HL Deb 22 November 1910 vol 6 cc811-25

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Beauchamp)


My Lords, your Lordships will remember that when this House separated in the summer there was, I will not call it a debate, but a conversation in respect of this Bill. I think the noble Earl moved the Second Reading of the Bill on the very last working day of those sittings, and I ventured to ask him whether he could not go more into detail on that occasion and describe to us what the provisions of the Bill were intended to effect and what authority he had for those provisions. The noble Earl —I make no complaint, for it was not a suitable opportunity—was not able to go into the matter to any extent. at all at that moment. I have no desire whatever to stop this Bill, but I do think that your Lordships are entitled to a little information upon it.

There are two questions which I would venture to put to the noble Earl. In the first place, can he inform us in what way, under the working of the Bill, the Government intend to employ the services of the various voluntary bodies which have been at work on this subject for years past. The object of this Bill, as I need not remind your Lordships, is of the highest importance. The Bill is designed to promote apprenticeship, to promote the employment of young persons. I believe this to be a matter of the greatest importance to the country, and with the general object of the Bill I suspect everybody listening to me is in agreement. But I want to know to what extent the Government are going to avail themselves of the assistance of the voluntary bodies which have been at work on this subject. In the second place, I wish to ask whether the various Offices of the Government are thoroughly satisfied with the provisions of this Bill. The noble Earl who was until recently Lord President of the Council moved the Bill on behalf of the Board of Education, but there is another Office which is at least equally interested with the Board of Education in this subject—namely, the Board of Trade. I am naturally more interested from the Board of Trade side, and I want to know whether the Board of Trade, which, of course, is the Office primarily concerned with the Labour Exchanges, is thoroughly satisfied with the provisions of the Bill.

There is only one further observation I desire to make. I have already said that the last day of the last sittings of Parliament was not a good opportunity for discussing the Bill. I think to-night is a worse opportunity. It is impossible, in the midst of the gravest Constitutional crisis of our times, with a Dissolution of Parliament pending in a few days, for us to give any real attention to this Bill, and I cannot pretend that I think your Lordships will have done your absolute duty in that proper revision and consideration of the provisions of this Bill which the importance of the subject demands. Therefore if those of us who sit on this side of the House do not ask for further time, which would, of course, be fatal to the Bill, on the present occasion, and in view of its great importance allow it to go through, I hope it will be understood that we are not committed to the details of the Bill, and it may well be that on a future occasion and in a future Parliament it may be necessary to carefully revise them and add amendments which there is no time to consider now. But subject to that saving clause, for my own part, and I believe I speak for my friends on this Bench, we shall not in any way oppose the passage of the Bill.


My Lords, I am glad that my noble friend on the. Front Opposition Bench has taken this opportunity, on the Motion to go into Committee, of putting to the Government the two questions which he has asked. I have ventured to put down an Amendment for the purpose of raising a point which the Education Committee of the County Councils Association specially wish to be raised before this Bill passes into law—namely, that this is another of those Bills which put a charge upon the rates in respect of national services while offering no relief out of national funds. I have been in the unfortunate position of having to bring this subject before the House on repeated occasions, and no one could be more sorry than I am to have to do so; but my action has been due to the fact that the Government, and especially the President of the Board of Education, invariably show an almost callous disregard of the rights and wishes of the ratepayers.

In this case let me add that I think the President of the Board shows a cynical disregard of what I believe to be the wishes of the Government as a whole. I venture to make that remark because only a few months ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in receiving a deputation from the County Councils Association, expressed himself in full accord. with everything that was said. He admitted that it was a gross injustice that these charges should be continually put on the rates, and he declared his intention on the first opportunity, which he then said was to be next year, of putting a stop to it and finding a large sum of money to relieve the rates. Not only that, but the noble Earl who leads this House a very few days afterwards corroborated the statement that was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the deputation to which I have referred, and himself said that it was the intention of the Government next year, if possible, at all events at a very early date, to take into consideration the question of the burden of local rates. I give full credit to the Government for their intention, but I ask, Is it not a somewhat cynical course to pursue to put a new charge on the rates on every occasion you possibly can and at the same time say you are quite in sympathy with those who object to it, and that you are going to take an opportunity at sonic future time to remedy the grievance?

