§ (1) No fees shall be charged or other charges of any kind made in any public elementary school, except as provided by the Education (Provision of Meals) Act, 1906, and the Local Education Authorities (Medical Treatment) Act, 1909.
§ (2) During a period of five years from the appointed day the Board of Education shall in each year, out of moneys provided by Parliament, pay to the managers of a school maintained but not provided by a local education authority, in which fees were charged immediately before the appointed day, the average yearly sum paid to the managers under Section fourteen of the Education Act, 1902, during the five years immediately preceding the appointed day.
§ (3) Nothing in this Act shall affect the provisions of Section nine of the Elementary Education (Blind and Deaf Children) Act, 1893, or of Section eight of the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Act, 1899.
The first Amendment—to leave out Sub-section (1), standing in the name of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Sir J. Larmor)—is equivalent to a negative of the whole Clause. The next four Amendments—in Sub-section (1), after the word "elementary," to insert the words "or secondary"; leave out the word "elementary"; after the word "school" to insert the words "or secondary school"; and at the end of Sub-section (1) to add the words "nor in any secondary school provided by a local education authority, or which is in receipt of Grants from the 1578 Board of Education"—standing in the names of the hon. Members for the Haggerston Division (Mr. Chancellor), for North Somerset (Mr. King), for Sunder-land (Mr. Goldstone), and for Mid-Lanark (Mr. Whitehouse), raised the question of secondary schools, which was dealt with on Clause 1, when an Amendment was proposed to the same effect by the hon. Member for North Somerset and was negatived on a Division.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
On a point of Order. When this subject was discussed it had reference to the establishment of schools in the future, whereas the present Amendment deals with existing schools.
In any case it would not come on this Clause, but, if a new Clause is brought up, I will consider it. It would not be appropriate on this Clause.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to add the words "and as hereunder mentioned."
This Amendment must be taken in conjunction with a later and somewhat lengthy Amendment, which requires some little explanation. Under Sub-section (2) of Clause 22, exception is made with regard to matters under Section 14 of the Education Act, 1902, and it is rather necessary that we should go back in order that the Committee may understand what Section 14 of the Act of 1902 did. It really carried out an agreement that was entered into at that time with schools where fees were charged prior to 1902, and whereby those fees were to be allowed to be continued. There is a feeling of injustice on the part of many of the managers of these schools on account of their treatment under this Clause. The Bill has been kept pre-eminently free from all those questions of religion and all those old troubles between different classes of education which were so rampant in 1902, but this Clause rather introduces contentious matter which is felt very keenly in certain parts of the country. The Committee are probably aware that fee-paying schools were not at all prevalent in the South of England. They were built and carried on very largely in one part of Lancashire and Cheshire, but outside Manchester, Chester, Liverpool, Birkenhead, and a few other Lancashire towns, there were very few fee-paying schools. I should like to state one reason why 1579 some of these fee-paying schools were established. Those who really valued education found that there were a number of private schools that were very inefficient, but parents felt strongly that they should be at liberty to choose the school to which they sent their children, and they were prepared to pay a reasonable price to make the selection. These advanced workers in educational matters saw that if they erected suitable buildings and obtained the Government Grant and charged the parents fees, they could give a really good education. That was how some of these schools were started. Others were provided schools, in the ordinary sense of the term, whether Church of England, Roman Catholic, or belonging to the Free Church bodies. They were erected by people in the belief that they were really serving the best interests of national progress. In 1902 an agreement was arrived at between the Government and the managers of these schools. The agreement carried two points. In the first place, the managers of the schools granted the local education committee the use of their buildings for six days in the week, provided that they might have the use of them on the Sunday, and for such portions of the week when the education committee did not require them.
That was a real compromise and a real bargain. In addition to that, the managers of the schools were allowed to continue the fees, with the proviso that the local education committees were to take charge of those fees and, in consultation, were to divide the amount in such proportions as might be mutually agreed. If they would not come to an agreement, the matter was to be referred to the President of the Board of Education to decide what proportion they should have. This led to an amicable arrangement, under which the managers of these schools receive about half the money paid in the form of fees. The other half is spent in this way: The managers of the schools meet after they have collected the fees, and where permanent alterations to buildings are required they still fall to the lot of the managers. Out of those fees the managers keep their buildings in repair from the capital point of view, while the local education authority keep the buildings in repair so far as ordinary painting and cleaning are concerned. The providers of these unprovided schools did a 1580 great national service when they erected these buildings and then practically handed them over to the country, free of charge, for educational purposes.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
I know that in the town I represent many of the inhabitants subscribed thousands of pounds in order to put up these schools for the children of that town, even before free education was considered, and they performed a national service.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
I was about to explain to the Committee what happens with regard to these fees. Out of the amount of money received in my Constituency—I can speak with absolute knowledge—they have spent since 1902 on keeping up the actual fabric of the buildings £11,000, and they have received £2,800 from the portion of the fees which the local education committee handed back to the managers of those schools. In view of that, in common fairness and justice, those fees should be continued. The consequential Amendment which stands in my name reads:In any school of the higher-grade type or in which fees have been charged of not less than threepence per week, fees may continue to be charged, and, if a non-provided school, the local authority shall repay to the managers such portion of the fees as may be necessary to cover the cost of the up-keep of the buildings and other expenses of maintenance which have hitherto been borne by them.That answers the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King) as to how the money that is going to be paid out of the fees to the managers is to be spent by them on these schools. The Amendment further reads:This arrangement shall continue as long as the schools are carried on to the satisfaction of His Majesty's inspector, and, in the event of any dispute, the decision of the Board of Education to be final. The local authority shall also have power to charge fees in any new school where they think fees will be for the educational benefit of the district, subject to the approval of the Board of Education.1581 I ask myself and the President why Clause 22 should be introduced at all? It is only going to make friction in the country. There is no object to be gained, except the questionable object of equality. Some of us do not believe that in matters of education we should all be reduced to one plain, straight line of uniformity. We believe that in variety, such as is found in these schools, you have a little local friendly competition in the matter and the manner of administering the Education Acts. It is a good thing that there is this slight variety, and it should continue. I know that the President has no desire whatever to raise again the religious question in this House or in connection with this Bill, but I want to tell him that this Clause does raise that question in this way: The managers of these unprovided schools are the men who, in the past, have stood for religious teaching in all schools, and they have a constant fear that, if we weaken the position of these unprovided schools and gradually wipe them out of existence, the bulwark against the idea of secular education, which was so prevalent and may come to the front again, will be removed. I put it to my right hon. Friend that the fair and generous usage of the unprovided schools should be continued, and I sincerely trust he will accept this Amendment with a view to doing what I call simple justice. In 1902 it was agreed between the Government and the managers of these schools that these various matters should continue. The right is admitted in the Bill by the right hon. Gentleman saying that the payment of the money shall be continued for five years. If these managers are entitled to their money for five years, they are entitled to it as long as the buildings are used for the purpose for which they were handed over. I cannot conceive, seeing that the right hon. Gentleman acknowledges the justice of the claim by providing in the Bill that the same money shall be paid for the next five years as was paid for the last five years, why that should not continue, and why this Clause should be introduced at all. The President admits the justice of the managers receiving their share of these fees for five years. Why is it not just to say that they should continue to receive the money for a still longer and an indefinite period? I trust that the President of the Committee will see that this Amendment is not a casual one, but that it goes to the root of a very 1582 important and strong national feeling with regard to the suppression of unprovided schools.
The question that has been raised by the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Bigland) is by no means a new one in our educational discussions in this House. As I understand him, he has put forward practically two proposals. One is that there should be some means of differentiating between the higher grade schools where no fees will be charged and the schools where fees will be charged, and that mainly, I understand, on social grounds. The feeling in favour of having schools where fees are charged is based almost entirely, in the various towns where the practice still exists, on the desire of some parents to have their children taught in schools which they regard as of rather better social class than others.
My hon. Friend (Mr. King) is no more justified in speaking for them than I am. I express it as my opinion and as a result of the experience I have had. Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to speak on behalf of a sphere of national activity with which I am just as closely connected as he is. I am only stating what is the fact. I do not say they are justified in their view. What I observe is that although that may be the view of large numbers of parents, and a view supported by some Members of this House, it is not the view now held by the Board of Education, for they have in their proposals definitely adopted a doctrine which has often been preached here in the past and been pretty generally though not unanimously supported, that it is better to get rid of fees altogether in this class of school. With opinion such as it is in the country, I cannot see that much is gained by a continuance of the old practice. The minority which is in favour of this differential treatment of their or other people's children is a comparatively small one, and although we must recognise it as a social fact, it cannot be justified on purely educational grounds. I think the Board of Education has been 1583 well advised in ignoring these social grounds, and on purely educational grounds deciding once and for all that they are against the continuance of the practice, even in the higher grade schools. For that reason, in the first place, I would support the proposal which is put forward by the Government, and oppose that put forward by the hon. Member (Mr. Bigland).
