HC Deb 09 August 1869 vol 198 cc1493-9

[BILL 265.] [Lords.] THIRD READING.

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


moved the Amendment of which he had given notice—namely, that the Bill be re-committed for the purpose of leaving out, in schedule A, the words ''beyond the minimum sum fixed by the Parochial and Burgh Schoolmasters (Scotland) Act (1861)." Before making any remarks on the Motion, he wished to congratulate the Lord Advocate on being so near the goal of his long labours in the cause of education, and on the prospect of a Bill for the improvement of education in Scotland becoming law during the present Session. The Bill was by no means a perfect Bill, and there was probably scarcely a Member in the House who was thoroughly satisfied with its provisions. It excluded the parochial schools entirely from its operation. It made no provision for religious teaching; and yet, by the enactment of a Conscience Clause, it implied the existence of religious teaching. Still, on the whole, he thought it was desirable that the Bill should pass. The opposition to it in this House had originated mainly on two grounds. In the first place, he regarded the incidence of taxation proposed in the Bill as unjust; and, in the second place, he entirely disapproved of the manner in which Government had attempted to force the Bill through the House. He still adhered to the opinions which he had expressed on these points, and he ventured to say that no Government, how-over strong, and no matter how many "thick and thin" supporters they had at their back, would again attempt to force a measure of this kind through the House in the same way. He wished to call the attention of the Lord Advocate to the provisions in the Bill relative to the change in the heritors, with whom the management of the parochial schools rested. Under this Bill, the management, instead of being confined to the heritors who were valued at £100 Scots, would be given to all who were rated in the old Scots valuation, and would include, he believed, even feuars—although he was aware that his right hon. Friend would not admit that. The effect of the alteration would be very absurd in many cases. In Haddington the amount paid by the present eleven heritors would be reduced by the vast sum of 8s. Some of the new heritors would pay 2½d. each, yet these would have an equal share in the management. In Lismahago, heritors who paid 1d. each would have the same power as the Duke of Hamilton. This was really carrying the principle of taxation and representation to an absurd point. He had now come to the Amendment, the effect of which he would explain. Hitherto the £35, which was the minimum statutory salary of a parochial schoolmaster, had not been considered as entitling the parish heritors to any portion of the Privy Council grant. The 5th clause in the Bill, however, laid down the principle that all assessments raised in support of the new national schools should be treated as a voluntary contribution in allocating the Privy Council grant; and he therefore saw no reason why the £35 minimum salary to the parochial schoolmaster should be excepted. When he submitted this proposal in Committee, everybody spoke in favour of it but the Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench. He hoped that the Government would consent to allow this Amendment on the Bill before it finally passed.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the words "Bill be" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "re-committed to a Committee of the whole House, in respect of an Amendment to Schedule (A),"—(Lord Elcho,) —instead thereof.

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

THE LORD ADVOCATE, in the first place, begged to thank his noble Friend for the manner in which he had spoken of the Bill, and for the observations which he had made in its favour. It was a great gratification to him, if he might be allowed to speak of himself, that after a great many years of labour and a great many years of difficulty they should at last have arrived close to the goal. Whether they were destined to reach it would be decided in a few hours; but he hoped they might entertain the hope that, whatever may be the materials of which this Bill was composed, it would in one shape or other be sufficiently solid and substantial to form a fabric for erecting again the fabric of Scottish education, and preserving for many generations the traditional reputation of Scotland. He wished, however, to take the opportunity of correct- ing a misunderstanding which had occurred in reference to what he said on a former occasion. He was represented to have said that even in Scotland the provisions of this Bill were not understood. He had never said so—he never meant to say so. What he did say was, that it would be very difficult to convey to the people of Scotland the proposals and the recommendations of the Government in reference to a measure which had been so completely altered in "another place;" and. what he meant to say was, that if the Bill had not been reprinted, it never would have been possible for the people to have understood what the proposals of the Government were. In illustration of that, he had said he found that, notwithstanding their having re-printed the Bill, there were in some quarters still difficulty in knowing what their proposals were. Everybody knew that had the Amendments of the Government only been placed on the Paper, and the Bill had not been reprinted, it would have been impossible for many of the people in Scotland to have become acquainted with the views of the Government. In regard to the proposition which his noble Friend (Lord Elcho) had made, that the heritors' contribution of the minimum salary should stand in the Privy Council administration as a voluntary contribution—that matter had been considered by the Government, and he was glad to consider that that obstacle might be removed out of the way. Having considered the matter, the Government thought that the whole of the heritors' contributions should be reckoned in the sum which was to be received from the Privy Council. With that observation he could only trust that they might cherish the expectation that before many hours were past this Bill would become law.


