§ [15th ALLOTTED DAY.]
§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. James Hope in the Chair.]
§ CIVIL SERVICES AND REVENUE DEPARTMENTS ESTIMATES, 1925–26.
§ CLASS IV.
§ BOARD OF EDUCATION.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £25,652,754, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants-in-Aid."—[Note: £15,000,000 has been voted on account.]
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Lord Eustace Percy)
My task this afternoon is not an easy one, partly, I am afraid, because I do not want to take up too much time, but mainly because, after eight months in office, I am still a novice and during those eight months I have had to confront two grim dwellers on the threshold in the shape of salaries and superannuation, and I have only just got over that encounter. My time this afternoon is very short, so lot me say in one brief word how grateful I am to teachers, local authorities, to my own advisers, and I may add to my predecessor in office and his political friends for having done their best in these matters to make my initiation comparatively painless. In expressing my sense of the debt which this country owes to all the public servants of education, in the schools, in the Board, in the service of the local authorities, and in the inspectorate, I should like to mention one name in particular, that of Sir Amherst Selby-Bigge, who has just retired after so many years of signal service as the permanent Secretary of the Board.
My experience of Estimates Debates rather recalls the immortal remark of Huckleberry Finn when he read "Pilgrim's Progress," that the statements seemed to be interesting but tough. I am going to try and save the Committee that 2450 experience, so I am going to assume that hon. Members have read the Estimates Memorandum, and that after the speeches I have already made in this House and the circulars issued by the Board in the last few months, they do not need to be informed of my attitude with, regard to the size of classes, the care and training of defective children, and other familiar points of policy. I must, however, say one word about the size of my Estimates. They are £1,230,356 less than last year. I can perhaps best explain this reduction -and I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan), will not mind my doing this -by telling the Committee what has actually happened during the last 18 months. Before the last Conservative Administration went out of office, at the beginning of 1924, it was estimated that, if the policy of recent years was to be maintained, the Board would not need to ask Parliament for a larger sum in round figures than £40,600,000. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. E. Wood) thought that this Estimate would not provide sufficient for the educational expansion which he hoped to effect, and he, therefore, proposed to increase that sum by about £720,000. Before a decision could be reached, the Government changed. The right hon. Member for Central Newcastle came to the conclusion that the increases proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon were themselves inadequate, and he obtained the consent of the Treasury to a further increase of about £580,000.
I do not think that anyone will accuse my predecessor of having been slack in urging the local authorities to promote educational development, nor do I think that anyone, so far as expenditure last year is concerned, can accuse me of having discouraged during the latter part of the financial year any project upon which he had entered. Yet, in fact, the net result of all these efforts was that the Board's expenditure in 1924-25 amounted to no more than £40,592,812, i.e., £3,017 less than the basic estimate arrived at in the first instance on the assumption of a continued exercise of the strictest Treasury control. Even so, the Board's grants to local authorities considerably exceeded the amounts due to local authorities in the year upon their actual expenditure. 2451 I should like just to say on this point that I think that record is a great tribute to the close Estimate made by the officers of the Board. My Estimates this year are for £60,000 more than the Board's actual expenditure last year, and, for the reasons explained on page 7 of the Memorandum, this sum provides for a considerable expansion in local authorities' expenditure this year, both upon elementary and higher education and- this requires a smaller sum of money- for a considerable expansion in adult education.
I think the moral of this story is plain. It was natural for my two predecessors to believe that a relaxation of Treasury restrictions on expenditure would be followed by a rapid expansion. It was right that they should act on that belief, but it would be wrong in me now not to learn the lessons that were derived from the disappointment of their expectations. I am admittedly taking a risk in cutting my Estimates so low, but some such risk must be taken if we are to conform to the ideal of accurate budgeting. Some critics have urged me to increase my Estimates by the very simple expedient of transferring a certain amount of the burden of education expenditure from rates to taxes. Grant regulations are never perfect, but I would remind the Committee that we are already paying grants at rates varying from 50 per cent. in the case of London to from 67 per cent. to 68 per cent, in the case of other authorities. It is one of my aims to strengthen rather than weaken the principle of local self-government in education, and the transfer of substantial additional amounts from rates to taxes would, so far as I can see, not be compatible with that principle. This consideration applies equally to the proposals which have also been made for the making of a special grant, for instance, in aid of building. After all, the burden of loan charges on buildings is now shared in a regular manner between the Board and the local authorities, and, as the Memorandum shows, the local education authorities to-day have large balances in hand on revenue account- those are to be found on page 7-while on capital account their debt burden is steadily diminishing-those figures will be found on pages 12 and 13.
2452 This brings me to a subject about which the Committee will want to know something, namely, the question of the improvement of school premises. I should like to say, in the first place, that our recent survey marks no new departure in this matter and lays down no new standard of school building. We have been doing this work for years. Let me give the Committee an instance of the kind of work that has been done. In a large county area, the Board's inspectors, in the early part of 1924, supplied a list of nearly 50 schools in which the premises were defective. By the middle of June this year, about 18 months after that survey was completed, the local authorities' plans for remedying the defects in 11 schools had actually been approved, and plans had been received but not approved in the case of seven other schools. Three other schools had been dealt with by closure and by the transfer of children to other schools, while six more are to be replaced entirely by new schools, three of which are now being proceeded with, and the other three of which are being included in the forthcoming year's programme. In addition, the remaining 20 cases are being actively considered. That shows that this work has been steadily going on, and the intensive survey which was undertaken last year in the case of urban schools and is now being undertaken in the case of rural schools, is designed merely to reduce to the terms of a systematic programme the work which has been carried on in various parts of the country.
The time which has elapsed since the Board's letters went out to urban authorities is too short for me to be able to give any general survey of what has happened or is likely to happen, but I can give one or two instances. To take one, in a northern borough all parties agreed that six schools were clearly unfit. Arrangements have already been made by the local education authority and the managers to close four of these schools and to build a new school. In another northern borough the list contained two schools, one a council school and one a voluntary school. The authority are closing the council school, and transferring the children from it, and from another small and inefficient school, to a modern council school, and satisfactory plans have been already submitted for remedying the defects in the voluntary school. 2453 It must be remembered that the replacement of an unsatisfactory school is not a mere matter of money. There are the difficulties under which the whole building industry is labouring at the present moment, and here I should like to tell the Committee that I have appointed a small export committee to examine how best these difficulties may be met as they apply to school buildings.
There are other difficulties also. Let me take a typical instance. The managers of a voluntary school in a large county borough had, before the War, acquired a site for a new school, in view of the admittedly unsatisfactory state of the premises of the existing school. In the interval, the defects in the existing school, of course, became accentuated, but, although they have paid for the site and have ample money to build, they cannot obtain possession of the site owing to the operation of the Rent Restrictions Act. That is typical of what is happening in the central parts of big towns all over the country. I think I may sum up the situation by saying that, in our campaign for the improvement of school premises, we can count, as has been clearly shown already, on the active good will of local authorities and voluntary bodies; that we are proceding, not by onesided pressure, but by general agreement between the managers, the local authorities, and the Board; that the work must necessarily be spread over a number of years; that what we intend to insist upon is simply an orderly and definite programme of work over a reasonable period of years; and that I have no reason to suppose that local authorities and voluntary bodies acting in consultation will be unable to put forward a programme of that kind.
Now let me say this. I have accounted for the reduction in my Estimates, but I am not apologising for that reduction. We should all like, of course, to spend more on education than we are spending at the present moment. If, however, we are not to mislead our fellow countrymen, we must frankly recognise that educational expenditure can only expand with expanding revenue. Looking back, I think we must regret that in the era of what we may fairly call Gladstonian finance, when successive Chancellors of the Exchequer enjoyed a rapidly-ex- 2454 panding revenue, and were, able to make large remissions of taxation, the nation did not devote a greater proportion of its savings to the service of education. However much we may regret that, we cannot hope to make good the ground that we have lost in days when trade is bad, and revenue is sluggish. Our whole national life is being tested at this moment as, perhaps, never before. I hope and believe that we shall be able to make substantial progress, but it must be the progress of a people at grips with desperate, realities. We must recognise that we have at our disposal, during these next few years, resources strictly limited by the economic position of this country and of the world. We must concentrate our efforts upon those improvements by which our schools may directly serve the community at this hour of its crisis and suffering. We must seek, in a word, so to increase the value of our education that, as prosperity returns, we may devote to its wise extension an increasing proportion of the accumulating savings of the nation. If that be the situation, it is this conception of concentrated effort upon educational values that I want to emphasise this afternoon, as, indeed, I have tried to emphasise it during the last few months in those multifarious and altogether too many addresses which are, unfortunately, the toll which is exacted from Presidents of the Board of Education who try to see something of the schools for which they are responsible in various parts of the country.
Under the shadow of the dangers which threaten us to-day, we must concentrate on the things which are most essential, and for this purpose I am going to ask the Committee to consider a few general propositions, and they will only be general propositions, as to the direction in which we should concentrate our efforts. In the first place, I would make this general observation, that our most pressing need is to improve the education of the children who now fill the upper standards of our elementary schools. It is here, at the most critical age, that most wastage may take place. I would remind those who are interested in technical education that this is the source of supply for our technical schools, it is the source of supply of the best and most responsible material in industry to-day, and in our national life 2455 generally; and, unfortunately, it is too often just those upper standards which tend to suffer most from overcrowding in our schools; it is just at the age when individual treatment is most necessary that boys and girls often find themselves being taught in the biggest and most miscellaneous classes. And here let me remind the Committee of what is too often forgotten, namely, that when we talk about the size of classes, what is important is not so much the size of the classes merely, as the age range of the pupils in the classes. We may go seriously wrong in estimating educational improvement merely by the average figures for the size of the classes. On improvement at this point we must chiefly concentrate what money we have; on this point we must chiefly concentrate the work of the best teachers we have in our service or can attract to it.
My second proposition is this. I do not think I shall be pre-judging the results of the inquiry which is being carried on by the Board's Consultative Committee into this question of education from the age of eleven onwards, if I say that the improvement we are seeking must be sought in the direction of variety and flexibility. After all, education in infants and junior departments can to some extent be reduced to a system. The teaching of young children needs very special skill, but, so far as administration is concerned, it is possible to apply to these departments a more or less standardised form of curriculum and school organisation. Great corporations, and especially great Government corporations, fall fatally easily under the spell of a system, especially where, as in this case, the system is a good one in itself. But older children cannot be dealt with in this way. There is no general system by which you can meet the needs of these older children. The assumption that, by a system of selective examinations at the age of 11, you can draw off the best talent from elementary to secondary schools is, as we all know, a delusion, and it would remain a delusion even if all children were equally able and equally ready to go in for secondary school education. It is because I distrust systems and rule-of-thumb tests of this kind that I want to emphasise one thing, and here let me make an interjection. There is a 2456 sort of idea in various parts of the country which you constantly come across when you try to select a school specifically for the giving of advanced instruction to older children, as you do especially in rural areas. The parents think immediately that you are taking the child away in order to train it for a clerk in something equivalent to a secondary school. That, again, shows the evil effects of a general assumption of some system, and a definite hard-and-fast division between elementary and secondary schools. I want, therefore, to emphasise that, when the Board of Education or local authorities speak of re-organising schools for advanced instruction, we do not mean to impose on the country one uniform type of senior school, still less do we mean to devise a type of senior school which will divert children from industry or agriculture into clerical occupations. On the contrary, our purpose is, while training these children generally to be useful citizens, to fit them for their work in industry, agriculture, or commerce by providing better opportunities for practical instruction.
In any such re-organisation, one has to give the widest discretion to local authorities. They have to consider and give duo weight to local conditions, and particularly to the character of existing schools. It is as foolish to disorganise a good existing school as it is, if one may say so, to make village patriotism an excuse for a bad one. The Board must leave this wide discretion to local authorities and teachers, and for this reason its inspection of advanced schools or classes-I do not care whether they are called central schools, or post-primary schools, or secondary schools, or senior schools-must be directed more to essentials than to conformity with a particular code or a particular series of Regulations; more to things which cannot be secured, and which may be lost, by mere detailed control of curricula or detailed scrutiny of syllabuses. The essential needs, after all, of any re-organisation of this kind are that schools should be doing good work themselves, and that they should so far fit in with the general scheme of education that a pupil can be transferred from one school to another without feeling a shock of transition which throws his mind out of gear. Those are the essentials, and, indeed, I feel, and I know that my advisers feel, including my inspectors, whose work this particularly is, 2457 that we might well take as our motto during the next few years, "More education and less administration." That such considerations have, in fact, been in the mind of the Board and its inspectors for some time past, is shown by the successful experiments in this field that we have encouraged in London and elsewhere, and here I should like to say that there are no more interesting experiments of this kind at the present moment than those which are being made in rural areas. I should like to give the Committee instances of the kind of experiments which are being made, and which I have seen in various parts of the country. I have no time to-day, but I hope to be in a position very shortly to place at the disposal of hon. Members and others some account of the experiments in a fairly compendious form. I hope then that in this concentration upon essentials we shall have the support of public opinion. Public opinion too often tends to judge by labels attached to particular schools. Unfortunately the Acts of Parliament under which we work, and which I am precluded from criticising on this occasion, have drawn a somewhat artificial distinction between elementary and higher education, and we are working within those limitations. I have to administer the law, but I do so with an acute sense of the imperfections of Statutory categories of this kind and of the anomalies to which they give rise. Definitions are unfortunately necessary to Parliamentary draftsmen, but in administration and in public discussion we might do worse than remember Samuel Butler's remark that definitions are a sort of scratching and tend to make a sore place sorer than it was before.
My third general proposition is that the principles of flexibility and concentration upon essentials have their application also to the standards by which we have hitherto tended to judge teaching qualifications and teaching efficiency. The training of teachers is a question which is exciting a great deal of interest and discussion at present. I am not in a position yet to make any definite announcement of policy in regard to it, though I should like to express my thanks to the Chairman and members of the Departmental Committee which has recently reported. But if that Report is to fee properly considered, there is one misconception which I think 2458 might usefully be cleared away. Those who affirm the importance of the professional training of teachers do not mean that all kinds of teachers necessarily require the same kind of training. As we develop variety in types of schools we may well find that that variety has as its corollary variety in courses of training of teachers, and I do not think those who are qualified to speak with authority on this subject can do any more useful service to the Board and the teaching profession and the service of education in general than by exploring that ground. Next, as with professional training, so with general education. There is no uniform mill of general education suitable for the manufacture of teachers. There is one place where an intending teacher ought to receive his general education, and that is every place which is sending out educated men and women to do the work of the world. If there is any such place of education which is not sending out its due contribution, the teaching profession will suffer, and it is in this sense that we want to get more university trained teachers, not because we want to pass all teachers through one uniform university mould, but because we feel that the universities, and especially, I think, the older universities, are not contributing their fair share to the teaching profession. In the same way I should like to see public schoolmen teaching in our schools, not because the public schools are superior to grant-aided secondary schools, but because they fundamentally have the same traditions the same spirit and the same responsibilities as secondary schools in general. The essential thing, after all, is that the profession of teaching should be open to as many kinds of men and women as possible, that the choice of the profession should be a free choice, exercised at an age when a considered choice is possible, and that the motive of the choice should be the love of teaching, and not the special inducement of a cheap education.
This leads me to a fifth point, that the maxim of more education and less administration has its application to the education and the training of teachers no less than to the work of the schools in which they are to teach. Access to the skilled professions in general lies usually through courses of study controlled by universities 2459 or teaching or examining bodies whose position is recognised by all schools and places of education in the country. Such courses of study are intimately influenced by the requirements of the profession itself, by the views of employers and so forth, but employers, including the State in the case of most public services, increasingly recognise that their best chance of drawing the best talent from the widest field is to leave education to educational bodies. But when some 50 years ago the State started out to build, below the ancient edifice of grammar schools and universities in this country, a vast platform of elementary schools, it found that the platform dwarfed the edifice. It was long before it learned the obvious lesson that universal elementary education must entail a corresponding proportionate expansion of higher education, and while it was learning that lesson it found itself obliged, with the aid of voluntary effort, to provide its own training for its own teachers drawn from its own schools, to examine them itself and to give them its own special certificate.
The Board of Education, responsible as it is for about ten-elevenths of the children of the country while they are at school, must always satisfy itself as to the character and efficiency of the teaching staff of the school But, after all, nothing is more clearly marked in our national life than the tendency of our teaching institutions, even when they have been founded by the State itself, to grow on their own lines and to develop their own standards and their own spirit. Our national system of higher education, with its newer universities and its training colleges based upon the secondary schools, is showing this tendency at the present day, and it is a tendency which the State should do everything possible to encourage. As this system develops into something like due proportion in relation to the elementary schools, the Board's certificate should, I think, increasingly assume the character of an endorsement of qualifications independently attested by responsible academic authorities, rather than of a special diploma attached to special courses of training and special examinations devised and directly controlled by the Board itself.
I have tried to indicate in general terms some of the administrative and professional problems which we have to con- 2460 sider in connection with that concentration of effort upon advanced education which I believe to be our duty at the present moment. I conclude with three points which I have often put before. In the first place, better-advanced education can only be provided by close consultation between administrators, teachers and the representatives of industry. In many areas consultations of this kind are already taking place, as recently in Birmingham, and that is one of the most hopeful signs of the times, and it is with the idea of focussing, among other things, these local consultations between education and industry that the Minister of Labour and I appointed the Committee the terms of reference of which we have already announced. I am often told by men who are sincerely interested in education that the education that children are getting in our elementary schools to-day is not as good as it was 20 years ago. I do not believe that is true, but I am glad to see this dissatisfaction, because it is a sign of life, and it is not a captious criticism that we can dismiss. It is a genuine doubt that we must allay, and we can only allay it by close consultation and by a frank exchange of views. In this connection I should like to say a brief word on technical education. In this sphere two inquiries are now proceeding—an official one by Sir Arthur Balfour's Committee, whose terms of reference cover this subject as well as many others, and an unofficial one, and a very interesting one, by a committee under the chairmanship of Lord Emmott, which is composed of representatives of education and representatives of all the chief industries of the country. I hope the results of these two inquiries may form a basis for closer co-operation between industry and our technical institutes. In every industry we have. I think, to aim at bringing our technical training into closer relation with modern industrial methods and the tendencies of modern research, and I know my predecessor will be glad if I say this applies not only to industrial science but, if anything, with even greater force at present to industrial art.
