§ Sir JOHN SIMON
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words:But regret that the Gracious Speech contains no reference to educational policy calculated to remove the widespread dismay created by the issue of Circular 1371 and Memorandum 44 by the Board of Education, particularly the proposal to substitute block grants for the percentage grant, which would have the effect of paralysing educational progress.The Liberal Imlay has decided to use this opportunity of moving an Amendment to the Address by raising the burning topic of education in relation to recent declarations made on behalf of the Government. It was our hope and intention that my right hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) would have been able to move this Amendment, and I feel sure that I shall have the sympathy of everybody in being called upon to take his place. I will endeavour to earn that sympathy by occupying only a short portion of the time of the House, because I wish to present the case in broad outline, and to leave others in all parts of the House plenty of opportunity of expressing their own point of view. Although this Amendment is moved from the Liberal Benches, we hope that the views which we put forward will commend themselves to all quarters of the House. It is well within the recollection 676 of hon. Members here that, just at the end of last Session, a Debate took place in which speeches were made from the benches opposite, no less than from this side, in language of very deep concern in view of the issue raised in the Circular of the Board of Education, which has now been followed by it second document. We who speak from these benches do not, of course, claim the monopoly of educational fervour, but what we do claim is that these recent pronouncements from the Board of Education threaten a definite set-back in this vital Department, and are in the most alarming contrast, both in actual substance and in spirit, with Conservative declarations at the General Election.
Let me remind the House what those declarations at the General Election were. The Prime Minister's Election address contained a very full paragraph headed "Education." If I may say so, it was an admirable paragraph. It was a paragraph which gave ground for hoping that in this Parliament at all events all parties in the State would co-operate in an active educational advance. I have here the Prime Minister's Election address. I will summarise very briefly four or five points which he made on this subject. The Prime Minister, on behalf of his party, at the Election declared that they were standing, first, for a progressive reduction in the site of classes; secondly, for the replacement of inefficient schools: thirdly, for the development of central schools, and other forms of education above the elementary school stage; fourthly, for a more adequate supply of secondary school places with an increase in the number of scholarships and free places applicable to all advanced courses; fifthly, for a scale of salaries which would secure efficient teachers and attract the best men and women to the profession. Further, they intended to promote schemes of adult education and the further development of all kinds of technical education. All these are admirable sentiments. The worst of admirable sentiments is that so long as they remain sentiments they do not cost anything, but as soon as those sentiments come to be translated into practice they cost a great deal of money.
Those declarations, made by the Prime Minister in November, 1924, and welcomed, I am sure by a great many people 677 in this country who are far from being partisans, are capable of being carried out in practice only if the Board of Education gives a vigorous lead, and if the. Government, secure as they are in their great majority, insist, on the provision of adequate central finance. It is worse than useless for pronouncements to be made, as the Prime Minister made them on behalf of the Conservative party at I he General Election in those most encouraging terms, if, when he has everything in his favour, so far as his Parliamentary position is concerned, he finds it possible to allow—I am sure that he does not really in his heart desire—so retrograde a step as is threatened in these new circulars. Looking at the matter without any partisanship, there was real ground for hoping for continuity of educational policy and progress. The Prime Minister himself, in one of his speeches, had insisted that continuity was of the utmost importance in this matter. Let me just read his words. He said about education:It is very undesirable that the education of our people should be looked upon as a controversial subject mid as a subject, on which each succeeding Government is likely to adopt a different policy.I think I can show in the short time I am going to occupy the attention of the House that, whatever the Prime Minister may have said, the matter which is now brought forward by the Board of Education does involve adopting a different policy, does raise matters of the most acute controversy, is throwing the local education authorities in the country into a state of alarm and confusion, and, even in its revised form, is really having the effect for the time being of stopping educational progress.
Might I recall to the House what are the main features of this policy which the Prime Minister spoke of as one which he hoped would be continuous, whatever may be the change of parties in this House? It may fairly be traced back to the great Education Act, 1918, and it is fair to say, while there may have been criticism here and there, that successive Ministers, called to the Board of Education from successive political parties, have all endeavoured to preserve a general principle of continuity in pursuing that policy. I shall sum it up 678 under these three expressions. I remember very well the Debate at the end of 1918 when the Minister for Education brought forward his proposal. I remember the stir which was created throughout the country, not only in what are called educational circles, or among people who are experts, but throughout the country among everybody of goodwill and hope, by the general principles which the then President of the Board laid down.
It really came to these three things. First of all, ever since then at least, the post-War policy for education has been to recognise that the best way of repairing the ravages of war and of rebuilding the strength of the country after the War was to adopt and to pursue a more advanced educational policy, It was perhaps the most important of all the efforts at reconstruction. In the second place, this principle was involved, that the Board of Education, the central Department which concerned itself with these things, should take the lead in that advance and should encourage local authorities both to plan and undertake improvements and extensions in their own areas. Thirdly, and equally important, the practical application of the two previous principles came to this, that there should be steadily put into force a system of percentage grants towards approved expenditure, assuring the progressive authority that they have in the Board of Education a real partner in their enterprise. There was a further very important provision introduced in the Statute of 1918 It was that in respect of approved expenditure the grant from central funds would not be less than 50 per cent. I do not think that anybody who has followed this subject with sympathy or interest can dispute that that is really the broad outline of the post-War educational policy of the country, which the Prime Minister in the speech I have quoted declared it to be so important to continue. Now comes this Circular 1371 with its Memorandum 44, and the series of explanations which have been offered about it since. Without for the moment attempting to deal with it at all technically, the broad conclusion is that the whole spirit and meaning of these documents is the reversal, or, if not the reversal, at any rate the suspension, of these ideas which I have tried to recall to the House.
679 I do not claim—I am very careful not to claim—to speak as a complete, technical expert on this very difficult subject of percentage grants. I have given some little attention to it, and I wish to call to the mind of the House some common-sense considerations which ought to make us all pause before we accept the proposal to get rid of them. First of all, let it be observed that every Minister of Education in turn, from whatever party he has come, ever since the War has believed in them, and carried out the system of percentage grants. In the second place, although the Report of Lord Meston's Committee on Exchequer Grants has not been published—and I do not know why not—there has been published the evidence which the Board of Education offered to that Committee, and the Board of Education itself, the Department over which the noble Lord presides, presented to Lord Meston's Committee on this very subject of percentage grants a most elaborate and detailed memorandum, which you can get in the Vote Office, in which the Board declared itself as definitely in favour of that system of percentage grants, as against any system of block grants which had yet come before it. In the third place, this system of percentage grants, this system of saying to the local authorities, as regards approved expenditure, "You feel that you can undertake that programme and that scheme, and to put that burden on your ratepayers, then since it is expenditure of which we approve, the central funds of the country shall be answerable for half the outlay," is the system under which developments and improvements in education of very many varied kinds have been made during the last few years. They have been started under it, and it does appear to me, as a plain matter of public administration, a most dangerous thing, that you should encourage local authorities to adopt schemes, to start building, to make new developments, all of which they have undertaken on the faith of this system and that then you should suddenly, in the middle of the execution of programmes of that sort, announce that the system is going to be scrapped.
Let me put before the House, for what it is worth—it may not be worth much—the reflection of the plain man on the subject of percentage and block grants. I can quite see that there are objections 680 to the percentage system. The Noble Lord has pointed out some, no doubt very sincerely. But, looked at broadly, there must be obviously this to be said on the one side and the other. If you announce that the grants paid from central funds to local authorities for purposes of education are to be on a fixed system year after year for so many years ahead, calculated by reference to certain past figures, you are directly inciting the backward authority to do as little as possible by way of supplement to that fixed sum, because they know that all that they have to do to secure that fixed sum is to satisfy the minimum requirements of the Board of Education and that anything they can avoid doing inures to the advantage, or supposed advantage, of the ratepayers. Beyond all question, as a matter of plain reason, whatever be the arguments in favour of block grants, however it may be said that they reduce the interference of the Board in niggling or trumpery matters, there really cannot be any doubt that the block grant system is a direct incitement to the backward authority to remain as back-ward as it dare. On the other hand, it is equally clear that the percentage system of grants—originally the most jumbled formula, it was reduced to a very much simpler matter in 1917 and 1918. and is now a thing which is well within the competence of anybody accustomed to study figures to understand in outline—whatever its complications may be, undoubtedly has the effect that the progressive authority, the authority that really has got the needs of education at heart, and is determined to do all it can to meet them has the practical encouragement and impetus which is given by a system which makes the State its partner. I find it therefore quite impossible to believe that the argument against the percentage grants and in favour of any block grant system can be of such a character as to justify this departure at this time, and I am greatly encouraged in that view by the circumstances that nobody has ventured to publish Lord Meston's Report, or indeed any other document, which justifies the suggestion that such a change is needed.
There is one further thing. The Noble Lord is the last man I want to accuse about want of zeal in education, because 681 I know he has it deeply at heart, but in his efforts to execute what his Government want him to do, he is, as a matter of fact, taking a course which is quite inconsistent with his own previous declarations as Minister of Education to local authorities. He is not a new broom who came to the post and, on studying the matter, said: "This system is all wrong, and I am going to set to work to alter it." He went there no doubt with great knowledge of these matters before he applied his talents to making himself the devoted Minister we all know he is and when months after that he met the local education authorities, this is what he said to them:We must proceed on the basis that the great system is going to remain substantially as it is at present. I do not want any authority to think that it cannot put forward a programme representing all that it does want to do, for fear that the Board will cut it down in order to equal it to some other less progressive authority. There is no such intention in our mind at all.It was all very well to make those declarations early last year, but the plain fact is that this Circular 1371 was put forward last November not as an announcement in the interests of education at all, but as an announcement in the interests of reduced expenditure. The hand that wrote it may be the hand of the Noble Lord, but the voice that dictated its terms is the voice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
What is the defence that is suggested? It is said sententiously by some people that educational efficiency is not to be measured by educational expenditure. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Quite true. Neither is educational advance to be measured by a reduction in educational expenditure. Let us see how far we can get on together. Is there general agreement in the House that one of the most urgent things that is wanted in elementary education is reduction in the size of the classes? Is it agreed that one of the most urgent things is that there should be bettor qualified teachers? How in the sacred name of efficiency are you going to secure those things by reduced expenditure? It is a meaning less piece of cant for people to say, "We are all in favour of reducing the size of classes, we are all in favour of getting rid of insanitary schools, we are all in favour of using the trained teacher rather than the untrained teacher, we are 682 all in favour of this new scale of salaries. But the reason we justify a reduction in the Educational Estimates is because expenditure is no measure of efficiency. "What is there in Circular 1371 from beginning to end which is going to secure more efficiency out of less expenditure? What paragraph of it is addressed to the subject of efficiency? I join with anyone in the view that education like other things, calls, in these uneasy times, for the most tremendous effort to secure that you get your money's worth for every pound you spend. So far from suggesting that because the subject is education, it does not really much matter because all money spent on education is well spent, it seems to me that the more vital the national service is, the more important it is to secure that any money raised for it is well spent, for otherwise you will sicken the people of the country in pursuing one of the most invaluable services of the State.
I have read both these documents with very great care a, great many times, and I can see nothing in them that in the least justifies hon. Gentlemen who are supporting this change of policy in saying this is in the interests of efficiency You are not going to secure that a single pound that is spent on education is going to be spent better by saying the whole system by which we finance your schemes, or help to finance them is going to be changed. Indeed will go further. Take the subject of teachers' salaries. There was a time, I remember, when those salaries were going to be reduced. The Burnham inquiry took place and certain scales were suggested, and there has for a long time been great debate as to how far those scales of salary were to be regarded as fixed. The other day the Board of Education made the announcement that they approved the Burnham scales. I am very glad they did. The Burnham scales are scales that last for six years. They come to an end in 1931. At present under this percentage system 60 per cent. of the salaries of teachers is provided out of central funds. Here you have a reversal which does not guarantee or secure that that will continue to be true. What is the good of saying, in these circumstances, that you are really acting fairly by local authorities who have been encouraged to adopt the Burn ham scales on the basis that the contribu- 683 tion from central funds will continue to be calculated on this percentage basis?
I do not believe there is any recent change in educational progress which could not be shown to be really connected with the finance which the State provides for the purpose, and our simple case is that these documents put forward from the Board are really put forward at the instigation of an embarrassed Chancellor of the Exchequer and they amount to a threat to local educational authorities either to reduce the facilities they supply or to increase the rates. What is the good of pretending that this policy is really approved by any party in the State? No one knows better than the Noble Lord how much hub-bub there was about it behind the scenes, for some of it was expressed in the most admirable speeches by Conservative Members last December. The result was that the Prime Minister announced that they are going to try not to make the change for a year. What a way of dealing with local authorities: If indeed your object is at all costs to slow down educational activities, nothing will do it better than that. Tell the local authorities they are not to know what their future is going to be, and you are quite certain then that they will say "We will not undertake any new departure till we know where we are."
It seems to me that the broad conclusion to be drawn, when one considers the action of the Government in the matter, is this. It raises two most fundamental matters to which I will call attention, and leave others to make their speeches. First of all, it raises the question of the part that is to be played by the Central Government in the matter of national education. The post-War policy of this country has been that the Board of Education should take the lead and provide a stimulus in areas that were backward. Another view is that the Central Government should be a sleeping partner, should be the paymaster, should be the banker, should be the body which will produce a fixed and defined sum for each of these 300 or 400 authorities, and pay it over year by year.
I believe the second of these methods is utterly and fundamentally wrong, and everyone who thinks education is primarily a national matter, and who 684 realises the very wide gap that separates the most progressive authorities from some of the smaller and backward authorities, must on reflection see that the part the Board of Education has to play is not the part of a drag, but the part of a guide, and if necessary the part of a stimulus. I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities who said the percentage grant system was really intended to be a dynamic instrument, to work by a series of impulses like an internal combustion engine. It is intended to be a system by which the central authorities shall give the machine that extra bit of urging which is necessary if we are to advance. I can quite see that in times of very great financial stress a Minister of Education, really devoted to education, may have occasion, may be tempted, may be justified in saying to local authorities, "Come and see me; we have a terribly difficult time to bridge this next year: and while I am going to stand by your side and fight for your rights you must not put a greater strain upon the central finance than it will bear." That is possible, but it is no reason for scrapping the machine. It is no reason for saying. "Get rid at a blow of the percentage system." It is no reason for telling the local education authorities that in the future there is to be a new system in which there is to be a minimum for the next three yews, and then to suggest that there may be something else added to it in certain cases.
That is one of the two big questions raised by the Government's action. What part do you consider the Central Government should play in Britain at this time in the matter of national education? The other big question that it raises is this: What is the importance of the services the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to finance every year? What is their real relation? I think it was the Prime Minister the other day who said that as regards the Admiralty the principle was to spend as little as you must, and as regards education to spend as much as you can afford. It sounds very attractive at first sight, but really that way of looking at it is definitely putting expenditure on armaments as a more important function of the State than expenditure on education. I am not willing to admit it. 685 It seems to me that this Government stands in this position. The First Lord of the Admiralty came along backed by the Admirals, and they made a great deal more fuss about them than about the schoolmasters. After what we were told was a very long controversy the Admiralty got authority for a cruiser programme and a large new capital expenditure. Was it justified'? Good heavens There is enough in this country to-day to justify the expenditure of millions and millions above what anyone can afford.
But you have to choose as between things that are said to be necessary according to their real importance. There was a row in Ireland the other day. The South and the North were supposed to be going to fly at one an other's throats. They adopted the well known historical method of combining against the British Treasury, and immediately the situation is cleared up, at the expense of the British taxpayer. There was a terrible situation in the coal trade, which apparently had not been the subject of much forethought by the Government, and the method is adopted, at any rate for the time being, of preserving peace and Preventing complete collapse by an enormous subsidy, at the expense of the taxpayer. We are visited by a distinguished representative of the Italian Government in connection with the little matter of some £600,000,000 of debt, which we are told is to be settled on the principle of capacity to pay. It appears that the result is that the Italian has a capacity to pay interest which is about one-fifth of the capacity of the British taxpayer to pay interest on the Italian debt, and that the British taxpayer alone has the capacity to repay the capital. All these things may be true, but what I want to know is, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer feels that it is necessary to concede this to the Admiralty, this to the Minister of Mines, this to the Italians and this to the Irishmen, what is the place which he assigns to education in the order of national service?
We are not prepared—and there are people in all quarters of the House who will agree with us—to admit that there should be treatment of education as though education were the Cinderella of the services and as though this is the direction in which you ought almost 686 automatically to get reduction of expenditure, while the other Departments are pleading the difficulties of automatic increase. While I thoroughly appreciate the difficulties of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the most unpleasant situation of the President of the Board of Education, we submit to the House that this Circular and Memorandum were nut put forward in the interests of education, but that they were simply put forward in the interests of securing reduced expenditure. They do not promote efficiency in education, as all revisals of expenditure ought to do, but they are really intended to bridge over the difficulty in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer finds himself because, unfortunately, in other respects his anticipations about national finance have so signally failed to mature.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
It is always interesting to hear my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sven Valley (Sir J. Simon). I was acquainted with his connection with education at a very early period, when by reason of his youthful triumphs he proved to us that he was a man who needed no help from educational organisation, but who could also build up his character, his life, and his career even in spite of the hardening influence of these organisations when they were over-mechanical. I shall not trespass very long on the time of the House. Therefore, my right hon. and learned Friend must excuse me if I do not in an education Debate follow him into a disquisition upon the Singapore base and the interest which the Italians are to pay on their debt. With all respect to him and to my colleagues, I propose to keep definitely to the point which we are discussing. My right hon. and learned Friend was good enough to begin his speech by saying that he disclaimed any monopoly of interest in education. That is agreed. Does he think that hi, could make such a claim with any serious purpose? Is he not aware that there is no sane man in this country who would not be prepared to make the utmost sacrifice to advance the great (cause of training the younger generation for their future work and their grave responsibilities in life? You would' always have a great enthusiasm to help you in that cause. That enthusiasm sprang up even in savage times, when 687 the savage wanted to teach his boys how to bend the bow, how to ride and how to swim. That has continued right along and into these later years, and, above all, in my own country it has been the inspiration of the middle and labouring classes. Let me remind my right hon. and learned Friend that they owe a great deal more to that enthusiasm and parental zeal than to some of their mechanical organisations with their elaborate ramifications. Above all things, let me tell the House, after long experience, that I am inclined to say that that enthusiastic energy, that willing self-sacrifice regarding education amongst Parents, is not so strong, I fear, now as it was 50 or 60 years ago.
My right hon. and learned Friend did not profess to enter into what he called the technicalities of the percentage grant, but he thought that any interference with the percentage grant was of such dire importance that it meant scrapping the whole machine, and the abandonment of all that we have sought to achieve in education during the past two generations. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman really thinks that it will only take a few minutes for me to recall to the House the various courses that the principle of grants has followed from time to time, and it will help us to a judgment. When we began 80 years ago to give grants for the maintenance of schools, we paid what was called an augmentation grant towards the salary of the teacher. That was paid whatever the number of pupils and whatever the size of the school. The local authority was left with the responsibility of managing the schools.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
That interruption has nothing to do with the argument. I do not want to enter upon the question of fees. Such interruptions do not help the Debate. I am speaking about the augmentation grant. That system remained in my own country in Scotland as the principle of the grant until 1872, because the Scottish schools were jealous of their independence. They thought that the system of a contribution from the State, leaving them perfectly free in regard to their conduct of the schools, 688 was the best and soundest method of helping them. In 1862, however, there was a transmogrified system adopted in England. It was then that Mr. Robert Lowe, who became Lord Sherbrook, introduced his Revised Code, which bound the payments to follow individual examinations in the three R's, to which each poor, wretched scholar had to be subjected. Mr. Lowe, in announcing that Code, put forward a rather drastic—it might, indeed, be called a gradgrind—argument. He said: "My system will either be expensive or it will be cheap. If it is expensive, it will be because the schools are very efficient. If, unfortunately, the schools are inefficient, we shall then have the advantage of saving our pockets." That was the argument put forward, in a rather cynical spirit, by Mr. Lowe. We would have nothing to do with it in Scotland, and we resisted it until you became too strong for us in this country in 1872. Very soon afterwards all parties alike began to see that this system of payment on individual results was a cramping, miserable, tyrannical system. We gradually tried to sweep it away, and I am proud to say that we made the first advance in Scotland. I was glad to obtain, in 1886, when I became permanent head of the Scottish Education Department, the authority of my political chief greatly to modify the system, and in a very few years afterwards it was swept away altogether.
