§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Duke of DEVONSHIRE)
rose to move the Second Reading of this Bill. He said: In the Education Bill which was introduced in the other House last Session, clauses were contained which, besides providing for a certain amount of assistance to Voluntary Schools, were intended also to meet the case of the acknowledged grievance of the excessive educational burden in some School Board districts, and when the Bill which had passed through Parliament this Session was introduced dealing only with the question of aid to Voluntary Schools, a pledge was given that a further Measure would be brought in, if time permitted, giving a certain amount of assistance to districts where the pressure upon the ratepayers has been found to be unduly excessive, and this Bill has been introduced and passed through the other House in pursuance of that pledge. I am perfectly aware that this Measure is considered by some noble Lords opposite as being very inadequate. I do not imagine, however, inadequate as they may conceive it to be, that it is likely to meet with any more opposition here than it 1218 met with in the other House, and, therefore, I do not think it will be necessary for me to enter into any elaborate explanation of the details of this Bill. If I were to attempt to give such an explanation it would of necessity be rather intricate and complicated. But probably the proposals of the Government, after the discussions in the other House, are already tolerably well understood by those who take any considerable interest in the subject, and I am afraid that I must despair of being able to make the details of the Measure clear to those who have not already taken any such interest in the matter. It may, therefore, be sufficient for me to say that this Bill is an extension and to some degree a. modification of the 97th Section of the Education Act of 1870. That clause is itself rather complicated in character, and, indeed, has not been fully understood. It has not been understood by all the School Boards to which it applies, for it was found in the discussions of last year that a considerable number of School Boards which would have been able to claim some assistance under this section had always omitted to do so, and the amount that had been claimed since the Debates of last year called attention to the matter has considerably increased the payments made under the section, which was explained in 1870 by Mr. Gladstone in the other House. It was supposed at that time that the expenditure on school maintenance in Board Schools as well as in Voluntary Schools would not exceed the sum of 27s. or 28s. per child in average attendance, and that in addition to the annual grants provided by the Government and the fees which the schools would receive from the children an expenditure of not more than 7s. 6d. per child in average attendance would have to be provided from the rates. In districts where the 3d. rate would be sufficient to provide this amount of 7s. 6d. it was thought that the burden on the locality would not be excessive, and the section had no application to them; but where the district was so poor, or where the number of children who had to be educated in Board Schools was so large, that a 3d. rate would not provide the sum of 7s. 6d. per scholar in average attendance, the section made provisions for a special grant which should supplement the produce of a 3d. rate up to a 1219 limit of 7s. 6d. per child. But the expectations entertained at that time have not been fulfilled. The expenditure upon the maintenance of children in Board Schools now amounts on the average to a sum of over £2 10s. The Government subvention has been largely increased, and now amounts to £1 9s. 6d. per child; but, in spite of that increase in the Government grant, a balance is left over which has to be provided by the locality, amounting to 20s. 6d. per child instead of 7s. 6d., which was the estimate for 1870. These figures are only the figures for the average maintenance of schools. Besides this, the School Boards have to find for interest on loans, and for repayment of loans, a further amount of 14s. per child. They also have imposed upon them other expenses, such as those of management, election expenses, and the expenses of schools for the deaf and blind, and the total expenditure of School Boards out of the rates has now risen to the sum, of £2 2s., which is equivalent to a 9d. rate all over the country. The provision, therefore, which was made by Section 97 has proved inadequate to meet what were supposed to be the needs of the poorer School Boards, and in a great many districts in. the country the school rate has become abnormally high. If the expenditure per scholar in all School Boards had remained the same this state of things might have been met by a simple extension of the plan laid down in the 97th Section, which took into account only the two elements of the rateable value of districts and the number of children in attendance in School Boards. That plan, together with some adjustment of the actual rates, might have provided successfully for the increased School Board expenditure if that expenditure had not varied greatly in different districts. The expenditure necessarily varies according as the Board is called upon to provide for