HC Deb 22 April 1909 vol 3 cc1764-83

The subject to which I wish to call attention is that a Minister for Wales should be appointed to take charge of Welsh business in the House of Commons. Welsh business is, I think, really entitled to that special distinction, and Wales must be regarded from an historical and literary and racial point of view, though administratively part of England, as otherwise quite distinct. I am quite sure that hon. Members who live in the border counties must feel more than any others what a great difference there is between Wales and other parts of the United Kingdom. I think I can illustrate this in a moment by an occurrence which is believed to have taken place in Wales. It was reported not long since that a judge was on assizes in Wales and an offender was placed before him. The judge summed up strongly against him and the jury promptly acquit- ted him. Counsel for the defence made an exceedingly short speech, and the judge was much struck with the fact that the few words made such an impression on the jury that he asked to have the Welsh speech translated to him, and it worked out in the following way. The counsel said: "Gentlemen of the jury, you are Welshmen, I am a Welshman, and the accused is a Welshman. The judge is an Englishman. Need I say more?" I do not believe in the truth of that story, but that it should be current shows how strong is the feeling that the Welsh and English are practically still distinct and different people. As I said the other day, I have lived among the Hindus and the Welsh, and I think the Welsh are as full of caste and racial feeling as the Hindus. On every score, I think, Wales is entitled to be regarded in Parliament as a separate entity. If time allowed I would endeavour to show the House how different feelings and customs in Wales hold strongly their own, and how greatly pleased the Principality would be if there was in this House something like separate Ministerial representation. I think you will find that Welshmen desire that a Welsh Minister should be appointed. I believe it is the case that such a change as I am advocating could not well be made without the full concurrence of the Opposition. I believe they would concur, because they must have seen from the Debate which took place yesterday that Wales was not represented among them, and it must have struck them that Wales required some special representation, when they had to go over the border to Shropshire to get anyone to present the case against Welsh Disestablishment. I am sure that the sense of justice which equally prevails on both sides of the House will lead them to agree with me that a special Minister should be appointed. Had I thought that this question would have been reached I should have endeavoured, with the powerful aid of my hon. Friend the Member for South Glamorgan, the respected Leader of the Welsh party, to have organised something more in the nature of a demonstration, something like that which hon. Members for Ireland so successfully organised in regard to arterial drainage to-day. But I could hardly hope that the subject would come on, and it did not become me to endeavour to obtain a large attendance of my hon. Friends or to organise a demonstration worthy of the theme which I present to the House.

Nevertheless, I am so very fortunate as to be able to make these remarks in the presence of the Leader of the Welsh party, and more than one of his most eloquent and able followers, and in the hope that he will say a word or two in aid of a cause which requires a more powerful voice than mine to commend it to the House, I will not venture to intrude longer upon the House, but will sit down in order that he may take up the theme and bring it—though not in the immediate present—to a successful conclusion.