My second point is this. Here my predecessor will not, I am afraid, agree with me so heartily. Better advanced education is not dependent upon a compulsory 2461 raising of the school age. All experience seems to me to show that, apart from momentary disadvantages of shortage of employment, apart from temporary conditions of that kind, there is already a voluntary demand for an extended school life far exceeding the present supply of advanced schools or classes, and while that is the case, we are far from the time when we shall need to go out into the highways and hedges to compel children to come in to our advanced schools. And finally—national education must be based, not merely on the schools, but on the homes of the people. The tragedy of higher education is the winner of a scholarship whose mental horizon is bounded by the curriculum of the school through which he has been. The advanced school cannot be considered by itself. Its success depends upon the general diffusion of knowledge, of disinterested study of intellectual interests and intellectual enjoyment. In this lies the importance of all those activities which are included under the general designation of adult education. I have not time to say anything on that to-day except that I do not think there is any field of social service where labourers are more needed in the vineyard than the field of adult education.
I have confined myself this afternoon to a problem which I believe to be within the resources at our disposal in these difficult times and a problem which is directly and intimately connected with our immediate national needs. It is within our resources because it is essentially a concentration of effort. It is intimately connected with our immediate national needs because it is at this point of adolescent education that special talent is so often found or missed and the ordinary useful citizen so often made or marred. We all know how common, how carefully and successfully encouraged and brought out in our schools, is that childish brightness and quickness which Treherne describes in speaking of his own childhood:The skies were mine and so were the sun and moon and stars; and all the world was mine and I the only spectator and enjoyer of it.We all know, too, the difficult age which so often succeeds this, the age of uncertainty, awkwardness and balked appetite, when "the river of the mind" becomes, like Matthew Arnold's Oxus,A foiled circuitous wanderer,2462 and in the absence of wise direction may easily spend itself in the sands ofvague and loose indifference, easy likings, aims of a low pitch,"—those vices of mental and moral shirking which are always threatening the life of every civilised nation. In these days of widespread unemployment, this danger is the more pressing; it threatens to destroy the very material out of which our national life must be rebuilt. I know how earnestly teachers throughout the country are working to meet this danger, and I am convinced that to meet it is our chief duty in education to-day.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I should be very ungrateful if I were to be in a critical mood to-day. The general action of the right hon. Gentleman must, in the main, have my approval, and that, I think, of the party with which I am associated, because it is in the main approval of a policy which a year ago I asked should be made common between all parties. Of the right hon. Gentleman's methods I also approve. I am glad of his frequent and thoughtful speeches in the country, grateful, too, for the thoughtful speech which he has just delivered. We are living in democratic times and I do not think a Cabinet Minister can speak too often. In these days it is important that the rulers should be near the people, and that their minds should be known to the people. Therefore, on that account I have no quarrel. If I have any complaint to make of the right hon. Gentleman's speeches, it is that he is a little apt to be a pessimist, a little apt to see and present difficulties. I am not sure that it is not a good rule, when you generalise. to be an optimist, to warm the public heart, and when you criticise only to take particular criticisms which come home to individuals or localities.
For instance, the right hon. Gentleman got across the teachers the other day by making a rather too general statement about children over 12 not getting education which made it worth while that they should stay at school. He did not mean altogether what he said, and ha has been explaining to us very clearly his attitude on that subject to-day. The truth is, taking that question, that the last people in the world to be blamed are the teachers. The fact that the higher standards cannot accomplish all that they ought, is not the fault of the teachers, 2463 who are panting for opportunity. I was very glad that the right hon. Gentleman spoke about the way in which, at any rate, some local authorities were meeting the demands of the Board for better schools, for the replacement of bad schools. I would like to see a little more emphasis on the question of school building. It is the centre of our whole problem. If you take this question of the later school years, what is needed, above all things, is more higher schools. I agree that it is a lesser question as to what kind of higher schools are wanted. As I was, the right hon. Gentleman is anxious that the teachers in the higher branches of education should have smaller classes, and the only real reason why that is impossible is that there is not adequate school accommodation. If emphasis is wanting at the present moment to be placed on any of our educational deficiencies, it is emphasis on the lack of school accommodation.
I very much hope that as time goes on we shall get from the right hon. Gentleman very clear statements as to how the local authorities are meeting the complaints of the Board of Education with regard to insupportably bad schools. The black list of schools has been completed by the Board. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the local authorities have been notified of the schools which are insupportably bad, and, as he very well knows, the standard adopted by the Board in making up this black list was an exceedingly moderate standard, that I was particularly anxious that in making that black list the demands of the Board should not be too exacting, that we should realise the difficulties which face local authorities, and that it was only where the schools were absolutely insupportably bad that the Board should take drastic action in requiring local authorities to improve them. Therefore, I hope that within a comparatively short time the right hon. Gentleman will absolutely insist on local authorities at any rate remedying these schools which are on the black list.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
The right hon. Gentleman gave some instances. But that is not nearly all, because the lack of accommodation in the greater part of 2464 our industrial districts is not touched by that. It increases the difficulties of the local authorities which have to find more accommodation. I would like a bold policy with regard to building. More and more it comes to my mind that we ought to encourage local authorities to take in hand the very serious difficulty of school accommodation which exists. How that is to be done it is of course difficult to say. The right hon. Gentleman has our full approval in asking local authorities to put forward programmes of building, but I would like that accompanied by some method of encouraging local authorities to build. The point has been reached when it might be as well for the country to be ready to give a larger proportion of the building grant to local authorities, even 75 per cent., for a certain number of years, until we have something nearer the amount of school accommodation which we require in order to deal with our present standard. I do not expect that the right hon. Gentleman will approve of this, for I have already found that he has a fastidious dislike of what he thinks is irregular finance.
The only important change that the right hon. Gentleman has made in policy since he came to the Board has been his dropping of the special grant which I gave to local authorities for extra free places. As far as I can make out, his chief reason for that was that he did not like the form of the grant. He has not replaced it by any other form of encouragement to local authorities. Nevertheless, I feel very strongly that the need for the actual buildings, the actual bricks and mortar, is so great, if we are to make any real advance in this country, that we ought to consider special encouragement of local authorities in that direction. But there is one other obstacle to the improvement of the more advanced stages of education to which I must allude, although I have not any remedies for it. The centralising of the upper parts of schools, the re-organisation of education which would enable us to deal with the higher parts of the elementary system, is obstructed to a great extent by the dual system of education. It has begun to be realised how great an economy and what a great improvement it would be in administration if all the schools were under public organisations. The Church of England is finding its share of the obligations under the dual system in- 2465 creasingly difficult to meet. That is not true, I think, of the Roman Catholic community.
During my year of office I found that the Catholics were building a good many schools wherever they were required, and I was able to give consent to their building of them. But there does not seem to me that amount of readiness or ability in the Church of England. Consequently there are now signs of a movement in the direction of asking for a reconsideration of the 1902 settlement. I want to make our attitude clear. Of course, we are not in love with the dual system or with its educational disadvantages, but at present we are a good deal more afraid of the vast misfortune of a new period of religious animosity than we are of the disadvantages in the present system. We do not want any termination of the present truce, which fortunately broods over the country, until there is something in the nature of an agreed settlement. I do not think that that time is yet. There are local arrangements which are being suggested, which may result in their handing over voluntary schools in some parts of the country to local authorities: but we fee! that if that is done there must be no nibbling away of popular control by local arrangements which may infringe the liberty of the teacher.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman appears to be getting very near a suggestion of legislation.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I think that, perhaps, you, Mr. Chairman, did not catch the meaning of my argument. I was saying that at the present time local arrangements, under the existing law. are being suggested, and that they may result in dangers. I believe, personally, and I think probably my Friends sitting near me will feel the same, that there are many forms of possible arrangement for religious teaching which would be satisfactory. I can conceive of several forms of arrangement of the system of religious teaching in schools, but I only want to make this perfectly clear with regard to our attitude. If local arrangements or any alterations are made, and any change of the settlement of 1922 carried through, there is one thing which to us is a matter of absolute first importance—that the teachers' profession must become a public service unham- 2466 pered by religious tests, exactly like any higher public service. As long as that principle underlies any changes made, I think there will not be any obstacle to any new arrangements. But that is a sine qua non with us. I want to say one ether word with regard to something which fell from the right hon. Gentleman at the end of his speech. He said that it was far from the time when it would be possible to raise the school age.
§ Lord E. PERCY
No, I said it was far from the time when it would be necessary to raise the age in order to fill the advanced schools.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
That is the sort of thing I rather complain about in the right hon. Gentleman, lie is apt to discourage rather than to encourage, and I want to be quite clear as to what his attitude is with regard to raising the school age to 15. I hope that, whenever any local authorities come to him and ask to raise the school ago, he is going to give them encouragement rather than discouragement, not to find out difficulties for them but to make it easy for them, not to distract them by saying that they have not enough schools where all the children can find the best accommodation, but that, provided they can show a likelihood that in a comparatively short time they can get the children into the schools, be ran give them what they want. I understand it is quite likely that one or two important authorities will be coming to him with proposals of this kind, and I hope he will treat them in a sympathetic spirit. There is nothing we need more to-day than to get the school age raised if we can. Is there anything that would do more to assist the problem of unemployment than to get out of the labour market scores of thousands of children who now come into it every year? It is a thing we ought to encourage in every possible way.
This year, educationally, is marked as being the teachers' year. The teachers of this country enter upon, a new phase of security. In the first place, there is the new Burnham Award. The great thing about that Award is that it will be impossible now ever to revert to local and sectional wage agreements. It is now practically settled that the teachers of the country will receive their salaries under an arrangement that will be gen- 2467 erally, probably for all time, of a national character. The profession will go forward on one main standard. There may, in the first instance, be laggard authorities. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will, through the Board, take the necessary steps that he is empowered to take to make the salary arrangements universal, and that, if there is any trouble with a few authorities, he will insist on their adopting a national standard. The other thing that has occurred is the passage of the Superannuation Bill, which is agreed as a mainly satisfactory law, so that now the teaching profession, even in these times, is a sheltered trade, giving progressively more employment of a relatively high-paid kind and a secure standard in the present rather dark economic period. As the teaching profession has got this new security, it becomes all the more incumbent on us. and gives us an opportunity of asking, that there shall be a perpetually higher standard of attainment by the teaching profession.
The question of the greatest importance at the moment is that of the training and attainments of teachers. There has been a new report from a committee presided over by Lord Burnham, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and which I think is a rather timid report, although it is not short-sighted, as it sees all the difficulties. But it is rather short in suggestion, and I should like to lay down what I feel are the two or three important points regarding the training of teachers. In the first place, surely the time has come when we should try to get rid of the untrained category of teachers. No less than 25 per cent. of the teachers in elementary schools have no serious qualifications. It is really time that any new supplementary teachers ceased to be recognised at all, and the uncertificated grade of teachers should, I suggest, begin to be a disappearing category. I do not mean that, uncertificated as they are, there ought to be a kind of educational compound out of which they could never escape. That would be a very wrong thing for the country to insist upon, but I think there ought to be no more, unless they either qualify for the higher branches of the profession or leave the profession [...]thin a very limited number of years.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I am arranging that the examination shall be held on one more occasion, and then not again.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I suppose that, under the understanding, there will be some arrangement by which the better of the uncertificated teachers will be able to take a year's teaching at a training college, by which the better ones, at any rate, will be able to escape from their inferior position if they have the capacity. With regard to the training of teachers, looking ahead I do not think it is at all satisfactory that this whole mass of teachers, from their very earliest youth, is a class apart. We ought to look forward to the time when teachers can come at a comparatively late age out of the general reservoir of educated people. There ought to be entry into the profession after the widest general education, and this will become far more possible now. When the teacher's was not an attractive profession and salaries were uncertain, it was necessary to bribe a boy or girl into the profession from the earliest youth. Now the profession is one of the best into which young men and women can possibly go, and there is not nearly so much need to mark down the boy or girl from the earliest possible moment. The more we arrive at the position that we can educate a great mass of boys and girls out of whom we can select at a later stage those we want, the more satisfactory teachers we shall get, and we shall also have young people who go into the profession because they want to and not because, before they were at years of discretion, parents thought it was a good thing for them It implies that we shall have a very much cheaper and more universal system of advanced education that will cover a wider field, and there will be more children passing through our secondary and higher systems. That is what we want to reach, and as far as possible got out of the groove of choosing people very young for one particular profession.
With regard to University training, our eventual aim ought surely to be that most teachers should have a University training. In Scotland, I do not say they have reached that system, but they are much nearer to it than we are. I believe it is the case that more than one-half of the teachers are graduates, and 2469 I believe it is a case that this year all men teachers who go into the profession in Scotland are required to be University trained. In England only about one-fourth of the new certificated teachers every year are from the Universities. I do not think we ought to look on our system of training colleges as the final word in the training of teachers. A mixed academic and professional training is not all that it should be and, above all, it is not. satisfactory that we should have this segregated kind of education for the teacher, in which the teacher is kept apart from the rest of the other young people who are in training in places of higher education. As far as possible, the teachers ought to go through the full national education. Of course that cannot be done at once. We are a long way from being able to do it. It can only be dealt with if there is a great development in the numbers of the Universities. At present the output of the Universities is 33,700, and of those who pass through the Universities only 4,800 are teachers. If the whole of the teaching profession were to go through the Universities, the great part of the rest of those passing through the Universities would have to be teachers.
If we are to have the teaching profession coming more than it docs now from the universities, it means that an expansion of the universities is a pressing problem, and any step that could be taken towards that end would be helpful. I do not know when the Minister comes to consider this problem in what direction he will want to go. It struck me in reading the report of the Committee, that perhaps the most hopeful suggestions came from the report of the minority. The Minority Report suggested that the training colleges should become more and more places which should give one year of professional training. Supposing all the present training colleges were to give one year's training instead of two years, it would mean that a good many of them would be superfluous if that policy were adopted.
What I would suggest is this. Could not there be an arrangement by which a certain number of the present colleges could be turned into one-year professional training colleges, and the others, those most suitable by their quality and 2470 position, be made, by some arrangement, more or less part of the universities of the country? It would, obviously, have to be done by arrangement and encouragement. It is not a thing that can be done in a hurry. We are wanting more accommodation in the universities, and we are wanting to get the teachers into closer touch with the universities, and I suggest that one way in which it could be done would be that a good many of these colleges might, comparatively easily, become very much more closely attached to the universities than they are now.
I throw out that suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, because I am certain that it is a critical question as to how the universities are to find the accommodation where more teachers can be taught. While admitting that the movement to employ more university teachers must be very gradual, there is one thing that the right hon. Gentleman might consider, and that is, whether after a certain time it might not be possible to say that the teachers going into the higher branches of elementary education should be required to have university degrees. I suggest that to him, looking ahead. I do not mean to say that university training is not valuable in teaching small children, but it is more essential and valuable in teaching children who are in the higher branches of education.
I do not feel any great anxiety about the position and the general progress of education at the present time. The President of the Board of Education has shown himself most anxious to push forward education within the means that he thinks himself entitled to expect. I have very little about which to criticise him, but there was one sentence in his speech that I did not like very much. He said that educational expenditure could only expand with expanding revenue. That is a statement which we do not accept on these benches. I agree that it is better than the motto of the previous Conservative Government, that educational expenditure must fall with falling revenue. I do not agree with the new doctrine. Education always pays a country, however badly off the country may be.
I am not going to quarrel with the fall in the right hon. Gentleman's Estimates this year, because it is a mere, technical fall. It does not imply a change of policy, but if the right hon. Gentleman comes to 2471 us next year and says, "I have to change my policy, because I find that the Estimates must go up," it will be no answer to us to say that the country is in financial difficulties. If the country is in financial difficulties, this is not the way in which there should be any cut. So long as we are spending 16 per cent. of our revenue on war purposes, after the war to end war, and only nearly 6 per cent. on education, or less than half what we spend on armaments, there is no case whatever for not going as fast ahead as the country will go in education. I only put this in as a caveat, because the right hon. Gentleman's actions do not give me any particular anxiety.
I am glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, apparently, is also on our side. He, apparently, is able to make the distinction which Sir Eric Geddes was not able to make between useless expenditure on armaments and useful expenditure on life and education. At a meeting, recently, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:Those who thought that we could become richer or more stable as a country by stinting education and crippling the instruction of our young people were the most benighted class of human beings. Value for money must be achieved, but the course of education must never be set back. It must roll forward, from one generation to another.On that note, I am happy to sit down.
§ Mr. FISHER
I have listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) with almost unbroken assent, and since the time of our Debate is cruelly curtailed, I shall confine myself to a few points which have not been elaborated in his speech May I say how cordially I re-echo his demand for a larger building programme in the sphere of elementary education? Ever since the War, as the Memorandum on the Education Estimates shows, there has been a very great drop in the capital expenditure of local education authorities on building. There were great arrears in building before the War, and those arrears have been very much augmented since. We have a long list of schools which require to be built. The matter is very urgent. Sir Michael Sadler, who has a deservedly high reputation in the field of education, said 2472 that it was an urgent matter that we should spend £1,000,000 upon the church schools alone. I haw not the slightest reason for thinking that that was too high an estimate. I trust, therefore, that the noble Lord will urge the local education authorities to make good these arrears as soon as possible.
I also re-echo very heartily the words used by the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle with respect to the desirability of making suitable agreements with regard to the courses a religious education under the provisions of the existing law, in order to facilitate the better administration of our schools. As the Noble Lord said, one of the most important and urgent needs of education at the present time is the provision of better courses of instruction in our elementary schools for children between the ages of 12 and 14. Such courses can only be arranged under a system of regrouping. That system is absolutely imperative in the country districts. You cannot do a child greater harm than to keep it for nine years under one or two teachers in a small school, under circumstances in which everything that the teacher can impart has been absorbed by the children perhaps two or three years before the end of the school time. I hope that the leaders of opinion in the established church will see how important it is, for their own moral position to co-operate as far as possible with the local education authorities in arranging suitable regroupings of children for educational purposes. I should like to say how much the cause of education has lost by the death of the late Bishop of Oxford, whose very enlightened view on religious education was a great factor in solving differences and difficulties.
This Estimate represents a large reduction, but, as the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle said, it is only a technical reduction. Although it is true that the Board is allowing itself, or appears to be allowing itself, a margin sufficient to cover such useful developments as local education authorities are likely to propose in the coming year, I think the Noble Lord, as he himself admitted, is taking a little risk. In fixing his Estimate at so low a figure he may be embarrassing his own administration, and I am certain that the figure which he has set down would not enable him to meet such an emergency as arose 2473 on the occasion of the last coal stoppage, when the cost of the maintenance of school children was suddenly augmented by £700,000.
