HL Deb 15 December 1925 vol 62 cc1464-96

EARL DE LA WARR rose to move to resolve, That this House, without raising the question of the principle of the block grant, deplores the proposals contained in Circular 1371, on the grounds that they will entail either a transfer of national burdens to the rates or the abandonment of these schemes of educational development which the Board itself had urged the local educational authorities to prepare.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot preface my remarks with the words that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillimore, used—namely, that he was unwilling to bring the Government face to face with a second defeat to-day. At the same time the Motion which stands in my name is inspired by no Party spirit. Indeed, even if the labour Party wished to make this a Party question, public opinion would not allow them to do so. It is fair to say that the whole thinking portion of the community is profoundly shocked by the provisions of the Circular which we have under discussion. Their reception in what we may call the more respectable Conservative Press has been no more warm than that meted out to it by the journals of the Opposition, while resolutions from all parts of the country, from bodies of all shades of political opinion and non-political opinion, have been pouring in. A resolution passed by the county education committee of which I am a member is only typical, and it condemns this Circular in no weak terms. I refer to that. only because, being a member of the committee myself, I know from personal experience that it is composed almost to a man of good, solid, sturdy Conservatives and, with the humble exception of myself, I do not think there is a single member who can be suspected of having received orders either from Moscow or from the more respectable neighbourhood of Eccleston Square.

The case can be put in very few words and I do not think that it is necessary to detain your Lordships very long. Early this year Circular 1358 was received by all local education authorities urging them to prepare schemes of development covering at least three years. In addition to this particular Circular there were many others sent round, which dealt with specific points upon which the Board desired to lay special stress, but the pressure to go ahead was not confined to these circulars. There were countless letters and personal interviews. Again I only speak for my own authority. Continued progress has been urged. In consequence of this pressure from the Board, committees and sub-committees, composed of busy and public-spirited nice, have been sitting for weeks on end preparing schemes which would both increase the efficiency of elementary education and provide for an enormous increase of secondary education.

Imagine, therefore, the horror with which we received Circular 1371, to the provisions of which I will refer in a-moment, and the irony of having to consider it at the meeting which was called in order to -approve for the Board the products of all our labours under Circular 1358. I ask your Lordships, has any Department ever perpetrated so cruel a joke upon those local authorities, with whom it professes to work in cooperation? Let, us look for a moment at the Circular itself. The first thing we notice about it is that it is most lamentably drawn up and capable of countless false interpretations; but through the fog of loose verbiage emerges three clear facts. In the first place, we are to return to the principle of a block grant. Secondly, these block grants are to be based on last year's grant, 1924-5, lens 1 per cent.; and thirdly, children under five are to be discouraged, or perhaps I should say that the local authorities are to be discouraged from taking children under five, while no provision is made for the extension- of nursery schools.

On the merits of the block grant your Lordships are not asked in my Motion to pass judgment, to-day. It raises such a vast number of technical complexities that I felt it was undesirable to allow the more important question to be sidetracked; but at the same time I hope that the wording of my Motion may not be taken as an acceptance of the principle.

It is quite true that since the issue of the Circular the Minister's statements have been inclined rather to modify its provisions, but he has not withdrawn them. In fact, it is fair to say that he has done very little more than open the door of escape by putting himself into a position to be able to buy off the more powerful and more aggressive authorities. More so far as they really only add to the confusion, by introducing fresh contradictions, we may well ask ourselves why, if the Minister did not mean what he said in the Circular, he ever issued this extraordinary document, and why we are twice told in the Circular that the Board has ever decided—"decided" is the word -he uses—to make these economies.

What exactly do these so-called economies mean? They mean that having driven the lo-cal authorities to prepare schemes of development, the Board now, by changing their basis of making grants, intend to disclaim all responsibility for the expense incurred under these schemes. The local authorities are left in the position of having to choose between paying for the increase them selves or abandoning the schemes. In both cases, the Board is clearly declining to fulfil its duties, in the one case at the expense of the ratepayer, and in the other case at the expense of the child. I assert that neither of these proposals constitutes economy at all. One is a mere transfer of expenditure to the rates, and the other is an example of short-sighted cheeseparing which will have to be paid for by future generations. If your Lordships will allow me I should like briefly to examine these two matters. The first raises financial issues which in a debate on education can only be glanced at. It means the transfer of the burdens of the Exchequer to local rates, and raises therefore precisely the same question as is raised by the projected raiding of the Road Fund—namely, how far shall the false budgeting of the Exchequer be slurred over by transferring expenditure to a sphere—the rates—which does not have to appear in the Budget; and secondly, how far will the country's finances be benefited by such a transfer?

The first question obviously requires no answer. The very suggestion of such a step is immoral. The second is of more importance, and was debated at considerable length in both House of Parlia- ment during the Budget discussion. The view was then expressed, and could not be seriously disputed, that while Income Tax is an appropriation of profits, rates are a standing charge. Irrespective of profit or loss they have to be paid, and therefore are a definite item in the cost of production. Therefore, while it is admitted by every body that all forms of taxation, both central and local, should be reduced, the method of assessing to local taxation renders it far the heavier burden on industry. The proposals of the Minister disregard this economic fact to an extent which the figures that I will venture to lay before your Lordships will demonstrate. In the West Riding of Yorkshire it has been calculated by the local authorities that this Circular will entail a decrease in grant varying from £100,000 next year to £246,000 in 1929. In London the cost to the rates will next year be £400,000, rising in 1927–8 to over 2500,000. In my own county—a rural county with a very much smaller rateable value—it will mean a total cost to us of something between £35,000 and £40,000, entailing, according to the figures with which the Board of Education have very kindly supplied me, an additional rate of 6¼d. over the whole county. Those of your Lordships who are county councillors, and who take part in local work, can, I know, give parallel cases for the bodies of which you are members. If this really is the Government's idea of how to make economies, I venture to suggest that the country, and, I think, your Lordships yourselves, will probably take a very different view.

But there is an alternative. It may be said that if the rate-payers are unable to raise money to pay for these schemes then let them abandon the schemes, or at any rate part of them. But, if this is the desire of the Government, why has the President of the Board of Education spent almost every day of this year in going about the country making speeches, urging local authorities to go on with their schemes, and impressing on the nation as a whole the importance of education. Why did the Prime Minister at the last General Election join with the other two Parties and give, to use the. words of The Times, "definite pledges that bind the present Administration?" Surely on this occasion, if ever, educationists had a right to think that the Ministers of the Crown were acting in good faith in making these speeches. I assert without fear of contradiction that it will take years to revive the feeling of confidence, which was only just recovering after the blow delivered by the Geddes "axe," because the course taken by the Government is not only an act of folly, but a deliberate breach of faith.

