§ Order for the Second Reading.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (MR. MCKENNA, Monmouthshire, N.)
said that this Bill contained a number of small administrative provisions every one of which, he thought, was discussed in last year's Education Bill, and all of which had also been discussed in the other House. The Bill had no general principle running through it, and therefore could only be considered in detail as regarded the effect of each separate clause. The first clause proposed that the local education authority should have power to acquire land for the purposes of secondary schools. It also proposed that land held by the local education authority for elementary purposes might be appropriated by them to secondary purposes, and vice versa. Of course, it was quite obvious that a clause of that sort could not raise any very highly contentious matter, and he did not imagine it would do so on the present occasion. The other clauses assimilated the law between borough and county councils. With regard to the levy of a rate for secondary schools, at the present time the limit in, county areas was 2d., but in the case of borough areas it was unlimited. The Bill proposed to remove the limit of 2d. in the ease of county areas. Again, with regard to the period for the repayment of loans, in the case of boroughs the period of repayment was sixty years, in the case of county councils it was thirty years. The bill proposed once again to put the two councils on the same footing and to extend the period for repayment, of loans for school buildings from thirty years to sixty years. Of course, within that limit the consent of the Local Government Board would still be required for such a period as they might sanction. The next important clauses in the Bill related to medical inspection and the provision of vacation schools. [Cries of "Clause 8."] Clause 8 was as follows —(1.) If any question arises —(a) whether any purpose for which a council wish to exercise their powers under the Education Acts, is within their powers under those Acts; or (b) whether any purpose for which a council wish to exercise any powers under the Education Acts is a. purpose of Part II. of the 1098 Education Act, 1902, or of Part III. of that Act; or (c) whether any school, college, or hostel is a school, college, or hostel provided by a council, or a school, college, or hostel aided but not provided by a council; that question shall be referred to and determined by the Board of Education, and their decision shall be conclusive on the matter.He was rather surprised that that clause should be treated as a remarkable clause. In the administration of the present law questions were constantly arising whether education in some of its special forms was to be considered as elementary or higher, and local education authorities were constantly put to very great trouble to determine on which account the cost of a particular kind of education should be charged. At present the only final determination of the question was the audit with all the subsequent difficulties of overcharge, and he was sure no hon. Member who was familiar with the details of administration of education would not agree that it was most desirable that these purely technical points, which did not raise a single controversial question, should be settled at once by some competent authority. For that reason it was proposed now that the Board of Education should decide beforehand to which account all these particular expenses should be charged instead of leaving the question to be determined afterwards on the audit of accounts. Subsection 2 of Clause 8 provided —(2) For the purposes of the Education Acts, the providing, or aiding the provision of, any training or instruction of any kind whatever, and any like purpose which the Board of Education determine to be an educational purpose, shall be deemed to be educational purposes; and the expression ' education' in those Acts shall be construed accordingly.What was intended by this clause was to bring apprenticeship in as one of the educational purposes to which endowments were devoted. It was very necessary that apprenticeship should be regarded as an educational purpose, and it was proposed under this subsection to give the Board of Education power to regard apprenticeship as an educational purpose. If hon. Gentlemen were able in that to discover some deep controversial matter he would be glad to hear from them wherein it lay, and, so far as he could, meet their views. He thought it was advisable to say here that this Bill was introduced as a non-contentious. measure and was intended to be so. If in 1099 Committee any proposal in the Bill was objected to by the Party opposite and was officially opposed by them he would certainly not press it. He had had considerable help with the Bill from time to time from the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University, and he would certainly not, against his advice or wish, endeavour to press any of the provisions upon the House, but it must be understood that every one of its provisions was purely educational.
§ MR. McKENNA
said if the finance was objected to it was not objected to in the late Bill. This Bill was introduced as a non-contentious Bill and it should retain that character. He could not say that irresponsible opposition by individuals would be accepted by him as a ground for dropping this or that clause; but responsible objection to any of the clauses would be treated by the Government as rendering the clause contentious, and he certainly would not put the House to the trouble of discussing such clauses. He hoped after that explanation it would be understood that the Bill contains many clauses which were of real value for educational purposes, and it would be a serious loss to the children of the country if it were treated as a contentious measure. With regard to Clause 10, which provided for medical inspection, he need only say that this was the same clause which was introduced as a separate Bill by his hon. friend the Member for Scarborough, and which had already received the complete approval of this House, and had reached the last stage before Third Reading. As the Bill now before the House contained the original clause, and as he had now an opportunity of pressing this Bill forward, he proposed to keep the clause in question in the Bill. But as the clause had already been discussed at length in this House he did not think it was necessary for him to enlarge upon it now. The only remaining clauses were Clause 11, which said distance from school was to be no excuse for non-attendance when a conveyance was provided, and Clause 12, which dealt with the registration of the teaching profession. He thought from the short explanation he had given it would be quite manifest that this was a Bill which ought to be sent to 1100 a Committee, where he was sure it would receive adequate consideration.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
thought the right hon. Gentleman had overrated the amount of help he was kind enough to say he had received from him, and had somewhat underrated the importance of some of the provisions of the Bill. The help he gave the right hon. gentleman did not go further than to say that some of the clauses be regarded as entirely non-controversial, but that to the clauses dealing with vacation schools and medical inspection he attached the greatest importance. There were other clauses which required explanation and discussion, such as Clause 8 which had never been discussed at all in the Bill of last year, and this and some others must be regarded as matters of controversy. The three seriously contentious matters in the Bill were the extension of the borrowing and purchasing powers of local authorities, the extension of rating power, and the introduction of Clause 8 from Part II. of the Education Bill of last year. Whatever might have been his views as to the policy of this Bill at the commencement of the session, they had been largely altered by the policy which the right hon. Gentlemen had formulated. The increase of the extension of the borrowing powers of the local authority and of the term of repayment from thirty to sixty years might, in any circumstance, be regarded as a dangerous concession to authorities, whose indebtedness was already a cause of national anxiety; they had further to regard it in connection with the settled policy of the Board of Education, as at present constituted, to crush out denominational schemes whenever the opportunity offered. He would give two instances of this matter —the case of the Low Valley school, discussed the other night, and the Halifax school—a case in which a serious act of oppression was condoned by the Board of Education, despite the remonstrations addressed to it. These two instances showed that the Board of Education would not stand in the way of a local authority which desired to efface a voluntary school from its educational system. To encourage a local authority to do this by diminishing the immediate cost to the ratepayers seemed to 1101 him to introduce an argument against this extension of borrowing powers which was not present in their minds when the session began. But the action of the Board of Education in the ease of Halifax showed that the Board could not be trusted —as he had hoped a Government Department could be trusted —to support a minority against unjust pressure, and that made them very careful in regarding any extension of the powers of the local authorities which would make it easier for them to do what the Board of Education was only too willing to allow them to do.
