Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

1 article on this Page

Wales in Parliament.

News
Cite
Share

from the local rates towards the maintenance of the Voluntary schools. It was not contended by your authority during that period that these schools did not comply with section 7 of the Act, and that they could not, therefore, in their view legally be maintained. On the contrary, you applied for and received the Parliamentary grants in respect of these schools." Very good but he asked Sir W. Anson, who was the author of works on contract and on the law and custom of the Constitution, whether he would maintain that the doctrine of waiver applied to the rate- levying and rate-controlling authority ? Did he maintain that there was any privity of contract between the County Council and the Board of Education, each created under statute? Let him answer.-(Sir W. Anson shook his head.) How could this public rating authority waive any condition laid down in an Act of Parliament? Supposing the County Council resolved that whether the school-houses of the non-provided schools were in good repair or not, they would apply the ratepayers' money to keeping their officials. Would that be a legal act ? Sir W. Anson It is not for me to say. Mr. Brynmor Jones Then let them submit the question to a court of justice. The corre- spondence showed the Board had misinterpreted the Act so far as section 7 was concerned The Government were face to face with a problem about which they were warned in 1902 and 1903. The corporations of this country were great institutions, and he predicted that the Government would be sorry they ever entered into disputation with Merioneth.. Mr. Duke said that nobody dreamt when section 7 was passed there would be absolute harmony between conflicting local authorities, and so in sub-section 3 it was provided that if any question arose between the education autho- rity and the managers it should be determined by the Board of Education. Mr. Brynmor Jones said there had been no dispute between the local education authority and the Board of Education. The local educa- tion authority (the County Council) had not received certain moneys, and all it knew was that the Board said the Education Committee had done something wrong. The real matter in dispute was not the state of the schools; it lay much deeper. In December, 1903, the Merioneth County Council adopted a resolution as follows :—"That this Council adheres to its resolution passed at the meeting held in Dolgelley in June, 1903, not to levy a rate for the maintenance of non-provided schools within the county until such schools are placed fully under public control, and all religious tests imposed upon teachers are abolished." Mr. Ellis Griffith thought the Acts of 1902 and 1904 had proved that it was impossible in the long run to legislate successfully against the wishes of the people for whom the legislation was meant. The Opposition said that in 1902 and in 1904, and the Conservative party realised it in 1905. He reminded Sir William Anson that he had another remedy-that of mandamus. Why did he not put that remedy into operation ? He understood that £364 had been deducted in respect of these five schools. The total number in average attendance at these five schools was 189 children, so that nearly £ 2 had been deducted for each child in average attendance. The total grant earned by the schools in 1902 amounted to ^385. From the report of the surveyor who had visited them, it would appear that these schools were in a grave state of want of repair; indeed, the whole sum spent on repair on the five schools in 1902 did not exceed ^15. Wales had taken in this matter a strong stand, but he hoped the House Would regard it as a proper one in the very harsh circumstances. Colonel Pryce Jones, speaking as a Welsh 'Conservative member, said the question was whether the House of Commons was to be inipotent and whether smaller authorities were to take its place. The managers of the non- Provided schools in Wales were perfectly pre- pared to abide by the Act and not to ask for rate-aid if their schools were not in proper repair. The minority in Wales never dreamt when the Act was being passed that the majority would tyrannise over them as they had done in administering the Act. He appealed to the House to support Churchmen and Conservatives, and Liberals too, in Wales who desired that the Act should be fairly and squarely administered. Like many others, he was in favour of amending the Act after it had had a fair trial. Sir W. Anson on the Position. Sir W. Anson said that if he failed to reply to the legal questions which had been kindly and somewhat humorously addressed to him by Mr. Brynmor Jones, it was because he was lawyer enough to decline to answer offhand carefully prepared legal conundrums. He assured those who had spoken on the other side that it was with no light heart, and that it was not without a very grave sense of responsibility, that the Board of Education came to the conclusion that it must, in response to the demands of the managers, repay to them the money which they had expended, and make a corresponding reduc- tion from the payment to the local education authority. He had hoped that matters were settling down in Wales and that the Education Act was being administered throughout the Z, Principality In Merionethshire itself the Board had had every reason to hope that the Act was being administered. He believed it was being administered, and that it had been administered since the late autumn of last year. The par- ticular period to which the transactions under consideration referred was a period from the end of September, 1903, to the end of October, 1904. During that period arrears accumulated which should be met by the local education authority, and for which the managers made constant and urgent appeals to the Board of Education. The Question of Repairs. He was asked whether they had appealed on the subject of repairs during that period. The correspondence which passed between the Board of Education and the local education authority