§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. ARTHUR HENDERSON (Durham, Barnard Castle)
rose to move as an instruction, "That this House is of opinion that the provision of food for destitute and underfed children is essential to the effective administration of the education system, and desires to assure itself before assenting to the Bill that clauses 1149 will be inserted whereby the education authority shall ensure that every child under compulsory attendance at its schools shall receive proper nourishment before being subjected to mental or physical instruction."
The Motion of the hon. Member is out of order, for the reason that it anticipates Amendments embodying the same principle which may be submitted in Committee on the Bill.
§ MR. ARTHUR HENDERSON
Can we have a guarantee that the Amendments proposed will be accepted in Committee or that they will be in order?
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
But does that ruling mean that they will be in order on the Committee stage?
§ MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
Perhaps it would be best to discuss the general principle on the debate on the Second Reading.
That can be done on the Motion which I have put that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ MR. ARTHUR HENDERSON
said he desired to point out what he considered to be an important defect in the measure now before the House. Before doing so he would like to offer his congratulations to the Government on the immense step forward which they had taken so far as this particular question of the feeding of children was concerned. The evidence of this forward move on the part of the Government was to be found in the Orders which were issued two or three days ago by the Local Government Board and by the Board of Education. But while he offered the Government his congratulations for having taken a step forward, 1150 it must not be assumed that he personally and those who were acting with him in this matter were in full approval of the policy outlined in those Orders. They did agree, however, that it was a matter for great satisfaction that the Government had at last admitted that so far as the underfeeding of children was concerned there was an existent serious evil, and that, in the second place, there was a public obligation to find a remedy for that serious defect in our national and social life. He welcomed that change of attitude on the part of the Government, and he would be glad if, in discussing that Bill, they could receive assurances from the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had charge of it that when the Committee stage was reached the Government would be prepared to show their consistency by giving encouragement to those who were anxious to amend the Bill in the direction of making provision for underfed children.
The question arose as to whether they who were introducing this important question, were justified in asking the Government to provide a remedy in that Bill, and to give facilities for dealing with that most important question. He thought they were justified, and that the need for immediate action had been clearly and definitely demonstrated. They had only to turn to the Report which had been issued by the Royal Commission on Physical Deterioration and also to the Report of the Royal Commission on Physical Training (Scotland) to find most important evidence in support of the step they were taking. They noted in connection with the Report of the Royal Commission on Physical Deterioration the following statement—It was, nevertheless, acknowledged that the evils arising from underfeeding were so widespread, and in certain localities so pressing, that some authoritative intervention was called for at the earliest possible moment to secure that the education of the children who are obliged to attend school shall not be hampered and retarded by the physical condition thereby engendered.That was a most important statement, made not by those who had engaged in this agitation in the country, but by a Royal Commission appointed by the present Government.
The Question might very properly be put how far the evil obtained in Scotland, for, 1151 after all, the Bill before the House dealt with Scotland and Scotland only. He thought, however, that they could clearly demonstrate that so far as Scotland was concerned the evil did prevail to a very considerable extent, and that the present was the most opportune moment for them to deal with the subject. To-day they were engaged in readjusting the machinery for education in Scotland, and the probabilities were that that Bill when it passed into law would control the whole machinery of education in Scotland, and would remain unaltered for some years to come. That being so, if there were such a defect in connection with the machinery as he had hinted at, surely this was the right time when it should be remedied. He would have to trouble the House with one or two other particulars so far as Scotland was concerned. He found that Dr. Mackenzie, the medical officer of the Local Government Board for Scotland, said that in the slums of Edinburgh a large proportion of the children were half-starved, and he agreed that to subject the half-starved child to the routine of a school would be the height of cruelty, and that the educational result would be poor. That was an authoritative statement of a medical officer of the Local Government Board for Scotland. Then a recent report, so far as Dundee was concerned, showed that a deplorable condition of things obtained in that city. They had further evidence in the Report of the Royal Commission on Physical Training in Scotland. This was what that Commission said on the subject—We consider that the question of the proper and sufficient feeding of children is one which has the closest possible connection with any scheme which may be adopted for their physical equally with their mental work. It is evident that among the causes which affect the physical welfare of the population the lack of proper nourishment is one of the most serious. The subject demands special notice not only as regards the existing state of affairs, but still more in view of any increase of physical training through the State-aided schools which may commend itself.They further said—A large number of important witnesses—members of the medical profession, inspectors of schools, representatives of school boards, teachers, and others—were questioned on the subject, and they were unanimously of opinion that it was most desirable that increased 1152 attention should be paid to the feeding of children attending State-aided schools.The Report of the Commission continued—We entirely endorse that opinion.It then went on to draw a contrast between the condition of children as seen in the poorest schools and the condition of children of parents who had altogether failed in their duty. Those latter children had, as a consequence of the default of their parents, had been sent to the training ship at Moss Bank and to similar institutions, where sufficient food and physical training were given to them, and the contrast between them and the children in the poorest schools was both marked and painful. Thus it was clearly demonstrated that where the parents had absolutely failed to do their duty their children were in a better condition, inasmuch as by State-aid they had received that nourishment which was essential to their physical well-being, while the condition of the other poor children was not only marked but painful. This proved conclusively that so far as Scotland was concerned the evil existed to as great an extent as it did in either England or Wales.
In the debate the other day a great deal was said about the causes which had brought about this deplorable social evil, and no doubt there was a considerable difference of opinion in the House as to the real causes. He would venture to classify the children in the following order. First, they had destitute children whose parents were in extreme poverty for reasons that were really preventable. Secondly, there were those whose parents were in temporary poverty caused by enforced idleness; and thirdly, there were those, and he thought this was the most important section demanding the consideration of the House—those whose fathers' economic condition when they were in work was such as to preclude the possibility of their doing exactly as they would like to do in making provision for the nourishment of their children. A most important question the House had to consider was whether (whatever the cause of these children being exposed to the danger of their physical condition being completely undermined) it was in the 1153 public interest that this evil should be allowed any longer to go on unchecked. If they only remembered how deplorable the results were they would agree with him that it would be the worst policy possible to pursue to allow the evil to go on unchecked, in view of the danger to the race. The Report from which he had already quoted made some most emphatic observations on the matter of their responsibility. It proved, in the first place, that voluntary effort by itself had failed to cope with the extension of the evil. Then the Royal Commission on Physical Training in Scotland came to the conclusion—It should be one of the duties of school boards and school managers to inquire into oases of apparently insufficient feeding, and they should provide facilities for the provision of suitable food by voluntary agency without cost to the public funds, and should co-operate with those agencies in the organisation of this work.Then, in another portion of the Report they demonstrated emphatically how inadequate voluntary effort had proved, and they added—We think that power should be given to provide meals, and to demand from the parents payment to meet the cost.He would trouble the House with only one more quotation, and it was an important one. Seeing that the Government insisted upon appointing Royal Commissions, it was desirable that they should appear to give some consideration to the findings of those Commissions unless, of course, they were going to accept the theory that the appointment of a Royal Commission was an easy way to provide a huge grave in which the Government might bury difficult problems. He found in the Report words to the effect that there was a general consensus of opinion that the time had come when the State should realise the necessity of ensuring adequate nourishment for children in attendance at schools. It was said to be the height of cruelty to subject half-starved children to the process of education, besides being a short-sighted policy, inasmuch as the progress of such children was inadequate and disappointing. If the House and the Government recognised the existence of such an evil—and they had strong and conclusive evidence that the Government had at last recognised it, because only a few days ago they 1154 issued an Order affecting England and Wales, whereas up to the present moment they had done absolutely nothing so far as Scotland was concerned—if, he contended, they recognised the evil, surely they ought on an occasion like that, when they were building up new machinery for educational purposes, to be prepared to make some arrangement and to incorporate some provision dealing with the evil.
The Government, if they liked, might adopt the plan which had been suggested in the Bill already before the House. The promoters of that Bill suggested that power should be given to the local education authority, when they found a number of children in their schools who were insufficiently or badly fed, to take the matter in hand, and to arrange for giving them certain meals daily. They also went so far as to suggest that power should be given to the education authority to recover the cost of the meals from the parents or guardians, where it could be clearly proved that such parents or guardians had the means to provide proper nourishment but had wilfully and culpably neglected their obligation to their children. He considered that if the Government would accept an Amendment of that nature in their new Scottish Education Bill in Committee, giving these limited, although probably sufficient, powers, they would be taking a step in the right direction. It should be noted that this proposal left the manner and the means of relief entirely in the discretion of the local education authority. There were other reasons why they considered that to be the best method of dealing with this evil. In the first place, it was most in harmony with the recommendations of the two Commissions to which he had already referred. They made that recommendation because they fully thought that where voluntary effort had been tried it had not proved in itself sufficient. They did not suggest that voluntary effort should be abandoned entirely, but that it might be made part of an arrangement with the local education authority. What they did want was that, without leaving out entirely all voluntary effort which had not proved sufficient, full responsibility for seeing that something was 1155 really done should be imposed on the local education authorities. That would be the best way of dealing with the evil from a practical, economic, and humane standpoint. The Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration agreed with the opinion of the Royal Commission on Physical Training that the preparation and cooking of meals for children habitually underfed should be regarded as one of the charges incidental to school management, and the Commission also expressed the sanguine belief that a few prosecutions would have a most salutary and stimulating effect in compelling neglectful parents to take a full share of their responsibilities.
He thought he had stated strong grounds on which to base an appeal to the Government to give some encouragement to those who desired to deal with that defect in their measure. In his opinion the Government had made a great mistake in bringing in this Bill without recognising the strong and emphatic evidence of their own Royal Commissions' Reports, for it might he that for a number of years to come they would be face to face with this evil in great centres like Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Dundee, and would not have given any legislative powers to the local authorities to deal with what was an admitted evil. He would conclude by again expressing his earnest hope that when they reached the Committee stage they would have the support of the Government in their endeavour to remove this great defect from the Bill.
§ SIR HUGH SHAW-STEWART (Renfrew, E.)
asked the House to allow him to say a few words on the question raised by the last speaker, as he was one of the members of the Royal Commission on Physical Training, from whose Report several quotations had been made. He did not propose to say anything on the general lines of the Bill, except to thank the Government for having introduced it, and to assure them that most of the Members representing Scottish constituencies would do all that they could to expedite its progress through the House. But there were one or two omissions from the Bill on which he would like to speak for a moment. One was the omission in 1156 reference to any scheme for dealing with underfed children. He was one of those who held very strongly the view that if provision was to be made for feeding the children the cost should be recovered from the parents, and he believed that the hon. Member for Camberwell was entirely of that opinion. But there was one difficulty connected with that suggestion which had to be faced, and that was the difficulty of dealing with parents who would not pay the fees. The Hon. Member had said that he would scarify those parents.
§ DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)
No. I said I would scarify those who could, but would not pay, but I did not say I would not scarify those who were too poor to pay.
§ SIR HUGH SHAW-STEWART
said he fully accepted that interpretation of the hon. Member's words, but he did not see how he proposed to scarify those parents. He did not think that a resolution passed by the school board would be sufficient to produce that result, and he did not know of any other way in which they could be got at. He was going to say that no resolution would scarify anybody. But he did recollect one occasion in that House when certain colonial statesmen were brought to the Bar because they had broken some constitutional rule, and they were brought up to be admonished by Mr. Speaker. Certainly those who were acquainted with the authority which surrounded Mr. Speaker's office, when they heard and saw those colonial statesmen admonished, came to the conclusion that they were scarified. But they were not going to scarify the public by means of resolutions passed by school boards, and he believed the only way in which they could deal with parents who would not pay the feeding fees for their children was to make paupers of them—to recover the money through the Poor Law. That was the gist of the recommendations of the Commission, and he wished to emphasise the conclusion they arrived at that no expense whatever should be thrown on school boards in respect of the provision of food. He was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman had not been able to incorporate any suggestions of that kind in his Bill. No doubt 1157 he had good reasons for abstaining from doing so, and he trusted he would explain them to the House later on.
