HL Deb 15 February 1892 vol 1 cc417-31

My Lords, I rise to call attention to the subject of which I have given notice. I do not think it will be necessary for me to waste your Lordships' time by enlarging upon the advantages of technical education or the want of it in this country. There is no doubt that many other countries, particularly Germany, are far in advance of us in this work, and that a great deal remains to be done in the matter in this country. I need not insist upon this if Her Majesty's Government are, as your Lordships are aware, perfectly in accordance with me in this feeling, for they have already given a grant to be applied, if the County Council see fit, for the purpose of promoting technical instruction, and, what is equally important, the House of Commons seems to be of the same opinion, because it was in deference to the feeling of that Assembly that this grant was made. I need not enter into the history of the way in which this grant was made. Your Lordships are aware that two years ago a certain sum of money, which had been set aside in the Customs and Excise duties for the purpose of buying up public houses, was, in deference to the expression of a strong wish in another place, when it was found that that was not a popular way of spending the money, given to the different County Councils to be applied as they thought fit, and it was strongly recommended that it should be applied towards the promotion of technical instruction. Of course, if they preferred it, the County Councils might apply it merely to the amelioration of their local rates. My Lords, the great majority of the County Councils throughout the country did elect to apply it, according to the recommendation of the Government, towards the encouragement of technical instruction, although they were under certain difficulties from not knowing whether it was to be treated as a windfall or as the first instalment of a regular allowance; because some hopes had been held out to them that if they did spend it in the way suggested, it would be given them again. In spite of this uncertainty, they set to work, and they have been, on the whole, I think, taking in most places very good measures to carry out the object for which it was given. This year again a somewhat smaller grant, but still a considerable grant, has been given in the same way, which has in many places induced the County Coucil to take it for granted that the allowance will be a per- manent one, and they have in many places set to work to establish classes of different kinds, in the urban as well as the rural districts, for the sake of teaching every kind of different subject which can at all come within the scope of the Act; and particularly in the rural districts they are doing very good work, besides, in affording interesting occupation to the young men in our country villages, which is a subject rather before the country now, so as to add a little interest to their life as well as to give them instruction. But, supposing that this grant is not going to be renewed, it would be a good thing that it should be known at once, otherwise mischief may be done; because, if these classes are not to be continued, not only would disappointment be caused, but money would have been wasted in setting them going. And, besides this, there is a class of people who are qualifying themselves, in consequence of what they suppose is a growing demand, to be instructors in these different subjects, and are giving up their time and spending their money in so doing. It stands to reason that if, after all, there is no opening for them, they will be rather badly treated, for they have been encouraged to devote their money and time in this direction. My Lords, in most cases the County Councils are taking these steps on the assumption that this grant will be permanent; under some circumstances they are still hesitating, in consequence of not knowing the intention of the Government in the matter, and are exposed to the charge of vacillation and doing nothing, from which I think it is fair that they should be relieved without any longer delay. In some places they have elected to treat the grant entirely as a windfall, and, as they have no reason to suppose that they will get more than last year and this year, the only thing to do, they say, is to divide the money as well as they can among existing institutions. In this way a great deal of money is being frittered away. For all these different reasons I think it is desirable that we should know whether we are to have a permanent grant or not. My Lords, I do not object myself to the Government having proceeded in a tentative manner, and I certainly am not one of those who complain of this thing being worked through the County Councils. Now that we have established these bodies, and very good men throughout the country have been found to come forward and devote themselves to the work, it is time to think of giving them something more to do than merely to look after the roads, and trying to stop the cattle disease when it breaks out, and the joint management of the police, and so on. I think everything that gives them something to do is a good thing. I think also that the needs of different parts of the country are different one from another, and that by trusting the local authorities we are more likely to distribute this money in a way to suit the needs of each particular district, than if we were to organise a scheme at head-quarters and carry it out by the management of some central authority. And, whether the Government have done what we wish or not, we must also feel that they are the first Government who have taken the matter up at all and done anything for technical instruction. I think, my Lords, I may, with all due deference, ask the Government to remove our uncertainty, and I hope I may ask them also to make this grant permanent. It is not for me, of course, to say in what manner a permanent allowance is to be made, nor do I think that is a question for this House to enter into; it is more a question for the other House to decide how the grant is to be made, and what its amount is to be. We have only to deal here with general principles. Before I sit down I will only allude to one other difficulty that the