Again considered in Committee.
Postponed proceeding resumed on Amendment proposed, in Clause 10, Subsection (1), after the word "require," to insert the word "either."—[ Sir H. Hibbert.]
Question again proposed, "That the word 'either' be there inserted."
When I was interrupted I was endeavouring to point out that although the Bill as proposed to be altered by the President's Amendment indicates a considerable weakening, nevertheless it does represent a very important step forward in our system of national education. When this Bill was introduced the President of the Board pointed out that one of the great objects of this proposed system of obligatory continuation schools was to prevent what has happened during many preceding years, namely, that the children from cur elementary schools leaving at the age of thirteen, and some even at the age of fourteen, soon forgot a great part of the education which they had received in the elementary schools, and the opinion throughout the country was general that some form of continuation classes or schools was essential in order that the sums of money expended on elementary education should not be entirely thrown away. I venture to think that the Bill as it now stands will bring about that important object. The proposal now is that education shall be compulsory between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, and I cannot help thinking that boys and girls who have received an efficient and continuous education up to the age of sixteen will be far less likely to forget what they have learnt than if they leave school at the age of thirteen or fourteen.When I spoke on the Second Reading of this Bill I ventured to point out some of the administrative difficulties which I then realised would attend Clause 10 as it stood, in which it was proposed to make education compulsory up to the age of eighteen. I pointed out that the teachers had not been trained, that the kind of education to be given in these continuation schools had not been carefully considered, and, further, that buildings were wanted, and therefore I, for my part, am not sorry that the proposal for continuing the education compulsorily between the ages of sixteen and eighteen should be deferred. I believe that during that interval, when the experiment of making education compulsory up to the age of sixteen will have been fully tried, we shall know far better than we do at present what kind of education we propose to give during those later years; and one very great advantage of restricting, for the time being at any rate, the compulsory education at the age of sixteen is that there will be no question now during those years between fourteen and sixteen of giving what is called vocational teaching. The education between fourteen and sixteen will be, I hope, of a thoroughly general character. It will be absolutely and entirey what it ought to be—a continuation of the education up to fourteen, so that it shall place the young person of either sex somewhat in the same position as those who have been able to attend the secondary school up to sixteen. I desire that this education should be of a secondary character in all respects, that of course it should be literary, scientific, manual, moral, and disciplinary, but, at the same time, the character of that education should be such as to prepare the people for the higher education which some of them will desire to obtain, and equally to prepare them for the technical education which is at the present time so efficiently provided in our large technical institutions throughout the country. During the last few years nothing has struck those engaged in giving technical instruction more than the fact that the young men and the young women who came to these technical schools in the evening were unable to take advantage of the education that was there provided through having neglected or forgotten so much of the elementary education that they had received in early years. The Bill as it now stands will obviate that which is the greatest defect in our present system of education, and I for one welcome it even in the form in which it is now before us. There is another thing, and that is that, whereas children who left school at the age of fourteen and went at once to work, without any obligation to continue their education, had lost their desire for further instruction in the more fact that they had forgotten so much they had learnt, if their education is continued even up to the age of sixteen, and then they go to work, or if during the ages of fourteen to sixteen they are in manufacturing industries, commercial offices or some other form of useful occupation, they will by that time have been able to realise some of the advantages of education, and will be most anxious, I am quite certain, to continue their education voluntarily either in the technical school or in some of our university extension classes. Therefore, I would like the Committee to feel that, although for administrative reasons, with which I have the utmost sympathy, the President of the Board of Education has thought it necessary—and I believe it was necessary—not to require compulsory continuation education between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, I would like the Committee to realise that the Bill as it now stands is a very important advance upon our previous system of national education. Notwithstanding that fact, I am disposed to think it would be advisable, if the President would allow us a certain interval of time between the consideration of the Amendment that he has proposed and the resumption of the Bill in Committee. We have not seen his Amendment on the Paper. There is no doubt whatever that it must affect other Clauses of the Bill which we have not had time to consider, and therefore I do suggest at this hour— nearly half past nine o'clock—that he should consent to the proposal made by the hon. Member for Leicester, which I shall be very glad to move in his absence, that we be allowed now to report Progress, and to continue the discussion of this Bill at some later stage. I therefore move "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
I would point out to the Committee that any Debate which arises on that will have to be strictly confined to the reasons for the Motion. I cannot allow a Debate on the general question.
May I ask my hon. Friend if on consideration he will allow us to proceed with this Bill. There will be plenty of time to give the Amendments a Second Reading and to put down Amendments to them, and of course there is always the Report stage. Not only that, but the subject can be brought up further on Clause 45, which, presumably, we shall not reach for some days. Really, to postpone the whole progress of this Bill merely to give a little more leisure to take one of many opportunities for consideration of this matter is really, I think, asking the Committee to waste its time, when it is anxious to get on with the Bill.
I would appeal to my hon. Friend not to press this Motion. I do think there is a very fair arrangement which will give opportunity for consideration.
I hope the Motion will be persisted in. When I move to report Progress it is generally out of order, and I get dropped on. I congratulate the hon. Member for London University on having the Motion accepted by the Chair, and that very fact shows that a crisis, or, at any rate, an important event, has transpired. We were all very much surprised, and very much surprised indeed, by the line taken up suddenly, without warning, and, if I may say so, after a private intimation that the Government would not give way, that a new policy had been adopted by the President of the Board of Education. Probably, on mature consideration, we shall find that there are more in favour of the other policy than at first sight appears. At first sight it appears as if he had given away more than has actually been demanded. That, I think, is really the explanation of the position. I quote what people are saying in the Lobby in order to let the Committee and the President see that his action, thus suddenly taken, and involving such a reconstruction of this Clause, is not understood. The bearing of this and how it will work is not understood, and that, I think, is a very good reason why we should report Progress. I believe if we were to report Progress we should meet again on the next occasion clearly understanding the problem that we have got to meet. Therefore I hope the Government will not oppose this Motion, because in the end it will really probably prevent recriminations and discussions which will seem, in the light of a few days, to be quite inopportune and unnecessary.
I join in the appeal to my hon. Friend not to press his Motion —
Sir Donald, I take it that the general opinion of the Committee is to proceed with the business. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no'"] Under these circumstances I ask leave to be allowed to withdraw my Motion. [HON. MEMBERS. "No, no!"]
As a Lancashire Member, might I just be permitted to say one or two sentences? The concession announced by the President of the Board of Education this afternoon is a very great surprise to those who have been—I might almost say continuously — in communication with him about this Clause for the past few months. I have been present at very large conferences addressed by the Minister of Education, consisting of representatives of both employers and workmen connected with Lancashire trade and industry. After what the right hon. Gentleman had said we were led to believe that he had not even in mind such a concession. It might have been as well to defer the proposed Amendment for the reason that I think a day or two ought to have been given for the people of Lancashire, both trade unionists and employers, to consider this proposal. That is most important, because this has come to them, as to Members of this House this afternoon, as a very great surprise. The alternative had never entered into their minds at all. I cannot, of course, discuss the respective merits of the proposals before the Committee, but the ascertained opinion of the people of Lancashire should be taken into consideration.
