§ Order for Second Reading read.
MR. WALKER (Leicestershire Melton),
in moving the Second Reading of the 995 Education (Local Authorities) Bill, said it would be remembered that the Education Bill of 1906 contained certain clauses which were practically non-contentious. Some of them were dealt with last session by the Administrative Provisions Act. There remained the Delegation Clause which he was now offering in the form of a separate Bill. He asked the House to consider this short measure without reference to any other Education Bill which might be thought to be contentious. The clause had had vicissitudes. It was entirely recast in this House from the form in which it was first presented, and the Second Reading of the clause as recast was adopted without division. It received further discussion when it went to another place, and its final form was as it stood after agreement between the Government and Lord Belper, as representing the County Councils Association. His Bill embodied the clause in the final form in which it passed the House of Lords. The County Councils Association had considered the point and desired that the Bill as now drafted should receive its Second Reading without opposition, holding themselves free to suggest Amendments in Committee. His hon. friend the Member for Middleton, who was on the Executive of the County Councils Association, would address the House on this point. His Bill, therefore, embodied the clause in its final form, omitting a few sentences which were irrelevant to the subject as standing by itself. Before proceeding to give a description of the Bill, he might say a few words in regard to the necessity for a Statutory Delegation.
At this point, the hon. Member was seized with sudden illness and resumed his seat; but almost immediately afterwards formally moved the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan)
seconded the proposal for the Second Reading of the Bill. He took some part in the debate in 1906, and he hoped in the few remarks he had to make he would be able to avoid the sin of repeating what he then said. The principle of the Bill was one which he thought should commend itself to the House, viz.: 996 that of devolution, which was calculated to meet the very great difficulties that had arisen in large counties in the administration of the Act of 1902. In examining the authorities who would naturally guide one in a matter of this kind, he included the speeches made in another place. The present Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs gave an account in the House of Lords of his experience in his own county while speaking in favour of the proposals in the Bill. His Lordship said—He had in his own county seen immense agenda papers where whole pages had been taken up with proposals relating to such question as whether a caretaker should have a salary of so many shillings a week or so many shillings plus a few pence more. He did not admit that the county councils had broken down under the work—they had not, but few who had not been actively concerned in this work could realise the enormous strain there had been and the sacrifice of time and labour. They wished, if possible, to relieve that immense strain.Another authority who might have more influence with members on his own side of the House—Lord Lansdowne—said—So far as the question of principle is concerned, I do not know that the two sides of the House differ very widely. We are, I think, all of us in favour of delegation. It is no use arguing that point; and I think most of us will admit that if this Bill becomes law it will increase the necessity for delegation. Again, so far as I was able to gather the three canons laid down by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in regard to delegation, I, for one, am not disposed to challenge them. I understand His Majesty's Government consider it essential that the delegation bodies should be entrusted with matters of detail rather than questions of high local policy. That principle is safeguarded by a section in the Bill.Then the noble Lord went on to approve of the second principle embodied in this Bill that there should be "financial responsibility thrown on the delegation body and area." And the third principle embodied in this Bill, which was commended by Lord Lansdowne, was that "in all cases where public money had to be spent the representative element should, predominate." He would state the case of the West Riding of Yorkshire, because he was a resident there during a part of the year and had opportunities when he represented one of the old divisions of that Riding to know the geographical difficulties which attended a 997 limited area. The population of the West Riding according to the last census was 1,460,000. The increase since then judging by the increase between the years 1891 and 1901 would certainly bring the present population up to more than 1,500,000. If they looked to the acreage, leaving out the county boroughs, the West Riding contained no less than 1,681,000. Even these figures did not sufficiently convey to the mind the magnitude of this district. The administrative area extended from the immediate neighbourhood of Rochdale just across the border in Lancashire to near Kendal in Westmoreland and from the moors of Lancashire, which bounded the West Riding on the west, up to the city of York. The tourist who desired to become acquainted with the geography and archœology of the county could, find a view of York Minster within the area, and in his journey south he could not escape from that great district until he had passed through Sheffield. He thought that that brief description of the population and area of the West Riding was sufficient for his purpose. But they had to consider not only the area and population, but the character of the population and the geographical features of the district, which made it so difficult on account of the imperfect railway communication to get from one part of the West Riding to another. That was sufficient proof that there must be some delegation in such a county. He had no desire to discuss any controversial matters which had arisen in the West Riding in regard to education. He might, however, say in no unkindly spirit that the authority of the West Riding would have been more fortunate in their litigation had the area of their administration not been so large, and if the complication of their affairs had not been so great. Certainly he felt that the details of the Bill required very careful consideration. They must consider, first of all, whether the powers it conferred ought necessarily to be compulsory in every case. They had to consider the constitution of the authorities, because questions might arise as to the precise definition of their powers. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Education would no doubt offer some remarks on these points for the guidance of the House in the course of the discussion. He observed that in 998 the year 1906, the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor referred with joy to the clause embodied in this Bill as a means of enabling him to remove his feet from the hot marl of the education question. He hoped this Bill would have a soothing influence on the President of the Board of Education, who would no doubt explain why he did not take it in as part of his own proposal. The right hon. Gentleman probably thought that his own Bill was already sufficiently embarrassing. The Bill should, in his opinion, be referred to a Committee of the Whole House and not to a Committee upstairs, after it passed its Second Reading. It was a most essential part of the framework of the organisation of our elementary education. It must be borne in mind when, they went into Committee how in areas so large as, for instance, the West Riding, the population differed. In the same county they had beautiful rural districts and densely populated towns which had, however, not yet risen to the dignity of county boroughs. All he asked the House to do now was to accept the principle of delegation. He believed the application of it was absolutely necessary in certain cases; whether it was to be tried in all cases was a question for Committee. There were many minutiæ of the Bill which were more fit for discussion in Committee than in the House, but he hoped there would be no delay in adopting the principle of the Bill. He felt that some reform in the direction of delegation was absolutely necessary for the efficient working of our educational system. He had great pleasure in seconding the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ VISCOUNT MORPETH (Birmingham, S.)
moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. He was sure that every Member in the House regretted that the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading should have been unable to continue his speech, because they all knew the great interest he took in this matter, and would have liked to have heard the arguments by which he defended his proposal. He 999 also wished to thank the hon. Baronet who seconded the Resolution for his expressed intention of removing the Bill from the category of party questions so that they might be able to discuss it without reference to other measures of a political character. It had been said that this was a very modest Bill which only provided for delegation in certain educational matters; but the administrative upheaval which it would cause throughout the counties of England and Wales was very far from being modest. In fact the change was so far-reaching that it should not be dealt with by a private Member, but should be only undertaken in a Bill introduced by the Government itself. The mover of the Second Reading had told the House in a few words that the proposal had received the assent of the two Houses of Parliament in 1906. That was quite true, but circumstances were not quite the same at the present time as they were two years ago. In the first place, it was not quite correct to say that there was no opposition to the proposal as originally introduced. There was considerable opposition, and the opponents succeeded in obtaining modifications to the proposal. Moreover, this question in 1906 was overshadowed by political and religious controversies, and it was allowed to pass through comparatively unnoticed and without the attention it deserved. During the past two years there had been more experience of the working of the Act of 1902; and only on the previous day an important report by the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education had been issued; so that the added experience of the last few years had very materially altered the position. The Bill made no allusion to the Act for the medical inspection of schools, which had been put on the Statute-book since the Bill was originally introduced. There was no indication in the Bill that the medical inspection should be delegated from the county authorities to minor authorities. He would also point out that the Government had not thought fit to introduce this clause into their own Education Bill, no doubt for very good reasons. Probably the Government recognised that the position was not the same as it was, or they might have wisely thought that having an important 1000 Education Bill of their own which raised very acute questions of controversy, it would be inconvenient to overweight it with this subject. His own opinion was that when this question was dealt with it should be by the Government, acting with all the expert advice which they could command, and not by a private Member. If there was no time-for the Government itself to deal with it there would be less in the odds and ends-of time which a private Member could command to press the Bill through the House. The county councils of England had the greatest objection to this Bill on administrative and educational grounds. The hon. Member for Melton had said that the County Councils Association had agreed not to oppose the Second Reading; but that agreement, he thought, must not be taken to mean that they in any way approved of the Bill now before the House. He could distinctly say, and he had taken pains to find out, that throughout England the county councils, and especially the education authorities, were greatly afraid that the work which they had been doing during the past years would be upset and jeopardised by this Bill. The hon. Baronet who seconded the Resolution said that the Bill was to be regarded in the light that local interest would thereby be enlisted in the work of education. If it were possible to regard it in that light there would be very slight opposition at all to it. It was the business of the county councils to enlist and make use of all the assistance they could get in their educational work. He passed by the fact that the county councils as representative bodies were entitled to the support of the House when they were strongly of opinion that this-House should not lightly and without very grave reasons upset their whole system of educational administration. They objected to this Bill on three grounds: it would impede the work which they were doing, it would be more expensive, and it would make the education of the country less efficient. He thought he could prove all these points. The merit of county council administration was not its rapidity, as everybody knew that had gone into the question. It could not be caled quick in its action. First of all, the county 1001 council had to come to an agreement with the managers in the locality which was being dealt with. Besides that they had to deal with the President of the Board of Education, and not only with him, but with the Local Government Board, and there was the greatest delay. Yet it was proposed where there were four bodies dealing with this question of education, two Government Departments, the body of managers and the county authorities, to add another authority, practically the parish 'council or the rural district council. If that was done there would be endless correspondence backwards and forwards. It was a difficult thing to get three bodies instead of two to agree to a common policy. Such a proposition as this must entail delay in the execution of the work which required to be done, which already took a long time, and which ought to be hastened rather than made more lengthy. He would ask the House to observe this all-important point. The delegation under the Bill was a delegation to elected bodies elected by the ratepayers, and consequently they would have two authorities dealing with the work of education, both with the authority of the electorate behind them, and both claiming the authority upon which all persons who were popularly elected insisted. There was also this further difficulty. At the present time delegation was made to a Committee when it was made by a county authority. Under this Bill the delegation would be of a statutory kind, because the schemes would have the force of a statute and would only be able to be altered with very great difficulty, if at all. So that they would have minor authorities directly representing the electors equally with the county authority, with statutory powers in control of certain portions of the system of education. He could not think that it was a good principle to divide the work of education into two, and he would say that that division was conducted on no intelligible principle at all. But even if it were possible to divide education into two watertight compartments under the control of two authorities, it would be administratively a bad policy. There was another very important matter that 1002 he would like to refer to. The proposals of the Bill were that the devolution should either be to the parish council or to the rural district councilor to a combination of those areas, either a combination of rural districts or a combination of parish areas. He would like to urge upon the House that the proper area for any delegation which took place in rural districts—and for the present he was mainly talking about rural districts, because the Bill chiefly affected them—the proper area was the parish. As soon as they got beyond the parish and the rural district council they got a body which was too large or too small. He spoke from experience. In the county on the education authority of which he served when the Bill of 1902 was passed they attempted a system of having groups of managers of a certain number of schools. They found the greatest opposition to that proposal. They found that, when they got out of the parish and grouped half-a-dozen together, they soon got out of local knowledge of the people who were attached to a certain school or sent their children to that school and who were very little interested in a school a dozen miles away or even a shorter distance than that. He thought no one would deny that the parish was the proper area for devolution and in his opinion the proper persons to whom authority should be delegated were the managers of the school. It was quite possible—and in the area to which he had referred they had indeed done it—for the managers to be elected, either all of them, or at any rate the majority of them. They allowed the parish council to elect four out of six members so that the managers should be representative of the parish council. But he asked the House to note the difference between that and the proposals of this Bill. Under this Bill it was provided that the elective minor authority should have co-ordinate powers with the county authority. Under the proposals which hon. Members would see had been adopted, roughly speaking, by twenty councils in England, they delegated powers to the managers, and they had allowed the managers to be appointed by a representative body, but the managers still remained the agents of the county authority, it was their business to carry out the policy of 1003 the county authority, and as the ultimate resort, if they set themselves to obstruct the policy of the county authority, the latter could override them and alter the conditions of service. Under this Bill, supposing a minor authority were to set itself against the county authority and refuse to spend money, endeavour to starve the schools or try to destroy an enlightened policy pursued by the central authority, the county authority would have no power to step in, because the minor authority would have equal powers with them under the statute. He would like to know whether it was proposed in this Bill that the minor authorities should have the power of corresponding directly with the Board of Education, because if they had, it would lead to great confusion, and if they had not that power, it would lead to the duplication of work. Moreover the Bill would make education more expensive. He would not object to that or grudge the money if any educational advantage was to be secured. His complaint of the Bill was that without any educational advantages whatsoever, it would add and add very considerably to the cost of administration in the counties. Obviously, in the first place, it would require a vast army of local officials. He saw in a report issued by the Kent County Authority that they calculated that the salaries of these officials would come to £6,000 alone. Of course it might be debated, but he was not going to deal with it fully, that it would be a saving of money in regard to the Central Administration. As they had seen however, there was very conflicting evidence on that question, and to his mind the weight of the evidence was on the side that the setting up of district offices and the appointing of all these officials at comparatively large salaries did not relieve the central authority, and had not led to their being able to save much money, although he admitted that some counties had said that they would have to increase their staffs if the local committees were abolished. But others were very strongly of opinion the other way, and in one case, that of Hampshire, so strongly had they felt that the local committees simply hampered the work and added to the expense that they had abolished them. Then the sta- 1004 tionery and books under this Bill were to be left to the local committees. What was likely to be the result of that added expenditure for no advantage of any kind whatever? He did not want to drag in controversial questions, but he was thoroughly opposed to the parochial protection which was at the root of this proposal. In his county when the Act of 1902 came into force they saved £2,000—and they were not a rich county but a poor one—on that head alone, and they were able to devote it to educational work instead of to that which was positively useless. In the county of Kent he saw from the same report