HC Deb 07 May 1901 vol 93 cc970-1005

Mr. Speaker, I wish to ask leave of the House to introduce a Bill which is to establish in every part of England and Wales a local educational authority, which is intended to supervise education of every kind, and which may ultimately have the control and supervision of all schools, whether elementary, secondary, or technical. The chaos which has existed in our English school system has frequently been described by speakers in this House and out of doors, by writers in public magazines, and by the press; and I think I should be wasting the time of the House if I were to attempt to describe it over again. Anyone who wishes to have an authoritative view of the chaos which exists in our education cannot do better than read the Report of the Commission on Secondary Education, which was presided over by my right hon. friend the Member for South Aberdeen. The reform of this confusion has been repeatedly urged on the Government both in Parliament and elsewhere. The mischief which existed at the time when the present Government took office has grown greatly since, and it is high time now to do something to reduce our confused educational system to something like harmony. In 1896 the Government proposed, as a means of introducing harmony into our system, the creation of a local educational authority. Since that time the subject has been greatly discussed in the country, and public opinion has grown; and, though it is extremely dangerous to predicate agreement on any single point in connection with education, I think it may be said that on this one point there is now practical unanimity—that the solution of our difficulty is not to be sought in any attempt to draw a line between primary and secondary education, but must be sought in the establishment of one local authority which shall be able to form a plan for the general public education of its district suitable to the circumstances of its population, and which shall exercise such jurisdiction over all the schools within its area as will enable it to prevent over-lapping, to prevent mischievous competition between one public school and another, and to secure a supply of all kinds of public instruction which the wants of the people require. I am afraid that when we have arrived at a unanimous agreement upon that point, unanimity exists no further; because when you come to discuss what particular body that authority is to be, we find a very great variety of opinion and a very great amount of controversy.

Practically the choice lies between the school boards, modified and altered in certain directions, and county and county-borough councils and urban district councils, of which I shall have more to say hereafter. Now, the choice between the school board and the county council is one not to be determined by sentiment. You cannot erect school boards into educational authorities merely to reward them for the excellent work they have been doing for the last thirty years. You must consider which body can be most easily erected into an authority and which body will best serve the purpose when it is so established. I will just recall the objections there are to the choice of the school board. In the first place, it does not cover the whole area. It covers only about two-thirds of the population of England and Wales, and the other third is without a school board. Therefore, the first thing you would have to do would be to make school boards universal. The House may see, perhaps, from past controversies, what a very arduous undertaking it would be to make school boards universal. Besides that, the areas would have to be altered. That is admitted by the strongest partisans of the school board system. A small parish area is not suited to anything but elementary education, even if it is suited to that; and nobody is quite agreed as to what other area should be taken. I believe the commonest suggestion is that the area should be made conterminous with the area of rural district councils; but anybody who has had experience of the sort of way in which boards of guardians exercise the powers of attendance committees, which is the only power connected with education they have, can conceive what an extremely bad educational authority the rural district council would be. The third objection, and a very practical one, is that you would have to take away from the county council, who are a most popular body, elected by the same kind of suffrage which elects Members of Parliament, the powers and funds which they have been administering during the last ten years. It is not as though you were going to absorb county councils altogether; and, as a matter of practical politics, I think it is impossible to take away from a popular body, unless you absorb and suppress it altogether, powers and funds which it possesses and which it has for some time administered. In all these points, though there is difficulty, there is less difficulty in the case of county councils. In the first place, they are universal. They cover the whole country. Then, their areas, though perhaps not ideally the best educational areas that could be chosen, are fair areas, and there is no reason to fear from our experience of the working of the Technical Instruction Acts, that all education could not be reasonably worked in the area of the county council. If they are to absorb all educational powers, it is quite true that existing school boards would lose the powers and funds which they have for the last thirty years administered so well. But there it is a case of absorption; you transfer its powers and its duties to another authority, and the old authority is absorbed.

I think, therefore, the House will see that as a practical measure it will be very much easier to erect the county council into the universal and general educational authority than the school board. But I do not think we should wish necessarily to do that if when the operation was completed we found that we had got the wrong and less advantageous body. Now, is that so? Those bodies which are elected for special purposes, bodies elected ad hoc, are really a survival of an ancient form of local government which has been generally discredited and abandoned. They were very common in former days, but they have very great defects. The first defect is that the existence of such a body, with separate functions and separate rating powers, is an absolute obstacle to anything like proper local self-government. Local self-government must rest upon the entire control of local finance, and when you have bodies with independent rating powers, carrying on independent functions, it is quite impossible for your popular local body, like the council of the borough or the council of the county, to have that control over local finance which is absolutely necessary to make a strong and successful instrument of local self-government. There is another objection which I have not seen mentioned, but which I think is worth consideration, to bodies which are elected for a special purpose—and that is that being elected by the ratepayers for a special duty they consider it naturally incumbent upon them to keep the whole of the powers which are entrusted to them entirely in their own hands. They are generally opposed to the principle of delegation. They think that, being elected to do a certain work for the public, they must do it themselves and cannot do it through the instrumentality of somebody else. The body elected for the express purpose of education is not contented with controlling the schools, but it generally refuses to delegate and tries to manage everything in its own hands. I am told that the London School Board is a remarkable instance of the extent to which a great central body, controlling a population nearly as great as that of Switzerland, exercises every particular of administration itself, I believe even down to the appointment of housemaids to clean the schools.

*DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)

No, no. We have as many as 2,000 local managers.


I did not say it was so; I said I was told so. They have local managers, but even those local managers are practically deprived of all power and discretion of their own, and the whole machine, admirably conducted as it is, is conducted entirely from one office. And so it comes about that these ad hoc bodies come at last to care a great deal more for the machinery, and the machine which they direct than they do for the purpose for which it has been created. [HON. MEMBERS on the Opposition Benches: No.] I must say that I have seen on many recent occasions that there is a great deal more zeal in certain quarters for the maintenance of the school board system than there is for the education of the children for which that system was brought into existence. [Cries of "No, no!" from the Opposition Benches.] I have known many cases where improvements conceived in the interests of the children, and designed for improving their education, have been opposed and thwarted because they were supposed to be damaging to the system, which at all hazards must be maintained. No doubt this is a matter which will be discussed very much. I have stated the reasons which have induced the Government to select the county council as the basis of the educational authority of the country rather than a modified and altered school board. But that is no doubt a subject which can be discussed when the time comes.

