§ Again considered in Committee.
§ [Captain FITZROY in the Chair.]
§ CIVIL SERVICES ESTIMATES, 1925–26.
§ CLASS IV.
§ BOARD OF EDUCATION.
Postponed Proceeding resumed on Question,
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.
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I wish to draw attention to what I consider to be a very mean breach of faith in the administration of the special grant for higher education. It will be within the recollection of the House that the late President of the Board of Education made a statement in February of last year to the effect that local authorities might proceed to raise the percentage of free places to 40 per cent. That statement was rightly interpreted by local authorities as a guarantee that there would be no penalty involved in getting on with the provision of these free places as quickly as possible. It was quite reasonable to assume from that statement that local authorities which did make progress with the provision would not be placed in a less advantageous position than local authorities which delayed progress. My ground of complaint is this: In September of last year a circular was issued to local authorities which indicated to them that the special grant of £2 per head for 1924–25, and £3 per head afterwards, would be paid on all additional places in secondary schools above 25 per cent. Therefore, those local authorities which increased the number of free places, naturally to come, and did for a time come, within the provisions of that special grant. The majority of the local authorities outside London, as the Minister knows, make their annual selection of new entrants into the secondary schools—
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being present—
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
When interrupted, I was saying that a great many local authorities, following the ordinary practice, selected their entrants for the new free places in the secondary schools in July, and those entrants would have been due, in the normal way, to be admitted into the secondary schools about the end of September. The General Election resulted in the return of a Conservative Administration, A certain amount of experience gained as a result of the operation of this new additional grant led the new President of the Board of Education to make an announcement 2546 to the House of Commons on 19th December last that he proposed to review the principles on which this grant was based, because, as he said, 90 per cent. of the grant was being absorbed by those local authorities which had increased the number of free places over and above the 25 per cent., not because of the new concession granted by his predecessor, but because there were in various parts of the country numbers of local authorities which were more progressive than others. Therefore, he said, 90 per cent. of the grant had gone, not to create new places for poor children, but had been absorbed by local authorities for places which existed a year ago, or would have existed if there had been no alteration in the conditions of the grant. That was an argument which had a good deal of weight and which has a certain amount of justification, but there can be no justification for placing those free places which would have been there in the ordinary normal course of events in the same category as free places that came into being last year as a direct result of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor last February.
I want particularly to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that while the President of the Board of Education finally withdrew this grant and substituted for it a grant of £2 from 1924 to 1925, but with an all-in grant of £12 per head for a certain limited number of cases in the secondary schools last year, the wording of the circular and the conditions laid down by the President in that circular in which he withdrew the grant, resulted in excluding all but a few hundreds of the free places in the secondary schools from the right to draw this special grant. The wording was that the grant wouldonly be paid in the case of new entrants selected and admitted between the 4th September, 1924, and the 9th February, 1925.Those words "selected and admitted" excluded all normal increase in the number of free places in the secondary schools as a result of the July examinations. Almost every local authority, and certainly that with which I have the honour to be associated, interpreted that circular as meaning that those children who were admitted into the secondary schools at the end of the September 2547 after the announcement of the new grant, would naturally be eligible to receive it, but because we did not select them after the 4th September but in July, we are told by the Board of Education that in calculating the grant they would not be eligible for these new additional places, because they were not selected during those particular dates. I claim that that is a very unjust method of determining the obligations of the Government towards local authorities. I can assure the Minister that this is not an isolated case as far as the interpretation of Regulations by Government Departments is concerned. Those of us who have done work on local authorities in connection with works under various unemployment schemes are continually met with the same kind of difficulty. Wherever there is a possibility of a Government Department interpreting a word to its own advantage, it is invariably their way, and it is not the way to treat those who are co-operating with the Government in carrying on the administrative work of the country.
I desire to draw the Minister's personal attention to the very unsatisfactory state of certain offices in which employés of his Department have to carry on their work. I do not propose to mention the precise situation of these offices, but the Minister will know to what I refer because I believe he has had from time to time representations made to him by the staff side of the Whitley Council on this matter. The premises, I understand, are in a very unsatisfactory state. The employés complain that they are a menace. I believe amongst the records stored there, there have been discovered bugs who in their search for knowledge of the higher worlds have clung to the papers, and in spite of interruptions have stuck very tenaciously to their subject. It is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs when you have a body of Government employés complaining that they have been subjected to rather more than the ordinary risk of contamination by vermin. The general amenities of office accommodation are not to be had in this particular building, and I trust the Minister will give his personal attention to a state of affairs that is causing considerable dissatisfaction to a considerable portion of his staff.
