HL Deb 16 August 1907 vol 180 cc1791-816

in the absence of the Marquess of Londonderry, rose to call attention to the recent administration of the Education Act in Wales, and to move for Papers. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I am afraid it is my duty, even at this period of the session, to call your Lordships' attention, and especially that of the hardworked Lord President of the Council, to a very different subject from that wh;ch we have just been discussing. I have to state in the first place, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Londonderry, that he found it difficult to be in his place this afternoon, and that he has entrusted his Motion to my care. The question of the administration of the Education Acts has been under your Lordships' notice on one or two occasions during the present session, but there is no part of the United Kingdom where it exhibits features of so striking a character as in the Principality, and we I have felt that we should be neglecting our duty if we allowed the session to be brought to a close without drawing attention to it.

There is, as it were, a sort of Nemesis which follows the steps of noble Lords opposite. They have to expiate many unfortunate utterances, and many, as we think, wrong-headed attitudes adopted before they came into office. We see in Ireland at the present moment Ministers who have done so little in the past to assist our efforts to maintain order driven by this inexorable Nemesis to take action in the North of Ireland; and in the matter to which I am now calling attention, having done their best to make the work of the Education Act of 1902 difficult in Wales, these Ministers are now called upon to administer it and to attack those problems which they made it so very difficult for us to solve. In 1903, the President of the Board of Trade made a remarkable speech at Brighton. In that speech he is reported to have dealt with the Education Act which had recently been passed, and to have said that he hoped one of the first things they would put into the Welsh Museum would be that Act. He said— One thing which he was sure it would be very difficult to find would be a precept from a Welsh county council levying the education rate. He wished to emphasise that there were two ways in which councils might approach voluntary schools—the best was to say to the sacerdotal gentlemen who managed voluntary schools, 'We councillors are now your masters, and if you do not give us fair play we will put you on reduced diet.' That was the effect of the resolution he was moving at this particular meeting. He continued— Did they propose to defy the Act? Not at all. They simply proposed to walk round it. Since then Mr. Lloyd-George has become a Minister of the Crown, and a colleague of his has become Minister for Education, and they are faced with the fruit of the seed then sown. The Welsh county councils are engaged in putting Church schools on reduced diet—that is to say, depriving them of money they ought to have for the proper upkeep of the schools; they are engaged not in defying the law, but in walking round it. That is very unfortunate for these right hon. Gentlemen, but it is our duty to ask the Government of the day to say whether they will be parties to the gross injustice which is being inflicted upon non-provided schools in the principality of Wales, and to reassure us with regard to the attitude which they will adopt.

First of all, let me say a word on Merionethshire. Your Lordships will remember that the Merionethshire difficulty arose in this way, that the local education authority refused to pay the salaries which were due to the teachers of certain Merionethshire schools; there was intolerable delay, so that the unfortunate teachers ran the risk of losing all the benefit of the holiday they had earned. The managers appealed to the Department and asked them whether they would not see that the local education authority did their duty. The reply was that until the managers had themselves paid the salaries to the teachers the question of any further action on the part of the Board of Education did not arise. That was not a very brave answer, nor the kind of answer expected from a public department. The next step has been taken, and in a certain number of schools at any rate the managers have paid the salaries of the teachers and have informed the Board of Education of the fact. I put the question to the noble Earl the Lord President, What are the Board of Education now going to do? Are they prepared, now that the event has happened, which was indicated as the only event which would bring the powers of the Board of Education into play, to see that the local education authority do their duty, which is to maintain and keep efficient the Church schools in that county? What are the Board of Education going to do? Are they still going to shrink from putting into force the Default Act, which was passed in order that aggrieved persons in this respect should not be without a remedy, and which now appears the only method open to the Board of Education to secure that the local education authorities do their duty?

I pass from the treatment of the Merionethshire schools, which has been dealt with fully in another place, to a much more important subject—to the difficulties which have arisen in Swansea-it is a singular case of tyranny. In Swansea members of the Church of England and those who approve of voluntary schools are in a very small minority, and the local education authority, which belongs to the other way of thinking, has behind it an enormous majority in the district; and the case which I have to submit to your Lordships is one of gross tyranny on the part of this majority.

There are in Swansea about 4,000 children attending the voluntary schools and about 12,000 attending the council schools. That gives your Lordships some idea, I will not say of the relative proportion of the adherents to the different denominations, but the relative proportion of the adherents to the different systems of schools. But, notwithstanding that they are in a minority, the voluntary schools are very successful schools. Their accommodation is not sufficient for the children whose parents desire that they should attend them, and children have to be turned away, and that not withstanding that until recently fees were charged. They are, therefore, one would think, schools such as the governing authority ought to do all they could to maintain and help. But, on the contrary, there has been a consistent effort to obstruct their working and to crush them out of existence.

