of higher grade education. Another serious question in connection with this Bill was as to how far it was to be the means of extending the functions of the borough councils in regard to primary education. Whatever county and borough councils might feel with regard to secondary education, he did not believe there were ten municipalities in the kingdom which would be willing to undertake the work of primary education. The House had been told that this measure was simply the embodiment of a principle. Appar- 481 ently that principle was that ultimately all education, primary, secondary, and technical, should be dealt with by one authority, and that that authority should be the county and borough councils. He had never heard of a single borough council the members of which would admit that they were competent to deal with such a vast subject as that, and if it was necessary for the advancement of education that there should be one authority, the House should pause before passing this Bill, and thereby laying a foundation upon which it was intended to graft the duties of primary education. By the circumstances under which this Bill had been placed before the House, a great injury was being done to education all round. Antagonistic feelings were being aroused where there ought to be a universal desire to work out some great scheme for the benefit of the country. The only way in which such a scheme could be devised was by all parties working together, and not by attacking the one authority which had accomplished what little had been done for secondary education.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I understand that the object of this Amendment is simply to maintain the status quo. It differs from other Amendments on the Paper, because those other Amendments propose to bring in other authorities, which are in some way to exercise a control over the action of the school boards. There are Amendments standing in the names of the hon. Members for the Leigh and Rossendale Divisions and others, which do not restore the status quo pure and simple, but which propose that the school boards should be enabled to go on spending the money, subject to the control either of the local authority or the Board of Education, or both. The present Amendment, however, brings in no other authority; it simply allows the school boards to go on as at present, and it is to be supplemented at a later stage by an Amendment providing that the Local Government Board should have the power of sanctioning expenditure illegally incurred for the next year. It may be asked why an Amendment has been brought up simply to maintain the status quo. It is for the reason that since the Second Reading we have had 482 some light as to the way in which this Bill is regarded in the country. There have been the opinions of county councils. We have had the remarkable deliverance in which the county council of Northamptonshire express the deliberate opinion that they are entirely unfitted to take up the work it is proposed to cast upon them, and practically requesting us not to pass this Bill or to throw upon them functions which they cannot discharge. I suppose they have come to that conclusion because they feel they have not the proper knowledge. How can they have the knowledge? How can they possibly know what are the conditions under which school boards ought to expend money in keeping up higher grade schools or continuation classes in some parts of their vast area? There may not be any member of the county council from the particular district, and even if there is, is a matter of this magnitude to be left entirely to him to settle? We have also had an expression of opinion, which I am sure the whole House regards with great deference, from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Dartford division. He does not think that this is a good or a workable plan. Then we have the views of the hon. Member for South Islington. The argument put forward on this side of the House against this subsection is that it provides an unworkable plan—that it would involve a great deal of friction and delay in communication, and that the local authority would not be competent to deal with the questions submitted to them. The hon. Member for South Islington meets that argument in this way. He says the difficulties in regard to the unworkability of the plan will not arise because the borough councils are just as keen about education as anyone else, that they are just as eager as the school boards to have education carried on; in other words, that they will go as far as, and perhaps farther than, the school boards. Further they cannot go, because under this sub-section they are not allowed to grant powers to the school boards to carry on anything which has not been carried on during the last twelve months. But, at any rate, the hon. Member says they will go as far. What is the result of that argument? It is that the borough councils will not cut down the work of the school boards; 483 in other words, that they will not exert that checking and restraining influence which the Bill seems to contemplate, that they will not subject the proposals of the school boards to that economical scrutiny, and that tendency to pare down and haggle over little items of expenditure, which apparently is expected. In fact, as I gather from the hon. Member, the borough councils will probably take the same view generally as we are assured the London County Council are going to adopt, namely, that they will say to the school boards, "Go on, and our blessing be upon you!" In that case this Bill is not needed. The expenditure will not be cut down. The borough councils and the London County Council will sanction all this expenditure, and the object contemplated by the Bill will not be achieved.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
Where is that contemplated?
§ MR. BRYCE
I should like to know what else the right hon. Gentleman meant. He is not usually lacking in lucidity. I should say that lucidity and precision are among those qualities with which he fascinates the House, but apparently he has been completely misunderstood in being supposed to have deprecated the work of school boards, and to have declared that this expenditure ought not to be allowed to continue. I have come to the conclusion that this part of the Bill is unnecessary, and that the Government will really lose nothing by dropping this sub-section. But if the Government are unable to go so far as that, if, with their legal scruples, they think the school boards ought not to be allowed to spend this money, and get it sanctioned as a matter of course, I would 484 commend to them the Amendments of my hon. friends the Members for the Leigh and the Rossendale Divisions. In those Amendments they will find a compromise which I think they might accept, because, under them, the expenditure incurred by the school boards will be subjected to some external control, and it will be for that external control to say whether or not the expenditure should continue. At the same time a means of enabling the school boards to carry on the work, much simpler and easier than that suggested in the Bill, will be found. If either of those Amendments were accepted it would save us from the necessity of debating this Bill at such great length, and it would deliver both the school boards and the local authorities from a great deal of trouble. If, however the right hon. Gentleman is unable to hold out any hope of acceding to either of those Amendments, we should be obliged to vote for the present proposal, as being a great deal better than the very cumbrous, difficult, and highly controversial course proposed by the Government.
§ MR. LAWSON WALTON (Leeds, S.)
pointed out that since the Second Reading of the Bill not only had there been expressions of opinion on the part of local bodies to whom this new jurisdiction was to be delegated, but there had also been a pronouncement from an authority even more eminent in relation to this matter—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dartford, the predecessor of the present Vice-President of the Council. That right hon. Gentleman knew the responsibility of the Department in regard to this question, the extent to which these schools ought to be carried, and the conditions under which they should be conducted, because he and the Department with which he had been associated were responsible for the origin of the present system of education. The right hon. Gentleman had used a very strong argument in favour of the Amendment which, unfortunately, he had not yet used in the House. He had pointed out that the Department which had encouraged the formation of these evening schools and continuation classes, and had allowed the whole of this higher grade education system to grow up, 485 should undertake the responsibility of determining the extent to which, and the principle upon which, the work should be allowed to continue for another twelve months. Surely the question of whether or not the education should be sanctioned for twelve months longer ought to be left to an authority which was cognisant of the nature of the education established, and which could regulate it so that it might be carried on in all parts of the country on the some lines and under the same conditions rather than that such a thankless and honourless obligation should be cast on the county councils, leaving education to be strangled, smothered, or allowed to continue as the various local authorities might determine. It was said that this extraordinary machinery, by means of which the right hon. Gentleman washed his hands of all responsibility and cast it on the local authorities, was introduced with a view to establishing a principle. What was that principle? And what was its value as a guide to further legislation? The only principle to be extracted from the Bill was that of the subordination of an authority elected for purely educational purposes to a body not elected for that purpose. This meant that one representative body elected for the purposes of education had to submit itself to the control of another body elected for an entirely different purpose. Did the right hon. Gentleman contend that the establishment of such a principle would assist him in the organisation of the new educational authority which in twelve months time was to take charge of the whole education of the country? They had heard of various authorities which were to regulate primary and secondary education in the future. There was, in the first place, the scheme contained in the abandoned Bill. How did this proposal assist the establishment of that scheme? By arranging that for one year, and one year only, the educational work of the school boards of the country should be subordinated to bodies elected for municipal purposes and for the various forms of local self-government. If the right hon. Gentleman got his principle out of this extraordinary machinery it would be of no value. Reference had been made to the action 486 which borough councils might take. The principle which was set up in this Bill might be productive of great danger. Educational authorities were not elected on political lines, whereas borough councils sometimes were, and thus there was the risk of political bias being introduced. No doubt they might look for enlightenment in the great county boroughs, but the smaller boroughs would be merged in the counties and would be controlled by the educational sympathies of the counties. Did the right hon. Gentleman not see great danger in this state of things? He must feel that the apprehension expressed in so many quarters of this House was well founded.
They had already heard from two hon. and gallant Members who represented two Divisions of Essex what might be looked for in that county. Those speeches indicated the peril the right hon. Gentleman was running without the slightest justification and in the alleged belief that he was establishing some principle of great value. The county councils were to decide upon what term, to what extent, and upon what conditions education was to be carried on for the next twelve months, and if the system proposed did not entirely extinguish the system of education which the board schools had established it might very much cripple that system and place the school boards in a very awkward position. The right hon. Gentleman had now an opportunity to put an end to this controversy. It he would accept the Amendment in principle and undertake that his Department should decide this question, or would allow an appeal to his Department from county councils who might refuse to give a school board power under the Bill, the opposition to the Bill would end.
§ SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)
said that, as some remarks of his had been referred to, he desired to say a few words. It was perfectly true that he enjoyed a Saturday half-holiday in opening some new board schools, and in reply to a strong appeal by the chairman that he should state his views he made some remarks. Probably owing to the fact that speeches did not travel well this 487 hot weather many of his remarks assumed a shape to which he could not give any correct recognition whatever. He had been in the main correctly quoted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He said that this very grave difficulty was essentially a departmental matter. He also said that during the six years he was Vice-President higher grade schools never had a more earnest advocate and supporter than himself, and that he was not singular as a Vice-President in that. He pointed out how it was they found themselves in this great difficulty and how other Vice-Presidents had done as he had and shirked it; how they knew the almost impossible task of framing a good system of higher education, and how, like other Vice-Presidents, he had welcomed an advance from whatever quarter it came. He was merely pleading the cause of education. He did suggest that it was a departmental matter, and that it would have been better if the Department had come to Parliament and asked Parliament to help them out of the difficulty into which they had got. As he understood it, the position in which the Committee found themselves was one of extreme simplicity. The Bill was introduced to meet an emergency, and while he should always vote for the establishment of one local responsible authority in the matter of education, he repudiated altogether the suggestion that in voting for this Bill he voted for any such authority as was embodied in it as it stood. The First Lord of the Treasury was appealed to by the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen as to whether this Bill proposed to establish a new principle, and he understood his right hon. friend to deny this. The county borough councils and the municipalities of which his hon. friend the Member for South Islington had spoken must be the foundation of educational authority to be set up. Those bodies, of course, must be strengthened and supplemented before they would have anything like full confidence in the country. He would discard once and for all the question of establishing any great principle by this Bill, and come to the position in which they found themselves. What he advocated on Saturday last was the notion that the Education Department should be responsible for getting the country 488 out of the difficulty. He wished to say why he voted for the Second Reading of this Bill. For many years he had taken a deep interest in this question, and each year he took a keener interest in educational questions, and watched them more closely, and, as far as he understood it, they were really raising a great contention here about a very small matter. This Bill had to deal with a very grave difficulty owing to a legal judgment, and to get them out of that difficulty this statutory enactment was to be made. To his mind, it was an emergency question. In some of these schools it was a matter almost of weeks and days. It was utterly impossible for these authorities in the time given to them to go into the various questions of the maintenance of the schools, the curricula, and staff. Nearly all those authorities had been dealing directly with some kind of secondary education.
In most of the counties, and in nearly all of them where the Customs and Excise money had been applied, they had been dealing year by year with increased success with technical education. He believed that the decision arrived at in Liverpool and by the London County Council would be followed, andth at all these authorities in turn would say to the school boards, "Go full steam ahead," and would give them full liberty to carry on their work. He could not believe it possible that in a county like Northampton they would practically tell the civilised world that they cared so little about education as to absolutely forbid the school board proceeding in this matter. He did not see why in this midsummer heat they should occupy two or three nights in the discussion of extraordinarily difficult matters, and thought two hours debate would do for the whole question involved. That question lay in a nutshell. As practical men, did they or did they not believe that any of these authorities would refuse to allow a single school to continue its work? He was not a young member of the House, and he refused to allow it to be said that he had been saying things outside the House which he was afraid to repeat inside. It was quite true that he did criticise some what the attitude of some of his hon. friends, and of his right hon. friend the 489 Vice-President with regard to the school board. He was no advocate of the school board system as against voluntary schools, or, as regarded education alone, of the voluntary schools as against the school board. He did and always should value as a necessity, from the point of view of the members of the Church of England, the religious education which was obtained in their own schools. But he had felt most strongly that his right hon. friend's speech had been unnecessarily aggressive against the school boards. He may have made a mistake, however, for his right hon. friend had now repudiated the idea. The remarks of his which had been quoted were uttered in reply to an appeal made to him by the chairman of the school board, and that board was only three years old. But whether he looked at this question from the point of view of a political partisan or from a much higher point of view it was a great pity that the school boards of this country should at this moment feel irritation in regard to their treatment. The only possible chance of settling these great questions was for hon. Members on both sides to meet and work together, and endeavour to solve this important problem, the solution of which none of them wished to see injured by any needless irritation. In conclusion he wished to say that he thought it was only right to make these few remarks by way of explanation.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down always attracts the sympathies of the whole House upon the question of education, because he never speaks upon this subject from the point of view of a political partisan. We have listened to his speech upon this question, not only with great interest, but with great deference. The right hon. Gentleman has said that this sub-section might be settled in a two hours debate because in practice the status quo would be maintained. If that is so, why did they not have a simple sub-section to that effect? If that was on the face of the Bill, then there would be comparatively little difference of opinion amongst us. The sub-section, even at the best, will only maintain the status quo, and it must arrest possible development 490 on the old lines, and it may curtail some of the educational facilities which now exist. We are told that this Bill has been put in its present form, and not as one simply to maintain the status quo, because it introduces a large principle. If large principles are contained in this Bill, then undoubtedly there must be a certain amount of large discussion. I will come to the question of principle in a minute or two, but I wish to say, first, that whatever differences of opinion we may have about the principle, and however anxious we may be to see a new principle introduced, as has been hinted at in the Bill now before us, I think we should feel that a new departure of this kind should not be introduced and prefaced by an attack upon the school board system. If school boards are to go, let them give place to a big new system, with full, large powers, and let them be worked into such a system, so that full use may be made of their experience. But let it not be done by dragging out everything peculiar or eccentric which may have happened under the school board in certain places, putting that in a prominent light, with a few perfunctory sentences as to their good work; let it be done with an ample recognition of the work they have done.
The speech of the Vice-President must have had a depressing effect on every school board. We all want to see one authority for education established, but surely we ought to have time allowed us to carefully consider this point. I understand that my hon. friends behind me have a good deal of sympathy with the development of education under county and borough councils, not only from the point of view of education, but from the point of view of what is as urgently needed as anything else in this country, namely, the free development of local government. If you lay upon municipal councils a great charge and obligation to oversee the interests of education in their own areas; to see that the supply is sufficient, and to co-operate with the Education Department in seeing that there is an ample supply from top to bottom in their own area, then I say that we should have some approach to a perfect system, under which, I believe, our county borough and our municipal councils would rise to the occasion and show a spirit which they have not had 491 any opportunity of showing up to the present. But that is not what this subsection does. If a great scheme was before us, and it became necessary to subordinate the school boards, and dovetail their work into some great scheme, then there might be more to be said for what this Bill proposes to do. I am not prepared to see any curtailment of the work of the school boards until we have something better to put in their place. This Bill is going to discourage one practical working authority without inspiriting any other authority. We are told that this is the application of a new principle, but it is really a setting back as regards its practical working. It is creating possibilities of friction which must be detrimental to the work of the school boards, and which cannot encourage the county councils. Why, then, should we have the Bill at all? Overlapping is not so serious but that it could be tolerated for another year. If the Bill is only for one year, why is it necessary to pass it at all? We are told that the reason is because the work done by the school boards is now illegal. In that case the choice before the Government is either to bring in a Bill to make the practice of the school boards illegal, or else to bring in a Bill setting up a new practice altogether. When you have a practice well established, which was so much encouraged by the Education Department at one time, and by many people who sympathised with the work which the school boards were doing, surely the simplest way to have dealt with this question would have been to make a law which for one year would have left the old practice alone, rather than establish a new principle which must have a discouraging effect, so far as it has had any effect at all. This new practice must diminish educational facilities as long as the Bill lasts. I do not dispute the good intentions of the Government. If they had brought in a large, comprehensive measure I am sure it would have received fair and considerate treatment from the House, which is anxious to see a departure made in secondary education. If the Bill is passed in its present form, establishing what the Government consider a new and satisfactory principle, then I fear it may become not a temporary, but a permanent measure, or one 492 to carry on from year to year, and although I do not accuse the Government of want of honesty of intention, I am afraid from the experience of the past, and knowing how the House is now paved with good intentions, that either I must regard this Bill as not only a step backward in itself, or regard it with apprehension, because it may be putting further off the time when we shall have a really big Bill dealing with the question.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I hope we may be now allowed to divide upon this Amendment. [Opposition cries of "No, no."] I merely make the request; it rests with hon. Gentlemen whether they will grant it. At any rate, as I think the discussion may now terminate, my observations will be exceedingly brief. The hon. Member who has just sat down has made a rosy forecast of the advance of any big measure which may be introduced in a subsequent session. I hope the hon. Gentleman's forecast will prove true of the Bill which the Government hope to introduce next year; but I confess that, from the hostile treatment which the education schemes of the. Government have met with in past times from those who profess to be friends of education, who, so far as I can see, resist every Bill for the reform of education, I do not anticipate a smooth and flowery path for any measure of ours, no matter on what lines it may be drawn. But we have now to deal with the present Bill. The hon. Gentleman puts this question to us:—"You may be right in thinking that this Bill will not stop the work of secondary education; you may be right in thinking that the local authorities will in no case interfere with the work now being carried on by the school boards. Granting that," says the hon. Gentleman, "why do you want the Bill at all? Why cannot you simply legalise the process which has been declared illegal by the court?" That is a very plain and simple question, to which I endeavoured to give an answer in the debate on the Second Reading. All are agreed on both sides of the House that the Cockerton judgment requires legislation of some kind. It is not possible at this time of the session to carry a complete measure dealing with the situation. We are therefore reduced to the only remaining possible course, 493 which is to introduce a Bill which shall not be a complete but a tentative measure, and which shall be adequate to deal with the difficulty we have been placed in by the recent decision of the court. Now, we say that under the circumstances it is possible to have a Bill without sanctioning some principle or another. You must do something. No doubt you do not do it completely. No doubt anything done in this Bill cannot lay down the lines upon which a complete measure should proceed. But there are two alternatives. You must either declare that you think the school boards are the proper authorities for dealing with secondary education, or you must lay down the contrary proposition that the local authorities either by itself or by a committee, to which subseqently other members may be added, is the proper authority to discharge that duty. I say that every man who holds—as I believe all must hold—that the local authority is the proper body for dealing with secondary education is bound to vote for this Bill. The argument advanced against us is that the Bill will have the collateral effect of checking education. I do not believe a word of it. I say there is nothing in this Bill which will cause the closing of a single school which is required for carrying on secondary education. It is probable that in certain places the local authority and the school board may decide to close some schools that are overlapping in the interests of the others. That would be an advantage. It is probable that in most cases the local authority will say to the school board "We have not sufficient time to deal with this question, and we authorise you to go on." That, perhaps, would in most cases be a wise course, and I think it is the course they generally will take. But I am absolutely confident that all these predictions about education being stopped will be falsified, and all the political rubbish which masquerades in the guise of educational enthusiasm will be absolutely exposed by the experience of the next few months. The hon. Member for North Camberwell says it will be right, and may perhaps be the duty of the school boards, to chalk up upon the doors of these closed schools, "No school; closed by order of the Government." Was there ever an educationist who so 494 successfully disguised himself for the moment as a party politician? No such danger need be apprehended.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