It is worse than that. It is not only arrangements for future developments that are in danger. Your Lordships are probably aware that it was only after long and protracted negotiation that it was possible to settle the difficulties about teachers' salaries. A settlement was come to, known as the Burnham settlement. That award was agreed to by local education authorities on condition that the existing basis of grants was maintained. That is quite clear, because I will react the clause: So far as the education authorities are concerned, any agreement arrived at shall continue to be operative only so long as the present grant system is not altered to their prejudice.

Sir George Lunn was then representing the local education authorities, and I think, therefore, it might interest your Lordships to know what Sir George Lunn is thinking to-day. He should be in a position to judge what is likely to be the effect of this Circular. Speaking at Newcastle, the other day, he said: I tell you deliberately, teachers' scales of salary are in jeopardy all over the country.

This point was put to the President of the Board of Education in another place in a Question, and in his answer he said that he would undertake to see that local education authorities did not break away from their contract. But what right has he to say that, when the whole trouble is caused by the fact that he himself broke his side of the contract? Moreover, those of your Lordships who are interested in education will find it very hard to believe in the real devotion of the President of the Board to the Burnham Award, after the manner in which he has just lately flouted it in Essex.

Surely all this is a policy of despair. Are we as a nation so poor in material wealth, so poor in imagination, that we cannot even afford recognition of the claims, economic and human, of educa- tion? Has our sense of values so far deteriorated that, while we can spend £20,000,000 or more on subsidies to the coal mines, while we can spend £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 or more on constructing a naval base at Singapore, while we can afford over £40,000,000 for the relief of Income Tax and Super-Tax payers, we cannot afford a small percentage of the total of these sums for the spreading of knowledge?

I prefer to take the point of view of the present Foreign Secretary—or at least his ideas as expressed in May of this year. He said:— If our commerce and our industry are to hold their own against a host of active rivals, if we are to succeed in making the life of our young people a fuller and richer thing, more open to the higher influences which dignify and lighten the burden of work, it must be by the grown of knowledge in all the various arts and sciences which underlie human progress.

It is to the practical application of those ideals that we must look for hope in the future, not to the confusion of cheese-paring extravagance. This Circular is the very antithesis of those ideas. It is a betrayal of every-one connected with the spread of knowledge. It is a betrayal of the local authorities, it is a betrayal of the teachers, it is a betrayal of the child, and, lastly, it is a betrayal (f the interests of the nation itself. Surely, my Lords, it is for you and me who have had all the benefits of education, who know what it means in our practical everyday lives, and in the mental and spiritual life that forms the background of our practical life, to be among the very first to utter our protest that those who are less fortunate than ourselves should be deprived of those benefits. I beg to move the Motion standing in my name.

Moved to resolve, That this House, without raising the question of the principle of the block grant, deplores the proposals contained in Circular 1371, on the grounds that they will entail either a transfer of national burdens to the rates or the abandonment of these schemes of educational development which the Board itself had urged the Local Educational Authorities to prepare.—(Earl De La Warr.)


My Lords, I should like to recall to the House the origin of this percentage block grant which has been assailed by the Circular just issued by the President of the Board of Education. In 1914 the irregularities in connection with the distribution of education grants were very apparent to every one in the country, and a great deal of trouble was taken by the officials at the Board of Education and those in the provinces to try to discover the best possible system of paying State grants to aid progressive education in the country. A Treasury Committee was appointed, upon which Sir George Murray and others sat. They came to the conclusion that it was desirable Do have a similar system to this percentage block grant, and the words they used when they reported were these:— We think it may be accepted that no reform of the present systems can attain to any degree of permanence which does not tend to reduce substantially the existing inequalities of rate and at the same time provide for an automatic expansion of the Government Grant concurrently with an increase in the local expenditure which it is intended to aid. I want your Lordships to realise that this Treasury Committee recognised that there should be an expansion of the Government grant concurrently with an increase in local expenditure.

It has always been the policy of the Board of Education that when progressive education was being considered by local authorities their scheme should be approved before the State contribution was forthcoming. In 1914 I prepared a Bill carrying out this policy, and, subsequently, when Mr. Bonar Law was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the second Coalition Government, he approved, on behalf of the Conservative Party of that day, Mr. Fisher's proposals carrying out exactly this principle. From that day to the present that principle of a percentage block grant has obtained in our educational system. It was successively approved by Mr. Baldwin when he was at the Treasury, by Sir Austen Chamberlain when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and by Sir Robert Horne when he was at the Treasury. It was also approved by Mr. Neville Chamberlain and, subsequently, by Mr. Snowden.

Now there is to be an alteration, apparently, which entirely sweeps away the principle upon which that permanency was expected. Ender Mr. Churchill's pressure a Circular has been issued which is entirely in opposition to the system which has been established, which, on the whole, has worked very well, and under which progressive education has been placed before local authorities in a way which has been to the general advantage of the community. I part company at once with those, among whom are members of your Lordships' House, who object to public expenditure on education and are even opposed to progressive education supported out of the public purse. I am convinced that the action of the President. of the Board of Education is unworthy of him.

First of all, he is discouraging infant children being allowed to go to school in the infant schools of the country. am one of those who believe that a good home is the best place for the majority of young children up to the age of five; but I recognise that there are slum areas and that if children in those areas are to have a fair opportunity of education it is absolutely essential that they should be under discipline in an infant school, where they can be properly looked after, instead of being left in the gutter, which is their only alternative when the schools are closed. With one sweep, without considering what is the view of the education authorities, without even asking them to meet him, Lord Eustace Percy has reduced the block grant for the infant children from 36s. per head to 6s. per head. What can be expected of the local education authorities when, having made all their arrangements in regard to their expenditure in the future in regard to these infant schools, they are suddenly told that five-sixths of the grant in connection with those infant schools is to be removed at one fell swoop without any consideration whatsoever for the infant children themselves?

Then, there is the point, which was very-well taken by the noble Earl who preceded me, that only in March last the Government pursued an absolutely different policy to that indicated by the Circular under discussion. They issued a Circular calling upon all education authorities to plan schemes ahead for three years and to place before the Board of Education practical proposals for securing progressive education throughout the country. Those proposals would have had to be fairly considered on their merits, but whilst education authorities are considering their proposals and their schemes with a view of putting them before the Government, there comes suddenly a suggestion that no contribution whatsoever will henceforth be forthcoming in connection with progressive education because the block grant is really to be a block grant and no longer a percentage block grant.

