§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Amendment to the Motion for Second Reading—namely, That the Bill be read 2a this day six months, moved yesterday by Viscount Hailsham.1105
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (LORD PASSFIELD)
My Lords, the Amendment before the House is for the summary rejection of this Bill, and in moving that Amendment I think it is not unfair to say that the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, rested his proposal for such summary treatment exclusively upon the ground of the necessity for economy. It is quite true, of course, that, like the consummate advocate that he is, he added a number of other objections to the Bill on various Committee points of importance, but they were points which did not necessarily require your Lordships to reject the Bill on Second Reading. The noble and learned Viscount pointed out, for instance, that in his opinion the Bill was wasteful because it paid no heed to what is picturesquely called the "bulge," so that possibly in a few years' time there will be a great many more children to be provided for, for a few years, after which the numbers will again sink.
I do not propose to attempt to discuss these various Committee points, but I will say in passing that the numbers of children in those years of "bulge," numbering somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000, which is a large host, yet amount only to some B per cent. or 9 per cent. of the total number of children at school. These children come in at the bottom. They are now rising to school age, and it is perfectly true that for a few years there may be all over the Kingdom an average of 8 per cent. or 9 per cent. of extra children, who will not be there long. It must also be remembered that the calculations are made upon the basis of the class of children for each teacher being no more than forty. That is not a sacrosanct figure. As a matter of fact it is a purely imaginary figure. As things work in the disposition of children, you practically never, from one end of the Kingdom to the other, have a class of exactly forty. They are either a little more or a little less, and vary from school to school, from town to town, and from year to year. Children are not poured out with a mathematical regularity in space or in time that would enable us to construct schools for classes of exactly forty.
1106 Assuming that, Owing to this "bulge," there will be temporarily 9 per cent. more of children in a class, that would mean that the average class would be of forty-three instead of forty, or something like that. Then, when the "bulge" was over and the tide of children receded, the class would drop from forty-three to forty, or perhaps even to thirty-nine, and by that time your Lordships will know that we expect to see all classes below forty. I would remind your Lordships that forty is an excessive number. It is a far larger number than is allowed in secondary schools, and these schools will be of the type of secondary schools. The number there is only thirty; forty is excessive. I think your Lordships may be quite sure that, even after that tidal wave which we call the "bulge," has receded, there will still be classes, as I think, too large.
But although it would not be fair to the noble and learned Viscount to attribute his criticism of the wastefulness of this Bill merely to its policy, I think I am not doing him any injustice if I say that he suggested that the Bill was extravagant in that it provided an additional year's schooling for all children, and that this seemed to him a matter of extravagance, on the plea, of course —a very proper plea—that the exceptionally bright child is, or ought to be, provided for by scholarships, and the inference seemed to be that the other children could not incorporate or adequately utilise that additional year's schooling. I traverse that argument for what my experience is worth at all points. It is not true that the bright children are provided for by scholarships. The noble Viscount gave some figures which seem to indicate that the number of scholarships was very large, but England is a populous country, and although there are a large number of scholarships, it is a very small percentage of the children in the elementary schools. I have not the figures, but I think I am well within the mark in saying that not one-tenth of the children in the elementary schools are able to go on to the secondary schools, or to obtain higher education. The scholarship system, great and beneficent as it is—I can remember thirty odd years ago having something to do with promoting it in London—still 1107 leaves nine-tenths of the children in our elementary schools unable to proceed to higher education.
Lord Gainford incidentally, referring to this subject, I think used the expression "mentally defective." I think that was a slip on his part. He did not really allude to children who are mentally defective in the technical sense, but it is instructive to notice that mental defectives are already required to continue at school not until they are fifteen but until they are sixteen years of age, because they are not bright children. Your Lordships, however, need not waste much time over either of those arguments, because neither scholarship nor mentally defective children amount to a large proportion of the children in our elementary schools. The scholarship children are under 5 per cent. and the mentally defectives in our schools only one or two per cent. Consequently, the great bulk of the children, certainly over 90 per cent., in the elementary schools, are neither the exceptionally bright children picked out by scholarships nor, on the other hand, those mental defectives to whom Lord Gainford, possibly by inadvertence, alluded.
They are the ordinary children of the British race, and it was those children that Parliament in its wisdom sixty years ago required should all go to school for a certain time, and subsequently enlarged that time from twelve to thirteen and from thirteen to fourteen, and now from fourteen to fifteen years of age as suggested in the Hadow Report, which has been received with so much acceptance not merely by the educational public, but by the public at large, and by successive Governments and successive Presidents of the Board of Education. The Hadow Report, with the reorganisation which it proposes, has been accepted by successive Boards of Education and successive Governments, and reorganisation has been proceeding under the late Conservative Government and under the present Government upon the basis of that Report. Now, suddenly, one of the integral, obvious and necessary parts of that Report, the raising of the school age to fifteen, for which preparation has been going on during past years, this House, at the instance of the noble Viscount, is asked summarily to reject.
1108 I think I am not unfair in saying that in essence the object of the noble Viscount's speech was to ask your Lordships to reject not this Bill only, but the raising of the school age. The noble Viscount did not propose to postpone this Bill, or to postpone the date of its coming into operation, or that your Lordships should have any opportunity of amending it and removing some of those blemishes which he pointed out. He asked you summarily to reject the raising of the school age from fourteen to fifteen —a policy which has been endorsed by the late Government and upon which millions of money have already been spent in enlarging the schools and in preparing for reorganisation upon the basis of the Hadow Report, which included the raising of the school age to fifteen. The noble Viscount asks your Lordships summarily to reject that, and summarily to reverse the policy of the Government of which he was a distinguished member, which policy was based upon the approximate raising of the school age to fifteen. Whatever the noble Viscount may think, it is certain that the rejection of this Bill will be taken by the educational public and by the local authorities to mean that your Lordships definitely negative once for all the raising of the school age to fifteen.
I have not had time to look up the precedents, but I am very much inclined to think that your Lordships have never treated an Education Bill in that way before. So far any criticism of your Lordships upon the matter of education has not been warranted, but on this occasion you have been asked to reject an Education Bill summarily. The motive for that, we are told, is economy, but be it remembered that there is no immediate expenditure under this Bill. The expenditure will for the moment be small—half a million next year—but the expenditure will grow in successive years until, according to the best estimate which we can form, it reaches £9,000,000. It is, however, not an immediate addition, because the trouble is that in these great schemes of educational reorganisation you have to plan for the future. The local authorities have already been at work and are proceeding under this plan. It is imperative that they should know, and they have been bombarding the Board of Education to ascertain, whether the school age is to be raised this year or 1109 next year and if they see that your Lordships have summarily rejected this Bill, they can only conclude that there is no prospect of the school age being raised.
If the noble Viscount and his associates form a Government in the near future, as they confidently expect to do, they will realise that they come in pledged to schemes, I will not say of economy but of cutting down the aggregate of Government expenditure to an extent which I do not believe at all possible. They will come in pledged to a cutting-down of Government expenditure which will make it rather difficult for them to reverse the vote which they are going to give to-day. When you do that, you will be putting off for some years the expenditure which will be necessary, and the mere fact that we are short this year is no reason why we should not proceed with reorganisation under the Hadow Report, which has been going on and which has been paid for by the late Government as well as by this—paid for, indeed, I think, even to a larger extent by the late Government than by this Government—and the whole object of which is to provide for such a school course as will go on to the age of fifteen. That has been the basis of the plan. That has been the basis of the late Government's acceptance of the Hadow Report and the present Government's continuance of that acceptance.
It is not merely that your Lordships are asked not to go forward; your Lordships are asked positively to go back. And if it is called economy, it must be remembered that the whole basis of this Hadow scheme is the continuance of this four-year course, and every educational adviser that I have ever discussed the matter with is emphatic that the value increases each year, and that you lose a great deal of the value of the extra cost of putting on the two-year course and the three-year course unless you have the fourth year. I think the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York yesterday drew attention to the fact that it is the last year which is the most profitable, and, if it is out of economy that your Lordships are hesitating, it seems a sort of penny wise and pound foolish policy, which can hardly be called true economy.
I am very anxious to reduce what I have to say to the very smallest com- 1110 pass, because so many wish to speak in this debate, and we none of us wish to be unduly late. But I must allude to the effect of the action which your Lordships are asked to take on the very troublesome, difficult and important religious question. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, appeared to suggest that the rejection of the Bill was mainly relevant to the question of a concordat in so far as it might effect the future attitude of the Government on the subject. But that is a mistake. Your Lordships will realise that this religious controversy is not a matter which primarily rests with the Government to settle. If that had been the case I am sure it would have been settled long ago by some Government. And as regards the action of the present Government, I venture to think that there is universal agreement as to the skill, patience, and perseverance with which the present President of the Board of Education has pursued this matter with the parties concerned.
But it is, I suggest, a fact that the reorganisation which is going on, and to which this Bill would add the fruition —that reorganisation, quite apart from the raising of the school age, is an important reason for a concordat. But the reason is not that the Government would be thereby pressed to do anything, for the truth of the matter is that large numbers of persons are at this moment exceptionally favourably disposed to a concordat. The attitude of the various religious denominations, the teachers, and the local authorities is, I venture to think, more favourably disposed to a concordat than it has ever been since 1902. We are nearer a settlement of this extremely and politically dangerous subject than has ever been the case before. Not that the parties concerned have necessarily more affection for the present system, but because so many of them have come to the conclusion that a concordat on any practicable terms is a price worth paying for getting the school age raised. It is the prospect of getting this educational advance, or what these people think is an educational advance, which has disposed so many of them on all sides of this question to be prepared to go into conference, and really try to find some basis of agreement which would remove this religious difficulty from the schools for ever. The moment 1111 is favourable, but if your Lordships throw out this Bill, if you summarily reject this chance, what prospect is there of getting these different bodies to come to an agreement at all?
I can assure your Lordships that it is not a matter of one Government or the other; any Government would be glad to have this religious question settled. No Government has been able to do it. The lines run across Party politics, and no Government has found it possible to take either the one view or the other without such a revolt in its own ranks that it has been out of the question for the Government to proceed in the matter. That was true, as your Lordships will remember, with successive Conservative Governments; it was also true with successive Liberal Governments, and with the present Labour Government. Unless we can proceed by agreement there is very little prospect in time to come of getting that clone. Now the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York pointed out yesterday that there is one chance still, that if the Bill were allowed to go to a Committee it might be possible between now and Third Reading to bring this very nearly agreed concordat to a happy conclusion. It may even conceivably be possible to incorporate it in the Bill as it is passing through your Lordships' House.
I do not know; but at any rate the summary rejection of this Bill to-night will kill any chance of that and will, in my opinion, kill any chance of arriving at that agreement and disposing of the religious difficulty. It will leave it as a legacy to successive Boards of Education, to successive Governments of one Party or another, all of them feeling the necessity, if there is to be any further educational advance at all, of removing this spectre of religious controversy, and all of them equally unable to do it. I would ask your Lordships to pause before you summarily dispose of this Bill. I would ask those of you who take an interest in one side or the other of this religious trouble to realise how much is at stake of the particular views that they take if the chance of such agreement is summarily negatived. There is still time, but if the Bill is rejected there is almost no hope of arriving at any such settlement.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken will not, I think, expect me to follow him in the smaller points which he has made, because my noble and learned friend moved the rejection of the measure on broad grounds and has confined himself to two very cogent reasons why your Lordships should consider very carefully whether the measure should pass or not. The noble Lord who introduced it did so in a speech to which we all listened with pleasure; but there was one remark in his speech which I think he probably regrets now, and which altered the level on which we hoped the debate would continue. In the few remarks that I shall make I do not desire to say anything of a Party character, because this question of education is so transcendently important to all sections of the community that the more we can look at it from a dispassionate point of view and put forward those reasons which are connected with the welfare of the country and also the benefit of education the better. Therefore, I regret that the noble Lord, who does not usually make these incursions into Party politics in your Lordships' House, should, if I may say so, he guilty of a remark which is certainly inconsistent with the other remarks which he addressed to your Lordships.