Now, may I interpolate a question, if, as I trust, the Noble Lady proposes to reply in the Debate. When I was at the Board of Education nothing was more encouraging than the reports which I used to receive from my inspectors as to the health, the clothing and the general well-being of the children in our elementary schools. Throughout the war period, and in the years immediately succeeding the War, our information at Whitehall was that the children had better boots, wore better clothes, and were better fed, and, in general, that their welfare was at a higher standard than ever before. And when one considers the industrial difficulties of the country and the large amount of unemployment, that was a very satisfactory and very consoling consideration. The question which I wish to put is this. Are the reports which the Board now receive from their inspectors with regard to the health of the children in our schools equally satisfactory? Has that improvement been maintained? I think that that is a very important matter on which the country is entitled to receive information from official sources.
Although it is true that, very largely owing to the skill, energy and devotion of the school medical service, the health of our school population has been greatly improved, nevertheless it is true that there are still serious defects to be remedied. I notice, for instance, that in the last Report of the Board of Education, it is stated that there are no fewer than 200,000 children mentally or physically defective who have not yet received places in special schools. Many large areas are entirely unprovided with special schools. Now I fear that owing to the great expensiveness of special schools, it would be sanguine to ex-pect this deficiency to be made up immediately, but I note with pleasure that my Noble Friend is pressing the local education authorities to do their best to make up the deficiency, and I trust also that he may receive some support from the private benefactor. When I open my "Times" and read of the large sums which are often bequeathed to purposes far less benevolent, far less meritorious, 2474 far less valuable, than the care and education of our crippled and maimed children, I hope that this particular need will be more widely advertised, and that the local education authorities may receive from private benefactors the little additional stimulus which often is the one thing needed to set the wheels of local activity at work.
The Noble Lord said that his motto was "less administration and more education." I agree with him that that is an excellent idea, but, after all, administration is necessary, and the great problem. is to bring the intelligent child into contact with the intelligent teacher. That is almost the whole problem of educational administration, and is, of course, a very difficult matter to achieve in our rural districts. It is obstructed, of course, by difficulties of geography, by the dual system of elementary education and by the natural conservatism of our villages, where there is generally a great aversion to the transportation of children from one village to another. But if the problem is to be solved, as it is being solved in more difficult circumstances in Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia, these difficulties must be boldly confronted.
I spent last autumn in the New World, and there I found that educational administrators were facing difficulties in comparison with which the difficulties of our rural districts are as nothing. They would not tolerate the small, inefficient rural schools. They move their children by the free use of motor cars to consolidated or central schools where there is an excellent staff of teachers, and where the children can be properly classified, and there is no waste. Under such a system as that, the taxpayer does get value for his money; under our system he does not; and I trust that the Noble Lord will throw the whole weight of the influence of the Board in favour of the better organisation of teaching in our rural areas.
So far as post elementary education is concerned, the Board of Education are, I think, entitled to be congratulated on the continuing progress and success of our secondary schools. Probably there is no region in the whole field of education upon which we are more entitled to congratulate ourselves than upon the marked advance that has been 2475 realised in this quarter. But I wish that I could say the same for the other forms of post-elementary education. I take up the most recent Report of the Board, and I read, on page 89, that the school year which ended in 1923 was marked by a very great decline in the number of day continuation schools and courses, and in the number of young persons receiving this type of further education. And if you travel through the country districts you will find almost everywhere signs of evening classes being discontinued, and continuation courses being discontinued, and signs that promising lads over the age of 14, who are desirous of extending their education, no longer have the facilities which were afforded to them a few years ago. Now that the Noble Lord has issued a circular asking local education authorities to submit schemes for educational advance to the Board, I trust that he will use his influence to promote this most valuable form of education in which there has been a retrogression during the last few years.
I suppose that one of the greatest criticisms which can be brought against our educational system is that it encourages monotony, routine and technicality. Indeed, it is difficult for any nation to organise a State system of education without incurring some such disadvantages as these. And nobody who goes about our elementary schools or our secondary schools can fail over and over again to experience a deep sense of depression at the frequent evidences which come before him of mechanical and routine teaching. I remember that when the Bill of 1902 was being discussed in this House one of the principal objections which were taken to its provisions by the Liberal party was that it placed the whole scheme of national education under the control of municipal bureaucracies, very often routinier in their methods, very often uninterested in the spiritual side of education, and apt to apply deadening rules of uniformity where there should be the utmost plasticity and freedom. Although vast progress has been realised under the Act of 1902—I should not wish to deny it—it is true that those criticisms are also to some extent justified, and the problem which meets the President of the Board is how he can palliate those almost inevitable defects of any large system of education.
2476 I think that the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle has already indicated some way in which those deficiencies can be remedies. He has advocated a larger element of University experience both in our elementary schools, and in our secondary schools. I agree. I think that it is very discreditable that the proportion of male graduates in our elementary schools should be only 3.2 per cent. I think that it is very discreditable that there should be any teacher in our secondary schools who has not had the benefit of a full university course. But I go further. One of the unnoticed developments in English history during the last 50 years has been the development and growth of a great municipal Civil Service. We have 318 local authorities in this country. Every local authority has its municipal staff. It has its Directors of Education and its Secretaries of Education. These officials exercise an enormous power and great influence. The Director of Education in Lancashire is quite as important a factor in the education of this country as the head master of one of our greatest public schools.
How are these men chosen? Nobody knows. I believe that the local education authorities are themselves very much embarrassed as to the kind of qualifications which they should look for in choosing these important officials. I have noticed, for instance, that in the case of two very important Northern municipalities positions as directors of education have been vacant for a very long time, presumably because no adequate choice could be made. Here are some 700 important educational posts; they are disposed of, nobody knows how. They are disposed of on grounds and on qualifications with respect to which there is no uniformity, and yet, as I have said, the occupants of these posts have great powers. I suggest to my Noble Friend that the time has come when this matter should be taken into consideration, and I ask if it would not be possible to summon a conference to be attended by representatives of the local education authorities on the one hand and of the Universities on the other, together with some members of the Board of Education in order to decide what qualifications are necessary for the filling of these important posts.
2477 If it could be generally known that certain qualications would be desirable, such, for instance as a university degree, or a period of teaching in an elementary school or a grant-aided secondary school —which I think almost essential—or a period of financial or administrative training in a subordinate capacity in an education office—if it could be understood that local education authorities, in making these appointments, would take account of such qualifications you would get some of the best and ablest young men in the country to go in for this career. It is a career which would appeal to the well-educated Englishman of enterprise who likes administrative work, who is interested in education, and who would bring to the task a disinterested character and well-trained intelligence. I should imagine it would be possible to construct some kind of diploma which would attract some of the best young men in the country into the great new profession of educational administration. At any rate, I throw out that suggestion to my Noble Friend for his criticism.
There is another respect in which it might be possible to introduce more variety and freshness into our educational system, and I suggest it because I see the Prime Minister here. The Prime Minister is, I understand, about to appoint a Committee on Broadcasting. I have a very great belief in the future of broadcasting as an element in education. Nobody, who has envisaged the problem of popular education can fail to realise that it must have in it an artistic element, and everybody knows that the taste for music is far more widely spread than the taste for any other form of art. If you wish to civilise a nation, civilise it through the influence of music. I should like to see a very much larger share—and I hope the Noble Lady the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me—of our national scheme of training devoted to the education of the musical taste and musical sense of the people. In that respect I believe broadcasting can do the utmost harm and the utmost good, and for that reason I believe the Committee which is about to be set up, may exercise a great and beneficent influence on the course of national education.
I mention one other point in connection with this new discovery. We all know the great difficulty of providing a 2478 sufficient supply of trained teachers in our schools, and even if you had a certificated teacher in a school, and that certificated teacher were a teacher of high standard, nevertheless, of one certificated teacher there cometh satiety at last. Through the science of broadcasting it will be possible to introduce, at suitable intervals, into the curriculum of every school a lesson or lessons given by some of the best teachers in the country. You will thus get great variety and additional stimulus, and if the local teacher is trained to work in with the teacher whose lesson is broadcast you may, I think, have very satisfactory results. At any rate, I should like to see a very much larger use made of this new discovery, capable as I think it is of leading to economy and to a general improvement in our educational standards.
The last respect in which I believe some additional freshness and variety can be introduced into our system is by strengthening the connection of the universities with the training colleges. Here I feel myself largely in agreement with the observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle. I will only make two observations. In the first place, I think it quite chimerical to suppose that all the teachers required to man our national system can be trained in universities. I believe that for many years to come the training college, however undesirable it may be in itself, will remain a necessity, but I see no reason why the training college should not be brought into closer connection with the university, why much of this teaching should not be done from the universities, and why the universities should not guarantee a certificate of training which would be recognised by the Board of Education.
There has been an undoubted increase of interest in education all over the country. Recently I have been travelling about the country and talking to farmers, and I find that, although the farming class is theoretically supposed to be antagonistic to education—and they are certainly not very favourable to high education rates—nevertheless, farmers and farmers' wives are thoroughly alive to the advantages of having a good girls' school or boys' school in their neighbourhood. I find on inquiry that the children 2479 in our farmhouses are, with very few exceptions, undergoing the best Stateaided education which their neighbourhood affords, and that, I think, is a very satisfactory symptom of a wry general tendency. I, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle, accept this Estimate. I do not demur to it because it is, in form, a reduction, but I trust there will be no relaxation in the forward policy which I am sure has the sympathy of my Noble Friend; that he will press forward with his schemes for the improvement of school buildings, for the additional provision of secondary schools and other forms of continuation education, and that he will endeavour to promote that improved qualification in the teaching profession for which we are entitled to look in view of those great improvements in the material conditions of the profession which are signalised by the events of this year.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I do not intend on the present occasion to follow what has been said, though only in a passing manner, by the two last speakers, in respect of the continuation of the dual system of education. It is quite true that that question will have to occupy the attention of all those interested in education in the near future, and I am sure that members of the Church of England, like others, are already giving the closest attention to the subject, but obviously it cannot be dealt with in Committee of Supply, because of our rule which excludes all reference to future legislation, nothing being more certain than that without legislation this question cannot be adequately solved.
I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) is mistaken in supposing that great efforts are not being made by members of the Church of England to carry out necessary repairs and restorations in the buildings that are now defective. Great liberality is being shown and, no doubt, will be shown, but the Church schools are so very much more numerous than the Roman Catholic schools, that the difficulty is much greater in every respect, and as they cover a ground so much larger, necessarily the problem is a much more anxious one. I concur in the desirability, pending legislation, 2480 of such friendly arrangements as can be made by the local authorities consistently with the present law, for the better organisation of teaching, including religious teaching, and I quite recognise that there are difficulties which arise in respect of the position of the teacher. Broadly speaking, common sense is the solution of that difficulty. If the teachers are to give religious teaching, they must be qualified to give it just as they must be qualified to give any other form of teaching. The supreme object of religious teaching, as of all other teaching, is that it should be efficiently given by teachers who are competent to give it. It is impossible to follow that particular question any further than that consistently with our rule.
I wish to speak mainly on quite a different topic. The Vote which has been put from the Chair is a very large one— £25,000,000—one of the largest, if not the very largest, single Vote which is proposed in Committee of Supply, and now that we all recognise national economy as a great need, and now that it is a dominant note in our public policy, it is impossible not to ask oneself whether this vast sum of money is indeed wisely spent? I do not presume to lay down the law to this Committee or to any audience upon that problem, but I confess to feeling very considerable doubts as to whether the main theory of our education system is at present a wise one.
We have heard the right hon. Gentleman who sits on the Front Opposition Bench and my right hon. Friend behind me, the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher), both of whom have spoken with zeal on behalf of spending more money on education. They are generally, no doubt, sensible of the great importance of national economy, but in their view this particular form of expenditure is an exception, and they are anxious to spend more rather than less upon it. I confess that to me the position of the Labour party, in particular, about education is very difficult to understand. They seem to unite a great enthusiasm for education with a great distrust of the educated. If the sort of thing they say is to be justified, they must believe, and T think they would say they do believe, that education, the higher education that is practically in question, is very valuable 2481 to character; that is, that it promotes virtue and the sort of wisdom closely allied to virtue which is among the highest of the human qualities. If so, what becomes of the Labour party, because those who have received the highest education in the country—I mean the graduates of the universities—are in a great preponderance hostile to the Labour party? I am astonished that they do not listen with more docility to the speeches that are delivered to them by University Members. We speak the mind of the educated, of those who have received education in the highest possible degree, that for which they feel so much enthusiasm that you cannot spend too much public money on promoting it and giving it to all and sundry in the country.
How can that be reconciled? If education really makes people wiser and better, then my constituents are much wiser and better than the constituents of hon. Members on those benches. When you, Sir, call upon me to address the Committee, or when you call upon my right hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities, surely you ought to premise: "Pray silence, gentlemen; the highly-educated representative of a highly-educated constituency is about to speak. Let us all listen with docility in the hope that we may learn." Nothing of the kind is done, but on the principles of those who are so enthusiastic for education, why not? Do we not stand on a higher footing on their argument? Of course, I disclaim all title to any such superiority. I do not believe —indeed, I am quite sure it is untrue to say—that education does promote the higher qualities of wisdom and virtue. I am quite sure it does nothing of the kind. I am quite sure that a millhand in a cotton factory in Lancashire is quite as good and quite as wise as any Master of Arts who votes for me at the election, and I distrust, therefore, the exaggerated language of enthusiasm for education which we hear from the Labour benches. I do not believe that education does promote either virtue or wisdom, except, of course, that it may be said that very elementary education provides a certain discipline, that the mere sitting in school and being under authority and things like that have a certain value and lift people out of the 2482 quite uncivilised state that a wholly un-educated person may perhaps lapse into, Hut that stage of educational progress has long passed and need not, therefore, occupy our attention.
When you are dealing with higher education, there is no ground, in my view, for saying that it makes people either wiser or better. What may it do which is worth spending money on? It may promote efficiency—not virtue, not wisdom, but efficiency. Efficiency differs from virtue and from wisdom in being relative and not absolute. People are wise and good absolutely, according to an absolute standard; they are efficient relatively to some purpose. A Hebrew professor is efficient in the study of Hebrew, but he would be quite inefficient at shoeing a horse, and all manual labourers would find themselves inefficient at many mental exercises, and all persons who were trained in mental exercises would find themselves inefficient at many manual operations. You are efficient, I say, in respect to a particular vocation. It follows, does it not, that beyond a very, very elementary degree of general education, such as is comprised in what are called the three R's—reading, writing, and arithmetic—all the rest of education must be vocational in purpose. I do not mean that necessarily it will be strictly vocational in form. That is a question upon which I should he presumptuous to speak, but it must be vocational in purpose. There must be a real intention of training the person educated to be efficient in the sort of duties that he is likely to be engaged in. It must be relative to his prospects in life, and above all to his capacities, because, after all, what he is likely to be able to do in life depends upon his capacities.
The Labour party, and I think the Liberal party too, and perhaps some of those ingenious Conservatives who delight to be called Progressives, are always preaching what appears to be, in so far as I understand it, a doctrine of educational equalitarianism; that is to say, that everyone is to have an equal education, that education is to be equally distributed to all sorts of people, irrespective of their real capacity. I earnestly hope that this will not be the policy of the Board of Education. I am sure it is a wasteful policy, and I am sure it is a foolish policy. The truth is 2483 that there is, in the minds of people, a great confusion. People speak of affording equality of opportunity as though it were an obvious counsel of justice. Equality of opportunity has no sense, If you once have admitted, which surely no one can deny, the inequality of capacities between various persons. The law of the universe is, after all, a law of inequality. All sorts of people are different. One man has this talent, one man has another talent. Inequality, variety, is the law. It is not sense to depend at all upon equality of opportunity for unequal persons. There is no wisdom in that. To provide equality of opportunity for unequal persons is like providing equal buttonholes for unequal buttons. It does not lead to any satisfactory result. The true equality of opportunity is to make the education appropriate to the capacity and the prospects of the child. There is, of course, a sense, and a very proper sense, that everyone should have justice, but people mistakenly suppose that justice requires the same dealing with different people.
That is a mistake. There are two aspects of human nature. There is the aspect of status, in which ail people ought to be treated equally alike, the rights of the citizen before the law, the right to live, the right to freedom from injury to life or limb, the right to be protected in your property, and so on. All these equalities which belong to the equality of status ought to be the same for everyone, but when you come to what the person is to do, and how he is to be trained in the doing of it, then you come to what is not less the law of human nature, the essential variety of type, the essential variety of personality. I have sometimes thought that one might write a pretty fable, in which you would compare human nature to a pack of cards and human life to an unending or an age-long game of patience. The human cards do not indeed obey the player as they ought. They go this way and that way of their own free will, and the game of patience is, therefore, infinitely prolonged, but they do resemble, and very curiously resemble, a pack of cards. Like a pack of cards, in one aspect they are all alike. Turn them all face downwards, and the cards are all indistinguishable. That corresponds to the equality of status which belongs to 2484 human nature. But turn them up, and the face of the card shows the capacity and also the function of the card, and in that respect they are all different, and you have to recognise that your King of Hearts is meant for a different purpose from your Two of Spades.
You must have all that in your mind in your educational system. You must train people for the station to which, not by the rank in which they are born, but by the capacity which nature has given them, they properly belong. I cannot but believe that we are in danger of spending money on giving an undesired and unappreciated education to stupid children. I would not say a word against spending money as liberally as possible on clever children. I agree that there is no form of expenditure which is more remunerative. I would select all the children that there are of any promise, and I would be as liberal as any Member in this House could desire in helping them to the best education they can use, but to serve education out as though it were an article for general consumption, and as long as you educated people higher and higher you were doing good to them, seems to me profoundly unreasonable and profoundly wasteful. We shall never do good unless we recognise that we must conform in these things to nature, in education as in everything else. The old saying of Bacon, Parendo vinces—yon subdue Nature by obeying her —is not at all less true in education than in everything else. You must make your educational system appropriate to the capacity of the child, and you must have only a very low standard of education for that great body of children who are incapable of really using any higher teaching.