There is a second point, and here I think he was leading us on to most dangerous ground. He was quite frank about it that immediately you have raised the question of compensation for the absence of fees in schools which are denominational we get into the region of religious controversy. I appeal to the hon. Member, and those who support him, not to let us get a single hair's breadth into the religious region. The only possibility of our getting this Bill through with any degree of general support is that we should keep away from all religious controversy. This does not of necessity directly raise our old religious controversies, but anyone who has been in the House for any length of time and heard the discussions on other educational Bills knows that immediately you come to the question of compensation for fees to denominational schools you will have the right of the denominational school to exist as a separate entity at once challenged, I hold particularly strong views on that subject, but they are not as extreme as those held by some of my hon. Friends, and I was not unprepared to come to an arrangement on the subject. But if you do open the question, you have to remember that you will arouse a pretty strong controversy. It will be urged, as nearly all our religious controversies are, with a good deal of bitterness, and the only hope of the right hon. Gentleman getting his Bill rapidly through with the degree of general support which we all desire is that he should not be tempted on to any of this familiar ground of the past. I therefore suggest, although there may be a good deal to be said on the subject of differential schools, that to raise in any degree the second part of the discussion suggested by the hon. Member would take us into a sphere that we had much better avoid, and on that ground I appeal to him not to press his Amendment.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
There is an Amendment standing in my name of a more comprehensive 1584 character than this, and I greatly prefer it, but in the meantime, in case the right hon. Gentleman should decline ultimately to accept my Amendment, I should like very strongly to support the Amendment of my hon. friend (Mr. Bigland). I do not think anyone who approaches this question can be insensible to the very strong appeal, which I believe will be endorsed in all parts of the House, which has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Runciman). None of us desires to introduce the bitterness of religious controversy into the Education Bill, which we hoped might be entirely free from any such considerations, but I am bound to ask who is responsible for the raising of that question, if unfortunately it be raised? What, in the name of fortune, induced the President of the Board of Education to insert this Clause, with the hope of avoiding the controversy which we all desire to avoid, I cannot imagine! We who object to the Clause cannot, therefore, take any iota of responsibility for any controversy which in this connection may be raised.
I foreshadowed on the Second Reading an intention to amend, and, if possible, omit, this Clause, and since then I have received an accumulating mass of testimony to what I can only describe as the dismay which has been excited in all parts of the country by the proposals contained in this Clause. I sometimes wonder whether the President of the Board of Education himself is aware of the extent to which this system of fee-paying schools, though their aggregate number is, I admit, not very large, permeates the provision of public education in this country. I differ a little from the hon. Member (Mr. Bigland). I think he underestimates very seriously their extent in other parts of the country. I have here a Return, for which the hon. Member (Mr. King) moved in 1914, of those fee-paying schools, and they do not at all bear out the description of their geographical distribution which has been suggested by the hon. Member (Mr. Bigland). There are altogether 430 of them, very widely distributed, and the total fees taken amount to about £66,500 a year, of which only a small proportion, about £14,000 a year, is returned by the local authorities to the managers. I am perfectly prepared to be told that those figures, both of the schools and of the fees, are, in relation To the statistics of public education, quite insignificant. They are 1585 by no means insignificant in certain localities. For example, here is a Midland town. In Kidderminster, out of nine schools no fewer than four are fee-paying.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
Perhaps I may rely on the hon. Member for North Somerset to give the figures correctly later on. The point I was endeavouring to make is that the geographical distribution of these fee-paying schools is very much wider than that suggested by the Mover of the Amendment. What do you propose to do about these schools? You are proposing, as I understand the meaning of this twenty-second Clause, in these towns and counties—there are about 120 of them, I think—to prevent those parents who deliberately prefer to pay fees for their children from exercising what I regard as the elementary right of paying fees for the education of their children if they prefer to do so. I am totally at a loss to understand the reasons which have inspired the introduction of this Clause. Is it that you desire deliberately to upset—I cannot think it is—the compromise which was embodied in the Acts of 1870, 1891, and 1902, because the existence of these fee-paying schools is an essential part of the compromise embodied in that series of Education Acts? You are deliberately proposing by Clause 22 to reopen the basis of the compromise embodied in these Acts. Further, by the Amendment which has been put into the second or third edition of the Bill, you are proposing to hang up this matter for a period of five years. I quite understand the motive of that Amendment. I understand you desire to give a period of grace to these schools to arrange their affairs before they are finally extinguished. But there is an unfortunate side to that concession. You give notice that in five years' time these schools are to cease. Anyone who has any knowledge at all of human nature can foresee that in that period of five years you give a very ample opportunity for the reopening of the floodgates of controversy, which we all desire not to see reopened, but which we all desire to close.
First, I suggest then that you are disturbing the basis of the compromise, and, in the second place, I desire to point out 1586 that the fact of the existence of these fee-paying schools does not in any way interfere with the right of free education which has been established and which we all desire to extend by this Bill. That right of free education was procured by the Act of 1891. Any parent desiring free education for his children can claim it and obtain it as a right, and it is only a minority of parents who for one reason or another—not only for the reasons adumbrated by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Runciman), but for many other reasons very much more complex in some cases—prefer to pay and to make use of these fee-paying schools. May I remind the Committee that by the 14th Section of the Education Act of 1902 the local education authorities have full control over the fees charged in these non-provided schools? That is a point of very great importance which ought to be emphasised. Power is given to them to continue or discontinue such fees, and there is given to them under the same Section a limited power of dividing with the managers the fees so received. As a matter of fact, only a small proportion of fees are actually returned to the managers—about £14,000 out of £67,000. The amount which is so returned to the managers of non-provided schools is expended by them on the improvement of the premises and on equipment. All the money, therefore, which comes back to the managers is spent by them for the benefit of the children in their charge. That being so, I ask myself in whose interest is it that this change is proposed in Clause 22. Cui bono?
Is it in the interests of the parents? They do not seem to think so. Parents, many of the best, most thoughtful and most considerate parents, feel themselves, and, in my opinion, rightly feel themselves, insulted by the proposal in this Bill, a proposal which I beg the Committee to observe is to prevent the parents from exercising a choice between free and fee-paying schools. I have received an enormous amount of testimony on this point. Some write to me to say that the fees are paid willingly. They are paid by that class of parent who can afford fees, such as foremen in works, small tradespeople, coachmen, gardeners, publicans, railway guards, and so on. Such parents welcome the fee-paying schools, because they know that their children will not have to associate with others whose homes are less 1587 satisfactory than they believe their own to be. These fee-paying schools are alwaysfull. In the majority of cases which are known to me the schools are not only full to overflowing, but there is in some cases a waiting list for admission to these popular schools that you propose to abolish. There are some districts, and here I am speaking of the South of England, where parents send their children a considerable distance by rail, bicycle, and so on, to obtain what they believe to be, rightly or wrongly, the benefits of these schools for which they are called upon to pay fees. I suggest, therefore, that it is not according to the wishes and it is not in deference to any claim of the parents that you are proposing this change. Are you proposing it in deference to the ratepayers? These non-provided fee-paying schools at the present time bring in a not inconsiderable revenue in relief of the rates. I think the hon. Member for Birkenhead told us that in Birkenhead alone since 1902 some £17,000 have been paid in relief of the rates. After that statement I think I need not pursue that point. Is this change desired by the local education authorities? If it were, they can adopt the change themselves. They need not come to this Bill for the power. The whole power is vested in the hands of the local education authorities. They can do what they please. It is for them to permit or to refuse the establishment or the maintenance of these fee-paying schools. They are entirely the masters of the situation, without any further legislation. And when they give permission let me remind the Committee they give it in deference to the very strong wishes of the parents. In Manchester, for example, the fees amount to something between £4,000 and £5,000 a year; in Liverpool the amount is £12,000 a year, and in Chester, a relatively small city, more than one-fifth of the whole of the children on the books are to be found in the higher grade schools of the city, and one-third of these, although in fee-paying schools, pay no fees. That is another point which should be borne in mind. In some cases a considerable portion of the accommodation in these fee-paying schools is by agreement with the local authority reserved for the free admission of children qualified by competitive examination to enter from other schools. So strongly do the 1588 local authorities realise the attractions of these fee-paying schools that I have heard of cases in which they have asked the permission of the Board of Education to charge fees themselves, in order to meet the competition of the fee-paying schools. If I had no other claim to urge on behalf of this Amendment it would be found in the parallel provision in the Education Bill for Scotland. I observe that in the seventh Clause of this Bill, Sub-section (a) of Section 1 runs as follows:A scheme for the adequate provision throughout the education area of the authority of all forms of primary, intermediate and secondary education in day schools without payment of fees, and if the authority thinks fit for the maintenance or support.…of a limited number of schools where fees are charged in some or all of the classes.This includes, of course, secondary schools, but it is not confined to them. I suggest that you are legislating for England and Scotland on two different lines. You are proposing to prohibit these schools in five years' time in England, and you are going to permit their maintenance in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke just now suggested that those of us who are moving on this Clause are not actuated by educational motives. I frankly admit that all fee-paying schools do not stand on precisely the same footing from the educational point of view. I quite agree with my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment that much the strongest case is that of the schools of the higher grade type, in which fees of 3d. per week or more have been charged. These higher grade schools are at this moment full to overflowing. The President perfectly well knows that, and it is ample proof, therefore, of their popularity. So far as I am aware the President of the Board, in the course of these Debates, has never said a single syllable to justify the Clause which he is now putting to the Committee. I think that that reticence on the part of the right hon. Gentleman is characteristic of the tact and skill with which he is piloting this Bill through the House of Commons. But the time for reticence has now gone by, and this Clause must be justified on its merits or it must be deleted, as I hope it may be. There may be something to be said from the point of view of administrative convenience and expediency. I do not for a moment deny that, but I cannot believe that that and that alone is the motive 1589 which has inspired the production of this Clause. What is the motive? Is it educational?