which he had quoted that they had actually saved £10,000 on their books and stationery alone, by getting a county tender instead of allowing their local committees to order their books and stationery from the bookshop round the corner. He would also point out that the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Education, went in the direction of having a county rate, it being easier to carry on educational work when it was spread over a whole county. This would also be more economical, but the policy of this Bill was in exactly the opposite direction and proposed that special rates should be charged on the different parishes in a county. Coming to the point of efficiency, he had already endeavoured to show the House that the work must be hampered when education was divided under two authorities, and that there must of necessity be delays. But the really important point of this Bill to his mind was that nothing was gained educationally under it. He would ask the attention of the House to the work that might be delegated under this Bill. There was the question of attendance. He did not know whether he was going beyond what was right in this House, but owing to the misfortune of not having heard the speech of the mover of the Bill the House did not know what the hon. Gentleman had told him, which he thought he was justified in repeating as no secret was made of it. The hon. Member said that if the Bill went to Committee, he proposed to remove the power of enforcing the obligations of attendance from the special committees, and that relieved him from the 1005 necessity of pointing out how extremely dangerous it would be to delegate that power. It was extremely difficult to get the small local authorities to apply the laws as to attendance, and they were the very first who were apt to break them by employing children in the schools. But as the hon. Member assured him that he had withdrawn that he would not allude to the matter further. These bodies might not fix the salaries and everyone would rejoice that that was so who remembered the scale of pay under the small rural school boards. Dismissal was also removed from the purview of the small authority, and that would give the teachers a certain security. They also might not engage the teachers, but that, he thought, was one of the functions that might be delegated to local managers or to the minor authority. It was the one question in which the parents living in the locality took a most lively interest, and it was a duty which might very properly be delegated to the local managers, subject, of course, to the veto of the educational authority on educational grounds. The extraordinary thing was that Members would find, on looking through the report of the Consultative Committee, that every council in England had some form of delegation and that nearly every one of them gave the appointment of the teacher, subject to proper restrictions, to the minor authority or the managers. Yet this Bill expressly denied the right, and made it one of the subjects which could, under no circumstances, be delegated. In his opinion the Bill was reactionary even from the point of view of the devolutionists; and it would tend to stop the good work which they were sincerely desirous of advancing. The question of capita] expenditure was also removed from the powers of the local authority, and next to the appointment of teachers, the subject of the greatest importance with educational work was the provision of new schools and the enlargement of existing schools. In fact, no educational duties of any importance were delegated under this Bill except small repairs, the supply of books and stationery, the appointment of caretakers and such like minor matters. The Bill was a pretence; it 1006 did not carry out what it professed. It set out to encourage local interest in the schools, but the only way in which such interest could be stimulated was by giving real power. Any attempt to stimulate it by giving sham power was quite worthless. He did not deny that hon. Members who were supporting the Bill were true and sincere friends of education. No doubt they thought that by the Bill they would improve rural education, but he feared that in a great many cases those hon. Members were not conversant with the facts of rural life or with the machinery as it existed at the present time. Anybody who knew how the system was working at the present time knew that more and more as years went by the zeal and interest; of the county authorities in it was increasing. In his own county the chief occupation of the rural district councils was to pass resolutions denouncing the expenditure of the county council. He had taken pains to inquire and he had found from other hon. Members that the experience in their counties was that the rural district councils were constantly complaining of the expenditure and asking that it should be cut down. It was to his mind extraordinary that hon. Members who he knew were zealous in the cause of education, and who wished to see it advanced, should by this Bill deliberately take power from the most progressive element in the county and hand it over to the more stingy, reactionary, and unprogressive bodies. It was significant that London was excepted from the operation of the Bill. If there was an unwieldy and difficult area to administer it was, he supposed, the county of London, but he, as a former Member of the London School Board, would be the last to desire London to be cut up. If it were cut up, and the powers with regard to education parcelled out among conflicting authorities, education would suffer. He imagined that London was left out of the Bill because the London members were strong and would resist their inclusion. But why should the rural counties of England not receive the same treatment? They possessed representative bodies and had been extending their work. If hon. Members 1007 would only look at the pamphlet which had been issued they would see that practically every county in England and Wales had some scheme of devolution suitable to its own circumstances, and although the report of the sub-committee was not very definite whatever moral was to be drawn from it was not the moral embodied in the Bill before the House. Under the Bill all the counties would practically be tied down to one form of devolution. [Cries of "No."] If hon. Members would look at the summing up of the Report they would see it stated that it was difficult, if not impossible, to devise any uniform system which would give general satisfaction throughout the country. They would also see that there were twenty-two counties which had not devolved powers to district bodies, and the Report said there were very weighty reasons for not adopting such a policy. Under this Bill it was the fact that all counties would be tied down to one form of devolution which handed over practically no power to the minor authority, whereas under the present system they were free to find the scheme which was most suited to their needs, and could devolve vastly greater powers than were now proposed. He would like in conclusion to offer to the Minister for Education two practical reasons for not adopting this Bill at the present time. In the first place the counties would have this year to deal with the question of medical inspection, which would not only throw a great charge upon them but would need the expenditure of much time and energy. And further, they might have to deal with the Government's Education Bill—he assumed it for the sake of argument. To ask them in addition to throw their machinery into the melting pot was to ask something beyond their power to accomplish. He appealed earnestly to the right hon. Gentleman not to adopt this Bill, which would hamper the work of education, and give powers to bodies who had shown no interest in the cause of education, but had, on the contrary, consistently opposed any expenditure and had indeed desired to cut it down to the last farthing.
§ MR. WEDGWOOD (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
said he desired to associate himself with the noble Lord in regretting the indisposition of the hon. Member who was in charge of the Bill. He did so the more freely because he thought they owed the hon. Gentleman a debt of gratitude, whatever they might think of that particular measure, for enabling the House to have a day in which to discuss education free from any religious rancour or sectarian bias, and to look at the educational problem from a purely educational point of view. He rose to oppose the passage of the Bill and he wished to say at once that his opposition dated originally from the opposition of the Staffordshire County Council. They in Staffordshire were no doubt in a peculiarly happy position so far as education was concerned, for they had as chairmen of their educational committee Mr. F. Kit hener and Mr. J. T. Homer, both experts on education, assisted by Mr. Graham Balfour. The position of educational government in Staffordshire was, he believed, recognised even by the Board of Education as being, perhaps, the best in the whole of England and Wales. They in Staffordshire, therefore, very strongly objected to being compelled by this Bill to adopt measures which might be suitable for other counties, but which were not suitable to them in the state of development at which they had arrived. The Bill said that every county council "shall" propose a scheme of delegation. His first objection was to that word "shall." It had been suggested that the word "may" might be substituted, and that the Bill should be purely optional. But even such a change would not satisfy him, for he had come to the conclusion that any such delegation as was proposed, by the Bill would be detrimental to the country as a whole as well as to Staffordshire. If the House would bear with him for a few minutes, he would like to place before it the features which struck him as being fundamentally bad in the measure. In the first place, had such a vague Bill ever been put before the House? The Bill provided that the council of every county should prepare a scheme for delegating to local education committees some of their powers and duties with respect to elementary 1009 education. Could anything be vaguer than, that? The county council shall devise some scheme to give some people unspecified some powers unspecified to spend some money, again unspecified, for some purposes unspecified. A vaguer Bill could not be imagined. The excuse made for it was that it was the compromise arrived at in 1906. They did not want compromises arrived at in 1906 passed into law without very careful inspection. There were certain powers enjoyed by the county education authorities which they knew were not to be delegated. Those were the powers of making by-laws, of, incurring capital expenditure, of paying rent, of engaging teachers, and of fixing salaries of teachers. Those powers were expressly debarred under the Bill, from delegation. That left very few powers to be delegated, viz., the questions of school attendance, of hours of opening and closing, of holidays, of supplies and purchase of furniture, of repairing school premises, of purchase of fuel, of cleaning school premises, and finally of medical inspection. Were these matters which could safely be delegated in country districts to the rural district council, or, the parish district council? Let them take first the question of school attendance. Was that one which could safely be delegated to what one ordinarily associated with rural or parish district councils? Under the 1902 Bill school attendance had gone up throughout the county of Stafford hire from something like 88 per cent. to nearly 94 per cent. and that rise had been due to the careful and systematic way in which attendance was being enforced throughout the country. If they delegated this question to rural or.parish district councillors, who were either farmers or squires or people whose main interest was not in getting children to attend school so much as getting them out to work in the fields, they could not expect the same standard of attendance to be kept up. It was indeed bound to fall off, and they could not expect the attendance officer to press it in, the same way as he would under a county, education authority with its experts at headquarters. He would venture to urge that in any case, if they accepted the Second Reading of the Bill, the Government should expressly exclude 1010 school attendance from the questions to be delegated. Next came the question, of hours. Ought the question of the hours of opening and closing schools to be left to these local authorities? It was all very well to say that that did not matter, but when it came to letting farmers decide whether a school should close at noon in harvest-time when there was plenty of work in the fields, and to-leaving it to this lax educational authority to decide what the hours of attendance at school should be, they would have exactly the same bad results as would follow leaving the question of attendance itself to the rural district or parish councils; so that both school attendance and the hours of opening and closing should in his opinion be specifically debarred from delegation, and continue to be dealt with at headquarters by experts. The next question was that of the medical inspection of school children. That was a new question since the delegation clauses were, originally introduced to the House in 1906. During the last six months they had heard a good deal of debate and correspondence as to how that medical inspection should be carried out. He thought educationists everywhere were united in saying that the inspection of the children, to be carried out well, should be done by whole-time officers, specialists in the work, and under the direct supervision of the county education authority. In his own county they had appointed one senior and three junior inspectors, all whole-time-officials, who would correlate and bring together the results of the medical examination and work more or less on a uniform plan, helping each other in arranging a general scheme of medical inspection. The alternative to that method was to leave it in the hands of the local medical officer of health. The common form was to say: "We will pay the medical officer of health 1s. for the inspection of each child, and and then we will wash our hands of the whole concern." That was a bad form of medical inspection. It would do no good to the school children, and it would cost a considerably larger sum, while relieving the county education authority of all responsibility. Was it fair to allow the county education 1011 authority to delegate its supervision over the medical inspection of children to rural district or parish councils? If they did they would have those rural district and parish councils employing the local medical officer of health whom they knew well, and giving him a nice little bonus on his year's salary in order to carry out a superficial and wholly useless inspection of children. He therefore hoped, the Government would rule out from this delegation Bill not only the questions of school attendance, and of the hours of opening and closing of schools, but also that of the medical inspection of school children. In his opinion—and he trusted the House would agree with him—the case against delegation in these respects was overwhelming. If that were so, what was left over? The only things were the purchase of supplies, the repairs of school premises, the purchase of furniture and fuel, and the cleaning of the school buildings. In fact they were leaving to the rural district or parish councils the supervision of what was usually described as the parish pump. They were giving them the power to buy slate pencils and copy-books at the village shops, of appointing a cousin or aunt as caretaker of the village school, and of employing the local builder to do repairs instead of putting the work out to tender. The whole idea of allowing the rural district or parish councils to deal with these things pointed inevitably to jobbery. He did not mean scandalous jobbery, but mere jobbery of patronage, which always cropped up in those small local bodies. At the same time they were giving them power to reduce expenditure by burning less fuel, by employing cheaper labour, and by cutting down the expanse for school supplies. Further than that, they would have the opportunity of giving appointments to their own friends instead of selecting the most suitable persons. They need not object, perhaps, very strongly to the local authorities employing their cousins and their aunts as caretakers, but he thought it rather too much to ask the House to pass an elaborate Bill to compel every education authority in the country to draw up an elaborate scheme for delegating to somewhat uncertain bodies such trivial 1012 matters as the appointment of caretakers and school cleaners and the purchase of stores and fuel. It was really employing a steam-roller to crush a fly. Even if it were possible to delegate these very minor powers in order to give the local people an interest in education, he did not think it was right to set up an enormous number of new bodies with offices and clerks, involving endless additional red tape and correspondence, with an extra charge on the rates, which the noble Lord had shown would amount to £6,000 in the Case of the county of Kent. The system of appointing more and more officials and more and more local bodies to do work already satisfactorily dealt with was not one which commended itself to business people who desired to see education well carried out. It would be said that the object was to bring counties, which did not delegate into line with those that did. But the delegation that took place at present was was wholly different from that proposed by this Bill. It was voluntary and the delegated body owed its existence to the county education authority. It was subordinate to it and worked with it without friction. They had, for instance, a certain amount of delegation in Staffordshire. But the delegation proposed by this Bill was compulsory. The body exercising the delegated powers would owe its existence to Parliament and not to the county education committee; it would be not subordinate to but the rival of the county education authority, and they could not get from a system such as that anything but friction between the existing authority and the rural district and parish councillors who were to be invested with these powers. At present the delegation worked smoothly; but compulsory delegation would not do so. He would like to quote to the House part of the Report of the Committee which his noble friend had not touched upon—the part in which the Committee recommended the counties which at present retained the centralised form of administration to study that portion of the Appendix which showed what had been achieved in some counties where some form of devolution obtained. That was a sound, business-like recommendation; but to drive people to set up rival 1013 authorities which would conflict in every point, which would have rating powers, and which would be composed of such material as rural, district and parish councils were, would in his opinion be absolutely detrimental to the cause of education. He would be told that as this Bill was taken from the 1906 Bill of the Liberal Government they were somewhat contradicting themselves by opposing it. But the conditions which prevailed in 1906 were very different from those of to-day. In 1906 the officials of the old school boards and the members of those bodies were numerous and were still in close connection with education. Two years had gone by, and those gentlemen who would no doubt have formed admirable members of the delegated authorities were now further away from their old educational experience or had become managers of new council schools or had travelled back to some part of the educational hierarchy. Besides that, the educational organisation of the country which was revolutionised in 1902 was still unsettled in 1906. But now the county authorities were formally established; they knew exactly how to deal with these questions; they had arranged all detail?; they had either delegated their powers horizontally to different district councils or vertically to different committees, and every one of the counties worked on a system which, however many minor drawbacks it might have, was understood by the people. He thought it would be disastrous to the education of this country again to revolutionise the authorities and upset a system of delegation which was working smoothly at present.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Viscount Morpeth).