The Gateshead School Board declared they could not keep the schools open because of the perplexity of the Government's proposals.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Are we, then, to understand from hon. Gentlemen who have occupied all these hours in praising up the school boards that there are two school boards in the country so absolutely oblivious to the interests of education, so indifferent to the interests of the class which hon. Gentlemen have at heart, that without a moment's consultation with the local authorities they are prepared to shut up their schools?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Until I see the day schools or the night schools of Gates-head and Leeds shut up I cannot believe the suggestion of hon. Gentlemen. The House in adopting this Bill will take a course in favour of educational reform, and in taking that course I am quite certain they will not in any district of the country check even for a moment the healthy progress of secondary education.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks the tone in which he has addressed the House is one likely to lead to the progress of the Bill, he is very much mistaken. I can only conceive that in adopting this tone the right hon. Gentleman puts himself out to rival the methods adopted by the Vice-President. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dartford must be very much dissatisfied with that speech. The Bill raises no principle we are told. It merely allows the county council to continue what the school board has begun, and 495 that that is the end of it. What, then, has become of your great principle? We are really to determine whether the education of the country is to be entrusted to the county council or not. That may be a good plan or a bad plan, but this harum scarum way of establishing a new principle in the education of the country is unstatesmanlike. This is the sort of scrimble scramble way in which the Government conducts everything. We have had two abortions already. They excuse this on the ground that it is "only a little one"; but a little one may carry very mischievous consequences to its parents. Yet we are asked to go on and dispose of this Bill. Either this involves a great principle or it does not. If it does not involve a great principle it is extremely badly drawn. The right hon. Gentleman said that the county councils will agree to everything that the school boards propose, and that if there are any bodies that will act disgracefully, they will be the school boards of Leeds and Gateshead, and without knowing anything whatever of the circumstances of the cases the right hon. Gentleman stands up and scolds the school boards of Leeds and other places in a tone which I venture to say he is not entitled to use.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I say that if they acted in the way they are described as having acted they deserved to be scolded. But I learn that the hon. Member for Leeds is wrong.
§ MR. LAWSON WALTON
I understand that the Leeds School Board has come to the resolution that it would be impossible for them to continue the responsibility of carrying on their present evening continuation schools.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
There are two things that must be known with reference to the Bill before it is disposed of in this haphazard way by the Government—one is what are the opinions of the town councils, and what are the opinions of the school boards. I protest against a measure of the kind including, as the right hon. Gentleman says, a great revolution in the principles of education in this country being passed without full discussion. We had a full discussion some years ago, and we know what was the result. We know what were the opinions of the town councils of that time, and one of the reasons why at that time the Government ignominiously failed was because the Bill was a violent attempt on the part of the Government to impose on the town councils of the country jurisdiction they did not desire to have. What business have we tonight, after two or three hours discussion, to come to such a conclusion as this, without giving time to the town councils of the country to express their views on this subject, so that we may at all events proceed in dealing with this question with some knowledge of it? It is quite clear the Government do not now possess that knowledge. Their domestic strategy is equal to their military strategy. The Leader of the House says you must now, in consequence of the Cockerton judgment, determine whether you will go on with the school boards as the primary educational authority or the county councils. There is no necessity to decide either way. The dilemma is a piece of false logic. Why not wait twelve months and let the country have time to understand what you are about? * I hope the House will absolutely refuse to be hustled. Let great boroughs such as Leeds and Gateshead have time to consider what line their school boards will adopt. That will be dealing with the great question of education as the House of Commons should deal with it. The attempt to rush this Bill through the House of Commons is one which I hope will be vigorously resisted.
§ MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)
regretted that on the Second Reading of this Bill the representatives of the constituencies had been denied a full and 497 free opportunity of expressing their objections to it.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present—
§ MR. BROADHURST
said he represented a great industrial community of a quarter of a million of people. The industry of that community depended mainly upon the intelligence and skill of its working people. The town of Leicester had prided itself upon the success of its elementary, higher grade, and secondary education; and without advances in the requirements of knowledge of science and art and industry that town would suffer in competition with countries where education was acknowledged to be serviceable to the power and prosperity of these countries. Well, the people of Leicester—all classes of the community, rich and poor, Liberal and Conservative, high and low, employer and workman, school board and trade council—all objected to this educational policy of His Majesty's Government. He had presented petition after petition, he had had to acknowledge the receipt of many resolutions from various public bodies in Leicester condemning the Bill that was now dead, and the policy of the Bill the Committee was now discussing. Therefore his constituents would desire and approve his support of the omission of the first sub-section. If the Government would agree to that, they could undoubtedly, so far as his constituency was concerned, have the remainder of their Bill in five minutes. The hon. Member for South Leeds had made a very useful suggestion to the Government, and that was that permission should be given to the school boards to carry on their work, and if appeal were necessary it should be lodged with the Education Department, and not with the county councils or the borough councils. The school board of Leicester regarded this Bill as a humiliation on their body, and as a trespass on their just and right authority. He did not think he could give a stronger condemnation of the Bill than that. They regarded it as an attempt to destroy and not to build up, and as inevitably leading 498 to the lowering of the educational standard of the borough, and not to its advancement in any direction whatever. His constituents would rather that the evening continuation and the higher grade schools should remain absolutely free, as they were before the Cockerton judgment, when they were doing a great and beneficent work, not only for the children themselves, but for the industrial prosperity of the town. Why should the Government interfere with that? It was nothing but a pondering to the jealousy and to the dictation of the Secondary Schools Association—what was called the Incorporated Association of Head Masters. He had in his hand the report of that body for 1896; he had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman had read it over and over again; and it seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman had taken the suggestions from that report, and based on them the policy of not only the Bill which was dead, but that which they were now discussing. Failing to obtain the consent of the town councils, those schools were to be closed, but the public-houses were to remain open. The policy of the Government was to close the schools, but to keep the public-houses open to the little ones. That was not the policy of Leicester. Leicester had quite a different idea. The people there would close the public-houses to the young, but would give free and full opportunity to every child who had the capacity to acquire all the knowledge and attainments at his disposal in the splendid institutions which had been built up under the fostering care of that great borough. He knew schools in the borough of Leicester that had excited the admiration of foreigners from nearly all parts of the world.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said he was only just about to point out the value of the schools in Leicester as recognised by all friends of education. If the sub-section were passed, many of these institutions might be closed. The First Lord of the Treasury had interfered in the debate with, as he understood, the benevolent object of calming any excite- 499 ment which might have been excited with reference to the sub-section; and the right hon. Gentleman appealed to the Committee to come to a decision on it. But then he immediately proceeded to say that the discussion on that side was merely political rubbish. He had never heard a more insolent remark from the Leader of a great party. They were descending very low in debate when the leader of legions found it necessary to employ such language with reference to hon. Members whose only desire was to increase the intelligence of the people. The right hon. Gentleman charged hon. Members on that side with being opposed to reform. He had always understood reform to mean improvement, but in the Bill of 1896—
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member cannot now discuss the merits of a Bill brought in in a previous session. The question before the Committee is to omit Sub-section 1.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said he did not regard the sub-section as a reform, but as a revolutionary and retrograde step, which had for its object the destruction of the school-board system, secondary and primary, within a very few years. He objected to the sub-section largely for the reason that the bodies with whom secondary education was to rest were not suitable for the purpose. County councils and borough councils were elected for an entirely different purpose, and knew nothing about education; though of course he did not mean to say that there might not be educationalists on them. But education was not in the minds of the electors when they were elected. He also objected on practical grounds. He had a practical knowledge of the work of county councils for many years. He was deeply interested in it, but education had no part in it. Further, county councils had more work now than they had time in which to do it, as the right hon. Gentleman would know if he had had some elementary knowledge of rural life, but his university training and associations and his academic life prevented him acquiring that knowledge. [Sir J. GORST dissented.] He would give a practical illustration of how 500 difficult it would be for the county councils to take up the work of secondary education. He held in his hand the agenda of a county council, which included a great variety of subjects, such as the improvement of roads and footpaths, reports of the county surveyor, tenders for snow ploughs, letters from rural district councils, estimates for repairs of main roads, claims for compensation, opinions of counsel, and many other matters. He asked the right hon. Gentleman how could the county councils, which consisted of men from all parts of the county, get through such a long list, then take up the work of secondary education, and still have time to attend to their business in the cattle market or the corn exchange? It was perfectly ridiculous to think that under such circumstances the work could be done efficiently. He hoped that if the Government would not agree to the omission of the subsection they would at least adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for South Leeds, and let the appeal be to the Education Board in Whitehall, and not to the county councils and borough councils. Their fear was that education would drift into the hands of the parish priest and the squire, who were reactionary in educational affairs in many parts of the country. There might be some hope in the great towns. Hitherto they had regarded education as a sacred question, into which politics should not be introduced. Only recently he devoted a Saturday to canvassing for a leading Conservative in the parish in which he lived, because he was devoted to the cause of education, and he did not care whether a man was a Tory or a Radical if he were that. They were now proposing to associate education with the various questions, political and otherwise, which divided opinion in the counties and boroughs; and by that means they were striking a blow at the foundations of education in the country from which it would not recover for many generations.