I am anxious to say a few words in support of my hon. Friend the Member for the Arfon Division as to the importance of recognising the usefulness and, indeed, the absolute necessity of the continuation schools. I have no doubt that this is rather a case of flogging a dead horse, but we were reminded by the hon. Member of what is the attitude of foreign countries towards continuation schools. But I think this question of continuation schools raises rather a larger question than that referred to by my hon. Friend opposite, although on the subject of education he is invariably sound, or at least generally so—I wish I could find him as sound on other questions—but the House always listens to him when he speaks on education, and I cannot help thinking that when he quoted the continuation schools of Germany and Denmark as an example of what a useful purpose might be served by these schools, he left out of consideration one important point, which is full of importance to us in England at the present day. Is our system of primary education as sound as the system in Germany and Denmark'! Are the children who leave these primary schools as fit to undergo and receive instruction in continuation schools as they are in those two countries quoted by him. Undoubtedly the continuation schools in Germany and Denmark have afforded a striking example of what can be done about the age of adolesence, especially when, as is the case, the youth of those countries have been so well grounded in the primary schools. The great object of the primary schools should be to thoroughly ground the child, but do we do that in our Board schools? I have been allowed to be the chairman of a thoroughly typical rural Board school ever since the Act came into force, and I have seen the usefulness of those institutions, but it seems to me that a Government never comes into power without adding to the curriculum of these unfortunate children who are in those schools. But do they leave the primary school now in any better condition for fighting the world than they did 20 or 30 years ago? My own impression is that within three or four years of their leaving that school they are practically unable, I will not say to read or write, but certainly unable to read or spell correctly. You go about a Board school, what do you find? A child can read thirty or forty words of English, but you cannot understand a single word the boy says, because he is not taught pronunciation. There are branches of education taught, too, which are absolutely useless to the rural population, and there is a doubt in my mind whether the grounding we have at present would, in the continuation school, be of such great use as it ought to be. There has, it is true, been an improvement; girls are taught domestic economy and cooking, and the whole school is taught gardening and other useful employments of that sort, all of which are of great importance, and I think, perhaps, on the strength of that my hon. Friend the Member for Arfon is right in saying it is a pity to allow that good stuff to be thrown overboard for the want of continuation schools. At the same time, I am a little shy of asking for fresh burdens to be placed upon us in the way of an educational rate. I was one of those who voted in favour of medical inspection, although the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, with the violent antipathy that he has to change of any sort, violently opposed it, because he saw it would impose a burden upon the rates. Already my people are complaining that they are being further rated for carrying out a good object, which they were led to understand would not inflict any extra expense upon them. I only bring that in as a reason that makes me shy of asking for an additional educational privilege if it is to burden the unhappy county which adopts it. But, in a general way, I am sure I am in entire sympathy with my hon. Friend opposite. The figures of the census of unemployment he quoted are incontrovertible, and it is perfectly well known that it is at the age of leaving the primary school that the hooligan begins and is launched upon society as a curse to his country and a curse to himself. If it could be proved to the employer and to the classes on whom it is wished to confer this benefit that it was to the child's benefit that education only really begun should be continued, I believe we might look forward to a diminution of the unemployed, and perhaps to the creation of a class which might think that Imperial instincts were worth cultivating. The continuation school question is a very grave one at the present time. Agricultural districts now are anxious to provide small holdings in order that a man may either make his fortune or obtain a living—the terms are synonomous with small holders. Continuation schools in that way will afford the very greatest assistance. They will also be a means of keeping in a boy's head what he has already learnt, and I believe, with certain restrictions, will prove of the very greatest advantage to the country.


I am very glad this subject has been raised, because I think on the whole it is about the most important subject that the education authorities have to consider at present. Most children leave school at the age of 13 or 14 to earn a few shillings, and for some reason or other they seem to think it beneath their dignity to attend any sort of school again. In a few years they forget practically everything they have learnt, and they have to go back to an evening continuation school to pick up their knowledge again. Even then when they can be got back into the school their attendance is most discouraging, and it is almost impossible to do any good work at all. At present a great deal of the money and the time spent upon elementary education is absolutely and completely wasted unless the children can keep up their learning from the time they leave school. I do not think, of course, it would be wise at present to propose anything like compulsory classes for these children, though I hope no long time will elapse before a Government of one sort or another has the courage of its convictions, and ordains that these children shall go to compulsory evening classes at least up to the age of 16 or 17. If the Government feel disposed to do anything they might give power to make bye-laws to local education authorities. A good deal was done under the Scotch Education Act of last year, and I think that is an example which might be followed very admirably on the present occasion. I hope also, if the Government are going to give anything of that sort, they will not forget to give us some money at the same time to help us in the work, because otherwise I am afraid the permis- sive power would not be used and the work which ought to be done by that permissive power will not be done merely for the want of funds.