The Bill which is now before your Lordships is one of a piecemeal character, if I may use the expression. It does not deal with the whole subject, but it deals with one matter which the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading has endeavoured to explain to us is a very important matter. The noble Lord who has just sat down has told us that it was the foundation of the recommendations of the Hadow Report. In a few moments I will venture to tell your Lordships that, in my humble judgment, that was certainly not the basic principle of the Hadow Report and, therefore, to bring in a Bill to enact that the school age shall be raised is not benefiting the cause of education but is putting back the hands of the clock rather than adopting progressive plans. It is common knowledge that the Socialist Party were pledged to various sections at the General Election in connection with this Bill. We are all induced to pledge ourselves to various policies at Election times. There is no doubt that this policy was 1113 put forward with the suggestion that the raising of the school age would, to some extent, though not to a very large extent—it was never advocated on that ground—mitigate the numbers of the unemployed. I cannot help feeling that this desire to implement a pledge has been one of the motive forces which have induced the Government to bring this measure forward.
The most rev. Prelate did not altogether eulogise the Bill. He went so far as to say that he agreed with the noble and learned Viscount in regard to many of its principles, and his suggestion was that the maintenance proposals should be deleted. I am not sure that His Majesty's Government would be prepared to go on with their Bill if those proposals were deleted. Moreover, the most rev. Prelate was supported in that contention by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London, who hoped that the Bill would be read a second time and that this matter would be one for discussion in Committee. The right rev. Prelate is not in his place at the moment, but I think your Lordships are aware that this is a question of Privilege and one with which in no circumstances could we deal.
This Bill is not the first attempt at this subject which the Government have made. It has already had two predecessors. One was brought forward in 1929 but did not reach a Second Reading because it pleased no one. It made no attempt whatsoever to meet the very legitimate demands of the voluntary schools. In May, 1930, a more comprehensive measure was brought in which did contain provision for a concordat, which the noble Lord alluded to, on the subject of the voluntary schools. But that Bill was doomed because it did not satisfy the equally legitimate demands of the Churches. It survived a Second Beading and was withdrawn. Now we are in process of discussing the third Bill, and I am bound to say that I have heard very little in its favour as it was brought forward in another place and as it has been placed before your Lordships. It seems to me that the case which my noble and learned friend put forward is really unanswerable, and if your Lordships are prepared to consider his speech on its merits you will find that whatever the advantages may be, 1114 and I am bound to say that I do not see many advantages in the Bill, the case which he brought forward is one which should be most carefully considered.
It is true that the Bill has emerged from another place in a somewhat different form to that in which it was introduced. The date has been postponed for eighteen months, and there is now a combination of the means test and a statutory contribution. The Bill is also contingent upon another measure being brought forward so that the requirements of the voluntary schools necessitated by the Bill should be met out of public funds. Therefore, your Lordships will see that these three Bills have found a stumbling block in the question of the voluntary schools. As I said in my opening remarks, in my humble judgment educational reforms are not brought forward in this manner. These Bills should be great and comprehensive measures which cover the whole field, so that it will he possible for Governments to proceed in future enactments on a solid basis which is found rather than by consolidating rod altering enactments which have been previously passed.
The main grounds for the rejection of this measure have been very succinctly and cogently stated by my noble and learned friend. Whereas the noble Lord who has just spoken has told us that lie is not aware of any precedent for the rejection by your Lordships of a measure of this description, I would suggest to him that there has been no similar occasion to the one in which we find ourselves. I hardly think there is any one in your Lordships' House who did not read the speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in another place with the gravest misgiving and, as a corollary to his remarks on that occasion, your Lordships will be aware of the alarming fall which has taken place in Government securities in the last few days. These are matters which we are bound to consider, and if we are proposing as a nation, and I think with very few exceptions we are proposing as a nation, to check the extravagant expenditure which is going on at the present moment—expenditure in regard to which I am not sure that any Government can claim complete innocence—it is only right and proper that your Lordships' House should consider very 1115 carefully whether we are justified on any account whatsoever in embarking on an expenditure of this kind, of which it is impossible to say exactly what the extent will be.
There is one point to which I would draw your Lordships' attention in relation to the maintenance allowance which at this moment is calculated at £13. This subject was raised in another place by Colonel Spender Clay, who drew attention to it in these words:—We have been told by the right hon. gentleman that the cost of a child at a secondary school is on an average £6 15s. a year for maintenance. Under the present Bill the cost will be £13 a year. Therefore, you have the extraordinary state of affairs that the parents of a child at a secondary school between the ages of thirteen and fourteen will be getting £6 15s. as maintenance allowance, but when that child is between fourteen and fifteen the parents will get £13 a year, but when the child reaches the age between fifteen and sixteen years, the payment will revert once more to £6 15s. a year.That figure of £6 15s. is an average. That is a point which I think your Lordships will see, if you read the report of the debate in another place, has hardly been noticed by the Minister of Education at all, but your Lordships will realise that it means an enormous additional expenditure under this Bill.
The noble Lord brushed aside various figures in connection with expenditure. He told your Lordships that these were percentages and that really on the scale of the whole those percentages were very small. But notwithstanding anything he said, I think he must agree that the minimum expenditure that we shall have to contemplate in relation to this Bill in the near future is something like £9,000,000, with every possibility of its being a great deal more. So I feel that your Lordships will only do right to consider that, at a time when the finance of this country is in such a difficult position, we should look jealously at any scheme which carries with it a possible expenditure of public money.
In relation to the main project of the Bill, the raising of the school age by one year, I am bound to say, with a certain amount of experience as Minister of Education in Northern Ireland, whose duty it was naturally to consider all these questions as closely as one could, although perhaps one's main duties were more with the system than the actual 1116 curricula in education, that I have come to the conclusion—and I have heard nothing in this debate to change the conclusion at which I have arrived—that the age of fourteen, with various modifications, is by far the best for education in this country. The proposed system is one which establishes a rigidity which, in my judgment, is not in accordance with the best interests of education. We know quite well that it is within the capacity of local education authorities by by-law to raise the school age. But that power has not been exercised as yet in many parts of the country. I have no doubt that as education develops and as the public take more and more interest in education in this country, education authorities will take advantage of the power which is placed in their hands and will do their best to give further extended facilities in education to larger numbers of children in this country. Those are the two main reasons for which I personally oppose this Bill; but I am wondering why noble Lords opposite are bringing forward this Bill at this time, because when a measure is brought forward which is contingent upon another measure of which the date is not fixed and cannot be fixed for some considerable time, one would have thought that it would have been in the interests of the Government to have dropped this measure and to have brought in a more comprehensive measure later when they could have included the conditions and advantages which have been held out to the voluntary schools.
I do not wish to trespass too long on your Lordships' attention, but education is a very fruitful subject and one on which one is inclined to be led away in different directions. I think that most of us who have taken an interest in this question have met three schools of thought. We have met people who are against expenditure on education altogether. They go so far as to say that they think most of it is fundamentally wrong. There are others who believe that the cause of education is benefited by lavish expenditure and that, therefore, expenditure to any extent which comes under the head of education is for the benefit of the country. But there are others—and I think it is an ever-increasing school—who believe that expenditure on education is an investment for the future. This is a most anxious question. 1117 and I should be the last person to throw cold water on any expenditure on education if I believed that the expenditure which we were incurring was an investment which would in years to come bring back that return to the nation which we should like to see. For myself, I have never quarrelled with expenditure if it could be proved to me that that expenditure was advantageous.
Your Lordships are well aware of the Burnham scales which created almost a revolution in education. That was a policy with which I have always been in thorough agreement. I am quite sure that unless we recognise the needs of the teachers, and unless we realise that in view of the duties and responsibilities which fall on their shoulders they should receive adequate and even more than adequate remuneration, it is quite impossible for them to guide the youth of this country either in their intellectual studies or in the formation of character. The same remark applies to buildings. It is quite impossible to instruct children unless those physical conditions on which so much depends are of the highest degree of excellence. But when it comes to spending money on a system of this description which contains a doctrine which is not really universally held, I am bound to say that I think it is the duty of the Government to consider whether the expenditure which they are calling on the country to provide is really justifiable in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.
Those of us who have endeavoured to do our best in the field of educational activity, looking upon what is called the ladder of education making a continuous ascent from the elementary schools through the secondary schools to the Universities, have always desired, every one of us, that all those children who could benefit by that system should be enabled to do so by the authorities who were responsible for them and with the wishes of the community behind them. lint that course is one which is only suit able and one which is only profitable to a certain number of children in this country. When I say that in my belief the age of fourteen is the best age at which the actual compulsory school age should end, I say it for this reason, that I am sure that by leaving children in schools for another year, when a number 1118 of them will not profit by that extra education, you are causing the country to incur expenditure from which the Exchequer should be saved. And now I am not sure whether I join issue with the most rev. Prelate or not. I should be very diffident in venturing to cross swords with one of such high scholarly attainments and such a wide scholastic experience, but I am not sure that we are right in believing that there is so much benefit in granting instruction to children after fourteen years of age.
I know that the most rev. Prelate and most of your Lordships here have been brought up on a traditional system in which we were retained in our educational seminaries to a far greater age than fourteen, but I am bound to say that if it were possible to get some chart by which we could calculate these things, I think we would find that an enormous sum has been wasted in years past by keeping boys and girls at school after a time when in no circumstances have they received any profitable education whatsoever. I feel in the circumstances in which we find ourselves at the present moment that by establishing a rigid system of education up to fifteen you are going to waste a certain sum of money on an enormous number of children who would derive far more benefit by being released at the age of fourteen, and brought into education in conjunction with industry and also with the technical classes and night schools by which a combination of useful education can be inculcated in these children.
I am venturing I am afraid at too great a length to trespass on your Lordships' attention, but I should like to say one word in connection with the Hadow Report. The noble Lord who has just sat down has spoken to us of that Report, and it is in all our minds. It is a remarkable, comprehensive document, and I am sure that we all owe a great debt of gratitude to the members of the Committee—I include Lord Gorell among their number—for the great Report which is now before this country, and on which the late Government founded a great deal of its educational policy. The Hadow Report advocated the reorganisation of public education, and its first recommendation was that primary education should be conducted in two stages. Instead of the long course of primary 1119 education which began at a very early age and ended at fourteen, they advocated very strongly that it should be in two stages, that there should be a primary course and that there should be a post-primary course. That was the important and essential recommendation of the Hadow Report. I go so far as to say that when they recommended that the post-primary course should be four years instead of three years that was not their main recommendation. They went further than that. They went so far as to say:—The course of wisdom, therefore, it appears to us would be to pass legislation fixing the age of fifteen as that up to which attendance at school will be made obligatory after the lapse of five year, from the date of this Report.As I understand it, the Committee envisaged immediate legislation following their Report, and advised that there should be what really amounts to a five years moratorium between legislation and its actual operation. If that means anything it surely means that the children should not be compelled to attend school for a further year until reorganisation is complete and the schools are ready to receive them.