The main subjects upon which issue is joined are the buildings and the payment of teachers. There are always in these cases three parties to the controversy—the local education authority, the managers, and the Board of Education. The duty of the local education authority is to maintain and keep efficient these non-provided schools; the duty of the managers is to carry out any reasonable requirements in the matter of buildings which the local education authority may exact; the duty of the Board of Education is to determine any difficulties which may arise between the two contending parties, the managers and the local education authority, and to see that justice is done. The controversy has gone on for three years. The managers have been willing throughout that time to carry out any reasonable requirements made upon them according to law; they have been most anxious to have as good teachers as possible, that those teachers should have the salaries current in the district, and that in the matter of the agreements which should be made between the teachers and the managers they should have and should follow the guidance of the local education authority.

I am sorry to say that the desires of the local education authority have not been of the same character. They have never made reasonable requirements within the meaning of the Act at all. They demanded, blankly, that these schools, which are existing schools, should afford all the advantages which perfectly new schools give, and should be built and provided according to the rules which appertain to new schools. That was not a reasonable requirement, as everybody knows who has had experience of the working of the Education Act. As regards the teachers, they have refused to give them equal payment with their brother teachers in the council schools. They have even refused—which I think is particularly mean—to give them those increments of salary which they earn according to the number of years in which they have served the public. They have refused any guidance or assistance; they have refused to co-operate in any way whatever in making the agreements between the managers and the teachers, and the result is that throughout the years 1905 and 1906 these schools have been understaffed and the teachers underpaid and they have not had the benefit of agreements at all.

Just let me run through the history of the case as briefly as I am able. These buildings were called in question as far back as 1905 when we were in office. I cannot admit that in the exercise of their judicial, or quasi-judicial, functions the present Board has any right to dissociate itself from the decision of the Board as it existed in the previous Government. In 1905 plans were submitted and subjected to certain criticisms, and then the Board of Education wrote that, as revised, the plans appeared to meet all the objections; in other words, there was a formal approval of the plans by the Board of Education as far back as April, 1905. The plans had then to be submitted to the local education authority, but, although they had satisfied the Board of Education, they did not satisfy the Swansea Education Authority. Objection was taken, and then suddenly the question of the playground was raised. The local education authority have no right whatever to insist on a playground; their rights are defined in the Act of Parliament, and if your Lordships will refer to it you will see that the rights of the local education authority are confined to seeing that the buildings come up to the proper requirements. But, notwithstanding that, they tried to insist on certain playground space being provided, and they went so far as to declare that the playground not being adequate in their opinion, the accommodation of the school was sufficient for only half the number of children attending.

In December, 1906, the Board of Education sent their architect down to Swansea, and he reported after the present Government took office that the premises could be accepted, with slight alterations, for the full number, or, at any rate, for a number not far short of it. That was the second approval by the authorities at Whitehall of these buildings. But the local education authority did not mend its ways; it still declined to recognise the school, as it should have done, and still abstained from doing its duty by the teachers; and, finally, the managers were driven to ask for an interview from the then President of the Board of Education. That interview took place, and Mr. Birrell promised that he would decide all the points that were submitted to him as soon as he had heard the other side; but, as a matter of fact, hardly any of the points were decided. There was one point decided about the fees, and it illustrates so vividly the attitude of mind of the local education authority that I mention it to your Lordships. The President of the Board found that 40 per cent., I think, of the fees were due to the managers, but the managers could not obtain this sum of money which had been adjudged to them by the President except by issuing a writ against the local education authority, so very reluctant was this authority to do the plainest justice to these unfortunate managers.

With regard to the rest, nothing was done. It all stood over, notwithstanding the fact that the building plans had been twice approved by the authorities in London and that Mr. Birrell had said that he would decide all the points. To this day there has been no settlement of the question. Protests, correspondence, interviews of all kinds took place, until finally Mr. McKenna assumed office. Then a change took place, but not in the direction of helping the Church schools of Swansea. On the contrary, he proceeded to change the decision which the Board had hitherto given that the buildings were adequate, and he declared that the managers ought to provide 20 square feet of playground per child—a very inconsistent decision, for alongside these Church schools were other schools where no such demand was insisted upon, and it is notorious that in other parts of the country such provision of playground space is not required. The managers, in this case very persistent people, asked for another interview and they obtained it in July of this year.

But before I deal with that interview I must say a word about the history of the teachers' side of the question. As far back as the spring of 1905, the managers had explained in the fullest way to the local authority the difficulty about the teachers, how the salaries were inadequate, and how impossible it was to maintain the school under such conditions. They appealed, of course, to the Board of Education—that was in the time of Sir William Anson—and the Board, no doubt at his instance, wrote in June, 1905, to the local education authority to say that numerous representations had reached them as to the sufficiency and suitability of the staff in the non-provided schools, that they understood that a form of agreement had been decided upon for use in the Church schools and submitted to the local education authority for ratification, and that the matter remained unsettled; and the Board proceeded to call the attention of the authority to the article of the code under which such agreements are necessary, and requested that the matter might receive immediate attention.