§ MR. PLUMMER (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
said that, having some knowledge of the work of education in large cities, he regarded the Bill as a temporary measure, brought forward to meet a special emergency, and that they were not to 501 regard it as a precedent when they came to consider the far more important and wider measure which the Government had promised for next session. He had been for many years on the school board of Newcastle, and also for a somewhat less time on the city council, and he was bound to confess from his experience of those two bodies, when it came to the question of undertaking the work of elementary education, he did not see how a county borough council was able to undertake that work in the larger interests of the country; not that he suggested they were not educationally qualified for the work, but solely because he believed their hands were already entirely full of very important work. He therefore thought it would be worth while for the Government to consider before passing the more important measure whether some such suggestion should not be adopted as that foreshadowed by the Royal Commission on Technical Education, namely, the creation of a new body, consisting of one-third of members of the county councils, one-third of the school boards, and the other third, which he was sure Members on both sides of the House would greatly value, by the co-opting of men who were thorough educational experts, and who had experience which would be so valuable to educational bodies, the very class of men who would not submit themselves to popular election. He believed the Government had earned, if not the applause of the House, the good opinion of the country, for by their action they had drawn attention to the existing overburdening of the elementary schools. It might be heresy to say so, but he had long been convinced that they had too much crowded into the curriculum of what were termed elementary schools. They were by no means elementary schools. Like the village blacksmith, there was "something attempted, something done," but too often much was attempted and too little done, and if less were attempted he was convinced more would be done. Children left the schools with a slight knowledge of many things, and an imperfect knowledge of a few things of which they ought to have a well-grounded knowledge. In short, they had quantity at the expense of quality. Only a few days ago he over- 502 heard a child tell its neighbour in St. James's Park that Nelson fought the battle of Waterloo in Trafalgar Square, and that was the reason why the monument was erected there.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must confine himself to the question before the Committee, which is the omission of Sub-section 1.
§ MR. PLUMMER
said he was sorry if the anecdote was not in order, but the argument he wanted to press upon the House was that elementary education was too much overburdened with higher subjects. He did not wish it to be thought that he quoted this illustration as an argument against school boards, because he had no reason for knowing whether it was a school board child or not; but he cited it to prove the necessity of the curriculum of elementary schools being relieved of technical subjects. The Government would be doing great service indeed if one result of bringing that measure before the House should be the introduction next session of a measure on a larger and wider scale to relieve the overcrowded curriculum of elementary schools, which would be an advantage not only to the children but to the teachers. He should vote for the present Bill because it dealt with the difficulty which now existed, in the hope that before they were called upon to consider the larger measure there would be some differentiation in the treatment of larger towns where the school board was coterminous with the district of the borough or county council, always remembering that education existed not for the sake of school boards, but that school boards existed for the sake of education.
§ MR. CHARLES MORLEY (Brecknock)
said he rose to support the motion for the omission of the sub-section. He did so on many grounds, but particularly on the ground that he was not prepared to hand over to the control of the county councils that education which, for the last thirty years, had been so admirably managed in the best interests of the country by the school boards. The Education Bills of the Government had been so thoroughly opposed to the 503 educational instincts of the country that they had to undergo the humiliation of abandoning them. What was the crime of which the school boards were guilty? Nothing worse than placing too liberal an interpretation on their powers for forwarding the intellectual interests of the people; and he should have thought that, instead of endeavouring to cripple the powers of the school boards, the Government would have done what they could to extend them, in order to enable the boards to legally carry on the schools which were now in difficulties. The Government might have adopted the straightforward, simple course of bringing in a small measure, such as that suggested by his hon. friend. They had no desire to see the control of those schools taken out of the hands of the school boards. He should like to remind the Committee of some language which had been used with regard to the school boards. The Vice-President, speaking in the House on July 8th, denounced the work of the school boards and condemned the education given by them as cheap and shoddy.
§ MR. CHARLES MORLEY
said he would quote the right hon. Gentleman's words. They were—The education which you are spreading amongst the people is cheap, shoddy education instead of the better and higher education which we wish to promote.
§ SIR J. GORST
The hon. Member omits the statement that that has reference to art evening schools in London. It has no reference to schools generally, and was restricted to the art schools carried on in the evenings in London.
§ MR. CHARLES MORLEY
said that he was quite prepared to accept the interpretation of the right hon. Gentleman, but his recollection was that the right hon. Gentleman did not strictly confine his remark, as he now stated.
§ SIR J. GORST
The hon. Member is very unjust. The whole passage was 504 read by an hon. Member opposite, and it entirely bears out what I say. This is the second time that I have had to repudiate this misrepresentation.
§ MR. CHARLES MORLEY
said that at any rate the right hon. Gentleman referred to the evening art schools supported by the School Board of London. He would remind the House of what had been said by Sir Joshua Fitch—Meantime it should not be forgotten that the higher elementary school, whether we regard it as belonging to the reason of primary or secondary education, or to the borderland which lies between them, is at present in the hands of the school boards. They cerated it, they have faith in it, and they have so managed it that it has become one of the most popular institutions in the country, especially in that class of the community which most sorely needed improved opportunities of industrial training and intellectual culture.He would leave it to the Committee to judge between the statement of the right hon. Gentleman and the statement he had just read. The sub-section proposed to empower county councils and other local authorities to interfere with the work of the school boards, and to subordinate the school boards to themselves. It proposed that the one local authority which was charged with the administration of education should go cap in hand to another local authority which had received no such mandate for permission to carry on a useful and valuable work. He did not believe that the county councils would desire to be approached in that manner by the school boards. The County Council of Northamptonshire had passed a resolution by which, as he understood it, they expressed their objection to having to decide whether certain schools should be continued or discontinued. The Bill was a deliberate insult on a large and very valuable body of public servants. The second subsection was, however, a different matter, on which all of them would be more or less in accord, and which, with certain Amendments, would cover the whole of the present difficulty. That would pass the House without meeting with any serious opposition. But the first subsection established an altogether new principle, which, in the opinion of many hon. Members, would be highly contentious and very objectionable. Who was 505 to decide the schools to which the school fund was to be applicable or not applicable? The right hon. Gentleman did not know.
§ MR. CHARLES MORLEY
Because on the 5th of March the right hon. Gentleman said it was impossible to say where to draw the line, and to say that the school above was the higher grade school and the school below was only an elementary school.