County Councils labour under in carrying out this matter. We are, of course, obliged to consult the South Kensington authorities—the Science and Art Department—with regard to what subjects may be taught. I am bound to say that this body has shown not only the utmost courtesy to everyone who has applied, and taken the utmost pains to tell them what they may do, but has also exercised, I think, a wide discretion in giving as free an interpretation as possible to the Act to enable it to work. There is one clause that stands very much in their way, and in the way of the County Councils too: that is the clause which forbids the teaching of any trade, occupation, or industry. My Lords, this hampers the Department very much. It is not too much to say that it is really only by going as near the wind as possible in evading the clause that the Act can be made to work at all. I do not know the history of it—whether it was put in for the sake of safeguarding any particular industry, or whether there was some particular interest which it was necessary to conciliate to get the Bill through the House. All I know is that the clause is a very difficult one, and causes a great deal of inconvenience. My Lords, technical instruction has been defined as instruction in those branches of art or science which may be definitely applied to some specific industry. Surely the best way to teach these branches is by applying them, that is to say by uniting practice with theory; otherwise, if this clause were acted upon strictly, we should be reduced to doing very little more than giving a series of lectures unaccompanied either by illustrations or experiments. I remember many years ago, when I was at Oxford, having to attend a certain number of lectures, and probably many of your Lordships, at the same period of your lives, had to do the same. I can only say that of the many benefits upon which I can look back from that great and venerable institution, I do not think anything I got from attending lectures can be numbered among them. I suppose one idea of this clause is that it should not interfere with private effort. That may be a good thing in itself—that might be a reason for leaving technical instruction to private effort altogether, as I believe some people wish to do; or it might be a reason for putting in safeguards. But really to divide the two by having all the practice taught by one set of people, and all the theory by another—the theory by the Government and the practice by private enterprise—is not a dividing of the thing which commends itself to my mind. I do not know whether this clause can be modified; I only mention it in passing to call attention to the subject. My real object in trespassing on your Lordships' time is to remove the uncertainty that at present prevails, and that the County Councils may know what they are about, by being informed whether, or not, they may really look forward to having a permanent annual Government grant.


My Lords, I should like to endorse what has fallen from the noble Earl as to the value that is put upon technical instruction in the counties. Having acted as Chairman of my County Council Committee upon this subject, I can say that it has excited a very great deal of interest, and that there appears to be every prospect of great usefulness to come from this grant in favour of technical instruction. I did not follow the noble Earl, if I understood him rightly, when he said that there was a recommendation, along with this grant, in favour of giving it to technical education. My recollection is tbat there was no recommendation from the Government upon this matter. But, my Lords, that makes the argument in favour of continuing the grant all t he stronger; because, of their own initiative, the County Councils, or a large majority of them, have decided to devote this grant to technical instruction. I believe London is the chief exception. There can be no question, my Lords, of the great interest that has been excited in the whole country in this direction. The county with which I am associated, Huntingdonshire, is a strictly rural county, and we found the greatest difficulty in starting any subject which could be of use in a strictly agricultural rural district. But I may mention one. We have found that carpentering classes, which we had to apply to the Science and Art Department for permission to hold, have been most useful, and that during this winter in some villages very large numbers indeed of common labourers have attended these classes, and the work they have turned out is most creditable. My Lords, I would also allude to another point in supplementing what the noble Earl has said, namely, that a great many instructors were preparing themselves for teaching technical instruction throughout the country in the future. Not only is that so, but many colleges have been started for the purpose of agricultural education, and they are relying upon this grant, supplemented and assisted by donations from the County Councils towards them, for their maintenance. I do not know much about the Northern Colleges, but in connection with Cambridge there is a movement before the authorities to start a special agricultural college which is to be maintained entirely by a grant From the County Councils in the Eastern Counties of England. If this is not to be a permanent grant these institutions will suffer considerably—they will die a natural death after having just been started, and the loss to the country will be considerable. I am one of those who believe that a great deal of good is to be done in this branch of education. There is no doubt that when a scholar leaves the primary school there is a lapse in the way of anything providing any instruction which is useful to him; but the proof is certainly forthcoming that in these rural villages, if you can encourage the agricultural labourer to attend classes to teach him anything of a technical kind, he is willing to attend to receive that instruction; and I consider that in that way we shall do as much good as in any other in keeping the agricultural labourer on the soil. I only hope, with the noble Earl, that the Government will make a statement that the County Councils may know that this grant will be continued permanently.


