§ *THE MARQUESS OF RIPON, in rising to ask Her Majesty's Government whether, under the Technical Instruction Act, 1889, Local Authorities are permitted to grant scholarships to be hold in technical schools or colleges, and to pay the foes of scholars in such institutions; and, if so, whether such scholarships granted to persons residing within the district of the Local Authority are tenable at institutions outside that district, said: My Lords, the Act of Parliament upon one point in connection with which I am desirous for a few moments of directing your Lordships' attention with the view of obtaining some information from Her Majesty's Government is, I am bound to say, one of the most ill-constructed and difficult Acts to administer which I have ever known in the course of a somewhat long public life. But I do not propose to trouble your Lordships with any general observations upon that matter, especially as my noble Friend, Lord Norton, has had upon the Paper now for a considerable length of time a notice relating to this Act, and I do not at. all 420 wish to trespass upon ground in reference to which he might desire on a subsequent occasion to address your Lordships. I wish to address myself to-night to a single question, namely, whether it be or be not open to Local Authorities, that is to say to County and Municipal Councils under this Act, to promote its objects by granting scholarships to individual students to be held by them in technical schools or colleges, or by paying the fees of those individual students in those institutions. In some parts of the country, and particularly in that with which I am myself directly connected, the West Riding of Yorkshire, many of those who have most experience in these matters, and who have given great attention to the question of technical education, are of opinion that there is no better way in which, under the difficulties of this Act and its hampering restrictions, County Councils could aid in promoting technical education than by granting scholarships to students in public elementary schools or similar institutions be held by them in connection with technical schools and colleges; and, entertaining that view, the West Riding County Council addressed communications both to the Science and Art Department, presided over by the noble Viscount opposite, and also to the Local Government Board upon this and various other questions connected with the working of the Act. Upon this particular question of the granting of scholarships, we received, I regret to say, different answers from the two Departments. The Department presided over by the noble Viscount treated us with the utmost possible consideration and courtesy, and answered our questions in the fullest manner; the Local Government Board were somewhat more brief, telling us that we could not do what the noble Viscount's Department led us to hope we might do. Therefore it is that I address myself now to Her Majesty's Government to endeavour to elicit from them, if I can, a clear expression of opinion upon this subject; and I may say that I do so, not in my own name alone, but by direction of the Technical Instruction Committee of the County Council, with which I am connected. The Department told us that if we had any doubt upon this question we might take counsel's opinion. Of course, it is quite 421 open to us to take counsel's opinion, but it is an expensive process, and one which will only give advice to the single County Council which may take the opinion. And, after all, my Lords, if the Local Government Board holds the view-that these scholarships cannot be granted by the County Councils under the powers of the Technical Instruction Act it is no use our taking counsel's opinion, because the Local Government Board's Auditor will have to consider whether such expenditure is legitimate, and whether in regard to any such expenditure he ought not to surcharge us, and we may find ourselves perhaps in a very awkard position. Therefore, I hope Her Majesty's Government will give us such an expression of opinion or will intimate their intention of taking such advice upon the matter as will enable us to feel secure as to the course the Local Government Board will take in respect of it. I need not occupy your Lordships' time by pointing out the advantages which, at all events in populous districts near large town-centres, would result from a system of this kind. In populous manufacturing towns there are good technical schools and colleges, and it is only in such centres of population that they can be satisfactorily established, that is to say, only where they have a nucleus of population attached to or surrounding' them upon which they can rely for the chief part of their students. I think it would be a very good way of extending the value of those institutions if the Local Authorities were able under the Act to make grants for scholarships to students at a certain distance from the towns where the schools are situate, in order that they might attend those schools and classes. That, of course, is not applicable to a county which is mainly rural, and perhaps but little supplied with railway accommodation; but where railway accommodation is good, and trains are cheap and frequent, I believe a system of that kind would be found to work extremely well, and that a numerous body of very competent students might be drawn into the colleges and schools from the surrounding districts. It is therefore very important, if the Act is to be carried out and made generally useful, that a power of that kind should exist. But, my Lords, besides the first question, whether it is open to us under 422 the Act to grant scholarships at all, there arises, unfortunately, a second question upon which I regret to say the two Departments of which I have spoken are agreed. They both tell us that if we could give scholarships at all, we could not make those grants to be held in institutions which are situate outside our own administrative county. Now, in large counties like Lancashire and Yorkshire, which have several county boroughs within them, it is in those county boroughs generally that most of these institutions are situate; and if we are debarred from granting scholarships to be held in those institutions, the concession if it could be made to us of granting scholarships at all would be very seriously impeded in its utility. I know very well, my Lords, that under the Act, Section 1, Sub-section D, we are not empowered to make grants for the maintenance or in aid of any institutions outside our own districts. But the question which I am anxious to submit for the consideration of the Government is, whether that restriction in regard to making' grants to institutions within our own districts would preclude us from making grants to individuals who reside within our own districts, although they might make use of those grants to attend institutions which are outside those districts. I am advised by those whom I have consulted upon the matter that that point is not at all clear; but they think that such grants might be made to the individuals, provided they reside within the administrative county, although they might make use of them