§ (1.) Every County Council and every Council of a Municipal Borough of not less than twenty thousand inhabitants shall appoint an education committee for the purposes of this Act, and the County Council acting by that committee shall be and is in this Act referred to as the education authority for the county.
§ (2.) The number of the members of the committee shall be fixed by the County Council.
§ (3.) The County Council may appoint persons, whether members of the Council or not, to be members of the committee, provided that a majority of those members shall be members of the Council.
§ (4.) A member of an education committee shall hold office for three years, and one-third, as nearly as may be, of the members of an education committee shall retire annually at such time and in such order as may be fixed by the County Council, and their places shall be filled by a, new appointment, but retiring members may be re-appointed.
§ (5.) Two or more County Councils may combine for all or any of the purposes of this Act.
§ (6.) Provided as follows:—
- (a.) A County Council may submit to the Education Department a scheme for providing separate education committees for different parts of the county or for otherwise modifying or supplementing the provisions of this section so as to adapt the constitution of an education committee to the needs of the county or of different parts thereof, and fur making any supplemental provisions which appear necessary
1166 for carrying into effect the scheme: if the Education Department approve of any such scheme, without modification or with any modifications agreed to by the Council, the scheme shall have effect as if enacted by this Act, but shall be subject to revocation or alteration by a scheme made in like manner;
- (b.) Where a county governing body has been constituted for any county by a scheme made in pursuance of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889, the governing body shall be the education committee for the purposes of this Act, and the County Council acting through that governing body shall be the education authority for the county.
§ [The words printed in italics have been inserted in Committee.]
Another Amendment proposed (15th June), after the words last inserted (as printed in italics), to insert the words:—
Not being a County Council or the Council of a borough when the area of the School Board is conterminous with that of the county or borough council."—(Sir John Lubbock.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Debate resumed.
§ THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Sir J. GORST,) Cambridge University
The right hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London moved an Amendment yesterday to except from the first clause London and all municipal boroughs which have School Boards, for the purpose of giving these boroughs a different constitution for their county authority. The right hon. Gentleman gave three reasons for this exceptional treatment. The first reason he gave was that of economy, but the Government entirely fail to see how the Amendment would in any way diminish the expense. On the contrary, they think it would increase it. The right hon. Baronet proposed a body which was neither the County Council nor the School Board—a body entirely separate from both, and which, therefore, would require its independent offices and officials of every kind. It must, therefore, be seen that the body proposed by the right hon. Baronet would not be more economical, but probably much less so, than the body proposed by the Government in the Bill. The second reason was that there would be great confusion of inspection. No 1167 one is more alive to the great evils of multiplicity of inspections which schools have to undergo than I am, and I would be the last person to advocate any plan that would involve an increase in the number of school inspections. But I do not see how the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet would in any way cure the multiplicity of inspections. The third and most important reason given by the right hon. Baronet was that if we had a county authority partly appointed by the County Council and partly by the School Board we should have more sympathy and more common action between those bodies. That is a very important consideration. ["Hear, hear!"] If the Government thought the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet would conduce to that end they would be very much disposed to entertain it. This matter has been very carefully considered by the Government, and they have come to the conclusion that in order to make the new central authority work you must have one of two things. You must either make the School Board itself the education authority or make the County Council the education authority. His proposal is to make the education authority half elected by the School Board and half elected by the County Council. In our opinion that will not conduce to smoothness of working between the two bodies. In our opinion it is absolutely essential that you should throw the responsibility of the appointment of this educational authority upon some one body. You must not divide the responsibility, and of the two we thought that the body which was the best adapted to undertake this duty was the County Council. I should like to point out to the right hon. Baronet that a County Council has power to appoint members of the School Board on the Education Committee, and I should think myself that every judicious and wise County Council will take care that in the appointment of this Committee it has the School Board of the district in which it acts adequately represented. ["Hear, hear!"] With regard to what the right hon. Baronet said as to the differential treatment of London, I would remind him that there is in the Bill a clause which is especially directed 1168 to the case of such an authority as London. That is Sub-section a of paragraph 6 of the first clause:—A County Council may submit to the Education Department a scheme for providing separate education committees for different parts of the county or for otherwise modifying or supplementing the provisions of this section, so as to adapt the constitution of an education committee to the needs of the county or of different parts thereof.We hold the opinion that if the education authority is to be created by the County Council the responsibility must be thrown upon the County Council, but consistently with that main principle of the Bill we shall be perfectly willing to admit any modification or any proviso which the Members for London may think necessary.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
The right hon. Gentleman has just made several important admissions with reference to this Bill. He has said that he considers the multiplication of inspections an evil. How is he going to remedy that evil? The first clause creates a new body, and that new body must necessarily have a new inspection. ["Hear, hear!"] Therefore, in this clause he is himself creating the evil that he deprecates. ["Hear, hear!"] He objects to the method in which the Amendment proposes to deal with it, but he has not met the evil himself. He has not in the least shown that his Bill and his proposal do not create the very mischief that he deplores. Then the right hon. Gentleman alluded to the evil of the conflict of authority within the same district. There again it is he and his Bill that create that conflict of authority. [Cheers.] My right hon. Friend takes London as an example of many other large communities in the United Kingdom where there is at present a School Board which is commensurate and conterminous with the municipal authority. At present the School Board is in charge of the elementary education of the district. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to create a new educational authority for the same purpose within the same district. Are you going to extinguish the School Board or are you going to leave it extant?
§ SIR J. GORST
The functions of the new educational authority and the functions of the School Board are entirely distinct.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I say that is not so. Will anybody take the trouble to look at Clause 13? [Cheers.] What is the function of the new authority that is totally distinct from the School Board? It is to satisfy itself with respect to every such school,—that the buildings are sufficient and suitable as regards size, sanitary accommodation, convenience, repair, or otherwise; that the furniture fittings, and school apparatus are adequate; that there is an adequate staff of teachers; that proper discipline is maintained; that the course of education is sufficient and suitable, that the fees, if any, are suitable, and that the teaching staff is efficient; that proper accounts are kept showing the receipts and expenditure of the school; that the school is conducted in accordance with such regulations made by or in pursuance of any statute, or made by the Education Department as are applicable to the school; and that every education authority shall make such report and returns and give such information to the Education Department as the Department may from time to time require.
§ SIR J. GORST
Section 13 refers to secondary schools and primary schools which receive the special aid grant from the new educational authority, and they would be almost exclusively Voluntary Schools. [Cheers.]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Let us read what is at the beginning of Clause 13:The educational authority shall take care that every school receiving from them any money.Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that the money is not to be distributed by the educational authority, because, of course, if he does, that is a new light on the Bill? ["Hear, hear!"] The clause goes on to say that—the education authority shall take care that every school receiving from them any money is inspected and examined by such persons and in such manner as may be approved by the Education Department with reference to the particular class of schools to which the school belongs—not secondary schools, but all schools. [Cheers.] I really must ask the right hon. Gentleman to read the Bill. [Cheers and laugher.] I am going to ask the attention of the Committee to what is the consequence, and I am very 1170 glad to think that before next January—[cheers and laughter]—we shall get to understand the bearing of the Bill—at all events, we shall take care that the country understands it. [Cheers.] Will the right hon. Gentleman assert that the duties which I have quoted are not the functions now performed in a great degree by the School Board? Are they to be extinguished in the School Board or are they to co-exist in both bodies? I am perfectly aware that in the Metropolis, in different times, there was this form of dual government, when two Kings of Brentford occupied one throne, and I would like to know whether that form of government is to be adopted in reference to these two authorities? My right hon. Friend has shown what infinite mischief will occur if you have two bodies both of which think themselves equally competent. I venture to say, and I think a great many people will agree, that the existing authority is more competent in every respect than the new authority. [Cheers.] How is this going to work? We know perfectly well that the ideal of the First Lord of the Treasury is that all School Boards are ultimately to disappear. [Cheers.] This is a Government of ideals. [Laughter.] They have ideals in Africa and ideals in education, but I venture to tell the First Lord and the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President that they will have a pretty tough battle in this country before they destroy all the School Boards. [Cheers.] The School Boards will have something to say for themselves—["hear, hear!"]—and this process of painless extinction is not going to be so easy a task as the First Lord fancies. [Cheers.] You will have a good deal to do before you abolish the School Board of London. [Cheers.] I do not know whether London Members opposite think that will be an easy task to accomplish?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Then why is this rival authority to be erected side by side with the School Board? [Cheers.] I venture to say that all this pretence of decentralisation is a delusion—I was going to say an imposture. ["Hear, hear!"] That is not the object of the creation of this new authority. The 1171 object was revealed by the Bishops and Lord Salisbury last December. [Cheers.] It was to fight the School Boards. It was, to use the phrase of the Prime Minister, to "check" the School Boards. [Cries of "Capture!"] No, "capture" was an earlier phrase. [Laughter.] They were recommended a good deal before December to "capture" the School Boards, but they did not succeed in doing that. Failing that you intend to check the School Boards by statute. That is the meaning of Clause 1. [Cheers.] This authority is created to check the School Boards, to check their expenditure and their efficiency, in order to check their competition with the Voluntary Schools of this country, and that is the battle which is to be fought before you succeed in destroying the School Boards and absorbing them throughout the country. ["Hear, hear!"] Let us see how this is going to work under the Bill. First of all you create this body, and what is it going to do? You say you are going to decentralise education. You are going to do nothing of the kind. You call this a central authority; it is not a central authority. It cannot come into existence even except by the consent of that which is the central authority—the Education Department. You will see from Clause 3 that this thing, which is to be the great system of decentralisation in the country, is nothing of the kind. Already many of the County Councils have repudiated your decentralisation—they have shown their common sense in the matter—and will have nothing to do with it. The Education Department, as you will see from Clause 3, reserves to itself the right to refuse to anybody this decentralisation which you say is the great merit of your scheme. And then it is to be done under agreement. ["Hear, hear!"] This local, supreme, paramount, central authority, are they to determine what they are to do and how they are to administer education? Not at all. The terms under which they are to act are dictated to them by the Education Department, and you call that decentralisation. ["Hear, hear!"] You thought it would catch the public mind by saying—Oh, we are erecting a popular authority which will be paramount, and which will be a central authority of itself.1172 You do nothing of the kind. The authority you are creating in Clause 3 is a precarious authority dependent altogether upon the will of the central authority, without whose consent it cannot come into existence. When it does come into existence, what is to be its power? You will find on page 3 the agreement under which alone it exists:—Every such agreement shall provide for the observance by the education authority for the county of the terms of the agreement, and of the elementary day school code, for the inspection of public elementary schools in the county by officers of the Education Department, and for the forfeiture of a portion of the sums otherwise payable to the education authority in the event of non-observance of the conditions of the agreement or of that code, or of any school in the county being pronounced by the Education Department to be in any respect inefficient.In what respect are you constituting this decentralising authority? You say you are constituting it because it alone understands the work of education better than the Education Department; and then you make it subject to the Education Department, who can pronounce whether it is inany respect inefficient, either as respects buildings, sanitation, playgrounds, staff, course of instruction, or otherwise, howsoever, or to be not conducted in accordance with the conditions relating to a public elementary school.Therefore this decentralising authority, as you choose to call it, is subject in the minutest particular to the authority of the Education Department, and to call that decentralisation is an imposture. [Cheers.] You create this new authority, but do not trust it; else, why subject it to the Education Department in all these particulars? What is the use of creating it at all when you consider that in all details it is to be as subject in future as the Board School or Voluntary School is now to the supervision of the Education Department? ["Hear, hear!"] What is the object, then, of the creation of this education authority, and what purpose will it serve? It is worse than the fifth wheel of the coach. [Laughter.] It will obstruct the progress of education at every step. [Cheers.] To create at once, with reference to all these matters, two subordinate authorities, one of which had been invented in order to 1173 check the other, will result in conflict between these two authorities. You have already announced—I do not say the right hon. Gentleman has announced, but the realty prepotent Gentlemen, the Bishops, have announced, and the Prime Minister has announced—that the whole object of the creation of this new authority is to check the School Boards and hamper them in their competition with the Voluntary Schools. That was announced as the object beforehand. I am bound to say the nominal head of the Education Department, the President of the Council, the Duke of Devonshire, at the very time when that was propounded, objected and said he thought these School Boards would have something to say to the County Council control. But this Government seem very united in their views, for at one time one aspect of the question prevails and at another time another. [Laughter.] Apparently the President of the Council has experienced the fate of the Vice President in dealing with matters of this description. [Laughter.] The President of the Council does not appear to me to understand the matter half so well as the Vice President. He attacked me the other day for having said if you abolish the School Boards you would abolish the Board Schools. It is difficult to form an abstract idea of a subject of this kind. I cannot form an abstract idea of a Board School where there are no School Boards. You may call them Board Schools, but they cannot be Board Schools without School Boards. The President of the Council said I had confounded the chestnut horse with the horse chestnuts. I should like to give an elementary lesson in education to the Vice President, and point out to him that if you do not have a horse chestnut tree you cannot have horse chestnuts, and if you in place of the horse chestnut tree plant another tree it will yield another produce, but it will not be horse chestnuts. In the same way you may call the schools under this new authority by whatever name you please, but they will not be Board Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] I presume they will be County Council Schools, and the County Council Authority is created for the purpose alone that they may be different from the existing Board Schools. They are 1174 to check the Board Schools; they are to be schools conducted on different principles; they are schools that are to go in pace with the Bishops and no faster. [Laughter and cheers.] I have endeavoured to show that this new education authority is not a system of decentralisation, and now let us see what will happen to these two co-ordinate authorities. Both of them will have Inspectors—both the County Council Authority and the School Board. These Inspectors will come to different conclusions, and what is to be done then? That is explained in Clause 14:—If the persons managing any school, whether as School Board, governing body, trustees, managers, proprietors, or otherwise, feel aggrieved by the action of an education authority under this Act, they may complain to the Education Department, and that Department, after communicating with the education authority, shall determine the matter, and the education authority shall comply with any order made by the Education Department with reference to the complaint.What, a state of things is that! You create this new education authority which is to supervise the School Board. The School Board, which was created for that purpose, has existed and done the work of education for years, and it may be so misguided as to think it knows just as well what is good for education as the County Council, which is occupied with many other things. The new education authority directs the School Board to do something which the latter thinks is not well to do, and what happens? The School Board appeals to the Education Department, and that is your decentralisation. We were told one of the great objects of this Bill was to get rid of the multifarious correspondence in the central office, and here you set up a conflict of authorities in every part of the country, and in case of dispute the two authorities are to appeal by correspondence to the Education Department, which will examine into the rights of the question. It is perfectly plain that in the working out of the Bill you will not decrease, but multiply the correspondence of the Education Department tenfold. [Cheers.] Instead of the matter being settled as now, you establish this intermediate education authority, which is not supreme. You will multiply quarrels 1175 everywhere, and make the whole field of educational matter to be fought for between the educational authority and the existing local authority, whether School Board or voluntary managers, trustees, or any other body whatever, and, having established this universal quarrel, you make the Education Department the supreme judge. That is called decentralisation. The pretence, as I say, that this clause was introduced for any such purpose as that of removing correspondence from the Central Department, and simplifying the action of the Central Department, is obviously unfounded. I do not know whether he thinks this arrangement may be a development of the tribune we so much admire, but it is impossible to conceive anything more injurious or mischievous. I do not see how you can escape conflict between the educational authority set up under Clause 1 and the existing authority of the Board School. Before we set up this authority we ought to have some understanding as to what is to be the constitution of these apparently co-ordinate authorities. The new authority under Clause 1 cannot absolutely overrule the School Board, because the latter can always appeal, under Clause 14, to the Education Department to decide between them. It is said all this is done in the name of elasticity. What does elasticity mean? It is a fine word for degrading the standard of education. [Cheers.] What your elasticity means is this. In a part of the country where there is not a taste for a high standard of education they might say: "Give us a little less education, it is more suitable to our community." [Laughter.] In my opinion the great benefit of the present system is that the Education Department maintains throughout the country a minimum. [Cheers.] In parts of the country where the community is not very keen or anxious for education you are going to take away that valuable minimum. What you are going to do is to have a low maximum. That is why I call this Bill a revolutionary Bill, because what you are seeking is to limit the maximum that some part of the country which desires a high standard of education shall not have it, by the fixing of a maximum by the authority which you create. You desire that this authority, which you hope will 1176 be governed mainly by the consideration of expenditure and the rates, shall restrain the zeal and ardour of bodies elected because they are eager in the cause of education. That is why you seek to have a low maximum. As for the minimum, as far as this new authority is to operate, it is to have an unlimited minimum in the name of elasticity, and it is actually to be allowed as long as the Education Department consent to relax the provisions of the Code. I do not say the authority will succeed in doing this, because I hope and still believe the power which will be supreme is the Central Authority—that is, the Education Department, which, for 25 years has guarded the elementary education of this country. The Vice President of the Council admits that there cannot be a greater evil than to introduce friction into the working of the educational machine. He says that if you have two authorities working at education in the same district there might be friction between them. He says he should be glad of a method of preventing this. I say by not creating them. [Cheers.] If this new educational authority produces additional inspection and the chance of friction, which I say it is created to produce, and is not a central authority, a paramount authority to be subject to the Education Department, what do you gain by it? Why is it created at all? I can find no reason for its creation except that it was created to be a check—to use Lord Salisbury's words—on the Board Schools of England, and, created for that purpose, I am bound to say that it is likely to introduce into the educational system of this country the greatest mischiefs it is possible to conceive. [Cheers.]