There was one other omission, and that was in regard to the question of medical inspection. The Royal Commission went very fully into that question, and he would like to remind them that one of the members of the Royal Commission was at that time head of the Education Department for Scotland. He could assure the House they had very weighty evidence from the most skilled and influential witnesses in the country, and upon it they arrived at certain conclusions. They suggested that medical officers should act as consulting officers to school boards and should work with the local medical officers. They suggested further that medical officers of counties and burghs should give their services for a retaining fee, not exceeding £100 a year, which might fairly be provided from Imperial funds. Another paragraph of their Report suggested that the district medical officers should visit and report to the senior medical officer regarding the health of the children. He was quite aware that that provision would entail very considerable expense, and possibly that was the reason why the Government had not seen its way to embark on the enterprise. He would like further to draw attention to paragraph 160 of the Report, in which they suggested that sub-inspectors, male and female, should be appointed and should make occasional visits to the school and assist the teachers in testifying as to the health and cleanliness of the children. He was not sure that that was not the most important of all the suggestions they made. At any rate it was a practical one and it had the advantage of cheapness; it would not involve any large expenditure of money, and he was certain the hon. Member for Camberwell would bear him out in saying that the teachers would welcome the appointment of a few selected persons to assist them in these matters of cleanliness and sanitary habits, matters which were quite as important for young children to learn as lessons in geography and history. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman in the course of the debate would give some reason why the recommendations of 1158 the Royal Commission, arrived at after full and careful investigation and consideration, were not given effect to in the Bill.
§ MR. CHARLES DOUGLAS (Lanarkshire, N.W.)
wished to associate himself with what had been said as to the importance of including in that Bill some provision for the feeding of necessitous children. He did not say that at all in the sense that he thought the Bill was an unwelcome one, because he believed it would do a great deal of good in Scotland, even if those provisions were not included. But he did sincerely hope that the Lord-Advocate and the Government would seriously and with an open mind consider this question and try to give some satisfaction to those who had been urging it on their attention. It was a matter of vital importance and it was one capable of being dealt with without any revolutionary proceedings. It was a matter to which in Scotland very special attention had been called, not only by the Royal Commission on Physical Training, but more recently by a very interesting and tragic document issued in Dundee under the auspices of the Social Union. It was a report drawn up by medical men, and it showed the enormous wastage of human life which was going on. He would not say more about that now, but he hoped that when they reached the Committee stage it would be found that the Government were willing to entertain these proposals.
He wished to say how cordially he welcomed, for his part, the reintroduction of this Bill, and how sincerely he trusted the Government intended to pass it into law. The main principle of the Bill, on which really its usefulness rested, was the enlargement of the local government areas for education purposes. He did not think it necessary to recapitulate the arguments by which they had justified that enlargement in the past. It was a reform which was calculated greatly to simplify and improve the position of teachers, and that, in itself, he thought, was the very important argument in its favour. It would increase the importance and the authority of the local education bodies—the school boards—and, in his opinion, 1159 make them much less amenable to anything that might be regarded as undue interference on the part of the Education Department, and it would enable them to really co-ordinate the different stages of education, and give a greater stimulus to the secondary education of the country. After a good deal of discussion and debate in that House in the previous year they had arrived at a very excellent solution of the difficult, practical question of the extension of the areas. That was a question which had been dealt with in different ways according to the merits of each particular case, and it was wise, he thought, to leave it as they now proposed to do to the decision of the authorities concerned. It was now intended to be incorporated in the clause of the Bill dealing with that matter, and he hoped that clause would really make it perfectly clear that the local authorities themselves, no less than the Secretary for Scotland, were to be real parties to any combination that might be effected; that that combination was not to take place behind their backs, but with their consent and concurrence. He hoped also that another arrangement which was made in the previous year, with regard to the management of schools, would be persisted in. It was then left in the hands of the school board to appoint managers, and it was very important in school administration to secure that management and control should go together. Nothing could be more unfortunate than that the actual management should be in different hands to those by whom the school was controlled. It was unfortunate for the managers themselves, because it was impossible to obtain from them the same kind of work as would be obtained if they had greater authority, and it was still more unfortunate for those who controlled the school, and who were not in daily contact with its administration, and so able to meet the problems with which school boards had to deal.
If there was any doubt before as to the necessity of provincial councils, or national councils, or some advisory body in Scotland with whom the board might officially deal that doubt might easily be set at rest by the events of the last year. The great argument against them had always been that there was a complete and adequate control over education in 1160 Scotland. It was two years since there had been an opportunity to discuss upon the Estimates educational affairs in Scotland, and no one who took an interest in Scottish education would think that once in two years was too often to bring the acts of the Scottish Education Department under review. The Government had made some difference in this Bill to their proposals of last year. They had steadily refused to create any national council with power to sub-divide itself into committees for local purposes. That would have been the simplest and most satisfactory course that they could have taken, but they had refused to take it. It was not a matter of principle, because whether there was one council with power to form itself into four local committees or whether there were four councils which had power to combine it was practically the same thing. He believed a sub-committee of a national council would be a far more efficient body in its way than any provincial council. He would like to see the functions of the provincial council further denned. A provincial or national council would fall very far short of their view of what it ought to be if it were merely a collection of estimable gentlemen nominated by the Education Department from what were called "educational experts." It was of vital importance that these councils should contain not only an element but a majority of other members who were delegated representatives of the school board within the area or province with which that council was to deal. That should not be left in the discretion of the Secretary for Scotland but should be dealt with in the Bill itself. He would also like to see more power given to the provincial councils; not that their functions should be altered; they should still remain an advisory body, but he would like to see a wide extension of the subjects upon which the opinion of the councils should be sought if these bodies were really to be consulted as to the essential parts of the administrative work of the Department.
As to the necessity for this Bill dealing with the treatment of those schools which were not under the charge of the school boards, the voluntary schools, there was a very general agreement. Many people 1161 believed that the duty of the State ought to be limited to supplying secular education, and that the teaching of theology formed no part of the business. That was not the state of affairs in Scotland, nor was it the state of affairs set up by the Bill, which persisted in giving to Scotland denominational education in the schools. So long as that was done it was essential that they should recognise the conscientious objections of the minority. No good cause ever prospered which was leagued with hardship and injustice. He was prepared to accept and welcome the proposals in the Bill to deal more equally with the minority in this matter. As to the manner in which it was to be done there were differences of opinion. The proposal of the Bill was to leave it to the local authority to give aid from the rates. It was certain that any aid must come from the rates if the matter was to be dealt with as a whole, but there was an opinion in Scotland that it could be dealt with by Parliamentary action. That was not the view of all, but, at the same time, if the money was to be given by Parliament to the schools it must be taken out of the Scottish Education Fund and from that part of it which otherwise would go in relief of rates, and there would be so much the less to go to the country as a whole in relief of rates. There were two ways by which that deduction might be made. It might be spread over the country as a whole, but that would be obviously unjust because those districts in which there were no voluntary schools would be made to contribute to those in which there were voluntary schools. The other way was to make the deduction in detail, and in proportion, in those parts of the country where voluntary schools existed. After all, what did it mean? It meant that they were giving the Education Department power to impose rates, because when they gave this power to withdraw some of this fund, they gave power to withdraw money which would otherwise go to the relief of rates in many districts. One of the greatest defects of the English educational system was that the local authorities had been deprived of the liberty they ought to have and desired to exercise. Many of the difficulties of the English Act were traceable to that single fault, 1162 and he would greatly deplore anything of that sort being introduced into the Bill for Scotland. They ought to jealously guard the right of each locality to the disposal of its own rates. Each case ought to be dealt with on its merits as it came before those whose knowledge of the circumstances enabled them to form an opinion upon it.
In conclusion, he ventured to express the same hope with reference to the Bill as a whole as he had expressed at the commencement of his speech. It was a very serious matter to hold a Bill of this sort over the heads of those carrying on the educational work of Scotland. The responsibility for the present state of things rested on the Government. They had introduced this Bill, which was a responsibility they ought not to take unless they intended to persevere with it and pass it into law. He therefore hoped that it would be eventually carried.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said the House was indebted to the hon. Gentlemen who had already spoken for calling attention to the serious defect in this Bill in not making any effort to deal with the question of hungry children. Neither the Government in general nor the Scottish Department in particular could leave this matter alone. The Scottish Department had had before them for a considerable time two very important Reports. They had had before them the Report of their own Royal Commission on the physical Training of Children in Scotland, and they had had the Report of the Departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration. Nor could they say the Scottish view was not adequately represented on both bodies, because on the Royal Commission on the Physical Training of Children in Scotland was Sir Henry Craik, the then head of the Scottish Department, and on the Committee on Physical Deterioration was that gentleman's successor in that office. Both those gentlemen joined in the Reports of that Commission and Committee, which declared that the physical condition of the children in the schools was such that it required immediate attention on the part of the Government. Not a single step had the Scottish Office taken upon the Reports 1163 of these two important bodies, and in the Bill now before the House they had omitted the question altogether. It had been ignored by them. They were like the Pharisee in the story of the good Samaritan. They had looked on these poor children and had passed by on the other side.
He desired to point out how the thing stood as regarded English children, because the President of the Local Government Board had stated clearly both in the House and the country, that in England a distressed child in a public elementary school had a legal right to be visited by a representative of the public authority and to be relieved and fed. Not only had the President of the Local Government Board admitted it, hat he had taken the step of providing machinery, somewhat clumsy machinery it was true, but the best that could be provided without legislation, to secure that those children's rights should not remain in abeyance, but that they should be vindicated. In the schools, now, it was the duty of the teachers and managers to inquire into the condition of any child who was distressed, and to report, and it was the duty of the guardians to at once send their officer and relieve the child, and then afterwards take steps to recover the cost from the parents, and, if they were not able to pay, to make the relief out of the poor relief fund. What was the position with regard to Scotland? Because what had been done in this respect did not apply to either Scotland or Ireland, and he presumed that the children of both those countries had the same rights as children in England. He would like to know whether that was not a fact? Here, then, they had a right on the part of the child to live, and no step was taken either by Scotland or Ireland to put their children in the same position as English children. The Government could not leave this matter where it was. Before this Bill went further they must declare first what were the rights of Scotch children, and then what steps they proposed to take in order that those rights should be safeguarded.
On the face of the Bill there were many imperfections. For instance there was a provision that the school boards could 1164 spend school rates in medical inspection, but were they going to stop there? Had there not been medical inspection in many of the schools in Scotland and England every year? Excellent medical inspections had been made in Scotland and in England, in the Johanna Street Schools, but what was the result of the inspections of those schools in poor districts? It was that a great number of children in those poor schools were suffering from lack of food. That would be the result of the medical inspections in Scotland. What were they going to do? Were they going to stop there? The local authorities under this Bill had now power to spend the ratepayers' money on the provision of food, and the point he wished to put to the Lord-Advocate was that he should tell the House clearly, first, what were the rights of the children, and secondly, what were the steps which the Scotch Office were going to take analagous to those taken by the Local Government Board in England for enforcing those rights. What was the use of giving power to the new Scotch authorities to inspect the children if they did not give them power to mitigate the evils from which they suffered. He hoped this Bill would be carried through as everybody desired to see it passed. His only desire in rising was to raise, in the case of Scotland, this question which had been dealt with to some extent in the case of England, and which must in the future be dealt with in the case of both Scotland and Ireland;
§ MR. EDWARDS (Radnor)
said, as was well known, they had had in Wales a great deal of trouble owing to the Education Act which was passed by the Government in 1902. He could not help thinking that much of that trouble might not have occurred if the Government had accepted the offer made by the hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs, who was willing to take such a Bill as this for the solution of the difficulty. As the hon. and learned Member for Lanark very properly remarked, each locality should be allowed to control the expenditure of its own rates. Under Clause 3 of this Bill there was set up a system of school boards all through the country. That 1165 would have been a very proper way of dealing with education in Wales as well as in Scotland. Clause 17 of the Scotch Bill provided that—It shall be lawful for the school board in any of the enumerated districts from time to time to commit the management of any school or schools under their charge, and, subject to the provisions of the Act, to delegate such of their powers as they may see fit in connection with the management of such school or schools, to managers appointed by them.He wished that were the law in Wales, but he did not grudge it to Scotland. In Wales it was the parsons who appointed the managers of the schools, and not the public bodies like the county councils who were at the same time called upon to find the money for running the schools. There was a wide difference between the Bill now before the House and the Act of 1902. The Bill before the House sought to carry out the wishes of the people of Scotland, but the Act of 1902 did nothing of the kind in regard to the people of England and Wales. The Welsh laity would fully approve of the public control given by this Bill, but unfortunately there were other powers at work to induce the Government to pass the Act of 1902, and roughly speaking the clergy got their way. Why was it that they got their way? Was it for the benefit of education? The Government had shown by introducing this kind of measure for Scotland that they believed that a system of education which was controlled by school boards was better than a system which left education to voluntary agencies. One great merit of the Bill was that it did not arouse religious disputes as the Act of 1902 had done in both England and Wales. Why was it that the clergymen in England and Wales took up the position they did? They insisted that only the rudiments of knowledge should be taught in the elementary schools? Secular education was to be elementary, but apparently religious instruction was to be advanced. If it was right that only the rudiments of secular instruction should be taught it would appear equally right that only the rudiments of religious instruction should be given. The merit of this Bill as compared with the English Bill was that it allowed the majority to have its own way with regard to religious instruction. He felt sure that if 1166 the same rule were applied to Wales they would get rid of a good many of the difficulties now felt in that country. He could not understand why the Government which granted for Scotland the wishes of its people should refuse them in the case of Wales. The Government was supposed to be impartial, but it had not been so in regard to his own country. The majority in most of the parishes of Wales were Nonconformists, and if the principle underlying this Bill was given to the people of Wales it would often happen that in Welsh parishes, where there was only one school, not only the maintenance but the control of the staffing of that school would be given to the people of the parish. He protested against the treatment meted out to Wales in 1902. He approved of the principle of this Bill, but he held that it was equally applicable to Wales as to Scotland.