§ Mr. McKENNA
said the Local Government Board settled the terms. The Board of Education had nothing to do with it, and as a matter of fact the limit was now sixty years.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said the Local Government Board might determine the period, but the Bill was the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, and it was the Board of Education which was introducing this measure, which would approach the Local Government Board to extend the period of repayment. Again, the 2d. rate which at present could only be exceeded in county boroughs was now to be exceeded with the permission of the Local Government Board in all counties. He would have said that there might be some reason for some extension of the powers of the great county councils having regard to his own recollection of some of the irksome restrictions, as he thought, imposed in certain cases by the Local Government Board, but here again they had to bear in mind and to read this in the light of the secondary schools and training college regulations. Hither to the county councils had been very willing to accept the assistance of the denominational training colleges; they had not set up rival training institutions; they had in certain cases been anxious to build hostels, and economise their own resource, and that was now forbidden by the right hon. Gentleman in his last regulations. He was not quite sure that after the right hon. Gentleman's explanation anyone fully understood what the entire purport of these regulations might be. But there could be no doubt that the policy of the Board of Education was to drive these denominational secondary schools and training colleges 1102 out of existence, and that the extension of the rating power of the county councils would make it easier for them to fall in with the policy of the Board of Education, if indeed they were, not compelled to do so under the extremely irksome regulations of the right hon. Gentleman. That extension of the rating powers beyond the two penny rate appeared to him to put a very different complexion on the provision from what it bore when introduce into the Bill of last year, or when it was introduced into the Bill at the commencement of the session. Again, the defining powers of the Board of Education, which were never discussed under the Bill of last year, might be regarded in two different ways. Ho agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that where there was a question whether the local education authority were properly spending money on objects of education it was the Hoard of Education and not the auditor of the Local Government Board who could more properly determine whether the objects were educational or not. But they must read this clause in the light of Part II. of the Bill of last year. That section gave to the Board of Education enormous power in dealing with trusts of every description, and then there followed this defining power for the Board of Education to say what was educational or not. Under the powers given in that clause the Board of Education might have taken any trust, of whatever character, whether denominational or not, and have treated it as educational, and put upon it another character. He called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this when the Bill was first printed. He could not regard this clause without grave suspicion, and it was no good to say that, as the Bill ran, these defining powers might not do any harm. They would put a weapon in the hands of the Board of Education which might be extremely formidable if, as was possible, Part II of the Bill of last year was revised. It was useless to say that under these circumstances a limitation would be imposed. There could, he thought, however, be no doubt that the Bill contained useful provisions, and on both sides of the House there was a desire to pass the clauses for medical inspection in schools, and they would have been passed before now but for the action of the right hon. Gentleman. At the request of the right hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member 1103 for Scarborough did not proceed with the Third Reading of his Bill, and the question of medical inspection now stood in a state of suspended animation until next year, unless that Bill was taken up by the Government or the clause was carried in this Bill.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
replied that the hon. Member for Scarborough had stated that he would not take a Third Reading, because he was so desired by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I asked my hon. Friend not to take a Third Reading, but I also stated the reason why I asked it, and I think the hon. Baronet should state it to the House.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said he wished to say no more than this, that the Bill would have been law by this time if the right hon. Gentleman had not interposed. He hoped he would repeat correctly what the right hon. Gentleman told him, viz., that he was sitting at a meeting of the Cabinet when the Bill was under discussion in the House, and that he thought Amendments might be introduced which he would be obliged not to accept, and therefore he did not wish the Third Heading of the Bill to take place until he had considered it.
§ MR. McKENNA
explained that there were certain Amendments on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member who sat below the gangway, and he did not know what Amendments had been accepted or not. If the Bill had gone through the Third Reading the clause in his own Bill would have been dropped out, and the opportunity of passing his clause would have been lost.
§ *SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said it did not become law because the right hon. Gentleman, no doubt for a good reason, interposed, and did not allow it to go to a Third Reading. He was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman was going to deal with this Bill in, as he described it, a non-contentious spirit. The points which he (Sir William Anson) had dealt with, however, were extremely contentious, and they would not be able to 1104 be embodied in the Bill without prolonged and serious discussion. But though there were other parts of the Bill which they hoped would become law, in addition to the provision for medical inspection, it must not be considered in any case that the Bill was a non-contentious one. The whole policy of the-Board of Education, and the way in which the discussion on that policy had been burked and frustrated by the refusal to grant the Opposition more time to consider that policy, and the fact that the right hon. Gentleman had departed from invariable custom in not giving them an explanation of what his policy was in this case, had very much altered the frame of mind in which they would approach the Bill.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Dr. MACNAMARA, Camberwell, N.)
