HL Deb 02 April 1897 vol 48 cc360-70

  1. (1.) For aiding Voluntary Schools there shall be annually paid out of moneys provided by Parliament an aid grant, not exceeding in the aggregate five shillings per scholar for the whole number of scholars in those schools.
  2. (2.) The aid grant shall be distributed by the Education Department to such Voluntary Schools and in such manner and amounts as the Department think best for the purpose of helping necessitous schools and increasing their efficiency, due regard being had to the maintenance of voluntary subscriptions.
  3. (3.) If associations of schools are constituted in such manner in such areas and with such governing bodies representative of the managers as are approved by the Education Department, there shall be allotted to each association while so approved,
    1. (a) a share of the aid grant, to be computed according to the number of scholars in the schools of the association at the rate of five shillings per scholar, or, if the Department fix different rates for town and country schools respectively (which they are hereby empowered to do) then at those rates; and
    2. (b) a corresponding share of any sum which may be available out of the aid grant after distribution has been made to unassociated schools.
  4. (4.) The share so allotted to each such association shall be distributed as aforesaid by the Education Department after consulting the governing body of the association, and in accordance with any scheme prepared by that body which the Department for the time being approve.
  5. (5.) The Education Department may exclude a school from any share of the aid grant which it might otherwise receive, if, in the opinion of the Department, it unreasonably refuses or fails to join such an association, but the refusal or failure shall not be deemed unreasonable if the majority of the schools in the association belong to a religious denomination to which the school in question does not itself belong.
  6. (6.) The Education Department may require, as a condition of a school receiving a share of the aid grant, that the accounts of the receipts and expenditure of the school shall be annually audited in accordance with the regulations of the Department.
  7. (7.) The decision of the Education Department upon any question relating to the distribution or allotment of the aid grant, including the question whether an association is or is not in conformity with this Act, and whether a school is a town or a country school, shall be final.

The first Amendment on the Paper stood in the name of EARL SPENCER, who proposed, in Sub-section (2), after the words "such Voluntary Schools," to insert the words "as provide for the representation of local authorities or parents on the management thereof."

Before the Amendment was moved,


called attention to the position in which this Amendment stood, and did so at once for the sake of saving time, for he thought the same question would arise on most, if not all, of the Amendments proposed to be moved. The Bill was for the purpose of making certain, grants in aid to Voluntary Schools. The Rule—and he called it a Rule, for, although it was originally a protest and a Resolution of the other House, it had, as Sir Thomas May said in his book, been acted upon as a Rule of Parliamentary procedure for some three hundred years —was that all aids and supplies, and aids to His Majesty in Parliament are the sole gift of the Commons, and all Bills for the granting of any such aids and supplies ought to begin with the Commons; and that it is the undoubted and sole right of the Commons to direct, limit and appoint in such Bills the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations and qualifications of such grants, which ought not to be charged or altered by the House of Lords. Sir Thomas May went on to say, It is upon this latter resolution that all proceedings between the two Houses in matters of supply are now founded. Upon this Parliament had acted ever since, and in the circumstances he put it to the noble and learned Lord opposite whether he agreed with him in the construction to be put upon the words? He had no authority, although Speaker of the House, to decide Questions of Order. Had he that right, he should decide that the Amendment standing in the name of Earl Spencer was out of order; but he now only put it to the noble Earl and the noble and learned Lord beside him whether it was possible, in the face of the authority he had quoted, to say that the Amendment was in order? If it were not in order, then it would be hardly respectful to the House to discuss matters and come to a decision to which their Lordships could give no practical effect, because, if the Amendment were passed it would, as a privileged Amendment, have to be again struck out of the Bill.


said no doubt if the Amendment came within the privilege of the other House, it could not be inserted in the Bill in this House. His noble and learned Friend said he had no power to decide the point, but no doubt, if he were to take the opinion of their Lordships' House upon it, and said he was satisfied that the Amendment was out of order, there could be no doubt of the result, having regard to the relative number of the forces to decide; and, therefore, if the noble and learned Lord took that view, it would be of no use asserting the contrary.


