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(In The Committee)

Volume 217: debated on Tuesday 22 July 1873

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Clause 4 (Power of Local Government Board as to relief and guardians) agreed to.

Clause 5 (Confirmation of orders as to elections, &c.) agreed to.

Clause 6 (Election of school board).

moved, in page 2, line 31, before "the principal Act," to insert "a school board shall be formed in every school district or united school district, and."

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 7 (Overseers to allow inspection of rate books and otherwise assist returning officers) agreed to.

Clause 8 (Amendment of 33 & 34 Vict. c. 75. s. 91. as to corrupt practices at elections).

moved, in page 3, line 24, to leave out the words disqualifying "from holding any municipal office" a person convicted of bribery under this Act. He thought such a provision went beyond the scope of the Bill.

said, the provision was the same as that contained in the Municipal Corporation Act and other statutes, and it was considered desirable that it should be extended to elections under the Elementary Education Act.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Miscellaneous Amendments of 33 & 34 Vict. c. 75.

Clause 10 (Amendment of 33 & 34 Vict. c. 75. s. 57, as to loans).

moved an Amendment, to the effect that the Education Department should not consent to an increase of school accommodation unless it was proved to their satisfaction that the proposed buildings were necessary to supply sufficient school accommodation for the district. He understood there had been instances in which, notwithstanding the existing schools were sufficient for the neighbourhood, the boards erected schools in opposition to them. He considered the time for the repayment of loans should be reduced from 50 to 30 years.

Amendment proposed,

In page 4, line 7, after the word "fund," to insert the words "Provided always, That no such consent of the Education Department shall be granted unless proof be given to their satisfaction that the additional school accommodation which it is proposed to provide, and the works which it is proposed to execute, are necessary in order to supply a sufficient amount of public school accommodation for the district."—(Mr. Collins.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

opposed the Amendment. He objected to any such limitation being put upon the power and discretion of the school boards. There might be ample accommodation in a large place, and yet the bulk of it might be on one side of the town, where it was least required, and not on the side requiring it most; so that if additional accommodation were not provided in the poor quarter children might be compelled to walk two or three miles to school, or to go without education. He thought, too, the limitation of eight cubic feet too small for each pupil.

believed that any body of men required to be limited in expending other people's money. Hitherto they had been discussing matters of sentiment; but now they had come to the administrative part of the Bill, and its success depended on the caution, the care, and the forbearance with which it was carried out. The remark made in one of the daily papers respecting an eminent Prelate, whose untimely death they all deplored, that though he might have many opponents he had no enemies, was applicable to the right hon. Gentleman. But whatever might be the kindness and courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman, the subordinate members of the Education Department were not necessarily equally conspicuous for those qualities. He wished to check extravagant expenditure, whether promoted by boards, or by the Education Department. They were building accommodation for more children than they had really to get educated. In one place a demand was made for accommodation for 450 children, and when the inhabitants remonstrated, on the ground that there were not so many children in the district, they were told in reply that it was likely large numbers of the labouring classes would settle there and beget families, so that the Department, not content with administration had recourse to prophecy. This was, however, only one of a series of demands, and it should be remembered that the people who found the money for the education of children expected to be treated with forbearance by the Department. Hon. Gentlemen, would, perhaps, remember the story about St. Cecilia, who on one occasion while playing the organ was surrounded by a troop of little cherubs. When the saint thought they were fatigued site politely asked them to sit down—"Asseyez vous, mes enfants;" but their reply was—"Nous vous remercions, Mademoiselle, mais nous n'avons pas de quoi." This was very much the case with the children for whom school accommodation was provided. They were all floating in the air as it were, and when the schools were built they, like St. Cecilia's visitors, had not de quoi to sit down. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) caused some amusement a year or two ago by remarking that there was generally in every family a "superior person" who gave advice to everybody and whom everybody disliked. It appeared to him that the officers of the Education Department belonged to this class of "superior persons." In many cases good intentions had been utterly shipwrecked on the rocks of mal-administration.

