§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (1).
We now get back to the more formidable economics which this Bill contains. Before I proceed further, perhaps it would be well to have it made clear that we can have a full discussion of ail the points raised in this Sub-section, and that that will not debar the moving of Amendments on specific points- subsequently.
§ he DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if we had a full discussion on the Amendment to leave out Sub-section (1), and I should not be disinclined to allow at the same time, white the discussion is going on, reference being made to Sub-section (2). That appears to me to be the most convenient method, because the subsequent Amendments, although no doubt important in themselves, are of minor importance as compared with the first Amendment to leave out Sub-section (1). If that be generally agreed upon by the Committee, I think it will be the best course to pursue.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
Provided it is understood that the more important Amendments can be moved and voted upon, I shall be satisfied. There are one or two Amendments which necessarily have to be taken separately. I do not propose to say anything about Subsection (2), which deals with an entirely different point and possibly a less controversial one.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
An arrangement that is come to in this way will naturally not prejudice Divisions being taken on subsequent Amendments.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
We have not yet had any official justification of this Clause from the author of it. There were several speeches made on the Second Reading which referred to this Education Clause by my right hon. Friends the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove), the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) and others, but the Minister of Education did not reply. The Minister of Health gave a reason for this Clause which struck me as rather a remarkable one. The principal phrase he used was that, as a matter of fact, the Clause gave the Minister nothing that is not really possessed by him already. If it be really the case that we are to enjoy an extra day's debate and many hours of precious Parliamentary time are to be used in order to present the right hon. Gentleman with powers which he already possesses, it is a very peculiar method of using Parliamentary time. I should like to invite the right hon. Gentleman to give a quite explicit statement as to whether he regards this Clause as merely declaratory. As a matter of fact, I am bound to discard that reason. I do not think it is merely declaratory—very far from it.
It is true that under the powers of the Education Acts the Board has in the past on occasions exercised the power of refusing grants in certain specific cases to local education authorities where it thought they were showing that their expenditure was excessive. For instance, they have disallowed grants in cases where the salaries of teachers were in excess of the agreed scales for education authorities. They have disallowed the grant in cases where the expenditure on the feeding of children was above what the Board of Education had laid down. They have also disallowed grants in eases where the capital expenditure upon the building of schools has been above a certain amount per place and here and there they have exercised, under their present powers, some restriction of educational expenditure, but 915 that is a very different thing, selecting one or two cases as has been done in the past, from giving a general power of limiting grants to the Ministry of Education, for quite general reasons such as are contained in this Clause, if, in the opinion of the Board, the expenditure is excessive having regard to the circumstances of the area of the authority or the general standard of expenditure in other areas.
The fact is that this is part of a new policy. It is an attempt to assert a new and quite unheard of autocracy over the general development of local education authorities by the right hon. Gentleman. It has to be read in connection with the rest of his actions during the last six months. It is simply one of a series of economic manœuvres on his part. The first ones were not very successful, and this is what he is falling back on. He began with Circular 1371. That was an attacken masse upon educational expenditure—an attempt to order a general reduction by local education authorities. That was not very popular. I think eight speeches were made from the Conservative Benches, and three of them only approved of the procedure. Then came Memorandum 44. That was rather milder. Still it suggested a halt for local authorities. These two Measures have been withdrawn and superseded. They were not successful. Public opinion was too strong against them. So the right hon. Gentleman falls back upon a new policy, of which this is the essential pivot. He withdrew his Circulars and his Memorandum, and he issued a new proclamation. I do not know what it was. It did not call itself a circular. It did not call itself a memorandum. It had no name and it had no number. However, it went out to the local authorities. This nameless, numberless thing, I suppose, he thinks cannot be recalled or withdrawn, because it has not any name or any number. The essence of this new Circular was an effort on his part to impose detailed restrictions, as he had failed in making reductions. It made known to local authorities that they would have to come and justify their expenditure at the Board of Education, and that they would have to go through a process of cajoling and bullying at the Board of Education and the stiffest chairman would get the 916 best terms from the right hon. Gentleman. But, of course, the most go-ahead and progressive authorities in the country, those who were less afraid of spending than the others, are among those who have the strongest chairmen and the most vigorous personalities. He was rather afraid of the issue, so he has come to the Committee to-day to get a general power of restriction. What are the principles on which he wants the House of Commons to give him power with which to steam roller the objections of the local authorities. He is to be able to decide whether the expenditure of an authority is excessive, having regard to the circumstances of the area of the authority or the general standard of expenditure in other areas. Let us take those two powers which he proposes to give himself:Having regard to the circumstances of the area of the authority.There is a glorious phrase for you. Can anyone explain it? What does it mean? How does that remove doubts? What is he thinking about? I do not know what is really in his mind. I will try to see if this suggestion is right. We have certain authorities that are grossly over-rated. We have certain authorities where there is very great distress. Any increase of the rates in those authorities is undoubtedly a very severe trial to the Population. We all agree. There are places, let us say, like Abertillery and Chester-le-Street. Here you have poverty-stricken districts. I should conceive what the right hon. Gentleman wants is to be able to say "Here is an over-rated district." With his passion for economy he thinks of nothing except saving the rates; high as they are, and he is going to be prepared to say, "You cannot afford any further expenditure. The circumstances of the area require that there should be no increased educational expenditure of any kind." It does not seem to me that it is for him to decide that. It is the local authority who ought to decide it. If the people in a district that is in a state of destitution choose to say, as I can imagine they might under the circumstances be quite justified in saying, that the poverty of the people is only a greater reason and not a less reason for communal services, the local authority ought to be able to say that, and ought to be able, even in a state of impoverishment, to spend more rates on feeding the 917 children and on medical treatment of the children, who want it more and not less because their parents are impoverished.
I am not suggesting that the House should decide between these two views, but what I say is that the right hon. Gentleman ought not to have the autocratic power of saying, "I think that Abertillery is so overrated that there ought not to be any increase of educational expenditure." I should like to know whether it does not mean something of this kind, that he is to be the judge of the conditions of the district. That seems to me to be the most absolute power that we have ever been asked to put into the hands of a Minister. Now I come to the second condition:Any expenditure which in the opinion of the Board is excessive, having regard to the general standard of expenditure in other areas.That is the most serious part of this new provision. What that means is intelligible. It means that he is to be the judge. If he thinks a local education authority is spending more than other authorities, he is to be the judge. He is to say, "You are spending more than other authorities, and, because you are spending more, I am going to bring you down to the lower standard of other authorities." The changes that pass over the policy of the right hon. Gentleman are very curious. Some months ago lie made a speech in which he used these phrases:We must proceed on the basis that the grant system is going to remain substantially as at present. Nobody, I am sure, wants to create a general dead level of educational attainment in this country. I must do what little I can towards levelling up. I do not want any education authority to think it cannot put forward a programme representing all it really wants to do for fear that the Board would try to cut it down in order to equal it with some other less progressive authority. There is no such intention in our minds at all.What on earth does this Clause mean if it does not mean that? Can the standards of one authority be judged by another? Two years ago the Board of Education issued a Memorandum about the cost per child for elementary education. In that Memorandum they made this statement, which is interesting as showing the general view of the Board of Education:The circumstances which determine cost per child differ widely from one area 918 to another, and no experienced reader will be likely to fall into the error of supposing that it is possible without knowledge of those circumstances to deduce a standard figure of cost above which any expenditure is excessive and below which it s insufficient. It is impossible that the tables themselves should supply information as to the causes which operate in each area to make expenditure comparatively high or low, but the following general list of causes which may affect the cost per, child may assist Local Education Authorities and others in following up the inquiries suggested by the tables.Then come two pages of causes which may affect the difference in expenditure between one local education authority and another. What the Board of Education really says in that memorandum is, that you cannot really compare one authority with another, because the causes of the difference of standard in expenditure between one part of the country and another are so innumerable. What does this Clause mean It can mean only one thing. It can only be directed against the more enterprising local authorities. What has been the principle of our educational advance? We are working in education on the basis, which was laid down by the Conservative Government in 1902. The basis of that legislation was that education development should be a local thing, that the way in which we could get the most real advance would be by allowing, say, Durham, Devonshire, Buckinghamshire, Shropshire or Carnarvonshire each go their own pace to a great extent; that the nation should Jay down a minimum, and that the way in which we should get educational advance would be by the example shown by the more advanced local authorities. The idea was that the experiment of to-day should become the rule of the next era in education.
Let us see how it operates. Take the city of Bradford, which a generation before most of the other cities of the country decided that secondary education as far as possible ought to be available for all children. It goes far ahead of most other great cities in secondary education. It has 20 children out of every 1,000 of the population in secondary education. There are only six per thousand in Birmingham. Other cities are very far behind Bradford. The whole idea of our education system is that the progressive authorities should lead, and a few years afterwards induce 919 the other authorities to follow. Take the example of London. London, just before the War, I think it was, decided to have dental treatment for all children in its schools, that the teeth of the children should not only be examined but should be actually dealt with. In 10 years the proportion of bad teeth among the children of London was halved by that process. Other local authorities, observing what happened in London, are now beginning to follow suit and wanting to have dental treatment, which they see has been so provedly successful in the case of the Metropolis. That is the way the system works. What does this Clause mean, except that that system is to he stopped, that the progressive authorities are no longer to be able to go ahead where they want and to try the experiments which are going to enlighten the country, if only they are allowed to make them?
I want the right hon. Gentleman to tell us specifically what authorities he is going to deal with. We have a right to know. It is not good enough to tell us that there may be some authority which is extravagant compared with its neighbour. He must be thinking of some specific authorities. Which are they? Is Durham one? I do not know. Durham is wanting to go ahead, even now, even with high rates. Durham is a very progressive authority, and is anxious to go on. It happens to have a Labour majority. Is the President of the Board of Education going to say to Durham: "The general standard of expenditure in other areas is much lower than your's. When I take the average of other authorities, including Devonshire, Shropshire, and so on, I find that far less is being spent than is being spent by you in Durham. You will have to come down to the level of the lower grades." Is he going to say that to Durham? Is Bradford his objective, or London? In the last few weeks London has tried to meet him in every possible way. They have been very considerate towards his new policy of economy. They have considerably reduced their proposed expenditure, but since then the London County Council have had a letter which contains the following passage:As the Council are aware, the cost per child in their elementary education service is more than 40 per cent. in excess of the 920 average of the country as a whole. The difference is even more striking if particular items are considered. For instance, the cost per child of the Council's administrative charges for elementary education is nearly three times the average for the county boroughs.7.0 P.M.
I am told that the answer of the County Council to that was to increase their administrative charges. If so, I am glad. I ask the right hon. Gentleman specifically: Is London one of the places to which he proposes to apply his new power which he is asking the House to give him? We are entitled to know, quite definitely. He cannot tell us that he has not any authorities in his mind; otherwise it would be mocking at the House to bring in this proposal. If he has authorities in his mind, let us know which they are. This is a very vague Clause. It is not like the previous Clauses which we have discussed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to make £2,800,000 out of the first part of the Bill. He is going to make £1,100,000 out of the second part of the Bill. I do not know how much he will make out of the little Clause that we have been discussing regarding the electoral system. We have had the figures on the other Clauses, but here we have a vague proposal which may mean anything or may mean nothing. I say frankly that if I were in the right hon. Gentleman's place it would mean nothing, but in his mind it means something. We ask him quite explicitly what it is he thinks it means. He has no right whatever to ask for these powers, which I quite advisedly call autocratic powers, upsetting the whole general arrangements of the relations between the Board of Education and the local education authorities unless he will tell us, first of all, whether the game is worth the candle and how many scores of thousands or hundreds of thousands of pounds he thinks he is going to get out of it. I ask him quite definitely to tell us what local authorities he is going to penalise under these proposals.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Before the Minister of Education answers the very explicit and pertinent questions which have just been addressed to him across the Table by the late Minister of Education, may I be allowed to express from another quarter of the House the deep concern which so many people feel at the inclusion of this Clause in the Economy Bill. There may 921 be other Clauses in the Bill which attract the presence of a larger number of Members of the House of Commons, excite passions, and provoke denunciations, which may be necessary but which furnish more lively material for the Press, but I speak quite deliberately when I say that I believe it is the view of a larger mass of serious people in the country of all parties that this Clause threatens a. real injury to education than is the adverse view taken on any other part of this Bill. This is by no means a view that is confined to those who find themselves on this side of the House. It is entirely to the credit of hon. Members opposite that, when some months ago the Board of Education, through the mouth of the Noble Lord, appeared to be making new proposals, which really threatened the development of educational progress, the most emphatic protests came from speakers in all parts of the House, including some speakers on the Government side.
What is it which so seriously concerns people, many of them not strong party people, but people who take a real interest in the rapid development of education in this country when they read this Clause? First of all, I notice this, that the Clause is introduced with the mysterious phrase, "For the removal of doubts." I am all for removing doubts, but what on earth is the good, in a Bill which is supposed to be engaged in saving money, to include a Clause with the elaborate pretence that it is merely for the purpose of removing doubts? Removing doubts may clear people's minds, but it does not empty people's pockets, and there is no possible connection between the fundamental object of an Economy Bill—if by that you mean that you hope to reduce public outlay—and the mere removal of doubts. You cannot cash doubts into surpluses for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I find it impossible to believe that a Clause which is thus solemnly recommended to us for the removal of doubts is really and truly expected to have no other function and effect than that of clearing people's minds. The real object of the Clause, in so far as it has any effect at all in the direction which is called economy, is to discourage certain local education authorities from that reliance which they have been accustomed to place upon the Board of 922 Education as their partner in educational progress.
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken put the point not only with great clearness, but with very special knowledge. There are two ways in which you might imagine the relations to exist between the central educational Department of the country, represented by the Noble Lord, and these different local authorities, and everything depends upon which of these two ways is right. One way is to treat the central educational Department as a grudging paymaster that will provide from central funds a certain portion of what is needed to finance education, but will leave to the local authorities all the anxieties, all the uncertainties, and, it may be, all the really heavy additional burdens which in the course of their duty they feel it necessary to undertake. That is one view. The other view is the view that the central educational Department, representing the Government of the day, should not be a mere grudging paymaster, always surveying everybody's expenditure with a view to cutting it down or complaining of it, but that they should be an active partner in the essential business of promoting educational progress. I do not-dispute that, in an exceptionally gross case where the Board of Education must intervene and protest, they ought not to have that power, and they have got it now.
What do hon. Members suppose is the effect of telling three or four hundred of the education authorities of the country "For the purpose of removing doubts, I give you clear notice that I, Conservative Minister of Education, have had specially carried in this Session of Parliament a Clause which gives the express power to refuse to contribute to expenditure whichin the opinion of the Board is excessive having regard to the circumstances of the area of the authority or the general standard of expenditure in other areas, or which in the opinion of the Board unreasonably exceeds any estimate of expenditure made by the authority.What is the result going to be? After all, the Noble Lord has protested again and again, and for my part I quite accept his protest, that he is sincerely devoted to promoting the cause of public education. You cannot carry on the business of public education in many areas if you are to tell people that they 923 are to live from hand to mouth. It is of the very essence of such administration that you should tell the local authorities, "There is a principle upon which I propose to treat you. If the expenditure is of a class that I do not recognise that is your look out. But if it is expenditure which I recognise I am prepared to deal with you upon this basis, that if you, the. Local Educational Authority, feel that you can call upon the ratepayers of your area to raise so much money, why then I will double it." That is the very essence of the practical assistance which the Board of Education can give to local authorities, inasmuch as education schemes cannot be altered from day to day and from week to week, but involve the laying of plans which may be for years ahead. It surely is nothing more than an active discouragement of educational progress to say at this time of day, "I would like to inform you that when you undertake such and such a head of education, although it may be that it is expenditure that I have approved, although it may be that I have passed the. scheme, although it may be that I have circularised you and encouraged it, I shall always reserve to myself the active power of saying Let us look at the bill and see if the actual amount you ask me to contribute is more than the sum I feel disposed to contribute.' "
Why, even if the Minister of Education was really head of the Government and had the control of the public purse, I should doubt whether it was wise to entrust him with such a power. But in this matter—and I am sure unwillingly—he is merely the bond slave of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Here is an Economy Bill which, as the back of it shows, is presented to the House of Commons by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the astonishing thing is that, as each important matter comes up, some junior colleague of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is so good as to provide him with the necessities of defence while the Chancellor of the Exchequer stays away. The Chancellor of the Exchequer reminds me of the description given by Mr. John Fortescue in that most delightful book, "The Story of a Red Deer," of how the old Exmoor stag behaves when he thinks he may be 924 pursued. Mr. Fortescue describes how the old stag rushes into a thicket and finds lurking there same smaller stag, possibly only a doe or a hind, routs the poor creature out of his lair, forces it to break into the open and attract the attention of the hunters and the stag hounds, while the wise old stag snuggles down in the warm bed he has just caused his junior colleague to desert. The consequence is that, although this is an Economy Bill which is supposed to be the particular concern and duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he has routed out in turn the Minister of Health, the Minister of War, and the Minister of Education in order that they may defend this, that, and the other of his provisions as though they really were the concern of their Departments.