I would teach everybody to read. That is valuable, both in itself, for it makes for happiness and still more because it opens the door to so much. If the child develops later, he can in a large measure educate himself. And, of course, I would teach writing and elementary arithmetic, because they are useful in every possible vocation. Beyond that, I would strictly inquire: What is this child going to be trained for? What do the teachers think of his capacity? In making my selection, I would not depend on examinations alone, because they are a very poor test of capacity, 2485 especially in the case of young children. I would depend mainly on the opinion of the teacher, and I would have little boards of teachers organised for the purpose of selecting clever children from the rest, and I would press them forward as much as I could, spending money liberally upon them.
§ Lord H. CECIL
At the end of the normal school time. My complaint of normal school education is mainly that it does not seem to me to teach everybody to read very well, while professing to teach them a great many other things. All the rest of education put together is not worth being able to read really easily. Many persons who perhaps have received a very high education, when they have been to a public school, and sometimes to a university too, do not really read—though they would be angry if you told them they could not read-so easily that it is much pleasure for them to read. This is noticeable among a great many children who pass as being quite educated, and I am sure it is to be found also among persons educated in the elementary schools. Teach people to read thoroughly well. Give all your time and trouble to teaching them well, and if you have any money to spare, T would much rather spend it on giving them good books to take away, in order that when they left school they might have the means of educating themselves afterwards; but do not smatter over a great number of subjects, for that really is bad educationally Make reading the basis of your education, and teach that thoroughly. That is all I should give the ordinary child. After that I would select the clever child and teach him, and send him to the university, if necessary, so as to fit him for professional work according to his talent, and the vocation he is going to follow. I cannot but believe that an education system worked on those lines would be cheaper as well as more wise than the educational system we have at present. I am quite sure that there is nothing doing more harm to the world than the passion for equalitarianism; of trying to impose against the laws of nature a system of equality on a natural and universal structure which is essentially unequal. Until we have accepted the truth that human nature and universal 2486 nature are organised on a basis of inequality we shall make no progress towards carrying out any wise political reform. That is, I am certain, a great cardinal political truth that should be laid to heart at the present time. I believe it is not less true in education than elsewhere, and I venture to press that lesson on the Board of Education.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I do not propose to be tempted to follow the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) with which he has entertained the Committee, though I have some doubt whether he has convinced it. The Noble Lord said that the higher University training was not in the least necessary, not because in any sense a man of wealth was of any greater virtue or greater judgment than a labourer in the rural districts, nor wiser nor better, but I find that hard to reconcile with the well-deserved and honoured position that the Noble Lord occupies in this House as a representative of one of two seats, for which there are 3,000 voters, not wiser or better than the 30,000 necessary to elect a member of the Labour party.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
The Noble Lord says that shows greater political efficiency, but I have been informed that those 3,000 voters are the stupidest and narrowest of people.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
The Noble Lord accepts my statement and says: "Why did you spend money on them when they are so stupid?" Consider 30,000 men are required to elect two Members for a constituency in the country as against the 3,000 I have mentioned. But I cannot follow the paradox of the Noble Lord. I had a more serious purpose in rising. First, let me say a word or two upon the administration of the Education Department, which has been quite sympathetic to Catholic schools, and also might I be allowed to congratulate the House that the Education Department is 2487 in the hands of a gentleman and a lady, both of whom are able and both of whom come from Scotland.
§ Lord E. PERCY indicated dissent.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Well, the Noble Lord comes from Northumberland, and that is very near to Scotland. I have said that the present administration of the Board of Education has been sympathetic to the people I represent. There have been 12 applications to them for approval of new Catholic schools. They have granted eight. Two have been withdrawn. One has been refused. One, for Putney, is still under consideration. I hope the decision will be favourable. What I rose about, also, was to draw attention to what appears to me to have been some over-emphasis on what I regard as the main question. That is the bad condition of so many of our schools. I was called out for a few moments during the interesting speech of the Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education, and I do not know what he said in regard to that part of the problem. My right hon. Friend the Member of Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) mentioned it and mentioned it with greater emphasis. I do not know that I am in entire agreement with what he said.
What has happened over this? I have read two or three times the Circular, No. 1925, which was issued on 22nd February, 1024. It is a very startling document. It is well worth everybody's reading and re-reading it. It calls attention to the great size of the classes, pointing out that there are as many as 60 children in some. It calls attention to the very bad state of the buildings, and my information is—and the Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education will correct me if I. am not right—that these school buildings are not confined to the provinces, and not even to the urban districts. A great educationist, Dr. Brown. Bishop of Pella, told me he was informed by a member of the education authority in London that, although the general administration of education in London is entirely good— although the general administration in England is entirely good—even in London some of the school buildings are in a perfectly disgraceful state.
It is quite right that Catholics should try to safeguard the faith of their fathers. 2488 It is equally a duty on their part and on that of the Department to look after the bodies of the children, because, after all, I do not think any child brought up under conditions of under-nutrition, bad air and want of proper amusement and real playgrounds ever recovers from the effect of those early evil surroundings. The circular was followed by a letter, and that letter was, I believe, sent to the local authorities in the country. It was accompanied by a list of schools entirely unsuitable, and the Board of Education urged the education authorities to pay attention to these schools and to devise some means by which these schools could be improved. My right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle in the speech following that of the President declared his opinion that the demands of the Education Department ought to be urged, and he demanded a prompt recognition of them. I accept what my right hon. Friend says, but I want to ask him this, and I also want him to put the question to the President of the Board of Education. I understand that, when this missive came down to Liverpool, it created a feeling of dismay. There was in it demands for expenditure in these schools —admittedly necessary, admittedly beneficial, admittedly too long delayed—which created a feeling which I do not exaggerate when I call it dismay, and especially among the people whom I represent in this House, and who have other spokesmen, I am glad to say including my hon. Friend the Member for the Edge Hill Division (Mr. Hayes).
Let me try to explain the particular conditions of these schools and how they came into being. They arose from 1he big incursion into Liverpool, Glasgow and many of the cities of Scotland of the Irish people after the famine and the exodus which sent our people to every part of the world. They came to Liverpool under every circumstance of hardship and disability. Many of them had been starved for months, if not for years. They were unskilled labourers. Many of them were flying to America in coffin ships. I use the words "coffin ships" advisedly, for I heard an Irish-American whom I met at a meeting I attended at the Grand Rapids, Michigan, say that his father, mother, and three sisters came to America in a ship that had on board 400 Irish people, and by the time the ship got to Few York 300 out of the 400 were 2489 dead. These were the conditions under which these countrymen of mine reached Liverpool. What happened? The very first thing they did was out of their small wage as unskilled labourers to give a contribution, generally about 3d., first to build a chapel of their faith, and secondly, and as generously, and as spontaneously, another 3d. to build a school. These are the schools of ours in the Scotland Division and other parts of Liverpool. I am sure I need not appeal to any party in this House for their sympathy with such a zealous and generous attitude on the part of my people towards their faith and towards their schools.
When, however, you talk as my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle does, about prompt and energetic action in regard to these schools, surely he ought to remember the conditions under which they arose. He ought to recognise, as any sensible man would, that you cannot expect schools raised in these conditions from the small contributions of the poor, and the poorest of the poor, to be as modern as one might wish. All these schools have been built more or less in the same way, except some built previously to 1870, and such are more behindhand than the schools of a later date. My right hon. Friend says get rid of them and replace these schools. I ask him how? Is he going to replace them on 3d. a week? From the money of the dock labourers, men in one of the most difficult casual employments in the world? How is he going to get them? Is it possible to get them? When hon. Members, on the one hand, ask these poor people out of their small means to build their necessarily poor schools, and in the next breath demand that they shall put up better and more expensive schools, that is subjecting reality to farce. To build schools for one class of religious thought and deny the building of schools for another class of religious thought is religious inequality and religious bigotry. They have swept it out of Scotland in accordance with their great traditions. In a remarkable speech, Lord Haldane said there is only one Catholic child out of every seven children in Scotland, and that, devoted as they were to education, they thought it was a danger to the State to have one child in every seven not in the same position of equality with regard to educational advantages as the rest. 2490 My hon. Friends from Scotland, some of whom have the advantage of being free from that sterilising and stupefying university education which the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University has so eloquently condemned, may remember the case of Stirlingshire, where the local education authority were compelled by the decision of the sheriff to give the same revenue to the secondary schools of the Catholics as to those of other bodies.
I hope the Committee will excuse me if I speak with some warmth on this subject. I have a right to do so. I take a serious view of the condition of that section of my race that dwells within the frontiers of Great Britain. They are the only section who have not made a big advance. In America the Irish are all right, in Canada the Irish are all right, in Australia the Irish are all right, but in Great Britain a great many of those who came to the slums from hunger-driven Ireland in 1846 are in the slums still. I want to get them out of the slums. In matters of general legislation, of housing, and of sympathy with the poor I place great reliance on my hon. Friends of the Labour party, many of whom represent nearly as many Irishmen as I do myself, and the only question on which I can attempt to give any service is that of the better education of my own people. Occasionally, I go down to the little exhibitions in these schools, and I never go without leaving them with my heart full, full of sympathy and full of indignation. My right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle calls for vast sums to improve those bad schools. Again I ask him, Where is he going to get the money? Is he going to get it from the rich cotton merchants or the rich shipowners, or is he going to get it, at 3d. a week, from the Irish dwellers in the slums of Liverpool? That is the question he has to face, and that is the question he cannot answer, with his present policy.
Every evening I see little children in their cheap finery dancing with a rhythm that would do credit to the children of the same ago who used to be trained in Petrograd in the old days. I would like to see them trained. I would like to take some of those boys who sing in our excellent choirs and train them for the profession of music. But what happens? At 14 they have to help to 2491 keep their mothers and fathers at home. The boy has to go into a blind-alley occupation and the girl into domestic service. They have not education enough, they have not time enough, they have not opportunity enough, to rise, as their talents would entitle them to rise. I have great faith in the artistic and intellectual genius of my own people, and if only they get equal opportunities, I think I can promise that there will be equally successful results. I plead this case of my fellow-countrymen, which I have been pleading for years, and I would remind the Noble Lord that it was backed by a unanimous vote of the House of Commons in the Parliament before last. I believe these fellow-countrymen of mine, the people of England, of Scotland, and of Wales, though not of my race, will be inspired ultimately, when they know all the facts of the case, by the spirit of religious freedom, of religious tolerance of fair play, and of sympathy with the poor and the oppressed, and I hope my estimate of the British character will be realised by reconsideration being given to this great inequality.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I am sure that my right hon. Friend who has just sat down has not appealed in vain to the sympathy of many of those who sit on this side of the House. In old days in Scotland I had to deal with the schools of the Church to which he refers, and I know they were deserving of encouragement, if for nothing else, at least for the efforts they made in the interests of education, poor though the people were. I gave them my sympathy, because T knew they would get very little of it from those educationists who are represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan). We have listened with great edification to three long discourses, extending over two hours, from three right hon. Members who have been Ministers of Education, and though we ought, no doubt, to have been raised to intellectual heights by those edifying discourses, I think the human nature in us preferred rather to listen to the paradoxes and even, if I may say so, to some of the sophistries, of my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil). Let me assure him that a great deal of what he 2492 said had, not only my most cordial admiration, but my assent. I think, however, he fell into a common error in supporting the view that children ought to be given vocational training as early as possible. I am certain that if I had had the opportunity of a few words with him beforehand I could have convinced him of his error, that we should have heard his keen wit exercised and all his sarcasm directed against it.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I thought I had made it clear that I used the expression "vocational" as governing the purpose of the education given. I used it in the broadest sense—what is the purpose, what is it you have in mind, in giving education?
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The purpose of education is, to use the very word of the Noble Lord, to give the broadest interpretation, to build on a broad foundation without trying to anticipate what a man is going to be. Though we had the advantage of hearing three right hon. Members who have been Ministers of Education one after the other, there was not a great variety in the topic; which they touched upon. In every one of these succeeding speech's one seemed to hear echoes of the one just delivered. I thought the tone assumed by the Noble Lord the Minister for Education was so conciliatory towards those sitting on the opposite benches, who profess to be so interested and so highly progressive in education, that he would have met with but little criticism, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle found points to criticise. He accused my Noble Friend of having "a fastidious dislike of financial irregularity." Does he suggest that the Minister ought to overcome that fastidious dislike, and to be complacent in the face of financial irregularity? He thought he had found out the Minister of Education in some sort of error because of the view that an increase of school education might as well be brought about, as it is being brought about, by voluntary effort rather than by compulsion. The right hon. Gentleman the representative of the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) also had his criticism. He said the noble Lord pleaded for more education and less administration. He gave a reluctant assent to that, but immediately proceeded 2493 to show that, to his mind, administration was one of the chief parts of the whole system. He pictured a sort of Utopia in which there would be endless committees and directors of education sitting to direct all the teachers, all the children and all the other people concerned as to how, exactly, they should conduct their work.
§ Mr. FISHER
I am sure my right hon. Friend does not wish to misrepresent me. My meaning was that already we have these directors and secretaries of education, and that it were well that they should be brought under university influences, when that might, perhaps, reduce the amount of administration.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I do not know what it is that all these pundits are to decide. I shall have a few more words to say about directors of education. I am not so much in love with them as the right hon. Gentleman. I want to call the attention of the Committee to some plain facts which are not, I think, sufficiently attracting the attention of the nation at large. It is only some 90 years since the first education grant was made, the amount being £30,000. It has been my lot to have been personally connected with education for more than one-half of the period since then. I first served under Mr. W. E. Forster in 1870, the author of the first Education Act, and I know what his anticipations were. He told us that a threepenny rate was the utmost he ever contemplated to be spent upon education. The old system has now passed, but in these days Mr. Forster thought that the management of education was still going to be kept, not chiefly in the hands of the local authorities, hut that it would, to the extent of two-thirds or three-Fourths of the population remain in the hands of voluntary managers. Who can deny that up to that time the whole of the local management of education was done without the cost of a single penny, and solely by voluntary effort.
I take it that the local management of education now is costing £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 a year, and that is incurred before you come to real education or the cost of a school at all. Some years ago you transferred a great deal of the control of education to some 340 education authorities throughout the country. Before that you used to pay education 2494 grants to each individual school, and they were inspected periodically. At one time I had myself over 1,000 School Boards with which I was in constant correspondence. That has now been changed and the real management of the machine has been transferred from Whitehall to the local authorities. Surely that has placed a heavy burden on local authorities, and it ought to have diminished the cost of the administration of education at Whitehall.
Has the President of the Board of Education or the Parliamentary Secretary ever thought of what is really the effect of this change and what reduction of the cost of the Whitehall Office should be? I will only go back to the year 1913. In that year the general administration of the Board of Education cost £202,000 a year. Then you swept away the whole of that administration, and passed it over to the local authorities, and you had nothing to do afterwards but to pay those 340 authorities a lump sum every year, and yet the cost of the Whitehall office, instead of being £202,000 a year, is £455,000 a year, and this increase has taken place in 11 years. Does the Committee realise that this is utterly unjustifiable expenditure? I will go into this matter a little more closely. In 1913 there was a secretary at the Board of Education, and I think three assistant secretaries, all of them paid salaries lower than the President of the Board of Education. There are now, instead of those five officials, two permanent secretaries and 17 assistant secretaries, and the chief permanent secretary receives £1,000 a year more than the President of the Board of Education. Is that state of things reasonable or justified by the circumstances? It must mean either that the President of the Board of Education is only worth two-thirds of the salary of the secretary who acts under his orders, or that he gives to his official work only a portion of his time.
There are now at least eight or nine officers in the Board of Education who are paid much higher salaries than the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education. I contend that that is not just and it is only a symptom of the wicked, careless and uncorrected expenditure of the Board of Education to which the attention of this Committee ought to 2495 be called, and which ought not to be allowed to continue. In the year 1900 the whole expenditure on education was £9,000,000 a year, of which some £5,000,000 came from rates and £4,000,000 from taxes. Now the amount which comes from taxes alone is £41,000,000 a year, and if we add the expenditure from the rates, the total is about £111,000,000.
I wonder how many hon. Members have taken the trouble to look through the report of the Board of Education which has just been issued. For over 20 years it was my duty to have to write such reports, because we had to give a picture of educational re-forms, to state how many children there were in the schools, and to report as to the efficiency of the schools, and tell Parliament exactly what the cost was, and we had to give tables showing how much of the cost fell upon the rates, and how much upon the taxes. Not one word of that can be gathered from this Blue Book, which consists of a few very doctrinaire chapters about various phases of education, and it tells us how many children there are in the schools. With regard to secondary education, the Report shows that between 1905 and 1924 the cost from rates and taxes of secondary education had advanced from a little over £1,000,000 to a little over £7,000,000. Does that show that watchfulness, that eagerness, and that efficiency which is likely to secure for the money spent a good return? You have crushed the whole system under an iron frame. You have on all these local education authorities an army of directors and sub-directors of education and chairmen of committees, and these are young men from the university with all those eminent qualities which the Noble Lord and I claim—or rather, T ought to say, decline to claim—for ourselves.
You have in these directors young men who go round and teach the teachers how they are to proceed with their work of education. Does that do any good to the teachers? Surely the right course is to get the best man you can and give him an ample salary and leave him to do his own work in his own way. I am prepared to do all I can to attract the best men into the teaching profession. Once you have got those men, leave them to do their own work. If they are good and efficient teachers, leave them alone, and you will get better results. On the other hand, 2496 if these teachers are regulated and guided and director ridden, they will never, however good they are, be a success from an educational point of view. I believe you have raised a sort of juggernaut in your official cast-iron system which is crushing out of education that elasticity which is so essential for success.
