§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."668
§ MR. ALFRED HUTTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Morley)
The House might have expected that the right hon. Gentleman in moving the Second Reading of this Bill would have vouchsafed some kind of explanation of the provisions it contains. On the First Reading the explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman was of the most perfunctory character, and he did not attempt more than to casually state one or two provisions of the measure, and did not in any way 669 refer to some of its most important proposals. I certainly think the right hon. Gentleman has not treated either the House or the subject with which this Bill deals with the respect he ought. The Bill is certainly one which may be perfectly well described as a Bill without any principle whatever. It is an omnium gatherum. The right hon. Gentleman has gathered a large number of scraps together, and has thrown them into the Bill. I do not think there are any two clauses in it which have any connection with each other, and there is no general principle running through it. So far, however, as I can gather, the majority of the clauses, with the exception of Clause 2, are of a fairly reasonable character, and tend in the right direction. These clauses, however, are merely the coating and the sugar with which to administer the medicinal pill contained in Clause 2. I am quite sure that the proposal contained in Clause 2 is the main object of the Bill; that the other clauses are merely set out in order to make it more agreeable. The proposal in Clause 2 is of a novel character, and being of a novel character I think the right hon. Gentleman should have vouchsafed us some kind of explanation as to the policy of his Department in connection with it. When I say the proposal is novel, I mean that it is novel to this generation. It re-establishes in this country grants of public money for the building of denominational schools not in the hands of public bodies or under responsible control. I quite understood, and I think the country understood, that building grants were abolished once and for ever, and that they were never to be heard of again. Now we have a revival of the old custom condemned many years ago, the only difference being that the money is to be taken not out of the National Exchequer but out of the rates levied by boards of guardians. However, it is public money all the same, find we ought to have the same restrictions and the same principles applied to it. These grants are for the purpose of enlarging or building schools of a denominational character, in order to enable boards of guardians to have poor-law children educated in them. I acknowledge that the education of poor-law children is a problem of very considerable difficulty, but if I may be allowed to say so, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has taken a very wise course 670 to secure its solution. Different boards of guardians adopt different policies with regard to poor-law children. Some boards keep them in the workhouses, others board them out in large numbers of thirty or forty in one place, while others again board them out in ones or twos. It is obvious that some boards of guardians will adopt this clause while others will not, and you will have as a result most unequal action all over the country. Some schools will be able to get public money granted them, while others with just as good a claim will be unable to persuade boards of guardians to apply money for this particular purpose. Again, suppose a board of guardians decides to enlarge a school to accommodate twenty children who require places, the Board of Education authorises the board of guardians to pro-vide money for that purpose and they proceed to do so. That accommodation may be necessary to-day, but in five years time there may not be a single poor-law child attending that school. I certainly think that we may have a most reckless addition to our schools as a result of this clause, and we have no guarantee that boards of guardians will continue to carry out the same policy from year to year, or that even if they do it will produce the same effect in each village. Then we have another extraordinary novelty. Boards of guardians are asked to adopt a policy of contributing to the building or enlarging of schools in which poor-law children are to be educated. In the case of London we have the anomaly that money collected in the metropolis would be spent in Surrey, Kent, or Middlesex, where the schools may be situated. I think that is what is likely to occur, and if I am wrong it is because the right hon. Gentleman has not taken any means to secure that we should have any correct information as to the principle upon which this clause is based. Then there is another anomaly — another violation of a principle which is recognised as proper. If boards of guardians are asked to make these grants they should have some control over the schools which receive them. I think it will be a most iniquitous proceeding if the thin end of the wedge is now to be inserted by authorising grants-in-aid taken from the local rates without any control being given over the schools. I see in this proposal the beginning of a 671 policy of using the rates of this country for the assistance of denominational schools, and using it without any quid pro quo, or without giving any control over the schools which receive these grants. I think this clause runs counter very seriously indeed to what we considered the policy of the Government and the Education Department was. I think we ought to have some explanation, and I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentle-man will be able to give us a satisfactory explanation, or a promise that proper safe- guards will be provided. I will not now refer to the other clauses of the Bill. Most of them are of a satisfactory kind, but I believe that Clause 12 is the main proposal, and that if it is left as it stands it will very seriously affect the principle we thought animated the Education Department of this country, and will inflict very serious injury. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time on this day three months.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months.'"—(Mr. Alfred Hutton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. MIDDLEMORE (Birmingham, N.)