There are, of course, other points in the Circular which are really retrogressive but upon which I do not wish to dwell. There have been two occasions on which education money in this country has been saved. One was when Sir Eric Geddes was called upon to recommend reductions of expenditure in all Government Departments. Opinion differs, of course, as to whether a reduction in education is really of advantage to the State or not; but even if it is an advantage in certain emergencies to reduce expenditure on education, it ought not to be done in the way in which the present Government are doing it. Sir Eric Geddes reported that the system was a money-spending device. It is very easy to make a statement of that kind, because if money is expended in encouraging any progressive work it is undoubtedly a money-spending device to allow what is practically a pound for a pound to be spent upon education as between the State and the local authorities.

Sir Eric Geddes, however, had no suggestion to make in connection with this system of percentage block grant, but he did ask that an inquiry should be made into this question so as to see whether a better system could be suggested. Lord Meston was appointed Chairman of a Committee which was set up in 1922. For all I know that Committee has not sat for the last two years. It has never reported, and I have been informed by a member of it that 80 per cent. of the arguments that were placed before it went to show that the percentage block grant was the best system that could be devised, and that, therefore. they have not reported. I should like to ask the Government to state, when they reply, when that Committee last sat, and when they expect it is going to report. I can understand the Government at the present time saying that another period has arrived when it is necessary for us to reduce expenditure, and we must have some halt in connection with the expenditure that we are incurring for education. If that is their view, they ought surely to have invited the local education authorities to meet them, and to have taken them into consultation before suddenly telling them that one per cent. less than they had hitherto received in connection with their grants will in future be paid to them by the State.

At the present moment education in elementary schools gets about a 56 per cent. grant from the Government of its total expenditure; higher education gets 50 per cent.; and the average is something like 55½ per cent. Now that is going to drop by 1 per cent., and all the progressive schemes are going to be discouraged at one fell blow by this Circular which is a sort of axe coming clown upon the expenditure of local authorities. I have received letters from a good number of education authorities already on this question. I am not going to trouble your Lordships' House with them, but one authority tells me that they have been obliged to take in a certain area outside their own district, and therefore there is an immigration, as it were, into the area over which they have control. They find the schools are inadequate, and they have laid out their plans to increase the accommodation. They have also proposed to establish a school clinic and to increase the technical instruction given in their schools. Instead of being supported any longer in those things by the State, they are to be thrown entirely upon the generosity of the ratepayers, who feel that they are already overburdened with rates.

There are three ways by which economies can be secured. One would be by teachers' salaries. But there is no possibility of economy in that way owing to the guarantee the teachers have under the Burnham scale. There are two other ways in which local education authorities might economise. One is in what are called administrative services. Last year these administrative services cost in this country £2,500,000. These services include inspectors and clerks and individuals who are absolutely necessary to see that the children attend the schools regularly. I am informed, speaking generally of the country—I am not alluding to London—that these offices are understaffed, and that if the nation is to get full value for its money the administrative staff ought to be strengthened rather than weakened. Therefore there is no possibility of economy in that direction at the present time.

Then there are miscellaneous items which come to about £7,500,000 a year. What are those items upon which the educational authorities could save? They are items such as rent. You cannot reduce the rent that you have arranged to pay for your schools. Then there is fuel. You cannot reduce your fuel bills unless you are to freeze the children it the schools. Next there are the rates that education authorities have to pay on many of their buildings. There is, further, the lighting of the schools, the cleaning of the schools, the caretakers' remuneration, the repairs, the books and the stationery. These miscellaneous items amount to a very substantial sum. Repairs, of course, amount to a large sum it is well known to every member of your Lordships' House that if repairs are required to a school building and you put off carrying out those repairs, eventually much more money will have to be spent than if the repairs were carried out at once. In this matter of repairs "a stitch in time saves nine." As to books and stationery, during the War the expenditure on these things fell sadly in arrear, and the arrears have never been made good. If the children are to be properly taught, and justice done to the educational system, instead of less money being spent upon books and stationery than is expended at the present time, rather more ought to be spent. When you analyse these items for local education you will find that there is no opportunity for the authorities to reduce their expenditure.

It is suggested that local elementary education should he reduced with a view to helping higher education. That is suggested in the Circular. But what a fallacy that is. Unless you have a sound ground work provided by elementary education you cannot build up your higher education. You must have elementary education first of all, and you cannot skimp it if you are to secure efficient higher education. The attitude that I think the Government ought to have taken on this matter was not to have issued a circular like this, but to have invited the local education authori- ties to come to them. The Government could then have said that they thought it was necessary to go somewhat more slowly with the progressive schemes. They should have discussed those schemes with local education authorities, and should not have issued an upsetting circular like this, which has created a spirit, of hopelessness on the part of all those engaged in the educational work of this country. It has done a great deal to set back the programmes for progressive education that the authorities were contemplating, which would have been of practical value to the community. This Circular is one of the clumsiest things that I have ever seen sent out by a Government Department. It is not worthy of such a man as Lord Eustace Percy, to whom I give credit for desiring to secure a good education for the country, and also to see the money well spent.

VISCOUNT ASTOR had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government for information concerning the change in policy indicted by Circular 1371 recently issued by the Ministry of Education. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, as I have a Question down on the Paper dealing with the policy of the Government and this Circular, it might help my noble friend who is to reply for the Government presently if I were to make my observations at this stage. The noble Earl who opened this discussion indicated quite clearly that the nation as a whole has taken this Circular as indicating a reversal of the policy that has existed during the past few years—namely, the policy of a gradual expansion of the educational services. This Circular contemplates a reduction of expenditure upon those services and means the closing down of a deliberate policy of expansion with a natural increase of expenditure on education.

I agree entirely with the noble Earl that such a policy as that of this Circular is contrary to the national interest. The noble Lord who has just spoken referred to another point that is contained in the Circular, the substitution of a block grant for the principle of the percentage grant-in-aid. As the Circular states, quite rightly, this is a change of a far reaching character. As the noble Lord who has just sat down reminded us, between 1914 and 1018 successive Ministers of Education contemplated a reversal of the then existing policy of block grant. This policy of block grant is no new policy. In 1914, apparently, the Minister of Education decided to abandon it. In 1918 Mr. Fisher, then President of the Board of Education, did abandon the block grant system. This was done quite deliberately, and as the result of the experience of ten years of administration. The Government found that they were not getting that expansion in our educational services and system which most people thought we ought to have in the national interest, and they adopted the principle of the grant-in-aid on a percentage basis, because they were able to watch the development of other services based on that policy.