§ Dr. GRAHAM LITTLE
I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to what I think is a very meagre estimate in the provision for the needs of the University of London which I have the honour to represent in this House. On page 74 of the Estimates it will be remarked that the sum allotted to the University of London is £18,000. Compared with other urban Universities of England alone, we see that Birmingham is allotted £25,000, Manchester £56,000, Leeds £46,000, Liverpool £63,000, and Sheffield £46,000. I at once admit that those Estimates include the cost of the colleges attached to those Universities but they are almost uniformly one-college Universities, and although it is very difficult to discriminate between the cost of the college and the cost of administration of the one college, and compare it with the different conditions that exist in London University, I think we must make a comparison. The £18,000 thus allotted to London University is in performance of certain functions it has inherited from the older University which was an examination board.
May I set forth what is the form of the University of London? There are several functions which are discharged by the administration which are now centred in South Kensington.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that the point with which the hon. Member is now dealing is not in this Vote.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
There has been a considerable amount of criticism of the Board of Education on this Vote, but far more of general agreement, and for the very good reason that although the country is passing through very difficult times, the Minister has succeeded in carrying through this House legislation which will be of the very greatest value to education. The late Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education said there were times when saving was wasteful and expenditure was economy. The additional expenditure which will be necessitated by the Teachers' Superannua- 2549 tion Act will be in the nature of the greatest economy. I shall not be accused of prejudice when I Bay that the most important factor in education is the teacher. You must have the skilled workman in order to deal with the most valuable material the country possesses, that is, the brains and character of children. The late Minister of Education, the right hon. Member for Newcastle Central (Mr. Trevelyan), expressed the hope that an increasing number of men and women from the universities would go into the elementary schools. I think the legislation that has been passed recently will tend to bring an increasing supply of such men and women into the schools.
There is one point of criticism that I should like to make. On looking at the Estimates, the total amount of money spent on administration proper does not seem excessive in comparison with the total Vote, but I think there is room for economy in matters of correspondence. There is too little trust by the Board of the local authorities and other persons engaged in educational work in the localities, and the result is a mass of correspondence which might very well be dispensed with. The local education authorities, the directors of education, the educational secretaries, head masters and others all groan under the amount of correspondence necessitated by the Board grants. Here is a letter from a head master, in which he says:It seems to me that the Board is full of suspicion. They suspect everything. That is the one thing that strikes us. The things they suspect are such trivialities that they really do not matter one way or the tuber. There are thousands of forms to be filled in, each of a folio printed sheet. Even when they save money, it has to be remembered that if the money had not been saved it would have been spent on something productive, that, is, education, and also that the money spent on saving it may actually be more, which means that it is. simply thrown away.I think the Board might trust more to the reports of their inspectors and less to this mass of papers. It has to be remembered that although the administrative expenses are moderate, this correspondence entails a considerable amount of expense in clerks and otherwise to the education authorities and the schools. It would be well if that were saved.
2550 The hon. Member for Southwark, North (Mr. H. Guest)—whose speeches are generally so illuminating, and whose opinion on medical matters and medical treatment of children we must respect-seemed to me less happy in his treatment of the connection between education in the elementary schools and in the public schools. I ventured to interpose when he said it was impossible for boys in elementary schools to get into the public schools. At Eton there are 70 scholars, and if a boy from anywhere has sufficient intelligence to obtain a scholarship there, he gets, to a very large extent, his education free. For instance, if he be exceptionally good at mathematics he may get a mathematical scholarship in Eton. It is the most democratic place in the world. He also forgot the result of the 1918 Act which introduced the idea of free places in the public schools, and he does not realise the extent to which the provisions of that Act have been taken advantage of in the public schools. I look upon that free-places movement as one of the most valuable in the country, and I think that our chief aim of education at present-ought to be to develop the system of free places to the fullest extent.
