§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £100,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 1790 on 31st day of March, 1911, for Grants towards Expenditure on Public Elementary Schools in England and Wales."
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100. I do so because I wsih to draw attention to the great and, in my opinion, absolutely unnecessary size of this Grant. I shall endeavour to show that the Grant is quite unnecessary, and that it would be much better for education if it were not voted at all. I deeply regret that I stand here as an opponent of any expenditure on education. In my opinion the amount we spend on education is by no means too great in the aggregate. Personally, I should be much more willing to grant another £2,000,000 to education than to grant £1,000,000 for a "Dreadnought." I shall endeavour to be as brief as possible, because in my view we can best facilitate the business of this Session by spending our time as little as possible upon these necessary financial provisions. Personally, I would take this opportunity of thanking the Government for the splendid work which they did at our last Sitting. As one who would have liked to have spoken during that Debate I wish to express my great gratitude—
An HON. MEMBER
Is the hon. Member in order in discussing that matter on a Supplementary Estimate for Education?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Charles Lyell)
On a large vote like this I think the hon. Member is entitled to go rather more widely into general policy than upon a small Supplementary Estimate for a particular service.
§ Lord BALCARRES
The hon. Member is discussing what happened at the Sitting which concluded this morning.
I trust I shall be allowed, when I am in order, to continue my speech without being interrupted. Let me take the House back to the origin of this special Grant. The Special Grant was attempted in the year 1905, by the Conservative Government. I am sorry to say that, though the Conservative Government of that day were unable to carry that Grant owing to the powerful criticism directed against it by the Liberals, who were then in a large minority, yet when the Liberals came into power they introduced this principle of a Special Grant. They had, of course, a very good ground for doing so, in the fact that at the very end of the year the Education Bill was practically thrown out in another place. In order to meet the difficulty then created a Special Grant of 1791 £200,000 was introduced. The Supplementary Estimate was accompanied by the following note:—These grains are fur the present financial year only, and will be made under regulations which are not yet settled.That being the initiation and inception of this Grant, I think it is a great pity that it has been continued from year to year, and that it is now being so largely increased. The object of the grant is ostensibly to help those poorer districts where the education rate is at a very high level. All places where the education rate is more than 1s. 6d. in the £, can, under certain conditions, claim the advantage of this Grant. Apparently the number of these places and the amount which, under the old regulations, might be claimed, have lately so greatly increased that this large Supplementary Estimate is called for. What we want to help education, and at the same time the necessitous districts, is to give much greater help in the matter of school buildings and the provision of new school places, and also, I would suggest, towards the heavy loan charges which are really the occasion of the very high rate in places like West Ham and other populous districts round London, and in other industrial parts of the kingdom. The Grant is very unequally distributed. As a matter of fact, it is not a help to any but a very small number of districts. The County of London and a few places immediately around London come in, according to the figures for the year 1910, for no less than nearly £90,000; Middlesex comes in for over £32,000; and Glamorganshire for £30,000; so that in three districts three-fourths of the special Grant are accounted for. I suggest that if the allowance which was some years ago provided for the building of schools were used to the extent of the money that was actually voted in the first instance, and was devoted in such a way that it would be an encouragement for schools to be built where places are actually wanted, and a help to those districts which have already built schools, and are, therefore, burdened by heavy loan charges, it would be totally unnecessary to have this large addition to the special Grant. I am aware that there is a provision in the Act of 1870 which goes against building grants. On the other hand, is it not a fact that when a large sum for building grants was Voted by this House, a special clause was put in the Appropriation Bill making those building grants again possible? I under- 1792 stand it is the intention of the Government to allow that Clause, which has been for three or four years in the Appropriation Bill, to lapse. This is a policy which, in my opinion, was eminently wise, and might now be the means of helping, through the central Government, different localities which are hard pressed in their rates. That means of helping localities with contributions from the central Government is now being thrown away. The first question I wish to ask is whether it is the intention of the Government entirely to throw aside the powers which they have now for giving building grants, and whether the President of the Board of Education will not consider whether the central authority might not—
Is the hon. Gentleman in order in dealing with building grants on a Supplementary Estimate for necessitous school areas?