said he wished to make a few remarks on the question of extension of the period of loans. Section 57 of the Education Act of 1870, as amended by Section 10 of the Education Act of 1873, gave power to the Board of Education, which had been exercised by successive Tory and Liberal Presidents ever since, down to 1902, to give a period of repayment of 50 years. That was modified by the Local Government Act of 1888, which restricted the period for the repayment of money borrowed by a county council to 30 years. The Education Act of 1902, not their Act, but that of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, altered the position, and made the period of repayment, so far as it affected urban areas, 60 years, and he was astonished to find a grievance was found in the fact that it was now proposed to universalise what the right hon. Gentleman in 1902 gave to the urban areas. All the Board of Education proposed to do now was to universalise the 60 years, both for adminstrative counties and for urban areas. He ventured from a purely educational point of view to hope that the House would give a Second Reading to the Bill. It contained some most valuable provisions. The proposal to enable a local authority to acquire land for higher education and to divert land acquired for elementary education purposes to the needs of higher education was most-valuable. The medical inspection provided in the Bill had been universally 1105 acclaimed, and by no man more cordially than the Leader of the Opposition last year, as one of the most valuable enactments placed before the House in recent years. Again, Section 12, dealing with the teachers' register, was an extremely important proposal. What the Government now proposed, after consultation with eminent teachers of all grades, was that there should be laid on the profession itself an obligation to set up a teachers' register. This was bound to be of the greatest value to teachers and to education generally. He hoped for these reasons that this Bill would be passed into law.
§ *SIR HENRY CRAIK (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)
said that first of all the Bill proposed to extend very largely the administrative powers of the Board of Education. With regard to that, the extension of its administrative powers might certainly raise some criticisms for those who had not perhaps that full confidence j in the administrative action of the right hon. Gentleman which his own supporters had. Some hon. Members had reason to and fault with some of the right hon. Gentleman's administrative actions. He had withdrawn from the power of Parliament altogether some very important matters. This Bill proposed largely to increase the powers of the right hon. Gentleman —and in a very extraordinary way. He sought the power of entirely demolishing the distinctions setup between Parts II. and III. of the Act of 1902, respecting the expenditure and the administration of elementary and secondary education. Was not this a singular power to entrust, not to Parliament, but into the hands of a central department? But there was something more which the light hon. Gentleman sought for his department. He might declare that what had hitherto been considered to be current expenditure was hereafter to be considered as capital expenditure. Was not that a rather dangerous power to seek to add to the prerogative of the central department? He did not object to the extension of the period of repaying loans, if this was generally considered proper; but there was a very much more serious principle in the Bill to which no attention had been paid. He referred to Clause 7, under which the power of borrowing was to be extended from public authorities to managers of private institutions. Could 1106 the right hon. Gentleman point to any precedent for that?
§ MR. McKENNA
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to explain? I said that any of these clauses which were objected to by right hon. Gentlemen opposite I would withdraw. I have offered to withdraw Clause 8
§ *SIR HENRY CRAIK
I contend that the right hon. Gentleman would not have withdrawn it if I had not pointed it out.
§ MR. McKENNA
I said in opening that I would withdraw any clause to which the hon. Baronet opposite objected.
§ *SIR HENRY CRAIK
said that this was a clause which was not drawn attention to by the hon. Baronet. But there was something more—Clause 8. Was that one of the clauses to be dropped? It was a very difficult thing to discuss a Bill which was to be whittled away in this fashion. The Bill would give to the Board of Education the power of saying what should not be considered education, but something else, and the right to say that what had not been considered education at all was in future to be education, if the President of the Board desired. But if this Bill was to be whittled away as one objection after another was raised all he. could say was that criticism became difficult, and an urgent reason was supplied for ample debate. As to Clause 10, they had been told that it was a matter of common agreement. They were told that they passed the Bill of the hon. Member for Scarborough, but he would ask the President of the Board of Education to remember that they passed that as the Bill of a private Member subject to the restrictions to which a Bill of a private 1107 member was always subject. A private Member could not propose expenditure from public funds; but the present proposal was a great change in the whole administration of England, a change which was one of the most far-reaching that could be made, and if it was to be taken up by the Government it must be put forward in a somewhat different shape from that which they had been prepared to accept in the Bill of the hon. Member for Scarborough. The present Bill placed on a local authority the burden —not only gave it the power, but placed upon it the duty —of the medical inspection of every child who entered the school. He entirely admitted that this was a duty which should be undertaken, but if it was enforced in the Bill system and assistance must be supplied from the Central Department. Government must not place on local authorities a duty which it would be impossible for them to carry out. If this was enforced the local authorities would find themselves in serious difficulties. If this was to be the Government scheme it ought to be made much more complete, much more perfect, much more scientific, much more on the level of that which existed in every country except our own. The other day they were told that the present Government was a Government of water-tight compartments. He did not think there could be a better illustration of the truth of this than that the House had before it at that moment two Bills, one for England, one for Scotland —which, with regard to medical inspection, proceeded on entirely different lines. The Government did not lay the duty of inspection universally on the school boards for Scotland, but they did lay it universally on the school-boards for England. The Secretary for Scotland had proposed a Bill reasonable in this respect which contemplated joint action between the Scottish Education Department and the local education authority. Was it possible that two members of the Cabinet —the President of the Board of Education and the Secretary for Scotland —could propose these absolutely diverse measures without laying their heads together? Was it not possible to concoct a scheme which would bring about a real, practical, and feasible state of things? Then there was another clause as to vacation schools. He took leave, with all respect to the President of the Board of Education, to say that this 1108 was a mere shop-window dressing. There was absolutely nothing in the Acts as they existed at present which prevented any educational authority from having a vacation school to-morrow. The Bill did not give to authorities a penny of grant. What was wanted was to give encouragement to them and to inform them that assistance would be held out to them in this work. If the Government refrained from doing so they would only be repeating the tentative proposals of a private Member. Was this the way to act —to tell school boards to appoint vacation schools, which they all knew could be done to-morrow if they liked, without any special permission? The President of the Board of Education, he noticed, shook his head.