Hon. Members opposite I know are in favour of free secondary education, but if the hon. Member for Southwark were the Minister for Education to-morrow it would be impossible for him to introduce free secondary education for the simple reason that we have not the skilled workmen for the job. We all know that we should have more houses built in the country at present if there were more bricklayers and plasterers. We could not have free secondary education because we have not the qualified and trained teachers, and no Minister of Education could develop the necessary supply of teachers in a year or two years or even 10 years. That being so, in order to develop our education in as practical a way as possible one of our objects should be to develop the free-place system and provide by degrees greater secondary school accommodation. That seems to me the proper way of attacking the difficulty. It is, I think, true to say that at the present time there are very few brilliant boys and girls who cannot obtain the necessary means for getting secondary education and going to a university. There is a school in which I am greatly 2551 interested in in my constituency, the County School for Boys at Maidenhead. Recently one of the boys there the son of a working man, and holder of a free place, obtained an open Balliol science scholarship, one of the greatest prizes in education. That boy has gone to Oxford and is doing brilliantly there. He may become one of the greatest assets of the country.
What we have to do in the future— and the future of the country depends on it—is to develop that great treasure, the best brains of our children, to the greatest advantage. And let us not forget character. What we need is to develop the element of stability in national character. At the present time we have growing up among the young people the idea that you can get something for nothing, and unfortunately there are too many instances of young people being ready to live on the community. What we have to develop is a sense of responsibility. That is the most valuable factor in the public school spirit, and that is why it is so much thought of. We have to develop independence, and the resolve to be self-reliant, to keep oneself and not to depend upon anybody else if possible. That is what we have to foster in the country at the present time. The public school spirit was well defined by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir M. Conway), and we may take it as a tribute to the public schools that hon. Members opposite are anxious that pupils from the elementary schools should pass into the public schools.
The greatest factor in that public school spirit is the sense of responsibility which is developed. There are many other factors, one of them being the collective influence of the families who send their sons to those schools. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but it is a platitude to say that imitation is the sincerest flattery. There are two County Secondary schools close to Eton which are being organised on the model of public schools, and, as far as possible, according to Eton ways. They are organised by houses and they follow the public school model in discipline and in games. Training in responsibility and training of character— those are the old traditions, and the public schools are doing a great work for the 2552 country in passing on those traditions. Eton has visitors from all parts of the world, and the first question they ask is, "How do you develop the sense of responsibility?," a very difficult question to answer. A Frenchman visited my house on one occasion. I took him through the boys' rooms, and he asked where were the boys. I said they were in the playing fields, or on the river, and he asked, "Why are you not looking after them?" It is very difficult to explain to a man with those ideas what is the public school spirit.
That spirit has spread very far. Last autumn I was at Bloemfontein, and I went into a school for "poor whites"—I use the term in the technical sense—in the technical sense of white folk who have sunk in the social scale and have lost self respect and ambition (I am glad to say that there are few Britishers among them). In this school there were 60 boys, the sons of "poor whites"—mostly Dutch— and the headmaster was a big sensible Dutchman, who said he had very great difficulty with the discipline of the school until he introduced the English prefect system, after which the boys themselves felt that they were responsible for discipline. He told me of one rather amusing incident. Some kippers disappeared from the dining room and he said to the prefect. "You must discover the thief." In an hour's time, the thieves —there were two—were produced. He asked, "How did you manage to find them?" and the reply was, "We paraded the boys and smelt their breaths." The public schools, it must be admitted, are doing a public service in passing on the tradition of responsibility and public spirit, and we should aim at encouraging that spirit to the fullest extent, at developing our free-place system, and at developing more thoroughness in our elementary system. It is difficult to do that, owing to the enormous size of the classes, but as the Minister said, the great difficulty is the disparity in age between the pupils in a class, not so much the size of the class. The size, of course, does make a great difference, but disparity in age makes a greater difference.
The most delightful speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) has been described by two or three hon. Members as a collection of paradoxes. There may have been 2553 a paradox or two, but there was also a great deal of sound wisdom in it. When he said that the boys in the elementary schools should be taught to read, I take it that he meant they should be taught to read with understanding, so that what they read went into their brains and was understood, and so that the critical faculty was developed. It is a very useful thing for citizens to have the critical faculty developed, so that they are not led away by the first comer, or "by what the "Daily Mail" or the "Daily Herald" may say, but form their own judgments. We want to do that in the elementary schools, and we also want to turn to the best advantage those critical years between 11 and 15.