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
On a point of Order, is it to be understood that hon. Members may enter upon this very thorny and probably long discussion of building grants and their relation to the Education Act—a subject on which I might have a good deal to say?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Lyell)
So far as I can make out the hon. Gentleman is raising the general question of building grants. On that point I do not think he is in order. The original Estimate was, I understand, for £200,000 for building some eighty schools, in which the expenditure was very high. The Supplementary Estimate is, I understand, for building thirty-two schools. I do not think the hon. Gentleman is in order in raising the general question of building grants.
§ Mr. EDWARD WOOD
Would not the hon. Gentleman be in order where there were anticipated savings under sub-heads in the building grants.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Gentleman is only in order on the special policy of the Estimate.
§ Mr. E. WOOD
Are we not allowed to discuss the savings under other sub-heads and to ask what they are?
I will confine myself in my subsequent remarks to such a close obser- 1793 vance of the rules under which this Debate must be carried on that no one shall have cause to complain. But allow me, in order to establish the contention which I am making, namely, that this large addition to the special grants is not necessary, to quote words which were used by the Prime Minister in the early part of 1909. Replying to a deputation of the local education authorities, who were asking for more money for necessitous areas, the Prime Minister said:—Where the shoe really pinches is in regard to the building charges. That is where the poor districts suffer most, and where the educationally active, progressive district is at a disadvantage as compared with the educationally stagnant district.That contention of the Prime Minister is, I think, one which every one must admit to be right, and I think it very clearly follows that not only the whole policy of the special grants are wrong, but also to the total lack of justification for any increase of these special grants. I say, and I maintain it strongly, that the way to help necessitous areas is not to continue these grants at all, but to develop the building grants on a different line; and in that way to assist these areas which are now so heavily burdened by their education rate. In conclusion, let me say that this question raises again a very important matter which has been discussed already on several occasions during the Session. I mean the relation of the central Government and its contributions towards local finance. I very strongly urge the President of the Board of Education to say something on that point in the reply which I hope he will make.
§ Sir WILLIAM ANSON
I take it we are dealing with the Supplementary Estimate or grants to necessitous areas, and that under that topic we cannot properly discuss whether the Board of Education should spend this money on building grants in actual contravention of the Act of 1870, or whether—which might be a fruitful topic of discussion—these grants to necessitous areas are really educational grants at all, and are not more in aid of local government. I can well understand what the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has complained of, namely, the large grant that goes to districts in London and the immediate neighbourhood of London. They go to areas where the school population is large and the rateable value is extremely low, and where it is very difficult indeed for local authorities to meet the charges incumbent upon them for education. These grants have now been going 1794 on ever since, I think, 1907. One might have expected that the Board of Education would have been able to fix with more approach to accuracy what their amount would be. How is it that after all these years' experience the first Estimate is fixed at £200,000, and then the President of the Board of Education comes and asks us for nearly double that sum? Has the number of necessitous areas increased to an exceptional degree, or is the character of their necessities in any way altered, or what is the occasion for this very remarkable miscalculation? If it were not for the saving of £50,000 this grant would nearly come to twice the original Estimate. As it is the Board are asking for half as much again as the right hon. Gentleman budgeted for. Although I confess that I do not begrudge the necessitous areas in their difficult circumstances—knowing what I have had occasion to learn about them in past times—I feel some doubt as to the general policy.
§ Mr. HOARE
I also put down an Amendment to reduce this Vote, but let me say at once that if I receive a satisfactory answer from the President of the Board of Education I have no intention whatever to move that Amendment. Let me also say that with the main part of what was said by the hon. Member opposite I am in entire disagreement. I am delighted to see that this Vote has been largely increased. At the same time I should like to support what has been said by the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University that it is at least a curious method of forming Estimates when you come to the House for a Supplementary Estimate of £150,000, and the original Estimate was £200,000. I understand the reason—no doubt the President will correct me if I am wrong—is that the Board of Education have reversed their policy in allocating these Grants during the last year.