Then we come to 1918, which is the furthest back date to which my right hon. Friend referred. In that year another great change was made. The connection between individual schools and the Department was suddenly and completely broken. That connection which in my experience I considered to be of very great value in binding the local school to the central authority, was broken, and instead of paying he individual schools you paid to the 300 or more education authorities in England and to the 30 or 40 education authorities in Scotland large lump sums, leaving them entirely to deal with the schools. That system was one about which at the time I had very grave doubt. I thought it was a bold and rather reckless system. When you did adopt that system of lump grant, you ought not to have taken the principle of the percentage grant but the principle of the block grant. I think the percentage grant 689 was and is a thoroughly unsound system. I will put it, for the sake of argument, on a very broad and commonplace footing. On the whole, the proverb is true that he who pays the piper had better call the tune. In the percentage grant you do exactly the opposite. You bind yourselves to pay for whatever tune the local authorities choose to set [HON. MEMBERS:" No!"] Yes. It is a fact. The local authorities set the tune, and when the accounts are presented you have to pay, if you pay on the percentage grant system. That is unsound financially and it is equally unsound educationally. What will be the certain result if you look ahead? The very soul of administration in education is to look ahead. You will be forced, sooner or later, to say, "We must call a halt to this gradually increasing expenditure, of which we are bound automatically to pay a certain percentage." In self-defence you will be forced to say to the local authorities, "We must become your guides, your controllers, and eventually your tyrants." I believe that is inevitably the pitfall into which the percentage grant will lead you, in spite of yourselves.
Now I come to the question of education and expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman argues on the basis of a firm belief that the Treasury has a grip upon education and that it is entirely without sympathy. Apparently he would have us forget that there is a much more important person than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, namely, the taxpayer. But the taxpayer is the last person to be considered. Now if any one hints anything in his favour, my right hon. and learned Friend would condemn him offhand for such a suggestion. He would not even inquire who is to arrange it. He would only say, "No, the slightest consideration for these is a derogation of the supreme duty of education." Any consideration of a reduction of expenditure is to be met by the blind reply" You are doing pr something wrong; you are becoming a back-slider in regard to the gospel of education." When you speak like this, would it not be well to consider what is the real meaning of education? Is it right to say that all money spent upon education is good, and then to proceed to argue "this or that which I believe in"—which many of us may not believe in—" is education, and, therefore, 690 all monies spent on it must be good"? Are we sure that this method of argument is so sound? Do we all believe in the same sort of education?
There are many of us who feel a firm belief in classical education, in regard to which there is a strong bond of sympathy between the Prime Minister and myself. But others are equally persuaded of the advantages of what is called practical education. They say that, schools ought to be developed with technical education to the utmost and should not spend time on stupid intellectual and theoretical subjects. We, however, who have different, views, are inclined to doubt whether technical education has brought the new era that was promised. We are inclined to believe that there will be no great advantage in drawing the children out of workshops into schools, and then turning the schools into workshops. These are differences that lie fundamentally at our conception of education and ought to make us, perhaps, hesitate as to whether we should just drive on like a steam-roller without thinking whether it; is good or bad. We ought to think also about the pupil. Do we study the infinite varieties of human nature among pupils? Do we reflect that one boy is much better when he is stimulated and kept up to the mark, and another, of different temperament, though not of inferior calibre, is better left to himself to devise his own course; that one pupil is stimulated and roused to energy by his curiosity, but that another ripens slowly by being left to himself, and being educated by the process of reflection? Are we net apt to neglect the weightier matters of the law in the building up of character and individual energy and to spend our time on the mint arise and cummin of pedagogic pedantry and fantastic educational experiments
Then what about the taxpayer? If hon. Members will regard no argument on behalf of the taxpayer, they will induce a reaction infinitely dangerous. But I wish to ask the House to consider a parallel which will I think have a vivid impression for us who haunt these buildings. Some months ago a number of hon. Members were privileged to hear a lecture on these Parliamentary buildings by a distinguished official of the Office of Works. The lecture, while in- 691 structive, was humiliating and disquieting, for we learned that the management and supervision of the building of these premises was ill-conceived, neglectful, careless to the last extent. Various quarries were examined, reports were sent in upon the stone from those quarries, and it was found that these reports had been absolutely neglected, and that those responsible for the building gave them no attention whatever and in spite of them used the wrong stone. The lecturer proved that the fundamental laws of stone-masonry had been neglected, that stones were placed in positions from which they were certain to fall, that redundant ornaments and gimcracks were scattered about the building, and to such an extent that, before the building was half finished, these ornaments were already crumbling and the stones falling. Now we see our quadrangles thick with the remnants of those redundant ornaments, and we are told that we must, when on the Terrace keep a respectful distance from the buildings under the penalty of a broken head or something worse. Is that not something of a parallel with the vast, mechanical, overloaded edifice of education, which we are building up without thought of its adaptation to the purpose for which it is intended? Are we not expending upon redundant ornament, upon fancy schemes, upon careless indulging of this fantastic scheme or that, vast sums of money under the false idea that we are helping education? Let us take to heart the lesson which is taught us by our own crumbling building, of the mistake of redundant ornament and gimcrack. Let us study, above all, in education, that which Dean Swift called the supreme ornament of all human things—simplicity.
§ Mr. COVE
As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, I could not help thinking that he knew very little of present-day conditions in the schools, of the actual subjects which are taught, and of the manner in which they are taught. As an administrator, evidently, he is completely out of date. One of my reasons for supporting a continuance of the percentage system of grants is that we should not give up the valuable experience we have already gained, or that sympathetic consideration and guidance which the officials and the 692 administrators of the Board of Education supply to our teachers and schools up and down the country. I feel that you will be taking the sympathetic mind of the Board of Education out of our educational system by the substitution of block grants, and for that reason I thoroughly condemn the change. My criticism of the Circular and of the Memorandum is that it will stultify every endeavour that has been made during the past quarter of a century and is now being made to adapt education more fully to the needs of the individual child and to the needs of our industrial system, and that the new system of grants will prevent the coming into operation of the results of the work that has been done in those ways hitherto.
The President of the Board of Education has been endeavouring to explain his policy. He has issued a Circular and a Memorandum. One of the main results of the Circular and the Memorandum, and even of the conference with the local authorities, has been to make confusion more confounded. The local authorities do not even now know what is the policy of the President of the Board. In place of sympathetic co-operation between the local authorities and the Board, there has crept in during the past few months a spirit of suspicion and distrust. In the "Times Educational Supplement" there is a column headed "Local Authorities' Notes." If anyone wants to know what is the mind of the authorities, those notes form a very valuable indication. I find in last week's issue of the Supplement a drastic statement, which is meant for the benefit of the President of the Board of Education:Plain, frank statements would have obviated a vast amount of irritation and mistrust, and some contempt.Further, the Association of Education Committees say that Memorandum 44 contains a misleading statement—unintentionally perhaps. The Memorandum indicates that the economics are to be effected on the lines indicated in the Memorandum. That is stated in the first paragraph. The Association says:It should be said quite clearly that this paragraph is misleading—unintentionally, we are sure. The representatives of local authorities undertook only to recommend local authorities generally to effect such economics as the authorities themselves consider could be effected without damage to the local system of education.693 5.0 P.M.
That means that while they were prepared to consider any economies on their own initiative, and under their own control, they had not given any pledge whatever, in the Conference, to consider any economies along the lines indicated by the Board of Education. We have heard a great deal in the country, both from the President of the Board and from the Prime Minister, as to what has been done and as to what is to be the effect of the Circular. We are told that the Board do not mean to cut down educational salaries, that all that is intended is a stocktaking, and to cry a halt. Perhaps we had better examine these statements along two lines. First, how are local authorities interpreting the Circular and Memorandum? Secondly, what remains to be done? I have here a few examples of what is taking place. I could give a great many more from the reports in the "Times" Educational Supplement as to how the authorities are interpreting the Memorandum and the Circular. Take Berkshire. There the following reductions have been made: Dental treatment, a reduction of £1,000; physically defective children, a reduction of £500; capital expenditure is reduced by £250, and the comment is:Two-thirds of the saving effected on the elementary side has been at the expense. 01 the children's health.I maintain that that is the worst form of economy that could possibly take place at the present moment. It says also that the Committee, after considerable delay, and in view of the Regulations of the Board, drew up a scheme for dental treatment.. That scheme has now been dropped owing to the intervention of Circular 1371 and Memorandum 44. Take the case of a school at Tottenham. A school there for about 120 physically defective children has gone by the board for the time being, and plans for other schools are also being held up. These are the penalties of the Memorandum and the Circular; they are being interpreted as a direct instigation to cut down expenditure. The President of the Board of Education will say, "Yes, but it is known that provisions for mentally defective children, for new schools and for better equipment, are to be placed 694 in the programme," but at the same time he says, "You must call a halt with your normal development, and with your other expenditure." What does that mean? If it is going to be effective, it means this: that if there are to be any new developments at all—and that is not certain—they will have to be paid for at the expense of the children at present in our elementary schools. That is the principle which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has initiated as "counterbalancing economy."
Let me say a word or two now as a practical teacher. You will find that many of our schools are far from being sufficiently lighted or heated. As a matter of fact, from the building point of view, there are hundreds of schools, if not a couple of thousand, that could not pass muster under the Factory Acts. They are in a most disgraceful condition and are a danger to the health and morals of the children, and they are certainly schools which cannot help them to love what is noble and beautiful in life. Save on the heating of the little children's schools in order to let off the Italians! Save on the lighting of the schools, save on the copybooks and on the reading books of the little children, in order to take off some £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 from Super-tax people! That is your policy of economy. It is raw economy, unconsidered economy, and an economy that has no interest at, all so far as child-life and child-welfare is concerned. You say we must save on lighting and heating, we must economise on the reading books of the children! Anyone who knows anything about oar elementary schools knows that the reading books in hundreds of our schools are very battered and torn, not fit to be used. You propose to economise on the reading books of little children in order to carry on your other unproductive expenditure. As a matter of fact, in the large number of schools where there is a library, those libraries have been provided for by the voluntary efforts of the teachers, they have not beer, supplied out of public funds. Take the case where there is a piano in the school, I do not know a single instance, where a piano has been provided out of rates and taxes. It has always been bought and obtained by the voluntary efforts of the teachers and children.
695 But the President says: "We must save on the copybooks, we must save on the desks, we must save," I suppose, "on the wages of the cleaners." That is the pool out of which he is going to find the money for any programme he may be able to bring in. I do not want the House to take my own word for this. In the Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer of the Board of Education for 1924, I believe I am correct in saying, there are, as far as boroughs and urban districts are concerned, nearly 1,000 schools that are reported as unfit or needing drastic alterations, and if there are 1,000 schools in the boroughs and urban districts there must be many more in the rural areas of the country. I will give just one or two instances as stated in this Report, and I want hon. Members to realise how bad it must be for the children in such schools as these. There is a school in Cheshire of which the medical officer, Sir George Newman, says:Structure not modern, the rooms overcrowded, needs redecoration inside, lighted by oil lamps, ventilation inadequate, cloakrooms in porches, not heated, only 15 pep for 48 boys, water supply from the village pump near-by, clothes can be dried on fireguards.That school, I maintain, is thoroughly unhealthy and a great danger to those who attend. Take a school in Kent. The chief medical officer reports that the structure is very old and in a bad state of repair. The warming is very uneven, single fires in large rooms, lighting poor in one room and in parts of others, cloakrooms inadequate. In Lancashire it is exactly the same. In a school in Norfolk it is stated that the temperature at 9.30 a.m. is as low as 38 degrees, 39 degrees, 40 degrees and 42 degrees. These instances denote that there is need for a great spending of money in order to make up what has already been curtailed during the War period and during the post-War period. As a matter of fact the schools were starved during the War period and at no time have they reached the conditions that should obtain in our schools.
I want to say a word about the percentage system of grants. It seems to be the idea that the percentage system has caused local authorities to run away with expenditure, that there has been absolutely no control, that they have been able to spend what sums of money they like, 696 and that the expenditure has jumped up by leaps and bounds. As a matter of fact, since 1921 the expenditure has come down and has remained almost stationary, so far as grants from the Board are concerned, during the last few years. Further, you have always the check of the rates as far as expenditure on education is concerned. Everybody knows that no estimates of any department of local government are scrutinised with more care and more often than the education estimates. You have first of all the forecast, then a provisional estimate, then a revised estimate. It goes through the education committee and sub-committees, and then the finance committee. Then it goes through the education committee itself, and then through the local council, and finally it comes up to the President of the Board of Education. The President has his check in what is called "the principle of approved expenditure," and it is deliberately wrong and misleading to say that the percentage system of grants has encouraged local authorities to be reckless in their expenditure.
I should like to point out that the percentage system was not an entirely new thing in 1918. I believe my right hon. Friend who brought in the Education Bill of that year looked around and was amazed at the different kinds of systems under which grant were given. In one or two instances there was a grant based on percentage—the 50–50 principle. There had been the Blind and Deaf Act, 1913, the Mentally Defective Act, 1914, the Provision of Meals Acts, 1906 and 1914, and the Choice of Employment Act, 1910, and as a sound financier and also a good educationist he said that education wanted encouragement but that we must have a system which is not a reckless system. He looked around and saw a system which gave equality of liability as between the central fund and local authorities. He said that education was not only a local service but a national service, and therefore we, as a nation, should come in on a fair proposal with the local authorities. In considering all these problems and the great need there was for education to advance and progress, the great need there was for some equality as regards finance, he obtained the experience that had been gained in the administration of the various Acts I 697 have mentioned and decided that the percentage system of grants was the system that could best be adopted.
The percentage system of grants is the finest thing that has been introduced into our educational system; and it was the best thing that was preserved during the Geddes régime. Memorandum 44 and Circular 1371 are infinitely worse for education than the Geddes axe. They are infinitely worse because in one or two years there will be a restriction of grants from national finances, and a long era of curtailment and restriction will begin. I am going to ask the President of the Board of Education to answer this question quite plainly. Does he envisage a restriction of elementary services at the cost of a comparatively non-restriction of the secondary and higher services? Is he going to take out of the elementary action some expenditure on copybooks and desks, some expenditure on the health of the children, in order to provide a little for any development he may be able to undertake under his programme? It cannot be said now that we are fighting for teachers salaries. That has completely gone, but it is unfair to put the teachers in any position whereby they will have to choose between salary and other educational facilities for children—and that is what is being done by this method of approaching the subject.
Therefore, since the salaries ate no longer in question, this fight, as far as the teachers are concerned, is purely and simply a fight on behalf of education and on behalf of facilities for the children in the elementary schools. I say, deliberately, that the teachers of the country will resist Memorandum 44 and the application of the block grants system, because they feel that working-class children will be penalised under that system. I may let the President of the Board of Education into a secret. During the Geddes régime teachers and educationists up and down the country were coming our way; many of them were getting away from the old Conservative faith and moving towards the Labour party, and when the Labour party came into office, that strengthened the movement. Then the Noble Lord and his Government came with their Election promises, which stopped that swing of educationists and teachers towards the Labour party. Those promises gave 698 hope to the great number of Conservative teachers. I do not mind a party disadvantage if it is for the sake of our educational system. [HON MEMBERS "It is not a party question!"] It is not we who have caused this to become a party issue; it is the people on the benches opposite who have caused it to be made a party issue, and to talk of being non-political, in view of Circular 1371 and Memorandum 44, is all nonsense. Education has been thrown back into the political arena by the efforts of the Noble Lord and his Government. Undoubtedly, the Government with their promises and speeches, especially the speeches of the Noble Lord, succeeded in checking that swing towards the Labour movement which I have mentioned, but, from what. I can see, that swing will re-commence and will be quicker and more violent than before.
Educationists and teachers feel that there has been a certain amount of political deception that they have been, as it were, coaxed into maintaining allegiance to the Conservative party on the basis of a Conservative educational programme and that that programme has now been made inoperative by the action of the Noble Lord. On Saturday last I heard a meeting of teachers discussing this subject, and some who were lifelong Conservatives expressed themselves as perturbed and disappointed—in fact they felt that they had been betrayed as far as the pledges of the Government art concerned. Let the Noble Lord go on with his policy. It will be one of the biggest factors in bringing down the Conservative Government. [Interruption] University Members who sit opposite know nothing about working-class education in the elementary schools, and if they would come into the elementary schools they would be able to speak with more authority on this subject. The elementary schools of this country provide the education of the working-class people, and the people will not brook any curtailment or any restriction in that respect. It is realised to-day that education is a necessity for our children, even as bread and cheese is a necessity. What democratic system can be built up on inequality of educational opportunity? Is the new Tory democracy going to maintain inequalities by preventing the children of the working classes from get- 699 ting free secondary education or central school education or higher education?
The House will pardon me if I speak with some intensity upon this subject, but I have been through the mill, and I know what it is to be denied these facilities. I may be told, "Oh, you can get education if you try." The people who talk like that do not know what it means to spend one's evenings in trying to acquire education after working hard in mine or factory. They do not know the nerve-strain, the breaking down of physical health, and all that is involved in this policy An hon. Member shakes his head, but the effect of this policy is to stop the organisation of evening schools for those who come out of the factories. At one time you say, "Give education to the few, where there is ability, and spend money in doing so." Then along comes the President of the Board of Education, and even in those cases where the people prove that they want education by coming to evening institutes after working all day in factories or mines the President says: "Stop! No further technical schools, no further evening institutes." That is the concern which in practice is displayed for the lad of parts, for the ambitious boy who desires education. But the Tory party will rue the day when Memorandum 44—even more iniquitous and worse in its effects than Circular 1371—was issued.
We in the Labour party refuse to say that this country cannot afford to pay for the education of its children. It can. We can put back 6d. on the Super-tax in order to educate the children. There is an old tag to the effect that individuals can spend better than the State, but no individual can spend better than the State on education, and it is the best form of productive expenditure. I believe intensely that the working classes of this country will resist the Government's policy and that that policy will undermine the Government more than anything else they have done. We have seen their faith in armaments. Singapore, as has been pointed out, is to become a capital base and millions are to be spent on it. There are millions for the Italian Mussolini there is more care for Mussolini than for the little children in our villages. The 700 effect of Circular 1379 and of Memorandum 44 will be to impair the health and restrict the mental outlook of our children, and because I believe that to be the case I shall oppose this policy as far as I possibly can.
§ Sir JOHN MARRIOTT
I am sure the last speaker will forgive me if I do not follow him in his very interesting speculation as to the party results of this circular. I think there are much more important questions involved in this discussion. I do not for a moment deny—because I have personal and direct evidence to the contrary—that Circular 1371 has created widespread apprehension among local education authorities, and I know that apprehension to be shared by the local authority in the constituency which I represent. But if there be dismay, as widespread as the Amendment suggests, that dismay has been largely caused by the manner and the circumstances of the official announcement rather than by its subject matter. It seemed to me at the time that Circular 1371, in the circumstances of its issue, presented an amazing, though I am sorry to say I do not think an isolated, instance of official ineptitude and tactlessness. Nothing could have been more tactless than the way in which the Circular was issued, and half the trouble which we are encountering to-day would have been avoided if those conferences and negotiations in which the President of the Board of Education has been engaged with the education authorities since the issue of the Circular, had taken place before its issue.
