HC Deb 23 April 1872 vol 210 cc1747-53

rose to move an Address for a Royal Commission to inquire into the nature and amount of Educational Endowments in Scotland. Some years ago—in 1864, he believed—a Royal Commission was issued to inquire into the whole of the educational system of Scotland, and especially into the effect of the larger or smaller endowments in various parts of that kingdom. They were to inquire both into the amounts of the endowments and the basis upon which they were founded; but upon both these interesting points the inquiry was incomplete. This, indeed, was not surprising, for the way in which the inquiry was conducted rendered it impossible that full information should be obtained. His present Motion, however, was directed to the conclusion of their Report, which bore more directly upon the duty of Her Majesty's Government and of the House. He referred to that part in which the Commissioners recommended a national system of education to be administered by a Board of Education, with a system of annual inspection. In 1869 the right hon. and learned Gentleman who was then Lord Advocate (Mr. Moncreiff) introduced his Bill to make better provision for Endowed Hospitals and Endowed Educational Institutions in Scotland. The Bill was a Permissive Bill, enabling the managers and trustees of these institutions to reform themselves, with the assistance of the Secretary of State, by means of Provisional Orders. The object, in fact, was that the hospitals, or those who had their management, while preserving their own privileges, should amend their scheme of education, and avail themselves of the opportunity of following in the steps of Parliament with regard to the improvement of the endowed schools in England, and to make them so elastic that they should admit of a graduated scheme of education, which would reach the middle and lowest classes of the population. But he (Sir Edward Colebrooke) considered that those proposals fell far below the real requirements of the country, and considering that any measure which had for its object the amendment of the national system of education in the country would be incomplete unless Parliament had full information as to the endowments throughout the country, and in order that Parliament should not in legislating mar rather than amend, and should remedy rather than continue the abuses to which all such institutions were liable, he moved for this Commission. The information obtained by the Commission could not fail to be extremely valuable in this respect. The objection raised against the measure of his right hon. and learned Friend the predecessor of the present Lord Advocate, was, that it did not deal with middle-class education; but eventually his proposal was adopted by the Government in a manner most effective, because in the Bill now before the House for the education of the country, a clause was introduced giving full powers to obtain what he sought for by this Resolution— namely, by conferring upon Commissioners appointed for carrying into effect the education of Scotland; which, if they had been carried out, the object he now had in view would have been entirely superseded, and the effects of it would have been already seen in the improvement of these institutions. But, unfortunately, the result of that legislation was not productive of good, because the Bill, after passing that House, went up to the House of Lords at so late a period of the Session that it fell through. The position in which they now stood was altogether different. Her Majesty's Government had introduced a Bill different in some respects from that brought in by their predecessors in office, and instead of a Commission to carry out their legislation, they had vested powers of control in a local Board, subject to the Privy Council, and some very limited powers of inquiry were to be given to them. Those powers, however, fell far short of what he considered were really required for the benefit of the country. The inquiry into the state of their schools enabled them to know what amount of education was really given, and to make many suggestions for its improvement. It tended rather to degrade the schools, and to mar rather than improve the education of the country. Above all, they failed to deal with those large endowments, the magnificence and importance of which attracted the attention of all educational reformers since they were first brought before Parliament, and left them entirely untouched. One word with regard to the results of that permissive legislation. The Bill of last year proposed to give enlarged powers to the educational bodies to reform themselves. What had been the result? The managers of several of the larger institutions were stirred into action. Some valuable practical suggestions were made—one particularly by one of the leading companies of Edinburgh—the Merchant Company—dealing with a revenue of about £1,000 a-year. The proposal in question, although it did not fully satisfy all the demands made, introduced a very valuable reform, and removed from the hospitals some of the reproaches to which they were subjected, by throwing them open to a large class of the people. But, after all, that was only a partial measure. Were, then, matters to remain as they were? An offer had been made to those bodies to reform themselves, and only partial reforms had been introduced by them in the institution over which they ruled. The question was, whether an opportunity should not be given for considering fully the question as a whole—because he feared that without that consideration the measure as it stood might be regarded as abortive. He thought he was entitled to ask the Government and the House that they have before them facts which would enable them to take immediate action, and to recommend some specific reform for the future consideration of Parliament. He submitted that looking to the incomplete nature of the former inquiry, it would be more consonant with their past legislation on this subject that they should be in possession of all the information bearing on the question, and then he trusted they would be able to deal with it in the spirit which they had already evinced in connection with educational reform. When his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Lyon Playfair) introduced his Motion on a former occasion, objection was taken by the Government to the proposal on the ground of its incompleteness, and the Lord Advocate said that the present system was defective, and that in order to remedy it a wide and comprehensive reform was necessary. He (Sir Edward Colebrooke) thought this amounted to a pledge that the Government would take action themselves. The Universities had been reformed, and the Public Schools of England, which had been the subject of repeated inquiries, had been placed on a new footing. He thought that the educational endowments of Scotland should be dealt with on the principle of the Public Schools Act for England—that they should administer those institutions in the spirit in which the original donors would have acted could they have foreseen the times in which we live.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the nature and amount of all endowments in Scotland, the funds of which are devoted to the maintenance or education of young persons; also to inquire into the administration and management of any Hospitals or Schools supported by such endowments, and into the system and course of study respectively pursued therein, and to report whether any and what changes in the administration and use of such endowments are expedient, by which their usefulness and efficiency may be increased."—(Sir Edward Colebrooke.)