I can remember five or six occasions on which, for different purposes in connection with education during the last two or three years, fresh charges have been put on the rates, the only variation in those cases being that the charges have been made by the Board of Education by memoranda, by circulars, or by regulations, over which Parliament has no control and to which the local authorities have to bow. In this case, however, the proposal is contained in a Bill and therefore conies before Parliament, and I venture to take this opportunity of saying that the Government, having expressed their intention of remedying the present serious state of things, might surely have held their hands during the last few days of an expiring Parliament from further adding to what they admit to be the unjust burden already borne by the ratepayers. I did hear, though not from any official source, that the Minister for Education would be willing to consider whether this charge might not be met in sonic way out of the funds at the disposal of the Government. I have placed on the Paper an Amendment which I have no doubt I shall be told is a privilege Amendment. We have had privilege Amendments on different occasions in this House which have been treated differently by the other House, and I cannot forget that a series of privilege Amendments were moved in this House with regard to a Bill for giving pensions to lunatic asylum officers, and that they were moved really at the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. I do not wish to press an Amendment of this sort, particularly on the present occasion, but I do hope that the effect of my having put the Amendment on the Paper will he that, if the Bill is not to be amended in this way, we may, at all events, get some assurance that the President of the Board of Education will take care that this Bill does not place anything like a serious charge on the rates.

I am quite unable to say what amount of money will have to be spent for the purposes of this Bill if the county councils carry it out. Let me point out that this is not a compulsory Bill; it gives county councils power to undertake this work. But I understand that the President of the Board of Education is extremely anxious that the Bill should be effective, and I venture to suggest that if he wishes it to be carried out by county councils who are already smarting under the continuous charges that are put upon them by the Board of Education, his wish would be facilitated if he would undertake the charge himself, or, at all events, see that a considerable part of the charge is recouped to county councils out of Government funds. I hope I have put our case in a reasonable and moderate way, and I shall be glad if the Government can give some assurance which will relieve the feelings of the ratepayers in this matter.


My Lords, I am extremely anxious that this Bill should pass. I believe that that is the general wish of those authorities on whom the additional expense, if any, would fall—namely, the local education authorities—and I fancy that the county councils in so far as they have education committees are also favourable to the Bill. This Bill is brought forward merely to clear up a doubt which has arisen. It was the common practice for School Boards to help children to get employment on leaving school by means of correspondence and otherwise, and all who were familiar with the system will acknowledge that a very valuable work was carried out. I do not know any body more able to help in this matter than the school authorities, or any body to which an employer is more apt to apply. The noble Earl who represents the Board of Trade will give an authoritative assurance to the noble Marquess on the point, but I understand that this Bill has the absolute support of the Board of Trade and of the Board of Education.

I understand that the noble Lord below the Gangway opposite (Lord Belper) wished to put on record a protest or warning rather than to actually go to a Division against the Bill; but my opinion is that the cost which the carrying out of the provisions of this Bill would involve would be quite infinitesimal. We are to have the large question of the relation of the State to the rates considered next year. At any rate it is on the list, though one must be a sanguine man to feel sure that everything that is on the list for next year will be dealt with. But I hope that something will be done. I only rose to state that this is a thing that was commonly done by the old School Boards, but that people are not quite clear whether they have the power now to do it without legislation. Therefore it is well that the doubt should be cleared up. With regard to the caveat entered by the noble Marquess opposite, I may say that personally I shall be glad to support the noble Marquess in remedying by legislation any practical defects which may be found in the working of this measure. I hope, however, that we may with a happy unanimity agree to this Bill to-day.