§ SIR J. GORST
Those were remarks which I made before the extremely lucid judgment of the Master of the Rolls. After reading that, no school board could have any hesitation in saying it was impossible to draw a line.
§ MR. CHARLES MORLEY
congratulated the right hon. Gentleman upon having learnt his lesson so well, but nevertheless was of opinion that the Bill was unworkable. The county councils did not wish to deal with the schools. The school boards had done well in the past, and would do well in the future, and he thought that as the first subsection was a contentious one, it should be adjourned, in order that the Committee should have an opportunity of considering it.
§ MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somersetshire, E.)
said he could assure the Committee that so far from its being utterly impossible for the county councils to deal with secondary education, as had been attempted to be demonstrated by the hon. Member for Leicester, many of the county councils were at the present moment dealing with it very successfully. The Vice-President had done his best during the last few years for the needs of rural education, and had satisfied them. There was no doubt hat our county councils were not composed of reactionary squires and farmers, as was suggested, whose desire was to hurry through the county business in order to get to market, but of public-spirited men of all classes, thoroughly representative of the men who sent them to occupy that 506 position, and who could deal thoroughly—through their technical education committees—with secondary education. There might be differences of opinion even among county councils as to how far they should undertake these duties, and though many county councils were willing now to undertake the supervision and regulation of these schools, there might be an opinion the other way. But he did not think there was any opinion in the county councils as to their incapacity to conduct higher education. Of course they would have to delegate this work to their technical instruction committees, which met much more frequently than the county councils themselves, and meeting without a quorum, the business was much more thoroughly done. He did not deny that in his opinion the Bill required amendment, but this was not the moment to indicate the direction in which this ought to be done. He did not think it right to continue on a single Amendment a Second Reading debate which had already occupied over two nights. He did not intend to make a Second Reading speech, and should confine himself to trying to improve the Bill.
§ MR. LEVY (Leicestershire, Loughborough)
said he had not intended to have intervened on the Committee stage of the Bill, and should not have done so but for the variety of opinions which had been expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Leader of the House had told the Committee that this measure was necessary because they could not legalise without a measure of this sort those schools which had been closed through the Cockerton judgment; they were told that it was a tentative measure only; but anybody reading the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President would be bound to admit that it was a direct insult to the school board system throughout the country. He thought if he took a few instances he would convince the Committee that in many cases there was a direct conflict. First of all the right hon. Gentleman fixed the age at fifteen years. There was no explanation—
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
said there was nothing as to the age of fifteen in 507 the Amendment, and that the hon. Member must confine his argument to the Amendment.
§ MR. LEVY
said yes, he agreed, but the Minute of July 3 must be read with the Bill. They had been accused of speaking political rubbish, but he thought the political rubbish came from the opposite side. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that at Cardiff, as a result of this Bill passing, 160 children would be turned out into the street.
§ SIR J. GORST
They would not be turned out into the street, they would find accommodation in the intermediate schools.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
directed the hon. Member's attention to the fact that he had already called him to order for discussing matters which were irrelevant.
§ MR. LEVY
said that in that case he would direct his remarks to the question of the education which had been described as cheap and shoddy and the question of overlapping. The right hon. Gentleman had said the overlapping was the cause of a great deal of the harm, and had brought about this problem in education. There were two systems of secondary education, and the competition had been created by the schools which had not been receiving 508 aid from rates, and not by those which were partially supported out of the rates; therefore there was no reason for that competition. The right hon. Gentleman would not, he apprehended, disown The Times.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
I must call the attention of the hon. Member to the Standing Order with reference to repetition in debate. The right hon. Gentleman has explained what he has said, and it is the immemorial usage of this House to accept what is said by hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen.
§ MR. LEVY
said he would not trouble the House further than to say that education had been carried on properly by the school board in the past. Women had taken great interest in education and had done good work in the cause, but by the system now proposed their influence would be subject to the veto of county and borough councils. He supported the Amendment because the work of the school boards would be crippled unless this sub-section was deleted.
§ MR. SPEAR (Devonshire, Tavistock)
said he proposed to support the principle of the Bill because it proposed to establish a central authority in the county. At present there were three systems for providing technical and secondary education in the county. There was the Technical Committee of the County Council, the School Board, and the School of Art. These three agents carried on the same work, and were often brought into opposition, and very frequently overlapped each other's work and area. Therefore he recognised in the establishment of a good central authority a true foundation for the dissemination of secondary education throughout the country. He should not take this position if he thought it was antagonistic to school boards. The school boards had certainly done work in the direction of secondary education, and in many instances very good work, and he should be sorry to see it stopped. Nevertheless they had no legal mandate from the country to do this work, and he therefore failed to see that any 509 insult was being put upon them by the Bill. He ventured to hope that none of the good work which some school boards had carried on would be hindered or vetoed by the county councils, but it would be the means of extending to other school boards who had not touched the subject at all the advantage of providing secondary education. They also wanted to see the boy who attended the voluntary school having the same advantage of secondary education as the boy who attended the board school. This they could not have without some central authority. He should, however, object to the extension of any increased powers to voluntary schools without public control. In the establishment of a county authority they provided that control, at least, for secondary education purposes. He supported the principle of the Bill. It was a principle of decentralisation. He believed that the local authority could be better trusted to deal with the matter than the Education Board. The system of our education in rural districts had hitherto been a failure. It tended to denude our rural districts of their population, and he believed that the establishment of a county authority as the fountain head of secondary education in that county would encourage the youths of the rural districts to excel in the principles of agriculture. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who accused supporters of the Government of being opposed to education, forgot that it was a Unionist Government that provided free education for the masses of the people, and it was the Unionists who first recognised the importance of secondary education. He did not say the Bill was perfect; he looked upon it as a temporary measure, and reserved his right to support any Amendment on it.
§ MR. BRIGG (Yorkshire, W. R., Keighley)
said the speech of the hon. Gentleman who spoke last was of such a nature that he largely supported his views. At the same time he would like to say a few words. Take the Bill as it stood. It could not be said to be a real Bill, because it was only a temporary measure, and it would not be worth while for any county council to suggest any alterations 510 for so short a period. At the same time there was a certain amount of authority delegated to county councils in the way of disposing of the money which came from the Education Department, and they had the power to hand over to the different committees the money paid in to them by the South Kensington Department. But in that case no option was given them as to the payment. He could not see why in this case the same power should not be given by substituting the word "must" for "may."
The county council with which he was connected had recently called its technical education committee together, and the whole of the provisions of this Bill were explained to them. Upon the proposal that the county council should take up the work allotted to it, twelve voted in favour of the Bill, and nine against, but that was immediately followed by a rider that such an arrangement should be of only a temporary character, until another education authority was formed, and upon that point the voting was absolutely unanimous. It was impossible to consider this Bill without looking beyond it. One had to consider whether the county councils as at present constituted were a suitable authority for taking over the work of elementary education. On that point he was clearly of opinion that they were not properly qualified for such duties. The councils which were at present doing their duty in regard to technical instruction, and looking after the interests of education gererally, had really so much to do that it was impossible for them to take over to any extent the work connected with elementary instruction. It had been said that the work might be delegated by the county councils to the school boards, but his opinion was that the school boards would refuse to act as committees under the direction of the county council. The councils which were not efficient, and which did not know much about the work, were the ones that would be most likely to desire to take an active part in elementary instruction, and this unfortunate clause would give them the power to interfere very seriously with the work of the school boards. Two other objections to the proposal were that it was exceedingly difficult to get good men to do the work, 511 and the fact that eventually the religious question would be imported into county council elections. The latter objection could hardly be avoided, and it would seriously interfere with the ordinary work of the county councils. He therefore thought it would be a wise thing to omit this sub-section, and leave the school boards to do the elementary work, as at present.