Now it is proposed to make every council of every county and of every county borough, acting by means of a statutory committee chosen under the provisions of this Bill, the education authority, with certain reservations relating to non-county boroughs and councils of urban districts, which I will explain later on. It is proposed that the constitution of this committee shall be appointed by scheme and not in the Bill. In selecting a scheme as the mode of appointment, the object of the Government and of the Board of Education is elasticity. We do not propose a scheme with a view of imposing on every part of the country a scheme which is to be prepared at Whitehall and issued from there; but we really wish the county councils themselves to take the initiative and propose schemes for the appointment of their Education Committee which may be suitable to the particular circumstances of the county. We are of opinion that no one scheme could be invented, either by the Board of Education or by that much wiser body the Parliament of the country, which would fit every place, and therefore it is much better to let places propose their own committees; and, though these proposals are to be referred to and approved by the Board of Education, that is not with the idea of altering them or imposing the ideas of the Board of Education on the locality, but in order that the Board may act as a kind of conciliator, to see that all interests are consulted, that all the people of the place have their views considered, and that a final scheme is arrived at so as at all events to please, as many of the inhabitants of the county or county borough as possible. The schemes are to be published before they are approved by the Board of Education, and there is power, if necessary, to hold a local inquiry, so that every opportunity will be given for publicity before the scheme is adopted. Every opportunity is also given for interests which may have their views upon the kind of committee that ought to be appointed to make their representations and to have their representations properly considered. In an extreme case, which I hope may never arise, the Board of Education is entrusted with the duty of itself making a scheme—that is, if it prove quite hopeless to bring the parties to agreement. Then the Board of Education may make the scheme; but that scheme is to be laid before Parliament, and not to take effect until Parliament has approved of it. Therefore Parliament will be the ultimate decider, the ultimate arbitrator, in all cases, if such cases should arise, where the county or county borough cannot themselves deal with the matter harmoniously.

MR. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, E.)

Does the scheme relate only to the composition of the committee?


The scheme only relates to the constitution of the committee.


Not to its powers?


Not to its powers.

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

Are all schemes to be laid before Parliament?


No, only those which the Board of Education itself frames, because we think that, if all the people of a county or county borough are agreed upon the kind of committee they ought to have, Parliament need not trouble itself with their local affairs. In extreme cases Parliament is to be the arbitrator. In the Bill there are given to county councils the largest possible powers of combination, and these powers of combination, I earnestly hope, will be very freely used. It is not only small counties which may combine together and form one education area, which will be very much better, very much more effective, than a number of separate counties, but we hope to see some of the county boroughs throwing in their lot with the county. Such a thing would be advantageous, not only to the county, the natural centre of which is the county borough, but also the borough itself, because, instead of having its own small area in which to act, it would probably have a large district of the county for which it would be the natural metropolis, and the children of which would frequent its higher and secondary schools. We also give the most absolute power of separation, and I hope this power of separation will be sparingly used. But it would be quite possible for a county to excise any of the non-county boroughs which, from their geographical position or from their character, ought to be separate educational areas of their own. I hope that that power will be very sparingly used, because such an isolation of a population of 40,000 or 50,000 is, as I said before, bad for the county; it takes away from the county the place in which its schools would be naturally placed, and it is bad for the borough, because it shuts it up in its own small isolation instead of making it what it ought to be—the centre for the surrounding districts. This education committee will have no power of rating. It will merely spend the sums which are placed at its disposal by the county council. The whole financial control is left with the county council.

*MR. MATHER (Lancashire, Rossendale)

Before the right hon. Gentleman proceeds further with this part of the subject, will he kindly say whether the education committee to be constituted will be composed solely of members of the county council, or will there be delegated members from educational institutions and other bodies?


I am very much obliged to the hon. Member for reminding me. There are only two things in the Bill which are prescribed by Parliament. The first is that the majority of the education committee should consist of members of the council, or, in the case of a non-county borough, if the non-county borough was excised from the county, the majority of the committee would be members either of the council of the county or the council of the excised borough. The other provision is that in every case there shall be—it is not left to option—other members on the education committee not members of the county council. The number of these and the mode in which they are to be appointed will all be matters for the scheme, and they are not in any way included in this Bill.

SIR JOHN BEUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)

Is there any other form of ex officio representation?


These will be all matters of scheme. Take Manchester. Probably the scheme for Manchester would involve the appointment of a member on the nomination of Owens College.

*MR. CORRIE GRANT (Warwickshire, Rugby)

Will the Bill deal with the question of whether women are to be entitled to sit on these bodies? Also, will the teachers' organisations have representation?


The last will be entirely a matter of scheme. But with regard to women, with great reluctance I have put into the Bill "male or female." It was with great reluctance, for if it were not put into the Bill women would be eligible. By putting it in in one place one runs terrible risks—though I do not know that there is any such place in this Bill—of specifying women in one place and excluding them in some other where you do not intend to do so. As the Bill stands it is "male or female."

Now I come to the funds. The first money which the county council will place at the disposal of this committee will be the local taxation money. The local taxation money will be applicable to purposes of education of every kind, subject to certain reservations, which I will mention in a moment. The appropriation is extended; it is not technical education alone, but it is education generally to which the technical instruction money may be applied; and the county may allocate to the committee such part as it thinks fit of the local, taxation money for the committee to spend; and in that way this new education committee will become the successor of the existing Technical Instruction Committee, and will no doubt carry oh their work. The county council will apply this money or not as it wishes, and we do not propose to alter the existing law in that respect. The county council will also have the power of levying a rate which is at present restricted in the Bill to the amount of 2d. They will levy this rate either on the whole county or upon any part of the county for which, it may be desirable to make the provision and these sums—the local taxation money and the produce of the rate which the county may think fit to levy—will be the funds at the disposal of this education committee.


What about the school board rate?


The school board rate is not in any way touched by this Bill.


Will the right hon. Gentleman explain that?


If the hon. Member will wait until I have finished, he will see that I do not propose to intefere in any way with the present position, the present rating powers of school boards. The Bill gives no directions whatever as to the objects upon which the education committee is to spend the money provided by this Act. It is for education generally, for the promotion of education in the most general manner possible, more general even than under the Technical Instruction Act. The country has now had a great deal of experience in the best modes of spending this money; at first there may have been waste, but now the money is so extremely well spent in most of the counties that it is thought better to leave it entirely to the discretion of the local authority to spend the money in the way it thinks fit than to attempt to prescribe how and on what particular objects it is to be spent.


The right hon. Gentleman has excited a little confusion in the minds of some of us. I think a simple question would clear it. Can this money be applied to elementary education?