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. A. G. C. HARVEY (Rochdale)
said he must confess that he felt rather disappointed at the very strong opposition which the Bill had so far received in that debate. He was not at all alarmed at the epithets hurled at it. The seconder of the Motion for the rejection found fault 1014 with the Bill both because it was elaborate and because it was vague; and the mover of the rejection complained that they disliked the measure because there were no powers actually to be given to the authorities in question. He viewed the giving of powers to local authorities as dangerous and yet he would like the Bill better if more powers could be given. He had thought that the Bill would receive the general assent of the House. It contravened no principle of the Act of 1902; in fact it popularised the machinery of that Act; he had hoped, on that account, that it would have been acceptable to Members on the other side of the House, and would have been approved by Members of the Party responsible for the Act of 1902. It was extremely necessary in his opinion—and he spoke with some experience of the business of one of the largest education authorities—it was extremely important and desirable that more local powers should be given for the management and administration of education, and some administrative Act of this kind would be found very necessary unless education was to get into chaos and outside popular interest. He did not think they could have good local government unless they could enlist all forces and all classes of the population. It was only in that way they could get full good out of local government, educational or otherwise. They wanted, all the wisdom and experience that could be brought to the administration. Wisdom was the monopoly of no class, and wisdom based on the experience of personal needs was the most useful of all wisdom in administration. The schools were used by the lower middle classes and by the working classes of the country. The county council possessed none of those elements—at any rate, little or none. County administration had all it could do to keep the confidence of the people, for whose benefit, he admitted, it was working. The county centres of government were too far from the homes of the poor people of the county to allow them to participate in the business of the county councils. The distance entailed expense and enormous loss of time to which men in poor circumstances could not submit. He admitted that the Act of 1015 1902 did provide for delegation in certain forms; certain powers might be delegated to managers; and the noble Lord who moved the rejection had told them that in his county, so far as he had gathered, this was the only form of delegation in operation. The noble Lord said that that suited his county, of which, of course, he had experience. All he could say was that it would not suit the county of Lancashire, and he ventured to think that they on the Ministerial side of the House would view with some nervousness delegation exclusively to managers. They still thought that the Act of 1902 gave far too little popular control. If they delegated powers in a wholesale way to managers of only partly-public schools they were cutting down the small modicum of popular control which already existed. The delegation of powers to school managers had all the worst objections which used to be hurled at small school board areas. They did not want to manage the schools, school by school. They wanted to manage education in an area easy of access convenient, and of sufficient size to make education over that area of some importance and interest to the people of the locality. There was another form of delegation which allowed the county council to split the county into areas over which a separate education authority might reign, but no county council had adopted that plan. Then again, under Schedule 1, education committees were allowed to appoint sub-committees up and down the county for administrative purposes, and that had been done, he believed, in some twenty counties. The noble Lord had said one of his main objections to this Bill was that it would cause an administrative upheaval. He did not think it would in England. They did not propose to disturb existing administration; they proposed to strengthen it and improve it by bringing in an auxiliary administration as a part of it, using local knowledge of the schools and their requirements. The noble Lord had said that the institution of these bodies would delay education and the administration of education. He must beg to differ from him on that point. He believed that properly constituted bodies, with responsibility, would quicken educational administration, because they would be 1016 able to bring, day by day, and hour by hour, local and intimate knowledge of the needs of the schools. They knew that in the county areas great delay was often caused by waiting for the county council meeting; then, they had to send down some inspector or official to interview the people on the spot, and he had to go back and report to the next monthly meeting of the council. It was this delay they wanted to avoid. The noble Lord had complained that certain extra expenses would be caused by the adoption of the measure. All he could say was that he for one would gladly see more money spent if it would improve education, and he maintained that the existence of responsible committees in different and convenient localities would increase public zeal and interest and hence improve the education of the localities. The noble Lord had said that in Cumberland they had tried to group managers of different schools without success. Of course, that was because they had soon got out of local knowledge. The county centre had no local knowledge to get out of, and that was why he, for one, would bring educational administration nearer the schools. Then again, if was said that these local committees would starve the schools and could do so with impunity, because they had not the county authority over them. Under Clause 1, Subsection 3, the county committee had full power to compel a recalcitrant local committee in the direction of doing its duty by the schools. The seconder of the Motion for the rejection of the Bill was very strongly of opinion that school attendance work should be kept outside these committees if the Bill passed. He thought they might trust local people to a much greater extent than the seconder of the Amendment proposed. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme had said that the people who governed these local committees would be interested in getting young children out to work. Lancashire was a county where many young children were employed in the workshops and mills, yet in that county the first thing they did was to delegate full powers to the localities in which school attendance had been worked, with the result that it had gone up by from 5 to 10 1017 per cent. The Consultative Committee was on the whole favourable to the scheme of delegation; so he read it, at any rate. But what they wanted to do was not to upset the county committees which were doing good work, but to bring into line those county committees that were not doing good work in education and administration. They had a good scheme in Lancashire—he did not say it was perfect; it could not be made perfect without more legislation, because any scheme of delegation, liberal as it might be, stereotyped education all over the county area, and that was a thing which ought to be avoided at all costs. This Bill, under Clause 1, Section 3, charged certain expenses on the locality after the county council had provided the minimum for education out of the general county rate; if a locality desired a better class of education, something more in conformity with the special needs of the particular part of the county, it could have that education under special arrangements. That would give elasticity and variety. They had counties which varied in all their characteristics, yet they had stereotyped education. Under this Bill they wanted to oblige reluctant county committees to come before the public of their counties and state their reasons why they objected to delegation, or what form of delegation they might object to. He thought if that were done and conferences were held in different parts of the county, as the Bill provided, there might be in the end agreement upon the needs of the county and the form of delegation that would best suit it. The promoters of the Bill did not desire to discredit county councils nor to weaken them. They desired really to strengthen the county councils by putting into the service of education under the county council bodies of men who knew the requirements of their districts and who would be full of zeal for the promotion of education. He had much pleasure in supporting the Second Reading.
§ COLONEL R. WILLIAMS (Dorsetshire, W.),
in supporting the Amendment said, he regarded the Bill as a retrograde proposal. It was quite true that in matters of administration the locality might well be consulted, but in the 1018 larger matters of education it seemed to him that the bigger the area they could get the better it was for education as a whole. It appeared to him that this Bill ran the risk of practically putting the whole administration of education into small instead of large areas, and that would not be to the advantage of the education of the country as a whole. It was said that by the Bill they would be drawing in persons acquainted with education who had now no place in its administration. But a Commission which had been considering this matter reported, after considering all sorts of schemes of devolution, that no one could be safely recommended for universal adoption, and that it ought to be left to the county councils themselves to work out in their own areas the form of devolution which was best suited to their interests. This Bill took away from county councils their elasticity of judgment and tied them down to one form of devolution only. Sir William Hart Dyke, in an interesting Memorandum at the end of the Report, dealt with the question of local committees, and dismissed at once the idea of elective bodies. It seemed to be the strongest condemnation of the proposal of the Bill that a large majority of these proposed new authorities should be elected members, elected for all sorts of purposes, of which education was usually the very last. If they would only let the scheme of delegation grow up gradually and entirely unfettered, it would grow in time as the counties got more into their work and not only felt that they had a grasp themselves which would give them power to deal with the smaller education authorities, but also, which was more important, they would be able gradually to feel that public opinion upon education had grown up so that there were people to whom they could safely delegate some of their powers. He was sure from what he could see in his own county that the class of persons to whom powers could be delegated was growing gradually and whereas four years ago any delegation would have been impossible, some sort of delegation might be quite possible in the future, because the class of persons interested in education was gowing- 1019 Meanwhile to make any hard and fast rule of delegation to certain local bodies only would not only lead to a dissipation of educational force, but in many cases to undue starving of education, would certainly multiply administrative difficulties, and retard and not facilitate the interests of education. Therefore he should vote against the Bill.
§ SIR EDWARD SASSOON (Hythe)
said that whatever the merits or defects of the Bill, it was a source of satisfaction to the House that a Bill relating to an important portion of education should be able to be debated without the incandescence and hot acrimony which Education Bills as a rule, unfortunately so abundantly generated, and without any partisan controversy. He thought the hon. Member for Wigan was right in his contention that to all intents and purposes, with certain insignificant exceptions suggested by experience, the Bill repeated a clause which was embodied in the Bill of 1906 relating to delegation of powers to minor authorities as that clause emerged after full and free deliberation in another place. He really did not see that anything that had happened since, should lead them to take a less favourable view of the principle and methods suggested in this Bill. He was therefore surprised that it should have received so much opposition on that side of the House. The Report of the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education dealt very exhaustively and comprehensively with the various methods adopted by different local education authorities in regard to entrusting minor authorities with educational power in their geographical areas. The zeal and the minuteness with which the investigations appeared to have been conducted, reflected the greatest possible credit on the permanent officials of that Department. The Board of Education had not had time to consider the Report, which said that nearly all the difficulties that had been suggested had been surmounted in those few counties where devolution had been adopted to the satisfaction of all parties concerned; and that as regarded the general principles which appeared to underlie any successful scheme of devolution, experience showed that local bodies would, as a rule, 1020 work better and be better manned if, in the first place, important and interesting duties were entrusted to them and, in the second place, they were given considerable executive powers in carrying out those duties and that this might be combined with the retention by the Education Committee of the ultimate control of the sub-committee's proceedings, although the exercise of that control might seldom be necessary. That successfully did away with the contention of the mover of the rejection that these subsidiary authorities might conceivably starve the schools committed to their care or that they would not carry out the enlightened progressive policy of the central board. They wanted to encourage these local authorities in remote districts, and it was practically certain that by doing so they would create a body of eager, efficient, and interested educationists. Speaking after the event, the reproach, if it was a reproach, that might be levelled at the Act of 1902 was that it rather erred on the side of excessive centralisation. It was true that that Act in reducing the number of education authorities from something like 3,300 to a little over 300 did a great deal to lighten and to simplify the labours of the Board of Education. But that result was only attained at the expense of local interest in education. The county councils, who were the local education authorities, were hard worked and hard working authorities. He happened to meet an alderman of the London County Council that morning who assured him he would be reduced to a skeleton owing to his having to sit up till one o clock in the morning doing committee work. Last year, for instance, by the Small Holdings Act new, and certainly at the outset very heavy and exacting duties had been placed on county councils. If this principle of devolution was considered desirable in 1906 it was all the more desirable now. By Clause 15 of the Small Holdings Act of 1907 local authorities were empowered to delegate powers to sub-committees, and by Clause 36 were able to appoint sub committees upon which local representation was very much to the fore. What they wanted in order to create real and effective local interest was to give the local committees further power. They 1021 wanted to evolve local pride in schools. They wanted them to have a local desire to look after the scholars, to have local patriotism, to see that the scholars gained scholarships and gained success in the world beyond. He very much feared that both local effort and local enthusiasm ran the risk of being considerably stifled by their being given no adequate scope for their activity. They wanted these schools to be known as "our schools" and the scholars as "our scholars" and not as county council schools and county council scholars. He believed the provisions of this Bill would revive all that local interest and local activity which had languished with the larger local efforts made on behalf of the schools. It might be argued that if the Board of Education Bill this year passed, it would so affect educational administration and so lighten the labours of the Education Committees, that this Bill would not be needed. But a slight consideration would show that this was not the case. Let them take it for granted for the sake of argument that a certain number of rural schools by some miraculous interposition of providence escaped the confiscatory proposals of the President of the Board of Education and that therefore the work of the Education Committee; would be lightened. That did not touch the case of a solitary county council school where the local education authority was too remote to take any cognisance of local sentiment and aspiration, and the very fact that a certain number of voluntary school surrounding that council school would get out of the control of the local education authority by contracting out would only tend to make the position of the council school more solitary and more isolated. His noble friend had laid considerable stress on the fact that in his opinion the effect of the Bill would be to increase considerably the cost of education. He might tell his hon. friend that at the present time what conduced very much to heavy rates was the fact that the local education authority had a great deal of cumbrous and tedious detail to attend to, whereas by some intelligent scheme like that proposed by this Bill he believed that by local effort a great deal of the cost of education 1022 now thrown upon the rates would be removed from the greater part of the schools. Let them take, for example, the expenses of travelling. They had the expenses of county inspectors and committee-men travelling to remote districts, and a great deal of that expense would be saved under the arrangements now proposed. Again, all those tiresome and tedious delays which occurred under the present system would be eliminated, and all the work and expense which now devolved upon the shoulders of officials swathed in sealing wax and adorned with red tape would be saved. The chairman of the Kent County Council he understood, was a strong advocate of the spirit underlying this Bill. In his own constituency they had cried their eyes out almost asking to be made an autonomous district. They complained bitterly that at present if they desired to purchase even a box of pencils they had to wait a fortnight in order to get the necessary sanction. That showed that local and county patriotism was being obliterated altogether from the administration of education. All this reminded him very much of the story of the station-master in one of the districts of Bengal who sent to headquarters a message: "Tiger romping about my office; please wire instructions immediately." His hon. friend had spoken about the compulsory character of the Bill. His experience was that unless they made these powers compulsory the local authorities would not formulate a scheme, because they would rather be without the responsibility of supervising its operations. That was one reason why he approved of the Bill. He thought the local authorities ought to go more in the direction of decentralisation than they seemed to have done up to the present. He was anxious to break down the bureaucratic barrier between the school and the people. They ought to try to enlist willing workers in the cause of local schools, and to encourage the people themselves to take more interest in the future of our young citizens. He was convinced that this Bill would carry out all those objects without in the slightest degree infringing or weakening the efficiency of the local education authorities. As regarded finance the raising of the rates, borrowing money, making by-laws, and dismissing, 1023 engaging or fixing the salary of teachers, they were matters which ought to be excluded from the purview of these subsidiary authorities. He believed that the practical and immediate effect of the Bill would be to give a local complexion, a bracing tone to education which he felt was lacking at the present time, and he therefore accepted this Bill with the greatest possible pleasure.