That was in 1905, and the matter of the teachers' salaries is still unsettled. The salaries are still inadequate; still no account is taken of the proper increments according to their years of service; and there are still no agreements when you reflect on the period during which this injustice has been perpetrated, with the permission of the Board of Education, I think noble Lords sitting in everypart of the House cannot but be profoundly shocked. The same kind of efforts were made by these unfortunate managers to get the teachers' question settled as they made in the case of the buildings, but the same evasions and difficulties were placed in their way by the local education authority. At the end of July, 1906, there was a formal decision by the Board of Education, under Mr. Birrell's presidency, upon this question of the teachers. Mr. Birrell wrote— The Board have received from the managers agreements duly signed by the teachers which the managers will be ready to sign and complete as soon as the local education authority will give their consent to the same. It is stated that the amount of salary paid in each case is filled in at the rate paid to teachers in the council schools in the area. The Board of Education are not aware of any circumstances which would justify a differentiation in the salaries paid to teachers in voluntary and council schools. That must be very clear to your Lordships. As the local education authority are bound to maintain and keep efficient all schools, whether provided or non-provided, a differentiation of salary would be a great injustice. Mr. Birrell proceeded— The Board feel that the present uncertainty is unjust to the teachers and is gravely imperilling the efficiency of the schools. They trust, therefore, to learn that at an early date the authority will give their consent to the agreements prepared. In view of the provisions of Article XV. of the Code the Board do not feel able to sanction the payment of the grants for these schools until they are assured that this matter has been satisfactorily arranged. That, as I have said, was Mr. Birrell's decision at the end of July, 1906. But nothing has been done since. The local education authority is still recalcitrant and the teachers have not yet obtained the agreements which the article in the Code says they ought to have. Though Mr. Birrell's words were very decided, I am sorry to say his courage failed him. There was a defiant answer from the local education authority declining altogether to accept Mr. Birrell's decision. Then there was a deputation to Mr. Birrell, not an open deputation, but one of those deputations which Ministers are accustomed to receive in their rooms. What happened when this deputation waited upon Mr. Birrell in his room in the House of Commons, of course, we do not know; but we know it was attended by certain Radical Members of Parliament and we observed that a change of attitude followed upon that deputation. Mr. Birrell wrote to say that, after all, the grants had only been suspended because there were difficulties between the manager and the local education authority; that they appeared to be complicated, and as their solution would take considerable time the grants would be paid meanwhile. And so Mr. Birrell, having put his foot down firmly, simply took it up again. That was in 1906.

We come now to this year. At the beginning of the year the managers became, if I may use such a phrase, dead sick of this subject, and they said they could not hold themselves any longer responsible for the efficiency of the school if they were treated in such a way. Then in March the Board told the managers they must make the agreements with the teachers even if the local education authority did not give them that guidance which they had every right to expect from them. The managers thereupon approached the local education authority and asked them once more, in the most emphatic manner, to give them this guidance, and they received an absolute refusal. At this point the National Union of Teachers intervened. That is an authority which, perhaps, Mr. McKenna would be more likely to be afraid of than any other. The National Union of Teachers said it was impossible to allow teachers to go on serving at such inadequate salaries, and they called the teachers out. A crisis therefore was produced, and the managers once more appealed to the Board.

This brings me again to July of this year, when the final interview with Mr. McKenna took place. As I have already explained to your Lordships, he, as I think in a very unfair way, decided against the managers in the matter of the playground and in the matter of the buildings. But, as regards the teachers, do your Lordships think he really came to a decision? Not at all. He reserved once more his judgment until he had heard what the local education authority had to say, and the reply from the local education authority was that the holidays were approaching and they could not come to any decision until after the holidays. So that after all these years, and these repeated applications, the managers of the Swansea Church of England schools are left in this position: they are unable to pay their teachers proper salaries; they have no agreements with them; they have no recognition from the local education authority as to their buildings; and, though they have been treated in this way and have appealed to the Board of Education to use what is called their judicial power to decide between them and the local education authority, they have been met with every species of delay, evasion, and denial of justice, until they have no resource except to come to your Lordships' House and, in the light of public opinion, ask that justice may be done.