I have listened to the discussion which has taken place with regard to the education of the working man's children between school life and manhood and womanhood with the greatest possible interest, and on behalf of my colleagues I think I can safely say that we have a great deal of sympathy in regard to what has been urged by the hon. Member opposite. Speaking as one who left school at 12, I have always looked upon the age between leaving school and manhood as the missing link in education, and as one of the most important problems that this country had to face, and as one who was taught in a Church school, and whose children are to-day attending a Board school, I say most emphatically that I do not agree with the remarks which have been made in regard to the education of children to-day compared with 10 or 20 years ago. The superiority of the education given to-day in the Board schools is hardly measurable with that which was given when I left school. The best asset a nation can have is to have a well-educated population, and if boys and girls after leaving school could be got hold of and kept interested in some walk of education many a boy and girl would be ultimately saved from ruin.

I desire to say a few words in regard to the Inland Revenue Pension officers, who I think have not been at all fairly treated.


The hon. Member must raise that question when the Vote comes on for these particular individuals. It is only general topics that can be discussed at the present time.


I had grave doubts as to whether it would be in the Estimates at all, and I thought to-night would be the opportunity for a general discussion in regard to a matter of this kind. There is another little matter I should like to say a word or two on, and that is in regard to the method of promotion in the Custom House. I do not think it is at all a fair one, and opportunity is not given to get the best men for this particular service. The method of selection is that the representative of any seaport, no matter how large or small, has the opportunity of selecting men and sending them up for examination. A short time ago something like five juniors were selected for this particular purpose over the heads of considerably over 300 seniors. To infer, as one must, that the juniors were superior to the seniors at all events reflects discredit on the men who are passed over. I know a case where one was selected for promotion. He was rejected because it was said he was not a man of sufficient zeal and ability to be promoted. That man shortly went under another official, who put him forward, and he passed an examination which qualified for a higher position. To have a method of test of that kind is unfair to the whole of the men in the service, and I believe it prevails in other Departments of the public service. I would like to appeal for an opportunity being given to all men to sit for examination, and so qualify for promotion. I believe if all men had an opportunity to sit for examination it would be better for the Department and the country as a whole. I would appeal to the hon. Gentleman to go into this small matter and give the opportunity for examination which I suggest.


I wish to say that I admire my hon. Friend's courage in bringing forward the suggestion he has made in regard to the appointment of a Minister for Wales, for I think the Government have their hands pretty full in regard to Welsh questions which are to be brought before the House. Many years ago I brought forward a Bill on this question, and of late years we have found that the county councils in Wales have passed votes in favour of the appointment of a Minister for Wales. In the present Session the Government have recognised Wales to a very considerable extent, and I will say no more in regard to the question except that I hope the time is not far distant when Wales will have a Minister. It is the only distinct portion of the United Kingdom which has no Minister in this House.


I sympathise with the remarks which have fallen from the hon. Member opposite in regard to secondary education. There is no doubt that the missing link with regard to education is the period of time between 14 and 18 years of age. I am afraid I cannot agree with my hon. Friend behind me in condemning the elementary system of this country. I do not know anything about the schools in the rural district, but having been working in connection with educational work almost all my life, I can say that so far as the elementary system of education in large towns and cities is concerned, it is at the present time although not a perfect, a splendid system. If we examine the systems obtaining even in Germany we should find our system is equal, if not superior, to them. The one great step forward which this country has to take is in regard to the equipping of its people with proper training for making a living. I think it is apparent from what we have heard recently about the lack of employment that the youth who are now casual labourers are so largely because when they first left school they could earn a few shillings to help their parents, and when they grew up to be men they had no opportunity of learning any specific or particular kind of work to which they could turn their attention. The ideal of the future must be that boys and girls, and especially boys, must be equipped for special work. It is the duty of the State to see that they have that equipment. We shall never get the best out of the youth of the country until we see that they are efficiently educated and able to take their place in some particular walk of life. I would like the Minister of Education to give his attention to this matter. It is all right enough to advise education committees to do certain things, and to give them power to make bye-laws, but I would venture to say that unless you give the local authorities power to spend money that will be of little value in the future. It is the duty of the State to pay for education very largely. The burden which has been placed upon local authorities during the last two years is a serious one. The great necessity is to find more money. Since I have been in the House that seems to be the general plea put forward by everybody. We are asked to find £10,000,000 from the ratepayers. The burden has increased enormously during the last ten years. If the right hon. Gentleman can find the money there is sufficient enthusiasm and love for education in the great education authorities of this country, and they will go a long way to meet the difficulty and the defect of the present educational system.