consisted simply of a reference to the local authority of a demand of the managers for maintenance, and in response from that authority the resolutions which they passed to the effect that they would raise no rate in order to assist in the maintenance of Voluntary schools. It was perfectly true that the County Council went to the expense of having all the schools surveyed, and the report made by the surveyor was in the case of each school for- warded to the managers, but no comment was made and no suggestion that any of the re- quirements should be put into effect. There was nothing throughout the whole period with which he was dealing to suggest that the subject of repairs was present to the mind of the local education authority as a reason for not maintaining the schools. It was not till December last that the local authority wrote to say that they should hold themselves en- titled to discontinue the maintenance if reason- able requirements in alterations and improve- ments were not carried into effect. At the same time there was a request by the representative of local education authority to the Board of Education for the Parliamentary grants, which were only due if the schools complied with the requirements of the Act. Some subtle questions had been addressed to him. This, however, was a question not of pure law, but of honesty and commonsense. If they were claiming money on the understanding that certain facts were in existence they could not afterwards turn round, as reasonable and honest men, and deny the existence of those facts.- He was prepared to state that with two excep- tions, the Voluntary schools throughout Mer- ioneth were in a fit state for the reception of the children for the purposes of elementary education, without risk to their health, to their comfort, or to their convenience. Mr. Lloyd-George On whose report did the right hon. gentleman come to that conclusion ? Sir William Anson We have inquired into this matter through our own inspector. Mr. Lloyd-George Was notice given to the local authority that there was an inquiry. This is the first we have heard of it Sir William Anson said when this question arose the Board of Education thought it desirable that they should satisfy themselves as to the condition of the schools, and they had done so. The reports of the County Surveyor did not bear out the description given by the member for Anglesey. He had also a statement of what had been done by managers of the schools during the last few months, and found that the schools were being put into a condition which would satisfy the requirements of the education authority. He was not aware that in every case the recommendations of the Surveyor of the Council had been carried out in respect of the Council schools, although he was ready to admit that Merioneth had done more than some Welsh counties in the way of putting the schools in condition. The question arose as to the construction of the words of the Act, "good repair." What did they mean ? It must surely be a matter of circumstances and the requirements of the particular building. Were they to say that a school was to be struck off the list of schools qualified for the Parliamentary grant merely because the surveyor looked round and found a window broken, or a few tiles off the roof, or that a door was off its hinges ? Such things were being remedied, and there was no fault to be found in that respect with the Voluntary schools any more than with the county schools. In discussing the conditions which constitute good repair, they had to ask themselves—Could the children remain for the necessary number of hours in reasonable comfort and under con- ditions that were not detrimental to health ? What were the rights of the local education authority ? Were they entitled to say that because a window was broken the school was to go off the list ? He said that notice should be given to the managers of the requirements of the authority. If they were thought unreason- able, an appeal lay to the Board of Education. One Standard for Church and another for County Schools. Was it possible to have two standards of good repair-one for Voluntary and the other for County schools ? If the Board of Education were to treat the County schools as the Volun- tary schools were proposed to be treated, he was afraid some of the local authorities would be put to considerable expense in the provision of new schools. He believed that in Merioneth itself some of the recommendations of the surveyor had not been carried out in the County schools. In Denbigh the Council surveyed all the Volun- tary schools before the appointed day, but had not yet appointed anyone to survey the County schools. In Carnarvonshire there were at least 25 schools concerning which the Board had been in communication from time to time with the local authority, and there were several which were seriously at fault in respect of repair and sanitary condition. The Board had had great difficulty in gaining any attention from the local authority in respect of these schools. Several instances were cited by Sir W. Anson, who added that he must remind Mr. Lloyd-George, the next time the latter indulged in rhetorical flights about "pure dogma and foul drains," that the absence of dogma was not inconsistent with very unsatisfactory sanitary conditions. Was this outcry about repairs genuine ? Lord Londonderry asked the Merioneth deputation whether, supposing the premises had been in absolutely good repair, they would have been maintained, and no answer was given. Mr. Brynmor Jones The question was put by Lord Londonderry to my clients, behind my back, and I told them not to answer. I said one county council could not bind its successor any more than this Parliament could bind the next. Sir W. Anson would ask them further whether they seriously thought that the cause of religion or the cause of education, or even the interests of a political party, were served by making these innocent and unfortunate children the victims of their endeavour to starve out or to distress the Voluntary schools in the Principality.