§ *SIR HENRY CRAIK
said that the right hon. Gentleman took the power of saying what was secondary education and what was elementary education, and indeed what was education at all. There was another distinction between the two hills proposed by members of the same Cabinet. The Secretary for Scotland wished some additional power; he desired to be able to define education, and he had a clause in his Bill giving himself that power. If the proposal of the President of the Board of Education had been the same as that of the Secretary for Scotland he would not have objected. The Secretary for Scotland proposed to do it by a Code or Minute laid before this House, so that the House itself should be the ultimate authority. They knew that the President of the Board of Education had withdrawn from the House subjects which had hitherto always been the subject of Minutes open to discussion. Unlike his colleague, the Secretary for Scotland, he was not prepared to say that his definition of education was to be laid down in a Minute. The House might well pause when they saw two Ministers proposing entirely different courses in matters of precisely the same kind, and let him assure the House that, there was no difference between the circumstances or administration of Scotland which distinguished it from England in this respect. For these 1109 reasons he must say for himself, although he had no wish to divide the House on the point, that there were the most serious difficulties with regard to the Bill. The main benefits it conferred were those of medical inspection. He believed it did it in a specious way that would prove ineffectual, and he strongly objected to the wide extension of administrative power given to the right hon. Gentleman who had by his action quite recently shown so much desire to withdraw the policy of his Department from the criticism of this House.
§ MR. ACLAND (Yorkshire, Richmond)
said he did not wish to say anything controversial, but one thing was clear, and that was that whatever might have been the fact as to the Government being a Government of water-tight compartments, this debate had already shown that the Opposition on this subject at all events was an Opposition of water-tight compartments, because anything more directly contrary in spirit than the speeches of the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University and the hon. Member for Glasgow University he had seldom heard. The hon. Member for Oxford University had. he thought, very rightly dealt with the Bill in the spirit in which he believed the Bill had been conceived and introduced, namely, that it should be an agreed Bill and that it should contain only matters which were educational and non-controversial. He was sure the hon. Baronet wished to continue to treat the Bill in that way and not to make controversial matters in the Bill which were of educational benefit and did not raise religious or other acute questions. But the Member for Glasgow University had from the beginning to the end of his speech said nothing in favour of any part of the Bill.
§ SIR HENRY CRAIK
I beg pardon, I did say that with many clauses, especially those dealt with by the Secretary to the Local Government Board, I entirely agreed.
§ MR. ACLAND
said the best adjective the hon. Gentleman had been able to find for the provision as to medical inspection was that it was specious. He thought that it would be most lamentable if the attitude of the hon. Member for Glasgow University, as contrasted with that of the hon. 1110 Baronet the Member for Oxford University, was to be the general attitude of the Opposition to the Bill. He still hoped the Bill might be treated in the spirit in which it was prepared and brought forward, and be confined, as he thought it was, to non-contentious matters of education. In that hope he ventured to mention other matters which had hitherto been treated entirely as non-controversial, and which he thought it might be possible for the Minister for Education to accept in Committee. The first was an Amendment which he moved last year, and which was accepted by hon. Members opposite, with regard to the practising schools attached to training colleges. His opinion was that these practising schools were not in the nature of public elementary schools. His Amendment, which was accepted by both sides, was to make it possible for the Board of Education to make special regulations governing them. He hoped if the Amendment were moved, and it was found to be, as it was last year, entirely non-controversial, it might be accepted by the right hon. Gentleman and added to the Bill. The second matter was this. There was in Part II. of last year's Bill, in a great mass of matter which no doubt was very controversial, a clause which was, he thought, not controversial, namely, that which would have enabled the governors of a great many endowed schools to make alterations in their schemes and rules without getting the permission of the original governors, who in many cases had been dead for hundreds of years. There had been a set of schools which had earnestly desired to alter their rules and regulations, but had been unable to do it except by consent of a dead person. Unless that difficulty were got over by administrative action, as he believed it might be, everyone would consent that these schools should be allowed to alter their schemes by the adoption of the very simple clause which was contained in the Bill of last year. He only made these two practical suggestions on matters which he believed might be regarded as non-controversial; but he hoped if the example of the hon. Member who spoke last was going to be followed by the Opposition in general, that the Minister for Education would abandon his attitude, which was as friendly as that of the hon. Member for Oxford University, and 1111 insist, even if fought, upon forcing through such clauses as those relating to health inspection, and holiday vacation schools, and that if necessary, he would keep the House sitting a few days longer in order to get these things through.