If we could afford it, there would be nothing better than to provide the right sort of education for every boy and girl up to 16, but we cannot afford that at present. It must be the right sort. We cannot get away from this fact, that the great majority of our people have to gain their living by manual labour, and it does not do to try to train a nation of inferior clerks. We have to teach them the dignity of labour. We have to give them an interest in the things they are going to do in life, and, therefore, I should like to see developed— by degrees, it must be, because we cannot afford to do it all at once—a real system of central schools for children between the ages of 11 and 15 at least, and, side by side with that, your system of secondary schools. From the secondary schools would go the best of those literary brains, those mathematical and scientific brains to the universities, and there should be free passage between the central schools and the secondary schools. That is the kind of system I should like to see in this country, but it must be evolved gradually. These are extensive aims, aims that can only be reached by degrees and painfully, but I think they are worth striving for. I should like to congratulate the Minister on the great advance that he has rendered possible in education, and, may I add, I think it would be well if other Departments would emulate the extreme accuracy with which the Board of Education estimates its requirements.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
I want briefly to bring before the Minister of Education one point in which I am 2554 seriously interested, and to which I am sure, with his usual desire to improve the system of education, he will give attention. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville), who has just sat down, said that he, himself, thought it would be well to have a complete system of education up to the age of 10, if we could afford it. As a matter of fact, some of us think that this country cannot afford that our people should be without education up to 16, and that is probably the best perspective in which we could put the problem, and you would do better if you took that perspective. But, even inside the present provision which the State makes for education, we find that a number of our most promising boys and girls fall between two stools, and do not get the advantages in education which they have deserved by their own assiduity and by their own study after they have won scholarships. What I refer to is that there is a complete lack of co-ordination between local authorities in the country with regard to the granting of scholarships to the children of parents who migrate from one area to another. For a long time I was in charge of a higher education department of a county authority, and we endeavoured to get over the difficulty to some extent by having as many individual reciprocal arrangements as we could with other local authorities. We would make an agreement, say, between our county authority and some other county authority to the effect that we would provide for the continuance of a scholarship awarded in our area in the area of the other authority, after a migration, if they would do the same on terms of reciprocity.
Unfortunately, that practice is not general, and I have had brought to my notice quite recently a case which filled me with badness. It was the case of a boy from an elementary school, winning a sequence of scholarships right up to the age of over 16, then winning the highest type of county scholarship which would enable him to go to a University. The parent had a breakdown in health, migrated from the county, and the boy was deprived of the scholarship, although he had won it right up to the University standard, because the county to which the parent had gone, after his breakdown in health, had no reciprocal arrangement with the county in which the scholarship 2555 was won and would have been awarded. I think that is a tragedy, allowing some of our best brains to go to waste.
I want to suggest to the Minister that this is a problem which ought not to be beyond his power to solve, and he would be doing a real service to the community and to the highest interests of education amongst this class of the community were he able to provide for those who, by their mental capacity and by their attention to their education, deserve it, if he would get a system which would operate between the two authorities and so prevent the opportunities in these cases being wasted. I know that on many occasions this matter has been discussed by such bodies as the County Councils Association, the Association of Education Committees, and others; but I have never yet seen anything in the nature of a final arrangement. I should like to know whether this is not a plain, straightforward task that the Minister of Education might undertake and try to solve. There are many other points of education that I should like to refer to, but I feel it would not be quite right of me to take up the time of the Committee; but this is one point of administration which, to my mind, is of the greatest importance, and I should be very glad if the Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education can give his attention to it.
§ Captain BOURNE
I do not want to detain the Committee for long, but I do want for a moment to return to the Estimates. The gross total was placed at over £43,000,000. Beyond that, however, we have to add a sum, I am not certain about it, but I think it is not less than £20,000,000, of local expenditure. That is a very alarming expenditure. I have listened to the speeches, and, judging from some, one might think that the word "education" was, like the blessed word "Mesopotamia," a thing fully satisfactory in itself. I do however, think that from the point of view of both the taxpayers and the ratepayers of this country we want more satisfaction than perhaps we have got that the education received from this very great expenditure is the most satisfactory that can be obtained. It is on that point that I myself have serious doubts. The object of education, after all, and the only justification for the State spending so very large a sum of 2556 money on it, is by that education you are going to bring up a better race of citizens in each succeeding generation.