In 1906 the Grants were restricted to certain areas under a certain rateable value, where the rates for elementary purposes exceeded 1s. 6d. in the £. Under these regulations a number of areas in the neighbourhood of London qualified for the Grant. I believe I am right in saying that these regulations are issued in practically the same form in subsequent years, with this one exception, that a regulation was added under which any new area was allowed to qualify for the Grant that did not receive the Grant in 1906, and areas receiving no Grant in 1906 1795 and 1907 and subsequent years were under the new regulation allowed to qualify. I understand that that embargo has been withdrawn, and that at the present moment any area can qualify for the Grant provided their rate for elementary purposes exceeds 1s 6d. in the £ and that the Board is satisfied with their methods of keeping accounts, and has also made certain necessary reductions, so that in future an area fulfilling these conditions will be qualified for this special Grant.
As a ratepayer and as a member of the London educational authority, I am delighted that the County of London and other authorities spending large sums in education will in future be able to qualify for this Grant. At the same time, I think that the House has a certain cause for complaint of the manner in which the change has been made and of the principle under which this Grant is offered. I believe I am right in saying that this change in the regulations was only made in November last, at a time when it was quite obvious Parliament could not criticise or approve the change when the time was so far advanced in the financial year. Early in March last the Board of Education estimated upon an item of £200,000 under this head; in November there was a change of policy which led to this demand for a large Supplementary Estimate. I think to adopt a change of policy so late in the year is to a certain degree unfair to the House, and is also extremely inconvenient to the financial administration of the local education authority. It is well known that the local education authorities make their Estimates at the beginning of the year, and it therefore puts them to considerable inconvenience when after making their Estimates upon certain regulations, a change of these regulations is introduced late in the year, and their calculations are entirely put out. I need not point out the additional disadvantage, quite apart from this particular occasion of these Supplementary Estimates. There is a further point.
I will not attempt for a moment, after your ruling, Mr. Lyell, to follow the hon. and learned Member opposite in the excursion he made into education topics generally, but it seems to me if you desire to assist the education authorities that this is surely not the way to assist them. It surely is almost ridiculous that an educa-authority like the county of London where, as hon Members may be aware, a 1d. rate amounts to a quarter of the 1d. rate in the 1796 whole of the country, that under the regulations a rich authority like that can become eligible for a necessitous Grant. The Grant was originally intended for areas like East and West Ham, where, on an ordinary-sized house, the local authority was spending something like £3 16s. in education, and was only receiving £3 8s. in rates. These Grants were originally intended to assist areas of that kind, but now, owing to the immense pressure of the Board of Education during the last four or five years, the expenses of the local education authorities have been driven up to such a point by imposing upon them all sorts of duties without any corresponding Grant.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Runciman)
What are these new duties?
§ Mr. HOARE
I beg pardon, I own at once I was wrong. I should say that it is we who have imposed these duties upon the local authorities, without any corresponding grant, with the result that practically every area that has tried to do its duty in the many new branches of administration is actually eligible for the grant, or is on the point of eligibility. I hope, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman, when he comes to rearrange upon a permanent basis the Education Grants, will see the point of my observations. Not that I wish in any way to exclude educational authorities from receiving more assistance, but I think, logically speaking, it would be better to so arrange the regulations that those who receive this assistance should really be necessitous areas. Finally, I should like to ask whether, on this particular Supplementary Estimate of £150,000, the county of London is included? Possibly the right hon. Gentleman would also tell me what are the principal areas that have qualified now, in addition to those which qualified in the past. If the right hon. Gentleman will answer these questions it will not be necessary for me to move a reduction.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
In connection with these special grants the Committee, I think, ought to be aware of this, that while they continue they will be subject 1797 to the danger year after year of having to provide very large Supplementary Estimates. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education knows that the ordinary grants for education are regulated strictly by Act of Parliament, the Act of 1870 and the successive Act of 1892, laid down most strictly the condition upon which the grant was obtained, and the amount that could be earned, and it was perfectly easy year after year to make a very fairly accurate estimate of what the whole cost would be, within a few thousands or a few hundreds, upon a million and a half spent each year. Now, in connection with these special grants you are opening up an entirely new range of subjects and new methods of dealing with them. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly aware—and I hope he will not pass this over with a few easy and soft phrases—these special grants are not made under terms of an Act of Parliament which has received the Royal Assent. He knows they are made under terms of a minute of a Department of the Board of Education, and instead of being regulated by the House of Commons, these special grants are made under these minutes, which are drawn up and laid upon the Table of the House for one month. The slightest change made by the alteration of a few words in the paragraph of a minute before it is issued in a particular year may add £20,000, £50,000, or £100,000 to the expenditure under these special grants. The ordinary grants are regulated by the Act of Parliament, and we know exactly how much any particular school or locality costs, and it is easy to calculate within a few hundred pounds what the liability is likely to be; but when there is added the special grants regulated only by a minute of the Board of Education which officials can alter as they please if they get the consent of the right hon. Gentleman, these minutes are placed upon the Table and the House knows nothing about them. As in this case, by the slight alteration of a few words in the paragraph, £150,000 has been added to the expenditure. There can be no such addition to the grants assented to by Parliament when they are put into the Education Act. You lay down certain rules and you ought to follow them. In this case you have introduced a sweeping exception by allowing special grants to be made under minutes which can be altered from time to time by the officials of the Department who put them on the Table of the House. In this way you may 1798 be committed to an enormous liability to which this House has never assented at all, and which we are forced to discharge. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to say if I am not representing the case fairly and accurately to his own official knowledge when I point out in the case of the ordinary grants under the Education Act and the enormous danger of these special grants, regulated solely by minutes of the Department, which may be extended with any degree of elasticity and may involve expenditure which we hear nothing of in the House of Commons at all until we are asked to vote the money.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
I think everybody will agree that whether this necessitous school Grant is the best way of dealing with this matter or not, at any rate it is impossible that a district such as the West Ham district should remain with a crushing burden which would make education not only extremely unpopular in that district, but also a crushing weight which would make it almost impossible to carry out the work of education at all. Whether this is the best method or not I do not propose to argue. The point I wish to put before the Board of Education is that so long as this matter remains the same rate should be imposed upon the ratepayers in all parts of the country. I think I am right in saying that there is not a single county in England or Wales that will benefit by this necessitous school Grant. No county is imposing 1s. 6d. for educational purposes. The President of the Board of Education knows perfectly well that the education rate in a county is not an even rate for the whole county. The education authority imposes its general rate, but it often happens that the rate there is in different parishes. Although a county rate may be 7d. or 8d. in the £, what happens is that in many poor rural districts the rate is not only 1s. 6d. in the £, but it is very often 1s. 9d. and even 2s. My hon. Friend who moved this Resolution referred to Glamorgan receiving £30,000 out of this grant. I have not gone into the figures, and I may be wrong, but I know the Glamorgan education authority does not receive a penny of that money. I do not grudge it to the body who receive it, but what I do say is that whilst one district may be receiving this grant, side by side with that district there may be a rural parish paying a rate of Is. 9d. or 2s. in the £ which receives no benefit at all from this Grant. I suggest that in the interests of education this method should not 1799 continue. The method of dealing with the county should be abandoned and you should take into consideration the position of the various parishes and the rates which have to be borne in those parishes. Until that has been done it seems to me that the system adopted is a very unfair method of dealing with this matter, because in some districts the work of education is difficult to carry out and is more costly, and yet they receive no benefit at all from this grant.
It is not often I find myself in agreement with the Government, but I think I ought to explain that the change which the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Hoare) complained of in the regulations is due to a deputation consisting of Members of both sides of the House which waited on the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Education and pointed out some difficulties and inequalities in the existing regulation. I think as a result of that deputation the regulations were altered. Consequently I do not think there is any point, in the complaint that this change was made and withdrawn from the cognisance of the House. The Supplementary Estimate for this is now before the Committee, and it was brought before the Committee as soon as possible after the regulation was altered. It remains for the House now either to accept or reject it, because by voting against this Supplementary Estimate the House would in effect be rejecting the new regulation made by the Board of Education.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
When the alteration in the regulation is laid upon the Table of the House it has become operative and the money is due and payable under that minute. Now we are asked to find the money.