There is one further recommendation which I will venture to read to your Lordships, and that is a recommendation of the Balfour Committee on Industry and Trade. Directing their attention to the raising of the school age, they advised that the main objective to be kept in view is to ensure that juveniles should be either in suitable employment or receiving suitable instruction. In order to avoid dislocation in industry they laid down a further principle. They said:—Starting from the earliest date which financial and administrative conditions permit, the period of compulsory school attendance should be extended by one term in each of three subsequent years.Your Lordships will notice that this Committee's recommendation demands the fulfilment of two most important conditions—conditions which I and my noble friend behind me have ventured to put before your Lordships—before the school age is extended at all—namely, first, that the state of public finances must be such as to justify the undertaking of the additional expenditure: and, secondly, that the state of the 1120 organisation of the schools, the supply of places, the supply of teachers, equipment, etc., must be such as to justify the retention of the pupils in the schools for a longer period. I think that both those recommendations fully hear out the reasons why my noble friend has recommended your Lordships to reject this measure.
There is only one further remark I should venture to make and that is in connection with the voluntary schools. The noble Lord who has just sat down—I hardly think he meant it as a threat, but it certainly sounded as a threat in your Lordships' House—said, almost in Biblical terms, "agree with thine adversary quickly." I cannot share the noble Lord's view that this is a moment at which opinion is so disposed that it presents the best and perhaps the only chance of recognition throughout the country for the rights of the voluntary schools. I think that as public opinion progresses the claim which the voluntary schools have upon the people of this country is becoming greater every day. We recognise that the Churches have been the pioneers of education. It is due to them that in early days there was any education at all. We also realise that they are the greatest single factor at this moment in education throughout this country. I have met all these difficulties, if I may venture to say so, in Northern Ireland. I have met all the difficulties in connection with the religious question, and also the difficulties which are put forward by those who said that because education is compulsory, and because the public are called upon to pay for education, therefore no Church schools should exist, or they should be put in such a form as to curtail their activities.
Apart from all the desires which are in our minds, we believe that the Church schools carry out a remarkable and valuable work in themselves. There is also the practical difficulty that if the Church schools are squeezed out of existence, or if difficulties are placed in their pathway which can hinder them in carrying out their educational duties, then the country will have to take over the school buildings and will be faced with an enormous expenditure. I hardly think that that is going to happen. I am sure I that the non-provided schools, instead of 1121 losing heart at this moment, have every reason to believe that as public opinion progresses a greater interest and a greater sympathy will be extended to them. I hope most sincerely that the most rev. Prelate and the right rev. Prelates who sit around him will not feel that they must accept this Bill because of the dangers, and even disasters, which may be before them if they do not accept it. I should like to suggest, if I may venture to do so, to the most rev. Prelate that he should join us in rejecting this Bill, because I hardly think it is consistent with the ideas which he has in his mind. But it is not for me, except in the humblest form of persuasion, to endeavour to suggest what he should do. I have already detained your Lordships too long. I can only say in conclusion that I fully and heartily endorse the Amendment which has been moved by my noble and learned friend who sits behind me.
§ LORD SANDERSON
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said that it suggested but a very small step forward in educational progress. It is a small step forward, and it is a step forward which is long overdue. The Bill, as your Lordships know, merely suggests the raising of the school age for one year and giving a maintenance allowance of 5s. a week. Let me remind your Lordships, in regard to that maintenance allowance, that 5s. a week is only partial compensation for the sacrifices which the working people will have to make to keep those children at school for another year. It is possible now for a boy of fourteen who can get work—and a great many of them do—to earn anything from 10s. to 15s. a week, so that 5s. is only a partial compensation for the sacrifices which parents will have to make for the good of the children, and, I think, for the good of the nation.
This Bill is a very moderate Bill, and yet I have heard used against it yesterday and to-day all the old time-worn arguments, if I may so call them, that have been used whenever any advance in education has been proposed in the last sixty years. The arguments that I have heard were used against the raising of the school age to fourteen in 1918, they were used when education was made free in 1993, and in 1870 when education was 1122 made compulsory. Those arguments have been disproved by experience over and over again. They do not, I think, gain in validity from repetition. The arguments that I have ventured to call "time-worn" are, in the main, three: it is said that we cannot afford the Bill; that the Bill will be of no use, or very little; and that nobody really wants it. The noble and learned Viscount bases his main objections to the Bill on the ground of economy, and he laid great stress on the speech made last week by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I did not attach a great deal of importance to the emphasis that he laid on that speech or on his impressive reading of certain passages from it, because I remembered that the noble Viscount had put down his Amendment for the rejection of the Bill some days before Mr. Snowden's speech was made. Mr. Snowden's speech was, I think, somewhat opportune for the noble and learned Viscount.
I am as anxious for true economy as any one in your Lordships' House, but when the word "economy" is in the air it is apt to be used by people as an argument for not doing the things which they do not want to do, and for preventing other people doing the things Which they do want to do. Economy does not consist, of course, in merely abstaining from expenditure. It can take other Forms, such as the avoidance of waste, and sound investment for the future. Our present educational system is, I think, a very wasteful system. While a very small minority of the children of the country are educated up to the age of seventeen or eighteen, the children of the well-to-do and comparatively well-to-do, or up to twenty-two or twenty-three if they go on to the University, the great majority of the children of the nation, the children of working people, are turned out into industry at fourteen. Things have improved somewhat in that respect in recent years but, as my noble friend Lord Passfield has pointed out, 90 per cent. do not go on to secondary schools.
That is a wasteful system—wasteful of the talent of the nation, because until you give all the children in the nation at any rate the opportunity of the best education you cannot tell what talent is available and you do not get the people into the right places. You are bound to get many square pegs in round 1123 holes. I know from my own experience that there are potential scientists working in mines and factories to-day, and also that there are promising artisans and skilled craftsmen working indifferently well in the professions and holding, I think inadequately, places of responsibility in business and elsewhere. If you raise the school age you will be taking a step forward towards diminishing that waste. You will be turning out children a little bit better educated—I think a good deal better, because boys who leave school at fifteen will really have had a better education than boys who leave at fourteen.
As to the expense, I am sorry that I cannot agree with the noble Marquess as to this expenditure being a bad investment. I agree with the most rev. Prelate, who put the case from that point as well as it could be put, if I may say so. I think that money spent in better equipping the next generation, on whom, after all, the welfare of the nation ultimately depends, must be a good investment. Will it be a great expense? Your Lordships talk of £8,000,000 or £15,000,000, but I doubt if it will amount to nearly as much as that. If only a certain number of places are thrown open in industry owing to the keeping of these 500,000 children a year longer in school, those places will be filled by older children or adults, and thus you will save a very considerable sum in unemployment benefit. A considerable proportion of the expense should be saved in that way, and this ought to appeal to your Lordships in the Bill's favour. Some noble Lords opposite were attacking the Government somewhat violently last week on the ground that nothing was done for unemployment. Here is something that will act distinctly in relief of unemployment.
Then it is said that the Bill will not do any good. The most rev. Prelate pointed out yesterday the importance of the two years from fourteen to sixteen in a boy's life, and I can endorse what he said from experience of my own. For a large part of my life I have been engaged in teaching working men and women. Most of them had left school at thirteen or fourteen—that was before the ace was raised to fourteen—and had been in industry some ten or twelve years when they found that they began to feel 1124 the need of more education. They came to me, and many of them had forgotten a great deal of what they had learnt at school, and found it very difficult to bridge over the gulf. Most of them managed to make good, but some few could never bridge the gulf.
I had also at the time I was there just a sprinkling of men who had managed to get to a secondary school for one or two years. They were not the bright scholarship boys, but boys whose parents had been a little better off and had managed for them to have a year or two at a secondary school. They had not better brains than the others, but the difference was most remarkable. The boys who had had an extra year or two at school were much better equipped for work as students. They knew how to use their tools better, if I may put it in that way. They knew how to get things out of books. Their minds were less stiff and were better trained to think, and they made much more rapid progress than the other boys, though they had not necessarily better brains and in some cases had less good brains than some of those who had had to leave school earlier. I became convinced that the two years between fourteen and sixteen were very important years in the educational life of boys.
It is sometimes argued that nobody really wants the Bill. I do not attach very much importance to arguments drawn from the five local authorities who have raised the age to fifteen. You cannot argue from five isolated cases to what would happen throughout the country. I know of people who, mainly through extreme poverty, would be glad to have their boys away from school earlier, perhaps at ten or twelve, but we do not legislate for the most backward part of the population, but for the more enlightened part. We do not want to drag people down to the lowest level, but to raise the level for all. Lord Gain-ford suggested that we ought to sort out the boys at fourteen and keep some at school and send the others into industry, and the noble Marquess seemed to think we should adopt the same idea; but you cannot sort out boys at that age, because you do not know at that age how they are going to develop. There are not enough data to go upon. Boys of the well-to-do are not sorted out 1125 and some of them sent into the fields, and why should the sons of the workers be treated differently? People are too much in the habit of thinking that what is not good enough for themselves is good enough for others.
Returning to the point as to whether the Bill is wanted, I say that there has grown up in the last twenty years a great adult education movement, and that movement, through the Workers Educational Association, has brought about a great awakening on the part of the working people to the importance of education. The Workers Educational Association now provides education for some 50,000 students each year, which is more than all the undergraduates in the Universities of the United Kingdom in one year put together. It has taught the workers the value of education. Many working men have said to me: "It may be too late for me to get the knowledge I wish to have, but I have learnt this, that I will not let my children miss the opportunity which I have missed. They shall have better opportunities than I have had." There is a real demand among the more thoughtful working people in the country for this Bill. They do want this extra opportunity for their children, and if your Lordships decide to throw out this Bill, it will, I know, cause widespread resentment. I have tried to show that the Bill is in the interests of national economy. I have tried to show that it will confer real benefits upon the coming generation. I have tried to prove to your Lordships that the Bill is really wanted by thoughtful people of this country, and I hope very much that the House will decide to take this very small step forward in a matter of real national importance.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, the height to which debate in this House on such a subject as this usually rises is well known to your Lordships, and is well illustrated by the debate to which we have listened upon this Bill. I wish at the outset to refer to the interest with which I am sure we have all listened to the speech of the noble Lord, whose many years of work for the cause of education have earned him a special right to attention upon this particular subject. Yet I could not but feel that there was much which was not real in this debate. We are accustomed to sham 1126 debates, but I am not sure that this is not one of the shammest of them all, for let us remember this, that even if this Bill becomes law it will not come into operation until another Act has been passed. It seems to me in these circumstances that some further step is necessary.
With regard to the actual principle of the Bill, that education, should be continued to the age of fifteen, it has my completest sympathy and whole-hearted support, but I confess I am filled with doubt as to what is known as the Scurr Amendment, and I associate myself with the comments made upon it last night by Lord Clwyd. Perhaps he will allow me to say in passing that it was with some amusement that I found him defending the case of the settlement of the 1902 Act. But, however that may be, I do associate myself with him entirely in regard to this matter. And it surely is a new principle that a Bill should be introduced into your Lordships' House, or indeed should be passed by Parliament, subject to another Act which is going to be passed on a subsequent occasion.
For my noble friends I would say that over and over again the Federation which represents their political organisation in the country has passed resolutions in favour of raising the school age to fifteen. At the same time we fully realise the importance of the objections which have been made on the score of economy. We all of us say we want economy, but when we begin to try to practice economy we quarrel upon the subjects upon which that economy should be exercised. It is a most difficult subject, and those points upon which noble Lords around me wish to have economy are those upon which I should be prepared to spend, while those upon which they would be prepared to spend are just tie points upon which I should be wishful to economise. I do not, however, very much want to say anything on the subject. of economy to-day, but I confess I was very much impressed by the speech made by my noble friend, once President of the Board of Education, Lord Gainford, in the course of the debate yesterday afternoon. He told us that there were many other objects upon which he would like to spend money before he raised the school age. But I suppose that, generally sneaking, one may say that if the money were available 1127 there would probably be a large majority in this House in favour of the principle of this measure.