I very much hope we shall report Progress. I do so on the ground that the so-called concessions that have been made are a bitter disappointment to those who have seen in this Bill real progress in the education of the country. I have received from many of my Constituents strong appeals to resist the whittling down of this Bill
The present Motion before the House does not deal with the Bill generally, but is a Motion to report Progress.
My argument is that these people should have the opportunity of understanding what the Government are now proposing. I was trying to show their keen interest in the matter and suggesting that they should have an opportunity to know of these whittling-down proposals and of expressing their view in regard to them. It would be altogether wrong for the House to accept an emasculated proposal of this kind without giving the country an opportunity of saying what they think about it. I am perfectly sure that those who will really care about education in the country will express their opinion with no uncertain sound, and I, therefore, beg to support the Motion to report Progress.
The Lancashire Members have already met, and we have seen representatives of the operatives and of the employers. The decision we came to was that the Amendment which had been proposed by the Minister of Education should be accepted, and supported. As to any further discussion on the proposals after they have been communicated to the interests concerned in the country I think the Report stage is the proper occasion for that. In view of the fact that the House has already suspended the Eleven o'clock Rule, it would be a great pity that we should really waste time at this period of the Session when we are very much pressed and want to make progress with the Bill.
Might I be allowed to enforce the argument of my hon. Friend opposite. We are still some distance from the proposed Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. Might I, therefore, suggest that it would be possible—the Minister might agree—not to take any decision upon this Clause to-night. If that were done there is no reason why we should not take the intervening Amendments till we reach the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, and, if time permits, open the discussion upon it. Possibly this might meet with the view of the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway. I trust the Committee will enable us to proceed with the Bill.
I would like earnestly to impress upon hon. Members who are enthusiasts in the cause of education and those who are disappointed by these concessions the urgent necessity of getting this Bill placed upon the Statute Book. I feel that unless we take every opportunity to press forward, with the utmost skill and the greatest application, we shall never get this Bill on the Statute Book at all. We have already spent a great deal of time on a great number of somewhat small questions. I do, therefore, earnestly hope that the Committee will assist me in getting forward. Some hon. Members appear to think that the Bill with these concessions is a worthless Bill. All I can say to that is that it is a most absurd view. With all these concessions this Bill will be the greatest educational advance that any country in the world has attempted to achieve within so limited a period of time. We are undertaking to do in a short period what no country has attempted yet to do. I do venture to appeal to my hon. Friends not to undervalue the Bill as it will eventually, I trust, emerge.
Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again," put, and negatived.
Question again proposed, "That the word 'either' be there inserted."
I desire to respond to the appeal made by the President of the Board of Education to get on with the Bill, but I wish to point out why this Amendment, which has been considered all the afternoon practically from the point of view of Lancashire and the cotton trade, is of special interest to members associated with agriculture. I am quite sure that the proposal to limit the age of continued education to sixteen and having a minimum of 600 hours would have been a system which would have offered a practical solution to the agricultural difficulty. I am convinced that the education which is proposed from fourteen to eighteen, limited to 280 hours a year, when it comes to full maturity in seven years time, will be found to be a cumbersome, if not an unworkable, system, which will waste an amount of time out of all proportion to the educational advantage derived by the children or young persons. I think the Scottish system adopted years ago, which provided seven months learning practical work in the summer, and in the winter full-time education for a limited number of weeks, would have been much better, and that was a system under which the finest Scottish agriculturists were brought up, and if that had been put into the Bill it would have provided a practical education out of proportion in value to anything which can be achieved under Clause 10.I see with regret this proposal for 600 hours disappearing from the Bill, for it seems to me that the needs of the cotton trade could have gone hand in hand with agriculture, and not opposed to each other, as has been suggested by some speakers. The President himself drew a picture of an unfortunate child coming from a rural district where they were giving 320 hours into an area where 600 hours was the rule, but we could have got over that difficulty by working the system together. In spite of the appeal made by the President, I suggest to the Committee that there are other aspects of this question than the Lancashire aspect, and I believe that the true solution of continuation education would have been by admitting that there are certain trades such as the sea, agriculture, and possibly the cotton trade, where a four years' course of part-time education is not suitable either for the trade, the young people, or the cause of education. What we require is more elasticity. The first sign of elasticity was this Lancashire Amendment, but even this was something different to what would be suitable to some other trades. The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out that this concession does not really alter the Bill, but merely hangs up the appointed day for the period of seven years, but I wish to point out that it still leaves one cast iron rule throughout every trade and industry of education from fourteen to eighteen whether it is suitable or not. It is a great pity that this has been accepted as any real solution of the difficulty in regard to the cotton trade, and if this particular trade had tried to fit in with some other trade we might have had an agreement between agriculture and the cotton trade which would have given us something substantial and sensible.
The Minister of Education has appealed to us to support him and to allow this Amendment to go through without any further discussion. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I understand that we are now discussing the Amendment of the. hon. Member for Chorley, which is going to be withdrawn, and then some other Amendment is going to be included. On behalf of those who have been supporting this Bill, and who are so intensely interested in this subject in London, I say that we look with the gravest disappointment upon the announcement of the change which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman. I think the proposal to allow the humbler classes of the community the opportunity of a similar extension of the benefits of education up to the age of eighteen to that which has hitherto been enjoyed by the richer portions of the community has commanded a remarkable assent all through the country. I feel certain if the right hon. Gentleman had stuck to his guns he could have commanded the assent of this House notwithstanding anything that was proposed by the Lancashire members. I must say honestly that I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has treated those who would have supported him through thick and thin if he had stuck to his original proposals quite fairly in that respect.What is this change going to bring about? Both the proposal of the Bill and the proposal of the hon. Member for Chorley would have extended at the very earliest possible moment the benefits of this continued education to the children of this country. That is to say, that both by the proposals of the hon. Member for Chorley and the proposals in the Bill the child who is now under twelve years of age would have come into the benefits of continued education up to the age of eighteen. If I understand this suggested compromise rightly, it means, instead of giving to all the children under twelve this particular benefit of continued education up to eighteen, you would be striking out all children over the age of five years at the present time. That is to say, the great mass of children at the present moment between five years of age and twelve years of ago will be shut out under any circumstances from this proposal to give them education up to the eighteenth year. I submit to the Committee that that is a very serious change, and one which will be very detrimental indeed to the immediate future of this country. This is all being done because it is supposed that it would be difficult to give this class of education in practice to the children as they grow up. I understand the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Chorley gives an alternative—that is to say, it would allow the different localities where the local authorities were prepared to start as early as possible a system of education up to eighteen, an opportunity of doing so, and in that respect I should much prefer the Amendment of the hon. Member for Chorley. That is the position in which I and many of those who warmly support the Bill on behalf of London stand. We should prefer the Amendment of the hon. Member for Chorley to the Amendment suggested by the Government, because it gives this improved education at the earliest possible moment, whereas the other proposal defers it for several years. We should prefer it because once this suggestion of the Government is carried, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for Parliament to accelerate the advent of the time when a full and complete continued education will be given. If the Amendment suggested by the Members for Lancashire were carried, we should, at any rate, be in the position that continued education between the ages of fourteen and sixteen would at once commence, and at a later period Parliament could review the situation if it thought it well to do so. Under the circumstances, I, for one, regret, and I believe that the great education authorities in the south of England, who would be quite able and willing to provide this higher education, at any rate, before seven years from the appointed day, will regret the change advocated by the right hon. Gentleman.