I think it very unfortunate that the Board of Education, through no fault of its own, and merely through the accident of the Supplementary Estimates, should have been the first Department involved in the attack on the percentage grants system. We have been waiting for several years for the Report of a very important Committee, and I have over and over again urged that the Report of the Meston Committee should be presented to the House. Speaking as one who is keenly interested in education I think it exceedingly on fortunate, as I say, that the Board of Education should have to bear the first brunt of the attack provoked or evoked by a change of policy. I wish to say at once, and quite frankly, that on the broad issue of financial policy I think the Government are entirely right in attempting to get rid of the per- 701 centage grant system. I believe them to be right on financial grounds, and I am prepared to associate myself with my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) in the view that on broad educational grounds also, it is desirable to get rid of the percentage grants system. I do not speak without some experience of these matters because those Members who have been associated with me on the Estimates Committee know that year after year and Session after Session we have been examining the spending Departments, and time after time we have been brought up sharply by the difficulties arising out of the percentage grants system. Permanent officials have told us in effect: "What can we do to meet the views of the House of Commons? We are not masters in our own house. The central Government never can be masters in their own financial house, as long as the percentage grants system continues." Moreover, it is not only a question of the central Government not being masters in their own house, but this House of Commons which is responsible to the taxpayers can never exercise efficient control over public expenditure, so long as this pernicious relation is permitted to continue between central and local expenditure.
I speak warmly as one who has a keen interest in public economy and who has had, for some years, the honour of presiding over the Committee which is specially charged by this House with the examination of the Estimates. If, however, I am interested in, public economy, I am not less interested in public education. I do not suppose any other Member of this House—not even excepting the last speaker—has spent so large a proportion of his life either in teaching or in educational administration as I have. I want to say, with all the sincerity I can command, that it would be—and I am sure the House will accept this assurance—for me a disappointment of the hopes and enthusiasm of a lifetime if I were to witness any real reaction in our educational policy. But I am not at all so convinced as some other people are that lavish expenditure is synonymous with educational efficiency. I know very well that that is a fallacy which is not at all confined to members of any one party or any one class. 702 Perhaps the House will allow me to tell a story which was very familiar to those of us who were interested in education some years ago. A friend of mine who was at the head of one of the great preparatory schools found that his clientele was diminishing. It was one of the most fashionable and most expensive preparatory schools in the country. He consulted a business friend as to how he might arrest the decline of his establishment, and the business friend said at once, "What are your fees?" "Oh," he replied, "I am afraid they are rather heavy." "Well," he said, "I do not care how heavy they are; double them." He doubled them, and he never had a vacancy again. That only shows that a great many people do measure, and very wrongly measure, educational efficiency by the money which is spent upon it.
§ Sir J. MARRIOTT
I said the fallacy was not confined to any one party or class, but was shared by many. Then there is the notable and the most honourable example afforded by the history Scottish education. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities spoke, as he was well entitled to speak, of the splendid success of Scottish elementary education, and I believe there has never been a better system of public elementary education than that which was given in the old days in the parish schools of Scotland. But its efficiency was not due to expenditure; it was due rather to the only thing which will make education a real success, namely, to the overmastering zeal for education among the fathers and especially among the mothers of the Scottish children, who were prepared to make, as they did make, very great sacrifices to give their children the best education which could be got for them. That was not a lavish expenditure; it was individual and personal zeal for the fruits of education. I have been looking very closely at this matter for many years past, and I have come very deliberately to the conclusion that there is a very great deal of expenditure which is included in the expenditure of our local education authorities which is very remotely connected, if at all, with education.
§ Sir J. MARRIOTT
I am under a pledge to Mr. Speaker not unduly to detain the House, but if I were to give all the items it would take me up to half-past nine to-night. Two years ago, as some hon. Members of the House may remember, I had an opportunity, given me by the luck of the ballot, of calling attention to the gross overlapping in our social services. There is a very considerable overlapping to-day—and I think the speech of the hon. Member for Welling-borough (Mr. Cove), who has just sat down, was an illustration of the point—between our health services and our educational services, and I venture to suggest to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the time has really come, for the appointment of a Royal Commission on overlapping in public social services. No doubt the overlapping is due to our traditional methods of legislation. Those methods have, from one point of view, a great deal to recommend them, but they do involve periodical inquiries and periodical efforts at co-ordination—and I suggest that the time has come for some such effort to be made—between our different public social services to-day.
I want to say just one word about a matter which has been frequently referred to in this Debate, but which, I suspect, has been referred to without much, I was going to say, educated response from a good many Members who heard it—I mean Memorandum No. 44. I want to know how many Members of this House have had the opportunity of studying that Memorandum. It cannot be obtained at the Vote Office, although we are discussing it in the House on this Amendment, but I observe that both in the speech of the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) and in the speech of the hon. Member for Wellingborough, Circular 1371 and Memorandum 44 are involved in a common condemnation. I think the hon. Member for Wellingborough, who has left the House, actually spoke of the Memorandum—I shall be corrected by some of his friends if I am wrong—as more pernicious than the original Circular. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is right."] Well, I find nothing to object to in Memorandum 44. What is the objection which is taken to it by hon. and 704 right hon. Members opposite? The memorandum begins by stating the broad problem as follows:As explained in the White Paper laid before Parliament last Aped, the Board's Estimates for the current year were based on the assumption of an expansion it local expenditure on education of £1,173,249 in 1925–26 as compared with 1923–24. Actually the pre-audit returns of authorities for 1924–25 show an expansion of £1,410,726.The Memorandum goes on to say:It is evident that expenditure by local education authorities in the current year may well be considerably more than seventy millions, as compared with an expenditure of £67,584,660 in 1923–24.Then the Memorandum proceeds to go into detail, which I certainly do not propose to follow, but I would ask the House, before it assents to the Amendment of the right hon. Member opposite, to give some little attention, if they can get it, to this Memorandum 44.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Lord Eustace Percy)
There are 50 copies of the Memorandum in the Vote Office now.
§ Sir J. MARRIOTT
There are 50 copies in the Vote Office now, but there was not one copy this morning when I wanted it for myself. [An HON MEMBER: "There is not one now!"] I had fortunately obtained a copy elsewhere. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley has really examined this Memorandum on his voyage back from India—whether he has read it. He made very little reference to it, I admit, in the course of his speech, but I wonder whether, having read it, he observed that it is distinctly laid down in that Memorandum thatexisting services should be efficiently maintained.Those are the words of the Memorandum, and what becomes of all the accusations hurled at us from the opposite side of the House? It is perfectly true that the Board is apprehensive of what it calls "normal expansion," and that it does urge local educational authorities to reduce administrative expenditure, but will any hon. Members of this House get up and say that, so long as efficient educational services are maintained, they object to the reduction of administrative expenses? That is all that this Memorandum lays down. On the question of 705 classes and staffing, it is most distinctly laid down in the Memorandum that there is to be no going back on the policy in regard to staffing, and in regard to the size of classes the Memorandum is worth quoting. It definitely says that while, on the one hand, al purely administrative expenditure must be scrutinised, on the question of the reduction in the size of classes, any expenditure on that "is welcomed by the Board." Those are the words of the Memorandum, but a very curious statistic is appended to that statement, as followsThe quarterly returns of numbers of pupils show that between 30th September, 1923, and 30th September, 1924, while the number of teachers increased by 659, the average attendance of scholars fell by 110,149, and between 30th September, 1924, and 30th September, 1925, while the number of teachers further increased by 1,796, the average attendance of scholars showed a further fall of 9,440.In view of those figures, what becomes of the accusations that we are really cutting down to the bone expenditure on education? We are attempting to cut down, and I hope we shall persist in cutting down, expenditure on administration, such expenditure as is not directly made upon the education of the children. I must, however, be mindful of my promise to Mr. Speaker, and the House will perhaps allow me very briefly to summarise the arguments which I have desired to place before them. My first point is that it is high time, in the interests both of economy and of efficiency, that the central Government regain its control over national expenditure. My second point is that this control is impossible so long as local authorities can spend practically what they please, and call upon the central Exchequer to foot 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of the bill.
I suggest that the block grant should be on a scale sufficient to encourage efficiency without extravagance, not to paralyse or even to impair educational progress, but that progress should be sought rather in the encouragement of a variety of experiments, and that that variety will be facilitated, and not hindered, by a system of block grants. That was a point strongly made, I think, by my right hon. Friend beside me, and I desire to associate myself with everything he said on the subject. I believe the block grant would enable local authorities 706 to act with a more complete sense of responsibility to their more immediate constituents, and would encourage educational experiments, which, I believe, will do more than anything else for educational advancement. Some cynical reference has been made on the other side to the educational ladder. I believe the educational ladder should be maintained but that it should be a ladder, and that it should call for personal effort on the part of the child.
Finally, I venture to put in one word—and this is addressed more specifically to the President of the Board of Education—on behalf of adult education. That is far the least expensive form of education, and it is, I believe, from a public point of view, the most remunerative. But I hope that any grants that are made under that head will be accompanied by a very strict scrutiny which will prevent the masquerading of propaganda under the head of education. That is the real danger to be apprehended under that particular branch of our education, but I cannot myself imagine anyone so insane, in the conditions and circumstances of the modern state, who would put any barrier in the way of real educational progress, much less, as this Amendment suggests, attempt to paralyse it; but always on two conditions, that you are dealing with real education, and that you have made up your mind what real progress means. Any party which tied itself to a policy of reaction would be doomed, as an hon. Member was good enough to suggest, but, as one who has given the greater part of his life to education, I shall not have the slightest hesitation in voting against the Amendment.
§ Mr. HARRIS
We have just listened to a very interesting speech covering a good deal of educational ground. I do not think I am wrong in interpreting the purport of the speech when I say it was to bless economy in education, and the implication conveyed to my mind was that extravagance was the order of the day in education, and that there was room for economy. I take exception to that. It is true that £70,000,000 is a very large figure, and is paraded by a certain section of the Press as extravagant and unnecessary; but one ignores the tremendous work that is done with the £70,000,000 that is expended. There are 5,000,000 children in our elementary 707 schools alone, a population equal to that of Australia, and taking into account the provision of teachers and buildings and all the administrative details of an immense army like that, £70,000,000 will be seen not to be a very extravagant figure, especially when it is considered that under that figure has to come all the organisation of secondary, technical and other forms of education.
The implication all through the speech of the hon. Member for York (Sir J. Marriott) was that there was extravagance and room for economy. Apparently, the Committee over which he has presided has scented some form of extravagance. He was challenged by several hon. Members above the Gangway to give details, but very wisely, no doubt, he avoided giving details. I have had 20 years' experience of London education, which, on the whole, is supposed to be fairly advanced. We are not regarded as a backward authority. I think the President of the Board of Education will say that, on the whole, we are rather to the fore in educational work. I have never seen, in my experience of 20 years, any suspicion of extravagance. On the contrary, our buildings, our playgrounds, the whole organisation of our schools is carried on with the most Spartan economy. It may be that in one or two of the new schools we go in for such extravagance as glazed brick, which, on the other hand, means economy in cleaning and painting, and I believe the Board will not pass new buildings unless glazed bricks are provided. Although this may apply to one or two schools, there are spotted about all over the country buildings which are a disgrace to our educational system. The Board reports that buildings are dilapidated, badly ventilated, insanitary and in noisy surroundings—schools which, had it not been for the War, would have been cleared away in 1914, or thereabouts, with an energetic President of the Board of Education running the show. The Board Returns show there has been no increase in the debt charge: it has remained the same. In spite of a steady rise in expenditure, the debt charge for capital cost has remained a constant figure all through these years.
§ Mr. HARRIS
Obviously, secondary schools cannot apply, because our secondary schools have only gone forward in the last few years. Actually, there has been a steady decline in capital expenditure since the War. The average before the War was something like £3,000,000. Since the War the figure—I do not think I am understating the case—has been something like £2,000,000, and in one year it was brought down to £1,000,000. There has been no increase in actual money spent on building under the head of capital charges, in spite of the increased cost of materials, of labour, and of building. That is very significant, and it is a point to which, I think, the President of the Board of Education might refer when he replies. We all know the real cause of the increased cost is the increase of salaries. That is where the great part of the money has gone. It has gone up from £16,000,000 before the War to £41,000,000. The Board are against any reduction under this heading. The teachers themselves have already consented to a considerable reduction since the original Burnham Award—to 5 per cent. reduction in salaries and 5 per cent. contribution to superannuation funds, which is a very generous contribution, and a proof of the desire that justice should be done to education. Of course, the Board have pointed out quite clearly the true cause of the increased cost, which has alarmed the public and stimulated the Press campaign against education. In their Memorandum they point out that the true causes of the increase in cost were:The general rise in prices, and the general movement for adjusting salaries and wages to the fall in the value of money.They go on to say:These matters admitted of no further delay, and the inevitable extension of expenditure which would have been impracticable under the old system, and to that extent was facilitated by the new system, was the more rapid by reason of its previous retardation and compression.And, of course, the Board in many of its reports are constantly pointing out to local authorities the tremendous need for improvement in the whole system of education On page 54 of the last Report issued by the Board of Education, they point out:Upon the whole, the results of the long suspension, both of replacements and of new 709 provision, have inevitably become very serious, first from the effect upon the sanitary state of the schools, taken in its broadest sense, and then from the obstacles imposed upon all progress in the reduction of the size of classes, and consequently upon the establishment of advanced and, indeed, of all improved instruction.If you are to go on with reducing the size of classes and removing insanitary buildings, increased expenditure will be necessary. Nothing is more unfair than to suggest that education authorities are extravagant. They are faced with the constant fear of the ratepayers, who are a more real fear to them than even the taxpayers are to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the tendency always is to cut here and there, and to view every proposal with the greatest scrutiny. On the London County Council, for instance, we have had far from an extravagant majority, as my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education knows, as he was a member of that body for some years. You have it as a slogan of the majority in power there—" Economy first, Economy second, and Economy third." It is not an unfair thing to say that it is as easy for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, as for any expenditure to go through the Finance Committee of the London County Council. It scrutinises with the greatest care every expenditure, and if it is not considered to be necessary, that expenditure is not made. There has been no extravagance there. In fact, I remember in 1910, that body was actually fined £10,000, because it had failed to carry out its duties in reducing the size of classes. That is the spirit which still prevails. Nobody can imply that that body is extravagant.
Dozens of schemes it would appear are being delayed by the Board. They are sending out the following letter in reply to almost every request for approval of expenditure for grant. At any rate, it has been received by the London County Council, and I suppose a similar one has been sent to other authorities:In reply to letter, I am directed to return the plans and to state that the Board do not think they can properly give a decision, pending the submission and consideration of the revised estimates, and that, if, after considering the terms of the administrative Memorandum, No. 44, the authority feel it impossible to postpone the project, they 710 should indicate it, as contemplated by paragraph 5 of the Memorandum.I hold in my hand a list of things to which this letter applies that has passed the test of approval by the London County Council, including such necessary things as lavatory basins. There has been much criticism of late that our education is too clerical. Yet here the Board is holding up the proposal to make a practical room and a handicraft centre, and this is the only way to make our education more practical I These economies are not large enough to make any material difference to the cost of education; you are only spoiling the ship for halfpennyworth of tar.
Perhaps the most pathetic feature in our great urban centres is the large number of defective children. In London we do make some provision for them, although even there it is not sufficient. In their last report the Board pointed out that there are no fewer than 200,000 children defective in one way or another, and for whom no special accommodation is provided. Actually in 27 counties and 102 non-counties the Education Authorities make no provision whatsoever for these unfortunate children. Now the Board comes along with its memorandum No. 44, and all hope of any provision being made for them is indefinitely held up. I hold in my hand a report of an Educational Authority' in a rural county advising his committee how the policy of the memorandum can be made good, and he suggests that one of the most effective economies would be to hold up all further provision of special schools. I myself have seen the immense good that has been done in these schools to the crippled, the Hind, and the deaf. For instance, cripple children have been so skillfully taught that they have been able to become boot-makers and earn their own living, instead of being charge on the State. If a cripple child misses its chance now of education, he ill never get the opportunity again later on in life, and will become a permanent charge on the State.
When I was quoting some figures with regard to secondary education, the President of the Board interrupted me. I think the right hon. Gentleman feels some satisfaction with the progress of secondary education. When the Act, of 1918 first became law, there was a great 711 rush to provide school places. Unfortunately, since 1920, this enthusiasm has slowed down, and particularly very, little progress has been made in the provision of free places. There are only about 34 per cent. free places in the secondary schools, and this is not the worst side of secondary education. In order to secure economy, the Board has painted out there has been a steady increase in the fees charged since 1920, 75 per cent. of the fees being over eight guineas. I know many a poor working woman who is prepared to make a great sacrifice for her children to get them into secondary schools, and even pay fees for them. But the fees charged are quite beyond their means, and memorandum No. 44 will remove any hope of improvement in this respect in the immediate future. But there is one paragraph in the memorandum to which I take special exception. I refer to paragraph 9. I do not know whether the President of the Board realised what he was doing when he wrote it. It says:In regard to technical education, 'normal expansion' is no doubt mainly consequent upon an increase in the number of students attending evening classes. Here authorities should avoid any increase in the number of recognised classes, and should consider the dropping of any classes not fully justified by the attendance or by definite local needs.This is a cheerful message to send out to those social workers who have given their lives trying to persuade young people to go to evening classes. Out of the immense army of children who pass every year out of the London elementary schools, only a small percentage are attending any kind of place of education. The right hon. Member for the English Universities made a brave attempt to remedy that state of things by the continuation schools scheme. That under the plea of economy has had to be dropped, and there are only the evening institutes left. Of the children who leave school at 14, 75 per cent. attend no kind of school at all. The hon. Gentleman who spoke above the gangway pointed out how difficult it was to persuade children, after long hours in a stuffy office or factory to go to evening schools. You can persuade them to go to the gymnasium, but it is far more difficult to get them to attend other classes. The right hon. Gentleman now 712 tells authorities to close all those classes that are not up to the numbers specified. It is a serious attack on the whole of the evening school movement, which has done so much for our young men and women, as these classes provide the only chance for intellectual improvement. Everyone knows that in the great army of unemployed at the present time, all the young people are drawn from the elementary schools. You rarely come across a young man or woman among the unemployed who has had the advantage of a secondary or central school education. What we are suffering from far more than anything else in industry is not want of tariffs, not Free Trade, but want of education. On the Continent since the War, Germany, Italy, and many other countries have spared no expense to improve their education. What can be done to help industry has been shown in London by the Central School of Arts and Crafts. There young men and women are trained to become skilled craftsmen and designers, and a wonderful work is being done there. Every pupil who leaves that school can get highly paid and skilled employment. There is competition for every one of the pupils turned out, but the buildings are too small. We want to expand; we are short of many necessary appliances; we have to refuse pupils. Now the right hon. Member comes along with memorandum No. 44 and any hope of getting expansion and improvement is indefinitely held up.
The spirit of the Circular and the spirit of the Memorandum are both bad and anti-educational. They are going to discourage every educational enthusiast. The policy is retrograde. It is shortsighted. It is wrong. We have a great democracy. We have "one man one vote." Very soon we shall have "one woman one vote." Do not let us have an uneducated democracy. Let us have an educated one. The right hon. Gentleman is going, quite unconsciously, to put one generation of children back. Those that are now growing up are to be handicapped in their desire to get education. You will never make up this leeway, as is supposed, for these children of 15, 16, and 17, who are deprived of opportunities of improvement, will never get these opportunities again. For that reason, I condemn both the Circular and the 713 Memorandum. It is a short-sighted policy. I do not believe it expresses the real feelings of the President, who has allowed himself to be bullied by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, before it is too late, to take a, firm stand as a defender of education.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I share the regret expressed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Span Valley (Sir J. Simon) that my right hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) should not have been here to move this Amendment, but I understand that we are to have the pleasure of hearing him later in the evening. I welcome this Amendment because it is directed to a point of principle. It raises the question of the block grant in principle, and, if the House will allow me to tell it so, that is the only point that is worthy of the attention of the House at this moment. The fact of the matter is that there is not in this country at the present moment anyone, and certainly not myself, who is competent to express any valid opinion as to the probable cost of that programme of educational advance on which we are all agreed. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley says, "Here is the Conservative programme. Does anyone think that that could be carried out without a large expenditure of money? Surely it is meaningless cant to suggest that you can reduce the size of classes without increasing expenditure." My first answer is that we have increased expenditure, that this year we are spending on education (out of rates and taxes), roughly, £2,700,000 more than we spent two years ago.