§ SIR ANDREW AGNEW (Edinburgh, S.)
said that with regard to the supplying of meals to underfed children he fully sympathised with the view which had been expressed, and he hoped that in Committee the Lord-Advocate would be able to insert a provision dealing with the matter. As to the Bill itself, he had only two criticisms to make. He greatly regretted that the counties instead of the county districts had not been made the education areas. In many cases the county district would be much too small for a complete system of primary, secondary, and technical education. The county would in most cases provide a far more suitable area, and he could not understand why it had not been taken. That objection had doubtless been met to some extent by the power given to unite two or more county districts, but it would have been simpler to have taken the county and, in the rare cases where it was too large, divide it. It was always easier to divide a district than to get two or more authorities, each entitled to a separate existence, to agree to be united. Personally he would have liked to see the county the education district, and the county council the education authority. If that had been the proposal it would have rendered unnecessary the creation of an 1167 entirely new body for educational purposes, and saved one local election, of which there were already too many. The more local elections there were the less interest people took in them. Fully recognising the difficulties in the way of that proposal, he was quite prepared to accept the scheme of the Government, which he believed would work well and be generally acceptable to the people of Scotland.
His second criticism had reference to the financial arrangements of the Bill. Probably everyone would approve of the proposal that the various grants for education should be pooled, but he doubted whether all would be in favour of the inclusion of the residue grant of 1890 and a large portion of the equivalent grant of 1892. There was justification for the arrangement so far as the residue grant was concerned, because while the grant was given either for the relief of local rates or for technical education, it had been almost universally devoted to technical education. In fact, taking the whole of Scotland, three-fourths of the grant had been used for that purpose. But there was not the same reason for claiming the equivalent grant or any portion of it for inclusion in the education fund; it was given expressly for the relief of local rates and, with the exception of a very small part—about £500—had been so used. The proposal was that £100,000 should be devoted to the relief of rates, and that the balance—about £63,000, according to last year's figures—should go to the education fund. That meant that an additional burden of £63,000 would be laid upon the county and burgh rates. It might be said that it did not much matter, if the money had to be found, whether it was raised by the police, the school, or any other rate. That, however, was not the way the local authorities looked at the matter. It would have been much better to have let the present arrangement remain undisturbed, leaving the education authority to raise the money they required by an addition to the education rate. Moreover, it was not dealing fairly with the local authorities in Scotland as compared with those in England, inasmuch as under the Act of 1902 the equiva- 1168 lent grant was not touched, and consequently the amount for the relief of local rates in England remained undiminished. He hoped the Lord-Advocate would take this matter into consideration, and see if he could not leave the whole of the equivalent grant undisturbed. With that alteration he hoped the Bill would be carried through. It had met with a very friendly reception on both sides, and there was in Scotland a general desire for its speedy passage. He hoped, therefore, that after the Second Reading the Lord-Advocate would press forward the remaining stages as rapidly as possible, and that the Bill would be carried into law this session.
§ MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
said the question of the feeding of the children was of the greatest importance, and although the matter was one of considerable difficulty, he hoped that in Committee the Government would be prepared to submit a plan. In regard to its main principles he welcomed the Bill of last year, and in its present form he thought he had still more reason to welcome it. But why was not the Bill of last year passed? He had never known a Bill to be received in a more reasonable spirit, but it was wilfully thrown aside by the Government in order that other measures might be forced through. He hoped that that would not be the case this year. The best answer to any possible charge of obstruction was the present Bill, it being a considerable improvement upon the Bill of last year, a result wholly due to the discussion which then took place. The Bill was not a controversial measure in the Party sense, but it was one of enormous importance to the Scottish people, inasmuch as it would probably form the basis of their education for a generation to come. That being so, it would be nothing short of a scandal if Scottish Members consented to such a Bill being thrown at their heads without giving it full discussion.
The main point of the Bill was the question of the area, and upon that there was a considerable amount of controversy. Many people held that the parish was the best area, believing that in the parish alone could there be the closest touch between the people 1169 and the management of education. On the other hand, many believed that the county was the best area. In this dilemma the Government had had to make a compromise, and they had taken the district. He did not say that that was necessarily the best. As the Bill was introduced it had all the evils of a compromise. If they stuck rigidly to the district it would have many of the faults of both the parish and the county with none of their virtues. What they demanded was elasticity, and that had been provided for, and to that extent the Bill was better. He thought, however, that there was room for more elasticity. In Committee last year this matter was discussed, and it was felt that whatever scheme was adopted it would be found necessary to have a wider area for secondary than for elementary education. A proposal of that kind could be embodied without injuring the Bill. The late Lord-Advocate promised to embody a clause giving effect to some arrangement of that sort, and he hoped that in Committee the Government would consider some scheme whereby districts could unite for secondary education, whilst retaining the authority for elementary education. One of the changes proposed in the Bill was exceedingly complicated. A distinction was made between primary and secondary schools, and in order to accomplish this no less than three different areas had been taken—in some cases the parish, in others a group of parishes, and in some the district. Only one-quarter of the districts had secondary schools, and the remaining three-quarters had higher-grade schools which served large districts. The simplest way was to make an arrangement that would make no difference between those schools. He welcomed the Bill, and hoped it would be passed. He had no fear but that the Lord-Advocate would do his best, for he had won golden opinions for his courtesy, and if the Government gave him facilities he had no doubt that he would make them a good Bill.
§ SIR LEWIS McIVER (Edinburgh, W.)
said the subject of the financial proposals of the Bill had been so well covered by the hon. Member for South Edinburgh that it was unnecessary for him to do 1170 more than join in the appeal which had been made, urging upon the Government the importance of giving due weight to the strong feeling which existed amongst local authorities as to the proposed diversion of the equivalent grant from its present purposes. The ground on which objection was taken to this diversion was that money was given to England and Scotland for practically the same purposes, and it was now proposed to take it away from such purposes in Scotland. The proposed arrangement was in no way essential to the principal purposes of the Bill, and if the money was to be raised it could be most properly raised by an education rate. This was a question which was considerably discussed last year. Owing to the system of rating in Scotland, -a certain differentiation between owners and occupiers existed, which had no parallel in England. Under this Bill the money which had hitherto been applied to the relief of occupiers' rates would be replaced by a rate which would fall equally upon the owner and occupier. And the present proposal would, therefore, interfere with incidence of taxation as deliberately accepted by the Scottish burghs, quite apart from the resentment felt by them on the subject of the equivalent grant. He did not think the. Government would be wise if they assumed that the burghs acquiesced in the absorption of the residue grant. The whole of this movement had seriously alarmed the burgh authorities, because they did not know where this sort of thing was going to stop-They were not satisfied at the present time with other grants, and consequently they were unwilling to surrender what they had already got, in exchange for something about which they, at the present time, had no information. When the Lord-Advocate summed up he hoped that he would recognise the very strong feeling which existed on this matter throughout the burghs and in some of the counties to the effect that this differentiation of treatment was unjust to Scotland, and was unnecessary for the purposes of education.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
said he should like the House to be informed how the details of this Bill 1171 were going to be considered. Many speakers had stated that they were not concerned with details at the present moment, but there was a rumour that this Bill was to be sent to the Committee on Trade or something of that kind-He hoped that was not true. If this Bill was not to be considered by the whole of the Scottish Members in Committee, then a much closer attention to details would be required on the Second Reading and on the Report stage. He was not a keen opponent of this Bill, for it had his support last year, but he maintained that every Scottish Member was bound to assist in the moulding of this measure, and it would be something approaching a scandal if this Bill was sent to a Committee which would prevent fifty of the Scottish Members having a voice in regard to its details. There was a view very widely held that Bills relating to Scotland could not be taken up unless Scotland was unanimous and the Scottish Members were mum, and unless they could be passed without discussion. He thought it would be wrong, however good this measure was, if it was not subject to the fullest discussion by the whole of the Scottish Members, who ought to have some opportunity of assisting in moulding it.
There were one or two other points he wished to refer to. So far as the Bill itself was concerned he had very little to say against it, just as he had not much to say against the Bill of last year. There were some questions which were certainly controversial. In regard to the question of finance some of the burghs held strong opinions. Then there was the question of the areas, and although the discussion up to the present had gone somewhat in favour of the areas prescribed under the Bill, many opinions were held in a contrary direction. There was a controversial question affecting the enumerated districts, and he knew that in Committee upon the Bill the school board of the burgh of Leith would insist upon representations being made upon the point of its amalgamation with Edinburgh. Those were fair subjects for full discussion. The Government owed it to the House and to Scotland to use every effort in their power to pass the Bill this year. This 1172 was all the more urgent because the Second Reading had been put off until May 8th and because the Bill was many years overdue. There was no particular reason why it should not have been passed last year. He thought his hon. friend the Member for West Renfrew was the most obvious cause of the Bill of last year not passing by moving his rating Amendment.
§ SIR CHARLES RENSHAW (Renfrew, W.)
said he did not move the rating Amendment and he had always been opposed to it.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
said he understood that the views of the hon. Member opposite were adopted by the Government. There was really no reason why the Bill of last year should not have been passed, and it was a great disappointment to every educationist in Scotland, because without some coordination of education much effort was lost, and they had fallen very much in arrears of the true position which Scotland ought to hold in this matter. Consequently, there was a feeling of insecurity as regarded the present Bill, and there had been gloomy forebodings on the part of competent persons as to the chances of the Bill passing through during the present session. A Bill conceived upon broad national lines was worthy of a national effort.
He was glad that the Government had held to the main lines of the Bill of last year. His main objection to the Bill was in regard to the excessive autocracy of the Department. The power of the secretary of the Department was practically uncontrolled. He thought the tendency of the Bill was to gather power into one hand. Too many Scottish boards were cumbrous and in very much the same condition as they had been since the days of the Stuarts, and this was a good time to make a change. There had been a change in the headship of the Department. Although they did not all agree with Sir Henry Craik they recognised his capacity, and they recognised the great services he had performed for Scotland. As to the personal element, Sir Henry was a man that nobody could help liking. The Bill 1173 should certainly have created a National Council of Education for Scotland. That would have involved, of course, the transfer of the Education Department to Edinburgh. The hon. Baronet the Member for West Edinburgh, in discussing the question of districts, said that it was much easier to divide one body into two or three than to get two or three to agree. If that argument was true he would ask the hon. Baronet to apply it to the provincial councils, and to build up a national council out of them. The provincial councils were, he believed, a valuable feature of the Bill. He should like to see a fifth provincial council. He thought the Highlands naturally lent themselves to be treated separately. There should be a fifth council at Inverness, or the council of St. Andrews might go to Inverness. He was not indifferent to the advantage of Fife as a centre, but at the same time he thought the Highland area could never be properly organised from Aberdeen. He desired to express his satisfaction that powers were to be given to combine the provincial councils for certain purposes. He thought they should have much wider powers, and that real powers should be given to them.