§ MR. HOLLAND (Yorkshire, W.R., Rotherham)
said he should like in a few words to express his approval of the Amendment which the Committee were now considering, and he did so on the ground which he thought was common to all Members on that side of the House, namely, that he wished the school boards to be allowed to continue without let or hindrance the work in which they were at present engaged. He had received, as he knew many other Members had received, during the last few weeks, many resolutions and petitions from his constituents, the burden of which had been that the school boards should be empowered to maintain, on their own authority and out of the school funds, the higher grade and evening continuation schools, which had been affected by the Cockerton judgment. He thought they were all agreed that since 1870 there had been no time of such severe trial to the school boards as the present. What had school boards done to deserve such treatment at the hands of the Government? Their work during the last thirty years should have entitled them to more consideration and better treatment. He had himself formerly the honour of being a member of a technical instruction committee, which had been repeatedly described in the debate as one of the most competent and best equipped of any technical instruction committee in the country—the technical instruction committee in connection with the Manchester City Council. He was a member of that body for many years, and he doubted whether they would thank the Vice-President for a proposal which would add enormously to their duties. Certainly, judging by the personnel of the committee when he was a member of it, they would have been very averse to having this additional responsibility added to their 512 already onerous duties. Many efforts had been made in various speeches from the Government side of the House to minimise the importance of the Bill. It had been described over and over again as an incomplete measure. But a little Bill might do a great wrong, and hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House were agreed that the effect of the Bill would be to switch on to the wrong line the whole educational system of the country. Did anybody think that such a Bill as this would ever have been possible if the Vice-Presidency of the Council had been today occupied by the right hon. Member for Dartford? Still less would such a proposal have had the smallest chance of being brought forward had the Vice-Presidency been filled by the former occupant of that position—the Right Hon. Arthur Acland. It had been mentioned in the course of the debate that the Leeds School Board and the Gates-head School Board had taken some hostile action in consequence of the attitude of the Vice-President. He could add another school board to that list, and he had no doubt very many other hon. Members could also mention instances where school boards had taken action. At the Rotherham School Board meeting last week it was decided to close the continuation school because it declined to go cap in hand to the county council. He noticed that one of the most influential members of the school board on the occasion in question condemned very strongly the attitude of the Vice-President, and used some rather scathing language, for he said he thought that attitude more worthy of a comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan, and that the Vice-President must have had his tongue in his cheek when he was making some of his recent speeches. But that censure was not more severe than had been meted out to the Vice-President by experts on his own side of the House. If such a Bill had been brought forward with regard to Scotch school boards, what a hub-bub would very quickly have arisen! The wrangle which had recently been going on must have robbed English educational institutions of a great deal of their prestige in the eyes of Scotch Members, who were 513 naturally impatient that so much time should be wasted in discussing a question which they had settled in so much more enlightened a manner.
§ MR. GODDARD (Ipswich)
said that it had been stated that the school boards had no legal mandate to carry on the work affected by the Cockerton judgment. By what authority, then, had they done this work? Was the Code, issued year by year by the Education Department, not to be considered as a legal mandate? That was the authority under which the schools earned their grants, and it was the legal mandate which told them how far they might go and what they must leave out. It must have been forgotten that for years the Education Department had fostered the very kind of scheme which was now condemned. In future, apparently, the Code of the Education Department was to be considered as having no legal bearing at all. What was the reason for this sub-section? No doubt a difficulty had arisen in regard to these schools, and the purport of the Bill was to tide over the difficulty until a complete measure could be brought in dealing with the whole question of secondary education, and, presumably, elementary education also. That object could easily be accomplished by the second subsection of the Bill, with certain alterations. All that was needed was to allow the school boards to carry on the work which they had hitherto carried on so successfully, for another twelve months there was no occasion for anything further. But this was something more than a continuation Bill; it was nothing less than a complete subversion of the Education Act of 1870. That Act clearly foresaw one great fact of human nature. It foresaw that if the precepts of the school boards had to be submitted to the borough councils there would always be persons on those bodies elected for the simple purpose of keeping down the rates—men who did not care two straws about education, who had no thought for the higher instruction of the people, and who would deal with the precepts of the school boards in such a way as to render the work inefficient. It was the fact that the precepts could not be revised by borough councils that 514 had made the work of the school boards so successful all over the country. As soon as the school boards began to grapple with the educational difficulty they saw there must be something to follow the purely elementary teaching, and therefore, in order to save the children from being cast on the streets, and to provide a kind of stepping stone to technical and more thorough secondary education, the higher grade and continuation classes were established. The schools had been marvellously successful, whether considered from the point of view of the number of scholars or the amount of the grants earned. They had not arisen suddenly, and there was nothing underhand in the way in which they had come into existence. They had been approved by successive Governments, Liberal and Tory, and they had the sanction and applause of the Education Department. The Secondary Education Commission had never suggested that these schools should be crippled or extinguished, but that they should be co-ordinated. He was afraid that while the word "co-ordinate" was on the lips of many hon. Members who supported this Bill, the word "subordinate" was in their hearts. It was not the fact that the school boards had done too much that required this subsection. The real fact was that the law had been behind the age, and the duty of the Government was to improve the law and bring it up to the level of our educational needs. If the youths of the country were to be trained to fight and compete in the great industrial struggles of the world, the last thing that should be done was to cripple or in any sense to annihilate these schools. He could not understand why this opposition to the board schools had sprung up, or why it should be considered necessary, after all these years, to place them under the control of another authority. He could only conclude that their very success had drawn this attention upon them. The school boards were now being blamed and punished for "exceeding their proper scope," whereas the real culprits were the Government, who had neglected to improve the law to meet the real necessities of the case. He had not a word to say against the technical schools of this country. He knew the 515 good work the school boards were doing for the boys and girls in the elementary schools, and his point was that those boys and girls could not enter technical schools successfully without some preparation. An intermediate step was required, and it was not supplied by the Technical Instruction Committee. That intermediate step was supplied by the higher grade schools and the evening continuation schools, which were the stepping stones to higher education.
§ MR. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
said that when the Vice-President of the Council attempted to put his scheme into one small sub-section he was bound to meet with difficulties too great for him to cope with successfully, and he felt sure that this Bill would destroy the right hon. Gentleman's position as an educationist and Minister of Education. Before the present Bill became law the price paid for it in the time of the House would be very great indeed. He supported the omission of this sub-section because he thought that this question ought not to be decided by a sidewind in such an indirect, hasty, and cowardly way. Whether the principle was good or bad the remaining portions of the sub-section did not meet the situation in a satisfactory way. He contended that the dates mentioned in the subsection were inadequate for the purpose sought to be attained, and that the period specified was too late to arrange for the coming session of the continuation schools. The subsection did not give time to county councils and school boards to come to an agreement or a far opportunity to decide whether the schools should or should not go on. It was, indeed, useless and improper for its purpose, and although it might be forced through by a party vote and the use of the closure, it would do harm instead of good, because it would cause both sides of the House to discuss next session the larger Bill with anger, exasperation, and prejudice. They had been promised that next session education would have a very prominent place in the programme of the Government, and the President of the Board of Trade has also promised to bring in a great London Water Bill, which 516 would, no doubt, take up a good deal of time.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
Order, order The hon. Member is not in order in referring to future legislation.
§ MR. YOXALL
said they had listened to a very remarkable speech from the right hon. Member for Dartford, who had stated that this question was really a departmental question. That was how this subject ought to have been treated, and any other Minister would have treated it as such; and had this been done there would have been no need for this Bill at all. If they had had at the Board of Education a Minister of the type of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dartford, this would have been treated as a departmental question, and it would have been settled as such. Perhaps the greatest objection of all to this sub-section was that it limited its operation to the schools in existence last season, and made no provision for the extension of the schools. With regard to evening continuation schools, the limit was absolute, and that was a very strong reason why Sub-section 1 should be withdrawn. If this were done, then the school boards could go on according to the limitation laid down by the Code, and the liabilities they had already incurred could be condoned and approved by the Local Government Board. It was obvious that this sub-section was not wanted at all. Speaking generally, he was not averse to the Bill, because it proposed the setting up of an educational authority other than the school board; he would be content to see the school board cease to exist if satisfied of the advantage of that which would take its place. He would be content to see the school board merged into another authority if a plan were submitted by which the whole system of education would be comprehensively dealt with. But the Bill presented no such plan in the place of a system which had produced excellent work. They did not stand up for the school board system as a system alone, but because that system had produced excellent results, in spite of the sneers and inaccuracies of the right hon. Gentleman. Neither in the 517 Bill nor in the speeches in its support did he find encouragement for the belief that an authority would be set up capable of doing the work school boards had done. They had had during the debate several interpolated speeches—
§ SIR J. GORST
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I have never interposed except to explain some misrepresentation.
§ MR. YOXALL
said he was quite sure that it was very necessary that the right hon. Gentleman should explain some of the views he had expressed. The First Lord of the Treasury had launched against the Opposition the accusation that their views were tinted by the party spectacles which they wore, and that they were actuated by party motives, and not by a sincere sympathy with the cause of education. [Ministerial cries of "Hear, hear!"] That imputation he indignantly repudiated. The First Lord of the Treasury had referred to two Bills, and he had stated that the Bill of 1896 was opposed by the Opposition for party reasons.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
Order, order! The hon. Member must confine himself to the question under discussion.