§ SIR J. GORST
I hope the Committee will forgive my saying a few words in reply to the right hon. Gentleman's long Second Reading speech. [Cheers.] I can assure the Committee I have no intention of following that speech through its details; indeed, I doubt whether I should be in order in doing so, because the greater part of that speech had nothing whatever to do with the matter. The right hon. Gentleman has given us a grotesque description of the relations between the proposed educational authority and the existing School Boards, that I feel bound to say a few words to dispel 1177 the idea he has created, and assure the Committee that nothing can be more remote from either the intentions of the Government or the provisions of the Bill than the sketch of the relations between these authorities with which he has favoured the Committee. The new educational authority is not to interfere in any way whatever with the present operations of efficient School Boards. [An HON. MEMBER: "It will check expenditure."] It is not the new educational authority, but the local or municipal authority, which will check expenditure. I said that the new educational authority would not interfere with the operations of the School Board, but the right hon. Gentleman, with that power of Debate which he has in so eminent a degree, flourishes the Bill in my face, and says Clause 13 does give power to interfere with School Boards, and drew a picture of interference with the London School Board, and an appeal to the Education Department to settle the matter. I only rose to tell the Committee what is the provision of Clause 13, of which the right hon. Gentleman gave a grotesque description. Clause 13 is confined entirely to schools which receive money from the new education authority. What are the schools which receive money from the new education authority? First, they will be secondary schools, and Clause 13 is intended primarily and in the first instance, and was drawn for the purpose, of applying to secondary schools which will be aided by the new educational authority. But besides secondary schools there will be primary schools which receive money from the new educational authority. What are these? Voluntary Schools, which will receive a Special Aid Grant, and there may be some few Board Schools in a peculiar and exceptional position which may also receive money from the new educational authority. There are no School Boards to which the now educational authority will apply. Therefore, so far as Clause 13 goes, it is practically only Secondary Schools and Voluntary Schools with which the new educational authority will interfere. What interference is there in that clause with the operations of School Boards? There is nothing whatever in that clause to bring the operations of the School Board for London in any wav under the 1178 authority or intermeddling of the new education authority. Then it is said that Clause 3, which is a devolution clause, enables the Education Department to transfer certain functions which that central body exercises to local authorities. It is rather an amusing and interesting thing, after we have been for many months abused by Liberal speakers on the ground that we were destroying the Education Department, wrecking the central authority, and recklessly handing over its powers to the new authorities, to be found fault with because we are handing over nothing, and keeping so tight a hand over them as to make the devolution a sham. ["Hear, hear!"] You must choose on which ground you will make your attack; we cannot at the same time be reckless in parting with every scrap of authority and at the same time guard it so jealously as not to give up anything. If the Act be put into operation in the county of London, certain functions now performed by the Education Department and its inspectors will be performed by the new authority and its inspectors; but they will only interfere with the work of the London School Board to the same extent and in the same way that the Education Department does. [Sir W. HARCOURT: "What about the Inspectors?"] It is not a convenient time at this stage to discuss the Inspectors. [Laughter.] I am not going to be turned aside into a discussion, which will have the effect of wasting time, upon a part of the Bill with which the Amendment has nothing to do. When the time comes for discussing the arrangements to be made about the Inspectors of the Department, and the Inspectors, if there are any of the new authority, I shall be happy to give the explanations which will be germane to that part of the Bill. In the meantime, I point out that the only inspection and interference with the work of the London School Board or any other School Board which the new authorities will have to exercise under Clause 3 will be confined to the functions and powers which are now exercised by the Education Department. In the cases of such School Boards as London, and as Manchester, Liverpool, and other great towns, the functions of the Department are extremely light. Since I have been in Office, I have had 1179 very little to do with any of these School Boards. The School Boards which give trouble are not the great and successful boards, but they are the little ones in the small villages; these give far more trouble than the great School Boards. Therefore, if the functions of the Department were transferred to the new authority in London, those functions would be very light and would give very little trouble; there would be no quarrelling and no disputing at all; and the friction which the right hon. Gentleman anticipated exists only in his own imagination. There is no danger of these apprehended conflicts with School Boards; they will be able to go on as they do now, and there is no reason whatever for the alarm which the right hon. Gentleman, for obvious reasons, endeavoured to suggest. [Cheers.]
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said he would ask the right hon. Gentleman, if, as he said, little practical difficulty had arisen under present conditions with School Boards, why did he interfere with them at all? [Cheers.] While he objected to the whole Bill, he joined with the Mover of the Amendment in saying there was a great distinction to be drawn in the conditions and circumstances of the places to which the Amendment would apply. The Vice President had practically said the same thing, for he said the new authority would have little or nothing to do in the districts for which there were School Boards for the same areas. If that were the case why did not the right hon. Gentleman support the Amendment? If so little interference were found necessary with the School Boards of London, Manchester, and other towns, why did the right hon. Gentleman run any risk, where things were working well, by seeking to set up a new authority? He had not heard a word of adequate explanation why this new authority was needed anywhere; and he had not heard a single word to explain why it was needed in areas which had School Boards. The class of argument by which you could defend the setting up of an authority in a county where you had an over-ruling authority over many subordinate authorities was totally different from the class of arguments by which you establish coequal authority over the same area. 1180 Where a School Board governed a large area, he would go wholly for the School Board. What, he asked, was the new authority wanted for? Was it for the administration of the 4s. Special Aid Grant? That duty would be a very small one; and the Vice President said inspection was a matter of very little importance.
§ MR. STUART
asked, if there were to be Inspectors to report on the schools which received the 4s. Special Aid Grant, why they should cease to be the Inspectors of the Department; or, if they were not Departmental Inspectors, why should they not be those of the School Board? There must be confusion with anything like a conflict of jurisdiction between co-ordinate bodies representing the same electors in the same areas. At present, at the School Board elections, very different questions were raised from those on which municipal elections were turned; but if the powers proposed to be conferred by the Bill were given to the new authority, then, at County Council and municipal elections, candidates would be asked such questions as: "Are you in favour of Voluntary as opposed to School Board Education?" and vice versa. They would have, in such circumstances, the whole religious difficulty raised in County Council and District Council elections. Such a state of things would be bad enough in sparsely populated country districts, but it would be utterly intolerable in populous centres. There were already enough questions to decide County Council elections in places like London and Manchester without lugging in by the ears the education question, and he looked forward with dismay to the result of that question being mixed up in the election of the governing bodies of our large towns.
§ *MR. C. A. WHITMORE (Chelsea)
said he found himself in the rare position of agreeing with a great deal of what had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Hoxton, and by his right hon. Friend the Member for London University the preceding night. Before he gave a vote on this Amendment, he must reluctantly ask the Government, speaking as a London Member, for some assurance that when Section 6 was reached, 1181 an Amendment would be introduced that would give to London special treatment under the Bill. The crude rigidity of the first section of the first clause of the Bill would, if applied to London, be detrimental both to the good administration of the London County Council, and the efficiency of London elementary education. Deeply reluctant as he was to utter one word in the House which could in any way embarrass the Government, he did not think that the London Members ought to be silent just now. He differed from his hon. Friend the Member for Hoxton on the education question; but he was bound to adhere to the position he had always maintained as a London Member—namely, that in questions affecting the municipal government, London must receive exceptional treatment. The vastness of the population of London, the want of local interest in its local affairs exhibited by the people, brought about a state of affairs in London which differentiated its local life totally from the local life of Manchester and other great towns. The Unionist Members of London were most anxious to help the Government to pass this Bill. They had great confidence in the judgment of the Government. But after all they could not forget that not long ago a Unionist Government insisted, against the almost unanimous vote of the Unionist Members in London, upon getting rid of the coal dues of London, and that a little later the same Government carried the London Clauses of the Local Government Act of 1888 very hurriedly through the House, when it would have been better for London if greater consideration had been given to the matter. He found himself now in this difficulty—he did not want to vote for the Amendment, because it seemed when taken in connection with the concession made by the First Lord on Thursday night to eviscerate this particular part of the Bill. Again, he thought that no one who voted for the Second Reading of the Bill could honestly vote for the Amendment; but, as a London Member, he asked for a plain and explicit statement that the School Board of London and the associated Voluntary Schools as well as the County Council of London should have the power of electing representatives on the new education authority. If that were done, London would be able to secure a good education 1182 authority; and unless he got an assurance from the Government that it would be done, he did not really know what course London Members ought to adopt.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
My hon. Friend has made a direct appeal to me, and has indicated that, in the absence of certain pledges from the Government, he would find himself in a difficulty as to the vote he ought to give on the Amendment. But, as in the early part of his speech he said that no one who voted for the Second Reading of the Bill could vote in favour of the Amendment, he himself has answered the question he put to us. [Laughter.] Therefore, I hope my hon. Friend will not, by his vote, do that which I am sure he is reluctant to do—namely, to destroy the operation of Clause 1. ["Hear, hear!"] But when he appeals for greater elasticity in the constitution of the Central Authority than appears to be given by the Bill, and when he brings forward London as a locality deserving of special treatment, everyone will admit the excellence of the views he has expressed; and though I cannot hold out any hope to my hon. Friend that we will consent to any such course being laid down in the Bill, it may be possible for us to accept Amendments, which will leave it open to the Education Department to make such differences as they may think proper in the constitution of the educational authorities to meet the special needs of special districts. ["Hear, hear!"] I hope that general assurance which I may give at this stage of the Bill will satisfy my hon. Friend, and induce him to believe that the Government do not desire to subject every part of the country to the same rigid system. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
desired to ask the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill one question, which would throw a great deal of light on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that Clause 13 would not apply except to small and poor School Boards and to Voluntary Schools, because it only applied in cases where the educational authority had the distribution of the money.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said he would now call attention to the statement made on the Second Reading of the Bill, in which the right hon. Gentleman observed:—If I had anything to do with the administration of the Act, I would begin by giving the administration of the Government grant to the great county boroughs like Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, and to the important counties like Lancashire, the West Riding of Yorkshire, and Middlesex.What he wanted to ask was whether, after that, the right hon. Gentleman adhered to his assertion just now that Clause 13 would have no application to School Boards in those districts? [Opposition cheers.]
§ SIR J. GORST
said he must have been very unfortunate in not making his meaning clear to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Committee, if the Committee took the same view as the right hon. Gentleman. What he had said was that Clause 13 would not enable the educational authority to interfere in any way with School Boards until the Devolution Section of Clause 3 was put in operation; but that then the new educational authority would exercise exactly the same powers as those now possessed by the Department, and as he had already said in the case of such places as Liverpool, Leeds, and Manchester the functions were very light and would not interfere with the operations of the School Board.
§ SIR JOHN BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
said it passed his comprehension why, because there were five millions in London, and only half-a-million in Liverpool, there should be different treatment accorded to those two places under the Bill. Half-a-million of people were entitled in the matter of education to have the best that was to be had. He was not a representative of Liverpool, but he was a native and a burgess of it, and he apprehended friction between the City Council and the School Board, just as much as the hon. Member opposite apprehended it for London. Why was it there was no friction now? Both authorities were governed by law, and they knew the extent of their rights and duties. ["Hear, hear!"] If they, however, introduced this arbitrary element, this arbitrary power which they 1184 proposed to give to the Council of imposing a limit upon the educational authority which spent the money on one single object, they would introduce that which was absolutely sure to cause friction. He objected to this power as much for Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and all the rest of the great towns as hon. Members did for London. He trusted that the Government would adopt the Amendment, and so avoid the mischief.