May I interject here that the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove) is entirely wrong in saying that our grant is remaining stationary. For 1923–24 our grants to local authorities were £36,368,000, for 1924–25, £36,725,000, and for this year, on the basis of my Supplementary Estimate, £37,224,000. It is interesting to note that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley should assume offhand that certain points in the Conservative programme—the reduction in the size of classes in the elementary schools—require a large extra amount of money. It is only a year ago 714 that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities made a speech in this House in which he urged me to make a move in the direction of continuation classes, and so far from assuming there was going to be a rise in the expenditure on elementary education he assumed that, owing to the fall in the school population, the cost of elementary education would steadily decline in the future. These are two in-stances of the fundamental fact that we have got to lay down a financial policy for education. All prognostications made during the last seven or eight years as to the probable cost of carrying out things which every party agrees to be necessary have been falsified. It is not quite true, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley said, that the basis of the 1918 Act was that the Board should take the lead. The basis of the 1918 Act was that authorities should prepare schemes, which should be approved by the Board, and I assume that the intention of that provision was that the percentage grant system would be limited for each area within the limits of a scheme based upon, at any rate, an approximate financial estimate. That really is the percentage grant system as it was originally devised. I have tried to revive that idea by my programme procedure.
At the moment, however, we are attempting to work out a financial policy, and until we have collected the information and the statistics, and outlined the programmes necessary to define that policy, nine-tenths of the talk about cutting down education and about restrictions on expenditure is really beside the mark. I agree that this effort to work out a financial policy has aroused a great deal of dismay. Dismay is commonly the feeling which is aroused in any of us when we seriously consider our financial commitments, and try to lay down what we can afford in future as compared with what we want to afford. I think we all agree that the working out of a definite financial policy is necessary, and when such dismay is aroused surely it is the function of this House to allay it and not increase it, to clarify the issues and not to cloud them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley has, I think, approached the question in that spirit; but I cannot say the same for the hon. Member far Welling- 715 borough—I never can. The hon. Member for Wellingborough made an oratorical speech in which he spent most of his time in talking about defective school premises and how vital it was to remedy them, entirely ignoring the fact that defective school premises are particularly mentioned in Memorandum 44 as things which should be included in local authorities' estimates.
We had a long Debate on this subject before Christmas. What has taken place since? The situation has altered in a very simple way. Local authorities came to me and said, "Whatever may be the merits or demerits of a block grant system, the calculations on which you have based your proposed grants are unsound. We ask you to carry on for another year on the present system. We will do it as cheaply as we can, and, meanwhile, we will discuss the block grant system." I was quite prepared to explore that proposition, and we are now exploring the question of what will be the necessary cost of continuing the percentage grant system for that additional year. For that purpose, I issued Memorandum 44. What does Memorandum 44 say? It says, in the first place, that the existing services are to be efficiently maintained. It says, secondly, that existing contractual commitments must be carried out. What does that mean? It means carrying out a programme of capital expenditure probably three times larger than the country has ever had on its hands for education since the War, an expenditure of about £6,000,000. Yet hon. Members talk about the increased naval programme and Singapore in criticising the expenditure on education, never realising how large a capital expenditure we have approved for education. In addition to their existing services and existing commitments, the Memorandum says local authorities are to deal with defective premises; are to include in their estimates new schools necessary for movements of population; to include also reorganisation schemes for the purpose of providing advanced instruction; and to include provision for reducing classes over 50; and that, so far as secondary education is concerned, they may include in their estimates provision to ensure the maintenance of the normal entry for 716 secondary schools, which means continuing and maintaining a steady increase in the number of secondary school pupils.
That is this hated and despised Memorandum. But is not that a fair basis on which to work for one year while receiving local authorities' programmes and working out the net result of local authorities' programmes with a view to laying down for the succeeding period, 1927–30, a block grant? The process seems to me to be, if anything, rather a generous process, having regard to the very large increases in commitments already incurred. That is as far as we can go at the present moment in discussing the question of the amount that the State or the local authorities are likely to spend or ought to spend on education. I cannot give a definite statement to the House on that subject until I have prepared and laid my Estimates. When I lay those Estimates I shall be prepared to defend them. Meanwhile, I assure hon. Members opposite that many of their fears are entirely unjustified, and I would warn them not to indulge in what has been one of the faults of educational administration during the last few years, namely, sham battles about education. A great English novelist used to say in later life that he regretted a book he had published in his young days on the ground that he had written it in order artificially to raise his spiritual temperature. There are some people who think education can only be discussed in a state approaching spiritual fever. I am quite sure that is wrong, and I ask hon. Members to await my Estimates, to criticise them when they see them, and then I shall be prepared to defend them.
Now I want to come to the point of principle raised by this Amendment, and that is the question of block grants. Let us be very careful not to engage in a mere dispute about words. I am sorry to say that in discussions on this subject, even in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities, there has been a visible confusion of thought between two quite different things, between the nature of a grant and the basis of its assessment. Block grants have been contrasted with expenditure grants. That, of course, is absurd, because there is no difficulty about calculating the amount of a block grant on the basis of expen- 717 diture. That is done every day. Why does the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) protest so much against the idea of a block grant? I would remind him that in his capacity as a member of the London County Council he must have had some experience in regard to block grants to such institutions as the London Polytechnic which conducts the evening classes in which he is so much interested. My objection in regard to aid to evening classes is that the education authority has too often really no control over the amount of its aid to such classes because the grant increases automatically with the number of students. But in London, as the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green must be aware, block grants are given to such institutions, based on estimates of expenditure.
There has also been some confusion as to the meaning of the word "control," but I am going to deal with that point at the end of my remarks. I would, however, like to point out that there are three quite different meanings given to the word control as applying to expenditure. There is control by the Government and by Parliament over the amount of its own grants.
§ Mr. FISHER
It will clear my mind if the right hon. Gentleman will explain whether he intends to have a discussion with each of the 318 local authorities as to what their expenditure is to be.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I will deal with that enquiry. There is control by the Government, in the second place, over the administration and expenditure of the local authorities. There is, finally, control by the Government of educational efficiency in the area of each local authority. Those are three quite distinct things. It is quite possible to relax restrictions over the details of local administration and expenditure while maintaining your control by inspection over the educational efficiency of the area.
In the light of these considerations let us consider the present grant system. The Statute of 1918 set up a system of block grants. It set up a system of two block grants, one for higher education and one for elementary education, and it laid down that they should not be less than 50 per cent. Now, as a matter of 718 fact, higher education is only aided now at the rate of 50 per cent. and in 49 areas elementary education is also aided at the rate of 50 per cent. In those cases the higher and elementary education grants are each in area sense a block grant. It matters not whether the authorities spend their money on one branch of the service or the other because the expenditure ranks for grant at the same rate and it leaves each authority a very wide, freedom to spend its money to the best advantage.
But these block grants are assessed in a very peculiar way. It was set out by the Act that each block grant should be assessed retrospectively, and they are not assessed on expenditure approved in advance. In the 1918 Act the words "approved expenditure" do not occur. The grant is assessed retrospectively (and in the case of revenue expenditure for the most part without previous approval) on expenditure recognised as being expenditure in aid of which the Board can properly make a grant. This has the effect that in times of educational expansion, those very times to which the percentage grant system is supposed to be so peculiarly adapted, the Board of Education has always found that it could control expenditure and limit its own liabilities only by retrospective disallowances of expenditure, and that is the most odious form of control a Government can adopt. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Northern Universities was forced to resort to such disallowances in many instances, and some of those instances remain in dispute even to the present day, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me when I say that while those disallowances were legally unassailable they were rather difficult to defend by anyone with a sensitive administrative conscience. Far from it being true that a block grant system would paralyses progress, it would be truer to say that progress paralyses the percentage grant system and it works smoothly out when educational expenditure is fairly stable or subject to general restrictions.
Those are the disadvantages of the present grant system in areas where it is a block grant; in 296 areas in this country the grant is at a higher rate than 50 per cent., and is assessed according to a grant formula which deprives it of its character as a block grant. One of the effects of that is that it limits the freedom of 719 authorities in educational advance. Take the case of an authority which is anxious to advance, and I have had actual complaints of this sort. Such authorities desire to re-organise their schools and provide central schools and so on. You have areas now where great schemes of that kind have been laid down. In those areas you can very well provide your new schools, and yet balance the extra cost by the savings that you make on the staff of very small schools. But what happens now under this grant formula? Simply that the authority only enjoys 40 per cent of the saving it makes on the staff, and has to bear 80 per cent. of the extra cost of maintenance and loan charges.
Another effect is that this grant is attached to a number of specific subjects and the local authorities find that they have to subdivide their estimates and exercise the control of the Finance Committee over each part of the estimate, giving the minimum of facilities for spending their money to the best advantage because every object has a different grade of grant. May I point out that this is not a mere incident in the present grant, but it is the very ground on which hon. Members opposite urge the advantages of the present system. The present grant system is advocated because it gives authorities special encouragement to spend money in particular directions.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Yes, I know it is modified by certain factors, but the point is, that if you give special inducements of this kind you must change their incidence from time to time. When I propose to change the grant system, I am accused of throwing the authorities into a state of uncertainty, but so long as the present grant system continues, the grant formula will in any case have to be changed from time to time. It cannot be stereotyped without injustice, nor call it be changed without disorganisation.
May I just refer to the expedient which has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Northern Universities in order to correct 720 these anomalies? It is the expedient of establishing standards. That was the tenour of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Northern Universities' evidence tendered to the Meston Committee. Again I do not want to argue about words, but I do not quite know what a standard means. If it is meant that you must try by programme, by surveys of defective school premises, by laying down teachers' salaries, to define as far as possible the needs of each area, then I agree that in that sense a standard must be a part of any grant. But if it, means the establishment of standards of general application to be applied to a large number of areas—and that, I think, was what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh meant—if that be the meaning of standards, how in practice is it going to be done? At the present moment there is one standard of that kind, and only one, in operation, limiting the expenditure on maintenance allowances. That is limited to 9s. per head of average attendance. That looks a very high standard, but it is a maximum and not a normal standard, for at the present moment there are only 12 authorities in the country who spend as much as 4s. per head of average attendance. Therefore, a standard of that kind leaves a tremendously wide margin within which authorities can increase expenditure without any control at all.
Of course, I need hardly say that if the standard is to be a real norm, if you are fixing a standard of expenditure at a figure which you think authorities below it will reach, and to which you can bring down authorities above it, if it is to be a really effective norm, your percentage grant system becomes a capitation grant at one fell swoop. There is no difference between saying, "I will allow you 50 per cent. of 170s. per head on teachers' salaries," and saying, "I will give you so much per head of average attendance." I can hardly think my critics want to reduce the percentage grant system to the reductio ad absurdum of a capitation grant. Standards of that kind are very useful as guides to administration, and they may even be used as emergency measures to bring down expenditure; but the idea that they can be used as an integral part of a permanent grant system, or that a grant system otherwise unsatisfactory can 721 be reformed by their application, is really, to my mind, absurd.
What is the conclusion? The conclusion, so far as I can see, is this, that the present grant system is unsatisfactory precisely in the measure in which it departs from being a block-grant system, and that a block-grant system is the obvious development of the present system; that is to say, instead of assessing your grant retrospectively on expenditure which has already incurred, disallowing it where necessary but not approving it—instead of that, you settle a grant on approved estimates of expenditure for a period of years. The question which arises is, what period? How long is the period to be That is a matter for discussion, but I do not think, at any rate to begin with, that three years is too long. Those who say it is impossible for local authorities to estimate their commitments of expenditure for so long a period as three years, are, in the first place, demonstrably wrong, because it is possible for the London County Council to do it and to work to a three-year programme, and it must be possible for other areas. Secondly, the implication of that argument is that education can only be carried on if local authorities are continually incurring unknown liabilities, and that is not true either. A block grant for a period of three years ought to be perfectly capable of assessment in relation to the expenditure which local authorities will have to incur during a period of that kind.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I do not think I quite follow the Noble Lord. He speaks of the system which he would be disposed to approve of as a system of block grants based on approved estimates of expenditure, and he discusses three years as the possible period. But is that what he was proposing in Circular 1371 at all? I thought he was proposing a block grant to be based on the past expenditure of 1924–25, with certain deductions.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I will deal with that, but let me, before doing so, say just this one additional thing about the period. I think there is, no doubt, hesitation among many authorities at committing themselves so far ahead as three years, but, on the other hand, I have already programmes before me which extend much beyond three years—to as much as eight or nine years—and I anticipate that more 722 and more local authorities will desire to have the assurance and the certainty which a fixed block grant will give them, calculated in reference to programmes of expenditure. With regard to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's question, he refers me to Circular 1371, and he says, "You did not then propose to base your block grant upon estimates of expenditure, but upon the expenditure of the past year." That is not quite accurate. I have, as I have said, never defended the calculations upon which Circular 1371 was based, except as an expedient at a time when the latest figures I had before me were the figures for 1924–25; but what the Circular amounted to was this: "We give you a block grant of so much, and we guarantee that grant to you as a minimum for a period of three years." I have never contemplated that a grant so fixed would be anything but a basic grant, a minimum which would have to be added to in the light of authorities' programmes and representations which I should receive. I never thought that it was possible to stereotype the block grant at that point as a maximum for a period of three years, and I laid it down quite clearly, if the right hon. Gentleman will look, that it was to be a minimum for a period of three years.
§ Lord E. PERCY
That amount of money would, of course, be all that they could have relied upon until they got more out of me; but it was always my intention to encourage local authorities to go ahead and submit their programmes for the years 1927–30, so that I could estimate how much addition to that minimum block grant would be necessary to make up the block grant for those years. I never defended it except in that light as a minimum grant.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am very sorry to interrupt the Noble Lord again, but he will agree that it is an important point. I quite recognise the accuracy of what he says when he speaks of the new block grant as a minimum. He is quits right. 723 But still, what I would like to know, and what I think many people in the country would like to know, is this: Are we to understand from him to-day that the principle he intends to put in force is a block grant which is based on estimates of expenditure for future years?
§ Lord E. PERCY
That is what I was coming to. Now I will go on to my next point, namely, what was to be the basis of assessment of the block grant. Here, again, the matter is one which I shall have to deal with in consultation with local authorities, and here, again, it may be necessary to move by steps. But there is one thing that is clear about the education service. It may be possible in the case of other services than education to base grants on simple factors like population, but in the case of education that is impossible; at any rate, it will remain impossible for a very long time. There is, in fact, no basis on which you can calculate the amount of grant needed for an area except the needs of that area itself, as expressed and defined in the programme laid down by that authority itself.
The answer to the question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Northern Universities, as to whether I am going to deal separately with 318 authorities, is in the affirmative. I am going to deal separately with 318 authorities, precisely as he would have dealt separately with 318 authorities under the Act of 1918 when they submitted schemes. If he asks, "How are you going to satisfy authorities generally that you have not favoured one authority above another, that you have not given special attention to one authority and rather cut down another?" I say that, broadly speaking, that is a difficulty which in education at the present moment must be faced, because there are no common standards which can be universally applied. There are certain guides—approximate guides—but, where you have a tremendous variation in the size of class rooms, for instance, you cannot possibly lay down a general standard for the number of children per teacher. The local conditions vary so much that I do not see that it is likely to be possible for some time to come to arrive at any definite common denominator. 724 Therefore, I shall have to deal very largely—subject, as I have said, to the opinions local authorities may express to my Department—with every authority separately on the basis of its programme, though I may suggest standards which will to a certain extent be used to test and judge those programmes.
The second factor to which the grant must be related is rateable value. Grant at present is supposed to be related to rateable value, but it is related to rateable value very imperfectly and with great anomalies. I will not, however, go further into that question now. We quite know the difficulties of relating grants very closely to rateable value, but I hope the block-grant system will give much better attention to the matter of rateable value than the present system does. I hope that what I have said will show the House that my proposals, instead of being a revolution, are, as a matter of fact, the proposals which the Board of Education, if it really tried to work the 1918 Act efficiently, would be bound to come to, namely, a fixed block grant, utilisable by an authority on any service, to the best advantage, a fixed block grant, for a period of years, based upon estimates of expenditure, and in relation to the rateable value of the area.
I now come, finally, to one word about the question of control. To my mind, the control by the Board of Education of the local authorities should be based upon four principles. In the first place, the Board of Education will always exercise a certain control over the schemes of an authority, and over its programme, in the process of agreeing this block grant to the authorities, and before the block grant is decided upon. In the second place, an authority should be free to spend its grants to the best advantage, without rigid adherence to any factors upon which the grant may have been originally assessed. It should be free to use the grant on any service for which it is most needed at any moment during those years. In the third place, as regards the Board's control over the local authorities' administration, I think what we are suffering from now is that for the last 23 years we have built up a tremendous code, not only of written and printed regulations, but a tremendous volume of tradition as to what the Board's requirements 725 are, what the Board wants, and as to what the Board would like authorities to do. It is all very well for the right hon. Member for Spen Valley to say that he wants the Board to take the lead, but the trouble now is that half the influence of the Board is the influence of this inherited and accumulated tradition. If you look at the code for elementary schools, you will find imbedded in it, like geological fossils, the remains of previous eras of Presidents for many years, sentences which have been handed down from generation to generation, and which have long since lost their force.
Let me give an instance. Hon. Members will probably be surprised to find, in regard to the teaching of arithmetic, that the teacher is advised that he should teach the child the advantages of a decimal system of weights and measures (but not of coinage), and it is almost the only instruction which is given to the teacher in the matter of teaching arithmetic. That has been handed down from generation to generation, because 50 years ago the Government of the day took up a definite policy of trying to do propaganda in the schools for a decimal system of weights and measures; and that is its historical origin. I only give that as a reductio ad absurdum. There is this tremendous volume of written Regulations, and these Regulations are not really conditions of grant, but advice and suggestions. I am perfectly sure that a system of that kind does not make for efficiency and is not adaptable to the changing needs of the moment. It tends rather to increase the cost of the educational service, and it tends to rob authorities of the responsibility of deciding what in their view is necessary, within their area, for educational efficiency.
§ Mr. HARRIS
I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but can he say when the Meston Committee's Report is coming out?
§ Lord E. PERCY
The relation which I think the Board and the local authorities should occupy towards each other far more than at present, is that authorities should be far freer to think out, and far more responsible for thinking out, what is necessary in their area to provide for educational efficiency. The last point of control is, that there should 726 always be, and be maintained, free criticism, and effective criticism, by an efficient inspectorate, of the standard of educational efficiency, that is to say, of the results of the expenditure of the local authorities. It is on these four principles which I ask that this matter of control should be based. In reply to the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green I may say that I understand the present position is that the Government, as the right hon. Gentleman for Central Edinburgh knows, has done everything it could for many years to expedite the Report. Lord Meston has now, I understand, drafted, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been shown, that Report, unofficially, but I have not seen it. I believe it has been shown to the Chancellor, but it has yet to be considered by the rest of the Committee. The Government hopes that the Committee will now consider it without delay, and that a Report, at any rate, will be adopted and presented without much longer delay.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
Will the Noble Lord excuse me, but I should be glad if he would say if there is any truth in the statement that another Committee is being set up in the meantime in order to whitewash the Government in connection with this Circular?
§ Lord F. PERCY
I do not know what Committee the hon. Member has in mind; it has nothing to do with this question. I apologise to the House. I have tried to make a speech in reply to this Amendment, not with the intention of enhancing the difficulties, but rather in an effort to contribute towards a clarifying of issues and conducing towards general agreement. An Amendment of this kind to the Motion for an Address is a Vote of Censure, and, if it is pressed to a Division, will be treated as such. I have tried, however, not to treat it as a party issue, but to deal with it rather as a difficult, complicated and very boring subject of administration.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I think everybody will appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat, down is enthusiastic for his own system of block grants. But when, in dealing with this Amendment which is before the Houser and which consists of two parts—first, 727 a challenge to the policy of the Government and, secondly, a declaration in favour of the present system of grants—he says that the only thing that is worth discussion is the second, I think he misjudges the feeling of the great mass of people in the country. I do not mean to say that the discussion on the question of the method of grants is not desirable, but I do say this, that, if the House of Commons is to form anything like a reasonable judgment upon the question of block grants and percentage grants, it should have at its disposal not merely the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman. The Meston Committee is now meeting, is going to report, and is going to give us its wisdom. What is more important than the views of the Meston Committee itself is that we should, as I hope we shall in a few weeks, have the evidence which was given before the Meston Committee, and, by all reports, 90 per cent. of the evidence given by local authorities and by Government Departments was against the block grants system. I do not say that this is final, and that the wisdom of the right hon. Gentleman is not higher than that of the Departments and the local authorities, but I think that, at least, when there is so striking a divergence between the opinions of those in responsible expert positions and that of the right hon. Gentleman in his new enthusiasm, the House would be wise to wait until it has the full facts before it.