I should really feel a little doubt about this if the Noble Lord had put up a fight, but as far as I can see he has put up no fight at all. Let me remind the Noble Lord of the extraordinary story which really will be associated with his name in this matter. He joined a Government which really obtained a portion of its great majority by the assurance, and I am now quoting the words of the Prime Minister:Nor can we make such economies as will touch the education or health of our people in such a way that the burden of those economies rests on one class, and one class alone.In substance, what you are proposing in Clause 14 is really skimping and scraping at the expense of one class, the class that depends primarily on the elementary school, not entirely but substantially. Not only that, but the Noble Lord himself, addressing the local education authorities on programmes to be submitted to the Board of Education, used this language. He said:We must proceed upon the basis that the grant system is going to remain substantially as it is at present. We must start from the basis that local authorities are to estimate how far they can go financially under the present arrangements and not on the hypothesis that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may four years hence be willing to alter these arrangements.After all that, the Noble Lord came forward at the bidding of the Cabinet, inspired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to announce new arrangements. He produced the famous Circular 1371. I often wonder whether when boys 925 and girls in an elementary school are asked what happened in 1371, they will know the answer, and whether they will say: "That is the year when Percy fought upon his stumps." What else happened in 1371? It is very difficult to say offhand. At any rate, here is this Circular 1371 elaborately prepared by the Board of Education. We had a Debate in this House—Heaven knows what the state of the President of the Board of Education was at the end of it—when he intimated that it was to be withdrawn; and it has been. We had Memorandum 44, not one single word of which was addressed to the subject of educational progress. No one can read it without seeing that it was addressed simply and solely to an effort, fathered by the Board of Education, to try to cut down certain items of expenditure. That may or may not be good finance, but I doubt very much whether it is good finance to skimp education. At any rate it is not promoting education at all. Still less is it promoting education when your changes are not changes which give you better value for your money, that somehow you are going to get more education for less cash, but are addressed simply and solely to the sordid topic, how can we secure that the educational estimates will be rather smaller than they might be. I thought the Noble Lord was going to stick to it. There was a storm however, and he abandoned it. Now it comes up in this new form in the present Bill.
Just consider what these supposed tests arc. In any event it is most foolish to apply tests of this sort by anticipation to over three or four hundred local authorities, who must lay their plans in advance relying upon what the Board of Education will do for them. The London County Council, I understand, are at this moment protesting against the language of this Clause. And consider why. What are your tests? Could anything be more absurd? You say, I am going to refuse to pay up if I think the expenditure is "excessive having regard to the circumstances of the area of the authority." How are you going to judge that? By what standard are you going to measure it? And how is a local authority to know or have any chance of knowing what you are going to do for it? Can the Noble Lord be surprised if some people think that the "circumstances of 926 the area of the authority "is something which is locked up in his own breast. It is difficult for people who are anxious to get on with their education work to know where they will be.
The second test is this: The Noble Lord wants to proclaim that he is going to refuse to make his normal contribution of 50 per cent. if he is of opinion that the amount is excessive, having regard to "the general standard of expenditure in other areas." I say advisedly that that is necessarily and deliberately a scaling down, a slowing down, of educational progress in this country. Let me give an obvious illustration. If you say that no member of the English cricket eleven is to be allowed to obtain more runs than the average number of runs made by any other member of the side, you are reducing the score. If you say to any local authority, "I am not going to allow you to have more money than the amount which will be arrived at by making an average of all the people who are not doing their duty, by making an average of the amount spent by all the reactionary authorities," it follows, necessarily, that in the very case where the authority has the greatest need, you are saying you will not tell them exactly what you will do; and you are deliberately reducing and slowing down educational expenditure.
It means a constant lowering of the average. I was told by a. very distinguished doctor, now dead, who was at the head of St. Bortholomew's, a story about averages which illustrates this point. He said he had been reading a treatise by a very learned Continental medical man about a very rare disease which seldom attacks the human race. In the body of the treatise it said that on an average the disease attacked the human race in middle life, about 45 years of age, and when he examined the appendices to the book for a record of the cases there were only two; one a case in which the disease attacked and, unfortunately, deprived an infant of six months of life, and the other a case in which the disease attacked an old man of 90. If you say that any local authority is to be in danger if it spends more than the average, you are deliberately reducing and slowing down the rate at which education can be promoted.
These are the reasons, and they are not party reasons—I have not made any 927 party point on this subject, except that the Noble Lord helped the Conservatives to sweep the country at the last Election by the assurances he gave on education which have not been carried out—why, it does seem to me that this is a most retrograde step. No wonder the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not like to be here. He is a bold man, but still there are some quotations which it is very difficult to face. The Chancellor of the Exchequer went into his constituency and addressed the girls in the Woodford County Girls' School. He went there for a little plain talk, and for the "purpose of removing doubts," and he said:Education in a country like ours is absolutely vital, not only to progress but to peace. 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 a most benighted class of human beings. It was absolutely necessary that thrift and economy should be practised in every branch of our Services.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear! "] Hon. Members who have cheered that statement are not attending to the argument. I am pointing out that there is nothing whatever in this Clause which secures better value for the money. It is not a Clause which says that the President of the Board of Education will pay you money if you do so and so. It is a threat that in certain events they may not get their money at all. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech went on to say:It must roll forward from one generation to another. Only in that way would the people of these small islands he fitted to work together in amity and good will and sustain the responsibilities of the British Empire and preserve unbroken its glorious continuity of history.The girls cheered enthusiastically. After all they were only paying a meed of applause to a gentleman who had come there to address them, but if supporters of the Government can cheer with equal enthusiasm in the face of the provisions of Clause 14, we know where we are. The real truth is that in the last resort this kind of administration puts education below the position of importance which we are always led to understand is occupied by other branches of the public service. I do not agree. I do not believe the strength of the country, or the defence of the country, the safety of the 928 country or the progress of the country, are better guaranteed by big armaments than they are by good education, arid my complaint is that Clause 14, spatchcocked here into an Economy Bill with its ridiculous Preamble about the removal of doubts, really only records the contribution which the Noble Lord, in spite of all his genuine enthusiasm for education, is allowed to make by a Conservative administration, which apparently is preoccupied by the balancing of the Budget.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Lord Eustace Percy)
The two speeches to which we have just listened have at any rate supplied a full and complete answer to what I have always felt was the only serious argument against this Clause—namely, that it was not worth while enacting it because it only represents the existing position. Clearly if the two right hon. Gentlemen, one of whom has had such a close experience of educational administration, still entertain these views about the effect of this Clause, it is high time for legislation for the removal of doubt. The two right hon. Gentlemen have indulged in a certain number of phrases about my passion for economy, about a new and unheard of autocracy, and about the stinting and skimping of education. This is not a Debate on the Board of Education Estimates, but in view of these statements I may perhaps be allowed to remind the Committee that in this year, when the expenditure on the fighting services is being cut down, when there have been cuts in various other Estimates, the Board of Education Estimates have gone up by over £1,000,000. Let me read the figures of the total expenditure of local authorities for the last three years. In 1924–25 it was £68,943,000: in 1925–26 it was, according to our estimate, £70,250,000; and in 1926–27 the Board's Estimates provide for£70,960,000.
The capital expenditure approved in the last three years has been£1,915.000 in 1923–24; £4,488,000 in 1924–25; and £6,015,000 in. 1925–26, and for the four months referred to by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) as the months of Circular 1371 and Memorandum 44, when there was an attempt, an abortive attempt, to hold up education, capital expenditure was approved to the amount of £1,878,000. When the right hon. Gentlemen can get over facts like 929 that it will be time for them to repeat in this House or in this Committee the vague statements which they make on public platforms. Until they face these facts it is really unnecessary to give any longer reply.
Now I come to the Clause itself, and I propose to show in the first place that these powers are a necessary part of the percentage grants system. I will show, secondly, that they accurately represent the practice of the Board under all Governments in the past. Finally, I shall show that they embody the principle which has been urged by both Opposition parties. I am going to ask the Opposition why they have suddenly changed their policy, why there is now something peculiarly dreadful about this method.
Let us consider what is the Act which this Clause seeks to interpret? The Act lays down—and it is the only guarantee that local authorities have of receiving any particular scale of grant from the Board of Education—that the Board's grant shall not be less than one-half of the net expenditure of the authority, recognised by the Board of Education as expenditure in aid of which Parliamentary grants should be made. Year by year the Board has to certify, not only to the Treasury, but to the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the Public Accounts Committee, and to this House, that he has not paid grants on expenditure which it did not recognise as expenditure in aid of which Parliamentary grants should be made. That is the responsibility which rests on the Board. How is the Board to carry it out? How is the Board to judge what expenditure is proper for grant aid? The answer, as must be obvious to any persons of commonsense, is that the Board has first to consider what the needs of the area are, what the special circumstances of the area are. The right hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) devoted a large part of his speech to asking what sinister intentions I had in my mind about "the circumstances of the area." What did it mean? he asked. He then went out of his way to read out from an official publication of the Board of Education what he described as two pages of description of the special circumstances which affect the amount of educational expenditure. He ought to know what the circum- 930 stances are, for it is common knowledge among all education authorities—the average size of the departments, the density of population, whether you have an average of 80 children in a department. or 120, and so on.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Yes, though that is not a circumstance which can be so closely estimated. We all know what is meant. There is no need to have a sham battle about "the circumstances of the area." We all know how the Board of Education has construed the circumstances of an area in the past, and how it must continue to do so. But, in the second place, having considered the circumstances of the area, the Board of Education finds that a particular area has increased its expenditure on administration or teachers' salaries or special services by a very considerable amount during the year. The President of the Board then says, "I cannot see anything in the circumstances of your area so peculiar that it should put you very substantially above the expenditure of a number of comparable areas equally progressive, and so on. You here have to make your case. Is there anything special in the circumstances which justifies that particular heavy expenditure? "That the Board has constantly done and necessarily must do.
I need hardly deal with the question of excess over estimates. It is clear that any system of finance would break down if local authorities were consistently unreasonable in overspending their estimates. Therefore, it is clear that the Board of Education would be obliged to go through the processes named, and it has always gone through them. I notice that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) has been agreeing with what I have been saying; he has been indicating assent. But the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle and the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley thought that this was impossible; they thought that there could be no question of applying this sort of test to authorities generally. The right hon. Member for Central Newcastle said, in particular, "You talk about the circumstances of the area. What about the poor destitute 931 area which has a tremendously high rate? Is that a special circumstance? Are you going to prevent it engaging in new expenditure? On the contrary, you ought to allow it to go ahead if it wants to do so, precisely because it is a necessitous area, and if it will face the burden of new educational expenditure you ought to allow it to do so." The right hon. Gentleman may be surprised to learn that for some months he worked at the Board of Education under a grant Regulation which applied particularly to those necessitous areas in whose aid additional grants were made by the Board. This is the Regulation under which he worked:The Board may disallow for the purpose of additional grant any expenditure in excess of that shown in the estimate…In considering any claim the Board -Will have regard to (a) the standard of expenditure in other areas not receiving additional grant,… (b) the special circumstances of the area…All the unintelligible jargon contained in this Clause is the jargon under which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle worked for nearly a year.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I will tell the hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Member for Central Newcastle said that this was giving me new power, that the Clause gave me unheard-of power, that this was a new and unheard-of autocracy. But these regulations have never been challenged; their legality has never been challenged. There has been no doubt about it in my mind, but there has been a doubt about it in the mind of the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle.
§ Lord E. PERCY
The Bill is on the right hon. Gentleman's behalf, and on behalf of many other people in this country who are not fully acquainted with educational administration, and are, therefore, liable to take the right hon. Gentleman's opinion as to what are the powers of the Board. Let it be remembered that this phrase in the 1918 Act, about expenditure recognised by the Board in aid of which a Parliamentary grant should be made, is a phrase which came out of the negotiations with the local authorities from which the 1918 932 Act emerged. It is a diplomatic phrase. It is of the greatest importance that you should state clearly what are the implications of your financial system. What is the justification for removing these doubts? It is that the two right hon. Gentlemen have said that any attempt to impose any sort of general standard of educational expenditure is wrong. The right hon. Member for Spen Valley said that I ought to go to each individual local authority and say, "Provided your expenditure is of a type and is for an object in aid of which you ought to have Parliamentary grants, as long as the type and object of the expenditure are appropriate, I will allow you to go ahead according to your own judgment, and I will double anything that you spend."
The right hon. Member for Central Newcastle seems to take the same view. I would remind the Committee that during the last two or three months, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have been insistent that the percentage grant system was the right system, that the block grant system was wrong, that the percentage grant system was the ideal system. This new and unheard-of autocracy is the percentage grant system as it has always been administered, and as right hon. Gentlemen have recommended that it should be increasingly administered in future. I will recall what Mr. Herbert Fisher said on 17th December, 1925, in the Debate on Circular 1371. He was controverting my view that the percentage grant system had suffered compared with the block grant, and this was his solution:An inquiry should be instituted by the President of the Board of Education into this local administrative expenditure, to see where the extravagance is, and to work out a standard of cost which would give to the Board as much control over that area of expenditure as it already exercises over the salary expenditure which is now under control."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th December, 1925; col. 1732, Vol. 189.]He had previously pointed out that in his view salary expenditure was controlled sufficiently and fully by the Board.
§ Sir J. SIMON
We all know the authority of Mr. Fisher on this subject, and he is not now in the House. Did he not also say:The Noble Lord does not propose to give these local education authorities a firm offer of 50 per cent, of their expenditure.933He proposes to deal with each local authority separately, and he thinks that [...] so doing he may satisfy all. He is a very sanguine man. My impression is that if he adheres to this course, he will throw the local administration of this country into inextricable confusion.
§ Lord E. PERCY
That was an argument against my proposal, and the right hon. Gentleman said that because it was impossible to deal with every local authority individually you must have these general standards of expenditure, and he strongly advocated that that should be done as a necessary part and the logical consequence, of the percentage grant system. Now perhaps I may quote another authority. That authority is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham), who, speaking in this House on 25th June last, said:There is a great deal of weakness in the connection between the State and the local authority.… The position comes to this, that we ought to do our very best to work out a unit of cost in those social services—by that I mean an analysis of what it takes to run some service compared with other districts of the country—and combine that with the percenage grant system. If you do that you will get a far better return for the expenditure of this money."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1925; cols. 1810–11, Vol. 185.]The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh then went on—he was talking of health and education—to say:You will save the lives of far more people from tuberculosis, you will embark upon a true form of economy which very largely is being neglected at the present time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1925; col. 1811, Vol. 185.]May I tell the Committee—because I do not think the Committee realises it at present—the extent to which the whole system at the present moment of the percentage grant in education rests on these general standards? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle spoke of Bradford. But there has always been a maximum standard for all authorities for maintenance allowances. In Bradford that maximum has been exceeded year after year, and year after year that excess expenditure has been disallowed by all Governments, not because it was not necessary in Bradford but because it was in excess of a standard which was considered to be the most that could be allowed to 934 authorities generally. But there is a much more serious matter. The thing that surprises me most in these controversies has been the way that teachers' organisations have objected to this question of a general standard of expenditure because, if you consider for a moment, it will become apparent that unless the widest power is given to arrive at general standards of expenditure which local authorities may not exceed the whole of the Burnham scales go by the board. What am I doing in supporting the Burnham scales?