A question that occurs to my mind is: Are we by our methods of education really producing better citizens? In many ways I admit, and admit gladly, that we have done a very great deal of good. Anyone who has taken the trouble to study the calendar of the Old Bailey will note the great improvement and the diminution, particularly in crimes of violence. But there are other things which we ought not to lose sight of. I am not quite clear in my mind that we are really giving to every child in this country a useful education to fit them for the work that they have got to do in after life. After all, whether we are under the capitalist system of civilisation, or whether we are coming, as hon. Members opposite hope, to a Socialist system, the great bulk of our population will be bound to make their living with their hands. What I am not certain about is whether we are giving the best education to those who must spend their lives labouring with their hands, whether we are teaching them to think for themselves, to take an intelligent interest in their own life and in other things, to think out for themselves the problems of life, or whether they are being givers a smattering of book-learning and left with an absolute inability to learn anything for themselves. It is my experience of education that what you learn you teach yourself, and the great fault of modern education is that it tries to teach you, and does not teach you to learn things for yourself. I would ask the Minister of Education to consider that point very carefully, to consider whether after 50 years of compulsory elementary education it is not time for us to review the whole system, the whole ideal on which that education is founded, in order to ascertain whether we really are giving the best form of education to our people.
§ Mr. A. R. KENNEDY
I rise to make only one point, to which I should like the Noble Lord the Minister of Education to address himself, if he has the opportunity to-night. It is a small point, but it is important. Under Section 138, Subsection (1), of the Education Act, 1921, a child reaching the age of 14 is not able to leave school until the end of the term in which its birthday occurs. The object 2557 of that provision, as is well known, is to prevent the evils that follow from broken terms, and nothing that I say should be treated as lending any approval to any inroad upon the principle that broken terms ought, if possible, to be avoided. The effect of that provision has been mitigated to some extent by the power given to local education authorities under Section 46, Subsection (2), to consider any reasonable excuse for not insisting upon the continued attendance of the child at school. In certain parts of the country, and certainly in the constituency which I have the honour to represent, Preston, the local education authority has, I understand, exercised the discretion given by the Act in order to deal with what may be called hard cases. Where children have reached the age of 14 during the currency of a term, and their parents have desired to withdraw them, because favourable opportunities of employment have arisen, the authority has not looked askance upon applications, and in many cases has given permission.
The effect of such permission, cautiously and wisely given, has been to enable a large number of children to be absorbed into definite employment when the difficulties of their obtaining employment would otherwise have been much greater. Rigid adherence to the principle laid down in Section 138, Sub-section (1), means that hundreds of children in urban districts leave school at the same moment, with corresponding difficulties in finding useful employment for them. Many people probably agree, therefore, that a wise discretion was given to local education authorities to be exercised in what are called hard cases. I am assured by those who know, that if children after reaching the age of 14 are released from school when suitable opportunities arise the cotton trade in Preston, notwithstanding its present condition, is quite able to absorb all those whose parents desire them to go into the cotton trade, but that becomes impossible when all the children are released at the same time, with the consequence that there is not an available opportunity at that time, and many of them remain in idleness during a very important period of their lives. As I understand the matter, until quite recently the Preston local authority has 2558 exercised a discretion in this matter with very good results. The Board of Education have, however, interfered, and told them that they must not do this, and at the present time they are reconsidering a reduction of the grant in case their instruction is not carried out.
The instruction was given in May and no exemptions have been given and the children have remained to the end of their term in the school and, although opportunities for employment have been there, they have not been able to utilise them. I have known cases of apprenticeship which have been offered to boys at the age of 14 and those boys have not been able to take advantage of such offers. While I agree as to the immense value of raising the school age, I suggest that the Noble Lord should give us an indication with regard to the exercising by local authorities of the discretion which is at present conferred upon them in regard to this question. I wish to ask for some assistance in regard to juvenile employment and juvenile welfare and there should be no additional difficulties placed in the way of obtaining immediate employment for children.
§ Mr. MAXTON
On each occasion I have been in this House when the Education Estimates came up. I have claimed the right to raise the question of Scottish education, but my claim has only been admitted in a very restricted way by the Chair. If these Estimates pass to-day we find absolutely an amount of money available for Scottish education, and I contend that if we do not discuss Scottish education on this Estimate we have no effective opportunity of discussing it on the Scottish Estimates at all, because the amount available for Scottish education is a definite—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am afraid I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to discuss Scottish education on this Vote because it does not arise.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Of course, the general principles of education in Scotland are the same as they are in England, and it is only the quality we have attempted to make superior. The problems that affect Scottish education are the problems that are being discussed in this House in connection with English education. I would like some expert on the financial affairs of this country to ex- 2559 plain to me what is the use of discussing Scottish Estimates when they do come along when the amounts have already been quite definitely decided by the Vote of this House to-day So far as I know English educational affairs, I gather that the problems of elementary schools which, after all, constitute the larger proportion of our expenditure on education, are in England affected in the same way as ours are, namely, that there always has been the conception voiced by the hon. Member for Oxford City (Captain Bourne) in this Debate that the education of our elementary schools is to be an inferior, cheaper type of education which is to be served out to that section of the community who are to be merely hewers of wood and drawers of water. If we give them that elementary knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic—the three r's— and the moral conception of implicit obedience to their employers, and absolute contentment with the sphere in life to which Providence has been pleased to call them, then that is as much as is wanted out of an elementary school system.