The Noble Lord opposite said he was in favour of variety and elasticity, but I do not want too much variety. I would rather have a system clearly defined, because I believe that education, like everything else, to use the words of Dean Swift, "Derives its greatest ornament from simplicity." I do not want variety, but I do want elasticity. I want the teacher to have his own way, and it- is wrong to think that you can be successful by spoon-feeding methods. Above all, you must inculcate that most useful element in education, the fostering of self-exertion. The schools with which I was connected in my early days in Scotland used to be under one supreme headmaster who considered himself the parent of the scholars, and he followed them into their later life and inspired them with his own great example. He was not subjected to directors of education fresh from the university. Give us a little more of that spirit once more, and above all give us that enthusiasm which made those schools live by voluntary effort, which is worth all your rules and education authorities, and all your cast-iron codes.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HADEN GUEST
I will not apologise to the House for intruding in a debate in which up to the present moment only right hon. Gentlemen have spoken and in which the atmosphere has been one of such austere solemnity and looking back upon the past. In the few words I shall say, I do not propose to look back on the past, but to suggest some of the changes which a good many on these benches think essential with regard to the administration of education at the present time. It is unfortunate that the House does not take a more active and vivid interest in this matter, and sometimes one thinks this is regarded as non-controversial and non-party. If it were more party and more partisan, perhaps Members would be more interested. I was glad to hear the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford 2497 University (Lord H. Cecil) from what, I am sure he will not object to my saying, was his thoroughly mediaeval point of view and the very delightful way he spoke of the necessity for only a very low standard of education apparently for the mass of the people. I could not help feeling that he might have summed up his speech in a couplet very well known to this House:God bless the squire and his relations,And keep us in our proper stations.At any rate, that is the impression he conveyed to my mind. I quite agree that his own experience of university constituencies must have made him consider that university education has its drawbacks, and it certainly does not make people as intelligent as one would like them to be. There are, however, possibilities even with regard to university education. I want really to deal with one or two of the subjects raised by the Minister of Education. I was very glad to hear that he mistrusted the results of examination at 11 years of age, and that he wanted to concentrate efforts on advanced education, although I was not quite certain as to what he meant, and I hope the Noble Lady will tell us when she replies what the Minister meant by "keeping education in touch with industry." In one sense it is undoubtedly a very good thing that the education of young people should keep them in touch with reality. Is that what he meant? Or did he mean to fit them to discharge better the functions of wage slaves in industry, or was it for the purpose of improving them from the standpoint of education? The Noble Lord said also that he was glad to see dissatisfaction in regard to a certain matter, because it showed signs of life. I hope, therefore, he will not object if I show certain signs of life and voice them by expressing a certain amount of dissatisfaction. It seems to me the Noble Lord did not solve the problem by inventing a new epigram when he said that what we want is less administration and more education. We certainly want more education, but I am sure the Minister of Education and the Parliamentary Secretary would be the last to say we did not want a better administration. Surely a better phrase would be "more education and better administration," and not less administration.
Some of us on these benches are not at all satisfied with the division of 2498 different kinds of education in the community. We should like to see a kind of education of the best possible, variety available for all children in the community, and I should like to see quite definitely all schools in the community inspected by the inspectors of the Board of Education, including what are called public schools, and including those private schools which do not come under anybody's authority at the present time; and not only inspected from the educational point of view, but also medically inspected. It is one of the curiosities of administration at the present time that the physical health and well-being of the child in the elementary school is in some respects better looked after than the spiritual health and well-being of the child in certain public schools. In certain public schools they do not have medical inspection. Consequently, you do have children with very serious heart and other defects whose troubles are not diagnosed until some serious illness or accident calls attention to them.
That is only the beginning of the business. I would like to suggest that it would really not be a very great extension of the present practice for the Board of Education to extend its ægis to all schools without any exception. That could be done by purely administrative means Possibly legislative changes might be necessary, but those I cannot deal with at the present time. To show how really we reach the point at which all educational institutions come under the ægis of the public education authority, I have, by the courtesy of the London County Council, secured a list of schools of the secondary type in London showing how many of them are maintained and aided by them. The schools maintained by the council are 24. The schools aided by the council are 50. These are secondary schools. The other schools recognised by the Board of Education as efficient secondary schools number 34. The only schools not on the list of the Board in London, which are at all public schools, are five in number. That is to say that out of 113 schools all but five come in some way or another under control of the education authority for London.
No, I am sorry it does not. It is interesting to notice that of all the children attending secondary institutions in London, only 2,189 go to the five schools which are the Merchant Taylors, St. Paul's (2), Westminster and the Mercers. All the rest go to schools under the control in some way or other of the education authority. The point I have in mind is this; not to level all schools to one condition, but to make the advantages such as they are of all so-called public schools available to all children. I would like to disfranchise wealth in this matter. I would like to make it possible for any child of capacity to go to Eton or Harrow, and to say that a child of the person who has wealth should not go to Eton or Harrow merely because they can pay the fees. There should be, so far as those schools have advantages—
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
Any boy in the Kingdom who has the ability to pass the entrance examination into the College of Eton can get his education free.
I will not be led away discussing those details. As a matter of fact, it is not possible for the ordinary boy, for a large variety of reasons, to go to some of those great public schools, and no one knows that better than the parent who has to pay the cost of those schools. It is perfectly certain that the public school type of education and the ordinary secondary school typo of education are separated by a very considerable gulf. I know how deep that gulf is, because I never went to a public school, and I have noticed in certain circles this is regarded as a great handicap.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
Does the hon. Member not know perfectly well that the sons of very poor men do go to college?
I am perfectly aware of the fact that the sons of very poor people go to college. I want those schools to be open to ordinary people who attend elementary schools, precisely the same type of schools as the London County Council secondary schools; and they are not open to them at present. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman who comes from a country where it was the custom up to a short time ago for all persons to go to the same type of school would have been readier to recognise the advantages of that sort of thing 2500 than Members from the country I represent. There is also a very large number of schools in London—590—which are not subject to any kind of inspection. Seventy of them are of the secondary type which are outside the list of secondary or other schools maintained, controlled, or inspected by the council, the Board of Education, or anybody. That is a very serious matter. I suggest that we ought very closely to regard that matter and see whether the time has not come when by administrative means we ought to curtail very greatly the number of those schools, which are some of them perhaps giving a good education but others are purporting to give an education while what they are really giving is a veneer of gentility. That is all perhaps that they are doing.
I, for my part, cannot agree with the remarks made to-day with regard to the satisfactory nature of the Estimates. It seems to me that we ought, in view of the very valuable results which have flowed from medical inspection in the past, to increase the amount of health work and health care of children, and not diminish it. That should apply to all schools in the country, irrespective of whether they are public schools or others. I believe myself that the extension of medical health work—I will not call it inspection, inspection is only the begining of the work—to all schools in the country would have exceedingly valuable results. At any rate, it would put all children on equality in the way of providing for at any rate such knowledge as is scientifically available at the present time for their advantage.
There is another matter to which I wish to refer, namely, the feeling of school children. The right hon. Gentleman, a former Minister of Education, did just touch on that point. It is very easy for administrators, for Members of Parliament, and others discussing matters in this Chamber or in Committees of, say. the London County Council or other bodies, to overlook the fact that some 10 per cent. of the children attending elementary schools are never adequately fed. That is a statistical fact which can be obtained by looking into the figures supplied by the Minister of Education. That 10 per cent. are definitely handicapped by bad feeding. I certainly want to see all children put on 2501 an equality as regards their nutrition. I should like to see the Board of Education, by administrative pressure, insist on the standard of physical well-being and the feeding of children being raised very considerably higher than it is at the present time. Of course, it is quite true, if you go into the ordinary schools in London or in any other town and ask the head mistress or the head master how many children in the school are underfed, you will get a very small number returned to you as being underfed. But take the records of the inspections of those children, and the weights and heights and the record of growth, and you will see quite clearly and definitely a considerable proportion—I suggest 10 per cent.—are not so well nourished as the remainder of the children. If you look closely into these facts with regard to the children's home life, it will be found that a great number of those children are being inadequately fed. That may be because their parents are not feeding them properly; it may be from poverty or it may be from a combination of the two circumstances. In any case I hold, and always have held—and when the Noble Lord the Minister of Education and I were on the London County Council at the same time this matter was often discussed there—that it should be the business of the medical officer and the school inspector of the school to draw up a list of children who would benefit by increased nourishment being given to them, and that it ought to be part of the school curriculum to provide school meals, which could either be paid for or given free, for all the children in the school who were not getting the amount of food required.
I believe that that is a method of practical Communism which will commend itself to both sides of the House, because it is undoubtedly the fact that, unless you provide a certain considerable proportion of children with meals through the school, they will not get adequate meals, owing to the circumstances of their parents, it may be because of their poverty, it may be because of their work —because they go out and have not facilities for preparing a mid-day meal. It is quite possible by administrative means to secure that the larger proportion—I do not say all—of the children who would benefit by that special school feeding should get such feeding, if the Board of Education would bring the necessary 2502 pressure to bear upon the local authorities, because, after all, it is a matter purely of local administration.
It has been suggested on one or two occasions by various speakers that we were spending a very great deal on education. Let me just ask hon. Members, when they are talking about expenditure on education, to take a rather broader view than they usually take, and consider the comparable expenditure of other countries in this matter. I think that will be found very interesting. If you take the countries which are well educated— say Germany, the United States, and so on—you will find that it is those other countries which, being well educated, have a high standard of life, that are, from the standpoint of trade and commerce, more advantageous to us than those which have a low standard of life. For instance, Russia is a country that was of very little advantage to us from the standpoint of commerce before the War—it may be of more advantage now. Germany, on the other hand, is of much more advantage to us, and Australia, which has a very high standard, is of more advantage still. I think it will be found that the barometer of trade and material prosperity rises and falls with the amount of education that is being obtained by the children.
I do think that we ought to press for a greater equalisation—not of opportunity for individuals, because it is perfectly obvious to everyone that there are great inequalities between children, but for having all the educational resources of the country, so far as possible, made available to any one child, from whatever social class it may come. It is quite untrue to say that that is the case at the present time. The "educational ladder" does not do it; even an educational highway does not do it; you want a very great deal more. You cannot really make educational advantages available to children, especially those coming from poor parts of our country, unless you also at the same time give those children a chance of profiting by their education by seeing that they get adequately fed. I may be thought to be insisting unduly on this question of food, because it is always the habit of people who themselves are well fed not to realise the difficulties of other people; but it is literally the fact that some 10 per cent. of children in this country are chronically suffering from not 2503 getting an adequate amount of food, and, while they are not getting that, they cannot possibly benefit from their education as they ought to do. If we could get all the educational institutions of the country into one great pool, which we could use for the benefit of the talent of the country, irrespective of the social origin of the children coming to be educated, and if we could raise the physical level of the children by securing adequate feeding of school children in all parts of the country, then, possibly, we should get a considerable improvement in our educational system.
That brings me back to the point with which I began. When the Noble Lord says that we want less administration, I do not agree with him, because this needs a great deal more administration and better administration. I am quite sure that those for whom I speak will not be satisfied with some of the platitudinous commonplaces that have been dished out to them to-day. It is a matter of intense and passionate desire on the part of many people to give their children the opportunity for education, and they cannot get that because of the little material obstacles which stand in the way, and which are so small in their nature that certain hon. Members of the House are almost incapable of seeing them. The difference of a shilling or two a week in an allowance, the difference of a proper square meal in the middle of the day, will make all the difference to the possibility of a number of children being educated or not, and if hon. and right hon. Members of the House really wish to see class differences in this country disappear, they can only bring that about by seeing that every child has the opportunity of the same advantages of education. The real differences that separate the classes in the community at the present time are due to the differences in the education with which they start, that is to say, the real educational differences—I am not talking about economic differences. You will not get a change in that respect, you will not get an understanding of one kind of persons by another kind of persons, until they have all the same kind of educational foundation on which to stand. It is quite true that there are great differences amongst individuals, as has been said by the Noble Lord the Member 2504 for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil), but that applies to all classes. But you get class differences, class divisions, class opinions and class groups in this country irrespective of those differences. People who have been at Eton and Harrow have quite a different point of view from people who have been educated in elementary schools, and, unless we can get rid of those differences, and put the whole of our educational resources into one big pool and make them all really available to the children of this country, we shall certainly never get rid of the class differences which hon. Members affect to deplore.
§ Mr. HAYDN JONES
The Debate so far has turned entirely upon education in this country, but I wish to remind the Noble Lord of a little country called Wales, with its peculiar system of secondary education. It is true that that system is 35 years old, and requires amendment. I would ask the Noble Lord whether his attention has been called to the Report of the Departmental Committee set up to examine the organisation of secondary education in Wales. That Report was presented as far back as 1920, and, as far as I know, none of its recommendations have been carried into effect. Looking back, as I think I am entitled to do by an association with education for over 30 years, I think I may say that the secondary education scheme of Wales has more than justified the expectations of its most sanguine supporters. It needs amendment, and I wish to call the attention of the Noble Lord to one or two phases in which it needs amendment.
First of all, there is the relationship between the county and the local governing body under which the schools are carried on. It is perfectly true that at one time, soon after the schools were established, the present relations between these bodies were quite intelligible, if I may so put it. The county governing body acted as the channel through which the Government paid its Treasury grant, and the rates were levied by the county authorities and the Customs and Excise collected; but it had no power to govern the schools, and rightly so, for the local governors of every school were responsible for finding by voluntary subscriptions, school fees, and so on, the balance of the maintenance money for each school.
2505 That order has passed away. With the increase in scholars and the extra cost of salaries, the funds which originally were at the disposal of the education committees were found to be utterly inadequate. To give a specific instance, in my own county we used at one time to supplement those funds with a 2d. rate, but that was limited, as the Noble Lord knows, by the Act of 1922. The act of 1918, however, swept away the limit, and last year we levied as much as 8d. in the pound to supplement the ½d. intermediate rate, the Customs and Excise and the Treasury grant. To hand over those funds, without any control, to the local governing body is, in my opinion, quite anomalous, and I shall be glad to hear whether the Noble Lord is prepared the take some steps to amend the scheme in order to give control to the county governing body, which really has to find the money.
Another point about which I should like to ask the Noble Lord is the question of inspection. Proposals were made by the Board of Education to unify the inspection of secondary schools in Wales. As the Noble Lord knows, there are 100 or more intermediate schools which are governed by the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, and the inspection of those schools is carried on by the Central Welsh Board. Side by side with them there has grown up a number of municipal schools, which practically give the same kind of education as the county or intermediate schools, but they have to be inspected, not by the Central Welsh Board, but by the Board of Education's inspectors. A dual inspectorate is expensive and unsatisfactory. If I might express my own opinion, I regretted very much that the offer made in the time of the Noble Lord's predecessor to the Central Welsh Board was not accepted by them, but in any case I hope he can announce that there will be a unified inspectorate for the whole of the secondary schools in the Principality.
There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. If the Noble Lord were to ask me whether I thought the secondary schools of Wales had fulfilled all that we expected of thorn, I should say that they had, but I believe they can fulfil a better purpose even than they are fulfilling at present. Speaking of my own county, I would just make this remark. 2506 We have intermediate schools varying in size, but the email school attempts to do exactly the same amount of work as the large school. In other words, a school of 50 is attempting the same curriculum as a school of 350. In my opinion that is an impossible position. I want to see what I may call differentiation among the scholars going to the intermediate schools of Wales. I should like to see farmers' sons being taught agriculture, and then going back on the land to make better farmers. Unfortunately, we do not find that to be the case. I find in my own county, speaking for that alone, that scholars from the intermediate schools nearly all try to get into banks or into the educational profession. That is not as it should be, and, if I may say so, it is largely due to the fact that every school is attempting to teach the very same subjects. The Noble Lord could do a great deal departmentally in this matter by impressing upon the local governing bodies the necessity for differentiation, and I appeal to him to carry out the recommendations of the Departmental Committee in the matter of unification of the inspectorate, rearranging the relationship between the local body and the county governing body, and also impressing upon the county governing body the importance of differentiation, with a view, not to getting all the children fighting one with the other and competing one with another to get into one or two professions, but really training them in such subjects as agriculture, mining, and so on, with one school differentiating its subjects, in order that we might get, not a crowd of people all fighting for the same thing, but each returning to his vocation better equipped for the battle of life.
§ Sir MARTIN CONWAY
I have read with care and attention this Report of the Board of Education, and I have listened with interest and sympathy to the Noble Lord's exposition. I feel that there is expressed in this printed Report a certain complacency, a general impression on the part of a Department that it is doing well and is accomplishing excellent work. I think that complacency arises perhaps from certain mechanical tests as to numbers, as to the time of attendance, as to the results of examinations, and so forth. But the real test of the efficiency of the Education Department is none of those things 2507 The children at the schools to-day will be parents in the next generation, and the test to apply to our system of education is the quality of the citizens that that system turns out. I know of two tests that one can apply. One is rather a simple one, but it is a test that is none the less very significant, and that is the manners of the people. There can be no doubt whatever, to anyone who for the last 40 or 50 years has mingled with people of all classes in all parts of the country and has had personal relations with them, that the improvement in our national manners is very remarkable indeed, and is the direct result of our improved system of education. We are not dependent upon our own judgment in that matter, for we have the expressed opinion of innumerable foreigners who come to this country, and especially Americans, who are delighted with the manners of the people and contrast them with those in less fortunate parts of the world.
The next test as to the efficiency of our system of education is whether there is growing in our people a belief in education. Certainly, 50 years ago the general attitude towards education on the part of the masses of the people was one of relative indifference. In Scotland and in Wales they believed in education, but in England belief in education was a very lukewarm affair. The desire for education is obviously spreading in this country, and that is obviously because the test of the efficiency of education in improving the efficiency of each successive generation is a reality which is appreciated, understood and acknowledged by the mass of the people. That belief in the value of education largely depends on the quality of our teachers. The quality of the teachers is really the ultimate thing that matters in all our system of education. All the administration you talk of, all the bureaucracy, all the regulations, the codes, and one thing and another are of minor importance compared with the quality of the teacher. If we can improve the quality of the teacher, we improve the quality of education correspondingly, and, still more, we improve the belief in education which it spreads about among our people.
Therefore, the improvement, if such there be, in our system of education, binds itself down to this: 2508 Is there an improvement going on in the character and the quality of our teachers? There can be no doubt that that is a matter which can be tested, has been tested, and is continually being tested, and there can be no doubt that the quality of our teachers is improving. They were grossly underpaid. They are now better paid. Whether they are sufficiently paid or not I cannot say, but, at all events, since the administration of my right hon. Friend the payment of teachers has approximated to what it ought to be, and a corresponding attractiveness in the profession of teaching has resulted. A better class of men and women is attracted into the teaching profession, who find a career which is sufficient to give an opportunity to his or her capacities, and the result is what we see.
