HL Deb 22 May 1906 vol 157 cc1103-7

rose to ask the Lord President of the Council whether the Board of Education could furnish a Return showing the amounts expended in repairs and improvements by each local authority since the adoption of the Education Act (1902), upon (1) Provided schools; (2) Non-provided schools, under the "wear and tear" clause; also the amounts expended by the managers of non-provided schools in repairs and improvements on these schools in each local authority during the same period.

The noble Marquess said: My Lords, since I put this question to the noble Earl I have furnished him with a return from my own county giving this information. I have ascertained that it is quite easy for the local authorities to give the Return I ask for. Each educational Budget shows at the end of the year exactly what has been spent by the local authority on provided schools, and what has been given towards non-provided schools under the "wear and tear" clause. I ask for this Return because there is abroad, and I think even at the Board of Education, a very hazy notion as to the amount which has been spent since the passing of the Act of 1902 upon provided and non-provided schools. Take my own county, Huntingdonshire, as an instance. There the amount that has been expended is equivalent to more than a penny in the £ on the rates of the county. That shows what an enormous sum is already coming out of the rates for the repairs of these schools. I have seen various amounts quoted in the course of discussions, and I think we ought to have some Return showing distinctly what sum has been paid.


My Lords, I have to thank the noble Marquess for his kindness in postponing this question until a day when I was able to be in the House. I wish I could give a more favourable reply to his questions, because as I stated the other day in reply to the most rev. Primate, we are only too pleased to give any statistics or figures which can throw light upon the question. I am sorry to say, in answer to the noble Marquess, that the Board of Education have no statistics in their possession which would enable them to give him the information he requires. As to obtaining it from the different local authorities, I am afraid that any such information we could get from them would be so incomplete as to be actually misleading and therefore valueless.

In the first place, the noble Marquess is not accurate in saying that it is the custom generally to separate the expenditure on council and voluntary schools in the accounts of the local authorities. It is done, I know, in Huntingdonshire, but it is not done in a great many counties, and not by some of the most important and largest local authorities. As to the wear and tear repairs, it is a very common practice to include them in a general contract, and in a certain number of cases the repairs are carried out by the workmen in the employment of the local authority. In that case the noble Marquess will see that to provide figures distinguishing between the different kind of repairs it would be necessary to make a detailed examination of the time books of the various workmen employed, which, as your Lordships will see, would be a very troublesome business.

Then as regards the amounts expended by the managers of non-provided schools, I am afraid that in order to find the amount it would be necessary to send a circular to every one of the 14,000 voluntary schools in the country, which would be a very expensive and tedious matter. There is a further point. A considerable number of the schools are privately owned. I daresay many of your Lordships own schools. In these cases the repairs are often executed by the estate workmen in the employ of the owner, and similarly in that case the amount would have to be taken out of the estate books, which I think is almost more than one could expect a private owner to do. I fear that, looking at the matter in all its bearings, the information which could be obtained from the local authorities would be of so thoroughly partial and incomplete a character that it would be misleading. I am afraid, therefore, I am not able to comply with the request the noble Marquess has made.


My Lords, I agree with the noble Marquess that it would be of great advantage if it were possible to find out the amounts expended in repairs and improvements by the local authorities since the adoption of the Act of 1902. I sympathise with what the noble Marquess said as to the increase in the rates in most parts of the country, and it is by such inquiries as this that we can get an idea as to why the rates are so burdensome. Having occupied the position of President of the Board of Education I can recognise the difficulty of obtaining statistics from the local authorities, but the amount spent on repairs and improvements in provided and non-provided schools should be obtainable because the local authority is bound to keep the accounts of all the expenses of all schools within its area. But I admit the difficulty of differentiating the "wear and tear" expenses in non-provided schools, and I do not see how the Board of Education could find out the amount expended by the managers of non-provided schools on repairs and improvements. It would be very interesting to know what has been spent on these voluntary schools; but I think the only body that could supply the information would be the National Society.


I have been endeavouring, as regards schools connected with the Church of England, to obtain such statistics as are available of the sums spent from voluntary sources since 1892. The investigation is not quite so simple in all cases as the noble Marquess thinks. I do not, however, mean that it is not forthcoming, and any information we ultimately get will be entirely at the service of the House.


My Lords, my noble friend behind me has stated that His Majesty's Government will be most happy to give all possible information to the House in connection with the subject of education. We quite agree that it is most desirable we should do so; but the information ought to be full and not partial, or there will be a danger of all kinds of inaccurate conclusions being drawn from it. It is quite possible that the National Society may be willing to give the information, but there are many denominational schools which are not under the National Society at all. I have several schools of my own that are in connection with the Established Church because the majority of the parishioners are connected with the Established Church, but they are none of them under the National Society. The Return would, therefore, be a very imperfect one. I am afraid many private owners of schools would find it extremely difficult to make out those accounts, and I do not think they would be willing to give themselves the trouble. Do not let us have inadequate and unsatisfactory information. If we do we shall have all sorts of contradictory conclusions drawn from it, and it will be practically of no use at all. As to the information asked for, there is no possible chance of its being obtained in time for the discussions on the Education Bill. I therefore hope the noble Lord will not press for the Return.


I beg to withdraw my request for the Return.

House adjourned at a quarter before Seven o'clock, to Friday next, half-past Ten o'clock.