I wish to put one or two questions in connection with this matter to the Government. I want to ask them, in the first place, whether the Board of Education will not formally decide that the local education authority must pay the salaries, and that those salaries must be equal to the corresponding salaries in other schools in the district, and, in the event of non-compliance on the part of the local education authority, exercise their powers under the Default Act to enforce this payment. In the second place, I should like to ask the Government whether they will permit any further delay on the part of the local education authority in the performance of their duty; and, lastly, whether the Government will see that the managers are recouped for the loss of money they have sustained in the payment of the teachers. The cases of Swansea and Merionethshire in their ultimate aspect are very similar. It is a question whether or not the Government will see that the local education authority pay the teachers' salaries, and, if not, whether they will enforce that duty upon them by means of the Default Act. Your Lordships are aware that under that Act the Government have complete power to secure justice being done, because they can pay over the heads of the local education authority what is necessary to the managers direct out of the Parliamentary grant. Therefore the Board of Education and the Government cannot plead that they do not possess power. I hope I have convinced your Lordships that there is no question whatever as to the justice of the case. We ask that some assurance shall be given that the noble Earl and his colleagues will see that this injustice is no longer permited to continue. I confidently ask the noble Earl whether, before Parliament separates, he will give a reassuring answer to my questions.

Moved, "That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the recent administration of the Education Acts in Wales.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)


My Lords, the noble Marquess has dealt with this very long and complicated subject in an exceedingly clear manner, and in answering him I will endeavour not to be longer than I can help. The question is, as he has said, one of considerable complication, and I am sure the House will recognise that he dealt with it, not merely very fully, but, although he expressed his opinions strongly, with an absence of invective which I think was fortunate under the circumstances, because these questions of education, particularly in Wales, are of very considerable perplexity and difficulty, and although we may be disposed in some cases to put the blame for them on different shoulders, yet we all regret them whatever our particular opinions may be. The noble Marquess said that we were suffering a Nemesis for the various observations which had been made by different members of the Government before we came into office. I cannot agree with the noble Marquess, because from my point of view we are suffering a very unjust Nemesis for the Act of 1902; and so far as regards the general attitude of the various local authorities, who, rightly or wrongly, feel very strongly on this question, I am bound to say, without expressing at this moment any opinion on these particular cases, that they have shown a considerable measure of self-control.

The noble Marquess dealt first with the case of Merionethshire, and, as he truly said, this matter has been discussed by Question and Answer, and also, I think, by a debate raised on a Motion for adjournment, in another place at great length, and it would not be, I think, desirable to repeat what has been said there. The Merionethshire case was one which certainly aroused no little sympathy among people holding all manner of different views, because the sufferers through the action of the local education authority in that case were those whom nobody would desire should suffer—namely, the teachers in certain voluntary schools. The noble Marquess did not raise the contention which was raised in another place—namely, that the Board of Education had acted in a wrong and dilatory manner in its interpretation of what might be its duty under the Default Act of 1904. My right hon. friend stated in another place that it was not possible for him to proceed under that Act by way of anticipation, but that he could only deal under the terms of that Act with actual cases submitted to him. I am afraid I cannot add anything to what my right hon. friend said in reply to Lord Robert Cecil on the 9th instant. My right hon. friend then said— I have now heard that the local education authority has intimated to the managers of several voluntary schools that if they pay salaries and send accounts to Whitehall the authority will raise no objection to the Board of Education repaying to the managers the sums recognised by the authority as due for salaries. I cannot undertake to give a guarantee to refund to the manager" any salaries which may be paid by them to the teachers, as such a stop would not be in accordance with the provisions of the Education (Local Authority Default) Act. 1904, but the fact that the local authority raise no objection to such payment to the managers would certainly be taken into account by the Board of Education in coming to a conclusion whether or not it is expedient to proceed in accordance with the provisions of that Act. So far as I know, the matter has gone no further since then.


Yes, it has, because certain of the teachers have been paid their salaries. The event which Mr. McKenna anticipated has happened.


If they have been paid the fact has not been formally brought before the Board of Education, but if I am able to give any information to the noble Marquess before the close of the session on this point I will certainly do so. On this and kindred matters I am not, of course, called upon either to approve or to reprobate the action of the local authorities. Their point of view is perfectly well-known to noble Lords. They regard the Act of 1902 as a kind of charter giving an undue preference to voluntary schools, and holding that view they will not apply money raised by rates in support of those voluntary schools, although they are willing, of course, to devote the grants to that purpose, and it is because the amount received by way of grant has run short that the salaries of these particular teachers have remained unpaid. As I say, I do not consider myself called upon to state whether that kind of proceeding is reasonable or unreasonable; all that the Board of Education has to do in such a matter is to administer the law. But I certainly express my very deep regret that any teacher should have been put to personal inconvenience by action of that kind, even though the action on the part of the local education authority may be of a perfectly conscientious character.