said he would like to know whether the noble and learned Lord agreed with him or not?


had not the slightest objection to say he thought it was a doubtful matter, but did not think it was so clear as his noble and learned Friend took it to be. There was no doubt, that their Lordships could not amend any portion of a Bill so as to alter by increase or deduction the charge of the persons who would receive or control it. It was a question whether the Amendment came within the meaning of the words "pay, receive, manage or control." No doubt, if the Bill specifically gave a certain grant to particular schools, to insert a provision which would prevent a school receiving such grant would obviously be a violation of privilege, but all the Bill did was to hand over to the Education Department a sum of money for distribution, with very wide and general provisions; it did not give a grant to any specific school, and no school managers could say they were entitled to receive the grant. It was to be distributed over certain Voluntary Schools in such a manner as the Department might think best. The Question was, whether the Amendment could be said to be an interference with those who were to receive the grant?


said he had only endeavoured to get the noble and learned Lord's opinion, which was of high value, in reference to the considerations and conditions in the words he had quoted.


said this was one of the conditions to which the Education Department was to have regard in the matter—one of the conditions they were to take into account in distributing the grant; it did not exclude any school from receiving it; and the whole matter was left absolutely at large for distribution by the Education Department.


said surely not, for the first Amendment was to insert a new condition to provide for the representation of local authorities or parents on the management.


said no doubt it, was a direction to the Education Department, but the question was whether this came within the principle, and affected the people who were to receive the grant, which grant was not made specifically to any school or schools, but left to be distributed by the Education Department. He would not press the matter further. Certainly if the Amendment were Out of order, it pointed the objection to dealing with a great education question in such a manner that the House was impotent to take part in deciding it. It was not impossible so to frame the Bill that the House should take part in the consideration of the conditions under which schools should receive assistance from the State. If the House was precluded from discussing, from an educational point of view, what was to be the distribution of the money for education with a view to educational efficiency, then it seemed to him the House was deprived of the means of dealing with one of the most important questions ever brought before Parliament.


said if a decision were going to be taken on this point, its importance should be recognised, because if the House were precluded from discussing any conditions which appeared in a Bill making a grant of public money out of the Exchequer, then their Lordships would have no power to modify the words of any clause in Committee on such a Bill. The present Bill provided for a grant from the Exchequer, and to exempt certain schools from rates, and it repealed Section 19, known as the 17s. 6d. limit Section. Here were three propositions, each dealing with money. In Clause 1 Earl Spencer proposed to insert certain words having reference to representation on the school management, but how did that affect the grant? Why should not their Lordships discuss a question of this sort, which did not touch any money grant? If their Lordships were to alter the 5s. to some other figure, there would be interference with the grant. There had been cases in which the question had arisen, and their Lordships would remember what took place in reference to the Parish Councils Bill, in which first the House decided it would interfere and subsequently found it was mistaken, and had not the power; but if the question raised by the Amendment—not saying what his view of it was—should be considered out of order, then Committee discussions in the House would not be of much, use.


congratulated his noble and Radical Friends on their gallant attempt to assert in a high degree the privileges of the House. Where was poor Lord Rosebery? He and his friends had threatened the House with destruction, and now there was a series of Amendments on what was undoubtedly a money Bill asserting the power of the House not only to reject, but to alter such a Bill. He did not venture to put his opinion in antagonism to the opinions of his two noble and learned Friends, but with regard to the constitutional doctrine, he had always understood that the footing upon which the House stood with regard to the House of Commons Resolution, quoted by his noble and learned Friend, was that if the House of Lords altered a money Bill —there was no question of the power of the House to reject it—it did so at the peril of losing the Bill. It was not that the House had no right to do it. They had never acknowledged that doctrine, so far as he knew. The series of Amendments which had been placed on the Table by the noble Lords opposite asserted the power and the right of that House to amend money Bills, the penalty being that if they did so the Bill would be lost in the House of Commons. But then the noble Lords wanted the Bill to be lost, and that was the whole secret of these Amendments. He took another objection, and that was that the first Amendment was against the principle of; the Bill. The Bill was to assist Voluntary Schools. The very first Amendment would actually alter the constitution of Voluntary Schools as they knew them in this country. Lord Herschell said the other night that all the Voluntary Schools were ecclesiastical or denominational schools. The moment they insisted on the denominational schools admit ting a large representation from public bodies, they entirely altered their constitution. They were no longer Voluntary Schools in the sense in which they understood them.