This question of the block grants has been postponed by the Government itself. We do not know for how long, but it has been postponed. But what has not been postponed is the effect of the Circular and the effect of the Memorandum. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that the block grants system is going to give assurance and certainty to the local authorities. Unfortunately, the way in which he has introduced it has created nothing except disturbance and uncertainty. Indeed, one is not inclined to think that the sole object of the Circular and of the following Memorandum is merely to get an altered and better grant system, for in the Memorandum—which it was suggested from the other side has not been read; it has appeared in most of the newspapers—there was no mention of the block grant at all. There nothing about that. It is a pure and 728 simple economy Circular, in order to prevent expenditure by the local authorities. It is quite true that, in the Circular which we criticised before Christmas, the right hon. Gentleman laid down a basis which he himself confesses to-day he has had to abandon, in the face of the criticism of the authorities. But the basis is pretty definite in the Memorandum. This is the governing paragraph of the Memorandum:Each authority should approach the revision of its estimates for the next year with the knowledge that unless the great majority of authorities reduce their expenditure in 1926–27 substantially below the amounts of the current financial year, the object of the revision will not be attained.That is the main object of the circular. It is economy. The question is whether that economy is justifiable. I assure the Noble Lord that this is not a sham battle. Very far from it. It is not even our battle. It is not even one of our usual partisan battles. We are not fighting only because of our own opinions. He has most of the local education authorities against him. He has the whole of the teaching profession against him. That is not a little thing. I do not altogether agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove) that all the teachers are likely to vote Labour soon. I do not think so. I think even under the pressure of the Noble Lord they will not. It is not a partisan matter, but it is a very real battle between most of the educationists of the country and the Noble Lord.
Of course, there are two Government views with regard to their policy. There are speeches of rather different kinds that come from the Government. There are two interpretations. The Prime Minister's is the milder version. I think he is rather anxious about his election pledges, and he lays tremendous emphasis on the improvements and expansions in education during this year under the rule of his Government. We are very glad of it. We do not deny that there are 8,000 more pupils in secondary schools. We do not deny that there are 5,000 more free places. We do not deny that insanitary schools have been reviewed. We do not deny the decrease of classes of excessive numbers. But we say two things. We do not deny that the present Government have allowed it to happen, but we say, first of all, that that 729 increase, which is approved by the Prime Minister, was due to the change that was made from the policy of the previous Conservative Government, which won so much approval from the Conservative party in opposition that when they came to the Election they said they would continue that policy, and until Circular 1371 they did continue it, and therefore these excellent things have happened during their term of office. I should like to ask the Prime Minister what is his interpretation of his policy at the last Election that has caused him to be satisfied with the progress made during this year. Does he think it meant that for one year there was to be progress under a Conservative Government and after that they were to be satisfied? Does he maintain that classes have been reduced in all authorities, or anything like in all authorities, to the point to which they ought to be reduced? Does he maintain that, while a review of insanitary schools has been made, many authorities have agreed to replace insanitary schools by ones which are fit for the teaching profession to carry on its profession, and does he really mean that the Election pledge was to be only valid for one year? I do not think he really originally meant that, at any rate. Further, I want to ask the Prime Minister this. I am going to read what he said with regard to this policy which they are now pursuing:What is called for is a careful reexamination of their expenditures and future projects by local authorities.Who objects to that? No one.What we are doing is to invite urgently local authorities to do all they can to co-operate with the Government in the necessary task of examining the vast expenditure of the country to make certain that the utmost value is got out of every penny.We all agree. All the local authorities agree. The question I want to ask him is, if he becomes satisfied that the utmost value is got out of every penny, is he then going to allow the local authorities to move on, to carry through the policy of small classes, destruction of insanitary schools, expansion of secondary education and all the other things which he contemplated in his election pledge which he has allowed to go on for a year but which he is now stopping by stereotyping expenditure at the point at which it was this year. How does he interpret this 730 policy, because his colleagues, the Noble. Lord and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seem to take a very definite view. The Noble Lord, I believe, has talked about the period of delay and reaction through which we have to go now, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has definitely said that the local authorities must be content with roughly the same grants. That definitely means that all this expansion of education which the Prime Minister approves of is to stop, and it is stopping. Of course, it is extremely difficult to know everything that is going on throughout the country, but I take at random a few things that have come to my knowledge. Does the Prime Minister approve of this? The Kent Education Authority is in many respects, perhaps, to some of my hon. Friends an unexpectedly vigorous and progressive local authority. This is what happened. This is what Sir Mark Collett, Chairman of the Higher Education Sub-Committee, said a week ago:Last year, owing to the strong pressure of the Board of Education, the Committee granted an additional 60 free scholarships. They did not propose to do the same this year. That would mean a saving to them of about £900.That was in a discussion as to how they were going to meet the Noble Lord. Sixty free scholarships—quite a small thing ! It only affects 60 children. It was part of the Conservative policy. I do not know whether it is now. My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough cited how Berkshire has drawn up a scheme of dental treatment. [Interruption.] Is it a matter of contempt that a local authority should be doing what a series of Ministers have been asking them to do, providing a system of dental treatment for children? Is the Noble Lord aware that expressions of contempt—
§ The SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
If the right hon. Gentleman is addressing his remarks to me, I have not expressed my contempt. I am listening to what he is saying. I have not made a single gesture or uttered a single word.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I apologise to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I think some of my hon. Friends misled me. [HON. MEMBERS: "The hon. Member for York,"]
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I take it on the basis that the wiser people in this country, who have heard what London has done as a result of having dental treatment for 10 years, would like to see a system of dental treatment throughout the country. The cases of serious dental defects among the children of London have been nearly halved in 10 years by the system of dental treatment that has been applied. I think that is a reason why Berkshire should be considered to be wise and should be encouraged to try to imitate London. Berkshire, as the result of the Circular, is dropping its proposals for dental treatment. Then Carnarvonshire has recently raised the school age to 15. In order to make that satisfactory to the great mass of the poorer people it is proposed to give maintenance grants. I am told the Board have refused to permit maintenance grants to be given.
I come to another more general thing which scorns to be occurring. The Government, in this Circular, state that the Government policy is to reduce the size of classes over 50 as a first call on the available supply of teachers and the public funds available for the payment of salaries, and they go on, in certain very vague phrases, to suggest that authorities which have done better than that and have still smaller classes had perhaps better reconsider their position. I understand a whole series of letters have been written, in pretty much the same terms, apparently, to Leyton, York, and Tottenham, to point out to those places that their staffing is comparatively high and that the number of certificated teachers they have is relatively high. I suppose they knew it. Why is that being pointed out? Is it that 50 is to be the maximum for those places which have classes of over 50 now, and those places which have well below 50 are to bring the number up to 50, and that is to become a minimum?
§ Lord E. PERCY
I have been urged from that side of the House, by the right 732 hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham), to adopt a standard limiting the expenditure of local authorities. What does that mean? Does it mean that your maximum standard is always to be fixed above the highest expenditure of the most liberal authority?
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
What I want to ask is this. Is there any authority in the country which has its classes down to such a point that it ought even to be suggested to it that it ought to raise them?
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I wonder how many authorities there are who have cut down their classes, generally speaking, to anything like 30. There are some, of course, who have classes of 30. My point is, are there any who have cut down to a general standard of 30?
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
If there are, they are few and far between. Of course, there are small schools where there are classes of 30. Sometimes in the working of the school a certain number of children are placed in smaller classes. The question is what is the main standard? We have not yet any authorities, or hardly any authorities in this country approaching a standard in our elementary schools that we ought to demand. I definitely regard it as a backward move on the part of the Government that they are beginning to suggest that any authorities have reached a really high effective standard of staffing such as they ought to have.
What is it that has caused this change of policy on the part of the Government? How is it that they are making it impossible for the local authorities to go on carrying out the policy which the Government themselves laid down at the General Election? It is because there has been an increase of something like £3,000,000 in two years in the expenditure of the local authorities. That is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer calls a super 733 increase. When the Prime Minister declared his policy at the General Election, would he have regarded an increase of £3,000,000 from the low point at which education was starting after the Geddes cut, as an excessive increase? Or did they think that the expansion was going to be done, somehow, for nothing? The trouble is, that there is a new policy, which is based on a perfectly definite idea. That idea is that when trade is bad you cannot afford the luxury of too much education. We are told by the President of the Board of Education that if there is a revival of trade we may look for new schools and we may look for the local authorities having money enough to turn to new services. That qualification was not in the bond at the time of the General Election. I should like to challenge the whole of that idea. Education is a necessity of which the sons and daughters of the people are perpetually starved. Educational progress ought to go on irrespective of the financial condition of the country. [HON MEMBERS: "Oh !"] Hon. Members dissert. I knew that was the difference between the two sides of the House.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I will answer that question in a moment. In bad times such as these, in times when there is increasing employment, in times when the gulf between the poor and the well-to-do is increasing rather than decreasing, one of the things that we are almost under an obligation to do is to try to bridge the gap and to mitigate the results of poverty. One of the only things short of a radical reconstruction of society that the nation, the community, can do, is to say to the poor who are suffering, "at any rate, your children shall have a full and a fair chance." I am asked, how can we pay for it. It is the business of the Government to find out. But I will make two suggestions. The first is, that if the Locarno spirit means anything, if it is worth anything, it ought to show itself in pounds, shilling and pence in the taxation of the country. If the Locarno spirit means anything, it ought to mean our being able to make not a little increase but a great decrease in our expenditure on armaments. The increased cost of education in these two years, a little more than half of which the nation will 734 be asked to pay—what is it, compared with one ironclad? Where are we to get the money? How much was taken off the Super-tax last year?
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
If that is your challenge, I say that the difference between us is that you are for the Super-tax and we are for the children.
§ Mr. FISHER
I propose to be very brief and very simple. The Noble Lord, in his good-tempered speech, was kind enough to say that I have been guilty of a certain confusion of mind. I confess that my confusion and uncertainty has not been entirely dissipated by the very able speech of the Noble Lord. I know that there is an opinion in certain quarters of the House that all this agitation about educational economy is factitious, that, after all, in periods of great financial stringency economies are necessary, and that it is unreasonable for the friends of education to object to such economies as are now proposed. We on these benches have no desire to see wasteful expenditure in education or in any other public service. The reason we regret that the Government have taken this step is, that we are conscious of the great gaps in our educational system, of the many things now undone which require to be done, and which can only be done by the expenditure of fresh money.
I welcome the speech of the right hon. Member for Newcastle, Central (Mr. Trevelyan), because he drew the attention of the House to an aspect of the problem which was not touched on by the Noble Lord, who confined himself almost entirely to the question of the grant system. The right hon. Gentleman for Newcastle pointed out the very grave sacrifice—whether it is necessary or not is another thing—which will be entailed upon a class of the community who can bear such sacrifice very ill, by reason of the sudden change in the policy of the Government. A great deal of the consternation and dismay, which has been caused by the two circulars which have been issued, are the result of a very satisfactory symptom in English public opinion. They are the result of an increasing realisation throughout the community of the importance and value of education.
735 These feelings are also to a large extent the result of the fact that the service of public education in this country is carried on in a partnership between the Board of Education, on the one hand, and 318 local authorities, on the other. It is felt that this sudden change of policy, inaugurated by Circular 1371, was, in a sense, a rupture of the Articles of Association. The local authorities have been doing their work and planning their work on the assumption that a certain grant system would be continued. They suddenly find that the basis upon which they are working it attacked. They are told to reduce their estimates to the basis of the expenditure of 1924–25, with certain specified reductions, and they are alarmed as to the degree to which their commitments will be honoured by the Board. In a recent speech, the Noble Lord has drawn attention, quite properly, to the progress in various Departments of Education which has taken place while he has been President of the Board of Education.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I was very careful to say in that speech that I did not take personal credit for that, and that the credit as far as it fell to the central authority should be shared with my predecessors. I said that the greater part of the credit was due to the local authorities.
§ Mr. FISHER
That was not my point. I was not intending for a moment to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman had taken credit for success which did not belong to him. I know he would not do that. But I will observe that this satisfactory progress to which the Noble Lord alluded would have been impossible without the system of percentage grants, and it is a little ungrateful for the Noble Lori to attack a system of grants which, since the inhibitions previously imposed by the Board were removed by the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle, has enabled that very satisfactory advance to be registered. No one will complain of the Noble Lord or of the Government for looking out for a definite financial policy. I am the last person to suggest that the grant formula which was devised in 1916 for elementary education is the last word of human wisdom. It probably does need a certain amount of revision in the light 736 of changing needs. It may well be that the rate-equalising factor is not sufficiently strong, and that in the operation of that formula too little is done for the necessitous areas. But I plead very strongly that the system of percentage grants, on the whole, has worked well and that it is extremely unwise at this juncture to have a revolution in the grant system.
Let us remember three things with regard to the system of percentage grants. In the first place, it has enabled great progress to be accomplished, as everybody admits. It has enabled the teachers' salaries to be raised to a satisfactory level, and if the percentage grant system goes, if the teachers are no longer assured that three-fifths of their salaries will be borne upon the Board's Vote, they will naturally be uneasy. If I were a teacher I should have felt extremely nervous when I read the recent announcements of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Noble Lord; and one of the reasons why I hope that this question of percentage grants will be very much more carefully considered is that I am most reluctant to see a revival of that great uneasiness about teachers' salaries which was so detrimental to the cause of education in the years previous to 1918. That would be a great misfortune for education.
I am all in favour of a careful reconsideration of the grant system. No one can object to that reconsideration, and the Noble Lord is perfectly entitled to ask us to reconsider the system. But I ask him and the House whether the question is not already prejudged? We have had a very emphatic declaration from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I think from the Noble Lord himself, that the percentage grant system is doomed. What does that mean? Does it mean, or does it not, that the local education authorities are entitled to expect 50 per cent. of their authorised expenditure? Apparently that expectation goes. What remains? If I were a member of a local education authority what would be my solid assurance of support from the Board when I was considering my plan of education development? The Noble Lord is very properly solicitous for forethought in education, because forethought in education is economy in educational administration. Last March he issued an admirable circular 737 to the local education authorities inviting them to devise programmes. That was when the percentage grant system was in full operation.
I presume that the programmes that have been sent in to the Noble Lord have been very largely drafted under the assumption that the local education authorities will receive from the Board 50 per cent. of the cost of these programmes. But what is the position of the local authority now It is for the present year informed that there is to be a fixed minimum grant, a sum equal to the grant payable for 1924–25, with certain specified reductions. That is a minimum. The Noble Lord hopes, no doubt, to be able to have some additional money, and I am sure that no one would he better pleased than the Noble Lord if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were able to provide him with additional sums. But the local authorities have no reason to suppose that these additional sums will be forthcoming. They have no knowledge of the principle upon which those additional sums will be distributed, should they be forthcoming. Are they to be distributed on the percentage system? If so, on what percentage? Nobody knows.
The Noble Lord now tells us that in future he intends to base his grant system not, as is implied in the appendix to Circular 1371, upon the grant for 1924–25, but upon the estimates submitted by local education authorities of their prospective expenditure for a period of, say, three years. How is he going to assess these grants? He is going, apparently, to consult with each local education authority, to examine their administration, to go into their needs, and to provide a grant adequate to those needs. That is very much the system which is now carried out by the University Grants Committee. That Committee goes round to a score of Universities. It examines the laboratory accounts, the lecture accounts, and it goes into the needs of the University, and it recommends a grant. It recommends a portion of assigned revenue. That is a comparatively easy process when you are dealing only with a score of Universities. But when you are dealing with 318 local authorities are you really going to satisfy them, if you go to them without a formula, without a rule, one at a time, without any comprehensive system of financial guidance which will be intelligible to the whole country?
738 I consider it is impossible administration. I do not believe that the Noble Lord will be able to carry it out. It will be very burdensome to the Board. It will be impossible, and I believe that the Noble Lord will find himself involved in a great deal of criticism, much of it, no doubt, unfair. The local authorities, on receiving a grant less than was expected, will say, "On what basis is this grant assessed, 50 per cent.?"That may be rough and unscientific but at any rate it is intelligible. If you want to stimulate forethought in local authorities, if you want to get them to devise schemes or programmes of work covering two or three years, surely it is of the utmost importance to tell them what they may expect in the shape of Treasury help?
§ Lord E. PERCY
I do not want to be misunderstood on this question. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman's difficulty now is whether I propose to abolish the principle of 50–50 sharing between taxes and rates? No. Without prejudging any questions that may come up in future, and generally speaking, I think that the 50–50 principle is a principle which will have to be maintained to a certain extent.
§ Mr. FISHER
Then I am in a complete fog. What I am concerned with is the effect on the statutory right of the local education authorities to 50 per cent. of this approved expenditure. If the Noble Lord accedes to that, he recedes from the stand point which has been taken up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am concerned with the 50–50 basic. I believe that it is the most intelligible working basis that you can find, and that it is the only basis on which grants can be consistent with educational progress. It has been said that in times of great and rapid progress the percentage grant system acts as a check. Well, if so, the economists ought to be pleased. The hon. Member for York (Sir J. Marriott) tells us that the Board of Education has already announced that under the percentage grant system it has lost all control of its own house. I read in the Memorandum submitted by the Board of Education to the Meston Committee this sentence:The powers of financial control given to the Board by a system of grants, based on recognition of expenditure, are so strong 739 as to be capable, in theory, of destroying the responsibility of the local education authority.That was in 1922, and that was evidence given by the Board of Education. The truth is that you can make control as strong as you like. Parliament has confided to the President of the Board of Education the very formidable powers of deciding whether any branch of expenditure shall rank for grant or not. It is always open to the President of the Board to do what the President would have been well advised to do in the present instance, after the local authorities had submitted their estimates to invite them to a conference, and ask them to revise their estimates in order to bring them within a total which the Board can recognise as ranking for grant. That is a process which can be conciliated with the present grant system.
The percentage grant system was introduced at a time when there were inflated prices. It was then difficult to make exact estimates. Both the local authorities and the Board are often very wide in their estimates. That was almost a necessity of the times. Now we have reached smoother water. Estimating on the side of the Board is very much more exact. The Noble Lord took credit, and rightly, that he had made a pretty exact estimate when it last fell to him to introduce the Board's Estimates. I notice that in the criticism that he has recently been passing on the estimates of the local authorities he points out ways in which they can estimate more closely. I suggest to the Government that they should give far more consideration to the whole question of educational grants. It is considered a very dry question, but in reality the progress of education depends on it. Education is a living thing. It cannot be rationed by a system of fixed grants. The Noble Lord does not propose fixed grants; he proposes variable grants, adjusted apparently to the growing needs of local education authorities, fixed for a period, apparently with reference to the expenditure of the local authorities in that period. That is to say, he proposes to grant 50 per cent. of the expenditure of local education authorities for a period of three years.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Lord E. PERCY
What I propose is this. I propose to receive from the local 740 authority an estimate of their expenditure over a period of, say, three years and to base a grant on that estimate reduced or modified after discussion with the local authority—to base a grant after examination of their estimate at, generally speaking, about the level of 50 per cent. of the approved expenditure, and to fix a grant for a period of three years on the estimate.
§ Mr. FISHER
I presume the Noble Lord is going to repeal a Section in the Act of 1921 which guarantees to the local education authorities 50 per cent. of their authorised expenditure. That is a crucial question.
§ Mr. FISHER
I gather, then, that the statutory guarantee is to be removed. I submit that it would be a great injury to education to remove the statutory guarantee. The Noble Lord says "Yes." What is the position of local authorities?