Speaking generally, I view with the deepest satisfaction every clause in this Bill. I believe it is an admirable Bill from first to last, and I would wish to say one or two words in reply to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who moved its rejection. The Bill enables boards of guardians to send poor-law children to public elementary schools of all kinds. I happen to be the first man in England who sent any number of pauper children to public elementary schools. That was in June, 1872, and after twenty-eight years experience of this form of educating poor-law children, I can say it has been a most complete and absolute success. First of all, it gives the officers in the workhouses a period of quiet and peace, and it secures a certain amount of complete order during several hours of the day. It provides outside 672 assistance for training these boys and girls, who get another form of discipline, which is altogether admirable. It gives the children a variety of life, and destroys that inertness — I might say almost soddenness—to which they are liable. It associates them with ordinary children in every-day life; they are no longer labelled as paupers, and their lives are made much happier and more natural. In these schools thus conducted I have found no absconding when the opportunity has been offered, and, therefore, if I was as much opposed to Voluntary schools as the hon. Gentleman opposite, I should feel bound to support this Bill, because of the great advantage it will confer upon pauper children by introducing a variety of life and discipline into their training. I will not refer to the other clauses. I think they are in every way satisfactory, and that the necessities of the situation have called forth every one of them.
§ *MR. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
This Bill is full of technical points which will require explanation before it obtains a second reading. There are one or two criticisms which I desire respectfully to offer. The clause to which my hon. friend the Member for Morley referred appears to me to be an admirable clause in regard to certain classes of schools. The tendency of boards of guardians seems to be to disband their pauper schools and to board their children out. One can conceive of a board of guardians of a great city boarding out their pauper children in a village a few miles out, and sending these children to the public elementary school. The accommodation in the village school will thereby be swamped, and additional accommodation and additional expense will become necessary. In fact in some villages a new school, or at least a new department, will have to be built. I take it that the object of the clause is to make it lawful for the hoard of guardians to provide or contribute towards the cost of the additional accommodation. That is a perfectly proper thing when it applies to village board schools, because in these there is every guarantee, by public audit and public management, that the money voted by the board of guardians will be spent on the school, and nothing but the school. But in an indirect way this raises the question of rate-aid to voluntary schools. I should be out of order if I were 673 to discuss that principle, as a principle; but I may be allowed to say that I should not look with hostility upon the extension of rate-aid to voluntary schools, under certain proper and essential conditions—namely, that the board of guardians or whatever the rating authority may be—should have the right to appoint on the committee of management of the school to be so aided from the rates a representative or representatives, and that they should have the right of auditing or requiring the Local Government auditor to audit the accounts of the school. If that were done, the risk of determined opposition to the clause in question would be withdrawn. I will not say many words in regard to the provisions which extend the powers of compulsory school attendance, which widen the net to bring in truant boys, increase the attendances under what are known asdunce certificates, and raise the penalties which may be inflicted on parents for neglecting to send their children to school. The school board of the city which I have the honour to represent has already communicated with the Board of Education on Clause 4, Sub-section 1. By Clause 4 the local authority—that is, the school board —is empowered to pay the expense of the conveyance of children who are sent, under the Education Acts, to a certified industrial school. That is a very proper thing, but I would point out that hitherto where that has been done it has usually Been done my means of a policeman. That is to say, that children sent to an industrial school, not necessarily as the result of crime or misdemeanour, but of truancy or a comparatively trifling offence, have been so sent in the charge of the police. I wish that there could be added to this Bill, in respect of the attendance clause, a proviso that all school attendance cases and punishments arising from these should be heard and determined in another than the ordinary police court. The present practice has, I feel, a bad moral effect on the children. I hope the Government will accept in Committee an amendment in the direction I have indicated, so that the boys who are sent to an industrial school and conveyed there at the expense of the board of guardians may be sent in charge of the board's own visiting officer. With these remarks I extend to this Bill my support, and give my thanks to the Government for having introduced it.