Passing from Merionethshire to the Swansea case, the noble Marquess said one thing which I think is undoubtedly true, and which I conceive would be admitted by the local authority of Swansea itself—namely, that it has not given guidance and assistance to the managers of the voluntary schools. There, again, opinions will probably differ, according to people's point of view, as to whether the local education authority should accept the fact of an Act of Parliament such as that of 1902, and carry out its provisions, not merely with obedience, but with enthusiasm. But I have no doubt that the local authority would not quarrel with the noble Marquess's description that they have declined to guide or assist the managers of voluntary schools in Swansea. In dealing with this matter the noble Marquess did not lay any very severe blame on the Board of Education as compared with the local authority in regard to the question of buildings; but he said one thing to which I must take exception. He seemed to imply that because the administrative action of the Board of Education under the late Government had run on certain lines my right hon. friend who now holds the office is bound to continue it on the same lines. If, as a matter of fact, there had been, as there undoubtedly was, a disposition to be exceedingly lenient to the point of straining the law and straining administrative duty in the case of voluntary schools because those who were there considered it of paramount importance that those schools should be saved and preserved at all costs, I cannot admit that my right hon. friend is bound, holding the views which he does and which I hold on the question of schools, to strain the law or to strain administrative leniency in the manner which his predecessors may have thought reasonable. The whole meaning and effect of administration is that a discretion of that kind must be exercised, and all that my right hon. friend can be properly asked to do is to give fair treatment according to what is laid down by the law to voluntary schools no less than to council schools.


Does the noble Earl say that Mr. McKenna's administration is not in any way bound by Mr. Birrell's decisions?


That is a matter on which I should like to have a particular case put to me.


I stated that Mr. Birrell's architect had approved of these buildings.


I will deal now with the question of buildings in this particular case. These schools originally, I believe, had places for 1,300 children, but according to the revised scheme the number was to be reduced to 900. The plans for 900 children provided 7 square feet of playground for each child, the amount for a new school being fixed at 30 square feet. These, of course, were not new schools, but they were going to be practically rebuilt, and there is no doubt that in a town like Swansea 7 square feet per child is a very small allowance indeed, I think an utterly inadequate allowance. Of course, if the managers revised their plans so as to give, not 30 square feet, but 20—one-third less than the Board of Education think reasonable—any such revised plans would undoubtedly be considered.


Be considered! But would they be passed? We have been considering for three years.


I am not Minister for Education, and I cannot say whether particular plans would be passed. With that I am sure the noble Marquess will agree. The noble Marquess stated the various steps in the, no doubt, extremely dilatory proceedings which have taken place in relation to the school buildings. On July 19th last the Town Council of Swansea informed the managers that the council would cease to maintain the school from July 31st unless they gave an undertaking to the council that the alterations and improvements required by the council would be proceeded with forthwith, and the managers, considering this access of promptitude hardly fair, appealed to the Board of Education. The Board then wrote to the managers in these terms— In reply to your letter of July 30th, the Board of Education consider that, in view of the imminence of the summer vacation and the obvious desirability of expediting the termination of a question that has long been outstanding, it was not unreasonable on the part of the local education authority to require your managers, before the end of July, to give some undertaking that the necessary alterations and improvements would be put in hand and completed with as little delay as possible. The Board are, accordingly, of opinion that after receiving the authority's letter of July 19th the managers should not have allowed 31st July to pass without giving some such undertaking to the local education authority, even though they were not prepared to give it precisely in the form indicated in the authority's letter. The Board are the more confirmed in this view because the managers, in their letter addressed to the Board on 23rd July, made it clear that they fully accepted the decision of the President of the Board in regard to the amount of the playground space that was required, and that in accordance therewith they were prepared to submit plans without delay and proceed as soon as possible to carry out the necessary work. In these circumstances it appears to the Board desirable that the managers should at once give an explicit undertaking to the local education authority that as soon as the plans now submitted have received the necessary approval the alterations will be completed with all possible despatch. The Board then wrote to the local education authority— I am to enclose for the information of the authority copy of a letter which the Board have received from the managers and of the Board's reply thereto. The Board consider that, in all the circumstances, it would not be unreasonable for the authority to accept such an undertaking as tantamount to the conditions laid down by the authority in their letter of 19th July.


What reply was there to that letter?


That letter was sent some time early in this month, and a reply has not yet been received. Therefore this particular question, is, so far, regarded as sub judice; but on the point of the playground space the Board of Education certainly adhere to the statement that twenty square feet per child is not unreasonable in view of the fact that the school is at any rate of the nature of a new school. The noble Marquess dwelt upon the long delay that has taken place. That I fully admit; but it obviously is due, and I have no doubt the local authority would admit it, to the view which they took of the harshness of the duties imposed upon them under the Act of 1902, and consequently they do not carry out those duties with the best grace in the world.