§ Lord E. PERCY
I am saying to large groups of authorities, with the widest divergence of local conditions in local services, not only "You may not pay any more than a certain scale of teachers' salaries." but I am also saying to them, "You must not pay less." The hon. Member for Caerphilly spoke about the word "comparable," and asked what was meant by it? What does the National Union of Teachers mean 7 Because, remember, it is by the powers given to me under the 1918 Act that I am able to say to a school in Eastbourne, a school in Sheffield, and a little village school in Northumberland, "You must all pay the same scale of teachers' salaries," I think I am right in doing so, but if I have only the power to do that in strictly comparable areas, my action would be unjustifiable.
§ Mr. COVE
Am I right in saying that there is more than one scale of salaries, that these salaries have been agreed to by the authorities through the method of conciliation and arbitration, and, in their collective capacity, with the teachers co-operating with the authorities, and the Board of Education then coming in from a national point of view? Is not than an entirely different procedure from that which is laid down in this Clause, which takes the authorities separately, whereas, in the Burnham scales, you take the whole principle of collective bargaining, embodying itself in a scale accepted by 315 authorities out of 318?
§ Lord E. PERCY
It is perfectly true that there is more than one scale. There are four scales, and in each scale areas which show the widest divergence 935 of conditions are grouped. It is necessary to do that. Now let me take the other part of the hon. Member's question. He says, "Yes, but it has all been reached by a long procedure of agreements." I quite agree that it is the best possible way of reaching any general standard to reach it by agreement and consultation before you enforce it, but my power of enforcement and my power of disallowance comes from this Act, and the Act makes no distinction between general standard reached by negotiations and a general standard reached merely according to the Board's discretion. My power rests upon the Statute, and is described in this Clause, and it is no good saying that I only use it in a few instances. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle has done the same. He has disallowed expenditure by certain authorities on salaries in excess of Scale 3. The authorities said, "The special circumstances of our area demand that we should pay more than that," but the Board of Education said, "No, we arc going to apply the general standard, even though it is a standard applied to areas largely different from yours." That has been the practice in maintenance allowances and teachers' salaries, and in almost the whole range of the Board's work. It has been urged upon us that the way to strengthen the percentage system and that the essence of that system is to extend that method of procedure, and yet the hon. Gentlemen opposite attack me when this Bill accurately represents existing regulations and accurately represents what they have consistently urged upon me as an essential part of the percentage grant.
Now, I must allude for one moment to something which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle has said. It is quite true that it was said in a moment of peroration. He asked what use was I going to make of these powers. Did they mean nothing or did they mean something? If he was in my place they would mean nothing. I have before me a letter which I will read to the Committee—a letter written from the Board of Education on the 3rd July, 1924, to Barrow-in-Furness, one of these distressed areas. That letter states: 936With further reference to Mr. Cuthbertson's letter of the 3rd ultimo, and to the interview which was held at this office on the 17th ultimo, I am directed to say that after careful consideration of the representations made by the Authority in support of their request that the Board should recognise for grant the whole of the expenditure by the Authority in connection with the Provision of Meals in 1922–23, the Board regret that they do not see their way to recognise for this purpose any amount greater than the £10,000 which in the official letter of the 20th May last (F. 709/24) they have already agreed to recognise.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
May I point out that that letter refers to the refusal to recognise a grant which had been refused by previous Governments under previous conditions?
§ Lord E. PERCY
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman correctly states the position. This was a case coming up for final decision on a final audit of the authority's expenditure. It is perfectly true that the ration was imposed by a previous Government, but the right hon. Gentleman has no doubt of his right to disallow and no doubt of his right to allow. I have revised disallowances which the right hon. Gentleman continued from his predecessors. He was as free to reverse the policy of his predecessors in that respect as I was.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
It really is a quite different question. I may have been right or I may have been wrong, but it is a quite different question as to whether you maintain a disallowance that has been carried through by your predecessors or whether you make disallowances yourself? It may be wrong to say, "You cannot do that," but it is an entirely different policy to insist on disallowances under your own authority. That is not the point. I admit that I may have been quite wrong.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Very well, we will leave it at that, but I am not accusing the right hon. Gentleman of being wrong. What I am saying is this, that when he has done, rightly or wrongly, a thing of that kind, he has no right to come down to this House, wearing the "white flower of a blameless life," and talking about my new and unheard-of autocracy. The right hon. Gentleman also put an important question that I must answer. He said: "What authorities have you got in mind? Have you Durham in 937 mind? Durham wants to go ahead." I answered a question in this House the other day stating generally to what extent I was prepared to let Durham go ahead without further question. Then London was mentioned. A letter has been written in which I have asked London very carefully to consider as to next year certain points in which their expenditure seemed to me to be excessive in relation to the expenditure of other areas—excessive not in the nature of 10 or 20 or 30 per cent., but in the nature of 300 per cent., and that is the way in which I intend to pursue this. I intend to call the attention of local authorities to expenditure which I think is not explainable on the facts before me at the present time and to ask them to justify it, and I absolutely refuse to pillory any local authority in this House as an abnormally high spender until I have exchanged views with them in that way. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why did you pillory Bradford? "] I have never pilloried Bradford. I was only showing that Bradford, I am sure quite rightly, had exceeded, and with the goodwill of the Board, the allowance. They raised no objection to expenditure being disallowed. I made no criticism of them.
I apologise for having detained the Committee so long. I quite recognise what is the real motive of the opposition to this Clause. I do not think hon. Gentlemen opposite are particularly interested in the legal and historical and administrative arguments which one is obliged to use when one is dealing with a piece of complicated legislation. What they are interested in is the question of how certain powers are to be used and whether there is any intention to use those powers harshly and unreasonably.
§ Lord E. PERCY
The answer to that I can make quite clear. There is no intention on the part of the Board or myself, I need hardly say, to use powers of this kind unreasonably or harshly or to try to pull authorities down to a low level. I quite agree that powers of this kind may be misused. I am quite prepared to say I do not agree with a good many of the disallowances which my predecessors have made in 938 the past. Powers of this kind may be misused, but they are necessary and will always be under such grant systems. I am asking for them now, and for a clarification and definition of these powers because people talk about the percentage grant system as if it gave perfect freedom to the local authorities, although no local authority believes it does, because the essence of the percentage grant system is not realised, and because Members, while advocating it, do not recognise it when they see it, for their own leaders have emphasised the necessity of the Boards' using these powers in order to make the percentage grant system possible. That is the reason why I am asking for these powers. It is necessary to clarify what are the necessary powers of the Board in this matter.
I would really beg hon. Members not to engage in a violent sham battle on this subject on the supposition that there is great feeling of perturbation outside among local authorities. [HON. MEMBERS: "There is ! "] Hon. Members are really entirely mistaken.
§ Lord E. PERCY
The Association of Municipal Corporations has not, as far as I know, expressed its perturbation about this at all. The Association of Education Committees, which has shown no reluctance to pass resolutions of protest, has not protested against this Clause. I notice that in the "Times" Educational Supplement, in the "Local Authorities Notes" received from the Association of Education Committees, one finds these words:Local authorities do not find, therefore, in Section 14 of the Economy Bill the statement of a new power conferred on the Board, and they are therefore not greatly perturbed on that score.I think I am in as close touch as hon. Members opposite with a very large number of local authorities, and I do not find these misunderstandings and perturbations in their minds, and I believe hon. Members opposite are committing a very great mistake in so soon departing from the advice of their own leaders in regard to the percentage grant system.
§ Mr. COVE
The right hon. Gentleman has made a long speech, and I am afraid in no part of it did he justify or explain the proposals he now brings before the House for us to pass to-day. He took 939 some praise to himself and his Government for the increase in the Education Estimates that have occurred during the past two or three years. He stated, I believe, that in spite of all this crying out that the Government is cutting down education, the Education Estimates this year will be up by about £1,000,000. I want to ask him whether that £1,000,000 increase has been in line with the policy of himself and his Government, and whether that £1,000,000 increase has been got with the goodwill and assistance of this Government? As a matter of fact, that £1,000,000 increase is not a tribute to this Government at all, but is a tribute to, and is the realisation of, the vigilance of effective public opinion. The right hon. Gentleman may smile, but what did he ask for in Circular 1371? He said, "The grants that I am going to pay to you will be grants based on the expenditure of 1924–25, less 1 per cent." He also said: "I am going to subtract from you 30s. for each child under five who goes to school." This figure of £1,000,000 increase in the Estimates this year goes £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 beyond the figure aimed at in Circular 1371.
§ Lord E. PERCY
No. If the hon. Member will forgive me, the Circular 1371 figure was about £300,000 above the Estimates of last year, and the Estimates of this year are about £700,000 in advance of Circular 1371.
§ Mr. COVE
It is difficult to follow the right hon. Gentleman when he deals with figures, because I have noticed in following him very carefully that he confuses oft-times actual expenditure with the Estimates, I am bound to say this—and I am sorry to have to say it—that I could not accept any figure of £300,000 or £700,000 without the most careful verification as to whether it relates to Estimates and expenditure or is a comparison between Estimates and Estimates. The main charge I am making is still true, that the Government has been forced back from their policy in Circular 1371 and driven back on Memorandum 44 and has now been driven back to this policy which we have embodied in Clause 14 of this Bill. Therefore, I say quite frankly and definitely to the right hon. Gentleman that the only thing that has saved education from being seriously damaged and curtailed and crippled in this country 940 has been the vigilance of the Labour party, of the local education authorities and, as a matter of fact, the vigilance of the whole of enlightened public opinion as far as education is concerned.
We have heard from the Minister that this new Clause gives him no new powers and that it only embodies provisions which have been in existence for some years. I want, then, to ask him this—why does he want the Clause? Normally speaking, he says, "In order to meet the everyday, from month to month and from year to year necessities of the authorities, I have the full power that is going to be given me under this Clause." But I ask myself, why then does he want it? I have come to this conclusion, that he says: "Although I have had the provisions for controlling the expenditure of local authorities, this year I want behind me safeguards which will allow me to be in a position to give an extra screw to the authorities." Why does he single out this next year, 1926–27? Because during this next year he is meeting the local education authorities with a view to formulating, if possible by agreement, I understand, a new system of block grants, and he wants to use this year as a stepping-off ground in order to ascertain the amount that he is going to fix for the various local authorities under the system of block grants. In short, what he wants to be able to do under this Clause is to clear the ground in order that he may have a standard of expenditure by local authorities which would be low enough for him to apply his block grant system during the next three years.
The Clause itself is, to my mind, one of the most dangerous Clauses as far as education is concerned that has ever been embodied in a Bill. This is not an education Clause or one which directs the mind of the Board of Education to improving and inspiring local authorities to go on with their education work. It is a Clause which is directly intended to level down expenditure. The President of the Board of Education has had quotations from speeches he has made brought before his notice this evening. I want to bring another part of one of his speeches before his attention. In the speech he delivered to the local education authorities on 23rd January, 1925, he said this: 941To be quite fair I must say this. One of the advantages of programmes of this kind is this, that an the present moment the system of what I call hand-to-mouth administration does tend towards rolling up commitments of the most energetic authorities in the country, when we do not know what demands we may have to meet from the slower authorities.Then he went on to say this:I think you will get some symmetry of expenditure under these proposals.The proposals embodied in this Clause only refer to excessive expenditure—to expenditure which is above the average. Therefore the method by which the Noble Lord is going to get what he calls "symmetry of expenditure" is by lowering those authorities whose expenditure is to his mind excessive, or at any rate above the average expenditure of the country. From his own speech we see the inner meaning of this Clause. It is a levelling down Clause, it seeks to bring the progressive authorities down to the level of the average authority—if the Noble Lord can find out what the level of the average authority is. The Noble Lord says that he is not going to use this power harshly or to screw down authorities unreasonably. We on this side say that no Minister of Education ought to have such powers in his hands at all. No Minister ought to have power to destroy the whole spirit and balance of the 1918 Act. The first Section of that Act says:The Board of Education shall continue to be the Department of Government charged with the superintendence of matters relating to education in England and Wales.This is not superintendence; this is a dictatorship over the local authorities. The 1918 Act established the bodies which were to be responsible for education in this country. That responsibility was conferred, not on the Board of Education, but on the local authorities. A significant phrase in this present Bill is:any expenditure which in the opinion of the Board is excessive.and I say deliberately that for the President of the Board of Education to take such powers as these, is contrary to the spirit of the 1918 Act. The President of the Board of Education is no more representative of public opinion in educational affairs in this country than are the local education authorities. As a matter of fact, the local education authorities, charged as they are with the duty of 942 administering education under the Act, in touch as they are with local feelings and aspirations, knowing as they do the local difficulties as to rates and so forth, are the people who can most democratically represent educational opinion in the country.
§ Mr. COVE
Why, then, does the Noble, Lord come forward and seek to cut them down in this way? He says, of course, that he is not going to cut them down, but I challenge him here to say that he has not attempted to cut down—for instance—the Barry local education authority. The Barry education authority for years had a policy of small classes, and fully qualified teachers. I remember a time when, in South Wales, it was regarded as a great privilege by teachers to be in the Barry education committee's employment. The Noble Lord has told the Barry education committee that their staffing is too large and the quality of their staffing is too good. If the Noble Lord accepts what I have just said about the local authorities, what right has he to tell the Barry Committee that their staffing is too good, both in quality and quantity? I have here a communication from the West Ham authority. What has the Board of Education said to them?With regard to Paragraph 10 of Administrative Memorandum No. 44, it is only right you should know that the standard of staffing in West Ham appears to be comparatively high. The number of teachers on 31st March, 1925, showed an increase on that of 31st March, 1924, of 10.The President of the Board of Education is quibbling about an increase of 10 teachers. That shows the meticulous care with which the Board is going into the estimates and staffing of these authorities. The Board add:With these you can compare the figures you since have returned to the Board upon Form 10E.Then they go on to say:The proportion of certificated teachers is comparatively high.Translate that into an executive policy, so far as the Board of Education is concerned, and it means that the West Ham Authority will have to employ more supplementary teachers or uncertifieated teachers in place of certificated teachers. What educational progress can there be under such a policy? Progress in our 943 elementary system depends on the employment of highly qualified teachers—and not merely certificated teachers, because we are looking forward to the time when all our teachers will have had contact with the universities of this country, and a wider experience than the training colleges can give them. The same letter states to the West Ham Authority:The proportion of small classes is comparatively high.In the note made by the local director or secretary on this letter I find that there are classes of over 50 even in West Ham. In face of these facts, how can the Noble Lord say that the proposals in this Bill are harmless, and that he is still beneficently inclined towards education. In Portsmouth the other day a director of education of one of our large towns told me: "We in our town for years have had a policy of fully qualified teachers and small classes, but we have had an intimation from the Board that this policy will have to be reversed—and the cost is to he thrown entirely on the rates." That is the policy which the Noble Lord is strengthening and buttressing in Clause 14 of this Bill. He comes forward with these proposals, in spite of the fact that he has told the local education authorities that he will meet them in conference this year to discuss the whole grant system. In the Board's statement of policy I find:In view of decisions covering the year 1926–27 and the discussion now proceeding with a representative committee of the local authorities in regard to the grant system for subsequent years, Circular 1371 should now be regarded as withdrawn.In that connection I would draw attention to the attitude of the London County Council. I understand the hon. Member for Fulham (Sir Cyril Cobb) is to move an Amendment to this Clause on behalf of the London County Council, and I hope he will have the courage to do so from that side of the Committee. The London County Council have issued a circular protesting against this Clause —and I believe it is not a Labour council nor has it a Labour education committee. The circular states:The insertion of these words in the Economy Bill prejudges an important matter—that of setting up standard costs in education—now under discussion in a 944 series of conferences called at the invitation of the President of the Board of Education. These conferences are attended by representatives of local education authorities, for the purpose of discussing with the Board of Education a system of education grants for future years. Among other things the conferences are discussing the question of the possibility of setting up standard costs, and in view of this important matter being thus stillsub judice, it is not desirable that the Board should prejudge the question by seeking powers in the Economy Bill to apply the principle.There is the whole charge as far as the administration of the Board is concerned, that on any and every occasion it is breaking faith with the local authorities, and that it is making them feel that there is no stability and no certainty at all. It is quite easy to see from his own Circular why the President wants these powers. In his statement of policy he says:It appears to the Board "—This is said after the revised Estimates have been sent in following on the issue of Memorandum 44—that many of the revised forecasts are still too high, and the proposed expenditure of individual authorities will require careful examination.The estimates are too high, and will require examination, and he says, "In order that I might make no mistake and might have full legal sanction behind me to cut down the expenditure and the estimates of those local authorities that I regard as too high, I must have Clause 14 on the Statute Book." The right hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) asked what authorities were going to be cut down. Will the Noble Lord tell us that to-night? I want to press that he should tell us to-night how many there are. He has evidently been through them, and if he will only consult with his official advisers, I am sure he can get that information quickly. According to this Circular, he has found that the expenditure is too great, and he says they must cut it down. Therefore, he knows them, and I am asking him to produce them. I am taking up the request of my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle that the Noble Lord should produce them. What areas are they in What kind of authorities are they? Are they the big authorities? Will the right hon. Gentleman screw the West Riding? Will he curtail Sheffield, Leeds, the big powerful authorities that can bring great 945 public influence and pressure to bear upon him? No! The fact of the matter is that one of my objections to this Clause is that it is giving the President of the Board of Education the chance to work in the dark, to screw and squeeze and press those authorities that are not strong enough to resist the pressure and the squeeze, the weak authorities. Those are the authorities after whom he is going and from whom he will demand cuts.