If the right hon. Gentleman had waited two minutes, I was just going to say that although the Bill contains no provision as to the objects for which this money is to be spent, it does contain provisions as to the objects for which it is not to be spent. The first is that it is not to be spent in making grants towards establishing or maintaining public elementary schools. It will be quite wrong to say that none of it can be spent in reference to elementary education, because a great deal of the technical instruction money is now so spent. For example, the Technical Instruction Committee of the county of London—one of the best technical instruction bodies we have—have spent a great deal of their money in giving scholarships at schools conducted by the London School Board, and there will be no restraint in future upon county councils spending their money in that way. There is another way in which money is spent, and that is in getting the children to school. School boards have no power to do that. But there are many country places where the best way of getting the children to school is to send a wagon round, and money is actually so spent at the present moment—technical instruction money. There is no objection, I never heard of any auditor objecting, and I should be very sorry if this Bill should in any way interfere with so laudable an expenditure. Not only are they not to maintain public elementary schools, but they are not to maintain poor law schools, or reformatory or industrial schools; and they are not to make more grants to, or to maintain or establish, schools which are conducted for private profit. That will not prevent scholarships being given to schools conducted for private profit; it only forbids any of this money being given to such schools in the shape of grants in aid or establishment expenses.

Now I come to a rather vexed question in these education Bills, that is the question of a conscience clause. I have always said in this House and outside that there is very little importance in the conscience clause in the case of secondary schools, because the real control over the kind of religious instruction given in schools higher than elementary schools is with the parent; it is the wishes of the parents that are carried out, and the school authorities are bound to, and do, comply with them. Every hon. Member will probably recollect in his younger days a school where there have been boys of different religious creeds to his own, and he will remember how very tenderly the rights of conscience were always regarded at such schools. But, really more to satisfy Parliament, perhaps, than to satisfy any necessity of the case, it is proposed that the following conditions should be imposed upon all schools which are aided, established, or maintained out of this money. First of all, there is to be no condition made, as a condition of making a grant, that any particular kind of religion is or is not taught in a school; and, secondly, the parents of every scholar are to have the power to withdraw him or her from any religious observance or religious instruction, and the hours of religious teaching and religious observance are to be so arranged as to make that withdrawal as convenient as possible. It is a very simple conscience clause, and I hope it will satisfy the House of Commons. I am sure it will be quite enough to secure perfect religious liberty in all these schools.

I pass now to a very difficult question, to which I ask the attention of the House, that is the position of non-county borough and urban district councils. Now these are already education authorities for the purpose of technical instruction. It is rather a curious provision which was made in the original Technical Instruction Act, that in every non-county borough and urban district there are practically two education authorities—there is the county at large, which has jurisdiction over the non-county borough or urban district, and there is besides that the council of the non-county borough and the council of the urban district, and there is nothing in the Act to prevent rival schools being set up in every non-county borough and every urban district, one run by the county and the other by the borough, which might compete with one another in the same manner in which we see schools competing in some of the larger boroughs. These councils have already got rating powers, and can levy a 1d. rate on the top of the county rate quite independently of the county, and they can spend that 1d. rate in technical instruction, which, as the House knows, has a very wide and loose definition. As long as they confine themselves to technical instruction they can establish practically what schools they like within the borough or urban district entirely independent of the county.


Does that make a total of 3d.?


It has not made anything yet, but it did make a total of 2d. There is this curious anomaly as the law is at present, that whereas in the county you can only have a penny rate, and in the county borough only a penny, in all these non-county boroughs and urban districts you can have a 2d. instruction rate, 1d. levied by the county and 1d. by the urban district.


This is a very important matter. The right hon. Gentleman has already mentioned a 2d. rate; is this in addition; will there be a total of 3d.?


The hon. Gentleman is very anxious to get that cat out of the bag. I am going to propose that they are still to have the power of laying a 1d. rate, but I have not come to that yet. I was going first of all to tell the House to what extent this power has been used. Taking England alone, none of the counties have ever exercised this power of laying a general county rate under the Technical Instruction Act. But in the case of the county boroughs, twenty out of sixty-one have levied some portion of this possible rate—not the whole of it. Out of 217 non-county boroughs, as many as eighty-five have laid a rate under the Act, and of the urban districts 181 out of 768 have laid a rate under the Act. These rates have been applied to the establishment of technical schools in some of the urban districts in Lancashire; they are very excellent technical schools, and it is quite impossible now to take the power of laying the rate out of the hands of these authorities. You cannot help allowing these bodies still to continue to levy a penny rate which they have had the power to levy, and which so many have been actually levying under the Technical Instruction Act. But besides the impossibility of doing away with this anomaly, I do not think it is very desirable that it should be done away with, because it gives the opportunity to the county council of bringing into force an expedient which must be very largely used if ever a really thorough educational system is to be established under the county council, and that is a great deal of delegation of management. It would be quite impossible for the counties to manage every school which they establish and aid themselves; they must delegate their authority to the local managers. You want a unity of control in order to prevent waste and overlapping, and it is unity of control in the county body which we wish sedulously to maintain. But at the same time we want a diffusion of management in order to secure variety, and to prevent that hideous uniformity which is a great drawback to a State-supported system. It is therefore proposed that the council of any non-county borough or any urban district which desires to become manager of the schools within its area, and which testifies to the sincerity of its desire by levying a rate, shall be entitled to become of right the sole agent for the county education committee for the control and management of all schools that are aided or established within its limits. So that there will be unity of management; there will be no possibility of the county and the non-county borough or urban district having rival schools in the district. It will be a subject of agreement between the council of the borough or urban district and the county council—they will determine the conditions or terms upon which this money, shall be spent, and in which this management shall be delegated to the borough or urban district. The right of the Board of Education to intervene in the event of a disagreement is specified in the Bill in this case, just as before, to enable the Board to act as intermediary and conciliator. That is not with the idea that the Board of Education will interfere with the wishes of the local authorities. It is hoped that the council of the non-county borough or urban district will become a very important agent of the county in the work of secondary education; that they will have not only their own money to spend, but contributions from the county as well; that they will become not merely the managers of schools for the youth of their district, but also centres for surrounding parts of the county, and that they will carry on on behalf of the county council schools which will serve a very much greater district than their own area. The clause is rather an intricate one, and one which in my opinion will have to be carried a great deal further in the educational system of the country. But the general principle is this—preservation of county control so as to secure unity of purpose, that the schools fit into the general county system, and independence of the borough management so as to give them the right of being managers of all the schools which are planted within their own district. Of course, it would be greatly to the advantage both of the non-county borough or urban district and of the county that such agreement should be made, because the urban centre is the natural place in which the county would wish to place the schools, and the urban council would much prefer being managers of large schools serving a large section of the county than of one merely necessary for its own children.

