HC Deb 22 January 1929 vol 224 cc143-5

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."


I can assure the Noble Lord, the President of the Board of Education (Lord E. Percy) that I intervene in no hostile spirit to the Clause, but merely for the purpose of a short discussion, and to elicit an explanation on certain points. As I understand it, the purpose of the Clause is to stabilise the maximum amount payable out of Parliamentary funds for the purposes of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1899, at the maximum amount payable ending on the 31st day of March, 1929. I admit that the Clause carries with it the entire approval of the Association of Welsh Education Authorities. For my part, I desire in no way to jeopardise the passage of the Clause as it stands, but I wish to raise one or two points of difficulty that are in my mind.

The Noble Lord will recognise that these intermediate schools in Wales derive their revenue from two or three sources. They depend in some measure upon the revenue derived from certain charitable endowments and they also can obtain sustenance and help through the medium of the rates—I think to the extent of a percentage of a halfpenny rate. Then there is also the Treasury grant. The Noble Lord will appreciate my point when I say that the revenue derivable from charitable endowments and from the rates is a revenue which, under present conditions, may be a decreasing revenue. I happen to have been a pupil in a school which was founded by a charity, the proceeds of which estate mainly depend upon the revenue from land and the minerals under the land. In the year 1929 the output in respect of coal is less than it has been in many previous years and, consequently, the revenue derivable from the charitable endowment from coal will be less in 1929 than would be the case in more prosperous years. It is true that there will be, possibly, in the future, benefits derivable from other resources. For instance, the proceeds of a halfpenny rate in future years may be greater by reason of reassessment and revaluation, but that does not meet my difficulty. If, as we anticipate, with the revival of prosperity in Wales there is a revival also of activity in the direction of secondary education, may we take it that this stabilised sum of money, which is to be the maximum which will be payable on the 31st March, 1929, will be equal to the needs of the new developments which we anticipate in secondary education in future years in Wales?

The education authorities feel entirely reassured on this matter, but my trouble arises from the fact that part of their revenue which goes to make up the maximum of their resources for any given year, that part derivable from the rates, may in the next year or two contract, and my fear is that this new stabilised maximum will not be enough to make up for the decrease in revenue derivable from charitable endowments and rate resources. If the Noble Lord can assure me, as I believe the educational authorities have been assured, that there is no danger that the financial resources of the intermediate schools in Wales will be in jeopardy or will be contracted in the future, I shall welcome the passing of this Clause and be grateful, as the educational authorities are grateful, I believe, for the stabilisation of the sum at the figure that would be payable on the 31st March, 1929. I should like an assurance that this does not place intermediate schools in jeopardy in the matter of the funds at their disposal. There is to be every quinquennium a review of the resources of various local authorities. Will this sum also be liable to review every five years or is it to be made a permanent figure until it is altered at a future date by Act of Parliament? Will this sum be liable to review within the next five years so that if it is found inadequate it may be increased?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Lord Eustace Percy)

I think the answer to the hon. Member is that so far as Welsh intermediate schools which depend for their revenue upon this Treasury Grant are concerned, this Clause will amply safeguard and will protect them. Their position at any rate will not be worse than it was before. The hon. Member, however, touched on the much larger question, as to how far Welsh intermediate schools, which are at the present moment only a part of the system of Welsh secondary education, can maintain themselves on the percentage basis. That is a wide question entirely out of order for me to discuss on this Bill. So far as this Bill affects them at all it protects them against their position being in any way worsened. As to whether this is subject to quinquennial review, of course the limit fixed by Act of Parliament is not variable at a quinquennial resurvey of the position without a fresh Act of Parliament.


May I say one word on this question. It is quite natural that a Bill of this complicated character should lead to a certain amount of apprehension on the part of local education authorities, and I know that those who are interested in intermediate education in Wales did feel a certain amount of apprehension when the scheme was first adumbrated. It is fair to say, however, although I have no authority to speak officially, that it is generally recognised that the Government have met the apprehensions they felt in so far as it is possible to meet them in a Bill of this character. Therefore, I think this is a Clause which we ought to accept and as far as any opposition is concerned that we should thank the Government for inserting it.