§ *MAJOR BANES (West Ham, S.)
wished to say a few words on behalf of the important borough which he represented, and which sent two Unionist Members to Parliament. The School Board there had carried out its duties under the Education Act not only to the satisfaction of the Education Department, but to the satisfaction of the people. ["Hear, hear!"] Their County Council and every other body in the constituency requested him to oppose the Bill—[loud Opposition cheers]—especially Clauses 1, 4, and 27, unless they were amended. He had been connected with the place for 40 years, he had been 22 years on the School Board, and he had been elected at the head of the poll on two occasions, and therefore he thought he could speak the feelings of the Board he represented. They were determined to oppose the Bill. They did not oppose the Government giving aid to the Voluntary Schools—[Opposition cheers]—but that was not the intention. It was most surprising that the Government should cast a sort of slur upon the School Boards. [Opposition cheers.] He was a strong Unionist, and he had done something to make Conservatism popular, but he doubted whether he should have the same power if it was understood that it was the same Party which cast a stigma on the School Boards. [An interruption from a CONSERVATIVE MEMBER.] Yes, he knew it was ignorance. [Loud Opposition laughter.] Those who made that remark had never been in touch with the people. [Opposition cheers.] London ought to be the last to desert them. They had educated nearly all the children in that large and populous district of West Ham, and he was at a loss to know why the expenditure should be allowed to go into the hands of the Town Council, which was elected for another purpose. If this Bill 1185 in this particular was to be forced on the big towns, then he should be sorry for the Unionist Party. [Opposition cheers.] In nearly all these populous places the School Boards had done good work. They all wanted to aid the Voluntary Schools, but they did not want to see the School Boards degraded. [Renewed cheers.] It would not take him long to find out whence the influence had come. It had come, unfortunately, from the Church. ["Hear, hear!"] He did all he could for the clergy, but he liked to speak plain to them. They had given bad advice. They were not men of business and never would be. Rather than see one of them on his platform, if he wanted to get returned, he would wish him away. [Loud laughter.] All sections, Churchmen, Catholics, and Nonconformists, were represented on his Board, and they all stood together in working for the benefit of the education of the people of West Ham. He hoped, in the best interests of the country, this proposal would be left out of the Bill. [Opposition cheers.]
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
thought the Government were gradually coming to the conclusion that they ought to confine themselves to dealing with the Voluntary Schools, and that they should not proceed to revolutionise the whole system of National Education. He assured the hon. Member who had just spoken that there was no desire on that side of the House to place West Ham in a worse position than London. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London, desired to exclude London from the clause, in order that it might be included in the Bill later on, but under different terms. The Opposition heartily endorsed the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's plan, but they would as heartily oppose the second part. He was sorry to hear what fell from the Leader of the House in reply to the hon. Member for Chelsea, who asked the Government to make the declaration that when they came to Sub-section 6, they would deal with the special treatment for London which the hon. Member had embodied in an Amendment. The Leader of the House said he would give favourable consideration to the hon. Gentleman's proposal. What those 1186 who were interested in education in London and the large boroughs desired was that the supervision of elementary education in those places should be altogether excluded from the purview and operation of the Bill. His right hon. Friend argued very strongly that the proposal of the Government was unwise, inasmuch as it placed one representative body under the purview of another such body. He also argued that the proposal would lead to considerable expense and unnecessary inspection. What was desired was that the London County Council should be left as now to carry out technical and secondary education. Anyone who had any knowledge of the London County Council knew that while that body had moved slowly in respect to secondary and technical education, they were now in a position to carry out such education efficiently and well. The London Technical Board were strongly under the impression that if the proposed new duties were forced upon them they would be greatly hampered in carrying on their secondary and technical education work. As to elementary education, there was in London a body directly representative of the ratepayers, who were quite capable of carrying on the elementary education that was required. The Vice President of the Council himself had shown conclusively that there was absolutely no reason whatever to interfere with the relations between the Education Department and the School Boards in London and the large towns. He appealed to those hon. Gentlemen specially interested in the future of Voluntary Schools whether they thought their interests would be better served by having the care and supervision of Voluntary Schools placed under the London County Council, or by leaving it where it now was, under the Education Department? It was said the Bill would promote progress and lead to decentralisation. It was obvious from what had occurred that if the great School Boards were put under the County Councils, the former would be hampered in their work, and progress would be diminished. As far as London was concerned, he could not help thinking that in making these provisions the promoters of the Bill had been largely actuated by a desire to hamper the operations both of the School Board and 1187 the County Council, for, as far as one could judge from the utterances of those hon. Gentlemen, the one body was disliked and the other was distrusted. Moreover, he thought it was very inconsistent on the part of the Government, and especially of hon. Gentlemen opposite, to propose to intrust increased duties to the London County Council, because, in Debate after Debate, those hon. Members had argued that the London County Council had already far more duties to perform than they could perform efficiently. It had been said that the Bill would, at small cost, enlarge our national system of education. It would undoubtedly, at all events in London, largely increase the cost of education. The County Council would find it necessary to set up a new staff, and probably to erect new buildings, the cost of which would fall on the London ratepayers. And as to the later clauses, under which the County Council would have power to check the expenditure of the School Board, there could be no question that those clauses would lead to a great deal of friction between the two bodies. He intended to vote for the Amendment, on the ground that it would exclude London and the large boroughs from the purview of the Bill as regarded the creation of the educational authority.
§ SIR ARTHUR FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
denied that the carrying of the Bill as it stood would lead to friction and difficulty between the Liverpool School Board and the Liverpool City Council. As a matter of fact, the School Board had, by resolution, approved of the Bill in so far as it transferred certain powers to the City Council. There need not be any friction or trouble between those bodies. If the Amendment was carried, Liverpool would be deprived of an opportunity of local self-government which the first clause would give, and give to a very important degree. If he understood the Bill aright, it would give to districts some opportunity of having their educational requirements administered according to local demands and necessities. ["Hear, hear!"] In Liverpool, it happened that 60,000 out of the 90,000 school children attended the Voluntary Schools, and if the Amendment became law, the control and inspection of those schools, 1188 which otherwise would be transferred to the Liverpool City Council, would remain vested in the Central Authority in London. Why should Liverpool, which had so generously maintained the Voluntary Schools, be deprived of the opportunity the Bill offered of having them administered from a local point of view by the City Council? ["Hear, hear!"] On those grounds he approved the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken said that Voluntary Schools might deem themselves perfectly safe under a Central Authority. He did not think so. ["Hear, hear!"] They had had some experience of the Central Authority in London, and if there were any persons hostile to the maintenance of the Voluntary Schools, it was those who had administered the Education Department during the last two or three years. ["Hear, hear!"] He much preferred the administration of the schools being in the hands of the City Council, which would reflect local opinion, to their being in those of the Central Authority, for he should then have more confidence in the fair administration of the powers of the Bill. He would, therefore, make a strong appeal to the Committee to reject the Amendment, and give to large centres of population like Liverpool the power of having some real and practical voice in the administration of the work of education. ["Hear, hear!"]
MR. BRYNMOR JONES (Swansea District),
in supporting the Amendment, asked the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, whether he had really considered the case of such a county borough as Swansea in relation both to the Bill and to the Amendment? Swansea was a county borough, and had a School Board, which had developed an admirable system of education, and had given general satisfaction. If the Bill became law in its present form, and the Amendment was not accepted, however, the future education authority in Swansea would be, not the School Board, but the county governing body constructed under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act of 1889. He wished to know whether it was really intended to place this body in a position of any control over the School Board, which was elected solely for the purposes of elementary education.
said the point referred to by the hon. Member would arise when the particular part of the section dealing with it was reached.
MR. BRYNMOR JONES
said he was endeavouring to point out what would be the result to Swansea if the Amendment was not carried, and he desired to point out that the county governing body referred to, though admirably adapted to the purposes for which it was constituted, was unfitted to discharge the duties which the Bill would impose upon it. Moreover, the performance of those duties as the educational authority would surely bring it into contact and friction with the School Board. He thought the Amendment deserved the support of every Member for Wales, because of the peculiar treatment of Wales under the Bill.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said the point raised was much complicated by the concession whereby boroughs of not less than 20,000 population would be able to set up their own education authorities. As the Bill was first drafted, he understood that the educational authority was to be a body which would superintend the educational arrangements over a large area. From his experience of the Education Department, that seemed to him to be an excellent proposal, for the work could be carried out more efficiently by a single body over a large area, than over a small area. ["Hear, hear!"] But the position of things had been greatly altered by the smaller boroughs being included in the Bill, and he wished to say one or two words only on the Amendment as it affected London. It appeared to him that London and other large places like Manchester and Liverpool were, and must be held to be, in altogether a different position in this matter from small boroughs of 20,000 inhabitants. They had the scope for a large educational machinery, and he thought that in such large places the School Board might fairly be intrusted both with the powers of the educational authority, and with the practical work of managing the schools. ["Hear, hear!"] Therefore, from his own point of view, he should like to see the whole of the grant paid to the School Boards in those large centres and the Board made really and truly the education authority for those 1190 areas. At the same time, he acknowledged, with the Government, that some check might be required in the matter of finance, and he should not object to the County Council having the power to exercise a controlling check in the way of seeing that the Education Rate did not exceed a certain amount. He feared that if a second authority was set up side by side with the School Board, it would lead to friction and confusion.
§ *MR. T. R. LEUTY (Leeds, E.)
said the Leader of the House had urged that if the Amendment now before the Committee was carried, it would be fatal to the principle of the Bill. Reading the Amendment as it stood on the Paper, he thought it would, if carried, be a great interference with the Bill, for it excluded the London County Council and the Borough County Councils. But he could not conceive it possible that the Amendment should be carried and the matter end there. The Mover of the Amendment had indicated that it was his wish to see a sort of hybrid authority appointed—a body which should be appointed, partly by the County Councils and partly by the School Boards in London and the county boroughs, as the education authority. He had an Amendment on the Paper, which he presumed would be out of order now, very much on the same lines us that of the right hon. Baronet, but he followed it on with a consequential Amendment which stated that the School Boards in the county boroughs should be the authority referred to under this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would probably by this time be almost out of patience at hearing that this was an attack on the School Board system. But they had the authority of the Leader of the House that it was his aspiration that School Boards should ultimately be done away with, and were they to believe that if this clause was carried in its present shape, no attempt would be made to carry out the aspiration the right hon. Gentleman had acknowledged? He thought that when any such danger as that was possible, it was only right that some regard should be paid to the work of these great School Boards. He pleaded on behalf of a Board which had the largest School Board work in this country with the sole exception of London—a Board which 1191 had places for over 50,000 children, which had, in its last completed year, 48,000 children in attendance, and provided, during that year, accommodation for an additional 1,600. Whilst the average grant earned throughout the country was now 18s. or 19s., the grant earned by the Leeds Board was 20s. 9¾d. last year, and with the South Kensington Grant, 23s. 11d. Again, as showing the quality of the work done by this Board, he would refer to the fact that, in the drawing list, while throughout the United Kingdom 24 per cent. of those presented passed excellent, 67 per cent, good, 9 per cent, fair, and none failed, in Leeds, 91 per cent, passed excellent, 9 per cent, obtained good, and none got fair, and none failed. With such a record as this they had a right to come to the right hon. Gentleman and say: "Why do you propose to pass over our heads in seeking an instrument to carry out your work in education?" If the Government would only rise, to the occasion, and intrust this large board as their educational authority, he had the greatest confidence that the quality and honesty of their work in the past would be equalled by the quality and honesty of their work in the future. He wished the Government would recognise the splendid work done by these School Boards. As to the question of examination, it had been pointed out that either under a hybrid authority, or under the authority provided by this clause, an additional examination would be necessary. By adopting the School Boards in boroughs with conterminous boundaries, they would get rid of the additional inspectorate, which the right hon. Gentleman had admitted was the great blot of his scheme.
§ SIR J. GORST
No, I did not say that. What I said was that the multiplicity of examinations was an evil, but I never said that the Bill increased that evil.
§ *MR. LEUTY
said he agreed that the multiplicity of examinations was an evil, but the right hon. Gentleman did provide for an additional inspection, because, under the Bill, it was provided that the Education Department in London should see to it that the various authorities did their work, and some inspection would be necessary to see to it.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
suggested that the hon. Member was not speaking to the Amendment, this Amendment could not affect the amount of inspection. On the Amendment of the hon. Member making School Boards the educational authority, the observations he was now making would be quite in order.
§ *MR. LEUTY
said that portion of his Amendment which excluded non-county boroughs was forestalled by that of the "right hon. Baronet, and unless it was carried, it would be impossible for him to move that School Boards should be the authority.
said the hon. Member was not entitled to discuss some Amendment which he might be able to raise at a later stage of the Bill. The only Amendment now before the House was the one moved last night, and it was not open to any hon. Member to discuss the possibility of some future Amendment which might be introduced into the Bill, supposing the right hon. Baronet's Amendment was carried.
§ *MR. LEUTY
said he should vote for the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet, though not from the point of view of having the authority partly elected by the School Board and partly by the County Council. He would have nothing of that fantastic sort of arrangement. If the Government would accept the recommendation of the hon. Member for West Ham, and boldly stand up for the direct representation of the people in these authorities, he thought they would be standing on very safe ground. It would reduce their difficulties in the House, and ten thousand times more reduce them when they had to stand before the constituencies and explain and defend their scheme.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)
desired to point out that in his opinion the Amendment as at present framed would not carry out the intention he had in making it. There were various cases to which the Amendment would not apply. There was, for instance the town of Brighton, which was a County Council, and had a School Board. Brighton was, for School Board purposes, a united district. The population within the area of the School Board consisted of two parts, by far 1193 the larger of which was Brighton itself. There were many cases in which the areas of the borough School Board and of the County Council were not coterminous, inasmuch as the School Board district included places which were not within the area of the borough. He therefore suggested that after the words "coterminous with" in the Amendment the words "or comprising" should be inserted. He was entirely in sympathy with the right hon. Baronet who had moved this very important Amendment, and he was only surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had found himself unable to accept it The effect of the Amendment would be to minimise to a considerable extent the number of educational authorities. Hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House believed very strongly in the School Boards as educational authorities, and they were quite content to let them retain the control of education within the area of these boroughs. The number of boroughs which would come within the terms of the Amendment was 102, and by that number the educational authorities would be reduced if that Amendment were adopted. If the Amendment were not accepted there were several important points upon which the School Boards in these boroughs of over 50,000 inhabitants would be controlled by the education authorities, and upon which friction and conflict might be expected to arise between them. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had suggested that some scheme might be adopted whereby the education of London might be treated separately. But in that case surely the education of other large towns should be treated in the same way, and any legislation on the subject for London should apply equally to the other large boroughs. He could see no reason why this special legislation should apply exclusively to the metropolis. He was quite certain that this Measure would give rise to questions relating to religious dogmas and to sectarian differences. He must say that having listened to the Debate with great attention, he had not heard a single argument which ought to prevail against the Amendment that had been moved by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the London University. Before he sat down 1194 he invited the right hon. Baronet to say whether he would accept the words which he proposed to add to his Amendment. In order to give the right hon. Baronet an opportunity of considering the matter, he begged formally to move the insertion of the words he desired to add to it.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
said there was a great deal in the suggestion of the hon. Member, but he was not quite sure that the words he proposed exactly carried out the views of the supporters of the Amendment. He would therefore appeal to the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his Amendment for the present, and would undertake, should he be fortunate enough to carry his own Amendment, to carefully consider the hon. Member's suggestion in Report. [Hear, hear!]
