HC Deb 14 June 1904 vol 136 cc115-24

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

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

Clause 14.

Amendment again proposed— In page 7, line 29, to leave out from the word 'shall' to the word 'become,' in line 31."—(Mr. A. Graham Murray.)

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."


said he did not know whether it would be more convenient to discuss the Amendment of the Secretary for Scotland now or on Clause 25. He felt, however, that if he did not express an opinion now on the omission of the words he might not be in order in discussing the matter on Clause 25.


said he thought it would be far better to take out the words. The clause was necessary in the interests of creditors, because if the school boards disappeared it might be held that there was no one to sue. It would be an arrangement between the new school board and the ratepayers of the parish. Of course, it was for the Chairman to say, but he could not see how the hon. Baronet would be prejudiced in any way because the question would come up when he himself moved to strike out Sub-section 1 of Clause 25.


said that if the words were omitted, all the debts and liabilities of the old school boards would become the debts and liabilities of the new school boards. They were agreed that that should apply to debts incurred by way of loan or capital charges; but they had agreed that the existing school boards should meet any deficiency arising from maintenance charges. Would it be competent for the Committee, if the words were omitted, to provide that the old school boards should meet out of their own areas debts incurred for maintenance charges.


said that it was really the ratepayers in the districts of the old school boards who would be responsible; and a provision that the debts and liabilities of the old school boards should be the debts and liabilities of the new did not affect the question as to from what class of ratepayers debts could be recovered.


said that substantially what they desired could be accomplished in the first year of the new rate by means of an adjustment over the particular area in which the delinquency occurred.


I do not think the hon. Baronet will be in any worse position on Clause 25.

MR. BUCHANAN (Perthshire, E.)

said that the Committee ought to have a statement from the Secretary for Scotland, as this was a very substantial alteration, and gave rise to a great deal of diversity of opinion.


said the Chairman had just given his ruling, and the question could be settled on Clause 25.

Question put, and negatived.

Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 15, 16, 17, agreed to.

Clause 18.

Amendment proposed— In page 8, line 27, to leave out from the word 'or,' to the word 'shall,' in line '29, and insert the words 'such greater number as may from time to time be determined at a meeting of the school board called after special notice.'"—(Mr. A. Graham Murray.)

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 18, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 19.


moved, "In Clause 19, page 8, line 30, to leave out from beginning to the word ' commit ' in line 31, and insert the words ' a school board may from time to time.'"

Amendment proposed— In page 8, line 30, to leave out from beginning to the word 'commit' inline 31 and insert the words ' a school board may from time to time.'"—(Mr. A. Graham Murray.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."


said he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would explain what the Amendment meant.


said that the Amendment would remove the difference which existed in the Bill originally as between enumerated and non-enumerated districts. Owing to the views he had gathered, he had altered that, and now there was to be no distinction as regarded the appointment of managers in the two classes of districts; both would have the power to appoint managers.


said he was doubtful of the wisdom of the Amendment. Some of the most successful school boards did not appoint managers at all; but he doubted whether the option should be given to large areas administered from a remote centre. There were eight counties which were single districts under the Bill; and in those districts the centres would be so remote from the management of the schools, that it would be desirable, in order to keep alive public interest in the schools, to insist upon the appointment of managers. He should also like to see the original form retained under which parish councils would have a choice in the management of the schools. There was a precedent for that in the Act of 1902. In the case of towns there was no need to compel school boards to appoint managers; but it was different in the case of country districts, and he doubted the wisdom and expediency of an endeavour to run schools in such districts without managers.


said the Amendment represented the most substantial alteration yet made by the Secretary for Scotland in the Bill. It meant the doing away, root and branch, of any power on the part of the parents of the locality of exercising control over the schools. It would also mean that there would be no possibility of the remoter districts in Scotland taking any substantial interest in the management and prosperity of their schools. He thought they were being led away to sacrifice the important interests of elementary education in the scattered districts of Scotland for the possible advantages to be gained from united control in regard to secondary and technical education. The school boards might or might not appoint managers; but, if they exercised that power, they could appoint anyone they liked, whether a resident in the locality or not. If the Committee accepted the alteration they would be absolutely abandoning, for good and all, all interest and power on the part of the parents to exercise any control over the schools, and also the possibility of any local management in the direction of the schools, particularly in the more scattered parts of the country districts. He viewed with the gravest doubt the proposal of the Secretary for Scotland.