It is time for this House to make up its mind whether it is going to get an educational system that is merely an answer to a clamour, or whether it is really convinced that its educational system is an absolute national necessity. There can be no long, progressive expansion of our educational service with the spirit that has been displayed by the Tory Government. We have not had anything new from them, as far as progress in education is concerned. Show us one single thing you have done, one single problem you have solved, one new adventure you have undertaken, one new experiment you have asked to be gone into in the schools of our country. You talk about the terrible problem of adolescence. The President of the Board has spoken of the great need of relating education to industry, but it is all talk, and when it comes to financing it, there is no money from the Tory Exchequer—none whatever. I agree with him, and, as a matter of fact, my position is this, that I believe the time has come, so far as education is concerned, even to forget all our preconceived notions, to forget, if you like, all that we thought and all that we talked about against vocational education, to forget all we have said about using the bias of children. Start, if you like, with this great new problem before us, with our minds as open as we possibly can, but we cannot do this, we cannot do anything unless the Board of Education is prepared to come along and say, "If we find a good solid programme and policy, we will foot the bill."
This does not foot the bill of progress. There is no progress in this at all. It is all talking about cutting down excessive expenditure. There is no sympathy in it. It cuts right across the whole function that the Board has performed ever since the Education Acts have been in existence in this country. The Education Act, 1918, said the Board should come along 946 to superintend, advise, and nurture. The inspectors have been used to carry new ideas from one part of the country to another, to help the progressive authorities, and stimulate the reactionary authorities; but now, all that is being reversed, and the only thing that the President of the Board of Education is doing is to cut down the progressive authorities, without stimulating the reactionary authorities. I challenge him to show me one letter on the lines of that written to West Ham that has been written to an authority that has got too few teachers or too large classes. How many letters have been issued with regard to authorities that have not enough secondary education How many letters have been written telling authorities to reduce their fees, in comparison with letters that have been written telling them their fees are not high enough or that they must remain stationary?
§ Lord E. PERCY
What evidence has the hon. Member of any letters telling authorities to raise their fees?
§ Lord E. PERCY
The hon. Member is entirely inaccurate, and when he makes accusations I wish that he would verify the facts.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I shall not give any answer to anything the hon. Member says, now that I know that, when he makes an accusation, he makes it just with the hope that he is not going to be caught up, knowing that he has no foundation for it at all.
§ Mr. COVE
I am sorry I am hurting the Noble Lord. The Noble Lord, when I talk on education, must interrupt me, sometimes as many as 12 times during my speech, but I am going to ask him, when he says there is no harm in this Clause—I intend to be gentle, and kind, 947 and good, and sweet-natured as far as education is concerned—if he has taken any action, where fees have been high, to reduce those fees. Has he taken any action, where classes have been very large, to reduce those classes? Has he taken any action to stimulate local education authorities to go on with their secondary education? No. This Clause embodies the whole policy and spirit of the administration of the Board of Education, and that spirit is a restricting one. It just expands as far as public opinion will make it expand, and, as far as we are concerned, we say quite deliberately, having regard to Circular 1371 and to Memorandum 44, and having regard to the large number of individual letters that have gone out to local authorities, that we cannot trust the Government in this respect, that we cannot trust the present Minister of Education. He is a pathetic figure. Here he is, coming along and going to administer a Clause in regard to which he really seems to give us the impression that he does not feel that it is wanted, that he would not like to use it. He is a pathetic figure, driven on, I presume, by the hard-hearted, ruthless Chancellor of the Exchequer. If the Noble Lord desires to convince us that his intentions are sincere, that he is convinced about the efficiency of education, there is only one thing for him to do, and that is for him to withdraw this Clause, and, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not have it, to withdraw himself from the Ministry of Education.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I did not intend to take part in this discussion, but the speech of the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove) induces me to make a remark or two. That speech was very largely compounded of imagination and overstatement. The hon. Member would have us believe that all the progress in education has been due to the Labour party. [An HON. MEMBER: "It has not been due to you!"] The party to which I belong can very well afford to listen in silence to that, accusation, because it is to the Conservative party that nearly all the great advance in national education is due, and it is not possible for hon. Members opposite to deny that.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I must apologise. The hon. Member for Wellingborough challenged the President of the Board of Education to produce any measure of progress he has supported. In Canada, last autumn, I met several teachers from this country who had been exchanged with teachers from Canada, and I met Canadians who had just returned from this country. That is a useful experiment that is succeeding, and has received full support from the present President of the Board of Education. I could mention many others. The hon. Member said that the credit for any progress that has been made is due to vigilant public opinion directed by the vigilant Labour party. Of course, every Measure is due, in the long run, to public opinion, but as to the progress being due to the Labour party, that, I think, would be a very difficult proposition to uphold by facts. What are the facts? The hon. Member does not, deny that there has been considerable progress in education during the past four years. And who has been responsible for the Education Estimates?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is an argument more relevant to the Education Estimates. I understand this Clause deals with the relations of the Board of Education and the local authorities. If the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove) went beyond that—I do not think he did—and it necessitates an answer, that is justifiable; but it seems to me that before we know where we are, we shall be in the midst of a Debate on the Education Estimates.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I regret I shall not have a complete opportunity of answering the hon. Member, but I think it is undoubted that he did say that any progress was due to the Labour party. Possibly I may be allowed to point out, that in the past four years there has been a diminution of the size of classes, that there are 240,000 fewer children in the schools, and that, there are thousands more teachers in the schools. Above all, the position of the teacher has been secured, and secured by my right hon. Friend. Their position has been secured in the matter of pensions by the Superannuation Act of last year, which is a more liberal measure than has obtained in any other country in the world. Salaries, too, have been secured by the action of the President in making grants depend upon the 949 Burnham scale. The hon. Member has said that the President wishes for this Clause in order that he may squeeze the weaker authorities. Is it not the case that the efficiency of the schools under every authority will be carefully taken into account? Is it not a fact that full consideration will be given to the reports of the inspectors of the Board as to the condition of the schools? I think my right hon. Friend will corroborate that, and I do not think there is the slightest fear that weaker authorities, if they are efficient in the way of producing good results in their schools, will be in the slightest danger. With regard to the effect on local authorities, the policy of my right hon. Friend is to give the local authorities freedom. An immense amount of present useless administrative work will be cut away, and that freedom is of the greatest value. The policy of my right hon. Friend seems to be a policy of economy, it is true, but a policy of economy combined with freedom and progress.
§ Mr. R. MORRISON
I will not follow the last speaker, except to say that he is rapidly gaining in this House, in the matter of education, a reputation for defending every reactionary proposal the Government propose. The speech of the President of the Board of Education has followed almost the whole line he has taken ever since he began to lose his prestige as President of the Board of Education. Exactly the same speech was delivered when Circular 1371 was discussed in the House. According to the right hon. Gentlemen, everybody except himself has misunderstood his proposals. If anyone is protesting against those proposals, it is because they do not understand them. He cannot understand why any teacher should be protesting against any of these proposals, and as for local authorities, he holds up his hands in horror. The proposals, according to his dictum to-night, do not mean anything in particular; they are only to satisfy a few doubts. In other words, Parliament having nothing to do at present, and an Economy Bill coming on, he thought he had better take advantage of it, and put this thing in. Governments after Governments, he argues, have been doing the same thing, but it has never been on the Statute 950 Book, and so the Noble Lord thought that, as there was an Economy Bill coming on, perhaps another additional Clause would not make much difference, and he might as well put it in. He used exactly the same words as he used in the Debate on Circular 1371. He said it was a sham battle then, and he said it twice again to-day. He said exactly the same thing about the opposition put up in this House to Circular 1371, but the opposition was so strong he had to withdraw the Circular.
§ Mr. MORRISON
If the Noble Lord says now that his statement applied to Memorandum 44 and not to Circular 1371, even that has been superseded. If the Noble Lord does not assent to that, let me read from the Circular, which is without name or number:The communications which they will address to each authority on the basis of its forecast will supersede the general direction contained in. Administrative Memorandum No, 44.I do not know why the Noble Lord persists in saying that this is a sham battle. If he were as closely in touch with local authorities, the teachers, and the parents of children in this country as he continually professes to be, he would know it was far from being a sham battle. As a matter of fact this looks as if it was going to be an interesting year for education. The Noble Lord has definitely pledged himself and his Government to continuity in education. As soon as this Government took office I asked the President of the Board of Education what his policy was going to be, and I will quote one sentence from the Noble Lord's reply. I had stated that there was a vague reference in the first King's Speech, and that it might mean anything or nothing, and this is what the Noble Lord said:The one thing that the particular passage in the King's Speech does mean is this: That when we say continuous ' we mean ' continuous.'For the first nine months the Noble Lord was an unqualified success as President of the Board of Education. His policy was good and his speeches were numerous. His colleagues backed him up and on the 29th June, 1925, we had an extraordinary speech from the Chancellor of the Exchequer who is the real author of this 951 Clause and of this Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer on that occasion, in addressing his constituents at Woodford, said:Education in a country like theirs was absolutely vital not only to progress but to peace. The foundation of British civilisation was the steady active spread of education in all its forms. Those who thought that they could become richer or more stable as a country by stinting education and crippling the education of their young people were a most benighted class of human being. It was absolutely necessary that thrift and economy should be practised in every branch of their services. 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. Only in that way would the people of these small islands be fitted to work together in amity and goodwill, and sustain the responsibility of the British Empire and preserve unbroken its glorious continuity of history.Soon after that speech the Chancellor of the Exchequer began to put his spoke in, and from that moment the stock of the President of the Board of Education began to slump. In their speeches in the country they have ceased to refer to the educational policy of the Government. The Noble Lord has got himself into trouble since by introducing Circular 1371, and they have left him quite a lonely figure, and but for the Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) who finds it difficult to keep awake by his side, his position would be very much like the boy who stood on the burning deck. Every local education authority in the country is against him; the same applies to our great educational authorities, and there is a steadily rising tide of indignation against this policy among the parents of the children.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Those remarks would be more appropriate when we are considering the Vote in the Estimates for the salary of the Noble Lord, but they are not in order at this stage.
§ Mr. MORRISON
The point I am trying to make is that the Noble Lord began with Circular 1371, which caused such a storm of indignation that he had to withdraw it. Then Memorandum No. 44 had to be superseded, and now by these proposals the Noble Lord comes forward to make his third attempt which is possibly based on a belief in the old saying that "The third time will be lucky." His first policy was announced 952 in a circular which was unnamed and unnumbered, and now the exact words of that circular have been copied and embodied not in an Education Bill, but in the Economy Bill. In all these previous attempts the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been in the background, and he is still there as far as this Debate is concerned, but what of these proposals? Are these not the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The Noble Lord may try to deny this, but at the beginning of this Parliament I asked several questions about his policy, and I said that I hoped he would be strong enough to stand up against the Treasury should they attempt to interfere. On that occasion the Noble Lord said:The hon. Member was also afraid that we might be frightened by the Treasury. I want the House to remember this, that I am responsible for anything in education which may be put forward by the Government. I do not want anyone to say, This is the Treasury, it is not the President.' If I do anything which hon. Members do not like, then they should blame me and not my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. MORRISON
Apparently the Noble Lord still holds those sentiments. He has evidently decided that it suits him to adopt the role of a martyr, and we must all admire the readiness with which he is willing to sacrifice his own political career in order that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may flourish. Is it worth it for the Noble Lord to sacrifice his own career in order that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may prosper? When anything does happen to this country and when this Government breaks up and some other alternative Government is being formed, I am sure we shall find the Chancellor of the Exchequer making overtures to be a member of it, judging from what he is doing now. What is the main proposal? It is that the Board of Education shall not be bound to recognise any expenditure which in the opinion of the Board is excessive having regard to: (1) the circumstances of the area of the authority; (2) the general standard of expenditure in other areas; (3) unreasonable excess of any estimate of expenditure made by the authority. I suggest that the first two of these proposals are thoroughly reactionary.
953 Even the Noble Lord has not claimed that they are progressive, and in plain language their effect will be to punish the poor for their poverty. The poor districts, where there is much unemployment, irregular employment, poverty, bad housing, and low wages, are the districts where a high expenditure upon education is vital. All those districts need nursery schools, play centres, clinics, the feeding of necessitous children, medical services, and special schools, and they have a good many abnormal children to deal with. These are not luxuries, but vital necessities. We could all understand it if the Government said: "These services are costing too much and they are only patchy palliatives—we propose to attack the root of the trouble, sweep the slums away, raise the standard of living, and initiate great employment schemes so that these things will not be necessary." But that is not the policy of the Government. The children in the poor industrial districts are the innocent victims of a vicious industrial system. The local education authorities do their utmost to counteract the sordid conditions under which they are rearer. Instead of encouraging them and wishing them God-speed in their work, the Government now propose to restrict them in order to save money, and they are punishing the children of the poor for the poverty of their parents.
The second proviso is equally bad. It is having regard to the general standard of expenditure in other areas. This means dragging progressive authorities down to a lower level. Under this part of the Clause, local education authorities are to suffer, not because they have been extravagant, but because other authorities have not proceeded so far. How will it work? May I put one case to the Noble Lord, a case in which, as he knows, I am keenly interested. I have always, since I have been a Member of the House of Commons, on whichever side I have sat, taken an interest in the special schools of this country. Let me give the Noble Lord some quotations from the Statistics of Public Education in regard to special schools. This brings out the real point in regard to this Clause. I find, from the last volume of the Statistics of Public Education which has been issued, that there are 526 special schools in England and Wales. Of these, no fewer than 174 are main- 954 tained by the London County Council, and, of the 39,927 special children for whom accommodation is provided, London provides for 14,304. These schools are day schools or boarding schools for special children, and they provide education for the blind, deaf, mentally defective, physically defective, tubercular and delicate children.