§ Mr. FISHER
Yes, recognised and authorised by the Board. If that guarantee were withdrawn, not only will there be a very wide feeling of apprehension in the 318 local authorities, but that feeling of apprehension will be shared by the teachers and by the Universities which I have the honour to represent in this House. Those Universities are largely financed by the rates of the local communities they serve. If a community like Sheffield, Birmingham or Manchester feels that owing to the withdrawing of the 50 per cent. basis, they will have to increase the education rate or else suffer a diminution in the education facilities they offer they will at once reconsider their proposals, therefore, it would react prejudicially on the Universities. I am suggesting that the ratepayer who has to make these contributions will be affected by any reduction in the grant made by the Board in aid of local education, and that it would have a prejudicial reaction upon the position of the Universities. I think that is perfectly clear.
I must apologise for having dealt with the subject of the educational grant at this length. I should not have done so 741 but for the fact that I was in honest doubt as to what the Noble Lord really intended. Now I think I know what he means. He will correct me if I am wrong. First he intends to remove the statutory guarantee of 50 per cent. of expenditure on elementary and higher education. In the second place, he intends to base his block grants over a period of three years upon a separate estimate of the needs of every local education authority. He does not propose to give these local education authorities a firm offer of 50 per cent. of their expenditure. He proposes to deal with each local education authority separately, and he thinks that by so doing he may satisfy all. He is a very sanguine man. My impression is that if he perseveres in this course he will throw the whole administration of education in this country into inexplicable confusion.
§ Sir CHARLES OMAN
Not being a Privy Councillor, it is my privilege to be able to speak for less than 40 minutes. Indeed to speak for only three minutes is my intention to-night. An ounce of practice is worth a ton of rhetoric. What we have been given to-night is much rhetoric to prove that nothing can be cut from the education grant without harming education. I suggest, although I do not know everything that goes on in this country about expenditure on education, that there are ways in which, as I think money is being thrown into the sea: and I think that a large portion of it may be reclaimed and used to better purpose. The fact is that education, so far from being the Cinderella of the Services, has had much more spent on her than many of the other Services. The recent growth of her pocket money is thrice that of her older and uglier sisters, the Army and the Navy. She is now spending money on many things unwisely. I will give one or two instances. At the Universities there is a system by which young men undertake to take the diploma of education, and to teach for a certain time in board schools. They receive a three years' scholarship. There is nothing whatever to prevent them breaking their pledge after those three years; and the Government his paid for those scholarships for no purpose whatever. Money is being thrown into the sea. I have been given a statement on a recent 742 list of 10 of these young men. My informant says this:I do not think it is fair to young men of ambition to put the temptation before them of being able to take this Government grant for three years and then easily evade all obligations at the end, on some form of excuse or another. In seven of these ten cases they had no real moral justification whatever.They simply broke their pledge and there is no way of getting at them. A friend of mine, a man whom everybody knows is the governor of a good secondary school, says that the county council places in the school were put on an examination basis. They got a very fair class of boy, but presently found that they had to cut the examination, and work on a qualification basis. Finally they had to take mere applications. It resulted that in order to get the numbers filled up they got a certain percentage of boys who did very well, but at the bottom of the list they got a large number of boys who were not suited for secondary education at all; and these boys are simply clogging the lower classes because they have not the brains to learn. I call that throwing money into the sea. To endeavour to give a secondary education to boys of inferior brains is waste.
The only justification for it is the wild dictum which says that the more stupid a boy is the more necessary it is for him to have a university education. But to insist that a definite number of boys should be taken to fill a definite number of places, whether all the boys are suited for it or not, is, in my opinion, throwing money away. In every case where these places are reserved, it should be insisted that a good examination should be passed, and young people who are merely likely to clog the lower classes should be rejected. That is an example of the way in which the taxpayers' money is being wasted. I only know a few corners of the educational system, and where I only know a few corners how many dark angles must exist? I believe the President of the Board of Education will be able, by the aid of the inquiry he is setting up, to go into the question properly, see where there is duplication and waste, where there is misapplication of public funds, where money can be saved and where money is wanted for education. Do not let us waste any of our education grant; let us see that it is spent wisely and well.
§ Mr. PALIN
Most of us on this side of the House have listened with strange and almost painful interest to the President of the Board when he was explaining to us at great length what Circular 1371 meant and what Memorandum 44 meant; and what he himself meant with regard to both of them. I can only come to the conclusion that he is in a tight corner and trying to wriggle out of it, or that he does not know what he is going to do. I am convinced that the President of the Board can think clearly and speak to the point when it suits him. I had the pleasure of listening to him in Newcastle last August when he was speaking at the Rotary Club. I told him what the "Daily Mail" had been saying about him. It did not impair his appetite, and he got up and declared that in his judgment education should be placed in the same category as foreign affairs; that it ought not to be a matter of party controversy, and that there should be a continuity of policy, whatever party was in power. He said that, so far as he was concerned, with certain modifications, he intended to continue the policy laid down by his predecessor, who is one of the Members for Newcastle. I cheered him, and at a subsequent meeting I said that so long as the Noble Lord stood between the "Daily Mail" and the children, and was prepared to defend them, he could be assured of my support and the support of the party to which I belong. If I understood the Noble Lord at all, and I can assure him I am at great difficulty in so doing, what he intends is that Circular 1371 and Memorandum 44 do not mean anything at all, that they are just bogies put up to frighten some extravagant authorities; that they do not mean anything at all, and that he is proceeding on the same system of allocating grants as that which was initiated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher).
It is suggested that we have been creating a scare in the country which is not justified. But these documents have been read by 300 directors of education and by 300 chairmen of education committees in various parts of the country. These are people with considerable experience in the administration of education and some knowledge of the English language—otherwise they would not occupy such positions—and they have 744 come to the unanimous conclusion that the Minister, all the time, means a drastic reduction in educational expenditure. Such an eminent man as the Chancellor of the Exchequer also believes so, and surely we ought to take some notice of his opinion. There is no doubt in my mind that the real intention was to arrest or reduce expenditure on education. I could not understand the Noble Lord's reference to the figures which were quoted. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove) quoted figures with regard to elementary grants from 1913–14 to 1925–26 and he showed that the peak of £35,593,000 was reached in the year 1921–22, that there was a decrease of £3,000,000 in the following year and of £400,000 in the next year. Then it went up by £200,000 and the estimate for last year was approximately £1,000,000 less. If we take actual expenditure my hon. Friend was simply quoting the same figures. The peak was £51,000,000 in 1921–22 and it went down steadily until 1924–25 when the figure was £41,900,000 and the estimate last year was £40,652,754. Where the hon. Member for Wellingborough was inaccurate I do not know, because these figures were issued by the Noble Lord's Department for our guidance only a few months ago.
§ Lord E. PERCY
The hon. Member was wrong, inasmuch as he described the figures inaccurately. He said the grants from the Board had gone down, but what the hon. Member quoted was the total expenditure of the Board in the year, which is quite a different thing from the total of the Board's grants to local authorities for the year.
§ Mr. PALIN
It seems to me that there is a distinction without a difference. However, we will let go at that and we hope the Noble Lord is right for the sake of his own reputation. A point was made by the hon. Member for York (Sir J. Marriott) as to the increase in teachers and the decrease in scholars. I do not think the figures are alarming or need give cause for anxiety. During the past few years there have been great movements of population, especially in the mining areas, and these have had to be provided for, but people do not move from one district to another in such a way as to make it possible to transfer teachers from me area to another and 745 thus avoid increased expenditure. Take an area where there is a large housing scheme. Children come from all parts into that area, and the reduction of numbers in any particular school is not such as to justify the removal of a teacher, hat the influx into another school is such that additional teachers must been employed. These fluctuations of population go on from time to time.
The hon. Member for York spoke of extravagance in education, and I suppose he would regard the city of Bradford, on whose education committee I have sat for about 20 years, as a case in point. It may interest the Noble Lord to know that we have not built any new schools nor have we made extensive alterations to any school, since 1914. In recent years we had some 74 classes with over 50 children in them; in March, 1925, they had only been reduced to 52 classes with over that number. I resent the reference of the hon. Member for York to evening classes being used as means of propaganda for some particular purpose. I do not know any evening classes to-day which could be accused of carrying on propaganda for either Liberal, Labour or Conservative any more than the University extension lectures which we used to get could have been considered propaganda. I will read the speech of the Noble Lord to-morrow, because I have here a statement made by the director of education for the city of Bradford, in which he indicates to his committee possible ways of reducing expenditure. In Newcastle the Noble Lord has seen from his own observations the work which is being done, and all the directors of education are cudgelling their brains to find out what can be done.
Apparently they assume that we must honour our obligations to the teachers. We must honour the Burnham Award but it is suggested we might make economies by not filling vacancies caused by death, resignation or transfer; that we could replace certificated teachers by non-certificated teachers and graduated teachers by non-graduated teachers. It is also suggested we might make economies in stationery and books, but as we only allocate 1¼d. per child at the present time I do not see how we can make economies there. We could reverse, our policy of free secondary education. We could introduce fee-paying again, but if the 746 Noble Lord meant anything he meant us to understand that he did not want any steps of that kind. If the Noble Lord has made a mistake; if after the noble sentiments which he expressed at Newcastle, he has been bullied into a different frame of mind by somebody, let him be brave once more and tell us where the difficulty is and I feel sure he will have the people of the country behind him in standing up for the best possible secondary technical and university education for on people. I am convinced that it is necessary today if we are to hold our place among the nations of the world.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I have listened with great interest to this Debate, and I intervene as one who has had 14 years' experience on a local education authority. My experience has been that those who talk the most about education usually know the least about it, and, as regards this particular Circular and this Memorandum, there has been a good deal of talk by people who did not understand either education or those documents. It was a case with that Circular of giving a dog a bad name and hanging him. No one went carefully into the details of the Circular and as to what it meant before rushing forward with their criticisms, and I venture to say that in spite of what other hon. Members on this side have said, much of the opposition, at any rate to Memorandum 44, is political and not professional in any way.
I have watched very keenly, in the short time during which I have been a Member of this House, the work of the Noble. Lord the President of the Board of Education, because I am a keen educationist myself, and I want to see steady progress in education, and I must say that his record proves that he is an educationist at heart and that his intentions are of the very best. The steady progress that has been made in education, and the fact that the teachers' pension scheme has been put on the Statute Book and made a certainty for the teachers are to his credit, as also is the fact that he settled for a period of six years the question of the teachers' salaries according to the Burnham scale, and I say that his record up to date at any rate can be challenged by no one on the ground that he is not a keen educationist. I would suggest, though, to the Noble Lord that possibly the one mistake 747 that was made was in issuing the Circular before actually consulting the local education authorities. I am speaking as a member of an authority, and we feel that we should like to have had a discussion with the Department on the question of economies before the Circular was issued, but I realise that there are certain education authorities to whom an invitation of that kind would not appeal at all. The only thing that appeals to them is a bombshell in the shape of a Circular that makes them begin to think and study where they are going.
I would make the suggestion to the Noble Lord that it would be a very wise thing to set up a Select Committee to go into the whole question of expenditure on education and of economies that can be effected, taking evidence from those who are actively engaged in the matter, such as those who represent the local education authorities, in order to find out where economies can be effected without in any way impairing efficiency. I submit that there are many things in which economy can be effected without impairing efficiency, and anyone who has studied the tables that have been issued by the Board of Education, and who has noticed the vast difference in the cost per head in some towns as compared with others, is bound to say that there must be extravagance in some direction. For instance, let me take the authority of which I am a member, in the constituency that I represent. Grimsby is put down on the list as one of the lowest, spending 171s. 11d. per head, while there are authorities which spend twice as much. It can only be a question of one of two things, either that Grimsby is not doing its duty educationally, or that the other people who are spending twice as much are extravagant in their administration.
As far as Grimsby is concerned, we are doing our duty to the children, and we are in this position, that we can challenge any Member of this House to go into our system of education there, and to go round our schools, and if he does that I am sure he will agree with me that we are carrying on our education there on sound and efficient lines. To prove that, let me mention that we have in our elementary schools, in the highest standards, standards VII and ex-VII, children of the age of 12 years. We have 748 also turned out elementary school children who have passed the Cambridge Local examination and the Air Force examination, which has always been regarded as a sort of special ground for children taking secondary education. I, therefore, say that there is no backwardness as regards our system. As regards our teachers, they were put immediately on the Burnham scale, Grade III; they are perfectly satisfied, and it cannot be said that we have underpaid them. The point about which we are a little bit concerned, if the Noble Lord will make a note of it, is this: We say that we have administered the affairs of that particular education authority in a businesslike way, and, therefore, we have not spent as much per head as have some other authorities, but we are considerably concerned as to what is going to happen under the new system. Are those authorities which have been businesslike in their administration to suffer in any way as compared with the people who have been spending extravagantly? That is a point about which they are very much concerned, and I believe these will be deputations to the right hon. Gentleman from various parts of the country, so that perhaps, if the matter were cleared up once and for all, they would know where they stand because the question of the building programme is one about which they are very much concerned, and they want to know exactly what their position will be under it.
I believe that the real duty and obligation of a local education authority are to see that children of compulsory school age are taught in decent surroundings, that their health is properly cared for, that they are enabled be the provision of suitable instruction to derive the fullest benefit in the later years of their school life—and it is in those years that the best part of a child's education received—and that opportunities for further education are open to them according to their needs and abilities. I maintain that there is nothing in the Noble Lord's suggestions, and particularly in Memorandum 44, that will in any way prevent the carrying out of the programme that I have mentioned as the right and proper programme for a local education authority. I am certain that there has been a lot of misconception about the whole business. Many of the 749 statements that have been issued as to what it was going to cost local authorities have been found to be absolutely erroneous on examination. I know of one authority where a statement was got out immediately Circular 1371 was issued as to what the local authority would lose in grants. It was stated to be £5,000—it was not a very large authority—and immediately there was a call for a public meeting to denounce the Noble Lord for sending out the circular, while certain people were rushing on to say that the town was going to be saddled with a 5d. rate because of the circular. But there happened to be a business man on the local authority, who said: "Let us go into the thing carefully, and let us get the accurate figures." When they did get the accurate figures, they could not make the cost any more than £40, as against £5,000, and all the agitation that had been stirred up died out, of course, very quickly.
I say that the whole thing has not been given a fair trial. It has been condemned before it has been put to the test, and in common justice, at any rate, it ought to receive fair consideration from all parties. The Noble Lord has cleared up many points in his speech to-night, and I am certain that when that speech is read by many of those who are keenly interested in this question of education, and they know a little more as to what is really meant by Memorandum No. 44, a lot of the opposition will die out. I want to see education advance, and I want to see it advance in a steady and proper manner. I do not want to see fitful starts, which only mean tremendous expenditure and then disappointment and the taxpayer saying, "It is time we closed up." Steady progress is what we who are interested in education want to see, and I believe, after hearing the Noble Lord's statement this evening, that that is the intention of His Majesty's Government as regards education. Therefore, I am bound to support the Government on this occasion.
§ Mr. MORRIS
As I listened to the speech of the junior Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman), I could not but think that, if he had been living in another time, he would have been a splendid supporter for Jack Cade, of whom it is recorded, in the words of that worthy himself, that he decapitated a 750 man because he had corrupted the youth of the nation by erecting a grammar school. The hon. Member for Oxford University pointed to the great waste in the present educational system and gave his blessing to the Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education for economies which he intended to effect. One instance of wastefulness which he gave was that seven students who had accepted grants from the Government for specific purposes had not carried out those obligations, and the other instance was that a large number of students in secondary schools were getting the advantage of secondary education who were totally unfitted for it. There may be perils attached to an education system, but one does not, at this time of day expect to hear such arguments in this House.
One of the great and most significant changes of the last century has been the great volume of time devoted by this House to matters of education. Education has been a matter of public discussion now for the greater part of 100 years. That is a colossal change from previous times, but with the great industrial development, with the great bulk of the adult population of this country enfranchised, when, instead of a comparatively few people electing Members to this House, you have 20,000,000 people with a voice in the election of this House, it becomes of prime importance, both to the destiny of the Empire and also from the point of view of our industrial supremacy, that there should be no stinting, at any rate, of the education which informs the minds of the electorate and informs the mind of those people into whose hands the industrial and commercial prosperity of the country is entrusted. It is a retrograde step that has been taken by the Noble Lord and his Department, notwithstanding the speech to which we have listened this afternoon.
The Noble Lord took the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove) to task because he did not correctly represent the position under Memorandum 44. What is the position under that Memorandum? Memorandum 44 certainly, as the Noble Lord very rightly pointed out, endorses the contractual commitments of the local education authorities. But what about the understanding 751 which these 318 local authorities may have arrived at? They may have arrived at understandings and foreshadowed their schemes. No actual contract may have been made, but what about the position with regard to the grants in respect of those commitments? There may not be contractual commitments within the technical meaning of the term, but there may be real commitments none the less. It is true that the Memorandum lays stress on the fact that the existing service should be efficiently maintained. But what does "efficiency" mean? Is it to be determined with regard to the present moment, or regarded, as it surely should be, as a progressive factor? What is efficiency to-day may be total inefficiency to-morrow. If you are going to determine efficiency from the existing point of view, without any regard to the future commitments then, by the policy now put forward, you are cutting down the means of attaining future efficiency, the means of making education efficient in future years.
We are told, first of all, in Memorandum 1371 that the basic year was to be 1924–25 for the purposes of this grant. The next step is that that Memorandum is withdrawn. Then we are told that the estimates will be based upon the position of 1926–27. To-night we are told by the Noble Lord that he hopes to maintain the 50-50 basis. If he is to maintain the 50-50 basis, is it to be upon the basis of cutting down the local authorities? The estimates, I understand, have been already returned to the local authorities to be cut down to the bone. If they are already low enough they will be passed by the Noble Lord without question, but if not cut down low enough to come within his scope of 50-50, they will be sent back for further revision. To my mind, the position is even more alarming than it was under Circular 1371. When that position was made known, it was subject to the publicity of debate in this House. We knew what was going on, and could challenge the action of the Minister. But at the present moment, when these estimates have been referred back to the local authorities, and the negotiations are going on between the Minister and the local authorities, the whole of the debate has been removed from the glare of the 752 publicity of this House to the shade of the shadow of a discussion with the local authorities—a far more dangerous position.
I am the more alarmed at the new situation, because it reverses the tendency set in motion by the right hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) of charging the balance that existed before 1918 of the heavier burden being borne by the ratepayers rather than by the taxpayers. The right hon. Member for the English Universities transferred that burden more and more to the shoulders of the taxpayer, which, as I think, should be the right place. Education should be, as far as possible, a national charge. This reverses the policy, or tends to do so, and if the progressive authorities are to continue their progress in the future, they must increase the local burdens. I am the more alarmed at that from the point of view of Wales itself. The rate for elementary education in Wales to-day is 7d. in the £ higher than the education rate in England, and for higher education the rate is 4d. in the £ higher. The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) pointed out the great struggle of the pour people that has gone on in Scotland in order to maintain their high standard of efficiency in education. What he said of Scotland is equally true of Wales. There the secondary education system, the higher education system and the university system have been built up very much in the same way as he described the Scottish system, and it is a matter of serious concern to progressive authorities that the burden should be transferred back again upon the shoulders of the ratepayers. No one pretends that this change of policy is going to upset entirely the educational system of this country, but that it is going to retard development in the further there can be no question.
A halt has been called for the next three years. What are the particular qualities about 1926–27 to regard that as a basic year for the purpose of these grants over the next three years, coming as they do after a very difficult period—it is not a normal period in any sense—coming as they do after the slump after the War years, after the action of the Geddes Axe. When 1929–30 is reached, and you go forward, then there 753 will be a much heavier burden than should be cast upon people at that time. I regret that the President of the Board of Education has thought fit to reverse the overwhelming evidence even of his own Board before the Meston Committee. The Board in their evidence, said:There are probably few advocates for the system which was discarded, after a long trial, of distributing grant at a fixed rare per head of children in attendance at the schools. This system takes no account et the necessary differences of cost between one part of the country and another, nor of the great differences in the ability of the local education authorities to bear their share of the cost; it would, if applied under present conditions, result in leaving some crone with ruinously high rates, while, on the other hand, the subsidy would be wastefully high in areas where the cost of education is below the average and the area net specially poor.In spite of that evidence, and the evidence of the local authorities before that Committee, the Noble Lord has capitulated now to the pressure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has capitulated, has the Noble Lord, not entirely the whole interest of education, but certainly educational advancement in the next few years. He has allowed himself, in the person of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to entertain the fox as the shepherd of his lambs.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, has been arguing against the application of the block-grant system. He is proud, and rightly proud, of the results of the Scottish educational system; yet, is it not a act that the Scottish educational system, as pointed out by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, in winding up the discussion that took place before Christmas on this subject—is it not a fact that the Scottish educational system is working successfully under the block-grant system?