I want to say that for this party, which is composed almost entirely of men whose education has been received in the elementary schools, resents that attitude. We are products of the elementary schools. It may be egotistical on our parts, it may be a form of self-delusion, but, so far as we can judge, we are not very much inferior to the people who are produced by our schools. We are claiming that the elementary schools should not be regarded and treated as something inferior, but that we should make these schools the best possible educational centres that they can be made.
I know, so far as Scottish schools are concerned, you have got a highly-educated cultured body of ladies and gentlemen staffing those schools—teachers who make the welfare of the children placed under their control the aim and object of their lives. They give to them every thought and consideration, and regard them almost as if they were children of their own. Yet, because of the restrictions that are placed upon them by the decisions of this House, they are in the position always of having to carry on their work under the most difficult conditions possible.
2560 In London and in Glasgow, and in our big cities, we have a large number of schools in which good education is impossible. It is a disgraceful thing that there should be any school where little children are educated that is jambed right up against the public street, with traffic passing backwards and forwards, where there is scarcely an inch of playground, and when there is a playground it is usually a piece of uninspiring cemented pavement instead of a green grass on winch the boys and girls can play. The Minister of Education is a young man. I cannot say much for his political principles, but youth in any party is always superior to age in the same party, and political principles in the hands of a young man are always better than they are in the hands of an old man. I ask the Minister of Education if he will not give very special attention to the wiping out, in the big accretions of population, of these schools that are ugly, uninspiring, and tend to destroy the joy of life, which it ought to be the great function of our school system to develop. We ought to aim, as a nation, at sending out of our schools, not skilled craftsmen, not docile workers, but young folks filled with an interest in life, full of the joy of life, with the inquiring mind. You can never do that if you put them down in these dull, barracky, ugly places in the centre of overcrowded communities, and I ask the Minister to make it one of his special jobs to wipe out all these ugly, uninspiring, barracky school buildings.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Perhaps I might just answer, in the few minutes that remain, one or two of the questions that have been put to me. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taylor) rinsed the question of my administration of the super-grant for free places. I cannot discuss now the question whether I was right, in withdrawing that grant or not, but, in the arrangements I made when I withdrew it, my purpose was to continue the super-grant as for a period covering what would have been the school life of any child that got a free place as the result of my predecessor's promise of a super-grant. It is perfectly clear that the local authority which awarded free places before the announcement of that super grant did not do so on the faith of the super-grant or in reliance upon it, and I really do not understand how there 2561 can be any discussion on a proposition so plain as that. There may be a great deal of difference of opinion as to whether I was right in canœlling ray predecessor's financial policy in this matter, but there can be no ground, in so far as I was right or not, for giving credit to an authority in respect of free places that were created considerably before that super-grant was announced.
The hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) threw out the question of winners of scholarships who migrate from one district to another. I quite agree that that is a serious question, but, as the hon. Member said, it has been discussed by the Federation of Local Education Authorities. If I can do anything to help, I will, but I do think, if I may say so, that it is a reflection on our principle of local self-government if it should be impossible for local authorities, by a reasonable arrangement between themselves, to accommodate a matter so obvious as that. Lastly, may I reply to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. A. R. Kennedy). Let me assure him, while it is impossible to discuss that particular case now, that I have never, and I could never, because I should not have any legal power to do so, interfere with the discretion of any local authority, given to that local authority by the law, to give consideration to hard cases of those who leave school before the term in which they attain the age of 14. The whole question is limited to that discretion. My hon. and learned Friend talked about hard cases, and in the next breath he talked about having a regular stream, as it, were, all spaced out over the last term. Those are very different proposals. My hon. and learned Friend, as a lawyer, will recognise how different they are. I have never interfered with the reasonable discretion of Preston or any other place in hard cases, but so long as the law is the law I must administer it.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.