Now I come to the proposals which we make with regard to the Cockerton judgment. The schools which the Cockerton judgment affects cannot be carried on unless some provision is made for them. The Board of Education, it should be understood, has nothing to do with the expenditure of the school board—that is regulated by law, and the Board of Education has no right to interfere in any way whatever in what the school board pays. The work of the school board is regulated by statute, and the board has to obey the statute, not the Board of Education. The enforcement of the statute does not rest with us in any way whatever; it rests with the public auditor of the Local Government Board, and if the school board differs from his ruling and judgment it can appeal to a court of law. The Board of Education does not interfere, nor has it the power to interfere in any way in the matter. As to the Cockerton judgment, the Board of Education had nothing to do with either the case, the judgment, or the prosecution of the appeal; the only concern we had with the matter was to place the information in our archives at the disposal of all parties, and everybody had the information wanted so far as it was in the office, the Board remaining quite neutral. Now, with regard to the schools affected, I should regret if they were destroyed. Not that I in any way subscribe to the extravagant laudation which some persons have bestowed upon them. As regards the day schools, some are extremely good and others are not so good, and in some places children are kept in attendance at these schools when it would be very much better for them if they were sent to a secondary school, where they would get more instruction. In the evening schools there is a good deal to be desired. Once I went to an evening school and found the young people engaged in a ball, and I am bound to say their behaviour was as decorous as, perhaps more decorous than, I have ever found at any ball I ever attended. Now, of course, I have no objection to young people enjoying themselves by dancing, but I could not help feeling that it was not the thing that at the same time they should be actually earning grants from the Exchequer.


I only wish to say that on the occasion to which the right hon. Gentleman refers the attendances were not counted for the grant, and the teachers were not paid for their attendance.


Oh, I beg pardon. I made very careful inquiry about this occasion. The performance was called "suitable physical exercise," and the grant was earned. If the hon. Member makes inquiries he will find that I am perfectly correct in that statement. Some of these evening schools have been made so recreative that complaint has been made to me by benevolent ladies who have organised girls' clubs, not only that children have gone from polytechnics, drawn by the free education given in the evening schools, but that girls are drawn away from the clubs by the superior attractions of the evening schools. Now, with every desire to promote festivity among our young people, particularly in such a place as London, I do think that these are things that require seeing into; and I do not think that it will be the general opinion that rates or grants from the Consolidated Fund should be used for such purposes. But we do not wish that these schools should be destroyed, or that they should be suddenly taken out of the hands of the people who have hitherto managed them—namely, the school boards. Certainly we do not wish to deprive them of their income, and so to cast them for maintenance upon, other funds; but, at the same time, it would be absurd and foolish to allow such schools to continue to exist and overlap other secondary schools carried on by technical instruction committees and other public authorities. They ought to form part of one harmonious scheme, presided over by the educational authority, and a part of the regular organisation of education in the country. We therefore propose that the new authority may empower the school board to continue to carry on any school in existence at the time of the passing of the Act the income of which the Cockerton judgment would destroy, under such conditions as may be agreed upon between the new education authority and the school board, and in the event of disagreement the conditions will be prescribed by the Board of Education. Again the Board of Education comes in as conciliator and to help the parties to come to agreement. The new authority may sanction the appropriation from the school fund of so much of that fund as they consider necessary to carry on the school. As this may have to be done before the new authorities are fully constituted, temporary power is given to county councils themselves to authorise these arrangements. Again I would ask Members to wait until they can see the Bill. I think that arrangement will secure the continuation of every school under such conditions as the local authority and the people of the place think desirable and necessary, and at the same time it will not allow any of these schools to become a thorn in the side of the new educational authority. Now, as the whole of the provisions of the Technical Instruction Act are provided for in the Bill, we propose to repeal that Act altogether, there being no longer any use in its continuance. The authority established by the Bill will have all the powers that Act conferred. I ought to have mentioned that the borrowing powers are practically the same as those under the Technical Instruction Act, and every necessary provision for technical instruction has been included in the Bill.

This, then, is the Bill which the Government will ask the House to pass. The House will observe that there is no step taken in the way of transferring the, power of the existing elementary education authority—the school boards—to this new authority. That, if it is to be done, must be the subject of future legislation. But the first step towards the unity of authority, which everybody desires, must be the creation of an authority of this kind, to which these powers can hereafter be transferred. I hope, if the House will establish that authority, that it will at once exercise an excellent effect on all the secondary and technical instruction schools in the country, and be the authority to which, if Parliament hereafter see fit, all powers of the school boards may be transferred, so that one single authority for educational purposes may be established.

MR. HUMPHREYS-OWEN (Montgomeryshire)

May I ask whether it is proposed to make any alteration in the Welsh intermediate system?


I would have entered into that, but I felt that I had kept the House an unconscionable time listening to me. In Wales it is intended to make the present authority into the educational authority, subject to the power of the county councils to modify the scheme. That will be the initial scheme, and I believe it will nearly absorb the powers of a certain number of technical instruction committees. That is practically the only effect on Wales. In every other respect, I believe, Wales will go on exactly as now.


The right hon. Gentleman is invariably lucid, and if I find that there are certain parts of this scheme which are not yet clear to my mind, I am quite sure that it is not due to any deficiency of his powers of expression, but rather to the fact that he has endeavoured to compress within a limited period an exposition of what is nothing less than a gigantic scheme. It is a scheme which is not only gigantic, but also complex, because it is an endeavour to bring order out of what is rightly described as chaos, and it is necessary to understand that chaos, and all the elements of which it is composed, before one can understand what the working of this scheme will be. Bearing in mind the very short time which the House hat in which to discuss this Bill before the arrival of the hour for the suspension of our debate, I shall confine myself to a very few remarks indeed.