As your Lordships probably know, the school medical services have been gradually built up on the grant-in-aid percentage principle, and during the past generation there has been a great expansion in maternity and child welfare services. That has all been done on the percentage basis, and as the result of that expansion the chief medical officer was able, in one of his recent reports, to say that in the year 1924 39,000 infants were alive who would have been dead if the average mortality for the ten years at the beginning of this century had been maintained. That saving of life has been due entirely to the development of the infant welfare and maternity services, and it has been done on a percentage basis not on a block grant. Of course, it has cost money. Any attack on ignorance or thoughtlessness costs money, and I hope that these services are going to be continued, that more money is going to be spent on them, because if more money is spent on them judiciously, wisely and economically, we can save a great many more lives

In 1918 the abandonment of the block grant system was not done precipitously and without thought, or without a comparison of that system with the alternative which the country has had ever since. When Mr. Fisher passed his Bill and gave to the country that policy which we have had for the last six years, the percentage system, the grant-in-aid system, was an essential part of his policy. It was not a detail, it was an essential part of the policy under which our educational system has been expanded ever since. Now, as I understand, it is proposed to reverse that policy and go back to the block grant system which we had tried and abandoned. I say frankly that I consider this is a victory for reaction. The whole of this Circular contemplates the cutting down of the expenditure on education. If the Minister had said that in the development of new services the Government, owing to the need for economy, did not see their way to give fifty per cent. of the cost and that they must reduce their assistance to forty per cent. there would have been, I think, some justification for such a policy. But I see no justification for a reversal of the policy based on a deliberate desire to cut down the expenditure on education.

Up to now our policy has been a partnership as between the central education authority and the local education authority, and for that is now being substituted the policy of the dictatorship of the Treasury. I say that education is going to suffer by such substitution. What we have to consider is the future policy of this country, ten years hence, fifteen years hence, and twenty years hence. We are faced with world competition on a scale, unknown before the War, and the ability of this country to maintain its position among the leading nations of the world is going to depend very largely on the equipment which we give to our children to-day. The greatest asset which any nation can have is its children. We are sometimes told that local authorities are extravagant. I confess that I have never seen any burning desire on the part of the majority of local authorities to throw money away recklessly on education. After all, the Central Government is not paying the whole cost of the services. Fifty per cent. of the cost of education still comes out of the rates. The education rate is high, and most authorities think well and deeply before increasing the education rate.

The noble Lord who spoke last has also indicated another change of policy—namely, the diminution of control and supervision. The amount of economy which will be effected by this policy is, as far as I can make out, infinitesimal. It will mean less careful scrutiny of the use which is made of the taxpayers' money. I myself have had at different times to deal with local authorities. It was my great pleasure to be the Chairman of a Committee which recommended a policy to be adapted in connection with the fight against tuberculosis, and I also had something to do with recommending a policy for stamping out venereal disease. In every case we adopted the principle of the percentage grant-in-aid because we realised that that was the way in which to stimulate local authorities. That policy encouraged initiative, stimulated progress, and helped expansion, and at the same time enabled the Central Department to exercise careful supervision on the spending of the taxpayers' money given to local authorities.

The policy of the block grant was recommended by the Geddes Committee. That Committee consisted of able men, men of great business capacity and experience. I looked through their names again the other day and I cannot honestly say as I read through them that I found them to be the names of public men who have been intimately concerned with local government, with the administration of public health or of education, or with any of those services which bring Whitehall into contact with local authorities. On education the Geddes Committee said that the policy should be an increase in the size of the classes. That alone, to my mind, rules them cut and diminishes their qualifications for recommending any basis for our educational system. Their sole consideration—one does not blame them—was cash; to cut down the national expenditure on education. They made other recommendations. They made a recommendation in connection with national defence, and certainly the Chairman of the Committee was eminently qualified to make a recommendation on this matter as he had been First Lord of the Admiralty. They recommended that there should be a Ministry of Defence. They said it would prevent overlapping, duplication and extravagance, and that they "attached great importance to this in the interests of economy." If the Government want to economise, why do they not adopt this recommendation for the creation of a Ministry of Defence rather than cut down on the children?

We hear talk about the growth of class consciousness, class feeling. The Socialists are accused of increasing class consciousness. I have had many talks with people who belong to what are called the working classes. These men and women as they have grown up have realised that in their youth they were not given something which our children get to-day. As they put it: "You, the ruling classes, are keeping away from the poor, from our children, that which you provide for your own children." I know nothing which is so calculated to create bitterness or class feeling. Education removes the barriers which are associated with birth and rank; educated minds meet together on a common ground. I see great risk in adopting a policy of cutting down on education. We have given a gigantic power to millions of people. The destiny of our nation is in their hands. We are wondering how they are going to use this power. The use they make of the power we have given them depends on their intelligence, on the training we give them, upon their power to detect the fallacies which are periodically put before them by politicians, upon their power of reasoning, and, in short, upon the measure and the nature of the education that we give them when they are young and when they are reaching maturity.

It is the policy of this country to reduce the working hours of its citizens. The margins available for leisure are increasing. It is not when people are working that they get into trouble, but during their leisure moments. We are increasing the amount of leisure time available for the people, and the use which the citizens of this country are going to make of their leisure depends entirely upon our development of those latent possibilities which most people possess. The chief hope of maintaining our position in the world, the chief safeguard against what is generally known as Bolshevism, depends, as I see it, upon our bringing suitable and adequate education to our children. It is because, as I see the matter, the policy which is enunciated in this Circular means the checking of the growth of our educational system, because it is intended to check the expansion of those services through an increase of expenditure, and because it means the reduction of the control of the Ministry of Education over local authorities, that I for one deplore the policy and hope that the noble Lord who will reply for the Government may be able to announce that the impression which has been created in the country has been a wrong impression.


My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just sat down expressed in the last words of his speech a hope which I trust may be fulfilled. The House none the less owes a good deal to my noble friend Lord De La Warr for having brought forward this subject in the form of an impeachment and for having taken it in detail. I myself still share the hope which the noble Viscount uttered. The present President of the Board of Education is respected by those who know him. We like him, we feel that he has a genuine interest in his subject and we know that before he entered upon office he did very good work in connection with the campaign for higher education. I cannot help feeling, looking back on my experience of Governments, that he has yielded a little too soon in this matter. I have no doubt that he was moved by the desire to be loyal to his colleagues. That in itself is a very praiseworthy principle in a statesman and we ought not to undervalue it, but at the same time I wonder whether, if he had persisted, if he had said that he must have sufficient money to encourage the local authorities, his colleagues would have interfered with him.