I do not feel easy to let this Amendment be withdrawn without expressing my profound regret that the right hon. Gentleman has felt it necessary to make these very important changes. I cannot help doubting whether he has made the best bargain that is possible with some of those with whom he has had to deal. It is a very striking thing that this afternoon we have had the representatives of Lancashire unanimously saying that they are willing to work a system of half-time education between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. If that could have been carried out, I should have had very little doubt that we should have found that the great majority of the children that had had this half-time education up to the age of sixteen would have realised by that time the value of education, and would themselves have insisted that they should have the opportunity of continuing it. More remarkable than the support of Lancashire is the support of the hon. Member for the Devizes Division (Mr. Peto). Speaking, I understand, for the agriculturists, he welcomed this suggestion of half-time education from fourteen to sixteen. That is a very remarkable statement, coming from the quarter that it does, and, if it really represents the considered view of agriculturists, I feel very doubtful whether my right hon. Friend would not have done better to have accepted the support of Lancashire and of the agriculturists, and to have adopted this Amendment. It is probably too late now to get the right hon. Gentleman to alter his view, but I should like to suggest to him, that, at any rate, he should consider whether it is not possible to make some concession whereby localities that want to give this 320 hours' education between the ages of sixteen and eighteen and can make the necessary arrangements with the teachers should have the opportunity of doing it before seven years have passed. I am convinced from what I have heard that there are localities who would be glad to do it, and to do it now. I believe nothing would help my right hon. Friend more than to have certain progressive localities having this system in operation, because others would be ready to follow and to follow quickly. I am perfectly certain that another influence that will help my right hon. Friend is the knowledge that will come from Germany and other countries as to what they propose to do. It is very difficult to get information from Germany now, but we make a mistake in not studying what Germany and the Central Powers are proposing for after the War. I believe, if hon. Members will look at what Germany is proposing with regard to education in the future, that they will realise once more that we are handicapping ourselves as a nation by what we are proposing. If we want to keep our place, as we all do, in the realm of progress, we are falling far short in what is being proposed to-night. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will not close his mind to the possibility of making some arrangements whereby localities who want to give this continued education and can make the necessary arrangements shall have the liberty of doing so.
I would urge upon my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras (Sir W. Dickinson) and the hon. Member for York (Mr. Rowntree) to consider whether they are not using exaggerated language. Is it necessary to believe that the whole of this advantage will be thrown away because it is not introduced at once in the most complete form? Listening to the right hon. Gentle-man the Member for St. Pancras, one would believe that the effect of the President's proposal would be to put off entirely this important extension of education beyond the age of fourteen. If it would do that, I would decidedly oppose it, but we must look at things in a practical way. All that we can possibly do to advance the most important part of education and stop the great loss and wastage which occur between the ages of fourteen and eighteen we ought to do, but look at it in a. practical way. Will we not, under the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, have the very best means of effecting what we want? We are now in a very difficult position. We have an unusual demand for employé's, we have an unusual burden upon the rates and taxes, and we shall have for some years to come an unusual shortage of teachers. Is it not wise to offer every encouragement and every inducement and every help, monetary and otherwise, to local authorities to establish those advantages which, to listen to the right hon. Member for St. Pancras and the hon. Member for York, one would believe are to be entirely denied because they are not made compulsory? Is it not better to give people an opportunity to accustom their minds to this new range of education, and then, after a certain number of years have passed, to put your compulsory powers, if necessary, into operation? I would urge the Committee to consider that compulsion is not the be-all and end-all of our education. It is an utter mistake to think that by exercising compulsory powers you are adding to the real impulse for and efficiency of education. Let the people's minds grow up to it and accustom them to the opportunities that are open to them. Under the right hon. Gentleman's proposals all those opportunities will be open to them, and a certain number of years will be allowed in order to ripen and accustom people's minds and habits to suit them. With all my anxiety to bridge over this wastage from the age of fourteen to eighteen, I accept—I would not accept them if I thought they would lessen a single hope for educational progress—the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman as a wise, practical and workable compromise which will help to achieve what we all desire.
Question, "That the word 'either ' be there inserted," put, and negatived.
The Amendment in the name of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) in Sub-section (1), after the word "for" ["for three hundred and twenty hours in each year "] to insert the words "not more than," does not make sense in this place. Therefore, I am afraid I cannot accept it.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "three hundred and twenty" ["in which they reside may require, for three hundred and twenty hours in each year"], and to insert instead thereof the words "the prescribed number of."This Amendment must be read with the further Amendment on page 293 of the Amendment Paper, which says:
The object of these two Amendments will be clear to the Committee. It is to enable an authority that desires to give more than 320 hours continued education to do so. The Amendment is all the more important after the discussion which has just taken place. The President has announced that he finds it necessary to make the minimum number of hours 280 instead of 320. It is perfectly clear from what has been said this afternoon that there is a large number of localities which are willing to give much more than that. Lancashire is willing to give much more than that. The agriculturists are willing to give more than that. Therefore, I hope the President will be able to give favourable consideration to these two Amendments. The argument for them is strengthened by the fact that probably there is to be a delay of five or seven years until we get continued education between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. If that is so, it is all the more important that the education between the ages of fourteen and sixteen should be as complete and thorough as possible. If there are localities glad and willing to make arrangements whereby a larger number of hours education can be given, it is clearly in the national interest that they should have the power to do so. Again, the fact that a certain number of localities are giving a larger number of hours' instruction will help on the general movement in the country which we all desire to see."The prescribed number of hours means such number, not being less than 320, as the local education authority may from time to time, with the approval of the Board of Education, prescribe."
10.0 p. m
I need hardly say that I have the greatest sympathy with the object the hon. Member for York (Mr. Rowntree) has in view. He desires to give local education authorities power to increase the number of hours above the figure of 320 hours per annum, and he thinks it possible, if that power were given, that it would be made use of in a certain number of instances. I think, however, that it would be very difficult to give that power. According to the hon. Member's Amendment, a local education authority might be empowered to prescribe full-time attendance for the young people in its locality. There is the further objection to the Amendment that a system of local variation—a very strong local variation— whereby young persons would be under a lesser obligation in one area and a very much higher obligation in another, would be very difficult to work practically. If the variation were within narrow limits, such as I have indicated, I do not see any particular difficulties in the way, but if there were very great variations it would be very difficult to work the system practically. I suggest to my hon. Friend that it would be wiser to wait until the conditions prescribed in the Bill are adequately fulfilled throughout the country before we entrust such a power as he proposes to entrust to particular local education authorities.