I confess that for my own part I was immensely struck by the figures given by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, when he dealt in the course of his very powerful speech with the figures of the increasing and decreasing number of scholars in the schools during the next few years. I do hope that before this debate finishes we may hear from His Majesty's Government what is their answer to the figures which he gave. The course which I would Venture to ask His Majesty's Government to consider, and if possible, to pursue, is to postpone the further consideration of this Bill. I do it for a particular reason. I do it in the hope that a concordat may be arrived at before the Second Reading is passed by your Lordships' House. The most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York yesterday spoke of his hopes for a concordat, and I am sure there is no one in your Lordships' House who does not wish that a concordat may be possible. The question is what is the best way of arriving at that concordat. I am of opinion that a postponement of the Bill for the present might bring it about, might bring pressure to bear upon both sides in such a way that they would more readily arrive at an agreement. I hope that that might be so. And I am the less disinclined to recommend that course to your Lordships in view of the fact that permissive powers exist already by which the local authorities may, if they like, keep children at school until fifteen.
It does not seem to me that any harm would arise by continuing for the present the discussions which have been going on, and a great deal of good might ensue. Our whole educational system to-day is scarred by the injuries inflicted upon it by the sectarian discussions which took place on the Bill of 1902. We want that to be avoided in future, and if, by the postponement of the Division, that could he avoided, as I think it might be, surely the delay, even a delay of some weeks or some months, would be fully justified. And therefore, for my own part, I would offer my heartiest support to His Majesty's Government if, after due consideration, they see their way to postpone the discussion of this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT FITZALAN OF DERWENT
My Lords, the noble Earl has made a 1128 very earnest appeal to the Government to postpone the Division on this Bill tonight, and I venture to endorse that opinion with all the strength I can. The noble Marquess below me (Lord Londonderry) in the speech he made this afternoon expressed bewilderment at the fact that the Government was proceeding with this Bill now, without letting this House see what the supplementary Bill, which must follow, will contain. I cannot help wondering (and I say this with all respect to the Government) whether it is in accordance with parliamentary usage—I am not speaking from any Party point of view whatever—to proceed with a Bill of this kind and ask for a decision on the Second Reading when there is a supplementary Bill connected with it, which we are not allowed to see.
I do not quite agree with what the noble Earl said just now with reference to the Scurr Amendment. I think that we who are deeply interested in the welfare of the voluntary schools of this country, who feel that we have a moral responsibility on us for the truest welfare of the children of the poorer classes attending those schools—I think we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Mr. Scurr and to those members of the Church of England and the Catholics, and indeed others, who supported him in that Amendment. As was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that Amendment was also the Amendment of the Party sitting on these Benches; it also stood in the name of our former President of the Board of Education, Lord Eustace Percy. The Government, although for some unexplained reason they did not like the Amendment moved as it was in another place, still accepted it. The Prime Minister himself said the acceptance of it did not affect the principle of the Bill at all, and that the Government as a whole accepted that Amendment. That Amendment now stands as part of this Bill, and the Government are pledged and hound to proceed with a Bill on the lines foreshadowed in that Amendment.
But I want to make quite clear my own position and the position of some of those whom I have had time to consult of my own Catholic communion as to what I feel we have to do if a Division on this Bill is forced on us this afternoon. I have no hesitation what- 1129 ever in saying that if a Division is forced I shall feel it my duty to vote against the Second Reading. I do that with considerable reluctance at this moment, because I feel, as has been said by other speakers, that there is such an atmosphere outside as may, and probably will, produce a satisfactory result on this question; and I think it is monstrous that we should be compelled to come to a decision at this stage of the Bill without knowing what the future Bill is going to be.
My reason for saying that I cannot support the Bill if a Division is taken now—and I do not pledge myself, of course, or any of my friends to support it on any future occasion; we must wait and see what the future measure is, and what effect it may have—but the reason why I cannot conscientiously see my way to vote for the Bill this afternoon is one which, I cannot help thinking, can hardly have been in the minds of the most rev. Prelate or the Bishop of London in the speeches they made yesterday; in fact, I am not at all sure that it is in the mind of the Government themselves. In this House, every one of us, irrespective of the Party to which we belong, has always to remember that this House is subject to the limitations imposed upon us by the Parliament Act. That is the stumbling block to our coming to a decision to-day or at any time until we see this future Bill. I was very much struck by what was said last week in a debate in another place on, I think it was, the China Indemnity Bill. Some discussion arose and a point was raised, and it was said: "Well, we will adjust that in another place." Mr. Speaker at once intervened and pointed out to the House that it was possible that he might have to announce that the Bill came under the Parliament Act. It struck me that Mr. Speaker's statement foreboded something very much connected with this Bill.
It is impossible to conceive that when this supplementary Bill appears it can be other than a Money Bill. We in this House will be powerless in regard to it. We cannot amend it or reject it, and in a month it can become the law of the land. What, then, is the position of those who, like myself, feel that they have this great responsibility regarding the children of our schools? We cannot 1130 conjecture what that Bill is going to be like. We may be faced with a Bill with which we cannot agree if we vote for this Bill to-day and may take upon ourselves the responsibility of incurring the introduction into this House of a Bill we cannot approve and are unable to amend. I am not passing any reflection on the Government when I say that we must see that Bill before we can decide how to vote on the Bill we are considering today.
I am certain that the Government are perfectly sincere and genuine in their anxiety to come to a settlement regarding the voluntary schools of the country. I could not have said that a few years ago. I could nor have said that of the right hon. gentleman the present Minister of Education, with whom I have been at loggerheads over and over again on the question of education. But a great change has come over the country with regard to this question and there is, undoubtedly, an earnest desire for a settlement. The noble Lord who spoke first this afternoon and who leads the House at the moment earnestly begged that this Bill might not be rejected on this very ground. Then why not postpone it for further discussion, at any rate for the time being, and see what happens?
The Government may introduce a Bill in another place which we, who are interested in the voluntary schools, may regard as perfectly satisfactory. It does not follow that it will emerge from another place in that same satisfactory state. A satisfactory Bill brought in by a Government may be altered in its passage through another place and when we receive it in your Lordships' House it might not be such a Bill as accorded with the interests of our voluntary schools. But under the Parliament Act we should be powerless and could not amend it. On that ground I wish to emphasise that it is impossible for me and for some of those associated with me to vote in favour of this Bill to-day. What we might do in future I cannot say, but I earnestly appeal to the Government to consider seriously whether they cannot give further time to the possibility of the drawing up of another Bill agreeable to the arrangements and proposals now proceeding in regard to the voluntary schools.
1131 What harm will it do? It will do no harm to noble Lords to postpone it, except this. A good many of us have come down to-day with the intention of taking a Division and voting against the Bill. The only inconvenience your Lordships would be put to is that you would have to postpone your decision to some future date. What harm will it do to the Government to postpone it? It is a moral certainty that if the Government insist on a Division taking place this afternoon they will be beaten. I appeal to them to consider whether, in the interests of the Bill and of education throughout the country, it is not wise, right and proper to postpone the further discussion of the Bill.
THE LORD BISHOP OF NORWICH
My Lords, I should have the more hesitation in expressing a difference of opinion with the most rev. Prelate had it not been that in his speech he envisaged a very different Bill from that which is before us. I know he said that, standing alone, he was in favour of the raising of the age to fifteen years. But much of his speech was devoted to the improvements that might be made in the Bill if the blanks in it were filled in. I will, however, mainly address myself to the arguments he used with reference to the raising of the school age. I, too, was a schoolmaster for many years. I, too, have had great experience in dealing with brilliant boys and with some who were rather less brilliant. I, too, like other members of the great teaching profession, have been touched by the idealism of the great Hadow Report. Nevertheless, I cannot but feel that it would be a mistake to force this raising of the age on every child in the country, especially when we have so many organisations (shall I call them?) of education which can already deal not only with the brilliant children but also with the average children.
I think we should be going too far if we insisted on raising the school age at the very moment when we are already dealing with another part of the Hadow Report, which has caused nothing less than a revolution in elementary education. I would sooner go by degrees. I would sooner see the result of what we are doing and doing well before we commit ourselves to a second part of the recommendations in that Report. Are we making anything like a full use of the 1132 Education Act of 1921? Part II of that Act commences with these very fine words:—With a view to the establishment of a national system of public education available for all persons capable of profiting thereby, it shall be the duty of the council of every county and county borough… to contribute thereto, by providing for the progressive development and comprehensive organisation of education in respect of their area, and with that object any such council from time to time may, and shall when required by the Board of Education, submit … schemes,and so on. These words appear to me to be very wise. I ask your Lordships to note the phrase "available for all persons capable of profiting thereby." They seem to me to indicate an attitude less mechanical, more human, more sympathetic than the idea of forcing all children, whether they are or are not capable of profiting, into one cast-iron system.
I would ask your Lordships to look at what is going on in other countries. Attendance at schools is compulsory up to the age of twelve in Hungary and Spain; thirteen in France and Holland; fourteen in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Poland and Sweden. All those countries put the age at fourteen. Fifteen is the age in Norway and, generally speaking, in Switzerland. On the whole, it looks to me as if in European countries the fourteens have it. There is a considerable variety in the Provinces of Canada, and the age is from fifteen to sixteen for children of European descent in the different Provinces of South Africa, but in both cases there are varying provisions as to exemption in special circumstances. You see that there is nothing too rigid or compulsory there. Then our great brothers across the Atlantic also recognise the system of exemption. Of course, they are in a different position from ourselves if they wish to have a high school-leaving age, because it has been pointed out before now that it is really through the schools that they gain the spirit of nationality and coherence in the United States. I venture to differ from the speech made by one noble Lord last night. He spoke of patriotism and the sense of justice as being due to the schools in England. I think it is due to something deeper in the disposition of Englishmen.
It was said last night that we allow the children of the well-to-do to remain 1133 at school until they are eighteen or nineteen, and send the children from humbler homes into active—or inactive—life several years earlier. But the parallel is not accurate. Is it equality to compel one set of people to do what another set is permitted to do voluntarily? As I read the Education Act of 1921, the education authorities are bound to organise in public elementary schools under the existing law classes and teaching for all those capable of profiting by such education. We heard yesterday the noble and learned Viscount explain that any local education authority can raise the school-leaving age to fifteen. But the existing law also provides that it is the duty of a local education authority to organise in public elementary schools courses of advanced instruction for the older or more intelligent children in attendance at such schools, including children who stay at the schools beyond the age of fourteen. Therefore the local education authorities can, if they will, already do what we are trying to compel to be done by this Bill.
There is a good deal of confusion in the thought that it is the last year at school that is the most profitable. I think that those who say that are thinking of their own public school days when they, in that last year, arrived at a position of leadership that they would not have reached sooner. Not very long ago I had the opportunity of addressing your Lordships' House on some question of admission to the Navy. Then I ventured to point out that it was not the one year more but that it was the last year that was important at our public schools. I think that applies in this case. As it is, in our schools we have some kind of monitorial system given to the boys and the girls in the last year. We are not depriving them of that splendid area of character training by the fact that the last year in many cases now ends at fourteen instead of fifteen.
But apart from this character training that the Hadow Report stresses, I wish to ask your Lordships whether this mental training is really and truly profitable for all and every one. Some children, some young people, have their minds bent in a different way. They can go out and do practical work, but they chiefly learn from life itself. That is nothing new in the world. You will remember Juvenal 1134 has spoken of those who vita didicere magistra. The most rev. Prelate spoke last night of his experience in the superannuation of boys, and I am bound to say I did not agree with him. The boys whom I superannuated I really felt were better doing something else. I have gone further than that since the days when I ceased to be a headmaster. I have come to the conclusion that in our public schools, not by the constraint of Act of Parliament but by the constraint of general public opinion, we are apt to keep too many boys there who would more profitably learn in other surroundings.