§ MR. S. EVANS
said he was much obliged to the right hon. Baronet. He was sure he would carry out his intention, and therefore, with the leave of the Council, he would withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *MR. ERNEST GRAY (West Ham, N.),
speaking on the original Amendment, said that his constituency had shown the strongest interest in this Amendment. He could readily understand that strong arguments might be adduced in favour of a proposal that one powerful central body should have control over a number of small, and in some cases negligent, School Boards; but where there was a School Board occupying the same area as the County Council, the position was entirely different. Not only had the School Board control over the same area and was elected by the same ratepayers, but in many instances it was the older authority of the two. In his borough, for instance, the School Board had been in existence over 20 years, while the paramount authority under the Bill would be a mushroom growth of eight or nine years. His hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea expressed the fear that the Amendment, if adopted, would eviscerate the Government proposal; but the proposal of the right hon. Baronet was not to exempt these areas from the provisions of the Bill altogether, but only to exempt 1195 them from the supervision of the County Council, if it was constituted the educational authority. They were bound to try to amend this clause on the assumption that a directly elected authority would not be accepted by the Committee; and he thought a very strong case had been made out, at all events, for the formation of a joint board. The County Councils had control of secondary education, and the School Boards of primary. Why on earth should it be proposed to put the County Council, who had only dealt with education for the last few years, over the head of the School Board? He was perfectly certain that proposal would lead to an immense amount of friction. He knew that some of his hon. Friends on his side of the House had no good word to say for School Boards, but he was convinced that arose through ignorance of their work. There were bad School Boards, but there were undoubtedly good ones, the members of which had every reason to be proud of their work, yet their position in the future was to be one of inferiority to the County Council. In West Ham they had already had an example of what would occur under the Bill, as it stood. A proposal was made in the Borough Council a short time ago that the School Board precepts should not be passed; and if a Borough Council did that when it had not the legal power— [Opposition cheers and laughter]—what was it likely to do when it had the power? That proposal was only lost by one vote. Had it been, carried the School Board would have been compelled to apply for a mandamus to compel the Council to levy the rate. In many districts the same sort of thing would prevail if the Bill were passed in its present form. ["Hear, hear!"] He only wished to urge that the School Boards should be reasonably considered and that primary education should be put on an equal footing with secondary education. It had been said that the County Councils would not exercise much, if any, control over the School Boards; but it seemed to him that if the Bill was to be anything at all, there would be a great many agreements constituted at once under Section 3. If not the. House was only wasting its time. He presumed that the moment an agreement was formed under that section and the grant of 29s. per child 1196 was handed over to the County Council, that body would immediately assume the whole of the control set forth in Section 13, under which every act of the School Board would come under the supervision of the County Council. He also contended that the Amendment before the Committee would tend to decrease the amount of inspection. At present the Department inspected the schools on behalf of the taxpayers. It was proposed to hand over the power of inspection, and the whole body of inspectors now in the service of the Department, to the County Council. Thus there would be the School Board Inspector and in addition an inspector under the control of the County Council, though paid by the Department. If, however, the Amendment were adopted and there were a joint board, one half of that inspection might be destroyed at once. If the work were once done and well done, there would be no necessity to carry it out a second time. He did not think the Government realised the intensity of the feeling in London on this subject. He had very little doubt that if they went to the London ratepayers on this one question—will you put the County Council in control over the School Board, the reply would be an emphatic negative. He believed that the Amendment of the right hon. Member for London University would be a distinct improvement to the Bill.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
It is rather unfortunate that this Amendment has been complicated with other questions. There is, for example, the question of London. We should be completely diverted from the real controversy now before us if we attempted to make this Amendment an occasion for discussing whether London should or should not have a separate mode of treatment. That is a very grave question, and I think it is only fair to tell the First Lord of the Treasury that if any new proposal were to be made for dealing with London on a different footing from other municipalities the Government would be raising a very difficult and complicated issue which would be opposed in the strongest possible manner by those who represent large boroughs.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I have not suggested that such a proposal would be made. On the 1197 contrary, I said that I thought it would be impossible for the Government to embody a particular scheme for London in the Bill.
§ SIR H. FOWLER
I am glad to have elicited that explanation from the right hon. Gentleman. The Amendment of the right hon. Baronet raises this question: Are there or are there not to be two education authorities in a locality where one education authority already exists? The proposed introduction of a new education authority into a county borough already possessing its own School Board will create friction, will injure education, will involve expense, and will be altogether a most unwise and unsatisfactory procedure. The Government propose to permit the same constituency that has already voted for the existing authority to vote for the new authority. It will doubtless be said that the existing authority is elected lay the cumulative vote and that the new authority will be elected by a more sensible mode of election. The existing School Boards, however, which have done remarkably good work, the value of which it is almost impossible to exaggerate, may be taken to represent fairly the constituencies by which they are elected. Then what would be the difference in the qualifications which these two bodies would possess? The members of the School Board at all events may claim experience in educational work and personal knowledge of the subject. That is the qualification of that class of men. But your County Council or Borough Council has no experience of educational work and very little knowledge of it. The bulk of the gentlemen elected to take a prominent position in our municipal life are gentlemen who have had not much experience of educational work; they are not educational experts, and they have been elected to perform very different duties. They have to control the police, to protect the public health, to manage the lighting and paving of the streets, to control the markets, and to manage the water supply and in some cases the tramways. There is no line of intersection between the School Board and the County or Borough Council. They are two distinct bodies. Why, then, should one body control the other? Why should the body which is qualified 1198 by experience to do the educational work, and to which the ratepayers have specially intrusted that work, give place to another body which has no qualifications for discharging it? Another consideration is that different sets of men are chosen to perform these different descriptions of work. There are most competent men—men who have experience, who are men of property, men who are large employers of labour—who will not take part in municipal work, but who will serve on the School Boards. A large majority of the School Boards have been elected from that class, and thus you have men filling a place in your public life who would not take part in it in any other capacity, and who are capable of doing great service in connection with education. It would be unwise to drive these men away from this work. ["Hear, hear!"] They have been building up a great educational system, and they will not consent to be controlled by Town Councils or Committees of County Councils. The Duke of Devonshire has recognised that many School Boards would not admit Town Councils to be superior authorities. If Town Councils can control School Boards, why should they not also control Poor Law Guardians? Yet will anyone propose that they should exercise such control? There are mental and physical limits to the functions which public bodies can perform. If they are overburdened, what happens? The performance of their duties passes into the hands of paid officials, which is the worst form of municipal administration. You take out of your local municipal life the in valuable, the priceless services of men who give their time and abilities to carry on our municipal work, and you strike a blow at that work of the most deadly character. What does this proposal come to? What is to be its practical working? You will have two authorities, and by the statement of the functions which are to be intrusted to the one authority it will come to this—that the one authority is to promote education and the other is to cripple it. [Cheers.] They are not to do the same things in one sense. The one is to be supposed to do its best to equip its schools, to elevate its standard of education, to promote education; the other is to be a checking authority, checking 1199 simply and solely in the way of expenditure. But you have another danger still, it was alluded to by one of the preceding speakers. You will have a new cry in municipal elections. I have always held in opposition to my right hon. Friend that it was unwise to introduce Party politics into municipal life. I have always held that a man may hold sound or unsound views of Imperial politics, and sound or unsound views of municipal politics; but the one ought not to overlap the other. It has been said by the Secretary for the Colonies that it would be one of the modes of getting the best men into municipal life if you conduct their election on broader grounds than merely municipal politics. I differ from him on that point. I may be wrong, but, surely, in municipal politics we have a right to ask, "What about religion?" Are we to have municipal elections made the battlefield of sectarian controversy? [Cheers.] That is what it will come to. [Cheers.] The real crux of this Bill, the dividing line underlying the whole problem is the religious question. [Cheers.] When the President of the Board of Trade brought in the County Government Act of 1888 hon. Members opposite deprecated anything like the introduction of politics into County Council elections. I think that, as a rule, politics have been absent from County Council elections; but as to a new cry here I think you will have Church and Dissent, Church and Chapel, Denominational Schools and Voluntary Schools—all those questions which I object to being discussed on occasions of that description—thrown into the vortex of municipal life; and we shall have a very unpleasant theological element introduced into this contest. [Cheers.] Next, as to the practical working of this system. There is no agreement as to whether there is to be one staff of inspectors or two. There are to be three authorities—first, the School Board, then the educational authority elected by the Town or County Council, and next the County Council, which is to be the supreme authority. Having constituted three local authorities you will then have a proof of decentralisation in the appeal to the Education Department, and you will have each authority being asked as to what the inspector of each body has to 1200 say on any point in dispute. You will have constant friction on little points, on foolish points—[cheers]—as well as friction on the question of cost. [Cheers.] The hon. Member for West Ham gave an illustration of the Town Council of the borough refusing the School Board precept. I am not surprised at it when we know that the School Board rate in West Ham is 2s. 4d., and I am not surprised that a claim is made that School Boards should be treated more liberally than they are under this Bill. But if you are to have that conflict between the two authorities it will be perpetually arising on money matters. There will always be a party in the Town or County Council who think that the School Board is always spending too much, and thus a School Board may be more obstinate in its legitimate expenditure than it otherwise would be. ["Hear, hear!"] When election time comes municipal schemes of improvement will be put before the ratepayers—gas works, water works, great street improvements, the construction of a town hall—and the interest that will go to the wall will be education. [Cheers.] Who has asked for this second authority—[cheers]—for this duplication of authority with respect to education, for the degradation of the one and the creation of the other? [Cheers.] The ratepayers have not asked for it. Has there been a public meeting in any large town in the kingdom to show that the ratepayers were dissatisfied with the School Board and that they wanted the County Council to control them? School Boards are elected every three years, and if ratepayers are dissatisfied they know how to deal with them. [Cheers.] Have the County Councils or the Town Councils asked for it? I know that there has been a petition from the Town Council of Birmingham; but until this Bill was brought in I do not remember to have heard that Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, or Bristol have ever come to their Members in the House of Commons saying, "We are dissatisfied with the School Boards and we want some control to be introduced." No; it has come from one source alone. [Cheers.] It is of clerical, or, more accurately, of episcopal origin. [Cheers.] What did 1201 the Bishop of London say when he went to the Prime Minister? He was frank and candid; the Bishop of London means what he says, and says what he means. He said:—There was the pressure of competition with the School Board. They looked to the checking of the School Boards by the ratepayers, but that was a matter which was very difficult for the ratepayers to understand, and they (the poor ratepayers!) do not know how to put on the check.[Laughter.] It seems rather amusing to hear the Bishop of London educating the ratepayers of Birmingham and Manchester as to putting on the check. [Laughter.]In fact, it would be a very difficult thing for any one to control the School Boards unless there was some means of bringing their expenditure before the public and challenging what had been done. It was for that reason that in the memorial which they had presented it was suggested that the School Board precepts should be always revised by some other public body.[Cheers.] There you have the be-all and the end-all of this proposal. [Cheers.] It was to prevent the competition with the Voluntary Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] The late Home Secretary stated to the House that we were not prepared to oppose any legitimate aid which Voluntary Schools needed subject to certain conditions. We do not wish to destroy Voluntary Schools; we want to raise their standard of educational efficiency, to remove a great many of the excrescences from them which we think impair their action for good. [Cheers.] But here the want is to check competition. There is a saying in the railway world that the shortest distance rules the rates; and apparently the Bishop of London's idea is that the poorest school should fix the standard. But local authorities, looking at the competition to which we are exposed all over the world, will have better education and will insist on more money being spent on education; and, though you may create friction, though you may delay, impede, embarrass, and hinder, you cannot permanently check the educational work of this country. I believe that this Amendment lays down the principle that in a large municipal borough, wherever there is in effect an independent educational authority al- 1202 ready existing, an authority which can be made responsible to the ratepayers, it is unwise to constitute another authority elected by the same constituency but for a totally different purpose, and to invest it with a power which it cannot use for good, but must use for evil. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I do not rise to reply with any elaboration to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and this for two reasons. In the first place, I cannot help thinking that the Committee will agree in the view I take that this very important and interesting discussion has about perhaps reached its natural term—["no, no!"]—and that the House may now come to a decision upon it. [Cheers.] In the second place, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, able and eloquent as it was, indicated that the speeches made from the Front Opposition Bench wandered very far from the Amendment before the Committee over a large number of topics—["no, no!" and cheers]—hardly even to be described as allied topics. ["No!"] Some hon. Gentleman says "No," but I am utterly unable to see how any discussion on Clause 26 is relevant to the subject before us. It is sufficient for me to say that it is absolutely impossible for the Government to accept an Amendment which should make the School Board the educational authority in the cases in question. We hold that the view that there ought to be two elected bodies representing the same sets of constituents, and elected by precisely the same methods, both dealing with important sides of municipal life, is a most cumbrous method of carrying on municipal business, and that it has among other evil effects that of impoverishing the municipal authority and of depriving it of the services of many men of ability who would otherwise be willing to render it service. We hold, further, that unless you carry out the Bill as it stands in this particular you will never be able to unify and bring into a common system your primary and secondary education. And we hold, in the third place, that when hon. Gentlemen opposite talk of having two authorities in the same district both concerned with education as if that were an intolerable evil, it is an evil which you suffer from at the present moment 1203 because you have intrusted to your School Boards the care of primary education and that kind of education which cannot be described as primary which in the larger municipalities they are gradually absorbing for themselves—["no!"]—while you have handed over to your municipal authorities that important branch of secondary education which is called technical. Lastly, when we are told that labours which would be imposed upon the Town Councils by this Bill are so intolerable that human nature will break down under them, I feel justified in rejecting that gloomy prophecy by recollecting that such municipal authorities as Liverpool and Birmingham profess that so far as they are concerned they neither fear the responsibilities which this Bill will cast upon them nor that the labours entailed upon them would be beyond their strength. I hope that these brief reasons—reasons that are only a summary of the arguments that have been given in full detail before—will be accepted by Gentlemen on this side as a fair summary of the case, and that Gentlemen opposite will be content with the not inconsiderable exposition of their views which has been so eloquently given by their own friends and leaders, and that we may now be permitted to come to a decision. [Cheers and "No, no!"]