§ MR. YOXALL
said he regretted that he was not allowed to refer to the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury. [Ministerial cries of "Order, order!" and Opposition cheers.] He regretted that the Deputy Chairman would not allow him to clear certain hon. Members on the Opposition side from the imputation that in opposing the Bill of 1896 they were actuated by party motives. Perhaps he might be permitted to repudiate entirely the suggestion that in dealing with this particular Bill they were actuated by any party feeling at all. His great desire was to set up a new local authority for all forms of education, constituted in such a way as to be enabled to deal with all existing schools, and so that all school boards could come into the system. This section of the Bill, however, dealt with school boards in such a way that it would set up a permanent irritation and put an obstacle in the way 518 of a comprehensive system in the future. He wished to point out to the hon. Member for Tavistock that if the school boards possessed no statutory powers for secondary education, none were possessed by the Technical Instruction Committees. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman would find when he came to study his Bill more carefully that part of it referred to certain Committees under what was known as Clause 7, which by the signed manual of the right hon. Gentleman was created into a kind of local authority.
§ MR. YOXALL
said he was strong in his belief that his interpretation was right, and that the right hon. Gentleman was wrong. This sub-section of Clause I was entirely unworkable. It proposed to impose a non-statutory authority upon a statutory authority as far as secondary education was concerned, and to transfer the powers of the one rating authority to another. A simple method of dealing with the difficulty would have been to introduce a Suspensory Bill, until a comprehensive measure could have been dealt with. If the right hon. Gentleman who advised and misadvised the Government, who led and misled them, had done his duty he would have maintained and sustained and continued during his own administration that which former administrators had deliberately done from year to year ever since 1874. They were suffering in the schools because they had not had from the Government a simple and obvious solution of a difficulty which, in other hands, would have been solved in a very brief space of time indeed.
§ MR. CORRIE GRANT (Warwickshire, Rugby)
said that the Committee stage of this Bill had been brought on so quickly that there had not been time allowed for the county councils or the school boards to make their voices heard upon this question. The opinion of every authority which could be obtained was certainly valuable in helping them to arrive at a correct decision upon the matter before the House. He wished to call attention to the opinion which 519 was expressed by the chairman of the Surrey County Council upon another Bill, which contained the same principle as the Bill before the House. Writing to the Standard on December 9, 1895, he said—I hope that county councils generally will show, with no uncertain voice, their disinclination to have this new duty thrust on them of controlling the expenditure of school boards, which bodies, like themselves, directly represent the ratepayers and whose money they spend. It would indeed be an invidious office.That was an opinion from Surrey. Next he would take the great county of Northampton. At the meeting of the Northamptonshire County Council only last week, a resolution was passed as follows:—"That this Council asks His Majesty's Government not to place upon the council the invidious duty of deciding as to the continuance or discontinuance of any kind of education which has hitherto been provided by the school board." Alderman Dulley, who moved that resolution, and who (he was told) was not an opponent of the Government in politics, said that the proper place for the settlement of this question was the school board, and that any appeal they wished to make could be taken, as now, to the Board of Education.
Hon. Members opposite had given four different reasons for supporting the Bill. The first reason, and it was a most admirable and satisfactory one from the point of view of hon. Members opposite, was that of the hon. Member for Newcastle, who said he supported the Bill because the Government brought it in; but it was not a satisfactory reason to a single Member on the Opposition side of the House, and he doubted if it was satisfactory to some of the educationists on the opposite benches. The second reason, which was given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dartford, was that this was a mere departmental matter. If it was a departmental matter his argument was in favour of the Amendment, because that proposed to leave the matter to the school boards, who had hitherto carried it out. The third argument was that of the First Lord of the Treasury, and although it was sometimes difficult 520 to discover where the fallacy of his argument lay, there was no difficulty at all in this case, for the subject of education was avowedly one to which he had paid very litttle attention. The right hon. Gentleman began by stating certain things that they were agreed upon. There was nothing more delusive than this process of putting propositions to which people were agreed. It was constantly done by the conjuror who played tricks in the exhibition hall. "You see this is an apple," and nobody denied it, and then at the next stage came the deception by which the people were deceived. The right hon. Gentleman said the school boards used to carry on these higher grade classes; next that the courts, by the Cockerton judgment, had decided that they could no longer be permitted to carry them on, and then he went on to say that we were all agreed that it was impossible to deal in this session with the difficulty. That was where the fallacy of the argument lay. There was no difficulty at all in dealing adequately with the situation, the difficulty lay in settling and establishing the principle to be followed. The answer was that the Amendment dealt adequately with the difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman next said there were only two courses open to them—they must either entrust this matter to the school boards or to the county councils. His answer to that was that there was third course. They need not entrust it to the school boards or the county councils, they could entrust it to the Department. That was the course which the Amendment proposed. The next point which the right hon. Gentleman made was that he could not believe the calumny that the school hoards would write over the doors of their schools, "Closed by the action of the Education Department." What was the resolution quoted only a few minutes afterwards by the hon. Member for the Rotherham Division? Why, that the Rotherham School Board, because of their experience in going to the county council on previous occasions, had now declined to go to the county council under this Bill, and would prefer to shut up their schools. That was the difficulty they were certain to meet with—they were going 521 to stir up old animosities. It was not every county council and every school board that worked amicably together, and whenever there had been harsh treatment on one side or the other, they were going to bring these old feelings into action in order to prevent the education of the children. That was not a calumny on the school boards. It was only an acknowledgment that where they had been harshly treated in the past they could not be expected to work smoothly now.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Islington had spoken of the municipal association of which he was the head. That association had by reason of its character drawn to it all the progressive bodies in the country, but it left out of calculation altogether the backward corporations who did not wish to be dictated to by a central body in London and who wished to go on in their own slow, unprogressive way. The fourth argument in favour of the Bill was put forward by the hon. Member for the Tavistock Division—that it established a local central authority. He did not know where the hon. Member found that provided for in the Bill, and he did not think any one would find that it was there. There was one other argument started in favour of the Bill, although he did not think it was a reason at all. The hon. Member for Plymouth had stated that the Bill was a step in advance. If so, what was it an advance from? This Bill only proposed to continue existing schools for a single year, and it invited the county authority to cut down the work if they liked. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen was challenged by the First Lord of the Treasury and the Vice-President of the Council to show where the Bill contained an invitation to cut down the work. Anyone who was used to Acts of Parliament had only to look at the Bill to see that it was a direct invitation to cut down and destroy the work of the school boards. The clause with the verbiage taken out would read as follows:—"Where a school board has, during 1901, illegally maintained any school or class the county council or county borough may empower the school board to carry on the work of the school or class." 522 Under those words alone the county council or county borough would, therefore, be able to give or refuse consent. The clause then went on that they might empower the school board "to such an extent and on such terms," and both of these were limiting phrases. He did not think the Vice-President would say that this was not a limiting clause. It certainly was not an extending clause. The clause set up several alternatives. The local authorities might empower the school boards to go on as before, and the hon. Member for South Islington had assured the Committee that the bulk of the county councils would generally approve of the school boards going on as before. If they would, it was far better that the work should be in the hands of the Department, which was already conversant with it, than that it should be handed over to new bodies which were inexperienced. The next alternative was that they might refuse permission to go on, and in that case what about the schools which the First Lord said would not be closed? There was no appeal, and the schools must be closed. He supposed if the schools were closed under these conditions, and the school board were to write over the portals "Closed by order of the Government," the First Lord of the Treasury would get up and say it was a calumny, that it was not his work, and that they were closed in the face of what he wanted. The third alternative was that the county councils might give permission to "such extent as might be agreed upon" to carry on the schools. After getting details in the shape of balance-sheets and estimates from the school boards they might, if they chose, refuse permission to carry on some of the schools. A fourth alternative was that they might refuse to deal with the matter altogether, not because they did not wish to see the school board doing its work, but because they thought the right way of doing the work was to keep it in the hands of the school board, and that was the only way in which they could make a really effective protest against any proposals the Government might bring forward next session. Was it satisfactory that there should be the possibility of differences in dealing with a matter of this kind when there was 523 a short and simple way out of the difficulty provided by the Amendment? The right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President in the course of his speech last week had said—I particularly looked into the case of Cardiff, because the chairman of the Cardiff School Board came up and had an interview with my noble friend the Lord President of the Council, and said we were going to turn 300 clever children of the working classes into the streets. What were the facts?That was the pleasant way in which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with the chairman of one of the great school boards of the country. Having quoted a statement made by the latter Gentleman when leading the deputation to the Duke of Devonshire, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say, "What are the facts?" He doubted whether he would be in order if he dealt with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in the same way. He was going to bring before the House what were the actual facts, because, although the right hon. Gentleman said he had got the facts, he did not seem to have made a very careful investigation. He would quote presently from the gentleman whom the right hon. Gentleman had so insidiously attacked, and who had done something to make the facts a little more clear. "What are the facts?" asked the right hon. Gentleman, and then he went on—There are 268 altogether in the School of Science. Of these 160 only are over fifteen years of age, and these forty-five only are in the advanced course, so that the result of the judgment, if carried out most rigidly, would be the exclusion of 160 children only from the school; and exclusion of only forty-five who are taking the advanced course; and the whole of these young people could be provided for in the Welsh intermediate school in the same town.Now, what was the reply of the chairman of the Cardiff School Board to the right hon. Gentleman on this matter? He did not suppose the right hon. Gentleman had seen it himself, but he would find it in that day's Daily Chronicle. He was not going to read the whole of the letter, because there were certain passages in it which he was sure would be condemned in this House as too strong language, although after the direct attack the right hon. Gentleman had 524 made on the chairman of the school board the right hon. Gentleman need not be surprised that that gentleman should make a retort. He did not wish to associate himself with these passages in the letter, but only with the chairman's contradiction on matters of fact.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
said the hon. Member would not be in order in going beyond the scope of the Amendment before the Committee.