Before the Lord President replies I should be glad to say one word in support of what has fallen from the noble Earl opposite on this question. I think everybody who knows anything of the subject must feel it is high time that we should have information both as to how this Technical Instruction grant has been spent, and how it is intended to be dealt with in future. For my own part, I think a more vague and unconstitutional vote of public money was never made since Parliament first began. It was appropriated by the House of Commons for a totally different object, and diverted to this object, and, having been so diverted, it is sent broadcast over the country to large and small County Councils, without any very definite specification of the mode in which it was to be spent, except that it was to be upon technical instruction. So far was it from binding the action of the County Councils, that the Council which has the largest share (one quarter of the whole grant) has spent it upon something totally different; the grant being half a million, the London County Council, having £140,000 out of it, have spent it not on technical instruction, but simply in relief of the local rates of London. But, my Lords, bad as it is that money should be so diverted from its first appropriation and afterwards so irregularly spent, I think there is a still greater mischief lurking in this Treasury grant: that it is increasing the tendency of the present time always to look to the Treasury for doing everything. In fact, it is the most fatal symptom of the spirit of this country going down, that we are more and more encouraged by Parliament to subsist on the public purse, and to look to the Treasury to do things which ought to be done by the voluntary spirit of the country, as they used to be, and could be much better done. With regard to technical instruction, the youth of this country used to be apprenticed to various trades by private endowments, or by the employers, whose object it was to train them. There are a great number of employers who have made noble provisions of this sort. But then came the Technical Instruction Act, which checked all this action on the part of the manufacturers. No man will do that which he finds the country is willing to vote money out of the public purse to do. The man from whom I have learned most on this subject is Mr. Mather, the Member for North Lancashire. That man, having engineering works at Salford and 1,000 men in his employment, established on his works two technical schools at which all his younger workmen were taught; they were shown every new invention, and it was the business of the foreman of the works, whenever anything new was done, to teach and show it to these apprentices. When this Technical Instruction Act was passed, though it checked others, it did not check Mr. Mather; on the contrary, so intent was he upon the advancement of art in manufacture in this country that he not only continued his noble work, which costs him thousands a year, but he supported the Technical Instruction Act, and amended it greatly in the Commons. As we know, if it had not been for him it would have been a much worse Act than it is. But it was amended by him in the last week of the Session of 1889, and it came into this House and was passed through all its stages on the day of prorogation. Mr. Mather still continues his work. I asked him how it was, in the face of the very thing that he objected to most, namely, work of that sort being thrown upon public money; and he said—"Because I saw that the Technical Instruction Act must be worked in the mode of a rate in aid of voluntary action, and not in superseding voluntary action in the various localities of the country.' And so it has been by the intelligent manufacturers of the North. But then I said—"Though that Act will enable a small rate in aid from local rates to subsidize voluntary action, yet you could not say this of the Treasury grant sent broadcast over the whole country; that at all events would supersede voluntary action." He said, "No, we have managed carefully to prevent that in Lancashire and Yorkshire; the manufacturers have combined together, and have organised a system of distributing the giant only in the way of aid to voluntary undertakings. In that way they have deprived this Treasury grant of the chief mischief to which it was likely to lead." What does this show? It shows me that a subsidy of this sort applies very differently to different parts of the country, just as the political franchise in an intelligent part of the country, like Lancashire and Yorkshire, is very differently used from what is the case in a simply rural district like Warwickshire or Wiltshire. In my own county, Warwickshire, I know when the sum of £9,000, the share of this Vote, came, they did not know what in the world to do with it; but they said "as it is a gift" (for they had already got in the country to look upon a Treasury grant as a gift from Heaven, and to forget entirely that it comes out of their own pockets, so far have they been demoralized by hanging upon the patronage of the Government)—"as it is a gift we had better take it and do something with it." In Lancashire and Yorkshire this Act has not done harm, because it has been so carefully treated as a subsidy to local undertakings; but I maintain that in a large part of the Kingdom the fatal tendency of such a largess as this must have a bad effect, from its not having been neutralized by specific appropriation and private organization, as has been done in Manchester. My Lords, I only say that I hope the Lord President will reply to the noble Earl opposite that the information shall be given us what the intentions of the Government are as to this Treasury grant in future; and I would add this—which I would move myself if necessary, but I cannot help hoping that the Lord President will say that he is perfectly willing to give it without a Motion—a Return of Parliament of the way in which the Treasury grant has been expended up to this time by every County Council throughout the Kingdom.