I remember very well a speech made by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer to his constituents about six months ago. I read it in The Times. He laid down that there must be economy, but not in education. He said that this nation could not afford economies in education, that the Government had no intention of economising in education. There is testimony indeed, and I think the present President of the Board of Education might well, upon that, have held the Chancellor of the Exchequer to his utterance. I am not sure that, if he had done so, he would not have found the great majority of his colleagues behind him. We have the utterances of the present Prime Minister and of other members of the Cabinet which have been referred to to-day, and beyond them there is the great general consideration.

This nation is going through a very trying period. We can keep the place which we won by the exertions of our forefathers only if we prepare ourselves. There is no business in our days that stands still. Every business has to develop new ideas and to make progressive advances if it is to hold its awn against its competitors. I am putting the case merely on its materialistic side when I say that, if it were for that alone, you would require education in the elementary schools and secondary schools of as high an order as it is in your power to give, not for the purpose of adding to your expenditure, but for the purpose of saving your expenditure. The most expensive thing we can do is to go down in the scale, and I regard expenditure upon education just as I regard expenditure upon finance, upon the police and upon other necessary things which we cannot avoid. You have to go on developing up to the point which is required if you are to hold your own in the world. To do anything of the kind that is now proposed is, to my mind, very mischievous from the point of view of economy and ought to have been ruled altogether out of the purview of the Geddes Committee, whose members, in spite of their excellence in regard to matters financial, were not, so far as I know, people who have allowed their minds to dwell upon education.

But we have to consider more than the material side of these things. The more you give people chances the more you get that contentment of which the noble Viscount has spoken and the more you prepare them to take such chances as they have—and they are now numerous—of going on to yet higher forms of education. That is the way to make the working classes feel that they have no longer a great grievance to face. This unfortunate Circular has produced a great deal of commotion. I do not think it is final, and my best wish for the Board of Education is that they should not treat it as final or conclusive. I think that the volume of protest which has arisen in the country and, indeed, the support which this Motion seems to be likely to have in this House, are enough to indicate that behind the objection to the principle of the Circular is something very real.

I feel sure that the Government will do wisely to take time to consider this situation further and I am not asking them to commit themselves. I know that the noble Lord who is going to reply cannot commit himself without much consultation. It will be sufficient if the Government will say that they are still prepared to take time to consider this matter when they have heard the local authorities. No doubt the President of the Board of Education will hear a great deal about this point in the other House, where a debate is to take place on Thursday, but it is a point for us to make here. Take time, review this matter, look at it from that larger point of view from which money spent on education is not merely increased expenditure but is even a method of saving; and then, having looked at it in the light of all that immense body of testimony which is coming forward now from the local authorities and from other sources, let the Government see what they can do to maintain a principle to which we have grown accustomed and on which the well-being, not only of the children but of the teachers and of those who are interested in the system, rests at the present time.


My Lords, I will, if I may, take the speeches of noble Lords more or less in the order in which they were delivered. I am afraid I cannot hope to compete with my noble friend opposite in the more or less fiery oratory which he gave your Lordships on this subject, for I must stick to facts and I cannot permit myself to express any opinions which are not exactly based on facts. I think the noble Lord who asked me this Question is jumping to a great many conclusions from his reading of the Circular—conclusions which, I think, are quite unjustified. It is true that the block grant is being substituted for the 1918 system, and is being substituted deliberately and not in a hurry. I think I may say, with perfect truth, that the President has considered the block grant as being far more suitable than the percentage grant for some considerable time, and the only thing about the block grant system which may be objected to is that it may be said it has suddenly been sprung upon the local education authorities. It is, however, quite a deliberate policy, and has been decided upon, certainly in the mind of the President of the Board, for a considerable time.

I may say that the system of the block grant and in fact the whole policy of the Circular were originally considerel suitable from the point of view of education, and not from the point of view of economy. It is the deliberate idea of the Government, and it was put forward at the last General Election by the Conservative Party, that the higher education of clever children is really of more value to the State than a great deal of increased expenditure upon elementary education. But, as your Lordships will see quite clearly from the Circular, the obvious economies which are contemplated make it, I may say, imperative that the scheme should be brought into being as soon as possible. I do not think I need go very much into the present system as compared with the block grant system which will take its place, but the point of view of the Government is that it is a most unbusinesslike proceeding to ask for any particular sum of money, the amount of which is based entirely upon guess-work and is generally very much overestimated.

May I give your Lordships the figures for 1922–23? The forecast made by the local education authorities is asked for in November, it is estimated by the Board in December, and the actual expense does not become apparent until very much later. In 1923–4 the November forecast of the local education authorities was £78,837,837. The real expenditure was £70,078,433, and therefore the figure was over-estimated by the local authorities to the amount of £8,759,404. That does not appear to the Government to be a very business-like proceeding. The same thing occurred in 1923–4. The forecast of the local education authorities was £74,841,245, and the actual expenditure £67,584,660, and there again you have an over-estimate by the local education authorities of £7,256,585. The President of the Board does not like this system. He does not know where he is and also does not know what actual sum he is justified in asking for other educational purposes, and partly for that reason he wishes, and in fact has decided, to introduce the block grant system, where the liability will be defined. I do not think I need labour that point and I think it is quite clear. Indeed, upon that point I do not think there is a great deal of opposition.

The other point is the basis on which the block grant is to be fixed, and there is a good deal of opposition. The block grant has to be fixed upon a certain figure, and the only figure that was at all available was the figure of the last completed year. There has been a great deal of criticism of this. It is said that expenditure has gone up a good deal since then, and that if you take the expenditure of that particular year you are going to take away from the local education authorities a great deal of money which they were certainly budgeting on and which in all fairness is due to them. Now in the Circular 1358, referred to by the noble Earl, the local education authorities were asked to draw up programmes of their expenditure year by year for a period of four or five years from April, 1927.

I would like to say here, if your Lordships recollect what I said in my earlier remarks, that this system, which is set forth in Circular 1371, has been put forward before it was originally intended to be put forward, for obvious reasons. If the Circular had been published, say, in a year's time, the basis on which the block grant was to be fixed would have been on the programmes and the estimates produced by the local education authorities. But those programmes are not available at the present time. They will not be available—they have not been demanded—until Easter next year, and the consequence of that was that there were no figures or estimates available on which to base the block grant except the last completed year. I think I shall be perfectly right in saying that the policy of the block grant is the policy of His Majesty's Government. They think that it is a sounder and better proposition altogether and that it means that they can ask for a definite sum in their estimates. The rest of the Circular deals more or less with details, and these details are not fixed.