§ MR. CORRIE GRANT
said he was only referring to a statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Council on the First Reading of the Bill, and which had been quoted that evening by the hon. Member for the Loughborough Division, as to the provision for the children in the intermediate school in Cardiff. He wished to show that the right hon. Gentleman had not looked carefully into the facts, or had not brought them forward as they existed.
§ MR. CORRIE GRANT
said he did not intend to dispute the Chairman's ruling, but might he ask, as a matter of instruction, if figures were quoted on one side of the House, was it not in order to quote figures to prove that the first were wrong?
§ MR. CORRIE GRANT
said he was not dealing with previous stages of the Bill, but with figures quoted that night when the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President rose to his feet and insisted on his hon. friend reading on.
§ MR. CORRIE GRANT
said he hoped he had sufficient knowledge of the proceedings of the House to obey the 525 Chairman's ruling; but he might be permitted to say that he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President would read the letter of the Chairman of the Cardiff School Board for himself, and that he would correct his own figures when he found that these were wrong. The hon. Member for Plymouth objected to the phrase "Suspensory Bill," and said that he did not know what a Suspensory Bill was. He agreed that if the language in this House was to be criticised with the accuracy of an indictment at quarter sessions, "Suspensory" was not sufficiently accurate; but the phrase? expressed what they wanted to be done. They wanted to suspend the Cockerton judgment. Perhaps the correct phrase would be an "overriding" and not a "suspensory" Bill, although the criticism of his hon. friend went a little too far considering the circumstances of the case. But the hon. Gentleman went on to say that they, on that side of the House, objected to a Bill that would continue the present state of things. The hon. Member was speaking in entire ignorance. Why, the hon. Baronet the Member for the Northern Division of Cheshire had before Easter brought in a Bill which proposed to do exactly what the hon. Member had referred to, viz., continue the present state of things, and that Bill had been cordially supported on that side of the House. Therefore, when the hon. Member said that such a Bill would not be supported on that side of the House, he was speaking of what was not the fact. In regard to the franchise, the hon. Member said that the borough council franchise was more directly representative and better than the school board franchise, because the school board franchise had the cumulative vote. That was quite correct, but the hon. member forgot that the register on which the school boards were elected, was usually a twelvemonth fresher than that on which the county councils and the borough councils were elected, and, therefore, they got more closely the opinion of the people. He himself was not in favour of the cumulative vote, but if they were going to argue this question on small points let them have the whole of the small points brought out. There was no hope to be drawn from the 526 speech of the right hon. the First Lord of the Treasury as to the future of education in this country. The right hon. Gentleman had evidently in his mind the Bill which had failed, and the measure which was going to fail. The reason that the Bill had failed was because the Government had never taken the advice of educationists, even on their own side of the House; their object was not to advance the broad general interests of education throughout the country, but to help voluntary education and to bring over children to a particular sect. If the First Lord would take his courage in both hands at once, as they had never seen him do in regard to education, and if he would come out from among the little circle of people round him, if he would read the evidence laid before the Royal Commission on Secondary Education, if he would even have a précis of that evidence prepared for him and carefully consider it, or if he would consult the reports which came from the United States and Germany as to the lines on which education ran in these countries, or content himself with scanning the records of the manner in which education was dealt with in any one of our colonies, he would then see whether no lessons were to be learned from them for the benefit of the mother country, and they might then see a Bill which would be of some real benefit to the community.
The most painful thing about the whole situation was that when they came to deal with education they had, instead of great measures, mere flimsy Bills like this trying to turn the current of education into channels into which it did not want to go, and spectacles like that which they had witnessed in 1896. The Bill of that year was not defeated by the force of the Opposition, but by the failure of the Ministerialists; it was defeated not by the strength of its enemies, but by the feebleness of its friends; it was an Amendment from the Ministerial benches which finally made an end of it. It might be there were men on the Ministerial benches who were more devoted to the cause of education than some of the men on the Opposition benches; but, at any rate, the best educationists on either side of the House were equal in every respect in their earnest 527 devotion to the cause of education. And yet when men on both sides of the House were willing to join hands in order to get a really effective measure of education, they had the First Lord of the Treasury throwing across the floor of the House taunts not worthy of the front bench. They were told that they were talking "political rubbish." What did that amount to? Would the right hon. Gentleman, as a controversialist, even in his first year in this House, have paid any attention to a phrase like that? That was the sort of thing one heard in a debating society. They all talked in that way twenty or thirty years ago in the Hardwicke Society and places of that kind, where strong language told more than argument, and where loud denunciatory speeches were what everybody enjoyed. Surely they had not descended to that? Where would language such as that of the First Lord of the Treasury lead them? It helped nothing except to encourage those on that side of the House in their opposition to the Bill. Moreover, it was one of those half truths which were not true. Of course there was a great deal of rubbish—political rubbish—talked on both sides of the House. He ventured to say that the Vice-President must have heard speeches from his own friends which were not quite the thing he would have liked to have heard. Political rubbish, again, depended upon the standpoint of the man who made the observations. No one questioned the capacity of the right hon. Gentleman in some matters; but would any educationist in the country mind a criticism of that kind coming from the First Lord of the Treasury? When had he shown any real knowledge of the needs of the people as regarded education; when had he shown any real sympathy with their wants? When the Vice-President spoke of a police-constable of mature years working away in an evening school in order to perfect himself in handwriting, he should have thought that that was a thing that would have appealed to the heart of any man. But the First Lord cheered and laughed and enjoyed the sneers of the Vice-President and his ridicule of such a moving incident. When hon. Members of the House talked about political rubbish, they would be judged by their 528 past in regard to education. He ventured to say that the people would seriously consider who was to blame when they found their schools closed, and when even constables were no longer able to get the education they wanted to qualify themselves for the promotion to which they aspired, they would not take kindly to the sneers of the right hon. Gentleman.
There was one other phrase of the First Lord of the Treasury to which he wished to refer. The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not believe that this Bill would check education. But when the right hon. Gentleman set a large number of authorities to deal with a single proposition, did he expect the whole of them to deal with it in the same way? Did anybody ever know all local authorities to deal with any question in the same way? He would give an illustration. The right hon. Gentleman knew the importance of main roads. Well, there was a clause in the Local Government Act, 1888, which provided that local authorities might deal with the main roads in several alternative ways, and the local authorities took every possible method of dealing with them; they used every alternative in the Act. They would do exactly the same with this Education Bill. One authority would give the school boards a free hand to do what they liked another authority would ask for accounts and bank books and submit them to rigid examination, and check every expenditure, and arrest progress. Another would say, "We entirely approve of the school board having charge of elementary education, but our technical system is the best for the higher grade schools." And yet the right hon. Gentleman said that this Bill was not going to check education! The right hon. Gentleman said that it would only shut up the bad schools; but that suggested another question to his mind. How was it that there were bad schools? Why had they not been shut up? Where was the control of the Vice President? Did he leave all this to the President of the Council, and did he not attend to it himself? If there were bad schools the Department ought to have found it out long ago, and as to shutting them up, how were the county councils, with a fortnight to obtain information, 529 to find, out which were the bad schools when the Vice-President had not discovered them in all these years with all the resources of his Department at his command? The right hon. Gentleman told them that this Bill was intended to help these schools; but, if so, why were two words omitted? When the Bill said that the county councils or the borough councils "may empower the school board to carry on for the period of one year from that day the work of the school or class," they ought to have had after the words "carry on" the words "or extend." He should not argue this point now, because on a later Amendment they would have the opportunity of testing the real value of the statement of the First Lord, of the Treasury, that he was anxious to do all that he could to encourage education, and only to shut up the bad schools. A statement had been made by the hon. Member for Leicester, which had been questioned with a good deal of violence, that they knew no politics in education; but the fact was so, and there was an illustration ready to hand, known to every Member of the House. What were the facts in regard to the London School Board? Who was the leader of the Progressive party on the London School Board? Mr. Lyulph Stanley, a Unionist. Who was the Chairman of the Works Committee? Lord Morpeth, a Unionist, who stood as a Unionist candidate at the last election. Who was the Chairman of the Finance Committee? Sir Charles Elliott, a Conservative.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
Committee report progress; to sit again upon Monday next.