HC Deb 13 June 1904 vol 135 cc1505-11

Order read.


I have to deal with the two Instructions on the Paper. Each of them proposes to extend the Bill to England and Wales. But legislation upon Scottish Education has always been upon different lines, and regulated by different Acts to those relating to English Education. The Instructions are therefore out of order.

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]

Clause 3:—

MR. THOMAS SHAW (Hawick Burghs)

moved that the consideration of the clause be postponed. He said he did not do so in any sense because he was hostile to the measure, but the fact was that since the Bill had been read a second time it had been very considerably toned down by the Government. Clause 3 provided for the creation of school board districts in Scotland in lieu of the existing parochial school boards. On the Second Reading of the Bill it was explained by more than one hon. Member that they were particularly anxious upon the subject of the area for which the school boards in Scotland were to be established. There was a strong feeling among them that nothing should be done by the enlargement of the area which would destroy the local interest in regard to education. From that point of view he looked with some interest to the proposals of the Government, and he found that it was intended to move the deletion of Clauses 20, 21, 22, and 23, which dealt with the appointment of managing committees in the local parochial areas. The point was whether that proposal did not substantially mean that local control over education was to be ended for ever in Scotland. Personally, he was quite sure that that was not the desire of the Government, and he proposed to ask the Secretary for Scotland if he would be good enough in connection with these proposed deletions to explain to the House what were really the intentions of the Government. The opinion of large sections of the House was that if they were to destroy local contact with education in the various parochial areas it would be a serious mischief to the cause of education.

He might say in regard to Clause 3 that the districts which it was proposed to create by it might be divided into three classes. First, there were the workable, sizable districts; secondly, there were the unworkable districts in point of size; and thirdly, there were the unworkable districts in point of population. In regard to the latter two classes he proposed to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to one or two illustrations. For instance, let them take the districts which were unworkable in point of size. There was Sutherlandshire, which was one of the largest areas in Scotland, and apparently the school board district in that case was to cover the entire county. Now the area comprised 1,296,000 acres, there was in it a population of over 20,000, and the valuation was £93,000, and it was manifest that if Clause 3 of the Bill were passed in the form in which it now stood, and if no further provision were made for securing the representation of local opinion, Sutherlandshire would be substantially unrepresented in school board matters. There would, in fact, be no popular element at all. Then he came to Ross and Cromarty. Mid-Ross gave them another illustration of the difficulty of dealing with this subject. There they had a population of 13,000, and an area of 670,000 acres, a district which they would see was absolutely unworkable from that point of view. Now he would come to instances of the unworkable character of districts in point of population. The first case to which he would ask attention was that of the Middle Ward of Lanark. There they had a population of 179,000. The Middle Ward was the centre of a very important industrial district, and if the whole area was to be limited under Clause 3 to be managed by one board without any arrangement for devolution there would be an utter absence of local control. He thought the House was entitled to know what were the intentions of the Government in this matter. Then there was another matter which was not perhaps strictly relevant, but it was also important, and that was, what was to be the attitude of the Government in regard to payment of the expenses of local representatives? He could understand how that question might not arise very sharply if local management committees were to be kept up, but the Government had cut four or five clauses out of their Bill-clauses dealing with local management committees, and therefore it was very essential to know what was to be substituted for them.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the consideration of Clause 3 be postponed."—(.Mr. Thomos Shaw.)