the whole of the children in a district, for a very large number of them, or for none at all, as is the ease in some localities. It varies also according to the character of the district. If the children can be educated in a very few large schools, the cost is, of course, less than where they have to be educated in a larger number of smaller schools. It varies also because it is found that higher salaries have to be paid to the teachers in certain districts than have to 1220 be paid in others. In attempting to deal with this question, therefore, it has been found necessary to introduce an additional element into the plan of the 97th Section —an element additional to that of rateable value, and to that of the number of children in Board Schools. We have had to take into consideration the amount of the rate which has been found to be necessary to provide for the expenses of the School Boards. This Bill, therefore, proposes to do away with a, fixed limit of 7s. 6d., and to substitute in its place a sliding scale by which that limit is increased in a certain proportion to the rate levied. The subvention, which it is proposed to give will be increased, not in direct proportion to the amount of the school rate, which might evidently lead to undue expenditure and extravagance, but in a ratio which will be ascertained by putting together the three elements of rateable value, the number of children in the schools, and the amount of the rate which it has been found necessary to levy in order to meet the expenses of the Board. Perhaps I may explain the operation of the Bill by giving one or two examples of the way in which it will work in certain districts principally affected. I take, in the first place, the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, where the population is engaged chiefly in mining. There the School Board has to provide for an average attendance of 3,074 children. The produce of a 3d. rate per scholar is only 3s. 6d.; the rate in the pound is 1s. 6d., and the limit of the Section in this case will be raise by this Bill from 7s. 6d. to 12s. 6d., and the grant per head which it is estimated the district will receive will be 9s. in lieu of 4s., which it now receives. The total subvention which it will get will be £1,385, instead of £616. Still more important is the county borough of West Ham in the county of Essex, which is practically a suburb of East London. A very large working population, chiefly employed in various industries in London, is collected there, and education is carried on almost entirely in Board Schools. West Ham has an average attendance of 33,024 children; the produce of the 3d. rate is 6s. 3d., the School Board rate in the pound is 2s. 2d., and the limit will be raised under this Bill from 7s. 6d. to 15s. 2d., and the grant per head of the children in average attendance will be raised from 1s. 3d. to 8s. 11d., 1221 while, the county borough of West Ham will receive a, subvention of £14,723 in lieu of £2,064. There are other districts not equally necessitous, but which still educate a. very large proportion of their children in the Board Schools, which will receive help of varying amounts, though considerably smaller. Such places as Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Sheflield, Sunderland, and Swansea will all receive certain amounts, but not nearly so large as those to which I have referred. There are, on the other hand, other districts in which the 3d. rate produces a very considerable sum per scholar—in other words, a small rate provides for a very considerable expenditure, and they will not receive any benefit at all under this Measure. Such districts are London, Liverpool, Manchester, Brighton, Bristol, and Newcastle. In those places the 3d. rate produces £1, or even more, per head of the scholars in average attendance. There are other districts less wealthy where the resources which they possess in the rates do not, as it is believed, give them any special claim on account of their poverty to receive any assistance from the extension which it is proposed to give to the 97th Section of the Act. I think, on the whole, it may be said that this relief will be given in cases whore the need is the most urgent. No attempt to equalise the educational burden in every part of the country would be possible unless, as some have desired, the cost of education were made a national instead of a local charge; but so long as the settlement of 1870 is maintained, and it is admitted that to a large extent the burden of education is to remain a local charge, this Bill appears to go in the direction of alleviating the most pressing and the most obvious grievances and inequalities which exist under the present system. The total annual cost of the subvention to School Boards is estimated at nearly £154,000. The similar grants under the present system are £43,000; and therefore the Bill will entail an extra cost of.