It is said that one is quite wrong in suggesting—as I do not suggest—that this merely means one more year of the same teaching as that of previous years. But I ask, is it really possible that these practical subjects which are arresting attention should be taught in such a way as to make it possible to teach the pupils in any kind of efficient way? It is said: "But we wish to teach the theory of the thing, and then when they step out into practical life they will naturally do the practical thing with much greater success." But will not any teacher tell you that for a great many people—a great many young people, too—the things must be concurrent, that they must learn the practical things and the theory side by side? In most cases, it is those who have practical problems in front of them who will best appreciate the theory which is going to solve them.
That is the advantage of the continuation schools that we already have. We are not working them for anything like what they are capable of. They educate those who do know their difficulties and who can, therefore, through their own growing experience appreciate accurately the points of instruction that are put before them. I say extend these continuation schools in every possible way. Make them work as they do not work now. Make them more available for every child or every young person who can profitably use them. Do not limit yourselves to the brilliant people. Make provision in these modern schools to do similar work. Spend money lavishly on them if you please, make provision for all who can profitably attend, but do not force all, as this Bill does, along a cur- 1135 riculum that will not suit the whole number. May I call your Lordships' attention to an extract from the Hadow Report? It says:—There is no capital more productive than the energies of human beings. There is no investment more remunerative than expenditure devoted to developing them.… ensure that is continued sufficiently long to act as a permanent influence for good in the lives of those who passed through it. In education, as in industry, there is a law of increasing as well as of diminishing returns.Is it in the least certain that one year will turn the scale for all?
Again, the Report goes on:—Too often it is the sad experience of the teacher to lose his pupils at the very moment when his earlier efforts are about to bear fruit.… The addition even of a few months to the present school life may not seldom enable him to kindle into flame the spark which but for them would have been extinguished.I ask your Lordships to notice the words "too often" and "not seldom." Can we really with any happiness adopt a rigid and universal system, because "too often" the present plan does not answer and "not seldom" it fails? Why not take a plan that I believe exists in one county? They discover, not the brilliant children, but everyone who shows the least chance of profiting by this advanced education which can be given under the Act of 1921. And here we are not differentiating between the humbler pupils and those who come from richer homes. It is the system which was tried in the Navy. I have had the honour of serving on the Board. There we chose little boys of twelve, determining by a careful interview whether they would profit and do well in that great Service. The examination might be partly on paper, partly conversational, or anything else you please, to choose the children. Choose a very large number of them, but be sure that you only choose those who show a likelihood of profiting from what is put before them, for young people are not uniform in mentality any more than older ones are.
Now may I say a word or two about the voluntary schools and the Church question. Of course, we Churchmen want the very best education, for we know that we have a special reason for doing so. We wish to educate children not only to be citizens of this great Empire but 1136 citizens of the kingdom of God. But I very much shrink from the idea that because I am a good Churchman therefore I am bound to support anything that is brought forward in the name of education if I do not believe in it. I think that we do need every advance that we can profitably make, but it is against this rigid, unflinching, cast-iron system that I am protesting. I believe we should do much better not to proceed at first upon the universal assumption that every child up to fifteen would profit; we must grow in experience. That is far better than a sudden compulsion. I believe that religion is vital in education. It must not be brought in as an extra. It must be in the very warp and woof of education all the way through. That is why it seems to me deplorable to have this Bill contingent upon another which is in some way or other to deal with this vital matter.
Your Lordships' remember the quotations that the noble and learned Viscount made last night as to the relation between these two Bills. It seems very elusive indeed. I should like to see, as the noble Lord who has just addressed your Lordships has said, this second Bill before we pass the present one. It is quite possible that we should do better without both Bills than with both Bills. Supposing a new Bill was brought in dealing with the non-provided schools, how can we know what are going to be its terms and conditions? A Bill might pass that we did not like in spite of our opposition. Then where should we be? It might be a Bill with terms with regard to voluntary schools that we could not accept. I believe in religious instruction given by competent teachers. It is a curious misnomer to speak of that view being a demand for tests for teachers. I like to see all teachers competent—a teacher of botany knowing and caring for his subject, a teacher of religion knowing and caring for his subject. But suppose this new Bill came in and did not provide that the head teacher in every school should be competent to teach religious subjects, where should we be then?
If the gain were certain it might be different. The gain, to my mind, seems extremely uncertain. We have not seen the Bill and I cannot believe that it is prudent to accept what we do not want in the hope that it will help to something 1137 quite different, which we may not get. My right rev. brother Luc Bishop of London spoke of a bird in the hand last night. I cannot think of anything more unlike the present situation than to compare the aid given to voluntary schools to a bird in the hand. It seems to me a very, very doubtful creature that we are pursuing. He spoke also of the joy of education, and I should be extremely sorry if it were thought that any one who opposes this Bill did not wish that the joy of education should be shared as widely as possible; but I believe that will be done not by a wholesale compulsion but by a discriminating provision and by individual sympathy with the pupils in every case. I ask your Lordships to reject the Bill.
My Lords, the concluding words which fell from the noble Lord who spoke last but one confirmed something which had been in my mind for nearly two days. I think we are taking part in a ceremony which is much more common in the strange, far-off land of Tibet than in our own. In Tibet, as some of your Lordships may know, it is tire custom to take a body out upon the hill with stately procession, and there he undertaker dismembers it and throws it to the assembled and expectant birds. It is good practice for the undertaker, and it is not unpleasant to the birds. When I heard the applause which greeted the vigorous denunciation of the Bill by the noble and learned Viscount who moved its rejection, I felt that we were taking part in an execution. But perhaps as the Bill—though from what has been said in its last moments of life—still does possess a remnant of life one should rather put the simile as if it were staying in the condemned cell, a few of us feebly endeavouring to give encouragement to the felon, and others pointing out the vices for which he is so soon to be executed. But as long as there is any life there is hope, and even if one may be wasting one's breath, I know that even in the heart of a felon there flutters the hope of a reprieve, and I feel that I must do whatever lies in my power to bring about a change of heart even at this stage of the debate.
I feel a certain special responsibility in that, for better or worse, I happen to be the only member of your Lord-ships' House who was a member of the 1138 Consultative Committee which produced what is generally called the Hadow Report. That Committee sat for two years, from 1924 to 1926, and it consisted of twenty members. Amongst those members, no doubt, were members of the different political Parties, but they were Hot chosen as members of the Committee for that reason, and the politics of many were unknown. The political flavour of their deliberations was never mentioned from first to last. It is, perhaps, a rather remarkable thing that at the end of their two years' deliberations they produced a unanimous Report. It is true that one or two notes were attached to the signatures on minor points, but, with regard to the particular principle that we have been debating here, seventeen of them signed the Report without any note of disagreement with the recommendation to raise the school age, and the other three expressed themselves as in entire agreement with the desirability of the principle, only expressing doubt as to the date on which it should be brought in.
At this stage I do not wish to deal with what may be described as Committee points. I want to deal solely with the main principle of the Bill. I think the question of the date might still be open to argument. I have only one feeling of apprehension in regard to that. For a great many years I have been concerned with trying to build up the status of the teaching profession, and I should look with great apprehension and doubt at anything which resulted in any degree in lowering that status. But the question of the date at which the Bill is to come into operation is not, it seems to me, a matter for debate on the Second Reading. The noble and learned Viscount who moved the Amendment, and to whose remarks I should like to address myself particularly, because he is, if one may say so, the spear-point of the Opposition in this matter, stated at the conclusion of his speech that he felt that he had presented an unanswerable ease to your Lordships. It was perhaps a singular coincidence that the next speaker, the most rev. Prelate, should have attempted to answer the unanswerable and should have produced what seemed to me an extremely convincing and cogent reply to the case which the noble and learned Viscount had built up.
1139 The word "unanswerable" is one that is frequently used. It has been used by educational authorities in support of this very principle. At any rate, I feel that before a verdict is pronounced which will result in a sentence of death, the noble and learned Viscount would normally, in his judicial capacity, direct the jury that they should not bring it in so long as there is any possibility of doubt. I cannot help feeling from the speeches that have been delivered in support of the Bill that there is a very large element of doubt as to whether the case is unanswerable. Many cogent answers have already been given, but I do not wish at this stage to traverse anything that has already been said.
The case against the Bill was urged on three main grounds. The first was that of cost, as to which there have been many answers from this side of the House; both in respect of the general advantage, on the ground that some expenditure is productive and that we cannot afford not to undertake expenditure which benefits the rising intelligence of the nation; and, more explicitly, on the ground that, unless this Bill passes, much heavier expenditure will fall upon the Exchequer at no uncertain date. This point was developed by the most rev. Prelate and, so far, I have not heard any answer to his argument. On the second ground, the opposition of the voluntary schools, I do not desire to say anything. Much has been said by those far better qualified to speak on that point than I am. I should like to come straight to the third point. It seems to me that the noble and learned Viscount, in moving this Amendment, found himself in something of a dilemma. He wished to oppose this Bill and to call upon all those who vote with him to vote for its rejection. At the same time he wished to maintain the thesis that the Party behind him is not opposed to educational progress. Accordingly he was compelled by logic to bend the whole of his powerful dialectical forces to show that in his view this Bill was educationally unsound. I do not think it can be denied or doubted that the weight of evidence is against him on that point.
I should like to read a short passage from the speech in which the noble and learned Viscount developed that view. He said:— 1140It is not true to say that every child of fourteen is of the same, or even approximately the same aptitude, capacity or development.That strikes me as one of the oldest rhetorical devices in the world. You put up something which nobody has said, and which nobody in his senses would say, and then, with well directed aim, you knock it down. The noble and learned Viscount went on to say:—There are some for whom intellectual progress is the right avenue. There are others who may be very dull intellectually, but who may show great aptitude in physical or manual skill. Not to attempt to differentiate between the two, to keep everybody in school until the age of fifteen, whether they are learning anything or not, or capable of learning or not, is a mistaken view of education.I can only find two explanations of that passage. I discard the first, because I do not think it is in keeping with the character of the noble and learned Viscount. I am quite sure that he has studied carefully all that bears upon the case of those who support the Bill, and that passage would seem to be from somebody who had not read the Hadow Report. I therefore discard the first explanation, and it seems to me that the only alternative is that the noble and learned Viscount felt well-assured, in advancing that argument, that he was addressing himself to a large number of listeners who had not studied the Report or who, at any rate, had not in any way mastered what lies behind it.
The noble Marquess, in his speech this afternoon, said that the Hadow Report was in all our minds. We have had a great deal of mention of it, but we have had no real explanation of the fundamental policy of that Committee. The noble and learned Viscount praised the reorganisation which was taking place as the result of that Report and, as he said, would continue to take place, but he did not tell your Lordships what it was. I have heard nothing except that which fell from the most rev. Prelate, who stated emphatically that the raising of the age is an integral part of that Report. The noble Marquess, in his speech this afternoon, rather challenged that. He asked whether the raising of the school age could possibly be said to be the main object of the Report. It is very difficult to say what a main object is. Is the head the main object of the body? Is the staircase the main or 1141 primary object of the house? Here you are laying on one side what is a fundamental part of the reorganisation that is going on.
I should like for a moment or two to venture to explain what was in the minds of the Committee who drew up that Report as to reorganisation. Speaker after speaker has spoken as if the only purpose of this Bill, the main principle on which it rests, was simply to add one more year to the school age. We have heard the word "rigid." The right rev. Prelate who spoke last spoke of "castiron systems." The whole object of the Hadow Report, and of recorganisation, is to get rid of the rigidity from which we have suffered in the past. We have undoubtedly wasted money in the past. It is the whole purpose of the reorganisation to institute what was called a revolution in our schools, and it is based upon the psychological fact that the change should come at eleven plus. The right rev. Prelate who spoke last spoke of haying superannuated boys in order to benefit them by sending them elsewhere. That is exactly what is being done under the reorganisation. May I say that the right rev. Prelate is the only educationist I have ever met who has doubted that it is an educational advantage to children to keep them at school after fourteen.