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
Anyone listening to the speeches of hon. Members on the 754 other side would imagine that here was a wicked Government, led by the Minister of Education, endeavouring to retard all educational progress. Yet we find in this much-vilified Memorandum that educational expenditure in the present year will be at least 2½ million pounds in excess of the expenditure of 1923–24, and we have heard from the Minister that it is hi;; intention that the block grant shall be based upon expenditure. The Minister is not the first occupant of the post who has been brought up against the hard facts of national life. The right hon. Gentleman who represents the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) succeeded at a time of great national upheaval in carrying through the Act of 1918. The teachers throughout the country thought that the educational millennium had arrived. Presently it was foiled that all he objects of that Act could not be realised. Even the Coalition Government could not meet the expense which could have resulted from the full working the Act.
What is the position at the present time? Broadly speaking, the Government find that this is a time that a great effort of national and, I would add, of personal economy is necessary. They have said to the various Departments of Government: "Make a great effort in the present year, and for a little time to come, to cut down every unnecessary item of expenditure"—and there are items of expenditure in education which can be cut down. There is a great deal of unnecessary administrative expense which causes friction and inefficiency which might be cut away. Under the system that is proposed by my right hon. Friend that friction and that inefficiency would be removed. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir J. Simon) who moved the Motion reproached the Government, and especially the Prime Minister, with not keeping his election pledges. The predecessor of the present Minister admitted that under the present Government the size of the classes has diminished—necessarily so, because there are more teachers by some thousands in the schools at the present time than when the present Government carne into office. We have also the assurance of the Minister that in no case where additional teachers are essential will those additional teachers he denied.
755 Insanitary schools have been spoken of. A great point was made of that by hon. gentlemen. I will say this: that if there are insanitary schools it is the first duty of the local education authority to make them sanitary. The members of these authorities, I would remind hon. Members opposite, depend largely upon the votes of the parents of children who go to the schools. It is for them to bring pressure to bear upon the local education authorities, even should it involve a slight temporary increase in the rates, so that they shall make these schools sanitary. If the question involved is that of rebuilding the schools, that is a larger matter. But we also have the assurance of the Minister that the block grant for three years, founded on expenditure, is a minimum, and that he is always ready to discuss with an education authority necessary expenditure.
The right hon. Gentleman the predecessor of the present Minister said that this was not a sham fight; this was not a partisan fight. Rarely, however, have I heard in this House a more partisan speech than the one he delivered. The implication running through the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle was that the Conservative party, who, because of the good impulse given when he himself was President of the Board of Education, had allowed certain progress in education now against the wish of the party, wished to reverse the process. He suggested that we on this side of the House do not care at all for education. I should like to assure the right hon. Gentleman that there are at least as many hon. Members on this side of the House as on that side of the House who really care for education, and understand what is real education. The mover of the Motion and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities did what seemed to me a very unwise thing. They insinuated that by the action of the Minister the position of the teachers was rendered insecure. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members cheer that statement.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I do not know whether hon. Members opposite heard what the hon. Member for Wellingborough 756 (Mr. Cove) said. He said that the teachers were out of it. I was glad to hear him say that, for it means that it is now only a question of the schools and the pupils. That is what I understood him to mean when he said that the teachers were out of it. The position of the teachers is now perfectly assured. I make bold to say that the position of teachers in this country is now equal to that of the teachers in any other country and superior to that in most. When in Canada recently I discussed the matter with Canadian teachers, and they would be glad if only they had a similar superannuation system for that country. The insinuation of these two right hon. Gentlemen was well answered by the hon. Member for Wellingborough, who thoroughly understands the position, and knows what has happened. In the middle of last year the Minister, with infinite care and patience carried through a superannuation Measure which assures to the teachers a pension scheme which will compare favourably with that of any other country. What has been his last act? He has issued an order that in future grants will depend upon the Burnham Award. There are 318 education authorities, and all except five or six have adopted the Burnham Award. Now those five or six will come in, and that means that, as regards salary and pension, the position of the teacher is assured. I venture to think that in years to come, when the storm over Circular 1371 and Memorandum 44 has cleared away, the name of the Minister will be remembered as that of the man who made the position of the teachers secure.
What matters most in schools is the personality and the efficiency of the teacher. With poor equipment and ill-lighted rooms a good teacher will yet obtain better results than will an inferior teacher, even with the best equipment in the world. It is not that we do not want good equipment, we want the very best we can get, but in the present state of the national finances we must "make do" for the present, and wait for a better time. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment poured scorn on the saying that increase of expenditure did not mean increase of efficiency. It need not necessarily do so. Let me give the House a small instance. I have the privilege of being the governor of a secondary school. It is a good school, 757 an efficient school, but a poor school. It has an efficient headmaster and an efficient staff, and the result of efficiency has been that the numbers attending the school have grown. We wanted new buildings, new classrooms, but we could not afford to put them up, and so we got army huts and used those. Did that mean that the school was less efficient? Not in the least. The standard still rose, and the number of pupils who went to the University and gained honours and went to Sandhurst and Woolwich increased. That is a small instance where efficiency is not necessarily increased by large expenditure.
The most favourable feature in Circular 1371, it seems to me, is the freedom it gives to local authorities. At present every little item of expenditure is the subject of correspondence between the Board and the local educational authority and the school. I have had correspondence from headmasters and others saying, "Cannot we wipe this away? Trust us. You have got to do it in the long run." That is what the Minister says to the local education authorities: "We trust you. We give you a block grant, a minimum, which you can apply as you think best." As is always the case, a body trusted in that way will rise to the height of its opportunity, and education generally will be improved. May I say in passing that the freedom which is granted to the local authorities entails an even greater responsibility on the Board. The Board says, "We give you freedom, we will be your counsellor and your guide, and we will judge you by results and by the reports of our inspectors." That means that the Board itself, probably, must re-organise to a certain extent, must raise its standard, must raise the standard of its inspectorate, which is already high, and hearken more to the voice of the inspectorate, Therefore, I believe this policy should be supported, because its effects will be of the best both on the Board and the local education authorities. There has been a storm of opposition and disapproval, but that, I venture to think, is because the true state of things is not understood. When the country understands, the policy will meet with both approval and support.
§ Mr. R. MORRISON
I wish to make only two brief comments on the speech 758 of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. The first is that in this House there was never a whisper of any attack against the education policy of the present Government until they departed from their avowed policy of continuity. The second point is that a great deal of the confusion which, he said, has caused misapprehension in the country has been due to the President of the Board of Education. I am afraid to-night's contribution has not cleared up the confusion. This evening the President has tried to convince the House that this policy is designed only to enable the Government to know what they will have to pay, that it is not a policy of cutting down. That seems to me to be the crux of the whole of the confusion. So long as the President of the Board of Education persists in saying his policy is merely a policy that will enable the Board of Education to know exactly how much they will have to pay, and is not a policy of cutting down, so long will confusion continue.
I notice that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, strangely enough, has not been on the Bench during the whole of this Debate, in a speech in the Provinces—in Leeds, I think—indirectly admitted the parentage of Circular 1371. In that picturesque language which none of us can emulate he said it was the first ship of the economy fleet which had ventured out to sea, and that it had met with heavy seas and had been badly battered. Keeping to his seafaring language I may say that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Education are not dismayed at the buffeting which the first economy ship received, we note that it has now been put into dry dock, and Memorandum 44 sent out to sea in its place. In other words, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his friend the President of the Board of Trade have decided now to do by administration what they are afraid to do by legislation.
I will now deal briefly, because I understand the Noble Lady the Parliamentary Secretary is going to reply, with one or two points, in which I am personally interested, regarding the effect of Memorandum 44 upon abnormal children. Ever since I have been a Member of this House I have on every possible occasion brought forward the position of abnormal children—the blind, 759 deaf, mentally defective, physically defective, epileptic, tuberculous and delicate or crippled children. Local educational authorities in 1924 returned the number of those children, grouped together, as 170,000. Of that number, 96,000 were attending elementary schools, where they ought not to be, and 22,500 were not attending any school at all. In other words, 96,000 children were receiving an education which, in the opinion of every educationist and every medical man in the country, is unsuitable and a waste of money, and 22,500 were not receiving even that. To put it in another way, 70 per cent. of the abnormal children were either in wrong schools or else in none at all. I think the Noble Lady will agree that the case for special schools for these children has been proved up to the hilt. The predecessor of the President of the Board of Education, after several Debates in the House of Commons, issued a Circular in September, 1924, and then the Noble Lord the present President so late as January, 1925, issued another Circular urging the local authorities to devote themselves to this problem. The last Circular issued by the President of the Board of Education contained the following:All authorities should at once make provision for all children who are blind or deaf, and who at present are not in special schools.The same Circular also lays down that:As regards physically defective children, the Board suggests that every authority should at once turn their attention to the possibilities of a good orthopædic scheme.The next part, urged provision for mentally defective children, and the last part urged that local education authorities already providing for physically defective and mentally defective children should consider the provision of open-air schools for delicate and pre-tubercular children. And what was the result? Sir George Newman, the chief medical officer, in his Report for 1924, on page 82, says:The response to the Circular has been very encouraging. Large numbers of authorities have informed the Board that they are considering the best means of meeting the situation, and a fair number of definite proposals are maturing. The most rapid progress is being made in the direction of orthopædic schemes. There are now some 50 authorities with approved orthopædic 760 schemes. In addition, some 80 authorities have schemes under consideration, some of which have actually been submitted to the Board.That is the situation briefly, a situation of encouraging activity, and that is the situation in which the President of the Board of Education has thrown his bombshell. Is this his interpretation of continuity? Circular 44 means a direct refusal for those local authorities not to go on with the very schemes which the President himself has urged upon them. Take my own district as an illustration. In Tottenham the Director of Education has reported to his Education Committee as follows:The ban placed on any extensions during 1926–27 involves the postponement of the following projectsThat is only part of the effect on one authority. Multiply that all over the country and one realises that this policy is nothing less than a national calamity. The Prime Minister made a stirring appeal recently for 10 per cent. more efficiency. How can he square that speech with a wrecking policy of this kind? The same position applies to the School Medical Service, the cost of which has been decreasing since 1921. In other words, as the Chief Medical Officer points out:
- (a) The erection of a school for 120 physically defective children on the Philip Lane site. Plans have for some time been before the Board. They were returned a day or two ago with an intimation that they could not be considered at present
- (b) The erection of a school for 100 mentally deficient children on the Orchard House Estate.
- (c) The acquisition of land for playing fields in the Lordship Lane, Devonshire Hill, and Crowland Road districts.
- (d) The acquisition of land for an open-air school for delicate children.
- (e) The acquisition of land in Seven Sisters Road for the extension of the inadequate playground at Stamford Hill School, and for the erection of practical instruction rooms."Out of every £100 spent by the local education authorities on elementary education only £2 4s. goes to the school medical service; not a high premium for health insurance.I will skip over the question of nursery schools and various other services, and I will say just a word about the question of the teaching of handicrafts. Members of the London Chambers of Commerce have been making speeches complaining 761 that there is not enough attention being paid to hand training, and that we are producing third-class clerks and black-coated people instead of people skilled with their eyes and their hands. We do not desire in our district to deserve this rebuke, and our local education authority at Tottenham has taken steps to alter that state of affairs. On this point I will quote a passage from the Report of the Director of Education for Tottenham. He says:Our facilities for practical instruction are most inadequate, and are far below the average for similar districts.He then proceeds to say:Repeated proposals for improvements have been held up by the Board. Plans for a new handicrafts room at the Lancastrian School were returned by the Board last week, with a request for reconsideration under the terms of Memorandum 44.I commend that to those who have been making these statements throughout the country, and one could go on taking every Department and showing the same disastrous and reactionary effects. The present King's Speech does not mention education, but the previous Speech from the Throne says:They will also endeavour in co-operation with the local education authorities to promote the steady and continuous development of the public system of education.In the Debate which I initiated in December, 1924, I said to the Noble Lord who is still the President of the Board of Education that, in my opinion, those words might mean anything or nothing, and the Noble Lord replied:The one thing that the particular passage in the King's Speech does mean is this: that when we say continuous, we mean continuous.Does the Noble Lord still adhere to that statement? The President on that occasion ought to have said: "The one thing that the particular passage does mean is that when we say continuous we do not mean continuous." Just before the last General Election the Prime Minister was the guest of the London Teachers' Association at their dinner in London, and if he will pardon the liberty I am taking I would like to give two short quotations from the speech which he delivered on that occasion. He said:I know as well as you that there are still too many, far too many, insanitary schools, and that there are many ill-nourished and defective children.762 The Prime Minister then went on to say:You have handicaps to fight against, and handicaps of the bad environment in which your children are raised, handicaps of heredity. We can do something to help you, and we intend to do it.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear !"] I am glad hon. Members opposite approve of those sentiments, as did every one of those teachers who heard them at the time that speech was delivered. The Prime Minister has a reputation for sincerity, which personally I have never questioned, but unless he speedily alters this policy it seems to me that reputation is very likely to rapidly disappear. It is no good making suggestions that the Labour party are attacking education or engaging in a sham battle, because any party or any persons who have had any association with local authorities know that they are seriously alarmed, not because the Noble Lord is trying to adopt a better means of ascertaining what the expenditure on education will be, but because they are inclined to believe that the man behind this policy is not the President of the Board of Education but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who spoke correctly when he said that this was the first economy ship, and this was the first attempt that the Government were making to carry out economy at the expense of the children of this country.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Duchess of Atholl)
The Debate to which we have listened this afternoon can be divided into two heads—what has been said in regard to the proposed change in the grant system of education, and the criticisms directed to the Memorandum in which the President of the Board has made suggestions to local education authorities as to the revision of the estimates already submitted. I propose to deal first with the proposed change in the grant system. I think that, broadly stated, the principle on which it is proposed to substitute a block grant for the percentage system is the right of the Government and of Parliament to know what their commitments are in regard to education in any particular year. Every education authority knows at the beginning of its financial year what its commitments will be. The Government presents Estimates to Parliament at the beginning of a financial year, but, under the conditions under which the per- 763 centage grant system is worked, they present those. Estimates not knowing how far at the end of the year they will prove sufficient to meet the bill.
I need hardly remind the House of the great growth that there has been in the grants made from the Exchequer for education, and of the great growth in expenditure that there has been since before the War. That growth I consider to have been largely inevitable. Teachers were very much underpaid, and the increase in the cost of building and repairs, of books, and everything else, made an increase of expenditure inevitable. I do not wish to question that; I merely state the fact that to-day the education expenditure that has to be met from Exchequer grants is a sum vastly greater than it was in former days, that, over the large sums that now 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.
Parliament controls the expenditure of all the combatant services: it is possible for Government Departments to make estimates for many years ahead in regard to such social services as old age pensions or pensions for widows and orphans; but, in regard to one of the most important and, necessarily, most costly of the social services, Parliament passes Estimates without the certainty that those Estimates will suffice to meet the expenditure of the local education authorities. I admit, of course, that in the case of a service administered through 318 local education authorities it is a much more difficult matter to make a completely accurate estimate beforehand than in the case of a completely centralised service, but I cannot help feeling that, with good will and frank discussions between the Board and the local education authorities, it should be possible, under the proposed system, to present to Parliament Estimates which will really represent the national commitments for the year in question.
Then for a moment, having stated, as I see it, the broad principle on which it is proposed to make this change, may I refer to a misconception which I think has existed in some quarters as to the 764 historical aspect of this matter? It has been said that the proposal to change to a block grant system is a proposal to revert to the system is a proposal to revert to the system which was in vogue before the percentage system was adopted. That is entirely incorrect. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) has pointed out, the system in vogue before 1918 was one of many small grants assessed on various bases, admittedly only touching part of the services of the authorities, and, therefore, offering the temptation to authorities to expand in certain directions without necessarily expanding in others. It is, therefore, very interesting to find that the Treasury Committee, on whose recommendation the change to the percentage grant system was made, recommended this change as a simplification, and recommended the replacing of these small grants by a consolidated block grant, provided that enough weight were given to expenditure and full power were reserved to the Department to refuse grant in case of inefficiency or infringement of the law or regulations. Therefore, provided that the block grant is related to expenditure, it may be said that from one point of view, namely, the point of view of simplification and consolidation, the proposal of my right hon. Friend is but taking one step further in the direction of the step that was taken in 1918 on the Report of the Treasury Committee—in short, that what is proposed is not so much a revolution, as I think was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman in a recent speech, as evolution.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities, in a speech the other day, I believe at the National Liberal Club, said:The percentage grant system had been set up with two objects in view. The first was to emphasise the national interest in education, as opposed to the local.I submit that, if ever it were in doubt whether education were a national service, a service of national interest and of national importance, no such doubt exists in this country to-day. The rising tide of general interest in education is something that is very evident for all persons to see, and, so long as the Board of Education retains effective power and adequate machinery, it seems to me quite impossible that the national interest in 765 education should not increase. I should like to remind the House that the programmes for which my right hon. Friend asked the local education authorities so early in his administration, and which he has once more asked them to forward to him, have the purpose in view of enabling the Board to steer educational advance into the most necessary and urgent channels, and, therefore, I submit that the first object with which the right hon. Gentleman has told his friends a percentage grant system was introduced has been attained.
The second object which he said the system had in view was the provision of increased salaries for teachers. That, again, has been achieved. In the last year, as the House knows, salaries have been put upon a stable basis for the next six years; and, if I may venture to find fault with the right hon. Gentleman, I should like to deprecate his suggestion that the Burnham salaries are in any way in danger to-day. It is a fact, not only that they have been stabilised for the next six years, but that within the last few weeks my right hon. Friend has taken steps to make those scales obligatory upon all authorities. Therefore, I venture to say that it is raising needless fears if any suggestions are made that these scales to-day are in danger.
I do not wish to deny that progress has been made in the last few years under the percentage grant system, but I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Memorandum of the views of the Board of Education presented to the Meston Committee, drawn up during the administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities, concludes with this very significant phrase:Some authorities are absorbing a larger share of the State's contribution than is fair to other authorities.I venture to say that that one sentence of that Memorandum, which purports to be a Memorandum strongly in favour of the percentage grant system, really states the case which my right hon. Friend has been making, namely, that under the percentage grant system a tendency does exist for some authorities—progressive authorities, wanting to do their best by their children, spending their money well, but, perhaps, trying to do more things 766 at once than is possible—are apt to absorb such a large share of the Exchequer grants that in times of financial stringency it may become impossible for the President of the Board, with the best will in the world, to sanction all the expenditure he would like for other authorities.
Then it cannot be too clearly remembered that my Noble Friend is not asking authorities to come under a system of which there has been no experience. I tried, when I spoke in the Debate on this subject before Christmas, to explain that in Scotland for the last six years we have had a grant system which, though technically a capitation one, has in fact acted as a block grant for a considerable part of the service administered by the authorities. An hon. Member opposite, whom I know as a member of a Scottish education authority—he and I are old colleagues—has challenged the description of the Scottish grant system as a block grant system. I do not think he can challenge the description that I have given, for if his memory is as long as mine he will remember that this system was specifically commended to the finance committee of the Association of Education Authorities in Scotland by the Scottish Education Department as a block-grant system, and was welcomed by them as such. I venture to say if he were to go to the Scottish Education Department and ask under what name they would describe the Scottish grant system, they would describe it unquestionably as a block grant system. I think there is no question among those who know anything of what has happened in the last few years in Scotland, that there has been steady progress in spite of the restriction of grant which was necessary during what was known as the Geddes period. So much for the past history of the percentage grant system.