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
I intend my speech to be in support of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birkenhead.
But the hon. Member is speaking about leaving out the Clause, whereas we are now on an Amendment. It is all right if we are not to have the speech twice over.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
I can assure you the Committee will not have the speech twice over, but I thought it would, possibly save time if I now said all I have to say on the point. I was asking if the motive which underlies this Clause was an educational motive. If the President of the Board of Education will get up and say that, in his deliberate opinion, the sacrifice of these fee-paying schools is called for in the interests of educational efficiency, I will at once reconsider my own position in the matter. But I do not believe that he will do that. Then, if the motive be not educational, what is it? Is it anti-denominational? Is it a covert attack on the religious compromise? I hope not. The President has been most careful and most scrupulous to avoid raising, in any shape or form, this controversy, and by so doing he has earned the respect and gratitude of everyone who shares his own pure zeal for education. But I do not think he can expect those of us who believe as I believe, that in the end we cannot divorce religion from education, to take this Clause lying down. In its intentions it may have nothing to do with an attack on religious education, but I venture to submit that whatever the intention there can be no doubt whatever as to the result. After five years from the appointed day we shall have to surrender all the non-provided schools or forego those improvements and additions which are demanded, and rightly demanded, by the progressive claims of educational efficiency, or we shall have to reimpose the intolerable strain from which we were partially relieved by the Act of 1902. If the President of the Board of Education will repudiate the suggestion of motive, will he deny the effect? If the motive is neither anti-denominational nor educational, what is it? I can only attribute 1590 is, as previous speakers have done, to a desire for what I would venture to call pedantic uniformity—either that or a sort of inverted snobbery—a compulsory mechanical equality that no one shall be permitted to pay for education. How far are you going to carry that principle? Are you going to apply it to the rich? Or are you going to confine your prohibition to the poor, to the most honourable and self-sacrificing parents among the poorer classes? If that is the intention of the Clause, I venture to say it is class legislation of the most malignant type. It is not equality but sheer tyranny, and I for one will not be a party to its passing.
§ Mr. P. A. HARRIS
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will resist the appeal of the hon. Member who has just spoken. No one recognises more than I do the hon. Member's enthusiasm and sincerity for education, but I cannot help thinking he has been living in a rather secluded atmosphere, and has got out of touch with the general desire of the population in reference to education. I think myself that this Clause is essential to carry out the purposes of this Bill, which has for its object the establishment of a national system of education, and as long, as we have these isolated survivals of the old system of special schools cut off from the general national system, so long are we prevented having a really national system of education. In London in 1904, when the Education Act, so far as it affects London, came into force, the county council had to face this problem, and there was very strong feeling, just as there is in some areas at the present time, that these schools should be retained. There was a campaign amongst certain interests for retaining them. However, the London County Council, under the guidance, I think, of the Member for Derby, took up a strong line and determined to abolish fees, and that course was taken. There was considerable discontent at the time, but I think I am entitled to say after fourteen years' experience there is now general acceptance of the principle and that those who were loudest on the insistence of the dropping of fees are now generally agreed that on the whole they have been fairly met, and that the children who attend their schools are placed on an equality with those who go to the schools provided by the county council. Therefore, I think that the fears which have been expressed 1591 are groundless, and in practice it will be found not only to be popular but to the general interests of the school which will be affected by this Clause. The President has, indeed, made a very generous provision to ensure that these schools shall be let down lightly, and I think the hon. Member for Oxford City will agree that the financial considerations are not considerable. Although the schools may now give some relief to the ratepayers in most parts of the country, at any rate the relief is infinitesimal. The hon. Member mentioned the case of Liverpool, which he suggested was deriving £12,000 from this source; but obviously in a large area like Liverpool that is not a matter of very serious consideration.
These fees really are a survival of class divisions, and the hon. Member who last spoke in fact admitted that when he cited the cases of the publicans and railway foremen and other people who claim class superiority and prefer to keep themselves apart from their fellow workers. I know there are a certain number of black-coated working men who do not like to have their children associate with the children of the so-called working classes. What we want to build up is a national system which will appeal to all classes, bring people together, and make them realise that they belong to the same nation and have the same interests. To bring that about we want most of all to avoid the ideal of class war, and the notion that the interests of the various sections of the community are opposed. The Member for the City of Oxford spoke about hardship. He said that many of the parents want their children to go to these schools, but in many towns I have reason to know that the present system causes hardship. It is necessary often for the parents to send the younger children to the nearest school. The dangers involved in crossing the roads make that essential.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
I can assure the hon. Member that wherever that happens they have the right to call for free places.
§ Mr. HARRIS
The question of distance is a very vexed one. We have the same problem in London. Even where there are schools the natural instinct of the parent is to send the child, even though it involves some cost, to the most adjacent school, so as to save the child from the 1592 danger of crossing the road. In practice it does compel parents to send children very often to a fee-paying school. The Member for Oxford City who stated that these schools were not confined to the North of England is perfectly right. They are scattered about various areas all over the country. That makes it much more objectionable. If you had one national system providing for all types of schools, on the one hand, schools of entirely free places, and, on the other hand, a certain number of schools requiring fees, that could be defended. But the very fact that this system does not work out uniformly all over the country, but depends on the accident of local elections, and whether there should happen to be such schools provided by some private benevolence or some church or institution, makes the system unsatisfactory. The working man finds that one area is provided with this sort of school, and that in the next area, 20 or 30 miles off, owing to the policy of the education authority, no such schools are allowed and fees are abolished. If you are going to have a new national system, the Board of Education must take a firm line, and insist that the same system shall apply throughout the country. It will not appeal to English Members to be told that because Scotland is reactionary in this respect, England must necessarily follow that example. I admit that in many things Scotland leads the way, but sometimes it is penny wise and pound foolish, and in reference to the retention of school fees, I am certain that its parsimony is mistaken. We need not look to Scotland in this matter. Let us rather look to the Colonies, and the Dominions beyond the seas, where they have gone in for what is, in America, called the common school, where all children go irrespective of class, with the result that you have there a true democratic feeling. You do not have that class consciousness which survives in this country, and which, if in some respects good, is certainly a harm to our education system. We want rather to apply the principle of the old grammar school, where all classes worked together, and you had the squire's son and the labourer's son getting the common benefit of the same education. I hope that the President of the Board of Education will resist not only the proposal to omit the Clause, but also this rather subtle Amendment, and keep the Clause as it stands in the Bill.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Herbert Fisher)
The Committee will have observed that this Clause is subjected to a cross-fire of criticism. On the one hand it is attacked, as going too far. On the other hand it is assailed as not going far enough. Some Members have urged that fees should be abolished in secondary schools. Others argue that they should be retained in elementary schools. The Bill follows a middle path. It retains fees in secondary schools, it abolishes fees in elementary schools, and it provides for free education in continuation schools. In other words, it takes this line: Where education is compulsory it should be given without charge to the parent, but where it is voluntary, where the parent has the option whether or not to send his child to a particular type of school, there the parent shall be at liberty to pay fees. But it is from no desire for mechanical uniformity that the Government has proposed this Clause. The consideration of the question of fees was forced upon us by two circumstances. In the first place, the Committee will have observed that in Clause 38 we are proposing the consolidation of the elementary school grant. This involves the abolition of the fee grant. The foe grant, which was established in 1891, is the instrument which enables the Board to put pressure upon a local education authority who may desire to charge exorbitant fees. It is to sanction from time to time the regulation of fees in those schools which continue to charge them, and consequently it follows that if you abolish the fee grant you are compelled to consider in what way you should deal with the fee question. It brings the fee question up as a necessary consequence. Then there is a second reason, that in the Bill we are proposing very greatly to improve higher elementary education. We are proposing to make higher elementary education and practical education in the higher elementary schools mandatory upon the authorities. In other words, we are proposing to ask the local education authority to make such provision for higher elementary education as is now generally made—not universally—in fee-paying schools, and generally regarded as a consideration in respect of which fees are charged.