I must point out very carefully that the grant is a minimum grant. There is no question of a maximum grant. The noble Earl who made this Motion suggested that the figure of the grant, as set forth in the Circular, was the maximum grant that could possibly be received under almost any conditions, and that any other form of expansion which was proposed in his particular locality would have to be met by local rates. That is quite unfounded. The President has asked local authorities to meet him, and to discuss the details of this Circular and of the policy contained therein, and there is no hard and fast rule. The amount that any particular local education authority will receive under this Circular is not cut and dried in any way. They will receive a minimum based on the expenditure of 1924–25. Each authority will have to make out its own case, and will receive the fullest consideration of the President, with a desire to help them in any expenditure to which they are already committed with the approval of the Board, and also to deal with the special conditions of special localities. The President of the Board reserves to himself the full right to discuss these matters and to adjust the grant to what he considers, after such discussion with the local education authorities, to be a suitable figure for their localities. I do not think anything can be fairer than that.

The President insists on the change of system. I am not prepared to argue one way or the other about the block grant or the percentage grant, or, as I have heard it spoken of this evening, the percentage block grant—a term with which I am not quite familiar. But, as far as the block grant is concerned, from the point of view of the taxpayer it is far better to know how you stand, to know that the sum voted is a definite sum, and that you are not budgeting on absolute guesswork and generally on in flated estimates, when the benefit of the inflation will not be received by education because it goes towards the reduction of debt.

Another point made by the noble Earl who moved this Motion is that all the local education authorities in the country are producing figures and complaining that the new policy will cost them so much here and so much there. On behalf of the President of the Board, I must say, as I think noble Lords will have noticed from his answers in another place, that he cannot accept these figures without very careful scrutiny. To judge from the over-estimates that I have already quoted I should think that he is perfectly right. If the local authorities generally have over-estimated to the same extent, the ratepayers of their districts will be very agreeably surprised. My noble friend opposite referred to the commitments that the local authorities have already made on their old programmes. The President will very sympathetically consider the case of a local education authority which is already committed to capital expenditure of that kind, and it will be taken into account in arriving at the basis of the particular grant for that district. On the other hand, it docs not mean that local educa- tion authorities will be able necessarily to carry out after the year 1926 the complete programmes that they have prepared. These programmes have not come before the Board, and have not been approved of.

My noble friend drew a most pathetic picture of the enormous amount of time which he has expended on a programme, and he foresaw that the whole of his programme would be wasted, and that he would not be able to carry out alt the improvements which he contemplated. That will probably not be the case. The grant here is capable of revision, and is for one year. When the programmes are in, the grant may be revised with reference to the programmes produced by local education authorities. That, I think, is a great point. The President can revise the figure at any time. On the other hand, when he revises it he will still know just what his commitment is. It will not be guesswork, as it was under the old system.

The noble Earl made an impassioned appeal about education. I think he jumped to the conclusion that, owing to the issue of this Circular, the whole education of the country was more or less going to the dogs. I must say that personally I have never been a believer, as some people are, in the idea that efficiency in education is commensurate with expenditure on education, and I am rather surprised that my noble friend does not share that view, as efficiency combined with economy is, I should have thought, a remarkably good axiom. He seemed to think that because there might be some economy in the expenditure on education therefore the efficiency of education would necessarily be impaired. I do not think there are many of your Lordships here who would insist upon that as a truth.

I do not know that I have missed any outstanding points in the speech of the noble Earl who moved, and I should like to turn for a few moments to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Gainford, who I notice is not at present in his place. I will not go into any more details regarding the block grant system. I know that I have gone rather sketchily over the whole thing, but I feel that I am in a subordinate position in which it would be very unwise for me to go into any great detail and to take away the full value of the remarkable speech which I have no doubt the President of the Board will make to-morrow in another place.

The noble Lord, Lord Gainford, suggested that the President of the Board had been pressed into this policy by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That is a wrong impression to give your Lordships. This policy is the deliberate policy of the President of the Board, and if there has been any pressure at all from that part of His Majesty's Government which is even more attracted to economy, it has merely been to push the system forward sooner than it would otherwise have been. It is the deliberate policy of the President of the Board and of His Majesty's Government. The noble Lord, Lord Gainford, asked me about Lord Meston's Committee. I am afraid I have no knowledge of that Committee, but I will try to get the information he requires and let him have it.

I ought to say something about that part of the Circular which deals with children under the age of five. One part of the formula in the appendix concerning the grant mentions the possible exclusion of children under five years of age. It is the opinion of the Government that, generally speaking, children under five should be in the home and not at school. But it is perfectly true, and is very clearly recognised by the Government, that in certain localities and under certain social conditions it is extremely advisable that children under five should be accommodated either wholly or partly in the schools. The President of the Board recognises that this is a possibility, although he considers that it should be discouraged to a great extent as being of little value to the child, except, as I say, in very special localities. He recognises that there are certain localities and certain social conditions in which it is advisable for children under five to be accommodated in this way.

The numbers of children on the register are interesting. On March 31, 1905, from the age of three to five, the number was 583,268. I will not go through all the figures, but the total dropped in 1922 to 158,285 as compared with the 583,000 odd that I have already mentioned. From various temporary causes it has gradually mounted again until, in 1925, it was 221,797, which is less than half of what it was in 1905. There is a good deal of difference of opinion as to whether there is a general social tendency to send children under five years of age to school, and I should like in this connection to quote the following recommendation from the Report for 1924 of Sir George Newman, the Chief Medical Officer to the Board of Education:— That young children under six years of age should be discouraged from school attendance if the distance from school is excessive (or in winter or in inclement weather). This naturally has reference only to rural areas because the distance from school in urban areas would not be particularly excessive.

The whole point is that there is not the money available, as has been said on other occasions, for doing everything that educationists want to be done. Mothers and parents generally have to choose whether they think it is more valuable to have their children educated—I use the word "educated," although I do not think it actually meets the case of children of from three to five years of age—and so prejudice, under present conditions, the possibility of there being enough money available later on for them to have a higher education when their time comes. It is a matter of choice, a matter of opinion. The President of the Board is decidedly of opinion that it is far more beneficial to the children to have a chance of being educated in a higher way later on than for them to spend at school what we regard as the somewhat unprofitable years between the ages of three and five. That is his deliberate opinion and, as I think, the opinion, rightly expressed, of His Majesty's Government. They prefer the possibility of training-on at the other end rather than starting too early.