There is one point which has been left comparatively dark to my mind, and that is as to what the relations will be of this scheme to elementary education The right hon. Gentleman has told us that it is not intended to affect the school board, and on following out his points in detail it appears to me that the only place in which it is clear from his statement that elementary education will be affected is in regard to the cases covered by the recent Cockerton judgment, which I suppose he will say are not concerned with elementary education, and therefore do not destroy the harmony which he has endeavoured to give to his measure. Here I call up another proposition which the right hon. Gentleman has laid down, namely, that you can draw no sharp line between elementary and secondary education. Therefore, two things follow. In the first place, that the Bill, in so far as it deals with the work done by the school boards, does affect in a most important and material way what has been elementary education—elementary, at any rate, as regards the authorities that have conducted it; and, secondly, that the right hon. Gentleman has not effected or attained by this Bill what he laid down as being one of the things most to be desired, namely, unity of educational control. The Bill does not do that, but the right hon. Gentleman will say that it carries us a certain step towards it. But is it worth while to try to do the thing by two steps, and complicate the question still further, instead of endeavouring, if you are going to bring about unity, to bring it about by one large and comprehensive measure? Of course, we are all agreed that some Bill must be passed this session. It is quite clear, after the pistol which the Liverpool School Board have put to the head of the Education Department, that schools affected by the Cockerton case must be dealt with, and therefore the House is absolutely bound to pass some Bill this session. But will the Government find the time necessary for the enormous scheme which they have sketched out for adjusting the relations of these existing authorities, or of persuading the school boards to submit, if not to extinction, at any rate to subordination, and to having a great deal of the independent power which they have hitherto exercised taken out of their hands? That is a question which, although it is primarily a question for the Government, must, I think, suggest itself to every Member of the House. Is it worth while to attempt a scheme of this kind unless you are sure to be able to carry it out? There is no indisposition on our part to pass a comprehensive measure. I merely throw this out as a matter for the consideration of the Government—whether they will find the time necessary for so great a task.

The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that school boards will be willing to be absorbed, and he held out to them the prospects of a peaceful Nirvana. The Nirvana is a great negative conception, and nobody feels any antagonism to such a negative concession as that. But it is to me a very doubtful question indeed whether the school boards, which are to be kept in existence, and allowed to continue their work, but which are to be subordinated to these new authorities for the purpose of the work on the confines of elementary or secondary education—which, on the whole, despite the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman, they have discharged with surprising energy, zeal, and success—will readily acquiesce to be "cabined and confined" in that work by the action of another authority which has had no experience in this matter, and has not acquired the knowledge which the school boards have acquired. I should think the school boards would have a great deal to say before they submit either to ultimate extinction or to that subordination which is proposed by the present measure. I feel there are great difficulties in allowing the work which has been done in the continuation schools and in the higher grade elementary schools to be handed over at once to this new and untried body. You want for that work a body which has educational momentum and force behind it—a greater educational momentum and force than I fear will be found in the committee which the right hon. Gentleman proposes. You want also an authority which will see fair play between the different kinds of schools. Here you propose to put over the school boards who are conducting this elementary work—this work of higher grade and continuation schools which they have hitherto done—a new authority which will have schools of its own. This new authority will have its own secondary schools, it will be concerned in the welfare of those secondary schools, and naturally following out that very principle of what may be called the levying power, upon which the right hon. Gentleman dwelt in his speech, it will be disposed to favour those schools at the expense of any other. Will this new authority be sure to give fair play to the schools managed by the school boards? The Commission to which the right hon. Gentleman referred saw that difficulty, and proposed to meet it by appointing a secondary education authority upon which the school boards were to be represented. The right hon. Gentleman ignores the school boards altogether, and I feel very doubtful as to whether the new authority which he proposes will not import a new element of friction, which it will take all the good offices of the Board of Education to allay, and which will seriously interfere with the wholesome working of the higher grade and continuation schools.

Of course, in the time at my disposal I can only glance at a very few of the many points upon which I should like to touch. The right hon. Gentleman laid down many principles with which most of us would be in accord. But the excellence of a principle lies very largely in its application, and until we see how the right hon. Gentleman proposes to apply these admirable principles in detail in the Bill I do not think we ought to commit ourselves to any definite expression of opinion upon the measure. We can say, however, that we desire unity; we can say that we desire the maintenance of the higher grade and continuation schools; we can say that we desire to see no hard-and-fast line drawn between elementary and secondary education; and we can also agree with the right hon. Gentleman in feeling that if you do create the county committees, you cannot have the same scheme for all counties and for all boroughs. I am, therefore, entirely with him in that, but when he proposes to leave that matter entirely to the Board of Education and the localities concerned, he is suggesting a scheme of local option bolder and larger than any that has ever been presented to this House, and I am not sure that Parliament ought so far to abrogate its functions. I think the Bill ought to contain an indication of the lines upon which these committees should be framed, and, as at present advised, I am inclined to think also that every scheme ought to be submitted to Parliament, and submitted in a way and at a time which would give Parliament a proper opportunity for forming an opinion upon the scheme—by which I mean that it ought not to be brought forward after midnight. But it does not follow from that that every scheme should be debated here. It is quite clear that two or three discussions upon typical schemes would be enough for the purpose. I am not prepared to assent to the proposition that the matter should be left entirely, as the Government apparently suggest, to be settled by the local authorities and the Board of Education. Among other points upon which we shall desire further information are the proposals which the Government make with regard to religious instruction. In particular I would now ask the right hon. Gentleman whether under tins Bill any money can be given by the proposed new local authority in respect of religious instruction, or will any payments be made to schools which are professedly denominational and under denominational government. I also want some further light in regard to the position in which these proposals would place private and proprietary schools. Will they be susceptible of receiving grants, or will the only advantage be that of allowing pupils to remain at them who are receiving grants? Further, I desire to know whether any money can be applied in any way to voluntary schools. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of their exclusion from the benefits of any fund to be applied under this Act to public elementary schools; did he intend to include voluntary schools under that?




May we take it then that the only point upon which any question about denominational management can arise is in that part dealt with by the conscience clause? If that is the case, it somewhat narrows the field of discussion, though, of course, when the clause appears it will be our duty to examine it carefully. I have already stated some of the difficulties which occur to me in regard to the case of schools governed by the Cockerton decision. I agree that they ought to be carried on, and that they ought to be carried on by the existing authorities. But I will again put to the Government the fact that, unless they extend the period for a long time during which the schools are to be carried on, they will have a breach of continuity, which is almost certain to interfere with the proper working of the schools; they will set up another authority, which is very likely to have schools of its own, and possibly to deal with these existing schools in a way which will not inspire confidence. That appears to me to be a very serious difficulty. Another point which will require careful consideration is the repeal of the Technical Instruction Act. I am not prepared to assent to so large a step as that unless we are sure that all the valuable provisions of that Act, under which good work has been done, will be retained. I assume that the attention of the Government has been carefully given to that matter, but still it is somewhat a large demand to make.

