HL Deb 12 May 1899 vol 71 cc440-6

Amendments reported (according to Order).


I propose to add certain words at the end of Clause 2. The Charitable Trusts Act of 1860 gives very large powers indeed to the Charity Commissioners in dealing with schools of less annual value than,£50. In Clause 2 and Clause 4 of this Bill they are practically without any kind of control, and they deal with these matters according to the tradition of their own office, exercising vague powers which belonged at one time to the Court of Chancery. They are now unrestrained in whatever they do. They are not empowered to put any scheme before either House of Parliament, and in fact they are almost autocratic. I do not think it does not work well, but I think it is a little risky to give such powers to a political office such as the Hoard of Education must necessarily be. The Charity Commissioners deal with all such cases according to well-established precedents, and I really cannot say that I think we have a right to complain of what they have done in this matter. But I think that there will be a serious risk that there will be a great deal of interference with these small endowments under this new system. I have no doubt that there will be very great pressure for money. I can see that the Government are very anxious to make a great system of secondary education and to do it cheaply, but they will find in certain cases that they cannot do it very cheaply. Money will be required, and nothing will be more natural than to seize upon all these small endowments, oven where they are at present used for elementary education and belonging to the elementary schools. The trusts in many cases have no such division as will clearly ear-mark them for elementary education, and it will be so arranged that money will be wanted to provide cheaper education in elementary schools. To provide for the removal of the children to the secondary, and later on from the secondary to the still higher schools, a considerable sum of money will be wanted, and I think there will be great pressure; brought to take this money from the schools that now possess it and to assign it to such purposes as I suggest. A political body is not quite the same thing as the Charity Commissioners in dealing with such cases. The Charity Commissioners do act with certain definite traditions, and I do not think a political body will always feel itself bound to act in the same way. I think, further, that it will lie very frequently argued that a better provision is made for the elementary schools, because they can come upon the rates. That they may be put under the School Board and come under the rates, and will not want the money, and that that being so, there is no reason why this money cannot be seized upon and used for the purposes of secondary education. If that had been proposed twenty-five years ago, at which time the first real movement was made towards looking to secondary education, there would have been much more reason than now, because at this time a great many of what I may call vested interests have grown up. In the meanwhile, we have been wasting all this time in dealing with secondary education. A good many of these small endowments are used with good effect for elementary education, and I think it would certainly be a mistake to take them away suddenly or uselessly—take them away from the purposes for which they are being used at present. I therefore propose the Amendment, and so tar as the form of it is concerned, I believe the noble Duke who has charge of the Bill does not object to it. But I cannot, feel quite sure that he will not object to having any Amendment whatever. I do not intend to divide the House upon the subject, because I feel very strongly that the need of secondary education is so great that anything that would run the risk of delaying the passing of this measure would do harm to the country. I am not prepared to take the responsibility of taking any step which might lead to such a thing as that. But I think the matter well worthy of the consideration of your Lordships and the noble Duke who has charge of this measure, and if he cannot accept my Amendment, your Lordships will see that I am not proposing anything unreasonable in the Amendment I have the honour to move. The proposal comes to this—that the small endowments could be put under the same kind of control as the larger endowments are, under the Endowed Schools Acts. I want to propose that they shall be dealt with by a scheme which shall be under the control of either House of Parliament, and if that is so we shall know where we are, and it will enable us to hold the account, and will enable the legislature of each House to see that there is something like careful consideration given to every case of this kind. I grant at once that I should have great confidence in many of the precedents of new bodies and believe that they would do the light thing, but I confess that it may possibly be that at some day we should get a wrong thing done, for which we should afterwards be extremely sorry. I therefore submit this Amendment to the House for its consideration, and I do not think it is without its importance.

Amendment moved— In Clause 2, page 2, at end, to insert 'and that any proposal by the Board of Education to alter the purposes of an educational endowment of less than fifty pounds a year shall be subject to the provisions with respect to schemes contained in Sections 33 to 36 and 42 and 43 of the Endowed Schools Act, 1869, and Section 15 of the Endowed Schools Act, 1873.'"—(The Archbishop of Canterbury.)