My Lords, it is not at all unnatural that the noble Earl opposite and others interested in the work of County Councils should wish to know upon what footing they stand with respect to this Treasury grant. And, in the first place, I would just say, with regard to what my noble Friend behind me has said, that I do not quite understand his argument, which is—that where this grant is properly used it does good, or, at all events, does no harm; but that in other places, where it is improperly used, it apparently, in his opinion, is doing a great deal of harm. But he has not pointed out the places in which it is properly used, nor, in fact, has he come to any conclusion apparently upon this subject, like the County Councils themselves; for the County Councils have, very naturally, been using the money in rather a tentative manner, endeavouring to ascertain what was most suitable to the populations around them, and the best mode of meeting the wants of those particular districts. For that reason in many parts of the country the money has been distributed to the Urban Sanitary Authority or other authorities who know the wants of their particular localities, but, of course, keeping an account of the expenditure of that money and the mode in which it is dealt with. My noble Friend behind me wants a Return of all that has been done by the County Councils. That would be most voluminous. But I can tell him where he may find it in abstract most efficiently set forth, and that is in these two small books, published by a Society of which the Duke of Devonshire is the head, A Record of Technical and Secondary Education. They published the first number in November last, and the second in January last. So far as they go they seem to me to contain a most complete account of what is being done by the Councils. But with regard to the general statement of what has been done I find that, out of 62 County Councils in England and Wales, 52 are applying the whole sum received, under the Local Taxation Act, to technical instruction, while nine are giving a part to it; so that that accounts really for all but one, and that one is the one which, as my noble Friend says, has received the largest sum—the County Council of London. Now, my Lords, there are some who would say that if you are to apply this sum specially to technical instruction (which is not quite the case at present, it is only giving the power to use it for technical instruction, and giving certainly a hint in the Act of Parliament that it should be so used), you must make it compulsory upon all County Councils to apply it in that way. But the time does not seem to me to have arrived for taking that step, because there has been shown such vigour and vitality on the part of County Councils that there is no need to put pressure upon them. With regard to the County Boroughs, I think it is very much the same. Out of the 63 County Boroughs, in every case, except Wolverhampton, the whole or nearly the whole amount has been so devoted. And, besides that, there is a very remarkable fact, which shows the zeal and energy that is going on in these different districts. For I find in a Return made by the same Society, which has taken trouble over the subject, that there are a great number of places (I need not enumerate them all, but I have a long list of them) which applied, not only the money they had so received, but rates that they have raised under the Technical Instruction Act, in order to further expedite the business they have in hand. My Lords, I am not going, at this stage of the business, to come to a definite conclusion as to how a system of technical instruction in these different districts would work; but this I would say: my noble Friend seems to be under the impression that a check has been put upon voluntary effort, in connection with this subject, by the grant which has been made by the Treasury. I believe it to be precisely the reverse. I believe it to be perfectly clear that there has been an enormous increase, both in the number of persons who apply themselves to this technical instruction, and in those who manage it. Look at what the effect has been in the Science and Art Schools, where we find we are put in the greatest possible difficulty by the enormous number of papers sent in for examination; 190,000 papers were sent in last year for examination in the Science and Art Department. It has become a business that it is almost impossible to manage. And, in consequence of that, the Science and Art Department, guarded as they are now by the County Councils having these funds at their disposal, have altered, by a Minute from May next, the lower class education,on which considerable grants have been earned, and diverting them to a higher kind of education, so that the County Councils may not be working with them and paying double for the same thing; but that it may be divided: the Science and Art Department giving its attention, in the Science Department specially, to education which will bring people more forward and make them more fit for the occupations in which they are to be engaged. And upon this subject I would say one more word with respect to a point made by the noble Earl opposite who introduced this question, that the Act of Parliament prevented the teaching of trades. It was never meant that you should teach trades, and you could not do so effectually without interfering with the workshops. What the Act really means is this: That there is many a young man who may be in the workshop learning dexterity in the use of the materials so placed in his hand, but it is not the less important for him that he should attend the evening classes, as is done in certain parts of the kingdom, and learn the scientific use of those materials which are so put in his hands, and, not only to use them under the lecturer, but also by experiments to learn, in fact, that manual dexterity which begins as you see in the schools. We have enforced drawing in schools. But what is the reason for it? It is that the children learn manual dexterity. We are not going to make drawing masters, but to make persons begin their scientific education by means of using their scientific instruction dexterously with their hands as well as in their minds; very much as in Birmingham they have set up a sort of jewellery