I want to bring before the House another important subject. I wish to call the attention of the House to the neglect of the Board of Trade, and I suppose the Government, of the defences of the country.


That question does not arise on the Civil Service Estimates. It will be more appropriate to the War Office Vote.


I find a Vote in the Civil Service Estimates in regard to harbours, and I do not know of any other opportunity I shall have of raising the question on this Vote.


That does not relate to the defences of the country. It relates to the maintenance of harbours.


Perhaps I used the wrong words in referring to the defences of the country. I wish to refer to the Spurn, which is the breakwater that defends the Humber. There has been a great neglect in maintaining sufficiently the Spurn and in seeing that it is not allowed to be washed away by the tide, as it has been during recent years. This is a very important matter, especially to the great interests affected along the banks of the Humber. A few years ago the Board of Trade endeavoured to remove the obligation at present on the Government, and to place it on the Humber Conservancy, but they were not prepared to accept such a responsibility as that. We find that there is only £l,200 to be spent on the Spurn this year.


There is a special Vote for the Spurn, and the hon. Member can raise the matter when that Vote is reached.


Quite right, but I am afraid the Vote never will be reached.


I believe, with my hon. Friend below the Gangway, that great disadvantage arises from the present system of education. The present system seems to be to allow people to be trained for nothing at all, because a majority of them, after having learned a little on all sorts of subjects, find that the only use that can be made of those subjects is as clerks in offices. If there is one profession or calling which is overcrowded it is the profession of clerks, and the consequence is that a large number of them are unemployed. If they had been taught a trade or industry, they would have been able to find employment for themselves, and to do good service to the State. I am not quite certain as to the remedy. I am not aware that any remedy was proposed, except that the State should spend more money on technical education.


I did not say that.


I presume the only remedy that would have been proposed would be that this new education should be given. If this new education were given and the old one cut down I would have nothing to say against it; but if the proposal is that the old education should be continued and that further money should be expended on teaching trades to children who had already been taught according to the old system, then I strongly object to it, and for two reasons. I believe that in seven cases out of 10 the ordinary school board education is perfectly useless. By the time a child arrives at 20 he or she has forgotten everything he or she ever learned, and if technical education is given on top of that it may be of some value, but it would be of still greater value if given in the first instance, accompanied only by writing and arithmetic, or some simple education of that sort. The result would be, a large sum of money would be saved to the State, while the people of the State would benefit. But what I chiefly rose to call the attention of the House to was the extraordinary increase of the expenditure on the Civil Service. I am extremely sorry that the Financial Secretary is not present, because I believe I am going to call attention to a fact which merits the serious consideration of every Member of the House. Though recognising the great ability of the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Board of Education, I do not know that it is in his Department to consider whether or not the general expenditure of the Civil Service is too large. Even if he is capable, as no doubt he would be capable if it is in his Department, I do not think he could deal with it, because it is a question which is not before the House at the moment, though, unless I am very much mistaken, he at one time occupied the responsible position of Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and therefore perhaps he will claim the dual position as the late Financial Secretary to the Treasury and President of the Board of Education; but if he will refer to the Memorandum by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury he will see that in paragraph 1 he say that the net total Estimates for the Civil Service exclusive of revenue deposits for 1909–10 is £40,070,171; the net total of the original Estimates for 1908–9 was £30,496,947, and the increase is therefore £9,573,224. That is to say, there is an increase of nearly £10,000,000 in one year in the Civil Service Estimate. I am perfecly well aware that one of the answers that will be given to this is that the increase is chiefly owing to old age pensions.