I was asked about the effect of the Circular on the scales of teachers' salaries under the recent Award of the noble Viscount, Lord Burnham. If your Lordships will allow me I will quote an answer given by the President of the Board to a Question asked in another place on Thursday last by Mr. Trevelyan. The answer is as follows— I have been informed that the standing joint committee passed a resolution in the sense indicated by the right hon. Member"— that is, as to the alteration of the grant without prejudice to principle, which was the question asked by the noble Earl— but I do not find that it was ever formally forwarded to me. It has, so far as I know, never been claimed that anything said or done in connection with the arbitration proceedings could commit the Government or Parliament in the slightest degree to the continuance of a particular grant formula or grant system, nor could I for a moment admit such a claim if it were made; but I have every intention of making such grants to authorities as will enable them to continue the payment of the allocated scales, and I have already made it clear that such payment will constitute a condition of grant. I do not think I need add anything to that statement. It explains itself and it is, again, the deliberate policy of the Government that the Burnham Award should be kept as it is.

I am afraid I have dealt very inadequately with the Question raised by the Motion, but I would like to sum up in a few words the impression that I hope to have left upon your Lordships. It is that the policy of the block grant was a deliberate policy, founded on the possibility of there being a better education under it. The grant is a minimum and not a maximum grant, and is capable of adjustment to local conditions. Local authorities have merely to put their case adequately and properly, and to prove it, and I can assure them they will have sympathetic consideration from the Board, and that the grants can be adjusted. So far as the programmes which have been drawn up with great labour by local education authorities are concerned, the basis of grants can be altered to meet those later on when the programmes are submitted. The President has a great deal of lattitude to deal with special cases, of all kinds under the Circular.


My Lords, the speech which has just been delivered to us on behalf of the Government has given us a somewhat more favourable interpretation of the Circular than is generally held. The noble Lord laid great emphasis on the fact that the figure for the last year will be the minimum figure, and that, therefore, there will be a possibility, and a probability in certain cases, of additional grants when the local authorities make out their case. I think it is regrettable, however, that this Circular was issued before a conference with the local authorities had taken place. No circular has, I think, caused such a consternation—possibly on a mistaken interpretation—among those who are interested in educational progress as that which is now under consideration. It has caused something like dismay, and the reports from various centres show us that in quite a large number of cases schemes which have been already undertaken have, for the time at any rate, been suspended to see what the final result of the discussion on this Circular will be.

Personally, I am not opposed to the block grant principle. I think there is a great deal to be said for it. But the opposition is not so much to the block grant as to taking as the, figure for it the amount of a year in which economy had, in a very special way, to be practised, and without taking into consideration the developments in education which, almost inevitably, must and certainly should take place in the next two or three years. Take, for instance, one illustration alone. In a number of localities large districts are growing up, numbering not thousands but tens of thousands of inhabitants. In one of those districts that I know within the next two years it is planned that three schools should be built. This will undoubtedly mean very heavy expenditure by the local authority. I hope this is the kind of case to which the noble Lord referred, and that it will be considered with sympathy by the Government or the Board of Education.

But I do want to stress one particular thing, the importance of which I think has not been sufficiently realised by the Minister of Education—namely, the bringing to the schools of the children under five years of age. The Minister of Health apparently holds that this should be discouraged, though in certain districts and in certain instances it might be allowed. I regard this as a very grave matter indeed. If I am asked whether I attach very much value to the actual education that is given to the children under five in schools, I must quite frankly say that if education means simply the imparting of knowledge and information I attach very little importance to it, but on the other hand, it must be borne in mind that the education that children are to receive at the age of five is very often rendered impossible by the conditions under which they have been living previously. Ideally, no doubt, it would be right that children under five should be kept in their own homes and taught there, but we have to face the hard facts of the situation. Many of those children live in overcrowded homes, their playground is a tenement staircase or the crowded court or alley, they are underfed or badly fed, and the result is that when they go to school at the age of five they are at first incapable of receiving education.

I remember an experienced teacher working in a very poor part of a provincial town saying that the first two years of school life had to be spent in preparing the children from that district to receive anything that might be called education. The Chief Medical Officer to the Board of Education, writing in 1924, pointed out that there had been an immense improvement in the practical treatment of defective children who went to school, and he proceeded to say: But concurrently there has been little or no change in the causes and origin of disease in school children. Medical examination of children has probably revealed unsuspected defects which in earlier days remain undetected, but that cannot explain the fact that the number of sick children at the commencement of school life is as large as ever. The young child comes to school already diseased. In 1924, 38 per cent. of the entrants in London were found to require medical treatment. This clearly is home-produced and not school-produced. Therefore the sooner you are able to bring the children into the school premises where, under proper treatment and under proper supervision, you are more likely to make them ready for education and for the teaching that they will receive when they reach the age of five. I do press most urgently on those who are responsible that they should not discourage children under five from attending schools from these poorer districts in which the conditions of life are so extremely difficult.

I quite realise the extraordinary difficulty in which the Government is placed. Everyone is calling upon them to economise, and the moment that they economise in any department they are told that that is a department in which economy is quite impossible. I think that education is possibly one of the very few departments in which we cannot, with safety, economise. I should like to emphasise that education does not affect only one particular class of interest, it affects the whole of the nation. The whole future of the nation depends upon the kind of education that is being given to its children. There may be differences of opinion as to the merits or demerits of democracy, but I am sure there could be only one opinion that of all politics the worst, the most dangerous, and the most incompetent is an uneducated democracy. For the future of the country and the welfare of its citizens, I trust that the Board of Education will make it perfectly clear that this Circular is not meant to discourage progress in education, and that the Government still stands definitely by the pledges it made at the last Election that national education should have a foremost place in its programme.


My Lords, perhaps your Lordships would allow me to say a very few words at the end of this interesting debate. I am not going to traverse the ground which was covered by my noble friend who spoke on behalf of the Government. I have nothing to add to what he said in regard to the details of this question, but I do think one or two words might be spoken in order to make the position of the Government clear. I think that the noble Earl who introduced the subject to your Lordships' notice used some very hard language of my noble friend the President of the Board of Education. He can take it from me that that language was wholly undeserved. There is not a more ardent educationist than my noble friend, and it is the measure of the position in which we stand financially that even he has found it necessary to do what he can to help the country in the situation in which we are placed. I hope that will be entirely and absolutely understood. I think there is nothing more unfair than the charges that have been made here and elsewhere against my noble friend.