These figures are even more important than they seem when this further point is taken into consideration, that, of the 526 schools I have mentioned, 135 are tabulated as not maintained by local education authorities. This means that, of the 391 maintained by local education authorities in England and Wales, London maintains no fewer than 174. London has 33 schools for the blind, while the whole of the other authorities in England and Wales have only 19 amongst them. London has 12 schools for the deaf, as against 25 among all the other authorities. For the mentally defective, London has 80 schools, as against 103 among other authorities. In the case of the physically defective, London has 35 schools, and the rest have 25 between them. The provision for tuberculous and delicate children in London does not show so marked a contrast at present, but of the total of 58 schools provided by local authorities, 14 are provided by the London County Council. Under this Clause, on the ground that the general standard of London is far in excess of other authorities, the Board has power to inflict irreparable damage upon this splendid system of special schools and upon this provision for abnormal children which has been built up in London.
The Noble Lord cannot deny the powers that he will obtain under this Clause, which will enable him to inflict damage upon those schools. I am not going to be so unkind as to suggest that he is going to do so, but, at the same time, I must admit that I should have had much more confidence in making that statement a few months ago than I have now. During the last few months the Noble Lord has shown himself a mere puppet in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, because of that, there is no saying what he may do. I suppose the Noble Lord will call this policy the "standardisation of expenditure." In this connection it is somewhat interesting to make a comparison with Circular No. 1371, and see how the Noble Lord has 955 changed his policy once again. In Circular 1371 he wanted to give the local education authorities a free hand. He complained that they were tied hand and foot, and had not a free hand. He said, in Circular No. 1371:Any attempt to impose detailed restrictions on expenditure would not only be incompatible with the spirit of the times, but would entail a further complication of administration. The Board are convinced that a change in the grant system is essential if local authorities are to exercise their own judgment.Now it seems that he has changed his policy again and wants the Board to tie the hands of the local education authorities. If he is aiming at standardisation of expenditure, how comes it that there is no countervailing provision to bring backward authorities up? He seems to be only asking for power to drag progressive authorities down, without any power to bring backward authorities up. It seems to me that this is a policy of insanity. One of the principal newspapers of the Noble Lord's own party described it as a policy of insanity. Let me quote from one of the principal Conservative newspapers in this country:The idea of curtailing the already inadequate facilities for self-improvement existing in England, while by common consent a great and sustained effort of organised intelligence is wanted to pull British industry on to the level again, is an idea straight out of a lunatic's head.That is from the "Observer."
§ Mr. MORRISON
The Noble Lord asks, Who is the lunatic? According to the dictum he laid down, he insists on taking all the blame himself, and refusing to put it on the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. MORRISON
If the powers in this Clause are entirley innocent, and if the Noble Lord does not want to economise and does not want to curtail educational expenditure, what are they doing in an Economy Bill introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The Noble Lord persists in saying flippantly that they do not mean anything in particular, but he knows that he has his tongue in his cheek in making any such suggestion. 956 This is an Economy Bill. One would understand that there might be something in the suggestion if this were part of an Education Bill, if it were part of some re-arrangement; but these are two Clauses of an Economy Bill, introduced for the deliberate purpose of trying to save money and cut down expenditure.
Apart from the insanity of this policy, there is its instability. This morning when I left home I passed, as I have to pass almost every morning on my way to the omnibus, a brick wall on which there still remains, battered by the rain but still hanging bravely on, a poster saying:Vote for the Conservative candidate and stability.It is a relic of the last General Election. Whatever stability we may have got from this Government, we have no stability in education. There is not a local authority in the. United Kingdom to-day that knows whether it is standing on its head or its heels. There is not a local authority that knows where it is from day to day, from week to week, or from month to month. Things have changed so rapidly since the Noble Lord threw his first bombshell, No. 1371, at the heads of the local authorities, that no local authority knows where on earth it is from day to day. It seems to me that, in this Economy Bill, this particular Clause 14 is the most iniquitous of all the proposals in the Bill. I will tell the Noble Lord why. I think it is the worst Clause in the Bill because, while the previous Clauses rob grown-up people, this Clause robs the children. I did not take part in any of the Debates last week in regard to the robbery of the funds of the approved societies, but it might reasonably be argued, and I am surprised that no hon. Member on the other side put the argument, that, after all, if the other Clauses of this Bill rob the funds of the approved societies, it serves the grown-up people right for voting for this Government. They elected it, they asked for it, and they are now getting what they asked for. But to penalise the children for the poverty and ignorance of their parents seems to me to be a contemptible policy, and for this reason I oppose this particular proposal.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I have listened with interest to the various speeches that have been made against this Clause. The 957 last speaker said that it was robbing the children, but I see nothing of that kind in it. It appears to me that it is a Clause giving some power to the Board of Education to prevent extravagance. I think that thrift is one of the greatest possible virtues. It is considered to be one of the staple characteristics of my own nation, and it is a very useful part of education for the present generation if you can inculcate it. If there is one thing the public are worried about—I am not speaking of the Teachers' Union, or of those organised bodies that intimidate Members of Parliament, with one or two exceptions; I am not speaking of them, but of the mass of the people—they are very much concerned about the system of education, because they are pretty well satisfied that it is a gigantic imposture. The more money is spent, the less education is given. You hear nothing from right hon. Gentlemen but expenditure, expenditure, expenditure. If you do not spend money you are limiting education. There is a celebrated character in the "Heart of Midlothian "who has the same mentality as the right hon. Gentleman who spoke. It is true he is not held forth by the late novelist as a particularly vivacious mental specimen. When any question of difficulty emerges he had one simple question to put. He used to ask, "Will siller dae't?" That is to say can it be remedied by the expenditure of money? This seems to be the problem of education with these right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that if you spend more and more money you will get better education. I do not believe in it. I do not believe the educational system of Scotland was built up in the past by the expenditure of money. It was built up by the character of the individual teachers and the freedom that was given to them. They were not interfered with in the way they are now. There was no exact code laid down. They were given the chance to develop and to pick out the particular pupils they thought worthy of higher education. There was no attempt to treat all individual specimens of boys and girls as if they were exactly the same.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is approaching the relations of the Ministry and local -authorities by rather a roundabout road.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I have been led away a good deal by the arguments used on the other side. This Bill, as far as I can see, is not going to restrict the activities of local authorities. It is merely that the Board of Education is to have the right to deal with unreasonable local authorities. I regret very much that the right hon. Gentleman departed from Circular 1371. It would be very much better if under the block grant system local authorities were allowed so much a head and told to educate the children in the way they thought best, and not be interfered with. If you are going to have a percentage system giving the local authorities the right to call on the Treasury for 50 per cent. of all that is expended, surely it is going back to the most elementary maxim that he who pays the piper has the right to some say in what tune is to be played. [An HON MEMBER: "All the say!"] No, it is only part of it. The local authority here has all its rights preserved. There is no other definition on those benches of a progressive local authority except one that spends the most, without considering whether it is getting value for its money. The public is exceedingly restive of the expenditure because in many parts they feel that they are not getting value for it. I quarrel with the Minister for Education in the matter of the Burnham scale, which is the same in every place. In some places, in remote parts, the people have very small incomes, and in others you have a higher standard of living, and more expenses, and the equal -treatment of unequal people under unequal circumstances is the greatest injustice. It is entirely wrong to treat them as if they were all under identical circumstances in the different places.
I shall be pleased if there is going to be some supervision. I do not say I want to cut down in the sense of cutting down legitimate expenses. I believe it is in the general interest that some general supervision should be exercised over education authorities, and it should be in the interest, not only of the children, but of the public, and the right person to exercise that supervision is undoubtedly the Minister of Education, who can satisfy the public apprehension as to the expenditure that is being engaged in. If you advertise for a boy for an office, or try to get some assistance, it is very few intelligent boys that you get. I believe 959 that is largely due to this, that under the present system instead of the school education brightening and increasing the powers of observation and the mentality of the boys, a great deal of it tends to stupify them and make them much duller than when they entered the school. We see the bright little children in their earlier years at school, but after five or six years they seem less intelligent than they were the day they went in. [An HON. MEMBER "Why not abolish education? "] I would abolish conscription in education, and I am opposed to conscription in other ways. Only the other day a graduate of Oxford University, with first-class honours, who believed that seven years was the right age at which to commence a child's education, was summoned for not sending his child to school at five years.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
It is part of the extravagance that the Minister of Education may have to control. I have in my possession a summons served on this gentleman. That is where a great deal of extravagance is engaged in. What you want is nursery schools for the poorer districts with a motherly woman to look after the children instead of highly-salaried teachers.
§ Mr. D. M. COWAN
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken. Some of his statements are so palpably absurd that it is quite unnecessary to reply to them. We have heard a good deal this afternoon of averages. The one average about this Debate has been the average length of the speeches. I think it is unfair to the later speakers that the earlier speakers should take up on an average half an hour. I can promise those hon. Members who are wishing to speak after me that my remarks will be well below the average length of the speeches which have been delivered.
I attribute no malevolent intention to the President of the Board of Education, but I do regret that he has allowed himself to be a party to the introduction of a Clause like this into what is presumed to be an Economy Bill. No matter what the President of the Board of Education may say in support of this Clause, its passing will undoubtedly be taken by re- 960 actionary authorities as a charter for them to do the least possible for the children of their district. So far as one can judge, this proposal has very few real friends. Even in the Press, quite apart from the rather doubtful supporter already quoted, we find one of the most ardent and consistent supporters of the Government in its to-day's issue saying that:The reductions proposed in Mr. Churchill's Economy Bill are hardly worth considering.Of all the reductions proposed, I take it that the meanest in the sense of the smallest, and in the sense that one cannot take it as involving any principle of finance, will be any economy effected in this Clause. If the promises and professions of the Prime Minister and of the President of the Board of Education are given effect to, not only will there be no true economy in this Clause, but there will be very little saving of any kind. I am sorry that the President of the Board of Education, who began his occupation of office so brilliantly is rather having the lustre taken off his reputation. His speeches on the various occasions we have discussed his circulars and economies have been vigorous but by no means convincing. He will have, of course, the support of the majority behind him—I should not quite venture to say an intelligently acquiescent majority—and he will have the satisfaction of getting this Clause made part of the Bill.
I have no doubt that he will find that not only does the Clause not achieve economies, but that the only thing that it does achieve will be disorganisation among the authorities and uncertainty among all those interested in education. These will be the results of this Clause, and not any saving as regards expense in the central or local authorities. This uncertainty is not confined to England and Wales. A much more important matter is that it extends to Scotland. All the threats with regard to educational expenditure in England and Wales have their repercussion in Scotland. Therefore, I want to ask the Government what part has the Secretary of State for Scotland in all these proposed regulations with a view to economy? Where is the Secretary of State for Scotland now? He ought to be here in order that we may put questions 961 to him to give him a chance of exculpating himself, if he possibly can. We have a Scottish Member of the Government present, the hon. and learned Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. F. C. Thomson), and I invite him, if the Secretary for Scotland is not available, to be prepared before the end of this discussion to explain where Scotland stands in this matter.
§ Mr. COWAN
And put some reality into the Debate. The real question which suggests itself to me is this, is it worth while that we should have these proposals put forward when, according to the statement of the President of the Board of Education, they are really not going to achieve what is the primary object of this Bill? The result will simply be a harvest of uncertainty. Nothing is more fatal to a sound, progressive system of education than that from year to year people should be wondering how it is to be financed or what arrangements are to hold with regard to this or that. Behind all these economy proposals, behind the wording of this Clause, there is, undoubtedly, a proposal to put into force at some very early date the block grant system. On at least two occasions in this the very distinguished and Noble Lady who occupies the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education has instanced Scotland as an example in favour of the block grant system. As one who has had very considerable experience and knowledge of Scottish education, I say that by no possibly reasonable interpretation of the term "block grant" can the system of grant in Scotland be so designated at the present time. It is not a sum handed out to the authorities with which they have to make the best of things. It is a sum which varies from year to year, according to varying factors, the number of teachers, the number of pupils and other factors. Therefore, I want to state on behalf of Scottish educational opinion, as far as I can speak for it, that if the Government are to go on the analogy of a satisfactory block grant system, they will require to look elsewhere than to Scotland.
I appeal once more that this House should have a voice raised from the Government Bench on behalf of Scotland. 962 I do not think it is fair that in a matter where the Union of England and Scotland really comes into effect, there should be this silence from those who represent Scottish opinion in the Government. Therefore, I ask my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Aberdeen to remove himself from the Debate long enough to find the Secretary for Scotland and to ask him to come here and tell us what part he has played and what acquiescence he has given to the proposals put forward now. I shall keep my promise of not going beyond the average length of the speeches which have been made.
§ Mr. BARR
I only wish to reply to one of the arguments of the President of the Board of Education, to the effect, as I understood him, that he was taking no additional powers under this Clause, and that the Clause is declaratory and for the removal of doubts. I should like the Committee to go back to the 8th February last when the Noble Lady, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, made a statement with respect to the ever-growing contributions of the Exchequer, and to the lack of full power of control. She used these words:….that over the large sums that have annually to be voted, the Board cannot exercise control except in certain particulars, and that there are large parts of the expenditure of the authorities which are incurred without the previous sanction of the Board."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1926; col. 765, Vol. 191.]1 think that in these words we find the key to the purpose that lies behind this Clause, and we find a contradiction of the statement that the Clause is purely declaratory and that the President of the Board of Education is not taking any additional powers. As the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. D. M Cowan) said, we in Scotland are very keenly interested in this matter. Our system of finance is, as the Committee knows, materially different, and yet it cannot be described as a block grant system. Further, it is dependent entirely on the percentage system, and the great bulk of our finance comes in the form of eleven-eightieths of the expenditure in England. Therefore, if you reduce, crimp and curtail the expenditure in England, you famish and starve education in Scotland. So much is this so that many of the education authorities arc carrying very 963 drastic resolutions. For example, the Fife Education Authority at a recent meeting passed the following resolution:That the present method of allocating the Government grant for education to Scotland is unsatisfactory and dangerous to the continuity of our educational progress; that the amount of this grant ought no longer to be dependent upon that made to England but should be determined with due regard to the circumstances, needs and ideals of Scotland.We have a Circular from the Scottish Education Department calling upon us to exercise in Scotland the like economy that was being practised in England, otherwise it would fall upon the rates. This Circular, Circular 69, says:The important changes which are imminent on the other side of the Border cannot but have a repercussion of which it behoves your authority to take most serious note. The imposition of a limit on the Grants-in-Aid for England and Wales will automatically produce a similar effect on the money to be paid into the Education (Scotland) Fund. It follows that any fresh responsibilities undertaken by your locality in the next three years will have to be financed mainly, or it may be entirely, from savings, if a rise in the education rate is to be avoided. Excessive rating is admittedly no whit less burdensome, no whit less detrimental to the interests of the community as a whole, than is excessive taxation.Therefore, if the grants here are curtailed the result will be in Scotland that the burden will fall increasingly upon the rates. That will have serious effects upon the questions of accommodation and of size of classes. In the recent Report of the Inspector for Scotland, which I forbear to quote, comment is made upon the vast expanse of expenditure that is still needed in this matter and to prepare for 1928 when classes are to be reduced to not more than 50. The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) spoke of unreasonable authorities, and I gathered from him that all progressive authorities were unreasonable authorities. He spoke of calling the tune, but some tunes are to be forbidden altogether if he has his will. For instance, in Scotland, it is in the power of every authority to give free books in the schools. Some have used that power, others have not, hut when a new burden is thrust upon the rates, as the result of educational economy in England and as a result of 964 tightening up the grants, all hope will vanish of carrying out great reforms like that.