§ MR. ROGERS (Wiltshire, Devizes)
said his experience was that the real security for education lay with the county council and nowhere else. If any form of delegation was adopted it ought to be the managers of the schools themselves. In this connection, although he did not desire to raise a very controversial subject, he was bound to say that he thought a Bill of this kind making delegation possible ought to follow and not precede the general education proposals of the Government. One of the difficulties they now experienced in the counties, of delegating these powers to managers, was, as everybody recognised, the unrepresentative character of the managers, and the difficulty of giving very important powers to a body which was not elected. A very important paper containing a great deal of valuable evidence had lately been published in connection with this question of delegation. He had been looking through it in order to ascertain how the various systems of delegation now in practice were working, and he found that of the sixty-one counties reported upon twenty were now devolving authority to district local sub-committees, thirteen were devolving authority in regard to school attendance only, and twenty-two were following the practice of giving as much power as was consistent with the case to the managers of the schools themselves. The first criticism he had to make in regard to this Bill, and he ventured to think that, it was a most important matter, was that he could not understand why a system of delegation was required in Lancashire or in the West Riding, or why it should be forced upon a number of counties which were doing their work well now, where there was no friction at all, and where the present, method of working was best suited to the condition of those 1024 particular counties. If the promoters would agree to alter the first "shall" to "may," he would not offer any opposition, but as long as the House was being asked to consider a scheme of delegation which was not required in his county, so long he should oppose the Bill, and he hoped the House would reject it. What were the reasons why they objected to these powers of delegation? The hon. Member for Rochdale had suggested that delegation would bring the number of people who sent their children to schools into a much closer connection with the schools. He could assure the hon. Member for Rochdale and the hon. Member for Middleton, that there were a great many districts where they did not get the parents of poor children on a rural district council, which was very often the preserve of that class which was least of all friendly to education, viz., the tenant farmers. He wished to draw the attention of the House to some of the evidence contained in the Report to which he had referred. Some counties had made a great success of the devolution scheme, and some had found it a failure. Lancashire and the West Riding found it unsuccessful, Hampshire had abandoned it, and Kent was inquiring into it. Everybody engaged in education in the rural districts knew that the question of cost was of the greatest importance in regard to any system of administration. Out of twenty counties which had adopted the system of delegation, twelve had replied indefinitely and made no claim that the system had produced economy; one said there had been no saving, and five that it had increased their expenditure, whilst two only stated that the system had produced any economy. On the general ground as to the success or failure of their schemes, six were satisfied all round, and five were dissatisfied. In the face of that evidence it was by no means certain that any form of delegation produced economy or efficiency of administration, and it appeared to him that the circumstances, of counties were so wholly different that they had no right to attempt in any one Bill to force a system of delegation on both counties and boroughs alike. The county council of Hampshire had modified its scheme of delegation on the following grounds stated at page 39 of the Report 1025 of the Consultative Committee: (1) The system does not lead to economy or efficiency; (2) duties are duplicated, and work of central office is increased; (3) district sub-committees want to control finance, teachers' salaries, and other matters, and chafe at the supervision of the education committee and (4) the system tends to put managers at a greater distance from the education committee. The hon. Member for Hythe, speaking in support of the Bill, had expressed the hope that the effect of it would be to create a number of eager, interested, and efficient educationists. If they were going to have an elected authority—urban district council, rural district council, or ad hoc authority—consisting of eager, interested, and efficient educationists, it was certain that that body would wish for something to do. They would not be content with the powers proposed to be given to them by this Bill, and they would certainly chafe at the supervision of the education committee. He could not imagine anything more calculated to promote friction than to have two authorities apparently jointly responsible for work which was now done by one, and for which that authority accepted full responsibility and full criticism at the hands of its constituents. What were these local education committees going to do? The Bill excepted from delegation, first of all, anything relating to the teachers, and he agreed with that. It excepted all powers with respect to capital expenditure or rent on account of the provision or improvement of a public elementary school. In regard to school attendance he understood the Bill to provide that the local education committees would have powers, not only as to the making of by-laws, but also in deciding as to whether they were to prosecute or refrain from prosecuting. He could only say that his opposition to the Bill was greatly increased by hearing that it was proposed to give to these local committees the power to refrain from prosecuting. He strongly objected to the power of prosecuting or refraining from prosecuting for the non-attendance of children passing out of the hands of the county council authority. When all allowance had been made for red tape and bureaucracy, at any rate it could be said on behalf of the county council that 1026 it stood outside of the local influence which would affect the judgment of the committees proposed to be set up by this Bill. The county council had taken in the past a firm stand in the direction of securing the proper enforcement of attendance at schools. All over the country, not only in counties where a good deal had been done by delegation, but also in counties where the managers had only been asked to give advice in this matter, there had been a very great improvement in school attendance. In the matter of purchasing articles for the schools he believed that much greater economy was secured by the county council than was ever likely to be secured by any small local authority. If the local authority was to be told that they might order all the articles required, but that they must order them from certain firms, that did not seem to him to be very attractive or interesting work for the local authority to perform. Such matters as the appointment of caretakers, the payment of wages, the provision of fuel and gas, and the ordering of books and pens could, he believed, be more economically and efficiently dealt with by those who had that work to do at the present time. He would point out to hon. Members who were so anxious to secure the establishment of an ad hoc authority for educational purposes that if they went to all the trouble of erecting such an authority, they must inevitably give responsible powers considerably greater than those proposed to be conferred by this Bill. If these powers were given to an urban district council, there would immediately arise an agitation for more extended powers. The moment two authorities were set up there would be a division of responsibility, which in his judgment ought to rest on one authority alone. He believed they must either take the county authority for all purposes or take the smaller authority and make it entirely autonomous for educational purposes, just as was done in boroughs exceeding 20,000 inhabitants. He believed that the creation of any delegate authority between the managers and the county authority would be simply adding a fifth wheel to the coach, which in the great majority of cases was not wanted, and which in any case, it seemed to him, it was entirely undesirable that Parliament 1027 should impose on counties which did not want it. He had taken much interest in education, and since the passing of the Act of 1902 he had spent a great deal of time doing his best to advance the interests of education in his own county. The twenty-two counties which had not adopted the system of delegation had acted from good reasons; they were quite convinced that the way they were working now was best suited for the cause of education in their own districts.
§ MR. ADKINS (Lancashire, Middleton)
said he desired to call the attention of the House to the antecedents of this Bill. In the Government Bill two years ago a clause relating to delegation was introduced at the outset, and was frankly stated by the Minster for Education, to be a basis for discussion, and not as the final or complete form of the clause. The clause was modified during its passage through the House, and by an overwhelming majority it was sent to the other House where it was also considerably modified and passed by common consent without a division, the leaders of both political Parties acquiescing. The changes effected in the clause from its inception were those most in accordance with the desires of the county councils of England and Wales. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] He was not making that statement without having chapter and verse for it. After the Bill had left the House of Lords the Executive Council of the County Councils Association said that it was a most satisfactory termination to the labours of the association in connection with the question of delegation, the clause finally approved by the council forming part of the Bill as it left the House of Lords, and that it appeared as far as possible in the circumstances to have met in a large degree the views of those representing all sides of the question. That was the valediction of the County Councils Association in regard to the delegation clause as it left the House of Lords. The promoters of this Bill had now brought before the House the exact clause which received the imprimatur of Parliament two years ago. They did not, of course, argue that that which everyone agreed to two years ago should therefore be enacted to- 1028 day, but they did say that that which had been acquiesced in by both Houses, and which had been reported on in the words he had quoted by the County Councils Association, might very well receive a second Reading as the basis for further discussion and Amendment in Committee. There was nothing in the Bill to justify the House in refusing to give it a Second Reading, while there was much in it which ought to commend it to the support of educationists on both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Wiltshire had argued as if this were an attempt to force on Salisbury Plain the peculiar methods desirable for the West Riding of Yorkshire. The essence of the proposals of the Bill was that every county council should prepare a scheme for delegation after public inquiry, and that that delegation should have the elements of a representative character. All the rest of the Bill was a matter for Committee. He might go further; the Bill as it stood was in accordance with the judgment of this House and of the other House expressed two years ago, and it specifically excepted certain small counties. Every opportunity would be given in Committee to consider whether these exceptions were to be extended or not, and he thought his hon. friend would appreciate the difference between a county council "may" do a certain thing under a scheme and that it "shall" do such a thing. In reference to the conditions existing in the county of Wiltshire, he would like to know how far those conditions which commended themselves to the hon. Member commended themselves to the people of Wiltshire generally? This Bill had for one object to elicit the fact whether there was or was not a real public interest in the existing scheme in that county. He would like to refer to the very interesting Report by the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education which had been published on the previous day. Many hon. Members regretted that that Report had not been published a fortnight ago, so that its contents could have been more fully digested by Members in all parts of the House before this Bill came up for consideration. He had to thank the Consultative Committee for the trouble they 1029 had taken in the preparation of the Report. The classification of the schemes was exceedingly well done and was of the greatest possible value. But there was one part of the Report to which no one would give Pontifical authority until there were some means of testing it—he meant that part which dealt with the success or otherwise of delegation schemes and how far they might meet with public approval or not; for by some unfortunate accident there was nothing in the Report to indicate who were the people from whom they received their information. He understood that some of the questions which elicited the information had never been submitted to the local education authorities at all. He wished to say one word in regard to certain lines of criticism followed by the noble Lord the Member for South Birmingham, and the hon. Member for Devizes. They had been told that the proposals in the Bill would lead to expense. He had looked into the Report of the Consultative Committee in regard to this matter, and found over and over again the statement that the effect of delegation had already greatly decreased the work of the central office, and in view of that fact he did not think that the House would agree with the allegation that delegation would necessarily increase expense, or lead to the over-lapping of machinery. The County Councils Association the other day passed a resolution that they desired to offer no opposition to the Second Reading of the Bill, reserving to themselves full power to consider Amendments in Committee to render it more elastic.
§ MR. ADKINS
said that the majority was eight to five, a proportion which carried most things in this country, and was responsible for a great deal that was done in this House. There was ho evidence before the House that the county councils, as such, were opposed to the Second Reading of the Bill, although they retained the fullest right of criticism in Committee, and he wished to say that those who supported the Bill were most anxious that that right 1030 of criticism should be exercised. Their position was this. In this Bill they asked for a delegation scheme everywhere unless special reasons could be shown against it. They asked for public inquiry to ascertain how far public opinion was represented and satisfied with the scheme proposed. They asked for a representative element in the delegation body, and they said here as in the County Councils Association, that, while in the Bill as it stood they indicated only three forms of delegation, they would welcome further Amendments to extend the flexibility of the forms of delegation and to bring it into adjustment as far as possible with existing schemes which were working well, provided that they were in accordance with the spirit of the Bill. The supporters of the Bill had been asked by several Members what it was they aimed at delegating. At the present time the matter of school attendance in almost every county in England was delegated in practice, because it was impossible to compel the parents of children to journey twelve or more miles to the county town to make representations on that matter. It was referred in many counties to sub-committees which were technically committees of the county councils, because one or two members' names were upon them, but the meetings of these sub-committees were frequently attended by gentlemen who were not members of the county council, and consequently the clause in the existing Act was unworkable. Under the Bill the county councils were to prepare the schemes of delegation, and could they not trust those bodies not to delegate any matter except in cases in which, from several years experience, they were convinced that it was necessary to do so in the public interests? He would not support a Bill which forced on the county councils a particular form of delegation. What the Bill proposed was to put on the county councils the duty of preparing a scheme of delegation. The county council had a voice as to what was to be delegated. In regard to the working of the Bill, where they were dealing with merely rural districts, the actual delegation to be given at once might well be exceedingly small, but even in rural districts it was surely desirable that the locality should have 1031 some voice and some slight power in the control of the buildings, of the caretaker of the playground, and the question of holidays—those little daily incidents which loomed so large in the life of a village, but which theorists described as vary petty. They wanted these to be put into the hands of the actual locality so as to increase local interest in educational work. More important would be the work contemplated in counties where there were growing towns. From no fault of individuals local educational interest had died down since the passing of the Act of 1902, not because the inhabitants had deteriorated, or because the county council had not done all that they could do through officials of high ability and great industry, but because mere georaphical considerations had interfered with the work. By means of delegation it was proposed to create a local interest in educational matters free from dependence upon correspondence with a far-off official. The rural constitution of England with its small hamlets and villages and growing towns was permanent, and legislation could not alter it; but legislation could recognise the permanent facts of life in the country districts and growing towns and give them the power which would enable them to take a growing interest in and promote the efficiency of education. He asked the House to pass the second reading of the Bill, which would form a basis of discussion in Committee. As he had already said, the promoters would welcome in Committee any Amendment which would make the measure more flexible and more workable.
§ LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)
earnestly hoped that this Bill would not be allowed to pass. He re gretted that the lion. Gentleman who had just sat down did not do full justice to the Report of the Consultative Committee, but, as he said, the Paper was only placed in their hands yesterday. For himself he only got his that morning, and it had been impossible for all of them to master the contents of the document. The hon. Member called it an anonymous document.
§ MR. ADKINS
said he only applied the word anonymous to such phrases as 1032 "outside that, it is generally agreed," or "it is open to criticism;" He only applied it to expressions of that kind, and not to the document.
§ LORD BALCARRES
was glad to hear that. This, however, was not a question merely of facts and statistics. They must have opinions and opinions must be quoted. In this particular document they had the names of the people whose opinions were quoted. They knew in the first place who the members of the Consultative Committee were and the names of some twenty people who were to be consulted. The whole tendency of this Report, although it was drafted in a moderate and discreet spirit, was hostile to the present Bill. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."] Well, as he said, I none of them had had the time to consider the Report fully, but that was certainly the impression which was left on his mind.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said he could not remember Page 17 without looking it up, but no doubt when he had done so, if any quotations appeared the other way, he could find in other portions of the document conclusions which were against it, but the finding of the Committee was, and the whole tendency of it seemed to be, that local educational authorities should not be forced to delegate any of their powers. An hon. Member had quoted Lancashire as one of the counties in which the operations of this Bill would be specially beneficial. That was entirely a matter of opinion. He also represented Lancashire, and his opinion was that if this Bill passed it would do a great deal of injury and impede the progress of education in that county. There was a large scheme of devolution working there now. In some counties; there were two, a fact upon which he offered no opinion, but in Lancashire they had a very large and comprehensive scheme. These schemes some of them were only three years old, some of them only two years, as naturally when the Act was passed two or three years elapsed before the lines of the Act were thought out carefully, and meanwhile 1033 machinery was being prepared. All these things took a long time to mature, and it was only in the last two or three years, and he thought four in one case, that the local education authority had given its attention to delegation at all. [An HON. MEMBER: The scheme has been working five years.] He knew that there was a scheme proposed, but he did not think it had been in operation for more than three, three and a half, or four years. [An HON. MEMBER: It is five.] He was very familiar with the case and he would say four, but his recollection -was three and a half at the outside; but it was not a question of months, because these schemes must have a fair chance. The scheme in Lancashire was working with extraordinary success, and he did not know how it came about that the district of Middleton, which had been referred to, which was very well served with railways and other means of travelling, should find the delegation scheme work badly. It had been said that so far from progress being made there were districts in which the movement was retrograde. Such a state of things was very deplorable, but he did not think that they were going to put it right by scrapping the whole machinery which had begun to work admirably and by starting several local inquiries, because one inquiry was mo good. He did not think that by scrapping their machinery, which was good and working admirably, they would effect an improvement. The fact was that the people who were represented on local authorities and the local authorities themselves were desperately keen and in earnest in working successfully any Act which this House passed. But it was somewhat discouraging and disappointing that these schemes should be torn up from year to year, and that as soon as a scheme began to show promise it was altered. He most sincerely trusted that the Government would not accept this Bill. It was drafted as an adjunct of the Education Act of 1902, and when the Bill of the President of the Board of Education had passed, this Bill would become less appropriate than ever, because under it they were going to withdraw in certain, boroughs the control of the local education authority over the funds, the management, and the 1034 teachers, in the case of 95 per cent. if the school children. In a non-county borough the majority of the schools might be re-transferred to the trustees and become voluntary schools again, and what was the use under those circumstances telling local authorities to make a scheme of delegation? It would be much better to wait until this new scheme was passed before applying such a Bill as this to the Education Act of 1902.
§ LORD BALCARRES
replied that it applied to sixty or eighty boroughs below that figure. He was quite certain that they ought to wait until the main Bill was passed before they dealt with a part of the question. He hoped the Government would take into consideration the fact that there were counties where they were doing their best to delegate. Lancashire had, he believed, delegated more than was contemplated under this Bill, but they were doing it in their own way. He hoped that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, even if he accepted the principle of the Bill, would make this concession, that where a local education authority with or without public inquiry satisfied the Board in London that their scheme which was actually in operation was a good scheme the Board would thereupon contract them out of the operations of this measure. Although he had no great admiration for the Board of Education in its administrative capacity, still he thought that power should be vested in that Board to say under such circumstances that the operation of the Act need not apply. He commended that suggestion to the Parliamentary Secretary, and even if the hon. Gentleman agreed to the Second Reading of the Bill, which he personally should not be prepared to support, it would go a long way to meet the genuine opposition to the measure, if he could undertake that some course should be carried out which would provide that this Bill should not apply to cases in which the local education authorities were already doing their utmost.
§ MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said he would not detain the House many minutes, but having all his life been interested in education and having served on school boards so long as they were permitted to enjoy school boards, which were the most valuable popular institutions in this country, he wished to say a few words. He desired to support the Second Reading of this Bill in the hope that it would be the means of restoring interest in education to the people in the rural districts. He was a member of the county council in the county in which he lived, and in East Suffolk they had 241 schools. He often felt, in sitting upon the education committee of that county council, that they were in a very unfit position to deal with that great number of schools scattered over a large geographical area when the great bulk of the schools they had never even seen. Then taking his position as a local manager of a village school which used to be under a school board, there he found himself in this difficulty, that when as managers they did assemble they bad no powers. Their duty was to see that the fires were duly lighted, that the school was swept, and little matters of that kind, but really their powers were so ridiculously small that they hardly thought it worth while to assemble at all, whereas when that school was a board school they had a real interest in it and did their level best to help it and improve it in every way. For his part he was very sorry that the school boards had been destroyed. He regarded their destruction as a great crime committed against the people of this country. He had hoped that when this new Parliament assembled it would restore the school boards and make them universal, but as they had not yet arrived at that happy stage he wished that the educational system that we had now should be so modified as to re store to the people in the villages a living interest in the schools where their children went. If there was some power of devolution and under it some grouping of village school, they would, by having a group of schools in an accessible area be able to get a good selection by popular vote of people competent to manage schools and having a real interest 1036 in them, and they would also be sufficiently strong as delegated bodies over those areas to have given to them from the central council some real power which would give them some interest in the work. That in his view was the object which would be accomplished by this Bill, and if they gave it a Second Reading and allowed it to-become an Act of Parliament they would to a certain extent restore some of the privileges and responsibilities that they had lost. Undoubtedly under the old system many of their school boards were too small, and the area did not afford a sufficient number of people taking a sufficient interest in the school. But now if the county councils divided their districts they could get reasonably sized areas with four or five schools in each and in that area they could choose a kind of school board eminently suitable for its work, all the members of which would be in close touch with the schools and with the county council members, some of whom would be on each of these groups. When a member went to sift on a county council education committee he would be under those circumstances dealing with a larger number of schools with which he was familiar than he was at present and be able to discharge his duties there with more efficiency. He could not help thinking that if the House would sanction these powers to the county council to make devolution, they should restore some of the old school board spirit in the various districts of the council, and enlist the efforts of all friends of education to make the schools more efficient and so to assist in the work of education in this country.
§ SIR PHILIP MAGNUS (London University)
said that one interesting feature of the debate was that the discussion I had been carried on so far without any reference to different parties. Members on both sides of the House had spoken for and against the Bill, and that was the spirit in which he ventured to think the discussion on educational questions should be carried on in this House. He thought he might say that everyone on both sides of the House was in general sympathy with the principle underlying the Bill. They were all in favour, he believed, of 1037 some scheme of devolution and delegation by means of which the children in the elementary schools might be brought more closely under the direction of those who had to conduct those schools. Any difference that might exist between them arose on the question of the necessity of legislation at the present time, and with reference to that point he would like to refer to what the hon. Baronet the Member for Hythe said to the effect that Sir William Hart-Dyke was in favour of this measure. Sir William Hart-Dyke in the Report of the Consultative Committee distinctly expressed himself in favour of the general principle of devolution, but he said that "he believed that it would be most difficult to make any drastic change in administration without risking a considerable increase in expenditure." In his own county he was certain "that it would be an expensive experiment to try devolution at this time, although in principle he was its warm advocate." What Sir William Hart-Dyke said expressed the view of many hon. Members. They were in favour generally of the principle of this Bill, but they felt hat there would be great difficulties in working it out and satisfying all those interested. He could not say that the arguments used that day would induce many Members to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. Its supporters had been most apologetic in urging the Second Reading upon the House; they had expressed their willingness to alter it in nearly every particular, and he always felt that when a Bill was introduced to the House and they were asked to vote for the Second Reading on the understanding that when it got into Committee they might drastically alter all the clauses it contained, making it quite a different Bill from what it was, one naturally asked whether there was any necessity whatever to introduce the Bill, and whether a real case had been made out for the Second Reading. For his own part he did not think such a case had been made out. It was said by the hon. Member for Middleton that the Bill was practically a clause contained in the Bill of 1906, and reproduced that clause with such alterations as were made in it in another place, and although not pressing the 1038 argument too far he certainly urged that that might be a reason for accepting the Second Reading now. He would own that he was one of those who gave a qualified approval to that clause in the Bill of 1906 when it was discussed in Committee. Many others did the same, but they expressed their approval of that clause as a part of the Bill of 1906 and not as a separate measure. Having regard to the general clauses of that Bill and to the increased powers it was likely to confer upon local authorities, they were disposed to accept a clause which devolved upon local bodies certain of the powers imposed under that particular Bill on local authorities, but they were not in the least committed thereby to support the present measure. Indeed, the whole of the circumstances were changed. As was pointed out by the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill, during those two years they had gained considerable experience. The Act of 1902 was found to be working generally with considerable smoothness. The officers appointed to carry out that Act had got into the saddle and generally expressed their ability to carry out its provisions without any special difficulty. The Act was working with ease and without any friction, and he believed that if the opportunity could be given for the educational machinery of the country to be carried on under that Act for some little time longer, it would be a very great advantage to the country. But what many of the supporters of this Bill did not appear to understand was that under the Act of 1902 not only could the principle of devolution be carried into effect, but that it had actually been carried into effect, and was operating with considerable success. He would read a few words from page 6 of the Report of the Committee which yesterday came into their hands—Out of the sixty-one councils concerned, thirty-two have appointed local sub-committees It is evident, therefore, that under the existing law it is possible to frame devolution schemes, of great variety and extent. When this is done local bodies are the form which are at once subcommittees of the education committee and bodies of managers.Having regard to the ease with which devolution was now carried out, one really could not see that any case had been made out for the Second Reading 1039 of the measure before the House. On page 19 of that important Report they had a classification of the returns received for those sixty-one counties, and it appeared that twenty had appointed local committees which acted as sub-committees to whom had been entrusted various powers and duties. Whether or not this Bill would have been necessary if the Bill of 1906 had been carried, it was practically certain that it was not essential to the quiet working of the educational machinery at the present time. If they were to introduce this complicated and new machinery at the present time they would be doing a great deal towards upsetting the arrangements by which the administration of education was now being carried on. He ventured to think that during the last six years there had been too much discussion in that House of the administration of education, and too little of education itself, and he firmly believed that our educational work would be more efficient, and that progress would be more accelerated if the Speaker had the power to put his veto upon the introduction in that House of any so-called Education Bill during the next five or seven years. All who took a real interest in education felt that what we, wanted was a period of repose—to be left alone for a little while and not to have the machinery of education constantly changed or proposed to be changed by revolutionary measures such as had been introduced. There was plenty of good work to be done in education itself, and what was needed was sufficient rest for the development and advancement of that work on purely educational lines. The Bill proposed in Clause 1(1), to make it compulsory upon local authorities to prepare schemes of devolution, notwithstanding the fact that a large number of authorities had prepared schemes on their own account, and further that such schemes must be submitted for approval to the Board of Education. It had already been shown that no uniformity of scheme was likely to command general assent. There must be difference as regarded the duties and functions to be delegated, and there must be also variety in the constitution of the bodies to whom such functions 1040 were to be delegated. He said, with all respect to the Parliamentary Secretary of the Board who sat opposite him, that he was not in favour of adding to the powers or administrative duties of the Board of Education, and the necessity of determining whether any scheme was satisfactory or not would add considerably to the administrative work of the Board. He would prefer to see the Board relieved to some extent of the administrative functions which it had been called upon to discharge during the last six years, and able to apply itself to some of those important educational problems now awaiting solution. But there was another objection to the clause he had mentioned, and that was that when a scheme had been approved by the Board of Education it became under this Bill practically an Act of Parliament and was to that extent unalterable. At the present moment under the schemes prepared by the several local authorities, the sub-committee and the committee worked together in a friendly spirit, but if a scheme became practically equivalent to an Act of Parliament, he believed that considerable friction would arise between the county and local authorities. It had been pointed out by one of the speakers that under this Bill there would be only one form of delegated body; but that was not the case, because he found that there were alternatives, and that the body to whom these functions were to be delegated might be constituted in one of three ways. In accordance with one of those alternatives the body might be constituted by an election ad hoc,and that he considered to be one of the most objectionable parts of the whole Bill, because if they once introduced the system of election ad hoc in small parishes they would be reproducing all the disadvantages which attached to the old parochial school boards. For that reason, if for no other, he ventured to think that that they might object to the Bill in principle. Whilst the Consultative Committee did not express any very strong opinion as regarded the necessity of devolution, they distinctly pointed out that there were advantages and disadvantages in any scheme that could be introduced, and he could find nothing from beginning to end of the Committee's Report which 1041 would give any support whatever to this Bill, which would make it obligatory on all the local authorities to propound a scheme of delegation whether they liked it or not. That seemed to him to be one of the fundamental objections to the Second Reading of the Bill. It appeared to him that its supporters had not made out any case for its necessity, that they had overlooked the fact that the local authorities under the Act of 1902 already possessed adequate powers of preparing delegation schemes, that those powers had been put into force, and that in very many localities the schemes were working satisfactorily. It seemed to him that the Bill would introduce considerable friction. He thoroughly agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Chorley that if such a Bill as this was necessary at any time it certainly was least necessary at the present time, when they were considering a new Education Bill of a revolutionary character. He could not but feel that if that Education Bill should ever become law, and if under such an Act two-thirds of the existing elementary schools might be removed from the purview and control of local authorities, there would be far less necessity even than there was at present for the delegation of any of the powers now vested in county authorities to subordinate committees. He thought the House would be well advised to defer the further consideration of the Bill until the Education Bill had been discussed, and until they knew whether or not the existing educational machinery was to undergo the vast revolutionary change which it would have to undergo if that Bill became an Act of Parliament. He, therefore, could not support the Bill before the House.