There are a large number of observations, which many of us would like to make who has examined this Report and who is interested in the whole question of education. There is only one more point I should like to make. The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. H. Jones), who spoke last, referred to our public schools and the way they ought to be made accessible to the masses of the people. I do not think that is a matter of very much importance. Why should it be desired that they should be accessible to the masses of the people? Simply because there exists a certain thing called the public school spirit, which is a very grand thing in our country and is of enormous value to young people. When they go into a public school they come in contact with the public-school spirit, and that is really the main educational force that our public schools possess. The great thing we look forward to is the development of that self-same spirit in every school in the country. If once you develop that spirit, what does it matter what the school may be? It is the public school spirit, which is really the English spirit, which arises among boy scouts, and wherever you get young Englishmen together under healthy conditions. You will get that in any school provided you maintain good surroundings and healthy traditions, and you will gradually build up this spirit of individuality in each school in which the boys can take pride, and when they leave it they look back to their school, much as a man looks back on 2509 Eton, Harrow, Rugby, or any other public school. There are many more things I might say, but, broadly speaking, we have to thank the present Administration for carrying on this excellent work which has now been done for three generations. We have by no means attained final perfection, but we are on the right lines, and we look forward to the future with confidence, basing ourselves upon the accomplishments of the past.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. H. Jones) referred to the question of Welsh secondary education. I am extremely sorry this Debate has been shortened, on account of circumstances over which we have no control, because I know a number of my compatriots were anxious to raise this question of the present position with regard to the Central Welsh Board. I am interested indeed in the remark of my hon. Friend that he regretted somewhat that the proposals that were made last year which did not originate with us but with our immediate predecessors, were rejected. They were submitted to the Central Welsh Board in our time, but unfortunately they were not acceptable to that authority. Now I gather there has been another discussion going on in the course of the last fortnight, and I am given to understand that a considerable measure of agreement has been arrived at between the representatives of the Board and the representatives of the Central Welsh Board. I think it somewhat deplorable, if an agreement has been arrived at, that we have had no statement on the matter from the Noble Lord. I cannot express a complaint on the point because his time was limited, but if it be so, that an agreement has been arrived at, it is unfortunate that the representatives of the Principality have not had the opportunity of hearing it from his mouth here to-day. However, if agreement has been arrived at I can only express the hope that it may lead to more harmonious relations between the parties interested, and that the whole cause of Welsh secondary education will profit immensely thereby.
In regard to the general subject which has been under our review, one is interested to observe that the various speakers on each side of the Committee have emphasised what seems to them to 2510 be the more essential aspects of education; one saying, "This is the point we must apply our minds to," and the other saying, "I am not so keen on that; I am thinking of the other thing." For instance, the Noble Lord, if I understood him aright, feels that at present we ought to concentrate upon the question of the type of education we give in the upper standards. I entirely agree that that is a most important question, though perhaps I might not agree that it is the most important. My right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) felt that the question of buildings is a pivotal question, and the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) would have contented his soul if he felt that all English children learned to read. I am inclined to think the time has come when we ought to lay claim to far greater attention being do-voted to the physical condition of the children in our elementary schools than has been the case in the past. I can put my ease perhaps in this way. I recommend any hon. Member to walk on to the ordinary play-field of the children of an elementary school, and the playground of an ordinary public school, and note the remarkable contrast in the physique of the boys in the elementary school playground as compared with the boys in the public school playground. Anyone who has seen it will be struck at once with the very remarkable contrast there provided. I cannot help feeling that if greater attention were devoted to the physical requirements of our pupils in elementary schools than has been done in the past, we should not have to admit, as unfortunately is the case now, that we have very largely a C 3 nation speaking of it from the physical point of view.
In connection with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark (Mr. H. Guest), there is one suggestion I should like to make in regard particularly to rural schools. In large numbers of cases the children who attend the village school have to traverse very long distances in all types of weather. I have often wondered how in the world we can expect these children to retain an ordinary measure of health when they are compelled in the winter time, having got wet in the morning, to sit in their wet clothes all day and to get their clothes dry as they sit. I would suggest that in future, when new schools 2511 are being approved for rural areas, no plan should be allowed to pass unless it provides for some sort of drying room for the children's clothes, and unless another portion of the building is available where a mid-day meal can be provided, so that the children can fortify themselves against the inclement weather. That is a line of improvement that ought to be immediately possible, and I am sure it is one which would commend itself to all parties in the House.
I will pass to another aspect of school life which is in some danger of being ignored. It is curious that very few speakers have directed attention to the cause of the physically and mentally defective. I was at the Board of Education last year and I know that special attention is being paid to this subject, and that a considerable amount of work is being done, and far more than people outside generally realise. Indeed, those who undertake this work show a very remarkable devotion to it. But I am a little disturbed—I may have misread the quotation and it might do the Noble Lord an injustice—by having read a summarised report of a speech by the Noble Lord at a conference in London at the beginning of this week. I gather from the report that he said that we seem to have come to an end of what we might fairly expect from the State in the direction of support of these special institutions, and that we shall have to rely on voluntary efforts in this direction.
§ Lord E. PERCY indicated dissent.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
The Noble Lord shakes his head, and I am glad to know that he repudiates that interpretation of his speech. In normal times the resources of many persons were such as to provide them with a little wherewith to support this type of school, but in times like the present those resources are naturally tending to dry up. Consequently, if we were expected to fall back upon voluntary resources, we should perhaps be in danger of starving these institutions, whereas they deserve further encouragement. I pass to another subject which deserves equal attention. That is the much vexed question of vocational versus cultural education. I do not know what is the precise view of the Noble Lord, but I would be glad to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board what is 2512 the intention underlying the proposed conferences between representatives of industry and of the local authorities on this question of the education of children beyond the age of 13 or 14. I am all in favour of fitting children to do their proper work and to earn their livelihood in as efficient a way as possible, but I entirely deny the assertion which is made very frequently and boldy in some quarters, that the whole purpose of education is to fit a child to earn a livelihood. I assert, on the contrary, that the purpose of education is not so much to enable a child to earn a livelihood as to enable it to live, and to live a full and complete life. There is no harm, of course, in having as skilful a, farm labourer as you care to have, or in having as erudite a miner as you can secure. But the whole purpose of education, after all, is not, and ought not to be, to provide efficient clerks or more acute shop assistants or more efficient industrial instruments, good as these are in themselves. The whole purpose of education should be primarily cultural rather than vocational. Therefore, I trust that the conferences which the Noble Lord has in mind will not have as their principal interest the question giving a vocational bias to education.
I want to direct attention to a phrase which occurred in the Noble Lord's speech. It has already been mentioned by the right hon. Member for Central New-castle (Mr. Trevelyan). The phrase was to the effect that expanding expenditure upon education will be largely impossible without expanding revenue. I do not know whether those words imply a sort of menace to the future of education or whether they are not meant to do so. In any case, if the phrase means that in the balance as between expenditure upon education and expenditure upon other forms of national service, the educational service is to take a place of some inferiority. I can only say that such a proposal will receive the most vigorous opposition from those on this side. If there is to be economy, it should be economy by wise expenditure and wise saving, but we do not accept the point of view implied by so many speakers on education un and down the country, namely, that all the money spent upon education, or most of it, is waste, while 2513 the expenditure on other forms of national service is economy. Every form of spending is not waste, and every form of saving is not economy. Every saving of money upon education expenditure, to my mind, bears very closely on unwise economy. I trust, therefore, that in the words used by the Noble Lord there was no implication that the days of bountiful support for educational work are drawing to a close, and that the whip of the Federation of British Industries, or some like body, has at least been heard to crack, and that we are to return to the old habit of starving the schools so as to find money for other and less desirable national services. I join with my right hon. Friend and others in congratulating the Noble Lord upon the work already done at the Board, but if the words to which I have taken objection imply what I fear, the days of congratulation will very speedily be coming to an end.
§ Mr. HARRIS
On a point of Order. Is it correct that this discussion comes to an end at 8.15, and, if so, is it right that there should be only four hours for discussing the whole of the education Estimates of the country?
There have been such long speeches. Is there any way by which back benchers can get a chance? The same people come here every year and speak, the Members for the Universities, and so on, and those who wait all day to be called have not a chance to speak.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
Those are not really points of order. The question raised is not a question for me, but for the House itself; it has nothing whatever to do with me.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
Surely it is not in order for Members who have not been present during the Debate to walk into the House to be called upon to speak, while those who have sat throughout the Debate cannot get a chance of speaking?
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Duchess of Atholl)
So many points have been raised in the discussion and so little time remains, that the Committee will forgive me if I am not able to deal in any detail with any of them. Let me say, first, that I welcomed in the speech of the right hon. 2514 Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) an expression of freedom from anxiety with regard to the progress of education. The right hon. Gentleman laid much stress on the need for more school buildings. I would remind him that the replacement of bad schools was one of the foremost planks in educational policy framed by the leaders of the Conservative party at the last Election. The right hon. Gentleman will admit that my Noble Friend lost no time in sending out the black list. The right hon. Gentleman proposed a considerably larger building grant to local authorities, and seemed to think that without such increased assistance it would be impossible for the local authorities to meet the demand made upon them. I would mention that an authority such as that for the West Riding has drawn up a programme involving over £1,000,000 for building alone, that London also has a large programme, and that other authorities are tackling this question of new buildings in a very serious spirit. If the right hon. Gentleman will refer to the Memorandum on Estimates, he will see that the indebtedness of local authorities has very much decreased, and that, therefore, they are in a much better position to shoulder the burden than they were formerly.
In regard to the question of the raising of the school age, the right hon. Gentle-man, of course, has not forgotten that my right hon. Friend sanctioned the application made by two local authorities who were able to satisfy him that they could meet the conditions laid down by the right hon. Gentleman himself when he was at the Board of Education, and, perhaps, he has not forgotten that another local authority was unable to satisfy those conditions and that he, therefore, was unable to comply with its request. My Noble Friend in this matter abides by the declaration made in this House in December last. We also had from the right hon. Gentleman opposite some very interesting remarks about the all-important question of the training of teachers. I am very glad to find that he agrees with my Noble Friend that teachers, who form an important profession and are performing an all-important national service, must be drawn from the whole nation and from as wide a field as possible. I do not think it is possible for me to add anything to what my right hon. Friend has said on 2515 this question. It is receiving prolonged and careful consideration. But I should like to correct a misapprehension under which the right hon. Gentleman has left the House regarding the number of graduates in the teaching profession in Scotland. I was more surprised that it should be shared by the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik), and I hope he will forgive my saying that I expected him to be better acquainted with the figures. In answer to a question recently asked in this House, it was stated that out of 3,735 men in the teaching profession in the National Schools of Scotland, not more than 1,296 were graduates. That is roughly one-third.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am sorry if I did not hear the right hon. Gentleman, but I think the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle said a very large proportion of teachers in Scotland were graduates. When we come to women, the figures are still more disappointing. Out of 14,508, only 929 are graduates.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am afraid I cannot. I remember a very interesting suggestion made by the right hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) with regard to the possibility that some of the training colleges might become hostels for the universities. But I would point out that hostel accommodation is not quite the same as university accommodation. The right hon. Member was anxious to hear something about the progress of the medical services. I think that the last report of the chief medical officer of the Board gives some very comforting figures. For example, in London in the year 1923 it was found that 36.7 per cent. of the children in the schools inspected had defects of one kind or another compared with 44 per cent. in 1918. That is certainly progress. In the same year there were 5.9 per cent. who had been diagnosed as under-nourished as compared with 12.8 per cent. in 1913. That is also a very important matter, and the progress is satisfactory. Again, it was found that children suffering from defec- 2516 tive hearing were only half of what there were 10 years ago. I think that gives tremendous hope for the deaf and dumb. This work is carried on unobtrusively and is not at all spectacular, but day in and day out it is going on steadily.
The right hon. Gentlemen also drew attention to what is rather a startling feature in the figures given in our last report, namely, the decline in our part-time schools. The more recent figures that are now to hand show that there has been a distinct recovery in the attendance, although it still shows some sign of suffering from the trade depression. With regard to directors, I would remind the hon. Member that in the Superannuation Bill just passed, the qualification of having been three years a teacher, before becoming a director, is embodied in the Bill, and that will further standardise the qualification for these posts. With regard to broadcasting, there are, I am sure, possibilities, especially in connection with music, and some interesting experiments are being carried on with regard to adult-education at Nottingham. Regarding the points raised by the right hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), although he is not now present, I can fissure the Committed that they are receiving careful consideration.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I hope the Noble Lady will deal with them, as I am very interested in Catholic schools, and would like to know what is being done.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Perhaps the Committee would just like to know that the number of schools regarded by the Board as too bad to be amended in Liverpool is not more than four. There are other schools that have got to be improved, but in the list of schools incapable there are not more than four. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman realised the figure was not larger. I would like to say how greatly my right hon. Friend and I appreciate the sacrifices that were made by Roman Catholic persons, very often of small means, to build chapels and schools of their own faith. But any such fundamental change as the right hon. Gentleman had in mind when he spoke it is not possible to discuss to-day on this Vote.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Is this matter receiving the consideration of the Government? I know the Noble Lady cannot enlarge upon it, but I would like to know whether it is receiving the consideration of the Government.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I have no figures beside me, and I fear that it is not in Order to discuss this matter, as it would require legislation. I come now to the criticism regarding the administration of the Board made by the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities. He made a rather severe indictment against the Board. He seemed to think that we were pursuing a mad career of extravagance, and were lavishing large sums on inspection of a soul-less mechanical kind. I do not agree with him that inspection need be soul-less.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I spoke of administration, which had been handed over for the most part to the local authorities, having increased. Why have you got 17 assistant secretaries?
Duchess of ATHOLL
I think the right hon. Gentleman forgets that the Board has an inspectorate which forms part of the Board's administration.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The inspection is under a separate heading, and I am speaking of the money solely for general administration.
Duchess of ATHOLL
The explanation of the increase in cost is largely the Civil Service bonus and the reorganisation of the Civil Service in recent years, and also the considerable increase of: work that is entailed by the Superannuation Acts. The increase of the personnel of the Board is mainly due to these Acts. There is a great deal of work to deal with in connection with pensions.
The hon. Member for Southwark North (Mr. H. Guest) was anxious to know what my right hon. Friend meant by connecting education with industry, and suggested that he regarded education as a process for manufacturing wage slaves. I do not think that statement need be taken seriously. As to the provision of meals, it is a question of great importance, especially with regard to the health of the children. I think local 2518 authorities are well aware of their duty for providing meals for necessitous children, and the Board has been pressing for the provision of meals through school canteens for non-necessitous children, where schools have been closed or decapitated. We do regard this as very important, especially where the children have to go two or three miles to school, that their health should not suffer for lack of a substantial and warm meal.
With regard to Welsh education, the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Hadyn Jones) pressed on my right hon. Friend the possibility of a unified inspectorate. Informal discussions are still proceeding with the Central Welsh Board, and I hope arrangements will be made for obtaining co-operation. Regarding a variety of curriculum for rural areas, my right hon. Friend lays great stress on variety in education, and is watching with interest various experiments in these areas. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) can rest assured that I agree with him in his view that education is not merely something to enable the child to earn a livelihood. Earning a livelihood is only part of the task. The part that elementary schools have to play is to try to give children as wide an education as possible. in order to discover latent capacity and power of developing intellectual or aesthetic interests, so that every boy and girl may go out, even if it is at the age of 14, not only capable of steady work, but with some form of worthy occupation for their hours of leisure.
§ It being a Quarter-past Bight of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.
§ Order for consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now considered."
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at 2519 the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
When this Bill came up for its Second Heading, I drew attention to the proposed alterations which it is seeking to carry out in my constituency. I raised the question of general principle involved, namely, the effective safeguarding of the welfare of the local community. As the railway company has not seen fit to meet what are felt to be the reasonable claims of the Parish of Thurgoland, in relation to this Bill, I must press this matter in the name of that community, even to the point of forcing a Division, although I hope that will not be necessary. The position is, that in my constituency the Bill seeks to take away a railway tunnel. That, in itself, will cause nothing but rejoicing for everybody concerned, but in removing that tunnel they will be obliged to interfere with the rights of the public in two directions. The local authority has sought through private negotiations to obtain satisfaction, but they have not been able to realise anything like adequate compensation for the very serious losses in which not only the local community but all the users of the roads, as they now exist, will be involved.
The railway company offer in lieu of the tunnel which will be removed only one alternative. As I pointed out on the Second Reading, that alternative road which they are proposing to establish in place of the two roads which they are going to remove will involve the local inhabitants in a walk of one mile extra on a return journey per day. The local inhabitants do not complain of that, although they feel that from the point of view of business and every day life it will be a serious permanent inconvenience; but there is the further fact that the railway company are offering no alternative for the closing of the second road. The local authority feel very strongly that they ought to have at least a footpath. They are not asking for a big public road to be constructed, but a right of way in the form of a permanent footpath across the. railway at a lower point than where the. present bridge is situated over the tunnel. That will not involve any serious outlay, and the local authority feel that it is a very reasonable claim which they 2520 are putting forward under the circumstances.
Not only on the grounds of economic justice but on the grounds of the permanent social and healthful welfare of the inhabitants of the village, they make this plea, because if this little footpath with its connection across the railway to the village is not granted it will mean that permanent direct access to the fields and the countryside will be denied to the inhabitants of the village, and they will be driven, if they want to go for a stroll, to pass along a road which is frequented. by motor traffic, which is greatly increasing. I am asked to bring before the Members of this House the very difficult position in which this small parish council, responsible for its local inhabitants, find itself because it is unable to pay large fees to have this matter fought out in London. It feels that it is a matter of common justice that this little community of several hundred inhabitants should receive the sympathetic consideration of this House in presenting a reasonable communal claim for its public life against the arbitrary claims made by the railway company in this Clause. I hope that hon. and right hon. Members will realise that this opposition is not made in any spirit of hostility to the railway company or of setting up competing claims without relation to facts at the expense of other claims, but that the whole of the inhabitants feel very strongly that there is a reasonable claim which ought to be granted. It is on those grounds that I offer uncompromising opposition in the name of the parish council and its inhabitants to the passage of this Bill, and I hope that those who are responsible for directing the passage of the Bill through the House will see their way to approach the parish council and to give them not only for the present generation but for all succeeding generations an adequate measure of justice in connection with the carrying out of a most desirable improvement in the removal of one of the most disagreeable tunnels in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
§ Sir WILFRID SUGDEN
It will be noticed that I have put on the Paper a Motion, on Clause 23, page 34, line 8, 2521 leave out from the word "say," to end of Clause, and add:In the County of Durham.The company may in the borough of the Hartlepools construct new railways or extend main lines across the harbour entrance, and also suitable quays with proper cranes and haulage machinery, and also may construct and build a dock on the site of the Slake.This Motion deals with the elimination of certain Clauses from the Bill, but, as I was advised, it would be out of order to move that Motion, I contemplated and next considered the substitution of a manuscript Amendment which would have effected the purpose by eliminating certain parts of the Clauses of the Bill. But I think it better not to move the Motion which I have put on the Paper, nor even the substituted Motion, but rather to lay before the House certain matters which I suggest very respectfully are worthy of the attention of the representatives of the railway company, and which up to this moment have not had that attention which they deserve. Certain Clauses in this Bill affect detrimentally the interest of the locality which I represent, and I trust that they will be dealt with by the representatives of the railway company in an equitable manner. Probably I shall be told that since 1923 representatives of the traders of the Hartlepools, and the Mayor of the Hartlepools, have been in consultation with representatives of the railway company, and that certain improvements have been obtained for the Hartlepools, but I would point out that under this Bill certain advantages are conferred on other districts which have not been represented in these consultations during the last two years, and that those advantages will affect detrimentally the Hartlepools, and therefore, while I shall not oppose this Bill, I should like to place these matters before the representatives of the railway company in the House in order that they will give them proper consideration.