As regards the question of the teachers' agreements, upon which the noble Marquess dwelt at some length, though at by no means undue length, this particular dispute has, as he said, gone on for something like two years. Last summer the Board refused to pay the grant to the local authority on the ground that the teachers were not engaged under a written agreement, that being one of the conditions imposed by the Code. The local authority contended that it was the duty of the managers and not of the local authority to sign agreements, because the teachers were the servants of the managers; and the managers refused to sign any agreement unless it was countersigned by the local authority. Then the various colloquies and meetings which the noble Marquess has described took place, with the result that it came out that the legal position was, as a matter of fact, an extremely obscure one, and it was exceedingly difficult to say what the precise obligation upon the local authority was. The decision of the President of the Board of Education, after he had taken the best legal advice on the subject, was this, dated March 12th, 1907— The Board of Education are advised that it is the duty of the managers of Voluntary schools to complete the agreements required by Article 15 of the Code, and that the managers are not relieved from the obligation thus imposed on them by any failure on the part of the local education authority to fix the salaries to be paid to the teachers. The managers should at once proceed to make the agreements… and any question hereafter arising as to the salaries thus fixed will be determined by the Board under Section 7, Subsection (3), of the Act of 1902. Thereupon the managers thought that, in the absence of any guidance or direction on the part of the local authority, they were at liberty to sign the agreements fixing the salaries of the teachers at the same scale as were paid to similar teachers in the council schools. It must be clearly understood that the Board of Education during this time stood aside, because the case on the point of what the amount of the salaries ought to be had not come before them.

On July 2nd, the managers wrote to the Board saying that the teachers had applied to the local authority to pay the salaries as fixed in the agreements, but that they had been paid at the lower rate—the rate at which they had been previously paid; and they accordingly appealed to the Board. An interview took place between the managers and the Board of Education, and a letter was written to the local authority asking for their observations in regard to the statements of the managers that the local authority had given them no directions at all as to the rate of salaries which had been inserted in the agreements, and also with regard to the appeal of the managers generally. Although asked to send an early reply to that letter they have not done so. They merely wrote on July 10th, that the holidays would prevent a full reply to the Board's letter immediately, but that as prompt attention as possible would be given to it. The local education authority of Swansea are more fortunate than your Lordships generally in the matter of holidays, and I hope it will not be long before the Board of Education receives the reply which it is entitled to receive, in my opinion, much more promptly than will be the case in this instance. There the matter stands.

The noble Marquess asked me whether the Board of Education would at onC3 decide that the full amounts of the salaries should be paid. I am not qualified to reply to any of these questions, because they deal with matters of administration, which are in the hands of my right hon. friend; but no doubt my right hon. friend will consider whether the figure placed by the managers in the agreement is reasonable or not. If he thinks it is a reasonable figure he will say that it should be paid, but if he does not think it is a reasonable figure he will not. Obviously he will not be in a position to say that any figure which the managers chose to put into au agreement would be a reasonable one; in arriving at a decision he is obliged to be guided by the circumstances of the case.

The noble Marquess next asked how far the Board of Education would prevent delay. I am perfectly certain that the Board will do all that it can in this matter, but, of course, such a local authority as that of Swansea can exercise a certain discretion as to the time in which it replies to any letter, and as far as I know there is no administrative power to compel people to answer a letter, I do not say within any time, but within a time which may appear to some of us to be more than sufficient. Then as regards recouping the managers, that, I think, is the same question as the first, is it not? That question would not arise unless the President of the Board of Education decided that the salaries need only be paid on the lower scale and the managers had paid them on the higher. But that forms part of the first question, and I will see, as in the former case, before the session closes whether my right hon. friend is in a position to give the information for which the noble Marquess asks.


My Lords, I do not wonder that the noble Marquess found it difficult to condense the history of the Swansea case. The correspondence is voluminous and spreads over a long period, and I think the noble Marquess has been quite right in not adopting the whole of the inheritance left him and moving for Papers. I think the facts he has stated, supplemented by some other facts which have not been stated, will really give the House a fair idea of what has been going on.

As the noble Marquess said, this has been a very protracted dispute. He has gone back to the year 1905, but the pourparlers were begun earlier than that. I think the noble Marquess would have stated the facts more correctly to the House if he had informed your Lordships that this has been a game of "diamond cut diamond" or "pull devil, pull baker" between the efficient secretary on behalf of the Church schools and the local education authority. It has been a pretty game of fencing between them both. The noble Marquess said the Government were having to expiate the utterances of the Ministers before they came into office, but I think the noble Earl the Lord President was more accurate when he said that they have to expiate the Act of 1902.