I want to understand the position. I believe that at the present time it is quite possible for a local education authority to provide opportunities for education for more than 320 hours, and that what they are prevented from providing is compulsory education for more than 320 hours.
Then the point of my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Rowntree) would be met.
Would there be the same arrangements as to Grants! Amendment negatived.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "year" ["for three hundred and twenty hours in each year"], to insert the words "distributed as regards times and seasons as may best suit the circumstances of each locality." This is a simple Amendment and largely explains itself. In my view elasticity is wanted in this respect. We want to avoid a cast-iron scheme. I would submit that the acceptance of this Amendment would raise no administrative difficulties, no social difficulties, and no economical difficulties. What it aims at doing is to synchronise the industrial or agricultural conditions with the inconvenience which might very easily arise in the various districts. The variations which would take place if my Amendment were accepted would be all within the limits of the 320 or whatever other number of hours may be finally inserted in the Bill. I need hardly point out to the Committee that the varying circumstances will have effect in various localities. The harvest, for instance, is necessarily a varying matter. In the South of England, of course, it comes considerably earlier than in the North. In Cornwall, in the spring, the conditions are very different so far as agricultural purposes are concerned—and horticulture as well—from those which obtain in other counties, Penzance and Redruth are in a different position to districts around Hexham. After the discussion we have just had it is scarcely necessary again to emphasise the fact that Lancashire has very peculiar conditions and views of its own, but I think within the limits of my Amendment it might be allowed complete latitude. Leisure and work in factory districts are obviously different to leisure and work in agricultural districts, and I do think it would be of real assistance to the smooth working of this Bill if some words such as I propose could be inserted which would enable the local education authorities to fit the machinery of the Bill more conveniently to local conditions.
I am quite wiling to accept the Amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: After the word "hours" ["such number of hours "], insert the words "distributed as aforesaid."—[ Mr. Evelyn Cecil.]
I have now a Government manuscript Amendment.
Do I understand that the other Amendments at the end of the first paragraph of Sub-section (1) will not be ruled out of order, and that the Government manuscript Amendment which is now to be taken will simply take precedence of them?
I have no Amendments tendened affecting this particular part of the paragraph, which, in my view, are in order, other than the one submitted by the Government.
There is an Amendment standing in my name limiting the hours of labour of these young persons. Will that come on at the proper time?
That can follow the Government Amendment. I will deal with that point when it arises.
I have an Amendment in common with other hon. Members with regard to maintenance Grants. Will it be in Order to move that as a proviso after the Government Amendment has been disposed of?
In relation to that Amendment, I have to say it is quite incomplete in its present form, and I informed one of the hon. Members, in whose name it stands, of that fact earlier in the evening. It does not say who should pay the maintenance Grant or how much it shall be. I must have an Amendment in something approaching a complete form before I can put it to the Committee. However, I will not rule against it being brought up at some later stage, either on this Clause or in the form of a new Clause, providing that it approximates something like completion.
Would it be possible for us to decide on the question of the adoption of the Clause as a whole unless we know first whether maintenance grants are to be allowed? Would it suffice if the hon. Member for Blackburn moved his Amendment in the form of a proviso, leaving the question of how the maintenance money is to be provided to be settled later?
No; I think it must be brought in in a more complete form. It can be brought up at a later stage of this Clause, and I will not make any further ruling at the moment than I have done.
May I point out, in reference to the Amendment standing in my name, that it does not suffer from the same disqualification as that which applies to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Blackburn, for it states particularly who is to pay?
I regard the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member as entirely outside the scope of the Bill. It is not in order on this Bill to impose a tax on employers or any other person, and the Amendment, therefore, does not come within the scope of the Bill.
I beg to move, in Subsection (1), at the end of the first paragraph, to insert the words,
I will not elaborate the reasons which have led me to propose this Amendment. I have already explained them to the Committee. Hon. Members will realise that under the original scheme of the Bill two years would, in any case, be necessary for the development of continuation education between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. This Amendment proposes that after that period has been reached there shall be a further period of five years before the scheme of the Bill is applied to the adolescents between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. During that five years it will be possible for the Board of Education and the local education authorities not only to perfect their arrangements for the continuation schools in the earlier period, but to make adequate provision for the far more difficult task of extending the period of education to the older adolescents. I say "far more difficult task," because it is obvious that the teachers of these young men of the more advanced age must be more highly trained than the teachers of those who are younger. Teachers cannot be trained in the twinkling of an eye, and I submit to the Committee that this period of five years will not be wasted, but that it will in my view in any case be necessary if the system of continuation education is to be really effectively applied to young persons between the ages of sixteen and eighteen when first the system is applied to them. As to the second part of the Amendment, I have been impressed by the evidence which has flowed in from many quarters that there are parts of this country to which it is very difficult to apply the continuation school Order unless you are prepared to concentrate on a single day. It is also likely to be to the convenience of many agricultural districts that the teaching shall be concentrated on a single day of the week, and I have come to the conclusion that at any rate in the winter and in agricultural districts a seven hours day is as much as you can expect. You have to remember that boys and girls will be going back in the dark if you prolong the teaching. On the whole I feel that this system would be stronger in the country if we admit, at any rate in its initial stages, rather more elasticity than the original form of the Bill provides. I think we shall get that by allowing local education authorities, if they think it necessary, to prescribe in the initial period of seven years a number of hours slightly less, but not greatly less, than the number originally prescribed in the Bill and intended to be the normal for the whole country."Provided that (a) the obligation to attend continuation schools shall not within a period of seven years from the appointed day on which the provisions of this Section come into force apply to young persons between the ages of sixteen and eighteen nor after such period to any young person who has attained the age of sixteen before the expiration of that period, and (b) during the like period, if the local education authority so resolve, the number of hours for which a young person may be required to attend continuation schools in any year shall be 280 instead of 320."