Now, I want to impress upon the House that my right hon. Friend intends that block grants shall be related to expenditure, and that they must allow for expansion. I also want to make it clear that the hon. Member for Cardiganshire (Mr. Morris) was in error when he spoke of the Estimates for 1926–27 being taken as a basis for the proposed block grants. My Noble Friend, I think, already made that clear outside this House, and it can- 767 not be too clearly understood that the estimates we are asking the authorities to revise for the next financial year are not to be the basis for the block grant. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities questioned my Noble Friend as to whether, in assessing the block grant, he would take the 50-50 basis. I think what we must bear in mind in discussing this question is that this matter of the basis on which the block grant is to be assessed is under discussion between the Board and the local education authorities. My Noble Friend has in view that some definite scale of percentages must be adopted as a basis of the block grant, but that if the actual expenditure of an authority were to exceed the estimate on which the block grant is based, he might not be able to maintain a 50-50 basis. But nothing he said just now he would wish to be taken as final, because the whole matter is going to be subjected to very thorough discussion. That is all I wish to say about the change of grant system.
I should now like to deal with what has been said in criticism of the proposals contained in Memorandum 44. I do not think that anyone who has been privileged to see a little behind the scenes in English education can doubt for a moment its needs — need for the replacement of many elementary schools, for the reduction in large classes, for better opportunities of advanced instruction or secondary instruction or instruction in central schools for the older children. But even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) has to admit that we put these matters in the forefront of our policy when we came into office, and I do not think on consideration that he will deny that my Noble Friend did do a good deal more than just sit still. My Noble Friend sent out a circular following up the circular of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the reduction of the size of classes, and we have reason to know that a considerable amount has been done to reduce the size of larger classes. We also sent out a circular with regard to the reorganisation of schools, with the object of improving the opportunities of the older children. Considerable reorganisation has taken place in consequence. Last, 768 but not least, my right hon. Friend issued the much talked of black lists both in regard to urban areas and rural ones. I submit that it is not fair for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that my Noble Friend simply sat still and allowed the action taken by the right hon. Gentleman—
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I said quite clearly that I never made any objection to the Noble Lady whatever until Circular 1371 came out.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am sorry if misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, but I certainly thought I heard him say that my Noble Friend did nothing to give effect to the policy we put forward at the last election. I am very glad to know that that is not the case.
I was interested to hear that the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. Morrison) had not forgotten what we tried to do for defective children, and what the authorities had been doing in response to our advice. It may interest the right hon. Gentleman to know in regard to the increase in the number of teachers, that the average number of children per teacher in the country has fallen from 30.4 in September, 1924. to 29.8 as on the 31st December, 1925. Everyone knows that the financial condition of the country requires a temporary halt to be made in the educational advance, and I cannot say how much I regret that this should be necessary. But I do think it is important that the House should realise the difference between calling a halt and cutting down. The hon. Member for North Tottenham, I think it was, spoke as though all these new schools that were being built or opened, and other improvements, were going to come to an end as the result of Memorandum 44. Everyone who has studied that Memorandum knows that it asks the authorities to maintain the existing services.
§ Mr. R. MORRISON
The Noble Lady knows that local authorities all over the country are receiving letters from the Board of Education saying they must not go on any further.
Duchess of ATHOLL
That is further expansion. Really the hon. Member must try to be clear between the maintenance of what exists and further expansion. The Memorandum calls; for the mainten- 769 ance of existing services, but the stopping of new commitments, with some very important exceptions.
§ Miss WILKINSON
Is not the Noble Lady rather confusing the fact that there is a normal expansion of the school population, and even that has been checked?
Duchess of ATHOLL
There has been no normal expansion of the school population within the last year. The school population is still declining. The figures in the Estimates laid before the House last spring were 5,016,000, and the latest figures are 4,900,000.
§ Miss WILKINSON
That is quite true, of course, for the whole population, but most of the problems that are arising are in the crowded urban areas where the population is normally increasing.
Duchess of ATHOLL
That may be true in some areas, but it is not in others: it is not true of the country as a whole. The first of the exceptions in the Administrative Memorandum is the need for new schools in new areas of population. I do not know whether the House realises what an important exception that is. I have lately been looking at some of the figures of the new schools sanctioned during the last year by my Noble Friend. More than 50 per cent. of them are required in new areas of population, and therefore this exception is one which may prove of considerable dimensions. Of the remaining schools sanctioned in the last year, the greater part of what remains after subtracting the schools for new areas are the buildings which it has been necessary to replace, and this is a further exception my Noble Friend has made in Memorandum 44. Therefore it is very important to remember that, though in general the Administrative Memorandum calls for a halt in new items of expenditure, it holds out the hope that the Board will be able to sanction new schools where these come under the classifications I have mentioned, and the provision of new buildings really lies at the root of other reforms besides the one immediately affected.
In many cases new buildings will make a, reduction of classes possible which was impossible before, and it often means reorganisation which will provide better opportunities for the older children. I think it is therefore important to try to 770 see Administrative Memorandum 44 in its true light and not surrounded by the rather lurid atmosphere which has gathered round it in these last few weeks. Finally, what needs to be borne in mind' even more than the exact character of Memorandum 44 is the statement made the other day by the Prime Minister that there is no abandonment of the policy laid down by the Government a year ago. Our purpose holds and it remains our objective, and the purpose that lies behind the administration seems to me something much more important than the method by which the grant is raised. That purpose stands, and we hope that at an early date we shall be able to resume it, and therefore we ask the House not to believe that this proposed change, or the Memorandum recently issued by the Board, indicates any change in policy, but merely a temporary expedient which it is necessary to make in the interest of the finances of the country, and that we hope very shortly to be able to resume the fulfilment of a programme to which we attach the greatest possible importance.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I should like to say with how much pleasure one always listens to the Noble Lady when discussing the affairs of her Department. I am sure she will forgive me if I add that I prefer her in the character of an educationist than in the character of an accountant. She and her Noble colleague have put their case to-night as though it were purely a basis of calculation as to how money should pass from the Exchequer to the local authorities. That is by no means a fair description of the suggestions that have been made by the Board of Education or of the alarm that has been aroused amongst the local education authorities. They are not disturbed primarily about the new basis of calculation, unless under that they are to receive less money in future than they have received in the past. That is what they are alarmed about. They do not mind the theories on which the block grant may be calculated, or the elaborate calculations under the Code in the past. To tell the truth, there were very few of them who were able to understand how the figures were arrived at. So that if there is any simplification we shall all welcome it. The one thing we are resisting is that in this process of simplification the Chan- 771 cellor of the Exchequer should come in and say "Now we shall cut something off this national service in order that I may make my Budget balance." That is the main ground of our objection. No criticism has been offered of the Noble Lord's policy when he first took office. During the first few months of his Presidency he certainly came up to the expectations of those who had known of his work in some of the more desolate parts of London in the past, but what has happened during the past few months is that he has been pushed out of his earlier position. Even the Prime Minister's pledge itself has now been abandoned. If his pledge meant anything it did not mean that we were to mark time, but that there was to be progressive development. Our criticism of the Prime Minister and his colleagues is that progressive development is now to stop, and although the Noble Lady, quite rightly, hopes that in the future we may once more resume our march of progress, for the time being, while the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in difficulties, all advance is to be checked and the Board of Education is to be the vehicle for telling the local authorities that they must not improve their methods, the size of their classes or the equipment of their schools.
In Memorandum 44 there are some very remarkable admissions, much more important than the mere transfer of our system from a percentage to a block grant system. In paragraph 4 the local authorities are told that they must not undertake new capital expenditure. What is meant by new capital expenditure, the Circular goes on to say. New capital expenditure is not schemes which have not yet been sanctioned by the Board of Education. It only means those schemes where a definite contract has been entered into without the Board's authority. For instance, the local authority may have a sanction from the Board of Education to erect a new school in an area which badly needs it. The Circular says, "If you have only received the Board of Education's sanction, and you have not entered into a contract with a builder, that must be dropped. If you have entered into a contract with a builder, it can go on. The exact words are these:The authorities will be allowed to go on with new capital expenditure where they 772 have already entered into contractual commitments on schemes sanctioned by the Board. Such contractual commitments must, of course, stand. All other schemes sanctioned by the Board should be postponed.That does not mean the progressive development which the Prime Minister obviously had in his mind when he issued his manifesto.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
Of course there must be some exceptions, but the Circular definitely says, all other schemes sanctioned by the Board shall be postponed. It means that progressive development has to be checked, and checked at once. One only has to go a few paragraphs further on to find in paragraph 7 that the Board asks all the local authorities that expenditure of this kind—that is to say, on equipment and repairs, although they may be of a most urgent character, as they are in the areas where the schools are growing old—"so far as it is not really urgent or essential shall be postponed for a year." I do not think the President of the Board of Education can guarantee to us that next year the local education authorities will be allowed to go on with their necessary repairs and necessary equipment. He can give no undertaking of that kind. The only thing he can do is to say definitely that they are not to do anything now which is not urgent and essential. Who is to interpret what is urgent and essential?
In paragraph 9 the Memorandum says definitely that in technical schools the authorities should avoid any increase in the number of recognised classes. If that means anything at all, it means that we are not only passing from a percentage system to a block grant system but that there is to be a curtailing of educational activity in all these education establishments. The Government, naturally, is looking round to see where they can find opportunities for economy. Where have they looked? They cannot cut down salaries. The salaries are now stabilised. That accounts for something like £50,000,000 out of the £70,000,000.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
Furthermore, they cannot alter the Burnham scales; the Board of Education has definitely said that for six years they will remain fixed. What will happen six years hence nobody knows. There is no proposal to economise by reducing the present number of teachers. That number is apparently to remain stationary, no matter what happens to the school population and no matter what may be the education policy of the Board of Education in regard to the children attending school. There can be no reduction in the loan charges; they will have to be paid, whatever happens. Rents, wherever rents are paid, will remain exactly the same. There appears to be no prospect of reduction in taxes. Insurance will cost as much as before. I do not know what is to happen in regard to fuel. Nobody can tell. We are uncertain as to the Government's coal policy. Light and cleaning will certainly not become cheaper.
What is left? Administration. At the present time the Government provides one-fifth of the total cost of administration. Four-fifths of the cost of administration is thrown on the local authorities. Therefore, the local authorities have great and natural incentives to keep down their administrative costs. I do not know what they can do in that direction. If they can reduce their administrative costs, it is more than the Government can do in Government Departments. There comes now a great category of items on which there may be reductions. Is there to be a reduction in the cost of books provided for the pupils in the schools'? Is there to be a reduction in the quantity and quality of the stationery provided for the use of the pupils? Is apparatus to be restricted in manual training centres? If there be an increased demand for manual training, are we to say, "No, we cannot comply with that, because the order has been given that we are to stand still"?
Is medical treatment to be curtailed? Probably one of the best things that has been done in the last 20 years in our schools has been the medical inspection of the children and the treatment that has followed. Is that to be curtailed? What about the classes for defectives and the schools for defectives? It is impossible to curtail those without out- 774 rage upon the humane feelings of our people. I observe that the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) pointed out to the House that some of the money spent on education was unwisely spent. He said that some people could not take advantage of the facilities given to them. I should like to know his view in regard to defective children. Does he hold the view that, because they cannot take full advantage of our schools, we ought to get rid of our schools and classes for defectives? I am sure that he cannot mean that. Two University representatives have spoken and they have both delivered reactionary speeches, while the hon. Member for York (Sir J. Marriott) made a speech the most reactionary of all.
What is the result of our examination of these things in which economy may be made? It is that, even allowing for the fact that you may in some direction scrape a little expenditure off here and serape a little expenditure off there, you have turned the local administration for the time being into something like financial chaos. The local authorities really do not know where they stand. The Noble Lord is going to get out of that difficulty by interviewing all the local authorities. It will take him a very long time to do that. There are 318 local education authorities. I do not know how many he is going to tackle at a time. If he deals with one every working day, it will take him a whole year to get through them.
What is the grave error of this departure from the policy with which the Noble Lord began his career at the Board? He gave the impression when he became President of the Board of Education that he was an educationist first and all the time. His enthusiasm was undoubted. It certainly is the case in respect to the Noble Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education. She knows almost better than anyone in this House, The value of intellectual training and of an intellectual atmosphere. She had the same enthusiasm as the Noble Lord, and now by a couple of circulars issued not at the instigation of the Board of Education, thinking of greater efficiency, or of a better system for the distribution of grants, but at the instigation of the Exchequer, they have exploded the whole 775 of that enthusiasm. It has been destroyed by Circular 1371 and Memorandum 44.
It is one of the most serious blows that has been struck at the progress of British education in our time, and struck at a time when we can ill-afford to lower the efficiency of our schools. It is all right for the right hon. Gentleman to say that there should be extra control over the local authorities, and I agree with him when he says, as he has said more than once, that detailed control is not practicable; it is irritating and expensive. But the right hon. Gentleman could get that extra control that he wants without reducing the efficiency of the areas. If he had issued the Board of Education's view and left the Treasury to itself, he would have been able to make the change without endangering our national education system. Now, the Noble Lord says that he will get over all these troubles by entering into negotiations with the local authorities. I found difficulty in following him this afternoon to understand how far he has abandoned the percentage system. If I understood him aright, he has not expounded the view to-day which he expounded before. He takes a new line. He says, "I will meet the local authorities and discuss with them as to what is a fair budget for the next year or two, or the next two or three years. When we have arrived at some sort of agreement I will say to them, 'I will divide that on a 50-50 basis.'"
That is a modified percentage basis, if it is anything at all. How is he to arrive at it? If he thinks he will settle the matter by adjustment between himself and the local authorities he does not understand the trouble he is letting him self in for. Supposing he is more generous to Birmingham than to Wolverhampton. In that case he will have an uproar in the Midlands. Suppose he is more generous to Newcastle than to Gateshead. The division of the Tyne between these two towns will not justify him. Suppose he says he is going to be more generous to Manchester than to Salford, or more generous to Liverpool than to Birkenhead. If he does this, he will create jealousy between these different towns. If he suggests that he can do that without making them feel jealous, then he 776 knows very little about the character and temper of the local authorities But he has not done when he has finished with the English areas. Let him turn to the Welsh areas. Is he going to be more generous to Carmarthen than to Swansea? Perhaps he would rather not commit himself until the by-election is over.
That is the kind of thing that is to be the new basis on which our education estimates are to be drawn. I do not want to say anything brutal; but this appears to be administration by caprice. If he trusts merely to his mood at the moment, it will not only make trouble for himself, but chaos in our educational system. Do not let us go away with the idea that there is a great deal to be got out of economy on elementary education. The truth is that in a great many areas the Finance Committee of the local authority is the dominant Committee of the Council. It certainly is in nearly all the counties. In areas where they have shown a progressive spirit, it was because that progressive spirit was demanded by the electorate as a whole. They know the need of improving the education system better than we do in this House. They live side by side with the schools themselves. They see what is going on within the classes, they hear reports on their own children, and they watch the progress of the children.
There are only two things that matter in the school. One is the condition of the equipment and the buildings, and the other is the standard of the teachers there. What we want to do is to attract to the teaching profession the best and the most efficient brains that we can get amongst the men and women teachers of the country. You are not going to attract such men and women into the professions if there is to be oscillation in education policy, if things are to be fixed for six years and no one is to know what is to happen after that time, if the exigencies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer may lead to an upheaval of our educational system. The only way in which you will get men and women of brains to enter the profession is by their knowing that their life work is planned for them, and on a scale that is something more than materialistic. There are many teachers interested in more than the Burnham scale, men and women who are inspired by the highest ideals. We want people of that character to continue in the public service.
777 10.0 P.M.
If our educational system is to be subject to change from time to time, to bargains between this Department and the other Department, to scales which are fixed by a President of the Board of Education who may be here to-day and gone to-morrow, and with no assured future for the teachers—it is their assured future which will give the greatest benefit to the children—then we are embarking on a retrograde policy. What is necessary is that our teachers shall be able to look on their work with contented minds, knowing that they can throughout their
§ careers receive justice at the hands of the Government and the local authorities. They can in such circumstances do the best for the children. When we ask that there shall be no curtailment of this education service, which is our main demand, we do it because we believe that the finest capital you can give to the children is in the intellectual equipment of our schools.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 135: Noes, 284.779
|Division No. 2.]||AYES.||[10.0 p.m.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Grundy, T. W.||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Baker, Walter||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Ritson, J.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)|
|Barnes, A.||Hardie, George D.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Barr, J.||Harney, E. A.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Batey, Joseph||Hastings, Sir Patrick||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Hayday, Arthur||Scurr, John|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hayes, John Henry||Sexton, James|
|Briant, Frank||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Broad, F. A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Bromley, J.||Hirst, G. H.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Smillie, Robert|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cape, Thomas||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Snell, Harry|
|Compton, Joseph||Kelly, W. T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Phillp|
|Connolly, M.||Kennedy, T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Kirkwood, D.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Crawford, H. E.||Lansbury, George||Taylor, R. A.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lawson, John James||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lee, F.||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Livingstone, A. M.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lowth, T.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lunn, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dennison, R.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Townend, A. E.|
|Duncan, C.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Dunnico, H.||Mackinder, W.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||MacLaren, Andrew||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|England, Colonel A.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||March, S.||Westwood, J.|
|Forrest, W.||Maxton, James||Whiteley, W.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Montague, Frederick||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Morris, R. H.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Gillett, George M.||Naylor, T. E.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Gosling, Harry||Oliver, George Harold||Windsor, Walter|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Palin, John Henry||Wright, W.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Potts, John S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Groves, T.||Purcell, A. A.||Sir Godfrey Collins and Mr. Percy|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Brass, Captain W.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Brassey, Sir Leonard|
|Albery, Irving James||Barnett, Major Sir R.||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Briggs, J. Harold|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Berry, Sir George||Briscoe, Richard George|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Betterton, Henry B.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.|
|Apsley, Lord||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Blundell, F. N.||Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)|
|Atkinson, C.||Boothby, R. J. G.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Barks, Newb'y)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Bullock, Captain M.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan|
|Balniel, Lord||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Burman, J. B.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Phillpson, Mabel|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Pilcher, G.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hills, Major John Walter||Preston, William|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hoars, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hogg, Rt. Hon, Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Ramsden, E.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Holland, Sir Arthur||Reid D. D. (County Down)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ||Holt, Captain H. P.||Remer, J. R.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Homan, C. W. J.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forlar)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Christie, J. A.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Howard, Capt. Hon. D. (Cumb., N.)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney. N.)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Rye, F. G.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Huntingfield, Lord||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Hurd, Percy A.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hurst, Gerald B.||Sandon, Lord|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Cope, Major William||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Savery, S. S.|
|Courtauld Major J. S.||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. F. S.||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn, N.)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Jephcott, A. R.||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Skelton, A. N.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Cunliffe, Sir Joseph Herbert||Lamb, J. Q.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, Co)|
|Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lister, Cunliffe., Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Spender Clay, Colonel H.|
|Daizlel, Sir Davison||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Loder, J. de V.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Looker, Herbert William||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Lord, Walter Greaves.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lougher, L.||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. H.||Lumley, L. R.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||MacAndrew, Charles Glen||Tasker, Major R. Inigo|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Templeton, W. P.|
|Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Elveden, Viscount||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Tinne, J. A.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||MacIntyre, Ian||Tichfield Major the Marquess of|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||McLean, Major A.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Macmillan, Captain H.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Waddington, R.|
|Faile, Sir Bertram G.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Macquisten, F. A.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Fielden, E. B.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Malone, Major P. B.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Margesson, Capt. D.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Frece, Sir Walter ue||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wells, S. R.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Merriman, F. B.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Meyer, Sir Frank||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Gee, Captain R.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Wilson, Sir Charles H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Goff, Sir Park||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Grace, John||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Grant, J. A.||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Murchison, C. K.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Nelson, Sir Frank||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wood, Sir S. Hill (High Peak)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. Eastbourne)||Nuttall, Ellis||Wragg, Herbert|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Oakley, T.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Penny, Frederick George||Colonel Gibbs and Major Sir|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Harry Barnston.|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxford, Henley)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
That an humble Address he presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.