There is an assumption that everything is rigidly fixed by the exact terms of the Circular which has been under discussion. That is not so. The principles, of course, upon which the Board of Education is prepared to work are disclosed in that Circular, but as regards the details, the amount, and the method of assessment, these questions remain open for discussion; and if noble Lords will read the Circular carefully they will see that such a discussion is foreshadowed with people interested in education in the localities. There is no desire, I can assure noble Lords, to starve education. That is not at all the policy of the Government in any case; and with reference to what the right rev. Prelate has said any commitments into which local education authorities have entered must be honoured. There is no suggestion that we should say to local education authorities who have entered into contracts that they must break those contracts. Nothing of the kind. There is no such suggest ion on the part of the Government.

But the fact remains that economy, not in the Board of Education alone but generally in all Departments of the Government, is urgent. I thought it a little hard, I must say, to hear the noble Lord, Lord Gainford—he is not in his place at the moment, but I must say one word in reply to his speech—use the kind of language he did this afternoon. I do not say that he expressed himself immoderately, he never does, but he seemed to think there was no economic side to this question at all. It is only a few months ago that we listened to a very interesting speech delivered from exactly the same place by the noble Lord's leader, the Earl of Oxford and Asquith, and I should like to remind your Lordships even at this late hour of some of the very interesting phrases used by the noble Earl on that occasion.

Let me quote one. The noble Earl said this:— I say to the people of this country and to both Houses of Parliament, in the plainest possible terms, that expenditure on this scale is more than this country can afford. I should like the noble Lord to have heard this— The inference, the inevitable inference, is that there is one and only one way of escape "— I am making use of some strong language, but it is not my own language and I am not prepared to say that I go the whole length of the noble Earl, Lord Oxford— ruthless and relentless cutting down and cutting off of every form of avoidable expenditure. And the noble Earl went on— The spending Departments always have at their disposal a well-filled arsenal not only of plausible but often of well-founded arguments. Are you going, they ask, to starve national defence? Are you going to cashier devoted and efficient servants of the State? Are you going—an argument which is perhaps more potent to-day than it used to be in days gone by—to cripple or main the machinery and the further and future developments of social reform? I hope the noble Viscount below me, Lord Astor, will see the length to which the Leader of the Liberal Party went.

And this is how the noble Earl concluded— But all those things, relevant as they are and, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer's point of view, difficult as they are, must give way to the supreme national necessity. That was the argument of the noble Earl, and it is an argument, which has had no effect whatever en the noble Lord, Lord Gainford. He did not seem to appreciate that there was any need for economy; and though, as I have said, I should not perhaps have expressed myself in such terms as did the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, yet in the main he is right. It must be ruthless economy, not only in the Board of Education, in so far as that is possible without doing harm, but in every Department as well. I am quite confident that unless the noble Earl who introduced this subject and other noble Lords realise this they will undergo some shocks as the, policy of His Majesty's Government on economy gradually unfolds itself.

As for the policy on education, my noble friend behind me has already stated that we look to progress in education more in the development of secondary than elementary education. Most of us think that a good deal of money has been wasted on elementary education. It is not that we despise education, but we do not want to waste money, and with less money more wisely spent better results can be achieved. That is the direction in which we hope to move. I do not say that it can be achieved at once. It is a matter which may take many years to develop, but depend upon it, it is not by the lavish spending of money that you achieve great results, and above all, it is not by ignoring the vital necessities of the country that the Government desire to secure a reputation in the country and go down to history as an efficient Government. No. We hope not to spend lavishly but to spend money well, whether it be on education or any other service.


My Lords, it is only because my points have remained quite unanswered that I venture to rise again at this late hour of the evening. The noble Marquess has paid a personal tribute to the character of the Minister of Education, with which all of us must agree. At the same time this is not a personal matter; it is a matter of Cabinet policy. The points that I made, and which still remain unanswered, are, first, that this is a gross breach of faith with local authorities; that local authorities were urged to prepare schemes and were not put in possession of the full policy of the Government. The noble Lord who replied for the Government talked about schemes that I myself contemplated being put into operation and made it appear as though it was a personal grievance of mine. It was not only the expenditure on development that I contemplated, but the development and expenditure that were bring urged on us by the Board of Education itself. Then there was the question of the decrease in the expenditure of the Exchequer at the expense of the rates or of the children. That point was not touched. I am told that I jumped to a conclusion that this meant economy and the restriction of education. I do not think I jumped to a conclusion. All I know is that the local education authority of which I am a member has, since the issue of this Circular, actually put off the building of all its secondary schools, the very type of education which the Government profess to believe in most.

Then we are told that this is only a minimum. There is no mention of the word "minimum" or "maximum" in this Circular. I only take, and the country can only take, the Minister at his word. We are told that The President of the Board has decided that in the present state of the national finances he would not be justified in making so large a demand upon the taxpayer …. and so on. Then we have in small print an appendix dealing with the basis on which he intends to make grants. There is not a word about a minimum or a maximum. We are told that the Minister is prepared to meet local authorities on the question of expenditure to which they are already committed. That may be so, but, to use the words of the noble Lord himself, these schemes which we are dis- cussing are not approved and therefore, apparently, the Minister does not intend to meet local authorities on the point of these schemes, but only on the point of expenditure which was started before these schemes. That does not meet the point at all.


I think the noble Earl rather misunderstood me. I said that when the programme, or schemes, as he called them, are put forward by local educational authorities, the President of the Board will base the grants which he proposes to give on those schemes, duly considered by him.


What the noble Lord first said was that he would meet local authorities with regard to schemes to which they were already committed; but they are not yet committed to these schemes. Moreover, on the further point that he raised, there is no mention in the Circular that the Minister intends to meet local authorities on the point of the future schemes which they have been devising and which are not yet approved. The noble Lord who replied for the Government said that the local education authorities would have a chance of meeting the Minister of Education and putting their views forcibly if they wished to do so. I think I can guarantee to the noble Lord that there will be a most literal interpretation of his words, and that he will find that even his most Conservative friends on the local education authorities will put their view most forcibly to the Minister. He also said that the Minister, to use his words, does not quite know where he is. That is exactly the impression that the contradictions both in the Circular and in his recent speech made upon me, and I would suggest that, for the benefit of those authorities who have to look after the interests of education in this country, the sooner the Minister does know where he is the better.

On Question, Motion negatived.