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
Having listened, as perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has not, to almost every word spoken in the course of this Debate, I am bound to express my own opinion, for whatever it may be worth, that, so far from the subject having been discussed at excessive length, or the legitimate debate upon it now being in a condition of exhaustion, this is, as every one on both sides who has listened to the speeches must agree, one of the vital points in the Bill—[cheers]—and that it brings, as perhaps hardly any other Amendment on the Paper can, to a focus the plausible but wholly illusory arguments put forward on behalf of this specious and unnecessary scheme of decentralisation. The right hon. Gentleman accused my right hon. Friend of having wandered from the subject. I have rarely heard a speech which kept more closely to the important and capital considerations which ought to govern the decision of the Committee. [Cheers.] 1204 I can hardly accuse the right hon. Gentleman of having wandered in reply—[laughter]—for he has not dealt with a single one of the points which my right hon. Friend so ably adduced—[cheers]—and his speech remains at this moment wholly unanswered from the other side. The question I want to put is this—For what purpose is this new education authority to be called into existence in those great urban communities which already have a School Board of their own? ["Hear, hear!"] The Vice President of the Council earlier in the evening told us that, in the event of the new authority taking upon itself by agreement under Clause 3 the functions of the Education Department, its task would be an extremely light one, for the School Boards of the large towns conduct their education work so admirably that instances of friction with the central Department are few and far between. [Cheers.] The whole case of the Government in reference to School Boards and the need for dealing with them has been found in the experience of the rural districts. There might be some conceivable cases in those districts—I do not say there are—for creating an authority which would give a stimulus to lukewarm and lethargic School Boards and would introduce something like educational zeal into those districts; but here we are dealing with communities where, by the confession of the right hon. Gentleman himself, nothing, or hardly anything, remains to be done by the Education Department itself. What conceivable ground is there, when you have a system which works perfectly well already, where the native zeal of the ratepayers is sufficient to keep their educational machinery efficiently at work, for introducing this element of friction which is not demanded by the localities themselves? The right hon. Gentleman interjects a remark about secondary education, but secondary education is already in the hands of the County Council. [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "Technical."] The right hon. Gentleman draws a distinction between secondary and technical education. But you have got an authority which deals with technical education. It has the money and distributes the money which this Bill proposes to appropriate to secondary education. There could be no 1205 simpler legislative task than slightly to extend the functions of those bodies and to confer upon them additional powers, and so to amplify that which is at present a system of technical into one of secondary education also. This is not a Party question; it is a question in which the most vital interests both of education and of municipal and local government are involved, and we sincerely believe that, if you do not meet the case in the sense my right hon. Friend the Member for London University proposes, you will, with whatever intentions you may be acting, impair the efficiency of a system which has taken years to build up and which at present does its work with admirable efficiency. [Cheers.] Nobody wants this thing, nobody has asked for it. ["Hear, hear!"] You cannot give any reason whatsoever why this large and revolutionary Measure has been introduced, and until we have some more satisfactory answer we shall continue to press our opposition to it upon the House and the country.
§ SIR JOHN BAKER (Portsmouth)
said that the School Board of that large town, consisting of an equal number of members on both sides of politics, were unanimous against this clause of the Measure. They had a right to be heard upon the question, because Portsmouth was one of the first boroughs to adopt a School Board, and it had spent half a million of money in educating the children. The School Board objected to be superseded by the Town Council, which was not elected for educational purposes, but for purposes totally different. In many of the great municipalities, of late years the Town Councils were frequently elected on political lines, and to carry out the administration of the schools with the political element introduced would be, to his mind, a grave disaster from an educational point of view. He trusted, therefore, that the Amendment would be carried.
§ MR. H. J. WILSON (York, W.R., Holmfirth)
said the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had asked the Opposition to be content with the speeches already made from that side, but what about the powerful speeches made from the right hon. Gentleman's own side? The Leader of the House seemed to forget that this Amendment proceeded from his own side of the 1206 House. It was really time some Members on the Ministerial side of the House got up to support the Government, because hitherto all the speeches had been in criticism of the Bill, and no one at all had given a frank adhesion to it. Several hon. Members had alluded to the question of inspection, which ought to have been cleared up by a simple, straightforward, and definite answer on the part of the Government. On May 5, when moving the Second Reading of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman said:—Then the Department retains the power of inspection, approving the Inspectors appointed by the local authorities.On May 12, answering a question of the hon. Member for Islington, as to whether it was intended that inspection of schools should in future be conducted by the Department or by the local education authority, or by both, the right hon. Gentleman said:—The subject is under the consideration of the Committee of the Council, but they have not yet arrived at any conclusion which shows that there would be any necessity for disturbing the existing relations with the inspectorial staff.What conclusion had been arrived at since those words had been spoken a month ago? The Committee were entitled to a clear and straightforward answer.
§ MR. GEORGE HARWOOD (Bolton)
said that he was one of those who declined to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, because, in the interests of education, he wished to see justice done to the Voluntary Schools. As long as the country wished to have the dual system, it was to the interests of education that the Voluntary Schools should be made as good as possible, and the present conditions did not permit of that. But at the same time he must most strongly protest against any interference with the Board Schools. He believed that the House was under some misapprehension as to the relationship of the Board Schools and the Voluntary Schools. In the north of England towns there was no such antipathy as had been suggested. In Bolton the School Board had been under the control of the Church and Conservative Party for many years, just as were three-fourths of the largest School Boards in the 1207 country at the present moment. The School Board system was loyally worked, and, generally speaking, the supporters of the Voluntary Schools only asked for a fair field. But he must support the Amendment, because he thought, that without it the Bill would distinctly interfere with the efficiency of the School Board system. When anyone suggested that the Bill was going to interfere with the School Board, the Vice President of the Council shook his head, as if this new authority were going to do nothing. If that was so, why create it at all? Then the Leader of the House asked whether it would not be too absurd to have in municipal affairs two authorities, one to manage gas and water, and the other to manage education. But, according to the Bill, unless there were some insidious intention of destroying the School Boards, there would remain two authorities to manage, not two separate things, but one and the same thing. Had not the right hon. Gentleman noticed the extreme eagerness of hon. Members from all parts of the country to escape from this authority themselves, while expressing great admiration of its suitability for others? This was a double-faced Bill. At one time the authority meant nothing, and at another time it meant so much that the Government thought it worth while to stake their existence on it. In the large towns it would certainly inflict the greatest injury on the School Board system. There the School Boards were largely composed of specialists in education, of men who were unfitted for the work of ordinary town councillors, and these the very men whom it was so desirable to retain were the very men whom the Bill would keep out. The right hon. Gentleman shook his head at these suggestions; what a pity it was he would not shake his tongue instead. Let the Government bring in an Education Bill to improve the Voluntary Schools as much as they liked; but let them do nothing to injure the School Board system, which had done more for the education of England than any other system.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 219; Noes, 134.—(Division List, No. 244.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 138; Noes, 212.—(Division List, No. 245.)
§ The numbers in this Division were declared amid loud Opposition cheers.
MR. BRYNMOR JONES moved in Sub-section (1) to leave out the word "may," and to insert the word "shall," so that it might read—
Every Council, and every Council of a Municipal Borough of not less than twenty thousand inhabitants, may appoint an Education Committee for the purposes of the Act,
etc. He said that what he sought to induce the Government to yield to was to allow the County Council or the Council of a county borough to decide for itself whether it should or should not take over the rights and privileges and impose upon itself the duties proposed to be given and laid upon the educational authority under the Bill. In other words he sought to leave it to local option whether the Bill should or should not be adopted as far as the educational authority was concerned. He hoped the Vice President would take into account the feeling the County Council had expressed. The true issues and purposes of the Bill had as yet been inadequately understood by the country at large and the county and municipal boroughs affected, but from what he had seen in the newspapers he found that a great many important counties had already expressed the opinion that it was inexpedient to confer upon them the powers of the education authority under this Bill. The County Council of Anglesey had unanimously passed a resolution against having these powers cast upon them, and that although the County Council of Anglesey came within the sphere of the operation of the Intermediate Education Act of 1889, and, therefore, in that county it would be the county governing body and not the County Council which would have to
discharge the duties. A certain number of County Councils had to be elected on the county governing body under the scheme made under the Act of 1889 for that county, and, therefore, as far as the County Council was concerned, the duties cast upon them by the Act would not be as onerous in the case of that county as in the case of many of the counties of England which would be authorities under the Act. It was remarkable that this county should have expressed itself as dissatisfied with the idea that these duties should be cast upon them directly or indirectly. The County Council of Cambridgeshire, by a majority of two to one, had repudiated this Bill, and refused to undertake the duties proposed to be given to them. With regard to the county of Durham, he believed the decision of the County Council was unanimous. With regard to the county of Essex, on a division the numbers were in the proportion of five to one in favour of refusing the duties cast upon them by the Bill. In the case of Northamptonshire and the West Riding of Yorkshire, there was a unanimous decision to the same effect. In the county borough of West Ham, by a small majority the powers of the Bill had been repudiated; they had also been repudiated in Wiltshire by a substantial majority, and by the County Councils of Monmouthshire and Devonshire. So there was a remarkable concensus of opinion coming from all parts of the country to the effect that the County Councils ought not to be burdened with the additional duties sought to be imposed upon them by the Bill. A gentleman in South Wales who had done a great deal for Welsh education had told him that it would be impossible for Members of County Councils to undertake more duties consistently with proper attention to their own private affairs. An alderman of Swansea and a member of the County governing body under the Intermediate Education Act, told him that it would be impossible for him faithfully to discharge the duties which this Bill would cast upon him. As far as educational powers were concerned, it would be far better that the Department should retain the power it now possesses and should deal directly with School Boards than that it should confer powers upon County Councils and loca-
lities against their wish. He did not see why the Government should set up a uniform system throughout the country without regard to the views and requirements of the counties and boards affected. The acceptance of the Amendment would in no sense affect the immediate operation of the Measure, because it was not proposed that an education authority should have full powers conferred on it all at once. If the Bill passed the powers would be devolved gradually; therefore, to carry it would not bring about a uniform system. Why then should not each locality be allowed to say whether it required a change of system? His own constituency was perfectly content with its School Board, its Council, and its governing body under the Intermediate Education Act of 1889. In Swansea the Bill would simply spoil a system that was working with admirable results. Why should not the ratepayers be allowed to say whether they were content with the existing system? It might be that in other places the ratepayers would adopt the new arrangement; but places whose system was working well should not be compelled to do so.
§ SIR J. GORST
said the hon. Member for Swansea knew very well it would be impossible for the Government to accept an Amendment of this kind; you could not make a law of this nature permissive. He had no doubt that the county and borough authorities who had expressed their sympathy with the Bill would, if it became law, loyally carry out their part of it. But it was stated that certain county authorities in various parts of the country had expressed opinions unfavourable to it. He was not quite sure that they had always expressed their opinions on educational grounds, and in some cases perhaps the Resolutions had been passed on other considerations. He should be much astonished if this Bill were generally unpopular among county and borough authorities, because on Thursday last 69 of those authorities forced themselves within, the Bill, where they were not particularly wanted—["hear, hear!"]—and the Committee spent last night in preventing another large number of authorities from being included. The proceedings of Thursday and Monday night seemed to furnish the strongest testimony possible to the 1211 popularity of this Bill among municipal and county authorities. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
said that what had fallen from the Vice President showed that his own mind was nearly as confused as the Bill. He could speak more freely of what had occurred, because in each of the four divisions he had supported the right hon. Gentleman as to the extension of the Bill to the smaller boroughs and to the District Council areas to which he did not think the Bill was applicable. Most of his hon. Friends who had voted for these Amendments had given their votes, not so much to extend the application of the Bill in the sense of wishing to force upon local authorities the adoption of its machinery, but with an object with which he had every sympathy—namely, to keep these smaller areas free from the control of the county authority, free from the interference, the dictatorial and inquisitorial interference, of a remote authority, not directly connected with the locality. That was the sole object of the votes that were given for the four Amendments. He could not vote with his hon. Friends, because it seemed to him they ought rather to protest against the creation of an authority which must necessarily be in conflict with the School Boards, the general extension of which all over the country would, he was convinced, be hastened by the discussions on this Bill. In his own county of Northampton, the first to pass a resolution in opposition to the Bill, the adverse arguments used in the County Council were distinctly local government arguments. It was said that the County Council was working usefully and admirably in the discharge of its functions and that it did not wish to be involved in the controversial topics raised by elementary education. The speakers said it was impossible for the County Council properly to discharge the duties which this Bill would impose upon them. This was indicative of the motives which animated members of County Council, excepting a section of over energetic Churchmen who were opponents of local government in every sense of the word—["Oh, oh!"]—and certainly of local government for the reform of education. These local government arguments were not put forward perfunctorily; they were 1212 not urged on temporary or transient considerations. They depended on conditions of time and space which could not be set aside, and which made it impossible for these committees to discharge fully the duties put upon them. Similar arguments had been urged from the front Opposition with a cogency which made this Debate historic. The speakers had pointed to the destructive effect of these proposals on County Council and local government work as well as on education. Thus Statesmen and responsible public bodies declared against this proposal on local government grounds, and the reply of the Government was that they would force it on the County Councils whether they wished for it or not. This miserable concoction of expedients had been discredited and pulverised, and would disappear like the smoke of a cigarette before the reassembling of Parliament in January. He wished the Vice President could read the discussion on the Bill in the Devonshire County Council, where the Tories out-numbered the Liberals by three to one. But despite the opposition of the County Councils, the right hon. Gentleman was virtually saying—We must put you in the stocks; we must force you to elect those Education Committees and to go on with the procedure of the Bill, whether you like it or not.The resolutions which had been passed by the County Councils repudiating all desire to carry out the procedure of this Bill were of a striking nature. They came from communities of the greatest possible differences—from mining districts, from towns, from the shoemaking districts, and the agricultural districts of a county like Northampton; they came from depressed Essex, from great counties like Devonshire, to which he had already referred, and from the important borough of Hastings; and in view of such pronouncements against the Bill, it would be the more proper course for the right hon. Gentleman to lay down his arms, and to say that he would make the clause permissive, so that counties which wished to set up education authorities could do so, and counties which took the opposite view could let the existing state of things continue. Whenever the elementary education side of the question was 1213 taken up, the right hon. Gentleman rode off down a side alley which took him to technical and secondary education. The right hon. Gentleman might, of course, urge that while most of the resolutions of the County Councils disclaimed the powers which the Bill proposed to confer on them in regard to elementary education, they did not refer specifically to the powers and duties proposed to be conferred on the County Councils in regard to secondary and technical education. But while he cordially supported the Amendment, he wished it went a little further and included secondary and technical education. One of the greatest mistakes in the history of education had been the hasty way in which some friends of technical and secondary education had seized upon the expedient of forcing the control of technical and secondary education upon authorities, which, while they contained many persons who took a deep interest in, or were specially qualified to control, secondary and technical education, were not authorities originally designed to deal with secondary and technical education any more than elementary education. To his mind the Act of 1889 was a mistake, and every true education reformer must desire to see it swept away. Therefore, he thought it was well to leave the door open as wide as possible for the free decision of the local authorities, as to whether they should or should not accept the powers the Bill proposed to confer upon them. They should proceed on the true lines of development, namely, the election of special authorities for educational work in the areas in which they were constituted to act, and concentrating as far as possible the powers which were necessary for the carrying out of that work. He thought it was a mistake to force upon the County Councils duties and functions which he believed most of them could not and would not discharge, and on that ground he cordially supported the Amendment.