£110,600. The present Measure will afford a larger measure of relief to the necessitous School Boards than the proposal which was contained in the Bill of last year, the total cost of which for poor School Boards was estimated at £89,000. It may, perhaps, be imagined by some that this proposal, while introducing a new element in the 1222 amount of the School Board rate, may lead to extravagant administration. It might have done so but for the fact that the aid which it is proposed to give is restricted to those districts where a 3d. rate produces less than a certain sum per child, or where the rateable value, compared with the number of scholars, falls below a certain amount. In such cases it is obvious that a School Board cannot provide for the average expenditure which is found necessary in School Boards generally, except by a very much larger rate than an average rate exceeding the aver-ago rate over the country of 9d. It has been ascertained by careful examination that in the most extreme cases which could be produced, a district, in order to obtain an additional grant from the Treasury, would have to tax itself to at least three tunes that amount, and in a great majority of cases it would have to tax itself by a rate exceeding five or six times any amount that could be expected from the Treasury. In such cases I think extravagant administration in districts so poor is almost impossible. On the contrary, what is most to be apprehended in the case of poor School Board districts like these is rather an undue economy than any tendency towards extravagance. I have no wish to enter on any controversial matters. I have no reason to suppose-that the Bill is likely to meet with much opposition, but I submit this proposal with some confidence in opposition to that which I understand has found favour with some noble Lords opposite. It was suggested, I think, in our Debates on the Voluntary Schools Bill, that a fairer arrangement, and one which would have met no opposition from the other side, would have been an equal grant of 5s. per head in Voluntary and Board Schools all round. That proposal would have given less than the present humble proposal which we have, to make to those districts which appear to require it most. It seems to me that it would have involved a very large additional expenditure, and if the money were not actually wasted in unnecessary and extravagant expenditure, at least it may be said that it was not required. Any part of 5s. a head, if given to the London School Board, would not even have the effect of relieving the London ratepayers to an equal extent. A part of it would undoubtedly have gone to increase expenditure, which, in the 1223 opinion of many, is already excessive. It would have had the effect of increasing and intensifying the competition, especially in the matter of teachers' salaries, which makes it difficult for Voluntary Schools to exist in London and other large towns. It was not needed in such places in order to secure efficiency. It is admitted that the Board Schools in London and other great and wealthy towns are already efficient, and are made efficient without any extravagant claim being made on the resources of the ratepayers. It is extremely difficult to meet arguments which one fails to understand, and I cannot understand how any man who is of opinion that education is to remain a local charge, and to a certain extent a varying local charge, can argue that it it would be just to apply an equal subvention from. Imperial funds to those districts in which that charge is a heavy one, and in some cases almost an intolerable one, as well as to those other districts in which experience has shown that it is a comparatively light and easily borne charge. I have endeavoured to give a very short—and I hope tolerably clear—statement of what is rather an intricate and complicated question; and I venture with some confidence to move the Second Reading of the Bill. [Cheers.]
§ *LORD PLAYFAIR
said that this Bill for aiding necessitous Board Schools was necessarily linked to the Act which had been passed for aiding necessitous Voluntary Schools, but they were to be aided in very different proportions. There were two and a half millions of children in Voluntary Schools, and two millions in Board Schools. As the Act for Voluntary Schools gave to them at the rate of 5s. per child, the natural expectation was that the same amount per child should be given to the Board Schools, but this Bill only gave them about one-fifth the amount. The Act gave to Voluntary Schools upwards of £600,000, and to the Board Schools £110,000. The Education Department might try, and, he hoped, would succeed, in making increased efficiency one of the conditions for increased grants, but as that was not the motive of the Measures, the Department would have a hard struggle to attain it. Those who, like the Bishop of Chester, approved of Lord Hugh Cecil's party cry that Voluntary Schools have a 1224 right to consider that "tenure by subscriptions is essentially a tenure by blackmail," would certainly look upon the new grant of £600,000 as a relief Act and not as an educational Act. When the Government announced their intention of giving substantial relief to Voluntary Schools he welcomed the proposal, as he aided Mr. Forster in 1870, and had always valued their great aid to educational progress. He did not grudge in the least the £600,000 given to them, but he strongly regretted that the opportunity was not taken to secure that the sum should be so applied as not only to maintain but increase their efficiency as a great agency for educational progress. This smaller Measure for rate relief to poor Board Schools, which was now to be read a Second