HC Deb 17 February 1859 vol 152 cc491-7

rose to move that the annual vote of money for Education in Great Britain should henceforth be divided into two Votes—one to be taken for England and the other for Scotland. His object, he said, was twofold. He desired, first, that information of a detailed character should be laid before Members at the time the Estimates were voted; and, secondly, he wished that better opportunities should be given to Scotch Members to discuss questions of education in Scotland at the proper moment for doing so. He should probably be asked why the Vote for Scotland should be separated from England any more than the Vote for the county of York. The educational history of the two countries was, however, very different. It must always be recollected that in Scotland there had always been an educational establishment supported by Government grants under Acts of Parliament; but that in England it was not so. In fact, that always up till now national education had been considered a matter of so much importance in Scotland that Acts of Parliament had been thought necessary to provide for it, whereas in England the whole matter had been under the control of the Privy Council, afforded some evidence that the two countries were in a different position with regard to the question. There were other points with regard to the matter which showed that England and Scotland should be kept separate. All parts of Scotland were not in a similar condition. There were some districts where the population was extremely sparse, and in others again where it was very crowded. He found that a large part of Scotland had not been benefited at all by these grants, and that the counties of Edinburgh and Lanark had had by far the largest share of the grants that had been made. He found that one-half of the parishes had never had any grant at all from the Parliamentary fund. Explanations were required as to the principle on which the grants were made. Last year the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had stated that he based his calculations on the amount of population. He thought that Scotland was entitled to a fair share of the sum that was granted. He found that since 1839 England had had as much as £2,500,000, while Scotland had only had £353,000. If the same proportion had been given to Scotland there would be owing to her not less than £360,000. Another point of difference was this. Scotland was taxed locally to support the schools, and England was not. If England had been taxed for this purpose locally to one quarter of the extent Scotland was, he found that in seventeen years we should have paid the amount of £4,500,000. As far as he could make out, England had received a much larger amount than she was fairly entitled to, and Scotland very much less. There was a great difference in the habits of the Scotch people and in the manner of their education when compared with England. The system of education now existing in England would never have been introduced if it had not been for the example of the Scotch parochial system. He desired that the Vote as regarded Scotland should be kept distinct from that of England. The object he had in making the Motion was to put matters in a more satisfactory state, and he thought that that object would be achieved if the Motion were agreed to.


said, he would second the Motion, for he thought that the only way we could have a check on these educational grants was by dividing the Votes as much as possible. The present system of education had become quite denominational, and he hoped that in future these estimates would be presented in such a form as that they might know how much had been expended in England, how much went to the Free Church, how much to the Established Church, and how much to the Episcopalians or any other denomination. Why the schools belonging to the Established Church and those belonging to the Free Church were separated quite surpassed his comprehension. There was no difference in the doctrines that they taught, and surely the children could take no harm by being educated together. Under the present system there were double expenses incurred in every respect, and with no reason for it.

Motion made and Question proposed, That the annual Vote of money for Education in Great Britain be henceforth divided into two Votes; one Vote to be taken for England, and another for Scotland.


said, he had anticipated that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was going to ask him to separate the Vote for the Scilly Islands from that for the rest of England; and, certainly, it would be much more reasonable to bring in a separate estimate for the Isle of Man, the Legislature of which had levied a rate for educational purposes, and imposed a fine upon all parents who did not send their children to school, than for Scotland, the system in which country was precisely similar to that which obtained in England. The noble Lord's proposition seemed to amount to this—that the Education Vote should be divided into two, one for Scotland and another for England. Now although it was with great reluctance that he opposed any proposition which came from the noble Lord, who had always shown so earnest and honourable a zeal for national education, and although he must admit that there would be no difficulty, as far as the office was concerned in carrying out his proposition, yet its object and its ultimate tendency were so dangerous that he could not accede to it. If the object of the noble Lord was to obtain information as to the distribution of the Parliamentary grant, and by a separate debate to bring under the notice of the House the peculiar bearing of the existing system upon his own country, he would have ample opportunity of discussing the question—he could give notice of any Motion he chose on going into Supply, and he could then bring the educational grant for Scotland separately and singly before the House; or he could bring in a Bill on the subject, which he was sure would receive every attention. The tendency of this Motion, however, must be, if it had any practical effect, at all to introduce a diversity between the Scotch and English systems of national education. At present there was no diversity in principle between them, and it was, in his opinion, desirable that there should be none. The noble Lord had tried to draw a distinction between the two, but he had entirely failed to show the existence of any real difference between them. It was true that there had long been a tax levied on landholders of above a certain rental for the purposes of education; but it must be borne in mind that owing to change of circumstances this was quite insufficient for the general purposes of education, and that in Scotland as in England the chief means were derived from voluntary contributions subsidized by Government grants. The heritor's tax, though at one time, no doubt, an important provision, had, by the lapse of time, become only analogous to the school foundations in England; and the other circumstances noticed by the noble Lord—namely, sparseness of population in some parts of the country, and the absorption of the major part of the grant by the towns—were common to both England and Scotland. The system in both countries were essentially the same—namely, a denominational system resting mainly upon voluntary contributions. Another objection to the noble Lord's plan was, that if the estimate were brought forward in two divisions instead of one, it would be almost impossible to prevent its creating an erroneous impression that Scotland was unfairly dealt with in the distribution of the grant. A great part of that grant was expended upon the staff expenses of the office in London, the benefit of which was common to both England and Scotland; and under the noble Lord's scheme how was that expenditure to be divided between the two countries? The only way to carry fully out the noble Lord's idea would be to have another rental office at Edinburgh, which, as the office in London was quite sufficient for both kingdoms, would be a needless and gratuitous waste of money. That there should, under the existing system, be any partiality in the distribution of the Parliamentary grant was utterly impossible, because it was distributed according to fixed rules which were embodied in Minutes and annually presented to that House. There was at the central office a staff of officers who, both from knowledge and ability, were quite capable to distribute the grant according to these Minutes, and no one had ever complained that they were inefficient to discharge their duties. For all these reasons he must, although exceedingly unwilling to differ from the noble Lord, oppose this Motion, and advise the House not to assent to it.