I will deal with that point later on. May I state that I share some of the hon. Member's objections in regard to dealing with this matter by regulation. I was dealing with the point raised by the hon. Member for Chelsea, who said that this matter ought to have been brought up at an earlier period. As a matter of fact, it could not have been brought up earlier, because the attention of the Government was not called to it earlier, and as soon as it was brought to the notice of the Government the Board of Education saw their way to put certain necessitous 1800 areas on the same footing as others, If I may do so, I will point out what that meant. Some eighty necessitous school areas qualified under the original Act, and there was a certain clause in the regulations which was no doubt intended to protect the Treasury at the time, so that the areas should not increase more rapidly than the Treasury seemed to wish they should increase. That regulation which was put in prevented any newly-qualifying necessitous area from sharing in the grant, but between the first grant and to-day some twenty-two new areas have qualified, because their expenditure upon certain specified subjects have become larger than the 1s. 6d. rate, and, except for this regulation to which we took exception, they would have been entitled to share in whatever sum this House might have granted for necessitous school areas. The Board of Education was faced with this: They could have said that the eighty old areas and the twenty-two new areas should come in and share the £200,000. That would have upset the Estimates of those necessitous areas which were receiving the grant. The alternative, of course, was to increase the grant, and I am glad to say the Government have accepted that alternative and has increased the grant. The hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King) seemed to think there was an entire lack of justification for this Grant, and that, if certain things were done with regard to the school buildings, it would be entirely unnecessary. He does not seem to realise that areas are necessitous, amongst other things, because of the large expenditure they have incurred in becoming the most progressive educational authorities in the country, and they cannot become progressive educational authorities without large expenditure on school buildings. You are, in effect, by allowing them to share in this grant, rewarding the most progressive areas in the country, and at the same time enabling the poorest areas to maintain a decent level of educational efficiency. I hope the Committee will accept this Estimate and the alteration which has been carried out in accordance with the representations of a deputation of an entirely non-party character, supported, I think I am right in saying, by every party in the House. I hope, therefore there will be no question about the grant being voted by the committee.
I must admit, however, that I entirely agree with my hon. Friend on this question of the regulations. The money is distributed by regulations, which, on 1801 some occasions at any rate, are not made until after the money is voted. The Board of Education and the Treasury between them get a blank cheque, which they can fill up exactly as they like. I do not object to it on this occasion, because my Constituency happens to be one of those which have benefited; but in principle I entirely agree it is wrong. It does undoubtedly withdraw from the cognisance of this House the ultimate designation of the money, and it must surely be reasonably easy to prepare these regulations at an earlier date and before the original Estimate is brought before the House and discussed. If they were put on the Table, at any rate before the original Estimates were presented to the House, they would, in fact, be discussed upon the original Estimates. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not on the original Estimates."] I may be wrong there, but I agree they ought in some form so that the House has an opportunity of discussing them. It is the more important because it is desirable that educational authorities should feel a security that the payments will go on. It is at present a yearly payment, and an alteration in the form of the regulations may cut out any one particular necessitous area and substitute another. It must be difficult for any educational authority to make its estimate unless there is some feeling of security that the money will be voted. I agree it is a temporary measure, but so long as it is necessary I hope it will continue in the same form. If the form were altered next year, it might be that some areas which are now receiving the grant would in future be cut out. There is no doubt a good deal in that point, but I hope it will not influence the Committee in voting in favour of the reduction, because I must say the President of the Board of Education and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have met the deputation which waited upon them very fairly under the circumstances.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