If you take the Report as a whole—and I stress the Report because it is the basis of the Bill—you cannot suddenly cut off the top of the reorganisation and leave things as they were. If you throw out this Bill, you are upsetting the reorganisation which has begun to take place. The plans of the local education authorities are based upon the hope and expectation that the age will be raised, and the balance will be totally destroyed. The Archbishop of York explained the desirability of the extra year. It is not merely the extra year, however beneficial that may be, but it is part of a scheme which is in line with the whole of educational thought at the present time. We are trying to get away from the hard and fast tradition between primary and secondary, which has been an obstacle to educational progress. We are trying to build one continuous process from first to last. Reorganisation is part of it. I do not want to quote unduly from the Hadow Report, but they say:— 1142For if our proposals are realised, primary and secondary education will be linked to each other as the successive phases in a continuous process….That is why the raising of the age is a necessary and integral part of that process.
When you have the noble and learned Viscount who moved the rejection of the Bill standing up and saying that in his view this Bill is educationally unsound, he is setting himself against the whole of the educational opinion of the country. The noble and learned Viscount is a great student of law, but I think he has not given to educational affairs, in spite of his hereditary and individual interest in a great institution, that attention which he has given to law. There can be no doubt whatever that from an educational point of view the Bill is fundamentally sound. I am not speaking of its economics, or of its date, but of its main principle, and it is not possible to get away from the dilemma that if you oppose this Bill you are opposing educational progress. Lord Londonderry went so far as to say that this is putting back the clock. He stands alone in that opinion educationally. I know of no educationist, except the right rev. Prelate who spoke last, who would dispute my statement. I have received a paper from representatives of a large number of schools, who speak of this Bill as "a small reform long overdue" and as "part of the national development of our educational system." There are many who doubt the date at which it should be brought in, but I say without fear of contradiction that nobody who has studied the educational system is against the principle of the raising of the age. That is the principle which your Lordships are asked to vote for or against to-day.
It has been represented in the speeches as if this was a Bill emanating from one Party. It is true that the Labour Party has taken it up, consonant with a long expressed desire to develop education as the greatest means for the social betterment of this country, but before that it has been as a principle backed and welcomed by everybody who has really studied our educational organisation. I should like no illusions on this matter. It may be that your Lordships have already decided to destroy the Bill. We, with our forces, cannot possibly prevent you, but let there be no question 1143 about what you are going to do. Throw it out if you must, mutilate it if you will, but if you vote against this Bill you are voting for educational stagnation at the present time. More than one speaker has pleaded for postponement. The noble Viscount asked why the Bill is brought in now. The answer is that you must legislate in advance if you are going to have reorganisation of this kind. That was implicit in the Hadow Report. The Report recommended that it should come in in the spring of 1932, and for several years past the local authorities have been preparing their programmes on that basis. It must be done in advance, and it seems to me impossible to postpone a Division on this principle. If you do that, you merely throw all the educational authorities in the country back into uncertainty whether the age is going to be raised or not.
Nothing I can say may have the slightest effect upon a decision already made, but I urge your Lordships not to kill this Bill on the principle. No doubt there will, if it gets a Second Reading, be drastic Amendments moved and voted on, but to throw the Bill out on Second Reading will be to demonstrate to everybody that your Lordships are opposed to educational progress, because remember this, that the two spokesmen from the Front Opposition Bench have both asserted that in their view the Bill is educationally unsound. I have shown that that is the dialectical dilemma which is forced upon them by the position. Nobody who has taken part in our educational advance will support them in that view, and if you throw out the Bill what you do and why yon do it will be abundantly clear.
§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH
My Lords, the ground has been so fully covered in the course not only of this debate but of the debates in the other House, with regard to this controversial question, that it is somewhat difficult to advance any new argument, one way or another. But I do not like to give a silent vote on the question, and I therefore hope that you will kindly bear with me for a few minutes. I want, in the first place, entirely to dispute two statements that fell, one from the noble Lord who spoke first to-day. Lord Passfield, and the other from the noble Lord who has just concluded. Lord Passfield told 1144 us that if we voted against this Bill we should be voting, for all time practically, against raising the school age; and the noble Lord who has just concluded said that the rejection of this Bill would show that we were opposed to anything in the nature of educational progress. I think that is an entirely unwarranted statement to make. We are as keen about educational progress as noble Lords opposite, but there are different methods, and it is a question very largely of method and of time and of cost.
There is no doubt whatever that any boy who shows more than average promise is distinctly benefited by staying at school another year. What we plead for is a system which shows more elasticity than that which is allowed by this Bill. In the admirable speech made yesterday by my noble friend Lord Gainford, he drew attention to the practice in other countries, and we heard it again just now in the course of that excellent speech of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, who, I was glad to see, differed from his right rev. brother. We plead for more elasticity. What we really object to is the east-iron system which it is proposed to impose upon the country and the compulsory raising of the school age, and also the question of the maintenance grant at a flat rate, to be prescribed by the Board of Education, instead of being left to the discretion of the local authorities.
There is also the question of the voluntary schools. That is a matter upon which the Catholic community, and also, no doubt, the members of the Church of England, feel very strongly. We have had a long-drawn fight for the purpose of getting what we consider to be common Justice for the voluntary schools. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill made what we all considered to be a most unworthy, in fact, almost an offensive aspersion upon past generations in stating that their policy had been to keep education back and to keep the working classes in ignorance and subjection. Who were the pioneers of education in this country before the era of compulsory education, if not the squires, the landowners, the property owners and the Churches, who all combined for the purpose of maintaining the voluntary schools, which did a most valuable work? We claim justice for those schools. We claim that it is only fair that, provided the education in 1145 those schools is such as to satisfy the Government inspectors—and we do not wish to see anything but the very best education in the voluntary schools—that question of religious education should be regarded with tolerance, and working class parents, who cannot send their children to expensive schools, should be given an opportunity of having them brought up in schools of their own denomination.
That is a thorny question which I will not elaborate now. I merely advert to it in order to say that I greatly appreciate what was done by the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) and his friends in the House of Commons in making what we regard as a distinct advance in the settlement of that question. At the same time it is hardly a complete settlement. It will be dependent largely upon further legislation, and I am afraid it largely transfers the field of combat from Parliament to the local authorities. We felt so strongly on that question that I confess to have had some feelings of doubt as to what I ought to do with regard to this Bill; but when I realised the situation, and when we came to grips with the tremendous cost which this new system would involve, when I read the recent speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when I heard the speech of the noble and learned Viscount in front of me (Lord Hailsham) and when I read again to-day that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been mentioning certain alarming figures about the deficit on the Budget this year, I felt that it would be an absolutely unpatriotic act to saddle the country with this enormous additional expense at the present juncture. And so I associate myself with what fell from my noble friend Lord FitzAlan in supporting the request of the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, for this question to be deferred; but, if the Government insists upon going to a Division, I shall have no option but to record my vote against the Bill.
THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK
My Lords, we listened to a moving appeal from the other side of the House in favour of the postponement of a vote to-night. I think the answer to that appeal must really depend upon two factors; first, whether the Government is able to assure us that such a postponement would lead to the successful con- 1146 clusion of a complete concordat. Remember, a concordat is very near completion, and the discussions in connection with it could go on after the Second Reading, while the Bill is still in Committee. In the second place, the answer depends upon what the noble and learned Viscount who moved the rejection says from the Front Bench. His opposition to the Bill was based mainly, I think, on the grounds of finance, not so much on the actual raising of the school age. Nothing would be gained by postponement if, after a few weeks' postponement, the noble and learned Viscount again moved the rejection on the ground of the finances of the country; and, as far as I can see, there is no great hope that the finances of the country may change so rapidly in the next few weeks as to enable the noble and learned Viscount to accept this Bill. Therefore, I am afraid we must assume that the Government will go to a Division on the Second Reading. I am afraid we must assume also that the noble and learned Viscount will lead those who think with him to victory on this matter.
But I am anxious to point out in what a grave position such a decision will leave the non-provided schools. Very sympathetic words were spoken about those schools yesterday by the noble and learned Viscount and by the noble Marquess again this afternoon. But I am not certain whether they quite realise how serious the present position is. We have, at the present time altogether, including the Roman Catholic schools, something like 11,000 schools with nearly 2,000,000 children within them. Since 1902, as a result of great sacrifices, most of those schools have been maintained. Since the War there has come upon those schools a new and unexpected strain partly due to the complete change in the value of money. Repairs which cost £1 before the War now cost £2 or £3. Next, in connection with the demands made upon these schools through that complete reorganisation of education which is now taking place under the Hadow recommendations, if this Bill is rejected to-day those recommendations, as a whole, still go on though shorn of a very important part, and the cost which will fall upon the non-provided schools will be affected only to a slight degree by the rejection of the proposal to raise the age to fifteen.
1147 At this moment the non-provided schools are in a position of grave anxiety. They wish to take their full part in making a contribution to the improvement of education in this country, but they find themselves hampered again and again by the question of cost. Supposing this Bill is rejected the discouragement which will come to the managers of the non-provided schools is almost impossible to exaggerate. Those who have had some responsibility in connection with these schools have had again and again to urge parishes and congregations to make great sacrifices, because we were convinced that the justice of our case sooner car later would be recognised. At the cost of great sacrifices the demands of the education authorities ha e teen met time after time. The recognition of these demands by the present Minister of Education put fresh heart into those responsible for the schools. But if this Bill is thrown out I am afraid that the moral reaction will be very great. As the most rev. Prelate said yesterday, in the majority of cases the schools will go on. We shall not give up our schools whenever we are able to meet the demands made upon us by the education authorities. But we shall not be able to make those schools as efficient in their structures—I am only talking of the structures—as those schools which are entirely supported by the rates and taxes. In other words, the children in our schools will to that extent be penalised for the faith of their fathers.
On the other hand, schools might be given up, though I do not think this will happen in many cases. Does your Lordships' House realise what that would mean in actual money to the nation? It would mean an enormous expense to the nation. The economies which you will gain by the rejection of this Bill will be largely counterbalanced by what you will lose from the cost which will fall upon the nation if it has to provide the new schools which might have to be built in place of non-provided schools. Let me give two or three actual illustrations of this. In a certain district, where most of the schools are Church schools, it is necessary to provide eight schools for senior scholars. If those schools are built by the education authority will have to be spent for every £1 that would be spent if the existing schools were adapted for the 1148 purpose. In another case in the County of Oxford, the new accommodation will mean an expenditure of £80,000 if it is to be provided by the local authority instead of the £55,000 which would be required if existing Church schools were used and other Church schools were put into complete order. In the County of Somerset an expenditure of £132,000 would fall upon the public authority if the non-provided schools could not be used.
In the last few weeks applications have come to a certain society for grants to adapt fifteen schools for senior scholars and in response to recommendations made under the Hadow Report. The total cost of adapting those schools will be £90,000. If those schools were not adapted the cost to the country would be something like £250,000. We are told that even if this Bill is thrown out no doubt the Government will go forward with their arrangements with the non-provided schools. The noble and learned Viscount offered that crumb of comfort. In a perfect world no doubt the Government would go forward with their plans. But this is not a perfect world, and I venture to think there is hardly any practical politician who believes that the Government will really go forward—I hope they will—with this scheme if the Bill is thrown out. If the Bill is thrown out, will the noble and learned Viscount pledge his Party that when they come into power they will provide the means required for the non-provided schools? I am sure of his sympathy, but we want more than sympathy. We want to know whether the Conservative Party will pledge themselves to give us terms as good as those which are offered at the present time by the present Minister of Education.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, if the right rev. Prelate is asking me a question, I know of no terms that at present are offered by the Government. I know there are discussions going on and I know that suggestions have been made which have not yet been accepted by the parties. But does the right rev. Prelate, in supporting the Government Bill, suppose that the Government will undertake to bring in a Bill on any definite proposal? If they will I have very little doubt that the Conservative Party will introduce at least as favourable 1149 terms to the voluntary schools as anything they are likely to get from the Government opposite.
THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK
My Lords, the terms on which the concordat was proposed have already been published. I understand that the Government are prepared, in accordance with the last clause of the Bill, to embody them in a Bill.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
If the Government are prepared to introduce a Bill substantially embodying—not in detail, of course—the proposals to which the right rev. Prelate refers, I have no doubt he need not wait till we come into office. The Conservative Party will cordially assist the passing of such Bill into law, whether or tot this Bill is passed.
THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK
But then, my Lords, there is not the remotest chance, as far as I can see, that this Government will be able to induce their followers to support such a Bill if the present Bill is rejected summarily by this House. Therefore, I fear, from the point of view of practical politics there is very little chance of this assistance being given to the non-provided schools unless this Bill is accepted. I should, however, be extremely sorry if I felt that I was urging this Rouse to accept this Bill merely because if non-provided schools are not granted considerable help they may suffer. Of course, we are really asking, on behalf of the non-provided schools, not so much for money as for justice. These non-provided schools have in the past made a great contribution to the educational life of the country, and we are most anxious to see that they make as full and even fuller contribution to the educational life of the country in the years to come under a new and improved system of education. It would not be right for me, however, to pretend that I am supporting this Bill only on the ground of this particular proposal. Supposing this proposal for the non-provided schools had not been introduced, I should still have felt bound to support this Bill on the main principle.
I am not in favour of all the details. I am not satisfied that the date on which it is to come into operation is right, nor am I satisfied that the particular method of maintenance grant proposed 1150 in it is the most satisfactory. But I am most definitely in favour of the raising of the age of education to fifteen. I thought that every educationist was in favour of that, at any rate in principle. I understood from the speech of the noble and learned Viscount that he himself was not attacking that in principle, though he might criticise the application of it and especially the adoption of it at the present moment. The reasons for urging that the age be raised to fifteen are, I think, very plain. Of all unsatisfactory ages for a boy to leave school, fourteen is surely the worst. Psychologists tell us that that is the age when he is most unsettled in temperament and outlook, when it is most likely that he will forget what he has previously learned. When we are asking for the age to be raised to fifteen, we are not asking merely for one extra year, but we are asking for a year of special and vital importance in human life.
Let me quote from the Hadow Report to which reference has been made so frequently. That Report says:—Such a step would do far more than merely add twelve months to the school life of the great majority of the children. Its effects would be, not merely quantitative, but qualitative, and would be felt in the years before fourteen as well as in the years after it.In the same Report the statement is made a little later:—Too often it is the sad experience of the teacher to lose his pupils at the very moment when his earlier efforts are about to bear fruit, and when powers which have seemed for long to lie dormant are on the eve of bursting into life. The addition even of a few months to the present school life may not seldom enable him to kindle into flame the spark which but for them would have been extinguished.Nor is it only this Report which advocates the raising of the age to fifteen. Two years afterwards, another Committee sat. That Committee, commonly called the Malcolm Committee, dealt with the question of education and industry, and in the course of their Report, although this was not one of the subjects particularly referred to them, there comes a recommendation that the school age should be raised to fifteen.
The authors of the Malcolm Report say:—We are impressed by the volume of the evidence which we have received that the present school leaving age involves the risk 1151 that the children may not retain what they have learnt, and we believe that many complaints made by employers apply to children who, after leaving school at fourteen, have undertaken some casual work and have forgotten most of what they learned at school.Surely there is no time when it is more important than now that our nation in these democratic days should be a nation which is rightly educated and in which those who are to exercise votes so soon should be qualified to pass a right judgment. There is no danger to civilisation greater than that of an uneducated democracy. You see it in Russia, you see it elsewhere. One of the greatest safeguards for the future of our nation would be a democracy which is properly and adequately educated.
I know it was said by the right rev. Prelate behind me that there were advantages in leaving school at the age of fourteen because you went into the education of life. He said he spoke as a schoolmaster, as one who had had some experience as a schoolmaster. I speak as one who had many years' experience as a parish clergyman, and I know something of the kind of life into which many boys of fourteen go when they have to leave school. They leave school and in very few cases go to some apprenticeship or into some work which will train them for future life. A few years ago the Board of Trade held an investigation into 6,000 cases of boys and girls who had left school. It was found that 63 per cent. of them went into jobs which gave them no kind of training for their future life. I could add to that another fact—that the majority of boys, especially sons of unskilled labourers though I could extend it much further than that, leave their first work within a very few weeks. It is very rare—that is an exaggeration, it is comparatively rare—that a boy remains for a whole year in the first place he goes to. I know boys who have changed from employment to employment time after time in a single year. This means that they speedily forget the education that they have received. It shows that they are not of sufficient stability of character to be able to leave their schools and go into employment.
There is one other point I would make from the point of view of those who are pleading for this extra school year. The death rate among children up to the age 1152 of five is very great. When they go to school between the ages of five and fourteen the death rate falls. When they leave it again rise. I have often asked doctors, medical officers of health, about this, and they tell me that these boys leave school, go to work and have to care for themselves before they are really capable of doing so, and that if the school age with its careful medical supervision could be continued for another year the general health of the community would be greatly raised.
I have said I am not in favour of this Bill in every detail, but I do venture even now to hope that your Lordships will not reject it on the Second Reading. Amend it, change it, discuss it, modify it later on. If necessary, we could ask that certain stages be held up until more definite information is given to us about the concordat and about the Bill which the President of the Board of Education hopes to introduce based on it. But if you reject this Bill you will undoubtedly be widely misunderstood. The noble Lord opposite repudiated, and I think rightly repudiated, the charge that your rejection of this Bill would be due to your dislike to raising the age to fifteen. I do not believe that that is the case, but it would be widely and generally understood that it is the case. The arguments which have led up to your decision would be misunderstood, and it would be said that on the first occasion that there came to this House a Bill raising the school-leaving age to fifteen you refused even to consider it in Committee or Report, and you rejected it on Second Reading. I venture to appeal to you that you will not adopt this course, but that you will give a Second Reading to a Bill which may do much to improve the health, the education and the character of the children of this country.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, I am sure nobody on this side of the House is insensible to the appeal which has been made by the right rev. Prelate upon the Bench opposite to give this Bill a Second Reading, but I hope your Lordships will allow me, in a very few words, to recall the dilemma in which we have been placed by the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan, following that of the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, earlier this evening. It is pointed out that this measure cannot come into operation with- 1153 out the passing of a further Bill, but that further measure will be of a purely financial character, and, being of a purely financial character, it will not be within the competence of this House to deal with it. Therefore, what we are asked to do to-night is to pass a Bill on sufferance with the certainty that if the arrangements proposed under the Bill that is to follow are not satisfactory, we shall not be able to recall our vote to-night.
I have something to say beyond that. I make this suggestion to your Lordships. If that Bill which is to come up is unsatisfactory then, as I have said, we cannot deal with it, but if it is satisfactory it will mean that the country is going to be asked for a larger sum of money than that which is sought under the present Bill. The noble and learned Viscount below me, in his brilliant review of the prospects of the Bill last night, put the cost of this measure at something over £12,000,000; I think he said it might even go to £15,000,000. Every farthing that you add to that for the purpose of meeting what we all here regard as the absolute right of the Church schools, the Roman Catholic schools and the other non-provided schools, will be a further addition to that charge.
I am not going to follow the repudiations which have already been made of the very unfounded charge that was brought by the noble Lord last night against those who sit on this side of the House in regard to their attitude to education in general, nor will I venture to follow those educationists who have strongly maintained that the age of fifteen is the right and proper age to which education should be extended. What I do wish to point out is, in the first place, that, this measure involves compulsion, and under present conditions we are opposed to compulsion in this matter. Secondly, I would ask your Lordships to consider under what conditions you are going to add another £15,000,000 to the present expenditure of the country. What will be the effect on the children and on all those who are looking for employment by your further enhancing the non-productive character of our trade at this moment? The figures are really staggering. I am not going into the figures with regard to social service. We are spending, on social service, enormous sums out of all 1154 proportion to those being spent by other countries. I will merely repeat the fact, which has already been made quite clear by the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, that the charges on our industry at this moment are double, treble, quadruple and six times as much as those of our competitors according to which competitor you take for the purposes of comparison.
I ask your Lordships to consider, what is the Budget demand going to be next year? We have a deficit admitted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of £30,000,000 or something like it for the present year. It is proposed to add for drainage something like £20,000,000, for education £12,000,000, for agricultural land £7,000,000. The total increases, if your Lordships agree to them in these Bills, will make the deficit of £30,000,000 at least one of £60,000,000. But there is a figure beyond that which has not yet been given to the country. It was given to me a few days ago by a gentleman in the City who is an authority upon such matters. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his warning speech, pointed out that the productivity of the country was reduced by 20 per cent this year. Will your Lordships consider what that means in the product of the taxes in 1932? On £300,000,000 of Income Tax and Super-Tax 20 per cent. means a further reduction of £80,000,000, or, even if it is not entirely covered by productivity, of £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 to add to the £60,000,000 that I mentioned just now. In what circumstances can it be justifiable to initiate any policy which helps to make an absolute deficit of £90,000,000 already existing into one of £120,000,000 or £130,000,000 in 1932?
I put it in this way—how are these children who are going to be educated going to be employed? I have not the power of controlling employment which many of your Lordships possess. I looked on my writing table this morning and took up about half a dozen requests to me to find employment from most eligible youths just issuing from Universities or public schools. One of them was the head of his school, another was captain of the football XI, a third had taken a good degree; two others were in a much humbler class of life but nevertheless had had a good education and at sixteen or seventeen were seeking employment. I have written letter after letter, and the 1155 answer in every case is: "Our staffs are being reduced; we cannot put on men at this time." I think there are a very large number of these young people to whom we grudge nothing in education who will ask that we should give them a little less education and a great deal more opportunity of employing their abilities. That is why I venture to intervene at this hour to ask your Lordships to consider whether this is not a case in which we should stand by the past Resolutions of your Lordships' House.
I say with great respect that one reason why I listened with so much pleasure to my noble and learned friend below me last night was that it was the first full-blooded speech in favour of economy I had heard from that Bench in the last five years. I venture to recall to your Lordships your own Resolution. The noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, about four years ago introduced a pretty full-blooded Resolution on this subject, but it did not commend itself to your Lordships' House. We improved upon it and we passed this Resolution:—That this House calls upon His Majesty's Government to adhere to their undertaking to take immediate steps to curtail national and local expenditure and also to reduce the staffs of the public Departments.Though there are many men of great ability on this Bench below me, there is not one who can show a single step taken by the past Government to carry out the Resolution for which your Lordships voted. I consider that this paves the way to a great deal that has been done by the present Government.