establishment, where they teach the scientific mode of dealing with jewels, but the people who come there are being employed in the workshops and learning manually. Many of your Lordships, I dare say, may have read an article by Lord Armstrong in, I think, the Nineteenth Century, which took the view very distinctly of rather de- preciating technical instruction and the mere scientific system, because, he said, the only way in which the workman can really learn his work is in the workshop. So it is all through, as I think my noble Friend opposite will find. For instance, in dairying it is very difficult to say, when you are teaching the manipulation of butter by a scientific lecture, that you are not teaching a trade. Still, it is only after a long experience in the actual work of a dairy that an effective dairymaid is made; and yet the instruction she receives is a very good thing to begin with, that she may know the scientific principles upon which she has to work. So I hope in some of the schools where carpentering is taught in the general sense—that is to say, you make the boys draw the different things they are going to make, and they make them in wood, not for use, as they will afterwards have to make them in metal or otherwise probably, but to show that they have arrived at a scientific knowledge of the particular pursuit in which they are going to be engaged. They will be better workmen for working not only by rule of thumb, but by such scientific instructions as they will have received. I have looked through the different methods in which the County Councils have employed this money, and I am bound to say it strikes me that though in a great many instances, as they say themselves, it has been only a tentative process, they have gone very carefully to work, in order to ascertain how they may best discipline the young people of their counties. For instance, if you go to Bedfordshire you will find that a certain amount of the Vote has been devoted to technical instruction generally, but that also in certain districts it has been used for instruction in the straw work, which your Lordships know is one of the industries of that county, in which they learn the mode of manipulation; but it will take a long time before they will be actually workmen capable of bringing out the high class of produce for which that county is celebrated. I mention that as one instance. In other cases the County Councils have taken a different view; they have established colleges or scientific schools of different kinds, whether it be in horticulture, in bee-keeping, or other things, and they give scholarships from the elementary schools to these colleges. And, my Lords, when I look at what has been done by the County Councils, and the way in which they have engaged the funds which have been placed in their hands, I cannot help recalling what was said by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was asked by Lord Hartington in the House of Commons—I think more than a year ago—what was to be done with this money. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said— I do not consider I am in a position to give any further or official assurance, but I may say that there are no suggestions before me for applying these grants to some other people, and I may add, as my personal opinion, that if the County Councils set themselves heartily to work, as in many instances they appear to be doing, to utilise the grant for important educational purposes, it would probably be difficult for any Minister to persuade Parliament to divert them, even if he desired himself to do so. My Lords, now the County Councils have stepped so far in that it would be impossible; and I do not hesitate to say that, inasmuch as the grants are made under an Act of Parliament, it seems to me that you have a guarantee, so far as this Government is concerned, that it has not the smallest intention of repealing that Act of Parliament, or taking the money for any other purpose; and I am quite convinced, from the mode in which that money has been laid hold of and used, and the mode in which the County Councils are taking steps to use it with even greater advantage, that no Government will repeal that Act of Parliament with a view of taking it from them. Whether the time may come when they should think it necessary to insist upon its being used in that particular form is not before us at present, and I will not dwell upon it. I may, however, say this: I do hope that the County Council of London will not be altogether backward in applying some of this money for the purposes for which, no doubt, although Parliament did not assign it for that particular object, it practically gave a strong recommendation that it should be employed. Here in London, where there are schools of every description where scholarships might be given, or instruction might be had for payment, and where in every way these schools which exist, voluntary and other, can be made more efficient by an addition from the funds in the hands of the County Council, I hope the day is not far distant when that body, like the whole of the rest of the country, will not be sorry to improve the education of the young who are committed to their charge in this City, and that they will bring them under the same sort of discipline as the counties are endeavouring to bring their young people under. I hope the answer I have given to my noble Friend will be satisfactory with regard to the money. I do not know that the House would bear with me if I were to go into details of what the different County Councils have done. There is a very good record of it in these two small books, and I should only bore your Lordships by going into detail about it. I believe that, so long as you keep the technical instruction separate from the actual teaching of a trade, which would bring you into collision with workmen and unions in the country, so long as you do that as a means of improving the skill of the workmen, and not making the workmen themselves, you will be doing a good work. I do not trust too much to that to overcome what is done against you by other countries at much greater expense than we do here; but, at the same time, I hope it will be the means of bringing up a better class of workman to compete with the workman who is so highly educated abroad.