Upon the general aspect of the whole matter, so far as I may presume to represent what I believe to be the feeling of Members on this side of the House, I will only venture to say two things. We desire to see unity of management and of administration, but we desire to see it effected in such a way as shall not destroy any of the securities for energy in educational administration which we have hitherto had. When I remember how well the school board system has worked in Scotland, the efficient work which has been done there, how little jealousy there has been between the school boards and the local authorities—in fact, the only difficulties which have ever arisen have been over a question of the application of money coming under recent grants—I think the right hon. Gentleman greatly overstated the objections to having an ad hoc authority for the purposes of education, and that if he will extend his investigation to other countries, and scrutinise the experience of a country which has done so much in the way of local government as the United States, he will find that the existence of an ad hoc body has in most cases been found to be a better security for energetic and vigorous administration, for bringing public opinion to bear upon that administration, for procuring men who are especially interested in education to work upon that body, and generally, than giving an educational function to a local authority. It the Government will prosecute this or any other measure with a sole regard to educational efficiency, and will carefully abstain from anything which can arouse that poison of sectarian controversy which has done so much to retard the progress of elementary education, I am sure that their proposals will have a perfectly fair, although a careful, consideration on this side of the House, and that we shall all bend our minds to endeavouring to pass a measure which will remove the anomalous absurdities and waste which at present belong to our educational system, and do more than that system, either on its elementary or its secondary side, at present does to fit our people to bear their part in the industrial struggles of the world.


I confess I am agreeably surprised that the Government have brought in their Bill so promptly, and I am very grateful to them for having done so. In so far as this Bill is directed towards more adequately equipping our people for the struggles which are before them, as far as I am concerned, I shall give it my most cordial support. When the Government came into office in 1895 they had two important educational problems before them—that of unifying and consolidating the Central Executive in the Board of Education, and that of unifying and consolidating the local authorities within suitable areas for educational purposes. I am bound to say with regard to the former task, the Government have performed the work admirably. The Board of Education Act of 1899 did create a central unified executive, with an advisory committee, which is as admirable a body as can be conceived by any House of Parliament. With regard to the local authority, which is the crucial point in this Bill, I understood the right hon. Gentleman to suggest—and I entirely agreed with him—that what we wanted is one authority, directly responsible to the people for all grades of education within its area. That was the statement with which the right hon. Gentleman commenced his speech, and I was hoping we should learn that that had been carried out in the Bill; but, so far as I have been able to understand his statement, I doubt very much whether that is the case. It is true we have most bewildering difficulties with the local authorities to-day. We have the great school boards first of all. The great bulk of these are very efficient, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say to the contrary. Then we have thousands of small village school boards, the great bulk of which, I admit, are highly inefficient. Then we have thousands upon thousands of voluntary school managers, who are struggling to carry on schools in a starved condition, because of the anachronism of endeavouring to maintain education out of charity, with which I entirely disagree; and the nwe have the technical instruction committees of the municipal councils, which for the last ten years have been doing admirable work with the local taxation fund, and in many cases with the rate they have raised under the Technical Instruction Acts. Although I am a member of the London School Board, I should like just to say that I disagree cordially with those people who so gratuitously say that because men are elected to look, as they inelegantly expressed it, after drains and sewers, they are not competent to look after education. It is my experience that the Technical Education Board of the London County Council, and a good many others, have done most admirable work in regard to education.

If I interpret the right hon. Gentleman correctly, he would sweep all this hotchpotch away, and give us in each county and county borough one paramount local authority directly responsible to the people, controlling all grades of education. But does he do that? I understand that his authority is to deal with technical and secondary education in the first instance. I understand that he does not touch primary schools. The scheme of the right hon. Gentleman breaks down then when you apply to it the touchstone of his ideal in the matter of education. I do suggest that it is fatal to keep primary schools outside this scheme of control, and if we mean, and I really think men of all parties do mean, that for all purposes of education the educational ladder should be a reality, and that there should be proper educational facilities, the only way to secure that is by harmoniously developing one grade with another, so that the lad of parts may move along uninterruptedly, picking up the threads of his knowledge in the new school where he dropped them in the old. You cannot get that unless schools of all grades are under one local authority, and, as far as I can see, the present Bill does not give that. I should have been glad if the right hon. Gentleman had taken his courage in both hands and given us a more comprehensive scheme to secure what he desires and has asked for frequently in this House—one authority, comprehensive, and directly responsible to the people, and administering suitable areas over all grades of schools.

With regard to the finance of the Bill, I understand, first of all, the new authority is to have what is inelegantly called the whisky money; it is to have the same power as the Technical Instruction Committees have with regard to the money. Even if you give them all the whisky money, amounting to £867,000, already £804,000 of that is spent on technical and secondary education, so that there will only be £63,000 available for the other educational purposes prescribed by the Bill. You do not go so far as the Duke of Devonshire's Bill of last year, which did give them the whole of the money for educational purposes. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will realise if he is giving the whole he is giving only £63,000 more than is being secured for education at present. I am sorry that there is no provision for more money from the central Exchequer. You cannot do this thing without money. If this Bill breaks down at all it will break down on the financial side. There is no money in it. You go to the rates and you say you shall have the right to raise, not 1d. as at present, but to raise 2d. Already 284 local authorities in England are raising rates under the Technical Instruction Act, and out of a total of £82,600 the sum of £45,000 is raised in a score of big towns, Birmingham notably raising £9,000 already. Therefore, under the rating side of it you are not getting much more, and are not likely to with the extraordinary new burdens which are laid on the people, perhaps necessarily, by the Government at the present juncture. Therefore, I look upon the finance of this Bill as entirely grotesque and ludicrous to carry out the scheme which the right hon. Gentleman foreshadowed in regard to the administrative side of the measure. I suppose the cupboard is now bare for educational purposes. I am sorry for this, because our position depends upon sound finance, and sound finance depends upon good trade, and good trade depends on the equipment of the people, and unless we spend money on that we cannot expect them to be properly equipped.