But I would like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman in his capacity as late Financial Secretary to the Treasury that that is not a sufficient answer, because if he will refer to the Official Report of 5th March, 1909, he will see the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutlandshire. The question was: "What were the total sums voted for Civil Services, including Supplementary Votes, in the years 1905–6, 1906–7, 1907–8, and 1908–9 (the latter year including the Supplementary Estimates), showing the increase or decrease, as the case may be, in each successive year?" It should be remembered that 1905–6 was the last year in which the Tory Government was in power. I lay stress upon that, because one of the great charges brought against that Government by practically the whole of the present occupants of the Treasury Bench was that of reckless extravagance. This was the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to my hon. Friend's question:— The information asked for by the hon. Member is shown in the following table:—

Year. Amount Voted, including Supplementary Estimates. Increase.
1905–6 £28,777,353
1906–7 29,831,802 £1,054,449
1907–8 30,988,780 1,156,978
1908–9 38,188,468 2,199,688
That is a total increase, irrespective of old age pensions, of nearly 4½ millions in the three years during which the country has had the misfortune to be under the present Radical Government. According to "Whitaker's Almanac," in 1870–1, the Civil Service Estimates were £9,989,000. It may be said that that is a long time ago, and that all sorts of things for which the present Government is not responsible have happened since then. I will, therefore, pass over intervening years, and go to 1895–6, a year in which a Tory Government was in office. The Civil Service expenditure in that year was £20,647,000, exactly half what it is now, so that in 14 years the Civil Service expenditure has doubled. They have increased from £20,000,000 to £40,000,000 in the last three years, leaving out the old age pensions. During the period of a Government pledged to economy they have increased by four and a half millions. I consider that to be a very serious matter for the consideration not only of this House, but of the country. I presume it would be out of order to go into the question of defence or anything of that sort. But I direct the attention of the House to the increase of four and a half millions upon Civil Service, out of which we absolutely get nothing at all. It is not remunerative, it doe3 not provide for the defences of the country; it seems to me it is no good at all, unless to maintain a certain number of people in employment to inspect ourselves and see what we are doing. Probably, as well as appointing inspectors to see what we eat and what we drink, the Government will appoint inspectors to see what time we go to bed. Four and a half millions would provide two "Dreadnoughts," and expenditure in that direction would be far more beneficial to the country than an increase in the Civil Service Estimates.

An hon. Gentleman below the Gangway spoke of the bankrupt state of the country. We are not bankrupt, but there can be no doubt that the expenditure of the country is increasing in an alarming manner, and that the credit of the country has declined for the last three years. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO, no."] The right hon. Gentleman knows what I am saying is the fact. Consols are lower than in his history or mine. Two years ago they were 81. They have gone up a little bit. I do not want to make this a party question, but Consols have touched the lowest point for years. It is the fact, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that he cannot get money to satisfy the purchases under the Land Act. Therefore, it is evident that the credit of the country is depreciating. That being so, I think it is absolutely necessary this House should consider where they are going. When they listen to eloquent speeches like the speech delivered by my hon. Friend below the Gangway, speeches in which there is a great deal of truth but which involve large expenditure, the tendency is to allow its sentiment and desire to do good to everyone to run away with the calm judgment which is necessary if you wish to keep equilibrium in national expenditure. You cannot do all those wonderful things except by the expenditure of money. It mean3 an increasing burden, whether on the taxpayer or the ratepayer. The hon. Member for Grimsby advocated that any expenditure ought to be on the taxpayer instead of the ratepayer, but they are practically the same person. It is simply a case of taking it out of one pocket instead of another. I seriously call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, who I am glad to see on the Treasury Bench, to the appalling fact that in the last 14 years the Civil Service expenditure has increased from £20,000,000 to £40,000,000.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Runciman)

The hon. Baronet who has just resumed his seat has not for the first time drawn attention to the heavy expenditure of the country, but I would remind him that shortly before he spoke the hon. Baronet near him invited the Government to involve itself in still further expenditure in support of the local authorities who are now carrying out educational work. I leave the two hon. Gentlemen to settle the difference between themselves. While I am answering the hon. Member for Grimsby I will refer him to the representative of the City of London, and while I am answering the Member for the City I will refer him to the hon. Member for Grimsby. The main increase of the Civil Service Vote during the last few years has been due, as the hon. Baronet said, in the first place to the heavy expenditure on old age pensions; but having left that out of account, he still charges us as being responsible for a very heavy increase of the Civil Service Vote during the last three or four years.