You cannot make attacks on the local authorities now without remembering that the former Government carried the war into the enemy's camp and raised these questions when everything that was possible was being done for denominational schools. I am not going to trouble your Lordships with illustrations, but as the noble Marquess is making an excursion into Wales and studying the educational history of the Principality, I would advise him, as giving an instance of what the Board of Education can do to thwart education, to write to the Secretary of the Denbigh Education Committee and ask for the correspondence, spread over, I think, seven years, which took place before the Denbigh authority obtained permission to make a small enlargement to a school at Glynceiriog; and I think the noble Marquess will then see that there are two sides to this question.

Now, as to the case of Swansea. Here the delay has not been entirely on the side of the local education authority. Great delay has been caused by the local managers, who have fought the local authority in every possible way. The noble Marquess complained that the managers had been called upon to rebuild the school promptly or have it taken of the list, but the managers have been fighting all this time to avoid remedying obvious structural defects. Let me give some instances. In the correspondence you will see that as long ago as April, 1905, it was admitted that the latrines of one of the schools were in an objectionable state, but it was not until July, 190(5, that the Church managers contracted for new latrines, the cost of carrying out the work being £370. Here they admitted that they were insanitary, but they waited over twelve months before beginning to carry out the work.

I would refer the noble Marquess to the action of his Board of Education, if I may so call it—the late Board of Education—in regard to this matter. I agree that this duty of deciding a dispute between the local education authority and the managers as to structural improvements and repairs places the Board of Education in a judicial position. They have to decide between the two parties. Nevertheless, while the local education authority were demanding from the managers plans drawn to a certain scale, and while the managers were refusing to supply these plans, the Board of Education in the late Government went behind the back of the local education authority and proposed to send down their architect to confer with the managers and determine whether the plans were satisfactory or not. The local education authority protested. They said the Board was placed in the position of a judicial authority to act on appeal, yet they were proposing beforehand to go down, hear the case ex parte, and give their decision. The Board of Education sent down its architect and proposed to deal with the question of plans before it had enabled the local authority to plead before it.

I will not say anything about the Merionethshire case; that is a small matter, and it has been practically disposed of. The case brought before the House by the noble Marquess is the case of Swansea. I entirely deny the noble Marquess's interpretation of the Act of 1902; I entirely deny that the Act of 1902 imposes upon any local authority the obligation to treat the two classes of schools with equality. That Act imposes upon the local authority the duty of maintaining and keeping efficient the aided schools, and so long as they maintain and keep them efficient and the standard of maintenance and efficiency is the standard of the Code, they are quite at liberty, if they choose, to have a more lavish system of maintenance and efficiency in the case of the council schools.


On whose authority does the noble Earl make that statement?


On the authority of the Act. It was attempted by Mr. Hope, Member for one of the divisions of Sheffield, when the Act of 1902 was passing through the House of Commons, to insert words on the question of equal maintenance to the effect that the local authorities should not discriminate between schools provided by themselves and schools not so provided; but Sir William Anson opposed this Amendment and said that if a local authority was disposed to act unfairly—by that he meant not equally—no words in the Bill could make them act fairly. The Amendment was thereupon withdrawn, and although, of course, I quite agree that debates in the House of Commons are not conclusive evidence of the meaning of an Act, yet I think it goes some way that an Amendment was moved to put in that obligation and that that Amendment was opposed by the Minister in charge of the Bill and withdrawn.

I repeat that the obligation on the authority is the obligation laid down in the Act—namely, to maintain and keep efficient. Many local authorities, for instance, have optional classes for wood-work and cookery, and if an authority has inherited board schools which provided woodwork and cookery centres for the children attending those schools, the fact that they do not extend that system and throw the classes open to the voluntary schools would not entitle the Board of Education to call upon the local authority to build more cookery centres or woodwork centres in order to supply accommodation for these children. Take another case. It is competent for local authorities to provide higher elementary schools, but nobody supposes for a moment that if the Church people of a town said it was hard that their children could not get the benefit of higher education without going to council schools, the Board of Education could call upon the local authority to establish a higher elementary school for Church children. In the same way, if the local education authority has staffed an aided school and that staff satisfies the requirements of the Code, the Board of Education could not say that because the authority permitted a larger allowance of certificated teachers in the council schools, therefore they must increase the number in the voluntary schools. The rights of the Board of Education are limited by the ascertainment whether the school is adequately and properly maintained.

In January, 1907, the local Church managers complained of what they call the discrimination in the matter of the teachers' salaries, but there is no obligation to put them on the same scale. Another complaint of the Swansea local managers was that not enough money was spent on cleaning; but if a school is not kept clean it is the duty of His Majesty's inspector to say he found the school dirty, and, if it were necessary to go so far, a deduction of 10 per cent. could be made from the grant. But what an infinite labour would be thrown on the Board of Education if they had to consider all these questions? Further, if you are going to give the local authority no discretion as to its expenditure while you admit that it is maintaining the school efficiently, you will do away with the provisions of Section 7 of the Education Act.