defended the conduct of the officers of the Department. They had had a most difficult task to carry out in seeing that proper educational facilities were provided throughout the country, and he believed they had executed their work in a very creditable manner. He felt confident that if the good-humoured remarks of his hon. Friend could be quite justified, there would be much greater dissatisfaction than actually existed in the country. The Amendment proposed to add to, rather than diminish, the duties of the Department; because they had hitherto thought that when application was made for their consent to a loan it should not be refused, unless very serious reasons existed against that course. He must entirely demur to the further duty proposed by the Amendment being forced on the Department. The real power to limit the action of school boards should be the feeling of their own constituents. Upon the whole, school boards had shown anxiety for the interests of their districts and the interests of education. They might occasionally have spent too much but the parties to guard against that were their own constituents. If the Department were to attempt to control them the local bodies would refuse to be so fettered, and this would produce a result exactly the reverse of that which was desired by the Mover of the Amendment.

quite agreed with what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. There had been remonstrances made in some districts by local bodies against planting school boards in places in which there was already sufficient school accommodation, and they did not want to put their hands into the pockets of the ratepayers unnecessarily. There was not always an accurate knowledge in London with respect to local requirements.

said, that in the particular case alluded to—namely, that of Leeds, the Government took care to obtain local knowledge not only from the memorialists, but from the Inspector.

said, that it was an important question whether a Board elected for a short period should be allowed a practically unlimited power in laying enormous burdens upon the ratepayers which could not be shaken off for 50 years. There ought to be some check, and the Vice President ought not only in the first instance to inquire into the sufficiency of the school accommodation, but should keep up that supervision, so that the parishes should not be overloaded with pecuniary liabilities.

explained that in the case of Bramley, near Leeds, there was a very rich incumbent who had erected schools, but the Dissenters refused to send their children there; and that was the reason that the school board of Leeds, which was quite impartial, established a school; and no sooner was it opened, than it had an attendance of 300 children.

said, that by the Act, if a district required an inquiry they would have to pay the expenses.

considered that the action of the Education Department had not been in accordance with the pledges given by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, to the effect that "the greatest care should be taken in carrying out the new system not to destroy in building up—not to injure the existing system in establishing a new one." He had only, in proof of this, to point to the case which he had alluded to on a former occasion, in which—there being ample school accommodation—the school board had proposed to provide a new school at the expense of the ratepayers, the effect being that if the additional school proposed by the school board at Keyham were to he sanctioned and built, there would be school accommodation for 374 children out of a population of 749; nor had the ratepayers any security against wasteful expenditure after they had once elected a school board. In the ease in point, three of the five members of the school board who had voted for the new school had not even a £10 qualification, and yet they were attempting to saddle the parish for 50 years with the interest of a loan—to be repaid out of the rates to which they contributed next to nothing—for a purpose declared by the Government Inspectors to be unnecessary! This state of things was calculated to create discontent among the ratepayers. The proposition of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt) hit a serious blot in the Act of 1870, and unless it were removed by some such Amendment as was now proposed, it would cause justifiable indignation throughout the country, and seriously retard the cause of education which his right hon. Friend had so much at heart.

said, that the case in question was a much disputed one, and was the subject of a voluminous correspondence and much consideration. Inquiry had been made into the sufficiency of the school accommodation, and it was maintained by the board that a school for 130 or 140 children was required, and they provided one for 150. If the Amendment were pressed to a division he hoped the Committee would reject it.

replied to the objections made to the proposal, and contended that the Amendment was absolutely necessary in the interest of the ratepayers, in order to deprive the school board of the power of taxing the people without any appeal, for the establishment of additional school accommodation in places where it was not required. These country school boards had in reality power to inflict taxes not only of 3 d. in the pound, but of 6 d. or 9 d., or even 2s. or 3s. in the pound. Unless some modification was made in the present system the cause of education would become unpopular in the country, and matters would be placed in a worse position than they were before.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 71; Noes 116: Majority 45.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 11 to 19, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 20 (Notices for purposes of Elementary Education Acts).

objected to the penalty of 40s. which the clause imposed for tearing down or defacing any new notice affixed in pursuance of the Act.

said, the reason why the penalty was put in was, that the notices had in some cases been torn down, and it seemed desirable to prevent it.

remarked that in the metropolis it required constant supervision to see that they were not torn down, in order that the conditions of the Act might be complied with.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 21 and 22 agreed to.