I would like to refer to the way in which this Bill affects the Cockerton judgment. The Cockerton judgment says, as I understand it, that we must not spend the school-board rates on higher grade education in the day schools, or upon the instruction of adults in the night schools. Now this Bill, as I gather, simply says to the school boards that the good work shall not be stopped. That work, as I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me, is good work. But you say, "Go to the municipal council, the new education authority, and ask them to make you their agents." It is curious to find that at this juncture the right hon. Gentleman proposes in his Bill to send the school boards to the municipal authority, which is practically the Technical Instruction Committee furbished up under another name, to ask them to give the boards the power to do this work, when the Scotch school boards have conferred upon them the right to spend the rates in the day schools for the instruction of children up to the age of eighteen in all sorts of advanced subjects, and to spend the rates in the night schools for pupils, irrespective of age, in such advanced subjects as dynamics, naval architecture, navigation, algebra, mensuration, and so on. It does seem to me strange that this treatment should be meted out to the great schools of England just at the moment when the Scotch school boards are having their powers so widely extended. The right hon. Gentleman says his Bill does not touch the school boards, but as a matter of fact it does touch them. He says that he does not want to draw a line between the various grades of education, but he does propose to switch off all the higher work of the school boards, and refer it to the new municipal authority. He proposes permanently, as I gather, to truncate the school boards. That is the position, as I gather from the Bill. He says we can go and become the agents of the municipal council. That is to say, a thirty-year-old authority, which has done such good work in so many cases, is to go to a not more than ten-year-old authority, which was not elected at all for that purpose. It is now to go to this authority, which is to be furbished up like the Thames steamboats, for the purposes of higher instruction, which, after all, the school boards have been encouraged into by statements of the right hon. Gentleman himself and by his predecessors in office, right away from Mr. Mundella downwards.

There is only one other point I want to make, and that is in regard to London. I do not know whether London will receive special treatment, because London is, after all, not a great town, but a great province, and in all Acts of Parliament I know of for educational purposes, including the Education Act of 1870, the case of London is treated exceptionally. Is it proposed that you can in any way, either now or at some future time, take educationally the 500,000 children in 1,430 schools, with 10,000 certificated teachers, spending £2,000,000 of rate money and £1,000,000 of Exchequer grants, and hand them over to a statutory committee of the County Council? The thing would break down at once by its own weight. What I think we want for London is just the sort of authority which the right hon. Gentleman started out with—an authority directly responsible to the people, elected for all educational purposes—primary, secondary, technical, and so on. It is quite impossible that you can hand over the work of the London School Board to the Technical Education Committee of the County Council, or whatever name you like to give it. This is a very big Bill, and I am very doubtful, indeed, whether it will be possible to pass it this session. I will give it all the support I can, but supposing it does not pass, we cannot be left in the present position with regard to the Cockerton judgment. I would suggest that, perhaps, after all, it would have been wiser, having regard to the exceptional character of this session and the heavy work before the Government at the present time, to give us this session just a short enabling measure to carry us over the next twelve months with regard to those practices which, although now ruled to be illegal, have been encouraged by the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors in office.


I think the hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I never encouraged such expenditure.


I cannot contradict the right hon. Gentleman, but surely he has encouraged the school boards to go on with this higher class work. His speech on the 3rd of May last year on the higher elementary minute was designed to encourage the work of the school boards, and, at any rate we have had from various Vice-Presidents all sorts of circulars to school boards encouraging them to do this, and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dartford, in a speech which he delivered in London recently, confessed that he was one of the villains of the piece, and that he himself had encouraged the school boards to go on with this work for years past. In the event of this great revolutionary Bill not passing—this Bill which has so many good points in it—it might very easily be made more comprehensive, far-reaching, and more fitted to promote the interests of education; if it does not get through in this exceptional year it would be advisable, I repeat, in fact I would say it is essential, to give us a little measure to enable the school boards to go on with the work they are now doing, so that they may have their anxiety relieved as to the legality of the practices which have now been ruled to be illegal. I only hope that in so far as this Bill is directed to improve the education of the people it may in that sense be put on the Statute-book, but if it should fail to reach that stage I shall endeavour to impress on the Government not to leave the school boards without any possibility of securing powers before next September, when they come to the time for re-opening the night schools, which will enable them to go forward with the work, and to carry on practices which have been fraught with so much good to the people of this country during many years in the past.


I do not propose to add anything to what has been said by my right hon. friend and the hon. Members who have taken part in the discussion, but I would remind the House that until this Bill is read a first time it cannot be printed, and until it is printed it is really impossible for anybody to form an adequate judgment on it. I hope, therefore, hon. Gentlemen will remember that it is I desirable that the First Reading should be taken before the close of the sitting.


When will the Bill be distributed?


As soon as we can after we get the First Reading.

*SIR RICHARD JEBB (Cambridge University)

There are two points in the interesting statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President on which public attention will especially be fixed. The first is the very emphatic recognition of the fact that our aim should be to have a single local authority for both primary and secondary education. The other point is that nothing in the Bill incapacitates the new authorities about to be set up, though their function is at present confined to secondary education, from afterwards taking over the control of primary education also. I think there are good reasons why the Government should proceed as they have done, and confine the scope of this Bill to the bestowal of functions on local authorities with regard to secondary education. The hon. Member for the Camberwell Division and my right hon. friend the Member for South Aberdeen observed that this is a large and complex Bill, but it would have been much more complex if it had contained provisions for the transference of primary education also, and if difficulties are prognosticated on the ground that the measure is large and complex, how much greater these would have been if it had dealt with primary as well as secondary education. My right hon. friend the Member for South Aberdeen observed that it was proposed to hand over the control of secondary education to what he described as bodies who were untried in that respect, meaning the county councils and the borough councils. If they are untried we are giving them a little time to gather experience. Surely that is a reason for proceeding as the Government have done. I have no doubt that this Bill, judging from the speech of the Vice-President, will receive a cordial welcome from all interested in what concerns national education. I was glad to hear in the statement of the Vice-President that before any scheme to constitute an educational committee is approved by the Board of Education, the scheme will be published, and a local inquiry may be held. That provision affords a guarantee that local criticism from all bodies qualified to give it will receive due attention. It may be assumed that on these educational committees will be found persons of some educational experience, fitted by their special knowledge to take part in the future work of the local authorities. I earnestly hope that on such local authorities women will find a place. It is impossible to overrate the importance of having some women who are conversant with education on the local authorities of the future.

We must all feel that more detailed criticism should be reserved for the Second Reading. In the meantime, I only wish to congratulate the Government on having, at last, introduced a Bill which will crown the work of the year before last, when a central authority for education was created, by establishing local authorities. I trust that the Bill will receive a dispassionate and benevolent consideration from the House in its future stages.

