HC Deb 23 June 1902 vol 109 cc1400-9
(3.10.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

I beg to ask leave to make a statement.

MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottinghamshire, Rushcliffe)

May I ask you, Sir, if the right hon. Gentleman makes a statement, cannot we ask a Question upon it or discuss it?


A Question may be asked, but certainly hon. Members would not be in order in discussing the statement. There is no Question before the House, and the right hon. Gentleman can only speak by the leave of the House.


Under these circum stances I think it would be much better for the right hon. Gentleman to make his statement on the Motion that Clause 2 be adjourned.


I am by no means sure of that. The statement has only the most indirect and remote reference to Clause 2. The financial statement I have to make deals with the financial part of the Bill. I do not say that there is no connection between the two, but it would be remote, and moreover I have great doubt whether it would be in order.


Am I to understand that the right hon. Gentleman is to make this statement and I that the House is to have no opportunity of discussing it?


That would surely be most unprecedented. Why not make it on a Motion to report progress when the Chairman is in the Chair?


The House will bear with me for a moment. It would have been perfectly competent for me to put down an Amendment on Friday night which would have embodied my statement, but I considered that there should be a brief explanation of the Government proposal, as it had only the remotest and most indirect relation to Clause 2. In my judgment the only convenient course is the one I have recommended; but if the House does not wish me to proceed, there is an end of the matter. [Hon. MEMBERS; Go on.]

I will endeavour to make the statement as brief and as clear as I can. The House will remember that since 1895 there have been two separate classes of grant made out of the public Exchequer in order to aid elementary education. There is a grant to voluntary schools, and a necessitous School Board grant. The one was intended to assist, the managers of the voluntary schools who had difficulty in carrying on their educational work; the other was intended to assist those districts which, by reason of the great burden of the rates, were in a difficulty in dealing with the obligations thrown upon them by Parliament. These two grants together amount in all to £860,000. The voluntary schools aid grant last year amounted to £64,000, and the necessitous School Board grant to £220,000—together making £860,000. Now, I am sure that everybody who has considered the matter will feel that these grants cannot remain as they are, and for reasons which the House will see are conclusive. As regards the voluntary school grant, it loses its original purpose as soon as the voluntary school in regard to maintenence is supported out of the general rates. That may be a good or a bad plan; but evidently it does away with the ground on which the 5s. grant was given; and moreover the Bill, as it stands, would have the effect certainly not desired by its framers, of giving a direct bribe to local authorities to use the voluntary machinery rather than any other machinery, if these schools had to be made to meet the growth of the population. Moreover, if these grants were stereotyped to the county authority, this great anomaly would be produced, that those districts in which there were an immense number of voluntary schools would get a dispro- portionate amount of public money, and other districts which were school board areas would get proportionately less, without there being any rational ground for distinguishing between the two cases. That is pretty conclusive as regards the voluntary school grant, and it is no less conclusive as to why the necessitous school grant should also be altered. That again is a case of merging one authority in a larger authority, and even as regards those Urban Districts which will retain their educational autonomy, it will be remembered that the Act of 1897 estimated the amount to be given by the number of children in average attendance in board schools. Under this Bill, as the House is aware, the local authority will be responsible for all the children in the schools in its district, the School Boards being abolished; and what were formerly board schools will become schools under the new education authority. Therefore, that grant no less than the other must I think be abolished. We propose to abolish them both, and to substitute a new grant in aid of elementary education. Now the question is what should be the amount of this grant. The amount I have been dealing with is, as the House will recollect, £860,000 a year. My right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is prepared to add to that £860,000 a sum of over £900,000 a year; so that the grants we have been giving since 1896 will not only be doubled, but more than doubled. The question then remains, how is this large sum of £1,760,000—that is about the sum I think that all the consolidated grants will amount to—to be distributed. The simple and obvious principle would be to give it per child all round to every district. I should imagine that the sum available would, roughly speaking, come to 7s. 6d. per child; but on consideration we have come to the conclusion that that simple and obvious principle, if carried out in its logical form, would lead, I will not say to considerable injustice, but to considerable anomaly. There are districts where to give 7s. 6d. per child would be to give more than they could reasonably claim from the Exchequer. There are other districts, less happily situated, which might perhaps receive even something less, not more at all events, than they receive under the existing system of distributing grants to necessitous schools. In these circumstances, we propose to abate the rigour of a simple distribution per child in average attendance, and we propose that the amount to be distributed in that way I shall be only 4s. per head. We start, in other words, by distributing to every educational authority in the country 4s. per child in average attendance in the schools for which that authority is responsible; and the remainder we propose to distribute according to what I may call the relative poverty or the relative want for capacity of districts to bear the burden thrown upon them by our elementary education system. Now, what is the test of capacity so far as elementary education is concerned? The test of capacity which we think on the whole is the fairest, and possibly the only fair one, is the amount per child produced by a penny rate. The amount produced by a penny rate is to be the rough test of the wealth of the district; but if we confined ourselves strictly to that test, it would not show any relation between the wealth of a district and the work that district has to do for elementary education. We must therefore bring in the number of children in average attendance, and our view of the test of capacity is the amount produced per child by a penny rate.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