I am very far from saying that the Amendment suggested by the most reverend Prelate is an unreasonable one, but I hope that your Lordships will allow mo to state the reasons why I cannot accept it. This Bill does not propose to deal in any way with the amendment either of the Charitable Trusts Act or the Endowed Schools Act. All it does is to substitute one administrative authority, the Board of Education, for another administrative authority, that is, the Charity Commissioners, in administering the existing law. Both the Charitable Trusts Act and the Endowed Schools Act deal with a great number of very delicate and difficult questions affecting interests both of a local and religious character, and, in our opinion, it would be a very disastrous proceeding, by any such proposal as that contained in the Amendment, to open the door to what might become in the other House of Parliament, if not m this, a very extensive review and revision of both those Act. I am aware with regard to what I say that there is a noble and learned Lord opposite who has had his attention called to this question, who would be prepared, if your Lordships adopt any such Amendment as that which has been put on the Paper by the most reverend Prelate, to call attention to other anomalies in the Charitable Trusts and Endowed Schools Acts, which it would be difficult to resist if you once went into a review of the Acts themselves. The object of the present Amendment, as the most reverend Prelate has explained, is to protect the smaller endowments, which in many cases are now applied to the purposes of elementary education, from being diverted to the purposes of secondary education, and it implies that the restrictions which the legislature has not considered it necessary to impose upon the action of the Charity Commissioners ought to be imposed upon the action of the Education Board. I have endeavoured to point out on the discussion of the Second Reading of the Bill why I think the pronouncements of the most reverend Prelate are not altogether well founded, and also how the powers of the Charity Commissioners, which are to be transferred to the Education Board, are not exercised so much without restraint as the most reverend Prelate seems to suppose. I will not enter now into details, but full publicity is to be given, and a full opportunity of discussing these questions, which is the real protection to endowments of this kind. If up to this time, the Charity Commissioners have not dealt more largely than they have done with the endowments devoted to elementary education, and which, no doubt, might be more usefully applied at the present day to other purposes, it is because any diversion of the proposed on endowments is generally the object of strong local opposition. There is no reason whatever to apprehend that a board directly responsible to Parliament, such as the Education Board, will be more indifferent to such expressions of local feeling and local opinion than the Charity Commissioners have been. That is the reason for the opinion that I hold, that the proposals of the most reverend Prelate are not well founded. On the other hand, there are cases in which a diversion from the purposes for which the endowments are to be applied would be generally acceptable to the locality and the persons who are chiefly concerned, and it would be extremely inconvenient if in dealing with them the now board were to be so hampered and shackled as they would be if they had to follow the elaborate procedure laid down by the Endowed Schools Act, in cases where the scheme docs not meet with any strong local opposition. It would also be, I think, unfortunate if such schemes as these, which had been fully considered with all the advantages of local knowledge, were then to be disposed of by a chance vote of a majority of this or the other House, which cannot be so well informed. My gravest objection, however, to the introduction of such an Amendment, is that I apprehend it would have the effect of introducing into the further discussions of this Bill the religious question, which has, up to the present, been entirely excluded from the discussion. We have endeavoured, and I believe, with success, to absolutely exclude the religious question from this Bill, and the acceptance of this Amendment, which is obviously moved in the interest of voluntary and denominational schools would, I fear, have the effect of introducing the religious element. I have satisfied myself that there is no ground for the apprehensions which were expressed the other day by the noble Marquess opposite and the most reverend Prelate as to the preference of the free school with the conscience clause or without. When we come to that clause I can explain it more at large, but the most reverend Prelate need have no reason to apprehend that this Bill will introduce any prejudicial difference of treatment between those schools which do and those which do not provide religious education. The religious question has up to the present time been absolutely excluded, and I think it would be a subject of great regret if by the acceptance of this Amendment, which is moved in the interests of certain denominational schools, any risk were incurred of the introduction of the religious question into the further discussions. I have no reason to think that this measure, when it has passed through this House, will meet with any serious opposition in the other House. But if it does run any danger of not becoming law this year it is on account of the possible want of sufficient time for its discussion in the other House, and I am quite certain anything which would open the door to discussions in another place upon the question of the amendment of the Charitable Trusts Act and Endowed Schools Act, and, still more, any amendment capable of introducing discussions upon religious questions, would so protract the debates as greatly to endanger the chances or the Bill passing into law during the present Session. I was, therefore, very glad to hear the most reverend Prelate say he was not prepared to divide the House upon the Amendment, because I believe that such a course would have been most prejudicial to the passing of this Bill.

Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.

*LORD DAYEV, who had the following Amendment on the Paper:— After Clause 8 to insert the following clause—'The Charity Commissioners for England and Wales, and alter a transfer of their powers under this Act, the Board of Education, shall have the same power of making schemes with respect to elementary schools exempted from the Endowed Schools Acts by Section 8 (b) of the Endowed Schools Act, 1869, and Section 3 of the Endowed Schools Act, 1873, where the annual income from endowments of such schools exceeds fifty pounds but does not exceed one hundred pounds, as may be exercised by them with respect to similar schools the income whereof from endowments does not exceed fifty pounds. said: I have an Amendment on the Paper for the purpose of remedying one of those anomalies referred to by the noble Duke. By some oversight there is no power in any body to make schemes for elementary schools with an income from endowments between,£50 and £100, and I think whenever an opportunity occurs that anomaly ought to be corrected. But after what the noble Duke has said as to the danger to the Bill in another place, and his desire not to introduce into this Bill any amendment which may result in the general review of the Charitable Trusts Act and the Endowed Schools Act, I shall not press it.

Bill to be read 3a on Monday next.