§ *LORD NORTON
I beg to put the question to the Lord President of the Council, of which I have given notice, to ask him whether he contemplates stating before Easter what are the intentions of the Government with reference to legislation with respect to secondary education. I merely wish to add, my Lords, the reason why I raise this question so early in the Session. It is this: that some definite assurance is wanted on the part of the Government that they have this important question—one of the most important question's before Parliament—seriously in hand, and the principles on which they contemplate legislating upon it. This want is leading to the subject being dealt with largely by other bodies throughout the country—partly by private munificence, 1185 partly by municipal institutions on a still great scale with lavish expenditure of public rates, with such enthusiasm that their institutions are already treading on each other—and partly by County Councils, who, upon a system, I should think, unprecedented for absurdity in any age or country, have three-quarters of a million of public money per annum handed over to them to make tentative experiments in what they call or consider technical instruction, according to the fancy of the Councils themselves. If the Government intend to deal with this subject nationally, if they have any scheme in their minds of national secondary education, whether as a system for the whole kingdom, or, far better, in the way of subsidising undertakings on the part of independent local bodies, they should lose no time in letting the country understand that they have the subject in hand, and the principles upon which they intend to deal with it. Otherwise, there will be a preoccupation of the whole field of the subject, which will render their action, however wise, embarrassed and confused. We have experience that it is due to want of some definite understanding of this sort that has led to the primary education of this country being so utterly confused with the secondary education of the country that ii has led to most mischievous results, and made the action of both classes of education conflicting and ineffective. The waste of public money is the smallest mischief of the confusion of elementary and scientific education. The separation of the two is necessary, because we are all agreed, I think, that secondary and technical instruction should not be given as primary instruction is, entirely at the public expense for all classes, rich and poor. The State should not undertake to secondary education by way of scholar-cost to the sons of rich manufacturers, but public money should only give free secondary education by way of scholarships to the poor who can make use of them. It is for this reason, and with no distrust of the noble Duke's action, but with perfect confidence in the wisdom and good sense with which he will deal with the subject, that I hope that he will state now that he intends to take it up before long, and that even before that he will let the country 1186 understand the general principles upon which he is going to act, so that the whole field of his action may not be preoccupied and embarrassed.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL
My Lords, I have for some time past, been giving a great deal of attention to this subject, and have brought it to a certain extent before the notice of the Government. As my noble Friend is aware, it was announced in Her Majesty's Speech that it was hoped that it would be possible for us to introduce a Bill upon the subject in the course of the present Session; but I do not think that I am able to state that it is at all likely that the Measure can be introduced into either House before Easter. I hope very strongly that after Easter it may be possible for me to make some announcement on the subject. After what has fallen from my noble Friend, I think I ought to make a reservation, and to state that it is not now, and never has been, the intention of the Government to do anything in the nature of establishing secondary education throughout the country. Any Measure which we might introduce would be solely for the purpose of organising in a better way that which already exists, and possibly supplement it to a certain extent; but the idea that what is being done by county authorities or municipal authorities or by private individuals is to be replaced by something which is to be done in the future by the Government is not one which in any way has ever been contemplated by the Government. I have no doubt that a certain amount of the £800,000 which has been given to the County Councils principally to be expended upon technical education, may have been at the outset misused, and perhaps a certain amount has been wasted; but, on the other hand, I believe that a very large portion of it is now being most usefully employed, with very great advantage in the various localities. It is not, as my noble Friend appears to suppose, dependent entirely upon the will and pleasure of the County Councils. Almost every County Council has established for the purpose of administering this grant in aid of technical education a Technical Education Committee, which does not usually consist 1187 solely of members of the County Council. It need not consist solely of members of the County Council. These bodies are naturally acquiring a very great deal of experience, and, I believe, in a great many centres they are doing at present a very invaluable work.