said there were a considerable number of Voluntary Schools now which had local representation upon them.


said he knew that, but what had that to do with it? This Bill gave a grant in aid of 5s. to Voluntary Schools. Noble Lords opposite said, "We will shut out all Voluntary Schools which are of a particular constitution," though these formed 99–100ths of the whole.


said he thought it was very unfortunate that, after an objection had been raised, no doubt with great propriety, against the possibility of such an Amendment as this being introduced into this House, the noble Duke should proceed to discuss it. The noble Duke said this grant was for all Voluntary Schools. If he would read the Bill, he would see that in certain cases, where a Voluntary School did not belong to an association, it was excluded from the grant. With regard to what the noble Duke had said as to Lord Rosebery, he would remind him that his noble Friend had nothing whatever to do with this matter, and he did not think his remark was in extremely good taste. ["Hear, hear!"] Of course, he was not foolish enough to desire to lead the House, even if he had the power, to infringe the privileges of the other House. The question was merely whether the Amendment did that? He thought that, after what had been said by the noble and learned Lord opposite, who was necessarily an authority to be recognised in that House, it would not be right for them to press the matter further.


said the Bill provided that the Education Department should apply the grant as they thought best "for the purpose of increasing the efficiency" of the schools. By the second Amendment Lord Kimberley defined what in his opinion was efficiency, and he would like to ask whether that was a violation of the orders?


It adds a condition to the grant of money, which is within the express language of the protest of the House of Commons.


said that, after what had been said by the Lord Chancellor and others, he would not move the Amendment which stood in his name.


said he thought that the same argument distinctly applied to the next Amendment —[in Sub-section (2), after the word "efficiency," to insert the words, in accordance with regulations which will insure that it shall be applied—

  1. "(a) in improving the teaching staff as regards number, qualification, or salary; and so far as it is not in the opinion of the Education Department required for that purpose;
  2. "(b) in the payment of the teaching staff, the provision of special teachers, whether on the permanent staff or not, and in the improvement of the education of pupil teachers; and
  3. "(c) in the improvement of the educational fittings and apparatus of the school, and in otherwise increasing its efficiency"]—
and therefore he would not move it. As to the next Amendment, which stood in his name, and which had reference to the constitution of the associations—[in Sub-section (3), after the word "managers," to insert the words, and consisting as to not less than one-half of persons not clerks in holy orders, or ministers of any religious denomination, and, further, to leave out the words, "approved by the Education Department," and to insert the words, prescribed by schemes made by the Education Department, and published and laid before Parliament"]— he would like to say that he thought there was a very good argument in favour of considering that it did not infringe in any way the privileges of the House of Commons. These associations were purely voluntary bodies, which might give advice, but which advice the Education Department was in no way bound to follow. Consequently, the opinion that the associations might give was not in any way an opinion which could limit the discretion as to the granting of the money, and was not a condition of the granting of the money. He would like to hear whether the Lord Chancellor took that view?


I am afraid I do not take that view, because I think it comes within "management." The language of the protest includes the management, and I think that this touches the management.


did not think the objection to the first Amendment applied to this Amendment. As he understood, these associations were not to manage. They could not control—that was what they had been told—the expenditure of one penny. All they could do was to give advice to the Education Department, and surely they did not interfere with the money grant in any sort of way in dealing with the nature of the bodies who were to give advice. He submitted to the Lord Chancellor that this did not come within the language of the protest.


said he hoped the noble and learned Lord would understand that he was now rather speaking in aid of the regular course of procedure in that House, and not at all with reference to assisting the Bill. What appeared to him was that the House of Commons had prescribed the conditions under which this grant should be distributed, and it said that the Education Department should be advised by body A. The noble Earl proposed to add that body A should consist of something else than the House of Commons had already enacted. The result of that was that they would introduce a new qualification and a new condition to the circumstances in which the money might be distributed.


asked if they were now laying down a precedent with regard to the power of that House? If that were so, it seemed to him they might have cause to regret it very greatly at no very distant time. If any supposition existed that by the withdrawal of these Amendments they were setting a precedent that that House was not competent to discuss, then he would take the opinion of their Lordships on the point.


asked the Lord Chancellor whether he took the same view with regard to the publication of schemes?