As to bursaries, it is fair to say that some progressive authorities have resisted the temptation and are still giving bursaries under the old scale, but an authority so progressive as Edinburgh has been so affected by this cry of economy that they are steadily reducing their bursaries, both in number and in amount. In four years they have cut down bursaries from £13,643 to £9,443, a decrease of £4,200, and, if we take their estimate, we find that for the coming year they have been reduced by—1,087. The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire spoke as if it were a crime in modern education that we were treating boys and girls alike, and that we were paying attention to the poorly equipped, mentally and physically. I should like to answer him by a quotation from a Conservative paper, the"Glasgow Herald," of the 4th February, 1922. That paper says:At present the teaching profession has apparently a variety of means at its command for segregating the mentally superior from their inferiors. What is not yet recognised is that it is the latter who require the higher education. If they are the stupid then it is they who are the menace to the world's progress. To stamp them as stupid and then assume that your work is done is to cease yourself from mental fight and prove that stupidity in the school is not confined to the scholars.What we have been doing is simply that, instead of the old ladder, we are seeking now to erect a broad stairway upon which the young people can walk abreast to positions of honour and of power. The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire said that he would abolish conscription, that he was opposed to it. in many things, in the political levy and other things. I know I would transgress if I followed him in that, but I have many quotations from him in which, in the days of the War, he supported conscription and would have put all conscientous objectors in the front line. His presence and his spech is a sign that we have still to contend with reaction in Scotland. We object to these powers because they will be used to strengthen the reactionary element in Scotland. I might commend these words as expressing the present view of the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire. They were used in"Black- 965 wood's Magazine"as far back as 1839, when it was opposing an Education Bill:That Education would make the working people uneasy and restless, that ignorance was the parent of contentment, and that the only education which could be, fitly and safely given to them was a religious education which would render thorn patient, humble, and moral, and relieve the hardship of their present lot by the prospect of a bright eternity.I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire is not present to hear his opinions. He sought to curtail education"to suit the siller"as he called it. I would remind him of an old poetic adage, exceedingly applicable to instances of education in Scotland as well as in England:There was a man, and half the world did count him mad,The more he gave away, the more he had.And the more you give away in education the more you have in the real wealth of the nation. It is small comfort to known that we are to have even some increase over the past years when we know the expansive increase that is necessary to carry on the work of education both in England and in Scotland. I would weary the Committee if I were to give them for four decades the progressive figures in Scotland to show what poor comfort it is to be told, as we were in the Scottish Education Circular, that there will be little diminution in the three coming years from the present year. In 1890, the expenditure on education in Scotland, according to the annual report by the Accountant for Scotland to the Scottish Education Department, amounted to £1,447,000. Ten years later it was £2,283,000; in 1910, it was £3,747,000; in 1920, it was £4,712,000, and in the last report it was £10,518,000. In education you cannot stand still. To stand still is to go back. I remember reading the story of an Arctic exploration in which four explorers walked with great pains about four miles a day, but after a time they were grieved to discover that while they had walked all that distance northward thy were further south than when they began. The currents were carrying them to the south all the time. The Noble Lord has modified his pace. He is going at four miles a day. But in this matter if you do not go forward you are really going back. Stagnation is re-action. It is death in education. The"Glasgow 966 Herald," in the article to which I referred, quoted Blake:Expect poison from the standing water.I do not think the President of the Board of Education desires these powers to curtail expenditure to the extent provided in this Clause, nor do I believe the Noble Lady who is associated with him at the Board of Education desires really to take this step backwards in education. She is herself a high example of brilliant academic distinction. I believe they are doing this at the dictation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is calling for his tune and begs them to sing a low minor in order that he on Budget day may sing a paean in a high key. The Noble Lady when she last spoke in this House said it was only a. temporary halt. Everyone knew, she said, that the financial conditions of the country require a temporary halt in the policy of grants. The Government are in the wilderness and they have to obey the law of the wilderness, that so long as the cloud of finance which the Chancellor has raised tarries over their tent they will sit still, they will not journey. They have to obey the law of the wildernessif the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.It will not be easy to resume even if the cloud is lifted. You are clogging your steps for the future. I can see the march being taken up again in this connection, but it will not be until the Noble Lord has passed over to this side of the House and his place is occupied by a party with a passion and a zeal for education, who will place the best resources of the State at the command of education; that has no Super-tax relatives to consult and no Member for Oxford University who regards the money devoted to education as"money thrown into the sea '' sitting behind it. The Noble Lady said — and I am free to say this because I have nothing but what is complimentary to say regarding her in this matter—that she hopes at an early date they will resume their high purpose. She hopes very shortly to be able to resume the fulfilment of a programme to which, as she said,"We attach the greatest possible importance." The Government expect a bright to-morrow. This Government is going to do better to-morrow. When we rise night after night the Parliamentary Secretary to the 967 Treasury says,"To-morrow,""Tomorrow,""To-morrow," to Bills that are coming forward.To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in their petty pace from day to day,To the last syllable of recorded time;And all their yesterdays have lighted foolsThe way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
§ Mr. ERNEST EVANS
Those who heard the speech of the hon. Member opposite will have observed that he defended these provisions because of the powers which he said they gave to the President of the Board of Education. That was his line of defence, but the greater part of the speech of the Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education was to point out that the Clause gave the President no powers beyond what he already possesses. Personally, I agree with the argument of the hon. Member, and find it difficult to believe that the Government would have insisted on the insertion of this particular Clause but for the fact that they know, or at least they expect and hope, that the result of its passing will be that the President of the Board of Education will be in a stronger position when seeking to curtail the expenditure of local authorities. That is obviously the case. The provisions of Section 118 of the Education Act, 1921, which re-enacted Section 44 of the Act of 1918, provides that the total sums paid to local education authorities out of money pro vided by Parliament and the local education account in aid of elementary education or higher education, as the case may be, shall not be less than one-half of the net expenditure of the authority recognised by the Board of Education as expenditure in aid of which Parliamentary grants should he paid to the authority. Sub-section (2) of the present Clause is clearly contrary to that provision; and not only Sub-section (2). I submit that the grant of discretionary powers to the President of the Board of Education, provided for in this Clause, is also contrary or may be used in order to torpedo the financial assistance which was provided by the Act of 1921.
The Clause gives the President of the Board of Education discretion to control the expenditure of local authorities 968 not by reference to the needs of the local authority alone, but also by reference to what is called the general standard of education in other areas." I should be surprised to hear of any authority of standing who would say that that power is now vested in the President of the Board. I submit that this discretion is a complete departure from the fiscal arrangements which were embodied in the Acts of 1918 and 1921 and it is a power which may be used in a manner which might do infinite and permanent harm to the cause of education. A reactionary President of the Board of Education, anxious to persuade himself or being persuaded by other members of the Government to save money in the realm of education, might use this discretionary power for the purpose of lowering the standard of local education authorities throughout the country to that of the most backward authority. This is a discretion which should not be vested in any Minister of the Crown. It is a discretion which I am not prepared to see vested in any member of the present Government, though the Noble Lord will forgive me if I say that I would as soon see it invested in him as in any other member of the present administration. The record of the Government in regard to education culminating in this Clause is a most disappointing one. The Noble Lord has not been really fair in his treatment of local education authorities. When he assumed office he went up and down the country making admirable speeches calling upon local education authorities to prepare and send in programmes to cover a period of years, to advance the cause of education in their areas, to remedy all defects and go in for improvement.
When the Noble Lord made those speeches he knew that if the local education authorities responded to that appeal the expenditure of money would be involved. He also knew that the local education authorities were preparing programmes on the assumption that they would receive grants on the same basis as in the past. The Noble Lord went about calling upon the local education authorities to join him in a great crusade and campaign against all the forces of indifference and reaction in the educational life of the country. They responded to the appeal, or a large 969 number of them did, and many members of local education authorities incurred a. great deal of local unpopularity and certainly devoted a lot of their time and energy to responding to the appeal. They came forward and followed the Noble Lord's flag, and as soon as they did so he dropped a bombshell amongst them. The treatment of the local education authorities was like the treatment meted out to his men by a certain notorious general:He marched them up to the top of the hill,Then marched them down again,And when they were up they were up,And when they were down they were down,But when they were only half way upThey were neither up nor down.That is the position of the local authorities in the country to-day—they are neither up nor down. They do not know where they stand in regard to the treatment to be meted out to them by the Board of Education, and this particular Clause has added to their difficulties. The Noble Lord is underrating the anxiety which is felt amongst educationists, just as he is understating the effect of this provision of the Bill. There is no doubt as to how this discretion is to be exercised. It is significant that the Noble Lord, in a speech to local education authorities in the early part of last year, said:I do not want any education authority to think that it cannot put forward a programme representing all that it really does want to do, for fear that the Board will try to cut it down in order to equal it with some less progressive authority. There is no such suggestion or intention in our mind at all.It is extraordinary that, if there is no such intention in the mind of the Government, they should seek power to do this very thing in this Bill. The Noble Lord said in effect to the local authorities,"You need not fear that the Board will cut down your programmes," and yet when we look at this Clause the Government are asking that the Minister shall have power to do that very thing—limiting the expenditure by reference to the general standard of expenditure in other areas. I believe that this power may be used—I will not put it higher than that —in a way which will do incalculable harm to the cause of education, and put the clock of progress back by a great many years. I do not believe that such wide 970 discretionary powers should be reposed in any Minister of the Crown. This is quite contrary to the old policy, not only in regard to education, but in regard to public services generally. It is for Parliament, and more especially for the House of Commons, to declare how much money shall be made available for certain services, and it is the administration alone which is left to the Minister in charge.
This Bill reverses that policy. Under this Clause the Minister can say,"I will allow here, and disallow there." He can do that without reference to this House. It is true that the House of Commons will still vote the Estimates of the Department, but the Minister, in regard to the expenditure of any particular educational authority, will, as a result of this Clause, have much wider powers than those which he now possesses, to interfere with the expenditure, and consequently with the programmes, of local education authorities. That is a retrograde step and contrary to the best interests of the country.
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
In the early part of his speech the Noble Lord quoted figures showing that both on capital account and on ordinary expenditure there had been in recent years a very considerable advance, but he seemed to have forgotten entirely what. was the cause of that advance. Let me remind him that in his Report for the year 1923–24 he said:In our last report we were able to record that since the close of the year then under review it had been found possible, owing to the relaxation of the extreme financial pressure previously existing, to remove many of the restraining influences on education which it had unfortunately been necessary to maintain. The year with which this report is concerned showed the completion of this process, and we were able to announce to the local authorities the reversion to our former practice of considering proposals for expenditure on their merits.This was announced in Circular No. 1328 on 3rd April, 1924. Throughout this Report there are repeated cases where education authorities are urged to take up additional expenditure. The Noble Lord cannot expect local authorities to take an interest in education, and then turn to them and say:"We are not going to pay for it." Emphasis is laid in the Report on the extent to which secondary education is very much more in demand than it was, and authorities 971 are urged to deal with it. At the end of the Report we come to the medical service and other allied activities, and we find such expressions as this in regard to the school medical service:We hope that it will be possible to make a concerted effort during the next few years to secure the complete and comprehensive service which the country so urgently requires.Then there is the same desire, very strongly expressed, in regard to secondary schools. Next, on the question of defective children, we were told this:Careful scrutiny of the 1923 returns, however, suggests that there are at least 200,000 defective children for whom special schools are needed, and if this figure is even approximately correct it is obvious how large is the deficiency which still exists in this type of school provision.So also with regard to physical training and nursery schools and evening play centres, and there is a special paragraph urging that these should receive a great deal more attention than they had had in the past. We fear that there is to be a cutting down of those very things which only a year or two ago the Noble Lord was urging the local authorities to take up with very much more vigor than before. He said to them in this Report,"You have practised economy; now you are free to go ahead with those schemes which have been so seriously delayed in the past."
What we want to understand is, what is the reason for this change of policy? Why is it that only a short time ago they were told to go ahead—there is not a word in the Report to suggest that there has been any excessive expenditure at all—and now they are told in this Bill that there has been excessive expenditure and that that will 'have to be cut down.? As the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. D. M. Cowan) said only a few minutes ago, it is this continued change, this lack of policy Which involves the education authorities in not knowing from one day to another what is going to happen to them, that is causing so much uncertainty in this important matter.
Then, if we turn to the Memorandum on the cost per child that has been issued by the Department, we find that the cost per child is divided over salaries, loans, administration, other expenditure, and special services. Salaries are fixed by 972 the Burnham scale. There is only one way of economising in those salaries, and that is by increasing the supply of uncertificated and supplementary teachers. If that is going to be the policy of the Government in cutting down expenditure, I am quite sure that the country will have something to say in regard to it. Are the Government going to cut down loan charges? If so it means that the local authorities are not now securing the best terms they can on their loans. That is a grave reflection on the local authorities, if there is any proof in regard to it. There might be something to be said in regard to administration. Then there is"other expenditure." largely a question of local rates, cost of fuel and light, in regard to which it will he found on inquiry that if there is one thing about which local authorities are exercising the very greatest care and supervision, it is such as that. Then you are left with the special services. There are, perhaps, two directions in which there is a greater contrast in expenditure between certain authorities as regards special services. There are the medical services, and any attempt to cut down expenditure there is going to react on the whole health of the country. There is the question of the provision of meals, the schools for defective children, physical training, evening play centres, and national schools.
I understood the Noble Lord to say that there is to be some sort of investigation as to the action of various similar authorities in order to try and bring them on to some sort of common basis in regard to various items of expenditure. I have here taken from the Memorandum on the cost per child the figures relating to the whole of the authorities in County Boroughs, whose average attendance is between 6,000 and 7,000. Those figures ought to be particularly interesting to the Noble Lord, because I find that in the case of Hastings the total expenditure is 264s. 2d. per child. The charge for Southport is 243s. 5d. That is a difference of more than 20s. If one comes to look at the question of salaries, one finds that Hastings again is the highest with 194s. 9d., standing at 8s. above Oxford. When one considers the loan charges one finds that Hastings is again the highest. When one comes to administration, Hastings is the second highest.
973 When one comes to other expenditure, Hastings is again second highest. When one comes to the special services—medical services, meals, schools for defective children—Hastings is not only the highest, but the highest by something like 50 per cent. above the next highest. Is the Noble Lord going to tell Hastings that their expenditure is too high? Is Hastings going to be set up as one of the authorities where expenditure is excessive and has to be cut down?
What we on these benches desire to see is that Hastings should rather be held up as an example to other authorities, unless the people of Hastings sent the Noble Lord here misunderstanding altogether what his education policy is. What we certainly fear is that this question of excessive expenditure is going to be used in a way that is totally objectionable to the whole spirit in which we desire to see educational policy conducted in this country. I should like, in conclusion, to refer to Lord Bryce's introduction to the Cambridge Essays in Education, published in 1918, in which he says in his concluding words:In the stress and competition of our time, the future belongs to the nations that recognise the worth of knowledge, and that can best understand how to apply the accumulative experience of the past. In the long run it is knowledge and wisdom that rule the world—not knowledge only, but knowledge applied in a width of view, a sympathetic comprehension of the mind of other nations. They are the essentials of statesmanship.If we are to regard statesmanship by a declaration of that kind, then what we find in Clause 14 and the policy which the Noble Lord defended—not, I believe, because he thinks it will be the best for the country, but because it has been dictated by the Chancellor—is neither in accordance with the best interests of the nation nor of the whole world.
§ Mr. PALIN
The Clause that we are discussing to-night has given local authorities more doubts than even Circular 1371 or Circular 44. It may be, as the President of the Board of Education has told us, that he has received no resolutions of protest from the Municipal Corporations Association or from the associations representative of educational committees. But they do not meet every week. Their meetings are usually monthly, and some even meet at longer intervals, and they are only just 974 realising the significance of this particular Clause, and realising what it may mean to them. If they had their choice, I think there is not the slightest doubt that, of the three, they would take those which the President of the Board of Education set out previously, because there was something definite about them. We did know the amount of the economy he proposed to indulge in. They could calculate what this would mean and they generally knew what they were in for.