outside that county. Now, my Lords, the only fair principle upon which I think the scholarships should be granted is, that they should be given to the individuals, to be held by them and used by them in any institution at their choice in which suitable technical instruction is given. Of course, County Councils giving the grants must preserve the right to say that they shall be employed in institutions of a satisfactory and efficient character; but I do not claim at all that they should have the power of choosing the institution to which the scholar shall go, except in so far as requiring that it is fit to give the desired instruction. But if that be the principle, surely the student should be free to take his scholarship with him wherever he likes, 423 it being, of course, always understood that he is bond fide resident within the administrative county. Those are the two questions which I desire to address to Her Majesty's Government. I do not know what answer I may receive; but I hope very much that it may be an answer as favour rable as the circumstances of the case and the wording of the Act will permit. I think it is a case in which, especially considering the ill-wording of the Act in question, Her Majesty's Government would do well to give the utmost latitude they possibly can to Local Bodies. I believe that to be the principle and object of the Act, and I hope that in their interpretation of the Act they will take that view. But if the noble Lord who may reply to me is not prepared at this moment to give any satisfactory answer to the suggestion I have made, I will still continue to hope that Her Majesty's Government will re-consider the subject. I know the difficulty of amending an Act of this kind. Of course, I am not ignorant of the existence of outside considerations distinct altogether from the question of technical instruction which have entered into the discussion and consideration of measures of this kind, and therefore I do not ask Her Majesty's Government to amend the Act; but I do hope that if they have not made up their minds finally upon it, they will take steps to ascertain from their legal advisers the actual bearing of the Act and give to the Local Bodies concerned the amplest latitude permitted by it.
§ *LORD NORTON: My Louis, I desire to say a few words before the noble Viscount replies on behalf of the Department he represents, as I have a notice on your Lordships' Paper to bring the whole subject before the attention of the House. The noble Marquess has put two very important questions relating to this general subject, but I am afraid if we deal with only one or two details of it we shall shut our eyes to the character of the whole Technical Instruction Act, which is not only unintelligible, but absolutely mischievous from the attempts to act upon it which have been made in several towns throughout the country. The noble Marquess has only moderately described the looseness with which this Act was passed last year. It was passed during the last week of the Session 424 in the other House, the principal Amendments introduced by Mr. Mather being passed in his absence; and in your Lordships' House the Act passed through all its stages in 25 minutes. Now, it is rather an important subject to be dealt with in that sort of cursory manner, and the mischief of dealing in that way with a subject of this great importance is, that it leads people to attempt to deal with it in an imperfect manner. It is extremely difficult to remedy afterwards such experiment. The noble Marquess states that, in his County Council, difficulties have been experienced which he asks the noble Viscount to explain. I can tell him that in Birmingham, which is the largest town in my neighbourhood, and I believe the most active in attempts to establish institutions of this sort, they have found it so impossible to understand the Act that they had to come to the Department in London to ask how they could, by almost a process of evasion, escape its difficulties and do something in a side manner to carry out its objects. Questions arose between the County Council and the School Board, the School Board wanting to have the control, and the County Council saying that the Act had placed the subject in their hands. They wanted to know whether they might not make a sort of Joint Committee between the two which would enable them to carry out the object of the Act. But how does the Act propose to define technical instruction? Probably the framers of the Act, not knowing exactly what they meant or intended, have said that technical instruction shall mean anything which the Department at South Kensington may give grants to. That is rather a dangerous latitude for an unlimited command of public rates. The meaning which has been given to it has been seen in the technical instruction given in some of our large towns. In some places little children are seen planing or sawing pieces of wood, by way of technical instruction; in others there arc workshops for the construction of engines of considerable size, which are sold in the market in competition with the trade itself. Technical instruction may really mean anything. All the industrial and reformatory schools of the country are giving technical instruction. The noble Marquess asked two questions 425 in regard to scholarships. Giving scholarships to existing institutions is, I quite agree with him, the best mode in which the object of this Act could be carried out. It is the greatest mistake for us to suppose that in all parts of the country technical schools, whatever that term may mean, should be instituted. It is impossible that Government institutions of that sort shall teach all trades, or even prepare for them. How are they to provide for students to be made Jacks-of-all-trades? The way in which Parliament could best authorise public expenditure for giving technical instruction to our operatives, would be by enabling the Local Bodies to pay for scholarships to existing institutions. The fact is that Parliament, by pretending to provide for such instruction, is doing the great mischief of checking those who are interested in providing it, and who are doing so in more liberal, and in much better ways. Our manufacturers, one and another, are providing for technical instruction, each in their own way, many of them most magnificently; and if Parliament would enable the Local Authorities, out of the rates at their command to give to clover poor children the means of profiting by such provisions, they would be doing great practical good. I believe that at this moment there is a. Bill before the other House attempting to amend the unintelligible Act of last Session, and I am afraid the noble Marquess is only dealing with a very small part of a most important subject, for the Act will require to be reconstructed upon an entirely different principle, namely, not attempting to provide, out of public money, institutions for giving technical instruction throughout the country, but to encourage; the increase of existing institutions, and to enable them to be taken advantage of by capable youths whose parents cannot afford the education which it is the object of the Act to secure.