time, might, to the extent to which it went, increase the efficiency of education, but only to a small degree. It was the fashion—one which had been much encouraged by the Vice President of the Council—to decry the management and efficiency of rural Board Schools. No doubt there were a good many inferior rural Board Schools, as there were also a good many inferior rural Voluntary Schools, but there was no evidence from the educational statistics that there was any marked difference in rural schools, whether they were managed by School Boards or by Voluntary agencies. He had beside him the returns of 209 rural Voluntary Schools in 12 typical counties, and of 161 Board Schools in the same counties, the result being that the Board Schools paid their teachers an average of 2s. per child more, and that they obtained an average grant of 6d. per child more than the Voluntary Schools. There could, then, be no justification in treating these schools as inferior to Voluntary Schools by giving them only one-fifth of the grant given to the former. The Bill would no doubt become law, but it would leave in the minds of a large portion of the public the impression that, whether these Measures be viewed as relief Bills or as educational Bills, they had given five or six times as much public money to the irresponsible managers of Voluntary Schools as to the accredited and elected educational representatives of the nation. Of the 2,500 School Boards throughout the country, about 1,500 were voluntarily formed by the ratepayers, but 1,000 were 1225 compulsorily formed to supply the deficiencies in education not covered by the voluntary system. If the Voluntary Schools might justly claim recognition for relief on account of their voluntary money contributions, surely the 1,000 School Boards, which had to make compulsory contributions under the mandate of the State, might have looked to an equal measure of relief. They had not obtained it, and the Government need not be surprised if many educationists did not accept this Bill as a final settlement of the question. The two Measures which would soon become law might have been so framed that the largely increased grant of about three-quarters of a million, while it relieved tension in subscriptions raid rates, might also have greatly increased educational efficiency. The opportunity had been lost, and it was quite certain that before long an agitation for a modification of the Acts would arise in the country, probably from the supporters of both branches of schools.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
, dealing with Lord Playfair's criticisms, said the Board Schools, though they did not receive the same amount of public money from the funds of the State, received a vast amount of public money in the shape of rates, of which the Voluntary Schools were altogether deprived. [Cheers.] If they were to vote at one time 5s. per head to the Voluntary Schools and 5s. to the Board Schools, they would simply increase the competition, and put upon the Voluntary Schools an additional burden which they were attempting to alleviate at the present moment. He was far from saying that the time might not come when there might not be a reconsideration of many things in connection with education, but at present they were dealing with comparatively small matters. The Voluntary Schools supplied an enormous gap in education—nay, they supplied an amount of education prior to the School Boards which was not only enormous, but was increasing and growing rapidly, and which, even in spite of their being deprived of State grants and other things, had increased enormously since, without calling on the public for money from the rates or from the funds. That being so, they had gone to the expense of a large additional subsidy to the Voluntary Schools, 1226 because, if they had not done so, the chances were that the Voluntary Schools would have fallen, and a far larger demand would have been made both upon the rates and the public funds. They had increased the efficiency and expense of education, and that was the reason why they must make increased demands on the public purse, and by that means, too, necessitous Board Schools, where they were necessitous, would also benefit. If, when the experiment was tried, it should be found that something more should be done, no doubt it would be done in due time. Though he should have wished to see larger pleasures than these, he welcomed both the Voluntary Schools and the Board Schools Bills. The former afforded the means of maintaining the schools which had done great work in the past, and still had great work to do, and by the latter he trusted that the necessitous Board Schools would be able to work fur the advantage of education. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *LORD REAY