So far as the present Bill went it was an improvement on that of last year, and he thought it would be valuable. Did the hon. Member opposite propose to abolish the School Board of Edinburgh? If he proposed to give the control of educational affairs to the Town Council of Edinburgh he would be setting up a dual system of control. He thought that would be a serious danger of the proposal which should be cleared away before the change was made. Was it better to have educational bodies all over Scotland, or to use the local bodies all over Scotland? He did not think a dual system would be an advantage. There was a good deal to be said for the parish councils. The main argument for them—and there was something in it—was that there was a feeling that a parish board was an easy body to attend—that a working man after his tea could attend a parish board. He believed that if travelling expenses were paid they would get a larger proportion, to attend the district boards. 1174 He thought a provision should be added to the Bill that the travelling expenses of the members of school boards should be paid in order that the working class should have no obstacle to their full representation upon them. The district area, he believed, offered the possibility of giving the best authority. It was very convenient for working purposes. Most of the work of the county councils had passed now into the hands of the district committees of the councils. He believed the area was a good one, that it would work economically, and enable them to have co-ordination of education, because they would never be able to have co-ordination unless there was opportunity for education to be controlled by the same authority. They could do that with a district authority, but they could not do it with a parish authority. The hon. Member for Kincardineshire referred to the possibility of greater elasticity in the arrangements. He himself was in favour of the greatest elasticity possible. One of the great advantages of the district system was that two or more districts which required a similar kind of higher and technical education could have it better under a district system than under a county system. There were many counties which did not require the same kind of higher and technical education over the whole area, whereas by grouping the districts one would be able to arrange the educational system much better.
As to the physical training and the feeding of school children, he believed that with such areas the difficulties could be met and grappled with. The small boards had not undertaken the work of providing for the requirements of physical training nearly enough. As to feeding, he believed that was in Scotland really a very simple matter. It had been tried, and wherever tried, so far as he knew, it had been a success. What was required was a kitchen, and a committee to see that the children were fed, and to obtain in some cases voluntary contributions for the feeding of children whose parents could not afford to pay for the food. In some cases he knew that the children were fed at very small expense. The 1175 parents paid for the tickets. The fault was not so much in the system under which the children were being fed as in the fact that the system itself had only been partially developed. There were some parts that had never attempted it, and he thought that had been the fault of the Scotch Education Department. By the very nature of its constitution it had no power of initiative to take up questions of that kind. That was pre-eminently the kind of question that would come before the new councils if the power of initiative were given to them. There should be in every parish or district a committee appointed, probably by the school board, to see that the children were properly fed. This Bill should give the school authorities powers to make the necessary equipment for the cooking of dinners. He gave notice of an Amendment of that kind to the Bill of last year. The great trouble which had been experienced had been in getting the school kitchen itself, the boards having no power to make one or to provide the necessary accommodation. With a little initiative by the Department, and a slight amendment of the Bill, there was no child in Scotland who need not be thoroughly well fed. He congratulated the Government on having seized this great opportunity of providing for the training of teachers. He trusted they would seize with equal vigour the opportunity of passing the Bill, because the passing of it would be almost a justification for the prolongation of the present Parliament.
§ SIR MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbrightshire)
said he wished to follow the example of his hon. friend the Member for the Leith Burghs in congratulating the Government on bringing forward of this measure. In regard to the feeding of children, he thought there should be no difficulty whatever. He had had some experience in connection with the establishment of soup kitchens. In only one case the board had to ask assistance to build a soup kitchen. A small house with a galvanised iron roof was provided at a cost of £15 or £20. In other cases the needful appliances for cooking were provided in places adjoining the schoolhouses, and the board 1176 considered that they were justified in applying the rates to that purpose. In regard to provisions there had never been any difficulty. A concert once a year in winter was generally sufficient to provide the funds. The farmers had been very kind in providing vegetables, and small payments were made by the children for the meals supplied. The board thought it was better to take a small payment for a basin of soup than to give it voluntarily, but every consideration was given in the cases of children whose parents could not afford to pay even a halfpenny. Tickets were sold in lots on a more liberal scale if considered necessary. He agreed that it might be advisable to introduce words in Section 7 of the 23rd Clause of the Bill which would permit schools boards to incur the very trifling expense of providing for the feeding of children in necessary cases. He would not discuss the question of rating at length at the present moment. He could only tell the Government that it would be a great disappointment if part of the equivalent grant were taken from them. It would entail in many districts from 1d. to 1½d. in the £ of additional taxation. In Scotland they had a good system of education, but he believed that by this Bill they would get a better system. If only the area was enlarged they would be able to deal with a freer hand with secondary education. He concurred with the remark of the hon. Member for Kincardineshire that they could not have secondary education to any real extent without a large area—except, perhaps, in very thickly populated districts; and he hoped that the Lord-Advocate would take that into consideration. He was at one with the hon. Member for Leith in hoping that the Bill would be thoroughly discussed in the House instead of being sent to a Grand Committee. It would be a great saving of time, for the Bill could be got through Committee in half the time a Grand Committee would occupy. He did not imagine that there would be any obstruction, but many details had to be considered.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
said he was strongly in favour of the Bill being considered in Committee of the Whole House, and especially that it 1177 should not be sent to the Grand Committee on Law or Trade. But he had always thought that a Scotch Bill should be sent to a Grand Committee consisting of all the Scotch Members.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
said he himself had made the proposal of a Grand Committee with all the Scotch Members and other Members in addition.
§ SIR MARK STEWART
Well, it could not have been often done. A Scotch Education Bill might interest some English Members and even some Welsh Members; and he therefore hoped it would be discussed in Committee of the Whole House. He was sure that a much better Bill would be produced than if it was considered in Grand Committee. He trusted the Lord-Advocate would use all his efforts with the Government to begin upon the Committee stage as soon as possible, so that it might be finished and the Bill read a third time before Whitsuntide.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
said he was anxious to see the discussion kept as close as possible to the actual proposals in the Bill. There was one thing he was very glad of, namely, that the hon. Baronet who had just sat down had endorsed very strongly the appeal made by his hon. friend the Member for Leith to the Government to afford the House some light as to what they were going to do with the Bill in Committee. Speaking for himself, he thought it would be a great misfortune to send it to an ordinary Committee; let it be discussed in Committee of the Whole House. There was a special reason for that. This Bill contained a collection of Second Reading questions. It touched questions of principle affecting not only Scotland as a whole, but numerous districts of the country—questions 1178 of rating, of Highland areas, of policy in regard to secondary education, of existing institutions, of denominational education, and of the whole subject of large and small areas in regard to general education. He contended that a Bill of that kind was no Bill to be sent to a Grand Committee, but should be kept in the House where all the Scotch Members, with the assistance of English Members who were interested in the general question of education, might deal with it, He hoped that the Lord-Advocate would get authority from the Prime Minister to allay the misgiving that they almost all felt that it would be a mistake to send this Bill to a place where it could not be properly dealt with.
He came to the point dealt with by the two hon. Members who represented West and South Edinburgh. He had the greatest possible respect for both of those hon. Members, but he found himself in intense dissent both from the substance and the manner of their action. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Edinburgh in his discussion of the county as the alternative area and the rating question concerned, seemed to have lost sight of the fact that in Scotland the improvement of the national system of education was a matter which had sunk deep into the mind of the people, and that the last thing required was that the education rate should be made by farmers and factors. He had the greatest respect for the county councils and he should be glad to see a simplification of the election and a unification of the education authority, and that they might be able to do in Scotland as in England. But in England, in the first place, there was no alternative if they wanted a large area; and, in the second place, there had been a certain development of interest on the part of some of the county councils—mainly shown in regard to technical education, which was not shown at present in such a marked degree in Scotland. He was not talking of Lanarkshire, where a remarkable interest was taken in technical education, but of some other counties which he knew. It must be taken into account, in discussing the educational standard for Scotland, that it would be a sheer misfortune if they turned over the handling of the subject of education 1179 to the county councils as they were constituted at the present time. In Wales there was a much keener interest in educational work than in England—in education for itself, and not merely for denominational controversies. The result was that there had grown up a class of experts in each locality, providing a sufficient number of people from whom they could get a sufficiently strong education board to deal with large areas. Therefore, he wanted to see in Scotland educational experts, honourably representing educational opinion, who would handle the whole system of education. He would consequently deplore if the suggestion of the hon. Member for South Edinburgh were adopted.
He came to the other alternative—the question of small areas. He could understand how people in Scotland would part with reluctance from the area of the parish, which had worked so well under the existing Education Act. But they had reached a stage when education had assumed a larger scope than in past times. Many people forgot the changes that had taken place in regard to the scope of education, the larger duties that were imposed on the teachers, and the larger knowledge expected from those who guided them. Therefore, larger areas were required than the parish. He knew parishes where they had a much higher standard of ideas in regard to education than in others, and where the parish school board was very efficient. But he also knew others where the present educational system was being scandalously handled. What was wanted was something short of the area of the county, and something greater than the parish, where there could be got a larger scope, a larger basis, and a larger mind. The Government had adopted a compromise which might not be an ideal one. They had divided the county into local government districts and given large powers of grouping and splitting up the counties for the purpose of making the necessary education districts. That might or might not be the only way of doing what he thought would allay the public apprehension on one point. He meant how those who were elected were to get to the place where the new central body was to sit. 1180 He did not see why the travelling expenses of the persons to sit on those bodies—if the choice of the best men were to be encouraged—should not be paid. He was sure it could be done without any chance of jobbing. It was a difficulty which would have to be dealt with.
The next feature of the Bill was the way it sought to organise secondary education in Scotland. That was in a highly chaotic condition, and would have to be handled in a thorough-going fashion if a good secondary educational system was to be obtained. They must handle primary and secondary education as one system; if they did not, both would suffer. The separation had been very bad for the teaching profession in Scotland. Under the old system the teaching profession achieved wonderful results, but when the teachers were confined to elementary education they often found themselves at the mercy of men, as managers, who were not so well educated as themselves. He knew that there were some who said that the teachers had taken too large a part in this discussion of policy, but he did not think so. He did not of course want to put the matter or the preponderating influence in regard to it into the hands of the teachers, but he thought they should have something to say in the matter. It was to the teacher they had to look for the efficiency and education of the country, and there was nothing more striking than the increasing difficulty of getting good teachers for the schools. The profession was not as popular as it had formerly been, and he put that down to the fact that the status of the teachers had not been satisfactory. If this Bill promoted one thing more than another it promoted an improved status for the teachers and the breaking down of that hard-and fast line which had shut off the elementary teacher from the rest of his profession. He trusted that one good result of this Bill might be that the difficulty in regard to the supply of teachers, which had been getting more and more formidable from year to year, would show signs of diminution.
Another point of an important kind in connection with this Bill was that with regard to provincial councils. Strongly in favour as he was of these councils, 1181 there was one thing in this Bill as compared with last year's Bill in which this Bill had gone back. In one of the clauses of last year's Bill one of the provincial councils was to meet at Inverness to deal with the Highland districts. This year the proposed council at Inverness had been struck out, and there was no representation, therefore, for the Highlands. He was satisfied that the organisation of education in the Highlands had features of its own which required to be dealt with in common, and could not be dealt with unless they had some kind of body representative of Highland educational opinion. Whether it would be the best course for the Government to add a fifth provincial council, not connected with the Universities but sitting in Inverness, and looking after those things which peculiarly affected the Highlands and which had to be considered as a whole, he did not know, but he did not think the Bill would be satisfactory unless some clause was put in for dealing with the case of the Highland counties. For the rest he could not dissociate in his mind the four provincial centres from something which was only just mentioned but which had been the subject of a Departmental Minute—he meant the training of teachers. He hoped that the Bill marked—and it depended upon the Department whether it did or did not mark—a new departure in the training of teachers in Scotland. They had outgrown the stage when they could leave this to denominations. The time had come when the training of teachers should be a national business in form as it was in substance, rather than be left to the tender mercies of the Church, which, Heaven knew, had enough to do of its own without taking this question over. If a beginning was being made with the national training of teachers then he thought that for that alone the Bill would be worth passing. He was not sure that the Government would not have to stiffen up the powers of the provincial councils if they were to be effective, and he should like to see a clearer definition of the representation of the school boards on those councils. He was not at all sure that they ought not to be in a majority, and the Government would find it desirable to have some- 1182 thing like a second storey to their building—a building in which they would have the picked representatives of the school boards meeting together and shaping educational policy with expert advisers. In the discretion of the Department, some were to be picked representatives of the school boards and some of the Universities, and they were to meet together and give advice which might or might not be followed. If, however, the Government took the other way they would get a more living force in the upper storey of their building and their building would possess an importance which it would not if they left these provincial councils constituted as they were. Nevertheless one was glad to see the provincial councils recognised, and it was of great importance to the scheme that that element should be recognised.
