HC Deb 09 July 1906 vol 160 cc493-4
MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

To ask the President of the Board of Education, the financial Resolution for the Education Bill having been passed, if he can now give any indication as to the probable distribution of the money.

(Answered by Mr. Birrell.) As stated by me on the introduction of the Education Bill, and in Answers to various Questions put to me since then in the House, the general principle upon which the Board of Education will proceed in the ultimate distribution of the new grant will be to have regard both (a) to the actual increase of local burden consequent upon the Bill, and (b) to the amount of the education burden in the area. In regard to the first of these points the Government are of opinion, as I stated on April 9th, that it is not possible to lay down any detailed scheme for the distribution of the grant until some reliable estimate can be formed of the probable additional burden accruing in individual areas through the operation of the Bill, and this cannot be obtained until we have had some experience of the arrangements that are made under the Bill between local education authorities and the owners or the trustees of voluntary schools. But there can be no doubt that, taking the country as a whole, the sum named in the Bill will considerably more than cover the total liabilities that can reasonably be expected to accrue to the local authorities generally in respect of the new burden of the structural repairs of those voluntary schools which are taken over, and in respect of sums paid by way of rent or otherwise on the taking over of those schools, or in the shape of new annual charges of sinking fund and interest for the erection of any new council schools that may be erected in lieu of existing voluntary schools. In regard to the second of the two points named above, it is clear that any scheme of distribution of the Exchequer grant, which is to have regard in some equitable manner to the total burden borne by a locality in respect of elementary education, must involve some readjustment of the existing Exchequer grants in aid of elementary education. For these reasons the Chancellor of the Exchequer has decided that there should be a comprehensive scheme of allocation of all State grants in aid of the local burden in respect of elementary education throughout England and Wales. An amalgamation of the existing grants for elementary education, which are now threefold, annual grant, free grant, and special aid grant, and are paid on various very complicated bases and at different dates, is, on other grounds, eminently desirable; and the Board have, for some time past, had it in contemplation to attempt some such administrative reform as this, and also to reform the extremely tangled scheme of " school years," delayed payments, and quarterly instalments, at present attaching to the grants generally. From these various considerations, therefore, the Government are of opinion that the best mode of dealing with the matter is to prepare a scheme by which all existing grants for elementary education, together with the new grant of £1,000,000 sterling, shall be newly distributed, having regard especially to the two points hereinbefore named, and that, as such a scheme cannot, for the reasons above stated, be prepared until information is available as to the arrangements made respecting transfers of schools under the Bill, it shall be made the subject of a Bill to be introduced next year.