Clause 23 (Regulations as to legal proceedings).

moved, in page 8, to leave out sub-section 3, which said that—

"In any proceeding for an offence under a by-law the Court may, instead of inflicting a penalty, make any order directing that the child shall attend school, and that if he fail so to do, the person on whom such order is made shall pay a penalty not exceeding the penalty to which he is liable for failing to comply with the by-law."
He moved the Amendment at the request of the clerk to the school board at Birmingham, who had been a schoolmaster for a great number of years, and who was of opinion that the law would be made so lenient by the sub-section that it would not be sufficiently effective on the parents of the children. An offence against it was to be proved at the expense of the school board, and when that was done it was a mockery, which only encouraged further neglect of the law if the parent was again to be only warned.

said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would retain the sub-section, as it was desirable that cases under the Act coming before a magistrate should be dealt with leniently, since otherwise the Act itself would be defeated.

observed, that the sub-section had been introduced in the hope and belief that the mere warning by the magistrate, without the actual punishment, would be sufficient to enforce attention for the future to the requirements of the Act.

said, he was satisfied that to attempt to enforce compulsion with severity would not operate satisfactorily. There were domestic afflictions and difficulties, and if they were to enforce the attendance of children of the poor five days of the week the result would be a breaking down of the Act. What they wanted to do was to secure, as far as possible, the co-operation of all the schools, and to induce the largest possible number of children to attend the schools. He wished that a power was given under the Act to say to the children—"You must attend school three days in the week;" and in thus giving them an opportunity to work half time they would secure better attendances, and turn the children out in a manner better able to get their bread than they would be if forced to attend five days in the week.

said, he had been for some time considering whether it would not be possible to have some such arrangement as that now proposed—a mode which was in accordance with the views of a distinguished lady who felt very great interest in the education of the children of the poor—he meant Lady Burdett Coutts. If his hon. Friend would draw out a scheme, or if the London School Board would take the matter in hand, he would promise to give it his most serious consideration previous to preparing the next Code. With regard to the Amendment, he hoped after what had taken place his hon. Friend would not press it.

said, by-law 4 of the London School Board provided that children over ten receiving permission from the School Board need only attend half time, or during ten hours a-week instead of 20, or five school times a-week instead of ten. The Vicar of Sydenham (Mr. Legge) said in reference to this, that of children, both boys and girls, above ten years of age, beneficially and necessarily employed, there was no lack in a place like Sydenham; but either the schools must lose considerably by admitting them—because they could not ordinarily make up the requisite attendance—or they must close their doors upon them. The latter course would be a hardship to the children, and would inevitably bring the school into collision with the School Board, whose visitor would be constantly bringing the parents before the Board to answer for their neglect. He was, therefore, glad to have heard the promise of the right hon. Gentleman.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

said, there was a sub-section in the clause—sub-section 4—which proposed to give power to the magistrate to impose a penalty of 20s. on a poor man who failed to send his child to school. It was, in fact, a proviso to enforce compulsory education, and he would move an Amendment to strike that proviso out of the Bill. This was an Act to impose penalties on parties who did not comply with a by-law to send their children to school. He ventured to say that such a proviso as that would never be acted upon; and he did not think it would be to the credit of the House to allow such a proviso to pass. Let them look at the penalty of 20s. enforced upon a poor man. Every hon. Gentleman must know that to enforce such a penalty must result in sending the poor man to the treadmill.

Amendment proposed, in page 8, to leave out from the word "by-law," in line 22, to the words "A certificate," in line 30.—( Mr. James Lowther.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

said, he thought the sense of the House and the country was greatly in favour of these compulsory clauses. Where a parent would not produce his child it was very reasonable that a fine of 20s. should be enforced on the parent. His hon. Friend said that implied the power of sending the parent to the treadmill; but there was nothing about treadmill in the clause. He did not think the clause ought to be altered.

asked, whether it was intended to leave the option to the magistrates of summoning either the employer or the parent; because it would be extremely unfair in many cases that the employer should be summoned in the first instance?

said, he did not think the clause ought to be altered. It merely provided that the child must be got at if he did not attend school, and the matter might fairly be left to the discretion of the magistrates.

said, the parent was to be fined if he failed to produce the child before the magistrate.