§ Mr. FISHER
I am not arguing the question. Those are, at any rate, two 1594 circumstances which appear to me to necessitate the consideration of the question of fees. As has already been pointed out, this question is a comparatively small one. There are at the present moment 437 elementary schools in the country, out of over 20,000, which continue to charge fees. It seems to be assumed that they are all denominational schools or schools of a particular denomination. That is not so. There is no denominational question involved. There are ninety-five council schools, thirty-one denominational schools, forty-one Wesleyan schools, one Congregational school, one Presbyterian school, fifteen Roman Catholic schools, and some 250 Church of England schools in which fees are paid. There, again, I think that the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Bigland) was under the impression that, in raising the question of fees in this way, we were tearing up a solemn treaty contracted in 1902. I admit that if you could satisfy me on this point, I should be the last person to desire to press this Clause. But what has happened since 1902? My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford City, who is so well versed in this question, knows very well that under the settlement of 1902 it was within the discretion of the local education authorities to require the surrender at any time of this power of charging fees. In pursuance of that power a very large number of schools which charged fees in 1902 have ceased to charge fees now. For instance, in 1902, 610,000 children were being educated in schools which were charging fees exceeding 10s. a year in 1891, whereas in 1913–14 that number had sunk to 128,000. This means, as the hon. Member has pointed out, that without legislation, and simply in pursuance and in execution of the powers confided to local education authorities by the Act of 1902, fee-paying schools are constantly being converted into non-fee-paying schools. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford City seemed to assume that at the end of five years the Church of England schools—I think he was referring principally to them—which at present charge fees, would be extinguished as a result of the action of this Clause, but there is no precedent in the past and recent history of our schools for the extinction of fee-paying schools as a result of the action of the local education authority in withdrawing the power to charge fees.
1595 I really think that my hon. Friend has exaggerated, if I may say so, the results likely to flow from the passing of this Clause. I merely mention these circumstances in order to clear the air of what may be called the denominational issue. I do not raise, and I do not think anyone wishes to raise, the denominational issue in connection with this Clause. In order to be perfectly frank with the Committee, I may say that I have taken into consideration this question without parti pris, and my instruction as to the drafting of the Clause was that it was to be drafted in a way which might preserve the fee in those schools where it could be proved that the charging of fees was attended by educational advantage. Closer inspection of the whole problem, however, modified my views, and I will give to the Committee, quite frankly, what the conclusions are at which I arrived. As the Committee probably are aware, there are three classes of schools which charge fees. There are, first of all, the schools which refused the fee grant in 1891. They stood outside. They are a very small number of schools, I think there are not sixty at the present moment; it is a small number, and is very rapidly diminishing, and it seems to me quite certain, with respect to this particular class of schools, that the Bill is only anticipating by a few years their extinction. Then we have a much more numerous class of school. Those are the schools which charged fees in excess of 10s. in 1891, and they were empowered to retain those excess fees after the Act passed. The fees charged in those schools have no educational justification, and they are merely the result of historical accident. I may inform the Member for the City of Oxford that I have carefully gone into this question, and the Board have never thought it fair to urge upon the managers of those schools that they should undertake any special teaching in consequence of the excess fees charged in 1891. Therefore, in regard to the 1891 schools, if I may so call them, there is no distinct educational justification for the fees charged.
We come to the third class of schools. Under Section 4 of the Elementary Education Act of 1891, it was provided under certain conditions relating to school accommodation, or educational benefit, that a fee might be charged in such schools provided that the ordinary fee did 1596 not exceed 6d. a week. Under this Section a considerable number of schools have in the past been allowed to charge fees, and in 1912 there were seventy such schools. When I began to consider this problem I felt that educational advantage should be the ground for such fees, and that if it could be proved clearly that educational advantage resulted from such fees, then there was a case for considering their retention. Fees are charged for two different reasons. In the first place, they are charged in certain schools that have a curriculum which is supposed to be superior to the curriculum provided in the ordinary elementary schools. I do not deny that in that class of schools there are several which have done excellent educational pioneer work in the higher grades. No one can deny that admirable service has been rendered by many schools in the district which the hon. Member for Birkenhead represents. In the second place, fees may be charged—I do not in any way deny their importance—in what are called the select schools. But when I began to balance the educational argument for the retention of fees, the case seemed to me to be thin—indeed, almost diaphanous.
§ Mr. FISHER
I am dealing with what we may call the strictly educational argument for retaining fee-paying schools. The real educational difficulty lies in the fact that if you have fee-paying schools they are supposed to be, and ought to be, higher grade schools, and the higher grade schools are the schools which provide a more advanced type of education than the type of education provided generally in schools. I put it to the Committee, Is it desirable that the higher type of elementary education should be confined to the children of those parents who can afford to pay the fees?
§ Mr. FISHER
It is the opinion of the inspectors of the Board that the existence of fee-paying schools militates against the proper organisation of higher grade education in an area. In order to have higher grade education properly organised it is obvious that you want a system by which the cleverest children, irrespective of the means of their parents, may be given the advantage of that higher education. There is another difficulty. We find by experience that in these fee-paying schools education is very largely disorganised. The children attend the elementary schools until eleven or twelve years of age, and then the parents, in order to obtain some social advantage, pass the children on to the higher grade fee-paying school, with the result that we find it very difficult to organise. Further, the classification of children according to their abilities, which, after all, is a fundamental fact in school organsation, is made very much more difficult by the existence of fee-paying schools, for the reason that the children in those higher grade schools are there by virtue of the fact that their parents can afford to pay the fee, whereas in higher grade schools in a non-fee-paying area they are organised for children of a uniform level of ability, and consequently it is much more difficult to organise higher education.
Then, again, I think it is very difficult for the Board to make a demand upon the local education authority to provide higher elementary education and to continue to sanction the existence of fee-paying schools. The case for the fee-paying school was that it provided exceptional opportunities for higher education, and if it is found that those opportunities are not exceptional, then surely the special case for fee-paying schools becomes very greatly weakened? It is said that the fee-paying school should be retained as a select school. There is a good deal of force in the argument of those who say, "Why should not parents be allowed to send their children to schools where they are certain of being immune from dirt or from bad language, and where they are likely to be with children from respectable homes?" In the first place, let me observe that ever since the establishment of the school medical service in 1907 there have been enormous improvements in the cleanliness of our schools, and, in the second place, you are giving security for the children being kept in more respectable homes. I am 1598 assuming—though it is not always true—that the children from the cleaner and more respectable homes are from the homes of the better-to-do parents; but, assuming it to be true, surely, then, you are losing one of the more important levers for social improvement if you take the children of respect able parents and prevent those parents from using their influence to improve the conditions in the ordinary schools? I do feel that there is a very great deal of force in that argument, but if we were to accept the Amendment we should be carried very much further than the hon. Member who moved the Amendment imagined. If we were to accept it we should be practically saying to the managers of these fee-paying schools, who at present have no vested rights in their fees and who might have their fees taken away at any moment by the local education authorities, "We are giving you a vested right, a statutory right." That is a great advance on the Act of 1902. The Mover of the Amendment accused me of having torn up the Act of 1902, but he surely is tearing it up on his side. The truth is that the abolition of the fee grant and the consolidation of our elementary finance does necessitate a review of this question, and I believe that any impartial mind, without a desire to advance either this interest or that interest, but solely actuated by a zeal for the progress of education, surveying the facts with the information which can be supplied by the officers of the Board of Education, would come to the conclusion to which I have come. As I have said to the Committee, I started without parti pris, but I have come to the conclusion which I have indicated as the right course to pursue, and I hope I shall carry the consent of the Committee.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I cordially accept what was put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Runciman) in deprecating the introduction of the denominational religious element in the discussion of this matter at all. I regret it was brought in, and I think the matter should be settled without the intrusion of any such question. I may also say that I most fully agree that the case put forward by the managers of non-provided schools is neither a very forcible nor a very important one. The financial question is a very small question in dealing with this discussion, and I have no 1599 wish to appear as the champion of certain non-provided schools which by some circumstance in the past have retained fees or a portion of fees. I do desire to look at it solely from the point of view of education and of the advantage of the children attending the schools. I have followed the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education just now, adduced with his usual ability and forcefulness, but they have failed to persuade me, although my past experience enabled me to see how his mind was working in each step of his argument. He spoke of three classes of fee-paying schools—first, those who refused the fee grant in 1891; secondly, those who continued to charge an excess fee over the 10s. a year; and, thirdly, and they were the important class, the new fee-paying schools which were established because they were felt to be educationally useful. If they were not felt to be educationally useful, how could the Department over which the right hon. Gentleman presides permit them to be established? I think he will find if he looks into the matter that even since 1912 they have increased in number, and that does not look as if they were a useless or an unsuitable class of schools. It is these schools, and much more the social adaptation that they represent, to which I, from the educational point of view, attach importance. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the danger that these schools might represent in having educational advantage over schools in which no fees are charged. If the Board of Education has permitted or sanctioned fee-paying schools on the ground that they favour education of a higher type than that which was open to schools where no fees were charged, I say that they acted wrongly in condoning the action of the local education authority. There ought to be, and there is, in fact, in my own country, no educational advantage attached to the payment of fees. The fee-paying schools ought to be just as good as the others. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) was good enough to speak of my country and its reactionary tendencies as something which should be avoided as dangerous to England. I am not afraid of the reactionary tendencies of my country with regard to education, for more than once the Southern Saxon has taken some good examples from Scotland in the matter of education. We are 1600 not an anti-democratic country, and we are not likely to have to go to the hon. Member for Leicester to be taught the true doctrines of democracy. In the Scottish Education Bill, brought forward by the same Government—and surely the Government must be guided by certain broad general principles—these fee-paying schools are not only allowed but are expressly pointed out as one of the duties that may devolve upon the educational authority. They are to give maintenance and support "to a limited number of schools where fees are charged in some or all the classes."