Everyone who knows the Civil Service Estimates as well as the hon. Baronet will be aware of the fact that the largest portion of the increase is due to the heavy charges which have fallen on the Port Office during the last four years. The normal increase of the Post Office expenditure is something like £600,000 a year, and that is going on year after year without our being able to stop it. The volume of the Post Office business, and the natural tendency of Post Office servants to grow older and claim higher incomes, must involve the State in heavier expenditure as regards that Service. Then the hon. Baronet is well aware that the inquiries of the Committee presided over by my hon. Friend who is now Financial Secretary to the Treasury has involved the State in a further expenditure of £700,000. I think that £700,000 has been well-spent money. Some of the best servants of the State are engaged in the Post Office, and the inquiries of the Committee showed that we were not treating the Postal servants as well as we should do. I do not regret a single penny of that expenditure, and I am sure that the hon. Baronet who represents the largest collection of Post Office clerks in the country will not be the one to say that our expenditure on improving the status of the Post Office servants is badly spent money. Another section of expenditure which is objected to is the rise in the Education Vote. It has not been so marked during the last few years as it was during the time previous to our taking office. But the money has been well spent money, and when the hon. Baronet says that we have had no return, and that it was not remunerative money I would venture to cross swords with him at once, and claim that the money spent on education is most remunerative money. The hon. Baronet asked how it is spent. I think that is a very pertinent question. It is spent very largely in making the children more comfortable, in allowing them to have the best equipped and best trained teachers provided by training colleges and Universities, and also in giving them a chance of being educated in secondary schools. It does to some extent carry out the very objects which my hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvonshire and the right hon. Gentleman pleaded for earlier in the evening. When the hon. Member for Grimsby complained that there had been heavy expenditure out of the rates for the purposes of education during the last few years, I am bound to remind him that the heaviest expenditure out of the rates was the direct result of the Act of 1902. That Act threw a very heavy burden on the rates, and that, I think, has really done more to alter the percentage of education expenditure provided out of the rates and out of the Exchequer than anything done either before or since.


It has not improved our educational system.