The hon. Gentlemen who has just sat down has given an account of what happened last year. The case which was put before the Board of Education and the Treasury last year was felt at that time to be overwhelming. The restriction placed on the grant cut out from its benefits a number of authorities which certainly could come within the category of the necessitous, and early in the summer of last year, when the matter was under discussion between those with whom the 1802 hon. Gentleman was associated and my right hon Friend (Mr. Lloyd George) and myself, we came to the conclusion that the limit then placed on the Grant must be relieved. It was not in November we made the statement as the hon. Member for Chelsea suggested. It was as early as July. I think about the 13th of July, standing in my place in this House, I intimated that we were going to make a change in necessitous areas, and at a later date my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education amplified at greater length what I then said, and declared that it was the policy of the Board of Education and the Treasury to remove the restriction then placed on the Grant. Therefore, as early as 13th July, the authorities knew they were going to get the benefit of the extension of the grant, and the issue of the Regulations in November was a mere Supplementary Act, and, I believe, did not in any way inconvenience the local authorities concerned. That, I think, disposes of the point made by two of the hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University and the hon. Member for Chelsea thought there has been bad estimating in this Grant. It was known perfectly well what the Grant would cost the Treasury if we had gone on under the old regulations. It would have cost £200,000, neither more nor less. Under the extension we had to provide a further sum, and, as far as we could anticipate, something like £150,000 would be necessary. I cannot say to a penny how much would be ncessary, because some of the accounts of the local authorities have still to be scrutinised, and until they have passed the scrutiny it is impossible to fix the exact amount they are to receive. The hon. Member for the Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities (Sir H. Craik) asked why this was not done by Act of Parliament. I would point out to him that this is by no means the only Grant which is not fixed by Act of Parliament. There are no less than five Grants, some of which have been for many years distributed by the Board of Education under Regulation, and I think my hon. Friend was forgetting some of these Grants when he said this was a new departure.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
No, I did not say it was a new departure. I said it involved a very serious danger that between two Government Departments the money was liable to be disposed of without the approval of Parliament.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I do not think that is affected by the question whether the Grant is paid under statute or not. I would like to remind hon. Members that the Grants which are made to secondary schools, to the teachers' funds, for bursaries and for technical institutions—one of the largest annual Grants which appear in the Board of Education Estimates—are paid under regulations and not under Statute. The annual grant, too, is paid under regulation, and I believe there is no dissatisfaction with the way in which these grants are regulated—I mean no dissatisfaction from the point of view of finance, or laying them open to the criticism which the hon. Gentleman has devoted to this Necessitous Areas Grant. Where I do agree with him is that it is on a bad basis. The Committee knows perfectly well that it provides for the payment of necessitous expenditure, three-fourths by the State, and one-fourth by the local authorities. That is obviously a bad basis, but the reason why it was so devised was to give relief to some of the districts with a very large and increasing school population, and a very low rateable value in which there was a danger at the time this Grant was first started of the financial burden of some of these areas being so great that educational work might easily be brought to a standstill or seriously crippled. I agree that the basis is not good, and that is why year after year, when the amount has been paid over to the authorities, we have always, in the published regulations given a warning that the regulations were to apply to that year only. We have done all we could to point out to the authorities that they must not regard this Grant on this present basis as being a permanent Grant in the same way as the annual Grant is permanent. Once more in the Regulations issued this year we have included words to the effect that they apply to the financial year 1910–11, the special Grant being restricted to that year. That is a warning I have no doubt the local authorities always have in their minds. I am well aware we cannot do away with this grant without putting something effective in its place. It was suggested by the hon. Member for Chelsea that this grant might be considered by the committee about to be appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That appears to be a very fair suggestion, and I have pressed it on the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If the committee is to do its work well, it must take into account this necessitous areas grant.