said, he was sure that Scotland would receive with great satisfaction the intelligence that the Government had granted this Commission; but it appeared to him that they might, with advantage, introduce into the Address words which would enable the Commissioners to extend their inquiry into endowments which ought to be applicable, but were not at present applied, to purposes of education. These words were identical with those which were used in the Commission for England; but they were used with great reserve and delicacy by the English Commission. He moved to insert after "funds which are devoted to the maintenance and education of young persons," the words "or can rightly be made applicable thereto."

Amendment proposed, in line 5, after the word "persons," to insert the words "or can rightly be made applicable thereto."—(Mr. Parker.)

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


said, the matter now stood in a somewhat different position to what it did when his hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire (Sir Edward Colebrooke) proposed a similar Motion some years ago, for at that time they had not the same experience in the matter that they now possessed. He was not prepared to say that they had been so successful in the attempt to carry into operation the Endowed Schools Act of 1869 as they had hoped to be, and he thought, therefore, that there was great propriety in the inquiry which his hon. Friend asked for, and he was persuaded that it would be attended with considerable advantages. The Motion would not, therefore, be opposed by the Government; but he thought it would be an improvement to extend the scope of the inquiry beyond the range of those institutions the funds of which were devoted to the maintenance and education of young persons, and that it should include all charitable or educational institutions—the funds of which were devoted to charitable or educational pur- poses. It would, of course, be understood that the inquiry was to extend to the Universities.


assented to the Amendment proposed by the Lord Advocate.


said, that approving the suggestion of the Lord Advocate, he would withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, To leave out the words "the maintenance or education of young persons," in order to insert the words "charitable or educational purposes,'—(The Lord Advocate,)

—instead thereof.

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

Question proposed, "That the words 'charitable or educational purposes' be inserted, instead thereof."


observed, that the proposed alteration might be a very good one, but it ought not to be proposed in the way it had been, and without Notice. There was no hurry in the matter, and the House ought to have the proposal before them in black and white, instead of hastily rushing into the Royal presence in the way now proposed. He begged to move the adjournment of the debate.


also thought the Lord Advocate should have placed his Amendment on the Paper.


said, that the Amendment did not propose to alter the character of the inquiry, but only to extend it. He trusted, therefore, that the adjournment would not be pressed.


thought the House was entitled to complain of want of Notice.


concurred in the objections urged against the course adopted by the Lord Advocate.


asked whether the institutions to which the Amendment would extend the inquiry were educational in character? If not, they would scarcely come within the scope of the inquiry contemplated by the original Motion.


stated that most charitable endowments in Scotland combined provision for the aged, and education for the young. Perhaps it would be better if the proposal of the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Collins) were agreed to.

Debate adjourned till Thursday.


rose to move for a Select Committee to inquire into matters connected with the Income Tax, when—


stated that Notice of an Amendment had been given to the hon. Member's Motion, and it being past half-past 12 o'clock it was not competent for the hon. Member to proceed.