I venture to say that the Amendment that the right hon. Gentleman has made in the Bill will afford very considerable relief and satisfaction to the parents of the children. The Bill as it stood when brought in proposed that children should attend continuation schools between fourteen and eighteen years of age. As far as that proposal is known at present, it has caused a very considerable amount of opposition, but when its meaning was fully realised it would seriously endanger the success of education. Prior to the last election nothing much was said about this, and here we are, a practically moribund Parliament, passing very drastic legislation dealing with the training of children. The training of children, after all, is a great responsibility to the country, but the main responsibility rests with the parents, and they have had no opportunity hitherto of expressing their opinion on this matter, and hence I feel that in deference to that opinion the right hon. Gentleman's proposal is of very considerable value. He will recognise the desirability of continuation schools and provide them in at first a very moderate degree. If they prove successful and if they are appreciated by the parents and the children, there will be an opportunity further on to extend their scope and their usefulness. The Amendment, therefore, is a sound, businesslike proceeding, inasmuch as it recognises the desirability of children having within their reach an opportunity for continuing their education, but applies it in a reasonable and common-sense degree in the first instance, and the Bill will provide an opportunity, if the parents and the country desire it, to go further after seven years have elapsed. Especially in the rural districts, I think, the Amendment is of great importance. I am not against the education of the rural or any other class, but having regard to the fact that elementary education to-day begins at six years old up to fourteen—that is, eight years' opportunity to get education, and that is a very different position for lads in rural districts from what it was twenty or thirty years ago. I am prepared to go further, and, provided the education in the continuation schools is of a character suitable for children in rural districts, I believe it will do good, and they will learn to appreciate it, but the Amendment applies that physic in a small dose to begin with, and gives an opportunity for extended use further on when the people have had an opportunity of saying whether they desire to have it or not. From an educational point of view I believe it will promote the success of the Bill. If the Bill had been forced upon people as it was brought in, there would be great resentment and opposition to it. I earnestly hope the right hon. Gentleman will see that do rural districts the children who attend these schools, who hope to follow an agricultural life, will have an opportunity to study plant life, the nature of the soil and the dignity of labour on the soil in food raising, and the diseases and care of cattle. Thereby in the continuation schools they will naturally follow their occupation do the cultivation of the soil for their own success and the benefit of the Commonwealth. The way proposed by the Amendment is wiser than it would be for the Government to force their Bill as it was originally brought in on to people unacquainted with what was intended. I believe that if it had been so forced upon them it would have caused resentment, and would have interfered very much with the success of the effort to bring the opportunities of higher education within the reach of the children of this country.
I want to suggest one modification of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment which will meet to some extent the disappointment we feel that under his scheme advanced education authorities who are in a position to apply these compulsory classes to young persons between the ages of sixteen and eighteen before the lapse of seven years would be prevented from doing so. I want to suggest an Amendment which, while not making it compulsory on any local education authority to institute these classes within the seven years if they do not wish to do so, would allow those authorities in a position to make the experiment to do so.I beg to move, after the word "eighteen," to insert the words "in any area where the local education authority decides that it is inexpedient to enforce the obligation." The Sub-Clause would then read:
That would have this important effect that where an authority is in the position and desires to carry forward these continuation schools without waiting for this great lapse of seven years from the appointed day they would be in a position to do so. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept this compromise and remove some of the disappointment we feel."The obligation to attend continuation schools shall not within the period of seven years from the appointed day on which the provisions of this Section come into force apply to young persons between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, in any area where the local education authority decides that it is inexpedient to enforce the obligation."
I do not feel that I can accept this Amendment. At the same time it is an Amendment which the hon. Member is obviously quite entitled to move, and an Amendment on which he might desire to offer further observations. I suggest that he should move this Amendment on the Report stage.
I hope that before the Report stage the right hon. Gentleman will give this Amendment favourable consideration. There are many arguments that might be used. I think he knows that already there are schemes prepared by local authorities who feel that they can go right up to eighteen. Although the question of teachers is one of great difficulty, yet, if you take the education of girls between sixteen and eighteen, there is no difficulty. There are a large number of teachers who will teach housewifery admirably. The President has again and again in his speeches pointed out that there is a large development of physical and recreational education and of camps. There, again, the experience of the last two or three years has qualified large numbers of men and women to give that form of education. I do hope, remembering these facts and knowing that there are educational authorities who have schemes ready to give education up to eighteen, that before the Report stage the right hon. Gentleman will give this question most careful consideration.
I hope that the hon. Member who has just sat down appreciates what the Government Amendment is. There is nothing in the Government Amendment as it stands to prevent a local education authority at the present time, if it is ready, carrying on continuation schools to eighteen, and such things as recreation camps, I believe, would be taken advantage of without compulsion. The only point in the decision which the Government has made is that compulsion should not be enforced for a particular time. Personally, I differ entirely from this Amendment. It seems to me that a compromise has been arrived at between the Government and the Lancashire Members and some agricultural Members on this point, and if the Government are going to reopen this on the Report stage they will only have themselves to thank if prolonged debate arises. They have come to a definite agreement with the Lancashire people, and if they are going to make an Amendment such as that of the hon. Member for Lanark, which is absolutely inconsistent with the Government Amendment, it is likely to give rise to a great deal of discussion. Of course, it implies the condition of compulsion, but it is to be enforced by the local education authority.
The hon. and learned Gentleman is labouring under a misunderstanding. I said that I should not accept the Amendment.
I was rather frightened, because once the Government begins to come to terms there is the fear that it may go down a step further. I only wish to press strongly that if this is adopted by the Government on the Report stage it will certainly be perilously near a breach of faith. I am not dealing with the merits. The Government Amendment is not now so bad. Sixteen is the furthest away, and seven from sixteen only leaves nine, and, therefore, it cannot affect the child who is under the age of nine at the present time. The whole essence of the Government Amendment is that it does not in any way stop these matters being carried on, but deals only with the question of compulsion for the next seven years.
There is one point in this connection as to which no reply has yet been given. It is suggested that the local authority, if they wish, can carry on this continuation education up to the age of eighteen, and that the only difference would be that they will not be enabled to use compulsion upon the young persons in the area. The question which was addressed to the right hon. Gentleman was, Would grants be paid or not for persons who attend voluntarily, where local authorities set up continuation schools?
I understood my right hon. Friend, in asking my hon. Friend to withdraw the Amendment, to hold out some hope that the matter would be dealt with on Report. From his last answer, I think the position is totally different. I hope the hon. Member will not withdraw his Amendment, but will go to a Division. I understood that the main reason why the change has been made was that the education authorities will not be ready until seven years from the present time to fully carry out their duties, and that, therefore, there is no necessity for the powers of compulsion. I have had a consultation with the representatives of the London County Council, who are anxious to put in operation the compulsory Clause and all the other Clauses relating to education. I do not see why they should not do so, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will keep an open mind until the Report stage, in order that the local authorities may be able to express their desire on the subject in regard to carrying out these compulsory powers.
I have the greatest sympathy with the hon. Member for York and the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University in their view, and it seems to me that the assistance given to compulsory education should also be given to voluntary education.
If schools are raised to eighteen voluntarily by the education authorities they will receive the same Grants. I am one of those who believe that the voluntary system would eventually render compulsory education unnecessary, but some consider that the voluntary system in the end would render compulsion necessary; but, for myself, I should certainly deplore compulsion where there is a chance of making good with the voluntary system.
If I withdraw my Amendment and bring it up on the Report stage, will the right hon. Gentleman consider it?
As this matter is important, I must ask the President to say —
It will be convenient to the Committee and to the hon. Member if I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should bring up his Amendment in the Report stage, when we should have every opportunity of considering its effect upon the Clause, but I do not hold out any hope, and I cannot hold out any hope to the hon. Member of my accepting it.
Amendment to the proposed Amendment negatived.
Words proposed there inserted.
Is the Amendment in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Melton (Colonel Yate), requiring that not less than 25 per cent. of the time shall be devoted to physical training, in order, Sir?