§ Sir H. CRAIK
Certainly. They are established by the local authorities themselves. I remember in 1889, when I had charge of the measure by which free education was set up in Scotland—it was one of those lessons which we have given to the South, and it anticipated the legislation in England—there was then a small band of people, extremely fond of abstract opinions and allowing no deviation from them, who insisted that when we established in 1889 the right of every child to free education we should at the same time abolish the right of paying fees where the parents chose to pay them. There was a considerable fight over it. My own opinion was perfectly clear, knowing Scotland as I did, that it met a need and a desire of the country. We held out against the disciples of an abstract opinion, and we permitted certain fee-paying schools. After two or three years the cry for the universal abolition of fees absolutely died out, and I am perfectly certain now that if you canvassed Scotland all over you would find no such desire as has been expressed by Members of the type of the hon. Member for Leicester. Democratic as Scotland is, she knows there are phases—I am not going to call them genteel or social or select, or anything of that sort—but there are phases and differences between the various grades in the same class of society, and if you wish your schools to correspond to these and to be really national, you must make your system agree with these phases and gradations.
I remember in the year 1889 there was a very prominent leader of the Labour party in Glasgow who was a very remarkable man, and one of the pioneers of the 1601 Labour party. I remember him coming to me and saying, "You must keep up these fee-paying schools. Remember that we working men have just as clear divisions between the lower and the upper grades of our class as there is between the highest aristocracy and the lowest in the country. If you are going to make your schools suited to the population of Glasgow, you must have a few schools to which we parents who are ready to to make a small sacrifice in order to pay fees to keep our children amongst the class to which we belong can send them." This whole question of social education, of genteel education, and of selection, is really a desire to make your education suit the phases of the life of the country as it really is. What would be the result of abolishing fee-paying schools in extending your national system? Do you think you are going to force people at the point of the bayonet into these free schools whether they will or not? The hon. Member for Leicester spoke of the decision of the London County Council to abolish fees in all their schools, but what was the result? It was that an immense deal of the elementary education and of higher grade schools in London are outside the scope of the London County Council altogether, and are in the hands of endowed managers or other independent bodies which can charge fees. We have not got that in Scotland, and we do not want it. We wish to limit this independence of managers. We know quite well that if we drive out the type of schools presented by the fee-paying schools we shall only drive the children into other schools and segregate them much more from those who come under the general public system. It is far better to have a public system with two or three different grades of schools, all of which are wide and comprehensive in their scope, than to say, "We will have only in our public system one narrow, strict, absolutely defined type of school in which we absolutely prohibit the paying of fees, and if people cannot stand that they can go elsewhere." Is there not more danger of the segregation of classes by such a system than by allowing your national system to adapt itself to the various phases of society, and if there are a small number of people who are prepared to make a small sacrifice for what they, rightly or wrongly, at all events in the exercise of their parental discretion, 1602 consider to be an advantage, why do you prevent them from doing it? It is, therefore, not on denominational grounds, not on social grounds, not on financial grounds least of all—because I think the financial ground is a very small one—but it is on purely educational grounds that I am obliged to differ from the President of the Board of Education, and that, pursuing, as he does, a strictly educational argument, I am led to the opposite conclusion which he has expressed, and must vote accordingly.
§ Mr. T. RICHARDSON
I am glad to learn that the President of the Board of Education is not prepared to accept the Amendment, and I venture to express the hope that the Committee will accept the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman to view and discuss this question purely and exclusively from the standpoint of education. I listened to the address of the Mover of the Amendment, and also to the speech that was delivered in support by the hon. Member for Oxford City, and I respectfully suggest that, in the course of those two speeches, not a single argument was submitted to the Committee on educational grounds. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities (Sir H. Craik) did say in his closing words that he approached this question from the standpoint of education, but I think that the arguments he used in the course of his speech were not educational, but that he at considerable pains laboured the suggestion as to the social conditions of fee-paying schools. The hon. Member took us back to the year 1889, and he referred to some gentleman whom he claimed as the leader of the Labour party in Scotland.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
Or in Glasgow, and he told the Committee that his friend urged upon him the importance of keeping in mind that there were sections of the working classes who, because of social reasons, were anxious that their children should have the opportunity of attending a school that in the social sense would be just a little bit above the average of the rank and file of the children of the working classes. There are two comments I want to make upon that observation, and the first is to remind the right hon. Gentleman that, not only in Scotland, but in Britain as a whole, we have travelled quite a long way since the year 1889, and 1603 there are other Members in this House who will bear me out when I say that there does come a mandate from the organised workers in Scotland demanding from this House the right of a complete and an efficient system of free education. I venture to suggest to the right hon. Member—and I feel quite certain the President of the Board of Education has a knowledge of the fact—that, so far as Labour has expressed any opinion on this issue before the Committee this afternoon, it has spoken with absolute unanimity as to the desirability and the urgency of the abolition of that social dis-diction which, I think, has militated very much against education. If I may, I would just ask to be allowed to supplement one of the arguments of the President of the Board of Education, when he pointed out that, since the passing of the 1902 Education Act, by a natural process, the number of non-provided schools has diminished at, I think, a ratio of something like four-fifths or five-sixths, and that that process is still going on. I think I should be right in saying that but for this world War the number would be even much less than what they are to-day. Has that affected the standard of education in the districts or counties where that process of elimination of fee-paying schools has been going on? I think I am right in saying that in my native county of Durham that process has teen as pronounced as, or more pronounced than, in any county of England, and I would challenge the defenders of this fee-paying system, not only on social but on educational grounds, to question or dispute my statement when I say, speaking generally in Durham county, it is an admitted fact, even by those who are most jealous and sometimes hostile to the abolition of fee-paying schools, that the standard of education has been substantially raised as a result of that process of elimination that has gone on in Durham county, and did go on for seven, eight, or nine years after the passing of the 1902 Act.
There is one other fact that I think the Committee would be well to keep in mind in this connection, and that is that the physical conditions, the structural arrangements, in the provided as against the non-provided schools—not only elementary but higher elementary—is very much higher. I want to resent the suggestion that there is any volume of opinion amongst the working classes of 1604 this country for the continuation of the system of fee-paying schools. I would refer to one other point made by the President of the Board of Education which is very relevant, when he pointed out that the fee-paying schools in certain restricted areas were a real hindrance. I speak with some knowledge of this question, as I had the honour to be a member of the Durham Education Committee for some years, and occupied the position of vice-chairman of that important education committee for three or four years, and we had repeated instances in certain specific districts where, because of the existence of a fee-paying school of the higher elementary or secondary type, our desire to institute a provided, publicly-owned and controlled system of free education was very substantially hindered, and I have no doubt in my own mind that the policy which is expressed in the Bill is the wise policy, is essential to an efficient national system of education, and I sincerely hope that the Committee will strongly resist the Amendment that is now being considered.
§ Mr. WILSON-FOX
No one who has listened to the Debate this afternoon can help realising that the matter brought forward in this Amendment does give rise to very sharp differences of opinion, and no speech to which we have listened this afternoon has been more emphatic than that just delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. T. Richardson). But what occurred to me while listening to him was that if this strong feeling he began by asserting, on behalf of the working classes of Scotland, and subsequently for the wage earners of this country, does exist, and with the strength he asserts, then these schools, if they are allowed to continue, will die out of themselves, because if pupils do not go to them because parents are not willing to pay the fees, there will very shortly be none of these schools in existence.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
I was very careful to point out that in my own county I knew more particularly that process had been going on, but I would observe that this Bill wants to give statutory right and power to the principles of fee-paying schools.
§ Mr. WILSON-FOX
As I understand—and it is the ground on which I support this Amendment—this Bill is trying to interfere with facilities which at present exist, and it seems to me the onus is upon 1605 those who ask that facilities which do exist, and are serving useful purposes, should be removed. It has to be shown that there is some reason why those facilities should be taken away. The general assertion of the desire that they should be taken away may be one reason, but, if that desire does exist, presumably they will be taken away automatically, and, therefore, there is no good purpose in debating the subject with a certain amount of heat in this House. But the real point is that unless something is done, these facilities will continue to exist, and people will take advantage of them, and it is there I join issue with some members of the Committee, because I feel—and it is the ground on which I have opposed other Clauses in the Bill—that this is an attempt—an unjustifiable attempt in my opinion—to interfere with the liberty of parents in deciding what advantages their children shall enjoy if they are prepared to make sacrifices to give them those advantages. That, to my mind, is the plain issue.