said that he agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken that this was a most important change in the Bill. With regard to the managers a good deal would depend on what the area was. There might be a district with only three or four parishes, and it would be absurd, in that case, to make it compulsory on the school board to appoint managers. It appeared to him very desirable that, as far as possible, ocal interest should be kept up between the schools and the parish. It would make a tremendous change in local institutions in Scotland to take away the control of the parish schools from the parish. He had put down an Amendment which proposed that where managers were appointed a certain number should be from the parish or town council. He thought, however, that the question could not be altogether considered without reference to Clause 29, which dealt with the appointment of attendance committees. In that clause it was provided that where the school board appointed an attendance committee they should have power to add a certain number of persons to that committee who were connected with that locality. He thought that was rather vague. It was probable that, in many cases, the managers would act as the attendance committee, subject to the supervision of the school boards. He thought, however, it was very desirable that the managers should be in close touch with the schools, and he hoped the Secretary for Scotland would consider favourably the Amendment he had put down.


said the Amendment introduced a very important point indeed. He had endeavoured to keep an open mind on the matter; but he should like to have a fuller statement from the Secretary for Scotland as to what his view was. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman's view was that the school boards need not have managers at all, if they thought fit, or any managers they pleased without reference to the local authorities. He should like to hear from the Secretary for Scotland what his general policy in the matter was.


said it was rather difficult, when he was anxious to please people, that he should be criticised for doing what they wanted. As he stated in his speech on the Second Reading, he thought it was desirable to have local interest in the schools maintained, and that it would be better that schools should be locally managed through managers. Deputation after deputation came to him from all parts of Scotland on the subject; and when the Bill came to be discussed there was a consensus of opinion that it would be very unwise indeed to fetter the discretion of the new education bodies, that they should be trusted to appoint managers, and that it would be very foolish to throw on the parish councils, which were elected for quite other purposes and for interests other than those of education, the duty of management. On all sides he was asked to leave the matter free, and trust to school boards to elect proper managers. Accordingly, he was doing his best in that direction, and had put down the Amendment with that object. The striking out of the three clauses was a mere corollary, as, having given a free hand, the restrictions which the school boards were to be directed to prescribe from time to time were not necessary. He could assure hon. Gentle men that if they took the trouble to ascertain what was the general opinion in Scotland in this matter, they would find it was in the direction of the Amendment. He admitted that the change was a very substantial change; but it was no Machiavellian scheme on the part of the Secretary for Scotland to change the Bill at the last moment. It was an honest attempt to meet what he believed to be the prevalent opinion in Scotland.


said the right hon. Gentleman asked the Committee to ascertain what the prevalent opinion on this matter in Scotland was. He did his best in the matter when last in Scotland; and he was bound to say that the result of his inquiries entirely coincided with the conclusion at which the right hon. Gentleman had arrived. It could not be disguised, however, that this was really a crucial point in the Bill, It was one of the things which, in the ' earlier stages, they were more puzzled about than anything else, viz., how, to reconcile the maintenance of the parish authority with the main principles of the Bill. He thought, however, that the right hon. Gentleman had worked out to a right conclusion, and he would support him. The question was whether it was desirable to fetter the discretion of the new bodies, or trust them with unlimited discretion. The result of such consultations as he had had with education authorities was all in the direction of the conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman. This, however, was one of the crucial matters in the Bill, and a matter which required a certain amount of sifting out; and, therefore, he thought the Committee would do well not to part with it without fuller consideration. He said that while fully recognising that I the right hon. Gentleman had arrived at the best conclusion he could.


said that with reference to opinion in Scotland, the only opinion on this question Came from the school boards. There was no expression of opinion from local people. Of course, the members of the present school boards, who hoped to be members of the new bodies, wished this power to be placed in the hands of the new boards. Look at the importance of the change. Under this Bill they were abolishing the parish area, separating the people of the parish from the management of the schools, and leaving the schools to be managed by boards which were not specially interested in any particular school. They were giving to these boards the control and management of the educational part of the new system, but they were now also asked to give them power to appoint whomsoever they pleased as managers, whether residents or ratepayers in the locality or not.

And, it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.