That is a matter for Clause 3, and not for Clause 10. The nature of the teaching or instruction to be dealt with was debated and decided on those earlier Clauses. In Clause 10 we are only deciding which persons, at what ages, and to what extent, shall be under an obligation to attend school, so that the proposal is not relevant to the subject-matter of this particular Clause.
The point discussed on that previous occasion was whether military drill should be introduced. I wish to deal with this as a matter of general training, physical as well as mental, and and I do not know whether that would come under your ruling, Sir.
Yes. If the hon. Member desires to bring up the subject on one of those earlier Clauses on the Report stage, I have no doubt he will find a means of bringing it in. With regard to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. Whitehouse), he proposes a proviso restricting the employment of young persons required to attend continuation schools to a period not greater than twenty-five hoursper week. With regard to that Amendment and a number of other Amendments of a similar character, I have to say this: Amendments dealing with the number of hours of employment of children and young persons are, generally speaking, Amendments of the Factory and Workshops Act, and not Amendments of this Act, but there are some classes of Amendments which might be held to be strictly relevant and cognate to the question of education, and it is a difficult task for me to perform, but it is my duty within those limits to confine Amendments to those which appear to me to be strictly relevant and cognate to an Education Bill and not belonging to a Factory and Workshop Bill, and I have come to the conclusion that the proposal of the hon. Member to which I have referred comes under the factory and workshop category. I might perhaps, for his and for other hon. Members' convenience, indicate that the extent to which I feel justified in going is indicated. in the Amendment standing in the name of the Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck)—providing that the hours of any young person required to attend a continuation school, when added to the time necessary for such attendance at school, shall not exceed forty-eight hours in any one week, inclusive of meal hours—in which employment questions may be said to be relevant to the subject-matter of this Bill.
On a point of Order. I wish to ask you, Mr. Whitley, to consider this relevant point, that the Bill as drafted provides for interference with the hours of labour, because it provides that, in addition to allowing children the necessary time to attend these continuation classes, the employer should also allow further hours, not exceeding two hours daily, for the purpose of attending the classes, and my Amendment was directed to this point, that that provision is inadequate for the protection of young persons in certain classes, and that was why I was going to suggest a statutory limitation of the hours to meet those cases. My point is that as the Government themselves propose to interfere with the hours of labour, my Amendment is only an Amendment of the Government proposals.
That is exactly the fact I had in my mind, and when we come to Sub-section (5) the hon. Member can raise the question of the extension of the number of hours proposed by the Government. The next Amendment, in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for North. Dorset (Colonel Sir R. Baker), is not a matter for this Clause. The next Amendment dealing with sea-service
May I ask whether I shall be in order in asking to report Progress before we deal with this important subject of sea service—it is an entirely separate subject?
In any case this Amendment is out of place here. The hon. Member will see that the hon. Member for the Exchange Division has an Amendment later in the Clause which brings up the question in the right way, and I propose to call that when we reach it. The next Amendment of the hon. Member for Devizes is in order.
I beg to move, in Subsection (1), to leave out the words,
"Provided that at any time after the expiration of five years from the appointed day the Board of Education may, after such inquiry as they think fit, and after consulting the local education authority, by Order increase in respect of any area or part of an area or any young persons or classes of young persons the number of hours of attendance at continuation schools required under this Act, and this Section shall, as respects the area to which, or the young persons to whom, the Order applies, have effect as if the number of hours specified in the Order were substituted for three hundred and twenty; but no such Order shall be made until a draft thereof has laid for not less than thirty days on the Table of each House of Parliament."
I did not hear the reasoned reply made by the President to this Amendment. I do not understand whether the President just announced that he was accepting or disagreeing with the Amendment. I understand that he accepted the Amendment
This is that part of the concession that the right hon. Gentleman made to the opposition to the Bill that I most regret, because this is a Clause which empowers the local education authority, with the approval of the Board of Education, to increase the number of hours above 320 annually. By accepting this Amendment the President, until new legislation is passed, is going to prevent any local education authority from increasing the number of hours of attendance by compulsion. That means that we are to be content with the daily hour, or what has now become the daily forty-five minutes. My regret is more than I can say, and I want even now to appeal to the President to accept this modification of the proposal, that is, to move his Amendment in such a form as will allow the Board of Education to give approval when requested to do so on application from a local education authority which is in a position to increase the number of hours. I think" he will also meet all reasonable opposition to his proposal if he would reserve this right of power to give the authorities such permission.
My hon. Friend, I am afraid, does not appreciate the difficulty in providing for these continuation schools. There is, amongst others, the very great difficulty of allowing one local education authority to adopt one system in one area, and another to adopt another system in its area, because certain employers are penalised in comparison with others.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, after the word "reasonable" ["all the circumstances consider reasonable"], to add the words
As this is an Amendment of some importance, I should like to know whether it would be advisable to move to report Progress now that we have about reached the time, eleven o'clock, at which we usually adjourn? My Amendment raises the whole question of the provision of maintenance for young persons who are compelled to attend continuation schools."Provided that the local education authority, under schemes to be approved by the Board of Education, shall pay maintenance allowances for young persons who are in compulsory attendance at such continuation schools."
It is rather close to the time that we had a previous similar Motion, and, as the House has decided to suspend the Eleven o'Clock Rule, I think that debars me from, at present, accepting the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. Before very long, however, I may be prepared to entertain it if the Debate continues.
Very well; I will not press the Motion. This Amendment is a very fundamental one. There have been many expressions of opinion in the course of the Debate of various points of view of the children, and of the national interests. There is no one, either in this House or outside it, who is not anxious to see a very great improvement in our system of national education. I want to assure hon. Members that what they call the opposition of Lancashire to educational reform does not spring from any opposition to education itself. There is no county in England where education is more entirely appreciated than it is in Lancashire. But we cannot consider this question of education apart from other matters which are intimately and vitally associated with it. We are proposing in this Bill, by a Clause which has already received the approval of the House, to abolish an institution which has been, I think I am right in saying, in existence in Lancashire for nearly a century. Within my own recollection the age at which children might be permitted to work half-time in factories has been raised from eight by steps to twelve, and it is now to be abolished up to the age of fourteen. The arguments which have been used on this question in the past are well known, but I believe this is the first occasion on which, when the question of raising the age of compulsory attendance at school has been proposed, we have not been told by the employers of labour that it was absolutely indispensable for the maintenance of the cotton industry that young children should be sent early to the factory, because it was necessary that their fingers should become subtle, and that at a very early age they should be trained in very delicate textile operations. John Fielding once had sent to him a. petition to this House, declaring that
I am glad that the day is passed when such an argument will carry any weight in this House. Lancashire is united in desiring to see educational reform and in seeing that the children should be kept at school for a longer period than at present. There are other matters to take into consideration which we cannot ignore. I have been taunted more than once during these Debates by the Member for Sunderland with not subscribing to the resolutions passed by the trade union and Labour conferences. Very often pious resolutions are passed at those conferences, but there is all the difference in the world between passing resolutions of that sort and translating them in Acts of Parliament."It is absolutely essential for the maintenance of the cotton industry of Lancashire that children of eight should be permitted to work for twelve hours a day."