I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities that the financial question is not an important one. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education tells us that when he considered this question, the first matter to which he paid attention was the financial question. He had a financial scheme, and because he could not fit, or found a difficulty in fitting, the continued existence of those schools into his financial scheme—well, it was not the financial scheme that had to be altered; it was the schools that had to go. I should have thought that if the choice had to be taken, the first thing was to see whether a financial scheme, which, after all, is only machinery, could not be modified to fit the circumstances. We could not take a financial scheme and build education upon it. It seems to me to be reversing the order. Therefore, I attach far less importance to that aspect of the speech of the President of the Board of Education than to those portions of it which related to education pure and simple, and I am glad to find that there has been, certainly this afternoon, and on other occasions, a consensus of desire on the part of this House to avoid all introduction of the religious question. With that I am entirely in agreement. I think that the arguments addressed to the House by the President of the Board were to some extent inconsistent. He 1606 admitted that at the present time the education given in these schools is, perhaps, of a somewhat superior type to the education which can be found in the ordinary non-fee-paying schools.
§ Mr. FISHER
No; I did not admit that. The hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. I said that in a very limited number of schools, about seventy, it might be possible to say that the education was superior.
§ Mr. WILSON-FOX
For the purposes of my argument it is sufficient that there is a substantial number. It is admitted that in a number of these schools the education is superior, and the right hon. Gentleman went on to express a very laudable desire to bring up the standard education in all these higher elementary schools to the standard of the best of these fee-paying schools. That is a very laudable desire, but I think it would be bound to have the effect that the standard of the fee-paying schools, if continued, would certainly be raised again. I do not know why anyone should object to the standard being continually raised, and if the standard of the less expensive school is to be spurred ahead by reason of the fact that a good standard exists for other schools so much the better. It is this constant desire to level everything, to go by rule of thumb, to cut to the same pattern, that I think is likely to exercise a most devastating influence on the future life of this country. We have attained such success as we enjoy by the development of initiative on a number of different lines, and the idea that everything is to be of the same character is not my idea of what it is we ought to try and establish in this country. I do not pay much attention to the social aspect of this question. I do not think we need inquire why parents wish their children to go to a particular school. If they do wish them to go to a particular school, and the educational standards of that school are sufficient to ensure that they will receive a proper education, I do not think we need inquire further in any class of the community. I hold that the parents should in these circumstances be entitled to give the advantages they desire to their children, and that if they are prepared to make the sacrifices which that course of conduct entails, it is a very praiseworthy attitude on their part, and one which, in the interests of the community, should be 1607 very much encouraged and certainly not discouraged. There was one argument of the President which I think was unworthy of him. He has told us already that the number of the fee-paying schools is, I think, 430, and that the number of the non-fee-paying schools is 10,000.
§ Mr. WILSON-FOX
Twenty-one thousand. These schools do certainly represent a very small proportion of the whole. Surely he need not attach so much importance to the ewe lambs that go to these schools that he must have them in his own flocks, that with the object of getting everybody into the same fold and on the same level as the 21,000 he must lay violent hands on the pupils of the 430 and bring them all in! If he cannot give education in manners, refinement, and so
§ on in the schools in which he has a free hand to organise, he is not likely to get it by dragging into them, against the wishes of their parents, this comparatively small number of children who are scattered throughout the country. That is not an argument to which we should be asked to pay much attention, or to gain that problematical advantage by riding rough-shod over the liberties of these self-sacrificing parents. In these circumstances, if the Amendment is pressed, I shall feel bound to vote in favour of it. I shall do so as a protest against this continuous interference by the Board of Education with the legitimate rights of the parents of the children.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 51; Noes, 157.1609
|Division No. 58.]||AYES.||[5.21 p.m.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick||Fletcher, John S.||Newman, Sir Robert (Exeter)|
|Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, South)||Foster, Philip Staveley||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Ganzoni, Francis J. C.||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.)||Gardner, Ernest||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peal|
|Beach, William F. H.||Gretton, John||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervass||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence (Ashford)||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Darwen)|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Harmood-Banner, Sir J. S.||Watson, Hon. W. (Lanark, S.)|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Cator, John||Hope, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Midlothian)||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col, Hon. Claud|
|Cautley, Horary Strother||Hunter, Maj. Sir Chas. Rodk.||Wilson-Fox, Henry (Tamworth)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Wood, Sir John (Stalybridge)|
|Cheyne, Sir William W.||Joynson-Hicks, William||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Larmor, Sir Joseph||Younger, Sir George|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)|
|Denniss, Edmund R. Bartley||Magnus, Sir Philip||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Du Pre, Maj. W. B.||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Bigland and Mr. Marriott.|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Mount, William Arthur|
|Agnew, Sir George||Davies, Timothy (Louth)||Helme, Sir Norval Watson|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Henry, Sir Charles (Shropshire)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Dawes, James Arthur||Hibbert, Sir Henry|
|Baker, Rt. Hon. H. T. (Accrington)||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Higham, John Sharp|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick, B.)||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir James B.||Hinds, John|
|Barran, Sir Rowland H. (Leeds, N.)||Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Otley)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Edge, Capt. William||Holmes, D. T.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Edwards, J. H. (Glam., Mid)||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry||Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Hope, Harry (Bute)|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Bird, Alfred||Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Hudson, Walter|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.|
|Bryce, John Annan||Glanville, Harold James||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford||John, Edward Thomas|
|Chancellor. Henry George||Goldstone, Frank||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Alfred||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Clough, William||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Rushcliffe)|
|Collins, Sir Stephan (Lambeth)||Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)||Jones, Wm. Kennedy (Hornsey)|
|Collins, Sir William (Derby)||Greig, Colonel James William||Jowett, Frederick William|
|Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Kenyon, Barnet|
|Cowan, Sir William Henry||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord C. J.||King, Joseph|
|Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, E.)||Hancock, John George||Knight, Capt. Eric Ayshford|
|Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||Hanson, Charles Augustin||Lambert, Richard (Cricklade)|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirk'dy)||Harris, Sir H. P. (Paddington, S.)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert|
|Davies, Ellis William (Elffon)||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, South)||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Lonsdale, James R.||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, W.)|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Pringle, William M. R.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|M'Kean, John||Pryce-Jones, Col. Sir E.||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Macleod, John M.||Rea, Walter Russell||Thomas, Sir G. (Monmouth, S.)|
|Macmaster, Donald||Rendall, Athelstan||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|McMicking, Major Gilbert||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Tickler, Thomas George|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham)||Tootill, Robert|
|Mason, Robert||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Morgan, George Hay||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Morison, Thomas B. (Inverness)||Robinson, Sidney||Walsh, Stephen (Lancashire, Ince)|
|Nicholson, Sir Chas. N. (Doncaster)||Roch, Walter F.||Wardle, George J.|
|Norman, Rt. Hon. Major Sir H.||Rowlands, James||Watt, Henry A.|
|Nuttall, Harry||Rowntree, Arnold||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Ogden, Fred||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (D'sbury)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry (N' wood)||Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea)|
|Outhwalte, R. L.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Parker, James (Halifax)||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Partington, Hon. Oswald||Sherwell, Arthur James||Winfrey, Sir R.|
|Pearce, Sir Robert (Leek)||Smith, Albert (Clitheroe)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Pease, Rt. Hon. H. P. (Darlington)||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Liverpool)||Worthington-Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Peel, Major Hon. G. (Spalding)||Spear, Sir John Ward||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Pratt, John W.||Stanton, Charles Butt||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Lord|
|Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Stoker, R. B.||Edmund Talbot and Capt. Guest.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (2).
We have had a very interesting discussion for just two hours now upon a reactionary proposal, which I am pleased to say was adequately defeated. I now ask the indulgence of the Committee for only two minutes while I put forward a progressive one, a practical, progressive, simple, and, I believe, thoroughly reasonable, proposal—namely, that we should strike out altogether Sub-section (2), which imposes a heavy charge upon the Exchequer, amounting to more than £300,000. The President of the Board of Education will save me the trouble of making a speech if he will intimate at once that he will accept my Amendment. He will not only save the time of the Committee, but he will save the taxpayers of this country more than £300,000. I know in these days, when we are spending with a light heart and a gay confidence £7,750,000 a day, an economy of £300,000 on education does not seem much to offer. But I think it is worth getting. Not only will he save this money if he adopts the course I suggest, but he will save an amount of administration, of statistics, and of calculations, because everybody who looks at this second Sub-section will see that after five years from the appointed day—it may be ten years or fewer, or even more years ahead—we have got to pay what is proposed. If you adopt my proposal, and leave out the whole of this Sub-section, you do away with the whole of these calculations, statistics, and all the administration connected therewith, and in addition to the saving of money I am sure it will be a saving to the offices concerned in paper and ink, and all the rest of it, of 1610 at least £20,000. That is, perhaps, a very little consideration in these days, but it is a consideration to me, and, I believe, to many others. My proposal is that these people who have been drawing large amounts of money from the school fees without any adequate educational return shall not be compensated.