The noble Marquess laid stress on the delay of the local authority, but I would point out that this has been a fencing match, with the local managers trying to implicate the authority in some written undertaking whereby they would become responsible for more liberal salaries. But the local education authorities have said: "We will do nothing of the kind. You are the employers of these teachers and we will not sign any agreement with them." Swansea does not stand alone in this respect, for the London County Countil have never undertaken to countersign agreements with managers. When this Act passed there were two sets of agreements sent out for ratification—one by the National Society and the other by the National Union of Teachers; and my recollection is that the agreement sent out by the National Society distinetly recommended that the local authority should be kept out from signing the agreements, as such action would undermine the absolute and independent authority, as employers, of the managers. In criticising the Swansea local authority, it should be remembered that they were engaged in a conflict—both sides were at arm's length, and determined not to give the other side the slightest advantage.

As to the agreements and the delay in connection therewith, it is interesting to note that, though the Board of Education time after time told the managers that, whether the local authority gave them any guidance or not, it was their duty to sign the agreements, they did not sign them till June, some months after the order to sign. It is complained that the Swansea local authority have gone away for their holidays, but it is only fair to point out that when the managers asked for this interview, to which the noble Marquess has referred, with Mr. McKenna, their letter was dated 3rd June. They received a prompt reply from the Board of Education on 6th June, granting them an interview for 14th June. But the Board of Education heard nothing further until 26th June, when the managers said it would not suit them to come up till the week ending 20th July. All these things hang together, and conclusively show that the delay has been by no means confined to one side. These people knew when the Swansea local authority would adjourn for the summer recess; they ran matters up to the adjournment and now pose as if the delay was due to the local education authority. The local authority had been evaded and put off time after time, and at last they put their foot down and said that unless they got an assurance that the school would be rebuilt within a certain time they would withdraw the grant. The school has really to be rebuilt, and the local education authority would be doing a great wrong in sanctioning such an inadequate number of Square feet per child for playground space as that proposed. It should be remembered that there are no places where playgrounds are more needed for children than in our great manufacturing towns. I congratulate the noble Marquess on his first exploration into the controversy of Welsh education. I hope he will pursue his studies, and I am confident that if he does he will find that he will also have to raise debates against his own side.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down invited me to further investigate the Welsh education question. I would recommend him, in reply, to study more closely the pages of Hansard before he tries to convict me and my friends of inconsistency in our description of what the Act of 1902 provides. The noble Lord says that during the passage of that Act an hon. friend of mine in the House of Commons proposed that there should be inserted words preventing discrimination, and that that was resisted by our Government on the ground that the words would be useless. But if the noble Lord had read further he would have found that the Attorney-General, perhaps even a greater authority than my hon. friend on a matter of law, said that the words were quite unnecessary, as the Bill already contained a provision securing that object.


But I prefer to take the opinion of Sir William Anson, who was in charge of the Bill.


The noble Lord evidently prefers Sir William Anson's opinion to Mr. Birrell's, for Mr. Birrell said that— The Board of Education are not aware of any circumstances which would justify a differentiation in the salaries paid to teachers in voluntary and council schools.


But Mr. Birrell ran away from that opinion very soon afterwards.


Mr. Birrell did not run away from his opinion; he stuck to his opinion, but he ran away from enforcing it.


Mr. Birrell was referring to voluntary schools as such; to voluntary schools as a class.


Mr. Birrell was writing in respect of this particular controversy and directly on this point; and there is not a man in this House who does not know perfectly well that when the Act of 1902 said that it was the duty of the local education authority to maintain and keep efficient all these schools, what was contemplated and recognised was that the status of the voluntary schools, which was lower in point of salaries than that of board schools, should be raised. The point does not rest there, because, without raising the salaries; it is quite impossible to maintain and keep efficient these schools. Why? Because the teachers will not serve. The noble Lord forgets that the National Union of Teachers had called these teachers out, so that positively the school, unless the salaries are raised, will be left without teachers, and the noble Lord cannot possibly contend that a school without teachers is efficient. The case is not arguable. It is the duty of the local education authority to pay the full salaries in justice to the teachers and to the efficiency of the school, and the obligation rests upon the Board of Education to see that the local education committee do their duty; and I am sorry that either of the noble Lords who have spoken should have attempted to get out of that obvious obligation. However, it is a matter of some satisfaction that we should have had from the Lord President the assurance that if it could be shown that the salaries proposed by the managers were reasonable his right hon. friend would see that they were paid. I take it from him as a pledge on behalf of the Government that if, in his judicial capacity, Mr. McKenna arrives at the conclusion that the salaries are reasonable he will see that they are paid. That is a very important matter, and I thank the noble Earl for the assurance. Having great confidence in the fairness of the noble Earl, I cannot believe that further delay will be allowed in according justice in this case.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.