Something had been said about denominational teaching in Scotland, but he was glad to say that very little had been said about it. They did not want that system of teaching. He was far from saying that their system was perfect, and he agreed that the business of the State would never be satisfactorily done, as far as the State was concerned, until they confined the intervention of the State to secular teaching, giving the opportunity to those outside—Churches and parents—to provide the rest, and encouraging it in every way; letting national schools do something in the nature of teaching of that kind but not charging masses of electors, who were perfectly unfit to deal with matters of this kind, with that duty. In Scotland they had not taken the latter course. There had grown up with them an interlacing of two tendencies. The first was to start with the recognition of the State in regard to the teaching and the second an equally resolute feeling on the part of the people that there should be no nonsense about the action of the State. The consequence was that they were wholly free from the kind of thing which gave such trouble in the South. On the whole he thought the Government had done rightly to leave the status quo alone and not to attempt to idealise it. In the main he was content with the Bill as it stood; it was the best way of getting out of a 1183 difficult situation, and he thought right would be done. But, as he said before, the very enumeration of the topics to be dealt with, the very difficulties which had been emphasised, necessitated the taking of the Committee stage of the Bill in the House. They could not deal with matters of that kind in a Committee upstairs. If it were sent to a Committee upstairs all they would get would be a paltry and inadequate treatment of this Bill taken as a whole. Of all the Bills which he remembered in the House, he hardly remembered one which was less fitted to be sent to a Grand Committee, and he was sure that the Lord-Advocate would convey to the Prime Minister the obvious sense of the House that the Bill could only be adequately dealt with elsewhere than in a Grand Committee upstairs.
§ SIR J. STIRLING—MAXWELL (Glasgow, College)
said that while he agreed with the Bill as a whole there was one important point in it which seemed to him so faulty, and which so gravely attacked the interests of those he represented in that House, that he felt bound to call attention to it at the first possible moment. It was the plan for collaring part of the equivalent grant to which allusion had already been made. It was perfectly true that it would be inappropriate to remove this money from its present purposes if there was any meaning in the word "equivalent." It must also be remembered that this money had been devoted to its present purposes by a solemn Act of Parliament, and it seemed to him that, reading the Act of 1892 fairly, the rating authority and the ratepayers had every right to build upon this income as one upon which they could depend. For that reason he thought it would be a great mistake to modify it. Then there was the question of the incidence of taxation in the cities of Scotland, which made it impossible to say that this was merely a question of robbing Peter to pay Paul, because the money would not be raised out of the same pockets. As those who would have to make up the deficiency if the money was taken were different in Glasgow, though it might not affect Edinburgh so much, the withdrawal of the money from its present purpose would be 1184 a very serious inconvenience. The amount which Glasgow would lose under the proposals of the Bill would amount to as much as £11,000. That was to say, that if this money was taken off the resources for police purposes last year the rate would have to be raised. He very much objected to the rating authorities in Glasgow being in a position to claim that they must raise their rate on account of their resources having been docked by the Government. If there was to be an increase of that rate, he would rather that the increase should be judged upon its own merits. On these grounds he hoped the Government would earnestly reconsider this matter. With that exception the Bill seemed to be a good one, and he hoped it would pass into law.
§ MR. THOMAS SHAW (Hawick Burghs)
said he had listened to the debate with great interest. There were, however, one or two points of detail which he hoped he might be excused from referring. In the first place, he desired to say with regard to the matter which was so well raised by his hon. friend the Member for Barnard Castle that he was entirely in sympathy with the proposal made. He thought a reform in the direction which he indicated, and which had been advocated on both sides of the House so forcibly that evening, could be very fitly dovetailed into one of the sections of the present Bill. His right hon. friend opposite, the Member for the University of Cambridge, indicated two points in the Bill which, standing as they did would leave the Bill in a grotesque situation. The Bill provided for powers being given to the board to attend to the physical training of the children and the same sub-section also provided for the medical inspection of the children. Supposing the latter power were exercised by the board and it was found upon examination that a not inconsiderable portion of the children were medically unfit to attend school? To subject those children to the ordinary processes of physical training would be absurd. That was a matter which the board under the present Bill had no power to deal with. That would be an absurd situation, and he put it to the Lord-Advocate that all that was required could be accomplished by embodying 1185 something in the direction of the recommendations of the English Committee on this subject. That seemed a small matter, but he held that it was a matter which went to the foundations of a large portion of the education of the country. He hoped that whether in this House or in Committee the Scottish Members would stand together and insist that the Government should make an addendum to the effect that the children found unfit through malnutrition or insufficient feeding should be attended to in the interest of the State, and that the State should not attempt to give mental training to children unless there was that physical substratum which would render it effective.
That was one point of detail; the other was what was to be the fate of this Bill in the future? Were they going to a Committee on Trade with it? That would be absurd; still, it had been mentioned. Were they going with it to a Committee on Law? That also would be absurd; still again, it had been mentioned. In the measure there were a good many Second Reading questions, and he might add that in; addition to those questions there were others affecting individual localities in Scotland, which had separate interests and were separately represented in the House. Therefore, to exclude the representatives of those districts by some arrangement from the Grand Committee in which they could not appear would simply be not to facilitate the passing of the measure but to provoke the House, on the consideration of the Report, to inquire into the whole of the proceedings in Committee and prolong the opposition to the measure.
The third matter of detail had reference to the provincial councils. He told the House frankly that he was not in favour of these councils. It seemed to him that they were very shadowy, unsubstantial, not representative, and merely advisory bodies. He supposed when they came into existence they would have a philosophical air; they would give philosophical advice, and here and there, when it pleased the Department, that philosophical advice would be attended to. On the whole, he thought very little of them as they were at 1186 present constituted. How were they to improve them? He agreed with his right hon. friend behind him that they must add to their number. There were two particular reasons why the Highlands of Scotland should have a separate provincial council if such bodies should be brought into existence. Only a provincial council sitting at Inverness would be able to overhaul the variety of arrangements which at present existed in the High-lands, and in the next place the Highlands were the recipients under the Department of special sums, and these special sums required not a little anxiety and care in the handling and in the investigations as to the needs of the districts and the funds necessary to meet those needs. He thought that with regard to the exclusion of Inverness, which was included last year, they should have some explanation.
As to the main part of the Bill, he supposed they were all grateful for it in a kind of way. They were grateful for it, but he suspected their gratitude was not alone for benefits received by the Bill, but rather on account of the mischiefs which the Bill had avoided. They had maintained the ad hoc principle in the Bill, and that was a tremendous gain. It was the gain of a thing which was contemplated as out of the question by the Prime Minister in former years, and the right hon. Gentleman had denounced the ad hoc principle in unmeasured terms and apparently in terms of universal application. As to the Bill itself, for the purposes of a Second Reading he must confess to the House very plainly that ho had grave doubts on some points. Enlargement of the area was no doubt a very good thing for some purposes, but for some alone. For secondary education the enlargement of the area was a good thing, because it would encourage combination, with the result that at the top of the superstructure of the parochial arrangement there would be an arrangement for secondary education.
Further than that, he had the greatest doubt as to the extinction of the present school boards in Scotland. He thought the House failed to recognise what the school boards of Scotland had done in the history of the country. The school boards had not only educated the people in regard to primary education very well, 1187 but they had produced bodies which were familiar with the complexity of the Minutes issued by the Scottish Education Department which required an education in itself. They had had in Scotland for a generation the training of local authoritiesgoing on in this matter, and now at one stroke they were to lose 95 per cent, of all that educational product, and county districts were to be created and turned into areas for educational purposes. Where there was a geographical definition of an area he could understand the necessity of the proposal, but where there were enormous areas like the county of Sutherlandshire, and if the Secretary for Scotland on the top of that was going to have power to add that county to some other county, he could not see the necessity for it. On both sides of the House Scottish Members were the last to deny the value of education, but its effectiveness consisted in the close intimacy which there was between the parent and those who represented the parent on the one hand, and those who controlled the education of the child on the other. In the districts which the Government were setting up there would be a great absence of that element which had been the secret of educational success. He knew the teaching profession did not very much care about these small boards, and he did no think much of them. He thought there should be the power to combine them where they were too small, and that the power to combine them should be a compulsory one at the instance of the Education Department, but the theory of fixing anything hard and fast by way of a county area or district area in Scotland was out of the question, because both the county and the districts were areas formed totally irrespective of the modern requirements of education. What was wanted was selected centres, which would be centres of secondary educational life, and it might be that from those centres linking up all the burghs in the area, and having regard to railway and steamer facilities, an effective unit could be made in view of the requirements of education and transport. He had these doubts with regard to the disappearance of the old school boards, and felt that he had preached in the wilderness upon this subject in former years. 1188 He noticed, however, that counties and burghs in Scotland were beginning to take this matter in hand. He had before him the report of a conference of the school boards of Forfarshire which was held the other day. It was a very important body and contained representatives of thirty school boards. He found that they had taken the view which he had ventured to express more than once in that House, and they even went the length of suggesting that the Bill should not be read a second time unless provision was made for its alteration to the effect that for the purpose of elementary education the existing school board districts should not be disturbed. They then said—That there should be a board in each of these districts with powers equal—so far as elementary education is concerned—to those vested in the present school boards.And that the district boards should be composed of representatives or delegates appointed by burgh and parish school boards. The idea of a compromise was mooted, it being felt that if the areas were made too large, the contact of the parents would be so far removed that education in Scotland would be damaged and not improved. It was not in Forfarshire alone that those views were spreading. The same ideas were taking root in the county of Perth. The observations of Dr. Henderson, the chairman at a recent meeting of the school board of the parish of Crieff, were well worthy of attention. He stated—A still more serious objection is that by the scheme proposed in the Bill the parents of children attending the elementary schools throughout a district will not be represented on the board.That was emphatically the case, and Scottish Members should take notice of the fact that the people would to a large extent be educationally disfranchised unless care was taken that the areas were not made too large, and means provided by which it was made possible for men of humble means to sit on those boards. Dr. Henderson further stated—Each meeting (of such a board) will mean a whole day's work. The time and travelling involved in attending such meetings can be afforded only by the leisured classes, and, of these, by only the least occupied.That was the system it was propose to substitute for the one now in existence, 1189 but he thought the present system was much the better one. If it meant educational disfranchisement of a large body of the artisan population of Scotland, so far as their own children were concerned, the Government would not do much of a national service by the Bill. One other observation made at the Crieff meeting was well worth being remembered—The whole drift of legislation embodied in the Bill is to take the elementary education out of the hands of the parents of the children and lodge it in central boards, which can only be constituted of members of the leisured classes.That was his fear, and the two protections against it were the constitution of the management committee and the provision for the payment of the expenses of the attending member. He hoped that on that point there would be no wavering on either side. Steps must be taken to ensure that in the matter of the education of their own children the population had the right to send whom they would to those boards, the area of choice being sufficiently widened for that purpose.