If I am right, I take it it applies to that as well.


Then I do not move.


asked for the indulgence of the House while he made a short personal explanation. On Tuesday last he spoke of the Vice President of the Council as having made a speech at Girton, in which he said that he hoped that the associations would be comprehensive, and not run on any sectarian lines. In commenting on this, he said he had some fear that the Vice President was a little tainted with the desire, which he supposed many of them must have seen lately in many excellent people, to undenominationalise the denominational schools. The Vice President had been good enough to write to him to say that he could not admit the inference he had drawn. It was quite true that he thought the associations might be undenominational, but that he had no desire whatever to apply the same principle to the managers of the individual schools. There, on the contrary, he thought it of very great importance to maintain their character as denominational schools, and not to interfere with that in the slightest degree. He felt it was his duty to explain to the House that this inference had been repudiated by the Vice President of the Council, and that he did not at all question that the right hon. Gentleman was not in the slightest degree inclined to rob denominational schools of their denominational character. At the same time, he thought it would be a serious thing indeed if the associations were undenominationalised. On Tuesday night Lord Spencer said that friction, jealousy, and suspicion would be found in the associations. It was easy to answer that, because there were a good, many of such associations already at work. They were working with smoothness and ease, and were doing a great deal of good for the schools. He would not say Lord Spencer's description would not be true in a good many cases, if they compelled two denominations to associate their schools in one association. The business of the associations was to advise the Education Department upon the distribution of the money. For the purpose of advising the Department, it was absolutely necessary that they should ascertain what were, the resources of the different schools. That was rather a delicate duty. It. was not very easy to get people to be perfectly frank about all the resources upon which they could depend, and just as a Nonconformist manager would resent inquiries by a Church of England clergyman as to the pecuniary arrangements of his school, a Church of England clergyman would resent similar inquiries on the part of the Nonconformist manager. It would be well, therefore, if the Government would give them some assurance that they were not to begin what was undeniably an experiment by providing, as it were, fuel for a good deal of heat. For a long time to come, at any rate, it would be better that associations should be strictly denominational.


—who had given notice of his intention to move in Subsection (6) to leave out the word "may" ("The Education Department may"), in order to insert, instead thereof, the word "shall"—said that the Amendment would probably come within the objection raised by the Lord Chancellor. At the same time, he could not help saying that it was a great pity the Amendment was not made in the other House. The sub-section provided that — The Education Department may require, as a condition of a school receiving a share of the aid grant, that the accounts of the receipts and expenditure of the school shall be annually audited. It was pointed out that that ought to be obligatory in all cases. Then it was suggested that the word "may" meant "shall," but after the decision of the House, there was no doubt that it was permissive, and not obligatory.


said he did not know whether the objection taken to the other Amendments would apply to this Amendment.


said he understood the Lord Chancellor to say that it would.


said that at all events, this Amendment, assuming it to be in order, was totally unnecessary. In the other House, one of the Law Officers had expressed the opinion that, as the duty of auditing the accounts of schools was conferred on the Department, it was obligatory on the Department to make use of it. The Government considered that where an audit was really necessary, it should take place. A similar duty was imposed on the Department by the Blind and Deaf Children Act, 1893, and a minute was passed by the Committee of Council on Education in which the following passage occurred: — The accounts shall be audited annually either by a chartered accountant, a banker, or a bank manager, or a professional auditor. That showed the way in which the Department had acted on similar instructions in a former Act, and it was the intention of the Department to act in a similar manner in this case.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2,—