The railway company are offering to other districts facilities which we think, by reason of the high rates that are charged and as a mere matter of equity, should be offered to us. I may refer in the first place to the fish industry. I do not wish to detain the House with too many details, but this is a Bill which affects the, trawler owners as well as the fish salesmen and others, and it is a fact that there is a differentiation in the 2522 matter of facilities and rates and methods of charging on the part of this railway company as against the Hartlepools; for example, "carriage paid" charges against "carriage forward" charges, in comparison with the treatment which is given to other districts in the matter of sending fish to the great industrial centres to which the fish must be sent. In this respect advantages are given to the Scottish ports. I would ask, therefore, that these matters may have consideration, and for this reason. Among those bodies of men, traders, who have had interviews with the railway company between 1923 and the present time adequate representation was not at that time properly organised, as they had not a collective organisation, as now, to voice their needs.
Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Hope)
Anything adversely affecting the travelling public could have been argued on the Second Reading. It could have been argued that powers should not be granted to the company, because they were not doing their duty in some respects; but on consideration of the Bill that argument-would not be in order. If the hon. Member can point out some Clause in the Bill which adversely affects the travelling public, he would be in order, but he cannot raise a general grievance against the company at this stage.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
I quite understand, and what I suggest next is that there are facilities offered to certain sections of the community on other parts of the line by this Bill in the shape of a better train service which has been refused in our case in respect of students and scholars, and I suggest that by reason of that fact the railway company—
That really is not in order. If there were something in the Bill to stop railway communication with the Hartlepools or to provide that there should be only two trains a day or something like that, then it would be in order to discuss it, but the fact that a better service is given to other towns cannot be any reason for objecting to this Bill at this stage.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
I bow to your ruling and I shall confine my remarks to a very short resumé of the three points which I wish to make. I say that by the undue preference which the railway 2523 company are offering by giving to other districts special facilities which are not granted to us—
If the hon. Member objects to anything which is in this Bill he is in order in discussing it, but any objection to the railway company's general conduct of their line is not in order.
§ Sir W SUGDEN
Then I shall be compelled merely to register my protest and to ask the sympathetic attention of the railway company in respect of rates and facilities for steel and iron, for pig-iron, fishing and the travelling public, and for an equitable rentage of storage grounds for timber, etc. I would ask the company in all these matters to give us a fair deal in the Hartlepools.
§ Sir ELLIS HUME-WILLIAMS
After the charming and moderate speech of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. R. Smith), it is only courteous on my part to say a, few words. The hon. Member has practically repeated, if my memory serves me well, what he said on the Second Reading of the Bill, and I did venture to point out to him then that what he put forward was a matter, not for Second Reading or for the Report stage, but for argument in the Committee, There has been a Committee of the House of Lords and subsequently of the House of Commons, and the point to which he refers has not been brought before either of them, but, subject to what you, Sir, may think, I should have grave doubts as to whether it is according to the procedure of this House to raise on the Report stage what is a pure Committee point and should have been dealt with in Committee.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
I am not perfectly acquainted with all the Rules of procedure, but I inquired whether I might, on behalf of the councils concerned, present their point of view before the Committee, and I was informed that I could not do so, and the only protest I could make was when the Bill came back to the House.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
In those circumstances the hon. Member has presented his point with so much moderation that the least I can do is to reply. 2524 The railway company in this case had to do away with a tunnel. Over the tunnel there was a footpath. The tunnel had to be turned into a cutting, the roof of the tunnel had to be cut and, not unnaturally, the footpath also had to be cut. The question arose as to how to provide equivalent accommodation. The hon. Member has suggested that a new footpath should be constructed. That is quite out of the question, because the depth of this railway cutting is 80 feet, and the width is 200 feet, and therefore that is not a practical proposition. That being so, the railway company did their best to find an alternative footpath, and they have been in negotiation with the district council, and have made several propositions to them, and in the result, as the matter stands now, a footpath over a neighbouring field has been secured. It is difficult to explain the position without a map, but the footpath to which I refer is a little longer than the footpath over the roof of the tunnel. The railway company have done the best they could and have secured this footpath, which cuts diagonally across a field and leads to an existing bridge. That is the best they can do in the circumstances. I assure the. hon. Member there is not the least intention on the part of the railway company to ignore the obvious rights of the community which he has so well voiced. We shall do our utmost to see that the best footpath that can be made shall be made, and the shortest cut that can be made shall be made. Negotiations with the district council are still in progress. This offer has been made? on behalf of the railway company and if it is not accepted and if the district council wish to suggest some other path. their suggestion will receive the most sympathetic consideration.
§ Mr. R. SMITH
I have gone very carefully over the whole ground, and examined the position in detail, and I would draw attention to the fact that the railway company is not taking away one path but two, and the alternative they propose, as was pointed out on Second Reading, is not adequate. It is not suggested that a path should be made over the top of the cutting which is an impossible proposition, but what we are asking for is another path which takes a more convenient direction.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
All the considerations will be gone into before the question is finally settled. If the hon. Member will make his representations either to the district council or to the railway company, all that he has said will receive consideration.
§ Bill, as amended, considered accordingly.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Standing Orders 223 and 243 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the Third time."—[Sir John Gilmour.]
§ King's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.
§ Order for consideration read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now considered."
§ Mr. T. KENNEDY
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
I am sorry that the Debate on education should have been interrupted by the consideration of these Private Bills, but the responsibility is not on the shoulders either of the promoters of the Bill or of those who are opposing the Bill. We are opposing it on the ground of public interest find I am certain that if the right, hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland could decide the fate of this Order on the ground of his persona) experience, what we desire would be conceded. We take advantage of this, the first and as I believe the only Parliamentary opportunity of opposing the Order and we do so, as I say, in the public interest. If this Order were introduced in a Scottish Parliament it would not have the slightest chance of being enacted. The London and North Eastern Railway Company in this Bui seek statutory power to impose tolls and charges which were sanctioned by the Ministry of 2526 Transport on the advice of the Rates Advisory Committee as far back as 1921, and in doing so, in my opinion, they are seeking statutory power to increase what I submit is a stranglehold on road transport so far as the East Coast of Scotland is concerned.
The London and North Eastern Railway Company own the two ferries referred to in this Bill, namely the Burntisland and Granton Ferry and Queensferry Ferry, and their ownership of these services enables them to exercise what is nothing short of a stranglehold on the development of road transport between the Lothians and the County of Fife. The Burntisland and Granton Ferry is the natural link in road transport between the Edinburgh side of the Forth and the county of life, while Queensferry Ferry is the natural link for road transport between West Lothian and the county of Fife. The only possible alternative to these two routes by road is via Stirling, and anyone with the slightest geographical knowledge of the East Coast of Scotland will agree that it is not justifiable to impose on those who use these ferries the disability, which I submit is imposed by this Bill, namely that of having to make such an expensive and unlikely detour in order to get access from the Lothians into Fife.
The general charge which I bring against the company and which is confirmed by the provisions of the Bill, is that they have persistently and continuously refused to develop these ferry services in the public interest. They have obstructed the development of those services by means of prohibitive charges and unsatisfactory facilities, for a very obvious purpose. The London and North Eastern Railway Company naturally desire to see, not the development of those ferry services, but their starvation. They have MO interest whatever in developing competitive transport services to their railway service over the Forth Bridge, and anybody who has the slightest acquaintance with this old question— because this is no new question—will know that those ferry services have never been satisfactory, and that they are being maintained in their present unsatisfactory condition merely in order that the London and North Eastern Railway Company may be able to say, as it is saying on this occasion, that it is losing money on the ferry services, and that it cannot afford to provide further facilities or more 2527 satisfactory rates, ignoring what is obvious to everyone, namely, that what the company lose on the ferry services they hope to recover, and as a matter of fact do recover, at the public expense, by this other Forth Bridge railway service.
The case I have to make against this Bill, I want to make briefly and on points that definitely arise under this Order. I have said that the rates are excessive, and I am going to prove that by a comparison with a neighbouring service, carried on under practically the same conditions, and burdened with no lesser overhead charges than either the Granton Ferry or the Queensferry Ferry. I refer to the Tay Ferry service, and I want to quote figures which I think completely prove my case. Take the matter of the charge on the Granton and Burntisland Ferry for a two-seater motor car. The charge for the single journey there is 10s., and on the Queensferry Ferry it is 7s. 6d., but on the Tay Ferry the charge for a return journey is 4s. 6d., or practically four times the amount charged on the Granton-Burntisland Ferry. For a fourseater motor car, the charge for a single journey to Granton is 15s. and on the Queensferry service 10s., but on the Tay Ferry service the charge is 5s. 6d. for a return journey. For a char-a-banc, the charge on the Burnfisland-Granton Ferry is 20s. to 35s. for a single journey and 70s. for a return journey, while on the Tay Ferry service the charge is 10s. for a return journey. That proves that on the Tay Ferry service the charge is only one-seventh of what it is on the Granton-Bnrntisland Ferry. For a commercial motor van the charge on the Granton Ferry is 10s. per ton, on the Queensferry Ferry it is 7s. 6d. per ton, and on the Tay Ferry the charge for the whole van loaded is is. 6d. return. I have quented enough to show that the charges on those ferries sought to be sanctioned under this Order are excessive, and that before the Order is approved some efforts should be made to compel the railway company to realise that, when it seeks statutory powers to impose transport charges of that sort, it should realise its public responsibilities and should not take advantage of its monopoly power in the east of Scotland to impose charges which are restrictive of trade and really a burden on the community.
2528 I have said that the charges are excessive, and I want to prove now that the services are totally inadequate. At this moment, if anybody desires to go from North to South Queensferry, the earliest hour in the day at which they can make that journey on certain days of this month is 12.30 p.m., and the latest hour at which they can return from the south side to the north is somewhere from 4.30 to 6 p.m. That cannot be called a public service in any sense of the word, and there is no reason whatever why the service should not be improved; I mean that there is no practical barrier in the way of an improvement. If you compare the number of runs made per day on those two ferry routes with the Tay service, you find the same comparison in the matter of adequacy of service that you find in the matter of the charges imposed. While on the Tay Ferry service you have 17 runs per day, on the Queensferry service you find five to seven at the outside, and the inadequacy of the service is even more marked on the Granton Ferry. There it is a usual incident to find the ferryboat laid up altogether for repairs, necessary repairs it may be, and the service in that ease becomes not merely a bad service, but no service at all. All those difficulties have arisen on account of what I regard, and what the public generally in the Lothians and Fife regard, as the deliberate policy of the London and North Eastern Railway Company to starve those services and to make them a feeder for their railway service over the Forth Bridge.
I fancy, if the Secretary for Scotland has any reason to advance as to why this Order should be approved, he will tell us it has passed through the usual procedure for Scottish Private Bills and that, the opposition of local interests and authorities having been satisfied, it is unreasonable to expect the House to reject the Order at this stage. On that, I should like to say that. I am speaking to-night on behalf of public bodies in the County of Fife, whose opinion of this Bill I am certain the Secretary for Scotland would not disregard. I speak to-night on behalf of the Kirkcaldy Chamber of Commerce, of the local councils at Burntisland and Kinghorn, and I am certain that I speak on behalf of the vast majority of people who have to use those services. I suppose we shall 2529 be told that the Fife County Council and the councils on the south side of the Forth presented their opposition to this Bill in its initial stages, and that their opposition has been reasonably met. On that point, I want to say that, if the Fife County Council has been satisfied by the concessions offered by the railway company as an answer to its opposition, the Fife County Council is not representative of Fife opinion. What actually has the County of Fife been offered as a concession, as a guarantee that this Bill, if passed, will ensure a better service than it is getting at present? It has been assured that when this Bill passes, dredging operations will be commenced at Queensferry, but that offer is provisional, and that provision, I think, amounts to what I regard as an insult to this House. They say:Dredging operations will be commenced at Queen's Ferry when statutory authority is obtained for charges specified an. the Provisional Order.Now they further say:A new time-table will be put into operation at the Burntisland-Granton Ferry when statutory authority is obtained for the charges specified in the Provisional Order.They say further thatIf the county council take action and succeed in compelling the railway company to augment the improved service at either Ferry the railway company is not to be hound by the agreement to supply the augmented services.What the Fife County Council and the Edinburgh Corporation receive by way of concession is an assurance that if this Order is passed the company will give them the satisfactory services they require. I submit that these concessions mean nothing. They say they have offered the fullest concession possible consistent with the interests of the railway shareholders. The statement that under present conditions they are working this service at a loss will not bear examination for a single moment. What is it they say? They are running these ferry services now at a loss. But they are running these services now and they have been since 1921. and imposing on the public the charges sanctioned in 1921, and those charges are the maximum charges provided for in the Schedules of this Bill. What does this involve? The London and North-Eastern 2530 Railway Company say what amounts to this: That they are losing money now on the services, but that they will give you a better service if you pass this Order; an Order which will impose on the railway company a liability to give increased facilities, but not enable the railway company to charge increased rates. It is not-I submit, an honest proposition, because what it amounts to is this, that they are losing money now, and they are bound to lose more money under this Order if it becomes operative.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. T. KENNEDY
Our experience of the London and North-Eastern Railway Company is that we regard them as business men, and I can hardly regard it as likely that they would for a moment propose what they do in order to inflict upon themselves greater loss than they are now enduring. Nobody would. The fact remains that in the face of the sustained opposition of the public bodies, they have not offered a scrap of evidence that they will improve the facilities, and as a matter of fact they are losing now, with the maximum charges stated in the Schedules of this Bill imposed. These maximum charges are excessive. The service is inefficient and insufficient. Because of that I want to see the House assert its right to say to the railway company that the statutory powers asked should not be given.
This is not a new trouble. Before I resume my seat I want to say that in 1927 the whole thing will come up again for revision. The Ministry of Transport will be asked to revise these charges. That is inevitable. I am asking that if the promoters want to avoid trouble they should withdraw the Bill and let the public bodies concerned in the district have the opportunity of discussing the matter. I believe the matter can be settled satisfactorily, but you will not satisfy the East of Scotland by this Bill. I would be out of order if I discussed the matter in another aspect, but I might just say this: This matter will never be satisfactorily adjusted until the public bodies there undertake these ferry services as a public responsibility. The Road Board, the Ministry of Transport, and the public bodies should be interested 2531 in maintaining an efficient ferry service as a necessary link in the road transport to the East Coast of Scotland. I feel that would bring the thing under new authority. But how far that is off I cannot say. In the meantime in the public interest we take the action that we do.
§ Dr. DRUMMOND SHIELS
I beg to second the Amendment.
The hon. Member represents one side of the Forth, and I represent the other. We oppose this Bill on the same ground, that it is not in the public interest. We believe whatever may be said about other services, that in this particular instance the interest of the railway company and the interest of the public are not the same. I am glad that we have present to-night the Minister of Transport, because it seems to me that this matter should be of peculiar interest to him. One of the functions of his Ministry is to safeguard and to develop the road system of the country. Here we have a break in two great arterial roads running to the North of Scotland, one through Edinburgh to Granton, and one through Edinburgh to Queensferry. In view of the volume of present and possible traffic on these two great roads the present arrangements of the ferries, and the charges imposed, have been shown by my hon. Friend to be utterly inadequate. One can sympathise with the railway company's position in this matter. What is wrong is that they own these ferries at all. It is only natural that they should not desire these ferries to be successful in transporting large numbers of people across the Forth as that would only encourage road traffic, both passenger and goods, and so diminish the volume of traffic on their long distance services. That is quite obvious, and one can quite understand the position of the railway company. But, as I pointed out, we are here to legislate not in the interests of the railway company, but in the interests of the public.
The Edinburgh Corporation, I am aware, which at first opposed this Bill, ultimately, after a conference, withdrew that opposition. I do not think that they withdrew that opposition with any enthusiasm. I feel sure that they only did 2532 it because they felt they had made the best possible terms they could at the time It seems to me, as the hon. Member pointed out, that the concessions which they got were trifling, and, broadly speaking, amount to this, that if the company are allowed to retain the present charges, there will be a possible increase of services, not, so far as I can see, of 50 per cent., but one journey each way each day in the summer time, and no change at all in the winter time. They further said that if the volume of traffic justified it they would consider, later on, a reduction of the charges; but surely that is the wrong way to go about it. The traffic has not been greater because of the high charges and the bad facilities, and these arrangements will simply create a vicious circle. The charges will remain high and the traffic will not increase, and the railway company will say they are justified in not reducing the charges because the traffic is not there. It is perfectly clear that the thing is so arranged that, from their point of view, it is not likely there will be any justification for reducing charges at a later date. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy has quoted a number of figures to illustrate these rates, and I do not propose to add very much to them, but I would like to refer to one item which is of special importance and of special interest to me, and that is the charge of 10s. for an ambulance van. It is quite a common thing for miners and others injured in Fife to be taken to Edinburgh Infirmary, and the only alternative to going a long way round by Stirling is to cross one of these ferries. In such cases the charge of 10s. might very well be considerably reduced. A great many instances might be given of the iniquities of the present rates for passengers. At Queensferry the charge is 7d., with no reduction for a return fare. On the Granton-Burntisland service the first-class single fare is 1s. 0½d. and the return fare 1s. 9d., while in the steerage the single fare is 9d. and the return fare is exactly double. The charges are out of all proportion to the distance covered and the facilities offered.
I would like to have an explanation as to Sub-section (2) of Clause 2. Subsection (1) says that the company may. in respect of the Queensferry service:Demand, receive and recover tolls and charges not exceeding those specified in the First Schedule to this Order.2533 Sub-section (2) says:The company may make reasonable charges for all work done, services rendered, facilities afforded or appliances provided in respect of the said ferry for which no charge is prescribed by this Order.Another Clause makes the same provision as regards the Granton-Burntisland service. Does that mean that it is possible for the company to make still higher charges on account of some expenditure of which we have no knowledge.