The Bill proposed to saddle the Department with very heavy responsibilities. Seeing that the fiat of the Department could not be easily revised in the House, he hardly envied the Department and the Secretary for Scotland their task of giving form and effect to many of the provisions in the Bill. The Department was empowered either to combine or to split up counties or districts, and in so far as that bureaucratic power was not exercised in the direction of bringing the people of the locality in direct relation with the education of their limited area, to that extent the action of the Department would fail. He had no reason to doubt that the staff at Dover House would use their educational powers wisely and well, but it was right to call attention to the delegation by the House of such large and important powers to a Department of the State. He wished also to refer to the enormous power of the Department in regard to the distribution of grants. The Department was really in a position to dictate here, there, and almost everywhere, and was able to interfere in the question of school fees. He totally dissented from the provision in the Bill for splitting up areas by 1190 assessing particular small parishes for old and new capital expenditure, and thus differentiating these small parishes—some of which might have small valuations but large populations—and making their lot and burden heavier than that of the rest of the district with which they were educationally associated. It would be far better to adopt the scheme suggested by the hon. Member for Kincardineshire. In setting up a district composed of a combination of various parishes attention should be given to the unit of the district, the whole district being made equally responsible for all the capital expenditure. Many places, such as Biggar and Dunfermline, had hitherto heavily assessed themselves by providing schools which had been used far outside the particular parishes, and the Biggar School Board were of opinion that the better plan would be to pool all expenses for both provision and maintenance of schools within the new area, and they added—The inclusion of this clause will continue a heavy and unfair burden of taxation on localities which have erected schools, providing higher education, not only for the pupils of their own district but for the pupils of: other and outlying parishes. Existing school boards in county districts have found it necessary, and have been encouraged by county councils and secondary education committees, to erect such schools. With the exception in most cases of a little aid from county authorities, the burden has been borne entirely by the parish or burgh in which the school is situated. Now when the present Bill affords an opportunity of distributing this burden over the area which derives the benefit, Biggar Parish School Board finds, with regret, that the injustice will be continued and aggravated.He was in favour of suggested Amendments in the direction of making the unit of the district such that in matters of finance there would be none of those calculations of the highest technical character, which were most confusing both to the authority and to the ratepayers, and would divide the financial interest of one portion of the parish from that of another, and keep up that division of responsibility which it ought to be the object of the Bill to cause to disappear.
Viewing as he did with sincere regret the disappearance of so many of those highly useful organisations—the parish school boards of Scotland— 1191 he had thought it right to give his views in some detail. He detested the reference in the Bill to fees. Years ago the Government proposed a fee grant to wipe out the obligation to pay fees in all primary schools in Scotland. But there had grown up a system of charging fees quite antagonistic to the principle upon which the fee grant was founded, and now this Bill contained an extraordinary provision under which not only would the exaction of fees be permitted by implication in certain parishes, but would be charged to a say, Roxburgh who sent to a school at Galashiels instead of to a school which, although in his own county, was further away in the matter of railway accommodation, such as Jedburgh, or the like. Schools such as those at Galashiels could not be localised as belonging to a county or district, and to enact that people who went to the most convenient centre should be penalised by an extra fee was to introduce a system altogether antagonistic to the whole principle upon which Scottish education was conducted. The Bill had gone on the old lines. He respected it because it adhered to the ad hoc principle; it left school boards of some kind, but he wished there had been a little more idea of advancement in it, and that it had declared solidly for the reform which was bound to come—he hoped it would come in their time—when there would be no fees of any kind charged for secondary or technical education in Scotland. He held that the system of attempting to balance the Imperial grants by charging parents fees for the education of their most promising children in the higher departments of education must come to an end. Until it did they would never be right in Scotland. They had free primary and free University education; why should this condition apply to the middle stage? This matter would have to be dealt with strongly and firmly, and he was convinced that the whole feeling of Scotland would be in favour of reform.
MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)
said there was nothing like attacking any institution to have all its merits brought out both by hon. Gentlemen opposite and hon. Members on the 1192 Ministerial side. He had a great deal of sympathy with the old parish school boards and he was sorry to hear that they had to go, but if they intended to consider education as a whole, the necessity of having larger areas and a more consolidated system entirely overwhelmed any regard which he felt for the institutions which were now going to cease to exist. In regard to areas he sympathised a great deal with what his hon. friend who had just sat down had said about the necessity of not going upon any hard-and-fast line for all parts of Scotland There were very considerable powers in this Bill for varying the areas according to local requirements, and he thought those powers ought to be made as wide as possible. The reasons for making educational divisions were very different to the reasons for divisions for local government purposes.
There was another point which his hon. friend thought was only a detail, but to him it seemed to be a very large point in this discussion—he alluded to the question of the undertaking by the education authorities of the feeding of children who were underfed. That was a subject upon which they all felt the greatest sympathy. He thought, however, that there were much larger difficulties in the way than those which had been put forward. He knew that those difficulties were felt very strongly by the great educational authorities of Scotland. He had received a telegram from the chairman of the Edinburgh School Board objecting very strongly to this proposal. There were other great school boards which had by no means made up their minds that the feeding of the children was a duty that it would be to the advantage of the community for them to adopt. Why was this considered to be an educational duty? The children who were destitute, like anybody else who was destitute, had a right to be fed and kept alive. That was a right which existed in Scotland just as much as in any other part of the country, and that right did not depend upon education. He thought that it was much more essential for the health of the child in after life that it should be properly fed before it was five years old than in the years which followed during school time. 1193 This was a very large responsibility which they were seeking to put upon educational bodies. Hon. Members opposite had pointed to clauses in the Bill dealing with medical supervision and with crippled and epileptic children, and they had asked why should they not also have the power to feed the children. This question, to him, seemed to stand upon a very different footing. They did not adopt the democratic principle of spending an equal amount of money upon every child, but the principle they adopted was to spend upon the education and training of each child what its special and individual circumstances required. Where they had children in need of special medical supervision, where their eyes stood in need of special attention, and where the children required surgical appliances, then it was more and more the tendency of all advanced school boards to give special attention to those children. He thought, however, that they were going a very long step when they undertook not merely to give this special care, but also to undertake the feeding of the average ordinary child who was in no different position to hundreds and thousands of other children.
The hon. Member for Leith mentioned a practical way of dealing with this question in the course of his speech, and he showed that, without the danger of putting this duty on the school board, an enormous deal could be done and was being done by a very small expenditure of money, accompanied by a good deal of voluntary effort and discretion. For years he had been trying to preach that the physical development of children was infinitely more important for their future well-being than the amount of knowledge they could put into their minds during the time they were at school. He welcomed the advance made in this Bill in regard to the powers that were to be given to school boards. He thought there were various points upon which those powers could be still further developed. More powers were required in regard to dealing with cripples and defective children. The power of allowing medical inspection and giving glasses to the children with defective sight, where this was necessary, was a power which, in many cases, could be used by the 1194 education authorities without the dangers which would be involved if school boards at their own expense, or at the expense of the poor rate, commenced to supply food to ordinary children every day of their lives. With all sympathy with the spirit in which this proposal had been made, he thought a great deal more consideration ought to be given to it before any wide proposals dealing with this subject could be pressed upon the country with any hope of that general acceptance which was necessary for its success.
He was very glad to be able to testify to the amount of work which had been done in this direction in some great centres such as Glasgow and Govan. He would not put any details before the House, but the investigations which had been made strongly confirmed him as to the great importance of the efficient medical superintendence of the children and the excellent results which had followed. The mere fact of pointing out to parents what their children needed was a great advantage. Hon. Members had asked what was the use of such a medical examination. He wished to point out that in a very large number of cases parents had never known of those defects until the child had been examined at school, and until it had been pointed out to them that their children required glasses or other assistance, and that in many cases had been sufficient to induce the parents to provide them. These examinations had been carried out in the schools in Glasgow and Govan, and the result was that in the eye infirmary there were hundreds of children coming in to have their eyes seen to and who were being supplied with glasses.
Compared with the Bill of last year, a great advance had been made in this Bill in regard to the question of the training of teachers. Here he felt that they had one of the most central points of the whole problem of education. It was not the slightest use pouring out money and building gorgeous schools and keeping the children at them many years if they did not provide an adequate and efficient staff of teachers. In the past they had been in the habit of leaving the question of the teachers to itself, but he thought the present Bill went a long way to recognise 1195 the duty of the State in regard to this question. The Circular which was issued some time ago established committees in different parts of Scotland, and this worked admirably with the scheme of provincial councils, and he hoped the result would be the establishment of a satisfactory system of training teachers.
Then, there was the question of the boundaries of some of the enumerated districts. He noticed that several of the largest school boards in Scotland were to be swallowed up under this Bill by other districts, and amongst them was the School Board of Leith. He thought Leith would have a great deal to say for itself upon this point. He would not press the case of Leith, because the place which more directly concerned him was the School Board of Govan which it was proposed to make part of the district of Glasgow. The School Board of Govan was the largest in Scotland and embraced something over 200,000 of population. The two school boards of Glasgow and Govan worked side by side without any clashing and without injury to each other. The School Board of Govan included Partick and Govan. The burghs of Govan and Partick desired to stand separately, and they desired to do this upon educational grounds and not upon financial grounds. The argument was used last year that Govan wished to shirk its fair share of the burden, but that was not the case. The school rate of Glasgow was almost identical with that of Govan, and the produce per child of a penny in the £ was a good deal lower in Govan than in Glasgow. Therefore, it was not a question of the richer wishing to stand out from the duties of a great city. It was a question of local feeling and local independence to a great extent. It was a question that ought to be argued on educational grounds. They must decide whether it was best for the children that Glasgow and Govan should be under the control of one large board, or whether, by having separate boards, counterbalancing advantages could be obtained through the members having greater personal knowledge of the schools which would be for the benefit of the population concerned.
1196 The hon. and learned Member for the Border Burghs had raised the question of rating power and the allocation of the debt. Very elaborate provisions were made in the 23rd Clause both in regard to the existing debt and the debt which would in future be incurred, so that the parishes which were concerned might get their fair share and not have too much. These precautions might be necessary in county districts. They probably were necessary where town and county districts were both concerned, but there was one point to which consideration had hardly been given in the framing of the Bill and to which he asked the attention of the Lord-Advocate. The Bill had not sufficiently considered the circumstances of cities as distinguished from country districts. In regard to the question of the allocation of the debt the scheme of the Bill might be the fairest possible in the country districts which were composed of small towns and rural neighbourhoods. But did it apply in a great city? Take the case of Glasgow. It would be out of the question that there should be a dozen different rates in different parts of the city for education. In regard to every other question the city was a whole, and they did not consider whether the expenditure was more for the benefit of one portion of the city than another. They took the expenditure of the city as a whole. He would like to put it to the Lord-Advocate that in the framing of the clause sufficient consideration had not been given to the case of the cities. It ought to be limited to applying to the un-enumerated districts, and the whole rate in the enumerated districts should be a single rate without any of the divisions which were stated in the Bill.
Another special point had been raised by several hon. Members, and that was in regard to the education fund. That fund he regarded as still something too large. Last year's Bill began by laying hold of all the funds and putting them in one big pool. After discussion last year, the Secretary for Scotland gave up £100,000 out of the equivalent grant. What remained now in the fund was the residue grant, and the balance of the equivalent grant, £69,000 of the one and 1197 £63,000 of the other. In regard to the balance of the equivalent grant he thought the local authorities had the very strongest claims upon it. He hoped the Lord-Advocate would consider the matter, and that he might be willing to allow those claims, and to let the whole of the equivalent grant remain where it was. It was on an entirely different footing from the residue grant. The greater part of the residue grant already went to education, and he knew it would be accepted by many of the most important rating authorities that the residue grant ought to go altogether into the education fund, provided it was understood that the equivalent grant should be left standing as at present and the other sums also. A claim had been made that the £69,000 should also be taken from the fund. He could not see that there was any strength in that claim. The £69,000 was in the first place obtained for education, and he thought no proposal should be made to take it away from that purpose. Upon this point corporations did feel very strongly, and, it appeared to him, reasonably. He trusted the Government might be able to meet them in that matter. The Government were to be highly congratulated on the reception which had been given to this Bill. Last year's Bill got a very favourable reception, but nearly every speaker had pointed out directions in which the present measure was a considerable improvement on it. He hoped that in the discussion; on the Bill they night not discover serious points of divergence.