Those resolutions have always been associated with maintenance.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe has just pointed out, whenever those proposals have been made at trade union and Labour conferences the extension of the age of compulsory attendance has always been associated with maintenance. My Amendment proposes to translate into legislation this demand of the Labour and trade union conferences. We cannot dissociate the economic from the educational question, for they are very closely and intimately associated. For instance, there are many hon. Members of this House who went to school till they were eighteen years of age, and after that they went to a university for five or six years. Why do they not bring forward a proposal that every child should go to school until eighteen years of age and then go forward to the university? If that was a good thing for these hon. Members, it is a good thing for others. Why do they not do it? The answer is that it is an economic question. They know that it is not possible to impose such a condition as that upon all the parents of the country, and therefore it is only a question of degree as to whether we raise it to fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen. It is not a question of the desirability at all, and therefore we have to take the facts as they are. Take into consideration the question of the sacrifice that we are asking the parents to bear. This question of compulsory education has been admitted to be an obligation upon the State. When compulsory education was instituted it was found to be necessary in the interests of the State that its future citizens should be educated, and when the State made education compulsory it also made it, in the first instance, to some extent and later to the full extent, free. Why? The answer is the same as that I gave just now. It was recognised that the State, by compelling attendance at school of their children, was imposing upon parents a financial obligation that they were not able to bear. I am simply asking that the State should be consistent, and that it should continue to do what it has done in the past. It is now proposing to take away from parents the earnings that they have received from the labours of their children between the ages of twelve and fourteen, and it is proposing tinder this Clause to still further impose compulsory attendance between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. I pointed out upon a former occasion that half-time employment between twelve and fourteen would involve an average sacrifice to the parents of each child of something like £20, a quite serious consideration to people of low incomes. Between fourteen and sixteen will involve a sacrifice of a larger amount. The Lancashire Members have not asked today that children should be permitted to work full time between fourteen and sixteen. We do not want that. We want their education to be continued; but when Parliament says that it is essential in the interests of the country—and that is the ground upon which the right hon. Gentleman put his case, for he said, in view of the great struggle that the country would have to engage in after the War, that its workpeople and citizens should be better educated—it has no right to put the whole financial sacrifice upon the parents of the children. The State itself must shoulder the financial responsibility. That is the purpose of my Amendment. It may be said that it will cost money. Of course it will, but the return will be compensation for the expenditure. The best, the most remunerative expenditure that this country can make is to spend money upon education. I heard the speech of the hon. Member for London University (Sir P. Magnus) with special gratification. I observed to one of my hon. Friends that it was a speech that I had made scores of times in different parts of the country. The point of that speech was that the money that we have hitherto spent upon education has been largely wasted, because the education has stopped before the children have begun to love education for itself. Therefore, I repeat that I am heartily in favour of extending the age of compulsory attendance at school, but, in order to lighten the burden of the financial sacrifice that it imposes upon parents, I want it to be accompanied by such a provision as that which I now propose. It will cost money—how much I do not know. It is very likely that it would not cost much more—indeed, I do not think it would cost so much — than the burden which was placed upon industry by the Workmen's Compensation Act or by the National Health Insurance Act; but, whether it costs a lot of money or does not, it is an obligation the State ought to discharge. If the President of the Board of Education will accept the Amendment, I can assure him that he will, by that one act alone, remove all opposition to all the other educational proposals in this Bill. They will all be accepted with enthusiasm, because there is no opposition to education in this country. Parents are longing for education, and the only difficulty in the way is the economic difficulty.I can speak on this subject from an experience that some hon. Members of the Committee do not possess. I was born of working-class parents. My father was a factory worker all his life. I had the good fortune to be the youngest of three children. The two elder children went to the factory, and it was because of the wages they were able to bring into the home that I was given a better education than was given to the average of the working-class children in my position. That is not an exceptional case. There are thousands of similar cases where the elder children help to give a better start in life and a better education to the younger members of the family I therefore hope that this Amendment will receive not only sympathetic support from the President of the Board of Education, but the support of the whole Committee.
Much as I sympathise with the plea the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Snowden) has made on behalf of the poor people of this country, I am afraid that I am unable to accept his Amendment. The hon. Member proposes that maintenance allowances should he paid to all young persons who attend continuation schools for from 280 to 320 hours a year. He makes no distinction between employed and non-employed young persons or between the richer and the poorer young persons; maintenance allowances are to be paid to all alike, irrespective of their family circumstances. If maintenance allowances are to be paid to young persons attending continuation classes between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, ought they not, by parity of reasoning, to be paid to children attending elementary schools between the ages of five and fourteen? It is quite clear that the acceptance of the hon. Member's Amendment would lead us very far. I suggest to the hon. Member that while no doubt exceptionally hard cases ought to be met—there are at the present moment means for meeting exceptionally hard cases—the remedy for the evil— and it is an undoubted evil—is to raise the standard of adult wages. I believe it will be one of the consequences of the present educational legislation that it will have a very considerable effect in reducing the amount of juvenile labour, end thereby raise the average of adult wages in the country. What is the ideal for which we ought to strive I We ought to strive for a state of society in which the head of the family will be able to earn a sufficient income upon which to support his family decently. I feel it would be a very great mistake if Parliament were to sanction this very special legislation for the benefit of a small class of young persons attending continuation schools between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. For these reasons, I am afraid I am unable to accept the Amendment.