§ MR. VERNEY (Buckinghamhire, N.)
said he desired to support the Bill, although perhaps in all its details he would not be entirely in accord with it. He considered that the principle underlying the Bill was admirably stated in a part of the Committee's Report which had not been quoted that afternoon. In the last paragraph on page 17 of that most interesting and valuable Report it said—As regards the general principles which appear to them to underlie any successful 1042 scheme of devolution, the Committee consider that experience shows that local bodies will, as a rule, work better and be better manned, if, in the first place important and interesting duties are entrusted to them, and if, in the second place, they are given considerable executive powers in carrying out those duties. These might be given combined with the retention by the education committee of the ultimate control of their sub-committee's proceedings, although the exercise of that control might seldom be necessary.It seemed to him that a great number of those who had spoke a on the Bill had not read that part of the memorandum of the Bill which mentioned in the last clause that—Certain powers are specially excluded from delegation, but subject to this proviso and to some qualifications, the county councils will lay down in their schemes what powers they will delegate, what shall be the areas of delegation, and how the local education committees are to be constituted, and the schemes need not be uniform even throughout the county.It seemed to him that the hon. Member who spoke last could hardly have had that in his mind when he talked of the reconstitution of what would practically be school boards for small, insignificant localities, which he fully agreed came utterly to grief in many cases owing to the smallness of the locality and because the people could not be found to discharge the very important duties which were required even in small localities. He would like to deal with a criticism which had been very generally advanced, and that was the criticism against compulsion in the creation of those schemes. That seemed to him to fall to the ground when they remembered that the county councils under this Bill were under no compulsion to produce the same scheme even for different parts of their own county, and therefore the criticism as regarded compulsion hardly came in with very great force, because it—
§ MR. VERNEY,
continuing, said that no doubt they had, but they had not got all the powers given under this Bill. The county councils now had very important powers, but the fact that they had not been very generally exercised pointed to the desirability, not of a 1043 revolutionary scheme, but of an evolutionary scheme, such as that proposed in the Bill. He could not understand how the noble Lord the Member for South Birmingham supposed for a moment that nothing would be gained educationally by the Bill. To his mind there was a great educational advantage in getting members of sub-committees in small localities to take that personal interest in education which the old school boards took—a personal interest which gave an enormous stimulus to education all over the country, and he would not allow that that stimulus was given in towns only, as he was a personal witness of the extraordinary stimulus given in some of the county districts by school boards, with eminently successful results. He ventured to say that, because he had regarded with unmitigated dislike, and even disgust, the abolition of the school boards, which he thought did untold harm, and particularly in two directions. In the one direction it did harm because it dismissed without reason and without thanks, many thousands of people who had devoted the best part of their lives to educational interests in their own immediate localities; that was one piece of mischief, and he doubted whether in the history of this country any body of public servants so useful, so extremely energetic and enthusiastic, were ever dismissed in such an un courteous way, and with so little reason. He believed that no one could find a body of men who on the whole did better service to their country in the cause of education, and never had public servants been dismissed for so slight a reason and in so unchivalrous a manner. In the next place, what did the abolition of the school boards do? It abolished the be it form of local machinery for exercising parental control where it was most wanted. The cry went up from the other side of the House for more parental control, but when was it abolished? Why, with the school boards. Those school boards gave an opportunity to the parents in the various localities to have a word, and a very important word, as to how the school to which the law compelled their children to go should be managed in various important particulars. That was the advantage of the school boards, and that advantage they hoped to see 1044 revived, and they had very good hope that it would be, because many Members on both sides of the House were united in the desire for more parental control. He rejoiced in that, and he would gladly support any well considered scheme by which parental control would be once more established. That was one of the objects he had in mind in supporting a scheme of devolution. One hon. Member had said: "Take out all the more important and interesting duties which it is proposed under this Bill should be given by devolution, and what have you left? Nothing worth keeping, and so the best plan is to get rid of the Bill altogether." He would quite agree with the hon. Member that if they took out everything of interest and importance and gave no responsibility to the local committee, the sooner they got rid of the Bill the better, but there was no intention of doing that. It was said that they were going to set up a co-ordinate control, but that he utterly and entirely denied. That was not his reading of the Bill at all. He believed that all these bodies would not be co-ordinate but subordinate, and he thought they should be subordinate. At all events the ultimate financial control could never be safely left to the smaller bodies. The rating power must remain with the county councils, and wherever that power remained there must be the ultimate financial control. He thought there was only one sound theory with regard to the appointment and dismissal of teachers. Teachers performed a great national and Imperial service. Surely they would all agree that their great object should not be in any way to diminish the importance of that service, but to make the teaching profession of such a kind that it should enlist the ambitions of the very best of the population, and that they should be able to rise in that profession as men could in any other profession worthy of this great country. There was one thing in the Bill that he was afraid of and that he hoped would be modified. He did not want to see, at all events, the dismissal of teachers put into the hands of any small local body, but he would at least like an appeal to be left to the county councilor even in certain cases, to the Beard of 1045 Education. Whoever were the employers of the teachers should be able to dismiss them. He did not so much mind the appointment of teachers being left in the hands of smaller bodies, but he did object to their dismissal being left in any hands but those of the county council itself in the final resort.
§ MR. VERNEY
Then I apologise for mentioning the matter. Continuing, he said that on the whole he earnestly desired that the Bill should pass Second Reading. He was very far from thinking it as perfect as it would be made after it had gone through Committee, but still he thought the principle of devolution was most important and well worth the accepance of the House, and he sincerely hoped the Bill would be accepted on that ground.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said it had been a very friendly discussion, and he would not enter into the controversy suggested by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire as to whether the School Board of the Act of 1870 or the new education authority of the Act of 1902 was the better authority to deal with the education of the children of this country. He thought they were all agreed that delegation in some form or other was desirable. He had from the first maintained that unless the local authorities created under the Act of 1902 did delegate their functions freely and largely in many cases, they would not carry out the purpose for which they were constituted and would not promote the education of the children to the best advantage. There were two great objects desired to be obtained by delegation. The one was local knowledge, a knowledge of the local conditions, and the other was personal interest in the education of the children. He did not mean that local knowledge and that personal interest which would lead, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, to the appointment of a jerry-builder to manage the fabric of the school, because he was one's cousin, but the sort of knowledge which enabled the authorities, delegated or otherwise, to ascertain what kind of 1046 education was most adapted to a particular locality, and the sort of personal interest which would stimulate the delegated authority to watch the children and see that their education was carried on as far as possible, and that when it ceased every opportunity was found for the children to take advantage of it in after-life. What he feared was that if they did not get that sort of delegation, the organisation of their education would become mechanical, pass into the hands of the secretary to the local authority and become a matter of administrative routine, and that there would be a consequent loss of efficiency, though he was bound to say that after reading the Report of the Committee, he doubted as to whether he had been right in thinking that there would be a loss of economy. For all those reasons he had always been an upholder of the principle of delegation or devolution. But in framing any scheme of devolution, various features, geographical among others, must be regarded. Anyone who looked at the map would see how differently the different counties were situated as to the form which delegation might assume at one end or the other. It might be rural at one end and urban at the other, and even where a county was wholly rural the conditions of agriculture might be different. Where it was wholly urban the conditions of industry might be different, and therefore they had to have regard to the geographical conditions. They must also look at the means of communication. In certain counties the communication was so good that the central authority could keep a much greater personal control over the smaller bodies than in other counties. They had to consider also all the local varieties of requirements of the different parts of the area, and lastly there was a point as to which the Consultative Committee had called attention, which he thought was too often forgotten and which he was bound to say had passed from his mind until he read the Committee's Report, and that was the educational history and traditions of a particular area. All those things must be borne in mind in working out a scheme of delegation for any particular area. What did that point to? They must avoid so far as possible in any legislation 1047 dealing with this subject, insistence on uniformity; they must provide for elasticity to the utmost extent possible consistent with the firm grip which the central local authority ought to have over the whole of the education in its area. What was the existing machinery for carrying out that object? He thought it was too often ignored that the Act of 1902 provided in two ways for considerable powers of delegation. There was, under Schedule 1A of that Act power given to local education authorities to create sub-committees more or less composed of members of the local education authority itself. The only requirement was that there must be some representative of the local education authorities on those sub-committees, and to those sub-committees very large powers indeed had been delegated, and there they had a machinery ready to hand, elastic, capable of being used, and practically used, by a great many local authorities at the present moment. Then again the managers of a council school were the creatures of the local education authority, which might reduce them to absolute nonentity or entrust them with very large powers of management. There again was a power applicable to elementary education and applied, as they learnt from this report, very largely throughout the country. How was the existing machinery working? They found that the local education authorities had applied both those forms of machinery in different ways in different counties and with different results, but no one could read that Report—a most interesting and valuable Report it was—without seeing that the whole matter was still in the region of experiment, and that there was one conclusion which the Committee drew, viz.—They consider that in view of the widely differing circumstances of the various counties it would be difficult, if not impossible, to devise any uniform system which would give general satisfaction throughout the country.Now uniformity was the cardinal principle of the Bill, and though with its object he entirely sympathised, he took exception to the whole scheme and purport of the Bill. What was the history of the measure? In the course of the long and weary discussions in the summer 1048 of 1906, they alighted upon a somewhat crude, if he might be allowed to say so, delegation clause in the Bill of that year. The hon. Member for the Middelton Division produced a very long delegation clause of his own. The Government, although approving of the principle of it, were not prepared to accept its details, and in a day or two they knocked up a delegation clause of their own. It was an impromptu effort, and for an impromptu effort was a very creditable performance, but they had heard that, as in the case sometimes of impromptu utterances, it contained many things which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education would now wish to have expressed otherwise. This clause with all its defects now appeared as a separate Bill. The defects were many and obvious. It laid a very heavy burden upon local education authorities, who were bound, within a given time, to conduct local inquiries and produce schemes. They could not conduct their inquiries and produce these schemes without considerable expenditure of time, and it had to be borne in mind that several things had happened since 1906; as, for instance, the passage of the Small Holdings Act which had thrown very heavy additional burdens upon local authorities. Then the Act which enforced medical inspection had also thrown upon them additional burdens, and after all, there was some limit to the demands they were entitled to make upon that unpaid labour which was so freely given by those who served upon county councils. He really thought that, at this moment, to call upon local authorities to enter upon a prolonged process of investigation and construction, of schemes to be submitted to the Board of Education for approval was throwing too heavy a burden upon them. Then the delegation, when they had got it, was bound to assume one of three forms, to every one of which he thought objection could be taken—indeed, not one of them was so satisfactory as the subcommittees which could be formed under the Act of 1902. What were they? The first was the parish council, which, in effect, would revive the rural school board. With every respect to the school boards which had passed away, he did not think 1049 the rural school board was a favourable specimen. He had heard those who were the most strenuous advocates of the school board system say that the extension of the educational area brought about by the Act of 1902 was a really beneficent feature of the Act, and to revive the rural school board, as an educational area seemed to him an unfortunate thing to do. What was the next? It was practically the rural sanitary authority. Had it any educational interest whatever? Would not any person say that if there was an elected body whose interests were uneducational, it was the rural sanitary authority? Yet that was the second body to whom the local education authority might delegate its educational powers. What was the third? It was a conglomerate body, a mixture of the parish council, the rural sanitary authority, and outside persons nominated by the local education authority. Presumably that would be a body of some considerable size and influence. There was some risk that it might come into conflict with the local education authority itself, but, at any rate, he could not admit that the composition of any one of the three proposed delegation bodies was at all a promising body to carry out what the hon. Member for the Middleton Division thought would be brought about, viz., the golden age of the development of an educated democracy. There was another objection to the Bill. It would destroy all the existing schemes of the local educational authorities all over the country by which they were working to ascertain how best to economise by delegating some of their functions. All there schemes would be set aside and the local education authorities would be compelled to provide new schemes of delegation to any one of three bodies, every one of which was wholly unfitted for the purpose. There was no doubt that these delegated bodies might add to the expense of education. The letter of Sir William Hart-Dyke, a portion of which had been read by his hon. friend, the Member for the City of London, was very much to the point. Sir William Hart-Dyke was a strong advocate of delegation, but so far as his experience went he dreaded the risk of extravagance arising from the delegated authorities not 1050 keeping such a close supervision over the expenditure of the money allotted to them as was exercised by the local education authority. If there was one body of persons to whom they ought to look for the care and supervision of the interests of the children, for information as to what needed to be done, and in what way the interests of the children and education should be promoted, it was to the managers of the schools, but the managers throughout the county were to be superseded, and to supersede managers of schools by any one of the proposed delegated authorities struck him as a singularly unfortunate feature in the Bill. He thought they ought not, under any circumstances, to apply compulsion to the local education authorities who were exercising the powers entrusted to them with energy, with acumen, and with some hope of working out schemes in the interests of education in their areas. If they were to legislate on this subject at all—he would much rather allow the scheme to be worked out, and wait until the local education authorities asked for legislation—it should be permissive and should widen the powers of the local education authorities to constitute delegation areas and bodies for themselves, and in that way to give them the capacity for proceeding more freely than now with the work of delegating educational duties in their areas. In considering this measure they had now what they had not in 1906, they had two-more years experience of the Education Act of 1902, and they had information on the subject, accumulated and digested in the report to which reference had been made. He asked the Government to profit by their experience and to profit by the information now before them. He did not for a moment regard it as a party question, and he would ask the Government to allow their second thoughts, which were sometimes, and very often, the best, to take effect in their treatment of the Bill. The clause of the Bill of 1906 was a chicken which had come home to roost, and it did not appear to be very-welcome in its domicile of origin. He asked the Government so to deal with this Bill that, if they were prepared to accept the Second Reading at all, it 1051 should be subject to the most careful consideration, and with every opportunity of introducing Amendments widening the powers of local authorities instead of narrowing them. In other words, they should be carrying on instead of retarding and sterilising the work done during the last two, three, or four years in the way of devolution. The counties were doing useful work, and might go on doing more useful work if they were not embarrassed and hindered by legislation such as that adumbrated in this Bill.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Mr. LOUGH,) Islington, W.