My Lords, I desire to amplify the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Belper. The London County Council, of which I am a member, have considered this Bill and are strongly of opinion that this is really a matter which should properly be paid for by the Imperial Government. Lord Belper has referred to a promise given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and also to a speech made by the noble Earl the Leader of this House, but the London County Council feel that it is possible that this Bill may prejudice their position and the position of other local bodies when this question comes up for settlement on a future occasion. There is another point which strengthens the case of local bodies against the Government in this matter. I think every member of the House will agree that this is really an extension of the principle of the Labour Exchanges Act of last year. So much so is that the case that a Regulation—Regulation No. 9, I think it is—drawn up under that Act gives power for committees to be formed and arrangements made with respect to the employment of children, and a whole list of rules have been made under that Regulation. It is perfectly true that the work may be better carried on by the Board of Education in the schools than perhaps it could be by the Board of Trade, and possibly also more economically. But that hardly meets the objection. It is merely an extension of the principle of the Labour Exchanges Act, but the work is to be done by another body. All that it does is to save the Board of Trade from having to spend money as they would have to do under their regulations and rules. In view of that fact the London County Council have passed this Resolution— That in the opinion of this Council the expenses incurred by the local education authorities in the exercise of their powers under the Education (Choice of Employment)) Bill should be defrayed out of the Imperial Exchequer. There are two points that might be urged by the noble Earl against that resolution. The first is that the duties under this Bill are optional. If the Government really consider that the provisions of the Bill are desirable, surely it is for them to encourage the local authorities to put the Bill into force when it becomes law. London has, perhaps, a particularly strong claim in this matter, because already the Board of Trade have appointed a special Advisory Committee on Juvenile Employment under the Labour Exchanges Act of last year. There is another point that may be urged—namely, that a local authority may have very wide views about the provisions of this Bill and may spend far more money than the Treasury would be prepared to sanction. But no one suggests that the local authorities should be given carte blanche to act in this matter. All that is urged upon His Majesty's Government is that in this case the grant from the Exchequer shall be adequate to the work being carried out in a thoroughly satisfactory and economical manner. There have been several cases of late in which duties have been put upon local authorities and a grant made, but it has been quite impossible for the duties to be carried out, however economically, without very largely exceeding the expenditure which the grant would cover. I venture to hope that the noble Earl in charge of this Bill will be able to give some assurance to the House that the local authorities will be given a grant sufficient to carry out to the full the provisions of this Bill.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will not look upon it as a trifling matter whether we pass this measure or not. It matters extremely that we should at this moment give the facilities which this Bill offers. All those who are engaged in the practical work of the education of older children know that this Bill is really needed, and I do not think we should be wrong in saying that, to whatever authority you choose to turn who is familiar with the working of the upper classes of our schools and the finding of proper outlets for boys and girls on leaving those schools, no one can fail to say that something of this sort is urgently required. Without aid of the kind suggested by this Bill this work cannot be done properly, but with aid of this sort the work will turn out a far-extending boon in preventing boys and girls drifting into what is called blind-alley employments, which come to nothing at all and unfit them for anything in after life. Besides that, no one who has to do with the working of our elementary schools can fail to be aware that boys and girls frequently show, after a very few years, that they and their employments have been what we may call misfits. By a kind of accident they have got into the wrong employment when they might have got into the right one, and this is due to the lack of some authority or of some set of persons or office to w hick they might turn for the kind of counsel and aid they most require.

The carrying out of this work may, of course, involve some expenditure, but the greater part of the work will be done voluntarily. Expenditure will be involved in seeing that it is practically and effectively done, but it is not a thing that will mount up into large machinery involving a great deal of money. Voluntary aid will supplement it, and those most admirable and kindly helpers, the head teachers in our great elementary schools, will find themselves assisted in every way to carry out more effectively the sort of work they are trying to do to the best of their ability now. We have heard two important and interesting speeches to-night from Lord Belper and Lord Stanhope as to the financial question and the difficulties which may be raised. I was particularly interested in the speech of my noble friend Lord Stanhope, who seemed to me to thoroughly understand the subject and to see where the difficulty would lie.

I share with the noble Marquess opposite and others a desire that if it is found that some change in the administration of the Bill or in the incidence of its cost is necessary the matter may be remedied, and I feel that we who are cordially supporting the Bill to-night will be foremost in desiring to co-operate in bringing in any such change. There may be difficulties to cope with as regards the working out of the measure and even the small expense involved, but do not let us in consequence of these difficulties neglect to take a step the postponement of which would cause great disappointment in all parts of the country, and the taking of which by your Lordships to-night would be, I am certain, appreciated by those who care most for the well-being at the critical age of the boys and girls in our elementary schools. I therefore hope that your Lordships will go into Committee to-night and pass the Bill without amendment.


My Lords, it may be convenient to your Lordships that I should at this stage answer the question put to me by the noble Marquess opposite as to the attitude of the Board of Trade with regard to this Bill. I am glad to be able to say that the Board of Trade and the Board of Education are in entire agreement on this matter. Several conferences have taken place between the two Departments, and they see no reason whatever to think that there will be any fear of overlapping between the Juvenile Department of the Labour Exchanges and the local education authorities in the event of this Bill becoming law.


My Lords, my noble friend the Lord President of the Council is unable to be in his place to-day to conduct the passage of this Bill through Committee of your Lordships' House, and as I am acting for him perhaps it would be convenient that I should now answer the various questions which have been put. In the first place, I will reply to the remarks of the noble Marquess on the Front Bench opposite. If he will refer to Hansard he will see that, as a matter of fact, a little more time was given to your Lordships for the consideration of this Bill than he seems to think. My recollection is that the noble Marquess was not present in your Lordships' House on the Second Reading of the Bill, and was therefore unable to hear the no doubt inadequate reasons and explanations which I offered for the Bill. He came in, however, on the day when we were taking the Committee stage, and was anxious, I think, that more time should be given. From what he said just now I was led to the conclusion that his recollection was that we tried to take both stages on the one day, which was not the case. We put off the Committee stage in deference to a request from the noble Marquess, and I had hoped that before now the Bill would have become law.