§ *THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Viscount CRANBROOK): My Lords, my noble Friend has given so very large an expansion of the questions which the noble Marquess has put to me, that he almost calls upon me to defend the Act which now exists. I was not present during the 25 minutes which, the noble Lord says, constituted all the time that was devoted in this House to 426 the measure, but I cannot help thinking that the argument which has been addressed to your Lordships would have been much better employed in endeavouring to prevent the Act passing at all. My noble Friend seems to think that this Act was passed against the wishes of the manufacturers and those interested in technical education. So far from that being the case, it was on account of the extraordinary pressure exerted on the part of those interested in technical education, and the manufacturers throughout the country, that, at the last moment, when all hope had been given up of the Bill being passed, that it was forced through Parliament. That was on account of the pressure brought to bear by those who were interested in the subject. I think my noble Friend will find he is considerably mistaken as to the operation of this Act. I have reason to suppose that advantage is being taken of its provisions. In consequence of the notice he has given I have endeavoured to ascertain what is really being done, and I shall be very happy, when I have got the full Returns, to satisfy my noble Friend on that subject. Some towns have adopted, and others are preparing to adopt, it, and I have no doubt it will be found to be easily worked. To come to the questions which have been put by the noble Marquess, they are questions which no Department — certainly not the Department under my control- can possibly answer. The Act of Parliament which has been passed empowers the Local Authority, if it thinks fit, to supply, or aid the supply, of technical or manual instruction to such extent and upon such terms as the authority may think expedient. That, no doubt, enables them to negociate with the managers of institutions, or themselves, to supply such institutions if they think proper, that is to say, within the bounds which my noble Friend has spoken of as an unlimited pressure upon the rates. The Act of Parliament provides that the whole pressure upon the rates shall not exceed 1d. in the £1, and, therefore, there is no unlimited expansion at all, but only a limited effort permitted to Local Authorities to encourage technical education. My noble Friend has invited me to give an opinion upon this matter, but I am afraid my opinion is not of any great value, nor could it be taken on be- 427 half of the Department, because I have no jurisdiction in the matter. The only jurisdiction given to the Science and Art Department is upon three points. That is to say, if the Local Authority divides the money appropriated to technical instruction, it is the duty of the Department to see that the provisions made for the purpose under the section are sufficient. It has to decide whether the schools are qualified to receive such grants, or to participate in them, and as to the amount to be allotted to each of the schools in proportion to what they are doing; but not at all to interfere upon either of the points to which the noble Marquess has called attention. He will see, by reading Section 1, Sub-section D., that it is made clear that outside the District no grant can be made by a Local Authority, nor is there any provision in the Act, whether for giving money to individuals to carry them either into the district or out of it. It must be a grant to a society. Even though the Local Authority may not be qualified to establish a scholarship, or to take the steps with regard to instruction suggested by the noble Marquess, yet by agreement with the local institutions as to the money they will grant, it seems to me these things might be easily done. It is quite obvious that the Local Authority can assign the money in whatever way it pleases, so long as it does not infringe upon the proper use of those funds, as laid down in the Act of Parliament, but if it chooses to employ the money in scholarships, I presume it could do so. As to the two Departments, which my noble Friend seems to think gave different opinions, it seems to me they gave the same opinion, that they were in no position to give an opinion at all upon the questions put to them. Whatever opinion I may have formed myself upon the matter is of little value, because the point lies outside the purview of the Department over which I have the honour to preside. The Departments could give no opinion, inasmuch as the legality of the application of local funds in that way is open to argument, and as the point, when raised, must go before the Local Government Board auditor, it would be bettor for the Local Authorities to take legal advice before giving grants for the purpose of such instruction. If I were to give an 428 opinion upon this subject, I do not hesitate to say that it would not be of any real value, and that it would not help the noble Marquess at all. I think all noble Lords who have held office in the public Departments of this country, will agree that it is not the duty of the officials of Departments to take opinions for those outside, where the Department itself has no authority to intervene. If I bad authority to decide these questions, it would be my duty to take the opinion of the law officers, and to do the best I could to form a judgment upon the matter. But the duty lies outside, upon the Local Authority. The Local Authority runs the risk of having to come before the auditor of a Government Department, and, without the least wish to interfere with the Local Authorities, we must call upon them to protect themselves, from a legal point of view, in any course they may think proper to take. I say that the more confidently because the carrying out of this Act is not put under the Department over which I preside, but belongs rather to the Local Boards who are called upon to administer them.