said that the objection to this Bill was not that relief had been given to the Voluntary Schools, but that the relief to be given to the Board Schools was not adequate, and placed those schools in a condition of inferiority. Why should Unit be? Whatever progress had been made in the matter of primary education in this country had been mainly due to the Board Schools. In many instances they had been in advance of the requirements of the Department, and they had shown a mastery of the subject of education which had been admired all over Europe. They had dealt not only with mental instruction, but in many cases had promoted manual instruction, which was of the greatest importance in primary education. The Board Schools had been accused of extravagance. What had the late Archbishop of Canterbury said: —He should not be so very Lard upon it, because the Board School was a magnificent system, which had been set on foot in a grand manner, and had done wonders for the education of the people, and also stimulated the education given in Church schools.And how did the expenditure compare with that of the Swiss Canton of Zurich? The town of Zurich in 1896 spent two millions of francs on its primary, 1227 secondary, and technical schools, or 13 to 14 francs per head of the population. The town of Winterthur, with a population of 20,000, spent, in 1895, 326,000 francs, or more than 16 francs per head of the population, on education. In addition there was a contribution from the canton of about 3½ francs per head of the population. The total expenditure was £4 per head for every child in the elementary schools; one-third of the whole expenditure of the canton was devoted to education. It was alleged against the Board Schools that they did not give definite religious education. The syllabus of the London School Board did not bear out this allegation. What did The Guardian —an impartial authority—say on the 15th July last year of the syllabus of the London School Board?It is our firm conviction that if the Conservative Party in the country had to declare, by ballot, the kind of religious instruction they think most suitable to the children in elementary schools, a majority of them would be quite content with the syllabus of the London School Board minus the circular.The late Archbishop of Canterbury said i on this subject: —I am persuaded that in a very great number of Board Schools there is very good religious teaching indeed.and the Bishop of Durham said that—It had been a constant encouragement to him to notice the work done in Board Schools, and the loyal and true conditions under which the religious instruction was given.The Blue-book on religious teaching in Board Schools also showed that the results were very satisfactory. The Board School teacher was as conscientious in his teaching as the teacher in the Voluntary School. They were trained at the same denominational colleges, and teachers who had been transferred from Voluntary to Board Schools denied that the religious teaching in the latter was inferior to that in the former. The legitimate requirements of the parents are certainly met. Besides, the Board Schools would be discredited if they did not give the religious teaching which the parents desired. As to the Scotch system, there were very erroneous notions abroad. It was quite true that it gave much more latitude to the School Boards with regard to the nature of the religious teaching. The representatives 1228 of the ratepayers, who were also the' representatives of the parents, had absolute freedom in this matter, and the use which they had made of that freedom was to a great extent the cause of the success and of the popularity of the Board Schools in Scotland. It was true that the Shorter Catechism was taught in the majority of Scottish Board Schools with the assent of the parents, but by teachers who were appointed and under the direct control of the Boards, and with no control from the clergy except in so far as the clergy were the elected representatives of the ratepayers on the Boards. He was pleased to sec that in another place the First Lord of the Treasury had praised the Scottish system; and if primary education were to be paid for out of public funds, there was no doubt that the Scotch system gave the best guarantees for efficient and property organised education. But this Bill dealt with the pressure of the rate in the School Board districts in England. In the rural districts, as had been admitted by the Vice President of the Council, the situation could only be improved by widening the area over which the rate was levied. There was no justification for a smaller grant being given to the rural parish which had a Board School than to one which had no Board School. There was no reason why in a rural parish with a School Board the ratepayers should have to contribute more than those individuals who supported the Voluntary School in another parish. He could not see why a premium should be placed on the absence of a School Board. A parish with a high rate could be as necessitous as a parish where the school was supported by voluntary contributions. It might be said that the Rating Bill of last year gave relief to the rural districts. That was only true in as far as relief was given to the occupiers of land, but no relief was given to the occupiers of houses. The Assessment Committees were quite free in making deductions from the gross letting value. It was quite clear that if an Assessment Committee made a large deduction from the gross letting value, there would be a lower rateable value, and by so much the chance of getting aid under this Bill would be increased, as against a locality where the rateable value was nearer to the gross letting value. Besides, there 1229 were many places with a high rate which would get less or no help which other places