said he had no objection whatever to the hon. and learned Gentleman making that Motion in order to ask specific questions, but he thought the House would see that so far from making out any case for the postponement of the consideration of Clause 3, his arguments had accentuated the absolute necessity of settling the clause before they proceeded with any other portion of the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman had made a statement to the effect that since the Second Reading of the Bill it had been recast to a very considerable extent by the Government. But he would like to remind the House of what he said on the Second Reading. They would remember that on that occasion, speaking of the management clauses, he said the desire was to secure the maintenance of local interest in the schools, and to ascertain what was the general opinion of Scotland in regard to this question He had had a good many representations made to him on the subject, and he had gathered that the general feeling was in favour of the whole matter being left in the hands of the elected school boards to make the arrangements for proper local management. That was the purport of the Amendments which he had placed upon the Paper. He had thought it convenient to put down in his own name Amendments which would carry out that view, although they embodied the words of Amendments of which notice had been given by other hon. Members, as he thought it would be more convenient to the House to know which Amendments the Government were prepared to accept in that matter. As he had said, he had received innumerable representations on this question, and the hon. and learned Member might take it from him that to the best of his judgment the very great majority of those representations were in favour of trusting to the school boards to see that local managers were provided. There was absolutely no intention on his part to suggest that there should be no local managers, and he believed himself that the school boards were the last people in the world not to remember that local management was necessary. Therefore, he had put down on the Paper Amendments the whole object of which was to indicate that he was prepared to accept Amendments put down by certain other hon. Members. That, he believed, was the only pertinent question which the hon. Member had asked him. Of course, he could not say precisely what the decision of the Government was to be upon other matters until he had had the advantage, which he hoped to have, of gathering the opinion of the House generally in the course of the discussions. He, therefore, trusted that they would he allowed to proceed with the consideration of Clause 3, which fixed the educational districts, without any further debate.

MR. BUCHANAN (Perthshire, E.)

said that on Friday last a considerable number of very important Amendments were put on the Paper by the Secretary for Scotland. Those Amendments Clause 3, and substantially altered the whole framework of the Bill. There were other Amendments of equal importance affecting the managing committees. The Secretary for Scotland was aware that one general objection taken to the Bill was that it largely decreased the power of the local authorities, and at the same time decreased also the influence which local opinion might possibly exercise in the management of education throughout the length and breadth of Scotland. Putting it shortly, hon. Members were afraid that owing to that idea, owing to the proposal for co-ordination in primary education, the influence of localities was being sacrificed for the more remote interest of secondary and technical education. It was clear that the Amendments which had been put on the Paper by the Secretary for Scotland were in a direction which a large number of Scotch Members viewed with considerable suspicion and dislike, and they wanted a general statement as to the consequences of the batch of Amendments which had been put down, because they desired to know how far they went in the direction of further centralisation, and of the diminution of local popular control. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that he had merely put them on the Paper as signifying his agreement with Amendments which had been put down by other Members of the House in a similar direction, but he would like the right hon. Gentleman to inform him how it would have been possible for hon. Members who agreed with the Bill as it originally was drafted to have indicated that agreement with it. They could not have put Amendments down on the Paper, and, therefore, he did not see how the right hon. and learned Gentleman could have gathered the real feeling of the House on the subject. Though some of them might be content, with regret, to allow the serious diminution of popular control, he did not think they were prepared to go to the extent suggested in the Amendments in the direction of centralising the general educational control in councils or large districts in Scotland.


said he thought that the Secretary for Scotland had shown undue querulousness in regard to this Motion.


I was not querulous, all I wanted to point out was that I could not see any possible use in postponing the consideration of the clause.


said that the right hon. Gentleman had put down last Friday a number of Amendments which constituted a considerable limitation of the Bill and he had absolutely excised a number of the clauses. He had told them he did so in consequence of representations he had had from Members of the House and from numbers of local authorities. They were quite willing to accept that statement, but surely that was a sufficient reason for their asking for further information as to the real intentions of the Government before they proceeded with the consideration of that clause. The right hon. Gentleman ought not to grumble at having an opportunity at this stage of explaining what he proposed to do. There was one point upon which they certainly desired further explanations. The present Act made it compulsory upon school boards to create local bodies of management; that power was now to disappear altogether.


Under the original scheme of the Bill it was proposed that in the enumerated districts there should be the old faculty clause borrowed from the Act of 1872 allowing them to appoint managers if they chose, but in the non-enumerated districts there was the necessity for appointing managers who were of necessity to a certain extent composed of members of parish councils. He gathered that the general opinion was in favour of giving the new school boards a free hand. It had been a question of draftsmanship, but the four clauses which it was proposed to omit had been, as a matter of fact, put into one general clause, giving a faculty to all districts to appoint managers.


said that was precisely the information they wanted to elicit. He took it that the amended Clause 19 embodied practically the whole of the other clauses which were now to be omitted.