But the point which I really beg your Lordships to consider is this. We have had speeches of every description on this subject, speeches urging drastic retrenchment, speeches urging enormous expenditure with a view to great profit, and, last but not least, the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, than which, considering the conditions under which he serves and his following, was perhaps one of the most remarkable ever delivered by a public man. With that speech in our ears, are we going to undertake to add to the enormous deficit on national finance a further sum of £15,000,000 by voting for a Bill the principle of which we challenge, not because it will give people better education, but because it introduces something 1156 for which the country is not ready and an expense which we deprecate? I hope that your Lordships will reject this Bill.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT (LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE)
My Lords, the debate which is terminating this evening and which has occupied two afternoons has been one of exceptional interest. I think I have missed only half an hour of it, and I can frankly say that every one of the speeches was of the greatest possible interest, coming, as most of them did, from noble Lords and right rev. Prelates who are closely acquainted with the subject under discussion. It certainly would not be fitting for me to occupy very much time in summing up this debate, but the discussion has ranged over a very wide field and there are still some points upon which I feel that I must say a word, and the general situation in which we find ourselves this evening certainly requires some comment from a representative of His Majesty's Government. Although a Second Reading is necessarily a discussion on principle and the rejection of a Bill on Second Reading arises from the fact that there is opposition to and disapproval of that principle, nevertheless a great deal of detail has entered into the discussion at this stage.
The noble and learned Viscount who followed me in the debate endeavoured, in a very powerful speech, to make it clear that the chief motive for the official opposition to the Bill at this stage was that of economy. I want to say only a very few words on all these points. It is very difficult to detach the cost of the reorganisation which has been consequential on the Hadow Report from the reorganisation actually necessary to give full accommodation to the children of fourteen to fifteen, and therefore it is very difficult to say what extra expenditure would actually arise from the passage of this Bill. In any case it is no very considerable sum. I would call the attention of your Lordships, most of whom were present when the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York made his very important contribution to the debate yesterday, to the very complete reply which he gave to the contention of the noble and learned Viscount that this was an extravagant measure. He said 1157 that, so far from its being extravagant, it might possibly be an economy.
I must quote this passage, because it is of great importance. On the subject of the replacing of the present non-provided schools he said:—Now, when you take the possibility of that cost into account, and realise that it may be entirely avoided if this Bill is carried, then I say that this Bill, with that provision in it, in the long run and even in the fairly short run, becomes something much more like economy than an extra piece of expenditure, because it is the saving of so great an expenditure which would otherwise be quite inevitable.That, I think, puts a very different complexion on the question of expenditure and waste under this Bill. But the whole question of economy can he met. It is not really a question of the principle. It would be a Committee point, if your Lordships saw fit to discuss this measure in Committee and to postpone the date on which the Bill should come into operation.
There were other points that I do not want to go into, with regard to the teachers, which I think can be quite easily met. I think the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, seemed to think that we were going to rake out old, retired and incompetent teachers to teach the children of from fourteen to fifteen. There would be no such thing. The numbers that I gave yesterday showed that we should have an importation of at least 2,000 teachers, and that if we were required to use the services of retired teachers they would very likely be for younger children, while younger teachers would be promoted. In any case that is all a matter of detail and adjustment. There may undoubtedly be difficulties in the transition period and, if your Lordships thought that further provision ought to be made for these and a further postponement of the Bill, that point could be met in Committee.
I should very much like to correct an impression which I think the noble and learned Viscount got from a remark of mine. I was talking of the average and under-average child and I said that perhaps he might not have as much sympathy with them. From the interruptions, and from his subsequent remarks, I think that that was taken to mean that the noble and learned Viscount would not have sympathy with children 1158 in secondary schools. That was nowhere in my thoughts. I do not suppose there is anybody in this House better qualified to speak with knowledge of children in secondary schools than the noble and learned Viscount, and I never thought of making any such suggestion. I was not referring to an educational standard or intellectual standard, but only meant to suggest, in possibly clumsy language, that somebody who had been a very brilliant boy might have more sympathy with clever boys than with stupid boys, and in his subsequent remarks I think the noble and learned Viscount rather justified my thinking, because again and again he laid stress upon the advantages of the secondary school, and the necessity of extending the secondary school system; that is to say, always taking into account the academically brighter child and leaving out the duller boy and girl. I need not stress again the importance that we attach to the fact that these people should be educated; that they are the people who require it; that the well-equipped child can always make its way up, but we want to get the dead average raised. We want to see that for the poorer children, who have had little chance and are badly equipped, the general standard of education up and down the country shall be raised, and that is the real fundamental object of this Bill.
I should like also to refer to a point in the noble and learned Viscount's speech, which I think I must correct. He was referring to what is now known as the Scurr Amendment. First of all, he said that I thought "it would make it infinitely more difficult to reach an agreement with regard to these costs if this subsection did not reach the Statute Book." The noble and learned Viscount said I had said that in my speech. I had not mentioned the Scurr Amendment. I was referring the whole time to the Bill. A Motion to remove the Sourer Amendment, which was inserted against the Government, would not be objected to, and, therefore, there really was no sort of contradiction between what I said and what was said by the President of the Board of Education and the Prime Minister.
I have not got time and I do not want to weary your Lordships by going through the remarkable speeches we have heard to-day and yesterday, but I think I must 1159 pay attention to the speech made by the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan. The noble Viscount suggested that the Second Reading of the Bill should be postponed, in order that a concordat might be reached, and then we would continue the debate. He also drew attention to the fact that this House would have no sort of control over the other Bill, which is to be introduced in order to implement the Scurr Amendment. I would just like to take the second point first. While that would be a Money Bill, over which your Lordships' House would have no direct control to amend or reject, that Bill could not be introduced unless it came into the four corners of the Scurr Amendment, unless it was an agreement between all the representatives of the voluntary schools, and an agreement which the Government would have to guarantee, not in a Bill which could be amended and then brought into this House in a different form, of which your Lordships disapproved, but a Bill which would be guaranteed by the Government as being in accordance with the concordat reached with those responsible for the voluntary schools.
With regard to the noble Viscount's suggestion that we should adjourn the Second Reading with a view to getting a concordat, can the noble Viscount guarantee that his friends, and the noble and learned Viscount who is leading the Opposition, will give us the Bill on those terms? It is not time we want to get this concordat. It is this Bill as an Act. That is the lever which is going to bring about a concordat. If this Bill is on the Statute Book, it may be modified or postponed, but if the principle of raising the school age is on the Statute Book, then I have very little doubt that the various representatives of the denominations concerned will come to a speedy agreement. A suggestion has been made that your Lordships should accord this Bill a Second Reading on the understanding that a concordat is reached before we proceed to the next stage of the Bill. Again, are we going to get the Bill? His Majesty's Government regard this Bill really as the foundation of the situation. Without it, the delay, the promises, the suggestions are of little use. That is why, failing a guarantee from the Leader of the Opposition that we are to get this Bill passed into law—I do not say 1160 unamended—no doubt in discussion interesting points have arisen which may be the subjects of debate—but this Bill substantially with the principles that the Government attach importance to, namely, the raising of the school age and the maintenance allowance, I cannot accept the suggestion. With such a guarantee, then it would be different. But I am not going to ask casually across the Table the noble and learned Viscount to give any pledge of that sort, because I feel confident that the whole trend of his speech, and of the speech of the noble Marquess who spoke first for the Opposition to-day, was not concerned with a concordat, but was concerned with opposition to the principle of the Bill.
That is where we find ourselves. It is not a question of finance. That can be dealt with. This nine or ten million pounds about which there is such an outcry is not the real reason. It is the pretext, and not the reason. Look up the debates. As my noble and learned friend behind me, Lord Sanderson, reminded your Lordships, the arguments against progress in education have a way of repeating themselves, and the financial argument has been used almost every time to obstruct the progress of education in this country. No, it is perfectly clear from the speech of the noble Marquess and the speech of the Leader of the Opposition that your Lordships are against the principle of the raising of the school age, and it is on that that the Division will take place to-night. And it is that interpretation that will be put on your Lordships' action by the country.
I have been scolded since I spoke yesterday for certain language that I used in the debate. I made no self-denying ordinance in coming into your Lordships' House that I would restrain my language, and so long as I am never guilty of any personal discourtesy to any of your Lordships I feel justified in speaking warmly when there is a wide divergence of opinion between my Party and those who sit opposite. If we are not allowed to do that in this House, well, indeed it will become a moribund institution all the more. And what did I say? I said that past generations—I did not accuse your Lordships—had purposely kept up barriers against the further education of the poorer children of this country. I said 1161 "past generations." And when I was being reminded of this remark by the noble and learned Viscount I called attention to that fact, and I said that I had not brought an accusation against your Lordships.
But I have only had to wait till the end of the debate in order to find myself saying that present generations are putting obstacles and barriers against the further education of the poorer classes. And that, my Lords, is what you are doing to-night. Reorganisation can be dealt with in Committee; financial
§ arrangements can be dealt with in Committee; postponement may meet a great many of the objections brought forward; the concordat is dependent entirely on the passage of the Bill: but what your Lordships are going to do in a few minutes is to vote en masse against the principle of giving an extra year of schooling to the poorer children of this country.
§ On Question, Whether the word "now" shall stand part of the Motion?—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 168.1163
|Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Liverpool, L. Bp.||Kirkley, L.|
|St. Albans, L. Bp.||Marks, L.|
|York, L. Abp.||Southwark, L. Bp.||Marley, L. [Teller.]|
|De. La Warr, E.||Amulree, L.||Passfield, L.|
|Arnold, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Cecil of Chelwood, V.||Gorell, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Esher, V.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoull.) [Teller.]||Sanderson, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Stanhope, E.||Biddulph, L.|
|Beaufort, D.||Strafford, E.||Bolton, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)||Braye, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Brougham and Vaux, L.|
|Westmorland, E.||Camrose, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Wicklow, E.||Castlemaine, L.|
|Camden, M.||Chesham, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Linlithgow, M.||Bertie of Thame, V.|
|Northampton, M.||Brentford, V.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Clwyd, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Burnham, V.||Cornwallis, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Churchill, V.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Balfour, E.||De Vesci, V.||Cranworth, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Elibank, V.||Cushendun, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Danesfort, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Goschen, V.||Daryngton, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Hailsham, V.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)|
|Fortescue, E.||Hardinge, V.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)|
|Grey, E.||Hereford, V.||Desborough, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Hood, V.||Dynevor, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Leverhulme, V.||Doverdale, L.|
|Howe, E.||Mersey, V.||Ebbisham, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Plumer, V.||Erskine, L.|
|Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.)||Sidmouth, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Tredegar, V.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Lauderdale, E.||Ullswater, V.||Faringdon, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Wimborne, V.||FitzWalter, L.|
|Lichfield, E.||Forester, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Norwich, L. Bp.||Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich, L. Bp.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]|
|Macclesfield, E.||Greenway, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Hampton, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Aberdare, L.||Hanworth, L.|
|Morton, E.||Addington, L.||Harris, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Aldenham, L.||Hastings, L.|
|Peel, E.||Alvingham, L.||Hawke, L.|
|Radnor, E.||Ampthill, L.||Hayter, L.|
|Sandwich, E.||Annaly, L.||Heneage, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Ashfield, L.||Hindlip, L.|
|Sondes, E.||Belper, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Berwick, L.||Hylton, L.|
|Inverforth, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)||Southampton, L.|
|Jessel, L.||Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)||Stafford, L.|
|Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)||Penrhyn, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Lawrence, L.||Phillimore, L.|
|Leconfield, L.||Polwarth, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Luke, L.||Queenborough, L.||Sydenham of Combe, L.|
|Manners, L.||Rayleigh, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Marshall of Chipstead, L.||Redesdale, L.||Trenchard, L.|
|Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)||Remnant, L.||Treowen, L.|
|Middleton, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.||Vernon, L.|
|Mildmay of Flete, L.||Russell of Liverpool, L.||Wargrave, L.|
|Monk Bretton, L.||St. Levan, L.||Waring, L.|
|Monkswell, L.||Saltoun, L.||Weir, L.|
|Monson, L.||Sandys, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)||Sempill, L.||Wraxall, L.|
|Moynihan, L.||Sinclair, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Newton, L.||Somerleyton, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to and Bill to be read 2a this day six months accordingly.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes before seven o'clock.