1804 The only other point to which I wish to refer was that raised by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Raffan) who asked why should parishes which have a rate of 80 per cent. not receive the benefit at the cost of the local education authority. That raises a question of boundaries which I cannot think of discussing upon this Vote. We have always had our difficulties with local education authorities, and I certainly could not get this grant through the Treasury if I were to ask for its extension to every parish where the rate is over 80 per cent. The local education authorities are the authorities with which we deal If they come within the purview of the grant they receive the benefit out of the sum now being voted. An hon. Member asked me whether London would be included in the Grant for 1910–11. As far as I have been able to ascertain London will not qualify in 1910–11, and, when due allowance is made for the limitations placed on expenditure, I do not think that, in London, the expenditure will reach the equipment of a 1s. 6d. rate.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I will not express a final opinion on the case, but I think the hon. Gentleman may take it from me that London will not come within the 1910–11 Estimate, and that not a penny of this extra money will go in relief of the London ratepayers. It may possibly be, however, that there has been a change in the accounts since I saw them.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
If I remember rightly in the Debate last July some doubt was expressed whether this sum would really cover the areas that come under the description given by my hon. Friend below the Gangway. I think it was the hon. Member for Nottingham who said it would not go far enough. Six months or more have now elapsed since that time, and I suppose the Board of Education have had some means of ascertaining whether this sum really does cover the areas which are entitled to this grant. Do the Board give any intimation to areas entitled to the money that the grant is available. I rather want to ascertain whether we may consider that this is a final total amount which is likely to be required for this particular purpose. I think it quite possible a great many areas are not aware that the grant is 1805 available. I see that in the Estimates for next year the same sum (£350,000) is put down, and so I assume the right hon. Gentleman is of opinion that that is likely to be the whole amount required. I wish further to enforce a plea which one of my hon. Friends has made on behalf of rural areas. I think he received very cold comfort from the right hon. Gentleman. A great many Members of this House are perfectly well aware that there are a considerable number of rural areas in this country, and perhaps still more in Wales, which make great sacrifices for education, and really feel the pinch of these rates quite as acutely, if not much more, than some areas which are going to receive this benefit. May I ask when this question is discussed by the Committee on Local Taxation if the right hon. Gentleman will allow the representative who is interested in this matter to lay before it the grievances which rural areas, such as the hon. Gentleman describes, suffer under the present arrangement.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I cannot, of course, say what will be the procedure of the committee, No doubt the full case will be laid before it.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Will the right hon. Gentleman ask that the question be considered by the committee? I am not quite satisfied with the answer he gave to the hon. Gentleman, and I want him to be kind enough to consider whether the case of these rural areas cannot be laid before the committee.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
In so far as the Board of Education is represented on the committee, I will ask our representative to take into account the boundaries question. That, I think, is really what the hon. Gentleman requires. As to the first question he put—whether other areas are likely to have to be provided for out of this grant—I may say we have taken an outside sum. As to some places, we are quite certain they will come in. We are doubtful about London, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that no place which is entitled to the grant has failed to ask for the money.
§ Mr. HENRY TERRELL
I wish to say a word or two in regard to what took place last June and July when a number of necessitous areas which were excluded by the form of the Regulation through their representatives in this House waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer and also upon the President of the Board of Education, and after many meetings, 1806 what was arrived at was this. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he thought he would be in a position later on to provide an extra sum of £150,000 to be divided amongst these necessitous areas. It was not a case in which a necessitous area would get so much in the £ or so much per cent. in relief of its rate, but an aggregate sum was to be divided amongst those areas. It was on the faith of that promise that opposition to the Vote this time last year was abandoned by the Members of the Deputation, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is, by this Vote, simply carrying out that arrangement, on the making of which we abandoned our opposition. As representing one of these necessitous areas, may I say it is very important to know what amount they will receive out of this grant, because they have to prepare their Estimates. I know, in the case of my district, the Estimates ought to have been prepared last week, but until the authorities know accurately or approximately the amount they may expect to receive out of this grant they are utterly unable, and find it impossible, to prepare a satisfactory estimate. Therefore, I venture to ask the President of the Board of Education whether he can, within a short time, give the necessitous areas the information which they require, namely, an approximate idea of the amount they will receive and when they will receive it, in order that they may get on with the making of their Estimate for this year.