with a low rate would obtain. In London there was a rate of 1s., and there were 422,000 children in average attendance. The rates which the School Board would have to pay on its school buildings were estimated this year at £103,000. if London wore to be put on the same footing for its Board Schools as for its Voluntary Schools, also with regard to the grant of 5s. per board scholar, it might claim more than £200,000. Again, Plymouth would get nothing, while Devonport would be aided, simply because it had a lower rateable value on account of the rates on the Government buildings being paid by the Government. There was a theory that the State simply contracted for results. That was a theory which lie could not admit. The State was responsible for the education of the country, and could not divest itself of this responsibility. It was the duty of the State to stimulate local effort, and to give financial aid on equitable principles. It was because lie considered that the Bill deviated from those equitable principles, that he did not believe, it would give that stability to our educational system which was needed. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *LORD NORTON
said that it seemed to him that the criticisms of the Bill were founded on the idea that the proposal of u Treasury Grant for Voluntary Schools and the proposal for relieving the rates of Board Schools were intended to meet a claim of a similar character. That was not so. There was not the slightest relation between the claims of the Voluntary Schools and the claims of the Board Schools. To say, therefore, that it was an unfair thing to give 5s. per head to the one and only 1s. per head to the other, was to say that it was an unfair thing to give money in different amounts for any two totally different objects. The Voluntary Schools gave the public £2,000,000 a year in contribution out of private purses for elementary education, and what these schools required the Treasury grant for was to enable them to carry on the higher branches of education which had been added to their original volunteer. It was positively to save that £2,000,000 a year which was given by the Voluntary Schools that the Treasury 1230 came in and said, "As a larger requirement is made now we must meet that requirement, or we shall lose the work that is done by the Voluntary Schools." It was different in the matter of the Board Schools. In certain cases it was found difficult to raise a sufficient rate for the purpose of the Board Schools, and the Bill proposed that in those cases, and only in those cases, the burden should be transferred to a certain extent from the local rates to the Treasury. The whole question of subsidies from imperial and local taxes was a very fair question to raise. Some think that all public money necessary for national education should be provided out of Imperial funds. Such an arrangement would make the taxation fair, and it would avoid the jealousies raised by imposing local taxation for national education in the way of religious rivalry. Comparison had been made between the merits of the Board Schools and the merits of the Voluntary Schools. That had nothing to do with the matter. In the other House the Government were actually accused in bringing forward the first Bill of favouring Voluntary Schools, and with being ready to crush the Board Schools, and they were also told this little Bill offered only hush money to the Board Schools to be silent. The accusation was perfectly absurd and irrelevant. The Government were not favouring the Voluntary Schools, but they were trying to secure them to the country. They were not adverse to the Board Schools by facilitating their public support. He thought the Government were rather weak when they allowed this Bill to be treated as a necessary corollary to the other Bill, for the two Bills had really nothing to do with each other. He supposed it was to get votes for the first Bill, by conciliating opposition, that the Government allowed one to be tacked on to the other. But the Bill now before the House had its own fair claim. There were some places with sparse populations where the required amount of educational rate was difficult to raise, and in those cases it was very right that a portion of the burden of taxation for the schools should be transferred from the local rates to the Treasury. These two Measures were merely' temporary makeshifts until the whole subject of elementary and secondary education was dealt with, and he was glad to hear that that complete 1231 revision would be dealt with immediately by the Government. A large system of scientific instruction had been added to elementary education, and when they came to deal with the whole subject they would have to separate these two. When that happened neither of these two Measures would be wanted at all. Art apprenticeship would have to be made self-supporting, except in the way of providing scholarships for clever boys of the poorer classes. To say that they should provide higher education for well-to-do classes at the expense of the country was utterly absurd. It would be a fatal discharge of parental responsibility. The whole question was no doubt a very great and difficult one, and he was glad to hear the Government would apply their present strength to cope with it. [Cheers.]