§ *MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
said that considerable difference of opinion in regard to the Amendment might exist among those who desired to improve the Bill, because, undoubtedly, the acceptance of the Amendment would involve the impairing of the symmetrical arrangement which was aimed at by conferring the control of education on 1214 the County Council, and it would be certainly anomalous if in one county the County Council was the education authority, but was not the education authority in another county. But, notwithstanding the undoubted difficulties that arose in that way from a theoretic point of view, he was strongly inclined to think that the right hon. Gentleman would do well to accept the Amendment. If the County Council had not available the material to form an Education Committee, and if existing bodies elected for the purpose of looking after education in the country were discharging their duties effectively, it would be a natural thing for the County Council, in the circumstances to decline to put the powers proposed to be conferred on them into operation. The only argument advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President against the Amendment was that, inasmuch as they were going to devolve by Act of Parliament powers on an education authority, it would be exceedingly absurd to make the exercise of those powers optional. If the Bill proceeded upon that line throughout he should quite assent to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. But the principal clause of the Bill—the clause which proposed to confer upon the County Council the power of taking upon itself the duties of the Education Department—the very keystone of the Bill—was left optional; and Clause 12—by no means the least important clause of the Bill—was also left optional. He did not view Clause 1 of the Bill with deadly hostility. On the contrary, he believed it was a step in the right direction to make the County Council the education authority of the county, but he ventured to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that while by accepting the Amendment, he would not impinge upon the principle of the Bill, he would meet the just susceptibilities of large sections of the population, and, above all, he would tend to preserve the continued vitality of that great School Board system which had done its work to the profound satisfaction of the country at large.
§ After the usual interval Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR took the Chair.
§ MR. HENRY BROADHURST (Leicester)
said he should like to draw 1215 attention back to the speech the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Gorst) delivered just before dinner time. He rather taunted that side of the House with supporting that Amendment in the face of the speeches yesterday and the votes given in the Divisions in respect to various Amendments. He should like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that those of them who spoke directed their attention to the necessity of making the subject uniform. What they said with regard to this was that 20,000 people, by whatever name their organisation might be called, were entitled to the same authority as any other 20,000, by whatever name they might be called. Now the Amendment only asked him to provide elasticity and so enable councils, not desiring to exercise authority under Clause 1, to forego that exercise and decline to mix themselves up with educational affairs with which they had no special capacity to deal and did not desire to interfere with. Take the borough he represented—one of the most Progressive boroughs in Great Britain. It had one of the best School Boards in the country and their schools of the higher grade were of sufficient importance to be visited by every educational authority that came to England from various parts of the world. The Town Council of that borough had no desire to become the educational authority in the place of the School Board. What right had Parliament to impose upon them an irksome duty, a duty for which they were not suited, a duty which they did not wish to have cast upon them? ["Hear, hear!"] The Town Council of Leicester had enormous works of its own to do, and having enumerated these the hon. Member proceeded to urge that the transition from the enforcing of Acts dealing with weights and measures and swine fever to education was not likely to be conducive to the progress of education. This was only an enabling Amendment. It would enable those councils who did not think themselves capable of administering the Education Act to say that they would have nothing to do with it and they would leave it. Why should the right hon. Gentleman not consider that Amendment? Why not give some substantial reasons? But he had said in effect, "Whether you take it or not we shall insist on imposing 1216 these duties upon you—duties which you do not feel capable of discharging; but yet Parliament thinks you should discharge them, the most important duties of our public life—namely, the care and the instruction of those who will be in the future the men and women of this country." They were going by leaps and bounds to pile on the shoulders of these local local authorities, who had only 6 or 7 years' experience, these important duties of which they had no knowledge. If the Amendment was to be opposed by the Government, he trusted that they would hear some more substantial arguments against it than had yet been advanced. Perhaps, however, the Leader of the House would come in and throw the Vice President overboard again. He trusted that hon. Members opposite would for once break loose from the trammels of Party ties and do that which was right and sensible in the eyes of honest men.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
said that he had heard the reply of the Vice President of the Council with blank surprise. Against the right hon. Gentleman's will a large number of borough authorities were to be made education authorities, and he said, practically, that this would make the Bill almost unworkable. In these circumstances, he had expected the Vice President to hail this Amendment with delight, because it would enable him to reduce the number of education authorities, which he said would be too numerous. Could it be that the right hon. Gentleman was actuated by political and not educational considerations in his opposition to the Amendment? The County Councils did not wish to have these new duties cast upon them. What could be more ridiculous than to thrust upon such bodies duties which were repugnant to them? Surely this was a case for the application of the principle of local option. His own opinion was that it would be decidedly to the disadvantage of his county that the change proposed by the Bill should be effected. Hitherto the county governing body of the Intermediate Schools in Flintshire, which body, under this Bill would, to a certain extent, be the controlling authority for Elementary Schools, had conducted its business without friction and without Party divisions. He feared, 1217 however, that if the School Boards of this county were subjected to this authority there would be friction, and that both the authority and the School Boards would have a very unhappy time. The School Boards protested strongly against any interference of this kind, and the change was not asked for either by the School Boards on the one side, or on the other by the education authorities which it was proposed to set up. This was a case in which the doctrine of contracting out could be very well applied without injustice to anybody.
§ MR. H. J. WILSON (York, W.R., Holmfirth)
asked why unfamiliar duties should be cast upon County Councils. Was it likely that County Councils would discharge efficiently duties which they did not want to fulfil. As things were, gentlemen of ability and position often demurred to serving on County Councils for the reason that they had not the necessary time at their disposal, the duties of a county councillor being very exacting. The difficulty of inducing such men to serve would, of course, be greatly increased if these additional duties were imposed upon the County Councils. Was there any precedents for imposing upon reluctant bodies which objected to discharge them? It was in no factious or political spirit that the County Councils objected to perform these duties. Power was to be given to the Education Department to supersede an education authority in case of neglect of duty. That being the case, county education authorities, disliking their new duties, would simply abstain from discharging them in order to be superseded, and then the nominees of the Education Department would have to discharge their functions. Educational matters were now in the hands of bodies proud and glad to manage them, yet the Government proposed to transfer the conduct of this business to reluctant and unwilling bodies which were already overburdened with work.
§ MR. J. SAMUEL (Stockton-on-Tees)
maintained that the clause was inconsistent with the purpose of other clauses in the Bill. The question of the appointment of a Committee would be discussed by every County Council; and, although it was compulsory on the part of the County Council to appoint the education 1218 authority under Clause 3, it was left to that authority to say whether they would undertake the duties intrusted to them under the Bill or not. The extraordinary position, therefore, was this—Borough and County Councils were, in the first place, compelled to appoint an education authority for the purposes of the Bill, and then that education committee, under Clause 3, might consider whether or not it would undertake the duties. The Government could accept the Amendment without danger of doing anything inconsistent with the Bill. Boroughs like his own objected to be placed under the County Council. They were quite satisfied with the existing state of things, and that the law should remain as it was. The County Council of Durham had unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Bill on the ground that they were not fitted to undertake the work of primary education within the county. Stockton-on-Tees had condemned the Bill; indeed, there was not a single Borough or County Council that would undertake to carry out the work proposed in the Bill.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Is it possible that the Government are going to offer no arguments whatever against this Amendment, except such as have been offered by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill? I have been a good many years in Parliament, and I have never known a Government deliberately decline to meet arguments which have been presented to them on an Amendment connected with a Bill in the manner in which this Bill has been dealt with. [Cheers.] I know that the word is said to have gone forth that no one was to speak in support of the Government Bill. That mandate has been obeyed. [Laughter.] We have heard, certainly, many criticisms on the other side on the provisions of the Bill, and votes have been given against them; but I do not think in the course of these Debates we have heard a single supporter of the Government say a word in favour of the Measure. [Cheers.] I suppose silence is said to give consent; but I should suppose the Government, in its own interest, cannot believe that the discussions in the House of Commons have no influence in the country. [Cheers.] Do they believe that they are going to derive advantage from the 1219 manner in which they have argued this Bill yesterday and to-day? The right hon. Gentleman gets no support from his colleagues; indeed, the kind of support he has hitherto received is what he would not desire to see repeated, and that may be the reason why they are silent on the subject. [Laughter and cheers.] The conflict of authorities on the Bench opposite is as remarkable as the conflict of authorities he is about to create in this Bill. [Laughter and cheers.] I suppose he imagines that the cause of education is to be advanced by conflict of authorities, and the policy which we have seen developed on the Front Bench is part of that policy of conflict. [Laughter.] Do they really think that is the manner in which they are going to deal with the great communities which have protested against these powers being forced upon them? Do they think that they are going to deal with the West Riding of Yorkshire in this way? I know something of the West Riding, because I was Yorkshire-born myself; and if the Government think they are going to force on the West Riding a compulsory power which it does not desire, the right hon. Gentleman knows uncommonly little of Yorkshiremen, especially of those who live in the West Riding. [Cheers.] You have been told what Northampton thinks of this compulsory power. Sussex, as I understand, has protested against it and against those powers being forced upon it; so have Wiltshire, Durham and Devonshire. We poor people who represent the Celtic fringe in the eyes of the Prime Minister—no one cares for them. That is the doctrine of the Prime Minister; but we have derived some benefit from that doctrine. [Cheers.] Anglesey, Carnarvonshire, Flintshire, and Monmouthshire have all declined to have this power forced upon them. [Cheers.] Do you think you are going to coerce Leicester against its will, or Hastings and Stockton? In the six months' recess which you have promised, that list will be greatly enlarged. [Cheers.] What is the list you have got to show that towns and counties embrace your Measure? I do not think you would find it to be like the overwhelming majority you boast of in this House. Do the Government mean to 1220 argue this Bill? Do they mean to offer some defence of proposals of this character? They have had some lessons in the Divisions this afternoon—[cheers]—when their majority sank to half its normal number on one of the most material provisions of the Bill. What is the object of forcing upon County Councils that which they do not desire to have? What are you going to gain by it? You are not going to gain anything like a general administration of elementary education. That comes under Clause 3 and is optional; therefore, all that which is to be attained under Clause 3 in the way of decentralising elementary education and its administration does not come under your compulsory power. All these counties which I have mentioned will repudiate all that, and your decentralisation is gone in respect of all those which do not voluntarily embrace it. What remains, then, under this clause and the compulsory word "shall"? You are going to call upon the counties to constitute an education authority. What duties is it to perform? The only duties, so far as I can discover in the Bill, are the powers under Clause 4, and possibly also the power of an attendance committee, so that you are going to create, we will say, in the great county of Devon, compulsorily an authority in order that it may administer the school attendance in each of the villages of that county. A more ridiculous proposal it is impossible to conceive. ["Hear, hear!"] Of course, that is not the object. No, Sir, we go back again to the clerical origin. There, again, you find the foot—the foot. [laughter.] "We know the lion by his foot." The only power which you propose to force on these County Councils against their will is the power of dealing with the special aid grant. That is the only thing which you can pretend to force upon unwilling County Councils. Well, now, is it worth while? [Cheers.] Why in the world are you to create against their will a county authority, simply that it may deal out a double florin? A more absurd and ridiculous proposal never found its way into a Government Bill, and that is really the beginning and the end of the whole of this compulsory authority on which you are now insisting. Let us see what is 1221 to be the consequence when you have formed this authority:The County Council shall provide such offices, servants, buildings, and furniture,and other things,—as are necessary for the execution of the duties of the education committee and shall pay the expenses, etc.No, do you really believe you are going to force a power of that kind on the West Riding of Yorkshire and upon the county of Devon, and call upon County Councils which protest against it to provide "offices, servants, buildings, and furniture," and pay the expenses of them? [Cheers.] Is this your notion of local government? [Laughter.] Are you really serious in making a proposal of that kind to the country? You will have the counties and the great boroughs in arms against you. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Oh, there are 69 boroughs which are eager to have this authority." My hon. Friend behind me disposed of that argument at once. He said the reason why they want the authority is because they do not want the education authority appointed by the County Council. [Cheers.] That is their method of escaping from the scheme which you want to force upon them. It is the antagonism of those independent communities, whether they be municipal boroughs or urban communities. They do not choose to be placed under the County Councils; the County Councils themselves do not desire to be placed over them. And the Government desire to force upon those boroughs who do not want the County Councils, the authority of the County Councils who do not want to be the authority at all. [Laughter.] Do you really think you are not going to give some explanation of this nonsense? [Loud cheers.] We have had no defence whatever of this proposal. Can you conceive that County Councils, when they have in their midst School Boards that have given satisfaction to the whole of the inhabitants, should desire to have forced upon them, at the instance of the clerical party, the duty of reducing the Board schools to the level of the Voluntary Schools? These are the considerations of policy which have, no doubt, dictated to those County Councils their determination not to accept those powers, 1222 and yet you are, nevertheless, going to force upon them. That is utterly unreasonable, and it is as yet unexplained. The House of Commons and the country have a right to demand at the hands of the Government why you are going to coerce the independent local authorities of this country by forcing upon them duties which they do not wish to undertake.