In what area?


In the area of the education authority.

SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

The existing education authority?


Oh, no; these grants will be made to the new education authorities. If I have put the thing too briefly. I am quite ready to expand it. These grants will be made to the new education authorities; and the test of their financial capacity is properly measured by the amount produced by a penny rate in proportion to the number of children in average attendance. To work that out into a practical system, we have to find a basis on which to take a line. So far as we are aware, there is no district in the country so rich that a penny rate produces more than 10s. per child. That is our starting point. If there be such a district, it will receive 4s. per child and nothing else; that is simply the grant per head according to the number of children in average attendance. But directly a penny rate produces less than 10s. per child, that district immediately begins to gain something from this part of the grant. And as the penny rate produces less and less, the district will receive more and more from the money at our disposal outside the fixed contribution of 4s. per head. If, for example, there was a place in which the penny rate produced only 1s. per head, that place would not only receive 4s. but would receive in addition 4s. 6d.; the grant would be more than doubled, and the poverty of the district would be assisted out of the Exchequer. I do not know whether I have made that quite clear; I hope I have. This was really one reason why I was anxious that the House should allow me to make this brief statement. I have to admit that the formula in which this system is embodied, is, as all formulaé must be, of a rather forbidding and, at first sight, of an obscure character. But if anyone will take the trouble to read through Section 97 of the Act of 1870 and see what our predecessors have done in this matter, I think he will not complain of the words in which we have embodied our scheme. The words are— One penny per scholar will be given out of the Exchequer for every twopence by which the product of a penny rate falls short of 10s. If I had read that to the House without any explanation, I am perfectly certain that no human being could have understood it; but after the brief explanation I have given there can be no doubt as to the general principle we have endeavoured to embody, or as to the grounds on which that principle has been established. The leading points the House has to remember are these—that the original grants will not only be doubled, but more than doubled; that out of these grants we give 4s. per head all round; and that we give this extra grant in proportion to the poverty of the districts, which in extreme cases will be considerably more than double the original grant of 4s.

SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)

Can my right hon. friend give the total amount of the 4s. grant, and the total amount of the balance, remaining?


I ought to have anticipated that question; but the sum is easily done if anyone has by him the number of children in average attendance. These children all get. 4s., and the total amount to be distributed is about £1,760,000. If we subtract from that 4s. per child, the remainder will be the amount distributed in accordance with the relative poverty of each district.

MR. ERNEST GRAY (West Ham, N.)

Is the rate for maintenance, or for maintenance and buildings as well? The buildings fall on the parish; the maintenance falls on the new authority.


My hon. friend will see that it has nothing to do with one or the other. It is the amount which the penny rate will produce per child. That is the test, and the amount is distributed quite irrespective of the manner in which it is to be spent after it is allocated. I have only two other observations to make. We think that in no case ought the Exchequer to pay more than three-fourths of the total expended on education in any district; and we think there ought to be a provision that the counties should give aid, out of this large sum to be placed at their disposal, to those districts in its area which happen to be specially burdened. As to the details of those two points, Amendments will appear on the Paper explaining exactly what our proposal is.


Is it to be voluntary or compulsory?


Voluntary, within limits, but compulsory to a certain point.

MR. M'KENNA (Monmouthshire, N.)

What is to happen in London?


This financial arrangement will only apply to those parts of the country to which the Bill applies. If the Bill is not accepted by any part of the country, that part will remain untouched.

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

May I ask, in the first place, are we right in assuming that all this money is to go to elementary education, and no part of it is to go to secondary education; secondly, is there a limit of the grant to be payable to the local authorities—is there a maximum fixed of the sum per child which may be paid; and thirdly, are we right in assuming that a grant corresponding to this grant will be made to Ireland and Scotland?