§ *MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said the hon. Member for the Richmond Division of Yorkshire had made a speech which showed, he thought, that hon. Members did not quite appreciate the position in which they found themselves to-night. The hon. Member had made two practical suggestions which might very well be entertained if they were discussing a Bill which dealt only with practical questions on the educational system of the country. Those suggestions came at the end of the hon. Gentleman's speech. The beginning of his speech consisted in drawing a distinction not apparent to him or, he thought to any other Member on the Opposition Benches, between the speech made by the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford, and that made by the hon. Member for the University of Glasgow. He listened to both speeches, and they were identical in their purport. Both hon. Members, speaking with authority on these matters, stated that there were in the Bill some practical proposals, but that the finance of the Bill was controversial, and they both stated that to give greater financial powers and latitude to local bodies was a matter which must be reviewed in the light of the educational policy of the present President of the Board of Education. There was not a pin's point between the two speeches. Both of his hon. friends said that the Bill contained certain practical proposals of value, but that the Bill demanded close investigation, discussion, and perhaps opposition upon those two cardinal features of policy, namely, finance and the religious element in education. Could there be two more controversial subjects? The hon. Member who had just spoken apparently thought he was straining the point. He was not. The Minister in charge of the Bill had said that it was brought in in a non-controversial manner, and so it was: it was brought in without a word of explanation. He fully recognised that the right hon. Gentleman had done all in his power tonight to make it a non-controversial Bill. If it could be made so, well and good; 1112 but it could not be made a non-controversial Bill so long as it contained at least five, and he thought seven, clauses touching the whole financial question, which was the most contentious at the present moment. All these financial clauses gave greater latitude and greater power to local educational bodies which had been used, and which they believed would be used, in a sense which they considered highly controversial. That was the whole question before them. The Bill was brought in in February without a word of explanation, and was fished up again at the end of July, and though he admitted it was now brought forward in a most conciliatory manner, it still contained at least five clauses fundamentally affecting the financial question, and giving a latitude in a direction to which the Opposition took great exception. Was that a non-controversial Bill?
§ MR McKENNA
I have offered to withdraw any Clause in the Bill to which the hon. Baronet objects. If that does not make a Bill non-controversial, I do not know what does.
§ *MR. WYNDHAM
said that if he had not fully recognised the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman made that statement he had failed to express his meaning. But he was entitled to ask that if he meant what he said —and he knew he did —what was the sense of bringing this Bill up again on the 31st of July if it contained provisions which might be justly characterised as he had described them? He did not think the right hon. Gentleman was aware of the fact that some of these clauses were highly controversial, but he might tell him that the Opposition as a whole were not prepared to be lectured on the previous day for having piled up the debt of the country and increased its annual expenditure during their period of office and then to be asked, at one o'clock in the morning, to pass as non-controversial a Bill which stimulated the borrowing of money throughout the whole of the country, and which stimulated it in connection with that particular Department which showed as great an increase in expenditure as the Army and the Navy put together.
§ *MR. WYNDHAM
said it was a fact that in the ten years during which the Unionists were in power the increase upon Army and Navy Estimates added together was the same as the increase during the same period on the educational expenses, viz., 60 per cent. in each case. They did not grudge the money spent on this, but they should not be taunted with extravagance. Was it right that they should be asked at that hour to pass a Bill which would add to our expenditure, and dip deeper into the money market by increasing the borrowing powers of local bodies? He repeated the statement that a large proportion of the increase in the annual expenditure of the country was due to education, and the main difficulty they had to face in the financial situation was, as stated on the previous evening by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the depreciation of securities due to great borrowing. Here was a Bill which authorised greater borrowing in many of its clauses, and it increased the expenditure because of this. That was a point which could not be ignored and passed over as a mere non-controversial adjunct to certain practical proposals to benefit education. There was another aspect of the financial clause which must be considered. He gathered from the attitude of the hon. Member below the gangway that they had only got to put in the Bill that the period of borrowing might be extended to sixty years in order to ensure that people might be able to borrow on those terms. He thought the finance of the Bill required most careful consideration. He had read the Bill with some care, and he did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman had decided, through pressure, to allow the public bodies to borrow from the Public Loans Commissioners without sanction, even if it was spread over sixty years. He remembered that only two years ago a Bill was passed through that House —a Housing Bill —giving local bodies the power to spread the period of repayment over eighty years. When the Bill became an Act every body was d lighted; but afterwards they found that they could only borrow from the outside market for eighty years, and that when they came to the Public Loans Commissioners they could only borrow for twenty years. What was the financial basis of this Bill? Were the Public Loans Commissioners going to spread 1114 the period of repayment for loans borrowed from them over sixty years? If not they would decide the term of repayment as they decided it now, under existing Acts, and that enabled them to put it at twenty years, which was the period they generally fixed. The objection he took to the Bill was that by extending the period of repayment and passing the clause, it stimulated public bodies to take up loans which lowered their credit. In doing this they were doing their best to depress the credit of the country and at the same time they created a vast debt. They would lower the price of Consols and they would not get their schools built. That was a matter which could not be called non-controversial. There were in the Bill, as everyone recognised, and as he recognised fully, certain practical Amendments in our educational system which ought to be adopted, and which he hoped would be adopted; but the Bill raised financial questions which affected a most burning controversy at the present moment. Because it raised these questions it also touched and affected the only other great burning question between the two sides, namely, the controversy over religious education. To describe a Bill which brought in these two burning subjects of controversy as non controversial was a misuse of language. The right hon. Gentleman said he would withdraw clauses of a controversial nature. If he were sincere and withdrew every clause which touched finance —and most of these clauses touched local finance, and gave local authorities greater powers against religious views largely held by Members of the Opposition —then they would not have much left in the Bill.
§ *MR. GEORGE WHITE (Norfolk, N.W.)