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I am reminded by what my noble Friend opposite has said of the rather trite saying that "comparisons are odious." I am sorry to say that, notwithstanding that in the few remarks I propose to make I shall be obliged to make some comparisons. The Bill is undoubtedly a small one; and there is another proverb which I do not forget—that "you must not look a gift horse in the mouth." Therefore, we on this side could not oppose the Bill, even if it could really be opposed in this House, because it does something to relieve the Board Schools. For my part I will make an avowal. Speaking as an individual I prefer the Board Schools to the Voluntary Schools. I thing to-day and always have thought that the only just and wise system is the system of State or Board Schools. But I think it would not have been wise in 1870, and it would not be wise now, to neglect entirely the Voluntary Schools, which as a matter of fact are an important part of the system of education of this country. What I complain of is that this gift to the Board Schools is a mean gift. That meanness has arisen from the fact that there is a very strong, and as it appears to me extraordinary vehement, feeling on the part of the Party which is now in power in this country in favour of the Voluntary Schools and in point of fact against the Board Schools. As Lord Playfair said, there seems, to be more a desire to perpetuate one system of schools in this country than to do that which is the one object we should have in view— 1232 to see that all schools, be they Voluntary or Board Schools, are thoroughly efficient. As regards the comparison between the Board School and the Voluntary School, I for my part do not see why a subscriber to a school is entitled to more relief from the State than the ratepayer who pays School Board rates. I am a contributor to schools in both capacities; and I do not feel that I am in the least decree more aggrieved by paying a subscription than I am by paying a rate. In one parish I pay a large rate towards the Board School; and in another place, where there is no Board School though I confess I only contribute when I feel that the Voluntary School is desired by the people there—I pay a subscription to a Voluntary School or support a school entirely myself; and I feel I am entitled to as much assistance from the State in one case as in the other. I do not see why the ratepayers' claim should be neglected; and for that reason I think the only fair, just, and wise system would be to give equal subvention to all schools alike. The present system established under this Bill, as the noble Duke ingenuously said, is of so' complicated a nature that he did not trouble the House with details. I was very much obliged to the noble Duke, however, for what he did tell us was very clear. The fact is, it is a most complicated system, ingenious as regards the forming of a sliding scale, but as regards equality between the different persons who are to receive aid it is about as unfair and ill-conceived as could possibly be imagined. It may be argued that if you were to give an additional contribution to, say, the London School Board, that would be a terrible thing, as it would increase the expenditure which would fall on the ratepayers of London. But, if the ratepayers of London desire that their schools should be made more efficient by expending more on them, why are they to be deprived of the assistance of the State on that account? It seems to me they are very meritorious if they do so, and that they ought to receive the same assistance from the State. I could not help admiring the manner in which the noble Duke insisted upon the way in which this new Bill had been contrived so as to give assistance only to certain schools which by the Act are so defined that those schools alone will be regarded as 1233 necessitous under this Bill. I remember that, when we tried to induce the Government to define necessitous schools in the Voluntary Schools Bill, we were told it was impossible and unnecessary. Under this Bill an attempt is made to give only to schools which are necessitous. Why not have applied the same system in both cases? This system of only giving the public money where it is most required, is quite a new principle with the Government. I have not forgotten the Agricultural Rates Bill; we tried hard then to persuade them to give the money only to those particular parts of the country which really needed it, but they refused. I cannot help thinking that that must have arisen from a special sympathy with those receiving the aid. But when dealing with a Board School, then you must have a carefully devised system, so that no school which is receiving much money shall receive for the benefit of the ratepayers any subvention from the State. I do not think the whole matter has been treated on a basis which is just and fair all round. As my noble Friend said, these are merely two Bills for giving in one case a large dole and in another case a very small dole, and it is not in any way the establishment of any permanent portion of our educational system, except in so far as a larger sum of money will be spent in the promotion of education. I wish I could think it will all go towards efficiency, but I do not think it will. In some cases I think there are managers of Voluntary Schools as eager for good education as managers of Board Schools, and in such cases it will be applied for promoting the efficiency of a school, but in a great many cases it will go for nothing but the relief of subscribers. I dare say it has occurred to the noble Duke that there is to be a distinct premium under this Bill to have a low assessment. It is very well known that in many parts of the country assessments arc by no means up to the real value of the property; now there will be a distinct encouragement under this Bill to make the assessment as low as possible, because then there will be a higher rate in proportion, and the parish in that situation will get relief which probably if it assessed itself at the fair amount it would not. I entirely disagree with, the Bill except in so far as it gives a small assistance 1234 to certain School Boards, an assistance which, I venture to say, would not have been given unless there had been considerable pressure on the Government not to leave the Board Schools entirely out in the cold. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Friday next.