This grant solely contemplates elementary education; but as it is given, of course, to the authorities which will deal with secondary education, it will be pro tanto an addition to their resources. There is no maximum limit, except that as we are leaving the management of education to the local authorities, we think they ought to bear one-fourth of the total cost of education in their districts. As regards Ireland and Scotland, that is rather outside the limits of this discussion, but of course we shall do justice to the other portions of the United Kingdom.

MR. MATHER (Lancashire, Rossendale)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman are we to take it in the future from the explanation given that three fourths of the cost of elementary education will be paid out of the National Exchequer, and only one-fourth out of other sources?


No. Sir, it is a limiting proposition. What I said was, not that the Exchequer would pay three-fourths, but that it would not pay more than three-fourths.


Will the right hon. Gentleman lay this statement in print on the Table?


Well, I can lay the actual Amendment on the Table tonight. I am afraid my statement cannot be laid on the Table, because it was more in the nature of a speech than anything else, but I can read the Amendment now. It is very short— (1.) In lieu of the grants under the Voluntary Sehools Act, 1897, and under section ninety-seven of the Elementary Education Act, 1870, as amended by the Elementary Education Act, 1897, there shall be annually paid to every local education authority out of moneys provided by Parliament—

  1. (a) a sum equal to four shillings per scholar; and
  2. (b) an additional sum of one penny per scholar for every twopence by which the product of a penny rate on the area of the authority falls short of ten shillings a scholar.
But the total amount paid to any local education authority on account of all the parliamentary grants in respect of elementary education, including the grant under this section, shall not in any year exceed three-fourths of the total expenses of the authority under Part III. of this Act, and the amount payable under this section to a local education authority shall, where necessary, be reduced accordingly. (2) For the purposes of this section the number of scholars shall be taken to be the number of scholars in average attendance, as computed by the Board of Education, in public elementary schools maintained by the authority. "Then there will be an Amendment to Clause 13, page 5, line 36, after charge "insert" such portion as they think fit, not being less than one-half or more than three-fourths of. That is what the right hon. Gentleman asked me about, and other consequential Amendments in the same terms. I think I have now made it very clear and I hope the House will forgive me for having dealt with it in this form. I am sure it never would have been fully understood if I had not done so.

DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)

May I ask whether the change in the finance of the Bill has caused the Government to consider whether it will modify the permissive application of the Bill.


I think we ought to defer that question until the proper time comes to discuss it.

COLONEL LONG (Worcestershire, Evesham)

Will the subscriptions of subscribers to voluntary schools for increasing and maintaining in the future school buildings be recognised and included in the one-fourth which the localities have to find?


No, Sir, it only refers to the amount which is to be derived from the rates. I am not sure whether my hon. and gallant friend when he reconsiders the question will consider it to be relevant. I hardly think it is at present.

SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)

May I ask whether, as these financial arrangements are in the nature of new clauses, it is not the case that the House will not be able to discuss them until all the rest of the Bill has been disposed of?


I am afraid, as I have had to point out to the right hon. Gentleman before, it is impossible to discuss the whole of the clauses of the Bill at once; they must be taken in order. There is no other expedient. At all events, I confess there is no other very convenient expedient which suggested itself to my mind for bringing these clauses under discussion. That was neither the fault of the Government nor the draughtsman nor anybody else. It would not have been possible to have done this at all but for the aid of a happy circumstance arising outside the discussion of the Bill, which enabled more provision to be made for elementary education than could possibly have been foreseen when the Bill was brought in. I do not gather that the right hon. Gentleman himself could suggest a more convenient procedure.


May I ask whether it I will not be necessary to have a Resolution brought forward with regard to this matter?




And will not that be the suitable opportunity for a general discussion?


I think there is a tendency to abuse a Resolution, but that there must be a full opportunity given to the House to discuss it is quite evident.

MR. RENSHAW (Renfrewshire, W.)

May I ask whether the amount of £860,000 represents the amount payable to the whole of England and Wales, and whether the total amount of £1,760,000 represents the amount which in future will he available for the whole of the country, including London?


I am glad the hon. Member has asked that question, as it is possible there might be a misconception following on the answer I gave the hon. Member opposite on the subject of London. The figures I have given apply to the whole of England and Wales, but the mode of distribution is not applicable to any part of the country where the scheme is not operative.