Questions had been raised as to the body to which the Bill should go for discussion. He wished to see it sent to a Grand Committee. It seemed to him that it mattered extremely little which of the two Grand Committees it was sent to, for there were on both a fair representation of the Scotch Members. By the rules of the House, as hon. Members knew, it was competent in connection, with any special Bill to add fifteen Members to a Grand Committee. Naturally in this case Scotch Members would be added, and it was perfectly possible by arrangement with a friend for anyone else to get himself put for the time on the Grand Committee in order that he might be present at the 1198 discussion of the Bill. He should have thought that hon. Members opposite would have felt more strongly than they seemed to do that there was a great advantage in having questions decided by those who had heard the discussion, instead of having Gentlemen coming in to vote as directed when the bell rang, although they had, not heard the discussion. Of course the advantage of a Grand Committee in shortening procedure depended upon its decisions being fairly accepted by the House. It was perfectly us less to send a Bill upstairs if none of the decisions were to be accepted when it came down. Every hon. Member who had spoken had expressed a desire that the Bill should be passed into law. He should hope that if the Bill were sent to a Grand Committee the effect would be to win-now out a great number of the questions, leaving comparatively few to be settled when it came before the House on the Report stage. He entirely sympathised with the hope expressed by several hon. Menders that the Bill, now that it had been brought forward for the second time, would be passed that session, and that great advantage might result to Scotch education.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said he ought to apologise for intervening in the debate, but perhaps he might be allowed to regard himself as a Scotch Member ad hoc. He had been five years in the House, and, therefore, his capacity for amazement was long since exhausted. He must say that it was the Bill of last year, when he lead it with care, which put the finishing touch to that exhaustion, because he considered it absolutely inconceivable that the persons who drafted and prepared that Bill were the same persons who drafted and prepared the English and Welsh Education Bill of 1902. The two things were in every respect and in all vital particulars the converse the one of the other. What did the present Bill do? This admirable Bill, for so he called it, set up ninety-four great school boards over all Scotland to administer in suitable areas public education of all grades, and commissioned on their own terms to give rate-aid to denominational schools. 1199 Those were three first-class principles. Night after night when the Education Bill of 1902 was before the House he and his friends begged and implored the Government to put precisely the same principles into it, and when they were answered at all, which was not very often, they were rebuffed in the most uncompromising way. They asked for directly-elected ad hoc education authorities. They were scornfully refused. He was astonished that the Government had committed itself to the principle of an ad hoc authority for education in this Bill. He could not understand why it was that the Government had brought itself to agree that an ad hoc authority was the right one. The Government two years ago was hopelessly and entirely opposed to the ad hoc principle not only for England and Wales, but for all time and all places. He thought then, and he still thought, that the ad hoc principle was the right one, and here it was the central feature "of this Bill. When it was put to the Prime Minister he replied—I am clearly of opinion that it is a most retrograde policy to go in for this principle of ad-hoc election to deal with particular subjects authoritatively, and with power to draw on the rates.He asked his Scotch friends to contemplate that they were now being committed to a most retrograde policy in the setting up of the local education authorities. The late President of the Local Government Board, now the Irish Secretary, was equally precise. He said that, whether for good or evil, the Government had decided that it could no longer support the ad hoc principle, and here they were supporting it that day. The hon. Member confessed that got beyond him, and he gave it up. The Irish Secretary had said that the arguments against—that principle do not rest only on the view that it is undesirable to add to the number of your elections, and add to the obligations of those who have to elect, but they rest on the more solid grounds that education is, and ought to form, one of the most important features of local government, and ought to form part of the duty of those who are entrusted with the general administration of the local affairs of their own area.The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education was equally decided 1200 as to the utter impropriety of direct election. He said—I think that direct election does lead to some unfortunate characteristics in an educational body,He commended this to the Scotch Members—The first of these is that if such a body is worth anything it is bound to be an extravagant body.The hon. Gentleman's predecessor at the Board of Education was also specifically against direct election. He said—The Government think that the ad hoc authority is an anachronism; they think that to propose to advert to an ad hoc authority is reactionary.Here they were committing Scotland to a reactionary scheme! Then his right hon. friend, who was then speaking in behalf of the Government went on—The only way you can have effective local self-government in this or any other country—even if Wales or Scotland wanted something different—is for the local electors to choose somebody who shall have control of the whole finance and be responsible for all the expenditure of the ratepayers' money. If you have several bodies independent of each other exercising independent rating powers, how is it conceivable or possible that there can be efficient control of local finance, and therefore how can there be proper efficient local self-government?Now, he asked how those statements could be made compatible with this Bill? Here was a Bill which was to-commit Scotland to what was an anachronism, a retrograde policy, and which was bound to be extravagant; and he asked himself: "Why did the Government in 1902–3 so ruthlessly destroy what they now set up as the ideal of local self-government?" He thought the explanation was perfectly simple. The Government thought that they could with impunity destroy the English and Welsh school boards. As regarded Waves they reckoned without their host, but they were right in counting upon the happy-go-lucky, indifferent temper of the English people. If they did not dare to touch the school boards of Scotland it was not because they loved them, but because they feared the zeal and activity which they knew the Scottish people would show on their behalf. He had something of contempt for some 1201 Scotch Members who cheerfully destroyed the English school boards, and now took care that the Scotch bodies should not be touched.
The next striking contrast between the policy of today and that of two years ago was the power given in this Bill—he made no complaint whatever—to the school board over the denominational schools—It shall be lawful for a school board, if they think fit…to incur expenditure, and to defray the same out of the school fund…in granting pecuniary or other aid upon such condition as they may from time to time prescribe to schools and institutions not under their charge, where such schools or institutions are recognised by the Department as supplying efficient education.i.e., to denominational schools. They should do that if they thought fit; but the English education authorities were compelled, without any qualification except the discretion of the Board of Education, to give such assistance. He wished the right hon. Member for West, Birmingham were there; he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to go in for his policy of equal rights to all white men in this matter.
The third acute difference was in the treatment of the religious question, which, however, he did not intend to raise. This Bill gave to this democratic authority, wholly elected—no co-opted members—elected ad hoc—power to frame the religious instruction with the prescriptions already inexistence. The longer he contemplated the question the more he believed that the settlement proposed in this Bill was the only settlement, viz., to set up a democratic local authority—not half co-opted—and say to it "fight it out for yourselves and settle the form of religious instruction to be given in your locality." The Scotch were too shrewd to let that difficulty stand in the way of education. He confessed he should like to see it tried as an experiment in Wales to begin with, and then applied to England. This Bill happily provided the key to the problem of the religious difficulty in education.
Finally, he wished to call attention to Clause 26. He thought that clause was by far the most idealistic epitome of the whole duty of the State towards the 1202 working-class children that had ever come under his notice. What was the school board empowered to do? First of all the school board might provide any form of education or instruction out of the money at their disposal; provide for physical training and for medical inspection. He hoped before the Bill passed into law that it would meet the case of hungry children by making suitable provision for feeding them. They might provide the children with school books, writing materials, stationery, and other articles of a similar nature; they were to pay salaries to visiting teachers, or superintendents and organisers; they could grant pecuniary aid to schools not under their charge; they could establish bursaries with their money to send pupils of part to schools of higher instruction and also to the Universities. For him to contemplate a school board in England being permitted to send children to the University would induce him, if he were musically disposed, to start a nunc dimittis. Then they were to make a special provision for the education, and. where required, for the conveyance to are from school, of epileptic or crippled children; to provide opportunities for education in outlying parts by means of conveyance, or paying travelling expenses for teacher and pupils, or defraying the cost of lodging pupils in convenient proximity to the school. And in addition to the Government s-home of superannuation they could cut of the local fund grant additional retiring allowances to teachers. He congratulated the Government on having drafted this Bill. He understood that it was drafted at the same time as the Bill of 1902; and he could not understand the difference between the two.
There were two blots on the Bill, however. If a school board did not come to an agreement with the denominational manager regarding rate-aid, the later could go to Dover House and obtain an additional subvention from the Scottish Fund over the head of the board. That might lead to financing wholly defective institutions. He thought such money should be paid through the school board, and that the board should have some power of interference in respect of the fabric of the 1203 school particularly, for all additional moneys, whether derived from local rates or the Scottish Fund. He also considered that the Bill gave too much power to the Scottish Education Department. He would like to see the powers of the Scottish Education Department materially circumscribed—the powers were here very greatly increased from what they were at the present time—even under such a very commanding man as Sir Henry Craik. On the whole, however, he regarded the Bill as an admirable one, and he wished it could be extended to England and Wales. When passed it would be a beacon light to the storm-tossed English educationalist. Eternal vigilance was the price of liberty; and the Scotch people had retained their school boards by their zeal and constant watching and had thus saved themselves and their country from a scheme of educational reaction.
§ SIR WALTER THORBURN (Peebles and Selkirk)
hoped now that the Bill had been launched it would be carried through with the greatest possible speed. The Bill was better than that of last year, because it did not contain the pooling arrangement. Reference had been made to Biggar. He was not surprised Biggar was in favour of the pooling arrangement because it had a very considerable debt which he would no doubt like to have shared by others. He knew a parish near Biggar which had little or no debt, and if pooling had been adopted that parish would have had to bear a portion of Biggar's debt. The same thing occurred in the count} of Selkirk. The pooling arrangement would have been most unjust, because while the population of the two older burghs was 19,000, the population of the county was only 3,300. The debt in the burghs was very considerable, while in the county it was infinitesimal. The hon. Member for Barnard Castle dealt with a question of very great importance—the physical training and the feeding of children. He was quite in favour of some arrangement for the feeding of children who were not properly provided for otherwise, but what was done in that respect would have to be done cautiously so as not to pauperise the people. In his opinion some little charge should be made if food was supplied. In his own 1204 constituency he knew of a schoolmaster who gave children from a distance a cup of cocoa and a roll for a penny although it was bound to cost more. Well that kind of thing should be done by the board and not by individual teachers.
He was strongly in favour of the Committee stage of the Bill being taken in the House, as he believed it would shorten the proceedings and ensure the progress of the Bill. He felt a considerable amount of sympathy with the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Shaw) in his reference to the abolition of the parish school board and he felt certain a number of his constituents would share those views, as school boards with extended areas would not be so economical as those of more restricted area, but he feared they could not hope to retain the parish school board. Referring to the case of Selkirkshire, he had already mentioned that Galashiels and Selkirk had a population of over 19,000, while the landward part of the county had only 3,300. Rates in the burghs were very much higher than in the county, so that the effect of this Bill would be to considerably increase the rural rate. The rural part of the county consisted of two long valleys, the Yarrow and the Ettrick partly pastoral and partly agricultural. The distances children in those parts would have to come to get the advantage of secondary schools was prohibitory. A like difficulty occurred in Sutherlandshire, where perhaps it was even more pronounced than in Selkirk. In Selkirk some of the children desiring the advantage of secondary education would have to come distances of from ten to twenty miles, so that while they could get no benefit from secondary education, their parents, as lunits in the county educational area, would have to contribute to the rate.
In connection with the proposal as to the equivalent grant he referred to the case of Innerleithen, which had adopted the Free Libraries Act, and with the consent of Lord Balfour of Burleigh, then Secretary for Scotland, the corporation arranging that the money coming from the equivalent grant should go towards assisting the maintenance of this free library. If this money was taken away he did not know what would become of the free library. The whole would cease 1205 to exist, unless there was an Act passed to enable the corporation to assess more on the rates. In the town of Peebles a very large amount of improvement had been done by means of the grant, and certainly no more useful way could have been found for expending this money. But if they had borrowed money on the security of obtaining the equivalent grant, its being taken away would cause great inconvenience and would inevitably lead to a large increase on the rates. Therefore, he hoped the Government would change their view with regard to the equivalent grant, the withdrawal of which would create a grave injustice to the towns in the constituency he represented. He would like to see the powers of the education authority increased and a clause introduced into the Bill authorising them to supplement the teachers' pensions from the rates in the case of teachers who were compulsorily retired at the age of sixty-five. The pension now given was £40 or thereby, which was very small, particularly if a man had a family to keep, and there was at the present time no power to increase it. He hoped, however, that these matters would be dealt with in Committee on the Bill.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
commented on the difference between an English and Scottish education debate in the House. The reason was obvious. In the case of England they were discussing fundamental principles with great heat and passion, and in the case of Scotland the principles had been long ago settled, and they were discussing details with so much patience that the debates at times seemed almost in danger of becoming dull. The real reason why their discussions on Scottish Education Bills were so pacific was that education in Scotland was not under the control either of any clerical party or of any ecclesiastically-minded laymen. They had had their religious differences, and even religious wars, in Scotland centuries ago, but now they were practically agreed that religious questions in regard to education ought to be determined, not by any section, but by the will of the people.