said, he regretted that, as the right hon. Gentleman admitted that there would be no difficulty in separating this Vote, he did not accede to the Motion of the noble Lord. A considerable amount of misunderstanding existed as to the motives on which the noble Lord's Motion was founded. In stating the reasons for that Motion, he, for one, would make no secret of his wish to do away with these Privy Council grants altogether. His reasons for supporting the Motion were that they were superinducing a new system on an old system which was totally unsuited for it; they were also forcing upon them a denominational system which was narrow in its conception and contracted in its foundation. The effect of this denominational system thus forced upon them was a mere waste both of public and of private money, for schools were planted in unnecessary localities. A school of one kind in a district was sure to be rivalled by another of a different denomination next door. The locality did not require both, but voluntary contributions were raised, and a public grant was obtained to no good purpose. The effect of separating the Vote would be to enable the Scotch Members to place on record every Session anything they might object to, and so force it on the notice of the Board of Privy Council. He wished the House would refuse the Vote altogether for Scotland, as that would compel the Government to bring in a Vote for Scotland alone.


said he was disposed to regard any difference in legislation between Scotland and England as an evil, and thought therefore that the Vote should not be divided in the manner proposed. Even the bribe which the noble Lord had offered himself and other hon. Members, that they were likely to have a larger sum in consequence for Scotch education, would not induce him to support the Motion. He neither wished to get nothing at all for Scotland, nor did he wish that Scotland should have more than its fair share. He hoped the Government would maintain the rule already laid down—continue to take the vote in one, and apply the same principle to both countries.


maintained that the objections which had been urged against the Motion by the Vice-President of the Council for Education were inconsistent with each other, because, while the right hon. Gentleman had told the Scotch Members that if they wanted to know how much money was voted to Scotland in each year they had only to look at the returns embodied in the minutes of the Education Committee; he had also dwelt upon the difficulty of keeping separate accounts for the two kingdoms. The annual statement which was laid before Parliament, as he had ascertained last Session, showed not the amount which was to be voted for Scotland for the ensuing year, but the sum which had been granted in the previous year. He regretted that the denominational system was to be perpetuated by a continuance of the Privy Council grants. The people of Scotland did not want Parliamentary grants; they wished to be left alone, and to be allowed to educate their own children at their own expense. It had been said that the Motion would lead to a diversity of system in the two kingdoms. He regarded that as one of its chief recommendations, because he believed the Scotch system to be better than that of England, and he was not without hope that if the people of Scotland were permitted to pursue their own plan of education, it might ultimately come to be adopted in England.


suggested, as a mode of meeting the views of all parties, that one Vote should continue to be taken, as hitherto, for the two kingdoms, but that the statement laid before Parliament should show how much was intended for Scotland and how much for England.


objected to the denominational system as strongly as the hon. Members for Edinburgh and Glasgow; but until Scotland was provided with a national plan he could not consent to give up the Privy Council grants. As long as supplementary grants were necessary, it would be injurious and wrong to separate the Vote.


opposed the Motion, because it would lead to annual contests for increased grants to Scotland, which had already fully more than her fair share.


stated, that in the Estimates for the Civil Services there was, under the head "Education," an explanatory table showing the precise sums applicable for the purposes of the grant to the schools connected with the Established Church in Scotland, the Free Church schools, and other schools.


, in reply, said that he had made no attack against the officers for Education; and with respect to the central office he had not proposed a division, as it might be important that there should be only one office for the distribution of the Privy Council grants.

Question put, and negatived.