In reply to the two questions which the noble Marquess put, I may say at once that we hope to make every possible use of the voluntary bodies, but it is difficult, to lay down exactly by rule or regulation in what way use can be made of voluntary bodies of this kind. We wish to consult them and so on, but we do not feel that a, definite rule saying how it is to be done would be of material assistance. Voluntary bodies often have to be treated in different ways, and the communications which will take place will frequently be of a somewhat informal character; but both the Board of Education and the Board of Trade are in every way anxious to encourage local education authorities to use voluntary service to the fullest extent, and the good results which have occurred in the past in places where work of this character has been done is an excellent reason why the Board of Education and the Board of Trade should be anxious to, encourage further work of the kind by voluntary bodies.

I may say, in reply to the second question of the noble Marquess, that there has been a good deal of consultation between the President, of the Board of Trade and the President of the Board of Education with regard to this matter, and that we are anxious that the Bill should furnish security for the fullest co-operation between the education authorities and the Labour Exchanges. It was in accordance with a suggestion which came from the Board of Trade that provision was included in Clause 1, subsection (1), providing that the powers conferred on the local authorities should only be exercised "subject to the approval of the Board of Education."


I am sure it will shorten matters if the noble Earl will allow me to interrupt him at this point. From the tenor of his argument I should have thought lie would have led up to a provision that the powers conferred should only be exercised "subject to the approval of the Board of Trade." The Bill proposes to confer powers on the education authorities, and the noble Earl was explaining to the House that that was to be done in strict conformity with the Labour Exchanges Act and with the authority of the Board of Trade. Then one would have expected that the words in the clause would have been "subject to the approval of the Board of Trade," not to the approval of the Board of Education.


I understood the noble Marquess to ask whether the Board of Trade and the Board of Education were in complete agreement in this matter, and I was endeavouring to explain to him how the communications between the two authorities had led to the insertion of these words in the Bill to secure the harmonious co-operation on which the noble Marquess dwelt. As a result, the words which were considered at one time to be necessary and which were suggested as an Amendment in another place directed to this object were, after due consideration, thought unnecessary because provision had already been inserted in the Bill. I can also, through the assistance of my noble friend the Secretary for Scotland, refer the noble Marquess to the reference to this matter in the Education (Scotland) Act, 1908, where power of this kind is given to the local education authorities. My noble friend permits me to say that experience in Scotland has shown that it has worked with excellent results.

Then I come to the speech of Lord Belper, who referred to the question of an increase in the rates. I am afraid that I have very little to add to what I have said before on this subject. The noble Lord himself referred to the fact that His Majesty's Government had expressed their hope to deal with the question of rating upon an early occasion. That, of course, touches rather the general question. On the particular Bill now before the House, I may say that the President of the Board is prepared to approach the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to obtaining financial assistance for the authorities to the extent of part, at least, of the burden which will fall upon them, but it is not very likely that any considerable expense will be incurred. After all, consultation between various authorities does not mean much expenditure, and, valuable as the-results of this Bill will be, I hope it will be exercised with due economy. That, I think, is a special reason why we should wish the expense to be partly borne by the local authority. I am sure the noble Lord will agree with me that in any case where a local authority spends money, where the expenditure of the money is under their charge, it is desirable that they should be responsible for at any rate part of the expense; otherwise there is always a certain tendency to extravagance If a local authority feels that, however great their expense may be, the burden of that expense will be borne by the central authority, one of the greatest incentives to economy is removed. This is especially a matter in which local knowledge is necessary, and I think noble Lords and the most rev. Primate will agree that it is very desirable that it should be done by the local authorities, on account of the knowledge which they have of the special circumstances of particular districts. That, I am afraid, must also be my answer to my noble relative on the Back Benches opposite with regard to the expense. We, naturally, regret that the London County Council are unable to support this Bill entirely and absolutely, but, none the less, we feel confident that when it is passed they will do their best to make it a useful measure.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Power of certain local education authorities to give assistance with respect to choice of employment.

1.—(1) The powers conferred upon the councils of counties and county boroughs as local education authorities under section two of the Education Act, 1902 (in this Act called the principal Act). shall include a power to make arrangements, subject to the approval of the Board of Education, for giving to boys and girls under seventeen years of age assistance with respect to the choice of suitable employment. by means of the collection and the communication of information and the furnishing of advice.