§ SIR J. GORST
When I addressed the Committee on this Amendment before, the right hon. Gentleman was not in the House. [Sir W. HARCOURT: 'Yes, I was."] If he was in the House, I beg his pardon. I did not think it was respectful to the Committee to take up time by repeating over again arguments which had been used many times already, both by myself and other Members of the Government. On the Second Reading of the Bill I endeavoured to show to the House how the establishment of a central local authority in every county would cure many of the difficulties which have been met with in education, and would tend to the progress of education in this country. There was then a Debate of several days, in which this education authority and its functions were discussed. Criticisms were advanced and answered fully and effectively, and finally there was a Division by which the House, by an unprecedented majority, passed the Second Reading of the Bill, of which the cardinal and fundamental idea was the establishment of these authorities. [Cheers.] Then, when we come into Committee, an hon. Member opposite rises and proposes that the appointment of these authorities shall be optional; and I am attacked because I do not go over all the arguments again. [Cheers.] But as the right hon. Gentleman has challenged me, I must ask the indulgence of the Committee while I remind them of the functions for which the establishment of a local education authority is indispensable. There is the supervising of the attendance committee. That is a function which in country districts has been extremely badly performed; and anyone who has any knowledge of education in this country knows that there is nothing more urgently required than some authority which will carry out the legislation of this House and compel the children in the country districts to go to 1223 school. There is another function which the right hon. Gentleman forgot. This education authority is essential to the carrying out of that scheme for the relief of Poor Law children, which has been applauded by everyone who has spoken on either side, including the right hon. Member for Rotherham. [Cheers.] Without an education authority you cannot carry out that scheme. Then there are all the functions connected with secondary education for which an authority is necessary, and for which an authority practically similar to that in the Bill—a county authority—has been recommended by the right hon. Member for Aberdeen. ["Hear, hear!"] Then this authority is necessary to replace the universally-condemned rural School Boards. Their inefficiency has been admitted and dwelt upon by hon. Members opposite, especially by the hon. Member for Nottingham, who used language much stronger than mine. You cannot replace them unless you have a county education authority. ["Hear, hear!"] Then this authority is to exercise important functions in relation to the training of elementary teachers. I stated on the introduction and again on the Second Reading of the Bill that there was nothing more urgently required in the interests of education than some better provision for the training of rural teachers. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends have roundly declared their desire to assist the Voluntary Schools, and that that desire should be discriminative. How can you discriminate without a county authority? [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman spoke in scoffing tones of the duties of the education authority under Clause 4; but you cannot carry out the very principles which the right hon. Gentleman has himself professed without a local authority which can discriminate between school and school. (Sir W. HARCOURT: "Why not?") Because the Education Department in London is completely incapable of discriminating. [Cheers and Opposition laughter.] That is a duty which must be discharged by a local authority acquainted with the circumstances of the cases, and unless you have such an authority, whatever grant you gave would have to go to those schools which did not want it as well as to those which did. ["Hear, hear!"] 1224 Finally, there is the duty under Clause 3, which I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman has at last found out to be an optional duty. [Laughter.] Before dinner the right hon. Gentleman was speaking of these duties as duties which we were forcing on the authority.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I said the exact opposite. I said it was not decentralisation because it was optional.
§ SIR J. GORST
The right hon. Gentleman's argument is generally clear enough, but I did not appreciate that that was his argument. ["Hear, hear!"] These are a number of the functions for the execution of which a local county authority is necessary—[cheers]—and has been put in the Bill. The Bill has been read a Second time by a large majority. These functions have been amply discussed; and then the right hon. Gentleman says that, because we do not go through all the arguments over again in resisting the Motion to make this essential feature of the Bill optional, we are not able to answer. [Cheers.] I did not think the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for Swansea was a serious Amendment. [Cheers and Opposition cries of "Oh!"] I did not think it was an Amendment which would be persevered with, or one which the hon. Member thought the Government could possibly accept. [Cheers.] This Debate is a very fruitless Debate, which does not advance the Bill, and I really think we might discuss something practical, and not waste time in determining whether a Measure which has been passed by an enormous majority should be optional or not. [Cheers.]
§ MR. A. H. DYKE ACLAND (York, W.R., Rotherham)
said that it was an unusual principle to lay down that because a statement had been made in Committee it was not to be questioned in Committee. The object of the Committee was to examine the various portions of the Bill, whether they were cardinal ideas or details. The right hon. Gentleman had said on Second Reading that there was to be this paramount authority, which was to be the one channel through which public money was to arrive to the different schools. The Opposition said that that was impossible under the Bill, because certain County Councils, like those of the West 1225 Riding, Wiltshire, and Durham, with others, refused to accept Clause 3, which the Government said was permissive. Then the right hon. Gentleman said on the Second Reading:—We establish in every county a paramount educational authority, with power to supervise and control the general education of the children of the country.How could it be said that these County Councils which refused powers under Clause 3 could control the general education of the children of the country? Therefore, what the right hon. Gentleman called the central, cardinal idea of the Bill broke down when County Councils refused to have the powers which he only permissively allotted to them. Then the right hon. Gentleman spoke of attendance committees. That matter was discussed the other day, and the right hon. Gentleman said there would be no difficulty whatever in delegating these duties to District Councils. Then the right hon. Gentleman also said that it was necessary, and he supposed he meant compulsory under the Bill, to carry out the Poor Law clauses. He presumed the right hon. Gentleman referred to Sub-section 5 of Clause 2, which said that—The education authority for a county and Board of Guardians of any union may"—notmust—With the approval of the Education Department and the Local Government Board, make a contract in relation to the care and maintenance of all or any of the children chargeable to that union.It was the same with training colleges and with practically all the provisions of the Bill except with regard to secondary education. There was no objection to any arrangements for secondary education, which included the provisions of the Technical Act passed by a former Conservative Government; but practically the provisions of that Act did very largely for secondary education what was done by this Bill. Under that Act it was provided that—A local authority may for the purposes of this Act appoint a committee consisting wholly or partly of members of the local authority, and delegate to that committee any powers of the authority under this Act.Those were permissive powers, and under them all that had been done for 1226 technical education in this country, had been carried out. If anything more than that was required there would be no objection to its being done under this Bill—but there was no compulsion on the education authority to carry out that part of the Bill which referred to secondary education. The right hon. Gentleman did not really touch at all on the question of the refusal of local authorities to act under the Bill; but it would be interesting to see what one of the largest authorities of the kind, the Technical Education Board of the London County Council, said on the subject. Their report stated their conviction that, in the interest of efficiency, it would be inadvisable at a moment when largely extended powers and duties with regard to technical and secondary education were to be undertaken by them that they should be burdened at the outset with any duties in connection with elementary education. The Government took no notice of such an expression of opinion by a most important authority against whom, so far as he knew, no one had ever said a word. But he would go further than that. If the Government would not act on the Resolutions of County Councils, they ought to follow the advice of experienced persons. Before this Bill was brought in, when his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition wrote a letter or two on the subject, a very remarkable letter was written by the chairman of the Surrey County Council, in which he said:—The subject matter of Sir William Harcourt's letter I do not propose to refer to further than to say I hope the County Councils generally will show with no uncertain voice their disinclination to have this now duty thrust upon them of controlling the expenditure of the School Boards. …. Elementary education is enforced and managed by the State, and, unfortunately, sectarian and political differences have entered too largely into all questions connected with it. Happily, so far, the same differences have been absent from the consideration of the work of the majority of County Councils, and have not presented themselves in the work of secondary education, and it is for this reason, amongst others, that County Councils have become generally recognised as the proper education authority.Thus, before the Bill was brought in, the Government had the chairman of an important County Council protesting beforehand against these compulsory 1227 powers with reference to elementary education being thrust upon the Count Councils. Clause 3 was permissive, therefore no County Council need constitute itself the paramount authority under it; but Clause 4 was compulsory and he wanted to know what was expected of great counties like Devonshire or the West Riding. Were the Government going to compel them to set up against their will, and maintain office and an inspectorate in order to distribute the minute sum of 4s. per child to Voluntary Schools? The right hon. Gentleman said it was absolutely essential to have this authority. He however, was sure the West Riding County Council would do all in its power not to be forced to set up an inspectorate and all the other matters which would cost a good deal of money to look after the administration of this trivial grant in respect of 170,000 children in Voluntary Schools. The right hon. Gentleman also said it would be necessary to discriminate between schools and schools. Judging from the report of the deputation which went to Ministers on this subject, it was very likely that the whole of Clause 4, which had reference to poor Board Schools, would fall to the ground; it was very probable that the Education Department would consider whether they could not manage, in view of the enormous difficulties of any other method of dealing with the problem themselves, to settle the arrangement of the grant under Clause 4 to the School Boards from the central office. And if the grant could be given to the School Boards from the central office, surely it was not beyond the wit of man to discover some method by which the 4s. grant could be given to the Voluntary Schools. There was no need of discriminating as to the 4s. grant to Voluntary Schools, because it has been given to rich and poor alike. He felt perfectly confident that before the Bill became law they would hear a great deal more from the local authorities, who did not want to take up the permissive power under Clause 3, being compelled to go to all the expense of taking up the insufficient powers under Clause 4. He did not know what the right hon. Gentleman thought inspection would cost. The Bill provided that there must be inspection by the Education Depart- 1228 ment, and it provided that the local authorities which took up powers under Clauses 3 and 4 must have inspectors themselves. The local authorities must have offices and he did not see why the expenses of the local authorities were not likely to be quite as large in the matter of offices and inspection as those same expenses at Whitehall itself. Were they going to force an expenditure of a quarter of a million sterling in inspection and offices upon the various local authorities? It might not be quite so large if they only looked after Voluntary Schools, but it would be large enough, and he was sure it would be strongly resisted by the ratepayers. He advised the Government to allow the elementary education part of the Bill to be adopted permissively by the County Councils; if they did not he was confident they would be confronted with the greatest possible difficulty.
§ MR. REGINALD McKENNA (Monmouth, N.)
said the Vice President of the Council stated that the paramount idea of the Bill was that central local authorities should be established and that that idea had been supported in the House by an unprecedented majority. The idea of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke was not paramount with the Opposition, and it had not been accepted by the people of the country. As to the unprecedented majority, he should have bought that after the experience of last Thursday, the right hon. Gentleman would not have spoken of an unprecedented majority in his favour. There was a majority of 267 for the Second Reading of the Bill and there was a majority of 243 in favour of an Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman did not support. The Vice President could not have very much confidence in unprecedented majorities. Under all he circumstances this was a serious Amendment. The new county authority was to undertake duties which were now undertaken by other bodies. The right hon. Gentleman had, in support of the Measure, more than once quoted the report of the Secondary Education Committee. He admitted that the county authority was very much of the nature of the authority which the Secondary Education Commission recommended; but the Commission recommended that authority for secondary education and by no means for primary education. 1229 It was because the Government were interfering with primary education in a way which had been shown over and over again to be distasteful to large and important bodies in the country that this Amendment became a very serious one. He advised the Committee to leave the County authorities to decide for themselves whether they would or would not undertake the suggested duties.
§ *MR. ALBERT SPICER (Monmouth Boroughs)
said that if the Vice President had made his speech of this evening on Thursday afternoon it would have been a fairly consistent reply to arguments that might have been made on the other side of the House, but the right hon. Gentleman seemed to completely forget the change that had taken place in connection with the Bill owing to the action of the Leader of the House on Thursday and with the speeches of the Member for West Ham to-day. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might agree with the action of the Leader of the House on Thursday night, but they could not shut their eyes to the fact that the course which the right hon. Gentleman took altered the whole scope of the Bill. If the local authority was to do the work which the Vice President had foreshadowed in the Bill, it must be an authority which should command the confidence of the ratepayers, and there could be no doubt that by conceding education authorities to boroughs of 20,000 inhabitants, not only was the borough authority distinctly weaker, but the county authority was deprived of the services of some of the best men belonging to the boroughs. He did not believe that sufficient attention had been given by hon. Gentlemen opposite to the speeches of the two hon. Members for the boroughs of West Ham, which was one of the first districts after the Act of 1870 was passed to adopt the School Board system. The School Board Rate in West Ham was now 2s. 4d. in the £1, and was likely to increase in a few years to 4s. 1d., for the simple reason that the people so strongly approved of the Board School system that 99 out of every 100 children in the two boroughs were sent to the Board Schools. Thus, notwithstanding the amount of the School Board rate, the two Conservative Members for West Ham were induced 1230 to give their votes on behalf of that system. They had good reason for doing so, for the people of West Ham knew what they had gained by the School Board. In fact, he did not hesitate to say that the reason why West Ham had Conservative Members at the present time was because the education in the two divisions—thanks to the School Board system — [Ministerial laughter and cheers]—had been so good that it had increased the wage-earning capacity of the people of West Ham, a large number of whom—thanks, again, to the same system of education—had, as they thought, moved up from the position of ordinary mechanics, and had joined the clerical staff of the City of London. [Ministerial cheers.] A large number of them belonged to the Conservative Party. The reasons he would not explain, but those facts showed clearly why the Conservative Members for West Ham supported the School Board system. He ventured to say that the Amendment now before the Committee was a reasonable one, and one which, though it was not regarded with favour at present, and might be thought frivolous by some hon. Members, the Government would accept in one form or another before the Debates on the Bill were closed. The Government had utterly mistaken the view of the people generally in regard to the School Board system. He had had a little to do with meetings held during the last few weeks in relation to the Bill, and his experience had convinced him that the people were strongly in favour of the School Board system. ["Hear, hear!"]
said the remarks of the hon. Gentleman had no relation to the Amendment before the Committee.
§ *MR. SPICER
said his object was to out that the Government and hon. Gentlemen opposite, by their action towards the Amendment, would show whether they believed in the Bill or not. If the Government did really believe in it they would be prepared to accept the Amendment and insert the word "may" in the place of "shall." They could not compel the County Councils to undertake work they were unwilling and unable to do, because of the extra labour it would impose upon them, but they might induce 1231 some of the Councils to undertake the duties under the Bill, if those duties were made permissive. There was a great difference in giving the County Councils charge of secondary education and the work of elementary education. The work of elementary education meant the charge of one-sixth of the population of the country, whereas secondary education applied to only a small per centage of the people. He could only repeat that by the way hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen opposite dealt with the Amendment they would show whether they believed in their Bill or not. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
said the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill had said, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition that the compulsory creation of the educational authorities was the fundamental and cardinal principle of the Bill. If that was so, the Bill was a totally different one to that promised in the Queen's Speech, for the Bill therein promised related to the Voluntary Schools and not to the creation of new education authorities. ["Hear, hear!"] But if it was the fundamental principle of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman was acting against that principle in refusing to accept the Amendment. What was the point on which the right hon. Gentleman based the creation of those authorities? He said there must be an authority in each district which knew the wants of the locality much better than the Education Department. Then would not those authorities be the best judges whether it would be proper and desirable for them to adopt the powers under the Bill or not? ["Hear, hear!"] There were two cases in which the County Council might elect not to adopt the powers in the Bill if the Amendment was accepted. The first was that they might refuse to create an education authority if they were of opinion that education was amply provided for by means of the School Board, or otherwise, in the district. In such a case of course it would be folly for them to set up a new education authority as proposed. Even according to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman himself, these authorities were the best judges as to whether they should have another authority or not. Another case in which 1232 a County Council might refuse to adopt the Act, was where there was not sufficient enthusiasm and public spirit, and where it was not considered worth the trouble and expense to set up the authority. That was the very case in which it would not be desirable to compel the County Council to set up the authority. He would point out that the Government contemplated the possibility of a case of that character arising. In Clause 3, instead of making their devolution proposals compulsory, they said they would make judicious selections. The right hon. Gentleman in his Second Reading speech, said he did not propose to put that clause into immediate operation throughout the kingdom, that he proposed to intrust Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and two or three other towns which the powers of Clause 3. So that the right hon. Gentleman himself contemplated the possibility of a case in which it would not be desirable to intrust a County Council with the powers. If they did not have the powers given under Clause 3, what was left to them? They would first of all have the power to distribute the special aid grant. The right hon. Gentleman said the County Council could do that very much better than the Education Department. Why any clerk who had got the number of scholars in the Voluntary Schools could do it quite as well as this educational authority. Then they had got the powers of compulsory attendance. Why on earth, if a County Council should not elect to take the trouble and expense of compelling the children in the rural districts to attend school, should they compel them to do it? It simply proved that they would do it no better than the Board of Guardians. If the Board of Guardians had no enthusiasm for education, what enthusiasm for education would a County Council have which would not elect to adopt the principle of the Act? The third power they would have would be the powers of inspectors. Would the Committee contemplate the possibility of an inspection of schools by a County Council who did not wish to have those powers, and which had no desire to control the education of the district. They appointed inspectors—they were compelled to do that—to inspect these schools, and the only result would be that the inspection would be done in a most perfunctory fashion. 1233 Would it not be much better from the point of view of educational efficiency that these schools should be inspected by inspectors of the Educational Department. He submitted that the true test as to whether the powers would work well or not, was whether the County Council desired to put them into operation. So far as Wales was concerned he knew that once these powers were given, whether they were optional or not, there was not a single County Council which would not take them up, but the right hon. Gentleman knew very well that there were counties in England where there was none of that enthusiasm for education. There was no provision in the Bill for the payment of the expenditure incurred in carrying it out, but under the Bill these little boroughs would have to incur that expenditure whether they wished it or not. It was because he wished to see this authority a success, or at least a fair experiment made of it that he supported the Amendment which would allow the County Councils to elect whether they would carry out the Act or not.