said he thought the House was engaged in a very futile business. They were told on one side that the Bill would not be pressed if it was controversial and they were told on the other side that practically the whole of the Bill was to be considered as controversial. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down picked out five or six clauses out of a very short Bill which he deemed controversial, and he (the speaker) thought therefore it would be better for the House to understand what the position of the Minister of Education was in regard to it. If, at the bidding of hon. Members opposite, he was prepared to withdraw one clause after 1115 another, then it seemed to him it would be better not to introduce the Bill at all. He did not say it was at the request of hon. Members opposite, but it was at the request of the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University, and with his approval, that most of the clauses were introduced. The hon. Baronet had taken strong opposition to some of the main clauses of the Bill. He thought it was well to recognise that the hon. Members for Oxford University and Glasgow University began and ended their speeches by practically stating that they could not receive this Bill from the President of the Board of Education. It was quite evident that his action in regard to other matters had raised a spirit of opposition in the minds of those hon. Gentlemen, and their conduct would make it extremely difficult for the Bill to pass through the House. The President of the Board of Education had expected and he thought he had a right to expect that a Bill drawn in this way would receive practically the assent, with probably some small Amendments in Committee, of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They were told very often that they could not discuss the question of education without the religious difficulty being brought in. Now here was a Bill in which, with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he did not think any previous speaker had actually discovered any religious difficulty; but the right hon. Gentleman had discovered not only a financial but a religious difficulty. There fore, they had these two great elements of opposition brought into a Bill which was only intended to do, and which would, he believed, do thoroughly, good educational work, and would have been received in that spirit if it had come from any other hands than those of the right hon. Gentleman who at that moment occupied the position of President of the Board of Education. A great deal had been said in regard to the administration of the right hon. Gentleman, but it would not be in order for him to go into the details of the opposition to it; ho would say, however, that if hon. Members opposite could not be the favourites of the Department they posed as martyrs. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman was attempting to administer the Education Act fairly, and was receiving the same spiteful opposition that had once before been prominent. In these circum- 1116 stances he felt it impossible to deal at length with the matters which were concerned in the Bill. Even the two clauses which had been incorporated from the Bill of the hon. Member for Scarborough had undergone the most scathing attack from the Member for Glasgow University. Yet the hon. Member, he believed, was among the Members who supported that Bill; but, now that it became a Government measure in the hands of the President of the Board of Education, he used the most scathing criticism upon that very clause, which, certainly, whatever might be said about other parts of the Bill, was of the most humanitarian kind and one which it would be thought every lover of education would like to see in an Act of Parliament. It was quite idle to suppose that the Bill could be treated in a non-controversial spirit after what had been said by hon. Members opposite. The President of the Board of Education had said in deference to so superior an authority as the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University, that he would withdraw one clause after another, but they must remember that the right hon. Gentleman himself had not been a free agent in the controversy. He had sufficient belief in the right hon. Gentleman's interest in education to fancy that if he were a free agent he would give a different handling to the Bill before them. He made these observations because he thought they were wasting time unless they came to a decision as to the way in which the Government was to be treated. If the right hon. Gentleman went on with the Bill he would give it the best support in his power, as he believed, although a great deal had been said against it of a specious character, that it defended the great interests of education without touching at all those great controversial matters which unfortunately were mixed up with education.
§ *SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan)
congratulated the right hon. Gentleman upon the tone and the spirit which had actuated him during the discussion. He most sincerely hoped that in years to come when he occupied a high position that tone and temper would continue and would be manifested in action. But there must be a great change before that happy condition of things arrived. He personally had been closely connected 1117 with a school in Halifaxand he remembered that in the school, which was now being rebuilt from voluntary funds, almost the whole of the school children's parents — something like eighty-one out of eighty-five —were enthusiastic in their opposition to what they regarded as the oppression, the hardship, almost the tyranny, of the action of the right hon. Gentleman. With reference to the powers given under this Bill he wished to say that this year for the first time enormous proposals had been made with reference to training colleges and secondary schools. He was quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman had acted towards the House and Members with perfect good faith; but he could not forget, and he would not omit to remind the House, that the right hon. Gentleman had given to him, no doubt in good faith, the clearest and most distinct promise that there was to be a discussion in the course of this year on the new regulations with regard to training colleges, secondary schools, and the Code. Not withstanding this promise, made, he repeated, in perfect good faith, the fact remained, and it would not be forgotten throughout the history of education, that these changes had been imposed on the House without any opportunity for a useful discussion. He would refer to one or two clauses which he hoped would disappear from the Bill. The first request he had to make was to omit Subsection (4) of Clause 1. It concerned the power given to alienate land or buildings acquired for the purpose of education under Part II. of the Education Act, and the power to dispose of the proceeds. This seemed to him a power which under no circumstances whatever ought to be given to any Administration. The properties which the clause referred to were held to a very large extent under trusts, and had a great influence on the cause of education. They were doing work which ho believed, in most cases, was of an admirable character. He was altogether opposed to the proposal to permit anyone to step in and alienate, property as was proposed by the Bill. No property ought to be alienated except under a scheme carefully devised, largely discussed, and not adopted except after the most mature consideration, Clause 8, he understood, had practically gone. Such a clause he felt sure could not stand the test of discussion. He would say a word about Clause 10, which 1118 dealt with the vacation schools and the medical inspection of children. He hoped that this clause would become law this year. He had previously supported these proposals. Partly as an educationalist and partly as one who had given much time to sanitary reform he welcomed with all his heart the proposal which made it a duty incumbent on the authority to examine every child before or at the time of admission to school. This was a change which would produce in a course of a few years a revolution in the sanitary condition and the health of the working classes of the country. He was well aware how difficult the task was. It had already been attempted in the city of Manchester, and was being carried out there. Two medical gentlemen —one of them a near relative of his own —were engaged in the task. He hoped that it would never go forth that a clause like that one had ever been objected to in the House of Commons. He hoped that this clause would also receive the unanimous support of the House of Lords, and would be placed on the Statute-book before Parliament rose. There was a comic side in connection with the clause. The clause as introduced by the hon. Member for Scarborough was a copy of the clause in the Bill before thorn. The Secretary for the Department proposed an Amendment which the House on Report unanimously accepted. He should have pleasure at some later stage in asking the Government to amend the clause in conformity with the Amendment which had been carried. Ho would for once endeavour to serve the Government in serving himself. There were two more clauses to which he wished to refer. One was the question of extending the time for loans He himself was in favour of that extension. First of all, he thought in these matters they ought not to take too narrow a view; and secondly, when they approached the question more closely and more in detail, they could not be otherwise than struck by the most substantial character of the new buildings. They had in them as regards durability far more than thirty years wear, and, as regarded utility for the purposes of education, the designs were now so complete, and the provisions so perfect, that, as regarded their becoming antiquated, there was little danger of that in a period of thirty, forty, fifty, or even sixty years 1119 There was one other point he would refer to, and that was the register. He could not go into detail, the whole question was so highly technical, but he thought they ought to have some further explanation as to the manner in which the new register was to be framed. He would in the most friendly way invite the Government to examine this clause more fully and to amplify it by regulations, either in the nature of an Order in Council or some other form, which would enable the House to deal more carefully with this most important question, which affected every teacher, and as such, ought to affect every child in our schools. There were some provisions which he would not go back upon at this moment as to Orders in Council. He hoped that all these Orders in Council would be placed on the Table and would not obtain validity until they had laid there for a reasonable time and before full publicity had been given to them. There was very little service in placing a Paper on the Table when no notice was taken of it and no reference made to it. 'If they would refer to the records of the House it would be found that the number of Papers laid on the Table was almost bewildering. He hoped that in the matter of Orders in Council under this Bill every', care would be taken that there should be full publicity and every opportunity for discussion in the House. There were some parts of the Bill, notably that relating to vacation schools and the health of the children, which he most earnestly desired to see passed. He had ventured to criticise some points, and he trusted the words he had spoken had not been spoken in vain.