This is the second time, in two successive years, that hon. Members sitting behind the Government have rifled the tomb in which the Education Bill of 1906 was buried, not only for an idea on which some proposal might be framed, but for actually the precise form of words in which the idea was embodied, and they have presented it in that shape again to this House. Now, although this is very complimentary to the Bill of 1906 and to the Government, it is on several grounds an inconvenient practice. One might suppose, for example, that the tomb in which the Bill of 1906 is buried would be considered the property of the Government, and that, if any recourse were to be had to it for practical legislation, the Government alone would be entitled to make it. In the present case, it must be remembered that the section of our former Bill, which my hon. friend now presents to the House, is not in the least like the clause which the Government originally introduced. That Clause was swept aside to make way for a much larger proposal, something in the nature of that which we are considering to-day, and my hon. friend who moved the Second Reading of the Bill no doubt played a very strong card against the Government when he said, "This clause is your own Bill, and surely you cannot refuse the Second Reading to-day." The hon. Member who has just sat down dealt rather delicately with the position. What took place when this Bill was submitted in 1906 is well worth remembering. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition spoke upon it, and said there 1052 appeared to be on both, sides of the House a real desire to increase the power of delegation. So the Leader of the Opposition blessed the clause [An HON. MEMBER: No.] Well, he partly blessed the object of the clause. Then the hon. Gentleman who represents the University of Oxford also spoke on the Bill of 1906, and he said: "I have always been in favour of delegation."
§ MR. LOUGH
The point is this, that the hon. Gentleman expressed no hostility to the proposal in 1906; he did not divide against it; he accepted the clause then. One step further, to show the inconsistency of hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. The hon. Member for London University likewise spoke, and though we have ringing in our ears his words of denunciation of the Bill to-day, yet he spoke in favour of it in 1906. What excuse has he? He says circumstances have changed and that it was part of a great scheme of education.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said he quite admitted that he had said that he was in favour of delegation, but he would like to ask the hon. Gentleman whether they had an opportunity of fully discussing the clause under the closure.
§ MR. LOUGH
There was a very long discussion on the whole question, and I do not think it was under the closure. Ample opportunity of discussion was given, and hon. Gentlemen opposite in almost every case expressed opinions which they are not willing to make good to-day. I ask for a little consistency on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I believe that when they have had time for reflection they will become of better mind and vote in support of the Bill. The only other hon. Gentleman opposite I desire to quote is the noble Lord the Member for Chorley, who did not go so far as to offer any opposition to the clause. Then, again, this larger proposal was greatly amended in another place, and the House of Commons never had an opportunity of considering those Amendments. It must also be remembered that the Government approached 1053 this question of decentralisation in 1906, under very great difficulties. There had been only about two years' experience of the Act of 1902, and this short period did not enable an exact judgment to be arrived at with regard to what amendments of that measure might be wisely adopted. Now, however, we have had nearly two years' more experience, and in this period the Board of Education has not been idle. It directed the Consultive Committee, which is a most valuable part of the organisation of the Board, to consider and advise what methods would be desirable and possible, under existing legislation, for securing greater local interest in the administration of elementary education, and the Report of the Committee, which has just been presented, must be regarded as a document of the greatest value in considering the present Bill. I recognise the kindly way in which the Report has been received. There has been only one speech conceived in a different spirit. The hon. Member used some very strong words against the Report. He tried to hit it in vital parts and he was particularly unhappy in the precise illustration that he took. He said, "What steps have the Committee taken to acquire information? What witnesses have they examined? The steps are fully set out in the Report. They sent a form of inquiry to every local education authority. Then the hon. Member mentioned Lancashire and said, "What information did the Committee get from Lancashire?" The chairman of the Lancashire education authority, Sir Henry Hibbert, was a member of the Committee and himself gave evidence. There was also a most valuable witness from Northampton. I will appeal to hon. Members on this side to say whether, when they remember that the chairman of the Committee is Mr. Arthur Acland, one of the greatest educational reformers perhaps in this country, whose work we on this side of the House appreciate and honour, and that the Committee includes gentlemen like Mr. Henry Hobhouse, Sir William Hart-Dyke, and Mr. Ernest Gray, all past Members of this House, and the hon. Member for North-east Lancashire, a fair case has not been made out for recognising that the Board of Education did everything it could to get a useful and valuable 1054 Report. The Report speaks for itself. I do not wish to pass away from it without expressing on behalf of the Board of Education its hearty thanks to this Committee, one of those voluntary bodies which form a most useful part of the organisation of the Board, for the lengthy time they devoted to this stupendous work which is only one of two or three large tasks that they have in hand at present, and I should like to say on behalf of the Board that they highly appreciate the way in which the work was done. How far does this Report support the principle of the Bill? The Report says that the best way to assist the House of Commons is to state what is going on at present, and if more attention had been paid to questions of fact which the Report brought forward than to the arguments which appear in the documents or which hon. Members chose to read into it, the House would have benefited more from the study of the Report. What does the Report do? Let me ask the question in connection with the principle of delegation. The Report says that even under the restrictions of the present law there is a great deal of decentralisation carried on. The Bill is a very mild and moderate Bill, which does not propose to delegate any particular duty to any particular body. But the Report says that very onerous and important duties had been delegated with perfect safety in many counties. It proceeds to describe the various bodies that had been set up. Perhaps I may enumerate two or three important ones. It first explains that this necessity of decentralisation has been met in many counties by entrusting large powers to the managers of the schools, and it passes a very high eulogy on the management of schools, which I was glad to see supported by the hon. Member who has just sat down, and with which I entirely agree. It says that the managers must be people who are in touch with the actual life of the schools, and it is essential that they should be regarded with confidence and sympathy by parents and teachers and by the local authority. In many counties you find the bodies of managers have been entrusted with very large powers under the Act of 1902, and the curious thing is that that Act does not state a single power which should be entrusted to the managers of the provided schools. Yet very large powers had been 1055 so entrusted. In every ease the Committee reports that the result of this decentralisation has been satisfactory.
§ VISCOUNT MORPETH
I am sorry to interrupt, but I think the hon. Gentleman is going rather far when he says in every case. In four cases out of eight it is an admitted failure, especially in West Sussex.
§ MR. LOUGH
I do not know whether the noble Lord heard a sentence I used a moment or two ago. I was going to describe the three heads under which decentralisation is carried on at present, and now I am speaking of decentralisation to managers of schools. This exists in twenty-two cases, and I believe that in every case it is found to work satisfactorily. However, as the noble Lord has questioned it, I will state the opinions of a few counties with regard so it. Take Bedford, which has no other form of delegation but this to managers. It is a small county desirous of maintaining a high uniform standard of education, and it finds delegation to the managers perfectly satisfactory. Buckinghamshire, with 245 schools and a population of 170,000, thinks it "best to give considerable powers to managers and deal directly with them. District sub-committees would be a bar to efficiency." Cambridgeshire, with 134 schools, expresses the same opinion. Cumberland objects to interposing a third body, although there are 256 schools and a population of 175,000. Hereford with 130 schools says, "delay and increased cost would be caused by devolution." Leicestershire, Wiltshire, and Middlesex state that, "considerable discretion is given to managers", and Suffolk that "devolution is neither desirable nor necessary "although it has 141 schools. Under the first Schedule of the Act of 1902, it is possible to set up subcommittees in geographical areas, and thirty-three counties altogether have taken this step. Thirteen of these, however, have only granted powers with regard to school attendance, and that strikes me as rather interesting, because we heard to-day that the duties connected with school attendance could not safely be delegated. The answer is that they are delegated at present, largely and successfully in many cases, and I believe in the very county of Staffordshire which 1056 was mentioned, the good results quoted by the hon. Member for the division of that county in the increased attendance at the schools have been largely secured by obtaining the assistance of these subcommittees in local areas. You can easily reconcile a wide principle of decentralisation with the retention of control. In the twenty other counties where subcommittees have been set up very wide powers have been given. They not only include the appointment of managers and teachers, and regulations with regard to school accommodation, but suggestions with regard to school affairs, school supplies, the grouping of schools, the renting of school buildings, and the fixing of holidays. I ask the House to think for a moment what the restricted demands of the Bill are in comparison with the powers actually exercised at present. There can be no suggestion made with regard to by-laws by these now bodies under the Bill, no capital expenditure incurred, and no teacher dismissed or engaged. But in the decentralisations in the systems which exist at present, in two counties, Cheshire and Derbyshire, these sub-committees are asked to make suggestions with regard to by-law. In others they are allowed to spend a good deal of money, and in no fewer than twenty-five counties they are enabled to dismiss and engage teachers. This proves that in the necessary work of education throughout the country it has been found necessary to concede under the present law as wide powers as those asked for under the Bill. Just one word as to group managers. In nine counties they have been set up, and I admit that the Report is perhaps more equivocal about that system than about some others. But in the constitution of these bodies, and, indeed, in the constitution of many bodies that exist at present, the scheme which is suggested by sub-sections (b) and (c) of the present Bill has been approved. This also shows that the proposals of the Bill, whatever faults it may have, do not err on the side of excess, nor go any further than the present practice in many counties. A great deal has been said about the actual conclusion at which the Committee arrives, and conflicting sentences have been quoted. I need not repeat what I said about the excellent work that is done by managers to whom large powers are delegated, nor that the Committee highly approves of 1057 the decentralisation that has taken place to district committees, but I may read one paragraph which says that midway between the essential functions of the central education committee on the one hand and of the local managers on the other there are intermediate functions which form the appropriate subject matter of devolution schemes. That is the Report, and I do not think the Bill goes one step beyond that recommendation. The Committee considers "it would be difficult, if not impossible to devise any uniform system," "that there is no necessary connection between the general conditions of the various counties and the schemes which they have adopted," and that "counties whose educational and social conditions appear to be very similar have adopted dissimilar methods." Finally, with considerable naivette as well as wisdom, the Committee recommends to all the counties, and perhaps I may repeat the advice to my hon. friends who have brought forward the Bill, that its Report should be carefully read. I have fairly quoted representative opinions on both sides, and I only claim that the general argument of the Report goes quite as far as the proposal of my hon. friends. I cannot help putting one point which I am surprised had not been put. It appears to be assumed that the Bill would be a blow necessarily to all these experiments going on at present throughout the country. Of course, there is this argument in favour of it. It is assumed that the new bodies created by the Bill would be planted down without regard to the existing bodies, but I think that is rather a harsh interpretation to put on the Bill. We cannot deprive the education authorities of some belief in their wisdom, justice, and moderation. They would sot up bodies with care, and if that were done the general tendency of the Report is to justify this principle of decentralisation, which is the central principle of the Bill. Supposing there are thirty or forty counties doing what they ought, what about the minority that remains? Is the fact that most of 1058 the population of the country consists of honest men any reason why there should not be a law against rogues? My hon. friends may very well claim that, even if many counties are indifferent in this matter of decentralisation, they should be brought up to the level of the others. That would not be an unfair view to take. It is a difficult Bill to discuss from the point of principle alone, because it leads us into matters of detail. If any county wished to get out of the obligations which the Bill imposes, it could do it by delegating the duty of cleaning the school windows, and this would be a fulfilment of the Act which the Board of Education would be required to sanction. While there is this indefiniteness about duties, it is perfectly clear that a charge must be imposed on the area. There must be expenses and a rate, and perhaps I may remind the House that this is diametrically opposed to Clause 5 of the new Education Bill, the object of which is to repeal that part of Section 18 of the Education Act of 1902, which provides for the separate rating of parishes. The Board of Education has received many indications from all parts of the country that this rate is regarded as a very great burden, and I hope when we get to Clause 5 of the Education Bill, there will be an agreement of opinion that this reform is desirable. But if so, why should we set up a small rating authority under this Bill? I think, undoubtedly, that that question also may require to be considered. The Bill no doubt gives wide powers of constituting a body, but it should be remembered that such an elected body as the parish or urban district council, chosen for a very different purpose, might be placed in control of education in its district, and I quite agree that that would not be a desirable consummation for us to arrive at. But these are matters for committee. The exemption of populations of less than 65,000 would, of course, exclude twelve counties from the purview of the Bill, but it is quite possible that other exemptions may be necessary. Altogether I think the provisions of the Bill 1059 are drawn a little too tightly, and that there must be greater liberty if we are to affirm the principle as I hope we may. The House will ask what advice I give with regard to the Bill. I will put two questions to the House. Would this Bill, if passed, tend to increase the efficiency with which the duties connected with elementary education were carried out? If so, then they ought to support it. Would it also contribute to economical administration? Some of his hon. friends seemed to ignore the importance of that question, but it would not be forgotten in the country. The Government were in the same position with regard to the principle of the Bill as hon. Gentlemen opposite, with the difference that there was a strong basis of consistency in the minds of the Government. The essential principle of decentralization was embodied in the clause of 1906, and the Government could not vote against the principle of this Bill.