§ Mr. FISHER
I am unable to accept the Amendment proposed by the hon Gentleman the Member for North Somerset. Although it is perfectly true what he has said, yet it must not be forgotten that those concerned have been receiving a proportion of revenue with the consent of the local education authorities, and in accordance with the settlement reached in 1902. Therefore, it does not seem fair that the Board of Education should step in, and, while abolishing these schools, and depriving them of a source of income which they have enjoyed for a considerable number of years, should not offer some compensation. Time, too, should be allowed in order that they may adapt themselves to the altered conditions, and to make good their deficiency in revenue. For that reason I think it is only fair that some Clause providing for compensation should be retained.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
The proposal of the hon. Member for North Somerset is one which, in my opinion, will be nothing short of robbery. I do not think the hon. Member realises that the public who subscribed money for this land and these buildings gave them to the nation on certain conditions, including the condition that they should have the use of the buildings during certain hours of the week, and that they were to be allowed to continue 1611 this right of charging fees. I say it would be national dishonesty if the Amendment were passed. I feel this matter very strongly. Men that I know personally have subscribed thousands and thousands of pounds, voluntarily to buy land on which to erect these buildings and to put up schools. There was a national settlement in 1902. I remember in that year the fierce controversy that arose as to whether these people would withdraw their buildings from public use altogether and devote them to other purposes. I can assure the hon. Member for North Somerset that in my town of Birkenhead we had then accommodation for 11,000 children in this kind of school. If these had been withdrawn it would have cost the Crown an enormous sum of money to buy other sites on which to erect other schools in place of these to which I refer. An enormous national asset came to the nation by agreement in 1902, and it would be nothing more than confiscation if this House now set it down that no compensation should be given and that this Clause should be wiped out of the Bill.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I should not like the appeal of the hon. Member who has just spoken to pass unobserved through the House. We may support the Government in their wrong-doing, because, I gather, this is not one of the principal features of the Bill, but it is a very different thing to say that we are convinced by the arguments. The hon. Member who has just sat down has charged the hon. Member for North Somerset with robbery. That hon. Gentleman does not propose to rob the public till.
§ Mr. BOOTH
Yes; robbery of the till from which the money is coming, which is the public purse. It is quite clear that this means grants of public money. The hon. Member for North Somerset does not propose that any friends of his should put their hands into the public purse. It is the hon. Member for Birkenhead that wants that. He wants money from the public Exchequer. Therefore, if there is any robbery in this, it is to devote public money to vested interests. If there were any Radical economy party left in this House, such as was here in our young days, this would have been fought to the death. 1612 There is no doubt about that! It is against all the principles that were adopted, not only by the Radical party, but even by some of the Conservatives a generation ago. You are actually going to take public money at a time like this when it is so badly needed for the War—and for afterwards, too! You are going in a time of scarcity to demand public funds to give to these people.
Take the matter of confiscation—confiscation of what? You cannot confiscate unless you confiscate property. These people have certain buildings. Who is going to take them or to sell them? We all know how these properties came into existence. The argument used in the constituency of the hon. Member for Birkenhead, and in our constituencies, too, was: put up one of these schools and so save the school board rate. The thing was done as a matter of business. I could give instances of township after township where words of this nature were addressed to owners of property, who were induced to attend meetings, and the appeal to property owners was, if they came forward and subscribed voluntarily, and put up one of these schools, they would avoid the council school system of national education "prepared to be thrust," as it was said, "on an unwilling district." At these meetings calculations were put before those present as to what they would have to pay under a rate; and limited firms, who did not care anything about denominational education—who cared for nothing but dividends—had calculations made by their secretaries for their boards of directors as to the amount of money they would pay under a rate, and whether or not it would be better and a saving to give a subscription to the proposed schools. One, therefore, accepts arguments in this matter with a good deal of hesitation. I am not for the moment speaking on the main question, but on the extraordinary reasons given to the House by the Government for their action in this matter. I understand the Minister for Education has made what he considers a promise in order to get over the difficulty. I wish he had found some other way. I do not think he can justify compensation in this case out of public funds. I should have, thought it was a case for private subscription. A good many would be prepared to contribute. At any rate, if there are many people, as suggested in the speeches on the last proposed Amendment, or if there 1613 is anything in the case presented for it. There are not only rich people who have avoided the rates all these years by keeping education back, but there is the better class of poor people who are dying to pay so much per week school fees. If the Government think that the way they suggest is the best way out of the difficulty, I suppose we shall have to agree, but I could have wished some other means had been found, for this may easily lead to other and greater dangers.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I do not think the last speech should be allowed to pass unnoticed. The hon. Member for Pontefract has attacked my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Bigland). Does the hon. Member realise what he says? What are the facts? Take a school put up—rightly or wrongly—in 1902.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
Take any time or date you like. I will not press that point. A school is put up. I do not for the moment bother about the motives. The sanction of the Government is obtained under terms that if the school provides an education which satisfies the Government they will allow fees or pence to be taken from the children. That is a business transaction. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down would be one of the first to appreciate the importation of a business transaction. Now the suggestion is to break that agreement, and so injuriously affect the people who put up this school. What is the answer to that? It is suggested that there are those who will be eager to subscribe, working-class people as well as others. For what? The school will no longer be able to carry on on the basis of a fee-paying school. What is to become of the school? It has either to go on or to be taken entirely over by the local education authority, or else be shut up. In those circumstances some sort of compensation should be granted. The hon. Member opposite says there is nothing wrong in breaking a contract for compensation.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
It is perfectly obvious that the contract was made with the Government sanction, and it provided that if those concerned make provision for certain education they would be allowed to charge fees. That is in existence 1614 under Statute. Of course, it is open now to the Government under this Bill, if they like, to seize these schools on terms by an extraordinary compensation Clause to which we will come later. I do not think it will be adequate compensation to the owner of the bricks and the mortar. But the hon. Gentleman opposite, I think, should consider those who are anxious to support these schools, and so long as they give the kind of education which has been arranged that they should receive what they have been promised by the Government. Of course, I am not going to apply the term "robber" to the hon. Member for North Somerset, and I will not use any word of that kind.
§ Mr. KING
I propose to say a few words to the Committee upon this Amendment. The last Amendment took two hours, and was of a most reactionary character, and this has only taken ten minutes, and it is of a most progressive character. The claim I put forward that my Amendment is going to save a great deal of public money has not been denied. The hon. Member for Birkenhead says that by this proposal I shall be robbing him and his friends. I think this is about the first time that private interests, including those of the hon. Member opposite, have been put forward in the form of a claim that they should receive such generous and free gifts from the public purse. I wish to call attention to the facts as they obtain in the constituency represented by the hon. Member for Birkenhead. In Birkenhead you have the voluntary schools charging fees, and they are in such a condition of entrenched privilege as you do not find in any other constituency.
Hon. Members will recollect a series of questions which I put shortly before we went to war, and they will remember that I very much upset the people of Birkenhead, because I drew from the Board of Education the fact that these schools, which were receiving large sums in fees from the children, had been condemned as insanitary and inefficient and without playgrounds for years past, although these voluntary school managers had been receiving £1,000 a year from the school pence out of £2,190, the other larger part going to the local education authority. These schools, although they were getting £1,000 a year and more for something like twenty years, were still condemned as insanitary. In the first days of the War these schools had to be 1615 commandeered in Birkenhead, and when the military authorities went into these fee-paying schools, which the hon. Member for Birkenhead stands up here and represents as wonderfully superior schools, they said we would sooner put our soldiers into a pigsty." When the hon. Member for Birkenhead gets up here and wastes the time of the Committee, pleading that he ought to be compensated and that his constituency and his friends should be compensated, and I stand up for the integrity of public life and protecting the public purse from such unjust rates, I leave the Committee to judge where the justice is. I am not sorry that I intervened, and although I stand alone, I shall stand for the purity of public life, and I protest against these constant raids on the public purse.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, in Subsection (2), to leave out the word "five" ["During a period of five years from the appointed day"], and to insert instead thereof the word "three."
I move this Amendment in order to get a pledge from the President of the Board of Education, and if the right hon. Gentleman would say that he is going to stand fast by the free education Clause, I will not move any more Amendments on this Clause. If he is not willing to give me that pledge, then we shall have to have some more discussion.
§ Mr. FISHER
I cannot accept this Amendment, and I believe what we have done represents a very fair arrangement.
§ Mr. KING
The attitude taken up by the President has given rise to a good deal of friction. He has allowed a reactionary Debate, and we want to know whether he is going to keep these things in the Bill as they are. I ask him if he is going to keep this Clause in at all costs. As a democrat I consider that this is one of the best Clauses in the Bill. I know there is going to be great force brought against it, and unless he is going to give us a pledge to keep this Clause in, I shall have to move my Amendments.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I wish to enter a protest against the form of Parliamentary threat adopted by the hon. Member for North Somerset. We can only decide a particular thing, and is it fair to ask the Government to pledge themselves that, whatever happens on the Report stage, they will not listen to the arguments? Further, if in another place an alteration is made, are we to expect the Government to pledge themselves not to entertain such alteration, and to keep in a particular Clause? The hon. Member for North Somerset says that he stands alone in speaking for the purity and integrity of the House of Commons. I am sure that he is as anxious as I am that the Debate here should be real and genuine, and, therefore, it is unfair to suggest that the Government should give a pledge of this kind, in spite of what may happen on the Report stage in another place.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I always thought that the supporters of democracy believed in the people having a full opportunity of discussing things. Now we have just had an object lesson in what the hon. Member for North Somerset desires. What ha wants is that this particular view should be taken, and unless his view is taken he threatens the Government with more discussion. That is not my definition of freedom or liberty of speech in this House.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. EVELYN CECIL
I think a protest must be made against this proposal being added to the Bill. I listened to the Debate with great attention. At first I approached the question with an unprejudiced mind, but the more I have heard the more I am obliged to part company with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education. I have strong views that this is a retrograde step. The hon. Member for North Somerset seems to think that he alone represents the views of a large majority of the public. I do not view this as a matter raising largely he denominational question, and I do not speak from that point of view. I did not anticipate that that subject would be raised, but I have other objections which I should like to state to the House.