On this occasion we do not know. It is left entirely to the Minister's discretion. He says he wants to be kind to us and that he does not want to pillory any authority. How is he going to do it 1 Undoubtedly the Clause, as it is drafted, gives him power to refuse further grants to a particular authority who is spending more than a comparable authority. What I anticipate he is going to do is this. He is not going to take the manly and straightforward course of saying,"Your expenditure on special services is too high and your expenditure on secondary education is too high." I am sure he will not say, '' Your expenditure on medical officers' salaries is too high," because the British Medical Association can give points to the Miners' Union or any other union in the matter of getting salaries. He is not going to say to a particular education authority,"You have no right to give your children free secondary education while other people are having to pay for it."He is not going to do anything of that kind. He is going to say, "your total expenditure on all forms of education is higher than that of some other authorities. I am sorry. I have no objection myself, and you are doing a great work; but an Act of Parliament has laid the duty on me to say you cannot get any more than a certain amount, the total amount being calculated per head of the population."
It is quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman has this in his mind because, strange to say, it slipped out at Bradford, What has Bradford been doing? Hon. and learned Gentlemen who sit on the other side representing the Universities would say at once, and would be quite right in saying, that a great deal of the money that is being spent in Bradford is not spent on instruction at all, but on preparing children and making them fit 975 to receive instruction. Millions are being piled up in Bradford on account of little children having been brought into the world with twisted limbs and stunted minds, and authorities have to spend money to straighten out those twisted limbs. You get special schools to deal with myopic sight and physically defective children generally. This means small classes and skilled medical attention and skilled teaching and a big capital expenditure on the schools, not on the particular buildings themselves, but on the variety of schools which it is necessary to have to correct these things. Bradford had to spend a great deal at one time on the feeding of school children, but the wisdom of the nation and this House had seen fit to make a good deal of that unnecessary.
The Unemployment Insurance Act has reduced the expenditure on starving children and a more liberal scale of relief by boards of guardians has also relieved it. I am optimistic enough to believe, unless this expenditure is cut down, that automatically in the course of a few years we shall have a healthy childhood which will make the necessity for this special provision to be unnecessary. But in the meantime our schools are needing attention. Bradford has never spent a great deal of money on school buildings. It has spent it on the needs of the children themselves. Bradford has still large classes and uncertificated teachers on its staff, but all these things have been necessary, due to the cursed system which brought those stunted minds and twisted limbs into the world. Now we have got secondary education and it may be asked, I quite understand, why should I, having little children in secondary schools, receive more benefit than I pay in rates, and why should a man because he lives in another town, with as limited income as not have the same opportunity?
What Ministers feel is that people are realising the benefits of secondary education and that the privileged position that they and their fellows occupy is being challenged by these children as time goes on. We are now getting secondary education in the schools, but while Eton and the other public schools where the sons of hon. Members opposite are educated have ample playing fields, ours is an adapted elementary school with an 976 asphalt playground, and when we are willing to meet the requirements of the inspectors of the Board of Education, then we are told that because Nottingham or other places of similar size and importance have not spent this total amount of money on these particular things that neither shall we spend it. If the Minister has not had some resolutions or protests from the municipal corporations he jolly soon will have, and what is more, camouflage it with the clever, innocent speeches as you like, when the effect comes down to those people who are beginning to realise the value of education, it will stir them up and all the clever speeches in the world will not protect hon. Members opposite from the inevitable reaction that will come about, and which will eventually sweep them from office unless they see the red light in time.
§ Mr. HADEN GUEST
I was very much surprised, in listening to the Minister's speech, not to hear anything whatever on the subject of economy. I think he mentioned a large number of other subjects, but he said nothing of economy, and as this is an economy Bill one expects to hear about economy, on which subject we on this side are as much interested as he. I do not want to rule out any Department from economy, if economy can be made, but the Minister completely failed in showing—in that he did not deal with the subject—how this particular Clause was going to enable him to make economies at all. He said in fact that with regard to the necessitous areas he already had the powers which this Clause would give him. If that is so, what advantage is there to him in passing this particular Clause? It is true that we on this side many of us regard education from rather a different point of view from that of the right hon. Gentleman. We regard it as investment, and when you are making economies in investment it is a different thing from making economies in illegitimate expenditure such as expenditure on armaments.
I should like someone speaking from the other side to explain to us what has not yet been explained—in what way this is going to help us to reduce the amount of expenditure at all, that is legitimately, because if it is not going to help us, what is the use of it? And if it is going to help us to reduce expenditure, then in 977 what way is that reduction to be carried out? Let me point out that this particular proviso, in spite of what the Minister says, is regarded as very threatening indeed by certain of the educational authorities in this country. They put the matter in this way: Up to the present the education authority making up its budget knows how much in the grants it is going to get within the limit of the fair estimate, and can in consequence make its rates. If this Clause be passed, then the Minister in addition to having the power which he already has with regard to passing expenditure, because he has to approve such expenditure for grants, will have the additional power at the end of a period of refusing to pay, if at his discretion he thinks that the expenditure is greater than it should be.
If the Clause has not that meaning, what additional powers does it give the Minister? If it has that meaning, in what way is the. Minister s discretion to be exercised? In the course of the Debates on this Economy Bill we have had instances of the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raid various funds which were regarded by the ordinary critizen of this country as safe and exempt from any demands by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Is this Clause intended to make funds intended for education also available for raids by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We have not had much explanation of this Clause from the Noble Lord, and I wonder whether it is not almost—shall I say—deliberately obscure. It is all very well to say that regard will be had to the circumstances of the area of an authority, and to the standards of expenditure, but what are the standards of expenditure? The Minister instanced the salaries of teachers. There you have an item of expenditure concerning which it is possible to make comparisons, but the Noble Lord knows that the officials of his Board have great difficulty in arriving at standards which are comparable in regard to different items of educational expenditure. I have here an extract from the Board's own statement on the matter in which they set out causes which may affect the cost per child. These include salaries of teachers; loan charges; administration and other expenditure; books, stationery, and apparatus; upkeep of buildings: fuel, light, and cleaning; rates and taxes; special 978 services, including the medical inspection of defective children and the organisation of physical training; geographical features of the area affecting the distribution of the population, and so forth. How are you going to make comparable standards among all these factors?
Anyone with any practical experience of educational administration knows that even in one department, the medical de partment, it is exceedingly difficult to arrive at standards of comparison as between one area and another, or even between two parts of the same area. It is, in fact, so difficult that the cost of education varies enormously. London's expenditure on elementary education in 1925–26 was 346s. 10d. per child. In Tipton it was 164s. 8d. per child and in White-haven 164e. 5d. per child. That indicates the great differences which exist and the difficulty of making comparisons. It is a matter on which we want further light. There was published in 1923 by the official publishers a document dealing with the cost per child. How is it we have no information up to date on this subject, although I understand that information is available in the Noble Lord's office? I will not say that such information has been suppressed, but why has the latest information as to the cost per child in relation to the different areas, not been given to the public and made available for this Debate? It seems unfortunate that as regards official figures, one is obliged to rely for comparisons as to cost per child on the figures for 1920, 1921 and 1922, which are the latest figures available.
Taking special services, for instance, and comparing the cost with regard to certain items in those services as between certain different districts, in London the cost of special services for the schools for blind, deaf, epileptic, and defective children was 15s. 11d. in 1920–21, and in Grimsby the cost was 1d. How are you to compare those figures? My hen. Friend the Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Cecil Wilson) referred to the high expenditure of Hastings. One does not know whether that is expenditure on special services for defectives or otherwise, but one hopes the Minister will throw a little light on the subject. It will be rather interesting. The examples I have given may be multiplied indefinitely from the experience of anyone 979 who has any understanding of education. Take the question of the expenditure of public authorities on the feeding of school children. How are you to compare the expenditure of one authority with that of another? I have certain figures which show the amount of money spent per child on feeding At Easter, 1925. In Hampstead it was 0.139d., in Islington 1.171d., in Stepney, 3.902d., in Greenwich 0.965d., and in Kensington 1.540d. I merely give those figures to show that even in London, dealing with a specific department of a particular sub-division of a special service, the variations in cost are so great that it would be only by a very elaborate and complicated mathematical operation that one could arrive at any possibility of making a real comparison.
One wonders whether the Minister has any special desire to make a very accurate comparison, because one cannot help feeling that his method is one which really cannot be applied, but that what he is asking us for is not a power to do something which, according to his own statement, to a large extent he already has power to do, but power to reduce expenditure on education at his own discretion, for I can see no other way in which the different areas can be compared than by a method which he will use entirely at his own discretion. His own speech was, it appeared to me, extraordinarily evasive, if he will permit me to say so. He did not deal with economy, or say how standards were to be compared, or exactly what he proposed to do. He said he refused to pillory any authorities, but he really seemed to me to refuse to come to the point of dealing with the actual method by which he was going to operate. He evaded the real discussion, and asked us to give him—I think this is a fair way of putting it—a general power to reduce expenditure as he pleased. I put it to him that there is no way in which you can fairly compare many of the costs of the different educational authorities at all, that it is in practice impossible to do so, and that the only real way to deal with educational expenditure is to consider it item by item, as it is the duty of the Board of Education to do, to see whether, item by item, it is justified for that particular place, without attempting to set up any arbitrary standards of com- 980 parison between different places, because those standards of comparison are not valid.
I had, some years ago, the honour to be one of the medical inspectors of the London County Council, and it is one of the duties of the medical inspectors of the London County Council to make comparisons between the physical conditions of the children between the different areas of London itself. We were all trained persons in that particular respect. We were all doing the same work according to the same standards, and working according to a definite schedule; but, in order to bring our own work to a focus, in order to insure we were not constantly using different standards in our own work, we had to have periodical conferences to deal with one small subdivision of the work of the education authority. That is a good example of the difficulty of comparing the work of education authorities in the different branches, and I do not see how you are fairly to compare, or fairly to set up standards of comparison. If economy be really possible, the Minister ought to have pointed out, as he did not, where that economy was going to be made. If he does not point out where the economy is going to he made, then, I think, the Committee is justified in thinking that the Minister is asking us for a general authority to reduce expenditure, which public opinion in this country has already refused him in the case of the Circulars which have been named so often in this Debate, and that he wants, not power really to economise, but power to slaughter schemes of education of which he does not happen, personally, to approve.
§ Mr. MORRIS
It is a little difficult to understand why this Clause, especially Sub-section (1), is in this Bill, and it is difficult to understand that all the more after hearing the Noble Lord's speech. He says that the Clause is merely declamatory of the existing powers, and that it does not in any way add to the powers of the Board of Education. If that be so, the first sentence of the Clause as to the removal of doubts implies, at any rate, there is some doubt whether some of these powers already belong to the President of the Board of Education, and, in that case, if there be 981 some doubt about some of these powers, they ought not to be exercised at the moment. But the Noble Lord intends by this Clause to make it certain that these powers shall in future be exercised. To that extent, at any rate, it is an addition to the powers of the President of the Board of Education. I can imagine that such an addition, far from being welcome to the Noble Lord, must be very embarrassing to him, and much as we may object to adding to his powers, the President himself has far greater objections to adding to the powers of any Minister. Speaking in the Debate on an Economy Bill in 1922, the Noble Lord, objecting then to the increase which was contemplated in that Bill in the powers exercised by Ministers, he said:The gravamen of the charge against the Government is that under this Bill (among other Ministers) the Minister of Education take into their hands complete power to make Economies where they can make them, and to regulate as they like the grants to local authorities. That is, undoubtedly, putting into the hands of those Ministers a power which this House, in ordinary circumstances, would be very reluctant to grant." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1922; col. 979, Vol. 156.]The very powers to which he was then objecting were the powers he now comes to this House to have transferred to him at this moment. They are powers to effect economies, quite irrespective of the decision of this House, although he denies, as I understand him, that this Sub-section is intended to make any economies at all. If this Sub-section be not intended to make any economies whatsoever, why is it included in an Economy Bill? Why did he not come to the House with a declaratory Bill of his own to state what the powers of the President of the Board of Education were. If they have nothing to do with economy it is a strange thing that they should be included in this Bill.
It is clearly the intention of the Minister, by administrative acts, without reference to the House of Commons to effect what economies he can. I listened with amazement to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) whose view seems to be that a good deal of money is being wasted upon education and that we are not getting value for our money. In this respect how does this country compare with other progress- 982 sive countries in regard to its, expenditure upon education. How does it compare with the Colonies? In New Zealand they are spending 53s. 7d. per head of the population as compared with our 38s. 7d. In Canada the amount is 60s. per head and in the United States 57s. 10d. per head of the population. It is said that our future depends upon our producing a well-educated population that will hold its own in the commercial and industrial competition of the world. The United States is spending 57s. 10d. per head of its population upon education and yet the hon. Member for Argyllshire asks:"What are you producing in this country? "
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
Do those figures include the expenditure of local authorities as well as national expenditure?
§ Mr. MORRIS
Yes, they include local as well as national expenditure. If this country is spending too much on education then there are two checks upon that expenditure. The first is in regard to the rates. The second is national taxation, and if the local authorities in certain areas are more progressive than in some other areas their expenditure at first hand is controlled by the ratepayers and that is the first check. If the local area is prepared to support the expenditure proposed by its local education authority what business has the right hon. Gentleman to say"We will not endorse the expenditure you are estimating for"If the local authority is prepared to support its education authority then the demand should be made on the taxpayers to meet that expenditure. I believe the Minister of Education is a good educationalist and that in his heart of hearts he believes in educational advancement. All the speeches he delivered at the beginning of his period of office fully and fairly represents his views upon education. What is the explanation of the change? Simply that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has come forward with this Bill. What does the Chancellor of the Exchequer care about the education of the people of this country? It is true that he addresses meetings of school girls and declares himself in favour of education, but when he has an opportunity of doing something for the educational advancement of the country the only thing he does is to put forward proposals of this kind in an 983 Economy Bill. Here is a Clause which apparently has nothing whatever to do with economy but its effect is to take away the control of educational finance from the Board of Education.
§ Mr. MAXTONrose—
§ Mr. MAXTON
I certainly think that I deserve that tribute, not for the contribution that I am going to make to the Committee's consideration of this Bill, but for the pertinacity with which I have listened to all the speeches that have been made on the subject to-day. This is my first intervention in the Economy Bill Debates at any stage of the proceedings, but I have listened with increasing wonder and increasing admiration as we have gone from Clause to Clause of this Committee stage. I remember that it was always a never-failing joke to hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, when they sat over here during the brief period of the Labour Government, because a certain Minister of the Labour Government averred on one occasion that it was impossible for him to do conjuring tricks and produce schemes like rabbits out of a hat. That was a mark of inferiority as compared with the right hon. Gentlemen who now occupy the Front Government Bench, because, when Clause after Clause of this Economy Bill, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has promised is going to mean a great saving to the national costs, comes up for discussion, the appropriate Minister comes before the House and explains to the House, and proves to me quite conclusively, that, while each one of them is going to take something away from some group of individuals and put something into the national pocket, everybody from whom that is going to be taken is going to be infinitely better off than he was before. The Minister for Education beats all the others, because he tells us that this Clause gives him absolutely no power at all, but he proves to my satisfaction that, with the negation of power that he receives under this Economy Bill, the educational service is going to be improved, the teachers are going to be better off than they ever were before, and the education of the children is going to be on a more efficient level than it ever 984 has been at any period in the country's history.