§ *MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
I agree with the hon. Member for West Nottingham that many of the pro- visions of this Bill will be of great advantage to education, and will be welcomed by all those who are anxious to strengthen the law with reference to attendance. But it is a point of some importance to know where we are going, and to understand more fully what will be the actual result of these proposals. Now, in the first place, I am quite sure that all those who are acquainted with the present state of educational administration would deprecate the introduction of fresh authorities, and the opening up of fresh conflicts of jurisdiction, by conferring new functions on new authorities in any direction conflicting with existing authorities. If any useful result is to be expected from the Board of Education Act of last year, it ought to be in the direction of unifying the authorities and the machinery in order to get the best possible results. The objection I take to Clause 2 is that it pretty much places on the boards of guardians, indirectly it is true, the right and the duty to provide further accommodation when deficiency of places arises in educational districts. Well, that seems to be a new departure which I much deprecate. It would be very undesirable to interfere, in my opinion, with the existing powers of school boards to provide accommodation, or to thus extend the action of boards of guardians in making the necessary provision for sending the children to ordinary elementary schools. If that most desirable policy is to be fully carried out the proper course would be to adhere to the principle of the Act of 1870, that where there is a deficiency of accommodation the school board should afford the provision of buildings as the authority representing the ratepayers of the district, and that they alone should have the power to deal with the question. The clause as it stands is open to the very serious objection that it enables the board of guardians to subsidise denominational schools, and to provide money out of the rates for an increase of accommodation in denominational schools without any consultation with the ratepayers, or recognising in any way the principle of control by the ratepayers, or without providing any modification whatever of the conditions under which these schools are carried on. It would mitigate the objection on this 675 side of the House to some extent if the boards of guardians were entitled to elect representatives to serve upon the committee of management of such schools. I must at once say, however, to the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President that that would not meet the whole of my objections to this clause. Unless the clause can be explained in a different sense from that in which its effect has been interpreted I think it will meet with very considerable opposition in Committee.
§ MR. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
While I entirely approve of facilities being afforded to poor-law children for attending ordinary public elementary schools, where that is possible, as provided for in Clause 2, I feel that there might have been included in the Bill the other side of the picture in which both sides of the House are very considerably interested—namely, the permission to the placing of poor-law schools under the Elementary Education Act, where the board of guardians desires it, and the Local Government Board approves it. I have no doubt the two right hon. Gentlemen responsible for the Local Government Board and for the Board of Education are very well able to arrange a clause by which that could be carried out. I have brought before the House, on a very recent occasion, this very question, and I know that many Members on both sides are interested in it. It is not a party question. The children in poor-law schools do not receive any of the advantages of being under the Board of Education. They are, as we all know, examined and inspected by inspectors under the Poor Law Board and the Local Government Board, and their education is extremely inferior. Many of us are of opinion that the education of these children will never be satisfactorily dealt with unless they are brought under the general educational scheme of the country, and they and their masters are placed under the inspection of the Board of Education itself. Clause 2 goes a certain way in that direction, but only a small way. Even if those poor-law schools were to be broken up, it would take many years to bring them under the ordinary educational system of the country. I do not intend to traverse all the arguments brought forward in Committee of this House in a previous 676 debate, but I would remind the House that these children are at present under a great disadvantage as compared with the other children from an educational point of view. The Local Government Board has no facility for inspecting or managing the education of these children. It has no accumulated experience; but the Board of Education has that accumulated experience. I would be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of this