wished to ask what amount of additional expense to the Consolidated Fund this concession to the heritors would occasion? He looked upon the question as affecting England as well as Scotland; and it was quite clear that before the question was done with the country would certainly have reason to complain of the enormous expense to which it would be put. No doubt education was a necessity; but the public were becoming rather tired of the great increase of local and imperial taxation.


wished to call attention to one or two inconsistencies which appeared to remain in the Bill— probably in consequence of the great haste with which the Government alterations had been made, and, in particular, of the large change in throwing the parochial schools out of the Bill. In Clause 23, for the maintenance and repair of the national schools, notwithstanding that the parochial schools were entirely thrown out of the Bill, the Board seemed still to retain the power of altering school houses, and the right of recovering from the heritors of the parish the expense of doing so. That appeared to him to be inconsistent with the fact of the parochial schools being out of the Bill. By Clause 37 the Board had also the power to dismiss parochial schoolmasters, not only for faults, but even for incapacity from old age. He did not mean to find fault with that power, because he thought it was a good power; but he wished to call attention to the inconsistency of not providing a retiring allowance for schoolmasters so dealt with. As the Bill at present stood, the school committee were absolutely prohibited from giving a retiring allowance, except in the case of national schools; and, if the parochial schoolmaster was dismissed from mere old age, there was no one to confer upon him a retiring allowance. He had not made these remarks with the view of impeding the progress of the Bill. He desired it to pass; because, although it was not a large and comprehensive measure, it was a very good Bill as far as it went. But he wished to point out the necessity of not considering this the final measure, but that it was a measure to which they must look forward to considerably extending in some future Session.


said, that in order to cure some of the defects referred to, he would propose that the Bill should be re-committed, in order that certain Amendments might be inserted in Clauses 13, 16, 21, 23, 28, and 65, and the Schedule.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Moved, That the Bill be re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House.


said, before the Bill was re-committed he wished to say a few words. The Lord Advocate had taken exception to some words which were used the other day on that side of the House. The hon. and learned Lord was under the impression that the words used were ''that Scotch education might wait, but that the House of Lords could not wait." But this was a misapprehension. Without venturing to express any opinion on the course that might be adopted by the other House, he would say that there was one thing which he thought the Government would find could not and would not wait, and that was the resolute determination of the rate-payers of this country no longer to submit to that grinding burden of local taxation which never seemed to decrease. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had the other day commended to the hon. Members during the Recess the consideration of the subject of coinage. He (Mr. Lowther) would venture to suggest for the consideration of those who wished during the Recess to consider matters which would have to be brought before Parliament, the amount of opposition which would be offered to any scheme of education which would be likely to involve any addition to the present local burdens.


accepted the statement of the hon. Gentleman as notice that he would oppose any English Education Bill founded upon rating. He was hardly justified, however, in attacking the present Bill, for among all the representations from Scotland which had reached hon. Members on the subject, there were not any which had reference to the extension of rating.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had misunderstood him. He did not say he would oppose any Bill founded on rating; but he warned the Government that any addition to local burdens, until some adjustment had been made of local taxation, would meet with the most determined opposition.


expressed a hope that the Government would bear in mind, when they came to consider the question the incidence of taxation, that this was not a rich man's question, but much more a poor man's question.

Motion agreed to.

Order for Third Reading discharged.

Bill re-committed in respect of Clauses 13, 16, 21, 23, 28, 65, and the Schedule." — (The Lord Advocate.)

Considered in Committee, and reported, with. Amendments; as amended, considered.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.


expressed his regret that he was not able to fulfil the undertaking he had entered into on Saturday to mention to the House the names of the members of the new Board. He was unable to do so for this reason—It would be easily understood that the matter was one of very great difficulty and considerable complexity, and the number being so limited it was necessary to take into consideration many circumstances, and a variety of interests which were involved. The Government had the matter under consideration for some time, but they had considerable doubt as to the manner in which the Board should be framed. It was found impossible to name the Commissioners to the House, there not having been sufficient time to select them and submit their names to Her Majesty. He was glad, however, for the satisfaction of the House, to state that in appointing the Secretary to the Board the Government had determined on appointing a layman.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read the third time and passed, with Amendments.