I am perfectly sure that it has had a great deal to do in improving the education given in voluntary schools supported out of the rates. There have been, of course, very many instances where more money has been spent on denominational schools without in any way altering the system of education, or the persons composing the staffs of those schools. Any claim made on me for money to be spent on education I must at once transfer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvonshire, raised one 'of the most interesting questions that can ever be raised in an educational debate. The money which is spent in the elementary schools I believe is well spent. Our teachers could not be better than they are to-day. Their classes were never better, and the children were never brought up in better schools. The fact, however, remains that a very large percentage in our large towns, and also, I believe, in our country districts, of children who pass out of the schools, in the course of two or three years, from lack of practice and from lack of guidance, forget altogether the education they have received in the elementary schools. In my own experience, as indeed in that of every one who has attempted to test the classes of our elementary schools, it has been found that the children, after two or three years, have almost forgotten how to write, and completely forgotten how to spell, and a very large number seem to have forgotten simple arithmetic. If they had been put through a reading examination no doubt they would have passed it well; but during the three or four years after they have left school their whole attention was absorbed in their daily work, and they were tired out, and not able to devote themselves to the more intellectual pursuits. This is one of the gaps we hope to fill up. The most of the harm done by boy labour is that the boys' time is so absorbed, and their energies so exhausted over their daily manual work that they cannot be expected to attend evening classes. As the Prime Minister remarked in a recent speech, the problem of boy labour is one that closely touches the great problem of unemployment, and, indeed, the whole range of the poor law; and the Government is now taking seriously into consideration the means whereby we could prevent this enormous leakage from the best classes of boys who are well and expensively trained in our schools. I hope it will be possible, in the course of the next few years, to retain our boys and girls at, school to a higher age than at present. There are very serious objections to that at present. There are great difficulties to overcome. But the fact still remains that in England we are different in this matter to Scotland, where the children are left longer in the elementary school, much to their advantage, and to the advantage of the Scottish people. As to the half-time system, into which a Committee presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for the Elland Division is inquiring, and taking evidence from all over the country, and from many of our great and best industrial districts, they hope very shortly to present a Report upon this important subject. Even on this subject the difficul- ties are by no means small. We are quite certain in Lancashire, at all events, there are very large sections of the community, very directly interested, and public opinion there is not so far advanced as we should have expected, and liked. I do not think the vote taken amongst the trade unionists of Lancashire last year may be taken as their final decision. I believe that as the time goes on you will find a larger number of parents in Lancashire prepared to see the abolition of the half-time system. Whether that is possible now I cannot tell. I am not prepared to express an opinion upon this question. My hon. Friend mentioned evening continuation schools, which the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education is considering. One of the first things I did when I took office was to ask it to deal with the matter. Ever since then they have been hard at work collecting evidence and working out the details of schemes which have been submitted to them, and schemes that they themselves have evolved. I hope within the course of the next few months that they will have agreed upon their Report, and that the Report may be made public. At the earliest possible moment I shall do what I can to place the House in possession of the vast amount of valuable information they collected. Here, again, the difficulties are by no means small. You do not get rid of the difficulty by pointing out you can organise continuation schools. There are buildings and matters of expense, which agitate the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, to be considered. You have teachers to provide, and you have to provide the organisation of the labour in which these boys are concerned. These are matters of such vital importance and concern that we cannot be expected to legislate until we have had the very best advice of the country. My hon Friend and those who think with him may rest assured that the Government has the matter very eagerly at heart. We are doing all we can to advance the problem at hast a stage further before we lay down office. One of the best pieces of work that the Board of Education or any other Board can do is to carry on the work of the elementary schools either in continuation classes or evening classes, whichever may be the best fitted for the industrial conditions of the young men and women for which they are intended.


Is there any prospect of relief in the counties on the question of the medical inspection of children?


That is not a matter on which I am authorised to say anything at the present moment. A deputation waited on the Prime Minister lately, and that is the latest Government utterance upon the subject.


I want to say a word about the earlier part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I do not want to criticise him hostilely for what he said. When he referred to this great increase he said it was largely owing to the report of what is known as the Hobhouse Committee, but he overlooked the fact that the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London did not, in estimating the increase, refer to the increase of the Post Office Votes. That is an addition to the increase he mentioned, and to that extent, of course, it makes the enormous increase in our Civil Service Estimates far more serious. With the permission of the House I will quote the figures from the Chancellor as to the increase in the Postal and Revenue Departments. In the first year of office the present Government increased this Estimate by half a million; in the second year of office it jumped up by £926,000, and in the third year, on top of these two increases, it was increased by £763,000. That is to say, the revenue from postal services alone are to-day paying annually a higher sum by £2,150,000 than when the present Government took office. I do not quarrel with the object of it. I am not going into the merits of them; it is not material to my argument. I am putting before the House only the net increase in the annual cost of our public service, and I am showing that the revenue of the postal service costs us to - day £2,150,000 annually more than it did when the present Government came into power. That is the increase in the Civil Service Estimates to which my hon. Friend solely referred. Besides that we find that in the first year of office of the present Government £1,000,000 odd was added to the Estimates, in the second year £1,100,000 odd cumulative, and in the third year £2,200,000 odd—a total annual increase since the present Government came into office of £4,400,000, so that the Revenue Department and the Civil Service, taken in conjunction, show an annual increase of £6,560,000 odd. That is quite irrespective of old age pensions. On the present year old age pensions and a few very minor matters amount, I think, to £10,000,000 increase. This means that since the present Government took office the Civil Service Estimates, taken in conjunction with the Revenue Department Estimates, show an increase of £16,500,000 annually. I do not want to make a party point of that, but I put to the House very seriously the fact that every year for the last three years our expenditure upon the public Departments in the Civil Service has increased by over £5,000,000. This year there is an increase on the Navy of £3,000,000, and next year perhaps there will be a further increase of another £1,500,000 on the Navy Estimates. About an hour ago the Government barely escaped defeat because they refused to drain the Bann. What I wish to point out is that we cannot indefinitely go on increasing our annual expenditure, armaments altogether apart, by upwards of £5,000,000 a year.