I remember sitting, away in an old-fashioned farmhouse somewhere in the middle of Yorkshire, a day or two after the present Minister of Education had assumed his office, and hearing over the wireless his dulcet tones from two or three hundred miles away. He was speaking at a very later hour in the evening—I think it was midnight—and his tones were mellifluous even at that distance and under those somewhat difficult conditions. He had been attending a dinner with the Prime Minister, and, at an appropriate stage in the evening's proceedings, he explained to those assembled at the dinner, who might not be listening, and also to millions more throughout the country who were listening, exactly what he and the Prime Minister were going to do for education. But, as he explains this Clause to us to-night, he is even better than he prophesied. I am more particularly interested, as he knows, in the ultimate effect that this will have on Scottish education. I believe it would be possible, if we could maintain Scottish education at a high level, for us still to go on carrying this British nation on our shoulders; but, if Scottish education is to be reduced step by step in proportion to reductions in English education, then I am afraid the intellectual contribution, and the contribution of energy and character, which Scotland up to now has freely and gladly given to this nation, will be somewhat considerably reduced in the future. I listened to the statement of the Minister when he showed that the national contribution to English education during the last three years—he spoke so rapidly that I was only able to catch the millions and not the odd hundred thousands, but I gathered that he proves that he has not reduced expenditure on education by quoting the figures for 1924–25, 1925–26 and the estimated figures for 1926–27. and I think he stated that in 1924–25 the expenditure was £68,000,000, in 1925–26 it was£70,000,000, while in 1926–27 the estimated expenditure was £70,900.000—roughly an increase of £800.000 for the ensuing year.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Almost £750,000 more. I might complain very seriously that the increase ought to be very much greater.
985 If I remember the 1918 Act for England as I remember the 1918 Act for Scotland, it gave the education authorities certain duties—certain"musts"and a number of"mays." I assume the Minister sends round the inspectors and auditors to see that the compulsory duties imposed on the education authorities are fully carried out, and what every one of us hoped was that as soon as we got away from the immediate post-War years, the optional Sections of the 1918 Act would be put into full operation, and that the full operation of those Sections would mean a very much greater increase from year to year over a number of years than is represented by £650,000 on an annual estimate of £70,000. But if this Clause only gives the power that the Minister has already got to veto the expenditure sent up to him by the authorities, there was no reason in the interest of economy why he should estimate merely for £70,900,000, because, if I understand it, should you pass this into law in the course of the next month, every suggestion for a new development that comes up from any English education authority will be subject to scrutiny and subject to his veto. That will immediately affect the expenditure of the year 1926–27, and presumably while he and we have voted £70,900,000 for the purposes of education during 1926–27—
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am being very careful to keep strictly in order by dealing with the English problem. I am only dealing with the English problem, and so far as I make reference in the course of the next hour or two to the Scottish position it will merely be by way of illustrating the devastating effects this Clause will have on the whole national education system of the country. If the Noble Lord is going to exercise that veto, this £70,900,000 which the House has voted for the purposes of education in England during the ensuing year is a figure which means absolutely nothing at all, because the Minister can veto every single proposal that involves capital expenditure or opens up any new educational activity, so that although we have an estimate of £70,900,000, an increase of £650,000 over last year and nearly£2.000,000 over 1924–5, in actual fact with the power of veto that we are putting into the hands of the 986 Ministry by this Bill the expenditure for 1926 for education in England may be something entirely different from what the House of Commons has decided is to be spent on education. Exercising his administrative power, sitting at Whitehall, with absolutely no effective control so far as the House of Commons is concerned over his operations except on the one day in the year when his salary comes up for discussion, he will be able to decide that the national expenditure on education shall be not £70,000,000 but, may be, anything down to £40,000,000 or £50,000,000: a bare sufficiency to carry out the routine compulsory minimum education on the standard of which it is carried out by the meanest, poorest and least progressive education authority in England. That is how I interpret the power which he is now asking us to give him.
He conies forward to minimise this power and to say that it is only what he has already, that he is not asking for anything more than he now possesses or more than what every Minister of Education has exercised, including his predecessor the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan), but if we give him this Clause to-night, as he is expecting to get it, he will declare, time after time, when hon. Members question some refusal to their particular area—even a Tory Member will be up in arms when his own particular education authority approaches him, because the right hon. Gentleman has turned down this scheme or that scheme in their area—sitting there, all-powerful from day to day, au autocrat with unlimited power:"This instruction I got from the House of Commons on the Economy Bill: the power confirming my right to cut down the educational services in this country." He is not only doing that to the educational authorities throughout England, but in cutting down the English amount of £70,900,000 he is automatically cutting down what we receive in Scotland. He knows nothing about the difficulties of Scottish education. The hon. Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) who spoke does not know very much about it.
The Scottish education grant goes to Scotland in one lump sum and is distributed throughout the authorities, not on a percentage basis, because per- 987 centages vary between 39 per cent. in Glasgow—I will not speak exactly, but certainly in Glasgow not 50 per cent. is paid out of the Exchequer, whereas in some of the remote parts of the Highlands as much as 80 per cent. is paid to outlying authorities, owing to special difficulties of transport. I happened to be a member of the Glasgow Education Authority when the effects of the Geddes proposals came into operation on the educational system. I was one of those responsible for the administration of affairs in the City of Glasgow. I do not know the county education authorities or the education committees in England, but I know the education authorities throughout Scotland, and I know the types of individuals who sit upon them. The Noble Lady who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education served for many years with some distinction on the education authority for the County of Perth. One of my colleagues sat on the authority for Fife, I sat on the authority for the City of Glasgow and I do not know a single education authority in the whole of Scotland that needs to be restrained because of extravagant expenditure. They need prodding on and a tremendous drive before they will carry out, not fancy ideas, but what is agreed upon by all educationists as the barest minimum for an effective national general education.
Let me say, in reply to the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire, that I know the education service of Scotland inside and out. I was the son of a schoolmaster and reared in a country schoolmaster's home, the type of school where a youngster came in at five years and where, if he had special capacity, he was drafted straight from the top class into a University, where he might have the opportunity of entering a learned profession. I myself taught in a. slum school in the slummiest part of Glasgow, and I have sat upon an elementary education authority. In my opinion the youngsters coming out of the schools now are better and more effective in every way, and have every opportunity of growing up and becoming more useful citizens than the generation to which the hon. Member and I belong. I put myself in his generation, though I believe I am one behind him. I have taught in an 988 evening continuation school during the great period when we had compulsory education in our public schools for those children who were regarded as the absolute failures of the elementary schools, those who had attended to the age of 14 years without having been able to pass the relatively low standards laid down in what was known in the Scottish educational system as the qualifying examination. I was a teacher voluntarily; I volunteered for the task. I do not mean I was unpaid. Learned gentlemen would not accuse me of that. I volunteered for this particular branch of work which was regarded as rather a dangerous duty. I believe it was good and valuable work so far as I was concerned. It would have been much better if those youngsters were not compelled to come there at night. I got them after they had been up at five in the morning, for those were in the old 6 o'clock days, and after they had been home and washed after the dirty work of the day. They came to be educated, the failures of the educational system. Those youngsters were in small classes of 20, with the possibility of personal interest in each, with the desire on the part of the teacher, as is the general desire on the part of all teachers, to recognise that each one of those youngsters was a human being with latent capacities. When you talk about giving the educational advantages to children who show themselves capable of it I always want to know who is going to be the judge.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I would not even trust the schoolmaster to say that a boy of 12 years of age is incapable of further development. I have seen a person who only developed when he was 21 or 22. But these youngsters are capable of growing up into human beings with character, with will power, and with all the elements that really matter to the future of this nation. I have been a student of the discussions about national credit, financial stability, and the commercial future of our country and Empire. I have been anxious to learn, but I cannot say that the crumbs that have fallen from the rich man's table have tended to develop me either physically or intellectually.
That is not because of any lack of desire on my part to learn. But one thing 989 I have learned, and it is this; that the commercial prosperity of this country, the wealth-producing power of this country, its financial stability and its taxable capacity, depends in the ultimate, not on the men who sit around the directors' board, but on the general average standard of development in the brain, the muscle, the sinew, and the character of the toiling millions of the land, and it is no economy—it is sheer national profligacy, sheer irresponsibility and the shirking of duty—for this House to hand over to the President of the Board of Education this power. You talk about Mussolinis and Lenins, here we are giving into the hands of one man the right to deny to the mass of the children in England and Scotland that personal development to which each one of them has a right. You are handing over to him the right to decide what intellectual development the future citizens, who are to be the wealth producers and rulers of this country, are to have. It is too big a power to give even to the most capable man, and much too big a power to give to the present President of the Board of Education.
§ Lord E. PERCY
The Committee will agree that there is a difficulty about this Debate. Most of the speeches of hon. Members opposite have so far been an attack on a very wide field, and I should be out of order in dealing with them. Hon. Members who have listened to the Debate will agree that the appropriate answer to many of the speeches would be an exposure of the Estimates of the Board of Education. I have no fear of such an exposition and I should welcome the opportunity of making one at an early date, but I want to suggest to hon. Members that their speeches have been either mainly directed to the general question, and I can hardly reply to them except on the basis of facts applicable to an Estimate Debate, or they have been directed to one or other of the specific Amendments on the Paper. I think the time has come when the Committee will be ready to come to specific Amendments, having satisfied itself that it has directed all possible arguments on the general issue against the devoted head of the Minister of Education.
I will say only two things, and they Rill be entirely uncontroversial and will 990 not stimulate any hon. Member to reply. The first is as regards Scotland. I think it is due to Scottish Members to say one word as to the effect upon Scotland of any powers exercised by an English Minister under this Bill. Incidentally this will be of interest to Englishmen as well. There is no intention on the part of the Government to use the powers defined in this Clause for the purpose of forcing down local expenditure below the figure estimated in the Board's Estimates. We have no intention of doing it, and we do not believe that that could properly he done. Therefore, Scotland has not to anticipate any reduction of the grant due to it owing to a reduction of the local expenditure in England and the grant towards that expenditure falling below the figures quoted before. Instead of £650,000 it ought to have been£710,000: I correct that.
I would remind Scottish Members that it is not only by the President of the Board of Education cutting down local expenditure in England that the position of Scottish education authorities may be prejudiced. One of the things which has prejudiced Scottish local educational authorities in the past is that there has been a consistent habit during four or five years of over-estimating the probable expenditure of the year, which is leading the Scottish Education Office to base its block grant on a figure which is not in fact realised, and which is leading to greater arrears of grants to be made up afterwards. At any rate, the Scottish authorities are in a better position this year, because, instead of over-estimating, I have under-estimated, and they have already had a windfall in the shape of a Supplementary Estimate, and they now get a further windfall in the shape of an increased education grant for the coming year. It was only fair to the Scottish education authorities to make that clear.
On the general question, may I say that hon. Members have tried to put me in a dilemma by saying that if I was not curtailing education what wag this Bill for? and so on. They know that I am not curtailing educational expenditure since educational expenditure is going to increase in the coming year. The answer that I would give them broadly—I ask them to be content with that, and to leave the details to be 991 filled in on the Education Estimates—is that it is obvious that every education authority in this country at present is faced by a tremendous programme of heavy capital expenditure. Durham has been mentioned. Durham has sent in a programme of building for this year, strictly within the limits of Memorandum 44, and it involves the building of no fewer than 25 new elementary schools. And that is not untypical of other counties. When you have got demands of that kind, it is absolutely essential, from the point of view of local authorities, of the central Government, and of everyone concerned, to husband your resources in current expenditure as far as you can without hurting educational efficiency, in order to be able to provide
§ for those demands which face local authorities. That is the only conception I have of the immediate future and the general spirit in which I approach this economy provision is from that point of view. I think the Committee will agree that I have gone as far as I can be expected to do in a general reply to the points raised, and I hope the Committee will agree with me that the time has come to divide on this Amendment and come to the specific Amendments which can be discussed briefly and to the point.
§ Question put,"That the words proposed to be left out, to the word expenditure,' in page 10, line 3, stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 216; Noes, 119.993
|Division No. 173.]||AYES.||[11.12 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hohler, sir Gerald Fitzroy|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hope, Capt, A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)|
|Albery, Irving James||Davidson. Major-General Sir John H.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Davies. Dr. Vernon||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow. Cent'l)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Dawson. Sir Philip||Horlick. Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Apsley, Lord||Dlxey, A. C.||Howard, Captain Hon. Donald|
|Ashley. Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Drewe, C.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen, Sir Aylmer|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Eden, Captain Anthony||Huntingfield. Lord|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Elveden, Viscount||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen't)|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Everard, W. Lindsay||Jacob, A. E.|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Fairfax. Captain J. G.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Bellairs, Commander Canyon W.||Falle, sir Bertram G.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Fermoy, Lord||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Blundell, F. N.||Finburgh, S.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Brass, Captain W.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Lamb, J. O.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Frece, Sir Walter de||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon Sir Philip|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Little, Dr. E. Graham|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Locker-Lampson. Com. O.(Handsw'th)|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Lougher, L.|
|Brown, Col. D.C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Gilmour. Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lucas-Tooth, sir Hugh Vere|
|Brown. Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Goff, sir Park||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Grace, Jibe||Lumley. L. R.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (l. of W.)|
|Burman, J. B.||Gretton, colonel john||MacIntyre, Ian|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Grotrian. H. Brent||MacMillan, Captain H.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hammersley, S. S.||Mac Robert, Alexander M.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hannon Patrick Joseph Henry||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Chadwick, sir Robert Burton||Harland, A.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.|
|Charters, Brigadier-General J.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Meller, R. J.|
|Chilcott. Sir Warden||Haslam, Henry C.||Merriman, F. B.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon Winston Spencer||Hawke, John Anthony||Meyer, Sir Frank.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Mitchell, Sir w. Lane (Streatham)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Cope. Major William||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J, T. C.|
|Couper, J, B.||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Moreing. Captain A. H.|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Hills, Major John Walter||Murchison, C, K.|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Hilton, Cecil||Nuttal, Ellis|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)||Percy, Led Eustace (Hastings)|
|Perring, Sir William George||Sandon, Lord||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Plelou, D. P.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Pitcher, G.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Vaughan-Morgan. Col. K. P.|
|Pliditch, Sir Philip||Shepperson, E. W.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Skelton, A. N.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Preston, William||Slaney, Major p. Kenyon||Wells, S. R.|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Wheler. Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Raine. W.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Ramsden, E.||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F.(Will'sden, E.)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Remer, J. R.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Rice, Sir Frederick||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Richardson. Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Ropner, Major L.||Storry-Deans, R.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Strickland, Sir Gerald||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.||Woodcock, Colonel H C.|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Stuart, Hon. J, (Moray and Nairn)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Sandeman, A. Stewart||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G, (Dumbarton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sanderson, Sir Frank||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Major Sir Harry Bamston and Captain|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Saklatvala, Shapuril|
|Alexander, A. v. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hayday, Arthur||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayes, John Henry||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Barnes, A.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, G. H.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Briant, Frank||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Broad, F. A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)|
|Bromley, J,||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cape, Thomas||Kelly, W. T.||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kennedy, T.||Sutton, J, E.|
|Clowes, S.||Kirkwood, D.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lee, F.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lunn, William||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Connolly, M.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Thurtle, E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Mackinder, W.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Cowan. D. M. (Scottish Universities||MacLaren, Andrew||Varley, Frank B.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||March, S.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Maxton, James||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Dennison, R.||Montague, Frederick||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Duncan, C.||Morris, R. H.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|England, Colonel A.||Naylor, T. E.||Westwood, J.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Oliver, George Harold||Whiteley, W.|
|Fenby, T. D.||Owen, Major G.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Palin, John Henry||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Gillett, George M.||Paling, W.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Gosling, Harry||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wilson. C. H (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Greenall, T.||Potts, John S.||Windsor, Walter|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Wright, W.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Riley, Ben|
|Groves, T.||Ritson, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grundy, T. W.||Robinson. Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Rose, Frank H.||Warne.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ I gather that communications have passed through the usual channels and in view of that fact, I submit this Motion.
§ Committee report Progress to sit again To-morrow.994
§ The remaining Orders' were rend, and postponed.