§ *MR. HELME (Lancashire, Lancaster)
said that when the Education Act of 1902 was before the House many of them differed with regard to its proposals, but when it became law and they tried to make the best of it, and when they sat as members of the Education Committees throughout the country to carry it out they, found that it had not anticipated important points in some of its administrative provisions. He only wished to make an appeal, whether this Bill did not allow an opportunity for the friendly co-operation of educationalists on both sides of the House to try to minimise the points of difference and centre o n those points by which they could release the deadlock which at present held in some departments of educational 1120 work. In regard to his own constituency he would point out that at the present moment a school for higher education could not be built, although the plans had beer passed, unless they consented in this House to pass into law the last heading of Clause 1., sub-section 2, by which a site that already belonged to the corporation of Morecambe might be applied for the purpose of a technical and art school. Another point was that the Local Government Board had discovered that certain building powers they had granted to them as an education committee in Lancashire could not be continued. The law officers of the Department, he presumed, said they could not continue to do that which had been done, and at the present moment the borough of Accrington desired to extend is technical school, but the moneys provided under the Technical Education Act had been exhausted and they had not got the power to go beyond the penny rate, which was exhausted. Therefore, he made an appeal on these two points that they had the opportunity in the one case by adopting a section now in the Bill, and in the second place by adopting a clause which he would move in Committee which would give the Local Government Board the power they desired. If the Bill were considered in the calmer atmosphere of the Committee they could eliminate any controversial points and as educationalists provide a way out of the deadlock. In Lancashire the building of secondary schools was at a standstill. As the President of the Board of Education had promised to approach the consideration of the clauses in a non-controversial manner he hoped the hon. Baronet opposite would exercise his influence over his colleagues and allow the Bill to group stairs where they might endeavour to remove difficulties. He was afraid his right hon. friend went rather too far in laying himself open to the charge that he-would withdraw anything to which the Opposition objected. He thought his right hon. friend ought to make it understood that he would only withdraw those clauses which after the careful consideration of the responsible leaders of the Opposition were held to be out of sympathy with the views to which the hon. Baronet had already committed himself. At any rate, if they got into Committee the public 1121 would know through the Press who were the Members who were prepared to prostitute for Party purposes or religious animosities the great educational interests desired to be secured by the passing of this Bill.
§ MR. ASHLEY
said the right hon. Gentleman's conduct on this Bill had been extraordinary. The Bill was brought in at the end of February; since then for five months it had remained on some musty shelf at the Education Office, and now it was brought out after midnight in the last month of the session, although it was a most important Bill, containing some very excellent clauses and some most pernicious ones. Yet they were asked calmly to pass the Bill without any adequate or proper discussion. He thought the person who was really to be sympathised with now was the hon. Member for Scarborough, who got as far as the Report stage, a Bill which had the support of the overwhelming majority of the Members of the House. He moved one or two Amendments to it which were defeated, but on its broad principle he most cordially agreed with it. Why was not the hon. Member for Scarborough allowed to have his Bill starred?
§ MR. ASHLEY
said the right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that if it had been starred as a Government Bill there would have been no difficulty. Owing to the difficulty which had arisen there was very great danger of its excellent provisions not being passed into law because of other provisions in this Bill. He really thought the conduct of this measure by the Government was one to be greatly deprecated by all who supported the Bill of the hon. Member for Scarborough. He did not know what the views of the hon. Member for Oxford University were with reference to Clause 4 (removal of the 2d. rate), but he had very strong objections to the removal of the 2d. rate. In this he was supported by numerous memorials which ho had received from his constituents, and, therefore, he hoped if he objected to that clause the right hon. Gentlemen would give his constituents the same 1122 consideration that he was prepared to give to the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University. Far more important, however, than anything else was Clause 8, as to which he really wanted to know how they stood.
§ MR. ASHLEY
said it was a very good thing too, because under Clause 8 he could not help thinking the right hon. Gentleman had absolute powers to alter the law at his own sweet will. He hoped the Bill would be given a Second Reading, although he thought they were discussing the subject under very unfavourable circumstances, and he hoped upstairs the objectionable provisions would be eliminated.
