HL Deb 29 October 1906 vol 163 cc586-8

My Lords, I rise to ask the Lord President of the Council whether, in the event of the £1,000,000 promised out of the Imperial Exchequer being insufficient to defray all the expenses incurred under the Education Bill, the deficiency will fall upon local rates. This is a supplementary Question which was put the other day by my noble friend Lord Wenlock in consequence of an Answer given by the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council, and of which the noble Earl then asked that notice should be given. Lord Wenlock is not able to be present at the commencement of to-day's sitting, and has asked me to put the Question on his behalf. I think it is necessary that I should read to your Lordships the answer which was given the other day by the Lord President of the Council out of which this Question arose. In reply to an interrogation by Lord Avebury with regard to the expenditure to be incurred under the Education Bill, Lord Crewe said— The extra change thrown on the taxes under the Bill was the sum of £1,000,000 provided by Clause 12, and the expenses of the Commission under Clauses 9 and 10 of the Bill. As regarded the expenditure thrown upon the rates, that might come under three heads; in the first place, in respect of structural repairs of the voluntary schools which were to be taken over; in the second place, in respect of the sums paid by way of rent, or otherwise on taking over schools; and, in the third place, in the shape of new annual charges for interest and sinking fund in cases where new council schools had to be built in the place of existing voluntary schools. If that was intended to be a full statement of the expenditure, I cannot help thinking that the Lord President is under a very strong misapprehension as to the charges which are to be imposed by this Bill. I will merely mention two of them. In the first place, it stands to reason that a considerable increase in administrative expenditure will take place when the voluntary schools become provided schools. In the second place, let me call your Lordships' attention to the fact that the two-penny limit for secondary education is done away with by this Bill. Therefore there will be a very large increase of expenditure under this Bill. What the amount may be I do not know. All that I wish to ask now is whether the deficiency, whatever it may be, is to fall on the local rates.


My Lords, I am very sorry that the reply which I gave to my noble friend the other day was not considered satisfactory, and I fear I cannot add very largely to it on this occasion. The sum named in the Bill is the total grant over and above existing grants payable out of the Exchequer in aid of elementary education, and any further expenditure incurred by local authorities will fall upon the rates. The noble Earl and the House will, I am sure, see that it is absolutely necessary to make a provision of this kind. If we definitely offered to recoup any local authority for any expenditure it might choose to make under the Bill, no incentive to economy on the part of those authorities could possibly exist. We should have to make ourselves responsible for any expenditure, however extravagant. In the distribution of the additional grant regard will be had to the additional burden imposed by the Bill; but it must be clearly understood that the Government do not state that in every area it will cover every possible extra expense which the local authority may incur. I might also add that the sum mentioned in the Bill has only reference to the Bill as it stands. If a considerable number of Amendments which I see upon the Paper were to become part of the Bill, I have no doubt the expenditure of many of the local authorities would be very largely increased.


I am bound to say that the reply of the noble Earl is not a satisfactory Answer to the practical Question put. If there had been any calculation of the number of schools, the number of children affected, and the amount per head, it would have been possible perhaps to realise how far the £1,000,000 would go, but apparently there was no such calculation, and all the noble Earl seems to hope is that the £1,000,000 will go sufficiently far to recoup the managers of those schools which are proposed to be demolished. The absence of data is unfair, and I hope the noble Earl's answer will come home to the ratepayers.