§ MR. A. J. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
thought that by this time the Vice President must have been convinced that this was really a serious Amendment; and he would ask him whether it was too late to reconsider his decision in the matter. The argument which he had advanced against the Amendment would hardly bear consideration. Suppose for instance, in the great constituency he represented, the County Council were content with their present system in the matter of education. Why should they be compelled to set up a staff of inspectors and an office for the mere purpose of distributing the 4s. grant. ["Hear, hear!"] He was astonished to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that the Education Department was incapable of distributing the 4s. grant in aid.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said no one could discriminate so well as the Government inspector, who, if he was worth his salt, knew the condition of every school in his district. ["Hear, hear!"] He undertook to say that there could at this moment be found in the records of the Department, reports as to the condition of every school in the kingdom, and he 1234 could not help expressing his surprise at the statement of the right hon. Gentleman about the incapacity of the Department to do this work. He was for nearly six years in that Department, and he should always retain the highest opinion of its officers. He knew their capacity for administration, and, so far from the Department being on the point of breaking down, he wished there was a Committee of the House to inquire into its working. He should like to see the heads of the Department and their assistants brought before such a Committee to tell whether they were on the point of breaking down or not. [Laughter and cheers.] He was glad to see the First Lord of the Treasury enter the House. The last time he rose to speak the right hon. Gentleman did him the honour to move the Closure. [Opposition cheers and Ministerial cries of "Order!"]
I think the right hon. Gentleman is aware it is not usual to reflect on the acceptance of a Motion for the Closure. [Cheers.] It is not in order to go back upon that question. [Cheers.]
§ MR. MUNDELLA
had no intention of reflecting upon any one. He only knew the last time he rose to address the House, the right hon. Gentleman at once—[Ministerial cries of "Order!"] Passing from that subject, the Vice President of the Council had said that these local authorities were necessary, first, to establish school attendance committees. Surely the County Council was not the best means of establishing school attendance committees. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman could accomplish that without calling the County Councils in to his assistance, and as to his argument that the local authorities were also necessary for dealing with the Poor Law children, he knew that this scheme had not the approval of the Poor Law Committee which considered the whole question, and there would be no difficulty in showing that there was no necessity for any such authority as that proposed in the Bill, while as to secondary education, every clause of the Secondary Education Act of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor contained the word "may" instead of "shall." It was permissive from first to last, and why, he asked, 1235 was the right hon. Gentleman to come down to the House and say it was imperative that the County Councils should be compelled to carry out these instructions? ["Hear, hear;"] The right hon, Gentleman said that something must be done to get rid of the universally condemned rural School Boards. But were rural School Boards universally condemned? He knew some that were bad, but he also knew some which were quite as good as any urban School Boards, and they might be better. [Cheers.]
§ SIR JOHN GORST
I did not say rural School Boards were universally condemned. I did not use the expression in the sense in which the right hon. Gentleman has attributed it to me—namely, that bad School Boards were universal; but I said that those which were bad were condemned from all sides of the House. [Cheers.]
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said he took down the words of the right hon. Gentleman at the time and they were that it was necessary to get rid of the universally condemned rural School Boards. There were, he admitted, rural School Boards which everybody would condemn, and there were others which were excellent. ("Hear, hear!") But if a rural School Board did not do its duty, the right hon. Gentlemen had the power of at once replacing it by a new School Board—a power which he and other predecessors of the right hon. Gentleman had exercised over and over again. There was thus ample power of dealing with a defaulting School Board. If these new county authorities, however, refused to undertake the onerous task which was to be imposed upon them, how was the right hon. Gentleman to compel them to do so? What power had he behind him which would enable him to compel the County Councils of the West Riding to undertake the whole of the work of the elementary schools in the West Riding. He knew of none, and when it was known what sort of a staff would be required to carry out the work and the enormous expenditure that County Councils would entail under this system, he believed its repudiation would become general. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman was surprised that they should desire to have that 1236 option when so many municipal authorities had intimated their desire to have the power of appointing an educational authority. Why did they desire to have those powers? Because they said if they were to be put under a superior authority they preferred to have an authority of their own election, their own municipal authority, and not to be under the County Council, who were not in touch, but entirely out of sympathy, with them. The whole scheme of the Bill aimed at the degradation of the School Boards. [Cries of "No" and "Yes!"] It aimed at the subordination and degradation of the School Boards. [Cheers.] Why should the Leader of the House tell them that it was injurious to have two local authorities in the same area when one would do the work so much better? The Leader of the House was himself a Scotsman, and in Scotland they owed all their progress in education to universal School Boards.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Something was known about education in Scotland before School Boards were known.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said that if the right hon. Gentleman wanted to know the condition of education in Scotland before 1870, let him read the Debates of 1870 and he would then see the progress made since. The right hon. Gentleman must know that in Scotland under the universal School Boards, not only elementary, but secondary education was making progress such as it had never made before in Scottish history. [Cries of "Question."] He was showing how they could do without a second authority, and how with a School Board they could deal with primary and secondary education. It was strange that they should be urged by the right hon. Gentleman, himself a Scotsman, to undertake the subordination and—as he had expressed the hope—the extinction of School Boards when he dared not touch his own with the tip of his finger. Scotland knew too well what she owed to her School Boards, and England knew enough to refuse to obey the dictates of the right hon. Gentleman, and he trusted the House would refuse to enforce such a Measure of compulsion upon local authorities. [Cheers.]
§ MR. S. EVANS
admitted that there was great force in the argument that 1237 there should be symmetry in the devolution of educational work. But, having regard to the different circumstances and size of the counties, that which appeared at the outset to be a perfect symmetry was only so in name and not in fact. If the powers and rights to be devolved were powers and rights it was proposed to compel the new authority to use, he should be forced to vote against the, Amendment. But when he looked at the proposals and saw how little the Measure proposed to make it compulsory to exercise the powers, and how much it left them permissive, he thought upon the whole the reasons which could be alleged in favour of the Amendment outweighed those which could be used against it. If the Vice President adhered to his contention that the County Council should be compelled to accept these powers, it was important to see what the powers themselves were. If they were large and general there would be much force in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to elementary education they were of the most limited, and, to use his own word, of the most "trumpery" character. The only function a County Council was to be compelled to assume was that it must become the school attendance committee; but the Vice President said it was his intention that the power should be delegated to some other body such as the District Council. As to the distribution of the new grants, the Vice President had said the Department would select the County Councils with whom the experiment would be made.
§ SIR J. GORST
said, that in the passage quoted he was speaking of the ordinary Parliamentary grants and not of the special aid grants.
§ MR. S. EVANS
continued that he inferred otherwise from the context. However, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of those County Councils which "did not choose to fall in with the scheme," and yet, while speaking of their choice, he would compel them to be the educational authority. But undoubtedly the most important section of the Bill was Section 3, so far as the delegation of authority from the Education Department to the County Council was concerned. It had been said indeed that the County Council need not carry out at all some of the most important of 1238 their duties. What consistency was there in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman therefore that there must be a Committee, but that the Committee need not be asked to do any work at all? There were many precedents also in favour of the Amendment. When Parliament devolved powers on the County Councils in the Act of 1888, in regard to many of those powers, particularly those which had hitherto been exercised by various Departments in London, it was said that the County Councils need not take those powers if they liked. In the same way the Parish Councils and the District Councils were told that many of the duties need not devolve upon them except they liked themselves to take them. He thought that some answer should be given to the question of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the Bright-side division of Sheffield as to what would happen if any of the County Councils refused to carry out the powers proposed to be conferred upon them? The only remedy against a County Council in such a case would be the remedy of a mandamus. But while a County Council might be compelled by a mandanus to appoint an Educational Committee, the Committee could not be compelled to do the work.
§ *MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Ruschcliffe)
said ho could not help contrasting in his own mind—as no doubt many hon. Members familiar with the circumstances had also done—what took place in 1870 with what was taking place now. Before the introduction of the Act of 1870 a widespread desire had been expressed for a great system of elementary education. Meetings and conferences took place all over the country, and thousands of men and women stood ready and anxious to perform the duties laid on them by that Measure. Where was the demand for this Bill? [Opposition cheers.] Who ever asked for the scheme in Clause 1 of the Bill? He challenged any hon. Gentleman opposite to get up and say that he had mentioned it in his election address or that he had got the sanction of his constituents to support it. [Opposition cheers.] There had been no meetings held, and no discussion as to the revolutionary proposal in this clause. On the contrary, as the public mind was becoming aware of its 1239 provisions and their effects, so were protests coming up to the House from bodies not of a political nature. In this most delicate matter of public education, he submitted it was not the function of that House to force upon public bodies duties which they did not demand. It was a matter which went to the root of the social habits and welfare of the people, and for these and many other reasons he should most heartily support the Amendment of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. LOUGH,
who spoke amid cries of "Divide," said he did not think the Government had the slightest idea of the strong feeling which existed outside that House in favour of the Amendments for which they had been contending. It was only a few hours since he had been called out to meet a most important deputation, representing 1,100 teachers in Voluntary Schools and Board Schools in London, who came prepared to express the strongest opinion in favour of the Amendment they had been discussing that evening. He desired, in the interests of the district he represented, to protest against the proposition of the Bill that the London County Council should be forced, whether it liked or not, to constitute the education authority for the metropolis. When they considered the variety of duties which the County Council had to discharge, they might well hesitate before putting this duty upon them. He represented one of the poorest districts in the metropolis, and there was no institution which had conferred such benefits on that district as the London School Board,—there were seven great Board Schools in that district, including the largest in London with 2,200 or 2,300 children, and he believed the people of that district had a keener perception of the benefits they derived from the London School Board than from any other institution. And now they were going to say all this was to be altered. (The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "No.") He maintained that that was the proposal of the Bill, but he was glad to hear 1240 the Leader of the House say "No," as that was the first kindly remark towards School Boards, he thought, which he had heard during the Debate. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to have said that evening that his object was to put an end in every district to authorities elected by the same people and dealing with the same subject. The result of the Bill being carried as it stood would be that we should have two bodies dealing with education independently of other bodies dealing with other matters. There could be no doubt that the whole pith of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council that evening pointed to the extinction of the School Boards.
§ MR. LOUGH
said that he was glad to hear that denial from the right hon. Gentleman, and he was certain that it would be received with satisfaction by people outside that House, who undoubtedly had entertained the apprehesion that that was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman. But they had not only to ascertain what the intention of Her Majesty's Government was upon the point, but what was the meaning of the Bill. In his view, unless the Amendment were accepted, the Bill would strike a serious blow at the School Board system. In his constituency people had no respect for the London County Council that was equal to the respect that they entertained for the School Board. There was only one blot upon the action of the School Board, and that was when they plunged into religious questions. Independently of that mistake, however, the School Board had done noble work which was highly appreciated by every man, woman and child in his constituency. Some people thought that 25 years was only a short time in which to judge the success of a policy.
pointed out to the hon. Member that he must confine his 1241 observations to the subject of the Amendment.
§ Mr. LOUGH
thought that the mild concession asked for ought to be made by the Government, especially as he gathered from the remarks of the right hon. Gentlemen that his views with regard to the point had been modified. He was sure that it would give great satisfaction to many of the right hon. Gentleman's own followers, if he would give way on that point.
§ *Mr. LEUTY
said that by accepting this Amendment the Government would not be weakening the Bill in any sense.
§ Question put, "That the word 'shall' stand part of the clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 250; Noes, 139.—(Division List, No. 246.)
§ *SIR C. DILKE
moved after the word "shall," to insert the wordswith due regard to the representation of minorities.
§ He said that, he proposed this Amendment with the intention of inviting the representatives of the Government to state their views as to the steps which were to be taken to make the new education authorities really representative, and to prevent the sacrifice of interests which were represented on School Boards at present by means of the cumulative vote. ["Hear, hear!"] The chief of these exceptional interests which deserved special consideration from the House was the Roman Catholic interest. The cumulative vote was advocated by Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Fawcett, and unanimously agreed to in 1870. In the constitution of the new authority, there were two other minorities which ought to be borne in mind. He spoke of the Nonconformist minority in strong Church districts, and the Church minority in some Nonconformist districts and boroughs. In the Forest of Dean for example, there was an overwhelming Nonconformist majority, but upon the 1242 Board the Church minority was represented by means of the cumulative vote, and it would become under this Bill a Nonconformist minority in a Conservative and Church county. Cases of that kind deserved consideration before the Committee parted with the question of the creation of the new authority. There were various forms which might be adopted for this representation. There were those direct and mechanical forms which had been strongly disapproved in the course of the Debate. Although there had been this general denunciation of harsh and artificial forms of the representation of minorities, there was, throughout the speech of the Vice President and other speakers, a desire shown of indirectly obtaining the same result. There were various schemes for representing on the new authority the teachers and other special classes. But none of those schemes would represent the Roman Catholic minority, or give that security which was given in the case of the School Boards at the present time. He should himself prefer, if there was no chance of retaining the cumulative vote, to put in words of direction to the new authority such as he had placed on the Paper, rather than leave the whole question at large. He believed that the County Councils would have some regard to general words of direction if placed in the Act.
§ And, it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.