§ *MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
thought the Member for Wigan had thrown oil on the troubled waters by his speech. Some of the difficulties raised by Members opposite against the Bill arose out of the working of the Act of 1902, for which the President of the Board of Education was not responsible. He thought there were a great many clauses in the present Bill which were admirable, but there was one clause which he looked on with considerable doubt, and he would like to have an assurance from the Government that in Committee they would add words to it which would be calculated to remove those doubts. Let them consider the history of the Education Acts for a moment. The Government first of all started the schools and then went a step further and made attendance compulsory. Then they went another step and provided food for the children attending. Now they went a step further still and provided medical attendance for these children. So they went step by step in the supersession of parents. His chief objection to the Bill was that it was a step in the direction of interfering with and superseding parents. However excellent and admirable the Educational Authorities might be he still believed in fathers and mothers and that; with them should rest the management of the family. Many people with whom he had discussed this question thought that a great deal might be done to prevent the spread of infectious disease by the 1123 examination of children who were driven to school by the attendance officer. They were driven to school even if they were ill, and parents hesitated to withhold their children even if they were ill because of the prosecution which would follow. When the child was ill perhaps he suffered from an infectious disease to which children were liable. What was the remedy for that? It was to stop the compulsory attendance and leave it to the parents to decide. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laughed at anything like liberty. His constituents objected to compulsory attendance, and nothing would be more popular with the people of this country than its abolition. They knew what was good for them and they knew what was bad for them. Those who wanted education could get it, and those who did not want education in the schools ought to be allowed to stop away. There was another kind of education which could be got away from school. The question of medical attendance would be quite unnecessary if parents were allowed a little liberty to keep children away from school. It was the compulsion that made the difficulty. If he were a member of the Opposition he would only have to get the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Oxford University to take the matter up and then he would be sure that the clause would be removed from the Bill, or would be slightly modified to suit him. At the present time his only hope was in the hon. Member for Glasgow University, who had expressed some objection to the clause. He hoped he would be able to bring pressure on the only man whom the President of the Board of Education had said he would listen to, and then the matter might be remedied. Sub-section (b) of Clause 10 of the Bill said there should be a duty on the local authority to provide medical inspection. Here they we: e superseding the local authority, which was not to decide whether or not it wanted to have medical inspection. Hon. Members were in favour of compulsion, not liberty. Here they were dealing with the sacred local authority which hon. Members supported, but still they were not to have liberty. All. through the Bill of last year they were defending the liberty of the local authority, now they were taking it away. If the word "duty" were altered to the word "right" or "power" it would be less compulsory and he would not object to that part of the clause. The duty of the local author- 1124 ity was to provide for medical inspection of children. What did it mean? Some people would say that providing for medical inspection of children meant that children should be medically inspected, but he was told that that was not the meaning of the clause. It meant that the local authority should provide for the medical inspection of children, and that there should be a medical inspector, but that there was no power in the clause to compel the child to be medically inspected. Subject to the Board of Education, local authorities would have power to make any arrangement they liked for attending to the health and physical condition of the children. He would tell them what a medical man would be likely to say when he came to inspect the child. He would say "There has been a case of smallpox in the neighbouring village and I think that all the children in this school should be at once vaccinated."
§ *MR. LUPTON,
continuing, said that in a school of 500 children the medical man might get £100 by vaccinating all of them, and this would be at the expense of the rates. He asked for an assurance from the President of the Board of Education that it was not intended to compel a child to be subject to any medical inspection or to any medical or surgical treatment without the consent of the parent or guardian of the child. [Cries of "Divide, divide."] He knew that Members did not want to hear him speak, but this was a Bill which would cause a great deal of anxiety to many people, and he knew its provisions would be very strongly criticised in the country. He had no doubt about this, and he thought the House should pause before it passed such a drastic clause. He asked that the right hon. Gentleman, who was very free with assurances that he did not intend to push certain clauses through, to give him an assurance that in Committee he would slightly modify this clause.
§ MR. HARMOOD-BANNER (Liverpool, Everton)
said that Clause 3 as it stood at present was an absolute delusion and a sham. He said this advisedly because of the experiences gained in the past year 1125 by deputations to the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Education. The deputation's views were received, as regarded the giving of this extended period, with favour, and with more than a half promise that their proposals should be considered, but when the Local Government Board was reached, that Department said "No, you shall only have the period of 30 years." It was perfectly clear that the Local Government Board had not the necessary confidence of the Board of Education, otherwise that Department would have said "What you recommend we will accept." He was quite sure that many hon. Members present had received from municipal reformers a request to take this matter up, that Clause 3 should be so amended that the opposition of the Local Government Board should prevail. He could say a great deal more on the matter, but he was sorry to see that the President of the Local Government Board was not present to take the matter up. He hoped that this point would be dealt with and that the clause would be modelled so that it should be a real benefit to municipalities and to counties, and not the delusion and sham that it was at present.
§ MR. HICKS BEACH (Gloucestershire, Tewkesbury)
said that one section of the community would be vitally affected by the Bill —the unfortunate ratepayers. If the Bill remained in its existing form the ratepayers would suffer to a very considerable extent. Clause 4 was a repudiation of a clause put into the Education Bill of the Government last year. That clause was never discussed in the House of Commons at all. He would only re-echo the protest of the hon. Member for Blackpool in urging that the clause should be deleted from this Bill, which was supposed to be a non-contentious measure. Ho hoped that the hon. Baronet below him would press for the deletion of the clause. Respecting Clause 10 he thought the general principle of the clause was agreed upon by both sides of the House, but he could not agree to its being imposed without some assistance being given from the general finances of the country. He could not conceive anything more likely to put the people of the country against education than continued appeals to pay for it out of the rates. The taxpayer at large approved of 1126 education, and did not object to further the cause of education by drinking a cup of tea or smoking a cigar, but the ratepayers did object to seeing the education rate continually on the increase. He uttered a protest against continual duties being imposed on educational authorities without some help from the Exchequer.
§ LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)
expressed regret that the Government had not starred the Bill of the hon. Member for Scarborough.