In the first instance, I do feel strongly that where parents who have clean and tidy homes and respectable children find 1617 themselves forced to send those children among dirty children—and such cases have occurred and are likely to occur—I say that in such cases the parents ought to be allowed to remove their children and send them to a fee-paying school if they desire. That is not asking for very much. We all agitate for improvements in the conditions of public health, and some Members ask for a Ministry of Public Health. We desire to make the habits of the population more cleanly, and are we going to object to the parents who desire to remove their children from dirty to more healthy sorroundings? Although this Clause does not affect more than 437 schools, if the number is so small as that, why not leave those schools alone and allow the parents this privilege? There might be a school the children in which are notoriously addicted to bad language. I can fancy myself in the position of desiring to take away a child if I thought it was attending a school where the children were constantly using bad language. I do net see why I should not be allowed to remove my child to a fee-paying school, and, if there was such a school in the district, why should I not be allowed to make use of it? These are strong reasons for maintaining the opposite course to what my right hon. Friend has adopted.
We hear a good deal about public economy. I have long taken an interest in national economy in this House, and I do think in small matters as in great we ought not to lose sight of that aspect of the question. In the educational world I was five years a member of the London School Board, and I know that some people are inclined to run away with the idea that other people are fanatics, and one has to be a little careful in one's keenness for education. In a matter of this kind, surely it is somewhat gratuitous to abolish all fees at the expense of the national taxpayer. Some parents not only can afford to pay the fees, but they are desirous of doing so. After all, local authorities can do as they like in the matter already. They are popularly elected bodies. Why should we contest their authority? Why should we contest their action in any particular district with which they are familiar? If they have found, or if they should find, it desirable to maintain certain fee-paying schools, the presumption is that there is a popular demand for those schools, and I 1618 do not see why they should not be granted. I am not condemning the whole system of free education. I want to make it perfectly plain that I am supporting this Bill as a whole keenly because I desire to improve education for all classes alike and not for one section only, but in every locality there are plenty of free schools, so that the continuance of a certain number of fee-paying schools is really a hardship upon no one, and the money paid by willing parents is some relief to the public purse. Why should not that be done? It is going to be done under the Scottish Education Bill, and, as has been so eloquently and forcibly pointed out, I do not see why the whole of Great Britain should not take the same line in this matter. I have always welcomed the elasticity in our educational system. I think that is one of the reasons why in so many admirable respects and in so many directions it has succeeded so well, and why you should abolish so many of the fee-paying schools and destroy that elasticity is to me a matter which I cannot altogether understand. I believe those fee-paying schools have set a high level for education. They have enabled children to go to cleanly and healthy surroundings to which, perhaps, otherwise it would not have been possible for their parents to send them. Parents have been able to withdraw their children from a school, perhaps in a certain very restricted locality, where bad language and bad habits go on, and to put them into a better school, and consequently give them a better education, to the benefit of the nation at large. I cannot refrain from making this protest at this stage against the passing of this Clause, and I feel that I have done my duty in putting it forward. After the recent Division I do not, propose again to divide the House.
§ Mr. KING
I wish to make my position clear. It does not seem to me either unreasonable or difficult to understand it. I want to see free education carried through as it was really intended to be carried through when the Free Education Bill was brought in by Mr. Chamberlain and the Conservatives in 1891. The few exceptions which were then made were supposed to be temporary, and were only put into the Bill as an afterthought in response to strong denominational interests at the time. That is the pure fact of the matter. They have existed now for thirty years. In some cases those fee have been actually increased. We are 1619 now going to abolish them. If there were a Labour party in every local education area where they exist, they would be abolished without any compensation before this Bill came into operation. By the time that this, Bill comes into force there may have been new municipal elections throughout the country, and there may have been a wave of democratic and Liberal policy. We may find that in every area these schools have already been abolished by a single resolution of the local education authority. I should like to see that, and I think it may likely occur in a great many cases. Will the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, tell us that this is an essential part of the Bill? There are some essential parts of the Bill, and this is and ought to be considered one of them. If other parts have to be thrown overboard or have to be negotiated away, this Clause ought not to be. I would like to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that in 1916 we passed the Elementary Education (Fee Grant) Act. We have therefore interfered by legislation during the War with the basis on which these fees are granted, and we are not now dealing with an old settled matter which has never been touched for many years. We have altered the basis in one particular matter. I remember speaking at the time. I believe I was the only Member of the House outside the Treasury Bench who spoke on the Bill, and I pointed out in July, 1916, that this old settlement about fees in schools had broken down during the course of the War owing to the changed conditions. That being so, it is absurd to talk about unsettling an old policy. It was broken and unsettled two years ago without any protest from anyone. I therefore earnestly hope that the Committee will not only pass this Clause, but that on any future occasion when discussions come up they will regard it as an essential part of the Bill that is not to be weakened and that must stand.
§ Colonel GREIG
A wrong impression has been given to the Committee about the Scottish Education Bill. I am not going to follow my hon. Friend in his arguments about the preservation of these schools, because I think they were wholly destroyed by the admirable argument of the President of the Board of Education that it is far better that there should be the pressure of the parents of children whose homes are clean and tidy to bring 1620 the whole of the schools up to the best standard. We have always had our separate conditions of education in Scotland, but in explaining how the schools in which fees are paid are dealt with under Clause 7 of the Scottish Bill the hon. Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities (Sir H. Craik) was not quite fair. If the Committee will follow that Clause they will see what it does, and that it is quite different from the impression created by the hon. Member:It shall be the duty of every local education authority within twelve months after the appointed day to prepare and submit for the approval of the Department—That is, the Scottish Education Department. This, as far as I have read it, lays it down as a primary and overriding obligation upon the local authority to prepare and submita scheme for the adequate provision throughout the education area of the authority of all forms of primary, intermediate, and secondary education in day schools without the payment of fees—
§ Colonel GREIG
Not in this form. I am going on to give the rest of the Clause, and I am going to be perfectly frank. It is made a primary, overriding, and statutory obligation upon every education authority in Scotland to provide an absolutely free system from top to bottom. That is supported by another Clause in the Bill which even gives the education authority power to pay for the maintenance and subsistence of pupils attending the secondary schools—and if the authority—this is the only point that can be made—Think fit for the maintenance or support (in addition and without prejudice to such adequate provision as aforesaid) of a limited number of schools where fees are paid charged in some or all of the classes.If I may take the legal view of it, it is a primary obligation to provide a free system from top to bottom. There happen to be some schools in Scotland where fees are paid, and if the local education authority, after having fully discharged their statutory duty, think that it is advisable to maintain fees in certain schools, well and good they can do it. It is left entirely to the local authority, but if the local authority refuses or declines to fulfil their major obligation, not a penny can go to the fee schools at all. That is the position 1621 under the Bill. I am aware that the Bill has still to go through the Committee upstairs, but I do not suppose that anyone will attack it upon that point. We are not behind England in education ideas; as a matter of fact, we are giving England a lead, and it is not fair to us in Scotland to cite a Bill of this sort, which does impose this major and overriding obligation, as if it were a reactionary measure.
§ Mr. CECIL
May I say, in answer to my hon. and gallant Friend, that I have never heard any speech in more complete justification of the attitude taken up by myself and my Friends? We ask that there should be a complete and general system of free education, and that the local education authority, where it thinks proper, should have a limited number of schools where fees are paid in answer to the popular demand. That is exactly what is provided in the Scottish Bill, that is what the hon. Member has been defending, and that is what we ask.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I thank the hon. and gallant Member for explaining that point with regard to the Scottish Bill. I was certainly under a total misapprehension, and he has shown that the Committee have a right to complain that the English and Scottish Bills are entirely different on this point. I am not prepared to say that this is an advance on the Scottish Bill, but the Government for their own convenience have brought the English Bill down here and have sent the Scottish Bill upstairs. We ought to have before us both these Bills, which on many of the main points are rather contradictory. They are contradictory on this particular Clause, but whether the Amendment which has just been disposed of brought this Bill nearer, or took it further away from the Scottish system, is a matter for argument. We have, however, a right to complain that the Government should bring in two Education Bills at the same time and should not have the courage to bring them both on the floor of the House. I warn the Government that if they have the courage to bring in two absolutely contradictory Bills on many vital points, they must be prepared to have discussions from time to time on the differences in those Bills.
§ Clause 23 (Voluntary Inspection of Schools) ordered to stand part of the Bill.