MR. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)

said that there was a rule upstairs in regard to clauses in a Bill not being in accordance with the preamble, which they might apply in their criticisms on this Bill. The clauses were not in accordance with the preamble and the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The Vice-President began by offering the House the happy prospect that in each local area of any considerable size there would be one central authority charged with the administration of all educational funds, and all the schools in the locality. A Bill of that kind would have been welcomed. It would be remembered that in the debate on the Vote in Supply, Member after Member rose and urged the House to make that particular provision. They said that the perennial difficulties of our educational system could not be removed by any measure short of that. He thought at first that the right hon. Gentleman was going to give the country that, for he talked most delightfully of the virtues of unification, and went on to point out how much easier it would be to unify under the county councils than under the school boards. But when the right hon. Gentleman came to speak of the clauses of his Bill he simply proposed to set up an authority which was the old Technical Education Committee with a new name.

There were two reasons for an Education Bill: one, the judgment of the courts of law in the Cocker-ton case; and the other, that all the Members of this House who cared about education—and he was glad to say that there were many hundreds—were desirous that there should be a new educational local authority with comprehensive powers. What did the Bill do, apart from a petty dealing with the difficult question of the Cockerton judgment? All it did do was to set up again what existed at present under statutory forms in regard to technical education. No more resources were given to the central authority, and nothing more was really done to decentralise than at present. The name alone was changed, and the trouble and bother was taken of re-creating what already existed. Where, then, was the unification and the comprehensiveness? What was the new body to do in regard to the school boards? Were the school boards, which had evening continuation schools and higher grade schools, to go to the county council, or to the education committee of the county council, and say, "Will you give us leave to spend some of our school funds on higher-grade schools, which the school boards created under the sanction of Parliament, and which are responsible to the Board of Education?" A more inept proposal never was made. He knew the aim and object of the proposal. It was to meet a present difficulty. It was because the Government thought that they had no chance this session of carrying a Government Bill, and therefore they had brought in a Bill, five-sixths of which was unnecessary. But there were many ways of dealing with the difficulty of the Cockerton judgment, instead of by this lame method. If the Government had brought in a short Suspensory Bill, affirming that, for a given date, it would be within the power of the school boards to go on maintaining the higher-grade schools and the evening continuation schools, it might have been possible to carry through that Bill, which would have done what this Bill did not do at all. He would examine this lame method of dealing with the Cockerton judgment. The schools were about to close, and the new session would open in September. Was it possible that this Bill would become law before, say, the 12th of August? But, in the meantime, the school boards must be making their arrangements for their continuation schools and their higher-grade schools. How were the school boards to go this year to the county council, or to the committee of the county council, to receive permission to spend money on educational objects, for which they must have incurred financial responsibilities long before that date? There was no guarantee in this Bill from the Government or from the Board of Education that a suspensory measure would be passed relieving the members of the school boards from personal responsibility if they continued to carry on these higher-grade and continuation schools. There was an abnegation, in this respect, all along the line, of the duty of the Government. In his opinion, the Bill was disappointing. It ought never to have been introduced; and even if it were carried as it stood, it would not secure any alteration in the educational machinery of the country. It would afford relief to the higher-grade schools and to the technical schools in a most unsatisfactory way. Apart from the Cockerton judgment, the Bill did no more than had been provided in the Technical Instruction Act, and he should oppose it. In fact, he intended to move, when it came on for Second Beading, that it should be read a second time that day six months. It was a most disappointing Bill, and, if we had educational chaos at present, it would add to that chaos.

MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)

said he had only a question to ask. In the case of negotiations between the existing school board authorities and the new authorities yet to be created not coming to any friendly conclusion, would the schools affected by the Cockerton judgment be closed? So far as he could understand, the Vice-President was giving equal authority to the new education authority of the county council as was now possessed by the school board, and so far as he could gather from the right hon. Gentleman's speech, the combination might be continued to such a length as to lead to the closing of some of the school-board schools. He represented in the House of Commons a great community which was devoted to the question of education, and what they were concerned about at this moment was, whether some measure was to be immediately passed to prevent the closing of the continuation schools during the present year. If the Bill just introduced was not passed, would the Government pledge it self to pass a short measure enabling the existing continuation schools to be continued? That was a plain, straightforward, businesslike question, and he put it hoping that the Government would give an honest reply before the close of the debate. So far as the Bill itself was concerned, he expressed no opinion at that moment, because he had had experience of plans manufactured by the Vice-President in previous sessions, and he always preferred to scrape the jam off before he expressed his opinion as to the inner nature of a Bill brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman. He should doubt, from the far-reaching effects of the Bill just introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, whether it would get through Parliament this session; and, if not, would the First Lord of the Treasury or the Vice-President, or both combined, give the House the assurance that those schools affected by the Cockerton judgment would not be closed during this year? If that were done it would meet with approval throughout the country, and would relieve the anxiety now pressing on the minds of educational authorities.

MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire E.)

I wish to support the remarks which fell from my hon. friend the Member for West Nottingham. I consider that this Bill is a profound disappointment. What people want is that the education now being given by the school boards to tens of thousands of the children of the poor should be extended, and one of the grandest results of the school-board system has been that not only has it given good education to the children, but it has taught the parents to love education and demand more of it There is no guarantee that they will get that under this Bill. There is no guarantee whatever that the country will get that system of technical and secondary education which every man with brains knows that it needs more than anything else. This Bill will destroy the school boards, without giving any increased educational facilities. If I had time to deal with the confused and ridiculous details of the Bill I could show that it will stimulate controversy rather than tend to that unity for which the right hon. Gentleman pleads. This is a most unsatisfactory proposal, even more unsatisfactory than the Bill of 1896, and will receive most strenuous opposition from many hon. Members on this side of the House.

MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)

I do not intend to enter into the details of the Bill, but I wish to draw the attention of the Vice-President to one single word in his speech, which, if it appears in the Bill, will, I think, have very serious consequences. In referring to the question of evening continuation schools the right hon. Gentleman referred to "existing" schools, and he said it was proposed that, by the permission of the new authority, school boards could continue to carry on "existing" schools. If there is one part of our educational system which is at present more grossly deficient than another it is our evening continuation schools. In no town are they adequate, and in most towns they require multiplying by four or five in order to meet the needs of the public. I hope that the Vice-President in using that word does not foreshadow a provision in the Bill which would prevent an increase in the number of schools. They are increasing, and ought to increase for many years to come, and I hope that power will be given in the Bill, not merely to maintain the existing schools, but also to increase them.

Bill to make provision for and confer certain powers on local education authorities in England and Wales, ordered to be brought in by Sir John Gorst, Mr. Balfour, and Mr. Walter Long.