The present Bill did not attempt anything revolutionary; it proposed to abolish 1206 the cumulative vote for school boards and to organise secondary education, bringing the funds voted therefore by Parliament under a simpler mode of administration. He congratulated the Lord-Advocate on a number of useful minor provisions which the Bill contained. There were some matters of controversy, though not of first-rate importance. There was nothing in the Bill with regard to the feeding of school children, yet it was clear that the Government would have to deal with this subject, the importance of which they had already admitted in the case of England. Something would have to be done, either in this Bill or in some other way. The question of the area was perhaps the most important. There were three areas which might be selected for educational administration in Scotland, viz., the parish, which had been the area ever since the Reformation; the county, which had certain indirect advantages, and which had been selected as the area in England; and the district, which had been chosen in the Bill. In Scotland there was a good deal to be said both for the parish and the county as education areas. The parish was clearly the natural area for elementary education, for it was possible for everyone who lived in a parish to give vigilant personal attention to the affairs of the parish school, and the parents who resided there were for the most part interested in elementary education. On the other hand, the county was the proper area for secondary education, for no smaller area could deal efficiently with the various grades of secondary education required. Moreover, both parish and county were divisions which had historical associations. The district, however, was a purely artificial area having none of the historical associations of either the parish or the county. The Government in their hesitation as to which of these areas they should select had made a most unsatisfactory compromise between the two, for the district area was too small for secondary and too large for elementary education. He agreed as to the need for a better system of secondary education in Scotland, but he thought it would have been possible to secure that without sacrificing what had been the characteristic merit of Scottish elementary education, viz., the direct oversight of and the immediate touch with the people. At 1207 present the parent, the working man, the small farmer, and even the labourer, could sit on the school board, but if elementary education were taken from the parish and given to the district all those sections of the population would be cut off from all possibility of serving on the board. Simply to pay the travelling expenses would not meet the case, because, if the district was a large one, it would mean the loss of a day's work to get to and from the place of meeting. He had received a letter from a gentleman of large educational experience, whose authority, if he could mention his name, would be unquestioned, and the writer said—Long experience as a member of the secondary education committee of my county has convinced me of the impossibility of any board over a large area having any real control at all. The member for each parish will be the oily source of information the board has, and the only person with authority in the educational matters of the parish.So that the parish would not be the authority for its own elementary education, but only the one member which it sent to the district board. The writer went on to say—I greatly fear that the whole control being lodged in boards with large areas will mean that the control passes into the hands of officials, and that official control will stand in the place of the control of the parents of the children.He was afraid that that was what would happen. In England some of the large counties had found themselves unable properly to control elementary education, and had been forced to create district committees, which were better able to do the work because they came into closer touch with the schools, and had upon them a larger number of members acquainted with the actual condition of affairs. He believed that what was really wanted in England was the creation of bodies larger than the small parishes and in Scotland the retention of elementary education in the hands of the parish with power to unite small parishes. The parishes in Scotland were much larger than in England, and more nearly corresponded to a combination of three, four, or five English parishes. He held, therefore, that all the Government needed to do for elementary education in Scotland was to give a liberal power of uniting small parishes, the parish being the normal unit for elementary education. 1208 He thought the county would be a better area for secondary education. He favoured a county committee either directly-elected by the school boards or by a separate election. To have a body consisting of representatives of the school boards would probably be the simpler way, or they might have a body elected ad hoc for the whole county. He thought the former method would be the simplest and it would enable the school boards to work better together. Since the Bill of last year was before the House he thought there had been a considerable change in Scotch opinion and it had been in the direction of a desire to retain the parish as the area.
He wished to say a few words upon the question of grants. Two hon. Members for Edinburgh had already brought before the notice of the House the dissatisfaction which existed in the large burghs with the proposals which the Government had made to lay hands upon the residue grant and the equivalent grant. As regarded the latter grant the case was stronger than for the residue grant because the equivalent grant was expressly given to relieve the rates of the occupiers, and by taking it away a very severe burden would be imposed upon the occupiers who alone bore the rates which were relieved by the equivalent grant. In regard to the other grant the rates relieved were borne by owners and occupiers. It was necessary to warn the Government that, in the great burghs particularly, there was a good deal of feeling on the subject, and that they would find much resistance to the proposals they were making. The Bill proposed to give very large powers to the Scottish Education. Department, and the burghs felt that there was no security in its provisions that the Department would have the regard it ought to have to the claims of the burghs to receive in grants for their schools the money which they as taxpayers contributed. The Department were also to receive somewhat dangerous powers to make grants to sectarian schools of the secondary order. Hitherto the Scotch sectarian schools which had received these grants had been elementary schools, and he thought the Government must be prepared for strenuous opposition to the present proposal, which was 1209 altogether a new departure, and one which public opinion in Scotland did not approve.
With regard to the provincial councils, he did not quarrel with the Government for giving them limited powers at first. He thought it was not too late to suggest that the simpler form would be to have one council, which would attract a greater number of first-class men and focus Scottish educational opinion much more effectively, and to allow that council to divide itself into committees for the different areas. He associated himself with whit had been said as to the necessity of having a separate council for the Highlands, though he thought the whole subject of provincial councils required much further consideration thin the Bill seemed to give it. He did not regard St. Andrews, from its local position, the proper centre from which to administer education in the Highlands. He thought the whole question of the provincial councils required more consideration than the Bill gave it, and he commended the matter to the consideration of the House and the Government.
He desired to call attention to a matter which seemed to him to be of considerable importance. It was either the School Board or the Town Council of Edinburgh which had made the suggestion that Parliament should take this opportunity of consolidating all the Education Acts of Scotland. They were numerous and complicated, and it would be a very great convenience for those who had to administer education if this opportunity were taken to pass a consolidating Bill, which could be incorporated with the present Bill, if passed. He credited the Lord-Advocate with a serious intention to pass the Bill, although the seriousness of the Government was doubted.
As to the future stages of the Bill, hon. Members who had spoken had, with the exception of the hon. Member for the Partick Division, expressed the opinion that it should be discussed in Committee of the Whole House. The reason why this Bill should be dealt with in the Whole House would be obvious to every Scotch Member. It was not only a Bill which involved a great many Second Reading questions, but also a great many local 1210 questions. It touched local interests in almost every clause, and, therefore, it was a Bill on which every Scotch Member was entitled to have his say in Committee. The question of areas was the most important in the Bill. It affected different counties and -burghs very differently. Sutherlandshire under the Bill was one district, and would have one school board, and clearly, therefore, the Member for that county must be on any body that discussed the Bill. The Members for all the Highland counties must be on the Committee, because the measure touched the interests of the Highland districts. The Members for every county where districts were proposed to be united ought to be on the Committee. The Members for burghs should be on the Committee, because they were entitled to say how the proposal to bring burghs into counties would affect the burghs. Clauses 41, 42, and 43, dealing with educational endowments, were very important. Educational endowments in no two burghs were exactly the same, and every burgh was entitled to have its say. There never was a greater case for allowing every Member of the House to have his voice in saying how the Bill would affect his particular constituency, and that could only be done, either by having the Bill referred to Committee of the Whole House, or to a Grand Committee on which every Scotch Member would have a place. The hon. Member for Peebles and Selkirk gave an interesting geographical sketch of these counties, and showed how the Bill would affect them. Clearly the hon. Member must be a member of the Committee which had to discuss the Bill. He was sorry the Prime Minister was not there, because this was a matter in which his voice would be decisive. He put it to the Lord-Advocate that it would only be fair to Scotland that every Member should have an opportunity of expressing his opinion. That would be the best way to facilitate the progress of the Bill. If every Member was not given the opportunity of expressing his opinion in Committee he would have to express it on Report, and no time would be saved. He saw no reason to expect that there would be any protracted discussion in Committee of the Whole House. A measure which must 1211 affect materially the future of one of the greatest interests of Scotland deserved to have the knowledge and judgment which every Scotch Member could bring to its consideration. He trusted the Lord-Advocate would give an assurance on behalf of the Government that they would agree to the general wish of the House that the Bill should be discussed in Committee of the Whole House.
THE EARL OF DALKEITH (Roxburgh)
said he wished to join other Members on his side of the House in pressing the Government to consider the desirability of referring the Bill to Committee of the Whole House. It was not only reasonable that this should be done, but he thought they might claim to have full and adequate time for the discussion of the Bill. They had not had too much time given to Scottish affairs. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had alluded to the provincial councils. Probably that was the only part of the Bill which would be withdrawn at a later stage to please the opposition to it. There was a point on which almost every Member had touched, and on which the Government did not seem inclined to give way. He meant the question of the equivalent grant. He must say, for himself, that he considered it would be a gross injustice if the equivalent grant were withdrawn. The Government had been kind enough to give Scotland £100,000; but probably they anticipated that that balance would grow larger as the years went on; and he thought it would be a pity to stereotype this £100,000. There was every reason to expect that the whole of this sum might still be devoted to the purpose to which it had mainly been applied in the past; and if they required a larger sum for their education fund they would claim rather more justice for Scotland from the Treasury. On many occasions, as for instance, in the case of the Agricultural Rating Act, they knew that Scotland had not been fairly dealt with by the Treasury; and now there was an opportunity when the Treasury could do their country justice.
The other chief point of interest and importance—perhaps the most 1212 important of the whole lot—was the question of areas. He agreed with several speakers that the district was not at all a desirable area. It would be very inconvenient; he felt confident that it would not be popular; and he considered it would be most inefficient. In the past the parish area, on the whole, answered well, especially in large parishes; and, therefore, he believed that for elementary education the parish should be the area. He trusted the Government would yet see their way to alter their mind, and to adopt the parish as the unit for elementary education; and the country, or some larger area, as the authority for secondary education. Another point which would be greatly in favour in most places in the country would be that the cost of education should be borne by the districts which at present provided for it. There was a general feeling that it would be most unjust that some districts should De made to pay a very large rate, compared with what they did now, for elementary education to be given in other districts. As regarded technical education they were quite prepared to bear their share; but it would press most hardly on some of the thinly-populated agricultural districts; and if the Government passed an Act to give assistance to those who paid agricultural rates, it seemed rather absurd that, on this particular occasion, they should try and thrust a greater Burden upon them. He knew that the people in those districts would look upon that as an injustice and that it would prevent them taking the same interest in education in the future as in the past. One of the great advantages they had in Scotland over England was the local interest the people took in education, and especially in elementary education. That had been very largely stimulated by the small school boards, the members of which were thoroughly well known to the parents of the children. If that was done away with, some of the interest would vanish and that would be most disastrous to the general education of the country. He was aware that some people believed that the more money was spent on education, the better that educat ion would be. He did not altogether agree with that, because it was very easy to 1213 spend large sums of money on education and to have very poor results. And what they had to do was to be as economical as they could. At any rate, they should strive to get the best result for the money spent. If that were done there would be less grudging on the part of the ratepayers. The best way to achieve that result was to take the parish as the unit for elementary education, and to develop that up to some larger area for the chief control of secondary education. As regarded the grievances of the teachers under the present school boards, there would be no difficulty in guarding against their occurring in the future. It was quite right that the teachers should have a proper position and fair treatment. He himself knew, from places he had experience of, that in a great number of cases the district area would be most unsatisfactory unless the whole of the districts were combined into a county; but then that would involve too large a board for elementary education. He would again press on the Government to refer the Bill to the Committee of the Whole House; to reconsider the equivalent grant and to separate the administration of primary from secondary education.
§ CAPTAIN ELLICE (St. Andrews Burghs)
said that so far as he was concerned he would support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Banff in having the Bill sent to a Committee of the Scotch Members. He thought there was a danger of the Bill being swamped by the eloquence of English and Welsh Members. They had seen one Welsh Member called to order already by Mr. Deputy-Speaker; and he felt certain that they would have that repeated during the discussions on the Bill in Committee of the Whole House. He believed that if the Bill were sent to a Committee of all the Scotch Members, with an added number of English Members to give the Government a majority, it would be better.
§ And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.