Not only are the rates high but the facilities are really ludicrous. For instance, in summer the last boat leaves Granton for Burntisland at (5.55 p.m., and at 5.5 p.m. on Sundays. In winter the last boat leaves Granton for Burntisland at 3.35 p.m. on week-days and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. At Queensferry, owing to the fact that dredging operations have not been kept up, and the boats cannot approach the pier at all tides, the first boat in the day may leave at any time in the forenoon between 8.30 and 12.30. As the public cannot say when a boat will start, they naturally prefer to go by a surer and more reliable route. The boats are sometimes laid up for repair, on which occasions intimation of the fact is made in the newspapers, but no alternative facilities are provided.
I think we have shown very good grounds for opposing this Bill. The railway company ought not to possess these ferries at all. On the Clyde and on the Mersey splendid ferry facilities are provided by River Boards. There is a Forth Conservancy Board, which is quite capable of running these services, and it is very desirable that this Board or some other neutral body should have charge of them. The other alternative, as the lion. Member for Kirkcaldy has said, is a road bridge at Queensferry. The Minister of Transport has taken an interest in that project, but for some reason or other, whether on account of the power of the railway company or not, it seems to make no progress. The Ministry of Transport has offered 75 per cent. of the cost of the preliminary survey, and the local authorities on both sides of the Forth have to find 25 per cent. only. Why they do not do it I do not know, because I think the offer of the Ministry of Transport is quite generous. It would not be in order for me to go further into that question, but I would remind the railway company 2534 that if better ferry facilities are not provided there will be a greatly increased. demand for a road bridge across the Forth. It has been called for already, owing to the scandalous and inadequate service provided by the ferries. Whether this Bill is withdrawn or not, I hope the railway company will seriously consider the points we have put. We have put them in no obstructive spirit. I have no complaint against the London and North Eastern Railway, speaking generally. Theirs is the smoothest and most punctual line between here and Edinburgh, and I usually travel by it, but while paying that tribute I must say that in this local matter they have pushed their powers too far. We quite understand that they are not a philanthropic concern and must have regard to their own interests but they ought to realise that they also have a-responsibility to the public as concessionnaires from the public, which they have not so far discharged in regard to these ferries.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
I feel that perhaps some of the facts in regard to this Measure have not been adequately laid before the House. I very much regret that the hon. Member opposite accused this railway company of dishonesty.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
Then perhaps he did not intend to use it. There were two ferries over the Firth of Forth One was established by Act of Parliament in 1830 and the other by Act of Parliament in 1842. They were worked independently for some years, and then they were taken over by the North British Railway Company. During the War they were not used, but after the War they came under the control of the London and North Eastern Company. The first thing that happened after that was that the scale of charges had to be revised, and a scale was drawn up and sent to the Minister of Transport, and he referred it to the Railway Rates Advisory Committee. That is a body which makes inquiries of this sort under the powers of the Ministry of Transport Act. of 1919, and in 1921 there was an inquiry. It was confined at that time to the very vital question of the rates which ought to be charged.
2535 On that Committee were representatives of the Corporation of the City of Edinburgh, the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, the Commercial Motor Users' Association, the Royal Scottish Automobile Club, the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Kennedy), and the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. W. M. Watson), and this Committee considered the scale of charges which was to be imposed. They ultimately reported their decision and a scale was adopted, but unfortunately a scale of that kind does not continue in perpetuity, and the object of this Bill is to make permanent the charges then imposed. When this particular Order, which results in this Bill which we are now considering, came before the tribunal, it was approved by the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Fife County Council, and an agreement was entered into by the Fife County Council and the Edinburgh Corporation, as a result of which the charges to which this Bill seeks to give permanent sanction were agreed to between the promoters and the opponents.
Under these circumstances I ask the House to consider what has happened as the result of charges imposed in 1921 There are two complaints levelled against the scale of charges. One is, that the charges are too high, and the other is that the service is inadequate. The first and obvious answer is that those charges were settled by a Tribunal of which the Minister of Transport was a member, and that they have been in operation ever since, and it is interesting to see what the result has been. With regard to the service of those ferries for the year 1922, the railway companies lost at the rate of charges which it is now sought to impose and to give permanency and legality the sum of £640. For the year 1923 they lost £750, but for the year 1924 they were fortunate enough to make a profit of £300. It can scarcely be argued in face of those facts that the charges are excessive. Here are these two ferries being worked during that period on an authorised scale which satisfied the Minister of Transport, and was settled by a representative committee, and the result was that they lost the sums I have indicated to the House.
What happened after that? The real difficulty is that under existing con- 2536 ditions it is practically impossible to work these ferries at low tide, and therefore there appears no prospect of giving an adequate service until that difficulty can be overcome. Consequently, when the present scale came up for consideration the other day. an agreement-was entered into by the Edinburgh Corporation and the, Fife County Council providing that in order to meet the difficulty the railway company has to spend a sum of over £12,000. and the result of this they hope will be that they will be able to improve the service by no less than 50 per cent. I do not know in what words I could satisfy hon. Members opposite that that is the intention of the company, but that is what is provided in the agreement. That is the consideration for which the Edinburgh Corporation and the Fife County Council withdrew their opposition to the scale of charges.
That is an undertaking which the company accepts and which they will certainly proceed to put into force. It is really very hard to think what more they can do, and I hope that hon. Members who have opposed this Bill will certainly give it a chance, and if this Measure is passed the company will give effect to those two contracts which have been entered into. If, on the other hand, the opposition should succeed, the agreement would fall to the ground, and it would be a very serious matter for the company to have to consider whether, under such circumstances, they would be justified in incurring the expenditure which I have indicated. It is the intention of the company that, although they are going to spend that amount, and although the annual charges will be increased by very nearly £1,000, they do not propose to increase the charges. There is a provision in Clause 4 which I will read to the House. It provides thatIf at any time after the 1st of January. 1927, it is represented in writing to the Minister of Transport—
2537 that under the circumstances then existing all or any of the tolls or charges authorised by this Order should be revised, the Minister may, if he thinks fit, make an Order revising all or any of such tolls or charges as aforesaid and may fix the date as from which such Order shall take effect and thenceforth such Order shall be observed until the same expires or is revoked.
- (a) by the Corporation of Edinburgh or the County Council of the County of Fife or the County Council of the County of West Lothian, or by any chamber of commerce or shipping, or by any representative body of traders or any person who. in the opinion of the Minister, is a proper person for the purpose; or
- (b) by the companyNo application may be made under this Section for a general revision, of tolls and charges for the time being authorised under this Order within 12 months after the date of an Order made by the Minister for a general revision thereof and no application may be made for a revision of any particular tolls or charges within 12 months after the date of an Order.
§ Mr. T. KENNEDY
I would very much like to be satisfied. I would like to know, if I could be informed, what power this Bill confers on the railway company to carry out, and what means it gives the railway company to do what they promised to do which they do not now possess and have possessed for many years.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
The improvements indicated are the subject of a written agreement—which is open to inspection by the hon. Member, if he so desires—between the railway company, the Edinburgh Corporation, and the County Council of Fife. That agreement has been acted upon by the Corporation and the County in that they withdrew their opposition and this Order went through without opposition in consequence. The improvements are binding upon the railway company. They are such as I have indicated. They entail an expenditure of £12,000. They do not require any inclusion in the Act of Parliament of a binding legal contract. What the Act of Parliament does is to authorise a scale of charges and it would be altogether surplus age to introduce into the Act of Parliament an obligation which already rests upon the railway company as I have explained. I do hope that that answer will satisfy the hon. Member. I am shortly giving an account of what has happened. I have pointed out that the charges which this Bill seeks to legalise and perpetuate are charges that have been in operation for some time. I have pointed out that they hitherto resulted in a loss, and it cannot be that they are too high. I have on behalf of the railway company indicated the course they intend to pursue.
2538 There remains only one question to deal with, which I do out of courtesy to the last speaker. He desired me to point out what was meant by the provision in Clause 2 which, having first laid down that the company may in respect of the Queensferry demand, receive, and recover, tolls and charges not exceeding those specified in the First Schedule to this Order, goes on to provide that they may make reasonable charges for anything that is not included in the Schedule. I should have thought it was rather obvious. You cannot in your Schedule cover everything that may have to be carried across the Firth of Forth. You may some day have an elephant and you may have an aeroplane, or you may have a Member of Parliament. You may have something altogether abnormal to carry, and that being so, all this Clause says is that reasonable charges should be made. I venture to hope that the explanation I have given has satisfied hon. Members whose opposition we have listened to with great attention. I hope the result of these distinct improvements will be in the future not only to give an increased and better service to the general public, but also to make it a remunerative concern on the part of the railway company. That will be the endeavour of the railway company in the future, and I trust the House will see fit to let this Bill go through.
§ Sir ROBERT HUTCHISON
I wish to make a few observations on this Bill. I am a very frequent user of the ferry. The services rendered at the present moment are not in keeping with what the present railway company rendered to the ordinary passengers along their lines. Fife has always been the much cow of the railway company right away from the day of the North British Railway under John Walker. I regret that my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland has put his name at the back of this Bill because the present ferry services are well known to be inadequate, bad, and certainly not in keeping with the advanced railway practice of the London and North Eastern Railway Company. The boats are antiquated slow, and quite unfitted for the service they have to carry out. Those two boats were built years and years ago by a relation of my own. They have been no doubt reconditioned in recent 5'ears, but the present "William Muir" is, I think, agreed by anyone who uses that service to 2539 have passed the days of usefulness and ought long ago to have been replaced. I would like to know from the last speaker if the railway company are prepared to give us a boat similar in construction, a boat which will stand the weather better, of the type now running from Newport to Dundee, whereby they have not to waste a lot of time on turning round and getting alongside at low water I have tried to get a motor car on board the boat at Burntisland, and found I could not get alongside. The result is you have to go miles round by Stirling to get from the Kingdom of Fife to other parts of Scotland. If we are going to pass this Bill, we should have some promise of better service in the future. I hope you will give us better boats and at the same time give better pier accommodation whereby you can get alongside the boat, and further have to spend a. little less of our worldly goods in transferring a. motor car from one side to the other.
The charges for going across from Burntisland to Granton are very much in excess of what is charged across the Tay. Although I agree that the distance, travelled is greater and the weather conditions that I have often experienced in the old days are more severe on the Forth than on the Tay, I think the difference between the charges made on the Tay and on the Forth are out, of all proportion to what is reasonable. The speaker for the Bill has made a point of the loss attributed to the railway company on account of running those services. I am astonished that it is so small. After all, those ferries continued as the means of communication for vehicles from one part of Scotland to another, and it was agreed that they should be allowed to be carried on after the Forth Bridge service was opened. The railway company have undoubtedly gained very largely in their receipts by the communication between Fife and the rest of Scotland by the Forth Bridge, and therefore their loss on the ferry services should be taken into general account with their general traffic receipts for Fife. I am quite satisfied that never at any time did they anticipate to make that service a remunerative service. It had to be taken in connection with the whole traffic consideration between Fife and the rest of the country.
2540 This Bill, however, lays it down that the company may apply for a revision of charges, which surely means that at some future time they have an idea of increasing their charges. Why, otherwise, should there be the provision in paragraph (b) of Clause 4 (1) that the company may ask for a revision? Furthermore, there is no guarantee in this Bill that there will not be an interruption of services. This old boat, which was reconditioned in Leith, after being built at Kinghorn, might break down at any time. Is there any other boat which the company could guarantee to put on to this service while necessary repairs are being done to this old boat, so that communication between the Kingdom of Fife and the rest of Scotland may be continued. It is a very serious matter, especially for people who live in Kirkcaldy, a growing industrial centre, which might be separated from the rest of Scotland for long periods. In the old days we had two boats, but now we have only one, and a very old one at that. I hesitate to think what will be the effect if these additional powers are put into the hands of the railway company, which has every interest to suppress this ferry and make it impossible for people to go backwards and forwards. The scale of charges imposed is enormous compared with other ferries giving similar facilities, and I do not like to think what we may have to pay at some future time, when the railway company, under this Bill, asks for a revision, and gets a friendly Minister of Transport who is willing to sign his name and say that they can certainly have it. I do hope the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw (Sir K. Hume-Williams) will reassure me on these points.
§ Sir- E HUME-WILLIAMS
I can assure the hon. Member that, under Clause 4 of the Bill, if he considers a charge to be unreasonable, he can apply to the Minister of Transport for a revision, and take his chance there.
§ Sir R. HUTCHISON
I understand that the company also can apply to the Minister of Transport to increase the charges. Moreover, the charges now in force were, I understand, in force in 1921. but since then the general fares have been reduced. Have these charges been reduced?
§ Sir R. HUTCHISON
In any case, I wish to record my protest that this service is antiquated, out of date, very expensive and inefficient. I trust that, if this Bill goes through, the railway company will take it to heart, and will see if they can give us a better and, if possible, a cheaper service.
I do not wish to take a very large part in the Debate as far as this ferry is concerned, although I should like to ask one or two questions upon it. I think that just now I heard it suggested that the Minister of Transport has offered to pay, through his Department, 75 per cent. of the cost of a survey in this matter, leaving 25 per cent. to be paid by the local authorities. This ferry is an unimportant one in a small district, and is not of much moment to the well-being of the nation, but where I come from there is a considerable number of ferries of great importance to the whole country. Might I ask whether this same generous offer in regard to the cost of a survey would be available in other cases'? I think we ought to know whether this is merely a small perquisite of the Scottish people, or whether it can be extended to the English people as well.
I am quite sure it would be out of order to discuss it, but I simply put the suggestion forward in the hope that I might get some sort of intimation sooner or later, and merely for the purpose of bringing it to the right hon. Gentleman's mind. With regard to this particular ferry, T see on page 14 of the Bill what I think is a very extortionate charge, to which I should like to call the attention of the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams). A street organ is going to be charged at 2s. 6d. I do think, considering the Scottish people's entire lack of musical understanding, and the infliction that they use for music, that this great railway company, in the cause of education, ought, at any rate, to lower that particular charge. I would not mind the imposition of a charge upon the particular infliction I have referred to, hut I should like to see their musical capacities levelled up in this respect, and I would ask if they cannot see their way to make this charge rather less.
2542 There is another of these charges to which I should like to refer. Many of our railway companies have done a great deal for local agriculture. I notice in Part III of the Schedule, on page 14, charges for various animals, and it really seems to me that there is absolutely no reason in the way in which those charges are levied. A saddle horse, carriage horse, or led horse—I suppose this is really part of the ancient phraseology in the time of George III, when some of these original Orders were made—is charged 2s. 6d. A cart horse or wagon horse is charged 1s. 6d., and, so far, the railway company are doing their best to encourage agriculture. But when we come to the next item, we see that a stallion is charged 7s. 6d. It does seem to me that we might follow the first part of the scale, and lower that to, say, Is., or something of that sort, instead of making this extra charge in this case, because I am sure if that is represented to the company with due seriousness they will realise that there is a distinct chance in this thing of quietening the opposition from those Members who represent the locality if they would make just, these two small amendments in their Schedule that I have suggested.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I was interested in the utterances of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Sir It. Hutchison), who formerly represented the Kirkcaldy Boroughs, and who know? the situation very well, when he made the comparison between the Newport ferries and the ferries that we have particularly in view at the moment. These ferries have been conducted for some years back with remarkable, success, and one of the special reasons for the later developments has been the improvement of the charges and the effort to cultivate the business. These ferries are in the hands of the harbour trustees. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman speaks of a loss on this particular ferry, that, after all, is a minor consideration, as the railway company well know the enhanced position they were placed in when they had facilities over the Forth Bridge. Before that time they had those ferries specially in their charge to work for the general public interest. That position, I think, is really, from our point of view, at any rate, still unchanged. Why are we having a loss? Is there a possibility of gaining 2543 additional business? Is it not the case that with the developments in the country the railway companies are finding transport by road to be a very effective competitor with the railways, and that, therefore, it is their first duty to ask, "Are not our charges too high? Are we not failing to provide the requisite facilities which would give the desired result of enabling the railway company to make the profits they ordinarily have in view?" Instead of that they say, ''Our best plan is to allow the ferries to be left alone. We do not want to work them. We only want to make a sort of pretence of carrying them on." The repair system of which we have heard may be another matter in connection with this handling of the business. They do not want to run regular ferry boats, they do not want up-to-date steamers. They have presented to the country the finest engines that can be got, and an up-to-date method of locomotion. Why this marked contrast with the ferry? They have a boat that ought to be relegated to the British Museum. Why is there, then, the appeal to forego our opposition and to leave matters in the hands of those who are so well able to look after themselves? It is true they are very well able to look after themselves.
At the Tay Ferry, practically at the mouth of the river, while the occasion is not so necessitous as the one we are thinking about, still, the situation is identically the same. There is only an occasional sailing boat. Facilities are of the utmost importance in this district, with a large industrial community, where there are watering places which could be in direct touch with Edinburgh. They are in this predicament. They do not want to cultivate this ferry business at all. In the case of the Tay Bridge, which is a natural continuity of the northern route which would link up this Forth Road Bridge, we have an advantage because we have the Government to undertake the expense of the preliminary operations, instead of only paying 25 per cent. If that roadway were available as the Great Northern route, undoubtedly a very heavy stroke would be delivered against the various railway companies traversing Scotland. They worked the ferries with success in the old days—a double boat system and a half-hour journey, taking the tonnage from the rails right on to the 2544 steamers, as well as the passengers. Why is that old time procedure not available now? Why should this appeal have to be made by Scottish Members on a Measure of this kind? It is well enough understood. These things have had their day, according to the railway companies, because they have now this widely advertised railway system over the Forth and the Taj-Bridges. The retaliation policy is coming from the general body of the public with the road bridges across the Forth and the Tay, in which case they are going to be left still more severely alone. We maintain that as the custodian, as you ought to be, of the public interest it is your duty to meet the call that is quite reasonably made on this side of the House that these fares should be reduced, and we maintain that with the reduction of fares you will get more business, so far as the ferries are concerned, and extend your facilities, and you will enhance the commercial prospects of this undertaking. I know that from the railway point of view these are subsidiary matters. What some hon. Members want to look after are the great commercial interests of the railway company. What I am looking after is the interest of, the general body of the public.
§ Bill considered accordingly; read the Third time, and passed.