said, if this compulsory clause were really intended to be enforced, many parents must be sent to gaol. But if it was not intended to be enforced, the House ought not to pass it.

said, a fine or 20s. could not be enforced on poor parents without inflicting great hardship. After what they had heard of the want of discretion in clerical magistrates, it was only right that the point should be defined.

said, the magistrates would have the power of inflicting a fine of not exceeding 20s., therefore they could impose a fine of only 6d.

observed that even so, the cost might be 10s. or 13s., and as many a poor parent of a large family could not pay that amount, he would be sent to gaol in default of payment.

said, the fine was not an arbitrary one, but was only to be imposed when a parent wilfully defied the law.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 138; Noes 36: Majority 102.

moved to leave out sub-section 7, as it threw the burden of proof upon the parent that the school to which he sent his children was a public elementary school under the Act. He quite agreed in the object of the sub-section, that parents should not be allowed to evade the penalties under the Act by sending their children to a sham school. The proof, however, should rest on the prosecutor.

Amendment proposed, in page 8, to leave out from the word "age," in line 40, to the word "Where," in page 9, line 7.—( Mr. Cross.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

said, he would support the Amendment if the hon. Gentleman divided on it, as it was now the rule to try and get rid of all such ridiculous doctrines as that a man should be considered innocent until he was proved guilty. They had improved upon all that, and last week passed a Bill (the Salmon Fisheries Bill) which required a man in whose possession pickled salmon was found to account for how he came by it, and to show when and where it was caught, and where it had been pickled.

asked how the prosecutor could prove the charge against parents? He could only show that the school was inefficient by obtaining a right of entry to it at all times, which would be a greater invasion of liberty than could result from the provision objected to. He hoped the Amendment would not be persevered with considering the lateness of the hour, and the desire to advance the Bill at that period of the Session.

observed that the Amendment did not at all strike at the principle of the clause. It would only throw the burden of proof that the school was efficient upon the prosecutor not upon the defendant, and that was the principle of the criminal law.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 90; Noes 69: Majority 21.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

moved after Clause 4 to insert the following clause:—(Constitution of committees of boards of management).

said, that the clause was one of enormous scope, which would, if carried out completely alter the constitution of the voluntary schools. He would appeal to the hon. Member whether such a clause could fairly be entertained at this period of the Session, and whether it would not be better to endeavour to attain the end proposed by means of a separate Bill?

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

moved the following clause:—

(Three years to be substituted for twelve months.)
"And whereas by Schedule 2, Part 2. of 'The Elementary Education Act, 1870,' it is provided as follows:—'If a resolution for application for a School Board is rejected, the resolution shall not be again proposed until the lapse of twelve months front the date of such rejection;' and it is expedient to extend the said period of twelve months to three years: Be it enacted, 'That three years shall be substituted for twelve months in the above mentioned part of the said Schedule."

Clause—( Mr. Heygate,)—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."

opposed the clause, on the ground that it would only apply to one or two places, and no case had been made out for it. There were few places in which people would like to keep up excitement in a village by making repeated application for a school board after they had been once or twice rejected.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 39; Noes 96: Majority 57.

moved the following clause:—(Conditions of Parliamentary grant to schools other than board schools).

Clause—( Lord Edmond Fitsmauriee,)—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."

said, he thought the clause could not be entertained in this Bill, inasmuch as it reopened all the difficult questions which had been settled by the Act, and if they were re-opened additional Amendments would have to be made. No doubt, there were arguments for and against the clause; but it was not desirable to reopen the question to which it referred.

expressed a hope that the clause would not be pressed, as no discussion which could now be raised on the matter of public educational grants would be satisfactory.

said, he must put the House to the trouble of a division, in order that there might be some record of its opinion on the subject.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 24; Noes 85: Majority 61.

opposed the clause on the ground that it would entail additional trouble on the masters, who were already under-paid.

supported the clause on the ground that its object was to increase attendance at the schools.

Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.

moved the following clause:—(Conditions on which School Board may accept transfer of school).

said, he could not accept the clause, and hoped it would not be pressed to a division.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

said, he would not now move the insertion of a clause which he had intended to move in reference to compulsory attendance at school; but he gave Notice that early next Session he should move for leave to bring in a Bill to enforce compulsion generally.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Thursday.