This Amendment, of course, goes to the whole root of the matter. If it were carried it would make the rest of the Bill almost unnecessary. There is no doubt that the people of this country are ready for education, and, as the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) has said, there is no doubt that the objection to education and the need for compulsion comes really from this maintenance factor. People are not able to make both ends meet at home and at the same time send their children to school until they are eighteen years of age. If we could carry this Amendment, and if we could extend it to the elementary schools as well, then you would be able to scrap the provisions for compulsory education and let parents look after the education of their own children. Even if maintenance were given during the ages of fourteen to eighteen, it would not compensate for the loss of wages. There would still be sacrifices demanded of the parents, but although there might be need for such sacrifices there would not be that driving force which makes education so difficult for the working classes at the present time. I cannot help thinking that if a system of maintenance could be added to these proposed facilities for education that would lead to the giving of a superior education than now obtains. There would be no incentive to the teacher to look better after one scholar than another. Parents would be able to select the classes and teachers for their children and there would result a higher standard of teaching. You would get even more than that. Parents would make sacrifices for their children: it would bring out all that was best in the parents, and the children who benefited would be a credit to the country instead of remaining in the ordinary rank and file. If parents are willing to make sacrifices for one son even at the expense of other sons—the son who gets the chance will make the best possible use of it. We have an illustration of that in the case of the hon. Member for Blackburn. We want more people of his type. I dislike the compulsory system because under it we shall have no more Philip Snowdens: we shall only get the ordinary rank and file. If you take away the initiative from the parents the children will have no chance of turning out self-respecting men and women who think and act for themselves. I believe this Amendment is one of enormous importance to the whole future of education. True, it will be voted down to-night or to-morrow, but it is a question that will come to the front again and again until it is finally carried and put into operation. When we get maintenance for children, whether at elementary or at continuation schools, then you will have, and not before, real sound education in this country.The right hon. Gentleman said in his speech that it was impossible to provide maintenance for children between fourteen and eighteen and not for elementary school children. I think there is a very strong difference between the two cases. This is a new obligation we are imposing on the parents of this country. When you are imposing a new obligation they are entitled to ask you to give them some compensation for the loss. If we were imposing a new obligation on any vested interest in this country, whether it be the brewing, landlord, or any form of capitalist interest—if any legislation were passed in this House that imposed a new burden on any vested interest or corporation in this country, not only should we have a demand for compensation for that vested interest, but that demand would be met by whoever was on the Government Bench. Because we are imposing a demand on the whole working-class population of the country it is apparently accepted by the House as quite natural that they should be dragooned into accepting that demand, and any idea of compensation and maintenance of their children is ruled out as an extravagant proposition which cannot possibly be met. I think that way of handling the problem is wrong too. You ought not to impose a heavy economic burden on the people of this country, particularly at the present time, and least of ail ought such a burden to be imposed by a House of Commons which represents the country less than any House of Commons within the memory of any living man at the present time. We have here before us a revolutionary Bill, and the people of the country know nothing whatever about it. We are speaking now at twenty minutes past eleven, and the country will hear nothing about this Debate. In to-morrow's papers there will be not one word of this Amendment. It will be voted down, and the country will never know this has been passed, except that the hon. Member for Blackburn will probably tell his constituents. The country is in absolute ignorance that this Bill is being put through the House at the present time, or that any efforts are being made to prevent its being saddled with this enormous financial loss. It is deplorable that this tired House, with a Press which is incapable, owing to the limited space at its command, of reporting our Debates or informing the people of what goes on in this House, should, in the middle of a great war, pass legislation in this way.
While we are on this question of maintenance and the payment of some sort of allowance—to use noncommittal words—to parents, I should like to call the attention of the President of the Board to the promise he gave me in dealing with the same matter relating to the extension of compulsory education in public elementary schools. I ventured to point out to him, when we were dealing with the extension of the age to fourteen, that there must, in my view, be very serious inconvenience and alarm amongst parents in the poorer industrial areas when they discovered that they were being compelled to give up, from their point of view, another year of the life of their children just at the time when they were going to begin to contribute towards the expenses of the household. The answer he gave me was that there is provision made in Section 11 of the Act of 1907 for the local authorities to provide nurseries, and that under Section 38 of the principal Act the Treasury is bearing half of that expense. I pointed out to him then that under Clause 11 of the Bill the emphasis comes not on maintenance but on education, in other words that that Clause unites in effect the local authority to take a single clever child of a family and by means of a bonus or bursary or whatever you call it stimulate its education still further. I do not wish to say that is not a commendable thing, but the type of family I have in mind where I think assistance will be abundantly necessary is the family of eight or ten children, where the burden is falling very heavily on the parents to keep the home together at all just at the time when the eldest child is just beginning to contribute to the expenses of the household. The President on that Amendment gave me the assurance that he would, when we got to Clause 36, consider an Amendment if I submitted words to him to modify Section 11 of the Act of 1907 so as to include maintenance as well as education. I should hope it will give the provision of bursaries in this way not only for elementary education but also for secondary educational purposes, though I think, at any rate, some effort will be made to deal with the difficulty which this Amendment suggests. In my view, this Amendment goes too far, but if the President could give us an assurance that when he accepts this inclusion of the word "maintenance" in bursaries for elementary education, those words shall be extended so as to cover secondary education as well, I think we shall get a (substantial step forward.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Wedgwood) spoke about the vested interests of the parents. I think he forgot that we are talking about education. We are talking about the vested interests of the children, which are much more important. We want to look after the children. The hon. Member (Mr. Snowden) spoke keenly of the struggles which were made by his family to give him a good education. That was in the days when they had to pay fees, and working-class people did pay fees. My own impression is that a larger proportion of the population care much less about education now they get it free and have all the trouble taken off their hands when they really had to think how they were to get the 1d. or 2d. a week to pay for the education. It was a good and a right thing to make education free if it was to be compulsory, but at the same time free education has its bad effects, like all free things do, in taking away a great deal of responsibility. It has now come to be thought that children of fourteen ought to be wage-earners. Not many years ago it was thought children of eight ought to be wage-earners. I am thankful to say the public opinion of the country did away with the idea and no longer are children of eight allowed to be wage-earners and I think public opinion is right and it realises that it is unfair to make children of fourteen wage-earners. From fourteen to sixteen are precious years in a child's life, and from sixteen to eighteen even more so, and to perpetuate a condition which would make it feasible even for the children of the country to become wage-earners at an unnaturally early age is a bad thing for the country. If you give these maintenance allowances it will still further take the responsibility off the parents, and will still encourage the idea that a child ought to work at fourteen. I do not think any child, boy or girl, ought to work at fourteen. If they are meant to work, their parents ought to be paid. I think it is an entirely wrong idea, and in the interests of education and of the children I hope the Amendment will be rejected.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman has not said the last word upon this matter. He adopted a line of argument that if this Amendment is accepted it logically means the maintenance of the child while it is at the elementary school. If you follow that out logically, it means that the child shall be maintained from its birth by the State. It has been the duty of the parent to maintain the child under present conditions until the age of thirteen. We recognise that—that the parents should maintain the child until it arrives at the age when it can work for its living. There is no loss of wages until the child really begins to work. Therefore I submit that the Amendment is a reasonable one. The hon. Member (Mr. Snowden) said that owing to the fact that two of his elder brothers were bringing wages into the home he was able to get a better education. All that we ask for in this Amendment is that the two elder children shall have a better education as well as the youngest one. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to get the best out of this Bill, and wishes that the children shall have the best education that the Bill offers, he must give them every opportunity of going to school well fed and well clothed, and also an opportunity of living in decency and comfort. The additional cost will only be about one half day's cost of the War. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not going to make the mistake that was made by hon. Members when the Old Age Pensions Bill was before the House. They said that the Bill would ruin the country. The additional cost will not affect the finances of the country very much, but it will give an opportunity of education to the children which they do not possess now. This question of maintenance allowance has been an economic problem for the last twenty years, and if the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment, even if he goes so far as to say that it shall only operate for a period of five years, so that the workers may adjust themselves to the new circumstances. it will be well. The Government opposition to this Amendment will mean that the big industries of this country will be prevented from adopting the Whitley Report, but will reserve to themselves the right to strike for increased wages, and that means industrial unrest. It means injuring the industries of the country. Looking at the matter from a broad standpoint, the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to accept the Amendment. If he cannot accept it in its entirety, I hope he will be able to make an offer that will meet us part of the way. I hope he will meet us the whole way.
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
Question put, and agreed to.
Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.
The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
It being half-past Eleven of the clock, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Adjourned at Twenty-eight minutes before Twelve o'clock