§ Mr. GEORGE THORNE
I only rise to appeal to the hon. Member not to press the Amendment which he has proposed to the House. What the Government are now doing is distinctly in response to representations made to them by both sides of the House, and as he has expressed his thanks, I also express mine for what the Government are doing, and I hope this Vote will be unanimously passed. I do not admit that it is satisfactory, and personally I think the whole position is unsatisfactory and cannot be made satisfactory until there is a readjustment. But in the meantime this is intended to reduce some of the differences between the different areas. I only desire in making this appeal to join with hon. Members opposite in the statements they made that there will still be very unfair differences. In my Constituency, part of it which is a necesitous area, will get relief, but in another part, which is in the county, we shall still have to pay 1s. 6d. in the £, and we shall 1807 not get any relief. That is unfair, and I trust that the consideration of this question promised by the President of the Board of Education may result in some practical alleviation. At present, however, we have some relief granted in the Supplementary Estimate before the Committee, and I trust that under those circumstances and after the Debate which has taken place my hon. Friend will consent to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Mr. CHARLES BATHURST
I for one am entirely in favour of having a readjustment between local and Imperial finances, but pending that readjustment I agree with these Grants being made to necessitous areas. I am in favour of that because in very many such necessitous areas the local education authority has a premium put upon its inefficiency, for the ratepayers behind it are most reluctant to elect representatives who are in favour of increasing the rates, because they are progressive educationalists. It is very hard in districts like this to get any improvement in educational matters. In that sense I think this Grant is adequate without being in any sense extravagant. I should like to emphasise what the mover of this reduction has said, but I should also like just to ask him whether because there is a good case for the grievance which he has very properly brought before the Committee and which I for one would like to emphasise that is any reason why we should not fully admit the removal of a grievance of a totally different character which this Grant is intended to meet. Of course, it would not be in order for me to talk about school buildings, but I should just like to say that there is immense scope for local extravagance in regard to them, whereas the purposes for which this Grant is intended are purposes which are very often forced upon a local educational authority by the Government Department and which they cannot obey with due regard for economy. I imagine one reason why this Grant has had to be expended has arisen from the Circular No. 709, which deals with the size of classes and orders them to be reduced, and has caused the salaries of the teachers to be increased, and that this had led to this larger expenditure. I am in favour of these grants and of educational efficiency which I hope will be maintained until a readjustment is made.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
Representing the most necessitous area in Great Britain, I have followed this Debate with great curiosity, as I did that in the last Parliament. In London and the neighbourhood we have perpetual scrambles, and unrest and uncertainty as to our share in this grant and every year the scramble gets fiercer and keener. May I give the Committee a few figures. Edmonton has 12,444 children in the habit of attending school, the net produce of a penny rate is £810, and the amount per scholar is 1s. 4d. The education rate is 3s. 4d. to 3s. 6d. which by this necessitous areas grant is knocked down to 2s. 4d. to 2s. 6d. We are the worst situated area in Great Britain, except the Scilly Islands, where the penny rate produces 10d. a scholar, but they have only 332 children. I am glad to hear that the system is to be thoroughly overhauled because, rightly or wrongly, in my Division it is considered that the Member is responsible for the amount of money that is got from the necessitous areas grant, and it was thrown in my teeth at the last election that I did not get so much as I ought to have got. I only managed to get £7,700 odd. whereas apparently my predecessor was able to get a great deal more. That is an undignified scramble, which I do not like to take part in. It has been freely said by hon. Members opposite that a heavy rate makes education unpopular in localities, and that is perfectly true. I would ask the Minister for Education to provide something much more effective in the place of this present grant to necessitous school areas. Take some county areas like Worcester with a rate of something like 8d., while Edmonton has a rate of something like 2s. 6d. Certain charges are put on Edmonton, and certain charges are put on Worcester. Both areas have to bring their children up in accordance with the regulations of the Board. It is not fair that the rural rate should be 8d. and that Edmonton's rate should be 2s. 6d. Education is a national charge and should be made a national charge. I earnestly join in the appeal by Members on both sides to make this a thorough overhaul, and, if possible, to make education a national charge.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
As representing one of the necessitous areas and as one of the Members who approached the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister for Education on this subject, I wish to express the thanks of my particular area for the grant which has been given, and to say on their behalf that they are extremely grateful for what they have received, which means a reduction of 2d. in the local rates. At the same time I wish to say that we hope that the Minister for Education, who said he was trying to get from the Chancellor of the Exchequer something like a million of money in order to improve the state of the country educationally, will be successful in getting the money.