§ MR. BUTCHER (Cambridge University)
said the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education had been the first in this debate to indulge in Party taunts, arguing that some of the Unionist leaders were, by their speeches of 1906, committed not only to the principle of devolution, but actually to this Bill. Upon that point he desired to correct the hon. Member. The leader of the Opposition, although he approved of the principle of the clause of 1906, criticised sharply some of its details. The Member for Oxford University was also careful to approve only of the principle, and not of the actual clause. The truth was that in 1906 very little was known of the working of devolution under the Act of 1902. That part of the Act was then only just beginning to be put in force, and they were dealing to-day with the question of delegation with a much fuller knowledge than they had then. There was then almost complete ignorance in the House as to the magnitude, variety, 1060 and significance of the schemes of delegation which were set forth in detail in the Report of the Consultation Committee which had been just issued. They were all in favour of delegation; they all desired to recreate a living interest in the schools in the localities, and to bring educational questions nearer to the minds as well as to the pockets of the parents and the ratepayers. The only difference between them was as to the precise method that ought to be adopted. On one point, however, all were agreed, that the local authorities should be relieved of much cumbrous detail. The agenda paper was often loaded with trivial bits of business which would be better treated in the localities themselves. On the other hand, if delegation was to be successful, the minor local bodies must not be entrusted merely with details of an uninteresting kind, such as ordering coals or pencils. Powers must be conferred which would excite interest and enlist the services of the best men. The local bodies must either have real authority or real influeuce. By real influence he meant that they should advise upon such questions as the appointment and dismissal of teachers and have a voice in fixing the curriculum. Secondly, they should have some financial responsibility. Under the Act of 1902 considerable financial responsibilities were conferred by county councils on delegated authorities. The hon. Gentleman opposite had argued that this Bill restricted the powers that could be delegated, instead of extending them. In some respects this was so, and to that extent he thought the Act of 1902 was superior to the present Bill. But under one head the Bill conferred on the delegated authority a new power,—the power of framing the curriculum. It seemed to him that the local bodies should not have more than advisory powers as regarded the curriculum; otherwise there was a danger of a lowering of the standard. Greater variety in the curriculum was indeed needed, and many rural districts 1061 would be benefited by a curriculum which embraced subjects which were now omitted. But he guarded himself by stating that the powers entrusted to the minor local bodies in respect of the curriculum should be advisory, and nothing more. He said candidly that until he had read the Report he was exceedingly doubtful whether he should vote for or against this Bill. The Report, however, was most instructive and enlightening, and gave them information which very few hon. Members possessed before. What had influenced him was not so much the arguments for or against as devolution on the grounds of administrative efficiency or economy which were contained in the Report, but the facts there recorded, showing that all over the country at this moment, without any compulsion, the local authorities, to an increasing extent, were working out this problem of delegation with extraordinary ingenuity and eliciting a marked interest in education in the several localities. He observed that not only were they delegating powers to subcommittees and to managers representing either single schools or groups of schools, but they had also succeeded in combining those two methods which were specified in the Act of 1902. The impression left on him by the Report was that it afforded singular and instructive evidence of the administrative capacity of the men who were called upon to carry on the local affairs of this country. Now, many of the councils wished to be allowed to carry on those experiments without interruption. At some future time it might be possible to discover what the best of all the competing methods were, but meanwhile they ought not to do anything which would derange this machinery. Rather should they stimulate and encourage further experiments along the same lines. The true lesson of the Report was that compulsion was unnecessary. As regarded the general relations of this Bill to the delegation clauses of the Act of 1902, one of two things would happen, either the 1902 clauses would be displaced by this 1062 Bill, or there would be friction, amounting in some cases to actual deadlock. It would, in his opinion, be a great pity to disturb schemes which had been working for only a few years, and by introducing the mechanism of a now hill to check experiments which already had been fruitful, but were still incomplete. Therefore, he should vote against the Second Reading.
§ MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
said he could not vote for the Bill, because, instead of giving the county councils real powers of delegation, it actually took away powers of delegation that they already possessed. It bad been said by some of the supporters of the Bill that it would confer upon the local bodies the power of making regulations with regard to the attendances of children. On looking up the clause in the Bill, however, he was referred to Section 74 of the Elementary Education Act, and then he found that the power of regulating attendances was not delegated by this Bill, On referring to the section referred to, he found that among the bye-laws which might be made were those as to compelling parents to send their children to school. If he might express an opinion on a matter of law, it seemed to him that the power to regulate attendance was not delegated by the Bill. The Bill limited the existing powers of the county council, and for that reason he disapproved of it. The hon. Member for the University of London had said he did not want any more legislation on education. So long as the Government interfered with education, so long would they have Parliament attempting to alter the law with respect to education. He was quite certain that no law on this subject could ever be made by Parliament which would suit all people. There might be a majority who would approve of the law, but there would always be an important minority displeased with any law that might be passed. The Bill proposed specially to exempt the local committees from exercising the powers with respect to 1063 the attendance of children at school. But for that exemption he would not have said anything at all about the measure. He thought the power in regard to compulsory attendance ought to be delegated to some local body who were in close touch and sympathy with the people. Leaving the question to be dealt with by a large central authority under rigid rules created hard cases and made the people hate education. A farmer in his own constituency had a large family of sons, and he had carefully educated them in the way ho thought best. He had been repeatedly fined for not sending his children to school, the penalties amounting in all to £19. If a local committee had had to deal with that man, they would have considered whether the children were being properly educated or not, and if that had been done the man would not have been prosecuted. These cases of cruelty were constantly arising in the agricultural districts. He knew of some very cultivated people, a farmer and his wife, whose daughter had passed the sixth standard. They removed to another home, and their daughter was compelled to attend a school where they did not teach above the fourth standard. This girl, who was forgetting what she had learnt, would be much better at home learning housework from her mother. He knew another case in which a farmer had a son, a fine strapping youth of thirteen, who could learn nothing at school who was fond of horses and cattle, but although school education did nothing for him, he was compelled to attend when he could be more useful on the farm. They said that they wanted people on the land, and yet they were depriving boys and girls of the opportunity of learning to work on the land and to do household duties. They were teaching them to be clerks, of whom there were plenty already. If the power with respect to compulsory attendance were delegated to local committees they would exercise a more careful discrimination and consider whether non-attendance was due to the drunkenness, negligence, 1064 or cruelty of the parents, or whether it was due to the wise discretion which led them to believe that the school was not the best place for a boy day by day after he had attained a certain age. The sooner the whole system of compulsion in matters of education was swept away the better, for it was entirely destructive of all sound education. They compelled children to go to school, and then the master thrashed them with a cane to learn things which they did not understand. Schools would have to be made pleasanter and more practical places, and education would have to be given in such a way that both parents and children would like education. The present brutal system of thrashing children in schools, and of fining parents who did not send their children to school, was not the way to bring about good education. There was growing up a hatred of schools. The present kind of education, so-called, in elementary schools, was often little better than a farce—one teacher, not of the highest grade, to fifty children; what could he or she do to teach so many? He could not support the Bill, because it curtailed the powers of delegation which the county councils already had.
§ MR. CARLILE (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)
expressed regret that the Minister for Education had only been able to attend during a small portion of this important debate. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board was rather ungenerous when he twitted the supporters of this Bill with having taken every word of it from the Bill of 1906. The hon. Gentleman's speech seemed to indicate that everything he desired in the way of devolution, that could make for efficiency, was already in existence, and, therefore, it was hardly necessary that he should rise to support the Bill. The hon. Gentleman claimed that the Bill would make for the efficiency of education. On the other hand, the opponents maintained that it would do nothing of the kind, but rather discourage the local education authority and the 1065 local managers. It would discourage county councils, because it put a pistol to their heads and told them how they must act.
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 196; Noes, 58. (Division List, No. 32.)1067
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.||Grant, Corrie||M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Gulland, John W.||Maddison, Frederick|
|Alden, Percy||Gurdon, Rt. Hn. Sir W. Brampton||Mallet, Charles E.|
|Armstrong, W. C. Heaton||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Marnham, F. J.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Halpin, J.||Massie, J.|
|Astbury, John Meir||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis||Meagher, Michael|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury E.)||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Micklem, Nathaniel|
|Barlow. Percy (Bedford)||Harwood, George||Mooney, J. J.|
|Barnard, E. B.||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Hayden, John Patrick||Morley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Beale, W. P.||Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Benn, W.(T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo.||Hazleton, Richard||Murphy, John (Kerry, East)|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Hedges, A. Paget||Murphy, N. J. (Kilkenny, S.)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Helme, Norval Watson||Myer, Horatio|
|Black, Arthur W.||Hemmerde, Edward George||Napier, T. B.|
|Boland, John||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Nicholson, Charles N.(Doncast'r|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Henderson, J.M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Nolan, Joseph|
|Brunner, F.L.(Lanes., Leigh||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Higham, John Sharp||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid|
|Byles, William Pollard||Hobart, Sir Robert||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Cameron, Robert||Hodge, John||O'Brien, William (Cork)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Hogan, Michael||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight||Holt, Richard Durning||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Hudson, Walter||O'Grady, J.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Hyde, Clarendon||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Cleland, J. W.||Illingworth, Percy H.||O'Malley, William|
|Clough, William||Jackson, R. S.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Jacoby, Sir James Alfred||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J.(S. Pancras, W||Jardine, Sir J.||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Cooper, G. J.||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Price, Robert John (Norfolk, E.)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Jones, William(Carnarvonshire||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Corbett, C H (Sussex. E. Grinst'd||Kavanagh, Walter M.||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)|
|Crean, Eugene||Kekewich, Sir George||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'|
|Cremer, Sir William Randal||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Reddy, M.|
|Crossley, William J.||Kincaid-Smith, Captain||Redmond, John E. (Waterford|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Richards, T. F.(Wolverh'mpt'n|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Laidlaw, Robert||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Dobson, Thomas W.||Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Lamont, Norman||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Roche, John (Galway, East)|
|Elibank, Master of||Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E||Rowlands, J.|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Lewis, John Herbert||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)|
|Evans, Sir Samuel T.||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Lough, Thomas||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Lundon, W.||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro||Lyell, Charles Henry||Sears, J. E.|
|Ffrench, Peter||Macdonald, J.M.(Falkirk B'ghs)||Soaverns, J. H.|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Maclean, Donald||Seddon, J.|
|Flynn, James Christopher||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick, B.|
|Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Fullerton, Hugh||M'Callum, John M.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Gill, A. H.||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John|
|Glendinning, R. G,||M'Kean, John||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)||Verney, F. W.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Snowden, P.||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent||Wilson, J. W.(Worcestersh. N.)|
|Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Waring, Walter||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Spicer, Sir Albert||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Stanger, H. Y.||Watt, Henry A.||Winfrey, R.|
|Straus, B. S. (Mile End)||Whitbread, Howard|
|Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)||White, Sir George (Norfolk)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)||Mr. Adkins and Sir Francis Powell.|
|Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Torrance, Sir A. M.||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Aubrey-Fletcher. Rt. Hon. Sir H||Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Fletcher, J. S.||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Gardner, Ernest||Rogerts, F. E. Newman|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Gordon, J.||Smith, Abel H.(Hertford, East)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Gretton, John||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Guinness, Walter Edward||Valentia, Viscount|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Harrison-Breadley, H. B||Walker, Col. W.H.(Lancashire)|
|Cavendish, Rt. Hon. Victor C.W.||Hill, Sir Clement||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Houston, Robert Paterson||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Kimber, Sir Henry||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||M'Arthur, Charles||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Clark, George Smith (Belfast. N.||Magnus, Sir Philip||Wortley, Rt. Hon, C. B. Stuart-|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Montagu, E. S.||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Coates, E. Feetham (Lewisham)||Moore, William|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Nield, Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Viscount Morpeth and Mr. Wedgwood.|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Doughty, Sir George||Rees, J. D.|
Bill read a second time and committed to a Standing Committee.