I think the House and the country at large will have heard with considerable disappointment the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education in which he summarised the results of the educational work of the country. He told us that, as a result of the enormous expenditure and activity of the Education Department, with its splendid staff of devoted teachers, both men and women, fully qualified to give the instruction which they are expected to give, notwithstanding all this equipment and its immense cost, after two or three years, when the children have passed out of our schools, many of them no longer know how to write, and cannot do the simplest sum of arithmetic; and I think he almost suggested that many of them could scarcely read. At such a time, when that is the condition of things laid before us by the right hon. Gentleman, it is surely most appropriate that some hon. Member coming from any part of the country, whether from the Principality of Wales or elsewhere, should bring before us in the very excellent way in which the hon. Member for Arfon has brought it before us to-night the subject of evening continuation schools. Such speeches as that delivered by the hon. Member for Arfon leads us to think whether the kind of instruction given in our schools is really of the value which it is the custom to attach to it. The condition under which it becomes almost vital that we should have more continuation schools arises partly from the cause to which the President of the Education Department himself has referred. I think the right hon. Gentleman spoke rather against the half-time system. I gathered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that he is at the present time considering this particular subject, and that he and his colleague sitting near him are both unsympathetic towards half-time work. I had some experience of half-time schools. It was my privilege many years ago to be manager of a half-time school. We had 300 children in the school. They were engaged at half-time work in textile factories, and, of course, were engaged half-time in the schools. There were a great many excellent schools in the district in which there were no half-time children, but no school could produce, from an educational point of view, the good results that were produced by this half-time school. When the subject years ago was discussed, that school was quoted as an example of what a half-time school could do. The question naturally arises whether the children suffered in their health. There were no more healthy children in the district. They were children with rosy cheeks and good physique, and they spent at the same time half their time in the factories. But after they had left the school, at the age of 13 or 14 years, they were trained or specialised, so that they were well qualified to earn their living. That specialised training in technical work was an invaluable start in their life's work. It led not only to their physical but to their mental qualifications. So they had without the payment of a penny by the ratepayers or taxpayers obtained a specialised training. They got what could be given them in technical or continuation schools. At this particular school it was obtained without any cost to the ratepayers or taxpayers, and the children were specialised in the system they would have to follow in after life. There is no reason why the products of our workshops and factories should not be produced under such a specialised system of training. In order that the children might have an intelligent idea of the work in which they are engaged it is absolutely necessary that in either continuation or technical schools they should have brought before them the whole series of processes of the manufactures to which they will have to devote their lives and have instruction therein. It is only by technical instruction that the British working man can really use the great power of initiative, which the English working man possesses far in excess of any working man in the world—far more than in the Empire of Germany, where the system of taking youths into the barracks destroys that very power of initiative. Our working men inherit it from a natural inheritance. In order that we may make the most of it, it is necessary that we should have this technical instruction and these continuation schools. I sympathise with the Member for the City of London when he says that the expense would be great. It would be great. At present, however, a large proportion of the instruction is purely wasted; and it is for the country to take this matter into their consideration—whether it would not be well to reduce the expenditure on ornamental instruction and out of the large saving which would result to place some of the money at the disposal of the technological and continuation schools. There are some Members here who profess to take some interest in the welfare of the children of the working classes, but I must say they have a very inconsistent way of showing it.

Forward to