(2) The council of a county, and the council of a non-county borough or urban district within the county who are a local education authority under Part III of the principal Act, may, as part of their powers under Part II of that Act, enter into and carry into effect arrangements or agreements for the co-operation of the council of the borough or district with the county council in respect of the exercise by the county council of their powers under this Act, either—

  1. (a) by rendering to the county council such assistance as may be arranged or agreed; or
  2. (b) by exercising within the borough or district, on behalf of the county council, all or any of the powers of that council under this Act;
and any such arrangement or agreement may, amongst other things, provide for the proportion in which the expenses incurred under it are to be borne by the councils respectively.

(3) The expenses incurred under this Act by any council (whether the council of a county, county borough, borough, or urban district) shall be defrayed as part of the expenses of that council under section two or section three of the principal Act, as the case may be.

LORD BELPER had an Amendment on the Paper to leave out, at the end of subsection (2), the words "and any such arrangement or agreement may, amongst other things, provide for the proportion in which the expenses incurred under it are to be borne by the councils respectively," and to amend subsection (3) so that it would read— (3) The expenses incurred under this Act by any council (whether the council of a county, county borough, borough, or urban district) shall be repaid to such council out of moneys provided by Parliament.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Earl the First Commissioner of Works has given a pledge that the Board of Education will find at least half the expense of carrying out this measure. I quite recognise that it is difficult to ascertain at the present moment whether the expense is likely to be large or small. No doubt the work should be carried out locally under the authority of the county council or other council concerned, and I recognise fully—it is almost an axiom of local government —that where the local authority has the administration of work of this sort it is desirable that some part at all events of the cost should fall upon them. But what I venture to ask is whether, in the circumstances of the pledge which the noble Earl has given, he will insert in the Bill at a later stage words which will carry out that pledge—namely, that half, at least, of the cost will be borne by the central authority. If he will do that, I shall be quite willing to withdraw my Amendment.


I am afraid the noble Lord is rather hopeful with regard to the pledge which I gave, and which I do not think went quite so far as he desired. I am sorry that I cannot meet his wishes more in that direction. As to the insertion of further Amendments in this Bill, I hope your Lordships will not insist upon that course, because it is obvious that the only chance the Bill has of passing is that it should go through this House to-day unamended. The insertion of any Amendment here would mean its return to another place.


I am placed in rather a difficult position, but I accept the pledge given in this House by the noble Earl and will rely upon its being carried out. I have no wish to do anything to cause the Bill to be lost. It is unfortunate that it has come up at such a late period, but in the circumstances, and recognising that the noble Earl has met me in the way suggested, I will not move my Amendment.


I desire to prevent any misunderstanding. As I understand, Mr. Runciman has communicated, or is in course of communicating, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to pressing upon him the desirability of meeting a part of this charge. That and nothing more was the promise given by the noble Earl to-night—that the Board of Education are endeavouring to get some contribution under this head from the Treasury. I have only referred to this matter to prevent any charge being afterwards made of breach of faith. The noble Earl said that the President of the Board of Education was approaching the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject of obtaining definite assistance, but he said nothing beyond that.


With all respect to the noble Lord who has just sat down and who is a great authority on education, I think we might leave the noble Earl the First Commissioner to answer himself. The exact pledge which the noble Earl has made he will, of course, absolutely adhere to. I am afraid, however, that I did not catch what it was. Perhaps the noble Earl will oblige your Lordships by repeating what he said on this point. I understand from Lord Belper that the noble Earl, speaking on behalf of the Government, said that if they have the opportunity of carrying out their pledge, which is not quite certain, in the next Parliament, they will see that half of the cost under this Bill falls upon the Imperial Exchequer.


The noble Marquess shows a flattering desire to-day to hear speeches from me which he did not show last night—


I protest against that. I remember the noble Earl calling one of my noble friends on this side to order, but I never called him to order.


I do not refer to the calling of any one to order, but to the evident desire of noble Lords opposite not to hear us on the general question. What I said as to financial assistance under this Bill was that the President of the Board of Education would approach the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view of obtaining assistance for the local authorities to the extent of a part, at least, of the burden they will undertake.


I should like to ask how the local authorities are to interpret that pledge when they go before the auditor. It is no use for them to quote speeches made in Parliament and pledges given by noble Lords opposite, because the auditor will at once say that there is nothing on the point embodied in the Act. I should be glad to know if, when charges have to be met by my county council, I may point to what the noble Earl in charge of the Bill has said—that half of the charge is to be defrayed by the Imperial Exchequer. I ask the noble Earl what steps he proposes to take to put his promise in a tangible form.


I would venture to point out that as the noble Lord has not moved his Amendment there is no Amendment before the House.

On Question, Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment, and to be read 3ª To-morrow