Bill or from some; other Member of the Government an expression of their willingness to introduce into the Bill a clause to accomplish that which the guardians and the Local Government Board are willing and desirous to do, namely, to declare that the schools under the poor-law authorities are public elementary schools as far as the teachers are concerned, and also as far as the examination and inspection of the children are concerned. This is a very important point, and affects many-thousands of children under the care of the 600 unions in the country. It has-been said that these are merely barrack: schools, contaminatory in their character and accompanied by the workhouse taint; but, on the contrary, the boards of guardians who are most forward in the matter; such as those of Birmingham and some of the districts of London, are most anxious that they should be placed under the Board of Education for inspection and control, instead of under the Local Government Board. Those boards which have devoted a great deal of money and attention to the creation of schools, such as that at Hornchurch in the neighbourhood of London, where colonies have been founded for the separate home system, are doing their best to train the children in a. manner which will enable them in the future to best meet the circumstances of life. But they find that they cannot get the children taught up to the standard of other children unless they are brought under the ordinary educational system of the country. I trust the Government may see their way to expand the scope of Clause 2.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE (Wiltshire, Cricklade)
Speaking in regard to this Bill as a whole, I do not think that anybody, on whatever side of the House he may sit, will deny that 677 nearly all its provisions are good and valuable, with, perhaps, one exception. I regret, myself, that the Bill has been complicated by the introduction of the rather unfortunate clause to which not unnaturally a considerable amount of attention and suspicion has been given. The right hon. Gentleman would have facilitated this discussion if he had made some slight explanation of the Bill in moving the Second Reading. As it is, it has been flung down without any guidance from him as to the course of the discussion. My right hon. friend might have foreseen, being familiar with the history of education in this House, that any proposals to enable public bodies to vote money to Voluntary schools are certain to be very closely watched, not merely on this but on the other side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman must recollect the controversy that was aroused by the proposal to enable boards of guardians to pay fees of children under the 25th Clause of the Education Act of 1870. The provision in this Bill may go a great deal further than that proposal of former years, and the only way to mitigate or avoid the not unnatural suspicion which animates Members on this side of the House would be to adopt the suggestion made by two of my hon. friends—namely, that some representation should be given to the boards of guardians, or some other public representative authority—the rural council, or the school board, as the case may be—so that the board of guardians who vote the money might feel that they have some control over the establishments to which their money is given. Where in a case of this kind you are going to draw upon a fresh fund for Voluntary schools, surely we are entitled to ask that some form of representative control should be introduced into the poor-law schools. When the Bill gets to Committee Amendments will be placed upon the Paper. Nobody complains of the procedure of my hon. friend in moving the rejection of the Second Reading in order to raise a full discussion, but I hope my hon. friend will be satisfied with the discussion he has raised, and having regard to the other propositions in the Bill, will not press the rejection; and I hope the Vice-President of the Council will understand that when the Bill gets into Committee the second clause will be closely examined.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
This Bill contains some excellent provisions, but there is one aspect of Clause 2 which I do not think has received sufficient attention in this House. I allude to the effect that it will probably have all through the country, and the change, to a great extent, under which guardians and rural district councilors will be elected. This clause will probably have the effect of making these elections bitterly contested on sectarian and non-sectarian lines. It is true that Clause 2 is partial in its character, but that very fact will cause opinion to divide, and the bitterest feelings will be raised. It is practically a recommencement of the old system of building grants, which we thought had been entirely and absolutely got rid of. I am afraid the effect upon the elections of local governing bodies all over the country will be extremely prejudicial. I hope, however, that my hon. friend, having regard to other proposals in the Bill, will not press his motion to a division.
§ THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE COMMITTEE OF COUNCIL ON EDUCATION (Sir J. GORST,) Cambridge University
I did not abstain from making a speech in moving the Second Reading of the Bill from any disrespect to the House, but because, the measure being a Departmental one and containing a number of what I had fondly imagined to be purely non-controversial amendments to the law, I thought that, on the whole, it would be more respectful to the House to await the observations which hon. Members might wish to make before thrusting myself upon their notice. Unless I had heard the speeches delivered by hon. Members opposite, I should never have dreamt that it was possible to conceive that there was such a diabolical plan underlying so innocent a clause. Perhaps I might explain to the Committee exactly the reason of this perfectly innocent clause. The clause originated in the conviction of the Education Department of the enormous advantage of poor-law children going to the ordinary elementary schools of the country and mixing with other children. The hon. Member for North Birmingham, who has had great experience, said the best system for the education of pauper children was to divest them as far as possible of their pauper surroundings, and give them the 679 same education as the children of the village. In carrying out that principle experience proved that great injustice might be done to certain parishes. As an instance, I might mention a case which came long ago within my own experience. A poor-law union in the county of Essex, with a very small work- house and very few children, had the children taught within the walls of that institution by the best of teachers. The parish, however, became a school board district, and the school board built a school which was attended by the children from the workhouse, and is attended by them, so far as I know, to this day. But why should the ratepayers of the parish have to bear the expense, which ought to be borne by the union? That is, I think, a very great injustice to a small rural parish. The same state of things exists in a number of rural parishes in this country, and the object of the clause is to enable the guardians to do what they have no legal power to do at present —namely, to contribute both to the building and the maintenance of the school. A great number of metropolitan unions now adopt the laudable practice of boarding out their children in country parishes. Where only one or two children are boarded out in a particular parish, no burden is imposed on the inhabitants of that parish, but when a considerable number of children are boarded out in a small parish, increased expense is entailed on the managers of the school. If it is for the interest of the ratepayers to send their children out into the country, it is only reasonable that they should subscribe to the country schools where the children are educated. Nobody ever dreamt of subsidising voluntary schools or reviving building grants or introducing into the election of guardians strong sectarian elements. I do not think the clause would have any such effect. It is a permissive clause. I think boards of guardians may be trusted to take precautions to prevent the use of their money for sectarian purposes. Suggestions have been made that provisions should be put into the Bill requiring boards of guardians to be represented on the committee of the school, and requiring some sort of public audit of the accounts. Let the House imagine one of the great London unions—Poplar or Shoreditch, for instance—having children boarded out in Essex, Kent, or 680 Surrey, and being directed to appoint somebody to represent them on the management of the school, and provision having to be made for the audit of a school account amounting, perhaps, to only £100. What a burden would be thrown upon boards of guardians.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
What I suggested with regard to auditing was that the accounts of the school should be subjected to the ordinary audit by the official auditors.
§ SIR J. GORST
It is all very well for the Local Government Board auditor to audit the accounts of great schools, but to require a small parish school to have its accounts audited every year by a Local Government Board auditor would put on the managers of the school an additional burden which they are quite unable to bear. The whole matter is optional, and if a board of guardians is not satisfied that every security is afforded for the proper expenditure of their contribution they can withhold that contribution. I will consider any Amendment proposed in Committee, and the House will have further opportunities of considering this clause, but I hope they will not be induced by these vain and unreasonable fears to omit from the Bill this most important and salutary clause. As to sending children to industrial schools, I think that everything that can be done ought to be done to detach children altogether from the ordinary administration of the criminal law in this country. If I was one of a bench of magistrates, I would not like to send a child to an industrial school in charge of the police; I agree with the view that the attendance officer is a far fitter person to be entrusted with such a task; but it is another matter to prevent by Act of Parliament the police-under any circumstances taking a child to an industrial school. If the House will read the Bill a second time, I propose that it should be referred to the Standing Committee on Law, where there will be an opportunity of discussing in detail technical clauses. Of course, the House will have the opportunity on Report of reconsidering any matter of principle, and giving its final decision on the clauses.
§ MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)
said he should not have intervened in the debate had it not been for the reference 681 made to the Essex parish which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded to. If the whole of the education of the country was administered in the wise, liberal and statesmanlike manner that it was by the vicar of the parish in question, there would be no word of suspicion as to what was being done. But all parishes are not so fortunate, and he feared that in some cases advantage might be taken of this measure for sectarian purposes.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.